'Coronation Street' 50th anni draws 13.4 million

LONDON — A live one-hour special episode of the blue-collar U.K. soap “Coronation Street,” which aired Thursday to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, generated strong ratings and reviews.

Broadcast by terrestrial web ITV1, the program was watched by 13.4 million, an audience share of 49.7%, by any reckoning an impressive tally.

The keenly anticipated show involved 65 actors, a 300-strong crew and a storyline depicting the aftermath of a devastating gas explosion and tram crash in the fictional Manchester suburb of Weatherfield.

Producers pre-recorded a dress rehearsal as a back-up in case of a technical emergency and police were on duty to ensure the event was secure.

During the climax of the live episode, hyped as “four funerals and a wedding,” two characters appeared to die from their injuries.

Despite violent student riots in Central London over planned increases to university tuition fees and the long-running WikiLeaks saga, the U.K. news media devoted extensive coverage to “Coronation Street’s” golden jubilee.

Even ITV’s arch-rival, the BBC, found space in its TV and radio newscasts to celebrate the seasoned soap that famously was written off by critics when the first episode bowed in December 1960.

The 50th anniversary episode, by contrast, won widespread praise from reviewers.

The Guardian’s Mark Lawson wrote: “Everything seemed smooth, although the producers were clever in setting every scene among characters under stress or grief, so any flapping might have been taken as acting.”

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