We all know the theory, that an infinite number of monkeys banging away on an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare.
But do we know how long it will take 17 television critics in a single room to come up with a shortlist of just six for the Radio Times Audience Award to be presented at the Baftas? Actually, surprisingly, the answer is not long at all.
Not that I’m comparing my fellow critics with monkeys. Yes, we are intelligent and have opposable thumbs but we don’t groom one another and our table manners are impeccable.
TV critics are sociable sorts and despite being from publications across the spectrum of magazines, newspapers, radio and TV, we’re friendly rivals. There was no hair-pulling or eye-poking, just a bit of amiable verbal tussling. Should Game of Thrones, last year’s winner, be included in this year’s shortlist? (No, as it turned out.) Should we include two dramas not on normal TV – Breaking Bad and House of Cards, both of which can be viewed only on Netflix – or would that make the list merely a reflection of the tastes of a bunch of metropolitan critical types rather than proper viewers? (No and yes. Only one made the cut.)
Now, before you all start shouting at once that your favourite show isn’t on here, the list has to be eclectic, broad and surprising. An impossible task, so we did our best. Broadchurch (ITV) has to be there because it was the biggest mainstream drama “event” of last year, transfixing the nation, which came together as one to ask, “Who killed Danny Latimer?
Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire, particularly the genuinely joyful transformation of stammering pupil Musharaf to confident Musharaf, opened our eyes and hearts. Doctor Who celebrated its 50th year with a massively anticipated episode uniting Matt Smith and David Tennant.
Breaking Bad has been around for years but as it came to an end, this spectacularly dark tale of a cancer-stricken ex-teacher’s descent into drug-production and darkness was a tiny, word-of-mouth hit that became a cultural touchstone. Gogglebox is Channel 4’s genuinely innovative (and surprisingly funny) series where we watch ordinary people as they watch telly.
And then there’s The Great British Bake Off (BBC2), our only returning nominee. (It has featured on the Audience Award shortlist for the past two years.) Bake Off scores a hat-trick because, this was THE year it truly took off to become part of our national fabric and a fevered talking point. It’s become such a mighty beast that it will return on BBC1.
So, we’ve done our job and the rest is up to you. What are you waiting for?
The shortlist was drawn up by a panel of top TV critics but the final decision lies with you. Your winner will be announced on Sunday 18 May 2014 on BBC One.