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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 16:19 GMT
Streets ahead once more
Coronation Street's Richard Hillman, played by Brian Capron, and wife Gail (Helen Worth)
The show's serial-killing storyline was a ratings winner
Coronation Street has raised the stakes in its claim to being Britain's best-loved soap following another major prize success. BBC News Online looks at how it did it.

Its honour for best soap at the Royal Television Society awards on Tuesday night crowned a recent rebirth for the ITV1 drama.

It is riding on a wave of public and critical acclaim following the storyline involving evil Richard "Tricky Dicky" Hillman.

At least 17.5 million people tuned in to see the serial killer played by Brian Capron confess his crimes to wife Gail.

Audiences are up to an average of more than 15 million per episode - a million more than EastEnders.

The show has emerged from the shadow of its Albert Square rival to regain its status as the UK's most popular TV programme.

Last week it was named best soap at the Television and Radio Industries Club awards.

And judges at the Royal Television Society said it had "found its touch again" to regain top spot.

Kieran Roberts
Producer Kieran Roberts has turned the show's fortunes around
Now producers are hoping it can take the Bafta for best soap from EastEnders when the two go head-to-head in the industry's most prestigious awards ceremony next month.

Critics say its re-emergence is due in part to the writing talents brought together by the show's producer Kieran Roberts.

He had come to Weatherfield from Emmerdale at the end of 2001 on a mission to reverse its declining fortunes against EastEnders.

Roberts, Emmerdale's producer at the time of its Bafta win for best soap, replaced Jane McNaught in the hotseat.

His first move was to re-sign writers John Stevenson, Jan McVerry and Ken Blakeson - all of whom had previously left the show - in an effort to sharpen up the scripts.

Roberts also brought in John Fay - the man behind the main Tricky Dicky plotline - and Carmel Morgan, known for her writing skills on dramas such as BBC One's Clocking Off.

Between them they managed to arrest the programme's ratings decline and - perhaps more importantly for the cast - gain a psychological advantage over EastEnders.

No one wants to be in second place
Coronation Street spokeswoman
Programme-makers Granada admit to a sense of well-being in the Weatherfield camp following its recent triumphs over its BBC rival.

"It's a friendly rivalry - it's created by the media - but you can't help but get embroiled in it," said a Coronation Street spokeswoman.

"No one wants to be in second place."

She said strong writing and characterisation was paying dividends and attracting back "lapsed" viewers.

Coronation Street is now on four nights each week - Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday - often doubling up with two episodes on Mondays.

However, the spokeswoman dismissed reports that it was due to be aired over five nights.

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