It’s that time again when lists galore appear of the best everything of 2008, and this blog is no exception. Tomorrow I’ll begin my top 20 countdown of the best singles and TV shows of the year. It’s been an OK year for music, and a pretty stonking one for TV, really. Films, books and albums wise, it’s not been all that, though.
Cinema has, of course, suffered from the writers’ strike, with a number of big releases pushed back to December (i.e. I haven’t seen them yet/they haven’t been released) or, in many cases, 2009. The three films that stand out from this year will be the same as most people’s: Wall-E, The Dark Knight, and the colossus that is Mama Mia! Beyond that, cinema was so much meh.
I’ve read a lot this year, although not all of it published in 2008. As regular readers will know, I read all the Booker shortlist and much of the longlist and from that I recommend The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz and A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohamed Hanif. The Orange prize winner, Rose Tremain’s The Road Home, is also a good read. I’m working through the Christmas celebrity biogs at the mo. Alan Carr’s is quite entertaining thus far. The new Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace books, America Unchained and Friends Like These, were must-reads as always. However, the year’s best buy has to be The Writer’s Tale, by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook. It’s an email correspondence about series 4, with scripts, set photos, designs and asides about Skins and various other things. It’s really, really worth a read both for people who like Who and those who are interested in writing as a discipline.
I have high hopes for Girls Aloud’s Out of Control and Pink’s Funhouse, but they are post-Christmas treats, am afraid. Many of the albums I’ve got this year (Oasis, Mystery Jets, Glasvegas, Kings of Leon, I’m talking to you) have been perfectly listenable, but not outstanding. Props, then, to Duffy, whose album, Rockferry, as a whole wotks well although the singles on their own are perhaps less startling; Alphabeat and Vampire Weekend with the fun This is Alphabeat and Vampire Weekend, the fabulous retro stylings of The Last Shadow Puppets with The Age of the Understatement and well deserved Mercury winner, Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid.
30. Duffy – Warwick Avenue. The pick of the releases from her all-conquering album. Melancholy, sweet and catchy. All you need, really.
29. Gabriella Cilmi – Sweet About Me. Like many I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this song, but despite its annoyingness, it’s a well crafted piece that gets in your head and stays…
28. Wiley – Wearing My Rolex. See above. Irritatingly good.
27. Pendulum – Propane Nightmares. A great driving tune, make no mistake.
26. Pink – So What. A great stomper of a comeback, although I prefer some of her earlier singles meself.
25. Jordan Sparks/Chris Brown – No Air. One of the better American Idol winners finally makes it big over here.
24. The Ting Tings – Great DJ. See nos 28 and 29.
23. Gnarls Barclay – Run. Their new material hasn’t had the impact of their older stuff, but this track was a TV-soundtrack classic.
22. Sugababes – Denial. 2008 hasn’t really been their year, but this was ctachy enough.
21. Alanis Morissette – Underneath. Her latest album was pretty rubbish, but this was a great track, even if it wasn’t really a proper single in this country like it was in a lot of other places.
40. Ugly Betty – the second series has had its moments, but it’s been way patchy compared to the first.
39. Casualty – it still has a lot of its old bad habits, but some great performances from the cast this year have made it worth watching again.
38. Child of Our Time – always a good watch, but it never lasts long enough.
37. The Street – quality drama, always delivered, but not very memorable afterwards.
36. Harry Hill’s TV Burp – always funny, but sometimes a little ITV-centric and can be repetitive.
35. Torchwood/Sarah Jane Adventures – in many ways the second series were better than the first, but SJA’s storylines weren’t as good as previously, and TW still suffered from an overall lack of vision, and the Owen resurrection was a bit naff. Plus they killed Tosh! Bastards.
34. Heroes – I don’t think the second and third series are that bad. But they’re not that great, either. It’s all a bit complicated at the moment.
33. EastEnders – generally back on form this year, with some quality performances and gripping storylines – pity there’s still been a fair amount of dross as well.
32. Waterloo Road – the school drama is very silly, but it is quite entertaining and that’s all you want in a midweek drama sometimes.
31. I’d Do Anything – the search for Nancy was scuppered a bit by Cameron Mackintosh being a twat, but Jodie PRenger was amazing and some of the failed Nancys were also fab, most notably Sarah Lark.
30. Storyville – the BBC Four documentary strand is full of hidden gems
29. Come Dine With Me – the move to evenings has been a bit hit and miss and the new series of daytime we were promised appears not to have arrived, hence the series slipping down my league table this year.
28. Great British Menu – it’s still entertaining, but it’s becoming a parody of itself. Some fresh thinking needed for 2009, perhaps.
27. Masterchef – I still love it, but way too many spin-offs for my liking this year. Talk about over-egging the pudding.
26. True Stories – see also 30. This year’s highlight was the really entertaining America Unchained with Dave Gorman.
25. The IT Crowd – series three hasn’t quite been as funy as the previous two, but still one of the better things on the box all year.
24. Beautiful People – one of the brightest, sparkliest series of 08, and it featured Kylie and Dannii singing ‘The Winner Takes it All’, which is a WIN in anyone’s book.
23. Maestro – Celebrities conducting sounds a bit crap, but it was great. We’d have liked a little more in the way of explanation and seeing them training, but these things can be worked on. And winner Sue Perkins was more than worthy. A special mention here, too, for The Choir: Boys Don’t Sing, as I couldn’t fit it in elsewhere.
22. Dead Set – Charlie Brooker’s zombie epic was perfect Halloween viewing and the best Big Brother parody ever. Davina was particularly good value as a crazed zombie.
21. Only Connect – BBC Four’s clever quiz is something of an obsession at The Lowculture forums at the moment. I’m crap at it, but it’s good, AND it stars Victoria Coren.
So…. I’ll see you tomorrow (probably) for the start of the top 20…