Take the High Road fans have won a battle to keep the Scottish Television soap opera at its current broadcast point when STV Glasgow and STV Edinburgh become STV2 this week.
Some of the lead cast of Take The High Road in March 1992, a year later and ITV dropped the show from the network.
“We appreciate the popularity of Take the High Road, so to coincide with the launch of STV2 the soap will be aired from the first episode. This gives all new viewers within the STV transmission area the opportunity to enjoy it form the start.” – An STV spokesperson said before the fan meeting last week
The new STV2 service will see a much increased broadcast area, meaning thousands of viewers are going to have to start viewing High Road from its current point, after STV bosses decided not to restart the programme for the newer viewers joining the service. A difficult decision, and one which in the past saw High Road dropped from the schedules entirely.
In 1993 Tyne Tees Television and Yorkshire Television ditched the soap from their schedules, leaving viewers furious – however when people power finally saw the series restored in 1996 it carried on from where STV were broadcasting and viewers deserted the programme in their droves, it ultimately was shelved by the North East and Yorkshire ITV stations. The joining of a soap opera mid-way through its run for new viewers has often proved a death-knell for the show, with Shortland Street failing on a number of occasions to lure in viewers to ITV when started at random points. The medical centre based saga more recently failed to bring in an audience to Living TV when the channel started to screen episodes from only a few years behind the then current New Zealand transmissions.
Restarting soap operas has proved much more successful, when Big Centre TV – now Made In Birmingham – the Local TV station for the West Midlands, expanded its coverage reach by launching on Virgin Media in 2015, (rather than just on Freeview) ATV’s classic motel saga Crossroads was rewound back to its earliest surviving episode, the series proved to be the most successful programme on the network. In the mid-1990s when more homes began to take up Sky subscriptions EastEnders was restarted on UK Gold thus bringing in the soap fans.
Crossroads from the sixties and seventies proved a hit for Big Centre TV in the West Midlands
Some shows can buck the trend; ATV began showing Coronation Street in early 1961 and instead of beginning with episode one, Midland viewers joined from where the Granada audience in the North West were watching from. Corrie also managed a successful run on defunct archive telly channel Granada Plus when episodes were aired from 1976 onwards. This repeat run started with the return of character Elsie Tanner (the late great Pat Phoenix) who had left three years previously in the plots.
ATV and Central Television editions of Crossroads also proved successful mid-run on UK Gold from 1996 to 2000 with episodes beginning with the aftermath of the motel fire in 1981. This was done, at the time, due to the archive situation as it was discovered there were too many missing or unlogged episodes prior to ’81.
Take The High Road went into production in 1979, airing from 1980 on the ITV network usually in a daytime slot. However after just over a decade it was dropped from network schedules, in 1993, when ITV executives said viewers in England and Wales had become tired of the serial. It was then left, as Crossroads had been arranged previously, up to each ITV region to decide if they wanted to schedule the programme. Some regions dropped it entirely, however broadcasters such as Anglia, Central and Border were keen to keep the show on air; with even a few ITV regions scheduling it in the early evening rather than daytime. In its latter years only a handful of the regions aired High Road with the show mainly gaining its viewers from its homegrown Scottish Television (now STV Central) and Grampian (now STV North) areas; with the majority of the UK unable to view new editions as regional broadcasters one by one dropped it, before it was finally axed in 2003.
STV launched two ‘city’ stations – for Glasgow and Edinburgh – on the nationwide ‘regional’ Local TV network in 2014 and 2015. Take The High Road has proved to be one of the most popular programmes on the service, and plans had been put in place for new viewers joining the expanded service, as STV2, to see the show right from the start. Now, however, new viewers will have to just hope for the best and join the plot mid-way through. Currently Glasgow’s service is ahead of its east based counterpart by around six months in the storyline.
The sexy promotions didn’t lure viewers to Living TV when Shortland Street began plots many years on from the first episode.
A group, with just under 300 members, have led a campaign to keep High Road at its current broadcast spot. It remains to be seen whether the 1000s of potential new High Road viewers will appreciate their efforts to join the show ‘somewhere down the line’ rather than from episode one.
Take the High Road, later revamped to just High Road, was set in the fictional village of Glendarroch. Interior scenes were shot over the years at the former Gateway Theatre studios and, the now demolished, Scottish Television Studios at Cowcaddens. Exteriors were recorded at the real village of Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond, with the loch often the setting for the opening titles. The show followed everyday village life, with popular characters including village gossip Mrs Mary Mack, played by Gwyneth Guthrie, who became one of the most memorable personalities in the production. Over its 23-year run 1,520 episodes were produced by STV. The series was devised by the late screenwriter Donald Houghton who had previously written episodes of ATV’s medical saga Emergency Ward 10, motel soap Crossroads and BBC science fiction drama Doctor Who.
STV2 will launch tomorrow (Monday 24th April) and will also bring to screens RTÉ serial Fair City; which joins the schedules alongside new programming from STV and classic Scottish Television productions such as crime drama Taggart. Fair City will also begin with 2015 episodes, rather than start with archive editions on STV2.
“We greatly value all viewer feedback and are committed to listening to the opinions of our audience. Following feedback we received about schedule changes to Take the High Road on the brand new STV2 channel, we invited representatives from the Take the High Road fan group into STV to discuss in more detail. A number of options were discussed and STV has now confirmed that it will continue the series from the current STV Edinburgh storyline with a five episode omnibus on STV2 every weekend. We hope this resolution ensures that our audience is able to enjoy this classic soap on STV2.” – A spokesperson for STV after the fan meeting