Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wants to see the Sydney Newman story next.
"Everybody always says no to a great idea."
If you believe The Road to Coronation Street, a lot of people said no to Coronation Street, the British soap opera from Manchester. Of course, someone finally said yes, and gave creator Tony Warren a thirteen-episode first season, starting in late 1960. Other people—viewers—said yes, too, according to this text that appears at the end of the movie about the making of the hit English series:
"Within six months, Coronation Street was the most popular programme on British television. Fifty years later, it is the longest running drama series in the history of British television."
For more perspective, consider that star William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, has appeared in 1,277 episodes, including that debut half-hour, over fifty-one years.
The TV movie lives up to its title in a fairly straightforward manner. It shows Warren pitching his idea to Granada and ITV execs who are only interested when they realize a prime-time soap opera will be cheap, then switches to casting and preparation for that first live episode.
The debate about Florizel Street (Warren's original title) doesn't seem that heated, and at times it sounds silly if you know how Coronation Street turned out. However, the main performances by David Dawson (Luther) as Tony Warren and Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles) as Harry Elton, an executive who advocated for the soap opera, are strong and enthusiastic. Watching Elton screen the soap for ordinary viewers and eagerly share the results turns out to be the highlight of the movie.
Production values are solid for the modest production, which mostly relies on interiors.
The sole extra, of course, is that first black-and-white episode of Coronation Street from December 9, 1960. I'd never seen the series before (it doesn't run in the States), so I was curious. The accents are thick, and most of the dialogue tends toward slices of everyday life. In the debut, Ken Barlow is talking about life beyond Coronation Street, so finding out how long he stayed seems kind of odd. It felt slow, but my tastes in '60s British TV run more towards adventures like Doctor Who and The Avengers. It would have been interesting to include episodes from various points in the series' run to show how it has evolved.
Road isn't bad, but I suspect it'll make more of an impression on fans of the historic soap, which airs in North America on Canada's CBC.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
• Bonus Episode
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