Its been awhile but I still have some things to say about 2017!

I haven’t been posting on this blog much in the last 6 months due to having been involved in a couple of very time-consuming activities that take up most of my days. As a result, my TV and movie viewing has been curtailed and my reading diminished during this period.  I resolve to change this in 2018 beginning in March but I did want to weigh in with a few posts about the best books I read and the movies and TV shows I thought were the greatest of 2017.  This first post will cover TV.

The 5 Best TV Shows of 2015 (that I watched)

  1. The Leftovers

The Leftovers had the perfect final season and I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this controversial show.  If you haven’t seen it, Season 1 is very dark, bleak and hard to get through but it becomes so worthwhile to have done so in order to watch Seasons 2 and 3.  This show about grief, loss and craziness also delivered pure joy in Season 3 with a Tasmanian sex boat and numerous other gripping episodes.  Carrie Coon was magnificent and you should watch it for just her performance.

  1. Halt and Catch Fire

This is another show that struggled a bit in its first season but just blossomed over the course of the next three seasons and its final one this fall, delivered perfectly.  While many may question whether they want to watch a show about the history of technology and the beginnings of Silicon Valley, rest assured that at its heart, this show is about the characters and particularly two women who form one of the most compelling relationships in television.  Watch this show on Netflix.  Feel free to only see the first 4 episodes and the finale of Season 1 and then savor every episode after that.

  1. The Good Place

I’m watching fewer and fewer network TV shows but this one is great.  A show that is about heaven, hell, ethics and morality delivers those messages in such a comedic way that it makes it impossible not to care deeply for a group of very flawed characters. The Season 1 finale twist and how the show runners picked it up this fall were unpredictable and executed flawlessly.  The cast is terrific and it is just a fun show with lots of meat.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale was excellent and it was worth having to pay for Hulu for a couple of months to watch it unfold each week.  It did drag occasionally but the acting chops of Elizabeth Moss and Ann Dowd made it all worthwhile and I should note the surprisingly excellent work of Alexis Bledel – who knew?  The parallels between this dystopian world and this past year, unfortunately were a little too close.

  1. Better Things

This smaller 30-minute dramedy is excellent and the second season was even better than the first.  Unfortunately, the show is linked so closely to Louis C.K. which makes for a tough decision on whether to support it or not but I don’t think it is fair to Pamela Adlon to boycott it.  Better Things is based loosely on her life and her Directing and Acting in it are very good.  This show hits to the heart of what it is like to be a single mother, struggling to keep things going at home while trying to keep a career going at the same time making many mistakes with both.  There is so much honesty and emotion in this dramedy that it is hard not to love it.

The Best of the Rest:

Jane the Virgin, Alias Grace, The Americans, Big Little Lies, Mary Kills People, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, Last Week with John Oliver, Stranger Things, Catastrophe, Casual, You’re the Worst, The Young Pope, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Keepers, Billions, The Vietnam War, the Middle

Shows that I didn’t get to but I really want to see:

One Mississippi (S2), One Day at a Time, Top of the Lake China Girl, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sneaky Pete, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (last 2 seasons) 

Shows I’m still watching despite them not being that great:

Homeland, Fargo, the Affair, Scandal, Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the Magicians and few that I’m too embarrassed to mention (and no, they aren’t reality shows!

One final thought:  There are some shows that are nearly perfect in their premier season and should end that way.  Unfortunately, good ratings, lots of buzz and some award nominations and all of a sudden, we have Season 2 of Stranger Things, Big Little Lies and worst of all, 13 Reasons Why despite the storylines being completely wrapped up in what should have been the only season.  Let them stand alone and go on to other innovative projects.

 

 

 

 

 

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TV: The Americans, Billions, The Catch, Feud, Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why and Colony

 

I am so behind on TV for several reasons and April TV which is an entire season in and of itself is beginning which means even more premiers so I’m just going to jump in and hit some of the highlights for shows that I’m watching which have recently started or ended.

Season Premiers:

The Americans (FX)

My favorite TV show is back for its fifth (and next to last) season and seems even more relevant given the current “Russia” headlines.  At the end of last season, Philip (Mathew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) were on the verge of being discovered and seriously contemplated taking their family back to Russia.  Their daughter Paige is aware of her parent’s profession and struggles to come to grips with it as she pursues a relationship with the next-door son of an FBI counter intelligence officer.

The season opens with the immediate crisis passing and a new mission involving a recently settled Russian family.  The father is very anti-Russia and the son Pasha is having difficulty adapting to American life.  There are connections to the real Russian wheat shortage of the time.  Also in transit, presumably on his way to America is Philip’s son Misha.  The premier has the longest grave digging episode in the history of television but we do get past that albeit without a surprise death.  Thankfully, Margo Martindale (Claudia) and Frank Langella (Gabriel)are back in their handler roles.  As the season progresses, things get more complicated as Philip struggles with the morality of his work; Paige has no idea how to deal with having a boyfriend whose FBI father could destroy their lives and Claudia and Gabriel are losing some confidence in their star spy family.

Note:  If you haven’t seen the Peabody award winning “The Americans”, you can see the first 4 seasons on Amazon Prime.  There isn’t anything better on Television and each season gets better and better.  This is a great show.

Billions (Showtime)

I missed Billions last year because my Sunday nights were filled with TV shows that I was watching so I caught up on Season 1 and am have watched about half of Season 2.  I like Billions.  The interplay between the lead character Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis) and his arch enemy Chuck Rhodes (Paul Giamatti) is fantastic and there has rarely been a more despicable character than Rhodes.  Even though Bobby, a billionaire hedge fund magnate has obtained his money through shrewd insider trader schemes and taken advantage of 9/11 victim’s families, you still want him to win against the Feds (headed by Rhodes) who are on his trail.

Season 2 again pits the two main characters with a laser- like focus on eliminating each other.  Bobby is consumed by a desire to destroy Chuck and this single-minded focus seems certain to wreak havoc on both his personal and business life.  Chuck, who was hit hard both personally and professionally at the end of last season is still out to get Bobby but seemingly in more devious and creative ways.  There are a couple of new faces at Axe Capital which so far are very intriguing.  One is the performance coach (replacing Chuck’s wife) and the other is a transgender whiz kid whom Axe is immediately ready to take advantage of.  Billions may be the first Showtime drama that hasn’t crashed and burned its second season.  I’m in for the ride. 

The Catch

The Catch, Shonda’s Thursday night replacement for HTGAWM, premiered its second season a few weeks ago.  I gave up on HTGAWM a long time ago.  Viola Davis couldn’t make up for all the obnoxious 20 something year olds that were on the show along with their ridiculous storylines.  The Catch isn’t going to win any awards but it has much better leads (Peter Krause, Mireille Enos, Sonya Walger) and supporting characters (Gina Torres for one).  I love to watch all of them at work – even with the crazy over the top plots.

In my opinion, the thing that worked best last year with this show was the Pink Panther-like escapades that Ben (Krause) was engaged in during his various heists.  Season 2 quickly gets him out of jail and sets him up to do undercover work for the FBI doing the same type of work.  This is a fun show and after all those seasons of the Killing where Enos never smiled or changed her clothes, it is great to see her do both.  There is a freshness to this Shonda show that makes for a good, light-hearted crime series that hopefully will continue to grow and get better.  

New Series:

Feud (FX)

Feud is the story of Joan Crawford (played by Susan Sarandon) and Bette Davis’s (played by Jessica Lange) relationship.  This should have been a great series given the actresses involved but I have found it boring and hard to stay awake for.  It is worth it, however to stick with it (or just skip directly to episode 5) to watch the epic Oscar dual that that pits a vengeful Crawford against Davis who is nominated for Best Actress.  If you love movies and the Oscars, episode 5 gives great insight into the political side of the Oscars. of the past. Sarah Paulson is fantastic in a brief appearance as Geraldine Page.  Feud can be skipped but you may want to check out the last couple of episodes. 

Big Little Lies (HBO)

Big Little Lies is based on the book by Liane Moriarty which is a total beach read.  I didn’t care for the novel so wasn’t going to watch the miniseries produced by Reese Witherspoon (and others) as a vehicle for great women parts.  It stars Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley along with Alexander Skarsgard.

Even knowing how the mystery ends, I found this mini-series so well done that I couldn’t miss it each Sunday.  The acting is phenomenal, the writing (David E Kelly) great and I enjoyed the show so much more than the book.  If you have HBO and somehow missed this series, go watch it.  It is great.

Thirteen Reasons Why (Netflix)

 13 Reasons Why dropped on Netflix last week.  At first I was hesitant to watch a show about a teenager who commits suicide but it hooked me from the get go.  Hannah (Katherine Langford) commits suicide and leaves 13 cassette tapes about the people in her life who impacted her decision to kill herself.  Langford is riveting as the lead in her first major role as is Clay (Dylan Minnette) her (questionably?) best friend.

I am less than half way through but I understand from those who have watched the entire 13 episodes that it drags in the middle. Also, you will be very frustrated by Clay’s slowness in listening to the tapes.  It is irritating.  Apparently the 13 people who had tapes about them, don’t necessarily deserve an entire episode devoted to their character.  It would have been much better to do some doubling up and have maybe 9 or 10 episodes.  I also understand that the last few episodes are great so it is well worth sticking with.  I’ll let you know when I finish it up if that is the case. 

Season/Series Finales:

Colony

Colony ended its second season with what we are led to believe is LA being blown to bits by the aliens as the Bowman family and Snyder escape the city.  Madeline and Broussard’s fates are unknown.  We also get a glimpse at an Alien in a closing segment that ties to the season’s opener.  Colony was renewed for season 3 a few days before the finale and it has been announced that the show is being moved from LA to Vancouver.  Colony isn’t the best show out there but it fills my Sy Fy needs and I will always hold on to a Carlton Cuse/Josh Holloway show.

 

 

 

 

 

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