Further to my list of ten favourite movies, I thought I’d do a similar thing for television.
The idea here was to make selections based on things that had a real effect on me, especially in my impressionable childhood days – programmes that moved, thrilled and confounded me then and that remain with me still.
So, in no particular order, here goes:
1. Twin Peaks – my Dad, who was living in LA at the time, phoned me up and told me to make sure I watched this at any cost. I did… and things were never quite the same again!
2. The Singing Detective – watching The Singing Detective felt like having the morbid truths of human interior life revealed, with all the attendant sense of risk and revelation that implies.
3. Whistle And I’ll Come To You – Jonathan Miller’s subtle and ingeniously crafted horror that started my obsession with M R James. Hordern is magnificent as the fusty academic that has his pretensions pricked by unknowable forces, proving that reality cannot be reduced to narrow logic alone.
4. Prisoner Cell Block H – I was utterly captivated by the troubled lives of the inmates of Wentworth Detention Centre. Subject to a despicable regime, to which the term Kafkaesque might justifiably be applied, these women had no way out. Relentlessly pessimistic; hopelessly cheap; utterly brilliant.
5. Inspector Morse – I’ve written on the total genuis of Morse here.
6. Sapphire And Steel – the fact that his programme was broadcast on primetime television at all still amazes me. Dark and strange beyond belief. The kind of thing that steals into childhood consciousness and never lets go.
7. Hammer House Of Horror – to a five-year-old boy this was absulutely terrifying and probably explains a lot about my subsequent tastes. ‘The House that Bled to Death’ and ‘The Two Faces of Evil’ stayed with me for many years.
8. GBH – I was 16 when this first broadcast on Channel 4. I remember being exceptionally moved by the plight of Michael Palin’s character. It was political in a way that was new to me; it effected an awakening of sorts. I was captivated, appalled, enthralled. Robert Lindsay’s portrayal of Michael Murray’s nervous breakdown had me collapsing in fits of laughter.
9. Dennis Potter’s final interview with Melvyn Bragg – surely one of the most important interviews ever to have been broadcast, Potter is honest, brave, compelling, fearless. His outrage at human corruptability is as devastating as his articulation of the numinous possibilities of perception is affirming. I recommend this to everyone.
10. The Crystal Maze – every Thursday evening I would walk to my grandparents’ house to watch this with them. An hour of shared joy I’ll never forget as the three of us howled with tender derision at the participants’ Herculean efforts in the Aztec, Industrial, Future and Medieval zones. “Get out, get out!!”