December 8, 2010 / 3:36 PM / 8 years ago

TV's longest-running soap opera "Corrie" hits 50

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A devastating tram crash and a violent explosion leaving major characters fighting for their lives are two of the nail-biting scenes marking the 50th birthday of television’s longest-running soap opera.

Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (2nd L) pulls a pint of beer as she poses for a photograph with actors Beverly Callard, who plays landlady Liz McDonald (L), Anne Kirkbride, who plays Deirdre Barlow (3rd R) and Ryan Thomas, who plays Jason Grimshaw (R) during a visit to the Rovers Return Pub on the set of Coronation Street in Manchester, northern England February 4, 2010. The Duchess visited the set during the programme's 50th anniversary year. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/Pool

“Coronation Street” — affectionately known as “Corrie” — celebrates half a century on the small screen in Britain and around the world with its 7,487th episode on Thursday.

The show has followed the ups and downs of life in the fictional northern English urban setting of Weatherfield since December 9, 1960 and will broadcast an hour-long live episode to mark the anniversary.

The characters who have captivated fans around the globe since Ena Sharples, Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst first sat in Corrie’s fictional Rovers Return pub, and complained about landlady Annie Walker’s “airs and graces” have clocked up a total of 88 marriages, 39 births and 114 deaths.

“I have books, DVDs, I tape certain episodes that I want to keep... I own other memorabilia such as a set of flying ducks, a cross stitch I did, a few ornaments and I treasure the photos I took when I’ve visited the set,” said one fan on the Coronation Street blog “Corrie Blog.”

Since Annie Walker’s first stood behind the bar, the Rovers Return has been staffed by 51 barmaids who have pulled 2 million pints of beer.

“It’s a world you can escape into when your own gets too much, or indeed when your own’s quite good and you just want a change,” the show’s creator Tony Warren told Sky News.

The series has long outlasted the 13 episodes originally commissioned from Warren and piloted under the name “Florizel Street.”

William Roache, who plays womanizer Ken Barlow, is the only actor to have appeared in the first episode of Coronation Street — broadcast in black and white — still on the show.

Coronation Street is watched in more than 40 countries around the world including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Morocco, Taiwan, South Africa, Estonia and Poland.

Although the live episode will mark Corrie’s golden anniversary in an hour, it would take no less than 120 days of uninterrupted watching to catch up with what preceded it.

Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Paul Casciato

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