So here we go again with a look back at the best shows of 2010
25. Him and Her
The comedy output on BBC3 can range from the atrociously bad (Coming of Age) to the surprisingly good and the new sitcom featuring Being Human’s Russell Tovey falls into the latter category. The sitcom revolves around Tovey’s Steve and his girlfriend of seven months Becky as they really do nothing but hang out and wait for life to happen to them in Steve’s grotty bedsit. Although the humour was very scattelogical at times there was also a warmth to the relationship between Steve and Becky which was growing from a casual thing to a long-term love affair as the series progressed and Steve’s declaration of love in the toilet was both touching and funny. There was also some great supporting characters most notably Dan the upstairs neighbour who was addicted to porn and watching Titanic just for the bit where Kate Winslet gets her tits out. Like I said it’s not for everyone.
Finally in this part we have Alan Davies return to sitcom and the first original thing he’s done in a while. Whites saw Davie star as Roland White a head chef who had become flippant and neglectful of his staff namely his under chef Bib played by the excellent Darren Boyd. While never a laugh-out-loud success, Whites ticked along nicely and focused on characters rather than using the characters simply to get the laughs. Alan Davies was brilliant as a chef who thought his position at a top class hotel was beneath his station, while Katherine Parkinson as the manager was also great. The final episode bought all the elements that had been bubbling under the surface to the forefront which gave us lots of laughs and a few warm moments. Thankfully the BBC have faith in it and there’s rumours that a second series is definitely in the works.
23. Doctor Who
January 1st 2010 was a historic moment for Doctor Who fans everywhere as David Tennant lent his face and talents to the Timelord for the last time. At the end of the New Year’s Day episode Matt Smith became the new Doctor Who and to celebrate crashed the Tardis into a Scottish village and upset a young redhead named Amelia. Years later Amelia would become Amy Pond, the new Doctor’s sexy young companion who was on hand to wear short skirts and had lovely long legs. This funky new young couple also had a new man in charge in the form of Stephen Moffat whose storyline saw The Doctor being taunted by a hole in time plus a whole heap of new enemies and old faces including those scary stone angel things. While the quality wasn’t as high as it has been previously the dynamic of the new team and the energy of Smith and Karen Gillan as Amy meant that Doctor Who’s future looks secure for a good while yet.
22. Blood and Oil
Although today’s T.V. is littered with talent contests and fly-on-the-wall drivel occasionally there is some quality drama on offer and the evidence for this was seen in March’s Blood and Oil. Centred around a botched hostage negotiation in Nigeria it featured Naoime Harris as a top oil executive and the daughter of a Nigerian dignitary flying back to her ancestral home to help out to negotiate the release of her some of her workers who had been captured by rebels. Meanwhile Jodhi May played the wife of one of the men who had been captured and was then horrified to find out that her husband had been killed rather than released. What followed was a conspiracy thriller in which the two women tried to uncover the truth – were the men still alive when they were released? and what had Harris’ father got to do with everything? This was edge-of-the-seat stuff with two fine performances from its central actresses.
21. Peep Show
This was the year in which Peep Show officially became Channel 4′s longest running original sitcom outlasting the wonderful Drop The Dead Donkey. The plot advanced slightly with the first episode seeing Mark welcome his new son into the world while Jez briefly found love with a well-cultured girl but he found that he had to lie in order to spend time with her. Mark and Dobby got together but their relationship looked in doubt after he failed to stand up for her in front of his father during the fabulous Christmas episode. Nothing much changed in terms of either of their characters but that didn’t really matter because Peep Show has now become as much of a national treasure as Channel 4′s other best loved sitcoms such as Father Ted and Spaced.
2010 was possibly the year of the sitcom that didn’t really make us laugh but still made us smile, Whites was one such show and another was Rev. Instead of being a sitcom featuring on a reverend, Rev was about Tom Hollander’s Adam Smallbone a normal mane who just happened to be a vicar. The show saw him trying to deal with being both a loving husband to his lawyer wife and a vicar to a dwindling congregation of a parishioners. Hollander was superb in the lead role and there was some excellent support from Steve Evetts and Simon McBurney among others. This proves that religious-themed shows don’t have to be preachy, Rev definitely had a strong message but also provided a few smiles and even one or two laughs along the way.
19. Any Human Heart
Channel 4′s big drama of the latter months was Any Human Heart, a four part drama about the life of Logan Mountstuart as some of the biggest events of the 20th century happened around him. Jim Broadbent was the eldest Mountstuart and the first shots were of him lonely going around his French abode while flashbacks saw both Sam Claflin and latter Matthew MacFayden take the role. Mountstuart is firstly a successful novelist, then a spy, before becoming an art dealer and then loses a lot of money and moves to France. The whole thing was wonderfully shot and also lovingly bought to life by its players notably Broadbent as well as Gillian Anderson, Kim Catrall and Richard Schiff who all gave memorable turns. It’s a shame that Channel 4 screened it against big ratings hits like I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and The X-Factor final as this was a really well put together piece of drama.
18. One Born Every Minute
Channel 4 continued to be the broadcaster that went that extra mile to show real life on screen. In 2010 that meant bringing cameras into the maternity ward in the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton. As the title of the documentary suggests there is One Born Every Minute and some of these births are documented including us seeing the soon-to-be-mums giving birth directly on screen. This was particularly interesting as we saw the prospective parents before and then during the birth itself it also served as a precautionary tale to any youngsters thinking about engaging unsafe sex. Channel 4 also presented a live episode during Christmas in which we welcomed some Christmas babies live on T.V. something which put me right off my turkey I can tell you.
17. Downton Abbey
If you told me a year ago that a period costume drama on ITV1 would be one of the biggest success stories of the year I would’ve told you to do something quite rude with yourself. However that happened in 2010 with Downton Abbey a seven part series written by Julian Fellowes who won an academy award for his script for Gosford Park. In fact Gosford and Downton are very similar in that they both feature an upstairs downstairs view of a large Stately Home however Downton is set in the 1910s starting with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and ending with the announcement of World War I in 1914. It also focused on positions both who would be the heir upstairs and who would get the top jobs downstairs. There was also a fantastic cast on offer including old hands like Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton facing off with each other as well as newer faces like Joanne Froggat, Rob James Collier and Dan Stephens. It seems that ITV have seen that Downton may be the way forward after the series got an average of 10 million viewers during its run.
Concluding this section of drama, we go right back to last January to see Julie Walters do her annual impression-based drama. Not that there’s anything wrong with these dramas as they’re usually well-written and expertly performed by Walters herself and Mo, which saw her take on the role of Mo Mowlam, was particularly great. Looking at Mowlam’s life from Labour’s victory in the 1997 election to her tragic death in 2005. Walters portrayed Mo as a fun-loving woman who had a serious side and who loved her husband and her job very much. Again a very well-written piece of drama this showed how Mowlam’s stubborness sometimes meant that she couldn’t play the politics game as well as her male colleagues but could more than stand her ground when it came to the bigger issues. Although the drama had a tragic end, Walters picked up a well-deserved T.V. Bafta for her role later in the year.
After the BBC closed its Northern headquarters Jimmy McGovern decided not to do any more episodes of his Northern-based series The Street. However he did return in 2010 with a programme that could’ve really just been called The Court. Each episode of Accused saw the central character in court and then through flashbacks we’d discover what got them there. Like withe The Street, Accused dealt with the fact that we’re all human and we all make bad decisions from time to time but usually it’s because we are sticking up for the people we love. The crimes ranged from murder to money laundering to criminal damage but each time McGovern made us sympathise. to some extent, with the person awaiting trial. The majority of the performances were top notch most notably in the episode featuring Juliet Stevenson and Peter Capaldi as the parents of a boy who’d died while at his new job trying to get some justice for what had happened. While at sometimes the stories dragged on too long and were a little far-fetched McGovern is still a master at exploring human nature and once again demonstrated this with Accused.
14. Welcome to Lagos
Earlier we had the drama Blood and Oil which looked at a hostage conspiracy in Nigeria and now we return to the African country’s capital of Lagos. BBC2′s eye-opening documentary focused on the people of Lagos, of which there are 16 million, instead of all the tragedy and heartache we see on the news and in the papers. We saw the rubbish pit, the slaughter yard and other aspects of life in Lagos that only gets heard about but never seen. All in all this was a well shot and well told story about a city that lives in extreme poverty but still somehow survives with an over-populated community.
13. Wormwood Scrubs
In 2009, ITV1 presented Holloway a documentary in which we were able to look at what life was like for the women in one of Britain’s most famous prisons. 2010 saw something of a follow-up as camera’s got unprecedented access to Europe’s largest prison in London. Whereas Holloway painted a lot of the women in a positive light, the prisoners in Wormwood Scrubs were a lot more violent and threatening and the sympathy was thrown towards the prison guards as they had to deal with hundreds of prisoners on their own. This was unflinchingly brutal stuff as the guards had to pick up the pieces from both a self-harming incident and a suicide. ITV1 isn’t a channel that’s best known for documentaries that don’t have celebrity involvement of some kind but with two brilliant prison pieces in their pockets I wonder why they don’t do this kind of programme more often.
12. The Trip
After teaming up for 2004′s ‘A Cock and Bull Story’, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s next collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom was a part-improvised six part series in which Brydon accompanied Coogan around some of the North’s finest eating establishments. The main crux of the show was sit down conversations between Rob and Steve as they tried to outdo each other in the impressions stakes as well as talking about their careers. Both played exaggerated versions of themselves with Coogan the egotist bragging about his Hollywood career and his younger American girlfriend who was originally meant to accompany him on the jaunt. Brydon meanwhile played vulnerable and insecure but affable at the same time and was the family man to Coogan’s divorcee. Although some saw this as a vanity project I saw it as a study of what happens to men and their friendships as they reach middle age and Coogan and Brydon are both such likeable presences that I didn’t mind spending almost three hours in their presence.
11. I Am Slave
More quality drama from Channel 4 as they gave us the one off I Am Slave a tremendously realistic account of the underground slave business both in Africa and her in Britain. It followed the story of young Sudanese Malia who as a child was captured by rebels in her town and sold into slavery in Africa. When she was grown up she was sold to a family in England who she initially gelled with but then she found out that they were keeping her against her will and took her passport away from her. As Malia, Wunmi Mosaku was great and made us really feel her struggle and the whole thing was shot superbly. This did exactly what good drama should, present a realistic story with an important message which is delivered frankly but never in a sanctimonious manner.
10. Five Daughters
In 2006 five prostitutes were tragically killed in the Ipswich area which led the police to suspect a serial killer and made the local area think about the sex workers and why they did what they did. Four years later writer Stephen Buchard, with help from the victim’s family, produced a well-written dramatisation of what happened. Focusing on several of the girls’ stories and their reasons for turning to prostitution which ranged from drug addiction to anger. This very human account of the tragedy benefited from a great ensemble cast including Jamie Winstone and Eva Birthistle as two of the girls, Sarah Lancashire and Juliet Aubrey as their mothers and Ian Hart as the lead detective on the case. Butchard was able to paint all the victims in a compassionate light and make us think about how a tragedy like this can still happen in this day and age.
Something that has grown on me and has vastly improved in my opinion is E4′s Misfits, a show that was billed as Heroes meets Skins but never takes itself as seriously as either of those programmes. Misfits focuses on five young offenders who, following a thunderstorm, all find they have super-powers. Series two saw loud-mouthed Irishman Nathan find out he was immortal, just after he’d been buried which was rather inconvenient it also saw the Misfits being pursued by a hoodie-wearing note-passing stranger. Funny, well-written and involving, Misfits also has improved performances from its young cast who have all matured as the series has progressed. Misfits also benefited from being the first multi-channel programme ever to win the Best Drama BAFTA in 2010 which gave it a bit of kudos from the snooty drama community who previously saw it as nothing more than a cult hit.
After giving us the recession-based drama Freefall in 2009, writer/director Dominic Savage returned in 2010 with an altogether different piece of drama. Dive focused on two teenagers – Olympic diving hopeful Lindsey and tearaway Robert whose lives change dramatically after Lindsey finds out she’s pregnant. Like he did in Freefall, Savage focsues on the characters with the first episode devoted to Lindsey’s story and the second to Robert’s. Savage also let the character’s actions and expressions do the talking as the two parts were very low on dialogue which was a very good thing apart from the programme’s score which was a bit to in-your-face for my liking. Both Aisling Loftus and Skins’ Jack O’Connelll were brilliant in the lead roles and the supporting cast was full of seasoned pros liked Eddie Marsan, Joseph Mawle and Gina McKee. Overall a lovingly drawn character-based drama full of heart and real-life woe.
Following on from his decision to leave Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Simon Amstell presented his new sitcom the autobiographical Grandma’s House. The biggest mistake Amstell made was casting himself in the lead role as he really cannot act but despite this it was a witty and warm depiction of Jewish family life and almost was like a Kosher Royle Family. Amstell surrounded himself with some of British comedy’s finest talents including The Thick of It’s Rebecca Front and James Smith as well as Samantha Spiro and the late Geoffrey Hutchings. Following his sitcom’s success, November saw Amstell appear on BBC Breakfast to promote his stand-up DVD in a very weird interview he seemed to annoy Bill Turnbull and also made fun of Russell Watson’s tumour. However it is yet to be seen if this is was actually a put-on and his appearance will feature in series 2 of Grandma’s House as an example of why Simon isn’t back on T.V. in a show that he hasn’t written.
6. Wonders of the Solar Sytem
Professor Brian Cox’s terrific series about the planets and the solar system is definitely one of the year’s best documentaries. As someone who never really got science at school, Cox’s ultra-visual explanations of how the solar system works and some of the phenomenon it produces were astounding. Cox showed us the Northern Lights in Norway, took us to Tunisia to explore how planets orbit and to Death Valley in California to look at the power of the sun. Even though this was science for the masses, Cox never dumbed down his explanations yet made them totally understandable. The medium of T.V. was made to entertain and inform and Cox definitely did that this year.
Originally shown across two weeks when it first aired, Outnumbered gained widespread appeal with its second series and in 2010 series three was its most successful yet. While I didn’t find it as funny as the series that had gone before, mainly because the child performers are more aware, but it is still one of the best written shows on T.V. thanks to Guy Jenkins and Andy Hamilton. Series Three saw Jake discover girls, Pete and Sue try and sell their house and Auntie Angela return from the States with a stepdaughter in toe. The star of the show is still Ramona Marquez as daughter Karen whose off-the-cuff one-liners are still the weekly highlight.
Just missing out on a top 10 position is one of 2010′s best documentaries which featured the everyday goings on in police stations and on the job all over the country. For me episode one still stands out as a highlight as we learnt some of the lingo that the coppers in the Medway Station Custody Suite use. Best of all was ‘The Chapham Pocket’ which is basically when criminals stuff goodies up their posterior that they know they’re going to need inside. These obviously include drugs but the best anecdote came from one policewoman who recounted that one time she found two mobile phones and two chargers stuffed up said pocket. Funny, eye-opening and interesting this ground-breaking documentary was the year’s best.
3. Getting On
In 2009, as part of the season of the same name, BBC4 screened three episodes of a sitcom called Getting On about the goings on in a Geriatrics Ward of a standard NHS hospital. 2010 saw it come back for a full six part series and go onto become my T.V. sitcom of the year. The reason Getting On is such a marvellous programme is that it rarely goes for laughs and instead shows the funny side of life and in particular the ridiculous NHS procedures. Stars Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine also write the show which makes the words they say more personal to them and the six episode structure allowed them to develop their characters of the nurse, the ward sister and the doctor a lot more further. The only major problem is that the programme is considered too smart for normal people and is pushed away on BBC4 where a lot of people don’t venture. If a Series Three is in the works, BBC please put it on the main channels.
Doctor head honcho Stephen Moffatt and League of Gentleman’s Mark Gattiss teamed up to re-imagine the story of Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century. Given 90 minutes to tell each of their three stories, Gattis and Moffatt were able to spend a lot of time on looking at their two central characters. Sherlock was a special advisor for the police who was brilliant but bonkers and bought to life by the odd-looking and ultra-talented Benedict Cumberbatch. Meanwhile Martin Freeman played former Army Doctor John Watson who was injured and forced to return home. The two were paired up by a mutual friend and moved in together and formed an odd partnership. Some didn’t like the fact that Sherlock seemed a little weaker than he did in the books but this was a re-imaging rather than a remake so I was fine with that. All three stories were gripping from beginning to end and more than that they were smart and full of action. Sherlock was fast, fun and at times a little silly and more than that it gave us the Una Stubbs comeback that we had all hoped for.
1. This is England ’86
It’s said that most film sequels can’t live up to the original and indeed most people heaped praise on Shane Meadows’ This is England. Instead of producing a cinematic sequel, Meadows gave us a four-part miniseries that showed us how Shawn, Woody, Lol, Smell and the rest had changed in four years and it turned out not a lot really. Although Shawn was older and Woody had hair they were still chancers and hanging about rather than doing anything of particular note. The first two episodes were quite comic in tone however the third episode in which there was quite a traumatic rape scene was praised for its gritty nature and everything was wrapped up professionally in the fourth episode. A combination of nostalgia, top notch storytelling and better performances from its ensemble cast of which Vicky McLure as Lol was a standout – This is England ’86 was my favourite British show of 2010. Let’s hope we get another dose of the midlands gang in four years’ time to see how the beginning of the 1990s is treating them.
OK that’s it for 2010, roll on 2011.