Take The High Road (ITV, 1980-1994)/High Road (ITV, 1994-2003)
Let’s look back at another soap, but this one isn’t Australian, and as this month is the 40th anniversary of the launch, it’s worth a review. This is a soap that was produced in Scotland, and it became very successful north of the border. It was never really considered to be an A-list soap by ITV though. Despite its success, coverage of the show didn’t exactly fill pages in every issue of Inside Soap or TV Times.
Take The High Road was created by Don Houghton and set in the picturesque village of Glendarroch in the West Highlands. There was the usual mix of characters, because every soap has to contain a battleaxe and a villain to keep viewers interested. Among the most memorable were Isabel Blair, who ran the corner shop, and there was also Mrs Mack, who had a great collection of hats.
But there were lots of other characters who came and went, and they provided many memorable moments. If a misfortune could happen to these people, then it did. And of course, they always had the chance to drown their sorrows down the local pub. However, it could be said that the scheduling of the show caused more trauma for the viewers than the ongoing plots. Firstly, in Scotland it was shown in a primetime slot, where it was as popular as Coronation Street.
South of the border though, it was considered more to be a cult daytime show. There were so many soaps around at the time there was just about enough space in the schedule for it. And then, in 1993 the non-Scottish regions dropped the show. There were so many complaints that it was eventually reinstated, but it would now be about a year behind the pace.
In July 1994, the show’s name was shortened to High Road. This then continued for a while (including a special documentary celebrating the 1,000th episode), before the non-Scottish regions dropped it again, and it left the screen in the Carlton region at the end of 1998, curiously to much less protest this time round. But it continued in Scotland until April 2003, by which point there had been over 1,500 episodes, including a Hogmanay special or two. There were also four variations of the theme music.
There have been plenty of repeat runs of Take The High Road, including on the short-lived late-90s satellite channels Sky Soap and Sky Scottish, and in more recent years on STV Glasgow. There were also some books released that accompanied the show, and the first 100 episodes or so were also released on DVD, but rather surprisingly there didn’t seem to be that much demand for any more.