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Who Wants To Be A Christmas Millionaire. Only Fools and Horses Redux. Snow Graham Norton. Dear oh dear. They just can't hack it anymore, can they? We remember when the festive schedules were eagerly-anticipated, finely-tuned joys to behold. The excitement of opening the Radio and TV Timeses to see the celebs pulling crackers and pouring champagne in front of a stack of oversized presents! How Wogan will be spending his Christmas! Clive Doig's Christmas Trackword! Festive Wisebuys by James and Janet Rolls! So permit us to wallow in a bit of fantasy Christmas scheduling nostalgia. What we've done here is assemble daily schedules for the four proper terrestrial channels from what we hope is a judicious selection of classic, quirky and of course "star studded" Christmas shows past, from 1970 to 1990. We've tried to squeeze all the landmarks in (M&W, the Christmas film, the sitcom special, etc.) and of course The Queen's there, as well as digging up a few forgotten treasures which, due to channel or transmission time, can only have been watched by about ten people at most. Without further ado, let's kick off with the big one...


BBC1, of course, was, and remains, The Guvnor of Christmas broadcasting. For years the 'Pops, Eric and Ern, Del and Rodney, Noel up his bloody pylon, all guaranteed the ratings that meant the BBC *owned* Christmas. But there's room for a few lesser triumphs too.

08.45 Papa Panov's Special Day (1986)
Wake up to Alan Rothwell in some granny specs, narrating the story of an Eastern European cobbler doing something, er, Christmassy.

08.55 Watch! (1980)
Flute-heralded story of the nativity, with the classic line-up of James Earl Adair and Louise Hall-Taylor.

09.25 Star Over Bethlehem (1979)
A programme of Christmas music. Eight nations, brought together by that man-made star, the communications satellite, join in a global concert. The traditional present-opening chunk of cod-religiose boredom, then. Although satellite broadcasts do have a tendency to pack up about fifteen minutes in, so we have a standby programme...

09.40 Roland Rat - The Series Christmas Special (1986)
In which the living legend tackles A Christmas Carol (as they always seemed to do), with the help of Brian Blessed, Chris Tarrant, Mike Read and Aled Jones.

10.10 Michael Bentine Appeals On Behalf of Wells Cathedral (1977)
The traditional celebrity tin-shaker.

10.15 Rod Hull and Emu Sing a Christmas Song (1976)
With the help of Rolf Harris, a certain Tom Chatto, and "300 children from New Mills, Derbyshire".

10.45 Panto-Time! (1987)
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a panto. Or Brian Cant, who writes and stars as Abanazar, with Play School's Ben Thomas as the Genie of the Ring.

11.05 The Noel Edmonds Live Live Christmas Breakfast Show (1985)
The traditional slot referred to for ages as 'Noel up the Post Office Tower', even though he stopped actually going up there pretty sharpish. This was the second time they'd done this, but the first (and thankfully only) time he was augmented by "the world's highest Christmas party", ie. The Krankies flying over Britain in a Jumbo Jet - a worrying image.

12.35 Raccoons on Ice (1982)
Yep, the same raccoons who would later colonise CBBC with their "Hey! Hey! Hey!" theme. Here the formative critters defend their forest against Cyril Sneer (so what's new?) with, oddly, the voices of Rita Coolidge and Leo Sayer. Slightly better than the following year's The Christmas Raccoons, in which Sayer was replaced by Rupert 'Pina Colada Song' Holmes.

13.05 Glitterball (1983)
For our money, BBC1's definitive Big Christmas Film. In the age of ET and Return of the Jedi, we were treated to this CFF marvel involving a spaceship full of cake-devouring ball-bearings. "Technical skill and imagination help offset a low budget" averred the RT's Geoff Brown at the time, and we wholeheartedly agree.

14.00 Top Of The Pops Christmas Special (1982)
Astonishing how much of an embedded tradition this has become, really, even though its audience must be crucially minimised by proximity to Xmas dinner duty, oh, and the fact that no self-respecting teenager watches it at all these days. But here we look back to happier times with this mammoth edition, when the studio reeled from the combined presence of presenters Peter Powell, John Peel, Dave Lee Travis, Steve Wright, Andy Peebles, Richard Skinner, Tommy Vance, Mike Smith and Mike Read, and the year's pop tunes included the mighty likes of Goody Two Shoes, My Camera Never Lies, Come On Eileen, Hungry Like The Wolf, Seven Tears, Yellow Pearl and Oh Julie.

15.00 The Queen
Of course. We were going to pick a specific year, but, hey, when it comes to the Queen's speech everyone's got their own particular favourite, so we don't want to cause any fights.

15.10 Holiday on Ice (1976)
Well, it's either this or Billy Smart's Christmas Circus. At least this one "combines the brash panache of Broadway, the romance of ballet and the thrills of the circus". Introduced by Brian Matthew from Lausanne (by arrangement with Swiss television), and, of course, created, staged and directed by Ted Shuffle.

16.00 A Stocking Full Of Stars (1973)
"Opened" by Michael Aspel and Hope and Keen, direct from the National Children's Home at Harpenden, where the likes of John, Val and Pete, Roy Castle, The Goodies, Charlie Cairoli, The Osmonds and the Vision On team caper about to varying degrees while Mike chats with the kids. Hope and Keen are currently appearing in Aladdin at the Davenport Theatre, Stockport.

17.10 Jim'll Fix It (1982)
As well as the perennial 'can you fix it for me to help Father Christmas' seasonal shoo-in, lucky badgewearers get to visit Ken Dodd's jam butty mines and sing with Val Doonican. How's about that for some neat cross-promotion?

17.50 Blankety Blank Christmas Special (1979)
It's not just a matter of tinsel on the desks and a star on old Tel's wand microphone, as this edition somehow featured *twelve* celebrity panellists, so either the other six celebs occupied the contestants' boxes and they had a whole extra round, or Tel 'magically' replaced the first six with a second set halfway through, although we like to imagine them all sat in a huge triple-tier gantry, with Tel out of breath by the second question. For the record, they were a textbook Blank selection - Lennie Bennett, Lorraine Chase, Wendy Craig, Sandra Dickinson, Shirley Anne Field, Kenny Everett, Liza Goddard, 'Diddy' David Hamilton, David Jason, Roy Kinnear, Patrick Moore and Beryl Reid.

18.30 The Generation Game (1972)
The hardcore BBC traditional evening fare starts in earnest with a classic Brucie 'n' Anthea edition. Around this time, the Radio Times front cover seemed to consist, year on year, entirely of B&A, anbd the pair on next, dressed in some crazy circus/Edwardian getup. In short, this *was* Christmas.

19.25 Morecambe and Wise (1973)
"Grieg! By... with him and him!" This bit writes itself.

20.35 Only Fools and Horses (1983)
Ah yes, but note - it's still only half an hour long, there's no daft scheme to send 'the boys' off to Florida, and (bit partisan, this one) Grandad's in it. The first time Hookey Street turned up on Christmas day, this was a neatly-turned episode wherein Del's dad turns up at Mandela House. Big trub all round! A sitcom special that doesn't outstay its welcome.

21.05 The Paul Daniels Magic Christmas Show (1982)
This sounds like a perverse choice, we know, but bear with us as the devil is in the guest list - Floella Benjamin, Lorraine Chase, Billy Dainty, Jill Gascoigne, Rolf Harris, Nerys Hughes, Patrick Moore, Tim Rice, Barry Took and Kenneth Williams, plus the Trocaderos with their 'Globe of Death', ensuring Wee Paul himself gets bearely a look in.

21.50 News
Just to reassure you that nothing at all has happened today, apart from the Queen saying something. And that was back in October anyway.

22.00 Wogan: Christmas with the Carringtons (1985)
We're not letting Eastenders intrude on the proceedings, but this of-its-time junket for the inescapable Lord T of W to the Denver 'ranch' for some phoney Yuletide banter with Blake, Krystle and the gang is the ideal accompaniment to the beginnings of a heavy slumber.

22.40 The Good Old Days (1971)
Always held up as something we're glad to see the back of, but would you rather this late at night or some TV movie about child kidnapping with Shannon Doherty? Presented, as ever, by arcane word-spouting gavel-swinger Leonard Sachs from the Famous Varieties Theatre, Leeds, with Terry Scott, John Inman and Jack Douglas among the pantechnicon of perspicacious peripatetics ("oooOOOoooh!"), no doubt with a version of My Old Man Said Follow The Van in there somewhere.

11.30 But... Serously (1970)
The Real Meaning Of It All. Well, we had to get there eventually. Joyce Grenfell, Cyril Fletcher and Ernie Wise "explain what the story of the nativity means to them". Without Eric walking past in cap and coat in the background halfway through, we bet.

11.40 Christmas Night with The Spinners (1982)
Tony, Mick, Cliff and Hughie take their Christmas show to Bradford's Alhambra Theatre. Please don't forget to switch off your set.


Always got labelled as a tedious, opera-stuffed no viewer's land on Xmas day, and unfairly, as it turns out, as there's plenty here that's more worthwhile than Noel up the Charity Stocking on Ice.

11.00 Play School: It's Christmas Day! (1980)
The traditional yuletide session round the clock, with the vintage line-up of Carols Chell and Leader, and Fred Harris. Story - The Shepherds on the Hill. Book, Play School: Ready to Play, 1.50 from bookshops; records Play On and Bang On a Drum available on BBC Records and Tapes.

11.25 Closedown
Well, how *can* you follow that? Roll out those Pages from Ceefax with festive Radiophonic backing.

13.30 Christmas Day Play Away (1975)
Seasonal japes with Brian Cant, Toni Arthur, Chloe Ashcroft, Derek Griffiths, Lionel Morton and of course Jonathan Cohen at the piano. Well, fancy that!

14.05 The Islanders (1982)
Just to make sure BBC2 doesn't get *too* exciting, Dennis Skillicorn samples the beer from Ventnor brewery and meets the latest generation of the brewing family. He also finds out about deck chairs. First shown on BBC South.

14.35 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1981)
The obligatory showing. Tiny Christmas tree, "beholdasaviourisborn'tisChristtheLord" etc.

15.00 Henry's Cat's Christmas Dinner (1983)
A worthy antidoe to the Queen.

15.10 Mid-afternoon Film Double Bill
Two kids' films that say 'Christmas Day time-filler while everyone's watching BBC1' like no others.

15.10 Hoppity Goes to Town (1986)
Oft-screened but frankly rather dull Fleischer Brothers musical cartoon about a grasshopper.

16.25 Storm Boy (1977)
Another Christmas (and Picture Box) favourite. Australian award-winner about a young boy in remote south Oz, an aborigine called Fingerbone Bill and an orphaned pelican called Mr Percival.

17.50 Telly Quiz (1984)
Seasonal special for this little-recalled predecessor of Telly Addicts, hosted by former Lennie Bennett compadre Jerry Stevens, and featuring the combined trivial might of Team Quaker, Salt Cellar and Mal's Lot.

18.00 The Queen Again
With subtitles and that bloke who looks like Richard Stilgoe making gestures at the side.

18.10 Great Big Groovy Horse (1975)
"It's a horse, it's a horse, it's a miracle of course..." Never mind Swan Lake and those interminable bloody operas, our arts quota is filled by this timeless "rock musical romp through the legend of the wooden horse of Troy" written by Simone Bloom, set to music by Jonathen Cohen and produced by Paul 'Rentaghost' Ciani. Bernard Cribbins is The Storyteller, Paul Jones plays Menelaus, and Patricia 'She-Devil' Hodge, Julie 'Rock Follies' Covington, Kim 'No. 73' Goody and Michael 'Mr Claypole' Staniforth join in the chorus.

19.00 Futtock's End (1974)
"It's a marvellous picture, isn't it?" Ronnie Barker's saucy silent short fills a gap like so much Paxo.

19.30 Film Buff Of The Year (1985)
Mr Susan Stranks, Robin Ray, hosts the rather dry, but conveniently time-filling (it's either stuff like this or some four-hour opera from Bayreuth, remember) movie trivia quiz. It's a 'champion of champions' affair, of course - will Dennis Howells (1982 champion, specialist subject: '40s Hollywood musicals) thrash the shit out of John Dawson (1984, Ken Russell)? Followed by a screening of that Kenny Everett sketch where he asks Mel Smith how many bison were in a western clip, and Mel gets the answer right and then Ev says "name them".

20.05 Bird's Eye View (1970)
Back to a time when people knew who the Poet Laureate actually was with this leisurely sequence of aerial shots of Britain's landscape accompanied by top Christmassy wordsmith John Betjeman waxing lyrical about this sceptred isle. Probably not trailed by a cockney shouting "Save it for Mondays!"

20.55 Face The Music (1979)
Recently repeated to mark the death of host Joseph Cooper, and Creamup, despite not caring that much for classical music, quite liked it. Basically an erudite and genteel panel (in this case Joyce Grenfell, David Attenborough and Robin Ray again) answer obscure questions about K numbers, whimsical 'in the style of' pastiches and the 'dummy keyboard', in which Cooper plays a silent keyboard and the panellists have to guess what the tune is from his hand movements alone, and no-one ever does. Killed off in the '80s after the disastrous introduction of a gunge tank and Charles Collingwood doing the scores.

21.25 The Stone Tape (1972)
"What I want for Christmas is, please go away." The obligatory Christmas ghost story, but instead of the usual frock-coated MR James plodder, we're going with Nigel 'Quatermass' Kneale's vintage spooky-old-mansion-as-ancient-spiritual-video-recorder chiller with Michael 'Hot Mum' Bates, Jane Asher and the massed scary noises of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. And what's better, you can actually get this one now on video and DVD.

22.55 Closedown
We dare you to turn off the light.


A cheaper, shoddier, second-best to the Beeb's streamlined output? Yes, to be honest. But that Star Games would have got us switching over from TOTP, had we known it was on.

7.00 Rub A Dub Tub's Christmas Day Special (1983)
Surely the earliest Christmas special ever. The usual shenanigans with Dick King-Smith, Pigglety and Frederick and unprecedented special guests Bonnie Langford and Edward Woodward.

8.00 Good Morning Britain's Christmas Party (1989)
As festive a time as you could imagine in the company of Mallett, Mad Lizzie, Gyles, Russell, Ulrika, Greavsie, and pop heartthrobs Bros, Jason Donovan and, erm, Russ Conway.

9.00 Rainbow: Christmas Music (1975)
There was an episode of Pipkins shown on Christmas day (The Balloon Tree, 1978), but it's not very Christmassy so this gets in under the wire. Here Rod, Jane and Matthew sing I'm A Trumpeter On A Christmas Tree.

9.15 A Merry Morning (1980)
Traditional 'entertainers visit sick kiddies' slot, but less well-nourished with stars than the Beeb's 'stocking'. The inmates of the National Children's Home in Harrogate got to spend some quality time with Jimmy Tarbuck, Mike Harding and The Animal Kwackers.

10.00 Worzel's Christmas Special: A Cup O' Tea An' A Slice O' Cake (1981)
By way of tribute to Charlotte Coleman of course, but read the small print: "This singing and dancing special examines the important role that scarecrows play in helping Santa Claus find his way back to the North Pole." The songs were always our least favourite aspect of the 'Gummidge, truth be told. Joining Pertwee, Stubbs and Bayldon are Barbara Windsor, Mike 'Blue Riband Blues' Berry, and a triple Bill of Pertwee, Connolly and Maynard.

11.00 Christmas Clapperboard (1978)
Chris Kelly, host of the only Peter Bazalgette programme we've ever liked (the Food and Drink Christmas Quiz), marks this festive edition of the family film magazine with the theme of "flying without planes". So you get the likes of Superman, Dumbo, and, er, The Cat From Outer Space.

11.30 Fat Tulip's Fat Christmas (1987)
Ideal stuff. High-quality, high-octane back garden monologuery from a pre-NEC Tony Robinson. We're not entirely clear on the contents of the Christmas episode, but hopefully A Tortoise Called Lewis Collins, if not A Little White Shell Called Jim Morrison, figures somewhere.

11.50 The Fraggles Are Coming (1983)
The stars of Jim Henson's forthcoming series trailed by, oddly enough, Roy Kinnear, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the programme.

11.55 Digby: The Biggest Dog in the World (1979)
You knew it was coming.

13.30 Christmas Crossroads (1979)
Reg Cotterill has a traumatic experience.

14.00 Star Games Grand Final (1980)
The centrepiece of our ITV schedule, this really was on just before the Queen in 1980. Michael Aspel hosts this celebrity answer to It's A Knockout!, although the end result is more like We Are The Champions! featuring as it does a football match, track race, obstacle course, swimming pool round and final all-in tug o'war. We don't know the labyrinthine route that was taken to reach this final, but it's "TV Presenters" vs. "Comedy" - presumably "Period Drama" and "Documentary" were knocked out in the prelims. On the Comedy team we get Bill Oddie, Jeremy "Fett" Bulloch (well, he was in one of those rotten 'bawdy comedies'), David 'Get Some In!' Janson, Micky Dolenz, Robert Lindsay, Liza Goddard and Linda Hayden. The captain is, promisingly, Robin Askwith, and Alfred Marks is the "non-playing coach". What the hell did he do, then? They're not a real athletics team, you know. The Presenters team consists of Brough Scott, Peter Taylor, William Woollard, Tommy Boyd, Ray Moore, Sandra Harris, Diana Harron, captain Jimmy Saville, and non-playing coach Magnus Pyke. We know who our money's on. Jenny Hanley's on hand to chat to the competitors, and your commentators are Alan Pascoe and Gerald Sindstat. Priceless stuff.

15.00 The Queen
Maybe from that year when she wore a hat at an unprecedentedly rakish angle.

15.10 Christmas Supersonic (1976)
We've been desperately rummaging around for an ITV challenger to the Christmas 'Pops, and so was ITV for most of the '70s, it seems. We've passed on Kid Jensen's Christmas Rock With 45 (1974) ("It's part rock, it's part pop - it's all action!") and plump for this extravaganza from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, with Marc Bolan, Gary Glitter, Guys 'N' Dolls and The G Band (whoever they are), but the TV Times nails the bit we're really interested in - "Compering this exciting rock bonanza are Russell Harty and Joanna Lumley."

16.10 321 Celebrity Special (1978)
Nobody does a Christmas Quiz like the 321 gang, and this edition, themed on "an Elizabethan Christmas designed by Richard Jarvis" doesn't disappoint. Ted whittles down the three celebrity "couples" - Julian Orchard and Pat Coombs, Mike Channon and Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, Terry Wogan and Clodagh Rogers - while Jack Douglas, Chris Emmett, Duggie Brown, The Gentle Secs and Debbie Arnold keep the show moving.

17.10 ITN News
Leonard Parkin tells us what the Queen's already told us.

17.20 The Muppet Show (1977)
The Julie Andrews edition, which we'd happily put in any fantasy listings, Christmas-based or not. "Music is by the Jack Parnell Band".

17.50 Bullseye Christmas Special (1983)
Just at the time when Jim was really hitting his stride, ITV reward him with a special. Here celebrity dart players Eric Bristow, Keith Deller and, er, Maureen Flowers team up with celebrity non dart players Kenneth Kendall, Judith Hann and, er, Anne Diamond.

18.35 Christmas Game For A Laugh (1981)
We were seriously considering putting The Black Hole in, but Kelly, Kelly, Kennedy and Beadle's "funny, extraordinary, way-out" show in which "anything can happen" was everywhere at the time, and would probably compare favourably to My Kind Of Music or Gimme Gimme Gimme. Plus it's a nostaglic glimpse back to the late, lamented "row of presenters perched uneasily on high chrome stools" format that was so crually killed off by the rise of the Ikea sofa and coffee table combo.

19.25 Minder on the Orient Express (1985)
Nothing says Christmas like a sitcom special with a ridiculous location budget, and all the better if they're based on a ridculously weak pun to boot. Tel and Arf bump into Patrick Malahide, Honor Blackman, Adam Faith, Ralph Bates and Karl Howman.

21.25 Chas and Dave's Christmas Knees-Up (1982)
The legendary recreation of a good old cockney barrel-roller in the Thames studios, with the bearded wastrels trudging through their limited back catalogue in the company of a lock-in audience and rather unpleasant guests Jim Davidson, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Cricket. The best thing about this sorry affair was that, despite painstakingly reconstructing a spit 'n' sawdust east end boozer, with real beer from real working handpumps, Thames neglected to tell the audeince that the nearest toilets were 200 yards away, and no-one was allowed to leave the set - with less than hilarious consequences.

22.25 ITN News

22.35 The Kings' Christmas (1983)
"De Kuyper, De Kuyper! Fa la la, la la la la!" Ah, you thought you'd escaped the bloody King's Singers, but here they are, on ITV of all places, singing at Harewood House.


This was by far the most difficult to piece together, obviously as we'd only got 8 years to choose from, but we've managed it... sort of. Througouht the entire day, Channel 4 will only be showing one advert, for OTV television rental in Hackney and Stockwell. Quite often several times in a row. "And we guarantee you'll say, 'that's a bargain!'"

06.30 The Art of Landscape (1990)
Hooray! Festive scheduling of this indefinite montage of new-age seascapes means we don't have to bother putting anything on in the early morning

10.30 The Batman (1989)
We loved C4 at the time for re-running these original black-and-white '40s serials (with Robert Lowery in the part). Not quite up there with Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon efforts that BBC2 featured throughout most of the '70s, or the monolithic King of The Rocket Men (which was always more of a summer holiday thing), but nice all the same.

10.50 The Story of Abba (1987)
Proof that C4's much vaunted/reviled 'ironic makeover' had begun a lot earlier than most pundits estimate. A standard run-through of the quartet's furry-booted rise and fall.

11.50 Treasure Hunt Christmas Special (1988)
Now we're talking! The Chatsworth crew decamp to Florida for an unseasonally warm session. It's the Russell family guiding Annie around, for those interested.

13.05 Talking Turkey (1990)
Classic 'quirky' Four fare - "an alternative to Christmas lunch in which cynics Warren Mitchell and Nina Myskow lay into the pro-Christmas lobby." Also joining in the debate, Helen Lederer, John "I thought he was supposed to be retired at this point?" Noakes, Johnny Speight and, fantastically, Frank Sidebottom. Barry Took is your chairman.

14.15 The Mysteries: The Nativity (1987)
The inevitable, interminable medieval theatre workshop recreation, performed 'in the round' amongst a confused-at-best-looking audience in what looks like an old barn. The sole respite from this unimaginative arts council worthiness is the apearance of Brenda 'Chance In A Million' Blethyn, Don 'Rising Damp' Warrington and, of course, Brian Glover.

16.35 John Wells and the Three Wise Men (1988)
In this oddity, the Denis Thatcher spoofer extraordinare talks to three spiritual leaders about Christmas.

17.05 Brookside (1982)
"Heather gets some unexpected attention at the Law Society dance". The only non-film, non-repeated, non-import programme to be shown by Four on its first Christmas, as Peter Bazalgette would no doubt delight in pointing out.

18.00 The Queen
She's probably gay or unemployed in this version though. I wouldn't watch if I were you, Gran.

18.10 The Bleeding Snowman (1984)
Getting two well-observed but little-cherished seasonal traditions over with in one go.

18.40 Twice Knightly (1983)
Four's always provided a home for emerging alternative comedy, so who better to bung on than The Barron Knights, with "an hour of parody comedy in which they visually portray their many international hits." Hark! The sound of Neil Innes not losing any sleep.

19.40 Loriot (1984)
More festive cutting edge humour. "Germany's leading humourist counters the standing charge that the country lacks the virtue of humour." History fails to record his humour success rate.

20.30 The Mind of David Berglas Christmas Special (1985)
Of all the shows to have Christmas Specials we've come across, this was the most inappropriate. Spooky bearded "magician's magician" Berglas hosts this hour of cod-supernatural shenanigans from (sigh) a "spooky castle". Guests are Freddie Jones, Stephanie Lawrence, Britt Ekland and, interestingly, Graham Chapman.

21.30 Jean-Michel Jarre: Destination Docklands (1988)
The French synthesizer stroker steps out on the newly-renovated business district to deliver a bombastic and interminable son et lumiere extravaganza, with, as Tomorrow's World was keen to point out, a revolutionary 'light beam synthesizer' which plays the notes when Jarre breaks a series of laser beams with little hand held mirrors, yet cleverly sounds exactly the same as any other bloody synthesizer. Isn't it great how nobody uses the word 'synthesizer' any more?


They'll never work out how to play that Dr Who board game, Roy, you should've got them a book token instead - Ian Jones, Steve Williams, Chris Hughes, Martin Fenton.