Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dean & David's 2015 Top 10 (Dean's version)

[DAVID: Last night I published my Top 10 Television shows of 2015. And so today, I am letting Dean spend more time telling me where I went wrong and why I'm missing most of #PeakTV. (But don't worry. I won't let his opinions go completely unchallenged.]

As always I will lead off this top ten list by naming a bunch of shows that I can’t justify to myself putting in my actual top ten, but want to note anyways. I had to leave off a LOT OF SHOWS. I wrote down 38 shows that could conceivably had made my top 10. This makes me unhappy. If I left off a show you love just assume it narrowly missed the cut and is one of my other 28.

The Grinder showed me how much I missed having Fred Savage on my TV screen and it is a pleasure to have him back each week.

The Chris Gethard Show helped me cope with depression and anxiety when it was pretty bad earlier this year by letting me hang out with a bunch of weirdos each week.

Nathan For You is doing something so deeply strange and unsettling every week that it’s a shame to leave it off.

Gravity Falls: This show is breaking my heart by ending after only two seasons. There’s something to be said for going out on top, but JUST LIMP ALONG UNTIL I NO LONGER REMEMBER WHY I LOVED YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE! IT’S FINE! EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT! I mean, Linda Cardellini and Jason Ritter have got to eat after all. (So does Kristen Schall, but she’s everywhere right now. She’ll be fine.)

And finally, if I could find a way to justify it, Going Deep with David Rees would be my number one show based on how much joy he brings me week to week. I reference one of the things he shows you how to do at least twice a week! But *sigh* this is a serious list for serious people. I cannot be so frivolous as to put Mr. Rees’s show at number one.
[DAVID: Was that a shot at my placing Limitless at Number 2? That was a shot, wasn't it? Well . . . I regret nothing.]

10. Man Seeking Woman: Surprisingly, this crowds out Broad City for the title of 10th favorite show. I hated the first episode so much I wanted to quit, but Rachael convinced me to watch the second episode, and it was so delightfully weird that it won me over. If you like Jay Baruchel this could be the show for you.
[DAVID: How could it be any good if I also disliked it and then abandoned it as well? We were both on the same page here, Dean? Why did you value your wife's opinion over mine?]

9. Deutschland 83: Deutschland 83 is Germany’s answer to the Americans. Instead of Soviet spies in America it’s about an East German spy in West Germany. Also it’s entirely in German! Is it actually better than the Americans? Probably not, but the tensions between East and West Germany were less familiar to me than what happened with American and the Soviet Union (Did you know Carlos the Jackal was likely an East German agent? I didn’t!) Also I find foreign language shows force me to pay attention instead of zoning out on my phone, so it gets extra credit for that as well.
[DAVID: Oh, man. WHAT?! If I wanted lots and lots of German, I'd go back to grad school. No . .  wait, that's a terrible idea. And these Germans probably didn't even have PacMan in 1983, so what was the point of even living. More Paige, less grim Communism!]

8. Silicon Valley: Kumail Nanjiani makes me laugh in everything. Andy Daly makes me laugh in everything. Martin Starr makes me laugh in everything. Zach Woods makes me eternally uncomfortable. This show is great and better than Veep. There. I said it and I don’t regret it. (Veep is also good and made my top 38.  I know.  Top 38 Lists aren’t a thing.)
[DAVID: If you're going to watch a show about computers, why not make it the new and improved second season of Halt and Catch Fire? I've finally started watching some of the episodes on my DVR and I'm liking it much more than my aborted attempt at season 1. And I KNOW you can't say no to Lee Pace, Dean.]

7. Rick and Morty: Hey, this show got real dark. Also I guarantee David will say this show is fake and doesn’t exist, but it does and it’s great.
[DAVID: Hey, I've heard you and Casey talk about this enough at lunch that I have come to trust Casey's views and can't call the show fake. Frankly, I'm surprised that I am recognizing almost all of these shows on your list so far. I thought all that time you spend watching stuff on Amazon Prime would make everything here incomprehensible.]

6. South Park: As the Simpsons slowly circles the drain into being completely unwatchable, the only show even remotely close to matching its longevity somehow put in one of its best seasons in a long
time. Also I finally got to see the Book of Mormon and it was great.

5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: I’m a sucker for musical episodes of TV. The only Buffy episode I’ve seen is the musical episode. I love the glorious mess that is Galavant! Somehow Crazy-Ex Girlfriend manages to put out three perfect songs on a weekly basis. Please watch it because its ratings are not great (even for The CW) and I don’t want it to be canceled ever. Just go watch the “Sexy Getting Ready Song” and if that doesn’t hook you we can’t be friends.
[DAVID: I also enjoy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! (Just not as much as Limitless.) Unfortunately, your opinions are now rendered irrelevant, Dean, because you positively mentioned Galavant. You can leave your guest blogger credentials on my desk. 
Also, I thought about linking to a video of the "Sexy Getting Ready Song"--because it is great and I wanted to help the readers out. BUT, I chose NOT to do so. Now go set your DVRs to record new and rerun episodes. Go! Do it now. We'll wait.]

4. Better Call Saul: I love watching Bob Odenkirk. How can the guy from Mr. Show be this good of a dramatic actor? Vince Gilligan is my favorite showrunner.

3. Review: Every episode I think that Forrest MacNeil couldn’t have things get any worse and every
week I am proven wrong. And now he and Grant are dead and that…that will be hard to top.
[JON SNOW: Been there; done that; you know nothing.]

2. Justified: It managed to bounce back from what ailed it last season and ended strong. I thought that I would be devastated that it’s no longer on the air, but between the fact that there were 38 shows I realistically could have had in my top ten and the fact that I liked one show even better than Justified this year I think I’ll be OK.

1. Fargo: The reason I loved Justified so much was its blend of humor and drama that I haven’t found in most other shows. While Fargo’s first season did this a little, the tonal shifts didn’t always work that well. Somehow this season made it work perfectly and I am happy to have this show be my replacement for Raylan Givens and company. Especially now that Timothy Oliphant has is new gig as The Grinder: New Orleans.
[DAVID: Unsurprising agreement on number one. A great choice.]

Because David did it I also present shows I dropped this year:

Gotham: Ugh.
[DAVID: My Stockholm Syndrome prevents me from trying to explain . . .]

Heroes Reborn: I should have known better.
[DAVID: Fifteen minutes and I was out.]

Bastard Executioner: I dropped Sons of Anarchy and I dropped this too. So did everyone else though, it’s dead now. Just like every other character in a Kurt Sutter show.

Mad Men: I dropped this three episodes before the end and then saw the finale. I regret nothing.

Daredevil: So gritty and grim. Exactly what I don’t want in a show any more.

Girls: I’m pretty over Lena Dunham’s whole shtick. We have better female showrunners and actresses now so I don’t need to put up with Tom Brokaw’s daughter’s wooden acting (I still love Zosia Mamet though).
[DAVID: I wanted to get into this show, but lack of continuous HBO has made it hard. And you're probably right about all that you said. Except for the Brokaw bit. That was supposed to be a joke, right?]

Halt and Catch Fire: These people are miserable and need to get over themselves. Watching people be miserable isn’t entertaining any more. It’s been done too much and isn’t fun.
[DAVID: Nooooo!]

Probably a zillion other shows that I only watched one episode of because there are so many shows
on TV now. Shows like Manhattan which I liked but I only have so much time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

David & Dean's 2015 Top 10 (David's version)

Okay. Here is the methodology that I used this year. (As opposed to last year when I used no methodology at all and simply threw some words up on the screen. But don't worry, this year's plan is not much more complicated.)

First, Dean reminded me/asked me if I wanted to put together another end-of-year Top Ten list. And I immediately said yes. So, I turned to my computer and switched over to Blogger and dug out the old logo I used last year. Luckily, I had the foresight NOT to brand it with a year, so it's all ready for reuse.

Then I put the numbers 1-10 on the screen and started listing the titles of my favorite shows for this ending year. And I stopped at ten and wondered . . . what did I forget? So, I typed "Top Ten TV shows 2015" into Google and saw the list of professional critics stories that have already been writtten. But I didn't read them because I wanted my list to be pure and only from me. But luckily, Google's search screen also have a graphic showing new shows broadcast in 2015. So, I double checked that list to see if I had missed a few things and forgotten others. And the answer was yes.

So, I modified my list and let things at the bottom get bumped. I am going to recategorize a few of those at the end of the post. So, more to come on that later.

And then I quit when I got the ten I liked the most and in the ranking that I thought best. Here it is:

1. FARGO!!! The second season of this FX show was TREMENDOUS! So much better than season 1, which was good in its own right. But the acting by Kristen Dunst, Jeffrey Donovan, Bokeem Woodbine, and Jesse Plemons has been so excellent. The tension of each episode leading up the the Sioux Falls Massacre and the confusingly recurring UFO story thread and the creative split screen visualizations combines to make a well-written and well-crafted show into something really special.
[DEAN: Come on man, we’ve talked about this. Top 10 lists go from 10 to 1. This is like reading the last page of a murder mystery right out of the gate. People are in it for the suspense and you’ve killed it. Also I’m a little put off I can’t criticize this ranking because it is definitely correct in most every way.]

2. Limitless This probably surprises you. It's a procedural/crime-of-the-week show on Tuesday night CBS. But, really--this show is clever and well acted and well written and has a very strong visual style and a really committed sense of humor. It has the thankless task of spinning itself off of a forgotten Bradley Cooper movie (of the same name). But it takes the idea of a brain-boosting pill being used by the FBI to solve crimes and has so much more fun with it than it should. (Heck, there was an entire episode riff on Ferris Bueller's Day Off that was some sort of secret gitt people watching the show.) If you realize that the production company is K/O Paper Products, found by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who stretch backwards from Fringe to LOST, then you may not be surprised that I like the style of this show. Please give it a try in 2016.
[DEAN: And you had to spoil things by making your number two show a CBS procedural. What’s next on the list: The Big Bang Theory?]

3. Jessica Jones I just finished up watching this first season on Netflix, and  really, really enjoyed it. It is grim, gritty, and psychologically disturbing. If I wasn't worried about being attacked by #GamerGaters, I'd say this show comes with a definite trigger warning. The best actor in this cast is definitely David Tennant, who plays the villain Killgrave. And yes, this is yet another superhero drama and yes, it does live in the same Hells Kitchen as Netflix's Daredevil. But the story is good. The drama is very good and the acting is good as well.
[DEAN: Hey another show I quite liked! I was a little disappointed by the direction they took Killgrave. By the end he was more pathetic than the super scary villain at the start, but I was still overall satisfied.]

4. The Americans This show has always been quality and well done throughout all phases. But the past season was my favorite one yet. The drama of telling daughter Paige the truth about what Elizabeth and Philip do for a living really amped up the emotions to a new level. And mix into that Philip's season-long effort to win over the daughter of a highly-connected government official? It was a slow burn of a plot line with enough ick factor to make me (and Philip) squeamish. Really well done.
[DEAN: More Paige please.]

5. Better Call Saul While BCS is not as much a meticulous puzzle piece as Breaking Bad was . . . this spinoff takes advantage of Bob Odenkirk's many years of comedy to have fun with Saul Goodman before he became (in)famous and met Walter White. At first, I was watching the show because I missed our nefarious friends in Albuquerque. But now I just enjoy Jimmy (the prenatal Saul) and his friends.
[DEAN: I am irritated that you keep picking good shows. Remember Limitless at number 2? Those were good times.]

6. Daredevil And I flip back over to Netflix for another superhero drama. This show, starring Charlie Cox as the blind lawyer/hero Matt Murdoch was Marvel's first move into the streaming world and it was a strong success. Even if every episode wasn't great (according to some . . . but not necessarily according to me), it was sufficiently different from the ever-expanding MCU to justify the streaming/binge commitment. I guess the biggest example of how much I liked it (and Jessica Jones, mentioned above) is that I am motivated to read some of the more famous storylines of the Daredevil/Alias comic books to learn more about the source history of these season 1 shows.
[DEAN: The pilot for this show was so visually dark that I gave up on it. Just because the protagonist is blind, doesn’t mean that I am. Give me some color and light and I’ll come back.]

7. You're the Worst (True story--I forgot to include one of this year's best shows until Monday night. I wrote the draft of this post over the weekend. Not until I was driving home from work, listening to The Watch podcast, did I realize my error.)
And a good thing too, that I corrected my error because this season of You're the Worst was challengingly good--not because it was as funny as season 1 but because it stretched itself to tell the story of Gretchen's depression. It widened the range of Gretchen and Jimmy--making them less than caricatures of awful people.
(I will admit though, that since the end of the initial season, when the show began committing itself toward the relationship of Gretchen and Jimmy, I worried that the show would deviate too far from the original idea that these people are just awful jerks. And so far, I think that fear is justified. BUT . . . the other side characters are plenty awful enough to deliver that tone which was so strong in season 1,)
[DEAN: Paul is making a huge mistake but hopefully that means more Paul next year. This is also a good show.]

8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Yes, here is another show on Netflix . . . but it is a far cry from the story and tone of Jessica Jones or Daredevil. Much as I wanted to watch Better Call Saul because I missed Breaking Bad, I started watching Kimmy Schmidt because I missed 30 Rock. This show, a comedy about a young woman who was kidnapped and kept underground for over a decade by a religious cultist won me over quick. It has the same quick-fire joke count as 30 Rock. And Kimmy's me-against-the-world optimism reminded me of Liz Lemon's never-say-die attitude.
[DEAN: John Hamm was the third worst part of this show. Kimmy’s dad was the 2nd worst. Tina Fey and her co-lawyer were the worst. If Tina Fey is the worst part of something it’s probably pretty good.]

9. black-ish I really look forward to this show each week because it is almost guaranteed to make me laugh and tries (at least a tiny bit) to teach me something too. But really, it is definitely interested in making me laugh. I am worried though . . . that the last episode's plot of saying goodbye to Dre's coworker Charlie might signal something. Because I really liked Charlie. Don't be gone long, please!
[DEAN: My DVR died so I don’t know what this means. But Charlie is great so I too hope he is not gone.]

10. Master of None Speaking of laughter and trying to teach lessons . . . Aziz Ansari's newest creative output was another Netflix standout in the last few months. Ansari's Dev character is an Indian actor who hangs out with his friends, enjoys life in New York, and occasionally confronts racial assumptions. It's a sort of 21st century Seinfeld with more of a conscience.
[DEAN: Argh, I liked this show too! Stop having discerning taste so I can make fun of you. This show was great and this list was good. Nice work.]

Bumped Out of the List:
a. Game of Thrones It was on the list but it kept getting shoved down by other items. It is always a fun show to watch. And I wanted to not ignore it altogether because the series really reinventing itself at the most dreadful point in the book saga plot. The showrunners and writers sidestepped most of the bad plotting, invented new things and new paths to keep things moving and make it interesting.
[DEAN: They sidestepped bad plotting and added more of their own bad plotting. Still a visually arresting show that I like watching.]

b. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend It was also on the initial list, but became a casualty of higher-quality shows. On the face of it, the hook of the show sounds bad--and doomed to be ridiculous. But (for some reason), it works just well enough to be enjoyable.

c. Supergirl Just when you thought I couldn't bring in another superhero show . . . This CBS effort stars Melissa Benoist as our Gal from Krypton. And the show is developed by the same creative team that oversees Arrow and The Flash on The CW (which I also enjoy). I secretly hope they will all team up at some point to battle some spinoff villain that survives the aftermath of the Batman vs. Superman movie. But that would probably get way too bloated and weird. My quibbles with Supergirl are: 1. they refuse to mention Superman by name, but they can't stop talking about him anyway and 2. the first five to six episodes were much too focused on the fact that Kara was female and that was the reason that she screwed up time and again.
[DEAN: I hate Kara and hope her Aunt wins. She was right about Krypton and Kara is wrong about everything and I kind of hate her. Martian Manhunter is cool though.]

Will Watch Someday: The Leftovers, Mr. Robot
[DEAN: I would rather try to read Infinite Jest again than every try to watch The Leftovers. I am sad I watched Humans instead of Mr. Robot. Well I’m sad I watched the first episode of Humans instead of any of Mr. Robot.]
[DAVID: Hey, you stop that. Mr. Robot sounded good and I'm sorry I missed it too. BUT . . . Humans was pretty good as well. Just not top 10 good I guess.]

Dead to Me:
The Walking Dead The creative team insulted the viewers in the way they treated Glen's disappearance and reappearance. I'm officially out on this show.
[DEAN: Now how will I be able to be part of the cultural zeitgeist? I rely on you David. I rely on you.]