Saturday 16 April 2022

What's on Tim's VHS Tape?

Investigating the contents of VHS tapes can often be a frustrating, unrewarding and absolute waste of time. Several years ago, when I was eager to accept any old donation of tapes, I received close to 200 videos to delve through; I found absolutely nothing. Actually, I lie, there was a BBC2 closedown from 1992 but it was so dull I couldn't be bothered digitising it.

But you have to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to old video tapes. For every 50 tapes you find packed full of episodes of Family Fortunes from 1999 (apologies if that's the epitome of what floats your boat) you may just find a little curio which hasn't been seen for decades. Recently, one of my Twitter followers, Tim, got in touch to say he had found an old video of his with some recordings on from 1985. There was a broadcast of the Dr Who and the Daleks film and an episode of The Young Ones.

Whilst these recordings are readily available in numerous formats, the true intrigue of a tape is always what surrounds these recordings. Often, a tape would be left running and end up recording something ephemeral like a local news report or a trailer for that season's comedy lineup. Not life changing or of significant cultural importance, but interesting enough to take a peek at a few decades later. And, thankfully, despite only being a two-hour long tape, there were several things worth looking at on Tim's tape.

1. 20/04/1985 - BBC1 - Doctor Who Continuity

Following on from the recording of Dr Who and the Daleks, there immediately followed a BBC slide to publicise the following week's showing of Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D and then a quick plug for the recent Doctor Who VHS releases. They focus, in particular, on Pyramids of Mars which, incidentally, was the first ever Doctor Who video I got and, as a result, the first Tom Baker serial I ever watched. Needless to say, 35 years later, it's still my favourite Doctor Who story.

2. 24/06/1985 - BBC2 - Open Space Trailer

Open Space isn't a programme I ever remember watching, but it ran from 1983 - 1995 so it certainly clocked up one or two episodes. According to a description in the Radio Times, it was a "series where the public can make programmes under their own editorial control" and, on the basis of this trailer, anything was game. It would appear, you see, that this edition of Open Space focuses on the problem of dogs fouling the pavement. Despite, for all intents and purposes, looking like a spoof, it's actually genuine. If, for some ungodly reason, you have a full copy of this then please get in touch!

3. 21/07/1985 - BBC1 - Why Do They Call it Good Friday? (Clip)

Now, if there's something I love finding on old video tapes, it's mysterious programmes that people struggle to identify as this marks them out as dusty relics which were forgotten almost as soon as they were broadcast. This particular clip was found at the very end of Tim's tape and he couldn't even remember recording it, let alone what it was. I had no choice but to offer it up to Twitter to see if my followers could identify it.

There were several suggestions almost instantly, but unfortunately none of them matched up with the actual clip in question. Luckily, just as I was giving up all hope that this would ever be identified, there was a breakthrough. Someone on Twitter had found a listing on BBC Genome which matched the clip, best of all there was a link to a one minute clip which featured the same characters. The programme was a one-off drama called Why Do They Call it Good Friday? and its blurb in the Radio Times stated:

"Ten-year-old Danny Brennan is asked by his teacher to find someone to care for a pigeon with a broken wing. He takes it to a breeder who promptly wrings its neck. During the Easter service the miracle of the Resurrection is re-interpreted in the boy's mind and transferred to the Pigeon"

A bizarre sounding programme if ever there was one, and one I absolutely want to watch. If you have a copy of Why Do They Call it Good Friday then please get in touch!

4. 21/07/1985 - ITV - Adverts and Anglia Continuity

Finally, there was a partial advert break - featuring Lamot lager and a Polo advert voiced by Peter Sallis - before a trailer for The Jimmy Young Television Programme and then a blink-and-you'll-miss-it in-vision continuity announcement from Anglia's Helen McDermott for that evening's installment of Tales of the Unexpected. Nothing of major interest here, but, after having a quick look on YouTube, it appears that no footage of The Jimmy Young Television Programme has made it on there. Oh, and the Anglia in-vision continuity is most likely - in fact, almost certainly - missing from the archives, but it's not exactly missing Doctor Who episodes.

Anyway, these may feel like minor finds, but in the world of tape trawling, it represents a decent haul and, for me at least, I've discovered a few new programmes to investigate further. And, don't forget, if you've got any old video tapes from the 1980s then please get in touch and we can see what's on them.


  1. Hi Ben, glad you enjoyed the tape. The other tape is a E-180, so perhaps more of a chance of finding some interesting bit and bobs on there. This second tape was, I recall, purchased by me to recorded the penultimate episode of The Young Ones' 1985 repeat run ('Sick') and the 2nd Who film, though those were subsequently taped over with the last 6 episodes of s25 of Who - though as that season played through Xmas 1988, there may be some seasonal trailers. And that inexplicable episode of Neighbours mentioned previously.

    Now, my memory is that there was a third tape from 1985, to record the final TYO, 'Summer Holiday'. I recall accidentally taping over the episode with something else. Whether this third tape still exists, I cannot say for certain.

    Now here is something VERY odd. I mentioned on Twitter the Anglia TV continuity announcer was Katie Glass. In fact, I would have put all the money I have in the world on it. Yet, watching that clip again just now, I see it is clearly Helen McDermott. Both were with Anglia for many years, so how I made such a mistake I can't say. Such is the mysterious power of old VHS tapes...!

    Thank you for the all the effort put in - a very interesting stroll down memory lane!

  2. Very interesting,have you come across chips comic?,early channel 4 from 1982

    1. I've not stumbled across any old recordings of Chips Comic on VHS tapes, but I did managed to watch some episodes a few years ago and chat to some of the cast/crew.

  3. Hi.
    1986. I recall recording Batman, starring Adam West. The series was been aired on Good morning Britain on the ITV channel. It became so popular that they even got Adam West on the show.

    1. You're right, I think TV-AM was hit by strike action which meant they could only broadcast news bulletins. Instead, they showed repeats of Batman and Happy Days, which got better ratings than TV-AM had got! When the strike was settled, they had Adam West on as a guest, as you say.