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BEST TV IN 2015

As befits this new age of entertainment excellence, it is possible to declare 2015 one of the best years in the past 50 for TV, film, and popular music.

No list of excellent, popular TV in English would exclude Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Homeland, The Affair, Game of Thrones, Daredevil, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot, Wolf Hall, Humans, The Americans, Manhattan, Jessica Jones, True Detective (even season 2), and some guilty pleasure lists might even include Better Call Saul and the absurdly kitsch T&A throwback, Quantico.

However, in a supremely crowded field, Eyewear wishes to select two mini-series, one from America, and one from the UK, which both exemplify the very best of TV drama, especially when it comes to grips with politics and recent events.

The UK show is London Spy - not even concluded, but already, in its first three hour-long episodes starring Charlotte Rampling, Mark Gattis, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent, startlingly brilliant.  This series manages to combine the stylish and literary elegance and sad beauty of Brideshead Revisited with the violence and pornography of the most shocking art film you have yet to see. Based on a true spy story (a shy maths genius spy was found dead in a BDSM encasement in his locked rooms), it manages to yield scenes of poignancy, horror, romance and genuine disgust almost unparallend in current British drama. The script, cast and direction are all five star. A new benchmark.

Meanwhile, handsome smart rising star Oscar Isaac, in Show Me A Hero, a six-part series based in Yonkers in 1987, becomes a young mayor accidentally embroiled in a national race issue over affordable housing for African-Americans in a mainly White neighbourhood.  What could and should have been a rather dismal local politics miasma becomes as fascinating as if Dickens had written up a show about the Russian Revolution and set it in a small city outside New York city. Hugely rich characters, and tragic human failings, lead to small yet elementally seismic losses and bad decisions, even amongst those with the most ideals to waste.

Both shows reveal the darkest hearts of human behaviour, and of human governance, but offer glimpses of hope, and both, curiously, for such gritty and secular narratives, have a sort of King Arthur mythic template beneath them (both are about a Waste Land, a young hero, a quest for a cleansing grail, and, well, both have mentors and enemies).

Regarding camp choices, I reserve a space in my heart for True Detective 2 whose few episodes became Lynchian and Kubrickian and rather thrilling at times. As well, Quantico, the most popular new US show, was so achingly crap it was very sexily fun trash, a sort of FBI Baywatch.

It is true that Dickensian, the new Luther, and Christmas Sherlock are still to air, but this is it for now, give or take.

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The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

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JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

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