The Blue Room Best Television 2015

1. I’m excited. Ben Pobjie is excited – excited for those of us who, unlike him, have not seen the finale yet. It’s on tonight. I’ll be riveted. Leigh and I have binged watched the hard-drived previous episodes leading up to what we expect to be its, no doubt, explosive and perhaps somewhat weird conclusion. How weird? We can hardly wait to find out – but I’ll let Ben take over:-

Imagine how big a towel an actor would need to mop up their drool after being told they were up for a role in Fargo (SBS1, 9.30pm). There are many ways in which this show breathes the same air as the Coen Brothers oeuvre that spawned it, but perhaps the greatest one is its ability to write its characters ineradicably into your mind. Look at Ed Blumquist, the hapless butcher who in this season of Fargo has found his dreams of a peaceful life as husband, father and small-town butcher shattered by a combination of appalling luck and being married to Kirsten Dunst. Ed, an ordinary decent twit in well over his head, is played by Jesse Plemons, who rose to fame as Breaking Bad’s chillingly polite monster, Todd. Plemons plays pudgy, befuddled Ed with enough stupefied innocence mixed with burgeoning rat cunning to make even his terrifying portrayal of Todd take second place on his career highlights reel.
But in Fargo, damn near every character is as unforgettable and magnetic as the next. Season two’s moral centre is Lou Solverson, inhabited by Patrick Wilson with a stunning stillness, the quiet and incorruptible decency that bad guys underestimate, but is a relentless tide of justice that all the evils of the world can’t hold back. Fargo’s epic morality tale places Lou as the light on the horizon, the heroic gunslinger of a hundred westerns, come to clean up the town. But Fargo’s genius is the ability to make you cheer for bad guys as much as good, and as much as we love Lou, we might love Mike Milligan even more.
Bokeem Woodbine is the mob enforcer taking on the world with boundless confidence, effortless style, and a rarely shown but unmistakable sense of burning resentment, a desire to prove himself and stick it to the world.
Vengeful anger bubbles away beneath the surface of one of the coolest characters in the history of fiction. And then there’s Zahn McClarnon as the implacable angel of death, leaving a trail of corpses chasing his own revenge; and Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist, the beautician seeking to be her best self amid a bloodbath. They all come together in Wednesday’s finale, the explosive release of Fargo’s unbearable tension. It’s Shakespearean, it’s biblical, it’s the Coens and Tarantino and John Ford crashing together to make something as good as TV can be. Plus … maybe aliens?

The first season was excellent, but the second has taken excellence to a whole new level. Nothing else on free-to-air tele came close to it this year – and there was some darn good viewing to be had, even if one had to search to find it at times. Commercial television continued to show its total disregard for its clientele with inconsistent programming and late starts. Worryingly, ABC and SBS also had a few issues with the former problem – and all those repeats everywhere! So Fargo, Season Two was the stand-out of the last twelve months, but let’s see what followed it in the Blue Room’s opinion.


2. The Killing Season (ABC) – Rudd and Gillard battled it out for the historical high ground and by the end of this I knew who my money would be on – sorry Kevin07. The Libs promised government by adults in return for our vote but instead we got a buffoon. Neither of the previous two were that, at least. Sarah Ferguson’s stakes rose even higher due to her incisive reporting on this – I didn’t dare leave my chair.

3. Witnesses (SBS) – The French try their hand at Scandi-noir and the result is a most accomplished police procedural. Thierry Lhermitte and Marie Dompnier are compelling as the two investigators seeking to unravel what was behind the placing of disinterred bodies in suburban homes.

4. Wallander (SBS) – As magnificent as Sir Kenneth B was in the UK version, nothing – not even Branagh – is a match for Krister Henriksson in the Swedish original. SBS aired the third series this year – I must invest in the first two. Never has Kurt Wallander looked so shambolic and crusty as he battled crims and the vagaries of an ageing mind.

5. The Principal (SBS) – Alex Dimitriades was great in the lead, yet another flawed figure, trying to get a school on the skids back up and running. Tyler De Nawi, though, stole the show in his role as the most hard done by student under the sun.

6. Grantchester (ABC) – Pleasingly a second season of this comfy village police procedural has been commissioned. Terrific to see Robson Green back on our screens in a drama centred around a priest who cannot but help giving his assistance to solving crime, wanted or not.

7. The Secret River (ABC) – The book is unsurpassed, but this visual version, a long time coming, certainly did it justice.

8. Rachel Khoo’s Kictchen Notebook/ Gourmet Farmer Afloat (SBS) – tied in the obligatory foodie’s slot. These have to have a guernsey as so much of my tele watching is spent on those offerings with culinary formats.

9. Esio Trot (ABC) – Dustin Hoffman and Dame Judi delight in this take on the Roald Dahl classic.

10. Hipsters (SBS) – Hidden away on SBS2, this featured Samuel Johnson, at his quirky best, taking us into the badlands of bearded living in inner suburbia world-wide.

HMs – as always Downton Abbey and House Husbands, but also The Fall (S2), Broadchurch (S2), Toast of London (S1+2), Kitchen Cabinet, Tony Robinson’s World War One, Renovation Man, Mad as Hell, Glitch, Utopia, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, The Last Leg.

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