One event dominated: the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Around 24.5 million people watched it on British telly, where the main stories were ITV’s surprisingly excellent coverage; a preponderance of shots of cars driving along tarmac; the use of unglamorous minibuses for some of the lesser guests; and the shock appearance of Mohamed Al Fayed. It turned out it wasn’t Al Fayed but a dead ringer for him, the King of Tonga.
Crowds outside Buckingham Palace got three balcony kisses instead of the expected one, but in the papers the following day there were two more of 2011’s unexpected stars: Pippa Middleton’s buttocks formed the lasting image of the nuptials.
Steven Moffat faced criticism over Doctor Who’s complicated storylines as Matt Smith’s Time Lord returned for his second series.
Britain’s Got Talent hove into view again on ITV1. Michael Collings’s delicate version of Fast Car became one of the most popular YouTube clips of 2011, but the series itself was a procession, as cutesy mop-top Ronan Parke coasted to victory… until the final, when he inexplicably lost to vaguely operatic Scottish singer Jai McDowall.
TV news continued to grip the nation as the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was announced and President Obama addressed the world with news of the success of Operation Neptune Spear.
Graham Norton guided us through the fake tan, crazy outfits and massive instruments of The Eurovision Song Contest. Jedward represented Ireland with their bouncy track, Lipstick, and Blue hoped to do it for the UK with I Can – but alas, they couldn’t and the prize went to a sentimental track by Azerbaijan.
The Apprentice returned to BBC1, offering its usual irresistible mix of ineptitude, arguing, and twitter-able moments. Candidates came out with baffling comments such as “I was personally taught by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama” and “Do the French like their children?”. But as ever Nick Hewer (incidentally the new presenter of Countdown) stole the show with witty insights like “Trying to nail anything on Jim is like trying to nail jelly to a wall”. The geek-chic of Mr Notebook Calculator, Tom Pellereau, won out over Helen Milligan’s almost frightening self-confidence in the July final.
Terry Pratchett’s moving documentary about euthanasia, Choosing to Die, made headlines as the programme showed the last moments of Peter Smedley, a sufferer of motor neurone disease.
The ongoing phone hacking saga came to public attention as Sienna Miller won damages from the News of the World. Even more shocking revelations were made in July as The Guardian reported that the News of the World had also hacked the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of serving soldiers and victims of the 7/7 attacks.
U2 headlined Glastonbury on the Pyramid Stage, with brilliant coverage on the BBC. Undoubtedly, though, the star of the show was Beyoncé. Organisers told RT they were thrilled “she managed to put Glastonbury in her schedule, then build a European tour around it.”
Another English institution began with the 125th
Wimbledon tennis championship. Ryan Dunn, star of Jackass, lost his life in a car accident and Lily Allen married Sam Cooper.
Read Radio Times’s TV and entertainment review of the year – part one
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