It’s been nearly a year since I started this blog (holy sh*t!), and it’s got me thinking about the last twelve months. They have been, almost without exception, upsettingly terrible.
Cinema, once my main passion, has also been pretty cr*p. I’ve talked about it before, but everything seems to be a corporately mandated reboot/sequel of something you already recognise. It’s like if the music industry insisted only releasing cover songs. Sure, some people could do some interesting things, but it’s never going to match originality. It’s depressing as f*ck, and yet not nearly as depressing as the real world. Huzzah.
The one way in which the last twelve months have been a success has been on the small screen.
Television is undoubtedly going through a golden patch. It won’t last forever, for it will be sanitised back to boredom eventually, but we really are getting some top notch material at the moment.
But how can I possibly sum up a year’s worth of great programming? With a Buzzfeed-ian Top Ten list, of course!
Top ten ways you won’t believe what this 90’s…
Wait, that’s too Buzzfeed-ian. Dial it in a bit, yo.
Top ten television programmes of the last year
Before I hit the list, here are three necessary caveats:
- This is solely my opinion, because that’s all I’ve got. If you disagree that’s great. Let me know why in the comments. Debate is what makes the world go ’round.
- I’m judging this solely on content released from the start of November last year to now. The Simpsons was great, but I couldn’t give a t*ss what they’ve done in Series 437 (or whatever they’re on now).
- I have to actually seen it. I’m not up-to-date with Game of Thrones yet, so I haven’t seen Season Seven. If I had, I’m sure it would be on here. But I haven’t, so it’s not.
So with that in mind, here are my Top Ten programmes of the last 12 months:
10. The Night Manager (full review)
I was torn between this and half a dozen other things, which goes to show how high the quality has been in the last year.
Whilst Sherlock and Luther failed to hit the spot this year, The Night Manager was the BBC at its best. It did Bond better than Bond. For a spy thriller that involved numerous deaths, an evil baddie and the seduction of a lot of women, I’d say that’s pretty high praise indeed.
9. Daredevil (Season Two)
A not insignificant step down from Season 1, but Season 2 was still pretty great. I wasn’t totally on board with every part of the plot (Elektra, I’m looking at you), and, although the stairway came close, it lacked that one defining fight-scene like the hallway in Season One (if you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend watching that link).
That said, there was still plenty to love, and far more appealing to me than anything that came out from Marvel on the big screen in the last few years.
8. Master of None (full review)
In my review from the time, I said the Netflix-exclusive comedy Master of None was the best show no-one is talking about. I don’t know if the “best” part of that still stands up, but the “no-one is talking about” certainly does. It wasn’t until I looked back through my old reviews that I even remembered this had been on.
When I dug back in to it I remembered exactly what it was about this programme that worked for me. It was the humour, obviously, but also the class and the dignity of it. And if that sounds pretentious, that’s because it is. It’s pretentious as sh*t.
But it stands true. The way it dealt with complicated topics and breezed through them as if it was no big deal at all, whilst also being touching and very funny, marks this out as a notch above most other comedies on TV right now.
7. The Hunt (full review)
There’s not a lot you can say about a David Attenborough documentary anymore. You know what it is. You know what it’ll be. It’ll look stunning. It’ll be educational yet enjoyable. Mind-blowing yet upsetting.
The Hunt was, quite frankly, outstanding television. If this was the first Attenborough BBC documentary ever aired on television it’d probably have been top of this list by a mile. But as it is, it’s par-for-the-course.
Oh, and Planet Earth 2 starts this weekend. Eeeeeeeee.
6. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (full review)
A show based on a true story that seemed unrealistic? A hyper-emotional insight in to people’s lives, and a hilarious, hammy, schlock-fest?
The People v. OJ was a programme full of hypocrisies, and yet all of them worked to its benefit. I think I giggled through every one of Travolta’s scenes, and yet still haven’t seen anything on TV this year as upsetting as the reaction to Marcia Clark’s haircut.
While the shows listed above were all great, at this point we’re hitting programmes I think will become classics. People will come back to this for years to come, and rightly so.
Plus it had Ross from Friends in it. Who doesn’t that love that?
5. Making A Murderer (full review)
It seems mad that this came out in the last twelve months. It was such big news that it felt like all anyone was talking about was Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for a while.
While most focused on the undoubtedly fascinating topic, I was blown away by the narrative structure of it. For a documentary, it really dragged you in. And in Ken Kratz they had the year’s biggest baddie.
It was truly spectacular television.
4. Stranger Things
I’ve not bothered to review this as there’s nothing really left to say. You’ve probably seen it already, and as such agree with me that it’s one of the best programmes this year. If you haven’t, well, where have you been for these last few months?
Stranger Things is fantastic for all the reasons everyone say it is. The ET-meets-Stephen King vibe, the soundtrack, the acting. Any complaints I have are minor at best. It became an overnight phenomenon for a reason.
It’s also possibly the best example yet of the power shift from cinema to television. In previous years it would have been made as a film, not a TV show. However, as a film in 2016 it wouldn’t have a) worked or b) been made at all. But on TV in 2016, it was about as additive as any programme all year.
3. Jessica Jones (full review)
This is where things get really difficult. While I’ve ranked two other programmes higher, I don’t think I was as blown away by any as much as I was Jessica Jones.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s for my money the best thing Marvel have done. Yes, better than Iron Man. Yes, definitely better than Avengers. I love the fight choreography of Daredevil and would be more likely to recommend that to some people, but nothing touches Jessica Jones.
Plenty has been said about the underlying message of the show, and it is handled magnificently. But what makes it great is that you can (if you want) switch off from that and enjoy it on the surface. It’s both a powerful look at sexual abuse, and an exciting superhero programme. That’s a difficult balance that it absolutely nails.
Plus, if there’s a more likeable lead character than Jessica, or a more detestable villain than David Tennant’s Kilgrave, I haven’t seen them. I want to go and watch it again. Now.
2. Better Call Saul Season Two (full review)
Better Call Saul is an impossible thing to have an opinion on.
It is, without doubt, an incredible piece of work. Vince Gilligan is a master of storytelling. The slow build, the tension, the lingering shots, the beauty of the landscape, the way your allegiances to characters move from person to person, the acting (good God, the acting), everything about it is outstanding.
And yet, it’s a prequel to Breaking Bad. It will forever be compared to Breaking Bad. Does it match up? Probably not, no. Nor do 99.9999999999999999% of all programmes ever made. Does that make it a worse programme because of it? No, but it won’t ever get the credit it truly deserves.
If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad and haven’t seen Better Call Saul then there’s something wrong with you.
1. Bojack Horseman Season Three (full review)
How good was Season Three of Bojack Horseman? I watched it over three months ago and I still find myself thinking about it now. It’s the funniest, yet most compelling portrayal of both fame and depression I’ve possibly ever seen.
I’ve gone back and watched the underwater episode again since I finished it, and I haven’t rewatched anything else this year. It’s inspired me to tackle a writing project about depression myself, that’s how mind-blowingly awesome it is.
And, as I said numerous times in the review, it’s a story about an anthropomorphic horse.
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