Reg is the entertainer

Crossroads just sets out to entertain

♦THE STAGE, MAY 27th, 1971

REG WATSON, the Australian producer, of ATV’s serial Crossroads, which reached its 1,500th edition on Tuesday, has been with the programmes since its inception. What, I asked him, did he think were the reasons for the programme’s success?

“Crossroads sets out to entertain,” says Watson, “If we can entertain all is well. Then we go for expertise so far as our writers are concerned. people who have written for Coronation Street and Ward Ten. They are the people who have done a lot of work and know what it is all about.”

I had wondered if Crossroads has been used as a training ground both for artists and technicians. Watson dispelled this view. “True, one of our former directors who trained on Crossroads subsequently worked on Coronation Street and Family at War. But we don’t look upon ourselves as a training ground. This is a very professional operation.”

Watson went on to explain that so far as actors were concerned he goes for people who are capable of characterisation. “Once we have established a character we like to carry them on. Arnold Ridley (Godfrey in BBC1’s Dad’s Army) used to play the vicar who retired. Now he has returned as the gardener. The same character doing a different job.”

Teamwork, an essential ingredient in any television programme would appear to be particularly strong in the imaginary world surrounding the motel. Reg Watson has no doubt as to the value of this.

“I have a tremendous admiration for the people who work on it. It is hard work and they are very professional.”

The basic construction of the serial is relatively simple in that it has four separate storylines running concurrently. Each lasts up to four weeks and they overlap to provide the link between characters.

Recently the scope of the stories was extended. A marriage has enabled the programme to take a peep at working class attitudes as well as those of the middle class to whom the programme is essentially directed.

In addition, there is now a considerable amount of Outside Broadcast footage – up to 20% in some episodes – and a distinctly rural influence has been introduced – Watson used to do a farming programme in the Midlands I asked him if he looked upon Crossroads as a second feature, all be it a successful one. “No” he said, “At a recent script conference it was agreed that we couldn’t wish for better ratings. We agreed that if we didn’t continually strive to improve standards it just wouldn’t last.”

“All of us,” he continued, “would love to drive Rolls-Royces but we realise that most of us have to drive smaller family saloons. Even if we had a larger budget I don’t think we would necessarily change for bigger names in the casting.”

Watson doesn’t share the view that there should be more programmes of the Crossroads calibre emanating from the other ITV regions. He feels you would end up with too many… He has seen this happen on the radio in his native Australia.

Nevertheless, he regretted the passing of Weavers Green, Anglia Television’s twice-weekly serial with a rural setting. This was killed off largely due to the indifference of the major ITV companies.

Of his own contribution to the series, he is reluctant to comment. “The acting is for those in front of the camera rather than those behind. The yardstick as far as I’m concerned is that if I would sit down and watch it. The day it bores me I’ll be off!”

The Stage, by James Towler, 1971.