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STV to celebrate 40th anniversary of iconic soap Take the High Road with one-off documentary

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2020 marks 40 years since much-loved Scottish soap Take the High Road first aired across the UK and, to celebrate the milestone, STV will broadcast a special tribute documentary this week.
 
Scotland Loves High Road (STV, Wednesday 12 August, 8pm) will see broadcaster Emma Cameron taking viewers back to Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond – which, as the fictional village of Glendarroch, was where some of British TV’s most memorable moments of the 1980s and 90s took place.
 
In the 30-minute documentary – which follows the recent return of the series to the STV Player – Emma examines the huge impact Take the High Road had in Scotland and around the world, through interviews with some of its biggest stars: Hollywood royalty Alan Cumming (who played Jim Hunter), Game of Thrones favourite John Stahl (Tom ‘Inverdarroch’ Kerr), Eileen McCallum (Isabel Blair) and Alec Monteath (Dougal Lachlan).
 
Alan Cumming, who went on to star in The Good Wife, Spy Kids and X-Men 2, said of his time on the show: “It was like being in a Hollywood film! I love the fact that I’ve been in Take the High Road – I had a really great laugh doing it. At the time I felt lucky to be in it and now I feel even luckier. It’s great to be part of a legacy like that.”
 
Scotland Loves High Road also features never-before-seen outtakes from STV’s archives, and revisits the passionate 1993 fan campaign which saw hundreds of people descend on Glasgow’s George Square to demand a reversal of ITV’s decision to axe the soap. The fans’ efforts paid off – and High Road remained on screens in Scotland for a further 10 years before TV icon Mrs Mack finally hung up her hat and the show was retired in 2003.
 
Fondly remembered as the launch pad for a number of successful Scottish actors, such as Cumming, James Cosmo (Braveheart, His Dark Materials), Joe McFadden (Holby City) and Natalie Robb (Emmerdale), Take the High Road was one of STV’s highest-rated programmes of its day and acquired an enduring cult fanbase.
 
The show’s recent return to the STV Player has introduced it to a new generation, and contributed to a 70% rise in viewing figures for the platform so far this year.

Take the High Road in numbers: 
  • 1,517 episodes aired between 1980 and 2003
  • 45,675 minutes of High Road were broadcast in total
  • 5.5 million viewers watched the show at its peak in 1985
  • High Road brought over 1 million visitors to Luss each year
  • 169 characters appeared in the series throughout its 23-year run
  • Each episode cost £40,000 to make in the 1990s
  • 4 versions of the show’s memorable theme tune were used
  • 500 protestors attended a rally in Glasgow’s George Square to oppose the show’s cancellation in 1993
  • 5 new episodes are currently being added to the STV Player each Sunday
  • 960,000 viewers have watched High Road on the STV Player since it returned to the platform in April
Scotland Loves High Road was produced by Up Next Productions and airs 8pm, Wednesday 12 August on STV in Scotland and the STV Player across the UK.
 
Bobby Hain, Managing Director of Broadcast at STV, said: “The incredible response we’ve had to Take the High Road on the STV Player highlights the fondness that the people of Scotland still have for this special programme all these years on. The antics of the residents of Glendarroch captured the hearts of the nation and made High Road an integral part of STV’s history, so it’s only right that we celebrate its 40th anniversary by treating viewers to a warm dose of nostalgia.
 
“Scotland Loves High Road will not only remind us all of the drama, wit and stunning scenery that made this show a hit the world over, but also recognise the key role it played in nurturing young talent and boosting the tourism industry throughout Scotland.”
 
Gwyneth Guthrie, who played Mrs Mack from 1982 to 2003, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my years on High Road. I worked with an array of talented actors and had wonderful storylines. The programme showed Scotland in a great light – there’s no doubt the natural Scottish scenery sold itself!
 
“I wouldn’t have said Mrs Mack was a loveable character but she was unique. People I met loved to talk about Mrs Mack and what she was up to – I suppose we all know someone a bit like her.”
 
John Stahl said: “We tackled some strong issues of the time; it wasn’t a shortbread tin depiction of a Highland community. For a long time, we were able to balance storylines like that with light-hearted storylines with Mrs Mack. When the programme was zinging along and that balance was right, I think it was unbeatable.”
 
Fergus Loudon, Sales Director at Tunnock’s, which sponsors Take the High Road on the STV Player, said: "Our primary responsibility is to our brand and we are always very careful about sponsorships, but this one was obviously a very good fit. Take the High Road was, in its entirety, made right here. It had huge family appeal and even now, 40 years since it launched, the affection felt for it is clearly undiminished. We're happy to have helped bring it all back.”

ENDS

Media contact
Stephen Innes
stephen.innes@stv.tv