It’s already too late for a 2018 retrospective, it’s 2019! So for purely archival purposes I’ve included a brief summary of my year in movies and TV.
TV Released This Year:
It was the year of the miniseries and so many of them were great!
Godless brought the western to the small screen, an epic about Men and Women, Absence and Civilization, the Cold Wilderness and the Warm Home. Just capitalize some great western nouns and they become thematics, very rich textual stuff here.
Little Drummer Girl was legit spy cinema. Something mature and dangerous and human. The workmanlike Jack Ryan can only wish to be this show and unequivocally falls short of a tenth of what Drummer Girl accomplishes.
Some solid seasons. Atlanta got experimental with every episode. Westworld carried on with its very literal exploration of self and consciousness with enough time to tell a touching small insulated story about a robot native american father’s spiritual and literal journey. I have no idea what Barry will do in season 2 because in season 1 they told such a story of consequence and choice, none of that The Americans’ style humming and hawing. The immediate, shocking assassin violence benefits greatly from the classic look, the heavy hitting cinematography that polishes, scrubs any missteps from your memory of the show.
Maniac, Sharp Objects and Homecoming all deal with trauma. There’s a lot of space between the shows in tone, genre, content and perspective. From a fun and friendly big swing indie multigenre piece (Maniac) to a confrontational, dark and triggering murder mystery social horror show (Sharp Objects) to a formalistic, simpler than it seems Stranger Things upgrade (or downgrade depending on your take!) that takes place for the most part in a series of sit down conversations (surprising podcast to TV adaption Homecoming).
New Girl’s capper season is mostly on this list for nostalgic reasons, it was just nice to see Nick and Jess and Winston and Schmidt and Cece again.
American Vandal (RIP!) continued teaching us lessons about the modern world. It’s hard to explain but once season 1 hooks you, season 2 really hits you in the gut. These aren’t comedies imo and my default mode to watch things on their face without reading the goof first really helps with American Vandal. These are “fake docs” first and I wish the form caught on. Ostensibly regular people that subvert, falter and confuse all in the service of some greater truth, reminds me of detective fiction.
- Godless (Netflix)
- Little Drummer Girl (Amazon Instant)
- Barry season 1 (HBO Now)
- Atlanta, Robbin’ Season (2) (Amazon Instant)
- New Girl season 7 (Hulu)
- Westworld season 2 (HBO Now)
- Sharp Objects (HBO Now)
- American Vandal season 2 (Netflix)
- Maniac (Netflix)
- Homecoming (Amazon Prime)
- Titans season 1 (DC Universe) – please don’t see this, someone throw this show into the sun
- Ozark (Netflix) – wrongheaded, mean, for every ounce it wishes it was Justified it comes off insulting and dead eyed. Potentially evil in its irredeemable embrace of bare minimum prestige TV Bad Man Tropes. The Jason Bateman of tv shows, just the worst
Down the Middle:
- Jack Ryan season 1 (Amazon Prime) – ehh, one good chase at the end. Doesn’t understand the character at all.
- The Bodyguard (Netflix) – better than Jack Ryan, down the middle conflicted heroism stuff
- Collateral season 1(Netflix) – Jack Ryan levels of obvious message work being done on screen but without the action. Work to watch despite the absolutely charming and charismatic Carey Mulligan who is great TV Police and squandered here!
- McMafia season 1 (Amazon Instant) – the reason I like this show is a banker guy hits a button to transfer dollars and then there is a montage of that money getting to work, putting on flesh, becoming dock workers, gangsters, street operators, bribes- all over the world. More of that in season 2 please.
- Silicon Valley season 5 (HBO Now) – fine, but the same as all the other seasons
- Succession season 1 (HBO Now) – one part Aaron Sorkin and one part Adam McKay without all the preachy rain clouds over their work. A family drama first, a parable second. Wicked funny if you’re willing to watch these princes suffer.
TV Not Released This Year:
- One Punch Man season 1 (Netflix) – a must watch for anyone who has ever seen any anime. I… don’t like anime anymore. Not since I was in 4th grade watching fan subs of Naruto as it released broadcast in japan. A phase that’s been closed for sure since middle school almost two decades ago now. Also Fullmetal Alchemist, Onepiece, Deathnote, Dragonballz (I didn’t really watch that one), all of these mainstream pieces of animation history are good prereq knowledge for One Punch, any level of genre knowledge is welcome, the show both lampoons and embraces the genre elements. High Quality! Short! is there anything else you could possibly want from an anime other than this kind of self awareness.
- Comrade Detective season 1 (Amazon Prime) – a complicated pleasure that weirdly works on its face as a procedural detective show. Too many layers of irony to *really* work but some deep belly laughs here that I can’t imagine anyone else but me enjoying. For example, the commie cops go to the dissident capitalists in prison to get an explanation of this new kind of game-propaganda “MO-NO-POLY” which of course is just the board game Monopoly.
- You’re the Worst season 4 (Amazon Instant) – I don’t know why I watch this show. They’ve done so much terrible stuff at this point, what the chief creative is going for other than as a canvas for wrongheaded, too mean social observation- I don’t know.
TV I Didn’t Get To/Finish:
- Killing Eve season 1 (Amazon Instant) – very good but ran out of gas, I only have one or two episodes left and I really should
- Cloak and Dagger season 1 (Amazon Instant) – ditto Killing Eve
- Trust season 1 (Amazon Instant) – great first couple episodes, Brendan Fraser is back baby! in a big hat! Rome! a kidnapping! rich family with extended and interesting class and culture gradation! I just didn’t stick with it but now that I think about it I should get back.
- Legion season 2 (Amazon Instant) – a bit much, feels like homework now that I think about it. Homework in the way that a stack of comics can feel like homework when you know what it’s going to be like and you’re less than thrilled about the prospect. It might take a couple vacation days to actually conquer this one but like a stack of comics, I’m looking forward to it.
- The Americans season 5 and 6 (Amazon Instant) – this one just… it takes time, seasons 1-4 took time and I think we all know how this one ends because we’re alive in 2019 but still