Favourite TV Shows Of 2013

This is an entirely subjective list. It’s not claiming to be a “Best of” or “Top 10 of” 2013 television shows. Instead, it’s a list of what’s tickled our fancy over at TVClaw Towers this calendar year.


So here, in no particular order, are the TVClaw Favourite TV Shows of 2013

Game of Thrones Such heartbreak, suspense, sorrow and gore. Lots and lots and lots of gore. Possibly even too much gore sometimes, but Game of Thrones continues to be one of the most compelling dramas around. Much of the credit for that has to go to the awesome cast and crew, but also to HBO for having the guts to let it be peopled by homely, hairy, snaggle-toothed bods having a bad time in inhospitable countryside, not a bunch of smooth-browed, perfectly coiffed, White Queen types who look like they’re waiting for the castle gift shop to open. However, here’s hoping producers let the actresses put their tops back on for at least part of Season 4 otherwise we really will have to start calling it Game of Tits.

The Returned Yes, the finale was a head-desking “waaarfghfgh?!” waste of an opportunity, but the rest of the season was sublime. Frightening, thought-provoking, beautifully shot and acted. And that soundtrack from Mogwai. This is how you do contemporary horror/ghost story/whatever the hell it is. Series 2 will have its work cut out to redeem itself after the disappointing end to Series 1. But we can’t wait to be scared by The Returned all over again. (Will probably give the US remake/reboot a miss though.)

Ripper Street The wailing and gnashing of teeth continues after Ripper Street‘s untimely, undeserved demise. After such a promising start it lasted barely longer than a naive curate in a molly house. Series 2 was a bit uneven and had some loose ends (where was Reid’s nice girlfriend from the orphanage?) and some frankly bonkers plot twists (The Elephant Man was murdered by Benjen Stark a bent copper!), but it was heading in the right direction. Yet again, this is was (sob) an ensemble drama that benefited from a tremendous cast, with the core trio of Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg just getting better and better each week. Ripper Street also fielded possibly the best guest star roster of any television show in years, which was enhanced by tight scripts that, while they may have had the odd plot twist too far, delivered some beautiful dialogue.

Fresh Meat It’s back! And it’s still funny! Phew.

Case Histories Why oh why must this always be a tantalisingly short three-parter? And why so good? At the risk of repeating things, it’s all about the great cast, plot and script, dummy! Jason Isaacs stars as the emotionally damaged, at times morally ambiguous Jackson Brodie. This second series had a terrific performance from Victoria Wood as a retired policewoman flirting with the illegal side of life, and another glimpse of the excellent Vod Zawe Ashton as Jackson’s assistant. Edinburgh has never looked lovelier than it does here.

The Wrong Mans Very funny six-parter from James Corden and Matthew Baynton. A stellar supporting cast put in some hilarious performances, particularly from Dougray Scott, Dawn French and Karel Roden. This comedy spy caper/murder mystery had mistaken identities, double-crossings and crossed wires galore, and revealed itself to be an Ealing Comedy for the texting generation.

Sleepy Hollow Now this could easily fall into the “Guilty Pleasure” category but you know TVClaw: we’re not easily ashamed in terms of viewing habits (especially not after once having to review the wide expanse of US reality television for a whole year). Part of the unexpectedly successful fantasy genre that currently includes Once Upon a Time and Grimm, Sleepy Hollow harks back to short-lived classics like G vs. E and Reaper. Yes, the entire premise is totally hokey and far-fetched, but it’s funny and sharp and has a winning lead in Tom Mison.

Yonderland Another tip of the hat to Matthew Baynton. This is the first non-reality family viewing programme in ages that’s funny for the under-12s and their adults. A mashup of The Muppet Show, Monty Python and The Black AdderYonderland is clever, funny and different. It’s a product of the vastly talented Horrible Histories gang who write and star in it. There are fart jokes, slapstick routines, knowing looks to camera, sarcasm and clever dialogue. And a talking stick.

The Tunnel This is why you should be watching The Tunnel. Possibly the best drama this year in a very crowded field of excellent contenders.

Southcliffe Bleak, windswept, depressing, thought-provoking. With echoes of the Hungerford Massacre this searing drama highlighted the aftermath of a fatal shooting spree in a small English town. It explained how a local boy could become a murderer and what effects his actions would have on his neighbours and acquaintances. How well do you know your neighbours? How well do you know your spouse?



BBC One Commissions Laurel and Hardy Biopic

“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”

laurel and hardyIt’s been announced that BBC One has teamed up with Harvey Weinstein for a Laurel and Hardy biopic.

Described as “an epic story about the world’s most famous comedy double-act,” Stan and Ollie is a BBC In-House Comedy/BBC Worldwide/Lookout Point co-production for BBC One. It will be exec-produced by Saurabh Kakkar for the BBC, Simon Vaughan for Lookout Point and Harvey Weinstein for The Weinstein Company.

Stan and Ollie will be written by the multi-award-winning Jeff Pope (Philomena, Mrs Biggs, Essex Boys).

Set in 1953, the 90-minute film focuses on Laurel and Hardy’s final, ill-fated, British tour. Intended to galvanize the comedy duo’s flagging career the tour started well but ended in tragedy when Hardy suffered a serious heart attack.

Shane Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning, said, “Stan and Ollie is Jeff’s love letter to two pioneers and enduring giants of screen comedy. It beautifully captures the deep emotional bond forged over a lifelong partnership as they reflect on their roller-coaster careers through the prism of this final UK farewell tour.”

Lookout Point’s Simon Vaughan said: “This is the perfect BBC/Weinstein collaboration — a British drama with Hollywood DNA. Harvey’s talent relationships will help us bring this to the screen with huge ambition.”

No casting details have yet been revealed. Who do you think should play the iconic duo? How about Steve Coogan or John Culshaw for Stan Laurel? Jeff Garlin or Nathan Lane for Oliver Hardy?

Add your choices in Comments and let’s compile The TVClaw Stan and Ollie Casting Wishlist.


Spaced Stars: What Happened Next?


It’s that time of year when the TVClaw cavalcade heads to the local cinema to watch the first batch of family-friendly Christmas films.

Some years — The Pirates! — it’s a pleasant surprise, and we all enjoy it. Others — any of the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise — it’s a struggle for the over-10s.

The worst case scenario, of none of us enjoying the film, hasn’t happened yet, but yesterday’s outing to see Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger came close.

My review in brief? Most of the actors in this deserve much, much better.  The mere presence of David Tennant was baffling. He did his best in trying circumstances, but the fact that he was even in this film made me feel unutterably sad.

And if I never see anything else starring Marc “Shirley Ghostman” Wootton, I shall be very happy indeed. Jack Black he is not, and no amount of gurning will change that.

However, in the interests of fairness, I have to point out that most of the six children we’d brought, plus the man in front of us who laughed hysterically throughout, thought Nativity 2 was hilarious.

As I sat fidgeting and trying not to hurl my shoes at the screen in disgust, the only ray of sunlight was one of Tennant’s erstwhile co-stars, the always fantastic Jessica Hynes. She was hi-la-ri-ous as bitchy Welsh singer Angel Matthews.

Later on, after the kids had gone to bed and we’d cracked open some sherbet, Mr L and I decided to finally whittle down the stack of LoveFilm DVDs sitting, unwatched, by the television and watch the top one. It turned out to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Now, without going into one of those interminable discussions of why Sawyer from Lost was so cruelly underused, or precisely why the International Monetary Fund maintains a roster of oh-so buff, highly trained assassins, the thing that caught my eye was Hynes’ Spaced co-star Simon Pegg front and centre throughout.

I’ve always liked Pegg and his brand of easy affability, even back in the days when he played Saffy’s boyfriend on Faith in the FutureHis post-Spaced career trajectory has been pretty meteoric, with pivotal comedic roles in huge films like Star Trek, Ice Age and Tintin, as well as guest spots on cult fave Robot Chicken (a must for all true Star Wars fan-boys).

Together with the Spaced team Pegg’s also created some of the funniest, most engaging surreal comedy of the last 15 years.

First, he, co-star Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright sparked off the zombie revival with the first part of their Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, the sublime Shaun of the Dead. Then Pegg buffed-up (the influence of his bestie’s wife Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps) and they moved onto cop parody Hot Fuzz

Next up is their final installment, the Armageddon-themed pub crawl epic The World’s End (currently in production; click over to MovieWeb for set photos.) It threatens to be magnificent.

While Pegg and the lads have been conquering Hollywood, Hynes has been steadily racking up an impressive body of work that includes the memorable role of Joan Redfern in one of the best-ever episodes of Doctor Who. She also stole the Twenty Twelve show as clueless, monotonous PR flack Siobhan.

In a recent interview with  The Independent Hynes revealed that her career is not, thank god, stalled at the Nativity 2 level. She chatted about about her upcoming Suffragette comedy, Up With Women, which, she says “hopefully, on a good day, it will be a kind of female Dad’s Army“.

Hynes has also been commissioned to write the pilot episode for a Sky action series, Justine. “I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed,” she says. “It’s an action series based around a female superhero … it’s Buffy meets Kick-Ass.” Amazeballs!

Keen-eyed viewers will also have spotted Spaced‘s performance artist Brian Topp (a.k.a. Mark Heap) stealing every scene in Friday Night Dinner as the hapless Jim. He and his canine sidekick Wilson are pure comedy gold.

Heap’s also been pulling double-duty this autumn alongside Darren Boyd and Robert Lindsay in the second series of Spy.

As Jane Simon put it so eloquently in The Daily Mirror, “Those three little words: ‘And Mark Heap’ at the start of any sitcom are like a British Standards kitemark guaranteeing that there’ll be nuggets of bizarre brilliance tucked away inside.”

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

The Friday Goodies: Beanz Meanz Heanz

(Photo: BBC)

“If I was a millionaire, and lived off private means, I’d still spend all my money on lovely, hot baked beans!”

Welcome back, Friday Goodies fans. Here are four minutes or so of nostalgia in the shape of Tim Brooke-Taylor’s Heanz Beanz Boy.

A perfect spoof of Heinz’ television adverts from the 1960s and ’70s, Beanz Boy is a nervous child actor who does his best to remember his lines. When he flubs them the director is very cross indeed.


And here’s one of the ads that inspired Beanz Boy.

The aspirational Heinz Beanz Boy was a chirpy cockney who used to breeze in and announce his grand ambitions, such as “I’m going to travel around the world.”

However, his plans were generally thwarted by his impossibly posh mother who stifled his attempts at greatness by plying him with platefuls of steaming hot baked beans.

Eat your beans, and you’ll never leave this house, darling!

The Friday Goodies: Ecky Thump

(Photo: BBC)

It’s a classic Kung Fu spoof, featuring Bill Oddie as the young grasshopper in search of enlightenment.

Who knew it could be found out the back of a fish and chip shop in Rochdale?

“Ecky Thump” has it all: beautiful maidens, flat caps, black pudding, tripe. It even boasts a Lancastrian version of Kwai Chang Caine’s blind mentor, the venerable Master Po.


Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

The Friday Goodies: Earthanasia

(Photo: BBC)

“What haven’t I done yet? Or what have I done that I enjoyed so much I want to do it again?

The Goodies freak out after they hear an announcement on the radio that the world will be blown up that night.

With less than half an hour to go, they scramble to work out what they want to do with the last few  minutes of their life. Cue regression therapies and fantasies about the Three Degrees.

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The Friday Goodies: Arthur C. Clarke

“A common or garden rhinoceros, floating upside down in the water, holding a French loaf in its mouth, balancing a tortoise … “

Yes, The Friday Goodies are back. This week, it’s their spot-on spoof of Arthur C. Clarke and his Mysterious World television series.

Or is it?

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw