While talking about Christmas television and which bits of it we do and don't miss with a colleague here in China I suddenly realised what I miss most about Christmas TV are the Christmas editions of the Radio and TV Times.
Moreover, what I miss isn't the way they are now because in my head - if not in reality - you have to buy both because, and younger readers may find this hard to believe, once upon a time there were only four channels (three if you go back before 1982) and the Radio Times gave listings for two of them and the TV times gave listings for the other two. All of the other TV guides that clutter up the newsagents shelves didn't exist at all.
So, to get a complete picture of what you might expect to see on TV, you had to buy two guides. They always came out a few weeks before Christmas and sometimes some of the programs were marked as "to be confirmed" but you could take them and put them side by side on the table and work out which programs you wanted to watch.
They were always double issues covering Christmas and the New Year so it could take some time but I remember that I always used to diligently go through them with a pen marking all the things I wanted to see and trying to choose where there was a conflict.
This was, as you may have guessed, not only before the "watch again" features on the internet but before TiVo, before DVDs and even before VCRs. Yes, children, there used to be a time when you couldn't record shows and watch them later, a time when, if there were two shows on different channels, you had to choose which one to watch.
You are right of course - there was never a time before repeats.
Still this isn't nostalgia for television, it's nostalgia for television guides and those magazines, by the time the Christmas period had ended, had been read through and checked so many times that they had fallen to bits. Christmas was the only time of year when every day's programs from the start of broadcasting to the close down was checked (and yes, there was a time when TV wasn't on 24 hours a day). Who knew what old movies, or unusual series, or interesting cartoons might have been slipped into the schedules at peculiar hours of the day. The only way to be sure you didn't miss something interesting was to check the guides.
Later both magazines started listings for all channels and almost immediately on the heels of that change the shelves seemed to be full of TV guides. You could choose one from about a dozen and use that to plan your seasonal viewing but it wasn't the same.
It wasn't the same at all.