Happy new year to my regular reader. Having been in self-imposed exile from the internet and work for the past week and a half I have indulged in watching a number of bad television programmes (Goldenballs is back folks) and reading some interesting stuff (I was rather taken with Posy Simmond’s Tamara Drewe and John Harvey’s Gone to Ground (and looking forward to the new Resnick out later this year) and delighted that AL Kennedy has finally managed to win a national book prize for the wonderful Day – where war meets war film. This is one of those topics ALK has come back to. She wrote an interesting critique of Colonel Blimp for the BFI film classics series and like others of her and my generations has probably been influenced by Sunday afternoons on the Beeb when old British war films used to be shown before Sunday afternoon broadcasting became a diet of over-extended soap opera omnibuses and repeats of “celebrity” gameshows and talent contests).
Before easing back into the swing of regular posting I thought I’d briefly post on my favourite television of 2007. In no particular order:
1. The Mark of Cain Channel 4 – Tony Marchant’s drama about Iraq and the abuse of British soldiers and Iraqi prisoners – a powerful piece that infuriated the right wing media and blogosphere. Well directed. Well acted with a brilliant central performance by the young lad from Shameless.
2. Reichenbach Falls BBC4 – based on an idea by Ian Rankin (the idea became a short story in some introductions during the multiple repeats on BBC4): a detective thriller with a difference. With hints of Conan Doyle, Rebus, a little bit of Dennis Potter’s Hide and Seek, and a wonderful change of tone midway through. The sort of thing BBC4 should do more of.
3. Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe BBC4 – the funniest writer in the Guardian, who did what I’d though impossible and raised the bar after the great Jim Shelley’s Tapehead columns, on the small screen. Vicious, vituperative, revelatory, and all because he cares about television. He praises it when it’s good, he’s scathing when it’s bad. And in one episode it contained a wonderful little Adam Curtis slot on TV news manipulation.
4. Flight of the Conchords BBC4 – from HBO, a sitcom about a pair of New Zealanders in a band, managed by a cultural attache. The effect was cumulative. Parody songs (Bowie’s in Space, the Hiphopa potamus being tow stand-outs), wonderufl characters, and a gentle good-humoured script. For those that had heard the Radio 2 show a few years back some of the scripts were familiar, but overall, a gem. Highly recommended.
5. The Visit BBC3 – odd episodes were patchy, but a new sitcom, and a new BBC3 show at that, which warrants another series. Set in a prison visiting room, it had some lovely performances. Hidden in the summer schedules as if the Beeb was embarassed by it. Anad along with the more lauded Gaving and Stacey almost salvaged BBC3 reputation – which was firmly restored by fat teens hunting and Tittybangbang.
6. The Avengers BBC4 – I know they’re repeats, but good stuff nonetheless
7. Goldenballs ITV1 – the gameshow of the year. Incomprehensible rules. Based on the prisoner’s dilemma. Stuck with Jasper Carrott despairingly hosting while anxious to get out to something else. It’s about greed, stupidity, and lying – and contains the most obnoxious contestants on television outside the big brother house. It fits brilliantly into the ITV schedules, is shiny, and strangely compelling.
8. Doctor Who – Human Nature, The Family of Blood, Blink BBC1 – the strongest three episode run since the show came back and in those three episodes the sometimes unjustifiable hype around the new series seemed warranted. What did the episodes have in common? They weren’t written by Russell Television Davies (although this is coincidental as Davies wrote the following two Utopia and Sound of Drums episodes which maintained the high level) and featured little of Tennant’s Dick van Dyke Doctor – when he’s more restrained he’s better.
9. Life on Mars episode 5 BBC1 – I’m hoping I’ve remembered the right episode number. WHile sometimes disappointed with the second series (especially the ending) the episode with the Camberwick Green opening and Sam on drugs was brilliantly done.
10. The Thick of It BBC4 – the specials were brilliant, and prophetic. As Cameron demanded the Tories rise to applaud Blair in the Commons Armando must have punched the air shouting “Praise him”. Sadly for Malcolm a psychologically flawed nutter seemed to become Prime Minister. Whether this mirrored real life (or vice versa) is hard to say.
The worst television of 2007
1. Jeremy Kyle Show ITV1 – all I hate about telly in one odious form.
2. The Verdict BBC2 – Yes, Jeffrey Archer, Ingrid Tarrant, and others in a jury on a fake rape trial. Obscene. Offensive.
3. Almost famous BBC3 – on over Christmas it was a clip show of celebrities before they were famous presneted by some yoof telly regular and scripted by chimps. Ineptitude of the highest order.
4. The Diana and Global Warming Concerts BBC – the Gervais car crash “Do your dance” following a greatest hit from the Office nearly made it into my top 10.
5. BBC Scotland – election night coverage – hilarious as no results came in. Brian Taylor came into his own while Glenn “Rhinestone political correspondent” Campbell had a hard hitting interview with a woman put up as the public face of an electronic counting company. Not the Beeb’s finest (dozen) hours.
6. Party Animals BBC2 – trying too hard and wasting a fine actress (thankfully redeemed in Lead Balloon).
Things I’m looking forward to
a show on ITV1 scripted by the great Tony Jordan – not the soap but the behind the scenes show.
Jeremy Dyson’s take on a fairy tale in the new BBC1 series.