how Coronation Street lost the plot

<span>Legendary … the cast of Coronation Street in 1989.</span>Photo: ITV/Shutterstock</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″ data- src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Legendary … the cast of Coronation Street in 1989.Photo: ITV/Shutterstock

Whether it’s Deirdre being sent to prison, Alan Bradley being mowed down by a tram in Blackpool or “you should stay at the party, Maxine”, Coronation Street has produced some of the most memorable moments in UK soap history.

At its peak, the world’s longest-running TV soap could pull in 26 million viewers each episode and its storylines, such as the introduction of transgender character Hayley Cropper, helped shape the national conversation in a way that Westminster politicians could not. just dream. But in recent years, Corrie has faced backlash from fans who say they are fed up with the ITV soap’s dark, issue-driven plots, ever-expanding cast and arbitrary scheduling.

“ITV and Coronation Street seem to have forgotten what a beloved institution it once was,” says superfan Lewis Pringle, who has been watching Corrie since he was five and is now a tweeter serial about the show. “It’s not a Netflix crime series or Line of Duty. They’ve replaced endless drama with character and heart, and at times it feels like over-the-top material, written and produced by people who’ve never seen Coronation Street before.”

The criticism comes as soaps face an uphill struggle to survive amid falling ratings and reduced budgets. Channel 4’s Hollyoaks recently cut its weekly episodes from five to three and moved to an online premiere, while Channel 5 controversially canceled Neighbors two years ago – before it was resurrected by Amazon.

Viewer fatigue has taken a toll on Corrie’s recent reliance on dramatic scenes. While some big stunts – the tram crash on the 50th anniversary or the sinkhole in the Platts’ backyard, for example – have been well-received, fans have been displeased by the conveyor belt of crime-related plots. In the past year, the soap has seen a lot of hit and run, some characters were held at gunpoint and various cases where drug lords were destroying the cogs.

For Bruce Jones, who played with Les Battersby from 1997 to 2008, the storylines have become too hopeful. “I watched it from day one but now my wife says it’s not worth watching. You can’t have that many murders on one street,” he says. “She’s been watching him all her life but she’ll tell you ‘it’s not just me saying it, it’s everyone’.”

“Our writers lived the life of the city of Manchester. It’s not the actors’ faults – they’re all doing a good job for my money – it’s the writers who have changed. I think we’ve lost that aspect of Manchester life.”

Reflecting on what would improve the show as it is now, Jones says: “Get back to what Coronation Street was – a community. There was comedy and tragedy followed. That was it and the love of the people on the street, that’s gone.”

Jones’ former co-star Beverley Callard, who played Liz McDonald on and off for 31 years, told the How to Be 60 podcast in June 2023 that she walked away because “the scripts weren’t what they were “.

“Years ago, we used to get the scripts and you’d open them and think: oh my God, this is amazing, I can’t believe I’m going to be filming this,” she said. “And then I’d open the scripts and think ‘well, we filmed that three years ago’. In the beginning the street was very character-driven and story-driven and I think often with a lot of TV and film now, it’s very issue-oriented and I hate that.”

For many, Maureen Lipman’s portrayal of Evelyn Plummer is one of the most positive things of recent years but even she has recently been publicly lambasted for her direction. She told the Beyond the Title podcast in February: “We’ve got to a point in Corry now where people are being murdered in crackdown factories. We have domestic abuse … anything that ticks the box is going to be a social problem in the 21st century [it].”

Some fans fear that the soap’s biggest problem is a lack of funnier moments. “There’s definitely a place for issues-based stories and some of them have done really well, like the current one where Paul is struggling with motor neurone disease,” says Gavin Broom, co-host of The Talk of the Street. podcast. “But historically it’s always been a good contrast to lighter stories and comedy, and in the last year or so it’s been lacking. The hardest thing the podcast does is when the show is really ambiguous and I don’t care about it.”

In 2017, ITV increased the soap’s weekly episodes to six, in the form of three hour-long broadcasts each week. Due to the additional airtime the character count has increased to around 90 regular characters. Another headache for fans is arbitrary scheduling. Usually broadcast over three hour-long episodes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the first two months of 2024 have been interrupted by live sports broadcasts on ITV1, and even the soap’s most famous fans have been left confused as to when the show was to be broadcast.

Former broadcaster Tony Blackburn tweeted: “Now this is big news for Coronation Street fans. More football this evening on BBC and ITV which means no Corrie. Why can’t they put football on other channels and leave Coronation Street fans alone or put Coronation Street on say ITV2 we will follow it anywhere!!!”

Another criticism of Corrie is that legacy characters such as Gail Platt, Tracy Barlow and Toyah Battersby have been jettisoned in favor of new, often younger characters in order to attract a younger audience.

“I think Coronation Street and ITV need to really think about who they are appealing to – the long-term fans, those who abandon the show at the drop of a hat or younger viewers who probably aren’t interested in soaps,” he says. Pringle.

Covid has also had an impact on the soap from which it has yet to recover. Due to lockdown restrictions, the cast and crew began filming in “blocks”, meaning that some actors and their characters’ stories can go weeks or even months at a time off-screen.

“It destroys the momentum because instead of presenting the plot at a nice pace, it’s a constant starting situation,” says Caitlin Stewart, whose social media account Script to Scene includes Coronation Street and many of its stars the show among its fans. .

“There are often several weeks between one point in the storyline and the next, so it’s hard for viewers to get invested. It’s a shame. I hope there is a way to fix it.”

Coronation Street remains the UK’s most watched soap ahead of its main rivals Emmerdale and EastEnders – despite the latter’s recent revival under senior executive producer (and Corrie alumna) Kate Oates. Iain MacLeod, producer of Corrie for six years, was promoted to executive producer of ongoing drama, also responsible for overseeing Emmerdale, in February.

Emmerdale producer Kate Brooks, who was announced this week as Corrie’s new producer, replaces MacLeod – who many fans blame for the recent recession. ITV bosses eventually landed Brooks after struggling to fill the job, after being turned down by “several leading TV executives”.

I wish they would put some love and care into the show as a whole

Lewis Pringle, fan

The show’s deputy producer Verity MacLeod – also Iain’s wife – was acting as producer in the meantime; MailOnline reported that the prospect of working between her and her husband as an executive producer, as well as the salary, put off outside producers. Brooks’ appointment came as Corrie was snubbed for a Bafta nomination for the second year running.

While ITV was unwilling to put anyone forward to discuss fans’ concerns, the network’s CB for the ongoing drama, John Whiston, provided a written statement. It reads: “Coronation Street is, and has always been, a mix of lovable characters, earthy humor and stories that matter like Liam’s current bullying storyline or Lauren’s grooming storyline.

“The show prides itself on exploring important contemporary issues like this and our audience research shows that viewers really appreciate these stories and we believe we deal with them in an engaging but responsible way. That’s why Coronation Street is the most watched soap on British TV of all time.”

For fans of the show, the hope is that things will start to change for the Weatherfield-set soap – and fast. “Most of all, it feels really crazy to watch, and that makes me sad,” says Pringle. “I wish they would put some love and care into the show as a whole, and come up with better stories and characters before it’s too late.”

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