Thursday, 29 December 2011

TV of 2011

2011 is nearly over, and it's time for me to reflect on the televisual year that was. One thing to note, looking at my list, is that this wasn't a great year for American TV. Having said that, I haven't seen Once Upon A Time yet or American Horror Story, both of which look like they could be good. But out of what aired in 2011 on British TV, here's my top 10, in reverse order for added tension!

10. Misfits series 3

This is much lower down my list than it was last year. Lets be honest, Misfits lost some of its mojo in series three. Was it because Nathan left? Maybe not. Joe Gilgun stole the entire series as "the new guy" Rudy, with his inventive split-personality power, cheerleader phobia and love of frozen treats.In fact, it was the power-swapping that really messed up the show. Their powers were demoted from clever metaphors for the personalities to just a side-note that can be swapped when they need new ones. The new powers, bar Curtis' gender-swapping ability, left little room for exploration. The series makes the list for a few genius things alone: Rudy, Kelly's delivery of "fucking Nazis", the zombie episode and the brilliant, brain-hurting, tear-jerking finale that makes you instantly want to rewatch series 2.

9. Smallville series 10

Here's where it all ended for Smallville, that loyal little show that's been with me my entire adult life. Clark Kent finally donned the red and blue and Lex Luthor returned from the dead (and conveniently lost his memory). Some characters unexpectedly died and some unexpectedly survived. Just about anyone who ever had a role in the show returned, and even if Darkseid was a complete wash-out, who cares? We got Brainiac 5, Emil Hamilton singing Elvis, Hawkman being awesome, Jimmy Olsen returning (and looking an awful lot like his big brother), Michael Hogan back in an eye patch, Justin Hartley dressed as a showgirl and the Superman theme tune. Good times.

8. The Shadow Line

A compelling, grown-up drama, billed (optomistically) as the British Wire. It's not that good, and in fact it occupies a stylised universe all of its own rather than The Wire's brutal realism, but it boasted one of the best casts of the year including the scene-stealer of 2011, Stephen Rea as the unexpectedly terrifying Gatehouse. The resolution was a little odd, but it kept you guessing until the very end with its nicely cyclical twist. In the words of BSG: "All this has happened before..."

7. The Crimson Petal and the White

My obligitory period drama of the year. This dark, disturbing drama is only three episodes long but it will change the way you look at Victorian dramas. It out-Dickens Dickens in the misery stakes and shows just about every character you care about being totally screwed over by the patriarchal Victorian system. Romola Garai's got to be a shoo-in for a BAFTA for her role as justifiably vengeful prostitute Sugar.

6. Fresh Meat

My comedy-drama of the year, this proves that I was onto something all those times that I said someone should make a show about students. Okay, so Kingsley and Josie let the side down a little, but Howard, Oregon, JP and Vod are surely four of the characters of the year. Jack Whitehall surprised everyone by being good (especially since he had the difficult job of making a posh twat loveable) but Zawe Ashton deserves all the plaudits for her intoxicated, bewildered, rambling Vod. It's a rare show where the girls get to be as funny as the boys.

5. The Fades

This was the most exciting new British series of the year and it still doesn't have a second series commissioned. Yes, it loses points because the nerdy banter between the two teen leads is from circa 1999, but a mundane 'I see dead people' show evolved into a daring, morally complex, thrilling drama. Characters drop dead all over the place, Iain De Caestecker and Daniel Kaluuya made a hell of an impact and Angelic Neil was easily the most bat-shit crazy character of the year. If it doesn't get a second series it'll be an outrage.

4. Merlin series 4

This series marked a watershed for the family-friendly show that's grown up with its audience (and cast). The world of the show was turned upside down with episode 3 and gave the show a much-needed shake-up. It's not 'safe' anymore - characters die, betray and get hurt. It still has the odd weak episode and it's a shame that the focus seems to be moving away from Merlin and the compelling Colin Morgan and towards Arthur, but this was their best series yet.

3. Being Human series 3

This was the final series of Being Human as we know it. After the disappointment of series 2, this series really stepped up a gear with Robson Green surprising everyone as a suspicious werewolf, Mitchell going to alarming lengths to protect his dark secrets, and the ticking time bomb that is amnesiac Herrick in the attic. Series 3 was 6 episodes of pure tension with a heart-wrenching finale that brings everything back to the central relationship between the werewolf, the ghost, and the vampire who, try as he might, was always just a little bit less human than them.

2. Doctor Who series 6

The Moffat/Smith dream-team really hit their stride this year, with Matt Smith just getting better and better, Karen Gillan finally making Amy likeable and Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill doing sterling work. This was the year of the River Song mystery, but it was two intelligent, powerful stand-alone episodes by Neil Gaiman and Tom McRae that the series will really be remembered for.

1. Game of Thrones

The most addictive, compelling new show of the year, stuffed with cliffhangers and jaw-droppng shocks (for those of us who haven't read the books). It's fantasy in the same way that BSG was sci-fi, in that it's really about politics and human nature. It's gorgeous to look at and boasts an amazing cast (albeit one that gets killed off at a rate of knots), and is the best show on TV for playing 'spot the obscure British TV actor' (it's Chris from Skins! It's that bird off Hollyoaks! It's... Jerome Flynn?!?) I'm eagerly anticipating series 2.

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