The TV year in 2009 – My Personal ChoiceDecember 31, 2009
In the dying days and hours of 2009 you get a rash of what I call ‘round-up’ TV shows on just about everything from music to films and the year in general. I could’ve done the same by regurgitating stuff I wouldn’t have remembered from various websites. I decided instead to list my favourite TV shows as I remember them. I will have missed out shows that have aired on Sky and other satellite channels, as I only have the poor man’s digibox, but there was plenty to see, nevertheless. If you haven’t yet seen The Wire or Mad Men season two, stop reading now, or try and skip the most shocking moment section, as there’ll be spoilers for those shows. OK, then, let’s go.
Best American drama: Most of my memorable TV was American, for good or for ill. For best drama there was nothing else for me but The Wire? I’d heard about this for at least a year and wondered what the fuss was about. Then a friend loaned the season one DVD while I was recovering from my op and from the first episode I was hooked. The characters, the story, the theme tune from Tom Waits performed by the Blind Boys of Alabama. What was there not to like? Once BBC decided to show all five seasons back to back, I was all over it like a rash. It was fantastic stuff and using the device of different artists performing the same theme song to give a different identity for each season was genius in my book. Mad Men was a close second. It wasn’t just the look of it, which was exquisite. You could see that behind this beautiful façade, the lives of the characters were really ugly. Much like advertising, really. Season three is coming to BBC4 soon. I can’t wait. Third was True Blood. It was totally nuts and totally brilliant. Knowing it came from the writer for Six Feet Under was enough for me to tune in and I was not disappointed.
Best British Drama: There are many BBC dramas involving bonnets, but this one was set in the more modern times of World War two and it was called Small Island, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Andrea Levy. It was about connections and how chance meetings and the decisions you make change the lives of everyone involved. The main characters are three people from the Caribbean with big dreams, who once they arrive (separately) in the UK, the mother country, face racism and crushed dreams, but also experience love and kindness, as shown by their landlady in London. It was heartbreaking, warming and triumphant. The cast were peerless in their performances and it made me want to buy the book.
Best Reality show: Reality TV shows have become a parody of themselves in recent years. We know all the manipulative tricks now (yes, I’m talking about you, X Factor) and the people who appear on them as a whole are vile. You definitely wouldn’t want them living next door. However, I found one that was heart-warming and felt like an old school documentary. It’s called The Family, it was on channel 4 and it featured the Grewals from Windsor. We followed this family through the impending twin events of a birth and a wedding. The bride to-be hadn’t spoken to her mother in five years, having been ostracised for wanting to marry someone who was not of the same caste. The central drama was whether her mother would turn up for the wedding. They were such a warm and loving family, I wondered if they had a spare room for me and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. The other show that seared into my brain was The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I can’t even begin to describe it. Just try and find it for yourself on YouTube.
Most stunning documentary: I have to start with Katie: My Beautiful Face, a channel 4 doc about a young woman’s recovery from a vicious attack. I wrote about it in full on a previous posting, so I won’t say much more, other than it was brilliant. The other documentary to blow me away was Wounded, which was shown on BBC1. The news was sandwiched between this show because believe me, you needed that half hour break as it was the most harrowing, nail-biting, awe-inspiring and ultimately inspirational documentary I’d seen for a very long time. We followed two British soldiers wounded in battle as they recovered from their initial wounds, then struggled with rehabilitation. Nothing was spared, from the initial bombing of one of the lads which amazingly was captured on film, to the operations on the amputated limbs (you’ll never want to pass a butchers ever again), then the emotions as they adapted to their new lives. The attitudes of those boys put the politicians who send them out there while they put their snouts in the trough to deep shame.
Most shocking moment: There were two for me. The first one was in season two of The Wire where D’Angelo was murdered in the prison library. He was a character you warmed to because you could see he was gentler than the rest and wanted to get out of ‘the game.’ This disturbed Stringer Bell who decided to ‘deal’ with it. It was so shocking I didn’t sleep very well that night. The other shocker was the rape of Joan from Mad Men. This sassy red head with a figure to make you weep was engaged to a doctor, who clearly didn’t like a strong woman, which was the culture of the time (and still?). He finally decided to take control and raped her in an office. You could see the shock in her face and the light go out of her eyes. It’ll be interesting to see where this character goes after something like that in season three.
Most pleasantly surprising discovery: I was surfing the channels and found three pleasant surprises. Being Erica is about a young woman who appears to be going nowhere in her life and has a bucketful of regrets. She goes for therapy with Dr Tom who can send her back in time so she can correct her mistakes. Then there is Hung, a story of a History teacher and basketball coach who is a bit of a loser, but through a series of events, finds himself becoming a male prostitute because he has one great, ahem – asset. I’ve only seen Thomas Jane, the lead actor in action films, so this was a revelation to me. He’s quite funny in this. Lastly there’s Being Human. I think it was on BBC3 last year, but I found it this year and thought it was unusual and thoughtful, with the right amount of comedy and sadness. The characters are a trio of people living in a house. They are a Vampire trying to resist vampire urges, a morose Ghost and a reluctant Werewolf. Series two is coming in 2010.
So these are my favourites. Although it will be 2010 by the time you read this, tell me yours. I really want to know.