You Should Be Watching, Vol. 2 | Saul Reigns Supreme, but Snowfall is really good. Who knew?
*blows dust off keyboard*
It’s been a minute, but fear not, faithful readers, I’m back like Jordan wearing that 45. A lot has changed since I last picked up this old quill. Over a year has passed, and I’m older, wiser, and even more depressed! I think we all recognize that 2020 was a horrible year in the grand scheme of things. There’s no need to rehash everything that was taken from us last year. BUT! 2020 was a great year for the arts, specifically music and television. I don’t know if I’ll ever write about music on here. Taste is far too subjective and I’m not descriptive enough as a writer to do it the way I would like, so TV it is. If you follow me on twitter, then you know I’ve been tweeting mini show reviews all year, but honestly, however many characters Twitter gives you these days isn’t enough for me to really get in my bag, you know what I’m saying? So this blog post is just going to be me getting back into the swing of things and telling you what I’ve been watching this winter. No word count, no structure, just vibes, man. I’ll try not to spoil anything but read at your own risk.
I’ll start by giving you my Top Shows of 2020.
KP’s Best 5 Shows of 2020
Better Call Saul (AMC/Netflix)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
The Boys (Amazon Prime)
2020 Honorable Mentions
The Mandalorian (Disney Plus)
Small Axe (Amazon Prime) - not really a tv show, it’s essentially 5 movies.
I May Destroy You (HBO)
Sex Education (Netflix)
Honestly, it was hard to make a top 5 with all of the quality programming we got last year. As you can see by the lengthy HM list, it was tough for me to leave some shows out. But at the end of the day, there can only be five Top 5 shows, ya know? One thing I’ll say, 2020 really missed Succession. Season 3 of Succession most likely would’ve the first or second show on this list, and not being able to see the Roy family rip each other to shreds left a hole in my heart the size of Shiv's a-. . . Anyway, some shows stepped their game up, but there’s no way to replace Succession, it’s just too great of a show. So pour one out for Succession, and here’s to hoping we get season three really soon.
If Succession isn’t the best show on TV, then Better Call Saul is the only other option. Season 5 was insane, and if you’re not on this journey with us in real-time then you are sorely missing out. Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, and Tony Dalton are dropping 50-point triple-doubles week in and week out, and it’s truly a sight to behold. Is Better Call Saul better than Breaking Bad? Some may consider that question blasphemous, but if the final season is as good as I’m expecting it to be, it might be time to start a dialogue.
I’ll admit it, I was sleep on The Crown. I tried it a few years back and probably got through half of the first episode before I gave up and tried something else. I thought it was boring, slow, and incredibly pasty. But remember, we’re older and wiser, and I’m elated to say that I’ve woken up. I get it now! The Crown is an absolute masterclass in show-making. Everything from the acting and writing, to the set design, costumes, and music is just so meticulously perfect. There are no weak links in the show whatsoever. The only reason it’s not number one on my list is because it’s bound to the limits of historical fact, even though it feels like a fictional drama sometimes (The Royal Family is truly wild). It’s incredible how they take actual historical events, and provide context that we never thought we needed. I found myself pausing the show every 10 minutes to google people, places, and events, and the historical accuracy of the show is astonishing. The level of detail that goes into making a show like this is incredible and The Crown deserves every bit of the love it gets. Season 4 is the Diana season, and as it turns out, the best season so far. Diana really adds a rockstar element to the show that the other seasons just don’t have. She’s instantly likable and gives the viewer someone to root for as the rest of the family members slowly become less and less affable, all while adding to the family drama. I could talk about The Crown all day, but if you’re into history, British actors, and well-written dramas, I highly suggest you go and see what all the hype is about. It’s warranted.
Small Axe is a Steve McQueen project that I had been super excited about for a long time. If you don’t know, Steve McQueen (the black one) is an English filmmaker best known for his films, 12 Years a Slave and Widows. Small Axe is a collection of 5 films that tell distinct, moving stories about the lives of West-Indian immigrants in London during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. And let me tell you, Steve didn’t miss once. Featuring stars like Letitia Wright, Malachai Kirby, and John Boyega, each film in the series is a true work of art. Every scene, line, and shot matters, and it’s all beautiful. We should all be familiar with the Black-American civil rights struggle (if you’re not then reach out to me and I’ll show you some good reads), but it was so interesting to me to see Black people across the pond struggle with similar issues. A lot of times it feels like we’re alone in this fight, but it turns out that Black people are strong, resilient, and beautiful everywhere. I never really knew much about West-Indian British culture, but seeing the similarities and differences between Them and Us was truly eye-opening, and I’m definitely interested in learning more. This is really important stuff, and I applaud Steve McQueen for bringing these stories to the small screen where everyone can see them. In a lot of ways, I feel like this could be like Roots for Black British people. I highly recommend watching all five films, but if I had to pick some favorites, I’d go with Mangrove, Lovers Rock, and Education. Also, you heard it here first, Micheal Ward (Lovers Rock, Top Boy) is a gotdamn STAR in the making. Tap in.
Okay this is already getting long, so I’m not going to write about every damn show on the list. But I do want to highlight Ted Lasso before I move on to notes on a couple of older shows that I finally got the chance to watch. Ted Lasso is the feel good show of the year, and honestly it shouldn’t work as well as it does. It’s a show about an American college football coach who accepts a job coaching a middling English Premier League soccer team despite having no knowledge of the sport whatsoever. We come to find out his (sad) reason for moving so far away from home, but Ted Lasso provides the type of optimism and heartwarming moments that we all could use right now. The performances are good, and the narrative is predictable but, somehow, still effective. I zoomed through it in about 2 days and I already want to re-watch. If you’re looking for something fun that’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, please go check it out!
Now, after a while I ran out of new things to watch, so I decided to try some shows I had been hearing about for a while but never felt compelled to press play on (AKA I was sleep). Namely, Snowfall (FX) and The Leftovers (HBO). Snowfall is all over the TL whenever it’s on, but the same people who told me to watch Snowfall are the same people who told me to watch Power, and Power S T I N K S! So I never really gave Snowfall a chance. But in 2021, I’m man enough to admit when I was wrong. You win, guys! Snowfall is a very good show, and the hype is real. Damson Idris turns in a great performance as Franklin Saint, and he’s really the heartbeat of the whole show. His plot is the most compelling one and should be featured exclusively going forward if you ask me. The rest of the performances are so-so, but the plot is full of classic network twists and turns that keep you invested, regardless of how silly some of them seem to be. Snowfall is at its best when it’s detailing the highs and lows that come with the drug trade, and I’m glad they got into some of the negative effects that the crack epidemic had on black neighborhoods. For a while it seemed like they were ignoring it, but in season three they dove into it a little bit, which was reassuring. I’m definitely excited for season 4 and yes, Snowfall is 100% better than Power. Just please keep all comparisons to The Wire away from me and my family.
After I finished Snowfall, I decided to go back and watch a show that I had heard good things about a few years back. The Leftovers never carried anywhere close to the level of fanfare that other HBO shows have had over the years. I’d even venture to say that most people reading this have never even heard of the show. Its ratings were modest during its 3-season run from 2014-2017, and I haven’t heard much about it since then other than a reference in passing on one of the podcasts I listen to. But I’m here to tell you that The Leftovers is the best show you’ve never heard of. Created by Damon Lindeloff (Lost, Watchmen), The Leftovers is an epic story of loss, love, grief, and how people deal with the shit life throws at them. There are light sci-fi/fantasy elements in the premise, which might scare some of you off, but honestly it all makes sense, and it's realistic if you have a little bit of an imagination. The first episode is actually NUTS, and you’re going to have a lot of questions, but just keep watching, I promise it’ll all work itself out, and if it doesn’t, what are you going to do about it? *eye emoji* I can’t wait to talk more about this show, but first I need more people to watch it. So all aboard The Leftovers Express.
Whew, that was fun. Going forward, I’m going to be dropping a lot more content. It’s my New Year’s Resolution or whatever, so stay tuned. Also, tap in to my podcast, You Hate to See It, where me and my pals talk about all kinds of shit that ranges from relevant to dumb as hell. It’s a fun time and available wherever you get your podcasts from. Next week I’m going to start a new series I’m moderately excited about, so I’ll see y’all then! Thanks for reading!