Plans for how to mark Coronation Street‘s 60th anniversary in December 2020 have been in the works for months, but how the world’s longest-running soap opera will celebrate the milestone has had to be rethought due to the effects of coronavirus.
Production shut down on Corrie, as it did with all UK soaps, shortly before lockdown in March. As of this week cameras are now rolling again on the Salford set within strict new safety and social distancing guidelines, but with storylines planned at least six months ahead bosses are currently calculating the impact on marking their big birthday.
“What we have had to strip out for our 60th is the ‘Hollywood spectacular’ elements as we didn’t have time to build and install what we had originally planned,” says producer Iain MacLeod, speaking at a virtual press conference on 10th June.
“Beneath that spectacular we still have some very strong stories at the centre. There will be a strong, community-focused story, the importance of community has really resurged under lockdown. We have a huge human interest story which emerges from something on screen now which has been very engaging. And a classic salacious love triangle is also in there.
“We have stripped away the crash, bang, wallop but still have unmissable storylines. If we lockdown again we will still have those episodes, they just might transmit later in the year and not around the anniversary (9th December).
“But I am confident we can hit some classic Corrie episodes for the anniversary, and of course Christmas.”
John Whiston, ITV’s head of continuing drama, adds: “A second lockdown and having to close again is a fear as this is a phased return. We have the 60th coming up, and there is a plan for stories to peak around then and at Christmas time. If we get knocked off kilter too much, we might have to do a Christmas ‘bubble’. We have lots of plans about that. In fact we have Plan A through to Plan Z!”
Corrie previously broadcast live episodes to commemorate their 50th and 40th birthdays, and the stops were pulled out for 2010’s golden anniversary with an epic tram crash stunt on the cobbles. With too many logistics to consider, there are no plans for anything on the scale of a live outing this year – although a car crash stunt is in the works for later this summer.
Despite the potential limitations of the ‘new normal’, and acknowledging the pandemic on screen with a Corrie-appropriate “lightness of touch”, MacLeod insists the majority of storylines can be easily adapted and will not require huge rewriting as was feared. “The packaging of certain storylines has changed, but on the whole the gift inside is still the same.”