As the year draws to a close and even Mumbai becomes just a little bit cooler, it is time to start making the lists. The best of, the worst of etc.
So here is a round-up of some of the best TV shows we watched this year. Thank you Netflix!
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
If you have not yet seen it , I suggest you give the first episode a try. If utterly zany and farcical humour is your thing, you will love this. Kimmy is one of four women liberated from an underground bunker after 15 years under the thumb of doomsday cult leader Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. It’s a miracle !
And then there is Titus. I haven’t come across a character as loveable as Titus Andromedon in ages. The scene where he says he is black, gay AND old so he doesn’t know what to tick in the hate crime form, is the kind of dark humour this show is peppered with. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/mar/11/unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-tv-comedy-positivity
Richard Wayne Gary Wayne pretty much represents the self- obsessed patriarchy and the various male gatekeepers who always seem to be telling women what they should do with their lives, while they themselves enjoy all the benefits of doing whatever they want! Titus is the exact opposite of the straight white man and Lillian, the landlady, is the typical immigrant New Yorker who now loves her city the way it is and does not want gentrification to destroy it. There is Mrs Voorhees who has Native American ancestry she wants to hide, a robot, a Vietnamese student who is forced to marry so he won’t get deported, a step daughter called Xanthippe and… oh just go ahead and watch it already !
At least check out the title song which is itself super funny and had gone viral when released.
A Mexican TV series with an edge- of- the- seat opening sequence where someone falls of a balcony and dies…….. and the First Lady is now on the run!! If, like me, you are tired of watching everything with the same US/UK reference frames (or worse, depressing Scandinavian thrillers with grey landscapes…) then this one will perk you up. A fascinating story and a fast paced plot, it brings in corruption in the army, gang wars, the CIA, how well-meaning NGOs may put people’s lives in danger and how one woman can start to take it all down. Check out the dark title song here:
Sarah is a street smart young woman living on the fringes, currently on the run from a bad relationship and painfully separated from her own daughter. And then an eerily lookalike stranger commits a shocking suicide right in front of her eyes. There is nothing more that can be revealed without major and shocking plot twists that will leave you breathless!
Just know that ‘Orphan Black’ delivers a perfect blend of mystery, sci-fi, thriller, drama and comedy elements – and many wonderfully colourful characters – that will make you want to binge-watch entire seasons. And while everybody in the cast does an outstanding job, one thing can’t be stressed enough: Tatiana Maslany, the lead actress, is a revelation and Mrs S is the most badass foster mother you can ever hope to come across. Ever.
Anne with an e
If you have read Anne of Green Gables series as a child this will find a place in your heart, though it has a darker edge than the books ever did. Maybe it is more truthful to say that the darker parts alluded to in the book have been fleshed out as grim flashbacks. This does make it a bit disturbing but then that was the truth of an orphan’s life in those days. What makes this really work is the fantastic casting of Anne, Marilla and Mathew. They are exactly who I thought they were. Sadly Diana is a big disappointment and as for Gilbert, we hope to see more of him in the next season before passing judgement.
“Imagine a time where zombie-like people look only into their smart phones. They swipe and they rate not just cabs and restaurants but people, too. They take photos of themselves being happy and looking good; also photos of things – funny things, sunny things, or food they are eating, cool food. Then they post the pictures and wait, for feedback, for approval. They are posting their lives – not so much their real lives but the lives they want other people to see and think they are living. Mostly they worry, about how they are seen, about their status …
Imagine? Look about you: that time is here!” https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/21/black-mirror-review-charlie-brooker-nightmare-sterile-world-is-only-five-minutes-away
The series does not give you any peace of mind as episode after episode delves into the darkest alternatives of the human/ technology interface. A must watch !
I think it does for black people in USA what Goodness Gracious Me did for British Indians in the 90s. Gives them a well- rounded identity with a well- timed comic kick. It does not shy away from using issues like police brutality faced by black men nor does it tone down white people privilege displays. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/feb/25/series-creator-kenya-barris-on-abc-sitcom-black-ish
But once you have seen Ruby shout ‘Black Jesus’ as her son almost drowns in an attempt to prove that black people can swim despite their heavy bones, and listened to an insane office meeting led by his white boss , and watched him struggle find his own identity while protecting his children from losing theirs, you will be hooked !
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency:
If you have read and loved Douglas Adams books about this, please, please forget that this series has anything to do with it! I was in a state of shock during the first episode because it literally does not have one word in common besides the name. But somehow they have managed to capture the essence of the madness of the novels and somehow, it all works! It is super entertaining and what they have added to the original does add to the intrigue and the chaos. We now also have a holistic assassin thrown into the mix and you have to totally love Bart, the woman who goes on a killing spree and believes that whoever she kills is the person she was supposed to kill.
A police officer in a small town is called out to the local cemetery in the middle of the night, he makes a discovery that turns his world upside down. Six people have risen from the dead in perfect health.
Set in Yoorana, a small slow town in Australia, again more fascinating for proving such a different back drop, with characters bringing with them plot lines involving gay soldiers in WW2, Aboriginal slave history, unsolved murder mysteries and not to mention the problem of people turning up and trying to get their lives back from where they had left off 150 years ago. http://junkee.com/glitch-season-two-review/123489
A lovely little family comedy with the typical ‘normal’’ yet dysfunctional family that Americans love to imagine peppering their suburbia. Deborah from Everyone Loves Raymond puts in a perfect turn as the working woman who is also a mother to 3 starkly different children. The actor who plays the zany janitor in Scrubs is her deadpan husband who views with equanimity her various adventures in improving the life of their family as well as his daughter’s super enthusiastic plans for everything.
Stranger Things 1 and 2
For anyone of my generation who grew up watching ET, Star Trek, Aliens, and reading Enid Blyton books Secret Seven, Five find outers, Famous Five, Five Children and It, this series is a delightful throwback to a time when children were the heroes in an innocent do-gooding way, adults were inept, clueless or disinterested—all of which is portrayed –the only adults who are involved are the science teacher, Winona Ryder as a stressed out single mother and the lonely gruff Policeman/ Sheriff Hopper. Needless to say there is an alien, a missing child, lots of bicycle chases, scary hospital like prisons, school clubs with secrets and passwords, teenage love, sibling tensions, the works.
The blurb says “A political drama which looks into the life of the Secretary of State as she tries to balance work with family. ”
Shows how subtle and all pervasive sexism is ! Compare this to the burb of Designated Survivor which says: A low-level Cabinet member becomes President of the United States after a catastrophic attack kills everyone above him in the line of succession. “
Because it involves a man, clearly no need for family –work balance !
The series does raise issues of women’s empowerment and is also a good way to get your global issues updates in a well scripted storyline. The USA may always win of course, but if you have kids in the house who don’t read newspapers (and whose kids do any more?!) then this is a good way to introduce them to politics, geopolitics and the role of diplomacy and the value of democracy.
Under the Dome
Based on a Stephen King novel, we totally binge watched this series over a long weekend! Chester’s Mill is a regular small town in USA, with an RJ station, a mayor, a few police officers, one school, one hospital, a murderer trying to leave, a lesbian couple passing through on a road trip, a spurned lover kidnapping his girlfriend, a journalist following up on a conspiracy theory….. As I said, regular small town America! And out of the blue, an enormous dome seems to have fallen on the entire town. No one can go in or out, and as the days progress, supplies start running out, tempers and stress level run high and power games begin. Season 1 is a thrilling ride.
Line of Duty:
The introduction says: “After a mistaken shooting during a counter-terrorist operation, Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott is transferred to AC-12, a police anti-corruption unit led by Superintendent Hastings. Alongside Detective Constable Kate Fleming, they are assigned to lead an investigation into the alleged corruption by a popular and successful officer, Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates. While Gates cleverly manipulates his unit’s figures, DS Arnott questions whether Gates is being made a scapegoat for a culture of institutionalized spin, or is guilty of darker corruption.”
But as one reviewer described it , it is like being abducted by your TV rather than you just watching it ! It leaves you breathless with the back stabbing and jealousies inside the force and you wonder how on earth do police manage to keep the public safe when they seem to be each others’ worst enemies, but oh my, when they solve the crime it is a beauty to behold !
If you have seen Death at a Funeral– and if you haven’t then please drop everything and see it now ! (The British original only please see the trailer here
So, the woman who pays the plain Jane quiet wife in it, does an astounding turn as a police officer with five hundred shades of grey! In every episode with her we flipped sides every 10 minutes about wanting justice for her or wanting her to be in jail !
Here is a quote from a review of the season 4:
“I have a few questions remaining. Like how long can a fingerprint-enabled phone be operated by a finger that is no longer attached to its owner? Would freezing help, or not? And will this mean a spike in real-life digit removal? But mainly just what the hell am I going to do with the huge void that has opened up with Line of Duty’s ending? What is there to lie awake worrying about now? Real life. I guess.” https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/apr/30/line-of-duty-finale-review-less-like-watching-tv-more-like-being-abducted-by-it
Bill Nye Saves the World
Bill Nye is utterly charming as the super cool science guy who show us the science within and behind everything! We love this series and every little science trivia and analysis they share. http://www.indiewire.com/2017/04/bill-nye-saves-the-world-review-netflix-1201806140/
I don’t even know how to describe this series. I started to watch it because it has been directed by the Wachowskis who gave us the incredible cult classic Matrix.
It is surreal but so real. Charming in its detailed following through of people’s confusing and fragile lives, but more so it is about love and belonging and finding yourself. Even if it involves scenes like Darryl Hannah killing herself in some Gothic church and a desi man inexplicably turning up inside jail, in cars, in hospitals, an attempted lobotomy of a transgender person, a young man in Africa trying to get medicines for his HIV positive mother and an Indian girl about to get married sees a naked German guy telling her not to. I told you it cannot be explained! There is a scene in the Korean jail where the inmates tell the latest entrant that all the honest and brave women in Korea are in jail. The framework of the series also rails against all forms of injustice—whether it is against gender/ sexuality/ capitalism/ extortion/ race. It’s got it all. Watch it if you dare !
I must confess that I started this only because the main guy was the one from Homeland. Then I stayed on to see what made the wife and the psychiatrist tick, and then I forwarded most episodes just to figure out where they were going with it. And then I was interested when the first gender non confirming actor made their appearance and the use of pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’, threw everyone in a daze. Eventually disappointing, mainly due to its crazy alpha male focussed plotline.
Some more serials which we started but lost interest in:
Scandal, Designated Survivor, Paranoid
And yes, we all kept our jobs and the kids passed their exams and we managed to meet family and friends and also travelled a bit . It all come down to good time management. That or the time turner 🙂
Hope this helps you plans your Xmas holiday weekend binge watching !
You are welcome 🙂