Netflix continues to release quality series at a dizzying rate and the different themes, genres and demographics they’re able to cover in the process is quite impressive. They seem determined to offer a high quality option for fans of any type of TV and with 13 Reasons Why they deliver a teen drama that exceeds the expectations of its genre and boasts writing, directing (including two episodes helmed by Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy) and a young cast that couldn’t be described as anything other than top notch. Regardless of anyone’s conclusion on the show itself, there’s no denying that it’s incredibly well-made.
I also happened to find it compulsively watchable. There is absolutely a mysteriously morbid undercurrent throughout the whole thing that captivates you from the beginning and you want to see how all the pieces are going to fit, but apart from that, even in the midst of such darkness, the show feels surprisingly hopeful and its heartbreakingly real characters are the type that make TV such an exciting medium. With each passing hour, teenagers that could be written as archetypes are fleshed out and brought to life with admirable complexity.
By now, you probably know that 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series inspired by a young adult novel of the same name by Jay Asher. I remember reading the book about seven years ago but the details are fuzzy so aside from the basic outline, most of this felt new to me and I couldn’t tell you what they changed. Just like the book, the show follows a high school student named Clay Jensen as he listens to 13 tapes recorded by fellow student, Hannah Baker, explaining the reasons she killed herself. All 13. And she names names. The rules are you have to listen to the tapes or the details will leak and if you have the tapes, it means you’re on one of them.
SPOILERS from this point forward….
So, in spite of the fact that I only very occasionally post on this site anymore, the tradition continues. It began for me as a list of my favorite episodes of the past year and recently I shifted my focus on just narrowing it down to my 30 favorite shows because there are far too many great episodes to consider. When making this list, I very much take the new Emily Gilmore approach in that if a show doesn’t bring me joy–even if it’s well made and well-acted–I throw it away. I only make room for the shows I’m excited about. So there are a few notable exceptions on this list but there are also a whole lot of worthy shows, some of them underrated and under the radar, many others appropriately heralded on countless other lists.
Now, keep in mind, this is a list compiled by me and me alone and while I did watch a ton of TV this year (and every year), I can’t watch everything. So some shows that received a good bit of praise this year (Horace and Pete, BoJack Horseman) aren’t on here simply because I haven’t seen them. And I’m making the new rule that if your entire series drops mid-December or later, you’re only eligible for the following year’s list. So, if season two of The Man in The High Castle or season one of The OA end up being the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, I’ll acknowledge them next year. And if your favorite show isn’t on the list, it’s probably because I didn’t like it so feel free to react in appropriate outrage.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen a particularly show, skip reading about it because there will be SPOILERS.
AGAIN, THIS IS MY WARNING THAT THIS ENTIRE POST IS FILLED WITH SPOILERS FOR MOST OF THE SHOWS LISTED SO READ WITH CAUTION.
Now that I’ve covered my bases and with those limitations in mind, please enjoy my list of the Top 30 Shows of 2016.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a proper review but this site remains for my own vanity so I have a place to spew my thoughts on TV whenever I see fit. It’d be hard to find something more fitting than the return of Gilmore Girls, certainly one of the most formative shows of my youth and a series I’ve revisited several times as I truly love this quirky world that blurs the lines between outright whimsy and brutal honesty. There has never been a show that captures quite the same tone and sparkling wit that Gilmore Girls possessed during its 7 years on the air (even in its lesser seventh season) and the most important thing about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is that it recaptures all of that for the most part. There certainly isn’t any real way to completely recreate something nine years later and have it still feel exactly like it did during a particular moment in time, but A Year in the Life comes awfully close and anyone that was pining for more Gilmore Girls certainly got it. Not a B-version or a sad imitation but the genuine article and it was a thoroughly satisfying experiencing to reenter Stars Hollow again for eight hours last weekend. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Earlier this year, I did a Dream Emmy Ballot and obviously the actual nominees look a lot different than the ones I chose. I’ve been doing some WILL WIN/SHOULD WIN picks for years now and these are, of course, based on the nominees we got, not necessarily the ones I wanted. So in my little write-ups justifying my picks, I don’t really reference what I would have done differently and just explain my picks based on what we got. Make sense? Okay, good. Let’s get to it.
Look, I was surprised as anyone when UnREAL came on the scene last year, premiering on Lifetime of all places, and somehow made a show about the behind the scenes inner workings of a Bachelor-esque reality show compelling and addictive television. The dialogue was sharp and shockingly funny at times, the performances were raw and human and fully committed to the more ridiculous aspects of the material (huge congrats to Constance Zimmer for her much-deserved Emmy nomination) and there is no question that this show exceeded everything from its concept to its network home by countless miles. It was a surprise that pretty much nobody saw coming and I joined in with the chorus of voices singing its praises and encouraging others to check in with this unexpected gem.
But I never lost sight of what this show was. I feel like maybe some others did.
The return of the Untempered Television podcast in all its glory. We’re excited to set aside some time to talk some TV this summer. We’ll see where it goes beyond that. If you like what you hear, please rate and review the show on iTunes, please pass the link along and spread the word. Here’s this week’s rundown:
3:00-10:30 Silicon Valley
19:15-61:15 Game of Thrones
61:15-70:15 Dead of Summer
70:15-85:00 Dream Emmy Ballots
NOTE: At present time, it doesn’t look like the podcast is embedding correctly, so if it appears as a link below for you rather than the player itself, just click the link and it will bring you to a new tab where you can stream/download the podcast.
This year’s Emmy nominations are set to be announced on July 14th and it will surely be a day of snubs, oversights and standard internet outrage, but until then….why not live in a dreamland? So if I had ultimately power over the nominees, these are the folks I would choose to recognize. Although, admittedly, even in a dreamland some really difficult decisions must be made.
I haven’t watched every single thing that’s aired this year but I’m fairly confident I’ve watched most everything I feel would have an impact on my decisions here, save for Horace and Pete which I desperately need to make time for soon. I also made my choices based on what categories the shows/actor submitted themselves in and didn’t consider them if they did not submit.
I contemplated weighing in on the limited/mini-series categories because I certainly have things to say about some of the possible nominees, but I felt that, even though I’m pretty confident that The People Vs. O.J. Simpson deserves to win everything (with some nomination love spread to Fargo and American Crime), there are still far too many eligible things in that category that I haven’t seen for me to give a truly informed opinion. So I’ll just stick with the big ones as usual. Whether you agree or disagree with my picks, I want to hear from you so make sure to comment and share!
While at the ATX Television Festival last week, I got the chance to screen a few upcoming pilots, one of which premieres very soon and two more that will make their debut this fall. I don’t know how fair it is to write a full-on review based solely on the pilots, but I still thought it was worthwhile to share my first impressions. As someone who loves the festival, I appreciate networks and creators putting their work out there early for TV diehards to check out, so while not everything I have to say is positive, I felt I should at least express gratefulness for that. Have I mentioned how much I love ATX? Okay, without further adieu, some thoughts on these upcoming pilots:
Two years ago, the job that I thought was my dream job completely fell apart and I was hurled into freak-out mode, facing a barrage of daunting questions about my future. It was a reality I wasn’t quite ready to face, but there it was, every day, haunting me.
I know that sounds dramatic but I can tell you that the way in which this particular misfortune came about was painful, shocking, faith-shaking stuff.
In the midst of this, I was aware that ATX Television Festival was about to head into its third year with Roswell and Everwood reunions among the festivities. Stuck in Virginia, there was definitely a part of me that would see every announcement about that year’s festival pop up online and wish I had the power to teleport there, away from questions that I didn’t have answers to and problems I didn’t have the will to face some days.
That’s when I heard from Tina.
Tina is a long-time friend who has the reputation among my group of friend as being the only person as obsessed with TV as I am. She actually started as a friend of a friend and didn’t even live in the same state as I did growing up (Florida, if you care), but every year, she’d come down for a couple weeks around New Year’s and we’d all hang out and our friend, Jerry, would torture us by throwing out names for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon because he knew that our compulsion to answer was too great to resist and it amused him to no end.
Tina texted me around the time of this life meltdown telling me she had an extra badge for the festival, already had a place to stay and if I could find a way down there, it’s mine to enjoy. She even ended up letting me use some of her points to take care of some of the flight costs. I know that thinking back to that time when my life felt like it was unraveling, I’ll forever be grateful for her generosity and for the fact that when I went to my wife and said, “Hey….I know our life’s blowing up right now but do you mind if I run off to Austin to hang out with Tina and attend a TV festival?” she enthusiastically encouraged me to take our friend up on her offer.
I would say, by and large, these days television is better than the movies. Great movies still exist and are being made every year, but the momentum is on the side of TV. I’ve always been partial to the long-form storytelling television provides to begin with, but with every new niche channel or streaming outlet, there’s more and more room allowed to be different and ambitious and it’s really a lot of fun on just about every different level depending on what product of Peak TV you happen to be indulging in at the moment.
One thing that both TV and film have in common is superheroes. We’re living in a superhero commercial boom and if the Marvel/DC movie release schedules are any indication, that ain’t gonna change anytime in the next decade. But while TV in general is outperforming movies creatively, I would say the work making it to the big screen in regards to the superhero genre most certainly outdoes what’s being produced for the small screen.
Now, to be fair, you’ve got exceptions. Batman V. Superman exists. Not to mention the second season of Arrow and the first season of The Flash were really freakin fantastic. But this year, these four offerings (I’m ignoring some–I bailed on Supergirl early, for example) have been middling to say the least. Were they able to turn things around in the end? Well…..