A look at the people who brought Crossroads to life from 1964 to 2003.Reg Watson
Reg grew up on a sugar farm in Queensland, in his teens he ventured into the world of broadcasting as a radio actor. He moved to the UK in 1955 and joined ATV Midlands in January 1956. He produced at least once every programme ever made at the Aston studios.
Productions ranged from factual such as Midland Farming, darts game show Hit The Limit and chat show Tea with Noele Gordon. Reg first suggested a daily serial to ATV in 1959 – it wasn’t until nearly five years later that Lord Lew Grade approved the idea.
Reg had joined ATV from its inception, and before launching Crossroads was established as a producer of high-quality entertainment and variety programmes at the Midlands division. These included the highly popular Lunchbox magazine show and Hi-T. Crossroads in the early years under Reg was very light-weight, it was aiming at ‘housewives’ and had an early afternoon slot. Reg made the series mainly an entertainment programme with occasional serious and socially realistic plots. 21 years later and Australian daily-soap, Neighbours would also share this idea of fun and drama mixed with a perfect blend.
In 1974, Reg decided to return home to Australia. He joined the Grundy Organisation and soon was creating such serial hits as Prisoner: Cell Block H, Sons and Daughters and world-famous Neighbours. In 2010 Reg was awarded the OMA, the Australian equivalent of a British MBE. He passed away in 2019 after a short illness. Despite retiring in the 1990s he kept an interest in all his programmes and was keenly following the Crossroads Fan Club and our work – even providing press cuttings and information in recent years.
First Episode as the producer – episode 1, last episode as producer – 2105.
Jack had worked on Crossroads as a director on-and-off in the 60s and before that worked with Noele Gordon in theatre as a director and later on with her at ATV’s Birmingham based, variety show, Lunchbox. For Associated Television he was also one of the directors on weekend top-rating entertainment series, Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
Jack took over from Reg Watson in 1974, but the style of the show remained the same for the first few years, however over time he brought in many more social storylines and by the late 1970s was taking the show in a more serious direction. In 1982 he tried to move the show away entirely from its roots of fast-turn-around daily serial into the more standard British continuous drama format like that of Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm.
It failed and Barton was sacked in 1984. The series would return to its ‘soap opera’ roots under replacement Phillip Bowman. Barton also in his final years had a couple of ‘run in’s’ with Central Television over the way Crossroads was being treated. It was moved from the big studio one at ATV Centre, into the much smaller studio two, and the location budget was slashed. While Barton saw it through some of its most successful years – however with storylines and characters devised by Reg Watson – when Barton’s own vision was implemented the series’ ratings began to fall.
Barton also kept the series in its ‘as live’ format until 1984, making it a vastly out of date programme by the time he came to be dispatched. The first episode as director was 712, airing on 31st July 1967. He then directed many episodes thereafter, until he took over as the producer on episode 2106. His last episode was 4064. Jack Barton died on 28th October 2002. Despite his controversial status with some fans, he was a supporter of the fan club and donated items to its archive.
It was back to an Australian-born producer for Crossroads in 1984 as Central Television hired Philip Bowman to take-over from the soon to depart Jack Barton.
Philip had worked on Sons and Daughters and The Young Doctors for Reg Watson and Grundy Television before moving to the UK. Unlike the previous hand-over of producer – where on-screen no change had occurred – Bowman’s first episode of Crossroads was to have a whole new look. This first rebooted episode was number 4065.
Phillip brought a whole new production formula to the show, also a glamorous new look and sexier stories. Following four years of a dull and dreary feel and boring format the series was transformed into the most modern-looking soap on British TV. It was hardly surprising therefore that the ratings were boosted by the much more professional looking Crossroads which replaced the ‘as live’ incredibly dated predecessor.
The new era also retained a lot of its original qualities (and cast) and was even due to see the return of previously axed Noele Gordon. Sadly Phillip was moved to “other projects” and Noele Gordon died before she could return for her initial three- month stint as Meg, a friend of newcomer Nicola Freeman played by Gabrielle Drake.
Phillip has said that Ted Childs, head of drama didn’t want him to improve Crossroads, just change it – he regrets ever working on the programme. Bowman continues to work in television back in his native Australia. Including on a children’s comedy-drama that is produced in association with the BBC.
The return to soap opera and the glamorous format was sadly short-lived. Phillip’s last produced edition was episode number 4333.
After eight years of overseeing the BBC Radio soap, The Archers, William Smethurst was poached to take on Crossroads and make it into an all-new, all-upmarket Kings Oak serial.
He had originally been offered the role in 1984 but declined the offer at that time due to the state the series was in under Jack Barton. William was given a free-run with Crossroads, when he took over from Phillip Bowman, making any changes he saw fit, and he made many. Across 1987 a large chunk of the cast, some who had been in the series since the Noele Gordon days, other recent castings under Bowman were ditched as Smethurst took Crossroads once again away from soap opera into drama serial.
Unlike the Barton version of 1982-4, this attempt at serial came with lavish outside filming, sweeping countryside opening titles and more focus on the village of Kings Oak – indeed the intention was to rename the series as Kings Oak in 1988.
However the change to Kings Oak didn’t contribute to the show being axed – the new look didn’t launch until three months after Head Of Production at Central, Andy Allan shelved the show. William’s first episode was edition 4334. The last episode aired in its old ‘Crossroads’ style was episode number 4441. William’s last episode in producer role was number 4486.
After Kings Oak came to an end William stayed with Central Television for a number of years working alongside Ted Childs, who as Head Of Drama had wanted to improve Crossroads and make it work. Sadly for Ted and William, the show ended before their plans for Crossroads had been fully completed, however, dramas such as Boon and Peak Practice both were helped on their way by the Smethurst and Childs experience
From December 15th, 1987 to April 4th, 1988 William was credited as Executive Producer. The shows only Executive Producer in its original history. William passed away in 2016.
In the final months of Crossroads, Michele Buck took control of the soap alongside William. She started her career at Thames Television as a secretary. Buck then progressed up the ranks into production roles. Speaking to The Stage magazine in 2005 she commented that her rise through the television departments would no longer happen anymore:
“You can’t do it my way now, we only look at Oxford graduates. I would be suspicious if someone like me came along. They were golden times at Thames Television.”
In 1989 and 1992 she produced the Central comedy-drama Boon, and then went on to many other BBC and independent television drama series. She was also in charge of the short-lived LWT soap, Night and Day. Michele has more recently with her work at Granada helped produce and adapt the drama series Casanova for BBC Three she also produced four series of Peak Practice for Central Television.
Michelle’s first episode in the role as producer was edition 4487 airing on 15th December 1987. Her last episode was edition 4524. She was, during the late 1990s and early 2000s, in charge of drama output at Granada Television before leaving to work for Mammoth Screen an independent production company which she partly owns.
Bloom is noted as starting her career as a floor manager at the BBC and, just like Michelle Buck, worked her way up the television ranks. While at the Beeb she produced sitcom May To December – which starred ex-Crossroads actress Frances White in one of the lead roles. Bloom then moved to independent television and worked for Central Television in Nottingham on the popular Sunday evening medical drama, Peak Practice.
After a successful stint in the drama department, she joined the soon-to-air Crossroads reboot. As Executive Producer, she would oversee most of the series output for 2000-2002. After Crossroads was deemed a flop Bloom moved back to the drama division. It was decided rather than Bloom return to Peak Practice the show would be axed and a new drama would take its place. Sweet Medicine proved to also turn out a failure.
Kay had previously worked on the original Crossroads as an actress, playing the character of Jean Peterson back in December of 1967, and appeared in other series such as Z Cars and Doctor Who before moving behind the scenes as a director.
Behind the camera, Kay has directed Central’s short-lived space soap Jupiter Moon which aired on BSB, Yorkshire Television’s Emmerdale Farm and Channel 4’s Brookside. She worked on Coronation Street as a director before later returning to the series as its producer. After a successful stint at Granada in Manchester, Patrick switched her talents back to the Midlands and returned to Central Television to oversee the revival of Crossroads for Carlton in 2000.
Kay has also worked for the BBC on dramas Holby City, Sunburn and Mersey Beat. In recent years Kay returned to directing and back at Granada hit the headlines in May 2009 when she was injured on the outdoor set of Coronation Street. She had been knocked over by a car. A Granada Spokesperson said at the time:
“The accident occurred as the crew were setting up for a scene which involved a small amount of vehicle movement. The female director has been injured as a consequence and been taken to hospital. No other member of the cast or crew has been injured.”
The injuries proved to be minor. Kay was series producer for Crossroads in 2000 into 2001.
Peter replaced Kay as series producer running with the show from 2001 until its demise in 2003. Rose is possibly better known these days for his directing on BBC One soap, EastEnders. He started his career at the BBC as an assistant floor manager before becoming a production manager, notably on the BBC drama, Howard’s Way. He progressed to a director, working on Channel 4’s Brookside before returning to Howard’s Way.
He also directed Trainer and Come Outside for the BBC. Rose switched to Carlton to work on the new version of Crossroads, however since the series’ demise he first returned to the BBC as a director where he resumed work on EastEnders and also Holby City.
As of 2010 Rose was noted to be directing episodes of Yorkshire Television’s Emmerdale.
At Granada Television Yvon produced the comedy series’ My Dad’s a Boring Nerd and Knight School, in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Both shows such resounding successes that no one can remember them. A more successful stint at the BBC, however, would follow with work on EastEnders and also the early series’ of medical drama, Holby City.
Yvon is credited as ‘turning around’ the fortunes of Holby City making it a success for BBC One. In 2001 Yvon moved from behind the cameras to the front when she starred on the ‘Emmerdale soap stars’ competition, where she appeared as a judge. She was nicknamed ‘Evil Yvon’ for her scathing catty comments.
The show was searching for new acting talent to appear as a family in Emmerdale. The family picked by Yvon and co in SoapStars lasted almost as long as her time in charge of the Midlands’ most famous motel. In August 2002 it was announced Yvon was to take over Crossroads and make it a must-see show. I think its safe to say it didn’t quite work out that way.
Yvon has hinted it was ITV Network, not Carlton nor herself that set the decline into the new Crossroads. Insiders at the Carlton facility have suggested that bosses in London set about killing off everything made by the site to close down the studios – which were one of the biggest in Europe. Yvon now hosts training events for budding writers.
Eric Fawcett and Pieter Rogers
When Crossroads was in production for five episodes a week in the 1960s, producer Reg Watson would from time to time take a break from the workload and guest producers would be brought in for spells. Eric Fawcett and Pieter Rogers being the regular stand-ins.
Eric first filled in for Reg on episode 101 – remaining with Crossroads until episode 150. Reg then returned through to episode 570, thereafter Pieter Rogers took over up to episode 630. Reg again returned as the producer until episode 756 which Pieter took over once more through to episode 763.
Once the episodes were reduced to four a week, Reg remained in position until he left in 1974.
Eric died in 1972 aged 86, having started out as an actor he turned to behind the scenes in 1938. At the BBC he had produced shows such as Tony Hancock’s comedy series and Sunday Night Theatre. For other independent television companies, such as Granada Television, he oversaw productions such as sitcoms The Army Game and Bootsie and Snudge.
Pieter retired in 1985 and died in 2006 aged 78. At ATV as well as Crossroads he produced episodes of saga Emergency Ward 10 and drama Love Story. Also moving to Granada TV he produced daytime serial Crown Court in the 1970s.
Researched by Tom Dearnley-Davidson, Mike Garrett and Alex Loveless.