News Archive: August October 2000



Crossroads Confirmed


The Guardian


For fans of Benny and Miss Diane, the 12-year wait is over. Crossroads, the epitome of cheesy 1970s television, is returning to ITV as a daily daytime soap early next year.


The new Crossroads will still be set just outside Birmingham, but the motel with the shaky walls is to be upgraded to a hotel - the Kings Oak - with a bar, restaurant, conference centre and beauty salon.


ITV and producer Carlton are not revealing whether Benny and other characters from the original Crossroads will be returning, along with the dodgy scripts and production values and the distinctive theme tune.


Casting is to begin in October and further details about the soap are expected nearer transmission. The production team for the 21st-century Crossroads will be based at Carlton's Nottingham centre and the drama is to be shot in the studio and on location.


ITV's controller of daytime television, Maureen Duffy, said: "The new Crossroads will be absolutely of our time. It really will strengthen ITV's daytime schedule by providing our viewers with strong narrative dealing with the realities, issues and fun of everyday life."


The commercial broadcaster has ordered a 12-month, five-day-a-week run of Crossroads. A second daily drama, United Productions' Trafalgar Road, has been commissioned to replace the early evening Australian soap Home and Away, which has been poached by Channel 5.


Trafalgar Road will be set in south-east London and focuses on a group of friends "watching their children grow up when they haven't finished growing up themselves", according to a United spokeswoman. She added: "It's about parents wishing they were still teenagers and struggling to make sense of their lives. They have teenage kids who think they know everything."


The original Crossroads ran for 24 years, from 1964 until 1988. Noele Gordon, who played the motel's matriarchal owner Meg, was voted favourite female personality in the TV Times awards seven years in a row during the show's 70s heyday.

When Gordon was written out of Crossroads in 1981 thousands wrote to producer Central Television to complain, and the Sun launched the Save Our Meg campaign.


The 1980s brought a slow, inexorable decline in the soap's ratings, despite several changes of direction aimed at reviving it. A younger, more glamorous actor, Gabrielle Drake, took over the motel in 1985. Two years later the show was rebranded Crossroads, Kings Oak, in a last-ditch attempt to attract a more upmarket following.






`Crossroads' is back. But why don't the sets shake? And where is Benny?


The Independent


ONE OF Britain's best-loved - and most derided - television soaps is to return. The new Crossroads will launch next spring as the centrepiece of the ITV 2001 daytime schedule, the channel said yesterday.


The soap opera set in a motel outside Birmingham,which made "a Benny" a household term of derision, is to become a weekday fixture. Some of the old characters will be back, but it is not known yet whether Benny himself is among them.

The legendary shaky sets, however, will be absent. Steve Hewlett, the director of programmes at Carlton, said: "I am hoping it will become as iconic as the original, but for things that were good - the warmth, the sense of engagement - not the wobbly walls, which it won't have.


"It will be a class drama. It's a thoroughly modern soap, very much based on now, but it's got a history and in terms of history, establishing a place in people's heads is one of the hardest things for programme makers," he said.

The soap ran for 24 years until 1988, gaining audiences of 18 million in its Seventies heyday as well as a cult following. The new Crossroads will still be set in a hotel outside Birmingham, although it will be filmed in Nottingham.


The revival was the brainchild of Carlton's head of programming, Lord Alli, who said his passion for the soap had begun in childhood. "I watched it with my mother and I think it's one of those things which you could experience as real family viewing," he said. "It was not as gritty as some, you didn't feel you wanted to commit suicide afterwards, yet you didn't have the non-stop comedy of Coronation Street ... it was accessible, and easy viewing for the family." Lord Alli said he wanted to maintain that feeling for a modern audience.


The channel is said to be putting "significant resources" behind the soap, which will go out in half-hour episodes every weekday. Commissioned for a year, it has been storylined but not yet fully scripted.


Lord Alli wants the soap still to be based around a "strong matriarchal character" like Meg Richardson, played last time by the late Noele Gordon. Several of the original cast members have been "pencilled in", although talks are continuing. But the theme tune, the last version of which was arranged by Paul McCartney's band Wings, is likely to remain.


"Lots of our creative people have ideas for the theme tune, but I'm going to try to keep the old one," said Lord Alli. "The other thing I liked was the way the credits rolled - up and down and side to side. That will be my gesture to the old programme."


ITV also gave details of its replacement for the Australian soap Home and Away. Trafalgar Road, to be shown at teatime, set in south- east London, will feature a group of young families. Nick Elliott, controller of drama, said: "Trafalgar Road is a fresh and vibrant drama about today's young families in London."(Jojo Moyes)





Return of Crossroads, the world's wobbliest motel


The Telegraph


CROSSROADS, the famously rickety soap opera set in a Midlands motel, is returning to ITV but without its most memorable star.


Benny, the woolly-hatted odd-job man, has been written out of an updated version which will be set in an upmarket hotel with a health spa and conference centre. The character, who was played by Paul Henry - now a publican in Birmingham - was deemed to be out of date by the show's producers.


The series will, however, see the return of at least two of the original cast: Jane Rossington, who played the boss's daughter, Jill Chance, and Kathy Staff, better known as Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine, as the cleaner Doris Luke. The original show, which ran for 24 years and attracted up to 16 million viewers until it was axed in 1988, was known for its shaky sets and hammy acting.


Lord Alli, the Labour peer and managing director of Carlton Productions, which is making the series, said that the new version would not be "a kitsch, post-modernist" remake of the original. He said: "The idea is to create a family show that will attract both young and older viewers." The new Crossroads would sit somewhere between the unreal world of Coronation Street and the gritty realism of EastEnders, he added.


Maureen Duffy, ITV's controller of daytime television, said that the new series would be "absolutely of our time" and would deal with the "issues and fun of everyday life". Crossroads, which will go out on weekdays, will be the highlight of ITV's flagging afternoon schedule and was one of two new soap operas unveiled by the network.


The second, Trafalgar Road, is set in south-east London and focuses on a group of young families. It will be shown at teatime, replacing Home and Away. David Liddiment, ITV's director of programmes who had invited production companies to bid for a new teatime soap, defended soaps, saying they "play an important role in connecting channels with their audience".





Kay Patrick to series produce the Crossroads


The Guardian


Carlton Television has announced that Kay Patrick is to series produce the reborn Crossroads when it returns next year.

Patrick has series produced Sunburn for BBC1, and has worked as a director on Eastenders, Brookside, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.





Barbara Dickson snubs Crossroads




Barbara Dickson has turned down a role in Crossroads.


Jonathon Powell, director of drama for Carlton Television, told the Media Guardian they had approached the former Band of Gold star about a role in the remake of the 1970s soap. But Mr. Powell said she had declined.


Producers of the show are in the early stages of looking for actors to appear in the soap which will return to ITV in a daytime slot next year.





Dickson snubs Crossroads remake


Guardian Unlimited / The Guardian


Actress and singer Barbara Dickson has turned down the offer of a role in Carlton's ITV remake of 1970s daytime soap Crossroads.


Carlton director of drama Jonathan Powell confirmed that an approach had been made to Ms Dickson in the early stages of casting the returning soap, but said the actress would not be appearing in the show.


Crossroads is due to return to ITV daytime early next year in what is expected to be an early afternoon slot. Actress and singer Barbara Dickson has turned down the offer of a role in Carlton's ITV remake of 1970s daytime soap Crossroads.


Carlton director of drama Jonathan Powell confirmed that an approach had been made to Ms Dickson in the early stages of casting the returning soap, but said the actress would not be appearing in the show.