Is this a new golden age of television?

This post was inspired by reading Carl at A Blokes Eye View who wrote about his favourite TV shows. I’ve wanted to do something along those lines for some time and, as there’s so much good stuff on, a new golden age of television drama no less, now seems like the best time to do so.

What am I watching and loving? Well I’m glad you asked that question…

The Wire. Okay, so it’s old but I never saw it first time round so it’s all new to me. Sky Atlantic have repeated it from the start and we’re up to season 4. Each series has a different focus, yet they’re connected as it’s about a central character: Baltimore. Brutal, bold and brilliant, it’s almost Dickensian in scale and scope with themes and characters running through from episode 1. The writing and performances are sublime and when it’s all over? Yes. I’ll be buying the boxed set so I can watch it again from the beginning at some point in the future.

Boxed set or box set? It’s a set that’s boxed. It’s a set in a box. Which is right? Or are they both right?

Anyhow, I digress. What else?

Code Black is superb. Every episode is gripping from start to finish. Remember when ER was really good? The best ER episodes? The ones at the end of the season that left you wanting more? EVERY EPISODE OF CODE BLACK IS LIKE THAT. Watch it on Watch. Or W. Or whatever it’s called now. Whatever. Watch it. Yes.

‘What’s next?’ as one of my favourite characters from television says, and you get a point for knowing who that is.

Well, The Night Manager. BBC1, Sunday night, and it’s shaping up to fill the hole left by the sublime War and Peace. I don’t know John le Carré’s book and I’ve read that it deviates somewhat from the original, but they’ve taken the story and made it bang up to contemporary. Tom Hiddlestone is excellent, and a dashing heroic central figure to boot. Hugh Laurie is an arrogant swine with the lavish lifestyle and an all too believable will to make millions at any cost. It’s wonderfully directed, it looks stunning, and the supporting cast are glorious, from the always brilliant Olivia Colman to Tom Hollander, one of my favourite actors. He’s a vicious little bugger in this, a role he’s played so well in the past in Hanna and The Thick of It. If you haven’t seen The Night Manager, pop over to Iplayer and go for it.

Oh, and if you also like Tom Hollander and haven’t seen Rev then do so. Now. Funny, funny, FUNNY, with a capital F, and brilliantly written by Hollander and James Wood. You can get the boxed set. Or the box set. Or both.

Anyhow, yes. Erm. Where was I? The Night Manager. Yes, it’s taken over from War and Peace on BBC1 on a Sunday night and that was ALSO wonderful television. War and Peace was superb and that’s down in part to the adaptation, Andrew Davies making a 1000 page novel which was compulsory reading in Russia into something utterly gripping. Romantic, political, historical and poignant, again beautifully shot, it was the television equivalent of a good long soak in the bath. Paul Dano was perfect as were the rest of the cast, including James Norton who’s also fantastic in Happy Valley. But then who isn’t?

Happy Valley. What can you say about it that hasn’t already been said? This week’s episode gripped from the get go, again, and while the first series was great television, this series has picked up where it left off and is, dare I say it, even better? It’s dark in parts, but there’s humour in the writing and a stack load of great performances from everyone involved, especially Sarah Lancashire, whose performance has gone from astonishing to out of this world. There’s a scene in the episode this week where she was admonishing two junior police officers that I will never forget.

And that’s saying something, because now we have so much choice as to what to watch, when, and how. Perhaps this is what’s caused producers to up their game, bringing in this golden era I mentioned earlier. Now people can watch TV on the run, as a commuter on their tablet or smart phones, or watch them online at any time outside of the conventional TV schedule. If you’d told the 17-year-old me, with a Walkman and a bag full of cassettes that in twenty-five years time I wouldn’t need those cassettes, I’d have a world of music at my fingertips AND be able to watch TV shows, while I’m at a train station, ON A PHONE… my brain would’ve exploded.

House of Cards is back this week with a new series and for those who haven’t seen it then it’s there on Netflix. It’s different from the original BBC series made in the 90’s, when I had that Walkman and that bag of cassettes with me everywhere I went, but this update is well worth a visit. Again, this is more than just one central performance as the whole cast is superb but you can’t talk about House of Cards without talking about how magnificent Kevin Spacey is as the malevolent Francis Underwood. His monologues to camera, breaking that fourth wall, veer from the sly and cynical to downright terrifying and this new series is beckoning me to binge watch ALL season 4 this weekend.

Talking of terrifying central figures, The Secret Life of The Family is back on Five tonight, featuring the wonderful @MinistryofMum. I love Claire to bits and I’ve been lucky to drink far too much with her on a number of occasions. Some of her choice lines from the shows so far are when encouraging Ken to put stuff in the loft, ‘Go on, because the kids are playing nicely and that doesn’t happen that often.’ ‘My advice for travelling with children is… don’t!’ and when she spoke about how it drives her nuts when her kids don’t know where their stuff is, millions of parents nod in agreement and high-five the television. Brilliant telly and a mirror for our own lives.

I know these words don’t do these shows justice, and I’ve not even credited the writers like Sally Wainwright, or mentioned other shows I’ve loved recently like Deutschland ’83, Occupied, The Good Wife or Madam Secretary (Madam Secretary is great fun. She’s the US Secretary of State, he’s a religious ethics professor and an NSA agent in his spare time, between them they sort the world’s problems, have a perfect family life, and probably have great sex too. It’s like Hart to Hart for more paranoid, political times and my guilty pleasure) but I hope they’ve made you think about watching something you might not have seen.

So. In the spirit of reciprocity. What are you watching just now? Let us know if we’re missing anything, let us know what you’re loving or hating, and don’t forget to watch my mate Claire and her family in The Secret Life of The Family tonight on 5 at 8pm.

Thanks for reading.