Christmas Day on Thames, LWT and Channel 4… in 1987 

24 December 2017

The TVTimes tells us what was on Thames, LWT and Channel 4 on Friday 25 December 1987. Things worth noting include:

On Thames/LWT:

Attempting not to be blighted by a then one-month-long strike by the Association of Cinematography, Television and Allied Technicians, TV-am’s offering is entertainment-led, with celebrities joining in with the regular presenting team of the time, while a doff of the cap to the other side of Christmas is also accommodated.

It wouldn’t be a Christmas Day on ITV in the late 1980s without the dominance of Disney productions, both animated and real-life. Morning Worship from the Thames region, a festive edition of a Central children’s programme, the traditional 3.00pm simulcast with BBC1 and a James Bond adventure aside, When You Wish Upon a Star introduces the bulk of the morning and afternoon output.

LWT assume the reins from Thames 40 minutes into Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and go on themselves to offer two key contributions to the evening’s line-up: Blind Date, and the latest airing of TV out-takes courtesy of Denis Norden.

Hilda Ogden wins a supermarket trolley dash, to the horror of Deirdre Langton

Episodes of ITV’s soap operas on Christmas Day were an exception rather than the rule in 1987, but this particular occasion merited not just the cover of TV Times, but the centrepiece of the day’s schedule. After 1,614 appearances across 23 years, Jean Alexander performed as Hilda Ogden for the last time in a regular episode of Coronation Street. As the residents of Weatherfield wished Hilda luck as they waved her goodbye, almost 18 million viewers tuned in at home, which combined with a further 8 million plus viewers for a repeat broadcast two days later, made this truly special episode of Corrie, with a total audience of 26.65 million, the most-watched UK television programme over the Christmas period in 1987. Of further note, this was the first episode of Coronation Street broadcast on a Friday in over 16 years, the first time three episodes were shown in the space of one broadcast week (how times change), and also the debut episode to be presented on LWT.

From one mainstay to another at 9.00pm, and the only instance of ITV showing a first-time broadcast of an Inspector Morse episode on Christmas Day. With the first three adaptations of Colin Dexter’s stories aired in January 1987, ‘The Wolvercote Tongue’ was a prelude to the second series, to follow in the schedules ten-and-a-half weeks later.

Following the carol service from Ripon Cathedral, the LWT programme schedule goes into night-time mode, with a documentary featuring the then-relief host of NBC’s The Tonight Show leading onto Night Network. At this stage, only LWT, Central, Anglia and TVS operated a 24-hour service; while the Night Network was simulcast via Norwich and Southampton, viewers in the Midlands were never given an opportunity to watch a single edition of this after-hours programme strand, which eventually came to an end in March 1989.

On Channel 4:

A festive air runs through the early programmes on 4 this Christmas Day, with artisan interpretations of traditional stories, a broad spectrum of musical styles, and foreign-sourced animation being particular hallmarks in the early and late parts of the schedule.

Five years old at this stage, The Snowman, as seen as 5.25pm, is still broadcast on Channel 4 every Christmas to this date, allowing new generations of viewers to be enchanted by the delightful adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ storybook. The similarly-pleasing sequel, The Snowman and The Snowdog, had its debut showing in 2012.

Can it really be 30 years since Jonathan Ross’ first venture into talk shows? The Last Resort at 10.30pm was Wossy’s first stab, with a format inspired by the numerous American late-night examples of the genre, and produced by his own production company.

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3 responses to this article

Westy 24 December 2017 at 3:49 pm

Noting the reference to Lwt assuming control 40 mins into the film, would this be during an ad break?

(Would both companies have a copy of the film for technical reasons?)

David Heathcote 24 December 2017 at 5:29 pm

My thoughts too! If the IBA were insistent that switchover came exactly at 17:15:00, that would have presented “artistic” challenges if the film was running then. Would there have been two copies running in sync, one at Thames, the other at LWT? Were there still synchronisation issues at switchover in 1987?

The clever solution – as suggested by @Westy, above – would have been for switchover to have happened either at the start of a “natural” break (not that they ever were!) with a holding caption at Thames, then switchover to adverts at LWT.

Or (more likely), a break leading into adverts at Thames, then switchover to a holding caption at LWT, and on into the rest of the film. (After all, up to that point, Thames had generated the audience by showing the film, so would have expected to take the revenue from running the final advert break.)

On the other hand, unless programme magazines indicate otherwise, could not the film have been networked, and originated from another ITV control centre elsewhere? Would that have simplified matters?

So much would have been taken for granted by 99.99% of viwers at the time.

Robert Michael Fearn 27 December 2017 at 7:05 pm

1987, or more likely a few years thereafter, was around the time Christmas TV, or rather TV in general, took a nosedive. Thank God for DVDs and YouTube

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