This year was in many respects rough.
I know that no one is giving me points for neatness here, but the news is drab or it’s genuinely frightening. The world seems a darker place and for me that leaves a bit of escapism to find my joy. When it came to TV, it was an embarrassment of riches.
As I have been doing this year, I found my 5, but this time with a difference, for every new thing, have added a less-than-new thing that has been a positive this year:
The hero of this story is a medium who fleeces people, but he is an actual medium and he’s on the run and finds himself in a very small town in the midst of Texas and learns that it’s the one place that he fits in. This is the story of the town on the border of Earth and what we call hell and it’s a border that’s losing integrity. Living in that town are a fallen angel, his demonic boyfriend, a pawnbroker with a secret, a preacher who is like a werewolf, but so much cooler than that, a witch, a vampire, and Olivia, who is scarier than any of them. The door to hell is starting to open and it’s about to get a lot worse.
There are succubi, neo-Nazis, a chain-smoking dead grandmother, a serial killer, another renegade angel, a talking cat and a demon. How was I not going to love this show? The show was adapted from books written by the same writer as True Blood, but this doesn’t have that show’s obsession with the sex life of its protagonist. One of the few shows that it doesn’t like such a chore to wait a week to watch, which is becoming something of a rarity.
But I also enjoyed: Killjoys
One of the surprise hits for me of the last year or so, this year’s third season hit the ground running and didn’t stop. The war between the RAC and the Hullen spread across the whole season and in between great character work showcased great action that Star Trek would have been proud to have.
Speaking of which
Star Trek Discovery:
I liked 2 of the 3 J J Abrams era Star Trek movies. I did, but let’s be honest for a quick second, Star Trek is and always should be a TV property. The people at CBS are launching a streaming service and one of its first offerings is the return of Star Trek to its television roots. Set in the few years before the original 5-year mission, this is the story of a woman called Michael Burnham who was instrumental in the start of the war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The star of this show is not the captain (because we get two of them), nor is the main thrust of the show about the ship (we again get two of them) but it is about Michael, who is thrown into a situation that she was never prepared for. The plot is political in nature, with the Klingons all vying for control of the many noble houses and Starfleet are scrambling to take any advantage in a war that they don’t know that they can win. The captains aren’t square-jawed heroes and the choices made aren’t heroic at times, but this story is interesting and it stands alongside Deep Space 9 as a series I would recommend for not as Star Trek fans, but would like to give something a try.
Something else that was enjoyed (however not by me) Star Trek Voyager:
I am not going to tell you that it’s my favourite series (because it isn’t) or that it’s the most consistently good (because it isn’t) or that I’ve really enjoyed re-watching it (I haven’t) this gets to this list, because of my son. In an attempt to avoid watching such televisual delights as Pokémon and Paw Patrol, I put on the pilot of Deep Space Nine on, then the season 4 opener. He enjoyed them, I threw the dice and put the pilot of Voyager on. He LOVED it, loved it and wanted more. He’s watched several episodes and is now at the start of the 4th season, with the introduction of Jeri Ryan’s 7of9. I am glad he is enjoying Star Trek, maybe 7 is the target audience because he’s been fascinated and asking questions and it’s been a lovely thing I have been able to share with him, re-watching Voyager is a price to pay, but not too high a price.
When Marvel announced their Netflix series, I was skeptical. After the lukewarm success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the announcement that the first of the proposed series was Daredevil, I think I wasn’t alone there. But Daredevil was a hit, then came Jessica Jones which was well written and had outstanding performances, Luke Cage which fleshed out and modernized a great character while accepting the previous look. Even the lamented Iron Fist was enjoyable even with a far from likeably written Danny Rand, so by the time The Defenders came along, I was convinced enough to give it a go. I liked it, there was a lot of threads and characters pulled from the previous stories and did a decent enough job of tying it all together and I got to see Power Man and Iron Fist on screen together and left me wanting a little bit more.
I also have enjoyed Arrow:
DC won’t do a live-action Batman show, he’s A-List, but DC had another character that is essentially ‘what if Batman was Robin Hood?’ Oliver ‘the Green Arrow’ Queen. This series was a Batman Begins take on Ollie, building him from the ground up, introducing more DCU elements as it came along. The MIGHTY Rosie and I have been re-watching and it is even more enjoyable on Blu-Ray, where you can watch 3 or 4 at a time and Arrow’s success led to Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. I have a lot of good telly coming in 2018 too since we are at the point where this CW DC Universe starts to expand, starting with the Flash.
Every now and again, the MIGHTY Rosie pulls a little gem out of nowhere. This was one of those. Night Shift is the story of a memorial hospital in San Antonio in Texas. This hospital’s night shift is staffed with military vets and adrenaline junkies. The story begins by centering on Doctor TC Callahan, a former Ranger suffering PTSD, his ex-girlfriend Jordan and his best friend Topher. Rounding out the team are a couple of doctors, some nurses and some new residents and this series hooked me with its fast-paced action, complex characterization and medical drama that often took me by surprise. There were only four seasons, so less than 40 episodes in total and each one is worth watching, we found this on Netflix and was an excellent pallette-cleanse from the many police procedurals and sci-fi programs that we’ve enjoyed recently.
I have also enjoyed, Grey’s Anatomy:
I found Chicago Hope boring, didn’t particularly take to ER and the less said about the British hospital procedurals Casualty and Holby City the better. So I have avoided Grey’s Anatomy quite effectively for the best part of a decade and was put onto it once more by the MIGHTY Rosie and got hooked. This is the story of a group put into a surgical program at a prestigious hospital. They are all broken in one respect or another, suffering their own issue, their poor judgment and yet keep trying. There’s soapy crap, but also some touching scenes, comedy and more than a little whimsy. I’m 5 series in now, I do intend to catch up and it’s nice to get out of your own little niche and find something a little bit different.
Finally we get to Rick and Morty:
I am an avid fan of podcasts, most of them are American comic related ones, but there have been a couple of more local quality shows, one of them is Stacey’s Pop Culture Parlour. The Parlour is a series by the hilarious Stacey Taylor ( @StaceysParlour ) and she talks ‘at length’ on a number of pop culture topics, the reason that she is mentioned is that it’s from her I first learned the words Rick and Morty,, this was mentioned a good number of times and eventually I found it on Netflix and checked it out. It’s primarily a Back to the Future parody/homage (‘Rick and Morty/Doc and Marty) it’s a whole lot darker than that. Rick Sanchez is genius/super-scientist villain/alcoholic, who has reconnected with his estranged daughter Beth, her husband Jerry and their kids Summer and the perpetually anxious Morty. Morty keeps getting pulled into the bizarre misadventures of his grandfather and his portal gun shenanigans. It’s dark, it’s bleak and there’s very rarely a happy ending, but it’s also smart, hilarious and always fun. I currently have a Rick Keyring and am patiently waiting for news of series 4, the reason? Season 3 brought us “Pickle Rick!”
Can’t wait to see what we get next.
I also enjoyed Bojack Horseman:
Everyone loves Bojack Horseman, but nobody likes Bojack Horseman. In a world of people and animal people, which is both relevant to the story and not, he’s a former sit-com star with a harassed agent/ex-girlfriend, unemployed houseguest, annoying affable friend and a ghost writer pushing him to open up about a past that he is doing his best to get away from. There are misadventures, commentary on modern celebrity culture and a number of funny lines. None of that is why I am so fond of this series. The reason I enjoy it, is that it’s not a happy show. The most cheerful character is Todd, a unemployed misfit, struggling with his identity as an asexual man. But every character has that melancholy tinge of unhappiness, or confusion about them. It also highlights the self destructive impulses of depression and addiction in a way I have never seen on TV, let alone an animated series. There’s an episode in the 4th season where you hear the internal monologue of Bojack and it’s horrifyingly familiar. It’s not a story with happy endings, nor a likeable lead, but it is compelling and I am hoping a 5th season arrives.
This has been a trying year, but the TV has been above average.
Next Time: No comics, no films, no TV, just life.