The impact of the pandemic on the UK’s soaps saw a swift reduction of the amount of episodes in the schedules, in order to keep the shows on air during the enforced production break.
Now Coronation Street has resumed filming, albeit within strict new COVID-safe guidelines, ITV bosses have revealed tentative plans to restore the show from the current temporary three times a week pattern back up to the pre-pandemic six nights from the autumn.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on 10th June, the channel’s head of continuing drama John Whiston said: “We will get back up to six as soon as we can. It’s a phased return so we will build how many units are working up to our normal complement of three or four. We’ll slowly start producing more episodes and build a buffer.
“The fear is a second lockdown and having to close again so we don’t want to say outright when this can happen. I don’t think it can be before the autumn. There are times when we’ve planned stories to peak, around our 60th anniversary in December and Christmas, but if we get knocked off kilter too much we have made plans about that.
“Research tells us there is an appetite from the audience for going back to six from three. People have relished the show a bit more, and are saying they are never going to take it for granted again! We will do it as soon as we can.”
At the point the pandemic hit Corrie was weeks away from shooting it’s annual ‘Super Soap Week’, with big stories peaking across episodes airing nightly, traditionally timed to coincide with Britain’s Got Talent’s daily live shows in late May. Understandably this was put on hold, but has not been shelved insists producer Iain MacLeod:
“The majority of storylines haven’t been altered but one particular one would have climaxed during the big ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ week we normally do, but that proved not to be possible,” explained. “Rather than do a half-cooked compromised version, we decided to push it to later in the year. We’ve pressed pause.
“The pandemic hasn’t driven a coach load of horses through our storylines, we worried everything would be decimated when we first sat down, but the vast majority of things can still be adapted and made to work.”
Rumoured to be at the centre of the blockbuster week was Yasmeen Metcalfe’s trial for the attempted murder of abusive husband Geoff Metcalfe, and Whiston hints the coercive control plot is still planned to have a big, if belated, finale.
“All location filming is suspended indefinitely for the moment, but if there is something we might have done off site we can just build it at the studio. Say we need a courtroom, which we might need to although I’m not necessarily saying we will… we can make it here.”