"...and money became useless?" So asks Lister of 2009 in Part Two of Red Dwarf's Back To Earth. As 2009 is the year I started this blog it was also the first year that I began thinking about a review-of-the-year style post and so belatedly (and more completely) here it is just thirteen months later.
I was quite busy in 2009, I was on stage with In The Frame and Hearts In The Gutter, understudied on Deceptions, found my way onto Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, filmed Slash and a Center Parcs training film (which I still haven't seen) and proofread Afterbirth.
These are a few of my favourite things from 2009:
Sam Rockwell is fantastic as lunar loner Sam Bell. I don't want to say anymore in case I spoil the twists and turns of the story. If you haven't seen it, do. Here's the trailer.
In The Loop
Peter Capaldi stars as The Thick Of It's Malcolm Tucker as he wrangles a possibly "not unforeseeable" war and risks being outspun by the apparently murkier world of US politics. Worth the price of entry for the scene between James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy in the child's bedroom alone. Here's the trailer.
A Star Trek film with the structure of a Star Wars film. Leonard Nimoy's swansong manages to be the best of both worlds as a continuation and also a reboot that gives the audience two Spocks to grok. Here's the trailer.
Fantastic Mr Fox
Wes Anderson's stock motion take on Roald Dahl's book is cussing brilliant. Where else can you hear Michael Gambon belittling Jarvis Cocker? Here's the trailer.
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus
Obviously the circumstances surrounding the making of this film and Heath Ledger's death will always colour anything written about it. People seem to overlook Andrew Garfield's fantastic performance and that Johnny Depp's turn as Ledger's character is so good that those of Jude Law and Colin Farrell simply leave you wanting more Depp. Here's the trailer.
Larry David is great as Woody Allen's misanthropic genius, who never played for the Yankees, whose heart is softened by a chance encounter with a simpleton. Melodie's stupidity is wondrous and Evan Rachel Wood's delivery is beautiful. Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr are both wonderful as Melodie's parents. Here's the trailer.
The first twenty minutes or so are beautiful. Here's the trailer.
The Men Who Stare At Goats
This adaptation of Jon Ronson's book squeezes several disparate concepts into a narrative structure with great success. It begins with the caption: "More of this is true than you would believe" and mines its comedy comes from the lunacy within. George Clooney and Jeff Bridges are very funny indeed. Here's the trailer.
Eve Myles is wonderful in this one-off drama set in a small Welsh community with a spectacular art collection, great painters are mistaken for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and vice versa) and a couple of eccentric elderly sisters who go driving, one behind the wheel without a license and her fully qualified, but blind, passenger to make it legal.
Dollhouse: Man On The Street; Echoes; Needs; A Spy In The House Of Love; Briar Rose; Omega; Epitaph One; Belle Chose; Belonging; The Public Eye; The Left Hand; Meet Jane Doe; A Love Supreme; Stop-Loss; The Attic
Joss Whedon's series about body-swapping programmable people initially falters but the run beginning with Man On The Street through to the end of Season One is fantastic and really pushes the boundaries of the format. Eliza Dushku, Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokaj, Olivia Williams, Miracle Laurie, Amy Acker & Alan Tudyk are all fantastic. Epitaph One shows us a future of Dollhouses unchecked, it's a tantalising glimpse at where the programme's 'present' could have headed and if it were a backdoor pilot for a spinoff, definitely a show I would have wanted to see. The second season didn't quite hit the ground running but from Belle Chose onwards it is compelling viewing again.
The US Medical drama that makes Casualty seem as hard hitting as Postman Pat broadcast its last episodes, many featuring familiar faces from the show's past.
Red Dwarf: Back To Earth
The long-awaited return of Red Dwarf was initially bittersweet as aside from a couple of good gags, Part One didn't quite live up to the memory. Parts Two and Three however are as good as Red Dwarf at its best.
Torchwood: Children Of Earth
It took a five day Doctorless apocalypse to force Torchwood to really grow up. Great performances from Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Kai Owen, Peter Capaldi, Susan Brown, Cush Jumbo, Paul Copley, Katie Wix, Tom Price and Lucy Cohu.
This dark comedy suspense thriller unravels slowly and its disparate strands re-entwine over seven episodes. Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Dawn French are all wonderful, and it was an absolute joy to see the former two reunited with Mark Gatiss.
Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder
Tin foil hats to the rescue as the Planet Express crew take a journey from Mars Vegas to Man's near extinction via Mind-reading and Malevolent slugs in what was potentially the last ever episode of Futurama, until it wasn't.
The Thick Of It
The return of master manipulator Malcolm Tucker (see above) as he oversees a cabinet reshuffle that casts the magnificent Rebecca Front as the minister in charge of DoSAC, and sees her ruffle the feathers of Hugh's team. Meanwhile the opposition begins to prepare for preparing for government. I look forward seeing how Armando Iannucci will adapt to the ConDem coalition situation.
Digs this year included Scargill's Castle, an insight into the seat of Arthur's ancestors; a Norman keep at Radcot that no one knew existed and a chapel claiming to be the site of Jesus Christ's childhood playground on Looe Island off the coast of Cornwall.
The second season twists and turns and wrongfoots the audience expertly as Gene Hunt and Alex Drake take on corruption within the police force, another time travelling coma victim and it ends with a brilliant cliffhanger.
QI's dedication to the letters F and G leads them to being quite interesting about France, Fingers & Fumbs, The Future, Ganimals, Geography and Groovy.
The Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner Of The Judooon; The Mad Old Woman In The Attic; The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith; Mona Lisa's Revenge; The Gift
Sarah Jane Smith's Doctor Who spinoff returns for a third series and Prisoner Of The Judooon is a very enjoyable romp as Elisabeth Sladen takes on the chance to play a possessed Sarah with aplomb, the Judoon are well used, Androvax's make up is stunning, the Nanoforms are very impressive, Ace Bhatti and Mina Anwar are very funny in the Chandra's comedy subplot. Anjli Mohindra is wonderful in The Mad Old Woman In The Attic, a deceptively simple story which makes a virtue of a deus ex machina ending with K-9 by immediately replacing it with another slice of jeopardy. You are cordially invited to attend The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith and Nigel Havers is great as her intended, in another brilliant Trickster story with a fantastic appearance by David Tennant as the Doctor. Mona Lisa's Revenge is a raucous runaround and a lot of fun. The Slitheen have become the show's monsters of choice and they make an interesting return in The Gift which plays with audience expectation of the Raxacoricofallapatorians before revealing that the Blathereen-Slitheen are not so different to their skin-suited cousins and once foiled they suffer a particularly horrific death.
Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars, Dreamland; The End Of Time 1
David Tennant's time as the Doctor nears its conclusion with these episodes. The Waters Of Mars sees human colonists on the red planet struggling against an insidious alien force in their water. The consequences of what happens when the Doctor can't change history, but does anyway. Steffi's death is the most horrific in 46 years of Doctor Who and yet also the least graphic or violent. Dreamland is a nice little story hampered by the computer game style-animation. Featuring some wonderful scenes between Tennant and Bernard Cribbins, the first part of The End Of Time builds beautifully to what is perhaps the show's best ever cliffhanger.
A Child's Christmases In Wales
How a family celebrates three Christmases. Ruth Jones and Mark Lewis Jones star in a great one-off comedy drama, that'll probably be buried somewhere in the schedule every Christmas.
Adam & Joe
I only got into the routine of listening to this show regularly as it was about to take an extended break. Featuring Test The Nation (the nation's favourite feature), the kill/save Boggins debate and so many in-jokes that they might actually qualify as a new dialect of the English language. Loyal listening is definitely rewarded.
Torchwood: Asylum, The Golden Age, The Dead Line
Bridging the gap between seasons are these three episodes are Season Two style 'procedurals' featuring the team about to undergo the tumultuous events of Children Of Earth (see above). Cardiff's finest take on: a girl out of her own time, a timeless Torchwood India and a coma inducing cold caller.
Doctor Who: Sisters Of The Flame & Vengeance Of Morbius
Splitting up the TARDIS crew is a staple of Doctor Who, but this story really tests the mettle of Sheridan Smith's Lucie Miller, separated from the Doctor in an unfriendly future during the return of an ancient evil. Featuring great performances from Alexander Siddig and Sam West.
Jarvis Cocker: Further Complications
Rockier than its predecessor. The lyrics are sparser than usual but they are as fantastic as ever. 'Pilchard' was a surprise, but a surprisingly rewarding one.
Stand out tracks: 'Further Complications', 'Angela', 'Homewrecker', 'I Never Said I Was Deep', 'You're In My Eyes (Discosong)'
Cornershop: Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast
Another great dose of Indian-influenced funk with long song titles from Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres.
Stand out tracks: 'Who Fingered Rock 'N' Roll', 'Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast', 'The Roll Off Characteristics (Of History In The Making)'
Where's Wally? The Incredible Paper Chase by Martin Handford
This collection of Wally watching scenes are largely drawn from the out of print The Ultimate Fun Book and features a game with press out cards and counters, and in an impressive intuitive leap an envelope to keep them all in.
Doctor Who: The Age Of Ice; The Deep Hereafter; Onomatopoeia; Ghosts Of the Northern Line
Try as they might the Tenth Doctor and Majenta just can't get to Panacea. In what feels like the middle of a Russell T. Davies-style season, The Age Of Ice is an action-packed big bombastic UNIT story of an alien invasion of Sydney. A visit to New Old Detroit sees them attempt to crack the case of a dead noirish private detective (and fish) complete with voiceover in The Deep Hereafter. At first glance Onomatopoeia is as silent as the grave, but without dialogue the sound effects come to the fore and this strip is a chorus of zzzks, shreeeeeeeeeeeeks and a thokk. After this pair of one-shot stories, Ghosts Of The Northern Line is a sinister tale which leads into the 'season finale' and adds pathos to Madge's eventual fate.
Jump Leads: Who Wants To Rule The World?; The Travellers; Rogues And Scallywags
Llew and Meaney's journey through parallel universes takes them to many different worlds: one conquered by a man who doesn't know what to do with it, one empty except for another pair of travellers and a world stuck in the middle ages. Jjar's art is flawless throughout.
Tales Of Monkey Island; The Secret Of Monkey Island - Special Edition
You wait nine years for a Monkey Island game and then two turn up at once. Tales Of Monkey Island is a wonderful continuation of the antics of Guybrush Threepwood and as funny as ever as he attempts to find La Esponja Grande to cure the Pox of LeChuck in his hand (and coincidently the entire pirate population of the Gulf of Melange).
As with its sequel, I haven't played the Special Edition of The Secret Of Monkey Island, but once again the original is included here and therefore I can confidently recommend it. I'm looking forward to playing the remastered version with its new fangled recorded dialogue and flashy graphics.
Run. Run as far as you can in this brilliantly simple game.
Robert Llewellyn's in-transit talk show saw him interviewing the likes of: Ed Bye, Jonathan Ross, Danny John-Jules, Arthur Smith, Ruby Wax, Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, David Mitchell, Lisa Rogers, Stephen Fry, Tony Hawks, Dave Gorman, Cathy Rogers, Brian Cox, Paul Jackson, Duncan Jones, Graham Linehan and Richard Herring.
Out Of The Thick Of It: Episode 1; Episode 2; Episode 3; Episode 4
The first four episodes expand on the story of the corresponding televised episodes (see above), favouring Terri and Robyn, played by Joanna Scanlan and Polly Kemp respectively.
Tanya Jones scans her way through the pages of the woman's magazines of yesteryear. She has a knack for choosing ads that highlight changing times and more often than not, modern paranoia.
A series of websites designed to accompany the broadcast of Psychoville (above): Biggins Panto At The Gold King Theatre, Robert Greenspan, Lomax Commodities, Jelly Parties, Jolly Parties, Murder And Chips, Best Murders, Joy's Advice To Young Mums Website and Inside Ravenhill. All are really well put together with great references and mistakes in all the right places.