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Wednesday 24 November 2010

50 Years Of Corrie In 50 Days – 1996

Day 36 of our 50 day countdown of Coronation Street - written by blogger Sunny Jim.

With its ratings share declining, ITV decided that they needed to spread their most successful programmes further and insisted on a fourth episode of Coronation Street being produced, to be shown on Sunday evenings. With only so many hours in a day and with weekend shooting already having become commonplace since the switch to three episodes per week a way had to be found of accommodating the extra episode into production schedules. The result was that it was decided to do away with the producer/technical rehearsal that had been a feature of the Street from day one. This technique of rehearsing immediately before shooting a scene was already a feature of location shooting but now it would be brought to the studio.

Most of the cast had no real problem with the new process as despite the extra scenes required for the fourth episode, the rejigging of the schedule would actually mean they had more free time. The writers were more concerned however. By holding a technical rehearsal some days prior to the actual filming they were able to watch the rehearsal and make adjustments to the script if a line could be improved or if an actor had taken something the wrong way. Also there was a loss of continuity as the scenes were no longer filmed in transmission order, so actors would sometimes lose their knowledge of where a scene was going and how it all sat within the overall story. This was especially true if an actor had a heavy workload and only bothered to read their own scenes and so didn’t really understand how they fitted with everybody else’s.

Furthermore, the amount of story material had to increase and consequently, as we have seen over the years, the stories move further from the viewers’ own reality, which initially drove the programme, to a point where suspension of disbelief is stretched to breaking point. Finally, the extra episode didn’t sit well with the audience. Viewing figures for the new Sunday episode were always lower than the Monday, Wednesday and Friday programmes. Despite Friday regularly ending with a major cliff-hanger to try to draw the audience in on Sunday, people never really got used to the weekend scheduling.
One cast member who was uncomfortable with the switch was Sarah Lancashire who played Raquel Watts. As a popular character she was much in demand on screen and had been carrying long running storylines for months without a break. She announced her decision to move on and left a week before the first Sunday episode was transmitted in November. Raquel took up aromatherapy and hired the back room at the salon to work with clients. Then she decided to enrol on a course in Maidenhead and shocked Curly when she returned much more confident that when she left. She had an interview with an international firm and was offered a job in Kuala Lumpur. Curly put on a brave face when she broke the news in floods of tears but inside he was heartbroken. Before leaving she left Curly a pile of ironed shirts with her wedding ring sitting on top and after giving the Street one last sentimental look, turned to Judy Mallett and said: ‘Look after him.’

Also in 1996: Jim McDonald hits Liz; Steve McDonald gets sent to the big house for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice; Liz catches the eye of Frazer Henderson; Alec Gilroy returns and opens Sunliners travel agency; Fiona Middleton buys the salon; Terry Duckworth sells Tommy again; Terry gets Tricia Armstrong pregnant; Audrey Robert’s estranged son, Stephen Reid, turns up; Norris Cole buries Angela’s golf clubs in the Wilton’s allotment; Don Brennan attempts suicide.


Anonymous said...

These are just wonderful, Sunny Jim. I really enjoy hearing a little about the goings-on in the background. Where do you find this stuff? Thanks so much for the series! I'm sure it's a lot of work, but I really appreciate it.

Sunny Jim said...

I'm glad you are enjoying them. As you say, they've been a lot of work but great fun to do. Apologies if I sometimes get things wrong (and thanks for the corrections when I do) but when I was writing these I sometimes suffered a bit from Corrie infomation overload.

The main reference sources have been the various Coronation Street books. For 'behind the scenes' stuff, which I particularly like myself, the best books are The Coronation Street Story (released for the 35th anniversary) and 40 years of Coronation Street by Daran Little and the recent 50 Years of Coronation Street The Very Unofficial Story by Sean Egan.

Another book for 'behind the scenes' info is Access All Areas by David Hanson, Jo Kingston and Roger Dixon. Our very own Flaming Nora had a hand in its production though unfortunately doesn't get a royalty from it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sunny Jim. I'll look for those books for my Christmas treat!


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