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: May 29-June 4

Expiration dates can be a good thing. If cows didn’t gently whisper the use by date of their milk into the ears of dairy farmers, we’d regularly be pouring chunky liquid onto our Frosted Flakes. We’d never know when to throw out sour cream. We’d neglect to change the oil in our cars and destroy our engines. We’d have human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria…but I digress. While television dramas that adhere to the old school case of the week style story structure can continue in perpetuity, some dramas need expiration dates. Dexter is my go to example of this. Much of seasons 1-4 were as good as anything on television. But it was getting less and less plausible that Dexter wouldn’t be caught every minute of every episode. Had the show-runners and the network agreed that Dexter would end after season five or season six, it might have a place in the conversation about best TV shows of the 00’s. Instead, because of viewership numbers, Showtime squeezed every last bit of creative juice from Dexter’s orange and just kept squeezing until they had four more seasons of utter garbage that spoiled the first four seasons by association. In contrast, well thought of shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men set expiration dates for themselves, allowing the creators to focus their storytelling on their eventual end game. The Leftovers and The Americans have done this and produced some of their best episodes since. While it makes me sad to think that there’s only one episode of The Leftovers and one season of The Americans to go, I appreciate the decision knowing that I’ll see quality storytelling written with the end in mind.

House of Cards needs an expiration date. Don’t get me wrong. I love House of Cards. This has been said a lot about a lot of different actors, but I would actually pay money to sit and watch Kevin Spacey read the phone book in character as Frank Underwood. Robin Wright is bone-chilling as the cold and calculating Claire. Michael Kelly is creepy as hell as the ruthlessly loyal Doug Stamper. Season five, which dropped on Netflix last week, even adds Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson to the mix as a pair of DC power-brokers with ambiguous motives, and predictably, they’re fantastic. There’s a lot about season five that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, so much of the narrative feels meandering and aimless. Thankfully, the final two episodes snap the story into focus and give me hope for a possible season six, but I can’t imagine that the Underwood’s story has much more than one season left in them if they want to remain interesting. The first three seasons of the show were so riveting as Frank and Claire schemed and lied and bribed and murdered their way into the White House that the last two, while still fun, paled in comparison. If you haven’t gotten to it yet, I’m not at all saying that season five was bad. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just don’t know how much I’ll continue to enjoy it in the future if subsequent seasons don’t have the end in mind.

In other news…

• “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I’ve already mentioned The Americans briefly above, but I wanted to take a moment to applaud the show on the completion of a tight, concise, riveting and gut-wrenching season. It looked like the Jennings family might be on the way out of the game, but as Phillip and Elizabeth find out, it’s not an easy game to quit. The finale was chock full of nice little character moments that I appreciate the show taking the time to recognize. Paige effectively saying her goodbyes to Pastor Tim, Martha being given the chance for some happiness in her new home, the entire montage set to Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Phillip’s moment of decision about what to do with the intel that is going to keep him from doing what he wants are all given the time they need to breathe even though there’s a lot of business to get down to. All that was missing was Oleg, whose stories haven’t always interested me but whose situation I’ve found to be quite intriguing this season. As the Jennings’ begin to hear about the cracks in their idealized homeland of 1980’s Soviet Russia, there’s something that resonates with this 2017 American too. We’re seeing with Oleg’s story that as the differences between the living conditions of the rulers and the ruled widens, the ruled are less concerned with the consequences of showing their disdain for the systems that oppress them. In the past year or so, we’ve seen the kind of change that this sort of awakening can produce. As for me though, I much more enjoy watching the Jennings family than I enjoy watching the news. At least when it comes to their homeland, I know how the story ends.

• It was hard for me to think about the series finale of Damon Lindelof’s HBO series The Leftovers without thinking about the finale of his similarly themed show, ABC’s Lost. I was a big fan of Lost until that finale, at which point I became rather annoyed that I had ever watched the show at all. The problem with Lost was that it asked lots of questions and the implication was, both in the show and through interviews with the show’s creators, that it was going to eventually provide the answers to those questions for viewers. What ended up happening was, instead of providing the answers to five seasons of questions, the sixth season simply concerned itself with asking its own questions and answering those, leaving a lot unresolved. Looking back on that finale that aired in May of 2010, it would’ve been nearly impossible to pull off a satisfying conclusion to the story because there was simply too much ground to cover. It’s an interesting contrast to The Leftovers, a show that raised a whole heck of a lot of questions but, to its credit, never promised answers to any of them. Answers were not what the show was about. What The Leftovers turned out to be was a character study about how people cope when there aren’t any answers to be found. While there’s probably plenty of intrigue that could be mined from finding the answers to the questions that would arise if 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared, Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (the writer on whose novel the first season was based) chose to take the route of telling smaller, more personal stories of a few of the people who were left behind. There was some really, really weird stuff going on in the post-Great Departure world. It was stuff that if I really thought about it, I’d want to have its purpose explained to me. But people do weird things when they don’t have answers to the tragedies that occur in their lives, and The Leftovers is better for deciding to be concerned with those people and not the circumstances that caused or led to the tragedy. In that way, it would’ve been almost impossible for me to be disappointed with this week’s finale, and indeed I was not. In fact, I’d consider it among the best series finales that I’ve ever seen. From the opening moments with Nora (Carrie Coon) and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) doing Mad Libs (sorry, Matt Libs) by the sea to the final comforting images of two characters assuring each other that in a world where nothing is certain, they can be certain in their belief in each other. Alan Sepinwall wrote a long, detailed and spoiler filled review of the finale and the show itself over at Uproxx. If you’re a fan of the show, I suggest checking it out.

Thanks to the people who have given me a few suggestions about some things to watch while most shows are on hiatus in July and August. I’ve almost gotten through 2 seasons of Luther this week upon the recommendation of Phillip, a loyal reader and regular participant on our Facebook page. Other shows on the docket are The Goldbergs, Halt and Catch Fire and at some point, I’m going to have to catch up with the latest season of Orphan Black that recently became available on Amazon. What am I missing? Give me your suggestions in the comments or on Facebook.

Next week we’ll cover Fargo and Better Call Saul more in depth as both have moved the pieces into place for exciting ends to their seasons.

Feelin’ TV: May 22-28

Traditionally, Americans aren’t fond of waiting. As a group, we’re always looking for faster ways to do the things we need to do each day. In a country where everyone has an app for that, the one area where I don’t believe that this is always the case is in the world of the television drama. Prestige dramas of the 21st century have helped extend our patience as viewers. Shows like Mad Men, The Wire, and The Sopranos allowed fans the opportunity to experience its setting while diving deep into rich, fully realized characters as the plot slowly worked its way toward where it needed to go. The creators of these programs feel no pressure to have an episode stand out on its own but rather have season long stories with episodes that start in the middle and end without resolution. The advent of original programming from streaming services has allowed even further proliferation of this slow burn programming. Over three seasons and 33 episodes, no show has burned slower than Netflix’s Bloodline.

Bloodline’s third and final season dropped on Netflix last Friday. While the first two seasons of the show arguably took too much time to tell their story, no one could argue with the quality on the screen. Kyle Chandler anchors the cast in a role that initially seemed like it might be another chance to play Eric Taylor (his role on the criminally under-watched Friday Night Lights) but this time as a detective in the Florida Keys. That type was turned on its head early on as Chandler’s John Rayburn showed a dark side never seen in Coach Taylor. Sissy Spacek, Sam Shephard and Linda Cardellini were as good as you’d expect them to be in supporting roles and Ben Mendelsohn, who was the breakout star of season one, won an Emmy for his limited role in season two. Almost as impressive as the cast is the setting. You can almost feel the hot southern Florida air while you sit in your living room. Everything about the show feels lived in. This includes the layers of family conflict and drama that feels as real as your own Thanksgiving last fall.  The first two seasons are very good television. Where the story was weak or became more convoluted, as layers of lies were piled on top of each other, the cast propped it up enough to keep me from losing interest.

Season three was a different story. While it’s officially one of the first shows that the service has ever cancelled, it was given the ax prior to filming so the writers had the opportunity to adapt and end the show on their own terms at the end of the season. The show’s creators have claimed that their story was five or six seasons long, so you might assume that this would mean that they move the story along at a quicker pace than seasons one and two. Your assumption would be incorrect. In a move that completely boggles the mind, the show moves along at just as deliberate of a pace as before, and even uses its entire penultimate episode for a disjointed and confusing dream sequence that lands with a resounding thud. Vast amounts of time are spent with an ancillary character (John Leguizamo, doing fine work) whose death is ultimately as confounding as his existence in the narrative in the first place. It isn’t all bad. Sissy Spacek does her best work as the matriarch of the Rayburn Family and Norbert Leo Butz adds layers to the youngest Rayburn son, Kevin, that weren’t there in seasons one and two. However, when it comes to this type of drama, there has to be some sort of a payoff. The long and winding wick has to eventually hit the powder keg. The ending never ends up doing that. It barely ends at all. Unfortunately for Bloodline, its end feels like someone forgot to connect the wick to the payload.

This week in the Arrowverse:

*This week officially wrapped the first season of the full blown four show Arrowverse and you’d be hard pressed to call it anything but a rousing success. Earlier this year, Legends of Tomorrow rebounded from a subpar first season by embracing the cheese in its premise and leaning into the weirder characters and themes of the shared universe. Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk hanging around to feast on the scenery didn’t hurt either. When you throw in the four-part crossover and the Supergirl/Flash musical episode, I’d have to give the universe an A overall for the 2016-2017 season.  With all of the momentum trending up, I’m excited to see that’s in store next season, especially after the season finales of this past week.

*Supergirl ended a stellar sophomore season with a bang. From the beginning fight with a brainwashed Superman through the emotional punch at the end, the final episode was everything a fan could have hoped it would be. Something that Supergirl is able to do better than her other superhero counterparts is to bear the weight of her responsibility without losing Kara’s joy and overall positive outlook on the world around her. If I had one concern heading into next season it’s that the weight of the decision she has to make to defeat Rhea at the end of this week’s episode would cause the writers to push Kara into a darker place. The tone of Supergirl is one of its greatest strengths. Here’s hoping that they can keep that going into season three.

*The Flash reached the finish line of its third season on Tuesday on a high note. While the end to the “Iris is going to die” saga was predictable and involved quite a bit of cheating, it was pulled off in a way that hit all of the necessary emotional beats. The rest of the episode involved tight storytelling and some pretty good action to go with it. My only gripe with the episode was the cliffhanger at the end. I don’t mind a good cliffhanger when it adds to the story. Unfortunately, as has too often been the case with cliffhangers from The Flash, it feels like a cliffhanger for the sake of having a cliffhanger. It’s ok to just let your characters enjoy a victory from time to time. The Flash’s biggest issue in its second and third seasons has been its overall tone. While the first season reveled in the camp and fun behind the characterization of the Flash in the comics, it has become quite dour since then. This show could have definitely benefited from an upbeat ending to carry it into next season.

*If The Flash wanted an example of how to properly execute the end of season cliffhanger, it need look no further than the season finale of its parent show, Arrow. The jaw dropping fade to black at the end of this episode was a perfect end to Adrian Chase’s time on the show while also making sure that his presence will be felt from here on out in the lives of Oliver Queen and his merry men (and women). From talking with other fans of shows like The Flash and Supergirl, it seems pretty common for people to have quit watching Arrow somewhere during seasons 3 and 4, and it’s hard to blame them. Much like The Flash, the show lost its focus during that time and got bogged down under the weight of its titular hero’s guilty conscience. But season five was a really solid rebound for the show overall. Prometheus provided the most formidable foe for Oliver and the gang that we had seen since Deathstroke in season two. Adrian Chase was constantly one step ahead of Oliver, almost to a fault, in his quest to make Oliver pay for the misdeeds of his younger days. The additions to the team added some much-needed levity to the proceedings as well as giving Oliver a larger foundation of people in his life to call him on his guilt and self-pity. I believe we saw more growth in Oliver Queen in season five than we’ve seen in the first four seasons combined. Not only was this hands down Arrow’s best season finale, it was one of the best episodes the show has ever produced. I really can’t take my mind of that last scene. Is it time for the season six premiere yet?

*A couple of shows that, like Bloodline, have mastered the art of the slow burn are AMC’s Better Call Saul and FX’s The Americans. I plan to spend some more time talking about these two shows in the future now that the Arrowverse has begun its summer hiatus. Next week we’ll also talk about the end of HBO’s The Leftovers and season five of Netflix’s House of Cards. If there are other shows that you enjoy that you’d like to see us cover on Feelin’ TV, I’d love to hear your suggestions. There’s a good chance I watch it already and we just haven’t gotten to it yet. If it’s not something I watch, I’ll give you a chance to convince me to give it a shot. Leave some comments below or start a thread on our Facebook page.

Feelin’ TV: May 15-21

Let me lay this premise on you. What if 24 and West Wing had a baby and on that show, Jack Bauer was played by Maggie Q and President Bartlett was played by Jack Bauer? Does that sound like a show you’d like to watch? Of course it does! I was looking forward to checking out Designated Survivor from the first time I saw a commercial for its premiere. I did not expect the show to be good but I thought it would probably be fun. My expectation was that it would be predictable with a high cheese factor but worth watching because, you know, Kiefer Sutherland. Predictably, it won’t ever be mistaken for prestige TV drama. It has been cheesy, overly preachy, President Kirkman’s (Sutherland) chief rival has been a little too much of a mustache twirler for my liking and one of our main characters is really only alive because the plot needs them to be. Furthermore, the first half of the season was quite a bit stronger than the second, due to, in my opinion, the premature disposal of the show’s chief adversary which left it with a bit of a villain problem. When your antagonist is a large group of anonymous people, the truth is, you really don’t have an antagonist. That isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed it. On the contrary, it has been what I thought it would be and at times, a whole lot more. At its best, the show has been intriguing, exciting, funny and full of heart. The performances are great all around. Maggie Q is someone whose presence I always welcome on my TV. Kiefer Sutherland has been solid in a much different role than we’ve seen him in recently. Kal Penn and Virgina Madsen have stood out in their supporting roles. Although I’m not sure the high point that this week’s finale ends on is entirely earned, I’m excited to see where the show goes next season, especially now that it seems to have put a face on its bad guy heading into the fall.

Designated Survivor stands in stark contrast to other current shows that use a fictional White House as their setting. HBO’s Veep may just be the funniest show on TV. Unfortunately, the fact that the culture the show portrays of conviction-less and image obsessed men and women in power represents the “most realistic show about politics” on TV tends to bum me out. Netflix’s House of Cards shows a much darker and more nihilistic view of American politics. President Frank Underwood shows us what a man consumed by a lust for power looks like within the confines of our system of government. While I find these shows to be entertaining for different reasons, I very much enjoy the outlook of Designated Survivor. President Kirkman’s politics can seem naive and Pollyannaish to my cynical side, but there currently aren’t many other places in entertainment that express a general sense of optimism about the people who make our laws. Sure, there’s a good chance that pessimism is more than earned, but it has been nice to escape from it for an hour a week during Designated Survivor.

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine is quietly having one of its best seasons. The show has a nice combination of workplace comedy mixed and case of the week situations that add depth to relationships while also being funny send ups of common cop show and movie tropes. This week’s episodes were delightful as we got to see Boyle, Terry and Diaz tap into their love for remodeling shows as they overhaul the break room while Perralta got to solve a mystery that involved Holt’s mom. Fox didn’t do the show many favors this season as it only aired two episodes between December 13 and April 11. The airing of the show has been so disjointed that I’m planning to watch it all over again over the summer because I think it very well could be the best season the show has put together. But I can’t really remember the first half at all other than that I recall enjoying them quite a bit. The last two episodes air this Tuesday.

 

  • New to stream this week on Netflix is season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from the minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. For fans of the show who loved the first season and were somewhat underwhelmed by season two, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised upon viewing season 3. While it never reaches the heights of its freshman season, it strikes a great balance between the innocent naivete of Ellie Kemper’s titular Kimmy and biting humor about the world she inhabits. Because Kemper plays Kimmy with such earnestness and irresistible charm, the edgier social commentary never comes off as preachy. Episode six, “Kimmy is a Feminist,” stands out in my mind as one that highlights both Kemper’s performance and the writer’s critique of the current social climate.  Co-stars Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski are a lot of fun. I’ve heard complaints that Krakowski’s Jacqueline is a bit too derivative of her 30 Rock character, Jenna Maroney, and I couldn’t argue with that assertion. But I love me some Jenna Maroney so I don’t really mind. Titus Burress gets a chance to shine in episode two in what will be a special treat for fans of Beyonce’s Lemonade.  If you’ve never seen the show, I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Fey’s 30 Rock.

 

  • Next week, I plan to talk a bit about HBO’s The Leftovers which turned out one of its best episodes ever on Sunday, only a week after airing its most bizarre. This doesn’t get the publicity of other HBO dramas, but it deserves to. There are only two episodes left and there are only 28 episodes altogether. If you haven’t started, you still have the time to get it all watched by the time the finale airs!

 

  • And this week in the Arrowverse:
    Arrow
    had a few fun guest appearances, but this week’s episode is the epitome of a table setter to get things in place for this week’s finale. Malcolm Merlyn! Nyssa! Slade Wilson! They’re all back! Can they stop Vigilante? I have a guess! Arrow is going to go through a bit of a transition between this week’s finale and next season’s premiere. The flashbacks that have been a large part of the story, at their best they’ve added depth but at their worst they’ve been dead weight, will finally catch up with where the series began. I’m interested to see how the show adjusts without these context adding vignettes.


    The Flash
    surprised me by quickly running (Ha! Pun!) through plot that I thought would be saved for this week. I have some crazy, spoiler-filled theories on what is going to happen during this week’s finale that a few of us have discussed in the Facebook group. Head over there if you’re caught up or don’t mind being (possibly) spoiled.

     

    The best Arrowverse episode of the week no doubt belonged to Supergirl. While it’s a testament to the ability of the writers and an expanded cast that the show has continued to produce high quality episodes despite the departure of last season’s MVP, Calista Flockhart, it feels really good to have Cat Grant back in National City for the last two episodes of the season. When you add other seasoned TV veterans Teri Hatcher and Linda Carter into the mix, there’s a serious amount of girl power on display this week. The title of next week’s episode is “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” which gives me goosebumps on its own. I can’t wait for the finale.

Feelin’ TV: May 15-21

Let me lay this premise on you. What if 24 and West Wing had a baby and on that show, Jack Bauer was played by Maggie Q and President Bartlett was played by Jack Bauer? Does that sound like a show you’d like to watch? Of course it does! I was looking forward to checking out Designated Survivor from the first time I saw a commercial for its premiere. I did not expect the show to be good but I thought it would probably be fun. My expectation was that it would be predictable with a high cheese factor but worth watching because, you know, Kiefer Sutherland. Predictably, it won’t ever be mistaken for prestige TV drama. It has been cheesy, overly preachy, President Kirkman’s (Sutherland) chief rival has been a little too much of a mustache twirler for my liking and one of our main characters is really only alive because the plot needs them to be. Furthermore, the first half of the season was quite a bit stronger than the second, due to, in my opinion, the premature disposal of the show’s chief adversary which left it with a bit of a villain problem. When your antagonist is a large group of anonymous people, the truth is, you really don’t have an antagonist. That isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed it. On the contrary, it has been what I thought it would be and at times, a whole lot more. At its best, the show has been intriguing, exciting, funny and full of heart. The performances are great all around. Maggie Q is someone whose presence I always welcome on my TV. Kiefer Sutherland has been solid in a much different role than we’ve seen him in recently. Kal Penn and Virgina Madsen have stood out in their supporting roles. Although I’m not sure the high point that this week’s finale ends on is entirely earned, I’m excited to see where the show goes next season, especially now that it seems to have put a face on its bad guy heading into the fall.

Designated Survivor stands in stark contrast to other current shows that use a fictional White House as their setting. HBO’s Veep may just be the funniest show on TV. Unfortunately, the fact that the culture the show portrays of conviction-less and image obsessed men and women in power represents the “most realistic show about politics” on TV tends to bum me out. Netflix’s House of Cards shows a much darker and more nihilistic view of American politics. President Frank Underwood shows us what a man consumed by a lust for power looks like within the confines of our system of government. While I find these shows to be entertaining for different reasons, I very much enjoy the outlook of Designated Survivor. President Kirkman’s politics can seem naive and Pollyannaish to my cynical side, but there currently aren’t many other places in entertainment that express a general sense of optimism about the people who make our laws. Sure, there’s a good chance that pessimism is more than earned, but it has been nice to escape from it for an hour a week during Designated Survivor.

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine is quietly having one of its best seasons. The show has a nice combination of workplace comedy mixed and case of the week situations that add depth to relationships while also being funny send ups of common cop show and movie tropes. This week’s episodes were delightful as we got to see Boyle, Terry and Diaz tap into their love for remodeling shows as they overhaul the break room while Perralta got to solve a mystery that involved Holt’s mom. Fox didn’t do the show many favors this season as it only aired two episodes between December 13 and April 11. The airing of the show has been so disjointed that I’m planning to watch it all over again over the summer because I think it very well could be the best season the show has put together. But I can’t really remember the first half at all other than that I recall enjoying them quite a bit. The last two episodes air this Tuesday.

 

  • New to stream this week on Netflix is season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from the minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. For fans of the show who loved the first season and were somewhat underwhelmed by season two, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised upon viewing season 3. While it never reaches the heights of its freshman season, it strikes a great balance between the innocent naivete of Ellie Kemper’s titular Kimmy and biting humor about the world she inhabits. Because Kemper plays Kimmy with such earnestness and irresistible charm, the edgier social commentary never comes off as preachy. Episode six, “Kimmy is a Feminist,” stands out in my mind as one that highlights both Kemper’s performance and the writer’s critique of the current social climate.  Co-stars Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski are a lot of fun. I’ve heard complaints that Krakowski’s Jacqueline is a bit too derivative of her 30 Rock character, Jenna Maroney, and I couldn’t argue with that assertion. But I love me some Jenna Maroney so I don’t really mind. Titus Burress gets a chance to shine in episode two in what will be a special treat for fans of Beyonce’s Lemonade.  If you’ve never seen the show, I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Fey’s 30 Rock.

 

  • Next week, I plan to talk a bit about HBO’s The Leftovers which turned out one of its best episodes ever on Sunday, only a week after airing its most bizarre. This doesn’t get the publicity of other HBO dramas, but it deserves to. There are only two episodes left and there are only 28 episodes altogether. If you haven’t started, you still have the time to get it all watched by the time the finale airs!

 

  • And this week in the Arrowverse:


    Arrow
    had a few fun guest appearances, but this week’s episode is the epitome of a table setter to get things in place for this week’s finale. Malcolm Merlyn! Nyssa! Slade Wilson! They’re all back! Can they stop Vigilante? I have a guess! Arrow is going to go through a bit of a transition between this week’s finale and next season’s premiere. The flashbacks that have been a large part of the story, at their best they’ve added depth but at their worst they’ve been dead weight, will finally catch up with where the series began. I’m interested to see how the show adjusts without these context adding vignettes.


    The Flash
    surprised me by quickly running (Ha! Pun!) through plot that I thought would be saved for this week. I have some crazy, spoiler-filled theories on what is going to happen during this week’s finale that a few of us have discussed in the Facebook group. Head over there if you’re caught up or don’t mind being (possibly) spoiled.

    The best Arrowverse episode of the week no doubt belonged to Supergirl. While it’s a testament to the ability of the writers and an expanded cast that the show has continued to produce high quality episodes despite the departure of last season’s MVP, Calista Flockhart, it feels really good to have Cat Grant back in National City for the last two episodes of the season. When you add other seasoned TV veterans Teri Hatcher and Linda Carter into the mix, there’s a serious amount of girl power on display this week. The title of next week’s episode is “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” which gives me goosebumps on its own. I can’t wait for the finale.