The Mirror reflects on Crossroads’ ratings success

Would a souped-up motel drive you away from the Rover’s?


THERE must be a few worried faces behind the scenes at the Rovers Return these days.

But there are certainly a few much happier ones some miles south of the Rover’s Coronation Street home in Granadaland.

The smiles are at a certain Midlands motel. That motel, of course, is the base for ATV’s serial Crossroads.

The reason for the Crossroads smiles is the placing the long-running serial was given in a Gallup Poll on Britain’s Most Popular TV shows.

Meg Richardson and her motel were put at number six in the table, which you might expect was headed by Coronation Street.

But its the Crossroads slot that intrigues me – a show not fully networked, unlike its Northern rival, so that the Midlands show is quite unknown to viewers in Granada, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees TV areas.

Understandably Granada has never screened Crossroads to their viewers. They obviously see it as a threat to their own long-running Coronation Street.

The two other Northern ITV contractors also prefer the Weatherfield serial to the Kings Oak offering so Crossroads can never get the same sized audiences as its rival.

The other drawback is its afternoon timing, which again does not attract viewers like The Street’s early evening slot. The Crossroads fans are loyal and scattered. The show is in the Top Ten for Anglia, Ulster, North-East Scotland (Grampian), South-West England (Westward) and Border and the Channel Islands (CTV).

When Thames Television dropped it from the London schedules there as such an outcry they had to put it back on again. This rivalry between ITV’s only home-produced serials poses the question ‘Would Crossroads oust Coronation Street if it got the Coronation Street treatment?’

Not that either programme is exactly a critics choice. What is the attraction of this four-days-a-week saga of the comparatively trivial goings-on at a motel owned by a middle-aged mother, played by Noele Gordon?.

Reg Watson, who has produced Crossroads since episode one back in 1964, is a man well-used, by now, to the sarcasm and the ire the programme attracts from almost everyone – except the 9,000,000 viewers who look in on an average day.

“I sometimes get the feeling that the critics are criticising in a manner which they hope will be fashionable among their colleagues.

“Could they, for instance, suggest something which would be more successful than Crossroads?. I also believe that many television producers are creating programmes that will please other television producers.

“I think that they should perhaps consider the viewer. What I am trying to do is produce a decent series about decent people, for a family audience who won’t be afraid to look in.”

Mr Watson added,

“Why would we try to offend people? Why should we put on kitchen sink gritty stuff to please our critics? I think that people are absolutely fed-up with it – and with being preached at about their attitudes to certain social problems today.”

Nine million people agreed, there could be even more if they had the choice.

[Later Gallup Polls placed Crossroads in the top spot, and despite being on at teatime – or in some regions earlier – by the mid 1970s Crossroads was beating some prime time programmes including Granada’s offering.]

The Daily Mirror, by Mary Griffiths, 1970.