Cosy crimes and gritty sagas by Corrie Blog editor Glenda, published by Headline. Click pic below!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Corrie and the competition

By crikey, the folk of Weatherfield will (possibly) be raising a glass of something alcoholic/bucolic and wishing their Yorkshire neighbours "Happy 40th birthday" next week. Yes, Emmerdale has notched up four decades on the box, although it bears little resemblance to the dour, unbelievably slow Emmerdale Farm that creaked into view in 1972. For over twenty years, each episode contained the same three scenes. Annie Sugden would wander from the aga to answer the phone. Amos Brierly would spend fifteen minutes lighting is pipe. Matt Skilbeck would hovver by some sheep dip. Roll end credits. Then in 1993 they dropped a plane on Eric Pollard's wife and things changed forever.

Corrie always seems to have existed alongside Emmerdale as opposed to being in direct competition with it. However, the latter has drifted into the realms of unreality. A rural village filled with teetering Aunt Sallys, forever referring to each other as "slag" or "cow". Vengeful businessman with trophy wives, daft old women with tea cosies on their heads. It's all a bit mad but bravo for having lasted the course.

Emmerdale moprhed into EastEnders-on-Cowpat around a decade or so ago. Corrie, bless it, has never really taken on the whole characteristics of any of its competitors. Bits have been tweaked here and there. Some have worked and some have not. By staying relatively true to itself, Corrie has seen off most of the competition.

In the Street's early days, the BBC had little idea of how to counter the show's success. Most of their attempts to challenge Street supremacy crashed and burned. Compact, the tale of life in the offices of a glossy magazine could hardly compare with Ena and Elsie bellowing at each other. The 1965 footballing saga United was deemed a foul and was sent off for an early shower. The Newcomers lasted for four years but viewers tired of tales in rural Suffolk.

For twenty four years, Corrie battled it out with Crossroads, ITV's five-times-a-week rendezvous with Meg Richardson and her family, running a shabby motel in the Midlands. Herein lay the show's biggest blunder. With so much invested in the fortunes of one family, by taking away the central linchpin (Meg), the whole edifice collapsed. Corrie's production values were sometimes a little ragged but Crossroads took it to a new level - actors waiting for their cues, awkward pauses. There were gaping holes in plots such as Jill Richardson's eleven month pregnancy or Benny's fabled, unexplained disappearance.

The only soap that ever came close to making Corrie look anachronistic was Channel 4's Brookside. Launched in 1982, Brookie was filmed in real houses and was far more hard-hitting than anything on offer in Weatherfield. Characters such as Sheila Grant and Edna Cross seemed more realistic than the likes of Phyllis Pearce. For a time, Brookie seemed to have inherited the social realism that had been integral to the success of Corrie back in the 1960s. Yet for all of that, Brookside did not survive. By initially having no areas for social interaction, such as the Rovers and the Corner Shop, the Liverpool soap had to present all of its action in the existing houses. Characters began falling down stairs at an alarming rate. There were sieges, religious cults, epidemics, murder a-plenty, bombs and helicopter crashes. By 2003, the show was looking ridiculous and was axed. Corrie sailed on like a stately galleon but by that point was no longer the cosy drama it had been back in 1982.

Of course, EastEnders is still around. Those who have read the story behind that particular soap will know that creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland spent time on the Street in order to see what would work and what would not. They also put the idea of 'family' first and foremost and in 1985, Corrie was very much a land of single middle-aged women. Enders got the upper hand in a short space of time but has forever lacked the warmth and wit of Weatherfield. The London soap may win the awards but we know which side our balm cakes are buttered.

So let's raise a glass to the Dales folk, their countless explosions, their lip-glossed lovelies and Annie Sudgen's aga. And then let's get back to watching Britain's best soap.

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BarrieT said...

excellent article and so true. i have never watched a single episode of emmerdale in my life and not going to start now. lets not criticise emmerdale too much as we are getting their old producer in a few months

Humpty Dumpty said...

I know this blog has the word 'competition' in the title, it's worth remembering a soap that isn't in competition. Radio 4's The Archers is "the longest running soap in the world", Corrie being a TV soap. Fans of the radio soap have recently been up in arms about a storyline involving a baby with Down's Syndrome. Why mention it? Only to make the point that sensationalist stories are everywhere and have been around at least since the Penny Dreadfuls of the nineteenth century.

Anonymous said...

"excellent article and so true. i have never watched a single episode of emmerdale in my life "

How do you know what he's written is true then!!!

Tvor said...

I've tried to watch Emmerdale at various points and incarnations during the times that we've seen it on our Canadian screens and I never could take to it for some reason.

Anonymous said...

The bit about Annie Sugden and the aga made me laugh. I can vaguely remember watching Emmerdale Farm about a million years ago, but the only thing I clearly recall is her lurking pointlessly in the kitchen.

Chewy said...

I love Emmerdale, what I like about it the big manor being at the centre of all the major storylines in the village, the King family are also worth mentioning, they have to be my favourite characters.

Emmerdale had a bad period from 2009-2011ish, but at the moment it's back to what I like, and thats thanks to Stuart Blackburn, he seems to have really toned down the sensationalist stuff, not to mention, bringing in some down to earth families (The Spencers for one)

He's also made the Sharma family interesting by bringing in their dad.

Anonymous said...

I watch both Corrie and EE..there are a few similarities esp this past year with the death of Pat from cancer (Jack Duckworth death from cancer). Heart wrenching endings both. Actors in both soaps are absolutely top notch (very few exceptions).
Corrie has more warmth and humour though whereas EE can be very dark and violent -sometimes going too far..(the murder of Heather Trott which IMO was a big mistake by the producers) The producers of EE also allow the actorrs to leave for a few months and then come back which I find very annoying. Wish I could do that..take a few months off and have my job waiting for me when I return.

Mrs Barton said...

I also confess to the occasional Eastenders fix....
It's OK but it does get a bit relentlessly depressing of you watch it too regularly!! Nothing touches our Corrie.
When I used to live in New Zealand they showed Corrie and Shortland Street, and the difference in quality and production values was so huge.. we really are spoilt.
I miss early-days Brookside ! Great title sequence/music as well

Danny-K said...

There's one very good reason to watch Emmerdale soon - Bernice is coming back! Phwoarrrr!!!

- (Just record the episodes where Bernice is mentioned in the advance schedules - skip the rubbishy rest, where she doesn't appear).
Hmmm... I wonder if the years have been kind to her?

- Do yourself a big, big, big, favour - and the ratings - and sign up Bernice aka Samatha Giles for Corrie!!

In football a good coach always poaches star players from his old clubs and takes them with him to better pastures and opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Great fun, but not particularly true. Emmerdale Farm did become racier during the 1980s - scenes were shorter, there was a teenage pregnancy, arson, a schoolgirl's affair with a married man, the villagers fending off a nuclear dump, the arrivals of "baddies" Alan Turner (1982) and Eric Pollard (1986) (Eric threatened a young woman with a poker in 1987!) - and even back in 1972-1979, some of the folks were being murdered, crashed into by a train in a stalled car on a level crossing, being held at gunpoint - or simply shooting themselves! Also, 1980s Brookside was more political and relentlessly controversial than Coronation Street had ever been in the 1960s.


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