The TV review of 2015 Part Two - Our favourite, and least favourite, moments of the year
PUBLISHED: 12:28 29 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:28 29 December 2015
It’s an absolutely marvellous time to be a British couch potato languishing in one’s front room, pyjamas on, cup of tea and biscuits to hand, remote control within grabbing distance – this year has been a televisual cracker. In the second of two TV reviews of 2015, EDP small screen reviewer Stacia Briggs reveals some of her favourite, and least favourite, moments of the year.
• Unintentionally hilarious documentary of the year: Drugs Live: Cannabis on Trial, Channel 4
If you’re worried about your impressionable teenager being sucked into the murky world of high-strength cannabis, you could have done worse than show them Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking de herb on Channel 4.
It is difficult to imagine anything less cool than two people of a certain age inhaling skunk from a plastic bag – it’s the drug-taking equivalent of watching your dad dance at your 18th birthday party or your mum spitting on her hankie and wiping your face when you’re over the age of eight.
Jon in particular found the effects of skunk very unpleasant: “I’ve worked in war zones,” he told the camera after clutching a researcher in a bear hug, “but I’ve never been as overwhelmingly frightened as I was when I was in the MRI scanner after taking skunk. I felt as if my soul had been wrenched from my body.
“There was no one in my world. I felt I had lost control and had only the vaguest awareness of who I was and what on earth I was doing.
“I cascaded into a very, very dark place, the darkest mental place I have ever been.” That’s drugs told, then.
• Nostalgic moment of the year: The Clangers, CBeebies
You don’t want to drop a clanger when you’re rebooting a classic children’s television series – as production companies should have learnt from the ghastly CGI remakes of Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Noddy, Thunderbirds and, most terrifyingly of all, The Wombles.
The Clangers was one of my favourite programmes when I was a young child – melancholic, eerie, slightly dark, cryptic, plenty of strange homemade costumes, somewhat meditative... and then there was the programme itself, which was almost as weird as I was.
When I heard The Clangers were coming back after 40 years, I wondered what planet the BBC was on. You do not mess with Oliver Postgate, surely it would be hubris or insanity – I’m still smarting after what they did to Paddington Bear, once the cutest thing from Peru, now the creepiest.
I’m not sure which committee stopped the Cbeebies production team from reaching for the CGI whiteboards and asking One Direction to provide the whistling, but whoever it was, hooray. The pink moon-mice are still knitted and still stop-motion, the stories are still as dream-like and still a bit barmy.
Incidentally, in America, the series will be narrated by none other than William Shatner. WILLIAM SHATNER.
If they didn’t have all those guns and if their healthcare was free I’d be moving over there right now to hear William telling me how the Earth is a tiny, wet planet, lost and alone in the vast silence of space.
• Most terrifying female character of the year: Gemma Foster, Doctor Foster, BBC1
It might sound like the Better Call Saul to the Breaking Bad of Doc Martin or some kind of BBC version of HBO’s In Treatment or a post-watershed Holby City, but this tight little drama about a scorned woman was one of the TV highlights of the year, showcasing Suranne Jones’ skill as an actress. Like a marital snuff movie, the final instalment of the series was one of the most uncomfortable sections of viewing of the year, for all the right reasons. A second series is planned – but how (and indeed, why).
• Feminist icon of 2015: Della, Raised by Wolves, Channel 4
The mother in Caroline and Caitlin Moran’s ace new sitcom is a force to be reckoned with – actress Rebekah Staton who plays her admits that as she’s reading her lines, she channels Clint Eastwood, and it shows. A rare example of a truly tough female character on television who isn’t cruel, a card-carrying bitch or a psychopath, Della is, as her father describes her, “a lion and a scorpion in a woman’s body”.
• Slightly underwhelming second series of the year: Broadchurch, ITV1
The return of ITV’s Broadchurch had been cloaked in the kind of secrecy generally reserved for covert spy missions or trips to the sales that your other half hasn’t sanctioned credit-card-wise. Writer Chris Chibnall had refused to give press previews, the cast had only been given small chunks of the script at a time, members of the public had been banned from taking pictures of filming, several endings have been filmed to protect the final outcome.
The only clue we’d been given was the teaser line used in trailers since late last year: “The end is where it begins”. So while the last series was a ‘whodunnit’, this new series, as we swiftly discovered, is going to be a “didtheydoit”. The answer to which we already knew: yes.
• Dog-related public outrage of 2015: Britain’s Got Talent, ITV1
BGT winners Jules O’Dwyer (human) and Matisse (canine) were subject to controversy after admitting that the ‘stolen sausage’ sketch that won the hearts of the public had involved A STUNT DOUBLE (for Matisse). For some reason, everyone got very het up about the fact that a lookalike dog had completed the high-wire element. I could understand this if it had been a small child wearing a dog costume, but it was still a dog that walked the wire – I remain impressed, even though boss Simon Cowell has since said: “The moment I found out I literally put my head in my hands. I spoke to a lot of people after... They felt embarrassed, they felt frustrated, they felt stupid, but you’ve just got to man up to this stuff. I could hear in their voices – some were in tears...” To reiterate: this was about a dog walking a high wire. Perspective, people.
• Feminist icons of 2015 part II: DC Dinah Kowalska, DS Joy Freers, DI Vivienne Deering, No Offence, Channel 4
Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach and the fantastic Vivienne Deering have been given dream roles by Shameless writer Paul Abbott who has the same deft hand with characterisation as Russell T Davies and Tony Jordan, an ability to make characters big and brash and yet utterly believable.
No Offence is one of those TV series you wish you’d found out about long after it had aired so that you could sit down and devour the lot in one eyeball-popping telly marathon: the way I watched Breaking Bad and The Wire. And now you can. Like The Bill on laughing gas and all the better for having three strong female leads, No Offence has a great cast, a great script and some properly big laughs. It’s also quite offensive: brilliant.
• Shortest six-part series ever: Immigration Street, Channel 4
Weighing in at just one of the half-dozen episodes planned, Immigration Street set out to be a documentary about living on “one of the most ethnically-diverse streets in Britain” but turned out to be a documentary about how much the public don’t trust the media.
Within weeks of filming, the press descended on Derby Road and everyone started to get the hump about the whole project, fuelled by negative stories in the national media. Quickly, practically everyone refused to be filmed and the film crew were targeted and needed to employ security guards.
The show was cancelled and it was all quite depressing, really, because it did nothing whatsoever to banish the conception that immigration is always a source of anger and strife (which it isn’t) and that people from all walks of life can live together in complete harmony (which they can).
• Watching a programme I’ve watched for years with a whole new set of eyes moment of 2015: Don’t Tell the Bride, BBC1
As a bride-to-be who has never so much as thought about a wedding before being given a wedding date, I can confidently say I didn’t have a clue what I was doing before the whole process began: when my wedding planner (yikes!) asked if I’d like ‘chair backs’, I assumed she meant ‘instead of stools’.
In fact, I watched Don’t Tell the Bride with entirely new eyes this year – I imagine the just-pregnant watch One Born Every Minute in much the same manner.
Transplanted from BBC3, the format is largely unchanged: a couple are handed £14,000 to plan the nuptials of their dreams in three weeks with one catch – the groom has to organise the entire thing with absolutely no input from his bride, who will know nothing of his planning until the big day.
The premise, of course, is that women are Bridezillas who’ve been planning their wedding day since they were XX chromosomes while men are bumbling buffoons who couldn’t spot an important bridal detail even if they paraglided into the offices of Brides Monthly and landed on the ‘important bridal details’ desk.
In my household, the roles are reversed. My husband-to-be has organised countless weddings (professionally – he’s not some kind of crazed Lothario) while I couldn’t spot an important bridal detail if one smacked me in the face with a bag of sugared almond favours.