Back to May 1986 (18th May 1986)

Peak time BBC1 repeats of Hancock’s Half Hour (or, strictly speaking, Hancock) are almost impossible to credit now (or indeed, even just an off-peak BBC4 slot). Although some channels (Talking Pictures TV, say) are content to play monochrome material, there’s still a wide assumption that “the masses” just wouldn’t accept it.

But back in the eighties I don’t recall any particular revulsion against these HHH re-runs. Although that’s possibly because back then colour television was still a relative novelty. It might have been introduced in the UK during the late sixties and early seventies, but many would have stayed with black and white until later in the 1970’s (or possibly even into the 1980’s).

Anyway, tonight’s episode, The Radio Ham, is a must watch. I’ll have my tray of bread pudding and the results of the Daily Herald brass competition to hand ….

When rifling through these schedules it’s very noticeable how many repeats there were in primetime. Along with Tony Hancock, there’s another chance to see the second and final episode of Miss MarpleThe Moving Finger. This is a swifter re-run than the Lad’s effort though (originally broadcast in February 1985).

The Moving Finger might not be Christie’s most baffling mystery, but it’s always been a favourite of mine. Julia Jones’ adaptation treats the source material with respect – she makes changes along the way (Miss Marple, for example, only made a fleeting appearance in the original novel) but Christie’s voice remains clear. Some recent writers who have tackled the Dame’s work and twisted it almost out of recognition, should take note …

And with direction from Roy Boulting and an excellent cast (Michael Culver, Richard Pearson, Sabina Franklyn, Hilary Mason and John Arnatt) you can’t really go wrong.

5 thoughts on “Back to May 1986 (18th May 1986)

  1. I would have watched Hancock’s Half-Hour (and possibly Mastermind). Those repeats were a seriously big deal in an age of archive television scarcity. I can remember buying a copy of Time Out with a classic Hancock cover. It’s sobering to think that it wasn’t all *that* old at the time – as far in the past then as I’m Alan Partridge or The Fast Show would be to us now.

    If this was the schedule today then I would watch Hancock, A Walk Under Ladders (which would have been broadcast under the anthology series title Love & Marriage) and the 11PM footage of Hungary Vs Brazil in the 1966 World Cup.

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  2. Starting off with early morning tv. It was before Sunday mornings on BBC2 and Channel 4 became a have of children’s tv. Channel 4 didn’t even start until 1pm. ITV had some cartoons, but watching Care Bares cartoon is a really bastard thing to do to yourself.

    One forgotten programme on Channel 4 is The Pocket Monet Programme, a cross between The Money Programme and Why Don’t You?

    The World Cup started on the 31st of May, but there were a few preview programmes. Some colleagues were shocked that I didn’t watch the World Cup. Or any sport.

    The highpoint of the day was Tony Hancock: The Radio Ham. This episode was almost a one-man show like The Bedsitter (aka Hancock Alone). At one I stage I saw The Blood Donor every ten years. I saw it in 1976 when it was shown as part of Festival 40, I saw it when it kicked off the 1986 run of Hancock repeats, and again in 1996 when they did another season of Hancock repeats.

    I may have seen Miss Marple. We didn’t usually have Mastermind on at that time as my parent weren’t fans. But when I moved into my own flat I got hooked on it. I can remember some peop,le thinking that Mastermind was boring and had gone on too long. But they were wrong because there was always some specialist subject that hadn’t been done before.

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  3. The repeat of black and white eps, and public reaction, is an interesting one. Growing up in Australia in the 70s and 80s I don’t believe there were any repeats in black and white once colour had been introduced, other than perhaps early episodes of an Australian regional police drama, Matlock Police, (probably due to Australian content quota), and classic movies of course. I only remember seeing a series one ep of On the Buses as part of a ‘golden years of tv’ anthology.

    The first series of Dad’s Army to air was season 3, but I don’t think the first two seasons were broadcast even after the show became hugely popular. I think the first show we saw in colour, when we finally got our set, was Starsky and Hutch. It was a slightly different world. 🙂

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    • I wrote an article about the launch of colour tv in Britain for a fanzine which I no longer have.

      In Britain colour tv started on BBC2 only in 1967, and on BBC1 and ITV in 1969. But households with only black and white tv sets outnumbered households with colour television until 1977.

      In 1971 there was an industrial dispute at London Weekend Television which resulted in some of the first episodes of Upstairs Downstairs and Budgie being made in black and white, although the majority of viewers were unaffected as they only had black and white tvs. But I think American viewers got deprived of a chunk of early Upstairs Downstairs because the US networks only showed the colour episodes.

      Repeats of black and white episodes of Dad’s Army on BBC television were rare in the eighties and nineties. I never saw the first episode until 1998 when the BBC showed the first series to mark the show’s thirtieth anniversary. Since then BBC2 have been showing Dad’s Army on an endless loop on Saturday evenings for over a decade.

      Some people won’t watch anything in black and white, or even say they can’t watch anything in black and white, because they think it’s too boring. My youngest nephew, then aged four, saw Peter Capaldi’s second episode of Doctor Who and said he wanted to see the first one, and my brother thought he meant the first episode ever and showed him An Unearthly Child, and he said “What happened to the colours?”.

      But I had a colleague who’d been watching Doctor Who since the Christopher Eccleston series, and one week BBC4 showed the first Dalek serial as a tribute to Verity Lambert, and when I told her it was on she said that she couldn’t watch anything in black and white. She was thirty-three.

      Another time Channel 4 showed Kind Hearts and Coronets on Good Friday, and I told a colleague he should watch it because it’s the funniest film in the English language. He told me he watched the first ten minutes then turned it off because it was in black and white. It took him ten minutes to notice it was in black and white?

      I heard that when colour tv started in Australia they did it in a very clever way. There was a surreal comedy series called Aunty Jack, and on the first colour programme the actors wore black and white costumes and make-up, and the sets and props were all painted black and white, and then a colour fairy came in and turned everything into colour.

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