Friday, 14 December 2007

Guest Setting Two: Highlighter Pen or Big Biro Circles?

It's Friday, and that means it's time for BrokenTV to stay in (go out), make a nice cup of tea (spend £2.99 on three litres of Tramp Strength White Cider from Bargain Booze), and relax (sit on the wall outside the library to shout at girls). While we're doing that, here's Simon Tyers from the excellent Sweeping The Nation, with a look back at Christmas listings magazines past.

Deregulation spoiled everything, didn't it? Back then one of the myriad joys of the season was making part of the living room your own domain for a fortnight so as to be able to check off the BBC and commercial channels' offerings against each other. Funny things, the Christmas schedules. They're the one set of programming announcements people actively look forward to for weeks, then when they come out everything is for yet another year deemed a disappointment. And funny things, the magazines that went towards relaying the information in the pre-Digiguide age, with pages and pages of cookery columns and celebrities telling us they'd be looking forward to a peaceful family Christmas after their hectic year and hoping for a just as successful new year, not to mention the Radio Times holidays pull-out section. And if that wasn't enough, you'd get a special cover too. The fun never stopped.

While the Radio Times always goes with an overtly elaborate image of Father Christmas, its "so much more than TV times" opposition is far more free spirited than either RT or the modern day set image of Someone From The Cast Of Corrie With Some Tinsel Draped Around Their Shoulders. For a good few years they went the artistry route too - 1985's cover, for instance, features a painting in the style of those cards everyone receives one of every year of a robin in a snowy field, except it's of a sleigh with a representation of Arthur Daley dropping presents out of the back as a concerned Terry McCann, looking in this rendition not unlike Paul Newman, grins on. 1986 gave us Torvill & Dean kneeling at the foot of some sort of ice queen. 1983's handwork is of Charles and Diana bedecking a Christmas tree, but then that's what ITV in 1983 were like. In pictorial terms 1987's Bet Lynch in Santa outfit handing Hilda Ogden a huge festive box as the caption rather gives the game away with talk of "Hilda's last Christmas" is one for the ages but it wasn't always so inventive - while the newly signed Morecambe & Wise had cosied up to a cutout of Roger Moore as Bond a year earlier, 1979 is a straight stock image of Faye Dunaway.

Perhaps the all time great, however, comes from 1980. Picture the meeting that ended with agreement into this photo session - Janet Brown (plugging the first Janet And Company) as Margaret Thatcher, in a fur-lined skidoo, being supposedly pushed by Roger Moore (The Man With The Golden Gun) practically drowning in bearskin, while alongside a fully Santa-outfitted Eric'n'Ern ski. I hope it was all done in the one shot.

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