Nine years! Nine years, I’ve asked friends of mine from all different times in my life to write me a short article about an episode of TV they loved this year. On a personal level, it’s fun because I get to see people I care about write excellent pieces. On another level, it’s a wonderful glimpse in the year in television. None of us are professional TV critics; we’re just people who are excited about the episodic medium. These are the episodes that made us cry, made us laugh, helped us figure out our own anxieties and truly wowed us.
Blown Away – “Snapshot”
(Season One, Episode 1)
Blown Away is a glassblowing reality show slash the kind of show you scroll by on Netflix and say, hey man, niche and probably not for me. Friends, I watched that show, and let me tell you: it’s the reality show you never knew you’d been dreaming of.
Let’s get the following parts out of the way first: yes, the winner of each week is known as the Best in Blow. Yes, the host of the show is a cut-rate Colin Hanks impersonator who clearly knows nothing (N.O.T.H.I.N.G) about glassblowing and was just glad to get a job. And, yes, each artist gets their own personal Glory Hole, aka hot hot furnace of molten glass, not the other kind, god that would be bad if they mixed those two verrrry separate things up, wouldn’t it?
Since this is a reality competition, there aren’t narrative “episodes” to speak of. As you can imagine, the series sticks pretty close to the following script: get assignment to blow glass, blow glass, show off blown glass or shards thereof, someone wins and someone cries.
Let me give you some of the highlights of the whole season to keep things spicy and in the spirit of this assignment though:
1. There’s this guy who is what teens today call a zaddy. His name is Janusz but you don’t need me to point that out, you would know who I’m talking about if you saw this show for a dang second. I do not know how the casting director found an impossibly attractive silver fox who is also an expert glassblower, but I tip my little glass hat to you, ma’am.
2. One of the most cutting critiques I’ve heard in any portion of my life (and guys, I tell kids they don’t get to go to college FOR A LIVING) is when a judge tells a glass artist that the whale they made looks like it came from an airport gift shop.
3. Lesbian fan favorite Deborah at one point makes an external womb out of glass that men can wear to gestate babies.
Glassblowing is high-stakes art. Sure, on a cooking show, your flan and pate ice cream might not freeze just right in the time allotted, but you can still prove you tried. With glass, your sad pile of jagged shards means nothing, and you have failed.
Glassblowing is a hyper-specific skill, and it’s always interesting to watch people who are clearly so good at something that is so frequently useless or, even when done technically well, ugly and bad.
Glassblowing is not cool. When your lead sponsor is the Corning Museum of Glass, you know you have not really Socially Peaked.
This show is basically the Top Chef of a high-stakes and very specific form of art, and as you can tell, I am here for it. I hope this encourages you to give it a lil peep with your big, weird glassy eyeball (foreshadowing!!)
Grace chose not to submit a Top 10 Episodes list.
Broad City – “Stories”
(Season Five, Episode 1)
By Sam Tilmans
“Stories” could be any episode of Broad City. It’s crass, gross, a beautiful example of female friendship, and funny as hell. Many of the series’ episodes involve our protagonists Abbi and Illana going on a quest, whether it be for money (“What a Wonderful World,” “Kirk Steele”), weed (“Pu$$y Weed”), air conditioners (“In Heat”), lost phones (“Stolen Phone)”, or to literally find one another (two of my favorites: “Wisdom Teeth” and “Two Chainz”). Abbi and Illana are usually, in one way or another, on an adventure, and in this case, it’s a journey through Manhattan for Abbi’s birthday.
Yet, “Stories” isn’t a typical Broad City episode. For one, it’s mostly shot as though we’re watching Ilana’s Instagram stories, and it’s funny to see just what Ilana would over-share with her 213 Instagram followers – falling down a manhole, nasty foot injuries, the number of Abbi’s new credit card, being chased by mall security, and everything else in between. It’s an example of who Ilana is as a character — she’s honest, wild, and prone to cultural appropriation and making dumbass decisions. This episode is also a testament of Ilana and Abbi’s relationship. My favorite bit is in the cold open — where Ilana gives Abbi her birthday present, a video comprising of images of “The Ass of an Ageless Angel” set to Five For Fighting’s “100 Years.” It’s a perfect present for their particular friendship, and it’s hilarious and heartwarming.
The rest of the episode is filled with examples of Abbi and Ilana’s strong and sometimes worryingly codependent friendship: Abbi, with arms like goddamn Wonder Woman, climbs up the ladder of a manhole with Ilana on her back so that Ilana can keep livestreaming on Instagram; Ilana waits patiently for 45 minutes as Abbi fawns over school supplies; Abbi helps Ilana find new, better walking shoes, and buys them for her; and Ilana records birthday messages for Abbi while she’s in the bathroom (and knows the timing of Abbi’s bathroom habits). They’re so dedicated to each other, as they have throughout the entirety of the series.
Besides its unconventional format, this episode is special because it marks the beginning of the end. This year saw the final seasons of so many good shows, including Broad City, and this series particularly went out strong, posing challenges to Abbi and Ilana’s friendship, letting them grow and yet, at their core, remain who they’ve always been.
“Stories” hit close to home for me, as it’s Abbi’s 30th birthday. I turned 30 in 2019, and, like Abbi, I tend to get the birthday blues – since I turned 12, it’s almost a guarantee that at some point on my birthday, I’m gonna cry. Is it because I’m assessing my life choices? Is it because another year has gone by so swiftly and I am hurtling towards the inevitability of death? Is it because my birthday is literally the week after Christmas and the holiday season is already super fucking stressful? Is it because I have anxiety and depression and cry a lot generally? It’s any or all of this combination, really. When we peek in on Abbi crying in the bathroom, I felt that. Birthdays are hard, and 30 is a big birthday, so it seems fitting as a catalyst in the series heading into the final season.
Abbi says she thought she’d be married and have kids by 30, and though not everyone has that goal, it seems that society pushes us to have all our shit sorted out by that age. I didn’t have the same goals as Abbi, but at 30, I thought my partner and I would own a house, that I’d have my student loans paid off, and that I would have traveled more by now instead of letting my passport expire two years ago. I, and a lot of folks in my generation, had dreams that have been squashed by things out of our control, namely an economic recession and the student loan debt crisis. I still don’t know what I want my future to look like, because for many years in my twenties, like Abbi, I was struggling to get stability into my life, or at least, I felt that so many people my age had their shit together, and I didn’t. It’s the “compare and despair” trap. Abbi’s friend from college, “Cheese,” seems to have a perfect life on social media, posting pictures of her vacations and four children, and Abbi is judging her life choices based against that curated social media account. The matter doesn’t get better when Cheese first confronts Abbi and tells her to grow up. On their second confrontation, however, it’s revealed that Cheese has fallen into the same trap — she thinks Abbi has this exciting, fun life while she has a van full of children and she’s stressed out all the time. Cheese misses the freedom that Abbi has, which in turn makes Abbi realize that maybe she is glad she hasn’t made the same choices Cheese has.
We all age and death is inevitable, but there isn’t a manual for how you’re supposed to live your life, adulthood isn’t a set of rigid expectations, and being mature doesn’t mean giving up joy. I’m in a new decade of adulthood, but that doesn’t mean I have to resign myself to fitting in a box, whether created by society or myself. It’s not about the end, rather the journey to getting there. My 30th year involved changes — I ended some friendships, I got into an accident and damaged my car, and one of my cats was diagnosed with diabetes. There was a lot of good, too, though — I made progress with managing my anxiety and depression, saw one of my favorite bands in concert, got tattooed, and started creating and reading more than I had in the past few years.
It’s like “Stories” in that a lot of disastrous things happen, but Abbi and Ilana have a wild experience that makes a great story to tell, have brunch with their friends, and at the end of the day, they still have each other as they stand on a dock gazing at an incredible triple rainbow that they can’t share with anyone else. It’s the beginning of another year, full of potential, and Abbi and Ilana’s next journey.
Sam’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
2) GLOW, “Freaky Tuesday” (Season Three, Episode 5)
3) GLOW, “Outward Bound” (Season Three, Episode 6)
4) The Good Place, “The Funeral to End All Funerals” (Season Four, Episode 8)
5) Broad City, “Stories” (Season Five, Episode 1)
6) What We Do in the Shadows, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)
7) Bob’s Burgers, “The Ring (But Not Scary)” (Season Ten, Episode 1)
8) Schitt’s Creek, “The Hike” (Season Five, Episode 13)
9) Russian Doll, “The Way Out” (Season One, Episode 7)
10) BoJack Horseman, “A Horse Walks into Rehab” (Season Six, Episode 1)
Honorable Mentions (because there are too many damn good shows out there):
- Bob’s Burgers, “Roamin’ Bob-iday” (Season Nine, Episode 16) “Land of the Loft” (Season Ten, Episode 7); “Now We’re Not Cooking with Gas” (Season Ten, Episode 8)
- BoJack Horseman, “The New Client” (Season Six, Episode 2)
- Broad City, “Make the Space” (Season Five, Episode 4); “Lost and Found” (Season Five, Episode 6)
- Brooklyn Nine- Nine, “A Tale of Two Bandits” (Season Six, Episode 5)
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I Need Some Balance” (Season Four, Episode 9)
- GLOW, “Up, Up, Up” (Season Three, Episode 1)
- The Good Place, “Pandemonium” (Season Three, Episode 13)
- Letterkenny, “Valentimes Day” (Season Six, Episode 7)
- One Day at a Time, “The Funeral” (Season Three, Episode 1); “The First Time” (Season Three, Episode 7); “Anxiety” (Season Three, Episode 9)
- Orange is the New Black, “Minority Deport” (Season Seven, Episode 5); “Trapped in an Elevator” (Season Seven, Episode 6), “God Bless America” (Season Seven, Episode 11)
- Russian Doll, “Nothing in This World is Easy” (Season One, Episode 1), “The Great Escape” (Season One, Episode 2); “A Warm Body” (Season One, Episode 3); “Ariadne” (Season One, Episode 8)
- Schitt’s Creek, “Love Letters” (Season Five, Episode 2); “Housewarming” (Season Five, Episode 5); “The Hospies” (Season Five, Episode 8); “Life is a Cabaret” (Season Five, Episode 14)
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “The Valley of the Lost” (Season Four, Episode 2); “Princess Scorpia” (Season Four, Episode 6); “Mer-Mysteries” (Season Four, Episode 7); “Beast Island” (Season Four, Episode 11)
- Stranger Things, “Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?” (Season Three, Episode 1); “Chapter Two: The Mall Rats” (Season Three, Episode 2); “Chapter Seven: The Bite” (Season Three, Episode 7); “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
- Tuca & Bertie, “Plumage” (Season One, Episode 5); “The Jelly Lakes” (Season One, Episode 9)
- What We Do in the Shadows, “Baron’s Night Out” (Season One, Episode 6); “The Trial” (Season One, Episode 7)
Catastrophe – “Episode 6”
(Season Four, Episode 6)
By Molly Raker
This review contains spoilers for the series finale.
I’ll admit the final season premiered on Amazon in March and I didn’t fully watch it until September. I just didn’t want to admit it was over. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney created a hilarious series about difficult subject manners and just having the best laugh-out-loud dialog and situations. I gotta say I feel this turned the tables on what a comedy series can be, from Barry to Russian Doll, it’s possible to be funny in serious situations, no need for out of character hijinks or pranks, just for laughs (cough Superstore cough Friends).
The series finale was a poignant closure to the series about two people who just met, and learned to love and grow with an accidental pregnancy. While heading back to the states, the discovering of Rob’s mother passing turns the tables as both of them re-evaluate their lives, ambitions and how they will work together. The writing and quick-witted humor is still there as we learned about Rob’s absent dad, and how his sister learned to forgive but not him.
My favorite part of the episode was the beach funeral and when Rob and Sharon arrive to the states after being on a plane with two kids. They take a minute to console each other for surviving it while their kid’s stroller rolls away, and Sharon says ‘I’ll get it in a minute”. Just the best portrayal of parents I’ve seen, which makes me not want kids.
All in all, I am going to miss these two together and seeing how their lives unfold. Will they stay in London, move to the states and how many more kids will they have?! (Side note, I’m just glad Chris came to his senses.) I love those two characters as well and love that my favorite Ugly Betty actress, Ashley Jensen landed another hilarious role.
Molly’s Best Episodes of 2019
1) Fleabag, “Episode 1” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2) Catastrophe, “Episode 6” (Season Four, Episode 6)
3) Succession, “Argestes” (Season Two, Episode 6)
4) Fleabag, “Episode 5” (Season Two, Episode 5)
5) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Suicide Squad” (Season Six, Episode 18)
6) Watchmen, “Little Fear of Lightning” (Season One, Episode 5)
7) The Good Place, “The Funeral to End All Funerals” (Season Four, Episode 8)
8) GLOW, “Freaky Tuesday” (Season Three, Episode 5)
9) Broad City, “Stories” (Season Five, Episode 1)
10) Schitt’s Creek, “The Hospies” (Season Five, Episode 8)
Chernobyl — “Please Remain Calm”
(Season One, Episode 2)
By Sarah Staudt
I still distinctly remember when I first heard the story depicted at the end of episode two of Craig Mazin’s phenomenal miniseries, Chernobyl. On some crappy askreddit thread about five years ago, someone posted a story about these three Russian guys at Chernobyl who had waded, or swam, into radioactive water, fully expecting not to survive the experience, in order to open up some valves and prevent further catastrophe after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor overheated and exploded in April 1986.
Heroism at its finest, to be sure, but what got me, and what then led me down a many-day internet and library rabbit hole was the scale of the disaster these men were averting. Most stories of heroism involve saving the lives of a couple dozen people.
If these men, that day in 1986, had not done what they did, the other three reactors as Chernobyl would have exploded, and an area 2/3s of the size of the continental United States would have been covered in nuclear fallout and uninhabitable for as long as 20,000 years. Not to mention the worldwide effects of the fallout as it went around the earth. About 20,000 years ago, for reference, humans were probably first using pottery. We hadn’t domesticated pigs yet. We were, quite literally, cavemen. 20,000 years is an impossibly long time. So I guess it’s pretty good that three stoic Russian guys decided to wade into radioactive water, huh?
I couldn’t stop talking about this when I first learned about it. I was insufferable. I included stuff about Chernobyl in my very first OKCupid messages to my now-fiancé. I put pictures of bizarre things with weird names like “The Elephant Foot” and “The Sarcophagus” up on Facebook. It kept me up at night. I donated to Chernobyl liquidator charities. Basically, Chernobyl totally killed my chill for a solid two or three months until I was pretty sure I knew literally everything about how it happened, how it got fixed, and how we’re making sure it never happens again.
It’s kind of nice that everyone else is now as totally gob-smacked as I am, thanks to Mazin’s miniseries. Chernobyl is probably the biggest bummer on television this year. They shoot puppies. It’s rough. But it is so, so much more than that. Mazin sees in this story what I saw – the best and the worst of humanity, existing together in a single event. The failures and successes of government, great cruelty and great generosity, incompetence and genius. Chernobyl is the closest (hopefully) that mankind will get to truly almost ending our own existence. And all in all, the story of how we managed to almost kill ourselves by accident, and the story of how we fixed it, is a story worth watching.
After a first episode that is basically a horror movie, with the great
exploded reactor lurking in the shadows like a monster, poisoning and exploding
everything and everyone it touches,
“Please Remain Calm,” tells the story of just how bad this whole thing was. It also tarts Mazen’s simple, strong thesis about how the heck we climbed out of this mess. Because people told the truth even though it was terrifying. And because regular people were ready, at a moment’s notice, to sacrifice themselves so others might live.
I have many favorite moments of this episode. But some of the best ones are when Mazin lets the camera linger, sometimes uncomfortably long, on the faces of ordinary people who are making a particular kind of choice: the choice to go along to get along, or the choice to tell the truth. Legasov goes first, wigging out at a meeting with top party officials about what it means that there’s graphite on the roof of the reactor core. Then, Ulya Khomyuk, calling fellow scientists and talking in code, and, when she can’t get anyone to listen to her, doing the only thing she can do, and thrusting iodine caplets into an innocent secretary’s hand. And most importantly for the long-term, Boris Shcherbina deciding to take Legasov seriously, and to be his advocate through the bureaucracy of the soviet union. All of the actors do a phenomenal job communicating just how hard what they’re doing is. But they do it.
These brave choices, of course, are topped off with our three nameless heroes tromping through the dark in chest deep water. Every frame of that scene is as it really happened. Their flashlights really did fail halfway through because of the radiation. They really did complete their task in total darkness. And they really were volunteers. They would be some of the first of some 600,000 people (that’s about the population of Washington DC) who would volunteer to help walk us back from the brink of our own demise.
The show is beautifully shot, and Mazin’s confident, steady hand makes clear from beginning to end that this story is not meant to be disaster porn. It is a testament to the enormous, terrifying power humans now have over whether or not we continue to exist. And ultimately, it is a story about men and women refusing to be quiet, even when they sat in rooms where everyone around them wanted them to shut the hell up, even when they were threatened with death by a government that really liked killing people who spoke up.
Chernobyl can happen again. To think otherwise is naïve. People are lazy, and craven, and cheap, and bad at conceptualizing just how monumental the stakes are now that we’ve split the atom and given ourselves the ability to obliterate life on earth. But people are also brave, and smart, and impossibly, altruistically courageous. Chernobyl tells both of those stories beautifully.
Sarah’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Chernobyl, “Please Remain Calm” (Season One, Episode 2)
2) Watchmen, “See How They Fly” (Season One, Episode 9)
3) The Good Place, “A Chip Driver Mystery” (Season Four, Episode 6)
4) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
5) Succession, “This is Not for Tears” (Season Two, Episode 10)
6) Shrill, “Troll” (Season One, Episode 6)
7) Schitt’s Creek, “Meet the Parents” (Season Five, Episode 11)
8) The Good Fight, “The One Where a Nazi Gets Punched” (Season Three, Episode Five)
9) You’re the Worst, “Pancakes” (Season Five, Episode 13)
10) Black Earth Rising, “The Forgiving Earth” (Season One, Episode 8)
Dead to Me – “Pilot”
(Season One, Episode 1)
By Victoria Leachman
I am of the firm belief that Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini make everything better. So imagine my excitement when I opened Netflix one summer day and found a brand new show that stars BOTH of them. I didn’t hesitate to watch the first five episodes in one sitting.
Dead to Me is impossible to lump into one category. On one hand, it’s a well-written drama about all-consuming grief and how to continue through life when it feels like part of you died too. On the other hand, it’s a buddy comedy about two polar opposite women navigating a new, mid-life friendship. And on another hand (imagine, if you will, that you have three hands in this scenario), it’s a highly addictive roller coaster of deceit, adultery, emotional manipulation, and—you guessed it—murder. And even those buckets don’t do it justice. Some of the moments of grief are hilarious. Some of the jokes are tinged with sadness. And it’s all done so well that before I knew it, I had binged the whole season AGAIN just for this article.
The pilot begins with Jen attending a grief counseling meeting two months after her husband died in a brutal hit-and-run accident. There she meets Judy, who is dealing with her own loss. While they don’t immediately hit it off, they eventually form a connection, bonding over their mutual love of Entenmann’s cookies and The Facts of Life and sharing the burden of their daily struggles with one another. Of course, this show wouldn’t be very interesting if a wrench wasn’t thrown into this budding relationship, and we receive it about 20 minutes into the pilot episode. This wrench forces us to reexamine Judy: is she really this selfless, emotional herpa, there to guide Jen through her grief? Or is something much darker at play?
Dead to Me lives and dies on the chemistry of its two leads, and they don’t disappoint. In fact, their chemistry is reason enough to give this show a watch. Judy’s altruistic hippie pairs perfectly with ballbusting, cynical Jen. Nothing about their friendship is atypical Hollywood: no cat fights, no competition, just a perfectly balanced give and take. Not only that, both women are simultaneously leading lady AND sidekick, divvying up moments to shine and moments to support the other, which is really refreshing. And the cliffhangers! Most episodes end with a major, and usually very dark, cliffhanger that’s juxtaposed with a super upbeat, throwback song (I’ll never again hear Judy Garland’s “Get Happy” and NOT think of this show), and it’s just so satisfyingly brilliant.
I’ve been intentionally vague with my writing because I want everyone to have as much fun with the twists and turns as I did. Basically, I need you to cancel everything and spend five hours getting sucked into this crazy addictive, hella entertaining world, and then I need you to spend another five rewatching it so we can talk about it in detail. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Victoria’s Top 10 Episode of 2019
1) Dead to Me, “I Have to Be Honest” (Season One, Episode 9)
2) Dead to Me, “You Have to Go” (Season One, Episode 10)
3) The Morning Show, “The Interview” (Season One, Episode 10)
4) Stranger Things, “Chapter Two: The Mall Rats” (Season Three, Episode 2)
5) The Morning Show, “That Woman” (Season One, Episode 4)
6) Dead to Me, “It’s All My Fault” (Season One, Episode 3)
7) Veronica Mars, “Heads You Lose” (Season Four, Episode 4)
8) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
9) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
10) Game of Thrones, “The Long Night” (Season Eight, Episode 3)
Derry Girls – “The President”
(Season Two, Episode 6)
By Rachael Clark
For about six months, my good friend Amy would always tell me, “Rachael I know you love comedy tv, I just watched this show Derry Girls that you would love!” She kept telling me this over and over, until finally one Saturday morning, coffee in hand, I decided to start the show. I felt so stupid waiting six months to watch this. I haven’t laughed that long or hard from watching tv in a long time. It was so good after the 2.5 hours it took me to watch the entire first season (it’s six 25-minute episodes), I literally re-watched the season again.
The show focuses on five high school friends in Northern Ireland during the 90s. All five of them attend a catholic school, where the head nun, Sister Michael, doesn’t put up with anything. Sister Michael is one of my favorite characters and I believe a lot of people’s because she is significantly in it more in the second season. At one point you see laughing while reading The Exorcist.
I do have to note that their Irish accents are really strong, so you probably need to watch with the subtitles on, I do. One of the longest running jokes on the show is James and his accent. James is one of the main five characters and he is actually a cousin of Michelle, another main character. James is from London and is English, so anytime he speaks to a new character they always respond with, “What’s wrong with his voice? What is he saying?” or something along the lines. He actually attends the all-girl Catholic school with because the school officials believed he would have been beaten up at the all-boys school due to being English.
The time period is important to note, because in Northern Ireland at this time was the Troubles. This was a conflict in the country that lasted from 1960s to 1998. Basically the conflict was between Protestants who wanted to remain part of the UK and the Catholics who wanted to became a part of the Republic of Ireland.
This episode, “The President”, is the Season Two finale and is about the time President Clinton actually came to Derry to give a speech about the Northern Ireland conflict. The girls are getting ready and excited to see the President. When they attend school, Sister Michael says that even though all the other schools have dismissed their students for the day so they can see the President, everyone at this school is to attend school as usually tomorrow. She goes on to say, “This visit will give the Pope ideas, and that’s the last thing I need.” They do what anyone would do and decide to skip school.
The main focus of this episode is about the English fella, James. His mom comes back to town to pick James up and take him back to London to help with her sticker business. Every episode all the girls are always making fun of his looks, his accents, saying they are going to make him leave the group. And no one gives him more of a hard time than his cousin Michelle. So on the day that President Clinton arrives, Claire, one of the main characters got to the stage super early in the morning to stake out a spot for the group. She even got into a fight with a seven-year-old to hold her spot down, “She tried to muscle in. Things got ugly. She’ll think twice next time.”
While they are all front and center to see the President speak, James tells the group he is leaving now to go back home with his mom. They are all stunned and beg him to stay. He says staying in Derry was only temporary and he has to get back to his real life and then he walks away. Of course, it is Michelle who runs after him and tries to talk sense into him. She starts off angry, trying to convince him that his mom is just using him for her business and will leave him again when she no longer needs him. Michelle, who is always sarcastic and never sentimental or ever talks about her feelings, looks James square in their eyes and says, “You’re a Derry girl now, James. It’s doesn’t matter that you have that stupid accent or that your bits are different, being a Derry girl is a state of mind. And you’re one of us.”
She is about to cry which almost made me cry. It isn’t enough to convince James and he leaves. The all turn to face the stage sad and not even chanting with the rest of crowd getting ready to see the President. Then over the chanting they hear someone shouting from behind. They all turn around to see James shouting from high above, “I’m a Derry girl! I’m a Derry girl!” All four girls leave their front row seats to run and see him and hug him. They all walk away from the crowd arm in arm with Clinton’s speech as a voice over, “I see a peaceful city, a safe city, a hopeful city full of young people that should have a peaceful and prosperous future, here where their roots and families are.” It was a sweet ending to the season.
I strongly encourage anyone who wants to laugh and get better at understanding Irish accents to give this show a try!
Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Veep, “Veep” (Season Seven, Episode 7)
2) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
3) Game of Thrones, “The Long Night” (Season Eight, Episode 3)
4) Derry Girls, “The President” (Season Two, Episode 6)
5) Orange is the New Black, “Here’s Where We Get Off’ (Season Seven, Episode 13)
6) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
7) Mindhunter, “Episode 2” (Season Two, Episode 2)
8) Russian Doll, “Ariadne” (Season One, Episode 8)
9) One Day at a Time, “Ghosts” (Season Three, Episode 13)
10) The Good Place, “Pandemonium” (Season Three, Episode 12)
Documentary Now – “Original Cast Album: Co-Op”
(Season Three, Episode 3)
By Austin Lugar
When I was a kid, I loved the musical The Producers. For Christmas, my aunt thought she was getting me a DVD recording of the Broadway show but instead bought me a DVD called Recording the Producers. It was a behind the scenes documentary of the making of the Broadway soundtrack. All the songs were performed in order with a little bit of discussion about the story and the genesis of the show.
Years later I saw the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Original Cast Album: Company. Pennebaker intended this to be a series of short documentaries capturing the fly-on-the-wall look at the making of various types of albums. However, as noted on the title card at the beginning, the funding never came through and this would be the only one in the series. This completed film was a look at the anticipated new musical from Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince titled Company. This was nothing like Recording the Producers. That was intended to be a delightful piece of publicity for the show; this was a Pennebaker film.
In just an hour, there were definitely musical performances of the now classic showtunes, but there was also a display of unease, uncertainty and exhaustion. The documentary was more like watching a day of rehearsal instead of recording the finished product. Poor Elaine Stritch had to perform the number “The Ladies Who Lunch” so many times until the directors felt she was able to nail the big notes. It’s was uncomfortable and raw and rife for parody.
IFC’s Documentary Now remains one of the most niche shows on television. Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Seth Myers, Rhys Thomas and John Mulaney used their Hollywood clout to make a series of pitch-perfect parodies of famous documentaries ranging from Gray Gardens to The Artist is Present. Like any good spoof, they come from a place of love, most evident by their take on Jiro Dreams of Sushi (“Juan Dreams of Rice and Chicken”) which ends up being as emotional as the original source.
“Original Cast Album: Co-Op” starts with the same challenge every episode of Documentary Now has, which is compressing a feature length movie into a 23-minute episode without feeling rushed. The episode begins with a similar title card noting the failure of the intended extended series of documentaries. To evoke the same sort of tension in the fictional recording studio, it is quickly revealed to the characters that the reviews for “Co-Op” were horrendous, the show has been canceled, but they still have to record the album. Turns out a musical about different stories centered around a co-op is a terrible idea.
While this news fills the actors with self-doubt, this does not stop the writers and directors from thinking their work is genius and the actors all doing it wrong. Mulaney is the Sondheim stand-in and I am not kidding that every second on screen with him made me laugh. To love Sondheim is to also love his snobby grumpiness. In this “Simon Sawyer,” interrupts Dee Dee (played by Tony award-winning Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton’s original Eliza Skylar) in the middle of a song to say, “You’ve been doing something wrong for about three weeks and it’s been annoying me. I want to talk to you about it right now.”
The episode is scattered with original songs of this failed musical including “Going Up” which is about various people stuck in an elevator where a kid pressed the buttons for all the floors. Larry (Richard Kind) almost dies trying to find the time to breathe in the impossibly paced song “Holiday Party (I Did a Little Cocaine Tonight).” Paula Pell plays Patty who has to recreate the Stritch fiasco with endless recordings of “I Gotta Go” which is especially true because the character is late for eye surgery.
Like every episode of Documentary Now, it’s a triumph this was even made. The audience for this show has to be 1000 people, but those 1000 people eat it up. There is no episode of television this year I have rewatched as much as this one and I keep laughing at the Sondheim-ness of it all. (“When you lean into a rhyme, you shatter the conversational tone of the lyric. It’s like nails on a blackboard to me and I love you all.)
Peak TV had the promise of millions of shows that can cover anything. That seems to be fading a little bit as Netflix isn’t interested in making long-running series and every network is allocating its budget to try and make the next Game of Thrones. Specificity is what leads to the greatest pieces of art and this is nothing if not specific.
But what did Sondheim say about all of this? In a New York Times article about this episode, they reached out to him and gave him a copy. He said the lyrics were crowded.
Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Succession, “This Is Not for Tears” (Season Two, Episode 10
2) Fleabag, “Episode 6” (Season Two, Episode 6)
3) Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being” (Season One, Episode 6
4) You’re the Worst, “Pancakes” (Season Five, Episode 13
5) Documentary Now, “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” (Season Three, Episode 3)
6) Barry, “ronny/lily” (Season Two, Episode 5)
7) Watchmen, “A God Walks Into Abar” (Season One, Episode 8)
8) Succession, “DC” (Season Two, Episode 9)
9) Russian Doll, “Ariadne” (Season One, Episode 8)
10) The Good Fight, “The One Where a Nazi Gets Punched” (Season Three, Episode 5) [Tie]
10) The Magicians, “All That Hard, Glossy Armor” (Season Four, Episode 10) [Tie]
Austin’s Comical Amount of Honorable Mentions
Better Things, “Shake the Cocktail” (Season Three, Episode 12)
Billions, “Overton Window” (Season Four, Episode 4)
Black-ish, “Black Like Us” (Season Five, Episode 10)
BoJack Horseman, “The New Client’ (Season Six, Episode 2)
BoJack Horseman, “Surprise!” (Season Six, Episode 4)
BoJack Horseman, “A Little Uneven, Is All” (Season Six, Episode 5)
Broad City, “Stories” (Season Five, Episode 1)
Broad City, “Along Came Molly” (Season Five, Episode 9)
Catastrophe, “Episode 6” (Season Four, Episode 6)
Chernobyl, “Please Remain Calm” (Season One, Episode 2)
Chernobyl, “Vichnaya Pamyat” (Season One, Episode 5)
Corporate, “The Expense Report” (Season Two, Episode 5)
The Crown, “Margaretology” (Season Three, Episode 2)
The Crown, “Tywysog Cymru” (Season Three, Episode 6)
David Makes Man, “David’s Sky” (Season One, Episode 1)
David Makes Man, “Gloria” (Season One, Episode 4)
Derry Girls, “The Prom” (Season Two, Episode 5)
The Detour, “The Game Show” (Season Four, Episode 6)
The Deuce, “That’s a Wrap” (Season Three, Episode 7)
Documentary Now, “Waiting for the Artist” (Season Three, Episode 4)
Evil, “Exorcism Part 2” (Season One, Episode 9)
Fleabag, “Episode 1” (Season Two, Episode 1)
Fleabag, “Episode 3” (Season Two, Episode 3)
Fosse/Verdon, “Where Am I Going?” (Season One, Episode 5)
Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
GLOW, “Outward Bound” (Season Three, Episode 6)
GLOW, “A Very GLOW Christmas” (Season Three, Episode 10)
The Good Fight, “The One With the Celebrity Divorce” (Season Three, Episode 6)
The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast), “Nerd Today, Boss Tomorrow” (Season One, Episode 1)
Jane the Virgin, “Chapter Eighty-Two” (Season Five, Episode 1)
Jane the Virgin, “Chapter Ninety-Eight” (Season Five, Episode 17)
Legion, “Chapter 20” (Season Three, Episode 1)
Los Espookys, ‘El espanto de la herencia” (Season One, Episode 2)
Los Espookys, “El sueno falso” (Season One, Episode 6)
The Mandalorian, “Chapter 8: Redemption” (Season One, Episode 8)
One Day at a Time, “Anxiety” (Season Three, Episode 9)
Orange is the New Black, “Here’s Where We Get Off” (Season Seven, Episode 13)
The Other Two, “Chase Gets the Gays” (Season One, Episode 4)
Pen15, “Ojichan” (Season One, Episode 3)
Pen15, “AIM” (Season One, Episode 7)
Ramy, “Do the Ramadan” (Season One, Episode 5)
Ramy, “Refugees” (Season One, Episode 6)
Ramy, “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (Season One, Episode 7)
Rick and Morty, “Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat” (Season Four, Episode 1)
Riverdale, “Chapter Fifty-One: Big Fun” (Season Three, Episode 16)
Russian Doll, “The Way Out” (Season One, Episode 7)
Schitt’s Creek, “Life is a Cabaret” (Season Five, Episode 14)
Sex Education, “Episode 3” (Season One, Episode 3)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Mer-Mysteries” (Season Four, Episode 7)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Boys’ Night Out” (Season Four, Episode 8)
Sherman’s Showcase, “Meet Sherman” (Season One, Episode 1)
Shrill, “Pool” (Season One, Episode 4)
South Side, “Cold Cases” (Season One, Episode 5)
Special, “Chapter Three: Free Scone” (Season One, Episode 3)
Succession, “Hunting” (Season Two, Episode 3)
Succession, “Argestes” (Season Two, Episode 6)
Superstore, “Employee Appreciation Day” (Season Four, Episode 22)
Tuca & Bertie, “The Promotion” (Season One, Episode 2)
Veep, “Oslo” (Season Seven, Episode 6)
Vida, “Episode 14” (Season Two, Episode 8)
What We Do in the Shadows, “The Trial” (Season One, Episode 7)
Years and Years, “Episode 4” (Season One, Episode 4)
You’re the Worst, “We Were Having Such a Nice Day” (Season Five, Episode 12)
Fleabag – “Episode 1”
(Season Two, Episode 1)
By Tara Olivero
Fleabag was the talk of the Twitter community a few months ago— which is why I finally heard about it, after Season Two had already been released. My timeline was flooded with fawning over The Jumpsuit and Hot Priest. What the hell was this show? Eventually, curiosity got the better of me, and I curled up under the covers to settle down to watch episode one on Amazon Prime. I emerged from my cocoon roughly six hours later, having watched the entirety of seasons one and two all in one go, overloaded with feeling far too many emotions for one human body to possibly contain.
I am 100% positive that, had this show hit me a few years earlier, it wouldn’t have meant as much. But because I’m a 28-year-old woman who happens to be a familiar face on the struggle bus, I feel like I can better relate to the issues that Fleabag seems to have to deal with on a daily basis. Even if my personality is wildly different than hers (and aren’t I lucky that’s the case), just by the nature of the way she narrates her story, we’re drawn into her world and into her private confidence. She cultivates a profoundly intimate connection between the audience and her story each time she meets our eyes and addresses us directly through her repeated fourth-wall breaks. Such a spellbinding enchantment compels you not to look away from her life, even if what’s happening on screen is a trainwreck-in-progress. I absolutely adore it.
Anyway, when it came time to choose my favorite episode of television from this year, I immediately knew that the first episode of season two would be my top Fleabag choice.
Let me set the scene for a moment, for readers who may not have seen the episode: you first hear casual, light elevator music as Fleabag stands alone at a sink in an elegant public bathroom, water running. The camera cuts to a behind-the-shoulder shot of her reflection in the mirror as she glances up from the sink— at which point we can see that her face is covered in blood. She calmly uses a towel to wipe the blood from under her nose and off her chin, then the camera pans over as Fleabag turns to hand a clean towel to a smiling woman kneeling on the floor, whose nose is also bleeding. Fleabag looks over her shoulder towards the camera with a sly smile to tell us casually, “This is a love story.” Black screen; title card.
This minute-and-a-half is worth every goddamn award this show wins this season.
And what I love most about Season Two, and this episode in particular, is that it does set up the season as a love story, but on two very different fronts.
First, we have Fleabag’s illicit and sometimes one-sided affair with the Priest (or Hot Priest, as he will hereafter be known, having been dubbed so by the internet at large), a connection that ebbs and flows across each episode. Fleabag’s chemistry with Hot Priest is undeniable, and they’re both hot messes in their own ways, but the progression of their relationship is incredibly compelling— especially with their spark in episode one.
Part-way through their family restaurant dinner to celebrate her father’s engagement to the soon-to-be wicked stepmother (the same dinner that we know will end with Fleabag bleeding in the bathroom), Fleabag makes eye contact and lets us know that no one has asked her a question in forty-five minutes. Instantly, the Hot Priest (in attendance because he’ll be doing the wedding) turns to her and ask what she does for a living. And she’s immediately shocked. Her family has ignored her, but he sees her. It’s a really impactful moment, not in the least because her family has never really seen her. They tend to dismiss her out of hand, they paint her as a drama queen, and the last half of season one ended with her sister Claire believing her scumbag husband over Fleabag. So the initial spark between the Hot Priest and Fleabag, which comes about really just as evidence of genuine kindness and curiosity on the Priest’s part, sets up their relationship as something that could potentially be healthy for the both of them (despite the initial weirdness of the whole “priest” thing). Thus, the romantic love story begins.
That being said, the love story that really hit me this season wasn’t one of romantic love; it was the familial, sisterly love story between Fleabag and her sister Claire. Their relationship at the start of the season is tense, to say the very least. The weather in Antarctica is less chilly than the looks Claire shoots at Fleabag before dinner. I don’t want to spoil too much, just in case you haven’t seen this episode yet, but— Fleabag really comes through for her sister in this episode. She wants to help Claire in a situation where her sister refuses to get help for herself, and she ends up voluntarily taking on embarrassment and judgment in order to spare Claire from the same. And for a while you think— wow, what a shitty situation, since Fleabag suffered for her sister and got nothing in return but resentment. But finally, as Fleabag leaves the restaurant and walks down the London streets at night, nose bleeding again, she sees Claire in the distance, holding a taxi and gesturing for her sister to catch up and hop in. And the very end of the episode ends with the women staring out the windows on opposite sides of the taxi’s backseat but very much still side-by-side.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because I also have just one sister, but the way that this show (and this specific episode) portrays sisters— experiencing simultaneous and staggering frustration with each other that’s still woven with an unbreakable thread of protective devotion— is more real, and more compelling, than any romantic relationship in any television show, maybe in the history of ever. (Not to exaggerate, or anything.)
This episode is filled with other stand-out moments of authenticity amidst its brilliant comedic timing. The first scene at dinner, when apocalyptic doomsday music underscores the entire family fake-laughing around the restaurant table? No cinematic scene has captured dysfunctional-family-but-faking-a-front better. Their dinner isn’t shown in chronological order, with the camera making sharp cuts in the middles of conversations or even the middles of lines to flash back months, then forward minutes, then back hours… the flagrant disregard for any semblance of a timeline is as fun as it is jarring, which helps to construct the crazed atmosphere of the situation. Another favorite scene was Fleabag’s brief lowering of her defenses as she leaned against a brick wall outside for a smoke break, and her dad asks her why she’s not being “naughty” lately. “Because… I guess… it doesn’t matter,” she tells him, quietly and honestly, before throwing up her walls again and falling back into her typical sarcasm.
But I think by the end of this season, especially with the separate-but-loving relationship dynamics set up in this episode between she and the Hot Priest, and she and Claire, Fleabag finally realizes that there are things in life that do matter, which is nothing to be afraid of. Fleabag breaks my heart on all fronts, in all the best ways; if you haven’t yet seen Season Two, you should allow it to break yours, too.
Tara’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Fleabag, “Episode 1” (Season 2, Episode 1)
2) Fleabag, “Episode 5” (Season 2, Episode 5)
3) Russian Doll, “Ariadne” (Season 1, Episode 8)
4) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 8: Redemption” (Season 1, Episode 8)
5) The Umbrella Academy, “Run Boy Run” (Season 1, Episode 2)
6) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 3: The Sin” (Season 1, Episode 3)
7) The Magicians, “All That Hard, Glossy Armor” (Season 4, Episode 10)
8) Good Omens, “In The Beginning” (Season 1, Episode 1)
9) Derry Girls, “The Curse” (Season 2, Episode 4)
10) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I’m In Love” (Season 4, Episode 17)
Honorable mentions: Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season 8, Episode 2—got booted from my top 10 after chapter 8 of the Mandalorian came out, whoops), anything from Schitt’s Creek Season Five. Also, the rest of Fleabag Season Two. And the rest of Derry Girls and Good Omens, while we’re at it. It was a solid year for television, in my book.
Tara Olivero is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She likes Shakespeare and sensation novels, and if Fleabag was a “tag-yourself” meme, she’d tag herself as either Fleabag’s guinea pig or Claire’s pencil haircut. Feel free to follow her on twitter @taraolivero.
Game of Thrones – “The Bells”
(Season Eight, Episode 5)
By Evan Dossey
I have only watched Game of Thrones one time through. Each episode a single time. I watched Season One in 2011, and then the first few episodes of Season Two when they premiered. Real talk: I didn’t like it, so I quit. It felt directionless: an aimless tale told for audience seeking ‘hard’ drama, in the sense that it was a soap opera with blood & breasts and not complex moral choices or quandaries. I only started watching Game of Thrones again in early 2017 because the final season was approaching and I’d heard good things about “Hardhome” and the forthcoming “Battle of the Bastards” episode. Had Beinoff & Weiss finally escaped Martin’s meanding clutches and starting telling a story with real narrative direction? All this is to say that, although their final two seasons are controversial, their penultimate episode “The Bells”delivered precisely what I was hoping for from the show and a solid character turn that payed off years of development.
Daenerys Targaryen had the pleasure of living in her own narrative realm for almost the entirety of the first seven seasons, and was always going to snap when she returned to Westeros to find nobody wanted her. Seasons Seven and Eight summarily broke down all her support, one by one, with the final straw being Cersei’s murder of Missandei in the previous episode. It was clear that King’s Landing would not fall without a massive battle, and at this point Daenerys simply cut loose. What do those citizens mean to her, anyway? They’re under Cersei’s yoke, sure, but they’re not going to bend the knee willingly.
The subsequent Dragon massacre of King’s Landing is perfectly framed from the perspective of the people below. It sells the long-hyped use of Dragon at war – an great escalation of Season Seven’s famous battle of the “Loot Train.” The writers use Arya, having recently arrived in the city to hopefully murder Cersei, as an on-the-ground perspective we care about and fear losing. For as terrible as “The Long Night” was two episodes previous, “The Bells”delivers on series-long story arcs.
Perhaps the best thing about “The Bells” is that it strips away the comforts developed over the course of the show, revealing our protagonists to be just as vile and terrible as they were from the beginning. Daenarys became a cultural icon online, with audiences ignoring her questionable behavior and coming to believe in her as a possible leader. Cersei, of course, never showed any signs of repentance and does not do so, even in the end. Her brother Jamie Lannister, fresh off what seemed to be a redemptive story in the North, returns to King’s Landing simply to die with the sister with whom he shared an incestuous and abusive relationship for his entire life. Characters like Ramsay Bolton & Euryon Greyjoy stunk up the air in the final seasons because their vileness was a crutch for the writers to fall back on when they couldn’t let their popular leads act as awful, as frequently. So it’s nice that, in the end, they remembered the kind of show they were writing, and how genuinely terrible Westeros is.
The most common complaint I hear is that Daenarys’ descent into massacre should have had more time to develop; that it was rushed. Maybe. But I think “The Bells” is all the more effective for how raw, sudden, and depressing it all is. Her choice is borne out of her entire story up to that point. We just didn’t want to see it. A masterpiece.
Evan’s Top 2 Episodes of 2019
1) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 2: The Child” (Season One, Episode 2)
2) Game of Thrones, “The Bells” (Season Eight, Episode 5)
*note – My wife and I welcomed our first child, so I didn’t watch much this year. The rest of those seasons were both good. I genuinely watched nothing else. I’ll do better next year!
The Good Place – “The Answer”
(Season Four, Episode 9)
By Katherine Lakin
The Good Place is a show about a lot of things. Life, death, the impossibility of ethical consumption under capitalism. Its scope has always, literally, been as broad as the universe. At times this has seemed to hinder more than help. That is until, I would argue, the most recent few episodes, where it brought the focus back to the core message it’s trying to convey.
The show’s tagline for quite a while now has been: “What We Owe to Each Other”. And I do think that’s an important question they’re asking. It’s the title of Chidi’s talk that brought him and Eleanor back together on Earth, after all. However it’s become more and more clear that an equally important question they’re interested in is: “Why We Need Each Other”.
Being alive is fucking hard. Not only getting through the day-to-day mundanity, but doing so knowing there are all of those Big Questions philosophers have been trying to answer as long as we’ve existed. And knowing that we’ll likely never know the answer to any of them. The questions that so often made Chidi insufferable to be around. This is what made seeing his story so impactful. Sure, most of us aren’t quite as indecisive as him (hopefully at least). But we’ve all felt some measure of how he feels. Not knowing how to continue when you might mess up, or when there are more important things to do or think or worry about. It’s easy to freeze, to stagnate.
There are no answers to the questions we can’t stop ourselves from asking. We can let that torture us, or we can take comfort in the one answer we do have: other people. Eleanor and Chidi didn’t find each other over and over again because they were soulmates. They kept being drawn together because they needed each other. Because they were two people whose broken pieces lined up.
Growing and changing is key to self-actualization, or as The Good Place would put it, being a good person. This is something we are all capable of doing alone, but it’s so much easier with other people. Though they always had the potential to be spectacular apart, together Team Cockroach are truly greater than the sum of their parts.
Katherine’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Russian Doll, “Ariadne” (Season One, Episode 8)
2) Fleabag, “Episode 4” (Season Two, Episode 4)
3) Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being” (Season One, Episode 6)
4) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
5) Succession, “Tern Haven” (Season Two, Episode 5)
6) Good Omens, “Hard Times” (Season One, Episode 3)
7) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Ticking Clocks” (Season Six, Episode 14)
8) Superstore, “Employee Appreciation Day” (Season Four, Episode 22)
9) The Umbrella Academy, “The Day That Wasn’t” (Season One, Episode 6)
10) Looking for Alaska, “The Nourishment is Palatable” (Season One, Episode 4)
The Kominsky Method – “Chapter 9. An Actor Forgets”
(Season Two, Episode 1)
By Larry D. Sweazy
You know that word that’s on the tip of your tongue? The one that’s caught in a tumble inside your brain just out of reach? The one you can’t say aloud, but you lurch forward to speak anyway? Yes, that one… If you’re of a certain age, you understand. If you’re not, you will, if you’re lucky enough, or cursed enough, to get old(er). They say memory is the first thing to go, especially now that there are pills for the other stuff. And that’s exactly what The Kominsky Method is all about, what this episode is about. Getting old(er) and still living a full life.
I have to tell you that on the surface of things, the only thing that attracted me to this series was Alan Arkin. It’s written and created by Chuck Lorre, creator of shows like Two and a Half Men and Mom, which I have never been a huge fan of. Men only got a look by me because of Conchata Ferrell. In a way, Arkin plays the same deadpan, straight man in Kominsky that Ferrell played in Men. In a way. They both achieve and deserve their own acclaim in each show. The point is, why would I want to watch a show about two old guys getting older when I’m an old guy and getting older myself? I’ll tell you. Because Chuck Lorre gets it right. This show is about loss, love, grieving, growing, sharing, and enjoying life. These are emotions not fully explored in any other Lorre-created TV show I’ve watched. It seems like Chuck Lorre had to get old(er) to do his best work. I like that idea.
I also like the idea that this show is about artistry and craft. The Kominsky Method is obviously a nod to the Stanislavski Method of acting, with Michael Douglas in a humbling role of an over the hill actor who teaches wide-eyed young actors about the highway to fame, success, and failure in Hollywood. Alan Arkin (Norman) plays Douglas’s (Sandy) longtime and long-suffering agent who is the best friend that Sandy has. These two are delight to watch in scenes together, feeding of each other, jabbing each other—you can tell they’re having a good time. I love it when Norman cringes when Sandy orders a Diet Dr. Pepper and Jack Daniels to drink. And the shuffling waiter bit? You have to see that for yourself.
So, to the episode (they’re short, 25 minutes or so). Norman and Sandy are on their way to a funeral. Sandy says it’s his fourth funeral in a month that he has attended. Sometimes when you’re old(er) funerals and doctor appointments fill up your social calendar. If you don’t get that, you will. One of my favorite lines comes from Norman, “I’m looking for a way to manifest my existential despair.” At the funeral, Norman looks at his dead friend and says, “He actually looks pretty good. Is that a spray tan?” Not funny? I laughed. And that’s the prize in this show. Norman says what everybody else is thinking. Sandy says what everybody else is thinking. This show is a master class on delivery. Of course, recently-widowed Norman meets and old flame (Jane Seymour) at the funeral and they go on a date. When they can’t hear each other, they call each other on their phones (a nod to geezers embracing new technology). Elsewhere, Sandy runs into an old girlfriend (Nancy Travis) at the grocery store with her new boyfriend, and feels like a fool. And Sandy’s daughter (Sarah Baker) is moving in with a man Sandy’s age. This one’s about transitions in relationships, preconceived notions, and the frailty of love. Oh, and there’s the ghost of Norman’s dead wife (Susan Sullivan) to contend with for some comedic relief.
Look, Chuck Lorre is never going to be a writer for Masterpiece Theater, and that’s okay with me. In The Kominsky Method he gets the humanity of old age and the truth right with comedic timing all of the best places. And for me, being a person who is old(er), that’s okay. I get it. It’s fun to laugh at yourself every once in a while.
Larry’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) The Crown, “Bubbikins” (Season Three, Episode 4)
2) Manhunt, “Episode 1.1” (Season One, Episode 1)
3) The Durrells of Corfu, “Episode 1” (Season Four, Episode 1)
4) Straight Forward, “Revenge” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Line of Duty, “Episode 2” (Season Five, Episode 2)
6) London Kills, “The Dark” (Season Two, Episode 1)
7) Basketball or Nothing, “Win or Go Home” (Season One, Episode 5)
8) Diagnosis, “Paralyzed” (Season One, Episode 7)
9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
10) The Kominsky Method, “Chapter 9. An Actor Forgets” (Season Two, Episode 1)
Letterkenny – “Valentimes Day”
(Season Six, Episode 7)
By Leigh Montano
The world is a trash fire. That is undeniable. Something that seems to contribute to this discord is the idea that there is a common misunderstanding of one another, a refusal to learn about each other, and the idea that there is America and a “Real America.” America is the whole of the US of A, while “Real America” is the fly over states. It’s the stereotypical hick farmer who hates outsiders and is portrayed as less than intelligent and is somehow more of an American than everyone else.
As someone who is from a small-town smack dab in the middle of the Midwest, this has always irked me. I know farmers. And they’re smart as hell. And socialist. And not at all like their portrayals in most media.
I say “most” because then Letterkenny happened. Now, I know that this is a Canadian show, but anyone who has grown up in a small town in the Midwest will recognize the characters, just swap out the hockey players with the sports de jour at your school. I, myself, like to joke that I was a Skid without the meth addiction. (There is a weird sort of comfort and embarrassment that is felt when one sees a perfect media representation of their high school selves on television.)
Letterkenny is by far the most accurate representation of the realities of living in a small town. Everything from having a parking lot that everyone seems to hang out in, to knowing everyone in town, (to the rampant drug issues), to the aphorism, “When a friend asks for help, you help them.” I may not like my neighbor because that one time their dog came over to my yard and dug up all of the tulip bulbs that I had just planted, but I’ll be damned if I let them go hungry if they asked for food. Needless to say, this is a show that I recommend to everyone who knows me. I’ve yet to meet someone who said they didn’t like it.
The best episode this year of an already near perfect show? Valentimes Day.
Even down to the running joke that Dary has a speech impediment and commonly mispronounces words like “breakfast” and “basket” and now, “Valentine’s Day,” has truth in reality. I personally know someone who has this mannerism and wouldn’t you know, she’s from a small town in Indiana with fewer than 1,500 residents and I love her to pieces.
The Hicks, the Hockey Bros and a couple of other locals in the town of Letterkenny all go to the local church for a special Valentine’s Day Speed Dating event. An event that Katy quickly points out, is fairly pointless as everyone knows everyone there. Meanwhile, Glen (the over enthusiastic preacher/bartender) watches Wayne and Stewart, casual enemies, as they find a common love for hockey fights.
It’s hard to pick out my favorite parts of this episode. There are great chirps like the Coach telling Reilly that he looks like if Sheryl Crow and Lyle Lovett had a fuck child. There are multiple conversations about baseball that will make you think twice about watching the next Blue Jays game with yer pals without a pillow on yer lap. There’s the genuine curiosity and earnestness from the Hockey Bros as they try to figure out what gay sex actually is.
And I think that’s what I like about Letterkenny as a whole, the most. At the end of the day, it’s a show about real characters being earnest. Each of the characters on Letterkenny feels like a real person that I’ve met in my life. But Letterkenny’s difference from most shows? It doesn’t turn these characters into vicious stereotypes. Letterkenny doesn’t put a grotesque mask on these people to try to fit into a preconceived mold of what “hicks” are supposed to look like. Sure, they like a good meal, a good beer, and a good smoke, but they aren’t hateful caricatures that they’re often turned into. It’s the first time that I’ve watched a show and it felt like it was celebrating small town life instead of demonizing it in favor for the big city life. It’s the first time that I actually saw an accurate representation of why I love my hometown so much. Even if I’m not Canadian.
Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Russian Doll, “Nothing in This World is Easy” (Season One, Episode 1)
2) One Day at a Time, “Drinking and Driving” (Season Three, Episode 12)
3) One Day at a Time, “Ghosts” (Season Three, Episode 13)
4) Russian Doll, “A Warm Body” (Season One, Episode 3)
5) She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Hero” (Season Four, Episode 9)
6) Letterkenny, “Valentimes Day” (Season Six, Episode 7)
7) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger” (Season One, Episode 5)
8) Letterkenny, “In It to Win It” (Season Seven, Episode 6)
9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flayed” (Season Three, Episode 5)
10) Tuca & Bertie, “The Promotion” (Season One, Episode 2)
Lupin the Third Part 5 – “Just Then, An Old Buddy Said Something”
(Season One, Episode 23)
By Andrew Rostan
In an age where television increasingly devotes itself to telling long, serialized narratives and in worlds away from television, the present is so chaotic we long for another time, the closing moments of the penultimate episode of the sixth Lupin the Third television show were the most moving I could imagine in 2019.
While previous seasons of the renowned anime stuck to a non-serialized narrative, the newest incarnation told a complete story over four arcs in which Arsene Lupin III, gentleman thief extraordinaire, finds himself continually flummoxed by a world in which technology and social media render privacy and secrecy as things of the past and all of the other criminal masterminds have gone into world governments because that’s where one can pull off the most successful crimes. In the words of Enzo Bron, an antagonist who could be compared to Mark Zuckerberg on maximum overdrive, we are in a world where the idea of heroes, of anyone who can operate beyond the prescribed boundaries of society, is meaningless.
And yet Lupin, remains unperturbed that he lives in a world where he has no privacy, algorithms call the shots, undetected crime is impossible, and the entire social order can be toppled. In this series he uses old school methods to outwit the invisible string-pullers of the Internet and take down fundamentalist governments, with the help of an unexpected ally in Enzo’s teenage superhacker daughter Ami.
In this penultimate episode, Lupin is at his lowest point. He’s been almost mortally wounded and apprehended. And although his best friends Jigen the gunslinger and Goemon the samurai help him escape, he has no resources, no allies, and his rival/lover Fujiko is being held prisoner by Enzo. Recognizing the 21st century has turned against them, Jigen urges Lupin to retire, telling him life is not a TV show.
Lupin responds like this:
“We oughta make it one, then.”
“There’s only one person in the audience of your life: yourself. So what’s the point if you don’t care what happens next in the story?…I want to look forward to what I do next.”
“And what if the ending doesn’t turn out how you want?”
“Goddamnit! Got my hopes up for nothing! Guess I’ll have to leave the comeback for some other time.”
“And what if the damn comeback never happens?!”
“Then the audience loses interest and switches off…And that’s why, Jigen, until the day the story finally ends, I wanna keep being Lupin III.”
This carries a lot of power for me.
So many franchises have attempted to bring cool, pop art characters into the twenty-first century and had those attempts collapse under the pressure of too much grimdarkness. Lupin the Third Part V deals with thought-provoking themes while never losing a sense of fun, and the thrill of such fun. That Lupin chooses to endure as himself even when things get bad is one thing. That he does so in a way that reflects how some stories carry on even when we think the stories no longer hold power, that we long for something classic and fixed in an age of the malleable, is fantastic in my mind. And it makes this an episode of TV I will never forget.
Andrew choose not to submit a Top 10 list.
The Mandalorian – “Chapter 3: The Sin”
(Season One, Episode 3)
By Keith Jackson
What people expect when they hear the words “Star Wars” is, more now than ever, hotly contested. Is it space battles and lightsaber fights? Is it political drama? Is it theological? Is it a ‘mystery box’ with answers waiting to be revealed? Is it goofy, or deadly serious? Is it just a big dumb action series, or is there a message there? Is it only what has come before or is there a wider universe to discover?
Writers for Star Wars content, whether it’s the films, shows, games, comics, etc. have heavy burdens to appease a wide swath of opinions. That burden is multiplied further when it comes to high-profile releases like The Skywalker Saga or Disney’s flagship series for their new streaming service, The Mandalorian.
Right off the bat, The Mandalorian is smack dab in the middle of a Venn diagram for a lot of parts of the fandom. Boba Fett! ‘Member him? He’s back, in pog form–I mean, he’s back by way of a main character wearing armor that looks like his. You got your carbonite, you got your bounties. This is all looking good, it’s the familiar and the new coming together. And then, at the end of “Chapter 1”, they drop the bomb.
I don’t need to go into what a phenomenon Baby Yoda is. Local news anchors are doing stories on newborns in hospitals wearing Baby Yoda garb — it’s pretty well-ingrained in pop culture after roughly a month of existence. And why not? It’s not only acceptable-to-all-sides fan service (know Yoda, who does not?), in that of course more creatures like him have to exist, but also a crucial element of characters’ motives and episodes’ plot progression throughout the series… so far, anyhow. I hope they do something interesting that leverages the universal love fans have for Baby Yoda — the stakes could really be raised — but, who knows?
The Mandalorian has its ups and downs — sometimes the fan service is way too on-the-nose (“Chapter 5” being the worst offender so far) — but it’s mostly solid storytelling in the Star Wars universe. I’m enjoying it as I did the Batman Animated Series back in the day, with a fun adventure-of-the-week vibe.
“Chapter 3: The Sin” almost feels like the third half-hour of a TV movie, and by some accounts that may be what was intended for the first three episodes in the series. The moment I knew that this would be my favorite episode was when Mando returned to his ship, having dutifully fulfilled his bounty, and notices the missing knob to his control panel. It’s such a quiet, reflective moment, which was set up at the beginning by a seemingly throwaway gag (cute Baby Yoda being cute), but it’s the crux of Mando’s motivations going forward. At that moment, the show proved it could have heart and blaster shootouts.
Before I go, just want to heap some praise on Ludwig Göransson’s work on the series, supplying a Western/samurai-ish sound and imbuing it with some brassy Williams-esque spacefaring adventure we all know and love, plus a touch of Rocky for good measure. I have spoken.
Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 3: The Sin” (Season One, Episode 3)
2) Bob’s Burgers, “Now We’re Not Cooking with Gas” (Season Ten, Episode 8)
3) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 7: The Reckoning” (Season One, Episode 7)
4) The Great British Bake-Off, “The Roaring Twenties” (Season Ten, Episode 5)
5) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Weather forecasting, Barry Lee Myers and The National Weather Service” (Season Six, Episode 26)
6) Nailed It! Holiday! “We’re Scrooged” (Season Two, Episode 1)
7) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
8) Veep, “Pledge” (Season Seven, Episode 3)
9) Jeopardy, “2019 All-Star Games Final Match, Game 2” (Season 35, Episode 127)
10) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Honeymoon” (Season Six, Episode 1)
Rhythm + Flow – “Los Angeles Auditions”
(Season One, Episode 1)
By Brandon Lugar
I have never really been someone that thoroughly enjoys competitive singing/dancing shows. Mostly because of pure jealousy since I can do neither very well, which doesn’t stop me from trying! There also seems to be a ton of these shows and they all have their own little “twist” to make them different, like having the judges not look at the participant, having the contestant dress up in a costume during their performance, or have Katy Perry flirt with any decent looking contestant with a guitar. Yet, here I am writing about one of my favorite television shows of the year and it happens to be a musical competition show. The difference between mine and all these other shows is that Rhythm + Flow is a competitive show based around Rap and Hip Hop.
This Netflix original has three of today’s biggest hip hop stars has their judges: Chance the Rapper, T.I., and Cardi B. They gather their contestants by having an audition in each of the artist’s hometowns (Chicago, Atlanta, and New York) and also in L.A. Each round of the competition incorporates something different in the rap culture that the contestants have to do. They compete in rap battles (head to head matchup), a rap cypher (individual rap in a group setting), a music video, a collaboration with an already established R&B artist, and then the finale is an original song by the contestant that they perform in a huge venue.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed this show is because I am a big fan of rap and it’s fun to see a competitive show revolved around that genre for once. This show also does a really good job of giving a good back story of some of the competitors, which does give some sort of hint on who will make it a bit farther, but that isn’t always the case. You also get to see how much knowledge these artists truly have with the industry and all that goes on with the music. I have never thought Cardi B was a genius in any sense of the word, but there are moments in this show where she shows why she has become so successful in the industry. There are also other moments where you question her ability to read or breathe on her own. Something great this show does as well is keep the background stories of the contestants hidden from the judges. Several of the contestants have a rough story that makes this $250,000 prize a huge incentive for them to lay it all on the line. I thoroughly enjoyed watching each round and watching each of the contestants grow as artists. Another huge bonus for me as a viewer, was my favorite competitor from the very beginning won it all!
I highly recommend watching Rhythm + Flow on Netflix for a very fun and new musical competition show!
Brandon chose not to submit a Top 10 Episodes list.
Schitt’s Creek – “The Hike”
(Season Five, Episode 13)
By Josh West
Thanks to Tumblr, I found Schitt’s Creek. Someone posted a scene from an early episode and I thought, “This looks funny, maybe I’ll check it out.” Then I learned Chris Elliott was in it and put off watching more for a while. Now, I don’t hate Chris Elliott but it does seem like he plays a lot of the same kinds of characters. Kind of how Austin asks a lot of the same “friends and colleagues” to write HIS article for him. Like I said, I don’t hate Chris Elliott and I don’t hate Austin. It just kind of seems like both of them are…phoning it in. But you know who doesn’t phone it in? The cast and writers of Schitt’s Creek. “The Hike” is a great example of how they knock it out of the park every time.
If you have ever planned a surprise for a loved one, you know how hard it can be to not only keep them from finding out, but also how hard it is to keep those doubtful thoughts away. Something like a proposal is especially hard to plan. You want it to be extra special, possibly with some sort of meaning or inside joke, like a first date spot or the place where you first confessed your love for them. The stress of planning something without your significant other finding out is multiplied when you start to feel doubt. Maybe this isn’t the right time. Maybe they will say no. Maybe more people should be involved. Maybe you are moving too fast. In this episode Patrick starts out so excited and happy to take David on this hike. He says to him early in the episode, “You’re gonna love this. Trust me.” But as they get further into their hike, as David complains more and more, and when Patrick gets a stick stuck in his foot, his tone and words change. It’s easy to see that he is starting to doubt if the proposal should even happen today.
Parking his car on the side of the road, Patrick gets two backpacks out of his trunk. David wonders why he doesn’t have a picnic basket if they are going on a picnic. Patrick tells him that they are going on a picnic but they need their hands free because they have to hike to get there. Along the way, David complains non-stop. Patrick gets so fed up with David’s complaining that he even offers to turn around since clearly David is not into it. After decided to continue on, Patrick steps on a thorny twig and gets a thorn stuck in his foot. David pulls it out and the two decide to continue on the hike. David carries Patrick the rest of the way up the mountain to a nice overlook spot. David is ready to get this picnic going but Patrick wants to just head back down the mountain and do the picnic another time. David says he didn’t climb all this way to not eat cheese.
Patrick, still unable to do much because of his injury, instructs David to lay out a blanket and get out the cheese. David finds a bottle of champagne and comments on how fancy they are getting. Patrick then tells David that if he looks in the front pocket of the backpack he will find something. As David pulls out was looks to be a bracelet or necklace box, he turns around to see Patrick down on one knee. Patrick tells David about how he used to come up to this spot when he first met this guy he was developing feelings for. He wasn’t sure if this guy felt the same way or if he would ever be able to muster up the courage to tell this guy how he felt. This guy is standing in front of him now, the love of his life, and he thought it would be a good place to ask David to marry him. David, fighting back tears, opens the case to find four gold rings, identical to the silver rings he has been wearing for most of the season. Then Patrick’s voice gets a little shaky telling David this was the easiest decision of his life when David asks if he was sure. Before saying yes, David just had to ask if the rings were 24 karat.
Watching these two fall in love has been so great. They have different tastes, different strengths, weaknesses, fashions! They are everything you expect a television couple to be, they just also happen to be two men. It seems that the norm for sitcom same sex couples is that they are either explicitly non-sexual, or their relationship is the butt of many jokes. My favorite thing about Schitt’s Creek, and David and Patrick’s relationship, is how nuanced the characters are. David is a sarcastic, particular, awkward, blunt, insecure and pansexual. Patrick is practical, detail oriented, patient and only recently realized he was gay. Their sexual orientations are not a thing of concern for anyone. They just are. Schitt’s Creek is a world of tolerance and acceptance. This world is one I hope to see one day, but until then, I’ll celebrate the love between these two men.
Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Batwoman, “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” (Season One, Episode 9)
2) The Flash, “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three” (Season Six, Episode 9)
3) Supergirl, “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One” (Season Five, Episode 9)
4) Schitt’s Creek, “The Hike” (Season Five, Episode 14)
5) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt Mall” (Season Three, Episode 8)
6) Supergirl, “Blood Memory” (Season Four, Episode 11)
7) Arrow, “Reset” (Season Eight, Episode 6)
8) DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Terms of Service” (Season Four, Episode 15)
9) Schitt’s Creek, “The M.V.P.” (Season Five, Episode 9)
10) The Flash, “King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd” (Season Five, Episode 15)
Shrill – “Pool”
(Season One, Episode 4)
By Sara Rust
Shrill is based off of Lindy West’s biography and stars Aidy Bryant so of course it’s amazing but it’s not clear how amazing it is until the episode, “Pool.” Written by the incomparable Sam Irby, this episode rebelled against social norms by putting a lot of fat women in swimsuits on screen in a way that’s never happened before.
Annie, a journalist who’s not always comfortable in her plus size body, goes to a fat babe swimming party with the intention of covering it for an unapproved story through a magazine where she works. Shortly after she arrives, she realizes that this is one of the first places where she can be openly fat and not feel like she has to cover up. She allows herself to enjoy the experience but forgets to attend the mandatory workout her boss created. When she arrives at the workout her fatphobic boss makes her sound lazy and knocks her for being fat for maybe the 50th time in the season. Despite how awful her boss makes her feel, Annie writes an article about her experience at the party and posts it to the magazine website without permission. The episode ends with a young Annie sneaking out of a hotel room on vacation to float in the pool when no one will see her.
While the world has certainly become more accepting, of fat bodies, it has not made an effort to make it easier to live in a fat body. Seats on the bus are too small, airplanes charge extra for longer seat belts, seeing Hamilton means bruising your thighs in tiny theater seats, most stores don’t carry clothes that fit and look decent, and being fat is still seen as being out of shape. In this world, representation means everything, and that’s exactly what Shrill has provided for me. Never before has a show focused on the fat girl and how her life is affected by her body. Sure we’ve had fat sheroes like Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids or Chrissy Metz in This is Us, but never before has a show about a fat woman who has fat friends who don’t hide their bodies been created in mainstream culture. It’s incredible and I can’t wait for Season Two to be released in January on Hulu.
Sara’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Fleabag, “Episode 6” (Season Two, Episode 6)
2) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
3) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Ticking Clocks” (Season Six, Episode 14)
4) Modern Family, “The Last Halloween” (Season Eleven, Episode 9)
5) Shrill, “Pool” (Season One, Episode 4)
6) The Crown, “Aberfan” (Season Three, Episode 3)
7) The Bold Type, “Breaking Through the Noise” (Season Three, Episode 10)
8) Making It, “You Made It!” (Season Two, Episode 8)
9) Superstore, “Employee Appreciation Day” (Season Four, Episode 22)
10) Riverdale, “Chapter Fifty-Eight: In Memoriam” (Season Four, Episode 1)
Stranger Things – “Chapter Eight: The Battle for Starcourt”
(Season Three, Episode 8)
By Ken Jones
The following article contains spoilers for the season finale.
Thanks to Netflix I, like many others, rarely watch current TV as it airs. While there were a number of good Netflix original series before Stranger Things, the search for Will Byers proved to me that streaming is the future of both creation and consumption. After years of late deciding what show to write about, this year I was determined to lock in a show that others have actually watched. Which means I’m not going to worry about spoilers, because if you haven’t seen all of Stranger Things yet we aren’t going to be friends anyway. So if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to read spoilers, move along mouth breather.
While “The Battle of Starcourt” begins with a scene that makes me want to pass out, I am a sucker for season finales. But seriously, can’t aliens just stick to popping out of people’s stomachs? What makes this episode the best of the season other than being the finale? Dustin’s duet with his real living I-told-you-she-existed girlfriend of course! While we all know fan favorite Dustin’s song is all that needs to be said about this episode, it also deserves top distinction for being one of the best heist films in years. There’s no twist ending, no showing the audience one thing but the plan the main characters have been doing all along is totally different, no wow mommy look at me I can do the same unexpected thing everyone else is doing so it’s actually expected and rather dull!” Just good old fashion Commie busting, monster bashing, nose bleeding, firework shooting, yeah ‘Merica sneak in and solve codes.
Perhaps most importantly we need to discuss the downfall of who can only be described as the Russian child of Schwarzenegger and Van Damme. I think I prefer the portal to Demogorgonland more than the portal to whatever twisted action star baby making place this dude came from. Does it make sense that the recently drunkard Hopper could take on robotic He-man? No, but shut up we all love Hopper! Who is almost certainly still alive in that Russian prison, but more on that later.
To be honest, at no point have I liked Billy, but at least he is redeemed in this episode. Summoning the same power of love that allows Hop to kill Russian Universal Solider, Billy overcomes his Mind Slayer possession and buys our young heroes the time they need to escape. On rewatches will it make me like him more? Probably not, but it’s always nice when a character isn’t terrible all the time.
The ending of the episode and season leave me conflicted about another season. How could I not love an episode powerful enough for me to be okay with that being the end of one of my most beloved shows of the decade? While Season Two left most of us wanting a little more, Season Three brought back the magic of the first season and brings us a fresh story that makes sense in the context of the overall world. Making a fourth season of interdimensional monster hunting make sense will be a challenge for the show runners. At the end of the episode we have monster destroyed, portal shut, Commies dead, and corrupt mayor behind bars. The three months later news clip is fun and El reading Hopper’s note is truly devastating. We end with the end of their childhood, the party disbanding and some moving away. The torch of wonderous adventure passed to the next generation, not that she is a nerd, nerd! I don’t know what more anyone could want.
Dear Netflix, please don’t mess up a perfectly well wrapped-up story with a convoluted last season just because it is super popular. I know I’m probably in the minority, but Hop should be dead, we’ve already had a character thought to be dead just to resurface. He is a great character, on par with Bob even, but unless he spends Season Four unknowingly helping the kids, er young adults, stave off Russian controlled Demogorgons, only to be reunited with El in the final moments, his return won’t have more power than his “death”.
1) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
2) Mindhunter, “Episode 5” (Season Two, Episode 5)
3) Stranger Things, “Chapter Four: The Sauna Test” (Season Three, Episode 4)
4) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
5) Dead to Me, “I Have to Be Honest” (Season One, Episode 9)
6) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 3: The Sin” (Season One, Episode 3)
7) Mindhunter, “Episode 9” (Season Two, Episode 9)
8) Good Omens, “Hard Times” (Season One, Episode 3)
9) Blown Away, “Pop Art Blowup” (Season One, Episode 6)
10) Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father, “Episode 3.2” (Season Three, Episode 2)
Superstore – “Employee Appreciation Day”
(Season Four, Episode 22)
By Robbie Mehling
This article contains spoilers for the season finale.
Waiting for The Good Place to start, I’d often catch the end of the show before and think that seems funny, I should watch that. Well, I finally did and that’s why I’m writing about Superstore. With the fifth season currently airing, the episode that touched me the most was the fourth season finale, “Employee Appreciation Day.”
Superstore is set in Cloud Nine, a big box store a la Walmart and in this episode, the store employees celebrate the birthday of Store Manager, Amy (America Ferrera.) No… that’s not quite right. They all watch the Paddington movie. Er… wrong again. Oh yeah. Belied underneath a humorous approach used by the show, this episode of Superstore has the workers of Cloud Nine deal with issues that impact the everyday real-life worker: unionization, immigration.
“Employee Appreciation Day” is the landing point for a plotline that has been going on for a chunk of the season and will continue on into the next. Leading up to the episode, the workers of Cloud Nine Branch 1217 led by Jonah (Ben Feldman) has been attempting to unionize and the folks at corporate don’t care for that much at all and, in this episode, they pull out all the stops: background checks and a call to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Sound absurd? Do a Google search. So much for employee appreciation. This is an issue for employee Mateo (Nico Santos), who is undocumented. This has been an ongoing plot point since Season Two, I applaud the writers for being willing to change up the status quo where another show might have remained stagnant.
Much like a worker might build relationships with coworkers to lessen the misery of employment, Superstore is a sitcom build on relationships and this episode is a prime example. Between Jonah and his fellow workers trying to unionize and management. Even more difficult is that the store manager, Amy is his girlfriend. Personal relationships. Mateo has shared his secret with nearly half the store and they kept that secret. Assistant Store Manager Dina (Lauren Ash) expresses her dislike of undocumented people but out of her friendship with him, does her best to help him escape.
The show touches these issues with the humor inherent in a sitcom. “ICE is coming. I thought it was Winter is Coming. Did you guys see the finale?” A break room discussion on unions is also one on Paddington and Amy and Jonah’s relationship. ICE agents in line for ice cream. All of these aspects, along with a dynamic cast makes for a compelling and often quite humorous show that provides both laughs and tackles real-life issues. This episode is complex and funny, so, anyway, just go watch Superstore. To quote an angry Amy who has decided to side with the workers, “Want to start a Union?”
Robbie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Chernobyl, “Please Remain Calm” (Season One, Episode 2)
2) When They See Us, “Part One’ (Season One, Episode 1)
3) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
4) Russian Doll, “Nothing in This World is Easy” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Sunnyside, “Multicultural Tube of Meat” (Season One, Episode 11)
6) Superstore, “Employee Appreciation Day” (Season Four, Episode 22)
7) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Epiosde 2)
8) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 4: Sanctuary” (Season One, Episode 4)
9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
10) The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Liars” (Season Three, Episode 11)
Tuca & Bertie – “The Jelly Lakes”
(Season One, Episode 9)
By J.C. Pankratz
Tuca & Bertie was love at first sight. An animated series created by BoJack Horseman art designer Lisa Hanawalt, it not only centered on the two instantly relatable best bird friends, but boasted an art style unlike anything I’d seen before. An incredibly grounded sense of surreal spectacle. A color palette so vibrant even the most citric acid trip couldn’t compare. That is to say: the buildings are aquamarine and have titties. There’s nothing not to love about the completely unfettered imagination of this show, and it’s a sin it was canceled. So there.
“The Jelly Lakes” brings much to a head in the lives of toucan Tuca and thrush Bertie. They’re making up after a fight and Bertie’s dealing with the sexual harassment accompanying her achieving her dreams as a professional baker. An impromptu trip to Bertie’s old family cabin at the Jelly Lakes shows off everything this show is great at: incredible artistic gags (an old woman slips and falls at the mall and becomes a jewelry cleaning kiosk), instantly memorable characters (Bertie’s butch swim coach Meredith Maple, and her wife, a gentle barn owl who makes art inside old eggs), fantastic set design (again, THE LAKES ARE MADE OF ACTUAL JELLY), and intimate conversations about trauma, friendship, and survival.
Bertie, irritable and lashing out at everyone around her, finally reveals the secret that hurts her most about this place: as a twelve-year-old training to swim all the way to Peanut Butter Island, she was assaulted by a lifeguard. When she finally confesses this to Tuca, and finally looks at her past square in the eye, and decides to swim all the way to the goddamn peanut butter island (yes, it’s a peanut), the grief and joy and triumph and resolve all stream together in Hanawalt’s exquisite emotional color palette. In the midst of Coach Maple fighting a giant seacrab with her own claw, her wife chucking grape jelly sandwiches into Bertie’s mouth as she loses the strength to swim, and Tuca screaming into a bullhorn, Bertie learns that she might not be fine all the time, but in the end? She’s gonna make it.
J.C.’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Tuca & Bertie, “The Jelly Lakes” (Season One, Episode 9)
2) Shrill, “Pool” (Season One, Episode 4)
3) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
4) Fleabag, “Episode 6” (Season Two, Episode 6”
5) Chernobyl, “The Happiness of All Mankind” (Season One, Episode 4)
6) Schitt’s Creek, “Life is a Cabaret” (Season Five, Episode 14)
7) The Crown, “Margaretology” (Season Three, Episode 2)
8) Derry Girls, “The President” (Season Two, Episode 6)
9) Gentleman Jack, “Most Women Are Dull and Stupid” (Season One, Episode 4)
10) Sex Education, “Episode 6” (Season One, Episode 6)
Veronica Mars – “Years, Continents, Bloodshed”
(Season Four, Episode 8)
By Alex Manzo
The article contains spoilers about the season finale.
I had already decided to write about a different show when I realized no one was writing about the long-awaited Season Four of Veronica Mars. Clearly, that needed to be remedied, and there’s little doubt what episode I was going to choose. Overall, I really enjoyed Season Four and was super satisfied with the finale (except for that moment, which I’ll get to).
First, we get to see Big Dick get what’s coming to him. It didn’t seem likely for him to have been responsible for all the bombings, but his hands were never clean. With the general tone of this show, it’s unsurprising for Matty to not only witness his murder/beheading, but literally smile at seeing him meet his demise. She’s going to grow up to be as fucked up as Veronica, no doubts there!
Coming into the episode, I was pretty proud of myself for solving at least part of the mystery. I mean, they weren’t going to bring Patton Oswalt in just to be an annoying helping hand, right? It had already felt so clear to me that Penn was involved in the bombings, the show laid out all the evidence showing why he was the guilty party, and yet I was still on the edge of my seat wondering if he was going to fess up before the bomb at the high school went off.
There’s something really special about a show that gives you all the answers and still manages to keep you guessing until the bitter end. Plus, the whole sequence at the high school gives us a wonderful Keith Mars hero moment, and those never get old.
Then, poor Veronica, the woman who went to her first therapy session FAR too late in life, finally gets a happy ending. Logan is a well-adjusted human who makes a wonderful partner. She got her Pony. She gets to work with her dad in one of the greatest father-daughter duos of all time.
Then, the rest of Penn’s limerick becomes horrifyingly clear as Logan gets blown to bits. Now, I’m usually pretty forgiving in the directions showrunners choose to take their show. I didn’t take real issue with the LOST or How I Met Your Mother finales, because, I get it. I see what they were going for. The more I sat with Logan’s death and the justification behind it…I still don’t really get it.
The thought behind Logan’s demise though is that Veronica has to stay an underdog. Basically, in order for Veronica to remain interesting, she’s not allowed to be happy. Honestly, that’s just some bullshit.
Naturally, we also get a soliloquy of the state of Neptune one year later. Penn got his fame, and most of American on his side. Neptune continued being a haven for the rich and shitting on the poor, and of course Veronica goes to therapy about 10 years too late.
Logan’s untimely death aside, “Years, Continents, Bloodshed” is a satisfying end to a strong Season Four campaign. As grumpy as I am, I still know I’ll be watching Season Five the day it drops.
Alex’s Top 10 Episodes of 2019
1) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
2) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9)
3) The Good Place, “Pandemonium” (Season Three, Episode 13)
4) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8)
5) Veronica Mars, “Years, Continents, Bloodshed” (Season Four, Episode 8)
6) Game of Thrones, “The Long Night” (Season Eight, Episode 3)
7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum” (Season Three, Episode 6)
8) Veronica Mars, “Keep Calm and Party On” (Season Four, Episode 3)
9) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 4: Sanctuary” (Season One, Episode 4)
10) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 3: The Sin” (Season One, Episode 3)
Alex’s Honorable Mentions
Nailed It! — Shalo-many Fails!
9-1-1 — The last 8 minutes of “Malfunction”
Game of Thrones — “The Bells”
Every other episode of The Good Place
The Group’s Top 10 List
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 2019.
1) The Good Place, “The Answer” (Season Four, Episode 9) [56 points]
2) Game of Thrones, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season Eight, Episode 2) [38 points]
3) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (Season Three, Episode 8) [35 points]
4) Fleabag, “Episode 6” (Season Two, Episode 6) [26 points]
5) Russian Doll, “Ariadne” (Season One, Episode 8) [23 points]
6) The Mandalorian, “Chapter 3: The Sin” (Season One, Episode 3) [21 points]
7) Chernobyl, “Please Remain Calm” (Season One, Episode 2) [20 points, tie]
7) Fleabag, “Episode 1” (Season Two, Episode 1) [20 points, tie]
9) Dead to Me, “I Have to Be Honest” (Season One, Episode 9) [16 points, tie]
9) Fleabag, “Episode 5” (Season Two, Episode 5) [16 points, tie]
9) Succession, “This is Not For Tears” (Season Two, Episode 10) [16 points, tie]
9) Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being” (Season One, Episode 6) [16 points, tie]
- 123 different episodes were on a Top 10 list
- 70 different shows were on a Top 10 list
- 6 of the 8 episodes of The Mandalorian were on a Top 10 list
- 4 of the 6 episodes of Fleabag were on a Top 10 list
- 5 of the 8 episodes of Stranger Things were on a Top 10 list
- 4 of the 8 episodes of Russian Doll were on a Top 10 list
- 3 of the 6 episodes of Game of Thrones were on a Top 10 list
- 4 of the 9 episodes of Watchmen were on a Top 10 list
- 5 of the 14 episodes of Schitt’s Creek were on a Top 10 list
- 2 of the 5 episodes of Chernobyl were on a Top 10 list
- 8 series finales were on a Top 10 list
- 5 pilots were on a Top 10 list