So how do you begin looking back on a year in which television went completely evil?

In the last 12 months the public has been cheated, deceived and lied to by TV. Or at least, that’s what the rest of the media would have you believe. ITV suspended premium rate phone-ins in March, Richard and Judy was investigated due to irregularities on the “You Say We Pay” competition, cookery show Saturday Kitchenwent under scrutiny, and amazingly, even good old Blue Peter wasn’t above the law – in a couple of wicked ploys, a cat wasn’t given the name chosen by viewers, and some children stood in for contest winners.

The BBC was shown to be guilty of having production staff pose as prize winners, and as a result the Corporation suspended all competitions. Meanwhile GMTV was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over a scandal connected with their phone-in quizzes. Callers were being charged for teasers they had no chance of winning. GMTV was subsequently fined £2 million by OFCOM and had to offer refunds to all of the entrants, although quite how many bothered to take the trouble of asking for a 25p refund is debatable. Best of all though, each day the company’s presenters had to read out a groveling apology. Sadly, this was curtailed when GMTV decided to complete their community service by bunging up a caption and have a nameless person prostrate themselves instead.

The avalanche of TV’s year of scandal swept over the entire schedule, with late-night quiz shows also being scrutinised. The regulatory bodies quickly became involved and a new set of rules was put in place to ensure the public were no longer taken for a ride. The BBC too, introduced a new code of conduct with regard to viewer competitions.

Caught in the media glare of scandal, and haemorrhaging internally thanks to looming job cuts, a bedraggled Beeb was dragged into further controversy later in the year after a trailer for a documentary about the Queen was accused of being misleading. ITV then found itself at the centre of a dispute regarding whether or not Alzheimer’s sufferer Malcolm Pointon was actually shown to die on screen. Television executives resigned, the BBC announced staff would participate in compulsory retraining courses and OFCOM became involved in umpteen more cases. BBC1 Controller Peter Fincham stood down as a result of the Queen debacle and was replaced by the former Director of Programmes at five, Jay Hunt.

With the scandals having run their course (at least for the time being), one can now reflect on the fact this furore has actually highlighted a more pertinent issue. 2007 should be remembered as the year in which our news gatherers proved themselves unable to leave a story alone – even when it had become exhausted. There seemed to exist a fear of running out of things to report, meaning journalists would flog an item for all its worth, just in case another one didn’t come along.

In the case of the “TV scandals”, the story perhaps reached its apotheosis when it was revealed in a wave of sensation that, on occasion, reporters recorded scenes of themselves nodding at interviewees after the interview had actually been recorded. This blatant and silly attempt at creating a mountain out of a molehill made everyone concerned look undignified – the journalists for endlessly stringing out the story, and the programme makers for reacting like rabbits caught in the headlights. What was required was for someone to put their head above the parapet and confirm what we all knew – yes this sort of thing happens in television, but – phone scandals aside – it’s not a big deal and reporters really should start sticking their microphones somewhere else.

Back in the world of make believe, Doctor Who gave us “Blink” and “Human Nature” – surely the best three-episode run in the series’ history. Both stories illustrated just how multifarious the franchise has become, with shocking monsters for the kids and weighty themes for adults, while in the midst there were some shattering performances from Jessica Hynes and Carey Mulligan. Meanwhile “Utopia” worked purely because of Sir Derek Jacobi and the fact every element of the episode sacrificed itself for the greater good – namely a fantastic final reveal. Those four installments aside, series three didn’t really deliver in the way its predecessors had – and enough said about the appearance of a wizened John Burton Race as the Doctor in theseason finale.

Related to Who was The Sarah Jane Adventures. Here was good, intelligent and grown-up drama that could be enjoyed by the whole family. As an ever breathless, slightly spiky Sarah Jane, Elisabeth Sladen gave us a children’s character of rare complexity. Alas, as the series developed, it didn’t take long for some of the clichés of kids’ TV to take hold (hidden passages, mum and dad remaining outside the loop, new crazes proving sinister), and with its own (admittedly very watchable) “Father’s Day”/”Random Shoes” episode in the form of “Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane”, the show no longer felt quite so fresh. But it remained Doctor Who‘s likeable, younger sibling.

Staying in the science-fiction genre, in June came Jekyll written by Steven Moffatt. Here was a modern-day, very dark blend of horror. There was a lot of structural cleverness and genuine innovation in terms of how the whole Jekyll and Hyde scenario played out, but unlike his Doctor Who scripts – which seemed scrupulously plotted - Jekyll careered from one big set piece to another. Worse still, it featured a totally unrealistic secret organisation, peopled by the most appalling American accents of the year.

Primeval, ITV1′s bash at Saturday night sci-fi, proved that when the channel can’t get a handle on a genre (business reality shows, cookery or sitcom, for example) it really can’t get a handle. This was dopey, illogical, entirely predictable, and saddled with a leading man clearly radiating embarrassment about the whole endeavour. Still there was something about it that niggled away, suggesting it might just turn things around in the second series.

The second and final run of Life on Mars disappointed after embracing the formula, much of the time treading water until the fate of Sam Tyler was revealed. All the performers did their best with the material, but too often the show would find itself dishing up wilfully confusing scenes with Tyler, before dabbling in a quagmire of issues (this week, institutional racism; next week, immigration; the week after, drugs). The downbeat ending was still exhilarating though, riskily providing closure while suggesting the suicide of its lead character. It’ll be interesting to see how the sequel, Ashes to Ashes, deals with that …

Heroes was perhaps the best new genre series of the year, despite the often meandering narrative and the constant drift into thudding portentousness – typified by the poetic voiceover which topped and tailed many episodes. Although nothing was ever quite as exciting as the opening edition, with time-traveling Hiro’s exuberant scream in Times Square before discovering an upcoming apocalypse, skilfull plot revelations and shocks – plus the introduction of Zachary Quinto’s charismatic Sylar – kept viewers loyal.

It was an interesting year for mainstream drama. Doc Martin, essentially Born and Bred without the period setting and oompah theme tune, continued in its charming fashion until a rubbish final episode left most viewers frustrated. Kingdom, Stephen Fry’s venture into Sunday nights proved a huge disappointment. You can understand why this wet series about a kindly country solicitor is an appealing prospect for the star – it’s filmed just up the road from his home. But with Tony Slattery putting in a cartoon turn as a comedy yokel, while Fry did the Peter’s Friends pity-me singleton act again – absorbing the woes of all around him – this was damp, uninteresting fare. A by-numbers Sunday night production to rival even Wild at Heart.

Following a successful pilot episode, the Inspector Morse spin-off Lewis returned for three episodes, with the promise of more to follow. School drama Waterloo Road enjoyed two series – one in January, and a 20-part run in the autumn. Also returning for the BBC were Waking the DeadHustle (its fourth run); Sea of Souls (for what looks as if it was the last hoorah); andSpooks (its sixth series proved to be the most exciting for years).

Holby Blue, or rather, Holby/Blue - a second spin-off from Casualty, this time featuring the work of the police – provoked the usual comments about the BBC lacking any ideas. But despite being part of the Holby franchise, the series had very little connection to either of the other two shows, apart from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Charlie Fairhead in the first episode. The next series will apparently feature storylines that are more closely intertwined with those of Holby City. Casualty itself underwent something of a revamp for the autumn, with a stack of new characters coming in and the introduction of a new “film” effect look that drew complaints from viewers, much in the same way a similar aborted step had done some 10 or so years earlier.

But top marks to ITV1 for actually broadcasting a raw VT, non-filmic episode of Heartbeat in November. This was apparently down to “somebody putting the wrong tape in”.

2007 brought us two fictionalised takes on life behind the scenes at an American late night comedy show - 30 Rock on five and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on More4. The former crackled with life and sunshine; the latter forever laboured under a self-styled shroud of gloom. The production qualities of both were, as you’d expect, superb. It was content, not style, that fostered the difference between carefree, infectious exuberance and relentless clever-clever pomposity.

Talking of which, it seems almost everyone in the world hated This Life +10, but perhaps this was because they wanted it to be just like the show was a decade ago. Instead Amy Jenkins came up with a different approach to suit the portrayal of characters in a different period of their life, capturing the frustrations of thirtysomethings just as she had of twentysomethings.

A few one-off dramas brightened the schedules in 2007. The Antique’s Roadshow interlude in Stephen Poliakoff’s Joe’s Palace was a particular treat, but the drama itself seemed to frustrate many viewers – Poliakoff has never been interested in giving the audience the complete story.Recovery, a one-off about a family man struggling to come to terms with brain damage following a road accident, was a welcome reminder of David Tennant’s range. Unresponsive and sullen throughout most of the film, he made space for co-star Sarah Parish to carry the production. One moment, where this married couple were forced to re-evaluate their relationship and consider a platonic future together, proved particularly moving. Possibly the best drama of the year.

Another offering, Party Animals and the two new episodes of The Thick of It offered somewhat differing interpretations of Westminster politics, the impression being the reality was somewhere in between. The pre-publicity for the former suggested nothing less than a bonkfest between the Houses but instead delivered a West Wing-style romantic yet intelligent drama with real heart. Meanwhile, The Thick of It portrayed everyone as equally cretinous – and was perhaps the best comedy of the year, with a career best performance from Peter Capaldi: “You were like a sweaty octopus trying to unhook a bra”.

Sticking with BBC4, Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe at last moved beyond dark metaphors and wank jokes, to start fulfilling its long held promise. Brooker’s investigation into television news was a highlight, particularly as Screenwipe‘s various annoying runners and researchers didn’t appear. We hope for more of the same in 2008. Flight of the Conchords entertained many who appreciated the series’ musical parodies and likeable characters, others, however, felt it to be irritating stuff with every comedy song relying on nothing more than weaving naturalistic dialogue into lyrics as if this in itself was funny.

Over on BBC3, The Mighty Boosh unleashed their third series of strangeness in November, the location this time shifting to a shop called Nabootique; but for those who couldn’t buy into it, it just seemed like two blokes kicking the corpse of Vic Reeves (who’s still alive anyway – how surreal!). Ruddy Hell It’s Harry and Paul! may not quite have hit the heights BBC1 expected, but three new sketch shows marked out the winter for the terrestrial BBC. The Peter Serafinowicz Show was not quite as polished as Look Around You, but its star still managed to include enough spot-on parodies of everything from television shopping to E! News to suggest he still may be a big talent for the future. Alas, as the series continued, it became he’d stacked all the good stuff in the early episodes and while beautifully made, the laughs thinned rapidly, as viewers were left to question if the whole thing was actually meant to be a gentle evisceration of the sketch show format, viciously pointing out its weaknesses. If a second series is in the offing, then let’s hope he can straighten things out, and for God’s sake Peter, do your Terry Wogan.

The Armstrong and Miller Show, on the other hand, proved a recurring treat. Surely expectations weren’t particularly heightened about the duo’s return to the form? And yet the show delivered regular, funny skits, surprisingly irreverent for a BBC1 birthing. Finally, The Omid Djalili Show. In pre-publicity, the Iranian-born funnyman set the bar low, making it clear he had no real enthusiasm for sketch comedy. This was apparent in the finished product – lacklustre and perfunctory.

Back for another go were The Green Green GrassLead BalloonSaxondale and Hyperdrive. If you’d enjoyed them first time around, chances were you would have done so again. The Christmas special of Extras was a delight, but only for those who’ve been grinding their teeth in Ricky Gervais’ direction for the last five years. Starting with a pretentiously classy opening title sequence, the tone was set for what followed. Here was comedy used as high-minded bludgeon. The vacuous nature of celebrity surely didn’t merit such a heavy handed treatise. It’s funny that Gervais can’t keep a straight face when doing an appeal for Comic Relief, but get him to talk about fame and he can out-pontificate Michael Parkinson. Surely this is the moment critical opinion swings against him.

For the rest of the BBC’s terrestrial comedy output, it was the old favourite panel shows that provided the laughs. Have I Got News For You and QI trundled on much as before, while Never Mind the Buzzcocks continued to find a new lease of life under the previously insufferable Simon Amstell. Of course he made his name on Channel 4, and it says a lot about that station’s consistently poor comedy output that they didn’t have the interest or inclination to find him a vehicle and let him go to the Beeb to finally become famous.

Russell Brand’s Ponderland led the line for C4, and has to be congratulated for at least not wheeling out the same tired clips. However, it was bafflingly stripped across a whole week so came and went all too quickly. The IT Crowd and Peep Show were much the same as before, while Star Stories had a rude energy that made for mindlessly entertaining viewing. Apart from that, there was next to nothing. It says much about the current state of C4′s comedy that the prime Friday night slot in December – surely a time when ratings are at their highest – was devoted to the never-ending Ugly Betty and the millionth repeat of the awful Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere. Is there really nothing else?

ITV1 brought us a new entry into the topical quiz show with News Knight, in which Sir Trevor McDonald unconvincingly delivered quips via auto cue, and Reginald D Hunter joked about little else other than the colour of his skin. Even less successful was the painful Ben Elton vehicleGet a Grip. Elton came across as he normally does, but it was very obvious that his co-star Alexa Chung was reading her jokes from a screen. Predictably then, Harry Hill’s TV Burpremained ITV1′s only decent comedy series

Worst of the year though was a tie between Bonkers - an ITV1 sex comedy featuring Liza Tarbuck as a fruity mum who finds herself sharing her home with a movie idol who only she can see – and Roman’s Empire: quite simply, a stupid over-frantic affair. Mathew Horne was much better served by Gavin and Stacey, which despite its BBC3 placing was at heart a warm-hearted family affair which would happily appeal to anyone aged 18 to 80. Not overdone, not heavy-handed, not cynical – just wry and warm with a great story to tell and a fantastic ear for natural dialogue. Its secret was placing believable people in believable predicaments.

There wasn’t a lot of believability in our soaps this year. Emmerdale‘s “Who Killed Tom King” storyline dominated the show from Christmas until May. A number of the villagers were put in the frame in a huge publicity campaign (including specially-shot internet material), so the revelation it was Tom’s son, Carl, felt like a massive anti-climax. Much of the rest of the year was taken up with affairs and yet another fire. The Sugden family really should be more careful with matches and lighters.

EastEnders found itself in the doldrums – again achieving its lowest ever ratings. After killing off Pauline Fowler at Christmas, few of the long-established cast remained, with only Adam Woodyatt left from those who’d appeared at the very beginning. New boss Diederick Santer came in to try and turn things round later in the year with a raft of fresh characters, however the show’s biggest problem right now is casual viewers don’t have a clue who half the Walford residents are. The promised return of the Butchers is perhaps an indication that something needs to be done.

Nonetheless, the Christmas episodes produced massive ratings, far higher than the Yuletide episode of Coronation Street. Yet, here was everything that seemed wrong about the soap; while Corrie deftly engineered the downfall of a love triangle through a believable mix up of Christmas presents, EastEnders went for that old faithful plot device of playing back secretly recorded evidence of infidelity in front of a crowd of people (“Sharongate”, anyone?). Lots of snot, shouting and tears ensued, but it was difficult to care. The saddest news for the show this year was that Jim Branning actor John Bardon suffered a stroke. Apparently it is planned the illness will be written into the storylines when he is well enough to return.

The BBC announced in November it had bought a new Australian soap for 2008, Out of the Blue, to replace Neighbours. Quite rightly, the Corporation had refused to get involved in a tit-for-tat bidding war with its commercial rival, and now it looks as if five will create an Australian soap hour when it starts showing Neighbours, paired with Home and Away.

Once again Coronation Street was the year’s best soap, although things dipped for quite a while after the Tracy and Charlie storyline. In particular, the sacking of Bruce Jones, who played Les Battersby, was a blot on the show’s copy book. The character disappeared on a whim in the spring, notionally traveling the world as a roadie for a Status Quo tribute band, but Jones never came back – a consequence of revealing too much regarding his co-stars in an apparent drunken stand-up rant. His screen wife Cilla also left, albeit in agreement with the producers leaving her son, Chesney, behind with lodger Kirk.

Demonic David Platt dominated the storylines on the cobbles over the summer and towards the end of the year with his antics becoming increasingly ridiculous, culminating in his attempt to commit suicide by driving his car into the canal. Where the show excelled was in depicting Platt as someone who fell through the cracks in the healthcare system – he wasn’t mad enough to be diagnosed with anything, but his personality was sufficiently twisted that reasoning with him remained impossible. On a lighter note it was good to see the return of Jim McDonald … so it was. A couple of promising new characters appeared in December in the form of bookies Dan and Harry Mason (the latter played by former Bad Girls actor Jack Ellis).

There was a lot of mainstream stuff in documentary this year, so Malcolm and Barbara: Love’s Farewell, Paul Watson’s epic observational film tracking the destructive ravishes of Alzheimer’s, was uncommonly brave television. As Malcolm Pointon succumbed to his condition, he became abusive and violent, and Barbara clearly struggled with her conflicting feelings for the man. Alas, the show was overshadowed days before transmission thanks to that whole fakery scandal, and it will be a grave injustice if the film is only remembered for the fall-out.

Television as a force for change sort of petered out over the course of the year, perhaps in part because Jamie Oliver’s school dinners campaign seems to have run into all manner of problems. However, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? saw the former Granada Chief Executive struggling to apply his own brand of business know-how to the National Health Service. In many ways a painfully slow-moving show, this aptly reflected the bureaucratic malaise at the heart of the problem. Time after time Robinson encountered management groups, all seemingly set up solely to pass responsibility on to another department. Where targets had been brought in to try and make work practices more efficient, it had instead instituted a culture of shirking. Robinson’s exasperated exhalation became an ersatz soundtrack.

After a three-year break, off-beat reporter Louis Theroux bounced back onto our screens with a slew of new films. His first offering, Gambling in Las Vegas, revealed a Theroux who’d gone back-to-basics. Jettisoned were the grisly celebrity ride-alongs of the When Louis Met … years. Instead, the reporter returned to the role of observer, making low-key forays into fascinating subcultures. With the freak show element also dimmed down a shade, Theroux’s 2007 farepoints towards future fascinating shows to come.

In the main, documentary in 2007 seemed to be about travel, eating and heritage. September’sMichael Palin’s New Europe was a bit of a let-down. Our hero did all of the usual things you expect him to – including drinking the local evil spirit, performing on stage somewhere and seeing an animal being killed – but it felt a bit meandering and without any real focus. Long Way Down saw Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman travel from John o’ Groats to Cape Town on motorbikes. The show was entertaining enough and made for an interesting alternative to Palin’s excursions. However, perhaps a better documentary double-act came in the form of the second series of Oz and James’ Big Wine Adventure. Continuing where they left off, the duo explored the wines of the USA. May actually works better with Oz than Clarkson and Hammond on Top Gear. Here he is allowed to branch out more and let his personality sparkle.

Staying on a culinary theme, there was a return for Heston Blumenthal, who was In Search of Perfection with a second series of culinary boffinary. Another trip into the great outdoors beckoned with Ray Mears’ Wild Food, in which the survival expert ate some seeds and unpleasant-looking bits of trees. Other similar experts on television this year included Bear Grylls, whose Born Survivor series was shown on Channel 4 in the spring, and Bruce Parry who appeared in the third series of the excellent Tribe.

This was also the year in which Britain celebrated itself in documentary form, with another run of Coast, a Trevor McDonald-fronted copycat called Britain’s Favourite View, a good, solid series in Great British Journeys, Griff Rhys Jones climbing some British mountains in – well -Mountain and Alan Titchmarsh’s The Nature of Britain. Having attempted to rip off the BBC’s heritage shows, ITV1 had another bash with You Don’t Know You’re Born - a genealogy series that wasn’t as good or popular as Who Do You Think You Are?.

One jewel that was hidden away in the BBC crown was Falklands Night, shown in April to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict. A number of other programmes on the subject were broadcast around this time (including some fascinating ones featuring veterans returning to the Islands), but BBC Parliament devoted a whole evening’s worth of screen time to the subject laying on reams of superb archive footage from 1982.

BBC4, meanwhile, gave us some particularly choice fare. Comics Britannia was fantastic stuff, until it came to the last installment, which offered a strangely slanted history of adult comics, rather contrary to the generally well-researched previous two episodes. Perhaps the best documentary of the year, though, was the similarly paced The Secret Life of the Motorway. This series uncovered a wealth of fascinating archive footage and information. The first episode revealed there were so many Irish immigrants working on the M1 four priests were employed to minister to them and their families. The second offered one of the great documentary interviews of the year as two pensioners sat eating breakfast in a service station. He waxed lyrical about how much he loved going there and all the interesting people he’d met (listing most of them) and then, when asked what she liked about the place, the wife said sharply, “I hate coming here”. The third episode was perhaps most interesting of all, as it outlined the bizarre plan to run motorways directly through Central London and the protest pressure which ensured the idea was swiftly dropped.

Talking of which, Grandstand was cancelled at the start of the year, with little fuss. The elements that comprised the show are still present on Saturday afternoons, just without the overarching brand connecting them, so it feels as if little has changed. The saddest thing on telly, though, was the complete loss of any pop music programming, with Popworld followingTop of the Pops and CD:UK down the dumper. With the only other music shows on telly beingLater With Jools HollandLive from Abbey Road and late night affairs like Transmission, it means the only place mainstream pop can appear is filling the gaps on variety programmes, such as the lottery and Strictly Come Dancing, or kids’ TV. That can’t have been the case since the 1960s.

With so little pop on screen in 2007, the gap had to be filled by something and inevitably the creep of reality TV continued. Hell’s Kitchen allowed us to enjoy Barry McGuigan mashing pan after pan of spuds. Unlike its US counterpart, which really ratchets up the tension, the series was pretty tame, enlivened only by the sacking of Lee Ryan and the exile of Jim Davidson. The latter was an accident waiting to happen – after performing his stupid woman voice and his Zippy voice, a country winced at the probability his Chalkie voice would soon follow. However, fittingly, it was a foodstuff that brought him down – or rather his assertion that gay men “mince”, causing much offence to Brian from Big Brother. Lee departed over a comment made by head chef Marco concerning a “Pikey’s Picnic”, a slur on both the traveling community’s cuisine and etiquette, thus he achieved an almost unique feat of leaving a reality show with an ounce of dignity. Head chef Marco Pierre White, on the other hand, was made to look like a vain, thick-headed idiot.

The Apprentice was as good as ever with a move to BBC1 having done it no harm at all. The culinary derivative, The Restaurant began as a clumsy, over-populated attempt to reheat its big brother’s success, but rapidly turned into good viewing, as the number of contestants diminished, and we viewers adapted to Raymond Blanc’s avuncular persona. Challenges, in the main, were both televisual and relevant, and the show perfectly cast – from the chalk ‘n’ cheese champions Jeremy and Jane, to reluctant restaurateur and his moll Sam and Jacqui, via Oedipal-tinged duo Tom and Nicola, and the hopeless, but thoroughly decent Martin and Emma (“Is that a cocktail?”).

Controversy raged over Celebrity Big Brother when thousands of complaints were made to OFCOM over claims housemates were making racist marks against Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. The row went on for a while with, ridiculously, Hertfordshire police being called in to investigate. Despite the furore, Goody’s career wasn’t ruined as many had predicted, while Shetty ultimately did well out of the debacle. The Celebrity brand of the show has been rested, which is a good thing, because what the race row managed to cover up was that 2007′s run had been a load of rubbish.

Big Brother 8 disastrously opened with a houseful of women, most of whom came across as incredibly annoying, shrieking every two seconds with cries of, “Oh my God, oh my God!”. More contestants were subsequently introduced, but viewers quickly dropped by the wayside as the weeks went by, and the show recorded its lowest-ever viewing figures. Every year since its inception BB has been able to engineer some kind of controversy to inflate the viewing figures – failure to do so this time left the series badly weakened. Still, it was actually quite a decent run, although it took far too long for the likeable characters to emerge.

On the back of the continuing success of Dragon’s Den, ITV1 attempted to get in on the act with Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway, and Tycoon. While Fortune was stymied by the inclusion of Jeffrey Archer, everything about Tycoon was just plain wrong, from the lacklustre “Tycoon Tower” itself (a tiny block on London’s South Bank, overshadowed by all around it) to the unstructured game play elements (some episodes Peter Jones would close down a business, some episodes he wouldn’t). True, you could say phone calls and unprepossessing folk scurrying into numerous meetings is a fair reflection of business, but on camera it made for a whole load of nothing. ITV1 quickly lost their nerve, dumping the show into a late night slot and shearing 50 percent of the runtime. The final episode saw Kate Thornton failing to gee up a shivering crowd as “the next tycoon” was revealed in perhaps the most muted finale the one-time X-Factor presenter has ever been involved with.

The Underdog Show was reality television somehow destined to be forgotten by all who watched and even participated. Here was an oddity, a celeb-encrusted series with all the trappings thereof – viewers’ votes, judges, eliminations – but was nonetheless played quite flatly. Instead, the public service remit (and there was one, honest!) came to the fore, turning the venture into a rather effective piece about the plight of rescue dogs. Nonetheless, Jeremy Paxman still took a swipe in his 2007 MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, moaning Newsnight had been “obliged to follow an hour [sic] of celebrity dog walking”.

Far better, was Masterchef Goes Large, which had a profound effect on BBC2 teatimes. With the show shifting into a primetime slot for 2008, the channel hoped to repeat its success withKitchen Criminals. Moderate fun, although hugely repetitive (a good 30 percent of each episode seemed to involve recaps) the programme was handicapped by the fact there’s nothing all that fulfilling about watching recipe after recipe being screwed up. The onscreen talent was also unappetising. In John Burton Race we had a TV chef attempting to appear both avuncular and egotistical. He succeeded only in the latter. Competing against him was Angela Hartnett, clearly a gifted cook, but in no way a natural TV talent. Her performance was edgy and smelt – just faintly – of desperation.

Desperation, of course being the watch word during those early rounds of The X Factor. It was generally agreed this year’s run was the least successful. New host Dermot O’Leary was too busy with Big Brother’s Little Brother to make much of an impression in the first weeks, meaning he only had the live shows on which to create an impact – and in that arena this likeable star appeared thoroughly dwarfed. Far better was Britain’s Got Talent. Far worse was some yet more dreadful copycatting by ITV1, including the ultra-cynical talent show greatest hits Grease is the Word which even Cowell disowned, and Baby Ballroom - what happens when you try to think of the one variation on a hit format nobody’s done before, without thinking why nobody’s done it. Still, even DanceX flopped, which surely means we’ve now bled the dancing cash cow dry … save for Strictly, of course, which still works gloriously.

It’s been a dreadful year for children’s TV, with five now aiming only at pre-school audiences and ITV1 having given up completely, shoving almost all output off to a channel full of repeats which keeps on closing down earlier so ITV4 can show football, darts or even an old film. Meanwhile the BBC aimed all their kids’ shows at under 12s, pointing everyone else in the direction of an hour-long strand on Saturday afternoon BBC2. That said, the programmes that got made were generally still of high quality, with the likes of ChuteTrapped and, of course, The Sarah Jane Adventures proving richly entertaining.

Blue Peter suffered from probably the biggest crisis in its entire history, as well as a rather ill-advised revamp which, in its first few weeks at least, turned out to be an utterly horrifying sight – namely Konnie and Zoe screaming their links at 100 miles an hour while reassuring us what we were watching was “cool”. Thankfully it’s calmed down since then, although jettisoning its traditional Christmas episode did manage to irk many.

What frustrated most about the Blue Peter scandals of 2007 was the production team’s lack of imagination. As Mark Curry explained during a particularly heated discussion on the BBC Breakfast couch the morning after the phone-in subterfuge broke, in days gone by instead of simply wheeling in a child to pretend to be a competition winner, they would have spun it into an item, explaining how and why the phones went down.

Continuing in a similar vein, then, how have the big channels fared this year? Well it has to come down once again to how they dealt with their various contributions to the great TV witch hunt. It was sad to see Peter Fincham get the boot, especially as BBC1 improved greatly under his guidance. Scheduling Strictly on Sunday was a masterstroke, The One Show, although still not a must-watch by any means, has at least finally brought back some consistency and order to early evening BBC1. And while people are moaning about Panorama dumbing down, it’s now there slap bang in the middle of the evening 50 weeks of the year.

Over at ITV1, Michael Grade’s sensible decision to do away with the appalling late-night money-making quiz shows that had bunged up the channel for the past couple of years has been a real cause for celebration. Indeed that man Grade has been quick to make his mark at the network, in the autumn announcing the return of News at Ten, with Trevor McDonald at the helm. The decision to move the nightly broadcast from the time slot a few years back was understandable, but the resultant mess achieved nothing but making ITV1 look incompetent. Grade was right to ask if anybody could remember one memorable show the they’d screened in the 10pm position.

In general though, ITV1 was all over the place in 2007. The failure of Tycoon and Fortune proves that if you rip off BBC2 programmes you get BBC2-sized audiences, if that. Nobody, especially ITV1 viewers, wants to see programmes that are a bit like The Apprentice only worse. In addition, the channel continued to suffer from the appearances of numerous shows that belonged on ITV2 - 24 Hours With (dropped mid-run), Tough Gig (dropped mid-run), Hollywood Lives (dropped mid-run), Holly and Fearne Go Dating (which managed to finish its run). It still baffles why ITV1 are so enthusiastic to axe drama, the one genre that hardly any other channel can do, in favour of pointless reality shows which you can see on any channel. Tiswas Reunited was entertaining, though.

Channel 4 has been hugely ropey for several years now, and come its 25th anniversary, it was sad to see the showpiece celebration was a comedy panel game – exactly the same way fivemarked their birthday six months previously. Celebrity Big Brother was a massive own-goal and the channel’s abysmal PR effort to try and sweep it under the carpet left a nasty stain.

Undoubtedly channel of the year was BBC4. The season on British sci-fi was televisual bliss with well-made retrospectives and excellent archive programming. Children’s TV on Trial1997 WeekDavid Renwick Night and Radio Week were all superb, while the Andrew Marr-fronted debate on the greatest 20th century prime minister was two hours of passionate, amusing comment from a learned group of experts. Simple and wonderful, and a superb lesson for other programme makers on how to make first-rate TV on next to no budget.

2008 will doubtless bring us lots of TV made on next to no budget, and some television made for an absolute fortune. Will any of it be as good as Derek Jacobi malevolently intoning, “I … am … the … Master”, or as terrible as Peter Jones telling a business person she needs to come up with a better name for her product than Frukka? Whatever television brings us in the next 12 months, one hopes it can – at least – move out from under the ridiculous cloud of controversy that has needlessly dogged it during 2007. Plus, here’s praying ITV can finally stop looking at other people’s work and start concentrating on their own answers to that fearsome question – how do you fill up a television schedule for another 52 weeks?


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