Look-In – Issue 49 (November 1981)

I have always known Look-In as the junior TV Times – it even says so on the cover – and therefore know it won’t be covering any BBC programmes. The ‘junior’ part and most of the (mainly 1970s) cover images I’ve seen led me to believe the target market was fairly young.

However, Look-In‘s readers have a wider age range than I thought – I would have had a cut off of 11 or 12, but the birthday wishes in the magazine tell us that readers are at least between 7 and 14. This is perhaps why the content varies with comic strips covering various different types of programmes, as well as pieces on pop stars.

Look-In cover featuring Toyah

Compared to other titles I’ve looked at from 1981, Look-In is by far the cheapest at only 18p (around 70p in 2020), but it is a weekly rather than monthly publication. Buying it every week would cost 72p (£2.78) a month compared to the 40p (£1.54) for Doctor Who Monthly and 45p (£1.74) for Blake’s 7 Monthly. , yet that means four magazines of 32 pages a month, instead of one at 44 or 36. For any older readers thinking about making the move to a more grown-up and specialist publication, Starburst‘s 70p (£2.70) doesn’t look too bad in comparison and it has a fairly hefty page count with plenty of reading and photos.

Advert: Nick O’Teen

Why Nick O'Teen is a weed advert with Superman

This is a marvellous advert and I have recently seen others from the campaign. Using a Superman comic style is a great way to grab the readers’ attention and the character’s strong physique is the perfect contrast to the grim-looking Nick O’Teen.

If Marc Bolan kissed you would he feel like this?

It’s interesting that the top messages are about how bad cigarettes can make you look and smell, which is similar to another advert featuring Marc Bolan from a few years earlier. The Health Education Council appear to believe that health risks are less likely to bother young people but they are more concerned with appearances and how others will perceive them.

It seems unlikely that these types of adverts would appear in magazines for young people today – only 2% of school children smoked as of 2018. But in 1982 (the first time surveys were taken) 11% were regular smokers and this would rise to 25% by the age of 15, continuing to grow to a third by the ages of 16-19.

The Nick O’Teen adverts are so plainly aimed at young people and are in a publication with a substantial number of readers who are likely too young to have started smoking. However, 53% of 11-15-year-olds had tried a cigarette in 1982, making it reasonable to try to put some off beforehand.

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It is slightly bizarre to find an anti-smoking campaign in Look-In while I know that TV Times is still including cigarette adverts, even if they are set to become increasingly vague throughout the decade.

The free colour poster offer is a nice way to help spread the message though and one person has said they used it as a hint to a parent.

You could go ‘mad about’ hobbies!

Text and image of children from Madabout

I like the sound of Madabout, a new series for people to showcase their hobbies. As kids often seem to quickly cycle through several fads, this show seems an excellent way of finding new ones, and maybe one they’ll stick to. Look-In suggests a few but I do think they are pushing it by trying to convince kids that snail racing might be an interesting racing hobby to take up.

A game to play: Fortunes

Instruction for Fortunes paper game

I was taken aback when I glanced at these illustrations and recognised the game described here as ‘fortunes’. I don’t recall what we called this origami contraption at school, but it was always the kind of thing that was passed on from others and I had never seen it written down before. I spent many wet playtimes creating different versions of these and we used them for all sorts of fortune-type games. Once constructed, you would ask someone to pick a number between one and eight, then, with your fingers inside, ‘chop’ the paper back and forth. When finished, they would be left with two options inside to pick and you would open up the flap to reveal an answer.

Comic: The story of The Beatles

I had not expected to find a comic strip on a band that split up 10 years before and it also seems strange to have this part focus solely on The Beatles pre-success days. However, this seems inevitable because all the magazine’s comics are limited to just two pages so it would be difficult to fit much else in. I find it commendable that Look-In was providing some recent cultural education for its readers, but I’m struggling to imagine the pre-teen fans of Toyah and Adam Adamant being that interested.

Advert: Open your own disco

Open your own disco amstrad ad with image of record player

This is an awesome looking stereo system that Amstrad are advertising for £59 (around £228 in 2020) and while it would be an expensive Christmas present, it actually seems to be at the cheaper end of the scale for record players. The novelty of its disco effects will surely have persuaded a few lucky music fans, although it doesn’t look like it will offer much quality for audiophiles. Yet seems a great thing for teenagers having friends over and I’ve found a couple of other adverts from elsewhere that depict the disco system in all its glory.

You can also watch the RP10 in all its glory.

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Comic: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

I mainly know Buck Rodgers as the guy whose programme has been kicking Doctor Who‘s arse in the ratings this year. Fortunately, the Time Lord is getting a new slot in a few months. [link] Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is the only comic strip in the magazine to get any colour and while all the Look-In comics use a similar realistic style for their characters, the colours offer something extra and more fantastical. There is something about these specific shades that I find comforting and familiar.

I haven’t seen any of the Buck Rogers series and this strip doesn’t tell me a great deal. Like the Beatles one, it seems too short to get going with a plot and rather than being eager to carry on reading, I’m left frustrated that I need to buy another issue to continue the story.

Quick quiz

As I am unfamiliar with a lot of the content in Look-In, I was chuffed to get half of these questions right. Answers are upside down.

Switch on

Switch on readers letters and programme listings

I love these readers’ letters because the writers are so blunt and their opinions are full of extremes. Diff’rent Strokes is “one of the funniest programmes there is” according to Terry O’Connor of Liverpool, Georgina Roberts of Stoke-on-Trent declares W K R P In Cincinnati the “most diabolical series on television” (but she does also want more “good old English comedy acts such as Jim Davidson”), while Alison Payne of Ashford says, “Get It Together is a pathetic pop programme”. As I haven’t seen any of these shows, I can’t argue for or against any of these views.

I do feel keen to stand my ground against David Richings of Milton Keynes though. He thinks “Tiswas is rubbish” because “they just throw water about, along with what they call pies, which is really shaving foam”. Clearly, we are in a pre-gunge era but in place of that I think chucking water, foam pies, beans, chocolate sauce and peas over people is exactly the sort of entertainment I want from Saturday morning kids TV. David, Swap Shop or Open University is on the BBC.


  1. Ed

    As I recall, ‘Look-In’ reset its numbering on a yearly basis, so this would have been issue 49 of the 1981 run, rather than the 49th issue ever published.

    Carrying advertising can cut the costs of a publication. I don’t know if that’s a contributory factor to the cheapness of ‘Look-In’ compared with DWM and B7M – you’ve only mentioned one ad in all your reviews of the latter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there weren’t others.

    1. Post
      H E Cooper

      Thanks for clarifying that and it’s a good point about advertising. Most of the ads in Blake’s 7 Monthly aren’t earning them much money – there are adverts for Marvel UK back issues and subscriptions, annuals via Dangerous Visions (Marvel UK’s name for their back issue supplier), plus a ‘Marvel Classifieds’ page containing small text adverts for genre shops and mail order services. The only one that might be earning them some substantial advertising money is the back-cover one – and Issue 2 chose to forgo this for a Paul Darrow Q&A. DWM 57 fares a tad better, with a full-page ad for Forbidden Planet, a back-cover ad, plus another full-page one on the inside of the back cover. Meanwhile, Look-In has a 1/4 page, two 1/2 page, a 3/4 page, and two full-page ads, along with a feature on Christmas gifts that sounds like it was probably sponsored. Perhaps Marvel UK found it easier to retain a loyal readership with fewer potentially irrelevant ads.

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