With todays satellite and freeview TV we are overwhelmed with TV channels, but when I was young we considered ourselves lucky to have three! When I was growing up we had BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, and that was it. Channel 4 arrived in 1982 bring us to a whopping four channels.
In those days the lack of real competition between the channels meant that everyone really looked forward to the Christmas TV offerings. All year we had sat through repeats of TV series and films knowing that for two magical weeks at the end of December we would be treated to a cornucopia of things we had never seen before. Christmas specials of comedy shows were always popular (e.g. Morecambe and Wise, Only Fools and Horses etc.), soaps got shown in the middle of the afternoon and the evening (much to my personal annoyance it must be said) and a wide variety of films got their TV premiere.
In order to make sense of all this it was important to get hold of the special two week Christmas editions of both the Radio Times (for the BBC channels) and the TV Times (for ITV) as the TV listings were jealously guards by the TV stations in those days. At least an hour was spent going through the magazine identifying which programmes you wanted to watch, and which you wanted to videotape to keep and watch later. Of course, you knew you should have written this all down, but you never did, and it was guaranteed that you would manage to miss at least one programme over the period.
These days the TV magazines still do have Christmas editions covering the two weeks of the festive period, but there is less need to find all the things you want to watch. In order to compete with the satellite movie channels film premieres are no longer saved up for the Christmas period, and television itself is generally fairly lazy programming what with all the “best of” and reality TV shows that fill our screens in the name of entertainment. We also now have access to hundreds of TV channels, especially if you have satellite or cable TV, which means that a printed magazine isn’t the best way of discovering what you might want to watch any more. What a shame, as Christmas TV used to be something to look forward to, whereas now the only thing I really want to watch is this years Doctor Who Christmas special…