Northern Exposure 

1 February 2002

David Hamilton and Jon Duncanson

David Hamilton and Jon Duncanson co-announcing at ABC Weekend Television

“I luv ‘im on the telly,” me Mam would say in a strong Liverpool accent. I was seven at the time, it was 1967 and my mother was referring to ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton on ABC at weekends.

We lived for the weekends to see talent-filled programmes made by ABC such as “Just Jimmy” followed by “Opportunity Knocks”. The links between were special, with David Hamilton making you feel warm and fuzzy. You knew the weekend had arrived. It was something to look forward too.

By Monday morning, you took Granada for granted, not noticing anything special about the service. The Monday to Friday routine was more designed for the programmes not the continuity, yet to Granada’s credit, it still provided entertainment, and gritty dramas not seen today. Granada was a superb programme maker but poor on presentation.

July 1968 was to see one of the biggest shake-ups in ITV, and we were devastated to see David Hamilton and ABC disappear for a single 7-day contract in the north-west.

But Granada soon lifted its game, and after a year or so, we sat around that television set around 4.00pm watching the test card fade to black and the ritual opening, ITA captions and the strains of Jim Pope, “Broadcasting from Winter Hill on the transmitters of the Independent Television Authority… This is Granada…” It was a magical time watching a station open.

Granada clock

This is Granada – and the time, 5.55

1968 was a blistering hot summer in Liverpool, and yet we stayed indoors to watch new programmes on Granada and the new presentation spots. Granada made promos promoting the return of Ena Sharples to Coronation Street, with her making an appearance on the front cover of the TVTimes.

Granada even produced commercial spots called “Spotlight Granadaland” with a string of local businesses in a two-minute montage of ads. You knew you were in the Granadaland region at last… This new regional branding was to become very profitable for the north-west station. Even the two-minute spotlight series of ads, having a Granada feel to them, became entertaining. Granada made its permanent mark on the north-west.

The presentation was nice and warm and closedowns were special, the music of Derek Hilton, Granada’s musical director playing in the background as Jim Pope wished you a good night, and a special “God bless”.

Granada programmes had a gritty feel of realism to them, Coronation Street was not soap – it was pure drama, commanding respect. When “Steve Tanner” was killed falling down a flight of stairs or “Val Barlow” electrocuted, it was simply compulsive viewing. If the station tried a story line like that today, it would not have the same impact as it had back in the 60s. It would reflect a mere soap performance today, often lacking believability.

There was something special about Granada programmes, the one-hour play “Roll on 4 o’clock” was another gritty story line, but with the added humour Granada often used. Television simply fails to deliver this magic today. It’s called ‘entertainment’.

Today’s ITV is rather more a service that you take or leave mentality, a product of greed rather than people gathering around the box knowing your about to be entertained. Profits come first today, programmes second. In the golden days, quality programmes were paramount and profits eventually took care of themselves.

In 1973 London Weekend Television shocked the country, it was dropping “On The Buses”, one of the nation’s favourite shows. The reason, almost unheard of today, was to make way for newer programmes.

For the last twenty years we have been subjected to the same programmes, some over 30 years old, Blue Peter, Top Of The Pops, Newsround, The Bill, Blind Date, Surprise Surprise, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders, just to name a few. Originality has gone out the door. Today’s ITV only offers a more lively continuity to gloss over the lack of originality in programming.

Perhaps we can all learn from this and go back to basics. Carlton, often criticised for its programmes and continuity, is a product of our time, which others have copied.

Cheap programmes and computer generated graphics that lack any spark of imagination, and a logo that leaves a lot to be desired. Even Granada’s lack of presentation in the 60s and Jim Pope’s “God bless” at closedown was a 100% improvement on today’s efforts. Television has ceased to be special.

You Say

3 responses to this article

Carol-Ann 28 March 2014 at 1:41 am

I remember the ad spot as “Granada Spotlight”, James. I could be wrong, though. There was also an ad spot around December/January advertising summer hoildays titled “Granada Suntime”.

IIRC, the early-evening Granada local news programmes (“Northern Newscast“, “People & Places”, “Scene at 6.30”, “Granada Tonight“, “Granada Reports” etc.) used to take a break in the autumn, to be replaced by episodes from a range of U.S. series. These varied from the classic “Beverly Hillbillies” to the abysmal “My Mother the Car”, with Jerry Van Dyke, who turned down the opportunity to star in “Gilligan’s Island” (another example of a Granada “autumn replacement”) in favour of appearing on what the ‘TV Guide’ declared the second-worst American TV programme ever (just behind “The Jerry Springer Show”).

Other programmes I seem to recall in this slot were “The Patty Duke Show”, in which the star portrayed identical cousins; the overlapping “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction”; “Mr. Ed”, the talking horse: Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden in “I Dream of Jeannie”; Ray Walston and Bill Bixby in “My Favo[u]rite Martian”; and a drama, “The Long Hot Summer”, which was a movie spin-off. I’m open to be corrected on all of this, and would also like to know if this occurred in other UK television regions.

Incidentally, 55 early episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies” (including the entire first series) are available free of charge on this link due to a copyright cock-up by Orion Television, the successors of Filmways Inc..

Like other Filmways productions such as “Green Acres”, “Petticoat Junction” and “Mr. Ed”, “The Beverly Hillbillies” fell victim to the CBS ‘Rural Purge’ of the early 1970s.

Alan Keeling 12 June 2016 at 11:36 pm

In a similar vein to “Granada Spotlight”, ATV (Midlands) also did a very short ‘commercial spots’ programme, each one lasting just 3 minutes, entitled “Midlands Parade”, which started in 1960 until 1969. Each 5 second commercial was narrated by actor Leslie Dunn.

Barbara Berry 29 July 2018 at 8:25 pm

Courtesy of Transdiffusion, no less; an example of a ‘Granada Spotlight’ slot from 1972 –

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