Recent favourites include Joss Whedon's Dollhouse (certificate 15), a sci-fi/spy drama by the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the only vampire story I've ever enjoyed) and the cruelly cancelled, much lamented Firefly. The Dollhouse in question is a sinister, top-secret institution which maintains a bevy of brain-wiped young people who can be uploaded with tailored personalities and rented out to the super-rich for various shady purposes. The first couple of episodes are slick and watchable without being particularly interesting, but just when you think that Dollhouse is going to turn out variations on the same formula each week, it suddenly starts to twist and turn and subvert itself, and people start talking like Joss Whedon characters (some of them are played by familiar faces from his other shows, which helps; Eliza Dushku from Buffy, Alan Tudyk from Firefly and Angel's Amy Acker, who I've sometimes thought would make a passable Hester Shaw, and who turns up here sporting a Disfiguring Scar - spooky!). It's cool, playful and slightly deranged, and beneath its all-American styling and Hollywood gloss there beats a heart very like those which animated great, loopy, British TV shows of the '60s like The Avengers and The Prisoner.
The second series of Madmen (also certificate 15) was actually shown on BBC4 at the start of the year, so I suppose I shouldn't really grumble about the licence fee. But they put it on way past my bedtime, and it's not worth replacing my long-broken DVD recorder just to record one programme, so I had to wait for the boxed set as usual. Anyway, it's magnificent; as stylish and glacially cool as the first series, and with slightly more plot. Unlike British TV drama, where the characters are always telling us how they feel about things, the writers of Madmen and other HBO series are careful to treat the audience as adults; they show us people doing things, and leave it to us to work out why they've done them and how they feel about it.
The children's TV I've glimpsed lately has offered nothing to compare to the wayward brilliance of The Secret Show, but young surrealists might enjoy the CBBC show Ooglies, which seems to be based on Andre Breton's dictum about Surrealism being the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an ironing board, only with the addition of some goggly eyes and a lot of slapstick violence, which is a big improvement. I particularly like the blender helicopter with its crew of incompetent paramedic cherries.