Who doesn’t love Crossroads? Don’t answer that!
Seriously, I used to love Crossroads when I was growing up. I was born and raised during the Mid-1970s in “ATV Land” (West Midlands) and Crossroads was our very own Soap Opera. Granada had Coronation Street in Manchester. Yorkshire had Emmerdale Farm in Leeds. ATV had Crossroads in Birmingham. Crossroads was ours!
Ignore the old tales of the wobbly sets and dodgy acting – they all had that, it’s just how Television was made in those days. Quick and cheap. It was shown once and then there’d be another one along within a day or two. Other ITV areas ran it as well and it had just as many fans in other parts of the country.
It originally ran from 1964 – 1988 with a couple of new millennium series between 2001 – 2003. The back-story was all about a family run motel just to the south of Birmingham, somewhere near where the M42 crosses the M5 or the M40 – hence the Cross Roads.
The series was very fondly remembered and so when I found myself working at Big Centre TV in early 2015 I knew that they had chosen to buy a batch of Crossroads episode for a daily showing. The plan was that if they were a success then, money-permitting, more episodes would be bought. I thought this was a lovely idea as I was big fan of all ATV programmes, and as I said I used to enjoy watching Crossroads when I was little. It was my Nan’s favourite programme, and I had the annuals, the books, the old VHS tapes, and the DVD collections.
After the initial set of episodes had been broadcast on Big Centre a plan was hatched to show them again. Big Centre had bought the rights to broadcast them a set number of times. So this ‘repeat’ season was a way of using up those final broadcast rights. Standard TV practice for all manner of shows.
At the same time I was increasing the number of programmes I worked on at Big Centre, mostly behind the scenes including producing and arranging a forthcoming series of Tiswas repeats. I had however also begun to present various programmes, like the evening Postbag show and the Weekend News. Mike Prince, Big Centre‘s Head of Programming, asked me if there was anything I would really like to do on the station. He knew I was a fan of classic TV shows (including Crossroads) so he thought this could be an area I might like to look at.
He explained what the plan was with the Crossroads repeats – to show them 6 days a week at 9pm and suggesedt I might like to take the same slot on a Sunday night and make a programme which looked back across the previous week’s episodes and then look forward to the forthcoming week’s shows.
And that was it! Straight away I suggested the name of Crossroads Check-In and away we went. It really was almost as simple as that.
The key to the show was keeping it simple. The reviews and previews of the episodes would take up a good chunk of each ‘Part’ of the show, and then the remainder would be viewers feedback and features.
And so it began, the episodes would play during the week, and then my show would play in the same slot on a Sunday. Occasionally the episodes ended up being shown out of order (due to a mismatch in ITV‘s labeling, so I was told), and as I had to record well ahead of schedule, I had to follow the official episode guide, but otherwise things went really well.
One of the lovely things about the show was that I got to interview the one cast member who had been with the show all the way through it’s original run (and for a lot of the millennium series too) – Jane Rossington played Jill Richardson-Harvey-Chance-etc… In the series Jill was the daughter of Meg, the original owner of the motel – and therefore Jane was a wonderful fountain of anecdotes throughout the two big interviews I recorded with her.
Two other people helped on-screen during the show – John Drury and Glen Allen. John has run a successful Crossroads website for many years, and Glen was perhaps most famous for being the station voice of UKGold during its own ‘golden’ period throughout the 1990s. Indeed Glen had introduced Crossroads himself when UKGold ran it during the late 1990s, and was a massive Doctor Who fan, just like me!
As the weeks went on John provided a number of fascinating location features about Crossroads, and Glen produced a number of funny news items related to Crossroads. So along with various features of mine, viewers letters, and chunks of Jane’s interview, I ended up with quite a packed programme every week. One of the editions was also able to include a re-mastered section of an otherwise missing episode of Crossroads (featuring none other than Ethel from EastEnders).
Ultimately the Crossroads repeats ran out just at the time when the station couldn’t really afford the cost ITV were asking for a further batch and so Crossroads Check-In came “to the end of the current series”. As far as I knew, Big Centre would be looking to buy more programmes when funds allowed, but as we know now, this was never to be.
The fan reaction to the show was actually very supportive. I admit that I was not as knowledgeable about the series as those guys continue to be and so it was lovely to receive their letters, photos and suggestions which I was only too happy to put on screen. As I had become ‘the face of Crossroads on Big Centre’ I was also the target for people asking ‘when is it coming back‘. All I honestly knew was that if the station could afford it, then they certainly wanted to run more episodes – but they couldn’t afford it. Simple as that. I actually discovered later that Crossroads was the single most expensive programme that Big Centre ever bought! That sort of thing is not unusual in the business, because if a show does well enough in terms of bringing in advertising revenue, it’ll eventually pay for itself. So it wasn’t just a case of someone saying “I’ll send you the episodes if you can’t get them yourself, then you can play them out” (yes, that was suggested by a viewer!) it had to be financially viable, and sadly it wasn’t.
However, that wasn’t the end of Crossroads Check-In – during the Autumn, I had worked out the Big Centre still had the rights to a few episodes whose ‘screenings’ hadn’t been used up. And so I suggested 2 theme nights to play out at Christmas and New Year. I compiled a number of features which had been shown before (John’s location pieces), a brand new interview with Jane (which would otherwise have been broadcast during a second season of Check-In), and altogether I managed to put together a couple of two-hour Crossroads special evenings.
I really enjoyed making Crossroads Check-In. It was a lot of fun – and so here’s the first series (the Christmas Specials will follow), warts and all!