Continuing our focus on the Blu-ray format, this is Part 2 of our list of the television shows that deserve a release on Blu-ray disc; so here are ten more titles that have the technical capabilities to be given a high definition release. Some have been shot on film, others are digital productions. But all of them would look great in HD! Once again, there are some titles that would not benefit from Blu-ray (such as the majority of old Doctor Who episodes) due to the way they were filmed. For this reason, they will not feature here. The ones on this list, however, have all been shot on formats that would certainly do well on Blu-ray.
As was the case with the first instalment, this list combines together television shows from both sides of the Atlantic. Too often, lists of great boxsets and TV shows fail to make the most of the enormous wealth of television gold we have in the UK, so here you will find the BBC standing alongside HBO, ITV jostling for space with NBC. And look out for Part 3 of our list in the autumn which will feature (among other titles) some of the best shows worldwide, including France, Sweden and Africa, that really need a Blu-ray release in this country. But for the time being, here is Part 2. Enjoy.
Seven series. 2007 – 2013. 16mm film & Digital HD.
I have issues with this series. On one side of the coin it was unforgivably irresponsible. Quite often the writers portrayed drug abuse in an uncritical and glamorous way. It helped feed the dangerous myth that smoking weed is a harmless activity. Attractive teenage leads smoke cigarettes constantly; binge drinking by sixth formers is apparently one big laugh. However, on the drama side of things, this show was often extraordinary. A combination of honest acting and witty writing made this feel smart and fresh. And some of the more emotional scenes have a real rawness. It was also strikingly shot, particularly the 2013 series. I think fans would be pleased to see it get a Blu-ray release.
Waking the Dead
Nine series. 2000 – 2011. 16mm film.
This popular and often brilliant BBC crime drama was one of the corporation’s big series for over a decade. I know, it did get a bit silly at times. Trevor Eve as Detective Supt. Peter Boyd suddenly STARTING TO SHOUT AT EVERYONE did occasionally get a bit much. But Waking the Dead regularly reached highs many other dramas only strive towards. Daring finales, shocking conclusions, and superb characterisation. This was a top-notch series. And it would look great in HD.
Ten series. 2002 – 2011. 16mm film.
This great show, loved by millions, famously refused to change to Digital HD for the whole of its run, instead preferring the then-convenient technical choice of 16mm film. The cinematographers also gave each series its own distinct look (my favourite being the final series’ deep blacks and chilly look). The rights to the series are owned by EOne (S1 – 8) and Universal Pictures (S9 & 10). EOne actually put their neck out and offered up a Blu-ray of Life on Mars (from the makers of Spooks) even though no digital HD master was available (a choice I have mixed feeling about). So maybe they could go one step further and oversee a proper remastering of Spooks. The series really would benefit from it.
Two series. 2009 – 2010. Digital HD.
Peter Moffat’s painstaking, detailed examination of the process of our criminal justice system was loved by both audiences and critics when it debuted (with Ben Wishaw in the lead) on BBC One back in 2009. A stunning second series starring Maxine Peake and Matthew Macfadyen followed the year after. This is a show that really benefits from HD. The cinematography is excellent. The composition of each frame is beautifully done. Acorn Media have the rights to the show in the UK. They are currently getting more adventurous with their Blu-ray releases here in the UK (with a superb release of The Fall and an upcoming special edition of Broadchurch), so maybe one day will turn their attentions to this.
Judge John Deed
Six series. 2001 – 2007. 16mm film (S1 – 5) and Digital HD (S6).
This sex-mad High Court Judge is a law unto himself. Oh how I miss the days when you could rely on the BBC turning out another terrifically fun yet utterly ridiculous feature-length episode of this consistently watchable drama. Martin Shaw in the title role is really very good, but the real star is one of Britain’s most underrated actors, Jenny Seagrove (who we see very little of on TV these days) as his on-and-off love interest Jo Mills. The series went HD for its last season, but that doesn’t mean the earlier seasons are off the cards for a HD release. They were shot on film, so in a perfect world we could get a Complete Collection Blu-ray release. No sign of it so far, however.
One series. 2012. Digital HD.
This fabulous comedy by Julia Davis, which sends up a number of period dramas including Rebecca and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was part of Sky Atlantic HD’s big comedy line up. Considering Sky are very hot with pushing HD (and having ordered the show to be filmed in hi def) it’s a shame the DVD’s distributors (BBC Worldwide) opted for a standard definition only release. The whole thing is shot well and is good enough to warrant an upgrade.
Scott & Bailey
Three series. 2011 – Present. Digital HD.
This was something of a surprise when it quietly shuffled onto ITV’s schedule’s back in 2011. Two detectives who like each other and work well together, working in a police department that is generally rather pleasant, with a boss they are friends with and can have a good laugh with at the end of the day. Yes, it all sounds fairly cosy, but writer Sally Wainwright makes it all stick together so well. And some of the crimes are rather horrible, though never gratuitous. Shot in digital high definition, the series looks splendid when ITV broadcast it in HD. So why no Blu-ray?! Maybe distributors BBC Worldwide feel the fans wouldn’t rush to buy it in the top-format. Well, this one certainly would!
Six Feet Under
Five seasons. 2001 – 2005. 35mm film.
The prints on HBO’s current DVDs for this outstanding show could be better. So why not give it a proper Blu-ray release? Six Feet Under rightly became a critical hit and audiences are still discovering the show for the first time now. It’s time HBO and Warner Home Video took care in releasing their catalogue in the best format available.
Call the Midwife
Two series. 2012 – Present. Digital HD.
When this was shown, it became the most successful drama the BBC had broadcast in eight years. It received a lovely full Blu-ray release in America. But in Britain, where it proved so popular, it was put onto a standard definition disc with no plans for an HD upgrade to come. Once again, perhaps the BBC doubt its fans are HD adopters. But Universal took that risk with Downton Abbey, and those Blu-rays are still going strong!
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Fifteen series. 1999 – Present. 35mm film and Digital HD.
This is my favourite of the Law & Order franchise. The collection of officers fit together well, the stories are sometimes upsetting but well handled and it’s shot in a very cinematic style – perhaps the most visually impressive of all the L&O series. Universal have been inspired in the past with their choices of Blu-ray releases. So why not here? Let’s get some L&O:SVU Blu-ray boxsets on the shelves now!
Part 3 of The TV Shows We Need On Blu-ray Right Now will be published this autumn. Look out for BluChristmas, our selection of the best movies available on Blu-ray, starting in September on The Edge.