BBC News report that loyal viewers are gathering at the real-life exterior location of the motel-based saga to toast the series which at its peak gained 18 million viewers per episode four nights a week. The series also proved so popular, despite airing at different times and days across the ITV network, it trumped prime time serial Coronation Street in the ratings.
Launched in 1964 as a teatime five-episodes-a-week soap it became Britain’s first – and to date – only serial to be produced to the American serial format. It was also the UK’s first full-length daily saga. Lead by television pioneer Noele Gordon, the series was set in the fictional world of Kings Oak village, near Birmingham. Noele’s character of Meg Richardson saw her become the most popular person on British television during the 1970s – Noele to date has more soap awards than any other UK serial performer. She was branded ‘The Queen of ITV’ during her 17-years on the show.
“Crossroads was more than just a TV series, it became a national institution. By the end of its original run which ended in 1988, 4,510 episodes had been screened. Its characters and the actors who played them were household names. ” – noted The Express newspaper earlier this week.
Names such as Benny Hawkins (Paul Henry) Jill Chance (Jane Rossington), Adam Chance (Tony Adams) and Amy Turtle (Ann George) became friends to millions, many lonely older viewers, who, especially took to the characters.
The show bowed out in 1988 when Central TV’s Andy Allan dropped the production in order to free up the studio time for more lucrative drama programming. It was briefly revived between 2001 and 2002 by Carlton Productions, but it failed to capture a large enough audience for ITV bosses in London – this despite it being ITV’s most watched daytime programme and a figure still unbeaten. In 2003 a third version aired. This was to be a camp, spoof of a soap; however baring the Crossroads name. Its dire ratings saw the OTT comedy format dropped within five months.
Now on the day of the 50th anniversary two specials take place to mark the shows beginnings. BBC Radio 2 are to air a special edition of The Paul O’Grady Show which is to reunite old motel faces such as Susan Hanson, who played waitress Diane Hunter, with co-stars such as Rossington and Adams. Crossroads at 50 airs today from 5pm to 7pm on 88-91FM, on DAB and online at the BBC iPlayer.
There are also celebrations taking place in the Midlands.
“Fans of TV soap Crossroads are marking its 50th anniversary at a real hotel which doubled up as the show’s motel… The Sutton Coldfield Ramada site was used for outdoor filming in the 1980s before the ITV soap was axed in 1988.” – BBC News
Members of the Peter Ling officially endorsed fan club for the soap, the Crossroads Appreciation Society, are gathering at the hotel to share memories and items from the production as part of a weekend of celebrations. While the show may no longer be on air, its legacy continues with the Crossroads Care charity; founded by the series and its production company, ATV, back in 1974. The carers charity is now one of the biggest of its kind in the world.