Tuesday 15 December 2020

My TV Of The Year - The Top Ten

 My TOP TV Of 2020 - Part 4 The TOP TEN

You’ve seen the Top 40 (40 to 21 and 20 to 11) and the best of the rest, now brace yourself for Uncle Kev’s wholly unrepresentative choice of what he thinks is the Best TV of 2020. Prepare to disagree …

10) Doctor Who (BBC) - Okay, I am stretching things in a big way here, cos I realise there is no way Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who writing compares to anything else in my top forty. But this show is such a big part of my life that when this season turned out to be better than its predecessor, and pulled out the stops to make as big an impact as it possibly could, it deserved ranking as high as I allowed it to last time. I actively like a number of episodes in this series, loved The Master, loved the revelations about the Doctor’s history, and loved the ending. I also loved how much it wound up other Doctor Who fans. And Jodie is great. I hope (beyond hope) that she gets some top notch scripts in her next series (which would, by usual standards, be her final one). Hope springs eternal.

9) Upload (Amazon) - The best sci fi comedy of the year, from Greg Daniels of The Office and King of The Hill fame. Looking at a virtual afterlife and a corporately dystopian future, it out Black Mirrored Black Mirror, getting new and original twists on technological futurology at every turn, without losing its grip on the comedy and the characterisation. If it can keep this up for another season that will be a good thing.

8) All Creatures Great & Small (Channel 5) - This may well be the first time a Channel 5 show has made it into my TV Of The Year, and it so deserves it. The cosiest, sweetest, family telly of the year, winning extra points for being filmed in Grassington, where I worked for a week with my Socks and classes just last year. A splendid achievement, boding well for the revitalised underdog of terrestrial TV turning some tricks in the year to come.

7) Devs (FX) - The best pure science fiction of the year, it is to the credit of writer and director Alex Garland that I didn’t even get the secret hidden in the word play of the title until it was revealed in the final episode. Equally cosmic and down to earth, both murder-mystery and techno-thriller, it had concepts done so well it’ll be a stick to beat less imaginative writers with for years to come.

6) The Crown (Netflix) - Season three was variable, and it took us a time to adjust to the new casting, but season four more than made up for that. The Charles and Di story is a corker. Once again every episode is a film drama in its own right, and this time all Peter Morgan’s tricks have been brought to bear making every chunk of this series a stand alone delight. BAFTAs all round.

5) The Other One (BBC) - Had it not been for the pandemic, this might have been snuck out as a BBC Three programme (ie a TV show on a channel that no longer exists) and been missed by everyone. As it is we stumbled across it and loved it. Written and directed by Holly Walsh, who’s becoming a bit of a comedy powerhouse, it took its central premise of surprise sisters and made it compelling and funny throughout. It had the anguish and angst that Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant used to wring out of The Office while keeping up the funnies. And left us on a cracking cliffhanger for the second series.

4) The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) - This really was as good as everyone says it was. The thought that the story of a chess playing orphan in the 1960s, adapted from a book by the guy who wrote The Hustler and The Man Who Fell To Earth (I know), would work is far fetched enough. That it worked so well, at the hands of a Scottish screenwriter and the guy who wrote the movie Logan, is all the more stunning. 7 perfect episodes, check.

3) The Goes Wrong Show (BBC) - “Alright if you like laughing” is the sort of criticism this show probably gets a lot of. Extended from their stage shows of the last few years, a couple of these episodes threatened to show up the “you had to be there” nature of its transfer to television. Then they pulled off the episodes with the tiny set and the upside down set, and delivered farcical coups de theatre on screen that I can’t remember seeing before. Not only did they play with the form bravely and imaginatively, but most importantly they were funny. Very very funny. Regardless of its place in my chart, I laughed to tears and beyond more with this TV series than I have with any TV shows I can recall. To take unfamiliar actors and deliver a show within a show conceit that is eye-wateringly funny is incredible. Genius.

2) I May Destroy You (BBC) - Michaela Coel’s slightly autobiographical drama is brilliant. It has done things with TV storytelling that are state of the art and beyond, allowing for magical realism and fantasy in a totally gritty and down to earth drama. The portrayal of characters through time was punishingly realised, letting no one come away with their halo intact. Our heroine walks around wearing devil wings at one point, if we were in any doubt. Playing with expectations and techniques, and with realistic worlds portrayed that I can only assume are accurate cos I’m way too old and way too not-urban to know better, this is the show Fleabag wishes it could have been.

1) Ghosts (BBC) - The second series of this comedy, devised by and starring the team from Horrible Histories, managed to be even better than the first. Every character is a comedy gem, every back story brilliantly realised, and so many stories left to tell that one can only hope this runs and runs. I’ve watched every episode of both series twice and can see myself rewatching it in decades to come. The most original sitcom concept since Red Dwarf (no, it’s not just warmed-up Rentaghost), the most complete range of distinct comedy characters since Dads Army, and the most perfect casting since Cheers, genuinely no comedy show, British, American or otherwise, has impressed me as much as Ghosts. 

So, that was my favourite TV of 2020. I bet they weren’t your favourites, I look forward to hearing what was.

UPDATE: Special mentions must be made for this year's Christmas Specials. Ghosts, The Goes Wrong Show, Motherland, and Upstart Crow Lockdown Christmas 1603 were all brilliant.

My Top TV of 2019

My Top TV of... 2018 •  2017 • 2016 • 2015 • 2014 • 2013 • 2011 • 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 & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

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