That was the year that was - 2018 on TV
PUBLISHED: 11:39 21 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:39 21 December 2018
It’s been a year for presenters to hang up their microphones, for iconic programmes to reach milestones and for stars to fall from grace. We look back at a year of television, starting with January to June.
January: The year kicked off with the TV adaptation of David Walliams’ children’s story Grandpa’s Great Escape and the debut episode of BBC crime series McMafia and then segued into the 21st series of Big Brother on Channel 5: all the contestants for the first three days were women. ITV news was forced off the air when a fire alarm went off, the brilliant Derry Girls launched on Channel 4 and a team from the University of Reading became the first in the history of University Challenge to score no points whatsoever. Dancing on Ice returned after four years, we discovered the new Captain Bird’s Eye is Italian, Channel 4’s Kiri enraged social workers but was a hit with viewers and six of the BBC’s leading male presenters including Huw Edwards, Nicky Campbell and John Humphrys – agreed to take pay cuts following controversy over equal salaries at the corporation. Brendan Cole was ousted from Strictly, Donald Trump tells Piers Morgan, “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist” and June Bernicoff announces she won’t return to Gogglebox without husband Leon, who died in late 2017. Stephen Fry stepped down as presenter of the BAFTA Film Awards, the BBC had to reshoot its lavish adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal of Innocence without star Ed Westwick after sexual allegations (which were later dropped), Carrie Gracie resigned as BBC News’ China Editor over the corporation’s gender pay gap controversy and Dancing on Ice returned after a four-year break (X Factor contestant Jake Quickenden won).
February: Blue Peter marked its 5000th episode (you can aim for a diamond badge these days), drag queen Courtney Act won Celebrity Big Brother, there was a brand new look for BBC Weather and we enjoyed the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics from South Korea. The opening ceremony included ‘augmented reality sequences’, for example the illusion of the stars and constellation gathering above the stadium: these were only visible to TV viewers, people in the stadium were instructed to look at the sky in wonder, the wonder in this case being what they were suppose to be looking at (Gangnam Style played its part, too, as did Tonga’s bare-chested and oiled cross-country skier who did his bit to raise the temperature). Comedian Steve Coogan announced a new Alan Partridge series, and Jack Whitehall presented the Brit Awards. The Government confirmed the TV licence fee would rise by £3.50 on April 1 (to £150.50) and Whispering Bob Harris was back with The Old Grey Whistle Test 30 years since the original series came to an end.
March: In the same month that ITV aired the 100th edition of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, presenter Ant McPartlin was arrested for drink driving after a car crash in London and later announced he was stepping down from presenting roles while he sought treatment – two days later, it was revealed Dec Donnelly would present the remaining shows in the series alone. When McPartlin was charged with drink driving, Suzuki axed its advertising campaign featuring Ant and Dec. The first solo edition of Saturday Night Takeaway was aired on March 31 with an audience of 7.7million, a 39 per cent share of the overall viewership that night. There was a shocking death in Call the Midwife, a shocking male rape storyline in Coronation Street and Iain Lee was shocked when Matthew Wright asked him questions about the end of his marriage on The Wright Stuff. And Robot Wars was axed (again).
April: Have I Got News for You team captain Ian Hislop says that women politicians are “more reticent” to guest host the programme and MP Nadine Dorries, who has previously appeared as a panelist, describes the show as being “too vicious” for most female guests. It’s a month for winning: Ruti Olajugbagbe wins the seventh series of The Voice UK, Kenny Tutt wins the 2018 series of MasterChef, series 13 of Only Connect is won by the Escapologists, St John’s College in Cambridge wins University Challenge and the nation wins as C5 announces it is giving the Chuckle Brothers their own Saturday morning show a decade after Chucklevision last aired. A million fewer people tune in to see Declan Donnelly present the last episode of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway than for his first solo edition and the BBC withdraws the series Human Planet from distribution due to a second editorial breach which involves a scene showing a hunter harpooning a whale. Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas announces that he is leaving broadcasting to focus on his son following the tragic death of his wife Gemma at the end of 2017.
May: Presenter Matthew Wright announces he will be leaving The Wright Stuff after 18 years at the helm and Coronation Street tackle another important storyline: male suicide. An original script for Doctor Who from 1963 sells at auction for £6,200 and the big guns line up for the TV event of the year: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on May 19. Nearly 18 million viewers tuned in to watch, making the wedding the UK’s biggest TV event for 2018 (so far). Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, revealed plans for a ballet version of the series, we learned Barbara Windsor has been living with Alzheimer’s Disease since 2014 and the BBC’s Andrew Marr revealed that he had cancer and would be absent from the screen until his treatment was complete. New Zealand is set to catch up with the UK with synchronised Coronation Street episodes, England comes 24 out of 26 in the Eurovision Song Contest and Matt LeBlanc quits Top Gear. The semi-final of series 1 of Britain’s Got Talent was forced off the air for 15 minutes as a result of a technical glitch caused by adverse weather conditions. As Declan Donnelly explained the problem to viewers, Simon Cowell shouted: “Ant, you are coming back next year. You didn’t need to do that!”
June: The nation rejoices as Lost Voice Guy, comedian Lee Ridley, wins series 12 of Britain’s Got Talent and the younger members of society disappear from the streets between 9pm and 10pm on week nights as Love Island returns to ITV2. Louis Walsh announces he’s leaving his role as a judge on The X Factor after 13 years with the show and Emma Thompson and Mary Beard are made Dames and Tom Hardy wins a CBE in the 2018 Honours List. The BBC announces that David Dimbleby will leave Question Time at the end of the year after 25 years of presenting and Royal Mail releases a set of commemorative stamps marking the 50th anniversary of Dad’s Army. Matthew Wright presented his last edition of The Wright Stuff after 18 years and spoke about the early days of the show in Norwich when he said his live studio audience included those from “the city’s modest collection of heroin addicts” and David Dimbleby announced he would be leaving Question Time at the end of 2018 after 25 years as its presenter.