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Who Wants to Be a Boring Fucker About Old ITV Logos

Posted 13th July 2017

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The other day, a tiny logo blew my tiny mind.

As I was watching the very first episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on YouTube1, the following popped up at the end of the show:

WWTBAM with 1989 generic ITV logo

Firstly, apologies for Chris Tarrant’s face there. He looks like a ghost that’s getting sucked off. Secondly: is that the 1989 ITV generic logo I spy there? Surely that look had long disappeared by the time WWTBAM was aired? The look I always remember associated with the show is the yellow and blue identity:

1998 ITV logo

Clearly not, though the crossover was in fact very tight, just like your mum. The first episode of WWTBAM? was broadcast on the 4th September 1998; the blue and yellow ITV logo was launched on the 5th October 1998, just a month later.

It’s very easy to forget quite how long that 1989 generic logo survived; no way would I have said it was still being used on a network programme in 1998. In my head, the ITV of 1998 is very different to the ITV of 1989, as shown in this launch promo:

The appearance of this logo in WWTBAM? feels almost like a missing link. And an unpleasant reminder that yes, even the late 90s were a rather long time ago now. Shit.

To make us feel a little better about that, then, there is another reason why seeing this logo pop up is so surprising – and it speaks to how TV subtly rewrites itself. If you look at the Challenge repeat of the first episode of WWTBAM?, the section featuring the 1989 ITV logo is cut entirely. Not because of the logo itself – but simply because it’s on during the section where Chris Tarrant is asking for contestants for the show, and that wasn’t an appropriate thing to air in a repeat.

Understandable, and something needed to be done to this section to avoid misleading or confusing the viewer, but perhaps a little frustrating. As it is, a tiny slither of TV history is lost with this cut, and that’s somewhat unfortunate.

No wonder we lose track of this stuff so easily.

  1. There are two people in this world: people who entirely understand why I would want to watch the very first episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on YouTube, and those who don’t. 

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Lee Wall on 14 July 2017 @ 12am

TV sport’s coverage is good for this kind of thing as it tends to feature the channel logo a lot and can be precisely dated.Hence I vividly remember this logo still being used for the 1998 Football World Cup.

John Hoare on 14 July 2017 @ 3am

Ah, that’s a *very* good point. And I watched virtually no sport back then, so definitely something I entirely missed.

Steve Williams on 14 July 2017 @ 8am

Yes, at that point one of the few occasions you’d see the ITV logo would be on sports coverage, and I have fond memories of the 1998 World Cup – the last one I could watch in full with no responsibilities whatsoever – so I well remember it.

September 1998 was a curious month for ITV, though, because as mentioned the logo didn’t arrive until October – I remember switching on the telly at 9.25 that morning to see it appear for the first time – but ITV had got a “new look” in September, because that’s when the Netwok Promotions Unit began and there were now networked promos, but before the logo and the spinning hearts arrived they used a temporary design as you can see here…

I remember that design because it did seem so unusual to have network promos, and you’ll notice even the regional promos use the same design. And there was a pretty radical change to the schedules too because there was Millionaire every night of course, plus The Bill went from half an hour to an hour and there were lots of new programmes and documentaries and entertainment at 9pm some nights. It seemed quite striking because for the previous few years ITV had been very mundane in its scheduling with dramas at 9pm every night and not much excitement.

I really liked ITV under David Liddiment, I thought it was a great example of a popular TV channel, it had a load of swagger and did lots of hugely popular shows, but it was also quite innovative in its own way. Stripping Millionaire across the week is the perfect example.