There have been many firsts in British television, alongside ground breaking programmes which have taken up their place in history, including Panorama and Blue Peter, longest running current affairs and children’s programmes respectively.
Here we explore some of the innovative, educational and downright entertaining shows that have kept us glued to our screens down the years.
Television plays a huge part in our lives when it comes to real life events. It both informs us and allows us to be a spectator with a ringside seat. Nothing demonstrated this more clearly than two very distinct events, both of which drew huge audiences around the world. The first was the moon landing in1969 and the second was the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.
In the intervening years we have witnessed the Queen’s Jubilees – silver, gold and diamond, the royal wedding of William and Kate in 2011, the Olympics coming to London in 2012 and a whole host of other events. It is only in the 20th century and beyond that we have had such first-hand experience of history being made.
All The World’s a Stage
Alongside these real world events runs the drama and comedy that keeps us entertained. Since the 1960s we have seen multiple long running soap operas launched, including Coronation Street and Eastenders, which continue to keep us tuning in week after week.
British comedy, such as Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and The Office, are famous around the world and along with British music, is one of our biggest exports.
The last decade has also seen a huge resurgence in talent shows, such as The X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, both of which have spawned sister shows in numerous countries. If we aren’t watching these we are seeing who can bake the best cakes in The Great British Bake Off, who can dance the most surefooted tango in Strictly Come Dancing or who can eat the most bugs in ‘I’m a Celebrity’. The world of television is most definitely not dull.
Flying the Flag
As mentioned earlier, British TV does seem to perform particularly well in other countries. Top Gear for example, is broadcast in 170 different countries and has at a conservative estimate 350 million viewers per week around the world.
Downton Abbey put the fun back into corsets and it has been a resounding success on both sides of the pond, shown in the UK by ITV and by PBS in the USA.
Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, has become a huge global success, winning seven Emmy awards this year alone. It has also made stars of the two leads, seeing Cumberbatch play a Star Trek bad guy and Freeman take on the mantle of Bilbo Baggins.
There is always mention of the potential end of television and how it holds no place in our future. However, it seems that talk of its death has been greatly exaggerated. We may not all gather around the television set as a family any more to watch the same programme at the exact same time, but we are still watching…
To round off this article, I thought I’d share this neat little infographic, which has been my inspiration. It charts the history of British television all the way from the 1950s to 2013 when time spent using digital devices overtook TV viewing for the first time
Thanks to services like Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, British television programs seem to be becoming even more widespread and popular than ever before because we can all watch whatever we want on our tablet or mobile phone.
I’m half way through season 4 of Red Dwarf, while eagerly awaiting another series of Sherlock. But what Great British programs are you guys watching?