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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.