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My Favourite TV Series

Having listed my top 10 xbox 360 games, I thought it would be worth doing the same with my favourite TV series.  2012 has been an incredible year for television. In fact, up until this year, this list would have consisted of just 2 titles. Likewise, if I was to limit my list to just those produced domestically (UK) then the first line after this paragraph would be “Thanks for reading.” I haven’t ordered the list, partly because I didn’t want to set myself that challenge, though mostly because I’d rather this was more of a recommendations list rather than a  ‘Top 6’. That said, these are my top six TV series of all TV series thus far. Unlike feature films, tv shows can offer an extended narrative which gives writers the chance to fully develop characters, include both a large story arc and smaller contained stories, and provide something that a viewer can become immersed in and committed to. Here are the TV series that, in my opinion, more than justify the invention of the television alone…

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Game Of Thrones

George R.R. Martin’s world of Knights, nobility, fear and deception is brought to life in this incredibly authentic HBO production. There is just a hint of the usual fantastical trappings of such a genre. Magic and mysticism are present but takes a back seat as Martin weaves a story that dives into the politics of war fought by the sword upon which peace may only balance at its edge. Every character has been cast perfectly with Sean Bean taking the role of the ever-loyal yet grounded Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell who we join when the tentative peace of the Seven Kingdoms threatens to give way. “But I want wizards, spell books and magic rings!” I hear you cry. The fact there isn’t, in any prevalent capacity at least, is actually what makes Game Of Thrones so great. With the unlimited possibilities of magic at his disposal, it would have been easy for Martin to turn to it when he wanted to awe the viewer, to create a powerful spectacle, but instead he achieves the same and even a greater impact by employing drama through character relationships and inner turmoil. In all fantasies, there is always a very human story to be told, a mortal one. The exploration of these ideas and the richness they offer is illustrated perfectly in this amazing series. Blended with its fair share of action sequences an incredible cast and high production value, Game Of Thrones is definitely not one to miss.

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Lost

Lost takes the slightly clichéd idea of a story about plane crash survivors and transforms it into one of the most engaging, mind-blowing and thrilling dramas of this millenia! It’s incredible how as soon as you think you understand whats going on, the writers throw a curve-ball and blow everything out of the water and almost on a weekly basis. My favourite aspect is how J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof maintained that all of the goings on are underpinned by some degree of plausibility. So rather than chalking everything up to some quirk of fiction that we should accept rather than question, the viewer would be left asking “how did that just happen?!” right along with the characters who were wondering exactly the same thing. The formula works because all of the characters are relatable in the sense that until now they have known nothing more than the realities of day-to-day life. They are then suddenly thrown into this crazy construct in which all their beliefs and familiarities are challenged, and we are brought right along for the ride. Within all the madness is a very human tale of survival, trust and reflection. When everything starts to spin out of control, it’s the characters that serve as the empathetic constants. Nevertheless, you may want to reinforce the edge of your seat for this one!

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Band Of Brothers

I learnt quite a bit about the Second World War while at school. I gathered a better appreciation when I visited Normandy. Yet, written and spoken word can only go so far to help you truly understand war from those who experienced it. We often learn of historical events from a top down view. We hear about the key points of the event and perhaps about some of the leaders and other key figures, but rarely do we view the war from the ground, through the eyes of the soldiers themselves. Few platforms have captured our imagination better than film in this respect. Band Of Brothers follows Easy Company from the completion of their training right up until the invasion and occupation of Germany. We experience the war from the point of view from those who actually fought it. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, drawing from the work of Stephen Ambrose who authored the book on which this is based, use the stories of actual members of Easy Company which are revealed in interviews at the start of each of the 10, hour-long episodes. The rest of the episodes are dedicated to bringing their experiences to life as authentically as possible. Each of the soldiers are acted perfectly with Damian Lewis heading the company as Lt. Richard D Winters. This is probably one of the most powerful and thought-provoking recounts of World War II I’ve seen. It also demonstrates how we can only ever view the events of the war and what the men who fought it went through from afar and we can never truly appreciate the impact it had on them.

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Breaking Bad

A high-school chemistry teacher becomes a methamphetamine manufacturer. Such a simple concept, such a great idea for a TV show. Walter White (Bryan Cranston)  is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and is intent on providing his family with financial security once he is gone and, upon discovering the lucrative nature of the illegal drugs industry, he decides to use his expert knowledge of the intricacies of chemistry to produce the purest crystal meth in all of Albuquerque. He recruits a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), to help him gain a better understanding of the distribution process. However, before long, his superior product starts to step on the toes of the old guard. Walt’s transformation from a humdrum science teacher into a forced to be reckoned within the dark world of illegal drugs is incredibly engaging and the relationship between Walt and Pinkman is a pleasure to watch with the characters achieving an convinving chemistry. Breaking Bad is an all around awesome show with a great range of characters, award-winning acting and a very thoughtfully written story. The story is fairly slowly paced in places which provides the perfect foundation for the more dramatic situations. The idea reeled me in, the character development has kept me hooked.

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House

The first time I watched House was during a 9 hour flight to America, it was episode one of season 3 and someone I knew was a big fan. With so much time, I thought I’d give it a shot. Soon after, I bought the first 2 seasons, watched the show as it was televised and bought each of the box sets as soon as they were released. I also became a fan. House is set in Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, New Jersey, and follows each of the cases of Dr House and his diagnostic team as they try to solve medical mysteries that have perplexed most other medical specialists. House, portrayed by the extraordinary Hugh Laurie, may well be my favourite fictional character. He is sarcastic, narcissistic and has one of the sharpest and most brilliant minds in medicine. The cases themselves are intriguingly unusual, they can range from a simple collapse which unfolds into a problem that is anything but simple, to a boy who claims to have been abducted by aliens. But House truly shines when it turns the spotlight onto the characters themselves, especially House’s character. Episodes that focus on this are probably the most powerful ones in the series. The writing is witty, at times complex and constantly captivating. This year they aired the final season. I skipped the tv release just so that it wouldn’t end quite os soon, however this month I will fulfill my annual tradition for the last time and buy Season 8. How I envy those who can watch all 8 seasons with fresh eyes. If I was ordering this list, House would be at the top.

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Homeland

Damian Lewis also stars in this series about a POW who, after being held captive for 8 years by al-Qaeda, is found and returned back to the US. However, CIA officer Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) uncovers intelligence that a US prisoner of war has been returned and she suspects the sudden reappearance of US Marine Nicholas Brody (Lewis) is not just a coincidence. What follows is a journey full of doubt, paranoia, lies and the pursuit of truth. The viewer is offered no dramatic irony and are never sure themself whether Brody is genuine or is planning an attack in the name of Al-Qaeda. I felt myself taking sides early on, convinced the truth was obvious and then having the rugged pulled away from under me from which point I was never certain of the truth and the brilliance of the writers becomes fully apparent. Carrie Mathison’s insatiable desire for the truth is combined with an unstoppable determination to uncover it and drives the story as she takes it upon herself, adopting the help of her mentor, to unveil a conspiracy. Season one of Homeland is already safely in the bank and has secured the series as a well-crafted and gripping example of entertainment.

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If you haven’t watched any of the series above I’d highly recommend giving them a chance, even if you just choose the one that looks the most interesting and try that one out. Each set an extremely high benchmark for the quality of TV shows and demonstrate just what this medium can do and the impact it can have when done right.

Thanks for reading 🙂

DM

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