BBC Knowledge

This section contains an alphabetical listing of original commissions for BBC Knowledge from 1999 to 2002, concentrating mainly on series of programmes produced for the channel - most one-off productions have been omitted for the time being.

Rather than being a straightforward educational channel, the original intention was make it a more 'involving experience' by 'appealing to people's enthusiasms and interests'. The channel launched with a line-up of informal, bright and breezy educational programming aimed at a wide age range, from toddlers to adults, most of which was produced on a shoestring budget. Much was made of interactivity, with the burgeoning internet a central part of many of the programmes.

In April 2000 BBC Knowledge changed format to become a more upmarket, serious documentary and arts channel that mostly repeated programmes first shown on BBC1 and BBC2. Each weekday was now themed - history on Mondays, science on Tuesdays, business on Wednesdays, languages and culture on Thursdays and arts on Fridays. Some children's programmes remained at the weekend, but these disappeared at the end of August 2000. The themed days ceased in the spring of 2001.

The channel was replaced by BBC4 in March 2002, but in 2007 the BBC Knowledge name was resurrected for an unrelated commercial channel, run by BBC Worldwide in a number of territories around the globe.

We also have programme lists for BBC Choice, BBC News 24 and UK Play.

ANCIENT SECRETS (2001) - Four short archaeology documentaries.

THE ANCIENTS (2001) - BBC Knowledge's first, and possibly only, drama production, this 30-minute programme was shown as part of the channel's William Blake Night and followed a group of the poet and artist's acolytes. Transmitted just the once, on a Saturday evening, it would never have been seen by viewers to digital terrestrial where, until late 2001, the channel was carried on the SDN multiplex and was unavailable after midday at weekends.

THE ARTIST'S EYE (2001) - Four short documentaries exploring the contemporary arts scene.

BITESIZE ETC (1999-2000) - Educational magazine and 'survival guide' for teenagers taking their GCSEs, presented by Matt Brown and Abbie Eastwood. Each edition focused on a different subject.

BLIMEY! (2002) - A three-part series about the evolution of the spoken English language. Will Self and George Melly were among the contributors, and the first part included some footage of Radio 1's Mark and Lard.

THE BRANSON YEARS (2000) - A look at the career of Richard Branson in the year of his 50th birthday.

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (2000-01) - Series of ten-minute documentaries on various arts-related subjects. Some were re-edits of material previously broadcast on other programmes, such as The Late Show, or UK Arena's arts magazine The Frame.

BUSINESS CLASS (1999-2000) - Susan Rae presented this 'practical guide to getting by in business'.

CHANGING PLACES (2000) - Series in which two people swapped jobs for a week to see how the other half lives. The premise sounds similar to the BBC2 series Trading Places which was on air around the same time and itself received repeat runs on BBC Knowledge.

CITY SCAPES (2001-02) - Arts series looking at the architecture of various cities. The episodes looked at Tokyo, Las Vegas, Berlin, London, Paris and New York.

COMPUTERS STILL DON'T BITE (1999) - Ten-part series offering advice on how to get the best out of a personal computer.

COVER STORIES (2001) - Profiles of poet Ted Hughes, novelist Patrick O'Brian and philosopher Frantz Fanon.

THE CRUNCH (1999-2000) - Business series studying 'the work, stress and success of the middle manager'.

CULTURE FIX (1999-2001) - BBC Knowledge started off its existence with a number of fixations. Culture Fix was described an 'accessible guide to the arts world'. Introduced by GLR presenter Peter Curran, topics explored included minimalism, pop art, contemporary dance, special effects, interior design, photojournalism, stand-up comedy, computer games, dance music, and the history of the pop video. Culture Fix survived BBC Knowledge's revamp in April 2000, and some episodes were even still being repeated after the channel had become BBC4.

CULTURAL BREAKS (2000) - Tim Marlow and Jenny Ross presented this six-part guide to the 'artistic and cultural life of some of the world's most exciting cities'. The destinations were Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Rome, New York, Amsterdam and Dublin.

THE DVD COLLECTION (2001-05) - A pilot edition of Stuart Maconie's DVD review show was broadcast on BBC Knowledge in December 2001, before a full series followed on BBC4 in 2002.

FOUR MINUTES (2001) - Very short arts documentaries - some were even briefer edits of the programmes shown in the Brief Encounters series.

FRENCH FIX (1999-2001) - One of four Language Fix programmes focusing on different European countries, this series looked at the language and culture of France. Jenny Eclair presented from the studio, Lisa Rogers and Sally Gray featured in filmed inserts on location in France, and Hakim M'Barek and Simeon Courtie smurfed the internet in search of travel websites.

FRONT ROOM (1999-2000) - Presented by Jason Bradbury (yes, he of The Gadget Show and Don't Scare the Hare), this was an interactive show broadcast live for an hour each Friday night. Taking advantage of the nascent world wide web, viewers were invited to 'exchange views and ideas using webcams, video diaries, online chat and e-mail'. The programme was one of the first to be axed when BBC Knowledge was revamped in April 2000.

GERMAN FIX (1999-2000) - Much the same as French Fix, but covering Germany, obviously. Also presented by Jenny Eclair in the studio and Sally Gray on location.

HAVE WORDS (1999-2000) - Documentary series, described as an 'interactive debate on topical issues'.

HISTORY FIX/HISTORY QUEST (1999-2001) - Another part of BBC Knowledge's 'Fix' strand, History Fix saw comedian Rory McGrath travelling to various locations across the UK to undertake historical investigations, aided by two willing volunteers. A second series, retitled History Quest, was broadcast after BBC Knowledge's revamp.

HOT PURSUITS (1999) - Careers challenge series. In each edition three individuals investigated different careers in order to discover their ideal job.

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE (2002) - Broadcast on BBC Knowledge's final night in March 2002, this was a three-part look back over the channel's programming. See a clip at the bottom of this page.

JOURNEYS IN TIME AND SPACE (2001) - Six-part series exploring various aspects of astronomy, from big bangs to black holes, and dark matter to the search for intelligent life. Kathy Sykes and Chris Riley presented.

ITALIAN FIX (1999-2001) - Jenny Eclair introduced another sister series to French Fix and German Fix, this time investigating Italian language and culture, with Tris Payne on location to sample it first hand.

K CLUB (1999-2000) - The 'interactive internet club' for younger viewers (and their pets!), broadcast live each Friday teatime from the BBC's very own Cybercafe. Essentially a junior version of Front Room, with CBBC regular Kirsten O'Brien presenting. Features included a video vote and a weekly rant. Also putting in an appearance was the cartoon dog DynaMo, who also had a daily slot for his literacy and numeracy series for children that had first aired in the BBC Learning Zone.

KINGS IN WAITING (2001) - Three-part documentary about three Princes of Wales who went on to become king - Henry V, George IV and Edward VII.

KINO (1999-2002) - Each month BBC Knowledge broadcast a classic European film, uncut and without subtitles. Kino was a short programme which provided an introduction to that month's film. The channel also broadcast a weekly Mexican drama, Azul Tequila, and later, the French soap opera St Tropez.

THE KIT (1999-2000) - Computer, technology and gadget show presented by Gia Milinovich and Charlie Brooker, making one of his early television appearances. The first series, broadcast on BBC Knowledge Mk1, had a zoo format and a zany feel with a brightly coloured set and members of the crew chipping in, la Saturday morning television or The Big Breakfast. Regular features included a look at the web in Internerd, new gadgets in Get Your Kit Out, This File in which a house of students were given an internet connection, and Game On, in which personalities such as Sir Patrick Moore, Tom Baker, Douglas Adams and Leo Sayer were challenged to play the computer game Supercobra. The Kit survived BBC Knowledge's change of emphasis in April 2000, and in order to fit in, radically changed format with a more upmarket feel for its second series.

THE KNOWLEDGE (1999-2000) - The ubiquitous Jamie Theakston fronted a preview of the channel's output. This was the first programme to be broadcast on BBC Knowledge, and was repeated on a daily, and then weekly, basis until the channel was revamped.

KNOWLEDGE TALKS (2001) - Discussions on scientific topics, including the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe, the future of computers, whether ghosts exist, and the medical issues raised in Robert Winston's BBC1 series Superhuman.

LIFE STUFF (1999-2000) - Described as the first 'edu-soap', this series followed the lives of ten young people from Manchester over the course of a year. Each episode was part-documentary and part-discussion, examining the issues raised in the programme.

MAKE OR BREAK UPDATE (2000) - Updated versions of the BBC2 documentary following businesses that were facing testing times.

MASTERCLASS (2000-02) - Experts in various fields of the arts shared their knowledge and techniques with an invited audience. Among those featured were documentary maker Molly Dineen, pop artist Peter Blake, film director Mike Figgis, poet Andrew Motion, photographer Eamonn McCabe and opera singer Barbara Bonney.

MEDICAL MYSTERIES (2001) - Self-explanatory four-part documentary series. Some episodes included re-edited previously broadcast material.

MOMENTS OF GENIUS (2000-01) - Series of ten-minute programmes looking at ideas and breakthroughs that changed the world. Some of the names featured included Charles Darwin, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sigmund Freud and Ernest Rutherford.

MUSIC MASTERS (2000-01) - Composers discussed their life and work in this series, including John Adams, Peter Maxwell Davies and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

NATURAL DESIGN (2000) - Quentin Willson looked at how design and technology has been inspired by the natural world in this five-part series.

OLOGY HOUR (1999) - Daily series in which an expert and a beginner were brought together to take a 'passionate and fresh look at a major subject' - from anthropology to zoology and lots of other 'ologies' in between.

A PLACE TO THINK (2002) - A look forward to BBC Knowledge's replacement - BBC4.

PROFILE (2001-04) - Portraits of 'those in the news and others who ought to be'. The series contined on BBC4 - those featured during its time on BBC Knowledge included JG Ballard, Condoleezza Rice, Kofi Annan, Philip Pullman and Stephen Hawking.

READERS' AND WRITERS' ROADSHOW (2001-02) - Authors discussed their work with an invited audience. The series continued its run on BBC4.

SCIENCE FIX (1999-2000) - Possibly one of the cheapest programmes ever made, presented by Angela Lamont, and later Quentin Cooper, in which science experiments were undertaken in what looked like an office suite somewhere. The programme also included filmed reports.

SHARE YOUR STORY (1999-2000) - Not a programme as such, these were short vignettes broadcast in between programmes during the early part of BBC Knowledge's existence.

SPANISH FIX (1999-2001) - In this part of the Language Fix strand, Jenny Eclair learnt some Spanish dancing in the studio, while Chris Jarvis and Bear van Beers were on location in Spain.

STORYVILLE (1997-date) - The BBC's showcase for international documentaries began on BBC2, but switched to BBC Knowledge in 2001, and continues to this day on BBC4.

TALKING ART (2000) - Personalities discussed their favourite works of art in this series of five programmes, which focused on American artists, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Picasso and Whistler respectively.

TOP COPS (2000) - Four short programmes examining the appeal of fictional detectives Sherlock Holmes, Dalziel and Pascoe, Rebus and Lord Peter Wimsey.

TOTS' TIME (1999-2001) - The early incarnation of BBC Knowledge started its weekday programmes at 5pm with this programme for toddlers. Each edition comprised 'stories, rhymes and songs' with Richard McCourt (aka Dick from Dick and Dom in da Bungalow) from an oversized red chair, with help from several friends from the toy box - Druscilla the Dragon, Digory the Duck and Teddington Bear. The programme included archive material from children's and educational programmes such as Playdays and Numbertime - however, the majority of the running time of each programme was taken up with a full episode of the Tweenies.

TROUBLE AT THE TOP REVISITED (2000-01) - Updated versions of the BBC2 business series.

VOYAGER (1999) - Children's educational series, in which holographic presenters Katy Hill, Sally Gray, Mark Speight, Simon Thomas and Chris Jarvis were zapped into space to help the intelligent space probe Voyager discover about a wide variety of topics.

WHAT IF? (2000) - A series based on the long-running Radio 4 programme of the same name, in which historians discussed alternative scenarios that might have occured had events taken a different course at key points in British history.

THE WITNESS (2000) - A series of five-minute programmes in which key events in history were recounted by those who witnessed them first hand. In some listings the programme is simply titled Witness.

A WOMAN'S EYE (2001) - Three documentaries about female artists - Sharon Chazan, Sarah Lucas and Helen Chadwick.

WORK IT UP (1999-2000) - 'The essential guide to work, with advice on training, job opportunities, salaries and where to find work experience'. This series focused on a different career in each episode.

WORKPLACE PREDICTIONS (2000-01) - Experts discussed the future of work.

From our YouTube channel, a clip from Inside Knowledge, broadcast on the last day of BBC Knowledge, looking back at some of the channel's early programming.


BBC Knowledge schedules at BBC Genome
BBC Knowledge Wikipedia entry