Posts Tagged ‘Homeland’

2012 in TV

In Culture on December 7, 2012 at 9:15 PM

5. Fresh Meat

Not a groundbreaking start to the list, you may think. But this sitcom has slowly grown into one of real quality. Anyone who’s gone to that awkward first uni night out with strangers – with all the requisite whos? Wheres? and football teams? – will empathise with the unlikely group of friends, and the clever trick here, though at first it seems a glaring omission not to include halls, is to plant them all in a house so they can’t avoid each other and find other circles of friends. It’s all here in some form. There’s mumsy yet petty Josie; professional skag-head Vod; try-hard socialite JP (Jack Whitehall in a star-turn, presumably drawing on his own private school education); head girl-cum-uncaring student-cum-Jane Austen wannabe Oregon aka Melissa; geologist muso Kingsley (Simon from the Inbetweeners playing Simon from the Inbetweeners, basically); and of course weirdo-in-chief Howard, who’s actually often the most sane of the lot. So traces of loads of people you know from uni (or at least, that me and my mate do). Suffice to say, dysfunction and drama abounds – but, like a kind of British Friends, it always seems genuine due to its humour, and the way all their respective fucked-up natures are, weirdly, complementary – Oregon teaching Vod English lit and Vod teaching Oregon drugs; JP giving everyone money and everyone else giving him friendship etc etc. So, children with booze and drugs struggling through to adulthood with a little help, and more than a little hate, from their friends – in a word, uni. And who doesn’t love that…

4. Peep Show

…Another genius creation of the comedic minds of Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, Mark and Jez have returned as brilliantly messed up and misanthropic as ever. Such is the show’s consistent excellence, it’s suffered almost no backlash, even after a might eight seasons, for being the ‘same old thing’, despite being…well, the same old thing (how could it be anything but?!). Mark’s still stuck in an average relationship (back with Dobby now) and in a pretty shit job, now literally as he’s selling toilets; and Jez is still leeching off him and occasionally trying to make something of his life, with therapy his latest ruse. But the point of view camera and thought-track devices still feel fresh and the gags still sharp and painfully, cringingly resonant.

3. Derren Brown: The Specials

*contains spoilers*

It’s a great testament to Mr Brown’s ability and versatility that, after a decade in the limelight, he’s still so popular in a field that’s very easy to become apathetic or cynical about – in one of the countries most likely to become so about it. (See how David Blaine is treated quasi-messianically by many Americans, although increasingly less so it seems, and how, over here, he is egged and taunted with a cheeseburger dangled from a remote-control helicopter when starving himself in a hanging perspex box overlooking the Thames.) This year he performed some more incredible feats of human psychology. In Svengali, he took over control of someone’s body solely through a psychic Victorian doll, precluding any sensation of touch. In the two Fear and Faith shows, he successfully gave an atheist a religious experience and proved the power of the placebo effect by curing people of various respective fears and social conditions with nothing but sugar (pills) and suggestion. For my money his most ambitious to date, though, came in the form of Apocalypse – a fascinating, and quite affecting, double-part show in which he successfully managed to convince a bloke a deadly meteor shower was coming, and then actually enact it – in an army base, and with the help of his family…in order to get him to take some responsibility in his life basically. Sure enough, it actually worked. And it’s not just what he’s doing; it’s how he’s doing, with a growing warmth and humour, like when, in Svengali, he correctly guessed out of an audience of around a thousand which person had (initially secretively) confessed that he had once masturbated with a hoover. And if that’s not great TV, I’m not quite sure what is.

2. Homeland
*contains a first season spoiler, and very general second season spoilers*

This was the difficult second season for the high-budget, high-drama Fox 21 intelligence thriller. Brody is still alive, though hardly well, being as he is viewed with suspicion by almost everyone and still divided between the Fate of the Free World and the Big Bad Terrorists. Some have said this season drags on and takes ridiculous plot leaps – but it’s so tense, well acted (many Americans thought Damian Lewis was American until he gave his Emmy acceptance speech), and, ostensibly at least, moves at such a breakneck speed that it’s not until after that you might think ‘hang on, what actually happened there?! Was that really that good’. In the same manner one might do after having gone on a rollercoaster; which isn’t really the point, is it?

1. The Thick of It

The return, after three years and a general election, of Armando Iannucci and Co. to our screens this Autumn seemed more prescient than ever, what with Coalition in-fighting obvious even from the outside and the Leveson Inquiry revealing the toxic inner sanctums of press and politicians. And true to form, it ratcheted up the scandal and skulduggery to levels that would seem contrived were they not so realistic. Indeed, much of the time, it seemed the actual government was copying The Thick of It rather than the other way round, as the show came across more of an all-encompassing government think-tank and sounding board than a mere sitcom. Several times the show broadcast fictional policies which just days later became real-life policy, leading many to suggest the producers had moles in government (they didn’t). Even away from the politics, which is just as much the show’s skill, you had all the hilariously meaningless doublespeak from ersatz Steve Hilton, Stephen Pearson; exquisite grumpiness from the leader of the opposition, Peter Mannion (even better than Chris Langham’s Hugh Abbot for my money); and, of course, the fuck-fucking-tastic Malcolm Tucker – the only TV character for whom an official ‘Swearing Consultant’ is noted in the closing credits. And if there’s ever a reason for best show of the year, I think that might be it…

Joel Durston