LIFE AND TV TIMES OF CHRIST­MAS PAST

Re­porter ROB HARRIES found a dusty col­lec­tion in his par­ents’ at­tic that turned out to be an in­valu­able slice of so­cial his­tory...

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

IWAS only look­ing for a book for my son but I couldn’t be­lieve what I found. In the cor­ner of my par­ents’ at­tic I could see three bags full of mem­o­ries and nos­tal­gia that would trans­port me back to the mag­i­cal Christ­mases of my child­hood – 40 years’ worth of Ra­dio Times and TV Times mag­a­zines. Ev­ery one a Christ­mas edi­tion, from 1977 right through to 2017; ev­ery one with a dif­fer­ent mem­ory on its front and a glut of TV gold in its list­ings.

I spent the fol­low­ing hours por­ing over what I would have watched on Christ­mas Day when TV, and life, was less com­pli­cated.

There were only four channels (three be­fore Chan­nel 4 launched in 1982), and Christ­mas was the one day when whole fam­i­lies would sit and watch TV to­gether.

Peo­ple had one op­tion when it came to plan­ning their fes­tive tele­vi­sion rit­u­als. They bought the Ra­dio Times and the TV Times and cir­cled pro­grammes that they wanted to watch.

So, what were you watch­ing on Christ­mas Day back then? Here are some high­lights... 1977 Un­til the dereg­u­la­tion of TV list­ings in 1991, the Ra­dio Times only used to pub­lish the list­ings for BBC1 and BBC2, while ITV list­ings were pub­lished in the TV Times. You had to buy two mag­a­zines for three channels.

In 1977, there was a Welsh pro­duc­tion called Adre Dros ‘Dolig on BBC1 at 9.40am (there was no S4C un­til 1982). Noel Ed­monds (who prob­a­bly looked the same as he does now) hosted Top of the Pops on BBC1 at 2.10pm and the Christ­mas Day fam­ily film was The Wiz­ard of Oz at 4.10pm. HTV fought back with a Christ­mas Sale of the Cen­tury, but BBC won the evening bat­tle with a dou­ble-bar­rel smash of the Mike Yar­wood Christ­mas Spe­cial and the More­combe and Wise Christ­mas Show. 1978 The af­ter­noon was sorted as BBC1 had Larry Grayson’s Gen­er­a­tion Game at 3.20pm, fol­lowed by The Sound of Mu­sic at 4.20pm.

Some Moth­ers Do ’Ave ’ Em was on at 7.15pm, fol­lowed by the Mike Yar­wood Christ­mas Spe­cial at 8pm, but HTV re­ally came on strong in the evening with Bond clas­sic Di­a­monds are For­ever at 6.45pm, fol­lowed by The More­cambe and Wise Show mak­ing its de­but on ITV. More than 19 mil­lion peo­ple would watch their first ap­pear­ance ‘on the other side’. 1982 ’82 was a big year for couch pota­toes with the in­tro­duc­tion of a fourth chan­nel called, pre­dictably, Chan­nel 4.

HTV had Jour­ney Back to Oz at 9am and, af­ter the Queen’s speech, The Par­ent Trap (not the Lind­say Lo­han one, she wasn’t born yet).

It was a low-key start for Chan­nel 4 with the silent film The Nav­i­ga­tor, fol­lowed by the first ever Christ­mas episode of Brook­side.On BBC1 at 6pm The Paul Daniels Magic Show was fol­lowed by Last of the Sum­mer Wine and The Two Ron­nies. 1983 The year I was born. To cel­e­brate the ar­rival of their first son, my par­ents bought the Ra­dio Times, two copies of the TV Times, and a Sbec – the Welsh lan­guage TV guide. They re­ally wanted to cel­e­brate Christ­mas ’83 in style.

As a baby I would have watched The Christ­mas Rac­coons at 8.35am on BBC1, and then switched to HTV for Roland’s Win­ter Won­der­land (yes, Roland Rat!) at 9am. In the evening there was Bruce Forsyth’s Play Your Cards Right (HTV, 7.15pm), Mar­tin Scors­ese’s The King of Com­edy (Chan­nel 4, 8.25pm), and Only Fools and Horses (BBC1, 9.35pm). 1985 1985 starts with a real pang of nos­tal­gia as the Ra­dio Times cover has Del Boy, Rod­ney and Un­cle Al­bert in Santa out­fits.

HTV kicked things off with car­toon bliss in the shape of Frag­gle Rock and Danger­mouse.

Hi-de-Hi! kicked off on BBC1 at 6.30pm, fol­lowed by the Only Fools and Horses spe­cial (it’s the one where they smug­gle di­a­monds in from Hol­land) tak­ing on Min­der on HTV. 1987 BBC1 went all out in the af­ter­noon with the ul­ti­mate Christ­mas block­buster – In­di­ana Jones and the Tem­ple of Doom, fol­lowed by the Russ Ab­bot Christ­mas Show at 5.45pm.

Chan­nel 4 wins the prize for the most iconic show, how­ever, with The Snow­man at 5.25pm.

The Two Ron­nies and Miss Marple took care of the evening on BBC1, and be­fore bed, Alf Gar­nett en­ter­tained the 80s adult at 10.05pm with In Sick­ness and in Health. 1988 BBC of­fered It’s a Char­ity Knock­out, plus a one-hour EastEn­ders spe­cial at 1pm.

Chan­nel 4 had a fea­ture-length episode of The Wal­tons and then The Snow­man (again).

A big film bat­tle was tak­ing place af­ter Her Majesty as Back to the Fu­ture on BBC1 at 3.10pm clashed with The Em­pire Strikes Back on HTV. This would have been a tough choice.

How­ever, if nei­ther were your thing, you could have tuned in to Nel­son Man­dela’s 70th Birth­day Con­cert over on BBC2 at 3pm, which only lasted five hours. The Bread Christ­mas Spe­cial took cen­tre stage on BBC1 at 7.15pm. HTV had a fes­tive fire with Lon­don’s Burn­ing. 1990 The dawn­ing of a new decade saw Chan­nel 4 plump for The Snow­man on Christ­mas Day.

HTV opted for Moon­raker for the se­cond time in five years, but then redeemed them­selves with Ken Dodd at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium at 6.15pm and then the pre­miere of Bev­erly Hills Cop II at 8pm. BBC had Dad’s Army, Only Fools and Horses, Bruce Forsyth’s Gen­er­a­tion Game, Bread, Birds of a Feather and Yes Min­is­ter in an avalanche of clas­sic com­edy. 1991 The dereg­u­la­tion of TV list­ings in 1991 made buy­ing Christ­mas TV guides much eas­ier.

The day was won with a 6pm net­work tele­vi­sion pre­miere of Bat­man on BBC1, which seems a bit early see­ing as Jack Ni­chol­son has his face burned off early in the film. 1993 Andi Peters and Emma Forbes kicked things

off in ’93 with Live and Kick­ing on Christ­mas Day on BBC1 at 8.30am, be­fore a mu­si­cal ver­sion of Scrooge, a Dad’s Army spe­cial and Top of the Pops led us into the Queen’s speech. 1996 Des O’Con­nor’s Christ­mas with the Stars on HTV at 7.30pm clashed with the mother of all block­busters, Juras­sic Park, on BBC1.

One must feel a bit for Heart­beat, too. The pop­u­lar po­lice drama was up against Only Fools and Horses with Del and Rod­ney dressed up as Bat­man and Robin, with a TV au­di­ence of more than 21 mil­lion peo­ple. A third of the UK watched that show. 1999 A young (although they prob­a­bly looked ex­actly the same) Ant and Dec fronted SM:TV Live on HTV at 9.25am. Later, the Queen on HTV was fol­lowed by Ace Ven­tura: Pet De­tec­tive, Gla­di­a­tors: The Fi­nal Bat­tle and Who Wants to Be a Christ­mas Mil­lion­aire, which re­turned for a se­cond part at 10.30pm af­ter a 90-minute A Touch of Frost. 2001 On the big day in 2001, there was a two-hour The Big Break­fast over on Chan­nel 4.

Alis­tair Mc­Gowan’s Big Im­pres­sion took the prime time slot on BBC1 at 7.40pm, while Only Fools and Horses re­turned again. 2003 Re­mem­ber Bob the Builder? He was still pop­u­lar enough for a fea­ture-length episode on Christ­mas morn­ing in 2003.

Turner and Hooch was on ITV at 1.30pm, be­fore My Fam­ily and Easten­ders spe­cials on BBC1 took us into the last-ever episode of Only Fools and Horses, which still had 16.3 mil­lion view­ers. 2004 On BBC1 Harry Pot­ter and the Philoso­pher’s Stone seemed to go on for hours, while 12.5 mil­lion peo­ple watched The Vicar of Di­b­ley at 9.25pm. 2007 BBC went all Dis­ney with Find­ing Nemo and Shrek and in the evening the Strictly lC Come Danc­ing Spe­cial and To the Manor Born ITV had Harry Hill’s Christ­mas TV Burp. 2009 ITV had a two-hour Poirot at 9pm and then Rus­sell Crowe at his finest in Gla­di­a­tor.

Chan­nel 4 had a Christ­mas spe­cial of Deal or No Deal. BBC opted for The Royle Fam­ily at 9pm, Gavin & Stacey at 10pm and Cather­ine Tate: Nan’s Christ­mas Carol at 10.30pm. 2011 By now, multi-plat­form TV and the in­ter­net had taken their hold on Christ­mas rit­u­als and we were watch­ing films and spe­cials at any time, any­where. The bat­tle for su­pe­ri­or­ity was be­tween Alan Carr: Chatty Man Christ­mas Spe­cial (Chan­nel 4), an hour-long EastEn­ders (BBC1) and what, for a time, had be­come a Christ­mas tra­di­tion, Down­ton Abbey (ITV). 2013 By now we had more TV channels than you could shake a turkey at. Ter­res­trial TV view­ers were treated to Call the Mid­wife and Doc­tor Who on BBC1, be­fore Mrs Brown’s Boys and Michael McIn­tyre’s Show­time clashed with Love Ac­tu­ally on ITV and Man Down and Fa­ther Ted on Chan­nel 4. 2015 ITV served up the last ever episode of Down­ton Abbey, while BBC1 boasted the ever-pop­u­lar Mrs Brown’s Boys: Mammy’s Christ­mas Punch at 9.45pm. 2017 Last year. We were prob­a­bly all watch­ing Net­flix in the bath­room at this point, but in case you weren’t, here are some of the high­lights.

BBC1 went all out with Doc­tor Who, Strictly Come Danc­ing, Call the Mid­wife, EastEn­ders and Mrs Brown’s Boys. ITV had Harry Pot­ter and the Pris­oner of Azk­a­ban at 3.10pm but shunned the night-time block­buster in favour of Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs at Christ­mas , Coro­na­tion Street and pe­riod drama Vic­to­ria, while Chan­nel 4 cooked up The Great Christ­mas Bake Off and Christ­mas First Dates.

PIC­TURES: ADRIAN WHITE

Rob Harries re­views his par­ents’ col­lec­tion of Christ­mas TV guides from the past 40 years

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