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I remember when early evening TV meant 'Nationwide'

01:00 Tue 03rd Sep 2002 |

Nationwide was first broadcast on Tuesday 9 September, 1969. Early evenings would never be the same again, as the BBC followed the Early Evening News with an hour of, well, pretty much everything. It was a consumer show, an entertainment show, an investigative show, a chat show, a features show.

The first anchorman, Michael Barrett, was a respected TV journalist. His relaxed, friendly approach made the show easy to watch and quickly won huge plaudits.

Why the fuss

Remember this logo
It was new, exciting, young, challenging, informative, inviting, entertaining, fresh - and there wasn't much else on at that time of day. Behind the scenes, its young creator, Derrick Amoore, and subsequent editors-in-chief Michael Bunce and John Gau were the stars who made the show so crucial - skateboarding ducks, anybody

And lest we forget, Nationwide was a brilliantly innovative show technically, with presenters in the regions chatting to each other, or occasionally 'passing around' birthday cakes and the like, from one studio in one region to the next. It was like watching Eurovision every night of the week and being able to understand (most of) the accents.

I remember loads of presenters - what were their names

Some of the biggest names in British broadcasting had absolutely nothing to do with Nationwide - but a veritable cornucopia of the second-tier of Beeb broadcasting passed through the Nationwide front door.

The legendary Bob Wellings
Barrett couldn't present the show every night - especially when the format spread from three to five days a week in 1972. Bob Wellings was promoted from within, then Frank Bough (who started his career on Look North) was swiped from sports, straight after the 1972 Olympics.

Sue Lawley and Bernard Falk were among the early reporters. Starting in 1973, Valerie Singleton worked on the show's consumer strand (a precursor of Watchdog) with Richard Stilgoe - he started on the show with ditties about dodgy dentists and cranky customers and ended up writing the lyrics for Cats, Starlight Express and Phantom of the Opera (and is now a resident clever-clogs on Countdown).

Hard-working pro's like James Hogg, the late Glyn Worsnip (later to star on That's Life!), consumer champ Sue Cook, they all served their apprenticeships on Nationwide. Jimmy Hill, David Vine and Ron Pickering all worked the Friday night sports shift before that old smoothy Des Lynam made the spot his own in 1978. Whatever happened to him

And then there were the regional hosts who cropped up on Nationwide itself (hence the name! Keep up!). From Look East, Ian Masters; from Look North, Mike Neville (still working oop north); Stuart Hall from North West Tonight, still going strong on radio; Alan Towers of Midlands Tonight; Hugh Scully, who went on to invent antiques and made a mint. These names were totally synonymous with their local region. To an impressionable generation, Stuart Hall *is* Manchester; in that sense, he was the Noel and Liam Gallagher of his day.

And what exactly were these people doing

Doing, nationally, what the local news programmes do to this day: engaging and involving the viewer with human interest stories, news and topical japes. The Daily Mirror/ Nationwide/ Radio One Rock and Pop Awards were held every year: this was Life Before MTV, remember. Strands like Down And Out (life as a homeless person) and the Consumer Unit had an impact beyond the TV set.

On the other hand there was Welling's Follies. And that skateboarding duck.

What went wrong Why isn't it still with us

The show simply ran out of steam by the start of the new decade. Nationwide finally came off air on Friday 4 August, 1983, it's one final flourish the rottweillering of Mrs Thatcher (oh the irony!) in a phone-in about the Falklands War.

Nationwide had had its day, just as Wogan would some years later. Changes in personnel in front of and behind the camera had left an unhappy ship and a hasty move towards serious journalism - well, they got a Dimbleby in to present - was not a success. Neither was its successor - Sixty Minutes, remembered by no-one.

Nationwide, on the other hand, is fondly remembered - but by people who cross their fingers and pray that it never comes back to our screens.

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