Television in 2008: Drama-wise there was more to admire than to love in 2008

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In terms of good old-fashioned investigative work that has consequences, Pedigree Dogs Exposed (BBC1) was a palpable hit, showing up such pathetic inertia in the Kennel Club's attitude to inbreeding that it has resulted in the suspension of BBC coverage of Crufts.

Drama-wise there was more to admire than to love in 2008. God On Trial (BBC2) by Frank Cottrell Boyce was an intellectually stretching piece of new writing that will probably endure. When it comes to imports, Mad Men (BBC4) and John Adams (Channel 4) led the field, both substantial new American self-imaginings. As a guilty pleasure The X Factor (ITV) had its moments – such as Alexandra's duet with Beyonce. But for sheer fun, Phoo Action (BBC3) tickled my fancy with its frenzied ingenuity, random dance routines and magical loincloths. Pants to its cancellation.

Turkeys of the year

Look on those huge hubristic failures, Flood (ITV) and Burn Up (BBC2), ye mighty channel controllers, and despair. We won't be seeing such large-scale budgets again for a while, I'll warrant. And perhaps it won't do TV any harm to rely a little more on writerly ingenuity, rather than lavish scenery and CGI. Hammy and preposterous, Bonekickers (BBC1) did both drama and archaeology a disservice. Harley Street (ITV) was so bad you couldn't look away.

Face of the year

The way Andrea Riseborough inhabited Mrs Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley (BBC4) was spookily accurate, right down to the stiffly articulated walk. The next time we saw her she was a Lely painting come to life, a luminous, dangerous Anjelica Fanshawe in The Devil's Whore (Channel4). Ms Riseborough is an extraordinary performer and I can't wait to see who she becomes next.

Newcomer of the year

Ramona Marquez was five when she started filming the first series of Outnumbered (BBC2) last year. She's grown up on the job, reaching sublime comedic improvisatory heights in recent episodes. And all before she turns eight. These newcomers are getting newer all the time. Claire Foy was also lovely as Little Dorrit.


Anthony Minghella's last work, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a warm, soul-cheering comedy – he is television's loss as well as film's.

Geoffrey Perkins, producer of Spitting Image, Saturday Night Live, The Fast Show, Father Ted, The Catherine Tate Show and probably any other comedy landmark you care to name, died in a road traffic accident at the age of 55, leaving the industry with one less legend and mentor.

And Oliver Postgate, thank you for your gentle enchantments and your loopy wisdom; for putting soulfulness in a sock puppet and for being a continual inspiration: yes, you can see character in a piece of string, and infinity in a sugarlump, because magic itself is, as Joanna Newsom sings, "made with love, made with love, made with glue and a glove and some pliers".