Morecambe and Wise got us off to a cracking start: not in person but in BBC2’s excellent New Year’s Day bio-drama Eric and Ernie, with Daniel Rigsby giving a Bafta-winning performance as the young Eric Morecambe. The shiny-floored, or in this case frozen-floored, light entertainment year kicked off as usual with Dancing on Ice on ITV1 – but a shock twist, in which four skaters were eliminated without skating, annoyed viewers and spelled the end of some of the biggest names: Angela Rippon, Nadia Sawalha, Craig McLachlan and Elen Rivas.
Among the most debated programmes were Episodes, BBC2’s sitcom about a sitcom, and Channel 4’s 10 o’Clock Live, a bold new format that was widely expected to fail but didn’t, despite being scheduled against one of its target demographic’s favourite shows, Question Time.
But the main event would turn out to be the launch on BBC4 of a previously obscure Danish detective drama. Forbrydelsen – aka The Killing – had subtitles and no stars, but its detailed, sensitive unravelling of a single murder case over 20 episodes had everyone who saw it gripped.
Meanwhile, the acting world lost a rare talent with the death of Pete Postlethwaite at the age of 64.
A consistently amazing year for TV news – rolling news, particularly – began to unfold with extraordinary pictures from Tahrir Square, Cairo. Every new development in the burgeoning Arab Spring was played out on the news channels, with the announcement that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had stepped down forming one of February’s most memorable moments.
Potentially the most controversial programme of the month was Peter Kosminsky’s The Promise, a time-hopping epic about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Talking to RT, the Britz/Government Inspector auteur said his new series was “the toughest assignment of my professional life: the longest gestation; the most challenging and exhausting to shoot; by far the most financially ambitious film my colleagues and I have ever undertaken.” In the end Kosminsky emerged relatively unscathed, buoyed by generally positive reviews.
Late February saw Britain bullishly crash the Oscars, safe in the knowledge that the Bafta-laden The King’s Speech was likely to teach the Americans a lesson. It duly walked off with the gongs for best picture, director, screenplay and actor. Colin Firth was the figurehead but, ironically, screenwriter David Seidler did a better speech.
New high-end US imports channel Sky Atlantic launched to much glitzy fanfare, its roster led by Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire – but the surprise hit of the TV month was rather lower-rent. Big Fat Gypsy Weddings cut through debate about whether or not it was exploitative by racking up enormous ratings for C4.
One of March’s biggest controversies in the entertainment world sprang straight from the pages of Radio Times, and concerned what had previously been one of the least contentious programmes on television: Midsomer Murders. One of its creators, Brian True-May, caused a huge scandal by talking about the lack of ethnic minorities in the show: “It wouldn’t be an English village with them… we’re the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way.” True-May was suspended by the show’s production company and later announced that he would step down.
A genuine screen icon disappeared with the death, at the age of 79, of Elizabeth Taylor. Michael Bublé married actress Luisana Loreley Lopilato de la Torre in Argentina, but Jude Law and Sienna Miller broke up after years of on-off dating.
Read Radio Times’s TV and entertainment review of the year – part two
Read Radio Times’s TV and entertainment review of the year – part three
Read Radio Times’s TV and entertainment review of the year – part four