2010: Other

Top 5 Books

1. How I Escaped My Certain Fate Stewart Lee (Faber) Quite simply one of the best books about comedy – the history of, the mechanics of, the craft of – I have ever read. Do not approach it as a memoir, and you will not be disappointed. It is that, but only in disguise. And if the idea of a man dissecting and annotating five of his own routines, in painstaking detail, with candour and self-loathing, does not appeal, my guess is that you are not a Stewart Lee fan. Michael Mcintyre could not, would not, and would never wish to, do this to himself and his work. Rarely has a grown man saying, “Go away!” been so welcoming.

2. The Shallows Nicholas Carr (Atlantic) Must be coming out in paperback in 2011. Definitely worth a read if, like me, you worry that the basic skills of reading and concentrating are being eroded by clicking and scrolling.
3. Storage Stories Jim Bob (Ten Forty) You’ll have to forget that Jim is a friend of mine. If I didn’t like his first novel, I wouldn’t put it in my Top 5. I really like it.
4. When The Lights Went Out: Britain In The Seventies Andy Beckett (Faber) Haven’t finished this yet, but I am really loving it. For the record, it was first published in 2009, although the paperback came out in 2010. What the heck? I’m actually reading a pre-publication proof which Faber must have sent me ages ago, because of course I love the seventies, but I only picked it up a few weeks ago. I’m currently reading, and enjoying The Kennedys: An American Drama by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, which was first published in 1984. It sort of doesn’t matter, does it? I’ve been cutting back on spending this year, and have so many books I’ve never read, it seems profligate in the extreme to buy more.
5. Living Dolls: The Return Of Sexism Natasha Walter (Virago) This isn’t a perfect book – in that, as the mother of a young daughter who likes dressing as a princess, Walter seems as much part of the problem as the cure – but it got me thinking, and reminded me that I am a feminist.

Top 5 Live Events

Note: I have pretty much stopped going to live gigs. It just doesn’t appeal. Oddly though, I saw Jim Bob twice this year, at the Garage in Islington, where I supported him (what a disaster that was!), and at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town. I sort of love the fact that an artist whom I first started seeing on the London indie circuit in the late 80s has taken me back there this year, just when I least expected it. I was grateful – however ungrateful I seem – to see his support acts on those two occasions: Chris T-T and Tim Ten Yen. What I’m driving at here, is that any list of live events that I have been to is pretty random, and presents merely a wonky snapshot of what gets me out of the house when I am quite happy to be in the house. I also present it without irony, in that I realise that if I hadn’t been performing this year, I wouldn’t have seen any of it really.

1. Assorted, Various venues, Edinburgh Fringe 2010, Edinburgh
Unfair to pick out individuals, as it was the cumulative effect of seeing show after show after show, and the unsettling knowledge that I either already knew the performer or would be having a drink with him/her directly afterwards, that made Edinburgh so memorable. That said, I particularly enjoyed seeing Jeremy Lion Goes Green at the Pleasance, Christ On A Bike at the Assembly Rooms, AIOTM at the Assembly Rooms, Sarah Millican at the Stand, Political Animal at the Stand, Gary Delaney at the Pleasance, Pappy’s Fun Club at the Pleasance (a valiant battle with technical woes, which made it all the more triumphant), Tara Flynn at the Gilded Balloon, Gutted: The Musical at the Assembly Rooms, Mat Ricardo at the Three Sisters and Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer at the Three Sisters.

2. Ward and White’s Karaoke Circus, Assembly Tent, Edinburgh
Again, I was in this, but it was still one of the most entertaining and unifying nights of comedic variety I have ever encountered, and I’ve been to a few Karaoke Circuses in my time. It was a combination of the late hour, the venue size, the venue type, the overflow of celebrities just hanging around in the audience, some particularly offensive loudness from certain quarters, and an augmented band at the top of their game. Thrilling. If you were there, you will concur.
3. Hamlet, National Theatre via Curzon Mayfair, London
I don’t do theatre. This made me wonder why. Rory Kinnear casually electrifying.
4. Jim Bob, Bull & Gate, London
OK, so that’s somebody who’s a friend in my Top 5 Books and my Top 5 Live Events. Deal with it. After sterling and appropriate support from Chris T-T, then a car crash courtesy of me, Jim made the evening his own, combining book readings, Carter songs and solo material, and a climactic bubble display by Mr Spoons.
5. Greg Davies: Firing Cheeseballs At A Dog, Bloomsbury Theatre, London
Missed this at Edinburgh, happy to have caught it here. This is a man, playing himself, set to eclipse both We Are Klang and The Inbetweeners. Watch him go.

Top 20 TV Programmes

Note: not as much of a vintage year as 2009, during which I devoured the whole of Battlestar Galactica and House, and was able to hail Breaking Bad as one of the great shows of the year. We’re still waiting for Season 3 of Breaking Bad. It has not been replaced in my house. I found myself bailing out of a lot of long-form US imports this year, and not just the obvious duds like The Event – I also found myself ultimately ungripped by The Walking Dead and Sons Of Anarchy, which are both clearly quality products, they just didn’t grab my insides, which I’m afraid I now expect. However, although missing out on the number one spot, the Americans do still dominate my schedules. Long may they continue to do so. And long may British telly keep trying to achieve their greatness.

1. Misfits, E4

2. Mad Men, BBC4
3. The Trip, BBC2
4. Modern Family, Sky1
5. 30 Rock, Comedy Central
6. The Inbetweeners, E4
7. House, Sky1
8. Five Days, BBC1
9. This Is England ’86, C4
10. The Art Of Germany, BBC4
11. Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, C4
12. Southland, More4
13. Accused, BBC1
14. Caprica, Sky1
15. The Pacific, Sky Movies
16. The Good Wife, More4
17. V, Syfy
18. Californication, Fiver
19. Masterchef/Celebrity Masterchef, BBC1
20. 24, Sky1

Feel free to inform me that I’ve missed something obvious. I will have. It’s not an exact science.

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33 thoughts on “2010: Other

    • +1

      Sherlock was an unexpected hit for me and gave me hope with the BBC once more providing ‘entertainment; without having to resort to Lowest Common Denominator (Celebs and Joe Public) and Getting on is the kind of comedy that we frankly excel at.

      • Didn’t like Sherlock. I realise this is heresy.

        Only saw one episode of Getting On. Really pleased it’s doing so well. Just didn’t get hooked in.

  1. The Trip is endlessly quoted in our house. ‘Gentlemen, to bed!’, ‘that girl was only 15 years old’ etc. Be great to see you and Herring on tv next year.

  2. I tried giving Mad Men a go a few weeks ago, after picking up the series 1 DVD cheaply in HMV. Though well acted, I found it a little on the dull side, and gave up after three or four episodes. What am I not getting with this one?

    • Personally, I agree. Once you get past the surface (costumes, furntiture etc.) it was rather dull. Like many ‘period’ pieces recently the script jars because no matter how much you dress your actors in believable costumes and put them in believable sets, the idiom and syntax of conversation is simply either too over the top silly (take any BBC Bonnet-buster, prithee and pray thou thus thee them that there are forsake sooth my lord) or it’s just ‘everyday’ conversation with (just about) missing up to date slang.

    • It sort of is dull. That’s what makes it so compelling for me: the slow pace, the subtlety, the refusal to be sensational, the lack of a clear ending, the joy of just luxuriating in how good it all looks and that being an end as well as a means. Can’t really do a hard sell on it. If you don’t dig it after a few episodes, you won’t suddenly fall for it, I don’t think.

      • The first three series of mad men are great. Series four though, this year, was the first series I followed episodically every week (instead of in a couple of days from a box set) and I can honestly it was my favourite series of tv ever. I felt everything you might have found slow or dull in the first couple of series really pays off. We know the characters very well, we have seen them bulit up and broken down, and now every episode just takes your breath away. This may seem mental, but after most episodes I could just sit in silence for half an hour(I dont have much to do!) or more taking it all in!

  3. Nothing has come close to matching Breaking Bad for me this year and with no sign of a S3 airing in the UK anytime soon I may have to order an Australian boxset to get my fix.
    I’m coming late to Justified and would recommend that you give it a try, Timothy Olyphant is an excellent lead.
    No True Blood or Hung on your list though.

    • I gave Justified a try. Watched one episode. Was not compelled to watch a second one. That’s how it goes sometimes. I will give anything a try.

  4. Boardwalk Empire and Treme were the top for me.
    Modern Family easily best comedy and This is England ’86 was fantastic too.

  5. Hey I’m not sure if comments have to relate to the article, if they do then sorry for this but I couldn’t be bothered to sign up to twitter just to make this comment and couldn’t find anywhere else. I’m watching the top 100 toys and just saw you talking about clackers, was wondering if they gave you some? They gave Andy McNab one of those Johnny Seven One Man Army guns thats worth about $1250 and was wondering “what did he do to deserve one of those?”. He’s got loads of guns anyway probably. I’m a big fan of the podcast and would probably have bought your book by now if I wasn’t so desperately poor.

  6. Sherlock seems like an obvious omission from the TV list.
    And if you are prepared to list V, then I’m wondering if you had given Fringe a go – in this 3rd year it turned into something special (especailly given the largely disappointing 2nd season.)

    For me, the best thing in 2010 was A History of the World in 100 Objects which was never less than enthralling and sometimes quite amazing – especially given that it was radio which meant that you had to actually use your imagination at times (unless you were “cheating”- I went to the British Museum with my MP3 player and listened to several shows whilst looking at the actual objects, which was a genuinely wonderful experience.)

  7. Andrew,

    Where on earth do you find the time to watch all this stuff?

    As my Grandmother would have said…”You’ll get Square Eyes” if you’re not careful!

    Merry Christmas and thanks for the Blog.

    Adam

    PS Don’t get too despondent about all the negative/offensive replies (as you have mentioned in a few of your podcasts) many of us don’t feel the need to reply that much, but doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate your output.

    • The abuse doesn’t get directed here, mostly. It goes to the C&H blog, where, unfortunately some misunderstand the mechanics of the podcast: Richard can insult me in the fiction of the podcast, people who have never met me, or who don’t have the common decency to post a name, cannot.

    • I have tried and tried and tried to get into Peep Show. Maybe I need to start from the beginning. I feel locked out of the love-in, as I like everybody who’s in it.

      • Yes, another vote for Peep Show… I agree that getting the DVD of season 1 would be a good place to start (obviously) as a lot of the laughs in the later seasons rely on already knowing the characters’ motivations – much like the drama in Mad Men comes from the utter consistency of the characters who are never changed in order to fit in with a plot idea.

  8. No Apprentice? I realise you haven’t written those brilliant episode reviews for a few years, Andrew, but this years series was perhaps the best yet!

    Curb with Seinfeld was brilliant too, but I’ve got a hazy recollection that it might have debuted late 2009 over here.

    • I stopped watching The Apprentice two series ago and my life has been all the lighter for it. (But I understand this series was good. I can’t go back now.)

      I thought Curb was 2009? I did enjoy that season.

  9. ‘The Trip’ was a great double-act from Coogan and Brydon from start to finish with a nice bitter-sweet ending. Funniest TV this year no contest. Couldn’t get into ‘Misfits’ after one episode but prepared to give it another go.

  10. I love Misfits too. When it first started, I’ll admit I did think it was a bit naff, but I stuck with it and am really glad I did so as it now ties with Spooks as my favourite home-grown show. Not an easy thing to do!

    If you want a fantastically-written conspiracy/political thriller, check out Rubicon. It’s made by AMC, who, as I’m sure you know, are also behind Mad Men and The Walking Dead. I really can’t praise the writing, and performances, enough. It’s genuinely brilliant, and utterly believeable. I rather naughtily got the series online as the show hasn’t crossed the Atlantic yet, but I’ve just checked and discovered that BBC 4 will be showing them next year.

    More info at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2010/08_august/25/highlights.shtml (second link on the right)

  11. TV – the only thing I can muster a few rambling comments on.

    Just want to mention ‘The Incredible Human Journey’ purely because I forgot to last year and it was fairly incredible especially if you rely on BBC documentaries to learn stuff like that. This year’s equivalent was Attenborough’s ‘First Life’, marred a bit by music running almost constantly through it.

    During a ‘challenge the professional’ feature on Strictly: It Takes two, I thought, does this really have to be on 5 days a week? I then noticed that all the terrestrial channels have the same shows every weekday afternoon through to 7. I’m pretty sure this copy/pasteness didn’t used to be so total. Is this for ‘brand recognition’? I actually quite like knowing exactly what I’m not watching at any time but 6 to 7 is a time when I do actually put the telly on and it seems a good slot for airing more unpredictable stuff on BBC2. (And how can anyone watch S:ITT and not think Claudia must be bored beyond belief.) Must thank the BBC though for the coverage of the European Athletics Championships which was also much better than their football coverage.

    Speaking of boredom, a quite good method for watching things like X Factor & Apprentice is to start halfway through a series and just watch the last 15/20 minutes. I think this explains (to myself) my total lack of angst about X Factor. Didn’t even notice that the final, apparently, ‘dragged on’ a bit.

    Didn’t see any of your Top 20. You have sold ‘How I Escaped My Certain Fate’ though as a present I’ll be reading before wrapping.

  12. Community is on VIVA at ten on Tuesdays, two episodes back to back every week, it’s as good as Modern Family if not better. Rubicon was not nearly as good as it thought it was, and had been canceled anyway. Breaking Bad Season 3 is easy to find on this here internet, if you really want to see it, and yes, it is as brilliant as ever.

  13. Andrew

    Thanks for bringing The Shallows to our attention. I read a copy (loaned from the library, as I’m skint) over Christmas. I agree, it’s an interesting and thought provoking book.

    …and I managed to type all this without once checking my emails. Result.

    Ben

  14. No mention of Grandma’s House, which, like The Trip, was a real grower (once you got used to Simon saying “really!” in response to nearly everything that was said).

    Great list other than that, and excepting Jamie Oliver.

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