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

Nothing is what it appears to be

Dollhouse: “Ghost” (Joss Whedon)

This was better than an average episode of Angel but since I think Angel is the biggest let down ever then maybe I’m not sounding too positive. However, I did like most of it and I hope what I didn’t like won’t be a major problem for future episodes. I mean, I didn’t like Adelle’s hair and make-up and I didn’t like the reams of exposition but I’m going to get used to Adelle’s hair and the exposition is no longer necessary.

Joss Whedon completely swiped the idea of a kidnapped and sexually abused child growing up to be an expert in the field from his clearly highly generous pal Tim Minear who dealt with a whole series on the subject called The Inside. I was surprised to see in the first scene how Echo/Caroline became a doll and I think, studio interference or not, that was an error. Too much, too soon.

I think all the characters were interesting and intriguing with the exception of Paul Ballard and Laurence Dominic. I haven’t much to say about Laurence except the role seemed a standard clichéd henchman type. I have reams to say about Paul Ballard. I want to like Tahmoh Penikett because he seems like such a nice bloke but his performance as Helo and now Paul show that he is rather limited as an actor. It doesn’t help that two of the scenes he was in were by far the worst in the episode. They were terrible. Really terrible. The kickboxing intercut with Paul talking to his superiors was as bad as Buffy and Riley having sex intercut with Buffy and Riley fighting the Polgara demon. Oh, the subtlety. Look at Paul! He’s tough, he’s manly, he can even keep those shorts up. Look, he’s down and out! Oh no, look at that comeback! He’s so hard! Apparently a bare-chested Tahmoh is supposed to appeal to the laydees in the same way as a micro-skirted Eliza is supposed to appeal to the chaps but I just think it’s cheesy, tacky and childish.

Paul’s second terrible scene had horrible dialogue and the lamest last line “wash your hands…and your shoes”. Please do better by Tahmoh, Joss, because he may end up like Apollo on BSG in that I glaze over whenever he is on screen.

Despite my reservations about Eliza’s range I thought she was fine, not great, but good enough. Actually, thinking of The Inside I am reminded of Rachel Nichols who was fine, not great, but good enough.

I am bothered by my own lack of discomfort about the concept of mind-wiping and using these people as objects for other people’s desires and needs. I’m not sure if this episode managed to get across the skeeviness of it all. There is the scene with Sierra being erased for the first time but I was distracted by the ease in which Echo got up the stairs and into that area of the Dollhouse and by Dr Saunders lurking in the shadows (to what end?) so its impact was actually lost on me. However, my reaction to the first job we saw Echo on was to ask but what about venereal disease?

I can think of things that bother me at the moment but may prove to be suppositious. I will say that one thing that saddened me was the dropping of the character of the active called November to be played by Miracle Laurie, in favour of a new character who will be “playing against (and pining for) Tahmoh’s character, Paul Ballard“. That doesn’t sound boring, does it?

My favourite bit was the transition from successful hostage negotiator to brainwashed doll:


PS: to every person who says that pilots generally suck (and just why would that ever be true? pilots are supposed to hook you in), I say Dead Like Me.

“But, as you get older, it’s harder to get a fork. “

I feel mean just mentioning Christine Willes and Britt McKillip so here’s all the others who made Dead Like Me so amazing.

First, the Americans:

Ellen Muth as George: “but if death sneaks up on you, the only thing you have time to think is… Aw, shit.”

Mandy Patinkin as Rube: “What you’re feeling right now, the rage and frustration all knotted together, binding everything from your head to your digestive tracks? That’s my life with you.”

Jasmine Guy as Roxy: “Sir, I’m going to say this as politely as possible. I will fuck you up.”

Patricia Idlette as Kiffany: “Excuse me. What’s the first thought that enters your head when you finish a job?” “What?” “What is the first thought that enters your head when you finish a job?” “I hope they’re happy.”

Second, the Canadians:

Cynthia Stevenson as Joy: “Where are my effing keys?” “Maybe they’re in your effing purse.” “Reggie! Don’t say effing!”

Laura Harris as Daisy, Daisy Adair: “Why has no one ever loved me?”

Sarah Lind as Stephanie: “It’s going to take over yellow. It doesn’t stand a chance. Poor yellow.”

Crystal Dahl as Crystal: she doesn’t say much

Now the Brit:

Callum Blue as Mason: “Fucking bloody hell.”

“It’s not so bad, being dead like me.”

Dead Like Me - the Reapers

We have just finished Dead Like Me season two and we are so disappointed that there is no more (except a rumoured DVD film). It had so much still to offer. The cast were magnificent, it was funny, it was sad, it was clever, it was moving, it was off-colour, it was insightful, it was brilliant. And it made cry more times than any TV show I can think of.

Dead Like Me - the Lasses

A special mention to Christine Willes as Delores who brightened up every scene even when a scene was already going somewhere and Britt McKillip as Reggie.

A funny dead parrot sketch

I didn't say the parrot won

Roxy: It opened up its cage and went crazy. Pet dabbed the robber’s eyes, scratched his face up like he was Tippi Hedren or some shit, and don’t you tell me that’s not friendship.
Mason: How big was his parrot?
Roxy: I don’t know, parrot size.
Mason: Well, a parrot can’t take on a full grown man unless that man is a big pussy.
Roxy: I didn’t say the parrot won. The robber stabbed it with a fork and killed its owner. The bird’s dead.
Mason: So why are you getting a bird?
Roxy: It’s not about homeland security, you stupid motherfucker, I’m gonna get a friend!

(Dead Like Me: Curious George written by Peter Ocko)

It’s not like you were doing anything with it

We just watched the first episode of Angel and the pilot of Dead Like Me. One left me with a feeling that it must improve as a series because it was full of holes and questions that need answering. While the other left me feeling even if it doesn’t get better then it’s still a cracking seventy minutes of funny and inventive drama which makes me think that Joss Whedon isn’t the only one in tv who can pull off the mix of the fantastic, comedic and dramatic.

Ellen Muth in Bryan Fuller's Dead Like Me