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RLLMUK's Top 100 TV Shows Results: #1 in your referendum


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Ha, talk about reaping what you sow - if I (and anybody else) had said nothing, Kino's Journey, my number 5 entry, would have been next on the list with 16 points. Instead, it has been pushed out of the list entirely, and of the two titles I added in the first (Avatar: The Last Airbender) didn't score highly enough to make it into the final list, and the second (The Prisoner) would originally have made the list anyhow - in joint position with Kino's Journey, in fact.

I'm sorry Kino, you deserved better :(

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...and we're back!

99. Life on Mars [uK]

(total score: 17 points; total votes: 2)


What happens when you give Quantum Leap to the British? You get Life on Mars: a much darker, richer and more complex variant on the 'dude travels through space and time to make things right' concept.

It's a theme explored in dozens of pieces of fiction, but this BBC effort stands out from the herd, not least due to the watchable, relatable John Simm in the lead role; a noughties DCI thrown back in time to the early seventies after a nasty RTC (to a time with fewer acronyms, ironically). From this point, we see a broad view of Britain in the Ted Heath/Harold Wilson, three day week, mass unemployment era as, well, a living nightmare. It reflects back to us that the Swinging Sixties were a blip; the 1970s more like the post-war period: food was terrible, poverty was rife and the police? Bigoted and violent.

The show juggles this view of a stunted country with the essential niceness of the lead characters and their ability to develop. The always-amusing Gene Hunt has the Sweeny-esque cocksure swagger of Old Bill with too much power, but is genuinely decent deep-down. Sam Tyler becomes tougher, more honest and wiser as the series progresses – his influence grows, everyone changes.

Quite sophisticated, challenging and even slightly dangerous for a prime-time, mainstream BBC drama, voter JohnnyNolan said, “Great cast of characters and wonderful casting brought this interesting concept to life. A show that displayed UK television can compete with the best drama out there.”

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Yes. It takes a bit of time to find its feet because at first, you feel it's just Life on Mars shoehorned into the 80s and missing some fondly remembered characters, but it definitely lives up to its forebear. Enough that I treat them more like one show with five series, than just two related shows.

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I missed a number of episodes of Ashes to Ashes (mostly in the second series, I think), but came back for all of the third series, which was an excellent conclusion to the two shows.

The programme's finale was broadcast around the same time as Lost, and given the similarity of some of the fan-theories for both series, I noted that the praise for Ashes to Ashes' ending was a lot more unanimous.

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  • 2 weeks later...

98. Pride and Prejudice [bBC, 1995]


To open with a predictable line, I had my own ‘prejudice’ about this costume drama before dipping my toes into its (sexy, shirt-wetting, millpond) waters. Having studied both classic ‘romantic period’ novels and ‘Novels of Manners’ in my English Lit degree, I just assumed I’d be as monumentally bored watching this as I was reading its stablemates. Yes, I’m a philistine; let’s move on.

I’m very happy to say that – based on the first episode alone - I was wrong. An impressive combination of editing, directing and screenwriting means each scene conveys the period detail without lingering on it, gives characters opportunity to breathe (but without drawing-out scenarios to the point of boring the viewer) and bounces along at a satisfying pace.

The high bosoms and cheeky double entendres remind you we’re a long way from austere Victorian England, which ensures the production feels less dated and more familiar than you’d perhaps expect. I’m definitely watching the lot now – I’m hooked!

As Wiper says, “The BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my highest ranking British production, and that's high praise - it's just a beautifully acted adaptation of a wonderfully incisive book, and should be enjoyed by everyone. The dialogue is full of wit and life, and the life brought to those lines by the cast is just of the highest calibre. Filled with beautiful scenery and costumes, and happily following that British willingness to be populated by actors who actually look like real people, rather than models, it's a delight: funny, dramatic and romantic in equal measure, with its biting satire surprisingly still relevant a few centuries on. The best adaptation of one of Britain's greatest authors' finest works.”

A quick apology: due to a very small calculation error, this and the next two episodes are listed as 98-96 whereas in reality they should have been tied at 96. This means a few drawn shows with low numbers (that are all tied) won’t get listed, so I will add them as honourable mentions at the end. Hope this is ok, otherwise at my pace we'll be here forever!

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Props to you for going out of your way and watching the first episode of Pride and Prejudice, despite not liking the literary genre from which it derives! It's a genuinely excellent series, and has the added benefit of being nice and short.

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I was really impressed; great choice. I hope others move outside their comfort zones and give it a whirl.

Right, let's keep this train a-rollin' with two - yes, two! - new entries:

97. Extras


One of those slippery, “Do we like him or hate him?” characters the British public likes to build up, tear down but grudgingly admire, Ricky Gervais is huge. I mean massive. We’re talking Morecombe and Wise levels of popularity in the UK alone, and he also drew the golden ticket and cracked America. Massive.

Extras is possibly not the best place to start to understand why, as it has strong echoes of The Office but, unlike that show, has a few clunky missteps. To get those out of the way, I’d say some of the guest ‘stars’ misfire badly, and the Millman character needed to be straight-through nice (leaving ‘nasty’ to the stars and ‘stupid’ to Ashley Jensen’s Maggie and Stephen Merchant’s Darren) as there’s occasionally a bit too much cruelty/idiocy going on.

But I’ve been sitting here recalling the good bits and, damn son, are they funny. That gif above? The Patrick Stewart bit? Absolutely howling when I first saw that. The scene from ‘When the Whistle Blows’ when Keith Chegwin just keeps f888ing it up? Genius. Ross Kemp as a little lost boy, Kate Winslet miming licking her nipples, David Bowie singing, “Chubby Little Fat Man”, Darren writing, “When the Double-you Blows”, Dean Gaffney in the mobile phone shop, just about every scene with ‘Barry’ in it… all the right side of cringe and just beautifully done.

The show definitely works better if you know Gervais’s humour already, and know the stars’ personas (natch) but, Quality-wise, it sits below The Office and Derek (which was a surprise to me) and leagues above Life is Short. Fingers crossed we get more of the former and less of the latter from him in future because, when he’s on his game, Ricky Gervais totally deserves that megastar status.

96. The Animals of Farthing Wood


With charming traditional animation – but a dark message about human destructiveness – AoFW seems to be a part of that grand British tradition in animation, where anything sweet-looking has to be undercut with pain and death. Aren’t we lovely? Whether we’re showing their old folks get melted by rad sickness in When the Wind Blows, seeing animals torn to bits in Watership Down / taking over the world in Animal Farm, or watching a loved one melt into nothingness at the end of The Snowman, our inherent cynicism seems to find a voice in our kids stuff. Sometimes that’s voiced as a shout; sometimes just a whisper.

Tough premise or no, from what I’ve seen TAoFW seems to dial-down the darker aspects of the setup (the animals’ habitat is being destroyed by man, and they have to travel to a safe realm whilst fending-off the carnivores) and we’re in ‘whisper’ territory, grimness-wise. As a series, it certainly impressed Benny: “The fact that this is not available on DVD still is criminal of the BBC. Watched religiously in my younger years, it had a huge impact on me. Following the fates of each character in their desperate struggle to survive against human cruelty was unforgettable”.

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Time for another update (sorry about the delay. Life, you know).

95. Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel | Around the World in 80 Days | Attention Scum! | One Summer | Scenes from a Marriage

(19 points each, 1 vote each)

Honours even at 95, Lordcookie had high praise for Scenes from a Marriage, “For my money this is Ingmar Bergman's crowning achievement and the TV edit is even better than its shorter theatrical cut sibling. A five hour series about a bickering middle aged couple where they are pretty much the only people on screen doesn't sound particularly appealing. It is not remotely cinematic and it isn't even visually stimulating.

So why is it at number two in my list? Simply because Bergman is a fantastic writer and can make something that is visually static feel like the most dynamic thing you have ever watched. The ebb and flow of their disintegrating relationship is fascinating viewing. Your sympathies continually flip-flop between the two characters as the warts and all confessions of their marriage play out on screen. Naturally it helps that he has cast two sensational actors but it is Bergman's words that make this feel a truly special experience.”

Fusty Gusset voted for One Summer, a 1983 drama starring David Morrissey which, alas, I haven’t seen. According to IMDB, “Two teenagers, Icky and Billy, grow tired of their life in Liverpool and decide to run away to North Wales. But it's not long before their past catches up with them”.

Joeplus was a big fan of Attention Scum! In his words, “In a perfect world this series would be celebrated as a giant of cult British comedy, alongside Chris Morris’ shows, Spaced, et al. Instead, it got shoved in a graveyard slot and cancelled after one award-winning series. Simon Munnery stars as The League Against Tedium, his hectoring faux-aristocrat persona, lecturing punters with razor-sharp gnomic proclamations from the top of a camper van. This sort-of stand-up is intercut with equally odd recurring sketches and monologues, while the soundtrack gives the whole thing an unsettling feel. It’s wilfully awkward and a little pretentious, but it all works because - and too many alternative comedies forget this - it’s actually full of good jokes. Don’t take my word for it though, go and

Some mook called Treble (me neither) voted for Around the World in 80 Days, the Michael Palin series. As I said in my original post, it’s a unique experiment that lucked upon finding such a unique presenter: Alan Whicker was the first choice (and who appears in the first episode, demonstrating why he’d have been completely the wrong choice) with Noel Edmunds also in the frame at one point.

An unpolished, seat-of-their-pants exercise for the most part, there’s a huge amount of energy in it, thrown at a genuine challenge that Palin takes seriously, whilst at the same time injecting whimsy and honest reactions along the route. Worth watching for the episode on the Dhow trip to Mumbai alone, this recreation of fictional Fogg’s adventure is as quirky and captivating today as it ever was, and now – bonus! – a window into a wildly different, pre-internet age. Palin went on to do many other travelogues but this stands out as the best.

Tonymg opted for the sexily-named Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, which (according to IMDB) doesn’t exist, so I’ll assume it’s a vote for TV miniseries “AoGG: The Continuing Story”. Well, I hope it is because the comments (on how poo it is) are pretty awesome. Samples: “…As for this movie. It's horrible. I haven't read all the Anne books, but from my watching this movie, I couldn't stand it. It's so far from Anne of Green Gables as California is from New York. It has no place being called Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story. Even the character seems different.” And, “Maybe somebody should have told them L.M. Montgomery finished the series” and etc. So for comedy reasons I hope this is Tony’s actual choice, but maybe he’ll pop along and enlighten us.

94. Borgen


(19 points, 2 votes)

Neither punter did a write-up and I haven’t seen this, so please accept my fictional synopsis as follows: Borgen is a techno-thriller set in an alternate 1985. Tennis star and international sex-symbol Bjorn Borg finds himself in a hotel hallway, post-tournament, when suddenly he’s bundled into a closet and forced to mate with a robot. The resulting progeny are the terrifying Borgen – a nightmarish cyborg race whose only purpose is to destroy their father’s arch-nemesis: John McEnroe. Teaming-up with the Super Brat to form an unlikely Odd Couple-style doubles partnership, Borg has to keep winning his matches, travelling around the world in order to stay one step ahead of… The Borgen. Tagline: “You cannot be serious!...but the Borgen are”.

93. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


(19 points, 2 votes)

One of those shows you see as a kid and are simultaneously a) captivated by b) mystified by and c) trying to work out why it’s set in space but doesn’t feature loads of laser battles, Hitchhikers is as idiosyncratic as they come. More English than brown sauce, its surreal edge and dark undertone have often been imitated – the Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and many others share DNA – but rarely bettered.

As Wiper put it, “Not as good as the original radio series, nor the book adaptations, even so this series sits high in my list - witty and uniquely British, the effects have aged but this remains a wonderfully fresh comedy”.

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