The lovely people at The Broke and The Bookish hold a weekly feature/web-meme/ link up entitled Top Ten Tuesday. Each week has a different theme where bloggers from around the world contribute their own top ten and are able to discuss each other’s choices.
This week the focus is on TV and film. Now, I love a good film and have been known to fangirl out over a series or two (!?!), so narrowing it down to ten was particularly difficult. In the end I decided to look at Top Ten Programmes (TV and Radio) for Readers.
Where possible I have indicated where shows are available through a streaming package or, in the case of the radio programmes, for paid download.
Other shows may be available through paid streaming (eg Amazon Instant Video) or on DVD.
In no particular order:
For Sherlock Holmes fans and for those who read/write fan-fiction
I’ve never read any of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories but I have a friend who is a huge Holmes fan. When I told her about Sherlock she was sure that she wouldn’t like it. However, despite the modern setting and the inclusion of modern media in the stories, she absolutely loves Sherlock due to the spot-on characterisation.
I think Sherlock is fantastic but what I thought was amazing in the first episode of the third season was the huge nod to the idea of fan-fiction and shipping. Sheriarty and Johnlock are huge concepts in the Sherlock fandom and to have this represented by Sharon Rooney’s character was a little affectionate knowing wink at reactions to the end of season 2.
Available on Netflix UK. I’m not sure about other countries.
For Sci-Fi fans and Classic Literature, Art and History fans
I could write so much about how great Doctor Who is, how literary the story arcs and the twists are and the fantastic minor characters. I think Strax deserves focus in a blog post of his own! However, even if you are not a Sci-Fi fan, there are certain episodes of Doctor Who which appeal to those who are fans of classic literature, art and history. If you love historical fiction, take a look at ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, ‘Tooth and Claw’ and ‘Victory of the Daleks.’ If you’re a classic literature fan try ‘The Shakespeare Code’, ‘The Unquiet Dead’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ or ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp.’ My absolute favourite episode featuring a real historical figure is ‘Vincent and the Doctor,’ a beautiful love letter to the artwork and sad story of Vincent Van Gogh and one of the most moving representations of depression I have seen on mainstream TV.
Available on Netflix UK. I’m not sure about other countries.
Flight of the Conchords
For fans of poetry and lyrics
I’ve spoken at length about my love for story telling through song and how lyrics can be as powerful as great poetry. The songs in Flight of the Conchords are funny, fit in well with the storylines but are also good for listening to as a stand-alone song. I have a habit of listening to them on Spotify when my mood needs a bit of a lift.
Writing lyrics isn’t easy. Poor Murray struggled with the words to tell the girl from Tech Support how he felt about her:
However, Bret found that the right lyrics can help you get the girl:
Freaks and Geeks
For fans of YA fiction
I love a good YA novel even though I’m definitely not a young adult anymore. I especially like realistic young adult novels which really take me back to the emotions and awkwardness of growing up.
I was very late to the Freaks and Geeks party. It’s actually not available in the UK anymore (it was originally shown on E4 in the early 2000s but I never noticed it). I ended up tracking down episodes on YouTube in order to watch it, and I just got hooked.
Sam Weir is a geek with a crush on a cheerleader whilst his older sister Lindsay is an ex-geek who is hoping to branch out into a new friendship group- the “freaks.” This programme is hilarious but also incredibly cringe-making at times. I ended up in a lot of embarrassing situations as a teenager including falling down the stairs on the crowded school bus and tried to save myself from landing on the people below by grabbing a bar above my head and ending up swinging in mid-air, clarinet case flying across the bus. At the time it was terrible, in retrospect I can laugh at it… just! In fact, a lot of the comedy in Freaks and Geeks comes from the cringe-factor: Sam streaking through the school, Sam in his powder blue disco suit, Bill’s dancing, the Hallowe’en costumes. It’s not just about the cringe though… there are some absolutely lovely honest beautiful reflections upon growing up including Ken and Amy’s romance, Lindsay’s confusion about whether she fits in best as a Mathlete or a “freak”, and Daniel’s participation in the Dungeons and Dragons game.
Orange is the New Black
“It’s so interesting, all these lives. It’s like Dickens”- Susan Fischer (Lauren Lapkus)
OK, so correctional officer Susan Fischer was talking about monitoring the personal phone conversations of inmates but the quote above really does clearly and succinctly explain the appeal of Orange is the New Black to many viewers. Showrunner Jenji Kohan admitted that the show does use the story of Piper Chapman’s introduction and assimilation into prison life as a ‘Trojan Horse’ device. As the programme develops we begin to hear the story of other women, many of whom would have been marginalised in other TV programmes. My favourite back-story in Season 2 was that of Miss Rosa, an older woman with cancer who we discover was once a successful bank robber (successful with her team, not so much on her own… that’s how she got caught). I just adored the friendship that developed between her and the teenage boy with cancer and was just so happy with the absolutely perfect way the second season ended. You go Miss Rosa!
Available on Netflix.
(I’ve added a trailer rather than a clip because I didn’t want to be too spoiler heavy).
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
For fans of character focused Sci-Fi
Deep Space Nine tends to split Star Trek fans. There are those who think it’s the best series and those who absolutely cannot stand it. I adore DS9 because of its focus on character development and relationships rather than a simple space quest narrative. Unlike the other Star Trek programmes, DS9 is based upon a static space station- characters come and go, live, work, go to school there. The focus is not only upon the Starfleet Officers but the whole of the community.
I think where DS9 is at its best is on its development of relationships and friendships. I can’t decide whether I prefer that of Quark and Odo (classic frenemies) or Bashir and O’Brien (classic bromance). However, my favourite romance is definitely that between Rom and Leeta.
For fans of Unreliable Narrators
Unreliable narrators in TV are not uncommon these days, one of the best examples being Ted in How I Met Your Mother. However, Steven Moffat shows how a story can be told from multiple points of view to great effect in Coupling. The first season episode ‘The Girl With Two Breasts’ told the same story twice, once from the point of view of a character who only speaks English and once from the point of view of a character who only speaks Hebrew. This episode was so popular that Moffat and Vertue went on to include similar devices in each season. End of the Line (season 2) involves non-linear narrative and the use of flashbacks to show us the issues arising in Susan and Steve’s relationship. Split (season 3) not only tells the story of Susan and Steve’s split but the entire episode is filmed in split screen allowing us to see their respective visits to The Temple of Woman (a beauty salon for Susan, a strip club for Steve).
I couldn’t get the clip of the split screen to show so instead here’s my favourite romantic moment from the show.
Cabin Pressure (radio- BBC Radio 4)
For fans of Wodehouse and comic farce
Good old fashioned comedy, fantastic cast, excellent writing! I fell upon this by accident. I needed something light to listen to whilst pottering about in the garden and noticed this on iTunes.
Cabin Pressure is based around MJN, a charter jet firm (or airdot rather than airline) with a staff rostrum of 4: enthusiastic but only adequate pilot Captain Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch), skilled but sneaky First Officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam), the most optimistic cabin steward ever- Arthur Shappey (John Finnemore- also the writer), and his mother and CEO of MJN, Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole). The team spend their time playing word games, trying to get out of scrapes and attempting to keep Arthur away from strawberry yoghurt (he’s allergic but forgets), games of Charades (he attempted to mime ‘Apocalypse Now’ without knowing what an apocalypse was) and Peach Schnapps (“Peach schnapps is to Arthur what water is to Gremlins”- Douglas).
I can’t work out whether I can’t wait until the final episode on Christmas Eve or whether I’d rather the final episode never came so then there could never be an end. In the words of Arthur Shappey, this show is brilliant!
Cabin Pressure is available on iTunes in the UK and I believe also in the US. I’m not sure about other countries. The last episode will be broadcast on Christmas Eve on BBC Radio 4.
I’ve attached two clips just to give you a taste of the wonder of Cabin Pressure. In the first clip Martin and Douglas place bets on who will be the first passenger (an orchestra travelling to Gdansk) to get to the toilet after the seatbelt sign has been on for over 40 minutes and the drinks trolley has been around twice. In the second clip Carolyn informs the crew that they won’t be flying straight home from New York as planned. Instead they will be taking a detour to Qikiqtarjuaq.
Neverwhere (audioplay- BBC Radio)
For Neil Gaiman fans and fans of fantasy writing in general
I’ve tried to not just pick adaptations of books but I had to make an exception for this fabulous audioplay. It’s obviously abridged but is exceptionally well done making for a very faithful adaptation. The characters are incredibly well cast meaning that you are immediately plunged deep into the world of London Below.
It’s available on iTunes in the UK. I’m not sure about other countries.
For fans of dystopian writing
WARNING: This series is not for the faint-hearted and is definitely NSFW.
Master-minded by writer and TV critic Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is a worrying look at the routes that media and technology could take us in the future. So far there have been two seasons each consisting of three stand alone stories.
The episode which garnered the most controversy (but also many positive reviews- SPOILERS IN THIS LINK) on release was The National Anthem (NO SPOILERS IN THIS ONE) which saw the kidnap of a princess (strikingly reminiscent of Kate Middleton) with the You-Tube ransom video requesting that the Prime Minister of Britain carry out an obscene and illegal act in order to ensure her safety. I watched most of this episode from behind a pillow as although I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen I was so worried about what was actually going to unfold.
In my opinion, the best episodes are The Entire History of You, a chilling tale of a world where our memories are held as videos in chips to be played and replayed,and White Bear, where Lenora Crichlow’s character wakes up in an unfamiliar flat with amnesia, a splitting headache, a crowd of people videoing her on smart-phones and a set of masked violent psychopaths keen to torture and kill her. (If you do watch White Bear and find it slow at the beginning, stick with it! It really does all make sense and become amazing if you watch it until the end!)
Black Mirror is now available in the US on Direct TV, in the UK on Netflix and in Canada on SuperChannel.