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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Best of 2017: Our favourite shows of the Year


It's that time of year again when we look back on the best of the year so here's our chronological list of the best that 2017 had to offer.

No Offence (January 2017, Channel 4) Ballsy, brazen and on the outer fringes of bonkers, we've championed Paul Abbott's offbeat crime drama from the beginning. The second series which saw DI Viv Deering and her team attempt to take down the notorious Attah family was just as satisfying and refreshing as what had come before. Tackling stories on child slavery and genital mutilation the series never shies away from the brutalities of modern society. Paul Abbott and his team have created one of the most unique dramas on television and we're chomping at the bit for more

Unforgotten (January 2017, ITV) We adored the first series of Chris Lang's crime drama that its second series offered something so unique and moving it made sure the show will always be held in high esteem here. It started similarly enough with a body being discovered in a suitcase, but what looked like a twisty and turny crime drama became something far more thought provoking. A story about what happens when people are abused in their past had us gripped and invested. The perfect balance of wonderful scripts from Chris Lang and top notch performances from new cast like Mark Bonnar and Rosie Cavaliero made this compelling viewing for its six-week run. It may've been on the first week of January but Unforgotten was one of the best dramas of the year that we'd urge you to see if you can. DCI Cassie Stuart and DS 'Sunny' Khan are the most down to earth and likeable cops on television and we'd relish the opportunity to spend more time with them.


Inside No.9 (February 2017, BBC2) We genuinely don't understand how Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton manage to come up with ideas for this always refreshing, surprising and breath of fresh air of an anthology series. Highlights of the incredible third series include Diddle Diddle Dumpling which saw a man obsess over a single black shoe that it found and A Private View which saw strangers gathered together for an unusual art exhibition. Three series in it continues to surprise and delight. It's a show you can never second guess and we love it more with every episode. We're getting a fourth in 2018 and we can't wait.

This Country (February 2017, BBC Three) We're still feeling a bit sore about BBC Three moving to an online platform, but this brilliant mockumentary from brother and sister team Daisy and Charlie Cooper proved the channel can still produce shows to get excited about. The sibling duo write and star as cousins Kerry and Kurtan two twenty somethings stuck in their village where job opportunities and other young people are virtually non existent. The mockumentary style which has been overused since The Office works to great effect here as the pair spout off about their frustrations of being stuck with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Highlights included Kurtan's obsession with finding old school friend Robert Robinson, Kerry's reaction to being 'plumbed' and episode where the duo argue over a pizza. Often rude, but brutally honest, really funny and with its heart in the right we're so pleased that it became the hit it deserved to be and even more pleased we're getting more next year.

Line of Duty (March 2017, BBC1) Oh Line of Duty, Oh Jed Mercurio you genius. Line Of Duty isn't just a British drama, it's a drama that's up there with the best TV on the planet. The show has been consistently good since its debut way back before the Olympics of 2012 and we're not sure how Mercurio is able to top himself year after year. This year's nail biting put Thandie Newton's Roz Huntley under AC12's spotlight. Roz was a tricky customer, even by Line of Duty standards she was a hard one to pin down. Could she possibly be capable of murder? Was her seemingly meek mannered husband more involved in the shady underworld that we first thought? As always the series left us shouting at the television with genuine excitement and we can't wait to see what Jed and company come up with next even if the next series is a long way off.

Three Girls (May 2017, BBC1) Dramatising the Rochdale sex abuse scandal was always going to be a hard job but Nicole Taylor and her team did an admirable job with this three-part miniseries. By focusing on three of the girls who were abused by a group of Asian men, Taylor gave the drama an emotional core especially when focusing on Molly Windsor's Holly Winshaw and her attempts to bring her abusers to justice. The three episodes were also distinctly separated with the first focusing on the harrowing abuse, the second on the police investigation and the finale primarily centring on the court case. At its heart though Three Girls was a story about trust, relationships and the struggle for justice that those involved in the case struggled with. All the cast were fantastic with the trio of young actresses deserving particular praise whilst Maxine Peake and Lesley Sharp were all brilliant. Although we can't say this was a drama we particularly enjoyed, it was a series that has stayed in our memories ever since it aired and it did an admirable job of putting a human face to these awful events.

Broken (May 2017, BBC1) Jimmy McGovern's last foray serialised drama, Banished didn't really hit the heady heights we'd come to expect from one of TV's most powerful voices, but his 2017 series Broken is completely deserving of a mention as one of the best of the year. The six-part series revolved around the work of Catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan portrayed by the by always incredible Sean Bean. McGovern tackled everything from loss, gambling, police coverups and the abuse within the Catholic church. It wasn't perfect but when it worked it was incredibly moving and engrossing that serves to prove why we admire McGovern's work so much.


The Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds (August 2017, Channel 4) There's a lot of great TV, but not enough of it as uplifting as Channel 4's exceptional two-part experiment that aimed to look at the effect of adding a group of 4 year olds into an old people's home. The result was a revelation with even the most resistant elderly resident won over by the presence of the young children. The experiment aimed to improve the lives of the elderly and it did proved a resounding success. Channel 4 are returning to the Old People's Home for a one-off visit this Christmas which is sure to prove a highlight. It was one of the most joyous and uplifting series we've seen in a very long time.

The Great British Bake Off (August 2017, Channel 4) We were as sceptical as anyone when Channel 4 announced that Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding would be filling the hole left by Mel and Sue when the duo parted ways with the series. We were sceptical that the series would work as well without Mary Berry and we bemoaned the idea of having ads spliced between bakes but my lord were we wrong. Channel 4 took a massive gamble buying the Great British Bake Off when Love Productions upped their fee and left the BBC out in the cold, but it paid off brilliantly. The idea of Sandi and Noel in the tent seemed completely bonkers on paper but they turned out to the perfect pairing. Channel 4's incarnation of the Bake Off was so ruddy bloody good that we never actually missed Mel and Sue nor Mary Berry. It maintained its charm with lovely contestants that you felt compelled to root for and the fact that Noel and Sandi got so teary whenever a baker left the tent made the whole thing feel really genuine and sincere. The TV landscape is littered with poorly with poorly executed revamps but it would appear The Great British Bake Off is a format we're far from sick of and bravo to Channel 4 for taking this risk and working to make it succeed so brilliantly.

Educating Greater Manchester (September 2017, Channel 4) After a years' break, Channel 4's school documentary strand returned as the programme journeyed up North to Harrop Fold School just outside Salford. Over eight episodes we laughed and cried with a incredibly varied student body and teaching staff headed up by the quick-witted Drew Povey. There were plenty of highlights over the eight episodes but our favourite had to be the Head Boy and Head Girl elections which highlighted how intelligent the younger generation is and how much ambition many of them have. This was a series that really championed the underdogs and highlighted how tirelessly teachers work to improve the lives of every pupil in their care.


W1A (September 2017, BBC2) A lot of people don't get W1A. If you happen to be one of those people you have my deepest sympathies. The mockumentary that swirls around the truly bizarre inner workings of the BBC had its third and final series this year and we loved every second of it. From cross-dressing ex-Premier League footballer Ryan Chelford's appearance on a late-night, midweek edition of Match of the Day, to the team's horror at Claudia Winkleman abandoning Strictly the series put its characters through the ringer for one last cringeworthy time this year and the end result was glorious.  We'll be sad to see it go but it was probably the right time as Will would say it was 'cool, yeah cool'.


The End of the F***ing World (October 2017, Channel 4/All4) For some unfathomable reason this brilliant dark comedy based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman was confined to Channel 4's streaming service All4. We happened to catch the first episode when it was shown on Channel 4 and were intrigued enough to carry on. We're so glad we did. The story of two teenage misfits who run away together went from a dark macabre comedy to one of the most engaging love stories we've seen in a long time. Outwardly James  (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) were deeply selfish and difficult to like. Luckily the show employed a Peep Show inner monologue which revealed the two of them to be vulnerable, lonely and in need for a place in the world. The two leads were brilliantly engaging and believable as a pair and the story had us on the edge of our seats. It's a crying shame this didn't get the TV airing it was so deserving of and we urge you to watch it on All4.

Blue Planet 2 (October 2017, BBC1) We don't need to say a lot of this. The BBC's Natural Unit work their magic once again as David Attenborough takes us to places we've never been and shows us things never captured on television before. No one in the world makes programmes of the calibre of the BBC when it comes to series like this. It's a show for everyone and anyone. It's what HD and 4K TV's were made for as you marvel at the colours and the worlds we never knew existed.

The A Word (November 2017, BBC1) Peter Bowker's family drama returned for a welcome second series this year. It's the story of a diagnosis of autism affects a family but it's so much more too. It's a series brimming with warmth and humour that champions the importance parenting and family ties. The cast are incredibly believable, the setting is stunning and the stories heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure. It's a little gem that had to make the list again.

Motherland (November 2017, BBC2) We weren't sure what to make of the pilot in 2016. It felt a few like several shows bumping into one another and didn't seem to gel. Thankfully, the full series worked out the kinks and it quickly became one of our favourite BBC comedies for a while. That's hardly surprising given the talent behind the camera, Graham Linehan, his wife Helen with Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh. The premise is a simple one and feels a familiar sitcom world focusing on the struggles on modern parenting but Motherland is step above any show to tackle the subject before. It shines the spotlight on the awkward world of  the school gate. The humour is often toe curling and cringeworthy but the characters feel authentic and we're hoping for more next year.

Detectorists (November 2017, BBC4) We've always been fans of Mackenzie Crook's gentle sitcom and we're pleased to report it went out on a high with its third and final series. The great thing about Detectorists is that it celebrates the quirkiness of British life and all the tiny idiosyncrasies that go with it. Crook and Toby Jones were equally wonderful as metal detecting buddies Andy and Lance who had to deal with the prospect of losing the farm land that they detected whilst at the same time dealing with issues in their personal life. The final episode saw everything wrapped up perfectly and a final scene that seemingly spelt success for our underdog protagonists. Although Crook has claimed this is the end, we'd really be happy to see Detectorists pop up on our screens in a few years' time.

Peaky Blinders (November 2017, BBC2) It's almost part of television folklore that great series plod on past their best, suffering slow deaths in search of former glories. Peaky Blinders should, in theory, be one of those on the list. Its style should have overtaken its substance. If anything, series four has raised the game higher and the threat of death applies only to the Shelbys rather than the show's quality control.Cillian Murphy continues to astonish as Tommy and brings further depths to his troubled soul. In fact, the whole cast are in their element, thriving off electric scripts and masterful direction. The fourth run brought a new atmosphere to Small Heath while expertly threading in previous plots. We know there will be a fifth and potentially final series and it can't come soon enough. Raise your glasses, down your gin and salute this event telly of the most special kind.

NON UK HONOURABLE MENTIONS

American Gods (May 2017, Amazon Prime) We're big fans of shows that stand out from the crowd and Starz's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods was just that. Airing on Amazon Prime in the UK, the eight-parter followed Ricky Whittle's Shadow Moon as he was taken under the wing of Ian McShane's mysterious Mr. Wednesday. There was so much to admire about the show's visual style which marked itself as unique from the very opening scene and perfectly integrated its modern storylines with the ancient folklore that was an integral part of the plot. Whittle and McShane perfectly anchored the show whilst there were standout performances from Emily Browning as Shadow's wife Laura and Pablo Schrieber as her leprechaun companion Mad Sweeney. Although we enter the show's second season with some trepidation after the exit of show-runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, we're still excited about what's to come now that Wednesday has revealed his true form to Shadow.

The Good Fight (February 2017, CBS/CBS All Access/More4) Spinning off one our favourite dramas of all time; The Good Wife wasn't going to be an easy feat but Robert and Michelle King managed to do just that earlier this year. The Good Fight saw Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart forced to keep working after her retirement fund was lost thanks to a financial scam perpetrated by those close to her. Fans of The Good Wife were well-served by appearances from familiar faces as well as fully fleshed out roles for the likes of Cush Jumbo's Luca Quinn and Sarah Steele's Marissa Gold. Whilst at times the series felt a little rushed, due in part to the fact there was only ten episodes, the writing on The Good Fight was almost as sharp as that of its predecessor with most of the stories of the week having a topical tinge to them. With a second season already announced we're anticipating even better things for The Good Fight which hopefully will improve on its impressive first run.

Big Little Lies (February 2017, HBO/Sky Atlantic) What drew us to HBO's mini series wasn't the star power that came with it. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd and Adam Scott were all very very good, but what drew us initially was the performance of the young cast. The kids here gave such naturalistic performances we'd seen in a TV drama and couple that with an intriguing mystery and we were hooked from the word go. David E Kelly's scripts were fast paced and engaging with viewers not only waiting to find out how the murder victim met their end but, in a clever twist, the victim was kept a secret too. It wasn't so much a whodunnit but more a 'whodunnit to who?' On the face of it the story of ladies who lunch in a gorgeous Southern California town wasn't really for us but the performances and the story really drew us in and left us desperate for more each week. At seven episodes it was just the right length, it kept us guessing week on week and gave us the satisfying and brutal conclusion we'd been hoping for. It was pretty much perfect but sadly, in the TV landscape we live in the end of a story never means the end of the series and HBO have recently announced plans for a second season. We're sceptical there's enough story left to tell but we'll give David E Kelly the benefit of the doubt...for now.

The Americans (March 2017, FX) This drama about KGB spies raising a family in the suburbs of 1980's America has been a fixture on these lists for five years. This year's season was the show's penultimate outing and the pace slowed at times to allow the team to set things in motion for the final season next year. This might be a problem for some shows but it's the quieter moments of The Americans we relish. From Philip wrestling with what he'd left behind in Russia, to young daughter Paige growing more inquisitive about what her parents do, we've reached the point where we know and love the characters and the world they inhabit so much we're just happy to spend time with them. We're chomping at the bit for the final series but we'll miss this show so much.

Better Call Saul (March 2017. AMC/Netflix) This Breaking Bad spin-off is a different beast to the show it was spawned from but it's just as engrossing and expertly plotted. This year's third season was the shows best yet as Jimmy finally got the better of his bitter brother Chuck and the Breaking Bad universe encroached further for Mike when  Giancarlo Esposito returned to tell more of the early story of menacing proprietor of Los Pollos Hermanos Gus Fring. It's almost three shows in one which blend and enrich the worlds of the other but as we approach the fourth season we can see these worlds colliding and we can't wait to see them merge in the capable hands of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.

The Leftovers (April 2017, HBO) Damon Lindelof's final season of this HBO series was a masterpiece so much so I've been dreading summarising it. It's a show to marvel at, from the twists and turns of its storytelling to its breathtaking visuals, it's a show that is best seen for yourself. This season saw Carrie Coon’s Nora Durst delivering a monologue that explained either everything about the series or nothing, depending on your how you chose to interpret whilst her brother Matt (the wonderful Christopher Eccleston) found himself stranded on a cruise ship with a devout religious cult and a blood thirsty lion. It sounds utterly bonkers but somehow it wasn't. For a show where every character is struggling loss and grief it manages to be one of the most life affirming and uplifting shows you'll see. It may've finished but I have it all on DVD and I know I'll revisit and pick it apart all over again very soon.

Veep (April 2017, HBO/Sky Atlantic) For a comedy in its sixth season Veep is showing no signs of fatigue at all. Julia Louis-Dreyfus's Selina Meyer is no longer president and her time as an ex president made for an interesting and more diverse series that took the characters out of Washington and onto pastures new. We already know HBO has greenlit a seventh and final season and which we have high hopes for.

Glow (June 2017, Netflix) A show about female wrestlers in the 1980s didn't exactly sound like an exciting premise but Netflix's comedy drama charmed and amused us in equal measure. The show focused on Alison Brie's jobbing actress Ruth Wilder who ended up becoming one of the dozen or so women chosen to be part of the experimental Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling promotion. Over ten episodes we got to know the majority of the women involved in GLOW as we saw them form bonds and become a family. Each episode flowed beautifully whilst the performances were universally brilliant most notably those from Brie and Marc Maron as GLOW's drug-addicted sardonic writer Sam Sylvia. Season one ended as the promotion was just getting started but thankfully a second run is already on the way and we're greatly anticipating what's coming next for Ruth and the other women of Glow.

Halt and Catch Fire (August 2017, AMC/Amazon Prime) TV is great isn't it? It can sometimes been overwhelming trying to keep with all the good stuff. Sometimes you'll hear people say 'it takes some time to get going but if you stick with it it gets really good'. I normally have a problem with that. With so much good stuff to chose from why should I sit and wait for something to get good. Loved by all the US critics I follow on twitter Halt and Catch Fire, which streams in the UK on Amazon is a little spoken about drama that follows four characters from the dawn of the personal computer era through the early days of the internet. The first season is a struggle offering little hope for the gem it would eventually become but when it finds its groove it's one of the most emotional shows on TV and I'm so glad I gave it the time to bed in. The show aired its fourth and final season this year with US broadcaster AMC deciding to give the creators one final season to tie up all the loose ends. I've loved a lot of TV this year but the connection I felt to the characters and the world they lived in is unparalleled. Like The Americans and Better Call Saul it's a show that revels in quiet and poignant moments with the characters letting you breathe in their lives. I loved it so so much and there was no doubt it had to make the list. If you can get through the dodgy first season you'll be heavily rewarded and won't want it to end.

The Good Place (September 2017, Netflix) Holy Forking Shirtballs! The Good Place was the biggest surprise of the year. This inventive comedy from the team behind Parks and Recreation was one of the wackiest and enjoyable programmes we've seen all year. The excellent premise and story was propelled by wonderful lead performances from Ted Danson and Kristen Bell we can't praise it enough. It presents a world where literally anything can happen and we were just enthralled. The Good Place might be the best place on TV.  We could blabber on about the many twists and turns the show takes but we'd rather you took the time over Christmas to binge on all the episodes before it returns to Netflix in the first week of Jan.

American Vandal (September, 2017, Netflix) Netflix began spoofing its own true crime documentaries this year with the splendidly clever American Vandal. Focusing on an incident in an American high school in which all of the teachers' cars were spray painted with phallic symbols, two intrepid sophomores set out to find the truth behind the accusations. The brilliance of Dan Perrault and Tony Yancenda's comedy is how straight all of the characters play it as the elements of the documentary begin to play out. In addition to being a brilliant mockumentary, American Vandal has a lot to say on how modern teenagers need to document everything in their lives with phone camera footage being utilised throughout the show. Whilst some may have felt the pay-off was a slight letdown, we really enjoyed American Vandal's ambiguous conclusion and are already intrigued to see what the show has to offer in season two.

Stranger Things (October 2017, Netflix) The Netflix original both entertained and enthralled as the story was given more time to breathe and expanded outside the confines of Hawkins Indiana. The Duffer brothers cleverly balanced the comedic and dramatic tones as they explored Eleven's mysterious backstory and the peculiar goings on within Hawkins. The introduction of new characters breathed further new life into a show that seems as surefooted and confident as it did when it began. The show's continued success is testament to the young stars, the Duffer Brothers and in truth to the streaming service to timed it's Halloween return just right that. With season 3 already announced a fourth in the plotline we trust everyone involved to deliver another truly exciting installment when we meet them again. Just don't talk us about episode 7 please.

I'd like to thank to anyone who has contributed to the site this year, followed us on twitter, liked us on Twitter or listened to our podcast. It means an awful lot and we look forward to filling your life with much more telly in 2018.

Have a wonderful Christmas.
Luke

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