Monday 19 December 2016

My Top Ten TV Shows of 2016

I've already listed numbers 25 to 11 in my favourite TV of 2016, as well as The Definitely Nots and some Runners Up. Now here are my favourites.


10 - Morgana Robinson's The Agency - A sketch show? On British TV? That's actually funny? When did that last happen? Morgana is a fantastic new talent who, again without fanfare, established herself as a star with this series. Best impressions since Dead Ringers, all by one person.

9 - Mum - Another Footlighter does good and makes his big breakthrough as Stefan Golaszewski creates some of the strongest and most painful sitcom characters for years, and the will-they-won't-they of the year between Lesley Manville and Peter Mullan.

8 - The Night Manager - A star-studded big budget adaptation of a John Le Carre novel is not something I'd have thought would have made my Top Ten, but it was done so well it stood out as a jewel in the year's programmes. Hugh Laurie (who also shone in Veep) wins villain of the year.

7 - The People vs OJ Simpson (American Crime Story) - One of those odd shows where you could get on Wikipedia and give yourselves spoilers galore, but it didn't detract from the drama. Team-written, with multiple directors, it has all the ingredients of average forgettable TV yet managed to be neither of those things. Also I come away knowing where the Kardashians came from.

6 - Happy Valley 2 - A rare achievement, a sequel that ended up being more satisfying than the original (which seemed overstretched towards the close). Sally Wainwright continues to be one of British TV's best writers ever.

5 - Black Mirror 3 - As does Charlie Brooker, writing every episode of this, the longest and biggest budget BM series so far, a couple of episodes of which were feature films in their own right. The only anthology series that I can think of on TV at the moment, Black Mirror has been this year's Twilight Zone, Doctor Who and Play For Today, all by itself.

4 - The Get Down - Indescribable. If you've seen it and tried describing it to anyone, you'll know what I mean. Baz Luhrmann's musical historical comedy drama is one part The Warriors, one part Kids From Fame, with some of the most histrionic acting, hyperactive camera-flinging, seriously dodgy CGI, and wholly implausible "Let's Do The Show Right Here In The Barn" musical numbers you've ever seen. Brilliant.

3 - The Secret History Of Hollywood Podcast - I know it's not a TV show it's not even a radio show, and from what I can see it's not even around in the form I discovered it (it's moved to iTunes and comes in smaller chunks). But in its original long form, Adam Roche's homemade podcast, written and recorded around his day job as a chef, is quite simply the best written and most authoritative history of Hollywood I've ever read or had read to me. Also Earth's longest podcast. The Alfred Hitchcock story comes in at just under 19 hours. Luckily for me, I did an awful lot of driving this year, and it was this podcast that made such journeys fly by. We've been waiting since May for part 3 of the Warner Brothers story, I hope it turns up. If it doesn't, this podcast may remain a uniquely 2016 experience, one that occupied by ears for at least three solid days.

2 - The Crown - Because we've not finished watching all ten episodes (at time of writing) it wouldn't be fair to put it at the top of the chart. But on every count it deserves it. Peter Morgan's authoritative and exhaustive writing, plucking moments from recent history and turning them into perfectly formed and entertaining drama, with oodles of comedy to boot, shows just what can be achieved when you give one of TV's (and film's a the stage's) best writers the biggest budget ever, and proper support. Perfect casting, especially Claire Foy's Elizabeth and John Lithgow's Churchill, and daring characterisation, in particular Matt Smith's acidic Prince Phillip, run throughout this. Every episode is a stand alone film, with none being sucked into simply being another brick in the wall of the ongoing plot. If you had to compare it to anything it's Downton Abbey meets Mad Men, but so much better than that. They have, we're told, planned ten series of this, so let's hope the whole Netflix bubble doesn't burst before we get there.

1 - Stranger Things - A phenomenon. Not as original as The Get Down, nor as well executed as The Crown. Not as well written as Happy Valley or Black Mirror, nor as well cast as OJ Simpson and The Night Manager. And not even something British we could be proud of. I tweeted sardonically at the end of episode 1 that I hadn't seen anything in it that I hadn't already seen in a 1980s Spielberg movie. With a lot of homage and nostalgia about it, it quickly became its own beast, and evolved into that rarest of things, a cult TV show. How many gifs, and vines, and clips, and artistic homages have I seen to Stranger Things? I lose count. It's fun, ephemeral, a joyous bit of sci fi action TV, which quite possibly won its place at the top of the charts because of the vacuum left by the absence of Doctor Who. Let's all watch it again.

My Top 10 TV of 2015
My Top 10 TV of 2014
My Top 10 TV of 2013
My Top 10 TV of 2011
My Top TV of 2009

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here.

Socks Do Shakespeare 2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath 
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall 
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts 
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms 
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome 
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall 
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent 
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe

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