Jane Rossington forked her cheesecake with some spirit and uttered one word;: "Fiddlesticks!"
The subject under discussion at the Crossroads 20th birthday party was the barrage of criticism levelled at the
show over the years. And Jane - the only cast member still with the series - appeared to sum up neatly what her fellow
Crossroadians feel about being deluged with unfavourable sideswipes and damning jokes.
But there was more to come from Jane. Having fiddlesticked the critics she laid down a challenge that might make
those top dogs up in Coronation Street take a pause. "If Crossroads was shown throughout the country on the same days
and at the same time - preferably 7pm - we would be numbers one, two and three in the ratings all the time," she said.
It seems a fair argument such are the vagaries of the network's programming that, for example, the episode screened at
5.20pm on Thursday by Television South West reaches viewers in the Thames area at 6.30pm the following Monday!
"Jane's absolutely right," said Ronald Allen, whose screen authority as the motel director David Hunter spills into real
life to the extent that he is the natural leader of the close-knit cast. "And it's not just that we are being loyal.
We are in a ratings competition where we are competing in a three-legged race and everyone else is sprinting."
The Crossroads crews are a jolly lot, but some things do make them mad. "It's amazing how early the show goes out
everywhere," says Jane, who was 20 when she first appeared as Jill Harvey, daughter of the legendary Meg Mortimer (Noele Gordon)
in that opening episode.
"We have had factories change their shifts so that employees can see Crossroads. In the Midlands, where we go out
at 6pm, shopworkers write saying: 'We don't close until 5.30 and I just can't get home in time.'" The latest the
serial is transmitted anywhere is 6.35pm.
Many of the regular cast believe also that demands for an improvement in quality cloaked the real reason why the Independent
Broadcasting Authority insisted on the number of weekly episodes being cut from four to three in 1980. "The fact is
that other regional TV companies wanted to launch their own soap operas," said Jane, blonde and businesslike, "and soaps need
a minimum of two nights a week. So we had to lose one."
Rival shows were certainly launched, but with scant success. "And the truth is that we have an audience for five
nights a week, like when the show started in 1964," said Ronald Allen.
The band of Crossroads brothers and sisters say they rarely fall out and that their studio is among the happiest in British
TV. Certainly they offered a united front when reminded of that constant flak from citics and comedians.
"When I first joined the show I used to get very upset about it," said Sue Lloyd, David Hunter's wife in the series and
his live-in companion off-screen. "Now I simply consider the criticism to be dreadfully insulting to our huge following
But what of the national poll that saw Crossroads emerge at the top of 'TV's Bottom Ten?'
"Fiddlesticks," said Jane Rossington.