Compiled by Steve Williams, Ian Jones and Jack Kibble-White

First published November 2002


January …
David Caruso moved from NYPD Blue to Michael HayesKangaroo Palace was set in the 1960s and depicted the lives of Australians moving to London, while a deposed African dictator made the trip in the 1990s in the lousy sitcom In Exile … developments in car safety were examined in CrashThe Brats showcased new musical talent in association with the NME … and Travelog got a new look, profiling travel opportunities for the disabled.

February …
Marks and Gran took a break from sitcom to dramatise the life of Oswald Mosley.

March …
Planet Football looked forward to the World Cup by examining the worldwide soccer scene, supplemented with occasional live matches … First on Four traced the careers of comedians who made their debuts on the channel, including Harry Enfield, Julian Clary and The Comic Strip … Slap! Love Lies and Lipstick was set in a department store and nearby bank … while Light Lunch moved to teatimes and an obvious change in name to Late Lunch.

April …
David Aaronovitch looked at literature in BookedChef for a Night saw members of the public take over a restaurant … Jo Whiley started her earnest music chat show … the first episode of Scrapheap was screened – it would later add a “Challenge” to the end of its name … and the words and numbers game made a rare peak-time excursion with Celebrity Countdown.

May …
Dawson’s Creek began … Lynda La Plante enraged techies with her drama Killer NetThe Tourist Trap examined the behaviour of various nationalities on holiday … Melvyn Bragg examined the next day’s papers in The Sundays … while Chris Evans toured the world’s golf courses in Tee Time.

June …
The proprietors of The River Café got their own cookery show, The Italian KitchenWatercolour Challenge began a lengthy daytime run … Richard Seymour and Dick Powell took a closer look at everyday products in Designs On YourBarking was a sketch series showcasing new comedians … and Ally McBeal began.

July …
Fay Weldon’s ’70s-set drama Big Women began … South Park arrived from Sky One … while another Friday night fixture started: So Graham Norton.

August …
Five years after the first series, C4 part-funded Armisted Maupin’s More Tales of the CityEdinburgh or Bust followed stand-up comedians at the Fringe … and the first anniversary of Diana’s death was marked with a series of programmes on landmines, including a series of French shorts, Spotlight on a Massacre.

September …
Nigel Slater’s Real Food saw the culinary expert assisted by one Nigella Lawson … Jack Davenport starred in vampire drama UltravioletShe’s Gotta Have It saw Liza Tarbuck bullying women into trying out the latest styles … David Bailey looked at Models Close UpPortillo’s Progress saw the temporarily-dethroned MP examine the future of the Conservative Party … while The 11 O’Clock Show: The News Alternative began.

October …
The Clintons – A Marriage of Power looked at two of the planet’s most famous people … Driven was C4′s new motoring show, while Charlie Higson fronted the film review Kiss Kiss Bang Bang … MTV’s claymation series Celebrity Death Match arrived on Friday nights … Davina McCall ran around city centres attempting to set up a StreetmateIs It Legal? moved over from ITV … and four decades of sex lives were examined in Sex Bomb.

November …
The Young Person’s Guide to Becoming a Rock Star took a wry look at the music business … Anatomy of Desire examined what went on under the nation’s bedclothes … Peter Kay and Trigger Happy TV starred in the first series of Comedy Lab … Joe Layburn investigated miscarriages of justice in Joe PublicBody Story looked at people’s insides … the animated sitcom Bob and Margaret began … while Planet Ustinov saw the raconteur follow in the footsteps of Mark Twain.

December …
A new comedy talent made his debut in The Johnny Vegas Television Show.


American Football
Channel 4 had tried to bring many minority sports to British screens, some with more success than others. Perhaps the most famous for many years was American Football, which had made its debut within a week of the channel’s launch in 1982. However C4 never really found a decent way to present it. At one point in the late ’80s comedy double act The Vicious Boys were in charge, whose lame gags about refrigerators did nothing but piss off the loyal audience. Later the arrival of former player Mick Luckhurst added some credibility, but little technical ability. Eventually a settled format was found with Gary Imlach hosting a 90-minute highlight show late on Monday nights and a magazine show on Saturday mornings. However after 1998′s Superbowl, C4 abruptly dropped their coverage of their sport. It was said that this came about because attention was being focused on the fact that much of their programming was bought in, and the axing of gridiron showed they didn’t have to rely on imports. C5 then picked up the sport, screening live games overnight, but their scheduling (even the Superbowl highlights went out way after midnight) still means that it has little of the profile it did 10 or 15 years ago.

Misc …

TV Dinners in January saw a TV first as placenta was used in a recipe … Dermot Morgan died, and as a mark of respect the imminent new series of Father Ted was delayed by a week … a weekend of programming marking the anniversary of Labour’s election win was screened under the title Now We Are One … the screening of the episode of Ellen where she announced she was a lesbian was the excuse for a Coming Out Party theme night … The Comic Strip returned to C4 with the first new film for five years, “Four Men in a Car” … Dazed and Confused magazine took control of the schedules for a night in Renegade TV Gets Dazed … the MOBO Awards were networked for the first time … World Aids Day was marked with a fund-raising evening of music and comedy presented by Stephen Fry Live at the Lighthouse … the festive season was marked with a number of programmes on alcohol in the Smashed season … and 4 Later saw a new look to late night programmes on Thursdays – Sundays.

On Screen

Graham Norton
Norton first came to the public’s attention after some memorable appearances in Father Ted, and the odd sighting of his stand-up act on TV. It was Channel 5 that gave him his first break, fronting panel game Bring Me the Head of Light Entertainment just after the channel launched and as a regular stand-in on The Jack Docherty Show. But soon it was Channel 4 offering him the most work, and he soon became ubiquitous. In the spring he fronted theme nights for two consecutive Saturdays, holding a Coming Out Party celebrating “The Puppy Episode” of Ellen, followed seven days later by Eurovision’s Waterloo, looking at the Song Contest. His success fronting Docherty’s show saw the producers decide to give him his own series, and So Graham Norton began on Channel 4 in July. His unique interviewing style, coupled with his ability to get the most out of his audience and his researchers’ ability to find exactly the right sort of guest, saw it become an instant hit. The show soon became a Friday night fixture, and despite at times relying rather too much on a parade of freaks from the USA it managed to consistently entertain. Norton soon found himself much sought-after, but in 2001 he turned down a deal with the BBC to stick with C4. With the programme extended to five nights a week in 2002, the channel certainly thinks he’s one of their biggest stars.

Former occupant of the CBBC Broom Cupboard, Andi Peters arrived at Channel 4 in 1998 via a stint at LWT. He wasn’t specifically hired as a presenter (although he did regularly front special programmes interviewing celebrities) but instead as Head of Youth Programming. The first subject of his attention was Sunday mornings. This was the nearest thing C4 had to a specific slot for young people, with programmes like Wise Up and the Hollyoaks omnibus, but there was little attempt to turn this into a specific strand. Peters therefore decided to brand the whole morning, from 6am to lunchtime, as T4, with Ben Shepherd providing links between the output. In its early days the biggest reaction came from fans of The Waltons, enraged at the huge, animated on-screen logo that was displayed during the programme. Eventually, T4 was streamlined to begin at 10am (with The Waltons screened an hour earlier), and with new presenters Margherita Taylor and especially Dermot O’Leary the strand started to get a reputation for an irreverent approach and the home of a range of popular teen shows (especially when Dawson’s Creek joined the line-up). So successful was it that the strand was soon expanded to take in all the channel’s teen output, during school holidays, on Friday teatimes and Saturday mornings, and on the channel’s digital spin-off E4.

Off Screen

Cutting Edge documentary “Daddy’s Girl” was dropped when it became apparent that one of the father-daughter pairs featured were actually boyfriend and girlfriend.
• The channel launched its first spin-off when Film Four began transmitting on digital, cable and satellite TV from 1 November. The first night was simulcast on C4 and included the premiere of The Usual Suspects and a contribution from Adam and Joe.
• C4 were criticised by the ITC for screening The Omen on Christmas Day.
• The launch of Sky Digital meant that the channel could be seen in the whole of Wales for the first time, while S4C’s digital version contained programmes entirely in the Welsh language.


“Not since thirtysomething has a show divided its viewership so definitively between the camps of ‘can’t get enough’ and ‘what is this crap?’”
Dennis Hensley on Ally McBeal

“It’ll be like having a repertory cinema in your own living room.”
David Shaw, C4 press officer, on Film Four

My Favourite Channel 4 Moment …

Wanted (1997)
There have been many moments of great television over the years, and Channel 4 have been responsible for a lot of those, The Tube, Countdown, Treasure Hunt, The Word, The Big Breakfast and many others …

However, my favourite has to come from the late 1990′s, the second series of Wanted, hosted this time around by ex-MTV VJ Ray Cokes, who is in my view a wonderful talent and really helped make the second series a great improvement on the first series which was poorly hosted by Richard Littlejohn.

The moment in question was when ex-SAS man Dave McBride was brought back as a Tracker. He was given what was seen as a “warm-up” task for him in tracking down two female contestants who were in their 50′s, I believe. He said he was looking forward to taking them down, easily. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go according to plan.

They gave him the slip, and he could not get back on their tail, no matter how hard he tried. Even on the live Sunday show, he was not able to find them in their telephone box. This happened three weeks in a row. For the ex-SAS man, this was major league embarrassing, and he had to be taken off the physical tracking, and brought back to the studio. His replacement tracker was on their case all the time and caught them on the next live show.

It was fun to see this ex-SAS man getting outwitted and outmanoeuvred at every turn, and it was amusing to see him getting more and more frustrated. Not surprisingly, Ray Cokes ribbed poor Dave McBride mercilessly about this who didn’t seem to like that much either.
Ian Beaumont