Tonight’s LWT and Channel 4… in 1990 

30 June 2016

The TVTimes gives us a run down of LWT and Channel 4 programmes for Saturday 30 June 1990. Things worth noting include:

  • Channel 4’s hours have slowly increased over the eight years it has been on air, and on this Saturday morning it comes on with TV-am at 6am. What was interesting about this is that TV-am sold the advertising time of Channel 4 during this period, just as the ITV companies did after 9.25am. In practice, this seemed to mean the same three advertisements going round and round on a loop all morning.
  • TV-am is in its full pomp, the days of near bankruptcy, sackings, strikes, lock-outs, management services and general firefighting having disappeared. For all that, the company was never mega-profitable, and Saturdays were never all that popular, so we get an hour of repeated interviews from the preceding week strung together by Ulrika Jonsson, followed by WAC 90 – which despite the cover of the TVTimes itself, doesn’t feature Timmy Mallet.
  • LWT proper starts at 9.25am with Ghost Train from STV, then into the ITV Chart Show with its then-innovative graphics, produced on a Commodore Amiga 500.
  • Episode 11 of 26 for Huckleberry Finn and His Friends is at 12.30pm. This Canadian series was made in 1979 and was on pretty constant rotation on British television throughout the 1980s.
  • Channel 4’s remit is still “something different to what ITV would be showing”, as defined much more tightly then than in future. After the bizzaro world of Australian Rules Football at 9.25am (providing a useful junction with ITV), we have a programme for deaf children up against the second half of Ghost Train, then into a repeat of C4’s Watchdog clone. Then, as an alternative to whatever ITV is showing, we’ve got Wagon Train and the 1958 thriller Chase a Crooked Shadow in black and white, interrupted by California Off Beat, the premise of which the TVTimes doesn’t feel we need to understand.
  • I said “as an alternative to whatever ITV is showing” with some reason: the World Cup is in full swing in Italy. The BBC and ITV have divided the matches up between them but the TVTimes has to be printed before the games decide who has qualified and thus which games each side will be showing. So there are two potential schedules, one with ITV taking the first quarter final the BBC taking the second, if England haven’t qualified, and another with the BBC taking the first quarter final and ITV taking the second if they have.
  • This must have been a nightmare schedule to plan, to time and sell adverts for, with, presumably, large differentials in costs for advertisers according to which schedule ran. Times that by 14 across the entire network and… blimey. A rough week for the scheduling departments and everyone else.
  • I had no memory of ITV running a Coronation Street omnibus on Saturdays as far back as 1990. But clearly they did – giving LWT two bites of that lucrative cherry.
  • If England doesn’t qualify, viewers get the 1983 movie Without a Trace at 8pm, a contrived but not unwatchable police procedural of the type that would turn up on UK Living and the like a few years later.
  • The equivalent if England do qualify is The Crash of Flight 401, originally entitled Crash, with William Shatner at 4.05pm. This dates from 1978 and is a bit of a plodder.
  • Unless there’s extra time, LWT pulls itself together, as it were, at 10.05pm for the news, then a repeat of the truly wonderful Stanley Baxter Moving Picture Show at 10.25pm.
  • Overnight ITV remains the weird affair it always was – a mix of dying and dead US syndicated programming they got for free as part of other deals (T and T) and films that ITV have shown to death already but still have a couple of free plays left before the rights revert (Xanadu, 1980).
  • Channel 4 keeps up the broad definition of “alternative viewing” in the evening. After ITN’s hour-long news review The World This Week at 7pm, Anglia’s Survival team have an hour of in the Galapagos. The main Survival strand was still running on ITV, albeit out of peak, and was devoted to long looks at wilderness with a gentle voiceover. The Channel 4 version was more urgent, went into more detail and, as here, often peeped behind-the-scenes to see how the films were made.
  • The seeds of the success Channel 4 would start having over the next few years with American imports can be seen at 9pm with thirtysomething. A sleeper hit for ABC in the US, it was picked up almost as an afterthought by Channel 4 and became a huge hit for both networks, appealing to the much-sought-after “yuppie” bracket – what we would now call the ‘late babyboomers’. The success of thirtysomething would send the US networks off hunting for similar shows to reach ‘Generation X’ coming up behind the yuppies. Channel 4 would hit them square on in four years time when it bought sight-unseen a new NBC sitcom, Friends.
  • Channel 4 rounds off the night by going back into black and white for the 1943 Universal Picture Flesh and Fantasy, an anthology of three shorts tied together very loosely by a supernatural theme.

This article originally described Without a Trace as a telemovie. It was a 20th Century-Fox cinema release. We regret the error.

You Say

11 responses to this article

Westy 30 June 2016 at 5:02 pm

No one shows Xanadu now do they?

Wouldve thought one of the True channels wouldve had it by now!

Westy 30 June 2016 at 5:04 pm

The classic Spiderwoman (Jessica Drew version!) !

Victor Field 30 June 2016 at 7:57 pm

Um, “Without A Trace” was made for cinemas, not TV – inspired by a real missing boy called Etan Patz. He’s never been found.

Oh a more cheerful note, “Death Ray 2000” in an actual TVM (the pilot for “A Man Called Sloane,” which ITV’s Sunday night lineup for a while. The cringemakingly bad intro is on YouTube. Not a good way for QM Productions to leave us.

Arthur Nibble 1 July 2016 at 9:47 am

I wonder how much that house in Tuscany shown on the cover is worth now? Is it still there?

I had a quick trawl on the net but I still have no idea who Cannon and Ball’s mid-range guest George Marshall was.

Since when has a televised football match been, and I quote, “enhanced by expert comment”?

“T and T” was a starring vehicle for Mr. T after the cancellation of “The A-Team”. I say starring vehicle… this three-season, 65-episode Canadian series went straight to syndication in the USA. The premise was Mr. T – er, T.S. Turner – had been framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and he got a job as a private detective.

Billy the Fish! Over the next couple of years, Channel 4 viewers were treated to two more series featuring “Viz” characters, Roger Mellie (the man on the telly) and Sid The Sexist.

Arthur Nibble 1 July 2016 at 1:45 pm

Nailed it! George Marshall was an impressionist, and he appeared in the seventh of nine ‘part comedy, part game show’ editions which made up “Cannon and Ball’s Casino”.

The episode of “Close To Home” must have been a filler in case one was needed – according to the IMDB website this was the opening episode of the first series (of two, 19 episodes), which had been first aired the previous October.

Paul Mason 5 July 2016 at 3:22 am

1990 was the final year of separate listings magazines for BBC1/2 and ITV/C4. Around this time I saw a Welsh Radio Times which covered the Welsh programmes of S4C but not the Saesneg (English) programmes. These were BBC productions mostly if not wholly. I’m afraid my brain does not remember much from 1990. Just imagine covering, for example, this weeks TV in 2006. That’s a hell of a lot of channels to pick from! Sky only took off (pardon the pun) when it bought Premier League football coverage from the 1992/3 season.

Paul Mason 5 July 2016 at 11:26 pm

Come to think of it 1990 marked the end of an era in British TV, Sky started in 1989 and the short lived BSB in 1990 (remember the squarial?) so multi channel TV had arrived in the homes which had a satellite dish but for many there were only four channels. Other upheavals that decade saw the end of regional ITV companies with large mergers.

Christian Bews 6 July 2016 at 12:03 am

i can recall that on this day in 1990 it was when the republic of ireland were out of the world cup in the 2nd quarter final & i maybe right that ITV showed both matches & was going to show a unscheduled episode of ‘baywatch’ to replace the scheduled programmes as billed that was never shown in the UK but was rescheduled the following week as both quarterfinals were shown one after another.

Robert Clark 7 August 2016 at 1:34 pm

Also of note was the opening day of the Tour de France, with the Prologue time trial at Futuroscope. For many years a staple on ITV’s world of sport, it moved in 1985 to Channel 4, where, instead of a weekly report on WOS, we got daily highlights. This was a small period where C4 was the home of cycling, it covering the Leeds Classic one day race, City centre cycling, and the Kellogs tour of Britain.

Robert 22 May 2017 at 5:16 pm

1990 sounded well crap. My memories of telly being good was probably mid 90’s onwards which I refer to as the Golden age of T.V. Mostly because of all the random stuff channel 4 and ITV put on through the night.
Hipsters today don’t know they’re born and don’t associate watching things with a T.V. now we are all supposed to do the same. Sad.

sbahnhof 3 September 2017 at 10:27 am

Er, anyway…

The two patterns weren’t followed, as Christian said above. Not sure about Baywatch, but according to ITV Carousel, ITV did show both of Saturday’s World Cup quarter-finals:

Saint & Greavsie 1.10-1.50, Argentina-Yugoslavia 3:45-6:00 + extra time, and in the evening Ireland-Italy 7:30-10:05

BBC1 showed Ireland too, and the following day both channels showed England v Cameroon. I’m not sure exactly how this came to pass, or if the networks had agreed it pre-tournament. In the previous round they both showed England, so BBC got a match more than ITV.

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