Compiled by Ian Jones and Steve Williams

First published November 2007


January …
Lisa Tarbuck challenged contestants to judge each other Without Prejudice … couples exchanged partners and obscenities in equal measure for Wife Swap … and life behind bars was laid bare in the brutal drama Buried.

February …
20 Things to do Before You’re 30 was C4′s latest youth comedy drama effort … groundbreaking coverage of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca was relayed in the nightly programme Hajj – The Greatest Trip on Earth … couples seeking to buy new properties were the subjects of Relocation Relocation … and 100 finalists competed for the chance to sing on stage with the English National Opera in Operatunity.

March …
Boys and Girls spectacularly failed to re-define Saturday night live entertainment, leaving its creator, Chris Evans, publicly contemplating life as a market trader … one of the 20th century’s greatest scientific discoveries was re-told in the four-part DNA: The Story of Life … military feats were charted in Last Missions Of WW2The Clinic documented numerous encounters with cosmetic surgery … and joyless spoof game show The People’s Book of Records began.

April …
Matt James demonstrated provincial horticulture in The City Gardener … Eddie Izzard, Hugo Speer and Joanne Whalley turned 40 in a glossy three-part adult drama … Georgian Underworld explored the often-grisly social history of the 1700s … and Armando Iannucci attempted a satirical reflection on daily events in Gash.

May …
Marc Morris recounted the history of Britain’s fortifications in Castle … and three families allowed a panel of adolescents to resolve their domestic disputes in Trust Me, I’m a Teenager.

June …
Grand Slam pitted TV quiz show veterans in a contest to win £50,000 … culinary etiquette was scrutinised in The Dinner Party InspectorsUnder The Knife With Miss Evans boasted the titular urologist addressing delicate medical conditions … Jon Snow put Tony Blair On Trial … a competition was launched to find Britain’s Best Home … and Bernard Manning took his stand-up act to India in Bernard’s Bombay Dream.

July …
No 57: The History of a House traced 200 years of interior design … the history of English fiction was profiled in The Story of the Novel … and Outside was a new late-night strand for alternative, experimental films, drama and documentaries.

August …
Recorded shortly before his death, Married to Maggie: Denis Thatcher’s Story featured the husband of the former Prime Minister talking to daughter Carol in the only TV interview of his life … 30 GCSE students were put through four weeks of 1950s education in That’ll Teach EmSome of My Best Friends Are … featured celebrities speaking about their personal faith … families from opposing ends of the social spectrum took turns in playing Masters and Servants … and The Big Monster Dig excavated prehistoric animal remains across Britain.

September …
10 celebrities competed in The Games, a week-long tournament of Olympic-style events … the discipline of free running was illustrated by a team of French athletes leaping across the capital’s rooftops in Jump London … the clash of Eastern and Western youth cultures formed the backdrop to drama Second Generation … yet another “dark” comedy, Peep Show, turned up on Friday nights … the full story of The First World War was re-told in 10 parts … the Archbishop of Canterbury aired his thoughts on contemporary moral and spiritual matters in Conversations With Rowan Williams … and the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was dramatised in The Deal.

October …
Hitler: The Rise of Evil starred Robert Carlyle in the title role … and Teen Big Brother: The Experiment was pre-recorded, but boasted the first on-screen coupling in the series’ British history.

November …
The science of the universe was explored in The Theory of EverythingBrits go to Hollywood charted the fortunes of UK film stars in America … famous episodes from classical civilisation were recreated through computer effects in Ancient Egyptians … celebrities were tricked into participating in bogus programmes in the dreadful The Pilot Show … and social history was the subject of Seven Ages of Britain.

December …
Andrew O’Connor was behind the hapless Bedsitcom which mixed reality television with scripted actuality.


After years of increasingly irrelevance, tawdry storylines and a startlingly frenzied decline in the standard of acting and production, the plug was finally pulled on Phil Redmond’s soap. Once groundbreaking, once even awe-inspiring, it had of late failed utterly to demonstrate its relevance to Channel 4 and to show any potential for improvement. Why it took so long to swing the axe is a mystery. Brookside was always on a rolling 12-month contract and needn’t have hung like an albatross around the channel’s neck for such a desperately long period, getting kicked around the schedules like a deflated football from weekday evenings to Saturday afternoons to, ultimately, the dumping ground of late Tuesday nights. Perhaps nobody at C4 knew with what to replace it. Perhaps the money that would be saved by giving it the chop wasn’t in such demand until now. The final episode went out on Tuesday 4 November. A wretched piece of undignified cat-calling and self-indulgent score-settling, it was a cardboard tombstone.

Misc …

The third series of The West Wing lasted three weeks at 8pm on Saturday nights, before being dumped at 11pm on Mondays … from Monday 17 March Channel 4 News introduced a new 12pm bulletin in anticipation of war in Iraq; the programme then became a permanent fixture … when conflict did break out, another Channel 4 News bulletin was temporarily added to the schedules between 7am and 8.10am … elsewhere J’Accuse was revived to complement the channel’s war coverage, and Dispatches uncovered links between Osama Bin Laden and various British organisations … major new productions of Twelfth Night and the modern opera The Death of Klinghoffer were screened … 4 Dance returned … The Salon threatened to become the channel’s first never-ending reality show … Straw Dogs was shown on television for the first time on Sunday 10 August … the T4 strand expanded to run on both Saturday as well as Sunday mornings from 13 September … Hollyoaks ran five nights a week from Monday 3 November … and RI:SE ended, virtually unnoticed, in December.

On Screen

Derren Brown
By presuming to play Russian Roulette Live on screen in October, Derren Brown vaulted himself up from the status of talking point on broadsheet inside pages to a front cover tabloid obsession. Despite the man’s continual protestations he was not some kind of irresponsible mystic, nor intent on glamorising gun culture, his “real time” attempt to avoid not getting a bullet in his own skull stirred up a classic Channel 4 controversy. Allegations the programme was rigged and the finale botched mingled with genuine complaints the stunt was “distasteful, trivialised suicide, promoted guns and would encourage copycat incidents”. Ofcom later cleared C4 of all charges. Brown, meanwhile, went on to enjoy an “enfant terrible” reputation far out of proportion to his previously arch and subtle Mind Control series of comic misdirection.

Grand Designs
It would have seemed preposterous to Jeremy Isaacs, and downright laughable to Michael Grade, that come the millennium the main thing propping up Channel 4′s peaktime weeknight schedule would be joinery. Grand Designs had begun quietly in 1999 but, thanks to charismatic host Kevin McCloud’s sulphurous assessments of the show’s amateur housebuilders, coupled with strong narratives of success and failure, had gone on to amass a huge following. By 2003 it was regularly one of the most-watched programmes on the channel, had gained a spin-off magazine and travelling roadshow, and helped create audiences for similarly-themed efforts such as Property Ladder and Location, Location, Location. Somehow the vagaries of real estate had become mainstream entertainment, while – at a push – ticking public service boxes in Channel 4′s charter (well, educating the nation about dry rot). The bubble would soon burst courtesy of too many crossover shows and “event” TV such as Britain’s Best Home, but for a while property programmes were the very foundation for C4′s existence.

Off Screen

• When Countdown was moved from 4.15pm to 3.15pm starting on Monday 15 September, questions were asked in Parliament and petitions launched.
• The channel’s annual share of viewers fell below 10% for the first time in 12 years.
• Vanni Treves, only the channel’s fourth chairman in its entire history, stepped down at the end of the year.
• A major shake-up of staff saw Tim Gardam leave as Director of Programmes; John McHugh and Danielle Lux quit the entertainment department; Kevin Lygo and Andrew Newman defect from five to be C4 Director of Programmes and Head of Entertainment respectively; and Ben Frow, responsible for commissioning Jamie’s Kitchen, How Clean is Your House? and Location, Location, Location, went in the opposite direction to five.


“It was a big brave choice that didn’t work. I don’t know how you experiment without making mistakes.”
Mark Thompson on Boys and Girls

“When I arrived here, half our ratings came from US shows and Brookside. It’s now 20%.”
Tim Gardam on handing over to Kevin Lygo

“I couldn’t pass up the chance to return to Channel 4. The combination of a bigger programme budget and the channel’s remit to cause trouble and to innovate represents a unique opportunity for a controller.”
Kevin Lygo on taking over from Tim Gardam

“What other television channel would try a completely untested live programme, strip it all the way through an autumn week at nine at night, plus 6pm and 11pm slots? It’s a genuinely pretty potty piece of television.”
Mark Thompson on The Games

My Favourite Channel 4 Moment …

Alt.TV: This is a True Story (2003)
Channel 4 for me has always worked best at the margins: at the edges of the property shows, dating games, imports, landmark dramas, chat shows and sitcoms, those quiet moments of magic which throw light on some unheralded part of life or the world.

This was one of the most beautiful documentaries it has ever funded. The filmmakers, led by Paul Berczeller, wanted to investigate an urban myth surrounding the death of a young Japanese woman in North Dakota. So the story went, after watching the Coen Brother’s Oscar winning film Fargo, Takako Konishi had travelled to the state capital, Bismarck, searching for the unclaimed money which had been buried by Steve Buscemi’s character in the film – despite protestations of the town’s people the movie was a fiction, and despite what the Coens had mischievously written in the opening caption card of the film (giving this documentary its title). Sadly, she was later found dead in some woods across the state line in Minnesota.

In reconstructing the final days of this mysterious girl, Berczeller was inspired by La Jetée, Chris Marker’s 1964 film about time travel (later remade by Terry Gilliam as Twelve Monkeys) which told its story entirely in still frames. He also took a music promoter, Mimi, who had more than a passing resemblance to the student who he had stand in the same wintry landscape as the dead girl, and in photographs with the very townspeople who had originally interacted with Takoko.

The result was a documentary filled with a range of atmospheric and importantly memorable images, besides being as solid a piece of journalism as anything you might find in primetime or with three times the duration on the big screen. It uncovered the truth behind what turned out to be a tragic urban myth, but in a way that gave Takoko back her dignity, revealing beneath it all there was a once happy girl who was handed one of life’s knocks, and couldn’t cope. I can’t imagine there are many of us who haven’t felt the same way.
- Stuart Ian Burns