Welcome back. The joy of doing this is that, over the course of the months it takes to compile, write and post, I find that I’m discovering new programmes and remembering more of the old ones. This edition, for example, has a true modern classic as well as a couple of cult favourites and forgotten gems. There is also at least one that I’m pretty sure nobody else will remember watching – I’d almost forgotten about it myself! Anyway, enough of my waffling on…it’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights…we’ve got work to do!
RED RIDING TRILOGY (2009)
This three-part adaptation of David Peace‘s Red Riding Quartet novels is set in Yorkshire over the course of a number of years – 1974, 1980, 1983 – and the intertwining stories of murder, corruption and greed. Andrew Garfield leads a starry cast that also includes Sean Bean, David Morrissey and Paddy Considine. It’s a gripping story, nicely spread out across the three feature-length episodes, that also touches on true events. As far as I can remember it hasn’t been repeated which is a shame as it is one of those important pieces of drama that I don’t think enough people got to see first time around.
WATCH IT FOR: Trailer
STRANGER THINGS (2016-present)
I’d heard a lot about this show and I’d seen all the memes online so, when I got the chance, I signed up to Netflix (originally to catch season 3 of Gotham!) and binged the whole lot. This programme is right up my street. It smacks of nostalgia and harks back to all the films and TV programmes I grew up watching. A group of friends – Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp – come face to face with the weird and wonderful supernatural forces in their hometown of Hawkins. Add in some shady government types and a girl (Milly Bobbie Brown) with special gifts and you’ve got yourself an absolutely brilliant modern classic. I can’t wait for the third series, if only to hear more of the excellent soundtrack!
WATCH IT FOR: Who you gonna call?
THE LOVE BOAT (1977-1987)
I have very vague memories of this particular show. The main one being the great theme tune by Jack Jones but I think, unfairly, this programme is best remembered as a bit of cheesy fluff. Set aboard the cruise ship Pacific Princess and featuring a wide array of passengers in search of love and exotic locations, The Love Boat is one of those quirky, comedy shows that, even if you never watched it, you certainly know about it.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles
THE GLADES (2010-2013)
Another quirky detective drama from across the pond, this time starring Matt Passmore as Jim Longworth, a former Chicago cop who moves to Florida and joins the state police force. Fish-out-of-water stories are very popular and this is one that doesn’t dwell too much on that aspect other than Jim’s sometimes unconventional methods of work. I really enjoyed this but, like with most programmes, it sometimes got itself bogged down with will-they-won’t-they situations. Apart from that, it’s well worth a look if you happen to catch it.
WATCH IT FOR: Trailer
THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA (2014-2016)
I think some reviewers would class this show as “offbeat” and, to be fair, it is just a little bit. It’s a comedy/drama/mystery starring Debra Messing as the eponymous Laura, a homicide detective in New York who juggles her work with her home life raising twin boys. At the same time she is forced to work alongside her ex-husband, played by Josh Lucas. This is good, honest television. Fun to watch without being too heavy. It’s a shame it only lasted for two series, I would have liked to see where things went.
WATCH IT FOR: Official trailer (minor spoilers)
As ground breaking television shows go, this hit sitcom pretty much beats the lot. Based on the stand-up routines of Ellen DeGeneres, this comedy not only broke moulds, it threw those moulds away. Ellen plays a neurotic bookstore owner who, along with her outgoing friend Paige (Joely Fisher), insecure photographer Adam (Arye Gross) and her layabout cousin Spence (Jeremy Piven) fight their way through life’s dramas. This show was pivotal for many reasons, not least for the ahead-of-its-time “coming out” episode which, at the time, created hostility among sponsors and the show’s network, ABC, received a bomb threat. That one episode paved the way for countless other series to write confidently about sexuality and to begin breaking new moulds.
WATCH IT FOR: “The Puppy Episode” (part one of the ground-breaking episode)
Knightmare is one of those truly cult phenomenon television programmes of the 1980s that viewers still hold close to their hearts. It’s a Dungeon and Dragons style game show that puts young contestants into a computer-generated world where they must work together to solve puzzles. They are helped out by Treguard, the Dungeon Master (played by Hugo Myatt) who offers assistance and tries to steer them in the right direction. Although this type of game never appealed to me, this programme was unmissable!
WATCH IT FOR: Opening theme tune!
THE LAZARUS MAN (1996)
Here’s a programme so rarely mentioned that I can hardly find any video evidence online. Robert Urich stars as a man who pulls himself out of a grave shortly after the American Civil War. He has no memory of his life, all he has is Northern gold and a US Army revolver. He calls himself ‘Lazarus’ and sets out on a journey to find his past. The series was renewed for a second season but the production company decided to cancel after Urich was diagnosed with cancer, even though Urich himself had declared himself still able to work. The lawsuit was eventually settled but the series was never renewed. I don’t think it has ever been shown since, I’ve certainly never seen a repeat, and I doubt it’s even available on DVD. There are bits available online, but not enough to show off the creativity of this show.
WATCH IT FOR: Partial episode
The writer, Carla Lane, was a genius at bringing northern working class life to the screen. Here, with the Boswell family, she brought us what it was like living in a deprived area of Liverpool in the 1980s. As with all Lane’s work it is both touching and brilliantly funny. Jean Boht stars as Nellie Boswell, matriarch and fearsome leader of her eclectic brood. While none of the family are in gainful employment, they each manage to work the system and can afford to live quite comfortably for the area they live in. Despite cast changes, the show ran for seven series and over seventy episodes, leaving an indelible mark on the television landscape.
WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles
THE GOLDEN GIRLS (1985-1992)
A sitcom with four older women as the lead shouldn’t have worked at the time but its a credit to the writing and performances that The Golden Girls was a massive hit. Dorothy (Bea Arthur) lives in Miami with her mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty) and friends Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Rose (Betty White) where they all find their way through life and their advancing years. Over the course of its seven season history, The Golden Girls won 11 Emmy and 4 Golden Globe awards and is regarded as one of the best sitcoms of all time. Add to that the best theme tune and you’ve got yourself a winner!
WATCH IT FOR: Some funny moments
And another batch of television gems floats on by, and what a batch they were! A couple of classics, a modern masterpiece (in my opinion) and one more that has been lost to the archives of history. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here then please feel free to drop me a line, either here or come find me on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you. I’m off to visit the Upside Down so, until next time…
“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”