Best TV of 2017

Television keeps on getting better somehow. Or it seems to be getting better. Or, at the very least, we talk about it a lot more than we used to, which may very well be a sign of either true cultural ascension of HBO and Netflix or general increase in lazy soma-taking viewership. Or both. Or not. Who knows? Your friends probably have a list of shows that you must check out, and they’ll stuff your ears full with the genial selfless joyousness of stuffing a Christmas stocking till you either watch or suffer the fate of an unfriend. Nobody wants to be an unfriend.

That’s depressing. But there’re too many best television list out there and we had to try to switch the game up a bit. Here’s our list of what you must check out, because they were the absolute best this year, and we are sure you’ll love them. But unlike your friends, we’ll still be here for you even if you don’t watch them.

aka Wyatt Cenac

Wyatt Cenac is the Viceroy, Kings County’s sentry, in aka Wyatt Cenac, the comic’s very own web series on Topic, a “story telling studio”. The Viceroy battles daily crime, confronts bad parenting, stands up for city regulations, busts a mustard shop (Viceroy, aka Wyatt Cenac: “I honestly don’t understand why anyone would want this much mustard, no offense.”), among other things. Though it only has 6 episodes, aka Wyatt Cenac deals more honestly with race, gentrification, and mundane inequities of life in a big city than any other show out there (that I know of). Cenac’s is a welcome respite from the onslaught of mediocrity that’s risen to the top like congealed chicken fat in a sad bowl of ramen in Bushwick in December. That sentence is an example of the kinds of crime Viceroy/Cenac battles, not that it’s necessarily untrue. Watch it and spread the love. (Do web series count as television?) — Hoon, managing editor

Image source.

American Gods

Full disclosure: I watched the television series American Gods, but I’ve not read Neil Gaiman’s book. In the nature of complete disclosure, I half started watching the show based on the draw of Ricky Whittle alone. However, once I started watching, I was, as they say, hooked. The show is weird. It’s intense, it’s violent, it’s confusing, and it’s incredible. The premise makes it an interesting watch now, at a time when secularism runs rampant and the relevance and purposes religion are being constantly questioned. On the outside, it’s a flashy series full of action and sex, which is great on its own, but the themes presented and examined within the show make it so much more. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Master of None

The second, and final, season of Master of None was released on Netflix this May and, already, I am mourning its absence. Aziz Ansari did something original here. He stepped away from the script — from scrupulously monitored plot developments and character arcs — to explore some serious issues (always with a comedic twist). Episode two, ‘Religion,’ follows Dev’s experience growing up in a Muslim family. Episode six, ‘New York Stories,’ is an artistic take on the intersecting lives of strangers; part of the episode is silent, taken from the perspective of a deaf character. Episode six, ‘Thanksgiving,’ follows Dev’s friend Denise as she comes out to her family. All of this relevant social commentary and a satisfying romantic arc, what more could you ask for? — Rachel Gerry, Intern

Big Little Lies

HBO’s miniseries Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz is definitely one of my favourite tv shows of the year. Having never read the book by Liane Moriarty, I had no idea what to expect. The dark comedy is set in Monterey, California. Secrets, deception, rivalries, and eventually murder had me hooked each week and trying to figure out what was going to happen next. — Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief 

 

5 Binge-Worthy Shows That Came Out in May

Ah, May. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and I’m cooped up indoors binge-watching some of the best TV out there. Here are 5 binge-worthy TV shows that came out, or is coming out, in May.

  1. Master of None (Season 2): Aziz Ansari’s series had a brilliant first season, and the comedian had room to explore family, race, and relationships with humor and insight. While season one had an overarching storyline mostly connecting everything together, season two has a much more episodic feel. Season Two was released on May 12th and and continues with Dev in Italy before moving back to New York, with more room this season to discuss themes like religion and the modern acting business. All in all, this season was a spectacular, hilarious, and grounded follow up to what is quickly becoming my favorite Netflix series. Master of None season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.

    Aziz Ansari as Dev in Master of None
  2. House of Cards (Season 5): Last season ended on a powerful note with (spoiler alert) Frank (Kevin Spaceyand Claire (Robin Wright) turning toward the camera after having just apparently allowed a terrorist action so they could stir up popular support. I’m excited to see where the show can take us now, especially if Claire does get the chance to join her husband’s fourth-wall asides to the camera. I’m also curious if House of Cards can compete with the actual current President of the United States, and his absurd antics. Season 5 of House of Cards premieres May 30, 2017.
    Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), front, and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), back, on the campaign trail in House of Cards

     

  3. Twin Peaks: The Return: Fans of the original early ’90s series/prequel film may feel slightly betrayed at the change in tone. The reboot isn’t nearly as campy as the original, but it is much darker, and full of more horror. I don’t think this is bad thing at all, however, and the show retains the mystery, the thrills, and the edge-of-your-seat terror that made the original so acclaimed. Kyle MacLachlan and most of the original cast return, along with some new faces rounding out the excellent cast. Twin Peaks: The Return is airing in Canada on CraveTV and The Movie Network at the same time as in the U.S.

    Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks: The Return
  4. I Love Dick (Season 1): Based on the semi-fictional book by author/artist Chris Kraus, it tells the story of Chris (played by Kathryn Hahn) and her husband Sylvere (Griffin Dunne), who move to Marfa, Texas, for Sylvere’s research fellowship. Chris soon falls in love with Sylvere’s fellowship sponsor, the eponymous Dick (Kevin Bacon). This series is unique and bizarre, and Hahn gives a stunning performance as a woman with an obsessive lust, fantasizing about a man who outright tells her that he is not interested. The show should also be commended for flipping the script on a tired old trope: instead of a bored husband hoping to seduce an uninterested woman, we have the exact opposite. I Love Dick was released on May 12th and is streaming now on Amazon.

    Kevin Bacon as Dick and Kathryn Hahn as Chris in I Love Dick
  5. American Gods (Season 1): Technically, this series (based on the bestselling book by Neil Gaiman) came out on April 30th, but it was too good to leave out of this list. Developed by Michael Green and Bryan Fuller (who you may remember as the creator of other fantastic series like Pushing Daisies and Hannibal), American Gods tells the story of Shadow Moon (played by Ricky Whittle), who is released from prison after his wife Laura (Emily Browning) is killed and is hired to be the bodyguard of the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. The series brilliantly blends mystery, supernatural elements, noir, and horror. Be warned, the show is chock-full of graphic sexual and violent content. American Gods is being released internationally on Amazon on a weekly basis.

    Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon in American Gods

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Netflix Picks: March Edition

The Oscars were this past Sunday. With the surrounding controversy, it should be no surprise to note that it’s a terribly outdated institution, reflective of the industry’s worst biases. So, in an effort to forgo the rigidity of the Academy awards, let’s look towards the future (err, the now) of media consumption: Netflix. This is the first in a series of monthly articles aimed at highlighting all that Netflix has to offer (in no particular order).

Love (Season 1)

Love. It’s the newest Judd Apatow series starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust. The show, developed exclusively for Netflix, centres on (yeah, you guessed it) love. But, like most of Apatow’s work, Love is a dark comedy that sits on the cusp of current trends and social mores. You know, stuff millenials do: text, complain about texting, etc. Taken plainly, the story is about two people caught in relationship limbo. Torn between friendship and something a bit heavier, they’re flirtatious and somewhat hostile, a combination that, I think, most people are familiar with these days. Overall, it’s an enjoyable, funny show (admittedly, I’ve watched the first season a couple times over now) – although it’s a little predictable. It’s still a pretty homogenous story. I feel like there could’ve been more done to poke at the hypocrisy of love culture. But, qualms aside, the whole first season is up for streaming now, so get on it.

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels. This comedic documentary isn’t all that new, but it’s definitely worth the watch.  Meet the Patels explores dating across the realm of cultural difference, focusing on the experience of first-generation Indian American actor and writer, Ravi Patel (Transformers, Grandfathered) in his efforts to find an Indian partner. Originally perturbed by the practice of arranged marriage, Ravi eventually succumbs to the notion that there might be some merit in the tradition. Ravi’s sister, Geeta, follows closely with a handheld camera as Ravi explores the process with a (somewhat) open mind. It’s a great perspective on dating that spans cultural boundaries and pokes at societal biases.

Cooked (Season 1)

Cooked. This documentary mini series follows Michael Pollan, acclaimed writer, as he explores the world of cooking in great detail, from craft to cultural and societal significance. Each episode is based on an elemental component of cooking: fire, water, earth and air. In his exploration of these elements, Pollan highlights the importance of cooking in relation to the human race. We’re the animals that cook. In a mix of scientific, historical and cultural investigation, Pollan dovetails into the politics of cooking while trying certain techniques for himself. It’s an immersive and interesting series that makes you think not only of what you’re eating, but how you’re eating it as well. Check it out.

Master of None (Season 1)

Master of None. Created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, this Netflix exclusive series is a hot commodity. It’s an intricate comedy about Dev (Aziz Ansari). He’s a 30 year old,  semi-successful actor living in New York with a proclivity for hesitation. It’s tough, how can you find the right partner when it takes a whole day just to find the best taco spot? His relationship with Rachel (Nöelle Wells) begins on a note of awkwardness to say the least. From there, it’s a less-than simple journey to find compatibility and happiness. Directed by a handful of names (Eric Wareheim, James Ponsoldt, Lynn Shelton and Aziz, himself), each episode has a distinct outlook on a certain topic: gender and race inequality, generational gaps, loneliness and pasta. Sure, the acting isn’t great but I can’t say it matters that much. The story works and it’s well told. Stream the whole first season now.

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado. This is the newest and, probably, the best of Hannibal Buress’ comedy specials. Filmed in Minneapolis, Comedy Camisado explores themes like blindness, dating, getting ID’d, everyday racism, being an uncle, opening a toilet paper business, hating baseball and loving steroids. Associated with shows like  The Eric Andre Show and Broad City, Hannibal’s got a dry, kind of absurd way of looking at things and it’s incredibly entertaining.

Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation. This Netflix exclusive action-drama focuses on the exploitation of children soldiers in an unnamed African country. Agu (Abraham Atta), having lost his mother and sister and witnessed the death of his brother and father, is forced to flee from home and, subsequently, forgo his childhood. He’s then found and adopted by a rebel faction, whose commander (Idris Elba), using paternal tactics, bludgeons Agu into guerrilla service. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective, Jane Eyre), Beasts of No Nation follows Agu as he surpasses all stages of innocence and experience, documenting the core humanity of the most inhumane circumstances. The film portrays the brutality of child warfare in vivid colour, horrific detail and with a thoughtful and dynamic perspective.

The Little Death

The Little Death. This somewhat twisted romantic comedy explores the expansive realm of human sexual behaviour: kinks, fetishes and outright obsessions. (The title itself is a metaphorical phrase for orgasm.) Directed by Josh Lawson, The Little Death compares the distinct sexual appetites of five different couples. While their tastes vary considerably from couple to couple, the characters are interestingly placed within the same space where they interact in small and seemingly insignificant ways. Some fantasies are kept secret, while others become a peculiar form of relationship counseling. It’s interesting and pretty engaging, overall. Worth the watch.

Tiny: A Story About Living Small

Tiny: A Story About Living Small. In a modern world punctuated by consumption and gluttony, restraint is seldom rewarded. This documentary focuses on the growing trend of tiny houses. They’re real homes, just a lot smaller and more meticulously thought out. Every nook and cranny has to have purpose. Tiny captures Christopher Smith’s experience in building a small house for himself, following his “tiny” dream from conception to completion. Yeah, it’s a novelty documentary, but it’s intriguing, nonetheless.