Sunday 31 December 2017

Shows of the year

Best new show: 

The Bold Type

This top spot could have gone to Sweet/Vicious, a short-lived television show about the impact of rape culture on women who try to live a normal life on campus, a show that was marketed as a revenge fantasies against rapists but was really much more about the importance of mutual support and strength. And then, a few months later, The Bold Type appeared, and somehow insisted on being the opposite of every single expectation that you might have in a show that is about three friends working for a New York fashion magazine. Where Melora Hardin's (finally in a fantastic role after what Transparent did to her) boss should have been vindictive and hard to deal with, she was supportive and a feminist role model, always more concerned with the well-being and the progress of her employees than the bottom line of her paper. Where the three women - Jane, Kat and Sutton - should have been played against each other in the hamster wheel that it 21st century millennial career progression, the show always prioritised their friendship and unconditional support over their romantic lives. It showcased their ambition without turning it into something ugly, it sneered at stereotypes about successful and driven women, it succeeded in everything it attempted. 

A show deliberately growing beyond the limitations of the novel it is based on, thriving on the incredible contributions not just by Elisabeth Moss, but also Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovsky and Alexis Bledel - a horrifying portrayal of a world built on hypocrisy and lies, a weaponised misogynist dystopia, in which carving out a space for resistance is incredibly hard and costly. Also, very well-timed.

Consistently since the beginning of this show, my two favourite things have been Sonequa Martin-Green's performance as Michael Burnham and the fact that this is so very much unlike any previous Star Trek show, in every single way, including how it privileges the perspective of one single crew-member over the usual format of focusing on a whole crew. This is Star Trek in the 21st century, and its portrayal of the Discovery as an almost rogue ship, far removed from any Federation directives, is unique and terrifying. We will see how the show will handle issues of continuity going forward - and still, my biggest question remains unanswered: is Benjamin Sisko still with the Prophets? 


I consider this a comedy show about serial killers, as much as that is possible, or rather, a startling portrait of failed human being Holden Ford, establishing an entirely new discipline at the Federal Bureau of Investigation while also becoming an increasingly more failed human being. Let's hope season two gives us more of Anna Torv's smirking goodness and the hilariousness of her being stuck in a basement with these two human disasters. The show also thrives on actors perfectly impersonating serial killers and finding comedic elation from Ed Kemper's odd way of relating to other humans when he isn't killing them (also this show would probably fail utterly if anyone but Jonathan Groff were playing Holden Ford, which would be a worth a whole separate investigation into how to humanise straight white men).

Alias Grace



Pretty Little Liars is dead, long live Riverdale, which is like if the most absurd and surreal episode of PLL had been turned into a whole show. Minus points for falling into the same traps of the merry-go-around, taking its bland central character too seriously (as if the Pussycats WOULD EVER background sing for Archie Andrews), major plus points for going all the way down the rabbit hole with Cheryl Blossom, who is en-train of out-Monaing Mona Vanderwaal.

American Gods

I'm still in two minds about the success or failure of this show, as my favourite parts of the novel will presumably happen in season two: for now, the one thing that will stick with me is how perfectly cast Ricky Whittle's Shadow Moon is, but more than that, how much Emily Browning's Laura haunts me. I think this is in good hands with Bryan Fuller, and has a lot of potential going forward, but maybe lacks a bit of focus and coherence (also, as of November 2017, now lacks Bryan Fuller).


Billed as a feminist Western that could have potentially been fantastic had it actually focused more on that idea - instead, an unflinching portrayal of the unforgiving frontier, dominated by profoundly physically and mentally damaged men who inflict harm and pain upon everything they touch. Great performances by Jeff Daniels, Jack O'Connell, Michelle Dockery and Scoot McNairy (although his character here feels like another variation of Gordon Clark), but Merritt Wever runs circles around all of them with her tender butch portrayal of a leader who cares too much about people who don't care enough.

The Good Fight

This made me realise how much I missed the very specific smart-ness of The Good Wife, the way it played off on contemporary issues and commentated on the news, always from the perspective of women. The central trio of Cush Jumbo, Christine Baranski, ad Rose Leslie hits it out of the park.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Fast-talking comedy about a Jewish housewife who separates from her husband to begin a career in stand-up comedy. Surprising, heart-felt, funny as hell, and carried by the double-effort of Rachel Brosnahan in the magnetic titular lead and Alex Borstein as her cynical and laconic manager who immediately recognises her original talent for making people laugh.

Best show: 

Wynonna Earp

THIS SHOW THO. Eloquently handling real life events, the heroine of season two is a pregnant Wynonna, battling for bodily autonomy against demons and greater institutions bent on owning her. In 2017, with everything that happened and is still being revealed, it is becoming harder and harder to reference Buffy and not feel eternally sad about what could've been - but in many ways, this is it, and it feels like Wynonna Earp enjoys the anarchic artistic freedom to be whatever the fuck it wants to be, including a show about gays who can survive anything, including death. This is also a show about found families, coping with being the chosen one, and destroying the patriarchy demon by demon. 

Best show about space, the terrifying things that lie beyond, and the eloquent ways in which capitalism would determine the development of space exploration. Plus, the best crew. 

One Mississippi

I was a bit disappointed with the most recent seasons of Transparent, especially in terms of still finding kindness for the obscure characters and their terrible choices. Comparably, One Mississippi is always kind, and yet manages to deal with the world as it is: it confronts racism, sexism, sexual assault, grief, the difficulty of living authentically with family secrets. In the end, it's all about love, and how much taking those kind of risks is worth. Tig Notaro is fantastic, and the (real-world) love story between her and Stephanie Allynne's Kate is the beating heart of this show (when it isn't, secretly, Tig's stepfather Bill).

Mr. Robot

At its best, this is a delirious show building up slowly to a crescendo of things falling into place in ways that would be hard to predict. This season, as captivating as Rami Malek has always been as Elliot, Carly Chaikin has proven to be a scene-stealer coping with the fall-out of their initial hack as well as the death of her lover and friends. Same goes to Portia Doubleday, whose Angela literally completely lost the plot. This show is at its worst when it tries to serve the Fight Club crowd, or plays into internet message board conspiracy theories and discourse, and at its best when it portrays broken characters trying to fix their terrible choices. Also, Agent Dom (Grace Gummer), sadly barely in this season but heartbreaking whenever she is.

Better Call Saul

I always forget about this show in-between seasons which means it never really makes it into this list, as it premieres so early in the year. Barely any other show manages to build tension so effectively and slowly, but the stand-out this year was Rhea Seehorn, and the forever question of what is going to happen to Kim Wexler between here and Breaking Bad, and how she will escape Slippin' Jimmy's inevitable downward spiral into Saul Goodman. Also, where will this go now that Better Call Saul will be without its greatest villain Chuck?

Also: Top of the Lake, Stranger Things, Master of None, Game of Thrones, Broad City, Line of Duty.

Honorary mention: 

Search Party
American Vandal

Saddest goodbye: 


It is an absolute travesty that Underground didn't get a third season. The second season is completely astonishing, and focuses on Rosalie's journey - doing impossible things to protect her unborn child, and the mission she now shares with Harriet Tubman. This show is about freedom in the face of impossible odds, and the dear toll that the fight against slavery takes. Underground would have deserved many, many more seasons. 

See under The Bold Type. This show is necessary, and it is a terrible loss to not have more seasons of it. 


2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

No comments: