I do this list for William Christensen every year or so. Basically stuff that’s been on TV that’s either out on DVD over the past year or two, that’s unlikely to be released in widely the USA, that I quite enjoyed. So he can go buy it and spend his Christmas with his feet up in his home cinema. I thought you might like a look as well…
In The Flesh
One of the best screen zombie treatments to date, a very post modern take that easily outdoes Warm Bodies. We have had the zombie uprising, the zombies have now been treated and restored to the living… ish. And now returned to the communities that they came from – even the ones that fouyght tooth and nail against them. A three part slice-of-death drama that has had a second series commissioned.
Aired on BBC America but mostly ignored it seems, out on Region 1 DVD.
A stylish mash up between the Tarantinoesque broad brush stroke characters who stalk the land killing at whim without thought of consequence for some greater good, and the very human insects that get in the way. Who then, by contact with the larger characters, begin to become like them in order to cope. And it’s all based around the search for a graphic novel manuscript written and drawn by a mad man. A very nasty pharma-conspiracy thriller.
If you wondered why the CIA were so incompetent and powerless in Homeland, much of it was not wanting to scare the horses and let the viewers know exactly what the secret services can do if they want.Secret State, a remake from the ground up of A Very British Coup, has no such qualms, and predates the Edward Snowden NSA revelations by a year. You won’t look at your mobile phone the same way again.
Available on Region 2 DVD.
A Young Doctor’s Notebook
Him out of Mad Men and him out of Harry Potter, playing the same man decades apart, but joined by an innovative narrative technique that sees them fighting over points of dischord between them. Literally in some cases. A Russian medical equivalent to All Creatures Great And Small. Lots of alcohol, fighting memories and bad sex.
Brian Gulliver’s Travels
A successful returning radio series, the author and long time radio producer, Bill Dare, has novelised the series. The original series rewrote Gulliver’s Travels along the intent of its original author, to satirise society at the time. And so that’s what Brian Gulliver does, reporting on strange lands, one where everyone is a lawyer and one where there is only one law, one where everyone gains knowledge and spirituality from a potato, or when where value is measured by fame. The book expands upon the radio series and is the closest thing you’ll get to Douglas Adams outside of an Infinite Improbability Drive. If only Bill Dare had written those Hitch Hiker sequels…
Panned by the critics and much of the public, I adored this limited-scenario sitcom starring Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen as two seventy-something old queens living in a Soho flat, forty years together though one still hasn’t told his still-living mother that he’s gay. Bold, brash stereotypes with a hell of a lot of heart behind the barbs. Also, if you watch Game Of Thrones at the same time, you can imagine Iwan Rheon walks out of one room as a torturer and sadist, and straight into the Vicious flat as bumbling Northerner neighbour Ash. Somehow it works…
Last Tango In Halifax
Two childhood sweethearts who never got it together finally do so, sixty years on, now with their own families, responsibilities and lives..
Available on Region 2 DVD now. Currently airing a second series.
A Touch Of Cloth
A very British version of Police Squad with Charlie Brooker and Dan Maier writing a deadpan pisstake of those British police crime dramas that are high on brooding looks and contrived love interests set against disgusting and hyper-planned murders. And also happens to cast the kind of people who show up in such dramas as well. A second series has aired and a third with Karen Gillen is on the way.
The Revolution Will Be Televised
A sketch show that often hijacked real events to play out its silliness, involving real politicians being leapt upon in public and left to counter the satirical mess placed in their hands.
First series available on Region 2, second series airing now.
The Wrong Mans
James Corden from Gavin And Stacy and Matthew Baynton from Horrible Histories star in this comedy thriller, as they mistakenly get mixed up with a murder/kidnapping escapade, when still trying to fulfil the brief on the local council marketing campaign.
The Job Lot
ITV’s answer to The Office starring Russell Tovey, a job centre smack back in the middle of recession Britain. Cringe comedy with a voice or reason, rather than a voice of shame at the centre.
The current equivalent of MASH, a sitcom set in a bomb disposal unit in Afhghanistan, with a sense of humour and reality that was heavily researched. Funny, poignant and nicely works with the same gallow’s humour just without any of the mawkishness that came with MASH.
Available on Region 2 DVD.
If you liked The Office, and especially liked the UK Office, it owes its all to Alan Partridge, os portrayed by Steve Coogan. Beginning on On The Hour, moving to The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You in the nineties, this pathetic television sports presenter, resorted to working on local digital radio without a dent to his ego, this year Alan Partridge hit the big screen. And still fucking funny. Worth checking out the character’s radio and televisual history too.
An every day sitcom of people living at the lower scale of life in ancient Rome, two men and their slave.
What if Parks And Recreation was even better? And actually seemed to have impact on the real world? The people behind the London Olympics bid, dealing with bureaucracy, stupidity and the language of marketing over substance. With him out of Downton Abbey, her out of Peep Show and her out of Spaced.
Charming sitcom about a young Irish boy and his imaginary friend, Chris O’Dowd off of The IT Crowd.
The Thick Of It
The final series of this was an absolute revealation, building in plot to an eventual episode that was filmed like an actual select committee, and then giving us another episode to see the fallout. From the people who made Veep, but did it so much better here first. Also worth checking out the spinoff film, In The Loop.
When your daughter comes home, married to an incredibly inappropriate boyfriend and then lives in your house, rent free. Once that everyone else is charmed by – but you are not. What the hell do you do? Join in? Oh and you are Greg Davies, the teacher off of The Inbetweeners.
Not available yet. But, soon, probably.
This year’s northern nuclear family now that The Royle Family has been relegated to Christmas specials, with Vic Reeves as the patriarch.
A viciously sick and dark parody of the period dramas, but with he point of view of Julia Davis, best known for Nighty Night and Brass Eye.
Him & Her
Russell Tovey (again) and Saraj Solemani leading a romcom that is set almost entirely in a bed sit. Friends and relatives come and go, but Him and Her rarely leave. Very reminiscent of Ideal, with less of the darkness and mroe of the awkwardness.
Except for series four, airing now, a wedding, but not theirs, instead the most despicable sitcom characters alive.
I’ve gone on about this at length. Hell, I was the first to even mention that it existed. The most entertaining, most convincing, and simply best portrayal of the super power on the screen. The X-Men meets Trainspotting was the logline I came up with and it still suits.
A varying cast, five series long, with the last one airing now. Get the lot, before the inevitable American remake.
Yeah, we’ve mentioned Charlie Brooker a lot. But his take on modern pop culture, TV, games, news, whatever has been a real highlight, imagine a John Stewart who actually knows about modern media and also used to be a cartoonist. That. Not available in any way, but uploads to YouTube, sadly. Still you can also check out his Dead Set, his Nathan Barley and his…
Two series in for this reinvention of The Twilight Zone by Charlie Brooker and friends. Science fiction tales from the near future with inventions and innovations that change society to its core, but with very recognisable characters. The Prime Minister episode may sicken but the Grain episode may actually seduce you, as it did me.
I’ll talk about Horrible Histories below. But basically, when that ended, the cast and crew kept going with this self aware comedy fantasy for kids, with enough adult gags and references to keep the adults entertained. Everything you loved about Horrible Histories, but they don’t have to worry about facts any more. And just like Horrible Histories, more like The Mighty Boosh than Monty Python.
Based on the kids books but surpassed them in inventiveness and pure skill of writing and performance, Horrible Histories takes the Great British history and World history, by way of sketches based around poo, rewritten popular pop songs and an attitude of cynicism and silliness that is far more Mighty Boosh than it is Monty Python. It’s for kids, but damn it’s an entertaining way to learn the kind of history you should already know but don’t.
The Secret Of Crickley Hall
The James Herbert novel turned into a rather spookuy ghost story, set simultaneously in the forties and the present day, with some very nasty things happening to children, now echoing through the decades. Downton Abbey meets The Shining.
The returning sitcom that brings the best of seventies slapstick and farce, wit the knowing eye of Frankie Howerd and making it owned by the female experience rather than the male gaze. Very very silly, loveable and life affirming.
The Inside Men
Crime thriller in which the man who counts the money and even tops it up with his own to keep the books balanced, teams with two employees he knows are stealing from the company for something far more audacious.
The Hollow Crown
Do you like Game Of Thrones? Why not watch the actual English wars that the books and show are based upon, as the Shakespeare plays dramatised. Often using the same actors as The Game Of Thrones, even in the same equivalent roles…
Oh yeah, and Tom Hiddleston.
Available on Region 2 DVD
House Of Cards
And it’s an oldie but goodie… if you have seen the recent House Of Cards, see the original from twenty years before. Interestingly, considering trends in television in that time, you’ll find it far snappier and quicker, and cutting out all the flab that the Netflix series seems to have introduced in. The move from good guy to bad guy is far faster and more brutal.
And Twelve You Might Not Have Come Across But Really Should. William Probably Has, I Think.
- That Was The Week That Was
- The Smell of Reeves & Mortimer
- Brass Eye
- Snuff Box
- Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
- Nighty Night
- The Smoking Room