Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nostalgia Trip: Radio Times

I was going to mention a couple of British TV shows from the '90's before I came across a spread of Radio Times covers, which really takes me back. In our global cross-pollination and instant information overload age, it is hard to describe the attraction of a thin, incomplete, fragile TV magazine which, if nothing else, was ludicrously mis-named for the television age.

Yet back in the day, when there were only two BBC channels (and the ITV listings were, if my memory is correct, only available in another listings magazine) it seemed very important to consult the RT (as it was affectionately known) before planning a night's TV viewing. This was, of course, also before the widespread availability of VHS, and many years before inventions such as DVD and TIVO. Back then, if you missed a show, it was gone for good. Fortunately, the magazine also served as an Entertainment Weekly of sorts, including snippets about new productions, what the actors were up to, and radio listings to boot.

There was no TV at all between midnight and 6 a.m., and BBC 2 was usually stuffed with arty, "educational" programs and the odd documentary. Therefore, viewing was usually concentrated on BBC 1 and whatever shows were being broadcast throughout the day or evening. Many of my TV memories were shows that it was impossible to avoid - and I'm sure my US born friends would have been appalled at the lack of choice, of freedom, of TV democracy back in those heady days - but now I can only look back fondly on Saturdays with Dusty Bin (That's 3-2-1, folks) or The Generation Game, Dallas on Wednesday nights, Panorama on Tuesdays, Tomorrow's World on Thursdays and Eastenders every bloody day of the week.

Next time I hear a child complain that there is nothing on the TV that they like, I will feel sorry for them. Perhaps, choice is sometimes overrated.

The Radio Times is still going strong, although I'm sure it is now wonderfully interactive and modern. There is an official web site. Like me, you can discover a wonderful gallery of all the old magazine covers here. There is, of course, a wikipedia entry as well.

One other interesting memory is this. In our house we did not have any air conditioning or central heating system. When my parents laid out some carpet mum would always use old magazines for insulation, usually the Radio Times or the other TV Guide. Years later, when we pulled up the carpet, I'd always find some old thing to read underneath. Even today, there are some things you just can't do with the internet.


Anonymous said...

i love this blog :)

Miss Parker said...

I have been around long enough to remember when there were only 4 channels in the states - ABC, CBS, ABC and a local PBS channel. The best thing about the PBS channel was its reissue of BBC programs. It filled my young, Anglophile world with "Monty Python," "Benny Hill," and "Are You Being Served?" for starters. Ah, to hear an authentic British accent...

Today, there truly is nothing to watch on TV. I can honestly say I watch less than 2-3 hours per week. The Internet is my greatest source of "entertainment" with the "Blogrolls" featured on various favorite pages to serve as my entertainment guides.

Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories.

Davy H said...

Do you remember when the RT was on newsprint with serrated edges? We always bought it at Christmas, but otherwise were a 'TV Times' family (less classy, Mother addicted to Crossroads). Keep up Americans at the back!

fiftypercent said...

Well MP, if you like an "authentic British accent", then stand by: I will be introducing some podcasts soon :)

Mikeyten said...

Yes It dose take me back,Used to love Shoestring.And we only got the radio times at Xmas,I used to love to plan the Xmas viewing.I used to love Timesip too which I found really scarey at the time,and all the pop shows on ITV.
I used to have to bunk off school to get home in time especially remember when Bowie was on Marc Bolans show doing Heroes for the first time,Well worth a telling off the next day at school.Also thanx for the shout,cheers for the memories Mikeyten.

Miss Parker said...

Hey fiftypercent...for real?

My day just got a little brighter. :-)

G Magill said...

Christ - I loved Dusty Bin and Ted Rodgers though I never had any idea what the hell was going on in the show...the other thing that confused my young mind was that I was under the impression that when the people lost they won "Dusty Bin" - the big motorised robot - I never understood why they looked sad as Dusty was quite possibly the coolest thing ever made -what with him and Metal Mickey on TV we knew the future was bright alright!

Kippers said...

I got a Dusty Bin money box and a Metal Mickey annual for Christmas one year. Imagine that!