Associated Television - more widely known as ATV - in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was one of the major ITV companies. It prided itself in its populist output. Crossroads was ATV's first soap opera, in fact it was the first 'soap' in the UK to call itself a soap! All the rest were called - supposedly more posh - drama serials. Crossroads was also the only ATV soap to last more than a decade.
The late Lord Lew Grade once said axing Emergency Ward Ten was his biggest mistake. It had been for 10 years ATV's first continuous drama serial. It began in 1957 and proved so popular - even having a film version made in 1959 - that ATV decided it necessary to launch another serial, only this time they planned to venture into a new format.
During the late 1950s Reg Watson had visited America and while there he became fascinated by the US daily soap operas. On returning to the UK he approached ATV with plans for the first five-nights-a-week continuous drama series outside of the USA. However it wasn't until a few years later that Sir Lew Grade, Head of ATV programming, decided to give Reg Watson a 6-week series - later extended to 13 weeks - which would run five nights.
Ivor Jay had submitted a drama series that was set in a Birmingham Boarding house, which was to be run by two sisters. This idea didn't appeal to writers, Hazel Adair and Peter Ling so they took Ivor's basic idea and revamped it into a new drama that would be based in the Birmingham area, but mainly focusing on one family and their lives in separate locations; a motel and a general store. Lew didn't want a Coronation Street clone and liked the reworked format Ling and Adair had devised. He gave 'The Midland Road' the green light to go into production.
"The whole idea of the serial was to provide the Midlands viewers with a story set in the Midlands itself. There was also the chance of getting the serial taken up by other ITV companies, so this meant a wonderful opportunity to project the Midlands image to the rest of Britain. Coronation Street was covering Lancashire and the North, and I suppose you could say that the twice-weekly hospital series Emergency Ward Ten had done the same for the South.
But Coronation Street centred on smoking chimneys, cloth caps and terrace houses. There was no real cross-section of everyday life and certainly no one had yet tried to cater for Midlanders. The first problem was to decide just who the Midlanders really were, for our viewing area covered Swindon, Stoke and the Black Country. We also extended south to Oxford and covered the borders of Anglia, as well as part of Yorkshire and Lancashire. So although Crossroads was to be for Midlanders, it couldn't just appeal to Birmingham viewers alone, it had to have a much broader basis." Said Noele Gordon.
After a few weeks of promotional trailers airing the first episode was finally scheduled for broadcast. It was November 2nd 1964 when the ATV Midlands viewers got their first 25-minute instalment of Crossroads at 6.30pm. Viewers learned that motel's were relatively new in the United Kingdom, although they had been around for many years in the USA: Yes that first phone call which opened the series was Jill explaining what a motel was! We meet recently widowed Meg Richardson, who we find out opened Crossroads in the grounds of her Georgian house, the home she had shared with Charles, her first husband and father to daughter Jill and son Sandy. Meg decided to build the motel out of the compensation money she was awarded due to a motorway being built through some of her grounds. The then only 18 chalets cost just under £3 per night in 1964. The motel boasted a swimming pool; restaurant and bar, all open to the general public as well as motel guests.
The programme was first based in ATV's Rutland House in the centre of Birmingham City centre. Six months later the Crossroads cast and crew moved down the road to Bradford Street. The studio space for the soap was first at the ATV Aston studios (also known later as Alpha) then in 1969, all production moved to ATV Centre in Broad Street.
In the early years temporary sets were used until bigger studios were built, it seems that the wobbles that these temporary 'fold away' structures had were to last as part of the programmes reputation right until the end, although cast of that era, such as Sue Nicholls who played waitress Marilyn Gates, defends those early years, and even suggest the sets didn't really wobble any worse than those seen in Coronation Street. In fact, people who suggest Crossroads' sets were the worst on television seem to talk as if ATV only ever made the one programme, the fact the same set designers worked on many other ATV programmes, along with the studio hands and scenery builders suggests that Crossroads sets were actually of a standard of all the ATV and ITC productions.
The 13-week run was extended "indefinitely" and in early 1965 Crossroads moved from late afternoon to a more popular teatime slot. It seemed that Crossroads could do no wrong as far as the fans were concerned, and during the 1970s the ratings continued to rise, much to the disbelief of TV critics who had slated the show after only one edition aired! But the people most baffled by Crossroads' popularity was the ATV management.
The programme was to become mainly motel based: with the corner shop featuring less and less. This wasn't surprising as the already well-known Noele Gordon played one of the sisters. Over the years Meg and Noele were to become a British institution along side the likes of Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) and Annie Walker (Doris Speed) in Coronation Street.
In the late 1960s Crossroads was moved back to 4.30pm while a couple of new soap-opera ideas were tried out in the 6.30pm slot, none however were a hit with the audience and both disappeared very quickly. After much protesting by fans and indeed Noele Gordon, Crossroads was returned to teatime viewing.
Noele Gordon was considered to be Crossroads in many respects, so when ATV had to reform itself in 1982 into a 'more local' station some of the "powers within ATV" had to be removed. With the new name of Central Independent Television imminent, Noele Gordon was sacked from ATV and thus axed from Crossroads. It was to Head of Programmes, Charles Denton, like killing two birds with one stone; he gets rid of Noele and with her departure he believed the show would soon follow.
Central wanted a fresh image, 'something new for the Midlands' was their slogan, and Crossroads, to them, was one of the out-of-date shows. They were fast moving away from the ATV image and style, new quiz shows Blockbusters and The Price Is Right, Drama with Inspector Morse and Boon were to become the quality Central programmes. For the Central management, Crossroads didn't fit their image.
A new Head Of Drama Margaret Matheson wanted to be making big budget productions, not low budget teatime soaps. The fact that the show - and Noele were popular, didn't matter in the slightest, smart speeches and pretty pictures was to be the way forward.
Noele left just over a month before Central launched in January 1982. It seems her departure was the first step; the ratings would surely follow with her. Unfortunately for Central, they didn't quite plummet as much as they expected. Crossroads was still performing well in the TV charts and remained popular with the viewers.
Time went on and a new Head of Drama, Ted Childs, decided he was stuck with Crossroads, so rather than ditch it, Ted decided to bring it into the 'Central style' and make it more glamorous and stylish. Long staying producer Jack Barton when he discovered what was going to happen to the show wasn't having any of it, he changed his mind on taking the role of Series Advisor and walked out. Ted wanted the show to work, but knew it had to change. And most fans accept that since 1980 the format of the programme looked dated and old hat. Barton simply had to go, he was stuck in the 1960s format and its age was showing.
In 1985, with new producer Phillip Bowman in charge, Crossroads Motel launched on March the 6th of that year with a stylish, classy new image. The 1980s had arrived five years late in Kings Oak, however with new cast and a new feel the show was soon back at the forefront of drama, The show also included much more of the village life and Kings Oak played a bigger role. The show went from the most out-of-date looking on British TV to the most modern.
This 'Central Styling' seemed to bring in new younger viewers, who ITV at that time were trying to attract. But many of the older fans saw this as a change too much, too soon. Most people saw the new opening titles and music as long overdue, it was the changes to the cast and more saucy storylines that they disapproved of. But the ratings were still good for the 6:30pm slot so the show survived the revamp.
Just as things seemed to be going rather well, Phillip Bowman had to leave the show in the summer of 1986 due personal problems. Poached from the BBC, producer William Smethurst was quickly drafted in to continue developing Crossroads as an up-market drama series. He had been promised a long future for the drama, and he was also told he could make any changes he thought would improve the show, one being a name change to Kings Oak and to give the show a total overhaul.
In 1987 it seemed Central Television were thrilled with the way 'their' version of the show was performing, market research showed Crossroads was meeting all its targets and things were on the up. Central decided that from 1988 the show would have a weekend omnibus. Crossroads would also be seen on the same day in each region, although it would still go out at the local companies choice of time.
Two weeks after Central had hosted a party for the new-found success of the series - and while Crossroads was on a production break - head of programmes Andy Allen terminated the Crossroads contract with the ITV Network while the crew were away. It's also reported the Central management and directors (who were happy with the series) and finance department (who were happy with how much revenue the show generated) were not consulted, and any attempt by Central bosses to reverse the decision with ITV would have looked unprofessional, so the very well planned public axing stayed. The crew were not put off and forged ahead with the Kings Oak series - all be it with reduced plans - and the Crossroads name partly remained, 'Crossroads Kings Oak' was the new name for the new look show. A new theme tune and opening titles had already been made before the axing was announced, and so they were used from the 7th of September 1987.
In the final months of Crossroads Kings Oak, the ratings, after a slight dip, picked up to around 11 million. In 1988, on ITV teatime this was still exceptionally good - and no programme since has ever managed to beat the Crossroads ratings. A huge campaign to save Crossroads was launched and Central made sure everyone knew the show was bowing out in style.
Adverts were placed on billboards, in magazines and trailers appeared regularly on ITV. The "Who will she choose" plot was publicised highly with Kings Oak cast appearing on all the major talk shows. The TV Times for the final week of Crossroads Kings Oak in 1988 featured Jane Rossington, Tony Adams and Jeremy Nicholas on the front cover with a 12-page pullout special on the series inside.
The Crossroads Appreciation Society was also featured in the TV Times, announcing it was to launch on April 4th 1988, the very day the last episode would air. The aim was for fans to join together and remember the series, to keep the legend alive and to fight to get Crossroads back on a television network. The official fan club for the soap, headed by John Kavyo, made numerous television appearances over those final months the soap was on air.
Sadly, the last episode aired and the final 75 minutes of drama unfolded, ending 23-years and 7-months of Crossroads and a show that had become a television institution. In fact, not just a television institution, but also a British one, and something most of the Midlands were proud of. It was a product of their city, and a trademark of their local ITV.
If Central thought Crossroads would be confined to the vaults and television history after the last episode: then they were very wrong. Numerous television documentaries and specials appeared on Channel 4, the BBC networks and even ITV on numerous occasions during the 1990s.
In 1991 Central Independent Television themselves were said to be involved with a Crossroads revival, which would comprise of a feature length movie. It was later revealed that the movie would have been funded by over 4500 people; from Crossroads Appreciation Society members to a large number of former viewers who had stepped forward after an advert was placed in the business section of The Sun newspaper.
A large number of ex-Crossroads crew had agreed to work on the production. The whole plan was overseen by producers Chris Klaiseweiz and Marcia Forsyth-Grant. Ronald Allen and Sue Lloyd were signed up to be the principal players, however Ronald died before the film went into production and the plans were never reprised.
In 1996 with the announcement that Channel 5 was to launch, rumours that the station was to commission Crossroads as a ratings winner (or publicity stunt) were circulating. Central, however had other plans and refused to lease/sell the rights to Crossroads to a production company. Channel 5 had to launch a new soap instead.
In 2000, Open House with Gloria Hunniford on Channel 5, welcomed Jane Rossington and the Crossroads Appreciation Society's Peter Kingsman onto her sofa to chat about the series and the 'possibility' of its return. Then Central TV's owners at the time, Carlton Television confirmed the speculation was true. Crossroads was to return to help fill the afternoon gap left by Home And Away after it moved to Channel 5. It was part of ITV's plans to replace one soap with two new ones. Night And Day would soon follow Crossroads onto the ITV screens. After years of fighting, Crossroads was coming back - or was it?
In November 2000 a press launch gives an idea of what the "new Crossroads" series was to be like. To (slightly) link it to the original, three cast members were returning, Jane Rossington as Jill Harvey, Tony Adams as Adam Chance and Kathy Staff as Doris Luke were to make a comeback.
The Kings Oak Country Hotel would now be called the Crossroads Hotel, and would boast four star facilities and be fully corporate styled. Another old friend was returning, the Tony Hatch theme tune, it was revamped by Tony Flynn giving it a modern sound for the new millennium.
Tony Hatch himself was said to be pleased with the new version, and generally the crew (some who had worked on the original), old and new cast, as well as the press were all optimistic that "new Crossroads" was to be a huge hit again. When the new version of the theme played, the gathered journalists cheered with delight. Carlton Television took many opportunities to point out it was a new show, it was not the Crossroads of Central or ATV. This worried fans somewhat, begging the question, if its not Crossroads - why call it Crossroads?
"New" Crossroads would initially run for a year, 240 episodes in total to add to the 4510 previous editions. To help bring in new viewers other well known actors were recruited, Neil McCaul, Jane Gurnett, Sherrie Hewson and Roger Sloman were to bring in older viewers. James McKenzie Robinson and Toby Sawyer as well as Max Brown were to tempt the teenagers over.
Also a whole host of new talent was to star within the luxury hotel walls. Neil Grainger, Marc Jordan, Peter Dalton, Jack Curtis, Julia Burchell and Rebecca Hazelwood were all practically unknown to television viewers, but would all feature heavily in the new plots. Most of the new faces were from the Central Television Workshop, a sort of drama school for Midland teens.
In the Carlton-Central region, a special documentary aired, featuring the new and old cast, again Peter Kingsman featured with his views. This programme showed the lengths Carlton Television had gone to, to make the new Crossroads look like the real thing.
So after 12 years off-air the nation's favourite motel was to return to the ITV network as the "centrepiece" to their daytime schedule. The initial idea was for Crossroads to replace the lunchtime showing of "Home and Away" which had been poached by Channel 5 while a totally new commission "Night and Day" would replace the tea-time showing.
For various reasons "Night and Day" was not ready to broadcast at the same time as Crossroads so on March 5th 2001 Crossroads returned to the ITV network with two broadcast slots at 1:30pm with a repeat at 5pm. The following day Crossroads was again repeated in a one-off 9pm primetime slot as a celebration of the shows return.
TV critics praised the show as a fast paced, entertaining series and the viewing figures were impressive (circa 4 million for the first showings and 9 million for the evening repeat) The new version of the theme tune was well received by the fans, as were the 'trendy' opening titles. There had been uproar in 1988 when Tony Hatch's famous melody had been replaced by the "King's Oak" era tune.
The hotel set was extremely well designed and looked like the real thing. The costumes and effort that had gone into making the props could clearly be seen. The crew and team were clearly very proud of their product. There was no danger that the "wobbly walls" stigma that had so hounded the earlier series could be applied here. Many of the early storylines were gripping, and the producers did the best they could while aiming at a teatime audience. The casting generally was excellent, with a lot of the younger cast putting in exceptional performances.
As with most soaps (particularly EastEnders), after the viewers' initial curiosity fades, ratings dip. In the case of Crossroads these were lower than expected. ITV began to panic that their £10 million pound investment might not be able to live up to its predecessor's reputation.
Perhaps excited by Charlie Catchpole's comment that Crossroads might wash "tired" Neighbours "down the plughole" ITV decided to move Crossroads from 5pm to 5:30, directly going head-to-head with Reg Watson's other soap.
Unfortunately the potential audience for a show is very limited at 5pm. Housewives are generally busy making evening meals, students are getting in from schools, colleges and universities, and a huge proportion of the audience are still at work. The 5pm slot seems to be something of a "no mans land" between CITV and the news. Children were not hooked by the prospect of a soap and any available adults were already fans of Neighbours.
Carlton themselves went through a phase of not really knowing their audience. The show was scheduled and advertised just after CITV - for a teenage audience - Yet it was sponsored by Surf washing power. How many teenagers buy and use such a product? The very nature of the soap and the age of the characters put off the "teen" viewers while the on-screen link to CITV put off the adult viewers.
After the largely positive initial response, the critics became more scathing in their comments of some of the later storylines. In an attempt to improve the quality of the show, the number of episodes was reduced from five to four a week - sending the Friday cliff-hanger out of sync for months. This was not a new concept to Crossroads fans - the original series had been forced to do much the same thirty years earlier.
These changes didn't help in the quest for more viewers. Through their indecision, ITV were making it very difficult for Crossroads to gain a regular fan-base. It's fair to say that Carlton in their production methods had failed to hook onto the original Crossroads audience (the majority of the 11 million fans were still around). In their press hype Carlton had promised that they would be "building on the strong and enduring affection for the programme amongst viewers." This statement seems strangely at odds with their decision to include only four characters from the original series. What is even more strange is the appalling treatment that these characters received. (More on this later)
It is clear that Carlton, and indeed the television company said themselves that they didn't want anything of, or to do with, the original series. And the "remembering the old days" once the press publicity had gone was banished from the series. Peter Ling, Crossroads co-creator, told the Crossroads Appreciation Society that Carlton had missed an opportunity to make the real Crossroads popular.
Other ex-cast were similarly unimpressed, such as Jeremy Nicholas, Angus Lennie, Lynette McMorrough and Sue Lloyd who all have raised issues with the new series using the famous Crossroads branding. Its unfortunate that the management and those in charge of the production as well as ITV bosses at that time didn't seem to like or care much for the original.
So what was the problem? Firstly in the press releases Carlton failed to get the continuity right; "Crossroads is now a 4-star hotel not a no-star motel." We can only assume that they were playing on the nation's memory of Crossroads rather than the actually history. Firstly, Crossroads was not a motel when the series ended. Secondly, The Motel had always had at least a three stars, and from 1982 onwards had become a four star establishment.
"New Crossroads has executive suites, twin and double bedrooms with en-suites, plush management apartments, a beauty salon and a health spa. Weddings and conferences are now big business at Crossroads." By this Carlton suggests these were something old Crossroads didn't have. Crossroads did have all those features - and more, a hair salon and swimming pool as well as a leisure centre to name three! Its more recently been revealed that Carlton did have a Crossroads continuity department that had been working with Simon Cole at the Crossroads Appreciation Society, however the department was axed and the researchers sacked as the new programme makers decided "continuity isn't important." How wrong they were to be.
There are numerous continuity gaffs between the new and old series some more obvious than others such as the Jill Harvey name, which was to most a blatant mistake seen, as she hadn't used that name since 1983. Also the "old" characters bore the names such as Doris Luke and Adam Chance, but the actual characterisation was far from authentic. Adam would never - never ever - murder Jill.
It seemed to many that Carlton didn't want any long-term association to the original series. They merely wanted to cash-in on the brand, the legend, the status and institution of the original soap - but didn't want to have anything in the new 'version' other than the name and theme tune. Two out of the three original-series actors were dropped within months of the show airing.
The killing-off of Jill Chance, mainstay of the original, stunned the Crossroads fans that had waited 12 years to see the show regain its rightful place on ITV. Even many of the 'new Crossroads' fans commented it was stupid to kill off someone everyone associated with the show. It seemed to many of the old fans that remembered the original, and knew what the Crossroads brand stood for, thought that the new version was Crossroads in name only. No one was saying old cast had to be back forever but familiarity would have helped to give the show a stronger fan base and foundations to build a new Crossroads on over time.
So it wasn't the Crossroads that people remembered - but was it really that bad? Actually - as a new soap the answer is "no" - it was really rather good. As 2001 drew to a close things for Crossroads seemed to improve, the storylines were again becoming more interesting, and the main problem of a story starting at the beginning of an episode then being over by the end of it was finally sorted out.
At the end of the first year several new characters were added to the series. Things were looking up; the show was extended by another 80 episodes. Commissioned by the then head of daytime at ITV, Maureen Duffy it seems Crossroads was finally fitting into the schedules. It had a steadily growing fan-base who seemed to enjoy watching life in the new hotel.. Against all the odds and in the face of such adversity it was also by now the network's most popular - highest rating - daytime programme. Unfortunately early in 2002 there was a shake-up at ITV daytime. Maureen Duffy was replaced by Liam Hamilton, who wasn't so sure that Crossroads had a ratings winning formula. Episodes of Crossroads continued to be produced, although its fate was still undecided. Eventually at the end of March 2002, while ITV bosses decided whether to continue with the serial, Crossroads' production was put on hold while the remaining backlog of episodes was aired.
A new producer, Yvon Grace, was drafted in to build on the already growing viewing figures. Crossroads would resume production in August 2002. Miss Grace was awarded the task of finding the show another million to add to its ratings. To many, it seemed that this wouldn't be such a hard task, the show had settled in the schedules. All Crossroads needed was some gripping plots and maybe a few links to the past. Something Yvon promised. "We'll remember the old series fondly."
Fantastic - Crossroads really was back, and many of those new 1 million viewers could very well be old Crossroads fans if they had something familiar to watch. Through the summer of 2002 Yvon Grace planned her strategy for Crossroads. ITV had requested some changes be made to the show, although these proposals were discussed before the last surge in ratings had happened, so by the time Crossroads went back into production there really was no need for any major revamps. The final 2002 episode of Crossroads aired on August 30th, a day later Carlton released news of what plans Yvon had for the hotel soap. And to many it wasn't what they'd expected. Crossroads was to become "Dallas In Dudley" as the Daily Mirror's headline stated. Yvon told the Crossroads Fan Club that she had watched the original as a child, and her version would be fondly reflecting some of the elements from the first incarnation.
A new host of star names had been signed up to the revamped show, Jane Asher, Kate O'Mara, Anne Charleston and Lional Blair were all revealed as some of the new hotel faces. It seemed the second series had been unofficially axed by Carlton, with a new third version launching in the New Year.
The build up to the re-launch saw Executive Producer Yvon Grace come out with some very bold statements:
"The thing about Crossroads now is we are inheriting a loyal audience, you know, its a brand name, its a loyal brand name and people know it, and they remember it of the old days." ... "Its beautiful, its Cezars Palace Laz Vegas crossed with a beautiful boudoir." ... "Its a frock show, its a frock show definitely, its a girls show." ... "Its fantasy, escapist, glitzy and glamorous, the new Dynasty" ... "Crossroads will be a must-see daytime show" ... "There will be plenty of sexy men and sexy women, all doing naughty things." ... "Failure is not in my vocabulary" ... "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. So I thought 'Let's be bold, lets make Dallas for British tea time" ... "The women are beautiful, the men are gorgeous and the plots fantastic" ... "There's a brand loyalty, and it would be foolish to throw that away. It's like Heinz Beans. People know what to expect" ... "There's no Benny, no Sandy Richardson; There are no historical references whatsoever. I've been very ruthless. I want to concentrate on the new world."
Fans had waited four months to see how the Crossroads Hotel would look and feel, opinions were split, many thought something new and different at tea-time is just what ITV needed, others thought there was no reason not to have more of the same, with maybe some mild improvements: others couldn't quite make up there mind what Crossroads should be anymore. The proof is in the facts, and in television, ratings and audience share do the talking. Crossroads returned at 5pm on January 13th 2003, and instead of lunchtime repeat, a new Saturday omnibus would air on ITV.
Was the third incarnation more like the original Crossroads? Yes, in actual fact it was! Yvon gave crossroads an escapist feel; it was fantasy, simply 25 minutes of drama that people could drift off into. This was the Crossroads style of 1964-1971. When Reg Watson first brought Crossroads to life, it was lightweight afternoon entertainment. Crossroads only became rooted firmly in social realism after Reg left and Jack Barton took over, so in many respects the third series had gone back to basics and the shows roots.
The trouble with this was, Crossroads had become more popular during the Jack Barton "realism" years, so the Crossroads brand was more remembered for its "real-life dramas." Although Yvon didn't bring any old cast back, she did pay tribute to "the Queen of Crossroads", by having one of the hotel suites named after original owner, Meg Mortimer. Also in the first episode of series three the first line from 1964 was re-used by Angel Samson, the new owner.
Crossroads was now "somewhere" all reference to Birmingham and the midlands had been dropped. (Something which had offended people in the city, the Birmingham Evening Mail printed articles about the fury of locals over the soap forgetting its roots.)
Within weeks people noticed that a lot of the 'new' stories were actually recycled ones from the previous incarnation. Also there seemed to be an uncanny similarity to US soap, Sunset Beach in storylines. Sadly, the 'American' factors were to be the main thing that let the show down. Crossroads trying to emulate Dallas and Dynasty just didn't work, there was too much 'fake glamour' and to some people Crossroads was now just a spoof of other soaps.
The whole show came across as nothing more than a cheesy comedy, which seemed keen on cheesy cliché-filled scenes and terrible hammy acting. The stories were too far-fetched and unbelievable, and acted in such a manor that you couldn't take any of it seriously. You can't make programmes so bad they're good - but this seems to be the idea Yvon and Carlton took. Even cast who remained from the 2001-2002 series have expressed their dislike of the changes made to "Crossroads" in 2003.
The ratings for the first week started off with the same number of viewers the final weeks of 2002 had. A week later and a huge drop in the audience had occurred, this continued month after month, until finally over half of the audience of 2002 had deserted the 2003 version. Carlton blamed the four-month hiatus, which they suggested viewers had moved away from Crossroads to Channel 4 and BBC2. The problem with that 'excuse' - which it is, is the fact, yes fact, Crossroads faired well against Richard And Judy on Channel 4 before the 2003 revamp. It is true that most viewers switched off ITV when Crossroads departed the screens in 2002, but in actual fact the same number of viewers tuned into the first episode of 2003 that had watched the last episode in 2002. The real 'reason' people switched off Crossroads week-after-week was because they didn't like the changes, they didn't like what it had become so they took desperate measures - and started watching Richard And Judy again.
Another major problem was that series two had been left unresolved and in the new programme we had moved on a whole 12 months, rather than the real 4-month gap. People wanted answers and they weren't given them. Yvon made it clear the old fans didn't matter, the plots they cared about, the characters they cared about she didn't give a fig about and they could "rot in jail" for all she was bothered. So she alienated the 3 million fans the show previously had. Not a very clever girl is she?!
Another excuse for the failure in viewers was that ITV had failed to hype the new show. In actual fact there were four Crossroads trailers and they were regularly played during the daytime schedules and even in the primetime, one example being during a commercial break in Coronation Street. The return had also been well covered in the press, including large spreads in the Radio Times, TV Times and various soap magazines. To say many didn't know it was back is a very lame excuse. ITV ditched the Saturday omnibus, shunting it to a graveyard slot in the early hours of Sunday mornings. A few weeks later and the omnibus for ITV1 was dropped completely. It hadn't rated at all in the late night slot, with public information films appearing during the commercial breaks due to no one advertising when the Crossroads slot was airing. The soap magazines that weeks earlier had bowed to Yvon's 'great idea' were all fast to condemn the show and mock it.
Failure wasn't in Yvon's vocabulary, but it was now on her CV. The series did gather its share of fans, and maybe given time the show would again have evolved and changed, but it wasn't to be. Its "camp" nature was better suited to a late evening slot, where similar styled shows had done well. Also with the name "Crossroads" in this format, it was never going to be accepted as the soap generations had grown up with. With the departure of David Liddlement as head of ITV, his replacement Nigel Pickard decided his first victim would be Crossroads. It was axed after just four months; the fastest soap axing in television history. In the end 98 editions for series three were made (98 too many for most Crossroads fans) and the final one aired on May 30th 2003.
The fans of 'glam Crossroads' have been angry with Nigel for axing the show. However glam Crossroads had not only become an embarrassment to the network, it had also become an embarrassment to many of the fans of the original and the second series. People were mocked for watching 'camp, crap Crossroads' on a grander scale than ever before the show was ridiculed. Mr Pickard had very little option, the show had sunk faster than a ship full of holes, it was losing ITV money, and in the end it was a sad time for everyone to see Crossroads end, but many old fans were upset the brand had been used, with little of the original within it.
Some fans think the recent versions are a laughing stock, a disgrace to the Crossroads brand and overall a huge insult to the production teams who had worked effortlessly over the years to make the original Crossroads popular and produced with genuine affection.
We however look at it differently. For those who enjoyed the new series' and don't remember the old series, then to them the show is a version of Crossroads and they love it just as much as the old fans love the original. It might not have been Crossroads to everyone, but they were in their own right decent soaps. Not Crossroads of old, but had they been called something else they'd have been accepted as new soap operas, and maybe who knows without the legend of the original to live up to might still be on air.
After all it has been said, if you're bringing back Crossroads - then bring it back - half hearted gestures are not good enough. Crossroads will be remembered for its "golden 1960s and 1970s decades" by the media, but for all fans, of whatever era, they have their own memories and at least all three series gave entertainment to those who cared to watch.
4942 episodes are very impressive, especially when many soap operas haven't managed anywhere near such a legacy.
ITV in recent years have seemed to welcome the original back into their hearts, with a page on the official ITV website - where you can even watch classic episodes. The golden years are back..
Appreciation Society 1988-present
Written by John Heathbury, Mike Garrett and Tom Dearnley-Davidson