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Feature: Review of 2003

That was…

TV Zone takes its annual look back over the last year of Cult Television – the highs and the lows…

January
The biggest news of the month was a hangover from 2003, namely the phenomenal success of BBC sitcom The Office at the Golden Globe awards on 25th January, America’s television equivalent of the Oscars. The award for best musical or comedy series and best actor in a musical or comedy series had never been won by British talent before, but The Office and its star, Ricky Gervais, took both awards. It’s not as though the show was challenging Friends and the like as America’s sitcom of choice – it was only shown on one of the BBC’s cable channels in the States, and the inevitable major US remake was quickly curtailed as a failure. But The Office’s success across the Atlantic confirms its status as the most successful British sitcom of its generation.

As always these days, January is a good month to be a Cult TV fan in the UK, with the likes of Star Trek: Enterprise, ER, Smallville and Angel beginning their new seasons on channels such as Sky One and E4. No third season of Alias on Sky this year, though – Sky One had kicked Season Two into a late-night slot and didn’t pick up the third year. The show simply hasn’t clicked with British audiences, and after two terrestrial broadcasters for its first two years, Season Three (including episodes featuring flavour of the month Ricky Gervais) has had to make do with a showing on Bravo.

February
An encouraging month for British Cult Television, with no fewer than three big shows appearing on BBC1. Perhaps the least attractive of them, Sea of Souls, even made it to the cover of Radio Times. It starred the excellent Bill Paterson as a Clyde University lecturer in psychic phenomena, and wasn’t awful, but was totally hampered by inept consecutive-night scheduling and an incomprehensible decision to swap the order of the stories, showing the second before the first. Critically and ratings-wise, it was unsurprisingly disastrous, so has naturally been renewed – as has Hustle, a slicker and more tongue-in-cheek crime drama from the production company that makes Spooks. Despite a wonderful cast – the well matured cheese of Robert Vaughn, the sheer class of Adrian Lester, and so on – Hustle was just plain silly. The third series was the likeable Jonathan Creek, in its fifth season.

Without Buffy The Vampire Slayer, spin-off series Angel looked to have settled down into its fifth season by mid-February, hitting its 100th episode and the sublime ‘Angel as a Muppet’ Smile Time. But the network didn’t seem to agree, the plug was pulled on a sixth season, and Joss Whedon’s growing TV empire had wilted from three shows in 2003 to none in 2005.

by Gareth Wigmore

Find out what happened for the rest of the year, as well as the TV Zone's awards and year's highlights in the
TV Zone Special #60

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone Special #60
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