This post begins our End Of Year series this week, in which we will present each of our personal favorites in the TV, Video Game, and Movie categories. We begin with television.
We are experiencing the best, most fruitful years of television ever. The Golden Age has passed but the Peak TV age is forever. With hundreds of new shows premiering every year, hopping on top of the already established series we know and love, it’s hard to even find something you want to watch or feel most passionate about. Luckily, this year presented some great new series and outstanding continuations from running shows. The end of the world is (maybe) upon us, the end of Westeros is nigh, #WhoDrewTheDicks, and a foulmouthed and disgraced baseball announcer all entertained us enough to write about. See our choices below.
Austin: In my short 22 (almost 23, sup) years on this planet I have watched many a show. I’ve leaned a lot to the goofy, raunchy, and endearing half hour sitcoms that are easily digestable and don’t make you think or feel too much other than hearty laughter now and then. And I’ve hopped on Peak TV Golden Age hits like Breaking Bad and gotten entrenched in the reviews, think-pieces, and speculation about them as they go on. But, no show has captured me more than The Leftovers.
For a show that I quit on twice during the first season, it’s shocking how much my feelings for it turned around. The second season is the greatest season of television I have ever watched and as it entered its third and final I wasn’t sure it would be able to follow it up evenly. I was wrong.
While The Leftovers S3 isn’t quite the level of S2’s insanity and emotional depth, it takes the best parts of the previous seasons and puts them into one, wrapping up a storyline without concrete answers but delivering a satisfying and emotionally explosive final 8 episodes. A series that is all about what you choose to believe ending on an ambiguous note, leaving the viewer to simply choose whether they believe or not (just like the people who lost loved ones, the people who believed they could see them again, the churchgoers and fanatics) that Nora is telling the truth. Do you want a concrete, wrapped up answer? You have it, but you have to set aside that it’s coming from a morally dubious and troubled character. I for one don’t even know what I believe happened, and I’m fine with that. The ride to get me to the point of not knowing is enough, and leaving me as a viewer with the same feeling as those in the show is a mark unlike any I’ve seen before. The 10 minutes post-finale where I sat silent and thinking, heart-wrenched it’s over but joyous at the beautiful final scene, is something I wish everyone would experience.
Honorable Mentions: Brooklyn Nine-Nine; American Vandal; Mindhunter; Big Little Lies
Andy: If you haven’t watched The Leftovers, stop reading this right now and go get started. Imagine what would happen if 2% of the entire world vanished into thin air? Would we believe it was God? Aliens? The Government? What if your neighbors family of 4 was untouched, but your family of 4 was reduced to just you leftover? These are the questions the show asks which leads to depression, anxiety, guilt, anger, fear, hate, and more. Cults rise, religions falter, skeptics convert, and chaos reigns in this world, and our characters are in the middle of all of it.
Season 1 started out just okay, but by Season 2, you start to realize you’re in for something special. We were lucky enough to get a final Season 3 with all of the creative team knowing this was the final season, and they wrapped this story up better than I could ever asked for. If you like being spoonfed answers, this season will not be for you. If you like to sit in awe for 15 minutes after the ending to episodes with a mix of emotions tearing through your psyche all at once, please watch The Leftovers from start to finish. For the record, I still think about the finale randomly to this day, it will likely stick with me forever.
Honorable Mentions: The Handmaids Tale, Planet Earth II, Stranger Things 2
Game of Thrones
Pat: I know, I know. It’s a pretty generic pick. Honestly though, nothing gets me as pumped as ‘Thrones’ does. Yes, the quality slipped a bit this year. Yes, it seems like the political maneuvering of previous seasons has receded, leaving behind a slew of more stereotypical action/fantasy elements. Yes, it seems like everyone had teleportation devices this season. And yes, ‘Beyond the Wall’ might be one of the worst Game of Thrones episodes of all time, or at least one of the dumbest. Despite all of that, Game of Thrones still makes the top of my list. Why? Because nothing makes my heart rate skyrocket like Game of Thrones. Nothing keeps me on the edge of my seat, hopelessly enthralled, body full of adrenaline, clinging onto every line of dialogue like Game of Thrones. It’s still one of the most incredible pieces of media ever produced and a few blemishes on what has been an overall incredible series isn’t enough to de-throne (ha!) this behemoth.
At the end of the day, Game of Thrones is the ONLY TV show that I watch live anymore, and for that, it deservedly wins the honor of “Show of the Year”.
Honorable Mentions: The Leftovers, Stranger Things 2
Chandler: Set in the documentary style that made Making a Murderer and similar shows so popular, American Vandal initially arrived on Netflix with little fanfare or promotion. At first glance it seemed like a ridiculous satirical take on a genre trying to explore one juvenile question, “who drew the dicks?”. But the story was so much more than that! It provided a perfect blend of true-crime suspense with the petty drama we all experienced back in high school. Much of the documentary is spent trying to exonerate senior/main suspect Dylan Maxwell (chronic troublemaker and known dick drawer) by exploring all facets of his relationships at school, combined with forensic evidence gathered. I was always trying to piece together the never-ending list of hilarious supporting characters they interrogated and interconnected plot points of everyone involved.
But I knew I was hooked when within the first episode I saw how earnestly the high school documentary team picks apart mundane inconsistencies. One being the major revelation about how Dylan always includes ball hairs in his dick drawings but none were found at the crime scene. I found myself suspending disbelief and thinking more about the motivations behind the people and less about how this documentary is fake. Was there actually a conspiracy? Who had the most to gain framing Dylan for the dicks? Come on, that greasy-hair dweeb who claims he saw Dylan is lying, he just wants to be cool.
It takes a few episodes to realize how brilliantly the series is setting up a larger story and, overall, I felt American Vandal was so compelling to watch all while laughing at the entire premise.
Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones, Stranger Things 2
Smithers (TheChumpcast): We truly live in the golden age of television. An age in which you have roughly five minutes to grab a viewer’s attention and never let go. Imagine my glee when Hank Azaria’s Brockmire opens with a profanity-laced and extremely public tirade describing the scene of his wife’s adulterous orgy while pounding a bottle of single malt scotch. Azaria’s words paint a sordid picture of his wife “wearing a strap-on and plowing our neighbor Bob Greenwald” that is relayed to anyone watching the Major League Baseball game he’s announcing. Imagine a less detestable Joe Buck, but with insane addictions to alcohol, drugs, raunchy sex, and keeping it way too real. That’s Brockmire.
The supporting cast, headlined by Amanda Peet and Tyrel Jackson Williams, are excellent. They even managed appearances from the aforementioned Buck, along with familiar names like Dan Patrick and Tim Kurkjian. But this is Azaria’s show, and he does not disappoint. While he’s more famous for his voice work on The Simpsons, Azaria knocks it out of the park as a down-on-his-luck sad sack that you can hate yourself for loving. Brockmire is admittedly not for everyone; especially those of you that are easily offended. However, if you can laugh at a man that mistakenly snorts his girlfriend’s abortion pill after mistaking it for a painkiller, this is your show.
Honorable mentions: The Punisher, GLOW, The Good Place, Stranger Things