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Albion Market (1985-86)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Albion Market (1985-86)
Granada for ITV, tx. 30/8/1985-24/8/1986
100 x 30 min episodes, colour
Directors includeRic Mellis
 Jonathan Wright Miller
ProducerGareth Jones
Executive ProducersBill Podmore
 David Liddiment
Writers includePeter Whalley
 Andrew Lynch
 Stephen Lowe

Cast: David Hargreaves (Derek Owen); Sally Baxter (Lisa O'Shea); Geoffrey Leesley (Geoff Travis); Valerie Lilley (Brenda Rigg); Peter Benson (Larry Rigg); Bernard Spear (Morris Ransome); Carol Kaye (Miriam Ransome); Noreen Kershaw (Lynne Harrison); Derek Hicks (Keith Naylor); Philip Tan (Lam Quoc Hoa); Dev Sagoo (Raju Sharma); Paul Bhattacharjee (Jaz Sharma); Barbara Wilshere (Carol Broadbent); Paula Jacobs (Peggy Sagar); Burt Caesar (Phil Smith); John Michie (Tony Fraser); Pik-Sen Lim (Ly Nhu Chan); Anthony Booth (Ted Pilkington); Helen Shapiro (Viv Harker); Michelle Collins (Diane Meadows)

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The tangled lives of the stallholders of a Manchester market.

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In the early 1980s, ITV decided that it needed a show to spearhead its ratings charge on Friday and Sunday nights in the same way that Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-) did in the earlier part of the week. To this end, Granada created Albion Market (ITV, 1985-86), a deliberately gritty look at life in a covered market in Manchester. Unfortunately, by the time Albion Market made it to air in late August, the advent of EastEnders (BBC, 1985-) had changed the broadcasting environment. Instead of being seen as the more realistic counterpart to an increasingly dated Coronation Street, Albion Market would struggle from the start to ward off unfavourable comparisons to the BBC's new serial.

As befitted its title, the action in Albion Market rarely strayed from the confines of the market itself. The long-suffering market superintendent Derek Owen was the primary focus; his day usually began with the difficult task of assigning the few unowned stalls to the large number of casual traders. Prominent among these were Lynn Harrison and her ex-jailbird husband Roy; while the regular traders included the gossiping ceramics dealer Morris Ransome and handsome ladykiller and cake seller Tony Fraser.

Despite opening with an arson attack on the market, the series struggled to capture an audience. Although it had some hard-hitting storylines involving its notably multiracial cast, the market setting rapidly became a problem. Characters were bogged down by the business of running their stalls, and the sheer drabness of the set compounded the monotony.

After this faltering start, compounded by Michael Grade's success with his newly rearranged schedules for the BBC, Granada attempted to change direction and bring in both glamour and familiar faces. New characters played by Helen Shapiro and Tony Booth were, however, brought in too late, as by then some ITV regions had dropped the series from their peak-time schedules. By the time Albion Market had reached its 100th and final episode, EastEnders had already become the number one soap in the country.

Nevertheless, ITV didn't abandon the idea of a ratings spearhead on Friday and Sunday nights, and eventually filled those slots with extra episodes of Coronation Street. This change, and its subsequent impact on soap production in the UK, was probably Albion Market's biggest legacy.

John Williams

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Video Clips
Complete episode (24:25)
Coronation Street (1960- )
EastEnders (1985- )
Market on Honey Lane / Honey Lane (1967-69)
Lim, Pik-Sen (c. 1944- )
Granada Television
Soap Opera