Fifty Years of Coronation Street

Fifty Years of Coronation Street, by Tim Randall (ITV, 2010)

If you’re a fan of Coronation Street, you probably already know about this book, and if you aren’t, you don’t care.  But I’m going to talk about it anyway.

2010 was Coronation Street’s 50th anniversary (9 December, 1960).  The scriptwriters’ plan was to have a real blast to celebrate the occasion – a tram crash, explosion and an unspecified number of characters popping their clogs.  And they did it well, hatching a new, tantalizing brood of plot lines in the process.  That’s good writing.

ITV also brought out this splendid book, which is nothing less than a history of the Street through 50 glorious years.  Organized according to decades, it has everything you could desire.  There are summaries of the main story lines, character profiles, sample dialogue, lists of births, deaths and marriages, and lots of pictures.  For me, who only started watching 5 years ago, it’s absolutely necessary.  All that back story, all the nuances I was missing.  Coronation Street is a Victorian novel of a soap opera.

Nancy Banks-Smith

I’m a bit of a snob about television – wouldn’t touch a soap with a bargepole – until I started reading Nancy Banks-Smith’s television reviews in the Guardian.  Her genuine affection for the medium and the quality of her writing made me rethink my position.  She can write entertainingly and humanely about the sort of programs I’d never think to watch, making me curious to see for myself.  So it was with Coronation Street.  The Dickensian characters and sometimes surreal plot lines came to life in her reviews.  I watched several episodes and was hooked.

I lived in Seattle then.  We got CBC from  Vancouver on cable, the only channel to show Coronation Street, presumably for the homesick expats.  Then, after a couple of years, they replaced it with the ludicrous EastEnders.  I got quite irate and went into a bit of a decline.  Since returning to the UK in March, 2010, I’ve been able to watch it in real time, not year old episodes.

Thank you for the reviews, Nancy Banks-Smith.  I might have missed a great deal of pleasure if you hadn’t been such a good writer.

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