Best TV shows of 2020

I don’t watch enough TV. I have, however, loved some TV shows this year.

The Mandalorian
So, the quality of The Mandalorian is incredible. Each season is like an 8-hour film. I love how The Mandalorian is connected to the Star Wars universe but has a completely different story. If only the sequel trilogy had attempted the same thing then it would have been so much better. Apart from the cuteness of Baby Yoda, the action is the best thing to watch. The episode where Baby Yoda is kidnapped by Dark Troopers is ace!

The best thing about The Mandalorian is probably its legacy – so many quality programmes are now being made in the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes now that Mando has convinced everyone that it’s possible.

The Great British Bake Off
It’s cheesy but I almost cried when the Bake Off was announced as returning. There is something so comforting about this programme. It is perfect escapism TV – for an hour or so each week COVID didn’t matter. All that matters was if Peter could bake a cake. A brilliant series!

The Fall
Ok, so The Fall wasn’t released this year, but this was the year that we binge-watched it. It was totally captivating. Incredible programme.

Neighbours
I don’t watch any other soap so Neighbours is a totally guilty pleasure. Each day it is reassuring and entertaining. There have been some brilliant plot lines this year. The only problem has been that we have not been able to watch as many episodes this year because of COVID!

This Country
This year we fell in love with This Country. The show has flown straight in as one of my favourite comedies ever. It is hysterically funny!

The Last Leg
The Last Leg is the programme that has summed up the year. In January/February it laughed at the idea of COVID. Then by the end of the series there was no audience. It returned with Adam Hills in lock down in Australia and Josh and Alex presenting from their homes via Zoom. It returned again in a socially distanced form at the end of the year. That they awarded Dominic Cummings the Dick Of The Year Award over COVID tells you how much we all hate Dominic Cummings.

Gogglebox
Quite possibly the best programme ever. Entertaining, uplifting, comforting and awkard every single week, the stars have really cheered me up this year.

The Stranger
I’ve already written about how much we enjoyed The Stranger. It was awesome.

Alan Partridge Ranked

I am a massive fan of Alan Partridge.

Today the new AP podcast series is released on Audible and I cannot wait.

To celebrate its release, I have ranked the Alan Partridge output from least best (there is no worst) to most best (not an actual phrase, but it helps make my point). I’ve not included the Comic Relief specials as they vary so much in quality.

On The Hour
I am not very familiar with this, so it must rank lowest.

The Day Today
This is great – there’s just not enough Partridge!!

Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge (radio)
This is so funny! It’s only so low on the ranking because everything else is so good! Stand out moments include the scene with the child prodigy!

Open Books with Martin Bryce
An underrated classic! I love Partridge’s facial expressions in this!

Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle
Such a funny documentary. Stand out moments include the supermarket scene (“Do you need any help packing?”) and (“Look, just think about lowering your rates of interest!”.

This Time with Alan Partridge
Partridge’s most recent output gets better and better each time you watch it! My favourite parts are the exchanges with reporter Ruth Duggan. And also Alice Clunt Fluck – I see what I did there.

Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge (TV) + Knowing Me, Knowing Yule with Alan Partridge
This remains a classic! Parts of this are so funny – stand out moments include Roger Moore at Chiswick roundabout and Sprunt!

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Not always rated very highly, this still makes me laugh! It is just easy watching and it is great to see Partridge on the big screen! The soundtrack is also great!

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of my Life
Pinetree Productions has managed to make something of solid gold here! Welcome To The Places Of My Life is so entertaining! Love it!

Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge
Such a brilliant couple of series – so varied in content. There’s several stand out moments per episode. “Inception” is probably the most quoted!

I, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan
I have read and listened to this book so many times now and yet it still makes me laugh out loud. It is so well written – classic Alan. I love hearing all of the events from I’m Alan Partridge from Alan’s point of view, which of course is never what actually happened.

Alan Partridge: Nomad
I wasn’t sure if they could top I, Partridge, but they have and it is superb! I love the part with his swimming pool dual with the pensioner and the part when he interrupts a live recording of the One Show!

I’m Alan Partridge
It had to be, didn’t it? Twenty-three years since it was first released I still quote lines from I’m Alan Partridge almost on a daily basis. It is still laugh out loud an it still feels up-to-date even after all this time. Just brilliant!

The Stranger

I first saw parts of The Stranger on Gogglebox and really wanted to watch it. I don’t watch enough TV so lockdown was a good excuse to binge watch it.

The Stranger came out on Netflix a few months ago. We’ve only just got round to watching it!

I really enjoyed it and loved seeing how all of the characters linked together.

Alpacas aren’t used enough in TV programme. And this was certainly the first time I’ve seen a headless one. I loved Paul Kaye’s character who was driven to absolute despair by his sick daughter. Seeing how his role in the mystery developed was excellent.

At first it was hard to take the detective seriously due to her role in crap sitcom, Benidorm. But now I think it will be hard to take her seriously in Benidorm as she was so good in Stranger.

The Stranger was great. Discovering the truth behind her lifestyle was captivating.

The main character, Adam Price, was intriguing. He was really well played by Richard Armitage who managed to bring a feeling of honesty to the role whilst adding in an element of suspicion to help keep us guessing.

Visually it was amazing and the filming locations were incredible. The bridge was spectacular (apparently in Lancashire). I recognised parts of Stockport too.

Some of the criticism that I’ve read of the programme said that some of the most dramatic parts of the storyline proved to be explained away too easily. Maybe this is right but it certainly didn’t spoil the show for me.

Well worth watching!

The Apprentice Winners

The other day Andrew Bloch tweeted a photo of a gathering of
the winners of The Apprentice.

Nothing has been announced yet, but you could sense this was
more than just a social gathering. Perhaps there’s a documentary on its way
about the winners.

Here is my recollection of the winners

Tom Pellereau (2011)

Tom was a brilliant person on The Apprentice – he was so funny to watch! He was the first winner of the new format. Prior to him, the winner would be given a job working for Lord Sugar.

I always thought that was a bit awkward. It’s all very well getting a
job but would it be a good job? Surely the job could be literally anything
(although well paid). The change to an investment prize of £250,000 must be
better, even though Lord Sugar would take a 50% share in the business which is
quite an amount to give up! But suddenly the rules of the show were to change –
after all those tasks, proving yourselves to be the best person the show would
become a form of Dragons’ Den where the person with the best business would get the investment. That felt odd, and its a scenario that I still don’t feel quite
right about. But I put it aside because it’s great to watch!

I seem to recall that Tom lost just about every task. And the person he was
up against in the final (Helen?) had won just about every task. In the old
rules, she would have won the series. Tom’s investment that he was proposing was something to do with a chair (can’t remember anything about it). And Lord Sugar said if Tom would change the investment to another invention of his, a nail file, then he would be the winner. And Tom did, and Lord Sugar picked him.

This first series has always made me a bit suspicious of the process. I don’t think anyone since has ever been allowed to change their mind about the business (and there have been some brilliant people who maybe should have been allowed to). And when you get some of the weaker people who stay to the end you wonder if there’s some inside knowledge of how good their business idea would be (Alana, for example).

Tom’s business is expected to turnover £5 million this year!

In the same series there was also Susan Ma. She was ditsy but was a memorable person on the show. I can recall that she was not in the final two but Lord Sugar liked the idea of her business. And on You’re Fired afterwards he announced that he was going to invest in her. It turns out that she’s the most successful of the lot! The Tropics brand is worth £150 million!

Ricky Martin (2012)

Probably my favourite Apprentice contestant ever! At first we all thought he was a bit bonkers and would get nowhere – just because he was called Ricky Martin! But he was sensational throughout. I remember he nailed the interview round – Claude Littner said he was ‘in awe’ of Ricky.

Ricky’s Twitter feed is great – he is always interesting and is supportive of others. I’m really glad that his science recruitment company is doing well – it is expected to turn over £15 million this year.

Leah Totton (2013)

The year after my favourite person won, my least favourite person won. There was something about Leah that was so easy to dislike. She annoyed me throughout. I wanted Luisa to win (at least out of the final two I did). Annoyingly Leah’s cosmetic surgery business is going to turn over £3 million this year. And Leah doesn’t look like she’s aged a day since she won – funny that!

Mark Wright (2014)

Why is it that Apprentice winners often have already famous names? Mark Wright was the Australian that always talked sense. He was cocky but likable and I was really pleased when he won. He deserved it! He is expected to turn over £5 million this year.

Joseph Valentine (2015)

Joseph was noticeably missing from the winners gathering. This is because Lord Sugar sold his part of the business back to Joseph in 2017. And then just last week his plumbing and gas fitting business went bust. Lord Sugar would surely have seen this coming – he wouldn’t want to be associated with a failure. Joseph was a great contestant – he worked damn hard every week and I really liked him.

Alana Spencer (2016)

Alana was up there with Leah as the worst winners. She was pretty hopeless throughout and was annoying. Somehow she won. I can’t remember who she beat in the final, but whoever it was must surely have been better than Alana. She bought out Lord Sugar’s shares in 2019. You can still find her ridiculously priced cakes at food fairs across the country.

James White and Sarah Lynn (2017)

Every year Lord Sugar agonises over who should win. And every year he says what a tough decision it is. In 2017 he couldn’t be arsed to make a decision and invested in them both. I remember wanting someone else to win and not really caring which one of them would win the final. And the fact that there was no actual winner made me feel very cheated after twelve weeks.

James was good throughout and probably had the better business idea (recruitment). Sarah was a better person on the show but her business idea was selling sweets which didn’t seem like a very unique business for Lord Sugar to invest in. But he did and both companies are going, although James’ sounds more successful. His has turned over £2 million in two years. (He wasn’t at the photo shoot).

Sian Gabbidon (2018)

A worthy winner. Sian was quietly strong throughout and was a deserved winner in the end. Her swimsuit business seems to be going well (no huge figures yet, but then she’s only been running it for a year or so).

Carina Lapore (2019)

The 2019 series probably had some of the most memorable characters ever but there was only really one consistently stand out person and that was Carina. She was great throughout – funny and good at what she does. Her bakery business sounds nice on Twitter!

Apparently Lord Sugar has also invested in the runner up, Scarlet Allen-Horton’s business. It’s also a recruitment firm – he has a thing for recruitment firms.

Favourite Theme Tunes

Here’s a list of my favourite theme tunes ever!

80 Days Around The World
The Big Bang Theory theme song is instantly recognisable and one of the most memorable.
Although I didn’t watch the show until I was in my thirties, I remember the theme song from when I was a child. I would love to go to a pub like the Cheers bar.
If you can do this rap then you are cool. There is absolutely no doubt about this.
One of the few theme tunes to actually cross over into the charts. I’ll Be There For You is such a great song.
Maybe it;s because I loved the show. But sitting through the full intro was vital to understanding the show and this is non-negotiable.
What a theme song! I remember the show a little bit, but the theme tune will be forever etched into my brain!
Such nostalgia. Neighbours was always the better programme, but Home And Away had the better theme music.
Howard’s Way is probably the best theme tune ever!…
And the jazzy end song version is bloody brilliant! The full version of this is called Barracuda by Simon May.
An absolute classic theme! I’m not a fan of dogs, but I’m a fan of this theme song.
How has this show not had a film remake?
Just brilliant!
Lots of love for the theme song!
The Raccoons. You can run with us!
The best show that was ever on in the school holidays!

Josh

The latest comedy that we’ve rewatched is Josh, starring Josh Widdicombe, Jack Dee, Beattie Edmondson and Elis James. It came out in 2014 and ended in 2017. It’s an underrated classic!

Our Sunday night tradition is to have an earlier night and watch a couple of episodes of a TV comedy. The latest one is Josh. It’s one I watched when it was first out. I think I probably appreciated it even more the second time around.

There are some real laugh out loud moments as the three flatmates make their way through life whilst dealing with their weird landlord.

I’m sat here trying to decide which episodes are my favourites but I honestly couldn’t pick. Seasons Two and Three are sublime.

It’s now on Netflix or it’s available on DVD.

Gavin & Stacey

Back in 2010 one of my favourite comedies ever ended with the perfect ending. The news that it would be back for a 2019 Christmas special made me nervous – could it ever be as good as it was?

Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special 2019

I was a bit late getting into Gavin & Stacey. Season Two was in full swing by the time we decided to take the plunge. As soon as we watched it we were hooked. It was such a natural comedy with such likeable and relatable characters.

Every episode was of the highest quality and there wasn’t a weak episode. It ended on New Year’s Day 2010 with what I thought was the perfect ending – just enough insight to satisfy your imagination and just enough lingering questions to make you wonder what if.

Earlier this year it was announced that the show would return for a Christmas special in 2019. Could it ever be as good as it was? Would it undo all of the memories and nostalgia if the episode was a let down. Would the humour work ten years later?

Well, the show was brilliant! Absolutely fantastic in fact. The show managed to give you a glimpse into the lives of the characters. It managed to be nostalgic whilst bringing something new to the show.

Despite being named after Gavin and Stacey the best characters of the show are all of the others – particularly Smithy and Nessa. Pam and Mick are favourites too, along with Uncle Bryn. And the special didn’t disappoint, giving them all more classic moments.

The one complaint was the unsatisfying ending – not because it was bad, but purely because we want to know what happens next!

You can also buy the characters in Lego form here!

The Great Model Railway Challenge

Ok, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the second series of The Great Model Railway Challenge.

Similar to The Great British Bake Off, the show manages to produce tension and drama over something that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. It is total escapism TV – you can forget about the world and just worry about whether or not the scratch build challenge is done well or not.

The programme has lots of subtle humour, mainly thanks to the presenters, James and Tim.

The judges, Steve and Kathy offer intense soundbites that draw you into the builds.

The models are really impressive. Like REALLY impressive. The first series had great models. Every single design this year was incredible.

You can read more about the finale here.

If nothing else I have an ambition for my retirement.

Lost

At the end of last week I read this article about Lost. It describes Walkabout as the most important episode of Lost. It’s worth a read if you loved the series. I can still remember the moment we discovered that Locke was in a wheelchair before he came to The Island…

Lost has now been replaced by Game of Thrones as my favourite TV series of all time. But Lost continues to be a close second. Lost is the reason we signed up for Sky TV back in the day, after Channel 4 lost out to Sky One for Season Three onwards.

The show still gives me goosebumps. The thing I loved is how the producers set about to tell a complete story from start to end. I hadn’t watched a show like it before. 24 was my favourite before. The things you knew about 24 were that something dramatic would happen on the hour every hour, and that by the end of the series, Jack would save the day. Lost hooked viewers in for the complete ride. You couldn’t drift in and out – you had to pay attention and watch it all.

The twists were superb and the way the mythology was built over the seasons was excellent. It had the biggest cast I can remember, and it was good how characters would come in to the show and then be missing from a few episodes. There was so much depth to the show that it could do that and you’d still be drawn in. In fact, with just a few episodes to go of the show ever, it abandoned the entire main cast and focused on important, yet barely featured, characters.

I still to this day find myself cross at Lost for a few things. The best ending to a season ever was at the end of Season One when Walt was snatched. And we still don’t really know why. And the entire last season was a let down with the confusing sideways flashes. And, when rewatching, I can’t believe that I was a fan of Jack when I watched the first time.

But I can see the influence in Lost in shows like Game of Thrones, with its large cast and complete story telling. (Funnily enough, people complain about GoT’s final season too.)

Comedy experts vote for top British sitcoms

Today I read that a panel of comedy have put together their list of top British sitcoms for the Radio Times. You can read about it here. I didn’t even know the Radio Times even existed these days. Here’s the list:

  1. Fawlty Towers (1975-9, BBC Two)
  2. Father Ted (1995-8, Channel 4)
  3. I’m Alan Partridge (1997-2002, BBC Two)
  4. Blackadder (1983-9, BBC One)
  5. Dad’s Army (1968-77, BBC One)
  6. Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003, BBC One)
  7. Porridge (1973-8, BBC One)
  8. The Royle Family (1998-2012, BBC One)
  9. Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012, BBC Two)
  10. Dinnerladies (1998-2000, BBC One)
  11. The Thick of It (2005-12, BBC Four and Two)
  12. The Office (2001-3, BBC Two)
  13. Peep Show (2003-15, Channel 4)
  14. The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007, BBC One)
  15. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-9, BBC One)
  16. The Young Ones (1982-4, BBC Two)
  17. Gavin & Stacey (2007-10, BBC Three and One)
  18. The Good Life (1975-8, BBC One)
  19. Detectorists (2014-17, BBC Four)
  20. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973-4, BBC One)

After writing my own list recently (in no particular order) I thought I’d give my thoughts on this one!

Fawlty Towers – I do love Fawlty Towers, to be fair. It does make me laugh. But I don’t feel like it has aged well. Bickering husband and wife; stupid waiter; misunderstandings… It’s all been done better since.

Father Ted and I’m Alan Partridge – absolutely awesome!

Blackadder – I remember watching Blackadder Goes Forth and loving it and feeling quite moved by the ending. All of the series of Blackadder are worth a watch and I don’t know why I didn’t have it on my list.

Dad’s Army – my dad found it funny. But how is it on the list of best comedies ever?!

Only Fools and Horses – Yes!

Porridge – I have watched Porridge a few times but don’t get why everyone raves about it. Sure, Ronnie Barker is funny in everything. But this is another nostalgic series from the Seventies. Oh, wait, now I understand the type of person who might have been on the panel!

The Royle Family – Fantastic

Absolutely Fabulous – I have tried really hard to get into this but I just don’t get why people rave over it. I really don’t.

Dinnerladies – I loved Victoria Wood. But I don’t think I’ve ever even watched this.

The Thick Of It – Somehow this has mostly bypassed me. But I don’t know why as I am sure I would have loved it.

The Office – I can’t believe this is so low on the list!

Peep Show and Vicar of Dibley – I love them both!

The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin – I remember coming home after swimming lessons to watch repeats of this. I remember loving it. I also remember not loving the Martin Clunes remake around ten years ago.

The Young Ones – I understand why people might like this as it’s a bit quirky and different. I don’t like it though.

Gavin & Stacey – Fantastic!

The Good Life – I used to enjoy this when I was younger. Put its inclusion in the nostalgia file.

Detectorists – What on earth is this? This was out quite recently but I have never heard of it! Hmm…

Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads – I don’t know what this is.

In short, I don’t agree with most of the list. Many of the programmes were very much of their time and haven’t aged well. A good comedy should be timeless and I honestly don’t think lots of these hold up well these days.