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Bond on ITV (1980s)

23rd December 2019

Any child of 1980s Britain will remember James Bond on the box at Christmas

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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One of the highlights of being a kid at Christmas in 1980s Great Britain was getting the annual festive double-issue of the TV Times to discover what treats lay in store over the holidays. With only four television channels and limited choices for consuming media, Christmas was when the broadcasters brought out the big ones. Every popular show seemed to have a must-watch Christmas special, and the schedules were often centered around huge films. 

The 1980s were home to 'The James Bond Film' at Christmas. The trend started in 1978 when ITV premiered 'Diamonds Are Forever'. The following year saw a Christmas day afternoon broadcast of 'Goldfinger' at 3:15 pm after the Queen's message to the nation. 

Roger Moore's adventures as 007 would become part of a Christmas day tradition for millions of families through the 1980s. The Christmas edition of the TV Times magazine in 1980 kicked off the decade with a special cover photo of Roger Moore pushing Janet Brown on a sled, with ever-popular entertainers Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise skiing alongside. Janet Brown was popular for her Margaret Thatcher impersonation, and little did readers of the TV Times know at the time, but she was filming her cameo in 'For Your Eyes Only' around the time of the shoot. The film would hit cinemas the following summer.

ITV held the exclusive rights to the James Bond films on UK television. Which year do you remember most fondly? 

1980 - The UK television premiere of 'The Man With The Golden Gun' was broadcast at 6:00 pm. It went up against 'The Generation Game' and an episode of 'Dallas' on BBC1. 

1981 - 'Dr. No' was shown in the prime slot of 3:15 pm, straight after the Queen's annual broadcast. The film had already debuted on UK TV back in October 1975. Once again, it was pitted against 'The Generation Game' on BBC1.

1982 - For Christmas day, ITV broadcast 'The Parent Trap' (1961) & 'The Black Hole' (1979), meanwhile BBC 1 showed 'International Velvet' (1978) and 'Death on the Nile' (1978). Bond was saved for Monday 27th December, which was a public holiday in the UK, for the television premiere of 'Moonraker' at 6:30 pm. BBC1 showed 'King Kong' (1976) against it.

1983 - Boxing day belonging to Bond with a 6:30 pm broadcast of 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. It had first been shown in the spring the previous year.  BBC1 offered 'The Paul Daniels Magic Christmas Show' and 'The Kenny Everett Television Show' as alternatives.

"James
Roger Moore as James Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun peaks out from the window (far left) for the TV Times cover, but ITV showed The Spy Who Loved Me that year

1984 - 'The Man With The Golden Gun' was back again for Christmas day at 3:10 pm, once again following the Queen.  The BBC pulled out a festive favourite, screening 'Mary Poppins' (1964) opposite 007.

1985 - Christmas day was out of this world when ITV centered their schedule around 'Moonraker' following the Queen at 3:05 pm. Over on BBC1, it was the 'Children's Royal Variety Performance.'

1986 - ITV celebrated the return of Sean Connery to the schedules with the UK television premiere of 'Never Say Never Again' at 6:30 pm. BBC1 started the trend of Christmas misery with the first part of the big Dirty Den storyline in 'EastEnders' opposite Bond.

1987 - Earlier than usual, Bond fans could feast on 'The Spy Who Loved Me' at 12:40 pm before tucking into Christmas dinner.  BBC1 opted for the 'Julie Andrews...The Sound of Christmas' special.

1988 - Nobody did Christmas day films better than ITV with the broadcast of 'Octopussy' at 3:40 pm. It had made its premiere on UK television in January that year. After the simulcast message from the Queen, BBC1 broadcast 'Back to the Future' (1985).

1989 - The decade came to a close with the fitting Christmas-themed 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' at 12:25 pm. Astonishingly, BBC1 ran a double-bill of repeats on Christmas day against Bond, with previously seen episodes of 'Dad's Army' and ' Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.'

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