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The Top 15 Television Shows of 2016

28 Dec

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HONORABLE MENTIONS: Search Party, Westworld, Atlanta, You’re the Worst, The Night Of, Narcos, Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, Stranger Things, Better Call Saul

OTHERS CONSIDERED: Shameless, The Crown, New Girl, Masters of Sex, Transparent, UnREAL, Angie Tribeca, Silicon Valley, Penny Dreadful, OITNB, Orphan Black, Archer, Lady Dynamite, Banshee, The Night Manager, Girls, Childrens Hospital, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Togetherness, iZombie, Billions, Hap and Leonard, 11.22.63, Daredevil, IASIP, Love, The X-Files, The Affair, And Then There Were None, The Path, The Last Man on Earth

15. Fleabag – At only six episodes long, season one of this dark comedy still packed a big punch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was terrific, turning what could’ve been an annoyance (fourth wall breaking) into an asset for the show.

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Fences Review

25 Dec

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The opening sequence of Fences is a propulsive blend of various themes, characters, and exposition. It’s a high-wire act that shifts tones and topics with ease, and it sets up the situation skillfully while Denzel talks as if his mouth just took a shot of adrenaline. It’s energetic and entertaining, and it has you wondering if this energy can sustain itself throughout the entire 138-minute runtime.

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The Top 12 Television Episodes of 2016

22 Dec

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Honorable Mentions (these would round out my top 20 if I made a top 20): “B.A.N.”/”The Club” (Atlanta), “Season Two Episode Seven” (American Crime-specifically that restaurant booth scene…), “Shut Up and Dance”/”San Junipero” (Black Mirror), “Part 20” (Bloodline), “That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!” (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), “The Beach” (The Night Of)

Others Considered: “One Long Day” (Love), “New York’s Finest” (Daredevil), “Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo” (IASIP), “War” (Hap and Leonard), “A Room of One’s Own” (The Path), “People Persons” (OITNB), “A Blade of Grass” (Penny Dreadful), “Al Fin Cayo” (Narcos), “Episode 4” (Fleabag), “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” (Mr. Robot), “Coats or Keys” (Masters of Sex), “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (Westworld), “The House of Uncanny Truths” (Search Party), “If I Were a Bell” (Transparent), “…Someone Like Me as a Member” (The Good Place), “Requiem” (Banshee), “Hope” (black-ish)

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The Top Television Performances of 2016

19 Dec

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Once again, I’ll be counting down the best of the year, and I might even add songs and albums to the list of lists. Stay tuned.

Honorable Mentions: John Lithgow and Claire Foy from “The Crown”, Kristen Bell and Ted Danson from “The Good Place”, Rami Malek from “Mr. Robot”, Wagner Moura from “Narcos”, Will Arnett from “Bojack Horseman”, Eva Green from “Penny Dreadful”, the ensemble of American Crime, Millie Brown from “Stranger Things”, Gillian Jacobs from “Love”, Hugh Laurie from “The Night Manager”, Hugh Dancy and Aaron Paul from “The Path”, Brian Tyree Henry from “Atlanta”, Lena Headey from “Game of Thrones”, Maria Bamford from “Lady Dynamite”, Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, Alia Shawkat from “Search Party”, Rashida Jones from “Angie Tribeca”

Top 5 Ensembles (in no particular order – doing “best ensembles” because it’s hard to single people out from these shows and because they truly deserve ensemble recognition)

Rectify: At the beginning of the series, it was Abigail Spencer and Aden Young who stood out, but at the end, it was a fully realized group of characters driven by incredible performances all around. One conversation between any two of these characters could reduce you to a puddle of tears.

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Rectify “All I’m Sayin'” Review (4×08)

15 Dec

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“He wanted me to believe in myself.”

Two years ago, Rectify aired what I consider to be one of the most beautiful scenes ever created on screen: Daniel and Kerwin in the pasture, talking about life while the former remained in a coma in real life. It was beautiful in its simplicity and transcendent in its emotion, and it was a stunningly gorgeous expression of hope and love and friendship. In just six minutes and with just two characters, it illuminated a thematic underpinning that the show stuck to throughout its run: the idea of hope.

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Rectify “A House Divided” Review (4×01)

26 Oct

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“You gotta figure out some way to love yourself.”

Rectify is minimalist but profound. It’s about figuring out how the hell to live life, how to find hope amidst all the curveballs life throws at you. It’s not about whether Daniel killed Hanna; it’s about how that murder and subsequent events change the way Daniel interacts with himself and the world. As he says early on in “A House Divided”, it’s all just “a work in progress”. In fact, that’s all it ever was and ever will be, and Rectify understands that idea. Ray McKinnon and co. find compelling drama and quiet beauty in simple life stories, and that’s what helps this series strike a chord that very few shows can.

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Mr. Robot “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z” Review (2×12)

21 Sep

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“It’s time to finally take back control. Real control.”

Just like that, reality hits. This entire season has revolved around the question of what’s real, around the blurred lines between the mind and the surrounding world. While it has definitely run into some roadblocks of its own making as a result, this series always has the ability to deliver striking images even in its weakest plots. It all comes to a head in this finale, a simultaneously frustrating and fascinating hour of television that ends with a brutal wake-up call. It’s cruel that Elliot’s perceived moment of true control ends the way it does, but it fits with the nihilistic foundation that the show is built upon. Try to live in an illusion all you want, and reality will still shatter the glass you’re holding up around you. Try to take control, and you’ll be sucked up into an illusion. It’s a vicious cycle.

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