Tuesday, December 27, 2022

(Some of The) Best Stuff on the 2022 Teevee Box

Some of you will hate parts of this list.  Probably many of you.  It'll make you mad.  It will drive you to the comment section with a fist full of "Hey dumbass, whatabouts?"  and "How could you have not watcheds?"

Do I care?

I do not.

I'm not a professional TV critic.  I can't get Sam Esmail or Rian Johnson or Tony Gilroy on the blower to get their thoughts on shows they created or just admired.  I am just a 'umble watcher of TV shows like yourself, who delights in being ensorcelled by great storytelling wherever I find it, but with a fairly limited amount of time to read/view/listen/appreciate during any given week (You see, I've got this blog.  And a couple of podcasts.  And a life.)  

I also know my own taste palette. For example, cilantro tastes like soap to me.  You might love it, and god bless you if you do, but to me, it's big bite of Ivory.  In the same spirit, let me confess that I don't much like horror.  There are exceptions, but you'll neve see me in line waiting for a Saw sequel.  I also have very little patience for wealth porn -- especially wealth porn featuring rich assholes doing right asshole things, which is why you won't find shows like White Lotus or Succession on my list:  you might love them, and god bless you if you do, but to me, they taste like big bites of Ivory soap.

You also won't find the billion dollar Dragon show or the billion dollar Ring show here.   The both seemed like mighty heavy lifting and I didn't care enough about them to make the effort.

Similarly, having worked a number of awful, soul-crushing office jobs in my life, I made no room in my schedule for Severance.

But enough about what isn't on my list.  Let's move on to Stuff  I Think You Would Really, Really Enjoy.

Tokyo Vice.  Crime thriller set in, well, it's in the title.  Protagonist tries to unwind a conspiracy that is deeply intertwined with a culture he doesn't' understand.  Which leads us to...

The English.  Welcome to mythic, lawless mid-American in the year of 1890, where the people who were there all along are being destroyed by the invaders from everywhere else who are fighting tooth and nail to exploit the abundance all around them. 

And speaking of people arriving in strange places with different rules...

The Peripheral.  You may not be able to send flesh-clad cyborgs into the past, but The Peripheral  posits the possibility of sending information back in time from a ruined far future to a still-recognizable near future.  

And speaking of time travel...

So far, Kindred exceeds my expectations.  It updates and expands Octavia Butler's 1979 novel, moving the home-base of its protagonist from 1976 Los Angeles to 2022 Los Angeles.  It also changes some of the relationships among the novel's characters, but not in any way that damages the plot.  

And speaking of science fiction...

For All Mankind continues to deliver on the promises it made during it's first season.  Elements of the imagined future of my childhood -- permanent bases on the Moon, ambitious expeditions to Mars -- set within a believable and recognizable alternate history of the 1960s, 70s and beyond.  No phasers or warp engines: just human nature banging around inside a familiar cultural and geopolitical universe, with cooler toys and admirable heroes.

But what if the exploration of space and other worlds didn't take place in public, on a global scale, with the threat of nuclear war hanging over it, but instead was the province of two senior citizens who found a door into another world in their root cellar?  

If that sounds like fun to you, you should definitely check out Night Sky.

Sometimes the aliens comes to us...with sinister plans for us all.  But their plans are undone by the goodhearted citizens of an idyllic Colorado town.  Hilarity ensues.  Welcome to Patience, Colorado and Resident Alien.

Or, if you'd rather step outside this reality altogether and travel from Dreams to Hell and back again, The Sandman might be just what you're looking for.  

Two sequels blew me away this year.  

Better Call Saul has been rolling, humming and soaring along under its own, completely unique and unexpected power since 2015, leading us down a long, downsloping path from Michael McKean and doc review to Carol Burnett and our protagonist fully fallen and finally trapped in a corner he can't weasel or bribe or lawyer his way out of.  

The other sequel is Andor, which I did not see coming and fully expected to brush aside as another cash grab or another helping of fan-service cotton candy from history's most claustrophobic galaxy-spanning evil empire.  Instead we got an unflinching and bravura series about how the thuggish, ravenous machinery of rising fascism spreads and takes root.  How people who are struggling just to get by are stunted by their common belief that there is nothing they can do about it.  How the powerful are willing to accomodate it for the sake of their place in the pecking order.  And how all of these forces can be the bloody hammer and anvil that forges a rebellion out of ordinary men and woman.  

If that's a little grim for you, cleanse your palette with Hacks. The second season of this series has emotional weight, characters that are more deeply drawn and it's just really damn funny.  

It would be terribly unfair of me to pair Slow Horses and The Old Man in the same sentence -- or even the same paragraph -- but look! I just did!  

It also would be wholly unfair of me to summarize Slow Horses as "What if John le Carré's George Smiley were a genius slob who has been cast out of the inner circle and now (barely) supervises a small crew of the British intelligence's worst pariahs and misfits?  And then, one day, a real case falls into their laps?"  Unfair...but look! I just did!  

The Old Man is James Bond or Ethan Hunt, who has gone gray in the long, bloody service of his agency and was given a new life and identity and allowed (encouraged) to disappear.  Then, one day, his past shows back up on his doorstep,

What can a Man of Chicago say about The Bear except it gets everything right.  The people and their relationships.  The sandwich joint.  The lingo and rhythms of the kitchen.  The city.  The stakes.  Everything.  The perfect bite of cinematic thin sliced beef, great bun, great juice, giardiniera, and sweet peppers.  Yes Jeff!

Four of my last five suggestions are not TV series'.  They're movies, but they came into our home on the same TV box as all the rest, so there you go.  

Everything Everywhere All at Once is everything Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness wanted to be but wasn't.  You'll love it.

Prey, is the first Predator movie in a long time to crack the code.  It's stripped down and moves like the wind, but still manages to nicely balance character development with shots of adrenaline.

Glass Onion is all plot and twists and what kind of monster would spoil such a thing for you?  Instead let's just say that the exploits of Mr. Benoit Blanc are the Mr. Beef Italian Beef Sandwich of puzzle-box murder mysteries in that I could chow one down every week from now until the end of time and love every bite.

RRR has a three hour and seven minute runtime, so get your chores and pee-breaks out of the way because once you're strapped in this movie flies non-stop from start to finish.  It is gloriously overstuffed with enough romance, tragedy, humor, mythology, dance numbers, animal stampedes evil imperial scheming and battle set-pieces for any ten Marvel movies.  

And finally, a wild card.  Not from 2022, but from 62 years ago.  It's Danger Man (retitled Secret Agent in the United States.)   A lean, well-written BBC production starring Patrick McGoohan that's explained in its first season introductory voice-over:  "Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième Bureau; England, MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job? Well that's when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake."  

Danger Man can also be seen as a low-key prequel to McGoohan's next television series, The Prisoner.

Be seeing you!

I Am The Liberal Media


Anonymous said...

>>>You also won't find the billion dollar Dragon show or the billion dollar Ring show here. The both seemed like mighty heavy lifting and I didn't care enough about them to make the effort.

I do like the LOTR universe, though I haven't seen the new Middle Earth show yet.

As far as anything to do with GRRM goes - I was reading him in the late 80s with the Wild Cards books. Frankly, I dislike his fiction and pretty much always have. Neither the GoT books nor TV adaptations have appealed to me (okay Maisie Williams and Gwendoline Christie are pretty cool, but you'll get why I say that in a minute).

So yeah pass on the Dragon show, thanks. Not even Matt Smith will get me to go there, and 11 is probably my favorite NuWho Doctor (yes, Capaldi is great and so is Jodie; yes yes yes. I like Matt.)

Robt said...

With all those distractions. mankind may never make it to Mars. Discover a cure for Cancer.

Not even get absorbed by any of the FOX lawsuit liabilities of Prime time.

If I was a critic of these arts, I would be pointing to more animated shows like Simpsons or Family guy for adults. But I won't.
One thing for sure, it is going to drive up stock in reruns/
For too many folks, reruns of Trump in his staring role of the Apprentice. Replacing Ticker NAZI power hour with reruns of the Apprentice would be great for GOX ratings in that time slot. Ticker can compete in the red eye hour to prove his value.

Ian said...

Cilantro and horror movies for a late DG holiday present.

Davis said...

I too, cannot watch anything about rich asholes, even if they eventual get tenor comeuppance. Wolf of Wall Street, e.g. I watched only a few episodes of Billionaire. I hate those people.

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Hal Rager said...

I can not agree more about Andor. I enjoyed Rebel One more than any of the Star Wars universe except for the first two-thirds of the original trilogy. This prequel tale of everyday working-class people coping with an increasingly authoritarian government without a space wizard or major recurring character in sight is very satisfying and gives so many narrative possibilities which gives me hope for the franchise.
It felt so much like a gritty story about operatives and insurgents that are the backbone of any uprising, perhaps inspired by tales of the French Resistance to the Nazis, is very satisfying.
I look forward to more like this.

Anonymous said...

If Glass Onion isn't "wealth porn featuring rich assholes doing right asshole things" then nothing else is either.

Jim C said...

haven't heard of most of these.

loved Severence and The Bear