100 BBC Gamechangers

100 landmark shows to mark 100 years of the BBC.

To mark the BBC’s centenary, the British Film Institute has listed the ‘BFI 100 BBC Television Gamechangers.’

The list includes productions such as Doctor Who, Pennies from Heaven, Call the Midwife, Eurovision Song Contest,  Top of the Pops, Strictly Come Dancing, Absolutely Fabulous, The Office, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, I May Destroy You and more -many produced by BBC Studios.

Tom Fussell, CEO of BBC Studios, says: “The BFI has compiled an extraordinary list of gamechanging programmes, the vast majority of which BBC Studios has been able to bring to the world, and re-create in some markets. As the BBC celebrates 100 years, BBC Studios is proud of our BBC heritage in supporting the Corporation and showcasing the best of British creativity to audiences around the globe. They have enabled us to be at the forefront of content innovation and will continue to distinguish us in a market where content ownership and creation is everything.”

1936 Television Comes to London
1946 Ballet Negres
1947 – BBC Proms
1952- Sooty
1953 The Quatermass Experiment
1953 Panorama
1953 Coverage of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
1954-61 Zoo Quest
1956 A Man from the Sun
1956-60 Hancock’s Half Hour / Hancock
1957 – The Eurovision Song Contest
1957 – The Sky At Night
1958-2007 Grandstand
1958-65 Monitor
1958 – Blue Peter
1957 Morning in the Streets
1959-62 Face to Face
1960 An Age of Kings
1962-63 That Was the Week That Was
1962-74 Steptoe & Son
1962-78 Z Cars
1963 – pres Doctor Who
1964- Top of The Pops
1964-76 Vision On
1964 The Great War
1964 The Colony
1964 – Horizon
1964-1988 Play School
1965-82 Man Alive
1965-70 Apna Hi Ghar Samajhiye
1966 The Wednesday Play
1966 Theatre 625: Talking to a Stranger
1966 Camberwick Green
1967 The Forsyte Saga
1968- Gardeners World
1968-77 The Morecambe and Wise Show
1969 The Liver Birds
1969 Civilisation
1969 Nationwide
1969 Monty Python’s Flying Circus
1970 The Six Wives of Henry VIII
1970-84 Play for Today
1971 The Generation Game
1971- Open University
1971-2004 Parkinson
1972 – Mastermind
1972-present Newsround
1972 Ways of Seeing
1974 The Family
1974 – Pobol y Cwm
1974 Shoulder to Shoulder
1975 – Arena
1976 I, Claudius
1976 -82 Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
1978 Pennies from Heaven
1978-2008 Grange Hill
1978-79 Empire Road
1979 Life on Earth
1979-1999 A Change of Sex
1981-1994 40 Minutes
1981-1982 The Chinese Detective
1982 Boys from the Blackstuff
1982 Police
1982-84 The Young Ones
1982 Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery
1984 Threads
1984-2005 The Lenny Henry Show
1985 – 1987 Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV
1985 Live Aid
1985 EastEnders
1985 Real Lives: At the Edge of the Union
1985 Edge of Darkness
1990 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
1991-96 The Real McCoy
1992 Ghostwatch
1992 Absolutely Fabulous
1993 The Buddha of Suburbia
1994 Video Nation
1994-96 Cardiac Arrest
1995 The Death of Yugoslavia
1996-2001 Goodness Gracious Me
1996 This Life
1996 Our Friends in the North
1997-2001, 2015-pres Teletubbies
1997-2002 I’m Alan Partridge
1998 – 2000 The Royle Family
1999 – 2005 Chewin’ the Fat
2001-2003 The Office
2001 The Blue Planet
2003 – Something Special
2004 Strictly Come Dancing
2005-2012 The Thick of It
2009 – Horrible Histories
2010-2016 The Great British Bake Off
2012- Call the Midwife
2012 – 2018 People Just Do Nothing
2016 Exodus: Our Journey to Europe
2020 Bitesize Daily
2020 I May Destroy You
2020 Small Axe
You can read in more detail here.

Around nine of the ten ‘gamechanging programmes’ identified in the list were either produced by the BBC’s inhouse production teams over the years (which subsequently merged with BBC Worldwide to become BBC Studios in 2018), or have been exported internationally by BBC Studios as tape sales or formats. The BBC began distributing its content globally in the late 1950s, with a single business manager fulfilling the role. Today BBC Studios is a multi-award-winning global distributor-producer with offices in 20 markets, producing around 2,000 hours of content a year and offering an extensive catalogue of over 42,000 hours. It is the UK’s most awarded producer and most commissioned creator of new content and has been recognised as the biggest distributor of TV content outside of Hollywood and Bollywood.

The longevity of some of these titles – including Sir David Attenborough’s genre-defining natural history series Life On Earth (1979) which is estimated to have been watched by half a billion people globally and the iconic Absolutely Fabulous (1992) which continues to be a hit around the world – demonstrates the power of impactful content to continue thrilling audiences internationally for decades.

Other key BBC Studios titles that featured in the BFI BBC Television Gamechangers list include:
• Dancing With The Stars (format of British show Strictly Come Dancing) – has been licensed to 60 countries with 420 seasons and over 4,000 episodes worldwide. In the U.S., it celebrated 30 seasons in 2021 and has been honoured with 18 Emmy Awards.
• Doctor Who – the world’s longest running Science Fiction series, which set a Guinness World Record in 2013 when the 50th anniversary episode simulcast across 94 countries in 15 languages.
• Love Productions’ The Great British Bake Off – over 130 seasons, 1,500 episodes worldwide (excluding spin offs) and licensed to 35 countries.
• The Blue Planet – award-winning series from 2001, the first-ever series on the natural history of the world’s oceans. A follow up series in 2017 has received 300m album plays on Ten Cent Video in China alone.
• The Office – first on air 20 years ago, but in 2020 it was the most-streamed show in the US (Netflix) with 57.13bn minutes watched.

9 Responses

  1. “Theatre 625: Talking to a Stranger” was one of the greatest pieces of drama ever televised and it cemented Judi Dench as an actress to be watched … I saw it when it first aired on BBC2 in 1966 and hoped that I would be able to meet Ms Dench one day … however we emigrated to Oz the following year so all hope was dashed … except that in my first week on the studio crew at the ABC in 1970, I was working as a lighting assistant setting up a program about the Adelaide Festival of Arts, sitting in each chair in turn so the lighting director could make adjustments when the interview talent walked into the studio and a familiar husky voice said laughingly “I think you’re sitting in my seat” … so I got my wish after all … Judi Dench was appearing in the Festival and I got to meet her !!!

  2. It’s a great list. I agree that Keeping Up Appearances should definitely be on the list, even above some of the shows listed, as great as these shows are. It’s exactly what I thought and I hadn’t read the comments yet when the thought came to mind. I can’t imagine why. It’s absurd that was left out. They’re great shows in the list though I can’t imagine how Keeping Up Appearances was overlooked. It appealed to all ages and all backgrounds, even though the characters were more on the elderly side. Even when I was in primary school, it was a favourite amongst school friends. Can you believe that? That’s how good it was. That’s saying something. It’s one of those shows that was so classic that it appealed across the board. Yes it’s absolutely scandalous and shameful that it hadn’t been included. And where’s Antiques Roadshow? This list needs to be expanded beyond 100.

  3. Z-Cars was too early for me to have seen more than a few clips on YouTube. Doctor Who was repeated on the ABC endlessly and that clearly impacted TV SF. Civilisation and Life On Earth established that TV could seriously present complex systems of thought if you put effort into them, but that is rarer today as most documentaries are based around slick footage and repetitive recaps before and after every ad break for people flicking between channels. Edge of Darkness was an impressive TV drama. Cardiac Arrest modernised medical dramas, but ER was much more influential. This Life revolutionised serial drama for younger audiences. How many sitcoms aren’t workplace mockmentaries after the Office? But trying to claim for the success of the 201 episodes NBC later churned reeks of desperation. ITV with The Avengers, Brideshead Revisted, Pride And Prejudice 1995 (which freed period dramas from stuffy drawning room scenes with stilted BBC accents) actually had more effect on global TV.

    1. And on top of that, most episodes of Z-Cars (as well as Doctor Who episodes from William Hartnell and Patrick Throughton eras and some episodes from the Jon Pertwee era) were sadly wiped due to policies at the time, but in the case of Doctor Who, parts of some serials has since been recovered by recordings off the television (and believe it or not, the regeneration from the First Doctor to the Second Doctor somehow survived the wiping, therefore entering television folklore.

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