TV Review: Now! That’s What I Call The ’80s music channel

So, on Saturday while Geth was away in Lancashire, I did my weekly setting of TV recordings.  I do this every week because, other than music channels, I never watch TV live – Geth and I are both just too busy to commit to (and remember) the timeslot when things we might want to watch are on, and even if we did remember, it would inevitably be the case that when the timeslot actually arrived, one of us would be NOT AT ALL in the mood for watching that particular show, and would want to do something else.  Probably me.

This is one of the few areas in life where I am not a 20th century throwback, although, to be fair, it was definitely easier to remember TV timeslots when there were only four channels and no internet to distract you.

As such, I do a weekly setting of recordings, which looks something like this:

    1. Scan this week’s issue of the Radio Times for running TV (road races, triathlons and athletics) among the sports coverage.
    2. Use the digibox to set recordings for all of the above (unless it’s something that I know is going to be available on BBC iPlayer for a good month and the box is running out of space).
    3. Use the digibox guide to go through the entire schedule for BBC Four for the week.  BBC Four shows a lot of compilations of music performances by 20th century musicians, documentaries about 20th century musicians, and old episodes of Top of the Pops.
    4. Set recordings for all of the above.
    5. Worry about the box getting full and make a concerted resolution to catch up with lots of TV this week.
    6. Realise that what will actually happen is that, five nights out of seven, Geth will want to watch YouTube channels about boardgames and Star Wars on the XBOX 360, and I will want to read random blogs online.
    7. Go through the digibox history and try and find some old stuff to delete in order to make room.
    8. Delete some old athletics from a year ago, and some Christmas films we recorded a year and a half ago.
    9. Make mental note to add the Christmas films to my Amazon wishlist.  (Spoiler: this will not happen.)
    10. Use the digibox guide to go through the entire schedule for Vintage TV for the week.  Vintage TV shows a lot of interestingly-themed playlists of 20th century music, modern-day concerts by musicians who were big in the 20th century, My Vintage shows with musicians talking about their favourite songs, and My Mixtape shows with non-musician celebrities talking about their favourite songs.
    11. Set recordings for anything that looks interesting.  Resist setting recordings for every single ’80s playlist.  (I did actually use to record these, and it meant we NEVER had any space on the box and I was spending my whole life with Vintage TV recordings on in the background.)

So yeah.  That’s what I was doing on Saturday night.  Before I did that, though, I had to scroll through the guide in order to change the channel from Radio 4 to Vintage TV.  Geth listens to Radio 4 every morning to catch the news headlines (he used to watch the BBC News channel before they started doing that godawful Victoria Derbyshire programme in the mornings), and so he always leaves the digibox on the Radio 4 channel.  I, on the other hand, can’t stand listening to the news in the current awful climate in which we live, so while I’m doing my setting of recordings I like to have Vintage TV on in the background.

As I scrolled between Radio 4 (channel 704) and Vintage TV (channel 82), my eye was caught by what appeared to be a brand new channel on channel 88.

A brand new music channel.

A brand new music channel, dedicated to the ’80s.

A brand new music channel, dedicated to the ’80s, run by the people behind the Now! That’s What I Call Music compilations.

Welcome to Now! That’s What I Call ’80s, a music channel that they kindly invented just for me.

Well, that’s not quite true.  According to Wikipedia, this channel has actually been running since 2013 as Now! That’s What I Call Music (they changed it to a dedicated ’80s channel in 2016, and added a ’90s version in 2017), but it’s never been part of the BT/Freeview channel lineup until now, so I’ve never come across it.

Obviously, I’ve spent the last few days with it constantly on in the background.

It’s been nice to have another retro music channel to enjoy.  Vintage TV is great, but it only has so many videos available, so it gets a bit samey after a while.  Now! That’s What I Call ’80s plays lots of videos that I’ve never seen on Vintage TV, and the kind of playlists it does are the kind of thing I’ve always dreamt of seeing on a music channel – Official UK Top 40 of the ’80s, for example, which is heaven for a chart geek like me.  Most of the shows are narrated by Radio 1 DJs from the ’80s and ’90s – Mark Goodier, Simon Bates, Bruno Brookes – and there was one presented by a couple of the actors from Grange Hill, which is the kind of modern-music-channel fun nonsense that I miss on the more grown-up Vintage TV.

In short, I love it, and I’m so glad to have an extra music channel to watch.

I’ve got a feeling that an extra stage has also been added to my weekly setting of recordings.  Similarly to Vintage TV, the trick will be restraining myself from recording EVERYTHING.

Vintage TV

I’ve always been obsessed with music TV channels, ever since my family first got cable in the mid-’90s and my school friends and I all discovered the wonders of “The Box” channel, where, because it was advertised as “music television you control”, you could waste your parents’ phone bill on requests for videos that were inevitably ignored by whoever was controlling the channel.  I believe the channel still exists, but I don’t know if you can still request videos by dialling up on your landline.  It’s probably all done through social media nowadays.  I bet the requests still get ignored though.

I watched a lot of different music channels as a student and later a semi-employed graduate, because when we lived in Scotland, Geth and I were still able to get Virgin TV with all its delicious, delicious choice.  Since we moved down to England, however, we’ve never been able to get Virgin TV in our area, so for years the only music channels available to me were 4Music and Viva, the former of which I tend to avoid due to too much reality content and the latter of which I only really watch for the chart once a week.  (Except at Christmas, when I traditionally watch music TV all day long.  I’m easily pleased at that time of year.)

About three years ago, however, either Freeview or our BT package decided to grant us access to Vintage TV, first as a streaming channel and then as a normal channel where you could actually set recordings and everything.  I can’t tell you how much I love this channel.  I have it on in the background whenever I’m not watching anything else, and I actually record the ’80s playlists (it typically shows stuff from the ’60s to the ’90s) so that I can watch them later with the adverts fast forwarded.  Geth wants to look into switching from BT to plain Freeview when we move into the new place, so I’ve made sure he knows Vintage TV is non-negotiable (my mother-in-law doesn’t have it on her Freeview package, but I think it depends on location).

For a throwback like me, it’s pretty much the perfect music channel.  They even have interview shows and live performances with all their most featured 20th century artists so you can see how well they’ve aged find out what they’re up to nowadays.  Just a shame it doesn’t have Top 100/50/20 etc. countdowns like the more modern-focused music channels do, but you can’t have everything!