And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of TV shows that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of TV shows I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of shows I never got around to watching that might have ended up on my list... and (more likely) shows I loved but have forgotten about. And here we go...
THE (HUNDRED AND) EIGHTEEN BEST...
These are my favorite television shows from this year that I actually saw.
#1-101 Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Let's just say it... this year was shit and it was hard not to feel like shit because of it. Most years I watch a lot of television, but this year I watched at least double as a way to distract from the horrors of 2020. Thankfully, there were some truly remarkable shows to occupy my time in quarantine. And none were more remarkable than Ted Lasso. Based on a couple of clever promos from NBC Sports, it seemed impossible they could turn it into one of the funniest, sweetest, smartest, most heartfelt, uplifting, and most surprisingly deep shows of the year. American football college coach Ted Lasso gets a job coaching an English football club, leaving his son and troubled marriage behind. He was recruited because the owner of the team won it in a divorce and she wants to destroy it because her now-ex-husband loves it. And what better way than to hire a coach who doesn't even know the game? Yes, this is pretty much the plot of Major League, and the trajectory of the series is the same as the movie, at first... but it is so much more. This story would not have worked without Jason Sudeikis and his ability to display the kind of genuine sweetness that his character requires... but to put the success of the show on his shoulders alone would be a grave error. Every single character is sublimely realized and flawlessly portrayed. That alone would make it good television worth watching. But it's how these brilliant characters progress through the ten episodes that make it great. Nothing is what you think. You think Ted Lasso is an ignorant "ugly American" redneck who doesn't know what he's doing. You think the club owner is a one-dimensional villain bent on revenge. You go through the entire cast and think you know who they are. Then they all prove you wrong. And you'll never be happier being wrong. Thank God that Apple renewed the series for a second season... then, remarkably, a third season... because who knows what awful shit is in store for 2021. Seriously the best show of 2020... or any other year.
#102 The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Once again Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni make it perfectly clear that they should just take over running Star Wars because they seem to have a singular understanding of what makes Star Wars work. The first season of The Mandolorian was compelling television and the best thing to come out of the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. The second season was even better. Strip-mining the very best of the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons, Favreau and Filoni beautifully imagined live-action versions of fan-favorite characters like Ashoka Tano and Bo Katan. And the result was glorious. Thrilling action sequences, an incredible story arc, and a finale that blew my mind, THIS is everything I love about Star Wars, and I cannot wait until all the new series in development hit Disney+. If they are even half as good as The Mandalorian, they will be some of the best shows on television.
#103 Transplant (NBC)
"Oh joy. Yet another medical drama." Is what I thought sarcastically when a friend in Canada forwarded me Transplant to give it a look. They (naturally) assumed it would never make it to the USA because foreign television shows never do. After devouring every last episode, I understood why my friend thought I should see it... the show is fantastic. Then a pandemic shut down production and networks started looking abroad for content to air. NBC (wisely) snatched up Transplant to air in the USA, where I immediately bought a Season Pass through iTunes because of course I wanted to support the series with my hard-earned dollars. And I wanted to own the show so I could watch it again. A Syrian refugee immigrates to Canada with his sister. He's an excellent doctor, but has trouble getting hired, so he works as a cook at his uncle's restaurant. Then one night a truck crashes through the building and everything changes. Now working at a hospital in Toronto, he has to reconcile his personal trauma with the trauma he sees every day. The performance turned in by Hamza Haq and the rest of the cast is exceptional, and while the show is much the same as every other medical drama on earth, their performances elevate it far above your usual fare. It makes you wonder just how many other amazing shows are trapped in foreign countries that we'll never see. It's so ridiculous that licensing and other stupid crap get in the way of being able to find out. Fortunately, from time to time one manages to get through.
#104 What We Do In The Shadows (FX)
You hear the expression "There is no bottom" a lot. For this show, there simply is no top. It was amazing in its first season. It's just as amazing in its second season. And I never expected to be saying that since TV shows based on movies I love are rarely any good. But What We Do In The Shadows is a happy exception, and I'm thrilled to keep watching the hilarious saga of incompetent vampires and their much smarter familiar for as long as we're lucky enough to keep getting them. BAT!
#105 The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
Based on a super-hero comic book series I enjoy, the first season of The Umbrella Academy was a pretty darn good show even though it strayed quite a bit from the source material. The second season went next-level and is a fantastic expansion to the story. Yeah, Vanya's story arc was boring as hell, but you can't have everything. Thrown back in time after failing to stop Vanya from destroying the world, our favorite family of heroes land in different years and are forced to adapt to the times in order to survive. Then it's up to Number Five (again) to try to save the world (again). And it's a wild ride with more of all the things that makes this such a great show, but was actually better than the first season. I cannot wait to see what we get from the third, and the final shot of the series sets up some seriously cool ideas.
#106 Long Way Up (Apple TV+)
I was completely enthralled by the Ewan MacGregor & Charley Boorman series Long Way Round and Long Way Down which chronicles their motorcycle journeys over a very long way indeed. Then this year we got the gift of Long Way Up which has them going from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to Los Angeles, California, which would have been cool enough... but they did it with electric motorcycles and electric vehicles for the support and camera crew. This added a whole new wrinkle to the series, as a lot of time was spent worrying over running out of battery juice and finding a new place to charge up. But what makes the show so remarkable to me is just how amazing a guy Ewan MacGregor is. He has zero ego. He is happy to meet fans. Happy to abide by whatever he is asked to do no matter how inconvenient it is... all without playing the "movie star card." Never complains about conditions or hardships. Never criticizes people who live differently from him. Is always game to sleep where he can and eat whatever he's offered. And is genuinely happy to be experiencing new cultures and new people, and seeing new places. Traveling through his and Charley's eyes is a treat unlike any other, and I would be happy to get another Long Way series if they have it in them to do one.
#107 Schitt's Creek (Netflix)
And... one of the best shows on television is over. The tale of a very wealthy family losing everything and having to move to a quirky town with even quirkier people has taken a bow and walked off the stage. This last season was entertaining, as expected, and had plenty of heartwarming moments which made me more than a little upset that this is the end of it all. If there's a criticism, it would be that everything felt in a rush as they raced to the finish line, and it was a bit disjointed trying to put it all together. Most of the characters got a satisfying end of their story arc. Some of them (sorry, Ted) did not. For me, the back-end of Season 3 and the entirety of Season 4 was the absolute peak of Schitt's Creek's run, and I'm kinda glad that they decided to end it before it slid into a parody of itself. — But not really.
#108 Upload (Amazon)
This series about a digital afterlife was primed to be my favorite show of the year. It had some quirks at the beginning, but never so damning as the ruin the show. But then all the distractions started piling up and became impossible to ignore. The whole drama with Nathan's (living) ex-girlfriend. The drama with Nora's father. The drama with Nathan's extended family. And while I still enjoyed Upload very much, it just kept slipping further and further down my list. Then we got to the last episode with that freak ending and I was seriously questioning if I even wanted a second season. If only they could have spent more time with crazy misadventures that Nathan had with Luke and Dylan... and explored the class dynamics of the digital afterlife... this could have been a five-star series. I am hopeful that Season 2 jettisons all of the things that were distracting and not working and gives us more episodes like The Grey Market which are far, far more interesting. Nobody cares about Nathan's niece or Nora's co-workers. They just don't. Interact with the outside (living) world, yes. That's a big part of the show. Just don't let the outside world take away from what we're tuning in to see.
#109 The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
I saw an ad for this series and took a big ol' pass because it just looked like a repeat of Kaley Cuocco's character Penny (from The Big Bang Theory) except she's a flight attendant that's trying to play Murder She Wrote or something. But then the acclaim started piling up, and I was compelled to take a look. Turns out The Flight Attendant is smart, exciting, funny, well-crafted television (sorry, not television... it's HBO) that put Cuocco on a completely different trajectory than what I was expecting. Those eight episodes blew by so quickly that I was absolutely left wanting more, but settled for rewatching all eight episodes in an attempt to spot all the things I missed the first time around. And it was quite a bit more than I thought it was. This series is an adaptation of a book, and is now out of material, which is a bit worrisome. Will they be able to come up with something as interesting as the first season? I'll absolutely be tuning in to find out.
#110 After Life (Netflix)
Ricky Gervais is an acquired taste to be sure. I happen to really enjoy his work and was going to tune into Afterlife regardless of where it went. The story of a guy being a bastard after his wife dies didn't sound particularly interesting but, with Ricky, who knows? I ended up being shocked at just how beautiful a show it is. That first season was a revelation, and spoke to me more than I would ever admit. This second season didn't seem like it had anywhere significant to go... then proved me wrong in a big way. It seems too good to be true that Gervais can be this talented and this smart and want to share it with us, but here it is. Easily eclipsing everything else he's done, and Netflix has renewed it for a third season, so here's hoping.
#111 Medical Police (Netflix)
When Adult Swim debuted Children's Hospital it was a demented but hilarious black comedy that ended way too soon (and, yes, I know it got seven seasons). Four years later we get this equally hilarious spin-off with a big chunk of the original cast returning. It debuted in January, but I somehow missed it all year until accidentally finding it in December. I have no idea how this did for Netflix, but I am hoping against hope that it did well enough that we'll get more. The story of police doctors... or doctor cops... or whatever they decide to call themselves... is too genius to end now.
#112 Lucifer (Netflix)
The first three seasons of Lucifer were unexpectedly amazing, and watching Tom Ellis chew through every episode with an appetite that seemed impossible to sustain was an absolute joy. Then the show was canceled on a cliffhanger, so they aired a couple episodes meant for something else, which made the cancelation worse because things got so confusing. But then Netflix stepped in with a fourth season (which was good but not great) in order to tie things up. And they did. But the show did so well for Netflix that they decided to give it a fifth season. This felt like a horrific decision given how everything was already concluded, and I was scratching my head wondering what they would do that didn't cheapen what had come before. Turns out it's a lot. After basically undoing the ending of the show without truly undoing it, they found a way to make things interesting again, and I was as invested as I had ever been. Then COVID happened and they had to air only half the season, pushing the other half into 2021. And now we're getting a sixth (and final?) half-season. Or something. A part of me wishes they would just make up their damn minds and stop jerking me around like this. But there's also a part of me that wants them to keep it going since they are churning out some fantastic television (confusing as it has all been).
#113 Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)
I am an "Original Series" guy when it comes to Star Trek. I liked Kirk and Spock and most of their movies. I didn't like Next Generation, I didn't like Deep Space Nine, I didn't like Enterprise, and I REALLY didn't like Voyager. Then they unleashed Discovery and I was bananas over the first season... then increasingly let down on seasons 2 and 3. Once Paramount said that they were going to sequelize Next Generation I decided I was out. But then... they started slowly releasing information about where they were going with the show and I was intrigued. Then I tuned in and was happy to see that they found a way to make Next Generation relevant in a way the original never was to me. Sure they didn't stick the landing (WTF?!?), but with Discovery shitting the bed, I was happy to have a Star Trek series I was (mostly) enjoying, and that was enough.
#114 Lovecraft Country (HBO)
When I watched the first two episodes, I thought for sure this would end up being a top-five series for me. It was just SO good at combining truly entertaining horror with an even more horrifying look at racism during 1950's segregation. I was a huge fan from the very start. But then... it started changing. The story starts piling on way too much distracting stuff. The thrills started getting less thrilling. The situations started getting over-the-top outlandish. There were boring stretches that didn't seem to move things forward. And I was quickly falling out of love with it. Then things got good again in episodes 8 and 9 and I was certain they would stick the landing in a big way. But it was a swing-and-a-miss for me. Good television, not great television, and I was disappointed all over again. With a little more thought and a little more consistency, this was the show to beat. In the end it was mostly just a show with an underwhelming end. And yet... those series highs were about as good as it gets.
#115 High Fidelity (Hulu)
I came onboard to this show very late. I was binging it just as the second-to-last-episode was airing, and loved absolutely everything about it. Zoë Kravitz gave us one of the best, most relatable characters to ever hit television, and I was a big fan. It didn't trample over the 2000 film. It didn't desecrate the original Nick Hornby novel. It forged its own stylish path making it something rare and beautiful, and I was anxiously awaiting a second season to see where they would go with it. Then Hulu canceled the show and it didn't matter any more. Still, this was an entertaining touchstone with fantastic characters and fun stories that makes me more than a little sad about its passing. But those ten episodes still exist so I suppose that I'm happy to have had them rather than nothing at all.
#116 The Good Lord Bird (Showtime)
This is one of those shows where I ended up scratching my head trying to figure out how they made it work when it really shouldn't have. It's decidedly dark... but has moments of light that pull it up. It's shockingly violent... but has an overriding tenderness about it. It's funny... but it deals with pre-Civil-War slavery in a way that's no joke. It's strange... but the characters are so beautifully defined that they transcend it to become all too real. It has all the hallmarks of falling into the "white savior" trap... but escapes it rather quickly. And then there's Ethan Hawke's performance, which was exceptional to the very last. And though it is 100% pre-Civil War in its trappings, what makes the show so brilliant is how it has excruciating relevance to the time we're living in right now (and, as if that weren't amazing enough, it's mostly a true story). The line-up of guest stars... from Daveed Diggs to Orlando Jones... insures that there's always acting excellence when all else fails. And while a part of me accepts that there's very likely no chance of a second season given that the book it's based on has been completely adapted and its history has been played out, a part of me wouldn't mind seeing where some of these characters go after the final episode has aired.
#117 Teenage Bounty Hunters (Netflix)
No, I really don't understand how a show about two teen girls who end up being accidental bounty hunters got on my list. No, I honestly don't know how a series with Dwayne Wayne as one of its stars ended up being so good. No, I have no clue how they managed to make something so funny when the topics it deals with kinda... aren't. Yet here we are. One of my favorite shows from 2020. And, no, I cannot comprehend how Netflix could cancel something so brilliant.
#118 Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet (Apple+)
This show was doomed to failure... until it wasn't, thanks to some truly great writing and note-perfect performances. At its core, this series runs roughshot over the entire billion-dollar gaming development industry with a wit, charm, and humor that just didn't seem possible... until it was. But it's actually about relationships between very different people, which is what makes everything work so well. AND THEN they managed to pull one of the best possible quarantine specials out of their ass which made the wait for a second season even more difficult.
MUST SEE TELEVISION SPECIALS AND DOCUMENTARIES...
- 22nd Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by Dave Chapelle
Proving that Dave Chapelle isn't just a hit with his fans... but with his peers and contemporaries as well... this was a fascinating look at Dave and his career.
- 8:46 by Dave Chapelle
I had to change this category from "Must See Comedy" because some of the best "comedy" acts I saw this year weren't comedic at all. And this half hour is why. Some powerful words that are food for thought in a way that only Chapelle can deliver them.
- Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (Netflix)
I became a huge fan of Taylor Swift when she transitioned to pop music. Setting that aside, I've never understood how people can be so incredibly cynical when examining the causes she supports and the way she uses her influence. She comes out as a huge supporter of LGBTQ persons with a song about acceptance that's a smash hit which has to be changing minds amongst her legions of young fans... PLUS has a litany of LGBTQ persons included in the video, yet is somehow accused of being "calculating" and exploiting LGBTQ persons to make a buck? How? The absolute safest, smartest, most profitable thing she could ever do is shut the hell up about something even remotely controversial and keep cashing those checks... and yet she takes real risks by speaking out. And then, given her Country music roots and fan base, it seemed like absolute career suicide to come out against Republican politicians (including President Trump) for their policies that she disagrees with... and yet she did it anyway. Taylor Swift takes risks with her music, her life, and her career in a way that most people will never understand, and this documentary has that front-and-center. It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at her life which makes it easier to understand... whether you agree with her or not.
- Unforgiven by Dave Chapelle (YouTube?)
This time we get 18-1/2 minutes of Dave not performing comedy. He's telling us how the world works. How it really works. And it's far from funny. But it has humorous moments.
- Very Very by Tom Walker (Amazon)
Never heard of the guy. Then I saw his special which, I shit you not, is comedy told entirely through mime, and suddenly wanted to know absolutely everything about him. This is utterly bizarre... and I mean, truly bizarre because it has him starting things out by falling in love with a coat... and just gets more depraved and bizarre and funny from there. This was something I was 100% surprised to be enjoying. Which is perfectly understandable. Because it's fucking mime! (albeit with Tom actually talking throughout when he's not, you know, MIMING!).
AWESOMELY ANIMATED SERIES...
- Blood of Zeus (Netflix)
Well this was a surprise. Animated in Saturday Morning Cartoon style, this looks a little primitive, but it's actually pretty good. I love Greek mythology and seeing it come to life like this was an unexpected treat.
- Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
Proving once again that DC should just animate everything since that seems to be where their talent lays, the second season of Harley Quinn was absolutely fantastic, seamlessly combining action and humor with top-shelf stories. Fortunately HBO knows what they have and has renewed it for a third season because, dang.
- Hilda (Netflix)
Every aspect of this show screams quality... from story to cast to animation. Hilda's second season of adventures was yet another needed escape from 2020 (even if it didn't arrive until December). We can only hope that something this good gets a third season, because the world would be a darker place if we didn't.
- Rick and Morty (AMC)
It was difficult to see how they could top the third season given that it had transcended being a crude parody of Back to the Future and became very much its own thing: one of the most brilliant, smartest, and hilarious things to ever air on television. And they didn't top it. But they didn't get any worse, and that's really saying something. Still on of the most brilliant, smartest, and hilarious things to ever air on television.
TELEVISION HONORABLE MENTION...
- Better Call Saul (AMC)
This show has never quite hit with me despite my easily acknowledging that it's pretty amazing television. This season kind of changed that for me as I feel the Breaking Bad pieces starting to click in place. The show is one of those funny-sad things that sucks you in, and maybe it's living through 2020 which made me appreciate that more?
- The Boys (Amazon Prime)
After a pretty great first season, we got a follow-up with more... everything. What kept this from greatness, however, was the liberties taken with the source material. Without wanting to go into spoiler territory, I'll say that what they've changed about Black Noir was disappointing... eliminating a really cool twist from the comics. Guess we'll see if they can come up with more interesting surprises in Season 3?
- The Crown (Netflix)
Gillian Anderson's portrayal of the awful Margaret Thatcher made the entire season binge-worthy. That you also get the tragic story of Princess Diana is just icing on the cake.
- Dash & Lily (Netflix)
This was a cute young adult rom-com with a fantastic concept. And I really enjoyed it... right up until the end where I think that they dropped the ball. Basically, Lily writes a note in a book which results in two characters sending each other on task-related "scavenger hunts" in order to know each other before they know each other. And it's mostly solid, doing a good job of maintaining that gentle balance... until they don't. And then there's just weirdly idiotic crap tossed into the mix which blindsides the characters and the audience in a terrible, inexplicable, and unnecessary way. Like the writers were all "We give up!" and slapped together some faux drama for no good reason. And yet... those earlier episodes were pretty sweet and I was more than happy to see a show like this come my way in 2020.
- Doom Patrol
This increasingly weird and wacky show somehow never crosses into absurdity. At least not in a way that makes me want to stop watching. That the writers seem intent on embracing the humanity in these "monsters" just makes everything all that more remarkable. These are comic book characters, for heaven's sake.
- The Good Place (NBC)
To me, this show seriously lost its way after its second season. Sure there were bright spots to be had... and the clever dialogue never abated... but it just didn't have the spark which had me so obsessed from the start. The fourth and final season was no exception. Meandering in a way that was boring more than entertaining, I was disappointed to have a show I once loved be leaving with such a whimper. Until the final episode, which was about as beautiful as television gets, and had serious echos of the series finale of Six Feet Under, which I maintain is the best television ending of all time. Way to redeem yourself, Michael Schur.
- I am Not Okay With This (Netflix)
An intriguing concept of teen angst married to supernatural elements in a way that doesn't suck. I was more than a little disappointed to learn that we weren't getting a second season, because smart series like this are a rarity.
- Insecure (HBO)
Seriously. I have no idea how they manage to keep this show so funny and amazing four-seasons-in. Issa Rae has made me a fan for life, and knowing there's more Insecure to come with a fifth season was a real bright spot in my 2020 television.
- Locke & Key (Netflix)
Yet another comic book adaptation which jettisons what made the original story so compelling. In this case they went very light on the horror elements that were the backbone of the comic. And I have absolutely no idea why. Another show that was good but could have been better... and yet I found myself enjoying it anyway. Maybe in the second and third seasons it was renewed for they'll realize the show's potential? Boy, I sure hope so.
- Love, Victor (Hulu)
The mostly-a-sequel sequel to Love, Simon is wonderfully sweet and entertaining... and the fact that we get a glimpse of what happened to the characters from the original movie was just icing on the cake. The added layer of cultural resistance made this more than just a retread, and I hope we get another season to see where this character ends up.
- Magnum, P.I. (CBS)
I was so resistant to this show when it got rebooted. How could they possibly live up to the original? Well, it couldn't have been easy, but in many ways I feel that they have actually surpassed it with the 2018 take on the character. This was my #7 show in 2018 and my #5 show last year. It could have easily ranked this high again this year, but the back-end of the second season wasn't stellar and that's all there was thanks to the pandemic. The third season, which finally started this month, is much more promising, leading me to believe that this will be back on my charts for 2021. I sure hope so. It's consistently one of the best shows on network television, and I'm hugely grateful to CBS for renewing it.
- I May Destroy You (HBO Max)
Welp. There's not a lot of times that something to deeply personal and engaging manages to get greenlit... which is inexplicable given that so many times the resulting show is amazing. This is a disturbing series which somehow manages to draw out a good dose of dark humor. It seemed almost impossible that Michaela Coel could ever do something which lives up to Chewing Gum, and I've never been happier to see the impossible happen.
- Normal People (Hulu)
The story of a shy, unpopular girl who ends up in a relationship with one of the most popular boys in school... and how they touch on each other's lives while falling in and out of love is really solid storytelling with some exceptional performances. And sex. Lots of it.
- Party of Five (Freeform)
In an age when most reboots end up failing, I waas dubious of another sitcom getting a hispanic reboot. Was this just a cheap attempt to capitalize on how good One Day At a Time was? Nope. Not at all. It was a smart idea with a brilliant cast that was made painfully relevant. Sadly, not enough people tuned in to give it a second season... but they really should have.
- One Day at a Time (Pop)
The first season was fantastic. They took it to new heights in the second. Then I started suffering "woke issue of the week" burnout during the third season, at which time it was canceled. And then... it was saved by another network and I ended up enjoying it all over again, which of course meant it got canceled. Again.
- Pen15 (Hulu)
Yet another one of those series which I have no idea how they manage to make it work... but am really glad that they do. I thought that surely they had nowhere to go but down after the brilliant first season, and then we got more middle school life that was anything but down.
- Perry Mason (HBO Max)
Taking place before the Perry Mason I know and love from watching with my mom, I was really resistant to the show... at first. By the time it was over, I was digging it. The lush visuals of noir L.A. was beautifully realized and elevated the show to a height that has me hoping for a second season.
- Queen's Gambit (Netflix)
Whoda thunk that a series about chess would be so engaging? The story was good but it was the performances which made the series so great. The cherry on the sundae though? The jaw-droppingly beautiful production design which compelled me to watch the series a second time. It's unbelievably beautiful and well thought-out.
- Ramy (Hulu)
Ramy Youssef's second season is every bit as smart and funny as the first... while being twice as relevant. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that there's a third season in development, because this show is picking up the baton from Atlanta in essential viewing (and when are we getting more Atlanta?)
- The Right Stuff (Apple TV+)
I don't get it. Isn't this like... the third take on the material from the book about the lives of America's early astronauts? And heaven only knows how many times the early days of the space program has been covered in documentaries, movies, specials, books, and the like. I just don't get the need to go over it all yet again when it's been covered to death... recently! And yet... the cast is good, the story is good, and the implementation is good, so darned if I didn't find myself tuning into it... yet again.
- Run (HBO Max)
Merritt Wever's mundane life in the suburbs is interrupted by a text from Domhnall Gleeson based on a promise to run away together if one of them ever texts "RUN" to the other. The ensuing journey was worth taking based on the performances alone, but the story was darn good as well.
- Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Boy did I come dangerously close to dropping this in my "disappointment" column. After a fantastic first season that made me fall in love with Star Trek again, it slipped into an annoying mess in the second season. I was excited at the idea of the show leaping forward in time because it could finally be its own thing instead of trying desperately to fit into its pre-Original Series timeline (and failing). Turns out this was a blessing and a curse, as I slowly came to not give a single care about any of the cast... except the one who just left the series. Overly-dramatic, boring, dull, and seriously lacking anything interesting to care about it except the special effects, they need to seriously reevaluate what they're doing.
- Tales from the Loop (Amazon)
Bizarre, beautiful, and inexplicable... this is a weird, weird show that's like nothing else you'll see. On that beat alone I enjoyed it quite a lot.
- The Third Day (HBO Max)
This is a bizarre, atmospheric, dark, rambling show that I didn't particularly love, but didn't hate either. What made me put it in the "honorable mention" column is that they created a 12-hour streaming event which connected the two chapters of the story, and that was boundary-pushing enough to make me respect what they were trying to do. I just wish that they could have made up their mind as to what they wanted this to be. Maybe then it wouldn't have been quite so boring.
- Tiny World (Apple TV+)
This series examines the smallest creatures on earth and the world they live in a way that's every bit as fascinating as "the real world"... if not more. Charming and fraught with peril, the lives of these tiny creatures has been captured with some of the most stunning photography you'll ever see.
- The Undoing (HBO Max)
I honestly don't know whether this belongs on the honorable mention list... or the disappointment list... because the twisty-turny series could be so very good. But that ending? Well... I guess it was a twist, but it wasn't much of one.
- Warrior Nun (Netflix)
A somewhat disappointing adaptation of the Warrior Nun Areala comic book that had way too many inexplicably boring stretches that sabotaged things. But when they finally get around to the action? I sure hope they do a better job in the second season.
- Young Sheldon (CBS)
This show is a love-letter to the 80's and watching it is like watching all the things I loved from the time period. They have diverged from The Big Bang Theory so much with how the show works, where the humor comes from, and where they are taking things that I'm having a tough time reconciling it with what I thought I knew about Sheldon's childhood from the original show. Not that this is a bad thing... far from it, as this is a far superior show... I just worry about them trying to take things full circle to dovetail into the source show it came from. I honestly hope they don't try.
- Brave New World (Peacock)
The television show which dares to ask the question "What if Westworld was boring and low concept?" I ended up fast-forwarding through most of this mess.
- Away (Netflix)
I simply do not understand the critical acclaim for this show. It is boring in all the worst ways and something I could not get into despite multiple attempts.
- His Dark Materials (HBO Max)
I was never a fan of the Phillip Pullman books, and don't know why I keep giving the adaptations a try. The movie was a raging disappointment... but far more enjoyable to me than this take, which only maraginally improved over the annoying first season. I would have much rather gotten a second movie than a second season, yet here we are.
- Killing Eve (AMC)
The first season was exceptional. The second didn't register with me as hard, but I still enjoyed it. Now they're just kinda dicking around with the characters which is a complete waste of the talents of Sandrah Oh and Jodie Comer. They really need to sit down and look at where they're headed. STOP IT. Then find a new more interesting take on the material.
- Snoopy in Space (Apple+)
As a massive, massive fan of Peanuts and all the television specials (I even liked the CGI movie!), I was understandably excited for this mini-series. The plot is that Snoopy dreams of being an astronaut and breaks into NASA's astronaut training program so he can go into space. Since the Peanuts universe doesn't have adults you can understand, there's an absurd and annoyingly emotional computer standing in. What follows is mundane explorations into NASA, the ISS, the moon, and Mars. And it's so awful.
- Truth Seekers (Amazon)
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg on a television series? How amazing would THAT be? Meh. Turns out not so amazing. Unlike any of their other collaborations, I was bored to tears trying to watch them add a level of silly over an attempt at genuine chills. It was a good idea that just didn't work.
- Utopia (Amazon)
Quentin Tarantino uses violence as a part of his stories and the consequences of that violence is critical to the stories he tells. In this adaptation of a British series I never saw, they substitute violence for actual story, and I did not care for a single one of these characters in any measurable way because of it. I mean, seriously, one of the protagonists(?) uncerimoniously kills one of the other characters for a laughably idiotic reason while everybody else just stands there watching, and I had completely checked out. I watched to the bitter end expecting something really cool to happen, but it never did. It was just more of the same.
- Westworld (HBO Max)
While there were certainly some very cool moments in the third season where The Hosts have finally escaped into the real world, it was radically disappointing overall. This used to be a phenomenally complex and brilliant show that's now just futuristic style over substance. A remodeled Terminator film without any of the heart.
SHITTING THE BED...
- Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
I live for high-concept sci-fi, and the fact that Ridley Scott was producing this series had me eagerly anticipating it. No idea what the fuck happened, but this is the most incomprehensibly shitty mess I've seen in a very long time. AI robots raising kids to rebel against a wacky religion could have been such a great idea... but they reduced it to boring crap that had zero internal logic.
- See (Apple+)
I cannot for the life of me understand how you can have a show with Alfre Woodard and Jason Momoa and end up with this. It's an interesting concept (sighted humans being born into a sightless world) but ultimately boring in execution. Perhaps my expectations were just too high? At the end of it I felt like I had watched a low-rent version of Logan's Run which didn't manage on living up to some of the best ideas it had.
And, on that note, once again here's to all the crap shows that will end up replacing good shows in the new year.