ITV boss discusses secret to Corrie’s enduring success ahead of 60th anniversary

Tom Horton, PA
·3-min read

Coronation Street’s enduring success is down to its realistic storylines and willingness to tackle difficult subjects, an ITV boss has said as the programme celebrates its 60th anniversary.

John Whiston, managing director of continuing drama and head of ITV in the north, labelled the milestone as a “huge achievement”.

December 9 marks 60 years since the soap first arrived on television screens.

The Duchess of Cornwall visits Coronation Street – Manchester
The Rovers Return (Dave Thompson/PA)

Mr Whiston added that humour plays an important role in the soap’s popularity.

“Coronation Street has always been characterised as strong women and feckless men,” he said.

“I’ve tried to keep that tradition of having our men as feckless as possible and certainly our women are very strong.”

Mr Whiston said that maintaining the balance between appealing to audiences of all ages is not difficult.

Coronation Street 60th anniversay
(PA Graphics)

He said that older viewers “are very willing to go along with things if they feel it is done in the right mood with the right heart”.

“They are much more mobile of thought than some people might think,” he added.

“Partly because they have lived, they have seen everything and it takes quite a lot to shock an older person.

“It’s actually the younger people who are much more easily shocked than older people these days.

Coronation Street Coronavirus
John Whiston said the show’s writers produced ‘top-class scripts week after week after week’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

“So I don’t think we have a problem doing quite extreme subjects while still appealing to our older audience.”

He added that there is “so much snobbery about soaps”.

“Our writers produce top-class scripts week after week after week. They love the genre,” he said.

“It’s the most immediate way of getting your thoughts, and some of your spirit, on screen.

“At its best, soap is the highest form of drama.

British Soap Awards 2017 – Manchester
Actor William Roache has appeared in the programme since it first launched on television (Matt Crossick/PA)

“A soap actress once said to me: ‘It’s not that hard, is it? It’s just two people shouting at each other in the street’.

“Well, on one level it is. But on another level it is much more than that.”

He added that it can provide “a blueprint for going through life”.

Mr Whiston added that he tries not to let social media “make a difference” to the story.

“It wouldn’t be drama if what everybody on social media wanted to happen just happened,” he said.

Coronation Street 60th anniversary
(PA Graphics)

“Then we wouldn’t have any drama. People in real life don’t always behave as you want them to. They behave how their character dictates they should.”

Coronation Street is the world’s longest-running TV soap, according to Guinness World Records.

Actor William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, has appeared in the programme since it first launched on television.

He has appeared in a total of 4,634 episodes.

In total the soap has also seen 57 births, 132 weddings and 146 deaths.