Long before 24 hour Television, from the late 1970’s all the way through to the early 1990’s, if you happened to get up in the middle of the night, or at the crack of dawn, there is every chance you would have seen Open University Programming.
I remember seeing it when I was younger, if I awoke particularly early, and I had to wait for it to finish before the cartoons started.
The programmes were very dull, tedious, and poorly executed. They contained all the information you needed to pass an exam, but absolutely no presenting skills. They were gloriously bad, and have been spoofed and spoofed again by comedy programmes over the decades.
Often the programme would feature a man in a white coat and thick glasses and a big messy beard, going over mathematical formulae on a blockboard, in a monotone voice. Or you would have an equally uncharismatic man wearing a tweed jacket (with elbow patches), or a 1970's style shirt, talking animatedly about the Norman invasion.
They really were some of the dullest programmes I can ever remember (and I can remember “one man and his dog”).
The first OU (“Open University”) programme was broadcast in 1971, Since that first broadcast, over 7,000 television and 4,000 radio programmes have been produced as part of The Open University and BBC partnership, with over 300 million viewers tuning in to OU/BBC in 2009/2010 alone.
I’m sure in 1971 the whole idea of doing a university course at home while watching the television was revolutionary, and it must have been an amazing opportunity for people who wanted to study but could not afford to go to university. But still, the programmes were so brilliantly dry and dull. Look them up on you tube and see what they were like, in some ways they were beyond parody!