Telly Years

In this section, we take a look back at sample BBC television and radio schedules from years gone by, with listings from the BBC Genome Project. On this page we look back at the 1980s. On other pages: 1930s-1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1990s.


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 12 May 1980

A standard weekday line-up from the start of the 1980s. Newly launched on BBC2 was Newsnight, but Panorama was still firmly ensconced in the 8.10pm slot on BBC1, with BBC2's alternative being the equally tedious The Waltons; but viewers wanting an alternative to the Nine O'Clock News could always tune to the second series of Not the Nine O'Clock News - complete with a totally irrelevant programme billing in Radio Times!

Between Ask the Family and Panorama was The Dukes of Hazzard; the days when 50 minute American imports could be found on primetime BBC1 are now long gone.

A new team for the 1980s had arrived at Blue Peter, but of the three presenters, only Simon Groom would still be there when the programme returned after the summer break.

Continuing to look further across the week, and on Friday three Welsh towns were competing in It's a Knockout!, while the Welsh legend Max Boyce had somehow got himself a national primetime BBC1 show on Thursday.

More needletime restrictions brought down Radio 1's opening hours, and the breakfast show was back to starting at 7.00 again. Twelve hours later, in Radio 1's features slot, David Jensen (who still liked to be known as 'Kid') presented Stayin' Alive, a weekly health and fashion programme, believe it or not. And Radio 2's last soap opera, Waggoners' Walk, was finally drawing to a close.


BBC Genome schedule for Thursday 12 November 1981

BBC1 was sporting a new-look globe ident (launched in September), and BBC News had been revamped a few days later, with the 'venetian blind' look. This accompanied the launch of a half-hour News After Noon, while Evening News gained five extra minutes.

Several familiar shows aired this day, including Nationwide, Tomorrow's World, Blankety Blank and Top of the Pops, the latter which was now entering the famous 80s 'party' era, and just one week earlier had ditched Legs and Co in favour of a new dance troupe called Zoo. Peter Davison, who was just about to take on the role of Doctor Who was starring in BBC1's sitcom Sink or Swim; meanwhile BBC2 was airing classic Patrick Troughton episodes of the sci-fi series.

Morph had gained his own series on BBC1; and so had Peter Skellern on BBC2, who was best known for his mellow hit records of the 1970s. His show was described as 'a gentle blend of comedy and music'.

Radio 1 had almost achieved independence from Radio 2; only the early show was now simulcast (total separation occured in December 1982). Mike Read was now presenting the breakfast show, while it was early days for Steve Wright in the Afternoon - now heard on Radio 2. And at 10.00 it was John Peel - the same slot in which he could still be heard two decades later.


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 18 May 1982

And the highlight of today's schedule is...well, not a lot really. But at 9.53am, as part of For Schools, Colleges and being introduced by the classic BBC1 schools clock, was that programme that almost no one else but me on planet Earth remembers - the Capricorn Game. Also on the schools front, there were no fewer than three chances to catch Junior Craft, Design and Techology.

And staying with education, the Open University early morning broadcasts were for UHF viewers only - the virtually defunct VHF 405 line service was not switched on till later, presumably as a cost-saving measure.

At the start of this year the good people of the South East finally gained a regional news programme of their own - South East at Six - as part of Nationwide, which seemed to be going through a revamp every few months at this point, before being ditched altogether in 1983.

BBC1's undistinguished twice-weekly 26-part drama Triangle was airing on this day, preceded by Richard Stilgoe helping us to keep fit. And they say television isn't as good as it used to be... Later on, you could see the first incarnation of Wogan some three years before he went thrice-weekly with his chat show.

BBC2 viewers could enjoy the antics of Charlie Chaplin at teatime, while younger viewers could enjoy classics like Rentaghost and The Flumps on BBC1.


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 13 September 1983

New season time for children's programmes on BBC1 - launches this week included Henry's Cat, The Roger the Dog Show (which featured The Chucklehounds a few years before they landed their own show), Johnny Ball's Think Again and a new series of Puzzle Trail presented by a pre-Tomorrow's World Howard Stableford, alongside Kirsty Miller, who had previously starred in the title role of the BBC2 teen drama Maggie. Meanwhile, Play School was just about to relaunch with new music, titles, set and presenters.

Early morning television had arrived on 17th January, and the original format Breakfast Time with Frank Bough and his woolly jumpers was beating its opposition, TV-am, convincingly.

Nationwide had disappeared for good on 5th August, but Sixty Minutes was yet to begin, so filling the 6.30 gap was Bugs Bunny and Kick Start. Following this was the memorable twice-weekly hospital drama Angels, American sitcom Taxi and John Nettles in Bergerac. There were several other 'period' early 80s shows on BBC2, including That Was the Year, The Great Egg Race and Best of Brass.

Airing that Saturday night on BBC1 were The Dukes of Hazzard, The Noel Edmonds Late Late Breakfast Show, Terry Wogan's last series of Blankety Blank, and Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman and David Copperfield in Three of a Kind. The 26-part childrens drama Heidi was reaching the end of its run this week, and younger viewers could also see Captain Zep - Space Detective and Stopwatch. And there was BBC2's long-forgotten The Show Me Show with Maggie Philbin and John Craven.

Having presented almost every weekday show on Radio 1, DLT went to the weekend in 1983 where he would stay for another ten years. New boy Mike Smith, also seen with Noel on BBC1, took over lunchtimes, although Kid Jensen was sitting in for him this week; and Boy George - one of the biggest chart stars of the moment - was standing in for him...


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 11 January 1984

Just four months after our previous Telly Year, but early evenings on BBC1 had now been revamped with the almost universally disliked Sixty Minutes. It lumped all the news, regional news and talking points into a single programme, complete with horribly brash music and titles. Viewer pressure forced it off air seven months later, and was succeeded by the Six O'Clock News in September.

Play School had also been revamped with a modernised format, and a slightly amended title to remind us what day it was. A third change in the autumn of 1983 had seen Schools programmes transfer from BBC1 to BBC2 (which meant the morning showing of Play School had to move in the opposite direction). However, as the Daytime on Two sequence had not yet returned from its Christmas break, and there was no Open University either, BBC2 did not show anything other than Ceefax until 5.35pm.

The afternoon's children programmes were now being introduced by a series of BBC Micro-generated 'computer cartoons', and the line-up of entertainment on this day included Clive Dunn's Grandad and Johnny Ball's Think of a Number.

Later on was Russell Harty with his light-hearted chat show at 6.40. In the same slot on Thursdays and Fridays, Doctor Who starred Peter Davison in his third and final season. Meanwhile Sunday featured an extremely rare sight - a repeat of The Goodies!


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 18 February 1985

This day saw the dawning of a new world for BBC1 - well, a new spinning world between programmes, anyway. It debuted at the start of a revamped evening schedule, which saw the first thrice-weekly Wogan take to the air, with a generous 40 minutes each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7.00. EastEnders shared the same time slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays (it would not move to 7.30 until the following autumn).

The earlier part of the evening had already been changed round to the form we know today. The previous autumn saw the unloved Sixty Minutes give way to the Six O'Clock News, with a regular presenting team of Sue Lawley and Nicholas Witchell, followed by the regional magazines, sitting out on their own after years mixed up with Nationwide and Sixty Minutes. These changes led to the opening up of a new 5.35 slot between the children's programmes and the news that, for the next couple of years, the BBC would never be quite sure what to do with - in fact, on this occasion it was used for airing the new series of Grange Hill.

Not only did the BBC1 globe go computerised today - so did the weather forecast, with the introduction of computer-generated weather maps replacing the old magnetic symbols. Bill Giles explained the changes in A Change in the Weather, which could be seen no fewer than three times today.

There were more schedule changes on this day: Breakfast Time moved from 6.30 to 6.50, and there was much rejoicing when Panorama was at last shifted out of the pre-Nine O'Clock News slot it had enjoyed for decades, and would now be seen afterwards at 9.25.

Changes to children's programming wouldn't occur until later in 1985 - Play School would relinquish its afternoon showing in April, and the Children's BBC banner would appear in September, along with Phillip Schofield in the broom cupboard.

There had been a few changes to the Radio 1 line-up; Gary Davies, Bruno Brookes and Janice Long gained weekday slots, while David Jensen left, Peter Powell was relegated to the weekend and Mike Smith had temporarily gone to co-present Breakfast Time, although he'd soon be back to take over Radio 1's breakfast show.


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 27 October 1986

A very important day in the life of BBC1 - from now on the channel would broadcast continuously from breakfast to late night, without any breaks for Ceefax or the test card. A sad day for the anoraks, then...

The introduction of daytime television meant a raft of new programmes. Open Air from Manchester saw Eamonn Holmes unleashed onto an unsuspecting world, inviting viewers' comments on the previous night's television, whilst a few weeks later former MP Robert Kilroy-Silk would present topical discussion in Day to Day (which was not renamed Kilroy until a year later).

Phillip Schofield would present birthday greetings and programmes for younger viewers, followed by Five to Eleven, a short reading for adults. Afternoons would be a place for classic drama, with the first in a repeat run of The Onedin Line.

Pebble Mill at One fans were to be disappointed - their replacement viewing turned out to be the news, followed by a new soap opera from Australia - Neighbours, which would be shown twice a day, with the repeat airing at 10.05 the next morning (the repeat would switch to 5.35 on the same day from January 1988). But there would be no more chat from the foyer of Pebble Mill for another year, when Daytime Live began.

The One O'Clock News replaced News After Noon, and was presented by a new signing from ITN, Martyn Lewis; meanwhile hourly bulletins were introduced throughout the morning on BBC1, and in the afternoon on BBC2. A further change would see the revamping of Breakfast Time into a two hour news programme, much to the upset of most of its viewers. This change was originally intended to take place today, to coincide with the new daytime schedule, but in the event followed two weeks later.

Radio 2 had relaunched earlier in the year, throwing out contemporary pop and bringing back more of the standards, crooners and show tunes. In response to this, David Hamilton would soon leave, claiming the music policy had become 'geriatric'.


BBC Genome schedule for Saturday 5 December 1987

Most of the usual programmes you expect to see on a late 1980s Saturday line-up - even Noel Edmonds was making an appearance during the hiatus between his Late Late Breakfast Show and his Saturday Roadshow, since Telly Addicts was shifted from its usual Tuesday slot for one year only. And to fill the midweek gap, Noel had another game show running at this time, the little-remembered Whatever Next?

BBC2 broadcast music from Ibiza 92 - but this was not the kind of music that had connoctations with Ibiza in more recent years. No, in 1987 it mean the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Marillion and Chris Rea. Back on 1, and although Going Live! was barely two months old, it was already proving a hit, particularly the comedy segments from Trevor and Simon, and Peter Simon's weekly falling over session in Double Dare. Earlier on, the astonishingly long-running Chucklevision was in its first series, though initially it had more of a magazine format rather than the sitcom it later turned into; the first two series included magic from Simon Lovell and stories read by Billy Butler.

There were more children's programmes on Sunday mornings - from 9.15am-2.00pm Simon Potter presented Now on Two; however this was not a year-round affair, being forced to give way to the Open University the rest of the year. Programmes this weekend included Whirlybirds in black-and-white, the Blue Peter Omnibus, Chris Serle's archive series Windmill and a repeat of Tuesday pop show No Limits, which has the dubious honour of launching the career of Jenny Powell.

Back to Saturday, and on Radio 1 Johnnie Walker was presenting The Stereo Sequence, broadcast during the five-and-a-half period that the network was allowed to borrow Radio 2's FM frequencies. Since the end of October, however, listeners in the London area could hear Radio 1 in FM stereo all day long, on 104.8 FM. The expansion of the network's FM network would continue through the next few years.


BBC Genome schedule for Friday 5 February 1988

It was the first ever Comic Relief day, and BBC1 marked the occasion by devoting the whole evening of programmes - after the thrice-weekly Wogan - to the event, hosted by Lenny Henry, Griff Rhys Jones with help from Jonathan Ross. Meanwhile Andy Crane, Sarah Greene, Gordon the Gopher and Phillip Schofield all found themselves in the running for the Gunk Tank.

Weary after five years of early mornings, Frank Bough had now left Breakfast Time, and was replaced by John Stapleton. Later you could see Henry Kelly's European quiz Going for Gold. On BBC2, Sport on Friday was hosted by none other than the son of God.

The hugely popular Neighbours had been firmly ensconced in the 5.35 slot on BBC1 for the past month, which had meant an end to many of the programmes which filled that gap in the preceding three years, such as Masterteam, First Class, Fax and Go for It!. The lunchtime showing of the Aussie soap remained untouched, however.

Radio 1 were getting involved with Comic Relief, with listeners choosing their favourite comedy sketches. Also on that day was the Friday night record review programme Singled Out. Jeff Young presented the network's only dance music show, the Dance Music Show (if only it was still the only one), while gravel-voiced Tommy Vance hosted the Friday Rock Show.

Radio 2, meanwhile, were not getting involved with Comic Relief, but present day 6 Music DJ Mark Radcliffe was producing Billy Butler's 'personality packed' Friday night show from BBC Manchester. Radcliffe was also the producer for the fabulous Martin Kelner's show on Saturday nights.


BBC Genome schedule for Thursday 18 August 1988

It was the middle of the summer holidays, so it was very much the repeat season on BBC television - in fact no fewer than 23 programmes on this day had been broadcast before.

BBC1 reshowed the 1986 Alan Bleasdale drama The Monocled Mutineer, while at the same time the BBC2 cupboard was so bare they had to resort to a repeat of The Paul Daniels Magic Show. The few new shows on this day included Bodymatters, the lighthearted guide to the workings of our body, although this week's subject, the risks of radiation, does not immediately appear to lend itself to lighthearted treatment.

In the absence of any sports coverage clogging up the schedule this week, BBC1 found time to schedule a repeat of the five-part mini-series AD - Anno Domini which chronicled the birth of Christianity and the decline of the Roman Empire. This followed Neighbours, in which Helen Daniels enveiled her portrait of Mrs Mangel.

BBC1's holiday programmes for kids were broadcast under the But First This! banner for the second year running, and for some reason needed four presenters this year - Andy Crane, Siobhan Mayer (who also found a modicum of fame in the pop band The River City People), Colin Heywood and Sue Devaney. Virtually all the morning's programmes were repeats, except for Superman, starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel. But First This! was rounded off with the curious inclusion of Wildlife on One, in which David Attenborough looked at scorpions.

As Andy Crane was busy with mornings, Children's BBC in the afternoon was hosted by newcomer Simon Parkin, with its usual later summer start time of 4.10, which included Ron Pickering presenting one of the later editions of We are the Champions, which by now was only appearing as one-off editions for disabled children.


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 25 January 1989

There were two opportunities on this day for viewers to see an edition of the second series of Henry Kelly's popular Euroquiz Going for Gold. This autumn Breakfast Time would transform itself into BBC Breakfast News (though two weeks later than planned), with Nicholas Witchell at the helm. On this day a pre-Newsnight Paxman was co-presenting the programme. Meanwhile Radio Times editor Nicholas Brett was appearing on the 'feedback' programme Open Air.

Children's BBC with Andy, Edd and Wilson brought us the classic cartoon Belle and Sebastian along with the latest, and often regarded as the best, dramatisation of Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, with Jeremy Rampling in the title role. Later on, Dallas was in its umpteenth series; BBC2 were a little more highbrow with a biography of the poet W.B. Yeats.

Radio 2's Ray Moore sadly died this month; the previous year Chris Stuart had joined from BBC Wales to take over his early morning show. The Radio 1 schedule, meanwhile, had pretty much stagnated, with the usual line-up - Mayo, Bates, Davies, Wright - which had already been in place for some time and would continue to be for a few years yet. The evening schedule was slightly more fluid - John Peel was now heard in an earlier slot than before, while Mark Goodier would take over from Bruno Brookes in April. But the problem was, although the network was hugely popular, in the eyes of the young, it was just so uncool!

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Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation