A while ago I looked back at the remarkable day in October 1991 when it was announced that Thames had lost their ITV franchise. When the day finally came in December 1992 for Thames to leave the screen, in their closing show like some other regions they could have just whinged for hours about what a massive injustice it all was, but instead they put together a dignified programme looking back at some of their best moments in the almost 25 years that they were on air. There was no voiceover and no contributors, just captions stating the name of the show and when it aired, and lots of memories from their award-winning archive.
At 10:45pm on New Year’s Eve 1992 Thames aired The End Of The Year Show (although it wasn’t tilted as such on-screen). It seems that this show was aired across England (with the exception of the TSW and TVS regions who were also ending that night so had their own farewell show), and presumably in Scotland they were showing their own Hogmanay programmes. The show was introduced with a final announcement from the terrific Philip Elsmore who had been with Thames since day one in 1968. Here’s a look at the various programmes produced by Thames that were featured.
We begin with some comedy and the wonderful talent that was Kenny Everett. (“you could at least look up when I’m talking to you!”) Then we have a sketch from Benny Hill whose comedy show ran for 20 years on Thames and became popular across the world. There’s then more laughs with Anton Rodgers sitcom French Fields, a spin-off from Fresh Fields.
Then we have some drama, with Edward Woodward series Callan, The Bill (which ran for almost 30 years), The Sweeney and Minder, both of which are still repeated regularly on ITV4. In part two there’s more classic comedy with Man About The House spin-off George and Mildred, Sid James making them laugh in Bless This House, and After Henry which began on Radio 4.
Then there are a couple of children’s programmes. The Sooty Show, featuring Matthew Corbett and his small bear friend introducing an archive clip of his father Harry who originally did the act, and the animation The Wind In The Willows. Then there are clips from the documentaries The World At War and Hollywood.
In part three there’s more famous drama with Jack The Ripper, The Naked Civil Servant, A Voyage Round My Father and Rumpole Of The Bailey. Then there’s the long-running holiday show Wish You Were Here…?. We then have some more top laughs with Tommy Cooper, before a look back at This Is Your Life, featuring Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel cornering various victims including Terry Wogan, William Shatner and Paul Daniels. Then there’s some theatre with The Mikado.
Part four features various entertainment programmes, including some of the most successful acts who found fame on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks, Joe Pasquale causing chaos on The Magic Comedy Strip, plus also comedy with the likes of Jim Davidson, Max Bygraves, Eric Sykes and Mike Yarwood.
Then we get great game show Strike It Lucky featuring Michael Barrymore enjoying talking to some contestants (it seems most viewers enjoyed this part of the show more than the actual game), Des O’Connor interviewing various personalities on his long-running show, and antics with Mr Bean, another hugely successful award-winning show around the world.
We conclude with a sketch from Morecambe and Wise also featuring Leonard Rossiter, then there is a message thanking all the “artistes” who took part (not a word you hear people on TV being described as nowadays), and finally the chief executive of Thames Richard Dunn appeared in-vision to give a brief and poignant thank you speech to everyone who contributed to the success of Thames.
Then there was a final montage featuring even more great Thames shows accompanied by “I Only Want To Be With You”, a hit single for The Tourists in 1979. Thames described itself as “A talent for television”, a statement that it is difficult to argue with. All these years later, watching this show knowing what we know now, it’s all rather touching. From January 1993, ITV would never be the same again.