Beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder. 2010 has given us more than its fair share of magical, memorable television moments. As the year draws to a close, I have been racking my brains for those which have particularly stuck in my mind.
The following list is drawn solely from my own viewing experience, so you won’t see the live episodes of Eastenders or Coronation Street mentioned here, or Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing, or even the first Leaders’ Debate, which catapulted Nick Clegg into the general consciousness.
So, without further ado, here is my personal list of 2010 TV highlights.
1. Shaun and the Snake
The tenth UK series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here was largely dominated by Gillian McKeith, who whined, shrieked and supposedly fainted her way through 16 of the 21 days before finally being voted off the show. But although the odious McKeith dominated the airwaves and will no doubt enjoy considerable commercial success as a result, for me the two stars of the show were former X-Factor contestant and eventual winner Stacey Solomon (who showed both a heart of gold and genuine steel behind her Essex girl persona) and the Happy Mondays and Black Grape singer Shaun Ryder.
Ryder displayed remarkable humour and both physical and mental fortitude in tackling various trials, comparing foul dishes served up during bushtucker trials to oysters, and somehow even maintaining his cool when a snake sank its fangs into him during an all-night task. While any normal person would have been screaming for the medics and flailing around to try and dislodge the snake, Ryder merely gritted his teeth, stood there implacably and off-handedly remarked:
Oh you dirty b******! I will pull you out and …
And, after the snake had been prised off his hand, he calmly added:
Alright. It’s a bite, a snake bite. If that weren’t someone’s animal I would have mashed it.
I’m A Celebrity has produced some great moments during its ten-year life. This was not only the best one for me, but it is also my favourite TV moment of 2010. Shaun Ryder: legend.
2. Baggs the Brand
As always, the recently finished series of The Apprentice produced memorable, usually cringeworthy moments by the bucketful. But perhaps more so than in any previous year, it was dominated by the colourful turns of phrase of a cocky 21-year old from the Isle of Man.
Stuart Baggs – who bears an uncanny resemblance to the super-villain Syndrome from The Incredibles – announced himself to an unsuspecting world right from the outset, with soundbites such as:
I’m Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ – I’ve got a certain type of charisma.
Everything I touch turns to sold.
I don’t want any arse-covering. I hate that as a practice. No arse covering – happy days!
I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-trick pony, I’m a whole field of ponies – and they’re literally all running towards this job.
And he backed up his words with deeds, with his blustering, bulldozering and self-absorbed approach to tasks, combining occasional flashes of brilliance with regular doses of outright idiocy. Against any rational measure, he would have perished within four weeks; from an entertainment perspective, it was no surprise he made the final five, where he was tossed to the interviewing wolves and ripped to shreds for our viewing pleasure.
Here is a link to a compilation of some of Baggs’ finest moments:
Link: Apprentice episode reviews and other posts
3. Something old, something new
I have been avidly watching Doctor Who since I was a small boy in the mid-1970s, dating right back to the beginning of the Tom Baker era, so it was a genuine surprise when new show-runner Steven Moffat took one of the most fundamental elements of the show – the TARDIS – and redefined it in a way which had me slapping my forehead in an “Oh. My. God” sort of way while bringing the broadest grin to my face.
It starts with the Doctor telling the seven-year old version of his companion Amy Pond the story of how he first acquired the TARDIS. (For the key passage, start from about 1:25 in the clip below.)
Which the grown-up Amy, on her wedding day, suddenly reinterprets as “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”:
In the form of an oh-so-familiar eight-word phrase, it is a canonically accurate definition of the Doctor’s time machine. It’s not often that I am completely taken aback by something I see on television. This was one of those occasions. It is a truly magical piece of writing by Moffat, taking something which should be blindingly obvious and yet isn’t, and slapping the viewer gleefully in the face with it. I still giggle with delight at the thought of it.
Link: Doctor Who season 5 review
4. 39 seconds
Sport throws up so many memorable moments. Like many other England football fans, I had been hoping that 2010 would bring one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences of seeing the national team lift the football World Cup. Sadly it was not to be, but there were many other noteworthy achievements captured on TV this year. The England cricket team earned their first world championship of any description as they won the World Twenty20 tournament. The Vancouver Winter Olympics produced many thrilling sights, not least Amy Williams‘ gold medal-winning skeleton bob. And the Tour de France provided my personal highlight, combining great sporting spectacle with an edge of controversy.
In the final week of the race and on one of the most testing mountain stages, race leader Andy Schleck attacked defending champion Alberto Contador, only to knock his own chain loose. In cycling’s unwritten rules, riders conventionally do not attack when the race leader has a mechanical mishap, but as Schleck ground to a halt Contador swept past him and put the hammer down. At the day’s end, Contador gained 39 seconds on the unfortunate Schleck, and took over the yellow jersey which he would never subsequently relinquish.
While legitimate, the incident ignited a furore among cycling fans as to whether what Contador did was honourable. (You can find my contribution to the debate here.) To rub salt into the wounds with the sort of uncanny coincidence that professional sport so often throws up, Contador’s eventual winning margin over Schleck in Paris was … exactly 39 seconds.
Link: My Tour de France posts
5. Fight, fight, fight (almost)
One of the attractions of live TV interviews is that, potentially, anything can happen. Of course, more often than not in our polished, media-trained world nothing particularly untoward does take place. But every now and then the facade slips and we get a glimpse of the raw emotion which is usually little more than the subtlest of subtexts. Such an incident occurred in the immediate aftermath of May’s General Election, and it made for compelling viewing.
It had been 1974 – I was three years old at the time – when the UK had last experienced a hung Parliament. As the embattled Gordon Brown offered to step down as Labour leader in four months’ time in one final, desperate attempt to keep his party in power – with The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? playing metaphorically in 10 Downing Street – Adam Boulton, political editor of Sky News, interrogated Labour political aide Alastair Campbell.
As Campbell dead-bats every point that Boulton tries to make, skilfully putting words into his mouth, the news-man becomes increasingly agitated, and for one brief moment it looks like the verbal exchange might escalate into something more physical. Poor Jeremy Thompson watches from the sidelines, unable to intervene, before the storm finally blows over. It’s worth watching the whole clip, but the kettle really starts to boil over at around the four-minute mark:
Links: Election day, 12.00am-1.00am, 1.00am-2.00am, 2.00am-3.00am, 3.00am-4.00am, The morning after the night before
And there you have it: my top five television moments of 2010. No doubt you have your own personal selection which is significantly different from mine. Do feel free to let me know what you think in the comments box.