Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy New Year...

It's getting towards the New Year so I'm already planning 2015 and reflecting on 2014.

Should anyone care, here are my highlights of the past 12 months:

TV: Emmerdale remains the best-written thing on UK TV. Yes. Emmerdale. That soap that used to be about farming. Set in Yorkshire. And, once upon a time, was only shown on Tuesday and Thursday dinner-times in the YTV area. But it is consistently brilliant. To retain that level of quality for six episodes every week over 52 weeks every year is an astonishing feat. Coronation Street is the second-best-written thing on British TV. It manages to maintain its quality, humour and drama for five 30-minute episodes over 52 weeks every year. It's an astonishing achievement to do that. Other good stuff I've seen this year has included series one and series two of Nordic Noir thriller The Bridge, and series one and two of The Vikings. There hasn't been an awful lot else to write home about. That, however, may change when I catch up with series two of Brit thriller The Fall. EastEnders wins the award for most consistently awful TV show of the year: bad scripts, poor plotting, terrible character development... It's a year to forget in Walford. Doctor Who also needs a kick up the arse. But, like Enders, that's also been on the slide for a few years now.

FILM: X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy were bit hits at From Beer to Paternity Towers. Yes, the X-men movie wasn't as good as the original comic story it was loosely based on, but it sort of hung together, while Guardians of the Galaxy was just an utter blast from start to finish. I'm majorly excited about the new Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, which is out next year, too.

RADIO & PODCASTS: Fighting Talk, the Radio 5 Live sports comedy quiz, remains a must-listen, while the Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Comedy Podcast has been a source of utter joy this year. I will be paying to money to Richard Herring for this. It's wonderful. I'm amazed it's still free. Other shows I've enjoyed dipping into have included Private Passions, a sort of high-brow Desert Island Discs, on Radio 3, and I'm loving waking up to Breakfast on Radio 3 in a morning since buying a digital alarm clock radio. I don't know enough about classical music and this is a good way to learn more without making a massive effort. The Grapplearts podcasts have also been a good and interesting source of BJJ information this year.

MUSIC: The Kate Bush gig at Hammersmith was a thing of utter beauty and joy and was quite possibly my cultural highlight of the year. The Gaslight Anthem gig at Alexandra Palace and Arcade Fire at Olympia were also fabulous. Seeing The Buzzcocks at Guildfest was also very good. CDs I loved this year include Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem

THEATRE: The one thing that absolutely knocked me on my arse this year was Ballyturk by Enda Walsh at the National. Intriguing, bizarre, funny and moving. And I still haven't quite figured out exactly what it was that I saw either. The other thing that I found really moving was John & Jen. This musical two-hander was put on by a theatre company I'm involved in, but it was was really engaging and captivating and took me totally by surprise.

COMEDY: Stewart Lee was as excellent as ever. The comedy highlight of the year, though, was Sara Pascoe. Intelligent and funny. I just wish I'd seen the entire show.

BOOK & COMICS: American Vampire and Batman, both by Scott Snyder, have been brilliant this year. I've also been won over by the Warren Ellis run on Moonknight. The relaunch of Electra also looks promising. The book that's really stayed with me this year has been Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, a sort of pop science, history and sociology book about social trends as epidemics. It's an interesting read. I'll be dipping into more of his stuff.

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS: Visiting New York at the start of the year, visiting Cornwall at the end of the year, competing in my first grappling tournaments at the age of 45, having a successful readthrough of my most recent play, retaining my health and my sanity in an ever-more-demanding workplace. It's been OK as a year. 

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