Series / Crossroads
is a Soap Opera
that aired on ITV
from 1964 to 1988 and 2001 to 2003.
Britain's first daily serial, Crossroads
was made by ATV (Associated Television, the ITV contractor for the Midlands) and later its successors Central and Carlton, and broadcast in an early evening slot. It centred on a Midlands motel in the fictional suburb of King's Oak, run originally by Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon), her daughter Jill (Jane Rossington) and son Sandy (Roger Tonge). The vast number of characters over the years included motel cleaner Amy Turtle (Ann George), dour general manager David Hunter (Ronald Allen), chef Shughie Mc Fee (Angus Lennie) and handyman Benny (Paul Henry), a simple country lad who won his way into the nation's hearts. The show was created by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling (who had previously created Compact
for the BBC
) and first produced by Reg Watson (later to create Neighbours
and The Young Doctors
Much-mocked by comedians and the press for its low budget, cosy format and occasionally unlikely storylines (and memorably parodied by Victoria Wood as Acorn Antiques
nonetheless gained upwards of 15 million viewers and was still a hugely popular show at the time of its cancellation in the late 1980s. Various attempts were made during that decade to modernise the show, including the controversial axing of Meg/Gordon amidst a motel fire in 1981. Following this, new sets, locations and characters were introduced in an attempt to update the series, with it increasingly resembling an attempt at a British Dallas
as power-suited executives took control of the motel. The final extended episode aired on Easter Monday 1988 and saw Jill drive off into the sunset to open a new hotel in the West Country.
The series was revived twice for ITV
afternoon viewing in the early 2000s. Crossroads was now a luxury hotel and a vast expensive new set was built at Carlton's Nottingham studios. Four characters from the original series joined the extensive new cast in 2001, including Jill, but the decision to kill her off early in the run did little to endear the revival to fans and the following year the series was suspended. It later returned as a deliberately camp parody of itself but again, failed to make its mark and, as will be seen below, the entire revival was dismissed as a dream.
Despite its idiosyncracies, Crossroads
was decent family entertainment and is fondly remembered by a great many viewers of a certain age.
This series provides examples of the following:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Jill just couldn't seem to find the right man for her. Her first husband John Crane turned out to be a bigamist and disappeared, her subsequent marriage to dull-but-worthy Stan Harvey broke up when she had a fling with her stepbrother Anthony, by whom she had her second child, and she married smooth operator Adam Chance not once but twice, the second time being in the 2001 revival. She also had affairs with muscle-man Mickey Doyle and with a TV repair man. Diane married David's son Chris (a part-time terrorist and record producer) purely as a financial arrangement and even the sensible Meg wasn't immune when her second husband Malcolm Ryder tried to murder her for the insurance money. The modern series brought new bad boy manager Jake Booth, with Jill's daughter Sarah-Jane falling victim to his charms (although she was later revealed to be an impostor).
- An Aesop: Occasionally public information was built into Crossroads episodes. Dialogue in the 1975 Christmas edition warns viewers of the danger to children from swallowing wishbones and money hidden inside Christmas puddings!
- Banned Episode: A 1960s poltergeist storyline was deemed too scary for a teatime slot and viewers were apparently informed by the announcer that it had been abandoned!
- Big Entrance: Jill made one at the end of the first episode of the 2001 revival, informing Crossroads' new staff: "I don't need a reservation. I own the hotel," and moving into the executive suite.
- Blooper: Crossroads was recorded as live, with four or five episodes a week being taped in scene order with minimal or no editing. This led to a fair few fluffs, dries and technical goofs making it through to broadcast, although nowhere near as many as is commonly thought. For the most part it resembles other studio-produced shows of the period, and the surprise is not how much actors got wrong, but how much they got right. However...
- In a 'football pools' episode from the early 1970s, one actor manages simultaneously to fluff her own line and cut in on the next, leading to the following wonderful dialogue:
DIANE: Well, if you ask me, I don't think the gods know we exist, I think Lady Luck's gone into retirement! What I want to know is, when do we get woor mink coats an' our villas in the South of France?
AMY: An' our villas in the South of France!
- An episode from the early 1970s has a split-screen effect for a phone conversation, with the dividing line uncertainly sliding back and forth throughout.
- A scene on Vera Downend's barge in the mid-1970s has the sound effects (rippling water etc.) suddenly start midway through the scene.
- In the 1975 Christmas episode Jane Rossington collides with an occasional table, and Amy calls her "Jane" instead of the character's name, Jill.
- In a 1980 episode Shughie refers to "certain behaviours of pattern".
- Actor Jane Rossington recalled a toaster catching fire in a scene in the motel kitchen, which had to be incorporated into dialogue, and an actor entering through a fireplace when a door refused to open.
- Actor Tony Adams recalled a phone being answered before it rang.
- See also Visible Boom Mic below.
- Bottle Episode: A lost episode from the early 1970s was a two-hander between Meg and Sheila Harvey.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The 1979 Christmas episode saw Meg turn to camera and break into a rousing chorus of We Need A Little Christmas, with all the cast joining in!
- Chatty Hairdresser: Vera Downend ran the motel salon during the 1970s.
- Cold Ham: Meg and David got through quite a bit.
- Creative Closing Credits: Reflecting the title of the show, the closing captions were alternately rolled vertically and horizontally, seeming just to miss each other on occasions (as mocked in the Acorn Antiques parody). The result looked rather smoother after video captions replaced mechanical ones in 1980, but the practice was dropped altogether by new producer Phillip Bowman in 1985.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jill might seem to be feckless and naive, but don't ever mess with her, as new managers Nicola Freeman and Jake Booth both found out in the later years of the show. An early episode of the 2001 revival saw Jake try to brush Jill aside when she tried to speak at a staff meeting, before snidely revealing she was broke. Jill retaliated by calmly revealing his adultery in front of his wife and the entire staff!
- Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: A slight variation: Roger Tonge's health issues led to him needing a wheelchair in real life, and this was written into the show in 1972 when Sandy was paralysed in a car accident. This led to him becoming the first disabled regular character in a British soap and also to the foundation of the real-life Crossroads care agency. Wow.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Averted with Meg: she was to have died in the motel fire but the production team had a change of heart and she was later revealed to have left before the fire began and was briefly reunited with Jill aboard the QE 2 before sailing away to start a new life. Played straight with Diane Hunter who was abruptly axed from the show after over twenty years and died suddenly of a brain tumour. Once the 2001 revival began to fail, characters were going down like flies.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Surviving episodes from 1965-1966 reveal few familiar characters apart from Meg and her family, which was also rather wider, with her brother Andy and sister Kitty. The style of the series is more outlandish and tongue-in-cheek than in later years.
- Easter Egg: Some surviving episodes from the 1970s have messages from ATV technicians hidden on the VT clocks at the start, such as the 1975 Christmas episode which has a seasonal greeting to other ITV regions: "Happy Christmas from ATV B'ham". These can be seen on Network Crossroads DVD releases by starting the episode playing and then manually rewinding.
- Femme Fatale Spy: Wildly subverted in one of the series' most bizarre storylines, which saw Amy Turtle - yes, Amy, the elderly motel cleaner - being accused of being a Russian spy, Amelia Turlovska.
- Funny Foreigner: Carlos the Spanish chef in the 1960s, and his wife "Hosefina". Memorable for the recently-rediscovered sequence where he fights to the death with his Evil Twin at the top of the Eiffel Tower in a Rooftop Confrontation.
- Gentleman Snarker: David had his moments.
BARBARA: How could Valerie do a thing like that?
DAVID: What, spend the night with Adam? With practised ease.
- Gossipy Hens: Amy Turtle enjoyed a good gossip and was known to eavesdrop, though she often claimed to be trying to help in passing information around and seemed genuinely upset if accused of being nosy.
- Happily Ever After: In the final episode of the original series, Jill decided to start a new life with John Maddingham and drove off into the sunset to open a new Crossroads in the West Country. This was then subverted in the 2001 revival, which killed off John off-screen and saw Jill remarry Adam, who then murdered her in a fit of anger on their wedding day when all his plans came crashing down. This was later retconned away as a dream, along with the rest of the revivals (see The Ending Changes Everything). Specially-shot scenes for a 50th-anniversary Central News tribute in 2014 gave Jill and Adam a new happy ending, with Adam turning up at the motel looking for a room, and he and Jill deciding to give their relationship one more chance. What happened to John in this universe isn't clear.
- Instrumental Theme Tune: Cleverly constructed by composer Tony Hatch to reflect the show's title and characters - the two strands of the tune, played on guitar and oboe d'amore, shared the same chords and could be played both separately and together. The separate tunes originally represented the show's two central characters, Meg and her sister Kitty, though this was forgotten in later years. Paul Mc Cartney and Wings recorded a mean and moody cover version which was used over the closing credits in the late seventies and early eighties on dramatic occasions. A new piano version was introduced in 1985 and then the whole theme was replaced in 1987. The modern revivals used new versions of the original theme.
- Missing Episode: The majority of episodes from the 1960s and many up to 1980 were wiped or junked and are no longer known to exist. However, footage continues to turn up. Recent finds include original film sequences from otherwise lost 1960s episodes, and footage from the 1970s as domestic recordings. Occasionally episodes have turned up in other ITV regional archives.
- Mr. Exposition: Crossroads existed a long time before Previously On clips compilations, and so recaps for new viewers were built into the dialogue. Sometimes this became As You Know.
JILL: Mum... about Sheila.
MEG: What about Sheila?
JILL: Well... do you think I was wrong to tell her that Roy Morrison had been here, and was asking about her and the baby?
- Mr. Fanservice / Ms. Fanservice: David in the original series had a fair few female followers. The 2001 revival filled the hotel with eye candy and (for the timeslot) fairly steamy scenes. Sadly it failed to make the series any more popular.
- New Season, New Name: Happened towards the end of the original run, as the show focussed more on the community and not just the motel. As such, it was renamed Crossroads: Kings Oak. But only a few months later, it was cancelled to make room for Home and Away.
- Newscaster Cameo: Central News's Bob Warman turned up to cover the motel strike in the mid-1980s.
- No Budget: There were a surprising number of settings over the years, but they still got a lot of drama out of those reception and sitting room sets. For many years the motel bar was a tiny area right next to reception, with a shelf of bottles, a cash register and one or two stools. The restaurant was so small it made you wonder how they catered for all those big parties who were frequently mentioned. The cast were given allowances to provide their own clothes. Locations tended to be fairly handy within the Midlands, with Vera Downend's barge being on the canal a stone's throw from ATV, and the studio roof becoming the hospital roof following Sandy's accident. More location filming at real hotels was introduced in the 1980s, but much of the action still took place indoors. Even the 2001 revival used the studio car park as the hotel car park. However, the original series did manage location trips to Paris, Venice and even Tunisia.
- Old Retainer: Mr Darby during the 1980s, and a less classy example with Rocky the head porter in the 2001 revival.
- Put on a Bus: The show was infamous for this, and for doing it less than smoothly: Benny from the coffee bar in the 1960s (not the later Benny) left the motel to fetch some sugar and never came back, waitress Jane Smith went into a cupboard and never came out again, and even the later Benny, a major character, was last seen going up to fix the motel Christmas tree in 1987. Meg got a suitably grand bus when Noele Gordon was axed from the series, sailing away on the QE 2.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Sometimes real-world events were referenced, as in a 1981 episode where the characters took time out to celebrate the royal wedding that had taken place that same day, complete with patriotic music over the end credits.
- Replaced the Theme Tune: A new theme by Raf Ravenscroft and Max Early was introduced in 1987, after the series became Crossroads: Kings Oak.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Benny had a hopeless love for "Miss Diane", but they were never going to be more than friends. Maybe his woolly hat didn't help.
- Saved by the Fans: The outcry from Crossroads fans on the imminent departure of Noele Gordon from the series in 1981 was followed by a reversal of the decision to kill Meg off - see also They Changed It, Now It Sucks. May even have happened with Jill and Adam too - see Happily Ever After.
- Say My Name: Jill on discovering the motel fire.
JILL: Oh my God! The motel! It's on fire! MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!
- Shout-Out: The famous "shooting of David Hunter" storyline of 1980 might just have referenced a similar happening to another tycoon in an American soap not long before.
- Simpleton Voice: Benny, sadly.
- Smart People Speak The Queen's English: Meg, her daughter Jill, her friend Tish Hope and to some extent David were all rather grand. In contrast, motel staff tended to speak with various degrees of Brummie accents, except for Benny who tended towards West Country.
- So Bad, It's Good: To some viewers; to others it was genuinely good.
- Special Guest: Bob Monkhouse, Ken Dodd and Larry Grayson (twice) all appeared.
- Spin-Off: When Crossroads was cut back from four weekly episodes to three in 1979, ATV had plans to fill the fourth slot with a spin-off called A Family Affair. It never happened, though.
- Spoiled Brat: Nicola Russell, the daughter of the hotel's new owners in the 2001 revival.
- Station Ident: The most famous one to precede Crossroads is ATV's "zoom" from the 1970s, with its "In Colour" announcement and stirring double-fanfare. Earlier and later episodes without it automatically feel less Crossroads-y. It lasted until ATV became Central in January 1982.
- Teen Drama: A lot of this in the revived series, especially between Nicola Russell and Phil Berry. But then, the late afternoon showing was straight after CITV.
- The Bus Came Back: Noele Gordon (Meg) and Ann George (Amy) were both dropped from the series but later returned for cameo appearances in 1983 and 1987 respectively. A longer return for Meg was planned for 1985 but abandoned due to Gordon's illness and early death; instead viewers were treated to a return appearance from Stan Harvey.
- The Ditz: Sandy tended towards this in the early years of the show, beginning as a hapless teenager who could usually be relied upon to get mixed up in sheep-stealing or lose his pen in the middle of Carlos's wedding cake. This changed as he grew older and following his car accident, after which he became more responsible and helped to run the motel.
- The Ending Changes Everything: The revival ended with an All Just a Dream situation, wiping out the continuity of the revival and thus retconning away the death of Jill.
- The Other Darrin: Waitress Marilyn Gates was recast following her marriage to Rev Hope and also underwent a complete character change from happy-go-lucky mini-skirted girl to sensible vicar's wife. Chris Hunter was played by Freddie Foote as a young teenager and then by Stephen Hoye as a young man, with a few years away in between. An unconfirmed viewer recollection had a female character suddenly being played by a different actor one week, with the announcer explaining the usual performer was off sick! Jill's daughter Sarah-Jane was played by Jane Rossington's own daughter Sorrel in the original series and by two different actors as an adult in the 2001 revival (after the first Sarah-Jane was revealed to be an impostor, Louise Dixon).
- The Stinger: Until 1985, there was a brief return to the action between the closing credits and production caption. Sometimes this allowed characters to say something of final significance such as: "I know what I saw!"; more often it was completely without dialogue, giving viewers a chance to see such sights as characters looking distraught, an abandoned suitcase in a bus station, Meg doing her hair, or some workmen arguing over their mugs of tea. Sometimes actors were required to hold the pose for incredible amounts of time until the theme music finished. A terrifying stinger came in the motel fire episode with Meg apparently trapped inside and Jill screaming "MUM!" and crying.
- The Vicar: Rev Guy Atkins and Rev Peter Hope. The latter married motel waitress Marilyn Gates, following which she underwent a complete change of look, personality, and actor.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Some fans never forgave the series for axing Meg (there were protests outside ATV's studios and a "Meg Is Magic" campaign was started, with obligatory record) and others didn't take to the various revamped formats, particularly after the 2001 revival killed off Jill.
- Those Two Guys: Kitchen porters Des and Minty in the 2001 revival. Partly averted in that they did sometimes get subplots of their own, both separately and together.
- Title-Only Opening: Until the mid-eighties, the series had no opening title sequence, beginning each episode with a simple caption CROSSROADS superimposed over the start of the first scene, with a brief burst of the theme music that was most often faded down after the opening nine notes. Sometimes the first scene began straight away with dialogue, and it was some time before the title and music appeared. The series finally gained a title sequence in 1985, showing a car approaching the motel, and all subsequent incarnations had one.
- Token Minority: Averted by the standards of 1970s and 1980s TV: the series featured black and Asian characters ahead of any other soap and also showed them in positions of authority at a time when such a thing was still rare in British television - as with Joe Mac Donald (Carl Andrews), a mechanic who later managed the motel garage.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Adam Chance in the original series was a vaguely untrustworthy opportunist and operator, a charmer and a ladies' man. The 2001 revival turned him into an out-and-out conman only interested in Jill for her shares in the hotel, and ultimately, her murderer, before reinventing him as an alleged born-again Christian who appeared to die in a fire after kidnapping (the real) Sarah-Jane.
- Trash the Set: Done twice - in 1967 when the motel was blown up by a World War Two unexploded bomb, and again in 1981 with the motel fire. On both occasions this was used as an excuse to update the sets. Played extremely straight in the 1981 version, when the sets were taken out to an airfield and burned on-camera.
- Visible Boom Mic: A fair few.
- Wedding Day: Lots, including five for Jill (one off-screen after the conclusion of the original series). By far the most famous is Meg's wedding to Hugh Mortimer in 1975, with extensive location filming that brought Birmingham city centre to a standstill and filled the streets with cheering fans who had absolutely no reason to be there to see a motel owner marry a businessman. There was even a celebratory song as pop singer Holly Brown (aka Stephanie de Sykes) turned up to perform We'll Find Our Day at the reception.