2015: a review of the year in television

Benjie Goodhart / 31 December 2015

TV blogger Benjie Goodhart puts down his remote control for a moment to select the most memorable TV moments of 2015.

And so another year passes. I end the year fractionally older, fractionally fatter and certainly no wiser than I was at the end of 2014. But I end it infinitely cheered by another 12 months of glorious (and occasionally inglorious) telly watching.

It is traditional, at this time of year, for me to hand out my awards for the best and worst TV in the last 12 months, largely because I can do this in advance before knocking off for the festive period.

Rest assured, as you read this, I am half asleep on a sofa somewhere, full of turkey and wine, almost certainly watching Downton for the fifth time.

Ironic quote of the year (1): “I hate working on Top Gear.” Jeremy Clarkson, filming a segment for what turned out to be his last-ever episode.

Ironic quote of the year (2): “Working on this programme is like doing a jigsaw. You spend ages and ages and ages doing something, you go ‘Yes, that’s brilliant, now I’m going to smash it up and put it in a box’.” Jeremy Clarkson, same episode.

Best use of a huge model elephant: The last episode of Top Gear. Brilliantly unmentioned. (‘Right, that’s enough Top Gear’ – everyone).

Most ubiquitous TV presence (1): Ben Fogle. Countrywise, New Lives in the Wild, New Lives in the UK, Earth’s Wildest Waters… I could go on, if only I’d done a little more research. I half expected him to be named the new Top Gear (sorry) presenter. Now THAT would be fun. Cars that run on hemp, anyone?

Most ubiquitous TV presence (2): Alexander Armstrong. Pointless, Danger Mouse, Alexander Armstrong in the Land of the Midnight Sun, Have I Got News for You, VE Day 70, Room 101. Plus he even found time to host his own radio show and record an album. I suspect he is actually triplets.

Sport quote of the year: Lindsay Davenport on Venus Williams at Wimbledon. “She looked as if she’d been on grass for months.” Bit unfair…

Biggest storm in a teacup: The BBC showed Wimbledon highlights with Clare Balding standing up!!! A peaceable nation, unable to rouse itself for almost any cause, reacted with fury, and the show was changed.

Best reason to be reincarnated as an Arctic squirrel: They can sleep for eight months-at-a-time, the longest hibernation of any animal.

Worst reason to be reincarnated as an Arctic squirrel: The female is only interested in sex for 12 hours a year.

Most shocking TV moment of the year: In Walking the Nile, when a journalist who joined Levison Wood for a few days on his epic trek simply succumbed to heatstroke and died. Suddenly, you realised this was no ordinary travelogue.

Hyperbolic programme name of the year: Eternal Glory. Winning a low-rent (though admittedly fun) gameshow on ITV will not see your name preserved through the annals of history.

Most depressing week of the year (for me): The week my brilliant friend Paul won the Big Painting Challenge, and my friend Martha gave an absolutely luminous Dimbleby Lecture. My greatest achievement that week was not having mayo on my lunchtime sandwich.

Unfair advantage of the year: The celebs taking part in 24 Hours in the Past were asked “Who will conquer the 19th Century and discover their inner Victorian?” Ann Widdecombe didn’t exactly have far to travel…

Biggest missing of the point: In The Secret World of Tinder, a contributor, Cally, read out a message she’d been sent on a dating app. “’I want to paint you green and spank you like a disobedient avocado.’ I mean, how disobedient are avocados?” Hold on… THAT’S your first thought?

Best moment of live TV all year: Jo Joyner asking “How’s Adam?” in the live EastEnders. (Adam is the actor’s name, the character is Ian). Her face immediately afterwards was a picture of terrified horror.

The clue is in the name: Tomorrow’s Food gave us this revealing exchange: Presenter: “This is the Weedhunter. What’s it doing?”

Scientist: “Right now it’s looking for weeds.” (Come back later and it’ll be playing Cribbage and having a cup of tea).

The “How to make something look like it took place in the 1970s” cliché award: Have everyone smoking. All the time. It’s a miracle any of us could breathe in the 70s.

Worst bit of dialogue to remind people it’s the 1980s: “I’m going to see The Smiths. It’s a new band from Manchester.” (Code of a Killer).

Most eye-opening, assumption-busting sequence involving a remote tribe and a mobile phone (1): Kate Humble, whilst Living with Nomads in remote, and very cold, Siberia, came across a nomad up a tree. Was he getting in touch with the spirits? Trying to spot his cattle? Nope, he was getting a better mobile phone signal.

Most eye-opening, assumption-busting sequence involving a remote tribe and a mobile phone (2): The opening part of Channel 4’s brilliant series The Tribe. An Ethiopian tribesman walks out of his mud hut and stretches. He is surrounded by chickens, goats and pigs. A cockerel starts to crow. It does so again. The tribesman reaches into a pouch and pulls out his mobile phone. It’s his ringtone.

Meanest judge’s comment of the year: Painting is a deeply personal thing. Showing your work to others makes you very vulnerable. So artist Daphne Todd could have been kinder to the contestant on the Big Painting Challenge than this: “Dreadful. I did, earlier on, snort with laughter looking at it.”

Best performance by an abdomen: Aidan Turner’s six-pack in Poldark.

House of the Year: The astonishing Tongan island idyll built from scratch, by hand, by a British couple in Kevin McCloud’s Escape to the Wild.

Funniest single moment of the year: Richard Ayoade, on the hugely underrated Travel Man, listened to an Icelandic man give him a lecture about trolls. At the end, he said “I hope you learned something.” Ayoade’s instant, matter-of-fact answer, “I did not,” was comedy gold.

Terrifying Lego fact of the year (1): There are 100 pieces of Lego for every man, woman and child on Earth.

Terrifying Lego fact of the year (2): In two years, there will be more Lego minifigures on the planet than real people.

Terrifying Lego fact of the year (3): Most of this stuff is in my son’s bedroom.

Worst drama of the year (1): The Interceptor. Maybe it improved? I don’t know, I couldn’t bear to watch any more. The dialogue in episode one sounded like it had been written by someone who had never encountered human speech before.

Worst drama of the year (2): Cuffs. Maybe it improved? I don’t know, I couldn’t bear to watch any more. The story felt like it had been cobbled together from the Big Book of Police Drama Clichés, and the dialogue sounded like it had been written by the person who’d written the dialogue for The Interceptor.

Worst idea of the year: Flockstars. Who in heaven’s name decided a series which showed us who was better at sheep herding out of Tony Blackburn and Lesley Joseph would keep the nation entertained?

Warmest-hearted show of the year: Car Share. Peter Kay’s glorious sitcom took place entirely within a car, and was funny, tender and gloriously romantic.

Worst dinner party of the year (1): The one in Doctor Foster. “Hi. My husband has knocked up your daughter, and I know all about your dodgy business dealings. Pass the broccoli.”

Worst dinner party of the year (2): Lord Grantham’s ulcer. More tomato soup, anyone?

Worst dinner party of the year (3): The ultimate dinner party from hell took place in Channel 4’s extraordinary This Is England ’90, with the kind of revelations emerging that you can’t wash down with a ladle of gravy. That the whole 15-minute scene was filmed in one take was all the more remarkable.

TV moment if the year (1): Good old Miranda finally got her man. They got what I call ‘married’.

TV moment if the year (2): Nadiya winning Bake Off. The announcement didn’t make me cry. Her family’s reaction didn’t make me cry. Even her remarkable speech didn’t make me cry. But when the doughty Mary Berry’s voice cracks…

Single most embarrassing moment of the entire year on TV: When ITV’s lunchtime news illustrated a story about Lenny Henry’s knighthood… with footage of Ainsley Harriott dancing. Good. Grief.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2016 bring you good health, happiness, and lots of excellent telly. 

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