Top 10 television shows for 2015

Mad Men 2015

It’s December, and the thing the internet loves the most at this time of year is the end-of-year Best Of list, so they can disagree with them. This is my first time writing such a list, and it’s difficult. I thought about writing a separate list for Australian shows, but I don’t want to ghettoise them, so they’re in here too. There are things that aren’t on here because I don’t watch them (The Walking Dead, Hannibal) or haven’t had time to catch up (Transparent, The Leftovers, Parks and Recreation), so just know I haven’t forgotten them. I didn’t forget anything, there’s a reason I left it off. Fargo isn’t on here because while I thought it was very good, I didn’t love it – although Kirsten Dunst did give one of the best performances of the year. My favourite show of the year has the top spot, everything else is in alphabetical order. Hopefully the shows I’ve collected here are a good range of the different things I’m enjoying right now. Writing a Top 10 list is hard, and while I’m only super passionate about half to two-thirds of the shows on this list, they’re all here for a reason. I’ve written about all of these shows previously, so there’s just going to be a paragraph about why each one is there, with some links to some things I’ve written. My only warning is that if you watch the “Best episodes” of the show, you will be spoiled for some plot developments.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 13: “The Promise”

Raylan: After everything we’ve been through, there’s one thing I keep coming back to.

Boyd: We dug coal together.

Raylan: That’s right.

This is the final exchange that takes place in Justified, and it’s perfect. All along, ever since the pilot, this show has been about Boyd, Raylan and Ava. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how Boyd was supposed to die in the pilot, “Fire in the Hole”, but Graham Yost and company decided they liked Walton Goggins so much that they changed their minds. In the end of the short story Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard, upon which Justified is based, Raylan kills Boyd but he isn’t happy about it. Art asks him why, and Raylan replies, “I told you. We dug coal together.” I was worried that the series finale of Justified would end up as a bloodbath, and even though the finale wasn’t as bloody as anyone was expecting, ending on Elmore Leonard’s words felt right. The bond between Boyd and Raylan that formed in those mines transcends any animosity they had four years previously. They also have more in common than either of them would like to admit. This is your only spoiler warning.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 12: “Collateral”

Boyd Crowder: You’ve given up everything that you are so that you can murder me.

A now well-known fact about Justified is that Boyd Crowder was supposed to die in “Fire in the Hole”, as he did in Elmore Leonard’s short story of the same name, but Graham Yost and company were so impressed with Walton Goggins that they decided to keep him on. And really, Justified wouldn’t be half as good as it is without the character of Boyd Crowder. Walton Goggins is phenomenal and he has such great chemistry with Timothy Olyphant that Boyd and Raylan’s antagonism towards each other wouldn’t be the same if they had taken a different direction. This show wouldn’t have just been another procedural if Raylan hadn’t had an antagonist. Maybe he would have stayed with Ava. Maybe Aunt Helen would still be alive. The hypothetical final season would probably come down to a Raylan/Arlo confrontation, but that wouldn’t be as good as what we’re getting now, because Raylan and Boyd dug coal together. I have no idea who’s going to get out of this alive next week, but if it’s only one of them, my money’s on Loretta. And Constable Bob.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 11: “Fugitive Number One”

This is going to be a rough one, guys. I’m sick and I didn’t take notes as I was watching the episode because I had just finished baking a cake. Anyway. This week’s episode of Justified didn’t have the fantastic gut punch of last week’s, but there were still some great moments (Wynn and Mikey 4EVA), and the chessboard has been set for the last two episodes of this show.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 10: “Trust”

He’s too smart. – Raylan and Boyd, about each other.

I was not predicting what happened at the end of the episode, even though it makes perfect sense from both a story and character perspective, so I have no idea where this review will go. I don’t normally post spoiler warnings for my reviews, but they’re implied by the way I write them after every episode. I’m going to leave the big stuff for after the jump, but FYI, it’s going to be fairly spoilery. So for now I’ll leave you with what I wrote before the episode started and my first few dot points of notes:

This week on Justified, there’s a big thing that happens, based on the way the internet is reacting to it! Did Boyd or Ava die?

  • We’re going back to Dewey Crowe?
  • Mikey has a code – is he going to rat on Wynn?
  • Is Wynn the one who dies?
  • This is the issue with knowing that something big happens

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 9: “Burned”

Raylan: Boyd ain’t gonna stop. He’s just going to go after it harder and stupider.

Rachel: And to think there was a time I was excited about having the big office.

If there’s one thing we learned from this week’s episode of Justified, it’s that you should always make sure your solarium is secured just in case the Marshals come to visit. This week we focused in on our Harlan characters, Raylan, Boyd, Ava and Loretta. We also learned who the snitch was in the Grady Hale case, and Avery Markham’s money did not get stolen by Boyd Crowder. The quotes up the top are those that best describe Raylan and Boyd. When Boyd suffers a setback, he doesn’t give up. Instead, he doubles down. Raylan does this too, and Rachel has been learning how difficult it is to keep an eye on Raylan (and by extension, Boyd), and that having the big office isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Then again, maybe her job would be easier if Raylan wasn’t working for her. Not that Raylan really works for anyone.

Continue reading

Justified, Season 6 Episode 8: “Dark As A Dungeon”

You could just have easily been an outlaw as a lawman – Ava Crowder

Ava spat that at Raylan in a fit of anger today, as she has no idea what’s going to happen to her while Boyd and Raylan keep circling each other. The most significant aspect of this line is the fact that it’s true. The only reason he never became an outlaw is because his father was one, and Arlo was the person he hated most in the world. We saw as much when Raylan burnt Arlo’s possessions and prepares to sell his house by removing his body and gravestone. Raylan doesn’t particularly care where Arlo’s body ends up, he’d even prefer not to know. Winona’s speech did a number on Raylan last week, and he’s getting ready to leave Harlan. As much as Winona and Raylan say they love each other, Raylan doesn’t have that connection with Winona the way he does Ava or even Boyd. They grew up together, they dug coal together, and now they might die together, in the darkest possible ending for Justified. This is the third episode of the season in which Raylan and Boyd shared a scene, and it was delightful as always, but definitely more menacing.

Continue reading

Why it can be good, and not so good, to read other people’s reviews.

I started this blog to write about television, and occasionally I write about film and books as well. But I wasn’t using it, so I decided that I would write at least 500 words every day this year. Depending on what I write, the length of the piece varies. What I’ve noticed since I’ve started writing more television reviews is that I’m not reading reviews on any other websites.

The main benefit of that is that I’m focusing on my own opinion of the episode, rather than having my opinion influenced by other people. On the other hand, if I’m not sure about whether I like something or not (my initial reaction to Birdman was “huh”, and I didn’t know what to make of it), it’s useful to seek out both positive and negative reviews and think about which one you agree with the most. My method is to get inspiration from the articles and use them as a source if I use specific ideas in my own review. I read Kayla Kumari’s review of The Good Wife‘s “Dark Money”, before I wrote my own, but the time between reading her review and writing my own was long enough that it didn’t matter as much. But of the shows I write about regularly, Jane the VirginBetter Call Saul and Justified, I’ll only occasionally read a review over at The A.V. Club or on Alan Sepinwall’s blog afterwards.

I’m still relatively new to this, so there are people who watch television more critically than I do. It’s a skill I’m still developing. Therefore I need to read other people’s reviews to enhance my own insight into what I’ve just watched. My case in point for this week is Justified. Last week, I wrote a more of a recap than a review in that it was mainly a plot summary that didn’t go into theme or character at all. Then I went to the review over at The A.V. Club, and read a fantastic character study into how Raylan’s personality was informed by the antagonistic relationship he had with his now dead father. The hatred of Arlo is what drove Raylan for four seasons, and the show has definitely changed since he died – why is Raylan still in Harlan? Given that I watched the first four seasons of this show in succession (it wasn’t quite a binge watch, since I was finishing my Masters degree at the time), I haven’t watched it as critically as I have shows that I watch on a weekly basis. Then in my review this week, I was looking too much into Boyd changing the magazine on his gun – on their podcast, Joanna Robinson and Ryan McGee thought it was just an illustration of how Boyd can no longer trust Ava – this makes the most sense, but I still hope there’s more of a possibility than that. It was a semi-ambiguous moment, and I need to remember that just because other people see it differently than I did, it doesn’t mean that I interpreted it wrong. Just differently. Still, I haven’t read any other Justified reviews this week, so I only know the opinions of two people. It’s food for thought.

Another thing I wrote about last week was my issues with the second series of Broadchurch. On her podcast with Ryan McGee, Mo Ryan articulated some of her problems with the show – I had heard that it was soapy, but that’s not necessarily the whole problem. What was good about the first series of Broadchurch is that it wasn’t about the big twists, and it has become that in the second series, instead of a character based piece about the murder of a child in a small town. It became more Scandal than Friday Night Lights, to use Ryan McGee’s analogy. You can read more about the issues with the second series of Broadchurch over on Mo Ryan’s website.

So my new goal is that once I have written my review of a film or television show, I’m going to seek out others. It’s the best way for me to think more critically, and definitely the best way for me to learn.

Justified Sesason, 6 Episode 7: “The Hunt”

“You left me in prison. You did nothing for me… I was going to die in prison, Boyd”  Ava Crowder

We’ve passed the halfway point in the final season of Justified, and I can’t remember things being this tense since the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad. This week was great because characters were finally laying their cards out of the table, and even if they can’t feel the end coming, the audience does, but the audience also has that foreknowledge. I’m glad that this week the focus was back on Raylan, Boyd and Ava. Markham was in there, but barely, and he had a great scene with Art. Katherine Hale and Wynn Duffy were nowhere to be seen, and as much as I love Wynn Duffy (after I saw him the first time, I never dreamed that he’d become a series regular), the focus back on the core trio is what was needed.

Continue reading

Podcasts! Or, I don’t have anything to review tonight.

I’ve been so bad at consuming popular culture this week (I’ve been having afternoon naps instead of watching television), so I don’t have anything to review. This weekend I’ll try to review a movie and some of The 100, but I don’t have anything to write about today, so I’m going to list some of my favourite podcasts, which are mostly television related, but there is also one about film, and Chat 10 Looks 3. There are other television podcasts I love, but they haven’t released episodes for at least six months, so they’re not included.

Chat 10 Looks 3: I was about to publish this post when I realised that I didn’t include my favourite podcast of 2014. Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales, two of Australia’s best political journalists talk about books, food and occasionally television and film. They’ve only released one episode this year, but they went to see 50 Shades of Grey, because they decided the theme for the week should be doing something you wouldn’t normally do. From what I understand, they giggled through most of the film, and their review was delightful.

Firewall and Iceberg: Dan Feinberg and Alan Sepinwall of HitFix review new and returning television shows, and answer listener mail whenever there are interesting questions. This past week, they did a show dedicated to the Parks and Recreation finale, which I have not seen because I’m so behind on the show, as well as another podcast reviewing one of my least favourite shows, House of Cards and the US remake of the terrible Australian drama Secrets and Lies, as well as the upcoming crime procedural whose pilot was written by Vince Gilligan, Battle Creek, and Will Forte’s Last Man on Earth. When Breaking Bad was on, they dedicated a segment of their show to the episode that aired that week (I can’t remember if they discussed “Ozymandias” that week because Alan was in the hospital with appendicitis, and he reviewed the episode not long after his operation). They also discuss Game of Thrones at the end of each season; they don’t do more of it because Alan hasn’t read the books and has a history of being spoiled by his readers in the comments, by Twitter accounts designed to spoil people, and in emails from readers asking why the show didn’t do certain things. They also do a ‘Worst television of the year’ podcast, which is always entertaining.

Talking TV With Ryan and Ryan: Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post, and Ryan McGee, who is a freelancer who has written for The A.V. Club, HitFix and Screencrush have been podcasting together for five years. Like Alan and Dan, they review upcoming shows, but what I love about them is that they also become obsessed with niche genre shows, like Spartacus and The 100, sometimes dedicating entire episodes to shows that don’t get a lot of critical attention.

The Station Agents: Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair, Dustin Rowles of Pajiba and Josh Kurp of Uproxx talk about their favourite television shows of the past week. As much as I love the two podcasts mentioned above, there’s something nice about the way friends are sitting down and chatting about their favourite television of the week. They also came up with a spinoff of Suits called Skirts, which I really want to watch.

The /Filmcast: I had a lot of trouble trying to find a podcast dedicated to film that didn’t seem overwhelming, and since I had heard Dave Chen on other podcasts, I decided to give this one a try. He has a great dynamic with co-hosts Devindra Hardawar and Jeff Cannata, and I like the format of the show. They discuss what they’ve watched during the week, the film news of the week, then review one movie. Just one, which is why I like it. I don’t want to listen to a podcast about several films I haven’t seen, so this one is easier for me to listen to. There’s also a spoiler section after the review, which means that if I want to go and see a film based on the review, I can stop listening until after I’ve seen it.

Holler Back: This podcast about Justified is hosted by Joanna Robinson and Ryan McGee. Now that I’m writing about Justified, I really appreciate getting insight from other people about the show (the review over at The A.V. Club this week is really well written and gives some great insight into Raylan). Another great aspect of the podcast is how Jo and Ryan honour the fantastic dialogue in Justified and find a quotation from the show that they can use in real life.

A Cast of Kings: Dave Chen and Joanna Robinson began this Game of Thrones podcast during the show’s second season. Like The /Filmcast, it is hosted by /Film. Dave and Joanna have a great dynamic because Joanna has read the books and Dave hasn’t. This means that Joanna reads through all the emails so that Dave doesn’t read spoilers because she’s a good friend, and she also gets incredibly frustrated with him, which is amusing. It’s also really funny when Dave has his theories which are completely wrong.