This week will see Coronation Street reach another mile-stone as it passes the 7000 episode mark and while ITV may not be planning anything special for the occasion we decided it couldn’t go unmarked. So in this special report we take a look at just how many episodes other soaps have managed to clock-up including those soaps that are no longer with us.
There was a time that when a soap reached a significant episode number there would be much fan-fare, publicity and a special event in the episode to mark the occasion but that’s not the case with Corrie this week which reaches 7000 episodes.
Perhaps it’s because ITV soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale are churning out so many episodes a week now, rather like a production-line, that there simply isn’t any point in making any of those episodes special. Another reason maybe the heavy production schedule doesn’t allow for any such pleasantries.
Whatever the reason we decided we could allow the 7000 episode to pass by without marking it so we decided to take a look at how many episodes other soaps have clocked-up, including some axed soaps.
SOAPS STILL ON AIR
Coronation Street: 7000 episodes since 1960. Originally a twice-weekly ‘Drama Serial’ that was set to air for only 13 weeks. In 1989 a third episode was added to the schedules and Corrie only became a ‘Soap Opera’ in the 1990s – with its forth episode being added to the ITV line-up. William Roach speaking in 1984 commented: “We’re not a soap opera, I’d like to think we’re a folk opera.”
Later Roach commented that Granada, the production company, had “held out for a very long time from becoming a soap” but in the end ITV bosses decided more episodes and less quality was the order of the day.
Emmerdale: 5208 since 1972. Originally produced as a daytime drama serial the programme aired twice a week. The programme, produced by Yorkshire Television was made in ‘series’ blocks of 28 episodes up until the mid-1980s, with often a few month gaps between each series. Set in the fictional Yorkshire Dales village of Beckindale many ITV regions moved the saga to an evening slot in 1978. Faced with the prospect that the show may be axed bosses at YTV took drastic steps to modernise the programme, hoping to appeal to a wider, younger and more affulent audience. The first change, in 1989, saw the word “Farm” dropped from the programme title.
Emmerdale airing on Tuesdays and Thursday at 7pm nationally saw a third episode introduced in 1997. In more recent years it too has become a ‘soap opera’, also adopting the Americanised incidental music from time to time. This change also saw the programme at times increase to six episodes a week, mainly brought about in an attempt to stem ITV’s ratings decline.
EastEnders: 3717 since 1985. Another now soap opera, which the BBC went to their ends in 1985 to promote as anything but a soap opera. It was a gritty drama serial that was to reflect life as never before seen on a primetime mainstream channel. The BBC were, actually, rather offended back then if you called EastEnders a soap. It was looked down upon amazingly back in those days. The show aired at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays at launch before moving to 7.30pm.
A third episode was introduced in 1994 airing at 8pm on Mondays, this saw Channel 4 move their soap Brookside half an hour later so the two sagas wouldn’t clash. A forth edition, bringing the programme into soap opera territory, was added to the BBC One schedules in recent times.
Hollyoaks: 2490 since 1995. The original UK-teen soap fodder, Hollyoaks has gone from thrice-weekly editions to the full five-days-a-week run, which many suggest is the ‘true’ soap opera format which Crossroads pioneered in the UK back in the 60s. While the soap had an image of “image over substance” for many years the soap has shook that image off with some well written and excellently performed stories in recent years.
Doctors: 1513 since 2000. Now a daily soap, this BBC One daytime hit was originally produced in a series format. Set in a Birmingham medical centre the show is a mix of continuing stories entwined with sub-plots which air for just one episode..
Neighbours: [UK episode figure] 5585 since 1985. The BBC bought this Grundy produced daily soap in 1986 as a cheap filler and aired it on BBC One in the mornings and early afternoon. It soon became a hit with the teenage audience and so the morning edition was moved to 5.30pm – where it remained until the show switched to the Channel Five network in 2008. It was, while at the BBC, their highest rating daytime programme. Made house-hold names of Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue.
Home and Away: [UK episode figure] 4785 since 1988. Network Seven, having aired and axed Neighbours a few years earlier, saw the Ramsay Street saga bloom on rival Network Ten. In 1988 they finally launched a new rival to the soap they’d shunned and Home and Away was born, although it had allegedly been in the pipeline since the early 80s. Set in the fictional Summer Bay town it has been a daily soap fixture ever since. In the UK the series aired on ITV before switching to Channel Five in 2000 – much to the distaste of ITV, who used a clause in their contract to have the soap off-air in the UK for an entire year.
Holby City: 436 since 1999. Originally produced in a series format until 2001. Set in the fictional town of Holby, this was the first successful spin-off from weekend drama Casualty.
Casualty: 655 since 1986, another BBC Drama which was originally produced in a series format but gradually expanded into near all year-round production.
The Bill: 2317 since 1984. Originally produced in a series format until 1988 the show has undergone many changes since those early weekly editions. The programme has changed from hour-long to 30-minute slots and back again. Aired once, thrice and twice a week. Produced by Thames Television since its inception.
PAST SOAP OPERAS
Brookside: 1982 – 2003: 2932. Brookside was part of the Channel 4 schedules for exactly 21 years. The series, originally twice weekly before adding a third episode to its weekly out-put in the 1990s, aired its first episode on the same night Channel 4 launched in 1982. It won praise for its down-to-earth feel, its realistc approach to storytelling and coverage of taboo issues many soaps would never include in their plots. Unfortunately sensationalism was Brookside’s downfall. While a movie will thrill audiences with its disaster after disaster and explosion after explosion – that kind of regular event in a soap leads to.. well, being axed!
Crossroads: Original Series 1964 – 1988: 4510. Crossroads was Britain’s first full-length daily soap opera launching in November 1964. Based on the American soap-opera format, the show aired five-days-a-week. Due to its setting – an American devised “motel”, due to its format also being American, the critics hated it and set out to kill it off. It took them however 24-years; mainly thanks to the viewers loving the daily events of the Crossroads Motel. Awards and high ratings saw Noele Gordon, the shows leading lady become the most popular television soap actress of the 1970s. In 1985 the series was revamped by new production company, Central Television. They ditched it in 1988 in order to free up their studios to produce more lavish hour-long dramas. Crossroads even in 1988 was the UK’s third watched soap, Emmerdale was forth.
The Crossroads name has been used twice by Carlton Television in recent years to make a new soap opera, which bore no resemblance to the original other than the use of the same theme music score. 320 episodes were produced for the first series which aired in 2001-2002. 98 episodes of Carlton Crossroads were made in 2003.
Night and Day: 2001 – 2003: 240 episodes in the 20 minute format, 80 episodes in the later 60 minute format. A strange soap which used flashbacks and strange camera work to turn viewers off from watching.
Produced by LWT the series first aired daily on ITV in the afternoons, it was later shunted to ever-changing late night slots where it saw out its remaining backlog of episodes.
Eldorado: 1992 – 1993: 156. Sun, Sea, Sand and Subtitles, yes the BBC One thrice-weekly serial set in sunny Spain. In the early days you needed the subtitles of Ceefax as many scenes were spoken in Spanish! Eldorado went to air with many tecnical faults, mainly sound problems – due to BBC One scheduling it far earlier than the production team were ready for. Those early months were rushed out, and in the same way the critics jumped on Crossroads, they pounced viciously onto Eldorado.
Despite the fact the final six-months of the year-long series were far improved, despite the fact the audiences had risen to a respectable number it was always looked upon in the press as “crap.” And just like that Midland Motel – unfairly so.
Albion Market: 1985/1986: 100. Albion Market, from the makers of Coronation Street – Granada Television. It had success written all over it, so much so Granada boasted that when Corrie would be celebrating its 50th Albion Market would be toasting 25 fabulous years on-air. Well next year is its 25th anniversary, however its been defunct for 24 of them.
Set in a Manchester market it soon became clear that it was no ‘drama gold’ like its Weatherfield sister. With awful acting and woeful scripts it went from screens just as fast as it arrived.