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Word, The (1990-95)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of Word, The (1990-95)
Planet 24 for Channel 4, tx. 24/8/1990-24/3/1995
52 min editions, colour
Production Company24 Hour Productions (later Planet 24)
ProducersDele Oniya
 Richard Godfrey
 Tamsin Summers
 Charlie Parsons
 Asif Zubairy
 Alan Margetson

Presenters: Terry Christian, Amanda de Cadenet, Michelle Collins, Katie Puckrik, Dani Behr, Mark Lamarr, Huffty, Jasmine Dottiwala, Alan Hamilton, Andrew Connor

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Anarchic late-night magazine programme aimed at the post-pub crowd.

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Although The Word began as a 6pm Friday magazine aimed at 16-24 year olds, three months into its initial run it was rescheduled to an 11pm slot when the channel realised its potential for capturing the post-pub audience. It rapidly became one of Channel 4's most notorious programmes, as renowned for its calculatedly appalling taste and variably talented presenters as it was for its ramshackle content.

The bulk of a typical edition was given over to celebrity interviews, live music and investigative features. Since the programme was broadcast live, guests and presenters alike would often deliberately try to be offensive (a typical interview tactic was to ask them to defend a terrible film or album), though there were plenty of genuine scoops, such as the first live European performance of Nirvana's soon-to-be-seminal 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'.

But it was incidental sections like 'TV Hopefuls' (in which people would perform outrageous and usually disgusting stunts in order to achieve television fame), 'The Revengers' (in which people performed vicious practical jokes on an enemy) and 'Win Or Weep' (a game show in which the contestants' most prized possession was destroyed if they failed to win) that triggered much of the tabloid ire. Daily Mail columnist Paul Johnson singled out The Word as one of the main reasons for Channel 4 as a whole becoming "a haven of filth" in a memorable broadside on 8 June 1995.

Earlier that year the ITC had investigated the programme's various excesses and concluded that Channel 4's statutory code might have been breached. By unfortunate coincidence, the very next edition showcased a teenage runaway being flown to New York at The Word's expense. Michael Grade, the channel's then chief executive, personally ordered its last-minute removal and warned production company Planet 24 that he would be keeping a much closer eye on their activities.

However, this was not enough to save The Word from censure by the ITC, which cited three items involving vomiting, a colostomy bag and an implausibly versatile penis as being in breach of the 1990 Broadcasting Act. Channel 4 defended itself vigorously (director of programmes John Willis said that they were in a moment of cultural change, when there was a sharp divide between generational tastes, and it was the channel's duty to reflect this), but The Word had already ceased its latest run, and few were surprised when it was not recommissioned.

Michael Brooke

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