What Did They Watch In The 1940’s?

Looking to watch your favourite TV shows on-demand such as Friends or Mrs Browns Boys? That wasn’t an option back in the 40’s.  We take a fun look at what people people in the nineteen forties would watch on the telly.

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There was no Sky, Lovefilm or Youtube, TV was only beginning to broadcast again since the war and their favourite TV shows were only aired once a fortnight.

Television in the 1940s seen the beginning of shows being aired on the TV. However from in the 1940s until 1945 there was no television broadcast because of the War.

It was not until 1946 that the BBC broadcast for the first time since World War 2. In 1947, the BBC Television Service broadcasts are temporarily suspended due to a national fuel crisis.  By 1948, the BBC was back to broadcasting and began with its coverage of the Olympic Games in London..  So what other popular shows were aired in this decade?

Come Dancing was the British ballroom dancing competition show which was first aired in 1949, it ran on and of until 1998, which made this one of television’s longest-running shows.  The show was created by the founder of Miss World, Eric Morley, and was broadcast from regional ballroom studios, with professional dancers Syd Perkin and Edna Duffield on hand to offer their professional advice.  The show ended in 1998 but in 2004 with the name Strictly Come Dancing which follows the same format as Come Dancing.


Pinwright’s Progress aired on the BBC and had ten episodes which aired every fortnight in alternation with another program – Kaleidoscope. The story line was based on the world’s smallest multiple store owner J.Pinwright and life is far from easy, as his attractive daughter, fierce rival, Ralph the octogenarian messenger boy and members of staff(who are trying to be helpful) hinder him day-by-day. This program was seen as one of the comedy shows from the 40’s.

What would the children watch in the nineteen forties? There was no Ben 10 or Peppa Pig back in the 1940’s, but there was Muffin the Mule, Muffin, a puppet character, would dance on top of a piano as Mills played it.  Other characters in this show were Crumpet the Clown, Mr. Peregrine Esquire the penguin, Louise the Lamb and many more.

Picture Page was first broadcast on the BBC and was the world’s first regular half-hour televised sitcom, and originally began in 1936 to 1939 but went on hiatus during the war.  The sitcom returned in 1946 until 1952. It was the first British television series to become a long-term and regular popular series.

Christmas TV was not like it is today, as today we have a full selection of TV listings to choose from such as Sherlock, Dr Who or Downton Abbey and would only be on at certain points of the day. To find out the TV listings, you could buy the Radio Times. Here is a copy of the TV listings from 1948:

Christmas Eve Friday 24th December 1948:

BBC: 11.00am  Demonstration film

12.00  Closedown

3.00pm  Film : Tumbledown Ranch in Arizona (1941)

4.00pm  Closedown

7.15pm  Christmas Carols

7.45pm  Newsreel

8.00pm  Mrs Feather’s Christmas Party

9.00pm  Interlude

9.10pm  He That Shall Come, a nativity play by Dorothy L Sayers

10.10pm  News (sound only)

10.25pm  Closedown

Christmas Day Saturday 25th December 1948: BBC:

3.15pm  Dr Barnardo’s Homes, Woodford Garden City, an entertainment

4.00pm  Closedown

8.30pm  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

10.15pm  Newsreel

10.30pm  News (sound only)

10.45pm  Closedown

Christmas Sunday 26th December 1948: BBC:

4.00pm  For the Children

5.00pm  Close

8.30pm  The Light of Heart, a play by Emlyn Williams

10.00pm  News (sound only)

10.15pm  Closedown

Do you remember any of these programs and want to share your thoughts on them and be part of our ByGone Christmas series?

Comment below, share, tweet or even pin it all below and let us know.

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