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The best hour of TV ever: is it Succession, Shōgun, 24 - or an obscure BBC thriller from 2014?
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The best hour of TV ever: is it Succession, Shōgun, 24 – or an obscure BBC thriller from 2014?

Name: The best hour of TV.

Age: Ten years old.

Appearance: Slow, brooding, complex.

I’m going to say upfront that I would have enjoyed seeing the word “fun” somewhere in that description. Nonsense. Good television isn’t fun. Good television is quiet and serious and difficult to follow. People shouldn’t actually enjoy themselves watching television.

OK, sorry Professor Television. Tell me what the best hour of TV is, then. It’s episode four of The Game.

You’ve lost me. Come on. The Game. You remember The Game. It was a stylish, deliberately paced cold war spy thriller broadcast by BBC America in 2014, and shown in the UK the following year.

Can’t remember it. Yes, you can. The Guardian review at the time called it “a compelling story that convinces on its own terms”.

Still no. Brian Cox is in it.

Oh! Succession! No, The Game. Whatever, I get that you haven’t watched it. But just know that by not watching it, you have missed what some corners of the internet are calling the best hour of TV ever.

What happens? I’m not going to give much away, because spoilers, but I will say that Alan struggles with a discovery that could jeopardise his marriage, and Bobby’s world unravels.

Did you copy that off the internet? Shh. Anyway, it’s the best hour of TV and you can’t argue with that. The series has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

OK, but Shōgun has a 99% rating. Is that better? Ah, Shōgun is pretty great. But it’s on TV right now, so it’s impossible to judge it with the same historical context that we’re using to judge The Game.

Season five of the drama 24 has a 100% rating, and that’s eight years older than The Game. Is that better? Well, obviously season five of 24 is perfect. Nobody can dispute that. But, specifically, episode four of The Game is pretty special.

Really? Because I just Googled it and the first review that came up only gave it three stars. Well, what can I say? Nobody ever built a statue of a critic.

There’s a statue of Roger Ebert in Illinois. Oh my God, would you just shut up? All I’m trying to tell you is that a decade-old spy show that few people seem to remember is having a well-earned critical resurgence. Is that honestly so hard to take?

At least tell me that The Game was the best British spy thriller of its year. That I can do. Unless you count London Spy, of course, because that was better.

Do say: “Watching episode four of The Game is the best way to spend an hour.”

Don’t say: “But still probably not as good as watching nine episodes of Bluey in a row.”

Source: theguardian.com