News Archive: October 2001 – January 2002



Crossroads star joins Chicago cast




[Crossroads character] Patrick Russell (aka actor Neil McCaul) will join the cast of the West End musical Chicago on November 26. He will play the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn.

The Crossroads star is taking over from Michael Simkins at the Adelphi Theatre. The show has been running there for nearly four years. He will share the stage with Claire Sweeney, who joins the cast on December 3 in the starring role of Roxie Hart.






How Benny missed out on Porridge


Sunday Mercury


To most people he will always be Benny, the blundering bobble-hat admirer of Miss Diane. But today the Sunday Mercury can reveal that former Crossroads star Paul Henry was once lined up for another famous role that would have made him a TV superstar.


He was Ronnie Barker's first choice to play his long suffering cellmate Godber in classic BBC prison comedy Porridge. But TV bosses plumped for the man of the moment, Richard Beckinsale, a young star riding high in sitcom The Lovers. His part in Porridge made him one of television's hottest properties.


The Sunday Mercury caught up with Shropshire actor Paul as he rehearsed for his role as Buttons in a panto production of Cinderella at Stafford's Gatehouse Theatre.


"When Ronnie Barker was approached by producers to make Porridge, he put my name forward to play Godber," said 55 year-old Paul. "I'd worked with Ronnie on a production of Midsummer Night's Dream in the 1970s and we got on very well. There was an instant rapport between us. But at the time I wasn't that well-known. I'd only done one television show before.

"The producers and directors wanted a bigger name than me to star alongside Ronnie. Richard Beckinsale was much better known and so they decided to go with him. But I wasn't upset. he was marvellous as Godber and their decision not to cast me left me able to persue other roles."


Instead, Paul made his name as bungling handyman Benny in Crossroads, the Midland soap now enjoying a second run. But unlike other former Crossroads stars Jane Rossington and Tony Adams - who played husband and wife Jill and Adam Chance - he has not been invited back to the show.


Paul, who lives in the Shropshire market town of Whitchurch with wife Sheila, played Benny for 13 years. The last viewers saw of the character was when Benny went off to get a lightbulb - and never came back.


"I suppose my final storyline does leave it open for me to return! I could always just wander back in," he said. "But I do think it was a real shame not to use the character of Benny in this new series of Crossroads. He was such a well-loved character and was a huge hit with everyone. I'm still amazed by the number of people who come up to me in the street and ask about Benny. If he was in Crossroads today, the show would have about two or three million more viewers than it does. He was such a character and brought a certain something to Crossroads that is lacking in today's series."


Paul doesn't restrict his criticism of television today to his former show. He is scathing of TV programmes in general.

"It seems to me that producers just want to make the cheapest shows they can, using members of the public," he said. "No-one is willing to stick their neck out and make a truly original programme anymore. Most of the people on these reality shows don't realise what hard work it is to get into showbusiness. They just have it handed to them on a plate."

Paul remains commiteed to the theatre and has been busy performing across the country in a variety of productions - from Shakespeare to slapstick. But Christmas shows are his favourite.


"For most children and for some adults, panto is their first experience of the theatre," he said. "That makes it extra-special. I've done almost 40 Christmas shows and I've enjoyed every single one."


Cinderella, which also features Andrew Bibby and Jackie Woodburne from TV's Neighbours, runs at the Gatehouse Theatre from Wednesday until January 12th.





Doris Luke Leaves Crossroads Because “It’s Too Sexy




Kathy Staff says she is quitting Crossroads because the storylines are too sexy. She says many scenes are "sex for the sake of sex", which she can not agree with. Staff says she was disappointed when she first saw the scripts for the re-launched soap.


The 73-year-old recently announced she was leaving the four day a week programme. Bosses at the Central TV drama put her decision to quit down to long hours demanded by the soap. But in a religious programme recorded for Granada TV, the committed Christian discloses that the real reason behind her departure has been the racy plots which have been developed.


Staff, who appeared in the motel based show between 1978 and 1985 and then again when it relaunched in the summer, said: "It wasn't the Crossroads I was in originally. I mean that was a really happy family show and anybody could watch it. I was a bit disappointed when I got in and saw the scripts and the storylines. I mean you've got a girl of 16 pregnant right away and I mean she didn't really know who the father was, which makes it even worse."


In the programme called, My Favourite Hymns, Staff said she believed viewers were often influenced by the way they saw actors behave on screen. Broadcasters were not always as responsible as they should be.


A spokesman for Crossroads said: "She has never said anything to us about being unhappy with the storylines and has always been very supportive of the show. We are doing a soap for today and some of the storylines would not have been seen as appropriate 20 or 30 years ago, but we are huge fans of Kathy and will always welcome her back when storylines allow."





Crossroads boss says it has suffered from "bad press"




Crossroads producer Peter Rose has blamed the media for contributing to the soap's uncertain future. He has praised viewers for being loyal despite seeing the show moved around the schedule. Rose insists no decision has been made on whether it will be recommissioned in September.


He told unofficial website Return To Crossroads: "We have suffered from a very negative press, most of whom I don't think even watch the show. So we rely on word of mouth and what is a very loyal audience, who have stuck with us despite the moves in the schedule."


Carlton has denied reports Crossroads is to be taken off the air. "The current situation on the recommission is that no decision has yet been made by the Network Centre. Therefore I can't be definite either way," said Rose.

However, he thinks the soap has done well in the face of stiff competition from other channels. "We currently attract over three million viewers per day, which considering we are up against Neighbours, The Weakest Link and Richard And Judy, I don't think is too bad."





Crossroads To Introduce Three New Characters         




Crossroads will introduce three new faces in April to mark the anniversary of its relaunch. They are Emmerdale's Raine Davison, ex-This Life actor Ramon Tikaram, and Clocking Off star Jonathan Wrather. Davison currently plays teenager Eve Birch in the Yorkshire soap. The newcomers will play a chambermaid, a local psychiatric nurse, and a handyman. No decision has yet been made whether Crossroads will be recommissioned in September.





Crossroads faces uncertain future


BBC News Online


ITV soap Crossroads could face the axe if ratings do not improve, according to reports.  The show - which returned to the screens after a 13-year absence - will air until September. A decision will have to be taken in the spring or early summer as to whether it will continue.


The daytime soap was originally commissioned by ITV for one year and will celebrate its first anniversary in March.

ITV has already recommissioned Crossroads from Carlton for shows up until September.


But ITV's head of drama, Nick Elliot, told the Guardian the future of the programme will be seriously considered if ratings do not pick up soon.


Crossroads was relaunched in a blaze of glory in March 2001, promising a mix of new and old characters, ensuring an audience of 5.5 million in its opening week.


But according to a Crossroads spokesman, ratings dipped and quickly levelled off to its current figure of about 3.5 million across its evening and lunchtime showing.


He added: "At present we have be commissioned up until September and we would like to see the ratings go up in that time so its future is secure."




It first went out five times a week but this was then cut to four to cut down on expenditure.

The same also happened to the original soap, before it was eventually shelved in 1988.

In its heyday Crossroads attracted an audience of 18 million viewers but was both maligned and revered by fans and critics alike for its wooden acting and wobbly sets.


Once a shabby motel, Crossroads was upgraded to a four star hotel complete with executive suites and a health spa.

Its BBC One rival Neighbours draws about 6.3 million viewers over its two daily showings.

But the newest daytime soap Night and Day is struggling to attract viewers despite being billed as a totally new style of soap.


Since its launch in September 2001 it has been averaging audiences of 1.4 million for its teatime edition.





Crossroads faces axe


Media Guardian


Crossroads will be axed unless ratings improve over the next three months, the head of ITV drama has admitted for the first time.


Nick Elliott has said time is running out for the soap, which was resurrected last year after an absence of 13 years.

The Carlton-produced soap has only a few months to convince ITV executives it is worth recommissioning.

"We'll look at it across the spring," Mr Elliott said. "It depends on how it does. If it gets a bit of spring in its ratings it could go on."


His candid admission that Crossroads was on the critical list follows reports in a Sunday newspaper that the show was going to be axed.


A final decision on whether it should be recommissioned will be taken by early summer.

Crossroads returned with a combined audience of 5m viewers for the first two showings on March 5 last year.

And there were high hopes it would once again capture the hearts of the public with racier storylines and three of the original cast including Jane Rossington, who briefly played Jill Richardson before she was killed off.

The four-star hotel was also updated with a gym, landscaped gardens and upmarket restaurant.

However, critics derided the poor scripts. One veteran programme-maker within ITV said the problem was that "Crossroads was made by people who didn't know how to make soaps".


Since the new year ratings have slumped, with an average audience of just 3.3m watching the soap, according to unofficial overnights.


However, Crossroads is still doing better in the ratings than ITV's other daytime soap, Granada's Night and Day.

Night and Day, which goes out before Crossroads at 5.05pm three days a week, has averaged just 1.3m viewers.

The evening edition of Crossroads averaged 2.3m viewers over the same period.


However, Night and Day is commissioned until November and has had a more positive critical reaction than Crossroads.





Now Even The Fans Turn on Crossroads


Sunday Mercury


Under threat Crossroads has been given a big thumbs down - by two of its biggest fans.

TV Insiders claim the Midlands soap could face the chop in the autumn because of a ratings disaster. Critics have repeatedly panned the £10 million revamped show which returned to our screens last March. Now lifelong fan Peter Kingsman and media lecturer Dorothy Hobson, who has written a book on the famous motel, have laid into the programme - and say it must change to survive.


They claim storylines are aimed at too young an audience and plots are too far-fetched and confusing. They also believe ITV has boobed with its scheduling. Programme-makers Carlton have denied the soap, which has been commissioned until September, is facing the axe.


Crossroads has an average audience of 3.5 million for both its afternoon and evening episodes. But in its heyday the series, famed for its shaky sets and wooden acting, was regularly watched by 16 million people.

Dorothy Hobson, a lecturer in media and culture at the University of Wolverhampton, is author of the book 'Crossroads: The Drama of a Soap Drama'.


She said: "The show does have a few problems. For a start it needs to define who its audience is because it seems to be trying to attract younger viewers which I don't think is right. It also seems to have a lot of different storylines, all at the same time.


"And some characters could be better used. The actor Gilly Gilchrist, who plays the chef Billy Taylor, is a very interesting actor but they should develop his character and give him a proper part.


"The time it goes out doesn't help either as putting it up against Neighbours is not the right thing to do. The programme is just starting to iron out its problems and it would be a shame if it left our screens again. But I have been watching it and I think it has improved considerably since its relaunch last year."


Suffolk-base Peter Kingsman, who used to run the now defunct Crossroads Appreciation Society, said he still loved the show - but it had flaws.


"Crossroads was commissioned as a daytime show but it would be a lot better if it went out in the evening. It should be back at its original timeslot of 6.30pm which I am sure would bring in lots more viewers. Personally, I love the new show. But I would like to know what has happened to the actress Sherrie Hewson, who played the receptionist Virginia? She has just disappeared.


"And I did not like the storyline when Jill did not realise her own daughter was an imposter. They had only been apart eight years - surely she would have recognised something was amiss before now! But I am still a big fan of the show and I think it is going from strength-to-strength. There is no reason why it should be axed."

Both the experts agree the addition of new characters has helped Crossroads - especially the appearance of Vic Barnes, played by actor Ray Lonnen.


Carlton announced last week that even more characters were to be created. Raine Davison, formerly Eve Birch in Emmerdale, has joined as Abbie Baker, a quiet and innocent young chambermaid. Former This Life star Ramon Tikaram will appear as Eddie Weaver and Jonathan Wrather, star of Clocking Off and Bob and Rose, will join the hotel as Sam Delaney, a rugged new handyman.


Earlier this month veteran Crossroads actress Kathy Staff revealed she was quitting the soap because the new storylines were too sexy. The 73-year-old star had been an original cast member between 1978 and 1985.





Doctors threaten to kill off Crossroads


Media Guardian


The pressure on ITV to ditch Crossroads is mounting after it emerged that the BBC has decided to make Doctors a permanent fixture of the schedules.


The daytime soap, starring Christopher Timothy and Corinne Wicks, is one of the most successful new drama launches since Holby City was spun off from Casualty.


With a regular audience of 2.5m viewers, it has double the ratings of Crossroads and BBC bosses have decided to make it a regular weekday feature.


It is due to return to the screens for its regular run in March but BBC Birmingham has been told it will run all year round without a break.


The go-ahead to production means that Birmingham, once a centre of excellence and synonymous with daytime flagship series Pebble Mill, will have its own "mini soap factory" for the first time.


The two-year-old quasi-soap, produced by Carson Black, is regularly screened head to head against Crossroads at 2.20pm.


ITV's head of drama, Nick Elliott, admitted last week if the ratings for Crossroads didn't improve the soap would be axed for a second time.