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.

More TV Memories – Startups.

Just when I thought that I had reviewed every element of classic TV presentation, from having a look back at the ITV regions over the years to closedowns, I have realised that I haven’t looked back at startups yet, so here’s my review of those. Just as closedowns would end the day’s programming, startups would begin them.

I must admit that startups on ITV are before my time, but as ever I have watched several archive clips of them online, and I do find them rather curious. Although it would vary from region to region, the startup process would be mostly the same. At around 9:30 a caption would come on the screen featuring the region’s name and an solemn announcement informing us that the region was “providing a full colour service on the transmitters of the Independent Broadcasting Authority”, as if they felt that they had to thank them every single day for the honour of being able to provide programming to viewers. vlcsnap-01425

Then there would usually be a short piece of music over this caption, some of these pieces were used for a long time so they became familiar to viewers in their various regions that they were used. For example Thames used to use a classical piece called “Perpetuum Mobile”, before then their own classic “Salute To Thames” which was played over the mankiest slide of the Thames ident that they could find. It just seems so odd now that they would have to spend about ten minutes settling in before you would see anything else. vlcsnap-01426

After all this ceremony, the continuity announcer would finally start the day by introducing a lineup of forthcoming programmes and usually informing us about what the weather was like before the first programme, which is these days was usually for schools. After the launch of TV-am in 1983, the startups would occur at 9:25am. LWT also used a famous piece of music for their startups called “A Well Swung Fanfare”. As a tribute to this, on their final day under the LWT name in October 2002 a recreation of a startup was shown which was a nice touch. vlcsnap-01427

Some regions would also feature various things in their startups such as a short film of landmarks around the region. By the mid-1980s the startup process began to be phased out by the regions, and by the time 24-hour programming had come to every ITV region in 1988 there was no longer any need for a startup routine as all regions would now be on all day.

More TV Memories – 30 Years Of LWT.

30 Years Of LWT (ITV, 1998) vlcsnap-01389

In 1989, it was the 21st anniversary of the launch of LWT, and there was a long season taking a look back at some of the most successful shows that they had produced. The only other time that LWT really put some effort in to celebrate their anniversary was when they turned 30 in 1998. Again there were some great programmes including one looking back at LWT’s sport coverage over the years which featured contributions from Dickie Davies, Brian Moore and Ian St John among others. Continuity announcer Peter Lewis also returned having left LWT the year before to record some special introductions in-vision for the anniversary. vlcsnap-01390

One of the best programmes in this season was LWT’s Most Memorable Moments, an hour-long programme hosted by Brian Conley who reminisced along with other people about their favourite programmes that were produced by LWT. The show even began with the vintage 1978 version of the classic LWT ident. Brian began by taking a look in the TV Times which featured the first day of LWT’s programmes in August 1968. vlcsnap-01392

He never knew there was so much in it! Then Brian went so far as to tell the story of LWT’s disastrous first night on air, when their very first programme, the live comedy We Have Ways Of Making You Laugh, was taken off-air after just 15 seconds due to an industrial dispute. They did get going eventually though and produced many classics. vlcsnap-01394

Then we have some happy anniversary messages from various personalities including Chris Tarrant and Cilla Black, before Brian asks people about their favourite LWT memories in various programme genres. We start though with some memories of some of the most famous opening sequences and themes, including Poirot and The South Bank Show. Then there are some memories of the best children’s shows, including Just William, Catweazle, A Little Princess, Terrahawks and Metal Mickey. All of these shows are a little before my time but they were all popular. vlcsnap-01395

Then it’s the most memorable game shows, beginning with Blind Date. It seems that in the days before Big Brother, if you wanted to become an overnight celebrity you just had to act crazy on Blind Date, that’s the kind of impact that show had. There is also You Bet!, Game For A Laugh, Gladiators, and good old Play Your Cards Right with Bruce. There’s also a quick look at Beadle’s About and Aspel and Co. before the end of part one. vlcsnap-01396

Part two starts with the most memorable sitcoms, featuring On The Buses (still frequently repeated on ITV3), Please Sir!, The Fosters, A Fine Romance, Faith In The Future, and the Doctor series, which mostly seemed to consist of a young Tony Robinson making people endlessly fall over. The most memorable current affairs programmes features Ken Livingstone talking about Weekend World, The 6 O’Clock Show (which was hosted by the likes of Michael Aspel and Danny Baker), The London Programme, The Brian Walden Interview and Jonathan Dimblebyvlcsnap-01398

The most memorable dramas features Upstairs Downstairs, Wish Me Luck, A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, The Charmer, Lillie, and London’s Burning. Part two ends with a few It’ll Be Alright On The Night-style mishaps, including Brian Conley making a wally of himself on Live At The Palladium, and he is really thrilled to see that again. There are also some awkward chat show moments for Michael Aspel, Gloria Hunniford on Sunday Sunday and David Frost. vlcsnap-01399

Part three features some more comedy moments including Cannon and Ball, Michael Barrymore, Hale and Pace, Stanley Baxter, Bruce Forsyth, Russ Abbot, and Brian Conley. And remember, it’s a puppet. Melvyn Bragg then takes a look back at the most memorable arts programmes including Aquarius and his time on The South Bank Showvlcsnap-01400

There are then some memories of cops and robbers programmes including The Professionals, Poirot, Within These Walls, and Dempsey and Makepeace. The show ends with a look back at some of the best An Audience With… moments, including Bob Monkhouse, Kenneth Williams and Billy Connolly making them laugh. This was a great programme which featured lots of nostalgia, just how I like it, and I am farily sure that it was only shown in the LWT region. Of course, barely four years later the LWT name would all but disappear from the screen which was a shame because it was one of the biggest success in the 60 year history of ITV. vlcsnap-01401

Round The Regions – LWT.

LWT

This is a piece that I have been looking forward to bringing you because this is a region that I remember watching myself. London Weekend Television launched in July 1968 and they hoped to be a success on ITV. Their first ident was rather basic and was accompanied by a rather odd piece of electronic music.

After about a year when colour was introduced in 1969 they launched a new ident with a new piece of music. But it wasn’t until September 1970 that LWT introduced the look which would remain in various styles for the next 26 years. It featured a blue, white and red stripe that would from an “L” and a “W” to another new piece of music. lwt6

In September 1978 this ident was modified to now say “LWT” and the music was tweaked slightly. This look was often parodied on the terrific comedy sketch show End Of Part One, which also took the mickey out of LWT’s continuity announcers. LWT had various announcers including the great Peter Lewis although in-vision continuity was phased out by 1983. lwt11

In 1983 LWT introduced a new ident, and I am not sure if this is the first-ever ident that was fully computer-generated to be used by an ITV company, as it was never shown nationally. It seems that the first ITV region to feature a computer-generated ident that was shown nationally before and after their programmes was Grampian in 1985. lwt2

LWT didn’t have much news coverage in their early days. From January 1982 the news was hosted by their continuity announcer, and the reports were provided by a news agency, they had no news service themselves. The regulator wasn’t very impressed by this and they finally launched LWT News in January 1988 which would last for the next five years until LNN took over. lwt1

LWT were one of the biggest of the ITV companies and they were definitely the most showbizzy, which a big commitment to various local programming, and also providing a variety of entertainment programmes for the network during the weekend which won many awards. LWT also often ran trails promoting their programmes as featuring “The Entertainers”. In August 1986 they introduced a new look, with a slightly modified LWT symbol and a new soundtrack. Two idents were created which looked very impressive at the time. There are lots of LWT continuity clips online, I have enjoyed watching some closedowns with Peter Lewis as the announcer, and when LWT went 24 hours in 1987 they launched Night Network which ran for a few years. lwt12

LWT were very keen to take the ITV corporate look in September 1989, which came just after their 21st anniversary that they celebrated with some special programmes. This lasted for the next three years, when they introduced another new look in September 1992, with LWT now appearing in 3D. This was dropped for a similar ident in 1994, but was reinstated in 1995 although the “ITV” no longer appeared at the bottom. lwt9

In August 1996 it was time for another new look. Out went the blue, white and red look which was replaced by a new symbol and another new piece of music. Again there were also several creative trails made which heavily featured the symbol and LWT’s programming remained successful going into the 90s, and they celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1998 with a season of various programmes looking back at the archive. lwt10

When the second corporate look came along in November 1999, LWT did take it, but they didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it, the LWT symbol looked rather drab on the screen and it they felt that it didn’t come across as very exciting to look at compared to some of their graphics, so they decided to make some changes. lwt4

LWT were the only region to drop the look, replacing it in March 2000 which a much livelier ident that they felt was much more suitable, and that’s how it stayed until October 2002. When it was time for LWT to leave the screen, they decided that it was a big occasion and did a few special things on their final weekend, including a recreation of a startup, and ending with long-serving continuity announcers Trish Bertram and Glen Thompsett appearing in-vision to say goodbye before a quick look at some of LWT’s best bits. Now that’s the way to send off a great station. lwt5

The YouTube Files – Closedown.

For many years until about 1988, ITV didn’t broadcast for 24 hours a day, and when it was time to closedown for the night, they used to go through a lot of ceremony. Although I am not old enough to remember closedowns on ITV I have watched lots of them on YouTube, and I thought it would be interesting to have a look back at this phenomenon that has now gone from our screens, using examples of a typical closedown from the Thames and LWT regions, although it did vary across the country. So here’s what you’d expect to see in a closedown.

The closedown would begin with an advert break, usually with one final plug for that week’s TV Times. Then there would be the epilogue, a minute-long programme where someone or a group of people would reflect on a religious aspect of life, usually a celebrity or a guitar playing vicar with a tale to tell us. It’s fair to say that you don’t get anything like this on TV any more. vlcsnap-01059

Then we would go to the announcer, on Thames in the 80s it was usually Peter Marshall, Philip Elsmore, or Tom Edwards, while on LWT it would be Peter Lewis who was out-of-vision by this point. They would usually begin with the weather forecast. ITV didn’t have a national weather service until 1989 so until then you would only get weather updates at the end of the local news or at this time. vlcsnap-01060

Then we would be told about a few programmes that we could watch tomorrow, starting with breakfast show TV-am, which Tom Edwards always memorably (incorrectly) referred to as “Good Morning Great Britain, kick-orf time 6:15″ before revealing a few of the guests. One thing that I have noticed about closedown announcements is that because presumably they weren’t against the clock they seem to be longer and more relaxed, and all kinds of odd observations were passed on. vlcsnap-01061

LWT would also reference that the two local commercial radio stations LBC and Capital were still on air, but Thames never did this. Then we would get a menu of tomorrow’s programmes. On LWT these were often accompanied by some funky music and Peter Lewis giving some odd descriptions. On Thames the menu was usually accompanied by a track from a crooner’s new album or a piece of library music. There was also a phone number available if you wanted more information where if you called you would hear the Thames theme and then be told about the programmes. Honestly, just buy the TV Timesvlcsnap-01062

After this, the clock would then appear, and in the 80s closedowns were usually around 12am to 1am, although the regions did start to close later before they went round the clock. LWT would close with the national anthem accompanied with some footage of royals in the region, but Thames never did this. Then there would be one more announcement, a reminder to switch off our sets, we don’t want anyone to come downstairs the next morning to find their TV set on fire now do we. Then the transmitter was usually switched off, or occasionally a testcard could briefly be seen too. Sleep well now won’t you. vlcsnap-01058