Thursday, 17 November 2016
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British thing to do and didn't half get the jingoistic pride swelling, but I suspect it would be a rather outdated tradition to bring back now due to the lack of interest in the British royal family; a modern version - in an alternate universe where the major channels still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...
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!