Most TV will keep you entertained. But sometimes, TV shows or episodes become cultural events in their own right. They’re the moments you call your friends about when you can remember where you were and who you were with, and eventually, become the answer to many a pub quiz question.
Since 2002, Freeview has been there for it all. Unexpected results in reality shows, shock reveals in the nation’s favourite soaps and countless feats of sporting triumph (and heartbreak). To celebrate, we invite you on our guided tour of the most watched moments in Freeview history.
Britain’s Got Talent Final
An average 15 million people watched the Britain’s Got Talent Final in 2009. In hindsight, this shouldn’t have shocked anyone as finalists Susan Boyle and dance-troop Diversity have had long careers since. But at the time, the nation was gripped. Susan Boyle had stolen everyone’s heart with her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and Diversity mesmerised audiences with their moves.
SuBo may have lost out in the final, but the show provided her with an opportunity to launch a remarkable career. Her story has taken her from a small town in Scotland to performing in front of the Pope and to fans across the globe.
Weatherfield has never been short of bad guys. But Richard Hillman took villainy to new levels by killing Maxine Peacock and framing troubled teen Aidan Critchley.
In 2003, in one of the most watched TV moments, Richard confessed to his wife Gail – who responded with one of the most memorable lines in the TV show’s history, describing him as “Norman Bates with a briefcase“.
Often credited as turning pub-loving and tea drinking Brits to coffee, the hugely popular sitcom was the epitome of a cultural phenomenon. Joey’s “How you doing?” became the in catchphrase and hairdressers were inundated with requests for Rachel’s layered locks. And don’t forget Phoebe’s ‘Smelly Cat’ – a song so catchy it was given a dance remix (the ultimate marker of success).
However, all good things must come to an end. In 2004, the final episode aired to millions of fans, who tuned in to see if Ross and Rachel would finally be together. In an emotional closing scene, the old Friends reminisced in Monica and Chandler’s apartment, making a comment about rent control – a satirical comment on how struggling 20 somethings could afford a wonderful New York apartment (an imaginative leap some critics struggled with).
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death
The Aardman animation about a good-natured cheese-loving inventor and his loyal dog has been a long-time favourite on British screens for generations. In 2008, Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death, cemented their place in popular culture by becoming the most watched programme on Christmas Day. Packed with great puns such as Top Bun – the name of Wallace’s bakery – this movie will be remembered by young and old in their Christmas memories.
England Vs. Portugal (Euro 2004)
With the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, and Steven Gerrard, many had termed this England’s ‘Golden Generation’. Before the tournament, expectations were high, with some commentators believing this team would deliver the first international trophy since 1966 (no pressure lads).
In front of a huge televised audience, Frank Lampard scored to take the match to a penalty shootout. As we all know, this lead to another heartbreak, with England losing and exiting the tournament at the quarter-final stage. England fans still shudder when they hear the words ‘Darius Vassell’ and ‘penalty’.
Doctor Who – The Day of the Doctor
For Whovians, the Christmas Day episode is always special. However, in 2013, this excitement reached critical mass when three Doctors appeared in a single episode for the 50th Anniversary episode. That’s Matt Smith, David Tenant, and a guest appearance by the legendary John Hurt.
Positive reviews saw the fandom almost implode (in a good way), while general viewers were also drawn in, helping the BBC win the Christmas rating war that year. Matt Smith in a fez might have also helped!
Great British Bake Off 2016 Final
Will the meringue set? Is the filling overly tart?
To some these may seem like trivial questions: but not in Bake Off. The TV show which puts amateur baker against amateur baker has become a surprise success, bringing gripping drama to the kitchen. It’s also turned us into a nation of bakers with John Lewis reporting increased sales in baking equipment when the show is airing.
Last year, a show-high record audience watched PE teacher Candice Brown as she became the new Bake Off champion, earning three Star Baker awards along the way.
Andy Murray’s Wimbledon 2013 victory
At the 2013 Wimbledon, great hopes were once against placed on the shoulders of Andy Murray. The year previous he lost an emotional match against Roger Federer, arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
A peak 17.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the final. The audience wasn’t disappointed as Andy Murray defeated world number one Novak Djokovic and became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years. Fitting, for what is undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest sporting achievements.