Tonight’s HTV Wales and West… in 1981 

17 January 2018

From the pages of TVTimes, a look at HTV’s schedule for Saturday 17 January 1981.

  • Beginning the day, in the then-tradition of ITV weekend programming, with a couple of minority items. LWT’s Babylon starts us off, the company carving out a niche in ethnic television through this series and the similarly-themed Skin. The following year, Channel 4 will commission Black On Black and Eastern Eye to alternate in the late spot on Tuesday nights.
  • A writing credit for one of ITV’s first voices at 9.35; Tony van den Bergh commentated on a boxing match on the first night of commercial television in 1955, earning a favourable review from Bernard Levin for his brevity. Tony was also involved with ATV’s old-folks magazine, Getting On.
  • The bulk of the Tiswas team (10.30) will leave at the end of this seventh series, but re-emerge on Central’s Tiswas-with-tits, O.T.T., early in 1982.
  • Then it’s the turn of World of Sport to slug it out against the BBC’s Grandstand for the afternoon, the latter getting the jump on Dickie Davies and co by fifteen minutes. On the Ball is a pretty straight preview of the day’s football, with Ian St John billed as sole presenter, although he may have spoken to future sparring partner Jimmy Greaves down the line at ATV.
  • An oddity in the World of Sport line-up – at 1.0, we see highlights of skiing from Kitzbuhel, which the BBC also offers, at similar length, ten minutes later. Commentary is from Emlyn Jones, who also has credits for gymnastics, badminton, lawn and table Tennis.
  • The Times suggests the Newcastle half of the ITV Six made way for that perennial Saturday standby, dog racing from Haringey.
  • Later, highlights from the NFL playoffs, with Adrian Metcalf, somewhat incongruously, adding off-tube commentary. The following year, Adrian, as Channel 4’s first sports editor, will commission weekly NFL coverage – and score one of the network’s rare early ratings successes.
  • Following ITN News, HTV chip in with a two-minute summary; presumably split along Wales/West lines. Weekend regional news is by no means the norm in 1981; a glance at the regional variations shows Southern offering some late headlines, with Westward rather curiously slotting theirs in at 7.35.
  • Search for a Star follows at 5.15. Steve Jones hosting, with votes tallied up, Eurovision style, across the ITV regions. Notable this week for Gordon Haskell’s appearance, twenty years before his chart success with ‘How Wonderful You Are’.
  • Bristolians have Punchlines, the poor man’s Blankety Blank, at 6.5, while, over the water, a locally-made quiz ticks the Welsh language box for the night.
  • The dual-region is then reunited for 3-2-1. Keith Harris makes a guest appearance tonight. Keith spent several years paying his dues with guest spots on other people’s programmes – including as a regular with the Black and White Minstrels in 1977-8 – before landing his own BBC-1 series, and becoming, for a while, one of the highest-profile acts in light entertainment.
  • Carry on Henry at 7.35 fills a one hour and forty minute slot – it had been given an hour and a half when shown at 7.30 on Thursday, 4 January, 1979. Either the ’79 showing was edited for time – not unusual with ITV movie screenings – or the mysteries of ad airtime distribution are at work.
  • Presentation fans will remember The Professionals, at 9.30, as the LWT production that wasn’t… quite. The series was made for them by Brian Clemens’ Avengers Mk I productions.
  • The first season of Saturday night football on ITV continues at 10.30, the fruits of the so-called ‘Snatch of the Day’ deal that saw Jimmy Hill and co relegated to Sunday afternoons over at the Beeb. Brian Moore is your host and commentator for a goalless draw between Crystal Palace and Wolves, but the second game, via Granada, comes up with the goods, as Manchester City beat Middlesbrough 3-2.
  • No regional highlights show from HTV this week, though we get a brief sports summary at 11.28, before the short-lived Hagen eats up the best part of an hour until lights out. CBS had already lost faith in the series, giving up after nine episodes were made, of which only seven aired in the States.

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18 responses to this article

Tim 17 January 2018 at 1:58 pm

It’s pretty surprising (to me, at least) to see Gordon Haskell entering a TV talent show in 1981. Granted, he wasn’t exactly a household name at the time, but by the turn of the 80s Haskell had been singer/bassist for King Crimson (appearing on two of their albums), recorded solo albums for CBS and Atco, and played support to Tim Hardin and Cliff Richard.

If Haskell’s Wikipedia page (where I found most of the above) is any indication, by 1981 he was thoroughly mired in his “slogging between wilderness gigs to survive” period, so perhaps he thought a turn on a TV talent show couldn’t hurt? At least his patience was finally rewarded, albeit two decades later…

Alan Keeling 17 January 2018 at 3:38 pm

Children’s Saturday Morning programmes begin with The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo, a Canadian educational cartoon series made in 1975 by Rainbow Animation. This is one of 78 of Adventures featuring Captain Nemo & his junior crew of Christine & Robbie aboard the submarine, Nautilus.

Alan Keeling 17 January 2018 at 3:57 pm

A repeat of the Batman series (1966/68) at 10.5 on Saturday morning with the second episode of a two parter from season 2 with guest star Cesar Romero (in white face makeup) as the Joker, from 20th Century Fox TV. The short lived Hagen series at 11.30pm from the same stable as Batman was produced in 1980 & starred Chad Everett as a legal do-gooder.

Jeremy Rogers 17 January 2018 at 4:14 pm

Kid Chocolate. Not even a new nom de guerre, but not one likely to be seen of again.

Arthur Nibble 17 January 2018 at 4:34 pm

“Search For A Star” also includes Rainbow Cottage, a band from Wigan whose members were all left handed and who made number 33 in the UK chart with “Seagull”. Later in their career, they recorded the theme tune to “Cloppa Castle”.

Westy 17 January 2018 at 4:41 pm

The white face make up that had to heavily disguise a tache that he refused to shave off!

Steve Barnes 17 January 2018 at 4:43 pm

Rainbow Cottage on Search for a Star too. Probably not singing the theme to Cloppa Castle this time…

Alan Keeling 17 January 2018 at 8:15 pm

9.30 sees a repeat run of The Professionals, episode 6 from season 1. An action series shot on 16mm stock with many well known guest stars.

Paul Mason 18 January 2018 at 12:35 am

Punchlines I recall although not this edition. Nine celebrities were seated in a box similar to if not the same as that used on Celebrity Squares. Two contestant s tried to guess which celeb said what phrase.The contestants each had a celebrity with them to assist, but there was one celev who was a damned nuisance. This poor woman had been teamed up with Kenny Everett, who had obviously indulged in some substance because he behaved like an ADHD child, and he vandalised the scoring apparatus, which was of the flipover type used on many quizzes and game shows. The poor contestant was so distracted she lost, which was unfair. They should have used the LED type which was around then.

Arthur Nibble 18 January 2018 at 1:18 pm

According to Google Translate and my literal interpretation of what it translated, “Ras Swgar” (“Race Square”) involved answering questions for prize money between £50 and £100 per question, to complete squares on a grid with the teams represented by two hedgehogs coloured green and yellow respectively.

Christian Bews 18 January 2018 at 10:34 pm

Although LWT co-produced,publicised & transmitted the professionals to the network,all the episodes with the exception of ‘klansmann’ never opened with the 1978 began with a static silent slide of the logo slowly faded to the episodes opening was also used to start their other co-productions catweazle,black beauty,Dick Turpin & terrahawks.the static slide was familiar to London audiences to start all brought-in material like US series & feature films.when LWT introduced their white blinds ‘genesis’ ident in 1986 it opened professionals,terrahawks & black beauty.a shorter version of the 1986 ident began brought-In material too.

Richard Jones 19 January 2018 at 1:20 am

I am sorry that you dismiss a Welsh Language quiz as box ticking for the 600,000 Welsh speakers who , in 1981, have no other programmes in their own mother tongue until Sunday. Perhaps the programmes in Urdu and other Indian languages provided in the U.K. are box ticking, too – or any other programmes not broadcast in English? Do Welsh speakers and speakers of other minorities not deserve to be catered for on their own language? Especially in a language spoken 400 years before English on this Island?

Richard Jones 19 January 2018 at 2:14 pm

Arthur it’s Square Race but otherwise your google did not let you down!

Richard Jones 19 January 2018 at 6:09 pm

Having said that it was a green frog and a yellow hedgehog !!

Joanne Gray 21 January 2018 at 9:27 pm

Paul Mason, as Punchlines and Celebrity Squares were produced by different ITV regions (LWT and ATV respectively) I don’t think they will have used the exact same set, although Punchlines clearly copied the 9 box square idea.

Dave Rhodes 22 January 2018 at 3:50 pm

Richard, I stand by the expression ‘box ticking’ in the context of a Saturday schedule from lunchtime to late night which most companies were happy to take in full, without adding any regional interest programming.

From what I recall of HTV’s English-language quizzes Definition and Three Little Words, they were perfectly agreeable, if unspectacular half-hours, and I imagine Ras Sgwar was in a similar mould. (There is a stinging Joan Bakewell review of an HTV Mr and Mrs in The Times archive, but possibly they were just having an off day…)

However, it’s an educated guess that HTV Wales suffered some defection of English-speakers to BBC1 in that half hour; and remember there was a tendency for viewers to pick a station early in the evening and stick to it in the three channel era which seems alien now. Would the uptick in Welsh-speaking viewers compensate for it? I don’t know, but I imagine it’s a roadblock HTV would prefer not to have to deal with

Incidentally, regarding Welsh language TV. my perception as an outsider is that S4C has perhaps stuck somewhat closer to its founding remit than Channel 4. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on an S4C schedule if one comes up for consideration in one of these features.

Richard Jones 25 January 2018 at 1:49 am

I have to say that although I am grateful for your explanation of the expression ‘box ticking’ I find the expression offensive because ITV broadly speaking was, if less so now, a public service broadcaster in the purest sense. Broadcasting in the Welsh Language spoken by 20 per cent of viewers in Wales is never going to be a ratings winner but the idea is that you educate, entertain and inform those viewers in their first language. The people making Ras Sgwar would be hoping that this small but appreciative audience would be enjoying this quiz which is not a ‘regional offering’ but a programme in another indigenous language which deserves to go out on a Saturday night as much as any other. Maybe HTV West and the BBC did gain viewers when Welsh programmes were broadcast but I am sure viewers would almost always watch a programme they could understand. I don’t think that programme was subtitled as they are today. This is as I said an example of public service broadcasting and as the phrase suggests, it encompasses many facets of society not just the lowest common denominator. This begs the question – when would you put out a quiz in Welsh in a 3 channel system in the seventies. I work in the media so I am not sure if my views on S4C would be objective!

Simon Coward 6 April 2021 at 6:37 pm

It was certainly a standard HTV Cymru/Wales opt-out timeslot, whether that was just opting out from the remainder of HTV or the whole ITV network. From the time that ITV came back after the 1979 strike the slot was dedicated to quiz / game shows, initially with “Pwy Fase’n Meddwl?” and then subsequently, until the advent of S4C, “Ras Sgwar” and “Sion a Sian” alternated, with the latter taking the lion’s share of Saturdays (30 – 32 a year at a rough estimate).

There would be short periods where it would be a little later, to fit in with the general ITV scheduling pattern, but one of those three programmes would be shown starting somewhere between teatime and early evening on almost every Saturday from 1979 to 1982.

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