*PART ONE: TELEVISION PROGRAMMES (20-16)
Hello, and erm… Happy New Year. Bit late to be saying that, isn’t it? Hope you all had lovely Christmasses and all that. This is normally where we’d do The BrokenTV Awards Of Whatever Year It Is, but this year, we’re going to do things a little bit differently, and just list our top twenty TV shows from 2010. It’s taken quite a bit of consideration, only for us to then have to re-jig most of the original list upon watching the fifth-best television programme of 2010 last weekend (we’re never very on the ball, it’s fair to say).
But, here it is! Carefully planned then fleetingly written. What will be at number one? How many ITV2 shows will be in the list? Will we include at least one programme we expect everyone else to hate, in order to make us feel all ‘clever’, ‘different’ and ‘somehow just generally better’, only for several people to agree with us in the comments anyway? WE SHALL SEE as we kick off the list with, hey!, number twenty.
That’s one of those boxes ticked, with a programme filed very much under “mixed critical reception”. Many critics panned BBC Two’s Vexed, with the Metro, New Statesman and Irish Independent variously dismissing it as “rubbish”, “atrocious” and “abysmal”. Given the opening scene of the series, which sees D.I. Kate Bishop (Lucy Punch1) being shown around a newly-available flat, only for it to turn out that – oh-ho-ho – the property is available because the previous tenant’s cadaver is still being examined by forensics in the front room. At this point, D.I. Bishop’s wisecracking new partner D.I. Jack Armstrong (Toby Stephens) may as well have stared into the camera Peter Griffin-style and declared “Whoa! Looks like this isn’t any regular police drama series after all, eh?”
1Who, along with Jemaine Clement, was by far the jointly-most entertaining person involved in Jay Roach’s Dinner For Schmucks. It’s like they’d been taken on loan from a much better comedy film or something.
Happily, it got much better after that opening expositional splurge, settling nicely into the time honoured Good Cop (Punch), Berk Cop (Stephens) aesthetic. The plots weren’t especially dark or even realistic, taking in events like a kidnapped pop star, or protecting an unlikeable banker in rehab who is been stalked by a hitman (cue events like said assassin poisoning the dinner of the smug trader, only for a compulsive overeater to scoff the plateful of nosh before the intended victim can get to it), and in a year that also saw achingly dark crime dramas like Luther, we’re saying that’s A Good Thing. We don’t even mind that Vexed has made a few “Worst TV Shows Of 2010” lists, as that’s part of the appeal for us. Some dullards like to mock things they deem beneath them, while some people are quite happy to admit they’ve got Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ on their iPod and visit pound shops. Guess which of those two types we are. Clue: we never pay full price for a jar of instant white tea (oh, and we’re happy to drink instant white tea). In summary, then: Vexed is good.
Doctor Who without David Tennant? Surely, ignoring the fact we won’t have to put up with Catherine Tate’s voice and Rusty Davies’ inconsistent plotting any longer, it just won’t be the same? Of course, much like when all the tabloids decided Daniel Craig was going to be a rubbish Bond until Casino Royale actually got made, Matt Smith was a revelation as The Doctor, helped in no small measure by Amy Pond being the best assistant ever (and we know, we’ve watched Doctor Who for six whole years). Plus, well, Steven Moffat.
The fact that Moffat’s episodes are now the norm, rather than a once-per-series treat, hasn’t seen every single episode reach the heights of The Empty Child, The Girl In The Fireplace or Blink, but then you’ll have guessed that by the way this isn’t at number one in our list. Indeed, the latest series hasn’t been without the odd clunker – the episode where the collect-em-all multicoloured Daleks made their debut was practically a fifty-minute toy advert – but the overall quality, helped by Matt Smith being so bloody good in the role you can even forgive The Doctor for wearing a bow tie, has made this the best series of New Who yet. Even the episode with James Corden in it was great, for flip’s sake.
Another one of those shows where you either gave up on it after episode one, or found yourself sticking with it only to discover, blimey, you’re hooked. What could have been a clumsy halfway-house – Simon Amstell, former host of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, plays Simon, former host of a popular BBC Two music-based comedy panel show, but with all the bits you’d expect to be like Curb Your Enthusiasm replaced with heavy-handed sarcasm – works very well, once you get used to it. Like a hot bath that keeps making fun of how old you are.
Yeah, Simon Amstell really isn’t much of a comedy actor, but the fine supporting cast soon makes up for that, with James Smith (from The Thick Of It) putting in a great turn as The Mother’s Boyfriend Who Tries That Bit Too Hard To Get On With Her Son. If we were really lazy, we’d describe it as like The Royle Family, only more “Jewy”. But we… oh, wait, we are that lazy.
Deciding quite which wonderful BBC Four documentary to include in a Top 20 list of the year’s telly is always a pretty demanding task, as there are so many excellent ones that rarely seem to appeal to anyone but us. Sure, BBC Four will throw the odd curveball at us – even we got bored by The Secret Life Of The National Grid – but the marvellous The Joy Of Stats proved just why it’s always worth that weekly wander through the BBC Four listings with a PVR remote in hand.
Hosted by Swedish statsmeister Professor Hans Rosling, and including interviews with the likes of David “Information Is Beautiful” McCandless2, this was a delightful look at just how it’s possible to make data sing, just by examining it with the right amount of attention.
2 Or, David “Your Sinclair’s Program Pitstop” McCandless if you you’re old like us.
No reason you should take our word for it, of course. After all, our own graph-fetish is well known to regular readers of the blog. Here’s a clip from the programme, exploring the fortunes of 200 countries, over 200 years, in four minutes.
Okay, that’s our scamper through the first quarter of the list. Just 75% of it to go, before we move on to The Top 20 Of Something That Isn’t Telly 2010. No idea what that’ll be yet. Albums? Hats? Most Shocking Celebrity Moments? Actually, if it did turn out to be that last one, we’re giving you permission to hunt us down and kill us. See you soon!