01 August 2011

Return To Crossroads - Forthcoming ATV Documentary On DVD...

Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) bravely turned the house and grounds left to her by her late husband, Charles, into a motel in the early 1960s. In 1965, she met successful businessman Hugh Mortimer (John Bentley). After ten years of an on/off romance, the couple married, but happiness was not to last. Hugh was kidnapped by terrorists in 1978 and died of a heart attack. Meg was left alone to face the terrible truth about the ruinous state of Hugh's finances...

The old ATV/Central soap opera Crossroads has left behind the most wonderful legacy, and I can find nothing more de-stressing after a hard day at work than to pop in a DVD and revisit my old friends at the motel. Whether it's Meg trying to get her hair done in the sitting room in the 1960s, Vera handing out advice on her barge in the 1970s, or Valerie toying with a Pussyfoot Special in the 1980s, there is no better way for me to let go of the pressures of the day and relax into off-duty mode. I could write a separate hymn of praise to the Brownlows in the early-to-mid 1980s, a family who seemed to somehow capture the essence of everyday life in my humble opinion, and, later in the decade the doings of Beverley and Jason Grice (probably one of the best representations of 1980s teenagers I ever saw), but time presses!

1980 - David Hunter (Ronald Allen) marries novelist Barbara Brady (Sue Lloyd).

Crossroads still thrives on-line, from sites on the brief 21st Century revival, to sites which examine the original series in great depth, to blogs like this. And one of the best sites to go and relive the series in any era is The Crossroads Network Forum, owned by ATV and linked to The Crossroads Appreciation Society, originally formed in 1988, and now absolutely thriving on-line. It's a great place to visit, and whether you loved Crossroads in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, early 21st Century or ALL of it, you can express your views here and be sure of a knowledgeable and appreciative audience, all happy to give their views in return and help to answer any queries you may have.

1980 - Paul Henry was hugely popular as Benny.

It was through this site that I originally got to hear the news that ATV, the old Midlands ITV franchise holder, had leapt back to life, and of exciting plans for a brand new documentary on Crossroads. Recently, I contacted Maria Brabiner, an ATV Director, to ask if she might have time to give readers of this blog some insights into ATV today and the Crossroads documentary, and was delighted when she happily agreed. Below is our question and answer session...

Andy: Can you tell me about ATV and its aims in the 21st Century, and the inspiration for the “Return To Crossroads” documentary?

Maria: ATV Network was “saved” from the skip by some members of the Crossroads Appreciation Society, ex-ATV staff and some, at the time, Carlton employees. Granada sent a memo telling them to “chuck away” ATV and Central material (excluding the film and videotape). The staff of course had other ideas and that is where ATV reborn came from. We’ve had help in rebuilding some items that were not saved (a whole warehouse of ATV paperwork was ‘overlooked’ in error and destroyed) from people such as Reg Watson. We also helped in a photograph search with ITV Archive for
Crossroads images which ultimately thankfully the TV Times magazine had kept many of. The whole idea for ATV now is to promote the legacy of the Lord Lew Grade era, and provide correct information about the company rather than the myths some other big ITV companies like to colour ATV with to improve their own image in the history of the network.

As part of the promotion of ATV past we decided to look at the Company's often regarded most famous programme, Crossroads. An idea we first had in 2006, and the first footage recorded for it was in September of that year when ITV Central arranged a tour of the old Birmingham studios with some selected fan club members. The project went on hold for a while, while we waited for ITV to co-operate with several things we wanted assistance with, and resumed last year.

Christmas 1980 - Meg, Jill (Jane Rossington), and Sandy (Roger Tonge) celebrate.

Andy: The documentary is designed to appeal to fans of the original 1964-1988 run. Anything for fans of the revival in the early 21st Century?

Maria: We haven’t managed to record anyone from the new series as yet, although Sherrie Hewson did ‘tweet’ that she’d be interested in taking part. We’ll hopefully arrange some interviewees from the revival once we’ve completed the original series.
In making the documentary we have found that actors from the 1960s to the early 1980s have been the most supportive of the project which does rather show that the crew did become like a second family, which was obviously lost in the later years and the revival didn’t have time to make those bonds.

Andy: That's really interesting, Maria. I think also that might be true of the era 1985-1988, which saw many changes to the cast and two new producers. There really wasn't a lot of time for things to settle and "gel" behind the scenes before the axing was announced in the summer of 1987.

Businessman J. Henry Pollard (Michael Turner) was never ashamed to admit he was "filthy rich". He and his daughter, Miranda (Claire Faulconbridge), first arrived in King's Oak in 1980. J. Henry's wife, Valerie (Heather Chasen), followed in 1982 - and then the trouble began...

Andy: Although it was panned by critics, large numbers of viewers loved Crossroads, and even after cast axings and revamps it still had a sizeable audience. What do you think its secret was?

Maria: I think Kathy Staff was right when she said it was a family show, that appealed to a wide audience. It was also successful, I would think, because of the time of night it went out and a lot of the audience would be having their tea as it aired. Families could watch it together. It had a warmth and characters people could relate to and either love or hate.

Moving with the times - yuppette Lisa Lancaster (Alison Dowling) shows off her '80s finery.

Andy: Who were your top three characters from the original run, and why are they your favourites?

Maria: This one is very easy for me to answer. I've no hesitiation in saying Meg, Hugh and Tish. Meg and Hugh Mortimer were the "Golden Couple" of television. 1976/1977 viewing figures for Crossroads made it the No. 1 top rated show of those two years beating allcomers at the BBC. It cannot be just down to co-incidence that this was the period when Meg was married, settled and enjoying life as a married lady to a rich, successful millionnaire businessman. Stories that the viewers liked to see. All down to the acting performances of Noele Gordon and John Bentley. My other character is Tish Hope. I liked Tish because she was Meg's best friend, her confidante, always on hand to advise Meg in any personal crisis. Tish being part of Meg's extended family. Something I'm sure the viewers just loved. Again all down to the lovely acting abilities of Joy Andrews. I still think it was a mistake to let Tish just "disappear"like many other characters did. She just went and never returned without an ending. The character of Tish was timeless and could have remained through any of the revamps I reckon.

1980s cast photographs of Angela Webb, who played sometimes bitchy, sometimes lovable Iris Scott, Ian Liston - dependable Ron Brownlow, Pamela Vezey - kind and motherly Kath Brownlow, Lynette McMorrough - motel waitress and desperate for a baby Glenda Brownlow, Peter Hill - the oft highly grumpy Arthur Brownlow, and David Moran - Glenda's handsome hubby, Kevin Banks. Arthur's opening story-line involved him being diagnosed with a terminal illness. In early 1980, it was discovered that there had been a mix-up, another Arthur Brownlow had died, and the King's Oak version lived on until 1982; Glenda married Kevin in 1981, and went on to have a test-tube baby in 1983; Ron fell in love with cousin Iris, but left to work on an oil rig after she had a phantom pregnancy; Kath went upwardly mobile after Arthur's death, by marrying posh school teacher Stephen Fellowes (John Line).

Andy: What was it like interviewing TV legends for the documentary?

Maria: None of us have really been star-struck of sorts. There was one small instance when for a few seconds I was, when in Birmingham Cathedral for the interview of Jane Rossington. She was saying her piece to camera when she suddenly stopped talking, turned to me and asked "Where was I up to". I was so busy watching her hands when she was talking doing the movements of the criss-cross Crossroads credit, that for those few seconds I was dumbstruck. It's never happened since ! The Crossroads actors are actually all so very friendly, its like talking to old friends. All so down to earth. Stan Stennett gave us a lift at one point, wearing the same hat that Sid Hooper used to. It was almost like being in an episode, so a little strange, but lovely of him. Tony Adams also dropped us off at a train station as we’d decided to commute to Brighton. Jane Rossington arrived at Birmingham Cathedral soaking wet as it was pouring down outside, and just started chatting away about how it had ruined her hairdo like we’d known her years. So they’ve all been a pleasure.

Andy: The 1980 shooting of David Hunter is now part of Crossroads legend. Can we expect anything from Janet Hargreaves, who played David’s deranged wife, Rosemary, in the documentary?

Maria: There are lots to come from Janet. She reveals something about Ronnie Allen that’s never been made public before, she also recreates the shooting scene, playing both parts! She did bring along her Rosemary costumes and she’s agreed to present the documentary as Rosemary so that will be fun I’m sure. Actually on revelations there are a couple, JoAnne Good also tells us something she believes she’s never told any other programme before, so we’ve been quite honoured really they like us so much!

The 1980 shooting of David Hunter by his deranged wife, Rosemary (Janet Hargreaves), is now part of Crossroads legend.

Andy: If Crossroads was to be revived again, could you name five characters you think would be essential for the series to succeed?

Maria: Jill & Adam Chance, Kate Russell, Sarah Jane Harvey, Sharon Metcalfe. Kate Russell was quite an effective figure in 2001. You need a strong woman, a "Meg type" figure at the helm.

But if a new series was to succeed I'd introduce a new character called Matthew Mortimer, grandson of Meg & Hugh Mortimer, son of Anthony Mortimer and Jill Chance. You'd have the battles between half brother/half sister, both grand-children of Meg. I think that would be interesting. it's a shame Matthew wasn't thought of in 2001.

Andy: Can you give us an idea of who will be appearing on the documentary?

Maria: A lot of classic era actors have been positive about the production, most very keen to take part. Obviously we’re tried to find a range of people from all the eras, we’re still working on some from the early days of the 1960s including one actress who now lives in France but wants to travel to London to record, just for us. That’s loyalty to the original series.

We’ve also lined up a few surprise interviews, which we can’t say anything too much on but I think people will be surprised to see some of the faces turn up. We have two top bosses from ATV for example who’ve never spoken before about the show before in any great detail but had the power to axe it in the 1970s and never did.

We were pleased when Sue Nicholls said yes as people still ask her about playing Marilyn in the show and also very happy to get Carolyn Jones on board as her role of Sharon is one of the most memorable and she of course appeared in the Noele Gordon era and after she’d gone so covers all those changes.

Andy: Sounds absolutely wonderful! Can't wait to see it!

For more information about the "Return To Crossroads" documentary DVD, please e-mail:

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