BBC Two celebrates 50th anniversary with raft of new comedy and entertainment programmes

BBC Two has a long and proud history of growing and supporting new comedy talent and I’m delighted to be announcing a range of brilliantly funny new content that celebrates 50 wonderful years of wit on the channel.Adam Barker, Acting Controller, BBC Two
Date: 19.03.2014     Last updated: 19.03.2014 at 11.11
Harry and Paul, the cast of Goodness Gracious Me, Dara O Briain and many more faces of BBC Two are lining up to help the channel celebrate 50 fantastic years of comedy and entertainment.

Adam Barker, Acting Controller of BBC Two, says: “From The Likely Lads, the very first comedy the channel showed in 1964, to more recent highlights including Miranda, Rev, The Trip, Twenty Twelve and The Wrong Mans, BBC Two has a long and proud history of growing and supporting new comedy talent and I’m delighted to be announcing a range of brilliantly funny new content that celebrates 50 wonderful years of wit on the channel.

As well as making us laugh, the channel has had an incredible cultural impact on the music we’ve listened to and the sport we’ve watched. From being the first to broadcast snooker in colour to our recent ground-breaking Glastonbury coverage, two new documentaries celebrate how BBC Two has led the way in mind-expanding entertainment. This is just the start of our celebrations and we’ll be announcing more content in the weeks to come.”

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse take a twisted look at the story of BBC Two in Harry And Paul’s Story Of The Twos, an hour-long tribute to the channel's most iconic programmes and personalities. From Men Behaving Likely Ladly to Dennis From Heaven, The Old Grey Wrinkled Testicle to Ask The Ugly Family, Grumpy Old Hasbeens to Panel Show, there are clips from all the channel’s greatest shows, almost exactly as viewers remember them…

Harry Enfield says: “BBC Two gave me my big solo break with Harry Enfield's Television Programme almost 25 years ago. They have been loyal to us over decades. We therefore felt it was only right that now we should stab BBC Two in the back.”

Harry and Paul are joined by special guests including Joan Bakewell Tart, Gerald Manley Paxman, John Cleese-Shop-Sketch, Mark Egghead, Germaine Dreary and Russell Somebody. Starring Kevin Eldon, Simon Day, Rosie Cavaliero, Catherine Shepherd and many more.

Harry adds: “They kindly asked us to do a homage to 50 years of BBC Two. It's turned out to be less of a homage and more of a homicide. Whoops.”

Produced by Balloon Pictures, the programme was commissioned by Chris Sussman and is being produced by Bradley Adams.

The cast of Goodness Gracious Me are reuniting for a special 30-minute episode to mark the 50th anniversary of the channel. The original cast of Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nina Wadia and Kulvinder Ghir are back together for a special featuring all-new sketches, with favourites such as the Kapoors (pronounced 'Cooper') and the Competitive Mothers alongside some brand-new characters.

The programme is produced by BBC In-house Comedy, Anil Gupta and Gareth Edwards are the producers with Jon Plowman as the executive producer and it is directed by Nick Wood.

Dara O Briain hosts All About Two, a special 90-minute-long quiz and celebration of 50 years of BBC Two. With Richard Osman supplying extra facts and figures, celebrity teams and guest spots from the channel's past and present, All About Two tells you everything you've ever wanted to know about the channel but didn't know you wanted to ask. It's part celebration, part quiz and all love. It was commissioned for BBC Entertainment by Alan Tyler. The co-producers are Adam Copeland and Genevieve Dolittle. Executive producer is Caroline Wright.

50 Years Of BBC Two Comedy celebrates the proud heritage the channel has in growing and supporting generations of successful comedy talent and making us laugh over five decades. From Fawlty Towers to The Wrong Mans, Spike Milligan to Shooting Stars, via The Office, Mash, Victoria Wood, The Fast Show and many, many others. Contributors to the two-hour-long definitive history include Armando Iannucci, Ricky Gervais, Prunella Scales, Vic and Bob, Michael Palin, Catherine Tate, Sanjeev Bhaskar, The Goodies, Terry Jones, Sarah Millican, Rebecca Front and more. Made by BBC In-house Comedy, the executive producer is Saurabh Kakkar.

Presented by Sue Barker, 50 Years Of Sport on BBC Two reveals what makes sport on BBC Two feel so special. BBC Two is the birthplace of iconic programmes such as Match Of The Day, Ski Sunday and Pot Black. This hour-long film will explore the history of sport on BBC Two and reveal the central role the channel played in developing the Paralympics, motorsport, snooker, darts, rugby and more by bringing them to a mass television audience. Contributors include Alan Davies, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Steve Cram, John Inverdale, Clare Balding, Peter Alliss, Des Lynam and Murray Walker.

Pop Goes BBC Two pays tribute to great popular music moments, performance and documentary on the channel from launch until now. The emphasis is on studio live performance and popular music documentary journalism from Late Night Line-Up, Jazz 625 and Arena to Old Grey Whistle Test, Later With Jools Holland and Glastonbury. It was commissioned for BBC Entertainment by Pinki Chambers and is executive produced by Mark Cooper for BBC Music Television. The producer is Dione Newton.

Inside The Comedy Vaults brings together special treats, clips and forgotten joy from deep in the comedy archives, examining BBC Two's well-deserved reputation as an innovator and comedy pioneer - with early appearances from the likes of Rik Mayall, Fry and Laurie, and some long-unseen Ronnie Barker and Peter Cook gems.

Notes to Editors


BBC Two launched on the 20 April 1964. However, its debut didn't quite go according to plan. With only a few minutes to go before the channel went to air, a power cut affected the whole of west London and anchor man Gerald Priestland battled on in near darkness and total chaos.

The blackout meant that the first show to be broadcast on the channel in its entirety was Playschool, which went out the following day.

The channel recovered from this rather shaky start and won both critical and audience success with a wide range of ground-breaking comedy and drama series, including The Likely Lads and The Forsyte Saga.

Shows such as Match Of The Day and the flagship science programme Horizon were broadcast in the early days and are still mainstays in the schedules to this day.

Seminal programmes such as (Late Night) Line Up, Jazz 625, and The Beat Room were front-runners to programmes such as Later... With Jools Holland and the channel’s Glastonbury coverage.

In 1967, with David Attenborough at the helm, BBC Two was the first channel in Europe to broadcast in colour.

Freed from the confines of black and white, the channel produced a series of ground-breaking factual programmes, including Civilisation and The Ascent of Man.

The Seventies saw the launch of classics such as Fawlty Towers, I Claudius, Moll Flanders, Madame Bovary and snooker show Pot Black, made possible by the launch of colour television.

Landmark current affairs shows such as 40 Minutes and Newsnight came to the channel, as did the arrival of cookery with Delia Smith’s Family Fare.

The Eighties on BBC Two brought viewers Life On Earth; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Yes, Minister; The Boys From The Blackstuff; Edge Of Darkness; Not The Nine O’Clock News; and The Young Ones.

The channel also introduced television audiences to Indian food for the first time in 1982 with the hugely popular Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery.

The channel launched the careers of a new generation of comedians, from Rik Mayal to Dawn French, as well as screening seminal shows such as Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Troubleshooter, Video Diaries, Tosca and Truly Madly Deeply.

As the channel moved through the Nineties, much-loved series like Top Gear and Gardeners' World were joined by highly acclaimed drama such as This Life and Our Friends In The North, which captured the era's political and cultural zeitgeist.

Big Train, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Gormenghast, The Royle Family, The Fast Show, Shooting The Past and The League Of Gentlemen all made their mark during this time.

Technological advances paved the way for innovative, interactive projects such as Restoration, The Big Read and Great Britons, introducing audiences to a whole new viewing experience.

The channel continued to support new comedy, most notably with award-winning shows Dead Ringers, Double Take, Marion And Geoff, The Office, The Kumars At No 42, and the BBC Three co-commission Little Britain.

The last few years have seen the channel continue to enjoy an incredibly strong position, ahead of its main competitors in peak and with audience appreciation as high as ever.

BBC Two won Channel of the Year at both the Broadcast Awards (2013) and MGEITF (2012). In 2013, BBC Two won more BAFTAs than any other channel - including awards for 7/7, Murder, Twenty Twelve and Great British Bake Off - and RTS Awards for eight programmes - including Lucien Freud: Painted Life, The Hollow Crown, Twenty Twelve and Protecting Our Children.

BBC Two has seen a resurgence in specialist factual, comedy and drama, with highlights including The Fall and The Wrong Mans, both rating as the channel’s biggest drama and comedy launches in eight years.

The channel has also made its mark with event television, with live events like Lambing Live, Stargazing Live and Airport Live, as well as growing new talent on the channel, including Mary Beard, Amanda Vickery, Alice Roberts, Mary Berry, Lorraine Pascale and Brian Cox.