Top Documentaries on UK TV 2017

BBC Ambulance documentary series

My favourite documentary series of the year

Title Channel Share % Viewers ‘000s
         
1 Blue Planet II BBC 1 45.8 14,011
2 Diana, Our Mother: Her life + Legacy ITV 36.7 9,390
3 Diana, Seven Days BBC 1 32.9 6,425
4 Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum + Dad BBC 1 26.2 6,345
5 Spy In The Wild BBC 1 25.7 6,218
6 The Real Marigold Hotel BBC 1 23.3 5,999
7 Wild Alaska Live BBC 1 31.9 5,998
8 Attenborough and the Giant Elephant BBC 1 20.3 5,378
9 The Real Full Monty ITV 24.2 5,362
10 Fake Or Fortune? BBC 1 26.0 5,127
11 Snow Bears BBC 1 23.6 4,969
12 Paul O’Grady For the love of Dogs ITV 21.1 4,960
13 Diana: In Her Own Words CH4 20.6 4,923
14 The Truth About… Sleep BBC 1 20.3 4,704
15 Ambulance BBC 1 21.1 4,660
16 Police Tapes ITV 20.5 4,522
17 Easyjet: Inside The Cockpit ITV 20.2 4,488
18 The Real Marigold On Tour BBC 1 18.3 4,411
19 An Hour To Catch A Killer ITV 18.1 4,362
20 Inside London Fire Brigade ITV 18.7 4,317
21 Britain’s Busiest Airport – Heathrow ITV 18.5 4,309
22 The Met: Policing London BBC 1 19.5 4,224
23 Martin Clunes: Islands Of Australia ITV 19.4 4,222
24 The Cruise : Mediterranean ITV 17.3 4,216
25 Galapagos BBC 1 16.9 4,173
26 Elizabeth And Philip: Love & Duty BBC 1 14.6 4,149
27 Sir Bruce Forsyth: Mr Entertainment BBC 1 21.7 4,094
28 Reported Missing BBC 1 16.6 4,051
29 Prince Harry & Meghan ITV 16.8 4,034
30 Joanna Lumley’s India ITV 18.3 4,025
31 The Week The Landlords Moved In BBC 1 18.2 3,982
32 The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway BBC 2 17.4 3,908
33 Italy’s Invisible Cities BBC 1 14.6 3,859
34 Ross Kemp Behind Bars ITV 17.1 3,848
35 Sugar Free Farm ITV 16.3 3,840
36 Gordon Ramsay On Cocaine ITV 16.4 3,839
37 Diana: The Day Britain Cried ITV 14.6 3,817
38 Spy in the Wild: Meet the Spies BBC 1 17.6 3,784
39 Serial Killer with Piers Morgan ITV 15.9 3,683
40 The Ganges with Sue Perkins BBC 1 15.9 3,671
41 How To Stay Young BBC 1 15.9 3,648
42 Britain’s Best Walks with Julia Bradbury ITV 17.1 3,619
43 A Very Royal Wedding ITV 14.9 3,588
44 Gone To Pot: American Road Trip ITV 13.5 3,585
45 Killer Women with Piers Morgan ITV 15.7 3,553
46 Britain On The Fiddle BBC 1 14.1 3,459
47 The Truth About Stress BBC 1 14.7 3,451
48 The Harbour ITV 14.4 3,431
49 I Am Bolt BBC 1 15.8 3,409
50 The Sheriffs Are Coming BBC 1 14.1 3,400
51 Orkney: When The Boat Comes BBC 1 17.0 3,380
52 Winterwatch BBC 2 14.0 3,378
53 Harry & Meghan: Royal Engagement BBC 1 16.0 3,377
54 Russia With Simon Reeve BBC 2 14.0 3,287
55 Call The Midwife: The Casebook BBC 1 17.0 3,234
56 Devon & Cornwall Cops ITV 14.6 3,206
57 Planet Earth II: A World Of Wonder BBC 1 19.6 3,174

blue planet II natural history documentary series BBC

Advertisements

The Casting Game No. 133

Matt Damon

matt damon actor

as

Doug McClure actor

Doug_McClure_1961 actor

1961 – the year before he became Trampas in ‘The Virginian’

Doug McClure

All the Money in the World

Micro Movie Review:  would be improved by replacing all the performances – as well as the script – to make something less cold & simplistic

All the money in the world movie film kevin spacey replaced by christopher plummer as getty actors comparison

Kevin Spacey (L) replaced by Christopher Plummer (R) as J. Paul Getty

16 years and counting

 

mothering sunday graham swift novel book cover

Had a splendid evening yesterday at the annual Dickens gathering of one of the members of the book group to which I belong (and have done since it was set up in November 2001 by David Price). We drank a Victorian brandy & rum punch made to a recipe of Dickens himself, the preparation process reaching its apex when the whole thing was set aflame (harder than you’d imagine). Besides the vigorous blue flames, other highlights included lively readings from Bleak House and Great Expectations among others. I chose the passage from Our Mutual Friend (my favourite Dickens) which gave T.S. Eliot his working title for The Waste Land – ‘He do the Police in different voices’. It culminates in…

“I aint, you must know,” said Betty, “much of a hand at reading writing-hand, though I can read my Bible and most print. And I do love a newspaper. You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.”

I last wrote about Dickens in Simple Pleasures part 4 a year ago almost to the day. I was reflecting on 2016 through the lens of the opening of A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Not much changed there then.

Nor has much changed in the book group. Same personnel since June 2015, which is when I last listed what we’ve read since the very first gathering – for Atonement. I seem to have become the de facto archivist so here is an update to the on-going list which is put out there in the spirit of offering ideas to other book group title choosers.

In The Country Of Men by Hisham Mitar – June 2015
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford – Sep 2015
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami – Nov 2015
Soumission/Submission by Michel Houellebecq – Jan 2016
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – Feb 2016
The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates – Apr 2016
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht – May 2016
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam – July 2016
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany – Sept 2016
The Looked After Kid by Paolo Hewitt – Nov 2016
The Sell Out by Paul Beatty – Dec 2016
Autumn by Ali Smith – Jan 2017
The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Mar 2017
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis – Apr 2017
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift – June 2017
Men Without Women by Haruki Murukami – July 2017
Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo – Sep 2017
The Remains of the Day by Kasuo Ishiguro – Nov 2017
The Information by Martin Amis – Jan 2018

The first 14 years

brooklyn colm toibin novel book cover

Best of 2017

The Florida Project halley moonee

The Florida Project

Film:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Florida Project

Lady Bird

Last Flag Flying

Last year: Manchester by the Sea, American Honey

Male Lead:

Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread

Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes

Last year: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Female Lead:

Frances McDormand – Three Billboards

Bria Vinaite – The Florida Project
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Last year: Sasha Lane – American Honey

Male Support:

Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards

Last year: Jack Reynor – Sing Street

Female Support:

Brooklyn Prince – Florida Project
Mary J Blige – Mudbound

Last year: Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Director:

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Last year: Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Writer:

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Last year: Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Editing:

Dunkirk

Cinematography:

?

Last year: Vittorio Storaro – Cafe Society

Film Music:

Three Billboards

Last year: Sing Street

Single/Song:

Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

Last year: In Tiburon – Van Morrison

Album:

Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
Bjork – Utopia
Avishai Cohen – 1970

Last year: Blackstar – David Bowie, Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison

Gig:

Hothouse Flowers – Electric Ballroom
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Millennium Dome
Avishai Cohen – Barbican

U2 – Joshua Tree – Twickenham
Hollie Cook – Borderline

Last year: Imagining Ireland – Friday 29 April 2016 at Festival Hall

Play:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Girl from the North Country
St Joan (Donmar)
The Ferryman

Last year: Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park)

Art Exhibition:

Basquiat – Barbican

Last year: You Say You Want a Revolution? (V&A)

Book:

Everybody Lies

M Train – Patti Smith
My Promised Land – Ari Shavit

Last year: The Sellout – Paul Beatty, Judas – Amos Oz

TV:

Stranger Things S1

Last year: Ambulance

Sport:

Lions beating & drawing with All-Blacks

Harry Kane scores his 8th hattrick of the year becoming top European goal-scorer and taking record for most Premiership goals in a year

Event:

?

Dearly departed:

  • Roger Moore
  • John Hurt
  • Martin Landau
  • Sean Hughes
  • Brian Kant
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Christine Keeler
  • Walter Becker

Best of 2016 – with links to all previous years

Coincidences No.s 359, 360, 361 & 362 – Back in the Old Country

first edition ulysses james joyce 1922 paris book novel

A snip at €30,000

No. 359 – 06:12:17

I am packing for a trip to Dublin to address the board of RTÉ, the national broadcaster of Ireland. There is one area of the subjects I am covering which I’m not feeling 100% confident about.

As I take stuff out of my work bag to make space, an old copy of Broadcast (the TV industry trade paper) surfaces. It’s from late September. Two pages have become detached from the centre. They are about exactly the subject that was niggling me.

No. 360 – 06:12:17

I am at Luton Airport in the queue to get on the plane to Belfast (I have a meeting at BBC Northern Ireland before heading south to Dublin). The plane is heading to Belfast International / Aldegrove which is north of the city in Co. Antrim.

My phone goes while I’m in the queue. It is Home Counties-based Northern Irish radio broadcaster Peter Curran. We almost never talk on the phone – we do face to face and use email/text to arrange getting together. He tells me he is recording a programme in Antrim and something he saw made him think of me. I tell him that that’s a bit weird as I’ll be in Antrim in about 55 minutes.

lemon soap sweny dublin james joyce ulysses

A snip at €5

No. 361 – 07:12:17

I go to a reading of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ in the old pharmacy (Sweny’s) near Merrion Square where Leopold Bloom buys his lemony soap in the novel. (I’d seen a copy of the ultra-rare 1st edition a few streets away earlier in the afternoon – see photo above.) People show up ad hoc and each person reads a page from where the group had last gotten to – the reading goes round the attendees for the duration of the session. To make it feel just right an auld drunk fella showed up to take advantage of the warmth and light. The section they are reading today happens to be my favourite in a 733 page book.

I go to turn my phone to silent before the reading starts. My phone shows 19:04 – the year ‘Ulysses’ is set in these streets of Dublin.

Earlier in the afternoon I drop into the old pharmacy (now run by Joyce volunteers) and buy a bar of the lemon soap in a facsimile wrapper.

As we read we read the line “To wash his soiled hands with a partially consumed tablet of Barrington’s lemon-flavoured soap”. A couple of pages later we read: “in Lincoln Place outside the premises of F. W. Sweny and Co. Limited, dispensing chemists”. Between we read:

“What reminiscences temporarily corrugated his brow? – Reminiscences of coincidences, truth stranger than fiction…”

(I have just noticed Sweny’s intials – F W. I came to the reading directly from the National Gallery of Ireland, 3 minutes away. I had been at an exhibition of F W Burton (Frederic William) called For  The Love of Art.)

lorraine chase campari TV advert

Lorraine Chase

No. 362 – 02:12:17 & 09:12:17

The name Lorraine has been following me around this week.

At the start of the week (last Saturday) I am directing a documentary about cycling. I go to interview a couple in Birmingham. The wife is called Lorraine and is an ex-church minister – I have pictured her as a thin white sticky woman, influenced I think by Lorraine Chase, the woman made famous by the Campari TV ads in the 80s (catchphrase: “Nah, Luton Airport!” – see No. 360 above).

As it turns out the interviewee is a substantial black lady.

At the end of the week (yesterday, Saturday) I go to a screening of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, the feature documentary by Raoul Peck about James Baldwin and Black Lives Matter (from the 40s to the 2010s). I sat next to documentary veteran Peter Dale, my old colleague from Channel 4. During the film I noticed in the archive footage a sign for a diner in one of those southern towns like Selma, I forget which: it is called Lorraine.

The Fetishisation of Storytelling

I’ve noticed the increasing fetishisation of the terms ‘storytelling’ and ‘stories’ in the last couple of years, especially in commercial media. Everyone’s a storyteller now, even if your ‘story’ is about baked beans. Many indie producers’ websites single out skill in storytelling as their USP. When I see the word “storytelling” now I view it with scepticism and take a moment to assess if what’s being said is meaningful or fashionable hype.

This morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Thought for The Day was about the need to rehabilitate the children of Isis extremists by introducing them to new stories. They have lost their innocence to one perverted story.

On a brighter note, today was a good day for being reminded the rich weave of stories that thread through daily life. My day began chatting to a taxi driver cum news cameraman, half-Korean half-Russian, born in the bit of Russia nearest Alaska; grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; studied in St Petersburg; moved to Helsinki sixteen years ago. It ended chatting to a roast chestnut seller from Innsbruck. I’ve spent a total of €12 in a week in Helsinki – on two bags of chestnuts.

Between these bookends I received this text exchange – ‘Osama Loves’ is a multiplatform documentary project I commissioned a few years ago at Channel 4, some months before the Big Bad O, ObL, got terminated.

text exchange about osama loves

Great story…

 

channel 4 osama loves website screenshot detail

detail from ‘Osama Loves’ website

Real Stories hits 1m subs

real stories one million subscribers documentary channel youtube

Here’s an update by Little Dot Studios Co-Founder, Andy Taylor, of the progress of this online documentary channel for which I have been commissioning the first original content.

This week at Little Dot Studios, we are celebrating a major milestone. Our documentary channel, Real Stories, has hit 1 million subscribers.

Real Stories is only two years old, but is now running at over 700,000 views per day. It’s become a major success in a small window of time, leading to big projects and investments in the brand. But the launch of the channel was not the product of strategy reviews, business cases or investment committees – it was a small number of employees from different departments who developed their insights into ideas, and then had the initiative to see them through.

The history  

Two years ago, our ContentID team – the team overseeing YouTube’s copyright management tool – kept telling us that documentaries were big on YouTube. They were ‘claiming’ over 40,000 television shows for our production, distribution and broadcaster clients and kept finding that full-length documentary content was attracting significant viewing. In came our Insights team, who pulled all our viewing data and put videos into different genres: comedy, kids, entertainment, factual/documentary. The data showed that factual was the second-most viewed genre in our portfolio (after pre-school kids). There was an opportunity to create a genre-specific YouTube channel for full-length documentaries.

This was a novel idea at the time. Most people at this point still viewed YouTube as a short-form platform for ‘viral videos’ – certainly not the home of premium, long-form documentaries. But the data was on our side, so we opened a page called Real Stories, and our partnership managers went to all our clients to see if they would license us full, one-hour documentaries for use on YouTube. Within 3-6 months we had around 1000 documentaries.

Two years later, we have a phenomenal success story, all born from data, insights and people not being afraid to put ideas forward. A brand that didn’t exist two years ago and a channel for which we haven’t yet produced an original video now has 1 million subscribers. And we’ll pay out c.$1m to our partners this year. The prospects for 2018 are exceptional.

The evolution:

In August, we committed to two initiatives. First, to launch Real Stories on Facebook. It was always going to be tough because the brand is unknown on the platform and we have long-form content, while the platform demands short, snappy videos. 4 months later, Real Stories has over 200k Likes and achieves 200k views almost daily. On good days, it hits 1m views and has hit highs of 10m a day. We re-edit and repurpose one-hour docs for the Facebook audience and have licensed content from Vimeo and other platforms to bolster the content output. One of those videos has done 6m views. We’ve also run competitions and ‘live’ broadcasts to experiment with the Facebook algorithm. 

Second, we’ve been commissioning Real Stories ‘Originals’. We’ve brought in Adam Gee from Channel 4 (where he headed Factual Commissioning for All4) and within 4 weeks he’d signed off nine commissions. These commissions have gone to a range of new, emerging talent – different voices to the usual with a huge platform on which to tell their stories. We’ve subsequently signed off a further two and they’re all now in production. They’ll go live on Real Stories in January and, with a bit of luck, we’ll then be able to sign off more films.

Looking forward:

Looking even further forward, in Q1 2018 we’ll be launching Real Stories as an app on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku and other devices in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. It’ll be a ‘beta’ launch to learn about these new platforms and to continue to build the brand beyond YouTube. For us, it’s another step into the unknown for a brand that keeps pushing us out of our comfort zone.

Anthem for the Age of Brexit & Trump

Plus ca change. Better to laugh than cry…

There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner
(by Noel Coward)

They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent,
They’re dull in Hull
And the Isle of Mull
Is seething with discontent,

They’re nervous in Northumberland
And Devon is down the drain,
They’re filled with wrath
On the firth of Forth
And sullen on Salisbury Plain,

In Dublin they’re depressed, lads,
Maybe because they’re Celts
For Drake is going West, lads,
And so is everyone else.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Misery’s here to stay.
There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it’s no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won’t roll by,
With a scowl and a frown
We’ll keep our peckers down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread,
We’re going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead.

From Portland Bill to Scarborough
They’re querulous and subdued
And Shropshire lads
Have behaved like cads
From Berwick-on-Tweed to Bude,

They’re mad at Market Harborough
And livid at Leigh-on-Sea,
In Tunbridge Wells
You can hear the yells
Of woe-begone bourgeoisie.

We all get bitched about, lads,
Whoever our vote elects,
We know we’re up the spout, lads.
And that’s what England expects.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Trouble is on the way.
There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be,
There are black birds over
The grayish cliffs of Dover
And the rats are preparing to leave the BBC
We’re an unhappy breed
And very bored indeed
When reminded of something that Nelson said.
While the press and the politicians nag nag nag
We’ll wait until we drop down dead.

From Colwyn Bay to Kettering
They’re sobbing themselves to sleep,
The shrieks and wails
In the Yorkshire dales
Have even depressed the sheep.

In rather vulgar lettering
A very disgruntled group
Have posted bills
On the Cotswold Hills
To prove that we’re in the soup.

While begging Kipling’s pardon
There’s one thing we know for sure
If England is a garden
We ought to have more manure.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Suffering and dismay.
There are bad times just around the corner
And the outlook’s absolutely vile,
There are Home Fires smoking
From Windermere to Woking
And we’re not going to tighten our belts and smile, smile, smile,
At the sound of a shot
We’d just as soon as not
Take a hot water bottle and go to bed,
We’re going to un-tense our muscles till they sag sag sag
And wait until we drop down dead.

There are bad times just around the corner,
We can all look forward to despair,
It’s as clear as crystal
From Bridlington to Bristol
That we can’t save democracy and we don’t much care
If the Reds and the Pinks
Believe that England stinks
And that world revolution is bound to spread,
We’d better all learn the lyrics of the old ‘Red Flag’
And wait until we drop down dead.

A likely story
Land of Hope and Glory,
Wait until we drop down dead.

Coincidences No.s 355, 356, 357 & 358

No. 355

Graham Norton Channel 4 presenter chat show

In the morning I have a meeting at BAFTA with a director (Peter Demetris) I worked with on ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ to discuss a forthcoming commission I’m doing at Little Dot Studios to do with modern addiction. Peter reminds me he was studio director on Graham Norton’s first chat show ‘So Graham Norton’ on Channel 4.

In the afternoon I get an email from presenter Tim Lovejoy mentioning Graham Norton’s producer at So TV which of course was set up to make ‘So Graham Norton’.

No. 356

bible salesmen salesman

An old friend and gig-mate (another Adam) comes to stay from Amsterdam (aka A’dam). He has been working during the day at a famous University Press and mentions that he reckons a significant proportion of their revenue comes from bible sales.

The next day I am at the University of Surrey in Guildford doing a guest lecture. While I am there my old colleague, Jon Weinbren, Head of Digital Media Arts, out of nowhere mentions bible salesmen.

No. 357

blue star garage finchley road

A blast from the past – now buried under flats

My mum is trying to describe where an office she visits regularly is. She positions it relative to the old Blue Bird garage on the Finchley Road. I further triangulate it relative to an orthodontist’s surgery I went to once or twice as a kid with her. I remember the man telling me I had a “Polish jaw”. She can’t recall it at all.

A couple of days later one of my best friends visits from Aspen, Colorado where she now lives. We go to the National Theatre together and at lunch she mentions the very same orthodontist to whom she went as a girl.

No. 358

mercedes van I A Harris fruit vegetables

My grandfather was a research scientist not a fruit & veg man (he had a secret love of bacon)

I go with Enfant Terrible No.1 to visit the grave of my grandfather Ian Harris on his birthday (the same day JFK was shot – that’s how I know what I was doing on the day, I was at Pop’s tea party in a cradle).

On the drive home, as I’m talking to my son about his great-grandfather, we pass a commercial van parked in a drive in Hendon with the name I. A. Harris emblazoned on the side.

%d bloggers like this: