One of my memories of Sky TV from 1991 when we first had it was that you had 48 analogue channels and could watch a number of German TV stations. They seemed to have Alf and Married with Children on all the time (dubbed in German). RTL, RTL2, Tele5, etc.
Going on YouTube and watching Married with Children 22 years on, I find it hilarious! I don’t know why it’s not on UK TV repeated somewhere. And considering how conservative the US is, I just watched an episode where the son of the family gets caught masturbating in the library. The whole episode is based around this! No UK sitcom would even do this.
A few years later, they ran adverts for the channel expander gizmo, a little box you plugged in to get more channels. It effectively doubled the 48 you had. By the way, all the channels were in no order, so there were a great number with just static, then a UK one, then 2 German ones, then another UK one, then a scrambled one where you could only hear the audio – nothing like digital TV today.
One of my favourite things to watch early-on was when Lifestyle channel (with a butterfly logo, fronted by David Hamilton) ran “Sell-a-vision” paid presentations in the evening. They were American, and one was for Auri 2000, a car polish product, another was for a Jack Lalane juicer, a vertical steam iron, and one for a thing that poked thread through jumpers that did patterns. They were all fronted by the same enthusiastic wacky-jumper wearing guy who I recently read has passed away but owned the entire company selling the products – he wasn’t just the presenter. It seemed quite exotic at the time when we only had 4 terrestrial channels to see this evening dedicated to selling one product.
Another thing I used to enjoy watching was the Astra promotional video from the company that ran satellite TV in Europe that Sky was on. It ran in a loop all day on a channel, presumably as a test. The content of the video was updated sometimes when they added more satellites to orbit. Fairly poor quality versions can be seen on YouTube in English and German (each channel in those days had several sub-carrier audio frequencies that meant you could hear foreign language translations of compatible programmes). I used to like the music they used on the video, and still remember it today. This video too seemed very exotic and European to watch, talking about Switzerland and thinking that anyone all over Europe could be watching this exact same video at the same time.
However, I despair at British TV today. It seems the more channels there are, the more the quality of programming is diluted. Just look at the money that was spent on Two Ronnies or Stanley Baxter Christmas specials back in the day. You just don’t see anything like that now. Hundreds of channels, all peddling patronising programming for dullard sweary youths.
I watch Kojak on ITV4 which is absolutely brilliantly written and acted. I’m a huge fan – not even born when it was first on.
I’ve watched all the Columbos, all the Diagnosis Murders, Dog the Bounty Hunters (currently on Dog & Beth On the Hunt), Bondi Rescue, and watching the original Hawaii Five-0. Watching any new episodes of Cops that are on, too.