21 December 2008

The year in review: television

As the label says, I watch too much television, but I don't care. There's been a lot to enjoy this year too: here are my ten favourites for 2008.

It's a jungle out there
My picks for favourite dramas of the year include two Australian ones, which is great to be able to say, as Australian drama hasn't been too inspiring over the past few years. I came to Rush rather late; thank you Channel Ten* for repeating the series over summer, so I can see the episodes I missed out on. Made by the same people who created Police Rescue back in the 1990s, Rush has some silly moments, and Catherine McClements irritated me at first, but I'm really enjoying watching an Australian police drama again.

My other favourite was Underbelly (of course), an essay about how some people never grow past being four years old ("I'm cross at you so I'm going to throw my toys at you").

Living in Melbourne, I saw Underbelly via 'interesting means'. This was a great way of seeing it actually, because we'd watch it two episodes at a time, several nights in a row, before handing the DVDs back into circulation. Everyone else was watching it the same way too, so there was a lot of discussing plot points - and Roberta's dialogue - without giving too much away to people who hadn't caught up yet.

Both Rush and Underbelly were tightly scripted, well-told dramas, featuring terrific acting. See, we can still do it.

Let me pitch you this - it's about a serial killer of serial killers
I can just imagine the meeting when the creators of Dexter pitched their idea to the studio. Miami based blood-splatter expert by day, serial killer at night. A hero that lacks emotional connection with others, is driven to kill, and yet completely engages the viewer's sympathy. Dexter is one very clever - and amusing and gruesome - drama. Plus it unites Michael C Hall, who played the neurotic gay brother in Six Feet Under, with Julie Benz who played Darla, the blonde vampy-vampire from Buffy. We're watching the second series of Dexter on DVD now, because Channel Ten** in their wisdom decided to only screen the first season.

Another drama I really enjoyed this year was a six episode series made in 2006 by the BBC, about British diplomats in the United States. The State Within was gripping, involving and very confusing. The goodies and the baddies kept changing, and you couldn't be sure if a character was going to survive from one week until another. Great stuff.

Best of British
In any given year, my list of favourite television includes a lot of British television. While there was nothing like Life on Mars to really grip me this year, there were plenty that kept me entertained. (Yes, I know that the ABC screened the second series of Life on Mars in February this year, but I had already seen it on DVD in mid-2007.)

Dr Who makes the list of course, with this year's series being emotionally engaging as well as big silly family fun. I also got into the family history series Who Do You Think You Are?, which made me cry from time-to-time, even when it was about British celebrities I'd never even heard of.

And for pure, snuggle under the throw-rug, keep me company while I'm folding huge piles of washing television, there's nothing like a British domestic drama to keep me entertained. Channel Seven ran a lot of them this year; the final episodes of Life Begins and William and Mary, as well as Mistresses (pictured here). And of course, my guilty pleasure of the year, the enormously ridiculous domestic drama about the fictional royal family The Palace. I even enjoyed the overacting and dodgy sets.

Another family drama that I got wound up in was an American one - Brothers & Sisters. Somehow I managed to miss the first series completely, but I taped all of the second series. I watched almost all of them while sick a few months ago, and really enjoyed it (even Callista Flockhart, who I'd never found appealing before). All that Walker gossip, bickering, and red-wine consumption is great fun.

Music, laughter and a fine romance
In considering this list though, my three most favourite programmes of the year are comedies. All three are hidden away in late night programming here, but they are all gems.

Firstly, everyone's favourite cult comedy, Flight of the Conchords. Geeky, brilliant, sweet, funny.

I have their CD on my i-Pod too, and the words to 'Robots' and 'Inner City Pressure' have kept me entertained on many a crowded train ride this year.

And then there's 30 Rock, which is American television at its wackiest and best. It made me like Alec Baldwin again, and I want to be Tina Fey when I grow up. Oh Liz Lemon.

Finally, to my favourite television programme of all this year - the American version of The Office. Yes, I know it's a copy of the British version and these things are almost always lost in translation (Kath and Kim anyone?), but I think this one is wonderful in its own right. It started off as a copy and has morphed into something else, thanks to great writing and a fantastic cast, led by Steve Carrell. (Seriously, the man is almost always brilliant; just watch his quiet troubled Dan become unhinged in Dan in Real Life. Get Smart? Mmm - not so much.)

It is very clever, very funny, and features one of the most touching romances - Jim and Pam - to unfold on television. It also has two completely dellusional and brillant characters in Andy Bernard and Dwight Shrute. Of course, it's virtually impossible to see The Office on Australian television (Channel Ten screened half of series three in 2007, stopped it suddenly, and is now screening the rest of it at midnight on Sundays***), so I have been making do with DVDs puchased through Amazon.

Looking at this list, I do watch too much television. I still don't care though!

*See that, I thanked Channel Ten! A rarity indeed.
** See what I mean?
*** I rest my

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