One of the best things about the sadly departed UK DVD Review podcast was the poll William did every year where he encouraged people to email in and rant at him about their favourite DVD of the year. He’d then tally the votes (giving extra points for the better the rant and the more creatively you bent the rules) and then put them into a nice top 10 countdown. Alongside that he’d also give you his top 10 of the year.
It was patently unfair, you got 1 choice, he got 10. I tell you what though, I thought picking just 1 was hard, picking 10 it turns out is 10 times harder. You see i’ve decided that I want to let you know about a load of things in one go, instead of the 1 every 6 months pace i’ve previously being keeping. So i’m doing my version of the end of year top 10. My rules are slightly different to William’s, this is quite simply the top 10 things i’ve been watching on DVD/iTunes/Tivo this year. So lets get started.
A slight cheat straight away, but both these shows are in the list for the same reason so i’m counting them together. Two great sci-fi drama shows which are really more ‘drama which happens to be set in space’ shows. Battlestar had a good run and was able to end on it’s own terms. SGU unfortunately only ran for 2 years. Both are among my all time favourite shows and since nothing has really filled the void left by these shows i’ve been re-watching them heavily all year. Strongly recommended for all fans of great drama.
Continues to be one of the funniest U.S. Sitcoms on TV, somehow blending the normal aspects of the half hour comedy format with an epic love story. Briefly for those who haven’t heard of the show, in the near future lead character ‘Ted’ is telling his poor kids the long and winding story of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and also how he became the man he needed to be in order to marry her. Future Ted can’t always remember all the details, often leading to some of the best episodes. After 7 seasons we only know a handful of details about the mother, and every time concrete details seem to be around the corner the writers will often turn expectations on their head, but they do it with charm and wit which means you never feel cheated or conned. Overall it’s must see TV which has probably influenced the sitcom format just as much as Friends did previously.
8. Fresh Meat
A great british sitcom which has just finished it’s second season, Fresh Meat is about a group of university house mates in Manchester. Anyone whose been to uni or college will instantly recognise the situations the housemates find themselves in as they all struggle to define themselves now they are suddenly smaller fish in a big pond. Has it’s gross out humour parts as well as moments which will make you nostalgic for university life.
A US/Canadian co-production which i’ve been watching via US iTunes, it’s about various 20 and 30 somethings all chasing the dream of Hollywood fame. But that is in many ways just the outer shell, dig deeper and you’ve got a array of characters you’ll quickly find yourself warming to. Guilty pleasure is one way to describe it, but that description also does it something of a disservice. The show is much more than the sum of it’s parts, and is worth watching just for the way the writers play with the expected norms of television. Definitely worth a go if you’re looking for something new, although a word of warning, it’s just finished it’s second run but currently no word on a third unfortunately.
6. Doctor Who
The more I watch of the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat Doctor Who the more I think it’s may favourite run of the show. The Ponds recent exit, I got something in my eye. If your whatever reason your not up to date I encourage you to catch up. If Doctor Who isn’t something you’ve tried in a while, i’d encourage you to give it another go starting with Matt Smith’s debut ‘the Eleventh Hour’.
5. Being Human
It’s about Vampires, Werewolves and Ghosts, but in the same way that SGU and Battlestar Galactica are about space. For the uninitiated a Vampire and Werewolf rent a house together, only it’s haunted by a Ghost. Vampires and Werewolves are normally mortal enemies, but these two are best friends because the Vampire is on the wagon and the Werewolf just wants to lead a normal life. Perfectly balances moments of horror you’d expect given the subject matter with humour and moments of tense emotional weight as the trio explore just what it is to be human. The most recent fourth series was very impressive for all manner of reasons I can’t discuss without spoiling things.
Moffat and Gatiss are on top form, and so are Cumberbatch and Freeman displaying the acting chops which landed them lead roles in two of the biggest film releases of the next 12 months (Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness and Freeman as Bilbo in The Hobbit). The 3 further updated Sherlock tales are a joy as they enable you to appreciate the characters and tales as originally intended without a ton of period setting weighing them down.
3. The Newsroom
Sorkin’s back at the height of his power and he had me at hello. Some people have commented on his unrealistic dialogue, on his obvious agenda, on him retreading old ground. All of that may have some merit to it, but quite frankly I don’t care. Sorkin TV drama is an addiction I never wanted to kick, and it’s great to have it back.
Fills the ’24’ shaped whole in my TV schedule rather nicely. An adaptation of an Israeli TV drama, Damien Lewis plays a POW believed killed in action in Iraq who is found alive and returned after 8 years in captivity. Claire Danes is a CIA Analyst who believes Lewis was turned by his terrorist captors and poses a very real threat to national security. At it’s heart it’s a physiological thriller, and while it has many similarities to ’24’ in raw subject matter it has many more shades of grey which more accurately represent the ongoing War on Terror. The 2nd season just finished airing on Channel 4.
1. Mad Men
After a long wait the fifth season finally arrived, but it was worth it. The fifth season somehow manages to reach even greater heights than the previous 4 as it continues to explore Don’s inner workings and through him the vast amount of change that America (and most Western cultures) underwent during the 1960s. If your yet to be introduced to Donald Draper and friends you might find by brief(-ish) introduction helpful. It’s my highest recommendation, for me the best drama on TV.
So do you agree with my choices? Is there a show you can’t believe I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments, but remember the rules, I get 10 choices, you get 1.