The Blue Room's Best Television 2016

There was much that stuck in the mind from the small screen in the past twelve months – and I hasten to add that what follows are the shows we, Leigh and I, either watched on free-to-air, placed on hard drive from that platform or, in a new development this year, accessed from our T-Box, which gave us ABC’s i-View or SBS’s On Demand. My goodness me, technology in this day and age!

There were individual one-offs that stuck in the mind. For instance, the hopelessness of the Syria debacle bought home to Simon Reeve, one of my favourites of tele-travellers, on a Greek island close to Turkey. He found himself confronting a column of refugees from that benighted country, knowing there was little he could do to ease their burden. When one man pointed to his cameraman and told Simon that that was his occupation before his nation became a hell hole, poor Simon was rendered speechless – as we all are over the atrocities from the senselessness that is still occurring as I type. It is bought home nightly to us on the news. It is an abomination.

There was the wonderful documentary ‘Richard Flanagan – Life After Death.’ In it, at one stage, the great Tasmanian author relates the cruel death of his father’s best mate on the Burma Railroad. He travelled to find the poor fellow’s grave in an Asian war cemetery shortly after the death of his dad; his father lucky to survive the obsentities he witnessed and endured as a POW under such a cruel regime. Flanagan’s reaction to the burial site was beyond description in words – it certainly made me shed tears over my own father who served, as well, in that terrible conflict.

There was Joanna Lumley’s finding herself also speechless in the tunnels of Okinawa where hundreds of young Japanese soldiers committed suicide rather than facing the shame of surrender to the Americans in the same war. Then there was the inspiring, empowering Australian Story on star Collingwood female marquee player Moana Hope. This was the tale of her rise to become an out-and-out superstar of the AFL Women’s League. The obstacles that she’s overcome to reach that point would inspire either gender.

But below, though, for my money, are the best shows that graced the small screen in 2016

1. The Missing (SBS) – you take your eyes off a child for a moment and it can change your life. This, James Nesmith’s character found out, in what turned out to be an edge of your seat journey after a little boy disappears whilst on a European holiday with his family. Frances O’Connor is exceptional as the mother, as was Tcheky Karyo, the French police inspector, who couldn’t let the case go. Returns for a second season with David Morrissey and Keely Hawes as the leads.

2. Dr Thorne (ABC) – adapted by Julian Fellows from the pen of Trollope, this, to my mind, was the best period drama since Downton. Helmed by a sublime Tom Hollander, it’s such a pity that it seems to be a one off.

3. Rake S4 (ABC) – perhaps the best season to date as Cleaver Greene creates mayhem in the courtrooms of Oz. In a role just made for Richard Roxburgh, the thought of Greene creating similar chaos in the Senate is delicious.

4. DCI Banks S5 (ABC) – Stephen Tomlinson, Andrea Lowe and Caroline Catz are the trio that head up this engrossing police procedural now into its fifth season. Is Alan Banks the saddest, most hang-dog looking copper ever?

5. The Bridge S3(SBS) – Although Kim Bodnia is sorely missed, we still have the socially inept Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) to keep us entranced as she commits faux pas after faux pas in her bulldog, single-minded approach to solving crime. Sadly the next series will be the last we’ll see of this unique creation.

6. Molly (7) – in this two-parter Samuel Johnson gets the Australian National Living Treasure down pat. Can’t wait for the promised bio-pic on the Easybeats.

7. Cold Feet (7) – this much loved series from the turn of the millennium is fast forwarded thirteen years, losing one cast member but none of its allure. James Nesbitt and the rest of the crew again shine as they navigate the pitfalls of the digital age.

8. National Treasure (ABC) – in this biting take on Operation Yewtree, Robbie Coltrane, supposedly exposed as a serial pedophile, is simply amazing. Can this man act or what?

9. Deep Water (SBS) – another police procedural, this one investigating the murder of gays in Sydney; quite brilliant in its moody depiction of the city on the harbour. And it’s based on the real events. Yael Stone and Noah Taylor return from American duty to play the leads – William McInnes is also at his mesmerising best.

10. Rosehaven (ABC) – some delightful Taswegian whimsy to round off the list, brought to us by Luke MacGregor and Celia Pacquola, the latter going from strength to strength in this acting caper. Come on Auntie – give us another series please.

HMs – The Secret, Tony Robinson’s Wild West, Italy 1992, Billy Connolly’s Tracks Around America, Undercover Bosses, Offspring, The Legacy, Janet King, Would I Lie to You, Graham Norton, The Third Leg, Hard Quiz, The Code, Modus.

GPs – House Husbands, 800 Words, Doctor Doctor.

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