Auf Wiedersehen, Pet has been voted the best ITV programme of all time by readers of Radio Times.
Starring Timothy Spall, Kevin Whately, Tim Healey and Jimmy Nail, the comedy drama followed British construction workers as they took on jobs in Dusseldorf and further afield.
The poll to mark the 60th birthday of ITV saw Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais’ penned show beat Thunderbirds into second place and Coronation Street into third.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet first aired on ITV in 1983 for two series before transferring to the BBC in 2002. The poll and the entire history of ITV will feature at the Radio Times Festival near Hampton Court Palace later this week.
Dick Clement was “astonished” by the news, saying “I knew it had a strong following in the North East, but I didn’t realise its reach.” Writing partner Ian Le Frenais added: “It had a significant social context at the time, because of Thatcherism, and people going abroad to find work. There was a strong contrast between the affluence of some and the have-nots that really resonated, and still resonates today.”
Indeed, the writers were “years ahead of their time”, according to Radio Times editor Ben Preston, as “the issues thrown up by migrant workers dominate our politics today like never before.”
“Our poll shows the best contemporary drama, tackling controversial issues of the day, really strike a chord with viewers – and lives long in their memories. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet showed a bunch of Geordies getting on their bikes and finding work for the Germans barely a generation after the end of the war.”
ITV’s 60th anniversary will be celebrated at the Radio Times Festival this coming weekend (24-27 September) with ITV 1964, a special event presented by the BFI and hosted by Lord Grade’s niece, Anita Land. In 1964 an entire evening of Sunday-night ITV was recorded for posterity. The recording was rediscovered a few years ago and festival-goers will have the chance to see highlights from this unique snapshot of British broadcasting, including Sunday Night at the Palladium, local news and even adverts.
There are also sessions with Endeavour and Grantchester, a screening of the eagerly anticipated Jeckyll and Hyde, plus Prime Suspect author Lynda Le Plante discusses her latest novel Tennison, which delves deep into the past life of DCI Jane Tennison.
Over 5,000 Radio Times readers voted in the poll, choosing from a shortlist of 60 programmes picked by our team of TV critics. Drama dominates the top ten, with some significant exceptions. The list in full:
1. Auf Wiedersehen Pet (1983)
2. Thunderbirds (1965)
3. Coronation Street (1960)
4. Inspector Morse (1987)
5. The Prisoner (1967)
6. The Avengers (1961)
7. Foyle’s War (2002)
8. The Professionals (1977)
9. Blind Date (1985)
10. Downton Abbey (2010)
Also at the Radio Times Festival
Melvyn Bragg, broadcaster and author, discusses his latest novel, Now Is the Time, his first work of historical fiction for nearly 20 years. Bragg brings to life the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 — the biggest rebellion in English History — telling the story of how a sudden uprising of common people nearly unseated the King.