Thursday 31 December 2015

Serien des Jahres

Best new show: 

Jessica Jones

One of the dominating features of the past few years, perhaps one of the most reliable thing about pop culture for me, has been a constant slight disappointment in Marvel. I liked Agent Carter last year, and so much more than I ever did S.H.I.E.L.D., but it is still a show that most lives off its phenomenal lead rather than the strength of its narratives or how the characters are written. The films continue to disappoint me - and in part, in the back of my mind, I will maybe never quite be able to forgive the fact that Runaways has been sent into an indefinite hiatus (it was revamped this year, but with different characters), with the promise of a film constantly dangled like the impossible carrot. It will simply never happen. 

That is to say that Jessica Jones, in spite of existing in that universe, and having ties to the reality created in the films, is absolutely excellent. It has stunning acting, its central theme is agency, its central villain isn't really Kilgrave, but patriarchy itself (in that way, it is similar to Pretty Little Liars when Pretty Little Liars lives up to what it can be, which it did a lot this season, but not always). Jessica Jones takes all the conventions of noir and makes them into something gorgeous, relevant, feminist - one of my favourite things about the show is how by the way Jessica's super powers are shown, how seamlessly they fit into this world. And for the record - this show really only makes sense if Trish and Jessica, the central romance of the show, aren't just best friends, and it's almost painful to be able to pinpoint the precise moment when the show veers off course with them and isn't quite courageous enough to have an openly LGBT main character. (also - Luke Cage, and Carrie Ann Moss playing her character perfectly, and Robin Weigert, and how on earth has David Tennant ever played a non-creepy character in his life).

In the year of Chappie and the more successful Ex Machina, it's almost as if the central theme of Humans - what it means to be human if machines can have feelings, too (and what it means to be a machine with feelings and emotions oscillating between wanting to be human and wanting to be more than human) - permeates everything. Humans is ambitious, and even though it relies on territory that has been chartered by other shows before, it still manages to be haunting, and very relevant.  Particularly the smart parallels between how this world treats robots to how this world treats women - the objectification, the things that become justifiable through "less than" - are incredibly well-written and executed. 


There isn't a single entirely non-problematic entry in this list and Sense8 has a lot of issues - with often relying on cultural cliches to tell its stories, simplification, a certain kind of naivety that can become annoying on occasion. But regardless, it is hard not to fall in love with at least a few of the several main characters, not to appreciate the style of the show, the ambition of the story, the crazy rollercoaster of different genres exploded into one. 

Mr. Robot

Perhaps a good odd partner to the sometimes more conventional but constantly evolving Person of Interest (which, absurdly, seems to become more and more aware of its potential and is about to fully grow into it, freed from the shackles of fearing for renewal), Mr. Robot peaks before its final episode and is still - aesthetically, in terms of acting, in terms of finding a course between a very personal story about mental health and trauma and a very political (if sometimes too non-specific) story about the evils of big corporations and data-hungry systems - utterly successful. Rami Malek is a revelation (maybe this is the year of former supporting actors and actresses wholly owning their shows).

Also: Better Call Saul, Unforgotten, River. 

Best shows: 

This beautiful mess of a show is so very good when its good and so very on the crisp of unbearable when it screws up. The big evil of the show is the patriarchy and misogyny (but Ezra Fitz is still a viable love interest). The highs this show had this season - the dollhouse arc at the beginning of the second half, the eloquence in which that trauma was portrayed later on, the way that in the end, the girls always save themselves and each other - are among some of the best things that have happened on TV this year. There is one season to go (hopefully, one of the gravest danger PLL has always been in is the success messing with the intent), and it will presumably be very different than before, so let's hope we will get to say goodbye to the brilliant version of the show, not the terrible one. 

I have written a lot about this show this year (a year where I've barely written about anything) and there is no other show that so perfectly combines an intellectual journey, an investigation into the implications and morals of science, the politics of power, with amazing acting and characters written and performed with love and care. Plenty has been written about the genius of Tatiana Maslany, but Orphan Black combines her talents with a vast supporting cast that combine into the core and heart of the show (also, this show has the questionable accomplishment of most traumatizing and sad - character death - but let's see, nothing is ever what it seems).

This show is batshit insane. 

Person of Interest

We are late to this party but this is an example of a show that took a while to grow into its own shoes but is now running very fast, and very beautifully. At its core, about a beautiful machine growing beyond its creator (a machine originally created with the intent to help), the people who want to harness that power for good and for evil (and the one person who just wants the machine to be everything that it can be). At its worst, a fun to watch procedural (who even makes 20 episodes per season shows anymore? How anachronistic to still see stories told in that way, with mystery and baddie of the week arcs). 
(And also, a show that finally sets Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker free to be everything they can be). 

Also: Transparent, The Americans, Broad City, The Fall, Orange is the New Black

Saddest goodbyes: 

Parks and Recreation

A show that was the definition of the light at the end of the tunnel, the brightness of the first spring day, a plate of waffles with whipped cream, all the bacon and eggs, unicorns, friendship, community, caring profoundly and deeply, finding yourself, working with people that you love doing something that you are passionate about... unreachable, and forever.


This show had a brilliant second season and an occasionally excellent third, but in a time where big vision science fiction that still looks like the sci fi of the olden days is rare (I wonder where the next Star Trek will go), Defiance willingness to talk about religion, fanaticism, families, power, women,  politics, in such a messy way gives it a special place. 

Mad Men

What was it? What did it want? Where did it go? (Thank you for Sally, Peggy, Joan, Betty).

Kalinda Sharma

What could have been in direct contrast with what was, rumours replacing any kind of serious engagement with the show that should be more relevant now than ever, but somehow isn't - something irreplaceable is missing now, and there will forever be an alternative history of this show. 

(quit watching JustifiedGame of Thrones, Vikings, House of Cards, Last Tango in Halifax, Boardwalk Empire).

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