TV: Year End Thoughts as well as the Westworld and Rectify Finales.

 

I have been a little remiss as of late in reporting on TV but with the fall TV shows either ending or going on winter breaks there hasn’t been much to discuss. That being said, there are a there are a few that must be covered!

Season Finale: Westworld (HBO)

I spent a lot of time on Westworld. In addition to the show each week, I followed up with at least one long recap and two podcasts discussing what had happened. This is not the first time I have utilized social media to enhance my experience with a show. I first did it with Lost and loved every minute of every podcast, blog and recap that I delved into each week, along with so many other viewers, trying to unlock the many mysteries of the that show. To this day, watching Lost in this manner was the best TV experience I have ever had and it changed the way so many of us now experience this medium.

With Westworld, these extra efforts just seemed like work. I can’t completely put my finger on why this show isn’t that enjoyable for me but at least part of it is that I’m really not invested in the characters so no matter how many mysteries there are to solve, I’m not truly engaged. There are aspects of Westworld that I like. The acting is quite good – specifically Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and in his villain role, Anthony Hopkins is perfect. The problem is that acting alone can’t sustain a show. I’m not sure whether it is the fact that the show is about robots and it’s hard to empathize with AI characters or the show just never recovered completely from its troubled production history. Maybe it is a combination of both but the end result is that there are just too many inconsistencies in the plot line creating  too much confusion.

I’m not saying that I dislike this show. There were always enough interesting elements to keep me going but it isn’t a Sunday show that I looked forward to all week like Game of Thrones. I hold out hope that it will become that show for me because there are some positive signs. One reason that I am optimistic is that last year they halted production for 6 months or so in order for the show writers, producers etc. to figure out exactly where they were going both in Season 1 and the overall story arc. They are now taking over a year between seasons to better flush out Season 2. I think there is a real commitment by the industry heavyweights involved to make this show great and I think it could be. So for now, I’m willing to keep working hard to appreciate the show in hopes that it will become my Sunday night “go to”.

Series Finale Rectify (Sundance)

I consider Rectify not only one of my top one or two shows for the past 4 years but certainly one of the best shows of this century. While only a handful of people watched it, it will stand the test of time and hopefully many more people will discover this gem along the way. Rectify concluded it’s fourth and final season last week with a finale that I savored for each one of its 107 minutes. It is rare to find a show where the characters are so deep and complex, the casting for each individual so perfect and the acting so emotionally impactful as this one.

If you haven’t seen Rectify, the first three seasons are on Netflix and I’m sure the fourth season will be soon. My guess is that if you watch the first three seasons you won’t be able to wait for that to happen and will buy it on ITunes or Amazon – it is that good. Rectify is the story of Daniel Holden (played absolutely brilliantly by Aden Young) who at age 18 is convicted of the rape and murder of his high school girl friend. After spending 18 years on death row, he is released based on DNA evidence. The resulting struggle of trying to reintegrate into his family and society at large is the main plot of the series.

Whether Daniel is guilty or not of the murder is never really central to the plot. Instead we focus on his relationship with each member of his family and their struggle to incorporate this very damaged individual back into their lives. The final season does provide some closure as to Daniel’s guilt/innocence as well as the reasons for his difficulty in being able to function in the outside world. All of this is laid out slowly and deliberately throughout the 8-episode season culminating in one of the most satisfying series finales that I have ever seen.

There is a hole in my heart now that this show is finished and it is going to be hard to find a replacement that will be as fulfilling. I’m going to desperately miss the Holden clan and hope beyond hope that there will be a reunion some years in the future.

Season Premier: Man in the High Castle (Amazon)

I was going to report out on Man in the High Castle Season 2, which dropped on Amazon this past Friday. I watched the first episode and was totally confused as I remembered so little from the first season. I have concluded that I need to go back and watch the first season again, which will definitely delay my viewing and reporting out on the new season. I enjoyed the first season although it did drag a bit in the middle so I’m anxious to see if it moves along more consistently in Season 2. More to come on this show. 

Best TV of 2016

With 2016 closing down fast and publications/critics everywhere doing their top 10, 20 or 30 lists, I wanted to just put a few thoughts down regarding what for me were the best shows of the year. In the world of peak TV, there is obviously more good TV out there than any one person can possibly watch. I do my best to see a lot of TV (as proved by my Cable, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu bills) but in a world of over 400 hour-long dramas alone, it is impossible to see everything good! One hour scripted (rather than procedural) dramas are my specialty but as you may have noticed, 30 minute “dramadies” have come on strong with me this year and I’m finding some of the best work in television is being done on these shows. So here, in no particular order are the shows that I think stand above all others this year and you shouldn’t miss as well as some that I think did a great job this year and I never miss:

Must Watch for Everyone:

The Americans (FX)

Rectify (Sundance)

One Mississippi (Amazon)

Jane the Virgin (CW)

OJ Made in American (ESPN documentary)

Catastrophe (Amazon)

The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)

The Crown (Netflix)

Must Watch for Me and You Might like Some of Them:

This Week with John Oliver (HBO)

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Transparent (Amazon)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Better Things (FX)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

So 2016 TV has basically closed down and 2017 TV will begin soon and the new show I’m most excited about is the HBO miniseries “The Young Pope” starring Jude Law. Bring it on!

 

 

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