The TV Times Awards began over 40 years ago, with the first ever vote taking place in the 1969 Christmas edition.
Back then our 10 million readers were invited simply to name their Top Television Person of 1969, and in first place was a certain Tom Jones (whatever happened to him?!) followed by Gerald Harper, Edward Woodward, Engelbert Humperdinck, John Alderton, David Frost, Des O’Connor, Noele Gordon, Hughie Green and Barry Evans. Prince Charles narrowly missed out on a Top Ten place after his investiture as the Prince of Wales was televised.
More categories were introduced, with Coronation Street’s Ena Sharples (played by Violet Carson) picking up the Most Compulsive TV Character for 1971. In our feature about that year’s winners, Violet told us: ‘I took a new lease of professional life when Ena came my way.’
The awards took a fresh twist when the then editor Peter Jackson persuaded ITV to televise them – the TV Times Top Ten Awards were a constant ratings winner throughout the Seventies and Eighties.
‘It used to get 18 or 19 million viewers,’ recalls Peter. ‘It was seen as a star-studded occasion and we had people over from Hollywood for it, including Larry ‘JR Ewing’ Hagman.’
A highlight of the 1974 show was Eamon Andrews suddenly bursting on stage to present Petula Clark, who’d just been named the Most Popular Female Singer on TV, with the Big Red Book for This Is Your Life.
All the TV greats appeared, from Morecambe and Wise, who made a joke when they finally won an award, to Leonard Rossiter.
The show’s presenters included Richard O’Sullivan in 1976, Bruce Forsyth in 1984, Nigel Havers in 1988 and Des O’Connor in 1989.
In 1986 we visited Terry Wogan at home, busy polishing his seventh consecutive TV Times Award. ‘They’re the only TV awards that mean anything,’ he declared. ‘They’re voted for by the public. The first was a real surprise. So were all the rest.’
They always continued to be voted for the public and the 2005 awards was extra special because it was the 50th anniversary of TV Times. We asked you to name your all-time favourites and David Jason was the only person to scoop two awards – for All-Time Favourite Actor and All-Time Favourite Sitcom Star. Jean Alexander, aka Corrie’s Hilda Ogden, was voted your All-Time Favourite Soap Star.
David commented: ‘TV Times has always been very supportive and I’m honoured to have appeared on a considerable number of the magazine’s front covers.’
Last year the winners included Martin Clunes, who took home the Favourite Actor prize, and Sheridan Smith, who you named as your Favourite Actress. Johnny Vegas, who picked up the Favourite Comedy Show on behalf of Bendirom, was delighted. ‘I’m absolutely chuffed to bits that Bendirom has won,’ said Johnny. ‘Your readers clearly have good taste…’.