I've always believed the golden era for Coronation Street was the late 1970s and early 1980s. For me there were so many iconic characters, classy performers, brilliant writers and a wonderful mix of comic storylines and high drama. All qualities Corrie is famous for.
However, some comments recently have made me question these long-held beliefs. Was Coronation Street in the late 1970s actually pretty dull and boring?
What's striking about Corrie at that time is how slowly each episode moves. The storytelling is allegedly less sophisticated than today. Budgets were obviously tighter and technology less impressive. The sets would occasionally do a Crossroads and wobble like a blancmange. Everything was, as Scott said in his brilliant blog yesterday, brown. Brown and beige. Outside filming was still pretty rare and the quality of film used made it deeply unappealing. The cast was also noticeably smaller and diversity had yet to become an issue.
However what a cast that was! Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander as the forever downtrodden, always bickering Stan and Hilda Ogden. Doris Speed as the irreplaceable, regal, snooty Annie Walker. Violet Carson still making her mark as Ena Sharples. We had the swagger of Mike Baldwin, the dourness of Albert Tatlock, the wittering of our Mavis and the sassy motormouth that was Rita Fairclough. Bet Lynch, Betty Turpin and Fred Gee proved themselves to be the finest bar staff the Rovers ever had.
There was also the dynamite of number 11 Coronation Street. The trio of Gail, Suzie Birchall and Elsie Tanner may only have lasted a few years but so many of their scenes were memorable and beautifully played. Putting these two gobby young girls under Elsie's roof was a masterstroke.
True, there wasn't much male totty to be found. Ken Barlow was between wives and heading for the cardigans and slippers. Eddie Yeats was too fond of the ale and the offerings at Dawson's Caff. We did still have the lovely Ray Langton for a time - those jeans should have come with a public health warning!
While practically every member of the onscreen talent was legendary, credit must also go to the sublime writers who grafted away during the late 1970s and early 80s to produce some stunning work. Many of the episodes produced at this point in Corrie's long life can still work now as stand alone plays.
The likes of Adele Rose, Harry Kershaw, Leslie Duxbury and John Stevenson crafted some truly excellent scripts year in, year out. The dialogue crackled and sizzled and yet often it wast the moments of quiet, simple reflection that had the biggest impact.
In those days we learned more about the wider Weatherfield world. Characters like Ena Sharples would refer to unseen, unknown people and it made the whole thing seem more real and grounded. The show also remembered what had gone before.
The archivist reigned supreme. Eric Rosser was the show's archivist for many years, sitting in on rehearsals and keeping intricate records on each character. Such care and attention comes across on screen without a doubt.
Yes I know it was hardly glamorous and it was rarely explosive, but it felt authentic. Times change and the Street needed to adapt, broaden its horizons and move on. I know lots of people will disagree but this period in Corrie's history still strikes me as Weatherfield's finest hour. The Powers That Be very obviously trusted the writers and had faith in the actors who in turn, cared for and nurtured their own characters. There was time to get it right. And I for one think that more often than not, they did.
Have we, the viewer, become too sophisticated these days? Do we become bored too easily?
The pace is faster, the characters more plentiful, everyone has more and there is more of Coronation Street than ever before. Is there too much though and have we lost the ability to enjoy the simple, every day tales of normal folk?
Coronation Street in the 1970s is far from perfect but it has charm and honesty, it has passionate, gutsy, truthful performances and writing that elevates it to a different level altogether. And I for one adore it.
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