John Stevenson, who has died aged 86 after affected by Alzheimer’s illness, was one in every of Coronation Road’s most prolific scriptwriters, sensible at each drama and comedy. He wrote 447 episodes of the ITV cleaning soap opera over three a long time from 1976.
In one of many earliest of them, Ernie Bishop, the wages clerk at Mike Baldwin’s jeans manufacturing unit, was killed in a bungled armed theft. The story was Stevenson’s thought, led to when the actor Stephen Hancock, who performed Ernie, husband of Emily, refused to signal a brand new annual contract over what he felt was an unfair anomaly. A number of long-time forged members have been paid for all episodes no matter whether or not they appeared in them, whereas the remainder have been assured fee for under half.
Invoice Podmore, the producer, was not ready to alter the established system and Hancock was unwilling to compromise on what he noticed as a precept, so he needed to be written out, and Podmore sought a plausible exit for Ernie.
“We finally got here to the conclusion that, if Emily Bishop was to remain within the Road, Ernie needed to die,” Stevenson instructed the creator Daran Little. “It didn’t appear truthful to ship her away when she [the actor Eileen Derbyshire] didn’t need to go away the present. The demise of Ernie Bishop was to save lots of Emily Bishop.”
The 1978 capturing was the primary violent demise of any character since Coronation Road had begun 18 years earlier – and met with uproar from viewers, who bombarded the switchboard at Granada Tv, which made the ITV cleaning soap. Different dramas from Stevenson’s pen included Ken Barlow’s doorstep confrontation with Mike Baldwin after discovering his spouse Deirdre’s affair, and Don Brennan dying after driving Mike’s MG Midget on the manufacturing unit boss and crashing right into a viaduct.
However Podmore had employed Stevenson to assist revive the cleaning soap’s humour, after he contributed scripts to sitcoms reminiscent of Nearest and Dearest (1968-73), starring the previous music-hall comedians Jimmy Jewel and Hylda Baker. His Road episodes included Eddie Yeats supplying Hilda Ogden with the mountain vista wall mural that she referred to as her “muriel”; Fred Gee, the Rovers Return’s potman, donning a wig; Reg Holdsworth and Maureen Naylor’s waterbed springing a leak; Raquel Wolstenholme beginning French classes with Ken Barlow; Derek Wilton shopping for a Mile Muncher operating machine; and Jack Duckworth modelling nude for an artwork class.
Having created the character of Raquel, Stevenson was liable for the programme’s first two-hander – an episode that includes solely two actors – when Raquel (Sarah Lancashire) returned in 2000 to inform her former husband Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) that she had given start to his child and was marrying another person.
When one in every of his 1982 scripts included the Liverpool brothers Wesley and Cyril McGregor attending Eddie Yeats’s engagement occasion, Stevenson and his fellow Coronation Road scriptwriter Julian Roach noticed the potential for a spin-off. The consequence was the sitcom The Brothers McGregor, which starred Paul Barber and Philip Whitchurch because the half-brothers operating a second-hand automotive dealership, and ran for 4 sequence (1985-88).
Stevenson’s different large sitcom success, once more created and written with Roach, was Brass, a parody of northern “hassle at t’mill” dramas, with Timothy West starring because the self-made mill and mine proprietor Bradley Hardacre. After operating for 2 sequence on ITV in 1983 and 1984, Brass was revived by Granada for Channel 4 in 1990.
Stevenson was born in Manchester, to Hughina (nee Chappelow), a library assistant, and John, an electrician. He attended Manchester grammar college and graduated in economics from the London College of Economics. After working as a journalist on the Oldham Chronicle (1958-64), he grew to become showbusiness reporter and northern theatre critic for the Each day Mail, primarily based in Manchester.
Whereas having a drink with Granada’s head of comedy, Peter Eckersley, he was invited to observe an episode of a sitcom pilot, Her Majesty’s Pleasure, set in a jail, and requested to provide you with a storyline for the next sequence. On seeing his web page of dialogue, Eckersley commissioned a script from Stevenson, who shared writing duties for the 2 runs (1968-69) with Leslie Duxbury.
That sitcom additionally introduced him to the eye of Podmore, one in every of its administrators, who was making Good Time (1968-69), a sequence of wacky sketches and ingenious stunts that boasted early TV appearances by Kenny Everett and Germaine Greer as presenters. Stevenson contributed concepts reminiscent of choirs of massed ventriloquists’ dummies.
His different early sitcoms have been The Final of the Baskets (1971-72), with Ken Jones as a manufacturing unit employee who inherits a title and rundown mansion, and Arthur Lowe as his trustworthy servant, and How’s Your Father? (1974-75), the author’s personal generation-gap creation, which starred Michael Robbins and Arthur English.
Later, he and Roach scripted Useless Ernest (1982), set in heaven, the place a soccer swimming pools winner (Andrew Sachs) finds himself after being hit within the eye by a champagne cork. On his personal, he devised and wrote Mom’s Break (1994), starring Roy Barraclough operating a well being meals store together with his domineering mom, a gin-soaked former baby movie star performed by Dora Bryan.
Solely Peter Whalley and Adele Rose wrote extra Coronation Road episodes than Stevenson. He additionally scripted spin-offs, together with a 1977 sketch for a silver jubilee selection present carried out for Queen Elizabeth II on the Palace theatre, Manchester, and a transferring mini-episode that includes the return of Hilda for ITV Telethon ’90.
Stevenson’s first two marriages, to Barbara Sutcliffe in 1957 and Sheila McGregor in 1977, led to divorce. He’s survived by his third spouse, Myra (nee Davies), whom he married in 1985, their daughters, Frances, Alex and Caroline, and Anna and Andrew, the kids of his first marriage.