31st March 2023

‘Risky’, ‘Provocative’, ‘breaking boundaries’ are frequently used to sum up public service broadcaster Channel 4. Set up in 1982, the Channel is getting ready to celebrate it’s 40th birthday. It’s come a long way from the early days of Countdown, Treasure Hunt with Anneka Rice and it’s very first soap at the time Brookside which in true Channel 4 style aired the first female kiss pre watershed by actress Anna Friel (Beth Jordache) in the 1990s. 

Fast forward to today, Channel 4 won Channel of the Year at this year’s Edinburgh TV festival, with a raft of acclaimed programmes and hard hitting documentaries and dramas boasting high viewer numbers for popular programmes such as Gogglebox and The Great British Bake Off. From launching as the new fourth Channel to today’s digital landscape, Channel 4 is home to the UK’s biggest free streaming service, All 4 with 12 other digital Channels.

We’re proud to hold Channel 4 footage as part of our archive collection, so thought we’d highlight some of the more unusual, and some of the early programmes which champion Channel 4’s unique role in our homes today.

Comic Strip: 5 Go Mad in Dorset (1982): Aired on Channel 4’s first night of transmission featuring Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Adrian Edmonson and Rik Mayall.  A cheeky, often controversial comedy series in the 80s…what better way to welcome in this new mischievous Channel!

Malibu World Disco Dancing Championships (1983): Tight lycra clad bodies strut to the 80s nostalgic beats as they compete to be the best at the World Disco Dancing Championships.

Desmonds (1989) launched on to our screens taking us to Peckham, South London to Desmond’s hairdressers where we meet his family and clients reflecting diversity and different generations interwoven in to the comedic storylines.

Big Breakfast (1992) hosted by Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin, it provided a more anarchic alternative morning schedule with news and interviews. Here we see Jason Orange and Robbie Williams interviewed by puppets Zig and Zag. This recently came back on our screens this summer after a successful one off return in 2021. 

God in the House (1995), Channel 4’s Christian Rave Christmas Service hosted by a young Adam Buxton. This takes a look at three very different services, combining house music and visuals creating a new form of worship.

To browse more from our Channel 4 collection, click here

Originally published: 26/10/2022