5 Forgotten TV Shows You Really Need To See
Need a break from studying, but too skint to, y’know, actually go out and socialise?
Instead of aimlessly surfing channels or watching the umpteenth repeat of Friends or Big Bang Theory, why not check out some genuinely smart, engaging and well-written series that sadly weren’t seen by enough people.
1. Teachers, 2001-04.
Following the frequently chaotic daily routines of a group of teachers within a fictional secondary school in Bristol, the initial brilliance of Teachers was largely down to the cast. Headed up by a pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln as the whiny, neurotic, yet strangely endearing English teacher Simon Casey, many of the funniest scenes came from his increasingly desperate attempts to show his pupils that he is still, at heart, “one of them”, while Adrian Bower and Navin Chowdhry ultimately became the series stalwarts as the constantly bickering Brian and Kurt.
Admittedly, Teachers arguably peaked before its end, primarily due to the ever-changing line-up of the key cast. As brilliantly immature as Brian and Kurt are, the series desperately missed the steady hands of Lincoln and Raquel Cassidy (as the constantly harassed psychology teacher Susan) to anchor the chaos, while promising characters such as Shaun Evans’ J.P. simply vanish without explanation between series. However, the sharp jokes and strong, likeable characters help to smear over any cracks and make it well worth sticking with. Props are also due to the eclectic soundtrack, which has 90’s classics (Oasis and The Stone Roses both feature throughout, while indie darlings Belle & Sebastian provide the theme) sitting next to early noughties hits by the likes of Feeder, The Hives and The Dandy Warhols, as well as throwing in the odd-forgotten gem (anyone else remember Longpigs? Anyone?)
2. Green Wing, 2005-07.
An off-beat, acerbic comedy in the vain of Smack the Pony, Green Wing basically comes across as the filthier, NHS-based relative of series like ER and Scrubs. Following the daily, mad-cap routines of hospital staff, from Mark Heap’s Basil Fawlty-esque radiologist, Alan Statham, to Stephen Manghan’s smug, sarcastic radiologist. Green Wing must never have seemed like an easy-sell; its jokes (while consistently sharp, and often hysterical) frequently pushed the boundaries of good taste, its characters, on paper at least, are a largely detestable bunch of oddballs, and the idea of an NHS-centred comedy (at a time when hospitals in Britain are under more pressure and scrutiny than ever) must surely have rubbed certain people the wrong way.
Yet, it was exactly this irreverent, unorthodox nature that helped Green Wing to stand out from the inter-changeable comedies that spring out of the woodwork. The characters may not always be likeable, but their flaws are what ultimately make them so engaging, and there was a real joy in watching their increasingly bizarre attempts to get by, whether it’s Statham’s descent into becoming an unwitting mass murderer, or Sue’s (Michelle Gomez) increasingly deranged attempts to seduce surgeon Mac (Julian Rhind-Tutt). Despite winning several awards, including a Bafta, Green Wing barely managed two series but is well worth tracking down.
3. Rome, 2005-07.
For those who find the heavy-duty fantasy of Game of Thrones just a bit much for the layman, HBO’s lavish and notoriously costly Rome is a more-than-worthy substitute. Following the anarchic, blood-soaked history of Ancient Rome through the eyes of two mismatched soldiers, Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Pullo (Ray Stevenson), Rome boasts strong acting from the sprawling cast, characters that we grow to invest in (particularly Pullo, the big lug) and a surprisingly accurate representation of the pomp and politics of Roman society, which all help to create a great sense of immersion in the period. Sadly, largely due its spiralling budget, the plug was pulled on Rome after just two excellent series.
4. Bodies, 2004-06.
If you’ve had enough of comedies, or if you’re simply after something darker, then this tragically short-lived BBC drama set in a London hospital is certainly worth your time. Following trainee consultant Rob Lake (Max Beesley), this serves as a great antidote to the more sanitised likes of Holby City, Casualty, or any other hospital show that your mum watches (and make no mistake, this is not a show to watch with your mum when you go back home for the holidays) by delving into the murky politics of life in a busy hospital, where life and death is served on a near-constant basis.
Praised for its realistic approach (albeit, one where every day seems to be a “worst day ever!”), the series wrings great tension from almost every scene as the increasingly conflicted anti-hero, Lake, is repeatedly backed into a corner by his superiors, including the criminally incompetent surgeon Hurley (Patrick Baladi). Admittedly, it isn’t always an easy watch, with the character arc of Dr. Orton (Susan Lynch) proving particularly harrowing, as well as some seriously gruesome scenes in the operating theatre. If you’re up to it, however, Bodies is a powerful, richly rewarding experience, with great acting (who would have thought the guy from some Mariah Carey movie would make such a compelling lead?) and lashings of pitch-black humour that make it a cut above standard telly fare.
5. Deadwood, 2004-06.
A dark, violent western set in the eponymous mining town, a cesspit of violence and corruption, Deadwood is about as adult and uncompromising as TV gets. Garnering near-universal praise for its rich, colourful characters, dense story-lines, and whip-smart scripts laced with enough profanity to make Quentin Tarantino blush, sadly it seems not enough people in the UK were aware of this series – possibly due to being aired at times of the night when people are either in bed or out drinking. However, if you can accept the fact there is no real resolution due to its abrupt cancellation, then Deadwood, which offers surprisingly poignant thoughts on the natures of justice and national identity (one the series’ best subplots involves the residents deciding which state the town should join), is well worth a look. If nothing else, hunt it down for Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen, a wonderfully vile grotesque brimming with anger, yet also possessed of such a peculiar charisma that its near-impossible to tear your eyes away from him.
Alternatively, you could just go outside and get some fresh air. But who needs that?