I'LL GIVE OLD CORRIE SOME; STREET CRED; EXCLUSIVE: SOAP BOSS'S SHAKE-UP.
And new Coronation Street supremo Brian Park is the man they're fingering for the crime.
But Park himself insists there'll be no blood-letting in TV's longest- running soap.
"I'm not planning a slaughter," says the Scots-born producer as he gazes out of the window of his third-floor office.
He's looking down on the Street soundstage and cocks an imaginary rifle: "I can pick off unruly members of the crew from here," he jokes.
On the other hand, on Brian's first morning in the job ten days ago, it was revealed that dopey Derek - actor Peter Baldwin - was to be axed after 21 years on the Street.
IT WAS a decision which sent shockwaves throughout the show's cast.
"Let's just say the first week was a baptism of fire," admits Brian, 41, with a smile.
"But such decisions have to be taken to create space and give the show some oxygen.
"Some characters have run their course. This had nothing to do with Peter's abilities as an actor.
"He had gone as far as he could with Derek. When you're a comedy character it's naturally confining."
Brian, 41, has been handed the job of ensuring the Street's survival into the next century, but he knows a few noses may have to be put out of joint.
"The problem of a show with such a culture and tradition is that there may not be the ability to shift gear as quickly as you'd like," he explains.
"I'm sympathetic to those who jealously guard Corrie, but I'm not over- reverential. If things need to change I will make those changes. I want it to be pacier and slightly less cosy. But there will be no mass clearout of characters."
Plan A is to give senior cast members less predictable lives. Take Ken Barlow (actor William Roache): "That man is a walking sexual revolution," says Brian.
"Twenty-three girlfriends, wives galore. He's had an indecent number of women for someone so mild-mannered.
"But we don't have to go down the same road again. There is new life ahead for Ken and Deirdre or Mike and Alma.
"Other characters like Betty Williams or Alf and Audrey are essential ingredients. They're like the big clock on the mantelpiece." Yet Brian knows that nobody is bigger than the show. Julie Goodyear quit after a quarter of a century on the Street.
"Loads of people were meant to turn off when Bet left," says Brian. "It never happened, though.
"For every person who liked her there was another who said she had become a caricature."
Plan B is to bring in some young people, though Brian is quick to point out that, contrary to rumour, the Street will not become a northern version of EastEnders.
"It's only common sense to bring them on," he says, "though not at the expense of older characters.
"You can't throw relatively inexperienced actors in at the deep end with a big, tough story-line. Of course, certain members of the younger cast are ripe and ready - Tina Hobley, who plays Samantha, and the McDonald twins
"I have to think about where the Street will be in five years time. The future is obviously the younger characters.
"But I want to bring the generations more together on the Street. Stories tend to be confined to pockets of sixtysomethings or the younger ones. I want more crossover."
BRIAN rejects charges that the Street is too much like a sitcom to be taken seriously.
"Nobody genuinely believes EastEnders or Coronation Street accurately reflects real life.
"Brookside is unrelentingly gloomy and completely unbelievable. EastEnders shoehorns issues into story-lines.
"The Street has had its share of sensationalism - Ernie Bishop being shot, the Rovers fire, the train crash on the viaduct
"But Corrie reflects the humour of real life a lot better than its rivals," he says.
Brian, whose favourite all-time Street character is Ena Sharples, knows he'll have to fight his corner.
But this is a man who once refused a British ambassador's request to leave war-torn Beirut while making a documentary on Islamic fundamentalists.
"John McCarthy was kidnapped only a couple of days later," he recalls.
Brian's current task is to reassure the cast his only important ambition is to make sure the Street is Britain's top soap in ten years time.
"There's always uncertainty, especially with actors and all their human frailties," he says.
"But I'm not going to change things for the sake of it.
"I'm a nice chap really..."
DEREK Wilton (Peter Baldwin) was axed after 21 years. "He had run his course," says Brian.
"SAMANTHA Failsworth (Tina Hobley) is just ripe and ready for a big, tough story-line," says Brian.
Why EastEnders really is Streets ahead of Corrie
CURLY'S sex romps helped the Street score its first ratings win in some time two weeks ago when an episode scored four million more than EastEnders.
But Corrie still has a long way to go, as these official viewing figures show.
Week ending Jan 12
Coronation St 16.71m
Week ending Jan 5
Coro' Street 16.14m
Week ending Dec 29
Coro' Street 14.84m
Week ending Dec 22
Coro' Street 15.8m
Week ending Dec 15
Coro' Street 16.43m
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jan 25, 1997|
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