how Coronation Street lost the plot

<span>Legendary… the cast of Coronation Street in 1989.</span><span>Photo: ITV/Shutterstock</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ a2313533747160″ data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 3533747160″/></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 have stayed at the party, Maxine”, Coronation Street has provided some of the most memorable moments in British soap history .

At its peak, the world’s longest-running television soap could attract 26 million viewers per episode and its stories, such as the introduction of transsexual character Hayley Cropper, helped shape the national conversation in a way that Westminster politicians could only dream of. But in recent years Corrie has faced a backlash from fans who say they have had enough of dark, issue-based plots, an ever-expanding cast and sporadic scheduling of ITV’s flagship show.

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

The criticism comes as soaps face an uphill battle to survive amid plummeting ratings and budget cuts. Channel 4’s Hollyoaks recently reduced the number of weekly episodes from five to three and switched to online-first, while Channel 5 controversially canceled Neighbors two years ago – before being revived by Amazon.

Corrie’s recent reliance on dramatic scenes comes at the expense of viewer fatigue. While some big stunts – say the 50th anniversary tram crash or a sinkhole in the Platts’ backyard – have been well received, a conveyor belt of crime-related plots has left fans disillusioned. Over the past year, the soap has seen several hit-and-runs, several characters being held at gunpoint and several examples of drug lords wreaking havoc on the cobbles.

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

“The writers we had lived in the city life of Manchester. It’s not the actors’ faults – they’re all doing well for my money – it’s the writers who have changed. I actually think we’ve lost that element of what life in Manchester is about.”

Reflecting on what would improve the show in its current form, Jones says: “Bring it back to what Coronation Street was: a community. The comedy was there and the tragedy came next. That was it and the love of the people on the street is 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 would get the scripts and you would open them and be like, oh my goodness, this is amazing, I can’t believe I’m going to be filming this,” she said. “And then I opened the scripts and thought, ‘well, we filmed that three years ago.’ The Street was originally very character and story driven and I think now that there’s a lot of television and film, it’s problem-driven and I hate that.”

For many, Maureen Lipman’s portrayal of Evelyn Plummer is one of the big positives of recent years, but even she has publicly criticized its recent direction. She told the Beyond the Title podcast in February: “We are now at a point in Corrie where people are being murdered in underwear factories. We’re dealing with domestic violence…anything that fits the social problems of the 21st century is going to be in trouble. [it].”

Some fans fear the soap’s biggest problem is a lack of funnier moments. “There is certainly a place for the issue-driven storylines and some of them, like the current one where Paul struggles with motor neurone disease, are particularly well executed,” says Gavin Broom, co-host of The Talk of the Street. podcast. “But historically it’s always contrasted well with lighter storylines and humor, and this past year that’s been lacking. The hardest part about doing a podcast is when the show is really ambivalent and I just don’t care.”

In 2017, ITV increased the number of weekly episodes of the soap to six, broadcasting three hours per week. The additional airtime has increased the show’s cast to approximately 90 regular characters. Another headache for fans is sporadic scheduling. Normally broadcast in three-hour episodes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the first two months of 2024 were interrupted by live sports coverage on ITV1, with even the soap’s most famous fans left confused as to when the show would air.

Veteran broadcaster Tony Blackburn tweeted: “This is now more than a joke for all of us Coronation Street fans. More football tonight on BBC and ITV and that means no Corrie. Why can’t they put football on other channels and leave us Coronation Street fans alone, or put Coronation Street on ITV2, we’ll follow it everywhere!!!”

Another recurring criticism of Corrie is that older characters such as Gail Platt, Tracy Barlow and Toyah Battersby have been sidelined in favor of new, often younger characters in an attempt to attract young viewers.

“I think Coronation Street and ITV need to think seriously about who they appeal to: the long-term fans, those who will leave the show in a heartbeat or younger viewers who are unlikely to be interested in soaps,” Pringle concludes.

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

“It ruins the momentum because instead of the plot being presented at a nice pace, it’s a constant stop-start situation,” says Caitlin Stewart, whose social media account Script to Scene Coronation Street and many of the stars of counts the show among its followers.

“There are often several weeks between one point in the storyline and the next, so it’s difficult for viewers to stay interested. It is a pity. Hopefully there is a way to solve it.”

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

Replacing MacLeod – who many fans blame for the soap’s recent decline – is Emmerdale producer Kate Brooks, who was this week announced as Corrie’s new producer. ITV bosses eventually turned to Brooks after reportedly struggling to fill the role after being turned down by “a number of prestigious TV executives”.

I just 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 – acted as producer in the meantime; MailOnline reported that outside producers were put off by the prospect of working between her and her executive producer husband, and the salary. Brooks’ appointment came as Corrie was snubbed for a Bafta nomination for the second year in a row.

Although ITV was unwilling to put anyone forward to discuss fans’ concerns, the network’s MD for continuing drama, John Whiston, did provide a written statement. It reads: “Coronation Street is and always has been a mix of characters you love, earthy humor and stories that matter, such as the current Liam bullying storyline or the Lauren grooming storyline.

“The show prides itself on exploring important contemporary issues like these and our audience research shows that viewers really value these stories and believe we are dealing with them in an engaging but responsible way. That’s why Coronation Street remains the most watched soap on British television.”

For fans of the show, the hope is that things are starting to change for the Weatherfield soap – and soon. “It’s especially a chore to watch, and that makes me sad,” Pringle says. “I just wish they put some love and care into the series as a whole and come up with better stories and characters before it’s too late.”

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