I caught it in that dark little alley off Memory Lane as I was travelling back home from the UK last weekend. And it caused me to pick up a copy of, in its own words, “the legendary Christmas issue” of the Radio Times.
I’ve got to agree with the hyperbole. The double festive season edition of the Radio Times used to be an absolutely essential part of the whole Christmas thing when I was growing up. And I don’t see why it still shouldn’t play a part now we’re living in France. It’s not like we don’t get English telly or ‘owt. Though I wouldn’t normally buy a TV listings magazine. All the listings I need are on the old Sky thingy…and I only watch about three shows a week as it is.
Radio Times is all different these days of course. Get this kids, when I was a youngster we only had three different channels on the box! And as it was published by the BBC, The Radio Times only carried listings for two of them. You had to buy another magazine – the TV Times – to know what was being screened on ITV. Not that we did of course. We were a BBC family. We wouldn’t dirty our hands (or eyeballs) with ITV. I still don’t, as a rule.
But since 1991, when TV channel listings were deregulated and all manner of listings magazines sprung up, the Radio Times has listed commercial channels alongside BBC ones. Though I’ve always suspected that it gives BBC programmes more favourable ratings. “EastEnders – chirpy Cockney types make the best of their lot. Uplifting quality drama” – “Coronation Street – grim northerners moan into their cloudy brown beer. Dour”.
In this year’s legendary Christmas double issue of the Radio Times, each day’s listing takes up 10 full pages of the magazine! With all the channels listed, each day represents more than two months of viewing pleasure. And that’s just TV – radio gets another couple of pages tucked up the back.
I haven’t got stuck into it yet though. Oh no, planning my Christmas viewing is not to be rushed at…it’s something to be done one evening, when the kids are in bed, with a large cognac in one hand and my very best highlighter pen in the other.