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What We Were Watching Season 1

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Season 01, Episode 01 Christmas 1988

S01 E01

Dec 23, 2018
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Christmas 1988 Dec 23, 2018 Grace Dent looks at the television shows that Britain’s viewers were watching over the Christmas period of 1988, focusing on that week’s TV schedules to explore how TV offerings change over the festive season, and how the nation’s viewing expectations have changed over three decades. Amongst the shows and moments coming under scrutiny is the year’s biggest comedy, Bread, in which the Boswell family take a riotous trip to Rome; Dirty Den’s prison experiences in a typically cheery Christmas EastEnders, Noel Edmonds making TV history with a live link up in space, Philip Schofield amidst Christmas chaos on Going Live!, Bruce Forsyth and Ronnie Corbett teaming up for a dream double act, and that year’s other dream couple – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, fresh from Neighbours and over here for a battle with Cliff Richard for that year’s Christmas number one spot.

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Season 01, Episode 02 Christmas 1979

S01 E02

Dec 23, 2019
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Christmas 1979 Dec 23, 2019 Join Grace Dent on a televisual trip back in time to Christmas 1979 as she immerses herself in the sights, sounds and schedules of 40 years ago. As well as exploring what the nation’s viewers enjoyed watching on the box of delights, Grace sees if she can beat the year’s Mastermind grand finalist, and how well she fares on the Generation Game’s famous conveyor belt game. With the 1970s a much-maligned period, it’s a surprise to find that the festive fortnight’s top shows had women winning when it came to seasonal goodwill. Penelope Keith and Wendy Craig led the way in sitcoms, Barbara Woodhouse had everyone on their best behaviour, and the most exciting music shows featured classic performances from Kate Bush and Debbie Harry’s Blondie. It was also the year that Tommy Cooper nearly killed off Michael Parkinson on live television, and The Black Stuff boys first went job hunting.Of course, not all of Auntie Beeb’s programme presents stand the test of time quite so well. Basil Brush has a bizarre duet with Sasha Distel, Kenny Everett’s Blankety Blank appearance is far from being in the best possible taste, and the BBC’s female children’s presenters put dignity to one side as they compete in a beauty contest featuring high kicks and sparkling leotards.

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Season 01, Episode 03 Summer TV Classics

S01 E03

Jul 28, 2020
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Summer TV Classics Jul 28, 2020 Grace Dent goes on a televisual trip of a lifetime, exploring the great British summer.

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Season 01, Episode 04 Song and Dance Spectaculars

S01 E04

Nov 20, 2020
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Song and Dance Spectaculars Nov 20, 2020 Grace Dent invites you to lose yourself on a joyful journey back through the BBC archives, celebrating the broadcaster's song and dance extravaganzas of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – in many ways, the fantastic forerunners to Strictly Come Dancing. They were fun, family-focused and had fondue levels of cheesiness as well as a host of stars such as Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Lulu, Twiggy and Shirley Bassey. Also featured are some of the biggest dance troupes of the time, including Pan’s People and The Young Generation, one of whose members gets special attention - a pre-Blue Peter Lesley Judd. All the weird but usually rather wonderful musical performances that Grace has uncovered existed in a strange parallel universe to the pop charts of the time – not remotely cool, even then, but looking back the only way to describe them is ‘fabulous’.

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S01 E05

Dec 19, 2020
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Christmas 1995 Dec 19, 2020 Grace Dent embarks on a televisual trip back in time by setting the remote control for December 1995 and serving up an irreverent look back at the festive viewing options that faced the nation in the past. Exploring how much what is shown on our screens has changed involves some deep diving into EastEnders' annual festival of gloom to find that Arthur Fowler is behind bars and Pat Butcher is being lusted after by Roy and Frank. Grace also discovers that TV schedulers of the time appeared to have sex on the brain, with a surprisingly high number of seasonal shows featuring subjects and scenes that would make a family audience in 2020 blush with embarrassment.There is also an in-depth look at infidelity in the morally questionable sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart, we join Hetty Wainthropp on her very first BBC investigation and go trapezing on a hot-air balloon with a truly spectacular Record Breakers challenge. And we remind ourselves of the genius of the late, great Rik Mayall – here reading Jack and the Beanstalk on Jackanory for an audience of real Young Ones as only he could.

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