Tuesday 31 December 2019

Shows of the Year

Best new show: 


I don't want to speculate if this is a realist look at what it means to be under 18 in 2019, and I don't think that's the point, much like it wasn't the point with Skins. Euphoria has a large cast of characters, thrives off its incredible acting, especially by Zendaya and Hunter Schafer, and shows what it might mean to make sense of yourself in an environment that is difficult to navigate - both in terms of figuring out your relationship to substances, social media (as a stand in for presenting a public self) and to other people.




Please read Angelica Jade Bastién's reviews at Vulture.

For All Mankind

A departure for Ron D. Moore of sorts here - instead of science fiction set in the future, where space travel has become a reality (Battlestar Galactica), For All Mankind imagines a past with a slight tweak: what if the Soviet Union had managed to land on the moon first? The ensuing speculative trajectory shows us an early 1970s in which an embattled President Nixon tries to get a good story out of NASA (an administration not driven by scientific curiosity, but the need to look good in the press and to win the Cold War). There are few eye-roll half-episodes that focus too much on the shenanigans of the risk-seeking astronauts in their fast cars, but then in episode three (Nixon's Women) the magical thing happens: because the USSR has put a woman on the moon, Nixon directs the space programme to train a group of female astronaut candidates. And of course, that changes everything (and the cast of characters is the greatest thing, from astronaut wife Tracy Stevens, who is re-discovering what she wants to do with her life but has to prove that she is more than the newspaper story that Nixon wants, to two veterans of the space programme who are supremely qualified but won't sell the way the administration wants, to mysterious heiress JODI BALFOUR). It's an episode about women's ambition and drive in an environment that is built around heroic men.

Best show: 


In its second season and third or fourth year, Mindhunter refocuses from Jonathan Groff's Holden Ford to Anna Torv's Dr. Wendy Carr and Holt McCallany's Bill Tench, who each go through personal struggles. Wendy finds out what the true toll of having to stay in the closet is, and that being a woman makes it that much harder for her to be allowed to do fieldwork. Bill's young adopted son is involved in a horrible death, and the question is raised of whether he recognises the first signs of what he knows from the serial killer he interviews in his own house. Meanwhile, Holden gets involved in trying to solve the Atlanta Child Murders, which due to the victims (black children) have not been properly investigated. Let's hope the next season isn't two years away.

Stranger Things

My favourite season of this show so far, especially for the friendship and the fact that they let go of the idea that Eleven and Max should be rivals of some kind. Maya Hawke's Robin is a great addition to the cast and a scene-stealer along with Steve Harrington.

Star Trek Discovery

Killing Eve

But will they, though. 

I've been on the fence about including this show, which so perfectly re-enacts late 1990s/early 2000 examples of two female characters who are clearly in love with each other but not allowed to be romantically involved because of circumstances. This show is always and forever saved by the fact that there nobody except Melissa Benoist could play Kara Danvers, the kindest and gentlest superheroine the world has ever seen, and that Katie McGrath does what she does best, which is thwart heterosexuality (also, Brainy! and Nia Nal! and Alex Danvers, who finally gets to be boring after so much suffering, bless her soul). 

Saddest goodbye: 

Broad City

Weirdly enough, I sometimes feel like it would be good to have Parks and Rec back to guide us through this darkness, or preserve some sense of hope (but then, it has its own darkness I suppose, of actors you wouldn't really want to see again), but then I find myself going back to my favourite episodes of Broad City more often than that. A radical love story, an embrace of mutual support and friendship, and weirdly, something that still works perfectly even when you've reached the age that Abby and Ilana have such a hard time to embrace and grow into.

Runaways and Cloak & Dagger


It took five years for me to catch up with this show, which was by then in its final season. Killjoys developed from a good show to a great one when it discovered that the beating heart at its centre was the relationships between its characters (and Lucy). A classic science fiction show in as far as it depicts a group of very different characters thrown together by several apocalypses, Killjoys twists and turns, has characters grow from central villains to central weirdo heartthrobs. I wish we could just keep following the Jaqobis brothers and Dutch into the breach, and find out what Delle Seyah and Aneela will do with their eternity together (and Zeph, Pree, Fancy and Gared).

The Good Place

On the surface, a comedy show, beneath, for the last two seasons, a show that has explored how humans can be good in a system that makes everyone complicit in the exploitation of other humans and the destruction of the planet (and as said before: maybe Parks and Recreation only works in the Obama years (including its unquestioning love for Joe Biden), but The Good Place is a necessary companion in 2019.

Mr. Robot

Sometimes Mr. Robot was too long, sometimes the odds of it sticking its landing seemed way off, but it was always beautiful, with every image worth a screenshot. Also, a few episodes away from ending, Sam Esmail decided to dedicate a whole episode to Darlene and Dom DiPierro (as close to a human disaster as anyone since Ben Wyatt has ever been), and gave them a self-contained hour, a worthy goodbye, which in spite of its frustrating lack of a happy ending (ARGHH) made complete sense for each of these characters.

And a bonus, a feeble attempts at the shows of the decade, some of which barely make it into the decade, but I like to remember them:

Halt and Catch Fire
The Leftovers
Orphan Black
Person of Interest
The Expanse
Parks and Recreation
Friday Night Lights
The Americans
Jessica Jones
The Fades
The Handmaid's Tale
Broad City
Being Human
Pretty Little Liars
Skins on a technicality


Unbelievable, Chernobyl, Dickinson, Watchmen, Russian Doll, Sharp Objects, Cloak & Dagger, Runaways, Wynonna Earp, The Good Place, Better Call Saul, Star Trek Discovery, Godless, The Good Wife and The Good Fight, One Mississippi, Sweet/Vicious, Sense8, Mr. Robot, Humans, Defiance, Killjoys, My Mad Fat Diary, The Hour, Luther, Borgen, Parenthood, Breaking Bad, Leverage, Warehouse 13, This is England, Dollhouse, San Junipero

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