Saturday, 12 October 2013

Thank You, Crossroads!

Valerie: "Well, hello, darlings. Welcome to the Crossroads Motel 1983 'Coping With Life In The 21st Century' Stress Management Course..."

Life has not been particularly good for me lately. Everything from a sudden severe cold to family problems to ludicrously inaccurate "statements of fact" on Wikipedia have conspired to get me down. I've been feeling worn out. Every inch a couple of years off fifty. And thoroughly cheesed off with the 21st Century...

Youngsters texting away whilst I am trying to have a conversation with them; their complete indifference to political issues; griping and moaning from older folk (like me!); a highly prevalent "I'm all right, Jack, pull the ladder up" attitude all round; stress, stress and more stress; lack of money to do any thing relaxing with; a lack of warmth and caring which distresses me greatly...

OK, I was born in 1965 and the world has never been marvellous in my lifetime, but surely it wasn't always THIS bad? Or am I just getting old?

Anyway, I was at the local newspaper archive on Wednesday, doing a spot of research. The newspapers I had to study were from 1921 and 1983. The TV listings in the 1983 newspapers caught my eye and one title in particular - CROSSROADS! The local newspaper pundit "wittily" described it as "down the kitchen sink drama" in one episode synopsis!

Of course, Crossroads was extensively panned by TV critics for many years, but I always watched it and, a quick skim through other 1983 editions of the "local rag" whetted my appetite for a visit to the motel in that year. Those tantalising synopsis...

What was that about a poison pen letter? What crisis were the Pollards facing? And why was Sharon being questioned by the police?

On returning home, I suddenly remembered that my wife was away overnight. So, I scoffed some dinner, brewed a huge pot of tea and revisited Crossroads in 1983 via my DVD collection of episodes originally taped on VHS from the UK Gold repeats. Once safely back in King's Oak, I rediscovered characters that talk to each other about everyday things, a little bit of (slightly camp!) melodrama, and a great deal of warmth.

I'm now feeling rather better than I did.

And it's not the first time this often ridiculed old soap has come to my rescue.

So much more realistic than the modern soaps' obsessions with serial killers and explosions...

AND so much better written! Yep, soap that was produced for people who have an attention span that is longer than that of a retarded goldfish!


So, I say ( and not for the first time)....


I'll be booking in again very soon.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Brownlows: The Mystery Of The Disappearing Dinner...

"It's all very well you saying 'use that tin of spam - give Dad sandwiches for dinner,' Glenda, but that tin's been in the cupboard since 1980 and you can't give a man spam when he's been out working all day."

Stumbled upon an intriguing Crossroads culinary mystery in a a copy of the Sun newspaper, dated February 19, 1982 today:

Tucking into a hot meal

A real life whodunnit has developed behind the scenes of telly's Crossroads.

It started when a meal was specially cooked and laid on the table of the studio home of the Brownlows.

The cast left for a short break and when they returned someone had scoffed the lot.

Now Central TV has really made a meal of it by issuing a memo laying down strict rules on who eats what and when.

Staff of the hit telly series are hardly on breadline wages, yet this is the second time since January that food has been swiped.

One of the official cakes for the channel's launch also went missing. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Remembering Margaret John As Marian Owen...

Margaret John as Marian Owen in Crossroads, a part she played from 1978 to 1985. ATV photograph courtesy of the Crossroads Appreciation Society.

Tim has written:

I remember very fondly the character of Marion Owen, the receptionist at the group practice in King's Oak, and Kevin's aunty in the Crossroads saga in the 1980's. I was saddened to hear of actress Margaret John's death a while ago, as I think she was one of the best Welsh TV actresses around. What do you remember about the Marion Owen character? I'd love it if you could write a blog post about her.

Well, like you, Tim, I remember Marian Owen as played by Margaret John, very fondly. Marian was actually not much of a character - she was sensible and understanding, but not particularly interesting. Highly skilled actress Margaret John invested the character with a tremendous warmth, and so she became not only Kevin Banks's auntie, but probably the auntie we all would like to have, and a character who added tremendous "watchability" to every episode she appeared in.

She first appeared in 1978 and was a recurring character until 1985. 

In 1980, Marian moved beyond the group practice in the village to develop a home of her own, and a family - with the arrival of her nephew, Kevin Banks, soon to be followed by her dreadfully snobbish sister, Sally, and brother-in-law, Oliver.

A childless widow, Marian spent no time moping about. She gave a caring ear to friends and family, and spoke commonsense at times of crisis. It was in her house, around November 1980, that the devious Iris Scott seduced Kevin whilst Marian was out. Oh dear! What a hoo-hah that caused! Poor Glenda was devastated. Of course, Marian was around to help calm the ensuing shock waves.

Popping in and out of the serial, Marian had no real story-lines of her own. She always took part in other characters' stories. 

By early 1982, Marian had moved out of her large house near the golf course into smaller accommodation, and the house had been sold to Reg and Jennifer Lamont.

1983 was a big year for Marian as her sister Sally discovered that her marriage had squalled on to the rocks - hubby Oliver had fallen for Sharon Metcalfe of the motel garage, and Glenda and Kevin went in for a test tube baby. Although kind and caring, Marian could speak out when needed. It was in 1983 that she took Kevin to task for bossing Kath around. In the wake of Arthur's death in 1982, it must be said that Glenda and Kevin had both got a bit domineering when it came to the home front at the Brownlows', and Kevin certainly needed telling. And who better to do so than Auntie Marian? I remember cheering at the time!

Marian was a good friend and understanding confidante to Kath Brownlow, as she faced up to widowhood.  She last appeared in 1985, as a guest at the wedding of Kath to Stephen Fellowes. 

Marian was a very positive character. As a widow with no children, she could have been pathetic and whingeing, but she was always positive. An aunt of mine, in similar circumstances herself, said she found Marian a great comfort. That was in the days when soap operas did positive characters. Far too many nowadays are just the opposite (in my humble opinion!).

It was Margaret John who turned Marian from what could have been a make-weight short stayer into a cherished Crossroads memory. I have read elsewhere that the actress was a "national treasure". Well, I've never seen her more noted role in Gavin And Stacey, but for her Crossroads character alone I'd have to agree.

Christmas 1980, and Margaret John, dressed in character as Marian Owen (back row, far right), lines up in reception with other members of the Crossroads cast, including Roger Tonge as Sandy Richardson, Noele Gordon as Meg Mortimer, Jane Rossington as Jill Harvey, Tony Adams as Adam Chance and Kathy Staff as Doris Luke. Thanks are due again to the Crossroads Appreciation Society for supplying this ATV photograph.

2003: When Crossroads Became A Spoof Of 1980s American Soaps...

Did you like 1980s American soaps? There was Dallas, originally quite a hard-edged saga of Texan oil millionaires on a ranch, initially viewers almost felt they could get dung on their cowboy boots if they stepped into the scenario. Then came Dynasty - with improbable clothes and far more romantic/melodramatic story-lines. Dynasty followed on from Dallas, but had its own influence on the slightly older series, which also became camper, dressier, etc.

So, what has all this to do with Crossroads? Well, watching episodes from the 2003 version, as produced by Yvon Grace, I can't help wondering why she bothered? This wasn't King's Oak. it wasn't Crossroads. No number of Meg Mortimer Suites could make it so. Here we had what largely appeared to be a spoof on 1980s American soaps - Dallas and Dynasty, specifically, circa 1983-1987.

We had the bitch (very Alexis!), the bad guy (very JR!), power struggles, intrigue, a very 1980s neon sign. But even more we had obvious nods towards 1980s land with two of the main female characters having a fight in a fountain (very Krystle and Alexis in Dynasty!) and then the whole series was a dream (very Bobby Ewing in 1986).

I'd love to see a revival of Crossroads. But I found the 2001 version too youth orientated and the follow-up too '80s spoof.

Perhaps one day the seemingly impossible might happen. But until then, as far as I'm concerned, the last time I visited King's Oak was in 1988.

Everything that followed, I've discounted.

And, as it was all a dream, that's just as well really...