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  • Writer's pictureSteve Haywood

What’s on TV in 1971?

As I’m writing this it is 6th November. I could go on and choose from any one of hundreds of channels and thousands of TV shows and films on demand. But what was there to watch on TV on 6th November 1971? Well it is a Saturday so there was probably some sports involved, and maybe some good wholesome Saturday evening entertainment.

9.35 – Square Two – A morning educational programme.

10.00 – Weibitte – A beginners course in German

10.30 – Zarabanda – Spanish for beginners.

12.05 – Ali Bongo’s Cartoon Carnival – featuring Ali Bongo and his assistant, Oscar, this seems to be some sort of cartoon ensemble, and includes favourites such as Pink Panther and Yogi Bear.

12.45 – Grandstand – Being a Saturday afternoon, it has to be Grandstand. It includes horse racing, boxing and rugby as well as final score at 4.45 with all of the football results. Grandstand lasted from 1958 until it came to an end in 2007. I remember this being presented by Des Lynam, but in 1971 it was Frank Bough.

17.10 – The Partridge Family –  Classic singing comedy series.

17.45 – Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game – This long running series started in 1971, and has continued on and off until the present day.

18.30 – The Man Who Never Was – Saturday early evening film, this was a World War 2 film about the great deception that was Operation Mincemeat.

20.10 – Cilla – A live show from that stalwart of prime time TV, Cilla Black. Tonight they had guest stars including Jimmy Tarbuck, Cliff Richard and also Bill Shankley and the Liverpool football team!

20.55 – Francis Durbridge Presents – Durbridge was a playwright who wrote 17 serials (what we would call mini series today) for the BBC. This was the final part of a story called The Passenger.

21.40 – Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii – A comedy series starring comedian Frankie Howerd. The series was set in ancient Pompeii, but the setting was little more than a backdrop for the jokes and double entendres.

22.20 – Match of the Day – Football highlights, but in 1971 it was highlights from just two football matches, one from the south with David Coleman commentating, and one from the north with Barry Davies as the commentator.

23.20 – Braden’s Week – A “sideways look at the week” presumably an early version of the format that brings us Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week today.

So that was BBC One. What about BBC Two? Well there aren’t any programmes on until 3pm, when there’s a film on, In Society, about two bumbling plumbers who accidentally get invited to a high society party. It’s a short film though because it finishes at 4.10pm, then there’s no more programmes on until 7.30pm until when there’s a political highlights show. Then the evening starts to get going after 8…

20.10 – The Chronicle -Documentary series, this episode is about an ancient tree that “threatens to overthrow all our theories about the ancient world”. It may have threatened, but I’m not sure it managed it!

21.00 The Carpenters – Programme about The Carpenters and their rapid rise to musical stardom during the year.

21.50 – Trials of LIfe – “A series about human beings selecting human beings”. Wow they really liked to write enticing descriptions in those days! It sounds like an early version of a reality tv series or fly on the wall documentary.

22.20 Fathers and Sons – The second part of a dramatised adaptation of the Russian classic by Ivan Turgenev

23.10 – Film night – A review of the week’s films including The Hired Hand

23.40 – Midnight movie: Moon Over Miami – And I thought people in the 1970s went to bed before this time! The film is about two fortune hunting sisters and their spinster aunt, who come to the millionaire’s holiday paradise of Miami.

An interesting selection, though if you want to watch TV on a Saturday morning it looks like you are stuck with foreign language learning. It certainly seems that there was much more TV orientated towards informative programmes and learning things, compared to the more dumbed down, thrill seeking or voyaristic television of today.

I like to think about people I know and whether they might have been watching the television on this evening long ago – quite probably. My older sister was four, so maybe she enjoyed Ali Bongo. My dad probably watched some of Grandstand and perhaps the war film in the early evening. If you were around then, might you have watched some of these programmes? I’m sure you won’t remember the specific date, but perhaps you remember a similar day of television? Or perhaps your parents or grandparents would have been watching, putting their feet up in front of the fire after a long day…


BBC TV Listings courtesy of the BBC Genome Project.

BBC One Listings

BBC Two Listings


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