Favourites of 2016

So 2016 has finally come to a close, and I'm going to be a whinger like the rest of the world and say I'm glad to see the back of it. But it's not been all bad, and at least there's been some good TV. Below is my year in Television, film and books - not always new things, sometimes just new discoveries.

Favourite new discoveries:

Black Mirror

My cousin has been telling me how good this is for ages, but somehow I only got round to watching it recently. There are three seasons so far (I've watched the first two Channel 4 series' and the first episode of the new Netflix season) but you can mix up the order because they're all stand-alones with totally different characters and worlds. Each story is set in a different, dystopian near-future, where people are causing problems, usually by misusing slightly scary everyday technology. My favourites so far are the episode where everyone wears play-back contacts in their eyes (which is clearly not good for your mental health when you suspect someone of cheating on you, as happens in the episode) and the one where ordinary people are living a slave like existence and their only way out is through reality TV. It's all very dark, and depressing and not my thing. But it's so good. Created by Charlie Brooker, some of the episodes are co-written with his wife Konnie Huq - who was one of my Blue Peter presenters. Who knew she had such a twisted mind!

Happy Valley

Usually you only have to say 'police drama' to me and my brain switches off. Action and detectives, grim, gritty reality, all are a no-go with me. But screenwriter Sally Wainwright is a bit of a genius really so I had to watch this much recommended series. It's really great, edge of your seat stuff and probably the best thing I watched this year. It's the story of sergeant Catherine Cartwright, an ordinary policewoman who becomes involved when a local girl is abducted by the man who raped and murdered her own teenage daughter. It sounds grim, and it is, but the characters are real and likeable and there's a lot of everyday humour in there, as well as a gripping plot and fantastic acting throughout. Plus I love the theme song. Definitely worth a watch.

(I also really enjoyed To Walk Invisible, a one-off biopic of the Brontes, which was also written by Sally Wainwright and shown on BBC this week - it's still probably on iplayer.)

Favourite thing I watched this year:
Game of Thrones, Series 6

Season 5 was a bit rubbish in comparison to the rest, but this year really stepped things up a notch. That battle in episode 9 - seriously edge of my seat the whole way through. People were actually leaving the room because of all the tension. This not-actually-knowing whether your favourite characters are going to live or die stuff is great. TV should try it more often.

Favourite new discovery:
The Commitments

This Dublin-set comedy from the early nineties follows a group of kids in their early twenties as they create a band to sing 'Dublin soul'. The more I watch this the more I love it. The story is nothing stand-out I guess, but I love the music and the humour.

Best thing I watched at the cinema:
Bridget Jones' Baby

Probably because I wasn't expecting it to be good, but it really made me laugh out loud. It captured something of the original films but brought the character out of the nineties without trying to hard to be down-with-the-kids. There were plot holes (her and Mark wouldn't have broken up. They just wouldn't) and Daniel was missed, but it was a fitting end to the series.

Oh, and Fantastic Beasts was good too!

Favourite new discoveries:

An old classic that I knew very little about, but really enjoyed. I loved the main character and the love interest, the setting was interesting and it was just a good story. I think having no idea what was going to happen next, and not being able to guess either, was a big part of the enjoyment. There was some uncomfortable racist language, but it was written in the fifties so I just had to deal with that. I still haven't watched the film (which won an Oscar) so I guess I should get on that.

When I was younger I read and enjoyed Hilary McKay's Casson Family series (Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star, Permanent Rose, Caddy Ever After and Forever Rose) and Caddy - the dizzy, animal-loving oldest sister - was my favourite of the family. I was kind of annoyed that 'her' book was mostly from Rose's point of view (she's clearly the author's favourite child) so it was nice to discover a new prequel, about Caddy, around the time of Rose's birth. I laughed and cried, if that's not too cheesy to admit, and I'm going to have to go back and re-read the others now.

Favourite re-read:

This was probably the biggest surprise of my Harry Potter re-read. I hadn't read it in a while, and I was startled by how much it made me laugh. Out-loud too. It's not my favourite, but it's got to be up there.

Best thing I read this year:

A big, fat, historical novel, chronicling the life of Richard the third, this was engrossing, exciting and sad. It was easy to read too, despite it's size, and I rushed through it. I liked the characters, and it was very game-of-thrones like in it's intrigue. I would bet that George R.R Martin has read this book.


(I've literally been to the theatre three times, but that's enough to make a list out of, so I'm going to!)

Best musical I saw this year:

Guys and Dolls

I only saw the touring production but it was fab. Richard Fleeshman was a great Sky, and it's such a feel-good show. (See my review: here)

Best adaptation:
Pride and Prejudice, the play

This was a bit random, but a lot of fun. And Matthew Kelly made a great Mr. Bennet. (See my review: here)
Most exciting thing:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!

Great acting, amazing effects, fantastic atmosphere. But yeah, terrible story. (See my review: here)

 What were your highlights of 2016?


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