David Liddiment’s impressions of Steve Morrison

Steve is a force of nature. He’s indefatigable; he’s not easily deflected from a course of action. All these are strengths. Granada needed – people forget this – Granada was a great company, but there was an element of atrophy creeping into the place. And that’s not a criticism of the people involved, it was just the reality of being a very successful business for, by now, over 20 years, and shows like Coronation Street still doing the business but frankly starting to look a bit out-dated, and some of the glories of the drama department in the 60s, which had a very different temperament to the drama department in later years, that kind of… the passage of time had moved things on. The 60s was Granada, northern writers, the television novel, Sam, This Year, Next Year, Family At War… you know, these were great concepts that came out of the north, and the writers of the north, and the actors of the north, and that’s what characterised Granada drama, particularly in the 60s and early 70s – and that had passed, and the talent that had driven that had passed, and Philip Mackie, who had driven some of the extraordinary drama earlier on, had gone, and Peter Eckersley was still there but no longer running drama, and g was getting more focused on the big scale – Hard Times or Brideshead – so Steve Morrison coming along, and not taking the status quo for granted, not running regional programmes in the limited, obligatory way that it was obliged to be in terms of what it offered for the ITC or the regulator, seeing other possibilities and seeing something in Edinburgh and getting excited about doing it, and trying to find a way of getting it on television. That was exciting, and I think without Steve Morrison then, and later, when he became director of programmes, in a way being prepared to think the unthinkable, and to start to modernise Granada, I think Granada’s proud history would be a little bit more golden ageist than it is now. People forget that in the latter part of Granada’s life, drama had an incredible recovery, with Band of Gold and Prime Suspect and Cracker – this was a golden period of Granada drama, and it had nothing to do with the ‘old’, if you like, the Denis Forman/Sidney Bernstein Granada, but it grew out of that and it respected its heritage – and it was absolutely legitimately Granada doing what it did best. So that all came from Steve Morrison. Modernising Coronation Street – I ran Coronation Street for five years – so you could take on and regain its position as the number one drama serial in Britain, beating EastEnders and Brookside, not just in the ratings but creatively. That came about because I could see that Granada was kind of rather trading on the past with Coronation Street, and it was too important to be sort of left to atrophy in a schedule and a budget that was closer to 1961 than 1987!

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