Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2011: TV

While the world of music had little to offer us in 2011, television picked up the slack. There was tough competition for a spot in the ten greatest TV shows of the year, and just missing the list were brilliant new comedies Trollied and Fresh Meat; an iffy-but-addictive Torchwood: Miracle Day; the mesmerising Frozen Planet; an incredible conclusion to Spooks; and the gloriously high-gloss, low-rent tits-and-explosions-fest of Strike Back: Project Dawn. But on to those that did make the cut...

10. Episodes
A peculiar transatlantic co-production perhaps shouldn’t have worked quite as well as this, and the holes were undoubtedly visible, but Matt LeBlanc’s bravely self-deprecating portrayal of himself and the partnership of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig made for a hugely entertaining – and fairly innovative – new comedy. (The ultimate kudos goes to Daisy Haggard for her hilarious facial expressions.)

9. Shameless USA
It’s rare that a remake manages to outdo the original, and we’re almost ashamed to say the US update trumps the British version, but it almost feels like a different show altogether. Faster, sharper, and boasting some outstanding chemistry from its impressive cast, it’s a chance to enjoy classic Shameless brilliance on a whole new level. (FYI – Americans also do mustard better.)

8. The Cafe
A prime example of Sky1’s unlikely new role as bastions of British comedy, The Cafe was a sitcom with a rare warmth and a uniquely Westcountry charm. It may have been gentle and lulling in tone, but the scripts were uproariously funny, delivered with scrupulous timing from an exceptional cast. And as a bonus, the potential for catchphrases is immense. Alright? Alright. Alright?

7. The Big C
The very concept of a comedy series centred around cancer is hard to get your head around, and on paper, far from appealing. Yet The Big C proved to be an affectionate, intelligent, sharp, heartbreaking and hilarious tale, with Laura Linney’s performance a particular highlight. With such an epic climax, it’s both intriguing and exciting to see where the next series will go.

6. The Walking Dead
The seemingly-neverending hunt for Sophia made this half of Series Two drag ever so slightly, but the emotion, the tension, the gore and the inappropriate laughter were very much present. Shane’s metamorphosis into full-on villain was mesmerising, the zombie in the well was distressingly funny, and the final twist was truly gut-wrenching. Bring on the second half.

5. Campus
Sadly culled by Channel 4 after just one series, but it was unlikely the public at large would take to something as absurdly dark as Campus. Andy Nyman’s twisted Vice Chancellor was the star attraction, but that’s not to detract from any of the other components that made Campus such a hysterical, enchanting and downright bizarre comedy gem.

4. Shooting Stars
And the second axed show in a row comes in the form of Shooting Stars, an inexcusable victim of BBC Two’s entertainment cull. Still, at least the series went out on a high, with yet another torrent of eye-wateringly funny moments: Vic Reeves’ bullying of the buzzard, Bob Mortimer’s turn as David Furnish, Brigitte Nielsen completely missing the point, and the highly-disturbing Archie Andrews, to name but a few. Here’s hoping a channel with some sense throws it a lifeline.

3. The Great British Bake-Off
Once again proving to be one of the most watchable, discussion-worthy and entertaining elimination formats in years, The Great British Bake-Off combines mouth-watering food, genuinely knowledgeable judges (*cough*Tulisa*cough*), lovable presenters, and bizarrely gripping moments of jeopardy. Who knew a falling cake or a misspelt word atop a ganache could provide two of 2011’s TV highlights?

2. Misfits
Having taken the top spot last year, Misfits has to do with second place this time around. Perhaps the all-too-easy act of murder – now a weekly occurrence – makes it the wrong kind of implausible, but aside from that, it’s still one of British TV’s greatest offerings. The addition of Joseph Gilgun as Rudy heightens the show significantly, leaving Nathan a distant memory, while the outstanding Lauren Socha continues to justify that BAFTA win.

1. True Blood
And having bubbled away in the runner-up position for the past two years, True Blood makes a deserving climb to the top. The introduction of all manner of new supernatural creatures had much of the internet eye-rolling, but it bore the hilarious moment Sookie found out what she was (“How fucking lame!”). Aside from that, True Blood was responsible for the TV moment of the year, Russell storming the newsroom for the greatest monologue since the heady days of Annie Douglas. Season 4 kicks off on FX in February, and frankly, it can’t come soon enough.

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