BBC3 was supposed to celebrate youth culture but it never seemed to be on our side

The channel has moved online permanently, but mourning it feels strange

Who’s ever stayed in to watch BBC3? Who’s ever said, nah, you know what mate, you’re alright, I’m staying in tonight to watch the Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps marathon that’s on. I’m going to get a takeaway in and watch Reggie Yates meet a couple of Russian racists and give an occasional incredulous look to camera. No one said that ever did they?

That’s the thing with BBC 3 – you always ended up watching it, or woke up on the sofa with it humming pointlessly away in the background – you didn’t consciously put it on, you didn’t look forward to it. It was a place you passed through rather than visited.

Last night, BBC3  became an “online first destination” – and therefore became another easy to chew, easy to swallow part of the vloggers and Vine culture that the rest of us have navigated since around 2013. It makes sense: it’s always been a channel for people who have short attention spans. Those people are suffering now, even though the channel moving online will likely suit their long-term viewing habits much more:

It’s easy to be condescending and sarcastic here. It’s easy to overlook the fact that BBC3 made some excellent, if slightly laboured documentaries, on subjects like racism, autism, disability and agoraphobia. But the problem was the majority of the programming made it easy to overlook the good stuff, simply because the bad stuff was so much louder. BBC3 gave us seven episodes of Family Guy a night. It gave us hundreds of hours of Matthew Horne (what’s he doing these days?), Johnny Vegas (???) and Jack Whitehall (why doesn’t he go away).

Weirdly for a channel that supposedly existed to mirror, interpret and celebrate youth culture, BBC 3 never seemed to be on our side. Most of the time it was laughing at us. If it was responsible for anything it was the irresponsible teen genre. Shit like Snog Marry Avoid?, Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum, Don’t Tell The Bride, The World’s Strictest Parents, Invasion of the Job Snatchers, Are You Fitter Than a Pensioner and best of all, Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, Snow, Sex and Suspicious Parents, Freshers, Sex and Suspicious Parents and Festivals, Sex and Suspicious Parents. On BBC3 every other girl resembled Jade Goody and every other boy was Lee Nelson.

Some of this was funny, sometimes. But you’d find it hard to argue any of it amounted to anything like a legacy.

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