Lists TV Reviews

What TV Shows Are You Currently Watching?

I’ve been a little movie-heavy on the site lately. I’m overdue for a reminder that I also love TV as well, especially with the Emmys two weeks away. So, while I prepare a longer piece about Castle Rock I wanted to stop and touch base with everyone: What TV shows are you currently watching?

I don’t mean literally right this minute, although if you are, kudos. But, in general, what’s backlogged on your DVR or firing away in your Netflix/Hulu/HBO/Amazon/[insert streaming service of choice] queue? Because I don’t know if you’ve heard but there are, like, a lot of TV shows to watch these days. Feels like more people should be talking about that. Maybe call it the age of “Too Much TV.”

Oh, right. Right, right, right. Everyone’s been talking about this for years. “Peak TV” is a much better name for it anyway.

As I continue to drown in the sea of choices, throw me a life preserver in the form of some your current favorites. Here are mine:

12 Monkeys: Final Season, Wynonna Earp: Season 3 on SyFy

and Killjoys: Final Season on SyFy

The 12 Monkeys finale aired weeks ago. I’m still catching up. Just not ready to say goodbye to Cole and Cassie yet. Wynonna Earp and Killjoys are currently airing their respective seasons, and they continue to be the perfect Friday night twofer of girl power, escapist sci-fi.

Random Acts of Flyness: Season 1 on HBO

Imagine if Kids in the Hall had sex with Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show and then filtered everything through a Spike Lee lens of always basing everything in race commentary.

Now forget all of that because prior comps or “It’s like X meets Y plus Z” don’t do Random Acts of Flyness justice. It’s a show so supremely self-assured that the opening episode features its host speaking into a smart phone while riding a bicycle through New York only to then be pulled over by a racist cop, the banal platitudes of “Hey, welcome to my show” giving way to a depiction of racial profiling that somehow manages to be sober and funny at the same time.

To be clear, the format of the show is absurdist sketches revolving around a weekly theme, but it goes about it in such an avante-garde way that not even Key & Peele ever aspired to.

The Expanse: Season 1 on Amazon Prime

The Expanse, Wynonna Earp, Killjoys, 12 Monkeys, The Magicians, and Dark Matter all seemed to debut around the same time on SyFy. As a simple survival mechanism, I watched The Expanse pilot, which primarily involves Thomas Jane investigating a missing persons case and plays out like Blade Runner, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica somehow all happening at the same time, wasn’t sucked in (too many moving parts), and moved on.

All these years later, The Expanse has been canceled by SyFy and saved by Amazon. The resulting headlines from such a TV show Houdini act led WMiF co-founder Julianne to give it a shot, and [smash cut to hours later and countless episodes binged] she was quickly deputized as a superfan duty bound to convert others. I’ve been the first in that sure-to-be long line. I’m up to episode 8 of the first season at this point, and, yes, those countless thinkpieces arguing this is the smartest sci-fi to make it to TV since Battlestar Galactica weren’t exaggerating. The feel of there being three different TV shows happening at the same time tests the patience of the more casual viewer but deeply rewards the bingeviewer since the joy of seeing how all three strands finally come together proves the A-Team wright – it is nice to see a plan come together.

There are currently three seasons available to stream. An Amazon-exclusive fourth is in the works.

The Innocents: Season 1 on Netflix

Netflix’s latest genre hybrid from overseas is basically a Romeo & Juliet story set in an X-Men-style universe. It doesn’t star anyone you would know other than Guy Pearce, and the first mutant power to display itself is decidedly WTF in nature. However, there is a scene near the midpoint of the pilot where the Romeo half of the star-crossed lovers sits with his father who clearly suffers from dementia and attempts to say goodbye. The inherent heartbreak of bidding farewell to a loved one who can no longer process such emotions hit home for me and suggests a pathos which might run deeper than the show’s formulaic roots. As of this writing, I’ve only just finished the pilot.

The Sinner: Season 1 on Netflix

Jessica Biel stars as a married mother of a small child who suddenly enters a kind of fugue state and violently murders a complete stranger on a beach in front of her family. Once she snaps out of it she claims to have no explanation for her actions, and Bill Pullman enters as the detective charged with getting to the bottom of it. It’s thus a murder mystery where the end result is not in doubt. The murder happens in plain daylight halfway through the pilot. The rest of the season is devoted to figuring out the motive.

Somewhat disappointingly, Biel’s rather convincing portrayal of complete dismay and confusion falls away by the third episode when she reveals that, yes, she has been lying, and what proceeds from that point forward is sort of a confirmation of what you’ve likely already assumed to be true about her true motives. However, after that the twists and turns keep challenging your assumptions and drawing into question Biel’s reliability as a narrator, leaving much of the problem-solving to the determined, but also going-through-his-own-shit Pullman. Both are nominated for Emmy’s and both deserve it.

The second season, which moves on to a new case and replaces Biel with Carrie Coon, is currently airing on USA (what the network lets them get away with is further confirmation that this isn’t Monk’s USA anymore). The first season was only recently added to Netflix.

Trial & Error: Season 2 on NBC

Brilliant, cartoonish true crime satire. NBC burned off the second season in the dog days of summer, suggesting there likely won’t be a third season. If not, we’re just fortunate to have these two. In the first season, a lawyer from New York has to prove the innocent of a small-town man (played by John Lithgow) accused of murder. In the current season, that same lawyer and his quirky team are faced with the flipside scenario, proving the innocence of a woman (a scene-stealing Kristin Chenoweth) who is almost definitely guilty.

Castle Rock: Season 1 on Hulu

Stephen King universe as envisioned by myster-box J.J. Abrams devotees. The result is a strange combination of elements that doesn’t always work for me as a whole, but on an individual character or episode basis they’ve shown themselves to be capable of greatness. Sissy Spacek’s showcase episode, which drops her dementia-suffering character into a nightmare sci-fi horror scenario, is an all-timer.

Those are some of my current faves. What about you?

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10 comments

  1. I’m really bad at TV, but I’m also not as interested in the structure of it these days. Cliffhanger endings for episode, season, and series arcs. I’ve seen a lot of good shows, but I rarely watch more than a few episodes because of the amount of time these things suck away. Right now, I just prefer episodic TV when I watch anything.

    I’ve been watching Tales from the Darkside (on season three), Monsters (season one), and the kids and I will sometimes watch Penn & Teller: Fool Us.

    Darkside and Monsters can range wildly in terms of quality, but I think they’re fun.

  2. Currently, I am only watching:
    Better Call Saul
    The Dead Files – for me, it’s a guilty pleasure like “The Walking Dead”

    Just finished watching:
    Wellington Paranormal – I need more episodes. 6 is not enough.
    Who Is America? – although there was only 7 episodes, I felt like it went on for a bit too long. Each episode felt very samey after the first even though there are clearly different setups and scenarios.The fake alt-right, who is what I imagine map2selfimportance is like, was kind of dull because the interviewees were too smart.

    1. “Better Call Saul”

      I’m several seasons behind. First season’s great, obviously. Michael McKean is a revelation as the older brother.

      “The Dead Files”

      I had to look that one up. Had never of it before. Does sound like an interesting setup for a series – two investigators look into a haunting but never communicate about the case until the very end. Must result in some conflicting conclusions.

      “Wellington Paranormal”

      Must admit I wasn’t aware this had aired already. I knew there was a What We Do in the Shadows spin-off TV series in the works, but I thought they were still making it, not finished, delivered, and aired in its entirety. It sounds great.

      “Who Is America?”

      I bowed out after just two and a half episodes for the “felt very samey” reason you referenced.

  3. Keep hearing the same thing about The Expanse, especially the comparison to Battlestar Galactica, but then I remember how painfully bad that show got after season 2 and I’m pretty hesitant to invest in a Sci fi channel show again (I’m never gonna call it by it’s new name).

    For me it’s just Castle Rock, Preacher, Sharp Objects, and Yellowstone. Three of them are over as soon as I catch up with the final episodes this weekend and the other two are about to end for the season too…so I guess I better figure out what’s next.

    1. I have now finished the first season of The Expanse, which means I can’t speak to seasons 2 or 3, although I’ve been told they’re even better. All I can say is after one season The Expanse is cleary the closest SyFy has come in its stated quest to find a new Battlestar Galactica. Ironic, then, that they ended up canceling it (thanks for the save, Amazon). I should point the Battlestar comparisons are useful to a degree, but they are also misleading. The Expanse is lighter in tone and far more concerned with intricate plotting and unfolding conspiracies than it is with religious monotheism or the nature of AI or any of the higher-minded philosophical ideas explored on BSG, but The Expanse is also more serious-minded and prestige-drama oriented than something like Killjoys. It’s better than just a merely fun show, but it’s also not exactly something that’ll send you off to write a bunch of academic essays about the depth and intricacies of the themes.

      Castle Rock, Preacher, Sharp Objects, and Yellowstone.

      -Up to date on CR, bowed out of Preacher after s1, haven’t watched any of Sharp Objects and Yellowstone. Sharp Objects more because I just haven’t at all been in the headspace for that style of dark, gritty drama, Yellowstone because I keep forgetting about it. I hear rave reviews for both shows, though.

  4. Well, unlike you I am still into Agents of Shield, and I also enjoy the new Marvel show, Cloak and Dagger. I can only recommend it to everyone, it gets unfairly overlooked, but the show really impresses me, it tackles some really heavy themes really well.

    I have started watching Brooklyn 99, mostly because I was curious about the fuss made around the possible cancellation, and I am kind of surprised how much I enjoy the show. I am usually not into this kind of comedy at all, but the show manages to make me care about the characters.

    And I guess Outlander will be back soon….the fourth book was the last one of the series I truly enjoyed, so I guess I’ll watch that on. And Iron Fist when it drops in a week. I actually look forward to that one, I am curious how the new show runner does, but I am nervous that we get another “the team is broken up” ending. I am really, really tired of those.

    1. “Well, unlike you I am still into Agents of Shield”

      The wait for the new season is going to be super, super long, last I heard. Condolences.

      I, too, enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It falls right into that Parks & Recreation sweetspot for me, and I grew up on zany sitcoms. In general, I don’t watch too many sitcoms anymore, but I always enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, and Trial & Error.

      Re; Outlander. I’d kind of lost track of how many seasons there had been or if the show had an open-ended renewal versus one where the network said “one more season and you’re done” kind of thing.

      Re: Iron Fist “I am nervous that we get another “the team is broken up” ending. I am really, really tired of those.” It has become a regrettable trope at this point. The trailer for the new season looks good, though.

      1. I am glad we are getting another season at all. Plus, I had longer waits before.

        Frankly, I am not sure where Outlander stands rating-wise. But there are six or seven books of material, and they cover one per season.

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