Test The Nation: The 20th Century, BBC1

by | Jun 4, 2005 | All, Reviews


1 – Gina Yashere on Concorde: “I was gutted when that went bust as I was saving up for ages to get a fight on there. Still, it’s not all bad as I can get 743 easyJet flights with that money!”

2 – Debra Stevenson’s excellent Margaret Thatcher impersonation – the northern faction of thecustard.tv got to see a clip of it on Calendar earlier this week. She used to work at a poll tax office and during the Thatcher years she saw a lot of spit on the bullet proof glass. We also liked her Jade Goody moment “I loved it when Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to KFC… sorry, JFK!”

3 – Doug Fishbone, the artist who piled 30,000 bananas inTrafalgar Square to see how the public would react. In other words, he did it just for the hell of it.

4 – Seeing Carla Mendoca from My Parents Are Aliens in the clip of Harry En-field’s spoof 1930s Women! No Your Limits! public information film.

5 – Janet, a scientist who lived in Germany in 1989 and went to Berlin to join in smashing down the Berlin Wall. She bought a piece of it in with her – the West side had graffiti on it.

6 – The generally excellent soundtrack including You’ll Never Walk Alone, From Me To You, Sam Brown’s Stop, Return To Sender, Heart Of Glass and, best of all, Black Box’s Ride On Time.

7 – Dr Maria Misra beautifully summing up the 20th Century: “The century of ordinary people, where they’ve have been more opportunities in the West than they have before, an age of expanding freedoms”. She got annoying after that though, being a Student Union bore going on about “the Diana Phenomenon”.

8 – The first ever mobile phone cost £1,000 and was the size of a large brick. A clip from Blue Peter in 1978 showed Peter Purves carting around a clunky miniature briefcase with a curly chord and a handset. “One day almost everyone could one of these,” he predicted.

9 – The biker who said “I’m not allowed to say Newcastle Brown Ale as it’s BBC1!”

10 – Along with President Bill Clinton denying having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinski and Tony Blair signing the Good Friday Agreement, Dana International’s victory at Eurovision was cited as a key moment of 1998.

11 – The information that the man who photographed that famous image of Che Guevara only copyrighted it five years ago, and only then because he was disgusted that a vodka company wanted to use the image and Che was teetotal.

12 – Kirsten O’Brien was like a lovely frothy milkshake. She apparently used to be in a band which sang loads of songs about freeing Nelson Mandela but couldn’t think of many words that rhymed with Mandela. Leslie Philips suggested marshmallow.

13 – Anne Robinson – a competent and efficient host who managed to be authoratitive while dressed like a pantomime Robin Hood.


1 – The horrific and sickening picture of David Dickinson naked with nothing obscuring his genitals but a teddy bear.

2 – Some of the questions were insultingly easy: Which flower was associated with the First World War? A – Poppy, B – Forget-me-not, C – Rose or D – Lilly. One option for “Who followed Neil Armstrong on the moon?” was Buzz Lightyear and one of the options for the formula for Einstein’s theory of relativity was Cu= L8r.

3 – The “20th Century Genius” segment where they collected data which suggested what a 20th Century genius would be like, based on what they had for breakfast and what star sign they were.

4 – The sickly, exclamation mark infested, politically correct scoring system: The lowest was “0-39- Good try! Well worth having another go!” and the highest was “Over 63! Superb! In the top 5% of the population!” 5 – The boring interviews with the audience, including paramedics who married other paramedics, a scientist who invented an unsuccessful voice-activated catflap and a scientist who worked on the failed Beagle mission to Mars.

6 – We might have had some sympathy with the pantomime booing of the Driving Instructors had the two interviewees not being so obnoxious. One was a woman who, after her son had hurt his arms, gave him a cold flannel and made him sit up straight and eat his tea properly. When he eventually got her to take him to the hospital, it turned out he had broken both arms. The second was a woman who faked an emergency fire engine training course so they could whiz straight through the traffic to get to Cornwall to see the total eclipse.

7 – The predictable result among the studio audience – highest were rocket scientists and paramedics, middle were artists, bikers and driving examiners, lowest were checkout girls and celebrities. The two highest scorers were both rocket scientists. This was deadly boring, no matter how much Phillip Schofield tried to build up false suspense.

8 – The “Don’t tell ‘em, Pike!” clip from Dad’s Army. How many more times are the BBC going to dig that out?

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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