You can forget your John Lewis adverts, your X Factor and Strictly closing stages, even the Boots catalogue with its multitude of 3 for 2s, the sign that Christmas is almost upon us is simple – the double issue of the Radio Times.
TV Quick and the free pullout in The Daily Mail are merely pretenders to the TV listings throne.
It’s the one issue of the year that I’m certain to buy, even in this scrolling, series linked day and age there is nothing quite like sitting down with the weighty issue, a cuppa and a highlighter.
When I was at Uni it always caused a bit I an issue as the regional variations – which always seemed to be far more significant than they are these days – were o no use whatsoever when I got back to my mum and dads. It never diminished the joy of circling or putting a line or question mark against programming though.
You know that you won’t end up recording or even watching most of the items that you strike off, but that almost isn’t the point, it’s just fun going through spotting old favourites and seeing what film big guns the channels are unleashing on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
We’ve probably all seen them umpteen times, or even own them, but for some reason it matters not, seeing them introduced preceded by a spinning globe etc with those words “and now on BBC One…” just adds something special.
Of course ‘back in the day’ it used to mean buying both the Radio Times and TV Times and cross referencing everything, not to mention whether it was going to be recorded on the front or back of a video tape and did I have enough space on tapes before getting a new pack of E240s on Christmas morning?
Unwrapping new VHS tapes was also a joy, not only did they have an almost impenetrable outer layer but then each tape was also individually wrapped – it was one extreme to another though so was either that or you’d try taping on a tape that had its tab removed (shock horror, quick somebody find some Sellotape!)
If you’ve still got any old VHS knocking about then invariably you’ll have the tail end of the previous programme, listings for the rest if the evening/following day (“and with Jim Davidson’s Big Break at 615, that’s your Saturday night entertainment on BBC One”) or John Ketley giving you a late weather update.
Back to the Radio Times, it hasn’t changed that much and there’s still the traditional how many pages of holidays are there remark annoyingly smack bang in the middle of the listings for Christmas Day.
Like any good and regularly leafed through edition its cover will perish and become detached well before the fortnight is out from being thrown across the room, shoved down the side of the sofa and having numerous drink tested and splashed over it…but most of all it will be loved as much this year as it was the last.