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Tiswas: 40 Years On


Tiswas: 40 Years On

As January comes to a close ATV Today celebrates the fact four decades have passed this month since the very first Tiswas hit the air in our special gallery.

While the early years were more links and less gunge, by 1976 Tiswas – Today Is Saturday, Watch And Smile – had become a firm favourite with ITV Midland audiences, and other regions had begun picking up the two hours of morning madness. The live production, from ATV’s Birmingham studios, aired until 1982, when the all-new Central Television, taking over from ATV as production company, decided the show had past its peak.

The very first edition began its ten-week run from January 5th 1974 mixing competitions, dedications and jokes between cartoons and established children’s series. Presenters down the years included John Asher, Chris Tarrant, Sally James, Peter Tomlinson, Gordon Astley, John Gorman and Trevor East.

Influentially, Tiswas had no pretensions towards professionalism – BFI

The legendary format had been established in ’76, just as the BBC decided to launch its own Saturday morning children’s magazine series. The beeb’s advantage for Swap Shop, fronted by Noel Edmonds, was it could be networked, something Tiswas wasn’t until very late in its run with some ITV regions doing their own programming instead.

Swap Shop turned out to be far from a rival, while its ratings were impressive, the format was middle-class well-to-do niceness, Tiswas was the ‘with it’ programme thanks to its apparent lack of sticking to any television rules.

The show was nicknamed ‘Today Is Saturday – What A Shambles‘ as noted by Sally James, however the random throwing of buckets of water around the studio, adults locked in a cage and a Fantom Flan Flinger flinging his flans even appealed to big star names who happily appeared on the show – some becoming regulars or semi-regulars including comedians Lenny Henry, Frank Carson, Jim Davidson. Bob Carolgees and Sylvester McCoy.

The show had a New Wave feel with The Specials, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello and Motorhead among its fans, while hungover students voted Tiswas high in music paper polls. – BFI

The final series aired as changes to the television landscape took place, it was reported the incoming new boss of children’s programming at ATV was far from a fan of the ‘lowbrow’ Tiswas and was a key part of it leaving the ITV screens in 1982. Other changes affecting the series included ATV Network Limited replaced with ATV Midlands Limited – which ultimately became Central Television. While many of the staff and bosses simply switched over there was a feeling from the management that Central needed a different image from its predecessor – and this image was one of sophistication, not gunge and flan flinging. The series had also been placed on the IBA’s ‘dubious quality’ list in 1979 which also incidentally included Coronation Street

A mistake, maybe as the legacy of Tiswas lingers long after the final edition. Many programmes since have taken parts of it and carried on the mayhem in shows such as The Tube and The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 to name only a few.

If you fancy more Tiswas memories then TiswasOnline will provide you with a flan-tastic time…

Information from BFI Online, IBA Archive and ATV/Central Press Office archive.

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