Arts & Culture Film, Theatre & TV


  • March 28, 2024
  • 3 min read

TV Programme polls can be susceptible to bias. The Broadcasting Press Guild announced their ‘Top 50 Landmark UK TV Programmes’ earlier in March. A list that was polled by the BPG’s media journalist members. However, for a more comprehensive insight into groundbreaking programming, one might refer to the British Film Institute’s 2000 poll. This poll, conducted by BFI members, programmers, and researchers, was released 24 years ago as a large limited edition glossy paperback. You can find the BFI Poll compiled in a helpful IMDb webpage, including links to all citations and individual programme pages: BFI Poll. Also viewable as individual programme pages, too, with further details here.

In my analysis of the BPG’s ‘Top 50 Programmes’ poll featured in Eye On London here, it’s evident that polls often reflect the perspectives of the participants themselves. Subjectivity will always win over objectivity in such lists. No matter how hard one tries. Major omissions were, however, the BGP’s lack of listed ‘Arts Programming’, coupled with a lack of key series championing ‘Single-Slot Dramas’ such as BBC’s ‘Play For Today’. Many missing dramatised one-off TV Films and TV Plays are individually added in Eye On London’s ‘Top 20 TV Programmes’ listing below.

Music programming also suffered in the BPG’s Poll. Omitted, too, were a significant number of Factual Series and Historical series. Perhaps those polled were youngsters with an emphasis on more recent aspects of TV’s past? They cite only a token few of the regularly online streamed ‘Biggies’ from the annals of classic 1960’s and 1970’s.

In an effort to address these gaps, I’ve compiled a list of ‘Top 20 UK TV Programmes’ for Eye On London’s ever blossoming ‘Arts, TV & Cinema’ pages, drawing upon my experience working in the British Film, TV, and Music Industries. Readers can explore these selections here and a variety of carefully curated film and television reviews. Meanwhile, in May, BAFTA celebrates TV’s varied output from this past year.

Eye On London presents 20 Landmark UK TV Programmes

  1. Hypernormalisation (Documentary Series) BBC TV – 2016 (Adam Curtis)
  2. The Prisoner (Drama Filmed Series) ITC ITV -1967
  3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Comedy Series) BBC 1969 -1974
  4. Ready Steady Go (Music Series) Otis Redding Special – Rediffusion ITV -1966
  5. World In Action (Investigative Documentary Series) The Quiet Mutiny (John Pilger Reports) Granada-ITV -1970
  6. Culloden (Single Drama Documentary) BBC TV – 1964 (Peter Watkins)
  7. The War Game (Single Drama Documentary) BBC TV 1966 banned till1985 (Peter Watkins)
  8. Not Only But Also (Comedy Series) BBC TV 1965-1970 (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore)
  9. Nuts In May, Play For Today (Single Filmed Drama) BBC TV – 1976 (Mike Leigh)
  10. Blue Remembered Hills, Play For Today (Single Filmed Drama) BBC TV 1979 (Dennis Potter, Brian Gibson)
  11. The World At War (Documentary Series) Thames-ITV – 1973
  12. The Shock of The New (Arts Series) BBC -1980 (Robert Hughes)
  13. The Boys From The Blackstuff (Drama Filmed Series) BBC -1982 (Alan Bleasdale, Phillip Saville )
  14. The Singing Detective (Drama Filmed Series) BBC -1986 (Dennis Potter, Jon Amiel)
  15. Made In Britain, Tales Out of School (Single Drama in a Filmed Series) Central-ITV – 1982 (David Leland, Alan Clarke)
  16. Elephant, Screen 2 (Single Drama Film) BBC TV – 1989 (Alan Clarke, Danny Boyle)
  17. Brass Eye (Comedy Drama-News Series) Channel 4 – 1997 & 2001 (Chris Morris)
  18. Peep Show (Comedy Series) Channel 4 – 2003-2015 (David Mitchell & Robert Webb)
  19. Galapagos (Natural History Series) BBC – 2006
  20. Arena (Arts Series) The Strange Story of Joe Meek – BBC -1991 (Alan Lewens)
About Author

Henry Scott Irvine

The published author of Procol Harum's hardback Omnibus Press biography, Henry Scott-Irvine's writing began in the script departments of the British film industry. He continued as a Film & TV 'Music & Arts' researcher. He has a long background in published journalism. A radio producer-presenter since 2009 as well as a producer of the award winning documentary film Tales From Tin Pan Alley. He's a successful campaigner for securing listings and preservation for London's music & film heritage sites.

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