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The best TV of 2024 so far
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The best TV of 2024 so far

Andi Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts

BBC Two/iPlayer
It often feels like we’re living through bleak times. This series is an antidote to contemporary woe as the queen of good vibes Andi Oliver travels to various troubled but resilient corners of the UK, meets community heroes and organises massive parties for them. It’s a simple formula but it involves bucketloads of lip-smacking food and enough stories of kindness, selflessness and ingenuity (the episode about the local arts centre in Stoke-on-Trent will make you want to move there) to get you believing in human potential again. Lovely.
What we said: “​​As a premise, Andi Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts is about as heartwarming as a Guyanese pepper pot cooked in a Cornish community cafe.” Read the full review

Baby Reindeer


Baby Reindeer.View image in fullscreen

It’s hard to think of any other show that has created as much noise as Richard Gadd’s retelling of his time spent enduring abuses from a stalker and a powerful showbusiness figure. Thanks to Netflix’s shoddy approach to compliance, the internet tracked down Gadd’s real-life stalker and made a queasy celebrity of her, and the identity of Gadd’s abuser has sparked a clutch of online witch-hunts. This is a shame because, shorn of this noise, Baby Reindeer remains a gripping, troubling television programme. It’s a study in inescapable tension that refuses to let up.
What we said: “Inevitably, Baby Reindeer makes for stressful and often distressing viewing; in describing it as ‘still piercingly funny’, the marketing bods at Netflix are the only ones having a laugh.” Read the full review

Big Boys

Channel 4
After its brilliantly funny – and at times devastating – debut, Jack Rooke’s coming-of-age comedy returned bolder and even better (even if Alison Hammond the goldfish was no more). It caught up with the titular uni lads, newly out as gay Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) and straight best mate Danny (Jon Pointing), as they embarked on another year on campus. As well as plenty of slapstick gags and pop culture references, we learned a lot more about Danny’s childhood and family, which led to some teary moments. Cousin Shannon (Harriet Webb) also proved herself to be a hilarious delight.
What we said: “To highlight just how gorgeous and poignant Big Boys is almost feels like a disservice to the comedy. There are plenty of knob jokes, too. But it is a beautiful blend, and it deserves all the success it has had.” Read the full review

Big Zuu Goes to Mecca

BBC Two/iPlayer

Big Zuu Goes to MeccaView image in fullscreen

Big Zuu might have started his career as a chef and a rapper, but he now stands as one of the BBC’s best documentarians. This one-off follows his attempts to reconcile his “sinful” ways with his faith. He travels to Mecca during Ramadan, struggling with its dietary restrictions and wincing at the unbelievable cost of the trip. But what shines through is Zuu’s unwavering ability to connect with those he meets along the way. Time to put the saucepans away; if he wanted to, Big Zuu could spend the rest of his life doing this sort of thing.
What we said: “This is a quietly revolutionary programme, in terms of how it intimately depicts an Islamic pilgrimage and as a rare look at Muslim masculinity, which is so often stereotyped in the media.” Read the full review

Blue Lights

BBC One/iPlayer

Blue LightsView image in fullscreen

Series two of the Belfast police thriller lost none of its ability to grip and twist. As ever, lingering community divides – now focused around organised crime rather than sectarian conflict – conspired to undermine any chance of building a functional city. Instead, the cops were left to bail water from the sinking ship as best they could. If there seemed an additional focus on station bed-hopping, that, too, probably had its roots in the stresses of the job and the difficulty of maintaining normality surrounded by such deep-seated problems.
What we said: “Its gift for plain speaking is one thing that makes Blue Lights such rewarding drama.” Read the full review

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Sky Comedy/Now
After 12 seasons, Larry David’s epoch-defining sitcom finally came to an end and went out the way it had to, with Larry bristling against an entire spectrum of unspoken etiquette. Sometimes, as when he was arrested for the (bizarrely real) crime of giving water to someone queueing to vote, this turned him into a national celebrity. Other times, like when he tossed his car keys to a valet and was reprimanded for being a big shot, he became a pariah. There’s a reason the finale was entitled No Lessons Learned. No matter what gets thrown at him, or what problems he causes for himself, Larry David will always remain Larry David. This is society’s gain.
What we said: “For a quarter of a century now, David has been one of the most gleefully cantankerous figures on television. Every single episode of Curb features him transgressing some unspoken rule of social etiquette.” Read the full review

D-Day: The Unheard Tapes

BBC Two/iPlayer
This series of rare and never-before-heard interviews conducted in the immediate aftermath of the second world war was an affecting journey into the horror of what it was to be at the heart of a history-shattering conflict. Be they soldiers, civilians or radio operators – across both sides of the conflict – their words were lip-synced by actors in period dress to bring their tales to life in an intimate way. A raft of fantastic dramas have covered this period of history in recent years – and this wonderful documentary is up there with the finest of them.
What we said: “One of the best pieces of public service broadcasting I’ve seen in years.” Read the full review


Prime Video

Ella Purnell as Lucy in Prime Video’s Fallout.View image in fullscreen

How can a story about the pits of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world be this much fun? Loosely based on the video game, Fallout follows Lucy (Ella Purnell), who lives in the vaults made for wealthy people when the US is obliterated by nuclear weapons. But when her father is kidnapped, she sets off into the outside world to find him, and is met by ghouls, knights, a whole load of trouble – and some hard truths about what really happened. It sounds grim, and yet it is stupidly violent, cartoonishly funny and packed with gasp-worthy twists. Bring on season two, which has just been confirmed.
What we said: “It is, if you’ll pardon the pun, an absolute blast.” Read the full review


BBC One/iPlayer
Contenders, ready! Giant foam fingers, ready! We watched, we shrieked and we sang Another One Bites the Dust in our millions as the teatime classic came back with a whole new tranche of fitness heroes, from the hilariously arrogant Legend to “baddie” Viper and Diamond the serial shoe-grabber. Despite a few contender scandals – Wesley we love you, but how dare you come out of nowhere straight into the quarter-finals! – this has proved itself to be much more than just a nostalgia blast for 90s kids.
What we said: “This camp, sweaty, Saturday-night entertainment is a sugary old-school rush.” Read the full review

How to With John Wilson

BBC Two/iPlayer
There has never been a television programme like How to With John Wilson. It is less a documentary, more a sprawling audio-visual stream of consciousness. Wilson starts with a simple premise (for example, why are there so few public toilets in New York?) but reliably ends up miles, indeed galaxies, away from that point. Along the way, he unearths intuitive connections between people, objects and ideas and manifests oddly profound shards of wisdom. A small miracle of a show.
What we said: “As an interviewer, Wilson makes Louis Theroux look like Terry Wogan; as a cinematographer, he has the sideways eye of arthouse legends like Patrick Keiller and James Benning, but with more of a slapstick vibe. Whether his show is the most profound on TV is arguable; that it is one of the funniest is undeniable.” Read the full review

Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show

Sky Comedy/Now
Quite possibly the most extraordinary piece of supposedly unscripted television ever made. Here, after his intensely self-examining standup special Rothaniel, the comedian Jerrod Carmichael uses the camera to seemingly reveal everything of himself. One episode is about his unrequited love for his best friend, and it ends with a painfully awkward conversation between the pair. One is about how happy he his with his new boyfriend, then we see him cheat multiple times on camera. The most gruelling episode is a father-son road trip, but even that ends with him publicly berating his dad for his affairs. If all of this is for real, it represents a truly wild level of self-involvement. The trick of the series, though, is that it might not be quite as real as it seems.
What we said: “One of the most honest and emotionally raw things reality television has ever brought to screen.” Read the full review


Sky Atlantic/Now

Sarah Lancashire as Julia Child in Julia.View image in fullscreen

After securing her cookery show and ensuring it was a hit, the plot went in rogue directions in season two of this drama about TV chef Julia Child (played by her royal TV highness Sarah Lancashire). We spent a lot of time with Julia arguing over fish pastry in Paris and watched as the FBI investigated her and Paul (David Hyde Pierce) for their OSS past. And yet, it was mesmerising to watch – because, whatever is happening on screen, it is always done with so much warmth, wit and intelligence. It is a comforting, buttery hug of a series, with gorgeous characters you just want to dig into a coq au vin with.
What we said: “A uniquely indulgent watch, erudite and gorgeous and heady.” Read the full review

Kill Zone: Inside Gaza

Channel 4

Kill Zone: Inside Gaza.View image in fullscreen

It is impossible to ever become desensitised to the horrors that have unfolded in Gaza over the last several months, but sometimes it takes a documentary to really hammer home how unbearable the situation is. Kill Zone: Inside Gaza, made by 12 Palestinian film-makers over 200 days, shows the complete destruction of neighbourhoods, and the families now conditioned to flinch at any loud noise, worried they might end up like their friends or neighbours, or any of the countless others to have died since October. We also meet a number of children for whom a devastating new acronym applies: WCNSF – wounded child, no surviving family. No television programme made this year will be as hard to watch, which is all the more reason to watch it.
What we said: “The extent of what has been done to Gaza since October is hard to fathom. Kill Zone brings us closer to grasping it.” Read the full review

Masters of the Air

Apple TV+

Ncuti Gatwa as 2nd Lt Richard D Mason in Apple TV+’s Masters Of The Air.View image in fullscreen

Another absolute classic from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Following on from Band of Brothers and The Pacific, the final part of their second world war trilogy covers the airmen of the Bloody Hundredth – US pilots stationed in Suffolk sent off on daily bombing raids in enemy territory (so-called because so few planes come back to base). Day after day, they are forced to be sitting ducks facing constant flak and fire – and it feels as if you are right in the cockpit with them. With an astounding cast of young stars, from Austin Butler and Callum Turner to Barry Keoghan and Ncuti Gatwa, the staggering flights and harrowing plights of Buck, Bucky and their bomb group is unforgettable television. It may have ended in a wildly patriotic way, but it earned every moment. Nerves were shredded. Hearts leapt into mouths. And flight jacket sales went through the roof.
What we said: “Masters of the Air feels like the end of something – a season finale to the long-running series Extravagant TV. But if it is the last we will see of its kind, then what a way to go.” Read the full review

Mr Bates vs the Post Office

It’s not often that a TV drama changes history. But thanks to this furious but humane four-parter which starred Toby Jones as the heroic Alan Bates, the whole nation learned about the outrageous torments heaped upon the innocent post office operators of Britain by the corporate bullies and cowardly bureaucrats in charge of the Post Office. Unsurprisingly, we got very angry indeed. In a country seemingly doomed to an eternal churn of scandal, cover-up and public inquiry, is TV the frontline of the resistance? At times during January, it certainly felt like it.
What we said: “The injustice is so grave, and so obvious, that it slowly ties a knot in your stomach and pulls it tighter, and tighter still, becoming ever more sickening as more victims are wrongly accused.” Read the full review

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Mr and Mrs Smith

Prime Video

Mr and Mrs Smith.View image in fullscreen

Things didn’t bode well for this series – initially tantalisingly billed as a collaboration between Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Donald Glover, only for the Fleabag star to depart due to creative differences. But Waller-Bridge’s loss is this intensely watchable spy thriller’s gain, with hours zipping by thanks to the believability of assassins-cum-lovers Glover and Maya Erskine’s flawed romance. Did it have the sexiness of the Brangelina movie it was adapted from? Nope. It had something much harder to nail: a convincing portrayal of when relationships go wrong – and why it’s generally best if that doesn’t involve automatic weaponry.
What we said: “It is a great demonstration of the charm and intelligence that infuses the whole that they pivot from strangers to colleagues to lovers so seamlessly.” Read the full review

One Day

The nation swooned over this gorgeous retelling of David Nicholls’ well-loved romance novel, which catches up with a will-they-won’t-they couple on the same day every year over two decades. Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall breathed new life into Emma and Dexter – the polar-opposite students who meet at university in the 80s and decide to just be friends (eugh!). It was sexy, awkward, hilarious and heartbreaking. It was also frustrating as hell, which made the “they will!” payoff all the sweeter – only for them to break our hearts again right at the end. It was the perfect romcom. Oh, and the music banged.
What we said: “Of course, the whole enterprise hangs on Em and Dex, who must be completely believable and lovable, individually and together. They are extraordinary.” Read the full review



Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley in Netflix’s Ripley.View image in fullscreen

Andrew Scott gives a stone-cold performance in this noirish adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley. Filmed entirely in black and white, high-class 60s Rome is sensational to look at, while the sneaky and deadly antics of fraudster Tom Ripley make you squirm on your sofa. When the bodies start to pile up, those long, lingering shots become unbearably sinister – making it a haunting, edge-of-your-seat thriller that feels entirely different from the glossy 1999 film.
What we said: “The details of massed lies accumulate, any one ready to be plucked out by an astute girlfriend, police officer or bank teller, bringing the teetering pile down. Malevolence bleeds into everything. Every moment of beauty ultimately ends up poisoned. It’s wonderful.” Read the full review

Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour

BBC Two/iPlayer
TV is not short of celebrity travelogues, but Rylan Clark and Rob Rinder’s stands out as something special. The two newly divorced unlikely friends head out on the enlightening Grand Tour of Italy, with Rob being the “smart one” and Rylan “not knowing his arts from his elbow”. As they follow in the footsteps of Lord Byron, Rylan’s confidence in himself, his opinions and his knowledge grow – often teaching Rob a thing or two. Plus, it is joyous to see them on a raunchy night out together, ready to find love again.
What we said: “For centuries, the Grand Tour was undertaken by those who more closely resembled Rinder, people with the right sort of class and education, unlike Clark, who was a “ginger kid from a council flat in Stepney Green”. But it is lovely to behold where that kid has ended up, see his formidable mind absorb the glories of the journey Byron once embarked on.” Read the full review



Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko in Disney+’s Shōgun.View image in fullscreen

A flat-out masterpiece from start to finish. James Clavell’s novel, set in 1600s Japan, was once the US’s bestselling paperback. The 1980 Richard Chamberlain-starring miniseries was the second most watched in all of the country’s history. And yet, by grounding this year’s remake in the Japanese characters and historical accuracy, showrunners Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks manage to universally improve on the source material. The script somehow confounds expectation while remaining thumpingly satisfying. Every performance is phenomenal (especially that of Anna Sawai, who is destined to become a major star). The penultimate episode is such a study in tension that you’ll only notice you haven’t drawn breath once the end credits roll. Another season has been greenlit, and it’s hard to know how to feel about it. What are the chances they can improve on perfection?
What we said: “Given that the paperback is more than 1,000 pages long, it is extraordinary that they have managed to condense it into 10 episodes. The result is peacocking, mesmerising television.” Read the full review

The Assembly

BBC One/iPlayer
A random but genius concept: invite actor Michael Sheen to be grilled by 35 neurodivergent people. And what journalistic brilliance is on show! The questions range from the fun (“Was John Taylor from Duran Duran your first ever crush?”) to the boldly brilliant (“How does it feel to be dating someone who is only five years older than your daughter?). Sheen is a good sport, candidly answering every question – despite looking terrified at times. One of the most refreshing and entertaining celebrity interviews in years.
What we said: “The Assembly is simple and profound. I say this as the parent of a 10-year-old autistic boy who asks me about 100 questions a day. I’ve learned all sorts of things about Sheen that I didn’t know I wanted to know. His favourite Disney film is Moana. His favourite food is egg and chips … It is a breath of fresh air.” Read the full review

The Dry

Series two of Roisin Gallagher’s “Irish Fleabag” dramedy about an alcoholic in recovery proves itself to be more than worthy of the comparison once again. Shiv’s life is getting back on track, but her dysfunctional family is crumbling around her as they deal with buried trauma, relationship breakdowns and the accidental sale of their house – making for plenty more laugh-out-loud moments and huge realisations. Pom Boyd is a particular delight as her emotionally stunted mother who joins her daughter’s AA meetings: “They’re practically fighting over who is going to sponsor me!”
What we said: “Like the first series, the sequel is immaculately plotted … a dense, clever, deeply sad, deeply funny achievement.” Read the full review

The Incredibly Talented Lucy

Channel 4

The Incredibly Talented Lucy.View image in fullscreen

“Lucy makes you completely rethink how the brain works … and how the heart works.” But this tear-jerking documentary isn’t just about the wonderful talent of 13-year-old winner of The Piano, Lucy – who is blind and has a chromosome 16 duplication. It also tells the story of her teacher, Daniel, who has dedicated his life to teaching piano, and has always been at Lucy’s side. But what happens when Lucy grows older? And why – in a shocking twist – was he barred from playing with her at King Charles’s coronation? A multi-layered look at the barriers and magical moments the pair face.
What we said: “We see how important their relationship is to Lucy in her use of Daniel’s name: “Daniel!” she says when reminded of an upcoming lesson. “Daniel!” she exclaims, when they meet. “Daniel!” is the cry when playing a piece brings her joy.” Read the full review

The Responder

BBC One/iPlayer
The second outing for Tony Schumacher’s Liverpool night cop saga is as heartstoppingly tense as the first – but it also deepens every character’s story in harrowing ways. Chris Carson (an excellent and ever more strained Martin Freeman) is trying to get off the night beat and find a day job, and his life is getting more impossible – and criminal – by the moment. His reluctant sidekick Rachel (the wonderful Adelayo Adedayo) is still reeling from the trauma of her abusive ex, then finds herself in too deep with Chris. And Marco is forced to change his ways, but Casey keeps trying to draw him back in to drug dealing. A stunning portrait of the depths people sink to in desperation – and what it takes to try to escape.
What we said: “A triumph for all involved.” Read the full review

The Traitors

BBC One/iPlayer
Could a second series of the hit reality show recapture the magic of the first? Would they be able to find another down-to-earth cast now it had national fame? And is there any way Claudia would be able to bring such a strong jumper game for yet another year? Yes, yes and yes. If anything, this year’s Traitors scaled even greater heights, from the gloriously camp melodrama of Diane’s Victorian funeral, to the terrible betrayal that capped off the electrifying finale. It was thrilling, addictive reality TV that made you care about its participants – who were a breath of fresh air compared to the self-obsessed likes of Love Island.
What we said: “This superlative TV show has single-handedly given the increasingly cynical and tired reality genre a new lease of life.” Read the full review

True Detective: Night Country

Sky Atlantic/Now

Jodie Foster and Kali Reis in Sky Atlantic’s True Detective: Night Country.View image in fullscreen

It was an eerily icy, dark and isolating start to the year with the mood-setting return of the True Detective saga – this time taking place in a small Alaska town. Jodie Foster and Kali Reis were our formidable detectives working to solve the almost supernatural case of a group of research scientists found frozen together miles away from their HQ. There were plenty of personal dilemmas to deal with too, of course, adding to the pressure both women were under. And while the resolution to the mystery might have divided the internet, some may have had an air-punch moment for the perpetrators who got away with murder.
What we said: “Night Country is a brilliant inversion of the men-heavy, heat-oppressed, narratively bloated series that have gone before. New writer and director Issa López has kept the off-kilter essence but made it its own thing. She has created a brooding, melancholy world of terrible possibilities and made True Detective not just worth watching again but more so than ever.” Read the full review

Ukraine: Enemy in the Woods

BBC Two/iPlayer
Last November, the 99 Ukrainian soldiers of Berlingo Battalion were tasked with defending a stretch of railway from Russian attack. If they lost control, there was every chance that the Russians would push on and take Kharkiv. The hour-long documentary about this mission is viscerally intimate, shot either by drone or the soldiers themselves. Hidden in foxholes spread across a frozen forest scattered with broken trees and corpses, they pick through their meagre rations in the knowledge that they are outnumbered and outgunned. Much of the documentary comes from bodycam footage, so we hear their breathless terror as they stumble across yet another pile of bodies while gunfire rings out around them. As vivid a depiction of war as you will ever see.
What we said: “It is distressing in its frankness – of course it is. But it makes the conflict real and asks you to look, understand and remember what is happening, not so far away.” Read the full review

We Are Lady Parts

Channel 4

Sarah Kameela Impey, Faith Omole, Juliette Motamed, Anjana Vasan and Lucie Shorthouse in We Are Lady Parts series two.View image in fullscreen

It is actually stunningly rare for a show to make you laugh out loud – and We Are Lady Parts has a super high lol rate per episode. Our Muslim punks have been busy touring their bangers like Bashir With the Good Beard all summer and are desperate to write some new tunes and get into the studio. They scrape the cash together to do so – and finally wind up face to face with their hero, the original Muslim punk icon Sister Squire, played by Meera Syal. And that’s not the only piece of jaw-dropping casting in this wonderful second series. Even finer and funnier than its first run, and that’s saying something!
What we said: “We Are Lady Parts strides into its second series with a combination of insouciant self-assurance and anarchic enthusiasm that is itself very punk.” Read the full review

Source: theguardian.com