Friday, 10 December 2010

To Russia With… Elton? It Must Be The Christmas 1980 Issue Of TV Times!

Okay, who had “December 8th” in the “Which Day Will BrokenTV Miss A Daily Update Sweepstake”? That tiny plastic bag of pound coins is all yours. We’re back now, and it’s time for another flip through a TV Times of yuletides past. To make things ever more exciting, inspired by tonight’s episode of Coronation Street, we’re typing all this out LIVE. Let’s hope nothing bad happens as we delve into the double Christmas issue from WEEK COMMENCING 19th DECEMBER 1980:


A pretty damn succinct snapshot of ITV at it’s best on the cover, with Morecambe, Wise, Moore and Brown lining up in front of a snowy backdrop. Admittedly, we never really liked Faith Brown, and don’t really care for Roger Moore as Bond, but what a line-up. And all actually featured in the listings inside, too, unless a certain BBC Worldwide publication this year putting Wallace & Gromit on the front cover despite them not being in any of the programmes aside (repeats notwithstanding).

7.45pm, Saturday 20th December: CARRY ON BEHIND


A bygone age. Carry On films in primetime, at Christmas. Not even one of the well-remembered Carry Ons either, with several of the regulars missing from the line-up.

2.15pm, Sunday 21st December: TO RUSSIA WITH ELTON


(Morbo The Newsreader From Futurama’s voice: “THAT DOES NOT EVEN WORK AS A PUN.”)

7.15pm, Sunday 21st December: NIGHT OF ONE HUNDRED STARS

A show big enough it needs a side-panel all to itself.



A side-panel SO BIG our screen-capping software needs to grab it in two chunks in order to retain a level of legibility. Still, though – two and a half hours of limitless entertainment, or if you prefer, one minute and thirty seconds per star. Cannon and Ball are third on that bill, while the likes of Joan Collins, Norman Wisdom, George Cole and Dennis Waterman are lumped in with the “also” pile. Could this programme be any more early 1980s?

It’s quite a good night on ITV in general – the family film at 3.45 is Charlie and the Great Balloon Chase (which we’ve never seen, but we’re sure is fun), followed by the first showing of Marty Feldman’s guest appearance on The Muppet Show. Then, after the 6.15pm God slot (remember those on ITV? Seems forever ago, doesn’t it?) we’ve got Night Of One Hundred Stars, followed by an edition of ITV Playhouse starring Eleanor Bron. Why can’t ITV3 put out an evening like that? It’s not as if they could even dismiss such an idea with “no-one would be interested!”, as everything there would have been hugely popular at the time, it’s not as if we’re suggesting they repeat a night from LWT’s early, artsy period, with operas shoved on at 9pm and the like.


10.32pm Tuesday, 23rd December: FILM: FAREWELL MY LOVELY


Yes, 10.32pm. Ah, you don’t see oddly specific timeslots like that now, do you? If you’re wondering, it’s being shown after a two-minute long regional news bulletin, though if it’s anything like the programmes which used to follow News At Ten when we were small, the film would actually start at about 10.41pm. Come to think of it, maybe the programme following News At Ten still goes on air several minutes late now – we wouldn’t know, we can’t remember the last time there was something on after News At Ten worth bothering with.

ANYWAY. Farewell My Lovely, a black-and-white Philip Marlowe film from 1944, is a surprising but excellent choice, not just because it’s fun to see something in black-and-white going out on a ‘big’ channel (we still have fond memories of BBC-1 showing repeats of Hancock at 8pm in the mid 1980s, the last ever monochrome programme to go out in primetime on the channel), but because it’s also going to make up part of our Christmas viewing in 2010. It’s being shown on BBC Four on Boxing Day, and even though we’ve got it on DVD, and we watched it a few months back when shown as part of BBC Four’s Film Noir season, we’ll be watching it. We loves a bit of Marlowe.

5.15pm Christmas Eve: GIVE US A CLUE FOR CHRISTMAS


Yay! Kenny Everett :) Boo! Jim Davidson :(

3.10pm Christmas Day: FILM: GEORGE & MILDRED


ITV’s big post-Liz movie isn’t your typical Hollywood blockbuster, but rather the big screen outing for Mr and Mrs Roper. We take no shame in sharing this with the world, we’d much rather find ourselves forcing down watery sprouts in time to catch the start of this on Christmas Day, than, say, Shrek The Sodding Oh Look A Starbucks Reference Ha Ha I Get That Joke Third.

Meanwhile, as we learned from this week’s Creamguide, the film up against this on BBC-1 was actually Airport 75. We’ll admit we haven’t seen any of that franchise, but we’ve always found it so strange that the Airport films are numbered that way, as if they were a game from EA Sports thirty years later. Surely it all makes the prospect of bothering with the film when it finally reaches TV seem so much less appealing. After all, no matter how much we like videogaming and football, we can’t imagine us thinking “ooh, really fancy a game of FIFA ‘05” any time over the next few weeks.



We do love the fact that Eric and Ern spent so many years saving their energy for delivering a blistering Christmas special each year, and this had even been the case when they’d made the Brabenless switch to Thames. By 1980 however, it had been decided that Eric’s health was now up to putting together a full series each year in addition to a Christmas spesh. Despite Eddie Braben now being back in control of the script, if this is the episode we’re thinking of, it’s not a brilliant one. We may be wrong, but if it’s the one shown on Channel Five a few years back, with Peter Cushing hamming it up quite uncharacteristically, we weren’t impressed.



This is what they want! Not in any way an attempt to ape SuperStars, gosh no, two celebrity teams go head to head in “seven events including canoeing, relay, tug-of-war, swimming and six-a-side football”. So, you’ve told us five of the seven events – couldn’t you just have used the space where you’d written ‘seven events including’ to tell us what the other two sports are? Or are you just keeping us interested, knowing that we’ll be tuning in on the off-chance one of the two mystery events is ‘the biscuit game’?

5.20pm Saturday, 27th December: A CUP O’ TEA AN’ A SLICE O’ CAKE


That title really leaps out of the page, doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a shame that the programme itself turns out to be Worzel Gummidge, which we always found really bloody boring, even though we were about four years old at the time. We can’t even be bothered exploring the comic potential of the word ‘literally’ being used incorrectly in the programme description, to be honest.

4.15pm Monday, 29th December: WATCH IT!


Before Matthew Kelly popped up as the inaugural host of Children’s ITV, the post-school kids slot was known as “Watch It!”, which always struck us as a needlessly aggressive way to address children. We believe in some ITV regions, the strand was actually called “Oi, You! Watch This, You Slaaaaaaag!”

As for the shows, it’s Dr Snuggles, which saw the main characters voiced, at least in the UK version of this tri-nation co-production, by Peter Ustinov and John Challis, with a couple of episodes semi-famously written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd. Aside from that, there’s Free Time, seemingly a resprayed Magpie, and Tom Baker’s The Book Tower. A TV show encouraging kids to read books? The very idea!

4.45pm Tuesday, 30th December: SMITH AND GOODY… ON ICE!


We DEMAND episodes of this are uploaded to YouTube IMMEDIATELY.



This is probably where we should mourn the death of TV channels bothering to put something brilliant on as Big Ben chimes in the new year. It used to be all the rage, with shows like this (and 1979’s Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980?), an episode of EastEnders (where Den told the punters of the Queen Vic to shush as he switched on a TV set, which faded into live coverage of Big Ben Tower striking twelve), or even the one-off Vic Reeves’ New Year’s Eve Big Night Out (which just saw the Channel 4 clock pop up in the corner of the screen to mark the transition into 1991, with no reference made to the time within the show).

Nowadays, we get cheapy old “New Year Live”, “ITV News: Countdown To 20xx” or Jools. Meanwhile, Australia gets the likes of “Shaun Micallef’s New Year’s Rave”. It is not fair.

10.15pm Friday, 2nd January: CARROTT DEL SOL


What better way to mark the start of a new year, with a one-off adventure for Jasper Carrott? Top stuff. In short, 1980 saw a pretty damn good Christmas from ITV. A solid 8 out of 10, if you want a score.


2 .:

Merseytart said...

I hate to break it to you but that Farewell My Lovely is a rubbish colour 1970s version, not a black and white Forties classic.

Mark X said...

Gah. And there was me about to say "aah, but no, Robert Mitchum starred in both", but no, it was of course Dick Powell who starred as Marlowe in the original, which I should have remembered.

While I'm being wrong about stuff, I may as well point out that I much preferred the 1970s Mitchum version of it, despite him being too old for the role at the time. It was certainly way above the performance of Elliott Gould in the determinately gritty version of The Long Goodbye. That just managed to forget completely about the Chandleresque charm of the character. IMHO, obv.

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