Feelin’ TV: Top Shows of 2017

Feelin’ TV is back for 2018! Before we get too far in to the television of the new year, I wanted to take my first week to look back at my favorite five shows from 2017.

5) The Crown

If there is one thing that I hate more than British costume drama, it’s the obsession that a large portion of American society has with the comings and goings in the British Royal Family. The fact that The Crown manages to be both while also being one of my favorite shows that I watched last year is absolutely astounding to me. It succeeds because of its performances (John Lithgow as Winston Churchill is astounding) and the way the writers include significant historical intrigue into their telling of the story of the longest serving British monarch. My favorite episodes thus far have been “Assasins” (S1E9) in which Churchill befriends an artist painting his portrait and “Vergangenheit” (S2E6) that sees the Queen consult a young Billy Graham as she weighs her personal desire to forgive against her positional responsibility to the appearance of justice. The first two seasons of The Crown can be streamed on Netflix.

 4) Better Call Saul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Better Call Saul could have easily and lazily coasted to several seasons of solid ratings based solely on the success of Breaking Bad and it’s built in fan base. That Vince Gilligan and his crew have instead created a show with rich, fully realized characters, intricate stories and a lived-in setting is a remarkable achievement. Bob Odenkirk anchors the show as the sad sack Jimmy McGill who really did just want to go straight. Michael McKean steals every scene as his arrogant and cold older brother Chuck. My favorite episode from season three was “Chicanery” (S3E5) which managed to be satisfying and heartbreaking at the exact same time. The first two seasons of Better Call Saul can be streamed on Netflix

3) The Leftovers

One gets the impression that with The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof explores all of the things he wanted to with LOST without the restrictions put on storytelling in a network show. The Leftovers, much like LOST, provided many more questions than it did answers. Unlike LOST though, viewers of The Leftovers were never led to believe the answers were there to be had. The Leftovers is a show about moving on when there are no easy answers. It’s about coping with grief when the answers are unknowable. The Leftovers ended its run with one of the greatest series finales ever as characters resolved to love each other even in the mess. The Leftovers can be streamed with your HBO subscription.

2) Big Little Lies

There’s not much I can say about Big Little Lies that hasn’t been said elsewhere. It is deservedly one of the most awarded and critically acclaimed shows of 2017. The cast is fantastic. Reese Witherspoon is as good as she’s ever been. More than any show I’ve ever watched, the relational conflicts feel real because they’re rooted in actual, real-world issues. The central murder mystery, which not only leaves the viewer guessing about the perpetrator but also the victim, is never less than edge-of-your-seat tense. In a year that saw so many strong women stand up to inequality, harassment and abuse, Big Little Lies was the perfect show of 2017. Big Little Lies can be streamed with your HBO subscription. 

1) The Good Place

If I had been writing about TV in 2016, this would’ve been my #1 show back then as well. Here’s the thing, I’m an unashamed Michael Schur fanboy. Parks and Recreation and The Office are my two favorite sit-coms of all time. I’ve watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine from day one. I listen to his podcast about baseball every week. Shur’s work just speaks to me. I was predestined to love The Good Place no matter what. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Good Place is the best sit-com on TV whether you’re a Michael Schur fan or you’ve never heard of the guy (I’ll bet you have, in addition to being a writer and one time show runner on The Office, he also played the role of Dwight Schrute’s cousin/roommate Mose). The Good Place arrived with a completely realized setting in a way that you don’t see often. Most shows take a bit of time to figure out what they are or what they want to be, but you get the feeling that the writers of The Good Place knew everything about the world they built from the word “go” and anything we don’t yet know is because they don’t want us to know it, not because they haven’t figured it out yet.  On top of the setting The Good Place boasts two solid main characters in Kristen Bell and Ted Danson who are every bit as great as you’d expect them to be. And then you get to add the four other members of the main cast (William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto), each of whom have emerged from relative obscurity to breakout character status, as the cherry on top. Season one ended with a twist that I thought the show could never top. Season two has shaken up the status quo every week to the point that I have no idea what is going to come next. It’s my favorite show of the year, and it’s number one on my list of shows you should be watching if you’re not already. Season one of The Good Place is currently streaming on Netflix and season two episodes can be found on Hulu.

 

Channel Surfing:

  • Runaways has been renewed by Hulu for a second season after a solid freshman debut. In my opinion, it fizzled a bit at the end, but there’s still quite a bit of promise for some good stories to be told in the future. I think later episodes showed some of the limitations of the young cast members, but the older members of the cast and the intriguing source material make it a show to continue to keep an eye on while the younger actors find their footing. Season one of Runaways can be viewed on Hulu.
  • Black Lightning premiered on The CW this week and it was a hell of a debut. The major theme of this superhero drama is racial injustice and it doesn’t appear to be interested in easy answers and mustache twirling villains. With plot lines ripped straight from the front pages of 2017 news, it’s a show that’s always going to be in danger of being soapbox-y, but the premiere managed to sidestep that pitfall. And even if it does slide to the preachy side of the pendulum from time to time, Black Lightning‘s point of view is one that we can always use more of. Give it a shot. Black Lightning airs on Tuesday nights on The CW

That’s all for this week! As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. 


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: September 25-October 1

I don’t really care about the Emmy’s. Every year the Oscar’s give me a few movies to add to my watchlist, but the Emmy’s very rarely move the needle for me as far as my viewing habits. I could be wrong, but it always seems to me like once a show or an actor gets honored with the award, they’re continuously honored in perpetuity until the show ends its run while other deserving shows are ignored. And if I’m being honest, I’m a little bitter that Parks & Recreation went 0-16 at the Emmys during its seven seasons. But this year, as I was hearing all of the buzz after the ceremony for Big Little Lies, I looked at the dynamite cast and the well-regarded show runner and decided to give it a try. In doing so, I may have started to care about the Emmy’s.

Big Little Lies, the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel of the same name, tells the story about a death at an elementary school fundraiser in Monterey, California. The story is presented on two fronts. The primary way is through the main narrative that follows Madeline, Jane, Celeste and Renata (Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern, respectively) from student orientation day at Pirriwee Public School all the way up to the fateful night of the murder. The secondary narrative is what we hear from ancillary characters describing the escalating tension between our four main characters over the time periods in their statements to the police. What makes Big Little Lies stand out from other murder mysteries is that not only is the audience unaware who the killer is, we’re also kept in the dark as to who the victim is. It’s great storytelling technique pulled off with near perfection by one of the most impressive casts I’ve seen in a television series. The four leads are fantastic. They’re confident, catty and delightfully willing to speak their minds to each other. The drama between the women always feels like the kind of actual real-world problems that mothers deal with every day. Make no mistake, these are women who are well-off living in paradise, but their issues are abuse, bullying and work life balance. As a parent, this helped me buy in immediately because I’ve dealt with the pain of a child being hurt in a manner that leaves those in charge of keeping him/her safe without any clue as to who caused the harm. I’ve gone the wrong way in the drop-off line and felt the condemning stares. I’ve seen little issues between parents become big issues because of the wrong thing said at the wrong time. Now no one is getting murdered at the fundraisers I attend, but I get the stakes. This isn’t your average network TV drama where every conflict could be solved if the characters involved took the time to have a 2-minute conversation.

The main cast, as you’d expect with names like Witherspoon, Kidman and Dern, is spectacular. Witherspoon’s Madeline stands out and reminds me of a grown-up Tracy Flick. She’s smart, dedicated, and she’ll play dirty if you cross her. Dern shines as Renata who is put in the unenviable position of being the villain of the story, at least where the interpersonal relationships are concerned. The men in the cast are great as well with stand-out performances by Adam Scott and Alexander Skarsgard. It’s also important to point out how solid Zoe Kravitz performs in a small but vital role as Bonnie, the young wife to Madeline’s ex-husband.

I don’t want to get into too many spoilers in this space because I’d rather you just watch the show. But my favorite thing about the series is the way shines a light on the strength of women. From little hiccups to giant problems, these are women who are more than capable to handle what life puts in their way. When the men in their lives attempt to fix these delicate issues like a man does, they serve to escalate things further. The men suffer from the classic dilemma of treating every problem like a nail because their only tool is a hammer. This show celebrates strong women and their ability to protect each other and get stuff done. It’s a phenomenal series that deserves every bit of praise it has received. Big Little Lies is currently streaming on the HBO GO and HBO NOW apps.

Channel Surfing:

  • Halt and Catch Fire had a devastating episode this week that absolutely wrecked me. No matter how much time is left in a series (H&CF has only 3 episodes left until its series finale) it takes some guts to make a move that totally changes the direction of your show and that’s what creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers did this week. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,  is the best show that you’re not watching. These next three weeks promise to be can’t miss TV. Past seasons of Halt and Catch Fire can be seen on Netflix and the current season can be streamed on the AMC app.
  • Speaking of shows that are unafraid to throw a wrench into the machine that totally changes the show, The Good Place did just that for the third time in its last three episodes. My favorite new show from last season is quickly becoming my favorite show on TV. If you haven’t watched it yet, I can’t express how much you’re missing out. Catch up on season one on Netflix and season two is streaming on Hulu and NBC.com.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine has occasionally ended their season by upsetting the apple cart, but typically they get everything back to the status quo by the end of the next season’s premiere. This season though, it appears that they’re willing to play with the Peralta and Diaz in prison storyline for a little while. And the show is the better for it. The season five premiere was among the best episodes the show has ever produced. Look, Jake and Rosa aren’t guilty and they’re not going to stay there forever, but with the amount of fun that Dan Goor and his writers were able to have with those scenes in particular, I hope it ends later rather than sooner. Brooklyn Nine-Nine can be seen on Hulu or at FOX.com
  • For all you Trekkies out there, we’d be remiss not to mention that Star Trek: Discovery launched last week with a two-part premiere. In the opening episodes we are introduced to Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), First Office Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the  USS Shenzhou. Life in the Federation is pretty chill until the Klingons show back up and chaos ensues. These first two episodes serve as a great primer to the world we will be seeing in Discovery, and though I didn’t particularly love them, they made me curious enough to stick around for episode #3. In this week’s episode the show begins to reveal more of what the episodic storytelling nature may be going forward. This is an intense Star Trek, with a mysterious Captain in Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), horror-like moments reminiscent of the video game Doom 3, and an intriguing crew with vastly different personalities. It was great to finally be aboard the USS Discovery, as well, and see some of the interesting technology of this universe. I came away from the third episode fully onboard with the show and am now quite excited about where it goes from here. – Aaron  Star Trek: Discovery can be streamed through CBS All-Access

As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see covered that we’re not yet covering, let me know in the comments or on the Feelin’ Film discussion group. Thanks for reading!

Feelin’ TV: September 18-24

One of my favorite forms of entertainment are the kind that can exist to poke fun at a genre while also being a solid example of that genre. Shane Black movies like The Nice Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang immediately come to mind as movies that revel in poking holes in the tropes of your average buddy action comedy while also being really enjoyable buddy action comedies. It’s difficult to pull off, so I appreciate when it’s done well. There have been several TV shows that have tried to do this with varying levels of success. Psych is the first one that comes to mind. As a spoof of detective shows it definitely leaned heavier on the comedy than the mystery, but it was mostly fun for 8 seasons. Fox’s new Seth Macfarlane vehicle The Orville seems like it has its sights set on straddling the line between parody and homage of Star Trek, although through three episodes, it strangely seems to be leaning more on the side of homage. A few weeks ago, to little fanfare, Netflix dropped a show that in this writer’s opinion is the best example of this type of program to date. That show is American Vandal.

In the past few years, we’ve become obsessed as a society with the true crime documentary. The first season of the podcast Serial was probably the spark that ignited the flame, but Netflix fanned the flame with shows like Making a Murderer as the subjects of these shows, Adnan Syed and Steven Avery respectively, became household names. American Vandal takes the concept of these stories, replaces murder with a hilarious lesser offense, and creates a world of colorful characters to round out a highly amusing and surprisingly insightful “true crime” documentary series. To tell you much more is to ruin the surprise, but suffice it to say the cast is incredible and the story that begins as farce eventually gets crafted into an intriguing mystery that will have you glued to your seat until it’s over. And along the way it gives the viewer a lot to think about as it examines high school culture in the age of social media in a way that both entertains and gives pause. The subject matter might be more than some can handle, but I couldn’t recommend it any higher. American Vandal is currently streaming on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Good Place had its second season premiere this week and it started at the very moment that season one left off. Revelations made in the season one finale are really going to allow the writers to expand the world and play with its concept. I’m really excited to see what they have planned. If you haven’t watched The Good Place, I’d suggest you get on it. It was the best new show of 2016 and it doesn’t show any signs of losing that momentum. But don’t start in the middle. The first season is must watch and it’s only 13 episodes (all of which can be seen on Netflix). The season 2 premiere of The Good Place is currently streaming on Hulu.

 

  • I briefly mentioned The Orville before and I’m sure it will come up again in the near future. After 3 episodes, it’s safe to say that it isn’t at all what I was expecting. I don’t care for Seth Macfarlane. His smugness and tendency to take the easiest path to a laugh turn me away from most of his work. But The Orville has shown a significant amount of restraint to the point that I wish that there were more laughs to be had. It’s not that the jokes aren’t funny, they’re just barely there. It has some good pieces, but it’s still figuring out what it wants to be. You can catch up on what you’ve missed of The Orville on Hulu.

 

  • I’m three episodes in to HBO’s Emmy award winning drama Big Little Lies and all I can say so far is “Wow.” The cast is incredible (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern!) and the story grips you from the moment it starts. With a first episode titled “Somebody’s Dead” I was expecting a whodunnit murder mystery, but thus far we don’t even know who died. I can’t wait to get it finished. You can currently watch all of season one using HBO’s streaming service.

 

  • I’m not a Trekkie, so I’m probably not going to be watching the new Star Trek: Discovery. I know a lot of people are interested in the show, so if you’re watching and you have some quick thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Well, we’re back after a short hiatus with a new format. We hope that you like it. We’ll be getting into the swing of things as the new TV season really fires up in earnest in the next couple of weeks. As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see covered that we’re not yet covering, let me know in the comments or on the Feelin’ Film discussion group. As of right now, I plan on covering all of the still running shows we covered at the end of last season with a few new additions (Gifted, Ghosted and Inhumans, among others). Is there anything I’m missing? Come join in the conversation in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group!