What’s to look forward to this year on a notable numerological bent?
For starters there’s a slew of TV stations-cum-channels who are chalking up significant birthdays. Sky is 20 years old on the 5th February, the date when it launched its original four channel package in the UK on the Astra 1A satellite: Sky Movies, Sky News, Eurosport and the flagship Sky Channel with glittering new fare such as Joanie Loves Chachi, the Nescafe UK Network Top 50 and – still going strong today – The Hour Of Power. Will there be a lavish retrospective brimming with finely-chosen archivery topped off with clips personally selected by Rupert Murdoch himself? No.
More promising, perhaps, are the 50th birthdays of, respectively, Tyne Tees (15th January – that’s next week!) Anglia (27th October) and Ulster (31st October). There’s got to be some potential for nostalgia programming here, not least with Ulster, who usually seize any opportunity to poke the rest of ITV in the eye with a independent-sized finger. But is there anything scheduled for transmission next Thursday, when TTTV notches up five decades of broadcasting? An evening of fun, laughter and surprises live from a boat on the Tyne with Mike Neville? At the moment, no.
How about a few individual programmes being honoured with a coming-of-age season/remake/talking headathon on BBC4? It’s 50 years since the first Juke Box Jury, since Quatermass and The Pit, and – above all – the first proper TV general election coverage. That last one clearly merits plenty of hat-doffing, preferably in the shape of a complete repeat run of all election night programmes on BBC Parliament, including every single by-election, local election and European election to boot. Well, they’ve got three months’ airtime to fill in the summer, for heaven’s sake!
Other anniversaries include Monty Python (40 years: what’ll we get this time? A DVD entitled ‘The 40 Most Repeated Yet Undeniably Amusing In A Faintly Uncomfortable British Kind Of Way Great Big Monty Python Sketches’? Or, what we really want, a DVD of the fucking series with a load of decent fucking extras for once?), To The Manor Born, Shelley and Not The Nine O’Clock News (30 years) and Seinfeld (20 years).
Plus there are all the pop cultural milestones, like it being 25 years since York Minster was struck by lightning, the Liverpool Garden Festival and British Telecom being privatised; and 20 years since the Exxon Valdez burped all over the coast of Alaska and the Berlin Wall fell down.
Any sign of any of these being given a theme night on BBC2? A Radio 4 documentary? No. Granted, it is only 5th January. But those all-important contextualising clips of Busby, Michael Heseltine planting a tree in Toxteth and Arthur Scargill wagging a finger won’t clear themselves.