Friday, December 21, 2012

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2012: TV

It’s been a critical-space-on-the-TiVo-box kinda year, which is a way of saying there’s been no shortage of good TV, rather than it suggesting Virgin Media need to sort their software out. (Although they do.)

Alas, we never got round to the bleak Scandinavian knitwear-fests everyone told us to watch, but notable 2012 highlights have included the sharp, slick and hugely addictive Suits; the cutesy but cutting US sitcoms New Girl and Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23; a fitting end to Desperate Housewives after eight seasons; Only Connect's new status as impossibly-difficult national treasure; and The Almighty Johnsons finally finding its feet. But let us crack on with the boxset-worthy Top 10...

10. True Blood
It’s been inconsistent, but when True Blood is good, it’s very very good. Alas, this has been one of its weaker years, with the Bill-as-undead-fundamentalist plot shockingly bad, but even then, it’s head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries. And as Tara, Jessica and Pam remain three of the best characters on television, teaming them up was a genius move. Fangs crossed the next series gets its shit together.

9. Stella
A perfect example of Sky1’s new role as a true champion of British comedy, the hilarious and heartwarming Stella did exactly what Cougar Town failed to do – create a domestic/family-based sitcom that wasn’t twee and cosy. And aside from an impressive turn in front of the camera, Ruth Jones further proved her worth as one of Britain’s greatest comedy writers.

8. Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve
Quite often, a factual gem will sneak into our viewing habits amongst the filthy-humoured sitcoms and big neon entertainment shows – one such example was Indian Ocean, a compelling, eye-opening and hugely enlightening series. Kudos to Simon Reeve who presents his subject matter in the most accessible light, without dumbing it down. Frankly, he could do a series on Jiffy bags and make it feel like an adventure.

7. Sherlock
Another three-episode blast of groundbreaking British drama, another complete triumph. And the cliffhanger that saw Sherlock supposedly die has set things up very nicely for a third run. (For what it’s worth, we think he jumped into the rubbish truck, and sweet-talked whatsherface from the mortuary to doll up a tramp’s corpse to look like Sherlock. You wait and see.)

6. Twenty Twelve
A rare blend of subtle and uproarious, the highly-quotable Twenty Twelve came to an outstanding conclusion this year. The return of Olivia Colman was the perfect climax, even if the closing scene itself was a landmark in throwing-remote-at-the-telly demi-frustration. And its main legacy (or sustainability?) will be that no-one working in PR will ever be taken seriously again.

5. Game of Thrones
Glossy, epic and gloriously hammy, Game of Thrones was defiantly huge in an age of cuts and scalebacks. But the story itself was the true star, with George R.R. Martin’s work seamlessly brought to life by an impressive cast (minus the dreadful Aidan Gillen) and stunning production. Additional props for the greatest opening titles since the animated pigeon on The Good Life.

4. Trollied
Series One established Trollied as a sharply-observed, brilliantly-stylised and downright hilarious sitcom, but Series Two stepped it up massively. The initially-peculiar casting of Stephanie Beacham as Lorraine proved to be pure gold, not to detract from what’s probably the best overall ensemble performance this year. Genuinely brilliant stuff.

3. The Great British Bake-Off
Anything that makes such a spectacle of cakes, pies and biscuits is already a good thing. But turning such great subject matter into something so entertaining, so captivating, so genuinely gripping, is quite the achievement. Mel and Sue continue to be two of the greatest presenters on TV, while the likeable contestants and ever-professional judges show some of their flashier reality contemporaries how it’s done.

2. The Walking Dead
Just missing out on Number One is The Walking Dead, whose third series took it to whole new levels of brilliance. The snail’s pace frustration of Series Two was quickly accounted for in the third run, with unwavering action, some jaw-dropping character sacrifices and genuinely moving moments. And with some exceptional new additions to the cast (David Morrissey and Danai Gurira in particular), the rest of this series can’t come soon enough.

1. Homeland
Perhaps one of the most instantly-gripping pilot episodes ever, Homeland set itself up to be something pretty damn special from the outset. Offering up twists you’d never predict and answering questions Lost failed to do across six seasons, it’s a show that clearly gives a shit about its viewers. Add to that some inventive direction, bold subject matter, and stellar performances across the board, Homeland was easily 2012’s best new show.

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