I’m working on a small Coronation Street project at the moment, and thought I’d share a few statistics (based on a small sample – see below for more details), which I think are worth a minute of any television viewer’s time!
How many scenes are there in an episode of Coronation Street?
The number of scenes hovers around the 19 mark, with only a fairly small amount of variation (no fewer than 17 scenes per episode and no more than 21 in my sample).
Although there are an average of 19 scenes, these tend to take place over only nine or ten different locations.
How long does a scene last?
If we divide the length of an episode after you strip out adverts and credits and so on, which is between 20 and 22 minutes, by the number of scenes in it, then you get an average scene length (an arithmetic mean) of about 66 seconds.
But though perhaps informative in its own right, this doesn’t tell you much about the distribution of different scene lengths. As the table below shows, a majority of scenes are longer than 20 seconds and shorter than 80 seconds, but there’s quite a lot of variety even beyond this quite wide bracket.
How many speaking characters are there in an episode of Coronation Street?
Somewhere around the 27 mark (no fewer than 20 and no more than 32 in my sample).
(One thing you start to notice when you do this work is the extensive use Coronation Street makes of background extras.)
How many characters are there per scene?
The arithmetic mean in my sample is just over 4, but again the distribution tells a fuller story:
The most common type of scene involves a pair of characters. Trios and groups of four are also very common. But there are also scenes that bring large chunks of the soap ensemble together. Often, sub-groups of characters will form mini-clusters in the same location (as when, for example, we move from one table and/or part of the bar to another in a Rovers scene), but sometimes, all the characters in the scene are genuinely brought together (for an occasion or by an event).
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These statistics are based on a sample of just six episodes from earlier in 2016, but in many ways the results re-confirm findings from an earlier small sample of episodes I undertook in 2013, summarised in an article I wrote for the British Television Drama website.
I gathered these stats as a preliminary step in a small piece of research I’m doing about soap performance, and its place within the overall structure of soap production.
A few words on the sample
I am an occasional viewer of Coronation Street, but I watched every episode of the programme from 8 April – 13 June 2016, then chose a random sample of six episodes from within it to form the basis of my close analysis. I chose not to focus on a block of consecutive episodes in an attempt to control for any variance that might arise from a particular type of storyline dominating and/or reaching its climax, or the idiosyncracies of a particular writer or director (I noticed that episodes are sometimes written and/or directed in miniature blocks).
As already stated, my results re-confirms some patterns from an earlier sample. I’m most confident about the general applicability of the stats for number of scenes per episode and scene length – where there’s minimal variance and something approaching a normal distribution, respectively.
Counting characters was the hardest thing, especially in one of my sample episodes – Nick and Carla’s ill-fated wedding. I ended up making what were probably in the end fairly arbitrary decisions about whether to include characters in my counts for some of these scenes. In the first scene of the episode, my job is made relatively easy by the fact that all of the key characters are introduced by a camera that moves from one little cluster to another. But in later scenes, do you count those characters as included again if you glimpse them in the background? I decided no – but I did choose to include characters who are put on the front row of a shot and whose reactions take up a beat of story time (but not those, also visible, on the rows behind).
Another mild quandary I experienced was when confronted with a scene on the cobbles where we start with one set of characters, then move on to another. We’re in the same location, so technically it’s the same scene, but what if it’s round the corner, or at the other end of the street. In the end, I had to make judgments. These will have affected my final stats a little, but not by much. In any case, I only intend the stats to be indicative and suggestive. They tell me things it’s useful for me to know, but my real focus is elsewhere.