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Coronation Street - The 2000s

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Coronation Street - The 2000s
Granada for ITV, tx. 9/12/1960-
4 x weekly 25 min episodes, colour
Production CompanyGranada Television
Created byTony Warren
Writers includePeter Whalley, Joe Turner, Mark Wadlow, David Lane, Martin Allen, Jayne Hollinson, Jonathan Harvey, Daran Little, Chris Fewtrell, Catherine Hayes, Debbie Oates, John Stevenson, John Fay, Carmel Morgan

Cast: Brian Capron (Richard Hillman), Elizabeth Dawn (Vera Duckworth), Maggie Jones (Blanche Hunt), Anne Kirkbride (Deirdre Barlow), Ian McKellen (Mel Hutchwright), Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts), William Roache (Ken Barlow), Bill Tarmey (Jack Duckworth), Helen Worth (Gail McIntyre/Hillman/Platt).

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The lives of the people of Weatherfield, Salford, northern England.

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Coronation Street's 40th anniversary in December 2000 was marked by a live, hour-long episode in which the Prince of Wales appeared in a pre-recorded segment as himself meeting Audrey Roberts. The stories that year and throughout 2001, were far less celebratory. Producer Jane Mcnaught promoted issue-led storylines of teenage pregnancy, rape and internet chatroom abduction as a direct response to the grittier realism perceived as popular with the younger (and growing) audience for EastEnders (BBC, 1985-).

The Street's viewers reacted badly; ratings dropped, and in 2002 Kieran Roberts was brought in to reintroduce a gentler tone. Belying this remit, Roberts produced the most headline grabbing story of the decade, Gail Platt's doomed marriage to serial killer Richard Hillman, memorably assessed by Gail in a final confrontation as "Norman Bates with a briefcase".

Comedy reached its highest level in award-winning performances from Maggie Jones, playing Deirdre Barlow's mother, Blanche. Her delivery of one-line character assassinations and left-field philosophies were a gift to her writers - the observation "you're going to have to learn to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others, Ken, or you'll live to have a very miserable old age," is one of many pronouncements deserving iconic status in the Street's history.

The soap had previously vigorously rejected the high-risk strategy of introducing star names to give a short-term boost to ratings, but an exception was made for Sir Ian McKellen. Fresh from a stint in panto, McKellen featured in 10 episodes in 2005, giving an exquisitely-tuned vaudeville performance as the sleazy, tooth-picking, northern writer, Mel Hutchwright. One critic remarked, "A voice trained by a lifetime of Shakespeare and Chekhov can bring unexpected depths to the words 'Eeeeh, Lancashire hotpot'".

In 2008, one of the Street's longest serving and best loved characters, Vera Duckworth, was written out of the show at the request of actress Elizabeth Dawn (34 years in the role). Vera died in her chair, to be found by her husband Jack in a scene beautifully realised by Bill Tarmey.

Five producers left during the decade, a sign perhaps that they had trouble remaining true to the shows origins while developing and sustaining a coherent and believable vision representing Britain's contemporary social fabric. The pressure to increase ratings and find younger audiences had led to stories of murder and brutality far removed from the minutely-observed domestic detail of everyday life which Tony Warren had conceived in another age.

Olwen Terris

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Video Clips
1. Ken Barlow, Lawrentian hero (1:05)
2. The essence of working-class masculinity (1:39)
3. The solution to junk and knock-offs (2:14)
Complete episode 5/8/05 (22:19)
Coronation Street (1960- )
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