Roger Allam used to be a member of a feminist theatre collective. The 66-year-old, who starred as wet Tory Peter Mannion inThe Thick of Itand now plays the lugubrious DCI Fred Thursday in Endeavour, was part of The Monstrous Regiment in the 1970s, which was based in a Camden squat. 
It was named after the misogynist 16th-century tract The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. The women who founded the collective had got a bit p***ed off with the macho side of political theatre groups and wanted to set up a way of working where the majority of roles were for women, says Allam over the phone, in that unmistakeable warm, syrupy voice.
Our offices and rehearsal rooms were in a squat. I think I got the job because I can play various musical instruments and sing. The young Allam, fresh from studying drama at Manchester University, could not have known he would go on to become one of Britains most distinguished stage actors. It was radical because it was run by a majority of women. But that didnt feel weird in my family I had two older sisters, so I was used to being bossed around. 
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He recalls one cabaret set that separatist feminists did not approve of It was about a man shouting at women in the street, Cheer up darling! Cheer up! all that kind of stuff, he says. Eventually this man became so outraged that women werent cheering up that he simply got a gun to go around and threaten people with. 
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Created with Sketch.
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Created with Sketch.
1/30 30. Homeland (season 1, 2011)
Few dead horses have been more flogged, but if you stretch your mind back enough, it is possible to remember a series with a fantastic premise that kept us guessing for 12 whole episodes. The question: had returning war hero Sgt Brody (Damian Lewis) been radicalised in a foreign jail cell? CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) thought so, but she had plenty of problems of her own. I still think it would have been better if he’d detonated at the denouement. Twisty, compelling, briefly essential. (EC)
2/30 29. Mum (2016-2019)
The slow-burning relationship between Cathy (Lesley Manville), a widow and mother of superhuman forbearance, and her late husbands best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) elevated what could have been a run-of-the-mill suburban comedy into a beautifully composed portrait of friendship, grief and mid-life romance. (FS)
3/30 28. Handmaid’s Tale (2017- )
Hulus adaptation of Margaret Atwoods 1985 novel, set in a pious patriarchal state, lost its way in the second series, but the first, which arrived a few months after Trump entered the White House, was a triumph. As Offred, Elisabeth Moss seethed under her mask of impassivity, while the rich palette gave us a dystopian nightmare as imagined by the 17th-century Dutch school. (FS)
4/30 27. Money Heist (2017- )
Perhaps the trashiest show on this list, but trash of the highest grade, Money Heist is Netflix’s most popular non-English series, a hit across Europe and South America, with 34m accounts watching this year’s Part 3 in its first week of release. A mysterious mastermind known as The Professor gathers together a crew of misfit criminals to execute a robbery on the Royal Mint in Spain. Tense, funny, clever and often completely preposterous, La Casa del Papel has only been held back by its off-putting English title. (EC)
5/30 26. Rick and Morty (2013- )
It unfortunately inspired some of the worst fans on the internet, but that shouldn’t detract from Rick and Morty’s inventiveness. Ostensibly a parody of Back to the Future, about the adventures of a young boy and his alcoholic, mad scientist grandfather, the cartoon uses its set-up to put its heroes in an endless number of frenetic, frequently insane situations. Blink and you miss a gag and two pop-culture references. (EC)
6/30 25. The Returned (2012-2015)
This exquisite French series is about the dead trying to return to their old lives in a secluded mountain town dispensed with the usual gory zombie tropes, instead dwelling on the human instincts of these confused beings specifically their desire to love and be loved ­ and the grief experienced by those they left behind. (FS)
7/30 24. Catastrophe (2015-19)
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney were a masterful double act in this sitcom about a holiday fling resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. The pairs attempts to build a life together yielded scabrous gags about sex and post-partum leakage, a cameo from the late Carrie Fisher and an underlying tenderness that resisted spilling into sentimentality. (FS)
8/30 23. Killing Eve (2018-)
A wicked cocktail of comedy and humanity, shock and gore, the first series of Killing Eve, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was a subversive joy. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer played, respectively, a spy and an assassin whose continental game of cat-and-mouse was a blood-spattered love story for the ages. Sadly, when Waller-Bridge handed off writing duties in the second series, the magic wasn’t quite the same. (FS)
9/30 22. Borgen (2010-2013)
The Killing may have started the Scandi craze, but it aired in Denmark in 2007, so it doesn’t count for these purposes. Borgen was everything The West Wing wasn’t: a cliché-resistant drama that showed politics in grating reality, with plenty of plausible schemers in slick outfits and a wonderful central performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the Prime Minister trying to balance principles with power. (EC)
10/30 21. Detectorists (2014-17)
Following the exploits of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook), dedicated treasure hunters and members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, Detectorists was about people and their passions, community and camaraderie. Its a wonderfully tranquil meditation on male companionship. (FS)
11/30 20. The Americans (2013-2018)
Where other series burn brightly and fade after a couple of years, FX’s Cold War spy drama took its time. Matthew Rhys and Kerri Russell, married in real life, shone as the Russian couple working as spies in suburban Washington DC. The tension built over six seasons to a magnificent finale, rewarding those who stuck with it. (EC)
12/30 19. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
The premise is one of the most intriguing in television: people struggling to come to terms with something called the “Sudden Departure”, a mysterious event in whichtwo per cent of the world’s population simply disappeared. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s drama received iffy reviews at first, but its reputation grew through its second and final outings, with writing and performances that explored the full depth of the setup without losing the pervasive air of mystery. (EC)
13/30 18. The Crown (2016- )
The third series is a noticeable drop-off in quality, but for two series The Crown achieved a number of unexpected feats. It made viewers genuinely interested in the Royal Family, and not in a Prince Andrew “should they go to prison?” kind of way. With sumptuous sets and costumes and some excellent performances, especially Claire Foy as the young monarch, this remains the high-water mark of Netflix polish proof that money can, sometimes, buy you love. (EC)
14/30 17. The Great British Bake Off (2010- )
Reports of the death of TVs baking behemoth have been greatly exaggerated: despite host departures, a channel move and the off-screen antics of a certain perma-tanned judge, this big-hearted competition in which friendships are forged and adults weep over sagging soufflés remains the ultimate feel-good reality show. (FS)
15/30 16. The Trip (2010- )
Two men bicker over bottles of fine wine. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydons low-key, semi-improvised and implausibly funny tours of high-end European restaurants saw the pairs insecurities deliciously laid bare as they discussed sex, ageing and ambition. Michael Winterbottom directed. (FS)
16/30 15. Happy Valley (2014- )
This Yorkshire-set, Bafta-festooned series gave us Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), a pleasingly complex, no-nonsense police sergeant up to her neck in rapists, murderers, addicts and the odd ailing sheep, together with some superbly earthy dialogue courtesy of writer Sally Wainwright. (FS)
17/30 14. Girls (2012-2017)
Without Girls there is no Fleabag or Adam Driver, and it would probably merit inclusion on those two facts alone. But Lena Dunham now attracts as much opprobrium as praise, and it’s easy to forget how new her breakthrough comedy felt in its naturalistic depiction of young women in New York. This was Sex and the City for people who spent more time on Instagram than at work, created by people the same age as those they were portraying. Its look and feel have cast a long shadow. (EC)
18/30 13. Sherlock (2010- )
Witty, inventive and dazzling to look at, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatisss relocation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories to the present day worked beautifully, as did the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the high-functioning sociopath Holmes and Martin Freeman as the put-upon army veteran Watson. While later series would drift, the first three were unbeatable. (FS)
19/30 12. Chernobyl (2019)
A five-part drama about a nuclear disaster in 1986 is not the most promising prospect for a night in with a bottle of wine. It is a tribute to the writer, Craig Mazin, and director, Johan Renck, as well as its cast, especially Jared Harris, that Chernobyl managed to be totally gripping, with frequent moments of stark, horrendous beauty. (EC)
20/30 11. Atlanta (2016- )
At first, the musician and comedian Donald Glover’s series about struggling rappers in Atlanta looked like a familiar, safe kind of sitcom about loveable losers. But it quickly evolved into something fresh: a smart, occasionally surreal examination of life at the margins of America, whose angry heart never spilled into preachiness or got in the way of the jokes. (EC)
21/30 10. Love Island (2015- )
Who could have anticipated a dating show in which twenty-somethings sit around in microscopic swimwear would tell us so much about the human condition? Gaslighting, bromances, the complexities of girl code Love Island delved beneath the spray tans and schooled the nation on modern manners. (FS)
22/30 9. Patrick Melrose (2018)
An electrifying study of addiction, trauma and the corrupting power of privilege, based on the autobiographical books by Edward St Aubyn. Benedict Cumberbatch played the feckless antihero grappling with his past and trying (and mostly failing) to be better than the wretched aristos that raised him. (FS)
23/30 8. The Vietnam War (2017)
Ken Burns’s epic 10-part documentary followed up his other conflict opuses, on The Civil War and The War, with a detailed story about Vietnam. Using new interviews from both sides as well as archive footage, the documentary shows in unrelenting detail a catastrophe that unfolded in slow motion. Some critics accused it of underserving the experience of the Vietnamese civilians. But it left viewers in no doubt that not only did the US leadership pursue it long after it was a lost cause, but they knew from the start it was unwinnable. (EC)
24/30 7. Black Mirror (2011- )
Charlie Brooker sent every other TV critic, or at least one of them, into a spiral of envy by proving not only that it was possible to cross over into creation, but to do so in style. Black Mirror’s taut near-future tales of techno-dystopia are almost always interesting, even if they sometimes fall short of their ambitions, as with the high-concept recent film, “Bandersnatch”. The best episodes, like 2016’s tour de force, “San Junipero”, are gripping examinations of human connection in a world where interactions are increasingly by screens. (EC)
25/30 6. Blue Planet II (2017)
The first of the Attenborough documentaries to speak directly of the human impact on the natural world, this kaleidoscopic ocean odyssey provided a visual feast of clam-cracking tuskfish, alien-looking pyrosomes and anthropomorphic ­dolphins, while reminding us how it could all be lost. (FS)
26/30 5. BoJack Horseman (2014- )
Only in a world of Netflix budgets can you imagine a concept as wild as BoJack Horsemans getting off the ground. It’s a cartoon set in LA, ostensibly a comedy about celebrity, except half the characters, including its lead, are anthropomorphised animals. Halfway through its final season, which has been split into two, its initial zaniness has given way to something darker and more interesting. Lurid colours and visual wit dress one of the most humane explorations of depression, addiction and cycles of abuse. (EC)
27/30 4. Fleabag (2016-19)
What began, in its first series, as an enjoyably acid-tongued portrait of modern womanhood became a fully fledged masterpiece in the second. Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag gave us perfectly calibrated scenes of familial dysfunction and sexual longing the latter memorably culminating in the Priests simple, thrilling instruction: Kneel. (FS)
28/30 3. This is England (2010-15)
The first spin-off series from Shane Meadows 2007 film, about a gang of ex-skinheads from the Midlands, was set during the 1986 World Cup, and remains one of the great British dramas, depicting working class lives with humanity and humour. This is England 88 and 90 followed, both of them similarly infused with heart and soul. (FS)
29/30 2. Succession (2018- )
Said to have been a decade in the making, Succession is worth every minute spent on it. Brian Cox enjoys a dream of a late-career role as Logan Roy, the ageing media tycoon unwilling to relinquish control of his company to any of his ungrateful and talentless children. There’s oblivious eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), troubled addict Kendall (Jeremy Strong), scheming daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) and abrasive youngest Roman (Kieran Culkin), along with a host of hangers-on, partners and support staff. None of them seem to have the right stuff. It’s an intriguing set-up, but Succession is lifted by its script, performances, locations, costumes, music and direction, which place it firmly in a tradition of laughing at our rulers, where the mirth comes tempered with the knowledge that these are really the people in charge. (EC)
30/30 1. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Yes, the final series went a bit weird. Maybe the final two series. A case could be made that the TV adaptation was never as emotionally resonant when it went beyond George RR Martin’s novels. The final series were only disappointing compared to what had come before, which was a fantasy on an unprecedented scale that managed to be grandiose without slipping into melodrama. An invented universe with necromancers, dragons, magic swords and ice zombies was notable for its plausible realpolitik. At a time when viewing tastes were meant to be becoming more atomised, Game of Thrones was global event TV, which made household names of the Starks, Lannisters and Greyjoys and provided a whole generation of English character actors with a regular income. (EC)
1/30 30. Homeland (season 1, 2011)
Few dead horses have been more flogged, but if you stretch your mind back enough, it is possible to remember a series with a fantastic premise that kept us guessing for 12 whole episodes. The question: had returning war hero Sgt Brody (Damian Lewis) been radicalised in a foreign jail cell? CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) thought so, but she had plenty of problems of her own. I still think it would have been better if he’d detonated at the denouement. Twisty, compelling, briefly essential. (EC)
2/30 29. Mum (2016-2019)
The slow-burning relationship between Cathy (Lesley Manville), a widow and mother of superhuman forbearance, and her late husbands best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) elevated what could have been a run-of-the-mill suburban comedy into a beautifully composed portrait of friendship, grief and mid-life romance. (FS)
3/30 28. Handmaid’s Tale (2017- )
Hulus adaptation of Margaret Atwoods 1985 novel, set in a pious patriarchal state, lost its way in the second series, but the first, which arrived a few months after Trump entered the White House, was a triumph. As Offred, Elisabeth Moss seethed under her mask of impassivity, while the rich palette gave us a dystopian nightmare as imagined by the 17th-century Dutch school. (FS)
4/30 27. Money Heist (2017- )
Perhaps the trashiest show on this list, but trash of the highest grade, Money Heist is Netflix’s most popular non-English series, a hit across Europe and South America, with 34m accounts watching this year’s Part 3 in its first week of release. A mysterious mastermind known as The Professor gathers together a crew of misfit criminals to execute a robbery on the Royal Mint in Spain. Tense, funny, clever and often completely preposterous, La Casa del Papel has only been held back by its off-putting English title. (EC)
5/30 26. Rick and Morty (2013- )
It unfortunately inspired some of the worst fans on the internet, but that shouldn’t detract from Rick and Morty’s inventiveness. Ostensibly a parody of Back to the Future, about the adventures of a young boy and his alcoholic, mad scientist grandfather, the cartoon uses its set-up to put its heroes in an endless number of frenetic, frequently insane situations. Blink and you miss a gag and two pop-culture references. (EC)
6/30 25. The Returned (2012-2015)
This exquisite French series is about the dead trying to return to their old lives in a secluded mountain town dispensed with the usual gory zombie tropes, instead dwelling on the human instincts of these confused beings specifically their desire to love and be loved ­ and the grief experienced by those they left behind. (FS)
7/30 24. Catastrophe (2015-19)
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney were a masterful double act in this sitcom about a holiday fling resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. The pairs attempts to build a life together yielded scabrous gags about sex and post-partum leakage, a cameo from the late Carrie Fisher and an underlying tenderness that resisted spilling into sentimentality. (FS)
8/30 23. Killing Eve (2018-)
A wicked cocktail of comedy and humanity, shock and gore, the first series of Killing Eve, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was a subversive joy. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer played, respectively, a spy and an assassin whose continental game of cat-and-mouse was a blood-spattered love story for the ages. Sadly, when Waller-Bridge handed off writing duties in the second series, the magic wasn’t quite the same. (FS)
9/30 22. Borgen (2010-2013)
The Killing may have started the Scandi craze, but it aired in Denmark in 2007, so it doesn’t count for these purposes. Borgen was everything The West Wing wasn’t: a cliché-resistant drama that showed politics in grating reality, with plenty of plausible schemers in slick outfits and a wonderful central performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the Prime Minister trying to balance principles with power. (EC)
10/30 21. Detectorists (2014-17)
Following the exploits of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook), dedicated treasure hunters and members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, Detectorists was about people and their passions, community and camaraderie. Its a wonderfully tranquil meditation on male companionship. (FS)
11/30 20. The Americans (2013-2018)
Where other series burn brightly and fade after a couple of years, FX’s Cold War spy drama took its time. Matthew Rhys and Kerri Russell, married in real life, shone as the Russian couple working as spies in suburban Washington DC. The tension built over six seasons to a magnificent finale, rewarding those who stuck with it. (EC)
12/30 19. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
The premise is one of the most intriguing in television: people struggling to come to terms with something called the “Sudden Departure”, a mysterious event in whichtwo per cent of the world’s population simply disappeared. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s drama received iffy reviews at first, but its reputation grew through its second and final outings, with writing and performances that explored the full depth of the setup without losing the pervasive air of mystery. (EC)
13/30 18. The Crown (2016- )
The third series is a noticeable drop-off in quality, but for two series The Crown achieved a number of unexpected feats. It made viewers genuinely interested in the Royal Family, and not in a Prince Andrew “should they go to prison?” kind of way. With sumptuous sets and costumes and some excellent performances, especially Claire Foy as the young monarch, this remains the high-water mark of Netflix polish proof that money can, sometimes, buy you love. (EC)
14/30 17. The Great British Bake Off (2010- )
Reports of the death of TVs baking behemoth have been greatly exaggerated: despite host departures, a channel move and the off-screen antics of a certain perma-tanned judge, this big-hearted competition in which friendships are forged and adults weep over sagging soufflés remains the ultimate feel-good reality show. (FS)
15/30 16. The Trip (2010- )
Two men bicker over bottles of fine wine. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydons low-key, semi-improvised and implausibly funny tours of high-end European restaurants saw the pairs insecurities deliciously laid bare as they discussed sex, ageing and ambition. Michael Winterbottom directed. (FS)
16/30 15. Happy Valley (2014- )
This Yorkshire-set, Bafta-festooned series gave us Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), a pleasingly complex, no-nonsense police sergeant up to her neck in rapists, murderers, addicts and the odd ailing sheep, together with some superbly earthy dialogue courtesy of writer Sally Wainwright. (FS)
17/30 14. Girls (2012-2017)
Without Girls there is no Fleabag or Adam Driver, and it would probably merit inclusion on those two facts alone. But Lena Dunham now attracts as much opprobrium as praise, and it’s easy to forget how new her breakthrough comedy felt in its naturalistic depiction of young women in New York. This was Sex and the City for people who spent more time on Instagram than at work, created by people the same age as those they were portraying. Its look and feel have cast a long shadow. (EC)
18/30 13. Sherlock (2010- )
Witty, inventive and dazzling to look at, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatisss relocation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories to the present day worked beautifully, as did the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the high-functioning sociopath Holmes and Martin Freeman as the put-upon army veteran Watson. While later series would drift, the first three were unbeatable. (FS)
19/30 12. Chernobyl (2019)
A five-part drama about a nuclear disaster in 1986 is not the most promising prospect for a night in with a bottle of wine. It is a tribute to the writer, Craig Mazin, and director, Johan Renck, as well as its cast, especially Jared Harris, that Chernobyl managed to be totally gripping, with frequent moments of stark, horrendous beauty. (EC)
20/30 11. Atlanta (2016- )
At first, the musician and comedian Donald Glover’s series about struggling rappers in Atlanta looked like a familiar, safe kind of sitcom about loveable losers. But it quickly evolved into something fresh: a smart, occasionally surreal examination of life at the margins of America, whose angry heart never spilled into preachiness or got in the way of the jokes. (EC)
21/30 10. Love Island (2015- )
Who could have anticipated a dating show in which twenty-somethings sit around in microscopic swimwear would tell us so much about the human condition? Gaslighting, bromances, the complexities of girl code Love Island delved beneath the spray tans and schooled the nation on modern manners. (FS)
22/30 9. Patrick Melrose (2018)
An electrifying study of addiction, trauma and the corrupting power of privilege, based on the autobiographical books by Edward St Aubyn. Benedict Cumberbatch played the feckless antihero grappling with his past and trying (and mostly failing) to be better than the wretched aristos that raised him. (FS)
23/30 8. The Vietnam War (2017)
Ken Burns’s epic 10-part documentary followed up his other conflict opuses, on The Civil War and The War, with a detailed story about Vietnam. Using new interviews from both sides as well as archive footage, the documentary shows in unrelenting detail a catastrophe that unfolded in slow motion. Some critics accused it of underserving the experience of the Vietnamese civilians. But it left viewers in no doubt that not only did the US leadership pursue it long after it was a lost cause, but they knew from the start it was unwinnable. (EC)
24/30 7. Black Mirror (2011- )
Charlie Brooker sent every other TV critic, or at least one of them, into a spiral of envy by proving not only that it was possible to cross over into creation, but to do so in style. Black Mirror’s taut near-future tales of techno-dystopia are almost always interesting, even if they sometimes fall short of their ambitions, as with the high-concept recent film, “Bandersnatch”. The best episodes, like 2016’s tour de force, “San Junipero”, are gripping examinations of human connection in a world where interactions are increasingly by screens. (EC)
25/30 6. Blue Planet II (2017)
The first of the Attenborough documentaries to speak directly of the human impact on the natural world, this kaleidoscopic ocean odyssey provided a visual feast of clam-cracking tuskfish, alien-looking pyrosomes and anthropomorphic ­dolphins, while reminding us how it could all be lost. (FS)
26/30 5. BoJack Horseman (2014- )
Only in a world of Netflix budgets can you imagine a concept as wild as BoJack Horsemans getting off the ground. It’s a cartoon set in LA, ostensibly a comedy about celebrity, except half the characters, including its lead, are anthropomorphised animals. Halfway through its final season, which has been split into two, its initial zaniness has given way to something darker and more interesting. Lurid colours and visual wit dress one of the most humane explorations of depression, addiction and cycles of abuse. (EC)
27/30 4. Fleabag (2016-19)
What began, in its first series, as an enjoyably acid-tongued portrait of modern womanhood became a fully fledged masterpiece in the second. Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag gave us perfectly calibrated scenes of familial dysfunction and sexual longing the latter memorably culminating in the Priests simple, thrilling instruction: Kneel. (FS)
28/30 3. This is England (2010-15)
The first spin-off series from Shane Meadows 2007 film, about a gang of ex-skinheads from the Midlands, was set during the 1986 World Cup, and remains one of the great British dramas, depicting working class lives with humanity and humour. This is England 88 and 90 followed, both of them similarly infused with heart and soul. (FS)
29/30 2. Succession (2018- )
Said to have been a decade in the making, Succession is worth every minute spent on it. Brian Cox enjoys a dream of a late-career role as Logan Roy, the ageing media tycoon unwilling to relinquish control of his company to any of his ungrateful and talentless children. There’s oblivious eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), troubled addict Kendall (Jeremy Strong), scheming daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) and abrasive youngest Roman (Kieran Culkin), along with a host of hangers-on, partners and support staff. None of them seem to have the right stuff. It’s an intriguing set-up, but Succession is lifted by its script, performances, locations, costumes, music and direction, which place it firmly in a tradition of laughing at our rulers, where the mirth comes tempered with the knowledge that these are really the people in charge. (EC)
30/30 1. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Yes, the final series went a bit weird. Maybe the final two series. A case could be made that the TV adaptation was never as emotionally resonant when it went beyond George RR Martin’s novels. The final series were only disappointing compared to what had come before, which was a fantasy on an unprecedented scale that managed to be grandiose without slipping into melodrama. An invented universe with necromancers, dragons, magic swords and ice zombies was notable for its plausible realpolitik. At a time when viewing tastes were meant to be becoming more atomised, Game of Thrones was global event TV, which made household names of the Starks, Lannisters and Greyjoys and provided a whole generation of English character actors with a regular income. (EC)
Allam is astonished that men still yell at women in the street, ordering them to smile, and he was bewildered by the avalanche of sexual assault stories that came out of Hollywood following Harvey Weinsteins notorious fall from grace in 2017. I was deeply, deeply shocked to discover that lots of women have commonly experienced men pinching their arses and putting their hands up their skirts, he says. I dont understand how anyone would feel the right to do that. In the theatre, there were plenty of people having sex all over the place wanting to, and doing it quite successfully but male violence? Personally, I have witnessed very little. Very, very little.
He pauses. I envisage his lustrous eyebrows furrowingat the end of the line. People always use power, thats the unsurprising thing, he says, eventually. They use it to try to sleep with who they want to sleep with women as well as men do that but I dont understand violence.
In an utterly naive way, part of me thought that we would go on being more equal and behaving better with each other, says Allam. But that is manifestly not the case.
Alongside his theatre triumphs he was Les Miserables original Inspector Javert on the London stage and has won two Oliviers (for his Falstaff in 2011 and for Privates on Parade in 2002) Allam has built a successful career on television. This will be his seventh series of Endeavour. He is evidently fond of the ITV drama, but says he would never have done it had he known it would be an eight-year commitment. 
Prequel opportunities: Shaun Evans as Inspector Morse and Allam as DCI Fred Thursday in Endeavour (ITV)
Over time, he has bonded with his character Thursday, a modestly heroic detective and Second World War veteran. Its the first time Ive ever played someone over a long period of time and thats surprisingly interesting, says Allam. You get old with the character and you dont know the end of the story like you do when you take on a play or a film. You know as much as you do in life, really, about whats going to happen to yourself. 
We rejoin Thursday and the young Inspector Morse (Shaun Evans) in the 1970s, the decade of package holidays, the oil crisis, and the three-day week. Allam who was born in a rectory in 1953; his father was a vicar says being transported back to that time was a curious exercise because he got to see it through the eyes of his parents, who would have been a similar age to Thursday back then. My parents both came from working-class backgrounds, my father particularly, he says. He came from a very poor family, 12 of them lived in a little three-bedroom terrace house in Fulham, it was very small with an outside loo and a tin bath on the scullery wall.
Allam suspects both his parents had elocution lessons because to be well spoken was a way out of class, a way upwards. They were education obsessed, he says, so they thought it would be a good idea for me to go to this strange boarding school where you only paid a tiny amount according to how much you earned. 
It was Christs Hospital in West Sussex, which Allam describes as like Eton for paupers. When Allam was there half a century ago, the schoolboys dressed in Tudor uniforms consisting of long blue coats and mustard yellow socks and the class of 2020 are subject to the very same humiliation now. We also marched into lunch to a military band, sighs Allam.
Out of step: as fogyish Tory MP Peter Mannion in The Thick of It (BBC)
His time at Christs Hospital was utterly miserable to begin with because of the bullying culture in the house he was in. It was the students, really, he says, but the teachers could also beat you with a cane. When youre boarding, theres no escape. He remembers being terrified after seeing one boy getting thwacked over the head with a wooden boot brush for not addressing an older student as Sir: It made me very afraid. 
There is a long silence one of many during our conversation as Allam breaks off in contemplation. I imagine those eyebrows twitching once more. When he starts to speak again, his voice is softer. 
I think I caught the fag end of the violent atmosphere in the particular house I was in, he says. The whole atmosphere of the place loosened up through the Sixties, possibly because I was getting older and more at ease. 
It was also at the school that, aged 13, he found himself truly connecting with a play for the first time: a house production of Harold Pinters The Birthday Party. 
I was mesmerised by it, he says. I completely understood it because, like the characters in the play, I was also in this strange place with mysterious rules and an atmosphere of violence underneath everything.
Prize performance: as Falstaff in Henry IV from 2010 (Rex)
He would go on to display a range that would take him from playing Adolf Hitler in David Edgars Albert Speer to Leonardo da Vinci in The Giant. On television, he has proved to be as at home in Game of Thrones (he was Magister Illyrio Mopatis) as in the world depicted in Armando Iannuccis imagining of the banal inner workings of government. 
In The Thick of It, Allams world-weary MP was baffled that society expected him to be able to tweet let alone feign political correctness. One particularly memorable scene for someone of my profession was when Mannion, who was being driven away from a group of journalists, told his chauffeur: Run those f***ers over! Fifty quid for every one you maim!
Allam laughs when I relay the line to him. Does he think The Thick of It would be made today, or is modern politics too farcical to satirise? 
It is difficult to parody it when youve got the person whos now our prime minister escaping into fridges, says Allam, referring to when Boris Johnson went to extreme measures to avoid a TV interview ahead of the Christmas election. People are just repeating mantras like, get Brexit done, strong and stable, dither and delay. There must be a way of satirising it, and I long to see it, but its gone beyond The Thick of It.
The new series of Endeavour begins at 8pm on Sunday 9 February on ITV