Us Brits are known for liking certain things: tea, sarcasm and taking other countries marble mostly. And we’re definitely world beaters at all of them. A few years ago we used to be good at TV too but with the influx of Nordic Noir, French Grime and American laughter tracks our TV game has regressed slightly. However, through the back end of 2014, British television has jumpstarted and a resurgence has taken place. We’re back to somewhere near our best, and we’re keeping all that marble.
Black Mirror: White Christmas
Created by Charlie Brooker
This one seems pretty current. Arguably the most original and imaginative thing on TV in recent years has been Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. And the Christmas special which aired this week was no different. Obsessed by the effects and possibilities of modern technology and dripping in Laconic wit, Black Mirror is as revolutionary and as twist filled as ever. This is what Philip K. Dick would be writing if he wasn’t an author, or dead. Full time suit model and occasional actor Jon Hamm stars and is as slimey as Pre Cambrian ooze, and Rafe Spall plays Rafe Spall. And he does a pretty good job of it. With Black Mirror, Brooker is issuing in a new benchmark for television, and, perhaps a little worryingly, the new prototype for the role of British National Treasure.
Created by Stephen Knight
I tell people that I don’t really like Peaky Blinders, but honestly, between you and me, it’s decent. I mean technically I should love it. Finally my city is getting some telly love, I mean even Bristol beat Birmingham to a flagship show. Bristol! They don’t even have a team in the Premiership. All of this aside, this programme has been billed as a Brummie Boardwalk Empire. The Blinders are a gritty, post World War I family gang with a love for flat caps, razorblades and stabbing people with razorblades hidden inside flat caps. Booming soundtrack though, one which reverberates throughout the dark Satanic mills of inner Birmingham where the streets are filled with more smoke than Silent Hill. Occasionally the substance doesn’t quite match the style, and the accents are a bit dodgy, to the point where some sound like Londoners doing impressions of me at house parties. But I’m nit picking. In all honesty, Peaky Blinders conquered the difficult second album. Not as good as The Sopranos, but better than Boardwalk Empire, and with a third season already commissioned, these scummy Brummies are here to stay. Shouldn’t be a problem though, as we all know, the third Godfather was the best one.
Created by Mackenzie Crook
I’m going to use a word you almost never hear when describing a television show. Dectectorists is lovely. Thoroughly British and thoroughly lovely. Written by and featuring Mackenzie Crook, who looks like Salad Fingers and sounds like he makes his own cider in a tub called Bath Gold (and that one works on a lot of different levels), this comedy is a slow burner. It follows the lives of some metal detecting enthusiasts, an activity the majority of people find unappealing and bemusing. Like trainspotting. Or swinging. Not a lot really happens in Detectorists, and that’s sort of the beauty of it. The style and pacing of the comedy may not appeal to all, in one instance a character writes a song about how you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone, but Detectorists has a faint whiff of The Royle Family about it. And praise doesn’t really get much higher than that.
Strange Hill High
Created by Josh Weinstein
I have no idea what to say about this one. It’s a kids show, apparently. But it feels like it was birthed in that weird part of the internet you hear rumours of, somewhere between the Goat memes and Nyan Cat. It’s as if Yo Gabba Gabba was conceived during an electrical storm, or if the Tweenies were designed by Dennis Rodman. And if the aesthetic wasn’t strange enough already, current national treasure Richard Ayoade provides voicework, and it aired on the CBBC channel of all places. However, Strange Hill High does provide the funniest lines I heard on TV all year, and the most phenomenal John Malkovich reference I’ve ever seen. Once you start watching this programme it becomes, surreal, oddly captivating, and almost impossible to look away. It’s like watching a car crash. Or Shaq take free throws.
The Honourable Woman
Created by Hugo Blick
To paraphrase Malcolm Tucker, Hugo Blick’s so dense light bends round him. It’s probably why the majority of his programmes are filmed in dark rooms. Part psychological thriller, part political drama, part family dynamic and part John Le Carré, The Honourable Woman is a programme of the measured, mesmeric variety. And it would have to be, considering that the subject matter is the Gaza Strip. Blick stalwart Stephen Rea plays Hugh Hayden-Hoyle, the original Triple H and MI5 old boy with a toungue like an épée and a face like an old wallet, whilst indie darling Maggie Gyllenhaal floats and stings as Nessa Stein. Like all dramas built on smoke bombs and mirrors the ending gets a bit claggy, but when you’re dealing with Middle Eastern relations that’s sort of a given. Displaying almost prescient levels of foreboding, slick Blick’s compelling drama proved that life really does imitate art. Or was it the other way round?
Created by Allan Cubitt
The names of television programmes are starting to sound like bands from New York circa 2000. And The Fall is no different. A murky, atmospheric thriller based in Northern Ireland revolves around a serial killer and investigating officer. These two don’t have the typical cat and mouse dynamic, but rather a house cat and large mirror one. The Fall tries, and for the most part succeeds, in making you root for the killer, not in the bland, obvious Dexter way, but in a more genuine and introspective manner. And Spector is the best surname for a serial killer to date. Jamie Dornan, who seems to be typecast as your brooding, sexually dominant male these days, is unsettlingly sinister yet engagingly charming, while Gillian Anderson plays the cold as steel inspector and I swear that’s Eric Cantona as the police chief. Overall, this is one of the best serial killer orientated dramas in recent memory, and my mum says it’s the best television programme of the year. And she’s nearly always right.