Saturday 24 September 2022

PREVIOUSLY - ON CROSSROADS



MOTEL RADIO - REPLICA

As you can see – the item I’m looking at today isn’t really a Crossroads item at all – it’s just a common transistor radio. In fact it’s a Dansette DTR 36 if you’re interested. So why am I looking at this? Well it features in a really important episode of Crossroads and performs a vital role…

Exposition and recap.

In episode 3531 – the one after the motel fire, the action begins in the motel office. I say action – what actually happens is a lingering shot on a radio while Stewart White (an ATV continuity announcer) becomes a radio-news reporter and fills-in the audience on previous events…


“And two people are missing – feared dead – in a fire, which last night gutted the main reception and first floor of the Crossroads Motel, King’s Oak. The missing people are Meg Mortimer, the founder / director of the motel and Sam Hurst – said to be Sam Norton, the artist who mysteriously disappeared nine years ago after a fire in which his wife and two children died.

Firemen fought the motel blaze for more than three hours. This morning they were still damping-down the debris and searching for the bodies.

An eye-witness said that Mr Hurst dashed into the blazing motel in a vain attempt to rescue Mrs. Mortimer.

The motel’s other two directors, Mr David Hunter and Mr Adam Chance refused to comment on allegations that the fire was started deliberately. Fire brigade chief, Owen Turner said, “We’re sifting through the evidence and we may have an answer later today.

Meantime the motel continues to do business on a makeshift basis….”

Clearly there are benefits of doing this – firstly, any new viewers attracted by the news that the motel has gone up in flames would have very little chance of watching the previous episode – there was no “on demand” streaming back then – and few people had video recorders. 

Secondly – the fact that we’re TOLD about the events mean that we don’t actually have to SEE the events – very important for a cost – conscious production. There is only a slight glimpse of a couple of firemen carrying gas cylinders in the office. I actually think that the exposition works quite well here- even if the radio presenter is remarkably well informed!

Ironically – the motel fire is now perhaps one of the most viewed episodes in the entire series. It featured on two VHS releases, a DVD release, is currently available to stream on ITV Hub and Britbox and even made it onto the ITV website at one time.

The ITV Website had episodes available to watch in the early 2000's

Crossroads was no stranger to the art of exposition. Jane Rossington often recalled the pages and pages of dialogue that she had to learn to re-cap storylines for viewers - e.g. "Oh that's right - he was the man who was involved in.... And didn't he..... Do you remember....?"

One of my favourite things about the early years of Crossroads is the sheer audacity of the programme. Take for instance the character of Mrs. Cherry.

Who is Mrs. Cherry? Well – to put it bluntly – she appears to have been a bit of  a busybody – possibly a motel guest, who seemed to have a handle on EVERYTHING that was going on at the motel. At the start of each episode, before the titles, a mystery woman would be seen knitting - or perhaps crocheting a variety of brightly coloured items. Well…. her hands would be seen – but not her face. The mystery woman – Mrs. Cherry, would provide a catch-up for viewers – filling them in on recent events. Not afraid to add her own opinions, she would often comment on the events as well. Kind of like your nan having a gossip over the garden gate.

Script extract from the Crossroads Appreciation Society

We are fortunate that two examples of this exist in the archive – episode 1192 from November 1969 and Episode 1304 from May 1970. There is also an audio clip of a “Black Magic” storyline from May 1970 that features Mrs. Cherry questioning whether the local vicar will have the “strength to put a stop to it.”

How does she know? That's what I'd like to know!

Mike at the Crossroads Appreciation Society revealed an extract from the script of the wedding of Tish and Captain Hope from June 1970 (above) that suggests that they intended for a knitting woman (face unseen) to be at the wedding. Alas, as the episode is missing, we may never know whether this made it to screen.

It appears that the character of Mrs. Cherry rather caught the imagination of the viewers – especially since her identity remained unknown. In February 1973 Noele Gordon answered a question about her in "New Reveille" . She revealed that the hands belonged to Ann George (Amy Turtle) and that she provided the voice.

Who was Mrs Cherry?

Now Nolly was something of a master when it came to trailers and exposition and there are a couple of examples that spring to mind…

PRE-LAUNCH TRAILERS (1964)

Pre-Launch trailers

In these specially shot trailers, Meg is interviewed about life at the motel. She introduces herself, sets the scene for the arrival of “Senora” Carlos Raphael and talks about her children. There is also a discussion about the difficulty of finding staff and getting a drinks licence. Meg also pops-off and buy some lobsters – all of these events are linked to story-lines in episodes 1 and 2. They were definitely intended to help potential viewers to get to know the characters when the series started.

WEDDING CATCH-UP (1975)

In 1975 Crossroads was shown in all ITV regions but not all regions were at the same point in the story-line. Thames, for example, had stopped showing the series for a short while and were several months behind. 

Clearly the wedding of Meg and Hugh (episode 2301) was a big deal, and it was decided that all regions should be at the same point. To facilitate this, a specially recorded scene was played out before episode 2299 on 1st April 1975.

Good news for Crossroads fans. From tonight viewers throughout the country will be right up to date with goings on in the long running serial…

… But from tonight all ITV regions will show the latest episode of the serial. At the beginning of the programme, Meg (Noele Gordon) will tell London and Granada viewers what has been happening at the Crossroads motel over the period they have missed.

THE SUN – 01.04.75

Recently a clip has been uploaded to YouTube, which I believe is possibly part of the catch-up. It certainly contains a little exposition  for the wedding…

Meg receives a phone call….

Meg:  (to operator) Yes – yes I’ll hold on.

Meg: (to viewer) You’ll never guess – its Bruce Richardson ringing from Singapore. Of course you know he’s out there now doing research into tropical medicine.

Meg:  (to operator) Yes. Yes I’ll hold on….

Meg:  (to Sandy) What time do you suppose it is out there?

Sandy:  Now don’t start all that again!

Meg Laughs.

Meg: (to viewer) Well, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll really have to leave you now because we’ve got a million things to do for the wedding – Oh – and in addition - my elderly grandmother is down from Scotland and she’s decided that she disapproves of the marriage – and so she’s going home – but we’ll see you all later.


THE ITV STRIKE (1979)

Noele Gordon welcomes viewers back to ITV and the Crossroads Motel

In August 1979, ITV technicians staged a walk-out which took the channel off the air for several weeks. Episode 3198 was shown on 9th August.  Episode 3199 wasn’t broadcast until 24th October. When the channel returned, Nolly was on-hand to help viewers catch-up…

Hello, and welcome back!

No doubt you’ve been wondering what’s been going on at the motel during the last few weeks…

Well let me remind you of what was happening when you were last here.

First there was Alison Cotterill – the  young girl with the scar. She lives with her Uncle Reg, who won’t allow mirrors in the house because he believes they pander to human vanity. And of course, Benny has bought her a powder compact – with a mirror.

Then there’s Richard Lord, who some time ago was dismissed from his job as a school teacher because he had a love affair with one of his pupils, a young girl. David Hunter was instrumental in getting him dismissed, and while David was away on holiday, Lord reappeared in the area and I gave him a part-time job looking after the accounts.

Then of course, there’s Jill, who’s been seeing her lawyer about the divorce proceedings, which will decide on the custody of Sarah Jane, and of course also decide on the property…

Well I think that just about brings us up to date. Gosh – look at the time. Must go! I’ll see you soon…

Goodbye!

GREEK PROMOTIONAL TRAILER (1978)

Greek Promotional Trailer 1978

One truly brilliant trailer was made especially for the Greek market, when Crossroads was sold overseas. Nolly, as Meg, walked new viewers around the motel reception and into David’s office – via the hallway. She informed viewers about Kate Hamilton, her daughter Lucy, estranged husband Rick and boss Tony. She also explained how Sandy came to be in a wheelchair. It is available to watch on “Volume One” of the Crossroads DVD’s from Network and is a really interesting piece of motel history.

So there you go - the importance of exposition and re-cap to a serial drama - especially when you had just one chance of watching each episode. Who'd have thought a transistor radio could be so interesting?

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While I'm on the subject of re-caps I should probably also mention....

PREVIOUSLY ON CROSSROADS (2003)

Previously - On Crossroads (2003)

In 2003, many programmes on ITV featured a short compilation at the start of each of episode. 

CROSSROADS CHECK-IN (2015)

Crossroads Check-In

When Big Centre TV re-ran some of the early episodes in 2015, Lee Banister produced a special programme that would re-cap the previous week's episodes, and preview what was coming up. A modern-day Mrs. Cherry - without the knitting. This was very useful indeed, as with many episodes missing from the archive, he was able to fill in some of the storyline gaps. I also seem to recall Glen Allen had a bit of an issue with the original Mrs. Cherry.... Check out the episodes on YouTube...

THE STORY SO FAR (TV TIMES - EARLY 1980's)

The TV Times was  great source for catching up with missed episodes back in the day - although their re-cap would only cover the previous week....

The Stories So Far...