måndag 22 december 2014

2014 – TV and book highlights

No, December is not a great blogging month, but when all else fails, you can usually rustle up an end-of year list of some sort. My wishes for the new year are more or less the same as in 2012, with the exception of the vain wish that Dan Stevens would stay put in Downton – that ship has sailed long ago. What then, in blog-related areas, has happened during the last year?

Author discovery of the year: Sally Beauman. Yes, this is middlebrow romance we’re talking about, but middlebrow romance with quality. After quite liking Rebecca’s Tale (though it was, as one would expect, too pro-Rebecca) I decided to give Destiny a go and was hooked. Since then I’ve worked my way through Beauman’s back catalogue, and am now looking forward to investing in her newest novel The Visitors, once it’s out in paperback. Let’s hope it has more in common with Destiny and Dark Angel than the over-gloomy Landscape of Love – and I would be grateful if no fictional children were harmed during the making of it.

Villain of the year:There’s still a dearth of new villains on the book front, but TV dramas seem finally to have twigged the importance of villains. Both Mr Selfridge and The Paradise topped up their cast list with new villains, and then there’s Morse’s hot envious colleague in Endeavour (hm – wonder where they got that idea from). But my prize goes to a villain from 2011 whom I haven’t caught up with until now – the delectable, devious politician Troels Höxenhaven in Borgen. Mr Lang – sorry Thackeray – in Mr Selfridge gets an honourable mention. This doesn’t mean I’m over Thomas, though.

Villainess of the year:No contest – it has to be Missy in Doctor Who. The series was in great form this year - more, please!

Costume drama of the year, not counting Downton:I have to take Downton out of the running, or it would win every year until it ends (my guess is series six will be the last, but I’m happy to be proved wrong as long as the characters are not stuck in a Bramwell-like limbo). Adaptations of classics seem to have gone quite out of fashion, regrettably. I’ve begun rewatching Little Dorrit recently, and was once again struck down with melancholy over the axing – many years ago – of the planned Andrew Davies adaptation of Dombey and Son. Nevertheless, the current trend of scripted-for TV costume dramas has its advantages. For one thing, they have a longer life-span, and you don’t know what will happen next. The Paradise has run its course, which is a shame considering what an improvement the second series was on the first, but Mr Selfridge will be with us again next year. And in spite of the trying Selfridge himself and the cool shop-girl Agnes who lacks Denise’s charm, Mr Selfridge continues to trounce The Paradise.

High-brow read of the year: Well, strictly speaking there may be only one high-brow read to choose from. I really must buckle down to some more Ambitious Book Projects next year. Anyway, The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst was a good read. It’s strange to think that largely thanks to a whole crop of not-really-into-chicks baddies, I not only cheerfully wade through guy-on-guy scenes which would have me reaching for my smelling salts ten years ago but positively ask for them – “come on, surely it’s time to give him one?” I’m telling you, villains build bridges.

Totally trashy beach read which you would never admit having read to your friends of the year: I had a surprisingly good time reading a 50-pence copy of Judith Krantz’s Lovers, and I suspect that it’s not her best novel by a long chalk. The characters don’t stay with you, but some of them talk a great deal of common sense. Krantz knows how to spin a yarn, and she’s no fool.

Apology of the year: OK, sorry about having sneered at Zola’s part in the Dreyfus case. He was right, and he was not simply in it to brandish his anti-establishment credentials. Read all about it in An Officer And A Spy by Robert Harris. This doesn’t mean I like Zola – on the whole, the pro-Dreyfusians including Harris’s hero Picquart could have been a more likeable lot. But they were indisputably fighting the good fight.

Comebacks of the year: Jeeves and Wooster made a successful and welcome return in Sebastian Faulks's homage to P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. And then there's Bridget Jones's last hurrah, Mad About The Boy. Forget the sneering reviews: if you enjoyed thirtysomething Bridget's diaries, chances are you'll snigger over and sympathise with her fiftysomething self as well.