17/12/2012 11:39 GMT | Updated 18/12/2012 07:10 GMT

The Year In Factual TV: Olympics, 'The Great British Bake Off', 'Jimmy Savile Exposure' And More

Forget big budget films, the 'real' drama has played out across our TV screens throughout 2012. The nation has paused, rewound and recorded the best bits and spent hours discussing the highs and lows, no longer by that once-overcrowded water cooler but by the modern-day equivalent - Twitter.

Here we look back at the most memorable, brilliant and shocking small screen moments of the year...


Mouth-watering BBC series 'The Great British Bake Off', which packed into each episode enough calories to make up five times your recommended daily allowance, gained more followers than ever when it returned to TV in August.

great british bake off

John Whaite was a delighted winner of this year's baking trophy

John Whaite, a 23-year-old law graduate (whose cooking inspiration is French patisserie) emerged triumphant in a closely fought, all-male final, beating unlikely sex symbol James Morton and cherubic Brendan Lynch.

John said afterwards, "I feel faint, really, really queasy. I cannot believe it. I've finally done something to please my mother."

Here at HuffPost UK, we reflected on why people in aprons baking buns caught the imagination of more than four million viewers each week.

The BBC had its first criticism of the year during its coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The pundits and presenters had their job cut out shining a spotlight on an event devoid of any sun, during the impossibly long flotilla.

"She looks so happy," the BBC said of the Queen, while she stood there stoically, as the wind blew the rain along the Thames, and schedulers scrambled to fill air time.

The Diamond Jubile Concert at Buckingham Palace, on the other hand, was a much more dry and enjoyable celebration of the Queen’s 60 year reign.

gary barlow cheryl cole

Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole - a pairing guaranteed to please the crowds

The duty of kick-starting the show fell to Robbie Williams - bandmate of the evening's organiser Gary Barlow - who took to the floor for a suitably crowd-rousing rendition of 'Let Me Entertain You'.

Voice coaches Will.i.am and Jessie J entertained the crowd with 'I've Got A Feeling', and Barlow delighted the fans with a duet with nation's sweetheart Cheryl Cole.

Music legends Sir Tom Jones, Sir Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Kylie Minogue and Dame Shirley Bassey also performed, delighting the 100,000 revellers along The Mall and millions more watching at home.

Also this summer came a TV moment that will not only stay fresh in viewers' minds into 2013 but probably for decades to come.

It was, of course, the Queen's (probably faked) spectacular entrance into the Olympic opening ceremony.

A short film showing James Bond actor Daniel Craig meeting her Majesty and her corgis at Buckingham Palace played out across the world, before the pair apparently flew in a helicopter across London where they jumped out into the stadium aided by parachutes.

The laughter from the crowd in the stadium was mirrored by the reaction on Twitter, with tweets expressing shock, disbelief and amusement flooding through.

In the land of documentaries, viewers were seduced with images of bumbling bears, posturing penguins and impossibly cute polar cubs for six weeks in BBC One's hit series 'Frozen Planet'.

The series signed off with an unblinking exposition of how quickly this ice-scape may all be consigned to history, although Sir David Attenborough and his team were very careful not to lay blame with any culprit for the changes in the regions.

frozen planet

The most memorable and controversial moment of the series was its footage of newborn polar bear cubs, which, it turned out, was actually filmed in an animal park and not in any polar region.

Then came the documentary that shocked the nation and even kickstarted events leading to the BBC's director-general's departure. 'Exposure: The Other Side To Jimmy Savile' documented how the DJ who'd raised millions for good causes with his marathon-running and other tireless efforts was, behind the showmanship and popular TV shows, a consistent and much-feared sexual predator.

Most chilling of all, arguably, was the footage of him welcoming his guest Gary Glitter to his show 'Clunk Click', where they both shared the stage with lots of young girls.