Oh, whyever not?
I watched more new television this year than usual. There seemed to be all sorts of interesting things going on : sometimes in the nooks and crannies, sometimes out there thrashing around in the mainstream. EastEnders and Coronation Street’s live episodes were gripping (I do seem to have a strange compulsion to watch “event” episodes), as was Coronation Street’s Graeme Harper-helmed disaster movie.
Russell Howard continued to do good work on BBC3. I hate Mock The Week with a passion that’s almost physical, but “Russell Howard’s Good News” was a wee gem every single week. Nice to see someone being… well, kind. The material didn’t always stand him in good stead and the running video clip gags wore a bit thin. Russell himself is always watchable though, and it all culminated in a sort of highlight with him getting carried away on a routine involving The Queen getting pissed and busking “Ice Ice Baby”.
Lots of things going on all over the place then, most of which Charlie Brooker covered quite adequately on his roundup of the year. Here’s ten other things that I rather liked.
1. Mitchell and Webb’s Sherlock Holmes sketch. Where they fulfill all of the potential I always thought That Mitchell And Webb Look had, but never quite managed before. They’re great (and god help me, I’ve never seen even one episode of Peep Show so I’m basing it entirely on their sketch stuff) and M&WL is extremely hit and miss. But this one was so on the money, it’s taken root in my head and won’t leave.
2. Doctor Who – Vincent and the Doctor. This could easily be ten moments from the boy Smith’s first season, but this episode… left me feeling proud to have been a fan of this silly, barmy, dotty old show for most of my life. There have been occasions where an aired episode of Doctor Who’s left me feeling embarrassed in the past. This one… well, if it opened up discussion, helped shine a light in the dark, made even one person feel a little better and less alone – well, you know.
3. “You’re not a Big Fish in a Small Pond! You’re not a Big Fish! <Pause> You’re not even a fish!!!” And the return of Margaret.
4. Rewatching The Goodies – “Earthanasia” and realising that not only is it as great as I always knew it was, but that roughly a million other people were discovering it at the same time. And then finding out I was right. Christmas specials these days should be this good. Oh, hang on. Doctor Who’s was.
5. Sherlock. Took me months to watch it, and episode 2 is patchy as all get out. But the ones on either side of it just *work*. Martin Freeman’s pissed off everyman schtick is something that never gets old for me, and casting an Elf as Sherlock was a daring and unusual move. One that came off, even if he did skate on the edge of punchability for most of it. Can’t wait for the next round. But why cast Graham Norton as the Big Bad?
6. Stargate: Universe finally paying off the potential I knew it had. Too little, too late sadly – it’s headed down the dumper now. It took so bloody long to get to the point it should have been at about six episodes in to the first series. It finally started working after the second season mid-point break. Boaby Carlyle carried it up until that stage. Thankfully everyone else woke up and started to help him carry the load and it became compulsive. Before that the only glimmers were the recurring appearances of Lou Diamond Phillips (effortlessly shading into middle age as a confident and decent character player) and Rhona Mitra as a gun-totin’, leather clad bad gal. I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m sorry it’s going.
7. Star Wars : Clone Wars. It’s a 22 minute punch up every week, but what a punch up. It manages the astonishing feat of making Anakin a likeable character. Obi-Wan’s even more dry and laconic than he is in the prequels, it looks fantastic and the action’s hyper-kinetic and addictive. And the Artoo-does-Home-Alone episode was quite the most fun you can have in 22 minutes. If you’re watching Star Wars.
8. A never ending supply of superb documentaries on BBC4. I think I must have capped about three quarters of their entire output this year. We’ll miss it if it goes. We really will. It’d better not.
9. The Sarah Jane Adventures. Rampaging, rollocking fun every single week, with the single most heart-warming thing on television – Elisabeth Sladen, now a hero to a whole new generation of children every week. Rusty’s custom-written Matt Smith two-parter was an obvious highlight but there weren’t any real weak points. I’m still puzzled as to why Shed Seven’s guitarist sorry, Tommy Knight, felt the need to turn up dressed as Nik Kershaw in the finale though.
10. You Have Been Watching. Charlie Brooker, Mark Watson, Holly Walsh and Chris Addison being present at the birth of a television legend. They may have missed out on the gut-busting hilarity of your average episode of Pipkins and cemented it in the minds of current viewers as a meditation on creeping existential dread, but in the process they discovered a superstar. Mr Fuggles, I salute you.