Completed (To Date)
Viewed: Season 3
Two years after the launch of Season 1 (and fifteen years after the big screen adaptation that fizzled out after a single movie), A Series of Unfortunate Events comes to a close at long last. This is the shortest season so far, with the final book being adapted into a single episode, but the show is as strong as ever, retaining the witty writing, irresistible sense of dark comedy, sumptuous visual design and quirky characters. Chief among the season's strengths is bringing back Carmelita Spats (Kitana Turnbull), who is paired up with Lucy Punch's Esme - the duo is so good whenever they are on-screen, they deserve their own spin-off show. Season 3 further expands upon the show's mythology and lore, leading to a conclusion that's satisfying enough whilst still being true to the ominous title. The visual stylings remain exceptional; the show retains a storybook quality to it which makes each set and location look subtly unreal, and the production design is intricate and eye-catching. The show looks gorgeous in 4K with Dolby Vision - this is the show that prompted me to upgrade my Netflix subscription to include 4K, and I'm still happy with that decision. This show looks cinematic as hell, and it's hard to imagine another big-screen adaptation upping the ante much more.
There are more hilarious sad letters to Beatrice. Neil Patrick Harris is still an absolute treat as Count Olaf. Plus NPH singing the opening title song (which changes with each new story) is still amazing. I already wanna watch this thing all the way through again. This was a journey well worth taking. Thank you, Netflix.
Viewed: Seasons 1-3
Brilliant. Toast of London is contemporary Britcom joy. Matt Berry is good in anything (Garth Marenghi's Darkplace remains a high bar), but this is possibly Berry at his finest, playing the titular lead role and cowriting the show to create something that's riotously funny, creative, quirky and endlessly entertaining. Almost every episode features a quirky musical number, there are frequent visits to a voiceover studio in Soho overseen by a couple of hilarious wind-up merchants who always get to Steven, there are big celebrity appearance (one Series 3 episode is a total corker), and some recognisable actors even play exaggerated versions of themselves (John Nettles has fallen on hard times and here tries to sell woodland creatures he has hunted). Added to this, the show is visually inviting, with the aforementioned musical numbers often including colourful visuals, and each episode moves at an agreeable clip, with the 25-minute running times ensuring a brisk pace with spot-on comic timing. It certainly doesn't linger on any joke for too long like most American sitcoms, as Berry and co-writer Arthur Mathews are never short on content.
Three seasons. Eighteen episodes. It's worth the commitment to get through this show. And with a fourth series confirmed, I cannot wait to see more.
Viewed: Seasons 1-4
At last, after years of recommendations, online hype, social media excitement and Netflix presence, I delved into the world of Black Mirror and gradually worked through the four seasons currently available (thank goodness the next season is slated to release this year). It is difficult to review the series as a whole given its anthology structure and unconnected episodes (aside from Easter Eggs) - the show has its weaker episodes (I wasn't crazy about "Men Against Fire" or "Metalhead"), and it can't always stick the landing, but the satirical themes are consistently strong and Charlie Brooker's ideas are often downright spectacular. Ditto, the technological inventions are convincingly conceived and executed, with the show consistently featuring top-flight production values bordering on cinema quality. The show's best episode for me thus far is "White Christmas," which I've already watched more than once (yes, I watched it again before even finishing all four seasons) - it's rivetingly acted (can't go wrong with Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall), and it enthralling builds to a mind-blowing conclusion, belying its status as the show's token Christmas episode. Other standouts include "Shut Up and Dance" (SO great) and "Hated in the Nation," two of which I actually recommend as starting points if you're reluctant about the show. Many of the longer episodes could have been released as movies, but then again they aren't really flashy or marketable enough as standalone things. I love that Brooker experiments with format and length, as episodes range from 40 minutes to well over an hour, as each concept is given the length it warrants.
This is a superb show. It's well worth the hype, and I'm glad I got into it.
Well, I didn't need to wait that long before getting another Black Mirror fix - it really was a good time to get into this show. However, the quality of season 5 is a bit mixed. The standout is the middle episode, "Smithereen", which recaptures the raw intensity of previous classics like "Shut Up and Dance" - and it has some really interesting things to say about the nature of today's technologically-reliant society, devoid of humanity. Moreover, the sense of curiosity builds throughout the episode, and it takes a while for the story to come into focus properly. Meanwhile, the other two episodes aren't much to write home about - "Striking Vipers" is worth a 7/10, I can't see myself rewatching it much, while "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" feels amateurish in a number of ways. I can certainly understand the themes underpinning the episodes, but the execution leaves something to be desired. And now comes the wait for the next season...
Viewed: Series 1
Any TV show from Ricky Gervais is worth watching, though his output has noticeably declined to a certain extent since ending his collaboration with long-time writing partner Stephen Merchant. After Life sees Ricky make a return to his idiosyncratic best, reaching the heights of The Office and Extras despite writing solo. (But c'mon Rick, please bring in Steve for a role in Series 2. Please.) The story of a middle-aged curmudgeon moving on after losing his wife to cancer, After Life is frequently laugh aloud hilarious due to the protagonist's sarcastic and cynical world view, but he also successfully negotiates moments of genuine, unforced tenderness amid the pitch-black comedy. Moreover, After Life has something to say about the human condition, and the character development throughout the series feels astonishingly organic. Add to this a simply marvellous ensemble cast (including the fucking adorable dog), the handsome photography (available to stream in 4K HDR), and the razor-sharp editing, and this is another winner for the 57-year-old Mr. Gervais. And with only six episodes constituting the first season, you can binge through it in under three hours on Netflix. Highly recommended!
Viewed: Series 1
As an enduring, long-time Karl Pilkington fan (I still listen to the old Ricky Gervais Show recordings & podcasts), Sick of It excited me beyond all belief. Karl was ostensibly prepared to step away from the limelight after The Moaning of Life, putting the kibosh on future seasons or any similar shows, but then Sick of It appeared out of nowhere. A scripted, brisk 20-minute Britcom - with six episodes constituting the first season - I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed this show. It's a genius conceit to include Karl as basically himself, as well as the "Inner Karl" who's free to express unfiltered thoughts and opinions without fear of offending anybody. The device allows many moments of pure Pilkington, with some ideas noticeably pilfered from discussions from his many years on radio and podcasting, and the show made me laugh out loud multiple times per episode. I wouldn't say it's a total home run, probably because the show does have to deal with narrative and themes in addition to Karl's inner monologue (we all came for the inner monologue, let's face it), but it's an entertaining, good-natured, fast-paced and satisfying show. I'm looking forward to Series 2.
Viewed: Season 1
Lunatics is another perfectly fine show from writer/director/actor Chris Lilley, seeing the Australian comedian shifting from network television to Netflix - in 4K Ultra HD to boot. I can't say I was particularly moved by the show, as it lacks the dramatic heft of Lilley's masterpiece, Summer Heights High, but it is frequently amusing and unfailingly entertaining, spotlighting another collection of random, seriously bizarre characters performed by the 110% committed comedian. It is quotable, and some of the non-sequiturs definitely had me in stitches, but I can't exactly call it essential viewing. Fans of Lilley should definitely check it out, mind you.
Viewed: Season 8
It has been a fascinating time watching the perceived downfall of Game of Thrones. The negative chatter began with the season opener that many criticised for a lack of considerable story developments, then continued with even more outspoken criticisms of "The Long Night" over lighting and "rushing" story developments (heh), before the last three episodes were outright hated across the internet. Indeed, it has been a tough time to be a Game of Thrones fan, to the point that it's hard to say you still enjoy the show for fear of uncomfortable conversation. Nevertheless, aside from the final episode (more on that in a moment), I enjoyed this season for the most part - I was riveted throughout the two battle-heavy episodes, and my heart sank when various longstanding characters met their demise. I was invested in what happened. Plus, the show is still a staggering achievement in cinematic production values and sublime acting. The battle sequences here are stunning across the board, with intense, terrifying sound design, large-scale destruction, vicious violence, and a lack of sentimentality towards the characters. This season also successfully changed my feelings towards some of the characters, which is surprising. With such a long gap between seasons, a lot of work went into these six episodes, each of which is agreeably lengthy.
However, the final episode is a mixed bag. While it does bring things to a close, and is in no hurry to do so, it does feel anticlimactic. The stage was set for more battles as allegiances are blurred, with the seven kingdoms fracturing once again which would have been a hell of an ending after everything. But instead it kind of...peters out with an ending that's basically "safe" - not controversial enough to piss people off, and not outright happy either. I was ready for an ending that truly pissed everyone off, but I guess we can file that under "It's just not what I expected" which is where a lot of other criticisms are coming from. I guess I wanted something more frenetic and heart-stopping, like the still masterful, note-perfect Breaking Bad finale which didn't feel the need to tie up everything with a nice bow. I used to think that Game of Thrones would equal the sheer unparalleled brilliance and intensity of Breaking Bad's final eight episodes, but it didn't get close, alas. They just couldn't stick the landing here.
Nevertheless, putting aside the perceived "unanswered questions," the perceived subplots which didn't pay off (c'mon guys, the implications of Jon Snow's heritage didn't pay off by design), and the things that didn't play out as one wanted/expected, this final season of Game of Thrones is fine on its own merits. It's still a coherent ending, despite what the try-hard haters are trying to get across.
Viewed: Season 6
One of my favourite TV shows (and one of the only shows I still watch religiously week-to-week), Brooklyn Nine-Nine was cancelled by Fox but swiftly revived by NBC, making this sixth season an absolute gift to fans like myself. Any new episodes of this show are welcome, but I'm happy to report that no signs of fatigue are setting in yet; the writing is still sharp, and the actors are still totally committed. Although somewhat disappointing that Chelsea Peretti has left the show, it's still exciting that the rest of the main cast are still here for Season 6. Also, it's kind of disappointing we only get 18 episodes, but since this season is a bonus, I can accept it. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still fun and funny, and I'm looking forward to the next season as I already miss not having a new episode every Friday night.
Viewed: Series 2
With its second season (that I honestly wasn't sure would ever materialise after production was cancelled indefinitely following false sexual assault allegations against lead actor Ed Westwick), White Gold remains one of the more entertaining Britcoms currently running - a hilarious, bawdy, and sharply-written comedy greatly benefitting from a talented cast. It's always nice to see Inbetweeners alumni James Buckley and Joe Thomas doing something in a similar vein to that timeless series, and the show was even directed by long-time Inbetweeners writer/producer Damon Beesley. The period setting of White Gold further establishes itself as unique in the current television landscape (particularly in the field of sitcoms), and I still enjoy seeing '80s England being so lovingly recreated from top to bottom. The most notable twist of this second season is newcomer Rachel Shenton as Joanne Scott, a no-nonsense type who really gives the boys a run for their money. (Also, Lauren O'Rourke remains something of a comedic dark horse as long-suffering receptionist Carol.) Of course comedy is subjective, and not everyone will take to this show, but for my money, White Gold is fun and funny viewing. Not essential, but it's worth the time if you've got it.
Viewed: Season 1
With Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement actively involved in this show at ground level, I was all in from the moment it was announced. And unbeknownst to myself in advance, this is set in the same universe as the still-totally-brilliant 2015 movie - the original cast even cameo playing their original characters, which was a real thrill. Even more thrilling is the additional star power the show packs, from the occasional singular guest star to an episode packed with impressive names. But beyond that, this TV iteration of What We Do in the Shadows gets it right where it counts: it's well-scripted, hilarious, and the cast completely commit to the farcical material. The show is consistently fresh and inventive, from introducing "energy vampires" to revealing that one of the vampires used to star in porn films, including silent black & white pornos a hundred years old. Matt Berry is a comedic brand unto himself, and he alone ensures this series is worth watching. Additionally, the show retains similar set design and photography to the original film, which is just the icing on the cake. I binged all ten episodes in one night, as I was hooked from the beginning and wanted to see more. Now I have to wait a whole extra year to see what the second season brings. The wait will be agonising.
You must watch this show. It's awesome.
Viewed: Seasons 4&5
The only DC Comics television series I stuck with all the way to the end (the CW shows lost me), Gotham is riveting TV from top to bottom, and it's a shame it had to end. With its final two seasons, the show retains the characteristics that drew me to it in the first place - top-notch production values, a consistently committed ensemble cast, a unique interpretation of the source material, and sufficient edge. Indeed, the show is extremely edgy, unafraid to show violence and gore - this vision of Gotham City certainly trumps Nolan's vanilla interpretation. Additionally, I've always been a massive Jerome detractor, but the show sets things right by disposing of him, and bringing in another character representing the show's Joker; same actor, much fresher interpretation. Other villains are just as superb, with the show nailing Bane, and it's a downright pleasure to see The Riddler and The Penguin step into their recognisable, iconic costumes in the final episode. Speaking of the final episode, I was disappointed that it didn't tie up loose ends; we don't get to see Bruce's reunion with anyone (save for a brief interaction with Selina), and the show hides Bruce when it isn't necessary. So yeah, a two-part finale would have been more fitting, to really send off the show. Hell, I wish season five was 24 episodes as opposed to 12, but I am glad the Gotham team were able to design a final season and create an ending. I would have been devastated if the show was cancelled prematurely.
Looking forward to revisiting this series, and binging through all five seasons again.
Viewed: Season 1
It's...fine. I guess. None of the six episodes of this first season approach the sheer brilliance of the best "real" roasts, but there are still a few laughs to be had. At once the series is funnier than it probably should have been (roasting historical figures who aren't alive anymore, not roasting actual people who are in the room, and relying on obscure, out-dated cultural stuff), but not as funny as it had the potential to be with better writers. Not essential viewing, but not a total loss. It's fine for the background when you just want to chill out and play with your phone.
Arriving from the fine folks at HBO, who are actually capable of respectable production values and quality actors, 2019's Chernobyl is an astonishing television achievement which preserves the salient details of one of the worst disasters of the 20th century. And this show was actually written by Craig Mazin, who cut his teeth writing disposable comedies (he even directed Superhero Movie) but here successfully shows he has the talent and the credentials to create legitimate, sophisticated productions. Chernobyl is not enjoyable viewing by any stretch, but it is wholly compelling from top to bottom, with staggering period recreation and superb actors, led by the winning pair of Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård. It covers the event and the aftermath, touching upon smaller-known stories as well as the human element of the disaster, which is personified in the story of Lyudmilla Ignatenko who lost her husband to radiation sickness. It's a rich tapestry of subplots to cover the scope of what happened, showing the work of miners risking their lives for the good of the country, to soldiers tasked with killing animals in the exclusion zone. It's heartbreaking and frustrating at times, particularly seeing important people making decisions that doom thousands of people to sickness and death. The series culminates with a full explanation of the accident at Chernobyl, breaking things down in terms we can understand. Hell, Harris's Valery Legasov even succinctly explains how a nuclear reactor works, and what happens to those with radiation poisoning.
Chernobyl is edifying and important. Although it takes a few liberties, it sticks to enough of the facts. It is must-see TV.
Viewed: Season 3
Another season down, and Stranger Things remains one of the freshest, most reliable and most addictive things on television, with no signs of fatigue. The ensemble continues to grow for this season, with the main cast split into several factions to work through the intricacies of the season's narrative, which incorporates '80s-era paranoia about both Russia as well as governmental experimentation/conspiracies/cover-ups. The cast remain as game as ever, with newcomers like Maya Hawke and Alec Utgoff making hugely positive impressions, while the show's production values are absolutely second to none. The period recreation is mind-blowing, making you feel as if the creators stepped into a time capsule (the characters' fascination with the cinema is a great touch here - I got a kick out of the kids sneaking in to watch George A. Romero's Day of the Dead), and the digital effects are cinema quality throughout. The horror is kicked into high gear here, with tangible stakes and a very real sense of danger, not to mention all the violence when monsters are involved. But there's also comedy and the great characters to soften the edges and make the show palatable at all times. At this point, we care about the protagonists so much, and you feel for them whenever they're placed in peril.
So yeah, season 3 is a hit. Loved it, will watch again. I hope the Duffer Brothers get cracking on a fourth season ASAP, I don't want to wait too long for it!
Viewed: Seasons 1-4
This is one of those Australian TV shows that was insanely popular and iconic back in the day, but I never actually got into. Watching all four seasons now, I'm disappointed that it took me so long to get to it - it's insanely enjoyable and frequently hilarious, peppered with memorable lines and uproarious non-sequiturs. I can also appreciate it on a new level in 2019, as it represents something of a time capsule which shows what suburban Australia was like in the early 2000s. The cast are completely game, with Jane Turner and Gina Riley disappearing into the titular roles (plus playing fun additional characters along the way), while Glenn Robbins is a pleasure to watch in anything (if you haven't seen All Aussie Adventures, fix that). The show is rarely dull throughout its consistent four-season run, and I already know that I'll be rewatching this for many years to come.
The first and only telemovie incarnation of Kath and Kim (the theatrical movie was to come seven years later), this de facto Christmas special represents a feature-length episode of the TV series - and that's totally okay with me. Although it could probably have done with being a little shorter, and excising the subplots creating break-up-to-make-up scenarios, there's still a lot to like and enjoy about this special. It carries the same wild energy, the same charm, and the same high level of laughs as the TV show, and we get to see how these characters deal with a family Christmas. Sharon still has no hope with the guys, and there are a few fun cameos sprinkled throughout to add further flavour to the production. This is well worth watching.
Viewed: Seasons 1-11
It takes a lot of effort to binge through the entirety of a long-running sitcom, but after years of hearing it recommended by friends (and after having binged Frasier), I finally got into Cheers. For nine months, Cheers was my comfort show - something to watch when I had a bit of time to kill, or was feeling stressed/overwhelmed/upset and needed to spend time with these characters to unwind. I became so attached to the show and the characters, and it really says something about the quality of Cheers that the lowest rated episode on IMDb holds a still-respectable 6.9/10. I love the quirky ensemble, the witty bantering, the sharp one-liners, and the ongoing gags, such as the Bar Wars episodes or Harry the Hat's appearances. There are plenty of hilarious cold opens, too. The show can even turn deep and emotional at the drop of a hat, and it feels totally organic. Hell, there are some amazing guest stars as well, from the likes of John Cleese (his guest appearance is in my top 5 favourite episodes) to Emma Thompson and Lisa Kudrow, and even Frasier actors John Mahoney and Peri Gilpin.
Naturally, not everything about Cheers is perfect. For all the shock about Diane's exit after Season 5, the character undoubtedly outstayed her welcome, becoming shrill and irritating before her (admittedly beautiful) departure. And not every joke lands, which is inevitable for a long-running sitcom like this - I definitely found myself preferring Frasier, which is more consistently laugh-out-loud. It's interesting that the show noticeably "evolves" after every few seasons - after Coach departs (the actor passed away) at the end of Season 3, and Woody comes in, the show feels different. Likewise, after Diane leaves and Kirstie Alley's Rebecca enters the mix, it feels like a whole different show altogether. The series also evolves to show more outside the bar, with additional sets and location filming.
Cheers was a pleasure to binge through. Eleven seasons seemed so intimidating, but now it's just not enough.
Viewed: Series 5
One of the three leads may have left after Series 3, and the show hasn't been the same since, but Plebs is still going strong and I couldn't be happier. The writing remains pleasingly sharp and witty, while the actors all commit to their roles 110%, with Ryan Sampson still the standout as the dim-witted Grumio. The show still finds ways to satirise contemporary culture in an Ancient Rome setting, with football hooligans getting a look-in this season, while one episode revolves around the titular plebs being interrogated by police. I laughed out loud consistently, and the episodes are still highly watchable even at their least interesting moments. Fingers crossed for a Series 6!
This is one hell of a miniseries. It grabs you early, and it keeps you hooked until its conclusion at the end of the final episode. Indeed, I started watching this late at night, and wound up binging through all five episodes, before finally getting to bed at 3am. The sheer amount of archival footage is staggering, with the filmmakers using all available imagery to create a vivid picture of the courtroom proceedings, and everything around it. I cannot say for certain whether or not there was manipulation in terms of the footage shown, but everything here is compelling, with John Demjanjuk not worth your pity or sympathy. Several twists and turns are covered in detail, and the interviews which drive the documentary are fascinating - Demjanjuk's Israeli lawyer is an especially big get for the team. This isn't pleasurable viewing and I probably won't watch it again, but this is a compelling documentary miniseries that I'm glad I saw.
Viewed: Season 9 (1984)
Yeah, this nostalgia-driven season is fun as hell, one of the most consistently involving and entertaining seasons of American Horror Story in years. Piggy-backing on the rise of 1980s nostalgia with the likes of Stranger Things gathering so much popularity, this ninth season is somewhat reminiscent of Cabin in the Woods: It begins with the most bog-standard, conventional premise (in this case, attractive young people going to work at a summer camp where murders occurred years earlier), before introducing layer upon layer of subversion and genre reinvention as the episodes progress. It's all executed with superb finesse, with a game cast and spot-on production design, not to mention the show never skimps on the blood and gore. I also love the way it homages classic horror films, incorporating pieces of Halloween and Friday the 13, while cooking up a unique and downright enjoyable eight hours of television. Hell, even the throwback opening titles, complete with cheesy retro music, are perfect. 1984 is a great season, possibly my favourite season of American Horror Story so far.
Viewed: Season 6A
Another year, another season of BoJack Horseman. At this point, the writers are so reliable that it's impossible to imagine a mediocre or bad season of this brilliant show, and it's great to report that the first half of the final season upholds the show's winning streak. It's amazing to see how creative the show can still be, and hell, BoJack essentially becomes a secondary character as his arc draws closer to its end. There's a lot of melancholy material in this season, and not as many laughs - but that's totally okay, because this show was more about the drama than the comedy. Having said that, the satire remains absolutely spot-on - a subplot about a PA strike is uproarious in its astute observations of the industry, without much need for hyperbole. I'm looking forward to seeing where this show goes for its final episodes, and then I'll be sad about not having a new season to look forward to each year. God, this show has been in my life since 2015.
If you haven't seen BoJack Horseman, now's the time to dive in.
Viewed: Season 4A
For the first time, I've come to a new season of Rick and Morty as a fan, watching week by week. And hell, the wait between catching up with the show back in 2017, and getting these five new episodes, was fucking agonising - I can only imagine the pain suffered by the show's fans in previous years. With the benefit of a long production period, this new season is full of winners - the writing remains consistently sharp, with jokes, intriguing concepts, great guest stars (including Taika Waititi), and some really dark moments to boot. Perhaps my favourite episode so far is a sharp, hilarious deconstruction of heist movies and the newfound rule for said genre to include as many excessive twists and turns as possible. Indeed, there is no longer a need to watch any other heist movies now that Rick and Morty has butchered them all. I even had great fun with the season's lowest-rated episode on IMDb, and don't understand the criticism.
I can't wait for the rest of Season 4, and I can't wait to watch these episodes another few hundred times.
Viewed: Season 1
The first live-action Star Wars television series to ever hit our screens, The Mandalorian is tremendous in every sense of the word. Now is the perfect time to bring Star Wars to the small screen, as we've come a long way in terms of technology and TV budgets since the '80s and '90s - now, TV can look as good as, if not better than, big-screen movies, especially since it was finished at 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range. Indeed, The Mandalorian looks superb, without ever feeling nasty or low-budget, and the special effects team even made use of models for some of the spaceship shots. Showrunner Jon Favreau is the perfect man for the job, as he fundamentally understands Star Wars, and threads together a story that's familiar while still innovative. Indeed, the "rogue killer gets a conscience" angle is completely unspectacular, but the execution is magical - and the underlying sense of intrigue (with Baby Yoda) makes the gap from week to week absolutely unbearable. The action scenes are amazing, with Favreau and the episode directors creating a distinct western aesthetic that feels right for the Star Wars universe. There's a lot to unpack in this show, and it definitely has the potential to run for many, many more seasons. If this is the outlook for things to come in terms of Star Wars TV, we have many years of joy ahead of us. A good reason to stay alive.
The Mandalorian is epic.
Um... Wow. So that was something, huh? This is another Netflix docuseries that I only discovered from advertisements on the homepage, and it really wasn't what I expected. Indeed, the title implied something more light-hearted about the internet's obsession with the cats. And it starts off by going over the nature of the internet and the ability to be anonymous... before taking a dark left turn. And even when the show's true subject is revealed, I still didn't realise the extent of this story which runs across all three episodes. This is a chilling, well-realised true-crime docuseries from the newfound king of the genre (i.e. Netflix), giving another fascinating case the attention it deserved. To be fair, I did feel that things started to drag a bit in the third episode, and the "Manny" question mark isn't properly clarified, but other than that, this is a damn good series that's worth your time.