When is Icons on BBC2? What’s it about, how does it work and which famous figures are nominated?

Some of today’s best-loved celebrities are seeking out who are our most esteemed icons of yesteryear

Icons (BBC)

An ambitious new series looks to crown the most beloved icons of the 20th century, inviting audiences to vote for their most influential figure.


BBC2’s Icons is searching for the greatest individual in history across a list of categories. Partnered with the Open University, 28 shortlisted icons have been chosen by a series of experts and academics with an aim to spark debate as the public get to choose their icon.

Here’s everything you need to know about the programme…

What is Icons about?

Our shortlisted ‘icons’ have been divided up into different categories depending on their field of excellence.

There are 28 shortlisted icons in the categories of: Leaders, Explorers, Scientists, Entertainers, Activists, Sports Stars, and Artists and Writers.

Each category will be presented in one episode, with a celebrity advocate discussing the achievements of each icon in that discipline.

Leaders is presented by Sir Trevor McDonald, Explorers by Dermot O’Leary, Scientists by Chris Packham, Entertainers by Kathleen Turner, Activists by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Sports Stars by Clare Balding and Artists and Writers by Lily Cole.


Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, says: “Over a month of programming, Icons will bring an entire century of history to our screens. Each of our icons achieved extraordinary things in their lifetimes. I can’t wait to find out who the nation chooses as the greatest of them all.”

How does Icons work?

Voting begins at the end of each programme at 10pm, and is open until 4pm the next day.

The winners of the two categories airing each week will be announced live on The One Show – which will also be supporting the show’s grand finale in February.

Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC2, says: “This is a brilliantly ambitious and wide ranging series that seeks to explore the people and the forces responsible for the world we live in today. We are really excited to see how the audience engages with this debate and who wins the vote as the most influential individual of the 20th Century.”

Who’s been nominated?

Some Like it Hot – Marilyn Monroe

A vast selection of icons of the 20th centuary have already been shortlisted.
For Leaders, the nominees are: Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela
For Explorers, the nominees are: Ernest Shackleton, Gertrude Bell, Neil Armstrong and Jane Goodall
For Scientists, the nominees are: Marie Curie, Alan Turing, Albert Einstein and Tu Youyou
For Entertainers, the nominees are: Charlie Chaplain, Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe and David Bowie
For Activists, the nominees are: Emmeline Pankhurst, Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller and Martin Luther King Jnr
For Sports Stars, the nominees are: Muhammad Ali, Pele, Billie Jean King and Tanni Grey-Thompson
For Artists and Writers, the nominees are: Virgina Woolf, Pablo Picasso, Alfred Hitchcock and Andy Warhol.

When is Icons on TV?

Episode one, Leaders, will air on Tuesday 8th January and episode two, Explorers, will air Wednesday 9th January
Episode three, Scientists, will air Monday 14th and episode four, Entertainers, will air Tuesday 15 January
Episode five, Activists, will air on Monday 21nd and episode six, Sports Stars, will air Tuesday 22nd January
Episode seven, Artists & Writers, will air on Tuesday 29th January.


When will the Icons final take place?

The live final will air on Tuesday 5 February on BBC2 with all seven celebrity advocates attempting to convince voters to choose their category.

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