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Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Time to finish up watching The Crown I guess so I can figure out if it fits into my top ten!

Looking at my list from last year, it's kinda funny seeing shows I really dug last year that I haven't watched a single episode from this year yet.

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Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Zaggitz posted:

I think a lot of you would enjoy it if you gave it a shot.

As you say, I am indifferent to most anime but really dug One Punch Man's wonderful comedy, so if it is by the same guy I'll definitely check it out.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Zaggitz posted:

You're in for a treat. Reigen is easily the best character that author has written.

Hey thanks again for this recommendation, I really didn't like the direction the show seemed to be taking around midway through the season but the final couple of episodes completely redeemed it and took things back in the direction I had been hoping for - Mob's "explosion" gaining a positive outlet instead of a negative one, allowing Reigen to talk to the other Espers as an adult and hammer home just how pathetic and petty they and their vision of world conquest was. Like you say Reigen is an exceptionally great character.

More on-topic, I think I've roughly got my list sorted but I wanted to check out Black Mirror before writing anything final down, as I've heard such great things about it but never actually settled down to watch it. Given the large amount of really good TV I watched this year, I've found it surprisingly difficult to come up with a Top 10 that I think actually warrants being called the "best" of 2016. There was a lot of very good television this year but even the very best shows this year don't really stand up to my top two from last year (Jessica Jones and Fargo) and I think I've been unfairly judging them by that standard.

Jerusalem fucked around with this message at 10:45 on Dec 14, 2016

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Escobarbarian posted:

01. Horace and Pete

I have literally never heard of this show - Louis CK, Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Steven Wright, JESSICA LANGE!?! Holy poo poo. I gotta check this out.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Nothing really stood out as utterly exceptional like Jessica Jones and Fargo did last year, so it was more difficult to actually rank my list this year. Even taking recency bias into account though I think this is a pretty accurate breakdown of my favorite shows of the year.

The Also Rans: Sadly both Luke Cage and Daredevil shared the problem of incredibly strong starts followed by less appealing follow-ups. The Punisher arc was magnificent but then the show turned into disposable ninja fight after disposable ninja fight. Mahershala Ali was a great foil for Mike Colter's Luke Cage but Erik LaRay Harvey's Diamondback failed to live up to that in the second half of the season. Agent Carter was a letdown after the concentrated quality of its first season, stretching out an interesting story too far and ending on a cliffhanger for a third season that will sadly never come. Narcos learned the right lesson from season 1 and concentrated more on Wagner Moura's Pablo Escobar and sidelined the boring white DEA agent and his terrible narration as much as it could, but it felt like too soon a wrap-up to Escobar's story (though season 3 looks very compelling). Finally, Mob Psycho 100 manages to subvert wonderfully so many of the pitfalls that plague 99% of anime but gets to that point by a long stretch in the middle where it seems to be falling into all of them. Thank God for Reigen - "1000% Reigen" was one of the best TV moments of the year.


10. Horace and Pete - I was attracted to this show by the amazing cast - Louis CK, Edie Falco, Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda & Jessica Lange. What kept me there was the wonderful sense of theater, of watching a televised stage-play. The performances were incredible, even Louis CK himself gets in a pretty great late season performance of his character's father - though the physical violence is almost never seen, he just radiates menace which is not something I ever thought I'd see from him. Edie Falco's disgust for the bar that has both sustained and destroyed their family for 100 years is wonderfully realized, and Steve Buscemi's grappling with his mental illness and screwed up history is heartbreaking. Alda and Lange are both excellent, with Alda in particular playing against type in a role originally intended for Joe Pesci. But the reason I put this show on the list is for Episode 3, particularly the opening 15+ minute monologue by Laurie Metcalf, which is one of the most compelling performances I have seen this year.


9. Games of Thrones - A show that was once must-see TV remained something friends and I still went out of our way to watch together, but the previous season felt like the show was beginning to spin its wheels a little. Much of this latest season felt like it was in the same rut, and even where it made forward progress there was a kind of sense that the twists and turns lacked the impact of those based on George RR Martin's published books. But everything was building up expertly, and the final two episodes of the season was a 1-2 punch that left me reeling. Battle of the Bastards was incredible from a technical standpoint and offered some tremendous catharsis for Sansa Stark's long-running status as a victim. But Winds of Winter wrapping up several long running plots revolving around Cersei Lannister - in particular her rivalry with her daughter-in-law and her unleashing of the Sparrows/Faith Militant on King's Landing - was jawdropping good. When the episode ended I was already jonesing for a new episode, a pretty good sign in my view that the showrunners are still doing something right even with only the barest outline of Martin's plot to work with.


8. Preacher - I wasn't excited about one of my favorite comics being turned into a TV series, I thought it was either unfilmable or would be so neutered as to be a pointless endeavor. I'm so glad to be wrong, especially as I thought Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg would probably be the wrong fit for the atmosphere I felt the show should have. Happily what I got was a wonderfully surreal adaptation that took the source material as a starting point and then ran in their own direction with the characters while keeping the spirit of the comics alive. A wonderfully bizarre cast populating a bizarre world where God is largely absent; sexless angel lovers react to being murdered with mild irritation; a drunken vampire provides the closest thing to a moral compass; a redneck wifebeater turns out to be in the most mentally and emotionally healthy relationship in the show; and a bald midget relentlessly dominates and bulldozes (metaphorically and literally) through his opposition. At first it seemed the male and female lead would be the weakest part of the show but both ended up easily holding the center of the show, their relationship - as in the comic - arguably of far more importance than Jesse's "gift" and his quest to find God. After a full season establishing the world of Annville, Texas, the next season looks to be largely leaving that behind which will be a bit of a shame. But I'm not gonna prejudge, after all the road-trip aspect of the comic was hugely important and made the bulk of the story-arcs possible. And after knocking the first season out of the park I'm very excited to see where they go next.


7. Stranger Things - I was vaguely aware of the hype around this show but knew barely any details other than it was set in the 80s. Perhaps as a result of mostly going in blind I was pleasantly surprised by what I got. Critics would probably say the show leans too heavily on nostalgia, and I can't speak for anybody who didn't grow up in the 80s as to how well it resonates with them. But the show was a big success so I think it's safe to say there was a little something more to it than that. The nostalgia is really the icing on the cake, it can't replace actual character, plot and technical competence which this show has in spades (otherwise That 80s Show wouldn't have died on the vine like it did). While watching the show dragged me back to lazy summer days lying in a tree reading Stephen King (and nights watching The Goonies and ET on VHS), there is an actual compelling story acting as a backbone. The kids and their tumultuous, emotionally-charged relationships; the teenagers just old enough to enjoy a little freedom but too young not to do something stupid with it; the solid local cop with a tragic past and the single mother desperately trying to hold her life together (Winona Ryder is so great in this); even the sinister and vaguely-defined Government agency... it's all held together by the over-arching plot of the Upside Down leaking into our world and bringing everybody together. The obvious season 2 hooks felt a little clumsy (especially regarding Eleven) and I don't know if the story is good enough to hold everything together for a second season, but that's a problem for 2017 Jerusalem.


6. Ash vs. Evil Dead - It is impossible for this show to exist. It is impossible for this show to be good. Somehow it manages both. Topping season 1 in almost every way, this season was the last for the original showrunner and the final episode suffered somewhat from behind-the-scenes drama and last minute script changes that negated a lot of what went into the bulk of this season's episodes. I mention these things only to justify why this show is so low on my list, because until the final episode I thought this show was a legitimate contender for the 2 or 3 spot. Bruce Campbell is amazing, somehow generating a sense that the absurd and disgusting situations that Ash finds himself in are not only believable but even somewhat reasonable. The morgue scene from episode 2 is simultaneously one of the most disgusting and one of the most hilarious scenes I saw all year. It helps that everybody seems to be having so much fun, as always one of the best parts of the show is that the Deadites that pop up to attack Ash are generally most interested in loving with him and others for the sheer pleasure of it. Somebody put it best in the show's thread, the Deadites are Hell's version of joy-riding teenagers, and Ash is one of the few who actually fucks with them right back instead of boring old screaming or stoic fighting. The supporting cast is strong too, particularly Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Lucy Lawless as Ruby, who plays one of Ash's proteges and a former Demon-turned-Hunter respectively. But this is the Bruce Campbell show, and he carries the weight of it all effortlessly on that magnificent chin of his.


5. The Crown - This might come as a bit of a shock, but it turns out the British are rather good at producing lavish period drama! I've always been fascinated with the British Monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II in particular, and the scope of the show alone was impressive enough to get me to watch (each season will cover a decade of her reign). It's a drat good cast too, and may finally give Matt Smith the chance to leave behind the typecasting of Doctor Who in his portrayal of Prince Philip - best known today as the somewhat embarassing old racist who says whatever comes into his head but at the time of the first season a dashing young figure fully aware of the precarious nature of royalty's relationship with the people and the need to modernize or be left behind. But while John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, Jared Harris as King George VI, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, Alex Jennings as the former King Edward VIII and Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden range between very good to excellent... it's Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth the II who is the stand-out. She plays Elizabeth as a woman who has been trained for this role for years but still isn't ready for it when it comes, but understands better than anybody exactly what it entails. Others can speak with authority about the dual-nature of her life (Elizabeth Windsor and Elizabeth Regina) but almost without fail each of them at some point thinks they will be the exception. Whether husband, sister, mother or old school friend, everybody assumes that while Elizabeth must put duty above relationships for everybody else THEY have something special. Coupled with the gender roles of the time, it leads to some amazing scenes such as when Philip finally kneels before her and is furious when she makes no visible acknowledgement; or when she scolds Cabinet and the Prime Minister for misleading her about Churchill's health; or when she lays out clearly to her sister that she will NOT marry the man she loves. Sure the show plays loose with the actual facts in favor of better drama but the end result IS better drama. The season wraps up wonderfully with the promise of the absolutely fascinating disaster that was the Suez Canal affair to come, but it's Elizabeth's lengthy look into the camera that sticks with me, summing up the Monument she must be if even to her own personal detriment.

The Crown posted:

All hail sage Lady, whom a grateful Isle hath blessed.
Not moving, not breathing.
Our very own goddess.
Glorious Gloriana.
Forgetting Elizabeth Windsor now.
Now, only Elizabeth Regina.


4. House of Cards - After a dreadful season 3, the political drama returned to fine form as the characters AND the showrunners seemingly figured out what they should have always known - Claire and Frank make far better allies than enemies. Frank is under siege in the White House, his own Democrats are abandoning him to find a new nominee; Claire is MIA; and a handsome young Republican is capturing the hearts and minds of the voting population. While it is enjoyable watching Frank wreck havoc on Claire and her own ambitions early in the season, their eventual return to a partnership is immensely satisfying. The assassination subplot could have fallen flat but it leads into probably the best part of the season, as Frank and Claire manipulate events behind the scenes at the Democratic National Convention to turn the tables on their own party and orchestrate Frank's pick for running mate. Watching other political operators fall foul of the Underwoods and get their own plans upended in the process is thrilling, and watching the Conways' perfect facade start to crack is very satisfying. The terrorism angle to cap off the season does feel pretty forced but the Underwoods' reaction is amazing, as Frank grasps the opportunity for - of course - his own political benefit, as well as a smokescreen for the accusations about to be published about himself and Zoe Barnes' activities in season 1 and 2. The final scene where Frank turns his horrible gaze directly onto the viewer and then is joined in doing so by Claire is spinechilling, signaling Claire's ascension to Frank's equal (as it should have always been). Where they go in season 5 now that reality has gone so far beyond whatever madness a television show could generate is another question, but I was so relieved to see the show back to its best. Part of that is because the thrill is in watching Frank and Claire working towards power, and much of season 3 was about them being at the top of the mountain already. Season 4 in that sense is a return to familiar ground, but I don't hold that against it at all.


3. Better Call Saul - I didn't expect this show to be as good as it was in season 1, and I sure as hell didn't expect season 2 to be even better. They pulled it off though, BCS takes Jimmy McGill's tortured descent into Saul Goodman to new heights (lows?) as he flits between his desire to accomplish what he now knows his brother thinks he can't, and his natural desire to con and take shortcuts. His disastrous time at Davis & Main is ripe with comedy (the scene where he turns off the switch is perfect) as he sabotages himself, while his scam on his brother Chuck leads to tragedy. As in the previous season, Michael McKean is a revelation as Chuck, Jimmy's successful brother and sufferer of "Electromagnetic hypersensitivity". The "feud" between the two brothers is amazing to watch, as Chuck's paranoia proves to be completely justified but serves only to make him seen all the more unstable. As in Breaking Bad, the show doesn't pretend like there are "good" and "bad" characters, people are more complex than that and do good and bad things for a variety of conscious and subconscious reasons. Chuck sabotaging Kim's big get as she goes it alone; Jimmy sabotaging Chuck's paperwork; Howard punishing Kim despite her hard work; nobody is 1-dimensional or straightforward. You could make a show that was nothing but Jimmy and Chuck's hosed up relationship and this would still be one of the best shows on TV. Happily, there's also Kim and her efforts to make something of herself, plus Mike's slow passage from retired cop to enforcer for a drug kingpin. It's well written and beautifully shot, a show that could have easily coasted by on its Breaking Bad pedigree and instead has pulled out all the stops to be great in its own right. And that cliffhanger for season 3.... wow.


2. Mr. Robot - I didn't watch this show last year because the advertising for it made it look pretty awful, and all the little excerpts I saw people use (such as Elliot's angry rant about what he sees in society) to promote it just struck me as pandering, flashy-but-shallow standard network cable drama. I was completely wrong, of course, and when I finally started watching the show I ended up devouring the entire first season in a couple of days. Season 2 continued to surprise, and I don't mean in terms of the twists and turns of the plot, most of which seem almost deliberately telegraphed. For me, the appeal of the show is primarily in Rami Malek's performance but season 2 really upped the game in terms of how the other characters operate, think and feel, sometimes in relation to Elliot but more generally in how they're trying to fit into the world. What I found really interesting was in how many of the characters are women, seeking a place in a traditional (masculine) power structure. The aftermath of the fSociety hack was supposed to change the world but the traditional stucture is holding on, and season 2 of the show feels to me like it is about female characters either trying to further that change or grasp power in what is left of the old. During Elliot's self-imposed exile, Darlene is the most visible in terms of trying to take on the role of leader in fSociety, and of course Grace Gummer's FBI Agent Dom DiPierro gets a lot of attention. There is the terrifying Joanna Wellick attempting to put her marriage back together by playing a long con. Plus B.D Wong's Whiterose is transgender, the power she has in the "real" world is as a male, but the "real" power she has in the hacking world is as a female. But for me the most fascinating is Angela Moss, Elliot's childhood friend and love interest who everybody sees as a victim or a traitor who isn't strong enough to make it without somebody protecting/saving her. Angela is not a hacker, in fact she is openly mocked when they try to teach her hacking... but the entire season is about her infiltrating/injecting herself into the institution she hates to gain access to secrets that can weaken or kill it. Sadly the moment she gains actual authority/power feels like a bit of a step back for her, as she is subsumed into Dark Army and becomes so focused on Elliot, falling back into her old subservient role again. I can't wait to see where they go with this in season 3, if Angela is just playing along yet again, hyper-focused as she is on tearing down E-Corp. Plus, of course, I haven't even begun to mention the amazing framing/cinematography of the show, or that stunning sitcom fantasy episode as Mr. Robot tried to protect Elliot from the pain he is suffering in the real world. You can dive REALLLLLL deep into this show, but even if you just watched it on the barest surface level you'd still be seeing one hell of a show.


1. Westworld - The most beautiful looking show all year, lavish almost to the point of excess but that's kind of the point - one of the themes of the show is about the ultra-rich getting to have whatever they want whenever they want it. A tightly-plotted, carefully constructed clockwork setup that is so elegantly put together, so carefully framed and designed that it feels a little too perfect. And again, that's kind of the point - one of the themes of the show is the unease people feel with things that are TOO good. A series of intersecting stories both natural and constructed, buzzing so closely by each other they constantly feel like they're in danger of trampling over themselves and muddying the waters to the point where you're no longer sure what is going on. Which, again, is kind of the point - one of the themes of the show is not knowing what is real and what isn't. But if there is anything I learned from watching this show, it's that I don't really know what the point was... or rather, I should never presume to know, because there is ALWAYS some deeper game going on. Which isn't to say this is a show that lives or dies on the quality of its twists or plot reveals, because like Mr. Robot (no pun intended) those twists and reveals are secondary to yet another of those themes I keep talking about - at what point does something become "alive"? When is something somebody? Who the hell are we or anybody else to presume we can make that distinction? It's a lesson even Anthony Hopkins' Machiavellian Robert Ford eventually learns as the mistakes and arrogance of decades past simmers and builds in him till he comes to the same conclusion as the ill-fated Arnold.... or does he? That uncertainty, I'd argue, is one of the defining traits of what makes us "us", the only people who are truly certain of anything are robots. They've been given an either/or "understanding" of the world, and the vast majority of the Hosts in Westworld have nothing but the facade of sentience. But some seem to have more... or are they just programmed to think they have more? Did that programming actually accomplish what it set out to emulate? Is there really any difference? Westworld doesn't offer easy answers... hell it doesn't really offer any answers at all. But once again it's not really answers I'm looking for, I'm one of Ford's customers who just wants to experience the story he wants to tell. I'm not saying it's a show I only enjoy passively, but that getting wrapped up in the story and the characters is the appeal for me. This show understands that, or at least I think it does, and that makes me as complicit as any of the legion of visitors who come to Sweetwater... except they've all got a shitload more money than I do. This is a show that looks stunning, is incredibly well acted, and leaves character and viewer alike asking just what the hell is going on without being frustrating in the process. It's not complex, it just presents itself that way, and if you go along for the ride it's a show you'll get amazing value from whether on the wild ride of the first viewing or the reaction of a second viewing or seeing it with somebody else watching it for the first time. It's my best TV show of 2016, and I doubt I'm the only one who thinks that. But hell, if you don't believe any of that twaddle I just wrote, you should watch it just for the moment you hear,"What door?"

Jerusalem fucked around with this message at 14:00 on Dec 31, 2016

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


The Crown and House of Cards both deserve to be so much higher

Thanks for working through all this data, Rarity!

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Yeah I've heard nothing but praise for Atlanta, I gotta check it out.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Number 1 this year is going to be the casting news for Fargo.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Anybody who hasn't watched Mr Robot because they think it's just another lovely basic cable drama.... please watch Mr Robot!

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


I always figured Person of Interest would be hobbled by some network executive's frantic command to make it as procedural as possible so as not to confuse old people, as well as stretching out 8-12 episodes worth of story into 20+ episodes per season. Was that the case or did they actually let their story flow in a natural way?

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Well it has a great pedigree so I'll check out PoI, especially since it's "complete" now.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Better Call Saul beating out Westworld would be a real surprise, but I certainly wouldn't be mad about it.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Rarity posted:

Beautiful timing

Haha, this is a pretty big surprise. I liked Stranger Things but certainly not this much!

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


I dug Stranger Things but am really surprised it ranked so highly. Westworld absolutely deserves the #1 spot even if it wasn't as good as last year's #1 & #2 shows.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Great work Rarity (And Lick! The! Whisk!), thanks for getting it all done. As always, the best part for me is picking up on a show/s that had slipped under my radar or that I'd thought wouldn't be any good. Last year it was Mr Robot, this year I'll be checking out Person of Interest and Atlanta.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Bulky Bartokomous posted:

I can't believe how poorly Man in the High Castle did. I think it's amazing.

The first season was impossibly bland considering the setting (and the amazing sets/props etc) to the point I forgot it existed until I learned a few days ago that season 2 has already been and gone.

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Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


I've watched the first 3 episodes of Person of Interest and there are still 20 goddamn episodes to go in season 1 alone . I don't think I can do this no matter what people claim about how much better it gets later on, especially if they never drop the procedural/crime of the week elements.

gently caress it I'll just watch Atlanta.

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