There was a time when I regularly watched all the soaps and lots of regular dramas. These days I just don’t have time to watch them and my tastes have changed and so I tend to stick to good drama series and documentaries, along with a few guilty pleasures. I rarely watch them live and usually rely on iPlayer or All 4 and my trusty Chromecast, which is why I’m not keen on the suggestion that the BBC should charge extra for iPlayer unless they stop charging for a TV Licence as I will otherwise be paying twice for the same programmes.
In the last two-three months there’s been a lot of good programmes which I’ve struggled to keep up with but just about managed. Here are my recommendations. Some are still available on catch-up but others aren’t but no doubt will be repeated which is why I’m mentioning them anyway:
Cuffs (BBC) – this was a great new police series that felt like The Bill for the 21st century and set in Brighton. Sadly, they’ve decided to not commission a second series which astonishes me so watch this while you can as it’s great. A serious drama but with light-hearted moments.
The Bridge (BBC) – Widely praised I also loved this series simply to keep in touch with my Swedish roots. I don’t think this latest series was as good as the first two but it’s still great and it’s good to see the more sensitive side of Saga Noren.
Luther (BBC) – far fetched and with a sinister undercurrent but I have a soft spot for this dark and dangerous police series with the brilliant Idris Elba in the eponymous role.
Silent Witness (BBC) – I don’t think this series is as good as it used to be, but then it has been going for 20 years now and so perhaps many of the plots have been used up. Still good entertainment though and it’s nice to see that the role of my favourite character these days played by Liz Carr feels as though it’s been beefed up a little in this series.
Hinterland (BBC/S4C) – this Welsh series that is shown initially in Welsh on S4C is then later shown largely in English (with some Welsh with English subtitles) on the BBC. The latest series isn’t quite as bleak as the first and it feels as though everyone is up to something or got a hidden secret. I love it mainly because it reminds me of my time in Aberystwyth but it’s got some pretty good plots.
Deutschland 83 (Channel 4) – a series that makes me feel old given it is set in my lifetime but now looks so much like history, this is a brilliant drama in German (with subtitles) that shows life in the Cold War and how the East spied on the West. At times I do wonder if they could have really got away with the things they did, but perhaps it was how it was.
Shetland (BBC) – if you loved Vera then you’ll love this as it’s written by the same person. Whilst set in a bleak environment the stories aren’t bleak and you warm to the main characters. This latest series feels as though it’s been spun out in to too many episodes but that’s not putting me off.
Happy Valley (BBC) – this second series of the brilliant police crime drama set in Calderdale recently started. The first couple of episodes of this series makes it look as though it’ll be as good as the first. For me it’s especially poignant as I recognise so many places that I loved when I worked in the area
Conquest, Blood & Gold: The Making of Spain (BBC) – a great four part series telling the fascinating history of Spain with Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Great British Railway Journeys (BBC) – I prefer Portillo’s continental railway journeys but this series is still good and great at showing a glimpse of bits of the country I’ve not seen before. I find it remarkable that the Portillo I used to hate when he was an MP is now one of my favourite TV presenters.
Empire of the Tsars: Romanov Russia (BBC) – a fascinating series about the Romanovs by Lucy Worsley, a person who’s persona and jolliness I thought would put me off but she tells a great story and it’s absolutely fascinating. An interesting story well presented.
Bitter Lake (BBC) – a film that’s documentary, art and drama. It’s all about the Middle East and how the decisions made by ‘the powers that be’ have impacted on the world today. It’s two hours but worth putting the time aside to watch. Intriguing stuff.
Manchester’s Serial Killer (Channel 4) – anyone who lives or works in Manchester has heard about the infamous ‘Pusher’ who is supposed to be murdering people by pushing them in to the city’s canals and rivers. Sensationalised and melodramatic and with too much of the annoying trait in modern documentaries of constantly repeating before and after every break what you’ve already watched and what you’re about to watch, but worth watching to see the truth behind the stories.
The Docklands Bomb: Executing Peace (BBC) – an interesting documentary showing how the bombing of how London’s Docklands Bomb was a pivotal moment in the Northern Irish peace process. With Northern Ireland having moved on so much it almost feels like ancient history, but for me it feels like a significant historical moment that I grew up with.
The London Markets (BBC) – three programmes with each one looking at what happens inside each of the city’s wholesale markets – Billingsgate, Smithfield and New Spitalfields. Showing how these places are, or aren’t, changing and showing why I’d not want to work there, they do give a sense of what these famous markets are like.
The Story of China (BBC) – the history of China in just six episodes, this is an interesting series telling the story of the country of the moment. Lots I didn’t know but I feel as though I should have done.
Mary Portas Secret Shopper (Channel 4) – I love all of these trouble shooter or small business type programmes, but I also think Mary Portas has got a great way with people even when she’s being tough. The latest series was short but excellent and shows how even simple straightforward changes can improve fortunes. People trying to make their own future, which small business people do, I always find interesting and inspiring.
Dragons’ Den (BBC) – OK, so you can usually tell whether they’ll get an investment or not, but I like the imagination of some of the people on the programme even if they’ve not thought through their business properly. I’m a big fan of the latest dragons and hope they stay with it for a future series alongside Deborah and Peter.