Completed (To Date)
Viewed: Season 1
Well, this kind of came out of nowhere, much like many of Netflix's TV offerings. I was drawn into this purely because of the talent involved without much of an idea what to expect - there was no clearcut genre, and the preview didn't reveal much. Happily, it's an entertaining and appealing watch, and it's something you can binge in an evening (as I did). The cast is endearing, with former It actors Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff particularly fun to watch, while Sofia Bryant is another standout as the main character's best friend. It's a bit genre defying, as there is some drama, some comedy, and some genre/thriller elements - but it is also an engaging watch, leading to an ending that'll have many people screaming "Fuck you!" at the screen. If this is renewed for another season, I'll probably watch it.
Viewed: Final Season
I jumped on the BoJack train back in 2015 for its second season, and I've enjoyed being able to look forward to a new season with each passing year. Indeed, this show is reliable entertainment - it's smart, and there's humour and pathos, while the writing scarcely falters. This final season continues to demonstrate the show's many strengths; the last two episodes show BoJack Horseman at its very best. Looking back, BoJack's arc across all six seasons is amazing, showing the character at his best and worst as he deals with addiction and loss. Here, BoJack begins to show his age, taking a backseat as he begins teaching class while staying on top of his AA meetings. But the eventual fallout of the Sarah Lynn situation comes back into BoJack's life, and the subsequent drama is absolutely gripping. It's also amazing that this show can contain episodes in which the titular character never appears. The finale manages to be upbeat but not too cloying or optimistic, as the final scene is actually an extended conversation between two key characters.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the creators of this great show. I've been championing BoJack for years, and it's so satisfying to see it getting more recognition.
Well... this limited series is goddamn heartbreaking. For the majority of the show, I believe I was watching through damp eyes, as this case got to me from the beginning, and each new twist and detail is gobsmacking. Like other Netflix original series of a similar vein, the creators got insane access to the courtroom as the titular trials took place, while the comprehensive interviews and additional footage/photographs definitively immortalise this case. With only six episodes, there's very little wasted time, and the show is gripping all the way through. There's not much else to say, really - I didn't enjoy the show, but I'm glad that I watched it. If you have a strong disposition, and you have an innate fascination with the lurid, you should prioritise watching this one.
Viewed: All 13 episodes
I know I'm late to the party on this one, but The Staircase is absorbing viewing. Another true crime television series, which is actually the culmination of 16 years of work on the part of director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, this show closely examines the investigation following the death of novelist Michael Peterson's wife in the early 2000s. Following the familiar format for this type of series, we get to see the investigation leading up to the court case, as well as the court case itself and subsequent follow-ups. The show can never definitively answer whether or not Peterson killed his wife, but the key evidence on both sides is fascinating - and there's no sense that the documentary is suppressing anything. If this type of thing appeals to you, you should definitely check it out.
Viewed: Season 1
Tiger King is fucking wild, and there is no better description for it. The show started life as a documentary about big cats in captivity across the United States, but morphed into this fascinating series about an ongoing feud, featuring an array of insanely colourful people. There are delicious twists and turns, and the documentary doesn't shy away from showing the less savoury aspects of everybody involved. Indeed, although Joe Exotic is the de facto protagonist of this whole thing, he's not without flaws - it's just that some of the other people...are so much worse. At times hilarious and at other times so utterly bizarre that it's difficult to look away, Tiger King is your next Netflix obsession.
I honestly thought there was no point telling this story again, after the excellent 1971 movie 10 Rillington Place with the always-excellent Richard Attenborough playing John Christie. But the BBC has proven me wrong with this chilling three-part miniseries, which shows that there was more of this story to tell. This is a real slow-burner, and the hook is that it doesn't really concentrate on the murders themselves, plus the first two episodes are not told from Christie's perspective. The production values are impressive, convincingly recreating post-WWII-era London (and Rillington Place itself), though I do prefer the grainy, grungy 35mm film aesthetic of the 1971 movie over the glossy digital photography here. If you're at all interested in this case, or if you simply want to learn about it, you should definitely check this one out.
Viewed: The Promised Land special
I thought Red Dwarf was over for good after the back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017, but I'm always down for more of this show as long as they keep making it. Modern Red Dwarf is still not as memorable or as creative as the original run of the show (which I've watched to death), but The Promised Land is a lot of fun, and it answers the niggling question about what happened to the rest of The Cat's people when they left him on Red Dwarf.
Viewed: Series 2
I've stuck with Ricky Gervais' TV shows for over ten years, watching each of them as they air, and it has been so satisfying to see the veteran writer/director/actor achieve such tremendous success with After Life. After the out-of-nowhere, brilliant first season last year, Ricky has managed to stick the landing with this second season, finding fertile dramatic ground after the ostensible completion of Tony's character arc in the finale last year. Indeed, it was refreshing to see a show that didn't aim for a cliffhanger ending and hinge its bets on a renewal. After Life 2 is a bit on the nose at times, particularly during the first half of the first episode as we check back in with everybody, but the show soon settles into an agreeable groove as we continue watching the evolution of Tony's life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, especially for those familiar with Ricky's past work, Series 2 is more dramatic than its predecessor, and it hits extremely hard. It has been a long time since a show like this has made me actually shed a tear, and one scene is so unbearably poignant that I couldn't even look at the screen. The show never feels manipulative, though, and those who've dealt with incredible loss will be able to relate to Tony's fragile frame of mind here. It's not as funny as the first season, but it is hilarious at times, and it's nice to see a show that's not unnecessarily censored - indeed, nobody here shies away from the word "cunt." I watched the full series in one sitting right after it dropped on Netflix, and that never happens - not even with the first season, which I didn't watch until a week or two after it first dropped. I can't recommend this show highly enough, it is brilliant.
Viewed: Season 5
I've been championing Better Call Saul since its inception in 2015, and I'm so glad I've stuck with it ever since. This is quality television from top to bottom, which is on the same level as Breaking Bad, and it's the best show which is currently on TV. It's still relatively slow, but since the early seasons have richly developed the characters and this world, Season 5 continues paying off subplots and developments, in addition to introducing compelling side stories which allow Saul/Jimmy to do his thing and get closer & closer to the person we first met in Breaking Bad. The acting is uniformly excellent right down the line, and it's always a pleasure to watch a TV show that's as carefully crafted and technically proficient as any Oscar-nominated drama. Much has been written about episode 8 of this season, "Bagman," and it truly is phenomenal TV, while episode 9 features one of the most tense sequences I've ever seen on TV. Indeed, we know that Jimmy will live, but we don't know about many of the side characters exclusive to this series, whom we've grown to care about so deeply. This is engrossing, satisfying television, and I can't wait for the final season next year.
Viewed: Season 7
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is reliable entertainment. With its seventh season, the show continues to rely on strong writing and a game ensemble cast who have their respective characters down to a tee at this point. Even when the show isn't exactly funny, it's always enjoyable thanks to the characters created by these terrific actors. The real "twist" for Season 7 is Amy's pregnancy, which allows Jake and Amy's character arcs to continue moving forward - and it's such a pleasure that Jake and Amy remain such a great couple. Equally amazing is that, aside from Chelsea Peretti, no major cast members have left the show; everybody seems to enjoy doing this show as much as they did when it first started. There are some real standouts this season, including a continuation of the Halloween Heist (now the Jimmy Jab Games, since no episodes air on Halloween anymore owing to the new place on the schedule), and the finale is a home run. I'm looking forward to Season 8 next year, and I can't wait to see how long this show goes on for.
Viewed: Season 18
What can one really write about another season of Family Guy at this point? The show has now finished its 18th season, and the seasons undeniably blur together at this point - but it's still reliable animation entertainment each week, with a string of non-sequiturs (of varying quality) and some savage dark humour. I can't say there were any standouts this season, but that goes both ways - nothing stood out as excellent, and nothing stood out as downright awful. I still get some laughs, and I'll keep watching until this show comes to an end. I just wish they'd attempt more ambitious episodes; I mean, would another Simpsons crossover be out of the question?
Viewed: Seasons 1-3
I was never really interested in Santa Clarita Diet until I was finally coerced into watching it, a full year after the third season dropped and the show was summarily cancelled by Netflix. Although I deeply regret not getting into this show sooner, I am glad I had the freedom to binge all three seasons at my own pace, and not have to wait an entire year after each season finale's cliffhanger. Anyway, so why did I enjoy this show? It's sharply-written, the premise is creative, and the actors give it their all. Within the first episode, I was already rooting for Drew Barrymore's Sheila and Timothy Olyphant's Joel - they're such a believable couple with great chemistry, and it's so much fun to see them trying to circumvent the tricky world of killing people for food...but choosing their targets wisely, to avoid feeling like bad people. This is a funny series, and it carries the requisite polish that you'd expect for a Netflix show presented in 4K with High Dynamic Range (though the Mr. Ball Legs CGI is a bit squiffy at times). I also enjoy the expansion of the mythology with each season, expanding the scope beyond the Santa Clarita location. Plus, it's fun seeing Nathan Fillion return to play a severed head, and then when Fillion was no longer available to star in the show...they got his Firefly co-star Alan Tudyk to replace him.
Zombies are all the rage now. So it's refreshing to see such a fun new take on zombies.
P.S. Netflix can eat a dick for cancelling this.
Viewed: Season 4B
It has been a long road, but new episodes of Rick and Morty are finally being delivered with some frequency. And the even better thing is that the quality is not declining. This new batch of five episodes is superb, delivering precisely what we desire from this show: laughs, high-concept ideas, and enjoyable non-sequiturs. It also takes the piss out of more TV show stereotypes, parodying anthology episodes and even taking a swipe at characters wanting to time travel. I'm looking forward to watching these episodes again a few hundred times.
Viewed: All 6 episodes
With the recent rise of censorship as shows and movies are hastily removed from streaming services, I decided to finally acquaint myself with Chris Lilley's other shows that I've always been meaning to watch. Summer Heights High is the all-time high point, of course, but I would say that We Can Be Heroes is not far behind. Lilley's breakout series which established his modus operandi of a show simultaneously tracking a group of main characters all played by Lilley himself. And here, he even plays an Asian (hence the eye-rolling "blackface" criticism which led to Netflix removing it). I laughed heartily and steadily throughout We Can Be Heroes, as Lilley and the other actors really give it their all from start to finish. Lilley commits to the characters and makes no apologies as he takes the piss out of cultural stereotypes, from white bogans to stuck-up private school students, and more. And yes, I laughed heartily at his depiction of Ricky Wong, the Chinese student who plays the lead in an Aboriginal-themed performance with an all-Chinese cast. Plus, there is also genuine heart here, which is most felt in the depiction of Pat Mullins, though all of the characters experience some form of heartbreak. All in all, I greatly enjoyed We Can Be Heroes and I look forward to watching it another few hundred times.
Viewed: All 12 episodes
And I completed my Chris Lilley catch-up with Angry Boys, another show that was summarily removed from Netflix because of concerns about offensive content. And, uh, oh boy, this show really is Lilley at his most fearlessly offensive, and I’m amazed it took so long for this thing to disappear from streaming. Indeed, Lilley not only plays an African American rapper in complete blackface, he also drops the n-word consistently. And he plays another unflattering Asian character. For the right audience, it’s all extremely funny, as the piss-taking is spot-on across the board, from parodying American hip-hop culture (which is a parody of itself, really) to bogan white Australian culture, surfer culture, and more. Yet, as with most of Lilley’s shows, there’s still heart here, which is most felt in the character of “Gran” who works at a juvenile justice centre. The show’s ultimate denouement is also extremely touching, and actually gave me goosebumps, so Lilley gets credit for that. This is a really good show - it’s not as great as Summer Heights High, but it’s still fun and funny. And I really can’t believe that Lilley got away with all of this in 2011, especially the song (which is available on iTunes) called “Squashed N*gga”. Like, holy shit.
Viewed: Season 2
With the coronavirus pandemic still continuing, Season 2 of What We Do in the Shadows is perfect lockdown viewing, and I'm so thankful that a new season was already filmed before this crisis started. Suffice it to say, this new season is every bit as brilliant and fun as the first season, with the main cast still an absolute pleasure in their respective roles. Matt Berry is perfect in anything, and he's one of my favourite parts of this show. The show's lore is further expanded this season, while guest appearances from the likes of Mark Hamill, Haley Joel Osment and even Benedict Wong contribute even more colour. I can't wait for the third season, and I hope it's not delayed by the pandemic.
Viewed: Seasons 1-6
Let's get this out of the way first: the first three seasons of Community are unmatched. In terms of creativity, innovation, character relationships, witty dialogue, and narrative coherence, the first three seasons are among the very best that television has ever had to offer, standing alongside the likes of Frasier and The Office. Dan Harmon hits it out of the park, knowingly skewing TV tropes and brilliantly changing up the format (including an animated Christmas episode, the masterful paintball episodes, the mockumentary filmmaking eps, and more) while never losing focus of the loveable central ensemble of characters. Thank God that the first three seasons are long, too (25 episodes, 24 episodes & 22 episodes), as it took a while to get through, and it was an absolute pleasure. I know that Chevy Chase was a bit of a pain during filming, but I loved seeing him as part of the study group, and he's usually responsible for the edgier jokes that will make the politically correct crowd lose their shit. Even the lesser episodes of the first three seasons are still worthwhile - even when it's not gut-busting, it's still mighty enjoyable. Before long, I was hooked on Community, and greatly enjoyed any opportunity to watch the next episode - it was also my go-to show during the COVID-19 lockdown, when I lived in isolation for four weeks and only left home to go to work. To say the least, it was the perfect quarantine show to binge.
But... Then we get to Season 4, for which Dan Harmon was fired. The show just doesn't feel the same, as it ruins careful character arcs and narrative development, and feels like a shadow of its former self. It gets slightly more tolerable as it goes on, but it still feels like a Community wannabe, and it presented like a far more typical American sitcom. Even the satire just doesn't feel as sharp or considered. Conceptually, the fourth season isn't awful (there's even a puppet episode), but the execution is more or less disastrous.
With Dan Harmon returning as showrunner for Season 5, the fourth season is subsequently referred to as the "gas-leak year," and becomes the butt of many jokes. While the opportunity for such jokes is appreciated, the fourth season is still a waste, especially since it was Chevy Chase's final season. I feel robbed of the narrative and character possibilities that Harmon could've brought to the table. C'est la vie.
Seasons 5&6 are an improvement, but still lack that lightning-in-a-bottle feeling of the first three seasons. Nevertheless, the new characters do make an impact, including Jonathan Banks, and the dynamic of the study group - now the "Save Greendale" committee - are still fun, even if it's not the same. Actors also continue to depart the series, with only four of the original seven remaining for Season 6, which is hard to take. Even John Oliver and the aforementioned Jonathan Banks eventually disappear. (I must also say that the green screen effects in Season 6, Episode 10 are appalling, and wouldn't pass muster on an amateur YouTube channel.) However, Harmon sticks the landing with a knockout finale that's every bit as brilliant as expected. Without spoiling too much, Harmon continues to skewer TV tropes, especially when the ending is near. The finish line is understandably emotional, and it was really something to be able to reflect on the six-season journey I just undertook.
Aside from the shonky fourth season, Community is a great, great show. I was actually introduced to the show back in 2018 when I watched the first episode, but the lack of viewing options forbade me from sticking with it, even though it was on the list and I was totally onboard with it. How ironic that the show now streams on Netflix, Stan, and Amazon Prime. Anyway, I love Community and look forward to many future rewatches.
Viewed: Season 1
The Great immediately evoked memories of 2018's critically acclaimed The Favourite, as it features a similar blend of raw humour and historical drama. Unsurprisingly, the show was created by one of the writers of The Favourite - in short, if you loved that movie, you'll love The Great. Despite being a historical drama (occasionally based on true events), it never feels like boring homework. Instead, the show sparks to life from the very beginning, with terrific actors portraying superbly-drawn characters, and with sharp scripting that's full of humour. Elle Fanning grows up in front of our eyes, and it's the perfect role to really transition her into adulthood - on top of dealing with adult content, she's also really fucking sassy and a joy to watch. This is also a great role for Nicholas Hoult, who manages to be endearingly stupid with a hint of menace underneath. As stated, the show is not historically accurate, but nor does it ever claim to be - it's smart, enjoyable historical mostly-fiction which I highly recommend, and which I'll be tuning into next season. Huzzah!
Now this is one hell of a true-crime miniseries. Produced by the good folks at ITV, who make a habit of producing these types of shows, this is a dramatisation of the arrest and conviction of necrophiliac serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who murdered up to 15 young boys before disposing of the corpses in graphic ways. While listening to the facts of the case on the podcast Casefile, I had no idea how a miniseries would be possible since the killings themselves involve a lot of nudity and masturbation, which is hard to execute on-screen with any tact - and who wants to watch David Tennant wank over naked bodies? Smartly, however, this show starts from his arrest and runs through the investigation, culminating in the courtroom when Nilsen tried to prove diminished responsibility for the killings. No murders are shown on-screen, as there aren't any flashbacks. And unlike something like Rillington Place, the story doesn't go back to Nilsen's past - there's no depiction of his time in the Army or the police force. It's a fascinating case, and the show even portrays Nilsen meeting with a biographer during his time on arraignment, which gives more insight into his psyche. Tennant is electrifying as Nilsen, stealing every frame with his measured line delivery through a thick Scottish accent. It's difficult to imagine any other actor doing this good of a job. The remainder of the cast are equally able, while the rest of the show - from the production values to the pacing and dialogue - is superb. This is gripping true-crime TV that you should really check out.
I feel bad for catching up with this series a year after it dropped, but I’m glad I finally watched it - this is a great show from top to bottom, and it’s a real treat for film buffs. Rather than four episodes of pure adulation, The Movies That Made Us actually presents a succinct “making-of” documentary of four films, featuring interviews with key players as well as behind-the-scenes footage. Although the show can’t manage interviews with some of the biggest names (Bruce Willis doesn’t participate in the Die Hard episode, predictably), the range of participants is vast and impressive nevertheless, delving into some of the more overlooked production aspects, including production design and special effects. I especially loved hearing from the likes of John McTiernan, and I love that the show doesn’t balk at covering the imperfections of some of the flicks in a light-hearted manner. The narration is playful and engaging, capably guiding us through the production process, while there are also amusing quirks which give this show its colour. I can’t say I was especially interested in watching the Dirty Dancing episode, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a good time watching it nonetheless. Especially in the absence of substantive special features for some of these movies (looking at you, Die Hard), this show is a winner. Season 2 is coming, and I can’t wait to dive in as soon as it drops.
Viewed: Seasons 1-11
Full disclosure: I've always liked Modern Family since it debuted, as I watched parts of the pilot when it first aired in Australia back in 2010, and I've seen a variety of clips over the ensuing decade. But this was the first time I sat down and watched every episode of every season, and I feel ashamed of myself for taking so long to get into it. However, I was truly addicted to it, so it's probably for the best that my addiction took hold after the show ended, when I could watch it at my own fast pace.
With several of Frasier's writers and producers behind Modern Family, this will surely go down as one of the last great contemporary sitcoms of its kind. After all, the landscape of television is changing, and this type of sitcom - in the same mould as Parks and Rec and The Office - is being phased out (fingers crossed that Brooklyn Nine-Nine hangs in there for a few more years). And one of the best things about Modern Family is that no major cast members quit the show during its eleven-season run, which is surely some kind of record in modern TV. Speaking of the cast, they are all fantastic and embody their respective characters to perfection. I get such a kick out of the brilliant Ed O'Neill's presence here, in his second long-running sitcom after the timeless classic Married With Children (another show I need to get into properly). We also get to see the kids grow up over the duration of the show - hell, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons was four years old when she joined the cast, and she grew up in front of our eyes.
The writing ably supports the cast, and pretty much every episode made me laugh out loud. And even when it's not funny, Modern Family is enjoyable and goes down easily; it's the perfect show to watch after a long day of work. When the show gets emotional, it really gets emotional - the first few seasons, in particular, will bring a tear to your eye in some scenes. Admittedly, the show begins to lose its spark of brilliance around the fifth season, when things feel more rote, but I still enjoy watching it. And I just wasn't ready to say goodbye. The finale actually snuck up on me because I didn't realise the eleventh season was only 18 episodes, and I had to lie down once the final scene came to its conclusion.
So that's two big sitcoms I've managed to binge through in 2020: Community and Modern Family.