BBC100: The 100 Most-Broadcast BBC Programmes Of All Time (80-76)

The ill-advised journey through the papery soup of BBC scheduling history continues, your intrepid reporter wading on with increasingly papier-mâchéd legs to bring you the following five dispatches from television history. Quite a long one, given the sheer bloody amount of history for some of them.

80: The Phil Silvers Show

(Shown 1107 times, 1957-2004)

Here’s an entry with a truly impressive range of broadcast years. Especially so considering it’s an American sitcom, which (a few exceptions aside) generally enjoy a run on British screens not too dissimilar from their original US airdates, or which see broadcast rights batted between the Beeb, ITV and any other channel operators around at the time (cf The Flintstones). But, let’s be honest here, The Phil Silvers Show isn’t just any American sitcom. As far as comfort-viewing sitcoms that transcend age and time go, I’d argue it’s (at least to British eyes) a stateside cousin of Hancock’s Half Hour.

Perhaps like several of you reading this, the name of The Phil Silvers Show is one that always seemed to appear in the long grass of the post-post-bedtime schedules, and as such always held a curious allure along with the likes of Married… With Children or Sledge Hammer! in similar out-of-bounds slots on ITV. And while those latter two proved to be the more immediate draw for me when later bedtimes and earlier scheduling aligned (the bright NTSC colour bleed picture and brassy humour drawing me in like a child character in an unmade sequel to Poltergeist), that Silvers charm would later appeal on a different level. The levels of wit, craft and japery within each episode would easily turn out to be more nourishing in the long-term than gags about Peggy Bundy’s libido or Sledge’s near-erotic penchant for blasting perps.

Not that the antics of Bilko et al are the only classic US sitcom to make it big on the BBC, it’s just by far the longest-running on our screens. By comparison:

The Burns and Allen Show/George Burns and Gracie Allen, 109 showings (24/02/1957 to 09/09/1961 then 14/09/1979-11/01/1980, 291 episodes produced)

The Lucy Show, 146 showings (31/12/1962 to 28/12/1968 plus a one-off showing on 04/01/1980, 156 episodes produced, also shown on ITV)

The Jack Benny Program(me)/The Jack Benny Show, 58 showings (24/02/1957 to 15/02/1980, plus a one-off showing on 20/01/1990, 260 episodes produced)

Bewitched, 188 showings (13/10/1965 to 28/06/1976, 254 episodes produced, also repeated on ITV & C4)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 34 showings (13/02/1971 to 29/12/1972, 168 episodes produced, later shown on C4)

By comparison, there are just 144 episodes across four seasons of The Phil Silvers Show, yet episodes featuring Sgt Bilko and his platoon have been on BBC channels more than twice as often as all the above shows combined. Why? Silvers’ fast-talking wiseass character reminding audiences of Max Miller? The BBC having picked up the rights to the series for a bag of buttons? If anyone does know, I’d love to be informed, but whatever the backstory, it’s a safe bet that this is a programme that will always have an appreciative British audience.

79: Doctor Who

(Shown 1138 times, 1963-2021)

For many of these entries, if a sliver of data manages to sneak through my database without being picked up (a rogue repeat of QI masquerading under the title of ‘Oi’ due to fallibility of Genome’s OCR software, for example), it’s questionable anyone will notice. That’s what I’m banking on anyway. May I reiterate here, this is 855,306 rows of data I’m dealing with here, and that figure is growing as I fill in the occasional gap. When it comes to the next entry on the list, I suspect there will be people who’ll instantly notice whether I’ve missed a signed 4.10am repeat of an episode. So, in advance: trying my best here. I’ve corrected any listings marked ‘Dr Who’ and I’ve done my best to discount the Peter Cushing films.

I’ll admit, I’m not really much of a Whovian. The most impressive bit of Who trivia I know is that David Tennant’s stage surname is a reference-slash-tribute to Pet Shop Boy Neil, and when told this in an interview with Word magazine, Neil Tennant replied that he stopped watching Doctor Who during the William Hartnell years. Typical pop star, eh?

For the majority of its life, Doctor Who was all about Saturday evenings. Starting from that first ever episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’ beaming from the BBC Television Service to the homes of Britain on 23 November 1963, it swiftly became as much of a Saturday fixture as Grandstand or Dad’s pool coupon going in the bin just after the classified results. It took until Wednesday 27 December 1972 for the Tardis to escape the confines of the weekend schedule, by which time Jon P’Twee was playing the dandiest of all Doctors, the post-Christmas schedule enlivened by a feature-length opportunity to see the complete story ‘Dr Who and the Sea Devils’ in one sitting.

The same tactic was employed the next time The Doctor wriggled free of the Saturday evening slot, with 7pm on Monday 3 September 1973 reserved for another “complete adventure in one programme”, this time ‘The Day of the Daleks‘. It was a tactic BBC schedulers were definitely warming to, with a movie-length omnibus of previously screened stories airing on 27 December of the next few years (1973: ‘The Green Death‘, 1974: ‘Planet of the Spiders‘, 1975: ‘Genesis of the Daleks‘).

On Monday 5 July 1976, a run of individual repeat episodes made it onto weekday BBC-1 for the first time, with the story ‘Planet of Evil’ (a four-parter by Louis Marks) repeated on consecutive weekdays, each starting between 6.20 and 6.35pm. It being a four-parter meant that left Friday free. That left room for another “complete adventure in one programme”, with ‘The Sontaran Experiment‘ taking up a fifty-minute slot.

So, that nice little aside, um, aside, The Doctor returned to his regular stomping ground of Saturday evenings. That was until 4 August 1977, where a repeat of Robert Holmes’ four-part story ‘The Deadly Assassin‘ went out on Thursday evenings. That tactic was deployed again on 13 July 1978, with Bob Baker and Dave Martin story ‘The Invisible Enemy‘ going out on four successive Thursdays. That run was immediately followed by Robert Holmes’ ‘The Sun Makers’, brightening up a quartet of Thursdays from 10 August 1978. Not that these midweek departure times for the Tardis were a promotion, of course. If you’re wondering what was keeping The Doctor away from his regular weekend slot during that time, it was the inaugural run of the latest smash hit US import, “a new film series starring Lynda Carter”. For the record, the Sat night offering that shunted Who to midweek slots in August ’77 – the less glamorous offering of ‘some films’. In an era where purportedly ‘mainstream’ channels like Five or ITV2 can cram themselves full of films on any given day and nobody will bat an eyelid, it seems odd that a six-year-old film being shown would be a big deal, but that was the reality of life before video shops. Anyway.

In 1980, there was a return to the daily Doctor, with Terry Nation’s ‘Destiny of the Daleks‘ going out each weekday from Tuesday 5 August. The following Tuesday, the same treatment was almost afforded David Agnew’s ‘City of Death‘, which instead went out on Tuesday-Wednesday-Tuesday-Wednesday. If the goal behind all this was to make sure Who kids were buying the Radio Times to avoid missing an episode, it must surely have worked.

Come 1981, and the long reign of Doctor Who as a show primarily shown on Saturdays was over, meaning the lengthy process of my highlighting all the times it went out on other days is also over. Phew. From ‘Full Circle‘ onwards, weekday Who was very much the norm. November 1981 also saw something else new: a John Nathan-Turner curated season of classic Who stories, going out under the banner of The Five Faces of Doctor Who and designed to mark the debut of The Doctor’s fifth face, the one shared by Peter Davison. As well as offering younger fans a rare glimpse of previous Doctors, this marked the first time Who episodes had aired on BBC-2.

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For the remainder of the 1980s, Doctor Who found itself clattering around the schedules like a particularly erratic Tardis. By 1989, even a guest appearance from Hale & Pace couldn’t arrest the inevitable ratings decline that came with being shoved in the opposite-Corrie death slot. And so, Michael Grade had Doctor Who fired from a cannon into the Sun. As a result, on 6 December 1989, with the last part of Rona Munro’s ironically-titled ‘Survival’ (“The Doctor and Ace move towards their final confrontation with the animal inside us all”) it seemed that Doctor Who was finally coming to an end.

But, the Doctor wasn’t going to take such a trifling thing as ‘death’ particularly lightly. August 1991 saw the first of what would become many repeats of classic Doctor Who on BBC2, starting with (appropriately enough) a repeat airing of ‘An Unearthly Child‘, the story that kicked off the whole affair. The following January, the first of a series of Friday evening classic episodes arrived, starting from the very earliest surviving episodes, as part of a weekly cult TV strand – the lead-in to these classic Who repeats was Thunderbirds.

So well-received were these repeats that November 1993 saw a brief run of classic episodes back on BBC1 to mark Who’s Thirtieth anniversary, and in primetime to boot. Admittedly in the Friday night 7.30pm opposite-Corrie slot, but at least it showed someone at TV Centre still cared about the series. And then, in 1996, New Who! The Paul McGann TV movie aired on Monday 27 May 1996, and… well, that was a one-off, as everyone knows.

A few flurries of repeats fell upon the ground (or more accurately, upon BBC2) across the late 1990s and in the first few months of the 21st century, but from that point (specifically the last part of Genesis of the Daleks going out on 29 February 2000) it would be five whole years before Who reappeared in the biggest possible way. And that… is a story you hopefully (really, hopefully, in the interests of keeping this entry to a manageable length) you already know.

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Bye, Bernard. The best companion.
In case you’re curious about that 02:20 up there – signed repeats.

NOTE: Entry updated on 7 August to better reflect that weekday episodes I’ve highlighted were repeats rather than first-run episodes. With thanks to Cinema Limbo. And an additional dollop of thanks due to Cinema Limbo for the following corrections:

“There were five other weekday repeats prior to 1972. Spearhead from Space aired at 6.20pm on Fridays 9-30 July 1971, and The Daemons aired as an omnibus at 4.20pm on Tuesday 28 December the same year. You also referred to the 1991 screening of An Unearthly Child as a repeat. It was actually the world premiere of the pilot episode, shot from essentially the same script as the actual first episode was a month later, but which was felt to be too clumsy and weak a production. There were a bunch of other non-Saturday repeats during the 1970s, which I assume you simply decided not to mention [Correct, this entry was long enough as it was – MGJ], but notable was The Robots of Death airing as a two-parter on New Year’s Eve/Day 1977/8, the latter episode being the only time an episode was networked on a Sunday until 1994, and in primetime on a non-Christmas Day until 2009.”

78: Watchdog

(Shown 1141 times, 1985-2019)

All together now: “Potential death trap.”

It really does seem a bit weird that a programme that feels so current (even if it actually ended a few years ago) started off as a segment in Nationwide, but that’s how Watchdog started. In 1980, TV’s beigest current affairs programme introduced a new consumer affairs slot hosted by Hugh Scully, which very swiftly became a fixture. So much so in fact that it was one of the few aspects of the ‘Wide to migrate to Sixty Minutes in 1983 (and if you don’t remember it or are too young to have been around then, Sixty Minutes was the BBC News version of New Coke).

Once Sixty Minutes was Six Feet Under within a year of launch, and the current ‘National News then Regional News’ format was introduced in its wake, there wasn’t really room in the news hour for a consumer affairs programme. And so, in 1985, Watchdog carved itself a place in the programme listings for the very first time as a standalone programme. Initially floating around the 6pm slot on Sunday evenings, the Nick Ross-Lynn Faulds Wood phase of the series lasted for 13 episodes between July and October.

The following November, Watchdog found a new home: on weekday mornings operating as a palate cleanser between the sugary Breakfast Time and Robert Kilroy-Silk’s spicy Day to Day at 8.40am each morning, as part of Michael Grade’s assault on daytime television. Nick Ross departed hosting duties, so Lynn Faulds Wood was joined on screen by husband John Stapleton.

Context not being provided. You’ll have to watch the episode.

This second phase didn’t stick around for too long – by May 1987, it was time for something new in that slot (if you count ‘twenty extra minutes of Breakfast Time’ as new), but the ‘Dog had still tucked a further 106 episodes under its collar. Come November 1987, it was back to early Sunday evenings for Faulds Wood and Stapleton, with a Monday afternoon repeat broadcast.

That’s until January 1988 – after just a few weeks back in that Sunday evening slot, it was time for Watchdog to move to a location in the schedules that’ll be a lot more familiar to many, a weekday primetime slot. For the first episode in this new slot, a 7.35pm home nestled comfortably in between Wogan and The Kenny Everett Television Show. I’d wager it’s here where the programme really seeped into the national consciousness, where the likes of Rory Bremner could throw on a wig, adopt a Scottish accent and present a stern warning about, I don’t know, a shady bunch of people selling something that won’t ever be delivered (by which he means the government). Or, more famously and (to be fair) accurately, Hugh Dennis getting indecent about the threat of cancer-pumping pepper grinders in The Mary Whitehouse Experience.

From there, it would ultimately become a vehicle for Anne Robinson, who in 1993 migrated from being The Voice Of The Viewers berating the actions of Them Upstairs in Points of View, to a wider remit as lead representative of the people against shady business practices beyond the confines of TV Centre. After departing for global infamy as host of The Weakest Link, Nicky Campbell took the Watchdog lead for a few years before Robinson returned in 2009, which saw the show extended to an hour. With Watchdog running rampant through the schedules, it’s little wonder that it finds itself amongst the most-shown BBC programmes of all-time.

Of course, all things come to an end, and in 2019 Watchdog was let off the leash for the final time (which is fortunate, as these canine references are getting tiresome). But it wasn’t disappearing entirely – it would be making occasional appearances as a segment on The One Show – the shiny-floored successor to Nationwide, where Watchdog first gave those formative consumer yelps so long ago. Which is nice, isn’t it?

Alongside the ‘regular’ show, there have also been a lot of spin-off series. Like, a lot.

  • Junior Watchdog (Weekday mornings, Feb 1987, BBC1) “All this week Lynn Faulds Wood and John Stapleton are bringing You Junior Watchdog – with a bit of help from you in the studio or out sleuthing in the open”
  • Watchdog – Value for Money (Summers 1996-2000, 7pm, BBC1) “A series reporting on high street shops and helping shoppers make the best choices.”
  • Watchdog Daily (Nov/Dec 2012, Mornings, BBC1) “Sophie Raworth takes on the big household-names and shows viewers how to fight for their consumer rights”
  • Watchdog Entertainment Special (Jan 1997, 7pm, BBC1) “Two editions of the consumer programme, revealing the realities of the world of showbusiness.”
  • Watchdog Healthcheck (1995-2002, BBC1, 7pm/7.30pm) “a new series delivering stories on the health issues that affect consumers in the 1990s”
  • Watchdog Test House (2014-2015, BBC1 repeated BBC2, mornings) “Series in which Sophie Raworth reveals how household products are tested, putting the makers’ claims on trial and showing how to get the best value for money.”
  • Watchdog: Face Value (1997 & 1999, 7pm/7,30pm, BBC1) “Alice Beer hosts a new consumer programme which, over the next six weeks, lifts the lid on the beauty and fashion industries.”
  • Watchdog: On the House (April-May 1998, 7pm, BBC1) “The consumer affairs team turn their attention to bricks and mortar in a new six-part series, presented by Sankha Guha and Anne McKevitt.”
  • Watchdog: the Big Dinner (1998, 7pm, BBC1) “The consumer affairs programme focuses on issues relating to food in a new five-part series presented by Johnathan Maitland”

And they’re only the ones using the Watchdog branding. But, as they’re really standalone programmes, they’re not getting counted in the total for Watchdog. If you don’t like it, well, tough. What are you going to do about it? Write to a consumer affairs programme?

77: Wogan

(Shown 1142 times, 1982-2010)

There can’t be too many people who need to be informed that Terry Wogan was a bit of a master with the old patter. However, it might be a bit of a surprise to learn that his first TV chat show was over on the other side, with ATV commissioning Lunchtime with Wogan in the early 1970s. That ran from 1972 to 1973 as part of ITV’s original daytime TV revolution.

As is so often the case, true beauty can only ever be fleeting, and so Terry left Lunchtime with Wogan to focus on what would become a long-running role at Radio 2, including leading the station’s listeners through Eurovision for much of the 1970s. Not that he’d be ditching television entirely – Tel helmed the BBC’s TV coverage of Eurovision in 1973 and 1978, before making it his own from 1980 (whilst also helming A Song for Europe from 1977 onwards). He also found time to present the original version of Come Dancing, as well as Blankety Blank from 1979 onwards, and Children in Need from 1980.

With so much of the BBC’s output containing Wogan at the time, it was surely inevitable he’d pop up with a chat show format at some point. So, as if to underline what I just said, in 1980 that’s precisely what happened. What’s On Wogan? aired on Saturday evenings in the 6pm hour between May and July, and if nothing else you have to see the memorable trailer for the series, with Terry standing on the corner of Portland Place enthusiastically telling everyone about the promised live spectacular whilst being drowned out by traffic. Hey, when your stated remit is to ‘to banjax your weekend’, that’s the sort of effort you need to make.

The original version of Tel’s actual titular show came along in May 1982, cramming a late-night Tuesday slot with a heady mix of celebrity, japery and light chat. The scene pictured just below (and on YouTube here) features an interview with Nigel Rees, there to promote his latest compendium book of found graffiti (hey, early 80s). As if to prove how different the year 1982 was, the audience aren’t far from rolling in the aisles at hearing the one about there being “only one Monopolies Commission”. Every old joke was new once. (I like one on the cover of the book: “Whither Atrophy?” – it’s certainly a cut above what I’ve seen scrawled on toilet walls. I’m clearly visiting the wrong public toilets.)

This midweek whimsy proved to be a hit with audiences, so for the second series of his weekly chat show, a promotion to Saturday night was given. On at 10pm each Saturday (in a prime slot between Dynasty and The Late Film) the new series promised a “unique combination of Terry in conversation with top stars from home and abroad, people in the headlines and the very best in entertainment”. When you’re taking Michael Parkinson’s old slot, that’s the kind of PR patter you need.

After a few years on Saturday nights, February 1985 saw Terry Wogan became one of two totems in Michael Grade’s relaunched BBC1 line-up. Wogan would air at 7pm each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while upstart soap EastEnders would go out at that time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Only one of them was an instant hit. And it wasn’t EastEnders.

Grade’s plan for the move was to “bring a much needed element of surprise and unpredictability to BBC Television”, and it certainly delivered plenty of moments like that, especially given the live, pre-watershed nature of the series. Even the big talk shows on the other side of the Atlantic had the security of being pre-recorded (admittedly as-live) and going out at 11pm. Wogan was talk TV without a safety net. And when there’s no safety net, things become that bit more compelling.

And as such, there are several moments that saw Wogan discussed in playgrounds, cafes and workplaces around the UK the morning after transmission. A worse-for-wear George Best politely asking if he’s allowed to say ‘shit’ before boasting of his fondness for ‘screwing’, a stage-frightened Anne Bancroft only offering monosyllabic replies to questions (luckily fellow guest Ben Elton helped keep things ticking along), Nic Cage pre-empting an internet full of Nic Cage memes, Chevy Chase being an arse, and most famously David Icke declaring himself Son of the Godhead. All moments where, if you’d missed them, you really had felt you’d missed out (I certainly did in the case of Icke’s utterances). Sky Sports have started using the ad slogan ‘It’s Only Live Once’. That was equally applicable to Wogan at its most interesting.

Icke (L), Wogan (R)

The hugeness of Wogan (the show) even outgrew the reputation of Wogan (the man). Taking the late-night talk-show approach of keeping everything running when the main host is away on holiday, guest-hosting slots on Wogan helped launch (or re-launch) several careers. The first to stand-in for an absent Tel was Selina Scott, originally a journalist-turned-newsreader by trade, Scott’s time hosting Breakfast Time made her a natural fit for Wogan’s shoes, and brought her to the attention of a wider audience. Later guest hosts would include David Frost, Kenneth Williams, Joanna Lumley and Sue Lawley, the latter even getting her own ‘only live once’ moment in the spotlight following Vivienne Westwood’s ill-advised medically-inspired catwalk show. Yep, the one that inspired a scene in ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, a scene so shambolic the Coogan version just needed a re-enactment rather than direct parody.

During its imperial phase, Wogan was a truly immovable feast. It seems unfathomable now that the BBC simply wouldn’t bother showing the first half of World Cup finals matches because The One Show is just too damn important. But, during Mexico ’86, events in Shepherd’s Bush were deemed much more important than those taking place in Queretaro or Irapuato, some early matches only being permitted “Highlights of the first half, plus live second-half coverage”. Moving Wogan to a different slot, giving him the night off or asking him to slum it on BBC2 for an evening simply would not do, Havelange or no Havelange. We’re not talking minor matches, either – West Germany v Uruguay, Brazil v Algeria, and (going by the RT listing) “either Argentina v South Korea or USSR v Hungary” – I vaguely remember it being the latter, which meant viewers missed the first three goals in a 6-0 Soviet stampede.

Similarly, BBC1’s live coverage of the previous year’s ill-fated European Cup final at the Heysel Stadium had been preceded by a mini-but-still-live episode of Wogan, billed in the Radio Times with the Partridgesque “a piquant preamble from Terry live at the Terryvision Theatre on picturesque Shepherd’s Bush Green”. Any such mood swiftly dissipated on the night, as the Wogan studio threw to BBC reporters at Heysel.

Eventually, Wogan lost it’s lustre with the viewing public. By the end of 1991, viewers were down, BBC Scotland had shunted the Friday show into a much later slot to make way for its own programming, and Something Had To Be Done. And so, Terry was ultimately made to tread water for several months while replacement programming could be devised, cast and shot. And so, on Friday 3 July 1992, seven years and 1300 shows after roaring into that 7pm weekday slot, Wogan’s grand finale was upon us. But not to worry, the Radio Times assured viewers, “Terry Wogan will be back on screen later this year with a new weekly show”.

Sadly, Terry Wogan’s Friday Night wasn’t anywhere near as successful as its predecessor. Despite trying out some new ideas – including having Frank Skinner in the Hank Kingsley role – it just wasn’t to be, and 5 March 1993 was Wogan’s last Friday Night.

But what of the can’t-miss programme that replaced Wogan’s original thrice-weekly 7pm slot? Well, it was something history was much less kind to.

(If you’re reading this in the year 2078 and the image link is broken: it was Eldorado. That’s right, the show that somehow started the ultimate irreversible decline of Western civilisation.)
With thanks to Simon Coward for a bit of correction work when it comes to the timing of Tel’s stint at Radio 2.

76: University Challenge

(Shown 1175 times, 1994-2021)

“Up Scumbag!”

Quite a surprising one here, given that it spent the first 25 years of its existence over on ITV. And it goes back even further than that, all the way back to World War II. Despite seeming so quintessentially British, University Challenge is actually a licenced adaptation of long-running American series College Bowl. After starting out at a wartime USO activity created by Canadian Don Reid, College Bowl was subsequently converted into a series for NBC Radio by Reid and John Moses, which debuted in 1953. It proved so popular a TV version was piloted in 1955, and by 1959 a full series was airing on CBS.

The UK adaptation came about after Cecil Bernstein, brother of Granada founder Sidney, spotted the programme on a trip to the USA and decided it was a prime candidate for British consumption. Simple and cost-effective, likely to impress critics of Britain’s commercial network, and an easy tie-in to Granada’s image as ‘the BBC of the North’. Plus, with the British version dispensing with the none-more-American tie-in with programme sponsor General Electric, instantly classier than the original. The ITV version actually went in the opposite direction from College Bowl’s commercial tie-in, UC airing without any ad breaks at all, a luxury only ever afforded to a select few ITV programmes (see also This Is Your Life). In short, Bamber Gascoigne wasn’t about to interrupt proceedings to hold up a box of Omo and tell everyone how great it is.

I do however reckon they should’ve made Paxman do this. His reaction would have been priceless.

Sponsorship concerns aside, any differences between the two versions are largely restricted to the faux-sporting format of the US original. Instead of a ‘starter for ten’, open questions are referred to as a ‘toss-up’, each team has a nominated ‘coach’ (i.e. a professor from each college), and the scoreboard is much more similar to an American Football scoreboard, complete with clock.

Other than that though, the UK version takes the format of the US version pretty much as-is. Even down to the distinctive way the two teams are shown on screen during open questions.

So, on 21 September 1962, the UK version of College Bowl (afforded a less US-centric title) first arrived on British television. Asking the questions was, as would be the case for the entirety of the show’s tenure on ITV, Bamber Gascoigne. Teams from various universities around the UK would take part (aside from Oxford and Cambridge, from whom individual constituent colleges could provide teams), resulting in an overall annual winner. Starter for ten, no conferring, Bamber’s almost apologetic “I have to hurry you”, all that.

Having started in a plum 7pm weekday slot on ITV (at least in some regions), it bounced around the schedules quite a bit, perhaps influenced by the programme’s lack of commercial interruption, meaning programmes that did more to earn their upkeep were considered a better fit for that prime slot. And so, UC moved to post-News At Ten slots or Friday 5.15pm slots, before settling into a more suitable home on early Sunday afternoons by the late 1970s (again, at least in many regions).

And that’s where it stayed, for the most part. At least until New Year’s Eve 1987, when ITV would broadcast University Challenge for the last time. The final flourish for Bamber’s starters came with the culmination of a three-part ‘test’ between then-current UK UC champions Keble College, Oxford and New Zealand’s University of Otago.

But, as you’ll have guessed by me writing about it here, that wasn’t the end for University Challenge. In 1994, the programme re-emerged on BBC2 (albeit still produced by Granada), this time with arch snarkmeister Jeremy Paxman in the chair. A seat he’s continued to fill since (except: not for much longer). And with the show no longer beholden to the whims of a commercial broadcaster, it has regained and retained a plum, primetime position in the schedules since that point. Indeed, it has proved popular enough with the BBC2 audience to warrant runs of same-week repeats between 2013 and 2017, along with special ‘Christmas series’ mini-tournaments going out daily over the festive period in recent years.

For the last few years, University Challenge has effectively teamed up with Only Connect each Monday evening at 8pm to provide a weekly “feel pleased with yourself if you get more than two questions right” hour of programming. Let’s face it, University Challenge is basically going to outlive every single one of us.

Well. That grab-bag of programmes probably chalked off at least a couple you’d expect to be much higher in the list. And who would’ve thought Arthur would beat Doctor Who in the rundown? Believe me, if it weren’t for signed middle-of-the-night repeats, Doctor Who would’ve been beaten by Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy. Such is the unpredictable nature of this list, and the reason you daren’t look away from it for a second. (Not literally.)

Tune in next time, for the next quintet of wonder. Two entries from which I’ve currently no bloody idea what I’m going to write about. Get used to that. I’ve seen the full list. I’m tempted to rope in someone from Fiverr to write at least 40% of it.

So, until next time. Ooh, the excitement.

4 responses to “BBC100: The 100 Most-Broadcast BBC Programmes Of All Time (80-76)”

  1. Re Terry Wogan: before his ATV show started, he already had taken up his “long-running role at Radio 2”. He was in the breakfast slot on Radio 2 from the start of April 1972, so he was there when he started hopping over to ATV’s studios in Elstree to record Lunchtime with Wogan.


  2. I can also remember a 1970s cartoon series called Arthur! – very loosely based on King Arthur – though I believe it aired on ITV so there’s no chance of any further database mishaps. Digging into it online I was amazed to discover that a) it was produced in Australia and b) it was co-written by Rod Hull.


  3. Surprising Doctor Who is so low. But then, most episodes were shown once and only once.
    The funny thing about Wogan-Icke was Icke being invited back years later. Terry thought it would be loads of fun as he made jokes at Icke’s expense. Only for Icke to verbally tear Wogan to shreds, make Wogan look utterly inept, and cause Wogan to clearly call for the segment to end prematurely to avoid being embarrassed any more.


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