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?