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Plot inflation in Greater Weatherfield: Coronation Street in the 1990s

Smart, B. (2014) Plot inflation in Greater Weatherfield: Coronation Street in the 1990s. In: Bignell, J. and Lacey, S. (eds.) British Television Drama: Past, Present and Future, 2nd edition. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndsmills, Basingstoke, pp. 70-83. ISBN 9781137327567

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Abstract/Summary

This article outlines the substantial changes in production practice undergone by the long-running series Coronation Street between the late 1980s and late 1990s and attempts to explain how these changes affected the form of the programme. Coronation Street underwent two concurrent moments of change in 1989, transmitting three episodes a week, as opposed to two, and recording location scenes on videotape instead of on 16mm film. This change in recording technology enabled the programme to use many more exterior scenes than previously, creating a more mobile mise-en-scene. This expansion of the show’s fictional world was part of a conscious decision to change the programme’s style in order to utilize the opportunities created by the extra episode, introducing more characters and including more (much shorter) scenes. I investigate the effects that these changes had on Coronation Street, both in terms of the programme’s plot (the phenomenally popular storyline of Alan Bradley’s deranged pursuit of Rita Sullivan) and audience reception. The changes effected upon Coronation Street in 1989 were the start of a trend (termed “plot inflation” by Graham Kibble-White), towards more spectacular storylines realized in striking visual images, that can be seen to advance throughout the 1990s, enabled in particular through the innovation of recording interior scenes on a single camera and necessitated by the further expansion into four episodes a week in 1996. This article combines analysis of technological development, the commercial circumstances of production and textual analysis, to form a fully rounded understanding of the changes that affected ITV drama in the 1990s.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:71885
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan

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