2021 saw plenty of drama, scripted and unscripted, hit the small screen.
From hilarious hi-jinks to blind-siding reveals, reunions with old friends to the death of new ones, and sporting highs to political lows, here are the year's most significant TV moments in chronological order.
But tread carefully! There will be some *SPOILERS* ahead.
It’s A Sin: Colin’s death
Russell T Davies’ AIDS drama tugged on everyone’s heart strings this year. And while each and every character was loveable in their own way, perhaps no one was as kind hearted as Colin (Callum Scott Howells). Which is what made his death all the more poignant a reminder of the real heartbreak caused by the savage disease.
Ru Paul's Drag Race UK: The RuRuVision Song Contest
TV reached peak camp in February when Drag Race UK spoofed Eurovision with their earworm pop banger 'UK Hun?'
This was the first time the girls had competed since lockdown forced a seven month hiatus in the middle of filming series two, and boy did they come back with a bang.
Despite Banadrama's valiant effort, it was The United Kingdolls who took home the Ru Peter Badges with their iconic rendition. With the song becoming the internet's new obsession, Bimini Bon Boulash's lyricism was a particular standout for fans: Gender-bender, cis-tem offender/ I like it rough but my lentils tender.
WandaVision: Wanda says goodbye to Vision one last time
A heart-breaking ending to one of the year’s most inventive shows saw Marvel’s Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) forced to let go of the memory of her other half, Vision (Paul Bettany), and her family. While behind them, a slide show of all the classic sitcoms the series lovingly parodied tinges the scene with nostalgia.
Oprah with Meghan and Harry
A year on from their announcement of their decision to step down as working members of the Royal Family, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry revealed all to Oprah Winfrey in a landmark television special. After many years of invasive tabloid speculation, it was a compelling effort at taking back control of their narrative.
Good Morning Britain: Piers Morgan storms off after clash over Meghan Markle’s accusations of racism
With Piers Morgan at the helm, Good Morning Britain was serving up heated debates on the daily. But when Morgan clashed with fellow presenter Alex Beresford over Meghan Markle’s allegations of racism within the Royal Family, he stormed off set and later announced that he had left his role entirely. Ofcom launched an investigation after the regulator received almost 60,000 complaints regarding Morgan’s comments, topping its all-time list.
Super Sunday: Gary Neville responds to the Super League proposals
When it was announced that six clubs from the Premier League had signed up to a breakaway European Super League, Gary Neville was asked for his verdict live on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday. Setting aside any club loyalties, the pundit launched a scathing attack on the culprits, calling for points deductions and fines for their “criminal act” for which the only motivation was “greed.” It perfectly captured the mood of most fans, and as the plans were eventually scrapped, many consider the speech to be a major turning point in the debate.
Line of Duty: Codename H is revealed
After almost 10 years of water cooler theorising, the identity of H – the elusive organised crime kingpin that unit AC-12 had been chasing since the first series - was finally revealed as DSI Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle). It was perhaps UK television’s biggest reveal this year, with a record-breaking 12.8 million tuning in.
Mare of Easttown: Detective Zabel’s untimely demise
It’s hard to pick just one jaw-dropping moment in a series full of them, but the death of county Detective Zabel (Evan Peters) in episode five of Mare of Easttown was so abrupt that the shock lingered long after the credits rolled. Especially when things were finally looking up for Zabel and his partner Mare (Kate Winslet), having just cracked the one case and shared a kiss.
Friends: The Reunion
A welcome and wholesome return of arguably the biggest sitcom of all time drew Sky One’s biggest live audience ever of 5.3 million viewers. As well as the recreation of several famous scenes, many A-list cameos and some hilarious new outtakes, fans revelled in the revelation that David Schwimmer and Jennifer Anniston had their own real life will-they-won’t-they moment, as they both admitted to fancying each other during filming.
The launch of GB News
Regardless of its political affiliation, Andrew Neil’s introduction of Britain’s first new news channel in more than 20 years was a momentous occasion. However, the launch was disrupted by technical difficulties, including the cancellation of Nigel Farage’s guest appearance after the former politician was cut off by a pizza advert.
Steph’s Packed Lunch: Joe Lycett storms off set to protest single-use plastics
Inspired by that other live temper tantrum and its vast media coverage, comedian Joe Lycett pulled off the perfect environmental prank when he stormed off the set of Steph’s Packed Lunch to protest single-use plastics. By letting the stunt breathe for the day, Lycett invited much speculation as to the realness of his rage, and thus raised awareness for an important cause.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: Italy and Iraq share Gold high jump medal
In one of televised sport’s most wholesome moments of the year, two high jumpers and close friends, Iraq’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, wrote themselves into Olympic history when they became the first athletes to share a gold medal after reaching a stalemate in the jump-off.
Barshim, the Iraqi champion, said it best. The gold medal may signify the pinnacle of athletic performance, but their gesture and its message – one of “humanity, solidarity and unity” - went “beyond sport.”
Love Island 2021: Faye’s meltdown
Love Island is no stranger to controversy and this year’s edition saw plenty more contentious moments. After a game revealed Teddy had kissed Clarisse in Casa Amor, his partner Faye launched into a sweary tirade against him which slapped the show with a record 25,000 Ofcom complaints. The incident now sits at number five on Ofcom’s all-time list.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games: Ibrahim Hamadtou, The Table Tennis Player With No Arms
Egypt’s Ibrahim Hamadtou lost both arms in a train accident when he was 10 years old. But that didn’t stop him from mastering table tennis, a sport most would consider impossible for him to play. Watching him knock about some of the world’s best players with just a foot and his mouth was one of 2021’s most inspiring scenes.
Emma Raducanu wins the US Open
After going 10 rounds without dropping a set at the US Open, a then 18-year-old Emma Raducanu aced Leylah Fernandez to clinch her first grand slam title. It was the pinnacle of a sensational breakout season for the British tennis prodigy, having started it a virtual unknown and ended it a national treasure and Sports Personality of the Year.
Squid Game: Player 001 is revealed as the game’s mastermind
South Korean survival drama Squid Game was quietly dropped on Netflix but soon blew up and became one of the most talked about series of the year. One of the participants in the game, an old man known as Oh Il-nam (player 001), whose sweet nature had stolen viewers’ hearts, was supposedly killed during a game of marbles. However, in the final moments, it was revealed that 001 was not dead but the creator of the games, as he and his rich friends enjoyed gambling on human lives.
Ted Lasso series 2: Nate joins West Ham
Having been promoted from the Greyhound's kit man to assistant coach at the end of last season, no one could have predicted Nate’s villainous descent from lovably shy tactician to out-and-out bully over the course of Ted Lasso's second series.
As his hair grew greyer and his outbursts became more volatile, Nate's ultimate shock defection to coach West Ham, owned by Richmond FC owner Rebecca's slimy ex-husband Rupert, was unforgivable for the show's legions of loyal fans.
Coronation Street: Harvey Falls Through a Sink Hole
A memorable week for Coronation Street saw the soap go full-blown disaster movie, as a sinkhole opened up the cobbles and swallowed several characters whole. David Platt (Jack P. Shepherd) was to blame, as he could have had the hole filled months before. But it was to prove Leanne Battersby’s (Jane Danson) saving grace in her dramatic confrontation with drug lord Harvey Gaskell (Will Mellor).
Tipping Point: “Oh, I've got the wrong Homer”
— ITV (@ITV) October 26, 2021
In terms of ‘D’oh!’ moments, Tipping Point is the gift that keeps on giving. In one of many this year, not one but two contestants somehow confused the Greek philosopher Homer with Homer Simpson. How host Ben Shephard managed to hold it together is anyone’s guess.
BBC Children in Need: Owain Wyn Evans and 50 drummers drum along to the BBC News theme during 24 Hour Drumathon
What a moment!
The BBC News theme like you've never heard it before - performed by our very own @OwainWynEvans and a group of his fellow drummers as part of his 24-hour Drumathon.
— BBC North West (@BBCNWT) November 12, 2021
What started as a little lockdown pick-me-up turned into one of the most uplifting moments of the year when BBC weatherman Owain Wyn Evans transformed his BBC News theme drum-along into an epic 50-drummer arrangement. It was just one of many songs Evans performed as part of his ‘drumathon’ for Children in Need, which raised the extraordinary total of £3,601,138: the highest of any 24 hour challenge since the fundraiser began.
A Night With Adele: Adele is reunited with her former teacher
When Adele worked a star-studded room at the London Palladium for the launch of her album, 30, Emma Thompson – who almost owned the night with her no-holds-barred dance moves – asked the singer if there was anyone from her childhood who inspired her. She named her old English teacher, Ms McDonald, who unbeknownst to her happened to be in the crowd. Cue the heart-warming reunion, heavy waterworks, and the worst rendition of Make You Feel My Love from Alan Carr.
Strictly Come Dancing 2021: Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice’s silent dance
Towards the end of Rose Ayling-Ellis (EastEnders) and her partner Giovanni Pernice’s couple’s choice routine in week eight, she covered his ears, the music cut out and she led him through the next steps in her world - a world with no sound. It was one of the most unique and most moving dances Strictly has ever seen, and shone a spotlight on a disability that often goes unnoticed.