John Whiston

The Secret of Soaps: The Story Behind the Stories

No one could accuse Coronation Street of taking it easy, even though this would be understandable for a middle-aged British telly institution. Over the last couple of years the ITV soap has given viewers multiple murders, deaths and suicides; explosions and a minibus crash; a pre-teen pregnancy; and even a gay vicar.

Audiences have been lapping up the drama, which regularly attracts more than 7 million viewers. Corrie remains the nation’s favourite soap.

Our Friend in Leeds: John Whiston

I have had a few cool titles in my time – head of youth, head of the north, the pope of soap. But none quite compare with that of Dr Paul Litchfield, formerly titled surgeon commander, in charge of Royal Navy nuclear, biological and chemical defence.

He’s now an independent medical adviser to ITV and a great guy to have on your side – or, indeed, on a Zoom call during a pandemic. That’s exactly what the discussions needed: level-­headed rationality to chart a way through all the lockdown fear caused by the nightly news beat and to get the soap teams back to work.