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 of a family run motel just to the south of Birmingham, somewhere vaguely near where the M42 crosses either the M5 or the M40 – hence the Cross Roads.
The series was still very fondly remembered years after it had ended and when I found myself working at Big Centre TV at the beginning of 2015 I discovered that they had chosen to buy a batch of Crossroads episodes for a daily showing. The plan was that if the series 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 give them another run. 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. It was mostly behind the scenes at this stage including producing and arranging a forthcoming series of Tiswas repeats. I had 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 one day 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 the plan for the Crossroads repeats – to show them 6 days a week, Monday to Saturday, at 9pm – and suggested I might like to take the same slot on a Sunday night and present 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 was having to follow the official episode guide with the assumption that the episodes would air in the same order. When they didn’t (a factor beyond my control) I ended up having to explain the discrepancy, 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.
Jane is the sort of person who you can sit and listen to forever! I’d had previous experience of her anecdotes when I had interviewed her for the DVD documentary “From ATVLand in Colour” concerning the old ATV studios in Birmingham where Crossroads had originally been made. Happily she remembered this and we got on famously. She later phoned me out of the blue when I was on holiday in Blackpool, on a tram, just to say how much she had enjoyed working with me on Crossroads Check-In. Now that’s proper old school professionalism!
Two other people helped on-screen during the production of the programme – 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 ‘golden’ period throughout the 1990s. Indeed Glen had introduced Crossroads himself when UKGold ran it during the late 1990s. It also helped that Glen is 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 digitally re-mastered and cleaned-up section of an otherwise missing episode of Crossroads (featuring none other than Gretchen Franklin, 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 had ever bought! Of course 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, then you can play them out” (yes, that was actually suggested by a viewer!) it had to be financially viable, and very 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!
This article, along with various others in my website are part of the wider story of Big Centre Television as seen from the perspective of the programmes I was making at the time. Most of the articles contain a video gallery of the original shows that I made.
I was with Big Centre Television from the very first day of production in January 2015 until the last of the original team were made redundant in November 2017 when the bulk of production and operations were being moved up to Leeds, the HQ of Made TV with whom Big Centre had merged in October 2016. Big Centre had a wonderful team all the way through, I miss them all and I remain really proud of what we ultimately achieved.
Contents (click an entry to go to that page)
- The Beginning
- Spring 2015 - An (Early) Day In The Life
- July/August 2015: Postbag
- Summer 2015 - Reading The Television News (new 18th June 2021)
- Summer 2015: Crossroads Check-In
- August 2015: The Story of Children's Television
- Bloopers and Behind the Scenes
- Autumn 2015: The Big Centre Magazine
- Winter 2015: The Midland – Weekend Edition
- Continuity - The Bits Between TV Programmes
- Spring/Summer 2016: The Big Magazine (updated 27th May 2021)
- Autumn 2016 - Spring 2017: Weekend Magazine (Walsall) (updated & revised 27th May 2021)
- Promotional Trailers
- Summer 2017: Weekend Magazine (Birmingham)
- Autumn 2017: Community Noticeboard... and The End...
As time goes on, I'll be filling in some of the gaps as well as adding more to these existing parts of the story too. If there's anything missing, or you'd like me to talk about something in particular, send me a message on social media (see the very top or very bottom of this page) or contact me through the website.