Created by Kevin Laffan
Emmerdale, known as Emmerdale Farm until 1989, is a long-running British soap opera set in Emmerdale (known as Beckindale until 1994), a fictional village in the Yorkshire Dales. Created by Kevin Laffan, Emmerdale was first broadcast on 16 October 1972. It is produced by Yorkshire Television, now part of ITV Studios, and has been filmed at their Yorkshire Studios since its inception. It has since been shown in all regions of ITV almost throughout its existence. It is the UK's second oldest soap opera and the third most popular behind Coronation Street and EastEnders.
It was originally conceived and broadcast as a daytime programme in an afternoon slot, becoming an early evening programme in 1978 in most ITV regions, but excluding London and Anglia, both of which followed in the mid-1980s. Until Christmas 1988, Emmerdale took seasonal breaks; since then it has been broadcast year-round.
Emmerdale half-hourly episodes are shown every weekday at 7pm with an extra Thursday episode being aired at 8pm (beginning 23 July 2009). Episodes are first broadcast on the ITV Network. On 10 October 2011, Emmerdale began broadcasting in high definition on ITV1 HD.
The basic premise of Emmerdale Farm was very similar to the BBC radio soap opera The Archers – focusing on a family, a farm and characters in a nearby village.
The farmyard filming techniques of Emmerdale Farm were originally modelled on the revolutionary soap-opera The Riordans, made by RTÉ, Ireland's broadcaster, from the mid-1960s to the end of the 1970s. The Riordans broke new ground for soap operas by being filmed largely out of doors (on a farm owned in the storyline by Tom and Mary Riordan) rather than the usual practice of British and American soap operas, of shooting almost completely in studios (where 'outdoor' scenes were sometimes filmed indoors). The Riordans pioneered farmyard location shooting with real farm animals and actors driving tractors. In the 1960s and 1970s, outdoor filming of television programmes using OBUs (Outdoor Broadcast Units) was in its infancy due to the far higher costs involved and the reliance on things like the weather that were out of the control of the programme makers.
The Miffield estate was the biggest employer in the village of Beckindale – situated 39 miles (63 km) from Bradford and 52 miles (84 km) from Leeds. Lord Miffield gave the lease of Emmerdale Farm on the edge of the village to the Sugden family in the 1850s out of gratitude after Josh Sugden sacrificed his life for the Earl's son in the Crimean War.
Josh's grandson, Joseph, married Margaret Oldroyd and they had a son, Jacob, in January 1916. In the 1930s, the young Jacob Sugden supposedly purchased Emmerdale Farm. In 1945 he married Annie Pearson – daughter of farm labourer, Sam Pearson. Margaret Sugden died in 1963 and Joseph Sugden died in 1964.
Jacob Sugden had run the farm into the ground as he drank away most of the profits, leaving it in a sorry state. It was badly maintained and the future of the farm looked bleak at the time of Jacob's death on 10 October 1972. Jacob left a wife, Annie, and three grown children, Jack (the eldest) and Joe (the youngest of the three) and daughter Peggy. These characters would form the basis of the series Emmerdale Farm.