from ‘Peep Show’ to ‘Feel Good’

Earlier this week, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries reiterated her intentions to privatize Channel 4, saying government ownership “sort of owns [it] back.” In the process, she continues a centuries-old tradition of Tory ministers showing precisely no knowledge of what makes our culture great. over the years. It’s a really impressive list that doesn’t even include hits like Skins, Chewing gum and Intermediate which debuted on sister channel E4.


Created by Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, who starred opposite Nick Frost, this roommate sitcom became an instant cult classic. Space ended in 2001 after just 14 episodes, but its pungent mix of pop culture references and surreal detours aged much better than most shows of the time.

Lasting legacy: East Space when geek culture started to feel cool? Very probably.


Set in a Peckham hair salon and boasting a predominantly British-Guyanese cast led by Norman Beaton, Desmond’s mixed warm humor with an authentic snapshot of black British life. After its premiere in 1989, it ran for 71 episodes: more than any other Channel 4 sitcom.

Lasting legacy: As creator Trix Worrell pointed out, Desmond’s marked the first time a black-owned business was truly seen on British television.

“The Big Breakfast”

From 1992 to 2002, Channel 4’s youth-oriented breakfast show offered an anarchic alternative to the more stuffy wake-up programs on other channels. In its heyday, presenters Chris Evans, Gaby Roslin, Johnny Vaughan and Denise van Outen brought raucous post-pub energy to our morning routines.

Lasting legacy: This reminded television officials that students also watch television during the day.

“The Big Breakfast” presenters Johnny Vaughan and Denis Van Outen. CREDIT: Alamy

“The Crystal Maze”

This high-profile game show originally ran for six series in the ’90s, hosted first by Rocky Horror icon Richard O’Brien and then by punk frontman Edward Tudor-Pole. At the time, his tense final challenge in the famous Crystal Dome was truly dazzling. The Crystal Maze was relaunched in 2017 with Richard Ayoade at the helm.

Lasting legacy: A team of millions of bonding days to The Crystal Maze Live Experience in London and Manchester.

‘Brass Eye’

Created and hosted by Chris Morris, this spoof news show ruthlessly caused sensationalism and contrived moral panic in the mainstream media. The incredibly controversial ‘Paedogeddon!’ episode, which featured Phil Collins wearing a “Nonce Sense” t-shirt, drew 3,000 complaints in 2001.

Lasting legacy: His muddle of media manipulation was ahead of his time. Somehow director Adam McKay was aiming for the same target in his recent Netflix movie Don’t look up.

brass eye
CREDIT: Channel 4

‘Hit the Pony’

Led by Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan and Sally Phillips, this brilliantly inventive sketch show ran for three series between 1999 and 2003. Anything Can Happen on Hit the ponybut the fake dating agency videos and pop star parodies were still spot on. And who can forget the classic workplace singing contest?

Lasting legacy: It brought funny women to the forefront, in their own words, at a time when television comedy was overwhelmingly male-dominated.

‘Big brother’

The era-defining reality show premiered on Channel 4 in 2000 and became a staple of its summer schedules for the next decade. Initially, it was presented as a social experiment; later, it became pure must-have entertainment. Even now, drag queens are quoting Davina McCall’s launch party tagline: “Do you want another one?”

Lasting legacy: He basically invented reality TV as we know it.

“Queer as Folk”

Written by Russell T Davies, who went on to create the equally important It’s a sin, this 1999 drama series chronicles the lives of three men living in the gay village of Manchester. At the time, his unapologetic sex-positive approach outraged some sections of the right-wing media: a sure sign that Davies had rocked the landscape.

Lasting legacy: It offered positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters at a time when that was rare.

‘Da Ali G Show’

Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirical comedy became a hot topic when it premiered in 2000. Was its title character a bit racist, a sharp parody of white suburban boys who appropriate black culture, or a bit of both? ? Either way, he definitely captured the zeitgeist: Ali G would appear in Madonna’s “Music” video later that year.

Lasting legacy: Baron Cohen didn’t just portray Ali G on the show – he also introduced us to another globe conquering character, Borat.


Co-created by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, this long-running sitcom launched Mitchell and Webb’s careers. Over nine series between 2003 and 2015, there was something comfortingly familiar — and very funny — about the fact that their bickering roommates Mark and Jez never really changed.

Lasting legacy: Where to start ? Armstrong then created Succession; Longtime cast member Olivia Colman won an actual Oscar.

“The Computer Crowd”

From 2006 to 2013, this hit sitcom followed the feuds of three forgotten office workers bickering in a seedy basement. The fact that three attempted American remakes failed to air highlights the special chemistry shared by edgy co-stars Richard Ayoade, Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson.

Lasting legacy: All three frontrunners went on to carve out super prolific careers.

‘Black Mirror’

Charlie Brooker’s dystopian drama launched in 2011 with a jaw-dropping episode in which a fictional British Prime Minister punches a pig. Netflix nabbed the series five years later, but Channel 4 deserves credit for helping to cultivate such smart and visionary television.

Lasting legacy: It’s the most prescient TV show of its generation — by a mile.

‘Best Boy’

Anchored by terrific performances from Ashley Walters and Kano, this evocative Hackney crime drama launched on Channel 4 in 2011. Bosses later made a major mistake by not commissioning a third series, but the channel has still played a central role in spreading this burning series. to live.

Lasting legacy: It became Drake’s favorite TV show, leading to a much-deserved Netflix revival.

‘This is England’

Channel 4’s film arm Film4 helped fund Shane Meadows’ original It’s England film, which received rave reviews in 2006. A few years later, the channel became the natural home for three spin-off series that provided an equally gripping and realistic depiction of working-class life.

Lasting legacy: Launching TV stalwart Vicky McClure’s career is only half of it.

‘Derry Girls’

This glorious coming-of-age comedy follows four teenage girls (and a little Englishman) growing up in Northern Ireland during the final years of the Troubles. It was such a hit that Channel 4 timed the series finale to launch just after the ratings juggernaut. The Big Celebrity Cake. A good call.

Lasting legacy: Thanks to the nostalgic soundtrack, 90s bangers from The Corrs and The Cranberries have never sounded so cool.

“Stath leaves the apartments”

When Jamie Demetriou’s word-of-mouth hit won three BAFTAs in 2000, it underscored the fact that Channel 4 continues to produce some of television’s funniest and most original sitcoms. Demetriou’s incompetent but well-meaning rental agent is exactly the kind of lovable loser we can’t help but cheer for.

Lasting legacy: Demetriou’s career has taken off: he now plays alongside Tiffany Haddish in Apple TV+ the after party.

‘It’s a sin’

This hugely poignant series rooted in the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s was rejected by the BBC and ITV before Channel 4 finally gave it the green light. When it premiered in January 2021, it became a national talking point, the channel’s biggest ever dramatic launch, and led to star Olly Alexander performing with Elton John at the Brit Awards. Deserved.

Lasting legacy: He assured that the HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK will never be forgotten and sparked an increase in HIV testing.

‘Feel good’

Few comedies manage to be as kind, tender and funny as Feel good, while exploring complex issues like addiction, gender identity and queer coming out. Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical gem is a singular hit that won Best TV Series at last month’s BandLab NME Awards.

Lasting legacy: Watch Martin’s career go supernova in the next few years.

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