17 March 2013

Crossroads 1983 - Glenda's Test Tube Baby...

Glenda Banks (Lynette McMorrough) is thrilled to hear from the hospital that the time has come for her to try for a test tube baby. Her mother, Kath (Pamela Vezey), after initial doubts, shares Glenda's joy.

I watched Crossroads. I admit it. It's no use blaming my mother. Sure, she introduced me to the show when I was still in nappies, and as a child it became as much a fact of life as dawn and dusk. 

But when I left home in 1983, I continued to watch it. 

It was on at a handy time of night - 6.35 pm, and I'd view as I was getting my dinner if I'd had a late finish at work, or getting ready to go out. I'd be gelling my hair and pushing up my jacket sleeves whilst discovering that Mr Paul was a spy or that Valerie Pollard had sent her daughter a poison pen letter or that David Hunter had just fathered a love child or that Kate Hamilton couldn't remember whether she'd murdered her lover or not or that Benny had ESP, etc, etc, etc, and I could never leave my flat without seeing the final little cliffhanger scene after the closing credits. 

It's easy to slag off Crossroads, but I always found it homely and good hearted, daft or not, and I liked it - although I never discussed the fact that I watched it with anybody else. Towards the end, it became a well produced, brilliantly written social comedy, then ITV took it off. Go figure!

But back to 1983, and with the show still having five years to run, I was deeply involved in the lives of David and Barbara Hunter, slimy Mr Paul, the deliciously rich and bonkers Pollard family, Jill Harvey and Adam Chance, Miss Diane and Benny, Sharon Metcalfe, Sid Hooper and Joe MacDonald from the garage, and the Brownlow/Banks family.

The show had always featured topical and controversial story-lines (not in the Brookside/EastEnders league, but stirring for their times) right from its '60s beginnings. 1982 had featured a story about racism, then started a new and highly topical story which ran throughoout 1983.

After years developing the technique, the first test tube baby had been born four years previously, but in 1982 the concept still seemed startlingly new and perhaps rather odd to many of us plebs. But it was an ideal storyline for one Crossroads character.

Oh, how Glenda Banks wanted a baby!

But she couldn't have one.

Until the notion of having a test tube baby entered her head...

And then, despite her mother Kath's doubts about the method ("interfering with nature!"), husband Kevin's doubts about having a child at all, and her mother-in-law Sally Banks' horror at the social implications (Whatever would her friend Bunty say?!), Glenda became a woman with a mission. Her grumpy father, Arthur, surprisingly supported her, but as he was bumped off in a hit and run car accident in late 1982, Glenda was soon on her own again. But, having walked out on Kevin to get him to agree to becoming a test tube parent before her father's untimely demise, Glenda was now on the road to fulfilling her desperate need for a baby of her own.

It wasn't easy to raise the brass.

But finally she found herself in hospital, all systems go. And she was lucky - her very first attempt at conceiving via in vitro fertilisation was successful.

And then the real world objected...

Daily Mirror, October 24, 1983: 

Crossroads was attacked last night for giving TV viewers the idea that it is easy to have a test-tube baby.

Waitress Glenda Banks, played by actress Lynette McMorrough, is due to have a test-tube baby in January.

But a group representing couples who are desperate to have children claims the soap opera storyline is far from the truth.

Peter Houghton, director of the National association of Childless Couples, said: "It is totally unrealistic because it makes the whole question of test-tube babies seem easy."

Brenda Holliday, the association's administrator, has sent a letter of protest to the producers.

She said: "Our members are disgusted because they have been through the terrible heartache of waiting for a baby and then they see a show like Crossroads which makes it seem so easy.

"If the Crossroads team knew what many couples suffer through spending years on waiting lists and going through the anguish of not conceiving they might realise why so many people have been infuriated by Glenda's test-tube baby."

A spokesman for Central TV, which makes Crossroads, said: "Our scriptwriters carried out a great deal of research. They are making this part of the plot as authentic as possible." 

Hmm... well, Glenda was only on the waiting list for a short time...

But in defence of Crossroads, upon her arrival at the hospital, Glenda met a woman called Rachel who had had several unsuccessful attempts at conceiving via in vitro fertilisation, and experienced another failure whilst Glenda was there.

There was at least some attempt to balance Glenda's good fortune. 

And it was nice to see the Brownlow/Banks family enjoying a happy storyline. They didn't have many.


Dave Mullen said...

I recall very little of its actual content but like you I remember Crossroads was a part of life, it had to be watched, no matter what else was going on in life.
Looking back I suppose it was the arrival of Eastenders and the 'arms' race between it and Coronation Street (and Emmeredale Farm of corse!) that sealed its fate. After all, it's set in a four star Hotel... how can that format compete with the open-plan nature of Eastenders & Co.

It was interesting to watch the Emmerdale Farm serials they showed on the sattelite channel a few years ago, these from the "Good old Days" when the farm was central and the Sugden clan ruled all. I have to say for all the mockery of Crossroads' storylines Emmerdale Farm here was no better... some utterly bonkers plots....

Drew said...

Oddly enough though, Dave, the revamped Crossroads was going great guns when the decision was taken to axe it. It was the third or fourth most popular programme on the ITV Network, when the decision was made in the summer of 1987. The last episode was broadcast in April 1988.