Monday, January 8, 2024

2023 In Review - TV Shows

This past year was also a big-time year when it comes to finally watching some of those long-recommended TV shows and movies you've all been incredulous to find out I haven't watched (stay tuned for the movies post later this week). I finally watched a bunch of shows I've been "meaning to get around to," in addition to my inevitable rewatches of longtime favorites like Justified and The Office. I've got a bunch more shows still to watch, and if I were smart, I'd start a draft of a post like this now, so I don't have to scramble at the end of the year and try to remember what I watched.

If I were smart, that's exactly what I'd do. Anyways, here we go!

#1 - The Sandman - Season 1

This show was one I've meant to watch forever, but I finally got the motivation to get into it because of a co-watcher. And I owe that person my deepest gratitude; what was I waiting for? The show has the proper balance between macabre, playful, and absurd. Season 2 is expected sometime in 2024, and when it drops, I can promise you I won't be waiting a full year to watch it this time.

#2 - Bonding - Season 1

Funny, quirky, and heartfelt. The episodes are very short, so if you're not careful, you'll watch the whole thing in one sitting. Which is great, it's fun, but you'll be sad it's over.

#3 - The Mandalorian - Season 3

I actually loved this season of the Mandalorian. There were some kinks (not those kind, pervert), specifically with some of the dialogue, but overall I found it really entertaining. And I gotta say, I'm a Bo-Katan stan. Am I using that word correctly? Stan? I'm not as into Grogu as the rest of...well, everyone, but the Star Wars bounty hunting and Mandalorian aspect of things check all the boxes for me. The finale was a lot of fun, big action, and without spoiling details, I was delighted to see two big name story pieces get put away once and for all.

#4 - Cowboy Bebop (live action)

I remember when this show came out, and I remember how the internet reacted with such vitriol and judgment, about how the show was different from the original anime in one way or another. I watched the first few episodes of the original series, and while I enjoyed it well enough, I wasn't drawn in. But for me, the live action version has just the right balance of hilarious ridiculousness and more mature themes. And the character of Faye Valentine in the live action version is just absolutely perfect. It's a shame that all those internet people got the show cut down in its prime.

#5 - Brooklyn 99 - Seasons 1-5

This is another show that falls into that category of, "I really should've known that I would love this show." I enjoy workplace comedies, I like law enforcement as a framework, and I absolutely love the cast of this show (RIP Andre Braugher). Unsurprisingly, I've really enjoyed what I've watched so far, and I'm looking forward to closing out the show in the near future.

#6 - The Bear - Seasons 1-2

I love a cooking show, and this is that, a little bit. But it's more so a show about work, about anxiety, about grief, about relationships, about struggle. It's a heavy, deep show, and also a cooking show here and there. It struck a great balance between humor and stress, it felt very real in that regard. Even when life is awful, it's funny sometimes.

#7 - Invincible - Season 2, Part 1

This was a really solid four episodes of television. It's been a while since the first season of Invincible, and it was great to see the show return, and pick up right where things left off at the end of season 1. I found Rex Splode a little more tedious this time around, but hopefully that was just a fleeting thing; the rest of the returning characters still have me engaged. I'm not wild about the split season deal, but these days you take what you get, I guess.

#8 - Rick & Morty Season 1

I've been told for years that I would like Rick & Morty, that it's got a particular sort of humor that fits my own. And one season in, I heartily agree. There are a few heavy-handed jokes here and there, but for the most part it's a lot of conversational, situational humor, and that's my wheelhouse.

#9 - Loki - Season 2

Through five episodes, this would've been towards the bottom of the list of shows I watched in 2023. It felt directionless and tedious, and it felt like they really wasted the character of Sylvie after making her relationship with Loki such a beautiful part of the first season. But that finale, holy shit. It's as if they took all the good stuff from the season and jammed it into one episode. That one episode alone brings the whole show up several notches.

#10 - Battlestar Galactica - Season 1-2

A show I've meant to watch for years, decades even, I finally started it this year. Of course, I started it just two weeks before it got removed from Peacock, but what I watched during that time was quite good. I don't find the characters as endearing as those on most Star Trek shows, but I believe that's partly intentional; this gritty environment fosters people with sour attitudes and adaptive morals. There's no Captain America in this crew.

#11 - Jury Duty - Season 1

This was a really fun show. The premise was really funny, a faux reality show with a totally fabricated court case, and only one person who wasn't in on it. And they executed it well, created a bunch of really fun scenarios, and the guinea pig ended up being a really sweet guy who unwittingly played his role perfectly.

#12 - Ahsoka - Season 1

Ahsoka was an interesting television-watching experience for me. I came into the show very worried that, having not watched Clone Wars or Rebels, I was going to be in the dark about important story beats. Then I watched the first two episodes, and I was literally blown away. It was a Jedi detective show, with space ships and lightsaber battles, and holy mother of Luke, I was sold. And thennn, the story moved towards Sabine's efforts to find Ezra, a Rebels character who meant literally nothing to me, and the threat of Grand Admiral Thrawn, another character I had almost no prior knowledge about. The references to Clone Wars and Rebels continued, and I did my best to follow along using context clues, but by the end of the show, I was a little disillusioned. I did like Thrawn a lot though; I'm looking forward to seeing more of him.

#13 - Bodies

There are a lot of pieces to like in this show. The acting is top notch, and there's one storyline that really sings. The rest are okay, but the show incorporates time travel, and even in shows and movies I like, I get twisted up about time travel shenanigans. Because of course, it never truly makes sense. Still, there's enough I enjoyed about the show that I would still recommend it.

#14 - Secret Invasion

I don't think I'm alone in having had high hopes for this show. I've come around to Winter Soldier over the years, so the idea of Marvel doing a spy show had some real exciting potential. The current characters were great, and the incoming cast was super strong, several fresh faces with some serious acting chops. And then the show was...blah. It was boring, heavy-handed, sloppy, and just not that much fun, which is almost unthinkable for a Marvel property. The few good Olivia Coleman moments were overshadowed by a frustratingly simple antagonist, clunky dialogue, and some inexplicable narrative choices.

#15 - Justified: City Primeval

What a colossal disappointment. Justified is one of my favorite shows of all time, but this spinoff was a total letdown. You get a few Raylan moments, but overall it just does not capture any of the magic of the original, owing in large part to a poorly constructed main villain. It's crazy that Boyd Holbrook is the primary antagonist in the bookends of my list; his character was fantastic in the Sandman, and an absolute drag in City Primeval.

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2023 In Review - Movies

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