I love TV. There’s nothing quite like binge-watching a brilliant series which you just can’t get enough of. I mainly watch a fun mixture of British period dramas and (usually American) comedies but, unlike my predilection for everything old in books and films, most of the TV programmes I watch are brand new. So here’s my top ten picks of the programmes I binged in 2016!
Disclaimer: I had to fight very hard with myself not to include Downton Abbey on this list. But it does it count as a top ten pick when you’re watching it for the sixth time?
As one of Netflix’s biggest draws this year, The Crown has received a lot of press attention. And whilst I don’t subscribe to the royal family obsession that (in my opinion) attracts far too much interest, there’s no denying that The Crown is an excellent TV programme. With brilliant performances from the likes of Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Jared Harris; sumptuous costumes and production design; and a really fascinating insight into the political turbulence and personalities of 1950s Britain, this was my favourite TV pick of 2016.
This German-language production got me and my family excited about weekly viewings like nothing else in 2016. Focusing on spies, Communism and Cold War intrigue in 1980s Germany, Deutschland 83 is gripping, twisting and always riveting. I can’t say much more without giving away the entire plot, but it’s a must-watch for anyone who just loves good TV.
Parks and Recreation
I finally finished watching Parks and Rec this year and I absolutely loved it! Not only is it the most shiningly optimistic and funny TV programme to watch when you’re in the deathly throes of a hangover, it also has some of the most enduring jokes and the cutest love stories, and is set in possibly the quirkiest, most brilliant comedy town ever. Watch it now and brighten up your life.
Orange is the New Black
This Netflix hit has been on winning form since the beginning, but the fourth series was possibly its best yet. Retaining the same appealing mix of humour, drama and lovable, highly empathetic characters, the hard-hitting political and societal implications of the fourth series’ action and narrative cemented Orange is the New Black as a powerful, thought-provoking force for good. I can’t wait for the next series!
Six strangers move into a house together as they start university. What started out as a fairly sensible, realistic premise soon moved past the realm of actual uni life, and into self-sabotaging, hilarious farce. I can’t decide who my favourite character is – although each are wonderful in their own way, it’s the biting, ridiculous ensemble of characters that makes Fresh Meat stand out.
War and Peace
Having never read the mammoth, much-lauded classic that is War and Peace, I settled for the TV adaptation instead. It has its weaknesses – although these seem more to do with the plot than the actual adaptation itself – but, overall, War and Peace is a beautiful, engaging TV series that vividly conjures up the extravagant days of Imperial Russia.
Based loosely on creator Adam Goldberg’s family – who, by the way, seem insane – The Goldbergs is a consistently funny take on 1980s American family life. My personal highlight is the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off episode, which first hooked my brother and me in, but all of the episodes have the same endearing mix of approachable, but bizarre family life, and 1980s nostalgia.
I love, love, love the first series. Set in 1930s India, in the dying days of the British Empire, the series takes place in Simla, a town to which the British ruling administration would retire in the midst of the Indian summers. Following the privileged Whelan family, the clever, but traditionalist Dalals and a host of Indian and British families who form a mosaic of Simla life, Indian Summers is politically and personally captivating, and I’m so sad it ended.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
With the catchiest theme song in existence, the cheery but cheesy jauntiness that characterises Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is still going strong in the second series. Kimmy, with her dark past, bright clothes and indestructibly optimistic attitude, is the perfect protagonist; just as loud and overly dramatic Titus is the perfect sidekick.
Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue
This two-part documentary, which aired on BBC2 in September, was the juiciest thing I’ve seen all year. I’ve been an avid, but not uncritical reader of Vogue since 2008 and this documentary, created by fashion outsider Richard Mason, is the sort of thing I’d happily watch every week. It’s fascinating, illuminating and downright shifty in parts, but I can’t think of a better way to find out more about the glamorous world of the iconic fashion magazine.