Lists like this are highly subjective, and I cannot pretend to have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist (to mix a metaphor or two). Even more so when it comes to a list of the best of TV and film because, frankly, I have seen too little of both to claim to have a broad perspective.
So, here goes, first of all, with TV.
First, the honourable mentions. BBC's This is Going to Hurt was an almost too painfully honest comedy-drama about the life of a junior doctor. This is mainly because it is based on the diaries of a former doctor, Adam Kay. Having spoken to others I know in the profession, the grim honesty is not a great exaggeration of the lived experiences of many working in the NHS today - if anything, it downplays the horrors and sanitises the dark humour. Not an easy watch, but brilliantly done.
I should also give a shout-out to the hilarious Derry Girls, arguably the funniest sitcom in decades, and yet one set against the background of the troubles in Northern Ireland in the nineties. Teen angst, sectarian politics and Ulster humour. The final season, which came out in 2022, is arguably its best - which is set against an already very high bar.
An unexpected delight was Wednesday, Netflix's updating of the Addams Family, focusing on the family's darkly deadpan daughter, Wednesday Addams, and her complex educational problems. It has an opening scene with a school locker, Pugsley Addams, a water polo team, a swimming pool, and some piranha fish that will either put you off or have you signing up to see the rest of the season on the spot. There are some great one-liners delivered with deadpan comedy timing by Jenna Ortega, but the plot is flimsy and forgettable. Nevertheless, there are some fun digressions and cameos that make this an instant classic. Watch out for the school disco in episode four in particular. And how they manage to give so much character to Thing, who is literally just a disembodied hand, is beyond me. Great fun, but don't look for anything profound.
Finally (but not least) is The Expanse season 6. To say it was the perfect finale for what has been the best space opera ever on TV (I am looking at you, Star Trek and Babylon 5) would not be hype. It was a slow burner of a season that gave all the characters room to breathe, so when the action came, it came with a gut punch. Sad to think the actual finale won't get made, as there are still three more novels and a whole new set of issues to confront. But having dealt with colonialism, racism, terrorism, environmental catastrophe and post-truth gaslighting, maybe the final three books' focus on imperialism and its resistance were too much for the producers.
But the three that really grabbed me this year were those that stepped out of the everyday horrors of life and into the darker worlds surrounding our everyday experiences.
I have to group the first two because they are cut from very similar cloth.
Set on a small fishing island off the US Atlantic Coast, this is a story about faith and its abuses. Starting with a fatal car crash caused by the drunk driving of one of the island's prodigal sons, the story picks up three years later on his release from gaol and his reluctant return to the bosom of his deeply catholic family on the island. The Catholic Church is the fading hub of the fading island community. A handful of the faithful attend daily mass, but with the island's priest way on pilgrimage, it is in a hiatus. Then a younger priest arrives, with news that the priest has been taken ill and won't return for a while. He will stand in for now.
His Dark Materials Season 3
Picking up where season 2 ended, Will is hunting Lyra across multiple universes while her wicked mother, Marissa Coulter, hides her in a drugged sleep. Lyra dreams of her dead friend Roger and believes he is calling her from the land of the dead.
nineties finally dropped in August. And it was worth the wait. Beautifully filmed, well acted, and adapted faithfully (but not slavishly) from the graphic novels, much of it by Gaiman himself. It was a thing of beauty throughout.