Compiled by Ian Jones and Steve Williams

First published November 2007


January …
Jamie Theakston led his contestants on The Search … stars from the album chart performed Live from Abbey RoadThe Trial of Tony Blair was a satirical prediction of the Premier’s last days in power … Hardeep Singh Kohli explored the world of gambling in £50 Says You’ll Watch This … and Mr Oliver started the search for Jamie’s Chef.

February …
Kids had to live as their parents grew up in Never Did Me Any Harm … while actors delivered real-life monologues to reveal The True Voice Of prostitution, murder and rape.

March …
Bear Grylls: Born Survivor placed the explorer in seemingly uninhabitable environments … high stakes thriller Kidnapped crossed the pond … Chaos at the Château followed more hapless ex-pats … Harvey Goldsmith advised ailing showbiz stars how to Get Your Act Together but couldn’t save the show from being relegated to a late-night slot … and Irvine Welsh wrote Wedding Belles.

April …
Gaby Roslin met those at turning points in Life Begins AgainThe Mark of Cain was a weighty Iraqi-set drama … evolutionary experts discovered The Face of Britain … and The Human Footprint revealed exactly how much resources we used.

May …
Comedy stars chose their ideal evening’s viewing in Perfect Night In … while Embarrassing Illnesses were explored in all their glory.

June …
Those who suffered apparent miscarriages of justice submitted themselves to the Lie Lab … and US import drama Brothers and Sisters failed to enthral many.

July …
Famous faces traced their colonial roots in Empire’s Children … Pamela Stephenson put celebrities on the couch in Shrink Rap … David Morrissey starred in dark drama Cape Wrath … the late comedian made his final appearance in Bernard Manning from Beyond the Grave … Nick Hancock hosted daytime quiz Win My Wage … while a week of programmes on homosexuality included drama Clapham Junction and documentary A Very British Sex Scandal.

August …
Tales of terror on the high seas were told in Deadliest CatchJamie at Home saw the chef grow and cook his own veg … while low-calorie recipes were demonstrated in Cook Yourself Thin … teen drama Skins graduated from E4 … anger management issues were addressed for Amir Khan’s Angry Young Men … and we paid some graphic visits to the Sex Change Hospital.

September …
Members of the public were challenged to live on a rubbish tip in reality show DumpedFonejacker began his crank calls … Hindenburg told the story of the ill-fated airship … The Wild Gourmets lived off the land … the wealthy tried to make a difference overseas in Millionaires’ MissionBringing Up Baby tested out varying methods of child-rearing … while tribes visited the UK for the first time in Meet the Natives.

October …
Comedy Showcase piloted new sitcoms … Russell Brand’s Ponderland saw the comedian showcase his stand-up and old TV clips… Last Chance Kids was part of a season on child literacy … and cameras followed those trying to beat Britain’s Deadliest Addictions..


Channel 4′s pop music output had always been home to some of its strongest personalities and most talked about moments, from Jools and Paula on The Tube to Terry Christian on The Word, and this trend had continued with Popworld, shown as part of T4 on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t an immediate success, however, and hosts Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver admitted it wasn’t until most of the original production team quit that the series really found its feet. From then on the show in general, and Amstell in particular, took great delight in puncturing the pomposity of the music industry. Their irreverent approach angered artists who felt they weren’t treated with the respect they deserved, but thoroughly amused those who didn’t take themselves too seriously – along with viewers who hadn’t bought a single for years. After five years, though, the pair quit together, to be replaced immediately by Alex Zane and Alexa Chung. The pair tried hard but couldn’t shake off the shadows of their predecessors. Hence one year later Popworld was axed, and as far as the current Channel 4 was concerned, normal service was resumed. In other words, all pop stars were now officially and unquestionably wonderful again.

Misc …

Racial outbursts on Celebrity Big Brother prompted a media frenzy that engulfed even the Prime Minister … later in the year it was announced the programme would be “rested” indefinitely … allegations viewers were encouraged to enter the competition “You Say, We Pay” on Richard and Judy resulted in the quiz being dropped permanently … Des O’Connor replaced Des Lynam as host of Countdown … and Will and Grace ended in October at 1am.

On Screen

David Mitchell
Despite straying far from the confines of Channel 4 – including onto the big screen for the film Magicians – 2007 found David Mitchell enjoying the honour of usurping Russell Brand as the station’s most ubiquitous UK face. Much was due to seemingly endless series of Peep Show, which continued to be lauded as the greatest C4 comedy since Father Ted. But it was his performances as, according to Radio Times, “the best comedy panel guest in the world” that led to him outflanking comic partner Robert Webb in terms of solo acclaim. Appearances on TV Heaven Telly Hell, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, FAQ U and Best of the Worst boosted his Channel 4 profile further, and he even seemed to escape from the dreadful BBC1 panel show Would I Lie to You? with his credibility intact. It was inevitable he received the call to appear on The Big Fat Anniversary Quiz, broadcast on the night of C4′s 25th birthday.

Ugly Betty
Had it really come to this? That in the year Channel 4 turned 25, its most substantial and talked-about programme was … an American import? It was as if the last couple of decades hadn’t happened, and we were suddenly back in the wasteland of the early 1980s when Cheers acted as pretty much the station’s only critical and commercial hit. That nothing else came close to embodying Ugly Betty‘s similar emblematic status spoke volumes. Other programmes made headlines (see above) or, from time to time, pulled in a few million viewers, but when it came to spark, or exuberance, or even personality, Ugly Betty stood alone. A TV channel always needs flagships, if only to put on the front of its promotional brochures. A quarter of a century into its life, who’d have thought Channel 4′s sole flagship would be a bespectacled New Yorker with braces.

Off Screen

• In March Kevin Lygo announced the death of the list show. “I don’t think we will be commissioning them anymore,” he explained. “They are still watched but I would rather find something else that was as successful as they are. We are looking at lots of different things.” They continued to appear, however, in the form of repeats.
• A fortnight after the end of Big Brother, Channel 4′s share of TV viewing fell to its lowest level for 15 years. The network notched up a 7.4% share of the audience, compared with an average of 9.8% for the whole of 2006.
• Julian Bellamy replaced Kevin Lygo as Head of Programmes; Lygo took on the “strategic” role of Director of Television.
• Spending on imports was cut as advertising revenue plummeted .
• At the annual Edinburgh Television Festival, Bellamy and Lygo promised a cull of almost all ongoing reality and factual entertainment shows in an attempt to “refresh” the Channel 4 “brand”.
• Princes William and Harry asked the channel not to show the documentary Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel, to no avail.


“What we saw was racism. It was prejudice, and should have no place in our society. What took place was a noxious brew of old-fashioned class conflict, straightforward bullying, ignorance and quite vicious racial bigotry. Kevin Lygo has behaved like a 14-year-old boy boasting to his mates that he got away with it.”
Trevor Phillips on Celebrity Big Brother

“I’ve got no comment, I’m afraid.”
Luke Johnson’s response

“It’s been a terrible week, but I’ve had worse.”
Andy Duncan, later

My Favourite Channel 4 Moment …

Secret Life (2007)
Dramas about paedophiles aren’t exactly 10-a-penny, but it is an area that gets touched upon on a reasonably frequent basis. Crime dramas, looking to earn a reputation as “hard hitting” know a story centring on the topic will bring them instant controversy and, if well handled, plaudits. Popular series such as A Touch of Frost use the issue as an opportunity to cement popularity with their audience by having a lead character verbalize the presupposed opinions of the viewing public (which is usually paedophiles are afforded too much protection and are the scum of the earth).

So then, despite the pre-publicity, Channel 4′s Secret Life wasn’t really such a brave commission, and perhaps not such a courageous career choice for Matthew MacFadyen either. Here was a film that conformed to the conventions of television tackling “difficult” subjects; the acting was understated, the action small in scale, and the story restrained in dramatic structure, rejecting the dominant mode in favour of something more open ended and angular. Such things, we’ve come to learn, are the hallmarks of challenging drama.

Yet these facets were really just the surface of Secret Life. We followed the path of convicted paedophile Charlie Webb (MacFadyen) as he was released from jail and attempted to find some way to integrate back into normal life. He was presented as a figure struggling to overcome an aspect of him that he had come to recognise society found monstrous.

Whether Charlie himself could actually understand that repulsion, rather than just recognise it, underpinned the drama, as well as much of MacFadyen’s performance. We witnessed Charlie’s struggle to arrive at equilibrium on how to view himself, the conflict arising from the fact he felt himself to be both a decent man and a deviant; blameless and culpable.

That Secret Life chose to show us how the very act of shunning a paedophile makes it all the more likely they will strike again, was inevitable – in many respects it’s the accepted liberal filmmaking line to take. And as Charlie found his lifelines cut off one after the other, it grew increasingly inevitable the temptation to abuse again would become unstoppable.

This though was where Secret Life really earned its stripes. As one reviewer at the time pointed out, the only time we saw Charlie really open up as a character was during the scenes in which he groomed a potential victim. His ability to relate to his quarry’s worldview was instructive, while being both touching and revolting at the same time. With a subtle performance that was almost too naturalistic, MacFadyen navigated all of the conflicting emotions, letting them all co-exist side by side.

So an excellent drama then – but not for reasons of bravery, just because it was extremely well made.
- Jack Kibble-White