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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Our top shows of the 2000's: A is for...

So we're compiling the best shows of the 2000's. Initially I'd planned on a countdown (I'm a bit of a countdown nerd) but to deter a mutiny on social media, I've chickened out and I'll be presenting the shows in alphabetical order. It's important to say it can't possibly be an A-Z list but this list will be a comprehensive look at the shows that have defined the 2000's.

Ready? Let's begin.

Accused ran for two series between 2010 and 2012
Accused (2010 - 2012, BBC1) This was always going to make the list. Jimmy McGovern always delivers and this 10-part series was superb. Beginning with someone being led to the courtroom for their trial, we then flashback to see the events that have led to them sat in cuffs in the docks. The series started in the autumn of 2010 with an episode starring Christopher Eccleston as plumber Willy Houlihan. Willy is all set to leave his family for his girl-friend Michelle when his daughter Laura announces her forthcoming wedding. The announcement sends him on a downward spiral which leads him to gambling and taking more and more risks. When he finds twenty thousand pounds in the back of a taxi and doubles it at the casino before returning the original sum. However, the  next day he learnsthat the owners of the money beat up and killed...
McGovern has an incredible knack of writing characters that the audience can instantly relate to and care about. 2010 was a strong year for BBC drama, but Accused stood out as one of the best. The six-part first series included strong performances from Mackenzie Crook, Andy Serkis, and Naomie Harries. 

When it returned in 2012 it was for an annoyingly shorter run of four episodes. McGovern revealed to me in an interview some years later that he was frustrated that the BBC hadn't given them another six episode run as it made storytelling difficult. Despite the limited episodes the second series was just as strong and memorable as the first. With strong performances from Sheridan Smith, Robert Sheean, and a pre-Broadchurch Olivia Colman.  In the UK we excel at these deeply human dramas and it's a shame the BBC didn't recommission this for a third series.

The Affair (2014-Present, Showtime/Sky Atlantic) This superb series about a holiday romance has more to it than you might think. Told very differently from the two separate perspectives of the two leads which cleverly keeps the viewer wondering which version of the story is closer to reality. With immersive performances from Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. The series is often confusing, and keeps you on your toes, but is ultimately engrossing and clever. I was particularly captivated by Ruth Wilson who effortlessly jumps from sultry adulteress to grieving mother in the space of one episode. The series is grounded in reality and the characters feel real and once it grabs you, you'll be hooked.


The Americans has yet to find a UK broadcaster for its new season.
The Americans (2013 - Present, FX/ITV) This US spy drama set in the 1980's is one of the smartest, slickest and intriguing dramas in recent memory. US network FX were so confident in their new drama that they commissioned a second series before the first had even be shown. Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as soviet spies living in America under the guise of a normal married couple in the suburbs with their children. Philip and Elizabeth, appear completely  ordinary, they run a travel agency in the suburbs and draw little attention to themselves. We soon learn though that this simple married couple live double/triple and sometimes even quadruple lives as they struggle to keep their life normal whilst spying for their home country. All is fine until the couple discover their new neighbour is an FBI agent working to uncover KGB officers.

This series is utterly engrossing with exhausting performances from the two leads as they leap effortlessly from persona to the next. Their lives get more complicated as the series progresses. My favourite elements include the fascinating relationship between Philip and Elizabeth, and what happens when their teenage daughter Paige grows more curious of where her parents disappear to in the dead of night. Each performance is flawless and the series feels in safe signs, with relateable  characters and careful plotting. Despite winning numerous awards in the US and critical acclaim, the series has never really garnered huge support in the UK. ITV bought the first two seasons but scheduled them so bizarrely it's likely to have passed you by. It's one of the best and US dramas I've seen and can't praise it highly enough. It's a shame ITV declined to buy the rights to the third series which recently ended in the States.

An Idiot Abroad (Sky1 2010 - 2012) TV is awash with celebrity travelogues, ITV burps one out whenever they need to fill a gap in their schedules, but An Idiot Abroad is far superior to any other travelogue on television. People often debate whether Karl Pilkington is playing a character or whether he's playing his part straight, but I don't really care. An Idiot Abroad is thoroughly entertaining either way.   Karl shares his own often insightful views on the different countries and tourist attractions that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send him to, the show actually delivers a look at well known landmarks not often seen. The final series saw Pilkington teamed with Warwick Davies.



 Sky have been desperately trying to find other vehicles for Pilkington and whilst his subsequent series The Moaning of Life was enjoyable it felt a little more staged and organised than a second of An Idiot Abroad.

Appropriate Adult (2011, ITV) This may have been only a two-part drama but it has stayed with me since I saw it back in 2011. Dominic West puts in an incredibly sinister performance as real life serial killer Fred West in this brutal retelling of the Fred and Rose West story. Written by Jeff Pope, who has since gone on to have success with other biopics on Cilla Black and Lord Lucan this incredibly affecting drama raises some interesting questions. The story focuses on Janet Leach (played delicately by the superb Emily Watson). Janet is a trainee social worker and is asked by Gloucester police to be the appropriate adult,sitting in on the interrogation of a simple-minded suspect who may not have a full grasp of the law. He is Fred West who,with his wife Rosemary,is accused of killing their daughter and burying her in the garden of their house at 25,Cromwell Street. West claims the death was an accident,of which Rosemary is innocent. However grisly details gradually come to light and West owns to the murders of nine other girls who stayed at the house. Janet soon finds herself intimidated by the intensity of the situation,gutter press overtures,to which her bipolar husband succumbs,and the foul-mouthed threats of Rosemary West. Just as disturbing is the rapport that Fred West believes he has with her,terming her his only friend and telling her things he has not told the police. The drama explores the way West manipulated Leach during their numerous meetings and events that led to him ending up behind bars. Emily Watson is incredible, but it's Dominic West as Fred who gives the most memorable performance.  His opening scenes in the police interview room where recounts cutting up his daughter's body is going to stay with me forever.

The Apprentice (2005 - Present BBC2/BBC1) Spawned from the US reality series fronted by Donald Trump, the show has become an institution. Beginning life on BBC Two and moving to BBC One, it has seen Amstrad boss Alan Sugar become a television megastar. It also made big names of his two assistants Nick Hewer and Margret Mountford. I can't quite put my finger on what makes The Apprentice such unmissable television. It could be watching these 'business experts' fall flat on their faces every task as they fight for investment from Lord Sugar, it could be the bitching in the boardroom, whatever it is, it still manages to grab us.  
Perhaps the format is a little more predictable now than a few years ago, but when they get the right mix of candidates The Apprentice is still one of the more enjoyable reality formats in recent years. We all have our favourite moments, candidates, but let's try and forget it's the show that gave the world Katie Hopkins.

Arrested Development (2003 - Present Fox/BBC2/Netflix) This quirky US comedy might be one of the most original shows on the list. I'm not even certain how to describe it. So much so that I might have to cheat and pinch the synopsis from IMDB "Level-headed son Michael Bluth takes over family affairs after his father is imprisoned. But the rest of his spoiled, dysfunctional family are making his job unbearable." The Bluth family live in their own little bubble and the series gets more wonderfully bizarre as it goes on. It's one of those comedies you have to watch for yourself to enjoy it. One of those 'you had to be there' shows. The series wasn't a massive ratings winner when it aired in Fox, but became a cult favourite. It's a show with its own unique  style which is further enhanced by the brilliant narration from Ron Howard. With standout performances from Will Arnett, Tony Hale, David Cross and Jeffrey Tambor, if for whatever reason this show has passed you by you must catch up now! It was recently revived by Netflix but wasn't as well recieved as the original series.

Ashes to Ashes (2008 - 2010, BBC1) I was initially sceptical about this follow up to Life on Mars. I saw it as the BBC trying to hold on to their hugely popular period crime drama without lead John Simm. I quickly ate my words though as transporting Gene Hunt and his team to the 1980s worked brilliantly. The story saw Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) shot, left in a coma and then much like Sam Tyler waking up in the 1980s were Gene Hunt and his team who have relocated to London. In a clever twist Drake was already aware of Sam Tyler and his time spent with Hunt.



After a slightly shaky and uncertain start, the series found its feet when it focused on the relationship between Drake and Hunt and focused further on why Drake was with Hunt and his team. By the time it reached it's third and final series in 2010 I was well and truly sucked in. One of the few criticisms that was thrown towards Life On Mars was that the conclusion wasn't satisfying. Ashes to Ashes on the other hand had a lip smackingly good conclusion. The origins of Gene Hunt was explained and I remember my adrenaline running as it reached its final moments.

At Home with the Braithwaites (2000 - 2003, ITV) My first proper encounter with the unique voice of writer Sally Wainwright, I was obsessed with At Home With The Braithwaites from start to finish. Focusing on a family who win 38 million pounds on the lottery and the problems and unexpected issues having money brings.  In true Sally Wainwright style the series is full of twists and turns and Sally's gift for humour and darker drama. With exceptional performances from Sarah Smart, Julie Graham and Amanda Redman, if you haven't seen this you're missing a trick. I can't praise this enough.

1 comment:

Luke Short said...

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