It’s hard to imagine soaps without their stunts – and in particular Coronation Street and Emmerdale without Super Soap Week.
But that is exactly what happened for almost 50 years.
Back before they could flood the Woolpack with millions of gallons of water, or throw a tram off the viaduct and onto half the street – soaps had to use the tools they had – their scripts and their characters.
Take for example Corrie.
If you were asked what first came to mind if asked about the soap, what would you think?
Would you recall the fire in the Rovers Return in 2014? Or would you think Bet Lynch behind the bar?
Would you remember Deirdre Barlow being banged up – or the minibus crash?
It’s the same with Emmerdale.
People think of Kim Tate before they think of the siege at the Woolpack or Emma Barton falling over the viaduct.
It’s human nature – people make connections with characters.
They care about what happens to the likes of Gail Platt or Roy Cropper – it’s a relationship built up over decades of watching these people.
There was a time on Coronation Street when the extent of the big stunts was Rita running in front of a Blackpool tram to escape her abusive husband.
Super Soap Week needs strong characters or it’s doomed to fail
Pushing it you had Richard Hillman driving the Platt family into the canal after being exposed as a serial killer.
At the heart of these stunts was a deep respect for the characters and their stories.
People held their breathe across the nation as Rita narrowly escaped and Alan was killed.
Can the same be said for the tram crashing onto the cobbles?
There is of course a place for spectacle in soap – but it shouldn’t come at the expense of character development and good writing.
It’s very nice of ITV to give Corrie and Emmerdale blank cheques to pull off major stunts this month, but at what cost?
Putting four massive stunts into a week of episodes like Emmerdale does must come at the cost of something else.
One of the most memorable scenes in soap history is Rita and Bet going at each other in the Kabin (PALS?) but you wouldn’t get that if they were plunging down a waterfall.
Super Soap Week runs the risk of doing stunts for stunts sake.
And in these times of falling ratings, soaps can’t afford to rely on stunts for one week. They need character and story for the entire year.
If they don’t learn that soon, the next sinkhole might see the soaps disappear down it.
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