According to the pundits we are in a golden age of television. Quality, quantity and multiple platforms make it so. Our personal viewing habits have been enhanced this year by the recent addition of Netflix and Stan to our own platforms. Already we have enjoyed ‘Riverdale’ (S1 and 2 – the Archie Comics for the digital age), ‘Stranger Things (S2 – I adore the kids), Billions (S2 – Wall Street machinations) and ‘Designated Survivor (S1 – ‘West Wing’ on steroids). SBS on Demand remains a cornucopia of delights – ‘Angelby’ and ‘Blue Eyes’ being engrossing shows viewed there.
There were still many old favouties we continued to savour on free-to-air, including ‘Cold Feet’ (7two), ‘800 Words’ (Seven), ‘Doctor Doctor (Nine), Offspring, Graham Norton (Ten), Michael Portillo’s train trips around the UK and US, ‘Vikings’ (SBS), ‘DCI Banks’, ‘Would I Lie To You’ (ABC) – the list goes on. Sadly we said goodbye to ‘George Gently’ (ABC) and ‘The Legacy’ (SBS) in ’17. The jury is still out on ‘Offspring’. The Doctor Blake Mysteries’ is, inexplicably, about to leave Auntie (the ABC’s constant quest to appeal to a younger demographic?) and cross on over to the dark side, but his Cornish medical colleague, ‘Doc Martin’, thankfully keeps rolling on. There was the terrific ‘Girl Asleep’ telemovie (ABC), as well as two excellent and moving episodes of ‘Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery’ (ABC), featuring Sam Neill and Colin Hay.
But there were standout shows, with these being the best to reach me the old fashioned way in the last twelve months:-
1. ‘The Young Pope’ (SBS) – it was a hard call for top possie, but this just pipped the following, possibly only because it was new to our screens. Jude Law was exceptional.
2. ‘Fargo’ (SBS) – just gets better and better. In Series 3 Ewan McGregor is terrific larking about relishing his double adventures in frosty Minnesota.
3. ‘This is Us’ (Ten) – sadly the struggling network cannot afford to renew this potential American classic with a heart of gold.
4. ‘The Handmaids Tale’ (SBS) – Elisabeth Moss has been touted as the first superstar of the television medium for the new century. What a CV – ‘The West Wing’, ‘Mad Men’, ‘Top of the Lake’ and now an out and out bleak masterpiece. Is this what the US will resemble post-Trump?
5. ‘Victoria’ (ABC) – Rufus Sewell steals the show as Lord Melbourne, but overall a biopic to relish.
6. ‘Unforgotten’ (ABC) – a police procedural with a stellar cast, including Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhuskar, Trevor Eve and Tom Courtney. More of it is coming. Let’s hope it’s here for the long haul.
7. ‘Simon Reeves Turkey’ (SBS) – he’s always compassionate, is this guy. In Turkey he demonstrates the humanity of the country which gives its refugees hope, so unlike our callous overlords who deprive them of even a glimmer.
8 ‘Back’ (ABC) – David Mitchell in rude form in the best new comedy of the year for my money. It’s coming back too.
9. ‘Spring Tide’ (SBS) – a pregnant lady’s tortured death on an isolated beach is the cue for more impressive Scandi-noir’
10. ‘Utopia’/’Rosehaven’ – just two words – Celia Pacquola
During 2017, with ‘The Crown’, we watched, on DVD, the most expensive television ever made, being wholly caught up in it. Season 2 is now showing on Netflix. Watch both if you can.