One of the mid-December highlights for us when we were little was the arrival of the Christmas editions of the Radio and TV Times.
We didn’t get either guide throughout the rest of the year (we just used the newspaper listings)… and that made the event even more special.
Plus they were double editions, each crammed with 14 days of prime televisual delights.
How exciting was that?
Just to put things into context (I’m sure that you know this already but I’ll say it just in case…)…
These were the days when there were just 3 television channels… BBC1, BBC2 and ITV.
That concept completely scrambles the brains of our children (11 and younger) and when I try to explain further they just glaze over… they just can’t comprehend…
There was no television on demand. If you wanted to watch something you had to actually be sitting on front of the box at the prescribed time… or you missed it!
No video recorders.
No satellite tv.
None of these things had even appeared on Tomorrow’s World back then!
Raymond Baxter, William Woollard and Judith Hann were completely oblivious to them all!
3 channels… that was it.
And even those 3 weren’t on 24 hours a day… they went to sleepy byebyes…
Cue the national anthem…
That hissing “we’re not broadcasting anything” snow (how many times have you woken up on the sofa with that on the telly? And you couldn’t just switch it off using the remote… because remote controls didn’t exist either!)
Or the test card.
Anyhoo… back to the TV guides.
When they arrived we’d carefully comb through them, pencils poised to ring the most important items, to find the cream of the television to watch in the run-up to the big day.
Pretty well every programme seemed to have a Christmas Special back then (iinvariably filmed in the preceding (phew what a scorcher!) July or August… how weird must that have been, especially in the rasping hot, “Bob Wellings of Nationwide cooking an egg on a car bonnet”, pavement melting summer of 1977?).
The Christmas Specials were the best programmes of the year by far. Everyone was so happy and so positive!
The ones I particularly liked were the comedy shows. Comedy was pretty well ruled by double acts back then… Morecambe and Wise, Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, Mike and Bernie Winters (remember them?), Bernie Winters and Schnorbitz (!), Basil Brush and whichever mug was sitting next to him at the time (!), Les Dennis and Dustin Gee (bet you’d completely forgotten they were a double act), Trevor and Simon (whatever happened to them after Going Live?), Hale and Pace etc etc.
I know I’ve drifted around the eras a little there but, as you can see, double acts were BIG!
And then there were the single comics… Benny Hill, Dick Emery, Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd, Mike Yarwood (I know he was an impressionist rather than a comic as such but it’s the same sort of genre), Dave Allen…
And one thing that became very clear from our extensive research was that both the BBC and ITV had an internal league table for their comedy acts… a pecking order if you like.
The lower down the pecking order the act, the earlier in December their Christmas show appeared.
A sort of amuse-bouche for the better stuff to follow.
And so (and please don’t take offense from this if I put someone you particularly like down the pecking order… this is just me working from my somewhat patchy memory)…
The early days of the schedules would feature entertainment like the Stanley Baxter Christmas Show… I don’t think I ever watched that, did you?
And back in the day, before they scaled to loftier heights over the years, it would also be the domain of Little and Large (who, I always felt, needed those higher up the ratings to depart for one reason or another because they were never going to oust them).
This was also the time when Bernie Winters would appear from memory… either accompanied by brother Mike (until they split up, apparently due to Bernie being far too friendly with a dancer who was 20 years younger than him… bet you didn’t know that, did you?) or Schnorbitz (who didn’t care so much about what Bernie did in his private life as long as he kept supplying the sausages!).
As December progressed the comedy improved as the BBC and ITV wheeled out their heavier hitters.
Dick Emery would appear on Christmas Eve… close but not quite the cream of the crop…
The sort of Michael Collins fate… I mean imagine being in Apollo 11 and being the one who didn’t get to walk on the moon…
Christmas Day would be slated for a veritable feast of Comedy Gold…
Morecambe and Wise…
The Two Ronnies…
Mike Yarwood (he was MASSIVE from what I can remember)
Dave Allen… (I’m talking about Dave Allen from my perspective now… he was on far too late for us to know anything about him back then!)
But as we read through the TV Guides that made the torture even more extreme for us.
The best television of the year in a single day.
The best films, the best comedy, the best everything.
And all on the one day of the year when, traditionally, we did not turn the television on at all.
So we missed the lot.
And instead of watching all of that what did we do instead?
Rubbish things like playing board games, going for walks, reading stories, talking to each other (!), colouring in, trying to work out what was in the presents under the tree, playing “spot the xxx” on the Christmas tree… you get the idea.
So when we were ploughing through the Radio and TV Times back in mid-December it seemed like we were going to miss out on the best bits.
But we wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Did this bring back any memories for you? If it did then please share them below!