Over the last year I’ve been writing a sporadic series titled ‘My Life in…‘ where I highlight the films/books/moments/music that have defined me through each year of my life. Today it’s time to settle onto the couch, as we look over the last thirty-four years of television and all the series that have defined my life.
The rule is simple, for each year since my birth I’ve chosen a show that debuted in that year. These are not necessarily the best television series of each year, but the ones that speak of who I am in my soul.
My Life in Television
1978 ~ GRANGE HILL
Ahhh, Grange Hill. Anyone who grew up in the UK during the 80s will now be flashing back to that magnificent theme tune and remembering Mr Bronson, Mrs McCluskey and Todd Carty (pre-Eastenders). Anyone who grew up outside the UK will now be wondering what the hell this show is…basically it was an ongoing children’s drama set within a comprehensive school; cue storylines involving drug overdoses, mischief-laden school trips and visits to the headmaster’s office. An absolute classic!
1979 ~ NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS
Aside from Monty Python, this is one of the greatest sketch comedies ever. Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Pamela Stevenson and her future husband, Billy Connolly.
1980 ~ YES, MINISTER and KICK START
Yes, Minister – one of the finest political sitcoms ever made. Kick Start – one of the finest ‘perform tricks on a motorcycle’ game shows ever made!
1981 ~ ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES
(Possibly) my favourite British sitcom of all time and the only one to ever make me cry.
1982 ~ THE COMIC STRIP PRESENTS…
This fantastic half-hour comedy series starred Dawn French, Robbie Coltrane, Jennifer Saunders and more. Notable in my life for the single greatest “Famous Five” spoof ever made!
1983 ~ BLACKADDER
If you haven’t seen this comedy series…finish reading this post, leave a jovial comment, then head to your local DVD retailer and pick up the complete series box set. Personally, I love Blackadder II, mainly because Miranda Richardson is magnificent as Queen Elizabeth and Stephen Fry, as always, is superb as Melchett.
1984 ~ THE BILL and CITY LIGHTS
The Bill; a quintessential British police drama than ran until 2010. City Lights; a not quite as quintessential Scottish sitcom that ran until 1991.
1985 ~ TELLY ADDICTS and NEIGHBOURS
In the mid-90s, my family applied to appear as contestants on the television quiz show Telly Addicts. We weren’t successful, but it didn’t deter us playing along at home each and every week. As for Neighbours, this was required viewed for a teenager in the UK when I was growing up. It probably still is! :p
1986 ~ CASUALTY and THE SINGING DETECTIVE
Casualty is a looooonnnnggggggg running drama/soap based in a hospital. Think Grey’s Anatomy without the musical episodes. In researching this article I was surprised to find it is still running. Meanwhile, The Singing Detective is one of the monuments of television drama and demands multiple viewings!
1987 ~ GOING FOR GOLD
A quality quiz show in which contestants from all over Europe competed to win something (I don’t remember what!) The only thing I can remember about this show was the theme music, which was composed by Hans Zimmer – now an Oscar-winning film composer!
1988 ~ THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
This BBC adaptation is still the greatest interpretation of C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s novel. The fact I used to have nightmares about being attacked by giant beavers is in no way a comment on its quality.
1989 ~ QUANTUM LEAP and SAVED BY THE BELL
Saved by the Bell; the show that introduced me to the beautiful Tiffani Amber Theissen. Quantum Leap; the show that (Doctor Who aside) defines my early teenage years. Fun Fact: When Scott Bakula uttered the phrase “Oh Boy” during his appearance in Chuck, I almost died of glee! :p
1990 ~ TWIN PEAKS and THE CRYSTAL MAZE
Twin Peaks is one of the few masterpieces of television…The Crystal Maze, not so much, but was a damned entertaining game show that once upon a time I aspired to be a contestant on.
1991 ~ MR BEAN
I adore Rowan Atkinson. That is all.
1992 ~ HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES
One of the most important television series of my life; I miss this show with an intense and fiery passion.
1993 ~ CRACKER
One of the greatest crime dramas ever!
1994 ~ TAKIN’ OVER THE ASYLUM and DUE SOUTH
Takin’ Over the Asylum is the single greatest drama ever made on the subject of mental illness and should be required watching for anyone working/interested in the field of mental health. Due South is one of the greatest Canadian television series ever and should be required watching for anyone with a Mountie fetish.
1995 ~ HAMISH MACBETH
If there is a man or woman able to watch this show without falling wildly in love with Robert Carlyle, I’ve yet to meet her! If there’s a man or woman able to watch this show without falling wildly in love with Shirley Henderson, I’ve yet to meet her! As for Plockton (aka Luchdubh in the show) I’ve been there…and it’s gorgeous!
1996 ~ THE PRETENDER
All I really remember about this show is that (a) I loved it and (b) they stopped screening it midway through a season so I never found out how it ended.
1997 ~ BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
I have written extensively of my love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I shall say no more about it here.
1998 ~ SEACHANGE, THE MICALLEF P(R)OGRAM(ME) and THE GAMES
There are only four Australian shows on this list, and these are three of them! SeaChange reminds me of my relationship with Louise and the early days of my time in Australia. The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) is the greatest work of Australian comedian (and genius) Shaun Micallef and The Games is possibly the greatest thing to ever be produced in the history of Australian television.
1999 ~ SPACED and FREAKS AND GEEKS
If you have never seen Spaced, you’ve never lived. The same could be said for Freaks and Geeks, but considering it has yet to see an Australian DVD release, few people in Australia have. Their loss!
2000 ~ BLACK BOOKS
The greatest ‘set in a book shop’ sit-com ever made.
2001 ~ SMALLVILLE, UNDECLARED and 24
I’ve often ranked Undeclared as one of the greatest comedy series ever made. But, like it Freaks and Geeks predecessor few people have ever seen it due to a serious lack of DVD release outside of Australia. 24 (and Jack Bauer) is a majestic work of absolute beauty that few people ever really appreciated (or understood), whilst Smallville is one of the great genre shows of the last twenty years. Well, until the hideous monstrosity that was Season 7, that is!
2002 ~ FIREFLY
Yes, it’s the second most over-rated series in the history of television. But it’s still pretty good! :p
2003 ~ ONE TREE HILL
Again, I’ve written a lot about this show in the past, especially how it once saved my life.
2004 ~ RESCUE ME and WONDERFALLS
Wonderfalls – the greatest ‘series that no-one’s ever heard of’ in the history of television. Damn you television networks for cancelling this masterpiece! However, a massive thank you to the networks, cast and crew for the exceptional drama series Rescue Me; one of the ‘must watch’ shows of all time.
2005 ~ HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, INVASION, WEEDS and SUPERNATURAL
Look, I couldn’t choose, okay? How I Met Your Mother is a magnificent sitcom that’s helped me no end over the last several years. Invasion is an underrated gem that introduced me to Alexis Dziena. Weeds is a magnificent opus of delightful writing and incredible acting. Whereas Supernatural is not only a show I’ve turned to in times of great distress but one of the finest urban-fantasy series in recent memory.
2006 ~ 30 ROCK and TORCHWOOD
In regards to 30 Rock: Tina Fey, genius. ‘Nuff said! :p And…if I can’t have Doctor Who (damn you year of birth!) at least I can take some solace with Torchwood.
2007 ~ CHUCK, THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES and SKINS
It was impossible to pick between these three shows. All have saved my life. All are exceptionally well written, beautifully performed and deeply inspirational. Three of my favourite shows of all time.
2008 ~ FRINGE and jPOD
Fringe; a masterwork of science-fiction that took me years to fully appreciate. jPod, yet another show no-one ‘s ever heard of that I adored! Go Canadian television!
2009 ~ COMMUNITY
The greatest comedy series currently being made. And not just because it stars the magnificent Alison Brie! :p
2010 ~ TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL
This show helped my survive the chaos that was 26 February 2013; it is also a magnificent and creative comedy-horror series!
2011 ~ GAME OF THRONES
However much I want to dislike like this show because I (occasionally) love being a ‘lone wolf’, I just can’t.
2012 ~ GIRLS
Some of its male characterisation aside (a problem that also affected Sex in the City), this is one of the few series of late that I’ve developed an attachment to.
~ FYI, I deliberately left out animated series. Perhaps I will return to these in the future! :p ~