Take the High Road
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|Take the High Road|
|Created by||Don Houghton|
|Country of origin||Scotland, United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||1,517 (+3 specials)|
|Running time||30 minutes
(1× 45 min Hogmanay special; 2× 60 min Millennium special)
|Production company(s)||Scottish Television|
|Original channel||ITV, Scottish Television|
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV)|
|Original release||19 February 1980 – 27 April 2003|
Take the High Road (renamed to High Road from 1994 to 2003) was a British soap opera produced by Scottish Television, set in the fictional village of Glendarroch (exteriors were filmed in the real-life village of Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond), which started in February 1980 as an ITV daytime soap opera, and was dropped by most stations in the 1990s, although Scottish Television, Grampian Television, Border Television and Ulster Television continued to screen the programme until the last episode. The programme has developed a cult following.
ITV wished to have a Scottish soap for its daytime line up. At the time the only soap made by STV was Garnock Way, which ITV companies in the rest of the United Kingdom had no interest in, as they wished to have a soap, in their words, “with Scotch Lochs, Hills and purple heather”, a more tartan feel to the show. In late 1979, (partly because of an ITV strike at the time) Garnock Way was axed and production started on a new soap.
The original name for the fictitious estate and village was Glendhu; this resulted in some debate over the name of the series:
- The Glendhu Factor — was dropped as some viewers in other ITV markets may have found it difficult, resulting in the fictitious village's being renamed Glendarroch
- High Road - Low Road — also dropped, as it sounded like a take-away shop
After much debate it was decided that the series would be called Take the High Road.
Links to Garnock Way
Take the High Road was introduced as a replacement for Garnock Way, which contained very similar characters and actors to the original characters of Take the High Road. Some viewers were rather displeased about Garnock Way being axed; to help defuse some of the anger, Todd the garage mechanic, played by Bill Henderson, would suffer a nervous breakdown, and would move north to set up business on his own to help resolve his alcohol problems.
Because of shortage of time and the wish to keep most of the existing actors, it did not follow this plan. The appointed producer Clarke Tait decided to have a scenario where Bill Henderson’s character, Todd, had his named changed to Ken Calder who happened to be a garage mechanic with a drink problem.
Production and changes
Many of the early scripts were written by Michael Elder, who also made guest appearances in the show. Books by the same name as the show were also produced by him. In the early days of the scripting, the show was fairly credible, but as time went on poor storylines were to follow.
During the course of its existence, Take the High Road went through a few major changes and face lifts. Perhaps the most noticeable was the renovation of Blair's store: everything was kept behind the cashier's desk as was once common practice; and shortly after Brian Blair was released from prison it was transformed into a walk-around store. There were a few themes in Take the High Road, in line with Scottish culture, namely the idea of Elizabeth Cunningham the rich lady laird who owned the village and neighbouring farms, and the theme of Protestant religion which was always present. It also entertained the feeling that outsiders were simply not welcome into the small close-knit community, something which may exist in any small village. Modernity was coming, and the way of thinking of the first lairds was completely different from that of the final ones.
Around 1990, the series was revamped in a bid to attract a younger audience, which resulted in some outcry about the changes and a belief that new sets had taken away the authenticity of a Scottish village. But within six months the changes were hailed as a success and enabled stronger story lines, and the introduction of five new male characters. Toward the end of the show's life, it tackled many social issues, such as lesbianism, suicide and drug abuse, which were new to Scottish Television, although not new to the ITV network.
During its run, Take the High Road was always one of the highest-rated television programmes in Scotland, and had an extremely loyal following throughout the rest of the UK. Indeed, when the series was cancelled by the ITV Network, so many protests were received from viewers in England that some ITV regions re-instated the programme.
Starting from August 5, 1994, the series' name was changed to just High Road, and from then on it continued to be produced by Scottish Television, for a Scottish audience, until it was cancelled in April 2003.
Take the High Road was the only soap for the ITV network which was not made by the "Big Five" companies. This helped to give Scotland a place on the network and also provide sufficient revenue to help STV to produce more programmes for ITV and Channel 4.
Cast and characters
Take the High Road was broadcast by all ITV companies when it started in 1980. Nearly all regions broadcast Take the High Road during the daytime, except for Scottish Television who broadcast the soap in the early evenings around 6.30pm. From 1984/85 Border Television and Grampian Television moved the series to a peak-time slot.
Dropped by the ITV network
During 1993, the new ITV network centre was reviewing all long-standing series made by ITV companies, the issues of the series being dropped becoming even more apparent as the regions south of the border were months behind in their transmissions in Scotland. On 2 June 1993, Marcus Plantin, ITV's network director, announced the termination of Take The High Road from September 1993, as 'ITV's statisticians believed English audiences have had enough'  This resulted in public protest, as many believed that without ITV companies south of the border, the series had no chance. The issue was raised in parliament under early day motions, and the Daily Record newspaper held a protest as well.
By the end of June, Scottish Television decided to continue producing the series mainly for the Scottish market, but within a month, nearly all the ITV companies reinstated it after viewers complained about the show being dropped in the first place. Only two companies refused to reinstate the series: Tyne Tees Television and Yorkshire Television (although both finally brought the series back in 1996).
By January 1998, all Granada and UNM owned ITV companies had stopped broadcasting the series. The rest carried on with the series until:
- Carlton Television until November 1998.
- Central and Westcountry until Friday 24 May 2002.
- Border Television who completed the series in 2003.
- UTV who completed the series in 2004.
Take the High Road was broadcast in a number of countries around the world.
- In Australia, it was broadcast on ABC1
- United States
- New Zealand
- Sri Lanka
- In Ireland, the series was broadcast during the daytime five days a week from the beginning on RTÉ One. As episodes caught up with the UK transmissions, the number of episodes broadcast per week was reduced.
Take the High Road was repeated on Sky Soap; the episodes shown in early 1997 were from the beginning, and 1989 episodes were being shown when the channel ended in April 1999. Early episodes from about 1994/95 were shown on Sky Scottish in 1997/98.
Take the High Road was repeated briefly on Life One from February 2008. The channel started showing from episode 1000 from 1992. The channel ceased broadcasting 6 weeks later, after showing only 4 episodes.
In the autumn of 2010, nearly every episode was added to YouTube by Scottish Television, making the series accessible to viewers across the world. Not all episodes are available on the YouTube site as some — currently 23 — are missing from the STV archive. Recently, these episodes appear to have been taken off YouTube, perhaps due to the gradual release of the series on DVD.
Take the High Road was sponsored by Brooke Bond Scottish Blend tea from the beginning of 1992 until 1995 or 1996. Mothers Pride also sponsored the series, from August 1999 to September 2001 on Scottish and Grampian TV. The sponsorship credits revealed the adventures of one man and his dog, Doug, as they searched for the village of Glendarroch.
These books were all written by Michael Elder, except for Summers Gloaming, which was written by Don Houghton.
- Summer's Gloaming (November 1982)
- Danger in the Glen (January 1984)
- Mist on the Moorland (1985)
- The Man From France (1986)
- The Last of the Lairds (May 1987)
- 10 Years of Take the High Road (1990)
There were four versions of the theme tune over the 23-year run. The first version was performed by Silly Wizard and was used until 1982. This version was quite "Scottish folk band" in style and pretty lively. Instruments featured included the accordion, banjo, drum kit, and synthesiser. The music for the closing credits featured a drum roll introduction.
The "Silly Wizard" theme tune was replaced by an orchestral version in 1982. This orchestral version was used from 1982 until episode 336 in 1986. Instruments featured included the oboe, clarinet, violin, and drum kit. While this version was in use, the music for the break strings tended to vary from episode to episode. Like the Silly Wizard version, the music for the closing credits also featured a drum roll introduction.
The third version was a different orchestral arrangement and was used from episode 337 in 1986 until episode 727 at the beginning of 1990. This new orchestral version was more violin led than the former, which had made more use of wind instruments, and featured no percussion.
From episode 728 in 1990, the fourth, rock-style, version made its debut and continued to be used until the end of the series. This version was electric guitar led (played by session guitarist Duncan Finlay) and featured percussion during the "middle" section. From 1994 when the programme name was shortened to High Road, the length of the closing credits was cut, so the closing theme was faded in just before the middle eight. The theme tune was written by composer Arthur Blake, who was STV's Musical Director at the time.
Another version was released on record in 1980 and was also performed by Silly Wizard.
In 2011, the first six episodes were released on DVD by Alba Home Vision. By 21 October 2013, 54 episodes have been released over 9 volumes (each containing 6 episodes).
- "Take The High Road". YouTube. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Andrew Galloway (15 February 2013). "Luss-based soap Take the High Road was axed 10 years ago". Lennox Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- Haldane Duncan. "Part 04: The Glendhu Factor". Transdiffusion.org. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- The Glasgow Herald, 24 December 1987, p11
- "High Road revamp 'a risk'". The Herald. 5 March 1990. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- "Ten years on, the High Road is on a high". The Herald.[dead link]
- Andrew Young (5 May 1993). "High Road 's future rests on network decision". The Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Andrew Young (3 June 1993). "ITV network cuts off the Scottish High Road". The Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- James Cusick (16 June 1993). "Fans of doomed soap take high road to protest rally: Viewers are fighting to save a Scottish television series". The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- "Future of Take the High Road series (EDM2107)". Edms.org.uk. 7 June 1993. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Cameron Simpson (17 June 1993). "Scots will still take the High Road". The Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- "Taking the high road all over Britain". The Herald. 5 October 1993. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- "Scottish delight: Take the High Road released on DVD". STV Entertainment. 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
- Take the High Road, episode 1 on STV Player
- Take the High Road show on YouTube (STV Player)
- Take the High Road at the Internet Movie Database