MEDIA: CORONATION STREET - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Corrie fan Ian Darby feels that the UK's oldest TV soap opera is still looking good after 40 years

I've been a fan of Coronation Street for nearly 20 years. Its heyday came for me not with the likes of Ena Sharples and Albert Tatlock sitting in the snug of the Rover's Return, but in the mid to late 80s when events such as the death of Alan Bradley, who fell under a Blackpool tram in 1989, eclipsed anything else on TV.

I've been a fan of Coronation Street for nearly 20 years. Its heyday came for me not with the likes of Ena Sharples and Albert Tatlock sitting in the snug of the Rover's Return, but in the mid to late 80s when events such as the death of Alan Bradley, who fell under a Blackpool tram in 1989, eclipsed anything else on TV.

Somehow for its entire 40-year lifespan, Coronation Street has kept its relevance. Its viewing figures remain staggeringly high. The Cadbury deal is the most expensive broadcast sponsorship and its advertising revenue is vital to the ITV network.

Last Friday, in an attempt to try something new to mark its 40th anniversary, ITV produced a live one-hour episode, going back to its roots when the first 12 episodes of Coronation Street went out live.

On the whole it was a raging success. The acting was as tight as one of Ken Barlow's pullovers and the entire production was pretty slick, apart from some early camera wobbles.

The plot centred around two events: the residents' 'Save our Street' campaign to stop its famous cobbles being dug up and the plight of long-suffering Vera Duckworth, who was dangerously ill in hospital following an operation to remove a kidney to save her grandson.

What evolved was an hour of melodrama and amiable nostalgia as the residents manned the barricades with shouts of 'we shall not be moved'. At the same time, we received a false alarm that Vera had died in hospital with Bill Tarmey as husband Jack playing some emotional scenes.

I was aware throughout that this was a clear celebration of Coronation Street's heritage. Prodigal sons Terry Duckworth and Peter Barlow returned for the occasion, and guest appearances by Prince Charles, Trevor McDonald and Slade's Noddy Holder added to the sense of it all being one big party.

In the end, Coronation Street's insistence on producing a comic ending resulted in both Vera pulling through and the cobbles being saved. The only dark clouds on the horizon came with Hayley, Coronation Street's transsexual, leaving Roy Cropper after he insisted she was less than a woman, and the possibility that the Rover's will cease to exist because Natalie is selling up to a brewery chain that will rename the pub The Boozy Newt.

Critics say that Coronation Street has lost its relevance, that it is no longer realistic and plays things for easy laughs. But this misses the point. It was never realistic, even in the 60s, and relies on a mix of comedy and nostalgia for its strong viewing figures. Its only stumbling block is that the demands of getting out four episodes a week often leads to a lessening of the tension because of excessive padding.



Channel: ITV, Friday 8 December, 8pm

Viewing audience: 14.2 million adults (up 25 per cent on previous Friday)

Ad rate for 30-second spot: Around pounds 80,000

Advertisers in the first ad break included: ONdigital, Boots, Yves Saint Laurent, Argos, Sony, Virgin Mobile, WH Smith.



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