It’s here! It may be a week late but it’s here! My favorite article of the year which seems egotistical but it’s not because the reason I like it so much is because of all the words everyone but me put. (Perfect sentence.) Enjoy this year’s breakdown of the best TV episodes of 2017 from a variety of my friends, all with a unique perspective.

 

American Gods — “The Secret of Spoons”
(Season One, Episode 2)

American Gods best of

By Robbie Mehling

“We’re not taking the highway. Not now. Not ever,” says Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) as they drive from Indiana to Chicago and beyond. This summer I did my own personal road trip from Minneapolis to Southern Indiana using back country roads. First you turn left, then right, then left again as you meander past cornfields and farmhouses. It certainly takes longer but the possibility exists for some truly stunning views, more so anyway than the interstate rest stop. It’s this mentality that runs through Neil Gaiman’s original novel and is certainly present in Bryan Fuller’s adaptation. This show moves at a slow pace as the whole first season only covers the first few chapters of the book. But I think it works incredibly well as it meanders through folklore, mythology, and back road America.

I think nothing encapsulates that sense more than the episode, “The Secret of Spoons.” Like a meandering road trip, the episode goes everywhere and nowhere with some tremendous acting as its beautiful scenery. Not to give too many spoilers, the episode features Orlando Jones as Anansi, A God bound for the new world aboard a slave ship, as he gives a chilling monologue about the life that awaits people of color in America. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) continues to deal with the loss of his wife and the weird journey he is beginning on. It’s a little bizarre how the character is both becoming lost in the events that are enfolding, stuff he doesn’t understand (such as Lucy Ricardo offering to show him her breasts,) but at the same time getting more of his own agency in that he makes a bet that has dire consequences. Whittle plays in fantastically. Peter Stormare plays as Czernobog on the other end of the bet and his accent, his mannerisms… perfection. And finally Ian McShane who just consistently steals the fucking show with his range and performance. I honestly cannot think of anyone more suited for the role.

I cannot begin to say how much I adore this novel and I think this show is a near perfect adaptation. It’s not the most faithful adaptation but it is for the better as the changes made do a great job of reflecting that same meandering ethos. It places plot second to characters and exploring that feeling of Americana. I know that isn’t for everyone but it certainly works for me. I am eagerly awaiting the second season but with the departure of Bryan Fuller and Michael Green as showrunners, I desperately hope it can maintain the same feel and mood.

 

Robbie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) American Gods, “The Secret of Spoons” (Season One, Episode 2)

2) Star Wars Rebels, “Twin Suns” (Season Three, Episode 20)

3) Star Wars Rebels, “Through Imperial Eyes” (Season Three, Episode 17)

4) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer” (Season Two, Episode 8)

5) American Vandal, “Growing Suspicion” (Season One, Episode 4)

6) The Handmaid’s Tale, “Night” (Season One, Episode 10)

7) Game of Thrones, “Beyond the Wall” (Season Seven, Episode 6)

8) Ozark, “The Toll” (Season One, Episode 10)

9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine: The Gate” (Season Two, Episode 9)

10) Trollhunters Season Two (As of this article submission, Robbie has not seen Trollhunters Season Two, but he has a good feeling about it.)

 

 

Better Call Saul — “Chicanery”
(Season Three, Episode 5)

Better Call Saul best of

By Austin Lugar

Vague spoilers for this episode and the rest of Better Call Saul Season Three.

Everyone wants to write a courtroom scene because a courtroom is an arena for drama. Just like a boxing ring or a football field, it is a realm where it’s A vs. B where each side is changing their tactics based on their opponent and only one can win. For a show about a lawyer, Better Call Saul doesn’t spend a ton of time in court.

We only see Jimmy McGill go to court when he’s up against absurdism. The pilot depicts Jimmy attempting to defend a group of teens who had sex with a disembodied corpse. He did not win that case. In that scene, the villain was simply the system or basic decency, not an evil prosecutor.

In “Chicanery”, it finally happened. It’s brother vs. brother and the only way to win is not to play. Up to this point, we know that Jimmy will go beyond the typical protocol in order to win and that’s why his career is in danger. It is only Chuck who is willing to burn everything to make sure that Jimmy pays. The tragedy is that Jimmy will forever love his brother.

As the episode crawls its way to the courtroom, everyone is trying to stop this from happening. HHM warns Chuck that this could discredit them of their prestige. Mesa Verde is embarrassed by all of this scrutiny of what seems like an honest mistake. Essentially everyone begs to keep this brotherly feud in private.

Better Call Saul is one of the rare and great prequels because it never thinks that you haven’t watched Breaking Bad. Episodes don’t tend to end with Jimmy’s life in immediate danger because we know he will won day become Saul Goodman and defend Walter White. So we know that will happen and we know that Kim and Chuck are not in Breaking Bad. By the end of Season Three, we know why Chuck isn’t in the series but Kim’s absence is still a mystery.

Yet the crux of this case means it could go either way. If Jimmy wins, he can still build his brand towards becoming a more sleezy Saul. If Jimmy loses, being discredited can still lead him to Saul.

But once they’re in the room, then it’s no longer about the rules of law. It’s about two things. One is the dramatic and morally gray moves of Slippin’ Jimmy. Everyone in the world—including Chuck—knows that he’s going to plan some sort of Perry Mason style reveal. The show gives you all the hints it needs to see how it’s pulled off, but pure to Chuck’s surprise—the biggest hint is only if you know Breaking Bad. The second you saw Huell in the stairwell, you know what he’s capable of but you don’t know what he’s capable of in this year.

The second thing is that Chuck does not fight for the law, but he fights using the law. After he is fooled by Jimmy, the judge reminds everyone that does not constitute a legal victory. But what does forever hurt the brothers is the angry rant from Chuck that forever proves this was always about being mean.

The ultimate tragedy is not Jimmy having his license suspended or Chuck being pushed out as partner. It’s what Jimmy has known since the pilot. The weirdest thing about Better Call Saul is the fact that a main character is allergic to electricity. It’s off and none of the characters (and viewers) really knew how to handle it. In the “ta-da” moment, it’s not a victorious moment. It shows the truth. Chuck’s condition was psychosmetic and Jimmy has always known that was probably true. But Jimmy would still go beyond the call of duty to provide Chuck the nicest environment he can give, despite the protest of so many professionals around him. All he knew was that his brother was in pain and this episode was more about begging him not to play that card.

Five more great episodes aired this season and it really seems like that scene is the biggest turning point of the whole series. The timeline seems to be moving faster to bring Jimmy to Saul and nobody is able to go back again. In a show that is the reverse of Walter White, where it is about peeling back the layers to show that Saul is actually a good person, this is the moment. Jimmy does his meanest and shadiest thing out of love and the feeling of being so betrayed all of his life. This show won’t escalate to train robberies and Godfather-esque prison killings, but the more that Jimmy slips in these small ways, the more it’s going to hurt.

 

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Legion, “Chapter One” (Season One, Episode 1)

2) Twin Peaks, “Part 8” (Season Three, Episode 8)

3) The Leftovers, “The Book of Nora” (Season Three, Episode 8)

4) Better Call Saul, “Chicanery” (Season Three, Episode 5)

5) BoJack Horseman, “Time’s Arrow” (Season Four, Episode 11)

6) The Good Place, “Janet and Michael” (Season Two, Episode 7)

7) Doctor Who, “The Doctor Falls” (Season Ten, Episode 12)

8) Please Like Me, “Burrito Bowl” (Season Four, Episode 5)

9) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Hero or Hate Crime?” (Season Twelve, Episode 6)

10) I Love Dick, “A Short History of Weird Girls” (Season One, Episode 5)

 

Austin’s Honorable Mentions

Better Things, “Eulogy” (Season Two, Episode 6)

Big Mouth, “Pillow Talk” (Season One, Episode 6)

Black-ish, “Juneteenth” (Season Four, Episode 1)

Black Mirror, “USS Callister” (Season Four, Episode 1)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Josh is Irrelevant” (Season Three, Episode 6)

The Detour, “The Court” (Season Two, Episode 4)

The Expanse, “Godspeed” (Season Two, Episode 4)

The Good Fight, “Stoppable: Requiem for an Airdate” (Season One, Episode 5)

The Good Place, “Chidi’s Choice” (Season One, Episode 10)

The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” (Season One, Episode 13)

The Good Place, “Dance Dance Resolution” (Season Two, Episode 3)

The Good Place, “The Trolley Problem” (Season Two, Episode 6)

Halt and Catch Fire, “Goodwill” (Season Four, Episode 8)

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred” (Season One, Episode 1)

Legion, “Chapter 6” (Season One, Episode 6)

Nathan for You, “Finding Francis” (Season Four, Episode 7)

Sherlock, “The Lying Detective” (Season Four, Episode 2)

Twin Peaks, “Part 15” (Season Three, Episode 15)

You’re the Worst, “It’s Been, Part 1” (Season Four, Episode 1)

 

 

Better Things – “Graduation”
(Season Two, Episode 10)

Better Things best of

By Sarah Staudt

Better Things has always been an extremely quiet show. Essentially no soundtrack, small, everyday stories, and writing so good it feels un-written. You could swear that Sam and her daughters, Max, Frankie and Duke, and Sam’s rogues gallery of friends and relatives, just…exist, and happen to be expertly filmed by ever-present cameras. It’s a beautiful show, and one I recommend to everyone.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to recommend Better Things in 2017 without talking about it’s co-executive producer and co-writer, Louie C.K. Pamela Adlon (the show’s star and creative driving force) and C.K. have been creative partners for years, all the way through Lucky Louie, Louie, and on to Better Things. They were clearly close friends, and I found Adlon’s response to the revelation that C.K. had abused multiple women to be particularly heartbreaking. Her statement was:

Hi. I’m here. I have to say something. It’s so important.

My family and I are devastated and in shock after the admission of abhorrent behavior by my friend and partner, Louis C.K. I feel deep sorrow and empathy for the women who have come forward. I am asking for privacy at this time for myself and my family. I am processing and grieving and hope to say more as soon as I am able.

While other female comedians either quietly or publicly distanced themselves as the rumors swirled and became an open secret in the stand-up world, Adlon remained by Louie’s side until he admitted it himself. The only rationale I can imagine for this, given Adlon’s statement, is that Louie had denied to her that any of these allegations were true. I can’t imagine that was an easy conversation, but we are all prone to believing that our friends are not horrible, even in the face of evidence we might otherwise believe about a stranger. To have presumably had that conversation with your best friend, and then to have your friend publicly admit that that was a lie, must be so damn awful.

You’ve got to think that when FX decided to air Better Things, it was hoping it would be “Louie, but with a girl!”. Maybe the execs regret that now that Louie C.K. has become persona non grata. As a woman, the show Louie always rubbed me the wrong way, even though I laughed at a lot of it. For every awesome, funny, raw moment depicting Louie’s semi-fictionalized relationship with his daughters, there was a toxic pessimism to the show’s main storylines. In the end, one is left believing that Louie is a crappy person beset by random and unavoidable temptations to be shitty to other people, and always gives in to them, and ain’t that just too bad, good thing he can laugh at himself in his stand-up routine.

That worldview worried me, and as soon as I heard about the rumors flying about Louie, before his admissions, my response was, “yup. That makes sense”. The reason is because C.K., for all his “pro-feminist” sound-bites, revealed himself in his show to be someone who made excuses for himself in a particular and toxic way that enables men, I think, to perpetrate sexual assault. It’s a pessimistic, self-deprecating belief that you can’t really change, you’re just kind of a shitty person who hurts people by nature.

Louie’s “apology” reeked of this. It was, put simply, all about him. It was about how he didn’t realize that his shitty thing was really that shitty, so he kept doing it. It wasn’t about owning that he did something he knew was wrong in the first place. It was “eh, I just didn’t think about it”. Louie’s version of abuse is flippant and nihilistic, and so fits in dangerously well with the age of millennial self-deprecation and sarcasm. If you’re just a shitty person who does shitty things, beset by shitty temptations that you’re always going to give into, why try to stop? Why focus on the harm you’re causing, when you can wallow in self-hatred instead? Louie’s comedic voice shows that to keep excusing your own behavior, you need your nihilism, your biting jokes that trivialize other people’s humanity, in order to keep up your façade to yourself. If you’re just shitty, then fuck it. It’s not really your fault you’re a scumbag. And all of the characters in Louie, even his daughters at times, have this sort of unfixable crappiness about them.

This long divergence isn’t irrelevant to Better Things, I swear. Instead, it serves to highlight how much FX (and anyone else) is wrong about thinking Better Things is just “Louie, with a Girl!”

Better Things does share with Louie the characteristic of being about people who kind of suck. Sam, Adlon’s character, is a single mom of three and working actor who is often mean and petty to her daughters pretty regularly. She’s painfully callous to the men in her romantic life. And it’s not just Sam; her older two daughters are typical, narcissistic teens capable of really damaging their mother and others with how little they appreciate her. While Max and Frankie aren’t painted as villains, the show also doesn’t shy away as some shows do from showing that idiot teenagers really, really emotionally wound the people around them. And Sam’s mom is in deep denial about her growing dementia and leans ever more heavily on Sam and the girls without acknowledging or appreciating them because of her own wounded pride.

But, the key difference is this: after one of these characters hurts somebody, instead of flipping to a standup segment about how she’s just so shitty, or her kids are so shitty, and let’s all laugh at her, like Louie, Adlon’s camera always stays with the person in the scene who has been hurt. And then it shows how the world around them can come around that hurt and make it better. And even though we stay hurt, we can move on, and grow, and get better.

On a rewatch, the Louie C.K. alone written storylines are notably more in line with what Louie looks like, and can be hard to watch because of that toxic pessimism mentioned above. But “Graduation”, the last episode of the season, co-written by Adlon, is the best of what Better Things has to offer. It’s starts with Max laying out her requests for her graduation party, a list that is wonderfully grown up and juvenile at the same time: 1) A DJ, a real one, with tables, not one of Mom’s friends iPods., 2) A taco bar and a Sundae bar; 3) A keg of beer and 4) For her Mom not to be there. Sam relents on all but the 3rd request, and later in the episode camps across the street watching people come and go from her house, available for emergencies but distant, like Max wants her, from the party. I remember being 18. I’m glad I’m past the age where being with my parents is the worst thing in the entire world, but the self-sacrifice that Sam shows in giving Max what she wants is really poignant.

And that self-sacrifice continues when Max asks Sam to essentially completely sit out her graduation prep in favor of Max’s absentee father, who then, predictably, bails at the last second, devastating Max. Then, Sam’s mother swoops in with dementia induced rigidity and insists In a really lovely moment, Sam’s extended network of friends steps up, and Max has her pick of surrogate parent figures to step in. Max is the most openly disdainful of Sam’s friends, life, parenting and general existence throughout the series. But in the end, her response is that Sam is the best mom ever.

The last scene of the episode is a beautiful and inexplicable scene of Sam’s “graduation gift” to Max. Escorting her out to a homemade stage in the backyard woods, Sam, Max’s sisters, and her grandmother do a carefully choreographed dance to Christine and the Queens’s “I am actually good”. The song is an homage to the point of this season. Throughout Better Things, Sam has been trying to figure out how to be whole – does she need a man? A relationship with extended family? And Max shares this arc, constantly hoping that people in her life, her friends, and especially her father will fill the hole she feels in her life. But Better Things is all about how, honestly, that hole is always going to be there. None of us leads perfect, happy lives. None of us succeed in not disappointing our parents and our kids and our partners and ourselves. But that’s not a reason to give up on ourselves, nihilistically withdraw into self-deprecation and sarcasm and the odd comfort that comes with just giving up on ever being good, or happy. Instead, what we’re supposed to do is build a stage in our backyard, and spend presumably countless hours with your Demetia-addled mom, your 8 year old, and your 13 year old to choreograph a dance to delight your oldest kid for graduation, A song who’s chorus is: “I am actually good, Can’t help if we’re tilted”. Better Things meets our brokenness with beauty, not despair.

 

Sarah’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) The Leftovers, “The Book of Nora” (Season Three, Episode 8)

2) Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War” (Season Seven, Episode 4)

3) Legion, “Chapter 6” (Season One, Episode 6)

4) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Josh is Irrelevant” (Season Three, Episode 6)

5) Better Things, “White Rock” (Season Two, Episode 9)

6) Difficult People, “Criminal Minds” (Season Three, Episode 8)

7) Speechless, “S-H—SHIPPING” (Season Two, Episode 6)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

9) The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Other Side” (Season One, Episode 7)

10) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “The Big House Pt. 2” (Season Five, Episode 2)

 

Additional Episodes Sarah Loved This Year

American Vandal, “Premature Theories” (Season One, Episode

Better Things, “Graduation” (Season Two, Episode 10)

Broad City, “Florida” (Season Four, Episode

Broad City ,“Bedbugs” (Season Four, Episode 9)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Hallo-Veen” (Season Five, Episode 4)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine ,“Two Turkeys” (Season Five, Episode 7)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I Never Want to See Josh Again” (Season Three, Episode 5)

The Detour, “The Tub” (Season Two, Episode 3)

The Detour, “The Court” (Season Two, Episode 4)

Difficult People, “Strike Rat” (Season Three, Episode 2)

Doctor Who, “Extremis” (Season Ten, Episode 6)

Doctor Who, “The Doctor Falls” (Season Ten, Episode 12)

The Good Place, “Team Cockroach” (Season Two, Episode 4)

The Good Place, “Janet and Michael” (Season Two, Episode 7)

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred” (Season One, Episode 1)

The Leftovers, “Certified” (Season Three, Episode 6)

A Series of Unfortunate Events, “The Wide Window: Part Two” (Season One, Episode 6)

Sherlock, “The Six Thatchers” (Season Four, Episode 1)

Speechless, “S-I–SILENT NIGHT” (Season Two, Episode 10)

Superstore, “Mateo’s Last Day” (Season Two, Episode 18)

Superstore, “Sal’s Dead” (Season Three, Episode 5)

Stranger Things, “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister” (Season Two, Episode 7)

Twin Peaks, “Part 4” (Season Three, Episode 4)

You’re the Worst, “Like People” (Season Four, Episode 12)

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – “Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend is Crazy”
(Season Three, Episode 4)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend best of

By Molly Raker

There were plenty of shows I stopped watching this year while it was airing, Riverdale, You’re the Worst, The Deuce, The Handmaid’s Tale. There is only one show I’m excited to watch every week it’s new, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It was no different when the episode that matches its title aired. Rebecca finally had it with Josh and went all Swimfan on him, since he’s the bad guy for not loving her.

This episode really took on the thriller approach with the lighting, music and tone of the whole episode. It’s great to see a good homage as good as how they write their songs. This episode saw what I take is a Bond-like theme song to give the feel that it’s a ‘movie’. The best joke of the episode was at the end when the credits role and you see who was really in the crew of this ‘movie.’ (Hint it was Rebecca Bunch doing the heavy lifting.)

Not only did this episode have great jokes it knows how to balance the drama as well, especially Rebecca’s mental illness where she finally hits rock bottom. As Heather says, you can’t help someone if they don’t ask for it and Rebecca does the opposite by saying awful things to her friends. She thinks she burned a bridge but really they just want to help her more, which she doesn’t realize in time. This show just keeps getting better and better each season and there is actually character development besides doing the same conflict or dynamic each season,

Ironically enough, this wasn’t the strongest song episode even with Josh Groban (who was great singing his name), there were just better songs like ‘Where’s Rebecca Bunch’, ‘Strip Away My Conscience’ and ‘My Diagnosis’. It was a solid episode that leads a dark path. As they said in The Dark Knight, the night is darkest before the dawn.

I wonder if they’ll ever do a superhero spoof episode

All in all, don’t let it being on The CW deter you from watching. This is a great show with great acting (which usually isn’t the case on The CW) and you should be watching and listening to the songs

See below some of my other favorite episodes this year and you can notice there is a slight theme to some of them.

 

Molly’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend is Crazy” (Season Three, Episode 4)

2) Better Call Saul, “Chicanery” (Season Three, Episode 5)

3) BoJack Horseman, “Times Arrow” (Season Four, Episode 11)

4) Legion, “Chapter 7” (Season One, Episode 7)

5) Brooklyn Nine-Nine,”HalloVeen” (Season Five, Episode 4)

6) Master of None, “Religion” (Season Two, Episode 3)

7) Insecure, “Hella Perspective” (Season Two, Episode 8)

8) The Good Place, “The Trolley Problem” (Season Two, Episode 5)

9) Broad City, “Housesitting” (Season Four, Episode 9)

10) The Flash, “Therefore I Am” (Season Four, Episode 7)

 

The Crown — “Dear Mrs. Kennedy”
(Season Two, Episode 8)

Crown Best of

By Sara Rust

“There is no possibility of my forgiving you. The question is, how on earth can you forgive yourself?”

A quote from Queen Claire Foy herself that also works for how I feel about anyone who hasn’t been watching The Crown. This is the show that every fan of British culture has been anticipating. The dramatization of the Royal Family is better than any soap opera possible because all of it is based in reality.

This particular episode is especially intriguing as it deals with the American Royal Family, The Kennedys. We’re shown that Queen Elizabeth II is human as she shows jealousy towards Jackie Kennedy’s popularity and struggles to find the right outfit to make her feel equal. The Queen and Jackie Kennedy were the same age and as such were judged against each other. Instead of allowing intimidation to get her down, The Queen, makes headlines by mending a political rift in Ghana. The episode ends with the assassination of President Kennedy and once again shows how Queen Elizabeth chooses to evolve with her announcement that the bells in Westminster Abbey will ring every hour for the late president, an honor that had previously been reserved for late members of the Royal Family.

This series, as well as the series, Victoria, are a lot of fun because the knowledge of the characters isn’t limited just to what the actors show us on screen. Since these women are real, we can look up more information after the show to gain more understanding. I spend the time watching The Crown with my iPad nearby so I can learn more about the various events and to check the validity of what is played out. Critics say that the show is loosely based on real events but it seems as if this season took that statement on as a challenge and proved that what is being shown was actually real. One episode even ended with real photos.

Check out The Crown! If you don’t, “what is it you’re trying to prove?”

 

Sara’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) The Good Place, “Team Cockroach” (Season Two, Episode 4)

2) Designated Survivor, “Two Ships” (Season Two, Episode 6)

3) New Girl, “Five Stars for Beezus” (Season Six, Episode 22)

4) Saturday Night Live, “Tiffany Haddish” (Season Forty-Three, Episode 5)

5) Modern Family, “Do You Believe in Magic” (Season Eight, Episode 12)

6) Will and Grace, “11 Years Later” (Season Nine, Episode 1)

7) Superstore, “Tornado” (Season Two, Episode 22)

8) American Housewife, “The Club” (Season One, Episode 21)

9) The Crown, “Mystery Man” (Season Two, Episode 10)

10) The Mindy Project, “Is That All There Is?” (Season Six, Episode 1)

 

 

The Detour – “The Tub”
(Season Two, Episode 3)

Detour Best of

By Nick Rogers

The disheartening and demeaning sexual politics of the ’60s I wrote about in this space are back. The ’80s Russian subterfuge to pervert democracy I wrote about in this space is back. The fear that official or rogue actors will subvert public policy to disastrous ends by manipulating the technology that’s an irreversible part of our daily lives? Just one of eight daily courses of hell served to us daily … and which I wrote about in this space.

Thus: “Hi, Austin. Can I write about a comedy next time?”

Please don’t confuse this for retreat into laughter without care or consequence. The Detour only seems like that show with the one guy from The Daily Show about a vacationing family you vaguely remember hearing about, of which you might be wondering how it could possibly sustain itself and that you maybe think has something to do with Samantha Bee. (It does.)

It is so much more, starting with nigh-Cronenbergian body horror. This is TV’s most disgusting comedy that hasn’t (yet) stuck its hero’s head in a corpse’s ass. And for that, you need to pony up for pay cable. This is on TBS. Very funny, and not as a snarky pejorative.

In “The Tub,” Nate Parker (former Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones) inadvertently trips into an inflatable pool of his upstairs neighbor’s amniotic fluid — swallowing, as he puts it, her “birth gravy” and being pushed further into it as he tries to escape.

An episode earlier, we watched anally catapulted bodily fluids enter Nate’s eye into a slow-motion arc … and give him ocular gonorrhea. Believe me, there are fewer more, uh, infectious delights than Jason Jones squealing at medical indignities.

“The Tub” also functions as a perfect bottle episode — and ersatz introduction to The Detour’s sundry strengths — untethered to its time-hopping, True Detective-esque narrative.

Each of its acts begins with a stock sitcom situation: In the first, Nate and his partner, Robin, try to sneak in sex on the sly and are interrupted by kids. Their daughter, Delilah, knocks on the door (“Just give us a … minute-and-a-half, OK?”) and hears them call her a cock block, a phrase she misinterprets as something to do with chicken and which she then squawks in a fowl yowl.

Hard to get hard wondering whether your daughter is legitimately losing her mind. She and her brother, Jareb (not a typo), seem to simultaneously understand sex’s ultimate byproduct and not get it at all. Oh, but they will.

The second act: A party at a pregnant neighbor’s place to which no one wants to go. Of course, Jones excels at tripping over himself into unintentionally uncomfortable conversation. But it ramps up tension between Robin, who’s given consideration to becoming a mom again when surrounded by the pre-birth glow of positivity, and Nate, who’s giving thought to the ultimate snip. The Detour dovetails into this everyday concern with screwball precision.

Resuming the mood for a little “midnight snack” — but now without the last condom they had left — Nate and Robin embark on sophisticated, sardonic and severely funny sexual warfare. Negotiating a third child while in the very midst of lovemaking requires comic chemistry that only comes from a deep trust between performers separated by only a cock sock. “The Tub” is one of many episodes for which Natalie Zea (best known for playing Raylan Givens’ estranged wife on Justified) should have submitted for Emmy consideration. Hers is the best lead-actress performance on a comedy you’re not watching. Rectify that.

The third act: The neighbors need help with the birth because their doula is missing. See the aforementioned amniotic fluid. Raise it a passel of clitoris rings that Nate must remove so as to not scratch the baby’s face … and a pizza-ruining surprise. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Not since Arrested Development has a sitcom so skillfully straddled the line of sublime and surreal. But unlike that impeccable joke machine, The Detour is ultimately about something. How much you truly know about the people with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life? Are they your detour? Are you theirs? What happens when you fear the life you’ve made might be one entire side hustle to achieve something in which only one of you — or may neither of you — truly believes? The Detour is about looking at the world and wondering whether you even recognize it any longer.

So yes, Austin, I’m writing about a comedy this time. But in some ways, it’s no less an existential nightmare for our times. If you’re going to howl into the abyss, might as well be laughing.

 

Nick’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017 (Excluding “The Tub”)

1) Twin Peaks, “Part 8” (Season Three, Episode 8)

2) The Leftovers, “The Book of Nora” (Season Three, Episode 8)

3) The Handmaid’s Tale, “Late” (Season One, Episode 3)

4) Master of None, “New York, I Love You” (Season Two, Episode 6)

5) American Crime, “Episode Four” (Season Three, Episode 4)

6) Legion, “Chapter One” (Season One, Episode 1)

7) The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” (Season One, Episode 13)

8) Review, “Cryogenics; Lightning; Last Review” (Season Three, Episode 3)

9) Sherlock, “The Final Problem” (Season Four, Episode 3)

10) The Carmichael Show, “Shoot-Up-Able” (Season Three, Episode 5)

 

The Durrells in Corfu – “Episode 2.6”
(Season Two, Episode 6)

Durrells Best Of

By Larry D. Sweazy

Based on Gerald Durrells’ autobiographies about his family’s four years in Corfu, Greece, this engaging series is unlike anything else on television. Part comedy, part drama, set in the mid-1930s, it is a Homeric epic and a fish out of water tale combined. After losing her husband, Louisa Durrell decides to move the family, herself and her four children, Larry, Leslie, Margo, and Gerald, to the Greek island of Corfu. Short on money and skills, what ensues is an adventure in adaption and exploration that becomes the foundation of the children’s lives. Larry—Lawrence Durrell—was a renowned English author, and Gerald was an author and a well-respected naturalist. Margo and Leslie had less renown in their lives, but appeared to have been heavily influenced by their time in Corfu.

Gerry, of course, is my favorite. He is the youngest, on a quest to understand nature and life around him, while disregarding a more traditional education. At a young age, Gerry knows who he is, what he wants to become in life, and there is no stopping him. Milo Parker is perfect in the role. This show is really about a family rising out of grief and finding their way in life—all surrounded by a delightful exotic paradise. The family rents an Oceanside villa that is in the same state of disrepair as their lives, and they slowly make it their home. The island is peppered with interesting and unique characters, including Spiros the taxi driver, who looks out for the Durrells, and helps them navigate their new life on Corfu.

This series is really is best viewed from the start. By the time we get to Episode 6 in Season 2, Louisa has faced a failed romance with a stoic Swede, Sven Lundblad, portrayed perfectly by Ulric von der Esch, and has found herself in another budding romance with fellow Brit and olive grove owner, Hugh Jarvis. The romance pits her against her landlord, Vasilia, who was with Hughprior to his affection toward Louisa. Vasilia retaliates by seducing Larry (it doesn’t take much effort on Vasilia’s part). Hugh, of course, wants to return to England, and he wants to take Louisa and the family with him. Which leaves Louisa in a dilemma. She likes Hugh and the comforts he can offer her, but she has grown accustomed to her life on Corfu. There is a scene with a bird man that is particularly magical and lovely, a simple turning point that helps Louisa make her decision that will remain memorable for a long time to come.

All of the characters experience growth and maturity at some level, and that is the gratifying part of this show. It moves along quietly, allowing the viewer to experience the paradise and lives that the Durrells experienced at the same pace they did. Refreshing and entertaining, nothing more than a delectable slice of life.

The Durrells in Corfu offers a much-needed escape from the craziness of every day modern life.

 

Larry’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) The Durrells in Corfu, “Episode 2.6” (Season Two, Episode 6)

2) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: MADMAX” (Season Two, Episode 1)

3) Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine: The Gate” (Season Two, Episode 9)

4) Grantchester, “Episode 1” (Season Three, Episode 1)

5) Grantchester, “Episode 5” (Season Three, Episode 5)

6) Jack Whitehall, Travels With My Father, “Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)

7) Godless, “Incident at Creede” (Season One, Episode 1)

8) Godless, “The Ladies of La Belle” (Season One, Episode 2)

9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer” (Season Two, Episode 8)

10) The Durrells in Corfu, “Episode 2.1” (Season Two, Episode 1)

 

The Expanse – ‘Home”
(Season Two, Episode 5)

Expanse Best Of

By Alan Gordon

Spoilers for Season One and up to this episode of Season Two of The Expanse.

Somehow, I was the only person out of all the contributors last year to even mention The Expanse. What was wrong with you people? [Editor’s note: Since the last article Austin and Ray Martindale are now big fans of this show. Judgment can continue to the rest of the contributors.] It was simply the best science fiction series to hit the small screen since — okay, it may be the best science fiction series I’ve ever seen.

The show was adapted from a series of books that I haven’t read yet. The show-runners, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, were the screenwriters for Iron Man and Children of Men, which means they’re good. Very good. What they did in this series was something only the smartest science fiction writers do: They considered the economics.

Oh, god, what a boring thought. But have you ever considered what would drive us to actually colonize our solar system? Pure science won’t cut it. To boldly go, blah, blah, won’t cut it. There’s got to be a buck in it for the venture capitalists, or we’ll just sit here on Earth until we use up all of the resources and die [it’s been a depressing year, forgive me].

The Expanse presents us with three autonomous regimes: Earth, which is desperate for resources; Mars, which is making all the cool military tech; and the asteroid belt, a loose confederation of mining installations who depend on water and air being shipped in. Each has its own well thought out cultures [and accents, which are subtle and vaguely South African sounding in the Belt]. The colonies don’t look like FX — they look lived in, dirty and rusty and patched up.

The politics operate on an inter-global scale. Each regime has reasons for needing the others, each has reasons for distrusting them. There have been wars, there are intrigues and assassinations. And the Mormons are still doing stuff.

In the first season, a handful of ice miners leave their ship on a small craft to trace a distress call. The five of them, are stranded when the mother ship is blown apart by a mysterious vessel. They wind up on a small Martian-built battleship, renamed the Rocinante, and go on a series of perilous adventures, seeking the answer of who was behind the attack. Meanwhile, Joe Miller, a rogue Belter detective played beautifully by Thomas Jane, is asked to look into the disappearance of Julie Mao, a tech billionaire’s daughter on a mission of her own. The two stories come together at the end of Season One.

It is Miller’s search for Julie that gives this series much of its flavor. As he obsesses over her disappearance, he falls in love, even though he’s never seen her face to face. It’s noir in space, taking its inspiration from Preminger’s 1944 Laura, only grittier and sadder. Jane’s performance, that of a hard-boiled, unsentimental rogue gradually succumbing to feeling, is layered and nuanced. Julie Mao becomes Miller’s quest, and a tragically romantic one at that.

The MacGuffin for the series is the extra-solar “protomolecule,” which is being used by unnamed powers to create weaponized supercreatures. In the episode “Home,” the protomolecule has infected an entire colony on the asteroid Eros. It will take a desperation mission to destroy it before it infects the rest of the system. Things go wrong, and Miller ends up alone on a suicide mission, working his way to the interior, dragging a faulty nuclear bomb while clutching a dead man’s switch the entire way. Who and what he finds at the end of his journey is heart-breaking.

There is so much more. Jane’s Miller will be missed [and for all we know, may come back].

Season Three starts up in 2018. You have time to watch the first two.

Do it.

 

Alan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017 with additional commentary

1) The Expanse, “Home” (Season Two, Episode 5)

2) Legion, “Chapter 6” (Season One, Episode 6) This show is batshit crazy. The secret weapon was Aubrey Plaza, who was crazy-sexy-funny-scary. Change those y’s to iests for this episode.

3) Dancing with the Stars, “Semi-Finals” (Season Twenty-Five, Episode 10) The secret weapon on this show for the last few years has been dancer Lindsay Arnold, who has been quietly brilliant as a choreographer in bringing out the best and disguising the faults of her partners. When she met “Hamilton” vet and clear ringer Jordan Fisher, she chortled, “I finally got someone my own age!” They blew it away. Their jive in this one is not to be believed.

4) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer” (Season Two, Episode 8)

5) The Incredible Jessica James   [Editor’s Note: This is a movie, not a TV show. But I’m all for more people seeing this Jessica Williams performance so I’m keeping it in.]

6) Taboo, “Episode 8” (Season One, Episode 8) A shoot-out with single-loading weapons never looked so real nor so tense.

7) Sense8, “You Want a War?” (Season Two, Episode 11)

8) iZombie, “Return of the Dead Guy” (Season Three, Episode 10)

9) Grey’s Anatomy, “Out of Nowhere” (Season Fourteen, Episode 8) This show keeps plugging along, and every now and then will come up with a really good idea. The terror of what happens when hackers take over a hospital’s computer system is handled effectively, while an other shoe which has been waiting to drop for so long that we had pretty much forgotten about it was deployed at the perfect moment. MId-season finale, of course.

10) Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, “Queens” (Season Nine, Episode 5) I’m from there. I’m hungry.

 

Future Man – “Beyond the TruffleDome”
(Season One, Episode 11)

Future Man Best of

By Zach Bundy

Future Man is a time travel enthusiast’s dream show. Brief synopsis: Josh Futterman is a janitor at a medical research facility try to find the cure for herpes. He is an avid gamer and currently is playing Biotic Wars, which is regarded as an unbeatable game in the gaming world. When Josh becomes the only person to beat the game, he is visited by characters in the game, Wolf and Tiger, from the future. He quickly discovers the game is real and is a training program sent back in time from the future to find the savior (much like The Last Starfighter, as Josh points out). With raunchy humor and time travel devices galore, it is a solid, fun show to binge.

The best episode is “Beyond the TruffleDome,” where we find Wolf has been stranded in the 80’s, and with his new found love of the culinary arts, he opens up an underground restaurant that serves a terrifying and delicious experience. He kidnaps his clientele and brings them to the brink of death to open their palettes. With a strong developing cocaine problem, Wolf soon sees his cooling empire fall. With great 80’s references and throwing a post apocalyptic warrior into a master chef role, this episode is hilarious.

 

Zach’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Game of Thrones, “Beyond the Wall” (Season Seven, Episode 6)

2) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

3) G.L.O.W., “Money’s in the Chase” (Season One, Episode 10)

4) Future Man, “Beyond the TruffleDome” (Season One, Episode 11)

5) Future Man, “Pandora’s Mailbox” (Season One, Episode 7)

6) Stranger Things, “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister” (Season Two, Episode 7)

7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Four: Will the Wise” (Season Two, Episode 4)

8) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: MADMAX” (Season Two, Episode 1)

9) Atypical, “Anarctica” (Season One, Episode 1)

10) Atypical, “The D-Train to Bone Town” (Season One, Episode 6)

 

Game of Thrones – “The Dragon and the Wolf”
(Season Seven, Episode 7)

Game of Thrones Best Of

By Dennis Sullivan

It only took seven seasons, but it was well worth the wait.

The story of nine noble families fighting for power while an unrelenting, long-forgotten force marches to destroy them all finally brought all the story lines together. This episode was the culmination of seven seasons and fans finally got to see that the endgame is set up. For seven seasons, only the Night’s Watch seemed to understand the gravity of the situation that was going to transpire. The previous episode sent a Who’s Who of Westerosi legends (and a few pieces of plot armor) across the Wall to capture an undead being. The hope was to finally get a truce amongst the living. Some quick back channels (too be fair, everything was a bit rushed this season) lead to one of the show’s finest scenes. The Hound releases the undead out of a box and straight towards Cersi Lannister. The antagonist finally believes! And she actually shows a bit of humanity in the process proving once again that Lena Heady is one of the finest actors on the show and her character is one of the most ruthless characters in a world full of it.

Furthermore, Jon and Dany finally get their time together. Their desire, with tension building all season, quickly escalated to give fans what they have been wanting for so long. The mixing of ice and fire become one. Of course, this is Game of Thrones. When something good happens to anyone, something immediately bad tends to happen as well.

So once again, Game of Thrones shows an incestuous coupling and it felt even weirder than normal. Sure, they were rushed for time. Sure, they could have handled it differently. But they didn’t. Just add it to the growing list of times the show hasn’t handled a sex scene appropriately. However, with Jon’s lineage finally confirmed and definitely the rightful heir to the throne, it is sure to put a damper on their relationship even more than just being related (what a sentence to write). I, for one, am excited to see how it plays out. The largest flaw of this season was the pacing. It felt as if much of the season was rushing to get to the scenes we saw tonight. They paid off by progressing the plot, but this was truly one of the only great episodes of the season. The pacing was back on point for the most part, and the setup for the final battle was great. Now the only question is whether or not the humans will actually survive. Will the show really go there to tell the tale of humanity losing?

 

Dennis’ Top Episodes of 2017

1) The Americans, “Dyatkovo” (Season Five, Episode 11)

2) The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” (Season One, Episode 13)

3) The Leftovers, “Crazy Whitefella Thinking” (Season Three, Episode 4)

4) Love, “Shrooms” (Season Two, Episode 4)

5) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

6) Stranger Things, “Chapter Six: The Spy” (Season Two, Episode 6)

7) Big Little Lies, “You Get What You Need” (Season One, Episode 7)

8) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “The Gang Turns Black” (Season Twelve, Episode 1)

9) Please Like Me, “Burrito Bowl” (Season Four, Episode 5)

10) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “When Do I Get to Spend Time with Josh?” (Season Two, Episode 9)

 

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Dennis’ Double Life”
(Season Twelve, Episode 10)

It's Always Sunny Best Of

By Evan Dossey

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia had a classic twelfth season (how many sitcoms can say the same?). In what seems to be an effort to stave off boredom the creators / stars Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Rob McHellenny, and Kaitlin Olson created a ten-episode set that varied in structure episode-to-episode and confronted the characters with lasting, real decisions. No episode of the season more exemplified the trend than “Dennis’ Double Life,” which brought to a head twelve seasons of thematic development, crude comedy, and moral degeneracy by finally giving the characters what they wanted.

“Double Life” is about a woman showing up on the gang’s doorstep with a baby she claims belongs to Dennis, the result of his layover in Nebraska from Season Ten’s “The Gang Beats Boggs.” Dennis denies it and the Gang naturally devises another of their depraved plots to get him out of his situation. But the woman isn’t a loon; her son isn’t a plot. She’s a regular person looking to see if the father of her child has any interest in him. Dennis’ decision at the end of the episode writes him out of the show, but also feels like a natural evolution for the character.

It’s no secret that Howerton was tiring of the show around this time (and may still have no intention of returning to the delayed 13th season in 2019). An easy send-off for his character would have been to double-down on the show’s classic Dennis is a Serial Killer joke, as long-running as the show. His deviousness, vanity, and narcissism have always made for great euphemism, but the show deserves kudos for laying his character as bare as possible in this episode: despite all the jokes, he’s just a loser, and his child presents an opportunity to actually achieve something real.

Dennis’ escape from his gang of friends in the search for actual responsibility and human connection might not be eternal but it feels like a real advancement for his character that shines new light on everything that came before.

He isn’t the only one who got a surprisingly substantial development in what feels like it could be a series finale. Charlie, the dumb-as-a-rock janitor of Patty’s Pub, finally achieves his series long goal – and finds it wanting. It’s a surprising moment for a show that relies on callbacks and running gags but it feels like the only emotionally real culmination to the story (without the aid of PCP on the Jersey Shore, at least).

For a show that has always played off of heightened reality, bringing it all down into a place that feels true in “Dennis’ Double Life” was a hell of a feat. Bravo.

 

Evan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Twin Peaks, “Chapter 8” (Season Three, Episode 8)
2) Twin Peaks, “Chapter 16” (Season Three, Episode 16)
3) Doctor Who, “The Doctor Falls” (Season Ten, Episode 12)
4) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “The Gang Turns Black” (Season Twelve, Episode 1)
5) Better Call Saul, “Chicanery” (Season Three, Episode 5)
6) American Gods, “Git Gone” (Season One, Episode 4)
7) Twin Peaks, “Chapter 2” (Season Three, Episode 2)
8) The Vietnam War
9) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Dennis’ Double Life” (Season Twelve, Episode 10)
10) Review, “Cryogenics; Lightning; Last Review” (Season Three, Episode 3)

 

The Leftovers – “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World”
(Season Three, Episode 5)

Leftovers Best Of

By Ray Martindale

It’s hard to write about The Leftovers without discussing religion. The show itself is built on existential themes, the passing of life/death and cosmic causality. The show attempts to make the audience question their existence & their purpose. It asks, are we the product of some grand design, the proud pinnacle achievement of higher power, waiting for its return? Or, are we merely self-inflated, just looking for patterns in the chaos?

This episode begins four days before the seven-year anniversary of ‘The Departure’ an event where 2% of the world’s population disappeared in an instant. While, many believe this event to be some unexplained scientific phenomenon there are other sects of humanity that believe it has more divine significance.

A series regular Matt Jamison, (Christopher Eccleston) is a minister from a small town in upstate New York where the series originates. Matt’s character has grown immensely to this point in the series. He began the show vehemently denying ‘The Departure’ was a spiritual event, going so far as passing out flyers containing sordid details of his hometown’s ‘departed’ in an effort to illustrate those taken were not devout or particularly good people (much to the town’s chagrin). He is a principled man, a good man, but a man who lacks social consciousness, patience or tolerance of other’s opinions on ‘The Departure’

It would take paragraphs to fully illustrate Matt’s psyche. In summary, over the course of show (the audience) and Matt have been given extraordinary evidence to support his character’s faith in a higher power (or perhaps just patterns in the chaos)? Needless to say, he is on a mission to return Kevin (Justin Theroux) to the town of Miracle, Texas. He is accompanied by Laurie Garvey (Amy Brenneman) who is Keven’s ex-wife & his friends and fellow disciples, John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) & his son Michael Murphy (Jovan Adepo), the former two both believing as Matt does, that Kevin is blessed by the divine & his presence in Miracle on the 7th anniversary is crucial to the fate of the world.

For reasons I won’t explain here, Kevin contacted his ex-wife & psychiatrist Laurie and revealed that he believes he is having delusions & in need of help. He is currently stranded in Melbourne, Australia, after flights are grounded due to a terrorist event involving a nuclear detonation, (a wild opening sequence to this episode where a naked submarine commander commandeers & successfully launches a nuclear missile from a French submarine). Laurie is the anti-thesis to Matt’s character, a psychiatrist and scientific mind who believes therapy, not religion, will help heal the wounds of this unexplained ’departure’. She is angry with Matt, over his insistence on pushing Kevin to accept his role in Matt’s ‘divine narrative’ and regularly questions Matt’s motives for perpetuating & feeding Kevin’s delusions.

Once in the air, they are informed they cannot land in Melbourne due to tightened flight restrictions and must divert to Tasmania & charter a boat to Melbourne. However, the only boat bound for Melbourne allowing them to retrieve Kevin & return to Miracle in time has been privately booked for an annual adult’s-only event.

More specifically, a boat of consenting adults dressed in bizarrely fashioned costumes have gathered to attend the celebration of Fraiser, a lion who reportedly impregnated an entire pride of lioness over the course of a single night. Matt attempts to gain passage on the boat for the four of them by haggling with the ships administrator, a middle-aged woman wearing a lion headdress. After Matt explains Kevin is in danger, the woman reluctantly explains that he may enter but only after telling her the filthiest joke he knows. I am not going write here what Matt’s joke was, but briefly discuss its implication.

Matt is a pious man, a faulty man, but an honest, fair & compassionate man. He is a devout husband, dutifully caring for his disabled wife. He’s a dear friend & secret-keeper of many characters on the show. However, in the eight seconds it takes to tell this joke Matt has to abandon any modicum of this identity. Moreover, he has to humiliate & debase himself in the face of his friends & disciples John & Michael. This moment is significant, as it helps bring a measure of depth Matt’s resolve & additionally illustrates the pity his entourage has for him as they secretly question the importance of the mission.

Once aboard, his disciples address these concerns with Matt who reassures them they will succeed, even blaspheming in his insistence that they have to succeed in bringing Kevin home. Matt abruptly departs for the nearest restroom due to an intense nosebleed (a product of terminal cancer Matt is secretly hiding). Once in the restroom, Matt is greeted by a crewmember who seems to insinuate Matt must have gotten into a tussle with a regular passenger on board, who is known for having a hot temper. The crewmember eludes to the man as a regional celebrity and the “one true god himself.” Matt, being a pious man & a servant of God, decides he must confront this gentleman.

The crewmember gave Matt a description of a short scruffy man, with a dark jacket & red baseball cap. Matt, having found the man on the top deck, asks him if he is ‘telling people that your god?’ The man, (God?) stands, then retrieves a card from his pocket & silently passes the card to Matt before exiting frame. The words “Yes, I Am God” are printed boldly on the front of the card.

In the next scene Matt is reading the reverse side of the card to Michael with great sarcasm & disdain. The card reads like a Facebook bio, detailing in certainties the answers to some of life’s most puzzling questions, “I go by many names, but Mr. Burton is fine. ..there was no big bang, just nothing then light. Yes, I created you. No, I did not create unicorns. Eve, was not created from Adam’s rib, it was his Tibia. I asked Abraham to kill Isaac just to see if he’d do it. Yes, evolution is real but it doesn’t work the way you think it does…” Matt is deeply troubled by this gentleman & his portrayal of himself as God. Michael suggests his anger & frustration may have more to do with his concealed illness & suggests he seek Laurie’s help. Appealing to Matt’s sense of mission, suggesting “perhaps Laurie is an apostle, too.”

Matt speaks with Laurie, where she announces she has decided to allow Matt to continue to feed into Kevin’s delusions that he’s special, and fears shattering that perspective may do more harm than good for Kevin’s eventual recovery. Matt rejects her insistence that Kevin is delusional & reasserts his faith in their mission, despite Laurie revealing Kevin told her he was seeing John’s very-much-deceased daughter in Melbourne.

As Matt, pontificates on the implications of Laurie’s reveal. He witnesses the man calling himself God, violently throw a man overboard. This leads Matt to make every effort to prove the man is not who he says he is & is indeed a murderer.

Rather than continue to give a play-by-play of the remaining 25 minutes of this brilliant episode, I will leave it for the reader to see. Suffice it to say, the rest of the episode’s events continue to challenge Matt’s faith and test his moral character as he desperately attempts to salvage the religious significance of his quest to find Kevin.

Season Three, Episode 5 “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” is the series defining episode for Eccleston’s Matt Jameson character. It beautifully illustrates human insecurities, our natural predilection for self-importance & our desperate desire for meaning & significance. It further tests the objectivity of these cosmic ideas by giving the audience reasonable evidence to conclude valid divinity exists, before stopping just short of providing full certainty. Much like, the biblical Job, Matt’s entire reason for existence, his faith & the resulting mission are put into question as he begins grappling with the implications of his own mortality and a lifetime of emotional baggage & personal grievances are ultimately revealed to ‘God’.

The show has an excellent story with brilliantly realized, deeply flawed characters bound to extraordinary circumstances. It discusses broad themes of existentialism, religion, self-identity & love with surgical precision, while quietly insisting on something generally magical & beyond scientific explanation. It makes you think critically. It breathlessly entertains. And more importantly, it forces you to sympathize with perspectives that may not necessarily be your own. The characters are nuanced. The story is rich & the acting is superb. I highly recommend the series.

 

Ray’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) The Leftovers, “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World” (Season Three, Episode 5)

2) The Leftovers, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” (Season Three, Episode 7)

3) BoJack Horseman, “Stupid Piece of Sh*t” (Season Four, Episode 6)

4) BoJack Horseman, “Time’s Arrow” (Season Four, Episode 11)

5) Marvel’s The Punisher, “Virtue of the Vicious” (Season One, Episode 10)

6) Ozark, “Coffee, Black” (Season One, Episode 9)

7) The Expanse, “Home” (Season Two, Episode 5)

8) The Expanse, “Doors & Corners” (Season Two, Episode 2)

9) Game of Thrones, “Beyond the Wall” (Season Seven, Episode 6)

10) Better Call Saul, “Fall” (Season Three, Episode 9) I haven’t seen it but that show is awesome & it deserves votes! 😀 [Editor’s note: Democracy is stupid.]

 

Legion – “Chapter 1”
(Season One, Episode 1)

Legion Best Of

By Aaron Wittwer

Legion may be based on a pre-existing Marvel property, but it feels wrong to think of this show as an adaptation. It’s so wholly removed from the MCU and the X-Men Movie universe that even acknowledging the common ancestry between such disparate offshoots seems somehow inappropriate. I have not read any of the source material, but this show feels so vibrantly personal and original that I have to believe it is entirely divergent from beat one. So let me talk a bit about beat one (aka Chapter 1) of Noah Hawley’s Legion. Because, back in February of this year, it was the most exciting, fresh, and cinematic thing I’d ever seen on television.

We are introduced to David Haller via a time-hopping, match cut montage of his life leading up to his current status as a long-term resident at the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. As the name implies, it’s a Kubrickian institution that feels like it exists outside of time. Everyone is wearing track-suits. The furniture is decidedly retro. There’s a tree in the lounge. There’s a man inside the tree. It’s very strange. It feels like the 1960s, but there are enough flecks of modern technology to keep the brain from getting a firm grasp on time and place.

From a swirling kaleidoscope of scenes we begin to get and idea of David’s life at the hospital. He pals around with his semi-deranged friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza at her career best). He attends therapy meetings. He meets and falls in love with Sydney, a new resident who doesn’t like to be touched. And just as we start to settle into this narrative, it is revealed that everything so far has been a scatterbrained recounting of events as told by David to a mysterious interrogator. Suddenly we’re cutting between three or four timelines, each more unreliable than the last. And the genre begins to shift. Is this a thriller? Romance? Horror? Bollywood musical? Time and narrative and genre fold in on themselves over and over until we all are hopelessly disoriented in the best way possible.

This is the world as seen through the eyes of a terrifyingly unreliable, possibly schizophrenic, narrator. The scenes are cobbled together from David’s neural firings and misfirings. Flashes of memories. Non-linear, contradictory events that may or may not have occured. The dizzying camerawork throwing us even further off balance as we skate between scenes, barely able to grasp what is happening.

But let’s not forget we’re in the hands of Noah Hawley, who’s now delivered on three incredible seasons of masterful storytelling with Fargo. Here he takes that mastery to a new level. For all of it’s dizzying weirdness, the narrative current is always there moving the story forward. By the end of this episode, there is still a considerable amount of confusion, but it’s a purposeful confusion that perfectly primes the audience for the wild and beautiful season that is to follow.

 

Aaron’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017 (Excluding Legion)

1) Twin Peaks, “Part 8” (Season Three, Episode 8)

2) Nathan for You, “Finding Francis” (Season Four, Episode 7)

3) The Good Place, “Dance Dance Resolution” (Season Two, Episode 2)

4) Detectorists, “Episode 3.6” (Season Three, Episode 6)

5) Patriot, “Un Monsieur Triste En Costume” (Season One, Episode 5 )

6) Channel Zero: No End House, “The Hollow Girl” (Season Two, Episode 6)

7) Big Little Lies, “You Get What You Need” (Season One, Episode 7)

8) Better Call Saul : “Chicanery” (Season Three, Episode 5)

9) Glow, “Money’s in the Chase” (Season One, Episode 10)

10)American Vandal, “The Clean Up” (Season One, Episode 8)

 

Marvel’s The Defenders – “Worst Behavior”
(Season One, Episode 3)

Defenders Best Of

By Josh West

At the end of every year I look forward more and more to Thanksgiving and less to Christmas. Not because I dislike Christmas. I love Christmas. But nothing beats Thanksgiving food. It’s magical. But every year, as I am coming down from my Thanksgiving high, I get blindsided by an email from Austin.  “Austin’s Crazy TV Arti-” Son of a B*****! He wants ANOTHER one?!? So now I’m stuck with the realization of how much time I have spent watching TV…maybe this is how Trump got into the white house….

One of the best episodes of The Defenders was arguably Episode 3, “Worst Behavior.” The Defenders isn’t anything groundbreaking, in my book. It takes four main characters from other shows, they eventually meet each other and find out they are fighting for the same cause or against the same bad guy, witty banter happens, and the bad guy is defeated. I had a lot of fun watching Matt weight-of-the-world-is-on-my-shoulders “Daredevil” Murdock meet up with Jessica you-couldn’t-pay-me-enough-to-give-a-shit Jones, Luke heart-of-gold-abs-of-steel-sex-machine Cage, and Danny Oliver-Queen-ripoff-but-trade-the-bow-for-the-old-flashlight-under-the-hand-trick “Iron Fist” Rand.

One of my favorite things about the series as a whole, is how in the beginning of the season, the feel of each scene corresponded to their respective shows. Scenes based around Matt had a dark, shadowy look to them. For Jessica, things were very grey and flat. Anything having to do with Luke had a golden filter and was vibrant and scenes based around Danny were boring and white. But as the season went on, the colors and looks merged together. By the end of the series, and once everyone had learned to work together, all of the scenes had a unified, similar look to them.

Coming off the end of the second episode where Jessica, who had been taken in for questioning, abruptly meets Matt when he barges in and tells her to stop talking because he is her lawyer; and where Danny, trying to learn about The Hand’s operation meets, or should I say, gets his ass handed to him by Luke- Episode 3 shows us how our rag tag team of heroes gets to know each other. It doesn’t go over well. Luke and Danny talk and realize they are kind of fighting for the same thing, but Luke, realizing that he and Danny are looking at two separate bigger pictures, plays the “White Male Privilege” card and says its not gonna work out. It’s you, not me. Meanwhile, after Matt springs Jessica from police custody, she starts walking home only to realize that she is being followed by Mr. Murdock. C’mon Matt! You should know better than to follow a private eye. The best part about this scene is that in no time flat, Jessica realizes she is being followed and doubles back around and starts following Matt!

Eventually we wind up at Rand Enterprises where our four heroes all happen to end up at the same time. On the top floor, Danny riles up a boardroom full of ninjas, Matt hears the silenced gunshot and steals Jessica’s infinity scarf because no one can know who he really is. He takes off running up the stairs, in true Daredevil fashion and is met on the top floor by Jessica Jones as she takes a step off the elevator, true to Jessica Jones form. While Matt is parkour-ing his way up 30 flights of stairs, Danny is aided in his fight against the ninjas by none other than Luke Muthafuckin’ Cage. Soon after Jessica and Matt arrive and we see the whole team together in their first fight. It’s an awesome moment. “Worst Behavior” is one of the more fun episodes of The Defenders. It shows a little bit of the strengths and weaknesses of our heroes and provides the single event that is needed to bring them together. Also, Jessica delivers one of the best threats of the whole series when she tells Matt that if he grabs her again she’ll “punch him so hard he’ll see.”

 

Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) SuperGirl; The Flash; Arrow; DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Crisis on Earth X: Parts 1-4” (Various) [Editor’s Note: People aren’t supposed to have ties in their Top 10 list but I noted a sense of hostility from Josh so I let it go. Also it didn’t change the year’s average.]

2) Digimon: Adventure Tri, “Coexistence” (Season One, Episode 5)

3) Stranger Things, “Chapter Six: The Spy” (Season Two, Episode 6)

4) Big Mouth, “Am I Gay?” (Season One, Episode 3)

5) DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Welcome to the Jungle” (Season Two, Episode 7)

6) SuperGirl, “Damage” (Season Two, Episode 5)

7) The Flash, “Duet” (Season Three, Episode 17)

8) The Walking Dead, “Say Yes” (Season Seven, Episode 12)

9) Big Mouth, “Girls Are Horny Too” (Season One, Episode 5)

10) DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Beebo the God of War” (Season Two, Episode 9)

 

Master of None – “Thanksgiving”
(Season Two, Episode 8)

Master of None best of

By Michelle Manzo

I was psyched to see the return of Master of None to Netflix this year, and celebrated by watching it all in one day. While I loved the season overall and a number of episodes in it, one easily rose to the top for me, and that was “Thanksgiving.”

As a queer human, this episode gives me a lot of feelings. Coming out is not a simple process whether it be to yourself, your friends, or your family. Most episodic shows would limit the coming out episode to just the one moment where Denise tells her mom “I’m gay”, but Master of None choose to focus on the whole story, and tells it masterfully. It starts with Denise as a young girl focusing on girls dancing in a music video, to her refusing to wear a dress at dinner, to coming out, to bringing girls over for dinner. It’s a process that takes a lifetime, and framing it around Thanksgiving simply works beautifully.

Beyond that, this episode takes the whole story a step further to talk not just about the coming out experience, but what that experience might look like as a person of color. I’ve always loved Master of None for lifting me out of my white world and showing me what it feels like to be a man like Dev, or a woman like Denise. This episode is just another chapter of this show continuing to do that so well. Denise’s mother mourns that her daughter is gay simply because it’s hard enough being black and being a woman…to add something else? This is a sentiment I know many parents feel, and one the episode addresses well.

I also appreciate the fact it addresses not just “coming out”, but Denise bringing girls home for Thanksgiving. Michelle’s initial welcome maybe isn’t as warm as it could have been, but after meeting @NipplesAndToes23, the family welcomes Michelle with open arms down the line.

There’s a reason this episode won an Emmy for writing – it’s beautiful. This episode represents just about everything I want TV to be these days. It’s one of many reasons why I’ll continue returning to Master of None.

 

Michelle’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War” (Season Seven, Episode 4)

2) The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred” (Season One, Episode 1)

3) House of Cards, “Chapter 64” (Season Five, Episode 12)

4) Master of None, “Thanksgiving” (Season Two, Episode 8)

5) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

6) House of Cards, “Chapter 65” (Season Five, Episode 13)

7) The Handmaid’s Tale, “A Woman’s Place” (Season One, Episode 6)

8) The Handmaid’s Tale, “Late” (Season One, Episode 3)

9) Game of Thrones, “The Queen’s Justice” (Season Seven, Episode 3)

10) Doctor Who, “The Doctor Falls” (Season Ten, Episode 12)

 

One Mississippi – “Can’t Fight This Feeling”
(Season Two, Episode 5)

One Mississippi Best Of

By Rachael Clark

One Mississippi has become one of my favorite shows this year. It is short, sweet, endearing, and most importantly, hilarious. The entire second season can be watched in about 2 hours of binging, leaving you wanting more. The show revolves around Tig, a stand-up comedian who goes back to Mississippi after hearing about her mother dying and being diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time the second season starts, her mother has passed and as of right now she is cancer-free, but Tig always finds antics in the state of Mississippi she must deal with.

Each episode is fantastic in it’s own right, but the episode that truly sticks out is the second to the last episode of the season entitled, “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. The episode begins with Tig and her producer, Kate, sitting across from each late at night listening to a soft rock song to add to their playlist. You can tell these two have great chemistry with each other without words. (Spoiler alert, they are married in real life.) After the song is over Tig puts her glasses on her nose so they are dangling down and not placed neatly over her ears. She asks Kate, “Be honest, do these glasses work for me?” With a straight face and without a beat Kate responds, “Yeah, they really frame your face nicely.” The whole reason they are listening to songs is to put together a playlist for producers about a new show where they move to New Zealand to ride out the apocalypse. You can tell Tig is uncomfortable and taken aback by this. For a while now, the characters and the audience, know that Tig has strong feelings for Kate, and Kate has not entirely reciprocated her feelings. Tig says this will not work because, “Everytime I look at you I picture us growing old together in our little wheelchairs holding hands.” Awwwww, she is crushing hard.

The next day Kate goes into Jack’s office (an executive producer) to pitch the New Zealand project. While Kate is talking, Jack starts masturbating under the table. (As uncomfortable as it is to write this I can only imagine how uncomfortable anyone would be in this situation. This episode is also hinted as a nod to what Louis C.K. has done.) You can tell Kate it taken aback and doesn’t know what to do trying to assess the situation. She quickly finishes her pitch and leaves the room as soon as possible. Kate tells Tig about the incident. Tig storms into Jack’s office but he vehemently denies it saying he has jockage. What the hell? He isn’t convincing anybody. This leaves Kate furious. We have never actually seen her really upset before and it is disheartening because it is about a man in power who took advantage and she has no control over it. Tig attempts to calm her down by telling her to come to her house so she can have company; they can order out food and have a relaxing evening.

Now we go to the house where we see the whole family together for dinner. We have Remy (Tig’s brother) and his girlfriend Desiree, Bill (Tig’s stepfather) and his new lady friend Felicia, and Tig and her one-day hopeful girlfriend Kate. Remy is a sweet and charming guy with some issues I can not delve into right now. His girlfriend, Desiree, is a nice lady but simple. Let’s just say during the dinner conversation, you discover she doesn’t believe in dinosaurs. Bill is more than just a type-A personality, he is A+++. Everything has a designated place and order, and of course a label. He gets really worked up if something is askew. However, you can tell he deeply cares about his stepchildren, the only children he has ever had. The three family members at the table, Tig, Remy, and Bill, are such contrasting characters you wonder what they would ever have in common to talk about. But, when the mother/wife comes up in the conversation, you can easily tell these people are more alike than what they seem and that is really beautiful.

The episode ends on a very sweet note. Tig and Kate go to bed in Tig’s old room which conveniently has two separate twin beds. As they say goodnight to each other the camera closes in on Kate’s face and the audience see what she is thinking; her and Tig old together in their little wheelchairs. Tig rolls up to Kate who is reading the newspaper asking, “Say what do you think of my new glasses, too busy?” Of course they are framed the same way as they were in the beginning of the episode. Kate responds, “No I don’t think so,” she says smiling as they hold hands.

If I were to condense this show into one word it would be bittersweet. During the first season I balled my eyes out most of the time. It dealt with the death of Tig’s mother in a very real and raw emotion, making me reflect on a time I hope to not experience anytime soon. The second season is lighter, but it deals with family relationships after a significant loss and moving on while also dealing with the past. While the show can get dark sometimes, it never stops being funny or showing the good during depressing times. I can’t wait for the next season to see what happens next.

 

Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017*

1) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

2) The Good Place, “Dance Dance Resolution” (Season Two, Episode 2)

3) Mindhunter, “1.3” (Season One, Episode 3)

4) One Mississippi, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (Season Two, Episode 5)

5) Veep, “Judge” (Season Six, Episode 8)

6) Orange is the New Black, “Pissters!” (Season Five, Episode 3)

7) The Handmaid’s Tale, “A Woman’s Place” (Season One, Episode 6)

8) Insecure, “Hella Questions” (Season Two, Episode 2)

9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: Dig Dug” (Season Two, Episode 5)

10) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “HalloVeen” (Season Five, Episode 4)

 

*Embarrassed to admit but I still need to watch second season of Master of None and the first season of Big Little Lies.

 

 

Riverdale – “Chapter One: The River’s Edge”
(Season One, Episode 1)

Riverdale Best Of

By Leigh Montano

Oh, Riverdale.

Riverdale.

Riverdale.

Riverdale.

Where do I even begin?

When asked my opinion about this show, my response is usually, “That show is so fucking dumb but I love it so much.” Or some variation therein.

Because it is. It’s a nonsensical show that often loses its own train of thought. One minute it is a teen drama, the next it’s a spooky mystery. It bounces tonally between Pretty in Pink and In Cold Blood with the ease of an elephant doing karate. On paper, this show shouldn’t be something I like

  1. On the CW
  2. About high schoolers
  3. Everyone is unbelievably beautiful
  4. Did I mention that it’s on the CW?

But yet, here I am. Watching every minute of the show, twice, theorizing with friends about who the might be Black Hood (COULD THEY NOT COME UP WITH A BETTER NAME?!) and wanting Cheryl to be my best frenemy.

I was introduced to this show by my former roommate and close friend, Scott. He has a penchant for bad teen dramas and shows starring ridiculously good looking bad actors so when he asked if we could start Riverdale, I was hesitant, to say the least.

And then we watched five episodes.

There is absolutely no reason for this show to be good. The writing is melodramatic, at best (Polly is pregnant! With twins! And her cousin is the father!). The characters are tropes borrowed from 1980s teen dramas. The plot changes its mind every commercial break.

But there’s just something about the previously sleepy town of Riverdale that has been rocked by murder, scandal and controversy that keeps me enthralled and has me drooling for the next episode.

The writing isn’t great. But it’s entertaining. The twists are predictable but fun. The characters are so ridiculous that they could only exist in a CW teen drama for them to make sense. (C’mon. A suburban housewife mom was a former gang member? There’s only like two shows where that could happen.)

This year has been tough for everyone as we sit and watch the world burn down around us. The joys we’ve found in the past year have to be protected, even if they don’t make sense. (Seriously? A faux lesbian kiss gets you on the cheerleading squad?! In what universe does that make sense?!)

I could pick any episode of Riverdale to talk about and dissect. Each one is more ridiculous than the last and just as much fun to pick apart and talk about. The one I’m going to talk about is the pilot. It’s the episode I use to pitch the show to people who are skeptical.

The audience is introduced to this very pretty town, full of beautiful people who all know each other personally, even the mayor. It’s a stereotypical small town that geographically could be anywhere in the northeastern US, complete with it’s no nonsense, “good guy” dad (played WONDERFULLY by Luke Perry). We are introduced to the All American Boy, Archie (played by New Zealander, KJ Apa) and the Girl Next Door, Betty and their “will they/won’t they” vibe. We’re introduced to Veronica and Cheryl and Kevin, each fulfilling their roles wonderfully as the Reformed Mean Girl, the Active Mean Girl, and The Gay Kid, respectively. Each featured teen references media and pop culture that most adults haven’t even experienced in a way that only works in a teen drama. We’re told about the history of this small town, told some scandalous backstory (Veronica’s father, Hiram, is a criminal and is currently in jail for white collar crime!)  and shown how a drowning of a local teen can impact everyone in the town. It’s setup to be a typical teen drama with relationships being of the utmost importance. And then a dead body is found.

By the end of the pilot of Riverdale, “cleverly” titled, “Chapter One: The River’s Edge,” there is a murder, an implied incestuous relationship and a student-teacher relationship. The show tries to show it’s edgy Twin Peaks vibe any way they can, from showing the town as perpetually cloudy and overcast, to creepy lore and use of the color red, to just blatantly casting Madchen Amick as Betty Cooper’s mom. The fact that the teen characters are constantly hanging out at the local diner just drives the “homage” home.

Jughead “Yes, that’s his god-given name in the show” Jones, ends the pilot with the beginning of his book he’s writing about the mystery that is unfolding in Riverdale, and rounds out the Breakfast Club cast with the angsty-creative trope. He later goes on to tell the audience just how weird he is in a later episode that is possibly the best monologue all year (FIGHT ME).

As awful and wrong as this show so often is, it has also been doing things that are fun and interesting and needed. There’s a whole episode about slut-shaming and another about date rape (both of which could’ve been handled better, but at least they’re constructively talking about these issues). There are two female characters who are named and regularly discuss things that don’t involve relationships (although a good portion of them do because it IS a teen drama, after all). There’s even a gay character who stands up for himself and has a good relationship with his father (more shows need positive relationships like this, please). The show is trying, VERY hard, to be a positive example and to discuss big, controversial topics in a positive way. It has some missteps (ugh, the whole Polly subplot) but it’s attempting when other shows aren’t even trying at all (see: Everything on CBS).

Riverdale is by no means a perfect show. It’s faulty. It’s melodramatic. It doesn’t know what it wants to be at the end of the day. But it’s fun and it’s entertaining, both things we so desperately need right now.

 

Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) The Good Place, “Michaels’ Gambit” (Season One, Episode 13)

2) Lady Dynamite, “Wet Raccoon” (Season Two, Episode 1)

3) One Day at a Time, “Quinces” (Season One, Episode 13)

4) Marvel’s The Punisher, “Cold Steel” (Season One, Episode 8)

5) Riverdale, “Chapter Fourteen: A Kiss Before Dying” (Season Two, Episode 1)

6) Taskmaster, “A Fat Bald White Man” (Season Four, Episode 1)

7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Six: The Spy” (Season Two, Episode 6)

8) Voltron: Legendary Defender, “Reunion” (Season Four, Episode 2)

9) Lady Dynamite, “Little Manila” (Season Two, Episode 8)

10) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!” (Season Three, Episode 2)

 

A Shot in the Dark—“Crash and Burn”
(Season One, Episode 2)

Shot in the Dark Best Of

By Ken Jones

Shot in the Dark is a new Netflix docu-reality series about Stringers. Now if you are like me and don’t live in L.A., you are probably wondering “What is a Stringer?” A Stringer is Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Haven’t seen that movie? Then Google it, I chose a show far down alphabetically so if you’ve made it this far you aren’t lazy. Shot in the Dark follows three video journalism companies, focusing on each company’s top person. Howard is the veteran underdog. Scott is the veteran undercutter. Zak is the young pup trying to cut everyone else out of business.

I was drawn to this show because it promised an insight into a world I know nothing about. I got that and so much more. These guys have a job doing what they do because people are fascinated by car crashes and trainwrecks. That same fascination kept me watching in part just to hear the absurd things that come out of their mouths. Let’s just say they respect their jobs way too much. That alone isn’t enough to keep me interested in a show I was trying out on a limb. I wasn’t sold on the show until the last five minutes of the first episode, where my heart was racing uncontrollably and I was left needing to watch the next episode. I’m normally the type to reflect after each episode of something that I am watching because half the fun of watching a show is in analyzing the small details. This severely annoys some of my friends as I hit pause before watching the next episode of Stranger Things, so I’m hoping they don’t read this and learn of my hypocrisy.

I worked in reality television long enough to learn that most cliffhangers in reality TV are fabricated with editing to get you to stay watching. It’s like clickbait for television. I am happy to report that Shot in the Dark’s second episode “Crash and Burn” is no clickbait. This episode captured moments of raw human emotion I’ve never witnessed in a (docu) reality series before. Most scripted shows fail to make me feel a deep emotional connection when they try their hardest, but this show did it in the beginning of their second episode. “Crash and Burn” also offers plenty of chances to hate on Scott, the undeniable villain of the show.

Shot in the Dark is a far from perfect show, and you will wonder why they would include certain segments that go nowhere, but it’s also an addictive show that I will anticipate a second season of. There are only eight episodes, so it’s an easy one to try without committing to hours and hours of content. If you get to the 10 minute mark of “Crash and Burn” and aren’t feeling this show, go ahead and quit, but I urge you to try it at least up until that point.

 

Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017*

1) Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War” (Season Seven, Episode 4)

2) Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine: The Gate” (Season Two, Episode 9)

3) Rick and Morty, “The Rickshank Rickdemption” (Season Three, Episode 1)

4) Sherlock, “The Lying Detective” (Season Four, Episode 2)

5) Master of None, “The Thief” (Season Two, Episode 1)

6) The Mick, “The Balloon” (Season One, Episode 4)

7) Black-ish, “Juneteenth” (Season Four, Episode 1)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

9) A Shot in the Dark, “Crash and Burn” (Season One, Episode 2)

10) Big Mouth, “Everybody Bleeds” (Season One, Episode 2)

*This list needs a giant asterisk with it because I have not seen the new season of Black Mirror yet.

 

 

Stranger Things – “Chapter Nine: The Gate”
(Season Two, Episode 9)

Stranger Things Best Of

By Claudia Johnson

To say that I was OBSESSED with Stranger Things is an understatement. I watched all 17 episodes in less than 24 hours, and harassed family, friends and coworkers to drop their lives and watch it. Stranger Things Season Two was one of the best series of 2017, possibly the best. Every single episode was gold. Including the controversial episode that was a departure from the others. I will fight you on that. Just kidding, but seriously.

Anywho, of all the episodes my favorite is the season finale. I think that everything was able to wrapped up nicely with a bow and even gave a little tease to what is to come in the next season.

Not only is the show chock-full of great 80’s references. The writing and acting are phenomenal. Season Two had a lot to live up to and the Duffer Brothers didn’t disappoint.

Season One left viewers with a tease that Eleven was alive, despite her seeming to die after fighting the demogorgon. In season we find out Hopper been hiding Eleven to keep her safe. We were also shown that despite Will no longer being in the upside down physically, mentally he was still there. Throughout season two Will struggles with the upside down that is still very much apart of him and is also bleeding over into the real world. Which comes to a head with the unfortunate death of a surprisingly lovable character. Will struggles with the loss of Eleven. Dustin and Lucas end up in competition for the same girl that is paralleled with the love triangle between Nancy, Jonathon and Steve. There is also dealing exposing how Barbara truly died and the newcomers Billy and Max, among other things.

One of my favorite things about the last episode is the reunion of Eleven and the rest of the cast, especially Will. I cried, I’m not ashamed to admit it. The innocence of young love in that reunion scene felt so real. The tenderness of the reunion is only dampened when the backdrop of a very serious situation that the world is ending comes back into view. When the day is saved we are brought back to the reality that these are kids. Though more doom is lurking, the night of the dance is for first kisses and dancing.

As much as I like the sci-fi aspects of Stranger Things and the 80’s references, what really draws me in are the feelings that the creator is able to evoke out viewers through the children. We’re able to empathize with being a weird and out of place middle schooler, because everyone has experienced that moment. The first love of Will and Eleven. The innocent love triangle between Sam, Lucas and Dustin. Your first kiss. Steve’s emotional growth. Parent and child relationship; with Will and Joyce, Hopper and Eleven and Eleven and her birth mom. facing fears, the list goes on and on.

I don’t know if what I wrote made sense, but please go and watch Stranger Things Season Two. It’s a fantastically written and shot show, that’ll leave you wanting more.

 

Claudia’s Top 10 Episodes of 201

1) Insecure, “Hella Perspective” (Season Two, Episode 8)

2) Master of None, “Thanksgiving” (Season Two, Episode 8)

3) It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia, “Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer” (Season Twelve, Episode 5)

4) Being Mary Jane, “Feeling Friendless” (Season Four, Episode 14)

5) The Carmichael Show, “Grandma Francis” (Season Three, Episode 3)

6) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

7) G.L.O.W., “Money’s in the Chase” (Season One, Episode 10)

8) The Handmaiden’s Tale, “Jezabels” (Season One, Episode 8)

9) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!” (Season Three, Episode 2)

10) American Vandal, “Growing Suspicion” (Season One, Episode 4)

 

 

Twin Peaks – “Part Eight”
(Season Three, Episode 8)

Twin Peaks Best Of

By Samantha Tilmans

Twin Peaks was an anomaly when it first aired, and it’s remained a striking and polarizing piece of popular culture ever since. It started as a simple murder mystery in a small town full of quirky characters, but quickly became so much more. When the show ended in the depths of the Black Lodge in 1991, it left many questions unanswered. The sequel/prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, raised even more questions – and was famously panned in contrast to the acclaim that the original series received. Twin Peaks as a whole is not everyone’s cup of coffee, and whatever answers or closure fans were hoping to get from this year’s Twin Peaks: The Return, there wasn’t much to be found, and this episode just compounded the mystery.

Where does one begin with Twin Peaks: The Return? Certainly not with this episode. It’s the eighth installment – we should be somewhat familiar with what’s going on and there is no time to play catch up. The episode on the whole revolves around BOB, a central force in Twin Peaks mythology.

Yet, none of this really matters. None of it. Because this episode is also nothing like any of the rest of Twin Peaks: The Return. There are repeating themes, a few recurring characters, and the mythology that connects it to the limited series, but truly, it’s on it’s own. The only time we even see the town of Twin Peaks in this episode is during a performance at the Roadhouse from “The” Nine Inch Nails, and the opening scene is the only time we see the series’ star, Kyle MacLachlan, as Dale Cooper’s menacing doppleganger.

This episode is purely just David Lynch having fun and creating a surreal work of art, where his only limit is that it has to fit into an hour-long time slot. An episode like this would never had been acceptable in Twin Peaks’ original run on ABC, the technology back then couldn’t have accomplished such a feat, nor do I think we, as an audience, would have been prepared for it. Even in 2017, I wasn’t ready for it and spent most of the episode wondering what the hell was going on.

In just one visually stunning episode, we witness the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, there’s a full 26 minutes without dialogue, strange yet wonderful visual sequences, a ton of strobe lights, tense instrumental music, and a lot of mythology about the creation of the malevolent BOB and the series’ central victim, Laura Palmer. We travel to 1956, when a mysterious figure known as “The Woodsman” hypnotizes a small New Mexico town – not unlike Twin Peaks – via a radio broadcast and crushes the skulls of the radio station’s night shift workers. There’s a cicada-frog creature that crawls into a girl’s mouth, a visual which still horrified me months after watching this episode for the first time. Oh yeah, and there’s a Nine Inch Nails performance of “She’s Gone Away,” a song specifically written for Twin Peaks! The stage lighting and Trent Reznor’s menacing laughs are reminiscent of the late Frank Silva’s BOB – it’s a perfect match for this episode and all of its darkness and madness.

 

I will not pretend that I know and understand everything that happens in this episode or the whole of Twin Peaks: The Return. There are bits and pieces that one would only understand if they read the accompanying books The Secret History of Twin Peaks and The Final Dossier – trying to uncover the mysteries is part of the fun, though. I won’t even pretend that I love all of Twin Peaks. Dale Cooper is one of my favorite fictional characters, and he was mostly absent during the limited series. For this episode in particular, the 26-minute stretch without dialogue was a challenge for my attention, and sometimes I just want answers, dammit, not get more questions. However, in the end, “Part 8” of Twin Peaks: The Return was also a hell of a ride and I enjoyed letting it take me off the rails with it.

 

Samantha’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Twin Peaks, “Part 8” (Season Three, Episode 8)

2) Stranger Things, “Chapter Two: Treak or Treat, Freak” (Season Two, Episode 2)

3) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “99” (Season Five, Episode 9)

4) Bob’s Burgers, “The Wolf of Wharf Street” (Season Eight, Episode 3)

5) Master of None, “Thanksgiving” (Season Two, Episode 8)

6) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: MADMAX” (Season Two, Episode 1)

7) Riverdale, “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” (Season One, Episode 1)

8) BoJack Horseman, “The Old Sugarman Place” (Season Four, Episode 2)

9) Master of None, “New York, I Love You” (Season Two, Episode 6)

10) The Good Place, “Everything is Great!” (Season Two, Episode 1)

 

Samantha’s Honorable Mentions

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “HalloVeen” (Season Five, Episode 4)

Bob’s Burgers, “Zero Larp Thirty” (Season Seven, Episode 17)

Bob’s Burgers, “Paraders of the Lost Float” (Season Seven, Episode 21)

Bob’s Burgers, “Thankshoarding” (Season Eight, Episode 5)

BoJack Horseman, “Thoughts and Prayers” (Season Four, Episode 5)

BoJack Horseman, “Stupid Piece of Sh*t” (Season Four, Episode 6)

The Good Place, “Chidi’s Choice” (Season One, Episode 10)

The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” (Season One, Episode 13)

My Brother, My Brother, and Me, “Resumes and Jamiroquai’s Dad” (Season One, Episode 2) It’s not “prestige” television but dammit this episode made me laugh so hard I cried, and that’s wonderful.

Orange is the New Black, “Sing It, White Effie” (Season Five, Episode 5)

Riverdale, “Chapter Three: Body Double” (Season One, Episode 3)

Riverdale, “Chapter Five: Heart of Darkness” (Season One, Episode 5)

Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine: The Gate: (Season Two, Episode 9)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Steps on a Crack!” (Season Three, Episode 5)

 

 

Will – “The Play’s the Thing”
(Season One, Episode 1)

Will Best Of

By Ryan Lugar

2017 has been a fun and interesting year, for better or worse. The very foundations of what is real and what is fake is shaking beneath us. The deciding factor of what/who is right and wrong is decided by who goes viral first. The English language is getting more covered in shit by the second from mass hyperbole being considered clever. Politicians are now celebrities; celebrities are now politicians. Our interests are ignited and sparked for a 48-hour span and then immediately dwindle down move on to the next topic. The NFL has FINALLY decided to care about player safety over profit (ok maybe that one’s not true). It’s been a whirlwind and thank the Lord above for giving us crap on the TV to watch to take our mind off the horrors of the world for 20-200 minutes, even if the people providing us with crap are monsters.

“But Ryan?!” – Eager reader who is now all worked up and excited after an amazing introductory paragraph circumventing the entire 2017 year.

YES???

“Who was our biggest savior in the television world to distract us from the madness??” – Eager reader’s perfectly leading question for me to introduce my favorite television show of the year.

I know what you’re thinking, it has to be Game of Thrones. DRAGONS, SEX, BLOOD, THE IRONY OF JON SNOW CONSTANTLY GOING ON SUICIDE MISSIONS WHILE FIGHTING OFF THE DEAD.

Nope.

But close, vey close. The most amazing show has the sex and violence, but with more swagger than Jon pretending like he didn’t know what he was doing in that cave.

I am of course referring to Will, TNT’s 100% accurate look back into the life of William Shakespeare (this is a lie). If there are two things that TNT knows better than anyone else, it’s drama and the mind of the greatest writer of all time.

If this show were to be on a television channel that doesn’t worry about viewership and cares more about providing the viewers with some interesting facts about interesting people, it would probably be better. TNT doesn’t play by those rules. Especially the TNT geniuses who put this ridiculous show in a time slot that was destined to fail (show cancelled in September of 2017, first aired in July). Hindsight being 20/20, if TNT tried to provide any type of historical accuracy maybe more would have tuned in.

However, this is 2017. And 2017 doesn’t give a rat’s ass about accuracy, history, OR historical accuracy. Which made me love this show more than I thought.

I am a fan of Shakespeare. He’s a genius and every play he wrote was a small peak into his brilliant mind. A mind that can shape words to spark emotions that we didn’t know existed. A mind that connected the brain to the heart, and released it on paper for us to enjoy centuries later. The only other man or female that can come close to providing us with everlasting phrases would be Yogi Berra, but even the man who coined the term “It’s déjà vu all over again.” isn’t close to what Shakespeare was able to capture. He saw the world differently than the rest of us, and proved it through his writing.

But there is NO WAY he knew his work would withstand time and still be used hundreds of years after his passing. He couldn’t have known his plays would be the foundations for movies put on the big screen. Or could he…? Maybe he fully knew the genius that he was, the wordsmith that could bring joy to a crying child or make the hardest of hearts weep. That self-awareness must have given him impenetrable confidence. A confidence that would get him off his ass in Stratford-upon-Avon and take him to London to show the world his genius.

Well, at least that’s what TNT was going for, AND IT FREAKIN’ WORKED.

Bare with me here, the show is ridiculous. It’s over the top in every way, shape, and form, and the only thing accurate about William Shakespeare is his name and the names of the people around him. But screw it, the show was fun to watch!

Do fans of the NFL go to the games to watch the players overcome the obstacles of their lives to achieve something bigger than themselves and shatter the barriers race and class through a team game? Hell no! BIG HITS AND CHICKS IN BIKINIS AND BOOTS.

Do fans of Star Wars go to the movies to see how intergalactic politics play out when democracy has failed and rebellion is, dare I say it, The ‘Last’ Hope? You beat your ass it isn’t! LIGHT SABERS AND BIG BEAR DOGS THAT FIRE SHOTGUNS!

Will is ridiculous because the world in the show is ridiculous, only because our known perception of 1589 London is…well probably people talking fancy and sipping tea. Not, playwrights being treated like Mick Jagger. Will is seeking fame and glory in a city that allows its playwrights to achieve that status.

The acting in the show is very good and there is incredible chemistry between the actor who plays Will and the actress who plays Alice Burbage (daughter of the theater owner whom Will writes with). The chemistry between Will and his rival Christopher Marlowe is also great and oddly just as sexual, actually not that odd the more you think about it.

Unfortunately for the show, the writers decided to toss in a holy war in there. Catholics vs. Protestants, the final showdown featuring William Shakespeare. It didn’t fit with the show at all and was probably the reason it got cancelled. Well that or the fact no one besides myself watched this show. The plot of Will chasing fame and finding love in a city that is too big for him in a world too small is beautiful. 1958 religious war, not so much.

At the end of the day, the show’s flaws were too much. The ageless lines of Shakespeare being woven into the dialogue were drowned by shit plot. The acting couldn’t save the show from its own writers. And they didn’t have any dragons. These flaws however are somehow what made the show so ridiculous, and so amazing.

 

Ryan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2017

1) Will, “The Play’s the Thing” (Season One, Episode 1)

2) You’re the Worst, “Odysseus” (Season Four, Episode 3)

3) American Vandal, “Hard Facts: Vandalism and Vulgarity” (Season One, Episode 1)

4) Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War” (Season Seven, Episode 4)

5) You’re the Worst, “Not a Great Bet” (Season Four, Episode 7)

6) Vice Principals, “The Union of the Wizard and the Warrior” (Season Two, Episode 9)

7) South Park, “Sons a Witches” (Season Twenty-One, Episode 6)

8) Big Mouth, “Pillow Talk” (Season One, Episode 6)

9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine: The Gate” (Season Two, Episode 9)

10) Big Mouth, “Girls are Horny Too” (Season One, Episode 5)

 

 

The Group’s Top 10 List

Twin Peaks2 Best Of

Using a simple point system where a person’s #1 pick gets 10 points, #2 gets 9 and so on, here are the Top 10 Episodes of 2017.

 

1) Twin Peaks, “Part 8” (Season Three, Episode 8) 49 points

2) Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven, Episode 7) 42 points

3) Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War” (Season Seven, Episode 4) 36 points

4) Better Call Saul, “Chicanery” (Season Three, Episode 5) 26 points

5) The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” (Season One, Episode 13) 23 points

6) Master of None, “Thanksgiving” (Season Two, Episode ) 22 points

7) BoJack Horseman, “Time’s Arrow” (Season Four, Episode 11) 21 points

7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine: The Gate” (Season Two, Episode 9) 21 points

8) The Leftovers, “The Book of Nora” (Season Three, Episode 9) 20 points

9) The Good Place, “Dance Dance Resolution” (Season Two, Episode 3) 17 points

9) Legion, “Chapter 6” (Season One, Episode 6) 17 points

9) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: MADMAX” (Season Two, Episode 1) 17 points

10) Game of Thrones, “Beyond the Wall” (Season Seven, Episode 6) 16 points

10) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer” (Season Two, Episode 8) 16 points

 

  • 90 different shows were featured on a Top 10 list
  • 22 of those shows first aired in 2017.
  • 154 different episodes were featured on a Top 10 list
  • 8/9 episodes of Stranger Things Season Two were on a Top 10 list.
  • 2/3 episodes of Sherlock Season Four were on a Top 10 list
  • 6/10 episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season One were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/7 episodes of Game of Thrones Season Seven were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/8 episodes of The Leftovers Season Three were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/10 episodes of Big Mouth Season One were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/10 episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season Twelve were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/10 episodes of Master of None Season Two were on a Top 10 list.