Monday, December 21, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2009: TV

In the four years of compiling these end-of-year lists, never has there been such a broad line-up of superb television from which to choose. Selecting a final ten was incredibly difficult – special mention must go to the classically-brilliant Britcom Miranda; the cutting and criminally underrated Moving Wallpaper; the cult virtuosity that is The Life & Times of Tim; another uproarious helping of The Supersizers; a consistently brilliant – if premature – curtain call for My Name Is Earl; the hugely-promising Flashforward; surprisingly, a rather decent series of Primeval; Merlin; Desperate Housewives; Misfits... we could go on.

Also missing out on a spot are the two Doctor Who specials, both of which are deserving of a mention but unfortunately have had to make way here for a selection of more consistent entertainment. It’s also safe to say the upcoming specials are worthy of a placing, but hey, we don’t got ourselves a crystal ball, y’know. So sit back, enjoy the fruits of our painstakingly-crafted list, and don’t worry too much about the sycophantic gushing – the worst TV of 2009 is up later in the week...

10. Brothers & Sisters
Yes, once you strip away the gloss and the expense and the blockbuster-worthy cast, Brothers & Sisters is, in effect, a fancy soap opera. But it’s one that boasts some majorly notable acting (in particular, Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths, Matthew Rhys and Dave Annable), some fatally razor-sharp wit, and an inexplicably addictive quality. (Plus it’s on More4 which officially means it’s sophisticated.)

9. Survivors
While a number of sci-fi purists were quacking about the sacrilege of remaking the 1970s cult classic, Survivors was enthralling everyone else. Although Julie Graham’s character was perhaps one of the most slappable individuals in recent TV history, Survivors was gripping, exciting, and perhaps surprisingly, rather thought-provoking. Series Two kicks off next month – if it even manages half of what the first did, we’re happy.

8. Lost
2009 saw a return to form for a show that’s disappointed heavily over its course (and Sky One returning to Virgin Media helped matters significantly too). Lost’s fifth series boasted some excellent dramatic performances, whilst the partial tying-up of the show’s numerous loose ends eased the frustration massively. However, the parting cliffhanger of Juliet and the hydrogen bomb was the true star of the show, setting up the final series nicely and leaving Flashforward with some very big shoes to fill.

7. Being Human
After a promising start in the form of the 2008 pilot, the fully-commissioned series had a big task on its hands, especially following a drastic recasting session and the decision to go even darker in tone. But it paid off, with Being Human displaying a brilliantly-executed mix of eerie tragedy and black humour, and providing BBC Three with arguably its greatest series to date.

6. Come Dine With Me
A culinary spectrum ranging from chef-quality masterpieces to inedible sewage, and a mix of characters the Big Brother producers can only dream of, Come Dine With Me is fly-on-the-wall at its best. Special mention goes to Lesley Joseph’s fantastically abysmal job at hosting during the Celebrity edition, but the golden wooden spoon goes to the inconceivable Preston week, which provided some of the funniest TV moments of 2009 – genuinely too many to go into here...

5. The Sarah Silverman Programme
Although it’s once again fallen foul of some staggeringly retarded scheduling courtesy of Comedy Central, The Sarah Silverman Programme continues to shock and amuse in equal parts with its brilliantly crude humour. The term ‘random’ is used far too often, but Silverman’s headscratchingly hysterical comedy truly nails it, something The Sarah Silverman Programme showcases tremendously.

4. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
The perfect Sunday night television, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency was charismatic, magnetic and entertaining, but crucially, without employing the empty, cloying twaddle typical of its slot. Charming simplicity, rare touching moments, and an exceptional display of comic timing from Anika Noni Rose as the wonderful Mma Makutsi all play a major part in what’s been a surprise televisual gem.

3. Shooting Stars
No-one can induce the kind of snorty, undignified laughter Vic and Bob can, as demonstrated in the very-welcome return of Shooting Stars. Jack Dee’s deadpan awesomeness, the off-the-wall brilliance of George Dawes and the unbridled hilarity from Angelos Epithemiou all added massively to the mix, with particular highlights being the latter’s ‘dance’ to Mud’s The Cat Crept In, the You’ve Been Framed spoof, and Mutya Buena playing Whose Face Is It Anyway. The funniest show of 2009 bar none.

2. True Blood
And claiming the silver medal is the almost-unfathomably brilliant True Blood. Its combination of Deep South charm and distinctly un-American offensiveness make for a winning result, helped along hugely by some exceptional acting, inspired scripts and a killer theme tune. Meanwhile, Tara Thornton has very quickly gained herself a place as one of our favourite TV characters of all time (and bearing in mind this is a list that includes Homer Simpson, Annie Douglas, Margo Leadbetter and Spike, she’s in great company). By a long margin, the best new show of the year.

1. Torchwood: Children of Earth
It was a tough call for the top spot, but True Blood was just pipped by Torchwood’s jawdroppingly remarkable five-night special. Any memories of gigantic comedy CGI bulls or Katy Perry-style shoehorned-in bisexuality were quickly banished courtesy of the most gripping, rousing and pleasingly-disconcerting drama of 2009. Day Four in particular proved to be an example of incredibly powerful television, with an untouchable combination of stellar performances, magnificent scripts and incredible direction. Sci-fi snobs are cordially invited to grow the fuck up, remove their blinkers, and witness something truly special.

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