2015 has not been a bad year for TV, all in all. We are spoiled for choice, what with the terrestrial channels still ploughing on, Sky getting creative, Netflix & Amazon making their own content and even previously unheard of channels (Starz?) getting in on the act.
Is it too early to list my favourites of the year? Maybe, but I’m gonna do it anyway. Here, then, are my 13(!) favourite TV programmes from 2015.
13. The Enfield Hauntings (Sky Living)
Supposedly based on a true story, this 70s based horror series centres around a family seemingly haunted by a poltergeist. It’s a three-parter starring Timothy Spall and Matthew Macfadyen which provides plenty of shocks and entertainment. There’s even the odd laugh, most of them down to Macfadyen’s wardrobe. It’s a little cheesy, but – as someone who usually doesn’t do well with horror – I enjoyed it.
12. The Kennedys (BBC)
The second of three 70s based series in this list, The Kennedys deals with a family and their neighbours in a very funny manner. The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, an unrecognisable Dan Skinner (Shooting Stars’ Angelos Epithemiou) and a brilliantly un-PC Harry Peacock (playing a role similar to his turn in Toast of London) battle through their life although the lead is definitely the Kennedy’s Star Wars obsessed daughter, Emma. At times farcical, it provides loads of laughs.
11. Wayward Pines (Fox)
If you’re looking for twists, this is for you. It was written by M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) and stars Matt Dillon, Toby Jones & Juliette Lewis. Like ‘Lost’, it throws you into a situation where you don’t really have a clue what is happening. Happily, it doesn’t keep you hanging on too long and it reveals it’s secrets proving itself to be an original and brave show. Whether or not the ending is of the same quality as the beginning has been the subject of much debate online. There’s even talk of a second series. Whether or not you’d want that it a decision you can only make by completing this series. I’d be interested in hearing your opinions….
10. Fortitude (Sky Atlantic)
The cast, the scenery, the music. A brilliantly horrible Richard Dormer, a stunning Stanley Tucci, brilliant turns from Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston and a large, quality support cast raised the game on this freezing drama. The tagline sets the storyline out – “Perched on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Fortitude is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime here. Until now.”
The first half of the series is utterly brilliant. To my mind, the conclusion is less so. Sex, greed, murder and Polar bears pays off and I’m interested to see where series two takes us.
9. Broadchurch (ITV)
Series two of the miserable but addictive crime drama drew me in. Critics were split but I loved it. It retained it’s MO of twists, anger, heartbreak, tremendous dialogue and career-high acting. Olivia Coleman and David Tennant have never been better as policeman watching the trial of the alleged murderer of Danny Latimer. New storylines and characters keep things fresh and the court scenes also provide a different dynamic to the first series. All we know about series three is that Tennant and Coleman will be back, which is good enough news for now.
8. Better Call Saul (Netflix)
The first series of the tale of Saul Goodman, the lawyer from Breaking Bad, started this year. It’s not as intense or grim as it’s sequel – yet. In fact, Bob Odenkirk isnt’ even Saul at the beginning. He’s plain old Jimmy McGill and not even a lawyer. While having a long history of perfecting scams, he has a lot of heart which is clear from the care he takes of his housebound brother, Chuck (played by comedy legend Michael McKean).
Season two is in the pipeline with the possibility of Jesse and Walter making an appearance. Can’t wait.
7. Hannibal (Sky Living)
Let’s be honest, the start of season three is hard going. I loved the first two series, which were two different beasts themselves. The first few episodes seem to be a constant dream-state of high-level discussion and comtemplation of the relationship and dependency between Hannibal and his pursuer / disciple Will Graham. It’s not until about five episodes in where things return to a more traditional format and it improves for it. The rest of the series is excellent.
Mads Mikkelsen is perfect, even when he’s restricted to standing in a room in his pajamas for hours on end. Hugh Dancy is suitably miserable. It doesn’t look like there will be another series, which is genuinely disappointing. I’m hungry for more…..
6. Outlander (Amazon)
Outlander follows the story of Claire Randell, a nurse from 1946 who is swept back in time to 1743. Containing the best theme tune of 2015 and more nude scenes than any other TV programme I’ve ever seen, it was a violent ride through history. Placed in an impossible situation, we follow Claire as she attempts to adapt in a wild and scenic Scotland. The acting is top drawer and the storyline never fails to surprise and entertain.
Series two, set in France, is on it’s way.
5. Cradle to Grave (BBC)
Based on the Danny Baker autobiography Going to Sea in a Sieve, Cradle to Grave gave Peter Kay his second massive role of 2015. Set in 70s South London, Kay plays father, docker and black market dealer Fred “Spud” Baker, doing what he can to get by. Young Danny has an equal amount of troubles, dealing with his hormones while Lucy Speed plays long suffering mother and wife Bet.
The show nails it. It has the perfect balance of nonsense, laughs and heartbreak. The final episode, where Spud explains why he can deal with giving away his Father’s watch – made me shed a tear. Series 2 has been commissioned, which is a reason to celebrate.
4. Man Down (Channel 4)
Greg Davies is a genius. Most of the press about the first series was about Rik Mayall, following his untimely death. What was less reported on was the way in which Davies had created one of the funniest TV losers in UK comedy history. As child-in-a-man’s-body and teacher Dan, he flounders through outrageous and hilarious situations with best friends Jo (Roisin Conaty) and Brian (Mike Wozniak) and a cast of brilliant characters, all seemingly out to humiliate him. The cafe, the personal instructor with the huge arse, riding bikes through the park, his dad in a bear suit, the vicious turkey… Only two series in and there are already so many scenes of legend.
This is tears-streaming-down-the-face funny.
3. The Great British Bake Off (BBC)
Twelve amateur bakers in a tent trying their best not to get knocked out on a week by week basis by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Who knew that this would grow into such a phenomenon? It’s unclear why this has become such addictive tv, but it has. The bread lions (overrated imo), the bubble-gum icing, the undercooked & the burnt – it was all there. Nadiya went from being last in the first technical challenge to being overall winner, deservedly. Lots of us get emotionally involved in the show, picking our favourites and egging(!) them on.
The BBC has one more series left in it’s contract, then it’ll be up for grabs. I imagine there will be a bit of a bidding war….
2. Taskmaster (Dave)
You know when you laugh so much that you lose the plot? Milk coming out your nose funny? I lost count of the amount of times Taskmaster did this to me. The premise is simple. Greg Davies and Alex Horne set challenges. The participants – comedians Romesh Ranganathan, Frank Skinner, Roisin Conaty, Josh Widdicombe and Tim Key – all have to complete the tasks. The tasks, however, are ridiculous and the tactics are underhand and hilarious.
You have to trust me that, once you get into this, seeing Romesh Ranganathan smash a watermelon on the floor will make you fall off your seat with laughter. The show is utterly fantastic and it’s such a shame that it was on a relatively small channel. The brilliant news is that TWO more series have been commissioned. Track this down. You will not regret it.
1. Car Share (BBC)
Two people share a car on the way to and from work. That’s it. And yet, somehow, it turned into the best thing on TV this year. Peter Kay and Sian Gibson play John and Kayleigh, employees of the same supermarket. Beyond that, they appear to have little in common. Over the series, they develop a heart-warming friendship while dealing with some brilliant set-pieces, hilarious characters and massive hair. The music (and singing along) and daydream sequences are great too.
The opening episode of the series had 6.8million viewers with another 2.5mil on iPlayer, making it a record breaking premiere. Despite this, there’s no news of season two.
There were some disappointments. Season 5 of Game of Thrones was a damp squib. If the first six episodes had moved any slower, they would have been rewinding. We got a bit of a pay-off in episode 7 and some Tyrian magic after that, but it still left a feeling of ‘could have done better’.
House of Cards ran dry in season 3. The previously untouchable Francis Underwood seemed to fail at everything. He lost at every turn. As a viewer, you’re thinking a big victory was on the horizon, but it just never happened. The great behemoth was just a man, and the series lost something special as a result.
Partners in Crime also disappointed. What could have been a good mix of comedy and crime was pitched at the wrong tone and was all a bit too panto to hold my interest.
Series which I am interested in seeing but haven’t got around to yet are This is England ’90, The Knick, Mr Robot and True Detective 2. We’ll find the time, somehow.
What were your favourite series of 2015? What do you think of this choice? Have I missed anything out?