A new producer, Yvon Grace, was drafted in to build on the already growing viewing figures. Crossroads would resume production in August 2002. Ms Grace was awarded the task of finding the show another million to add to its ratings. To many, it seemed that this wouldn’t be such a hard task; the show had settled in the schedules. All Crossroads needed was gripping plots and a few links to the past. Something Yvon promised.
“We’ll remember the old series fondly.” – Yvon Grace Fantastic – Crossroads really was back, and many of those new one million viewers could very well be old fans if they had something familiar to watch. Through the summer of 2002, Yvon Grace planned her strategy for the saga. Bosses had requested some changes be made to the show, although these proposals were discussed before the last surge in ratings had happened, so by the time Crossroads went back into production there really was no need for any major revamps.
The final 2002 episode of Crossroads aired on August 30th, a day later Carlton released news of what plans Yvon had for the hotel soap. And to many, it wasn’t what they’d expected. Crossroads was to become “Dallas In Dudley” as the Daily Mirror’s headline stated. Yvon told the Crossroads Fan Club that she had watched the original as a child, and her version would be fondly reflecting some of the elements from the first incarnation.
A new host of star names had been signed up to the revamped show, Jane Asher, Kate O’Mara, Anne Charleston and Lionel Blair were all revealed as some of the new hotel faces. It seemed the second series had been unofficially axed by Carlton, with a new third version launching in the New Year. It also seems the mini-revamp which was to appeal to the original fans and older viewers was also being flung into the skip along with Crossroads’ slick image. The build-up to the re-launch saw Executive Producer Yvon Grace come out with some very bold statements:
“The thing about Crossroads now is we are inheriting a loyal audience, you know, its a brand name, its a loyal brand name and people know it, and they remember it of the old days.”
“It’s beautiful, it’s Cezars Palace Laz Vegas crossed with a beautiful boudoir.”
“Its a frock show, its a frock show definitely, it’s a girls show.”
“Its fantasy, escapist, glitzy and glamorous, the new Dynasty”
“Crossroads will be a must-see daytime show”
“There will be plenty of sexy men and sexy women, all doing naughty things.”
“Failure is not in my vocabulary”
“Who cares if Phil is rotting in jail for a murder he didn’t commit? I’ve changed everything, this is day one. We’re not carrying on from where we left off.”
“I was told this was its last chance. So I thought ‘Let’s be bold, lets make Dallas for British tea time”
“The women are beautiful, the men are gorgeous and the plots fantastic”
“There’s a brand loyalty, and it would be foolish to throw that away. It’s like Heinz Beans. People know what to expect”
“There’s no Benny, no Sandy Richardson; There are no historical references whatsoever. I’ve been very ruthless. I want to concentrate on the new world.”
Fans had waited four months to see how the Crossroads Hotel would look and feel, opinions were split, many thought something new and different at tea-time is just what audiences needed, others thought there was no reason not to have more of the same, with maybe some mild improvements: others couldn’t quite make up there mind what Crossroads should be anymore.
The proof is in the facts, and in television, ratings and audience share do the talking. Crossroads returned at 5 pm on January 13th 2003, and instead of lunchtime repeat, a new Saturday omnibus would air on the regional network. Was the third incarnation more like the original Crossroads? Yes, in actual fact it was! Yvon gave the soap an escapist feel; it was fantasy, simply 25 minutes of drama that people could drift off into.
This was the Crossroads style of 1964-1972. When Reg Watson first brought the TV motel to life, it was lightweight afternoon entertainment. Although Yvon didn’t bring any old cast back, she did pay tribute to “the Queen of Crossroads”, by having one of the hotel suites named after the original owner, Meg Mortimer. Also in the first episode of series three, the first line from 1964 was re-used by Angel Samson, the new owner.
Crossroads was now “somewhere” all reference to Birmingham and the midlands had been dropped. (Something which had offended people in the city, the Birmingham Evening Mail printed articles about the fury of locals over the soap forgetting its roots.) Within weeks viewers had noticed that a lot of the ‘new’ stories were actually recycled ones from the previous incarnation. Also, there seemed to be an uncanny similarity to stateside soap, Sunset Beach in storylines. Sadly, the ‘tacky American’ factors were to be the main thing that turned viewers off. Crossroads trying to emulate Dallas and Dynasty just didn’t work, there was too much ‘fake glamour’ and to some people, Crossroads was now just a spoof of other soaps.
The whole show came across as nothing more than a cheesy comedy, which seemed keen on cheesy cliché-filled scenes and terrible hammy acting. The stories were too far-fetched and unbelievable and acted in such a manner that you couldn’t take any of it seriously. You can’t make programmes so bad they’re good but the bosses at the network seemed to dictate this is how they wanted Crossroads to be.
“You can’t make a programme good by making it bad. And you can’t turn Birmingham or Nottingham into Dallas!” – Actor Neil Grainger
It has been suggested by staff at Carlton Yvon had little input in the changes, with the network, controlled by London-based management, to blame for the camp revamp. They told us the reboot was done to make sure the soap was axed for good. The reason? The main suggestion is down to cost-cutting:
“It isn’t about programmes anymore, its all about profit. The Lenton Lane studios where Crossroads had been produced was a huge resource and a one that never made money, it had to go, so the soap and all the other programmes had to go too.” An ex-Carlton staffer told us.
It does seem rather odd that all the shows produced in the midlands from the Carlton base were axed within a short period of time. Actor Graham McGrath who played Jimmy Samson in the 2003 series also seemed to be aware Crossroads was keeping the entire Carlton Nottingham centre in business:
“It wasn’t just the Crossroads cast and crew that would lose their jobs – the future of Lenton Lane studios and all those who worked there in Nottingham depended on the show, too. It was an inevitable economical decision that came about because of the changing structure of Carlton and Granada as a company, and anyone with a business perspective can see that.”
The ratings for the first week started off with the same number of viewers the final weeks of 2002 had. A week later and a huge drop in the audience had occurred, this continued month after month, until finally over half of the audience of 2002 had deserted the 2003 version. Carlton bosses blamed the four-month hiatus, which they suggested viewers had moved away from Crossroads to Channel 4 and BBC Two. The problem with that excuse – which it is – is the fact Crossroads fared well against Richard & Judy on Channel 4 before the reboot. It is true that most viewers switched off from ITV when Crossroads departed the screens in 2002, but in actual fact, the same number of viewers tuned in to the first episode of 2003 that had watched the last episode in 2002.
The real ‘reason’ people switched off Crossroads week-after-week was because they didn’t like the changes, they didn’t like what it had become so they took desperate measures – and started watching Richard & Judy again. Another major problem was that series two had been left unresolved and in the new programme we had moved on a whole 12 months, rather than the real 4-month gap. People wanted answers and they weren’t given them. Another excuse for the failure in viewers was that Carlton had failed to hype the new show. The reality of that was actually there were four Crossroads trailers and they were regularly played during the daytime schedules and even in the prime time, one example being during a commercial break in Coronation Street.
The return had also been well covered in the press, including large spreads in the Radio Times, TV Times and various soap magazines. To say many didn’t know it was back is a very lame excuse. Schedulers soon ditched the Saturday omnibus, shunting it to a graveyard slot in the early hours of Sunday mornings. A few weeks later and the omnibus quietly left the listings entirely.
Failure wasn’t in Yvon’s vocabulary, but it was now on her CV. With the departure of Granada’s David Liddiment as head of the network his replacement, Nigel Pickard, decided his first victim would be Crossroads. It was axed after just four months. In the end, 98 editions for series three were made and the final one aired on May 30th 2003.
Things change, views change, and the ITV network in recent years seemed to welcome the original back into their hearts, with a page on the website of the official broadcaster where a history of the show, facts and even old episodes were contained in the ‘Best Of ITV’ section for a number of years. Also between 2006 and 2009, a large mural of ITV personalities adorned the wall of their HQ in London – including Paul Henry as lovable motel handyman Benny. The series also proved popular on DVD when Network Releasing issued more than 300 episodes over 20 volumes.
|Page credits: written in parts by John Drury, Mike Garrett, Douglas Lambert and Tom Dearnley Davidson. Quotes courtesy of Charles Denton to CAS, Margaret Matheson to CAS, Scott Curtis, Jane Rossington to CAS, Neil Grainger to CAS, Graham McGrath to CAS, Phillip Bowman in The Sun and Noele Gordon from her autobiography, My Life At Crossroads by Star Books. Photographs courtesy of Reg Watson, Central Press Office, Carlton Archive, Alex Fryer, Greg Taylor and Carlton Television Press.
Press cuttings courtesy of Reg Watson, Mike Garrett and The Weekly News Archives, Manchester.