How did the position come about?
"I was asked to do it before a couple of years ago but I couldn't do it. Kieran Roberts and I go back a long way because my first job in television was here back in 1997 on Spring Hill. It was the most marvellous show… and the writing team was amazing - Russell T Davies and Sally Wainwright were part of it. After that, I went to storyline for a while with Kieran over at Emmerdale. Because we've known each other for a long time, he just asked me if I'd like to take it on."
Is this a job you've had your eye on?
"I don't know about always had my eye on… I grew up with Coronation Street. I've always been an enormous fan. I did have to think quite carefully about taking the job - for only one reason: I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what was coming up! It's such a big part of my viewing week that I wondered what it'd be like when I started knowing. But it's great! And I'm working with such a brilliant team of people. As a viewer, you take for granted how much goes into making five episodes of drama per week."
"I know what makes good Coronation Street. Good Corrie for me is like putting a recipe together. It needs big stories that take in as many characters as possible and ripple across the Street; there needs to be a sense of community - it should always feel like somewhere you'd like to live; and obviously comedy is Corrie's biggest strength. At the same time, you have to have a clever dose of drama. It's all about ensuring a good mix.
"In terms of an overall vision, I want to tell more stories at the same time and over a longer period so the audience invest. Sometimes, there's a temptation to keep coming up with big stories that are over within two weeks - I want to step back a little and look strategically at what stories we're telling and to tell them over a longer period of time. Hopefully what you'll start seeing is that there will be big stories going on at the same time that we dip in and out of to remind the audience that a story is still there."
That said, some viewers haven't been too keen on the Kevin and Molly storyline having rumbled on for so long…
"I don't [think it's gone on too long]. When I took over, the Molly and Kevin storyline was quite rapidly heading for a conclusion. One of the first things I did was to stop that. I believe in mining as much as I possibly can from a story and particularly from one as good as this. The reason I think it's good is because it takes in so many characters. There's Molly, Kevin, Tyrone, Sally, the girls, Jack, Rita, Pam, Bill - you can never stop a story that [has such wide implications]. I always think of the great classic soap affairs like Cindy and David in EastEnders - that went on for nearly a year, I think. There's a great joy in two people standing in a pub and catching each other's eye. That's how you keep tantalising the audience."
"There wasn't anything that particularly annoyed me or that I felt compelled to change. Everybody had their view about the way they tell stories, but that's what sets one producer aside from another. I want to speed up the pace of the episode a little, so they feel a bit faster, nosier and busier. Coronation Street is beautifully made, so we need to make it feel a little more sophisticated in the way we produce it."
Do you stand by each and every one of your axings?
"As part of the natural arc of taking over a show, any producer has a good look at what cast and stories they want to play. This show is run by the writing team in many ways - yes, I help to guide and shape it - but we all sit down every three weeks and work out what stories we're going to tell. We always have to be quite brutal when looking at the characters we have - some come to a point where you've run out of stories to tell for them. Soap's all about fresh blood, too. There isn't any sort of desire to sit down and think, 'Now who shall I chop this week' - it's people's livelihoods we're talking about. It's all part of a natural process of renewal."
Are there more departures to come?
"There may well be more people coming and going. It's all about consolidating what we have now."
How exciting is it to be heading up Corrie's 50th anniversary?
"It's amazing. It's one of the main reasons I accepted the job. It's an astonishing achievement for a show. What I'm absolutely determined to do is to ensure that it doesn't feel 50 years old - it's 50 years young. It's about where we go next, about looking forwards. I hope it'll be a memorable and fitting week of television, which propels us from December right into next year. Lots of stories that week will take massive twists and turns and it'll hopefully feel like a new beginning, not in any way looking back."
"There'll be no returning characters from the past, no big nods to nostalgia… The Street itself is 50 years old and characters like Ken and Emily have been in it for that long and reflect that, so I don't want to look backwards."
Kim Crowther teased that the 50th is based on a big event - have you settled on what it is yet?
"Yes… It's still quite early and we're still planning what we're going to do. We'll be announcing more details soon but what I can say is that it'll be massive. It'll be Corrie like you've never seen it before."
Apparently Peter and Leanne's wedding was in the running?
"We're building up to their wedding across the autumn, but it's not actually the focus of the 50th week."
Have you ruled out a live episode?
"Nope. We've not ruled it in either, though. Something like that takes an enormous amount of planning. We're still talking about it but I'm not particularly an advocate of doing it. We did it ten years ago and obviously EastEnders did it this year… if we were to do one, we'd need to find a way of making it radically different from any that have gone before."
The opening titles and new theme have received a mixed reaction - how's that been received at Corrie HQ?
"You have to trust your instincts with these things. I don't go online and read forums and blogs or anything. We wanted some titles to reflect HD and to signal that the show's entering a new era. I think they're beautiful, while retaining all the charm of the old titles and theme. Tony Warren watched them and was involved in the decisions we made - he said that they're the titles that we always wished had been on the show, so that's good enough for me."
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