sat 20/04/2024

Best of 2023: TV | reviews, news & interviews

Best of 2023: TV

Best of 2023: TV

How many streaming services are you willing to pay for?

Worth signing up to Apple TV+ for? Gary Oldman in 'Slow Horses'

TV viewers can hardly complain about a lack of choice these days, though they might baulk at funding an ever-lengthening list of subscriptions.

There are some who argue, for example, that it’s worth paying for Apple TV+ solely to gain access to the excellent Slow Horses, whose third series has just concluded. Others may contend that you should stump up for Disney+ to see Only Murders in the Building, a delicious flashback to old Broadway and elegant Forties-style film comedies.

Despite all that, you could still have spent the year enjoying a selection of admirable dramas from good old BBC One. Early in the year we had the long-awaited third and final series of Happy Valley, Sally Wainwright’s epic Calder Valley crime saga, and not long afterwards came The Gold, Neil Forsyth’s absorbing dramatisation of the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery and its rippling repercussions. A strength-in-depth cast included Hugh Bonneville, Jack Lowden (a slow horse himself) and Dominic Cooper.Best of 2023: TVFurther Beeb highlights included The Woman in the Wall, a gruelling narrative based around the Magdalene Laundries horror starring Ruth Wilson, the culinary drama Boiling Point and the Williams brothers’ weird but wonderful Boat Story (pictured above). The Dublin-based crime drama Kin suffered from some bizarre scheduling, where it bounced between Tuesdays and Saturdays late at night, though this didn’t make it any less stupendous (and, of course, it was on iPlayer). Series 2 soon, eh?

Opinions divided sharply over Wolf, but even more so over Series 8 of Shetland. It’s a show that commands enormous loyalty, and for many viewers the departure of its guiding light, Douglas Henshall’s Jimmy Perez, has ripped out its soul, and newcomer DI Ruth Calder can’t plug the gap. As for the controversial Jimmy Savile drama The Reckoning, built around Steve Coogan’s eerie reincarnation of the titular monstrosity, theartsdesk’s Helen Hawkins wasn’t alone in wondering if it asked more questions than it answered (pictured below, Coogan as Savile).

But there was plenty going on elsewhere, though it’s intriguing how the shows which critics don’t pay much attention to often prove to be the most popular with viewers. Netflix recently revealed that its political conspiracy thriller The Night Agent was among its most successful products, while Amazon Prime’s TV versions of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels are proving to be spectacular crowd-pullers. Indeed, the new Season 2 has been Prime’s most-watched title of 2023.

Reacher’s star, Alan Ritchson, is a towering hunk of muscle whose facial expressions run the gamut from faintly puzzled to mildly impatient, but viewers (and Lee Child fans) evidently find him a far more persuasive Reacher than Tom Cruise. Maybe if Tom was a foot taller… As for Netflix’s Portuguese drama Turn of the Tide, about a tiny community in the Azores which finds itself awash with cocaine, theartsdesk did its best (our review is one of only three featured on Rotten Tomatoes) but the show remained obstinately below the radar.Best of 2023: TVStill, one of the joys of the streaming revolution has been the exposure it brings to programming from all over the world. Netflix’s Money Heist Berlin is the latest manifestation of the Spanish Money Heist series, Gangs of Oslo is, as you might expect, Norwegian, Suburraeterna is yet another take on Italian organised crime, and Fauda feels unbearably close to the bone in the light of the latest Israel-Gaza crisis. We’re even getting hands-across-the-water collaborations, like the Anglo-French Liaison (Apple TV+) or the Anglo-Spanish Who Is Erin Carter? (Netflix). But it would be criminal to overlook the contribution from Channel 4 and Walter Presents to bringing international dramas into our living rooms, or iPad screens or whatever. Our reviews of Euro imports like Spiral of Lies and Disturbing Disappearances have been read avidly, and the amount of stuff Walter has got stashed away on the C4 website could keep you occupied until 2034. After all, there’s no more Succession (bon voyage) or The Crown (good riddance) vying for your attention.

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