If there was one thing that TV Times liked to promote even more than the current hot stars of ITV, it was TV Times itself. A bit like one of those annoying people that keeps on plugging their own book full of features about old ITV shows done in pastiche TV Times page layouts, they never wasted a single opportunity to put themselves front and centre, whether it was via a feature, a competition, a promotion, an interview, or Bruce Forsyth in a comedy oversized chef's hat making something that spelt out the name of the magazine out of 'leftovers'.
Most of the time, those bold red letters were seen as branding enough in themselves. Sometimes, however, they felt the need to try and create a TV Times 'mascot'. And to keep on pushing and pushing and pushing them, in the face of overwhelming public indifference. Here are just a few of their spectacularly unsuccessful yet spectacularly sustained attempts at creating a loveable cuddly public face of knowing what day and time No Hiding Place was on...
Bizarrely kitted out in a manner that suggested he was 'flashing' passers-by with Echo Four Two transmission dates, cylindrical annoyance 'The TV Times Man' was an early attempt at encouraging brand identification, popping up between adverts to remind you that a handy magazine was available to tell you when the programme you were already watching was on. Needless to say, this was way too involved a concept for the average Criss Cross Quiz afficionado to grasp, and so TV Times opted instead to concentrate on dazzling impressionable younger viewers with zany character fun.
He isn't very big. He gets into some awful scrapes at times. He'll be on your television screens very soon. And he bears an uncanny resemblance to Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha. Meet Tivvy, the loveable novelty gonk-derived TV Times mascot, introduced to readers and indeed viewers here with a frankly preposterous neo-Geppetto account of his purported origins. Tivvy was the star of his own unbilled 'Extra TV' animated interstitials, but his primary deployment was within the pages of his home magazine. And didn't we know it.
Tivvy began his ascent to global indifference in a calculatedly understated manner, limiting his appearances to comic strips based around laboured and overtold postmodern gags, accompanied by incessant cameos within the TV Times 'Junior' pages. This included a 'Make A Tivvy' competition, where the prizes seem to have been awarded to contestants who elected to A Frank The Postman Playing Guitar and A Tharil From Doctor Who And The Warriors' Gate instead. Notice, however, that at no point is there any indication that anyone actually liked him. But that was not going to stop the Tivvy bandwagon from rolling relentlessly on...
Determined to perpetuate the illusion that Tivvy was more popular and well-liked than he actually was, the editors took to shoving him in front of the big ITV stars wherever possible. Above you can see him being jabbed with Tickling Sticks by Ken Dodd and a somewhat less than enthusiastic-looking 'Diddy' David Hamilton, ostensibly to promote Doddy's Music Box, a short-lived point-evading rival to Top Of The Pops which, as you can find out here, was scheduled directly against Doctor Who for a while; we can only hope that the inter-song gags on offer were better than Doddy's inevitable witticism about looking a bit like Tivvy. The hazily-defined 'Tivvy Club' page regularly roped in small-screen celebs for a spot of tenuous cross-promotion, including this photograph of him posing with a suitably disdainful-looking Scott Tracy and Lady Penelope beneath a self-evidently bollocks headline about how he was 'nearly' 'go'. And finally, it's time for the ultimate in early sixties celebrity endorsements, as Tivvy takes to the stage to join John, Paul, George and Ringo for a quick rendition of Bombtrack.
Needless to say, it wasn't long before you could take your pick from a slew of Tivvy-inspired merchandise that nobody either wanted or needed. Replica Tivvys in, erm, 'fur and leather', and a worrying variety of sizes. A Christmas Special packed with page upon page of stiltedly-delivered illustrated zingers. And finally some genuine bona fide 9 Carat Tivvy Bling, taking its unlikely place alongside the Rovers Return crest from Coronation Street and, erm, 'Box 13' from Take Your Pick. The Underwater Goat With Snorkel And Flippers charm had unfortunately already sold out.
The inevitable then followed, and 'Tivvy' was ushered into a recording studio to commit his very own tepid 'break'-free marching tune to disc. Backed by 'The Clubmates', a bunch of ardent Tivvy cheerleaders who conveniently all happened to come from Hurst Primary School in Twyford, the resultant single featured both the dreary Tivvy's Tune and Tivvy's World Of Colour, which outlined how nice it was to live in in so-called 'Tivvyland' where everything was bright and vibrantly shaded, which must have felt like a slap in the face to all those viewers who were used to seeing him in black and white. His gameplan for this single was, apparently, to get into the Top Twenty, 'win' a 'golden disc', and have lots of girls scream at him while topping the bill at The Palladium. Perhaps if they'd employed the services of someone with more knowledge of what pop music actually involved, this may have stood more chance of occurring. Possibly.
Eventually, the backlash came. Viewers sent letters to TV Times in their single figures, pouring scorn on the over-exposed magazine-plugging soft furnishing, and the 'nut-cases' who liked him. This prompted one such 'nut-case' to write in and say that it was wrong to attack Tivvy because they had a toy of him or something, although there is precious little evidence to support the argument about needing a 'sense of humour' to appreciate him. Meanwhile, you do have to feel for the University Challenge team who wrote a plaintive 'where were the scouts?'-style missive to bemoan the loss of their lucky stuffed mascot, only to find themselves joined against their will by a massive life-size Tivvy. This may have been the day that Bamber Gascoine finally ran out of chummy puns and snapped.
Eventually, TV Times threw in the novelty tie-in official Tivvy towel, and were so keen to distance themselves from his dreary antics that they allowed precious advertising space to be given over to BBC2's inaugural mascot, Hullaballo and/or Custard. Of course, what the kids really wanted back in the sixties was Beatles, Beatles and more Beatles. And if you join us for the next part, that's exactly what they'll get. And more.