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

First published November 2002


January …
In a major two-part drama, Kenneth Branagh starred as ShackletonNo Going Back followed those making life-changing decisions … the history of the SAS was told in Commando … the latest reality show was Eden…and The Trust went behind the scenes of a health centre.

February …
Rotten sitcom The Estate Agents was another spin-off from Comedy Lab … Sammy Davis Jnr. and Richard Pryor were Kings of Black Comedy … while MTV hit Jackass arrived.

March …
Make My Day saw unsuspecting young people subjected to the strangest days of their lives … and Daisy Donovan hosted panel game Does Doug Know.

April …
Comedy drama came in the form of The Book GroupThe Edwardian Country House was the latest programme taking a family back to the past … Football’s Fight Club investigated the rise of hooliganism … RI:SE was C4′s new breakfast show … while a series of programmes on sexuality included the unique Truth About Gay Animals.

May …
So Graham Norton mutated into the daily V Graham NortonDaisy Daisy saw Ms Donovan hit the Wax/Theroux trail and meet American eccentrics … Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall introduced the spin-off Treats From the Edwardian Country House … and David Aaronovitch presented a history of Sex on TV.

June …
Six Feet Under was the latest acclaimed US import.

July …
People with terminal illnesses were the subject of Death … the latest Star Trek incarnation, Enterprise, was the first to debut on C4 … American sitcom Scrubs began … Nigel Farrell and Nippi Singh documented their efforts to find A Place in France … while Frontier House was the US adaptation of the C4 “House” format.

August …
Classmates saw past students return to school … and Noble and Silver’s joyless “experimental” comedy moved over from E4.

September …
Bo Selecta was a bizarre topical comedy show … Crime Team saw celebrities attempt to solve crimes committed many years ago … the life of students of St Hilda’s College, Oxford was detailed in College GirlsAlias was the newset US import in the early evenings … The Showbiz Set told of the rise and fall of many light entertainers … while Zadie Smith’s best-seller White Teeth was dramatised.

October …
Timothy Spall underwent a midlife crisis in Bodily Harm … and The Art Show was the new cultural strand.

November …
C4′s latest high-profile US import, The Osbournes, kicked off on Friday nights.


The Big Breakfast
It had been a long time since Chris and Gaby had lorded it over GMTV, and The Big Breakfast‘s viewing figures had been declining for many years. Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen had helped to bring some of the audience back, but their departure in January 2001 saw the programme completely run out of steam. A new look saw comedian Paul Tonkinson take over as main presenter, but he only lasted three months before being dropped. The re-launched format wasn’t a success, and, as with all the programme’s revamps, it soon reverted its original look. With viewing figures continuing to dip, it was decided to put the contract for the programme out to tender. C4 received dozens of applications, and commissioned a handful of companies to produce pilots. Despite touting Chris Moyles as a potential front man for their new look Big Breakfast, Planet 24 lost out to a joint bid from Princess Productions and Sky. The final episode of The Big Breakfast on 29 March was a grisly three hours of self-aggrandisement, with the deposit of a giant garden gnome giving a two-fingered salute outside 124 Horseferry Road summing up the whole thing. In 1992, The Big Breakfast was a lively and exciting way to wake up. In 2002, it was a joyless, tired mess.

Misc …

Jimmy McGovern’s Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday … Jon Ronson’s The Double Life of Jonathan King was postponed by six weeks for legal reasons … Adam and Joe counted down The 50 Greatest Magic Tricks in May … the channel marked the fifth anniversary of Diana’s death with the opera When She Died … it was announced that from the end of November, Brookside would only be shown on Saturday afternoons … and A Clockwork Orange was shown on television for the first time.

On Screen

Dermot O’Leary
O’Leary’s first association with Channel 4 came in 1997 when he was a warm-up man on Light Lunch. He then began presenting a range of youth programmes including No Balls Allowed and Buzz, and co-presented Inside Rugby for a while in 1999 after it was realised that as main presenter Thierry Lacroix couldn’t actually speak English very well. His big break came later that year when he joined the T4 presenter line-up. His ability to improvise and wry humour soon made him a favourite, but perhaps his finest hour came during the coverage of 2000′s Party in the Park when he had to talk non-stop for 20 minutes while Elton John got ready. In 2001 he was given the job of fronting E4′s Big Brother spin-off show, Big Brother’s Little Brother, which started to become something of a cult – many arguing that he was a more accomplished host then Davina McCall. He was also active behind the scenes, working as a writer and researcher on a number of programmes. It’s not hard to see Dermot becoming a prime-time mainstay in years to come.

Banzai first appeared on E4′s opening night, and it remains the best thing that the channel has ever produced. The cod-Japanese betting show was blessed with some fantastic ideas (“Coming up – Egg Roulette… with Go West!”) and amusing presentation, including Burt Kwouk’s deadpan voice-overs. Banzai‘s most famous sketch in 2002, though, was something that never made it to the screen, after they were moved on by police while trying to measure the speed of the Queen Mother’s funeral procession. Consistent invention meant that what could have been a one-joke format (as the similar BBC Choice series Stupid Punts illustrates) continued to amuse and entertain for two series so far. At a time when much of C4′s comedy was based on a single idea stretched to breaking point, Banzai was a breath of fresh air – it was funny, it was cheeky, and it just didn’t give a toss.

Off Screen

• Mark Thompson took charge full-time on 12 March and announced that no underperforming programmes were safe. Brookside was moved to a single Saturday omnibus slot and RI:SE and Richard and Judy were said to be at risk.
• The channel reported a loss of £28m, and around 200 job cuts in total followed. While the bare bones of C4 remained, the film production arm Film Four was wound up.
• The director of College Girls complained after C4 decided to drop the fifth episode of the series, citing low viewing figures and dissatisfaction with the quality of the series.
The Brass Eye Special was repeated in May.


“It’s the least we could do after all the sh … stuff they’ve given us over the years.”
Mike McLean during the final Big Breakfast

Brookside has been a brilliant programme for Channel 4 as well as the most ground-breaking and influential soap of the past two decades. It remains a high quality drama, which is still enjoyed by many viewers. But peak-time has changed radically across British TV and is no longer an environment in which Brookside can thrive. We want to explore new ideas in peak, while still giving Brookside regulars a chance to enjoy the show over the next year.”
Mark Thompson

“There was always a sense that Jeremy Isaacs didn’t want anything changed; in his book he said there were the “touchstones of the remit”. Well, that’s crap. The fact is that the channel has got to go on re-inventing itself and it has to have sense of authorship. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that under Mark Thompson’s leadership the channel will balance the need to reinterpret the remit with the need to run an efficient business.”
Michael Grade

My Favourite Channel 4 Moment …

The Double Life of Jonathan King (2002)
Ever since I’d caught the excellent The Ronson Mission on DEFII I’d followed Jon Ronson’s TV career with some interest. His first appearance on Channel 4, however, was a comparative disappointment; an After Dark style series in which Ronson chaired discussions with various eccentrics and enthusiasts. It was entertaining telly, but disappointingly static. Ronson’s strength was in his interaction with other cultures and people, rather than in chairing a debate.

Thankfully, his next series Secret Rulers of The World found Ronson leading an investigation into counter-cultural religions and beliefs. He was back to producing thought-provoking and authored telly.

When news came out that his next project was to be an investigation into Jonathan King, who was about to stand trial for sexually assaulting underage boys, I knew that this was going to be a fascinating television moment. That its original broadcast was delayed due to legal reasons made my anticipation even keener.

But funnily enough my initial reaction to the programme was disappointment again. The first 20 minutes seemed to be made up of fairly anonymous reportage. However gradually, with the facts established, Ronson’s own editorial stance seeped in. And the programme took an interesting turn …

With paedophiles equated to the bogey man in today’s society, it was instructive and important to listen to ex Radio 1 DJ Chris Denning’s attempts to justify his own criminal actions. Highly revealing was a sequence when Denning would refer euphemistically to “young people” and Ronson would pointedly paraphrase this back to him as “young boys”. Here we were being introduced to a vital aspect of Denning’s mindset which sought to legitimise his actions. It prompted us to realise that your Dennings and Kings aren’t some quintessence of evil, alien to the rest of the world. Nor are they thwarted romantics with progressive morals (as Jonathan King sought to portray himself – the Oscar Wilde allusion being particularly inappropriate). They’re self-delusional, that’s true, but also they’re something far more mundane and insipid and everyday.

Ronson’s greatest asset in this programme was his ability to get right to the heart of the matter – often in a simple and frank way. The stand-out moment came when Ronson mused: “King saw himself as a martyr. I saw him as someone who shouldn’t have had sex with underage boys”. There was the clash in world-views, simply put.

After the programme finished my viewing companion and I sat and talked about it for a good 30 minutes. It had been a long time since we’d discussed a programme like that.
Graham Kibble-White