2012: a bumper year for homegrown TV

From Birdsong to The Hour, via Hunted and The Fear, British drama has had a great year. It's all down to these essential ingredients. Plus, Limmy's darkest bits

A spoonful of sugar

This was the year a heartwarming drama about slimy, crying heads bursting through cockney women's ha'pennies became a mainstream hit. Call The Midwife delighted many with its hearty mix of saccharine storylines and syphilitic ulcers. If you wanted one, you had to have the other. Meanwhile, Sky Arts wooed and repelled us in equal measure with John Hamm's beautiful face and piles of stinking gangrenous limbs in A Young Doctor's Notebook. An odd trend for a year in which we basically just wanted our TVs to give us a cuddle and tell us everything was going to be OK.

Spies with nice hair

The death of Spooks left a gaping hole on BBC1, which was swiftly filled (and then vacated again) by spy drama Hunted. Melissa George played a sad-eyed lady spy, constantly pursued by unknown assassins and fully capable of snapping a man's spine without displacing her beanie. Over on ITV1, The Bletchley Circle saw four game "gels" using their second world war code-breaking skills to catch a beastly killer because he jolly well oughtn't to go around orfing people like thet. In both shows, bouncing, girlish locks played a big part in the mystery-solving. The demi-wave as espionage tool, because, as Tina Fey once memorably wrote, their hair is full of secrets.

Stiff upper lips

Parade's End, Titanic, Birdsong: you couldn't move for steely British resolve. Benedict Cumberbatch showed no emotion as his cruel wife bonked strangers in front of him. A boatful of esteemed actors maintained a stony countenance as the chilly Atlantic filled their shoes, and their colleagues at Downton Abbey were stoic as they zipped through the great war in a week and a couple of them died of flu.


Dramas about older people have made a late charge in 2012. Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid engaged in crinkly bonking sessions in Last Tango In Halifax on BBC1, while Peter Mullan tried to balance torturing people in warehouses with his descent into dementia as the infirm crime boss in The Fear on Channel 4.

The 20th century in 2012

TV became fully obsessed with the previous century. Merlin aside, gone were the crinolines and powdered wigs. Actually, BBC2's The Hollow Crown was a bit medieval, but apart from that it was all post-1900 tales of men in titled trilbys lighting cigarettes for girls in evening wear. It's Downton Abbey's fault. The Hour, Mrs Biggs, Restless, Birdsong, The Paradise, White Heat: they lined up like MFI sideboards distressed with sandpaper and cold tea.


Dream scheme

The set-up: a father takes his son to see the set of charming children's show Dream Scheme, about a magical housing estate. The reality: the scheme has been left to rot after TV ruined everything. The only remaining occupant is an intoxicated guide (that's Limmy) who takes an outdoor poo in the middle of the tour.

Dee Dee

A layabout stoner with nothing in his life bar the voices in his head, Dee Dee has encounters with a cardboard box and a bin bag full of abandoned clothes.

The angel

A man in a white suit turns up in a park, promising to grant strangers their deepest wish: the ability to escape it all. Just jump in my arms and we'll fly away, he insists. Eventually they agree. They don't go anywhere. The man apologises and walks off. The end.

The teenager

With a haircut like the third Klaxon, a teen wails about his pathetic life. It's a list of self-absorbed rubbish, that ends with "Everything's shit!". Limmy appears. "Now he gets it", he says.

The lampshade heads

Limmy is sitting in his living room looking at a lampshade: "I wannae put that on mah heid." By the end of the episode, he's left his wife to form a subterranean nest of lampshade heads, silently slumped at the bottom of the stairs.


Paul MacInnes, Julia Raeside

The GuardianTramp

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