Tag Archives: Black Mirror

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 2014 edition: One-offs and Otherwise Ineligible Shows

11 Mar

Halftime, more or less. Time to comment on four TV shows and one-offs which for various reasons aren’t eligible for this list.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here and 27-24 here and 23-20 here and 19-16 here.

Last Week Tonight

Last Week Tonight

John Oliver’s tenure as Jon Stewart’s fill-in during the summer of 2013 was nothing less than an unqualified success. John Oliver performed the impressive feat of keeping the format and sensibility the same while also imprinting the show with his own particular personality and brand of humor. After receiving universal praise for his run, the television world was his oyster. Would he hang on as the frontrunner to replace Stewart or Colbert should they leave? Before either announced they were stepping down, which seemed like it could have taken years at the time, HBO offered him a weekly show, and while he’d have been great at either the Stewart or Colbert slot, we should all be glad he took HBO up on their offer. He brought the finely honed sense of humor he had at The Daily Show but tweaked the format to do a deep dive into a big story every week, spending fifteen minutes on a topic which couldn’t be adequately covered in three, rather than simply going through a roundup of the biggest current news topics and Fox News buffoonery. He took the next logical step from The Daily show in really educating millennial viewers and impressively made a legitimate mark in the policy arena with his stories, having a noticeable impact on the net neutrality debate. The only thing more I can ask for from Last Week Tonight is for fewer weeks off a year.

Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks

A twelve-minute viral video that took the Internet by storm, Too Many Cooks first debuted late, late, at night (or, conversely, early, early in the morning) on Adult Swim, with no promotion, only to prove that viral culture is at least somewhat meritorious by naturally finding its way into a swarm of blogs and Facebook posts and tweets by way of the five viewers who probably actually saw it as it originally ran. Too Many Cooks was altogether fantastic, working, as the best comedy does, on multiple levels. First, it’s a spot-on send up of ‘80s and early ‘90s TV theme sequences, which it handled perfectly, shifting through sitcoms first, but then police dramas, and later primetime soaps. Secondly, it ventures into a sillier vein, with more ridiculous characters and strange and unlikely situations. Next, it moves into more absurdist mode as a serial killer ventures through the different worlds and the sequences collide and run into one another. Everyone has a favorite name and favorite entrance, and while I wasn’t (and probably still am not) as in love with the creepy murderer part of the short, I am in love with about everything else, and particularly the sci-fi Star Trek/BattleStar Galactica pastiche. Enough words have been written about Too Many Cooks that I doubt I can add anything new, but I’d be remiss if I talked about 2014 in television without giving it a mention.

The Ending of The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report

Everyone who knows me knows that Stephen Colbert is my absolute favorite and that The Colbert Report was thus my absolute favorite. My love of the Report is an accepted part of my personality. Even before he received his own show, I loved Stephen Colbert, as my favorite correspondent on The Daily Show. When he got his own show, I loved everything about it almost from day one, and as it slowly figured out what worked best and really grew into itself, it was a four-time weekly treat. I consistently called it a contender for the funniest show on TV, even as it aired many, many more episodes than half hour scripted show, which appeared at most 22 times a year. I was obsessed with many a Colbert bit. Stephen Colbert’s Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure. Formidable Opponent, in which he argued against himself, his hatred of bears, and the On Notice and Dead to Me lists, three wonderful bits which all disappeared about halfway through the show’s run. Better Know a District. The Atone Phone. Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A, my favorite recurring segment, which became more prominent later in the show. There are so many moments, and bits, and video clips, and examples of Stephen breaking that send me into fits no matter how many times I watch them. While I’m still devastated by the show’s end, I wish Colbert nothing but the best, and hope that I’ll form some attachment to his Late Show run, though I have my doubts. I’ll always have those ten years though.

Black Mirror Christmas Special

Black Mirror

The British are big believers in the Christmas special, a once a year extra long event episode whose events are entirely separate from the most recent season of the show. These Christmas specials can exist even when the show hasn’t aired otherwise for a year, as in the case of Black Mirror, and the Black Mirror Christmas special was a knockout, possibly the best episode of the series yet. There were three interlocking plots that each hits Black Mirror’s sweet spot, dystopian future technology that’s both far enough out of reach to feel like mild science fiction but close enough for the potential ramifications to feel very real. The special was enthralling, chilling, and as silly and pretentious as this sounds, did actually make you think; my friends and I chatted about it eagerly for a while after. Thinking be damned, though, it was an excellent hour and a half or so of entertainment. If you are at all interested in starting the series but are on the fence, this would be a great episode to reel you in.

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 2014 Edition: The Outcasts

14 Jan

Breaking Bad

It’s time for an annual beginning-of-the-year tradition over here at Drug of the Nation, the ranking of the shows I’ve watched during the previous year. This is my fourth annual ranking, and I’ll repeat the caveat I placed atop last year’s ranking introduction:

Because the TV season is no longer the fall-to-spring trajectory that it used to be, I arbitrarily rank things on a calendar basis, and that leads to strange situations where I’m occasionally ranking the end of one season and the beginning of the next season in the same ranking. It’s strange, and not ideal, but I have to pick some point in the year to do the rankings, so I’ll roll with the punches and mention within the article if there was a significant change in quality one way or the other between the end and beginning of seasons covered in the same year.

I’m only ranking shows I watched all of or just about all of the episodes that aired last year; if I’m just two or three behind I’ll rank it, but if I’ve only seen two or three, I won’t. I’m ranking three episode mini-British seasons but not shows with one-off specials (Black Mirror’s Christmas special is the most notable example this year) . These rules are arbitrary, admittedly, but any rules would be. No daily variety programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are eligible either.

The rankings this year were incredibly difficult, and a generally weak fall slate of TV shows had me forgetting just what an utterly strong year on the whole 2014 had been for television. I was forced to put shows I liked a lot towards the bottom of these rankings, and unlike previous years, there are just about no shows on this list that I’m one bad episode away from stopping, or that I’m just stringing out due to past loyalty until they finish. It’s absolutely brutal, and although I was forced to make tough choices, that doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely enjoy just about every show on this list. TV is that good, folks.

We start, as last year, with the shows that made last year’s list but didn’t make this year’s for one reason of another. This year these are almost entirely because they ended or didn’t air in the calendar year, so I’ll just run through them quickly, with some additional notes about the few that didn’t fall off due to simply not airing last year. This year I’m going to additionally throw in where a show ranked last year for context.

Here’s a quick link to last year’s final ranking as well. Now, on to the outcasts…

Breaking Bad – 2013: 1

Treme – 2013: 4

Eagleheart – Last year: 6

30 Rock – Last year: 10

Venture Bros. – 2013: 12

Top of the Lake – 2013: 15

Arrested Development – 2013: 17

Childrens Hospital – 2013: 21

Broadchurch – 2013: 23

Happy Endings – 2013: 24

NTSF: SD: SUV – 2013: 31

Black Mirror – 2013: 36

Family Tree  2013: 37

Siberia – 2013: 38

Luther – 2013: 45

The Office – 2013: 46

Dexter – 2013: 48

Enlightened – 2013: 6.5 (Initially, an embarrassingly mistaken omission)

Ben and Kate – 2013: 23.5 (Initially, an embarrassingly mistaken omission)

Take a deep breath. All of these shows did not air in 2014, so that’s the simple explanation why they’re not on the list. Many of these shows ended, Top of the Lake was a miniseries, several have extended offseasons and will be back in 2015 or later, and a couple are in extended hiatus, waiting to see whether they will return or not (looking at you, NTSF: SD: SUV). Easy enough.

Homeland – 2013: 41

Homeland

After a season and a half of utter frustration with the show’s inconsistency at best, and downright lousy and lazy writing at worst, I cut the cord, deciding not to watch the fourth season after a third season that really was not a very good season of television. People have told me the fourth season is better, and if a critical consensus emerges I’ll consider coming back, but I’m not that close to it. I got so sick of the show and Carrie and Brody in particular; if I had cut out earlier, I might have been more easily convinced to come back. It’ll always have an absolutely all-time first season, and is worthy fo remembering just for that, reminiscent of an athlete like Mark Fidrych who blows away the league in his first season only to never do anywhere close to the same again.

Under the Dome – 2013: 47

 

Under the Dome

Oof. Under the Dome’s first season makes the third season of Homeland look like the fourth season of Breaking Bad. It’s still stunning to me that I made it almost to the end of the first season (I never actually watched the season finale; either with only one left, I couldn’t bring myself to). The plot was incredibly stupid, the acting was generally pretty bad, and the characters were horrible. It’s hard to imagine a time when it could have been decent, but alas, a sneakily bad show is bound to end up getting watched sometimes when you watch so many shows.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 36-33

6 Jan

We start off our next chunk of four with a couple of dramas, followed by a couple of comedies part of a very close group that moves into the next four.

36. Black Mirror

Holding on to Black Mirror

Black Mirror is a British science fiction anthology series, similar thematically to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits with hour long episodes focusing on the challenges of modern technology. Because it’s British there are just three episodes a season, and two seasons, the second which aired last year. Occasionally the episodes can be a little bit on the nose in terms of the danger technology poses, but there’s generally at least enough of a twist or unexpected plot directions to ensure the episodes remain interesting and fulfilling. Particularly, in the second episode of the most recent season, the episode appears to be going in a predictable and overdone direction between a reveal dramatically changes the point of view.

35. The Walking Dead

Rick and Friend

I consider myself, and I’m still surprised by this, a relative supporter of The Walking Dead at this point in the show’s life span. It’s been an incredibly rocky road, up and down, with some peaks, and some deep valleys. The second season was a slow, poorly-paced affair, punctuated by a couple of high spots but the show has improved, if in a three steps forward, two steps back fashion, since then. The season half of the third season had more good episodes than bad, as did the first half of the fourth season, with the biggest downside in both being the writers decisions to overplay their use of the Governor, a good villain with limitations the show didn’t choose to see. The show still has issues. It can be on the nose, and many of the characters aren’t as richly constructed as they should be, a problem a show that cycles through hcaracters as quickly as The Walking Dead does is bound to have. Still, I’m still watching which I wasn’t sure I would be at times in the second season.

34. Wilfred

Wilfred and Ryan

Elijah Wood stars in this relatively under-the-radar FX show based on an Australian show of the same name about a man who sees his neighbor’s talk as a man in a dog suit who talks. There’s a lot of different ways to go with that premise, but Wilfred mostly sticks to the lighter side, going for humorously absurdist rather than dark. One or two episodes a year attempt to examine the darker implications of the fact that Wood sees a dog as a human, and those episodes have a very mixed record. The third season was largely on the same level as the first. The episodes can get somewhat repetitive and there’s a formula, in which the dog is kind of a manic pixie dream dog who screws up Wood’s life but often ends up advising him for the better. Still, it works decently well, and the occasional super out there episodes hit at a higher percentage than the others.

33. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The Gang

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia just reached 100 episodes last fall in its ninth season, an amount of seasons still hard for me to fathom. The show has long since become a hit and then faded somewhat into the background between newer, hotter shows, but it’s still churning out its brand of comedy, setting all its characters against one another for some stupid non-consequential reason, or against innocent Philadelphians. It’s a concept that could easily run out of ideas, and it’s impressive that the writers have done as good as job as they have, although it does occasionally feel like it’s retreating the same ground. It was a very hit or miss season with the best episode possibly being “Mac Day” where Mac got to control everything the gang did for the day.