Thoughtful & Abstract Take on TV 2017

Learn what Shawn and Kim have been watching this year.
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In which Shawn and Kim take a breath before The Walking Dead starts up again to look at what is happening in their TV worlds.

Shawn: Been a long time since we checked in on TV shows, my friend.  Leaving out Preacher and The Walking Dead since I feel there will be more to be written on them soon - I thought I'd catch up with a list of what's been distracting me over the Summer and Fall.  Making a straight up "Best" list is too easy so I thought I'd make it more of a "Best, Meh, Worst" list (6/2/2).

THE WORST

10.  MIDNIGHT, TEXAS -  I mean we aren't talking Superior Donuts bad. But sometimes you are fooled by the premise of a show.  On paper, it sounded like good portions of True Blood and Lucifer.  In reality, it's a freaking mess.  I think it's probably a great book series because you could actually get to know the characters.  This show is mostly terrible because you are constantly asking how are these attractive people all related to each other.

9.  AMERICAN HORROR STORY - I didn't watch last season.  I was pretty worn out on the concept after Hotel.  I guess I'm desperate enough for a good horror series that I started this one again.  This mix of the usual cast and cults and politics haven't mixed well for me.  I'm stuck a few episodes in and not sure I have the energy to move forward.

THE MEH

8.  ARROW / THE FLASH / LEGENDS OF TOMORROW -  I can't quit you, CW.  Supergirl isn't thrown into this bunch because I actually care about that show.  This group of shows continually volley back and forth as my favorites and my most frustrating.  Legends has become the most consistent because they have mostly thrown continuity out the door and just tell fun stories.  Arrow has started the season on a high note by getting back to just solving crimes and getting rid of the flashbacks that have driven me crazy over the years.  The Flash is just well, trying way too hard now.

7.  TABOO - This is the show that could find itself in my Top Six very quickly.  Tom Hardy is pretty to look at and the plot has all kinds of intrigue.  But it suffered from what so many mid-level shows have in common - it took way too long and took too confusing of a route to get to the core story.  Done right, this show has real potential.  Now that we understand the shipwreck and the incest and what brought him back to London we can move on to more War of 1812 intrigue.

THE BEST

6.  THE LEFTOVERS - I wanted the show to finish by explaining everything.  It didn't.  And it could have been much worse because it essentially asked more questions.  I went back to the last couple episodes a few times.  It's actually possible to end a series in a satisfying way and not answer all the questions.  Maybe the lessons of Lost have finally been learned.

5.  THE VIETNAM WAR - Some episodes felt like they lasted longer than the actual war.  The series feels like it repeats itself through the course of the war but that's the point, right?  This endless war of taking hills and abandoning hills and taking the same hills again.  The Civil War is still my favorite of the Ken Burns' documentaries but telling the story with video and living people telling their stories is more impressive.  The testimony of the survivors from both sides and the tapes of LBJ and Nixon are fascinating artifacts of history that I'm happy to learn about.

4.  FARGO - I didn't get that everyone loved this season.  It's almost not even necessary to have watched the first two seasons to watch this.  The future of the show might be as a stand-alone season each year telling unrelated stories set in the Minnesota / North Dakota area.  Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon put in award-worthy performances and I hope this isn't the last we've seen of the series.

3.  MR MERCEDES - Even with the failure of two other horror-based series that I watched this Summer (see above), I started this Stephen King-written horror-thriller.  The show has all the gore and horror touches you would want and it's worked into a hard-boiled detective story that could have been the next season of True Detective.    Every time the show threatens to go off the rails with cruelty instead of horror - it's the actors that bring it back.  I've really started to love this cast - Kelly Lynch is back on TV!

2.  TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN - This show could easily have been in the "Meh" list for a majority of the episodes.  It finished with a flurry and tied together things that seemed so random to start.  David Lynch had the reins to tell his story like he has at no other time.  This show challenges viewers like no other show in recent memory.  You have to have patience.  Life slows down to listen to a full song and to watch someone sweep a bar for a few minutes.  There aren't fast cuts or conversations that have rapid-fire quips.  Things unfold slowly and deliberately like they do in a novel not in a TV show.  It's not for everyone.  In fact, it's not for most.  The reward for staying is where most stories would go wrong. Here, it feels like victory.

1.  HALT AND CATCH FIRE - What started as a fun little period drama about the early '80s start of the Tech era in Texas turned into a bingeworthy series.  It is the rare show that gets better from season to season and is hanging it up at what feels like the perfect time in history - the rise of the Internet as browsers become the most important leaders in Tech and the base for Google is being set.  The core actors are complex and the stories have let them evolve at different rates and rarely has the series felt manipulated.   I haven't watched the last episode yet so I can deny the series has ended.

I see that many of my favorite shows have "endings".  The days of an ongoing dramatic series feels more far-fetched these days.  Stories are told in season-long arcs or half-season arcs these days.  The ones that don't run the risk of losing viewers and make it harder to add viewers as the series progresses.  With so many good shows - I'm curious what has caught your attention recently.

Watched but no comments for the list:  GAME OF THRONES, BROADCHURCH, LEGION, AMERICAN GODS, RIVERDALE, BETTER CALL SAUL (probably the actual best show I watch)

List of shame - my "started and not finished" or never-started shows:  STRANGER THINGS, BASKETS, BIG LITTLE LIES, HOUSE OF CARDS, THE AMERICANS

Kim: Well, here we are - we’re in the last quarter of 2017 and I have some ‘splainin’ to do.  I can’t even think of 10 shows that I’ve tried to watch, so I can’t do a list quite like yours.  However, what I haven't watched may clue you in to how I’m feeling about things.  I will also share with you the couple of things I’ve picked up over the last month and a half or so and we’ll go from there. 

I’m going to start with your beloved CW shows - Arrow, The Flash, and Legends.  I realize these have all recently started back up for their new seasons.  But what’s really pretty important here is the fact that I didn’t finish any of these shows last season.  And when I say I didn’t finish them, I’m not talking about missing the last one or two.  I think when I last checked, I was eight episodes behind on each and they were still airing new ones at that point.  What on Earth happened?  I’ll tell you what.  They got pretty convoluted and so far from what I enjoyed about each of them in the first place, that I couldn’t be bothered to sit in front of my TV for the 42 minutes it would take to watch an episode, while fast-forwarding through the commercials. 

The other things from last season that I never finished:  Quantico and iZombie.  I’m only sad about iZombie.  I missed the last two episodes because I moved, and while I’m interested in catching that one up, I also know that I probably have most of a year before they bring it back for the next season, because they are that slow. 

So, you might wonder what I was doing with my time instead of watching these shows that I once loved.  Well, I’ll tell you.  First, I tried to catch up on watching Luke Cage and Iron Fist.  Total failures.  Neither captured my attention in the first three episodes, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get into them.  I will try again at some point, but who knows when.  I will, however, talk about what I've actually watched and we'll do this in the format of "Things a Bride Needs" for her wedding.  And no, I'm not talking about Xanax.

SOMETHING OLD

For some reason, I turned on the pilot of Last Man on Earth one evening and I’ve been laughing ever since.  Mind you, I’m way back in Season 1, but it’s such a funny show, that I’m pretty certain I’m just going to keep on watching it.  The characters are likeable, the writing is witty, and damn it - everything Phil does are things *I* would likely do if I was the last person on Earth, or one of them.

I’ve watched three or four episodes of Lucifer so far.  Yes, yes, I know I’m behind, but with the attractive people on this show, I’m pretty sure that behind is the best place to be when looking at them.  It’s interesting.  I mean, it’s not often you see Lucifer team up with a detective to solve crimes.  I am 99% sure this will get old after five more episodes or so.  However, I’ll peek at it from time to time and maybe, just maybe I’ll catch up one day.

SOMETHING NEW

The Orville - Oh. Boy.  This was supposed to be a hilariously funny show.  Everyone was so excited about it.  I’m not going to lie.  I thought it was complete shit.  Nothing novel or interesting for me.  It’s like they took every sci-fi show ever made, mashed them together, and hoped for the best.  This isn’t worth the time it takes to find the channel it’s on, in my opinion.  It’s so terrible that it makes me happy that there is a game show out there based on Candy Crush. 

SOMETHING BORROWED

Ghosted - You know what this one reminds me of?  Men in Black.  It’s not entirely original, but there’s enough one-liners in it to keep me chuckling.  There’s enough of a continuing story to make me want to tune in the next week and see what’s next.  This is not a show I’m going to be upset about if I miss a few episodes.  It is, however, something fun and mindless to watch when I’ve done far too much work of any kind. Also, it’s fun to see Ally Walker (Formerly Agent June Stahl from Sons of Anarchy) play a goofy part, where I’m not waiting for Opie to shoot her in the head. (I still miss my Opie, damn it!)

I’m also going to list The Gifted as borrowed, as it’s a Marvel show about what happened to the mutants after the X-Men are gone, so we’re already pretty familiar with the concept.  Having said that, I’ll also tell you this is my second favorite thing to watch right now.  Marvel has always held my interest, but generally I don’t care for their TV.  Interestingly enough, I wasn’t a huge fan of the X-Men.  So how is it that I’m enjoying this show so much?  Well, first of all we’ve got the mom and dad duo of Fred from Angel (Amy Acker) and Bill the Vampire (Stephen Moyer) from True Blood.  So far, Moyer has kept his clothes on, but it’s early in the season.  Even more compelling than the pretty parents who may or may not get shirtless and be tied to vampires, the rest of the mutants have fun and interesting abilities and they’re flying solo, with no Professor X or formal school or any of that craziness. It’s just a solid offering from Marvel and I’m really hoping they don’t mess it up. 

SOMETHING BLUE

This Is Us -  I’m going to say that this is, hands down, the best thing on TV these days.  Yes, I skipped over Preacher because we’re going to talk about that one on its own.  No, I didn’t mention The Walking Dead because, well, that’s coming too.  But even if I did include those shows, I’m still going to point to the super-stellar NBC offering of This Is Us as my pick of the year.  You know why?  Because it really is us.  It’s all of us.  It makes you laugh, makes you root for some characters, and hate others.  And yes, it makes nearly everyone who watches it cry.  But here’s the thing - we’re not all crying at the same parts.  We’re crying about the situations they’ve created because we can relate 100%.  We all have different life stories, different backgrounds, different challenges.  But when you sit and watch this show, you will find things that are completely parallel to events in your own life.  It’s in those moments that you find the joy in the Pearsons going on the family outing to a video store to get a movie, where Kevin is disappointed that none of the Karate Kid movies are available to rent.  You laugh, you love, and you feel for this family, and when you least expect it, they jump right out and punch you in the stomach with some heart-breaking revelation that while Kevin might have been the half-naked nanny on TV at one time, he’s a real person, just like you and *sniff - hand me the tissues*… I can’t bring myself to talk about it.  Maybe you should just watch.  With cameos by folks like Seth Myers, Alan Thicke, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Sylvester Stallone (and more to come), you know they’ve found something special in this cast and crew, and the fans know it. 

Honorable mention:  The Defenders.  I’ve only watched on episode so far, but I did like it. I just haven’t had time to watch, what with all of the crying and discussion with family and friends about This is Us, who has time for Netflix? 

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