Zen arcade 2016

Behold, the promised Telly Addict: Zen Roundup of The Year! Officially Telly Addict #26, the 26th Telly Addict of my half-year contract with UKTV, who resurrected the show and treated it with care, attention, love, personnel, marketing and doughnuts during that allotted time – so a big thanks to all who sailed in her, not least Dave, Joel, Matt, Cherish and Justine (upstairs). It’s not over yet, but there will be a hiatus, during which I shall endeavour to maintain the blog, and with a prevailing wind and a bit of luck, the Telly Addict brand will continue in a modified form. You watch this space, and I’ll keep watching the glowing box in the corner of the room.

Rather than spoil the show, here are a few screengrabs in the traditional style that, I think, cumulatively say “the second half of 2016 in televisual terms”. If you want to ease our passage into the New Year, all comments, views, thumbs-ups, “likes” and shares either here, on YouTube, or on Twitter, will help make the case for its free-to-air return. There will be no crowdsourcing – I don’t feel comfortable begging for money – but where there’s an audience, there’s a way. If you haven’t watched all the 25 previous Telly Addicts yet, why not go back and do so: every hit helps. If you find a TA with a lowly view-total of around a thousand to 1,500 , give the runt a glance.

Thanks for watching thus far. See you on the other side.

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Severe readies

We’re almost at the six-month mark. Telly Addict has been under the new roof of UKTV for almost half a year. We’ll be taking a break after Christmas, but you know what to do if you want it to bounce back in 2017: like, share, view, Tweet, lobby. I’ll be doing a review of the second half of 2016 in two weeks, including a Montage of Zen. Until then, two more “regular” Telly Addicts. This week’s begins with a celebration of Top Of The Pops (BBC Four), currently exploding with moments from 1982. Like this unique leg move from Shakin’ Stevens, which needs to be seen in action to be believed. The past is a foreign country. They do things better there.

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Anybody else spot a similarity between Shaky and the translucent tree frog on Planet Earth II (BBC One)? Just me. OK.

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Who Do You Think You Are (BBC One) returned for its 13th series with the sort of series opener that money cannot buy. Not even, in the words of its subject, “severe readies.” Investigate this hour of cherishable telly on the iPlayer forthwith. This will involve you putting aside all prejudices about Danny Dyer, who exists in the grey area between reality and fiction, and in many ways plays himself; but as his bloodline back to royalty unspools, his reactions are priceless. And it’s really quite moving. And when Handel’s Zadok the Priest kicks in, your mind will have been changed.

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Another song of praise now: a nod to The Coroner (BBC One), back for a second series based on audience love in the Daytime, where murders are committed but not in dark alleyways, violently, by serial killers. Hooray for Sally Abbott, the show’s creator, for taking a route through the whodunit that’s as picturesque as it is involving, and gentle. Not all crime drama can have men drilling other men’s heads with power tools. In the grab above, the coroner (Claire Goose) and the detective (Matt Bardock) are discussing the case, while the rest of us gaze longingly at Devon. It’s Escape to The Country with forensics.

If you fancy something more expensive and self-regarding, there’s always season three of Showtime’s The Affair (Sky Atlantic), which I keep saying is an HBO drama, even though it technically isn’t.

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I’ve tried three times now to love it – once with the first season, once with the second, and again with the third – but I just can’t. I don’t buy Dominic West as this irresistible “Mr Lover Man” of New York academia, and that’s difficult to get over. (He shaves that simian beard off in Episode One, by the way, which is a boon, as it isn’t helping.)

The object on the coffee table is an heirloom: the NME cassette compilation C86, from 1986. I treasure it, even though I have no large piece of electrical equipment that will actually play it.

This week’s Moment of Zen comes from The Young Pope (Sky Atlantic), which is quite unlike any other drama I have seen all year, and occupies a special place in my heart. If you just want to look at Jude Law’s torso, you can.

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Oh, and I was perplexed by the new Walliams & Friend (BBC One) sketch show, in which its star, David Walliams, takes a humble back seat to his guests, almost wilfully giving up the spotlight. This seems self-defeating for a David Walliams vehicle.

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Bring on the dancing horses

Apologies for the late running of this week’s Telly Addict. So let’s get to it. (That’s ten we’ve clocked up now under UKTV’s guidance and patronage: they’re all stacked up here.) I’ve had an epiphany. Just when I thought I was going to get through the Rio Olympics (BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four etc.) without meaningfully seeing any of it, this 6,000-word New Yorker article on dressage drew me in. I fell in love with Charlotte DuJardin and Velagro (who must appear as a duo, they can’t exist outside of each other), who – spoiler alert – won the expected freestyle Gold. Bring them on.

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In fact, there’s a subliminal animal theme to this week’s Telly Addict. As well as being enchanted by Velagro, I was pretty smitten with Kate Humble’s sheepdog and her, on Kate Humble: My Sheepdog and Me (BBC Two). Here’s Kate with her three farm dogs, two rescues, and one, Teg, who has to be “put to work”, herding sheep – the thrust of this idyllic, animal-loving one-off. See the way Teg, on the right, gazes up at her beloved owner and says, with her David Bowie eyes, “Why do I have to go to work while these two mongrels get to sit around and do nothing all day?”

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Kate rather sweetly called Teg her “ginger monster”. The four-parter Highlands: Scotland’s Wild Heart (BBC Two), first shown in May, is back on iPlayer thanks to a repeat showing for Olympics widows like myself. It is full of gorgeous ginger monsters in a glorious setting, and narrated by Ewan McGregor, whose voice could melt winter from 50 paces.

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If you need a break from beautiful British animals leaping, mating, herding, surviving and, in one case, dancing to Brazilian carnival music, there’s a different kind of wildlife in Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic), the Sky Italia co-production now into its second operatic, violent, moody, Naples-based crime/family melodrama but available on demand through Sky. In it, Italian men passive-aggressively grab the cheeks of other Italian men in dual love and threat.

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I have raved about Gomorrah before – here’s my review of the season-one box set in the now-defunct Guardian section Your Next Box Set, a newspaper I used to work for, but seemingly, now, not so much – if anything, season two is tighter and more deadly, and stunningly framed by director Stefano Sollima.

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First Dates (Channel 4) is back, after what must be a whole fortnight off air. If you’re not already long-since-hooked by the format, which uses a laser-guided dating algorithm to set up couples of all ages and persuasions who really might get along. Damien (left), a beardy Northern Irishman with Channel 4’s favourite neuropsychiatric condition, Tourette’s, was a great fit for personal trainer Kai, if you took away the Tourette’s (which is probably fairly rare on a box-ticking list) but you have to see it to enjoy its full ramifications beyond one dater’s impediment-of-the-week. The show may be currently setting up its waiting staff for a TOWIE-style amateur drama, but they remain cute.

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You can see this 55-year-old gym member in his pants, too, if you don’t ordinarily watch Match of the Day. His possibly depilated flesh makes a change from all the fur, fluff, feathers and Gaelic beard elsewhere. If anything, this week is the bitty calm before the blockbusting storm. Next week, the new terms is almost upon us, and the big hitters come out: The Bake Off, Ripper Street, An Important New Four-Part BBC One Drama, followed by Poldark, The Missing, Cold Feet, Strictly … I’m glad to be back. And I hope the appearance of the slightly sinister puppet I made at school when I was eight years old doesn’t haunt your dreams. Literally: don’t have nightmares.

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