Friday, December 19, 2008

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2008: TV

Next in our End of Year gushfest, we coo over some of 2008’s best television shows. The razor-sharp brilliance of Brothers & Sisters, the enormously-entertaining irony carnival Bonekickers, the consistently hilarious Top Gear, the superb but prematurely-axed Reaper, and the ongoing excellence of Desperate Housewives all failed to make the cut, whilst we decided against listing The X Factor altogether – killer performances from Ruth and Alexandra cannot excuse the tiresome clichéfest, or more importantly, the presence of Eggnog Quigg. So which TV shows did make our list?

10. Torchwood
This year saw Torchwood find its feet after a somewhat rocky first series. The decision to give Owen the chop was a wise one, but it was the demise of Tosh which really underlined the emotional wallop Russell T. Davies is so capable of. The inclusion of James Marsters and Freema Agyeman certainly didn’t hinder proceedings either, but the captivating imagination in Meat or the truly baleful Reset are just two examples which underline Torchwood as much more than just a rebellious big sister to Doctor Who.

9. My Name Is Earl
A third consecutive appearance in our top telly list for My Name Is Earl, and deservedly so. Although the jail storyline managed to avoid potential formulism, it soon became massively restrictive; similarly, where Bobbie was initially an exciting prospect, she was retconned within all of five minutes. And yet, My Name Is Earl still boasts some of the wittiest, warmest, most original and most wonderfully un-PC material on television. And to further echo last year’s praise of Jaime Pressly, someone get this woman her own show. Kthxbai.

8. The Supersizers Go...
Prior to Giles Coren’s frankly vile leaked rant to an unsuspecting sub putting him firmly on Santa’s naughty list, his travels into the larders of yesteryear made for some of 2008’s funniest – as well as stomach-churning and oddly enlightening – TV moments. Particular props, however, must be awarded to Sue Perkins, whose description of calf’s foot jelly as being “the colour of sadness” invoked some of the most uncouth laughter in Sloppy Dog Towers this year.

7. Samantha Who?
Although, on the surface, it may have appeared a tad oestrogen-heavy, the quick, inventive and brilliantly-executed Samantha Who was by far the greatest new US import of the year. Proving to be the perfect vehicle for the exceptional talents of Christina Applegate, the uproarious ensemble of Melissa McCarthy, Jean Smart, Jennifer Esposito and Barry Watson only added to the pleasure. N.B. US network people – axe this and we’ll hunt your asses down.

6. Dead Set
Charlie Brooker’s intense, mesmerizing zombiefest lived up to everything it promised. Playing on any number of TV industry clichés as well as highlighting everything we both love and hate about Big Brother gave this gore-fiesta a novel backbone, while the contrast of performances (the emotive dramatic work of Liz May Brice and hysterically inappropriate madness from Andy Nyman in particular) set the tone for the show overall – we didn’t know whether to laugh, vomit or hide behind the sofa.

5. Heroes
Perhaps it was off the back of unfaltering internet criticism that we were expecting bad things of Series Two (sorry, "Chapter" Two – our geek credentials are pretty thin on the ground), but it turned out, surprisingly, to be exceptionally good. And in spite of Chapter Three having taken a while to get going, the gripping finale was a true return to form. We’ve got everything crossed they bring back both Claude and Monica for the next series, but regardless, the teaser tacked to the end of Villains carries the promise of another electrifying chapter.

4. The Restaurant
Once again completely pwning the increasingly-unpleasant The Apprentice, the effortless charm and enthrallment of The Restaurant has become a benchmark in how to do reality television. We were chuffed to see Russell and Michele win out, although special mention must to go James and Alasdair, AKA Sweaty & The Bitch, for their power to induce cringes simultaneously across BBC Two’s entire viewership. And as much as we adore Sarah Willingham, there'll be Calippos served in Hell before we ever had her round our gaff for dinner...

3. Britain's Got The Pop Factor
It’s almost impossible to select a key moment from this extensive treasure chest of hilarity – 2 Up 2 Down’s calamitous duet with Rick Astley; R Wayne’s rendition of Return to Innocence; Rustie Lee playing the Sinitta to Dr Fox’s Simon Cowell; the Cheeky Girls acting as musical directors; Paul McCartney singing the Home & Away theme; the uproarious segue from Nelson Mandela to Umbrella... the list is endless. For this masterpiece alone, Peter Kay deserves an OBE.

2. Doctor Who
Once again, the BBC must be doing backflips – actual, not proverbial – that they agreed to reinstate Doctor Who. Four series in, and it shows no signs of growing even remotely state, thanks in no small part to the incomparable pairing of David Tennant and Catherine Tate. It must be said, we didn’t quite 'get' Midnight the way everyone else seemed to, and the conclusion to Donna’s tale was sorely uncomfortable, but the striking poignancy of Turn Left, the classic storytelling of Partners In Crime, and the sheer enormity of The Stolen Earth prove just why the BBC got it right. Let’s hope they do the same with Top of the Pops...

1. Summer Heights High
And it’ll come as no surprise to anyone who’s been on the receiving end of many a Mr G classic line that Summer Heights High is crowned Best TV Show of 2008. Chris Lilley’s frighteningly astute portrayal of three very different characters gave the series its foundations, while the delightfully awkward situations, the surprising display of sentiment and the jaw-droppingly tasteless dialogue proved to be the gargantuan cherries on the top. And if only we could bring ourselves to complete THAT unspeakable “Thank God you’re here...” line, we’d also be provided with Quote of the Year. As it is, we’ll have to settle for “I’d rather be a paedophile than a lesbian”.

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