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 ….