MY TOP TV OF 2017 (Part 3, The Top 10)
10 - Doctor Who series 10 (BBC 1)
Back in the top ten again*, the favourite TV show of my childhood had a good, strong series. With the usual highs and lows - a three parter with the best start, a better middle, and a disappointing end; some brilliant stand-alone episodes like Oxygen and Thin Ice; a couple of meh-ers (not a fan of Knock Knock or The Eaters Of Light myself); and a smashing two part climax (only marred by the show spoilering its best surprise right from the start, which was a great shame), it was on good form. The news of Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor was a high point of the year. I can't wait till series 11. (2016: not eligible, 2015: didn't rank, 2014: No 4, 2013: No 10, 2011: No 10)
9 = Inside No 9 & W1A (BBC 2)
Buried at the start of the year, and always the bridesmaid when it comes to being the talk of the town, series 3 of Inside No 9 was as strong as the first, especially its opening Christmas episode The Devil Of Christmas. Dark, sophisticated, witty, ambitious, and expertly executed comedy, never played for laughs. With more League Of Gentlemen coming before Christmas, I'm happy to add any plus points from that onto Inside Number 9's score for the year.
And W1A (included in joint 9th place cos, in the first draft of this list, I had totally missed it out by accident) also had a strong third (and, in this case, final) series, benefitting a lot more from cross-promotion than its dark stablemate and providing some of the funniest cringe-out-loud comedy of the year. Also has the most infectious catchphrases. For weeks I found myself saying "yes exactly yes" to almost everything, with no sense of irony whatsoever.
8 - Eastenders - Death of Ronnie and Roxy / Project Dagmar (BBC 1)
Now here's something that I never thought would figure in my TV of the year, the most ignorable television of all. Since Brookside went off the boil over two decades ago, Eastenders is the only soap opera we've watched in our house, and I'm happy to go months without seeing an episode. As indeed I've done through much of this year too. But a couple of high points have been really impressive. Firstly the filmic episodes back in January in which they polished off Ronnie and Roxy (with the scarf in the swimming pool). Then with a bit of long-form plotting which started right back at New Year and is coming to its climax 12 months later - Project Dagmar and the surprise return of Wilmot Brown.
What other TV show could bring back a character, and actor, that you'd not seen for 30 years? And, uncharacteristically for this frequently rambling, contradictory and cocked-up show, the writers have managed to keep this plot on the rails and see it through. Notwithstanding us also seeing one of its most risible storylines in the spring - the "Let's All Lift Up A Bus (Have A Banana)" story. It wouldn't be a proper Eastenders year without it also including some of the worst TV of the year, along the way. (And don't get me started on the offensively poor representation of BAME characters, especially Asian. But that's a moan for another day).
7 - Preacher (seasons 1 and 2) (Amazon Prime)
It's a rare show whose second season is better than the first, but Preacher managed it. Operating on a parallel storyline to the comic on which it's based (which I adored 25 years ago), it's also the second show in my Top 25 this year to give a central role to Adolf Hitler. (Check out Number 15
and the episode we forgot to mention). An excellent and original comedy with more blood than any TV series I've bothered to watch before. Pacing itself for a long run, which should be fun.
6 - The Handmaids Tale (Channel 4 / Hulu)
Blimey, keep it light 2017. This is the most dystopian drama of the year, chiming horribly with the zeitgeist in the first year of ubergroper Trump's presidency, and just months before Weinsteingate and the #metoo movement. Tensely claustrophobic, with an excellent gripping script, strong direction that at times makes you doubt whether your eyes have lost the ability to focus properly, and a stand-out lead performance by Elizabeth Moss, the only worry will be whether it spreads the original novel too thinly if it's tempted to stretch beyond a second series.
5 - Upstart Crow 2 (BBC 2)
Marmite comedy at its finest, I don't think I've found anybody who's had a kind word to say about this comedy by Ben Elton, but I've loved the second series even more than the first. The fact that I spent 2017 touring Socks Do Shakespeare probably influenced me, seeing another writer tackling the same subject matter, and knocking it out of the park. The final episode, where Will delivers a Shakespearian reworking of Ben Elton's classic British Rail routine, was a self-indulgent treat and a highlight of the comedy year.
4 - This Country (BBC 3)
Hands up who else has seen This Country? Well sort it out, cos it's brilliant, it's still on iPlayer, and there's another series on the way. The only thing, in fact, that lets This Country down is the fact that it's called This Country! What sort of title is This Country? I can't remember that title, and I've watched episodes more than once (when I can find the damn things, being unable to remember the damn title from one day to the next). Why the hell it isn't called Kerry and Kurtan I don't know. It features the most impressive new comedy double act of the decade, Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper. Where did they come from? And why aren't they all over the rest of TV promoting this show? I'm fed up of being the only person who's seen it. It's called This Country.
3 - Glow (Netflix)
Another thing I never thought I'd find myself enjoying, all-woman wrestling from the 1980s. But Glamorous Ladies Of Wrestling took that little-known, or long-forgotten (depending on whether you'd ever heard of it before) TV phenomenon and made it into captivating and brilliant TV comedy drama. This year's The Get Down (by which example, we can probably expect it to lose it next season. Let's hope not).
2 - Motherland (BBC 2)
Best comedy of the year, and a contender for best comedy of the decade. The most original comedy characters for ages, in a world I've not seen explored so well before. Any similarities between the characters of Motherland and my sister and her fellow London competitive mums is, I'm sure, purely coincidental. I now have to seek out the previous work of Sharon Horgan (which everyone's raved about and I've always missed), cos if it's this good I have treats ahead of me. Meanwhile co-writer & director Graham Linehan's made his best show since The IT Crowd, and has atoned for burying Count Arthur Strong's TV career.
1 - The Trump Presidency (All channels)
No comedy has been funnier and no drama more scary and unpredictable than this helter skelter roller coaster mixed metaphor car crash of an epic horror disaster. No costume designer or make up artist has created such grotesques as the likes of Trump and Kelly-Anne Conway. No showrunner has hired and fired so many leading players, just when they're getting interesting - did anyone else blink and miss the Anthony Scaramucci episode? No writer has dared rip up and rewrite the rulebook with such regularity and disregard for common sense - the Jerusalem story? The Roy Moore story? The Dentures? And those were all just in last week's episode! And just when Reality TV thinks it's got the monopoly on TV where you can't guess what's going to happen next, you get a show which is so batshit unpredictable it makes others look hopeless tired and transparent. We all hope this one won't run and run, but if it does, and it continues to be as constantly entertaining as this, then the slippery slope to the end of civilization as we know it will be way more fun than we ever expected.
So there we have it. My Top TV of 2017. What did I miss?
My Top TV of... 2016
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre return with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.