Every year I land on a list of favourite shows from the year on TV.
The choices are only from premiere titles, not subsequent seasons, and are offered in no particular order (although I have added in original review ratings this year).
This month I was also invited to two TV Gold podcasts to review the year’s best with Mediaweek’s James Manning and Andrew Mercado. There are more great recommendations on Australian and International shows.
Here are the 5 I have settled on this year.
The Sixth Commandment, BBC First.
This four part UK drama centred around the Maids Moreton Murders, a case that gripped the UK in 2015 when retired, lonely English teacher Peter Farquhar (Timothy Spall) was courted by a strapping, charismatic young student, Ben Field (Éanna Hardwicke). At once a tale of romance, deception and tragedy, it was also a masterclass in acting from Spall and Hardwicke. They were simply mesmerising on screen, as was Anne Reid as spinster Ann, whose world of tea and scones and quiet retirement was also thrown asunder by the devious Hardwicke. A special mention goes to Conor MacNeill int he difficult role of Hardwicke’s accomplice, Martyn. If you Google the victims and the actors, the casting dept is to be congratulated for the uncanny likeness. Riveting.
Hijack, Apple TV+.
This Idris Elba drama was a ‘real time’ thrill ride when a plane was hijacked from Dubai to London. Full of jeopardy and cliffhangers which compelled viewers to binge wherever possible, it thrust Elba into an action role and unravelled passenger backstories as the altitude increased. Bolstered by Archie Panjabi as a Counter Terrorist expert, Eve Myles as a plucky British Air Traffic Controller and Max Beesley as a local UK detective, it was full of jolts, turbulence and brinkmanship in ways we haven’t seen since the glory days of 24. Sure, it was hardly the most sophisticated of storytelling this year, but the best fun to be had with your pants on.
The Last of Us, Showcase.
TV dramas based on video games are rarely as good as HBO’s nine part series when a dystopian society is the result of a fungus known as cordyceps spans several decades. For Joel (Pedro Pascal) it’s a fight for survival as he treks across country to find his brother and agrees to smuggle 14 year old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) for a rebel militia, the ‘Fireflies.’ It’s an unlikely but winning TV duo thanks to two charismatic stars, which richly pulls viewers through genre action scenes. The show reached its zenith in the unexpectedly romantic episode with Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman. Who knew a zombie-like action series could be so profoundly moving?
Bay of Fires, ABC.
We’ve seen a lot of small town dramas in Tassie of late, all rich in quirky characters. But the dark tone to Marta Dusseldorp’s crime drama lent itself to a tapestry of delicious performances including Kerry Fox, Stephen Curry, Pamela Rabe, Roz Hammond, Rachel House, veteran John Stanton and the last screen role for the late Tony Barry. A special mention goes to two outstanding juvenile performances from Ava Caryofyllis and especially Imi Mbedla. Mystery Bay was dark, complex, riddled with lies and corruption, and the more it went on the further down the rabbit hole Anika (Marta Dusseldorp) fell. Bravo.
All that Breathes, FOX Docos.
In Delhi’s heaving underbelly brothers Saud and Nadeem operate a crumbling bird clinic in their small home. Assisted by colleague Salik Rehman, they rescue black kite birds from rooftops, streets and rivers and nourish them back to health. The raptors, which hover effortlessly in mesmerising circles above the city, provide a major function to Delhi by feeding of its expansive waste. Yet to most locals these creatures are treated with disdain. Concurrent with their own financial despair is a backdrop of refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh on the streets, civil unrest and riots. While the film is deeply concerned with the impact of climate change, there is exquisite cinematography -from caterpillars to jumbo jets in a single shot- and the bond between two brothers. A big hit on the film festival circuit and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary.
Honourable mentions to these new titles:
Nolly, BBC First
Safe Home, SBS
Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles, Prime Video
John Farnham: Finding the Voice, Seven
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Prime Video
Fellow Travelers, Paramount+
The Artful Dodger, Disney+
In Our Blood, ABC.
Don’t forget you can also choose your favourites in the TV Tonight Awards 2023 here.