BBC 2 launched on the 20th April 1964. However, its launch had an inauspicious birth, by nearly being aborted!! Just as BBC2 was about to go on air, a power cut affected the whole of West London and anchor man Gerald Priestland battled on in near darkness and total chaos.
The blackout meant that the first show to be broadcast on the channel in its entirety was Playschool, which went out the following day. The channel recovered from this rather shaky start and won both critical and audience success with a wide range of ground-breaking comedy and drama series, including The Likely Lads and The Forsyte Saga.
Shows such as Match Of The Day and the flagship science programme Horizon were broadcast in the early days and are still mainstays in the schedules to this day. Seminal programmes such as (Late Night) Line Up, Jazz 625, and The Beat Room were front-runners to programmes such as Later… With Jools Holland and the channel’s Glastonbury coverage.
In 1967, with David Attenborough at the helm, BBC Two was the first channel in Europe to broadcast in colour. Released from the confines of black and white, the channel produced a series of ground-breaking factual programmes, including Civilisation and The Ascent of Man and and snooker show Pot Black, only made possible by the launch of colour television.
The 1970s saw the BBC2 launch two of the favourite TV series of the Record Press author – the manic comedy series Fawlty Towers and the Roman drama / soap I Claudius. Landmark current affairs shows such as 40 Minutes and Newsnight came to the channel, as did the arrival of cookery with Delia Smith’s Family Fare. The 1980s on BBC Two brought viewers Life On Earth; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Yes, Minister; The Boys From The Blackstuff; Edge Of Darkness; Not The Nine O’Clock News; and The Young Ones.
As BBC2 entered the 1990s, perennial favourites like Top Gear and Gardeners’ World were joined by highly acclaimed drama such as This Life and Our Friends In The North, which captured the era’s political and cultural zeitgeist. Big Train, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Gormenghast, The Royle Family, The Fast Show, Shooting The Past and The League Of Gentlemen also arrived on BBC2 during this time.
BBC2 has continued to support new comedy in the 21st century, most notably with award-winning shows Dead Ringers, Double Take, Marion And Geoff, The Office, The Kumars At No 42, and the BBC Three co-commission Little Britain.
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