South Riding

South Riding, one of the best British shows of 2011 comes to DVD in May.

As we head into the rainy season that passes for Spring in England, a new wave of TV shows are set to hit the air but before we see what Doctor Who and Luther have in store for us it is time to review the best British TV dramas of 2011. . .so far.

Mad Dogs

Although Noel Coward was nowhere to be found, this show was about some Englishmen and at least one mad dog, that spent a lot of time out in the midday sun. Sky One, threw down the gauntlet to their rivals by signing up John Simm, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and Max Beesley to take on the lead roles in this cautionary tale about the pitfalls of staying in touch with college friends who hang out with gangsters. The Four part drama is arguably the best show that SKY have ever produced. A clever script was brilliantly brought to life by four of England’s finest actors. Easily the best drama of 2011 so far.

South Riding

You only have to see the words “written by Andrew Davies” to know that this period drama was hit. I sometimes think that Andrew Davies is the only person writing scripts for TV shows but in actual fact it is just that I usually only take notice of who wrote a show if it is good and his shows are always top notch. South Riding was no exception and it gave us an opportunity to see David Morrisey doing what he does best; playing a hard nosed northerner in a gritty period drama. Anna Maxwell Martin played the school principal who was at the heart of the action and while she is not yet a household name she soon will be.

Monroe

Former Casualty writer Peter Bowker was the mastermind behind ITV’s hit medical drama Monroe although he made a point of focusing on one character rather than taking the same approach as Casualty, ER and Grey’s Anatomy of concentrating on different characters from week to week. When you decide to focus on one person in an environment as chaotic as a hospital, you need to find a strong actor to take on the lead role. The producers of this show found such a man in the shape of James Nesbitt. This show did not quite hit the heights of Nesbitt’s last hit, Occupation but that was an exceptional show and few dramas are likely to match it.

Rupert Penry-Jones

Rupert Penry-Jones. Copyright BBc

Silk

Rupert Penry-Jones must be knackered. He seems to be in a new hit drama every week and fans of his in America just go to see his performance in the 39 Steps for the first time this week. In Silk he plays a barrister and among his high flying colleagues are Natalie Dormer of the Tudors and Tom Hughes of Casualty 1909. It was no surprise when the BBC announced that this would be one of the few shows that will be back for a new season next year because the high ratings it got were reflective of the quality of the onscreen drama.

Zen

This was a bit of peculiar one but the Roman scenery and the performances of Rufus Sewell enabled it to fend off the remaining contenders and make its way into the list of the top five British TV dramas of 2011. . .so far. The one thing that goes against the show is the fact that it is set in Italy and yet half the cast speak with plain English accents while others (because they are actually Italian?) speak English but with heavy Italian accents. It makes it kind of weird to watch, I couldn’t imagine watching Wallander if Kenneth Brannagh sounded like he was from Ealing and everyone else sounded like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets. Nevertheless, the show was quite compelling as most well written detective shows set in Europe are (e.g. Poirot, Maigret ) but the ratings took a slight tumble which means we may have seen the last of Zen and his cohorts. Too bad because it was worth a second season.

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