When the team at Coronation Street sat down at the start of the year to plan everything that would build towards their 60th anniversary, one thing they could never have predicted is the coronavirus pandemic which shut down practically the entire world for a time.
Coronation Street was forced to suspend filming but against the odds stacked against them, they have remained on air. And, as the first full post-COVID episode aired tonight with a dream sequence, a heart attack, an epic showdown and a hell of a cliffhanger, they have proven that TV can still thrive in this new world we have found ourselves in.
It’s not ideal. They were left in a complex situation where they had to finish off previously filmed episodes with socially distanced scenes.
It has been noticeable but who cares? Emma bumping her shin was a joy we would never have got if it hadn’t have been for the new measures.
But as a dramatic episode that was a pinnacle point for two of the year’s biggest storylines aired in full in a post COVID-19 world, Coronation Street proved that they have smashed the arduous task of being safe, referencing the crisis but still staying consistently strong in drama, humour and spectacle.
The amount of overtime, planning and risk assessment that must have gone into getting production going before the show had to go off air must have been one heck of a headache, particularly as cast, crew and production were dealing with a (here comes that word) unprecedented pandemic.
And yet, watching tonight, you’d forget that they were up against such odds. An eerie and stylish opening saw Geoff being cloned (cheers for the nightmares, lads).
We then saw casual coronavirus references which were topical, smooth and didn’t dominate the drama.
We then had a gripping finale of Gary smashing up Brian’s metal detector as he feared that the truth about Rick would come to light.
Corrie has done everything against the odds. It has stayed on air. It has rewritten a massive car crash and explosion stunt sequence to make the storyline still make sense. It has found a way to get around being unable to do court scenes. And most importantly it has been an enjoyable watch, as ever.
Coronation Street has set the bar high but given some serious hope that TV can not only survive in this uncertain time – but actually knock it out of the park.
The social distancing is barely noticeable and when it is, it’s referenced. It doesn’t matter a jot that VE Day was not on the right day but Christmas will be correctly placed.
What matters is our number one soap has kept going, stayed loyal to the storyline strands that were ongoing up until now and has delivered while keeping our beloved Corrie stars, crews and production team safe.
No easy feat – when you consider everything that goes into making just one episode of a UK soap.
And they won’t stop there. Next week, they will air the world’s first socially distanced stunt.
Corrie haven’t made it easy for themselves, they could have easily just dropped any kind of stunt. But they have proven that they have the determination not to let COVID-19 ruin the ambition of television.
And they have set the standard that other shows we know and love can follow in an uncertain world.
This is why Corrie has survived six decades and will outlive us all, no matter what crisis comes along.
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