TV TIMES Magazine IN THE 80S
By Mark Nobes
Do you remember your 80s Christmas being completely ruined because nobody remembered to buy the TV Times and Radio Times? Of course, it was always Mum who got the blame, as you couldn't expect anyone else in the household to remember. They were far too busy watching the TV!
Anyone who lived through the 1970s and 80s, will remember that that the only way to access the TV programme listings was, of course, by purchasing both the Radio Times and TV Times. Indeed, if you try to explain to the younger generation that we had only four TV channels (three until November 1982) and needed two separate TV listings magazines, it's no wonder they are left with a bemused look on their faces!
These days, of course, just one magazine is sufficient, and you needn't purchase any magazine at all if you're happy to use the on screen guide or go online. Given the fact that the current weekly circulation of TV Times is still over 190,000 (the Radio Times is over 600,000), and that there are numerous other TV listings magazines available, it seems that there is still a fairly healthy market for these publications, although the circulations are a far cry from what they were back in the 80s, of course.
By the way, the issue at the top of the page is from 1981, and I'm amused by the headline "How would you feel if your son looked like this?". Well, I'm not sure that anyone in the early 80s (apart from Adam Ant) ventured outside wearing a hussar jacket with a white stripe painted across their face - not in our neck of the woods, at least!
TV Times launched on 22nd Sept 1955, when ITV first started. However, it wasn't made available nationwide until 1968. In the 70s and 80s, a different version was printed for each TV region, and there were several times when I mistakingly picked up the HTV version instead of the Central version due to our location near the border of Wales. These days, there are just four versions for each country in the UK.
In 1991, the TV listings were deregulated, but until then, the only way to view the ITV and Channel 4 listings was to purchase the TV Times. With around 10 to 15 million people tuning into the popular programmes of the day, the magazine was guaranteed a healthy circulation.
Although we regarded the magazine as being an essential purchase (I was devastated if there was no TV Times on the coffee table!), looking back, it would only take seconds to flick through the three or four channels, with my Dad using me as the remote control. Most of the time, we knew exactly what was on ITV anyway, with most shows having a regular slot throughout the week.
The most essential issue was the bumper Christmas edition, and I remember meticulously planning what we were going to watch over the festive period, with complete disregard for the rest of the family! It's no wonder that my plan fell apart the moment the TV was switched on during Christmas Eve. There was no way that my Dad was going to let me watch the Telly Addicts Christmas Special with Noel Edmonds. And there was always a major row about which comedy duo we would watch. Would it be Cannon & Ball on ITV or Little & Large on BBC1!
Of course, the invention of the VHS video recorder was a godsend, but we had to wait until around the mid 80s before the prices were sufficiently low enough to be able to afford one - thank goodness for Amstrad!
Russ Abbott as Cooperman in 1985
ITV Listing from Christmas Eve 1983
I am currently browsing through an old Christmas issue of TV Times from 1983, and so let me give you a brief look at what we may have watched back then.
At 4:30pm ITV were showing The Krankies at Christmas with guests Bernie Winters, Jimmy Cricket and Melvyn Hayes. Modern Romance were the musical guests. At 5:15pm it was Knight Rider (essential viewing for me!), at 6:10pm Punchlines with Lennie Bennett with guests including Christopher Biggins (he appeared on just about every game show in the 80s), Bob Carolgees (so did he!), TV-AM weather girl Wincey Willis and Gary Wilmot, to name but a few. At 6:45pm it was 3-2-1 with Ted Rogers (I never could understand this show!) and 7:45pm Cilla Black's Christmas Eve with guests Frankie Howerd, Julio Iglesias, George Benson and The Bee Gees (via satellite). I probably watched Cilla just to see the guests, but as soon as she started singing then it was time for a sharp exit - her voice just grated on my nerves!
Such shows attracted pretty huge audiences back then, but my feeling is that some of these we watched merely out of sheer boredom. Sometimes there was nothing interesting on BBC1 or we were waiting for the next programme. In my case, I probably watched The Krankies while waiting for Knight Rider. I couldn't really stand them, to be honest - fandabidoze they were not!
So there we have it, my brief glimpse into an era which will never return. For how much longer TV Times can survive is anyone's guess, but I fear it may well suffer the same fate as many of the other once popular 80s magazines in the not too distant future.
An issue from July 1983 featuring Lionel Blair and his baby
Susan Barlow with Mike Baldwin in 1986
TV-AM presenter Anne Diamond in 1986
Matthew and Henry Kelly (1984)