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The six best Christmas TV Times covers

Granted, Radio Times has a history – a now fading history – of terrific Christmas covers, but what of its downstairs rival? We submit that thanks to its more capricious art-editing, and ITV’s lacklustre seasonal schedules, TV Times’ own festive frontispieces present a rather more lurid and appealing advent calendar than the RT.

So Merry Christmas one and all, as we celebrate TVT’s half-dozen greatest Yuletide covers!

6: 1987


A Dr Lowther-bound Hilda Ogden, plus an ebullient Bet ‘Listen Lady’ Lynch, are perfect cover fodder, for once making TVT’s ITV allegiance feel like something approaching a boon. Yes! Their own cover shoot! Of TV’s biggest story! And doesn’t everyone look happy? NB: Don’t miss Ghost Busters!

5: 1977


Harry didn’t have to go to Paris to get an eyeful! Although he’d go on to helm one of the worst ever TVT covers, here he is in another quintessential ITV diorama, shipping, indeed, with George, Mildred and Violet Elizabeth Bott. As the coverline makes clear: glittering entertainment.

4: 1975


The Christmas hats aside, one could argue that this has a more Easter-ly vibe. But we care not! It also feels indicative of those mash-up-of-characters covers Fleetway comics would do when two of their titles merged, so it’s an aye to that. Sooty pumping the balloon an additional genius detail.

3: 1969


An art department triumph! There’s nothing here to indicate TVT even so much as met Des for this cover image, but the appropriation of his mugshot into a Santa face is masterfully done. And the concept of O’Connor-themed wrapping paper – YES. Also, very much appreciate the little telly themed Father Christmasses. Look! One of them is actually a tiny oven with a turkey inside.

2: 1985


Although Minder On The Orient Express would be duffed up in the ratings by Only Fools, who cares when it provided inspiration for this terrific winterscape? Tel and Arthur (holly sprig in trilby band) getting into some bother in Santa’s sled while a discomfited owl looks on. What’ll I get for Christmas for ‘er indoors? This! A smashing painting!

1: 1980


A lavishly budgeted restaging of the 1978 cover, this one has got the lot! Yes! ITV has a Bond, The Man With The Golden Gun actually, plus M&W arguably returning to the near-peak of their powers and – of course – Janet Brown as Mrs T. Roger: “I’ve pulled a few powerful ladies in my time before, but never pushed them…” Janet: “I push Denis around all the time!” Plus, a hint of appropriate shilling to the network, with the inclusion of that for-one-season-only ITV Christmas tag alongside the logo. ALL CHRISTMASSES SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS!




  1. David Smith

    December 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    How many of these had that curious “second cover” inside, for week 2? The TVT double issue certainly did that for a while in the ’70s, as if they expected you to detach the magazine into two halves (which would invariably have resulted in it falling apart…)

    • Richardpd

      December 14, 2021 at 12:12 pm

      I think you were supposed to fold the pages over so the inner cover was now on the outside.

      It’s one of those things where there was the option to do this, but hardly anyone actually did so, a bit like cutting out the counters & spinner on the back of a selection box so you could play the game printed here.

      Most people didn’t even play the game, or else borrowed some counters & a dice from another game to play it without messing around with scissors.

  2. Rawmackaw

    December 11, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I like the 1982 cover with a host of copy and paste stars standing in a doorway.

  3. Glenn A

    December 12, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    The 1980 cover is excellent, a really clever way of getting people to switch over from BBC 1 on Christmas Day, and for once ITV did run BBC1 close that year.

  4. Alan B

    December 19, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    The Minder one is very reminiscent of Computer And Video Games covers of the same era.

  5. borgduck

    December 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Are you sure these aren’t the six worst TV Times covers?

  6. Des E

    December 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Not a TV Times fan, then, Borgduck?

    Though the magazine ceased to be really relevant following deregulation in ’91, I nonetheless quite like the 2000 cover featuring a polar bear. I like it more than RT’s Harry Potter cover from that year, anyway.

  7. George White

    December 9, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    My theory is the 1980 cover is actually a photographic evidence of the prequel to For Your Eyes Only, where Thatcher is on holiday in Switzerland in the remains of Blofeld’s Piz Gloria, being entertained by Eric and Ernie, when ex-SPECTRE personnel storm the building, claiming that Mrs. T is squatting in their property. Bond is then sent, after arriving on Earth and escapes with Thatcher, Morecambe and Wise, but Denis is left behind, rescued by SPECTRE agents and develops Stockholm Syndrome, cured via a glass of sherry.

  8. Glenn A

    December 12, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Anyone notice how the rampant inflation of the seventies and early eighties is affecting the price of the TV Times. The 1975 edition is selling for 20 pence, by 1985 the price has more than trebled to 64 pence. Also back then you had to buy the TV Times and Radio Times seperately, so planning your Christmas viewing was becoming increasingly expensive.

  9. Teenwold

    December 13, 2015 at 12:56 am

    Come on, that 1969 cover is dreadful.

  10. David Smith

    December 13, 2015 at 8:42 am

    1987: Since when was Ghostbusters two words? Tragically I think I remember thinking that at the time…

    • THX 1139

      December 14, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      Ghostbusters is called Ghost Busters in the opening titles of the film, but everyone forgot about the space in the middle very quickly. Like how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is actually called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the film itself.

  11. Glenn A

    December 19, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I wonder how many diehard Labour voters refused to buy the 1980 TVT, thinking that it was the real Margaret Thatcher on the cover, or conspiracy theorists thinking ITV’s Conservative bias was justified by this cover.

  12. TVTimesAddict

    September 21, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Perhaps somebody could do the six best and six worst years for artwork *inside* the Christmas TV Times.

  13. Richardpd

    December 9, 2020 at 11:43 pm

    I can’t remember my parents ever buying the TV Times even at Christmas, though they occasionally bought the Radio Times. My late Dad’s dislike of ITV’s sitcoms probably had a thing to do with this.

  14. Droogie

    December 10, 2020 at 1:22 am

    I’m fascinated by the last cover. Were Eric and Ernie and Roger and Janet actually all in the same studio for this sleigh photo to be taken? Or is it a clever composite? I appreciate the snowy background is fake, but it’s an excellent job assembling everybody here pre-Photoshop and making it look credible. Someone was expertly working overtime with the scissors and glue here..

    • Richardpd

      December 10, 2020 at 10:17 am

      I does look like a very good cut & paste job, at least with a snowy background it makes things easier to stick all the elements together without looking obvious. I do like have the TV Times logo is behind Roger & Eric.

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        December 6, 2022 at 7:01 pm

        I presume the Roger and Janet Brown shot was taken during filming of For Your Eyes Only: Janet’s hair seems to be identical to do she is sporting in the film, and she may even be wearing the same dress, judging by the bow at her neck. Roger doesn’t appear in shot with her of course, but no reason why he wouldn’t have been at Pinewood for other interior scenes at same time. I presume Eric and Ern were present at the same time (they do all seem to be looking at same camera). According to Gareth Owen, Roger always regretted not appearing with Morecambe and Wise – I wonder if the coincidence of his peak years as Bond, and their declining years at Thames, put paid to that. Film stars, until the advent of HBO, Netflix etc., could be very wary of appearing on television, as it historically had indicated they were on the slide, and didn’t pay well in comparison with films. Note that while M&W could attract Elton John, Cliff Richard, Andre Previn, even Rudolf Nureyev, they didn’t get any A-list male film stars on their show. They did however get perhaps two finest female British film stars, in Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson – but they were both fiercely independent, and not typical of the industry.

  15. Glenn Aylett

    December 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    1977 is excellent, George And Mildred, Violet Elizabeth Bott and Harry Secombe, such great memories there, and while little remembered now, the ITV series of Just William was a big hit in 1977.

  16. David Smith

    December 15, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    I bet Butlins was on the back cover of all of these.

    • Richardpd

      December 15, 2021 at 10:26 pm

      Often the Boxing day commercial breaks were full of adverts for holidays & furniture shops.

  17. Droogie

    December 16, 2021 at 1:25 am

    Who’s the guy on the 1975 cartoon cover in the flying helmet next to Babs Windsor meant to be? I’m guessing Bernie Winters?

    • David Smith

      December 6, 2022 at 4:42 pm

      It looks a little bit like a fatter-faced Spike Milligan, although I don’t know if he was on ITV so much at that time.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      December 6, 2022 at 7:13 pm

      More like Billy Dainty than Bernie Winters, although not massively like either (Billy Dainty was featured inside that edition).

  18. Glenn Aylett

    December 7, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    George and Mildred were ITV’s hottest sitcom property in 1977( mind you, they didn’t have competition on ITV then) and to be fair, the sitcom stands up well today and was well loved back in the late seventies. TVT could even have put the snobbish, disapproving Geoffrey Fourmile next to George Roper to add comic effect.

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