Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Keith Telly Topping Presents ... The From The North TV Awards (2017)

Welcome you are, dearest bloggerisationisms reader, to the tenth annual Keith Telly Topping & His Very Top TV Tip Awards. Celebrating, in Keith Telly Topping's very own opinion, the best and worst TV shows of the past year. In what is rapidly becoming an annual observation, you will probably notice that there are about twice as many 'highs' listed here as there are 'lows'. This imbalance is not, necessarily, a reflection of the actual ratio of good telly to bad during 2017. Rather it is because, generally, we tend to remember the good stuff and attempt to forget about all the distressing tripe starring Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall.
As noted previously, each year when this blogger posts these lists, he usually gets a handful of e-mails or Facebook comments from dear blog readers saying something along the lines of 'very good, yer actual Keith Telly Topping, very good indeed. But, you missed off [insert own favourite here], so you did.' Therefore, please note, since answering such comments is, frankly, a right flamin' pain in the dong, this blogger has not missed anything. These awards represent what yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been watching and enjoying (or vastly disliking) during the last year. If a programme is not mentioned, it is either because this blogger didn't see it or that he did, but didn't consider it worthy of inclusion on any of the lists below. If you disagree, then by all means start your own blog and do your own awards.
      Thus, without any further ado ...

Thirty Seven Extra-Primo-Rad Highlights Of Television In 2017:-

1. Twin Peaks: The Return
'I'll see you in twenty five years!' And, wouldn't you just know it, dear blog reader, against all the odds she actually did. But, before that, a young man (Benjamin Rosenfield) sits in a New York loft, waiting for something to happen. Video cameras are trained on a glass box, where an answer may appear. Eventually, it does; a faceless ghost-shape emerges through the glass and tears the man and his 'naughty' girlfriend (Madeline Zima) - who has, in best slasher-movie tradition, talked herself into danger - to extremely bloody pieces. This moment of savagery in the opening episode was our first hint that Twin Peaks: The Return was going to be truly different. That this wasn't merely a quirky mystery story with a few supernatural elements like the original series, it was to be a full-on nightmare. Shortly before the much-anticipated revival of the cult drama began, co-creator David Lynch was quoted as saying that viewers should think of Twin Peaks: The Return as, effectively, an eighteen hour movie rather than an eighteen-part episodic television series. Some viewers couldn't handle that and the ratings declined markedly after the first two or three episodes; in today's 'attention-span-of-seven-seconds' television world some were, seemingly, put off by the slow narrative, the dreamy nature of the piece and, especially, the fact that the series' hero, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), spent the majority of the time between episode's three and sixteen stuck, virtually mute, inside another man's body. But, those that stayed were treated to something truly extraordinary. Something dazzling and strange, compelling and frequently beautiful. We had the return of dozens of much-loved characters from the 1990s series and the introduction of dozens of new ones; we had a bewilderingly complex series of interweaving plot-lines covering a multitude of locations; we had great humour, heart-stopping horror and violence and occasional sage profundity - often with little stop-over between the three. There was, for example, the moment that Michael Cera appeared as Andy and Lucy's son, Wally, looking (and sounding) exactly like Marlon Brando in The Wild One - you could almost hear the global fan community crying out in horror. 'Twin Peaks is a place for cool kids, dammit, not blockbuster movie stars.' But the bizarre pairing produced a miracle, a rambling monologue from Cera that wasn't just funny but also lovable, earnest and touching. One of the best surprises was the broad seam of Gilbert Sheltonesque stoner comedy, mostly delivered by Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly), who had seemingly retired from the Scandinavian-seducing business and taken up pot farming. The bit where his foot started talking to him - claiming, in subtitled English, not to be his foot at all - was piss-in-yer-own-pants funny. We had one of the most-acclaimed sequences that Lynch has ever created in any of his works, Harry Dean Stanton's character, Carl, sympathetically comforting the grieving mother of a young boy who had just been killed in a hit-and-run incident. And, we had that wildly experimental eighth episode, one of the most remarkable and outré hours of television ever broadcast. By anyone. As has been noted, like 'Revolution Number Nine' or the ballet sequence from The Red Shoes, the eighth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return is destined to go down in history as one of the most widely-experienced works of pure avant-garde art in a mainstream context. Within moments of its being broadcast the Internet all but melted. Mostly with viewers asking 'but ... but ... but .... what the fuck just happened?' (A line that Lynch actually had one of his characters use to query another shit-weird situation in the final episode!) Although it is possible to pinpoint some of Lynch's influences - Stanley Kubrick, 1940s atom bomb photography, his own Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive - the confluence of elements felt completely unique and properly astonishing.
       And then, we had the final two episodes, probably ever, of Lynch and Mark Frost's dark journey into the heart of The Black Lodge. Hands up who expected a nice, conventional, 'everything-wrapped-up-with-a-bow' conclusion? Oh, you did, did you? Suckers! Have you learned nothing? As Sean Collins of Rolling Stone noted: 'The film is about ageing and the vast gulfs of space and time we don't realise we've travelled until circumstances force us to confront them. That description fits The Return like a magic ring. Both in the story and behind the scenes, the people of Twin Peaks have grown old; the men in particular, from Bobby Briggs to Deputy Hawk to Big Ed Hurley, have grayed [sic] and weathered like stone. And the litany of cast members who died between then and now is long and heartbreaking: Miguel Ferrer, Catherine E Coulson, Harry Dean Stanton, Warren Frost, Michael Parks, Frances Bay, Don S Davis, Jack Nance, Frank Silva and, of course, David Bowie. (The Thin White Duke would probably be delighted to discover his character, Philip Jeffries, spending eternity as a gigantic steampunk teapot.) And as much as The Black Lodge itself, ageing is the source of so much of Twin Peaks' power and pain.' It is not just the twenty five-year gap that both the audience and Agent Cooper have endured, Collins continued. 'Shelly Briggs watches her daughter Becky fall prey to an abusive husband just as she did as a teenager - while she herself has unwittingly fallen back into a pattern of attraction to "bad boys" with her own new boyfriend, a mysterious and malevolent drug dealer. The Log Lady is dying of cancer, just like Sheriff Harry Truman, stranded off-screen as the saga moves on without him. Audrey Horne is trapped, frightened and alone, in a limbo we may never learn the truth about; she was likely raped by the doppelgänger of the man she saw as a hero. Coop himself is doomed to repeat his pattern of almost-but-not-quite saving the day, supremely confident until the very moment he realises he's blown it again. Even as an older, living woman, Laura Palmer is forever linked to the house of horrors where she grew up. And her mother Sarah ... well, God only knows what's been eating away at her all those years.' Even America itself is 'still paying for the sins unleashed by The Bomb, itself just the most symbolically resonant manifestation of the country's power to destroy. Sure, Big Ed Hurley may have gotten his happy ending with Norma Jennings, but his forlorn face several episodes earlier as he contemplates the wreck of his life could well be the face of the whole season.' Twin Peaks: The Return was a dazzling work of filmmaking, Collins concluded. 'But unlike its jittering cameras, flashing lights, billowing smoke and ambient whooshing and whirring, its emotional foundations were rock solid. We may marvel at the cosmos Lynch and Frost created - a universe of vast purple oceans, towering metal fortresses, billowing red curtains and infinite fields of stars. We may spend another twenty five years attempting to puzzle out Audrey's location, the glass box's bankroller, the true identity of "Judy" and what, exactly, became of the girl with the bug in her mouth. [Or, indeed, many other unanswered questions.] But there's nothing ethereal or mysterious about abuse, trauma and the irresistible death-march of time. That part of Twin Peaks, the part that counts most, is as clear as your reflection in the mirror.'
       Tim Burrows' think-piece on the series in the Gruniad added: 'A scene early on ... acts as a subtle pointer. We're in the office of FBI director Gordon Cole, played by the show's auteur-creator David Lynch. On a far wall there is a huge portrait of Franz Kafka; behind Cole's desk is a picture of Trinity, the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in July 1945. The two stark, black-and-white images stare each other out, as if daring the other to make the first move. It was right about here I realised that, as we cower beneath the civilisation-mocking possibility of nuclear war via tweet, Twin Peaks is the perfect television show for our times ... The return of Twin Peaks is a televisual high-point of this and any era. It feels so well-timed and perfectly realised and occurs at a stage in Lynch's career when he has nothing to prove. The sense of surprise and wonder each episode brings feels akin to David Bowie (who makes a posthumous cameo in the series) releasing Blackstar shortly before his death.'
     You wanted answers, dear blog reader? Didn't we all? But, they were wrapped in plastic all along. 'For about an hour after seeing [the final episode], I felt in a daze - as if I were having flashbacks,' wrote this blogger's friend Ben Adams. 'Nothing seemed real. We drove to The Grocery Store and everything seemed off and full of menace. And I wondered, is this part of how David Lynch feels when he views the world?' To which this blogger could only reply: 'Yes, he's disturbed by vegetables too.' Twin Peaks' final two episodes delivered what the audience should - if we'd had our collective brains working - have expected all along; something of a double-whammy, providing firstly an episode that most fans have been dreaming about for two-and-a-half decades and then slapping them, hard, across the mush with a fish in a percolator, with a final episode that felt, thematically, unlike anything that had gone before. How very David Lynch. 'Mister Jeffries, the shit it come out of my ass.' All this and a new cliffhanger to end on. Will we get any more of the story? In some ways, this blogger kind-of hopes not. That would be too conventional, too obvious, far too ordinary for a series that was always, from the very beginning, as truly out-there as Twin Peaks. A series which, in its finale, effectively retconned everything that had gone before out of existence. Or, maybe we will ... in the far future. 'What year is this?' The best TV show of 2017? Yes, by about a street-and-a-half. The best TV show in the history of the medium? Possibly. Certainly, the strangest.
2. Sherlock
'I know what you could become, because I know who you really are - a junkie who solves crimes to get high and the doctor who never came home from the war. Who you really are doesn't matter. It's all about the legend, the stories, the adventures. There is a last refuge for the desperate, the unloved, the persecuted. There is a final court of appeal for everyone. When life gets too strange, too impossible, too frightening, there is always one last hope. When all else fails, there are two men sitting, arguing in a scruffy flat, like they've always been there and they always will. The best and wisest men I have ever known, my Baker Street boys, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.' Like Twin Peaks, waiting for new series of Sherlock involves mass anticipation which, inevitably for some, can only end in disappointment. And, thereafter, much crass and ignorant whinging on Twitter. Not for this blogger, though. The three mini-movies that constituted Sherlock's fourth series - The Six Thatchers, The Lying Detective and The Final Problem - felt like a perfect summation of all the best elements of The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) and Mark Gatiss' modernist Conan Doyle adaptation. The wit, the danger, the cheerful shattering of more than a few sacred cows. And, the moments when you knew you are watching something utterly ground-breaking. We got a labyrinthine exit for Mary, a cunningly constructed and horrifyingly realistic take on the way in which a Savile-style monster can prosper and, most impressively, a complex case of sibling rivalry gone nuclear. There were magnificent performances from the regulars and from Toby Jones and Sian Brooke and the same classic mixture of the series being one step - but always, crucially, one step - away from stepping off the cliff. Of course, not everyone was satisfied. There were whinges - there always are - from some ignorant smears of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star and the Daily Scum Mail. But, nobody that actually matters gives a stuff what those planks think. Most 'normal people' who expressed a preference thought it was great. 'Sherlock's future, for those of you asking, it's definitely the end ... Of Chapter One,' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) said in the immediate aftermath of the final problem being somewhat solved. 'Doctor Watson is now Doyle's brave widower and Sherlock Holmes has become the wise and humane version of the main run of the stories (we've focused, so far, on the colder Holmes of the early days.) Whether we ever get to Chapter Two - our boys consciously living the myth and battling wrong-doers - rather depends on our two stars. I'd be slightly surprised if we never made it again. But I've been surprised before.' Which is, essentially, what Steven - and, indeed, Mark, Benny and Martin - had been saying for months every time the question of any potential fifth series (or beyond) raised its ugly head. So, Cumberbatch and Freeman's mad-busy schedules permitting, see you all again in, what, twenty five years, maybe?
3. American Gods
'We have reprogrammed reality. Language is a virus, religion an operating system and prayers are just so much fucking spam.' Neil Gaiman's best-selling source novel (first published in 2001) was often thought to be unfilmable whenever rumours of a small or big-screen adaptation abounded but, nevertheless, a script was eventually developed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for the US cable network Starz. Regarding the sexual content on the show, Green stated that while the book contains some, 'our sexual content, when it was portrayed, was artful. By that, we mean that it was essential to character, or essential to story. That it was as beautiful [as] anything else we were gonna try to portray in the show. Which is to say, if you're going to define gratuitous sexuality as sexuality that can be cut out and not diminish the final episode in any way, we weren't gonna do that. We wanted it to be something that was essential.' He also added that Starz wasn't 'shy about nudity.' Or, some red-hot, eye-popping buggery for that matter in a beautifully-shot sequence in episode three between Salim (Omid Abtahi) and a Jinn. The fifth episode's prologue showed a five-minute animation sequence that revolves around characters in the Ice Age. The sequence was created by Tendril, a design and animation studio that was based near Toronto, where the series is filmed. According to Tendril's director Chris Bahry, the sequence took six months to complete. The eight episodes of American Gods opening series were a case of one stunning highlight following another with glorious set pieces cropping up about every ten minutes and with a cast to die for; Ricky Whittle (a million miles from Hollyoakes, literally and conceptually), Emily Browning, Ian McShane (utterly brilliant as Wednesday), Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Pablo Schreiber, Chris Obi, From The North favourites Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth ... Outstanding. Just as outstanding, in fact, as the visual and dramatic impact of the series itself. As the Metro's Keith Watson wrote: 'Attempting a plot synopsis of American Gods is a fool's errand akin to reducing the Bible to a tweet. Gaiman's book amounts to an alternative history and/or mythology of the world - it's about everything and fans of the book will be relieved to know, in the capable hands of Bryan Fuller, the scope of the TV version is every bit as ambitious. American Gods references everything from the surreal dream sequences of Twin Peaks to the limb-scything blood spatter of Spartacus as it treads a visually arresting path between fantasy and melodrama. One minute you're lost in a video game - the fight scenes are brutal - the next it's a sorrowful love story. Prepare for your head to spin.' 'American Gods opens with a series of wildly ambitious gambits and rewards viewers' faith with a promising first season whose visual riches are matched by its narrative impact,' added the series' overview on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Starz recommissioned the drama for a second series just days after the opening episode was broadcast (to widespread acclaim from critics and viewers). It will be broadcast during 2018. This blogger cannot wait.
4. Bowie: The Last Five Years
'What a very disappointing Twenty First Century this has been so far.' The horribly untimely death of yer actual David Bowie from cancer in January 2016 has been taken by some pretty serious-minded people as the point where the world, effectively, started going to Hell in a handcart. Pretty much everything that has happened since - from Brexit, Trump and North Korean nuclear aggression to the relative failure of Blade Runner 2049 at the box office and Pauley Perrette leaving NCIS - is all The Grand Dame's fault for leaving us to fate, it would seem. Francis Whatley's sequel to his acclaimed and award-winning 2013 documentary David Bowie: Five Years took a detailed look at The Thin White Duke's last two - remarkable - CDs, The Next Day and Blackstar and his musical, Lazarus. In his final five years, Bowie not only began producing music again - great music, at that - but returned to the core and defining themes of his career. This film explored how Bowie was a far more consistent artist than many lazy 'the great chameleon of rock'-type interpretations of his career would have us believe. It traced the themes from his final works and related them to examples of the same themes cropping up in his incredible back catalogue. His urge to communicate feelings of spirituality, alienation and fame underpin his greatest works from the 1960s to 2016. From 'Liza Jane' to 'Lazarus'. This is what lay at the heart of his success and his appeal - music that dealt with what it meant to be human in a way that went far beyond the normal palette of a rock star. Featuring interviews with many of his closest collaborators - Tony Visconti, Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Gail Ann Dorsey, Carlos Alomar, Geoff MacCormack among many others - and a wealth of unseen archive footage, the documentary (on which Bowie biographer Nick Pegg once again acted as consultant) was, as the Daily Torygraph noted, 'a treat and a treatise on music's departed genius.' There's also a very good piece by Mark Savage of the BBC website, Ten things we've learned about David Bowie since his death. This blogger particularly enjoyed the last one: 'Francis Whately's documentary, David Bowie: The Last Five Years gave fans a rare glimpse of Bowie's sense of humour. He was seen larking around backstage, sticking flashing baubles to his face and attacking his band with a plastic crow. Towards the end of the film, Whately excavated a rare interview, in which the star was asked what he wanted be remembered for. "I'd love people to believe that I really had great haircuts!"' Which he - usually - did. Although the 1969 Space Oddity-era perm and the mid-1980s peroxide horrors of Let's Dance and the 'what the Hell is that supposed to be?' Glass Spider 'do' are notable exceptions. Even in 'The Mid-Life Crisis Years' (ie. Tin Machine), his hair was never a problem.
5. Game Of Thrones
'There is only one war that matters: The Great War. And, it is here.' If series two of Game Of Thrones will always be remembered for Blackwater, series three for The Red Wedding and series six for The Battle Of The Bastards then series seven's major set-piece was The Loot Train Massacre, what has become known as Drogon's Inferno. That, dear blog reader, was some serious Dragon-related carnage, there. The penultimate series of the popular adult fantasy drama focused primarily on the convergence of the show's main plotlines, featuring major events such as Daenerys Targaryen arriving in Westeros with her army and waging war against the Lannisters, Jon Snow forging an alliance with Daenerys in an effort to unite their forces against The White Walkers, Arya and Bran returning to Winterfell and reuniting with Sansa and, in a stunning climax to the series, the army of the dead breaching The Wall and entering The Seven Kingdoms. If you haven't watched any Game Of Thrones so far, dear blog reader - and, apparently there are a handful of such people in the world - and you've just read the preceding paragraph with a baffled 'huh?' don't worry about it. Just know that, probably, it's far too late to catch up now! Shorter - by three episodes - than previous series', this year Thrones moved at breakneck speed, uniting and reuniting characters at a dazzling rate. It has been suggested that the decision to make only seven episodes rather than ten somewhat compressed the story (Jon and his followers crossing an entire continent, twice, between episodes for example) though Daenerys' ability to fly on the back of a dragon probably helped to contextualise her own, not infrequent, cross-Westeros treks. The development of a few characters more-or-less stopped; most obviously Bran and even to an extent, Arya. Although the subplot involving her sibling rivalry with Sansa and the duo's delicious taking-down of Littlefinger justified the time and effort spent in, apparently, driving a wedge between the Stark sisters. Cersei's deranged schemes of world domination isolated her further, ultimately even driving Jaime to abandon her in the name of honour. The key characters remain Jon and Daenerys - who, despite a long-awaited shagging scene will probably have to abandon their new-found love when the news reaches them that they are, in fact, already related - and Cersei. But, as usual, all of the best lines went to Tyrian (for dramatic cynicism), Davos (for down-to-Earth sagacity), Brienne (for straight-faced disgust at everything going on around her), Euron (for pure unadulterated filth) and, of course, Bron. Because, in the case of the latter is really doesn't get much better than his exchange with Jaime on the subject of penises in the final episode: 'Men without cocks. You wouldn't find me fighting in a army if I had no cock. What's left to fight for?' 'Gold?' 'I spend my life around soldiers. What do you think they spend their gold on?' 'Family?' 'Not without a cock, you don't!' 'Maybe it is all cocks in the end?!' 'And yet your brother has chosen to side with the cockless?' 'Yes, he's always been a champion of the downtrodden!' Proof, if any were needed, that Jerome Flynn and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are the best comedy double act on television, dear blog reader. Having broken viewing audience records in both the US and the UK (and, probably, lots of other places as well), the last batch of six episodes have recently entered production and, depending on how long they take to complete, will be broadcast ... sometime. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, HBO programming president Casey Bloys said that the final series may be shown in either 2018 or in 2019, adding that they have to 'figure out the production schedule' for this 'extremely cinematic' finale. Bloys stated that instead of the series finale being a feature film, the final series would be 'six one-hour movies' on television. He continued, 'The show has proven that TV is every bit as impressive and in many cases more so, than film. What they're doing is monumental.' And, all corporate bullshit aside dear blog reader, that's probably as accurate a summation of Game Of Thrones as you'll find.
6. Doctor Who
'Like sewage, smart phones and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable.' Fifty four years and still going strong, 2016 was to all intents and purposes a year off for the BBC's popular, long-running family SF drama but 2017 brought a fresh and exciting batch of episodes to provide the finale for showrunner Steven Moffat and lead-actor Peter Capaldi. With able assistance from Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Michelle Gomez and - in the two-part series finale - John Simm, the series included both stand-alone episodes and not one but two cunningly layered story-arcs, one concerning The Doctor being blinded by oxygen starvation, the other featuring the on-going 'humanisation' of Missy. Out of many outstanding episodes, possibly the highlight was Rona Munro's pseudo-historical The Eaters Of Light, whilst Moffat's towering house of cards finale (World Enough & Time and The Doctor Falls) brought together, as Moffat's episodes usually do, a dozen seemingly unconnected plot strands and wove them into something very special indeed. But, of course, regardless of the quality of the series, it was off-screen events that caused most headlines for the production. Capaldi's decision to leave for pastures new and the casting of an actual ladygirl (the very excellent Jodie Whittaker) as the next Doctor, gave the media a field day and a few entirely manufactured 'controversies'. A few people that you've never heard of on Twitter whinged, as people on Twitter often do. Though, again, no one that actually matters cared about such abject nonsense. There will be one last hurrah for Capaldi and Moffat, at Christmas with Twice Upon A Time and then there will be a new occupant for the TARDIS and a new showrunner - Chris Chibnall - in the office. 'Wheel turns, civilisations rise ...' But Doctor Who keeps on going.
7. The Handmaid's Tale
'A perfect gift; a girl trapped in a box. She only dances when someone opens the lid, when someone else winds her up. If this is a story I'm telling, I must be telling it to someone. There's always someone, even when there's no one. I will not be that girl in the box.' Margaret Atwood's dystopian 1986 novel had previously been filmed, in 1990, but it was this year's television adaptation - created by Bruce Miller - together with real-world events which really dragged Atwood's tale of a futuristic society in which the oppression of women is not only accepted but encouraged into public consciousness. In the near future, human fertility rates have collapsed as a result of sexually transmitted diseases and environmental pollution. With such chaos in place, the totalitarian, Christian theonomic government of Gilead establishes rule in the former United States in the aftermath of a civil war. Society is reorganised by power-hungry leaders along a new, militarised, hierarchical regime of fanaticism and newly created social classes, in which women are brutally subjugated and, by law, are not allowed to work, own property, handle money or read. Worldwide infertility has resulted in the conscription of the few remaining fertile women, called Handmaids, according to an extremist interpretation of a Biblical account. They are assigned to the homes of the ruling elite, where they must submit to ritualised rape with their male masters in order to become bear children for those men and their infertile wives. Alongside the red-clad Handmaids, much of society is grouped into classes that dictate their freedoms and duties. The first three episodes of the series premiered on 26 April, with the subsequent seven episodes added on a weekly basis. In May, the drama was renewed for a second series. The Handmaid's Tale received significant critical acclaim and won eight EMMY Awards from thirteen nominations. It became the first series on a streaming platform to win an EMMY for Outstanding Series. With superb central performances by Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski and Madeline Brewer, the series was thoughtful, angry and handsomely constructed, a perfect fictional deep, dark and truthful mirror to reflect the early days of President - and hairdo - Trump's new-morality and the late-2017 sex scandals which rocked Hollywood and beyond. See, particularly in the case of the former, Katherine Brooks' intelligently-argued piece How The Handmaid's Tale' Villains Were Inspired By Trump at The Huffington Post. A similar piece by Ross Douthat in the New York Times is also worthy of consideration although this is not a view shared by everyone, as this piece in the Gruniad Morning Star confirms. Jen Chaney of Vulture gave the drama a highly positive review and wrote that it is a 'faithful adaptation of the book that also brings new layers to Atwood's totalitarian, sexist world of forced surrogate motherhood' and 'this series is meticulously paced, brutal, visually stunning and so suspenseful from moment to moment that only at the end of each hour will you feel fully at liberty to exhale.' Ultimately, however, it is not so much the political and social parallels that make The Handmaid's Tale so authentic and so brilliant. Rather, it's Atwood's deliberately provocative wish to make her audience think - dangerous territory for any TV show, some would have you believe - and the successful translation of this into another medium by Miller and his team that do the job. Television is the business of compromise, dear blog reader, we know this to be true. But, sometimes we - as viewers - get the television that we need, whether we want (or even deserve) it or not.
8. Line Of Duty
'It's beginning to look as if the only logical conclusion is that every single copper in the force is bent.' Now as regular as fixture in From The North's annual 'Best Of' lists as Sherlock, Qi and Only Connect, the fourth series of Jed Mercurio's maintained the extraordinary quality of the previous three and, in places, even managed to top those acclaimed and award-winning runs. Having been BBC2's best-performing drama of the last decade, the fourth series began on 26 March having had a transfer to BBC1. The story followed Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming (the wonderful Vicky McClure), DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) as they investigated the actions of DCI Roz Huntley (a marvellous, twitchy performance by Thandie Newton). The supporting characters include Tim Ifield (Jason Watkins), Jodie Taylor (Claudia Jessie) and Sam Railston (Aiysha Hart). As with the previous two series, the storyline is linked thematically to that of the drama's debut plot. According to the Radio Times real-life anti-corruption officers consider that the series is a reasonably accurate reflection of their jobs (adjusted, obviously, for the inflation of dramatic licence). The charged and emotional conclusion to the series drew the series largely audience yet and both critical praise and social media whinging in equal measure. So, no change there, then. A fifth series in currently in production and a sixth has already been confirmed.
9. Sgt Pepper's Musical Revolution: With Howard Goodall
The musicologist, historian and composer Howie Goodall had already presented one quite brilliant deconstruction of the music of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) in an episode of his 2004 series Twentieth Century Greats. This generous, warm and intelligent look at Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the fiftieth anniversary of the groundbreaking LPs release was the TV equivalent of the late Ian MacDonald's 1994 book Revolution In The Head, intellectualising and autopsying the work of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr with forensic detail whilst still containing a joyous fan-like rush of excitement. The amiable, witty Goodall - a very fine composer himself, of course - managed to find new angles on some very familiar tunes having been given access to the EMI vaults. 'It could all have veered into aridity,' noted the Torygraph's rather sneery reviewer, Jasper Rees. But, thankfully, it didn't do that or anything even remotely like it. 'Goodall is from the anoraky end of the Fabological spectrum. "Genius," he said, marvelling at the seamless join in the two halves of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' like a repressed Brit praising a quality bit of welding. There was much talk of modulations and modalities, falling chromatic scales, polyphony and - hold onto your hats - Aleatoric composition. Not all were fully explained. I still don't know what the Aeolian folk mode is (more to the point, nor did Paul McCartney when deploying it in 'She's Leaving Home').' The point of the programme, however, wasn't to educate the audience in all manner of dense musical theory but, rather, to place The Be-Atles music in a historical and cultural context. Thus, for example, it was hugely enlightening to hear how an Indian classical singer might have ornamented 'Within You Without You'. 'This enthusiastic primer was stronger on music than lyrics and didn't go into much detail about studio wizardry,' the Torygraph concluded. 'Maybe, after half-a-century, all that pretentious talk that so often surrounds The Fab Four isn't so pretentious after all, as Mister Goodall, who knows a thing or two about composition himself, amply demonstrates in this entertaining history/analysis, worthy of the old Arena show in its heyday,' said the Independent. 'Goodall makes an archaeology analogy when he is unpicking the four pianos of 'Penny Lane'. And that's what he does: he digs away, brushing at the delicate bits, uncovering it layer by layer, then explaining it expertly,' added the Gruniad. 'This isn’t any old site, though, a muddy field with a few coins and broken bits of pot. Because of the quality of the treasure, and its influence, and the stories, it is the Best Dig Ever. Tutankhamun, basically. What can you hear in there, Howard? Wonderful things!' And, a splendid time was guaranteed for all. Except for that cheb at the Torygraph, perhaps.
10. Trust Me
The first drama featuring Jodie Whittaker to be broadcast after the announcement of her casting in Doctor Who, Trust Me inevitably pulled in more than a few curious viewers who would normally have run a mile from such a show. Sheffield nurse and single mother Cath Hardacre loses her job after raising concerns about patient neglect. She assumes the identity of her friend Alison Sutton and seeks a job as an A&E doctor in Edinburgh. Created by Dan Sefton, Trust Me wasn't the most original of conceits - it shared more than a few ideas with Christopher Morahan's 1990 movie Paper Mask - but it managed to grip an average audience of six million punters across four episodes. Though, it ended with a rather odd conclusion (presumably, Whittaker's new intergalactic role means another series is out of the questions for the next few years at least). 'What lessons did we learn in Trust Me?' asked Alex Fletcher. 'Apparently, faking it pays and if you keep up a lie for long enough, you'll get more money, a hunky lover and a promotion.' However, most reviewers praised Jodie's 'warm and watchable' performance. The series, which 'galloped along at an enjoyable pace,' never quite failed to shake off the rather far-fetched premise that Cath could really have gotten away with her incredible lie. Yet, in some ways, that unlikely basis was also part of Trust Me's charm. That, and the new Doctor, obviously.
11. Urban Myths
'Gimme back my acid, you buttoned down son-of-a-bitch!' Even before it had begun, Sky Arts' anthology series of comedy shorts, Urban Myths, had made headlines; an episode featuring Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson was withdrawn from broadcast following predictable tabloid fury and some extraordinary Premier League foot-stamping by Jackson's spoiled-rotten daughter that the thought of a white actor portraying her father made her want to 'vomit.' Each of episodes had their own unique take on a popular urban myth; these included Bob Dylan trying (and failing) to drop in on Dave Stewart in Crouch End; an eighteen-year-old Adolf Hitler attempting to get into Vienna art college; Cary Grant and Timothy Leary taking LSD; Samuel Beckett driving Andre The Giant to school and Muhammad Ali saving a suicidal man. The Grant and Leary episode - starring Ben Chaplin and Aiden Gillan - was by far the best, a full-on meta-breakdown of the drug experience and a witty comment on the successes and failures of the counterculture full of brilliantly self-aware dialogue. Noel Clarke's performance as Ali was also worthy of considerable praise. Once the Jackson controversy was out of the way (whether the episode will ever be broadcast is still unknown), the series drew broadly very positive reviews and bunch of further episodes are reported to have been commissioned including one focusing on The Sex Pistols infamous run-in with Bill Grundy. Though, sadly, another will feature Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall as Marc Bolan. So, that one will be worth avoiding.
12. Doctor Foster
The second series of Mike Bartlett's exploration of obsession and revenge in a marriage poisoned by infidelity picked up two years after the conclusion of the first with Gemma (the superb Suranne Jones) and Simon (Bertie Carvel) psychotically attempting to bugger up each other's new lives with their son, Tom (Tom Taylor) a helpless piggy in the middle. Given that the first series had achieved so much acclaim - and a shelfload of National Television Award, Broadcasting Press Guild and BAFTA wins - it's worth remembering that it had it own sneering critique, particularly from some lady in the Torygraph who bemoaned its 'absurd plot' and the lack of 'emotional logic' in a series of 'melodramatic contortions that required a character who was supposed to be brainy to act like an utter fool.' Such tripe, of course, was slapped down, harshly, by the people that actually mean something, the viewers. The second series, too, had more than its share of foolish foolery - that awful Graham woman at the Radio Times describing the finale as 'possibly the bleakest hour of television I've seen all year.' Her colleague, Ben Dowell, on the other hand, noted: 'The maltreated son of the warring Fosters, so brilliantly played by young actor Tom Taylor, stood front and centre of the show at the end of series two by disappearing, vowing never to see his parents again.' It's nice to see confirmation that not even her work colleagues can stand the shrieking, full-of-her-own-importance Graham and her ugly views and that it's not just the rest of us. 'The joy of the second series is that we now know it is not aiming for gritty drama and failing, but aiming for histrionic melodrama and succeeding beyond its wildest expectations (the first quintet took in affairs, suicide, lies, deceit, pregnancy, abortion, business corruption, bankruptcy, the smashing of ornaments and Hippocratic oaths into several million pieces, public denunciation and fake child-murder),' added the Gruniad's Lucy Mangan. 'We can now run gleefully towards the waves of madness - already rushing furiously over the shores of sanity - dive in and let the waters take us wherever the riptides lead.' Although the BBC appeared to indicate no plans for the third series, Bartlett has, reportedly, not ruled out writing a continuation.
13. Peaky Blinders/Taboo
'Never thought my high-heel shoes from Paris would be stepping through the shit of Small Heath again!' In 2013, a new drama slipped onto BBC to a somewhat mixed critical reception. A portrayal of Twenties gang culture in Birmingham, Peaky Blinders drew some good reviews - along with some rotten ones - though positive viewer reactions was juxtaposed with the usual suspect whinges about allegedly dodgy accents and the way the series sometimes seemed as much pop video as drama. Some described Peaky Blinders as 'a flop' unlikely to make it to a second series. They were wrong. Bigly wrong in their massive wrongess. Instead, over three series the buzz has gone around not just Britain but the world about Steven Knight's tale of the Shelby clan, led by Cillian Murphy's social climbing working class hero, Tommy Shelby: gambler, gangster and returning First World War veteran on the make. Like When The Boat Comes In three decades earlier, Peaky Blinders focused viewers attention on a region and a historical era often neglected by mainstream TV drama. And, like James Mitchell's tale of the post-Great War North East, Knight's historically inaccurate but brilliantly realised complex Midlands tale of family and crime shuffles harsh socio-realism with superb characterisation and occasional bursts of savage wit. The drama's first three series incorporated PTSD, opium habits, the IRA, a Javert-like inspector (Sam Neill), the world's most psychotic Jewish baker/bootlegger (a terrifying Tom Hardy) and an obsession with expanding and legitimising the family business beyond their homebase of Birmingham. To call Peaky Blinders 'a cult' - as most of the media tend to - is actually underplaying its mainstream popularity, though the fact that it gets namechecked by rock stars and Hollywood A-Listers as a favourite certainly helps with that perception. Peaky Blinders returned for the start of its fourth series with a brilliantly complex episode that featured a quartet of last-minute gallows reprieves - which was, according to the Gruniad's Sarah Hughes 'both utterly ludicrous and entirely enjoyable (I was particularly taken with the fact that Tommy squeezed in a quick request for an OBE whilst bargaining for his family's lives)' - and the arrival in the Shelby clan's life or some extremely cross Mafia-types. Gosh, it was good. Even the Torygraph liked it. A fifth series has already been commissioned with Knight's stated aim to continue the saga up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Given that, as this blogger writes, we've only just reached 1925, there appears to be mileage in the Shelby-saga yet.
But, Knight has been a busy man this year. Along with one of the stars of Peaky Blinders, Tom Hardy, and Hardy's father Chips, he spent the early part of 2017 basking in the success of another period drama, Taboo. James Delaney (Hardy), believed dead, returns to London to attend the funeral of his father, Horace. Other than owning a small part of the West coast of North America, Horace has left nothing of value. The land, Nootka Sound, is in dispute between Britain and the United States, who are at war, this being 1812 and all that. The East India Company had an agreement to buy the land from Zilpha Geary, Delaney's half-sister, but Delaney knows the war is coming to an end, greatly increasing the value of the land, and scorns their offer. Delaney discovers his father died from arsenic poisoning. With Ridley Scott as executive producer, Taboo was tough, gritty and even more challenging than Peaky Blinders. After a sluggish start, Taboo revealed itself to be a mysterious, dark and often brutal drama with plenty of promise - most notably Hardy's exceptionally watchable central performance. Ben Lawrence of the Torygraph felt that Taboo's strength lay in the fact that, despite borrowing from Westerns, gangster movies and even Charles Dickens, it still 'manages to feel utterly original.' Sam Wollaston of the Gruniad noted that while 'some of the dialogue does make you wince,' Hardy's acting and on-screen presence more than makes up for that. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Goodman said that Taboo was a 'solid if slow' entry in FX's stable of series, with 'a compelling turn' by Hardy. Much media attention - well, the Daily Mirra's obsession, if we're being strictly accurate - was focused on Hardy's earnings for the series. Taboo did, initially, lose money for its production company as - despite more than decent ratings on BBC1 - its overheads were large. However, overseas sales - particularly in the US where it has gained a cult following on the FX network - have contributed to the commissioning for a second series. The BBC said that the series has earned its recommission, at least in part, because of its huge success on iPlayer, where it has acquired a growing audience following its Saturday broadcasts. Episode one earned the BBC its third highest iPlayer audience ever, just behind Sherlock and the one-off drama Murdered By My Boyfriend.
14. Hunting The KGB Killers
Given current events in international politics, any insight into the way in which Russia operates on the world stage is probably well-worth paying attention to, so the timing of Channel Four's Hunting The KGB Killers, broadcast in April, felt incredibly apt. This was a rigorous and gripping documentary of the kind that British TV still manages to churn out with a regularity that would be monotonous if they weren't so constantly worthwhile - which told the story of what happened to the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned with one million times the lethal dose of polonium in London in 2006. It is all but certain that the highest levels of the Russian government were involved in Litvinenko's assassination, according to the British courts. Many of those involved talked on-screen for the first time. We heard from Litvinenko's widow, Marina, who spoke 'with a quiet sense of loss and a furiously dignified sense of justice,' according to the Gruniad's Rebecca Nicholson, as well as his son, Anatoly. The then British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, offered her perspective on what Litvinenko's murder has done for Anglo-Russian relations. The detectives who worked tirelessly on the case assessed its impossibilities with professionalism and an occasional flash of gallows humour. Hunting The KGB Killers operated within the somewhat vogueish documentary parameters of bombastic music and blurry re-enactments, which belong to school educational films and low-budget Channel Five programmes about the last hours of decadent dead pop stars. Nevertheless, the extraordinary, troubling story sped by - leaving one with the feeling that, by condensing such a vast tale down to ninety minutes, there was plenty that must, by necessity, have been left out. 'A gripping and timely insight into the dark side of Putin's post-Soviet superpower,' opined the Torygraph. 'Fascinating as this all was, the film never duped us into thinking this was a yarn or a romp,' added the Daily Scum Express. 'The face of Litvinenko's widow, Marina, flashed like a beacon throughout, grief and determination in equal measure.' Television which provided its audience with a necessary conscience. Job done, dare one suggest. Or, at least, it would be if there was the remotest change of bringing the killer(s) to justice. Sadly, this is the real world so the best we can do is make sure that our broadcasters keep on making programmes such as this which ask some awkward questions. And that we keep on watching them.
15. Only Connect
Having lost a decent-sized chunk of its traditional Monday night audience by being stuck in the dead-zone of Friday, post-Mastermind (as anybody with half-a-brain in their head could have predicted), Only Connect nevertheless remains a favourite with people who aren't scared of learning stuff. The gloriously multi-levelled, fiendishly difficult lateral-thinking quiz is often enough to give the educationally challenged cephalic pain and a massive inferiority complex. But, for those who enjoy watching smart people in the act of being smart, for half-an-hour, we get a necessary reminder that television which educates, informs and entertains all at the same time didn't end in the 1950s. Of course there are those who never got beyond GCSE Grade Five Metalwork who sneer that their licence fee is being used for something other than BBC3; some critics, ludicrously, accuse Only Connect of 'smugness,' something which is not remotely true and, even if it was, it's hardly the greatest crime in a world in which intelligence often seems to be a dirty word for those who possess little or none. The divine Victoria Coren Mitchell's saucy - and entirely inclusive, let it be noted - bon mots have aided the show in gaining its following but, at the end of the day, it's the contestants, the questions and those few - but delicious - moments when we the viewers gets an answer correct before the smart kids that make Only Connect compulsive and rewarding viewing. The addition this year of a bunch of noted refugees from another favourite, University Challenge - Gail Trimble in one team, Oscar Powell and Jack Bennett in another - added to the fun. The current - thirteenth - series is scheduled to run into 2018 at which point, Victoria assured us earlier in the year, it will be returning to Monday nights. Quite why it was ever scheduled anywhere other than there is a genuine mystery. Also a mystery would be if the clot who shifted it in the first place has not cleared out their desk at Broadcasting House and been escorted from the building.
16. Britain's Ancient Capital: Secrets Of Orkney
From the North favourite Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair), another From The North favourite Chris Packham, Andy Torbet and Doctor Shini Somara joined hundreds of archaeologists from around the world who had gathered in Orkney to investigate at one of Europe's biggest digs in this lively three-part BBC2 series. 'Packham was infectiously enthusiastic, cooing approvingly at the local cattle, who gave him a hard stare in return,' wrote some smug git at the Torygraph. 'When he spent the night in an abandoned farmhouse on an uninhabited island, he gushed: "This was our HG Wells moment. We've been in a time machine!" Which was a romantic way to look at a derelict bungalow with some Garibaldi biscuits going mouldy in the corner. All windswept locks and velveteen brogue, Oliver was his usual passionate self - although in a bid to persuade of us his theories about how Stone Age society transitioned into the Bronze Age, he sometimes seemed to be striving to make connections that weren't there.' Some embittered Scottish nationalists reportedly took to social media to query the frequent use of the word 'Britain,' but rarely 'Scotland,' while the presence of Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair), a prominent voice against Scottish independence, led others to whinge that the show was 'little more than a BBC Scotland No-vote propaganda piece.' They also blamed Neil for the Scotland football team's abject failure to qualify for next year's World Cup. Probably. Any archaeology programmes are welcome on TV since Channel Four took the crass decision to cancel Time Team of course and the BBC, thankfully, have picked up the baton with formats such as this and Alice Roberts' equally impressive Digging For Britain. Britain's Ancient Capital has also been credited with creating a mini-tourist boom for Orkney and with once again providing armchair historians with a fascinating trip into the past.
17. Qi/Qi XL
During a particularly loud and frantic (but, as usual, very funny) opening episode of the fifteenth - O - series of Qi, Sandi Toksvig was having considerable trouble with her panellists. There needed to be a retake after Sandi had difficulties with a prop toy boat whilst asking the question 'in theory, how fast can this boat sail?' Alan Davies asked if it was dependant on the wind. 'Yes, hold that thought and I'll do it again,' Sandi noted but, as soon as she picked up the prop and began speaking to camera, Bill Bailey was in like as shot, hitting his buzzer and bellowing 'something about wind!' 'How unusual,' Toksvig noted, pithily. 'A boy who came before I was ready!' before high-fiving fellow girly-guest, Claudia Whatsherface. As Sandi then prepared to try for take three, Alan, Bill and Phill Jupitas all made rather a fuss about being primed and ready to screw up her line for a third time. 'Say the words, baby,' Bill noted. 'Bill, shut the fuck up!' Sandi replied. 'Claudia, I'm going to bring out a yacht and you're going to say "is it something to do with the wind?"' 'God, it's like being at school,' joked Bill. '"Shut up and put your wine away!" Bovington-Gurney Primary was rough school!' The question was then asked, again, Claudia answered and the three lads immediately staged a mock walk-out. 'They've got some wine over here,' shouted one of them from off-set. 'You've been whinging for two hours!' replied Sandi. 'Do you know, people often say to me "what did Stephen say to you as he left?" and the truth is, he shook his head and said "you have no idea!"' Which was followed by some sympathy within The Sisterhood, Alan spending the rest of the episode making - rather funny - wind-related comments and, after the revelation about how many synapses there are in the average human brain, Sandi noting, with specific reference to the boys, 'obviously, that's not every brain!' God, it was great to have the show back. One simply knows that there is not too much wrong with British TV when Qi is there to brighten up even the dullest Friday night. As Qi überfan Victoria Coren Mitchell once noted when Have I Got News For You were having a bit of a rivalry-based sneer at their fellow BBC comedy panel show, 'Qi's still the only programme on television that assumes its audience can actually spell.' Word, sister.
18. Have I Got News For You
Neither, to be fair, is there much wrong with British telly when Have I Got News For You has plenty of satirical barbs to stick into some worthy targets. And, 2017 was a bumper year for worthy targets of satirical barbs. There was an election for one and yer man Hislop was on splendidly spiky form. Then, later in the year, the series made headlines having got itself folded into the on-going MPs-doing-naughty-things malarkey. Jo Brand - rightly - pointing out that sexual misconduct (whilst sometimes quite funny to see the fall-out from) is, ultimately, no laughing matter. Nevertheless, on an average week, Have I Got News For You merely does what it has been doing very nicely for the last thirty years; poking a stick at some people who, by and large, really deserve to have a stick poked at them. It doesn't always get its targets right and occasional attempts to provide a bit of - necessary - BBC balance can render it somewhat gauche and even a bit anaemic. However, with Ian Hislop's cynical, but frequently spot-on, savaging of sacred cows and Paul Merton's deliciously left-field moments of pure head-spinning surrealism, it remains unparalleled in being the go-to programme to hear things that most of those in power would really rather you weren't told about. Particularly from the BBC.
19. Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish
How terrific it was to see, in the opening episode of the fifth series of the excellent Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish, Dave once again taking down with righteous and withering sarcasm, that objectionable, full-of-his-own-importance fool, the self-styled 'most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to showbiz reporter in the world,' Neil Sean. Whom, long-term viewers of the Dave Channel comedy show may recall, was a hapless target of Gorman's painstakingly researched japery in a previous series over many of the ludicrous claims that Sean made in his 2011 book How To Live Like A Celebrity For Free! (one-and-a-half stars on Amazon - and it only gets the half because one reviewer with the Interweb moniker 'TBL' gave it a five-star review ... before ripping the piss out of it and its author). This time around, Dave was focusing on Sean's remarkably crap, self-produced, Dr Who: The Lost Interviews DVD (one star on Amazon - and it only gets that because, as one reviewer, JH Wilkins, noted zero stars wasn't an option) with the help of author, comedian, Doctor Who fan and all-round good bloke Toby Hadoke. (This blogger subsequently told Toby that Keith Telly Topping thought Toby did a marvellous job 'just about keeping a straight face' during the episode.) God, it was funny. Of course, From The North itself has, over the years, found plenty of material in the frequent utter codswallop that Neil Sean used to write in his - now, tragically ended - column in the Metro. Like this one for instance. Or this one. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or dozens of other examples of crass tittle-tattle masquerading as 'news'. But, Dave Gorman does it so much better.
Another brilliant moment occurred in a subsequent episode when Dave was discussing the ways that different generations text each other. 'I don't think you can define a generation by the technology they use,' Dave noted. 'I think you have to define them by how they use that technology.' Dave then declared himself to be a member of 'Generation Spells Everything Properly In Text Messages.' He also noted that defining members of this collective is not as simple as 'young people do, old people don't.' Using his own family to illustrate the point, Dave noted that his brothers and sisters tend to spell things properly in text messages whilst both their children and, perhaps surprisingly, their parents use all those awful text-speak abbreviations (you know the kind of thing, 'U' instead of you, '4' instead of for. Et cetera). 'Generation Spells Everything Properly In Text Messages are stranded, like as island, between the two!' Dave suggested a possible reason for this; mobile phones became affordable for the average man or woman in the street in the early Nineties, 'I was in my Twenties, I'd only recently left formal education behind me, so I didn't treat it as alien, I just used it as another way to communicate and did so using all of the same grammar and syntax that my mother - who was an English teacher - and the rest of her generation had taught me,' Dave continued. 'At that time, my mum was in her Fifties, they didn't want mobile phones, they were scared of mobile phones, that generation. They didn't get mobiles for another ten years or more. And, they didn't do it because of us, they did it because of our children. It was when my brothers' children were ten, eleven, twelve years old and they started saying "you haven't go a mobile? Man you're so square, I wanna send you a text message", that is when they were finally cajoled into getting mobile phones, to communicate with their grandchildren. And, because that's who they wanted to communicate with, that's who they copied. They thought "the rules are different. How do you do this?" they asked. And, the grandchildren explained how. So I use a mobile phone using the grammar taught to me by these people, but they use a mobile phone using grammar taught to them by [other] people. Who are idiot children!' Dave Gorman, dear blog reader. The angrier he gets, the funnier he becomes!
20. Blue Planet II
Four years in the making and a sequel to 2001's acclaimed first series, Blue Planet II arrived on BBC1 in October and promptly picked up what is - at the time of writing - the largest rating for a single broadcast of the year - a consolidated audience of over fourteen million. A sure sign, if any were needed, that civilisations may rise and civilisations may fall, but one thing is unchangable, the British public's absolute trust in Sir David Attenborough to inform, educate and entertain. The series was first announced by the BBC in 2013 with the working title Oceans. Filming took place over more than four years involving one hundred and twenty five expeditions across thirty nine countries and produced over six thousand hours of underwater dive footage. Composer Hans Zimmer returned to score the series, including a somewhat dubious collaboration with celebrated miserablists Radiohead. Each of the seven episodes included a ten-minute 'making-of' documentary called Into The Blue and BBC Worldwide gleefully raked in mucho wonga by selling the series to over thirty countries including China, where a premiere took place at Shanghai's East China Normal University. The BBC primed viewers for what to expect with a helpful guide to twenty two things to look for including the observation that 'bottle-nosed dolphins are really cute.' Which, to be fair, is accurate, if a bit, you know, anthropomorphic. And, of course, everybody loved it. The Gruniad loved it. The Torygraph loved it. Really loved it. The Indi loved it. The Daily Mirra loved it. The Evening Chronicle loved it. Some arsewipe on no importance at the Daily Lies found it 'boring'. Even the Daily Scum Mail struggled to find something to whinge about - although they did try their best. Even Jeremy Corbyn - who doesn't like anything on television - loved it. Whether it worked best as a shockingly in-your-face and angry assessment of the awful damage mankind is doing to the planet we inhabit (and the creatures we inhabit it with) or, simply, as an example of a beautifully shot, beautifully scripted, beautifully humane and beautifully entertaining seven hours of television is a moot point. But, Blue Planet II has set the bar at a dizzying height. It would be a brave producer who would even think about creating another natural history programme in its wake. Fortunately, perhaps, the BBC's Natural History Unit down in Bristol is full of such people. For which we should all be jolly grateful.
21. Gunpowder
Produced by Kudos and Kit Harington's Thriker Films for the BBC, the three-part drama series was developed by Harington, Ronan Bennett and Daniel West and was based on the infamous Gunpowder Plot of November 1605. The series also starred Harington, best known for Game Of Thrones of course, who is reportedly a direct descendant of his character, Robert Catesby. The cast also included Peter Mullan, Mark Gatiss, Derek Riddell and Liv Tyler. The initial reaction to the first episode was, perhaps predictably, mired with whinges from viewers who were shocked - shocked and stunned, in fact - about the depicted scenes of torture, nudity and disembowelment. This despite the broadcast time being post-watershed and, for the most-part, historically accurate as the BBC pointed out in a, frankly, somewhat pissed-off statement. Nonetheless, it was described as 'a very good drama' by other viewers and critics. The Torygraph provided a handy 'torture-watch' for those too squeamish to stick with the show. Which some might regard as a bit odd taking place in a country in which the anniversary of the plot itself is celebrated annually by an effigy of the most infamous of the conspirators being ceremonially burned on top of a sodding great bonfire. In reality, of course, he was merely hanged, drawn and quartered, a much more civilised form of justice and one that the Torygraph and the Daily Scum Mail would like to see reintroduced. For parking offences and being rude about royalty. Probably. Whilst the historical accuracy of the drama was also thoroughly debated few questioned the quality of the script, direction or acting in this handsome production. At the time of writing the series is just about to debut in America on HBO. Whether the violence that so sickened the Daily Scum Mail will be an issue over there remains to be seen (although, the nudity might be).
22. I Am Bolt
A captivating documentary profiling the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history and one of the greatest Olympians of all time. The film followed Bolt as he prepared to go for gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Competing in the one and two hundred metres, he was attempting to make history by winning these events for a record third time. And, of course, he did. In addition to following his training, the documentary featured archival footage of his life and phenomenal accomplishments. With a career that has already rewritten the record books, Bolt stakes his claim as one of the greatest athletes of all time. 'Sports stars always want to be remembered as the greatest in their game. This week, though, Usain Bolt prepares not just to run for gold in the final race of his career: he also stars in what might just be the greatest sporting documentary of all time,' noted the Gruniad Morning Star's Mark Lawson. 'As soon as it leaves the blocks, I Am Bolt, made by British filmmakers Benjamin and Gabe Turner, looks to have it locked down. Until now, it's been a toss-up between Asif Kapadia's Senna (2010), a recreation of the weekend Ayrton Senna was killed in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix and When We Were Kings (1996) by Leon Gast, an account of Muhammad Ali's Rumble in the Jungle fight with George Foreman in 1974. But where Kapadia and Gast were working retrospectively, the Turner brothers are right in the moment. They filmed Bolt for the two years before the 2016 Rio Olympics, supplementing this with footage of key moments from the athlete's life, including the gangly fifteen-year-old effortlessly winning an under-twenty race in Jamaica.' Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter also reviewed the film positively, saying: 'Athletic achievements don't get much more unbeatable than the records held by Usain Bolt ... Considered the fastest sprinter who has ever logged track-time, Bolt is a hero to millions and admired on a level comparable to global sports legends like Muhammad Ali and Pele.' In claiming to show fans 'the real man behind the hype,' I Am Bolt certainly delivered, presenting a figure whose supreme confidence in his own outstanding abilities was cleverly balanced by a series of family, friends, classmates, coaches and fellow athletes who all got to tell the story of the man behind the legend. One of the most striking elements was how we got to see Usain interacting with his coach Glen Mills. It is a relationship that seems to be an implacable blend of master/father meets pupil/son. There were some amusing scenes of Usain partying with friends on the beach. While his need for speed clearly also had to be catered for in his down time as we saw him pursuing his favourite pass time; tearing around with wild abandon on a quad bike. Although he did warn viewers: 'If you hit an orange tree, you have to pay for it.' However, what made one warm to the man who has always seemed eminently likable in the first place, was when you see where he came from. Literally, the small rural town of Trelawny, where the filmmakers took us but, more specifically, into the home of Usain's parents, whose mixture of pride, honesty and sense of fun show which block that particular chip came from.
23. Jamestown
'We are building a new world. A world where a man might start with nothing and through his own labours, ventures and spirits he might prosper.' Written by Lark Rise To Candleford's Bill Gallagher and set in 1619, Jamestown follows the first English settlers as they established a community in the New World. Amongst those landing onshore are a group of women destined to be married to the men of Jamestown, including three spirited ladies from England - Alice (Sophie Rundle), Verity (Niamh Walsh) and Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick). The splendid cast also included the likes of Max Beesley, Jason Flemyng, Claire Cox, Dean Lennox Kelly, Shaun Dooley and Burn Gorman. Such was the buzz created around the drama that Sky commissioned a second series before the first had even been broadcast. Confidence which was more than justified by, for Sky, exceptional viewing figures from Day One. 'It's certainly a goldmine from a storyteller's point of view,' sneered some louse of no importance at the Gruniad in a thoroughly 'oh, aren't I, like, the cleverest kiddie that ever did live'-style review. 'There are all sorts of horrors here - the birth of the British empire and of modern America, war and slavery just round the corner. It's an almost endless seam of stories and the three recent arrivals, each with their own horrors and journeys are a good route in. Jamestown is made by the people who made Downton Abbey and though the setting is very different, it has a few things in common: sumptuousness, open-ended narrative, the odd curveball. It's more fun than high culture or history lessons. An expensive soap, in other words.' 'Walsh's feisty Verity steals the show early on,' added the Metro 'robbing, punching and absconding from her soon-to-be husband Meredith (Dean Lennox Kelly), a dishevelled, drunken tavern keeper "not worth a spit of love." With its stunning scenery (filmed in Hungary instead of the actual Virginian wilderness), impressive cast and promising twist, Jamestown largely delivers.' Not all the reviews were positive, some of which highlighted a few easily fixable problems. But, ultimately, the best comment was probably the Torygraph's assessment: 'Silly but gripping.' And so much easier on this blogger's blood-pressure than Downton Abbey.
24. Gotham
'Unfortunately, no one stays dead in this town!' Some dramas start well and then decline. Some start badly and improve. One or two start well and then just keep on getting better and better. Gotham is one of the latter. Recommissioned early in the year for a fourth series before the third had even concluded (with a series of brilliantly interweaving plotlines that signalled a significant change in direction for many of the established characters), this was the year that Gotham really hit its stride. Just in case you haven't been following it - and, if not, you should be - Gotham is an American crime drama developed by The Mentalist's Bruno Heller, based on the early years of characters published by DC Comics and appearing in the Batman franchise, primarily those of James Gordon and Bruce Wayne. The series also focuses of the origin stories of several classic Batman villains, including Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Mister Freeze, Hugo Strange, Ra's al Ghul and Solomon Grundy. And, possibly The Joker although the jury is, apparently, still out on that one. The drama is blessed with dozens of brilliant performances; Sean Pertwee's tough, assertive Alfred, Donald Logue's cynical, world-weary, dryly sarcastic Harvey Bullock, Camren Bicondova's charmingly streetwise Selina, Robin Lord Taylor's deliciously crazy-as-a-box-of-frogs Penguin and Cory Michael Smith's schizoid Riddler being merely the most obviously mentionable. Ben MacKenzie is great as Gordon and the young Bruce Wayne (played with innocence but a touch of growing teenage faux-naïf hardness by David Mazouz) and his journey to a Dark Knight future is both intriguing and compelling. Throw in the likes of Michael Chiklis, Morena Baccarin, Alex Siddig and Erin Richards going so far over-the-top she's down the other side, splendid direction, jet black humour and someone working in the music department with an obsession for British punk, post-punk and indie and you've got a winner on all sorts of levels. 'There's a nutjob running around in a leather jump-suit with an axe for an arm. Now, I know this is Gotham but, come on people, do something!'
25. Stargazing Live Australia
Stargazing Live returned for its seventh year, this time promising to blow viewers minds with a totally new view of the night sky live, from the bottom of the world. Professor Brian Cox (no, the other one) and Dara O Briain packed their sunscreen and headed Down Under to gaze up at a sky which was completely unfamiliar to viewers in the UK - packed full of the most astonishing features from constellations like The Southern Cross, to jewel-like clusters of stars and perfectly positioned planets. But capping it all was the most remarkable view of the Milky Way, arching overhead like a river of stars. Coxy and Dara were joined by regular Liz Bonnin and by bearded Aussie outback-astronomer Greg Quicke - whose infectious enthusiasm quickly won him a following. Surrounded by kangaroos, dingoes, snakes and really deadly spiders, the team revealed the wonderful star-tales told by the indigenous Aboriginal peoples, embarked on a mission to catch a shooting star and celebrated Australia's role in rescuing the stricken Apollo 13 mission. Plus, they asked viewers' to help in a challenge to find the missing ninth planet in the solar system. In the final episode, Brian discussed the black hole which can be found in the centre of our galaxy and Dara looked into the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life. Cyclone Debbie briefly threatened to turn the sky over the New South Wales base every bit as dull and overcast as the one they usually have at Jodrell Bank. TV with real stars rather than the z-list variety; they said it would never catch on. But, they were wrong.
26. The Mystery Of The Man On The Moor
A real-life murder mystery came to TV, with the strange and rather sad case of The Saddleworth Moor Man. In December 2015, a tall, grey-haired man in his late sixties was seen asking for directions to the top of a moorland mountain in the Peak District, only to be found dead a day later at local beauty spot Dovestone Reservoir. After test were carried out, it was revealed that he had died from a dose of strychnine - one of the most painful ways to ingest poison - but CCTV evidence and his personal possessions couldn't answer the mystery of exactly who he was. For the documentary Channel Four had access to the man working on the case, Detective Sergeant John Coleman of Greater Manchester Police and the film follow Coleman and his team as they pieced together the identity of the mysterious man from a combination of medical examinations and missing-persons reports. 'In a world where our every movement is seemingly tracked and monitored to the extreme, it's almost unbelievable that someone can prove so hard to trace,' noted a Channel Four spokesman. Sarah Hey's documentary, as the Torygraph noted, 'had no particular points to make about society or justice. It didn't even really have a crime. Instead, it was a small, strange, unsettling story that stayed with me long after the credits rolled.' At first, progress was quick: CCTV brought images of the man pottering around Manchester Piccadilly train station for an hour, 'as if he was exploring or lost or didn't quite know where to go or what to do.' Gradually, frustrations mounted. A metal plate in the man's leg was found to only be legally available in Pakistan, but the trail then went cold. Red herrings came and went. Occasional media campaigns brought diminishing returns. Then, a year after the man was found, the National Border Control Centre found records identifying him as sixty seven-year-old David Lytton, sometime croupier and London Underground driver. Without telling estranged family, his few friends or his partner of thirty five years, Maureen, he had left for Pakistan eleven previously, with over two hundred thousand pounds from selling his house. What he got up whilst living there remained a mystery, as did his decision to travel to Northern England and end his life. 'Unlike fiction, real life seldom provides a neat ending,' as one reviewer aptly wrote.
27. An Art Lovers' Guide
Art historian Alastair Sooke and From The North favourite Doctor Janina Ramirez took viewers on three revealing cultural city breaks, to St Petersburg, Barcelona and Amsterdam. Janina wrote, entertainingly, in the Radio Times about her impressions of the latter. 'I thought I understood the city: stag dos and liberal attitudes to drugs and sex for those in search of liberal excess, Rembrandt and Anne Frank for the discerning tourist. But on my first proper exploration of the capital of the Netherlands I was completely won over.' The presenters 'did a good job of capturing the dual identities of the Dutch city where sober merchants and daring free-thinkers have carved out an uneasy peace,' wrote the Daily Scum Express's Matt Baylis. 'Double act Alastair Sooke and Janina Ramirez, art critic and medieval historian respectively, will be "doing" a handful of European cities in this series, not just telling us what to look at if we should follow them but trying to sum up the unique essence of each place.' 'The first episode is about the art and architecture of Amsterdam and how it reflects the city's rich history, particularly its central position in trade and commerce,' added the National Scot. 'The presenting pair begin by strolling along the busy streets, pointing out sex shops and gabbing about how they can smell cannabis on the air. Soon, they're learning the art of posing in the red light district's windows. When they're apart, the show improves.' The Making A Mark website was very enthusiastic: 'The two presenters are both well qualified for the task of providing a guide. They're personable as well as academically credible, have both presented television series on art for the BBC before and, most importantly, they can both string words together on the hoof and make an intelligent comment.' 'Scholarship breezy and lightly worn,' was the Gruniad's view. BBC Four once again providing a valid justification for the licence fee by producing the sort of programme that, quite simply, no other broadcaster - in the UK or anywhere else for that matter - would make.
28. MasterChef/MasterChef: The Professionals
Maddeningly addictive, as always, the MasterChef franchise remains something of a guilty pleasure for millions of punters, this blogger very much included (apart from the Z-List Celebrity edition, which Keith Telly Topping thinks is crap, frankly). This year, viewers were treated to, in a lady called Visha, the most offensively full-of-her-own-importance-and-with-so-little-reason-to-be contestant since Mental Veggie Jackie from the 2011 series. And, also, a chap called Sam who was the most bafflingly forthright-in-his-belief-in-his-own-undiscovered-culinary-genius since, well, since Mental Veggie Jackie from 2011. Of course, it's always thigh-slappingly hilarious when someone with a massively inflated sense of their own brilliance falls flat on their face at the first hurdle with a muffled crunch. But, it's even funnier when the hapless chef in question has just provided the production team with the nails for their own crucifixion by talking themselves up, big-style, during the 'how far do you think you can go?' pre-cookery interviews. That never fails to amuse.
       Daft 'well, it seemed like a good idea at the time' malarkey such as this has also started cropping up on MasterChef: The Professionals. Like the lad - a 'professional', remember - who thought that making a cod omelette was a good idea and would get a winning review from Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti. 'Jordan has made a cod's cheek omelette, with chilli and spinach topped with chives,' said Sean Pertwee in his trademark pure-dead-serious voiceover. But, even Sean couldn't make this plate sound any more appetising as the camera lingered for far longer than one is sure Jordan would have liked on a rather sad-looking eggy mess. 'I've never had a cod omelette before' said sour-faced Monica with a look on her mush (far more sour than usual, let it be noted) which suggested there was, perhaps, a very good reason for that. When even Gregg Wallace refuses to put something food-related in his mouth, you know you're probably not going to make it through to the next round. Comedy, as Gregg might say, doesn't come any funnier than this.
29. Cold Feet
Thankfully, dear blog reader, Helen Baxendale stayed dead. Mike Bullen's award-winning Nineties comedy drama about three couples experiencing the fluctuating fortunes of life ended after five series in 2003 but, such was the following it picked up that a revival was always on the cards. And, with five of the original cast - Jimmy Nesbitt, John Thomson, Fay Ripley, Robert Bathurst and Hermione Norris - on board, a sixth series was made and broadcast in 2016. And, it was pretty good reminding us all why the original series was so popular in the first place. This year, a seventh followed which was even better than the last. The plot: Setting up her own publishing house Marsden House, Karen is relying on useless Ramona as personal assistant. Adam is determined to take things one step further with Tina so they can move in with one another, though she doesn't want to rush things and especially not with David now living with Adam and Matthew following his divorce from Robyn. Pete has landed on his feet as a chauffeur, and Jenny is finding herself seeing a lot less of her husband. Matthew's relationship with Olivia is taken to the next level, to the shock of Karen and Adam. With hilarious consequences. Yadda, yadda. The main reason why people always watched and continue to watch Cold Feet isn't so much its soap-like ways - although the series was never afraid to tackle some really important issues; jealousy, guilt, money, sexual problems, parental death - but, rather, the brilliant interplay between the main characters. It's also worth remembering that, whilst Cold Feet is now a bona fide critical behemoth, when it started one reviewer described it as the most depressing TV programme he had ever seen and 'less believable than Doctor Who.' Which was actually an insult back in 1998. Now, you'd be hard pushed to find any critic with a bad word to say about it. As this proves. And this. And this. And this.
30. The Moorside
Written by Neil McKay and directed by Paul Whittington, The Moorside starred Sheridan Smith, Gemma Whelan, Sian Brooke and Siobhan Finneran and was based on the 2008 disappearance of nine-year-old Shannon Matthews and the successful search for her by police and volunteers in Dewsbury, along with the shocking revelation of her mother Karen's involvement in Shannon's abduction. The Moorside, of course, received criticism before it had even been transmitted from the family of Shannon. Her grandmother told a suspiciously sympathetic Daily Scum Mail - who, obviously, had no sick anti-BBC agenda to pursue: 'Shannon deserves to live her life in peace.' Viewers, seemingly, disagreed with consolidated audiences of nine million for the opening episode and ten million for the second. And, the BBC robustly defended their right to tell what was, remember, a true story. The critics loved it. 'It is Smith's honesty and sensitivity that makes her such an exceptional performer, and those qualities led to another scorching performance tonight in the opening episode of The Moorside [which] derived its stark power from stripped-back performances anchoring the story in reality,' wrote the Torygraph. In the Gruniad, Sam Wollaston said: 'I thought I knew this story. But as he did with his drama Appropriate Adult, about Fred and Rosemary West, writer Neil McKay has found another way into a familiar, awful story ... I'm making it sound worthy and bland. It isn't, it's convincing and real. Ellie Harrison, reviewing the first episode for Radio Times, noted, 'In The Moorside, the key focus is not the abduction, nor the subsequent arrests, but the tireless hunt for Shannon and the seemingly boundless altruism of Julie Bushby. The BBC drama paints a bleak and evocative picture of the small Dewsbury estate. It perfectly captures the collective feeling of anxiety when a crime like that shakes a small community.' Writing in The Spectator, James Walton began by noting the difficulties in finding a positive outlook on the drama's underlying events, adding, 'The Moorside is having a go nonetheless. Although touching at times, the result ultimately proves a rather awkward watch.' He recalled that 'Karen made a tearful televised appeal for the return of "my beautiful princess daughter," but ended up serving four years in jail for being an accomplice in Shannon's kidnapping. With her chaotic taxpayer-funded life and her seven children by five fathers, Karen was duly turned into a sort of anti-poster girl for the tabloids. The Moorside [housing estate] itself became a symbol, including for David Cameron, of "our broken society."' Walton found that the programme 'sets out, very determinedly indeed, to stand up for the place,' but decided that, 'The obvious trouble, though, is that Julie's version of events was completely wrong - and therefore the programme is essentially a portrait of group delusion.' Morally ambiguous - by the very nature of the issues it dealt with - The Moorside, nevertheless, may have helped a few people to understand the complex nature of Karen Matthews' crimes. Ellie Harrison found that, 'Gemma Whelan is very convincing in her portrayal of Karen as childlike, as someone who is way out of her depth, deluded and who begins to actually revel in the fame of having a missing child. Karen's character is very purposefully presented as stupid, rather than evil. [Sheridan] Smith's performance, though, is the tour de force.'
31. The Deuce
'Daddies, husbands pimps, they're all the same. They love you for who you are ... until you try to be someone else.' An HBO drama set in and around Times Square in the early 1970s, The Deuce was created and written by author and former police reporter David Simon and his frequent collaborator George Pelecanos. It told the story of the legalisation and ensuing rise of the porn industry in New York beginning in the 1970s. Themes explored include the violence of the drug epidemic and the resulting real estate booms and busts that coincided with the change. The show's title was derived from the nickname for Forty Second Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue. A terrific cast was headed by James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Chris Bauer, Gary Carr, Chris Coy and Dominique Fishback. On the Rotten Tomatoes website the critical consensus was: 'The Deuce again demonstrates David Simon's masterful grasp of urban grit, while never losing detailed sight of its colourful characters.' Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave the series a highly positive review, praising its ensemble cast and wrote in conclusion, 'Simon and Pelecanos are just beginning to put the machinery of The Deuce into motion in these eight episodes. As an opening act, the show's first season is substantive, provocative and entertaining.' Charles Bramesco of the Gruniad gave it a five star review and wrote: 'Simon has created his most accessible work of humanism to date, and he's done so without sacrificing his loftier ambitions of societal critique.' The New York Times focused on the series historical context, whilst Laura Hudson in Wired suggested 'The Deuce isn't about sex, it's about capitalism.' Arriving in the UK in October on Sky Atlantic, the series had already picked up a small but dedicated following. A second series was commissioned by HBO in September.
32. Joe Orton Laid Bare
Leicester-born playwright, author and diarist Joe Orton was a diamond-bright theatrical light, extinguished aged just thirty four by his boyfriend, Kenneth Halliwell, who bludgeoned him to death with a hammer in their shared bedsit. At the time of his murder, in August 1967, Joe was the toast of London, fêted for plays that were ground-breaking, filthy and very funny, Entertaining Mister Sloane, Loot and the posthumously produced What The Butler Saw. He had also written a series of brilliantly subversive TV plays (The Erpingham Camp, The Good & Faithful Servant and Funeral Games) and, infamously, a rejected film script for The Be-Atles (the tragically still unproduced Up Against It). This blogger has been a massive fan since reading John Lahr's biography of Orton, Prick Up Your Ears, as a teenager in the late 1970s. This excellent documentary featured a fine repertory cast - including Antony Sher, Freddie Fox, Rosie Cavaliero, Jaime Winstone and Ben Miles - playing key scenes from Joe's work. Fifty years after his demise, the film charted Orton's meteoric rise following his imprisonment in 1962 for defacing library books. Orton believed his sentence was unduly harsh and had more to do with the fact he was gay than the crime itself, but his time in prison allowed him to crystallise his distinctive worldview (he poured much of his sarcasm into his debut BBC radio play, 1963's The Ruffian On The Stair). Here, excerpts from his stage and TV plays, along with his published diaries - also required reading - outlined his outrageous perspective. Bryan Dick played Orton himself, walking the viewer through the streets that Joe inhabited and using his diary entries to revive the voice of one of Britain's most distinctive and controversial writers. Also included were contributions from friends and colleagues like Ken Cranham, Dudley Sutton, Michael Codron, Christopher Hampton, Patricia Routledge and Joe's sister, Leonie, who talked with clarity and sympathy about her adored brother and the disturbed, jealous lover who would end his life. 'Fifty years after his brutal murder, this revealing, rude and melancholy film, featuring the playwright's own words, explores his short but dazzling life and career,' noted the Gruniad. 'Plus a performance of an unpublished "pornographic" playlet ("While you were diddling Auntie, I got carried away with several rolls of embroidery cotton").'
33. The Sky At Night Sixtieth Anniversary Special
When the first episode of The Sky At Night was transmitted on the BBC in April 1957, it was still widely believed that Mars could be home to advanced life, the Space Age was yet to begin -Spuntik, the first man-made satellite wouldn't go into orbit until four months later - and The Big Bang was just a somewhat controversial theory on the fringes of accepted scientific academia. To celebrate its sixtieth anniversary, this special programme looked at how our knowledge of the universe has been transformed in the last six decades - from the exploration of the solar system to the detection of black holes and planets orbiting distant stars. Featuring contributions from Jim Al-Khalili, Dallas Campbell and Monica Grady alongside Chris Lintott and Maggie Aderin-Pocock and including special birthday messages from a host of personalities and celebrity fans (almost certainly the only TV programme in history to feature Buzz Aldrin, the Clangers and Brian Blessed!) this was a glorious celebration of an extraordinary age of discovery and The Sky At Night's role in covering it. Campbell using York's solar system cycle path to celebrate the history of space exploration was especially magnificent. One of the great - and most unlikely - survivors in British TV history, the programmes archives were also dipped into. When even the Daily Scum Mail publishes a fannish review you know you are dealing with a genuine, twenty four carat moment of TV history. Even without the presence of its creator and, for over fifty years presenter, Patrick Moore (whom, one sense, was there in spirit), The Sky At Night continues to fascinate and prove that television does not need to be loud and garish to brighten ones life. Explaining the show's enduring appeal, Moore once said: 'Astronomy is a fascinating subject. You look up [and] you can't help getting interested [because] it's there. We've tried to bring it to the people. It's not me, it's the appeal of the subject.'
34. Electric Dreams
'Doesn't this all seem like some ancient male fantasy? What they used to call science-fiction? I, literally, have a flying car and a gorgeous lesbian wife who wants to have sex all the time!' A series of dystopian one-offs adapted from the stories of Philip K Dick, the opening episode of Electric Dreams - a loose version of Dick's 1955 short The Hood Maker starring Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger - was one of the more intriguing and left-field bits of TV drama of the year. A later episode - Real Life, featuring Anna Paquin and Lara Pulver - was even more visually and conceptually stunning. It wasn't to all tastes - as proved by some smear of no importance at the Torygraph but this blogger thought that, at its best, Electric Dreams was terrific. And, even when it wasn't at its best, it still had more than enough about it to justify to hype. The series - which also included some of Dick's best known stories: The Commuter, Crazy Diamond and Human Is, for instance - proved to be sometimes patchy, but always fascinating.
35. Broadchurch
'Do you know what I do my job? I deal with murderers and brutal thugs and sex offenders and I win. I get the better of them, so don't for a second imagine I will break a sweat getting you in line. Any if you come near - in fact, you even talk to - no, you even talk about my daughter ever again, let alone do anything to make her unhappy, I will find you and I will cut your tiny little cocks off.' The third - and final - series of Chris Chibnall's crime drama was a significant (and welcome) improvement on the rather schizophrenic 2015 series. The final series follows Elie Miller and Alec Hardy as they investigated a serious sexual assault in the titular Dorset town. Chibnall said, 'We have one last story to tell, featuring both familiar faces and new characters. I hope it's a compelling and emotional farewell to a world and show that means so much to me.' David Tennant and Olivia Colman were the first two cast members to be confirmed to return with Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Arthur Darvill, Carolyn Pickles and Adam Wilson also back. New cast included Mark Bazeley, Georgina Campbell, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Charlie Higson, Sarah Parish, Lenny Henry (last, briefly, funny in 1983) and Roy Hudd. A tense and complex drama with a potentially off-putting subject matter (rape is never, or should never, be even remotely 'entertaining'), the series, nevertheless, was widely appreciated. The Torygraph described the finale as 'Another slow-burning manhunt with multiple suspects, it gripped the nation and built to a compelling crescendo. After a disappointing second series, this third chapter in Chibnall's trilogy represented a return to the fine form of the debut run. Chibnall deserves plaudits for Broadchurch bouncing back so strongly. Doctor Who, which he soon takes over as showrunner, looks to be in safe hands.' 'What could have felt just a TV show hammering home a moral point, was for the most part a fine piece of drama. It was right that we weren't shown the attack in all its horror. A crying Michael Lucas looming over Trish's inert body was awful enough,' added the Independent. The Daily Lies spoke of 'a massive surprise twist,' whilst rape counselling services praised the show's portrayal of the reality of sexual assault according to the Evening Standard, while the police service also hailed Broadchurch as 'harrowing viewing with a vital message.' Which is as much as one can ever ask of a TV drama concerning such an important subject.
36. SS-GB
'The axe never mourns the tree it fells.' Based on the 1978 novel by Len Deighton, SS-GB was set in an alternative 1941 in which the South of Britain is occupied by Nazi German forces, having lost the Battle of Britain. Douglas Archer (Sam Riley), a highly successful Scotland Yard detective, is working under a German superior. As a homicide detective, Archer avoids involvement in political crime. He views resistance as pointless and hopes the German occupation will end soon. Then comes an apparently inconsequential case which will have far-reaching repercussions of Archer and for his country. The series received broadly positive reviews, with the Torygraph saying that the 'alt-history thriller deserves a follow-up series.' The Independent said it was 'absorbing.' The Gruniad whose reviewers had rather sneered at the opening episodes, radically changed their tune for the finale: 'After four often dreary episodes, the occupation suddenly shifted into a complex, compelling and suitably odd place.' The main criticisms were predominantly whinges regarding the sound quality and reportedly 'inaudible dialogue' for some viewers in the first episode, which the BBC offered to 'look at' for future episodes. Whether they did or not is unknown although, sadly, they didn't take the opportunity to issue a statement advising those whingers who said they couldn't hear to try washing their cloth-ears out with soap and water and, you know, quit whinging. The first couple of episode achieved excellent ratings - with over eight and a half million viewers tuning into the first - though, as the series went on, ratings gradually declined. Riley's rather mannered performance somewhat divided the opinion of critics although the rest of the cast - which included Kate Bosworth, James Cosmo, Maeve Dermody, Jason Flemyng, Aneurin Barnard, Lars Eidinger and Rainer Bock - received good notices. The scripts, by Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, mainly stuck to Deighton's source novel although the finale was subtly different.
37. Tin Star
'Find them and kill them!' A British-Canadian drama series created by Rowan Joffe that debuted on Sky Atlantic in September and was released on Amazon Prime in the USA three weeks later, Tin Star was a harsh, brutal, often uncomfortably raw revenge saga with a labyrinthine plot. The ten-part series starred Tim Roth, Genevieve O'Reilly, Abigail Lawrie, Oliver Coopersmith and Christina Hendricks. In it, former London undercover police detective Jim Worth (the always terrific Roth) is the, seemingly gentle, new police chief of Little Big Bear, a small town at the edge of the Canadian Rockies, where his family of four has moved to escape his violent past. But, thanks to a chief of security for North Stream Oil, the oil company that dominates the town, Worth's past working undercover as a drug-dealer catches up with him. He and his wife, Angela, call into service Jim's violent, alcoholic alter-ego, Jack Devlin, to fight anyone they suspect of hurting their family. From the producers of Broadchurch, Tin Star has been described as 'a mixture between Breaking Bad and Twin Peaks,' which isn't really very accurate. And, as 'a wannabe Fargo that's more latter-day Sons Of Anarchy.' Which is closer, but still not that on the money. It does, however, benefit from some excellent performances. The Spectator hated it. Variety were sniffy about it, though the Torygraph ('a stylish thriller') and Digital Spy were more supportive. In truth, after starting really well, the series did somewhat meander in the middle, with whole episodes told in flashback and devoted to the back-story of somewhat peripheral characters. But, it ended with not so much a bang a sodding-great nuclear explosion. Where the - already commissioned - second series goes from that blood-soaked carnage is anyone's guess.
Also mentioned in dispatches: University Challenge, The Halcyon, Great British Railway Journeys, Silent Witness, An Island Parish: Anguilla, Yellowstone, No Offence, Shadowhunters, James May: The Ressembler, Italy's Invisible Cities, Unforgotten, Sword, Musket & Machine Gun: Britain's Armed History, Death In Paradise, The World's Most Extraordinary Homes, NCIS, Britain's Best Walks With Julia Bradbury, Endeavour, Walking The Americas, Killing Reagan, Thailand: Earth's Tropical Paradise, Hospital, Not Going Out, The Sound Of Musicals With Neil Brand, Imagine: Listen To Me Marlon, This Is Us, Spy In The Wild, The Grand Tour, Apple Tree Yard, Call The Midwife, Further Back In Time For Dinner, Case, Who Do You Think You Are?, The Cult Next Door, Francis Bacon: A Brush With Violence, Suits, George III: The Genius Of The Mad King, Crackanory, Art Of France, Tales From The Coast With Wor Geet Canny Robson Green, British Empire: Heroes & Villains, Fortitude, Cheetahs: Growing Up Fast, Birds Of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest, SAS: Rogue Warriors, The Fake News Show, Pigeons & The British, Roots, Legion, Arena: Alone With Chrissie Hynde, Terry Pratchett: Back In Black, Lion Country: Night & Day, Andrew Marr : My Brain & Me, Life Of A Mountain: A Year On Blencatra, The Great British Skinny Dip, The Real Marigold Hotel, The Kettering Incident, Russia's Hooligan Army, Storyville: Notes On Blindness, The Lake District: A Wild Year, The Team, Tom Waits: Tales From A Cracked Jukebox, Life, Animated, The Railways That Built Britain, Billions, Incredible Medicine: Doctor Weston's Casebook, Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?, The Swingers, Madame Tussaud: A Legend In Wax, The Brokenwood Mysteries, The Secrets Of Your Food, Stan Lee's Lucky Man, Stealing The Mona Lisa, The Replacement, 1066: A Year To Conquer England, The Secret Science Of Pop, Imagine ..., Prime Suspect 1973, This World: The Attack - Terror In The UK, Sound Waves: The Symphony Of Physics, Follow The Money, Would I Lie To You?, The Man Who Shot Tutankhamun, Britain In Focus: A Photographic History, Mutiny, Brexit: Britain's Biggest Deal, War Child, Big Little Lies, Murder In Italy, Midnight Sun, Pedalling Dreams: The Raleigh Story, The Last Kingdom, Tony Robinson: Coast To Coast/Britain's Ancient Tracks With Tony Robinson, Britain At War: The Imperial War Museums At One Hundred, Vera, The Best Of British Takeaways, Primodos: The Secret Drug Scandal, Yorkshire: A Year In The Wild, Passions, How Police Missed The Grindr [sic] Killer, Syria's Disappeared: The Case Against Assad, Jane The Virgin, MrsBrown's Boys/All Round To Mrs Brown's, Harlots, Storyville: Last Days Of Solitary, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum & Dad, Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge, Gravity & Me: The Force That Shapes Our Lives, Brian Pern: A Tribute, Galapagos, Walks With My Dog, The Good Fight, Eyewitness, Decline & Fall, Spying On The Royals, Child Of Our Time, Match Of The Day, Roof Racks & Hatchbacks, How To Be A Surrealist With Phillipa Perry, The Trip To Spain, Dust Storm, Warship, Should We Go To Mars?: The Big Think, Into The Wind, Second Chance Summer: Tuscany, Guerrilla, Bucket, Spin, Maigret's Night At The Crossroads, Nature's Wildest Weapons: Horns, Tusks & Antlers, Reported Missing, Confessions Of A Junior Doctor, Orange Is The New Black, Born To Kill, Mind Over Marathon, Dial "B" For Britain: The Story Of The Landline, Versailles, Murder In Successville, The Durrells, Grantchester, Little Boy Blue, Paragon, Locked Up, Wor Geet Canny Brian Johnson's Life On The Road, The Blacklist, The Red Tent, Genius, Horizon: Why Did I Go Mad?, British Jews German Passport, Britain's Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story, Hinterland, Dara & Ed's Road To Mandalay, Football Abuse: The Ugly Side Of The Game, Elizabeth I: Battle For The Throne, King Charles III, Public Enemy, The Truth About Sleep, Buddy Holly: Rave On, OJ: Made In America, Doctor In The House, Three Girls, Strange Signals From Outer Space!, Michael Mosley Versus The Superbugs, Kat & Alfie: Redwater, Tesla, Inspector George Gently, The Trial: A Murder In The Family, The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway, Horizon: Space Volcanos, The Met: Policing London, White Gold, Black Widow, Paula, Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors, Cabins In The Wild With Dick Strawbridge, Springwatch/Autumnwatch, The Chilleden Murders, Grayson Perry: Britain Divided, Fargo, The Great Fire: London Burns, Frank Skinner On Muhammad Ali, A Tale Of Two Sisters, Catching A Killer, Cardinal, Shots Fired, Lord Lucan: My Husband, Suzi Perry's Queens Of The Road, Tried & Tasted: The Ultimate Shopping List, Election 2017, Mad Frankie Boyle's New World Order, David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities, The Loch, Inside God's Observatory, The Art Of Japanese Life, Horizon: Cyber Attack - The Day The NHS Stopped, Jo Cox: Death Of An MP, The Joy Of Tech, Ackley Bridge, Riviera, Merciless, Ripper Street, Chance, Meet The Hedgehogs, Who Should We Let In?: Ian Hislop On The First Great Immigration Row, False Flag, Britain's Great Gay Buildings, Storyville: Tokyo Girls, Sudan: The Last Of The Rhinos, Theresa Versus Boris: How May Became PM, Outlander, Melvyn Bragg On TV, George Best: All By Himself, Oink: Man Loves Pig, The Betrayed Girls, Fifty Shades Of Gay, The Yorkshire Dales & The Lakes, Robert Redford's The West, Joanna Lumley's India, The Highland Midwife, Dicte: Crime Reporter, Rock N Roll Guns For Hire: The Untold Story Of The Sideman, Museum Of The Year, Epidemic: When Britain Fought AIDS, Catching A Killer: The Wind In The Willows Murder, This Was My Dad, Einsatzgruppen: Nazi Death Squads, In The Dark, The British Garden: Life & Death On The Lawn, Decoding Disaster: A Timewatch Guide, How To Get Away With Murder, Zoo, I Know Who You Are, Britain's Lost Waterlands, Nadiya's British Food Adventure, When Football Banned Women, The Sweet Makers, The Mash Report, Performance Live: Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere, Forest, Fields & Sky: Art Out Of Nature, The Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government, Against The Law, Top Of The Lake: China Girl, Midnight Texas, The People's History Of LGBTQ Britain, Fifty Years Legal, World War One Remembered: Passchendaele, Man In An Orange Shirt, Queers, Billy Connolly: Portrait Of A Lifetime, Gareth Thomas Versus Homophobia, Utopia: In Search Of A Dream, My Family, Partition & Me: India 1947, Citizen Jane: Battle For The City, In Search Of Arcadia, Valkyrien, Secrets Of Silicon Valley, North Korea: Murder In The Family, Out Of Thin Air: Murder In Iceland, No More Girls & Boys, Milton Keynes & Me, Saving Lies At Sea, I'm Dying Up Here, Professor T, Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?, The State, Fake Or Fortune?, Silk Road: Drugs & The Dark Web, Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia, The Pacemakers, Iolo's Great Welsh Parks, Victoria, Strike: The Cuckoo Calling, Mountain: Life At The Extreme, Frank Lloyd Wright: The Man Who Built America, Educating Greater Manchester, Comedy Playhouse: Tim Vine Travels In Time, Cruel & Unusual, Trump's War On The Border, White Kid Brown Kid, The Twenty First Century Race For Space, Safe House, Strictly Come Dancing, Rellik, Liar, The Search For A New Earth, Tribes, Predators & Me, Marc Bolan: Cosmic Dancer, Black Lake, Cinema Through The Eye Of Magnum, W1A, Doc Martin, Porters, Front Row, The Child In Time, Listen To Britain 2017, Through The Lens Of Larkin, Billion Dollar Deals & How They Changed Your World, Britain's Lost Masterpieces, Russia With Simon Reeve, The Last Pirates, Britain Afloat, WH Auden In An Age Of Anxiety, The Last Post, Tunes For Tyrants: Music & Power With Suzy Klein, Sex, Chips & Poetry: Fifty Years Of The Mersey Sound, XTC: This Is Pop, Louis Theroux: Dark States, Bobby Charlton At Eighty, The Gifted, Our Girl: Nepal Tour, Red Dwarf XII, Lucy Worsley's Night At The Opera/British History's Biggest Fibs With Lucy Worsley, Snowfall, Chris Packham: Asperger's & Me, Trump & Russian: Sex, Spies & Scandal, England's Reformation: Three Books That Changed A Nation, Jacqueline Du Pré: A Gift Beyond Words, Elizabeth I's Secret Agents, A Year In An English Garden: Flicker & Pulse, The Viet'Nam War, Retreat: Meditations From  Monastery, Eight Days That Made Rome, Nigella (She Has Her Knockers): At My Table, Babylon Berlin, Chris Tarrant Extreme Railway Journeys, Women At War: One Hundred Years Of Service, The A Word, Detectorists, Angry, White & American, The Royal British Legion Festival Of Remembrance, Howards End, Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football & Me, The Boy With The Topknot, Stuck On You: The Football Sticker Story, Venus Uncovered, Digging For Britain.

Those That Weren't Any Bloody Good At All:-

1. The Nightly Show
The main purpose of The Nightly Show was a (completely pointless) attempt to serve as 'a British response' to the popularity of five-nights-per-week late-evening talkshows which are so popular in the United States (Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show, Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show et al). ITV claimed that the eight-week series - with a different host each week - would feature 'a high-tempo mixture of topical monologue, studio games, celebrity guests, experts and VTs.' Which, frankly, sounded awful. But, as it turned out, no one could possibly have predicted just how awful it was going to be. It was described, before the series began, as 'a cross between Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and The Late Late Show With James Corden.' That, in and of itself, should've warned us all of the calamity to come. ITV's decision to put the show into the 10pm slot, thus necessitating a move for News At Ten produced a mixture of disbelief and outrage in the British media - both print and social - at the clear implication that banal z-list celebrity-led nonsense such as this was considered to be more important than The News by ITV. (This move also didn't help News At Ten's audience, which dropped even further behind the BBC's Ten O'Clock News than it had been previously.) The series kicked-off in a blaze of publicity in the last week in February with full-of-his-own-importance smarm-bucket David Walliams as its first host. To the delight of many, the programme lost over half of its initial overnight audience (2.8 million punters) between episodes one and two (1.3 million). The ratings stayed in that sort of range, occasionally moving back up towards two million when some other hapless host took over (John Bishop, Davina McCall, Dermot O'Dreary, Jason Manford and Bradley Walsh, among others) but often falling with a muffled crunch below one million. In response, ITV finally surrendered to the inevitable and swapped The Nightly Show and News At Ten in March, something which only helped to highlight what a ruddy stupid idea the original scheduling had been. The critics hated it, particularly those opening episodes fronted by Walliams who was roundly lambasted for the truly sickening amount of money he was reported to be earning for fronting such a - critical and commercial - flop. The Torygraph called The Nightly Show: 'As flat as a Shrove Tuesday pancake. Looking at what had replaced him in the schedules, newsreader Tom Bradby must have been gnashing his teeth with frustration. The Nightly Show needs to improve fast if ITV are to avoid expensive dental bills - not to mention egg on their face.' 'This latest attempt to achieve here what Johnny Carson and David Letterman made an indispensable part of the American schedules showed, on its first outing, what a steep leap the format is in Britain, even if it were not squatting in the home of a journalistic institution,' the Gruniad added whilst The Times's critic sneered: 'I did not feel the pleasurable shock of the new, I felt as if something awkward had landed on my foot.' Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins who had been due to host week three, pulled out very publicly. The duo released a joint statement, citing their 'busy schedule' as the reason for their cancellation. One or two people even believed them. Radio Times, in a piece that was supposed to highlight some of the show's forthcoming guest, described it as 'ITV's beleaguered entertainment format.' Many queried their use of the word 'entertainment' to describe pretty much anything connected to The Nightly Show. Apart, perhaps, from the amusement that its failure caused throughout the land. Later in the run - or, rather, the limp - the Gruniad ran a piece entitled The Nightly Show: why this desperate take on the US talkshow is a catalogue of failures. After the series had ended - to no great sorrow by pretty much anyone - in August Radio Times reported that 'The Nightly Show didn’t work and won't be returning at 10pm admits ITV boss.' They quoted Kevin Lygo, ITV's director of programming, as saying: 'There's a million reasons [why]. With hindsight, a different host every week made it very difficult for the production team. The theory was that if you build the show there would be these fun people you would slot in each week. What happened of course, on week four you'd have a new host who would come on and say "I'm not doing that" and you'd have to reinvent the show.' He added that he might still bring the show back in a later time slot but, the magazine noted, 'he sounded doubtful.' Later in the year another attempt at a broadly similar conceit by ITV, After The News, whilst hardly reinventing the wheel, at least proved vaguely watchable and appeared to have put the final, deserved, nail in The Nightly Show's coffin. 'Whereas its predecessor unwisely tried to be The Graham Norton Show without Norton or his A-list guests, After The News is a karaoke Newsnight,' said the Gruniad. Plus, it's jolly unlikely that ITV are paying Nick Ferrari and Emma Barnett the kind of bread that Walliams reportedly got.
2. Host The Week
Channel Four's 'bold new entertainment format' debuted in June to a mixture of staggering viewer indifference and withering critical contempt. Like ITV's equally unsuccessful - and equally rotten - The Nightly Show each week a different z-list celebrity was due to present the programme, which was unrehearsed and unscripted and, as many people pointed out, a truly terrible idea. One says 'was due to' as Host The Week set some sort of record for British television by being cancelled after just one episode had been broadcast. 'After being deemed "unwatchable" by some viewers, Channel Four has pulled the plug on new entertainment show Host The Week,' noted Radio Times. 'Originally commissioned for three episodes, the broadcaster has confirmed that the two further planned episodes will now not be going ahead. "We are brave enough to take risks with innovative programme ideas but also to acknowledge they don't all work and move on," a spokesperson for Channel Four said.' From the makers of BBC3's Murder In Successville - something which, in itself, you'd think they would want to keep quiet about - the format featured a wretched z-list celebrity guest 'host' who would have no prior knowledge about what was going to happen in the episode. Which, left them in the exactly same boat as the handful of viewers who tuned-in to watch this rank disaster. The first - and, as it turned out, only - episode was hosted by someone called Scarlett Moffatt (no, me neither), while odious and unfunny lanky streak of worthless piss Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall was lined up to present episode two. The fact that Channel Four pulled the plug before Whitehall got within a street of the studio should perhaps be final proof, dear blog reader, that there is a God after all. At the time of commission, Channel Four's Head of Events, Entertainment & Sport, Ed Havard said: 'This hilarious and topical hybrid show will offer a unique televisual experience for viewers as anything can, and probably will happen.' Whether Ed Havard will still be Channel Four's Head of Events, Entertainment & Sport for very much longer if he keeps commissioning risible tripe like this is a question for, perhaps, another day. The Torygraph searched social media for outrage. And found plenty. So did the Digital Spy website ('enough to put me off TV forever,' noted one disgruntled viewer). That intellectual heavyweight OK! magazine interviewed Little Miss Moffatt (who is, apparently, a reality TV-type person with previous form on Gogglebox and I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want)). Moffatt, predictably, was less-than-happy that she was getting all the blame for this fiasco. Now, apparently, she wants her own chat show. So, that should be worth avoiding. Metro had a right good laugh at Channel Four's 'misfortune.' So, more pointedly, did BBC News. In years to come, dear blog reader, it is quite likely that ageing TV viewers will sit around the fire and ask each other 'where were you when Host The Week's only episode was shown?' What is certain is that very few of them will be able to reply: 'I was watching it.'
3. A League Of Their Own: US Road Trio 2.0/A Premier League Of Their Own
Believe it or not, this hateful and breathtakingly unfunny exercise in crass smugness and celebrity-by-non-entity is, supposedly, 'very popular.' I'm not entirely sure with whom since this blogger has never met a single person who has admitted to sitting through an entire episode of it without wanting to smash their TV set to escape the horror. It is a sports-based lack-of-comedy panel show - 'They Think It's All Over without the jokes', if you will - hosted by that odious, unfunny, full-of-his-own-importance Corden individual and featuring the former cricketer Andrew Flintoff (nice lad, bit thick) and the former footballer Jamie Redknapp (nice lad, extremely thick) as team captains. Worthless lanky streak of rancid piss Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall is another regular which, despite the presence of that other ladgeful pillock Corden, remains the one overriding reason why A League Of Their Own should be avoided by anybody with an ounce of dignity or self-respect in their bodies. Sky previously announced that they had signed a three-year deal with these people, which will see the show remain on-air until 2018 despite Corden's - frankly baffling - success in the US which most of us had hoped would mean British TV viewers might be spared his presence for a while. Variously described as 'A Question Of Sport for idiots,' 'the televisual equivalent of Nuts magazine,' 'dull, unimaginative and painfully protracted' and 'showing very few laughs and little charm' - and, those are some of nicer and more family-friendly bits of critique this blogger could find - A League Of Their Own is a perfect illustration of pretty much everything that is wrong with Britain in the Twenty First Century. On television and, indeed, in society as a whole. These glakes think they're so clever, so amusing, so rebellious. And they're not, they're just bloody obnoxious and arrogant in equal measure. Even more hateful and horrifying than the show itself was a so-called 'special' US Road Trip, in which Whitehall, Flintoff and Redknapp visited Corden in America. Digital Spy reported that the trip 'almost' saw Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall being 'beaten up.'. But, he wasn't. As with so much else about America at the moment, just one more reason to be very disappointed with our Stateside cousins.
4. Eden: Paradise Lost
Eden, a Channel Four reality series, was broadcast in July and August 2016. It featured twenty three participants living for a year in a remote part of Scotland, 'attempting to build a self-sufficient community.' Filmed by the participants themselves, production began in March 2016. To ensure that no members of the public entered the site during filming, the production company was granted a temporary suspension of the public right of access by Highland Council and Scottish Ministers. The application was highly controversial, with objectors expressing fears for the environment and supporters suggesting the series would potentially boost the local economy. But, it didn't. Unknown to the participants, broadcasting ceased after just four episodes had been shown due to a combination of piss-poor ratings and general viewer apathy. However, five further episodes were broadcast as Eden: Paradise Lost over a year later in August 2017. A social experiment based around community building had previously been pioneered the BBC in Castaway. Previewing the show, the Radio Times identified several failings of the Castaway production that Eden should avoid by 'getting the right number of interesting participants,' ensuring every moment is filmed, maintaining the isolation of the participants - preventing visitors and journalists from gaining access - and stopping participants smuggling in radios and mobile phones. The Gruniad's Hannah Ellis-Petersen wrote a particularly sneering article - of the kind the Gruniad specialises in - headlined TV show contestants spend year in wilderness - with no one watching. 'After a year cut off from modern life in the Scottish Highlands, imagine re-emerging to find a world where Donald Trump is US president, Britain has left the EU and Leicester won the Premier League. For the contestants of the Channel Four programme Eden, coming back from isolation means not just coming to terms with 2017 but also the news that their year of toil in the wilderness barely made it on to television.' A report in the Aberdeen Press & Journal quoted one local resident, Maria Macpherson, excellently Copper's Narking that participants 'needed to visit a local dentist' after 'eating chicken grit. It has not done this area any favours - it has just not lived up to expectations,' whinged Maria. In March 2017, the ten contestants that had survived the full year, arrived home to find that the show had been cancelled months earlier. Which, to be fair, was funny. The UK press gleefully picked up that many of the contestants had left the site due to the disillusionment, as well as tales of drunkeness and apparent near-starvation. This blog had great fun following the saga over several months worth of stories. Some of those who had left the camp took to social media, suggesting that the editing of the show 'did not offer a full picture.' 'Channel Four has repackaged its flop survival show to reveal what went wrong,' wrote the Gruniad when Paradise Lost began. 'This is all very silly and inept and not quite the Lord-of-the-Flies descent into carnage that was hinted at.' 'Are the contestants from Eden: Paradise Lost the biggest bunch of dickwads in reality TV?' asked the NME, not unreasonably. One of the contestants appeared on Good Morning Britain and admitted that bullying had gone on. Channel Four's commissioning editor Ian Dunkley told the Gruniad: 'I don't think anyone expected it to go as feral and dark as it did.' Or to get as few viewers as it did, presumably.
5. Porridge
When it was announced in 2016 that this blogger's scriptwriting heroes Dick Clement and Ian La Frenias were working on the pilot episode of an update of their 1970s sitcom classic Porridge, starring Kevin Bishop playing the grandson of Ronnie Barker's character in the original, many TV commentators - this blogger very much included - were horrified. Concerned. Appalled. Disgusted. Aghast. We threatened to resign from the human race in protest if this malarkey turned out to be as bad as we feared it would. In the end, the one-off pilot, broadcast in August 2016, was actually sort of all right. Not great, by any five year stretch of the imagination but, nevertheless, the work of two very good writers producing something that even Kevin Bishop couldn't screw up (to be fair, Bishop was also quite good in it). Therefore, it was unsurprising that the BBC asked for series. And, that was where is all went pear-shaped. 'In the first episode, New Fletcher is writing letters for less educated inmates in exchange for sweets, soap and smokes - much as his grandad [sic] did in an episode called Men Without Women,' noted the Gruniad. 'He tells fellow inmate Barry that he, too, went out with a Joanne once. "She left me for a lady contortionist at the Cirque du Soleil - talk about getting your knickers in a twist!" It's a line that could have come straight from the original (if Cirque du Soleil had been around in 1974). They all are - unsurprisingly, I guess, given who wrote them - and the studio audience chortles dutifully ... But it isn't a good idea. What might once have been a sharp one-liner now looks and sounds like a throwback, nostalgic at best, but more likely just lame. The audience laughter doesn't help. Tastes do change. Ronnie Barker's boots are very big and hard to fill. This will tarnish the memory of the original. Don't let it; ignore it. Some things are best left as that - a memory.' 'This updated version struggles to elicit pathos, in part because Bishop emulates Barker's mannerisms and speech patterns rather than his skills as an actor,' added the Torygraph. 'Meanwhile, Mark Bonnar and Dominic Coleman as the prison warders are, essentially, doing impersonations of Fulton Mackay and Brian Wilde in the original. The best performance comes from Dave Hill as an ageing lag with a fading memory, but he is also the show's biggest problem. He is Fletch's cellmate and their underwritten relationship makes you yearn for Old Fletch/Godber's poignant friendship. Watching the new Porridge is like visiting a favourite old café only to find that its best bits have been jettisoned: the tomato-shaped ketchup bottles have been replaced by sachets, the Formica tables by stripped pine. Sometimes the past is best left alone.' Kevin Bishop's Porridge sequel savaged by fans of the original claimed the Digital Spy website based on a dozen-or-so outraged Twitter posts. 'It's worth keeping in mind that this spin-off was developed for BBC1 by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the writing team behind the 1970s classic. So, blame them!' Perhaps the best comment on the revival came from the i's Jeff Robson: 'For anyone with memories of the original, this was pretty thin gruel,' he wrote. A pun which was, frankly, funnier than anything else in the six episodes.
6. Bromans
As truly desperate TV formats go, ITV2's Bromans could win some sort of award for the most moronic of all. The contestants - a right bunch of 'everybody look at me, me, me, me, me, me, me' attention-seeking Claudius's - competed against each other in Ancient Rome-themed physical challenges. Their girlfriends joined them to 'provide support' and competed in their own contests. The winning 'gladiator' received ten grand and an instant passport to a life of appearances in future series of I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want), Z-List Celebrity Big Brother and other reality formats of a similar ilk. 'When the first trailer for Bromans surfaced last month, it was loudly decried by the Twitteratti as "tawdry", "trashy" and "garbage", wrote the Torygraph's Tristram Fane Saunders. 'Thankfully, tonight's premiere was all those things and more. Bromans is, essentially, The Crystal Maze for Geordie Shore rejects. The familiar elements were all there: fake tans, bulging biceps and badly thought-out group activities. A few viewers will probably complain about to Ofcom about the barely-post-watershed nudity, but for everyone else this was an hour of reassuringly tacky reality TV. If, as Marcus Aurelius wrote, "the things we want in life are empty, stale and trivial," Bromans is destined to become a hit.' The opening montage set the tone. 'Let's talk about bums, boobies, bants and sex,' grinned one of the eight 'modern day lads,' who have been 'transported back to Ancient Rome' - or as much of Rome as you can get for an ITV2 budget. 'Bromans is unabashed about how terrible it is,'continued Tristram. 'This is pure trash TV, unsullied by any deeper purpose. Unlike rival fare (Channel Four's Naked Attraction, say) it makes no attempt to hide the cheap titillation behind a figleaf of educational value. They're bros! Dressed as Romans! And that's it.' Todgers, togas and total plonkers battle it out in this brutal new ITV2 reality show sneered Radio Times. 'It's hard to think it can get any worse. And then you see the teaser for next week's episode that shows the boys inserting their balls into Plaster of Paris and having moulds taken of their manhoods. Civilisation is almost certainly doomed.' The Daily Scum Mail was appalled - I mean, they're always appalled by something but this time they seemed more appalled than usual - describing Bromans as 'vain and vacuous.' Which, actually, is being awfully unfair to perfectly reasonable vain and vacuous conceits. 'It's like Ben Hur without the excitement, the story, the morality or any point at all ... It's an achievement, really, to breed a generation that can't tell the difference between Up Pompeii! and a Mary Beard documentary - and that doesn't care, as long as they get to flash their six-packs in the sunshine. These are Tony Blair's millennials. The nation can be proud.' (This blogger thinks that yer man Tony Blair can be blame for many things but, Bromans probably isn't one of them.) 'Uncomfortably terrible,' said The Scotsman. 'The stupidest thing I have seen on television,' added The Times. 'Bromans takes us back thousands of years - in more ways than one,' was another comment. The potential for an American version of the format horrified Mashable's Chris Taylor. 'When ITV says "they'll live and fight like gladiators did two thousand years ago," we have to question whether ITV knows what words mean. Middle England may have a lot of bloodlust lurking in its outsider-hating, Brexit-voting subconscious, but it certainly wouldn't stand for the brutal slaughter of animals in the arena. But hey! Maybe this is just the beginning of a new era of TV. Reality shows have hit a repetitious rut; what could shock their jaded audience awake faster than actual gladiatorial combat? As in the movie Network, where 1970s-era domestic terrorism is given a prime-time slot, TV executives could cash in on the shock value. Now that the Trump administration has brought cynical personal enrichment via government out into the open, reality TV may soon become more honest and literal about what it really is: bread and circuses for the masses,' Even the Sun who normally lionise this kind of talent-free nonsense and make those who appear in these sort of shows into 'reality TV stars' called it 'trash television.' Mercifully the series was extremely cancelled after eight episodes in November 2017, probably due to laughably low ratings. This blogger believes it's probably fair to say that if one was to collect up everyone, both in front of and behind the camera, involved in this fiasco, stick them in a - very large - sack and then set about the bag with a stocking full of diarrhoea, very soon, the shit would hit someone who really deserved it.
7. Z-List Celebrity Juice
What A League Of Their Own is to Sky 1, the disgraceful shower of rancid festering spew Celebrity Juice is to ITV2. Television - unoriginal television at that - for the hard of thinking. 'Entertainment' which celebrates stupidity, ego and self-publicising. If A League Of Their Own is 'They Think It's All Over without the jokes (and with Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall)' then Celebrity Juice is Shooting Stars without the jokes or the charm (and with Holly Willoughby. And gloriously thin-skinned scourge of the bullies, Fearne Cotton).' The really annoying thing about Celebrity Juice is that creator Leigh Francis is a genuine comedy talent, the brains behind one of the most clever comedy formats of the last decade, Bo' Selecta! Sadly, his Keith Lemon character is obnoxious and twatty and, ultimately, about as funny as a good, hard eye-watering boot in the Jacob's Cream Crackers. 'Lemon', and his two thick-as-two-short-planks blonde things mince through every episodes with a look on their smug faces like they're so brilliantly postmodern and ironic. And, of course, they're not, they're just loud and vulgar and very annoying indeed. A programme which 'celebrates' the worthless z-list celebrity culture of the Twenty First Century in all its horrific, 'look at me, ma, I'm on the telly again!' garish self-importance, Celebrity Juice is sick and wrong on just about every level. This blogger has been accused of being something of a po-faced philistine for not 'getting the joke' with regard to this desperate and pointless waste of brainpower. Maybe that's true. Or, maybe the joke is so thin that this blogger has 'got it' and not found it to be funny. And, when 'the joke' largely consists of 'Lemon' describing one of his colleagues as 'Willoughbooby', Keith Telly Topping thinks he's right and the roughly one million people who watch this crass, worthless, hateful exercise weekly are wrong.
8. Bounty Hunters
In 2011 in an interview with the Radio Times the actor Paul McGann was asked 'who was the last person you changed the channel to avoid?' His reply was astonishingly far-sighted: 'I had to switch over from The Graham Norton Show because there was a young man on it who gave me what I can only describe as an allergic reaction. He was [called] Jack Whitehall and he's a stand-up, apparently.' Paul worried that he might be 'turning into a curmudgeonly old sod' for voicing such views. He wasn't, he was merely the first person to articulate to a wider public what an utter waste of oxygen Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall was/is. Which brings us to Bounty Hunters. When his antiques dealer father (Robert Lindsay) winds up in hospital following a rather mysterious accident, Barnaby (Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall) takes it upon himself to save the family's cash-strapped business. What could possibly go wrong? Well, casting Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall in the lead role in an alleged 'comedy' for one. Just who is it that keeps giving this horrible, unfunny, full-of-his-own-importance plank his own TV shows? Is it just me? Seriously, I'm starting to wonder if this blogger is guilty of persecuting odious risible lanky streak of piss Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall for some imagined series of Hellish crimes committed when everybody else on the planet was sitting watching him on telly saying 'he seems all right to me? I don't know what Keith Telly Topping's getting all het-up about.' Well, dear blog reader, the thing is this awful individual has the old King Midas In Reverse thing going for him, everything that he touches turns to shit. (The relief that this blogger felt during the summer when the line-ups for the current series of Qi were announced and, for the third year running, Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall wasn't on any of them was immense.) Seriously, TV executives, cut it out. You're making yourselves look like foolish fools by giving this horrible man employment in lamentable, laughless nonsense vehicles such as this. 'A silly script and a lack of laughs,' said the Gruniad. 'Rosie Perez should be on TV a lot more, Jack Whitehall should be on TV a lot less.' Yes. What they said.
9. Keith & Paddy's Worthless, Unfunny, Shat-Stinking Picture Show/ Even Better Than The Real Thing
Like Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall, Leigh Francis in his Keith Lemon persona appears twice in From The North's list of least favourite TV programmes of the year. Given that this blogger actually - unlike Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall - has some time for Francis's comedy when he's playing characters other than Lemon, that really does tell you how much Keith Telly Topping hates 'Keith Lemon' and everything he stands for. The fact that this worthless vehicle also includes professional Northern berk Paddy McGuinness is merely an added bonus of crapness. Keith & Paddy's Worthless, Unfunny, Shat-Stinking Picture Show is an allegedly 'comedic' tribute to some of Lemon and McGuinness's favourite films. Each week they attempt to recreate an iconic film, with the help of a z-list celebrity cast. (Some of those involved included John Barrowman, Mister Blobby, Chris Kamara, Phillip Schofield, Michelle Keegan, Jeremy Kyle, David Dickinson and That Awful Klass Woman.) Viewing figures dropped across the series from over five million for the opening episode to a mere 2.4 million for the fifth. A sure sign that the British public know a stinking turn when they are presented with one. The series, the Mirra claimed, left viewers 'in stitches.' Presumably, after slashing their own wrists to get away from this wretched, hideous example of smug twattery. ITV received a complaint about alleged racism in the series. Whether they received further complaints that it was about as funny as a big hairy boil on the bum is not known. It's only fair, since Leigh Francis is getting two entries in this year's Worst Of list, that McGuinness should as well. So come on down, please, Even Better Than The Real Thing, a 'tribute act' lack-of-talent show which is, in and of itself, a 'tribute act' to Stars In Your Eyes. It would have been bad enough if this 'one-off special' (and, again, one uses the word 'special' quite wrongly) had cropped up on ITV - it's only what we've come to expect - but the fact that it was commissioned and broadcast by this blogger's beloved BBC is just horrible. The Mirra - remember, the paper which so loved Keith & Paddy's Worthless, Unfunny, Shat-Stinking Picture Show - searched the Internet for horrified reactions and accusations of plagiarism so they could use the word 'slammed' in a headline. It's the tabloid equivalent of 'criticised' only with less syllables. So did the NME who used the most brutal they could find - 'a shit Madam Tussauds' - in their header. Whoever wrote that was being overly kind.
10. Blind Date
Exactly whose idea it was to revive the popular 1980s dating game show previously fronted by the late and much lamented Cilla Black buying the format for Channel Five is not known. As with their acquisition of Big Brother a few years ago, on one level it merely confirms that no one at Channel Five has a single original idea in their collective head. On another level, however, it shows the horribly incestuous, necrotic depths to which the television industry can sometimes stumble. Dating game shows are bad enough, of course - ITV's horrid Take Me Out is instant proof of that. But, bringing back this malarkey and having it presented by Paul O'Grady (a close friend of Cilla, as it happens) takes the conceit of television eating itself to a horrible new low. O'Grady seems to be a very nice chap and is a fine TV presenter in certain formats. But, he carries with him the baggage of a certain strain of mawkish sentimentality. That work fine when he's describing the rescue of abused family pets in Paul O'Grady's For The Love Of Dogs. But here, it just doesn't work at all. And, seemingly, the viewers agreed since audience figures dropped by almost fifty per cent across the six episodes. The Huffington Post trawled through social media for horrified reactions and, predictably, found plenty. To be fair, the series decision to have an LGBT episode won much praise and, good on them for that. O'Grady was, reportedly, unhappy that his 'saucy quips' had been 'axed' by producers. Although not with an actual axe, obviously cos that would've been messy.
11. Pitch Battle/Sing: Ultimate A Capella
In a year of many woefully horrible singing competition formats, Pitch Battle was, by a distance, the most rancid and disgraceful example and, thus, it was a surprise of pretty-much no one, when Pitch Battle was cancelled by the BBC after one series. The Saturday-night 'entertainment' show, fronted by Mel Giedroyc, debuted in June and saw vocal groups and choirs battling against each other in the hope of impressing judges Gareth Malone, Kelis and Will Young. Yes, dear blog reader, it was every bit as bad as that description makes it sound. Viewers of the series 'expressed some confusion' about the show being billed as an a capella competition when it featured backing tapes. Audience figures were, predictably, 'very disappointing.' A BBC spokesperson claimed: 'We are proud of Pitch Battle and would like to thank everyone involved in the show but we sometimes have to make difficult decisions in order to make room for new shows so it will not be returning to BBC1 next year.' Or, in slightly more truthful words, 'it was shit and no one watched it, so we're shoving it into the gutter along with all the other turds.' An alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun: 'It just didn't work from the word go and BBC bosses have decided to put it out of its misery.' Radio Times listed six reasons why Pitch Battle just didn't work of which number two was, perhaps the most interesting: 'There was a time when this sort of stuff was popular. High School Musical had t'weens learning the lyrics and moves to 'We're All In This Together' in 2006, Glee burst onto our TVs and sent 'Don't Stop Believin' to the top of the charts in 2009 while Pitch Perfect brought a capella to the masses in the 2012 movie. Was it that a senior commissioner at the Beeb only recently saw Pitch Perfect and thought it was "hip", "trendy" and what "the yoof" were into? Well, they were ... more than five years ago. The excitement surrounding this genre has undoubtedly waned; it feels strange that they unleashed a show like Pitch Battle on an unsuspecting public in 2017.'
Amazingly, late in the year, Sky produced an equally worthless lookalike, Sing: Ultimate A Capella, fronted by Cat Deeley. 'No, really, another singing show,' said an appalled someone at the Gruniad. 'If we know anything about talent shows, it's that they are TV's answer to the Hydra: cut down one and more will grow in its place. This is, says host Cat Deeley, "a singing show like no other", a bold claim given all the other programmes that have featured members of the public singing in front of audiences using their actual vocal cords ... While there is no disputing the friendship-building properties of this apparently overlooked art form, students reinventing The Flying Pickets for the Twenty First Century does not, alas, make for world-class entertainment. Odds are that, by Christmas, Sing will be lying in the TV morgue next to Let It Shine and Sky commissioning editors will brainstorming its successor. Because clearly we haven't suffered enough.' And, of course the reviewer - Fiona Sturges - was, ultimately, proved correct. Hers was one of very few reviews of the series, as sure sign that pretty much everyone else - viewers and critics alike - just weren't interested enough to comment on it, for negative or positive. Deadly Deeley didn't exactly help herself by 'slamming' (that's tabloid-speak for 'criticising' only with less syllables, remember) the 'boring' X Factor in the Daily Scum Express and that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads should be 'worried' by Sing: Ultimate A Capella. Given the pants down spanking that The X Factor has been getting weekly on Saturday and Sunday evenings from Strictly Come Dancing and that The X Factor has been pulling in some of its lowest ever audiences, one imagines that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads does, indeed, have more than a few worries at the moment. But one doubts, rather, that Deadly Deeley and her show with its regular final and consolidated weekly audience of less that three hundred thousand punters factors much into Wee Shughie's sleepless nights. Sky tried, desperately, to promote the show as something different but, in the end, the lady in the Gruniad was correct, it was 'just another singing show.' And, not a very good one, either.
12. Let It Shine/The Voice Kids/Dance, Dance, Dance
In 2017, you simply couldn't pick up a remote control without landing on TV singing and dancing competitions on no matter how much you tried. Some of them were all right (well, Strictly, at least was all right despite some plank of no importance at the Gruniad claiming before the series even started, and with no supporting evidence, that it was 'in a fight for its survival'. It, promptly, drew its best ratings in three series. Some were a case of diminishing returns, like The X Factor whose audience this year finally, after a few years of slow decline, fell through the floor. Some were wretched copycat formats which even the most gullible of the general public saw-through a mile away. As in the case of ITV's laughably piss-poor Dance, Dance, Dance, presented by Alesha Dixon and Ashley Banjo, a desperately second division Strictly lookalike featuring some z-listers you've never heard of. It failed to win a fraction of the audience of the BBC series and was critically ignored by pretty much everyone. The Voice moved from the BBC to ITV after five series and, to be fair, maintained a decent-sized chuck of its existing audience (there was about a million viewers per episode drop between the last BBC series and the first ITV one) and at least on a good day will-he-is and Sir Tom The Groans could be moderately entertaining. The same could not be said for its spin-off, The Voice Kids. Presenter Emma Willis commented: 'Hosting The Voice Kids will be like being at my house on a Saturday night; lots of kids singing, with me trying to keep some kind of order. It's going to be pretty awesome.' It wasn't. It was, in fact, pretty awful. A mere 3.7 million viewers watched the final (won by one Jess Folley who got thirty grand and trip to Disneyland for her efforts) and despite suspiciously concerted efforts by several tabloids to whip up some interest the general public appeared to be gloriously indifferent to the whole shebang. Let It Shine was a possibly the most ghastly format of all; a competition to find young men to star in The Band, a new stage musical featuring the songs of Take That. Presented by Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc, with elf-confessed Tory tax avoider Gary Barlow, Dannii Minogue and Martin Kemp serving as judges, it actually did reasonable, if unspectacular, business ratings-wise for BBC1 (starting with seven million, dropping to the mid-four million range mid-series before recovering to 5.2 million for the final). 'The studio audience were whipped up into a screaming frenzy,' said the appalled Torygraph. 'Copious confetti fell. Budget had been thrown at staging, props and backing dancers. Entertaining enough but not enough to cover the format's inherent faults.' According to the Daily Scum Mail - in a story, of course, sourced entirely from Twitter - 'viewers took to social media to claim the premise wasn't portrayed accurately, fuming at creator and head judge Gary Barlow, when it was revealed the plot will instead focus around female superfans of the group.' Soon, there was confirmation that the show would not be returning in 2018. 'Back For Good'? Nah, not so much.
13. Upstart Crow
When Ben Elton's last sitcom, the utterly disastrous The Wright Way, won this blog's award for the worst TV show of 2013 this blogger - a great admirer of Elton's work on The Young Ones and Blackadder - expressed the following hope: 'Ben, mate, this was just garbage. I'm sure you didn't set out for it to be garbage, but that doesn't change the fact that it was. Please go away, recharge your batteries, rediscover what it is you do that's good and come back with something that isn't garbage.' What he did, sadly, was come up with Upstart Crow. A first series was broadcast in 2016 as part of the commemorations of the four hundredth anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and a second followed this year. Apparently, despite average-at-best ratings it has been commissioned for a third. The title quotes 'an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers,' a critique of Shakespeare by his contemporary and rival Robert Greene in the latter's Groats-Worth Of Wit. Set from 1592 (the year of Greene's quotation), Shakespeare is played by David Mitchell, his wife, Anne Hathaway, by Liza Tarbuck and Greene himself by Mark Heap. David is exactly as you'd expect him to be, smug-as-Hell but not entirely unamusing (just like he is on Would I Lie To You? and Qi suggesting that it's not a comedy affectation and he really is like that. Which puts a whole new spin on why his missus, the divine Victoria, seems to be so cross so much of the time). But, as for the sitcom itself, it's rotten. 'The return of Ben Elton's Blackadder-style take on the travails of William Shakespeare with David Mitchell as the man himself. Actually, Blackadder this ain't by a long stretch, but it's likable [sic] and often clever in its satire of the bard's times,' wrote the Gruniad's David Stubbs. Wrongly. Elton has been quite forthright in saying that he feels television critics are far too harsh on sitcoms and he may have a point. But Upstart Crow, despite the presence of a - once - decent writer and some good comedy actors just isn't very good. Possibly it's trying too hard, possibly it's a triumph of style-over-content. This blogger will have no truck with the occasionally-voiced criticism that it's 'too clever for its own good.' That's bollocks. Comedy should be clever. But, it should also be funny and, sadly, this tragedy isn't. As the man himself once said: 'Mine eyes smell onions.'
14. Tina & Bobby
The recent trend for TV biopics of cultural icons at both the BBC and ITV has produced several genuinely impressive dramas (The Road To Coronation Street, An Adventure In Space & Time, We're Doomed, Most Sincerely, Hattie, Cilla, Fantabuloso, Eric & Ernie, Not Like That, Like This et cetera). And, one or two absolute stinkers. Tina & Bobby was an almost textbook example of the latter. Based on the relationship between the Posh 'nd Becks of their era, the West Hamsters United and England football captain Bobby Moore and his wife, Tina, this three-part drama broadcast in January covered the Moores' involvement with the 1966 World Cup, the Bogotá Bracelet incident (as Serious Drinking once sang: 'News At Ten and Tina heard, Bobby could be doin' bird!'), the 1970 World Cup and the marriage breakdown due to Bobby's infidelities. It was rotten, frankly, full of near-amateurish acting from the leads, Lorne MacFadyen and Michelle Keegan, and a hackneyed script that made Hollyoakes look like Citizen Kane. 'An unmanipulative account of simpler times,' claimed the Torygraph in a broadly sympathetic review of the opening episode. They were being far too kind. Keegan made an absolutely fool of herself when claiming during a pre-publicity interview that football 'wasn't a major sport' in the 1960s. She got roasted on a spit on social media for that and also over her allegedly 'patchy' accent. All of that nonsense was spectacularly incidental as far as this blogger was concerned. Keith Telly Topping had more empathy with those viewers who, according to the Metro described the drama as 'dull' and 'boring.' 'A disappointment from start to finish,' added the Daily Lies. Another negative point was that, in common with most big and small-screen portrayals of football, the actual on-pitch action was horribly staged. But then, one could also say that about The Damned United. A necessary difference was that was brilliant and award-winning film. Mainly because it had decent actors in it.
15. Release The Hounds: Famous & Freaked
Once described by the South Wales Argus as a programme in which 'the contestants appear to have been brought down by none other than Lassie' and 'the pursuit carries all the fear factor of an Ashleigh and Pudsey routine,' the fact that Release The Hounds: Famous & Freaked had managed to reach three series says so much about modern British television at its very worst. The show begins with the disclaimer 'The producers would like to thank the families of the participants. No dogs were harmed in the documentation of this event.' Each contest occurs at night, as three supposedly 'famous' contestants take part in gory and unpleasant challenges to find a key. After each successful round, one of the contestants has to run a floodlit course pursued by snarling ravenous dogs. The contestants are given a head start and they carry a red backpack containing several thousand pounds, which they can keep if they successfully reach the end of the course before the dogs catch up with them. Contestants who fail to reach the end of the course are attacked by the dogs and appear to be torn apart. This, dear blog reader, is what ITV2 considers to be 'entertainment' in 2017. Those z-listers taking part in the most recent series included such glittering stars of the firmament as Chloe Sims (no, me neither). And Chloe Ferry (no, me neither). And, lots of other reality TV-type individuals called Chloe. Probably. Why even the most desperate attention-seeking, 'I will do anything for money' numbskull would willing chose to participate in this reality TV version of hare coursing is somewhat beyond this blogger's understanding. The same could also be asked of why anyone would chose to watch this wretched horrorshow. For 'entertainment' or any other reason. This blogger needed a bath after doing so.
16. The Jump
For two years, Channel Four's witless reality series which follows various z-listers as they try - and, usually fail - to master winter sports (for the sole purpose of getting themselves on television) had pootled along to no great interest from either the vast majority of viewers or, indeed, the vast majority of hospitals. All that changed when the third series began in January 2016. It concluded six weeks later with the retired rugby union player Ben Cohen winning the series. Mainly because most of his opposition were, at that moment, in traction. The bloodbath kicked-off on 4 February when Tina Hobley was forced to withdraw from the competition after dislocating her elbow while training for a ski jump. Several months later, she was still whinging about how, since the injury, she has 'struggled' to 'drive, dress [and] wash my hair.' The actress claimed that her injuries had been 'worse than originally feared' and that she had sustained 'three major traumas.' Well, four, if you count being interviewed by Davina McCall from her hospital bedside. No one felt particularly sorry for Hobley since it was her own bloody stupid fault for signing up to such an insanely dangerous conceit in the first place. The same could be - and, indeed, was - said about Rebecca Adlington who was forced to withdraw from the competition the following day after dislocating her shoulder. Those two were merely the start of the production team keeping Innsbruck General in a steady stream of patients. Former Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle suffered the most serious injuries, needing surgery on her spine after a horrible crash, whilst Made In Chelsea-type person Mark-Francis Vandelli fractured his ankle. To be fair, most people did feel quite sorry for Beth cos she's a nice girl and it was a nasty injury. Linford Christie pulled a hamstring, ex-EastEnders actor Joe Swash chipped a bone in his shoulder, Girls Aloud's Sarah Harding injured her ligaments as did Tom Parker and Heather Mills - who been brought in as a replacement for Adlington - hurt her knee and thumb. And, made a real meal out of it but still didn't get much sympathy because, frankly, no one likes her very much. The Jump had already received almost blanket negative reviews from critics over the previous two series. Sally Newall of the Independent called it 'a bonkers, scary mash-up of Big Brother and Ski Sunday,' whilst a reviewer on the Digital Spy website described it as 'more painful than a snowball in the mouth.' In a one-star review, the Torygraph said: 'We were promised celebrities risking life and limb on The Jump. What we actually got was publicity-seeking C-listers plopping off a ski jump so small that it could double as a speed bump or playground slide. It all put the anti-climactic icing on a deeply disappointing cake.' The Gloucestershire Echo's reviewer added: 'This is reality TV taken to its limits; manufactured, emotionless crap wheeled out through desperation. I'm usually all for that, providing it throws up entertainment which this, sadly, lacks from start to finish.' As the injuries mounted, the press claimed that 'several viewers' had 'demanded' the show be cancelled. The Sun reported that insurance costs for the injuries sustained by cast members 'could' total over thirty grand per episode. The same newspaper then claimed in March 2016 that Channel Four had 'axed' the show 'after ratings collapsed.' Actually, they didn't, the episode average of slightly above two million punters who, seemingly, enjoy watching z-listers in danger of hurting themselves really badly was, broadly, the same as those for the previous series. Channel Four immediately said that this was 'categorically untrue.'
       The show returned for a fourth series in early 2017. Much publicity was gained from the fact that multi-Olympic medallists Sir Bradley Wiggins, Louis Smith and Jade Jones had agreed to take part (in Jade's case, to the very public disgust of her coach). Sir Brad lasted but two episodes before he had to pull out due to a broken leg. Model Caprice and rugby player Gareth Thomas followed him into Accident & Emergency over the subsequent weeks although, to be fair, the 2017 series didn't, quite, have the blood-soaked carnage of the previous year. Spencer Matthews (a Made In Chelsea-type person, apparently) eventually won the competition. 'This is probably the last we'll see of The Jump and rightly so,' claimed the Torygraph. 'After gaining a reputation as the most dangerous show on TV, claiming more celebrity casualties than a bear-trap on a red carpet, many pundits were surprised when it returned for a fourth year. This series won't have changed their minds. It saw four celebrity drop-outs - including headline name Bradley Wiggins - and was confusingly produced. This final aside, episodes were all pre-recorded - presumably to avoid serious injuries occurring live on the slopes, which is half the fun - but made to "feel" live, meaning viewers were baffled to see Wiggins and model Caprice quit the show yet remain on-screen for a fortnight. Presenter Davina McCall has been gratingly shouty and over-reliant on tiresome innuendo. Most disappointingly of all, the titular ski-jump has been unspectacular, with celebrities plopping apologetically off the end, like a teabag dropping off a spoon into a flip-top kitchen bin. Ratings have duly been unimpressive, coming in at around two million. Reviews, much like this one, have been lukewarm.' In July 2017 it was announced that the show was to be 'temporarily rested' and would not be returning in 2018 - 'after thirty four celebrity injuries' crowed the Mirra - however Channel Four said that it is expected to return in 2019. Whether the next bunch of episodes will see The Jump's first on-screen death, two million ghouls will probably tune-in to find out. The rest of us, hopefully, will find something more useful to do with our time. One thing is certain, however, there will never be any shortage of z-listers desperate to get themselves on telly. Even if it means, quite literally, breaking their own necks to do so.
17. Sounds Like Friday Night
Ever since the BBC cancelled Top Of The Pops as a weekly programme in 2006, many people - usually in their forties and fifties who haven't bought a chart single in a decade or more - have bemoaned its loss and campaigned, loudly, for its return. Or for the creation of something just like it. Sounds Like Friday Night, sad to report, isn't just like Top Of The Pops. Not even close. What it is like is a harder question to answer and one that the show itself, seemingly, struggles with. Reviving the concept of a prime time music show was always going to be a risky proposition for the BBC; the nature of Top Of The Pops - groups or solo singers appearing live in front of a studio audience - was seen to be somewhat old hat as more artists concentrated on making videos at the time the programme was cancelled. Although some fortysomethings might quite fancy the idea of a modern equivalent of Pan's People strutting their funky stuff to the latest X Factor winner who couldn't be bothered to come into the BBC to mime their new single or some slab of bangin' gangsta rap, it's probably fair to say that such an idea would be considered ludicrous by today's teenage pop consumers. Let's face it, the people for whom Top Of The Pops was always, primarily, aimed never seemed to miss it too much when it was gone. Sounds Like Friday Night attempted to wrestle with this conundrum by devising a format similar to the one-off 2015 special Adele At The BBC, which featured the singer not only performing but, also, taking part in a sketch in which she pretended to impersonate herself. Presented by broadcaster Greg James and rapper Dotty (no, me neither), Sounds Like Friday Night featured both emerging and established music acts, alongside - rather laboured - comedy sketches involving some of the artists appearing on the show. Guests on the opening episode were Jason Derulo (no, me neither), Charlie Puth (no, me neither) and Jessie Ware (no, me neither). And, therein lies the major problem with Sounds Like Friday Night; whereas Top Of The Pops was a genuine family programme which merely reflected whatever was selling in the world of pop music, Sounds Like Friday Night appears to wish to be cool, cutting-edge and down wid da kidz, something that Top Of the Pops only ever did during periods when its audience fell through the floor. Predictably, reviews of Sounds Like Friday Night were drawn up along mostly demographic lines. As Radio Times demonstrated by raiding social media for reactions. And, so did the Digital Spy website. And, so did the Independent. 'There was a glaringly obvious design flaw,' wrote the Torygraph echoing a commonly-voiced complaint. 'It didn't contain nearly enough music. Across its half-hour running time, we heard a mere four songs. You'd hear more in such young, thrusting places as local radio or Desert Island Discs ... Inevitably, the shadow of sadly defunct BBC institution Top Of The Pops - which got put out of its misery a decade ago - hung heavy over this shiny reboot. It's a tad like comparing apples and oranges. This had a different format, wasn't based around the chart countdown and wasn't a "this week in pop" zeitgeist barometer so much as a light entertainment mish-mash. There was no miming, no overly literal dance routines from The Go-Jos/Pan's People/Legs & Co/Hot Gossip (delete according to advanced age) - nor, fortunately, any Operation Yewtree-bothering presenters. Indeed, this felt more like TFI Friday than a pure pop show. There was too much stilted banter on balconies, too much "I'm a big fan" backslapping, too many people saying "amazin'" too many times. Pop shows should thrill teenagers, annoy parents and have baffled grandparents asking "What's this racket?" or "Is that a boy or a girl?' Instead this felt safe, cosy and about as shocking as a Marks & Spencers fleece.' This blogger is a fifty four year old man with an 'uge - and, even if he does say so himself, impressively varied - music collection who, nevertheless, last bought a chart single about fifteen years ago. So, it's probably fair to say that yer actual Keith Telly Topping is not the intended audience for Sounds Like Friday Night, this blogger fully accepts that. But, it seems that not even the intended audience knew what to make of this curious beast. It's only had six episodes, it may develop over the fullness of time into a decent format, the jury's still out on that. But the early signs are that when a programme itself can't make up its mind whether it wants to be one thing (Top Of The Pops) or another (Saturday Night Live) it ends up as neither.
18. An Evening With Take That
In which a Tory-supporting OBE who once wrote a charity single whilst, at the same time, avoided paying a vast proportion of his due income tax and a couple of his mates 'entertained' a generation of young mums. Asif Zubairy, the Commissioning Editor of Entertainment at ITV, said: 'Take That continue to be one of the best bands on the planet.' They do? 'I'm thrilled that ITV continue their longstanding relationship with the band and will host their brand new TV special. Viewers will be treated to a fantastic show with music that continues to resonate with fans of all ages.' They will? A fraction over three million punters watched this Saturday prime time ... thing so, seemingly, it didn't 'resonate' with all that many people. There were accusations that the trio were miming during the supposedly 'live' performance (unproven, as it happens). Elsewhere, some viewers expressed their disappointment that Jason Orange and Robbie Williams were absent. Interestingly, one of the songs Gary, Mark and Howard did was 'Never Forget'. Oh, if only we could.
19. Class.
In September, to the disappointment of almost exactly no one, the Doctor Who spin-off Class was officially cancelled by the BBC. Because it was crap and no one was watching it, basically. That's usually the reason why shows which get cancelled are cancelled. The news was confirmed by BBC Three controller Damian Kavanagh speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild. 'No, [we're not bringing it back]. There was nothing wrong with it – I thought Patrick [Ness] did a great job, he explored an amazing world. In honesty, it just didn't really land for us on BBC Three. Things sometimes don't and I've got to make decisions about what we're going to do from a drama point-of-view. There are always times when you do something and you have to decide that it's not going to come back. Class is just one of those things.' Class was created in theory to appeal to the 'young adult market' and, initially, released on BBC Three. It was hoped that 'high-quality original content' would attract young viewers to the online only station. However, the decision meant that Class was initially only seen by a fraction of the audience it would have received on a broadcast channel. Class did not make the BBC iPlayer Top Twenty in its first seven weeks and failed to secure over one million viewers at any point. The series was later repeated on BBC1, but as a late-night double bill, where it struggled to find any sort of an audience, getting viewing figures around a third of the timeslot average. Although some early reviews were positive - notably one in the Gruniad - The Daily Dot's Gavia Baker-Whitelaw gave the initial episodes a far more negative overview: 'Unless you’re completely new to supernatural teen dramas, Class will seem hopelessly formulaic. In the first two episodes, it offers nothing we haven't already seen in Buffy, Teen Wolf, or Smallville. The comparisons to Buffy are especially unflattering because Class displays none of its subversiveness or wit and Buffy was already playing with old tropes when it premiered almost twenty years ago.' Baker-Whitelaw went on to note that, despite the show's high-profile link to Doctor Who, 'It doesn't live up to the hype, failing to move beyond a watered-down Joss Whedon structure or exhibit fresh insight into young adult life. With so many brilliant teen dramas already available elsewhere, it’s hard to see what Class has to offer.' The Digital Spy website added: 'No-one - not even the BBC - seemed entirely sure who the show was for. A teen-oriented drama with adult themes, spun-off from a series intended (primarily) for children, the tone of Class was every bit as confused as that muddled origin would suggest. Like a hormonal teenager, the eight-part series was all over the place, with quite literal mood-swings ... Perhaps the biggest problem with Class, though, the one truly denying it success, was that it sorely lacked a big selling point. Clearly, spinning itself off from Doctor Who was not enough to guarantee success - and, even when the flagship was at its popular peak ten years ago, its spin-offs didn't just ride its coattails. Both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures justified their own existence. Class never quite did. With an uncertain and flawed first series failing to immediately prove that the show could stand on its two feet, Class ended up looking like the spin-off no-one asked for. And ultimately, it was the spin-off no-one wanted.' In June, writer and creator Patrick Ness announced that he would not be involved in any future commission of Class. Now, the BBC have decided that no one will.
Also no bloody good at all: Diversity Presents Steal The Show, The Great Interior Design Challenge, How To Lose Weight Well, Revolting, The Money Saving Diet Show, Z-List Celebrity Big Brother, Spies, Delicious, Taskmaster, Insert Name Here, Sugar Free Farm, War Of The Loan Sharks, We Have Been Watching, Caught Red Handed, Chewing Gum, Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?, Freddie Down Under, Coach Trip: Road To Marbs, Our Dancing Town, Britain's Benefit Tenants, Jeremy Kyle's Emergency Room, The World's Most Extraordinary Homes, Broken, Eurovision: You Decide, Scandal, Odious Oily Twat Piers Morgan's Life Stories, Lion Country: Night & Day, The Accused, Britain's Greatest Hoaxer, Z-List Celebrity Carry On Barging, Z-List Celebs Go Dating, Little Big Shits, Secrets Of The National Trust With Alan Bloody Titchmarsh, 24: Legacy, Mafia Women With Trevor McDonald, Schofield's South African Adventure, Catastrophe, Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule, Let's Sing & Dance For Comic Relief, John Bishop: In Conversation With ... , Dave's Guide To Spending Money, Made In Chelsea, The Only Way Is Essex, Peter Kay's Car Share, Bare Knuckle Fight Club, Rich House Poor House, Carters Get Rich, Spectacular Spain With Alex Polizzi, Henry IX, Our Friend Victoria, The Wild Weekenders, Fern Britton's Holy Land Journey, Operation Magic, Britain's Got Toilets, Big House Little House, Mind The Age Gap, Babushka, Britain Today Tonight, Michael McIntyre: Happy & Glorious, Babs, Eat The Week, Loaded, Masterpiece With Alan Bloody Titchmarsh, Long Lost Family: What Happened Next, Count Arthur Strong, Clique, Paul Hollywood's Big Continental Road Trip, Gogglesproggs, The Summer Of Love: How Hippies Changed The World, Wife Swap: Brexit Special, Battling The Bailiffs, How To Stay Well, The Z-List Celebrity Crystal Maze, Tracey Breaks The News, Twenty Four Hours In Police Custody, The Week The Landlords Moved In, Killer Women With Oily Piers Morgan, Naked Attraction, The Secret World Of Super Posh Pets, The Windsors, Ross Kemp: Extreme World, Love Island, Excluded At Seven, Teach My Pet To Do That, Joanna Lumley: Elvis & Me, Tax Dodgers, Diana: In Her Own Words/Princess Diana's "Wicked" Stepmother/ Diana: Seven Days/Diana: The Day Britain Cried/Diana: The Last Princess Of Wales/Diana & I, The Big Family Cooking Showdown, Quacks, Celebrity MasterChef, Ill Behaviour, Jamie's Quick & Easy Food, The X Factor, Whitney: Can I Be Me?, Back, Cannonball, The One Hundred Year Old Driving School, Stella, Ed Stafford: Left For Dead, The Next Jamie Vardy, The Russell Howard Hour, A Z-List Celebrity Taste Of Italy, Escape, A Matter Of Life & Debt, Z-List Celebrity Hunted, An Hour To Catch A Killer With Trevor McDonald, Zapped, Britain By Bike With Larry & George Lamb, Gordon Ramsey On Cocaine, Your Song, Feral Families, Harry Potter: A History Of Magic, Ball & Boe: Back Together, Motherland, Ghosted, Harry Styles At The BBC, Police Tapes, Addicted To Porn, Extreme Wives With Kate Humble, Don't Say It Bring It, Gone To Pot: American Road Trip, I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want).

Curiosities Of The Year:-
1. Top Gear
By the general consensus of pretty much everyone (except, possibly, Chris Evans), the second post-Clarkson, Hammond and May series of Top Gear was a vast and merciful improvement on the woefully inept previous one. Many column inches were devoted to the way in which Matt LeBlanc and his two mates (the two that nobody can remember the names of) had 'saved' one of the BBC's most important franchises from an inglorious and undignifed slide into obscurity. The show is still a massive seller for the BBC around the world and the Beeb even attempted, after the last series, to claim that although it is getting less viewers now than it used to, in the process it has found a new audience. Patrick Holland, the controller of BBC2, said the show audience expectation had been 'massive' when the Chris Evans revamp failed and added: 'We've got a much healthier audience this year. The response to the show has been much more positive. Audience appreciation scores are far higher than last year. It's a big show for BBC2. You can't compare it with [the previous production]. That was Jeremy and James and Richard's show, that was then, we are now. We have turned over a new leaf. Chris and Rory have been fantastic and Matt has been terrific in the films and he's really started to enjoy the studios more and more. The audience is younger. Young people really love the new Top Gear.' As for those of us 'not young' viewers who were big fans of Top Gear before that infamous fracas, only one problem remains; as good as they are, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid aren't Jezza, Hamster and Cap'n Slowly, much as the BBC wish that everyone would pretend that, actually, they are. Nevertheless, the show remains watchable, often funny and very occasionally brilliant. And, though many of us would prefer it to be something it no longer can be, the good continues, broadly speaking, to outweigh the bad.
2. Wor Geet Canny Robson Crusoe: A Surprising Adventure
'Ever since he was an eleven-year-old boy in rainy Northumberland, Robson Green has had one dream: to live on a desert island, like Robinson Crusoe,' the ITV press release for this most curious of exercises claimed. Which does draw the inevitable question what happened to Wor Geet Canny Robson Green sometime around his eleventh birthday to create this dream? Cos, presumably, for the previous ten years, Hexham had been satisfactory enough for the young Wor Geet Canny Robson Green. Anyway, forty years later Wor Geet Canny Robson finally got his chance on a tiny desert island in the South China Sea. 'But will it be the island paradise that he’s imagined? Or will it be something else entirely for Britain's most enthusiastic castaway?' Few bothered to tune-in and find out. Which, actually, is a pity as Wor Geet Canny Robson Green was, as he usually is, very watchable, amiable and amusing. As classic a case of 'nice talent, shame about the vehicle' as you could possibly wish to avoid.
3. The Great British Bake-Off
The finale of the first series of The Great British Bake Off on Channel Four attracted the network's second largest audience ever and its biggest for thirty two years. The final, which was won by Sophie Faldo, was watched by a consolidated audience of eleven million punters. Yes, that was around three million down on the audience achieved by the last series on BBC1 before Greed Productions got their greed right on but, as far as Channel Four was concerned, the acquisition of Bake Off has been nothing short of a triumph. Artistically, as opposed to commercially, the jury remains out. Most commentators felt that Mel and Sue replacements Sandi Toksvig and That Bloody Weirdo Noel Fielding dd a pretty good job. Paul Hollywood whinged that he'd been victimised for staying with Greed Productions and stirred up the shit by criticising his former colleagues for remaining loyal to the Beeb. Prue Leith's big contribution as Mary Berry's replacement was to tweet the name of the winner ten hours before the final episode had been shown. Hollywood had something to say about that, too. Whether this series' winner, Sophie Faldo, will have the same sort of post Bake Off career as Nadiya Hussain or whether she'll end up like Candice Brown, celebrating her z-list status on a returning Twatting About On Ice remains to be seen. But, ultimately, for all the bad taste in the mouth that Greed Productions left when they chose to take their ball and go home, Bake Off remains, even on its worst day, an entertaining diversion.
4. Star Trek: Discovery
Created for CBS All Access by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, Discovery was the first series developed specifically for that service and the first Star Trek TV show since Enterprise was very cancelled in 2005. Set roughly a decade before the events of the original 1960s Star Trek series - and separate from the timeline of the concurrently produced feature films - Discovery explores the Federation-Klingon war as experienced by the crew of the USS Discovery. In a brave, but potentially wilfully daft conceit, the opening two episodes were, effectively, one of those five-minute pre-title sequences you often get in films, pumped up on steroids to a two-hour mini-movie. It wasn't bad, per se, but it kind of got everybody looking in entirely the wrong direction before the series, proper, began with episode three. Thereafter, Discovery took its time developing its characters and, it wasn't really until episode seven - a wonderfully barmy piece of insanity called Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad that riffed on Groundhog Day and the Next Generation episode Time Squared - that it began to hit its stride. These are early days, of course - it's certainly no Deep Space Nine, the Star Trek series that got good the quickest and stayed good the longest - at the time of writing only the opening nine episodes have been broadcast. There are problems, albeit relatively minor ones - Jason Isaacs' accent in all over the place, for instance. A couple of the characters are quite annoying, but the biggest issues by a distance is that, given where this takes place in the Star Trek timeline, there are quite simply nowhere near enough miniskirts on display. Mind you, that's something you could say about just about every TV show.
Other telly shows which this blogger thinks do not deserve to be in either list but, rather, somewhere in-between: Idris Elba: Fighter, Martin Clunes: Islands Of Australia, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Tracy Ullman's Show, Riverdale, The Good Karma Hospital, The Trouble With Dad, Jon Richardson: How To Survive The End Of The World, Inside Number Nine, Rivers With Jeremy Paxman, Meet The Lords, Lethal Weapon, Kate Humble: Back To The Land, How'd You Get So Rich?, Hidden Restaurants With Michel Roux Junior, Walks With My Dog, Down The Mighty River With Steve Backshall, The Big Painting Challenge, Old People's Home For Four-Year-Olds, Lego Masters, In Solitary: The Anti-Social Experiment, How To Stay Young, Starting Up Starting Over, The Other One, Love Lives & Records.

And finally, dear blog reader, the From The North award for the single most memorable broadcast incident of the year. It goes to the infamous moment when some The Only Way Is Essex-type individual whom this blogger had never heard of previously fell off the stage at the Radio 1 Teen Awards. Watch it, here, dear blog reader, it's quite a sight.

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