Part Two

Graham Kibble-White takes on BBC1

First published August 2001


Perhaps it was unimaginative but sitting down to take on BBC1, I started, a la Radio Times, with Saturday 6am.

It’s been apparent that BBC1 has been under performing on Saturday mornings for some time now. My plan was to try and address this problem, and recapture a traditional hotspot for the channel. Minded towards an audience that I felt would be made up of the very old and the very young, I scheduled two Republic Serial adventures back to back (Flash Gordon and Zorro) at 6am. For the older viewers here was some good-hearted nostalgia, but with enough genuine excitement and jeopardy for the young. This was followed by my first proper innovation, a Saturday edition of Breakfast.

Weekend mornings on television tend to feel somehow divorced from reality, as though events in the “real” world have stopped happening. Therefore I wanted something that would address that day’s agenda, which would not treat Saturdays as though they happened within a vacuum. Breakfast on Saturday would have a more light-hearted style than the weekday programmes, more suitable for a family audience (an audience I considered to be rather more fractured by the routines of a weekday morning), but still establishing an agenda for the day. The thinking here was for something akin to Breakfast Time, and I truly believed that Jeremy Bowen could be as affable as the great Frank Bough. He would be briefed to show up in slacks and shirtsleeves, and play it with a lighter touch. Running at only 45 minutes, the programme would not overstay its welcome, nor act as an unreasonable burden upon Bowen.

A trio of Tom & Jerry cartoons followed, effectively striking out the ground for younger viewers, followed by a couple of more recent cartoon favourites. And then here was the most important programme of the morning. Taking my lead from Steve Williams’ Live On Arrival article, I began to formulate a Saturday morning magazine programme that would not attempt to take on SM:TV Live in terms of anarchic fun (and BBC1 has absolutely no track record in this respect, anyway) but would instead push more at the Beeb’s tradition for “worthwhile” programming. Naturally, the Live & Kicking brand would have to go, and Chris Bellinger et al with it. Instead, Mick Robertson was in as producer – equally a stalwart of kids’ telly, but still innovative (if C4′s Wise Up is anything to go by, anyway). As important was the presenting team. I wanted to get away from the chorus line of presenters as currently featured on L&K – each equally as important (in terms of anchorage). Casting my eye across the rest of CBBC’s output, as is the tradition, I picked out my main anchor – Matt Baker from Blue Peter. Baker, I felt, was a hugely adaptable and likeable personality but without being overtly “down with the kids”. Here was a credible older brother, and aside from that, I liked the idea of Wednesday’s BP ending with “and I’ll see you … on Saturday!”

So, Baker was in. Who next? Casting around for deputies, I felt that having Baker taking up most of the slack presenting-wise allowed me to push the boat out a bit here. Thus Johnny Ball was drafted in. I felt that he was (still) a supreme communicator, and that children’s TV need not be fronted solely by flash young things. Ball would take up a sort of mad professor role (nothing new there), being assigned very definite sections of the programme – notably something I had in mind regarding computer games. I wanted one more presenter, obviously a female and definitely someone young. Deciding that the show could do with some quick and easy publicity, and that she’d be grateful for the work, I gave the final role to Emma Bunton. Obviously I was gambling on her likeable personality and, well, if she wasn’t quite up to it, the more experienced hands of Baker and Ball would get her through.

The show was tagged B3 (Baker, Ball and Bunton) but this was very much a working-title. It would be about empowering kids, with many of the articles being lead by children. Each week a different primary school would be featured, Johnny Ball would head up “Play Test” where new computer games were tested by children, a child would be given the opportunity to make a short documentary about a particular grievance and there’d also be an “open mic” section, where kids would entertain us for a minute a piece. Of course, alongside this we’d still have the usual special guests and popstars – plus a cartoon (Batman of the Future was earmarked for this). And finally, for no special reason, I settled on the eventual name for the thing: Spot On. The name was suitably affirmative without being embarrassingly zeigesty (the awful It’s Wicked coming to mind).

Spot On was to be followed by Battle of the Planets as the morning readied for Grandstand. I was hoping, here, to replay the same trick I’d turned with the two Republic Serials at 6am. My thinking was that Battle of the Planets would be able to straddle both the younger audience from the morning thus far, and tap into a nostalgia vein for the 20 and 30-somethings tuning in for Grandstand.

An obligatory news report was shoved in at 12.25pm and then, as it ever was, Grandstand followed. This, I simply threw into the schedules with little thought – sport has always been a blind-spot for me. Fingers-crossed, my total lack of interest here would not be too obvious …

I had a strong notion that BBC1 should hit the ground running post-Grandstand, and lead into Saturday night as strongly as possible. The big guns were out then, as I attempted to redefine primetime on Saturdays and slide forward opening time to 5.30pm. I played the Johnny Vaughan card (thereby utilising the first personality I was contractually obliged to find a vehicle for), assigning the livewire personality to a format, which I (conveniently) assumed was available – Win, Lose or Draw. The beauty of this game show is that the game itself is of least importance. Featuring two teams of celebrities basically playing Pictionary, Vaughan would be encouraged to ad lib, and busk his way through proceedings. The end result, I felt sure, would be a likeable and funny family programme.

The following programme would draw from that same vein of family fun. Dale Winton’s Generation Game paired the affable and talented presenter with the show that’s been crying out for him for years. Obvious, perhaps, but that didn’t make it any less effective in my mind. Winton would be paired with Bella Emberg in a slight subversion of the format, but aside from this there would be no eyebrow-arched irony present. The Gen Game would be played squarely down the line.

That brought us up to 7pm. The next programme, some may suspect, was the underlying reason for my commandeering of BBC1 – but that’s not the case at all (besides, these channels were assigned at random). The return of Doctor Who to BBC1 was a move I initially shied away from – but for the wrong reasons. I feared that the presence of the ramshackle old programme in my schedule might undermine the rest of my line-up. My fellow controllers were well aware of my abiding affection for Doctor Who, would they see its return as just an ill-disciplined bit of whimsy on my part? And how would they then come to regard the rest of my efforts? So I put the programme out of my mind.

Luckily, one of our appointed regulators stepped in at this point, and during an informal conversation about how BBC1 was shaping up spotted the hole in my Saturday evening. “You are going to put Doctor Who there, aren’t you?” I explained my reasons for its absence, but said regulator simply batted them aside. As a family programme it deserved to return. And I agreed. Somewhat self-consciously, then, I reignited the 38 year-old franchise.

I gave Stephen Fry the lead role (an actor I think fairly well suited to the task, but more importantly one who’d give the series a high profile) and placed it at 7pm. It would run for 30 minutes per episode, with four-part self-contained stories. I felt the cliffhanger element to be essential to the appeal so this aspect would definitely stay.

Doctor Who was to be followed by another in the BBC’s expanding suite of lottery programmes. Bob’s Lucky Lines was admittedly a programme with only a vaguely thought out game show element (“Bob Monkhouse presents the live big board number-crunching quiz. Incorporating National Lottery draw” went the notional billing). My innovation here, however, was to put the steady hand of Monkhouse at the tiller and deploy him twice-weekly – hence the Wednesday night programme would be identical in format to Saturday’s. I also had a notion that the actual drawing of the numbers itself would be a quick and straightforward affair tacked on somewhere at the end of the game show.

Casualty returned at 8pm, surviving a passing fancy to reduce it to 30 minutes, this undistinguished war-horse would trot out as per.

Following a 10-minute news bulletin, we’d find probably BBC1′s best effort at mainstream drama in 20 years – Jonathan Creek. Again this would be business at usual, although I would try and persuade David Renwick to write more episodes per series – if possible.

Come 10pm, however, and here was (in retrospect) one of my least probable “innovations” (although arguably there was a greater, even less realistic proposition to come) – I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, on the telly. My plan was to keep the cast from the radio series, albeit rotate a rota of different comics in Willie Rushton’s old chair. However with Humphrey Lyttelton nudging the 80s it could be argued that the rigours of TV might be a little too much for him. At the very least, it was unlikely we’d be looking at a 10-year franchise here. In the event, Lyttelton’s robustness was not queried when I came to present my channel to my rival controllers. Nor was the wider issue that surely a squad of half a dozen old codgers playing a pleasant parlour game did not equate to seminal Saturday night viewing. That said, I didn’t lob ISIHAC into the evening totally arbitrarily. The programme, I felt, should be able to capture a diverse audience in terms of age and sex, and was placed definitely as a light and gentle alternative to gaudy films and light entertainment programmes elsewhere. Of course, it’s amusing to see how quickly I fell back on that lazy BBC practice of simply pilfering a format wholesale from the radio.

At 10.30pm, BBC1 would screen its big film for the week. Idly I pencilled in here Austin Powers 2, but patently it would be unlikely for the Beeb to have the terrestrial rights for this by autumn. So, some big(ish) movie would play here. This was to be followed by a late night comedy revue programme which I hoped would act as the last word on the week, as well as igniting the odd discussion piece in the Sunday papers the next day. I didn’t, however, want an 11 O’clock Show on my hands, nor something too tightly woven into current affairs and politics. I therefore decided to bring in Johnny Vegas to anchor the programme, and called the whole thing Vegas. Under this guise we could go for some showbiz glamour, all of which would be undermined by the rather shambolic front man. Johnny Vegas is not a favourite of mine, however I felt he could successfully encapsulate late nights on BBC1.

Vegas (which would run only for a taut 30 minutes) would then be followed by a repeat of that week’s Top of the Pops. Together I felt they created a strong hour’s worth of post-pub telly. After that, News 24.


Sunday mornings, of course, had a very different job to do and if I’m to be honest here I’m still uncertain as to their “function” on BBC1. So, the Teletubbies started the day, to be followed by Breakfast with Frost. I’d doubled the show’s running time because, as ever, I wanted something agenda-setting. Running the programme for two hours allowed it to dig deeper, and major on more stories than before. I also wanted to stress the fact that this was Sunday supplement telly, a weighty and substantial programme.

Bakewell on Faith saw the errant religious commentator lured back to the BBC (or at least as far as I was concerned) with a magazine programme about religion of sufficient depth and length to represent a proper commitment to the subject matter – ahem – admittedly at an off-peak time. More public service programming followed with Country File and then a new women’s magazine programme.

I have to be frank here and state that I am of the opinion that a special programme for women is not required. My BBC1 sought to reach across the audience, something that would be undermined by an effective ghetto for women’s issues. I felt (and still do) that women did not require a specific programme overtly targeting them, as they were being well served (as were male viewers) by the existing programming. Nevertheless, the same regulator-cum-BBC Governor who helpfully persuaded me to return Doctor Who to TV was now, during the same conversation, insisting upon a women’s magazine programme. With a heavy sigh I called up Suzy Orbach and asked her if she’d like to present Second Sex?

After the midday news we were back on track with an hour of entertainment – repeats, of course. First up we were running the sitcom Brush Strokes followed by a repeat of last night’s Doctor Who. I felt both were strong enough to provoke a Sunday lunch in front of the telly in households across the UK. At 1pm it was On the Record, followed by the EastEnders omnibus and then a Columbo movie. Nothing unusual in that line-up.

The Magician’s House returned for a third series at 4.30pm because I felt that here was a good niche for quality/children’s programming, and The Magician’s House had been the best exponent of that in recent years. Then it was time to duck into the news before Songs of Praise.

At 6pm I wanted to open the evening on BBC1 with a strong new series, something mainstream, but slightly quirky. A Lovejoy sort of a programme. I undertook some discussion with a few friends in a Glasgow pub to find out if there was any books they felt would lend themselves to strong TV adaptation. A consensus was quickly reached: Robert Rankin’s series of books set in Brentford contained likeable characters and a slightly offbeat narrative. Hence, my new Sunday night series The Brentford Files was created. In further discussion we knocked up a quick cast list: John Nettles, Bernard Hill, David Collings and John Thompson all “haplessly saving the world each week”. The programme would be picturesque, witty and undemanding.

Next I slotted in Vets in Practice and Changing Rooms – both new series. I felt that gently educational programmes played well on Sunday night, and these two in particular had proven to be family favourites. Following this up with a double-bill of durable mainstream comedy (Vicar of Dibley and Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression) I was sure this was turning into an evening’s viewing that would rest control from ITV at last.

Come 9pm, and here was my “big event”. The return of Clement and La Frenais to British TV was in itself a reason to celebrate. Furthermore, I knew that in “real life” they were working on a new series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. With their strong track record in comedy sequels (Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, Porridge and indeed ‘Pet series 2) I was certain this had to be a winner. I’d read somewhere or other that the series was to be renamed Guten Tag, Pet and so that’s how it appeared in my schedule (although since then I understand it is going out as Auf Wiedersehen after all). It would be the centrepiece of the evening.

The news followed at 10pm, and then Panorama. Although I had been clicking my tongue disapprovingly when the BBC effectively slung the programme into a ghetto on Sunday nights, having notionally turned game keeper myself I found that I just couldn’t fit it into my schedules elsewhere. With my BBC1 geared towards family entertainment, it felt only right that Panorama should be placed into its own niche somewhere off the main thoroughfare of programming. Yes, I was sidelining it.

The programme that finally came to be known as The Culture Vulture had a complicated gestation period. Whilst in the middle of constructing my schedules I became aware that ITV were axing The South Bank Show. Having announced that I was probably letting Points of View (whimsical and outdated), Kilroy (trashy and morally reprehensible), Crime Doubles (lazy) and The Savages (undistinguished) go I received communication from Barney, who was working on his ITV schedules: “ITV would officially like to take The Savages off of BBC1′s hands” he said, “How many Simon Nye sitcoms have switched channels now?” He then helpfully added: “Can’t help with giving Kilroy-Silk a home. Try Granada Breeze.” I was aware that C4 were also interested in the fate of The South Bank Show, and more particularly, Melvyn Bragg. My reply, then, was succinct: “I’d do you The Savages in return for Melvyn and The South Bank Show. Deal?” To me, this seemed like a fair exchange – The South Bank Show was obviously becoming something of a carbuncle for ITV, whereas The Savages could potentially play well.

Our man Barney, however, wanted more: “There has already been an approach for The South Bank Show. However, Melvyn told me over a farewell lunch at Nobu that he’s very keen to remain on a mainstream channel, therefore if BBC1 were to make both The Savages and Silent Witness available to ITV, then we’ll be hearing Variations every Sunday night on the One”. I did want to secure the programme, and imagined the headlines “BBC saves The Arts”, however I felt that ITV were getting too greedy. “Hey, it’s a prestigious programme, you know. It’s won the Prix Italia (whatever that is)” said Barney. It didn’t wash: “No dice,” I replied, “It’s The Savages (and that alone) or Ian Wright’s doing the Arts of a Sunday night.” ITV were similarly bullish: “Well, that’s my final offer Mr K-W. Can’t wait to see Wrighty bigging up Deborah Bull, as it were.” And there it seemed to finish, except a little later, Barney was back: “Let’s not be hasty … The Savages and Gary Lineker?” ITV had already made vague enquiries about the BBC’s plans for Lineker, so I was hardly surprised, particularly as the Chief Executive of Channel 4 had told me, during a countryside stroll, that C4 had struck an agreement with the third channel for the use of Des Lynham (it was during this same stroll that BBC1, aware that C4 were also in the midst of a deal with ITV over Graham Norton, unsuccessfully tried to gazump the opposition and secure his talents for the the Corporation). Thus I sent out my final communication with Barney: “No. In fact, I’m going to withdraw from the transfer markets altogether as I was expecting a weightier catch from these fishing expeditions.”

Still looking to “save the Arts” I formulated my new magazine programme The Culture Vulture. It would rip-off (in part) the format of The Late Show in that it would feature a panel of pundits commenting on the items featured. However, the programme would also include reports and interviews with the current movers and shakers in the arts world. And to host? I reckoned David Aaronovitch deserved more than subbing for Parky on the occasional Sunday morning on Radio 2, so I brought in this capable and incisive broadcaster. Besides, the return of Doctor Who meant the possibility of gainful employment for his brother Ben (who’d written for the series in its dying days) so David owed me one. As it happens, once devised I actually preferred The Culture Vulture to Melvyn’s South Bank Show anyway. And similarly, as you’ll see, ITV’s persistent efforts to purloin The Savages dramatically upped the show’s stock in my eyes, securing it a future on “the One” after all.

Sunday nights would be rounded off at midnight with another welcome chance to see ’80s sitcom Lame Ducks. Not the cream of sitcom, certainly, but quite likeable and it hadn’t been shown for years.


So. We reached the weekdays. My first (in)decision was to keep Breakfast as it is. It’s not a spectacular programme, but it feels very BBC. Besides, I had no strong notion of what I’d like to put in its place and so I desisted from tinkering for tinkering’s sake. After Breakfast, however, I began to get to work.

My daytime schedule would be (as it currently is on BBC1) stranded across the weekdays. The potential audience here would have a very definite daytime routine, and thus I thought it wholly worthwhile to create a schedule that would be consistent and reliable – allowing viewers to build it into their day. Here was how it shaped up across the week …

I had always felt that the 9am programme should exist, in part, to make a self-conscious division between breakfast TV and daytime. Breakfast telly was all about routine, repetition with a rolling bank of viewers unable to give more than 15 minutes of their time. 9am gave us a chance to change gear and take stock, addressing an audience that would now probably be fairly stationary. I seemed to have a preoccupation with programmes that would set the agenda, but that was because I was keen for my BBC1 to have a dialogue with its viewers. Hence Day Ahead drafted in Nicky Campbell to look forward to the day’s news and entertainment stories. Here there’d be phone-ins on current topics, and guests who were either making the news, or about to. When I presented this idea to my fellow controllers, I was asked how Campbell’s radio commitments would fit in with this. “He’ll give this priority,” I replied, “it’s the telly”.

Day Ahead would run for an hour, to be followed by a 30-minute lifestyle programme. I planned to run a different one here each weekday morning, covering all the various bases in regard to home/garden/self/monetary improvement. This morning’s was Bargain Hunt. On Tuesday we had the durable Change That with Mark Curry still at the helm. Wednesday debuted my own innovation, Kitchen Masters wherein previous winners on Masterchef shared with us some of the favourite recipes. It was new stuff again on Wednesday as contractual obligation number two – Charlie Dimmock – found herself hosting a gentle and light-hearted gardening quiz – Hedge Your Bets. Tommy Walsh and Kim Wilde would also feature as celebrity team captains. The week would end with DIY SOS, firmly yanked from its primetime slot into the daytime where it belonged.

At 10.30am we reached the main meat of the morning, my new two hour show PS. I created a notional listings magazine billing, which ran: “Sarah Kennedy and Paul Coia host the lively magazine programme focussing on People Stories [hence the title]. There’ll be reunions, surprises, reports made by members of the public, consumer affairs, and it’s very own phone-in game show Trial By Dial.” To be honest, I’d no idea what Trial By Dial would entail, but it was a great title. Of course, PS had elements of (the now very vulnerable) This Morning but I envisaged it being more people-powered and with more of a reportage element. I wanted old hands Kennedy and Coia to host because I hoped it would make the programme feel familiar, right from the start.

Doctors still had a place in my daytime schedule. This had always been a real, credible alternative to the “slags and fags” TV elsewhere. However, I also had a plan to give the programme even more exposure, and scheduled it in for a midnight repeat every weeknight. Doctors didn’t deserve to be primetime, but it did deserve to have a bash at catching another separate off-peak audience. Besides, having the programme tucked away in two obscure timeslots, I theorised, might help it to develop something of a cult following.

The BBC News at 1pm and Neighbours at 1.35pm remained inviolate. At 2pm I slung in a quiz show. Since Going for Gold, I’d always felt that quizzes had played well here, with a fair chance at catching a swathe of Neighbours viewers. Here, then, was Andrew O’Connor hosting Word Up! which I described merely as “a conversational jousting game” – whatever that is.

In light of the recent, and interminable reruns of Bergerac et al in the daytime, I decided to follow suit, although I fancied that my pickings from the archive would be a little more interesting. I pulled out Living in the Past the BBC’s worthwhile 1970s precursor to Surviving the Iron Age.

After the news, it was time for children’s programmes. I decided to stick with the CBBC brand, but revert to the format of a single presenter anchoring the programmes. CBBC now seems rather bland in terms of identity; it was my assertion that a single voice talking directly to the viewers helped to establish a more direct and persuasive link with the audience. It would be easier to think of CBBC as “theirs” rather than belonging to an anonymous troop of presenters. I also decided that I wanted my anchor to be relatively new to TV, so that he or she didn’t come with any baggage.

So much for the continuity, what about the programmes? In actual fact I made very little changes to children’s programming across the board. I had little if any insight to draw upon here.

Grange Hill would be back for the autumn, but with a few pertinent changes to the format. Here’s another one of those billings: “With the opening of Rodney Bennett Sixth-Form college, the school loses the stability provided by the older more sensible pupils. And, there’s a shock discovery when it turns out that Ray’s sold-up and closed down his café … for good.” In short, I wanted to get rid of the interminable scenes of angst and coffee drinking in the common room, which came lock stock with the older pupils. Grange Hill had to be about the terror of “big school”, not a soap opera about teens in casual dress. Secondly, I ditched Ray’s Café. Not only did the idea of an ex-pupil sticking with the programme rile me, but the additional location diluted the focus on the school. Informally I would advise the producer that BBC1 didn’t want to see more than two minutes per episode with the kids out of school uniform.

Wednesdays at 4.15pm would see a spin off from my Saturday programme Spot On as Johnny Ball presented Play Test. This would be a computer games review programme, going behind the scenes at the creation of the game and – to a small extent – discussing the scientific principles put into practice.

Thursday’s and Friday’s remained business as usual, with the second weekly episode of Grange Hill on the Friday (“Mr Johnstone, the savage new games teacher, is already upsetting the status quo”).

With CBBC dealt with, I was almost at the end of my stranding across the weekdays. Neighbours was still playing at 5.35pm, and the news (national and regional) remained between 6pm and 7pm. Weeknights on BBC1, however, would revert back to separate programming. I was of the opinion that each weeknight had a different “feel”, and therefore each evening should be constructed to serve a different purpose.


Monday nights, I decided, would be factual but not too demanding. Post-news I brought in Watchdog. I thought it ridiculous that this programme had spawned spin-off series (devaluing the brand, to my mind) and that it had been used as a “the weekend starts here” show on Friday nights. This was shoehorning it into a role it was ill suited for, forcing the programme to appropriate some of the trappings of light entertainment and undermining whatever journalistic rigour it brought to bear. Mondays would be far more suitable. Nicky Campbell was out, and Gaby Roslin (my third and final contractual obligation) was in. Campbell had been too bullish on the programme, in one memorable instance bringing on a company director and haranguing him to “be a man” and apologise for some misdoing his company had perpetrated. Roslin, instead, would be briefed to concentrate more on the victims of malpractice whilst still asking tough questions of those responsible. I felt that her softly, softly interviewing technique would garner better results than Campbell’s.

At 7.30pm I gave Nick Ross a viewers’ access programme to host, entitled Talk Back. Points of View had now gone, and with Right to Reply axed by Channel 4 (I had no idea that OTT’s C4 Chief Exec had plans to resurrect it), it could only reflect well on the Corporation that we were still willing to provide the viewers a platform for comment – albeit whilst Coronation Street was on the other side. I pencilled in a high concept game show to follow. The Maze would be hosted by Philip Schofield and pit teams into an adventure-puzzle (from a format by David J Bodycombe). Treachery, backstabbing etc. would not be part of the deal, however. A new series of My Family followed on. And then it was time for the news, at 9pm.

I had always felt that moving the news to 10pm was a mistake for BBC1. Aside from the conflict with ITV, I was of the opinion that a 10pm news bulletin ghettoised the rest of the evening. It became a natural dropping off point for viewers, as though it drew a line over the rest of the output. At 9pm, it served as a useful junction, marking out the watershed, and a change in tone of programming. Psychologically, I reckoned, 10.30pm (when the bulletin finished) seemed far later than 9.30pm. And so, casting aside any consideration for the Director General’s wishes, I reinstated the news at 9pm. BBC1 now had a useful post-news slot.

At 9.30pm I scheduled the quality docusoap, Paddington Green, to be followed by Jonathan Ross. Here I was simply drawing on a commission that’s already been made by the channel, and translating Ross’ Radio 2 programme to television. He’d be given an hour, and the programme would run twice weekly. The slot was late enough for Ross to include some edgy comedic material (possibly in the form of a guest stand-up) and a strong position from which to establish an audience. The programme would return again at the same time on Thursday.

At 11pm, I decided to return to the tactic of stranding. My thinking here was that part of the reason for Big Brother‘s success had been that it was on every weeknight. It became your TV banker, so that if there was nothing else on all evening – at least there was Big Brother at the end of the night. People became devoted to the series and would watch it out of habit. Therefore, I placed here a quality drama, which would run almost at the end of the night throughout the week with the intention of becoming viewers’ “TV banker”. I chose a repeat of Tony Marchant’s drama Take Me Home which successfully straddled the often-exclusive genres of populist and quality dramas.

My repeat of Doctors ended the night at 12.30am wherein we joined News 24.

Tuesday nights again commenced with a magazine programme – Holiday was now to be presented by Phil Gayle. EastEnders followed at the usual time of 7.30pm, and if not already obvious, here was by far my most contentious decision which would lead to the most criticism from my fellow controllers (but thankfully, not the regulators). I’d dropped EastEnders back to two episodes a week. It could be argued that I was mutilating a sure-fire ratings winner, however I had grave concerns about the quality of the programme, which I felt had been embarrassingly poor for some time. The reduction of episodes would allow the production team to consolidate the programme’s remaining strengths. More importantly, I felt that the heavy reliance on EastEnders up until now reflected poorly on the BBC. To bang out multiple episodes a week showed a lack of faith in the rest of BBC1′s programming, and undermined the channel’s efforts to provide a varied, pluralist service. Yes, reducing EastEnders‘ output would appear to be a comedown, however I hoped that ultimately BBC1 would be lauded and recognised for taking a gutsy and reasoned decision.

Light factual programmes continued afterwards with Animal Hospital and then Good Driver, although Howard Stapleford would present now that Nick Ross had a new programme on Mondays. Horizon followed the news, to up the quotient of highbrow documentary, and then it was to be a new gritty drama which I’d commission from Jon McClure (who’d impressed previously with Cardiac Arrest). Playing relatively late at night (10.20pm) I hoped that BBC1 would be able to have a serious pop at pushing the envelope of drama on a mainstream channel.

Post-news on a Wednesday and the channel was already gearing up (albeit subtly) for the weekend. This was to try and tap into the communal feeling of progress as the week goes on and we count down to the weekend. Thus I launched Inside TOTP – a new magazine programme that foreshadowed tomorrow’s (yes, back on a Thursday!) Top of the Pops. The programme would feature pop videos, news and a phone-in element where viewers could speak to artists who were going to be on the show tomorrow.

In the Corrie slot this time around, I resurrected another game show format, as I gave Simon O’Brien (who’s been off the telly too long, in my opinion) Masterteam. Kiss Me Kate followed at 8pm, shifted back into a pre-watershed slot. I thought that the series had faltered when the BBC had pushed it later into the night and it had tried to self-consciously embrace more adult issues. It was an OK sitcom, nothing more and nothing less, and so best served in a mid-evening slot.

The second edition of Bob’s Lucky Lines crept into view at 8.30pm. After the news I Iaunched BBC1′s brand-new sitcom Kay Mart. To the mild chagrin of C4, BBC1 had persuaded Peter Kay that the time was right for him to go mainstream. It was felt that his style of character-comedy could translate well to a larger audience, and thus here he was in the old Blackadder slot with a new vehicle set in a supermarket because – well – it gave me an excuse to use that brilliant pun as a title.

I then scheduled a new documentary series which I very much wanted to followed in the Modern Times/Inside Story vein. A series that would basically act as an anthology of films by different makers, focussing intently on “small”, personal stories. After that, the night drew to a close with the Take Me Home/Doctors pairing.

Thursday nights kicked-off, as they should do, with Top of the Pops. It’d been a mistake to shift the programme onto Fridays, where I felt its most natural audience would be otherwise engaged. EastEnders followed, and then Tomorrow’s World - all textbook stuff, really. At 8.30pm, here was another old format revitalised as Gary Lineker and Tessa Sanderson presented a brand-new series of Superstars. Well, we had to find a vehicle for Gary what with ITV sniffing around him, and I reckoned Superstars was a fun family format and one that could cope with plenty of “personality” from a presenting team keen to prove itself.

Post-news, I commissioned a new drama from Jimmy McGovern, about the miners’ strike. I gave this a 30 minute slot, because I was keen to bring a tautness to his work, and I felt it would serve the channel better to have more episodes at a shorter length, rather than vice versa. Besides, I’ve always had a suspicion that 30 minute dramas work particularly well; they don’t require too much of an investment in time from the viewer but allow enough scope to tell a reasonably complicated story. The second edition of Jonathan Ross followed, and then the evening finished up in familiar form.

Friday nights, as I’d stated before, represented to me a problematic area of the schedule. Now that BBC2 had dropped the Comedy Zone, BBC1 seemed to be half-heartedly attempting to carry the baton – but in such a way as not to alienate its older viewers. It made for an uneasy, ill-defined evening of TV, and in retrospect I’m not sure I improved upon that.

At 7pm, we started off relatively confidently with At Last – Friday! This was to be the programme that Weekend Watchdog had so badly wanted to be. Philip Schofield would kick-start the weekend with showbiz reports, looking forward to weekend events and generally finding out what the populace did when it knocked-off from work. Meanwhile, Charlie Dimmock was “out and about” rummaging through the drawers of a member of the public and asking “what are you wearing tonight?” Whilst I don’t rate Dimmock as a presenter, I think she’s personable enough and thus well-suited to her position as Pip’s second-stringer.

In the Corrie slot I shamefacedly slung on Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, with a vague and totally ill-founded notion that this hadn’t been doing the rounds lately. The regulators were quick to stamp on that misapprehension … I decided that some straightforward drama would do well to bridge the early evening to the news, and therefore put McCready and Daughter in at 8-9pm. After the news, well, with it’s stock newly-raised in my eyes, here was series two of The Savages. At 9.30pm, Simon Nye would be briefed to make the series slightly more adult (although was I just repeating the mistakes that had been made with Kiss Me Kate?) Unimaginatively I followed this with the Have I Got News For You/They Think It’s All Over double-bill. I wasn’t really fond of either, but found that as a viewer I seemed to end up watching them both of a Friday, so patently they had some sort of lazy draw.

And then it was Take Me Home and Doctors before we handed over to News 24.

<Part One