Christmas TV Times

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 DVDs.

No satellite tv.

No Youtube.

No internet.

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.

Les Dennis and Dustin Gee

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!

Please Spread The Word!
  • SJB says:

    Umm.. think the hot summer might have been 1976 and not ’77! But otherwise it was spot on. No telly on Christmas Day until the evening for us. Apart from the Queens Speech of course! TV snapped back off after that…..Ah, those were the days!!

  • Paul Middleton says:

    I remember the first Christmas Day Film that I watched was Calamity Jane with the lovely Doris Day, but what I remember the most were the adverts, Sanderman’s port, Hamlet and Tom Thumb cigars and St Bruno pipe tobacco (with that big bald fella holding back the hordes of gorgeous women for that pipe smoking bloke).

  • Sarah L says:

    The Wizard of Oz always seemed to be on over Christmas so that was a tradition, well the kids watching it while most of the adults were in a booze and/or turkey infused coma. No TV during the day (we had toys to play with and too much food to eat) except the Queen’s speech which was typically as we were eating. The Railway Children usually seemed to air over the Xmas holidays too, I loved Bernard Cribbins…

  • Anonymous Coward says:

    The Hot Summer was definitely 1976.

    Staring out the window, ignoring the English teacher raving about Romeo and Juliet waving her arms around until she had a clothing failure…

    …whereupon she remembered something she had to get from the supply closet.

    I turned around as the class of boys erupted with roars of laughter as she shut the room door, totally mystified as to what had happened.

    That was definitely 1976.

  • Lara says:

    No TV for us on Christmas Day either – and we’re still not allowed it on to this day when visiting Mum and Dad, at least we have on demand now when we get home! One day without TV doesn’t seem too much to ask! Who can forget Morecombe and Wise and their relentless jokes at the expense of Des O’Connor? Talking of O’Connor, surely the best one was Tom! And Jimmy Tarbuck …….

  • Jenny says:

    Shouldn’t you be wrapping sweeties or something? I am amazed you have time to think of all this without the time it takes to write it down!

  • Kelly Glen says:

    Even though all this probably sounds very boring to today’s children I think it was a much better time then it is now. It’s great reading your memories so I hope you keep on posting more of them.

  • Lisa says:

    We used to watch “the wizard of oz” EVERY Christmas Day at my grandparents. The kids all sat around a small trestle table and we ate dinner and pulled crackers and then sat back to watch the movie of the day! Best memories EVER! I still love this film to this day….such happy memories

  • Diana says:

    In 1976, my Spanish husband had his first British Christmas and discovered Morecambe and Wise and Elton John. He also discovered crackers and paper hats which took him by surprise.

  • Ian says:

    Dinner at 3pm, not negotiable, classic films(sound of music, great escape), Disney highlights(all the classics plus next years big release), and a day in with the family. At least when you got to 18 you could go down the pub(closed at 2pm, dinner still at 3pm).
    Even with all the choice now, we are no better off.

  • Eugene says:

    The Two Ronnies had taken over the Christmas special mantle during my childhood. And I remember the BIG CHRISTMAS DAY FILM always being something dull like Murder on the Orient Express (which I’m sure is a decent film, just hardly what the dreams of 10 year olds were made on).

  • Esther says:

    To your cement on is we remember Les Dennis and Dustin Gee as a double act… I’d have to answer (said in a northern accent) “Well, I don’t really know……” (obviously I lie… Its from one of their scetches!)

  • Esther says:

    Apologies for the spelling! Big fingers, small phone and a blooming annoying autocorrect!

  • Debbie says:

    Always remember Eric & Ernie in the evening and the Queens Speech in the afternoon with Dad saying we should stand to attention and Mum telling him to stop it. Playing games and getting wrapping paper everywhere. Toys in a Pillow case with a Orange and Sweets

  • Roger says:

    At some point in the following years the rules around who could publish what listings and when all changed. I remember getting into all kinds of trouble for laughing at my girlfriend at the time when she bought both Radio and TV Times home. You could get a pint, bag of chips and the bus fare home for the money spent on what I thought the inferior TV Times. Barry Norman reviewing all the Christmas films was one of the bets bits for me. Ahh, happy days.

  • Bruce says:

    I was chuffed to bits when on 25 December 1965, Dr Who (William Hartnell) broke the fourth wall at the end of the Dalek’s Master Plan episode “The Feast Of Stephen” and wished me personally a very merry Christmas! (Well, that’s what it seemed like to seven-year old me at the time.)

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