Top TV dramas

In the light of The Guardian’s top 50 television dramas of all time, I thought of the dramas that I remembered fondly and also remembered being, well, top. So, here’s a list which is not in any order except for the first mentioned.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer life-changing and worthy of a blog post or two

I, Claudius the best British drama, completely studio bound yet full of vigour and gripping stories; the acting is astonishing and it was clever, sexy, violent and funny

Edge of Darkness yes, it is dated in many ways but the story is what matters (as well as Bob Peck’s mesmerising performance) [oh my, while looking for clips of this I have found it has been remade (by the same director) with Mel Gibson as Craven]

Mad Men best show on TV, it may be more style than substance to some but not for me and for the moment I am in love with it

Fortunes of War oh, Ken and Em, how did I love you? a lot and this very expensive drama was worth every penny

The Jewel in the Crown it’s the characters that make this particularly Daphne Manners, Sarah Layton and Ronald Merrick although the backdrop of the Raj is always fascinating

Dead Like Me I have only seen this once but it was an instant classic to me; I adore the characters

Survivors I rewatched this recently and it was slow and frankly boring in parts but Carolyn Seymour as Abby simply owned the series and for that, thank you!

Tenko this was compulsive viewing when I was a teen, character driven and all those characters were women; I loved Louise Jamieson, Veronica Roberts and Stephanie Beacham

Firefly one series of highs and lows: “Out of Gas” is among the best episodes of anything of all time

Battlestar Galactica I do wish the Cylons really had had a plan but putting nitpicking the entire series aside, parts of this were flipping brilliant

Blake’s Seven I last saw this when I was a teen but it has stayed with me and I do think I should revisit it just to see how it stands up dramatically and to see if I can work out the reason why Avon was attractive (I don’t want to think about the special effects)

(wow, that looks, um, well…the theme music’s good)

Tutti Frutti Emma Thompson again and I remember loving this very British drama

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil this was outrageous and although I enjoyed the majority of it, I always hated the ending which probably means I missed the point

Taking Over the Asylum Ken Stott is magnificent in this and the setting is certainly unique

When the Boat Comes In we really used to make brilliant lengthy historical series like this, Poldark, The Onedin Line and The House of Eliot and make them seem effortless

Carnivàle okay, I have only seen eight episodes but I think this has potential to be very high on my list (if it was in any order)

A Very Peculiar Practice I thought this was fabulous when i was young, I was less enamoured with it when it was repeated relatively recently but Barbara Flynn was the business as Dr Rose Marie

Testament of Youth seen once but I remember it made me cry a lot

Therese Raquin this was filthy, I remembered that very well but on rewatching I appreciated even more the performances of Brian Cox, Kate Nelligan and a very youthful looking Kenneth Cranham

A Very British Coup this felt like a documentary and the ending is so tragic

[I think I had a rather odd crush on Alan MacNaughtan who was also in To Serve Them All My Days]

The Crow Road great stuff, thoroughly Scottish with a standout perfomance by Bill Paterson

Fanny and Alexander, Berlin Alexanderplatz I am shamefully putting these together but both are examples of great foreign TV series directed by people better known as film directors, both were gripping and both were more mature than anything on British TV at the time

A Kind of Loving my forgotten gem in this list

A list of other things I watched when I was younger: To Serve Them All My Days, Upstairs, Downstairs, Angels, Juliet Bravo, The Gentle Touch, All Passion Spent, Driving Ambition, The Beiderbecke Affair, Jonathan Creek, Chandler & Co, Bergerac, Shoestring, Between the Lines – bloody hell, telly was good in the old days!* What I think is interesting is that I didn’t watch many American imports (notably The Rockford Files and Cagney & Lacey) when I was young because they were all rather rubbishy. How things have changed.

*Of course, it wasn’t. This is a list from approximately forty years of TV and I don’t think I have even listed one series a year. And I’m sure Spooks or Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes are to other people as good as, say, The Gentle Touch

Addendum to Tory Foster

So the man who said his wife, Cally, smelled of boiled cabbage, who must also have known from Tory’s memory that Cally was about to commit murder and suicide, who called Boomer and Athena blow-up dolls, who broke Cally’s jaw, who stopped loving his son as soon as he realised he wasn’t his biological son, and who was responsible for Hera being kidnapped gets to live but an underwritten, underused Tory gets her neck broken? I’m not arguing she didn’t deserve to be punished but by Galen “Chief” Tyrol? Tigh’s snarky comment to Chief afterwards that nobody cared about her didn’t help matters.

Other remarks: the flashback scene when Boomer is chastised by Adama and Tigh who were both drunk was repulsive. They were laughing and sneering at her and I don’t understand why the scene was written like that. It was horrible.

The finale was good enough considering the poverty of what we had been served up ever since they found “Earth” although it was rather endless once they reached the real Earth. There are huge problems with the finale but I’m not that bothered by the implausibilities and impracticalities. The show went downhill from the moment they left D’Anna on “Earth” (the awesome Lucy Lawless was not able to appear in any more episodes) and that affected the plot.

I enjoyed watching Battlestar Galactica but I’m glad it’s finished.


Eximete! Vis zenobia! Solvere!

Normal Again (Diego Gutierrez)


Quote of the season: “You’re addicted to the misery.”

I looked back at a review from season 5 and, while the episode wasn’t very good (it was “Spiral”), I wrote about it with affection. I don’t feel affectionate towards the mid to latter half of season 6, a fact which I am inclined to blame on my wavering attachment to Joss Whedon.

Whedon seems to bring out the critic in a lot of us. I think the weight of his self-proclaimed feminism and his desire to explore contentious issues is becoming too much for his work to bear. After all, I can happily watch series like Bionic Woman and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and not really care how contrived or inconsistent or stupid they are as long as they reasonably entertain me but I can’t do that with Whedon’s work because there is supposed to be more to it than mere entertainment.

For me, the problem with season 6 has been its sexual content and unpleasant plotting revolving around Warren. Sexual exploitation and manipulation is part of human life but I don’t want to watch it on TV. Which leads me to Dollhouse – I know the task that Whedon has set himself to do but do I want to watch how he is going about it?

I was initially reluctant to watch Mad Men because I thought that I didn’t want to watch a show about misogyny and racism but the show is of such high quality that although it portrays these things it does so in an interesting, mostly subtle and definitely thought provoking way. It’s not entirely light-handed but it is not ever a gratuitous show. I think my point is that Mad Men is well made but Dollhouse isn’t – yet.

Season 6 isn’t very good overall.

I have now tipped into that camp. Except for “Once More, With Feeling” and “Tabula Rasa”, the episodes have been a mixed bag that were too often unbearable particularly anything involving Spuffy and the Willow’s a junkie storyline and not just because they are difficult topics but also because the writing and the plotting were weak. It has been a struggle to get through this boxed set, and the competition for my time, namely Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica (and that has its weaknesses and inconsistencies but is often exciting and moving), has highlighted the weaknesses of latter day Buffy.

I also blame Anthony Head. Giles’ absence has been keenly felt and not just for the Scooby gang. His mature, adult presence stuck the show together (and ensured less screen time for other characters).

On to a few points about the episode itself:

I think it was brave to suggest that Buffy may still be in a mental institution with the final scene in the hospital. It can and is argued that this doesn’t necessarily mean she has always been there but it is borderline UNambiguous.

A line like “Eventually my parents just forgot” is really not enough to erase Joyce’s reaction to Buffy’s coming out all the way back in season 2. However, if it’s all in her head then anything can happen on 7 seasons of Buffy.

Anyway, I don’t really care one way or the other but I hadn’t realised until I read Sam’s comments on Mikejer’s site that there were people who hated season 6 for a third reason. Obviously, I know there are the kittens but there are also the folks who cannot bear the attempted rape in “Seeing Red” and the souled Spike storyline and now I know there are those to hate that Buffy may no longer be a superhero but a young woman making up fantasies in her head – they feel that Whedon let them down.


Tara has a bit of a cheek marching into the Summers’ home but she saves the day: a fact that I love a great deal. She earlier wears a spectacularly horrible top but that isn’t the last bad top she’ll wear.

There is some tremendous acting from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Kristine Sutherland in the scene where the latter tells Buffy that she will always be there for her. It brought tears to my eyes.

I know you’re afraid. I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you’ve got people who love you. Your dad and I, we have all the faith in the world in you. We’ll always be with you.

I almost felt sorry for Xander as he explains how pathetic he is (“But then I left and ever since I’ve had this painful hole inside. And I’m the idiot that dug it out.”) – Nicholas Brendon is great here. I also like the scene when Spike tells Xander all about his relationship with Buffy and in typical Scooby fashion Xander doesn’t pay close enough attention.


Only two epsiodes to go.

Tory Foster

Regarding Battlestar Galactica, what adequate explanation can there be that Tory Foster, one of the five final cylons, is the only one not to have an interesting storyline in season four? Scratch that – not to have a storyline at all. She offed Cally and she has now spent the last few episodes doing nothing in particular except to utter the line “I wanted to ask him about that frakking song.”