It’s that time of year again, here’s our look at the best shows of 2015!
Last Tango in Halifax (December 2014 – February 2015, BBC1) A fixture on our best of the year list since it began in 2012, Last Tango in Halifax proved once again to be one of the best dramas on the BBC this year. Sally Wainwright’s characters are so well drawn coupled with wonderful performances from Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker and Anne Reid. It’s a series that never takes the obvious direction and still provides its audience with surprises.
The Hotel (January 2015. Channel 4) We’ve always loved Mark Jenkins and The Hotel, this series saw Mark out of his comfort zone working for someone else. At times the series well a tad contrived, but we can forgive it as The Hotel is the one funniest and warmest shows on television.
Walking the Nile (January 2015, Channel 4) This new four-part series followed British explorer Levison Wood’s expedition to walk the length of the River Nile from source to sea. His nine-month, seven million step journey takes him through jungles, savannah, deserts, cities and war zones in some of the continent’s most remote and spectacular locations. This was a truly harrowing watch, Levison faced muggings, sleeping rough and even a death in the crew. He returns in January to walk the Himalayas.
Banana (January 2015, E4) Whilst Russell T Davies’ Cucumber had its moments, especially that great sixth episode, overall it was inconsistent. However this compendium of stories about gay life, featuring some of the supporting characters from the show, was a lot more easy to get on board with. Each of the stories were memorable and had their own style with our favourites featuring Letitia Wright’s Scotty and Bethany Black’s Helen. Whilst Davies has already confirmed that there will be no Cucumber, we’re hoping that he’ll still be able to get behind something like Banana as it was one of E4’s best offerings of the year.
Cyberbully (January 2015, Channel 4) Build as a factual drama based on real events and starring Maisie Williams, we found this story of a girl being bullied by an anonymous source online absolutely captivating. Focusing solely Maisie’s character, we watched as he her world slowly disintegrated. A powerful story for the modern world led by a stunning performance by Maisie Williams.
Catastrophe (January 2015, Channel 4) We’ve always loved Sharon Horgan. We were massive Pulling fans and you know you’re in safe hands whenever Sharon is attached to something. Catastrophe was the antidote to romantic comedy that had the misfortune to come before it. Crude, unflinching and with genuine heart, the series proved an instant hit for Channel 4 who commissioned a second series and rushed it out in October. Catastrophe was a breath of fresh air, Sharon and Rob clearly had a ball together and it made for a hugely enjoyable watch.
Inside No.9 (March 2015, BBC2) The second series of this superb and unique comedy from Reece Shearsmith was always going to make the list. The first series was one of the biggest highlights of 2014 meaning this second series of the standalone comedy stories had a lot live up too. Whilst some episodes failed to reach the high standards set by the first series, special mention must go to Sheridan Smith’s episode and a deeply engrossing episode set in a call centre.
Ballot Monkeys (April 2015, Channel 4) Channel 4’s commitment to cutting edge comedy continued with this satirical take on the campaign leading up to May’s general election. Writers Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton employed the same technique they did during Drop the Dead Donkey and wrote some of the more topical jokes on the day that the episodes were filmed. This gave Ballot Monkeys a very relevant edge and what’s more it was very funny to boot with special mention going to Ben Miller’s frustrated Lib Dem supporter and Sarah Hadland’s awful UKip member. Ultimately Ballot Monkeys wasn’t just one of the funniest sitcoms of the year it was also one of the most inventive.
Car Share (April 2015, BBC1) We loved absolutely everything about Peter Kay’s latest vehicle (the comedy, not the car he drives in the series). It’s a simple premise, two work colleagues are thrown together as part of a car share scheme and the comedy is confined to the car as the two travel to and from work each day. Much like The Royle Family before it, it’s such a genius premise you can’t believe it hasn’t been done before. Peter Kay and Sian Gibson played off one another with complete ease. Car Share feels like an instant comedy classic. We just wanted to spend time with John and Kayleigh!
The C-Word (May 2015, BBC1) A difficult but important drama based on the book from the wonderful Lisa Lynch. This one-off drama starred Sheridan Smith as Lynch and followed her courageous battle with cancer. The drama never shied away from showing the heart-wrenching realities of Lisa’s disease, but also dealt with the subject with copious amounts of warmth and humour. This is an important watch.
No Offence (May 2015, Channel 4) An irreverent take on the cop drama, Paul Abbott’s foul-mouthed and funny series was bolstered by a trio of fine performances from Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy and Alexandra Roach. While sometimes it was too undisciplined for its own good, No Offence’s combination of believable storylines and a rather controversial central plot thread made each episode gripping viewing. Abbott’s truly shocking ending left fans of the show wanting more and luckily we’ll be getting that when No Offence returns next year.
The Tribe (June 2015, Channel 4) Channel 4 has really worked out where best to use their fix rigged cameras. This way of filming has revolutionized documentary making and still works brilliantly on their longer running series like 24 Hours in Police Custody and 24 Hours in A&E. For The Tribe the cameras were placed around the home of a deserted tribe and we watched as their daily life unfolded. The series lifted the lid on a society we’ve never been privy to before, and again was dealt with humour and humanity.
Humans (June 2015, Channel 4) Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackney’s sci-fi fable burst onto our screens this year and in the process gave Channel 4 their biggest hit in years. A co-production with AMC, Humans imagines what would happen if regular households employed lifelike synthetics to help them around the house. The drama worked on several layers being part social commentary and part thriller as a shady organisation tried to hunt down the synths that had developed conciousness. Although it was rough around the edges, Humans boasted some really interesting ideas as well as some fantastic performances most notably from Gemma Chan as synth Mia and we can’t wait to see what happens when it returns next year.
Don’t Take My Baby (July 2015, BBC3) Next to the C-Word this was easily the most emotional drama of the year. Shown as part of BBC Three’s wonderful ‘defying the label’ strand, this drama based on real life stories shone on a light on the difficulties faced by young disabled people as they become parents. Anna suffers from a muscle wasting disease whilst her boyfriend Tom is slowly going blind. The drama follows them as the struggle to look after themselves and their baby daughter, all the time trying to prove to those around them that they can manage just as well as able bodied parents. Don’t Take My Baby is an important watch, and serves as yet another reason why we’re so upset to be loosing BBC Three as a mainstream channel next year.
Educating Cardiff (August 2015, Channel 4) After the inconsistent Educating the East End, Channel 4’s school documentary strand returned to form this year with the amazing Educating Cardiff. What made this Welsh-set factual series all the more compelling was the way that headteacher Joy Ballard run her school and the great pastoral care that was employed to make sure that no child fell through the cracks. Highlights included the belligerent Mr Hennessy’s attempts to drag the girls of Willows School through their exams and the final episode that focused on the school show. Based on the success of this series it seems inevitable that another Educating series will be announced in the near future however after Educating Cardiff it has a lot to live up to.
The Catch (August 2015, Channel 4/More4) Another excellent documentary series from Channel 4 which placed their fixed rig cameras on fishing boats as they headed out to sea in hopes of a big catch. The series revealed a life on sea not before captured on screen, almost inducing sea sickness. It was really like viewers had boarded the boat themselves. We love a documentary that can shine a light on something we’ve not seen before and we found The Catch to be utterly unmissable week after week.
Boy Meets Girl (September 2015, BBC2)When we first heard that BBC Two were producing TV’s first transgender sitcom we felt it would attempt to be some sort of trailblazer. We were then shocked when Elliot Kerrigan’s Newcastle-based comedy turned out to be an old fashioned romantic piece that was full of heart. Boy Meets Girl’s biggest success was the chemistry between leads Harry Hemple and transgender actress Rebecca Root as central couple Leo and Judy. Although the supporting cast may not have been as well-rounded as we would’ve liked, we enjoyed seeing Leo and Judy’s love story unravel over six episodes and we’re just hoping that a second series will be announced in the near future.
Doctor Foster (September, 2015, BBC1) This was the drama that surprised everyone thanks to its engrossing storytelling and strong lead performance from the always brilliant Surrane Jones. The story of a local GP who discovers her husband is having an affair gripped us from the start and the final episode which saw Gemma confront him on his infidelity was one of the most breathtaking drama moments of the year. Unfortunately, as is the case with TV nowadays, the BBC have greenlit a second series despite the first concluding satisfactorily.
This is England ’90 (September 2015, Channel 4) It was always going to be hard to end the incredibly popular This is England saga however we believe Shane Meadows managed it with the final instalment of this nostalgic saga. Meadows tried to wrap up as many plot threads as possible with Lol and Woody finally getting married and Milky attempting to exact some revenge on Combo. Additionally he gave Shaun a happy ending of sorts as he fell in love with photography and found a new woman to replace Smell. However to us the beauty of This is England ’90 will be summed up by the penultimate episode’s seventeen minute scene at a dinner table in which revelations were dished out and relationships were fractured. Whilst Meadows has said that this is the end of the line for the gang, I think most of us have got our fingers crossed for another reunion at some point.
Hunted (September 2015, Channel 4) I know what you’re thinking, “if you love Channel 4 so much why don’t you just marry it?!” Channel 4 have consistently delivered with new and innovative programming this year. Hunted saw ordinary people ditch their lives in an attempt to completely disappear and evade capture by some of the country’s best hunters and people trackers.The couples or singletons were accompanied by a single camera person who also went on the run with them to make it seem as genuine as it could possibly be. It proved to be a fascinating watch, as their levels of paranoia and loneliness grew each one of them on the run found themselves taking different and unexpected journeys.
Together (October 2015, BBC3) In the year in which we learnt that BBC Three was to move online, the channel proved that it still could deliver the goods when it came to sitcoms. Johnny Sweet’s romantic comedy was surprisingly charming as we followed his character Tom’s attempts to have a successful romance with Cara Theobold’s Ellen. What made Together so unique was the fact that you barely saw the central couple on screen together yet you still believed in their romance. Additionally Sweet was able to assemble a fine supporting cast most notably Alex McQueen and Vicki Pepperdine who almost stole the show as Tom’s parents. Funny and charming in equal measure, we’re just hoping that Together still finds life on BBC Three’s online platform as it more than deserves to.
Unforgotten (October 2015, ITV) The observant ones reading this list will notice this is first appearance for ITV on our list. The channel slipped even further down in our estimations this year with an insistence on terrible celebrity led shows like Flockstars, BBQ Champ and various celeb led travelogues, even their dramas failed to impress. After the downright mess that was Broadchurch 2, the channel released one damp squib after another. Safe House, Black Work and The Trials of Jimmy Rose each one unremarkable. Then in October popped up a new 6-parter entiled Unforgotten. I’ve issues with the title, but that’s just me being picky as the drama itself was a bit of a revelation. Led by the always brilliant Nicola Walker, this story of a body uncovered on the building site wasn’t your run of the mill drama. Completely human, emotional and immersive, it told the story of how the body’s discovery affected seemingly unconnected people who have since got on with their lives. If you dismissed this as just another crime drama, do yourself a favour and grab the DVD. This will also be returning for a new series.
Detectorists (October 2015. BBC4) We loved this charming comedy from Mackenzie Crook last year, and were absolutely delighted that BBC4 stuck with it for a second series. It’s a rare gem of a comedy filled with likeable characters who just want to root for and spend time with. The second series saw Andy become and father and Lance discover he had a daughter! It was just superb. We can’t praise Detectorists enough. Let’s just hope the Christmas Special is as good as we hope!
Peep Show – Series 9 (November 2015, Channel 4) It was finally to say adios to the El Dude Brothers. Peep Show’s final series was a triumph, almost like a farewell tour as Mark met up again with April from a memorable episode from series 2 and Jeremy spoke as Best Man at Superhans’ wedding. This final series offered everything we wanted from Peep Show and whilst we’re sad it won’t be back, it has ended at the right time.
The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds (November 2015, Channel 4) We’re almost sick of singing Channel 4’s praises, but here we go again! Beginning life as a pilot in March, The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, 5 year olds and 6 year olds put those pesky fixed rig cameras into a nursery to see what 4 year olds really get up to. The result was utterly engrossing, ridiculously funny, sweet and hugely charming.
The Murder Detectives (November 2015, Channel 4) Channel 4’s fantastic year of factual programming ended on a high with this behind-the-scenes look at the murder investigation of teenager Nicholas Robinson. Starting with the 999 call that Robinson made shortly after being stabbed, the three-part series followed DCI Bevan and his team as they attempted to find Nicholas’ murderer. What made The Murder Detectives so engrossing was the way in which it was shot more like a drama than a documentary. Additionally the decision to interview Nicholas’ family and fiancee gave an emotional edge that a lot of factual programmes lack. Emotionally-charged from beginning to end and more gripping than most crime dramas, The Murder Detectives showed how Channel 4 could play with the documentary format to make something truly memorable.
NON UK HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Better Call Saul (February 2015, Netflix/AMC) A spin-off/prequel of one of the greatest TV shows ever, Breaking Bad was always going to be a hard task but we shouldn’t have worried because Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould were at the helm making sure Better Call Saul worked. Better Call Saul was almost an origins story of how aspiring lawyer James McGill became the ruthless Saul Goodman we’d grown to love in Breaking Bad. It managed to step outside of Breaking Bad to become a show of its own merits and it was truly fascinating to see Jimmy slowly morphing into Saul. The next season is due in early 2016 and we’re already excited.
The Americans (September 2015, ITV Encore/FX) We’ve always loved this story of Soviet spies living undercover as an ordinary suburban family in America, but this year’s season might have just been the best yet. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell really acted their socks as their characters Philip and Elizabeth wrestled with living life in the US and their commitment to their cause. Special mention must go to Holly Taylor who plays daughter Paige, the season gave her a chance to shine and it was better for it. We were glued to our seats as Philip and Elizabeth revealed their true identity to their bewildered young daughter. We can’t wait to see where the story goes now.
Rectify (September 2015, AMC From BT/Sundance Channel) You may well have completely missed this one, we can’t blame you as it aired on BT’s AMC channel to little fanfare. We only sought it out because US critics have showered with praise, and deservedly so. Rectify is the story Daniel Holden who is released from prison after years on death row for killing his young girlfriend. Upon his release Daniel realises he feels more alone on the outside world than he did in his tiny cell. It’s a story of a man trying to find his place in a world that has left him behind. His family, particularly sister Amantha has been consumed by fighting to clear her brother’s name and even she is at a loss when he is freed. It’s a wonderfully human story that we highly recommend. The first two series are available on DVD now and, if you’ve ever trusted our picks before, got and them!
Nurse Jackie (September 2015, Sky Atlantic/Showtime) The Emmy nominated comedy drama finished its run this year. We’ve always had a soft spot for Nurse Jackie, Edie Falco, Merrit Weaver and co are just superb. We weren’t overly enamored by the direction the show took in its final season but we needed to included it as it’s given us so much joy in its run.
The Affair (October 2015, Sky Atlantic/Showtime) Ruth Wilson and Dominic West are superb in this drama which shows the two different perspectives of two participants in an affair that blow their families apart. The second season took on even more perspectives which could’ve complicated things further, but actually it worked as it gave Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson a time in the spotlight that the first season didn’t give them. It’s a convoluted story which plays with timelines, but it’s a compelling watch.
Thanks to everyone who has visited the site, followed me on twitter, listened to our podcast this year. Have a lovely Christmas and we’ll be back in 2016 for what we hope will be another strong year of telly!