5 Things We Miss From The World of British TV


British TV has changed a lot in the last 30 years and, for the whole, it's been an amazing evolution which has enhanced choice and accessibility to stratospheric levels. However, along the way, I can't help but survey the casualties which fallen to the wayside in this exciting sprint towards our most wild TV dreams. That's why I've decided to take a look at 5 things we miss from British TV.

1. The National Anthem Closedown


Now, I'm certainly not a diehard royalist, but there's a certain tradition and immense history behind the monarchy that I'm more than content for them to rattle away in the background and pop up as national figureheads every now and then.

However, back in the old days, things were different and the monarchy were taken so seriously that BBC1 and ITV used to close each days viewing with a quick blast of God Save The Queen. Often it was over footage of the Queen, a solitary photo (as per the LWT example above) or just a simple, ticking clock.

It was a quintessentially British thing to do and didn't half get the jingoistic pride swelling, but I suspect it would be a rather outdated tradition to bring back now due to the lack of interest in the British royal family; a modern version - in an alternate universe where the major channels still had a closedown - would probably feature a Rizzle Kicks track being played over a shot of Joey Essex, so maybe a modern re-imagining isn't necessary...

2. VideoPlus+


VideoPlus+ was the original Sky Plus and, after being introduced in the late 1980s, finally offered Britain an alternative to fiddling round with the fiendish timer settings found on VCRs. Each TV show broadcast was assigned a unique number that VCRs could process and establish a specific date, time and channel to record. The unique numbers were published in TV listings in newspapers and magazines.

Unfortunately, the VideoPlus+ numbers were never completely accurate and recordings could easily start/finish early which made for particularly frustrating watches. Occasionally, though, you could catch a few minutes of a show which ran prior to or after the show you intended to record - particularly with late night recordings - and this could often lead to the discovery of amazing TV shows, in particular I discovered Get Stuffed in this manner.

With the slickness of Sky Plus you're guaranteed - on the whole - to get all of your programme recorded, but it's likely you'll miss out on a few hidden gems along the way.

3. The Rationing of Children's TV


Children are spoiled, these days, when it comes to children's TV what with the plethora of channels beaming out programming for children for long, long stretches of the day. And I feel that, whilst this is great for keeping unruly children entertained, it's also reducing their levels of patience.

Back in my day, of course, we had to wait for lunchtime for a quick burst of children's TV before another couple of hours followed in the afternoon. And this meant I appreciated this very special window of TV and recognised it was a slice of TV dedicated purely to my peers and I, so, years later, I'm more than content to stand in a queue without having to happyslap someone to satisfy my errant attention span.

4. The Excitement of a New Channel


It seems unthinkable now, but it wasn't that long ago that we only had four TV channels to watch. And the advent of satellite TV didn't really change matters as, for a long time, people only tuned in for The Simpsons, Football and repeats of terrestrial TV shows.

That's why it was ALWAYS a big deal when a new terrestrial TV channel launched, perhaps equalled only by a total solar eclipse. I was only present for the launch of Channel 5, but I remember the promotion of the launch was immense with its promise of unique programming, new stars and an exclusive video of The Spice Girls reworking Manfred Mann's 5-4-3-2-1 into 1-2-3-4-5.

Being a gullible teenager, I really bought into the hype and was determined to enjoy this new channel, so religiously tuned in as often as possible. However, there was no iconic Countdown style jewel in the crown to help the launch - as Channel 4 had in 1982 - and it's lineup was nearly as frustrating as the channel's poor signal which restricted its reach.

Thankfully, though, Channel 5 eventually pulled up their socks and delivered the majesty of Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! And I'm not even lying.

5. Pages From Ceefax


Up until the mid 1980s, the BBC failed to have a full daytime schedule. Starting in 1980, though, the BBC decided to fill these gaps with selected pages from their Ceefax service in a feature called, not surprisingly, Pages From Ceefax.

The feature was a rolling succession of Ceefax pages, but was completely shorn of the interactive element of Teletext, so you couldn't select specific pages (that's what actual Ceefax was for). Despite this sounding, on paper, to be as exciting as watching paint dry on John Major, there was something enchanting about the whole thing. And a major part of its appeal was the "so awful it's amazing" muzak which accompanied the pages.

As TV schedules became longer and longer, Pages From Ceefax gradually disappeared from our screens and, with it, a simpler period of TV.

So, what else do you miss from the good old days of television? Or do you think everything featured here is indicative of the dark days of British TV? Let me know in the comments below!

CONVERSATION

18 comments:

  1. I still really miss Pages from Ceefax first thing in the morning or in the wee small hours. If I need a hit now, I put on Everything But The Girl's Love Is Here Where I Live - seriously check out the music to that track, its pure Ceefax in the most lovely of ways.

    Saturday morning kids TV - it just isn't the same to switch on the tele in your PJ's to find Saturday Kitchen. I want Going Live!

    I'd forgotten VideoPlus+ and didn't know 5's faces were the young Tin Vine and Julia Bradbury!

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    1. You're right about that EBTG track - the epitome of Ceefax music. Also not dissimilar to the instrumentals they used to play in Little Chef restaurants.

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  2. I miss ITV's crypto-prog 'Monday's Newcomers', a morning feature in which all that week's new adverts would be shown. Apparently the programme, if one can refer as such to a succession of ads grouped by duration, was aimed at the advertising industry thus it was never listed in the TV Times. News of the prog travelled by word of mouth from kids who were off 'sick' from school and turned on the TV for a speculative gander at what they expected to be a blank screen. The other way to see it was in the school holidays, but one was unlikely to get up before mid-day in that case so would miss it.

    On a related matter, I also miss the animated star that used to appear in all ad breaks to denote the junctions between the adverts.

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    1. Never heard on Monday's Newcomers, but sounds an intriguing feature. I suspect it had petered out by the time I was old enough to start enjoying TV.

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  3. 80s and 90s daytime tele on the BBC too; Open Air, Birthday Cards, 5 to 11, Pebble Mill, a film in the afternoon and then CBBC

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    1. I wonder if they still do birthday cards on any of the children's shows these days...

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  4. I've been surprised to find that indeed they do, on both CBeebies and C5 Milkshake. Would've expected sending in birthday cards to be obsolete in this digital age.

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    1. Yeah, I would have thought that sort of thing had been transferred to social media by now. Just imagine Cbeebies Instagramming all the birthday cards - sadly it doesn't seem that far fetched...

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  5. was also very hyped for channel 5 n for at least 6 months watched that late night chat show they had on everyday cant for the life of me remember who hosted it tho

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    1. I watched that too - The Jack Docherty Show!

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    2. aye whatever happened to him, i think they dumped him at some point n craig ferguson took over before they dropped the whole idea, strange that ferguson now does it proper over in the usa

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    3. Doherty's resurfacing a a bit of late. On the day of the Scottish referendum he wrote and starred in Scotland in a Day on Channel 4 and his radio sitcom Stop/Start made the move to TV with a pilot in BBC1'S Comedy Playhouse earlier this year. I think Craig Ferguson has packed it in now - isn't the uber annoying James Corden the replacement for Ferguson?

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    4. Yeah, I think Corden was his replacement - The Late, Late Show?

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  6. For anyone missing Pages from Ceefax, my tribute site is always here (complete with music!)
    www.pagesfromceefax.net

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    1. Jason you star! That's beautiful and brilliant :)

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    2. Marvellous stuff! Not sure how I'd managed to miss that! Shall set it up to play through my TV in the mornings!

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  7. I think I just miss 4-channel TV in general - I probably am just as conditioned
    to the modern abundance of choice as anyone, but what is choice?
    Having two or three options is still a choice, just as much as having over 100
    (most of which you don't want).
    Let me put it this way, when I was a kid and we had an hour of programmes aimed at children and half-an-hour of news straight after and then once you watched your favourite show you had to wait another week for the next episode, I never felt like I was missing out on anything. On the contrary, our generation just felt lucky to have the telly. After all, our Grandparents didn't have the telly when they were our age, can you imagine?

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    1. There's no sense of event TV now. Huge audiences don't crowd round the TV at the same time anymore thanks to Sky+, streaming, downloads etc. And there's certainly no urgency in watching TV shows any more as almost everything is instantly accessible in one form or another.

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