Thursday, December 28, 2006

Films Of The Year - Number One!


I'm almost shocked that a film about September 11th could be a film I like, let alone be hands-down the best thing I've seen all year - possibly of the last decade. On paper, any film about the atrocities that took place no more than 5 years ago should be a schmaltzy, American flag-waving piece of sentimental propaganda, and you'd have every right to expect that. The phrase "Too soon" was banded about like a rogue tennis ball, and expectations were not high.

Which turned out to be a good thing, as director Paul Greengrass seems to have purposely undercut any expectation we might have had, and just got on with the job of telling a story. If anyone were to make a film of 9/11 then you couldn't pick a better person than Greengrass. First off, being a Brit helps him come to this material with no other agenda than to tell the story; secondly, having already established himself with the devastating 'Bloody Sunday' (about the IRA attacks) and 'The Bourne Supremecy' puts him at the top of the list of directors who can tell a hyper-real story without prejudice.

'United 93' tells the lesser-known story of September 11th; the fourth hijacked plane that never reached it's target due to the passengers revolting against their captors and sending the aircraft crashing into a field. No one survived. The other 3 planes (2 in New York, 1 in Washington) took off at the same time United Airlines Flight 93 was meant to, but due to a delay it actually lifted off some 40 minutes later. Enough time for the passengers aboard to get news of the World Trade Centre attacks and figure out what their fate was. And so, armed with nothing more than forks and fire extinguishers, they rushed the cockpit and their enemies to try and retake control, fully aware they had little chance of succeeding.

Told in real-time, this film is a shocking, humbling experience that never once pulls at cliched heart-strings for dramatic effect. It simply tells the story. There are three main reasons that this is essential, if uncomfortable, viewing. Firstly, the director actively sought and spoke to the families of the victims of this flight, refusing to make the film unless they all supported it. A documentary included on the DVD shows that they did. Secondly, by casting almost completely unknowns (apart from key people playing themselves - ground control chief Ben Sliney and several stewardesses, all of whom were working on 9/11), we get to know the people for themselves instead of a portrayal. And thirdly, maybe most importantly, the truth of characterisation doesn't just apply to the passengers, as we are given true insight into the reasons and actions of the hijackers themselves.

At no point are we asked to sympathise with the terrorists, as what they did was beyond inhuman, but they're not painted as black-and-white villains either. More like real people performing an atrocious act for terrible reasons they believe in. And this is the key - nothing here is black-and-white, it's just what people went through on that plane on that day. I defy anyone to watch this film and feel nothing, as it doesn't beg for emotions from the audience but by being so blunt and real it gets them willingly.

Also worth noting is the documentary on the DVD depicting the actors going to meet the families of the people they're portraying, which is possibly the most uplifting and upsetting thing I have ever seen. Too soon for a film about 9/11? Not this one. And, to be honest, with this being as heart-wrenching, honest and brutal as it is, we don't ever need another one again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

All Maps Welcome

I don't normally post about serious issues, as I find it best to not talk about things you don't understand too well, such as politics. But I have very definite veiws on things, and today one story in the news caught my eye and I needed a vent.

Yesterday the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq reached 2,978, which is 5 more than the amount of people that died in the September 11th attacks. I'm not even going to mention the thousands more of Iraqi's that have been killed in this pointless conflict (I'm not nearly well-versed enough to make intelligent comment on it), for more information on the war casualties head here, but the tragic irony in this news is so thick I had to mention it.

On September 11th we witnessed the worst and most horrific terrorist act in our history, which took more lives than any terrorist action had previously done. So what happened? We invaded Iraq, a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the attack, on the basis of a "war against terror". We invaded a country that just so happened to be unbelievably rich in oil, and a former ally to the U.S, because they were alleged to hold weapons of mass distruction. Which they didn't. And now this charade of a war in a country that had nothing to do with September 11th had led to more American deaths than the hideous terrorism that sparked the fire.

Don't get me wrong, I think 9/11 was an absolute atrocity, and welcome the day when those responsible can pay for their crimes against humanity. And I don't feel bad that Saddam Hussein has been convicted to death as he is a complete monster. I just can't stop thinking about the families of soldiers who've lost their lives in this knee-jerk war. Or the thousands of innocent Iraqi families and children who have been killed in this conflict, who had no choice in how they lost their lives.

I know that nobody who died on 9/11 had a choice either, and were the victims of pure, unadulterated evil. But we had a choice NOT to send these soldiers. We had a choice NOT to involve innocent bystanders in war. And we chose not to make that choice, a choice that could have saved thousands of lives?.... Aren't we supposed to be the good guys?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Albums Of The Year: Alternative No. 1

ALPHINO - 'Lens Flare'

Let's get the sniggering out of the way right now. Yes, this is the band I am in, and it is indeed the album we made, so you'd be forgiven for suspecting a certain bias here. In fact, I'll see your bias and raise you a favouritism. But I will not repent, and I would have made this my bona fide album of the year did it not go against the criteria me and Jonster had agreed upon (despite being recorded and finished in 2006, it will not be available to buy until January, therefore making it a 2007 release).

But I won't apologise. We worked very hard making this album, and I'm extremely proud of it. Not just the hard work, as work does not always make a great album, but the end result too. It is everything I was hoping for, and more. I can honestly say that this collection of songs, recorded and produced in this way, is the best thing I've heard all year. And surely it's a bigger compliment to be that proud of your own work, as everyone has a tendency to be their own harshest critic. So to be able to hear your own work, faults and all, and still be this impressed with it... well, that means I'm either being honest or stupidly arrogant. Probably a bit of both.

All I know is that every other album I've listed has had a record company and money behind it. We had neither, and I believe it still stands head-and-shoulders above the competition. If I wasn't in this band, and had never heard of us, it'd still be my favourite album. So there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Albums Of The Year: Numero Uno!!!


Damien Rice's last album, despite reports and radio plays, came out some four years ago. It was then re-released and used on adverts and TV shows to near-extinction when Radio 1 got wind that it was a bit good and championed it as their own discovery. In the actual real-time between Mr Rice writing and recording his new album, the war has turned to Iraq (again), Saddam Hussein has been caught and convicted to death, 2 films of 9/11 have been made (one incredible, the other diabolical), and All Saints & Take That have got back together.

Let's just say that Rice isn't all that prolific, if you don't include the song he made with Tori Amos 'The Power Of Orange Knickers', which was awful. But his last album '0' was amazing. Stripped down and heartfelt, melodic and angsty, it proved a vital stop-gap for 20/30-somethings who were too old for Nirvana (again) but not quite ready for the emotional graveyard of Keane. Here was a songwriter that spoke to insecurities in everyday life that everyone could relate too. It was an album you could listen to without buying a noose to die to, or a coffee table to keep it on.

Now, Rice is back. And bloody hell is he pissed off. He's not even the first vocalist you hear on the album. Opening track '9 Crimes' sees Rice switching guitar for piano (as he does a number of times on this record), and has Lisa Benjamin starting the song by singing about leaving him, asking him "is that alright with you?". It's painful, but still beautiful - and so much more destructive for it.

That's not the only new trick up his sleeve. After previous singles were given the 'drums' treatment to make them radio-friendly, Damien's taken matters into his own hands this time. Many tracks on '9' feature drums and full-on heavy guitars. But this time he's doing it his own way, making them sound as fucking dirty as he can. Rice's gift for noticing the slim parts of life and making them heartbreaking is still here, if not more so in spades, but now sounds more mature and muddier than ever.

It's his departure from the tried-and-tested formula that makes this album untouchable. Two songs in particular. 'Rootless Tree' was no doubt predestined to be the big comeback single, and he seems to have agreed to this, apart from littering the chorus with a venom-fuelled chant of "FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU". He may as well have written these words on a postcard to his record company execs, as it's clear he wants no part of being in the machine (apart from live performances, to this day Rice has done no promo work for the album).

'Me, My Yolk, and I' is the song of the album and the one you'll still be listening to in 20 years time. This is a fucking emotional wrecking-ball of a song, building from a quiet opening to the most screwed-up sounding distortion and screaming you can imagine from a so-called 'acoustic artist'. It's here you realise you're not listening to an album as such, more an event-marker in this man's life. I initially had a problem with the track listing, as it started strong then grew invincible, but ended with 2 slight piano tracks. I now realise this only adds to the album's impact, as we're basically being asked to experience an hour in the mind of an emotionally frustrated Rice.

The fad is over. Damien Rice is no longer an ad-friendly, radio-friendly artist for the coffee table crowd. This is a fucked-off bloke, and true visionary, fully aware that a lot of people won't like this record as much as his last, but who still puts his feelings forward in both beautiful and disturbing music.

The Family Sparrow!

Johnny... Keith... Pirates! Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Films Of The Year - One Sentence Reviews!

In the past, with Ian's Useless Movie Reviews, I have waxed lyrical, hormonal and downright nonsensical trying to review films. And don't worry, I will again in the future, but I just thought that having posted so many 'Top' lists in the last few weeks I'd keep this one short. So yes, I will now sum up my Top 5 films of the year in ONE SENTENCE!


She's a super-freak, super-freak!


The film Tarantino wishes he'd made, but he wouldn't have made it as well.


A psycho young girl traps an older man convinced he's a paedophile... but is he?


The Maltese Falcon in a high school, mixed with Donnie Darko - "I got all 5 senses, and I slept last night, which puts me 6-up on all of you!"

... the number 1 film deserves it's own blog... coming soon...

Top 5 Simons Of The Year

I know many Simons, and they are very nice people, or at least a Simon. Some have a lot in common, mainly being a Simon. Here I present the bestist Simons I have encountered in Si-tastic 2006!

SIMON # 5: Summer Si!

Oh, the glorious memories of a baking summer, running with the nerf herds and engaging in clandestine frolicking with Veronica Mars. Also notable for the exact moment when Simon (yes, he's the only one, the rest of you are just dreaming) switched from being a Cherry Coke guzzler to a water-fiend. This change was remarkable, as not only did it make Si healthier, but also meant he got drunk slightly quicker at the pub. We really should have all followed suit, but frankly were too pissed to bother. Hoorah!

SIMON # 4: 60's Si!

If I recall correctly it was this photo, taken with my swanky new phone, that prompted a frenzy on the battle-cry that was to be "bluetooth!". Oh, don't get me wrong, it had been uttered before, maybe even loudly at times, but I believe it was this image (as if Andy Warhol had teleported to the future and gone "Ooh! Camera phones! Blimey!") that brought the rebel yell of "bluetooth" to dizzy new heights. For this we thank you, Si!

SIMON # 3: Happy Si!

You see, the deceptive thing about a Simon is just how quickly they can hide their joy and display a face with the cold, dead eyes of a killer - much like a crocodile springing forth from the stream to ensnare an unknowing gazelle. It's a little-known trait that most Simons have picked up over years of evolution, like the X-Men. He's actually really happy in the places you can't see in this pic, and also he's wearing a hat I lovingly made him at work to demonstrate how happy he was. Of course, I forgot about his hiding-the-happy technique, so it falsely appears he hated being in this photo. Sneaky little Simons.

SIMON # 2: Simon Cowell!

The Simon is a caring and generous being, always putting others before himself, and more than willing to play the fool for the merriment and enjoyment of those around. Which, of course, makes the friends of a Simon love him all the more. This wasn't one of those times though. Nay, after navigating the mighty and treacherous journey home from the ale house, stopping only to forage for berries and converse with Elmer the Grumpy Hog, The Si decided to rejoice in his feelings at being home by dancing the merry dance of the wood nymph, Aleesha, whilst preening his feathery buttocks for the winter harvest. Hail to the Si!

SIMON # 1: Christmas Si!

It seemed right, it being the season of goodwill and all, that this latest of Simons should prevail in the Simon contest. In an attempt to get me in a holiday-spirity mood, The Si wrapped himself all fancifully in the finest tinsel and trimmings the land had ever seen, and screamed "BE HAPPY!" into my face. You may notice this Simon displaying the trait that I brought up 2 Simons ago, that of being able to hide their pure, childish joy at having their photo taken and instead project a face of terror that may only be bested by the Ghost of Christmas Past himself.

Bah! Huzzah!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Albums Of The Year: No. 2

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE - 'The Black Parade'

I know what you're thinking. 'My Chemical Romance? Aren't they that goth emo band that only 14 year olds with black nail polish and make-up are allowed to like?' Well, yes and no.

While it's true that MCR (as the cool nail polish kids call them) have not only been linked to, but also slightly accused of starting the emo movement, and have indeed built themselves an army of young fans who don't dress dissimilar to that cliche, it's always been a stretch to call them a strictly emo band. And now that stretch has snapped. They make rock music. Nothing more, nothing less. And it's fucking great.

Another thing that's always set MCR apart from the other bands in the 'emo' crowd is that you always got a sense of believing what they were saying. Whether it's John Lennon singing 'Imagine there's no heaven', or Matthew Good screaming 'Never turn your back on me', if you don't relate to what's being said, and believe it, then... well, then you're listening to Dido. And MCR are working-class boys from New Jersey, so it's a fair bet they've actually seen some of what they're singing about. Somehow it's hard to make the same claim for Panic At The Disco (whose last single - I kid you not - was about turning a doorknob).

So, 'The Black Parade'. A concept album, or rock opera, if you will, telling a story through it's songs. "They're ripping off Green Day" I hear you cry. Not so, gentle reader, as MCR's last 2 albums have been concept rock operas, just not so heavily advertised as so. Now it's clear they've had enough. Fuck, they even went as far as changing their band name to The Black Parade for early live shows. Clearly, they want nothing to do with this emo lark anymore.

And the album is stunning. An absolutely astonishing piece of work, which would be more at home next to the likes of Queen or Cabaret (and also reminds me of my old heroes The Wildhearts) than the emo pretenders clinging to their heels. In fact, it actually surpasses Green Day's 'American Idiot' opus by being so unashamedly theatrical that you simply can't ignore the emotion embedded within it. Forget making a movie of your album - one day, I tell you, 'The Black Parade' will be an amazing stage musical!

Telling the story of a young man who dies from cancer, meets his maker and makes his peace, the album story is told in flashback as his life passes before his eyes, and everything and everyone he's encountered. To say it's heartfelt is like saying 'Schindler's List' was "a bit grim". This album goes for the heart every time, and gets it. Before I get into the music, let me just say that this album deserves an award for the vocal arrangement alone. It is like nothing I've heard before, at least since the days of Queen. And it has music so good you'd almost expect it to come a 70's rock or 90's punk band (or when Elton John was good), but it's Gerard Way's lyrics and delivery that really lifts this into a shocking and uplifting experience.

Recounting the life of a fictional character through emotions, he doesn't leave a single one unturned:

From anger: You can watch me corrode like a beast in repose - 'The Sharpest Lives'

to confrontation: You should have raised a baby girl / I should have been a better son - 'Mama'

and grief: The hardest part of this is leaving you - 'Cancer'

through to a relative accepting the loss of a loved one: I am not afraid to keep on living / I am not afraid to walk this world alone - 'Famous Last Words'

This is an album that should affect anyone that has felt something. Which is everyone. You just need to get past the fact that this was made by My Chemical Romance. This is a grand, huge, important and sometimes camp rock album (it even has Liza Minelli in a cameo), and it almost feels impossible that this was made in 2006. But as a massive wake-up call to other bands to start being creative again... well, thank god it was.


It's been a strange last 3 days. The country seems gripped in the clutch of the Suffolk Strangler. Take That have been number 1 in the singles chart for nearly a month, their first release for 10 years. Alphino has suddenly developed a small following in Sydney (the country, not the Alias bird) and Texas. And I've been infected with my manager's illness.

But I actually ventured out tonight, despite feeling like chewing gum on a shoe, which I'm assuming would feel a bit rubbish. And wouldn't you know it, lo and behold, after drinking a fair bit of alcohol I started to feel better. Funny that.

And then the sickly feelings returned, and the merriment I had enjoyed all around me faded into the sort of stupid and morose thoughts that you get when your mind drifts off into self-pity - the usual bollocks 'woe-is-me' kind of thing when I have absolutely NOTHING to be woeful about. Sometimes I wish you could switch certain emotions off and just enjoy what you're doing. Such as tonight, as it was a complete joy to be in the company of my amazing friends (something I haven't done for a while for money reasons), so much so that for a time I forgot I was ill.

And that means more to me than Christmas. Because Christmas is every year and pre-determined, whereas tonight just happened... That probably doesn't make sense, and I like that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Albums Of The Year: No. 3

MOGWAI - 'Mr Beast'

An appropriate way to describe this album would be to just hum my thoughts, as there's very few words on the album. However, that probably wouldn't make for the most scintillating blog, so sod it.

Mogwai are ace. And that's that. A brilliant Scottish band that make mainly instrumental music... nay, opuses! Chances are you've already heard their stuff in a film, or on an advert and thought to yourself 'Ooh, bit good, that is'. And you would be right, sir.

And they're skill at naming things too. Apart from the band name (which, I'm sorry, could well be the best name for a band ever), Mogwai have a habit of concocting the most GENIUS titles for songs in recent history. Previous tracks have included 'Burn Girl Prom Queen', 'May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door' and, my personal favourite song title, 'I Know You Are But What Am I?'. Gentlemen of the Mog, I kiss the hem of your collective garment.

They haven't let us down on that front this time either, filling this album with slow-burning epics like 'I Chose Horses', then wonderfully juxtaposing them with fuzz-fuelled rants such as stand-out track 'Glasgow Mega-Snake'. It's everything you love about Mogwai, but more so. Heck, just for the fun of it, they throw a french monologue and slidey country guitars into the mix this time.

It's strange how the term 'emo' has been assigned mostly to shitty sub-punk bands. It's supposedly a term that means 'emotional rock', and if that is indeed the case, then taken in it's literal meaning it applies perfectly to Mogwai. See, while others bands make songs about emotions, Mogwai make songs that ARE emotions. In fact, they may be beyond genres, as 'Mr Beast' comes across as nothing less than art. And that's a good bridge, because when art can make you feel something... well, that's kind of the point, isn't it?

On a sidenote, on the rare occasions when they put vocals on songs, all the band members are so "shit-scared of singing" they each have to drink a bottle of vodka just to get near a microphone.

Did I mention they were ace?

Lickety Split

Christ-sodding-mas is almost upon us. Jesus, where does this time go so quickly? It seems like only a mere 11 months ago I was making my New Year's resolutions, when in fact it was a massive 12 months (sidenote: I made 2 resolutions, one of which I achieved, the other cost too much). In keeping with the spirit of the season according to Saint Bastard, as we're all gearing up to celebrate the birth of someone who probably didn't exist, the management team at my place of work, The Wonder-Booze Emporium (shop name changed to protect the guilty) have been getting slightly more inventive with our in-store xmas decorations by naming and shaming stupid fucking children. And also because it's funny.

Whilst actually having some money this week, which will soon be gone down to a certain selfish son of god (yes, I'm a Christmas cynic, get over it. Humbug etc), I've been letting my senses dazzle in nostalgia by remembering what it's like to go to the pub and see people that aren't on a TV screen living aboard a Battlestar. Also, The Si-ning got ill which led to the funniest ill voice EVER, the cause for much amusement at Hockster's birthday bash at the weekend. Of course we all had a great time, and mucho cool prezzie giving was done, followed by foody goodness and drinky fun, but the majority of the evening was spent shouting "Say this" at Si-ning to see what it would sound like in his diseased comedy tones. Sadly, he's now better, which means we've got to find another ridicule monkey before Dec 25th to make sure xmas isn't a complete loss.

My chum Pete Jonerty and I have been engaging in a friendly, rival Albums Of The Year blog contest, and much to everyone else's annoyance or disinterest (depending on who you talk to) it's starting to get a bit tense. It's not that we have wildly different tastes - in fact it's quite the opposite as so far our Top 10's are looking to be startlingly similar - it's more the effort being put in. Blogs are being written free-hand in advance, edited, typed out, edited again, then strategically posted. Not so this week though, as we posted the EXACT same album at the EXACT same position for EXACTLY the same reason at near enough EXACTLY the same time. Spooky, like unknown telepathy or something.... Maybe I am the third twin?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Albums Of The Year: No. 4

BECK - 'The Information'

Thank god for Beck! It was really touch-and-go for a moment there, and I'd almost given up hope, but then along came Beck with his silly hair to prove that a highly-anticipated follow-up album from a mainstream artist could actually be good. No, not just good, but blinding.

While others around him were happy to lazily fart out random sounds and release them as megabucks follow-ups (yes, Killers and Kasabian, I'm looking at you), Beck actually remembered he was a musician, and a bloody good one at that. A few people (not me) thought his last release 'Guero' was the sound of Beck treading water, a semi-return to form if a little lacklustre. I disagree, but if the same analogy were to be used here then 'The Information' sees Beck swimming the fucking channel. Take that, diatribe lovers!

Huge in scope, styles and influences, 'The Information' is one of the most well-conceived, executed and downright odd pop albums you're likely to have heard in the last decade. There's none of this Kaiser Chiefs baloney of funny lyrics and shouting "oooooooOOOOOOHHH" every 2 seconds, or whining about girls looking good on dancefloors. No, Beck gets down to the basics of infusing catchy-as-fuck arrangements with well-constructed melodies and vocals.

In the first 30 seconds of opening song 'Elevator Music' he hits us with "making my move and my move's like a bell / A little worse for wear but I'm wearing it well" and immediately we know what we're in for - a spectrum of spitfire raps with mellowed-out grooves.

'Cell Phone's Dead' sounds like a cross between Gorillaz and an 80's teen comedy soundtrack. Which, obviously, means it's mega. Even the slower tracks like 'Soldier Jane' would go down well at a raging par-tay. Yes, in an age where the Chilli Peppers have gone all James Blunt on us, Beck has taken it upon himself to bitch-slap us with a funk-induced sledgehammer and scream into our dazed faces "remember when music was FUN?!"

And the best bit is the CD comes with a blank booklet and a sheet of 20 or so stickers... Yep, that's right, it's make-your-own-artwork time! Jumanji!

Bravo Mr Hansen.


As I get ready to blog my Top 5 films of the year, I thought it imperitive to share this far-too-juicy tidbit of what will probably be the most glorious film of 2007.

My Name Is Bruce will star the coolest actor in the world, Mister Bruce Campbell - as HIMSELF! Mistaken for his one-armed screen character Ash from the Evil Dead series, a small town recruits Bruce to help save them from a plague of flesh-eating zombies.

And it's directed by Bruce himself, in case you needed more incentive to cry with joy!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Albums Of The Year: No. 5

THOM YORKE - 'The Eraser'

Radiohead bloke goes all "solo album" on us, eh? Composed mainly on a computer with weird techno beats? Sounds like the recipe for a shit sandwich, if you ask me.

Then I heard it.

And I thought it was rubbish. I really did. Load of pretentious bollocks. And yet, I found myself humming the one or two not-so-hideous songs on there, so I'd keep playing it. Then the hideous tracks became hummers too, and before I knew it I knew the whole album and loved it. I liked the album now.

So how does an album I grew to "like" be in the top 5 albums of the year? Simple, because the answer is this - it was only after I got to like the album that I finally 'got it', the intention behind it, the workings of it, and the song-writing. That's when I fell in love with it.

This is a grower, I won't lie to you, but the whole point behind this album is to find the songs behind all the lo-fi casio beats, and when and if you do, you'll find an album so rich in majestic lyrics and melodies that you'll wonder why anyone bothers with those Arctic Monkeys twats.

You won't like this the first time you hear it, but if you're the sort of person that's willing to give music more than one go in case there's something great hidden there... well, you'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Top 5 Telly Of The Year

Since I've written about every other form of audio/visual entertainment I've experienced this year (those posts coming soon), I'd be remiss if I didn't even mention the good ol' telly! Plus, as I have no real life to speak of, TV has become a huge source of fun this year, even eclipsing films in terms of quality and anticipation. Here goes...

Stepping out from under their 'Peep Show' genius-stone, comedians David Mitchell & Robert Webb took centre stage in this sketch-ish show that, in my opinion, has completely refreshed mainstream skit programs. Subversive yet commercial, disturbing yet fun, this show struck the fine balance of recurring characters (Sir Digby Chicken Caesar), one-off satires (Hole In The Ring) and cult catchphrases ("That's Numberwang!") without ever coming across like a Little Britain cash-cow.

Well, talk about a turn-up for the books! After a dull-as-dishwater last season where the creators were clearly treading water, and sorely lacking the input of J.J Abrams, this new series has rejuvenated itself and remembered why it was good in the first place - twisty shocking stories, daring ideas and actually answering some question as well as asking them. This is a new era for Lost, possibly even besting the stunning 1st season, as the flashbacks (once its calling card) are now the least interesting part of the show, making the brave and adventurous island story front and centre.

Yes, the American one! Get over it! After a shaky but promising start 2 years ago, no show has completely reverse jumped-the-shark like this. Inventive, intelligent and edgy (yes, it's still American), this is now easily as funny, compelling and actually better in places than our beloved BBC series. In fact, this US version has outlasted the Brit version, with writing in the 3rd season being brilliant - some episodes from our own Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The cringes are there in spades thanks to a fantastic Steve Carrell, combining with the soap opera element and amazing supporting cast to make this the best sitcom on telly. So there.

I'm tired of trying to defend this show to people who judge it on its title, so I won't even try. Just watch it! The darkest telly on the telly; political, spiritual and sharp as a fucking razor (not to mention top-notch FX), this has been the best season so far after taking a huge and brave gamble with the audience. Covering topics such as civil war, suicide bombings from the good guys, insurrection, and personal demons (courtesy of a fabulously loopy James Callis), Battlestar continues to set the standard for television drama. And even the critics love it, so you can too. I kid you not.

Wow! This one came completely out of left field. I only started watching this telly (new this year, still in its first season) because all my other telly was on a break, and I'd heard some net buzz about it, so thought I'd give it a whirl. And bloody hell, I was stunned, so much so that in 2 days I'd downloaded and watched 8 episodes of the fucker! And then I made copies for my friends. And bloody hell, they were stunned too, so much so that they'd caught up with me a day later.

Unfairly dubbed as X-Men the series, although this has nothing to do with that property at all, this show follows a group of strangers as they uncover special and maybe unnatural abilities (the indestructible cheerleader, the heroin junkie who can paint the future, the average cop who starts hearing the thoughts of others). But that's where the similarities end. These are real people coping, and struggling, with real lives and problems - being a single mother, working on a failing marriage, simply just trying to fit in - who find themselves forced to deal with unreal events. Solemn, gripping and actually quite beautiful, no telly has got me like this all year, and it richly deserves all the praise it's getting.

Save the cheerleader, save the world!