Former TV critic for the Daily Mirror Ken Irwin wrote off Coronation Street after its first few episodes, making the memorable prediction that the then-Granada TV soap was “doomed from the outset”.
Creator Tony Warren was granted 11 episodes for Coronation Street when it premiered in late 1960. No one expected it to become such an iconic television programme and a Guinness World Record-holder for the longest-running soap in the world, still on air 60 years later.
In fact, Irwin wrote: “The programme is doomed from the outset – with its dreary signature tune and grim scene of a row of terraced houses and smoking chimneys.”
He continued: “Young scriptwriter Tony Warren claims to have spent a couple of months going around meeting the ordinary people of the North before he wrote the first episodes of Granada’s serial Coronation Street.
“Frankly, I can’t believe it. If he did, he certainly spent his time with the wrong folk. There is little reality in his new serial, which, apparently, we will have to suffer twice a week.”
According to the Mirror, Irwin looks back on this pronouncement now with humility. He said he was a “very young critic”, although he couldn’t “make that an excuse”.
He added that for those who could remember the first few episodes, “they were pretty awful”.
Irwin’s prediction became a perennial joke with the Coronation Street cast over the years and he said the icon of the cobbles Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner, would send him a card on the anniversary of the soap’s launch.
Far from harming his relationship with the Coronation Street cast, Irwin said he became quite friendly with some of the actors, including Phoenix, Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) and even the ferocious Violet Carson, who played Ena Sharples.
He wrote: “Dear old Violet Carson… was one I got on extremely well with. Vi didn’t suffer fools gladly. She could be more than a battleaxe when she wanted to. But for some reason, I got on well with her.”
Phoenix was forever grateful to him after she gave him a scoop, telling him that she was leaving the Street to start a career in the movies.
A month later he got a call from the actress,”saying: ‘Thanks, Ken. You did me a big favour. My contract was coming up for renewal and when they saw your story in the Mirror, Sidney Bernstein (the head of Granada) doubled my salary and extended my contract’.”