Looking through an old copy of Radio Times is like looking through a box of old family photographs packed with memories. There are younger, badly dressed versions of people you love. There are once familiar faces you’ve now forgotten, and there’s always someone in a tank top who looks a bit like Noel Edmonds. I’ve taken a lovely stroll through the listings for 8–14 November 1986.
I was 15, The Final Countdown by Europe was climbing the charts, and if you’re now singing that in your head, I apologise. I’ve picked out a few highlights and the occasional lowlight that might just take you back to another place and another you.
Flicking through the pages gave me such a feeling of warmth as the memories played out on the screen in my head, but there were also tugs of sadness. Sadness at a time gone by, and of people never to return – like one particular 1986 cover star, Victoria Wood.
This is all testament to the power of television and radio right at the centre of our lives. More prosaically, it also made me think about the old “Ooh Gary Davies” radio jingle, which now at least has replaced The Final Countdown in my head.
Our cover star!
I was fortunate enough to work with the incomparable Victoria Wood a couple of times, and can’t begin to say what an honour it was, and how lovely, warm, funny and just all-round Victoria Woodish she was. She has left a body of work that will endure for many generations and we were lucky to have her. Thank you, Victoria.
Almost as instructive as the listings are the adverts. “If You See Sid, Tell Him” famously advertised British Gas shares. If you ignored temptation, aware that investments can go down as well as up, you’ll be delighted to hear that at today’s prices you would have made more than a 2,000 per cent profit. If you see Sid, don’t tell him.
Whatever happened to..?
Nowadays the bowls coverage is presented by the wonderful Hazel Irvine, but in November 1986 a former goalkeeper in his mid-30s named David Icke was in charge. It makes you wonder… what happened to him?
They should bring back…
With A Question of Sport still going strong, I’d love to see Telly Addicts back on BBC1. Stick it on at Saturday teatime or give it a makeover and play it after Only Connect on BBC2. If Noel won’t do it, then ask Zoë Ball. Or Ken Bruce!
A Saturday golden age
We are told there was once a golden age of Saturday TV. It’s represented here by
Roland Rat — The Series. Heady days. At 7pm on BBC1 you could see Paul Daniels hosting the actually rather good quiz Every Second Counts, and then a new series of Hi-de-Hi! I recently discovered I’m now older than camp host Ted Bovis in its heyday and had to have a long lie-down.
Worth bunking off school for?
Daytime TV is now big business, with long-running hits such as Bargain Hunt and Homes under the Hammer, and ITV quiz The Chase that I hear good things about. But if you were bunking off school in 1986 — which I was — BBC1’s big offering was live coverage of the CBI Conference.
Please let me watch it, Mum! I’d like to have seen those “young industrialists anticipating the year AD 2000”. I bet they didn’t foresee Facebook or Nandos or the fact that every daytime show in future would involve either buying a house or selling a Clarice Cliff tea set.
And I see Breakfast Time was co-presented by Jeremy Paxman. I imagine him looking straight down the camera, saying, “Let me ask you again, why haven’t you left for work yet?”
Of all the things I noticed during this rifle through RT, the most surprising was that BBC2 was very different in 1986. There was nothing like The Great Pottery Throw Down, but there were, instead, in-depth discussions about the history of the Suez Crisis, an exploration of Simon Callow’s translation of Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine and this little beauty, coverage of the Canberra Cruise’s World Bridge Trophy.
If BBC2 were to cover this sedate pursuit now, it would be presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell and one of the Hairy Bikers and be called “Wham Bam, Thank You Slam — Live!’*
* In fact, give me a moment while I ring BBC2 to pitch that
Look who it is!
We now know him as Cyril in Still Open All Hours and of course as one of the stars of the brilliant Goodness Gracious Me, but here we see Kulvinder Ghir in his very first TV role, as Davy Malik in Howards’ Way. The wildly successful Howards’ Way finally ended on 25 November 1990, just three days after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher. Coincidence? Surely not.
Kulvinder Ghir is one of our great comic actors and goes from strength to strength to this very day. The internet fails to enlighten me as to what happened to Davy Malik. But remembering Howards’ Way, he probably had an affair with Kate O’Mara before being murdered with a sharpened boathook by someone who used to be in Z Cars.