TV Cream


The six worst Christmas Radio Times covers

Worried about heating your home this Christmas? Dig some of the following disgraces out of your attic, douse with a bit of brandy, then WHOOOMPH: a conflagration that’s both physically and sanctimoniously satisfying.

Alternatively, use these covers as an alternative to wrapping paper – on presents for people you dislike deeply.

6: 1949

What the..?

Let’s be charitable and say this was done for a dare. On the other hand, let’s not, and wonder how the hell this grisly confection ever made it past the proofs. As if 1940s Britain hadn’t had enough of terrifying things falling from the skies.

5: 1936

By golly

Not merely a gollywog, but a gollywog looking desperately pissed off. The tree’s fallen to pieces as well, while a box of cigars lies ready for a child to begin a lifetime’s addiction to narcotics. Merry fucking Christmas.

4: 2009

Pro - cras - ti - nate!

What could be funnier that a Dalek in a Santa hat? Quite possibly everything. But look: the RT Christmas issue has now somehow become LEGENDARY. Who could have known? We prostrate ourselves in front of your biblical self-righteousness, oh mighty tome of insufferable cant.

3: 1993

Grow some teeth, kid

An ugly kid pulls a gormless face, and we’re meant to feel festive? Come back when you’ve grown some teeth, son – not to mention some manners.

2: 2010


Ah look, Wallace and Gromit are back. Well, yes, in the sense they were on the front of the Christmas Radio Times just 12 months earlier. But no, in the sense of them starring in a brand new adventure that’s the centrepiece of the Christmas schedules. In fact there was no new Wallace and Gromit on TV at all. This was just an idle, lousy reworking of the previous year’s cover. Thank heavens they never tried that again. Oh, wait…

1: 1974

A failure, yesterdayBritain’s unfunniest comedy creation gestures at a tube of tatty shiny paper. To pour piss into the wound, look at that long, long list of names, any one of whom would have been 100 times better as cover star. “I’m a failure!” And so say all of us.

Dishonourable mentions for…

No, us neither

1952: fright before Christmas

Oh no, it's "me"

1978: oh bollocks, it’s “me”


1985: plonkers needing stuffing

Get back in your box

1996: typographical trauma

Not wild about Harry

2000: not wild about Harry

Get out, Claus

2007: call Crimestoppers now

Now see the six best Christmas Radio Times covers



  1. Applemask

    December 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    There have been many unfunnier comedy creations than Frank Spencer. His schtick might be “an idiot savant doing the same old slapstick over and over”, but at least it’s done well. This year’s Christmas RT is the first in years not to self-describe as “legendary” (although they did use the word in previews), thank God. I mean, it’s TRUE, I’ll give them that, but you don’t SAY IT. Not about yourself. That makes you a dick.

  2. Duncan

    December 20, 2013 at 4:39 am

    1993 is clearly a play on the song but I cant help feeling they came up with the strapline first and then asked the artist to come up with something that matched.

  3. Adrian

    December 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

    In fairness to the 1949 cover, the country was in the grip of a financial crisis at the time (just like now then), and paper and probably ink was still rationed so they were lucky to get a Xmas RT out at all.

  4. neu75

    December 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Bang on about 1974, the least Christmassy Radio Times Christmas cover ever…

  5. Des E

    December 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    “Dishonourable mention for 1985: plonkers needing stuffing.”

    But as Applemask says in his Christmas Wrapping ’11 video, full marks for dressing Buster Merryfield up as Mr Claus, since he already looked like him.

    On the other hand, the following year’s EastEnders cover had no cleverness in it at all – just Pauline Fowler and co sitting in front of a tree.

    The pig’s arse cover from 1976 should get a mention, too.

  6. Alex W

    February 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    For my money the most un-christmassy so-called christmas cover has to be 1930. An illustration by Paul Nash of…wait for it! An electric meter at a sub-station and a pylon… WTF?

  7. Rae

    December 8, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I beg to differ. The Christmas edition is indeed Legendary. Like mulled wine, tangled fairy lights and horrid green over-cooked vegetables, it wouldn’t quire be Christmas without it.

  8. Glenn A

    December 8, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Rather than burning a 1949 RT, even though the cover looks like a bad nightmare, surely taking it along to the Antiques Roadshow and making a few hundred pounds( this must be very rare now) would be a better idea.

  9. Nicky H

    December 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I’m a bit confused by the Wallace and Gromit thing. The comment under the 2010 cover is,

    “Ah look, Wallace and Gromit are back. Well, yes, in the sense they were on the front of the Christmas Radio Times just 12 months earlier”

    The 2009 cover is a couple of entries up – I’m looking quite hard, but I can’t see them anywhere. Unless they’ve just been exterminated by that Dalek…

  10. Des E

    December 12, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Rae – that still doesn’t mean the Christmas edition *has* to describe itself as “legendary”. As Applemask said last year: “I mean, it’s TRUE, I’ll give them that, but you don’t SAY IT. Not about yourself. That makes you a dick.”

    Nicky H – I think TVC meant *24* months earlier, rather than 12. 😉

  11. Glenn A

    December 12, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Don’t agree with the 1985 edition being bad, Only Fools and Horses was becoming a massive hit by then and the BBC could have created more of a controversy by putting Alf Garnett on the front cover, as this was just as big a success in 1985. However, two of the worst covers are from the nineties, no surprises, the BBC under John Birt was mostly awful anyway.

  12. Liam

    December 12, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    The “L” word is back this year…

    Other than that, I quite like the cover – Kerr can do no wrong in my eyes cos I loved the Mog books when I was little.

  13. Glenn A

    December 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Why the Frank Spencer hate on TV Cream, his shows were like a modern day Harold Lloyd and he did all his own stunts? Also since he was pulling in 19 million viewers in 1974, the BBC were right to have him on the front cover. I’d much rather watch Some Mothers repeats than some of the alternative, right on trash that appeared in the nineties.

  14. FishyFish

    December 13, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    I hate the ‘Legendary’ tag. It’s not the lost city of Atlantis, King Arthur, or Jason and the Argonauts (I refer here to the original myth, and not the Harryhausen movie, which will have to make do with being merely Fucking Brilliant) ferchrissakes!

    I’d be perfectly happy wth them sticking ‘Traditional’, ‘Highly Anticipated’, ‘Much Loved’ or something on there, but ‘Legendary’ reeks of a bunch of self-congratulatory marketing ‘creatives’ having their hands all over it.

  15. Des E

    December 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Glenn A: “Two of the worst covers are from the nineties, no surprises, the BBC under John Birt was mostly awful anyway.”

    The 1997 cover was excellent, though. And I’ve no complaints at all with the redrawn 1924 cover for 1994.

  16. Glenn A

    December 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I know it’s not seasonal, but the best ever RT cover has to be one from January 1970 with John Pertwee on the cover and Who? as the simple explanation for his presence.

  17. borgduck

    December 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Strap yourselves. There’s a Some Mothers repeat in less than half an hour!

  18. Richard16378

    December 21, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    While I have a higher opinion of Some Mothers Do Ave Em than TVC I admit that picture of Frank Spencer isn’t that great.

    There’s a version retouched so Frank is holding a video tape.

  19. Glenn A

    December 12, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Mike Yarwood kind of looks creepy on this 1978 cover

  20. Richardpd

    December 11, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Some of the drawn ones in the early 1980s aren’t very inspiring, looking flat & at least a decade out of date in style.

    Luckily they managed to find some artists towards the end of the decade who could produce some glossy pictures with a feeling of depth and warmth.

    I’ve always been fond of the 1985 cover, it seemed inevitable due to Buster Merryfield’s beard making him the perfect Santa Claus and as Only Fools & Horses becoming a Christmas Day staple.

    The post war austerity seemed to effect the covers for quite a few years, considering the 1920s-30s ones were in full colour.

  21. Glenn Aylett

    December 12, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Just noticed in the top right corner of the 1936 edition, it mentions television. To the lucky couple of thousand very well off people in London, 1936 marked the start of this new invention. No doubt a very wealthy family in Belgravia and a couple of servants gathered around a 9 inch screen on Christmas Day to watch some variety show from Alexandra Palace.

  22. Richardpd

    December 23, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    The 1924 cover redrawn for 1994 has the Dad’s cigar changed to one of those blow-up things that make a noise like a wounded duck, & the jester cap wearing older son was smoking a cigarette on the original. Also missing is the radio horn at the bottom left.

    While it looks fine, trend-wise it seemed a little out of place as the interwar / pre-Rock & Roll nostalgia of the 1970s-80s had mostly faded away by the 1994. Had it been the 1984 cover it would had been bang on the money, & better than the Santa – holly garland – rising sun that was actually used.

  23. Glenn Aylett

    December 24, 2022 at 11:16 am

    @Richardpd, the inter war generation was dying out by the mid nineties and this sort of nostalgia would fade from the BBC as the market for it dried up. Radio 2 removed most pre rock and roll music from its daytime schedules in the mid and late nineties, and in the noughties ditched Sunday programmes devoted to this type of music as the market was too small.

    • Richardpd

      December 28, 2022 at 9:51 pm

      Yes that’s true, in the 1970s Radio 2 dropped a show for Edwardian music due to it’s demographic dying off.

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