British viewers are today gearing up for the long-awaited Coronation Street tram crash, heralding a week-long celebration of the ITV soap’s 50th anniversary.
Coronation Street – created by Tony Warren for Granada Television – was originally to be called Florizel Street and scheduled to run for just 13 episodes. However, Corrie – as it is now affectionately called – became an instant hit with viewers.
Now in its golden jubilee, it is the UK’s longest-running television soap opera and, earlier this year – 17 September 2010 – became the world’s longest-running TV soap opera currently in production, following the demise of America’sAs the World Turns.
Tonight’s cataclysmic episode is thought to be the costliest episode of a soap opera ever produced – with the tram-crash effect being achieved with the help of The Mill, a company that specialises in producing computer-generated (CGI) effects for TV and films.
The Mill is better known for its association with Doctor Who, having worked on every episode of the BBC’s long-running science-fiction drama series since it returned to TV screens in 2005.
The Mill’s recent involvement with Coronation Street is down to the soap’s current producer, Phil Collinson, who worked with them extensively while he was Doctor Who’s producer, from 2004 to 2008.
Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, Collinson confirmed that it was Doctor Who he turned to to achieve Coronation Street’s dramatic scenes. He said:
It’s like a Doctor Who reunion! Working on this is myself, [Doctor Who director] Graeme Harper, [Doctor Who special effects supervisor] Danny Hargreaves and Arwel Wyn Jones from the Doctor Who art department.
When I started thinking about what we would do for the 50th, and I knew it was going to be this big and this involved, I [. . .] knew who I wanted. The people who will just get you through.
[. . .] It is quite relentless and it is a huge disaster! There will always be some nice little elements, things I learnt on Doctor Who, like we can do some big shots from an 80-foot crane and paint in the rest of Weatherfield with CGI.
The shot of Weatherfield – a fictional suburb of Greater Manchester – that Collinson referred to, is the first time ever that viewers will have seen an aerial shot of the wider location in which Coronation Street is set.
Historic and live!
Episodes of Coronation Street ceased to go out live in the 1960s, in 2000, a live episode was broadcast for the soap’s 40th anniversary.
Two new episodes of Coronation Street will be broadcast this evening, on ITV1. The first at 7.30 p.m., British time, and the second at 8.30 p.m.
These two episodes will sandwich, at 8 p.m., Coronation Street: the Historic First Episode – the episode that introduced the soap opera fifty years ago. Then, at 10 p.m. on ITV2, a behind-the-scenes look, Coronation Street Uncovered: Live, will be shown.
Thursday, 9 December is the actual 50th anniversary of the broadcast of the very first episode – which went out live on a Friday evening in 1960. To celebrate, ITV will broadcast an hour-long episode (8–9 p.m.), live.