Like many people, I enjoy a bit of TV from time to time. I enjoy it most when I am fully into a series, when I know the characters and can watch from episode to episode as they develop as well as the episodes particular plot. The three main TV genres I enjoy are Brit-coms, crime dramas and comedy panel shows. I watch bits and pieces of other shows but these are my core group. Once I am hooked on a series I will watch it religiously. I record episodes if I can’t watch live and feel a bit lost when a season is over. If I’ve particularly enjoyed a series I will endeavor to own it either as a download or DVD. It’s quite similar to my enjoyment of books. I do re-read books, but only those that have created a world or characters I really love. If it was just the unpredictability of the plot that kept me then it probably won’t be enjoyed as much a second time.
I’ll start with Brit-coms (British sitcoms); they are different to American sit-coms, the humour is different though the lay-out can be similar. The differences are why American versions are sometimes made, such as The Office. Some of my favourites are listed below.
Dinnerladies – starring, written and co-produced by Victoria Wood during 1998-2000 this is possibly my favourite series ever. Following the lives of the canteen staff at a factory it stars a ton of Brtitish talent: Victoria Wood as Brenda Furlong, Andrew Dunn as Tony Martin, Thelma Barlow as Dolly Bellfield, Anne Reid as Jean, Maxine Peake as Twinkle, Shobna Gulati as Anita , Duncan Preston as Stan Meadowcroft, Celia Imrie as Philippa Moorcroft and Julie Walters as Petula Gordino. It only ran for 2 series with 16 episodes about half an hour long. The writing is so clever and quick that even though I’ve seen all the episodes numerous times they still make me physically laugh (even when watching on my own) and I still discover new references I’d not noticed before.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – Dinnerladies clip 1, Dinnerladies clip 2, Dinnerladies clip 3
The Good Life – Another best of British comedy actors, the core cast of 4 are Richard Briers as Tom Good, Felicity Kendal as Barbara Good, Penelope Keith as Margo Leadbetter and Paul Eddington as Jeremy “Jerry” Leadbetter. In this series we follow Tom and Barbara who decide to go self-sufficient in the middle of Subiton, much to their neighbours chagrin. Originally airing in 1975-1978 with a live episode viewed by the Queen herself, this is my close runner up for favourite TV show ever. The two marriages are so vastly different and yet perfectly matched. In some ways a very gentle show but still wonderfully funny and feel good. It aired in America under the title of Good Neighbors.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – The Good Life clip 1, The Good Life clip 2, The Good Life clip 3
The best modern equivalent I’ve found for these is Miranda. Starring and written by Miranda Hart, with Sarah Hadland, Tom Ellis, Patricia Hodge, Sally Phillips, James Holmes making up the rest of the main cast. It follows the life of Miranda as she tries to do life as an adult, running a joke shop and being socially awkward with a mother desperate to marry her off. Slightly more slapstick than the others it still has that self-contained small cast British humour to it. It ran from 2009 until 2015 with a couple of bonus specials. I’m quite sad it’s over but also glad they didn’t run it into the ground.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – Miranda clip 1, Miranda clip 2, Miranda clip 3.
Other series I’ve enjoyed in this vain are:
To the Manor Born (starring Penelope Keith & Peter Bowles)
Exectutive Stress (starring Penelope Keith and Geoffrey Palmer/Peter Bowles)
The Darling Buds of May (Pam Ferris, David Jason and Catherine Zeta-Jones)
In the realm of crime dramas there is so much choice both British and American, though as you may expect they have a different feel to them.
My current obsession is Sue Thomas F.B.Eye. I am working through it episode by episode, one a day as they are showing them on the Alibi channel in the UK at the moment. This is one of the slowest, most gently, family friendly crime dramas in the world, ever. To some it may seem inordinately dull but I am at the stage of knowing the characters and really enjoy visiting their very American world. It ran from 2002 to 2005 with 56 episodes. The series is loosely based on the real life experience of Sue Thomas, a deaf woman whose ability to read lips landed her a job with an elite surveillance team at the FBI. Starring Deanne Bray as Sue Thomas, Yannick Bisson as Jack Hudson (in a less wooden role than Murdoch Mysteries), Rick Peters as Bobby, Enuka Okuma as Lucy, Marc Gomes as Dimitrius, Ted Atherton as Myles Leland III, Tara Samuel as Tara and of course Levi the hearing dog. If you can get over the tweeness it’s great.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – Sue Thomas clip 1, Sue Thomas clip 2
One of my all-time favourites is Jonathan Creek (played by Alan Davis), particularly the early series that co-starred Caroline Quentin as Maddy. Jonathan Creek is a creative consultant to a stage magician who gets roped in to solving unexplainable supposedly supernatural mysteries, inevitably his creative logic find a rational explanation for everything. It has the feel of a modern, more humorous Sherlock Holmes.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips Jonathan Creek clip 1, Jonathan Creek clip 2
In the realm of light crime crime dramas I would also include my love of:
Death in Paradise (starring Ben miller/Kris Marshall)
Midsomer Murders (Starring John nettles for the most part)
Rosmary and Thyme (starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris)
55 Degrees North (starring Dervla Kirwan and Don Gilet)
Lie to Me (starring Tim Roth, Kelli Williams) – I was gutted this had so few series.
Miss Marple (based on Agatha Christie)
Poirot (based on Agatha Christie)
Bones (starring David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel)
Castle (starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic)
NCIS (starring Mark Harmon)
… I could go on forever.
For something a little grittier you have
Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) a modern take on Sherlock Holmes.
CSI (I’m particularly partial to the original series)
Criminal minds – one of the more sinister series but gripping
For comedy panel shows, you’re spoilt for choice in the UK, but my favourites are Would I Lie To You and QI. Would I lie to you works as a game where each team tries to guess whether the other is telling and outlandish lie or an outlandish truth about themselves. The two team captains really make this show great, David Mitchell and Lee Mac are very different and very funny and play off each other really well.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – WILTY clip 1, WILTY clip 2, WILTY clip 3
QI is a general knowledge quiz that focuses on common misconceptions and misunderstandings. The panel always features comical guests and I never see and episode without both laughing a learning something. Stephen Fry presents and Alan Davis is a constant fixture, again the interplay between the two is always amusing.
If you want to get a feel for the show, here are a couple of youtube clips – QI clip 1, QI clip 2, QI clip 3
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you know any series along these lines that I’ve not mentioned add them in the comments.