1987 in British television

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List of years in British television (table)

This is a list of British television related events from 1987.



  • 1 January – New Year's Day highlights on BBC1 include the British television premiere of Local Hero, and the classic film To Have and Have Not.[1]
  • 2 January – British television premiere of the supernatural horror Poltergeist on BBC1.[2]
  • 3 January – Closedowns reappear on Yorkshire Television when its experiment with 24-hour television is put on hiatus. The channel does continue with into-the-night broadcasts however by becoming the second ITV region to launch a Jobfinder service, broadcasting for an hour after closedown.
  • 5 January – EastEnders is sold to Australia and goes to air on Australian television on ABC along with In Sickness and In Health.
  • 12 January – The five-part Australian World War I drama Anzacs makes its British television debut on BBC1.[3]
  • 16 January – The Zircon affair becomes public knowledge when The Guardian reports that the government ordered the BBC to shelve a documentary in the Secret Society series about the Zircon satellite. Two days later documentary maker Duncan Campbell is subject to an injunction preventing him from discussing or writing about the programme's content, but subsequently writes an article about the episode for the New Statesman.
  • 29 January – Alasdair Milne is sacked by the newly appointed Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, Marmaduke Hussey. He is replaced by a senior BBC accountant, Michael Checkland.


  • 5 February – Princess Anne appears on sports quiz A Question of Sport, a matter of weeks after team captain Emlyn Hughes famously mistook a picture of her on a horse for jockey John Reid. The episode gains a record audience of 19 million viewers.
  • 21 February – An apparently inebriated Oliver Reed appears on the ITV chat show Aspel & Company, where he stumbles and lurches around the set.
  • 24 February – The sitcom Hardwicke House makes its debut on ITV. The series is badly received by critics and viewers and is cancelled after just two episodes (the second broadcast the following evening). The remaining five episodes of the series have never been transmitted.
  • 26 February – Michael Checkland succeeds Alasdair Milne as Director-General of the BBC.
  • 27 February – The BBC and independent television begins a week of programming aimed at educating people about the AIDS virus. Highlights include AIDS – The Facts on BBC1, a short programme of facts and figures covering frequently asked questions about the disease, and First AIDS, an ITV comedy-sketch programme produced by London Weekend Television and featuring Mike Smith, Jonathan Ross and Emma Freud.[4][5]



  • 6 April – Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends one of the long running children's television series in Britain goes to air in Australia for the very first time on ABC.
  • 9 April – BBC1 premieres a new animated series called The Adventures of Spot based on the books by Eric Hill and narrated by Paul Nicholas.[8]
  • 24 April – The Channel 4 music series The Tube is shown for the final time.
  • 25 April –
    • The Australian soap opera Prisoner: Cell Block H makes its debut on Central Television in the Midlands. This is believed by many viewers to be the series debut on British television, but in fact it had been running in the Yorkshire region since 1984. Central were the first region to conclude the series, however, in December 1991.
    • Central becomes the first station to keep its transmitters on air all night when it launches More Central. Programmes are shown into the early hours with the rest of the night filled by its Jobfinder service, which airs from closedown until the start of TV-am.[9]
    • US prime time sitcom ALF gets its first broadcasting on television screens in the UK on ITV.
  • 26 April –
    • Channel 4's The Tube airs for the last time after five series.
    • After more than 30 years, the final edition of Asian Magazine is broadcast on BBC1.[10]
  • 28 April – After nearly ten years on air, the final edition of the weekly magazine programme aimed at Asian women, Gharbar is broadcast.[11] Both programmes are to be replaced by a new programme later in the year.


  • 1 May – Launch of the late night discussion programme After Dark, airing on Channel 4.
  • 3 May – The first of two series of groundbreaking youth television show Network 7 starts airing on Channel 4. The programme is shown live at Sunday lunchtime.
  • 9 May – Ireland's Johnny Logan wins the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest with "Hold Me Now".
  • 10 May – ITV airs Escape from Sobibor, a made-for-television film telling the story of the mass escape from the Sobibór extermination camp during World War II, the most successful uprising by Jewish prisoners of German extermination camps.[12]
  • 22 May–20 June – BBC TV broadcasts coverage of the first Rugby World Cup from Australia and New Zealand. This is the only time that the BBC has screened the tournament.


  • 9 June – Debut of the Tyne Tees produced chart show The Roxy, presented by David Jensen and Kevin Sharkey. The programme is intended as a stablemate for the Independent radio hit parade The Network Chart Show, following a similar format to the BBC's Top of the Pops, but its Newcastle-upon-Tyne location impinges on its ability to secure live performances. The show also suffers from poor ratings because it does not have a regular slot on the ITV network, and is cancelled in April 1988.
  • 11–12 June – Coverage of the results of the 1987 General Election is broadcast both on BBC1 and ITV.
  • 19 June – Debut of The Grand Knockout Tournament, an It's a Knockout special featuring members of the British Royal Family alongside sporting and other celebrities. Also known as It's a Royal Knockout, the event attracts much media derision and is deemed to have been a failure, although it raised £1 million for charity.
  • 22 June – The BBC's lunchtime children's programme moves from BBC1 to BBC2. It is shown slightly earlier, at 1.20pm.
  • 29 June – Schools programmes are broadcast on ITV for the last time.


  • 5 July – Watching, Jim Hitchmough's comedy about a mismatched couple, and starring Paul Bown and Emma Wray, debuts on ITV.
  • 7 July – Jeremy Isaacs, Chief Executive of Channel 4, announces that advertising revenue for the channel for 1986–87 has exceeded costs for the first time since its launch, providing a £20m profit.[13]
  • 20 July – ITV's lunchtime news programme moves to a 12.30pm slot. Consequently, News at One ends after eleven years on air.
  • 25 July – The first edition of a new weekly programme for the Asian community, Network East, is broadcast. It replaces Asian Magazine and Gharbar, which had ended three months earlier.[14]


  • 17 August – Thames/LWT begin 24-hour broadcasting. Anglia also begins 24-hour transmissions at around the same time.
  • 20 August – In the wake of the previous day's Hungerford massacre in which 16 people were shot dead by gun enthusiast Michael Ryan, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 pull several forthcoming films and programmes containing violence from their schedules. Among them are the 1966 western Nevada Smith, an episode of The Professionals and the 1982 post-apocalyptic film Battletruck. A showing of First Blood is also cancelled.[15]


  • 7 September –
  • 14 September – After 30 years on ITV, ITV Schools moves to Channel 4, allowing ITV to concentrate on building a fully commercial daytime schedule. Consequently, Channel 4's weekday programming begins at 9.30am (12noon when schools programmes are not being shown).
  • 21 September – As part of Channel 4's expanded weekday broadcast hours, the first edition of a weekday business and financial news programme Business Daily is broadcast.
  • 25 September – A US version of Top of the Pops makes its debut on CBS in the United States, with Nia Peeples as presenter. The launch of a US TOTP allows American acts to more easily make live appearances on the show without the need to travel to London, while also giving British acts a chance to appear on US television as each edition includes footage from the UK series, and details of the current UK Top Ten.
  • 26 September – Debut of Going Live!, a Saturday morning magazine show, broadcast on BBC1, and presented by Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene.[16]
  • 30 September – BBC2 debuts Malcolm McKay's screenplay The Interrogation of John, a film concerning the police questioning of a potential murder suspect.[17] Starring Dennis Quilley, Bill Paterson and Michael Fitzgerald, it later forms the first of a three-part series titled A Wanted Man, which further develops the story and airs in 1989.[18]


  • 12 October – BBC1 debuts Going for Gold, a general knowledge quiz presented by Henry Kelly in which contestants from fourteen different European countries compete to become series champion. The winner of the first series, Daphne Hudson (later Daphne Fowler), receives ringside tickets at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, and goes on to become a familiar face on television after appearing in a number of other quizzes, including Fifteen to One and Eggheads.[19][20]
  • 15 October – During a weather forecast, BBC meteorologist Michael Fish reports "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France.".[21] Hours later, Britain is hit by the worst storm for 284 years.[22] Fish later drew criticism for the comments, but has since claimed that they referred to Florida, USA, and were linked to a news story immediately preceding the weather bulletin, but had been so widely repeated out of context that the British public remains convinced that he was referring to the approaching storm.
  • 16 October – As a result of the Great Storm of 1987, electrical power to TV-am's studios is lost and an emergency programme has to be transmitted from facilities at Thames Television's Euston Road centre using reports from TV-am's own crews and those of ITN, TSW and TVS. The BBC's Breakfast Time, which would usually come from Lime Grove and was able to broadcast as the studios were without power, as was most of BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane. The early part of the programme was broadcast from the continuity suite at TV Centre usually used for Children's BBC presentation as this area had generator support, before a larger studio was able to be brought into use.
  • 17 October – First showing on British television of Stephen King's The Dead Zone on BBC1. This is the first of three films based on Stephen King works to receive their British television debut over three consecutive Saturdays.[23]
  • 18–19 October – Channel 4 screens the landmark Holocaust film Shoah over two nights. It is shown from 8.15pm to 12.45am on 18 October and 8.30pm to 1.20am on 19 October, and without commercial breaks.[13]
  • 24 October – First showing on British television of Stephen King's Cujo on BBC1.[24]
  • 29 October – British television premiere of the popular Spanish animated television series Around the World with Willy Fog.[25] The 26-part series concludes on 28 April 1988.[26]
  • 30 October – The first edition of Channel 4's flagship current affairs documentary series Dispatches is broadcast.
  • 31 October – British television premiere of the anthology film, Stephen King's Cat's Eye on BBC1.[27]


  • 2 November – Channel 4's fifth anniversary includes a screening of Tony Harrison's controversial televisual poem V, which attracts complaints due to its frequent use of extreme language.[13]
  • 4–18 November – Damon and Debbie becomes the first 'soap bubble'. It was a miniseries which took two characters from Brookside into new locations and their own story.
  • 5 November – Veteran television and radio presenter Eamonn Andrews best known for hosting programmes such as World of Sport, What's My Line? and This Is Your Life dies following heart failure.
  • 11 November – BBC1 airs Paul Hamann's documentary Fourteen Days in May, a film that recounts the final days before the execution of Edward Earl Johnson, an American prisoner convicted of rape and murder and imprisoned in the Mississippi State Penitentiary.[28]
  • 17 November – Fireman Sam, a children's television series about a fireman voiced and narrated by John Alderton, debuts on BBC1.
  • 22 November – Final edition of the 1987 run of Play Your Cards Right. The series disappeared from ITV after this date, not returning until March 1994.[29]
  • 23 November – The TV-am strike begins after members of the technicians' union the ACTT walk out in a dispute over the station's ‘Caring Christmas Campaign’. What is meant to be a 24-hour stoppage continues for several months when staff are locked out by Managing Director Bruce Gyngell. TV-am is unable to broadcast Good Morning Britain, the regular format is replaced with shows such as Flipper, Batman and Happy Days. By December a skeleton service that sees non-technical staff operating cameras and Gyngell himself directing proceedings, begin to allow Good Morning Britain to start broadcasting again. The strikers are eventually sacked and replaced with non union staff. Viewing figures remain high throughout the disruption, which continues well into 1988, although normal programming gradually resumes. Other ITV stations later follow Gyngell's example.
  • 25 November – BBC1 airs the first part of Desmond Wilcox's two-part documentary The Visit – Coma, a film about 11-year-old Connie, who was left in a coma after being hit by a taxi while on her way home from Christmas shopping in Glasgow. The film follows Connie's journey as she begins the slow process of recovery. The second part of the documentary airs on 2 December.[30][31]
  • 28 November – Ventriloquist Jimmy Tamley wins New Faces of '87, coming just ahead of comedian Joe Pasquale, who is second.
  • November –
    • Tyne Tees begins 24-hour broadcasting. It does so by launching a Jobfinder service which broadcasts each night from its usual close-down time until the start of TV-am at 6 am.
    • Michael Grade is appointed Chief Executive of Channel 4, and will succeed Jeremy Isaacs on 1 January 1988.[13]


  • December – Thamesside TV, an unlicensed TV station set up by Thameside Radio, goes on air in the same city. There were only two known broadcasts in December 1987.[32][33]
  • 13 December – The Singing Detective is sold to Australia, where it is shown on ABC.
  • 25 December –
  • 30 December – Channel 4 airs "Salute to ATV", an evening of programmes celebrating ATV and including episodes of Sunday Night at the London Palladium, The Saint and Edward VIII.[13]
  • 31 December –
    • In an unusual move for a pre-recorded television series, the Chimes of Big Ben are integrated into an episode of EastEnders on BBC1. Character Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) brought a television into the bar of the Queen Vic, 'watched' the chimes in their entirety, and the episode resumed.[35]
    • BBC2 airs a five hour Whistle Test special to welcome in 1988. The special, aired from 9.35pm on New Year's Eve to 2.55am on New Year's Day, takes a look back through the archives in what is the programme's final outing.[36] It will be three decades later in 2018 before a new edition of the programme is broadcast.[37]






Channel 4[edit]

The Children's Channel[edit]


New channels[edit]

Date Channel
30 January Super Channel
1 August MTV Europe

Defunct channels[edit]

Date Channel
30 January Music Box
July Star Channel

Television shows[edit]

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Shows Moved from Moved to
ITV Schools programmes ITV Channel 4
Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends The Children's Channel

Returning this year after a break of one year or longer[edit]


  • BBC Wimbledon (1927–present)


  • BBC Cricket (1939–1999, 2020–2024)






Ending this year[edit]



Date Name Age Cinematic Credibility
11 March Joe Gladwin 81 actor (Last of the Summer Wine)
28 March Patrick Troughton 67 actor (Doctor Who)
6 June Fulton Mackay 64 actor (Porridge)
11 September Hugh David 62 television director
17 September Harry Locke 73 actor
25 September Emlyn Williams 81 dramatist and actor
5 November Eamonn Andrews[39] 64 Irish born television presenter

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BBC One London – 1 January 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Poltergeist – BBC One London – 2 January 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Anzacs – BBC One London – 12 January 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  4. ^ "AIDS – The Facts – BBC One London – 27 February 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  5. ^ "First AIDS – TV Cream". Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  6. ^ "The Late Film: The Elephant Man – BBC One London – 6 March 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  7. ^ "Bob Says Opportunity Knocks – BBC One London – 21 March 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  8. ^ "The Adventures of Spot – BBC One London – 9 April 1987". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  9. ^ "TV Live – More Central". Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  10. ^ "BBC One London – 26 April 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  11. ^ "BBC Two England – 28 April 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  12. ^ Adatn, Corinna (16 May 1987). "Television – from the Tablet Archive". The Tablet. Tablet Publishing Company. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d e http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/oldott/www.offthetelly.co.uk/indexe0a5.html?page_id=929
  14. ^ "BBC Two England – 25 July 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  15. ^ Harper, Timothy (13 September 1987). "Britain Shoots Down Tv Shoot 'Em-ups Many Blame August's Massacre On Violent U.s. Programs, Films". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  16. ^ "BBC One London – 26 September 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  17. ^ "ScreenPlay: The Interrogation of John – BBC Two England – 30 September 1987". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  18. ^ "A Wanted Man – BBC Two England – 25 September 1989". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Going For Gold – BBC One London – 12 October 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  20. ^ "Weston's Quiz Show Queen: Daphne Fowler | Latest in celebrity interviews & entertainment". Somerset Life. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  21. ^ "YouTube footage of Michael Fish". Youtube.com. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Lessons learned from Great Storm". BBC News. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  23. ^ "Saturday Night at the Movies: Stephen King's The Dead Zone – BBC One London – 17 October 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  24. ^ "* Saturday Night Horror: Stephen King's Cujo – BBC One London – 24 October 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Around the World with Willy Fog – BBC One London – 29 October 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  26. ^ "Around the World with Willy Fog – BBC One London – 28 April 1988 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  27. ^ "Saturday Night Horror: Stephen King's Cat's Eye – BBC One London – 31 October 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  28. ^ "Fourteen Days in May – BBC One London – 11 November 1987". BBC Genome. BBC. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Play Your Cards Right". UKGameshows.com. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  30. ^ "The Visit: Coma". 19 November 1987. p. 69. Retrieved 14 December 2018 – via BBC Genome.
  31. ^ "The Visit: Coma". 26 November 1987. p. 65. Retrieved 14 December 2018 – via BBC Genome.
  32. ^ "Special Events – do you remember these?". Thameside Radio. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  33. ^ "The Thameside Radio story". Thamesideradio.net. 1983-05-15. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  34. ^ "BBC One London – 25 December 1987 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  35. ^ St. Clement, Pam (2015). The End of an Earring. Headline. ISBN 978-1472222138.
  36. ^ "87 Whistle Test 88 – BBC Two England – 31 December 1987 – BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  37. ^ "What's old, grey and making a comeback?". BBC News. BBC. 9 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  38. ^ Brown, Maggie (23 July 2010). "Channel Five: a timeline". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on 2018-11-22. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  39. ^ "Eamonn Andrews, 64; British TV Personality". New York Times. 7 November 1987. Retrieved 2 January 2012.