This Is 5! (Channel 5, 1997)
Channel 5 was the fifth and final national analogue terrestrial channel to launch in March 1997, and unlike most people it seems I never had any problems receiving the channel and can remember watching some of the test transmissions before the launch. I remember looking forward to when the big day finally came.
The first show on Channel 5 was at 6pm on Easter Sunday 1997 and it was co-presented by Tim Vine and Julia Bradbury, who both had shows on the channel and still appear on TV regularly to this day. They introduced us to the various types of programming that we could expect to see in Channel 5’s earliest days.
Children’s. On afternoon weekends Channel 5’s main children’s show was The Mag which was hosted by Josie D’Arby who had been poached from CBBC. There were also lots of odd cartoons shown in the morning and things like Havakazoo.
Comedy. Yes, Channel 5 did attempt making some comedy shows in its earliest days, including the sketch show We Know Where You Live, which I will be reviewing in a separate piece soon. There was also The Comedy Store, which featured turns from various stand-up comedians including the terrific Milton Jones. Oh, doesn’t he look young there?
Drama/Films. Channel 5 showed a lot of imported dramas including Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess before they settled down to the endless Law And Order, CSI, and NCIS repeats. They also boasted that they would show big blockbuster films in primetime without a half-hour interruption for the news.
Entertainment. Channel 5’s main evening show was with Jack Docherty, who I remember being described by one critic at the time as a “minimally-coiffured goon”. There were also the teatime game shows 100% and Whittle. And there was Exclusive!, a show with puff pieces for films and pointless celebrity gossip which made it come across as a cross between Movies, Games And Videos and Liquid News. There was also all the usual cookery/lifestyle gubbins too.
News/Documentaries. The news service which featured main host Kirsty Young became known for having the presenters stand around the modern-looking studio which was seen as innovative at the time. They also worked hard to make sure that only the best freshly hatched news would be beamed into our homes.
Soaps. Long before they poached Neighbours and Home And Away, Channel 5 had an attempt at a homegrown soap, Family Affairs, which was planned to be shown every weekday evening for the rest of your life or whenever they couldn’t be bothered any more (which turned out to be December 2005), and I’ll be reviewing this show soon. In the early days they also showed the nighttime Australian soap Prisoner: Cell Block H, and the ludicrous daytime American soap Sunset Beach, which became better known for its long closing sequence having the continuity announcers talk sarcastically about the acting and plots which became the most popular part of the show.
Sport. Channel 5 did have a lot of sport coverage planned, including an England World Cup qualifier, and overnight they would have Live And Dangerous which would feature various sports including lots of Major League Baseball which was usually hosted by Dominik Diamond. There was also the live Saturday afternoon show Turnstyle. Again, this is something that Channel 5 doesn’t do any more.
Also during the show was the first-ever advert break, with the first advert being for Chanel No. 5. This was followed by the first showing of one of their funky idents and the first episode of Family Affairs. Channel 5 did definitely seem like an exciting place to be and I did watch it a lot in the early days. At least they tried to be creative, for a bit.