The Corrie Years (ITV1, 7.30pm)
Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 (BBC3, 9pm)
Regional TV: Life Through a Local Lens (BBC4, 9pm)

PERHAPS it’s because it’s been on the air for 50 years, but there seems to be a belief that Coronation Street is our cosiest soap – at least compared to the baby-snatching and cracktaking that goes on in EastEnders.

However, as new series The Corrie Years points out, the good folk of Weatherfield have stirred up plenty of controversy in their time, challenged a few taboos and even reflected the changes in society, all with a few jokes thrown in.

Using previously unseen footage, cast interviews and plenty of classic clips, the first episode focuses on those storylines that have hit the headlines, beginning with Sheila Birtles’ suicide in 1963.

The soap’s producer, Margaret Morris, believed in the plot, but wasn’t prepared for the media backlash when the story leaked on the same day the episode was due to be broadcast.

In fact, it caused such a storm of outrage that Granada Television’s bosses took the decision to cut the offending edition short while it was actually airing.

But not every Corrie storyline that made the headlines did so because people were outraged. Sometimes it was just because they were genuinely gripped by the unfolding plot. Take the marriage of Corrie’s answer to Burton and Taylor, Ken and Deirdre Barlow for example.

At one point, they appeared to be the Street’s most solid couple. As actress Anne Kirkbride says: “Ken and Deirdre had a nice and pleasant marriage, but of course it’s Coronation Street and people don’t want to watch pleasant things, they want to watch things go wrong.”

She was proved correct in 1983 when Deirdre embarked on an affair with Mike Baldwin. The papers went wild. There were phone polls asking readers whether she should leave her husband or stay put for daughter Tracy’s sake, and when Ken finally confronted his love rival, it made the front pages – and changed the way newspapers would report soaps forever.

Suddenly, the fictional goings on in Weatherfield counted as actual news.

It was also good practice for Kirkbride, who would find herself the centre of attention again 15 years later when the luckless Deirdre was sent to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. The storyline led to a public campaign to Free the Weatherfield One that even reached Downing Street.

Corrie was the talk of the House of Commons again three years later when Gail Platt discovered that her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Louise, was expecting a baby. Instead of the expected howls of outrage though, the politicians praised the plot for raising the issue of teenage pregnancy and showing the hardships young mothers face.

THE BBC3 Extraordinary Me series continues with Jamie: Drag Queen At 16. This documentary focuses on the life of teenager Jamie, who came out as gay when he was 14. Two years later, he is preparing to share his dream of becoming a drag queen with his peers.

The programme follows the youngster as he embarks on a journey to discover more about his chosen vocation. With the help of his supportive family and friends, he meets an established artist and performs as his female alter ego for the first time in front of a large audience.

Jamie also gets a glimpse of his future, as he shares his dream of swapping the small village he calls home for the bright lights of the city.

THE opportunity to tune into a daily local news programme is something we take for granted these days, but that hasn’t always been the case.

It wasn’t until the Fifties and Sixties that regional broadcasting enjoyed a soar in popularity and advancements, as contributors Michael Parkinson, Angela Rippon and Martin Bell recall.

Regional TV: Life Through a Local Lens shows how regional broadcasting became increasingly popular, and also highlights the weird and wonderful shows that have sprung up out of the format, as well as looking into what the future holds for such programmes in the digital age.