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The Top Ten British TV Shows of the Year

So here we are into the top ten with more of the best comedy, drama and documentaries that UK TV had to offer in 2012.

10. Our War (BBC3, Aug-Sept)
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Though the news bulletins do give you some sort of idea about what’s going on in Afghanistan the names of the soldiers who are killed are often just presented as statistics. Our War was different in that it really let you get to know the soldiers as it used video diaries and helmet cameras in order to tell the story and therefore you identified with the men who sadly lost their lives. Throughout the documentary there was a sense of ‘what is it all for?’ but the documentary always made you understand why the young men were risking their lives and why they thought it was important that they kept coming back to Afghanistan. More than anything this was a story about camaraderie and friendship with some of my favourite scenes being when the soldiers were simply being the young men they would’ve been if they hadn’t joined the army in the first place.

9. Silk (BBC1, Apr-Jun)
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In the past instalment I talked about how many second series of programmes have been better than their first and that’s certainly true of legal drama Silk which ironed out the majority of the problems I had with its opening season. So the two legal students were ditched in favour of more storylines involving Maxine Peake’s new QC Martha Costello and the dodgy head of chambers Billy Lamb who was expertly played by Neil Stuke. The series also introduced two new characters portrayed by two of Britain’s finest acting talents firstly Phil Davis’ shady lawyer Mickey Joy and secondly Frances Barber’s ruthless QC Caroline Warwick who wished to join Martha at Shoe Lane Chambers. I absolutely adored this series from beginning to end especially the final episode which saw Martha defend crime boss Jody Farr, a man she despised, and also saw her uncover Billy’s involvement in the case. A third series has already been announced and my only wish is that there be even more episodes this time around as six just didn’t feel like nearly enough.

8. 24 Hours in A&E (Channel 4, May-Aug)
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Though for most people the summer was all about the Olympics for me it was the return of the best documentary series of the year, once again, as we returned to King’s College Hospital to meet the staff and patients. The brilliance of 24 Hours in A&E is in its editing together of the stories that make up a single day whether it be that of a young woman who collapsed at an exercise class, an old man awaiting treatment or a schoolgirl rushed to the department after suffering a mystery illness. Of course as the series went on you got to know all of the staff members but for me it was still Sister Jen who stole the show especially following the revelations that she used to work as a party paramedic now there’s a spin-off for you.

7. Good Cop (BBC1, Aug-Oct)
Good Cop Warren Brown as 008 The Top Ten British TV Shows of the Year
Savagely violent yet strangely touching would be a good way to describe Good Cop which starred Warren Brown as John Paul Rocksavage a young police officer whose decision to defend a waitress from a criminal gang ended up getting his partner killed. From there Sav went on a revenge path killing members of the gang while attempting to cover his tracks however it appeared as if the net was wider than he first imagined. The beauty of Good Cop was that the revenge plot was one of many as we also saw Sav become protective towards his new partner Amanda and attempt to build bridges with his former girlfriend who had returned from America with the daughter he never had any contact with. Good Cop’s legacy has been somewhat tarnished after the final episode was rescheduled after the tragic shooting of two young police officers however I still consider it to be one of the best dramas that 2012 had to offer and it’s just a shame that there won’t be a second series that will resolve some of the stories that were left open-ended in series one.

6. Him and Her (BBC3, Nov-Dec)
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It does still remain a mystery to me why the BBC keep all of its best comedy shows hidden away while the majority of their mainstream output is average to awful. A case in point is the brilliant Him and Her whose third series aired once again on BBC3 and despite not being as good as last year’s series still had plenty to offer. We saw the growing relationship between Dan and Shelley, Paul’s obsession with the gym, Laura’s worries that Paul was sleeping around once again and more than anything else Steve’s wish to propose to Becky a series-long storyline that culminated in one of the loveliest television proposals ever. The series also made the brave move to show a prequel episode in which Becky goes on her first date with Steve which doesn’t go to plan after Dan reveals what Steve has been saying about her sister. The fact that Him and Her got a Christmas special recently suggests that the BBC still have faith in it as a long-running comedy vehicle but for me it should be aired on BBC2 as it is consistently funny and has characters that you actually believe in and care about.

5. Accused (BBC1, Aug-Sept)
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I put my hands up and admit that I wasn’t a big fan of all of the episodes of the first series of Jimmy McGovern’s courtroom-based dramas Accused. Thankfully for the second series McGovern shaved down the series from six episodes to four and crafted four very different stories three of which interlinked somehow. All four stories are still very memorable as we met Sean Bean’s cross-dressing English teacher, Ann Marie Duff’s concerned mother, Robert Sheehan’s troubled teen and Anna Maxwell Martin’s wronged probation officer. Every instalment dealt with a moral issue of some kind whether it be gun crime, the care of the mentally ill or simply the perception we have of people who are different to us. As well as the four characters in the dock the series had a long list of actors all of whom made a positive contribution to the series and these included Stephen Graham, Olivia Coleman, Ewan Bremner, John Bishop, Joe Demspie, Sheridan Smith and Ruth Sheen. Personally I believe that there wasn’t one weak episode out of the four here and I’d be very surprised if several of the cast members weren’t nominated for BAFTAs when the awards return in 2013.

4. Getting On (BBC4, Oct-Dec)
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Another BBC comedy that has been hidden away is Getting On which returned for its third, and possibly final, series and once again everything about it was a triumph. The comedy is written and stars Jo Brand, Jo Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine as three different women who work on the same geriatric ward as nurse, sister and doctor respectively. This series saw Brand’s Kim make the decision to train as a doctor, Scanlan’s Den discovered she was pregnant and Pepperdine’s Pippa went through a messy divorce. Getting On was never about big laughs however this series seemed somewhat funnier while the characters were given more to do and therefore everything flowed a lot better. As well as the character-driven plot there was also an underlying satire about the state of the NHS and how every service is now provided by a private company which causes even more confusion for the poor hospital staff. If this was to be the final series than the last episode left us on a high with Den receiving good news, Pippa about to embark on a brave new relationship and Kim getting on with things as normal however I selfishly hope that they’ll be more Getting On in a couple of years’ time.

3. Line of Duty (BBC2, Jun-Aug)
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Initially this seemed like it was going to be just another cop drama but instead Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty took us in several different directions one of which investigating how corrupt a highly-decorated officer actually was and the other showed us how much paperwork police officers have to fill in. The lead of the piece was Lennie James whose Tony Gates was a well-respected DCI heading up his own very blokey unit however after covering a minor traffic offence for his mistress Gates finds himself in a lot of trouble. This is because Gates is being investigated by Martin Compston’s Steve a principled copper who knows went to stand up for himself and who later finds himself an ally in Vicky McClure’s Kate who has infiltrated her way onto Gates’ team. Line of Duty was an incredibly well-paced thriller with three great lead turns and a compelling supporting performance from Neil Morrisey while in addition the show also kept you guessing till the very end. Despite the definitive conclusion it appears as if the ratings were so good for Line of Duty that it will return for a second series even if not all of the cast members will return with it.

2. Fresh Meat (Channel 4, Oct-Nov)
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When it first aired in 2011 I initially dismissed Fresh Meat as being ‘The Inbetweeners goes to University’ however this wasn’t the case at all and over the first series I grew to love the six main characters who all lived together in student accommodation in Manchester. But even I couldn’t predict how great the second series would be as we saw Josie’s downfall after she was kicked off her course, JP’s discovery that his best friend was gay, Oregon’s romance with the son of the professor she slept with last year, Howard’s infatuation with new housemate Sabine, Vod’s new job at the hotel and Kingsley’s relationship with Josie’s friend Heather. The joy of Fresh Meat was that it was both hilarious and vulgar while at the same time dealt with real issues experienced by characters that you actually cared about. While Zawe Ashton and Greg McHugh were given the majority of the laughs this season I was surprised by the performances of both Jack Whitehall and Kimbereley Nixon both of whom have vastly improved since series one. Judging from the end of the last episode it appeared as if Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong didn’t know if they were getting a third series or not but luckily we will be seeing our six students again in 2013 and I for one can’t wait.

1. Sherlock (BBC1, Jan)
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It may have aired only three episodes and it may be almost a year old but for me Sherlock was by and far the best TV series of 2012 as it provided four and half hours of compelling drama. Steven Moffatt and Mark Gattis’ trio of episodes – A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall were all perfectly crafted and faultless from beginning to end. Belgravia gave us the sight of a naked Sherlock and his relationship with the mysterious Irene Adler, Hounds gave a modern interpretation to the most famous Holmes novel while the final episode was completely gripping and left me completely glued to my seat for an entire hour. The performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, who still hasn’t been awarded a BAFTA, is one of the best on TV while Martin Freeman provided an excellent foil as Watson. This series also saw the rise of Andrew Scott, who did win a BAFTA, as a very modern Moriarty as well as continued support from Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves and Gattis himself. It appears to me as if Sherlock is created by a team who actually care about the quality of the writing, production and acting and it shows as this was by and far the best television that the Brits produced in 2012. Though some fans are mourning the fact that the third series will be Sherlock’s last I think ultimately it’s a positive idea as you can eventually have too much of a good thing.

So that’s your lot then as Sherlock joins my Best TV show Hall of Fame alongside The Shadow Line, This is England ’86, Red Riding, Criminal Justice and Life on Mars. But do you think my top ten is correct? What are your favourite UK TV shows of the year? Leave Your Comments Below.

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