Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 20 December 2013

1970s TV listings ...

Its been fascinating trawling through those 1970s isues of our British TV listings magazine "Radio Times". How we lived, and watched, then - 40 years ago! (Dirk Bogarde & Lee Remick in THE VISION, right).

It is hard to think back into that mindset: just 3 television channels, which closed down about midnight, and didn't begin till 9am, so no all-night tv or early breakfast shows. 
There may only have been 3 channels (two BBC and ITV the commercial channel with advertising breaks) but what they showed was watched - and most people then were still watching in black and white. Colour had come in but I did not change over to it until later in 1972. Here again is that first colour television (below): those ugly brown boxes, rented from Radio Rentals (who were on every High Street) - people didn't buy televisions then. Our current large, flat, black, widescreen, HD televisions would have looked like something from science fiction then ...
They are all there, those programmes we remember: DIXON OF DOCK GREEN, the early DR WHO, documentaries like that MAN ALIVE series, LATE NIGHT LINE UP on BBC2 (topical intelligent comment by the likes of Joan Bakewell, Tony Bilbow and oldmovies expert Philip Jenkinson) as well as the "Play of the Month" and "Play for Today" slots. Big series like I CLAUDIUS got everybody talking and garnered huge audiences. Here in the UK, the fourth channel - yes, Channel4 - did not start until 1980 and cable tv much later, Sky began in 1990 and after a shaky start is now very much established.
Of course there was rubbish on then too: THE BLACK AND WHITE MINSTREL SHOW was still running, and comedians like Morecambe and Wise though hugely popular were not to everybody's taste, ditto Dick Emery, Stanley Baxter, DAD'S ARMY. ARE YOU BEING SERVED ... young people didn't depend on tv too much then, in that pre-internet, pre-computer games world, we were too busy being out, at movies, making music etc.

Old movies were treated with more respect too. In this January 1972 issue, the 1934 CLEOPATRA was a big event, and BBC2's "World Cinema" weekly slot where I first saw films like Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL and Antonioni's LE AMICHE. One had to watch them then too, as home video did not come in until the tail end of the 70s. I got my first vhs recorder in December 1979! (so we spent the 80s recording everything...) BBC2 also started a season Screen Goddesses on Sunday nights, commencing with Dietrich in THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN - rarely seen then, before video and dvd. As they introduce it: "Men cluster to them like moths around a flame, those charming alarming blonde women - not to mention the equally alluring redheads and brunettes. From Marlene Dietrich to Brigitte Bardot, screen goddesses have had self-immolating admirers - not forgetting adoring audiences - worshipping them. At the start of a season which will include the rarely shown THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN Gavin Miller looks at some screen temptresses of the last 50 years, including Harlow, Bardot, Loren, Monroe ...

In a way, today's television is a poorer thing. There may be hundreds of cable channels now, pouring out stuff 24/7, but how much of it is dumbed-down dross - old quiz shows and sitcoms endlessly recycled, all that so-called reality tv, endless soaps, celebrity culture, fake reality shows. There is of course a lot of quality television - but a lot see it on boxsets, and 'catch-up tv' - all those best-selling boxsets of MAD MEN, THE SOPRANOS, SIX FEET UNDER and the like, plus gems like BROADCHURCH and DOWNTON ABBEY, as with endless choice of channels how many just flick from channel to channel seldom watching programmes in full, or just watch their favourite soaps or talent shows. We now have endless cooking and baking programmes and the perennial favourite, the blissful STRICTLY COME DANCING.
Paul Scofield and Lee Remick in THE AMBASSADORS, 1977.

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