ATV Today takes a look back at the television highlights that made up 2012 from the arrival of fantasy drama series Once Upon A Time to the second season of guilty pleasure Spartacus and the fifth season of The Real Housewives of New York City – which proved sparks will fly when strong women are put together – you’ll find them all, and others beside, in our review of 2012.
Witchy drama Switch aired on ITV2 in the Autumn and was part of the channels drive to increase its original UK output. The drama was paired up with popular American import The Vampire Diaries on Monday evenings and performed very well – its ratings were well above the slot average. For reasons known only to ITV2 though Switch was not renewed for a second season; maybe the broadcaster wants another fly-on-the-wall celebrity series following Peter Andre or Kerry Katona instead, who knows?
Switch starred Lacey Turner, Nina Toussaint-White, Hannah Tointon and Phoebe Fox with Jamie Davis and Amanda Drew also appearing in the six-part series. It was set in and around Camden Lock Market in London with filming taking place in the iconic marketplace. The show mixed comedy with supernatural elements and for us was a highlight of Monday evenings.
Spartacus: Vengeance, Starz/Sky One
Blood and guts series Spartacus is the ultimate guilty pleasure on television; it mixes the sex and politics of Rome and Game of Thrones with the visual feel of the feature film 300. The historical drama follows the exploits of the famous slave rebel leader Spartacus in his fight against the might of the Roman empire – so plenty of bloody fights and orgies!
The second season, titled Vengeance, managed to top the first (and prequel) with some epic battle scenes as Spartacus (Liam McIntyre replacing Andy Whitfield who sadly passed away) and Roman Praetor Glaber (Craig Parker) lock horns in a cat-and-mouse style game to to kill each other. The ever wonderful Lucy Lawless returned as the scheming Lucretia with Viva Blanca also back as Glaber’s ambitious wife Illithyia. Once again the season closed with something of a bloodbath as several key characters were seemingly killed off. A third, and final season, titled War of the Damned will premier on Starz in January.
Mrs Brown’s Boys, BBC One
The Irish comedy written by and starring Brendan O’Carroll once again provided viewers with barrels of laughter and delivered BBC One excellent ratings. David Jason’s comedy The Royal Bodyguard may have been a huge flop for the corporation but Mrs Brown’s Boys, which followed it on Monday evenings, commanded huge audiences even if the critics can’t see the appeal of the comedy.
Last year’s Christmas Special of Mrs Brown’s Boys had a final ratings figure of 8.4 million viewers. This year’s Christmas Special, spilt across two episodes, delivered huge ratings to BBC One once again. A stage version of the comedy toured the country this year and ATV Today was very lucky to see a performance of the tour when it stopped in Birmingham in September – needless to say the entire team spent all evening laughing.
Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome
Battlestar Galactica drew to a close in 2009 with a love it or hate it finale and in 2010 prequel series Caprica was launched. Unfortunately the planet bound drama failed to deliver the ratings and was cancelled after just one season but Syfy promised fans an exciting new chapter for the Battlestar Galactica franchise with the Cylon war based Blood and Chrome. Fans had to wait nearly two years though for Blood and Chrome to materialise.
Finally just a few weeks ago Blood and Chrome premiered online, spilt across several instalments, with the movie to air in full on Syfy sometime next year. The series is based during the bitter first Cylon war and follows a young William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) on his first dangerous mission after graduating from the academy. For a web-based series Blood and Chrome was bloody good and fans are hopeful Syfy will order further instalments; after all the Cylon war provides the perfect backdrop for a new Galactica related setting!
Once Upon A Time, Channel Five/ABC
Fantasy drama series Once Upon A Time came to the UK this year as Channel Five began to broadcast the first series. The drama had already created a buzz over year thanks to its strong performance in America and good critical reception. Once Upon A Time mixed up characters from different fairytales and had them living in a small seaside town in America unaware of their true origin. Once Upon A Time flashed between the modern-day setting and the enchanted forest to show us the back-story of key characters and just why they all ended up in Storybrooke without knowing who they really were.
It was all the revenge plot of evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) who was determined to stop Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) from having their ‘happy ending’. However, Regina’s curse was threatened by the arrival of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who has the power to undo the curse, and by Mr Gold (Robert Carlyle) who is only too aware of his true identity; Rumplestillskin. Once Upon A Time aired on Sunday evenings on Channel Five and we watched every single episode; it was a true delight and we can’t wait for the second series to kick off over here.
Real Housewives of New York City, Bravo/ITV2
The reality series entered its fifth season with a refreshed cast as Aviva Drescher, Heather Thomson and Carole Radziwill were added to the cast. Anyone who thought after five years the series couldn’t still deliver drama were very mistaken because NYC once again proved fireworks will fly when strong women are put together. Housewife Romona Singer has feuded with LuAnn de Lesseps and former housewives such as Kelly Killoren Bensimon and Cindy Barshop but not even her long-running feud with Jill Zarin could have prepared Romona for Aviva Drescher.
The two housewives were firm friends until the mid-season trip to St. Barts where all hell broke loose and suddenly Aviva and Romona were on opposite sides and the two were gunning for each other – the feud continued for the rest of the season and certainly was not resolved by the time the credits ran in the final episode. Neither Aviva or Romona could claim victory though as both refused to back down and stood firm in their opinion of the other. However, we can’t help but suspect that Romona was almost wishing Jill Zarin was still part of the show – at least she backed down occasionally
The second season of HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones proved television can do epic dramas on scale that competes with the likes of Lord of the Rings. G.O.T remained compelling and addictive drama throughout the second season and a third will air in 2013 and fans simply can not wait for it.
Doctor Who blasted back on screens in the Autumn with Asylum of the Daleks which delivered not only a nice new take on the recurring foes but also a very big twist; the early arrival of new companion Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman) before proceeding to reveal her as a dalek and kill her off! Talk about one mighty twist! Doctor Who then proceeded to make us all cry with its mid-season finale The Angels Take Manhattan as Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) made their exits from the series.
The Secret of Crickley Hall on BBC One was certainly a creepy drama. Starring Suranne Jones, Tom Ellis, Douglas Henshall, Sarah Smart and Iain de Caesteckler the drama dealt with grief of parents whose son had disappeared a year before who escape the anniversary of his disappearance by moving to the far north; but their new home is haunted by the ghosts of dead children and the malicious Augustus Cribben (Henshall) who used to beat the children at his orphanage.
Upstairs, Downstairs might have been axed following the conclusion of its second season but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the drama or that we can’t name it a highlight of the year. The second season undeniably suffered from the departure of Eileen Atkins and the absence of Jean Marsh who was forced to cut back her role due to ill health but the addition of Alex Kingston helped smooth over the cracks. We can’t help but feel the BBC’s revival would have come into its own with a third season which would have covered World War Two….
The Hotel Inspector on Channel Five returned for a ninth season with Alex Polizzi visiting various establishments around the country to help them turn around their fortunes. The format is simple but effective and entertaining and seeing some of the hotel owners drag their feet against Polizzi’s attempts to modernise provide part of the fun for viewers.