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

Anchovies, anchovies, you’re so delicious. I love you more than all the other fishes.

Conversations With Dead People (Jane Espenson & Drew Goddard)

conversations with dead people - joyce

One of the signs of great writing is to introduce a stranger into a cast of familiar characters and have the audience care about the interactions between the stranger and the well-known. This failed miserably in “The Message” (written by Joss Whedon and Tim Minear) where Jonathan M. Woodward played Tracey so it isn’t Woodward that made the trick work. Joss wrote the scenes between Buffy and Holden so it’s obviously something he can’t pull off every time. Andy made the point that Buffy clearly doesn’t remember Holden at all so she has no advantage over us (via in-jokes and shared memories, for example). This suggests to me that “The Message” didn’t work because the Browncoats remembered Tracey while we didn’t. Plus the story was execrable.

Although Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard are credited with writing the episode it was actually broken down like this: JE wrote Dawn’s story, DG wrote the Trio’s, Marti Noxon wrote Willow’s and Joss Whedon wrote Buffy’s. I wonder what happened to the person who wrote Xander’s… It is rather a kick in the chops that after six seasons the writers thought that Xander didn’t have a role to play in this important episode.

Spike has no dialogue and yet his story is told effectively and ends horrifically when he is revealed as a killer again.

Horror is the name of the game as Dawn’s story unfolds. It may be classic horror but it was also genuinely scary and revealed how resourceful and brave she can be. Such wasted potential.

conversations with dead people - dawn

I loved the character interaction between Buffy and Holden. The actors played off each other well. It is sometimes easy to open up to strangers. The look of sadness, dismay and thoughtfulness on Buffy’s face after she dusts Holden is nicely played by SMG who is, shall I say it again?, absolutely fabulous as Buffy.

conversations with dead people - buffy

“She’s sorry she couldn’t come herself.” says Cassie, “She’s in dispute.” said Andy. Only a handful know the whole truth about Amber Benson’s absence but it is a great loss to BtVS that she wasn’t in this. There is no doubt in my mind that if Amber had been in this then it would have been awesome and the episode would probably be in my top ten. Tara egging on Willow to commit suicide, Willow’s dawning comprehension, Tara’s mocking “Oh, baby, you left such a big hole. It hurt so bad.” – all of that would have been amazing. The great “what if?” of BtVS. However, despite the oddity of Cassie (a character who Willow had never even met) being used to get at Willow, this still packs a punch. Alyson Hannigan is particularly good as she realises she has been had.

conversations with dead people - willow

When Jonathan and Andrew appeared on my screen I gave a Pavlovian groan but their story was compelling and Andrew’s murder of Jonathan after being easily tricked by “Warren” was excellent drama. Unfortunately, the arrival of Andrew leads to the marginalization of other characters in his favour.

conversations with dead people - andrew and warren

This was a fantastic episode and S7 continues to confound my memory of it. However, there is more Andrew to come and a bunch of Potentials and maybe my memory of them is not wrong. On the other hand, Faith!

Goodbye tiny man

Goodbye tiny man

It’s not coddling. Now go to your closet.

Him (Drew Z. Greenberg)

Him - Willow and Anya
This rehash of season 2’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is quite dreadful for the first two thirds. Women fighting over men is so flipping tedious and (really!) there was no need to tell the story again. It only picks up when Willow and Anya become affected because Alyson Hannigan and Emma Caulfield do funny very well indeed (I was going to point at “Triangle” for evidence and then I read my earlier reaction).

W: This isn’t about his physical presence. It’s about his heart.
A: His physical presence has a penis!
W: I can work around it!

I like the t-shirt and waistcoat look.

I like the t-shirt and waistcoat look.

Sarah Michelle Gellar seemed off as if she couldn’t quite engage with a character who was bewitched in to doing the dirty on her sister and seducing a schoolboy while in a position of authority (despite being “extremely youthful. And peppy”): maybe SMG was as unamused as me. Also, as StephenT asks, does RJ know what effect the jacket has? Urgh, skeevy all round.

Poor Dawn,

Well, I guess you guys could use my help. Willow’s not very good with the practical strategizing – except when she’s evil. And Dawn – she’s not really good for anything.

She amply demonstrates this in a series of excruciating and humiliating and unfunny scenes: trying to make “Him” notice her and trying out for cheerleading, (bloody hell) sexy dancing and, naturally, a cat fight.

It was nice to see LouAnne from Girltrash! Riki Lindhome has such a distinctive face.

And look in that shop window, isn’t that Spike’s reflection?

And look in that shop window, isn’t that Spike’s reflection?

The bazooka is funny.

The bazooka is funny.

Comics update

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #4-16 (Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan, Drew Goddard, Georges Jeanty, Paul Lee, Cliff Richards, Karl Moline)

I blogged about the first three issues and then stopped. I’m not clear why. Ahem, several issues later, I’m not actually convinced that I really like them though I wouldn’t for a minute consider stopping reading them. Buffy’s relationship with Satsu felt off to me. I know I am negatively influenced by the media coverage that Dark Horse encouraged and this definitely makes me sway towards thinking it was a cheap and sleazy gimmick except I love how they broke up which was nicely done.

The Renee thing? I’m bored now of this sort of thing, really bored. And please do something with Dawn, she is not a joke.

Jo Chen’s covers continue to amaze.

Runaways #25-30 – Dead End Kids (Joss Whedon, Michael Ryan)

I have at long last read Joss Whedon’s run on Runaways. I say at long last as if it’s my fault that it dragged over many months but I suppose it is true that in years to come no one will care what delays there were unless it is poor stuff anyway. Which this isn’t. By the end it was pretty darn good.

Xavin’s constant appearances as a man really bugged me so I was delighted when JW dealt with the issue across two superb pages. I am pissed off we didn’t see them kiss particularly since we saw Victor and Lillie (the one I think of as Caitlin from Heroes) kiss at least twice. I must say that Xavin as a woman drawn by Michael Ryan was gorgeous.

However, the run was messy and abrupt in parts but much better than I ever thought it was going to be when the delays hit.

Serenity: Better Days (Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad)

The least said about Adam Hughes’ covers the better though I give you the “Once More, With Feeling” soundtrack cover and rest my case. This was messy (again) and confused and frankly not very good. Shame.

Farewell 2006

It’s been a good year.Adam continues to be as lovable, funny, smart, sweet and gentle as ever and his achievement in passing his grade 2 piano exam with merit makes me especially proud. Andy and I have now been together for sixteen years since the Villiers House Christmas party…and, in a number of ways, I don’t think our relationship has been stronger. I like my work and I’m well paid for what I do. It’s not always inspirational but there aren’t many jobs like that that I am qualified to do (or can be bothered to do; effort and ambition not being my strong points). I have completed my sixth year of studying at the Open University and I could accept a degree if I wanted (BA/BSc Open degree). However, I think I would like to get a named degree but finding a course I want to do and finding time to do it in is getting harder. Here are some reasons that I have less inclination to study:

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – although we finished season seven in January, the rest of the year has been taken up with rewatching it (and in the case of some episodes, rewatching and rewatching)
  2. Firefly and Serenity – a Western in space is no way to sell a tv series but that’s what it is and it works very well indeed – the ensemble cast is perfect but I have a soft spot for Summer Glau who played River with serious mischievousness
  3. message boards
  4. blogs
  5. fan fiction – if I had been asked a year and a half ago what fan fiction was I would have had no idea and when told I would have snorted and sniggered with derision – however, I have surprised myself spending a lot of time reading the stuff – I admit that a great deal of it is poor (most of it isn’t even edited for spelling and punctuation) – and far too much of it has far too much sex (considering its early 70s roots as romantic fiction that isn’t surprising) but some of it is stunning; Bread by Tulipp is one of the best things I have ever read. And it doesn’t hurt to mention it again but Jet Wolf’s The Chosen which is a continuation of BtVS is an amazing body of sustained writing which is as funny and moving as the “real” thing. Jet Wolf loves Tara and brought her back and that leads to…
  6. Amber Benson – “In the end, I discovered that being the nice guy – when it’s really just a front for being a coward – eventually leads to you becoming the Spawn of Satan. It’s best just to be honest and forthright from the beginning – even if it means people call you names behind your back and don’t like you as much. Just ignore them. I do.” – I wish I was ever as insightful as that (and I am a coward).
  7. comics – or graphic novels to make it sound grander
  8. our ever expanding DVD collection – best films this year seen on DVD include Adaptation, Fight Club, Heathers, Twelve Monkeys, Doctor X, Serenity, and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  9. television – Ugly Betty, Life on Mars and University Challenge
  10. music – Audrey, Espers and Aimee Mann
  11. books – I do have time to read them, most of them unmemorable except We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Night Watch, Case Histories, and A Darkling Plain