Crossroads (TV series)

Crossroads (TV series)

infobox television
show_name = Crossroads

caption = "Crossroads" DVD cover.
format = Soap Opera
runtime = 30
creator = Hazel Adair,
Peter Ling
starring = Noele Gordon,
Jane Rossington,
Roger Tonge,
Ronald Allen,
Sue Lloyd,
Susan Hanson,
Paul Henry,
Ann George,
Tony Adams,
Kathy Staff,
Gabrielle Drake,
Terence Rigby
country = United Kingdom
network = ITV
first_aired = Original Series:
November 2, 1964
last_aired = April 4, 1988
Revived Series:
March 5, 2001 – May 30, 2003
num_episodes = 4510 (series one) 320 (series two) 98 (series three) 4928 in total
imdb_id = 0057741

"Crossroads" is a British television soap opera set in a motel near Birmingham, England. Originally broadcast on the commercial ITV network between 1964 and 1988, it was produced by ATV until the end of 1981 and then by Central. A byword for cheap production particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, the series was revived in a glossier format in 2001 by Carlton Central Television, attracting an average of 3–4 million viewers. However, ITV were not happy and the show came off the air for the World Cup in June 2002Fact|date=May 2008. In July and August 2002, Crossroads was only shown at 5:30pm and reached 3.3 million viewers, beating BBC1 soap Neighbours in the same slot. The show was taken off in September 2002 for a revamp. It returned in January 2003 to 2 million viewers, but the revamped version failed to achieve the popularity of the earlier series and the show was axed in May 2003. The last episode was on Friday, May 30, 2003, to 2.7 million viewers.

The original series was briefly known as "Crossroads Kings Oak" in the last year of its run.

Production history

ATV era (1964-1981)

"Crossroads" first aired on Monday November 2, 1964 and was shown five days a week. Although popular, the Independent Television Authority (ITA) decreed in 1967 that the series should be reduced to four a week, to prevent storylines being watered-down and to improve the overall quality. In 1979 the decision was taken to reduce output to three weekly showings (beginning the following year). ATV planned to replace the fourth episode with a spin-off series called "A Family Affair", [As detailed in a 1980 book of the same name.] but this was dropped with the arrival of Margaret Matheson as head of drama.

Despite being critically derided for low production values and far-fetched scripts, "Crossroads" was popular (fans including Mary Wilson, wife of prime minister Harold Wilson), and maintained high ratings and a loyal audience throughout its original run. However, a number of regional companies (particularly the newer ones) were to drop the series because of its reputation. For example, the newly-formed Thames Television, the franchise for the London area, decided in 1968 to stop showing the series. This was unpopular with viewers with complaints reportedly including one from Harold Wilson; six months later the decision was reversed, but viewers in the Thames region were half a year behind the rest of the country for several years. Another example occurred in the north of England, where some viewers in the east of the Granada region (which was not broadcasting the series) were reported to have redirected their aerials to receive Yorkshire Television, who were.

Central era (1982-1988)

ATV was reformed into Central Independent Television at the end of 1981. Central continued production but the new management decided to make changes; the most notable was the dismissal of Noele Gordon (Meg Richardson). It was a strategy by Central to get rid of a programme perceived as an embarrassment; without Meg, thought head of programmes Charles Denton, viewers would desert Crossroads and the programme could be killed.

Further changes were carried out in March 1985, when new filming locations and sets and new characters were introduced. Many storylines were to now revolve around the new motel owner, Nicola Freeman (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".

In 1986, a new producer, William Smethurst, took over following the sacking of his predecessor, Philip Bowman. Smethurst was brought in by Central Television's new Head of Drama, Ted Childs. Ordered to change to a wittier, more upmarket serial and improve 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 fans, who called Central in protest. Smethurst gained the nickname "Butcher Bill" but was unfazed; he had, after all, reversed the fortunes of the BBC radio soap "The Archers". Smethurst insisted he only got the flack because his was the name the public knew. [ [ Interview with William Smethurst ] ] The last 18 months of the show saw vast improvements in terms of production values, more outside location work, better direction, wittier funnier scripts and better characterisation. Michelle Buck guided the show through its final few months on air as Series Producer with William Smethurst still on hand to provide guidance as the Executive Producer.

Further changes were planned, the series being renamed "Crossroads King's Oak" for a time before an intended final change to "King's Oak", the name "Crossroads" being dropped both the name and in-story 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 features 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 Central's Director of Programmes Andy Allen to axe the series.

"Crossroads King's Oak" came to an end in 1988. The last, extended, episode was on April 4 (a bank holiday), with the Crossroads hotel becoming The King's Oak Country Hotel and the character of Jill (Jane Rossington) riding off with her lover, John Maddingham (Jeremy Nicholas). Asked what name she would give the hotel she was to be running in her new life, the character remarked, a little sadly, "I always thought Crossroads was an awfully good name".

Carlton revival (2001-2003)

"Crossroads" was revived in March 2001 as a Carlton Television production with a glossy format (Carlton having bought Central). Broadcast weekdays at 5pm on ITV1, the only characters to return from the original were the cleaner Doris Luke (Kathy Staff), Jill Harvey (née Richardson), and her ex-husband Adam Chance (Tony Adams). Initial reactions were favourable [ [ BBC News Reporting Critical Praise ] ] ; however, changes in story from the original were puzzling for fans and didn't help ratings. Kathy Staff left in dismay at the amount of sex, [ [ Planet Crossroads -> Frequently Asked Questions ] ] and told ITV Teletext she felt it was no longer the family-friendly show she was originally part of.

The decision to kill original character Jill Harvey, who was murdered by Adam Chance three months into the series' revival proved unpopular with fans of the original show. [ Jane Rossington Interview ] ] Jane Rossington said she didn't want to commit to another long run but warned Carlton it would be suicidal to kill Jill.

The series went into hiatus from August 2002 to January 2003; when it had yet further changes. The re-modelled series, under producer Yvon Grace, appeared a self-consciously camp parody, with Jane Asher as a new central character, 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.

Grace admitted she was aiming the new Crossroads towards the gay market. But fans were not happy with her ambivalence towards unresolved storylines from the 2001-2002 run. [ [ Crossroads Story - 1964 to 2003 ] ] Grace was reported as saying at its press launch: "Who cares if Phil is rotting in jail for a murder he didn't commit? I've changed everything, this is day one. We're not carrying on from where we left off. I was told this was its last chance."Fact|date=May 2008

Plans were being considered to bring Adam Chance back in a last attempt to save itFact|date=September 2008; actor Tony Adams said that a down-on-his luck Adam would have been taken under Angel's wing as her personal assistantFact|date=September 2008. But with ratings continuing to decline, the revived series was also axed, the final episode being broadcast in May 2003. The cast were contracted until the end of the year but continued to be paid after the series ended.Fact|date=May 2008 The cancellation of Crossroads sealed the fate of Central's Lenton Lane studios in Nottingham, which ITV plc have since disposed of.

Characters and storylines

The main character in the original series was motel owner Meg Richardson, played by Noele Gordon. Meg's children were also to play a prominent role: Jill, played by Jane Rossington; and Sandy, played by Roger Tonge.

Other characters during the early years of the show included the chef, Carlos Raphael (Anthony Morton); Constance Merrow (Geraldine Newman); postman Vince Parker (Peter Brookes), and his waitress wife, Diane (Susan Hanson); Brummie waitress Marilyn Gates (Sue Nicholls, but later portrayed by Nadine Hanwell); postmistress Miss Tatum (Elisabeth Croft), and charlady Amy Turtle (Ann George).

Amy Turtle was to be satirised by Julie Walters as Mrs Overall in Victoria Wood's 1985 spoof "Acorn Antiques". However, "Crossroads" fans felt that while Mrs Overall's fluffing of lines and position as char at the antiques shop were based on Amy, the character's mannerisms, voice and clothing were more evocative of Charmian Eyre's character Mavis Hooper (in the series from 1981 to 1985).

Later additions included Ronald Allen as the suave manager David Hunter, Sue Lloyd as his wife Barbara, Angus Lennie as obstreperous Scottish chef Shughie McFee, Zeph Gladstone as hairdresser Vera Downend, Tony Adams as accountant Adam Chance, and Kathy Staff as cleaner Doris Luke. However, the most memorable character proved to be the village-idiot Benny Hawkins (Paul Henry), whose trademark was a woolly hat worn all year. 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 time the series dealt with storylines controversial for their time. Sandy Richardson was injured in a car accident and left confined to a wheelchair, the first paraplegic regular character in British soap opera; by coincidence actor Roger Tonge himself ended up in a wheelchair as the 1970s progressed. The series also saw the first black characters to appear regularly in a British soap; Melanie Harper (played by Cleo Sylvestre) arrived at the motel in 1970 as Meg's adopted daughter (itself a taboo issue). Cleo was given the role by producer Reg Watson after press coverage of racist tensions in the Birmingham area at that time. [] In 1978, garage mechanic Joe MacDonald (played by Carl Andrews) arrived, as well as an inter-racial summer romance in 1977 between Cockney garage mechanic, Dennis Harper (played by Merlin Ward, but credited as Guy Ward), and motel receptionist Meena Chaudri (Karan David). Another story saw a test tube baby born to Glenda and Kevin Banks (played by Lynette McMorrough and David Moran).

Meg - axed in 1981 - 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 - Meg would die in the fire, the other ending would have her disappear for a while and turn up on the QE2. Viewers were surprised to see producers had used both.

Viewers later learned that Meg had died - Noele Gordon died shortly afterwards.

A story in the papers - but never used - would have seen Benny seeing Meg's ghost in the office (footage of Meg was to be mixed into the programme) - Benny was to approach Jill and say, "I've just seen your mum!".

With the revival in 2001,changes were made to character and story. Confusingly, the returning character of Jill Chance had married the now-dead John Maddingham but was calling herself Jill Harvey again, the name by which she'd 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, 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. Despite this, the series did pick up a respectable number of viewers to become one of ITV's highest rated daytime shows. 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 glamorous hotel had been a dream of supermarket worker 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 the "TV soap Crossroads"; Tracey's mother-in-law, Kate, was also shown as one of Angela's colleagues in the supermarket.


The fictional "Crossroads Motel" was in an equally fictional village near Birmingham, "Kings Oak" (there are real Birmingham suburbs called Kings Heath, Kings Norton and Selly Oak). A number of real-life hotels doubled for location filming; the original "Crossroads" was filmed at a motel just south of Birmingham city centre called CherryTrees (the buildings were demolished in 2001). 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 in Sutton Coldfield, the changed appearance explained as due to rebuilding. At the time of the move to Sutton Coldfield new studio sets were also introduced.

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 used occasionally. Under Central more location footage began to be used. Some early King's Oak location material was also filmed in Wolverhampton.

Other locations included the canal (including Gas Street Basin) behind ATV's former studios in Birmingham; in-story this was the King's Oak Canal, on which Jill 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. Hagley church was setting for Jill and Adam Chance's wedding in 1983. Hagley Hall was used for the wedding reception.

In 1985, "Crossroads" gained its first set of full length opening titles, filmed around Sutton Coldfield and in Birmingham city centre.

The revived Crossroads (2001) was still set in the West Midlands, however exterior shots were filmed in and around Nottingham, such as Bingham.

The series was filmed at "Broad Street / Gas Street" Studios, which is now the HQ of ITV Central.


*During its original run the show was usually only 20 minutes long excluding commercials. To save time, there was no opening sequence, simply a title caption over the start of the first scene, accompanied by brief theme music.
*The closing titles originally consisted of two superimposed roller captions, one vertical and one horizontal. As one credit would roll off screen vertically the next would roll on horizontally, and vice-versa, symbolising the show's title.
*Until the mid- 1980s the show would always end with a brief post-credits scene in which a character would speak a single line of dramatic dialogue, before the final bar of theme tune played over the closing ATV/Central logo. This has since been emulated by other soaps, notably "Hollyoaks", which it continues to do so, and for a brief period during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, "Emmerdale" used post-credits scenes.
*In the 70s, Wings recorded an alternative arrangement of the show's theme music which was meant to be played over the closing credits whenever the show ended on a particularly dramatic cliffhanger. This version appeared as the last track on the album "Venus and Mars".
*Roger Tonge (Sandy Richardson) was a cousin of Dale Griffin, drummer of heavy rock band Mott the Hoople.
*The show was parodied in "Acorn Antiques", a spoof soap opera which was a regular sketch on "Victoria Wood As Seen On TV", screened in the mid-1980s. It is now a hit musical touring Britain. Victoria Wood is a member of the Crossroads Appreciation Society, and sometimes uses this fact in her jokes.
*Jane Rossington and Tony Adams also played their characters in sequences for BBC2 theme night during the early 1990s, set in a recreation of the Motel lobby.
*The majority of surviving episodes are stored at Yorkshire Television in Leeds, others are kept at the British Film Institute in Bradford.
*The earliest surviving episode of Crossroads is episode 126, from 1965. It was found in an old tin in May 2008 by an ATV employee.
* Jane Rossington appeared in a May 2000 episode of Liverpudlian soap opera Brookside as Cousin Jill, a deliberate nod to her Crossroads character. The character also mentioned a motel fire (reference to the crossroads fire).
*In 2007 and repeated in 2008 "That's what I call Television" hosted by Fern Britton on ITV1 recreated the lobby of the original Crossroads set and welcomed too it cast members Susan Hanson,Jane Rossington,Tony Adams and Paul Henry.

DVD release

Very few archive recordings exist before 1981 because ATV wiped and re-used most of the videotapes, and no episode survives before April 1965. Network have issued four volumes of the series on DVD (UK Region 2) with twelve of the original ATV episodes (the first release including Meg's 1975 wedding, the highest rated edition) in 2005 in each volume. The third release was delayed due to the loss of ATV documents listing what episodes still exist, and Granada Television staff having to use other resources to locate the episodes required.

"Crossroads Volume 3" was finally released on February 26, 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 September 17, 2007.

Network DVD are now in the process of releasing all the surviving episodes in transmission order. The first set of 18 episodes is released in January 2008 and contains some episodes not previously available on earlier DVD releases. There are apparently 1700 episodes of "Crossroads" that haven't been wiped are in existence.


External links

* [ Crossroads Appreciation Society] official fan club's tribute website, endorsed by ITV Central.
*|id=bestofitv/soaps/bestofcrossroads|title="Crossroads" - Classic episodes of the soap to watch on ITV's 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.
* [ Planet Crossroads] fan site
* [ Freema Agyeman as Lola Wise in Crossroads III 2003]
* [ Crossroads facts and memories] Features about Crossroads

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