It’s another double post Tuesday and on my first day at home without the girls, finding the time to write a couple of posts was easy (and you should see the kitchen, it’s sparkling, actually it’s potentially Pine-o-clean ad worthy). I had promised this top five list a couple of weeks ago, but then I couldn’t decide on the final two entries so I put it off for a week. I’m still not sure I’m 100% happy with my selection and I think I’ll probably change my mind in another couple of weeks, but as of today these are my Top Five TV shows. I have restricted my list to shows aired in the last decade purely because my memory is too sketchy if I go back further than that, but feel free to make suggestions of older shows that I really should take note of.
1. The Wire
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This American show just sneaks into my ten year limit, first airing in the states in 2002. As far as I’m aware it has never been shown on Australian TV, I discovered it via DVD which is my preferred viewing option anyway, no ads and you can watch as many episodes as you like in one sitting (makes for some very late nights). There are five seasons all of which are good, but for me seasons 1 and 4 were the best. All five seasons are set in Baltimore but each season focuses on crime and corruption is a different aspect of the city: the drug scene, the port, local government and bureaucracy, the school system and the newspaper business. This makes each season quite unique, but always with some connection to the previous season and with many of the same characters. The characters are the heart of the show, Detectives Jimmy McNulty and Kema Greggs (a feisty female detective) among others, drug lord Stringer Bell and stick-up man Omar Little from season one are all complex, multi-layered personalities and are really just the tip of the iceberg in a long list of fabulous characters played by mostly unknown actors. This show is gritty, chock full of swearing and street talk – which sometimes require subtitles to understand with that think Baltimore accent – and often violent. It’s one that you can really get your teeth into, there is nothing light or family-friendly about it! The Wire is king of the cliff-hanger ending forcing you to skip straight onto the next episode or season if you, like me, lack the will power to stretch it out. Apparently this series never rated particularly well, but has since found critical acclaim as one of the best TV shows ever made – is that a bit like an artist finding fame and fortune after death? For me, I think it will take a remarkable show to take the number one spot from the Wire, and I don’t feel hopeful of finding such a show in the near future.
2. Sons of Anarchy
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I mentioned that The Wire was violent, but it’s nothing on the violence and sex in the Sons of Anarchy, another American show telling the tale of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club (SAM CRO). This one first aired in America in 2008 and season five is currently on air there. It has been shown on Aussie TV recently, on Channel 10s sport station ONE, but I only discovered it on DVD having been recommended it by another mum from playgroup. The show follows the story of Jax Teller, son of one of the nine founding members and first president of the club, as he negotiates his role within the club and discovers some shocking family secrets along the way. Jax is troubled by the workings of his club, in particular the gun running and is looking for a way to change things while working under current president and step father Clay Morrow. His mother, Gemma Teller (aka Peggy Bundy) will do anything to protect her family and the secrets that have gotten her to where she is. The show is set in Charming, northern California, and the club pretty much runs the town, including the local police force. There are twists and turns I never saw coming and like The Wire each episode finishes with some major question unanswered leaving you hanging for more.
3. Underbelly (but only season 1)
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I think we all know what this one was about, the gangland wars in Melbourne between 1995 and 2004. The cast for season one included just about every well known male actor in Australia and once you had the characters all sorted out it was an intriguing insight into the under world of my own city. It is based on real events and people which makes it all the more compelling – did I mention one of the arrests happened just a few blocks away from here, thankfully before we moved in. I should also add that Mr Good looks remarkably like Carl Williams, I always say I’ll go as Roberta Williams if we ever have a fancy dress party to attend and he can go as he is. I did also watch season two, The Golden Mile which was okay, but I really didn’t like season three, Razor, and only watched the first two episodes before it lost me for good.
4. Downton Abbey
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Quite a different series from the first three, this period piece is so much more than beautiful mansions, extravagant dresses and wealth dripping from every scene. There is intrigue, sabotage and class warfare. The contrast between the lives of the Crawley family of Downton Abbey and their staff is at time stark. This together with the complicated system of inheritance which will see the Abbey and all its wealth and assets bequeathed away from the family with the lack of a male heir as well as the political climate of pre-war England makes for a memorable series. I am looking forward to season two, soon to be aired in Australia.
5. The Circuit
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This little known Australian series (two short six episode seasons) was aired on SBS in 2007 and follows lawyer Drew Ellis who joins the Kimberley Circuit Court in remote northern Australia. Ellis is also grappling with his own cultural identity, being indigenous, but separated from his land and people for most of his life. The court, with magistrate Peter Lockhart (Gary Sweet) travels around several outback communities bringing the judicial system with them – judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers included. Much of the series examines the legal issues facing the indigenous population as well as the difficulties of administering justice in such remote locations. The characters are wonderful and the scenery even better. I only wish there had been a few more seasons.
Just missing out on this list was also Crownies, premiering on the ABC last year and following the early careers of five solicitors working for as public prosecutors and my pick for lighthearted Saturday night viewing Doc Martin – I love Martin Clunes. And if we go back a bit further I would also add Corelli, another ABC drama from the 1990s, starring Hugh Jackman and Deborra Lee Furness. I haven’t included any comedies in the list, mostly because I struggle to find any that hold my attention for more than a few episodes (they just seem to rehash the same storyline episode after episode), but there was one that stood out for me, Outnumbered. Ever seen it? Very funny take on family life in the suburbs.
I have quite a list of shows that I really want to see, so I suspect my list will change frequently. Top of my to watch list is the Sopranos (I missed this the first time around) and Mad Men which I am really looking forward to. So, what makes you turn off the computer, stop tidying the lounge room or folding the washing and really watch something?