Friday, 3 December 2010

Third Day of Advent

- December 3rd -

You know it really is Christmas when the Christmas idents appear on the telly.

There’s something wonderfully special and a little bit magical about them. It’s almost like the TV channels have put their Christmas decorations up too and are all ready to celebrate Christmas like the rest of us.

There was a time - around the late 70s / early 80s - when a first glimpse of the BBC’s latest Christmas ident was one of the most exciting and much anticipated events for a tiny wee laddy such as myself…that and running into the living room early on Christmas morning to find a huge pile of festively wrapped presents sitting in the middle of the carpet, of course.

Yes, we’ve had some good ‘uns of late, such as the Tenth Doctor and the TARDIS being pulled through the air like a sleigh by reindeer, and Wallace and Gromit out sledging in the snow, but they're not a patch on the ones they had when I was a nipper.

Before the inevitable introduction of computer generated Christmassy idents and continuity links the television stations had to rely on nifty model work standing on gently revolving turntables. Very dated now but it all looked incredibly festive at the time.

The BBC were the best, of course. Mind you, they didn’t have much competition. Back in the 70s and 80s the ITV channel had many more independent broadcasters (many of which either went bust or merged with other companies in the early 90s), and many of them didn’t really bother creating their own Christmas idents.

But even back then the BBC took the trouble to create a separate ident for both BBC1 and BBC2. There was even a time (in the very early 80s) when they would even go so far as to create different ‘versions’ of each ident, to depict the time of day. For example, in the 1980 ident, two versions of the model were presented throughout the day - in the morning a scene showing skaters on a frozen lake in daylight could be seen before each programme, in the evening viewers saw the same scene but under a starlit sky with accompanying ominous snow clouds!

It’s still exciting when the TV channels unveil their new ident each Christmas (although, for some unfathomable reason, BBC1 had the exact same ident for both 2006 and 2007) and it makes Christmas time all the more sparkly and…well, Christmassy…but they’ve never quite topped the success of those old, gently rotating models of the 70s and 80s.

Hopefully, one day, we might go all retro with the Christmas ident, like we do with music and fashion ever damn year, and we’ll once again see the lovely spinney model at Christmas…well, a CGI version of it, at any rate!
BBC Christmas Idents - 1975-89


  1. I'm really enjoying your advent calendar, Scott! What a great idea. The idents were especially great. Why am I misty-eyed over revolving Christmas puddings and twiddling snowflakes?

  2. Thanks, Paul. I'm really enjoying doing it! I have to admit that the ident entry was the most vivid and pleasing for me so far, I used to love those creaky old models spinning endlessly away on their rickety turntables. Actually, I *still* love them.

    I too got a little bit misty-eyed as I was compiling the accompanying short video clip.