Coronation Street is Britain's longest-running television soap opera, and the UK's consistently highest-rated show. It was created by Tony Warren and first broadcast on the ITV network on Friday December 9, 1960. The working title of the show was 'Florizel Street', but Agnes, a tea lady at Granada Television, Manchester, (where Coronation Street is produced) remarked that 'Florizel' sounded too much like a disinfectant.
Coronation Street (commonly nicknamed "Corrie", "Coro St" or "The Street") is set in a fictional street in the fictional industrial town of 'Weatherfield' which is based on Salford, now part of Greater Manchester. (A Coronation Street does exist in Salford). Its principal rival soap opera is BBC1's EastEnders.
The show's iconic theme music, a brass-band throwback to the sounds of the 1940s, was written by Eric Spear and has been only slightly modified since the show's beginning.
Coronation Street can be seen on ITV1 on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30p.m. There is also an extra episode on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. Repeat episodes (and specials) can be seen on ITV2, with the omnibus usually shown on Sundays.
Granada and ITV executives, as well as the people in charge of distributing the show overseas, have called (and still call, as of 2006) Coronation Street the world's longest-running soap opera. The Guinness Book of Records recognises American soap opera Guiding Light as the world's longest-running soap opera, with over fifty years on television and an extra fifteen on radio.
The programme is currently shown in five episodes on four evenings a week on British television: on Mondays at 19.30 and 20.30 (with the current affairs programme Tonight with Trevor MacDonald in between the two episodes), and at 19.30 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the BBC1 soap EastEnders goes out at 19.30, the "Corrie slot" on ITV is filled by regional programmes. EastEnders is broadcast four times a week on the BBC (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday).The soaps clashed in August 2001 however and EastEnders won the tussle, since then the two soaps have had no further clashes and ITV has agreed with the BBC that the shows will not clash again. In 1981, over 24 million people in the United Kingdom watched Ken Barlow marry Deirdre Langton — more than the number of people who (just two days later) saw The Prince of Wales marry Lady Diana Spencer. Since then, viewing figures have declined: Ken and Deirdre's remarriage in 2005 attracted 12.9 million viewers. 1
However, this still beat the 8.7 million who watched coverage of the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles earlier the same day. Partly due to the addition of new terrestrial and satellite channels and thus new rival programming, it still remains ITV's most-watched programme, with audiences in excess of 10 million. The show's omnibus is shown on ITV2. Classic Corrie episodes aired on Granada Plus until that channel was closed in November 2004 starting from April 1976, and had reached January 1994 by the time of the channel's closure.
The special Christmas Day episode remains as central to many viewers' Christmas day celebration as the Queen's Speech. The Christmas Day episode that aired in 1987 was one of the most-watched episodes of all time; in the episode, Hilda Ogden left the Street to be a char to her doctor in the country. Nearly 27 million viewers tuned in.
Coronation Street is also shown in many countries worldwide, being the centre of the TV schedule of Ireland's independent television station, TV3 Ireland (part-owned by Granada), which simulcasts it with ITV.
In Canada, it moved from a daytime slot on CBC Television to primetime in 2004. In 2005, CBC briefly broadcast eight episodes a week in order to reduce the gap, and during a subsequent labour dispute, CBC broadcast nine (and soon ten) episodes each week. CBC has also, before and during the labour dispute, aired the "Coronation Street Specials". CBC Country Canada, a digital television service operated by CBC, broadcasts older episodes as Corrie Classics. The 2002 edition of the Guinness Book of Records recognizes the 1,144 episodes sold to CBC-owned Saskatoon, Saskatchewan TV station CBKST by Granada TV on 31 May 1971 to be the largest number of TV shows ever purchased in one transaction.
The programme is shown in Australia by the cable and satellite station UK.TV; the episodes are about 18 months behind the UK. This gap is comparable to that for the episodes currently showing in New Zealand on Television New Zealand's TV One. In New Zealand the show consistently rates in the top ten programmes nationally. Channel Nine Perth (Australia) ran episodes of the program from October 2005 until May 2006. The series was aired in the crucial slot of 5.30pm, before the evening news. Low ratings eventually led to the series being moved to earlier in the afternoon, until it was taken off completely on 8 May 2006.
A conspicuous holdout amongst English-language television markets is the United States. The Trio channel aired a few episodes of the serial as a part of special-interest programming project, but a concerted effort to air it in the American market has never materialized. A two-disc DVD compilation was released in America, however, provoking some optimism that a cable channel might be interested in showing the soap. In the early 1970s some episodes were shown on WGBH Channel 2, the public television station in Boston, Massachusetts; while in the early-1980s, USA Network aired Corrie on weekends, but only briefly.
American viewers in the parts of the northern U.S. can view CBC's Coronation Street telecasts. In particular, cable TV subscribers in places including Seattle, Buffalo, parts of Michigan and Plattsburgh are able to view the programme on CBC affiliates. Other Americans near the Canadian border can view the program via over-the-air reception from nearby CBC transmitters.
Dutch broadcaster VARA showed 428 sub-titled episodes on Netherlands TV between 1967 and 1975.
In 2006 the small network Vitaya started broadcasting Coronation Street for viewers in Belgium.
VHS and DVD releases
A 1982 two-part VHS release featured Len Fairclough, Elsie Tanner and Annie Walker reminising about 'Early Days' on the Street, with six full episodes from between 1960 and 1964 featured.
In 1985, to celebrate the serial's 25th anniversary, two video tapes were released, entitled "The Jubilee Years - Part One" and "The Jubilee Years - Part Two". These featured a previously unseen character Alice Hughes revisit the Street to recall upon characters like Ena and Elsie and catch up on 'current happenings'.
In 1987 'The Lives and Loves of Elsie Tanner' was released, with the characters of Mike Baldwin, Emily Bishop and Elsie's daughter, Linda, recalling Elsie's time on the Street. In this production it is hinted that Elsie has died, an event not referred to in the series proper. (Emily tells Linda that she was sorry to hear about her mother.) Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie, had died the previous year.
In 1990, as a celebration for the serial's 30th anniversary, ten video tapes were released, each featuring four episodes from a specific year, introduced by someone who was close to the stories that year. (For example, Betty Turpin's husband Cyril died in 1974, therefore Betty Driver hosted the 1974 tape). These tapes were distributed by Granada Video for viewing in the UK. Also, many VHS tapes were made in the 1990s for the British market, from mail-order company Time-Life Distribution, with each tape consisting of a compilation of footage featuring a particular character (for example, Gail, Rita, the Duckworths). They were made only in PAL format and not distributed in the United States or Canada.
In 2003, a special DVD set called This is Coronation Street was released on Region 1 DVD. On the two-disc set is the 40 Years on Coronation Street one-off special as well as the first five episodes of the programme. In 2004, a Coronation Street: Secrets DVD box set of televised specials was released in both the United Kingdom and Canada, but not in the United States, despite a Region 1 release in Canada.
Granada has also produced a number of straight-to-video spin-off productions, which were screened on television only after having been available in shops for some time, as an incentive to buyers. The first "exclusive" tape, released in 1995 featuring a storyline aboard the QE2, caused a legal controversy when it was later broadcast. Subsequent releases have included carefully worded statements concerning future television broadcasting.
Further releases have included a crossover with Emmerdale, and a United States-set special, Viva Las Vegas!, released on VHS in 1999 and screened on ITV the following year. Written by Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Doctor Who), the special featured a guest cameo from actor Neville Buswell, who was then living in America, briefly reprising his role as Ray Langton.
In 2005, Network DVD released a box set of 10 DVDs, each featuring eight episodes from each year of 1970s. A matching box set dedicated to the 1980s was released in October, and a 1960s box set is currently scheduled for release in July 2006.