As Coronation Street sets to burn to the ground, TV One has put on a weekend spread of Street-themed programming in the build up to the 50th anniversary episode.
50 years ago (51 years and 7 months South Pacific time), Tony Warren created the world’s longest running soap and simultaneously made a curmudgeonly ginger cat a mega-star, along with a few of its human counterparts.
To commemorate this milestone, and potentially kill off a few characters in the process, TV One will air the 50th anniversary episode, which was filmed and aired live in the UK.
Warren had the groundbreaking idea to depict 'ordinary' people on TV, but no one ever expected the idea to take off, let alone become the success it has today.
Granada Television initially only commissioned 13 episodes, predicting it would flop, and a newspaper columnist for the Daily Mirror thought its shelf life a mere three weeks. Despite skepticism from critics, it was a concept that 'ordinary' viewers, long overdue to see a reflection of themselves on screen, took almost immediately to their hearts.
'Coronation Street' started out life as 'Florizel Street', until a tea lady named Agnes wisely intervened and told producers that Florizel sounded like a disinfectant brand.
After considering 'Jubilee Street', Granada executives opted for 'Coronation Street' and a legend was born.
The build up to the 50th anniversary episode begins this week as a huge explosion tears through The Joinery, leaving three residents of the street trapped inside. As a result of the explosion, a tram careens off course creating even more chaos on the fictional streets of Weatherfield.
In conjunction with the anniversary, three 'Coronation Street' themed specials will air over the weekend, culminating in the anniversary episode airing next Thursday, 19 July.'Come Dine With Me: Coronation Street Special'
Instead of passing the salt, watch Ken Morley (unctuous supermarket manager Reg Holdsworth) pass gas as he lets rip at the 'Come Dine with Me' table. Joining him for a platter of cabbage and beans are fellow Corrie cast members Julie Goodyear (The Rovers Return’s most famous landlady, saucy Bet Lynch), Phil Middlemiss (bookie Des Barnes) and Tupele Dorgu (Underworld factory worker Kelly Crabtree).
Saturday 14 July, 7.30pm'The Road To Coronation Street'
It’s 6.55 pm. December 9th 1960. Granada Studios, Manchester.
With minutes to go until the live transmission of Episode One, creator Tony Warren is being sick in the toilets, actress Pat Phoenix is missing and so is the cat from the opening shot. What is soon to become television history is hanging by a thread.'The Road to Coronation Street' chronicles the genesis of Coronation Street through the eyes of its creator, Tony Warren (David Dawson, Doc Martin). Keeping things in the soap opera family, Jessie Wallace (Kat Moon, Eastenders) also stars as Pat Phoenix, the actress who made her name on the soap as Elsie Tanner, while James Roache portrays his father William Roache (Ken Barlow). While 'Coronation Street' is made by English network ITV, the docudrama was created and aired by rival channel BBC in the UK.
Saturday 14 July, 8.30pm'Coronation Street: 50 Years, 50 Moments'
In this celebration of Corrie’s 50 greatest moments, the cast, past and present, writers, producers and directors reveal how the most memorable storylines came to life. The 50 moments have been voted for by the public and chosen by a distinguished panel, including creator Tony Warren and actor William Roache (Ken Barlow).
Sunday 15 July, 8.30pm
11 Corrie Facts
1. It’s estimated that Betty Turpin (Betty Williams) served an average of 12 hot pots a day, totalling over 4,300 a year of her famous savoury stew. Bill Kenwright who played Betty’s son Gordon for several years from 1968, sent his screen mother, who had no children of her own, roses every Mother’s Day until her passing in 2011.
Hilda’s farewell episode still holds the record for the most watched episode with 26 million viewers.
3. That sombre earworm opening music, depressing to some, comforting to others, was composed by Eric Spear. Spear received a miserly £6 pounds for the memorable melody. It’s the only piece of music to feature in a survey of Britain's top ten favourite sounds (after laughter, rain, wind, waves, applause and the words 'I love you').
4. In the interests of authenticity, characters’ names were lifted from gravestones found in Manchester cemeteries. Viewers with deceased relatives who shared a moniker with their favourite characters no doubt chalked it up to coincidence; their dear departed loved ones having unwittingly contributed to the famous soap’s roll call of characters.
5. In 1995, the Rovers went up for sale on 'Coronation Street'. One eager view keen to be the new publican of the Rovers Return sent in a cheque for the full asking price of £67,000. The cheque was framed and hangs in the 'Coronation Street' offices.
6. Frisky was the 'Coronation Street' cat from 1990, chasing off 5000 other hopefuls to win the coveted prize role of ‘cat bothering Jack Duckworth’s pigeons’ in the opening sequence. Frisky passed away in 2000 and in 2010, his owner auctioned off his ashes garnering £700, smashing the £150 reserve.
7. Peter Dudley, who played Ivy Tilsley’s husband Brian, was arrested on charges of importuning (also known as 'cottaging' or 'pulling a George Michael') in the early eighties. Although Dudley had been fined for importuning in the past, he denied the later charge, claiming police had entrapped him. Tragically, he died of a heart attack in 1983 while awaiting trial.
8. Dudley’s on screen wife Ivy Tilsley was played by Lynne Perrie, whose real name was oddly enough Jean Dudley, though the pair were unrelated. Perrie, who struggled with alcoholism, was released from the street after a dispute with producers. The 65- year-old went on to scandalise the nation when she appeared on adult channel Television X in 1996 administering oral relief to a male stripper.
9. 17 million UK viewers tuned in to watch Ken Barlow re-marry his ex-wife Diedre on 8 April, 2005. Earlier that same day, 13 million viewers witnessed the rematch of another famous couple torn apart by time, circumstance and their respective spouses, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.
10. William Roache, who has played Ken Barlow since the beginning, was paid £10 for each episode when the soap began. His fortunes have improved vastly since then as he is now reputed to earn £3,000 an episode.11. The episode of 'Eastenders' that aired on the same day as Coronation Street’s 50th anniversary special featured a tribute to its rival soap; with character Dot Branning saying she never missed an episode of 'Coronation Street'.