It’s Saturday in the 90s, everyone is home for the evening. You’ve all finished your tea and ready to settle down together for hours of pure TV gold. Baywatch, then Gladiators, followed by Blind Date! Arguably the greatest television line up of our time. There was simply no shame in spending an evening with Pamela Anderson, the Hoff, Ulrika Johnson and Cilla Black.
There was no pause, record or rewind button to press on your TV. If you really had to miss your favourite show that evening, your options were limited. You either had to wait for the post season re-runs, or record over someone else’s show on one of those TDK VHS tapes stashed in your TV cabinet creating a full scale war in the house.
The theme tune to Baywatch starts and now we’re in for it. Montage after montage of lifeguards with impeccable fit physiques in tight red swimwear, running in slow mo, up and down Santa Monica beach. Yet, this was serious lifeguarding at its best. Shark attacks, earthquakes, speedboat collisions, someone stranded at sea clinging to a buoy during a storm after ignoring all weather warnings. No one ever seemed to fall into difficulty in the water due to mere cramping for swimming too soon after eating their lunch. Then again, no one ever seemed to eat.
Now you’re geared up for Gladiators. Wolf, Jet, Rhino and Hunter are ready to take on the general public. How you longed to be in that audience waving a giant foam finger or holding a handmade sign cheering on your favourite teacher or policeman. Then watching in horror, as they’re smashed off pedestals into nets below while Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ is blaring. We had Ulrika Johnson and John Fashanu presenting while John Anderson was the referee who took no prisoners. “Gladiators, ready! Contenders, ready!” Oh, we were ready.
Blind Date – now this was a dating show. Step aside Love Island. Cilla Black, always perfecting her hip move to that final beat, assuring us we were in for a “lorra lorra laughs”. Indeed we were. We got to witness one person firing questions over at three perspective men or women they could not see. All balancing themselves on high stools while reciting lame, innuendo laden jokes as answers. Then, it was time for “Our Graham” to give us a quick reminder of the line up before the ultimate decision was made. Oh when that screen pulled back, we would lean forward examining their facial expressions as they first laid eyes upon each other. Were they pleased, or possibly scanning the set for the nearest fire escape?! All would be revealed next week on how they got on during their free holiday. Another great reason not to miss the next episode!
Yes, Saturday night viewing was a blast. No streaming devices meant we were living on a one episode per week ration. No multiple television sets under the one roof meant we watched these shows together, as a family. I don’t think many of us could relinquish the power of watching what we want, when we want now. I don’t think I could. Yet, I’ll always long for those days.
For more memories of the 90s and noughties, read Jen’s column in this week’s Northside People and South People Newspapers.