Friday, 24 January 2014

Top 5 TV Shows I saw in 2013

2013 was another year when I recorded more stuff than I could possibly watch. Whilst the TiVo makes recording programs very easy it has quickly become the equivalent of having a huge box of videos you never get round to viewing. I'd previously managed to keep things reasonably balanced at around 50% capacity but before Christmas I was well over 65% full and decided to take drastic action. Grimm (Season 2) and New Girl (Season 2) where wiped and Homeland (Season 2) only survived the cull thanks to it's relatively low number of episodes. Despite this I still saw some excellent telly.

1. Parks & Recreation (Season 2) - I picked up on this thanks to Andrew Collins who reviews television for the Guardian (amongst other things). The six episode first season didn't really grab me but I stuck with it and found season 2 got better & better. This was originally planned as a spin-off from the US version of The Office but ended up being a new stand-alone show. I've not seen the US Office but can see how Parks & Rec follows a similar fake documentary style to the UK Office. Amy Poehler's stars as Leslie Knope deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee. She is very much the centre of everything that happens but is supported by a very fine cast of characters, especially the marvelously deadpan Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman).



2. Les Revenants - French zombie thriller with a glacial pace that had me riveted from start to finish. I had to include at least one subtitled entry and this was comfortably the winner (though I also enjoyed the 4th series of Spiral). It's beautifully shot and, whilst it might not be everyone's cup-of-tea, I felt the slow build and gradual plot reveal added to the power of the story. Of course, the Mogwai backing music helped get me in the mood considerably. By the time it reached Channel 4, as The Returned, I was already very familiar with the soundtrack album which suited the story and plot perfectly.


3. Community (Season 3) - I'm not sure how I've failed to feature Community in a TV top 5 before. Season 4 came out in 2013 but was slightly under-par compared to the previous shows. It was the first to be made without series creator Dan Harmon on board but still had some outstanding moments (the episode where Pierce locks himself inside the panic room of his mansion and the series finale - both written by previous Guest Top 5 provider Megan Ganz - were both highlights). However, I watched most of Season 3 in 2013 and that was superb. It includes some of my very favourite episodes (the episode where Shirley teaches Jeff how to win at Foosball whilst Annie stages a robbery to cover up breaking Abed's special edition DVD of The Dark Knight & "Digital Estate Planning" where the gang are animated as 8-bit video game characters & have to complete to win Pierce's inheritance). The bottom line is it's very funny and you should watch it as soon as you can.


4. The Enigma of Nic Jones: Return of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero - Nic Jones is a British folk legend. His 1980 record Penguin Eggs is regarded as a classic. In 1982, at the peak of his career, Nic was involved in a near-fatal car crash on the way home from a gig. He broke almost every bone in his body and suffered neurological damage that meant he would never play his guitar in front of an audience again. I'd never heard of him prior to watching this BBC documentary but found this film, which explores how influential his music has been as well as documenting his return to the live stage, utterly enthralling and very emotional. Encouraged by friends and family, Nic returned to the stage to play several festival performances accompanied by his son, Joe Jones, on guitar and keyboard player Belinda O'Hooley. The concerts were a resounding success and for his old and new fans, a moving comeback for their musical hero. I've watched it twice now and, I'll be honest, I blubbed both times.


5. Fresh Meat (Series 3) - Not quite as good as Series 1 or Series 2 but still very funny. As with the two American series at 1 & 3, Fresh Meat has a great ensemble cast who have grown into their characters as the show develops. Greg McHugh, as Howard, gets more of an active role this time round and is one of the few characters to find things going reasonably well. Everyone else seems to be struggling to cope with various mishaps and this does have a bit of a downer on the group dynamics. That aside, Zawe Ashton, as Vod, is still the brightest star and has some spectacular moments, including the episode where her alcohol dependent mother comes to stay and makes a play for J.P.


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