The 100 Greatest TV Moments

Saturday, September 11, 1999 by

It could have been worse for JFK. His assassination 36 years ago at least secured him a top 10 entry in The 100 Greatest TV Moments.

It’s just that unfortunately his death wasn’t quite as affecting, as entertaining, as good as that of Edmund Blackadder and his companions. But, it could have been worse … he could’ve died, instead, in the Ethiopian famine of ’84, and only made number 41. God bless that magic bullet.

OK, it’s facetious to rate fictious death against the actual variety, but this is what happened when The 100 Greatest TV Moments played the numbers game. You can do anything with statistics, witness the juxtaposition of Michael Portillo (who astonishingly placed third in the poll) and Nelson Mandella (ranked second). Curious bed-fellows indeed. And of course it’s now proven that we would rather watch a baby elephant crap than witness the release, from a life-sentence, of a wrongly convicted man.

Hosted by the ghoulish Graham Norton, The 100 Greatest TV Moments was always going to be a folly, but it was a grand one at that and made for an excellent night’s entertainment. Flitting through 100 moments of television history, with welcome commentary from, among others, the well-informed Peter Kay, David Jason and Jean Alexander the programme briefly illuminated each choice before moving briskly onwards. Two highlights, among many: the delightful take on the broadcast of the ’66 World Cup final which brought together the famous Wolstenholme commentary with that of the forgotten Hugh Johns’ effort (our man on ITV). Johns himself was happily resigned to his ignominious position in the annals of telly history and came across as rather well-adjusted about the whole thing. Certainly not the Pete Best of commentators he could have been. And then there was that Sex Pistol’s footage, which got another airing, accompanied by some candid insights from Glen Matlock. He pointed out John Lydon’s much celebrated profanity initially slipped out by mistake. And it’s true, when you see the footage again, Lydon does indeed smack his hand over his mouth after that first “shit”. It is also great fun to see the pompous, school marm-ish Grundy fatally misjudge the whole situation and attempt to make for the moral higher-ground, whilst provoking that florid, infamous abuse.

I could have done, however, without the inclusion of Claire Raynor, or Trevor MacDonald whose comments added little of interest to the evening. I didn’t really think this sort of punditary was necessary, particularly when neither had any direct relationship with any of the clips chosen. Both came across as superfluous to requirements and provided only an annoying distraction. But that’s only a small gripe and let’s face it, the presence of Raynor is pretty much a given nowadays when pundits are required. What we need to deal with here, is the choice of the best TV moment. That was the Moon Landing of course, and I don’t think anyone’s really going to disagree with its position as top of the pops. Unlike – say – the shooting of John Lennon, this was a TV moment and a news story. The biggest OB ever. Not only were the viewers of ’69 lucky enough to be witnessing history, but by doing so they also become a part of it.

But we’re back to talking numbers again, and let’s dance with some statistics. Out of the 100 greatest TV moments, 15 were from dramas, 18 from comedies, 13 from sports events and the rest from what we could (lazily) term as factual programming. And eight out of the top 10 were from that aforementioned cannon of factual programming. Interesting, eh? News Flash: this doesn’t translate into viewing figures, which only recently consigned World In Action to the scrap-heap. Still, there’s always Tonight with arch-pundit and face-on-the-telly Trevor MacDonald. Maybe he’s striking for a top 100 entry next century. And then Claire Raynor can comment on it.


Comments are closed.