Top 11 Most Overrated TV Shows

Do you ever get the feeling that certain television shows are receiving way too much credit and aren’t even that good and/or they’re so widely like, but you don’t like them as much? Well I certainly do and these are what I consider the most overrated TV shows in TV history.

For this list, I’m excluding non-fiction shows (i.e. X-Factor and Big Brother) for I have another list for them ones. However, this list does not regard the genres or what the target audience is. Also let me make clear that I don’t hate all of these shows. Just some of them. I’m judging them on how much credit they receive and that I don’t understand why. Here is my personal To 11 Most Overrated TV Shows. Why Top 11? Because I’m going one step beyond.

Number 11;…

The Walking Dead (2010 – Present)

I put this one low on the list, because I only watched the pilot episode and boy, it didn’t do much for me. The Walking Dead is just your typical zombie horror programme. I’m not a huge fan of zombie horror, not that I’m too frightened to watch them. I did enjoy Shaun Of The Dead and 28 Days Later, but that’s the thing. They were at least unique! Most other zombie films/shows, much like romantic comedies and teen dramas, don’t differ much to each other and this is why I don’t get how Walking Dead became to be hugely popular, even with reviewers. Maybe I’m over analysing or that I just need to watch more eps, but I remember being bored by that one viewing and thinking; “ooh zombies, big bloody deal!”.

Number 10;…

Doctor Who (1963 – 1989, 2005 – Present)

Doctor Who has remained popular ever since its first broadcast back in 1963. Following its cancellation in 1989, the BBC just had to revive it in 2005; their excuse being that they wanted to rival ITV each Saturday night. To be fair, I’d take Doctor Who any day over the X-Factor (keeping in mind that I’m excluding reality shows from this list). I’m well aware how much of a cash cow Doctor Who is according to the Boston Matrix, but it has been going downhill for some time. Today’s episodes, mostly forgettable. Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant was both fine, but Matt Smith wasn’t that interesting.

I wish the BBC would repeat at least some of its older episodes. The original series had finished a year before I was born and so I wasn’t able to catch up with any of it. I’m sure they’ll be better than I thought, but until I get a hold of them, I can’t rate this show above, say, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files or most of Gerry Anderson’s shows.

Next one please.

Number 9;…

The Inbetweeners (2008 – 2010)

During my three years between when I finished my A-Levels and before I attended university, The Inbetweeners seemed to have a huge impact on many people my age. I remember at one point when some of my media college mates filmed a female version of the show and basically replaced the male characters with female counterparts.

When I caught up with it on Channel 4, or some TV channel networked with the company, I felt kinda bored through it. The Inbetweeners is a sitcom, but I didn’t get any of the humour. I couldn’t even laugh. Because I went to such a lovely school, I hoped for a nostalgic phase and to reminisce happily about the good old times. But all I got was stuff about boys discussing “pulling girls” and stuff. Yawn! This has so been done to death.

This is why I didn’t bother going to see the movies when they came out, even though so many people threw their money away on the tickets.

Number 8;…

SpongeBob SquarePants (1999 – Present)

I did say I wasn’t excluding kids shows and here’s one for you, SpongeBob SquarePants. One of the most obnoxious and irritating cartoons to have ever existed. There’s one more cartoon on this list, so I’ll call this the most overrated Nicktoon.

I’d talked quite a lot about this SpongeBob when I wrote one of my previous blogs (Worst-to-Best Nicktoons), so I’ll try to keep this short, though I shall give a few reminders. I give SpongeBob credit for its underwater setting, which I’ve never seen before, except on the Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Shark Tale, some to name, one exception being that it’s more about primitive sea creatures. SpongeBob is a sponge, duh(!), Patrick’s a starfish, etc.

Now here’s what I find overrated about SpongeBob. Firstly, the title character. Oh my god, he irritates me; his voice, the way he acts, he’s like almost on the same category as them minions from Despicable Me. Every time I look at him, I want to turn off the TV. Also, I don’t like how most of the episodes are written. They’re so unfunny and are just too in-your-face. I don’t get why WatchMojo.com placed this show on the very top of the list of Top 10 Nicktoons, and above Ren & Stimpy, Rugrats and especially Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, the latter which they didn’t even mention. Those were fantastic Nicktoons compared to SpongeBob.

I don’t fully understand the popularity of SpongeBob. It still remains admired. Fun fact, I remember when my mom watched an episode of SpongeBob once while she was ironing, because there was nothing else on at the time. Fair enough, I had no objection. But quite frankly, SpongeBob will never be my favourite cartoon.

Number 7;…

Absolutely Fabulous (1992 – 1996, 2001 – 2004, 2011 – 2012)

The next show stars Jennifer Saunders, the wife of a comedy guru who starred in two forever awesome shows; The Young Ones and Bottom. Is Absolutely Fabulous more fabulous compared to the other two put together. My answer; nuh-uh!

Don’t get me wrong, I think Absolutely Fabulous is okay. It’s had its fun moments, but it’s a sitcom I wouldn’t place in my top lists of sitcoms or programmes in general, like most reviewers seem to be doing. What? Ab Fab is basically about a middle-aged fashion-obsessed lady named Edina Monsoon who much like her best friend and colleague Patsy drinks heavily, is constantly high and attempts to stay as young and hip as possible. She has a sensible daughter named Saffron who I sometimes feel sorry for and who is often forced to look after her mom, considering how much trouble she gets into. I should also mention that Eddie is twice divorced and I sometimes wonder how her ex-husbands coped.

Just about half of the episodes are not interesting to watch. Fat (Season 1, Episode 2), for instance, sees Eddie obsessing over her weight, done to death. Nearly the whole of Season 5 sees Saffy expecting a child, a cliche which I’m so sick of seeing on TV. And there’s hook-ups. Oh come on, Bottom had more amazing storylines compared to this! On the subject of the cast, I think Jennifer Saunders is a fine actor. She was great in that Friends episode, in them two episodes of the Young Ones, as the voice of the Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2 and she was okay in French & Saunders. In Ab Fab though, she kinda overacts. It’s like a poor attempt to raise the amount of laughs. One minute, there’s a calm conversation, but then she just raises her voice and growls for the sake of it.

Much like the Inbetweeners, Ab Fab gained so much popularity over the years that there just had to be a movie, another one I dodged. Maybe it’s because I’m male and the show’s more of a girls’ thing. I don’t know, but I don’t get the impact.

Number 6;…

The Office (2001 – 2003

I know, I know. Some of you are probably going to hate me for including The Office, a BBC sitcom which has become a worldwide phenomenon, even admired by Americans (including the bloke who created the Simpsons), hence why an American remake, which I still have yet to watch, was born.

I think Ricky Gervais is a great guy. He’s a fantastic musician, a member of the crowd and we have similar political interests. He’s one of them people who I’d like to be stuck on an island with. Imagine us two bitching about the illegal hunting, Donald Trump’s harebrained schemes and stuff. He’s the kind of guy who one can create an easy flowing conversation with.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why The Office is admired so much. I want to love this show, but for a number of reasons. When I was in my pre-teens, my older brother told me about The Office and introduced me to a viewing of the show on BBC2. He obviously enjoyed it, though I didn’t really get the humorous side of it. It’s possible that I may need to watch the whole series again, because I can’t remember much detail from its episodes. I can only remember certain scenes such as David Brent wearing a duck-float, putting a stapler in some jelly and oh yes that dance, which to its credit looked like it was improvised.

As a kid, I remember being bored by The Office. I personally prefer Ricky’s later shows i.e. An Idiot Abroad. Maybe when I rewatch The Office, I may like it better. But many people love it, so I’ll just shut up and move on to the next show.

Number 5;…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003)

One more horror themed show joins the list, that is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Not about zombies this time, duh(!), but about a lady who possesses the ability to kill vampires.

I remember as a kid, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was broadcast on BBC2. I’d watched a few episodes. However, after those viewings, I had totally forgotten what happened in each one. It’s amazing how the fans can remember so much from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but I always found this show bland and forgettable.

Although it doesn’t do much for me, I’d obviously take Buffy any day over Twilight

Number 4;…

Rick and Morty (2013 – Present)

I did say there was one more cartoon due to appear on the list; Rick & Morty.

What to say about what is currently IMDB’s top-rated animated series in general? Hmm… Okay what’s the story? Rick & Morty refer to a mad time-travelling scientist and his teenage grandson who lacks much intelligence. Together they travel through various different universes leading to insane consequences.

Some of my friends love this show. Quite frankly, I can’t get into it. I’ve seen worse adult-animated shows. But for me, Rick & Morty is just a badly-animated (backgrounds aside) and cheap parody to the Back To The Future franchise. We get it. Back To The Future has led a huge impact and continues to do so. It doesn’t mean that Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have to shove it right in our faces. Also, Rick’s constant belches in-between words are just plain obnoxious for the sake of it and are nearly just as bad as Beavis & Butthead’s giggles.

If I want to see time-travel on an animated show, I can watch Futurama and/or Family Guy, thank you.

Number 3;…

Sex and the City (1998 – 2004)

How glad I was when Sex & The City ended production. Boy was it so uninteresting!

Sex & The City is just your basic romantic sitcom. All we see is a group of women banging on about sex lives. We get it, we want a bit of love, we want to make love. Don’t shove it down our throats.

As you can imagine, I’ve never been a fan of romantic comedies. There’s not much creativity within them. All we see is boy meets girls and we know there’s going to be a break-up and we know they’re going to realise how much of idiots they was and get back together. Hook-ups as well. This is worse than Ab Fab!

So this is what I basically hate about Sex & The City; no creativity, too many typical rom-com cliches, forgettable episodes, nothing but clap trap.

Number 2;…

Thomas The Tank Engine/Thomas & Friends (1984 – Present)

I ain’t gonna lie. I’ve longed to erase Thomas The Tank Engine (or Thomas & Friends as it’s also known) from my memory. However, certain people constantly bring it up. So I thought I might as well place this rubbish on the list and get this over with.

Firstly, I give Thomas The Tank Engine credit for its cinematography, including low-angle shots, but what do you expect from a TV show which is constructed entirely out of a simple train set? Another bit of credit goes to the different vehicle designs used. But that’s about it.

Thomas The Tank Engine has remained popular ever since that vicar guy began writing them books sometime after World War 2, years before the TV show came out sometime near the mid-eighties. The show’s still in production and it’s still selling merchandise. Like seriously, I’ve seen little kids with backpacks that have Thomas pictured on them and so forth. It also surprises me that it’s also got an American market. So considering that even though I remember watching it, I can’t feel any nostalgia for Thomas & Friends whatsoever, it made sense for me to rank this one at number 2.

So what elements from Thomas & Friends made me enough of a cold-hearted jerk to call it overrated and, worse, to strangle it? First of all, the characters. Apart from Thomas himself, the show is home to many other characters; Gordon…, James…, Percy…, I shan’t bother naming the rest, because there’s no point considering that Britt Allcroft constantly brings in new characters and as a result, Thomas is absent from certain episodes. And the title includes his name. What? That is so false naming. The Simpsons may have introduced new characters, but at least Matt Groening and co made an effort to ensure its main characters wasn’t excluded from each episode.

What else brings this show down the line? The audio, including the dialogue. Obviously, the dialogue is entirely spoken by a narrator, who sounds like he’s reading from a book. But the trains repeat their lines way too much. It’s so annoying. It’s like they want to shove it right into our ears, in case we’re like deaf or something. And don’t get me started on the music, which annoys me the most.

I also question today’s children’s views on TV shows for their generation. If they find the puppets in Thunderbirds so ‘dated’, why don’t they think the same about a train-set-animated show? Train sets are as old as since before the war, as old as marionettes.

Thomas The Tank Engine is always brought up in conversation every time Ringo Starr is mention. Geez, I don’t need reminding! And so what? Ringo’s a great musician, but it doesn’t change my mind about this show. I wouldn’t go back and revise it even if Bruce Springsteen or David Bowie was doing the narration.

I hate the dialogue, I hate the music, I hate the episode structure, even the characters ain’t likeable. They’re just as annoying as hell. I never used to hate Thomas The Tank Engine, but now I do and it deserves to be labelled as overrated. I’d rather watch Cars than this pile of roadkill.

Now I feel better. Let’s move on, but…

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some Honourable Mentions;

 

Beavis and Butt-Head (1993 – 1997, 2011)

Glee (2009 – 2015)

King Of The Hill (1997 – 2010)

The Royle Family (1998 – 2000, 2006 – 2012)

And the number 1 most overrated show is;…

Friends (1994 – 2004)

Yes folks, Friends. The favourite US sitcom of so many people across the globe. The one that so many people label the funniest of them all, even after over-watching each episode.

And to be perfectly honest, I don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Friends. I think it’s okay. I definitely remember watching it as a kid and enjoying it. Friends has had some comedic moments and memorable episodes. So why do I consider it overrated? Well, let’s take a look.

Firstly, I mentioned that I’m not a romantic comedy bluff. In my opinion, the writing falls flat at certain times. I have to sit through affairs and obsessions with romantic relationships. Yet, through all ten seasons, all six characters; Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross have remained together. At times, a part of me wanted them to leave each other. It’s like “come on, you know the relationships ain’t working out.” Remember at the end of Season 4 when Ross was marrying a British lady? The final episode ended during the reception when Ross thought about Rachel and stated that he’ll “take thee Rachel” instead of Emily? I thought it would close the double bill. But no, by the start of Season 5, the aftermath continued and boy, I so wanted it to finish.

Next, the humour. “Friends is so funny”, many mates state. As much as I’m going to sound like Tommy from Goodfellas, but funny how? How is Friends funny? How can it be possibly be the funniest show in history. I’ve seen The Simpsons and The Young Ones and Bottom and, er, Malcolm In The Middle. I could name more comedies, but them ones was funnier. If you think over-wise, please back it up. Talk to me like a child. It’s not that I don’t find Friends funny whatsoever. Like I said, it does have some amusing bits. For instance, when Joey’s struggling to speak French, that got me laughing. But there are some occasions where we hear the laugh-track during the bits where I’m like “wait a minute, that bit wasn’t/can’t have been that funny, they just dubbed that sound on.”

Another low point I give to Friends is the cliches it includes. Apart from the various romances and affairs, I’ve also had to sit through the many pregnancies each female character came across. I appreciate that Lisa Kudrow was pregnant in real life and so the writers had to make Phoebe pregnant, but not only did hers and Rachel’s pregnancies take up part of the seasons, but you hardly saw much of their babies again. Ross did also have a kid named Ben. But with that said, Ben was the only kid related to a Friend who remained. That being said further, I did find the father/son relationship between Ross and Ben interesting. I often feel that maybe the show should’ve been based around that.

High points; I think the cast does have talent – I’ve seen them in other shows and certain movies (i.e. Courtney Cox as Melissa Robinson in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), though I don’t rate this show as their strongest. Friends does have some great episodes – i.e. The One Where They’re Up All Night, The One With The Holiday Armadillo and of course the final episode. The music is also fine and the show does contain a ‘feel-good’ flavour.

I just don’t think Friends is the best show in the world and I have yet to wonder why viewers and critics love it so much other than just “it’s funny”. Funny how? Oh please don’t get me started again.

 

So that was my personal list of what I found to be the eleven most overrated TV shows. I may have upset some readers, but that’s just a silly personal opinion and I’m sure everybody else has gone one too.

See you on the next blog post.

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Black Adder

Black Adder is one of the most popular British comedy TV shows to have ever been broadcast, with audiences and with critics. It may not be any of the cast or crew’s birthdays, nor have their been any recent deaths, but there’s no reason why I can’t review this series of period of sitcoms.

Is Black Adder as great as many people say so? My answer in my opinion; of course it is! Sure the series changes period by period and viewers maybe like “what, I thought Black Adder and Baldrick was living in the Medieval era. How can they possibly be interacting with Elizabeth I?” and so forth. But on the other hand, every family has different generations and it’s possible that the protagonists may have been related to each other (i.e. Prince Black Adder (from the 1st season) being Lord Black Adder’s (II) great great uncle or something, or maybe older) if you get what I mean. It’s possible that King George I may have been my great (x15) grandfather. I’ve yet to observe my family tree much much further.

For this review, I shall review the whole series, season by season, separating the specials, in chronological order, starting with the earliest.

Any spoilers I give will be highlighted in red.

The Black Adder

Period Setting: End of Middle Ages, 15th Century

Air Date: 1983

Overall Rating: 86%

We begin with the very first season of the franchise, The Black Adder. The Black Adder in question is Prince Edmund, Duke Of Edinburugh, the nephew of King Richard III and the son of the next-in-line king, Richard IV, played by the growling Brian Blessed. Set in the alternative history of the famous Battle of Bosworth, Edmund mistakes his uncle as a horse thief and as a result kills him. It is only when he looks at the head that he finds out it was Richard III all along. Following the hilarious accidental murder, Edmund, with the partial help of Baldrick and Percy (Duke of Northumberland), forms a new alias, the Black Adder, which so began his origin.

As a kid, The Black Adder was my favourite season. I absolutely adore the medieval humour that was included and the occasional Shakespearean dialogue. William Shakespeare was one of them guys whose literacy arts I admired growing up. The bit where Edmund meets the three witches in the first episode paid homage to MacBeth, my favourite play by Shakespeare. That was totally great.

Surprisingly, The Black Adder seems to be the least popular season of the franchise. Some of the criticism was directed to the fact that it looked expensive. My response; “And Game Of Thrones doesn’t look pricey I suppose?”. I guess viewers wasn’t ready for incredibly high budgeted TV shows. Mind you, it’s probably one of the reasons why most of Gerry Anderson’s shows lasted for quite few seasons; Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, hell even Space 1999 was the most expensive show around that time. But the budget shouldn’t really affect the quality within The Black Adder. It has great comedy, and speaking of which, the bit where Edmund ends up marrying a princess who turns out to be a little girl is genius – also taboo, but of course, it’s set back to when this was ironically considered tolerable (in them days, people married at early-ish ages, because many of them had shorter lives). There’s also great action sequences, it’s a purely enjoyable experience.

The season finale’s quite sad as well. It does provide some giggles in between, but I’m saying no more, because I know there’s certain readers who may not have viewed the season yet.

Black Adder II

Period Setting: Elizabethan Era, late 16th/early 17th Century

Air Date: 1986

Overall Rating: 71%

So after the many fusspots moaned about the previous season being obviously expensive and blamed that fact on how it got lower-than-expected reviews, the producers decided to tone things down and decrease the production budget a bit. Other changes included when Rowan Atkinson ceased writing; Richard Curtis still wrote, but his new partner was Ben Elton, also known for his work on The Young Ones and The Thin Blue Line. Obviously, the setting also changed and some of the cast.

Black Adder II stars the same three guys, reprising their roles, same old characters, but with slightly different positions. It also stars Miranda Richardson (Mrs Tweedy from Chicken Run) as Queen Elizabeth I and Stephen Fry (presenter of QI) as Lord Melchett. The season is considered to be an improvement to The Black Adder by many reviewers and fans of the franchise. I have to be honest, I think over wise.

I ain’t saying that Black Adder II is a bad season. It still holds up. But we see less of the exciting action we got from The Black Adder and as for the humour, it still provides giggles, but it sounds more in the style of The Herbs – that’s some long dead kid’s show which had an obsession with gardening and which I was never a fan of. I also question the ending of the last episode, Chains, which occurs after the closing credits, and if you compare it to the previous season, that one at least contained a mix of emotions and humour which I at least understood. This one is a bit too over-pantomimic.

With that said, Black Adder II does contain some good writing. For instance, remember in the episode Potato where Edmund and Rum, played by Tom Baker, took a voyage and afterwards, Edmund reported to Nursie that Rum had been killed? I also add extra credit to the music, which only required a clean electric guitar and a recorder. Oh and one of the episodes guest-starred Hugh Laurie, who would later join the series full-time.

Black Adder The Third

Period Setting: Regency Era, late 18th/early 19th Century

Air Date: 1987

Overall Rating: 76%

Black Adder The Third saw a few more changes. This time, we enter the Regency period, the same time when King George III was on the throne. His mental health was of course demonstrated through the 1994 film The Madness Of King George.

Black Adder this time serves as the head butler for George, Prince of Wales, also known as Prince Regent, and the son of George III. He’s played by none other than Hugh Laurie, with his trademark low voice. Tony Robinson remains as Baldrick, only he’s now what you call E. Blackadder Esquire’s ‘dog’s body’. Gone however is Tim McInnery, known as Percy in the first two seasons. He does return as another character, but that’ll have to wait till another season. Also absent are Stephen Fry and Miranda Richardson, guest roles aside.

I like Black Adder The Third better than Black Adder II for a variety of reasons. Of course there’s not much action compared to The Black Adder, but compared to Black Adder II, it’s more amusing and even the characters, especially Prince Regent, are more creative, no offense to BlackAdder II. Hell, the dialogue sounds a bit more modern. Notice how Edmund refers to Baldrick as ‘Balders’.

Howard Goodall’s music’s quite different as well. The theme used for the closing credits reminds me of them songs from Paul Simon’s Graceland album. The opening; so Amadeus. I’d say the same for the surroundings.

As for the ending, although I don’t think it’s as strong as The Black Adder, but I like it better than the ending to Black Adder II. We do see the some of the cast getting killed. With that said, it’s the only season in which Black Adder himself doesn’t die, ironically. We do see at least one main character die; that being Prince Regent and boy, in a hilarious way. I say no more.

Black Adder: The Cavalier Years

Period Setting: English Civil War, 1648

Air Date: 1988

Overall Rating: 70%

Now we go to one of the specials, Black Adder: The Cavalier Years.

We go a few years between Black Adder II and Black Adder The Third for this 1988 Comic Relief special. This one being set during the English Civil War and with Blackadder and Baldrick as allies to King Charles I. Stephen Fry stars as the king.

Quite short at around 15 minutes run time, but not as memorable as the last few seasons.

Black Adder’s Christmas Carol

Period Setting: The Victorian Era, 19th Century

Air Date: 1988

Overall Rating: 90%

Another special episode of Black Adder and a knock-off to Charles Dickens’ famous festive novel about a Victorian successful businessman who resents the vacation and is married so much in his work, but then realises the errors in his ways through the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future. Ebeneezer Blackadder, as he is known in this special, represents the opposite to Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Basically, Blackadder starts off as a kind and generous guy, which is exactly how Scrooge turned out at the end of the original story. Due to his highly positive traits, people take advantage of him, his earnings go to charity and to con artists. Soon, Blackadder is visited by the Spirit of Christmas (played by the British John Goodman himself, Robbie Coltrane), who reminds him of his previous two descendants from the last two seasons. Come to think of it, Ebeneezer looks a bit like Mr. E from Black Adder The Third.  Very soon, Ebeneezer’s ways change.

Although ideally, Black Adder’s Christmas Carol should be watched around December/January-time, I’d recommend you take a look at this special. It’s a hilarious parody of the Christmas Carol and one such episode which after you watch it, you can look back on the experience and it’s like “gee, that was a great ep”. Maybe this Christmas, if you’re planning a playlist of what to watch over the vacation, put that on the list.

Black Adder Goes Forth

Period Setting: first few years of World War I

Air Date: 1989

Overall Rating: 94%

And so we come to what seems to be the most popular season of the Black Adder series; Black Adder Goes Forth. This was made during the time when comedies set during the First World War was still quite rare (not forgetting Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms). Black Adder Goes Forth got so much credit that it appeared on the British Film Institute’s Top 100 list of Best UK TV shows and is currently one of IMDB’s Top 250 TV shows.

I have to admit, whilst growing up as a teenager, I  had watched all episodes from all the seasons of Black Adder, except this one. Unfortunately, around that time, BBCs 1 and/or 2 didn’t repeat enough episodes of Goes Forth. Around that time, The Black Adder was my favourite season. But I recently managed to catch up with the whole run-through for Goes Forth and I have to admit that this one now takes the spot. Black Adder Goes Forth is a lot better than I remember it. On this occasion, I agree with the reviews.

Black Adder Goes Forth is set in 1917 and focuses on the British army facing the horrors of World War 1. Among the army are Captain Edmund Blackadder, Private S. Baldrick, Lieutenant George (played by Hugh Laurie), General Melchett (Stephen Fry) and his bureaucratic assistant Captain Kevin Darling (yes, it’s Percy from the first two seasons).

Unlike the other three seasons and although it doesn’t steer away from the comedy, Blackadder Goes Forth is much darker and does take its subject matter more seriously. It subtly represents war as hell, not in the style of Saving Private Ryan of course, but there’s a lot of reference on the subject of death, which was very common during that period, because hardly anybody was surviving back then. For instance, there’s a scene where Edmund surveys the thousands of men getting killed and adds “Who’s gonna miss a pigeon?”. Not to mention occasional ceiling bombings above the trenches. As you can imagine, Blackadder Goes Forth, much like other sitcoms including One Foot In The Grave, The Simpsons and Birds Of A Feather, cleverly blends comedy and drama together. Ben Elton would later write the Thin Blue Line, another great example that combines the two elements.

And speaking of drama, I can’t talk about this season without mentioning the iconic ending, one of the classic TV tear-jerkers. The season ends with Blackadder saying his last line “Good luck everyone”, blowing his whistle and the soldiers charging out of the trenches ready for the huge attack. During that point, the action occurs in slow-motion, bombs are landing and all that’s accompanying the action is a slow piano melody played to the theme tune and slow drums, all of which contribute to the devastation and the sadness of the war. It’s actually what I personally consider one of the greatest endings to a TV show, right up there with One Foot In The Grave and Breaking Bad.

Ideally, this would’ve been a great finale to Black Adder as a whole, but there’s one more episode left to review…

Black Adder: Back & Forth

Period Setting: The dawning of the second millennium

Air Date: 1999

Overall Rating: 70%

…And I was referring to this one. Black Adder: Back & Forth is very much different to the previous seasons and specials. Blackadder is living in the present day and is represented as a regular Doctor Who. What I mean to say is that he’s a time-traveller. It doesn’t exactly go by the franchise’s traditional period settings, does it?

Black Adder: Back & Forth came out during the time when people were preparing for the then-new millennium and the year 2000 was about to begin. Some people were paranoid about the rumour that an apocalypse was to happen as soon as the year commenced, when in fact it was a huge myth. Basically, this is a new years special.

We still come across the codes and conventions of the period genre. Blackadder does travel back in time to various time periods. He meets Robin Hood (played by the forever awesome Rik Mayall), Queen Elizabeth I (with Miranda Richardson reprising her role) and William Shakespeare (Colin Firth). In fact, they should’ve represented him as something similar to Merlin The Magician or something. Well, he was a time-traveller in the Disney version to The Sword In The Stone.

I’m all for sci-fi and Robin Hood and the humour Rik Mayall provides. Though they could’ve brought back Brian Blessed for Richard IV and time-travel has nowadays become a bit of a cliche. We’ve seen it in Back To The Future, The Terminator films and The Time Machine.

It’s enjoyable, but not a great follow-up to Black Adder Goes Forth. If you think about it, that ended on a real dramatic note. I more or less expected the producers to pick up on that, but oh what the hell.

 

So that’s all the Seasons and specials from the franchise reviewed. Thanks for reading.

Worst-to-Best Adult Animated Series

When we define adult cartoons, what we usually mean is cartoons mainly aimed for the older generation, and possibly some of the younger folk. Not to say that none of them shows are family ones. Some of them are, but roughly around the largest percent who watch them cartoons are adults. That’s my guess.

With no further ado, and before I continue, I’m only listing the ones I’ve watched, here is a personal ranking of what I regard as the Worst-To-Best Adult Animated Shows;

Number #23;

Drawn Together

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We begin this list with an animated take on reality shows such as Big Brother. Drawn Together’s contestants include Princess Clara (who’s a bit like them Disney princesses), a Pokemon-style monster and a lewd pig. Frankly my dears, I don’t care much for reality shows and I ceased watching Big Brother ages ago. As for Drawn Together, it’s just lewd and crude for the sake of being lewd and crude. It’s one I tend to skip.

Number #22;

King Of The Hill

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I was eight when I first saw King Of The Hill, around the time when it was broadcast on BBC2, then the same channel as The Simpsons. Seems like it picked some competition, eh. Well, here’s my result; Simpsons scores 1, King Of The Hill, nil. As a kid, I remember my brother liking King Of The Hill, but myself being bored by it. I ain’t ranking it low, because of its conservative themes. My reason is because the show’s so bland and forgettable, in my opinion. I’m sure many other people remember certain moments, but I can’t. It amazes me that it’s labelled a comedy, but I didn’t find it that funny either.

Number #21;

The Cleveland Show

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The famous and cheap spin-off to Family Guy starring its ex-secondary character Cleveland Brown and his family, hence The Cleveland Show. Much like King Of The Hill and much unlike Family Guy, The Cleveland Show lacks enough humour or even memorability. I don’t tend to follow what critics say much, but I don’t particularly blame them for their negativity on this one.

Number 20;

Rick & Morty

Rick & Morty – currently one of IMDB’s top 10 rated shows. Lots of people love it and to be honest, I don’t get it. It’s an obvious parody to the Back To The Future franchise; Rick is the Doc Brown and Morty is the Marty McFly. I find Back To The Future good, not brilliant, but at least the humour and storyline was decent. All I saw from Rick & Morty was; not-so great animation, which could be as bad as Peppa Pig, and nothing that memorable from the first few episodes I saw. The only reaction I gave to the viewing of this overrated cartoon was my head leaning in a tired mode on my fist.

Number 19;

Beavis & Butt-Head

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The creator of King Of The Hill brings you Beavis & Butt-Head. Its blend between animation and live-action, through the boys’ TV set, is creative, but Beavis & Butt-Head would’ve been much higher on this list if it hadn’t been for the fact that they constantly snigger, even at their own humourous elements.

Number #18;

Popetown

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Popetown is what you describe as Father Ted meets South Park, starring Matt Lucas as one of the cardinals, Bob Mortimer as Father Nicholas, oh and Ruby Wax as the Pope. Apparently the show caused so much controversy around the world that it got cancelled before it even got commissioned (something to do with religious depictions I’m guessing). The show’s okay, it ain’t brilliant, but I really think it deserves a chance.

Number #17;

Headcases

Headcases is much like Spitting Image, except with CGI models. It was broadcast during the time when CGI was proving very popular and many animation studios was switching from 2D animation in favour of the more modern technique. It’s the same humour as Spitting Image, though kinda too sophisticated and slightly more forgettable.

Number #16;

Robot Chicken

Now we come to a stop… -motion animated show, which parodies,… just about everything. You just wonder why they call it Robot Chicken. With that said, the puppets do walk a bit like robots and we have the entire theme tune sung solo by a chicken.

Number #15;

2DTV

Released between Spitting Image and Headcases, 2DTV is an obvious 2D animated satire on politics, celebrity culture and popular TV shows. Lovely caricatures of Tony Blair, John Prescott and a variety of celebrities, though I find George Bush a bit more irritating than I remember him (the way he laughs, ugh).

We had fun watching it, but it did start to fall flat by the last season. The humour was starting to rely more on the censor bleeps and got less funny and I’m not too fond of the cheap intro or theme tune.

Number #14;

The Ricky Gervais Show

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As controversial as it sounds, I was never a fan of The Office or Extras (David Bowie’s cameo aside), but I think Ricky Gervais is a great guy. The music he did with Seona Dancing is top-notch and we share the same political views. The Ricky Gervais Show is based on his radio series of the same name which sees him and Stephen Merchant bullying Karl Pilkington. It’s exactly the radio series, but this time accompanied by the Hanna/Barbera style animation. The ‘pointless’ conversations which are mostly brought up by Karl are so imaginative and well thought out.

Number #13;

Bromwell High

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Set in a high school of the same name which is run by chavs, Bromwell High centers on three eleven year old students named Keisha, Latrina and Natella. Among the cast are Stephen Mangan (of Green Wing fame), Stephen Merchant and Tracy Ann-Oberman (Chrissie Watts from EastEnders). Alas, the show only lasted for one season which is a shame, because I think it held up and I remember me and my brother enjoying it when it came out. Keisha was my favourite.

Number #12;

American Dad

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Good morning USA! / I gotta feeling that it’s gonna be a wonderful day! / The sun in the sky has a smile on his face, / And he’s shining a salute to the American race!

I first saw American Dad the same year it came out and when BBC2 started showing that and Family Guy. There are some similarities between the two shows, except that Stan is a healthier and muscular guy working for the CIA and his family are joined with a talking goldfish named Klaus and an anthropomorphic alien named Roger, who I can tell is voiced by Seth MacFarlene, because he sounds a lot like Peter Griffin.

The thing I admire most about American Dad is the conflict between Stan (the righty, if there is such a word) and his daughter Hayley (the lefty).

Number #11;

Rocko’s Modern Life

I never saw a lot of Rocko’s Modern Life when I was a lot younger. Yes, it’s a Nicktoon, but I had to rely on one of my neighbours in order to watch Nickelodeon, because we never had Sky. Unfortunately around that time, Rocko wasn’t shown that much on the channel. But when I finally got a chance to watch it, it was fun. And yet bizarre, hence that talking foot, the tooth that wrecks havoc in the city and them two toads with the funny voices.

Number #10;

I Am Not An Animal

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I Am Not An Animal is another British sitcom which only lasted for one season. My guess is how expensive it kinda looks – geez, come on guys, nobody moans about the quality of Game Of Thrones. Anywho, I Am Not An Animal, which takes its name from the famous line which was stated by the Elephant Man, is about a group of animals who possess humanoid personalities, partially represented by their clothes and Phillip’s glasses, and are rescued from a laboratory which they were created from. Through the series, they attempt to extend their intellect and face difficulties living in the human world.

The characters are very creative and designed – I’m especially fond of Phillip’s design as a horse and I think Steve Coogan was a great choice for the voice, considering how low he speaks. Much like South Park, I am Not An Animal looks like a kids’ cartoon, but clearly ain’t for kids, considering how dark and foul-mouthed it is.

Number #9;

God, The Devil & Bob

For those who don’t know, God The Devil & Bob is about an every-man called Ball Allman who’s stuck in the middle of a confrontation between God and Satan. And yet, this one again lasted for just one season, and just because some religious fusspots complained about what they was seeing. Get over it, it’s only comedy for christ’s sake!

My favourite episode is when the Devil questions Bob’s attitude and dates his daughter Megan. I shan’t give too much away, but God The Devil & Bob is a massively underrated animated sitcom. I should also mention how God, who wears sunglasses and a simple t-shirt and trousers, and the Devil act like normal people The voice cast is also impressive. God is voiced by James Garner, Alan Cummings is the Devil, oh and speaking of Megan, her actress is Nancy Cartwright, who normally voices boys but we’ll get there later.

Number #8;

Ren & Stimpy

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I talked quite a lot about Ren & Stimpy when I ranked what I personally considered the Worst-To-Best Nicktoons and rated this one number 2. So I’ll try and keep this brief. The possible reason why Ren & Stimpy, or what I once called Nickelodeon’s Tom & Jerry of the nineties, is called ‘adult animated’ despite being enjoyed by children, is because of the adult content included i.e. pus-blows, skin peels and hammering one another and adults don’t need to rely on accompaniment from kids during the viewing.

Number #7;

Futurama

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Futurama is the sister show to the Simpsons and another one which is also popular with the young generation. It was made during the time when animation was becoming more and more epic. You still see the characters standing in straight posture most of the time, but if you take a look at the backgrounds and compare them to the earlier seasons of the Simpsons, geez, look at how huge they are! You just wonder if Futurama was animated using the Computer Animation Production System, the same system used for the 90s Disney cartoons i.e. The Lion King, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Beauty & The Beast.

But the epic quality ain’t my only praise for Futurama. The pilot episode (Space Pilot 3000) is one of the greatest pilot eps in TV history; it sees Fry wake up from the 20th Century and into the year 3000 and the rest is history when he joins up with an alcoholic and jerkish robot (Bender), a female human cyclops (Leela) and his elderly and intelligent great (time way over ten) nephew (Professor Farnsworth). The humour; also deserving praise, including for Fry’s knowledge of the century he grew up in despite his limited intelligence.

Fun fact; although Fry sounds young-ish, he’s actually voiced by Billy West who was getting on middle age when he started.

Number #6;

Family Guy

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It seems today that all you see is violence and movies and sex on TV / But where are those good old fashioned values / On which we used to rely! / Lucky there’s a Family Guy / Lucky there’s a man who possibly can do / All the things that make us laugh and cry / He’s… a… Fam… Ly… Guuuuuuy!

Gee I could sing this one all day. Not many people know that Family Guy originally started off as Larry & Steve, an episode of Cartoon Network’s What A Cartoon. Larry and Steve eventually became Peter and Brian Griffin and of course their personalities remained, but not the designs. Add Lois, Chris, Meg and Stewie and voila, you have Family Guy.

Of course, Family Guy is a definite adult animated show. That being said, it does sometimes go overboard on the purely adult content; the bloody violence, the profanities, fart gags… a YouTube personality named Mr Coat once labelled the show as ‘bizarre to be bizarre’ and it ain’t hard to see why. I keep thinking that this may be the reason why there’s mixed feelings among viewers. But Family Guy is a guilty pleasure for me. I find it very difficult not to enjoy that show.

I also give praise for the occasional drama involved, like, remember when Peter grew a nest-like beard and found nestling birds inside it, then had to say goodbye to them, while Brian was looking after an elderly opera singer in hospital? That scene really f***ed me up.

Oh and extra points for Brian’s liberal values.

Number #5;

Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

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I love my mom and dad and my brothers too / and the groovy way we get along / But every time the slightest thing goes wrong / Mom starts to sing this familiar song; / Wait till your father gets, until your father gets, wait till your father gets home

And here we have one of the earliest examples of an adult animated show, this one produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. The show was the first primetime cartoon to last for over a season, since the Flintstones (also by Hanna/Barbera), and the last, until the Simpsons.

Harry Boyle, voiced by Tom Bosley, is a surburban everyman who works as a restaurant equipment dealer. He is married to Irma and has three kids; Alice, a teen boy-mad feminist, Chet, a hippy, and his younger son Jamie who idolises his dad. Many of the episodes, which I recommend you check out, see the conflicts between the conservative Harry and his left-wing kids and Irma attempting to cover for her husband while trying to keep things together.

The first time I saw this one, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home didn’t fail to make me laugh and I totally love Hanna & Barbera. It does lack some detail picture-wise, but it remains colourful and the details don’t distract my viewing.

Number #4;

Angry Kid

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Here’s an unusual example, Angry Kid, created by the same guys famous for Wallace & Gromit. Angry Kid is made up of really short episodes. When I say short, I mean less than five minutes.

We know this show ain’t for kids, but many viewers can relate to Angry Kid himself. Angry Kid is a 14 year-old ginger kid with a foul mouth and obnoxious attitude and lives with his younger sister and irritable cockney dad who is divorced. He spends his time gaining enjoyment by annoying people including his dad. For instance, there’s an episode where he’s in the car eating a candy bar and drinking a cola can, then stating that he feels ‘sicky’, then makes some disgusting pre-vomiting sounds which irritate Dad so much that he harshly stops the car and warns him to stop being childish, only for the Kid to realise he really is about to vomit. There’s another one where the Kid finds out he has a weak bladder and needs to get rid of his urine, but Dad refuses to stop the car, because of his previous trip, and therefore gives his some containers to fill, to no success.

I could go through a long list of classic episodes, but enough said. Long live Aardman!

Number #3;

South Park

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I’m goin’ down to South Park gonna have myself a time / Friendly faces everwhere humble folks without temptation / I’m goin’ down to South Park gonna leave my woes behind / Ample Parking Day or Night, people spouting, “Howdy, Neighbor” / I’m headin’ down to South Park gonna see if I can’t unwind / I like girls with big vagina, I like girls with big fat titties / So come on down to South Park, and meet some friends of mine

I remember when I was a younger kid, South Park was advertised on various things. It sold toys and t-shirts and VHSes, well you get the idea. I didn’t get to watch it until I was 13. The thing was, I would’ve been too young at the time (well duh!). At first, I seemed uninterested; it looked like just one of them poorly animated kid’s cartoons, but being that I hadn’t watched it yet, I was unaware of the content it included. However, some mates of mine saw it (their parents let them get away with it) and I remember listening into discussions about Kenny loosing his head. That made me want to see the show more.

Of course, South Park was so popular that a movie came out. Again, I was way too young to watch it in cinemas. However we taped it when it got shown on Channel 4 and I so wanted to see it. It was the summer vacation at the time. My mom was like; “you can watch it with dad”. She didn’t trust me to see it on my own. Our luck came on my brother’s 16th birthday and we watched it together as a family. It failed to disappoint. It was hilarious!

And so is the show. The fact that South Park does look like a crappy children’s cartoon is so part of the humour. Mix it with the swearing and political humour and the older generation will love it. Hell, did I mention Kenny’s various deaths? They’re always a lot of fun – but on a serious note, one of the gags turned out to be real dramatic. I shan’t give too much detail. But yes, the drama as well, another high point of the show.

Number #2;

Stressed Eric

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Another British cartoon which not many people have heard of. Some of you are probably thinking “what?” “why have you placed this over South Park?”. It’s nothing personal, but I shall explain the reasons later. Like Bromwell High and I Am Not An Animal, Stressed Eric hardly receives much credit, but unlike them, it did last for more than one season (even if it did bring out two seasons).

I know there are some things in South Park viewers can relate to, but as for Stressed Eric, there’s loads, even though it was quite a short span. Eric Feeble is a 40 year old middle-class administration clerk who can’t get over his divorce from his wife Liz. He lives with his two kids; Brian, aged 10 who has the inability to speak and severe learning difficulties and as a result has been put down a few school years, and Claire, 6, who is allergic to a lot of things, plus a teenage Portuguese au pair named Maria with a serious drinking problem. Tell me these ain’t relatable, and poor old Eric, who does love his children, attempts to make the best of the situation, but is forced to juggle things around.

Even his workplace proves to be of no help. Eric shares an office room with Alison, who spends most of her work-time on the phone, even when Eric needs a hand with something. To top things all, and through a bit of British humour, the Feebles live next door to the Perfects, a family of loud mouthed upper-class snobs.

Stressed Eric is one such criminally misunderstood and underrated cartoon. The only reason it got hate mail was due to the fact that Mark Heap’s voice for Eric was dubbed by Hank Azaria for one of the international versions. But clearly the reviewers overlooked the set of emotional issues put into one element of humour, plus the classic gags involving Eric’s pumping vain and Mrs. Wilson’s constant failures to post a letter.

Before I reveal the number one pick, I’d like to give one special mention;

The Flintstones

Now I was debating with myself whether The Flintstones, the first prime time animated show, counted as an adult animated show. Despite it being animated, The Flintstones did contain some of the typical codes and conventions for a sitcom, including a laugh-track, and apparently, it was loosely based on The Honeymooners. It did entertain adults as much as it did to children and I think Wikipedia described it as one (but it’s Wikipedia). I’m wondering if that makes The Flintstones, adult animated. If it does, I’d probably give it a number 2 position.

And the Number #1 adult animated TV show is…;

The Simpsons

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Actually, the Simpsons are neighbours of ours and we find them to be a misunderstood and underrated family!

And Thunderbirds they are go! Some of you probably guessed that I would label the Simpsons as number one. Of course if you think about it, The Simpsons seems to be appearing as number one on a lot of top lists, I won’t name examples right now. However, this ain’t the reason for the ranking. Out of all the adult animated shows on this list, The Simpsons is the show I watched the most frequently and grew up with the most. It has remained a favourite of mine since childhood.

Where to begin on The Simpsons…; totally unforgettable characters. Most of us all know the five main ones; Bart, Homer, Lisa, Maggie and Marge. But also many of the secondary characters including Mr Burns, Nelson Muntz, Krusty The Clown and Principal Skinner, there’s too many to name. Even the episodes are so classic. Well only the ones from seasons 1 to 12, but we’ll get there later.

As the episodes have rolled by, we just couldn’t quit laughing. The Simpsons are definitely in the funny pile. It has had plenty of elements for viewers of all ages. But it’s more than just an animated sitcom. Remember when I spoke about Family Guy and its elements of drama. The Simpsons has also covered some pretty dramatic issues and along with other sitcoms, such as One Foot In The Grave, Birds Of A Feather and The Thin Blue Line, has proved that there’s more to sitcoms than just laughter. The Simpsons made space for tearjerkers at times, i.e. the bit when Homer met his long lost mother and later in that episode had to say goodbye to her because she was on the run.

If there’s one nitpick I have, it’s that The Simpsons has been in TV production for too long. They did a movie as well which I enjoyed watching. However since season 13, the show’s been going downhill, despite some good episodes. It’s not taken my interest away from the show. But the classic era happens to belong to season 12 and before then. That’s where the tone is.

I’m hoping to one day list my personal top 11 episode of The Simpsons. The Nostalgia Critic had a go at that once and it was a really interesting review. There’s so much I want to say about The Simpsons, but that’s enough for now.

So that’s my personal ranking of my Worst-to-Best adult animated TV shows. Some readers may agree, some may not. It’s just my personal opinion.

Thanks for reading and remember, as far as anybody’s concerned, the Simpsons are a nice normal family.

Let The Wars Begin!

No I ain’t referring to any civil wars or world-based wars or the war occurring in Syria. This is a catchphrase that Craig Charles would often belt out whilst presenting a game show, where robots competed and fought against each other. That show was called Robot Wars.
There was a number of game shows we watched when I was a kid. Robot Wars was without a doubt one of them. The first episode came out when I was seven. It was broadcast on Friday on BBC2 and I enjoyed it right from the start!
So it was no surprise how excited I was last year (yes, 2016!) when Robot Wars was rebooted. Plus I’ve just heard a new season’s coming out sometime this year. How will it fare compared to last year’s season? Well, as a matter of fact, last year’s season was enjoyable, but not as great as the classic era (1998-2004). It was great to see some of the house robots again; Dead Metal, Matilda, Shunt and Sir Killalot. But where’s Sergeant Bash? Bash was my favourite! It had the flame-thrower! Oh well, I’m glad they didn’t bring Refbot back. That one did sod all, but put out the fires and pointlessly count immobile robots out. And I wasn’t too keen on Mr Psycho and Growler (actually Growler was okay).
It was also great to see some newcomers and some old favourites; Behemoth, Terrorhurtz, Thermidor, Razer. Though it was a bit of a shame to see Razer eliminated from the competition so soon after pushing Kill-E-Crank in the pit and ending up in there itself. Personally, Razer’s been one of my favourites. But with that said, driving one’s own robot in the pit is a mistake anybody could make, so I shouldn’t complain. We saw a lot of that in Season 3 i.e. Cassius, Milly Ann Bug, Killerhurtz (what Terrorhurtz was originally) and Eric.
Another small nitpick I have with last season is how each heat was set up, compared to the original seasons. The 1st two seasons began with a gauntlet, then a trial competition, then the heat semi-finals; robot fights, then the heat final. From season 3 to 7, the championship took the form of a straight knockout tournament and split it into 3 rounds. Fair enough. That was easy to follow. But as for the revival series, it is a knockout tournament, but once you get to round 2, it’s like watching a football match and the robots’ progression to the heat final all depends on who gets the most points from each head-to-head battle. Er, what?
Also, Dara O’Brien’s okay as a presenter, but I don’t think he could replace Craig Charles and I sometimes wonder what Phillipa Forrester’s doing nowadays. Jonathan Pearce remains commentator, awesome!
Let’s see what the 2017 season can bring us.

Top 12 Festive TV Episodes

Jingle Bells, Santa smells, Rudolph ran away,

Oh what fun it’s been to ride, but Santa’s just crashed his sleigh, Hey!

Hey guys, how’s the Xmas shopping going? Well some of you viewed my personal Top 12 Christmas songs. Now here’s my personal Top 12 TV episodes which are about Christmas. For this list, I’m only going to include one episode per show.

So here’s my Top 12. Why Top 12? Because of Christmas!

#12;

Little Girl Lost – Starsky & Hutch (1976)

We begin this ranking with an episode from the classic 70s buddy cop show.

In this one, Starsky & Hutch are attempting to help a little girl named Molly ‘Pete’ Edwards whose alcoholic ex-con dad has been killed. Worse to come, she is being searched by her dad’s ex-criminal partners.

Imagine losing a relative sometime before Christmas due to a certain death. Heartbreaking, ain’t it? One of my relatives lost an aunt several years ago a few weeks before the vacation and it felt tough. Though in actual fact, she died due to an illness. Pete on the other hand has lost a father due to murder by gunshot. Adding to the conflict, Mr. Edwards is an ex-gang member and the murderers are searching for some diamonds which they believe Pete is hiding. We can understand how defensive and rude Pete is when we first see her and how much of a tear-away she is. But of course, she comes from a small and poor family who are struggling financially; which I would presume is why Mr. Edwards turned to crime in the first place. And yes, the fact that the girl calls herself Pete; bit of a tomboy, but what do you expect from someone who grows up with men around her.

I also like the conversation Starsky & Hutch have about their festive plans. Starsky’s getting into the spirits, but Hutch see’s it as overrated and commercialised, though he does gradually change his views through the episode as we see him bonding with Pete. Both cops are sympathetic towards the girl and are against the idea of her going to juvenile hall, since Christmas is coming. I never went to juvenile hall myself, but it seems a bit like prison and it ain’t her fault she’s turned to crime in the first place and Starsky and Hutch are both trying to help her.

As well as some inspirational scenes, we do get plenty of car chases, gunshots, all the exciting stuff you get from an awesome cop show like Starsky & Hutch.

 

#11;

How The Ghosts Stole Christmas – The X-Files (1997)

The next Christmas special is a truly dark and haunting one from the paranormal series the X-Files about two FBI detectives, named Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who take on some strange cases.

The case that Mulder & Scully take on in How The Ghosts Stole Christmas takes place in a haunted house, after Mulder calls Scully to investigate on Christmas Eve. According to Mulder, the house was run by a couple who apparently died during Christmas 1917, one killing another and the remaining one committing suicide. But as the duo explore further in the house, they realise they may not be alone.

Chris Carter, the writer and creator of the X-Files, certainly went by the book and kept in mind the protagonists’ traits, Mulder as the believer and Scully as the sceptic. We can understand how Scully is reluctant at first, because a, she doesn’t believe much in ghosts or aliens, and b, she was hoping to have a nice peaceful Christmas. But as a detective agent, she can’t get a break. Mulder on the other hand claims that the house has been haunted by the two corpses ever since. And yet, they come across an elderly couple, played by Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin, who are presumably ghosts. Are they really ghosts? Well I shouldn’t give too much detail in case I spoil the ending, but they’re most certainly not exactly the ghosts of Christmas pasts, presents and/or futures.

How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is basically a cross between David Fincher’s Panic Room and House On A Haunted Hill with a bit of Christmas spirit mixed in and one such chilling experience to check out one Christmas.

 

#10;

Christmas – Malcolm In The Middle (2001)

I talked quite a lot about this episode when I ranked my personal top 10 episodes of Malcolm In The Middle. But I shall talk a bit about this Christmas special.

The Wilkerson boys are causing enough chaos to annoy their mom, Lois. Lois, who hopes for a nice happy and peaceful Christmas, announces it to be the final straw and confiscates all the gifts and locks them away, ensuring they stay there until the lads start behaving themselves. Meanwhile, Francis is forced to spend a torturous vacation with Grandma Ida.

The Wilkersons are one of the most dysfunctional families in TV history. You have the boys; Malcolm a grumpy and socially awkward genius, Reese, a simple-minded jock, Dewey, who has a strange sense of imagination and a photographic memory, and Francis, who’s hugely rebellious, and the parents; Hal, a sympathetic guy who’s prone to tantrums, and Lois, a control freak with an anger management problem. And Christmas is one of the most well scripted Xmas episodes. We deal with the family’s scars and scrapes and all Lois wants is for something more positive. She lays down the law and even Hal is proud of her, but the boys worry that this could continue and decide to take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile Lois feels pretty bad over what she’s done.

One of my favourite scenes is when the boys throw baubles at each other which has always tickled me, and that’s when Lois begins to lay down the law.

I had also talked about Francis and Ida’s time together, how they resent each other, yet begin to bond and how he finds that through all the years, Ida did indeed buy the family some gifts, only to stash them away due to past petty offences. The Wilkersons may be dysfunctional, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love and/or care for each other. And without giving anything away, the episode proves so and it does indeed have a happy ending.

 

#9;

Give Or Take A Million – Thunderbirds (1966)

So you think you believe in Santa Claus and that he (or she) uses a magical sleigh and flying reindeer? Well, what if the Santa Claus and the workshop employees were actually a family-run not-for-profit organisation who help people from dangerous situations and own a wide range of cool looking futuristic vehicles?

This one and only festive episode and final episode of Gerry Anderson’s masterpiece in general (if one excludes the CGI remake and them three audio recorded episodes which later got visualised) is told mostly in flashback as International Rescue’s founder Jeff Tracy recounts the time he and his fellow members of IR helped a Children’s Hospital with funding for a new wing. They also arrange to pick up the lucky winner, one of the patients, who will be spending Christmas on Tracy Island. Meanwhile, two thieves named Scobie & Straker plot to rob the vault of a toy store.

Give Or Take A Million may have closed the original Thunderbirds series, but it was an excellent final episode for a show. Here, we begin with a scene where Jeff is dressed as Santa and talking to a boy named Nicky, who’s impressed with how summery the island’s beach is and how wintry the Tracy Villa is. Nicky also wishes to see one of the Thunderbird vehicles launch. The one that does is Thunderbird 3; good choice. Then begins the flashback story of how it all began.

This episode also relates to my personal and sceptical belief in Santa Claus. When I wrote Is There A Santa Claus?, I pointed out that if there was a Santa, that person would use some sort of aircraft, maybe in the style of the Thunderbirds vehicles. What I didn’t point out is that Santa might not live in the North Pole. It might be somewhere around the Pacific, which is where the secret base is located (only we don’t know whereabouts in the ocean it is). Why the Santa Claus business could be International Rescue. I know they usually specialise in saving people’s lives, but Jeff is dressed as Santa and it’s kind of them to help the Children’s Hospital, and talk about Tin-Tin doing some of the Christmas shopping. Many people just assume that Santa’s hometown is the North Pole, that his employees are elves and he owns a flock of reindeer. Gerry Anderson saw it a different way.

I also like how this episode’s written. Yes, there’s an occasional goof, including a calendar mistake; a personal, but minor nitpick, but it’s the smallest of mistakes. Actually, what I’m referring to are certain other scenes; while the two thieves are making their robbery, they realise the heavy weight of the gold bars they’re carrying, while attempting to avoid touch the floor which is triggered by an alarm, and things get much hairier when a pen is hanging over the edge of a shelf (kinda like that Mission Impossible movie). Another awesome plot point in the episode is how much time Brains is spending in the science lab and some of the IR staff are wondering what he’s up to, then thinking; let’s leave him be, he’s probably very busy. This of course doesn’t seem like a festive activity, but that point and the bit where he surprises both Virgil and Tin-Tin and explains that he’s checking the weather, does lead to a festive and beautiful final scene.

 

#8;

Road To The North Pole – Family Guy (2010)

Family Guy has had plenty of Christmas specials and some Road To episodes before this one and I have to say Road To The North Pole is one of a kind, also one of the darkest. Some of you may not agree, but let’s take a look.

Road To The North Pole begins with Seth McFarlene’s dad giving an introduction to the episode’s narrative, which begins with a musical opening where many residents of Quahog are getting into the Christmas spirit and writing their Xmas lists, with Brian questioning the quality and quantity of gifts they’re asking for. Later on, Brian takes Stewie to see a department store Santa Claus, but after waiting in a tremendous queue, ‘Santa’ rudely exits his post before Stewie can get his turn. Furious at the employee’s attitude, Stewie plans to teach Santa Claus a lesson. Brian, who doesn’t believe in Santa, reluctantly takes him to the North Pole. However, once they arrive, the duo discover what a state the real Santa, his reindeer, elves and workshop are in.

Not many people liked this episode when it came out. Part of it is due to its heavy violent content and swearing. But this is Family Guy and it’s always been so violent and foul-mouthed. Plus, it was never intended for kids in the first place. I think the music’s awesome, the story’s awesome, the originality’s awesome and even the messages are awesome. I’ll explain all this one by one.

Road To The North Pole contains two fantastic musical numbers, the first one being All I Really Want For Christmas which I explained about, but somehow feel in the mood to sing along to. It’s also important to bear Brian’s lyrics in mind, since he’s trying to advise his family to go easy on the Xmas lists since one can’t always get everything one wants and that they maybe creating more and more workload, but Peter dismisses them by incorrectly stating that “Christmas is about getting”. The next number is Christmas Time Is Killing Us, which sees Santa and the elves put under so much stress in constructing the gifts everybody around the globe has asked for. That song apparently won an award, but I’m surprised none of them got released as singles, unlike that song from that South Park episode, Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo.

Speaking of Santa Claus, I love the idea of Stewie wanting to kill him. It’s dark I know, but also amusing. I have yet to see a film or TV episode which has a similar plot to that. I also like how Brian is attempting to talk Stewie out of what appears to be a silly activity by trying to tell him that Santa doesn’t exist. Of course, he eventually proves himself wrong when they do meet Santa. Plus, the idea of Santa being too ill to deliver the presents is also original. Again I can’t think of any other show or film or media product that came up with that idea.

I also have to admit how inspiring the third act is; Brian and Stewie kindly help out with the deliveries, but they eventually screw up when they debate on Santa’s traditions (“you’re supposed to take one bite out of the cookies”) and realise they brought certain gifts to the wrong house. Then when everybody in the world notice the absence of any presents, we get Brian interrupting the news report to state the reason why this has been the cause and stating that each Christmas has increased on greed and Santa has given, but the residents just took. He also suggests that the world’s population cut back on their demands and ask for just one gift each year. Of course, had it not been for the episode’s pure graphic content, this would have been a great message for children (yes, The Animals Of Farthing Wood and Captain Scarlet are rather violent, but they weren’t that graphic). But it’s Family Guy. What do you expect?

Anybody who’s thinking of making a TV Christmas special for kids, this Family Guy ep is worth researching. I of course don’t mean make it that viol.

 

#7;

Holy – Bottom (1992)

Some British readers were probably expecting to see some festive episodes from British comedies. Well now’s your chance since we have an episode from Bottom, a sitcom about two unemployed friends who share a run-down flat, known for its constant slapstick and starring Adrian Edmondson and the late great Rik Mayall.

Holy centers on Eddie and Richie who come across a Christmas miracle. In-between, they present each other with nonsensical gifts, invite their two mates, Spudgun and Dave Hedgehog, prepare a disastrous Christmas dinner and briefly become guardians of a baby who has turned up at their doorstep.

Many Christmas episodes of British sitcoms get so much credit that the viewers seem to overlook other specials outside of that category. Personally I think the majority of those are overrated, especially the ones from the Royle Family. However, one British Christmas comedy special that seems to get overlooked is this episode of Bottom, which is one of my favourite shows.

There are so many classic moments from Holy, it’s impossible to name them all. First of all, the opening; Richie dresses up as Santa Claus and presents himself a stuffed pair of tights (“this is for Richie, he’s been a good little boy”) and Eddie a minuscule sock and Richie finds his gifts are ingredients for the Christmas dinner. Love it! What he gets from Eddie; an empty miniature bottle of Malibu and a play-telescope (made out of a bog-roll and a bit of tissue). Eddie’s gift; a self-portrait of Richie. I also love how conservative, well, traditional, Richie appears towards Eddie and their mates; banning television until the Queen’s Speech and his presentation of the food to the others. And do I need to mention the accident Richie has with the turkey?

I should also mention how Bottom takes advantage of the Christmas spirit. During the third act, we get a mickey take out of the nativity story, starting with the baby’s arrival, followed by Richie attempting to entertain the baby by playing ‘peekaboo’ with the baby-sheet, making him look like the Virgin Mary, and Eddie, Spudgun and Hedgehog, still wearing their party hats, donating their strange gifts to the infant; a box of Terry’s gold chocolates, a Frankenstein mask (which Eddie originally intended for Richie) and a bottle of aftershave called ‘Grrr’. Get it kids? One thing they’re curious about is where the baby came from, but it’s not revealed until the end, which I shan’t talk about, in case I spoil it.

The humour is also very British. We see Richie struggling to teach the others how to play charades and there’s mentioning of Jonathan Ross, Noel Edmonds, The Queen’s Speech and Emmerdale; the episode was made sometime after Emmerdale Farm was changed to just Emmerdale, and some people had not yet got out of the habit of calling it by its original title, a subject Spudgun brings up in conversation.

 

#6;

Yuletide Spirit – The Thin Blue Line (1995)

Another Britcom episode. For those of you who don’t know and not to confuse you with the documentary film, The Thin Blue Line is a cop-related sitcom set in a police station and aired on BBC1 during the mid-90s. One of its main themes saw the rivalry between the uniformed squad led by Inspector Fowler (played by Rowan Atkinson) and the CID led by Detective Inspector Grim, despite being on the same sides of the law. The Thin Blue Line had plenty of laughs, but because it’s also a cop show, also tackled some serious and emotional issues.

Yuletide Spirit begins with Inspector Fowler preparing for an audition for an upcoming pantomime of Peter Pan and his girlfriend Sergeant Dawkins reading in for him. As Christmas nears, conflicts occur when PC Goody gives presents to two of his fellow officers, but accidentally switches them, Dawkins and Constable Habib attempt to aid a homeless woman who’s heavily pregnant and the CID experience trouble with some carol singers who turn out to be thieves.

Yuletide Spirit is such an awesomely scripted Christmas episode and manages to balance the narrative points throughout and there’s so many classic moments. The bit where Goody delivers the presents to Fowler and Habib is comedy gold!; he means to give Fowler a puncture repair kit and Habib some lingerie, but gives them the wrong presents, and to complicate things further, Dawkins thinks that Fowler bought her the lingerie.

I should also mention the scene with the homeless couple whose baby is about to be born. Like Bottom, The Thin Blue Line references the nativity story so well. Once we see Fowler stare at the couple’s baby, he points out that although the police station is not much of a birthplace for a baby, there was another baby who was born at a lowlier place and grew up to do great. Good point and such an inspirational scene. And yes, Goody’s response is hilarious. In fact, everything he does in this episode is hilarious, i.e. the present bit and during the birth scene where Dawkins commands Goody to bring some hot water, but comes back with something ‘more special’ (since it’s Christmas), a carton of Ribeana!

I would say the same thing about Inspector Grim, who’s out-casted Fowler as the villain in the pantomime and obsesses over it while on the trail of the criminal carol singers. Speaking of the carol singers (one of them played by Jake Wood, actor of Max Branning in EastEnders), I love their rendition of Away In A Manger. And talking about the pantomime, I’ve appeared in pantomimes myself and helped out backstage, so you could say I can relate so much to that.

But of course, being a police-officer is tough business, which is why we see the force operating, even on Christmas Eve, in case trouble occurs, i.e. the carol singers. Even Grim can’t get a break. He has the pantomime to think about as well as his assignment and problems do occur when he and Constable Kray go to arrest the carollers… best not say too much.

 

#5;

The Big .22 Rifle For Christmas – Dragnet (1952)

Here we have an episode from another crime related show, this one from the fifties and quite a dark Christmas special.

Detectives Friday and Smith are assigned to search for a missing boy. They soon learn that the boy’s parents gave him a rifle for Christmas and the weapon has been removed from its packaging, becoming clear that he may have used it.

The Big .22 Rifle For Christmas both celebrates the Christmas spirit and brings out an anti-gun violence message simultaneously. It also warns parents to really think about the gifts they buy for their kids. In the episode’s case, the boy gets a rifle and trouble does occur when he gets excited and unwraps the gift sometime before Christmas Day, but then uses it and another kid gets wounded as a result.

A lot of kids want to act tough and want dangerous items for Christmas. It’s understandable, but there are age-restrictions on owning guns, certain gifts must be used in a responsible manner and guns do kill, which is what The Big .22 Rifle For Christmas is trying to point out.

 

#4;

Santaclaustrophobia – Hill Street Blues (1983)

Another crime related show. I know, but let me make clear that the reason for them rankings ain’t because I’m a fan of the majority of crime TV shows. They just happen to have some of the greatest festive episodes the TV industry has to offer.

For those of you who don’t know, Hill Street Blues is an American police drama which was produced during the eighties. It contained such gritty camera-work and some unforgettable characters. It dealt with such tough issues, how the police precinct is operated and it kicked ass!

In the show’s only Xmas themed episode, many events occur; Frank and Fay Furillo’s son, Frank Jr, is scheduled to spend Xmas with Frank (they’re divorced by the way), Det. Washington attempts to make it up to the wife of the liquoir store owner he previously shot during a robbery, the police force hosts an Xmas-themed play for a children’s hospital and Mick Belker goes undercover as Santa Claus.

Christmas can be a nail-biting experience for some people and we can relate to this episode. The fact that Frank Jr is staying with Frank is tough for Fay, considering their previous divorce and divorces can affect people, and we can relate to how emotional Fay is and the way Frank comforts her during their conversation. The same is said for the scene with Washington’s heart-to-heart with the store owner’s wife. We side with both, because the lady’s sad and angry that she lost her husband right before Xmas and Washington killed the guy by accident (as seen in the show’s previous episodes).

Speaking of which, being a cop is tough business. The police are working on Christmas Eve, in case some criminal activity occurs (duh!). I love the introductory roll call which finishes when SGT Esterhaus warns the officers ‘Let’s be careful out there’ and wishes them a Merry Christmas. Plus when the officers including Hunter, Goldblume, Bates, Hill and Renko finish their play, they receive an emergency call and head down hastily to investigate the incident. We do empathise with them, because they can’t get a break.

Hill Street Blues may not exactly be a comedy, but Belker as Santa; gee, that’s an incredibly amusing scene. Imagine having a growling detective dressed as a light-hearted fictional legend. The police’s play is also fun to watch.

 

#3;

Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire – The Simpsons (1989)

Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire – The Simpsons (1989)

The famous yellow family’s first Christmas special and their pilot episode too (if one excludes Tracey Ullman’s shorts).

The episode begins with Homer, Marge and Magiie watching Bart and Lisa performing for their school’s Xmas-themed show. Then we see the family doing their Christmas shopping, but Bart’s tattoo gift for Marge causes her to spend all the Xmas savings on a device which removes tattoos. As a result, the family are broke for the vacation. Things don’t look anymore helpful when Homer is refused a Christmas bonus from his workplace and is afraid to tell his family, so he decides to work part-time as a department store Santa Claus.

The Simpsons has had so many Xmas specials. This one in particular is one of a kind. Not only did it begin one of the greatest shows in TV history and I can’t believe how long it’s been in production since then, but it’s one of the greatest festive stories ever told. The Simpsons has dealt with some emotional issues, such as environmental disasters, suicide and xenophobia. This episode is no exception. It sees the family in a financial crisis with very little money to spend on gifts. Personally if I was Marge, I would’ve been more cool about Bart’s tattoo. That way, the Simpsons would’ve been more financially secure, but this is a comedy and Marge is the stereotypically paranoid mother (don’t take that the wrong way moms). In fact, Homer’s boss Mr. Burns seemed very unreasonable to not give any of his employees the Xmas bonus. So it makes sense that Homer works an extra job (i.e. as Santa), but even the staff at the department store don’t pay him enough money.

The episode even questions the gambling system. Since Homer has been paid a terribly low amount, he bets on a greyhound race when he hears that there’s a dog called Santa’s Little Helper, in order to raise more money. For those who have never seen this episode, I’d advise you to skip this paragraph, because there’s a spoiler alert. Homer and Bart are unlucky when the dog they placed their bet on loses (goes to show that only a small percentage of people are likely to win a gambling bet). They then witness Santa’s Little Helper’s heartless owner disowning him. Bart asking Homer if they can keep the dog is a heart-warming moment as is them introducing him to the rest of the family, thus they have a happier Christmas.

Seeing Homer act like Santa is a fun moment, especially when he reprises the reindeer’s’ names “Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Nixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Dixon”. I also thank this episode for introducing me to the Batman version of Jingle Bells, through Bart and his fellow 4th-graders singing the song. It’s a lot more fun than the original.

 

#2;

The 1986 Christmas edition – EastEnders

Not many people had had a very merry Christmas every year and this classic episode of EastEnders, which apparently got the most viewing figures, doesn’t exactly bring sunshine, lollipops and rainbows to the vacation.

We had such memorable moments from a lot of the Christmas Day editions to EastEnders, including some jolly moments with Phil Mitchell dressing up as Santa Claus, Billy and Little Mo marrying, the Butchers’ food fight and when Max Branning and his kids had a turkey malfunction and Max was like “we could always have pizza”, some raging moments; Terry Raymond banishing Troy for sleeping with his wife Irene, the 1996 Mitchell dinner table squabble and Trevor Morgan’s ghastly dinner, and some sadness, i.e. Jamie Mitchell’s death. But this edition from 1986 stands out as one of a kind.

This edition features some of the memorable characters; Ian Beale, Dot Cotton, Pauline Fowler, Pat, Den Watts, Sharon Watts, Angie Watts, Arthur Fowler, Pete Beale, Kathy Beale, Lou Beale, Ethel Skinner, you name it. We have the then-teenage Ian receiving a motorcycle for Christmas, Pat spending the vacation with local punk Mary Smith and most of Walford seem to be having fun with some exceptions; Arthur is in a panicking state and Den’s gift to his wife is a set of divorce papers.

The reason for placing this episode on the list is not because it had such high viewing figures. It’s much more than that. If you compare EastEnders to other soap operas i.e. Coronation Street, Emmerdale and (sighs) Hollyoaks (!), it contains totally unforgettable characters i.e. the ones in this ep and storylines. The 1986 Christmas Day ep is no exception. It’s well acted and written and very character driven. Firstly, it came out before I was born, but I managed to catch up with it on YouTube, so bad news out of the way. I’m quite amazed how rarely Ian used his motorbike after this ep, but oh well.

Let’s talk about the most classic scene, when Den announces his divorce to Angie. He doesn’t shout or snap or anything like that. He stays calm, but we know he’s clearly annoyed and he’s speaking in a rather sinister tone. Basically, what’s happening is that their marriage has been falling apart and Angie’s made a fool of herself with her alcoholism which is why Den wants to get rid of her, but Angie hasn’t let him divorce him in the first place which is why she had faked an illness. However, Den is not stupid and has realised that she lied to him. I also love how he smiles and ends his speech with “Happy Christmas Ange” and hands her the gift. We do feel for Angie as well, because she doesn’t want Den to leave him. Though it’s a bit of a jerk move to lie about an illness.

If you thought that Simpsons ep was the only one which tackles financial problems, look no further. Just when you thought things couldn’t get grimmer, Arthur has a nervous breakdown. He’s sitting alone with no lights on and Pauline’s worried about him. Well she would be, she is married to him. What’s happened to him is that he’s attempting to financially secure his family’s future and ensure they have enough money to cover Michelle and Lofty’s then-upcoming wedding, which is why he’s stolen some of the church’s money. You’d be thinking “hang on, ain’t this guy got a job?” Actually no, he was made redundant from his factory job since the show started. It’s no wonder he’s in a state.

EastEnders’ 1986 Christmas special highlights some of the realities of working-class families and how they spend Christmas, some events we can all relate to and empathise with.

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some Honourable Mentions;

Merry Christmas Mr. Bean – Mr. Bean (1992)

The Pageant – Keeping Up Appearances (1995)

A Pinky & The Brain Christmas – Pinky & The Brain (1995)

The Man In The Long Black Coat – One Foot In The Grave (1991)

A Christmas To Remember – Stingray (1964)

Xmas Story – Futurama (1999)

 

And the number 1 Christmas episode is;…

The Night Before Christmas – Tom & Jerry (1941)

I know what some of you guys are thinking. Tom & Jerry? But that’s just a collection of short films. Though when I watched Tom & Jerry, it felt to me like a TV show. There have been over a hundred shorts and ironically, The Night Before Christmas, despite being the third ever episode to be shown, is Tom & Jerry’s only Xmas special to date and the best Xmas special in general I’ve ever seen in my life.

The Night Before Christmas commences with a narrator who briefly recites the first few lines from the famous story of the same name;

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

Then enter Jerry, who starts having fun with some of the toys lying around the Christmas tree. However, he mistakes a sleeping Tom for a toy, waking him up and leading to a manic chase around the lounge. The final straw for Tom occurs after an event involving mistletoe and he chases Jerry out of the house, but wonders if it was the right thing to do on Christmas Eve.

This Tom & Jerry short deserved that Academy Award nomination and the ultimate Christmas special I grew up with the most. We had some of the episodes on VHS. This episode was an exception, but I remember it showing a few times on BBC1. Gee, them were the days. It’s also great how they can get a TV festive episode which doesn’t rely much on dialogue. This one is pure-dialogue-free apart from the opening narration and some background carol singers. Tom & Jerry are an awesome example of a silent comedy duo. Sure they would talk now and then, but who needs dialogue when you have the actions.

The Night Before Christmas captures a lot of the Christmas spirit. The fact that it obviously parodies the famous poem by an anonymous author, through the intro, is part of it; the bit where the narrator states ‘Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’ is interrupted by Jerry’s present. It also demonstrates the fun of celebrating Xmas, through Jerry’s bouncing through the gifts. His fun is scuppered when he accidentally wakes Tom up; Tom of course is hoping for a quiet nap and easily gets frustrated by his friend’s antics and we all want a bit of peace now and then. I mean we wouldn’t want anything rowdy now, would we?

We witness plenty of funny moments, such as; Jerry hiding in a light and Tom attempting to catch him only to electrocute himself, Tom getting punched by a boxing glove in a jack-in-a-box and the mistletoe scene, which I’m surprised didn’t cause much debate. I mean, homosexuality is now widely tolerated, but this was made at the time when there was still a law on such a thing. Though I reckon there was a bit of innocence within William Hanna and Joseph Barbera when they directed this short.

Christmas is of course a time of sharing and being nice to one another. After when Tom shuts Jerry out of the house (and I can’t talk about it without spoiling a bit of the ending), he feels that now he can have a peaceful nonsense-free night. However he still can’t get a break when he hears heavenly choirs sing Silent Night and I have to say, I still get emotional when I see Jerry outside in the snow attempting to get back inside, from that point till the end. Yet Tom starts to feel bad about what he’s done and goes to help Jerry. Then Tom gives Jerry a candy cane inspiring Jerry to fish a mousetrap out of Tom’s milk dish, which was presumably a prank Jerry planned earlier. It does show how much they do care for each other, despite their troubles. And do I need to mention that lovely tune the mousetrap provides? Gee, I so love that ending.

Message for Hanna and Barbera who are probably listening up in heaven. God bless you for giving us the most beautiful festive themed episode ever to have existed, one that’s got something to appeal to all ages. And as Tiny Tim would say; God bless us everyone.

So that was my personal top 12 festive TV episodes. Some of you may agree, some may not, but it’s just my opinion. Do feel free to leave your comments below.

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Top 10 One Foot In The Grave episodes

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After reviewing my personal top ten episodes of four family TV shows, three British sci-fi puppet shows and an American family-based sitcom, I thought I’d try something a little different. For this post, I’m reviewing my top ten episodes of a British sitcom which is a little less family friendly that is One Foot In The Grave. Not to say that the show isn’t child friendly whatsoever, I remember first watching One Foot In The Grave when I was seven years old. Though if you compare it to the other shows whose episodes I previously ranked, it’s much more adult.

For those who don’t know, One Foot In The Grave is a series about an elderly couple who live in a Southern English suburb. Victor Meldrew, a former security guard, is forced into involuntary retirement after being replaced by a box with a recorded message and struggles to cope with the modern world, basically hating being retired, while his wife Margaret is stuck in the middle of the mishaps.

The series was written by David Renwick, the sort-of Vince Gilligan of British comedy. And such writing! One Foot In The Grave is as intelligently written as Law & Order, The X-Files, some to name. It’s known to include MacGuffins, a plot element also known to be used in most of Alfred Hitchcock’s feature films, which describes a minor plot point that later becomes important to the synopsis. David also combined elements of farce and tragedy with the comedy.

A few months ago, Richard Wilson, the actor of Victor, turned 80, so a late happy birthday to him. So without further ado, I shall be ranking what I personally consider The Top 10 Episodes of One Foot In The Grave.

Number 10;…

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The Broken Reflection (S03, E03)

The Broken Reflection introduces Victor’s brother, Alfred. In this episode, Alfred travels from New Zealand to visit/stay with Victor and Margaret for a fortnight vacation. He brings some some pictures and some strange items which link to the history of the Meldrews. While that’s going on, next door neighbours Patrick & Pippa Trench also have a vacation and Victor is at war with a bunch of hooligans.

At first, the relationship between Victor and Alfred starts off not so well; when we at first see them together, they’re having some dinner conversation. Victor points out that Alf already said certain things in previous letters. Alf struggles to hear what Victor’s saying, forcing Victor to repeat what he’s said and causing him to be exasperated. We know that sort of thing can tick people off, but then as you get older, some of your body parts or mobility begin to function less.

This brings me neatly onto my favourite part of the episode; Victor’s view of the modern world. It begins with a scene where he has a technician round his house in order to enact revenge on him in regards to some road related incident. The man is using a dicta-phone to record memos. This presumably gives Victor an idea; to get a dicta-phone himself, so that he no longer has to repeat himself every time Alfred mishears. At first, the  dicta-phone proves useful to Victor, but then as the episode progressed, the technology turns against him when he realises he forgot to switch the item off while talking to Margaret about his rocky brotherhood.

I should also mention Alfred’s artifacts; one of them being his and Victor’s great-grandpa’s skull, surprisingly striking a resemblence to Victor. And also Victor’s lawn being trashed by two hooligan women, leading to Victor to trash their doorway and the hooligans to put something really nasty in his letterbox, unaware that they’ve got the wrong house, leading to a hilarious finale.

 

Number 9;…

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The Trial (S04, E05)

The Trial is Victor’s solo episode and the only one where we don’t see Margaret (if one excludes that Comic Relief sketch).

Victor has been selected to take part in the jury for some unnamed court case. Nobody know what crime’s been committed, who the defendant is or when the session takes place, which means Victor must stay home for the day in case he gets an important call.

Try and imagine if you was selected for jury service and had to wait a while till you could step into a court and know what the case is.. My dad’s experienced it as have some of my friends. This is exactly how Victor feels in The Trial, and yet he’s trying to find something to pass the time, such as writing a thank you letter to his brother and having a go at a cryptic crossword puzzle.

Speaking of the crossword, that is one of my favourite scenes. The questions i.e. “Mad poet mugged by banjo player sees red when eating pickles”, hilarious, but also shows how impossible such crosswords are to complete. Even Victor’s pen leads to amusing consequences. My other favourite scene is when Victor finds his newly delivered yucca plant is literally in the downstairs lavatory!

 

Number 8;…

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The Valley of Fear (S01, E03)

And this is the episode that stirred up a lot of controversy due to the fact that there was a frozen cat in it. Why is it that I always love the controversial episodes?

The Valley Of Fear sees Victor, who while photographing the sunset gets mugged and finds graffiti sprayed on his house. As a result, he begins a Neighbourhood Watch meeting. Meanwhile, he and Margaret are having to deal with central heating problems, a woman in the attic and a cat which they find in their freezer.

The controversy that occurred in the first place was due to the fact that the cat looked real and as a result may have angered the RSPCA. Of course, it’s no different to the fact that the horse Francis Ford Coppola used when he filmed The Godfather was real and its head was detached from its body (though in Francis’ defence , that horse was already dead) and I once mentioned the concerns Gerry Anderson had when he filmed that Thunderbirds episode with the alligators.

The cat scene is my favourite bit in The Valley Of Fear. The scene is both very amusing and farcical. Seeing the way Margaret panics says it all, as does Victor’s slight annoyance over the fact that Margaret didn’t close the freezer door properly and his sarcasm (Margaret: “how long do you think it’s been there”, Victor: “I don’t know, I’ll look for its sell-by-date”).

But there’s more to it than just the cat scene. The Valley Of Fear was released a couple of episodes after the pilot, which saw Victor being involuntarily retired at an early age. We can easily empathise with Victor as he’s trying to adjust to retirement. Things certainly don’t get better for him when he experiences the mugging and the slight vandalism to his house. We therefore can’t blame him for heading the Neighbourhood Watch meetings.

 

Number 7;…

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Dreamland (S03, E02)

Dreamland is a well-scripted episode. Most of it is told in flashback through a story Mrs. Warboys is telling some women at a cafe.

Margaret experiences some nightmares she has in which she kills a man that resembles her husband. Victor, meanwhile, is bored of Margaret’s fussing over some items Victor intends to purchase, i.e. black shoes, and his obsessions with them. One day, when Victor returns home, Margaret ain’t home. He and Mrs. Warboys discover she’s been missing for some time and it’s feared she could be dead.

Dreamland signals One Foot In The Grave as one of the most dramatic sitcoms ever to have been produced. One expects to have a good laugh whenever one watches a comedy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t shed a tear or cover serious issues, hence The Simpsons, Bird Of A Feather, The Thin Blue Line, some to mention. One Foot In The Grave is no exception and Dreamland proves so. We get some amusing moments such as when Victor finds that the shoes he purchased are from a corpse, then he disposes of them, leading to the scene with the hobo.

But then, there are moments of sadness. As soon as Jean (that’s Mrs. Warboys by the way. I don’t want to keep calling her Mrs. all the time. It’s frustrating and Jean’s her first name anyway) reports to Victor that Margaret never showed up for work that day and none of her work colleagues saw or heard from her since. Then when they receive a call from the cops reporting they found Margeret’s raincoat by a canal, that’s when we start to really feel for both Victor and Jean. It’s like “oh no, Margaret’s dead”. Even during the bit where Victor turns down Jean’s offer for him to come round for a cup of tea, I was unable to keep a dry eye.

Now I’m afraid I’ll have to spoil the episode at that point, so I’d advise anybody to skip this paragraph. Dreamland does have a happy ending. While Victor is spending a quiet night in and still grieving, he notices Margaret in the bed, alive! That’s when the laughter kicks back in. Seriously, seeing Victor in surprise at that moment is just great. Then again, we do have a bit of a quiet moment when Margaret reveals that she needed to escape for a bit (following her nightmares of course) and recalls a story of when she was five years old; she had two budgies, one of them accidentally killing itself when she offered to let them out of the cage for a bit, and then had a bad experience at school with an unsympathetic teacher. There are a couple of moments of giggles of course, especially when she states how she wanted to basically kill him, but we can easily sympathise with Margaret. I’d be in that position if I was humiliated like that.

Dreamland, a well recommended ep!

 

Number 6;…

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Love and Death (S02, E05)

In this one, the Meldrews visit a couple of old friends of theirs, Vince and April, in their boarding house of the south coast. However, some unfortunate coincidences nearly put Victor and Margaret’s marriage in danger.

Ain’t it lovely visiting old friends? I certainly jump for joy when I see some people I ain’t seen for a long time. Though often, you do experience some changes. And it appears that Victor has a bit of a bad start, apparently noticing a seagull in the bog, and of course, cheerful April offers him breakfast in bed, including a runny egg. Geez, not my kind of breakfast.

Love & Death is one of the funniest episodes of One Foot In The Grave. We get a lot of memorable moments; including Vince introducing Victor to his gravestone (a very unusual gift). Victor ending up chatting up two Romanian ladies, much to Margaret’s annoyance, Victor getting a beer glass super-glued to his forehead and let’s be honest, April’s wig.

But the best part of the episode is the finale; (spoiler alert!) the Meldrews pay their friends back for causing them trouble; Victor literally proving April breakfast in bed and a bad hair day!

 

Number 5;…

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We Have Put Her Living in the Tomb (S02, E02)

If you thought The Valley Of Fear was the only episode of One Foot In The Grave that involved killing animals, than you ain’t seen much yet. And if you thought the only time we saw a tortoise during the intro, again, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Meldrew’s are set to look after a family’s pet tortoise while the family are on vacation. But disaster strikes when the tortoise wanders around and Victor is burning some garden trash. Meanwhile, their wallpaper has been stripped, considering that somebody has used TCP.

We Have Put Her Living in the Tomb was the second episode of the second season following In Luton Airport No-One Can Hear You Scream which saw the Meldrews moving house after their previous one is destroyed. And in this episode, they’re attempting to adjust to the house they have now and are already having trouble with their wallpaper.

One Foot In The Grave most certainly never steered away from dark humour and We Have Put Her Living in the Tomb is no exception. It goes to show that one must take great care when looking after pets and that there are strict rules. The Meldrews do their best when they look after Kylie (the tortoise that is) and when she wanders off, they look for her. Victor at one point finds Kylie on the road with a road marking painted on her shell. Then we get to the biggie; the tortoise wanders off again. Victor is burning the garden trash, while Margaret is searching for Kylie. Then they realise that Victor has clumsily dumped Kylie in the burning basket, unaware that she buried herself in the trash.

This brings me onto my next point, the truth vs the lie. Victor tells the family the dark truth via phone call, ensuring that he doesn’t mention that he was the culprit, while Margaret, being more light-hearted, makes amends by buying them a new tortoise and hiding the evidence. And this is what the mix of the two elements leads to; a truly dark ending! I won’t give too much away, but it’s black comedy at its best!

 

Number 4;…

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The Return of the Speckled Band (S01, E06)

The one that introduced Victor’s catchphrase “I don’t believe it”, but that’s not the only reason why I placed this episode on the list.

Victor and Margeret are set to spend a vacation in Athens. Before then, they must deal with Victor’s fear of flying, Mrs. Warboys’ food-poisoning and a snake which has escaped from a garden centre. Plus they are unaware that the snake is in their house.

The title, The Return Of The Speckled Band, references to one of the Sherlock Holmes novels, The Speckled Band, which included a snake. That’s probably why they called it Return Of The Speckled Band. Because one of the plot points includes a snake which escapes from the same garden centre Victor visited. Speaking of plot points, this is what I was getting at when I briefly spoke about the fact that David Renwick included MacGuffins in the episodes.

The main plot explores the Meldrews’ planning for their vacation and Victor attempting to get over his fear of planes. First time we learn that is through Margaret’s conversation with Mrs. Warboys near the start of the ep (“he’s terrified. But this year I put my foot down”), which also brings up the off-putting things about Athens Jean points out. In another scene, Victor and Margaret are in the lounge, Victor states “Sometime tomorrow, we’ll be up in the air” and Margaret’s like “I wish you’d be told. It’s as safe as crossing the road”. Then we hear a violent car skid, which shocks Victor. That bit I love! Both hilarious and contributes to Victor’s aviophobia.

Okay, on to the MacGuffins! These include:

  • a hat which Jean has kindly donated to Victor and originally belonged to a dead relative of hers. Victor feels put off by that fact, because after all, he’s old and as Eric Idle’s theme tune goes. He attempts to get rid of it, but always seems to get it back.
  • Jean feeling sick, due to food poisoning. The Meldrews give her some videos to keep her entertained, including Alien, Victor’s idea (smiles). Yes I mean the Ridley Scott movie. The next time we see her is when Victor gives her some eggs for breakfast, which came from alligators.
  • The snake, which I briefly mentioned earlier and my favourite one. I would presume when it’s cage wasn’t properly shut and therefore it escape, it may have sneaked into Victor’s car, hence why it ends up in his house. The Meldrews remain unaware of its presence, despite Victor feeling it on his leg the night before they set off. When Margaret calls for Victor to get up, we hear Victor screech “Oh my God, no!”, as if he’d seen the snake. But then we discover he freaked out at a TV show which he despises. Then the snake crawls into their suitcase. We then see Margaret carrying the case down and complaining about its weight. Then as they’re in the cab to the airport, Victor thinks he forgot to pack something and briefly unzips the case, but then remembers he did pack it and closes it again, again ignoring the fact that the snake’s present. Lol.
  • A Scottish dustman who comes to the Meldrews’ door. He brings some of the MacGuffins together: the hat which he apparently finds in a crusher and gives back to Victor. Then the man discovers the snake slithering up the stairs (keeping in mind that Victor does not notice it) and says he knows someone who is a reptile expert. Next morning, Margaret explains to Victor that the man came round and kindly donated alligators’ eggs, speaking of the eggs Jean eventually has for breakfast and oh gee that scream she gives when she cracks one of the eggs open!

Return Of The Speckled Band; one of the best written episodes in comedy history.

 

Number 3;…

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Things Aren’t Simple Any More (S06, E06)

Yes folks, the final ever episode of One Foot In The Grave, if one of course excludes that Comic Relief special which came out the following year. And unfortunately I can’t talk about Things Aren’t Simple Anymore without spoiling it.

The episode begins with Margaret talking to a solicitor via phone in relation to an incident which saw Victor throwing a syringe in a man’s butt and asks them to withdraw Victor’s conviction considering that a, the man was deliberately provoking Victor and b, Victor’s been dead for sometime, so it’s too late to charge him. Some of the episode is told in a series of flashbacks; Victor is invited to a works reunion, but it turns to be a disappointing one. Afterwards, while waiting for Margaret to pick him up, Victor is killed in a hit-and-run accident. In-between the flashbacks, Margaret is attempting to get over her husband’s death and swears vengeance on the culprit. She meets a new friend named Glynis Holloway, who has also recently been widowed. It is not long until Margaret discovers who is responsible for Victor’s killing.

Things Aren’t Simple Anymore may be the last episode of One Foot In The Grave, but it’s also very differently written compared to the previous ones. It’s like watching a comedic episode of Breaking Bad, considering the various flashbacks used. Actually, it’s more like an episodic version of Reservoir Dogs. Of course, if the episode was written entirely in chronological order, it would’ve probably ended up as either a two part ep or a feature.

Many of us can easily relate to Margaret’s mournfulness and revenge and I’m sure those who was widowed following their partners’ killings would agree. It does indeed take time to get over losses. But then anybody could be the killer. Suppose if it turns out to be one of your friends? Speaking of which, I should also point out, and I’ll try not to give too much away, Glynis is also widowed and her husband happened to die on the same day Victor did, due to some unknown cause.

I also admire how Victor demonstrates his concerns about his health and fitness sometime before his death. He has an appointment with a physiotherapist, who doesn’t seem to be concentrating when he’s instructed to jog up and down the stairs. We also have the Meldrews clearing some old junk and Victor purchasing an old cordless phone much to his wife’s annoyance. The finale is also spectacular; a montage of some of Victor’s finest moments, including him stumbling across a Christmas-themed advert being filmed in the month of June and the incident involving the yobs and the syringe. Also, through a really clever bit of writing, we never find out whether Margaret completed her intention to kill the culprit when she finds out.

Things Aren’t Simple Anymore is a splendid, yet emotional and one of the greatest endings to a TV show in TV history.

 

Number 2;…

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The Pit and the Pendulum (S04, E01)

Not to confuse readers with the Roger Corman movie. Speaking of, that’s what the Pit & The Pendulum is named after and gee it was a fantastic start to season 4.

Victor believes that the Trenchs’ cherry tree is damaging his garden, so he hires a Neanderthal gardener to deals with the stray roots. However, the gardener’s antics annoy Victor so much they have a heated argument which alerts the gardener to an alternative use of the pit. Meanwhile, Patrick has bought a new pet dog and Margaret receives tragic news.

I remember when I was doing one of my college courses. We looked at TV genres and The Pit & The Pendulum was the example our lecturer showed to us. Then we was set to write an essay on the episode. Before then, I had no idea what a MacGuffin was. Of course now I know. Return Of The Speckled Band also demonstrated such plot devices, but I believe The Pit & The Pendulum demonstrates much more.

Let’s point out the MacGuffins;

  • Patrick’s dog and how small it is and the fact it wanders off
  • The unwanted sack full of seaweed delivered to Victor
  • The phone calls Victor receives
  • A crab which nips at Patrick’s testicles

All of these keep the episode flowing and link loosely to the gardener, his incompetent tasks and his quarrels with Victor. My favourite parts of the episode are when Victor receives a phone call and accidentally picks up the dog instead of the phone (which makes me cackle every time) and when we see Victor buried in the soil with only his head showing.

We also come across a moment of sadness and there’s one more MacGuffin; Margeret’s phone calls to her mom without an answer. We soon find out that the mother has died. Even Victor’s sorry to hear the loss.

Too much to say about this episode.

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some Honourable Mentions:

1.1 Alive and Buried

2.6 Timeless Time

4.4 Warm Champagne

5.2 The Affair Of The Hollow Lady

5.5 Hole in the Sky

 

And the Number 1 episode of One Foot In The Grave is;…

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Hearts of Darkness (S04, E03)

And Thunderbirds are go! Hearts Of Darkness is the darkest, one of the most well-written episodes of One Foot In The Grave. And I believe some of the themes are so darn relatable.

Okay what’s the story? Victor, Margaret, Mrs. Warboys and Nick Swainey are spending a day out in a countryside. However, they end up lost, so Victor decides to go and get help. The nearest place he finds is an old folks’ home, where he soon learns that the place is run by abusive nurses. It falls up to Victor to rescue the old residents.

What to say about this episode… The reason is not because it’s at the moment the top rated episode of One Foot In The Grave according to IMDB. Though in a way, it’s an honour. We begin with a montage of humorous events demonstrating what David Renwick does best when it comes to humour. We see the Meldrews and their friends heading to their trip and Victor getting into a variety of scrapes with passers-by i.e. Victor telling some drivers off for holding them up and them at a bar and him cheering at some sports result a bit so much he hits a table plank which catapults a beer glass into a nearby customer, on both occasions, Victor getting a nosebleed. Gee, I sense elderly abuse, which is pretty much the main theme of the episode.

But before we get to that, we have to deal with the foursome attempting to get home or at least some place they recognise. Try and imagine visiting a place you’ve never been to before and ending up in the middle of nowhere. We of course come across hilarious consequences such as Victor and Mrs. Warboys getting their feet trapped in a heavy bag of cement while sheltering themselves in an abandoned van from the rain. Eventually they do get help from the yob drivers, but unintentionally, the cement bag eventually comes off. But they still need to find a way out. And this leads to the best part of the episode.

And here’s what I was talking about when I mentioned elderly abuse. Victor stumbles across an old folks’ home. The residents kindly give him a shower and the staff gives him directions, but before he can leave the place, Victor realises he forgot his watch and notices that the staff are beating up the residents. This episode debates what kind of staff members the National Health Service hires. I’m not saying that the whole NHS is a hellhole. It’s a great service and there are some good staff members who have made a positive contribution. But others have demonstrated incompetence, abuse and betrayal to the service. The nurses in this episode are a prime example. And it’s happened in reality as well. There were some news articles about it.

Apparently, Hearts Of Darkness was heavily edited after broadcast, because many viewers moaned about the violent content included. But they’re clearly unaware that the episode demonstrates awareness in such an act. It does indeed go by its title. The nurses are not the kind of people you want to come across. They’re neglectful, they take harsh control over the elderly residents and schedule their lives and they booze. But it does have a happy ending. Victor maybe a grumpy old guy, but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care. He does. He questions the nurses actions and does his very best to liberate the old folks. Of course, he’s one himself. It goes to show that people deserve dignity and respect, no matter what their age.

So that was my personal top ten list of One Foot In The Grave episodes. If there was an episode I missed from the list, I apologise for the disappointment, but you can feel free to comment below. It’s just my personal opinion.

Thank you for reading.

Top-Ten Malcolm In The Middle episodes

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Once upon a time, there lived a little boy named Frankie Muniz. Frankie teamed up with another three lads; Justin Berfield, Erik Per Sullivan and Christopher Kennedy Masterson, and a high-profile actor, Bryan Cranston, and actress, Jane Kazmerek (well, sort of high profile, they did have numerous TV/Film credits before then), and thus was born one of the greatest American sitcoms to have ever existed, Malcolm In The Middle.

It’s ten years since Malcolm In The Middle ceased production and would you believe after all them years how grown up the youth actors are with Frankie turning 30 last year, Justin reaching his age a couple of months later. Hell, Erik has recently hit 25, so happy birthday to him for last week.

Also, there maybe a chance for a cast reunion later on (see this link for details: http://www.indiewire.com/2016/06/bryan-cranston-malcolm-in-the-middle-reunion-1201692100/). Oh and Bryan Cranston is to appear as Zordon in a new upcoming Power Rangers movie, so good luck to him.

In celebration to all them events, I shall observe what I personally regard as the top ten episodes of Malcolm In The Middle.

 

Number 10;…

Home Alone 4 (1.3)

I suppose the producers had to name this episode that, considering how many Home Alone movies there were at the time. In this one, Francis comes home from military school to sort-of babysit his younger brothers, while Hal and Lois are attending a wedding. Looking after Malcolm, Reese and Dewey proves questionable for Francis, being that he is their older brother and not their parent. Plus, stereo-typically, the brothers are occasional slobs and as a result, the house is in a bit of a mess. However, when Francis’ old friends hear that he’s returned to the suburb, they decide to pay a visit and end up throwing a wild party.

As a result of the party, the house is over-trashed. Knowing that the parents, especially Lois, will kill the boys, especially Francis, because he’s been left in charge, the quartet set to cleaning up the house. This leads to one of the most amusing parts of this episode; they find that they’ve over-cleaned the house and thy know that the parents are more used to the boys not being that tidy. So they make a few alterations; you have Francis sprinkling scrabble pieces on one of the side tables, Dewey putting footprints on the wall, etc. But then Malcolm has an accident when he dirties the book shelf, causing it to break and injure his head.

Again, the boys attempt to keep out of trouble with their parents and need $400 to heal Malcolm’s injury. The price puts them in a much more awkward situation, because who could possibly help them besides their parents and if they find out, Francis may be harshly banished back to military school. Plus they’re away, so they can’t get the money in time. They even ask Malcolm’s teacher who’s passing by in the hospital. She initially refuses, so Francis comes with a backup plan, an emotional talk with Dewey, which then talks the teacher into helping them after all. And I have to say, I often get teary-eyed every time I see Francis telling Dewey that he may be back in the military academy forever, Dewey in tears and Francis feeling emotional himself.

The entire series is a coming-of-age tale, but Home Alone 4 is more than that. It’s an episode about taking mature responsibility.

 

Number 9;…

Reese Drives (3.13)

Those who took driving tests in the past, think back to how you felt before you took your test and during your test. Reese Drives sees Reese taking his very first driving test. Before then, he tries to stay calm and ensure he focuses. This, I can so relate to. I remember before I took my test, I was constantly trying to eliminate everything from my mind that was not related to driving. Of course, it was all worth it, since I passed my test and now hold a full licence.

Anyway, enough about me, back to the episode. Speaking of pre-test experiences, Reese attempts to remain calm (because of course, stress could lead to road rage, which could lead to disaster) and Dewey takes advantage of his stress by stabbing Reese with a fork and Reese very nearly hits his brother, but calms and relents. In another moment, he has himself tied up in bed ready for the big day and then Dewey hits him with a sack of heavy items.

Now onto the ultimate moment; the driving. At first, he has to sit in the car with an abysmal driving student, named Jackie, who clumsily knocks down numerous traffic cones and other obstacles. Jackie’s clumsiness wastes Reese’s time and he loses his turn due to the fact that the instructor wants to nip to the post office, despite a long queue. We know that Reese is the least intelligent of the Wilkerson family, but we can’t really blame him for protesting and driving the car himself, without the instructor. However, he also goes to war with the law, a very dangerous task. Reese proves to be a great driver, but being that Jackie is with him and he’s driving without the instructor, he ends up being chased by the cops. I know how he feels when he finds out his test has been cancelled at the last moment. I’d be annoyed if that happened to me. And when he hijacks the car, I remember when I first saw the episode, I was cackling, as soon as Reese told Jackie to move over, she refused and he belched into her face causing her to give in. How can that not crack a smile? Of course, it didn’t happen to me, but if that was me, I would’ve called the company to complain, but Reese’s actions are part of the comedy to this episode.

The sub-plot is also enjoyable; Craig’s at his usual roguish ways when he tricks Malcolm into believing that he egged his house only to find that Craig wants a hand with his home cinema. Malcolm eventually enjoys his new job. However, when he sees a news report on the TV with Reese’s car chase, he runs off to help him, because despite their occasional irritation and Reese’s low intelligence, they are after-all family. This of course leads to one of the funniest Craig related scenes in the show; he falls off the roof and the next moment, his cat is watching and… you know the rest.

 

Number 8;…

Christmas (3.7)

I know, I know, but Christmas is one of the greatest festive-themed TV episodes in general to have ever aired and it ain’t hard to see why.

The Wilkersons have just about finished their Xmas shopping and as usual, Malcolm, Reese and Dewey are driving Lois insane with their constant fights. The final straw occurs when the boys play a game that involves throwing baubles at each other. Lois issues an ultimatum; either the boys behave or the vacation is cancelled. This leads to Malcolm, Reese and Dewey, fearing that she could use that sort of blackmail on them for the next few Christmases, to teach their mom a lesson, only to find that things are not as bad as they thought. Meanwhile, Francis is forced by Lois to spend a torturous Christmas with his grandma Ida, despite his objections.

Not many festive editions are great, but this one certainly is. As Lois points out, Christmas is meant to be one of the happiest times of the year. But this is a TV episode and just because it’s about Christmas, doesn’t mean it has to be all Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows. TV shows and films need to include conflict to tell a story. This one tells it brilliantly. Lois wants a nice family Christmas, but her plans are constantly ruined by the boys’ rough games/activities, which she views as basically hell. We can see both sides of the conflict; the mother wanting a nice peaceful holiday and the boys only having a bit of fun and the way they view fun. While they protest against Lois’ authority, (spoiler) they discover that she and Hal did indeed buy them what they wanted for Christmas. It does go to show that although the Wilkersons are a dysfunctional family and have so many conflicts, they do indeed care for each other and that’s what the vacation is all about, caring.

This also goes for Francis and Ida. Lois cares about her mom, because this is Ida’s first Xmas without her husband Victor. It’s a mystery how he died, because I don’t think there’s an episode where we see him die. But Francis has doubts, because he knows how evil she is, which I’ll explore later on. When he does visit her, he shows how much he cares by giving her a card. Ida hates it, because the card plays Jingle Bells every time it’s opened and she hates songs that are about Christmas. Francis of course doesn’t mean to ‘torture’ her. Later, after a rocky start, Francis and Ida do sort of bond and he finds that she did indeed buy the family some gifts. She does have love for her family, but she happened to withhold them, due to some petty offences they committed. So Francis at his usual rebellious mode plays a trick on his gran and stashes multiple musical cards around the house, driving her mad.

Christmas is one such awesome episode I recommend you get a hold of during Christmas.

 

Number 7;…

If Boys Were Girls (4.10)

We all know that Lois is the only female member of the Wilkerson household. And with that, she’s forced to put up with the male antics around the house. If Boys Were Girls takes place an episode after Lois discovers she’s pregnant with Jamie, the fifth child, who was later introduced at the end of the fourth season.

In this episode, Lois takes Hal, Malcolm, Reese and Dewey clothes shopping. The boys (excluding Hal, of course) constantly fight and bicker and Lois, suddenly, enters a dreamworld and imagines her kids as girls. Lois feels more secure in that world, then in the real world and sees the ‘girls’ as more light-hearted and co-operative, just like her, well almost. I mean she would be that way  if she hadn’t have had to put up with the boys.

Before I was born, my mom apparently predicted I was going to be born a girl. Of course the prediction was wrong and one can’t always be right about what gender the baby’s going to be. Lois hopes the baby is the girl as soon as she see Hal, Malcolm, Reese and Dewey rushing off to play basketball. Being that she’s the only female in the house, we can understand her imaginations. One moment, the boys are pigging on their hamburgers. The next moment, she pictures them as girls, feeding on salads and having a nice lunch conversation with Lois. I also love how she pictures Hal as more obese and with a comfort eating disorder and struggling with the terms that he’s the only male in the family.

But then in reality, the majority of females are just as difficult as males. As If Boys Were Girls progresses, we find out that the girl versions of the boys also have problems. Mallory (Malcolm’s female version) turns out to be a spoiled brat, wanting make-up, Renee (Reese) is as dumb as Reese and is revealed by how younger loud-mouthed sister Daisy (Dewey) to be pregnant at teen-age. This is when Francis as Frances steps him and would you believe that it’s the same actor? She turns out to be a college-drop-out and stripper. How I love that image and scene!

 

Number 6;…

Red Dress (1.2)

Another Lois-dominated episode, Red Dress contains just the one simple plot and it involves a red dress owned by her.

Lois and Hal are getting ready to eat at an expensive restaurant in celebration for their wedding anniversary. Lois intends to wear her favourite dress, a red one, but finds out that it’s been destroyed; burned and flushed down the lavatory. This drives her wild and while poor Hal is waiting for her at the restaurant, Lois furiously interrogates the boys in an attempt to find out the truth of who burned her dress.

Red Dress was only the second episode of Malcolm In The Middle that came out and this is a great debut for Lois Wilkerson. Well technically, her control-freak personality. This is one of the episodes that demonstrates Lois at her best; a woman full of rage. In this case, she’s raging over a simple piece of clothing, but it is in fact her favourite dress. So in the end, we can understand why she’s as mad as a hippo with a hernia. Her anger management is one of the reasons why I rank Lois as my favourite character in the series. I understand how hard it is to have a bossy loud-mouthed mother like her, but for some reason and despite the fact that I’m a male, I can kind of relate to that. I’ve been known to lose my temper easily, especially when something went wrong. By the way, on the topic that I said Lois was my favourite character, I just like to make clear that I can’t think of one character from the series I like the least. I can’t decide which of the other characters I like better than one another, but I have to rank Lois as my fav, her raging attitude being one of the reasons.

(spoiler) In the end of course, we discover that Hal is the culprit, though he actually burned the dress by accident, hence why he flushed it down the bog in order to hide the evidence. And I have to say I agree with the Nostalgia Critic, who once ranked him and Lois as one of the eleven best if strange fictional couples. They do truly love each other, but even Hal can get frightened of Lois, so we can’t really blame him for trying to get rid of the dress following the accident.

Lois’ raging persona would prove to be a trademark throughout the series, and I thank Red Dress for it.

 

Number 5;…

The Grandparents (2.15)

The Grandparents marks the first appearance of Grandma Ida and the first and only appearance of Grandpa Victor.

The grandparents (also Lois’ parents) pay a surprise visit to the Wilkersons. Lois and Hal are of course delighted to see them, yet surprised that they didn’t bother to tell them that they was coming. Reese is especially thrilled and bonds with Victor. Malcolm feels positive at first, but then doesn’t feel approved of by them. Dewey on the other hand is horrified and his childhood fears come flooding back. In-between this episode, the family is having trouble with their refrigerator.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if any of your relatives were pure evil? I never experienced that myself, but apparently one of my distant relatives used to bully his cousins at a younger age. Yet, many families have their own burden(s). When I ranked Christmas, I mentioned that Francis pointed out how evil Ida is. Even The Grandparents points out the evilness within Ida and her husband. Of course, Francis ain’t the only one who knows so. Dewey doesn’t exactly sense any luminosity within them. With that said, I should like to mention that this episode is probably his quietest role. When he sees his grandparents for the first time, he looks afraid. Then we get a brief flashback of him as a baby and the grandparents dropping him on the floor on purpose. As soon as it flashes back to the present, you’d expect Dewey to scream, but actually, he just runs away like hell without making a sound. Later Dewey sees Hal and Lois having a conversation with Victor and Ida and Hal tells him that Victor and Ida are staying longer. We then see Dewey remembering another haunting memory where as a toddler, he nearly got carelessly run over by Victor. Then back in the present, he runs off again. It may be cliched, but it’s also funny and subtle. It’s actually one of my favourite bits in the episode.

Reese of course gets on really well with Victor and this leads to another favourite scene of mine. Victor’s present to Reese turns out to be military equipment, including a grenade, which Reese clumsily handles and ends up removing its pin. We then get into both a bit of a panic and some giggles when Reese, Victor and Malcolm of course get into a stew with the grenade, which Malcolm ends up placing in the refrigerator, which blows up, something you’d expect to see on The Young Ones. We can just about imagine how Lois reacts; “You gave my son a live grenade? You brought live ammunition into this house?! WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!!”. And at her own parents too.

A perfect introduction to a recurring character, classic scenes and an explosive finale, you name it, that’s The Grandparents. Shame they had to kill Victor off later on in the series.

 

Number 4;…

Traffic Jam (2.1)

Traffic Jam is the first episode to the second season of Malcolm In The Middle and a continuation to Water Park (the final episode of the previous season). While I state what this episode is about, I shall give a brief overview of the previous episode.

Hal, Lois, Reese and Malcolm are heading home, after being kicked out of a water-slide park when they suddenly end up in a traffic jam, caused by some car wreck. Meanwhile , Dewey, who has had to miss out on the outing due to his ear infection, is trying to get home himself, following his babysitter’s heart attack and him chasing a red balloon (get it, Red Balloon?) and ending up in the middle of nowhere, leading to some strange adventures he has.

Traffic Jam maybe part of a two-part episode, but you can get the jist out of what’s going on in this ep, without needing to watch the first part (though I’d recommend watching that episode as well). Most of this one’s about coming across a traffic jam and how hard it is to cope when one is in the jam for a while. Lois is furious that the workmen are doing very little to clear up the mess which she knows looks blatantly easy to do and poor Hal is attempting to calm her down. You’ve got Reese at war with an ice cream man who refuses to sell the products. I can definitely see why, considering that as Malcolm points out, it’s 95 degrees Celsius and how questionable the ice cream man’s attitude is; Reese at one time points out that the man could’ve sold some ice cream while there’s a traffic jam going on and to make some money. Malcolm on the other hand doesn’t feel fantastic about the jam either, but he feels more positive when he meets a Canadian girl and to pass the time, they begin chatting and bond together. I love how they admire the view, including when they see Reese violently jumping on the van and when they see Lois shouting on the emergency phone. Speaking of which, let me talk about Lois’ angry phone call. She tries to call home to see if Dewey’s okay, but because it’s an emergency phone, she can’t get through. The best bit is when Lois asks to speak to the supervisor and then the man lowers his voice; “Hello this is the supervisor”, but Lois is not dumb enough to fall for it; “No it isn’t. You’re just disguising your voice,” “No I’m not. I’m really the supervisor.” I do in fact empathise with her eventual emotional breakdown. The thing with being stuck in traffic jams for hours in the hot blazing sun can lead to boredom and stress.

I should also mention the sub-plots which I think are amazing! Dewey finds his way home through various ways; with a store robber, a group of hillbillies on a truck, then in a limousine, then in a tour bus and then with a motorcycle gang. Meanwhile Francis enters a contest which involves eating 100 pieces of candy.

Traffic Jam is definitely one to check out.

 

Number 3;…

Hal Coaches (3.16)

Games can sometimes be frustrating. When I talk about games, I mean both video and physical.

Hal Coaches pictures Hal coaching for Dewey’s soccer team, who seem to be failing against the opposing teams. Meanwhile, Malcolm becomes obsessed with a video game after a new computer is delivered to the household.

Sometimes when you play for a sports team, the games require a bit of logic and geometry and strength and stress. Near the start of the episode, we see Dewey on the verge of quitting, because he feels that he and the team such at soccer. Hal is obviously optimistic that he can do better and urges his son to rethink about quitting. Then, because the original coach walked out, he decides to fill in, despite Dewey’s objections. Being that he is his father, he proves to be soft on the team, while the coach for one of his opposing teams is a tough ass. Sometime afterwards we see that Hal and Dewey’s team have lost. So Hal suggests that the team imagine themselves as superheroes i.e. “the X-Men” and that the opposing team is the force of “evil”. Though the kids do end up taking things literally. This episode does go to show that although sports coaches should treat the players like they would want to be treated, they should also try and introduce a logical way of fighting to win the game.

But Hal Coaches couldn’t be complete without the awesome sub-plot, which I personally find the best part of the episode; Malcolm becoming addicted to the newly delivered computer and a video game called the Virts (an obvious reference to The Sims). First of all, I give a lot of credit to the producer for the way they created the game; its commodore-64 style music and the ludicrous graphics, lol. I also admire how Malcolm creates a virtual version of his family (raising his mother’s aggressiveness to 10, lowering Reese’s hygiene level to 0, then upping his positives (appearance, intelligence, social skills) to 10). He at first enjoys the game, but then some games have its own problems. I remember as a kid when I cursed through some complications I experienced playing certain games. The Virts eventually turns against Malcolm. The funniest part is that his virtual self experiences negatives whereas the others are getting on fine, too fine, no matter how hard Malcolm tries. When the final straw occurs, guess what Malcolm does with the computer. It left me cackling and thinking ‘I bet that computer was expensive’.

 

Number 2;…

Book Club (3.3)

Yeah I know, another Lois-related episode. But believe me, Book Club is a really great episode and here’s why.

Book Club, apart from the cold open of course, begins with the Wilkersons having dinner and the males are constantly making obnoxious noises. Lois gets bored of the antics and so decides to join a local book-related society in order to escape from the family. However, on her first meeting, it turns out to be a group of other mothers having the same family troubles and looking for an excuse to socialise and get drunk. Meanwhile, since his wife has gone into the outgoing habit, Hal must watch over the boys.

First, let me start with the opening scene. It’s one of the funniest moments in worldwide comedy history! One would think that some of the British comedians thought of that idea. The males are belching through speech at the dinner table, and formal dinner conversation too. For instance, Malcolm’s belching “Could you pass the peas please?”. Hell, even Hal’s at it as well! Everyone but Lois, who hopes for a more pleasant atmosphere. When the males finally cease with the sound effects, we then get Malcolm talking about how he witnessed a fight in school. Hal, Reese and Dewey are invested, but Lois obviously ain’t and has hoped to hear about something more pleasant.

I’m a lad myself and as a result, and because my old elementary classroom was mostly full of boys (there was a few girls too), I occasionally joined in with their obnoxious antics. I can remember one time when one of the boys farted out-loud and we cackled and our teacher, a woman, went absolutely wild. There were few girls in my class and the majority of them were the more sensible ones. So in a way, I can pretty much relate to what’s going on in this episode.

It does go to show the understanding between males and females. I do feel for Lois. She’s surrounded by boys and listens to “boy talk and boy noises” every night, so I can’t really blame her for joining the women’s ‘book’ club. Yet again, every member of a family needs a chance to socialise and see the outside and I’ll get to that later. But I ought to say that when Lois does attend the club, the other members explain that they formed the club to unite the females into socialising, drinking and, guess what, plotting against some wealthy PTA-mother, whose car they soon go to vandalise and as a result, face the cops. Lois does question the rights and wrongs. I’d be in favour of joining a political society, but then something that resorts to violence and/or destruction would be a dangerous move. And Lois wanted to do was discuss books.

We also feel for Hal too. We too know Lois needs a break, but she’s still a control freak and orders Hal to keep an eye on Malcolm, Reese & Dewey. He’s like “if I’m to do what Lois does, I have to think like Lois”. He pretty much over does his job of ensuring the boys are out of trouble and stresses so much that he makes hilarious outbursts in front of the kids and do I need to mention the bit where he sees smaller versions of himself, who try to give him advice? God I love that scene! It also goes to show that Hal is not Lois. Message; be yourself.

Book Club is an episode that really defines Lois and Hal’s characters.

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;

Watching the Baby (5.2)

Bowling (2.20)

Reese Comes Home (6.1)

Hal’s Christmas Gift (6.6)

Water-Park (1.16)

 

And the number 1 episode of Malcolm In The Middle is;…

 

Zoo (4.1)

And Thunderbirds Are Go! The first episode from the fourth series has got to be the most hilarious, adventurous and cleverly written episode I’ve seen from Malcolm In The Middle. It’s one such episode that shows that life can be unfair sometimes, as was once quoted through the theme tune.

What’s the story? Malcolm, who has reached the age of 14, is going through a depressed teenage crisis. But that doesn’t excuse him from a family trip to the zoo. He and Dewey end up in a tigers’ den, Reese butts heads with an aggressive goat and Hal and Lois encounter an old friend. Meanwhile Francis gets a new job.

Starting with the opening scene, following the credits, I absolutely adore that bit, but also relate to that. Lois finds Malcolm wrapped up in his quilt and moaning. She orders him to get up and his response is; “I’ll get up when the world stops being a cruel joke, which is never!”. This, I can’t help smiling through, but of course I remember going through that phase when I was a teenager. I remember hating life and wanting to run away. A lot of teenagers do get depressed sometimes, as Lois does point out; “I did, your father did, Francis cried in the shower everyday for 6 months, Reese wouldn’t get out of the dryer”.

But the best thing about the episode is when the family come face to face with the animals they meet in the zoo. Reese for instance pokes fun at one goat, then another carelessly head-butts him and he ends up in a fight with it. Then you have Hal and Lois attending an exhibit held by Lois’ old boyfriend Matt, who offered Lois and the family a ‘coupon’, which contributes to Hal’s jealousy, and he ends up getting bitten by a tarantula. And gee, check out that mark he gets. They then of course end up in a row over their past lives involving Matt.

Then you have Malcolm and Dewey; Dewey gets excited when he notices the tiger exhibit, but falls in the den. This is when Malcolm’s grumpiness lowers and goes to help his brother, ending up in the den himself. But before they can get to the exit, they get surrounded by tigers. Malcolm is clearly scared, hence why he repeats; “don’t move, don’t move, don’t move”, but Dewey is calm and more optimistic and you’d often expect the younger one to be more scared, but it’s the other way round. And we as viewers really fear for their lives and worry that they’re about to get ripped to shreds, and considering how young they are. Even Lois’ panicking reaction as soon as she sees them (“oh my god”) says it all.

The music is awesomely written too. Most of the soundtrack for the series is written in a techno/funk/alternative format, but if you listen to the music whenever Reese comes across the goat, it’s written in hard-edged staccato piano notes. Amusing, but it also contributes well to the fact that Reese is facing real danger. The same is said for Malcolm and Dewey as soon as they come across the tigers, except the music’s more synthesised and written in a diminished tone, which creates the tension.

Zoo is a very well written episode; Lois has ‘coupons’ for the zoo, her excuse to get Malcolm out of bed and join the family at the zoo. The coupons are actually free tickets provided by Lois’ ex-boyfriend, contributing to Hal’s jealousy and his and Lois’ row over relationships. Malcolm’s depression sinking when he goes to help Dewey, but puts himself in danger too, which stops Hal and Lois’ argument. But then as I forgot to mention, Reese’s fight with the goat, that soon proves useful to (spoiler!) Malcolm and Dewey’s eventual rescue; Reese throws the goat in the tiger’s den (that gets a lot of laughs too)! Right after Malcolm states “Superman isn’t going to save us.”

As for the cold open (the scene before the credits), it is one of the best. Malcolm and Reese are playing ball and Lois scolds them each time (“Don’t play ball in/on/through the house”) which is without a doubt hilarious!

So yeah, Zoo is an adventurous, fun-packed flick which all the family can enjoy. It’s no wonder that Malcolm In The Middle is often compared to The Simpsons.

 

That was my personal top ten episodes of Malcolm In The Middle. Thank you for reading. If there are other TV shows whose episodes I should construct top ten lists of, by all means throw ’em in.