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Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Top 10 Best Television Shows of 2018

Needless to say, this tweet did not age well:

While I easily could have written about an additional 8 shows, I realized the back half of my list just consisted of the shows I always watch and love and recommend. Shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Superstore, and Bob's Burgers are shows I absolutely love and adore, but don't particularly like putting on lists anymore. A lot of that comes down to the fact that I don't have a lot of say about these shows that I haven't already said before outside of "It's still really good you guys", but I also don't want my work to feel repetitive. Additionally, there were so many new and great shows in 2018 that I didn't want to feel like I was cheapening my final list.

What you will not see on this list is a lot of HBO. I found their dramas and limited series this year to be downright boring or not worth watching. I know people seemed to have loved Succession, but after watching the entire first season and consuming all I could about the content after the show aired, I still don't particularly like or respect the project. I respected a lot of the first season of Westworld, but the show failed to solve any of its problems from it's rookie to sophomore season. In fact, they doubled down on the aspects of the show I never particularly cared for that it just became an expensive mystery box for Reddit to solve. And Sharp Objects was just plain boring. When your show is compelling, a slow pace is considered "deliberate". When your show isn't, it's just considered "boring.".

Netflix also took a hit on my list this year. For my 2017 list, five out of my top 10 shows came from Netflix. For my 2016 list, 4 out of my top 10 shows came from Netflix. For this list? Only 2. In the era of peak television, different channels and mediums are finally producing great content as opposing just just producing content to produce content. I have two shows from Amazon (and I haven't even seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel yet) and a show from YouTube. Showtime also managed to crack my list which I don't think it's managed to do since season one of Homeland. During a year where you could watch great television basically anywhere, I think my lists accurately reflects the great diversity of programs that we're living in. So without further ado, here is my list of the Top 10 Best Television Shows of 2018:

10) Homecoming (Amazon)
Season: 1
Created By: Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz & Sam Esmail
Starring: Julia Roberts & Bobby Cannavale

Brief Description: Based upon the popular podcast of the same name, Homecoming is paranoid thrilled ripped straight from the 1970's. Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz created an extremely compelling story for the audio medium and Sam Esmail works his usual magic to bring that storytelling to life. Of course, having Julia Roberts in peak form and Boardwalk Empire alums Bobby Cannavale and Shea Whigham who always elevate their projects. (My theory of having Boardwalk Empire alums as the third though fifth lead will always be good for your program or film remains in tact). I knew exactly how this story would end, and yet Esmail and crew kept me entertained throughout.

9) Better Call Saul (AMC)
Season: 4
Created By: Peter Gould & Vince Gilligan
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn & Jonathan Banks

Brief Description: Not all of the fourth season of Better Call Saul worked. The show was slow to pick up steam after it's strongest piece, the relationship between brothers Jimmy and Chuck McGill, ceased to exist, and the Mike (Banks) subplot of helping Gus Fringe build his Super Lab felt like the show was spinning its wheels. But once the show found its footing by deepening the relationship between Jimmy (Odenkirk) and Kim (Seehorn) and focusing on Jimmy's stalled career, Better Call Saul really started to sing.

8) Killing Eve (BBC America)
Season: 1
Created By: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Starring: Sandra Oh & Jodie Comer

Brief Description: I don't much care for classic spy stories and John La Carre novels/adaptations, but I loved the twist that creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge have managed to put on the genre. Sandra Oh playing the titular Eve as a low level British intelligence officer trying to hunt wickedly brilliant Villanelle played spectacularly by Jodie Comer. Comer's performance really made this season for me. It was over-the-top crazy in the most delightful way. As much fun as the spy stuff was, it was the characters of Eve and Villanelle and the relationship they ended up having together that really made for one of the best surprises of 2018.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Top 10 Best Songs of 2018

10) "Shallow" Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

 A Star Is Born become an American phenomenon once we realized the movie lived up to the hype. A part of the hype was the release of "Shallow" which is the odds-on favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Song. The song premieres decently early in the movie and is the first big moment where the film really sinks its claws into you and never lets you go (despite the second half of the film). There's a reason the song has gained radio play, because of how good it is. 

9) "Money" Cardi B

I'm not the biggest fan of Cardi B's music (although I'm a big fan of  persona) and I like "Bodak Yellow" and "I Like It" just fine, but something about this hook of I was born to flex / Diamonds on my neck / I like boarding jets / I like morning sex / But nothing in this world / that I like more than checks that really got me hooked (pun intended). Especially after her epic IRS rant

8) "& Run" Sir Sly

Every time I hear a song I enjoy, I place it on a list in my phone. This song happened to be on my list, and I was about to delete before I began writing this blog post. Then I started playing the music video of the song on YouTube and now it's been playing on a loop while I finish this post. That driving snare beat combined with the zig zag trill after the chorus (and to start the song) gets me every time. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Top 10 Best Television Episodes of 2018

10) "Prague" Succession (HBO)
Season 1 / Episode 8
Premiere Date: July 22, 2018
Directed By: S.J. Clarkson

Brief Description: I know Succession is going to end up on a lot of Best Of lists this year, but this is going to be the only spot on my lists. Not a big fan overall. Yet I did enjoy this episode because it's probably the show's funniest. In a world of super rich people, instead of actually flying to Prague for a bachelor's party, the gang goes to an Everything Goes club in New York where Tom "closes the loop".

9) "Something Stupid" Better Call Saul (AMC)
Season 4 / Episode 7
Premiere Date: September 17, 2018
Directed By: Deborah Chow

Brief Description: After a slow start to the season, Better Call Saul picked up steam in the second half, solidified by an incredible montage to start the episode where we see Kim and Jimmy drift apart in a split screen. This show is able to say so much without saying anything at all.

8) "Janet(s)" The Good Place (NBC)
Season 3 / Episode 9
Premiere Date: December 6, 2018
Directed By: Morgan Sackett

Brief Description: The very concept of The Good Place, a demon torturing four mortals in the afterlife, by its very nature can lead to limitless possibilities. Add to the fact that you have the genius behind Parks and Recreation and the serialized nature of the nature inspired by the creator of Lost and The Leftovers, and you're left with the possibility if creating some incredibly creative television episodes. The mid-season finale of season 3 of this show was no exception and was a phenomenal showcase for breakout star D'Arcy Carden. As the gang of mortals are struck in Janet's void (Carden), Michael (Ted Dansen) and Janet meet the afterlife's accountants led by the great Stephen Merchant.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Top 17 Best Television Shows of 2017

17) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
Season(s): 4 and 5
Created By: Dan Goor & Michael Schur
Starring: Andy Samberg & Andre Braugher

Brief Description: It is difficult for a network comedy to be funny. It's harder for it to be both funny and good. It's even tougher to be both funny and good for five straight seasons. Yet Brooklyn Nine-Nine has managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible. There's a reason the show was saved almost immediately by NBC after FOX cancelled it.

16) Black-ish (ABC)
Season(s): 3 and 4
Created By: Kenya Barris
Starring: Anthony Anderson & Tracee Ellis Ross

Brief Description: Blackish is another consistently funny and great network comedy that helps anchor a fresh a new comedy line up that includes Fresh Off The Boat and Speechless. The structure of the comedies is basically the exact same as when television started, but what makes them great is their perspective. By changing that slightly and seeing characters through a different worldview than your own, you get the rebirth of sitcoms.

15) Dear White People (Netflix)
Season 1
Created By: Justin Simien
Starring: Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell & DeRon Horton

Brief Description: My son was adopted in April, and I remember waking up in the middle of the night feeding him and rocking him to sleep as a watch an episode of Dear White People. It feels apropos considering this exactly the type of show I want him to watch before he goes to college. Based upon his hit Indie film, Justin Simien tells the story of different Black perspectives as they navigate college.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Top 10 Best Television Episodes of 2017

10) "Who Rules The Land of Denial" 
Fargo (FX)
Season 3 / Episode 8

Premiere Date: June 7, 2017
Directed By: Mike Barker

Brief Description: I know the general consensus was the season 3 of Fargo is the show's worst season, but considering I wasn't the biggest fan on the sophomore attempt, I quite liked the latest from Noah Hawley and crew starring twins played by Ewan McGregor. What makes the show work so well is Hawley's masterful interpretation of films by the Coen Brothers- filmmakers who can make a straightforward kidnapping-gone-wrong film like Fargo and also an absolutely delightfully bonkers film like The Big Lebowski. What makes "Who Rules The Land of Denial" so great is the show's ability to play off of the Coen Brothers tropes and create a delightfully masterfully opening where Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character can be chased by goons one minute, and then sitting in a bowling alley of purgatory with The Wandering Jew (played by Ray Wise) the next.

9) "Time's Arrow" BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Season 4 / Episode 11
Premiere Date: September 8, 2017
Directed By: Aaron Long

Brief Description: Season 4 of BoJack Horseman dealt a lot with the titular character coming to grips with his past and his relationship with his negligent mother. The series culminates in a trippy penultimate episode where the Bojack's mother (voiced by Wendie Malick) and her dementia flip between the past and present and your left with a David Lynch-ian experience unlike anything you've seen before. A remarkable episode from one of the best and smartest shows on television.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Top 17 Best Films of 2017

17) Molly's Game
Starring: Jessica Chastain
Written and Directed By:  Aaron Sorkin
STARS:  3 out of 4

Brief Description: Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut is neither perfect, nor earth-shattering, but his own words and dialogue make for an automatically compelling story. Based on the interesting book and real life of Molly Bloom, a former Olympic skier turned underground Poker game runner, Molly's Game is a solid movie that is worth a rental. The floor of any Aaron Sorkin project is so high that he's turning everything he touches into Must-See entertainment.

16) The Greatest Showman
Starring: Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron
Directed By: Michael Gracey
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: My enjoyment of this film comes down to two things: 1) I'm familiar enough with the real P.T. Barnum to know what a terrible person he was to the point where Hugh Jackson's portrayal of the man was an outright lie more than viewing him through rose-colored glasses and 2) I'm a sucker for catchy music. I really enjoyed La La Land, and the same people behind that film come back with a vengeance with The Greatest Showman. The songs are so catchy I had to pause in the middle of this description to go watch some scenes on YouTube.

15) Spielberg
Starring: Steven Spielberg
Directed By: Susan Lacy
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: You can't be as big of a movie fan as I am and not enjoy one or ten Steven Spielberg films. Heck, you can't even be a casual movie goer and not enjoy a handful of his films. Despite the obviously slant towards this being a puff piece, I really enjoyed the look back on Steven Spielberg's life and career and just how much he's influenced everything. It's also weird because the film made me respect the director a lot less. He was widely (and rightfully IMHO) criticized early in his career for not being able to make a good, serious, prestigious film. Spielberg tried to prove everyone wrong (mainly with Schindler's List), but after revisiting many of those films, like List, I've to believe that argument more and more.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Top 16 Best Shows of 2016

16) You're The Worst (FX)
Season 3
Created By: Stephan Falk
Starring: Chris Geere & Aya Cash

Click here to read why Episode 11's "The Inherent, Unsullied Qualified Value of Anything" was one of the best episodes of 2016

15) The Carmichael Show (NBC)
Season 2
Created By: Jerrod Carmichael
Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, Lorett Devine, & David Allen Grier

Click here to read about my thoughts on The Carmichael Show

14) Speechless (ABC)
Season 1
Created By: Scott Silveri
Starring: Minnie Driver & Micah Fowler