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BBC3 was the proving ground for these breakout hits – but what will happen when it moves online?

Gavin & Stacey, Torchwood, Little Britain and now Don't Tell the Bride all started life on BBC3 before winning promotion to the big leagues – what would happen if that source disappeared?

Published: Wednesday, 24th June 2015 at 4:00 pm

BBC1 saw BBC3's Don't Tell the Bride, liked it, and put a ring on it.


The reality series is the latest show born on BBC3 but promoted up the TV listings once the Beeb realised they had a hit that would appeal to people outside of the channel's supposed 'youth' pigeonhole.

BBC3 has been the proving ground for plenty of the BBC's more left-field hits, from early 'out-there' experiments like Little Britain to full-blown ratings blockbusters like Torchwood and Gavin & Stacey.

But you have to wonder how long it can last. How many more shows like the ones we've featured below will earn the requisite audience and the resulting 'promotion' once BBC3 moves online?

The long-proposed move (as well as the inevitable budget cut) has been pushed back to at least January 2016 after the consultation process took longer than expected, meaning Don't Tell the Bride might not be the last show to find an audience on BBC3 and win a shot at the big leagues.

BBC executives promise that BBC3 shows will find wider audiences thanks to greater exposure on iPlayer, and in the future that might well be true. But right now, iPlayer is still predominantly a place to go if you want to test the hype of an already broadcast show, not the underground hit generator that BBC3 has already proved to be.

All of which means that shows like these could find it much harder to get the slot they deserve on broadcast TV.


Yes, the dark, twisted cousin of Doctor Who first drew breath on the alien planet of BBC3 in 2006. The immortal Captain Jack Harkness and the tragically mortal Ianto Jones never would have met if it weren't for BBC3. Each year the show got an upgrade, moving to BBC2 for series two before hitting the number 1 spot during for three and four. Torchwood: Miracle Day even got US backing, and a bigger budget than it could have ever dreamed of during its early years in the digital backwater.

Gavin & Stacey

BBC3's love of all things Welsh didn't begin with The Call Centre. Torchwood's headquarters were hidden in Cardiff Bay, and perhaps its most successful comedy yet put Barry back on the map.

James Corden and Ruth Jones's sweet story of love conquering the Severn Bridge toll quickly won repeats on BBC2 before getting a prime BBC1 slot in its third series. Co-creator James Corden, now host of the US Late Late Show, said "I wouldn't have a career without BBC3".

"If BBC3 was closing down I would be the first person signing a petition to keep it around because I wouldn’t have a career without it," he said. "Nor would Matt Lucas and David Walliams, nor would Ruth Jones and nor would lots and lots of great people who have been found and nurtured on that channel."

Speaking of...

Little Britain

David Walliams and Matt Lucas's sketch comedy was one of BBC3's earliest commissions in 2003, inspired by the original Radio 4 series. It wasn't the only radio show to get its first foot on the TV ladder on BBC3: The Mighty Boosh also gave Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett a camera to play with.

Little Britain meanwhile went through the gears: shown on BBC3, repeated on 2 and topping out on 1 in 2006.

Russell Howard's Good News

It's not just scripted comedy that has earned a promotion: Good News moved to BBC2 in 2014 after eight series, around the time a BBC3 move online was first mooted.

However, a BBC source told that the move wasn't about the show jumping a sinking ship: "It was more a feeling that he's graduated to a terrestrial channel really," they said. "It's a big popular show going to a channel with bigger audience potential."


BBC3's answer to The Great British Bake Off – competitive hair dressing – will move to BBC2 for series two. Originally presented by Rick Edwards, the new show will be hosted by comedian Katherine Ryan.

Murdered by My Boyfriend

The one-off BBC3 drama was the surprise success of this year's Bafta TV Awards, with lead Georgina Campbell beating the likes of Sheridan Smith, Sarah Lancashire and Keeley Hawes to win best actress. It's since earned repeats on BBC1.

Don't Tell the Bride


Unlike its comedies, BBC3's reality shows don't normally make their way onto the grownup channels, but finally, the veil has been lifted. The new series of Don't Tell the Bride, we're told, will feature a "wider range of brides and grooms" with older couples between 30 and 55 years. But don't worry: an 'older' groom does not a more mature best man make.


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