So, 2017 has not been a banner year for television.When you look at all the shows that have either ended or been cancelled in the last couple of years, I'm not really seeing a lot of great shows stepping up to take their place.
To name a few, we've lost
Hell on Wheels
And probably a few more I can't think of off the top of my head.
But let's not dwell on the negative. Let's salute the people and programs that made life a little more bearable in this annus horribilis of 2017.
Show of the Year:
Call The Midwife
Even after losing two of my favorite characters, this show just keeps getting better somehow. The story of a group of nuns and nurses serving one of London's most impoverished neighborhoods, it deals with extremely heavy subject matter from domestic abuse to alcoholism to mental illness to all the tragic things that can and do happen in childbirth, especially to those living in poverty.But it somehow manages to keep an undertone of optimism and has an amazing ensemble cast playing complex, often difficult, but ultimately lovable and heroic characters that keep the show from descending into bleak nihilism. If you've not seen it, it's on Netflix so you can watch from the beginning. Just have a box of Kleenex handy when you binge this one.
Nathan For You
If you have a taste for uncomfortable comedy (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, etc.) get ready to cringe-laugh. Nathan Fielder takes the idea of awkward comedy a step further by involving real people who may or may not be in on the joke. Nathan visits struggling businesses to lend a hand with his business-school expertise. His assistance generally takes the form of a convoluted scheme to publicize a business or skirt some sort of law or find a unique niche that the business can occupy.
Examples include changing the name of a coffee shop to "Dumb Starbucks," having a realtor hire a paranormal investigator to ensure the houses she sells are ghost-free and getting smoke detectors classified as musical instruments by getting a record played on the air featuring a smoke detector beeping.
here's a particularly cringe-worthy moment:
That's maybe the most uncomfortable scene, and definitely not the funniest, but just to give you an idea of how awkward it can get. If you don't mind squirming a bit, it's often laugh-out-loud funny.
Best cop show:
After spending the first two seasons concentrating on a single murder case, Broadchurch might have been in danger of falling into the Twin Peaks post-Laura Palmer or the Killing post-Rosie trap. Instead, they came roaring back strong with a new season investigating a rape case that somehow ends up with several likely suspects. Yes, it can be hard to watch some of the scenes involving the victim's emotional damage and this show certainly isn't for everyone. But it's absolutely gripping and keeps you guessing right up to the end. (And to be clear, they do NOT depict the actual rape, just it's horrible aftermath.)
Best Sophomore Season:
The great Tig Notaro's semi-autobiographical dramedy came back even stronger in it's second year. Dealing with some heavy topics, mainly sexual abuse, it could easily have gotten depressing or humorless, but Tig has exactly the right light touch with even the most serious subjects (like Season 1's death of her mother and her recovery from cancer).
Biggest Second-Year Letdown:
I know. It seems kinda stupid to expect anything good from the "SYFY" Channel, but Season one of this horror anthology was really good. (http://wwwirritant.blogspot.com/2016/12/2016-year-in-television-part-i.html )
While season one kept viewers guessing about what was going on and who was responsible, season two had us guessing about when something was going to happen and who greenlit this shit?
Last season was about a mysterious television show that somehow was turning children murderous. This season was about a haunted house that. . . um. . .eats your memories. That's it. That's the scary part. Like the main character is starting to forget what her mother looks like. And that's supposed to be the danger.
And they don't even do a good job of pretending that any of this is scary. When the main chatacters find their way out of the house after being trapped in some sort of alternate universe for a couple of days, they run into some teen boys waiting to go in to the haunted house. "Was it good?" asks one of the boys. "Pfft, just go home." replies the main girl. Not "Oh my God do NOT go in there!" Not "run, run for your life!" Just a sort of "meh, don't bother." Which is pretty much what I would say to anyone wondering if this season is worth watching.