Looking back through a year of TV is a bit like going through old photos; some feel like yesterday, some feel like years ago and there’s also a few that should never see the light of day again. The other thing about a ‘best of’ list is it inevitably leans towards the writers choices. So there maybe gasps at no ‘Call The Midwife‘ (Nothing wrong with it, just doesn’t engage me).
This years TV has seen some brilliant dramas especially from the BBC. We’ve lost some great shows that really should have been recommissioned like, The Fades. Comedy has seen a resurgence (although comedy is a tough audience to shine through, but there has been some gems this year).
Below we take a look at our top 20 of the best.
20. Line of Duty
Line of Duty had you second guessing yourself as bent copper DCI Gates, played by Lennie James put in a great performance as the unlikable character pursued by Martin Compston and Vicky McClure’s AC-12 anti-corruption unit. It returns for a second series in 2013.
19. Getting On
The fourth series of Getting On (yes four) slips under the radar for most but is a unique BBC Four dark-comedy set in an NHS hospital ward starring and written by, Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, and Joanna Scanlan. It’s unique in that it has a predominant female cast, is funny, and a lot of the issues delivered in a matter-of-fact manner about health and gender politics, some so absurd but very true to how it is – which is part of its comedy aspect.
18. One Night
One Night was a brilliant 4-part drama shown in the summer on consecutive nights about, you guessed it, one night’s events that loosely link a group of strangers leading to devastating results. Lack of BBC promotion and a 10.30pm time slot put it under the radar but its unique writing and premise makes it one of the best. An impressive young cast were paired with some well-known faces including Neil Stuke, Douglas Hodge and Jessica Hynes.
I’ve never been a Morse of Lewis fan and I sat down to watch this prequel reluctantly, expecting more of the same. How wrong I was. Shaun Evans made the character his own with enough little nods to the original to keep previous fans happy, without alienating a new generation. The one-off did so well in the ratings it has been recommissioned by ITV and is due to air in 2013.
16. Prisoner’s Wives
This had a shaky start but by the end I loved it. I’m sure you can work out from the title its premise. Brilliantly its back for a second series in 2012, unfortunately without three of the original stars; Emma Rigby, Natalie Gavin and Jonas Armstrong but some great names have been brought into the series including Shameless star Sally Carmen, while Spooks Nicola Walker will play a detective in the BBC One series.
15. Hit and Miss
A transgender hitman piqued people’s interests immediately as we saw American actress Chloe Sevigny star as a complicated character torn between her life as a hitman and the discovery of a son she didn’t know she had, mingled with the responsibility of looking after him and his siblings. It was filmed very much in Tarantino-esque style with brutal elements intermixed with family life. Sadly the end cliff-hanger will never be resolved as the production company decided not to pursue it any further.
A murderous blood-splatter expert should have us wanting him to be caught and put in prison, but instead we find ourselves intrigued by this complex socially-challenged character, who only kills people he perceives to be bad people. The latest series turned the series on its head as his sister Deb found out his secret. With Debs career on the line watching her get her head around her discovery, at the same time as Dexter having to deal with someone knowing his secret has been compelling viewing.
Homeland returned with a huge amount of expectation due to the success of its first series. Hype was even higher as the UK got to see it alongside US audiences as opposed to the delay of the first series. Although it hasn’t quite lived up to the first series, it’s been consistently tense and well written – if not implausible at times. You’ll need a healthy dose of suspending your disbelief but its a fun action-thriller of a story.
The fifth and final series of Merlin has had its ups and downs. In some ways the over-arcing story has got lost along the way – as have some of the characters, Gwen and Gaius perfect examples of being totally underwritten. But this show has grown so much since it began, with its stars improving every year and enough action, mythology and guest stars to keep us entertained. Merlin has got darker over time but it still manages to keep a level of humour and the quality of the production is immense. When it sets ups up an epic scene like the series finale its mind-blowing.
11. The Paradise
Lark Rise To Candleford writer Bill Gallagher provided a drama adaption of Emile Zola‘s novel set in 1875 England (instead of Paris) showcasing a problem very real in today’s society of small business dying out to large department stores. It may not sound that interesting but add the quaintness of Larkrise, with a touching love story, intrigue, humour and grief and you get a Sunday night-fare type show brightening up our Tuesday nights.
10. Him and Her
Ah Becky and Steve how we love them! The disgusting but adorable pair goes from strength to strength with Laura providing the villain of the piece as Becky’s selfish sister. It’s very reminiscent of early Royle Family in the same way it has you mesmerised even though you’re not always quite sure what at. Brilliant.
Jimmy McGovern‘s Accused returned with a short run of 4 one-off stories of people convicted of crimes that were committed for various reasons, many of which have you questioning the justice system and your own moral code. Anna Marie-Duff, Anna Maxwell Martin, Sean Bean and Olivia Colman were among the stellar cast. Accused is never going to be a happy affair but it has an ability to tell a story like no other.
8. Once Upon A Time
I’m a big fan of OUAT. Maybe it appeals as an escape or maybe it’s just brilliant. It took a while in the first series to find its feet but by the end of the first half of the series characters were established, the mythology set up and a mixture of characters you love to hate like Regina and Mr Gold. It keeps you guessing and is a fun darker take of the fairy tales you know and love. Series 2 is currently airing in the States and due to air in the UK in March.
7. Last Tango in Halifax
This has to be right up there; Yes I’m a huge Nicola Walker fan but its a well crafted drama from Sally Wainwright who provides a masterclass of writing the perfect comedy-drama. In the tale of Alan and Celia (played by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid), reunited after 60 years that shows us you’re never too old to find love. A heartwarming tale ensues, complicated by the chaos of their respective families. If you don’t feel tingles of warm glows you must have a heart of stone.
6. Being Human
The news of Aidan Turner‘s departure followed by Russell Tovey meant the fans went into freefall of how the series wouldn’t or couldn’t survive without them. However, in steps Damien Molony as Hal and all thoughts were washed away swiftly. Writer Toby Whithouse has created a complex and compelling character aided by Damien Molony’s fantastic performance. Michael Socha had a soft spot in our hearts as Tom in his quest for love while we said a tearful farewell to Annie who got her swan song. It was thrilling.
5. The Walking Dead
I love the Walking Dead. I never thought I’d say that about a zombie show, which I’m usually too scared to watch, but there’s such a gripping element to this series that focuses on the characters and us as human beings and how we survive. How far were prepared to go for survival? The second series had less zombies but more heart, where as series 3 has been an action zombie fest. No member of the cast is safe which is entirely gripping and terrifyingly-devastating when you lose your favourites. Simply brilliant.
4. A Touch of Cloth
Charlie Brooker‘s hilarious spoof of procedural cop dramas, starring Suranne Jones and John Hannah playing it straight subjected us to the ridiculous, puerile and downright childish gags but unlike most so-called comedies and spoofs – it was hilarious and I do mean HILARIOUS. Luckily there’s more specials to come in 2013 on Sky1.
There’s no doubt that Sherlock was the event drama of the year with the second series getting everyone talking. Whether it be about Lara Pulver getting her kit off or the “how did he do it” when Sherlock survived the fall. Theories abound and anticipation for the third series is rife making its stars now Hollywood film stars – which ironically has held up the filming.
2. Walking and Talking
Kathy Burke has a genius about her in the most humbling of ways and her story of Walking and Talking for Sky Atlantic gave us a nostalgic look at life in the most simple yet effective story-telling. Following her Little Crackers special the episodes showcased her talent both in the writing and her small acting cameo in the series. Not an easy feat these days as she prefers to stay behind the camera. Not only was it authentic to the era it was set, very funny and full of heart it was easily one of the best shows of the year.
1. The Killing
The Killing has been consistently impressive with Sarah Lund holding a special place in our hearts. The filmic noir of slow yet thrilling cases has kept us on our toes and squinting at the subtitles for three series. The final *sobs* series finished recently with hope that one day she may return. Come back Sarah.
Honourable mentions who just missed out on the top 20:
Good Cop – Warren Brown excelled as the police-man gone bad after the death of his friend. The ending however was highly frustrating providing no real conclusion.
Downton Abbey – There’s something quite warming knowing Downton Abbey is on. It’s basically a period soap but how we love to watch their shenanigans.
Inside Men – this very nearly was in the top 20 but missed out purely for the ending. Tony Basgallop brought back the cash robbery as 3 cash counting workers tried to steal their way to fortune with John (played brilliantly by Steven Mackintosh) becoming a control freak. Great cast included, Warren Brown, Ashley Walters, Kiersten Waring and Nicola Walker.
Bad Education – The teacher who couldn’t teach was a funny offering from Jack Whitehall and starred Sarah Solemani as his would be love interest. The kids in the series were great little stars too.
Doctor Who – this is a tricky one. I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Who but have found my interest waning in this last series. One of the aspects I love is its britishness and this series has felt as though were pleasing an American audience. That said it’s still one of my favourites not to be missed. I just hope with Jenna Louise Coleman joining it gives it a boost.
Silk – Maxine Peake is exceptional in most roles she takes on a Silk is no different. Her quest to remain a moral QC is what keeps the viewer hooked. Rupert Penry Jones and Neil Stuke provide a great supporting cast.
Moone Boy – One of Sky’s best comedies after Walking and Talking saw Chris O’Dowd create write and star in this semi-autobiographical comedy based on his upbringing in Ireland in 1989.
Scott and Bailey – Another one I agonised over putting in the top 20. The pairing Of Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp coupled with Amelia Bullmore’s quick wit makes this ITV detective series a must watch as we get tangled in the personal and professional lives of its main characters. The third series airs in 2013.