Tag Archives: 1001 tv shows

What’s On TV – Man V. Food

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 243/501
Title: Man V. Food
Episodes Aired: 85
Year(s): 2008-2012
Country: USA

It’s been a few years since we started watching Iron Chef, but we have finally finished all the episodes that we could find on YouTube. This left a hole in our (okay, my) lives where a food show needs to reside. Sure they are still making The Great British Bake Offbut sometimes you want to watch something that isn’t baked.

Man V. Food not only scratches that itch, but it also made me think something I thought inconceivable – I’m actually wondering if I could complete an eating challenge. As in, COVID-19 is probably the only thing stopping me from trying to get my husband to try a London-based challenge with me.

Okay backpedalling a bit. Man V. Food is a show taking you to restaurants around the USA that offer good food in extremely large portions, always ending in host Adam Richman trying one of the local ridiculous food challenge. In the episodes that I’ve seen so far, these challenges have included burgers, milkshakes, ridiculously hot wings, nuclear hot curry and a metre long bratwurst. I was a bit jealous of that last one.

In these times, Man V. Food is not only helping to scratch a food itch but also a travel itch. Sure, this show could be even better if I knew there were episodes coming where they travelled outside of the US – even if it was just over the border to Canada, Mexico or (dare I say) one of the dependencies like Guam or American Samoa. That aside, this is exactly the sort of show I needed at this time and I still have many episodes to go.

What’s On TV – The Young Ones

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 242/501
Title: The Young Ones
Episodes Aired: 12
Year(s): 1982-1984
Country: UK

So I am still ridiculously ahead when it comes to the proportion of comedies on the 1001 list, but since my husband has been really wanting to share this with me for over decade, I couldn’t exactly refuse him. Going into this I knew bits and pieces about The Young Ones because of how big an impact is had on the UK comedy scene. Sections like Vyvyan ripping down the beginning sequence of The Good Life or the entire parody of University Challenge make their way into clip shows and documentaries about British comedies.

Imagine my utter horror when, having finished the first episode, I wanted nothing more to do with this. Let alone 11 more episodes. I thought it was amateurish and that fake edginess you get with poorly attempted shock humour. The fact that my husband loved this show… well I felt just awful. A few episodes in and, for me, it began to find its feet and I started to enjoy it once we got into the second series.

This is the interesting thing with having comedy series so short in the UK. The first series of six episodes is so much seeing how it works and then, if you like a show, you hope enough others liked it that it gets a second series to work out the kinks. Same with Red Dwarf. At least in the US you have enough episodes in a half season order to try and divert course if something isn’t quite connecting.

The Young Ones works best for me when it just goes full throttle on the absurdity. Also when people like Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French turn up for a cameo – the star quality of those two really is something else. I also started to like it more when they transferred a lot of the bullying away from Neil and onto Rick. Made it feel less hostile because rather than just piling on someone helpless, they piled onto a prick.

It’s my pick for a show next and, after the Emmys, I am finally getting around to seeing Schitt’s Creek. Not a list show, but one I have been meaning to see for a number of years and it fills the comedy role rather nicely in our watchlist.

What’s On TV – The Quatermass Experiment

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 241/501
Title: The Quatermass Experiment
Episodes Aired: 6
Year(s): 1953
Country: UK

Well, much like Abigail’s Partythis was a very quick series to get through. Why? Because only two of the six episodes have not been lost to the mists of time. This is television so old that the BBC didn’t record and archive the show – instead it was live to air and that’s it. The reason we had the first two episodes was because they recorded it to tape off a television in case it could be sold to another market.

Being lost is a shame for most films and TV shows, but when you have a landmark of a genre that cannot be retrieved it is all the sadder. The Quatermass Experiment is one of the most influential shows ever made as it helped to spark science fiction on the television and whose presence can be felt in 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, I have to take a lot of people’s words on that because the bulk of the plot and the action happen in the episodes that I cannot see.

For the two episodes that I could see – The Quatermass Experiment has an interesting first episode (minus some sound issues) and then a bit of a downturn of a second episode. It’s not really the fault of the second episode, but you know how it goes – the first episode is to get you hooked and then the bulk of the set up is in episode two. Makes it a real shame that I never got to see the more sci-fi elements of plant monsters in the remaining episodes, but there’s a film remake of it that I am just itching to try out.

 

What’s On TV – Abigail’s Party

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 240/501
Title: Abigail’s Party
Episodes Aired: 1
Year(s): 1977
Country: UK

Rarely is a list of the best UK television ever made without Abigail’s Party sitting somewhere. Considering that, technically, this was a single episode in the long-running BBC Play for Today series such singular recognition is no mean feat. In fact this is the only episode to be featured in the 1001 series – although a case could have also been made for Nuts In May.

The Play for Today is exactly as it sounds, a televised adaptation of a stage play. For Abigail’s Party it is very much that with all scenes taking place in the same set, the majority of which happen around the sofa at the front. As someone who loved I, Claudius – which was essentially a play done for television – the style of filming didn’t bother me too much. However, I do wonder if this was produced as a straight single drama, rather than a Play for Today, whether I would have had problems.

Probably not, Abigail’s Party would still get the plaudits because of how brilliantly written and acted it is. This is one of those pieces that clearly comes from the British sensibilities around manners and class that I do wonder how those outside the UK would view it. It’s so quintessentially of my culture that, despite this being 40 years old, so much of the class conflict and the characters themselves still ring extremely true to this day.

Speaking of characters, there is no way you can talk about Abigail’s Party without discussing Beverly. She is the centrepiece of the drama and is the one that has invited her neighbours over to have drinks only for them to watch her snipe with her husband and lead everyone to get more and more drunk. She is such a complex character to watch because, in many ways, she is monstrous and in others is deeply deeply sad.

And yet, despite having one of the great monstrous characters in UK TV history, Abigail’s Party is an extremely successful cringe comedy. If you are not cringing at the characters and their actions, you are laughing out loud – not at the end though. I really need to watch more Mike Leigh works.

What’s On TV – The Chinese Detective

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 239/501
Title: The Chinese Detective
Episodes Aired: 14
Year(s): 1981-82
Country: UK

During the summer of hell, pretty much all the television I have been watching has been doing some heavy lifting of keeping me sane. This meant no chances being taken with new list shows and instead a lot of episodes of Cheers, Malcolm in the Middle and Taskmaster. Now that I am trying to get my brain back to normal, it is time to get back to the world of 1001 TV Shows – and The Chinese Detective got chosen at random.

So, The Chinese Detective earns it’s place on the list by being the first British drama series to feature a Chinese lead actor. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure if there has been a second show in UK TV history that has done this which just adds to the uniqueness of the show and demonstrates just how far we have to go when it comes to casting shows in my country.

Since I haven’t seen an episode of The Sweeney or Juliet Bravo, which both share a creator with The Chinese Detective, I had limited context as to what to expect from a crime show of this era. In face, the only comparison I can make is against Minder – and the less said about that show the better.

As a series that tries to give a different perspective on the detective show, by making the lead an ethnic minority, there was a chance to make something that was a really interesting time capsule. I mean, of course, they had to make him a maverick detective because we couldn’t just have him be a regular detective, could we?

One thing that this show has going for it is the attempt at having an ongoing storyline whilst there are some cases of the week. However, for me, the show didn’t exactly execute either as well as it good. The individual cases rarely have any sort of resolution and the ongoing storyline, although interesting, is hindered by a lot of repetition across multiple episodes.

In between this there is a lot of uncomfortable racism towards Detective Ho. This isn’t just the explicit bias of people constantly asking his origins, but a lot of him generally being treated like dirt by anyone who comes across him. Like, as a detective I get how working with him could get a bit annoying, but the reaction is incredibly disproportionate.

Between this treatment at work and some pretty bad interactions with his father, who really bares a grudge against a face his son pulled as a child, The Chinese Detective is not the easiest to watch sometimes. Couple that with poor case resolutions and this isn’t exactly a show I could say I enjoyed for anything other than David Yip as the lead.

What’s On TV – Project Runway

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 238/501
Title: Project Runway
Episodes Aired: 251+
Year(s): 2004-now
Country: USA

Ever since I caught a random episode of Season 10 where they had to design new outfits for the Radio City Rockettes, I have had Project Runway high on my list of shows I wanted to pull out for this list. However, thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race I have technically been ahead on reality shows for ages. With the COVID-19 crisis, and the social isolation that this has resulted in, I figured stuff the numbers let’s just watch something that will be fun.

With, at the time of writing this, there being 18 seasons of Project Runway and eight of the All Stars spin-off – it was difficult to think of the best place to jump off. A bit of research later and we settled on watching the fourth season first and then starting from the beginning. Needless to say, this hooked me nearly straight away and is such the right balance between awe, drama and couch ‘oh come on, I would have done it differently’.

I think, by now, most people know the premise. You get a bunch of people who want to make it big in the fashion industry and have them compete for a chance to get a collection shown at New York Fashion win and to get their breakthrough moment. Being a reality show, there is obviously some production work going on where they don’t necessarily stack a season with 10-14 potential winners – but I still find myself in awe of those designers that fall at the first hurdles.

I’m going to be interested to see, as I progress through the seasons, just how things develop. Already the differences between the first and fourth seasons, such as the storylines of the models taking a complete backseat (although the moment where a designer needed another designer to model his clothes because his model didn’t show was… amazing to watch) and I cannot wait to see how this series develops further. Although, to be honest, the idea of doing this without Tim Gunn doesn’t full me with too much confidence.

What’s On TV – Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 237/501
Title: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
Episodes Aired: 3
Year(s): 1990
Country: UK

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit originally aired over the course three weeks, we opted to watch the whole thing in one night. This was interrupted by me having to make a call to the bank because of them blocking my card due to a fraud attempt… but we achieved what we set out to do in watching this coming of age drama about a girl growing up as a lesbian in an incredibly religious Christian sect.

Watching this in 2020, this still feels like a bold piece of television. I know we live in a world where there are more LGBT characters than ever and the depiction of LGBT youth has gone from strength to strength – but there is something more daring in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Whilst this can be very funny, it is also a story about coming to terms and having to carve out a future on your own.

So many people still have to go through these journeys and I, as someone who didn’t have to go up against anything within my own family unit, can only watch depictions like this in awe. It’s little wonder that the novel this is based on, as well as this great TV adaptation, feature on countless lists of essential LGBT content, the fact this adaptation is regarded as one of the best miniseries in British TV history further speaks of its power.

What’s On TV – The Time Tunnel

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 236/501
Title: The Time Tunnel
Episodes Aired: 30
Year(s): 1966-1967
Country: USA

There are shows that have a brilliant pilot only to lose their way in subsequent episodes. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The U.S. adaptation of The Killing both fit the bill for this, as does this incredibly interesting piece of TV history from the late 1960s.

The premise is one that we now know from shows that The Time Tunnel influenced – two scientists are lost in time and are trying to get back to the present day – along the way they visit the past and the future and have adventures. However, The Time Tunnel is so aware of the need to produce episodes that could easily be aired out of order for syndication that, after a while, beginning at square one every episode gets a bit samey. Also doesn’t help that this show has two leads without much charisma and too low a budget to pull off episodes set anywhere outside the US – the episode set in the Trojan War is a big example of both these shortcomings.

It is, however, hard to deny the influence that this show had. Similarly, The Time Tunnel had all the issues of going first with many of these ideas and then premiering in the same season as the original run of Star Trek. By now, there are tropes around time travel science fiction that we can now fall back on, but the writers of The Time Tunnel didn’t have too many of these to fall back on – which is how we end up with a show that, despite some flashes of brilliance, is ultimately unsatisfying.

What’s On TV – Black Mirror

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 235/501
Title: Black Mirror
Episodes Aired: 23+
Year(s): 2011-now
Country: UK

It has taken nearly a year to watch my way through all of Black Mirror – including the choose your own adventure-movie Bandersnatch – and now I realise how difficult it is going to be to actually write this up. The closest thing to this on the 1001 list, that I have seen so far, is Beckett On Film and that doesn’t quite feel like an adequate comparison. Aside from some vague in world continuity, each episode of Black Mirror is a standalone miniature movie with some of the variation in quality that comes with that.

On the whole there is a sort of link of theme between all episodes – which is a vaguely dystopian look at the intersection between the world and technology, and how we may grow to interact with it. Some episodes are more hopeful in tone whereas other are so incredibly draining. Given that each episode was a tonal grab bag, and how I hate spoilers, every time I started an episode I had to mentally prepare – which is why it took so long to complete.

As a capsule of our times, and as it has found a way to preempt a number of technologies and start some really interesting wider discussions, Black Mirror is almost the ultimate in zeitgeist. It is also great to see if you are someone who enjoyed watching Dead Set many years ago, which now almost feels like an extended pilot – albeit a horror based one.

Since I am anti-spoiler, I don’t particularly want to go into specific episodes, but instead think I’ll end this with a ranking of the 23 that I have seen.

  1. San Junipero
  2. USS Callister
  3. Be Right Back
  4. White Christmas
  5. Hated in the Nation
  6. Nosedive
  7. Bandersnatch
  8. Hang the DJ
  9. The Entire History of You
  10. The National Anthem
  11. 15 Million Merits
  12. White Bear
  13. Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
  14. Playtest
  15. Arkangel
  16. Shut Up and Dance
  17. Smithereens
  18. Metal Head
  19. Black Museum
  20. The Waldo Moment
  21. Crocodile
  22. Striking Vipers
  23. Men Against Fire

As of the moment I have no 1001 shows on the go as I have convinced the hub to watch Nichijou – so it may be a while before another TV post. Guess it’ll all depend on what the random grab reveals once we’re up to date with more shows.

What’s On TV – Monty Python’s Flying Circus

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 234/501
Title: Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Episodes Aired: 45
Year(s): 1969-1974
Country: UK

This is the second time that my husband tried to introduce me to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The first time was 7-8 years ago where, after one episode, I was so unimpressed that it took this long to pick up his DVD box set again. If it wasn’t for the 1001 list, this would be a show that I may have never given a second chance to – which would have been a real shame.

I don’t know what has happened in the intervening years, but upon this attempt of viewing Monty Python I was more than happy to carry on after the first episode – even if the ‘The Funniest Joke in the World’ sketch left me completely cold. Like with all sketch comedy, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is hit and miss – but in the episodes I’ve seen so far the sketches have been leaning more towards the hit side… other than Terry Gilliam’s animations. I appreciate the artistry, but very few of the jokes really landed for me.

Still not entirely sure why this show hit me better this time around. Is it possible that 7-8 years changed my sense of comedy to the point where I enjoyed this more? I guess in the intervening years I got really into comedy podcasts and that might have helped. Also, I’ve been able to look past my general distaste for John Cleese and focus more on how great all the other Pythons are.

Hot on the heels of this will be my eventual write-up of Black Mirror it’s been nearly a year since I started it and I am so thrilled to finally be within spitting distance of finishing it off. Maybe this will help hasten the pace of more 1001 TV Shows write-ups? Guess I’ll just have to see what comes out of the hat.