Since   he   took   over   the   responsibilities   of   producer   he   and his   team   maintained   the   programme's   popularity   and   high place   in   the   ratings,   but   on   the   one   occasion   swept   the board taking the top four places of the ratings chart. Dedication    is    the    overriding    quality    Jack    brings    to    the programme.   Crossroads   is   what   he   lives   and   breathes.   There is   no   limit   to   his   working   day.   He   exudes   confidence   and energy which inspires everyone around him - Central Press Release, 1984 The man who built Crossroads into TV's best-known motel admitted that it wasn't easy to leave the show. It   was   like   getting   a   divorce.   For   seventeen   years   I   had   only   seen   my   wife   at   weekends.   She'll   tell   you   I   was   not   married   to   her   -   I   was   married   to Crossroads! The programme had taken over my life. What would you say being a producer is about? It it simply planning the future of the series? I   felt   I   was   the   father   of   a   family   and   they,   I   hope,   felt   the   same   way.   Cast   and   crew   would   come   to   me   if   they   have   any   personal   or   domestic   problems and I'd try to sort them out. And like fathers with families, sometimes I have to chastise them. Jack   started   in   show   business   at   the   age   of   14   when   he   joined   Bertram   Mills'   Circus   as   a   ring   boy.   But   he   was   soon   working   on   the   other   side   of   the footlights.   He   was   offered   the   job   of   directing   three-year-old   Crossroads   in   1967.   What   made   you   join   a   series   which,   by   1967,   had   certainly become the show critics loved to hate? I   thought   it   could   be   done   better. At   that   time   soap   opera   was   a   comparatively   new   thing   and   there   was   definitely   room   for   improvement.   But   it   was   going out five nights a week and I thought it was a great challenge. What do you think about people comparing Crossroads to other 'big budget' shows? I   think   the   only   difference   between   us   and   Dallas,   Dynasty   and   Coronation   Street   was   the   time   we   went   out.   Because   we   aired   in   the   early   evening   slot, we   had   to   be   careful   we   didn't   embarrass   anyone.   We   dealt   with   romance   rather   than   sex,   we   rarely   used   any   mild   bad   language,   no   one   ever   smoked   on the programme and people only ever had a drink socially. But the show had tackled more serious issues too? The   affair   between   David   Hunter   and   Sarah   Alexander,   in   which   the   smooth,   married,   motel   boss   made   his   one-time   mistress   pregnant   was   the   sexiest Crossroads   has   ever   been   in   my   time.   So   over   the   years   Crossroads   has   grown   up   and   become   more   adult.   But   what   shocked   viewers   most   about   that   wasn't the fact of the affair itself, but that David had betrayed his wife. Crossroads   did   care   about   the   viewers   and   what   innocent   eyes   might   see,   it   didn't   change   after   the   arrival   of   Brookside,   which   tried   to   be sometimes offensive and often sensational, why? The   viewers   care.   They   get   emotionally   involved   and   are   terribly   loyal.   In   fact,   my   years   at   Crossroads   have   been   worthwhile   if   only   for   the   way   we   have been able to help people in return. We   helped   establish   the   Crossroads   Care   Attendant   Scheme   for   the   disabled;   we   introduced   a   mentally-handicapped   child   into   a   TV   drama   for   the   first time and we also helped set up a hospital unit for children with kidney disease by featuring the subject on the programme. Later   programmes   can   be   more   visual,   maybe   more   immoral,   but   at   6   O'clock   Crossroads   was   primarily   there   to   entertain   bringing   a   mixture   of   drama   and comedy   to   teatime   audiences.   People   don't   want   to   be   dealing   with   heavy   drama   in   the   early   evening,   they   want   something   easy   going,   relaxing.   It   wasn't devised to upset or offend. And   what   about   the   critics?   Crossroads   is   a   programme   that   has   aired   in   daytime   reaching   prime   time   ratings,   won   many   viewer   voted   awards,   yet continued to be mocked by anyone who wasn't a regular viewer? Anyone   can   pick   out   a   line   from   the   narrative   or   a   singular   scene   and   make   it   look   stupid,   however   a   lot   of   programmes   when   footage   is   taken   out   of context   do   not   work.   People   who   watched   the   show   night   after   night   would   understand   the   way   the   format   of   Crossroads   operated;   those   who   dipped   in and out of it or saw only a few moments would not. I think it really was as basic as that. All   of   us,   without   exception,   have   been   hurt   by   the   criticism   of   Crossroads.   But   whatever   anyone   feels   about   the   programme,   each   and   every   one   of   us worked   desperately   hard   to   bring   happiness   and   entertainment   to   our   regular   audience.   The   trouble   is   that   the   sort   of   thing   the   audience   love   is   exactly what the critics slam. I am very proud and happy with my years on the programme. Not just the critics, the television watchdog also took a dislike to it? It   affected   their   egos,   I   think.   They   couldn't   be   proud   of   Crossroads   because   of   the   jokes   critics   had   made.   It   didn't   matter   sixteen   million   enjoyed   it. When   they   cut   us   down   from   five   to   four   episodes   they   gave   the   excuse   they   wanted   something   more   cultural   in   what   had   been   our   fifth   slot   of   the   week. Apparently the talent search Opportunity Knocks and, our own [ATV's] game show, The Golden Shot were deemed more cultured. People watched it because it's awful? Not   at   all.   We   used   to   receive   thousands   of   letters   every   week   from   viewers   who   just   wanted   to   say   "thank   you"   to   us   for   entertaining   them. A   programme doesn't   run   for   over   two   decades   with   huge   audiences   by   being   awful.   Car   crash   television,   as   they   seem   to   call   it   these   days,   will   have   good   ratings   for   a few weeks at the most; people soon get tired of bad television. The   viewers   proudly   wrote   into   the   TV   Times   letters   page   supporting   the   programme   over   many   years,   they   voted   for   us   in   practically   every   television award going and quite a few times we won those awards. What kind of correspondence did the Crossroads offices receive? Some   send   in   their   CVs   asking   for   work   at   the   motel,   we   also   have   in   the   past   had   concerned   viewers   call   in   to   see   if   one   of   the   characters   is   coping   with   a difficult   time   or   to   offer   advice.   Most   however   just   liked   to   let   us   know   that   they   loved   the   programme   and   had   come   to   see   many   of   the   characters   as personal friends. Some don't get wrapped up in the fiction and write in asking for auditions? Well   to   many   of   our   older   viewers   Crossroads   was   the   most   important   programme   on   television.   They're   not   impressed   by   more   expensive   serials   or dramas, to be seen in Crossroads meant, to them, the person had 'made it'. So   therefore   we   used   to   get   a   lot   of   letters   from   mothers   and   grandmothers   offering   their   children   or   grandchildren's   services.   Michael   Crawford's   mother wrote in suggesting he'd be great in a role. So did Julie Walters and Gemma Craven's mothers. What did you think about Crossroads after you departed in 1984? It   really   wasn't   Crossroads   they   finished   in   1988,   the   true   Crossroads   had   ended   years   before.   You   can't   make   it   into   a   totally   new   programme,   you   can't suddenly   say   you   want   to   reach   a   whole   new   audience   and   disregard   the   loyal   viewers.   Many   were   housewives   and   elderly,   but   are   we   to   say   they   should not be watching television? We shouldn't have programmes for that group of people? You   can't   suddenly   clear   out   the   majority   of   the   cast,   taking   away   the   viewers   familiar   old   friends,   and   replace   them   with   more   youthful   characters   and still expect the programme to remain popular. It was all smart speeches and pretty pictures, the caring side; the family side had been wiped away. But you did agree that some long term characters had to leave from time to time, like Meg Mortimer, played from episode one by Noele Gordon? I   agreed   with   Charles   Denton*   that   she   had   to   go,   because   we   no   longer   could   have   the   programme   evolving   around   one   central   character.   It   had   to   evolve and slowly change and I don't feel it ever could have with Meg still as the matriarchal figure. She   was   hurt   of   course,   Nolly.   She   had   been   a   personal   friend   for   years,   but   she   wouldn't   have   accepted   her   character   of   Meg   being   cut-down,   placed   out in   the   village   into   retirement   or   running   the   post   office.   Noele   was   a   star,   and   loved   being   the   lead.   She   would   have   hated   being   reduced   to   playing   one   of the many supporting characters. So I do really feel rather than the indignity of Nolly going through that, it was best for her to go with a big send off. What is your fondest memory of working on Crossroads? The   most   fun   I   had   was   while   filming   the   leaving   of   Meg   Mortimer.   Under   a   shroud   of   secrecy,   I   tried   to   ensure   that   the   media   got   no   inkling   of   Meg's eventual means of dispatch. I even donned a fake moustache to throw reporters off the scent while filming aboard the QE2 in Southampton. Finally what about that love-hate relationship with the newspapers? I   loved   playing   cat   and   mouse   with   the   press.   When   I   was   spotted   by   a   group   of   journalists   and   they   asked   me   who   I   was,   I   said   my   name   was   Wolfenden and marched past. It was actually the stage manager's name and I just plucked it out of the air. *It was later revealed that Charles Denton had not dismissed Noele.
 © Crossroads Fan Club 1987-2016, Jack Barton Interview courtesy of the Central Television Press Office Archive