Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Channel Four celebrates an amazing 25 years on the air this November, over the years they've stirred up controversy but also provided us with some of the most stimulating and unforgettable shows of all time. Here we take a look at some of the best bits.

25 years ago, Autumn 1982 highlights
Channel 4 opened with Countdown, with Richard Whiteley the first face to be seen on the new channel and Carol Vorderman the first woman. The first voice heard was continuity announcer, Paul Coia. Channel 4 News started with Peter Sissons and Trevor McDonald as anchors. Brookside also formed part of the launch night line-up.

Comedy came from The Paul Hogan Show and The Comic Strip Presents… Five Go Mad in Dorset. Commissioned features included Walter and P’Tang Yang Kipperbang. Twenty Twenty Vision was launched as the channel’s flagship current affairs programme, alongside A Week In Politics. What the Papers Say debuted on Channel 4 after a 26-year run on ITV. The Tube launched with unknowns Paula Yates and Jools Holland presenting. The RSC’s adaptation of Nicholas Nickelby introduced Channel 4’s drama output. The Avengers and The Munsters made an idiosyncratic return to British TV, while American Football was introduced to the British public. The channel experienced its first controversy with The Animals Film, a look at vivisection. Opinions provided 30-minutes of no frills polemic. Keith Allen embarked on his ill-fated chat show Whatever You Want. Black on Black was a magazine show for the black community. Natural History strand Fragile Earth started with a film by Phil Agland.

20 years ago, Autumn 1987 highlights
Saturday Live continued making stars of Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Harry Enfield, Julian Clary and Paul Whitehouse. The satirical revue show Who Dares Wins also continued – the first major comedy exposure for Rory McGrath and Tony Robinson. Equinox investigated how snack foods were created and examined safety conditions on board a Polaris nuclear submarine. Jonathan Porritt concluded his challenging series Battle for the Planet about the future of the environment. But the documentary highlight was the transmission of Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour epic film Shoah about the Holocaust. Shoah was broadcast over two nights with no commercial breaks. Drama included Peter Bowles in The Irish RM. Minority sports receiving their 15 minutes of fame included The British Speed Chess Championship, while the more mainstream Channel 4 Racing continued with John McCririck and Derek Thompson settling in for an ongoing run. Angela Carter talked about her novels, including The Company of Wolves recently filmed by Channel 4, in Off the Page. The Eleventh Hour – from 1982 the outlet for Channel 4’s experimental filmmaking – continued with The First Betrayal, a history of the British Labour Movement. Dispatches debuted, replacing Diverse Reports as the flagship current affairs strand. Jonathan Ross continued reinventing the chat show with The Last Resort, while Anneka Rice’s bottom achieved small screen immortality in another series of Treasure Hunt.

15 years ago, Autumn 1992 highlights
A revolution in early morning television occurred as The Big Breakfast launched, hosted by Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin, and backed up by Paula Yates, Bob Geldoff and Mark Lamarr. It would run for nine years. The sporting highlight was Kabbadi – the Indian sport where players hold their breath between turns. Four-Mations, Channel 4’s animation strand, continued in this period. Desmond’s continued and a new series of Black Bag started with an investigation into policing in Brixton. Without Walls asked “Was Michelangelo gay?” and Jimmy Savile explained why he was on the road to Hell in The Obituary Show. Channel 4’s commitment to short films – continued today through the Film Four Lab – was amplified by a new series of Short and Curlies. Jonathan Ross Met Madonna in an hour-long special and discussed her scandalous new book, Sex. Clive Anderson rounded off Friday night with an interview with Michael Palin. Equinox investigated chaos theory and crop circles, while new documentary strand Cutting Edge followed a psychiatric “crisis unit”. Critical Eye followed the fortunes of English, Scottish and German football fans at the European Championship in Sweden. The Word returned on Friday nights, hosted by Terry Christian and Dani Behr.

10 years ago, Autumn 1997 highlights
Rory Bremner started a new series and quickly got his teeth into the new Labour Government. The satirical theme continued in the evergreen Drop the Dead Donkey. ER led a host of top quality US imports including NYPD Blue, Frasier and Friends. A drama based on Anthony Powell’s novels, A Dance to the Music of Time, approached its climax, while Cutting Edge slipped into the murky world of life at The Daily Sport in Sex, Lies and Aliens. The Ba Ba Zee, the channel’s experimental black programming strand continued with documentaries on reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and racism in Brazil. Chris Evans continued his meteoric rise with TFI Friday. Channel 4’s triple Emmy award-winning children’s series Wise Up investigated racial prejudice in a south London bowling club, while ethics strand Witness questioned whether Myra Hindley should remain imprisoned. New flagship arts documentary strand Art House started with a look at Van Gogh fakes. Meanwhile, on Football Italia, a young Ronaldo appeared for Inter Milan…

5 years ago, Autumn 2002 highlights
The Osbournes took up residence at Channel 4, Celebrity Big Brother returned and Jamie Oliver attempted to transform a group of unemployed youths in Jamie’s Kitchen. Molly Dineen documented the historic departure of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords in The Lord’s Tale, while acclaimed director Mike Figgis followed the artist Jeremy Deller as he staged an ambitious re-enactment of The Battle of Orgreave. Feltham Sings provided a completely new perspective on Europe’s largest young offender’s institution, with young criminals expressing their lives and thoughts through musical collaboration. Marrying a Stranger followed young Muslims trying to reconcile their parents’ traditional views with their own modern desires, and Hermione Morris and Mark Strong starred in Falling Apart, which used real-life testimonies as the basis for a disturbing drama about domestic violence. Writers Aminatta Forma and Peter Godwin attempted to find out What’s Wrong With Africa?, while David Starkey brought us the story of two of England’s Tudor monarchs in Edward and Mary.