The Guardian newspaper's critics produced a list of the top 50 TV dramas ever after much heated debate. Here it is in full (overseas readers please bear with it - there's a lot of British stuff in the list - it's a British newspaper!) On one level it is a meaningless exercise. In what sense is Brookside one place higher and therefore presumably better than 24, which is in turn one place higher and therefore presumably better than The Twilight Zone of blessed and very distant memory? A more extreme example of not comparing like with like is difficult to imagine.
Top of the list? The Sopranos and I'm not arguing. It just makes me purr with pleasure, wonderfully scripted, wonderfully acted, wonderfully filmed. Yup. That's as good as it gets. It also has the best opening titles of any TV series ever - see above - edgy, acutely observed. Sets the whole thing up perfectly.
Second place? Brideshead Revisited and again I'm not arguing. Et in Arcadia Ego indeed. I confess to being a total fan of Evelyn Waugh's writing - which is so good and so self revelatory as to mitigate his pretty dreadful personality. He manages the writer's holy grail of letting the reader deep inside his head - and it's an uncomfortable place. Damn, he's good. Having said this, in later life he hated Brideshead Revisited - too self revelatory of his early life in its homoerotic subtext. Less good was John Mortimer's script. He got the credit but in fact his script was not used and less known mortals wrote the actual script uncredited. Again, wonderful visually, wonderfully acted and wonderful music.
A few random comments. Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 22? All this proves I think is that middle aged men (as TV critics tend to be) should not watch that particular programme. Sarah Michelle Gellar just gets them overexcited. They then overpromote the programme in the list. Tsk!
Shameless creeping in at 49? Disgraceful! Should be a top ten hit surely? I'd stick a clip up but the irritating message 'embedding disabled by request' comes up. Heigh ho.
Otherwise I mention two contrasting cop dramas, Hill Street Blues - an absolute classic - too low at 33. The Sweeney a piece of mid-70s old rubbish very fortunate to figure at all - even at 47 (two places above Shameless - you get the drift of my complaint in this respect).
I could go on. But I'll confine myself to one further topic: the absentees.
It's not an original thought - indeed huge numbers of people were howling this complaint but how on earth did they miss out I Claudius while including - erm - Grange Hill? As a small consolation, here is John Hurt blowing the camping it up o-meter off the wall as Caligula before the Senate. Plus no non English language dramas and therefore no Heimat, a series that I found compulsive viewing even in subtitles. Or even Das Boot a German production addressing an obviously difficult period in German history - and doing it wonderfully well.