Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Summer 2016 TV Season

What I watched this summer and some vague, incoherent thoughts.

Cutthroat Kitchen: My current favorite of the cooking competition shows. I don't really watch any others with any regularity, except one, which I'll mention. A

Devious Maids: This season really went over the top in a fun way. They finally embraced the full-on soapiness and had a blast with it, delivering in nearly every episode instead of trying to drag things out in ridiculous ways. And then it got canceled. Whatever, Lifetime. B

Game of Thrones: It's still working like gangbusters for me, especially now that it's long passed the books and is setting up its own end game. It really delivered, especially after going through that massacre in the second-to-last episode. And Cersei's final play... damn. A

Grace and Frankie: This show really exemplifies why I like binge-watching something on Netflix that's available all at once. Despite the talent of the actors involved (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston, June Diane Raphael), I don't know that this would hold my interest so much if I didn't just watch it all in one afternoon. The highlights stand out to me more, and the pacing makes it seem... well, not so inconsequential. It's a pleasant show for an afternoon. This season also featured Estelle Parsons on a couple of episodes with a storyline I found predictable but very touching. B

House of Lies: The final season. It was alright. The show was really always just alright, but just alright enough for me to keep watching. Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell were good together. B+

Inside Amy Schumer: I tried to stick with it, but... well, it just wasn't hitting in the way it usually does, and I just stopped watching it after two or three episodes this year. I think I tend to really lose interest fast in the summer.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Continues to be essential viewing. A+

Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures: I love the silliness of the Lego Star Wars universe, and this was just non-stop fun. Lots of character cameos from all across the Star Wars timeline (even Maz Kanata!), and it introduced at least one character (Graballa the Hutt) who is now one of my favorite Star Wars characters ever. Just a great celebration of Star Wars with a sweet family story at its center. And it knew when to stop. A

Love: Everything about this Judd Apatow-produced show I found compelling... except for the love story at its center. It tries to upend rom-com devices, but still (in that conservative Apatow fashion) insists that a man and a woman should be together based on circumstance, even if they're actively bad for one another. I kind of hope next season explores how wrong the end of the first season was. Paul Rust is sympathetic, but makes a lot of awful Nice Guy mistakes, and Gillian Jacobs is great, but needs to work on herself before she has a real relationship. I was not rooting for these two as a couple; I was rooting for them to figure their shit out for themselves. I hope they do. It shouldn't be as a couple, though. B

Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown: The other cooking show I dug all summer. I know I mentioned it in the spring, too. Love those all-day marathons. A-

MasterChef: Eugh, boy. I just couldn't anymore. Made it through the first episode okay, putting up with the show's self-important bullshit. But the tryout process was so ludicrous, pitting contestants against others with the same "signature dish" to earn a place on the show, and it was so, so stupid. Within the first 10 minutes of the second episode, they had given a place to an insecure tool who flirted with Christina in a cringe-inducing manner while mansplaining the point of food to her, something we were supposed to find very charming because he was so awkward, apparently, and I just shut it off. No more of this shit.

Orange Is the New Black: Polarizing year this year, particularly on some of the racial issues, the cliffhanger ending, and that death and its symbolism. Ultimately, I thought it was very compelling, but I understand others didn't. A-

Outlander: Wow, I like this show. I caught up with the first season On Demand and then went right into the second, and damn. This show is as good as Game of Thrones, but because the drama is contained to fewer characters, it actually feels heightened and more powerful. Another genre show (it's a time travel romance, it counts) that really delivered some surprising, great moments. I remember back in the early 90s when everyone's mom was reading the Diana Gabaldon novels, but I'm not familiar with the stories, so this has been fun as hell. Can't wait for next season. A+

Penny Dreadful: A compelling and melancholy final season. I'm sorry to say it's the final season, but it was a decent ending, and Patti Lupone really added to the whole thing. A-

The Powerpuff Girls: Nice try, but it just didn't match the still-funny brilliance of the original.

Preacher: Gave it a few episodes because I loved the comic book, but I just couldn't get into it. I thought Ruth Negga and Joe Gilgun were really good, but the slow pace and the dull atmosphere... I just wasn't interested in a first season-long prequel to the comics. So I stopped with it. Just not what I was hoping for.

Pretty Little Liars: At least there was some answers and some revelation this year (even if some of it was just batshit crazy), so I was ready for the announcement that the next half-season will be the last one. It's just dragging on and on now, but the return of Paige was quite welcome. C

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll: Last year, I said "inessential, but amusing." This season was a slight improvement, and at least this show about a fictional band really conveys a love of music. Also, Campbell Scott was a guest star this year playing a hilariously exaggerated, ultra-pretentious version of himself, and he was quite funny. I'd watch another season (summer's a low bar, and the show's cute), but it was canceled. C+

Stranger Things: The hit of the summer for me. And a lot of people. Lots of people have written about this show and it's 80s aesthetic that I don't think I have anything to add. But this ended up being the exact thing I didn't realize I wanted this summer. A+

UnREAL: Excellent follow-up season, upping the psychological thriller ante with some surprise alliances, manipulations, and long overdue revelations. One of the best shows of the summer for the second summer in a row. A+

And if today's weather is any indication, it's time for autumn. Bring me your overrated premieres, network TV.

5 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm fascinated by this stuff, mostly because I watched only one show in the summer, Major Crimes, which I've watched since it was The Closer. That's it. That there are other options is interesting. Not enough to actually watch. It's like I used to read TV Guide summaries for shows I would never watch, way back when there 3 networks and PBS.

SamuraiFrog said...

I was one of those kids who used to eagerly await the arrival of the fall preview issue of TV Guide and pore over the descriptions of the new shows, trying to figure out what I was going to watch on those 3 networks.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I can't believe I only watch ONE of these shows and that was Stranger Things. I agree with you. I didn't think I needed it as much as I did. I am digging the STRAIN plus my old favorites like Major Crimes and The Last Ship.

SamuraiFrog said...

I couldn't quite get into The Strain when it first started, so I've been planning to just binge the show and see if I like it better that way.

Roger Owen Green said...

I still have some TV Guide Fall Preview issues from the 1980s and 1990s!