'Crossroads', home of wooden acting and flimsy sets, rises from the ashes

Severin Carrell
Friday 16 August 2013 05:09

The television soap Crossroads, based on a Midlands motel, which became infamous for its dodgy scripts and even dodgier sets, could soon reopen for business.

Detailed proposals to make an updated version of the classic daytime serial that ran for 24 years have been drawn up by Lord Alli, the director of productions for Carlton Television. Lord Alli said he "very badly" wanted to remake Crossroads to fill ITV's late-afternoon slot, which will be left vacant when the Australian soap Home and Away moves to Channel 5 next year.

Carlton will formally submit the idea to ITV on 24 April, but the proposal was greeted with mixed feelings by its former cast and the critics.

First launched in 1965, Crossroads drew audiences of 14 million at its peak, developing characters such as Benny Hawkins, the simple-minded handyman, and Meg Hunter, the hotel's first owner, who became national heroes.

The series could be the latest in a string of remakes from the Sixties and Seventies, including The Avengers, The Saint and Mission: Impossible. Carlton also unveiled its television remake of the classic film The Railway Children yesterday, which will star Jenny Agutter, the original child lead, as the children's mother.

Lord Alli, the former head of Planet 24, said he hoped to retain the Crossroads title and original theme music, written by Tony Hatch and later rerecorded by Paul McCartney's group Wings. Questions such as Benny's future have yet to be decided, he said.

The series would be made in Carlton's Nottingham studios, written with a younger audience in mind. Lord Alli dismissed suggestions that its poor production standards should be retained. "I just don't buy into that. The reason why Crossroads works was because there were great storylines and the characters were great and believable," he said.

Paul Henry, 54, who played Benny, remembered that viewers hung banners outside their homes stating "Benny is innocent" when his character was accused of a murder. "He was a great character to play because you could take every emotion to the extreme, he could lose his temper or get upset," he said.

Rival soap magazines had opposing views. Paul Smith, of Soaplife, said his magazine was right to giveCrossroads its Golden Turkey Award in January. "I think it's old ground," he said. "I think it would be sacrilege to bring it back." However, Wendy Granditer, of Inside Soap, said it was "a great idea". She said: "I would be very, very upset if it came back as a very slick programme. I think people quite liked the daytime hammyness of it. That would be part of its appeal."

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