On the face of it, Coronation Street is a simplistic series. It ostensibly follows the lives of a group of neighbors in a working-class neighborhood — Weatherfield — who live on the cobblestoned eponymous street with a row of terraced houses (numbered, oddly, 1-13) flanked at each end by a pub and a mini-market on one side and freestanding abodes, a newsagent, and a factory on the other.
But for the millions of fans who tune in for each and every episode, it is so much more. How else to explain the fact that amongst its many viewers, this soap can count Sir Anthony Hopkins, Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (AKA Snoop Dogg), and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Premiere Date: Friday, 9 December 1960
Master and Creator of Coronation Street
The show was created by child actor-turned-script writer Tony Warren, who had begged his superiors to allow him to write a series steeped in the aspects of a life that he knew so well, rather than force him to adapt WE Johns’ book series for the screen.
His exacerbated superiors offered Warren a deadline to deliver a proposal and within 24 hours, he handed them the bible for his new soap opera. It was a reworking of a previously rejected script he had sent into the BBC years before.
What Is In a Name?
Long before it debuted as Coronation Street, the series’ working title was Florizel Street – Florizel being the name most associated with the prince who rescued the imprisoned and slumbering Briar Rose.
Another name bandied about in the planning stages was Jubilee Street, which, lore has it, was actually the title that won the most votes amongst the production staff, who were shocked to find out that Coronation Street had won out.
In the fictional world of Weatherfield, the street (originally called Archie Street) was named so in honor of Kind Edward VII’s coronation ceremony.
The Christmas season of 1960 saw the ushering in of change at the Corner Shop as incumbent license holder Elsie Lapin busied herself with a handover to new proprietress Florrie Lindley. “Now the next thing you want to do is get a sign writer in. That thing above the door’ll ‘ave to be changed.”
But while there was some progress in commerce, it was business as usual inside Numbers 11 and 3. In the former, harangued mother of two, Elsie Tanner, was arguing with wayward son, and recent parolee, Dennis over disappearing cash.
In the latter, idealistic, social-climbing Ken Barlow was having yet another argument with his tight-fisted father over the money he was spending in aide of impressing his latest conquest (fellow college student Susan Cunningham) and the location of where they were to meet for a dinner date — the Imperial Hotel, where family matriarch Ida worked as a dish scrubber.
At the local watering hole, imperious landlady Annie turned her haughty nose up at credit-seeking Dennis, whose sister, Linda was convincing Elsie to give her sanctuary after running out on her husband. Also, viewers got their first look at Ena Sharples, the authority on religious piety who displayed only a hint of the hypocrisy she would become known for.
Opinions, High and Low
Reaction to the new series was varied. A critic writing for the Daily Mirror warned that “The program is doomed from the outset…For there is little reality in this new serial, which apparently, we have to suffer twice a week.” However, a reviewer for The Guardian insisted that it would run forever.
Initially, Coronation Street was broadcast two nights a week. It was seen on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 pm, though it would change to Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30 pm in short order.
The schedule remained so for nearly 29 years until a third episode was added to Friday nights in 1989. A fourth half-hour was issued on Sunday nights in 1996, a fifth in 2003, and a sixth in 2017. Currently, Coronation Street airs two episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night at 7:30 and 8:30 pm.
Coronation Street Trivia
Since the series’ first episode, there have been 59 marriages, 191 deaths, and 47 births.
William Roach, who has played Ken Barlow since the initial episode, is now the longest-serving actor to embody a single character in a television program.
During the soap’s 59 years, Ken has been involved with over 25 women and managed to walk down the aisle with three of them.
Gail MacIntyre is the series’ most-married lady, having taken five husbands since her 1974 debut.
Legacy character Peter Barlow (son of Ken and first wife Valerie) has been played by seven different actors, earning him the distinction of being the most recast role in a UK serial.
Over 50 women of varying ages have served as barmaid behind the counter at the Rovers Return, an establishment that has caught fire on two separate occasions and been the sight of two characters’ passings.
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