News Archive: April 2000



Lord Ali plans comeback for Crossroads


The Guardian


Crossroads, the soap with the shaky sets and shakier storylines, is poised to make a comeback. Lord Waheed Ali, the Carlton Television executive, is to put a proposal to ITV for a remake of the show.


It is not clear whether the new version will feature the trademark closing sequence in which the credits criss-crossed the screen above the distinctive theme tune (once arranged by Paul McCartney), but Lord Ali insists it will be recognisably Crossroads.


If accepted by ITV, which will soon have a daily soap slot that needs filling after Channel 5's successful bid for Home and Away, the show will be made at Carlton's studios in Nottingham.


Lord Ali, Carlton's director of productions, said: "I want to do a soap. I very, very badly want to get that slot vacated by Home and Away."


He said the new Crossroads was likely to be set in a hotel, rather than a motel - "I don't think we have motels any more, do we?"


Lord Ali would not reveal whether he would reintroduce classic characters such as Benny, the odd-job man, but said that the new show would be aimed at a young audience - a pledge sure to strike fear into fans of the original, who blamed meddling producers for precipitating its decline.


Dorothy Hobson, author of Crossroads - The Drama of a Soap Opera (now out of print), was delighted. A hotel was ideal for a soap, because it allowed for a good mix of permanent and visiting characters






`Crossroads', home of wooden acting and flimsy sets, rises from the grave


The Independent


THE TELEVISION soap Crossroads, based on a Midlands motel, which became infamous for its dodgy scripts and even dodgier sets, could soon reopen for business.


Detailed proposals to make an updated version of the classic daytime serial that ran for 24 years have been drawn up by Lord Alli, the director of productions for Carlton Television. Lord Alli said he "very badly" wanted to remake Crossroads to fill ITV's late- afternoon slot, which will be left vacant when the Australian soap Home and Away moves to Channel 5 next year.


Carlton will formally submit the idea to ITV on 24 April, but the proposal was greeted with mixed feelings by its former cast and the critics.


First launched in 1965, Crossroads drew audiences of 14 million at its peak, developing characters such as Benny Hawkins, the simple- minded handyman, and Meg Hunter, the hotel's first owner, who became national heroes.

The series could be the latest in a string of remakes from the Sixties and Seventies, including The Avengers, The Saint and Mission: Impossible. Carlton also unveiled its television remake of the classic film The Railway Children yesterday, which will star Jenny Agutter, the original child lead, as the children's mother.


Lord Alli, the former head of Planet 24, said he hoped to retain the Crossroads title and original theme music, written by Tony Hatch and later rerecorded by Paul McCartney's group Wings. Questions such as Benny's future have yet to be decided, he said.


The series would be made in Carlton's Nottingham studios, written with a younger audience in mind. Lord Alli dismissed suggestions that its poor production standards should be retained. "I just don't buy into that. The reason why Crossroads works was because there were great storylines and the characters were great and believable," he said.

Paul Henry, 54, who played Benny, remembered that viewers hung banners outside their homes stating "Benny is innocent" when his character was accused of a murder. "He was a great character to play because you could take every emotion to the extreme, he could lose his temper or get upset," he said.


Rival soap magazines had opposing views. Paul Smith, of Soaplife, said his magazine was right to give Crossroads its Golden Turkey Award in January. "I think it's old ground," he said. "I think it would be sacrilege to bring it back." However, Wendy Granditer, of Inside Soap, said it was "a great idea". She said: "I would be very, very upset if it came back as a very slick programme. I think people quite liked the daytime hammyness of it. That would be part of its appeal." (Severin Carell)





Crossroads heads for comeback 12 years on


The Telegraph


CROSSROADS, the television soap opera that came to an end 12 years ago, should be back in the near future. Lord Waheed Alli, Carlton Television's director of productions, is on the brink of submitting a proposal to ITV for a remake of the show.


The motel-based production is best remembered for its shaky sets and even shakier acting. A spokesman for Carlton said yesterday: "We are one of a number of companies who are pitching ideas to ITV for a teatime soap. Although the proposal has been formed and agreed this end, it has not yet been submitted to ITV."


She did confirm that the soap would be recognisably Crossroads and filmed at Carlton's studios in Nottingham. It is being earmarked to fill a daily soap slot on ITV that will be left when Home and Away moves to Channel 5. Lord Alli said the new Crossroads was likely to be set in a hotel, rather than a motel. He said: "I don't think we have motels any more, do we?"





Return of Drossroads: Who will be the stars this time round?


The Mirror


The sets creaked, the actors struggled and the wafer-thin plots never thickened. For 24 long years, TV motel soap Crossroads ruled supreme as the nation's most-derided soap. But however much the critics snarled and sneered, its army of patient fans loved it.


In its sixties heyday it pulled in 14 million viewers. And maybe that's why Carlton director of production Lord Waheed Alli confirmed yesterday that the series which was once a national joke is being lined up for a five-days-a-week teatime slot - 12 years after it was axed.


Carlton want a home-grown soap to fill the slot left by Home and Away moving to Channel 5. The new Crossroads would be made in Nottingham, but Lord Alli said that this time it would probably be set in a hotel rather than a motel, adding: "we don't have motels any more, do we?"


It seems we don't have many of the original actors either. The new show will be aimed at a young audience - which could be bad news for some of the original actors. As suave Adam Chance, Tony Adams was a household name for more than a decade. But since Crossroads, Tony, 59, has scarcely worked in television at all. Nor has Jane Rossington, Tony's screen wife Jill and one of the soap's stalwarts for its entire 24-year run. But former Big Breakfast chief Alli reassured anxious fans by promising: "If Jane's interested, there will always be a role for her in the new Crossroads."


The future is less certain for Paul Henry, who played famous dimwit Benny and was once voted "King of Soaps". But he has never been forgotten. "I must have received between 200 and 300 phone calls today from people telling me the show might return." says Paul, 54, who spent 12 years playing the simple odd-job man who seemed one bulb short of a full lighting set. "I just hope that if it does come back, there is a part for me. I had a wonderful time."


Crossroads' biggest star was actress Noele Gordon, alias motel supremeo Meg Mortimer. The nation was shocked when the soap queen was axed in 1981. She died of Cancer four years later. But there was life after Crossroads for Kathy Staff, who played Doris Luke. She went onto great success as the battleaxe Nora Batty in the BBC's Last Of The Summer Wine.


The man who killed off the series when viewing figures slumped to four million, Central TV boss Andy Allen, is unrepentant. "I wrestled with it for a long, long time." He says. "But I felt Crossroads was losing its appeal - and I stand by my decision to end it."


But fans have always blamed meddling producers for its decline. Tony Adams says: "A lot of people condemned Crossroads when they had only watched a few episodes. We used to shoot five episodes a week live, although it was not broadcast live. But, with no editing facilities, the mistakes used to stay in. That's why it was slated.


I had lunch with Jane Rossington last week, and she said it carried a curse because of its bad reputation."


ITV bosses plan to keep the famous theme tune, but it will be reworked to give it a thoroughly modern sound.


There are plans to set up a money-spinning Coronation Street-style studio, open to the public. A Carlton insider says: "With the right investment of money and talent there's no reason why Crossroads can't be just as popular as Coronation Street and Eastenders.


Meanwhile the actors must wait and hope. Lord Alli says: "Apart from Jane's role, no other decisions have been made. Its a new programme and it will have new characters. But no one would want to alienate the fans who used to enjoy Crossroads in the past."


Well, they wouldn't dare do it again.. would they?

(Kevin O’ Sullivan)





Why is ITV threatening to resurrect Crossroads?


Observer Viewpoint


During video's first spring in the late Seventies, Radio Rentals advertised a new-fangled 'long-play' video recorder with the line 'It can take 16 episodes of Crossroads. (If you can)' Geddit? But if popular opinion didn’t think we could take 16 episodes of it then, why does Carlton think we can now?


When Labour peer and Carlton TV executive Waheed Ali announced last week that he plans to resurrect Crossroads, we assumed he was having a laugh. Cue: the gruesome flashbacks - the genetically worrisome romance between Benny and Miss Diane; Meg waving her final goodbye beneath a headscarf on the QE2; Kate Robbins singing 'More Than In Love' from the dizzy heights of number two in the charts in 1981. All good, funny, newspaper-filling stuff, but he was winding us all up, wasn't he? Apparently not. Ali's slightly camp fantasy to revive the five/four/three-nights a week, motel soap seems sincere.

But why bring back a show whose heyday was in the Seventies? Why revive a brand that means as much to the advertiser-friendly 18-25 year olds as Mint Cracknel and Baader-Meinhoff? Why resurrect something that was, not to put too fine a cultural point on it, crap?


Putting aside the fact that Ali ran his own successful TV company, Planet 24, for six years - ergo, the sort of harebrained scheme he wakes up with at three in the morning might just work - Crossroads was without doubt popular crap. Throughout the Seventies, it attracted up to 16 million loyal viewers, peaking at 17.6 million in 1978. In 1976, Noele Gordon, who played matriarch Meg Richardson/Ryder/Mortimer was voted favourite female personality at the TV Times Awards for the seventh year running. In 1981, when news leaked out of 'wholesale changes' (including the axeing of Gordon), thousands wrote to Central Television to complain, and the Sun launched a Save Our Meg campaign. When ageing heart-throb David Hunter was written out in 1984, producer Phil Bowman received death threats. But the numbers tell a misleading story. Hurriedly made, poorly performed, perfunctorily directed, preposterously plotted - these are the virtues which stuck to Crossroads, rightly or wrongly. Wobbly sets, irritating theme tune, and set 'just outside Birmingham' for heaven's sake. Larry Grayson made two separate cameo appearances in it.


Crossroads was Eddie’ The Eagle' Edwards in teatime serial form. Bringing it back in the twenty-first century - post 'Acorn Antiques', post Alan Partridge at the Linton Travel Tavern - smacks either of desperation, or, even worse irony. Kitsch TV nostalgia has become a plague on popular culture. In America, the thirty- and fortysomethingings who control the media remake favourite TV shows of their youth as multi-million dollar movies, and they're terrible (Wild Wild West, My Favourite Martian); so let’s not remake Crossroads as a TV Show. The precedent is not good. It would either have to be 'ironied-up' like last year's misfiring Mr. & Mrs. with Julian Clary (taken off within minutes), or played relatively straight like Channel 5's It's a Knockout - a great advert for just showing the original on UK Gold (or is that Mould?) and being done with it.

Indeed nobody would argue with the decision to re-run all 4,510 episodes of old Crossroads, round the clock, on a loop, forever, on a dedicated digital cable channel called XR-TV (Crossroads TV) But a new Crossroads for Generation Y2K means revisiting the same minefield that maimed so many the first time round.


Crossroads ran for 24 years from 1964 but its demise remains a cautionary tale. Gordon's dismissal in 1981 heralded the beginning of the end. ATV's programme controller, Charles Denton, and drama head Margaret Matheson decided that Crossroads should become 'less middle-aged' for the new decade. 'We have to bring in some new blood' said Denton, 'and point Crossroads in a new direction.' Uh-oh.


Crossroads became more glamorous, with younger actress Gabrielle Drake taking over the motel in 1985, and two years later a complete facelift saw the show rebranded as Crossroads, Kings Oak, and conspicuously yuppiefied. New producer William Smethhurst had been appalled at a survey showing that Crossroads viewers read the Star, and he set about raising the 'audience profile'. But the experiment failed, and the soap was cancelled in 1988.


When Crossroads was the same, it flourished. When it was different, it died. Bringing it back under the old name but with -presumably - a new thrusting, young, attractive cast would be a grave error; a nation forged in the white heat of camp irony after two hours at the Groucho Club that will surely end, like Meg on the QE2, in tears.