Compiled by Ian Jones and Steve Williams

First published November 2007


January …
The latest reality show, Shattered, challenged contestants to stay awake as long as possible, not at all like Touch The Truck …replacing Fifteen to One at teatimes was Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden’s Beat the NationThe Voice charted the history of singing … members of the public trained to relive the life of a Spitfire AceWithout a Trace was the latest American import … and the Perrier Award winners defined “acquired taste” with Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace.

February …
Multi Emmy award-winning drama Angels in America got its British premiere … Robert Elms attempted to find daytime viewers the Perfect Getaway … the heroes of the Industrial Revolution were celebrated in Men of Iron … and there was an experiment to see if underachievers gained more from The Carrot or The Stick.

March …
Making Space sorted out cluttered homes … Kirstie Allsopp chivvied people onto The Property ChainNo Angels began … The OC was the latest addition to the T4 portfolio … unruly kids were sent to Brat CampThe Boy Whose Skin Fell Off was much acclaimed … and comic fans were challenged to dress up and go from Zero to Hero.

April …
Members of the public trained to be The Bodyguards … homeowners learnt whose house was the best Up Your Street … cameras followed those Risking It AllRamsay’s Kitchen Nightmares began … Nicky Hambleton-Jones was charged with making guinea pigs Ten Years Younger … and the Fairy Godfathers were a group of gay men turned life coaches, not at all like current US hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

May …
30 Minutes was the new current affairs strand … Waldemar Januscszak examined Van Gogh in Vincent: The Full StoryCelebrities Disfigured saw famous faces find themselves under the spotlight in a different way … and Derren Brown hosted a Séance.

June …
People tried to be the next Bollywood StarHuman Mutants examined why we look like we do … The Courtroom was Mersey TV’s daily drama commissioned to make up for the axing of Brookside … Ms Frost was the subject of What Sadie Did Next … and Honey I Ruined the House repaired appalling home improvements.

July …
Supernanny made her first jaunt to the naughty step … The Weapons That Made Britain were reviewed … Grub Smith examined 101 Things Removed from the Human Body … C4 examined the lives of Pagans … people who had gone through life-changing experiences were filmed Picking up the Pieces … couples found out if they were better off apart in Missing You Already … and the Lost Buildings of Britain were revealed.

August …
The story of Stalin was told … The Fucking Fulfords became unlikely celebrities … Nip/Tuck arrived from the USA and Sky One … Atlantic Britain was examined close-up … transatlantic drama NY-LON began … and Tony Robinson endured some of The Worst Jobs In History.

September …
Green Wing stretched the boundaries of the sitcom over nine frantically-edited hours … Kim and Aggie visited those Too Posh To Wash … ex-cons were followed as they tried Going StraightTrains With Pete Waterman saw the pop impresario study his first love … and cameras followed those living everyday life under Jewish Law.

October …
Kings of Comedy was the latest reality show … Ban This Filth was a post-modern show where “concerned citizens” discussed the latest titillating TV … Sex Traffic was the latest acclaimed drama … and a complete history of the Monarchy by David Starkey began its marathon run.

November …
The Simpsons arrived … Morgan and Platell grilled the newsmakers … Jon Ronson met some of the Crazy Rulers of the WorldPhoenix Nights spun off into the grim Max and Paddy’s Road to NowhereThe Sex Inspectors installed their first hidden cameras … Howard Goodall’s Twentieth Century Greats were profiled … and members of the public joined a Bomber Crew.

December …
Martin Rees considered What We Still Don’t Know … cameras watched as The Heist was planned … more C4 stars went abroad as Kim And Aggie Clean Up AmericaThe Last Chancers starred Adam Buxton as the lead singer of a hopeless band … and the story of Pete and Dud was told in Not Only But Always.


Rarely had there been a programme more heavily and purposefully repeated on the station. Friends actually served Channel 4 better in its recycled form – turning up at teatimes, lunchtimes, even breakfast times – than in its flagship berth of either 9 or 9.30pm on Friday night. After all, people would always tune in for a new episode. By dropping the show into slots outside primetime, the channel soon found itself with a readymade audience of two or three million just like that. In April 2003, C4′s 700th repeat screening took place which, added to first-run episodes, meant more than 900 editions had been aired since the show began in the UK in 1995, equivalent to one every three days. The final episode, broadcast on the same night as the launch of Big Brother 5 in May, came within months of the finales for equally popular imports Sex and The City and Frasier. Unlike them, however, the show remained a ubiquitous presence wherever C4 believed it had a weak point in its schedules.

Misc …

Graham Norton defected to the BBC in April … Regency House Party was a flop variant of the 1900s House franchise … Betrayed By New Labour was Greg Dyke’s TV essay … Jamie Theakston welcomed the first intake into the UK Music Hall of Fame … a TV veteran remembered his military days in Whicker’s War … daily reality show The Fit Farm was soon relegated from 6pm to 9am … from the makers of Banzai, Experimental was devoted to pointless endeavour … Edge of the City, an examination of inner-city racial violence, was postponed due to fear it would influence local elections and screened three months later … and the follow-up to Operatunity was, inevitably, Musicality.

On Screen

Gillian McKeith
A godsend to those who’d long accused Channel 4 of putting shit on television, You Are What You Eat served up the real thing in spades. The verbal eruptions of Gillian McKeith as she poked and massaged some overweight victim’s faecal matter epitomised the ease the nation appeared to feel at the return of nanny television. Here, together with How Clean is Your House, Supernanny and Brat Camp, was TV schooled in the teacher-knows-best ethic of the 1950s. Perhaps surprisingly for such an ostensibly anti-authority and disrespectful a country as our own, this disciplinarian finger-pointing was an instant hit. Keith became a figurehead for the trend, embodying a firm but fair attitude to layabouts which probably appealed just as much for its “there but for the grace of God” message as “serves them right”.

Paul Abbott’s tall tales of life on a Manchester housing estate claimed the mantle of “state-of-the-nation” drama from where it had been lying disused since Brookside lost its way. In a stroke, Channel 4 regained its credentials, if not quite its credibility, as a place for talked-about storytelling. Shameless was unsubtle, repetitive and bombastic, but got recommissioned even before the first series had finished its run (whereupon its place in the schedule was taken by equally salty contemporary drama No Angels). Christmas specials soon followed and the show became a franchise, perpetuating itself despite most of its original cast departing, Abbott writing increasingly fewer episodes and the content often drifting into a caricature of its former self. Nonetheless it became, for a while, Channel 4′s most well-known drama and, despite its caustic subject matter, one of its few shows watched and enjoyed by all ages.

Off Screen

• Michael Grade poached Mark Thompson to become Greg Dyke’s replacement as Director-General of the BBC.
• Thompson’s replacement was Andy Duncan, BBC Director of Marketing. He promptly binned his predecessor’s plans for a merger with five.
• Luke Johnson, former boss of Pizza Express, became the new Channel 4 chairman. His only previous television experience had come in the form of an appearance on BBC2 series Back to the Floor, where he spent a week assisting chefs in his Belgian-style restaurant Belgo. At one point, after being criticised by the head chef, he was seen threatening to walk out, ripping off his microphone and telling the producers, “you can stick your programme!”.
Little Friends, which involved children winding up celebrities with innuendo-laden questions, was censured by Ofcom.


“When we first saw him, I remember thinking he was a great talent who would be around for a long time. He’s blessed with funny bones.”
Kevin Lygo on Peter Kay

“This year we’ve had sex and masturbation. Congratulations – mission accomplished. What next year – bestiality? I would not be surprised if one of the contestants turns out to be a pretty young sheep.”
Will Wyatt on Big Brother 5

“I think if Channel 4 were privatised it would ruin what it does. It’s risky, controversial, different, innovative, because it is independent. If it were privatised it would destroy its remit and purpose.”
New C4 Chairman Luke Johnson

“Together we need to make sure that post-2010 or 2012 or whenever the digital switchover is completed, Channel 4 is at least as strong if not stronger than today in its reach and share of key audience.”
New C4 Chief Executive Andy Duncan

“It’s really bizarre, but for the past three years, the only shows that seem to be getting made by the channels that I work with are reality shows. I didn’t want to be Mr Reality.”
Dermot O’Leary

My Favourite Channel 4 Moment …

Who Killed Saturday Night TV? (2004)
For anyone who’d pretty much grown up in tandem with Channel 4, marvelling at all of the odd and offbeat programmes seemingly tumbling out of nowhere in every corner of the schedules, the turn of the millennium could hardly be described as a golden age in the station’s history.

Yet there was always a sense the old station was still in there somewhere, just a bit lost and confused as it struggled to keep up with current trends and broadcast business practices. Small surprise, perhaps, that one of the few cast-iron moments of greatness during this time should have concerned itself, in a roundabout way, with that very problem.

Who Killed Saturday Night TV? was a sympathetic look at the rise and fall of a seemingly bygone trend in entertainment, simultaneously celebrating and ridiculing it, and leaving what negative comments there were to be uttered to the actual stars and production team members, or at the very least contemporaneous critics like Clive James. Everyone who was interviewed had something useful and relevant to say, from Michael Jackson’s uneasiness with the format of Blind Date to Les Dennis’ dignified summation that “there’s no point being bitter about the business changing”. The choice of archive footage was inspired too, most notably Bruce Forsyth’s genuinely startling extended (so much so that they had to spool through most of it) rant against the press reaction to the ludicrous-looking Big Night.

The conclusion that the once-unassailable Saturday night viewing figures had been demolished not by terrible programming decisions, outmoded performers and monstrous egos, but by “life in general”, sort of pulled the rug from under the whole exercise. But it was the best thing to appear on Channel 4 on a Saturday night since, well, Saturday Live.
- TJ Worthington