Dear Television (BBC2, 2005)
Along with various other things, I always like to look back at the more curious end of TV shows, ones that suddenly came and went with little publicity, and I feel that this one fits into that category, but it was worth taking notice of because it had an interesting idea. Dear Television was a show that looked back at five decades of TV history on the BBC, all through the comments on the letters pages of Radio Times.
This meant that the show had the feel of a somewhat more extreme version of Points Of View, and every edition was only ten minutes long. One of the good things about the show was that you didn’t know what was going to feature next, and some of the lesser-remembered shows from over the years that were commented on by viewers made some unexpected appearances. The comments were read out by appropriate voiceovers.
So it was clear that there had been a lot of research put into compiling the show as it went beyond the usual things that feature in these type of shows (along with familiar shows like Doctor Who and EastEnders, where did they track down the likes of All Your Own from 1961 and The Kilt Is My Delight from 1962?), and it must’ve taken a lot of time and patience to go through the archive, especially now they’ve gone all yellow round the edges and smell rather musty (the magazines that is, not the viewers).
Of course the show featured the usual mix of comments, some were straightforward, and some were rather bizarre. Along with dramas and documentaries, there were also plenty of game shows featured including the tension of the final of Mastermind plus Ask Me Another and What’s My Line, and there was even a look back to much excitement at when two women appeared on Top Of The Pops in 1992.
There were even random appearances of old BBC1 globes, along with a comment on those too, which definitely gets my approval. I always tried to watch, but every time I did it seemed to be the one looking back at when there was a mishap on The Sky At Night (“one expected Mr Pastry to turn up!”). This all amounted to an interestingly quirky show, which is now 15 years ago in itself.
At this point, it’s worth saying the usual things like how old issues of Radio Times eventually become fascinating time capsules of this era, and this show was an attempt to explain how things have changed over the years. There were ten editions of Dear Television that were shown on BBC2, and then for about a year or two after they were repeated rather randomly to fill gaps in the schedules on both BBC2 and BBC4. Well done, BBC!