The Best of 2012:The year that drama shone bright

by | Dec 19, 2012 | All

This time year I sat in a very different office, and oddly in a very different country pondering on what I’d enjoyed most in 2011. 365 days later (roughly) it’s time to sit and ponder again on my personal highlights of a packed TV year.  I knew before I compiled 2012 delivered a lot of good television but soon realised the shows that had made the biggest impact on me this year were predominately dramas. To be more specific BBC dramas. The trailers that promised Original British Drama most certainly delivered as 2012 has been the most consistent for well written new dramas.  Add to the list some favourite new comedies and some old returning favourites that really shone in 2012 and hopefully it makes for interesting reading.

Public Enemies (January 2012, BBC1)

The first great drama of 2012 aired over three consecutive nights. The premise was simple but the characters and the performances were so engaging. Daniel Mays and Anna Friel were so fantastically believable together. The story of a freed murderer and his parole officer could’ve gone in predictable directions but you never once felt predictable or far fetched. The ending was a slight disappointment but mainly because the built up had been so exceptional.   Read our Original review of the series. BUY The DVD

Sherlock Series 2 (January 2012, BBC1)

There’s nothing I can see really say about this faultless second series of the BBC’s revamp. The three episodes that made up the second series were true masterpieces. The final instalment of the series was one of the most exciting and thrilling pieces of television drama I’ve ever seen. I just can’t wait for Series 3! BUY The DVD

Endeavour (January 2012, ITV) I was never the world’s biggest Morse fan and I’ve never got excited about Lewis but this Morse prequel starring Shaun Evans was a real unexpected treat. It was smart but not snooty, a decent mystery and Evans shone brilliantly in the role that John Thaw made iconic. More episodes are expected in 2013 and if they’re of the standard of this pilot I can’t wait. BUY The DVD

Stella (January 2012, Sky1) It was always going for Gavin Stacey star Ruth Jones to shake off Nessa but she proved she’s anything but a one trick pony with this 10-part comedy drama set in Wales.  I loved Stella from the very start. It was something different, went different directions that I initially expected and Jones proved once again what an outstanding writing talent she is. A second series starts in early January on Sky1 BUY THE DVD Read our interview with Ruth Jones

Inside Men (February 2012, BBC1) This four-part drama about the robbery of a money counting facility was really well done. Stephen Mackintosh, Ashley Walters and Warren Brown were the perfect trio. The drama was dark but true to life. Much like Public Enemies the ending was a bit of a let down and left many viewers (myself included) wanting the answers to question the final episode didn’t address. Read our Original review of the Series  BUY The DVD

Prisoners Wives (February 2012, BBC1) Though the title made some think this drama series would be reminiscent of Footballer’s Wives some were slow to catch on how brilliant this female led drama was. Though TV is no stranger to gritty prison based dramas but never before have we seen it from the prospective of those left to deal with their lovers consequence on the outside. Prisoners Wives was brilliantly written and performed. The all four female leads were fantastic and although it didn’t get huge ratings those who did watch it fell in love with the series. I can’t wait for Series 2 which is currently scheduled in the spring of 2013. BUY The DVD

Scott & Bailey – Series 2 (March 2012, ITV) The first series of this crime drama was one of the highlights of 2011 but the second series really proved Scott & Bailey was a patch above any other ITV crime drama series. Surrane Jones and Lesley Sharp are so believable together and writer Sally Wainwright’s script pair the right amount of grit and humour to make this one of the best of the genre. BUY The DVD

One Night (April 2012, BBC1) This four-part drama was easily one of the strongest dramas of the year and despite critical acclaim audiences didn’t get the chance to enjoy it as it was scheduled in a ridiculously late night slot that didn’t seem to match the tone of the drama. If you get the chance you MUST get this on DVD. The performances were heartbreaking and the writing was top notch. Read our interview with writer Paul SmithBUY The DVD

Louis Theroux: Extreme Love (April 2012, BBC2) I’ve long been a huge Louis Theroux fan. He has a rare ability to place himself and his audience in any situation and have you end up emphasizing with the people he meets. His two-parter on Extreme Love which focused on the tricky subjects of autism and dementia showed Theroux at his best. Each documentary was incredibly moving, surprising and without pity or cynicism.

Silk – Series 2 (May 2012, BBC1) The first series of this legal drama was one of the standout series of 2011 for me and so I was eagerly awaiting the second series. Maxine Peake is just one of the best actors on TV and Martha Costello might be one of my favourite TV characters ever! The series didn’t let me down and the addition of Frances Barber and Phil Davies was a stroke of genius. The third series is coming in 2013 and surprise, surprise I can’t wait. Read our interview with star Neil Stuke BUY The DVD

Britain in a Day (June 2012, BBC2) This one-off documentary was comprised of footage from members of the public who sent it in their daily activities to the film-makers. The result took a bit of getting used to to begin with but once it hit it’s stride this turned out one of the most well put together and fascinating pieces of documentaries of the year.

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life (June 2012, Sky Atlantic) I’ll admit to being wary and sceptical about Steve Coogan reviving his most loved character for Sky. The resulting 45min spoof documentary that saw Alan taking viewers around is favourite haunts in Norwich was a triumph and featured Partridge at his cringe enduing best.

Walking and Talking (June 2012, Sky Atlantic) Spawned from Kathy Burke’s Little Cracker, this four-part, semi autobiographical comedy which featured a young Kath and her best friend doing as the title described Walking and Talking. You’d be forgiven for thinking thirty minuets of two teenage girls walking and talking would make for a rather dull sitcom but the performances of the two main characters and Kathy’s Burke’s warm and sweet scripts Walking & Talking was a true highlight. BUY The DVD

Line of Duty (July 2012, BBC2) This five-part police corruption drama was easily one of the most original pieces of drama of 2012. Line of Duty made the police genre feel fresh and exciting again. Over the five high octane hours I was never sure who to trust, who to believe or even what exactly was going on. That was of course the whole point and unlike other dramas which had been full of promise and limped to a lacklustre end, Line of Duty kept me glued for five straight weeks. A second series is planned and I just hope it lives up to expectation.

The Last Weekend (August 2012, ITV) We’ve become so used to themes of ITV’s physiological dramas but this three-parter starring Silk stars Rupert-Penry Jones and Shaun Evans was something special. The tone and atmosphere made this genuinely edge of the seat stuff and times and Shaun Evans was electrifying.  Read our review of episode 1 BUY The DVD

A Touch of Cloth (August 2012, Sky1) I know it was daft, silly and at points immature but the most important thing to say about this new 2-parter co-written by Charlie Brooker is that it was brilliantly observed and very very funny. In this crime drama spoof no cliché  of the genre was forgotten and the fact that John Hannah and Surrane Jones played every ludicrous line so straight made the whole thing feel oddly believable at points. We’re due another two outings with Cloth and with the bar raised so high I’m interested to see where it can go next. BUY The DVD

Accused – Series 2 (August 2012, BBC1) Everyone who follows me on Twitter or reads the site will know I LOVED the second series of Accused. The four stories which featured Sean Bean in drag, Anne-Marie Duff as a hair dresser and Robert Sheean as a troubled teen was not only one of the best series of 2012 but possibly one of the best in recent years. There’s no word on whether we’ll be treated to a third series but I could watch these four episodes over and over. Read our review of Episode 1 Read our interview with co-writer Isabelle Grey

Good Cop (August 2012, BBC1) Though some thought this four-part police drama sometimes put too much emphasis on violence I felt the brutal and difficult to watch scenes were the best parts. The violence and the brutality weren’t there for the sake of it, they were there to illustrate the main characters motives. Sadly the most memorable thing about Good Cop was the BBC’s decision to postpone the final instalment to a late-night Saturday night slot after it was felt events in the last episode were too similar to a prominent news story. Whether that decision was right or wrong isn’t for me to say here but it certainly meant that not enough people were aware that the final episode was going to air. Those who did tune were left feeling like they needed a fifth episode to tie up the loose ends that episode four didn’t address. Good Cop only just made it on the list but made it in the end because it delivered something different. Listen to our debate on whether the BBC were right to postpone the final episode BUY The DVD

Bad Education (August 2012, BBC3) This BBC3 comedy series starring Jack Whitehall as a teacher who is on the same mental level of his pupils proved an instant ratings winner. Though not my favourite sitcom of the year I did thoroughly Bad Education. The characters were wonderfully zany and incredibly likeable and I’m very happy we’re getting a second series in 2013. Read our original review

The Bletchley Circle (September 2012, ITV) I’m not a huge fan of period pieces but this three-part drama intrigued me from the off. The female leads were wonderful, the dialogue was sharp and witty and the story really engrossing. At the risk of repeating myself The Bletchley Circle was another drama that gave viewers something a bit different and away from the norm not to mention how truly superb Anna Maxwell-Martin was in the leading role. Our review of episode 1 BUY The DVD

Mrs. Biggs (September 2012, ITV) While other dramas in 2012 started brilliantly and ended disappointingly, Mrs Biggs began slowly and got better each week. This five-part biopic took a ton of twists and turns and never ever felt over the top or unrealistic. Sheridan Smith was a joy in the leading role and Daniel Mays had a real presence about him as the Chairman Ronnie Biggs. The only slightly disappointing thing about Mrs Biggs is that it didn’t seem to get the attention it was so deserving of. It was scheduled in a mid-week slot and wasn’t raved about or discussed as much as I thought it should have been. For me, it was this year’s best biopic. Read our review BUY The DVD

Moone Boy (September 2012, Sky1) 2012 had a great deal of comedies but only a few were worth mentioning when I came to compile the best of the year. This endearing and sweet sitcom was not only one of my favourite comedies of the year, it’s one of my favourite comedies of recent years. Moone Boy was an absolute joy from start to finish. It managed to be sweet without being sickly, funny without being silly and sentimental without being soppy. The naturalistic performances of the young cast were wonderful and the whole series had a warmth to it rarely seen in comedies nowadays.  BUY The DVD

Fresh Meat – Series 2 (October 2012, Channel 4) The first series of this student based comedy from the minds behind Peep Show made the same list last year but when the time to compile the list again there was no way I couldn’t include it again. After a strong start last year Fresh Meat really became appointment viewing. The characters really found themselves in series 2 and the series was much funnier and sharper. It seemed to me that Fresh Meat finally decided what sort of series it wanted to be in 2012 and I applaud Channel 4 for sticking with it. A third series is expected in 2013.Read our review

Getting On – Series 3 (October 2012, BBC4) I’ve loved Getting On since the start but the third (and sadly the last) was the best yet. Getting On is wonderfully bleak and edgy but manages to counterbalance the of its surroundings with real belly laughs and genuine characters. Only thing in not working in Getting On’s favour is the fact that it deserves greater exposure. It baffles me why BBC2 would churn out below par sitcoms while something as brilliant as Getting On languishes on BBC4. For those of us who love the series series 3 delivered in spades. Read our Review BUY The DVD

Him & Her – Series 3 (November 2012, BBC3) I’ll shamelessly admit I was a late comer to Him & Her but when I decided to take a punt on the new series my eyes were opened to what a well written and character driven comedy I’d been annoyingly missing! In essence nothing really happens in each half hour we spend round Steve and Becky’s bedsit but that’s the genius of it. It’s a carefully crafted play really. We only spend time with the same group of characters but each one is so perfectly observed that you don’t even realise. I was always genuinely sad when each episode ended as I wanted to spend more time with Steve and Becky. Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani make a genuinely believable couple and I really hope we get a fourth series. In a year where comedies were at the level of The Royal Bodyguard and Citizen Khan Him and Her helped restore my faith in the modern British sitcom. Our glowing review

Last Tango in Halifax (November 2012, BBC1) This wonderful drama series starring Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi was moved around the BBC’s schedules continually before finally hitting our screens in mid November. I was lucky enough to be invited to a BBC screening back in July and as soon as the end credits rolled I think all of us in the room knew we’d seen something special. The story of two pensioners who find love again after meeting on facebook, this sweet drama series was an instant hit. Much like Moone Boy this was sweet and affectionate without being too sickly or soppy. The two leads bounce off of one another brilliantly and the cast around them, notably Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker are fantastic. Sally Wainwright has long been one of my favourite television writers and with Last Tango she’s worked her effortless magic again. A second series has just recently been announced by the BBC and it’s a good job to as I’ve slightly fallen in love with the tale of Celia and Alan. Review of episode 1 BUY The DVD

Inside Claridge’s (December 2012, BBC2) This three-part documentary about the world famous London Hotel showed me a side of the world I’d never been privy to before. The world of the super rich and an excess that had never been explored on television before. It was truly fascinating and at parts draw dropping.

So there you have it! My favourites of a strong year. I’d like to thank everyone who has visited the site this year and everyone who has followed me on Twitter. I’d like to thank everyone who has given the site an opportunity this year and all the new writers I’ve taken on, notably Matt Donnelly who has proved invaluable this year.  I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has downloaded the podcast especially Gary Redrup who has become my podcast partner and everyone who has bookmarked the site to always keep up with what we’re doing. I hope you’l stick with me for another exiciting and unexpected year of good and bad TV in 2013.

Have a lovely Christmas and make sure to visit in the New Year.

Thanks as always.


Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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