Archive | May, 2016

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 22-19

19 May

All hour longs, three with their first seasons, and the fourth one of the most successful cable shows on television. Here we go.

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here and 50-47 here and 46-43 here and 42-39 here and 38-35 here and 34-31 here and 30-27 here and 26-23 here.

22. Wolf Hall – 2014: Not Eligible

Wolf Hall

Based on a couple of popular and excellent books by Hilary Mantel about Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall is the most British miniseries imaginable, a period piece following Cromwell up through his his rise to become the chief adviser to the tempestuous and mercurial Henry VIII. The series is like Game of Thrones shorn of the spectacle and composed of the scenes with people talking to one another. It’s filled with complicated conversations about weighty issues and convoluted royal law composed of witty rapport and deals with many of the same questions about power and class. Mark Rylance is absolutely brilliant as Cromwell and grounds the story in a stark humanity.

21. Making a Murderer – 2014: Not Eligible

Making a Murderer

The most harrowing and depressing show on television last year, it outstrips Game of Thrones and the many other serious and depressing shows currently on TV because everything on it is entirely real. I shouted at the screen early and often at the travesties of justice being committed left and right, and no show so brilliantly lays out the myriad problems with the American justice system in just a few hours. Through one incredible case rife with twists and turns, captured every step along the way by the documentarians, everything you didn’t realize about how the American police, lawyers, and judges work together to put someone in jail, rather than necessarily put the right person in jail is on display, and it’s eye opening. In some ways, the structure and limitations of what can be captured on a documentary can make a series like this hard to move up to the top of this list, but alternately, that makes this potentially the most must-watch show on here.

20. Jessica Jones – 2014: Not Eligible

Jessica Jones

Daredevil’s a pretty good show, but it only set the table for the superior Jessica Jones. Jones has superpowers, but her show is more a detective noir than a typical superhero show, even a street level superhero show like Daredevil. Although a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, self-hating private eye may sound routine for the genre, Krysten Ritter’s Jones is much more than a trope; she’s an emotionally damaged fully-fledged morally divided hero crippled by her nemesis who controlled her for several months, traumatizing her, and  who looms over the entire season. David Tenant, as the absolutely terrifying Kilgrave, delivers one of the scariest antagonist performances in years. Jones must work with her best friend Trish to vanquish him, and their relationship is another high point of the show. Carrie-Anne Moss as power attorney Jeri Hogarth is a strong character as well until it feels like three quarters of the way through the show, everything that happens to her was happened solely to make a particularly plot contrivance believable, and a couple of the male characters aren’t quite so great (I’m looking at you, neighbor Malcolm (edit: friend reminded me to add the horrible Robyn). Still, Jessica Jones is the rare comic book show that everyone, comic media fan or not, should enjoy.

23. Game of Thrones – 2014: 6

Game of Thrones

As I said earlier this entry, the number of great TV shows that aired in 2015 is higher than ever before, particularly the number of excellent half hours which is forcing consistently excellent hour long shows to drop down the rankings unfairly, and has caused shows which have slipped just an inch to fall a foot. Game of Thrones is one of these shows. Long one of mine and many others’ favorite shows on TV, and one of the few event shows left that you feel like you can’t miss on Sunday lest it be ruined by Monday morning, Game of Thrones continues to be great. But last season felt more unfocused than any before, and particularly, had the Dorne plot, a major new location which contained a few new characters. This part deviated from the book for space reasons and never quite worked, trying to fix each mistake with a worse one. I try not to compare the books to the show, in terms of quality, as much as possible, because it’s a rigged game in terms of 10 hours a season vs. hundreds of pages, but it’s impossible not to. Last season had me firmly on the side of preferring the book, which is honestly much more of a compliment to the wonderful books than an insult to the wonderful show. It’s simply a can’t win. It’s a very good show that we have here with a huge budget and we shouldn’t lose site of being grateful to have it.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 26-23

16 May

Yet another foursome that I changed the order of several times before actually deciding. Here they are.

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here and 50-47 here and 46-43 here and 42-39 here and 38-35 here and 34-31 here and 30-27 here.

30. Catastrophe – 2014: Not Eligible

Catastrophe

Rom coms on TV are in again, and no one is doing it better than this British-American combo piece starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney. The premise may be trite; it’s essentially the same as Knocked Up, as an American businessman gets a British woman pregnant during a business trip. But it’s so much better than that. With clever dialogue and two appealing leads with real chemistry, Catastrophe is occasionally laugh out loud funny but still very much enjoyable when it’s not. And in six hyper-quick episodes, which make it faster than watching some movies, there’s no reason not to watch.

29. w/Bob and David – 2014: Not Eligible

w/ Bob and David

As a super duper short four episode sketch show, w/ Bob and David doesn’t have the impact of the four-season long possibly-best-sketch-show-of-all-time Mr. Show, and because sketch shows all, even the best, have a healthy share of misses, there aren’t the number of all time hits you’d like from the rare Bob Odenkirk-David Cross collaboration. But these two are simply pros at making sketch comedy and there’s more than enough in this short run for fans of the two and of the genre to love and hope for more.

28. Jane the Virgin – 2014: 31

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin does something that’s surprisingly difficult and rare in the world of television. It’s a show about family, tight close-knit family, and has built several extremely well-developed characters that are generally good people, who more often than not like each other. These characters manage to fight and get into realistic arguments, arguments where there isn’t always necessarily an obviously right or wrong side, but arguments where you never doubt that they’ll come back together and get along again. That’s not easy. The show stumbled a bit figuring out how to handle a second season after the baby was born, taking time to find its footing after the first season’s arc largely wrapped up. The show still doesn’t always know what tone it’s going for, sometimes silly, sometimes serious, and it struggles with smaller characters. But when it focuses on the family and the interaction between major characters, it’s on solid ground and worth watching for that alone.

27. iZombie – 2014: Not Eligible
iZombie

I’m a sucker for Rob Thomas, it is well known, as Party Down and Veronica Mars are two of my favorite shows of all time While this one isn’t quite up to their level, it’s compulsively watchable and a lot better than any show with its description should be. iZombie is, breathe in, a police procedural with slowly building serial arcs about a protagonist who becomes a zombie and works as a medical examiner, and when eating brains of recent murder victims, absorbs bits of their personality and sees visions from their lives that help her, working with her cop partner, solve the crimes. The show can absolutely be gimmicky, and that and its overly predictable procedural nature are its biggest faults. Fortunately it brings great Rob Thomas senses of character and writing along with a mostly pretty good, if not always consistent tonally long-term arc. There are some real issues with this show, but it’s definitely up there on the list of shows people aren’t buzzing about that they should be talking about more.