As the new TV season starts soon, this week we’re leaving the books behind in favour of Top Ten TV Shows.
This is still probably my all time favourite. I didn’t see it at the time, but heard good things and ultimately caught it on a repeat on cable. It’s sheer magic and the scope of Joss Whedon’s world is utterly staggering. When trying to make a graphic for this one I got lost in the black-hole of quote choices, I could have used almost every single line. But in the end I picked this one – at the end of the day it’s all they’re aiming for.
I missed this when it first came out as we were without access to Sky in our household at the time. In fact we switched suppliers the month before the first episode aired and I remember being hugely disappointed when I found out Sky wasn’t available through the new one. Thank goodness for discovering it on Netflix many years later. Although it may wander a bit in the fifth and final season, the first four are still absolute gold. Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid were a sheer delight to watch on screen and they all had great chemistry. I loved the universe hopping too.
This series just goes from strength to strength. Including so many wonderful actors, snappy scripts, twisty plots and possibly my favourite ever version of Watson it’s near pitch perfect. I have very little to complain about. I do love Sherlock -the perhaps better known British adaptation of the original novels – as well. But where that sometimes falls into plot holes and a sort of casual elitism that can be a bit hard to bear, Elementary’s eclectic cast and twining storylines seem to surpass it. It also somehow manages to avoid the typical long-running series trap of dropped plotlines, if you see a detail of backstory or hear an anecdote it’s going to come back and it’s going to be worth it.
4. Ripper Street
I remember being horrified when the BBC cancelled RS and so relieved when Amazon picked it up. If anything it improved the show, the storylines got better, the characters were stronger and the dialogue remained top notch. I’ve just started series four and I’m hoping to binge watch the rest soon, but it looks to continue a brilliant blend of history, crime and wonderful characters. Gripping, funny and moving in equal measure – it’s a frequent rewatch.
5. Stargate: SG-1
An old favourite from back when I was watching it all out of order through odd repeats on cable. Still hilariously funny, still thought provoking and moving with some of the best team dynamics I’ve ever seen on screen. Now if only it didn’t suffer from the magically disappearing baby trope so many Fantasy series fall foul of… it’s still near perfection.
6. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
A truly brilliant adaptation of a monster of a novel. Susanna Clarke’s sprawling epic was never going to be easy to bring to the small screen, but the BBC did it in style. The cast is brilliant and all of the secondary characters are given ample screentime (you can never get too much of Childermass and Lady Pole). The sets are incredibly beautiful and the dialogue is top notch. Now if only Clarke would finish that sequel we could get another wonderful series…
7. Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Ah the incomparable Gene Hunt, arrogant, uttlerly politically incorrect and bit of a git, yet still somehow rather endearing. The rest of the gang are just as well written across both series and all five seasons. Both LoM and A2A made me nearly cry with laughter at points – for a couple of excellent humour videos explaining why click here and here. But there’s some very serious topics running through them and the finales to both were very moving. Plus, best use of David Bowie music yet seen.
8. The Hollow Crown
I really enjoyed the first series, but the recent run of adaptations were simply wonderful. Sophie Okenedo as Margaret of Anjou was the best portrayal of a Shakespearean character I have ever seen. I’ve loved this run of history plays, especially the rarely seen Henry VI which is split into three plays. I’m really intrigued to see what they do next, whether they go back to other history plays like Anthony and Cleopatra/Corialanus or if they take a different turn.
One of my favourite TV crime dramas, adapted from the novels by the excellent Anne Cleeves and including Tosh – my favourite female detective. It’s set in and around this wild and isolated group of Scottish islands. The first few stories were one or two episodes long but the latest was spread out across a full series and was all the better for it. It’s also one of those rare crime series that deals with dark subject matter but with real heart and humour, it’s about solving the crime but it’s about the people more than anything.
I was never really someone who watched Morse – despite it being something of a British institution – and I enjoyed Lewis without being really gripped by it which was more due to the strange split episode format than anything else. But this series about the detective’s early years on the force is utterly brilliant; clever plots, complex characters and some great banter between Morse and his mentor Fred Thursday. Period crime gold.