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Friday, 8 July 2016

Star Wars on TV: how Britain's TV Times celebrated its arrival on the small screen

A chance to win Empire Strikes Back toys in
TV Times as Star Wars came to television

When Star Wars reached British television in 1982, the listings magazine TV Times gave it an unprecedented amount of space. It even commissioned short comic strip telling us something of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the Death Star – and almost certainly contradicting the forthcoming film Rogue One. Episode Nothing takes a trip back to October 24 1982.

The TV Times Star Wars cover

The TV Times Star Wars cover

The imminent arrival of a fourth British TV channel only just sneaked onto the cover of the October 23-29 1982 edition of TV Times, along with the chance to win one of five Ford Sierras. The big TV event of that week – and perhaps the entire year – was the arrival of Star Wars to ITV.

TV Times was, in those days, a listings magazine which could only list the schedules for one channel – ITV. Nonetheless, it was unheard of for it to devote a full five pages to one film as it did with Star Wars, along with a lengthy billing for the film on the day of transmission. The articles feature among ads for video recorders (retailing at around £400), Teletext TVs and Atari video game consoles.

The cover that week heralded “STAR WARS Sunday”, as though the film’s broadcast put the date on a par with Easter Day or Christmas Day. The dramatic cover, with Darth Vader holding two lightsabers which met above the TV Times masthead, showed the cast in their costumes from The Empire Strikes Back. That’s because, as fan Declan McCafferty pointed out in a comment last week, the cover was an Empire Strikes Back poster with the sequel-exclusive elements taken out.

The poster that formed the basis for
the TV Times Star Wars cover

The TV Times Star Wars comic strip by Martin Asbury

The Rebels steal the Death Star plans in
Martin Asbury's TV Times Star Wars strip

For the transmission of Star Wars, TV Times commissioned a double-page comic strip from Martin Asbury. His art was familiar from the action comic strip Garth in the Daily Mirror and from the previously mentioned Look-In magazine in the 1970s. This time, he only had a few frames in which to depict the Rebels’ acquisition of the Death Star plans – but what he produced is a memorable piece of Star Wars art.

The “famous faceless men” of Star Wars, plus Carrie Fisher as Woody Allen

TV Times was much more personality-driven than its BBC equivalent, Radio Times, and so it devoted several pages to profiles of performers in Star Wars. There were the “most famous faceless men of films” – i.e. Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Dave Prowse – and Carrie Fisher, who said of her looks that she had the appeal of a “female Woody Allen”. 

Here are those articles, along with the TV Times film critic David Quinlan’s concise review of Star Wars and the listings for the great day itself – Star Wars Sunday.

TV Times' exhaustive coverage of Star Wars

What are your memories of Star Wars on TV, either in the UK or US? I'd love to hear about them. Do leave a comment below.


Sean said...

I remember when they first showed Star Wars here in Arizona at least it was a big deal. Going into the commercial break that had short clips of celebrities talking about Star Wars. I even remember one of them being a cartoon of Fred Flinstone talking about Star Wars.

Darren Slade said...

Hi Sean. Thanks for commenting. That's amazing. I wonder whether anyone has those clips on tape and will ever share them on YouTube.

Wanda C. Mercer said...

Star Wars is really cult saga! For me all events related to this film is a history, I love read and watch different stories about these space adventures. I am a fan of Star Wars as well as you :)

Darren Slade said...

Thanks very much for visiting and commenting!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this amazing Star Wars info!

AG said...

Still have my copy of that TV Times somewhere. And I well remember watching the movie on TV for the second time, after seeing it at the cinema.
Such a shame the mag didn't get Martin Asbury to do a series of strips. Copyright?

Darren Slade said...

Thanks AG. Yes, it would have been great to have more strips in that style.