Last night, I said goodbye to an old friend. For the past ten years, this friend has entertained me, comforted me, shocked me and even changed my life. I actually sobbed as the final credits ran on the final episode of my good friend, the slick and superb BBC spy drama, Spooks. (Don’t worry Mum, I won’t tell you what happened, other than to say it was typically traumatic.)

Yes, that’s right, I am getting sentimental about a TV show, but I doubt there are many people who at some point in their lives haven’t felt a similar obsession for the small screen. I find curling up on the couch with a DVD box set (magically skipping commercials) and a hot drink can calm my hectic mind and sometimes even bring out emotions that have been hiding.

Growing up in Australia with parents who were keen devotees of the country’s national broadcaster, the ABC, I was brought up on a steady stream of imported BBC dramas, from the legendery Colin Firth-pond-dipping version of Pride & Prejudice, to the creations of genius Stephen Paliakoff (Shooting the Past actually left me speechless). I still can’t resist any period drama that graces the small screen, BBC production or not.

But when it comes to TV series that I have invested time and energy in over many years and many series, there are a few very clear standouts: Spooks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men, Doctor Who and most recently, Glee. What makes these shows stand out is the quality of the writing: it’s smart, multilayered, witty, intriguing and, most importantly,  entertaining. I think that TV writers should be held up in the same way as novelists and columnists are, such is their ability to create what are essentially hundreds of engaging short stories, week in and week out.

So this morning as I lament the end of the adventures of the Spooks gang (oh, Harry!), I take comfort in the fact that this Christmas I will be able to buy all ten series in a box set and have them on hand when the couch, a hot drink and escapism calls.

And finally, how exactly did Spooks change my life? Well, watching the amazing footage of London that graced our screen in Melbourne every week during series seven played a small but important part in showing me that leaving Britain the previous year had been a mistake. By series nine, we were back in London and watching the BBC film an episode of Spooks at the end of our street!

Which TV shows have most inspired you over the years?

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6 Responses to “Goodbye, Spooks: The big role of the small screen”

  1. Brett Foley says:

    Lots of stuff has inspired me over the years, for reasons many and varied:

    - The Wire: not because I wanted to live in West Baltimore, but for elevating a police drama to heights not reached by any of its contemparies by the strength of its writing and character development.

    - The Young Ones: not because I wanted to live in a crappy, student share-house in Britain, but again because the strength of the writing and the silly scenarios made what should have been stereotypical characters hilarious.

    - The Office: not because I wanted to go and work for a paper merchant in Slough, but for being able to find such humour and pathos in the dull grind and minutiae of office life. Proving even the most tired genre can be reinvented by a clever new approach.

    - The West Wing: again for the dialogue and the writing which makes incredibly complex situations engaging by empathy for the people involved and what they are trying to achieve. And for shining a light on how administrations work, and in most cases don’t work, due to all the turmoil within.

    - Black Adder: for inadvertently teaching me about English history as Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis set each season in a different historical period. And for making it all funny.

  2. Elmo says:

    I agree with Brett, The Wire is without doubt the best contemporary drama to have graced the small screen. Just incredible character development and I got a glimpse of how true to life The Wire is when the GPS somehow took us through the projects of Baltimore.
    Another noteworthy entrant is the Sopranos and to a lesser extent the Underbelly series.

  3. Virginia says:

    I also agree with Brett re The Wire. We bought the DVD set of the series and immersed ourselves in the world of The Wire enjoying the scripts and the great variety of believable characters portrayed.
    A small screen gem in Oz that has to be mentioned is the wonderful ABC production of SeaChange. The ensemble of actors, the writing and the development of the characters over the three series meant it was not be be missed on a Sunday night.

  4. Sandra Took says:

    Discussing the impact of ‘Spooks’ and how a series of shows with great writing and plots can change your life, in as much as the writer returning to London, makes me wonder what makes us travel. In the 70′s for me it was parents, high school art teacher and reading historical novels including the Georgette Heyer series with its descriptions of the then cities and fashions. I wanted to see for myself these things we read about. Now it is seeing the cities in a series that makes us want to walk those streets. Is ‘Facebook’ and its ilk the next step to make people want to travel and see for themselves the glorious scenary we now see in friends photos?

  5. Joan lalor says:

    As a child growing up in Geelong( OZ) in the 60′s. I was inspired by the lovely, normal, American family life portrayed in Father Knows Best. I was in awe of the wonderful way that every dilema was solved by a simple raising of the eyebrow by Robert Young, to his adoring wife, Jane Wyman.
    Oh how simple life was then !!

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