Coronation Street hits TV sets
Millions of viewers tune in as the first episode of the working-class domestic saga airs
ForBritish audiences, 9 December 1960 was a milestone in television history. At seven that evening, with more than 3 million people staring at their sets, a brass band struck up a mournful tune, the grainy black and white picture showed a long street of terraced back-tobacks, and Coronation Street began its record-breaking run as the nation’s best-loved soap opera.
Coronation Street was the brainchild of a young Granada scriptwriter, Tony Warren. In keeping with the sociological trends of the late 1950s, Warren was keen to explore working-class life in the urban north, a world already being transformed by postwar affluence.
“A fascinating freemasonry, a volume of unwritten rules,” began his note on the new series. “These are the driving forces behind life in a working-class street in the north of England. To the uninitiated outsider, all this would be completely incomprehensible.” The point of his new show, he explained, was “to entertain by examining a community of this kind and initiating the viewer into the ways of the people who live there”.
Yet although viewers clearly loved the new soap, the critics were not kind to Coronation Street. In the Mirror, one writer thought Warren had focused on the “wrong folk. For there is little reality in his new serial, which, apparently, we will have to suffer twice a week.” The paper’s main reviewer, Jack Bell, struck a similar note. Who, he wondered, could possibly want this “continuous slice-of-life domestic drudgery two evenings a week”?
Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) and her daughter Linda Cheveski (Anne Cunningham) clash in the first ever episode of long-running soap opera Coronation Street