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Ten of the biggest TV moments of 2018 from Bodyguard to England’s penalties

PUBLISHED: 13:03 21 December 2018

Killing Eve Picture: JASON BELL

Killing Eve Picture: JASON BELL

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As we look ahead to 2019’s TV treats, let’s pause for a moment to look back at the last year’s biggest hits on the small screen - from Royal Weddings to bodyguards, heartbreaking football matches to battling chimpanzees, TV writer Cory Varney picks his top 10.

Bodyguard - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Des WillieBodyguard - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Des Willie

1) Harry and Meghan tie the knot: Love was in the air in May as the nation sat down to watch the Royal Wedding and it was, predictably, one of the biggest TV events over the year. A worldwide audience of over two billion tuned in to watch Prince Harry tie the knot with Suits’ star, Meghan Markle. An audience of around 17 million would watch the lovebirds’ nuptials in the UK and flock to social media to discuss Bishop Michael Curry’s very entertaining sermon.

2) England banish penalty demons in Russia: The summer would see the country fall back in love with football. Gareth Southgate became a national hero, waistcoats were the “in” thing, football so very nearly came home. But while the wait to see England win the World Cup stretches on until 2022 (at least), England’s penalty demons were finally banished in Russia. In the round of 16, a nation was left facing its worst footballing fear: England in a penalty shoot-out. Almost 24 million people flocked to ITV to watch the dread spot kicks unfold and, for once, there was no heartbreak. England did it, toppling Colombia 4-3 to advance to the quarter-finals, sparking delirious scenes up and down the nation while ensuring “football’s coming home” was sung with increasing gusto.

I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! Harry Redknapp (C) ITV PlcI'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! Harry Redknapp (C) ITV Plc

3) Bodyguard fever sweeps the nation: Every now and then, a drama becomes the craze of the nation and in 2018, it was the turn of Bodyguard, devised by Line of Duty mastermind, Jed Mercurio. The gripping thriller saw David Budd (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden), a war-veteran suffering with PTSD, assigned to protect Keeley Hawes’ controversial Home Secretary, Julia Montague, after a heroic act on a train as an off-duty policeman. The twist? Montague’s politics are at odds with everything Budd believes in. There were twists. There were turns. There was sex and shocks. Blood and explosions. It brought the Beeb some of its highest viewing figures since 2008. In short, it was a hit.

4) David comes back from the dead (in Dynasties, not Bodyguard): A BBC documentary series narrated by David Attenborough is as close to a homerun as one can possibly get in television. It has certainly proven to be the case with Dynasties, a series following the struggles of some extraordinary animals such as an emperor penguin colony battling to beat a merciless winter and a mighty lioness’ mission to protect her pride at all costs. However, it was the maiden episode in which viewers followed David the chimpanzee’s battle to remain king of his clan. It was akin to something written by Shakespeare. There were plotters. There were betrayals. There were all sorts of drama. At one point, David was brutally beaten and left for dead. Yet, remarkably, he would rise up and drag himself back to retake his crown. Hooray!

5) Love Island rules supreme in the summer: With more applications than Oxford and Cambridge University, Love Island is red hot at the moment and so it proved this summer. Fronted by Caroline Flack, the reality dating show became the most watched programme ever on ITV2 this summer, chronicling the attempts of a band of boys and girls trying to find love (or fortune and fame) in a luxurious villa in Spain. It will be back next year to take over hearts, minds and social media once more, offering the perfect antidote to Brexit and real life. It’s also on ALL THE TIME when it airs, so is the perfect way to waste time.

6) Jodie Whittaker makes her Doctor Who debut: In a landmark move, Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) was revealed as the new Doctor for the BBC’s long-running science-fiction series – becoming the first woman to play the role. In October, she made her debut, joined by companions Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) and the host of the greatest television quiz show of all time, Bradley Walsh as Graham. More than eight million people tuned in, Doctor Who’s biggest viewing figures for a series launch in a decade and proof that the world didn’t end because a big role was given to a woman.

7) The weird and wonderful Killing Eve: Having already aired across the Atlantic on BBC America to widespread acclaim, Killing Eve arrived on the Beeb in September and was easily one of the best series to grace the small screen in 2018. Developed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), and based on Luke Jenning’s Codename Villanelle novella series, the series pits desk-bound MI5 officer, Eve (Greys Anatomy’s marvellous Sandra Oh) against psychopathic assassin, Villanelle (a tremendous Jodie Comer of Doctor Foster). Eve begins tracking her down. Villanelle becomes obsessed with her and vice versa. The game of cat and mouse unfolded over eight remarkably weird and very wonderful episodes, with more to come in future. Not for the faint-hearted.

8) Phelan meets his maker on Coronation Street: As with many of the best villains, Coronation Street’s Phelan met his end not once but twice in 2018. Actor Conor McIntyre has been crowned “Villain of the Year” twice at the British Soap Awards for his portrayal of Phelan, a man guilty of kidnappings, murders and all sorts of other hugely nefarious shenanigans. His luck would, inevitably, run out with wife, Eileen finaly discovering his true colours. A showdown ensued. Phelan was sent tumbling into the sea. The episode saw Corrie hit three-year ratings highs of 9.38 million. Obviously, it was soon revealed he had managed to survive and he would return to continue his reign of terror.

He would finally meet his end – for good, this time – on 1 June after wreaking more havoc in front of an audience of 8.6 million.

9) Harry Redknapp turns national treasure on I’m A Celebrity: Once more, ITV dumped a bunch of celebrities in the jungle to eat animals’ private parts and slurp questionable smoothies

for the sole purpose of the British public’s entertainment (hooray!).The likes of Noel Edmonds, Rita Simons and John Barrowman have made the way to Australia this year, but the highlight this year has been a certain Harry Redknapp. The former manager of Tottenham and Portsmouth has shared all sorts of fascinating anecdotes from his footballing past, craved cheese rolls and jam roly poly pudding while also learning to rap, “Sandra, you peng ting,” when mentored by Fleur East of X Factor fame.

10) Children in Need raises a landmark £1bn: Last, but by no means least, the BBC’s Children in Need reached a real landmark in November. Since 1980, the programme has sought to raise money for disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. As of 2018, it has raised over £1 billion. It reached the sum after a record-breaking £50.6 million was donated during this year’s programme which featured the cast of EastEnders dressing up as Disney characters to perform a medley among other highlights.

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