I originally posted this on Muppet Central, and I'm posting it here as well.
I've been doing some research this past week on the UK airdates of 'The Muppet Show' courtesy of some Scottish newspapers that are available for viewing through Google. What I've discovered is that some of our ideas as to what happened back then are completely wrong, while others have thrown up mysteries to be solved.
First of all, it looks like most of the ITV regions took TMS on the same day (Sunday) as ATV (though not always at the same time) and in the same order. The exception to this is LWT (London Weekend Television) which didn't take the series until late October (it started early September in the other regions.)
Now this is where the mysteries begin; the listings I have been looking are for one of the Scottish channels - STV. STV has the Bruce Forsyth episode as the last of season one. However, if that's right then STV (and some of the other regions) only aired 21 out of 24 episodes; the missing three are Ethel Merman, Connie Stevens and Vincent Price. To confuse matters, someone has found the dates for the UK airings and posted them on the Wikipedia article "List of the Muppet Show Episodes" and the above three episodes are listed in the Guardian (London paper) as airing in February 1977. It had originally been thought that those last three aired in April after a series of reruns aired between January and April 1977. In fact, the reruns aired in April 1977 after the Easter weekend; on Easter Sunday 1977 the ITV regions list a one-hour programme called Best of the Muppets which is billed as being a compilation featuring Rita Moreno and Ethel Merman. I've heard of this, but have no idea as to what it was - was this a compilation of different clips or just those two episodes repeated one after the other?
[Just to clarify this section - the three 'missing' episodes aired in April 1977; for those regions that (maybe) didn't air them the first time around, they were still billed as repeats.]
- Going by the sources cited on List of The Muppet Show episodes, we seem to have been using "UK date" as the umbrella term for all of the United Kingdom when, in fact, it's just as inaccurate as if we were saying that the NYC dates are the definitive dates for all of the US.
- Indeed, just as The Muppet Show had different broadcast dates and orders in NYC, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Chicago (etc.), the same stands to reason for London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, etc.
- An expanded list of broadcast dates and release order for episodes of The Muppet Show is long overdo. And, as you pointed out David, with the advent of newspaper databases much more easily accessible these days, it's much more possible to investigate than in years past.
- So, I'm all in favor of locking down more accurate dates for regions around the world. I think we should sandbox it and treat dates as the "earliest so far found" using a similar policy as we have with Muppet Wiki:Earliest Known Appearance. —Scott (talk) 22:39, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
- >>Indeed, just as The Muppet Show had different broadcast dates and orders in NYC, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Chicago (etc.), the same stands to reason for London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, etc.<<
- I'm wondering about that. It strikes me that ITV seems to have made a conscious decision to network the series through the regions. Certainly STV, Border, Grampian and Ulster aired the first season on the same day (though not always at the same time) and LWT took the series some six weeks later after; however, it looks like from season two onward the show was fully networked.
- I've asked about the networking of ITV on a different forum, and it may give us an idea of what did happen back then.
- I'm hoping to get a line on the TV Times listings; that may give us an idea as to the other regions. I'll keep you updated.
- In the meantime, I can now reveal that our thoughts on the ITV Blackout of 1979 were wrong, and in fact daily newspapers in the UK were well aware that ITV was starting up again on 26 October and that the first new episode of TMS was Dudley Moore. David French (talk) 09:30, 1 March 2021 (UTC)
- That should be 24 October. Will fix that later. Have now discovered that two ITV channels didn't take Dudley Moore that day - Channel and Westward showed regional news bulletin instead. LWT started with Peter Ustinov and then followed the same order as the rest of the network. However, while other regions stopped with Bruce Forsyth, LWT continued and aired Ethel Merman, Connie Stevens and Vincent Price (in that order). But what happened next is a mystery at the moment. LWT continued to air the series up until Easter Saturday when they aired the networked Best of the Muppets. They then aired the networked repeat season. Problem is, at the moment I don't know which episodes were aired after Vincent Price, what order those episodes aired in, and which episodes from the repeat season were "new" to LWT viewers. Oh well. On a happier note, STV aired Peter Sellers the day after New Year's Day; all the other regions aired it on New Year's Day. David French (talk) 10:54, 25 March 2021 (UTC)