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Big Brother and The Office named among landmark shows of last 50 years

Davina McCall is probably best known as the host of Big Brother (Ian West/PA)
Davina McCall is probably best known as the host of Big Brother (Ian West/PA)

Reality TV show Big Brother and mockumentary The Office have been named as among the top 50 landmark programmes from the last half-century.

Members from the Broadcasting Press Guild were asked for the “shows that changed broadcasting, influenced how we look at the world and made us laugh or think in a new way” during the last 50 years and the rankings are formed from their selections.

Number one on the list is ITV and BBC documentary series Up, which began as Seven Up! in 1964 and took a look at a selection of British people’s lives from when they were children to adulthood.

Sir David Attenborough’s BBC nature programme Life On Earth, which first ran in 1979, came in at second while ITV’s 1973 series The World At War, documenting the Second World War, came third.

Ricky Gervais TV BAFTAs 2004
(From left to right) Ricky Gervais, Mackenzie Crook, Ash Atalla, Stephen Merchant and Martin Freeman starred in The Office (Ian West/PA)

Taking fourth place was The Office, written, starring and created by comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, which spawned the career of The Hobbit film series star Martin Freeman and created the comic character of Wernham Hogg boss David Brent.

The series also spawned an American version, starring Steve Carell, John Krasinski and Ed Helms.

In at number five is Channel 4’s Big Brother, a ratings favourite from the start in the year 2000 when Davina McCall was host. The first series brought controversial TV moments involving contestant Nick Bateman, dubbed “Nasty” by the media.

The show moved to Channel 5 in 2010 and was scrapped in 2018 before ITV revived it in 2023. This year, it also brought back the celebrity version, with former X Factor judges Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh among the housemates.

Sir David Attenborough received mentions on the BPG list for Life On Earth and Planet Earth (Victoria Jones/PA)

BPG chair Manori Ravindran said: “In our 50 years, members of the Broadcasting Press Guild have been the tastemakers of the British TV industry.

“As such, it felt appropriate to celebrate this milestone birthday with a Top 50 list reflecting the programmes we believe have created landmark TV moments or have been truly significant to the industry over that time.

“It wasn’t an easy process — and we welcome healthy debate about our selections — but we believe this list encapsulates the richness of the creative sector and its inimitable contribution to our culture and society.”

The BBC leads the BPG top 50 landmark programmes of the last 50 years list with 31 shows while ITV and Channel 4 have nine each, while Sky, Netflix and Disney+ also appear.

Dramas make up the bulk of content while comedies and documentaries also place on the rankings.

Tilda Swinton receives BFI Fellowship – London
Armando Iannucci, who created The Thick Of It (Ian West/PA)

The BBC rounds out the rest of the top 10 with Sir David’s nature documentary Planet Earth, and comedy panel show Have I Got News For You starring Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and comedian Paul Merton, in at number six and seven, respectively.

In at number eight is Michaela Coel’s consent drama I May Destroy You, while Dennis Potter’s surreal serial The Singing Detective starring Sir Michael Gambon makes ninth place, and comedy show The Day Today – which was created by Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci and launched the on-screen career of Steve Coogan – comes in at number 10.

Iannucci – for BBC political satire The Thick Of It – and Coogan – for the corporation’s I’m Alan Partridge – are among those who appear more than once in the rankings, including Sir David.

The Fashion Awards 2023 – London
Michaela Coel who created I May Destroy You (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Other BBC shows in the top 50 are psychological game The Traitors and celebrity competition Strictly Come Dancing as well as comedies Blackadder, Fleabag, The Royle Family, Goodness Gracious Me, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Only Fools And Horses, as well as dramas House Of Cards, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Grange Hill and Pride And Prejudice.

Channel 4’s cookery competition The Great British Bake-Off, TV commenting series Gogglebox, drama This is England and comedy Derry Girls as well as Netflix’s royal drama The Crown, and chat show Parkinson – on the BBC and ITV – were also mentioned.

ITV’s period drama Brideshead Revisited, crime shows Inspector Morse and Cracker and satire Spitting Image also earn places on the list.

The Broadcasting Press Guild, which was founded in 1974, marks its 50th anniversary this year.