At the beginning of this four-part play about the Hillsborough disaster, Anne Williams (played by Maxine Peake) says goodbye to her enthusiastic teenage son and his friend as they head off to watch a Liverpool football match. As the story unfolds, viewers must prepare themselves for the overwhelming sadness and injustice that will follow. Peake delivers a moving performance as a mother grieving the loss of her son and fighting for 23 years to uncover the truth about his death and the deaths of 96 others. This miniseries is not only well-made, but also serves as a reminder to never give up in the pursuit of justice.
Our review: “Peake’s performance as Williams is spot-on, showcasing a seemingly weak exterior hiding a fiery determination. She expertly portrays Williams’ struggles and vulnerability, but by the end of the first episode, she reveals the fierce strength of a working-class woman who refuses to be wronged.”
In 2019, Phoebe Waller-Bridge dominated TV, while Michaela Coel took over in 2020. However, in 2022, it will be Jack Rooke who will be the most exciting voice on television. The six-part series, based on Jack’s own life, follows him (played by Dylan Llewellyn from Derry Girls) as he reluctantly begins university while dealing with the loss of his father and struggling to openly express his sexuality. Jack becomes friends with Danny (played by Jon Pointing), a straight man who just wants to hook up with attractive women but is hindered by mental health issues. The show beautifully portrays the friendship between a gay man and a straight man, with moments that will make you laugh out loud (“The Harvester in Watford seemed like a safe space to come out”) and others that will bring you to tears (when Danny’s grandmother doesn’t recognize him). It is a superbly written and performed series.
“The developing bond between the two youths, in a genre and setting where such connections are rarely highlighted or incorporated into the cultural storyline, is truly heartwarming. ‘Want a beer?’ exclaims Danny happily as his roommate enters with cans. ‘No, ravioli,’ replies Jack.” Read the complete review.
Although each episode only lasts 15 minutes, this romantic comedy quickly captivates as it follows the journey of Zack and Fola, who cross paths at an Icelandic hotel, engage in infidelity with their significant others, and later realize they reside on the same street in London. It is one of the most tempting shows to binge-watch this year.
Our review states that Joshua McGuire and Susan Wokoma deliver outstanding performances in portraying the small but crucial moments of the characters who cheat. McGuire brings humor to his slightly stereotypical role as an overthinking nerd who struggles to hide or control his emotions, while Wokoma shines even more as a woman who appears assertive but is actually vulnerable underneath. For the full review, please continue reading.
Each successive season of Lisa McGee’s comedic series has been just as strong as the last, with no weak links in its 90s nostalgia. However, there is a certain sense of satisfaction in this being the final season, as it follows the girls (and the little English boy) during their last year of school and the lead-up to the Good Friday Agreement referendum. As expected, there were numerous one-liners that had viewers laughing out loud as the group- and even the parents, in their flashback episodes- got themselves into troublesome situations. Yet, this show is much more than just a lively comedy. In fact, after watching the finale where the teens go to vote and imagine a future beyond the Troubles, many viewers claimed it was the most informative lesson they’ve ever had on that time in history. Orla (who undoubtedly grows up to be a politician) would surely be proud.
Our statement: It took some time for Derry Girls to establish itself as a modern comedy classic, but now it seems to have always been a part of the genre. While it will be missed, it doesn’t feel like it has overstayed its welcome. It has been consistently entertaining.
Sally Wainwright’s historical fiction returned with even more confidence in its beautifully written second season. Suranne Jones delivered a powerful portrayal of real-life Yorkshire figure, Anne Lister, who is known as Britain’s “first modern lesbian.” Her performance was full of charm and wit, earning high praise. This season even featured a documentary highlighting the impact the show has had on its viewers. After watching this remarkable season, it’s clear why it has touched so many lives.
Our statement: “Gentleman Jack is challenging the traditional expectations of a beloved form of drama, while wearing the familiar frilly bonnets and linen drawers. This comes at a crucial time when we are in need of such disruptions. It is truly a masterpiece.”
Amazon Prime Video
Last year, this sharp comedic series was recognized with three Emmys for good reason. The relationship between old-fashioned comedian Deborah (played by Jean Smart) and Ava (played by Hannah Einbinder), the outspoken writer who is paired with her by their shared agent, was executed with expert precision. While they initially tore each other apart with witty banter akin to a gladiatorial showdown, they later developed a surprisingly heartfelt bond – all within six flawless episodes.
Our statement: “While there are many comedic moments, it is the genuine emotional elements that truly showcase Smart’s talents in Hacks. She has always been the top choice for casting directors seeking a strong and resilient character, and now she gets to portray all the layers of her character.” Read the complete review.
This impossibly sweet adaptation of Alice Oseman’s web comic for young adults brought something that had long been missing from British TV: an optimism-filled gay romance set in a UK school. The rapturous reception that greeted Netflix’s announcement that it was being renewed for two more seasons tells you everything you need to know about what a big, lovely televisual hug it is.
What was stated: “There is a calming quality to the time spent with it.” Read the entire review.
What caused Kanye West to transition from a praised MC/producer to a criticized egomaniac with support for Trump? This thorough three-part film provided a compelling answer. The filmmakers, who have documented the Chicago rapper for years, brought us back to his lesser-known beginnings where he used boasting to gain respect, while also highlighting the impact of his mother until her unfortunate passing. West’s multifaceted character is widely recognized, yet it has never been portrayed with such sensitivity and thoughtfulness before.
According to our observations, the Kanye West portrayed by Jeen-Yuhs in their extensive footage from the early 2000s appears to be quite distinct from the current public perception of Kanye West. While he exudes confidence, he also possesses a charming and humorous personality. It would be difficult for anyone watching not to feel drawn to him, and nearly impossible not to admire his late mother Donda. You can find the complete review below.
A Terrifying Tale of British Horror: The Story of Jimmy Savile
It is safe to say that most viewers were not eagerly anticipating a revisit to the appalling tale of Jimmy Savile’s offenses. However, the meticulously thorough approach adopted by this documentary transformed it into a must-see program. From the astonishing discussions about his associations with Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher to the emotional testimony of one of his victims, it paints a chilling image of unabashed wickedness.
The movie is almost three hours long and consists of a steady progression of modern footage, interviews with individuals who were acquainted with him or worked alongside him, journalists who uncovered the truth behind the long-standing rumors, and one of his many victims. You can read the entire review for more details.
Sarah Lancashire is the very embodiment of Julia Child, the tenacious and hilarious cookbook author who revolutionised television – and the diets of ordinary Americans – with her nascent cookery show, The French Chef (which also showcased her love of a coq pun). We watch her programme transform lives and bring pleasure to so many, even as the network and feminists like Betty Friedan will her to fail. Never has such fun been had while watching an omelette being made. Bon appetit!
The story of Julia is one of a woman who overcomes obstacles and achieves even greater success. It takes place in a world similar to that of Mrs. Maisel, where men try to limit her abilities but she finds a way to succeed regardless.
My Brilliant Friend
This TV series, based on Elena Ferrante’s books, has consistently been underappreciated. Its third season was no different, with stunning cinematography, impeccable style, and a cinematic quality. It tells a captivating story of family, loyalty, and friendship.
“The television show is truly exceptional and captivates the audience in a way that is rare. It requires focus, but the payoff is worth it.” Full review available for viewing.
This remarkable documentary follows the leader of Russia’s opposition with intense vigor, only to eventually reveal the tragic fate that awaits him. Along the way, we witness his collaboration with investigative journalists and his pursuit of those responsible for attempting to take his life.
We discussed the central focus of the film being Navalny’s 2020 brush with death caused by Russia’s well-known nerve agent novichok. During his recuperation in Germany, he teams up with investigative journalist Christo Grozev from Bellingcat, described as a “pleasant Bulgarian geek with a computer,” in a quest to uncover the truth about his poisoning. The events that unfold are extraordinary and could easily be mistaken for a fantastical spy thriller. To read the complete review, please see the full text.
Over the course of three progressively darker seasons, this show about the drug trade has consistently delivered exceptional performances and plot developments. In its final season, it continues to impress as Marty and Wendy Bird strive to escape their criminal lifestyle. With Jason Bateman and Laura Linney at the helm, their portrayal of a deceitful couple is unparalleled on television.
What we said: “Linney’s performance as Wendy is all the more chilling because her face says apple pie, but everything she does curdles into evil. Meanwhile, Bateman’s Marty is a study in how far a pragmatic accountant can go into the depths of wickedness without the strain showing on his face.” Read the full review
This stunning interpretation of Min Jin Lee’s novel is not meant for binge-watching. Each episode is expertly crafted and provides the same satisfaction as a trip to the cinema. Filled with drama spanning different time periods, it follows the resilient and likable Sunja as she escapes from occupied Korea in 1915 after being betrayed by a man she loved. The story also delves into multiple romantic relationships and tackles complex themes of identity, culture, success, and loss. It truly stands out as something extraordinary. And let’s not forget the award-worthy opening title sequence – undoubtedly the best of the year.
Our review: The show is an opulent and expansive political drama, reminiscent of classic historical television shows like Roots, Tenko, and The Forsyte Saga. The score, composed by Nico Muhly, adds a sweeping and emotional element to the series. Read the full review.
Tommy Shelby’s confidence remains unshaken, despite being defeated by a fascist, in the final season of Steven Knight’s Brummie gangster drama. The season started off with a lengthy episode full of fights, funerals, and betrayals. The pace of the season intensified towards the end, as Tommy sought to settle all unfinished business before leaving for Hollywood.
Our protagonist, who resembles Zelig, has a tendency to involve himself in various endeavors. Despite attempting suicide at the end of the fifth series, the unexpected and troublesome character is now back in action. To read the entire review, please refer to the original text.
As the first episode of season two of Natasha Lyonne’s time-traveling drama begins, any doubts about how they would top the satisfying ending of the first season quickly disappear. With a confident strut, clever one-liners, and constant cigarettes, Nadia effortlessly navigates through a century’s worth of drama in just seven episodes, solidifying her as a character with an unmatched charm that cannot be contained in just one season of television. While the plot delves into themes of generational trauma and the inevitability of one’s fate, this season is truly driven by Lyonne’s captivating performance.
The story becomes more intelligent and unusual as it unfolds, with surreal plot twists that ultimately lead to a poignant and unromantic outcome. It fearlessly tackles complex themes of trauma, grief, and destiny. Even if this doesn’t sound entertaining, the story still succeeds in being so. You can find the complete review below.
The idea behind this surreal drama was undeniably brilliant. However, its appeal went beyond just its plot, which revolved around office workers who undergo a process to separate their work and personal lives. Adam Scott’s portrayal of team leader Mark was particularly moving, as his character formed strong bonds with his team and took on the system. With Ben Stiller’s unconventional direction and several tense moments, this show stands out as one of the most unique and impressive of the year.
According to our statement, this work not only presents ideas, but also thoughtfully and cleverly explores important concepts such as self-identity, the concept of free will, the perception of choice, and more. If it didn’t have a humorous side, it could easily lead you into a bottomless pit of existential despair that you could never escape from. To learn more, please read the complete review.
After experiencing a family tragedy, the woman returns to her hometown and takes on a mundane administrative job. This would not typically make for a compelling sitcom, but the show’s heart and warmth turned it into one of the most uplifting TV experiences of the year. From the comical interactions between Sam and her new friend Joel, to Sam’s gradual journey towards finding her place in the community and discovering more about herself, this show was a delight to watch.
Our statement: “Although Somebody Somewhere may seem uneventful, don’t be fooled. This comedy quietly sneaks in and unveils its charms gradually, revealing unexpected beauty.” Read the complete review.
The first season of Rose Matafeo’s romantic comedy concluded with one of the most memorable TV moments of 2021. After months of uncertainty and anticipation, a movie star and cinema worker finally share a loving gaze on a bus. The follow-up season begins right where we left off, and the six new episodes hilariously follow their journey as a couple. While not revolutionary, the show intentionally embraces sweet romantic comedy clichés that we often turn to for comfort. Who wouldn’t want their ex-lover to surprise them with a grand romantic gesture, like jumping out of a pedal boat and crossing a pond to profess their love?
Our review: Starstruck is a rare gem that can be enjoyed in one sitting. In fact, I would even argue that this charming and clever series is enhanced by a binge-watching experience. While each episode is brief, the overall impact is enchanting. Read the full review.
There may have been concerns that a television series set during the chaotic beginnings of a pandemic would hit too close to home. However, Station Eleven proved to be a remarkable and inspiring show that pondered the value of continuing on in life, as the Travelling Symphony theatre troupe provided art to the masses in a post-apocalyptic world. Without a doubt, it was the most poetic show of the year.
What we said: “How deeply strange it is, how deeply unsettling, to be able to compare and contrast a fictional pandemic with the real thing. I read Emily St John Mandel’s bestselling Station Eleven shortly after it came out in 2014, when the tale of a mysterious flu sweeping the globe and laying waste to normal life lay wholly beyond the bounds of reality. Now the television adaptation by Patrick Somerville (known for Maniac and The Leftovers) is here and … resonating.” Read the full review
Following two average seasons, the science fiction drama created by the Duffer Brothers returned with potentially its most impressive episodes yet. The show has taken a darker turn, almost crossing into the horror genre, as its unsettling events unfold in extended and extravagant episodes. Along with introducing Kate Bush to a new audience, the emotional storyline also serves as a tribute to the power of friendship and community in helping individuals overcome trauma, all while maintaining the lovable and humorous elements that have made it a well-loved series.
Our revised version: “Stranger Things has evolved into a larger, more intense storyline, assuming that the young viewers who were captivated by season one are now of age and interested in darker themes. This once charming and suspenseful show, heavily influenced by Steven Spielberg, now incorporates elements of full-fledged horror, drawing inspiration from The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Please see the full review for more details.
Martin Freeman took us on an incredibly stressful and visceral ride as police officer Chris Carson, the Liverpudlian first responder on the brink of a breakdown – even before he gets in too deep with the local drug dealer. What a harrowing performance he put in, and what a masterful script by former night-shift cop Tony Schumacher. Its raw realism shows in every character, from the “bagheads” to those on the beat. Blistering stuff.
Our statement: The Responder is both gripping and intense like a thriller, while also being emotionally taxing like a documentary. It delves into the impact frontline jobs can have on our empathy and moral code… For those seeking a commentary on society, this is a must-read.
Barbara and Alan met each other.
This explosive 70-minute drama follows the story of Barbara Lisicki (played by Ruth Madeley), a real-life disability rights activist, and her partner Alan Holdsworth (played by Arthur Hughes). Through a clever blend of archival footage, the audience sees the true impact of their campaign to pass the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act. The film culminates in a heartwarming scene on a bus, where the actors and their real-life counterparts come together for a celebratory jam session, making it one of the most uplifting moments on screen this year.
“As the need for protest, solidarity, and collective action grows and faces unprecedented challenges, the universal lessons on effective activism remain relevant.” Read the full article.
This is Going to Hurt
The outbreak may have caused a delay in the production of this adaptation of Adam Kay’s memoir about working on a gynaecology ward in the NHS, but it did not lessen the world’s willingness to acknowledge the bleak reality of overworking and lack of funding. Despite its cynical and humorous tone, this drama still packed an emotional punch and became one of the most discussed shows of the year for valid reasons.
We previously stated: “This is how life was like in the NHS during Gordon Brown’s reign and before the current public health crisis, which is the worst in recent memory. It calls for us to reassess and recognize the immense pain that must be felt at this time.” Read the entire review.
Top Boy has evolved significantly since its beginnings on Channel 4, now being revamped on Netflix thanks to the efforts of devoted fan Drake in 2019. Despite still featuring its signature elements of drugs and food, the fourth season sees Dushane (played by Ashley Walters) striving for a legitimate lifestyle with his girlfriend Shelley (Little Simz). However, as a former gangster, he can never fully escape his past. With the recent release of Jamie (Micheal Ward) from prison and Sully (Kano) living on a canal boat, the dynamics constantly shift. Meanwhile, Jaq (Jasmine Jobson) remains outspoken and loyal to her crew. Just when it seems things have settled, a shocking twist throws everything into disarray. Fans eagerly await the next season.
We previously stated: “One of the great aspects of Top Boy is its ability to go in either direction. We witness characters showing tender kindness in one moment and then brutal ruthlessness in the next. None of their actions, whether good or bad, negate the others. Dushane, Sully, Jamie, and Jaq are all ruthless and reprehensible individuals, but you still root for them to succeed.” Check out the full review for more.
This eerie suspense film began with Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and adolescent cannibals, and evolved into something much greater. Was it a supernatural tale of ravenous woodland creatures? A contemporary version of Lord of the Flies? A mystery of vengeance involving drugs, killing, and corrupt politicians willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive? Surprisingly, it encompassed all of these elements, building up to a gripping finale that was one of the year’s most memorable cliffhangers.
Our comparison: “Imagine a blend of The Craft and The Island with Bear Grylls, or Lost – with added humor – mixed with a touch of Big Little Lies, but with a stronger focus on cannibalism rather than materialism.” Check out the complete review.
What are your favorite TV shows that you’ve seen this year? Feel free to share them in the comments section.