A small Christmas ritual of yesteryear, which seems to have all but disappeared, was the marking up of the special bumper edition of the Radio Times with all the programmes you were looking forward to watching over the festive period.
Sometimes this would involve taking a red biro and circling the programmes in question; other times it would be using a yellow florescent marker to boldly highlight your TV favourites.
Looking further back, before television listings were deregulated in 1991, the process had to be duplicated for both the Radio Times and the TV Times, because the Radio Times only contained information about programmes on the BBC, whilst the TV Times carried the details of those shows on the commercial channels, principally ITV and then later Channel 4.
Households were often divided between those which took the Radio Times and those which took the TV Times. My mother was an avid watcher of Coronation Street, so we were traditionally a TV Times household; it was only on the special occasion of Christmas that we would indulge the luxury of buying both the Radio Times and the TV Times.
Marking up both magazines, highlighter in hand, flicking between the schedules of one channel with the schedules of another to make sure that you didn’t timetable an impossible clash of programmes; deciding on the merits of one favourite over another one when the TV companies had annoyingly scheduled their top programmes to be aired at the same time as one another, used to be a full morning’s toil. But it was an activity that I looked forward to in the run up to Christmas, in the same way that I looked forward to putting up the Christmas tree, and trying to discover which one of the fifty fairy lights it was that was shorting the entire string.
But it is a Christmas ritual that has almost gone.
Asking various friends what they are looking forward to watching over this Christmas period the typical answer was:
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ll just choose something on Netflix/Google Play/Prime.”
No one had lovingly marked up their Radio Times. In fact, no one was planning to watch anything on terrestrial TV. Which probably explains why, when I went to mark up my own copy of the Radio Times with all the programmes I was looking forward to seeing over Christmas, I couldn’t see a single thing that I wanted to watch.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree discovers nothing to watch on the box.