YTV 40 years...the golden years

As Yorkshire TV celebrates its 40th anniversary Neil Hudson looks back over four decades of news, drama and ground-breaking entertainment, today from 1978-88.

DURING the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Yorkshire Television enjoyed a golden age. Its news production acquired a new air of professionalism and authority, whilst its dramas were hard-hitting, award winning and frequently made the headlines, as did its documentaries.

On Tuesday May 22, 1979 Yorkshire Television screened Rampton: The Secret Hospital, an expos of mistreatment of Rampton patients by staff; it is listed in a top ten of TV programmes which changed our thinking and won an International Emmy.

Johnny Go Home was perhaps one of the most notorious in terms of generating column inches; the documentary aired in 1975 and made shocking viewing as it followed homeless children in London. It also landed the channel with a criminal libel case, which it subsequently won.

The second decade of YTV's life was marked by such shows as 3-2-1, the quiz show which ran from 1978-1988, hosted by Ted Rogers and, of course, then cult-icon Dusty Bin.

Contestants won 1 for answering first-round questions correctly and could go on to win 1,000.

Jimmy Tarbuck also pulled in audiences by the million with Winner Takes All, a quiz show which ran from 1976-1988.

The Sandbaggers was broadcast in 1978, starring Roy Marsden as Neil Burnside, the series showed the men and women on the front lines of the Cold War.

The year 1982 saw a glut of dramas, including Harry's Game, about the troubles in Northern Ireland; Second Chance, about divorce; Scab (1985), about the miners' strike; and May We Borrow Your Husband? (1986), about a twice-divorced writer living in Nice; not to mention Emmerdale Farm.

The Beiderbecke Affair in 1985, which led to two sequels, The Beiderbecke Tapes (1987) and The Beiderbecke Connection (1988), won over audiences with its character-driven plot of intrigue and mystery. TV flims such as The Glory Boys (1984) also helped establish YTV as a heavyweight broadcaster. And who could forget Duty Free (1984-86), about two Brit couples living in Spain.

In 1982, a little-known TV news presenter called Richard Whiteley stepped into the shoes he would wear for the next 23 years as presenter of Countdown.

Countdown began its life as a segment on Calendar news and earned its host the tag "twice nightly Whiteley", because he presented both.

It was the programme which launched Channel 4 and which is still going strong almost 5,000 episodes later and it was made by Yorkshire TV.

Damian Eadie, series producer, who has been with the show for the last 13 years, said: "It has been going for 26 years, 23 of those were with Richard Whiteley as host. One can argue whether it would have succeeded as it did without him.

"We are coming up to our 5,000th episode. Fans of the show include Gordon Brown, Julie Andrews, Richard Attenborough. We advertise for it in Norfolk, Devon, Cambridge; every day we have 200 people coming to Leeds to watch the show. We've had stroke victims use the show to judge how well they are recovering and some three and four year-olds have learned their alphabet watching it. Our youngest contestant was eight, our eldest 87. There's no doubting it has broad appeal."

On the comedy front, there was Home to Roost (1985-90) starring John Thaw as Henry Willows and Reece Dinsdale as his 18-year-old son Matthew and Only When I Laugh (1979-82).

And, breaking new ground again, Jimmy's aired in 1987, becoming the first ever docu-soap and made stars of ordinary people. It broke the mould in terms of determining what made popular TV and one could argue it led to the birth of 'reality TV'. Another show which started life on YTV was Through the Keyhole (1987).

Events in history

1978: Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, was released; Daley Thompson won Olympic gold in the dacathlon at the Commonwealth Games.

1979: John Wayne died; Margaret Thatcher won a General Election; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was made into a TV drama.

1980: Mount St Helens in the US erupted; Alfred Hitchcock died; and the SAS stormed the Iranian embassy in London.

1981: President Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt; Prince Charles married Princess Diana; the De Lorean car was unveiled in the US.

1982: British troops sank the Belgrano during the Falklands War; Italy won the World Cup, beating West Germany 3-1.

1983: David Niven died in Switzerland aged 73; President Reagan set out his 'star wars' agenda; the US invaded Grenada.

1984: The miner's strike started; Boy George made his solo debut; York Minster caught fire.

1985: Clive Sinclair unveiled his C5 (ahead of its time); Mikhail Gorbachev became the new Russian leader; Live Aid rocked the world.

1986: Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off; Diego Maradona beat England in the World Cup quarter-final with his 'hand of God' goal.

1987: The Herald of Free Enterprise sank in Zeebrugge, Belgium; Paul Hogan scored a hit with his film Crocodile Dundee; the Stock Market crashed.

Apanowicz's Yorkshire memoriesRemembering those heady days

Kathryn Apanowicz has worked variously as a radio presenter and actress, appearing in Eastenders, Angels, Emmerdale and Coronation Street. She was also the partner of the late Richard Whiteley, host of Countdown.

Aged nine, she was chosen as a host of hit Yorkshire TV show Junior Showtime.

"It was 1969 or 1970 and I remember being asked by my dance teacher if I wanted to learn a script for a show and I jumped at the chance. It was presenting Junior Showtime, the producer was Jess Yates, who hosted Stars on Sunday. Back then it was something you did in the summer holidays and completely different to the way children work in TV today.

"When Countdown first started I was living in London. I remember Richard telling me he was doing this quiz show. On a couple of occasions, I did Dictionary Corner and it was usually because the person who was meant to be doing it was stuck in traffic on the motorway.

"One time I was actually cleaning the oven when they rang and asked me to come in."

Kathryn recalled the heady days when big names like Gregory Peck and John Wayne could be glimpsed at the bar, while political movers of the time like Denis Healey and Arthur Scargill were also regular visitors.

"When people used to drive past on the bus, they used to crane their necks to see if there were any posh cars parked outside. There always used to be someone interesting in the canteen or bar.

She added: "I think it's a real shame they decided to drop the Yorkshire Television name and changed it to ITV Yorkshire. I remember Richard being very upset when he drove past and they had taken the sign down.

"The studios are very empty now, they don't make many shows there, which is a real shame seeing as most of the population do not live in London and there's really no need for everything to be London-based.

"Yorkshire TV proved quality programmes could be made outside London. They attracted people like Alan Whicker and he would not have gone there otherwise. They won Emmys for their documentaries and dramas. They don't seem to do one-off dramas any more.

"I think Yorkshire really ought to have its own TV station again but these days it's all about finances."