British television has been severely lacking in imagination and variation for a number of years. A quick surf of the channels will undoubtedly result in numerous reality television shows, reruns of Only Fools and Horses, lifestyle shows and Friends. This is probably down to channels not wanting to take any economic risk, instead continuing to rely on the cheap production costs and reliable audiences offered by reality television programming. However, if you want good quality television you have to look no further than the US. HBO, Showtime and AMC continue to produce engaging and entertaining programming that trump everything the UK has to offer. Here are some of my television highlights of 2010.
It is refreshing to see a television show that breaks convention; how can something that is so downbeat be so humourous and compelling? Season three of Breaking Bad was broadcast in 2010 and it continues to be one of the best episodes on television. Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White is deserved of the accolades he has so far received. Season three had a number of standout episodes, particularly the Rian Johnson directed episode Fly. Season four will be broadcast in the US in summer 2011. Surely time must be running out for Walter White?
Could the Martin Scorcese produced television show live up to the hype? It most certainly did. To say that the production values of Boardwalk Empire are high would be an understatment; it is easy to see how the budget for the show was spent. The sets, costumes and acting are simply excellent. Steve Buscemi is great, as expected, but Micheal Pitt certainly appears to be an actor to keep an eye on.
A lot of online reviewers surprisingly compare this sitcom to the hilarious Arrested Development. Personally, I do not think that Modern Family comes close but it is still a consistently entertaining sitcom that has the least precocious child actors I have seen.
I was tempted to include this in my list of favourite films but as it was initially a three part television mini-series that was edited into a film I am more inclined to include it here. Highly engaging, this series delves into the life of terrorist Carlos the Jackal. After the fast paced two episodes the final episode is a lot slower, mirroring the life of Carlos as he becomes less significant. Best viewed via Optimum’s Blu-Ray that offers complete mini-series as well as the theatrical version.
The best thing about Weeds is that it has not been afraid to change the situation of its characters in each season. For me, season six has been one of the best seasons with many standout moments. Justin Kirk as Andy Botwin, continues to to steal the screen and my imaginary love affair with Mary Louise Parker continues. It will be interesting to see what the writers decide to do in the seventh season.
Eastbound and Down
Still working my way through this one. Kenny Powers is one of televisions best characters. ‘Nuff said.
So far I have watched The Trip twice. I had though that it was nothing more than an excuse for Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan to travel to the North of England, eat overpriced food and stay in good hotels. This might be so but it is incredibly funny and beautifully directed by Michael Winterbottom. The series has been edited into a film that will be released in the US. I am curious to see how the film will be paced.
After season six I had thought that Entourage was running out of steam. Season seven was a pleasant surprise, dealing with the long expected crash of Vincent Chase as he dates porn star Sasha Grey and develops a a drug addiction. Season eight will definitely be the last series and a feature film will follow.
The Walking Dead
Online buzz would have you believe that this was the greatest television show ever. Well, it is not, but, it is still a good quality show that developed nicely over six episodes. The Walking Dead was at its when the walking dead were used sparingly in episodes. I was pleased to see the capable Brit actor Andrew Lincoln finally reach the big time.
The much lauded show deserves all the praise it receives. Season four continued to match the high standard of the previous seasons. What will happen to the enigmatic Don Draper in season five?
How to Make It in America
This enjoyable Mark Wahlberg produced show was a pleasant surprise. I am very much looking forward to season two.
I was surprised that HBO made a third season. Season one was one of the best seasons of television I have ever seen but season two did not compare well. Season three was better but still not reaching the high standards of the first season. I do not expect to see HBO make fourth series.
Not as consistent as the first two series but still incredibly funny in places. The forthcoming film which will follow the exploits of the characters as they go on holiday to Malaga promises many laughs.
Disappointments of the year
Season one was great, season two was good, season three was awful. The only highlight was the crazed, dandy vampire Russell Edgington portrayed by Dennis O’Hare. The clip below was one of the funniest things I saw on television last year.
What was one of the most original shows on television took a sudden turn for the worse in season four. The change of the excellent credit sequence should have been an indicator. Season five will be the final season, hopefully it will return to the quality of the first three seasons.