One big festive event when I was young was the release of the Christmas Radio Times, this along with the new Trafford catalogue heralded the excitement of Christmas in the 70’s. Christmas started when it should, in December and not the first week in September which kinda waters down the thrill nowadays. I cannot describe the feelings Christmas used to stir during this time; you need to remember that there was no quick fix for entertainment, the shops were shut on Sundays, pubs had proper open and closing times and television although there was only three channels television was an absolute must for entertainment so the arrival of the Christmas Radio Times used to fill me with giddy excitement.
Flicking through its pages I used to, like many of my friends, circle all the programs I wanted to watch. There was no catchup TV or on demand services and owning your own video recorder was still some distance away so you had one chance to catch all your favourites or the big films that used to be broadcast on the day.
Now the sad part, this side never left me and I have kept every Christmas edition of the TV listings magazine since, that is until the late 90’s when the television schedule was so poor around Christmas I abandoned my collection. So what I have is a small sample of television Christmas gold to occasionally flick through and looking back the programming was really quite good.
You always worry you look back with rose tinted spectacles but after flicking through the 1975 edition and specifically Christmas Day it was all rather good…
with MAGGIE HENDERSON and FRED HARRIS
Some nice sing-a-long tunes to start of Christmas morning, no cartoons blasting out, TV didn’t start until 9am.
9.15: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
The Christmas story told in carols – mostly very familiar but a few new ones – readings and pictures, all by pupils of schools in Leicestershire.
You were too busy messing around with your presents around this time but the carols singing out in the background was a nice memory and quite comforting too whilst you created mahem with your Evil Knievel stunt bike and Chopper.
10.00: The Happy Prince
A cartoon: Oscar Wilde ‘s classic bittersweet story of a swallow winging its way south which stays to rest upon the sorrowing statue of a once happy Prince and stays behind to help.
Can you imagine any cartoon today being based on Oscar Wilde’s work and being broadcast at prime time to patient children?
10.24: Weather: BARBARA EDWARDS
The BBC prided itself on punctuation hence the 10.24 slot.
10.30: Christmas Morning Service
From St George ‘s Chapel, Windsor Castle 1475-1975 in the presence of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and other members of The Royal Family followed by the National Anthem.
A bit of royalty to sombre the mood because what comes next caused extreme excitement.
11.45: Rod Hull and Emu
Sing a Christmas Song with help from BILLY DAINTY
Nice, exciting, silly, just what Christmas entertainment should be. Who remembers Billy Dainty? A music hall embracing performer that is long forgotten but provided a staple of Christmas entertainment.
12.20: Laurel and Hardy
Pack Up Your Troubles
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a bit of Laurel and Hardy, they often used to play these most mornings over the Christmas break along with Harold Lloyd so my knowledge of appreciating great comedy grew at an early age.
13.20: Holiday on Ice
Your annual rink-side seat at one of the world’s most spectacular touring ice extravaganzas.
Extravaganzas was what Christmas was about, whilst you are waiting for Christmas dinner surrounded by relatives what better way than to watch pure uncontroversial entertainment, quite often as in this case it was a big stage or touring show that they broadcast, something you would have only got chance to see otherwise live.
14.10: Top of the Pops
A special Christmas edition featuring No 1 records of the year.
Introduced by Tony Blackburn and Noel Edmonds including Mud, The Tymes, Pilot, Telly Savalas, Bay City Rollers, Tammy Wynette , Windsor Davies and Don Estelle , 10cc, Stylistlcs. Art Garfunkel, David Essex. with PAN’S PEOPLE
This was what everyone was waiting for, never underestimate the power of Top Of The Pops Christmas special in the 70’s, this along with several comedy shows was Christmas in a nutshell. Quite often this was on during Christmas day dinner.
15.00: The Queen
The Queen speaks to the Commonwealth
And everybody stood at the end to the national anthem.
15.05: Billy Smart’s Christmas Circus
From the Big Top, a special international gala presentation of the world-famous circus.
This was special even though it would be frowned upon with today’s values, but then again people in the 70’s would frown upon today’s Internet led values so where are we going with this? It was family entertainment that fitted the time it was broadcast.
16.05: The Wizard of Oz
a feature film starring Judy Garland with Frank Morgan , Ray Bolger Bert Lahr , Jack Haley
The unforgettable Judy sings ‘ Somewhere over the Rainbow ‘; we follow the yellow brick road on our journey to see the Wizard and on the way meet The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion – all elements in one of the most magical movies of them all, being screened today on British TV for the first time.
Can you believe we had to wait until 1975 to see this film for the very first time out of the cinema? That’s what made Christmas films all the more exciting to watch. If you missed it you really did miss it and you couldn’t rewind it either!
17.45: National News
Kenneth Kendall ; Weatherman
Nice Mr Kenneth.
17.50: Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game
Starring Bruce Forsyth with Anthea Redfern
A bumper Christmas edition with family couples from all over the country joining Bruce and Anthea and surprise guests for an hour of festive fun for all the family.
Brucie was going strong in the 70’s, with a general public that wasn’t used to appearing on television it had a charming naivety about it all, plus the conveyor belt of gifts were all rather tame. Oooh Cuddly Toy!
18.55: Some Mothers Do’Ave’Em
Slapstick comedy from Frank Spencer, his typical antics and stunts around Christmas time were always a must watch but then came the gods of BBC television with the most anticipated show of all.
19.40: The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
A star-studded loliday special starring Eric morecambe and Ernie Wise
Over twenty seven million viewers watched the final Christmas show in 1977 such was the power of this well written and performed hour of entertainment, it was a pure Christmas staple. Watching it today brings back memories but it will never bring back the pure magic of the first time you watched it at Christmas.
20.45: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The world television premiere of the famous feature film starring Paul Newman , Robert Redford Katharine Ross with Strother Martin , Jeff Corey Henry Jones
You never met a pair like Butch and the Kid! The two most affable amiable outlaws in Western history are the subject of the most exuberant, exciting and engaging of all western movies – the story of Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Longbaugh , otherwise known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Big films got big billings, again a first time on television film in an age where most films had to survive seven years at the cinema before being allowed on our miniature televisions.
22.30: The Good Old Days
A Christmas edition of Old-Time Music-Hall from the stage of the Famous City Varieties Theatre, Leeds (by arrangement with Stanley and Michael Joseph )
For your delectation and delight, your Chairman, Leonard Sachs , introduces Vera Lynn
A lot of viewers spanned a generation without television so programs like this catered for both worlds, television entertainment but music hall acts. Very well done and entertaining too.
23.30: Parkinson meets Bob Hope
Born in South-East London in 1903, Bob Hope moved to the United States four years later and grew up to become one of the legends of show business. Tonight he flies home to celebrate Christmas as Michael Parkinson ‘s special guest.
The King of chat shows normally had a big guest on at Christmas, Bob Hope was one of the biggest Hollywood could provide and completes a stunning line up for Christmas day, and this was just one channel!
The great thing was that hardly anything was a repeat, with only a few channels to fill it relied on quality rather than quantity and the 70’s gave us some of the most cherished and well written television programs around and this made Christmas even more special. It was also quite calm television, shouting didn’t really start until the eighties and has increased since.
ITV used to join in with a very similar paced day interspersed with films, special Christmas editions although by the time we had got to Morcambe and Wise time they had pretty much given up and resorted to the unfunny ‘Get Some In’ and ‘Love Thy Neighbour’, they did have Bay City Rollers though if you were Circused out on the Beeb.
9:15am A Heavenly Place
10:00am Service, from Luss Parish Church, Loch Lomond
11:00am A Merry Morning
11:45am Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy (b-w)
1:15pm Jack Parnell and the Big Band Show
2:00pm Chipperfields Christmas Circus
3:00pm The Queen speaks to the Commonwealth
3:05pm Doctor in Trouble (film) starring Leslie Phillips, Harry Secombe, Robert Morley, James Robertson Justice
4:45pm Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo
5:20pm Bay City Rollers Show, with Gilbert O’Sullivan
6:20pm Christmas Celebrity Squares
7:30pm Get Some In
8:00pm Love Thy Neighbour
8:30pm The Taming of the Shrew (film) starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton
10:15pm The Taming of the Shrew (film continued)
11:00pm Beneath the Christmas Tree
11:55pm The Gabriel Assignment
BBC2 However loved to keep it all a little more serious.
11:00-11:25am Play School
1:25pm Yes to Man by Alan Ecclestone
1:30pm Christmas Day Play Away
2:05pm Prince Charles, Pilot Royal
3:00pm The Queen speaks to the Commonwealth
3:05pm Swan Lake, ballet, with Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev
4:45pm In Deepest Britain
5:35pm Nice One, a Cockney wedding
5:50pm The Yearling (film) starring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman
7:55pm Great Big Groovy Horse, rock-musical romp
8:45pm The Evacuees by Jack Rosenthall. International Emmy Award Winner 1975
10:05pm Poems and Pints
10:30pm Presents Past. Victorian and Edwardian Toys
11:00-1:25am Guys and Dolls (film) starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine
The Christmas edition listing magazines will be out soon and I have just found a red marker in my drawer, I wonder…
God, did I really type all this out? I’m so sad!