I was watching “The 50 Greatest TV Dramas” on Channel 4 on Saturday evening as voted for by 200 “top industry writers, directors, producers and commissioners”, so it says here! Worth watching, I thought, because at least “EastEnders” or “Coronation Street” won’t be number one as they possibly would be were the public deciding. I’m sure the soaps cover all the relevant issues of the day and do it ever-so-sensitively but I just can’t get a grip on something with no light at the end of the tunnel. Without a last episode there can be no conclusion, joyous or heartbreaking, and therefore this type of serial is dramatically unsatisfactory. Anyway, you all know why I was watching! I wanted to know if “Doctor Who” featured in the final selection, and if so in which position, or whether snobbery had got the better of those elite few choosing!
I was also interested to find out which dramas the industry-insiders thought better than “Who”, if any, and which they thought “Who” was better than. “Who” wasn’t my only reason for watching. It’s my personal favourite, yes, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s the best. It’s quality is so variable. “The Caves of Androzani” is a masterpiece whereas “Timelash” isn’t! “Doctor Who” featured higher in the list than “Pride and Prejudice” but no one could claim, in all honesty, that “The Twin Dilemma” or “Love and Monsters” is a better watch than Jane Austen dramatised by Andrew Davies. I would claim, however, that “The Mayor of Casterbridge” by Thomas Hardy, dramatised by Dennis Potter and starring Alan Bates as Michael Henchard, and “The Barchester Chronicles” by Anthony Trollope, dramatised by Alan Plater and featuring an excellent performance, among many, by Alan Rickman as the Reverend Obadiah Slope, are both better than “P&P” but neither featured in the list.
Please, don’t misunderstand me. I’ve nothing against “P&P”. While the ladies generally swoon at Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy in his wet shirt, us chaps laugh out loud as Mr Collins shields his eyes from Lydia’s heaving bosom! The recent adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House”, also dramatised by Andrew Davies, fared higher than “P&P” too. This surprised me as I thought the machinations of Miss Elizabeth Bennet were more popular. Even more surprising, though, was the absence of the superior version of “Bleak House”, from twenty years ago, starring Denholm Elliott as John Jarndyce and Diana Rigg as Lady Honoria Dedlock. I could go on and on about the things I thought were right and wrong about the list which only serves to show how futile these kind of charts are. How can you compare dramas of differing styles and types, and made in different eras and by different countries, to suit different audiences, and then attempt to place them in definitive order?
“Doctor Who” came 26th. Would it have figured at all, I wonder, without Russell T. Davies’ recent reinterpretation? He is regarded highly by the self-appointed experts whereas the original series isn’t. Or, at least, they’ve never shown any regard for it at all until now! It never won Baftas in its original 26-year run, for example, when the series was more deserving of awards. Then came the blunder to end all blunders. I’m surprised Outpost Gallifrey haven’t picked up on this. When David Tennant appeared, to pass comment, the caption credited him as the Eighth Doctor! So, which two have they written off then? How can a programme, specifically about television drama, featuring contributions by only those supposedly in the know, get such a fundamentally basic fact wrong? It’s not as though we’re expecting them to know in which story the Zarbi appeared or anything overly-complicated like that! No, that’s one of the jobs of the Executive Producer of “Doctor Who”, Julie Gardner, who, judging from recent comments, is both patronising and ignorant about the series to which she contributes!!
And, if the makers of this particular countdown don’t know which Doctor David TENnant is, or can’t be bothered to look it up, why should I believe anything else in the programme? The clips didn’t feature John Pertwee or Peter Davidson, or even Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison, but did include Christopher Eccleston as opposed to his impostor Christopher Ecclestone! (And the point of the above picture? Absolutely no point at all other than to illustrate the meaningless waste of time that was “The 50 Greatest TV Dramas” with an image of an attractive-looking but ultimately-vacuous miss or two, no doubt with their heads full of equally useless information!) You just gotta love misinformation!!