10 programmes I saw this year that enriched my life…
For fans of 30 Rock, Kimmy Schmidt and Brooklyn 99, when you’ve got 20 minutes to kill (or multiples of 20 minutes…)
Why A glorious return to the family sitcom that is smart, savvy, has a great gag rate and that sets up and punctures pomposity again and again. The sparky cast have great chemistry and it is a joy to watch.
For fans of Stephen Spielberg, Stephen King, the 1980s, sci fi, impeccable drama.
Why The supernatural never felt so natural, or effortless in this scifi tour de force. Flawless evocation of both the time period and a genuinely creepy atmosphere that will jangle your nerves. As well as great writing it has a tremendous cast including brilliant child actors that are believable and compelling.
Grace and Frankie
For everyone with a heart.
Why Clever, sassy relationships sitcom with acres of heart, acres and acres, so much heart there’s orchards growing in it. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are exceptional. Having been given that rare opportunity – compelling female characters in their 70s – they are making the most of it with charm, whip smart delivery and pathos.
Inside the Factory
On iPlayer (will hopefully repeat)
For the inquisitive child inside all of us (or on the outside if we are still children)
Why Great old school info-tainment where cheerful presenters muck about high spiritedly with expensive machinery to an audience of bemused onlookers and chuckling audiences at home. Also you get to learn a lot in amongst the hijinks. Great public service broadcasting. Highlights include seeing rock getting made (the sweet, not actual rocks that would be a very long time lapse…) and Greg Wallace’s camaraderie with a factory worker that must be a Peter Kay character in the making.
Planet Earth II (Episode 4 only!)
On iPlayer (will assuredly repeat)
For for those who can’t get enough of animals, and this last episode – the rest of us.
Why To not unquestioningly adore David Attenborough is a sin, and while I have great respect for the man (I aint h8ing) and all that he has achieved (like that iconic whisper) I just have a limited threshold for how often I can watch animals eating each other. I got drawn in to watching this last episode and it was a revelation, for it had gorgeous shots of urban jungles (city slicker me) and centred on the relationship between humans and animals in a fascinating way. Who knew the greatest concentration of Peregrine Falcons in the world live in New York City? It also featured a great call to arms at the end from David (sporting a courageous haircut for the altitude) about how we can do more to build on the surprising success stories of animals thriving in cities to make a world better for all life.
The Get Down
For hip hoppers who wish Baz Lurhmann and Martin Scorsese would have a lovechild.
Why The birth of hip hop told through fantastic music, striking visuals and great storytelling. It’s not subtle, but it does have bombastic charm and characters that pulse with energy and purpose.
On All 4
For the thinking man or woman’s horror. Horror for people who don’t do horror. Horror for people who like subtitles and psychological tension.
Why The long awaited conclusion to The Returned, offering a lot of answers (if not all the answers) to the questions left hanging after the first series of this hypnotic French (kind of zombie) series. Haunting soundtrack from Mogwai, immersive storytelling, like drowning slowly…
Grayson Perry: All Man
For men. And women.
Why Great documentary series exploring contemporary masculinity, heart-breaking, funny and illuminating. An interesting topic enhanced by the quirky character of Perry who creates an artwork for each episode. The men he has been speaking to encounter these pieces at the end of every instalment with wonderfully mixed responses.
For fans of The Lives of Others, spies, history, This is England (86,88,90) and stonking 80s pop.
Why 2016 has continued the trend of TV going 80s (a cohort of Generation X peaking, watch out we Millennials are coming up behind you) and this German series did so with swagger, irony and nuance, describing a gripping moment of history at the height of German Cold War tension in an effortlessly assured way. From the opening few minutes, you relax, confident that this is going to be very good indeed.
Master of None
For people who aren’t pedants (this started streaming at the tail end of 2015, also now that I think about it The Returned was probably last year as well, but these lists are never definitive anyway so I’m just breaking down the construct or something…)
Why Perfect vehicle for a bright comedic talent coming in to his own. Aziz Ansari (luminous in Parks and Recreation) spreads his wings and tackles big topics in a fresh, distinctive style. Episode 2 Parents is one of the mostly finely crafted sitcom episodes I’ve ever seen.