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Posted on December 30th, 2021

Dave!And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of my favorite TV shows that came out this year.

Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of TV shows that I saw which 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...

Favorite TV Shows 2021

   
#1 Hawkeye (Disney+)
If you had walked up to me and told me that my number one show of 2021 would not be Ted Lasso just last month, I would have slapped you across the face. Mostly because you aren't wearing a mask, but partly because it's just so inconceivable. But here we are. After getting off to a slow start, Hawkeye managed to go out with a bang and seal that top spot. The series takes so many of the things that I love from the original Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book series then blends them seamlessly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know and love. Though pretty much flawless, I maintain that had the first two episodes been merged into a single episode... and they split the final episode into two parts with more Yelena in them... we would have got more of what made everything so darn good. Like that cast! Jeremy Renner is at his best yet as Clint Barton. Hailee Steinfeld is sublimely perfect as Kate Bishop. Alaqua Cox nailed it as Maya Lopez. Florence Pugh is hilariously great as Елена Белова. And we also get some new characters that are all perfectly cast... along with the return of a character that was better than could have been hoped for. The best Disney+ series from Marvel Studios yet and my favorite show of 2021.

   
#2 Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Following up one of the most flawless seasons of a show ever created had to be a daunting task. There was literally nowhere to go but down. But darned if the people behind Ted Lasso didn't manage to come darn close. Even if they had to utterly destroy one of my favorite characters to get there. And speaking of favorites? Roy Kent... my favorite television character ever... had a run for his money thanks to Sarah Niles playing Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. If I have a criticism it's that the season was all build-up to the endgame coming next season. The conflict came very late and it was just feel-good moments piled on top of each other. But they were such good moments, weren't they?

   
#3 The Mandalorian (Disney+)
If anything, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Crew elevated their game to give us something that may be better than even the first season. Partly because they worked hard to push things into new directions... partly because we got a mix of terrific new characters and a return of old favorites... and partly because they know exactly what the fans want to see, then they 100% deliver on it. One has to wonder if they had been in charge of the movie prequels and sequels... would they have ended up as shitty as they were? I'm willing to bet not. Though Book of Boba Fett just started and is not exactly blowing my socks off, so perhaps. Oh well. So long as Disney keeps pumping out amazing content like Mando Season 02, Star Wars will be just fine. And just think... Obi-Wan, Andor, Ahsoka, Lando, and more are coming. Oh happy day.

   
#4 Resident Alien (SyFy)
I knew I was going to like this show the minute I saw the trailer. Any time you wind up Alan Tudyk and let him run wild you're guaranteed terrific entertainment... and this time they put him in the wacky world of a comic book series that he actually elevated to something even better. Tasked with destroying the Earth, but then crashing into it instead, an alien has to assume the identity of a doctor who died while attempting to repair his ship, avoid being spotted by a boy who can see his true identity, and burying his growing affection for earthlings. The result is hilarious television that has me eagerly anticipating what we're going to get in the second season.

   
#5 What We Do In the Shadows (FX)
I honestly anticipated that this show would burn through whatever good ideas they had after two seasons then deteriorate into something that's a shadow of what we started with. Well, thank heavens that's not the case, because the third season was every bit as great and sets things up for yet another spectacular season. Or maybe I'm just in love with Nandor. But who isn't in love with Nandor? Consistently one of the funniest shows on television and they haven't had a bad episode yet.

   
#6 The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Disney+)
This show was badly hampered with having to deal with the ramifications of half the planet being blipped into existence after five years dead from Thanos snapping his fingers. Had they been able to just work towards Sam taking up the mantle of Captain America without spending so much time being distracted, we would have gotten a better show. But it is what it is, and there was enough on-screen magic in the Sam/Bucky love/hate relationship to make this series far more entertaining than it had a right to be. The Flag Smashers weren't great as a threat. Counterfeit Captain America was just a way to set-up future shows (and did not deserve the hate he got online). And the arc for Sharon Carter is something that's likely going to either be forgotten... or hung around the neck of a future Marvel Studios series.

Favorite TV Shows 2021

   
#7 Acapulco (Apple TV+)
I have quickly become a major fan of Eugenio Derbez. His performance in the Overboard remake was classic... he had a fantastic bit part in one of my favorite 2021 films, CODA... and he's done a load of fantastic voice work for various animation. So when I heard that they were building a series around his character from How to Be a Latin Lover AND he would be reprising the role? I had no idea what to expect. But it wasn't the sweet, charming, funny, and wholly entertaining show. There's no word on if we're getting a second season, but I sure hope so.

   
#8 The Other Two (HBO Max)
In their first season this show was so horribly demented and wrong... but all the more hilarious because of it. This time around they did not back down, going to even worse places to mine for laughs, and striking gold more often than not. A part of me is embarrassed that I like this show so much, but it just can't be helped. It's so very, very funny. But also so very, very wrong.

   
#9 Reservation Dogs (FX/Hulu)
All I had to hear was "Taika Waititi is producing" and I was in. But in for what I had no idea. A comedy about indigenous teens who want to move from Oklahoma to California, but have to commit petty crimes in order to ear the money they need to do it? Okay then. The result is a lot of subtle, deadpan humor that always seems to land perfectly. The show is funny and painfully relevant, making it must-see television for anybody who appreciates shows like that.

   
#10 Modern Love (Amazon Prime)
You know how I found this show? I heard a song, liked it, then found out that it was the theme song for this show which is now in its second season. Based on a popular column from The New York Times by the same name, each episode is a stand-alone story which talks about love in all its forms (BONUS: in the first season all the episodes end up tying together at the end). Charming, funny, awkward, heartbreaking, uplifting, painful, and wonderful... this series is all the things that love can be.

   
#12 Lupin (Netflix)
Netflix really hurt the show by splitting the first season into two parts because the second half was not as good as the first. And yet it's hard to get too caught up in all that when Omar Sy's gentleman thief is so compelling a character. Revenge stories are as old as time, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one done as stylish as this. At the end of the season Lupin is essentially forced to cut off some dead weight that was dragging the show a bit. What I hope that the writers do is have the guts to leave it be so they can focus on Lupin alone, which is when the show absolutely shines. Of course I have no idea if it will even get a second season, but given how it was Netflix's most-watched non-English program before Squid Game came along, it's likely pretty likely.

Favorite TV Shows 2021

   
#13 Loki (Disney+)
I'm just going to get this out of the way... the Loki variants like Gator Loki and Thor Loki and Female Loki were not something I thought worked very well. What did work exceedingly well was everything else. The writers wisely decided to snap Loki out of his element and comfort zone so he has to evolve past the merry prankster he was before he "died" in Avengers: Endgame. And it was handled so beautiful. After getting apprehended by the TVA (Time Variance Authority) AKA "The Time Police," Loki thinks that all his problems will be solved if he can just get The Tesseract and its Infinity Stone back after the TVA took it from him. Then he will have the power to do whatever he wants. Again. But very quickly he finds out that the Infinity Stones which Thanos used to eliminate half of all life in the universe are mere trinkets to everybody working at the TVA. That "The Power" he's been chasing since Avengers was never what he thought it was. And at that moment when you can see it dawn on him (holy shit is Tom Hiddleston an amazing actor) is when you realize that this series is not going to be what you thought it was. And the story was darn good... if not a bit meandering.

   
#14 The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime)
Historical fiction is a tricky business. When you stray too far from the real events, you might very well diminish the things you are trying to tell your story around. And here we have a series where the Underground Railroad is made into a literal railroad?!? It's like... why would you do that? And I very nearly skipped out until people started telling me how good it was. And while I'm ultimately glad that I saw it, I'm the first to admit that it's difficult to watch at times... a boring slog at times... and challenging to the viewer always. It ain't going to be for everybody. But what makes it so worth it is how beautifully the series is crafted. When you get to those bright spots, the show's epic scope unfolds and reveals itself. This show is the very definition of "powerful television." If you think you can handle it, you really should.

   
#15 For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
There's something to be said for how this series coasts on the sheer quality of it all. It's not the best thing on television. But everybody working on it treats it as if it is, and that goes a long, long way. In my opinion, For All Mankind is often times as good as it was the first season, but there are still issues that pop up which have me scratching my head. They're 100% invested in this being an alternative history series one minute... then it feels as if they're scrambling to fill in the gaps the next, and it makes for an uneven ride. Like they come up with really great ideas in the broad-strokes, but don't know where to go with the details from time to time to get there. But it's still a very good ride. Thrilling even. And one that I'm happy to keep taking.

   
#11 Magnum, PI (CBS)
This series started so brilliantly, but then kinda lost its way after the first two seasons. The chemistry was there. The cast was still amazing. And Higgins was so great that she could carry her own show. But it just wasn't working as well as it once was. Then they kinda earned something back in this, their fourth season. I still find myself hoping for more Rick & T.C. because they are woefully underutilized too much of the time, but am glad that they're still around at all. Their job is to ground the show more often than not, and they excel at that.

   
#16 WandaVision (Disney+)
For a Marvel Studios fan like myself, WandaVision was a tough sell. Because it was The Vision and the Scarlet Witch from the Avengers... but not really. Told through the lens of old television shows and exploring Wanda's trauma over losing The Vision, I understand why the show was so critically acclaimed. Honestly I do. I'm just not one of the people who was able to buy into it. I wanted to see the characters have some cool super-hero stuff to do, but we didn't really get that.

   
#17 Hacks (HBO Max)
Jean Smart completely caught me off guard with her performance in HBO's Watchmen series. She was absolutely glorious and pushed that role in a direction that not many other actors could. I can't even say if she knew the material she was a part of... but she knew her character. She had a handle on that much from her first moment. And now she's done it again with Hacks. As an aging comedian in Vegas who is forced to take a look at herself and her world after taking on an assistant (who has problems of her own, let me tell you). I don't think that every episode is a home run. But overall as a series I was digging it. And that was mostly thanks to Jean Smart, who I am paying very close attention to for whatever she decides to do next.

   
#18 Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
The first season was exceptional. I loved every minute of it. And their COVID special was one of the better ones. But this second season, while still pretty darn good, is no longer must-see television for me. It's more of a "I like it... but when I get around to watching" kind of show. Maybe it's because the whole "behind the scenes of a video game company" blew through so much funny in the first season that it's running out of gas? Maybe I've grown tired of it already? That very well could be, because I know people who think that the second season is better than the first. So I dunno. I still love the characters and what they're trying to do... I'm just not as hyped for the result as I once was. Still made my list though.

   
MUST SEE TELEVISION SPECIALS AND DOCUMENTARIES...
This year was a weird one in comedy because one of my all-time favorite comedians was cancelled... or is getting cancelled... or is somebody people want canceled... or whatever. In an effort to clarify the material he used in a previous special about the trans community, Dave Chappelle actually dug himself into an even deeper hole. And it's pretty cringe because he devoted so much time to it. But even worse? It wasn't very funny. The ultimate comedy sin. He would have been better of saying nothing, but instead we get a huge chunk of an entire special prefaced with "I can't be transphobic because I have a trans friend who died." A horrible take to be sure. I don't think the actual material was as bad as its been blown up to be, but it's my least favorite of his specials, so there's that. What were my favorites this year though? Glad you asked...

  • Nate Bargatze: The Greatest Average American. It's not up to the level of The Tennessee Kid, but its still observational humor that's very funny done very well. The fact that Bargatze can manage all this while performing clean? That takes quite a lot of talent.
  • Bo Burnham: Inside. A good chunk of this lockdown experiment was disturbingly funny... but in a way that's different from the Bo Burnham material he's given us so far. And it's great fun. But the best part? He's got some seriously good songs in here. One in particular, Content, is so good that I wish he'd flesh it out to a full song. I'd buy that single.
  • Tig Notaro: Drawn. Tig is already one of the funniest people on the planet, but that wasn't good enough so she decided to kick it up a notch and animate a special. And the result is even more hilarious than I expected.
  • Jimmy Carr: His Dark Material. I always hesitate before saying that I like anything Jimmy Carr does because he's so terrible that I'm almost afraid of getting "canceled" by osmosis. If you're a Carr fan, this is more of what you love... horrible takes on things made hilarious.
  • Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang. I actually watched this twice. The first time I was only kinda paying attention. But then the ending had me wanting to sit through it all over again to see what I missed. This is terrible, but I actually think it gave me a better appreciation for the show.

   
TELEVISION HONORABLE MENTION...

  • Schmigadoon! I'm not a "musicals" guy, but this was incredibly entertaining with a cast that's perfect.
  • The Expanse As of this writing, we're only half-way through the final season of the show, and I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. The first episode was 100% wasted. They got six... SIX!... episodes and just threw away 1/6 of it. Then things picked up. Whether or not they can manage to land this plane without shitting the bed is anybody's guess. But Im willing to give them the benefit of doubt that they can. But after that first episode? Well... we won't know until next year's list, will we?
  • Squid Game. I'm a big fan of South Korean films and television, and this was the one that really broke the genre wide open for the US... becoming one of Netflix's most popular shows. And while I liked it (and liked it a lot) there were some leaps of logic that were just too far for me to make and kept it from breaking into my list.
  • Love, Victor. The first season of the show was very well done, expanding on the show in a way that felt fresh while giving fans more of what they liked about the movie Love, Simon. The second season really took a bizarre turn, adding unnecessary drama where it didn't really need to exist. Victor's life would be interesting enough without it. Hopefully they'll figure this out in the next season, if we're getting one.
  • Pen15. The final season was as good as it ever was and I was sad to see it end. Though maybe going out on top was the smart move when it comes to a show like this? Probably.
  • CSI Vegas. Was the revival anything exceptional? Not really. Were the murder mysteries the best you'll find on television? Not even close. But it was a chance to see Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle, and Jim Brass return to our television screens, and I was all for that. The overall mystery arc of who framed David Hodges was actually solved fairly early... but they didn't take it home until the very last episode. At which point it was almost moot. But it was all good. I'm guessing it will get renewed without William Petersen and Jorja Fox, at which point the only reason to watch will be gone. But I'm might give it a go.
  • LuLaRich. I was on a real documentary tear for a while there, and this one was pretty crazy from a "how in the heck did this actually happen?" kind of way. But there's a lot of that going around, so... yeah.
  • Superman & Lois. This is not the best Superman television show. That would be Superman: The Animated Series. But it's likely the closest thing to being the best live action version of the character since the first two Christopher Reeve movies. Part of it is just how good Tyler Hoechlin is in the role. But Henry Cavill was a good Superman, and his movies suck. So I think it comes down to the version of Superman that we're getting. This is a more hopeful, measured take, and one that you actually want to watch. Doesn't hurt that this show is taking big swings with the stories and everything looks so fantastic on top of that.

   
ANIMATION TO WATCH

  • Invincible. This was an animated comic book series which I seriously expected to be dulled down to the nib. And I was oh so wrong. If anything, they took the source material to the next level and gave us a violent, bloody, take-no-prisoners approach to super-heroes that even puts The Boys to shame. Very well done adaptation that's not for the faint-at-heart.
  • Rick and Morty. The fifth season is more a mixed bag than ever before and there were episodes that I thought were pretty bad. But when the show is good, it's one of the best things ever made, so I kind of end up in the middle somewhere.
  • What If.... I gotta say, the thing that I will forever take away from this series is that it was the last time we got to have Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Otherwise I was kinda underwhelmed. Individual episodes were often short-changed in service of the bigger narrative being built, and I don't think the payoff was worth it. Still... nice animation, great talent, and a few really good episodes made this something I was happy to see in 2021.
  • Inside Job. Inappropriately funny. But in a good way! Actually more consistent an animated series than Rick and Morty right now! Never thought I'd be saying that!

   
HAVEN'T SEEN, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST

  • Only Murders in the Building. I have never found Martin Short funny. Ever. Not once. I might have cracked a smile or two when he was on SNL, but his other roles have all rubbed me the wrong way. So I was going to take a big ol' pass on this show. Until the rave reviews started pouring in.

   
OVERRATED BUT OKAY

  • The White Lotus. The premise of this show was alright. Horrible wealthy white people doing what horrible wealthy white people do... exploit everything and everybody without giving it another thought. And while there were some fascinating characters, interesting scenarios, and an idea that worked, the implementation fell flat for me. Trivial situations are taken too far, which was great... until they went more than too far. At which point the show faltered for me.
  • Mare of Easttown. You will get absolutely no argument from me that this was a well-written show with a cast to die for. But there's a point when you can just look at this as one of those British police dramas being stretched to tedium and so mired in drama that it can't breathe. We've seen this show a million times before. Not always done this well, but enough that I was hoping for something more.
  • Succession I honest-to-God don't get it. For all the hype, I expected to find Jesus while tuning in to this show... but instead I found writing that wasn't great, acting that wasn't great (with a few exceptions), and stories that were outright boring. None of the devious intrigue I was counting on was present... the episodes unfolding more like a bad comedy than a dark comedy done well. After a hugely disappointing first season, I started powering through... despising how Nothing. Ever. Changes. No. Matter. What. Happens. and that the status quo would always be preserved. Then things started improving a bit. Season 03 was the best of the lot, but that's not saying much from my perspective. The series is "just okay" and, in my humble opinion, grossly overrated.
  • Maid. The show is dark and depressing. And I don't know that the "happy-ish" ending makes up for sitting through it all. Because while you are definitely given reason to cheer for the protagonist as she does whatever she can to make the best life possible for her daughter and herself while also maintaining her honesty and integrity... there are times that she just doesn't earn it. At which point you're supposed to be all "but at least she owns up to it." And it's like... yeah... but by then I've stopped caring. The message of the show is how some people just can't get a break in a system designed to oppress them. And we know it's true because we see the result of it every day. But when you stack crap on top of that which makes you not care about the hero of the story, you risk losing the viewer. And this show lost me like that too many times, even while it was okay as a whole.

   
DISAPPOINTING

  • Lucifer. Most definitely didn't stick the landing. Not terrible, it's just that this season didn't live up to what came before. And I kinda get it. It was supposed to end on the fifth season, but then Netflix changed their mind, so the writers had to undo what they did and find a compelling way to keep things going. It didn't work for me.
  • Star Trek: Discovery. The last season was so phenomenally bad that I decided I was done with it. But then I figured I might as well give it another try since they were kinda rebooting it, and immediately wish I hadn't bothered. How can a show which was so frickin' incredible in its first season... fall to something quite mediocre in the second... fall even further to total weepy, whiny shit in the third... and then hit rock bottom by completely dying a horrible death in its fourth? How? It's almost as if the writers were trying to kill it.
  • The Wheel of Time. I've never been a huge fan of the books, as they feel so bloated, but I thought that they might streamline things enough to make a good TV show. AND it's got Rosamund Pike in it. Well, despite some decent special effects, I was bored to tears through the first two episodes and couldn't go any further than that.
  • Masters of the Universe: Revelation With Kevin Smith runnning the show, I was anxiously awaiting the series to debut. And when it did I was in for crushing disappointment because I didn't like any of it. Well, maybe the voice cast. But not the stories or anything else that matters. What kills me here is that the second take on the material in 2021, He-Man and the Masters of the Univers, which was meant to be more kid-freiendly was actually the far superior show.

   
TOTALLY SHIT THE BED

  • Foundation. I don't get it. I honestly don't. This critically acclaimed show is horrendously shitty. It brings new definition to the word "shitty." Boring, plodding, meandering, senseless drama that totally fucked over the source material by dragging it out so they can keep the actors around for longer. God. I would hate this pile of shit even if I wasn't a fan of the books.
  • Jupiter's Legacy. Jesus. Here we go again. Take source material that CANNOT FAIL but then adapt it so badly by folding in prequel shit that NOBODY cares about and watch it fail spectacularly. And so it went.
  • Kevin Can Fuck Himself. I was highly enthusiastic to see what Annie Murphy was going to do after her turn on Schitt's Creek. And the concept for this show seemed original and interesting. Until I watched it. Holy crap what a joyless, boring, awful show. Which can totally work... but not like this. Not even remotely like this. In the end I was saying This Show Can Fuck Itself.

   

Hawkeye Finale

Posted on December 21st, 2021

Dave!And so the finale of Hawkeye aired at midnight tonight. And because I wanted nothing spoiled, of course I stayed up to watch it.

Suffice to say that this was everything I could possibly hope for. The finale was fantastic stuff, filled with all the action you've been dying for all along. Yeah, things seemed a little rushed... I remain convinced that had they combined the first two episodes and split this one into two parts it would have made for a much better series overall.

Not that there was much room for improvement. In a shocking move that I never saw coming, Hawkeye will undoubtedly take the top spot in my annual list of favorite television shows. It was just that good. It took liberally from the Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book series I love so much... but was firmly rooted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way that neither WandaVision nor The Falcon and The Winter Soldier really managed...

If we could just get more series like this, I would be ever so happy.

In discussing the finale (in an extended entry) of course there's going to be loads of spoilers. If you haven't watched the series yet, then you should do that right away and look no further.

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Ronin (Again)

Posted on December 15th, 2021

Dave!The penultimate episode of Hawkeye was released at midnight last night and of course I had to stay up for it (I was working late anyway). It's incredible. And it pisses me off. This should have been Episode 04, not Episode 05... because this is where things are getting good, and you just know that the conclusion is going to be rushed if it's all crammed into a single episode. I can only guess that the story is going to be badly truncated or it's all just setup for other series. Which is definitely is. But it shouldn't be that in a way that short-changes Clint Barton, which is the guy we're all here to see...

The last thing I want to do is spoil the show for those who haven't seen it yet, but I do want to get into this episode. So... if you're not up to speed on Episode 05, here's your chance to bail before some serious spoilerage gets dropped on your head.

And if you're not watching Hawkeye? I can't recommend it highly enough. You may remember that I ranked all the Marvel television shows a few days back. Well, this series is now in my #1 spot by a wide margin. It is easily the best of the Marvel Studios shows, and worth getting a Disney+ subscription just for this (but there's a lot of good stuff on there, so it's a price I'm happy to pay for each month).

My spoiler-filled commentary is in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

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