I was having one of those flicky nights where no matter how many times I hit the remote control, there was still nothing to watch on TV. There are more channels than ever before and I went through every one of them – twice – in despair.
So I did what any 49-year-old would do. I bemoaned the state of modern life and started talking about “When I was younger…”, only to have Mr 50 Sense join in – what? This was my monologue – and start his own trip down memory lane which ended up with a “Guess the theme tune” from YouTube.
There were so many great TV shows that I’d forgotten about and bring back a wealth of memories. If I were on a desert island, here’s my top ten (and a bit).
The Likely Lads and Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads
It has to be on here, doesn’t it? Terry and Bob were the Men Behaving Badly of their day – more than that, they were Plato and Socrates sitting in a pub talking about life, women and Newcastle United (poor buggers). When I watch this, I’m taken back to a time when Newcastle straddled two worlds: the opening titles contain the city’s past and future, the long, steep, terraced banks of Byker before the wall, where Terry is waiting for the bus on Dunstanburgh Road (my nana lived in nearby Janet Street), and Bob’s posh new-build semi in Killlingworth (too posh for us).
The Independent called this a “relic from another era” – which goes to show that people in the South knaa nowt about the North. While the Likely Lads had north-east men spot on, this captured the women: the outspoken matriarch Granny Dot; Pauline the mother fussing about her posh new daughter-in-law and making endless cups of tea, and the tangoed Vicki and Denise. North-east life in 30 minutes.
Favourite episode: The fancy dress scene had me crying with laughter because it’s so true.
I can remember people running home from school to catch Danger Mouse and this was secondary school. It was fantastic.
Favourite episode: The one where DM saves the world. Think it goes on for about ten series…
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Ha ha! You thought this was going to be golden-oldie delights, didn’t you? See, with age comes taste and this has to be worth every penny of last year’s TV licence. It is the only TV adaptation where I was enjoying it so much, I waited until it was over to read the book (which was also fantastic). The effects, the acting, the story – oh God, the story – are all just wonderful. When I was a girl, I used to watch TV shows and imagine myself in them. I did that with this one.
Favourite episode: A piece of magic from our heroes – Mr Norrell making the statues at York Minster talk sent shivers down my spine, while I rewound the sand horses scene too many times to count (rewind – oh, you can take the girl to iPlayer but she’s still in the world of VHS).
Sex and the City
I don’t need to say anything else, do I?
Favourite episode: One, where Miranda tells Steve she loves him (I cry); Hop, Skip and a Week, where Harry proposes to Charlotte (I cry), and An American Girl in Paris (Part Une), where Samantha addresses the cancer benefit (I cry loads).
Not a shoe in sight.
Runner-up: The Golden Girls
Why wasn’t I born Bea Arthur?
Favourite episode: every one with Dorothy in it.
and Line of Duty
I’m cheating on this because it’s impossible to choose between them. I love police shows and these are the best around: honest, human and intriguing. They’re not just whodunnits; they make you think about ethics and life and question what’s right and wrong. They also feature real women who aren’t beautiful and don’t have stunning wardrobes and screw up at times while the cinematography (can you say that about TV shows?) is so stark and honest that you can feel the weather. When these are on telly, I’m a happy lassie.
Favourite episode: Impossible to say because once you start watching one, you’ve got to watch the next. I can’t tell you how depressed I am once the series is over.
The Book Tower
A programme about books! And it scared the hell out of me. Well, Tom Baker was in it so you knew it wasn’t going to be The South Bank Show. He lived in a big, spooky castle and read from books, with a bit of live action thrown in. This and Jackanory were like heaven for me. Neil Innes and Bernard Bresslaw also hosted it but, as with Doctor Whos before and after, Tom was the best.
No favourite, but here’s a taster for you to enjoy.
Why Channel 4 pulled the plug on this I will never know. Utopia is one of the best conspiracy theory programmes ever – so much so that whenever global epidemics and vaccination come on the news, I mistrust everything that I’m told and wait for Wilson Wilson to come on the screen. I even bought the soundtrack, only I can’t listen to it because it makes me mistrust everyone on the Tube.
An honourable mention has to go to the amazing Alexandra Roach and if you don’t like swearing, turn away now because this girl is the Maria Callas of the f-word. Malcolm Tucker would be proud.
Favourite episode: The very first one, where our normal world becomes some dystopian hell, Arby scares the bejeezus out of you and there’s an eye-gouging scene to equal King Lear. Go find it cos its too gruesome to post.
and Being Human
Yes, yes, I’m cheating again. My blog, my rules.
I’ve watched The Shining, The Omen, Poltergeist, Alien, The Others – not one of them scared me as much as BBC3’s The Fades (and another show unfairly taken off the air). The Fades are ghosts trapped on earth and they’re not happy. Apocalyptically not happy, in fact. (And it’s got Daniela Nardini in it – howay, that’s got to be good.)
Favourite episode: You know what? I’ve been too petrified to watch it again. It was that good.
As for Being Human, it stars Aidan Turner, so you know…
Seriously, I loved this even when Mitchell and his mates had gone to the great beyond. It was beautifully written and had a magnificent cast. The last series saw Phil Davies as the devil – and I’m going to let you imagine that and just how good that must have been.
Favourite episode: When George kills Mitchell. There are not enough hankies.
Father Ted unites my entire family, from my nephew to my 86-year-old mam. Silly, funny, sad, vomit-inducing (the detritus around Fr Jack’s mouth is my worst nightmare), Father Ted is anarchic and wonderful. I once showed my Spanish students the scene where Mrs Doyle and her pal were arrested for fighting over who paid for their tea and cakes (and then fought over who paid the fine at the police station) and the class was in hysterics. That’s how good Father Ted was.
Favourite episode: It’s a tough one, but it has to be Speed 3 – “I love my brick” – although Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse comes a very close second.
Runner-up: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David kicking, screaming and swearing at the world.
Favourite episode: The Grand Opening, with the chef who suffers from Tourette’s, just for Michael York shouting: “Bum.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I was far too old for Buffy yet I watched every episode – again and again and again. Strong women, strong men, teenage angst, adult angst and Spike the vampire. It wasn’t just about Buffy kicking vampire ass, all the supporting cast had their own demons to battle and that’s what made it so wonderful. And did I mention Spike?
Favourite episode: It’s an entire series here – the fifth one, where we’re introduced to Glory and the boundaries between good and bad are blurred. Good stuff.
Runner-up: Doctor Who
A runner-up because it’s gone a bit (lot) fanboy-tastic in the last few series and you have to know the whole Whovian canon to get the in-jokes and references. Please get back to fighting Daleks and robots with flares.
Favourite episode: At first, I thought this would be impossible but when I’m tired and want to watch a Who, there are two that come to mind: firstly, Blink, which stars the wonderful Carey Mulligan and is just so clever; secondly, Partners in Crime, because Catherine Tate is, so far, my favourite assistant of the new generation, although Donna was much more than that. I adore the bit where she sees the Doctor for the first time.