“It’s Good, but it’s not right”
Children of the 80s and 90s definitely got out a lot more than kids nowadays. In summer months it wasn’t uncommon for us to leave the house at 8:30 in the morning and not be seen for twelve hours or so. When we did come back we were covered head to toe in muck. We played football on a perpendicular field, tennis on a road 80% covered in parked cars and a game of rounders that would regularly be interrupted by cars having the cheek to drive through. As much as we did get out and about, Television was still a large part of our lives. We didn’t have that many channels so generally speaking we all watched the same things and with no facebook or twitter to distract us, we watched together, as cute litte Deise families.
Saturdays across Waterford were pretty formulaic and built on equations of Going Live, Grandstand, Gladiators, Catchphrase, Casualty and Blind Date. In the 90s, Gladiators was surely bigger than what the X-Factor is today and nobody was asked to ring in and waste money on saving contestants – they had to save themselves, or face severe neck trauma. Grandstand squeezed about three weeks of sport into one afternoon and still managed to be more entertaining that Sky ever could. In fact, Richard Keys and Andy Gray could only dream of being as sexist and genial as Saint and Grievsie used to be. If Catchphrase was on, you knew it was time for tea, and if it was Blind Date, you were usually drying your hair by the fire after your weekly bath.
Can you believe that we all used to watch Baywatch? It’s seems implausible now that so much murder and mischief could happen on a beach that still managed to retain it’s blue flag. But we watched it, in our millions, like Michael Barrymore who was bigger than Jesus in the 90s and don’t say he wasn’t. The thing about television in the 80s and 90s was that it was universal – we all loved it. Families would gather together and take a stab at how much that fitted kitchen was worth on the price is right, or whether not that fat man could eat 100 eggs in a minute on YOU BET. We laughed together at Beadle’s about, cried together at Surprise Surprise (maybe that was just the women), and smugly cheered together as that couple that met on Blind Date last week ended up killing each other. Yes, the programmes weren’t fantastic but somehow they managed to bring us all together. All today’s programming does is put the women in one room for dancing on ice and the fellas in the other room for absolutely anything else.
The Sunday rituals were equally as wholesome and family friendly. We’d get up around ten and watch the Beat Box with Dave Fanning and then off to Mass in The Sacred Heart, St Johns, The Holy Family or if we were feeling really wild, Ballybricken. We liked to mix it up ya see, share the wealth and get a bit of variety out of the Sunday sermons. What never changed though was the routine of buying the Sunday newspapers out of the back of some fella’s car and a bunch of lovely cream cakes from leahys.
Sunday afternoons were a mix of watching Waterford United knock a ball around Kilcohan Park or The Big Match on ITV. If it was a really nice day we might go and visit someone’s grave or maybe take a trip out to Tramore – the excitement, as you can imagine, came thick and fast. We’d usually be home for tea and cream crackers though, ready for another night of televisual delights. Back in the 80s and 90s I lived in tracksuits and soccer jersies so I, like my peers, was exempt from the fashion catastrophe that all you forty somethings endured. If you want a reminder of how you all looked back then, just watch a few repeats of Sunday evening’s most watched quiz show – Bullseye. Who could forget the worst TV host to ever stand in front of a camera, Jim Bowen, giving in-bred Britons a chance to almost win a speedboat? It truly was brilliant and terrible all in one go.
If Saturday night was dominated by British Television, RTE fought back with a vengeance on Sundays. I don’t care who you are or where you lived, Sunday nights were all about Where in the World with Theresa Lowe and Glenroe with Miley, Biddy and Dinny. The quiz show justified the teaching of geography in our schools while the soap opera made us all thankful that we didn’t live on a farm. After all that excitement, we would pick our bag up from where we left it on Friday afternoon and make a half-arsed attempt to scribble some homework together. That my friends, was a typical Waterford Weekend in the 80s and 90s – well that’s how I saw it anyway!