The early-1990s: As the 90s began ITV Night Time was beginning to be a success. Although of course the ratings would never be that high there was clearly demand for programming at this time of night and a lot of original shows were made for the strand, with a few repeats, imports including American sitcoms such as Three’s Company, and the occasional film shown as well. It is remarkable looking back now to discover just how much effort was put into shows that were shown at around 2am and some viewers still fondly remember them, although of course they weren’t exactly big budget stuff.
For example, there was a lot of original music programming, such as the dance show BPM and of course Pete Waterman and Michaela Strachan in various nightclubs on The Hitman And Her. My sister always liked to set the video for a rock music show called Noisy Mothers. There were many others too and in this case I think that you really could describe these shows as attracting a cult following.
Things changed in 1991 though. Thames and LWT began to share a new strand simply called “Night Time” which was shown in a few other regions too, meaning the end for in-vision continuity in the Thames, Anglia and TVS regions, plus the end of Night Club on HTV. This disappointed a lot of viewers who enjoyed the announcers who kept going through the night whatever happened. Other regions continued with various strands called Night Time and Night Shift.
When Thames lost their franchise at the end of 1992 it meant the end of the Night Time strand. When Carlton came along in 1993 they had their own look. The main ident usually just featured a shot of a hedgehog. There seemed to be a lot of this imagery in Night Time presentation over the years, with lots of owl/hedgehog/cat symbolism being used by the regions to imply just how late it was.
LWT decided to launch their own strand again called 3 Nights, because it was shown three nights a week, and not as I thought, because it was on Channel 3. Or maybe it was both. Again there were some odd idents, which never featured any announcers either live or pre-recorded, and one of them seemed to feature the guy from the Pet Shop Boys.
There was also still advertising regularly in these late night slots, usually for those Karaoke Challenge-phone competitions, but some of the smaller regions had to make do with showing Public Information Films, which are scary enough in the daytime never mind late at night, and sometimes if they were really short of material, simply a “Back Soon” slide was shown. Things would change though by 1995 as you’ll find out in the third part of this piece.