Oh wow, really dropped the ball a little bit on finishing this year-end-review shit before the end of the year, didn’t I? I got in the music and film pieces in under the wire but here we are, two days in 2019, and I’m still talking about old news TV from 2018. I’m generally pretty diligent about my television writing, offering seasonal reviews and previews for fall and winter as well as spring and summer. I also try and keep track of stuff I’ve been rewatching, so this should be quick and dirty, a little critical summary of what came out this year that I think was notable.
BoJack Horseman – Netflix
The biggest bummer on television right now no matter who you are. Characteristically devastating, seasons five’s BoJack found some self-awareness in the age of #MeToo and in condemning the people that might watch this show or Rick & Morty and erroneously align themselves with the perceived protagonists. It also took the somewhat problematic casting of Alison Brie as Vietnamese writer Diane Nguyen, and offered some balance and nuance to what could have easily been construed as “piling on” BoJack’s substance abuse and frequent promiscuity. The exploration of Diane as a, pardon the pun, “high horse” type of figure looking to target BoJack’s newfound success and stability despite his history as a total asshole but being, as most people are, at plenty of fault in her own life was a great way to ground this show out of being preachy, and delivering one of the best episodes in the series with BoJack’s eulogy of a recently deceased family member.
Wild, Wild Country – Netflix
In American society, we’re supposed to be conditioned against cults. The Manson Family scares us, Jonestown offered a prime example of where idealism and new belief systems can lead you, and even billion dollar operations like The Church of Scientology are looked at by most people with suspicion. Wild, Wild Country took a bit of a different look, framing the establishment of a guru’s Utopian compound in rural Oregon at the height of cult hysteria in the 1980’s as somewhat harmless victims, ultimately weaponized into defending their beliefs after spreading their roots into a small community. Making a strong case for why many joined “cults” in an alienating, atomizing society in the first place, the compelling documentary series made waves with portrayals of a charismatic leadership justifying arming up and allegedly poisoning a salad bar because of paranoia brought by hostile xenophobia rather than the drug and sex induced madness of Jim Jones.
Barry – HBO
Unsurprisingly, nothing really touched Barry for me. Shortly after it was over, in one of the greatest cliffhanger lead-outs I’ve ever seen in television, I knew it was without a doubt going to be my favorite show of the year. Heartfelt, hilarious, a meta-commentary on the entertainment industry, it hits every touchstone for television I enjoy. The upcoming second season, yet to have a release date but anticipated for 2019, is something I’ll watch night-of and spend most of the week thinking about. Watch Barry. It is good.
I missed a lot of TV this year. I still haven’t seen Maniac, the second season of Westworld, or finished the frankly slogging second season of The Deuce or the infinitely depressing Jim Carrey vehicle Kidding. I guess my New Year’s Resolution is to stay more abreast of present television? I reviewed a lot of other stuff in my seasonal reviews, I still love Sharp Objects and I was still underwhelmed by this year’s The Handmaid’s Tale. My most recent miniseries I rewatched was Generation Kill and my present sitcom is 30 Rock.
In a few weeks, I’ll be previewing the Spring/Summer television season as well as reviewing the Black Mirror Choose-Your-Own-Adventure offering “Bandersnatch”, which I watched the other day and largely enjoyed.