How 50 years of TV history was degraded in 90 minutes … and then restored by a newspaper’s letters page

Oh look, it’s Peter Kay. again.

Did you see Goodbye Granadaland – ITV 1’s so-called tribute show to mark the end of half a century of broadcasting from Granada TV’s Manchester city centre buildings?

There’s no doubt it’s the end of an era – ITV’s Manchester offices have relocated to MediaCity at Salford Quays, and anyone working in the media will tell you that little stirs interest in an audience more than a dose of nostalgia.

But as examples of demeaning your own history go, Goodbye Granadaland could become a university text. Here was a TV company which changed the way modern popular entertainment was delivered to the public. A set of TV studios which produced programmes which went far beyond the ITV network – University Challenge for example. A TV company which has constantly reinvented TV, from the introduction of Coronation Street to the arrival of This Morning and, perhaps less obvious, the home to Jeremy Kyle.

And that’s just popular entertainment. Look at what it did for current affairs – summed up in three words: World In Action – and you have something worth celebrating at every opportunity. Yet how did ITV choose to look back on arguably the most important TV company which has since been consumed into ITV?

It called on comedian Peter Kay, whose hackneyed routine of sneering slightly at the 1980s has gone from being refreshing to tiresome in the space of about six years – and it was his involvement in this programme which turned what should have been a chance to combine light entertainment with social history into, well, The Peter Kay Show.

Peter Kay walking down Coronation Street. Peter Kay walking on the ‘famous’ Granada roof (famous if you’re from the north west, presumably less famous if you’re in Cornwall). Peter Kay walking down a corridor (surprise). Peter Kay doing quick gags in the props cupboard. Peter Kay doing impressions in the props cupboard. Peter Kay marvelling at the size of the red Granada letters which were once visible across the city centre but which have now been taken down and put into storage. Peter Kay talking about a ‘famous picture’ of him and his sister – which even he has to admit is only famous in his house.

Yet the one thing which barely got a mention was the debt of gratitude Peter Kay actually owes Granada for giving him exposure – back in the days when regional programming meant more than just the 6pm news and when people in Lincolnshire didn’t get the same news as people in Birmingham at the weekend – on the various local shows Granada used to show then.

It wasn’t the only thing swept to one side. Programmes like Prime Suspect, Stars In Their Eyes,

To quote the ITV blurb put out beforehand:

“From historic performances by the great Sir Laurence Olivier to the gritty reality of The Jeremy Kyle show, the studios have been part of the fabric of British life for almost 60 years.”

So what better way to pay tribute to that than to sprinkle it with some Peter Kay stardust? This year we’ve seen the closure of BBC TV Centre in London, which was marked with a series of fascinating documentaries on BBC 4, the same channel which also reflected brilliantly Coronation Street’s history with a drama on the subject a couple of years ago. Yet ITV chose to serve up its rich history as material for a comedian who has no real attachment to Granada whatsoever, other than plaguing Granada Reports (or so it feels) whenever he has a show in town?

To quote Jim Bowen (sort of), here’s who they could have had:

The epic story of Granada is told by some of the famous faces that have starred in or worked on its shows. Featuring new interviews with Dame Helen Mirren (Prime Suspect), Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect writer), Charles Dance (Jewel In the Crown), Matthew Kelly, Sir Michael Parkinson, the stars of Coronation Street, Jeremy Irons, Shaun Ryder and many many more.

There was also Jeremy Paxman, thanks to University Challenge being filmed in Manchester, and daytime legends Richard and Judy, who met while working at Granada. All familiar faces, all with a love of Granada. They were the ones to tell the story of Granada, not a comedian who added nothing, but took plenty in terms of primetime exposure.

All of this was summed up to me in a letter which appeared in last Tuesday’s Manchester Evening News, written by a former projectionist at Granada. When a newspaper letter writer can tell you more about the history of Granada in a few hundred words than a comedian manages in 90 minutes of prime time TV on the channel he is broadcasting about, there’s something not quite right. Or maybe it tells us that the newspaper letters page is still a crucial part of what we do:


Maybe someone, somewhere will do Granada’s history due justice in the future – there’s a whole series in the memories created and its impact on life over the last 50 years. Stars In Their Eyes is surely worth an hour on its own…



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