Best British TV Shows & Series 2000s
British TV in the 2000s - A Decade of Quality Telly
British TV in the 2000s - Reality TV Takes Hold
In 2000, Britain continued its love for reality TV.
This time though, the reality took a very different turn.
Castaway placed a group of 36 British people from all walks of life onto the outer Hebridean island of Taransay.
Castaway is often considered to be a reality TV show but it had the benefit of being shown in well spaced out episodes over the course of a year on TV.
Castaway was gripping viewing because British viewers tried to imagine themselves in a similar position - leaving the rat race behind for a life very far removed from their own.
British TV first showed Big Brother in 2000 but the format was very different - it was on every day, all day for satellite viewers and a highlight show was shown every evening. Again, British viewers lapped it up.
Survivor which had been popular in the late 1990s was shown for the first time in the USA in 2000 and in Britain, we switched to a non-competitive version called Shipwrecked but the core viewer demographic was younger viewers and the show remained true to its roots and never had wide appeal.
Other popular reality TV shows included Celebrity Fit Club, Wife Swap, Super Nanny (still hugely popular), Bad Lads Army, Biggest Loser and of course perennial favourites, X Factor and Pop Idol.
One of the most unusual 'reality' TV shows was Channel 4's 2005 'Anatomy For Beginners' which had Dr Gunther Van Hagen dissect a human cadaver live on air to show the amazing anatomy of the human body.
Not everybody's idea of entertainment but in fact, it was done so professionally that millions tuned in night after night to watch it.
British TV Comedy in the 2000s
When you look at the best British comedy shows in the 2000s, you literally cannot move for quality!
There is a list as long as your arm of well written, well performed, funny, funny, funny comedy shows.
Most of these have gone on to become popular box sets - The Office, Extras, Peep Show, Gavin and Stacey, The IT Crowd , The Royle Family whilst others have been very successful unique pieces of comedy gold - Nighty Night, Marion & Geoff, Trigger Happy.
British comedy in the 2000s moved from a more traditional studio based comedy to sitcoms which took place in a living room (The Royle Family), an office (The Office), a flat (Peep Show), a working men's social club (Phoenix Nights), a Spanish hotel (Benidorm) and one was even a monologue which took place in a car (Marion & Geoff).
British TV comedy has always been (mostly) high in quality - we have to turn a blind eye to Two Pints of Lager and A Packet Of Crisps (8 series! How? Why?) but in general, beginning the decade of the 2000s with the Royle Family and The Office gave British audiences pause for thought.
These comedies were very different. Ricky Gervais went that extra mile with The Office. When it was first shown, it harnered a cult following but was not really noticed but its repeat made everyone sit up and pay attention.
Caroline Aherne achieved similar success with The Royle Family - a working class family sitting in a living room talking about how crap the telly is and living life in Britain under a microscope but it was #1 in the comedy charts.
Rob Brydon's wonderfully 'ordinary' monologues in Marion & Geoff seemed to touch us all and 'Nighty Night' made us laugh whilst we also cringed at Julia Davis' monster wife, making it all up as she went along.
The Thick of It put politics into comedy but this was not the calm, gentle humour of Yes, Prime Minister; this was political comedy with the F word and kicking opponents when they were down. The Caledonian Mafia, Malcolm Tucker was star of the show and this was a show with very few likeable characters.
Little Britain was also a new way of approaching a sketch show - 2 men, David Walliams and Matt Lucas played most of the characters, male and female and they pushed the comedy envelope. Its first series was hugely successful but sadly, it did diminish as it became more popular.
Women in comedy came into their own in the 2000s with Catherine Tate, Dawn French, Julia Davis and Ruth Jones all showing comedic character talents in their shows, not only as performers but also as writers.
Paul Abbott talks about Shameless
British TV Drama in the 2000s
British TV drama was enjoying a period of dynamism and creativity in the 2000s.
Writers at that time included Jimmy McGovern, Russell T Davies and Paul Abbott.
Hot on their heels were a new cohort of younger writers, many of them writing bold drama - TV worth watching.
Paul Abbott was leading the way with 'Clocking Off' and 'State of Play', later made into a movie starring Russell Crow.
'Shameless' which he wrote and then passed onto other writers has also had crossover success in the USA. Shameless is making its final series soon but has enjoyed a long and successful reign as one of British TV's best dramas, though it has a good blend of comedy mixed in too.
Russell T Davies had already achieved fame and some notoriety (in some quarters) with 'Queer As Folk' his 1990s drama about the Manchester gay scene, which was explicit, realistic and unlike anything ever seen on British TV up to that time.
Davies turned his talents to the revival of Dr Who in the 2000s but for many, his most touching and popular drama was the brief but wonderful Bob and Rose, starring Alan Davies and Lesley Sharp as a gay man and straight woman falling in love with one another.
Jimmy McGovern delivered quality drama writing throughout the 1990s, first with Cracker and then later with The Lakes. One of his finest pieces of writing though came in the 2000s with 'The Street', tales of different people living in the same street. He remains a writer who seems to write little and often but always with quality.
Newer writers creating great British drama include Peter Bowker who wrote the wonderful 'Blackpool' a musical crime drama starring David Morrissey.
Peter Moffet, a writer of legal drama has shone in the 2000s with Kavanagh QC and more recently, Silk.
Andrew Davies gave us some amazing adapted drama - Bleak House was truly exceptional, Dickens drama delivered in half-hour episodes; that had never been done before but the show was amazing and Davies adaptation of the risque Sarah Waters' novel 'Tipping The Velvet', a story of Victorian lesbianism was a tour de force.
Another of Waters' books, 'Fingersmith', s tale of Victorian pickpockets was adapted by Peter Ransley and also worked well as perfect Sunday evening drama.
British drama in the 2000s and beyond has stuck to its format of being 1 or 2, occasionally 3 or 4 shows in length. For whatever reason, the British do not favour the 24 episode format favoured by US shows like 24, Lost and Prison Break.
A Great British Decade - The 2000s
Like all decades, the 2000s was up and down in terms of quality.
For the first time in what seemed like a long time, British people seemed to have more of a say over how their license fees would be spent and the BBC, by an large, delivered good quality British TV shows.
The main reason for the leap in quality across the board owes more to competition between the four main stations with Channel 4 finally muscling in with its own productions after decades of BBC dominance.
ITV has only recently come out of the doldrums with 'Downton Abbey' after a so-so last decade, some good TV, some pretty awful stuff too.
BBC2 has stuck to what it does best - wildlife, politics, art and culture though it first showed the British comedy, The Thick of It.
Reality TV is still with us though lots of it is confined to satellite stations (My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and One Born Every Minute are very popular) and Big Brother has moved over to Channel 5, now recognised as the channel for some US shows and also some less popular British TV.
That said, Channel 5 have reinvigorated Big Brother and in the last few years seem to have come on in leaps and bounds.
We are now in the second decade of the 2000s and this second decade is featured in this article.
British TV is evolving constantly and that can only be a good thing in an era where cable and satellite TV shows are making inroads in what was once a terrestrial monopoly.
In the end, it will be the British public who will reap the rewards of this competition. Hopefully, the resultant TV which is as deep in quality as it is in entertainment.
Many thanks for reading.
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