Coronation Street in the Seventies

I’ve recently been watching a fair amount of late seventies Coronation Street (currently up to August 1978, which sees Hilda having problems with her muriel).

As mentioned in previous posts, thanks to the Granada Plus repeats it’s not too difficult to locate most episodes from early 1976 onwards. And when you get into the groove of watching consecutive episode after consecutive episode you find there’s something very moreish about this era of the show.

Unlike modern soaps, it’s not because of a constant stream of high octane storylines. 1970’s Corrie is a gentle thing – true, there is drama (the recent strike at Baldwin’s Casuals, say) but it’s usually always leavened with humour.

Deaths of regulars were kept to a minimum during this period, and usually they occurred either because the actor decided to leave (like Anne Reid) or they were let go (such as Stephen Hancock, fired after he complained about the series’ wage structure). The notion of killing off a long-running regular just to get a bump in the ratings wasn’t really a thing.

Affairs were also a rarity. Yes, Ray Langton is shortly due to depart Weatherfield after a short fling, but this storyline only came about because Neville Buswell decided to leave the series.

So given that the stakes were often low, why is the show so enjoyable at this point in time? Maybe that’s the reason why. 1970’s Coronation Street isn’t a matter of life and death – it’s just a slice of gently comic life.

No, it’s not an accurate reflection of life in a big Northern city during the late seventies (although the series can often surprise you with the occasional sharp topical barb) but then there’s no reason why it has to be.

Instead, the Street was content to play to its strengths, particularly when it came to servicing the series’ long running regulars. When they started to depart the stage in the eighties (for a number of reasons) the show began to lose something of its sparkle.

So I think that when my rewatch reaches the mid eighties I’ll just loop back to the first episode in 1960 and begin again ….

14 thoughts on “Coronation Street in the Seventies

  1. I find that the combination of two factors holds a particular appeal – character comedy and occasional (a term often unthinkingly used pejoratively) melodrama – is distinct to The Street at this time as compared to other soaps (which I like for other reasons).

    It doesn’t really matter that the stakes are low, because its some of the most low-key storylines that I find most dramatically interesting. “Hilda Ogden buys a second-hand washing machine off Renee Bradshaw” – Great, this is going to be good!

    Watching month after month of late seventies Street in succession I’ve noticed that its weak point is the storylining. The scriptwriters were sometimes considerably in advance of the storyliners. There’s a lot of very synthetically-induced conflict (between Rita and Elsie, for example). The quality of the dialogue often sells some situations that I don’t really buy.

    Its striking during this period that (barring the hapless Steve Fisher) every single character is still well-remembered to this day. The programme itself is in its imperial phase.

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      • So he was only in two episodes. I caught a bit of one episode he was in. Possibly when I was watching the next programme, I don’t watch Coronation Street, but people were talking about it the next day at school. I was under the impression he was a new regular character.

        Andrew Schofield later played Johnny Rotten in Sid and Nancy. Terrible film.

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      • Andrew Scholfield is probably best remembered for the central role in Alan Bleasdale’s Scully

        He was also the policeman that Yosser Hughes headbutted in Boys from the Blackstuff (again written by Bleasdale).

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  2. Was Stephen Hancock let go as such?.I know he brought up some cast getting paid for every episode even if they didn’t appear.While many were paid what they appeared in,including himself.Anyway found Emily more bearable when married to Ernie.She became a moaning minnie again fairly quickly again after Ernie was gone.

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      • He probably was foolish to leave a high profile gig like that.Not aware of anything much he appeared in after the street.Like Fred Feast he have very few tv appearances after,at least Stephen didn’t go down the path of telling tales to the press though as Fred did like others also.

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    • Bit of trivia for you – Stephen Hancock is the brother of the actor who played Charlie Cotton in EastEnders (Dot’s scheming husband & Nasty Nick’s father).

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      • Hi CJAlan I knew that but thanks for saying it anyhow.Wonder what part Stephen would have played in the early days of Eastenders if cast.Best bet for me would be Doctor Legg,a character with some sympathy.

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  3. I loved the vintage years of Coronation Street. Bill Podmore’s rein in the Producer’s chair is regarded as one of the strongest eras of the programme.

    The period 1983/84 saw some massive changes to the show forever, due to the exits of so many characters that were caused by off screen scandals and the sad deaths of some of the cast.

    Coronation Street seem to undergo a slight change in pace and direction by the late 1980s when they began competing against Brookside & Eastenders which had grittier plots.

    I found Corrie’s quality began to decline around 1989, when they added a third weekly episode. This for me causes the writing and stories to become diluted.

    Funnily enough – Brookside (which was once a personal favourite of mine) went off the boil around the same time, when they too went three times a week, and lost some key characters.

    I totally agree that watching classic Corrie on You Tube is a nice touch and becomes addictive if you are not careful!!!!

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  4. Re: Coronation Street circa 1989. Might as well promote my own work in this field – http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/spaces-of-television/2013/04/17/plot-inflation-in-greater-weatherfield-coronation-street-in-the-1990s/

    I think that Coronation Street 1989 is the only time that a soap hasn’t suffered from an extra episode, as an awful lot of thought and preparation had gone into making the programme work. The introduction of the fourth episode in 1996 was grim, though.

    The quality of Brookside does seem to go down by 33% overnight in 1990! Not helped by many of the interesting long-running characters (and Jimmy McGovern) all going around the same time.

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    • Brookside 1990 – they lost Billy & Sheila, Harry Cross, Jonathan Gordon-Davies and the Collins family (who were swiftly written out following Doreen Sloane’s death).

      The newcomers – the Dixons, the Farnhams & were unlikeable and annoying at times. It was around this period they began to turn Barry Grant from a sly ‘Jack-the-Lad’ into Al Capone which was a step too far.

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  5. After battling my way through what I could locate from 1960-76, I’m now in Granada Plus territory, and a relief not to have spend half an hour, some days, reading up the episodes I couldn’t locate! I still can’t visualise Gail as only being nineteen! She’s always been 40+ in my mind!

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