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At its best probably in the 1960s, Crossroads was always terrific fun.
The programme had an innocence and lightness of touch in its 60s days that it lost in the 70s and great fun was to be had as sets occasionally wobbled and studio arc lights fell down! The 1960s characters were great - and included such legendaries as the Richardsons and Hugh Mortimer, Diane, Tish Hope, Marilyn Gates (mark 1!) Mr Lovejoy and Mr Booth and Amy Turtle.
The show was daring - a storyline about a single mother, a waitress at the motel, was strong stuff back then. But murder was more difficult. In a 1960s story involving the character Gerald Bailey (whose wife, Ruth, later married Meg's brother) great pains had to be taken so as not to "distress" viewers in a storyline originally envisaged as murder, but later reconfigured to "sudden death".
However, by the late 1960s, attempted murder WAS allowed as we saw the character Malcolm Ryder trying to poison the show's heroine, Meg Richardson - his wife in the plot at that time! The 70s and 80s episodes are also great fun. The 70s episodes have added value as we see all sorts of middle aged people wearing the garish and flared style of clothes which were so cutting edge and trendy amongst the young hippies of the 1967/1968 Summer Of Love. Younger 70s characters, like Martin Bell, look positively dowdy in comparison to the 60s fashion following older set!
The 70s and 80s episodes saw a continuation of cutting edge soap story lines - I particularly recall the introduction of Benny in the 1970s (learning difficulties) and the terrific Downs Syndrome and racism story lines in the 1980s.
In the 1980s, the show altered dramatically and it seemed a terrible shame to dispatch Meg, but Crossroads gave excellent value with the introduction of chararacters such as Valerie Pollard and Nicola Freeman and a brief return for Amy Turtle! I followed the show from start to finish and enjoyed it all, though I do feel now that the 70s episodes are rather over-hyped (so much 70s stuff really belongs to the 60s!). From wonky but lovable 60s soap to shoulder padded, witty but gentle late 80s ending, Crossroads was required viewing for me for an awful lot of years.
For about 25 years, this was British TV's best loved bad soap. Shaky sets,
some over the top storylines and a host of okay actors revelling in the
Set in a fictitious Midlands town, it centres on the staff and guests at the eponymous Motel - in the early days run by Meg Mortimer (Noelle Gordon) and later by Nicola Freeman (Gabrielle Drake).
The best characters included irascible Scots chef Shughie McFee (from The Great Escape); David Hunter (Ronald Allen from a Night to Remember) and Hammer veteran Sandor Eles (Countess Dracula) as a cliched chef.
Look out too for the late Jeremy Sinden (Donald's son) who went on to play one of the ill-fated pilots in Star Wars - a little movie he shot inbetween breaks from Crossroads.
However, head and shoulders above them all was scruffy, backward, lovable Benny Hawkins who never had much luck - his gypsy girlfriend was knocked down and killed on his wedding day - but with his woolly hat and good heart, he was the Midlands version of Forrest Gump long before Tom Hanks cornered the market in loveable simpletons.
The whole thing was repackaged and revamped as Neighbours, a show also boasting a Tony Hatch theme tune. At one point in the late Seventies, Paul McCartney and Wings even provided a rockier theme tune for this Seventies slice of nonsense, nicely spoofed as Acorn Antiques in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV.
The previous reviewer is quite right. Crossroads was of the "so bad, it's
good" ilk. Still, during its peak it had its followers including the
prime minister's wife, Mrs. Mary Wilson, a staunch follower. Crossroads
suffered from a hectic schedule, originally five days a week. No time for
retakes, so it was not uncommon to see a camera crew whizzing by in the
background, or to witness an overhanging microphone at the top of the TV
screen. Fluffed lines guaranteed in every episode. In its favor, it did
not bring dead and buried characters back to life, or have five different
actors play the same character (as is common in US soaps). Aside from
mentioned, there were many other memorable characters such as the mousy
postmistress Miss Tatum (Elisabeth Croft), the "tart with a heart"
hairdresser Vera Downend (Zeph Gladstone), and the kitchen gossip Amy
(Ann George, who deserved an award for worst actress).
Looking back years later, and having spent ten years in the States, I can only compare Crossroads star Noele Gordon to Susan Lucci, the queen of US soaps. Gordon was hardly the glamorous star that Lucci is, but she was undoubtedly THE queen of the UK soap. When she was unceremoniously dumped from Crossroads in 1981, there was a public outcry, and the soap's fate was sealed (as was Gordon's who never quite got over her dismissal and died four years later). Crossroads was given an overhaul and plodded on for a few more years. In the last episode, Jane Rossington (Gordon's screen daughter who spoke the first lines in 1964) drove off into the distance (sunset unavailable) and it was the end of an era. Crossroads and Coronation Street often replaced each other at No. 1 in the charts, just as Coronation Street and Eastenders do these day. That's how good/bad it was.
To sum up Crossroads is a task which is practically impossible. The
wobbly set legend is a strange one, we know when the show started it
was filmed in a old cinema, so the sets were of a stage-production
quality, but when Crossroads moved into ATV Centre (1970) those wobbles
became no worse than any other TV show. (In fact I noticed a wobble in
one of the sets on Coronation St a few months ago)
Was the 'so bad, its good' true? Well no, the cast and crew put in 110% into the programme, ATV were not exactly generous with cash, so maybe it did look cheap, however unless other soaps they were doing Crossroads five times a week on less cash than the rest so the fact they made anything at least half decent should be praised not knocked.
The show was a ground-breaker, but people prefer to knock it and insult its 17 million fans in the process. Crossroads made television history time and time again, yet how many people know of any of these feats?
Maybe the legend of the wobbles and the poor standards have actually stood the show well as even nearly 20 years after it disappeared everyone still knows of Crossroads.
Today compared with the poor Carlton version, the original Crossroads now stands out as a classic. The show boasted a host of stars, David Jason, Bob Monkhouse, Max Wall, Elaine Paige, Ken Dodd, Sue Nicholls and Johnny Briggs all stayed within the motel to name only a few.
The story lines at the time were said to be sometimes far fetched, but nothing compared to some that appeared later in Brookside or Coronation Street. Crossroads set the trend for real-life issue based plots, it also aimed to entertain. It was a family soap, something that is rare on television today. It wasn't afraid to be different, and it never gave in to the TV Critics, as Lord Lew Grade said, he made the show for the fans, not for the ATV cash generator or critics. Something ITV could learn from today. It might have been cheap but it was popular, and thats something many expensive shows have failed to be!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hardly a week used to go by in the '70's without some comedian taking a
pot shot at 'Crossroads'. Ernie Wise said the soap opera had all the
entertainment value of 'a cemetery with lights', and Benny Hill did a
very funny lampoon with himself both as 'Benny' and 'Meg Richardson'.
Noele Gordon publicly complained that the show was the target of
'destructive, rather than constructive criticism'. She was right, but
was this hostility deserved?
It was a terrible show, no doubt about it, but I think most of its fans probably knew that already. It seemed to exist in some strange parallel universe with its own laws. To give an example, in 1975, Meg Richardson ( Noele Gordon ) married Hugh Mortimer ( John Bentley ). A.T.V. milked maximum publicity from the occasion; hundreds of people lined the streets of Birmingham to get a glimpse of the happy couple. It was like a Soap version of a Royal Wedding. Even Larry Grayson acted as chauffeur! Watching this, I remember thinking: "Why would an entire city grind to a halt just because a motel owner marries a businessman?". The marriage was short-lived; poor Hugh was later kidnapped and killed by international terrorists ( ! ). Other outrageous plots included Benny ( Paul Henry ) being suspected of murder, and Arthur Brownlow ( Peter Hill ) suspected of being a sex pest, an allegation he endured without once managing to change his expression. Then there were grotesque characters including the legendary 'Amy Turtle' ( Ann George ) and 'Wilf Harvey' ( Morris Parsons ).
On the plus side, the show did have some decent performers, such as the late Roger Tonge ( who played Meg's crippled son Sandy ). I also liked the guy who played 'Vince Parker' the postman. My grandmother was a huge 'Crossroads' fan, and was the first in line when in 1971 'The T.V. Times' brought out a souvenir tie-in magazine. She had a crush on the late Ronald Allen ( David Hunter ), an actor so wooden you could smell Cuprinol every time he was on screen.
When Noele got the sack in the early '80's, the writing was on the wall for the motel. Incoming producer Phil Bowman tried to make it more upmarket by bringing in sexy Gabrielle Drake to play 'Nicola Freeman', but it did not work out, and when in 1985, Victoria Wood savagely lampooned it on her 'As Seen On T.V.' show, that was it.
It ended in 1988, but was revived a few years back on I.T.V. The new-look show initially attracted good reviews and ratings, but then interest waned and - after a shake-up in which Jane Asher was brought in as the motel's new owner - the doors were closed once again.
I very much doubt whether 'Crossroads' will be revived a second time. With soap operas clogging up channels like cholesterol in the arteries, there just is no room for it to stand out.
I will leave the last word to Jane Rossington, who as 'Jill' closed the last edition of the original series by saying: "Crossroads! What a great name for a motel!".
We've all criticized Crossroads at times. We've all commented on the wooden
sets, the intentionally bad acting and the lack of guests at Crossroads
Motel. However, it was addictive in some way and was on air from
Meg Richardson was in charge of the Crossroads Motel for awhile. That woman had one long bad life and everyone else in the show did as well. It seemed odd that people could live such eventful lives but that is soap for you.
One of the shows favourite characters was Benny Hawkins played by Paul Henry. Benny was the motel idiot but we liked him all the same. He was an odd character with his woolly hat but even odder, he once went AWOL from the show for several months without any explanation. The actor who played Benny opened up a pub in Birmingham. I last visited it in 1994 but I'm not sure if it is still there.
There were some rather odd stories on the show which perhaps ensured it's enduring popularity. Bizarre is the only word to describe some of the plots at times but hey, it was a lot better than Brookside ever was.
All in all, Crossroads will always have a place in my heart even if it was never clear whether it was a soap or comedy. It made a comeback in the 21st century but I haven't watched the new show. I don't have the time or inclination (at least currently) to watch the new version but I am sure nothing could ever compare to the original.
I wonder if, in the pilot episode of the new version, they still said, "Crossroads Motel, may I help you?"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched Crossroads from about 1974 to 1988, missing some portions
towards the end. Much has been said of wobbly sets, dire acting (yes,
Amy Turtle was truly dreadful) but who remembers...
David Hunter's home being occupied by squatters, who he eventually helps; Jim Baines and family...
Avis Tennyson "no relation" (to the poet) the plain maid who arrived at the same time as a glamorous woman; much confusion between Sandy and David ("I don't fancy yours much", or a middle class version of the same).
Carney the "old codger".
Benny whose bathwater was a constant threat on Tiswas.
Miss Diane, Benny's friend ("mist dye-onn").
----- Yes of course it was awful, and no apologists can correct that; it is however a travesty that most of the shows have been wiped, gone forever. Unlike the similarly erased Dr Who it seems unlikely that any early video owning fans will have hundreds of hours of Motel videos in an attic...
The very first producer of this Brummie based soap opera was a
gentleman called Reg Watson . This name may not be recognisable but it
will ring a bell at the back of your mind and when I say he moved to
Australia and created a show called PRISONER CELL BLOCK H you'll know
who he is now . And like PRISONER this soap based at a Midlands motel
was total turd , but often highly entertaining . In fact both myself
and many of my peer group would discuss the previous night's episode at
Every episode starts on a cliff hanger opening : " What you mean you're having my husbands baby " . The actors freeze , but it not a freeze frame camera shot as you can clearly see the actors tremble in fright at their dialogue . The caption CROSSROADS flashes up and Tony Hatch's guitar theme tune blasts in - Ding Ding Ding - Ding Ding Ding Ding . Then the actors get back to what they were doing before . Very bizarre and there's another idiosyncratic revealing mistake in almost every scene and that's the actors waiting for their cue . When the action cuts from one location to another you can clearly see for a brief moment the actor standing still like a statue then they go on to pour a cup of tea or make a phone call etc
But it was the script and characters that made the show entertaining garbage . Shugie McPhee was a master chef and head of the kitchen and in one subplot tried to bring down the motel by contaminating guests food . In one memorable scene a big plastic spider finds itself becoming dessert . And there was Adam Chance who was Ken Barlow's only rival in British Soapland's least convincing hetrosexual character
For me and many others the real star was Benny the retarded oddjob man at the motel . If Channel 4 did a programme called 100 GREATEST RETARDED CHARACTERS IN TELEVISION Benny would win by a mile and unsurprisingly the more ridiculous plots revolved around him . Benny is maimed trying to stop a couple of joy riders , Benny is left 25,000 pound in a relatives will , and Benny is framed for murder . Don't worry he was innocent , it turned out the manager of the garage killed his lover , heard someone walk in and hid as Benny found the body then gasped " My god Benny what have you done ? " . Benny was something of a national institution and no amateur talent contest of the late 1970s was complete without an impressionist trying - And failing - to capture Benny's mannerism
I stopped watching it in the early 1980s and I heard that the producers at the time tried to make it a serious drama which caused the viewing figures to drop and led to its ultimate cancellation .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK it went rubbish when Meg Mortimer left and the noughties revival was
terrible and is best forgotten, but prime era Crossroads was watchable
with a killer theme tune by Tony Hatch.
The soap concerned a motel near Birmingham, run by Meg Mortimer, played by former host of Lunchbox, Noele Gordon. It was ITV's first attempt at a daily soap and at its peak in the late seventies had 16 million viewers and numbered a Prime Minister and his wife as fans. Yes the set was cheap and the show was largely studio bound and made on VT, but so were most shows in those days, so it is a bit mean to say Crossroads was cheaply made as it looks no cheaper than many of the classic shows from the seventies. Also people knock the acting, but was it any worse than the Australian shows that replaced it, and certainly huge viewing figures suggest people didn't have a problem with the so called ham acting.
I sort of liked Crossroads and some of it was unintentionally funny, such as when Benny the handyman( my favourite character) went to get a spanner and vanished for four months and one memorable plot where a cleaner was accused of working for the KGB. Also the camp chef Shooey Mc Phail was hilarious. While Crossroads could be serious, such as the fire and Sandy Richardson's car crash, it had plenty of lighter moments, something that seems to be lacking in modern soaps, and in the main the characters were likable.
Yes, Carlton Television who brought Central TV is now bringing
back the Queen of soaps.
Crossroads will no doubt be very different to what we used to see on our screens, but it would be wonderful to hear that music again as well as travel through the village of Kings Oak once again.
I, for one, will be glued to the screen to see what strange new storylines the writers will come up with. I don't think I'll be alone either.
Welcome back Crossroads, show EastEnders and Coronation Street what REAL soap-opera is all about!
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