Crossroads (soap opera)
2003 title sequence
|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|
|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 a British television soap opera that ran on ITV. Set in a fictional motel (the name was later changed to a Country Hotel) in the Midlands in England, Crossroads became a byword for cheap production values, particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s. Despite this, the series regularly attracted huge audiences during this time, with ratings as high as 15 million viewers.
It was created by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling and produced by ATV (until the end of 1981) and then by ATV's successor, Central Independent Television until 1988. The series was revived by Carlton Television in 2001, however due to low ratings it was cancelled again in 2003.
The original premise of Crossroads was based around two feuding sisters, Kitty Jarvis (Beryl Johnstone) and Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon). Meg was a wealthy woman who, with the help of her late husband Charles's insurance money and compensation money from the council for them building a motorway through their land, turned her large Georgian house into a motel. "The Crossroads Motel" was located on the outskirts of the small village of King's Oak, which was on the outskirts of Birmingham. With Charles, Meg had two children. The elder was a girl named Jill (born 1946) followed by Alexander (known as Sandy) in 1950. Kitty, on the other hand, was married to the unemployed Dick and was 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, born in 1945. The idea of the sisters feuding was soon dropped.
The show had several characters in its early years. They included Meg and Kitty's brother, Andy Fraser, who became engaged and later married to motel secretary Ruth Bailey in 1965. Hotel chef Carlos Raphael and his wife Josefina who was a waitress along with Marilyn Gates. Kitchen assistant Amy Turtle, later briefly arrested as a suspected Soviet spy, joined the series in 1965 as did postmistress Miss Edith Tatum. Also featured was motel handyman and groundsman Philip Winter. Long running character Diane Lawton arrived in 1966. Other additions included Meg's close friend, former actress, Tish Hope; the suave manager and later motel director David Hunter; his first wife Rosemary and son Chris and his second wife Barbara; chefs Mr. Lovejoy, Mr. Booth and Shughie McFee; hairdresser Vera Downend; the Harvey family, consisting of father Wilf and his grown children Stan and Sheila; accountant and later motel manager Adam Chance; and cleaner Doris Luke. Perhaps the most memorable character proved to be the "village idiot" Benny Hawkins, whose trademark was a woolly hat worn all year round. His fans included British troops serving in the Falklands War in 1982, who 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".
Over the years the series dealt with storylines which were controversial for the times. A single parent working at the motel seems staid now, but was hugely controversial in the mid-1960s; Sandy Richardson was injured in a car accident in 1972 and need to use a wheelchair, the first paraplegic regular character in British soap opera (by coincidence, actor Roger Tonge himself later ended up using a wheelchair). The series also saw black characters appearing regularly - a follow-on from the 1960s BBC soap Compact, 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 (itself a taboo issue). Cleo was given the role by producer Reg Watson after press coverage of racial tensions in the Birmingham area at that time. In 1978, garage mechanic Joe MacDonald (played by Carl Andrews) arrived. The year before, an inter-racial summer romance took place between Cockney garage mechanic, Dennis Harper (played by Merlin Ward, but credited as Guy Ward), and motel receptionist Meena Chaudri (Karan David).
1981 saw a highly controversial storyline about a false accusation of rape; a 1983 storyline saw a test tube baby born to Glenda and Kevin Banks (played by Lynette McMorrough and David Moran). The subject of Down syndrome was also raised in 1983 with an insight into the life of Nina Weill, a little girl who, as Nina Paget, was befriended by three of the regular Crossroads characters.
The character of Meg Mortimer was axed in 1981 and was thought to have died in a fire that gutted the motel, but turned up alive aboard the QE2, about to sail to a new life overseas. Newspapers reported that two endings were planned for Meg - one that she would die in the fire, the other would have her disappear for a while 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 and scripts were written 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.
With the revival in 2001, changes were made to characters and stories. The returning character of Jill Chance had married John Maddingham and widowed, but was calling herself Jill Harvey again, the name by which she had been known prior to 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 (Jane Gurnett), supercilious receptionist Virginia Raven (Sherrie Hewson), and womanising deputy manager Jake Booth (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 dates
- 2 November 1964: ATV, Border and UTV
- 4 January 1965: Anglia, Associated Rediffusion, Grampian Television, Television Wales and West, 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 1972.
- 29 March 1965 Scottish Television.
- 7 January 1969: Yorkshire Television, but also dropped the series for a short period.
- 11 September 1972: Granada.
Crossroads began its run on Monday 2 November 1964 and was first shown five days a week. The episodes were then recorded "as live", a very common practice at the time, with very limited opportunities for retakes. Within a few months, 10 of the ITV companies had started broadcasting the series, though Granada never screened it during the 1960s. The Independent Television Authority (ITA) decreed in 1967 that Crossroads should be reduced in frequency to four episodes per week to improve its quality. The series was widely derided by critics who criticised the wobbly sets and fluffed lines, but gained many fans, most famously Prime Minister Harold Wilson's wife Mary who complained when the newly formed Thames Television (the franchisee for the London area), decided to stop showing the series in 1968. The decision proved unpopular with viewers and was reversed six months later but, as a result of the gap in transmissions, viewers in the Thames region were about six months behind the rest of the country for several years. Crossroads was not fully networked until 1972, when Granada, Tyne Tees and Yorkshire took it. (Each ITV station were able to broadcast the episodes at different times on same day). Though by the early 1970s it was second only to Coronation Street in the ratings it did, occasionally, in the mid-1970s beat Coronation Street gaining audiences of up to 15 million viewers during the decade.
In 1979, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) - then commercial television's regulator - decided production should be reduced further to three episodes a week from April 1980, with the chairman of the IBA Lady Plowden reportedly describing 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 matriarch 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 who became a "national hate figure". The series producer Jack Barton agreed with Denton, thinking that Gordon's character had become too dominant, but the episode gained heavy coverage in the press for some time.
ATV, having lost its ITV franchise at the end of 1980, was ordered by the IBA to reform into Central Independent Television, which took over the franchise on 1 January 1982, and was thought to show limited enthusiasm for the programmes it inherited. Further changes were introduced in March 1985, when new filming locations, sets and characters were introduced. Many storylines began to revolve around the new motel owner, Nicola Freeman (played by Gabrielle Drake). More long-term characters, such as David and Barbara Hunter, were axed. The theme tune was also updated, and the opening titles replaced with a longer version. Finally, the show was renamed Crossroads Motel - although this fact was never formally announced by the show's production team and the word "Motel" was simply incorporated into the opening titles.
In 1986, a new producer, William Smethurst, took over following the sacking of his predecessor, Philip Bowman. Smethurst, who had been brought in by Central Television's new head of drama, Ted Childs, ordered changes, aimed at creating a wittier, more upmarket serial, and at improving the production values of the show. Smethurst shifted the narrative centre to the nearby village of King's Oak. Yet more long-running characters, such as Diane Hunter and Benny Hawkins, were dropped; as with earlier changes, this was unpopular with viewers, who telephoned Central in protest. Smethurst gained the nickname "Butcher Bill" but was unfazed; he had, after all, reversed the declining fortunes of the BBC radio soap The Archers. Smethurst insisted he only got the flak because his was the name the public knew.
Michelle Buck guided the show through its final few months on air as series producer, with William Smethurst still on hand as executive producer. Further changes included the series being renamed Crossroads Kings Oak for a time, with the intention in the future of shortening this to merely Kings Oak. Also, the familiar theme tune was replaced 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. However, this final change was overtaken by the decision in June 1987 by Andy Allen, Central's director of programmes, to axe the series.
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 April 2000, Carlton Television announced that they would be reviving Crossroads for the daytime slot on ITV. The first revived episode was broadcast on 5 March 2001 with a glossy format (Carlton having bought Central back in 1993) to the surprise of the wider media. 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 story from the original were puzzling for fans and did not help ratings. Kathy Staff left in dismay at the amount of sex, and told ITV Teletext she felt it was no longer the family-friendly show she had originally been part of.
The decision to kill original character Jill Harvey, who was murdered by ex-husband Adam Chance three months into the series' revival, proved unpopular with fans of the original show. 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 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 developing situation in the 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 Digital Terrestrial Television channel 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; again, however, this only went out on ITV2.
The series was reduced to four episodes a week from November 2001 until January 2002.
The series went into a hiatus from August 2002 to January 2003, during which time further changes were made. The remodelled series, under producer Yvon Grace, appeared to be a self-consciously camp parody, with Jane Asher playing a new central character - the glamorous and bitchy Angel Samson. The series also featured 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, but fans were not happy with her ambivalence towards unresolved storylines from the 2001-2002 run. 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 also axed in March 2003, with the final episode being broadcast 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". Later, Jane Asher apologised to fans as a result of the way the 2003 series went.
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 Tony Flynn. Another version, in 2003, was arranged by Patrick Dineen and performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic.
The fictional Crossroads Motel was in an equally fictional village near Birmingham, 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; it is stated in the 1982 Crossroads Special that the Longshoot Motel (Nuneaton) was used as a 'blueprint' in designing the motel and it is likely that some scenes were filmed there during the run of the series.
In 1970, the series gained a film unit, giving it the freedom to do location shooting. Originally, Tanworth-in-Arden was used for King's Oak, although outside scenes were only occasionally used. Under Central, more location shooting began to be featured. Some early King's Oak location material was also filmed in Wolverhampton. The most famous location - as seen in the programme during the 1960s and 1970s was not a motel at all, but an agricultural college in Shropshire. It has also been suggested that Crossroads was filmed at a 1960s motel on Stratford Road in Alcester Warwickshire called CherryTrees (the buildings were demolished in 2001 and a care home was built), however it was a nearby petrol station (now closed) that was used in the early 1980s for filming a couple of outdoor scenes of the Crossroads garage. After the in-story destruction of the motel by fire, the revamped motel was filmed from 1982 at the Golden Valley Hotel in Cheltenham; from 1985 filming moved to the Penns Hall Hotel (now Ramada Jarvis Birmingham) in Sutton Coldfield, the changed appearance explained as being due to rebuilding. At the time of the move to Sutton Coldfield, new studio sets were also introduced.
Other locations included the canal (including Gas Street Basin) behind the studios in Birmingham; in-story this was the King's Oak Canal, on which Vera had a barge. The Chateau Impney Hotel also featured numerous times, most famously when Hugh proposed to Meg in 1973, and it was used to hold their wedding party two years later. The Chateau Impney was renamed the Droitwich Hotel on-screen. St Laurence's Church in Alvechurch was the setting for Jill and Adam Chance's wedding in 1983. Hagley Hall was used for the wedding reception. Helios Health Club based in Brierley Hill was used as the location for the Motel Health Club, 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' Amy Turtle - 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.
Very few recordings officially exist of episodes broadcast before the end of 1981 because ATV wiped and re-used most of the videotapes, and no episode survives before no.126 from April 1965. Network DVD issued four volumes of the series on DVD (UK Region 2) in 2005, with 12 of the original ATV episodes in each volume (the first release including Meg's 1975 wedding, the highest rated episode). The third release was delayed due to the loss of ATV documents listing which episodes still exist, and Granada Television staff having to use other resources to locate episodes.
Crossroads Volume 3 was released on 26 February 2007. 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. Crossroads Volume 4 was released on 17 September 2007.
Network DVD was in the process of releasing all the surviving episodes in transmission order exclusively through its website. The first set of 16 episodes was released in January 2008 and contained some episodes not previously available on earlier DVD releases. There are apparently 1,700 episodes of Crossroads in existence; most of these are from Central Television's run of the show from 1982 to 1988. Over 20 archive volumes of Crossroads, "with each and every surviving episode in transmission order", have been released so far, with Crossroads Archive Volume 20 the most recently released, in April 2009. On 2 November 2009, to coincide with the show's 45th anniversary, Network DVD re-released the 21 volumes - including Volume 1.1, see below - in a 41-disc box-set. The move angered some fans who had already bought the individual volumes on their original release.
A black and white Crossroads Archive Volume 1.1 has also been released, containing the episode from April 1965, along with 2 further episodes (nos. 1884 and 1886 from March 1973, which were both originally made in colour but now survive only as black and white telerecordings).
From 1996 until 2001, episodes of the original series were repeated on UKTV channel, UK Gold. Since 2015, the original series has 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 can also be watched on the catchup service free.
- Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1996). The Guinness Book of Classic British TV (Second ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Publishing Ltd. pp. 32–6. ISBN 0-85112-628-6.
- John Williams "Crossroads - The 1960s", BFI screenonline
- John Williams "Crossroads - The 1970s", BFI screenonline
- Donald, Graeme (2008). Fighting talk: the military origin of everyday words and phrases. Oxford: Osprey Books. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-84603-455-8.
- Anthony Hayward Obituary: Jack Barton, The Independent, 31 October 2002
- Anthony Hayward Obituary: Peter Ling, The Independent, 27 September 2006
- John Williams "Crossroads (1964-88, 2001-03)", BFI screenonline
- Obituary: Lady Plowden, Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2000
- "Dyke makes a difference", The Economist, 1 July 1999
- As detailed in a 1980 book of the same name.
- Sue Summers "Hired to make drama out of a crisis", The Independent, 21 July 1993
- Len Masterman Teaching the Media, Rouledge, 2005 , p.197
- John Williams "Crossroads - The 1980s", BFI screenonline
- Interview with William Smethurst
- John Williams "Crossroads - The 2000s", BFI screenonline
- "'Slick' Crossroads a hit with critics". BBC News. 6 March 2001. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Planet Crossroads -> Frequently Asked Questions
- Jane Rossington Interview
- "Asher joins revamped Crossroads". BBC News. 8 October 2002.
- Crossroads Story - 1964 to 2003
- Tony Adams Interview
- "ITV drops Crossroads". BBC News. 10 March 2003.
- "Crossroads History-Carlton Remakes 2000s". Crossroads Application Society.
- "'Crossroads Locations'". Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2010. at Gloucestershire On Screen
- "Bad service at new Crossroads". BBC News. 5 March 2001.
- "'Slick' Crossroads a hit with critics". BBC News. 6 March 2001.
- "BBC Suffolk interview with Victoria Wood". BBC. 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2014-12-01.
- Crossroads (1964-88), lostshows.com
- Crossroads Appreciation Society Unofficial fan club's tribute website
- Crossroads 2001 All about the second series of ITV's hotel soap opera.
- Destination Crossroads Views and opinions on all three series of the soap.
- Crossroads I at the Internet Movie Database
- Crossroads II at the Internet Movie Database
- Planet Crossroads fan site
- Freema Agyeman as Lola Wise in Crossroads III 2003
- Crossroads facts and memories Features about Crossroads