Onto the last leg of our list. Which, for the record, doesn’t include The Last Leg.
Lots of big programmes we’ve not seen yet on the list, and with only a few places remaining there’s not enough room for all of them. I’m starting to think we won’t see Murun Buchstansangur on this list at all.
The list thus far:
- 40: THE NICK (21:00 Monday 3 Oct 1994, 6.5m viewers)
- 39: FILM: BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (21:25 Saturday 13 Nov 2004, 6.54m viewers)
- 38: IT’LL BE ALRIGHT LATE AT NIGHT (23:10 Thursday 11 Jul 1985, 6.55m viewers)
- 37: FILM: STAND BY YOUR MAN (21:00 Tuesday 14 May 1985, 6.6m viewers)
- 36: FILM: CASTAWAY (21:00 Monday 26 Nov 1990, 6.63m viewers)
- 35: FILM: COAST TO COAST (21:00 Tuesday 5 Feb 1985, 6.65m viewers)
- 34: FILM: WISH YOU WERE HERE (21:30 Thursday 15 Feb 1990, 6.67m viewers)
- 33: GOGGLEBOX (22:00 Friday 12 Mar 2021, 6.74m viewers)
- 31: FILM: GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (21:00 Sunday 25 Apr 1993, 6.75m viewers)
- 31: LOST (20:30 Wednesday 10 Aug 2005, 6.75m viewers)
- 30: FILM: NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (22:00 Tuesday 31 Mar 1992, 6.8m viewers)
- 29: WIFE SWAP (21:00 Tuesday 21 Oct 2003, 6.9m viewers)
- 28: FILM: NOWHERE TO RUN (21:00 Tuesday 9 Apr 1985, 6.95m viewers)
- 27: FILM: THE ABYSS (21:00 Sunday 24 Jan 1993, 7.01m viewers)
- =25: FILM: MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED (21:00 Tuesday 12 Mar 1985, 7.05m viewers)
- =25: ATHLETICS: THE KODAK CLASSIC (21:00 Friday 9 Aug 1985, 7.05m viewers)
- 24: FEMALE PARTS: RUDE WOMAN (21:00 Monday 11 May 1992, 7.06m viewers)
- 23: PETER KAY LIVE (21:30 Wednesday 4 Aug 2004, 7.197m viewers)
- 22: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE (20:30 Monday 3 Dec 1984, 7.2m viewers)
- 21: FILM: BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (21:00 Sunday 11 Apr 1993, 7.29m viewers)
- 20: SHE’LL BE WEARING PINK PYJAMAS (21:00 Thursday 12 Mar 1987, 7.6m viewers)
- 19: RELATIVE STRANGERS (20:30 Monday 28 Jan 1985, 7.75m viewers)
- 18: PARALYMPICS 2012: OPENING CEREMONY (20:00 Wednesday 29 Aug 2012, 7.78m viewers)
- 17: FILM: MONA LISA (21:30 Thursday 23 Feb 1989, 7.82m viewers)
- 16: TREASURE HUNT (20:30 Thursday 24 Mar 1988, 7.85m viewers)
- =14: INTERNATIONAL SNOOKER (21:45 Sunday 16 Dec 1984, 8.25m viewers)
- =14: FILM: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (21:00 Tuesday 21 May 1985, 8.25m viewers)
- 13: BROOKSIDE (20:00 Wednesday 3 Nov 1993, 8.27m viewers)
- 12: THE MIRACLE OF KATHY MILLER (21:00 Tuesday 21 Apr 1987, 8.3m viewers)
Anyway, here they are, that final, um, eleven. Yes, eleven. Definitely didn’t uncover another high-rating broadcast at the last minute, no. Starting with…
11: CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER
(20:30 Friday 19 Jan 2007, 8.78m viewers)
A franchise always likely to feature here, the question is… which series attracted the highest viewing figures? Here’s a clue: it was the one where the phrase “the values of the Carphone Warehouse” entered the public lexicon. The one that led to a diplomatic row between the UK and India. The one that led to a Prime Ministerial statement. And it wasn’t just to point out that Donny Tourette was a bit of a bellend.
Given how easily ignored Celebrity Big Brother was during those final years on Channel Five (if you have to explain in an intro video what you’re “most famous for”, you’re not famous), it’s remarkable how high the calibre of guests was during this period of the show’s history. For the series in question here, you had Leo Sayer, Ken Russell, Cleo Rocos, Dirk Benedict and actual bloody Jackson Five member Jermaine Jackson. And yes, the laws of the universe also dictate that you’d get some stunt casting to offset that, people whose lofty level of celebrity status existed only within their egos, but it was part of the formula. Rough with the smooth. And at least Donny Tourette’s presence was enlivened by his introductory encounter with a butter-smooth Dirk Benedict (“Oh my God, it’s Dirk fucking Benedict!” “Well, I don’t normally use my middle name, but hi.”).
Anyway, I’m pretty sure you all know the details of The Event here, even if it’s only from the Stewart Lee routine. Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty was one of the celebrity housemates, and arrived with a clear air of Girl Awkwardly Trying To Fit In At A New School. A group of the other participants – glamour model Danielle Lloyd, pop star Jo O’Meara, previous Big Brother contestant Jade Goody, along with boyfriend Jack Tweed and mother Jackiey Budden – decided they didn’t like her (for… whatever reason), and the end result was one of the most unedifying weeks in the history of television. Unedifying for the individuals involved, for the production company, for the channel that gleefully pumped it out night after night, and ultimately (hands held up here) for the viewers who may have been disgusted, but who weren’t about to switch off.
There was a lot to unpack from the whole affair. The most overt display of racism coming from the mouth of Danielle Lloyd, followed by an “ooh, aren’t I naughty” giggle, was probably to go-to example, but there were several more distasteful moments of note. The one that springs to mine for me was the programme producers Endemol addressing rumours that Jack Tweed had used the word P*** to refer to the (perfectly pleasant) Shetty, by releasing (partly) unbleeped audio confirming it was fine, he was just referring to her with the word c***. So, um, that’s still not exactly great, is it?
Ultimately, Endemol seemed to realise that throwing more kindling on their bonfire of dignity wasn’t helping anyone – not least when lead sponsor Carphone Warehouse demanded to be disassociated with the show, and agents of the main culprits saw lucrative contracts suddenly cancelled – and Jade Goody was duly evicted. The usual eviction night crowd may have been absent, but the TV audience were certainly present, in huge numbers. But, from this point on, the Celebrity Big Brother brand was irrevocably tainted, and I’m saying the affair definitely directly resulted in a ‘Leave’ vote in the EU referendum. Still, maybe next year’s ITV2 reboot will undo all that? Yeah, I know.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
Nothing else stood a chance, really. BBC1 offered sitcom After You’ve Gone followed by WWI-era drama Lilies. BBC2 dug up an episode of Grow Your Own Veg, followed by Timewatch episode Killer Cloud. ITV threw on a Midsomer Murders and went to the pub, while Five followed Nick Baker’s Weird Creatures with an NCIS off the shelf.
10: BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDINGS
(21:00 Tuesday 8 Feb 2011, 8.8m viewers)
Span out of warmly-received 2010 Cutting Edge episode My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, this series dipped into the lives and traditions of families from the Traveller community as preparations were made for a family wedding. While the original was awarded ‘Most Groundbreaking Show’ in the ‘Cultural Diversity Awards’ (which were possibly invented specifically to annoy your uncle on Facebook), the full series was criticised by many from Britain’s Traveller and Romani community for playing up the quirkiest, most outrageous examples of life within the featured families.
This highest-rating episode came from the first series, with an episode looking into the community’s weddings and christenings from a purely male perspective, but most episodes from that opening series rated north of eight million viewers. It’s only in later series where the programme’s popularity began to slide, with many of the standalone ‘event’ episodes from 2013 falling outside BARB’s published ratings, putting their figures below two million viewers.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
BBC1 broadcast poorly-received sci-fi drama Outcasts, while BBC2‘s The Chinese are Coming explored China’s role as an emerging economic superpower. ITV were still pushing out episodes of Taggart, with tonight’s tale tackling the world of cage fighting. Five threw on a bunch of CSI episodes for the night and went to bed early. The Viacom takeover couldn’t happen soon enough.
9: THE PRICE
(21:30 Thursday 14 Feb 1985, 8.9m viewers)
COME ON DOWoh wait, it’s not that. But rather the concluding episode of a tense six-part thriller starring Peter Barkworth and Harriet Walter. The tale of Geoffrey, a millionaire trapped in an unhappy marriage to a wife twenty years his junior, but his devotion to his wife and her mardy-arse daughter is soon tested as they’re kidnapped by the IRA. With his assets far from liquid, he struggles to raise the required ransom, and his attempts to free capital cause the share price of his firm to tumble. Ah, the priorities of television characters from the eighties.
In this final episode, “Geoffrey enlists the aid of computers to track down his wife and step-daughter. But the police close in while the gang still hold his family”. Given the computers of that era, fingers crossed for no R:Tape Loading Errors, eh?
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
Final episode of amateur sleuth-em-up Charters and Caldicott on BBC1, followed by Question Time. ITV had an episode of TV Eye looking at the rise of lawlessness on the New York subway systems, and the groups of vigilantes who formed to tackle them. Over on BBC2, a Forty Minutes episode looking at two stories of young love (Feb 14th, of course) followed by The Rockford Files. Meanwhile, later the same night on Channel Four, an episode of Cinemax-C4 collaboration Assaulted Nuts, a pretty much made-for-export sketch comedy series starring Tim Brooke-Taylor, Barry Cryer and Cleo Rocos. It’s worth looking up details on that series, as it’s a deliciously off-piste piece of British comedy history. Even if it’s not exactly brilliant.
8: NUNS ON THE RUN (1990)
(21:00 Sunday 18 Apr 1993, 9.2m viewers)
There have been quite a lot of films on this list, haven’t there? Some big budget American ones (The Abyss, Good Morning Vietnam), some more modestly-budgeted but well-reviewed homegrown movies (Wish You Were Here, Mona Lisa). And, besting all of them in the ratings battle… this.
Eric Idle and the late Robbie Coltrane play inept gangsters Brian and Charlie, whose attempt to rob a gang of Triads results in them ripping off the rest of their gang to escape to a life of Brazilian bliss. Things don’t quite go to plan during their getaway, meaning the duo are forced to flee and seek refuge at a nearby nunnery. Brian’s love interest Faith (Doctor Who’s Camille Coduri) spots the cackhanded crims attempt to flee, and also joins the nunnery posing as a student.
Cruelly overlooked by the Academy Awards judging panel, the whole affair was a diverting enough romp if you ask me. Yeah, there was no intellectual nourishment on offer here, but sometimes you just feel like a tube of Pringles, yeah? Mind you, Roger Ebert stated that when it comes to Nuns on the Run, “your laughter may reveal more about you than about this particularly dreary film.” It’s still better than Splitting Heirs, I counter.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
Sunday night treats on offer elsewhere were an episode of A Year in Provence followed by Mastermind on BBC1 (PD James, the Napoleonic Wars, the Cornish clay industry and medieval castles on the latter, the Mayles have a go at French sport in the former). BBC2 dealt out an Arena special on the career of South African pop megastar Brenda Fassie followed by Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). ITV finished off a Maigret before welcoming a textbook Aspel & Company line-up (Mary Tyler Moore, Brian Conley and Sting) and News from ITN.
(21:00 Friday 28 May 2004, 9.64m viewers)
Ah, here it is.
One the one hand, Friends was always bound to appear on this list. But on the other hand, you’d have thought the same about Cheers, Frasier, Ugly Betty, The Cosby Show, Ellen, The Golden Girls, Desperate Housewives, A Handmaid’s Tale or Will & Grace, and you’ll notice there’s not enough room left for many of them. Or possibly any of them.
After the reliably popular Cheers came to an end in May 1993, it left a big hole in Four’s Friday night schedule. While the channel had seen quite a few similarly well-received Friday night comedy imports – The Golden Girls enjoyed a lengthy run on the channel, but that had already run its course, and spin-off The Golden Palace had been and gone by the time Cheers came to a close. What was the channel to do? Other options such as Roseanne weren’t as popular as they had been, and new acquisitions such as Susan Harris’ post-Golden Palace project Nurses or HBO sexcom Dream On had failed to draw much attention.
On 28 April 1995, their prayers were answered, with a programme debuting – as it happens – just after the second ever episode of Father Ted. Nestled between the latest from Craggy Island and one-off spoof Jack and Jeremy’s Police 4 (or pilot for Jack and Jeremy’s Real Lives, if you prefer) came the first episode of NBC’s hot new sitcom hope, starring (as The Times had it at the time) “NYPD Blue’s David Schwimmer” in (as The Mirror had it) “half a dozen single twentysomethings fighting on the battlefield known as life”.
You know the rest, I’m sure. This high point of the series viewing figures comes for the final episode, at a point where Channel Four had expensively wrangled the rights back from Sky, and where it served as a lead-in to a brand new series of Big Brother.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
BBC1 fought comedy with comedy, offering an episode of The Lenny Henry Show featuring guest star Harry Enfield. BBC2 offered a clear alternative with Art of the Garden, while a bullish ITV went big with a heady mixture of celebrities, kitchens and bollockings with a ninety-minute episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. Five merely admitted defeat and farted out a showing of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Double Impact.
6: CUTTING EDGE
(21:00 Monday 14 Feb 1994, 9.78m viewers)
Here’s one out of left-field.
Not necessarily that Cutting Edge would make an appearance in this top ten – it’s a very long-running topical documentary strand, basically the channel’s answer to Panorama. But rather the episode that happens to have been the most-watched of them all.
It could have been 1994’s Graham Taylor: An Impossible Job, a groundbreaking sports documentary where the levels of access granted to the film crew capturing the working life of beleaguered England manager Taylor was rivalled only by the levels of swearing throughout. After all, I can’t think of any Panorama episodes that led to a phrase that would capture the imagination of a nation like “Do I not like that?” did.
It could have been Bafta-nominated episode Katie: My Beautiful Face from 2009, which followed the recovery of ex-model Katie Piper following a malicious acid attack. Or even 2010 episode My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which span-off into a full, very popular series of its own.
Instead, it was 1994 episode Shops and Robbers that drew the largest audience. Far from a scintillating takedown of a notorious figure, or capturing a slice of life that simultaneously captured the nation’s hearts, it investigated the battle between Marks & Spencer and shoplifters. On the part of M&S, there’s a look at the company’s security hub, and at their futile attempt to nab a gang of professional pilferers. On the part of shoplifters, there’s an encounter with a serial shoplifter who routinely lifts clothes from the store, deliberately damages them, and then attempts to return them for a no-quibble refund. No wonder they subsequently changed that policy.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
Speaking of Panorama, that was BBC1‘s alternate offering following the Nine O’Clock News that night, with reporter Roger Harrabin investigating the claim that air pollution was causing a rise in the rates of asthma. BBC2 also offered up a documentary alternative, with a Horizon episode dissecting the aftermath of the 1992 Columbia air crash. Lighter fare on ITV, with Under the Hammer, an episode of the Richard Wilson/Jan Francis comedy drama featuring a guest turn by Thora Hird. Not a lot of light relief for anyone under thirty finding themselves dateless at home that particular Valentine’s Night, really.
5: GREGORY’S GIRL (1980)
(21:00 Tuesday 8 Jan 1985, 10.75m viewers)
Bill Forsyth’s film takes a look at adolescent sexuality through the filter of life in early 1980s Cumbernauld. Gawky teen Gregory Underwood is the hapless striker of his hopeless school football team, until the team manager takes a gamble on keenly talented but controversially female Dorothy in his place. Gregory couldn’t care less about regaining his place up front, of course. He’d much prefer to form a striking relationship with Dorothy off the pitch.
A brilliantly funny film that’s no less enjoyable in a world where girls playing football is the norm, and I say that as someone made to cringe myself inside out appearing in a GCSE English dramatic performance of it (I was brought up not to swear in front of adults, so having to joyfully utter the word “tits” in front of a bunch of them failed to provide the subversive thrill you’d expect).
A British film that still makes best-of lists now – even Entertainment Weekly placed it in their ‘50 Best High School Movies‘ list some 34 years after initial release.
WHAT ELSE WAS ON?
The News followed by play The Last Evensong on BBC1, an gritty-era episode of The Bill (“Det Insp Galloway on the trail of a pornographer”) followed by News at Ten on ITV, and a niche triumvirate on BBC2: Pot Black ’85, followed by Doctor’s Dilemmas (“exploring the ethical dilemmas facing doctors”, reasonably enough) and World Darts.
4: THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF
(21:00 Tuesday 24 Nov 2020, 11.74m viewers)
Often when popular programmes get gazumped by other channels, it doesn’t work as well as hoped. Sky One did this quite a lot, snatching the rights to Friends, Lost, The X-Files, 24 and sundry others, the net result generally being each show immediately lost about 70% of its audience. Thames famously coaxed Morecambe and Wise over to ITV in the late 1970s, and their magic soon began to fade – ditto after The Goodies decamped to LWT. In fact, it’s harder to think of success stories: Men Behaving Badly became huge after being picked up by the BBC, but that mainly happened because ITV had given up on it. So, we’re left with a list that has the name ‘Kenny Everett’ on it and little else.
Aside, that is, from Bake-Off. The odds seemed stacked against it – one of the BBC’s biggest shows being seized by a smaller channel, three of the four main hosts declining to make the move, a programme everyone was used to viewing without interruption suddenly having to make room for ad breaks. It doesn’t stand a chance.
And yet… all of those obstacles did the series very little harm at all. At the programme’s high point on BBC1, it drew a total of 15.9m viewers. That fell by a relatively minor amount following the channel switch, with 11.74 million viewers tuning in for the pox-era finale. Yes, the C4 figure is smaller than the BBC1 figure, but that still made it a sixth-most watched programme of the year for any channel. And in a year when we were legally forced to remain indoors, that’s pretty good.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
It was 2020, so a perpetual chronicle of doom on The News, or – as before – Netflix.
3: FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)
(21:00 Monday 28 Apr 1997, 12.38m viewers)
In 1994, director Mike Newell single-handedly (okay, Richard Curtis helped) gave the British romantic comedy genre the firm, hard boot up the arse it sorely needed.
Not that the genre hadn’t existed before then, nor that Curtis hadn’t previously had a hand in it. Indeed, Richard Curtis’ previous film for cinemas, The Tall Guy (starring Jeff Goldblum, Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson) was a firmly enjoyable romp, but it seemed destined for little more than limited domestic success, maybe a weekend showing or two at 10pm on ITV, and little else. Having enjoyed his directorial work on Jack Rosenthal’s Ready When You Are, Mr. McGill (Granada, 1976), Curtis picked Newell to work with on his next project, and it’s fair to say it was quite a success: Four Weddings became the (then) top-grossing British film in history at that time, Hugh Grant was catapulted to superstardom, Curtis was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar and Wet Wet Wet clamped themselves to the top of the pop charts on the back of the soundtrack single.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
An extended Nine O’Clock News, followed by a Labour Party Election Broadcast and ‘scientific thriller’ Breakout on BBC1, the reboot of The Outer Limits and This Life on BBC2, while ITV plumped for an episode of Bramwell and News at Ten.
2: BIG BROTHER
(22:30 Friday 27 Jul 2001, 13.74m viewers)
Another inevitable entry near the top of the list. Despite the format fizzling out by the time it’d moved to Five (and a certain amount of eye rolling when news broke ITV2 are reviving it next year), there was a time when the vanilla version of Big Brother was a national talking point.
One slightly curious thing about that original series of Big Brother UK – while several routes were used to try and attract participants, the main televised call for contestants that I remember went out immediately after a repeat of BrassEye (with some online commentators subsequently assuming the whole premise was a Chris Morris spoof). As a result, those involved in that original series seemed far less like those in later series, they were more akin what might be considered a set of stereotypical don’t-just-watch-the-sitcoms Channel Four viewers. As it was, the initial series seemed more like an Orwellian social experiment than an easy route to fame (or at least short-term notoriety). Indeed, the BBC News story for that early casting call mentioned how “a nominal fee, equivalent to the amount paid for jury service” was on offer. Nobody was about to put a down-payment on a Mercedes with that line in the contract.
As time would soon tell, not least to the antics of Nasty Nick, it quickly became a national talking point, and the show’s success was sealed. (Aside: from that first series finale, when winner Craig Phillips – who had only entered to try and win some money for a charity – was briefly reunited with Nasty Nick, the latter joking-not-jokingly uttered “Let’s go halves! Let’s go halves!”)
This ratings high arrived at the conclusion of the second series, where the audience that grew as the first series progressed were on board from the start. As it turned out, it was a relatively controversy-free series (certainly no overt racism from someone who’d scored themselves 10 out of 10 for intelligence), and not too many of the participants rekindle memories now – aside from the series winner, the only one I remember is Bubble, and that’s partly because he cropped up in the finale of The Office. Basically, it’s quite nice that a series that didn’t generate any heated headlines or controversy turned out to be most popular, and in series winner (and future BB host) Brian Dowling, one of the people to have justifiably left the house with an elevated reputation to boot.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
In contrast to the unfolding reality show drama on Four, BBC1 offered actual drama with a repeat of Casualty and a new episode of The Cazalets. BBC2 dug in with Gardener’s World followed by a repeat of WWII documentary The War Behind the Wire, while ITV foisted forth Family Fortunes followed by a repeat of Taggart. Channel Five offered up an episode of Fort Boyard followed by movie choice Pink Cadillac, neither of which were repeats, so credit to them for that.
So, what’s at number one? After all, this is the channel that brought us Creature Comforts, The Snowman and was the first channel to broadcast Wallace and Gromit in A Grand Day Out. It served us a Big Breakfast and a Friday Night Dinner. It made us laugh with comedy from Cheers to Chelmsford 123, from Absolutely to Adam and Joe, from Phoenix Nights to Frasier. It brought us Traffik, Black Mirror, The Manageress and GBH. It took us from Countdown to the Crystal Maze, from Gamesmaster to the Girlie Show, from Richard & Judy to Rude Tube, from The Tube to TFI Friday, from Max Headroom to Married at First Sight. Surely one of those will be in the top spot? Surely?
Well, nope. Surprisingly, it’s this:
1: A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE
(21:00 Friday 4 Jan 1985, 13.85m viewers)
Yep. I would have said at this point “I bet you weren’t expecting that”, but given someone else has tweeted this bit of information out today, there’s a good chance you were. But for those who are a bit surprised by this turn of events: blimey, eh?
This series was a three-part adaptation of the 800-page novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, originally published in 1979. The story opens with a battle for control of a vast business empire controlled by seventysomething Business Woman (of Substance) Emma Harte, who discovers that her duplicitous offspring are scheming to carve it up for themselves. A far cry from Emma’s own upbringing, as a downtrodden servant girl.
The focus of the three-parter falls on Emma’s modest rise to power, a Yorkshire village girl taking a job at the local squire’s home, Fairley Hall. From there, a tale unfolds of her rise to power, but no material gains can ever dilute her burning hatred and lust to to enact vengeance on the Fairley family that treated her so unfairly in those formative years.
Jenny Seagrove played the younger Emma Harte, with Deborah Kerr tackling the character’s modern-day persona. And with a decidedly weighty novel to cover, a similarly solid heft of airtime was needed to tell the tale – three consecutive nights, with a two-hour runtime on each.
It was a lengthy yarn that entangled a sizeable audience, with this 13m+ high coming for the conclusion of the initial story. But that wasn’t the end of the tale – May 1987 saw a sequel miniseries, Hold the Dream, which saw Jenny Seagrove and Deborah Kerr return as respective Emma Hartes. While not as colossal a smash at the original, it still attracted a high of 8.1 million viewers. Not too shabby.
WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE?
News, spy drama Wynne & Penkovsky and cop actioner Starsky & Hutch entertained any viewers left watching BBC1, while Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine (you gotta have a system) starred in film Gambit (1966) on BBC2. ITV showed the end of Superman II, followed by US not-as-good-as-Alright-on-the-Night cockup compilation Bloopers, hosted by Dick “Not as good as our Denis” Clark.
So, There you go. A few things to unpack from that entire list.
- Nuns on the Run was the third-most popular film ever shown on Four.
- The most-watched sitcom in the channel’s history wasn’t Father Ted, The IT Crowd or Phoenix Nights, but a mostly-forgotten Matthew Kelly vehicle.
- There was no room in the list for any Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey vehicles, no Supernanny, Grand Designs, or England matches. All popular, just not popular enough to make this final forty.
- But a repeat of Man About the House came closer to final forty than any of them.
Anyway, thanks for everything, Channel Four. Long may you continue, hopefully free from privatisation, free to entertain or annoy us as you see fit for a long time to come.
3 responses to “Forty/Four: Channel Four’s 40 Most-Watched (Part Four)”
I genuinely laughed out loud with the thought of the tension of a hostage situation brought to a head by a millionaire in a darkened room watching the loading screen on his TV fail to proceed, the cassette deck of his ZX Spectrum piercing the silence with the auto-stop clicking off and that dreaded error message appearing at the bottom of the screen. We’ve all been there! (Except usually it was because BMX Simulator wouldn’t bloody load again, rather than life or death.) Cheers Mark, great read.
[…] Forty/Four: Channel Four’s 40 Most-Watched […]
That 13.75m figure for the 2001 final of Big Brother is actually a cock up on the part of BARB. You see Channel 4 aired two editions of Big Brother that night, with part one being 20:30-21:35 and consisting of the eviction of the third place contestant, and then part two being 22:30-23:35 and being the eviction of second place and then the crowning of the winner. BARB however decided, for reasons best known to themselves, that part two was just a second airing of the same content as part one, and thus added the viewing figures together, ensuring that Big Brother’s viewers all got counted twice that night, and in the process ensuring that Big Brother got elevated to a higher viewing figure than even Corrie or Enders managed that week, which was rather implausible in those days, and also giving Channel 4 the overall number one programme that week, also rather implausible in those days.