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 1990s. On other pages: 1930s-1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 6 November 1990

On this typical day at the start of the nineties, both channels were still using their 1980s idents - but they were to change in dramatic fashion just three months later...

Daytime television had been revamped under the umbrella title of Daytime UK, although this didn't last long. Also short-lived was the quiz show Trivial Pursuit with Rory McGrath. Meanwhile Andi Peters and Edd the Duck had taken charge of the Children's BBC broom cupboard. Over on BBC2 you could see the third part of the cult mystery Twin Peaks.

A textbook late 80s/early 90s line-up on Radio 1, featuring Mayo, Bates, Davies and Wright. There was also the half-hour evening round-up News 90, the recently launched Evening Session with Mark Goodier, and a ten-part series marking the tenth anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

A few changes on Radio 2 saw Ken Bruce make a brief move from mornings to late night (although Martin Kelner was standing in for him this week), and a new daily slot at 4.00pm in which different celebrities would guest as DJ and present their choice of music for a week. And, taking over Radio 2's old medium wave frequencies, Radio 5 was in its third month on air, featuring a mixture of sport, education, children's and youth programmes, and rather a lot of Radio 4 on Radio 5, Radio 3 on Radio 5 and Radio 1 on Radio 5.


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 8 May 1991

The on-screen image of BBC1 and BBC2 had just been radically revamped with new idents on both channels - by now the controversial 'virtual world' of BBC1 and multiple BBC2 symbols were just beginning to gain acceptance, and would go on to become award-winners.

One week earlier Radio 1 had commenced 24 hour broadcasting, and Bob Harris, Gary King, Simon Mayo and Jenny Costello all found their shows extended, plus there was one new recruit, Neale James. And on this particular day another newcomer, one of Radio 1's craziest presenters ever, The Man Ezeke, presented his Sunshine Show.

The BBC's television channels, on the other hand, were nowhere near 24 hour broadcasting - in fact on this day BBC1 and BBC2 both packed up at midnight. Only ITV carried on through the night at this time. Terry Wogan's thrice nightly chat show was still going, with just over a year to run before he would be usurped by Eldorado. He was followed by the American comedy about a teenage doctor, Doogie Howser, MD. And in an unusually international Wednesday evening line-up, this was in turn followed by an Australian police action drama series, Police Rescue. Nowadays you will never find imported programmes on primetime BBC1.

Children's BBC brought us The Movie Game, originally hosted by Phillip Schofield, but now with Bread star Jonathan Morris in charge, and a repeat of the BBC's dramatisation of the famous children's book Tom's Midnight Garden - this had first been shown in 1989.

Rob Curling took time out from Newsroom South East to host the daily quiz Turnabout, which had earned itself a repeat the following morning, while actor Sir Michael Hordern had been recruited to be our 'tour guide to the electronic frontier of cyberspace' in a repeated edition of Horizon which was apparently 'filmed on location on virtual reality itself'.


BBC Genome schedule for Friday 2 October 1992

It may not seem that long ago, but relatively few programmes survive from 1992. Most notably, Wogan had been ousted in favour of the ill-fated Eldorado. But Terry was not going without a fight - he returned with another chat show, Terry Wogan's Friday Night; although he insisted it was not a chat show - the guests would be made to entertain. Other long-gone shows include Challenge Anneka, The Flying Doctors, Going for Gold and Don't Wait Up.

The Labour Party conference clogged up most of the morning on BBC1, but just two weeks later it would be all change, as Good Morning...with Anne and Nick would take over from 10.30-12.15 every weekday.

BBC2's Friday night comedy zone was still several years away at this point, and 6.00-7.45 was taken up entirely with material from the 1960s.

Radio 2 had seen some schedule changes at the start of the year, with Ed Stewart returning, Derek Jameson moving to late nights with his wife, and the controversial signing of Brian Hayes as breakfast DJ. On the old-style Radio 1, though, it was business as usual; Simon Bates, Simon Mayo, Steve Wright etc were seemingly immovable, although earlier this year Gary Davies had been sent to weekend breakfast to be replaced at lunchtime by Jakki Brambles.

The network was celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, and Noel Edmonds and Emperor Rosko returned to present special shows that weekend. But to prove how out of touch the network had become with young people - at 9.00 tonight we could hear prog rock dinosaurs Emerson, Lake and Palmer in concert!


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 13 April 1993

It was a big day for BBC News - a virtual reality relaunch which would introduce a new unified identity to Breakfast News and the One, Six and Nine O'Clock News. There was little change to the presenter line-up though, other than the curious bringing in of former BBC World Service head John Tusa to present the One O'Clock News. Martyn Lewis and Michael Buerk continued to share the Nine, while the Six had a large rosta of presenters, including Peter Sissons, Anna Ford, Andrew Harvey, Jill Dando and Moira Stuart.

Newsnight meanwhile, remained aloof to the revamp - one of their producers described it as akin to British Telecom changing their vans. Even the Nine O'Clock News editor had his suspicions, expressing worries that if 'the Nine' looked too similiar to 'the Six' it would risk losing its reputation for gravitas.

Michael Buerk was a busy boy at this time, as he was also co-presenting the first in a new series of 999, while David Attenborough marked 100 editions of Wildlife on One by selecting the first of his twelve favourite programmes. On a somewhat lower brow note, children's programmes today included the umpteenth series of Bodger and Badger and, incredibly, a cartoon series starring Orville and Cuddles.

1993 would prove to be a turbulent year for Radio 1. At the moment all seemed calm, with a familiar, unchanging DJ line-up (although with it being the Easter holidays, most of the regular DJs seemed to be away this week). Even the launch of Virgin Radio at the end of April would make little immediate impact thanks to poor medium wave coverage. But within months Dave Lee Travis would make his dramatic on-air resignation, and then in October incoming controller Matthew Bannister would radically revamp Radio 1, showing many of its ageing DJs the door. The station would never be the same again.

But for the time being Radio 2, with Terry Wogan recently reinstated on the breakfast show after an eight year break - but on holiday this week, would make no attempt to pick up Radio 1's disenfranchised listenership - its own revolution was still a whole three years away from beginning...


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 11 January 1994

The anniversaries were coming thick and fast. One week before our featured day, Top of the Pops celebrated its 30th anniversary with a special show, Smashie and Nicey's Top of the Pops Party. As TOTP2 would not begin until the autumn of this year, this was a rare opportunity to see clips from past performances (although UK Gold viewers were currently able to watch complete editions of TOTP from the 1970s).

One hour earlier Holiday had marked its 25th birthday with the return of Cliff Michelmore to join regular presenter Jill Dando in Torremolinos, the location of Cliff's first ever report in Holiday 69. This week, it was the weather's turn. On the exact 40th anniversary of the first in-vision forecaster, BBC1 took a look behind the scenes of the BBC weather forecast.

BBC2 - which itself was on the verge of celebrating its 30th birthday - was still showing old films at teatime, a staple of the channel for many years; the 6.00 unofficial 'cult zone' had still yet to emerge five days a week. The long-running Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm was beginning a daily run in the afternoon, under the English title People of the Valley. Luckily, subtitles were provided.

There was still some five hours of schools programmes dominating BBC2 daytime, including the chance for lucky viewers to watch Thunderbirds in Hindi. At the other end of the day, BBC1 was transmitting BBC Select, which was an overnight subscription service offering education and training programmes. This output would later be incorporated (free-to-air) into BBC2's Learning Zone.

Smashie and Nicey may have been more than a year away from being resigned from Radio FAB FM, but over at rival Radio 1 FM, there were further sweeping changes this week, following on from the radical revamp bestowed on the station by Matthew Bannister in October 1993. After more than 12 years in the afternoon, Steve Wright took over the breakfast show (although just five years later he would find himself back in his traditional slot, this time on Radio 2), while Mark Goodier moved to afternoons after a brief two-month tenure on breakfast.

Nicky Campbell, having been absent for the same period, returned to host Drivetime, and Emma Freud joined to present the lunchtime show. As part of John Birt's attempt to move Radio 1 upmarket, these latter two shows promised to include topical features such as interviews with names in the news on Campbell's show, and listeners' chance to quiz the Newsbeat team on the issues of the day in Freud's. It wouldn't last.


BBC Genome schedule for Thursday 30 March 1995

Anne and Nick were still dominating mornings on BBC1 in 1995 - but not the ratings - and there were two lots of Animal Hospital, in CBBC at 4.25, then Animal Hospital Week at 8.00. Top of the Pops was still in its traditional Thursday slot, but who remembers the 'fast-moving drama series set in a local crown prosecution office' at 8.30?

Children's BBC still started at 3.50; it was extended back to 3.30 later in 1995, but CBBC Breakfast on BBC2 was only present from 7.00-8.00 when there was no Open University. Talking of education, BBC2 would go 24 hours (weekdays only) later on this year with the launch of The Learning Zone.

Surprisingly, BBC2 was showing The Oprah Winfrey Show, more traditionally a Channel 4/Channel 5 stalwart; following this was Glynn Christian's Entertaining Microwave - did it sing and tell jokes then? Also on 2, the influence of the internet was starting to make its presence known, with Westminster On-Line.

Terry Wogan was back on Radio 2 (but not this particular week), but Radio 1 - on the verge of dropping its '1FM' pseudonym - was going through more painful changes. Another revolution was just around the corner - within four weeks Steve Wright and Bruno Brookes would be gone, with Chris Evans and Dave Pearce taking their places...


BBC Genome schedule for Saturday 13 July 1996

Unusually there was no main Saturday morning programme this summer - for some reason which has never been explained, Fully Booked, the summer replacement for Live and Kicking, was being shown on Sunday mornings on BBC2. Instead the usual CBBC team hosted the Saturday Aardvark.

BBC1 were showing the inane game show Pets Win Prizes, presented by Dale Winton. The show's original host, Danny Baker, was finding himself sidelined on Radio 1, less than three hours after his high profile signing - his two Saturday and Sunday morning shows had been reduced to one two hour show on Saturday lunchtimes. By now Danny was looking increasingly out of step with the rest of the Radio 1 schedule, alongside the likes of Jo Whiley and Dave Pearce (Charlie Jordan sat in for the baseball-capped one this week).

Radio 2's new controller Jim Moir was starting to make changes - in a surprise move in March, Steve Wright was recruited to present his Saturday Show and Sunday Love Songs, the latter unbelievably still running after more than 20 years. The rest of the network would still remain in its cosy comfort zone for a while longer, however.


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 7 May 1997

Our trip to 1997 takes us back to six days after Tony Blair won the General Election, and four days after the United Kingdom won the Eurovision Song Contest. It also takes us back before an age of digital television. The new BBC corporate look was a few months away - no big red balloon would be seen until October - so the familiar idents introduced six years earlier were still in use.

BBC television was full of ex-ITV shows, including Through the Keyhole, University Challenge and perhaps most surprisingly, Blockbusters. Huw Edwards made a rare appearance co-presenting the Six O'Clock News, two years before he took charge of a revamped programme.

With Chris Evans having flounced off from Radio 1 following his infamous demand to have Fridays off, management had recently taken one of their most bizarre decisions - to replace him on the breakfast show by Mark and Lard. Other changes at that time saw John Peel return to a weekday slot after over six years at the weekend. Meanwhile the Radio 1-isation of Radio 2 had started - following the signing of Steve Wright a year earlier, he was now joined by the likes of Bob Harris and Alan Freeman, while a greater contrast could not be seen with Richard Allinson having recently taken over from The Jamesons.


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 16 March 1998

The famous balloon had been introducing programmes on BBC1 for the past six months, but there had been another major change as the national anthem was laid to rest thanks to the introduction of BBC News 24 the previous November. Until the start of digital television in the autumn, it was currently only available all day to analogue cable viewers, but the service would be relayed through the night, every night, on BBC1.

Radio 1's schedule had been rejigged the previous autumn, with Kevin Greening and Zoe Ball taking over the breakfast show from Mark and Lard, who had shifted to afternoons. There were more changes over at Jim Moir's Radio 2 - a new, more modern-sounding jingle package had just been introduced, and forthcoming schedule changes would see extended shows for Ken Bruce and Ed Stewart, while ex-Radio 1 DJs Johnnie Walker and Paul Gambaccini would join ex-Radio 1 DJs Alan Freeman, Steve Wright and Bob Harris for a revamped Saturday line-up.

Back on television, and after making its terrestrial debut in November 1996 on Saturday teatimes on BBC1, The Simpsons had now settled into an endless run of repeats on BBC2 at 6.00, though not yet in a daily slot. Later on, the bloke in the pink cycling helmet, former Yorkshire Television producer Adam Hart-Davis, presented his popular science and history series Local Heroes.

On BBC1, Panorama, after more than forty years on air, was now on later than ever, at 10.00. Another long runner, Blue Peter, would mark its fortieth birthday later this year. Now airing three days a week, the current presenter line-up included Richard Bacon - but it wasn't long before he would soon be exposed to the nation.

Meanwhile, a worrying trend was developing - Changing Rooms had just been promoted from its natural home on BBC2 to infest the primetime Tuesday schedule of BBC1 (Ground Force would soon also make the same move). What with the increasing proliferation of docusoaps (the unremembered Doctor's Orders aired this week), the future of primetime BBC1 was looking bleak.

Still, we always had digital television to look forward to. In a matter of weeks, Radio Times would be telling us about the digital revolution that was just around the corner, including first word of forthcoming new channels ITV2, BBC Choice and BBC Learning...


BBC Genome schedule for Friday 31 December 1999

For most of our featured Telly Years we have looked at typical days of broadcasting through the years. But to round off this section, we've broken the rules and gone for a most untypical day - the final day of 1999, which saw the BBC mount the biggest and most ambitious live broadcast ever, 2000 Today.

Yes, for some inexplicable reason the BBC, along with other broadcasters, and the government for that matter, had decided to celebrate the dawning of the third millennium one year early. Still, it meant an extra bank holiday for us all, anyway.

BBC1 spent around 28 hours, from 9.15am on Friday 31st to 1.30pm on Saturday 1st, marking the dawning of the year 2000, breaking only for EastEnders, Live and Kicking and the news (the latter which itself came from the 2000 Today studio). Providing the alternative, BBC2 largely ignored the occasion, instead choosing to look back at the 1990s with a special theme night. This channel did bring us the best programme of the day, however - an episode of the hilarious animation The Big Knights, which followed the adventures of Sir Boris and Sir Morris, and their pets Sir Horace the dog and Sir Doris the hamster.

Previous page: 1980s


BBC Genome
BBC Schedules

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