1969 - POT BLACK FIRST BROADCAST
The early days of televised snooker carried with them one major drawback: it was broadcast in black and white.
Thus, commentator Ted Lowe was once to utter the immortal words: “For those watching in black and white, the yellow is next to the pink.”
Pre-colour, snooker was hard to watch and tended to be used merely to fill time between other sports.
The likes of Joe and Fred Davis would be asked to play for 20 minutes between horse races and would have to contrive the frame lasting this long and no longer.
It was hardly a great showcase for the sport.
However, this all changed at the end of the 1960s when BBC2 arrived and with it the advent of colour television.
The first BBC2 controller would gain fame as one of the most respected figures in the history of broadcasting through his ground-breaking natural history programmes.
In 1969, David Attenborough’s main concern lay closer to home, namely how to fill his new channel in ways that would best advertise the fledgling colour service.
Snooker, with its different colours and small playing surface, may now seem like an obvious choice but at the time it was a brave one.
Few had heard of the likes of John Spencer, Ray Reardon and Eddie Charlton. Would the viewing public really want to watch them?
Lowe had been trying for many years to widen the game’s appeal on television and he put together a format and pulled together a field.
Philip Lewis, who would produce this new show, decided to call it ‘Pot Black.’
The first programme was broadcast the week Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Pot Black proved to be one giant leap for snooker, the new age of colour television ushering in a cast of characters whose skill on the table and likeable personalities off it turned the game into popular entertainment.
Almost immediately the show went to second place in the BBC2 ratings and, through time, and certainly helped by the emergence of one Alexander Gordon Higgins, the BBC were persuaded that full coverage of the World Championship would bring in such a sustained audience that it would be well worth their time and effort.
The rest, of course, is history.
In the end, Pot Black became a victim of its own success. It ended in 1986 because people no longer wanted one-frame snooker over half an hour when they had week long tournaments to follow.
It was revived in the 1990s and has been again in recent years but only really as a bit of fun. It shows players in relaxed mode, although whether viewers necessarily want to see them like this is a point of discussion.
Its contribution to the development of the professional game is unquestioned, however.
Pot Black lit the blue touch paper for snooker’s love affair with television which continues to this day.