Too Many Dresses

doctor of romcoms, twee as fuck

Noughtie but nice

on August 15, 2009

Flicking through a week-old copy of The Guardian, I stumbled across the news that Channel 4 are due to make a countdown show of the top 10 television shows of the 2000s. Leaving aside the potential banana skins of making such a compilation show for a decade that hasn’t even finished yet, and the perils of premature nostalgia, I found the topic itself rather stimulating. When you actually stop to consider it, its surprising how much fantastic telly has been produced, on both sides of the Atlantic, since the millennium (especially given that my daily routine includes a ritual in which I will, on beholding tonight’s television in the Radio Times, state loudly and clearly to anyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity that ‘THERE’S NOTHING ON AGAIN.’).

So here, in all its actually-well-thought-out-because-it-was-less-frustrating-than-thinking-about-my-dissertation glory, is my own personal contribution to the debate. I make no claims for the objectivity of my choices, nor for their abject quality for that matter, but rather offer this as a modest mix of things that I have enjoyed or things that I think have made a big difference. I’ll save you the wondering: no, The Wire is not on the list.

1. The Office (2001-2003)

This seemed like a pretty good place to start, given that I have recently rewatched both series and the Christmas specials in hugely enjoyable DVD marathon session-style. Aside from giving us debatably ten of the best minutes of television of all time, The Office proved that inventiveness and hilarity are not mutually exclusive. From the brains of Ricky Gervais and (the all too often unsung) Stephen Merchant (who, I have always had a sneaking suspicion, is possibly the real comedy genius), I spent a fair few years dismissing The Office out of hand, feeling like I just wouldn’t “get” it, because everyone says that you have to “get” it to like it, when really I suspect that this is all just part of a kind of television elitism…My point is, perhaps, that The Office actually works on quite a few levels, but it does so humbly and quietly, it doesn’t try and shout out about how clever it is. Aside from nicely subverting that whole docusoap phenomenon that dominated the latter part of the 1990s, the real reason that The Office worked, and made such great television, is that it actually relied heavily on emotional affect. Without the laughs, the cringes, and the numerous ‘aw’ moments (a noise that I have to make aloud, pretty much without fail, everytime Tim speaks to camera or there is a cutaway shot of him looking a bit lost and/or wistful), The Office could still have been a very sophisticated and clever show, but it would have never permeated the public conscious in quite the same way (cf. Extras).

2. The OC (2003-2007)

I have no way of knowing just how much my OC obsession has saved me in therapy over the years, but I would very much like to see the figures. I have been known to recommend it to people as an alternative to Nytol (which is just an antihistamine anyway, scamming bastards). This is not, you understand, because I think The OC is boring and sleep-inducing, but rather, what better way to take your mind off all your own problems and stresses than allowing yourself to get caught up in those of a bunch of beautiful 25-year-olds playing super-rich 18-year-olds who live by the beach and yet seem to spend all their time sniping and moaning and fighting to a soundtrack of up-and-coming indie bands? Add some healthy dashes of irony (the frequent references to The Valley, or snappy dialogue such as: “I mean where other than The Bait Shop—where tickets are always plentiful and the band never too loud to talk over?”) and love-to-hate villains (Julie Cooper? Oliver? The Julie-Cooper-alike from rehab?). I mean, sure it all got a bit ridiculous in the later seasons (cage fighting?) but even bad OC is better than no OC at all (and it’s a hundred times better than 90210 *shudder*). Extra points to Josh Schwartz for putting the adults under scrutiny too. Also, let us never forget that without The OC, we would never have had Gossip Girl, and without Gossip Girl it would never be acceptable for grown women to walk about with bows in their hair. Win.

3. 24 (2001-)

This gets on the list for 3 main reasons: 1) the real-time concept was kind of new and kind of a big deal, and for the most part, it worked astonishingly well; 2) it was totally gripping and compulsive viewing; 3) Jack Bauer is possibly one of the most badass characters ever created. Sure, it had it’s faults: the ideology verges on dubious American nationalism at times, and, come to think of it, it doesn’t actually work that well on television in my opinion; I can’t be doing with the breaks in it nor can it hold my interest if I try to watch week-by-week. But as TV-on-DVD goes, you’d be hard pressed to do better unless you were watching…

4. LOST (2004-)

I feel the best way for me to sum up just how I feel about this show would be in a stream-of-consciousness-style listing of some of my favourite moments, because I think it would be pretty difficult for me to articulate my LOST love intelligently or coherently. So: Desmond and Penny. That moment when the light shafts up into the sky from the hatch when Locke is all banging on it in despair. Electromagnetism. The first time you ever see a Dharma video. Desmond. Count to five. Not Penny’s boat. Jacob’s cabin. Ben watching his daughter get shot. Faraday at Oxford. Faraday on the island. The one where Desmond jumps around in time. Sayid shooting young Ben. The smoke monster. The temple. Desmond and Penny on the phone. When the sky turns purple.

5. Casanova (2005)

Back across the pond now to this 3-part BBC mini-series starring David Tennant pre-Doctor Who (and better for it, it must be said) as a totally loveable rogue, surrounded by an astonishing cast including Peter O’Toole (always fabulous), the lovely Laura Fraser and the dastardly Rupert Penry-Jones. Furiously-paced, beautifully, colourfully and vividly designed and full of in-your-face anachronism, Casanova was truly a treat to behold. Highlights include Giacomo’s founding of the National Lottery, and the heartbreaking moment at which he and Henriette part company – she loves Casanova ‘completely’, she confesses ‘but I need him’. Gulp. All costume drama should be like this. I’m enjoying Desperate Romantics at the moment, but it would have been 10x better if they could have taken a few more leaves out of Casanova’s book. Simply exquisite.

Now, in true TV style, you can look forward to the second half after these messages (a.k.a. after I have had some sleep)…

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One response to “Noughtie but nice

  1. Ian says:

    Lost shouldn’t be anywhere in the top 10…

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