Wolf Hall, Great British Bake Off and Humans: some of the best TV shows of the year
Michael Hogan, Ben Lawrence and Gerard O’Donovan
10:14AM GMT 23 Dec 2015
10. Poldark (BBC One)
Aidan Turner in Poldark Photo: BBC/PA
Swooningly romantic, breathtakingly scenic and unashamedly populist, this drama based on Winston Graham’s swashbuckling novels eclipsed even its huge-hit Seventies forebear in terms of headlines generated. Irish actor Aidan Turner, as wild Cornish mine owner Ross Poldark, set the nation’s hearts pounding and tongues wagging, especially when he bared his chest to scythe a meadow. But you shouldn’t overlook Eleanor Tomlinson’s magnificently full-blooded Demelza, the object of Ross’s affections.
A valuable find: Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook in BBC Four?s Detectorists Photo: BBC
One of the loveliest comedies about masculinity ever to grace the small screen, Mackenzie Crook’s sedately paced Suffolk sitcom about metal-detecting duo Andy (Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones) struck gold again in its second series. The perils of dogging in a lord mayor’s chain, the villainy of nighthawking and the ineffable mysteries of love were among many themes gently probed to exquisite comic effect.
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney return for a second series of the critically acclaimed Catastrophe
Through a quirk of scheduling, we got two series of this ribald romantic sitcom in 2015, neatly book-ending the year. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan had huge chemistry as the Transatlantic couple thrown together by her pregnancy. Rude one-liners and loud snorting laughs were scattered throughout its tightly packed 30 minute episodes, but crucially it had a lot of heart, too.
Chanel Cresswell as Kelly, Andrew Ellis as Gadget and Thomas Turgoose as Shaun in This Is England 90 Photo: Channel 4
After a four-year hiatus, Shane Meadows concluded his masterly, semi-autobiographical trilogy, and it didn’t disappoint. Sean (Thomas Turgoose) and his friends were a bit older, a bit more damaged by life’s setbacks but still capable of a hedonistic whoosh of joie de vivre. The scene in which Lol (Vicky McClure) listed her evil father’s various horrific sins over dinner was the most gut-wrenchingly powerful of the year, filmed in one take.
Robo-nanny: Gemma Chan as the synth Anita, Humans, Channel 4
A co-production with American network AMC, this soulful sci-fi story was Channel 4’s biggest drama hit since The Camomile Lawn in 1992. A breed of domestic robo-servants, the glowing green-eyed “synths”, were widely used – until some developed emotions and became fully sentient. What followed was a classy crime thriller-cum-domestic drama. Gemma Chan’s brilliant non-performance as the eerie synth Anita was the one to beat this year.
A Year of Domestic Violence: the murdered women who featured in Vanessa Engle's film
Airing very late in the year, this was a brilliant, necessary addition to documentary maker Vanessa Engle’s already considerable body of work. In it, she paid tribute to each of the 86 women who were murdered by their domestic partner or ex-partner in 2013. Engle was invisible – instead she let the family and friends of the murdered women speak eloquently and movingly about their grief.
The Great British Bake Off's contestant Nadiya Photo: Mark Bourdillon/BBC
Everyone expected the cake-baking contest to start sagging in the middle, but its popularity continued to rise and it was still the year’s most-watched show. No “Binned Alaska” scandals this series, but there were memorable creations such as the bread lion and fizzy pop cheesecake. Plus, in Nadiya Hussain, there was the show’s most popular (and most deserving) winner.
The big-boned Boltonian’s sitcom comeback was a modest pitch – following two supermarket workers on their daily commute – but delivered big on both laughs and a will-they-or-won’t-they romance. They bantered, they bickered, they sang along to the local radio station. Not since Rob Brydon’s Marion and Geoff has such a simple setting been used to brilliant comic (and sometimes very poignant) effect. An irresistible gem.
Subtly scripted, sumptuously produced and graced with a mesmerising powerhouse performance from Mark Rylance as Henry VIII’s fixer Thomas Cromwell, this magnificent production from Peter Kosminsky more than did justice to Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels. With its candle-light and hand-held cameras, it might also prove a game-changer for period drama. Never before has a period felt so richly evoked, both psychologically and cinematically.
Detective Sergeant Carol Barlow and Detective Constable Rod Carter of the Serious Sexual Offences Unit of Greater Manchester Police featured in the BBC documentary series The Detectives Photo: BBC
Stylistically brilliant, nail-bitingly intense three-parter following the work of Greater Manchester Police’s sexual offences unit. At its core was an investigation into historic sex crimes by radio DJ Ray Teret. From the stomach-churning first statement of a victim recalling the trauma of childhood rape to the painstaking process of unearthing material evidence of crimes committed decades earlier, the work of real-life detectives has rarely been more vividly tracked.