During a bout of Christmas flu I knocked up this list of my fave TV shows from 2016. It's probably a bit heavy on the latter half of the year because I literally have the memory of a goldfish. It's probably a bit heavy on the latter half of the year because I literally have the memory of a goldfish.
10. Penelope Keith's Hidden Villages
This isn't one that I actively watch, it's one I use to put my girlfriend to sleep. If that zoo knew about it, we'd still have Harambe. Rest in peace, bro!
So what's the show? It's Penelope Keith with her trained, aristocratic voice traveling around the stunning British countryside eating scones and talking to vicars. It's all very charming and peaceful and once it's on, Jen lets out ten minutes of contented sighs followed by some light snoring. That's the signal that the TV is free and I can turn on the Playstation.
9. Stranger Things
Do you remember the 1980s? Then you'll find things familiar in Stranger Things. Weird but fun. It's better if you don't know anything about it.
8. The Great British Bake Off
It's just people making cakes in a tent, and it's amazing. Like Gogglebox (see below) it's all about the editing. Who knew there could be so much tension about proofing and lamination? Plus, saucy double-entendres aplenty. Oo-err, missus!
Best bit - Mary Berry's face when someone mentions gin in the ingredients.
7. The Jinx - The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
"He's very smart - he managed to get away with three murders."
I didn't know anything about Robert Durst or the murders, and it was really something watching this documentary unfold. It's a crazy story, brilliantly told.
No spoilers, just know that at least one of the scenes will stop ALL activity in your brain and you will look at whoever is in the room with you and say 'did that just happen?' and you'll rewind and watch it again and no matter how many times you repeat it, you will never believe your eyes and ears.
This is a show where you watch people watch TV. There are also versions from Australia and Ireland but they lack the editing genius of the UK edition. The way the camera hones in on people's microexpressions is stupendous and it's my go-to show after a hard day's work.
Best bit - the middle-aged men licking their lips at Nigella Lawson. Also Leon telling his wife to shush, whether she's making a sound or not.
5. The People vs OJ Simpson
Remember that whole 'Trial of the Century' thing? With Cuba Gooding as OJ and a stellar cast including John Travolta's eyebrows and Ross from Friends's hair, this show dramatised an incredible event that I was too young to understand in 1995. Superb television.
4. Halt and Catch Fire
An AMC drama in the style of Mad Men, but instead of advertising in the 60s it's computer geeks in the 80s. Amazingly tense, I binged the first series and was delighted to find another 2 already made.
It seems to be a composite of real-life stories like the founding of Compaq.
3. Planet Earth 2
Jaw-dropping footage, insane dedication to their craft, and superb editing. The sequence I choose to call IGUANA VERSUS SNAKE - set to pumping Hans Zimmer music - is the highest moment in television history.
Other bits are hard to watch - nature is fucking mental.
2. Game of Thrones
It's really great now - they're racing through the various plots and there's very little wasted stuff. The yawns of Dorne seem to be behind us, and Arya has stopped messing about with the face people.
Explosions, battles, and the most gut-wrenching death scene I've ever seen. Wow.
Again, better just to watch it without knowing too much about it. It's written by Jonathan Nolan who was also behind Memento and The Prestige so expect twists, surprises, and mindfuckery.
I wasn't keen on the opening credits theme at first, but later realised it's a masterpiece. Play it, Sam:
Pay close attention to 1:05 - the robot pianist's hands lifting away from the keyboard as if to say, 'who's playing this piano?'
Black Mirror: Somehow this totally passed me by until recently. Episode 1 caused a huge fight between me and Jen because the Prime Minister (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) has to bang a pig.
Better Call Saul: Bit slow at times - Jen couldn't get into it but it's hard to find better acting or scripts.
Luke Cage: Superhero who lives in Harlem and fights crime.
Blunt Talk: It's not hilarious but watching Patrick Stewart tear up the scenery is a rare treat.
Preacher: Criminal gets possessed by some kind of angel-demon thing. Weird stuff happens. I had to get subtitles for the Irish guy, who is another scenery-chewer.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: It's easy to watch and it has its moments but it's also fairly two dimensional. Most of the songs are forgettable and it's annoying when characters ONLY make bad choices.
The Night Of (USA): Good production values, good acting, but so so slow. It was twice as long as the British version for the same amount of story. Get on with it! Jeez.
The Night Manager: I mean it was good but people went a bit overboard.
Actively Annoyed By
The Walking Dead: They abused the audience about 8 too many times and I'm out.
Making a Murderer: The show is great but the story is maddening. Watching it made me so tense and angry I had to stop.
Elementary: I wanted to watch some Sherlock Holmes for some reason and this was abysmal. How are they onto a 4th season?