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Five great shows we loved from 2017

PUBLISHED: 00:57 14 December 2017

Suranne Jones as Gemma Foster: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Suranne Jones as Gemma Foster: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

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From handmaids to Tom Hardy’s grunting, maverick cops to Doctor Foster’s revenge, it was a big year for the small screen says our TV Editor

Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman in Broadchurch (C) ITV Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman in Broadchurch (C) ITV

Five great shows from 2017

Taboo, BBC1: He arrived in London like the apocalypse and wearing a hat like a bin I once bought for 99p from IKEA. No one can brood like Tom Hardy. Rooster-less chickens making lifelong and futile attempts to hatch unfertilised eggs could learn a thing or two from Tom. The dictionary definition of the word has been changed from ‘showing deep unhappiness of thought’ and ‘appearing darkly menacing’ to ‘Tom Hardy’s default acting mode’. Cameras roll, Hardy broods, all is well with the world – he is the thinking man’s psychopath. Taboo may be named after the perfume your Mum wore and the drink you nicked out of her cocktail cabinet but there was nothing fragrant about this 19th-century costume drama from the BBC. Taboo managed to be completely ridiculous while simultaneously being utterly mesmerising – the cast was incredible, the staging wonderful, the production values sky high and the plot intriguing.

Offred (Elisabeth Moss) remembers the unconventional beginnings of her relationship with her husband in The Handmaid's Tale (c) Hulu Offred (Elisabeth Moss) remembers the unconventional beginnings of her relationship with her husband in The Handmaid's Tale (c) Hulu

Doctor Foster, BBC1: Ludicrous sex scenes, outrageous scheming, operatic scale revenge plans and a suicide buffet in a motel – for every moment that Doctor Foster was utterly ridiculous it was equally compelling. Bertie Carvel as Simon Foster was fabulous, Suranne Jones as Gemma was astonishing as the thinking man’s harpy and Tom Taylor was compelling as the couple’s weary son (also called Tom). There were times when you had to avoid stumbling into plotholes, but the characters in this drama made it unmissable. Which is not to say that there’s enough here for a series three. Although I felt that about series two, so what do I know?

The Handmaid’s Tale, Channel 4: There are some books that are once read, never forgotten and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is one: it is a stunning piece of literature, and one that even English Literature A level studies couldn’t bludgeon to death. This was a brilliant adaptation which did Atwood’s masterpiece of feminist future-fiction (she hates being lumped into the science fiction bracket) justice: which isn’t to say it was an easy watch – there was a haunting echo when comparing Gilead’s “traditional values” and the United States’ current political administration, a disturbing feeling of new-found plausibility. Elisabeth Moss in the lead role as Offred was incredible: she is absolute TV gold.

Line of Duty, BBC1: Thandie Newton was this season’s big name and viewers were primed for her to appear for a matter of minutes before she met an untimely end (writer and director Jed Mercurio has a habit of killing his stars – Gina McKee was put on ice, Jessica Raine took a dive and Daniel Mays got it in the neck). Suffice it to say, I don’t think anyone could have predicted what Mercurio had in store for Thandie: it was quite the rollercoaster ride. There were twists, there were turns, there were twisty turns, there were corrupt cops, Balaclava man, AC-12 and a jaw-dropping moment involving a buzz saw. Edge of the seat stuff.

Broadchurch, ITV: The Stone Roses, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, Terence Trent Darby, Guns n Roses: they’re all giants that have fallen victim to difficult second album syndrome and Broadchurch was their televisual equivalent, a strong opening series giving way to a fairly dull court-based second series which suggested the concept had run out of steam. Two years later, writer Chris Chibnall delivered something far more gripping. A masterclass from a trio of fine actors (David Tennant, Olivia Colman and Julie Hesmondhalgh), the story of a rape in a small Dorset coastal town was gripping and a fitting goodbye for Broadchurch. It left only one question unanswered: why on earth is anyone still living in a village where practically everyone is either a wrong-un, a potential wrong-un or a wrong-un married to the local detective sergeant and murdering children under her nose?

Other notable shows: Broken, BBC1, a superb performance by Sean Bean, Little Boy Blue, ITV, 11-year-old Rhys Jones’ tragic story, Three Girls, BBC1, about the Rochdale grooming scandal, Versailles, BBC2, more fun in the sun king’s palace, Peaky Blinders, BBC1, razor-sharp drama from Birmingham, Stranger Things 2, Netfix, back to the Upside Down and the 1980s, The Sinner, Netflix, an amnesia murder on the beach – sounds like a cocktail, isn’t.

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