Emmerdale first hit the TV screens on 16th October 1972 although it was then called Emmerdale Farm, only changing its name in 1989. It was centred around the farm, situated in West Yorkshire, although in 1994 the village of Beckindale became the main focus of activity. The village was re-named Emmerdale in 1994 to give it a fresh start, after a plane crash ruined much of the village. It started off being screened in the afternoons, before moving back to an evening slot in 1978, although it only changed on the London and Anglian networks in the mid-1980s. Up until this time it was not on all of the year, taking seasonal breaks. It is now shown every weekday with a double episode on Thursdays.
It was created by Kevin Laffan and had a similar concept to the long running radio show, The Archers, namely a farm, a family and characters in a nearby village. It attracts a great number of viewers, coming second to Coronation Street and EastEnders, and has won many awards over the years, such as Best Soap Storyline, Best Exit, Best Soap Actor and Actress and Spectacular Scene of the Year.
When Emmerdale Farm started the main family were the Sugdens, who lived and worked on the farm. When it became Emmerdale the Tate family were introduced, and later the Dingles and Kings took central roles, with families such as the Wyldes and Bartons coming into play in more recent years.
When the show started it was mostly about rural life and was not widely viewed. The decision was made to take the soap in a different direction, with the plane crash being the catalyst for this, leading to 18 million viewers. Since then there have been many other big story lines, including the Home Farm siege, the big storm, the Kings River explosion and various deaths. The show is well known for having dramatic exit story lines, it being very unusual to have a character just quietly slip away.