More TV Memories – ITV Night Time (part 3).

The late-90s-present: In 1995 a new look was introduced to ITV Night Time in the Carlton and LWT regions. Once the clock went past about midnight, these strange neon people appeared to do a dance before programmes. What was unusual about this presentation was that it was completely unbranded, with not even a reference to ITV anywhere. nighttime11

In 1996 ITV Night Time launched a new campaign which insisted that the strand was “Television With Attitude”, and the programmes seemed to become a little more outrageous, with game shows such as Carnal Knowledge and God’s Gift causing a stir much beyond the small amount of viewers who actually watched. nighttime12

I think I am right in saying that this look continued to be used after the ITV symbol was changed in 1998. Also in that year, the ITV Nightscreen was introduced. This wasn’t a programme as such, just a service with information on various forthcoming ITV programmes, accompanied by some music. In its earliest days this was presented as a Teletext-style service, somewhat similar to the BBC’s Pages From Ceefax. nighttime13

After a while though ITV Nightscreen was upgraded to feature Powerpoint-style graphics, and this programme continues to this day, seemingly taking up more and more airtime. Around 1999 when the corporate Hearts look was introduced, programmes from this point would be introduced by a generic ITV ident. Just about all the other regional strands had ended by this point. nighttime14

Into the 2000s, ITV did still make some effort into making original programmes for the Night Time strand, with game show The Machine, sketch show Dare To Believe, and music show CD:UK Hotshots being among the shows that stick in my mind from that era, although the days of Casey Kasem had long gone by this point. vlcsnap-00273

I also remember one of the most amusing continuity announcements that I have heard was before ITV Nightscreen. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like “Jampacked so full of stuff, I often ask myself how we fit it all in, but we do. Just as well then, because it’s time for the almost-legendary ITV Nightscreen“. An announcer with a sense of humour who would have thought it. nighttime15

By the mid-2000s though, ITV practically gave up on Night Time. Almost all original programming ended and was replaced by uninspired repeats dumped in minor slots, some of them featuring in-vision sign language interpreters because I think that they are contracted to produce a particular amount of output a week serving this purpose, so put it all on at 3am why don’t you. You are also incredibly unlikely to see an advert break at this time now too. nighttime16

Around this time, the phone-in game show craze was at its peak, so ITV filled endless hours with Quizmania, which for me was one of the better interactive shows, at least they made the attempt to be entertaining, and they gave away some decent amounts of money. After that ended though, ITV now fill the time with one of those roulette things, just like Channel 5 too. There’s choice for you. nighttime17

In the multi-channel era, where almost every TV channel is broadcasting 24 hours a day, it is a shame that there seems to be so few channels offering anything beyond pre-recorded infomercials and repeats late at night. Although it started with such innovation, the Night Time strand has gone from pioneering to pointless in 25 years.

More TV Memories – ITV Night Time (part 2).

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. nighttime9

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. nighttime8

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. nighttime6

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. nighttime10

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. nighttime7

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.

More TV Memories – ITV Night Time (part 1).

The 1980s: Here’s a look back at another area of ITV presentation that I haven’t covered yet: the Night Time service. This piece will be mostly based around what happened in the Thames/LWT region when ITV finally started to go 24 hours across the country but there will be a look at what some of the other regions did too.

Until the mid-80s, ITV regions always closed down at around 12:30am. ITV then looked for ways to expand their airtime. There were plans at first for the Night Time coverage to be covered by a separate franchise like TV-am was but that never happened. The first region to experiment with going 24 hours a day was Yorkshire. They had already been pioneering by being the first ITV region to broadcast a breakfast time service in 1977, long before the launch of TV-am. In 1986 Yorkshire filled the overnight slot by showing the otherwise little-seen satellite channel Music Box for a few months. nighttime1

As for Thames, by 1987 they started to extend their hours to 4am, until they finally became one of the first regions to go 24 hours, and they also introduced a special nighttime version of their famous skyline ident, which was rather redundant because none of the landmarks were illuminated so you could barely see anything. They also continued to use in-vision continuity with a mostly female line-up of announcers. These announcers would also be live as well, and between the programmes they would have competitions or show music videos while trying not to nod off. nighttime2

As for the programming, there were attempts to fill the time with various things to try and keep the viewers interested. As well as showing some films and imports, in the early days of Night Time the programme America’s Top Ten where horrid sweater-wearing Casey Kasem looked at the biggest hits seemed to be on every day. The presenter Phil Donahue turned up a lot too. There was also an attempt to provide some sport and news coverage. There were even adverts and everything too. nighttime3

LWT experimented with a late night strand in the early-80s called LWT Nightlife which featured their symbol in neon lights. By 1987 they had also gone 24 hours, and introduced a special strand called Night Network under which all their overnight shows would appear over the weekend. There was a lot of original programming made for this strand and at least they put the effort in to try to create something different worth watching. nighttime4

By the end of 1988, every ITV region had finally gone 24 hours, UTV was the last to do so. (Channel 4 didn’t go 24 hours until 1996.) Other regions had their own strands too including Central, who as they went further into the night introduced their programmes under the banner of More and Even More. Granada also had a strand simply called Night Time that ended up also begin shown in a few other regions too. TVS had a strand called Late Night Late which featured repeats of a lot of cult programming, Anglia also had an entertaining overnight strand called Through The Night where various announcers kept the viewers company, and HTV had a service called Night Club. I have enjoyed watching clips online of the 1980s TVS, Anglia and HTV Night Time services. nighttime5

By the end of 1989, LWT had dropped the Night Network strand, and now just linked programmes using their ITV corporate ident with no announcements at all. Thames also continued to use in-vision continuity, and now this was the only time of day that viewers would see announcers who kept the insomniacs happy, and Night Time TV was finally beginning to take off. We shall discover what happened to ITV Night Time in the 1990s in part two.