Television – passing the baton to the US

It wasn’t that many years ago that the US turned out mostly crap TV and the best programs were British created dramas.

With the possible exceptions of Friends and The Simpsons there wasn’t really much American-made TV I was interested in, but it kept me subscribed to Sky TV nonetheless, but mainly for Sport and Kids channels I suppose.

Then came the good, well-written dramas; The Sopranos, The Shield and The Wire and the tables really started to turn. It seemed that once the cable channels upped their budgets and some really good writers and casting directors came on the scene that the days of the impact long-running series gave the US a name for itself. At the same time British-made TV started sliding, with only a few exceptions.

Nowadays, the vast majority of the big-hitters are American. You can’t go many places on the web without hearing about Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. All three of these are fantastically written, paced, cast and acted and probably are actually my favourite three still running.

Breaking Bad draws close to its final 8 episodes (starting next week) of its 5-season run. So jealous of a friend at work that just discovered he didn’t watch all the episodes of the first half of the last season so he’s got 4 episodes more than me to watch for the first time! Eager to see how it pans out and find out whether Walter White gets away with it in the end or not. I genuinely can’t wait to see what Vince Gilligan creates next.

Game Of Thrones – this is probably my favourite show of all time. A huge fan of the books and enjoying it so much showcased on TV in such a big-budget fashion. Supreme cast – mostly British, so there are some faces very well-known to me. No fear of killing off your favourite character – no one is safe! Fairly true to the books so readers will have a good idea what will happen, with a few alterations to the story to fit for TV I guess. Dragons, sex, violence, magic! Say no more.

The Walking Dead – this came into it’s own in series 3. Well-paced, but with an alarmingly short first series – I think this was the only fault with it. The full-year wait for the next series was terrible! Each season has gained more episodes so far, and the back-story, action and gore has had me hooked since day 1. It’s intriguing to see how the character relationships have developed in 3 years, and how the group handles the deaths of friends (again – no one is safe!), and the integration of new members into their “family”.

There are however a few gems you might have missed. The best comedy running at this time in my opinion is easily The Big Bang Theory, which genuinely gives me a few laugh-out-loud moments in almost every episode. Geek comedy and so many references to popular culture. How a band of such obvious misfits makes it through life as they do for all their faults is hilarious.

Suits is a great drama, with such a good cast – that too has great comedic moments and a brilliant story running throughout.

I’m still enjoying Dexter even though the present series (8) is the last one. It looks like it’ll come to a fittingly gruesome end and be over just about when its time is up.

Ray Donovan has got off to a great start and if it carries on like that I’ll be hooked on its entire run.

My current guilty pleasure still has to be True Blood. Some consistently great performances make up for a couple of weak ones. Anna Paquin and Steven Moyer I (Sookie and Bill) think have served their usefulness now, and are being outshone regularly by Alexander Skarsgård and Kristin Bauer van Straten (Eric and Pam), who are now tending to steal just about every scene they are in.

The American remake of the awesome Danish drama The Killing has drawn me in – such a gloomy depiction of Seattle. Does it really rain so much there? The twists and turns and the corrupt police actions just always leave you wondering what’s going to happen next, as the investigations lurch from one disaster or tragedy to another. Not a smooth ride by any means.

Continuum – Canadian and very well-made science fiction – good enjoyable action about time travel and trying to get back home to the future without destroying the life left behind there. You have to love a bit of futuristic technology in the present day.

The Newsroom – fictional drama about all the goings-on behind the scenes of a big American TV news channel. Interspersed with real-life events, so you see how they deal with the big-breaking stories, such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the beginnings of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Good cast with a few familiar faces.

Hell on Wheels – classy depiction of the mid 19th century US Railroad construction. Superb cast, with a good emphasis on the relationships between the Irish migrant workers, slaves and the upper class land owners set against the continual threat of conflict or ultimately war with the native American population as they proceed to steal and/or destroy their homeland. Who doesn’t love Colm Meany swearing?

Boardwalk Empire – set in the American early 1920s this showcases the rise of the gangsters, and all the different factions warring for ownership of the illegal liquor market during prohibition. Steve Buscemi is genius.