Crossroads began its chequered career on November 2, 1964. Even before the cameras began rolling, critics
began carping - slating in advance the advent of yet another soap opera on the television screen.
Did it worry Sir Lew Grade? It did not. Those close to him will tell you that he was completely unperturbed.
And considering that the show to date has employed something like 6,000 acting talents and has consistently held a place
in Top Ten ratings for more than six years, there appears to be every justification for Sir Lew's decision not only to give
it birth, but to keep it going - even against opposition from his own production chief at one stage.
This was Bill Ward, who now says: "After two years I succumbed to the continual barrage of critical attacks.
I wanted to take it off, but Lew wouldn't let me. Lew was right, of course."
Bill Ward was worried because, although the programme was popular with the public - an instant success from the word
"Go" - it was a constant target for the critics who, although they didn not influence the viewer, did influence the Independent
The ITA is pledged to see that standards are maintained and Bill Ward could not help comparing Crossroads with
Emergency Ward 10, which had a bigger budget and more time for rehearsal.
"I wanted to see the same standards set for Crossroads," he says, "but it wasn't possible. There wasn't
the time. Not with four episodes a week.
"And Sir Lew wasn't going to let me have my head while the programme was a success!"
How well Sir Lew's decision was justified may be judged by the fact that despite the critics, the low budget, the time
factor and Bill Ward's worroes, the programme has steadily built a tremendous loyalty over the years.
The ratings, those temperature charts which gauge the public's affection, were extremely healthy, thank you!
Sir Lew's need for ATV to have an identity in the Midlands throughout the week - the real reason why Crossroads
was dreamed up - has been more than fulfilled.
Eleven regions now take the programme.
"It began because we wanted to get the Midlander across to the Midlands and, if possible, the rest of the country,"
says Bill Ward. "We'd seen the success of Coronation Street for the North, and Emergency Ward 10 for
the South - but no one catered for the Midlands in quite the same way.
"We wanted a Midlands-based programme using Midlands' people - a Midlands' image - but where the hell is the Midlands?
"It's Swindon and it's Stoke and up around the Black Country. It's Birmingham and a bit of Yorkshire and Lancashire.
And where does London end and the Midlands begin? You tell me!
"But we've done it - and the man who'd pulled it off is Reg Watson, an Australian who was involved from the beginning,
who produced the very first programme.
"It's fantastic when you think it goes out four times a week, and even more fantastic when I tell you he has story lines
planned for years ahead. It's a punishing schedule."
Reg Watson, whip-thin and wise now in the ways of the Midlander, says it was 1958 when Sir Lew saw him in Birmingham
and asked him if he had any ideas for a daily serial.
Reg had been in New York and Washington for ATV, taking a good hard look at American television.
He said he had no particular idea in mind, but he had been impressed by a serial that went out "live" every day and showed
considerable ingenuity. For example, when one actor forgot his lines, he'd say "Excuse me, there's someone at the door,"
move outside and grab a script.
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