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Derek Granger

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Derek Granger

Derek Granger was the second producer of Coronation Street from July 1961 to April 1962. Granger had previously been a journalist and the drama critic of The Financial Times (where he founded the paper's arts page) and the Head of Drama at Granada Television. He was asked by Cecil Bernstein to take over production of the serial to make it "bigger and stronger" as the previously sceptical programme board had finally come to value the programme as it ascended the ratings. Granger brought in a style that included stories running over several months rather than being more piecemeal and a more "earthier" style that was, for him, exemplified by Episode 95 (8th November 1961) in which months of simmering on-screen tension between Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner erupted in a full-scale argument in the Street.

Granger also tried to bring in writers who would instill social issues into the storylines including Stan Barstow and Robert Holles. Ultimately the influence of stalwarts such as H.V. Kershaw and Vince Powell mean that the light-hearted tempo that the audience enjoyed remained and although Holles contributed four scripts over the next two years, Granger was unable to introduce this further change of style.

This was partially because his time as producer was ultimately dominated by the Equity actors' strike which ran from 1st November 1961 to 3rd April 1962 and meant that the cast of the programme was reduced to the fourteen members who had signed year-long contracts before the terms of the strike came into effect. The meant that lighter storylines had to be brought in, sometimes involving animals such as a monkey named Rupert and two sea-lions, all part of the show-business career of Dennis Tanner. Criticisms were made at the time of these episodes which Granger accepted though he made the point that they had little choice with the restrictions imposed on them and he personally enjoyed the intellectual exercise of having to be ingenious as possible. Granger has described that he "absolutely loved" working on the programme, saying that working out the destinies of characters was, "Like a rather exciting parlour game".

Granada never restricted their talented staff to one genre of programme-making and Granger went on to work on Cinema and World in Action in which he helped initiate the acclaimed Seven Up series in 1964. He had another career change in 1966 when he produced the second series of the Street spin-off Pardon the Expression. Michael Cox who directed all the twenty-four episodes once asked Granger why he was working in situation comedy and was told, "because it's an intellectual challenge. How do I get Arthur (Lowe) upside down in a hammock with a toilet seat stuck on his head?"

He went on to work on the spin-off from Pardon..., Turn out the Lights, which was slammed by the critics and described by some of its own production staff as a "disaster". Granger's star still shone brightly at Granada though and he worked on many acclaimed series such as Country Matters, an award-winner series of adaptations of H.E. Bates's stories and Granada's 1976 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner and Laurence Olivier. He is best known though as the producer of the multi-award winning drama Brideshead Revisited which cost several millions to make over some five years (interrupted by the 1979 ITV strike) and which still stands as one of the greatest television dramas ever made. After leaving Granada, Granger worked as the producer of several films including A Handful of Dust and Where Angels Fear to Tread before his retirement in the early 1990s. For a period while still working at Granada, he was also literary consultant to Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre.

In retirement, he now lives in Brighton where is vice president of the Regency Society which aims, in part, to preserve the architecture of the town.

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