hqdefault“Hi, I’m the Ghost Of The 1979 ITV Strike, and I am here to resurrect and complete the somewhat delayed (due to strikes probably) Freaky Trigger TV Poll. Imagine if you can the landscape of 1979 British television. Three channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV – and then suddenly one of those channels being off. Its like a third of your choice taken away. Because it is. Up and down the country member of ACTT (Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians) withdrew their labour in a pay dispute for three months, leaving in most places this blue title card to be displayed. Which still got more viewers than much of BBC2. Anyway it was a fun time I can tell you and a civilised picket the likes of which British TV has barely seen since. And given the option of the twelve shows below or a blue title card what would you watch. (Doctor Who’s Planet Of Death was the answer in my day – interesting to see that is still going.)”

Thanks, Ghost Of A TV Strike, and huge apologies for the delay in the publishing of this. If I do it next year I may get help… But in the meantime here is the top twelve:

12: Stranger Things

Season two had to deal with the expectations set up by season one, which by virtue of coming out of nowhere had no expectations at all. And whilst season two didn’t completely drop the ball, it did kind of reinforce why so many of its touchstones, Spielberg films of the 80’s in particular, never had sequels. Whilst the Upside-Down was sort of a loose end from the first go around, it is one of those conceits that the more you see of it the less mysterious it becomes. The kids are still great to watch, and the mood – whilst less desperate – is still maintained. But perhaps some things shouldn’t continue.

11: Doctor Who

We are far enough into the reboot of Doctor Who when another series is just another series, and in the current ebb and flow this was to be Peter Capaldi’s final one. I doubt it was hugely anticipated, though it was the first time that he was to get his own companion, and we sensed that finally it would be one that wasn’t some sort of magical plot device. We sensed correctly, Bill Potts was great fun and an excellent foil. We were probably wrong to be worried about Matt Lucas’s return, comedians often flourish in less comic roles on Who. But the stories were pretty good, the longer arc regarding Missy asked so decent questions of the show about redemption and of course it ended with a regeneration that finally gave us a female Doctor.

10: Search Party

Very glad to see this do so well, Alia Shawkat was a favourite from Arrested Development and has rarely been given much to suit her talents. Here she plays Dory trying to find an old college friend who she believes might have been abducted. Its thematically more about her friends and her absolutely terrible boyfriend being millenials at a loose end, transitioning into adulthood and realising that there really isn’t much there for them. At least it feels like that is what it is about, and then suddenly the “case” picks up steam and – well – things ensue. Two taught ten episode seasons now, all on All 4, and well worth your time.

9: Master Of None
Um, this vote was a while ago, pre the scandal. So let’s see where Aziz Ansari’s star falls in the end, though it cannot be denied that there is some wondeful work being done here – particularly the Italian neo-realist work and move on.

7= Catastrophe
I haven’t caught up with season three of Catastrophe yet, though as a big fan of the previous seasons I assume it continues in much the same vein, two funny people sniping at each other and ever now and then the series sabotaging itself narratively. I do know that they had to deal with the death of Carrie Fisher, which I imagine casts a certain pallor over the film, but its not as if the show has ever shied away from darkness so I am sure they have continued as before.

7= The Crown

The Queen is back baby to kick butt and take names and frown constantly at Princess Margaret. Season Two of the Crown is non-libellously supposition wrapped in the big history beats of the age. And of course it has difficulty with what actually to do with The Queen, stuff happens around her, it is not her job to intevene. So instead we have Phillip not quite (but its implied) having his end away on tour, and Margaret – the terror – entertaining us all with her snobbery and bad behaviour. Its all impeccably made, and both pushes the history buttons with enough implied scandal to get by.

6: Blue Planet II

So – er – I really don’t watch nature documentaries, but it appears everyone was all over this like a rash, which is also part of nature. Considering that all I hear about now is bloody plastic straws destroying the world I daresay it had an impact. I think I saw the clip with the running creature being chased by a snake and agreed (for a quiet life) that it was more suspenseful than most Hollywood thrillers. And of course the reassuring yet informative tones of David Attenborough (aka Naturey McNatureface) making you feel like you have just learnt something even if it is how your over consumptive lifestyle is destroying the planet. Cheers!

5: The Detectorists

A classic of British small TV, Mackenzie Crook has created a small slice of slightly off kilter life, and then just watched it unfold. Often just a couple of middle-aged men bickering about and around their slightly obsessive hobby, it slowly unfolded across its three seasons to encompass their families, partners and the people around them. Crook and Toby Jones both have been employed often enough to portray oddballs and loners, and here just fill Lance and Andy with a lived in sense of hopes and disappointments. In particular due to the unique way the BBC doesn’t really fund things, Crook was able to finish the show how he desired, with one of those great British finales, rewarding the viewer with a real sense of satisfaction.

4: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Or Mental Health – The Musical, as it moves into season 3. What has always been impressive about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the depth to which it will go for a song, for a joke and for a far fetched plot twist. But by season three there isn’t really anywhere else to go but finally examine Rebecca’s mental health, as the new theme tune suggests “crazy” is such a loose word and often applied to admirable, kooky characteristics in romcoms. CExG has exhausted that by now, its time to get real. Or as real as a show with number song sequences in them, which remain as high quality and impressive as before. A tougher series, but still on form.

3: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Released just before Christmas so perhaps getting a bump for that reason, though also it is the new project from Amy Sherman-Palladino – of Bunheads and Gilmore Girls. What is great about Mrs Maisel is that it is a luxurious looking period show about a subject which feels remarkably niche, the access to women to stand-up comedy in the late fifties scene in New York. And it is often tonally difficult for it to fit its two areas of interest together, the story of a young Jewish wife whose husband leaves her, and her own explosion into the clubs of Greenwich Village. And it often feels more idealised and full of wish-fulfillment than it might need to (Maisel is a natural and doesn’t bomb for a fair few episodes). Luckily the show is written very well, you can see how her routines work (so hopefully in season two we need less of Lenny Bruce telling her how good she is). But at the heart of it is a feminist story, imbued by the professional and personal friendship between Midge Maisel and her manager Susie which is wonderful to watch.

GLOW (or the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) feels like a project that only the streaming model could realise. A fictionalised retelling of the story of the real, cartoonish, female wrestling show of the mid-Eighties, it relies on novelty, nostalgia and the knowledge that over its series it can tell a semi-comic soap story whilst still being colourful and daffy. Episodes are not standard US TV length and it isn’t tied to keeping advertisers sweet. And so it turned out to be, with a barely acting Marc Maron as the sleeze, and Alison Brie playing a bit against type as a pretty awful actress who starts to believe. It hits a lot of cliche notes, but was a fascinating, and generally successful stab at a different kind of show.

1: The Good Place
If someone had said to me that that Michael Schur (Parks & Rec, Brooklyn 99) had a new sitcom which starred Kristen (Veronica Mars) Bell and Ted (Cheers) Danson, I would have interested no matter what the premise. Actually I was, I may have obtained the first episode the day after it was launched via nefarious means, still not really knowing the premise until I saw that first episode. And I was sceptical. I liked the first episode, but where was this sitcom in heaven going to go. Clearly it was going to make Eleanor a better person so that by the seven season end of the show she finally belonged in the heaven she thought she had lucked into. And then I say no more, for fear of damaging what has been a delightful and funny narrative sitcom. What has been terrific is not just how bold the show is, and how many times it has been on the edge of everything falling apart, but still how it manages to surprise, delight and be very funny.