Christ­mas TV tur­keys

Black Country Bugle - - GAIL MIDDLETON -

THESE days, there are more TV for­mats and pro­grammes to watch than you can point a re­mote con­trol at. Yet each fes­tive sea­son we get the same old tur­keys on our screens.

But, if we think our fes­tive TV shows are hardly worth the li­cense fee, was it re­ally any bet­ter when we were younger? As part of its Genome project, the BBC now has a search­able on­line data­base of Ra­dio Times pro­gramme list­ings, go­ing back to the mag­a­zine’s launch in 1928. So you’ll be able to com­pare those Christ­mas sched­ules with to­day’s. You might never moan about re­peats again!


1936 – Of­fi­cial BBC TV ser­vices started this year. Tele­vi­sion was still very much in its in­fancy – and a nov­elty con­fined to those who could af­ford it. Here’s what most peo­ple missed:

At 3pm, view­ers were treated to A Christ­mas Tur­key – a demon­stra­tion of carv­ing by B.j.hul­bert. Li­cense pay­ers may well have been tempted to tell the Beeb where to put the stuff­ing!

After such ex­cite­ment, things calmed down at 3.15 with a 10 minute News Reel, fol­lowed by Ernest Shack­le­ton’s epic, A Lonely Christ­mas in the Arc­tic. At 3.30pm, day­time view­ing ended with a 20 minute sea­sonal edi­tion of a show called Pic­ture Page. Then the screen went blank un­til 9pm – when pro­grammes re­turned with Christ­mas Car­ols by the Singing Boys of St Mary of the An­gels Song School.

At 9.10pm view­ers were taken on a whis­tle-stop ten minute Sea­sonal Tour Through the Em­pire. Then, at 9.20pm, peak view­ing was an of­fer­ing called Some Un­usual Christ­mases by Com­man­der A.B. Camp­bell, fol­lowed by a five minute news reel. The big day’s view­ing ended at 9.35pm with a show called Tele­vi­sion Party.

1939 – When war broke out, the Gov­ern­ment shut down TV al­to­gether, fear­ing the en­emy might take ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­ogy. TV broad­cast­ing re­turned on 7th June 1946. But, with of­fer­ings like these, did any­one re­ally miss it?

1946 – Christ­mas Day pro­gram­ming kicked off at 3pm with The King Speaks to his Peo­ple – in sound only – fol­lowed by Christ­mas in Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal – a visit to Queen El­iz­abeth’s Hos­pi­tal, Hack­ney. Then, things went quiet – for four and a half hours – un­til ser­vice re­sumed with a show called Starlights.

At 9pm, the day’s high­light was Christ­mas Night – a fan­tasy based on Dick­ens’ ‘A Christ­mas Carol’, with a bal­let and mu­sic by Vaughan Wil­liams. At 10pm the news – in sound only – sent view­ers to bed.


1957 – There was more avail­able on the box now, and the Beeb had to com­pete with com­mer­cial TV. If you could drag your­self away from the ad­verts and switch over, the Queen had her reg­u­lar 3pm slot speak­ing to the na­tion, fol­lowed by Billy Smart’s Fam­ily Party. At four o’clock Chil­dren’s Tele­vi­sion kept young­sters amused, then a film, Mrs. Mike star­ring Dick Pow­ell, took view­ers up to the six o’clock news and weather.

At five past six there was just time for ten min­utes of sport be­fore view­ers set­tled down to Opera from Mu­nich: Mozart’s Don Juan, Act 1, sung in Ger­man.

Then the news, fol­lowed by some light re­lief with: Songs and Dances from the films of Gene Kelly.

At 7.30pm view­ers’ pa­tience was re­warded with Pan­to­ma­nia Presents The Babes in the Wood – with a cast of thou­sands in­clud­ing: Ea­monn An­drews, Derek Bond, Ken­neth Con­nor, Sam Costa, Peter Dim­mock, Char­lie Drake, Tony Han­cock, Benny Hill, Sid James, Cliff Michel­more, Jean Met­calfe, Derek Hart, Bill May­nard, Jack Payne, Sylvia Peters, Ted Ray, Huw Whel­don and Peter Haigh.

1962 – As we reach the six­ties, things start to look up – with some shows many read­ers will re­call. Young­sters had Watch with Mother – Andy Pandy at 10.15, fol­lowed by the Christ­mas Morn­ing Ser­vice at 10.30. At 11.30 Like Mu­sic starred Bernard Her­mann and the NDO, with the Karl Den­ver Trio and Kathy Kirby. And at 11.50 Johnny Mor­ris could be seen ca­vort­ing in Ober­gurgl, in the Aus­trian Alps - in Go Ski-ing.

At just after 1pm – fans of TV western Bronco could en­joy Ty Hardin as “the rov­ing cow­boy ad­ven­turer, Bronco Layne” in Bronco: Un­til King­dom Come. Fans only had ten min­utes of their hero as Christ­mas Mu­sic – from Han­del’s Mes­siah fol­lowed at 1.10pm.

From 2.05pm un­til the Queen, at three, there were two Christ­mas Ap­peals – one for Wire­less for the Bedrid­den, the other, Meet the Kids, – from Great Or­mond Street Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil­dren.

After the Queen came Billy Smart’s Cir­cus. Back then, few baulked at the an­i­mal acts that were still part and par­cel of cir­cus life. At Christ­mas 1962, apart from the usual horses and per­form­ing dogs, view­ers saw Cal­i­for­nian Sea Li­ons, Ele­phants and even Po­lar Bears.

At 4.15pm came the panto – Puss In Boots – star­ring David Nixon, Reg Var­ney and Tommy Field. After this view­ers had Hay­ley in Dis­ney­land – with Hay­ley Mills’ se­lec­tion of favourite Dis­ney clips. The evening news was fol­lowed by Christ­mas at Ful­ham Palace home of the Arch­bishop of York.


At 7.15pm view­ers set­tled down to Christ­mas Night with the Stars – Pre­sented by Ea­monn An­drews, fea­tur­ing “stars of TV Light En­ter­tain­ment” – with sketches from top shows in­clud­ing The Billy Cot­ton Band Show, The Rag Trade, Ken­neth Mckel­lar’s A Song for Ev­ery­one, The Eric Sykes Show and Juke Box Jury - with Sid James, Syd­ney Tafler, Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd on the panel. Also fea­tured were Michael Ben­tine’s It’s a Square World, Step­toe and Son and Dixon of Dock Green.

Next up was the big movie – John Hus­ton’s clas­sic - African Queen – star­ring Humphrey Bog­art and Kather­ine Hep­burn, fol­lowed by Leonard Sachs and Max Wall in The Good Old Days. After the late news, opera buffs en­joyed Puc­cini’s La Bo­heme, the weather – and so, to bed.

Just like to­day, Box­ing Day was geared to sports. But, by early evening there were such de­lights as Whicker on Top of the World – Alan Whicker re­call­ing his “10,000 mile Alaskan ex­plo­ration for Tonight”. Yes, more re­peats!

After the frozen waste­lands, came a car­toon ver­sion of Swift’s Gul­liver’s Trav­els. Then an ea­gerly awaited episode of favourite cop show – Z Cars: Search.

The one where Fancy Smith (Brian Blessed) and co hunt for a miss­ing child on Christ­mas Day. After the drama, “Benny Hill in a new se­ries of un­likely sit­u­a­tions” – Benny Hill 5: The Se­cret of Planet Seven.

Then, the big movie – John Hus­ton’s ver­sion of Moulin Rouge – with an un­likely pair­ing of Jose Fer­rer – and Zsa Zsa Ga­bor. After the late night news at 11.05pm, Danc­ing Club – with Vic­tor Sylvester Jr – pro­vided the se­quins and glit­ter ball es­sen­tial to the All Bri­tain Danc­ing Con­test and other de­mon­stra­tions of nifty foot­work. At 23.50pm came the all-im­por­tant Weather and Close Down


By 1967 TV was mov­ing into the mod­ern age – now there were three chan­nels – and you could watch BBC2 in glo­ri­ous colour! But as many of us still had black and white sets, Christ­mas Day high­lights on BBC 1 in­cluded: 9.55am – The Sooty Show 12.30pm – Z Cars 2.05pm Top of the Pops 3.10pm – Billy Smart’s Cir­cus

4.10pm – Dis­ney Time, with Dick Van Dyke

5pm – Cin­derella - star­ring Jimmy Tar­buck, Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd.

9.40pm – The Man Who Shot Lib­erty Valance – clas­sic John Ford western star­ring John Wayne, James Ste­wart, Vera Miles, Ed­mond O’brien – and Lee Marvin as old lib­erty bodice him­self.

Visit:­ules/bbctv to see list­ings of more shows from Christ­mases past.

TVS were ex­pen­sive to buy - so rent­ing a set was very pop­u­lar

The Z Cars An­nual from 1963

Bronco Layne played by Ty Hardin

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