We all love a good storyteller. It’s human nature – we put our trust in the narrator’s authority, and let their dulcet tones take us on a journey. A narrator can make or break a tale. Who can forget Morgan Freeman, hands down as smooth as it gets, kicking off The Shawshank Redemption in his trademark calm and commanding tones? He then took his talents to the less auspicious (and extremely chilly) surroundings of March of the Penguins and ensured that anybody watching wanted to adopt one of the waddling critters seconds after leaving the cinema.
But with Secret Diary of A Call Girl – narrated with aplomb by Billie Piper’s scandalous Belle Du Jour – returning to our screens on Sony TV from June 10th, our focus is on television’s finest narrators, and we’ve got a whole lot to choose from. From Frankie Muniz’s smart-talking braniac dishing out snarky remarks about his family, to New York’s finest fashionista Carrie Bradshaw giving us the rundown on life in the Big Apple, we could listen to these guys read the phone book.
So for more delightfully honourable mentions, please find this list of ten TV topping narrators curated for your sheer viewing pleasure… And for extra enjoyment: try reading it in the voice of David Attenborough.
SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL
She’s in almost every scene: Hannah, played by Billie Piper, the ahem… wildly inappropriate (did we say scantily clad?) protagonist of the series. There she is, ever present, always ready with a wink at the camera, teacher-like in her confessions. For those bored of their office job, what she has to tell us may just be the antidote they’ve been looking for – opening their eyes to an entirely different world, and making them thankful the clients they deal with are slightly less demanding.. Until Secret Diary of a Call Girl, there was a whole world out there we never knew about. A saucy, illicit, adulterous world, and here is the truth about things we perhaps never ought to have known. Naughty. Thanks for the education, Hannah. Your secret’s safe with us.
From a moral standpoint of view, Dexter offers up something unique. No other actor in our list of top ten narrators is asked to do what Michael C. Hall does in each and every episode: casually invite viewers to listen in on the thoughts of television’s most sympathetic serial killer. He humanizes him, makes him, dare we say it, likeable even, and yet a serial killer he still is. We’re seeing things from Dexter’s point of view, in on a secret that no one else in his world is, as his police colleagues stumble about oblivious around him. it’s a compelling formula, to say the least. Dangerous, yes, but keep watching and you can’t help but develop an intimate relationship with the guy.
He’s had a career lasting over sixty years as the most genuinely passionate and prolific naturalist we know of. David Attenborough is a bonafide living legend, a national treasure, and the distinguished possessor of that iconic voice. Cliché it may be, but it’s always going to be music to our ears. (There is even a Facebook page dedicated entirely to the man’s voice. Point proven.) The English born broadcaster has narrated the BBC’s most popular natural history programs – but the beeb might as well have him narrate anything, and people would watch. We’d pay him to read the phone book, even, for letting us know just how wondrous the planet really is. Though edging close to 90 nowadays, who would you rather have sit at your bedside and just talk to you? His is a legacy already made, and we hope he never stops. So thank you David, we remain captivated.
TV shows, they aren’t afraid to make us wait. We waited six whole seasons to find out who the voice behind ‘Gossip Girl’ was. A whole six years of xo’s and xoxo’s before we learnt the truth. SPOILER ALERT. That voice would belong to Kristen Bell, who would fit in dropping cutting barbs on the New York upper classes between singing about snowmen in Frozen. Isn’t the narrator usually supposed to be the delicate voice of reason? They’re the ones we should listen to the most, right? Well here’s a warning about the chronicler of Manhattan’s elite. Gossip Girl has no conscience at all. None. Expect things to get brutal. That’s what happens when you play your characters like puppets. All knowing and all seeing, we admit that her unashamedly scandalous accounts have us shamefully addicted.
There’s no denying Zach Braff was the best person to play Dr John ‘J.D’ Dorian in Scrubs. Giving us his daydreams and every crazy last thought – don’t we always want to know what’s going on in someone else’s head? In what is undoubtedly the most amusing way to watch the daily routine of a hospital on TV, this fast-paced screenplay is profusely littered with slapstick, and very, surreal vignettes. Scrubs have created one very unique character. It’s often nonsense, these comical fantasies, and many ways, completely twisted, too. But this Doc’s internal thoughts are as entertaining as they are joyfully bizarre. Did you notice that almost every episode of the series began with the word ‘my’? Make no mistake: this is the John Dorian show.
SEX AND THE CITY
Girl about town, party girl, fashionista, freelance writer, New Yorker: are we right in saying everyone wants a best friend/shopping companion like Carrie? Let’s be honest: Sex and the City simply couldn’t exist without her. Personified to perfection by Sarah Jessica Parker, Carrie, our confidant and companion, invites us to join her in writing her weekly column, ‘Sex and the City’. It’s a live commentary of the questions and reflections of 20-something life, and we too contemplate these trials and tribulations as Carrie does. We do. And we love it because we can relate. One television show, so many lessons learnt. If weren’t for that column, we’d be dating in the dark. We’re not surprised Carrie was listed as one of the 100 greatest TV Characters of all time in 2005. Best friend? Hell, we’d even like her as a sister.
It takes real dedication to narrate from beyond the grave. But that’s exactly what Mary Alice Young (Brendra Strong) offers us. Her character’s suicide in the pilot episode served as the catalyst of this series. A loving, doting wife and a famously generous mother, she was the last person any of them expected to commit suicide. Mary Alice, a bounty of secrets, just knows everything. And at Wisteria Lane, as the saying goes, all is not as it seems. This is because in death, Mary Alice sees things she would never have seen in life: her friends’ vulnerabilities, lies and secrets. Frankly, her observations serve two purposes – they shock us and they satisfy us. A big part of her allure is the mystery – who is she, really? For her performance as Mary Alice Young, Strong was nominated for two very well deserved Emmy Awards for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.
Arrested Development is obviously one of the smartest shows of all time, so obviously it would need to have the smartest narrator too – just to boost the comedy factor a few notches more. Not many comedies can boast an Oscar-winning director amongst their cast, but Ron Howard is just that. You may wonder what the former Happy Days man is doing there: he is not directly involved in the story and he never speaks of himself, but it’s his commentary and the way that he interjects his own opinions that won us over. The best thing about Ron as narrator is that he kindly guides us through the fast paced frenetic storytelling, tying up the myriad of non-sequiturs and loose ends. And the guy can be pretty darn insulting at times too. We’re fans.
Dale opened every episode of the criminally underrated drama Pushing Daisies as the unseen narrator. He’s the omniscient entity who describes the adventures of Ned, Chuck, and the rest of the Pushing Daisies gang. How exactly to describe his style? Extremely, extremely precise. Perfectionist alert! If you like attention to detail, and never want to miss a thing when you tune in, we have your guy. Added bonus: at times, he will start speaking in rhymes (even we’re doing it now). You’ll adapt easily to his style, and you’ll know you’re about to hear the full backstory of a victim, when he introduces his reveal with ‘The facts were these…’
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
The narrator of How I Met Your Mother is Future Ted – yep Ted Mosby, all grown up, telling all from the year 2030. The series takes shape as Ted explains to his two children how he met their mother. Voiced by Bob Saget, Ted can keep our attention and yet still remain frustratingly elusive in the detail. Who is the mother? Who?! With its eccentric humour, the series received positive reviews throughout its duration. Rarely has a series kept us so consistently fulfilled, rewarded, and we have to say it – happy. Impressively, the show was nominated for 28 Emmy Awards. And we reckon a good 27 of them were thanks to its secret-keeping narrator.
Secret Diary of a Call Girl comes to Sony Entertainment Television (Sky 157/Virgin 193/BT and TalkTalk 454) weekly from Tuesday 10th June, 10pm.