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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Emmerdale goes nightly
Emmerdale
More work for actors Clive Hornby and Elizabeth Estensen (Jack Sugden and Diane Blackstock)
ITV soap Emmerdale will be shown five times a week from the autumn, network bosses have confirmed.

The top-rated drama, which started in 1972 as Emmerdale Farm, will run nightly from the autumn on a two year trial basis.

From now on in terms of soaps, it's the big three, not the big two plus Emmerdale

Yorkshire's director of programmes, John Whiston
Network bosses cite the show's growing popularity with younger viewers, plus good ratings for a series of five-night specials as reasons for the move.

Yorkshire Television director of programmes John Whiston said it was "a fantastic vote of confidence in the team, writers, cast and crew".

He also sounded a warning to rival soaps Coronation Street - made by sister ITV company Granada - and the BBC's EastEnders.
Emmerdale
The village of Beckindale was renamed Emmerdale following the plane crash

"From now on in terms of soaps, it's the big three, not the big two plus Emmerdale," he said.

Executive producer Keith Richardson - who has been with the show since episode one - said he was "delighted" with the news.

"It has changed incredibly over the years as we moved away from a farming programme to a community show which brought in characters from the whole village.

"I don't think it is as harrowing as some soaps, and that is why people like it."
Down on the farm
It was originally meant to run for 13 weeks
It followed farmer Annie Sugden's struggles after the early death of her husband Jacob
Other original characters included Annie's sons Joe and Jack Sugden, Woolpack landlords Amos Brearly and Henry Wilks and farmhand Matt Skilbeck

Emmerdale spent most of the 1970s and 1980s in the daytime schedules, before moving to prime time in the late 1980s.

But ratings for the show were poor in the early 1990s, with Carlton threatening to pull it from its London schedules in 1993 if things did not improve.

Brookside and Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond led a major revamp, with the "Farm" suffix dropped from the title and old stalwarts replaced with younger characters and sexier storylines.

Former Coronation Street producer Mervyn Watson was also drafted in to introduce more humour into the soap and the show is now filmed at its own studio complex outside Leeds.

Spectacular events have included an aeroplane crashing on Beckindale at Christmas 1993 - controversially coinciding with the anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster, the Woolpack being destroyed by a fireworks explosion in 1998, and a lorry crash earlier this year killing off regular character Butch Dingle.

It now regularly attracts 12 million viewers three nights a week.
Emmerdale, 1998
Going with a bang: This fire at the Woolpack pulled in viewers

ITV director of programmes David Liddiment said: "Emmerdale has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Its audience performance has been the strongest of any of the mainstream soaps over the past couple of years."

"With more episodes, the production team will be able to develop the show's dramatic storylines and engaging characters even further, so this is great news for Emmerdale fans."

Despite efforts to spice the show up, many fans still have a great affection for the old days.

One fan website held a poll of its users to see who their favourite character was, and the winner - by a long way - was gamekeeper and Woolpack regular Seth Armstrong, played by Stan Richards.

See also:

29 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Emmerdale's Mandy to bow out
28 May 00 | Entertainment
EastEnders cleans up soap awards
15 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Tim gets Booked for Emmerdale
21 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Emmerdale raid story attacked
22 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Emmerdale ratings go with a bang
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