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Here's what ruled the small screen...

Mike Hale, Dec 23 2017, 23:07 IST
Humans series

Humans series

This year-end list is more a collection of the best international TV I was able to fit into my schedule than it is a Top 10. If a favourite show of yours isn't here, it's entirely possible that I didn't see it, so please try to be understanding. (A few past favourites, like Gomorrah and Sherlock, were left out on the merits - still fine, but not quite as fine as before.)

Fauda

The grittiest, tightest, most lived-in thrillers come from Israel, and Fauda, which came out at the end of 2016 before breaking out this year, is the current standard-bearer. A crack counter-terrorist team, outfitted in T-shirts and sandals and driving a beat-up van, chases a Hamas member around a hilly Arab-Israeli town, and while the outcome is predictable, the story ventures into the lives and minds of characters on all sides of the conflict.

To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

Sally Wainwright, known for creating shows about tough female cops (Scott & Bailey, the terrific Happy Valley), wrote and directed this crisp, astringent two-hour film about three tough writers who revolutionised English literature. She tells the story of Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë's struggle to publish through the lens of their relationship with their brother Branwell, possessed of lesser gifts and greater expectations. Finn Atkins (Charlotte), Chloe Pirrie (Emily), Adam Nagaitis (Branwell) and Jonathan Pryce (their father, Patrick) all excel.

Humans

Even more tense and moving in its second season than in its excellent debut, this drama about intelligent androids at odds with the (for now) dominant human society is the robot allegory you should be watching. Despite - or really because of - its pure science-fiction aspirations, it's the clear choice over HBO's logy, portentous Westworld.

Chewing Gum

Some of the best shows around - Better Things, Insecure - are in the category of personal, if not autobiographical, comedies by female writer-actors. The most raucous and wildly funny is Michaela Coel's Chewing Gum, about a very demonstrative young woman in a London housing project trying very hard to lose her virginity. Coel is a brilliant clown, and she also has the good sense to let the brilliant Susan Wokoma steal scenes as the main character's uproariously intense sister.

Valkyrien

Nordic and noir but mostly uncategorisable, this nutty, blackly comic thriller concerns a surgeon who hides his terminally ill wife in an abandoned subway station (where he can give her illegal experimental treatments) and finds himself sharing space with a disgruntled civil-defense worker who's preparing for the apocalypse.

Rosehaven

This Australian fishes-out-of-water comedy, created by its stars, Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor, is about neurotic big-city best friends who find themselves running a family real estate business in a small town in Tasmania. Affable and human, it's the mirror-world version of terrible-twosome shows like You're the Worst or Catastrophe.

Call My Agent!

A show-business comedy about a boutique talent agency in Paris that seems to represent every French actor you've ever heard of, Call My Agent! is polished to a high shine and features the best as-themselves cameos - by a roster that includes Nathalie Baye, Isabelle Adjani and Juliette Binoche - since The Larry Sanders Show.

Norsemen

A deadpan spoof of bloody, bawdy historical-ish dramas like Vikings and Game of Thrones, the Norwegian Norsemen puts contemporary words and ideas in the mouths and brains of eighth-century marauders to hilarious effect. (A chieftain returning from a raid beats a newly captured slave, then sadly reflects on the limits of "fear-based leadership.") There's some Monty Python here and a lot of The Office, with Kare Conradi marvelous in the role of the Viking village's pusillanimous Michael Scott.

Line of Duty

Hulu had a banner year for British shows with Harlots and National Treasure, but the fourth season of this perennial procedural favourite makes the list for Thandie Newton's tightly wound performance as a detective suspected of cooking evidence. The plot takes some typically wild turns but Newton is believable in the most unlikely circumstances.

Stranger

The murder mystery Stranger has less of the usual awkwardness and obviousness of many South Korean dramas as well as another big advantage: It stars the immensely likable Bae Doo-na as a fearless cop.

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