Sunday 30 December 2012

A continuation of my reviews of the year – a thinly disguised nod to the fact that these last few days of the year have seen me do/feel/think almost nothing. Today:

TV 2012

Well let me get the amazingly predictable thing out of the way: Alan Partridge being back on television was the best thing to happen to 2012. It was by no means the first of the bunch but represented a massive coup for Sky Atlantic. Sure it originally just seemed like it was going to be them broadcasting the previously produced-by-Foster-for-YouTube Mid-Morning Matters. And, yes, they did do that. But they also produced the excellent Places of My Life and some less good book-review type thing. The important thing was that Partridge was back. And it was fucking funlarious.

A lot of the good new comedy was on Sky Atlantic. For all the listening to the voicemails of dead children employees of Rupert Murdoch did, most of it must have been cancelled out by the investment in original British comedy that Sky Atlantic has made in the last year or so. Hunderby rightly got some recognition at the largely pointless British Comedy Awards but I still don’t think many people have seen it. You should watch it if you haven’t because it was fucking brilliant. If you have seen anything Julia Davis has written and liked it you should probably just run and buy it NOW. (If you don’t know what it was and like things explained in a really condescending combination of other things kind of way: it was Nighty Night meets Downton Abbey.)

Kathy Burke’s Walking and Talking was also on Sklanticks to slightly less acclaim. It is safe to say it was a more gentle comedy than Hunderby. It is safe to say that because almost all comedies are more gentle to things written by Julia Davis – and that is why Julia Davis should just have whatever resources she desires to make more television. Walking and Talking was a 1970s set semi-autobiographical piece from Burke was with significant charm. The only weak link was – bizarrely enough – Burke’s cameo as an Irish nun in each episode.

Justifying the name of the channel somewhat, not all of the shows on Sklanticks were British – they also broadcast the fuck out of some great American shit. Armando Ianucci OBE’s new American show Veep started promisingly. I think journalists were contractually obliged to describe it as an American Thick of It. Either that or they are unable to see that this was quite a different beast to TOI. Or just lazy bastards. Very much looking forward to the second series in 2013, though, as it seems like something that will get better as it gets used to its trousers.

Sklanticks eventually got around to showing Girls. Lena Dunham’s HBO show that people were that unable to find flaws with that a few people tried to make out that it was racist for  featuring predominantly white upper-middle class Americans. But Homeland‘s portrayal of brown people as terrorists – but not black ones (hey, what is it? The 1980s?) and mainly white people being the good guys is basically OK with the same people. The truth of the matter is that Girls is such a confident and funny piece of entertainment that I challenge you not to like it. Happily Series 2 is about to start and  – I’m not keep saying their name – are broadcasting it the day after it’s on in America. Great stuff.

That channel also broadcast the return of the amazing Mad Men. Thankfully its prolonged hiatus hadn’t had an unduly effect on the programme. So, it was still fucking amazing then. And the episode where you know who you know what-ed himself was fucking tragic. The Walking Dead (it is related to MM – it’s made by the same channel you shit) managed to learn from a poor second season and came back with all guns blazing. Or more accurately it came back with all blunt objects smashing into zombie skulls.

Oh and Game of Thrones natch.

Not everything was on Sky Atlantic – The Walking Dead wasn’t for starters. Terrestial television also delivered some good stuff. And Big Brother/Jungle, Dancing On/Off ice etc

Although it seems like it was about three years ago 2012 did in fact see the end of the second series of Sherlock. Which is up there with the best TV currently being made. Everyone was wondering if Sherlock survived and how he did it – for a couple of days. Even though it was pretty obvious that the answer to one of the questions was that he’d drugged Watson and landed on some rubbish in the back of a van that was driving past.

If I had to say my best British drama then I would struggle to think of a long list to choose from. This is more reflective of my poor memory – clearly unless we are talking about things broadcast by a certain satellite broadcaster – than the poor drama made this year. Or maybe a bit of both.

Unsurprisingly Jimmy McGovern’s Accused stands out (again) as great television. The Sean Bean episode in particular provided something a bit different to someone owing someone money kind of thing. Line of Duty promised a little bit more than it delivered. At some stage in some sphere of drama writing someone decided that there needed to be at least one twist every 20 minutes. There doesn’t need to be even one twist. That said I think Line of Duty had the brilliant Lennie James to balance out this twist-diction. And the other leading man being a 14-year-old boy playing a grizzled internal investigating policeman (with a nice coat).

The second season of The Hour proved that reducing the number of twists will make for a better TV drama. The first series was by no means poor – but the second season was brilliant. Abi Morgan is a brilliant writer and the programme has a great cast. It really is brilliant television.

Homeland returned with a big splash. And kind of treaded (trood? trode?) water for a bit before becoming fairly good episodic American terrorism drama but not really everything you thought the show might be after the first season (series in British).

There were a couple of promising comedies. Were there? Well maybe not. Hebburn was promising enough and I’ll be looking out for the second series. Cuckoo looked a little bit better than a lot of other things being made – but that is because there is of shit knocking about.

Away from the un-new, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong almost single-handedly took care of making me laugh at Channel 4 programmes by masterminding the imperious Peep Show and the thoroughly funny Fresh Meat. My only worry with the latter is there needs to be more of it and quickly. They are only just at the end of the first year of university and  they’re all going to be massive stars and fuck it off/look about 40 by the time it finishes.

Misfits kind of managed to get through its transition year. Now all the original cast have gone and they seem to be doing OK. They really do need to keep hold of Joseph Gilgun, though, because it might be a big pile of shit without him.

I didn’t watch the return of DallasThe Voice or An Idiot Abroad 3. Only the latter of those is a little bit surprising; but I don’t really like Warwick Davis and I am growing increasingly repulsed by Ricky Gervais. I also haven’t seen any of the Scandinavian things that everyone says is brilliant. I don’t get why they translate the names of all of them except Borgen though. But that could mean that it is a place and not a word. No way of finding things like this out.

Not necessarily made/broadcast this year but I have also enjoyed the first few seasons of Breaking Bad, the second season of Boardwalk Empire, all of Modern Family and some other things. And stuff not yet broadcast on British TV that I imagine (and don’t illegal) includes the continuingly excellent Parks and Recreation, which BBC4 has snapped up after FIVE years and will show in 2013. 30 Rock isn’t at its peak – but what is in its last season (see in a minute). Ditto The Office. Mindy Kaling left The Office to front her own show: The Mindy Project, which is pretty darn funny – if a little muddled mid-way through its first season (series in UK). Still there doesn’t seem any sign of it appearing over here with E4 preferring to import sacks of shit where three good looking lads hang about with someone who is ‘kooky’.

That’s about it. What? Oh yeah. The Thick of It. One of the best TV programmes, let alone comedies, of the last decade came to an end. I was a bit worried after the first couple of episodes of the last series. It was OK but not as good as the past. No-one was admitting this because it was The Thick of It. But the TToI firing on one cylinder is still better than anything else passing for comedy on the BBC 95% of the time. I think it was having episodes without Malcolm Tucker in them. Fortunately Tucker returned and the other cylinders got fired up and it finished with all the brilliance you might expect of something with Armando Ianucci OBE at the helm.

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