Crossroads (British TV series)
|Created by||Hazel Adair|
|Written by||Michala Crees|
Edward F. Barnes
|Directed by||John Scholz-Conway|
|Opening theme||Tony Hatch|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||Original Series: 4510|
Revived Series: 320
|Production location(s)||Broad Street Studios, Birmingham|
Carlton Studios, Nottingham
|Running time||30 minutes|
Central Independent Television
|Original release||2 November 1964– 30 May 2003|
Crossroads was set in a fictional motel in the Midlands. Crossroads was later called a hotel. The show became a byword for cheap production values. Despite this, the series regularly attracted huge audiences. It had as many as 15 million viewers.
It was created by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling and produced by ATV. In 1981, Central Independent Television took over ATV's broadcast licence and continued the programme until it was cancelled in 1988. In 2001, the series was revived by Carlton Television. It was cancelled again in 2003.
The original idea of Crossroads was based around two feuding sisters, Kitty Jarvis, played by Beryl Johnstone, and Meg Richardson, played by Noele Gordon. Meg is a wealthy woman. She had her late husband Charles' insurance money, and compensation money from the council. The compensation was for them building a motorway through her land. Meg used her money to turn her large Georgian house into a motel.
"The Crossroads Motel" was located near the fictional small village of King's Oak. This was on the edge of Birmingham. Meg had two children. A girl named Jill, played by Jane Rossington), born in 1946, and a boy Alexander, born in 1950. Alexander was called "Sandy" and played by Roger Tonge.
The other sister, Kitty, is married to the unemployed Dick played by Brian Kent. She is not wealthy. Dick and Kitty bought a newsagents and tobacconists shop in the nearby town of Heathbury a few years after the show started. Kitty and Dick had a son called Brian, played by David Fennell, born in 1945. The story idea of the sisters feuding was dropped early in the series.
Characters in the show's early years included Meg and Kitty's brother, Andy Fraser, played by Ian Patterson. In 1965, Andy marries motel secretary Ruth Bailey, played by Pamela Greenhall. Other characters in the first series include
- the hotel chef Carlos Raphael, played by Anthony Morton
- his wife Josefina, played by Gillian Betts
- waitress Marilyn Gates, played by Sue Nicholls and later played by Nadine Hanwell
- kitchen assistant Amy Turtle, played by Ann George
- postmistress Edith Tatum, played by Elisabeth Croft
- motel handyman Philip Winter, played by Malcolm Young
Amy was briefly arrested as a suspected Soviet spy.
In 1966, long running character Diane Lawton, played by Susan Hanson arrived. Other additions included
- Meg's close friend andformer actress, Tish Hope, played by Joy Andrews
- manager and later motel director, David Hunter, played by Ronald Allen
- David's first wife Rosemary, played by Janet Hargreaves
- their son Chris, played by Freddy Foote and later by Stephen Hoye
- David's second wife Barbara, played by Sue Lloyd
- chef Gerald Lovejoy, played by William Avenell
- chef Bernard Booth, played by David Lawton
- chef Shughie McFee, played by Angus Lennie
- hairdresser Vera Downend, played by Zeph Gladstone
- accountant and later motel manager Adam Chance, played by Tony Adams
- cleaner Doris Luke, played by Kathy Staff
Perhaps the most memorable character was the "village idiot" Benny Hawkins, played by Paul Henry. His trademark was a woolly hat that he wore all the time. His fans included British troops serving in the Falklands War. In 1982, they nicknamed the Falkland Islanders "Bennies" after the character. Instructed to stop using the name, the troops came up with "Stills" for locals - because they were "still Bennies".
The series had storylines which were controversial at the time. These include
- A single parent working at the motel.
- The first paraplegic regular character portrayed in British soap opera. Sandy Richardson was injured in a car accident in 1972 and needed to use a wheelchair,
The series also saw black characters appearing regularly. This followed from the 1960s BBC soap Compact. This was also created by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling. Melanie Harper, played by Cleo Sylvestre, arrived at the motel in 1970 as Meg's foster daughter. Sylvestre was given the role by producer Reg Watson after press coverage of racial tensions in Birmingham. In 1977, an interracial summer romance took place between Cockney garage mechanic Dennis Harper, played by Guy Ward, and motel receptionist Meena Chaudri, played by Karen David. In 1978, garage mechanic Joe MacDonald, played by Carl Andrews, arrived.
In 1981, a storyline about a false accusation of rape. In 1983, a storyline about a test tube baby born to Glenda and Kevin Banks, played by Lynette McMorrough and David Moran. In 1983, the subject of Down syndrome was also raised when a little girl was befriended by three of the regular characters.
The character of Meg Mortimer was axed in 1981. She was thought to have died in a motel fire. Later she turned up alive aboard the QE2, about to sail to a new life overseas. Newspapers reported that two endings were planned for Meg. She would either die in the fire or disappear and turn up on the QE2. Viewers were surprised to see producers had used both. Meg returned briefly in 1983 for a reunion with Jill and Adam on their honeymoon in Venice.
In 1985, new producer Phillip Bowman was planning to bring the character of Meg Mortimer back into the show as a "permanent occasional." Plans were well advanced when Noele Gordon died in April of that year, aged 65. Edward Clayton was brought back as Jill's ex-husband Stan Harvey to read the lines originally written for Gordon.
In 2001, the show was revived. Changes were made to characters and stories. Jill Chance had married John Maddingham, played by Jeremy Nicholas. She had been widowed and was calling herself Jill Harvey again. This had been her name before her marriage to Adam Chance in 1983. References were also made to the Russell family taking over a "failing motel", despite Crossroads having become a hotel in the late 1980s. In the final episode of the original series, the name 'King's Oak Country Hotel' was seen over the entrance doors.
Lack of real links to the past, and the killing of Jill a few months into the new run, turned many fans away. Popular characters in the new Crossroads included new owner Kate Russell, played by Jane Gurnett. Receptionist Virginia Raven, played by Sherrie Hewson, and womanising deputy manager Jake Booth, played by Colin Wells. The storyline of the final episode was the revelation that the revived series and glamorous hotel had been a dream of supermarket worker and Crossroads fan Angela, with all the other characters revealed as shoppers. Angela even approaches a female customer in the supermarket and tells her she recognises her as "Tracey Booth from Crossroads". Tracey's mother-in-law, Kate, was also shown as one of Angela's colleagues in the supermarket.
Original start datesEdit
- 2 November 1964: ATV, Border Television and Ulster Television
- 4 January 1965: Anglia, Associated Rediffusion, Grampian Television, TWW, Southern Television, Westward Television and Channel Television.
- 11 January 1965: Tyne Tees, but the series was dropped and then picked up again several times until January 1972.
- 29 March 1965: Scottish Television.
- 5 November 1968: Yorkshire Television, but also dropped the series for a short period, until January 1972.
- 11 September 1972: Granada.
Crossroads began its run on Monday 2 November 1964. It was shown five days a week. The episodes were recorded "as live", a common practice at the time, with few opportunities for retakes. Within a few months, 10 of the ITV companies had started broadcasting the series. Granada never screened it during the 1960s. The Independent Television Authority (ITA) decreed in 1967 that Crossroads should be reduced to four episodes per week to improve its quality. The series was no longer networked and each ITV station broadcast the show on different days.
The series was widely derided by critics who criticised the wobbly sets and fluffed lines, but gained many fans. Prime Minister Harold Wilson's wife Mary complained when the newly formed Thames Television decided to stop showing it in 1968. The decision proved unpopular with viewers and was reversed six months later. As a result of the gap in transmission, viewers in the Thames region were six months behind the rest of the country for several years. In 1972, Granada became the last ITV company to show Crossroads. By the early 1970s it was second only to Coronation Street in the ratings. In the mid-1970s it beat Coronation Street gaining audiences of up to 15 million viewers.
From April 1980, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), commercial television's regulator, decided production should be reduced further to three episodes a week. The chairman of the IBA Lady Plowden described the soap opera as "distressingly popular". ATV planned to replace the fourth episode with a spin-off series called A Family Affair but this idea was dropped. Series star Noele Gordon, who played Meg Richardson, regularly won the TV Times Most Popular Female Personality viewers award during the 1970s.
Viewers reacted negatively at the dismissal of Gordon in 1981, an action taken by head of programming Charles Denton. He became a "national hate figure". The series producer Jack Barton agreed with Denton that Gordon's character had become too dominant.
Why Gordon was sacked remains a mystery to TV historians as she was the most popular character on the soap and no real reason was given other than that producers felt it was time for a change. The actress herself was terribly upset by the decision. She was the only cast member on a permanent contract. She had been misled that the meeting where she was dismissed was to be the annual negotiation for the next years contract. In interviews she made it clear that she did not want to go. There is debate about the reason for her dismissal. Some people have said that Gordon's attitude within the company had upset some executives and they simply wanted rid of her. Gordon was very passionate about the soap and would regularly defend it against the many critics. Others believe that ITV found Crossroads an embarrassment and wanted to find a way of decreasing the viewing figures by sacking Gordon. She was the biggest audience draw. With fewer viewers it could be justified to axe it. Whatever the reason, the series never recovered from her loss.
ATV lost its ITV franchise at the end of 1981. It was ordered by the IBA to reform into Central Independent Television. It took over the franchise on 1 January 1982. It was thought to have little enthusiasm for the programmes it inherited. Further changes were introduced in March 1985, when new filming locations, sets and characters were introduced. Many storylines were about the new motel owner, Nicola Freeman, played by Gabrielle Drake. Long-term characters, such as David and Barbara Hunter, were axed. The theme tune was updated and the opening titles replaced with a longer version. Finally, the show was renamed Crossroads Motel with the word "Motel" added in the opening titles. The closing titles, which had scrolled in multiple 'crossroad' directions since the start, were replaced with conventional scrolling credits.
In 1986, a new producer, William Smethurst, took over the series following the sacking of his predecessor, Philip Bowman. Smethurst had been brought in by Central Television's new head of drama, Ted Childs. He ordered changes, creating a wittier serial and improving the production values of the show. Smethurst shifted the story to the nearby village of King's Oak. Yet more long-running characters, such as Diane Hunter and Benny Hawkins, were dropped. This was unpopular with viewers, who telephoned Central in protest.
Further changes included the series being renamed Crossroads Kings Oak for a time, with the intention in the future of shortening this to King's Oak. This final change was overtaken by the decision in June 1987 by Andy Allen, Central's director of programmes, to axe the series. The familiar theme tune was replaced in September 1987 by a new theme composed by Max Early and Raf Ravenscroft. New titles were introduced to accompany the new theme, which featured stills of King's Oak and the new King's Oak Country Hotel. Michele Buck guided the show through its final few months on air as series producer, with William Smethurst still on hand as executive producer.
In January 1988, the series was reduced to only two episodes a week, with Crossroads King's Oak finally coming to an end on 4 April 1988 (the Easter bank holiday). The last, extended episode saw the character of Jill (Jane Rossington) riding off with her lover, John Maddingham (Jeremy Nicholas). Asked what name she would give the hotel she would be running in her new life, the character remarked, a little sadly, "I always thought Crossroads was an awfully good name".
In 1994, Carlton Television bought Central Television. In April 2000, Carlton announced that they would be reviving Crossroads for the daytime slot on ITV. The first episode was shown on 5 March 2001. The revived series was sponsored by washing detergent Surf and was broadcast each weekday at 1.30pm and 5.05pm on ITV, with a Sunday omnibus on ITV2. The revived series was also broadcast in Ireland on RTÉ One and in New Zealand on TV One.
Four characters from the original series returned: Doris Luke (Kathy Staff), Jill Harvey (née Richardson), Jill's ex-husband Adam Chance (Tony Adams), and Jill's daughter Sarah-Jane Harvey (Joanne Farrell/Holly Newman). Initial reactions were favourable. However, changes in the story from the original puzzled fans and did not help ratings. Kathy Staff left in dismay at the amount of sex. She told ITV Teletext she felt it was no longer the family-friendly show she had originally been part of.
The story where original character Adam Chance murders ex-wife Jill Harvey three months into the new series' was unpopular with fans. Jane Rossington said she did not want to commit herself to another long run in the show, but warned Carlton it would be suicidal to kill Jill.
Episode 137 of the second revived series remains the only episode never to be shown in full on ITV. The lunchtime screening on Tuesday 11 September 2001 began at 14:10 BST. At the halfway commercial-break point however, the programme was interrupted to hand over to ITV News for then very sketchy details of the 9/11 attacks in New York City, USA. As the afternoon went on and the seriousness of the situation became clear, all ITV Network daytime programmes, starting with CITV transmissions at 15:15, were relegated to ITV2 to continue rolling news coverage. The semi-dropped episode was therefore transmitted in full on ITV2 at 17:30 BST. However, at the time, the channel was only available to a small number of viewers able to view the subscription-based ITV Digital, Telewest or NTL. As a result, the episode remains unseen by most of the programme's regular fanbase, including the entire Channel Islands who could not receive ITV Digital. A short re-cap of events in Episode 137 was screened before both the 14:10 and 17:05 showings of Episode 138 on 12 September 2001. The episode was included in the Omnibus edition that Sunday. This also only was shown on ITV2.
The series was reduced to four episodes a week from November 2001 until January 2002.
The series paused in August 2002. In January 2003, a changed series, under producer Yvon Grace, reappeared. It seemed to be a self-consciously camp parody, with Jane Asher playing a new central character - the glamorous and bitchy Angel Samson. The series also had appearances from Kate O'Mara, and people associated with light entertainment, such as Lionel Blair, Les Dennis and Tim Brooke-Taylor. The revived series also launched the careers of Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, Law & Order: UK), Luke Roberts (Holby City and Mile High), Lucy Pargeter, Shauna Shim and Jessica Fox.
Yvon Grace admitted she was aiming the new Crossroads towards the LGBT TV audience. Plans were in place to bring Adam Chance back on a three-month contract in a last attempt to bring in more viewers; actor Tony Adams said that a down-on-his luck Adam would have been taken under Angel's wing as her personal assistant.
With ratings continuing to decline, the revived series was axed in March 2003. The final episode was shown on Friday 30 May 2003.
The 2003 series was criticised by fans who felt the series had moved away from the 1964-88 series and the 2001-02 series, as well as being "too gay".
The Crossroads theme tune was composed by Tony Hatch. In 2004 Hatch said:
"The budget for the music was low and it would have to be recorded in a TV studio in Birmingham - not the perfect acoustic conditions in comparison with the dedicated music recording studios I was used to. ... The original theme was actually two tunes. Each one represented one of the families and these tunes could be played separately or, because they shared the same chord sequence, together in counterpoint with each other. ... As the budget was small I decided to use a small rhythm section plus a harp and feature the first theme on a 12-string guitar with the second theme played on the oboe. Right at the beginning I put the famous 9-note motif - the call-sign which gets the family in front of the TV set."
A selection of cues were recorded, including Meg's Theme which eventually became the standard opening theme, Kitty's Theme which was phased out as action focussed on the motel, the closing theme which combined both Meg's and Kitty's themes, and a variety of background pieces.
A rerecording by The Tony Hatch Sound was issued as a single by Pye Records in 1965. A special arrangement of the theme by Paul McCartney and Wings, was also used from the late seventies, usually when an episode ended with a dramatic event. Central Independent Television's head of music Johnny Patrick rearranged the tune in 1985 for piano and synthesiser, upon the show's relaunch as Crossroads Motel by producer Philip Bowman. Following William Smethurst's arrival as producer in 1987, this recording was overdubbed with added synthesisers.
An entirely new theme aired in late 1987 when the series was relaunched as Crossroads, Kings Oak, composed by Johnny Patrick, with Raf Ravenscroft and Max Early, with the CBSO. This later formed the basis of the single released by actress Shona Linsdey, "Goodbye", to commemorate the end of the show in 1988.
The 2001 revival brought back the original Tony Hatch theme, this time arranged and performed by TV theme composer Tony Flynn. Another version, in 2003, was arranged by Patrick Dineen and performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic.
The fictional Crossroads Motel was in a fictional village near Birmingham called Kings Oak. There are real suburbs in south-west Birmingham called Kings Heath, Kings Norton and Selly Oak). A number of real-life hotels doubled for location filming. The 1982 Crossroads Special said that the Longshoot Motel in Nuneaton) was used in designing the motel. It is likely that some scenes were filmed there.
In 1970, the series gained an O.B unit, giving it the freedom to do location shooting. Originally, Tanworth-in-Arden was used for King's Oak. Outside scenes were only occasionally used. From 1981 more location filming was used. Some early King's Oak location material was also filmed in Wolverhampton.
The most famous location, seen in the programme during the 1960s and 1970s, was not a motel. It was the Shropshire Agricultural Institution, now called North Shropshire College. In October 2019 two of the buildings used during filming, a teaching block and Bridden accommodation block were demolished.
It has been suggested that Crossroads was filmed at a 1960s motel on Stratford Road in Alcester Warwickshire. It was called CherryTrees. The buildings were demolished in 2001. A nearby petrol station, since closed, was used in the early 1980s to film a couple of outdoor scenes of the Crossroads garage.
From 1985 filming moved to the Penns Hall Hotel (now Ramada Jarvis Birmingham) in Sutton Coldfield. The changed appearance was explained as being due to rebuilding. New studio sets were also introduced.
Other locations included the canal (including Gas Street Basin) behind the studios in Birmingham. in the story this was the King's Oak Canal, on which Vera had a barge. The Chateau Impney Hotel, called the Droitwich Hotel in the story, was also used. In 1983, St Laurence's Church in Alvechurch was the setting for Jill and Adam Chance's wedding. Hagley Hall was used for the wedding reception. Helios Health Club in Brierley Hill was used as the location for the Motel Health Club. It was filmed on Mondays when the health club was closed.
Despite the popularity of Crossroads with the viewing public, the show was often criticised by TV reviewers and ridiculed by British comedians. Television historian Hilary Kingsley stated that Crossroads never failed "to provide its critics with ammunition. Some of the acting would have disgraced the humblest of village halls; many of the plots were so farcical they could have been written in a bad dream, and much of the dialogue was pathetic." The Guinness Book of Classic British TV noted that "Crossroads was the series that no-one seemed to love. Yet at its peak, it was watched by more viewers than any other soap except Coronation Street."
Spoof soap opera Acorn Antiques, created by comedian Victoria Wood as part of Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, is a deliberate parody of Crossroads. The final episode of As Seen on TV in 1987 features a hoax documentary, 'The Making of Acorn Antiques', in which the actress playing Mrs Overall (Julie Walters) - a character based on Crossroads characters Amy Turtle and Mavis Hooper - is revealed as a rather grand character who considers herself a huge star. This portrayal, plus a later pretend news item in which it is revealed she has been sacked from the show, both suggest the actress character (later given the name Bo Beaumont in the musical based on the sketches) is based on Noele Gordon, with Bo making her 'goodbye' appearance to the press in headscarf and large sunglasses and making a dramatic speech, just as Gordon did.
In February 2007, Crossroads Volume 3 was released. There are two versions of the DVD, one being a special limited edition, which contains an extra third disc - featuring recently found episodes from 1976.
In September 2007, Crossroads Volume 4 was released.
In 2008, Network DVD started to release all the surviving episodes in transmission order through its website. The first set of 16 episodes was released in January 2008 and contained some episodes not available on earlier DVD releases. There are 1,700 episodes of Crossroads in existence; most of these are from Central Television's run of the show from 1982 to 1988.
A black and white Crossroads Archive Volume 1.1 has also been released, containing the episode from April 1965, along with 2 further episodes, numbered 1884 and 1886 from March 1973. These were both originally made in colour but now survive only as black and white telerecordings.
On 2 November 2009, to coincide with the show's 45th anniversary, Network DVD re-released 21 volumes in a 41-disc box-set. Susan Hanson, who played Diane Hunter, appeared on The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Loose Women on 6 and 13 November 2009 respectively, to promote the box-set.
From February to September 2015, the original series aired on Big Centre TV on Freeview channel 8 in the Midlands or available online live at 9.00pm each evening Monday to Saturday, which could also be watched free on their catchup service.
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