Long runners: No 29: Brookside

Age: 111 2 . The first episode went out on the opening night of Channel 4 - 2 November 1982.

Formula: soap. Set on a 1980s private- housing development on the outskirts of Liverpool. Scousers trading up from inner-city roots meet the down-at-heel middle classes in an action-packed agenda of rape, murder, house sieges, child and drug abuse.

Frequency: three times a week, plus an omnibus on Saturday (Brookside pioneered the weekend omnibus). From this week, the Monday episode is moving to Tuesday because of competition from EastEnders' new third episode.

Whose idea was it? Independent producer Phil Redmond (creator of Grange Hill) approached Channel 4 with the idea of a hard-hitting soap that would be almost drama-documentary.

Initial public reaction: to switch off. This was pre-EastEnders, and soap- watchers weren't used to the sort of issue-driven 'realism' we take for granted now.

Might also have been called: Meadowcroft. Name changed to Brookside at the last minute.

Ratings: averages 5.6 to 6 million. Peaked at 8.25 million last November, possibly because coke-fiend Jimmy Corkhill ran down Tony Rodgers in his car - although equally possibly, as producer Mal Young ruefully admits, because there wasn't much else on that night. 'It has a lot to do with what's on the other side,' he says.

Where's it filmed? Makers Mersey TV bought 13 houses on an estate in Croxteth Park, West Derby, about five miles from the centre of Liverpool - the idea being that if the new soap failed, houses would be easier to sell than a disused film lot. The 12 other houses on the estate are lived in by real families. A Brookside postal address actually exists, as does a real brook, bubbling away behind the cul-de-sac.

What about the shops? A shopping parade, incorporating a nightclub, La Luce, was opened 18 months ago in an attempt to 'open out' the soap. In Brookside, the shops are just around the corner from the close. In reality, they are five miles away, in an old teacher-training college in Childwall.

Longest running character: Barry Grant (played by Paul Usher) has been there since the beginning, metamorphosing from mean-bastard scally to mean-bastard entrepreneur ('he represents 10 years of Thatcher's Britain,' says Mal Young). In second place is Terry Sullivan (played by Brian Regan), currently under the influence of Christian cultists and sporting an alarming Old Testament beard.

Guest celebrities: telly people Paula Yates and Russell Grant, goalie Bruce Grobbelaar, singer Gerry Marsden and Pete Best, the former Beatles drummer.

Most famous alumni: Sue Johnstone, recently a hospital administrator in Medics, and Amanda Burton, currently wowing the punters in Peak Practice.

Current status: has had something of a renaissance, starting last summer with the arrival of the Jordache family (child-abuser and wife-beater Trevor Jordache was soon dispatched to a shallow grave beneath the patio), continuing with Beth Jordache's discovery of lesbianism, and Jimmy Corkhill's discovery of cocaine.

Anything make you want to kick the set in? Its middle-class characters, who are not written with the same knowledge and conviction as the working- class ones, and so seem somewhat one- dimensional. David Crosbie in particular is a suspiciously top-hole cove, along the lines of Peter Sellers' bogus wing-commander in Dr Strangelove.

Social function: Mal Young claims that Brookside is the modern equivalent of Play for Today. Furthermore, it has followed the depoliticisation of Britain. 'We're known for being a political soap, but we've deliberately become unpolitical to reflect society.'

The bottom line - is it any good? It's much better at specific storylines than on everyday matters, which Coronation Street, for example, excels at. Also much more recognisably Liverpudlian than that other great, but outdated Scouse programme, Carla Lane's Bread. Above all, though, Brookside is a pioneering soap, which has gleefully broken all the rules. Without it there probably wouldn't, or couldn't, have been an EastEnders.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect