Thursday 26 December 2013

Are we going to talk television in 2013 or what? No, I am going to talk television in 2013 – there are no other options.

Mad Men was brilliant as always and not the first time we left Don at a bit of a crossroads at the end of the latest series. Though it was supposed to be the penultimate series we learned that the last series will be split into two parts like every other successful series that has previously said how many series it will have. JUST CALL IT ANOTHER SERIES, WE WON’T LOSE (ALL OF) THE RESPECT WE HAVE FOR YOU. I did read a little here and there that MM was becoming a tad repetitive/formulaic. It wasn’t. It was Don Draper’s fall from grace. And it was magnificent.

In fact there were quite a few other characters unravelling: Pete, Peggy, Ted. There was also the brilliant introduction of Bob Benson, aka someone snivelling enough to make Pete look like a hero. Is all this falling on bad(der) times so the heroes can have the last series reclaiming their glory? Probably. Mad Men is not afraid to not have happy endings, though.

The Walking Dead also continued to be ruthless with the majority of its cast. Aside two or three cast members you never know who is going to have their neck eaten by a zombie – or snapped by an enemy. I don’t know how much you’re meant to read into TWD as a commentary on society but the fact that the zombie apocalypse has become the secondary threat to the life – after the threat of other humans in a different group – says a lot about the human race, eh?

I did like some English stuff. I am just not very good at remembering things. Oh wait, it’s coming back to me. The BBC2 thing about the serial killer in Northern Ireland was properly good. As was the BBC1 thing about Doctor Who’s wife being killed and him defending her  (The Fall and The Escape Artist respectively). They were both really good. As was the ridiculous Luther. But…does everything good we do have to be about murder/crime? Tends to be the murder of women as well. Or children. (Speaking of which I haven’t seen the ITV one with Dr Who and Olivia Coleman, something Broad or something church,  yet but I bought it my partner for xmas so I will do soon – I’ll keep you posted.)

No, it is possible. While it was hardly groundbreaking TV, and certainly did have its fair share of chauvinism, Mr Selfridge pleasant enough fluff for a Sunday night when Downton wasn’t available. There’s something to be said for these shows set in the olden days. And it’s this: they’re alright.

Just saying. There are some stories out there that aren’t about a gritty investigation into the murder or murders of women – probably involving corrupt coppers. There are. What? Well I don’t know….er…a story about a man who runs the lost property office of an aquarium and, er, gets involved in murdering a woman by a corrupt (or is he?) policeman. Shit, no I take it back. Can’t be done.

Fresh Meat was hard to call this year. Is it such a good show that it suffers massively unrealistic expectations? Or did it tread water a bit this year? By its very nature it is going to experience a plateau. It’s a comedy-drama, or more specifically a sitcom-drama. While drama requires story arcs and character development, sitcom needs stability and stories to lead characters back to the situation about which there is comedy (ie Vod has a husband for a couple of episodes but it is essentially a device to further illustrate that she is immensely irresponsible and capable of wilful negligence to the feelings of others – but with a heart of gold that will see her make some big gesture to write her wrongs).

The best comedy of Fresh Meat has pretty much always come from JP, Vod and Howard. That’s not to suggest the other characters don’t bring it – but they’ve tended to provide a bit more of the drama previously (on/off relationship, affair with lecturer, being thrown off course). However the drama seems to be falling more and more on JP & Vod, understandably given how brilliant they are as characters, but it does kind of marginalise the others at times. Especially when they can tend towards caricature. But overall, Fresh Meat – a solid third term but could do better, B+.

It would be remiss to talk about good British TV without mentioning Coronation Street. I really don’t understand how the other one on BBC1 has better viewing figures and wins awards. It’s a fucking terrible show. While Coronation Street is brilliant. Admittedly it occasionally goes mental, but this is just where TV has gone. The biggest problem it has had this year is writing people out at the drop of a hat because of accusations of sexual abuse and/or rapping about violent crime in a mask.

I’m really struggling to think of highlights for British sitcoms. The whole thing is a horrible broad appeal mess at the moment. Grotesquely over the top characters with signposted jokes seems to be the only way to to go. That this autumn saw the farewell of The IT Crowd just emphasised what isn’t out there. While we are talking about shows bowing out how can we not mention…Misfits? Yes, that was a joke where you’re expected to think I was talking about Breaking Bad. Ha.

Misfits wasn’t a sitcom. Though it was funnier than 1000 episodes of Citizen Khan. It was also original and interesting and took some gambles, like most of the success stories of E4. It’s a shame it’s gone but it’s probably for the best as there is only so much you can do and it had a great final episode.

There were some good comedy things though. Being on Sky deprived Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy the attention it deserved. It’s a very, very funny comedy about a young Irish boy with an imaginary friend. Yes, I didn’t like the sound of it either but made me laugh more than every BBC1 programme combined in 2013. I’d advise you pick up the DVD if you don’t have Sky.

Hebburn also continues to impress me. There is a little bit of the crude and obvious comedy in it – but isn’t there in life? While I don’t think it is perfect it contains some great lines, excellent performances and has a real warmth that a British sitcom needs [I’d say all comedies need but I really don’t think Seinfeld had it and it’s the daddy.]

American-com-wise I am now officially in acceptance of The Big Bang Theory as a brilliant show and this year it continued apace, as only American sitcoms after 100+ episodes can. I had a debate with a colleague about how Sheldon has been ruined by becoming more human (her argument). I think it has taken the character, and therefore the show onto another level. I also enjoyed the latest series of Parks and Recreation despite it mainly being Chris Pratt-less.

It seems like forever ago but 2013 also saw the end of 30 Rock. It was the right time to end the series but that doesn’t mean I am wont miss it. (I will miss it). What else? Modern Family remains watchable, if we were to be frank about it we might say that it is missing the edge of the first two series these days. My other main American comedy squeeze is The Mindy Project which is an odd little show at times, struggling to settle its cast more than any problems with being funny. Unfortunately there are signs that it is being messed about in America, normally a sign the end is nigh.

I can’t really comment on your ‘factors, your bake-ups and your jungles because I don’t watch any of them. I’m not snobbish about talent shows or reality TV – I love Geordie Shore – I just think they’re either shit or don’t interest me (ie the baking stuff seems fine I’m just not interested in baking or watching other people make a curd puff). I didn’t mind a few episodes of that Honey Boo-Boo thing but then you kind of become aware that you’re meant to be laughing at the family in it and I didn’t like that so much.

Oh yeah and there was this little show called Breaking Bad that finished this year. I don’t think many people were aware of it as there wasn’t much fuss made about it. HAHA! There was loads of fuss made about it. I was making a funny. Too much far better than I can write has already been written about both the series and the ending to make it not worth my while to add. I will just say that the last series was as good a series of television as I have ever seen.

Is it possible that Breaking Bad wasn’t my highlight of the year? Well it’s possible but it probably was. The two other standout shows were Charlie Brooker’s increasingly dystopian Black Mirror, each of the three mini-films was brilliant this year, and The Returned. The Returned genuinely enthralled me with its supernatural leaning and sinister industrial subplot. Neither of which were remotely explained in the finalé. Which could be a good thing for the second series. Experience of shows with clever first series which everybody has clever theories to explain suggests that the makers might not have it all planned out and it will turn to shit.

Shit this has got quite long and I still haven’t mentioned…

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2 Responses to Thursday 26 December 2013

  1. Hannah says:

    I’m so glad to see you embrace Big Bang, and I am on your side. The moments Sheldon softens are the best moments of all. We are watching him develop emotionally because of his blossoming relationships, which is natural and realistic. His first ever hug with penny coz of the Leonard nimmoy napkin will remain my favourite Christmas tv moment for many years.

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