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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Staying Sane part 1: My Favourite TV of 2013

[This started off as a "Best of the Year" feature, but it rather ran away from me. The first part sticks fairly closely to describing the TV I liked in 2013; the next two parts ramble through a few things I like to listen to while I'm working and how that works for me, with links to a few free things you can find on the internet if you're a broke freelancer. Not what I intended, but what the hell. . . hopefully there will be something that will interest you enough to give it a try.]

Working from home can have its advantages and disadvanages. One is the easy access to distractions like TV. We don't have Sky, so that limits Mel and I to terrestrial channels. As we only have a couple of hours of an evening to watch TV and we don't watch TV every evening, there's usually enough on the tele to keep us going, especially since I introduced her to the foreign language shows on BBC Four.

As I'm at home, I have a habit of picking up box-sets of shows we don't watch together, so I have been catching up on shows like Fringe, which I never saw as it was broadcast on Sky. Some shows I've drifted away from: I used to follow CSI and CSI: New York religiously, for instance, but haven't had much time for them since we moved three years ago. The last series of CSI I watched was series 9 and they're now up to series 14 with Ted Danson in the lead; I drifted away from CSI: New York at the same time, so probably saw up to season 5. I will have to catch up with both shows at some point.

I got caught up with BBC Four's Danish crime dramas from the beginning and persuaded Mel to watch The Killing II after picking up the first series box-set. We have been hooked ever since, our joint favourite being The Bridge, which returns in early January and which is currently being repeated. However, in 2013, I think our favourite had to be Inspector Montalbano and the spin-off Young Montalbano, both of which had so many good points that I don't want to pick one over the other. Luca Zingaretti set a high bar for the grumpy gastronome, but Michele Riondino tackled the role of his younger self with aplomb.

The mysteries are fun, the characters great and it's lovely to bask in the Sicilian sunshine.We've now caught up with all the shows that have been broadcast in Italy, so let's just hop that they keep turning them out. I've recently picked up a couple of the books, which Mel has enjoyed and which I'm planning to read the first chance I get (although they're still way down the pile!).

I guess Broadchurch was the show that kept us both on the edge of the sofa this year. We knew Chris Chibnall's work for Doctor Who and this had the right balance of suspense and homeliness to keep it from being too dark. There were some notable flops like Mayday and I must admit that I wasn't that impressed by Top of the Lake, although others seemed to like the latter. It will be good to see David Tennant and the wonderful Olivia Colman back together again in the new year.

Olivia Colman is pretty much a sign that a programme will be good: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Twenty-Twelve and a top notch performance in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. I have similar attitude to Nicola Walker who put in two terrific turns this year in Heading Out (Sue Perkins' delightful comedy) and, at the other end of the dramatic scale, in this season of Scott & Bailey.

The series that probably had me most glued to the set this year was Channel Four's conspiracy thriller Utopia, which was chillingly good. Thankfully there will be a second series, unlike The Fades, which deserved far more from BBC Three. You need a bit of weirdness in your life and this was it for me (even more so than the French not-quite-zombies series The Returned.

On the comedy front, we've probably had more laughs this year out of Jack Whitehall than anyone else, thanks to Bad Education, Fresh Meat and Back Chat, plus turns on Have I Got News For You and elsewhere.

However, our favourite show was probably Badults because there's nothing like it around at the moment. Thankfully there will be a second series (BBC Three making up for The Fades!). I'll discuss Badults later in the week.

There are shows that I want to see but haven't yet: Breaking Bad (I've just picked up season one), Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, Arrow (Green Arrow being one of my favourite comics some years back), Veep, 30 Rock and Louis.

That's a lot of catching up to do. I'm beginning to think that I'm not going to be getting much work done in 2014...

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