If you thought I had anything better to do than sit around and watch Netflix, I’m about to dash that dream for you. I’ve made somewhat of a hobby out of giving my unwanted opinion on television series, so I figure I’d better put all that binge-watching sessions to good use and list the best, the worst, and the sorta-okay-ish shows I’ve watched this year.
BoJack Horseman: What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said? I’ve written about BoJack before, and season 4 went above and beyond my expectations. I’m a fan of any show that can take an otherwise hateful character and, in the space of a single episode, win them all the audience’s sympathies. “Time’s Arrow” does exactly that. Remember when I said I never thought I’d cry so hard over a cartoon horse who can’t seem to stop ruining his own life? Well, I REALLY never thought I’d cry so hard over a cartoon horse’s manipulative, geriatric mother.
Stranger Things: No explanation needed.
The Keepers: I’m an unabashed fan of true crime documentaries, podcasts, etc., but this was something else. The Keepers revolves around the unsolved 1969 murder of young nun and beloved schoolteacher Sister Cathy Cesnik, as investigated by her former students, a duo of shrewd, whip-smart grandmothers. As they dig, they unearth a child sexual abuse scandal that goes as deep at the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, a corrupt priest, and a mass cover-up of a brutal murder. What did Sister Cathy know? Did she suspect the abuse at the school? Was she killed because the knew too much? Part whodunit, part survivor’s anthem, part exposure of the most corrupt vestiges of the Catholic Church. Simultaneously suspenseful, heartbreaking, and infuriating. (Why yes, I DO have a very detailed theory on #WhoKilledSisterCathy, thanks for asking).
American Vandal: An unexpected treasure that reinvented the “sleeper hit.” Who would have guessed that a mockumentary about penis graffiti would turn out to be a genuinely funny and poignant satire of crime documentary culture? It strikes that elusive note of being funny without being obnoxious, while still making some strong points about journalistic ethics, privacy, and misinformation in the digital age. Netflix mocks its own hits, such as Making A Murderer, and America’s crime obsession as a whole, while simultaneously using every trope to perfection. I watched it all in one sitting, desperate to find out #WhoDrewThe Dicks. American Vandal is a phony whodunit at a SoCal high school in which the prime suspect is a stereotypical stoner- so why does it feel like new evidence in the JonBenet Ramsey case? Additionally, it was touching to me personally to watch Jimmy Tatro, who I watched rise to fame on YouTube years ago, make his Netflix debut at his deadpan comic best.
The Good Place: A true original. The premise is new, the characters compelling, and the writing surprisingly sharp. I have yet to find a person alive who doesn’t adore Kristen Bell, who I’m 99% sure sweats pink lemonade.
Big Little Lies: THE CAST ALONE CAN DO NO WRONG. I never appreciated Reese Witherspoon as a dramatic actress before. Laura Dern is unstoppable, Nicole Kidman is (as always) understated and brilliant. I was 14 when the world was introduced to teenage Shailene Woodley during Secret Life of The American Teenager‘s 2008 premiere, and it’s been a joy to watch her grow as an actress. Big Little Lies had it all: drama, mystery, a classic Desperate Housewives-esque cattiness, and a gorgeous Monterey Bay backdrop. Beautifully written, beautifully acted.
Riverdale: I’m almost tempted to call it Pretty Little Liars’ successor. In many ways, it’s pure guilty pleasure fodder: the characters are cheesy but irresistibly magnetic, the story overdramatic but fun. It takes all the best, most beloved elements of teen dramas and somehow manages to make them feel as intoxicating and richly sweet as the Blossom family’s maple syrup.
Bad Not Terrible, But Not Great Either:
I’m not going to say a specific show was “bad,” but both 2017 and 2016 brought one singular, overarching trend: a flurry of revivals (Fuller House, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, Twin Peaks, etc). Allow me to die on this exceptionally trivial hill: can we please leave these shows as the beloved relics they are? Why the sudden need to dig up the time capsule and re-animate its contents to suit a decade that they weren’t meant to exist in? Reboots are rarely better than the original, so why beat a dead horse?
Big Mouth: I’m suspending judgement on Big Mouth. I wanted to like it more than I did. It was corny and relatable, but it lacked… something. Call me old-fashioned, but a cartoon 12-year-old impregnating a pillow might be a bridge too far.
Anne With an E: I found Anne With an E somewhat lackluster, but it was still enjoyable on a certain level. We’ll see about season 2.
Shameless: There are few things that bother me more than dragging on a beloved show so far past its peak that it becomes a parody of itself. It pains me to say this, but it’s honestly time for Shameless to conclude. I love the show, which is why I would prefer it to bow out gracefully, rather than continue recycling content and declining in quality until it’s cancelled.
13 Reasons Why: The one that’s burning a hole in our collective psyche. Based upon Jay Asher’s book of the same name, 13 Reasons Why was controversial, to say the least. From April-July, you couldn’t scroll for longer than 5 seconds without finding an article either praising it or screeching for its removal. Its main criticism was that it glorified suicide, which ended up opening a mass discussion on mental health. “Did ’13 Reasons Why’ Spark a Suicide Contagion Effect?” screams The Atlantic. One man even threatened to sue the producers after his daughter took her own life. As a person with depression, I don’t agree that it’s as dangerous as it’s been made out to be. However, I went into it knowing what was going to happen (spoiler alert: the main girl kills herself). I had read the book when I was younger, and genuinely enjoyed watching it play out on screen. It was clear from the beginning that the show was about suicide. If you feel as though you may be triggered, DON’T WATCH IT.
Disjointed: If there was one show I tried to watch this year that was truly, abysmally awful, it was Netflix’s Disjointed. If even Kathy Bates can’t make your show watchable, you’ve royally fucked up. I made it through exactly 20 minutes.