UK TV Of Christmas Past: 1977

Our look back at Christmas Day viewing of yesteryear arrives in the late 1970s...

The BBC's 1977 Christmas ident

For part two of this series – and you can read part one here – we’ve arrived at Christmas 1977. A real classic Christmas on TV as Morecambe and Wise topped the ratings with their final show for the BBC. Its the one with Penelope Keith, Elton John and James Hunt as the main guests and the South Pacific finale featuring all the BBC newsreaders and presenters.

In the News: The legendary  silent era clown, Charlie Chaplin passed away on Christmas Day itself aged 88. Rock n Roll star Elvis Presley died aged 42. Concorde was airborne for passenger flights to New York. Jimmy Carter entered the White House and The Eurovision Song Contest was cancelled because of a strike… at the BBC!In Sport: Red Rum won The Grand National for the third time in four years. Virginia Wade and Bjorn Borg were the winners at Wimbledon. Wade became BBC Sports Personality of 1977. In football, Manchester United beat Division One champions Liverpool 2-1 to lift the FA Cup.Top of the charts: 1977 was the year of punk although the Sex Pistols’ success in the chart was covered up. Paul MacCartney and Wings topped the charts at Christmas with Mull Of Kintyre and performed the hit single on The Mike Yarwood Christmas Show.

At the Box Office: Peter Benchley’s The Deep had topped the film chart since Christmas Eve but was about to be usurped in the new year by something called Star Wars, which was the film to see on Boxing Day.

On TV: Christmas Day (Sunday December 25th 1977)

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BBC18.55am A Star Over Bethlehem9.55am Playboard10.10am Christmas Appeal by Michael Bentine10.15am Morning Worship11.15am The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas11.45am FILM: National Velvet1.30pm News1.40pm Are You Being Served?2.10pm Top Of The Pops 773pm The Queen3.10pm Billy Smart’s Circus4.10pm FILM: The Wizard Of Oz5.45pm Basil Through The Looking Glass6.15pm News6.25pm Songs Of Praise7.15pm Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game8.20pm The Mike Yarwood Christmas Show8.55pm The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show9.55pm News10.10pm FILM:Funny Girl11.45pm Christmas Night12.25 Weather

ITV9am Carol Concert11am A Merry Morning12.30pm FILM: Robinson Crusoe and The Tiger2pm Just William: William’s Worst Christmas3pm The Queen3.10pm To See Such Fun4.40pm Emu’s Christmas Adventure5.45pm The Muppet Christmas Show6.15pm Sale Of The Century6.45pm Stars on Christmas Day8.45pm News9pm FILM:Young Winston11pm Stanley Baxter12am Celebration

BBC1’s early offering seem a bit tame, a very old movie even then at 11.45am as a young Elizabeth Taylor stars in National Velvet. Are You Being Served? was at its height having just been spun-off as a feature film. Noel Edmonds presented Top Of The Pops ’77, and by the late 70s he was also fronting Swap Shop for three hours every Saturday. And this was only the start of his association with BBC1’s Christmas Day line-up.

On ITV Jimmy Tarbuck inherited the “entertaining sick kids in hospital” gig. Bonnie Langford was the irritating child star of Just William, she even had her own lisping catchphrase: “…I’ll thscream and thscream and thscream until I’m thsick!”

The Wizard Of Oz seems to have always been the Christmas Day afternoon big movie but this is one of only three 70s outings in this particular slot. Basil Brush was popular, not least because he appeared between the football results and Tom Baker’s Doctor Who. The Doctor was taking a Christmas break between The Sun Makers and Underworld. Robots Of Death would be repeated on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Songs of Praise appeared in pretty much its usual slot. A brave move given it was never a ratings winner.

As for the evening shows, it has been observed that 1977 was the year ITV “packed up and went home” showing a selection of carols, crooned by amongst others, the late Bing Crosby as BBC1’s biggest guns Bruce Forsyth’s Generatiion Game, Mike Yarwood’s Christmas Show and the final BBC Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, were watched by an average of 28 million people. Significantly and despite ITV poaching Eric and Ernie, BBC1 “owned” Christmas Day from now on…

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And in the Radio Times…Pauline Ellison’s distinctive Christmas tree/village illlustration is imprinted in my mind a) as an excellent illustration and b) this issue was the first time I used the Radio Times to find out what was on TV at Christmas. A magazine all about TV? One that told you what was on in the next week? Wow! What’s not to like? Naturally I was equally delighted to discover in the new year (January 2nd to be precise!) BBC1 was launching a new space series by the guy behind the Daleks, Terry Nation. Yes, Blake’s 7 had arrived and was given a colour feature at the back of this very issue. After five years of just Doctor Who suddenly my personal sci-fi telly horizons were expanding…. GEEK CHRISTMAS RATING

Next time we’ll revisit 1986…