I am not going to give any spoilers on the season finale of Sherlock which airs tonight but leaked out early, waiting to watch until this is posted, but there remains a lot to say about last week’s episode. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis spoke about the big twist in The Lying Detective. (Major spoilers for those who have not seen the episode):
At the end of the episode, we found out that the woman pretending to be Watson’s therapist, rush hour crush and Culverton Smith’s daughter were the same person. Not only that, but she was Sherlock and Mycroft’s long lost sister, Eurus (which means east wind).
After a screening at the BAFTA Cymru in Cardiff, the show creators hosted a Q and A where they told all about the chaos that had just ensued.
Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat explained how the idea that Sherlock had a sister had been in the back of their minds ever since the first episode. Gatiss said:
“It started as a joke years, years ago. Right from the beginning of the first season, there was a line in ‘The Great Game’ when we were sort of sketching in the idea of the Holmes family and there was going to be a line about Mycroft being a member, Sherlock admitting that he was cleverer than him and then him kindly saying, mind you…my sister…
It was absolutely cut off, and that’s really where it all began.
[At the time] we thought, we won’t do too much. And thank god we didn’t, as it gives us this place to go.“
But that wasn’t the only shock of Sherlock. People were frankly dumbfounded to see that Watson had been seeing a girl behind Mary’s back. Steven decided to tackle that one, head on, saying:
“He’s a fully rounded character. He’s a fully rounded human being with all the normal flaws that people have.”
BuzzFeed then asked him if he was going to be back to his usual self for the next episode, to which he said:
“We’re not going to say now that he’s cosy and lovely, you don’t get Martin Freeman to play that.”
The episode even contained a Torchwood Easter egg–a postcard on the mantel with the Torchwood ‘T’ logo. Technically this would place Sherlock in the Doctor Who universe.
“It’s a grand old finale. It’s a very very finale finale,” said Moffat, at the BAFTA screening for ‘The Lying Detective’.
“It’s the most like a Universal Sherlock Holmes that we’ve ever done,” Gatiss added. “It’s like a Basil Rathbone one. It’s absolutely crazy.”
The Expanse returns for season 2 on February 1. For those of use who didn’t make it through the entire first season, Syfy has put out a series of videos on the series, such as the one above. For those who want a briefer summary of season 1, below is a recap with cats:
Deadline interviewed the writers of Deadpool about the planned second movie. They also blamed the leak of test footage from the first movie on Putin.
The cast of Stranger Things teased season two in an interview with Vanity Fair.
Wayward Pines will not be returning this summer, but Fox has left open the possibility of it returning in the future. I’m actually happy to hear this. I’ve read the novels the show was based on by Blake Crouch, but the television show is one of many shows in this era of peak TV which I haven’t gotten to yet. Another year might give me a chance of watching the first two seasons before a third if there should be one. Incidentally, Blake Crouch is also the author of Dark Matter (no relationship to the televisions how by that name). The novel is more a page-turner thriller than hard science fiction, but, like his Wayward Pines series, was a quick and enjoyable read, and I’ve seen it on some of lists of top books of 2016. (Also, while not really related, I have used the hiatus in new shows around the holidays to catch up on Syfy’s Dark Matters and will now be able to include it in the weekly show coverage when it returns).
Return to Twin Peaks on May 21:
Kyle MacLachlan reprises his role as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. TWIN PEAKS, the 18-part limited event series will debut with a two-part premiere on Sunday, May 21 at 9PM ET/PT. Immediately following the premiere, SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to the third and fourth parts, exclusively across the SHOWTIME streaming service, SHOWTIME ANYTIME® and SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®. In its second week, TWIN PEAKS will air the third and fourth parts back-to-back on the linear network, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by one-hour parts in subsequent weeks…
Directed entirely by David Lynch, the new SHOWTIME limited event series picks up twenty-five years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town were stunned when their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered.
Widely considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential broadcast series of all time, TWIN PEAKS followed the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town who were stunned after their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered. The town’s sheriff welcomed the help of FBI agent Dale Cooper, who came to town to investigate the case. As Cooper conducted his search for Laura’s killer, the town’s secrets were gradually exposed. The mystery that ensued set off an eerie chain of events that plunged the inhabitants of Twin Peaks into a darker examination of their very existence. Twenty-five years later, the story continues…
Maisie Williams has a major role in an new superhero movie coming out on Netflix. It has a more modern origin story. Instead of being bit by a radioactive spider, the hero gets his powers from portions of a smartphone embedded in his brain:
Tom is an average teenager whose world is turned on its head when a violent encounter with local thugs leaves fragments of his shattered smartphone embedded in his brain. He wakes from a coma to discover that returning to normal teenage life is impossible because he has developed a strange set of superpowers. With these new powers he sets out to seek revenge on the gang, who also assaulted his best friend Lucy.
iBoy is a Netflix original film starring Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda Richardson and Rory Kinnear and is available on Netflix globally from January 27th, 2017.
The Hollywood Reporter has news on another Game of Thrones Star. Peter Linklage is engaged in talks to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.
The second season of Humans was excellent, and will become available (legally) in the United States on AMC on February 13. Deadline has some information. Syfy Wire spoke with the showrunners about topics including the comparisons to Westworld:
The showrunners were asked whether they minded that Westworld entered their same thematic storytelling space last year, but Brackley says the more, the merrier. “From our point of view, it’s only a good thing if people are interested in the issues we are all talking about. There’s plenty of room for both of us, and probably more about AI. Our shows are very different.”
Another excellent series from the UK will also become (legally) available in the US. Victoria debuts on PBS tonight. It is often compared to Golden Globe winner, The Crown, with similarities including actors from Doctor Who in key roles. While The Crown had Matt Smith in a supporting role, this one stars Jenna Coleman. Both The Crown and Victoria center around a new Queen and her relationship with the Prime Minister in their first season. Unlike The Crown, in which Elizabeth is married to Philip at the start, Victoria doesn’t meet Albert until later in the first season. Entertainment Weekly has more on Victoria and spoke with Jenna Coleman:
Apparently there is some other show about British royalty called The Crown, which features your Doctor Who costar Matt Smith. Have you two compared notes?
[Laughs] I think both of us tried to work out our [characters’] relationship to each other. It’s funny, he’s filming the second season in London. I’ve seen all the first, which I think is fantastic.
We already know Victoria will have a second season. In an ideal world, how long will the show run?
It depends on appetite and the pacing. There’s so much story, it could run for 60-odd years!
There is another interview with Jenna Coleman at Collider.
The Night Manager was one of the highlights of 2016. This leaves me optimistic about the next John le Carré adaptation from AMC, The BBC, and The Ink Factory: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
While several celebrities say that at first they were petrified about the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, they are now singing, I Will Survive. Those singing Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Chris Pine. Needless to say, conservatives don’t find this entertaining. The New York Times looked at how other celebrities such as Judd Apatow are responding in a different manner. I previously posted about reactions to Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards, including text and video of Meryl Streep’s speech, here.
Stranger Things was the surprise hit of the summer. It was as close to a perfectly structured television show as I’ve ever seen, both telling a complete story in eight episodes and leaving some things open for future seasons. It has an excellent cast, a story which was compelling from the start, and a lot to bring back fond memories of both the 1980’s and previous stories in the genre. The early 1980’s was a perfect period for this story, when kids could roam freely without being immediately available by cell phone, kids would have to ask their science teacher for information rather than looking it up on line, and Cold War paranoia made the background of the story seem a bit more plausible. I briefly discussed the show last week without spoilers. In order to discuss the finale and where the second season might go, major spoilers are unavoidable.
If I had any complaints after the conclusion, it might be that questions which we might not have had time to wonder about while binging were left unanswered. I’m thinking of where the story was at even before the final few minutes when additional teasers for the future were inserted. Fortunately the producers do have an outline which presumably contains information which might answer some of my questions in future seasons.
We know something about the research being done at Hawkins Lab, and how Eleven presumably opened a portal to another dimension. There could be far more going on at the lab, and was there a one through ten?
What happened in the other dimension, which appears to be like ours with the atmosphere destroyed and people no longer alive? Some scenes which looked up to the stars led me to believe it was due to aliens, while the 1980’s time frame also makes me suspect it was the consequence of a nuclear winter. Why did we see only one Demogorgon? Perhaps such monsters, and perhaps other types, are roaming the other dimension, and only this one made it to their version of Indiana. Did such monsters destroy Earth, or were they created by radiation from a nuclear war? The kids faced a Thessalhydra while playing D&D at the end of the episode. Is this what they will encounter next? Is there a connection between their games and what is found in the Down Under? What was the egg which Hopper discovered?
What happened to Eleven and the monster? If this was a completed story we might assume she died after saying goodby to Mike. However, as we are dealing with parallel universes and the ability to travel between them, it wouldn’t be surprising if a sequel shows that they did go to another dimension. Deaths always must be questioned if there is no body–and in this show even a body did not prove death. If two dimensions were shown this season, are there other dimensions which might come into play in future seasons?
It is plausible that Will remained alive as long as he did by hiding out in alternate versions of places he knows in his universe, but how did he communicate with the lights? Even if messing with the wires in one dimension affected them in the other dimension, he showed remarkable accuracy in turning flashing specific lights by specific letters. Barb was not so fortunate, but to maintain some degree of horror I think it was necessary for her to have been killed. Most of the characters who were put in danger did survive. Will was alive in the end. His mother and Hopper were both captured but managed to be released. The kids survived the final attack of the monster in their school Someone had to actually die for the monster to be menacing in the end, and a character such as Barb who was only in a handful of scenes was the obvious “red shirt.”
The final few minutes of the series went further in providing loose ends to tie up in the future. What happened when Hopper went in that car. Why was he leaving Eggos Waffles in the box in the woods? Either he knew that Eleven was out there and was leaving her favorite food for her, or he perhaps he was leaving them to see if she returned to take them. I think the later is more plausible as if he was actually feeding her he would have presumably left more.
The biggest sign that we have not seen the last of the Upside Down was when Will coughed up the slug and briefly saw the other dimension. Was that just a mental flash back, or was there a breakdown between the dimensions in the bathroom? Is this the original Will, or yet another type of fake, this time created in the Upside Down? What about Will’s mother and Hopper? Both were in the Upside Down and had breathed in the air.
The Duffer brothers have verified in various interviews that they are hoping to produce a second season involving the same characters, with additional ones added. There will be a time jump of one year which makes matters much simpler when dealing with children actors, and allows for the story to have advanced.
Here are some excerpts of interviews with Matt and Ross Duffer:
How much do we know about Eleven’s true origins at this point, and how much did you want to keep a mystery?
Ross: We get the hint that her mom was involved in the experimentations back in the day resulting in her being born with these powers, but what we wanted to do with the show — and this season specifically — was mostly seeing the mystery and these extraordinary things through the eyes of these ordinary characters. By the end of the show they don’t know or understand everything. That is purposeful.
We do cut away to the government occasionally for these pops of mystery or horror, but what we didn’t want was to have a scene of the scientist just sitting down to explain everything. We wanted to slowly peel back layers of this mystery for audiences through the eyes of these very ordinary people. It’s not all solved by the end of the season. We wanted to resolve the main mystery of Will being gone, that was the story of this season.
Do you see the government or science conspiracy angle as a long-term mystery for the show?
Ross: There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand. Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters — we have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.
Matt: We wanted a simple drive and a somewhat simple mystery with bizarre pops of supernatural horror and then add a larger mythology behind this rift that we only know and refer to as the Upside Down because that’s what the boys decide to call it. Everything they’ve learned about it is kind of hypothetical. They’re theorizing based on their knowledge from fantasy gaming and their science teacher, Mr. Clarke. That’s as much as we get to understand it. I think part of it is us thinking in terms of horror, it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand what’s happening. If you were to encounter something from another world or dimension, it would be beyond comprehension. We talked a lot about Clive Barker and his stories. They’re very weird, and the weirder it is, the more inexplicable it is, the scarier it is.
As you head into future seasons, have you thought about how much of that 30-page document you want to reveal and explore?
Ross: We leave these dangling threads at the end. If people respond to this show and we get to continue this story — we had those initial discussions of where we might go with it. If there was going to be a season two, we would reveal more of that 30 page document, but we’d still want to keep it from the point of view of our original characters.
Even though you tell a complete story within the season, you end on a couple of major cliffhangers — the first being Eleven’s disappearance. Did you want to hint at where she’s been with the scene of Hopper leaving Eggos in the woods?
Matt: Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know what she went. Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.
It also seems that the Upside Down has changed Will or maybe he’s brought some of it back with him. What can you say about the flash he has in the bathroom?
Ross: We love the idea that [the Upside Down] is an environment that is not a great place for a human being to be living in. Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically. The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.
They discussed more of these plot points with IGN:
IGN: What can you say about where Eleven is? That’s a very open question, of course, since there are different worlds you’re dealing with here.
Ross: It is. We wanted to leave it purposefully ambiguous. We always, from the very beginning, liked this sort of childlike idea that this escapee from this facility with these amazing powers would be able to just move into Mike’s basement and they’d have this wonderful life together and she’d go to school. It’s not that simple. The goal is to make it as complicated as possible, and without going into too much detail, to really tear them apart at the end of that season, to make things much more difficult. But we love Eleven.
Matt: But the great thing about having a portal to another dimension is that you’re not boxed in, narratively. There’s a lot we can do.
Ross: What did James Cameron say? No one’s ever dead in sci-fi.
IGN: Will clearly has been changed by this experience, it doesn’t seem in a great way. But he’s not the only one that went over there. Should we assume he might not be the only one affected?
Ross: That’s a good question. Though I will say that Will obviously was in there much longer. He had that thing hooked up to him. He went through a much more traumatic experience. A big part of Season 2 that we’ve been discussing is what is that effect? Did it affect anyone else? But specifically, is Will okay? The short answer being no.
Matt: But you’re absolutely right, three of the other characters were in there.
Ross: And they took off their helmets. And we know it’s a toxic environment. Nancy was in there too. Yeah, that’s an interesting question…
IGN: Is that the cool thing about doing a time jump? Asking what has Will been like in the year in between?
Ross: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And how have these characters moved on with their lives and not just in the plot and supernatural [aspect] but also just in terms of their characters and what have they done to fill that time?
Matt: We like that they’ve all had a very traumatic, nightmare experience together and after it’s over they kind of try to sweep it all under the rug. Season 2 would be very differently, structurally. It would be that everything seems great on the surface and then there are hints that things aren’t okay or that there are lingering effects from what happened last year. The initial instinct is to push that back and sweep that crap back under the rug but eventually it becomes impossible to ignore and so they have to confront the repercussions of everything they’ve experienced. I like to think about Stephen King’s It too. — that’s a big time jump. They jump like thirty years. But the idea that the evil is still there and comes back to haunt them and one of the characters finds out about it and kills themselves immediately. That image always stuck with me.
IGN: We see Hopper go for a little meeting at the end there. What can you say about everything he was involved in and how it might open up the world?
Ross: The intention in the scene when he gets in the car – and we want to get into this in the next season – is the clean up of what happened and the mess of all this and Will dying and coming back to life, whatever happened at the school, and the dead bodies… This is not a simple clean up job. It’s complicated. We have all these characters that know that these crazy things happen. We liked the idea that, sort of lead by Hopper, our characters are drawn closer to the government, in terms of having to make a bit of a deal with the devil. To us, that’s an exciting place to take our story.
Matt: But also the idea of going back to the laboratory and pull back the curtain a little bit. Maybe they brought someone new in. It’s not as evil and mysterious as it was in Season 1. We might start to get into what they’re doing a bit little more. Maybe they seem a little bit more friendly… as least at the beginning. A lot of the agents involved in that project are dead.
Ross: The monster and Eleven did a clean sweep of that whole operation, really.
Matt: So it would be new people which I think is cool. I think our initial instinct, when you talk about all of this stuff and “Oh god, this is all such a pain in the ass. We created such a mess.” But then we decided let’s just lean into the problems this created.
Ross: And even someone like Barb, where we left them, her poor parents think she’s just run away. There’s no closure there at this point, which I think is another reason why audiences are reacting like that. They’re like “You saved this boy, but…” What we were trying to do with that last scene in the hospital when Nancy leaves and Jonathan catches her right as she’s going is that there isn’t closure for Nancy. There isn’t closure for Barb’s parents. There is still, despite the relief that our boys are feeling, there still was tragedy here. We want to make sure that we don’t forget about that. We don’t want to forget about Barb.
Collider asked about the benefits of working with Netflix:
Eight episodes was the perfect length for the Season 1 narrative. Was that your decision, to keep it that tight?
MATT: Yes, it was.
ROSS: When we first pitched it to Netflix, we said, “This is an eight-episode story,” and they were like, “Great!” That’s the amazing thing about Netflix. They do not dictate. They don’t tell anyone that it should be 10 episodes or 13 episodes. They just say, “What do you need to tell your story?,” and that’s an amazing freedom that most storytellers who are working in film or TV haven’t had. This is a very recent thing. On television, you’ve gotta have a certain number of breaks for commercials. You’re working on a very clear structure.
MATT: On Wayward Pines, we were writing to commercial breaks.
ROSS: And you know how many episodes it has to be because they’ve got so many slots. Or with a film, you know it can’t be too long ‘cause you can’t get enough showings in. You’re very locked in. So, I think it’s an exciting time. We can play around a bit with form and length, and all of that, and it really just boils down to what we need to tell the story.
MATT: But even though this show has been successful, there’s no pressure to make it 13 episodes. People say, “They need to make way more episodes,” but I like to think one of the reasons it works for people is because it’s paced and it feels like a movie, and that’s because it’s not too long. I think, if we pushed it to 13 episodes, we’d have to start coming up with all these bullshit adventures they’re going on, that aren’t directly tied to the main tension. Eight felt about right. But if we’re developing Season 2 and it feels like seven or nine or eleven, Netflix would support any of those lengths.
How long do you see this series running? Have you thought about future seasons?
ROSS: We don’t know, specifically. We’re very weary of making it go on past the point it should. You want to end on a high note. That’s the goal. We’ve had initial discussions, but we haven’t quite landed on it.
One reason “Stranger Things” is effective is because the monster is revealed slowly. At first, it’s only glimpses. That out-of-sight, fear-of-the-unknown quality feels very “Jaws.”
Ross: “Jaws” was a big one. It’s a classic. The shark not working while making that movie made it much better. Also, we looked a lot at Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” On YouTube, there’s a cut of all the instances where you see the alien in that first movie, and it’s a couple minutes long. And that’s a two-hour movie. I think the reason it’s so scary is that, when it does appear, it has a certain amount of impact. So we thought, OK, we’re going to see the shadow in Episode 1, because we knew we had eight episodes. We were trying to slowly reveal it, until you finally saw the full thing. We don’t really deal with it until Episode 8. It’s a dude in a suit, and I remember reading old interviews with Ridley Scott about “Alien.” The studio was upset with him for it because it’s an amazing alien suit and you’re not shooting it. But the reason is because so much of it will look like a guy in a suit, and so much of it is that what you don’t see is much scarier. We tried to go back to that old-school style of filmmaking…
I want to pose a logistical plot question: Why did Will survive the Upside Down but Barb didn’t?
Matt: Right, I guess we think of it as ― and this is continuing with the “Jaws” references ― it’s the other dimension, the Upside Down, where the shark lives, and every once in a while it comes out of that ocean into our world on the surface and then it grabs a victim and pulls them down to the Upside Down. You saw Barb at the top of Episode 3 in the Upside Down. Just imagine that’s a world, and Barb tried to escape and failed to escape, but Will was sneakier, so he was able to escape. He was able to hide. He goes, initially, to that cubby in Episode 3 inside the Byers’ house, which is why Joyce is able to communicate with him. We had this whole backstory for what Will is doing, but we don’t see it all.
Ross: It’s more like the monster bringing him back to the net, which is why Hopper and Joyce are able to distract Will into being held in this net like a spider caught in its web. He’s brought there by the monster for eating later. Is he there for other reasons? We don’t know. We have ideas.
The way the season ends, there are enough questions answered for it to almost stand as a complete series. But the many unresolved mysteries set up an obvious next chapter. How much of the backstory regarding Dr. Brenner’s experiments and Eleven’s history did you have in place from the get-go?
Matt: We had ideas that we were sort of feeling out. We have a lot more backstory built in for Brenner and Eleven. Every time that we were writing scenes in the Hawkins Lab, we wanted to stop writing them, just because it seemed like we wanted to experience as much of it as possible in the present day and through the eyes of our ordinary characters. We just wanted to leave that as mysterious as possible. I hope that, with the mystery, people are responding to it and it’s not frustrating. But to us, the sci-fi elements are so much more fun if we’re understanding it via our characters. I like that basically everything we understand about what is going on is pretty much through the boys. And they’re only able to understand it through Dungeons and Dragons terminology and by talking to their science teacher, Mr. Clark. It’s all sort of hypothetical. I never wanted any scenes in the laboratory where you have Brenner and the scientists sitting around discussing what’s going on. And Eleven even doesn’t fully understand how she wound up where she wound up and what their plans for her are, so there are very few scenes with Brenner without one of our other main characters. The scenes that are with Brenner and not our main characters have almost no dialogue in them.
Ross: Moving forward, we’re going to get more into detail about the monster and where it came from and what the Upside Down really is. But with this season, we talked a lot about “Poltergeist.” At the end of the day, what really matters in “Poltergeist” is that Carol Anne is missing and they have to go through a portal in the closet to get her back. That matters more than the backstory. People want explanations for all that, so while we have answers for all this, what we really wanted to get from this first season is that this gate opens to this other dimension. What it really boils down to is, Will is in there and we have to get him back. The hope was that, because we resolved that, the first season will be satisfying to people and work as a stand-alone. Hopefully we get to go back and explore more of this stuff.
While Stranger Things brought us back to the 1980’s, Mr. Robot had a surprising beginning by opening as if it was a 1990’s sit-com, including appearances from Alf. If you haven’t watched it yet, do not skip the commercials, as they play into the illusion of a 1990’s television show. Of course, like other less obvious examples on the show, we are seeing what is happening in Eliot’s head as opposed to reality. There was even a plausible explanation for this, which led to a reconciliation with the imaginary Mr. Robot portion of him, after attempts by each to destroy the other earlier in the season. While we still do not know what happened to Tyrell Wellick, he does have a symbolic appearance here also.
Bryan Fuller is slowly teasing news on Star Trek Discovery. It will take place ten years before the original show, bridging events between Enterprise and the original Star Trek. There will be seven lead characters including a gay character, and a female lead who plays a lieutenant commander, providing a different perspective than leading with the Captain as on other series.
The bathroom at The Way Station bar in Brooklyn is bigger on the inside than on the outside. The video above has a tour of the TARDIS themed bathroom.
In other Doctor Who news, the 1996 movie staring Paul McGann is being released on Blu-ray later this year.
Jenna Coleman and Karen Gillan had a joint appearance at Boston Comic Con. Hopefully someone videotaped it and will upload it soon.
Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies, died at age 81 during the past week.
Once again, as I did last year, I’m concentrating, I’m concentrating on the top new shows of the past year (but will include some comments on returning shows below). This is for a few reasons:
Not having the time to devote professional time to television as professional television critics do, there are many shows I have not watched purely due to lack of time. Limiting to a single year reduces the impact of this.
Limiting to new shows eliminates the problem in many “best of” lists of including the same shows every year.
Talking about new shows could be of greater value. It is more likely that readers know about the top shows which have been on for the last several years, but might not be aware of some of the shows which started more recently.
If readers are inspired to catch up on a show from a list such as this, it is far more practical to catch up after one season than several. I know this from personal experience. This is why I cannot say much about the series finale of Justified, which has received great reviews, as I’m years behind. It was much easier to catch up on Manhattan and The 100 after missing the first season, allowing me to say more about them below.
Besides being limited to shows I have watched, this is also biased towards genre shows. Therefore, what might be the year’s biggest hit among new shows, Empire, is excluded from consideration on both counts. Rankings are also quite arbitrary, and some shows could easily be a few spots higher or lower if I were to redo this fifteen minutes later. Still, this gives a general idea of which I consider among the best as compared to those ranked lower. It is a sign of the increased number of good shows coming out, partially due to the increased influence of steaming video along with cable, that I have expanded from a top fifteen list last year to a top 20 list this year.
This would have ranked far higher if it could have maintained the quality of its original premiere, but adding new characters just led to it devolving into a number of more standard sitcom tropes. Still, while many gave up on the show, I continued to have interest in the first season finale and into the second season.
19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)
Adapting a novel from Arthur C. Clarke seemed like a sure winner, but there were problems I didn’t expect from doing this until I viewed the miniseries. It seemed far more dated in 2015 compared to when I read the novel in the 1960’s now that we have seen so many shows with alien visitation to earth. This story worked out much better as a novel as they could not capture important aspects of the story, including the magnitude of the ending, on television as compared to in prose. The show also failed to make the new world created in the miniseries seem believable, compared to the far better adaptations in a couple of other shows listed below. We heard about all the changes on earth, but rarely saw them, and what we did seem, such as mankind giving up science, didn’t seem believable.
18. Togetherness (HBO)
An excellent sitcom showing how cable and streaming have replaced the “must watch TV” from NBC and the other broadcast networks.
17.The Expanse (Syfy)
Syfy returns to space, with a mystery and quite a bit of world building in the series based upon the novels by James S. A. Corey. I have only seen the first two episodes so far, so my opinion of the show could change once I see more. It was just recently renewed for a second season.
16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)
Both Blackish last year and Fresh Off The Boat this year offer new variations on Modern Family. Constance Wu makes the show.
15. Casual (Hulu)
Yet another twist on a family sitcom, done far better by Hulu than the networks.
13. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (BBC One/BBC America)
An excellent adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, making a world in which magic exists seem real.
12. Supergirl (CBS)
Another show from the produces of Arrow and The Flash, with his being much closer to The Flash in style. The show had an excellent pilot, but for a while seemed like a weaker version of The Flash. It started getting more interesting toward the end of the fall season as the show had an opportunity to develop. Spoilers ahead: Major events before the hiatus included the revelation that Hank Henshaw is the Martian Manhunter. Calista Flockhart is excellent as Cat Grant, but considering her profession can she be trusted now that she figured out Supergirl’s secret identity? So far Supergirl doesn’t know about Hank, but it is inevitable that she learns who he is. A shape shifter could be useful to show both Supergirl and Kara in the same place to fool Cat.
11. Sense 8 (Netflix)
A very ambitious show, which took time to develop its story, but well worth the wait. Enjoy the scenery from around the world while trying to figure it out in the early episodes.
10. Agent Carter (ABC)
This shows how much better a network show can be when limited to a single eight-episode story. Maybe that is why it is the only network show which cracked the top ten. Of course a network still could not compete with streaming when entering the Marvel universe.
9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
This shows how the networks have surrendered quality sitcoms to streaming and cable. The show was originally produced by Tina Fey for NBC, but they passed on it and it was picked up by Netflix. It will be interesting to see if the show is even better when the second season is produced, knowing it will appear on Netflix rather than NBC.
8. Daredevil (Netflix)
The first of a series of shows from the Marvel universe. Dardevil was darker, grittier, and more violent than any of the superhero shows before this. The series also took advantage of the streaming medium, often telling a continuous story, but sometimes including a more conventional single episode on a specific topic (which was still part of the greater story for the season).
7. Master of None (Netflix)
Aziz Ansari shows how good a comedy could be on what I bet is a low budget if there is excellent writing. Besides comparisons to his character on Parks and Recreation, the show is often compared to Louie. I also see a lot of early Seinfeld in it.
6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)
The British show, also made available in the United States from Amazon Prime, was the best new sitcom of the year. It was this year’s, You’re The Worst, with Sharon Horgan playing what felt like could be an older version of Aya Cash’s chacter, and the nationalities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s nationalities reversed.
5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)
While changes were made for the new version, Man In The High Castle was an excellent adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, providing a realistic look at what could have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and occupied the United States. Changes were made in some characters, and there were plot differences to turn this into an ongoing series. Hitler remaining alive in the 1960’s provides for a difference in the politics. Instead of a book with an alternate history in which the Allies won, using film reels worked better on television. While the main storyline was tied up, the finale raised new questions, making me very happy that it was renewed. Spoilers ahead: As happened earlier in the book, the finale did show a character crossing over into an alternate universe looking like ours, partially explaining the meaning of those news reels. I still have a lot of questions about them, and if the book gave any further hints, I read it too long ago to remember. The finale did wrap up the major storyline and led to an unexpected character living in a “high castle” who was interested in the news reels. Is he really the title character, and how is he connected to the films?
4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)
Yet another British import on this list which was also shown in the United States presented a look at how robots (Synths) could change our society, along with a thriller storyline involving a small group of Synths which were more than they seemed. I’m not sure if the second season could be as strong as the first now that all the secrets have been revealed, but they definitely left matters open to continue the story.
Better Call Saulgreatly exceeded expectations, standing on its own in addition to being a prequel series to one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad.
1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Netflix exceeded what was accomplished on Daredevil with Jessica Jones, staring Kristin Ritter in the title role. The series, even more than Daredevil, was like a single long movie, with only brief breaks in the narrative to fill in viewers on the back stories of the major characters. This works as a stand alone story, but also has references to The Avengers, a character from Daredevil, and sets up future shows, especially Luke Cage.
Spoilers ahead. The show did so many things well. While many super hero stories suffer from trying to create yet a bigger danger to the entire world to fight, Jessica Jones was a personal story between Jessica and the villain, with David Tennant doing a fantastic job playing Kilgrave. Without their powers, this is essentially the story of an abused woman who once again confronts the man who abused her. Add on the super powers, and it becomes a story of a man who can have whatever he wants and does not understand why Jessica does not love him when he is nice to her.
Most of the supporting cast was also excellent, including Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker. One neighbor initially seemed to be a stereotypical drug addict, but turned into a significant figure. The brother and sister also living in the same building were the weakest characters, but the sister was useful to allow Kilgrave to escape. The length of the story did require a series of near-captures, captures, and escapes. Plus it was necessary to change the situation so that the ending could take place, when earlier Jessica had reason to not only capture Kilgrave alive, but provide proof of his powers.
Grace and Frankie (Netflix) Any show staring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston has to be good, even if some of other new sitcoms were more consistent.
Blindspot (NBC) A fascinating premise made the early shows feel like something unique from network drama, but far too often it is just a gimmick to introduce the case of the week. Whether the show becomes a great will depend on whether the underlying mystery of the show remains compelling. Also on NBC, Blacklist almost felt like a new show with Lizzie now on the run, reminiscent of how Person of Interest evolved into more of a genre show last year on CBS.
Limitless (CBS) A lighter genre show which shows potential to be entertaining, but I doubt will rise to greatness.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) A prequel to the movie.
The Republican Debates have become an amusing reality show, featuring reality television star Donald Trump. His previous reality show had a similar format in gradually eliminating candidates vying for a job.
Besides the above changes on late night television, this year marked the end of many excellent shows including Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, Parenthood, Continuum, and Justified. Downton Abbey concluded in the UK with the Christmas special, but the final season is just now beginning in the United States. (No spoilers, but the series ended well).
Last year I left out some shows only because I had not had a chance to see them yet. These included The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). These turned out to both be extremely high quality shows. and both would have made the top five if I had seen them when compiling last year’s list.
Among shows I’ve heard excellent things about, and very well might deserve to be ranked among the top shows but I have not had a chance to see so far are Narcos (Netflix), Wolf Hall (BBC Two/PBS), and The Jinx (HBO). While not as critically acclaimed, I have received a plug for another genre show, Wayward Pines (Fox).
Mid season finales have now become a big thing on network television as many shows take a hiatus for the holidays, while some cable shows have completed their season. There were several big WTF moments on television recently, often, but not entirely, part of a midseason or season finale.
Two of the superhero shows from Andrew Kreisberg and his group featured big WTF moments. The biggest one would be the death of Felicity on Arrow if anyone really believed it was real. Last year we saw Oliver die and come back to life, with Thea and Sara Lance having also come back from the dead. While there is no longer a Lazarus Pit, it seems a safe bet that they would never kill off Felicity. They replayed a portion of the grave scene, to imply that it was Felicity’s, but we’ve also been led to believe that the scene takes place later this spring, not currently to coincide with Felicity getting shot.
While there could be misdirection, Emily Bett Rickards is also present in set photos (such as here) from episodes still being filmed.
This leaves the question of who is in the grave. While there are other possibilities, at present I like the fan theories that it could be Samantha or William Clayton, Oliver’s former girlfriend and their son. This would explain why all of Team Arrow, along with Felicity’s mother, weren’t at the grave site if it was Felicity’s. In a recent interview, producer Wendy Mericle did warn of “serious consequences” that “come to a head” because of the decisions Oliver made regarding them. This most directly seems to be regarding Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, but perhaps it also leads to putting Samantha or William in danger.
The big WTF moment on Supergirl was that Hank Henshaw didn’t turn out to be an evil alien as many fans suspected. As with Harrison Wells on The Flash, Hank Henshaw’s body was taken over by someone else, but in this case not be someone evil. Henshaw turned out to be J’onn J’onzz aka The Martian Manhunter. The show’s producers discussed this with The Hollywood Reporter:
“It’s the secret of Supergirl: Within the body of the series of Supergirl, there is a Martian Manhunter series rolling throughout it,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s the thing that makes us giggle the most.”
Back when the showrunners were on set to shoot the pilot, the idea to make DEO head Hank the Martian Manhunter was initially floated as a joke.
“[DC Comics CCO] Geoff Johns, [executive producer] Greg Berlanti and I were saying, ‘It’s so funny we cast David because he’s got those weird ears. Like alien ears,’ ” Kreisberg says. “I don’t remember which one of us said it, but it was like, ‘If we were ever going to make a Martian Manhunter show, David would have been the perfect Martian Manhunter.’ And Geoff said, ‘Well, why can’t he be?’ We already had it set up that Hank was keeping this bad secret, and then we started thinking about well, what if it was a good secret? You think he’s bad but then he turns out to be not only good, but the most good person in the DC universe.”
…Executive producer Ali Adler teases that John’s abilities will blow Kara’s out of the water. “He’s got such tremendous powers,” Adler says. “We really want to show off what he can do, and we’re definitely going to do that in upcoming episodes.”
“There’s a lot of fun to be had,” Harewood adds. “He’s a shape-shifter so he can be whoever he wants to be. So you’ll find me being other members of the cast at some various points of the story.”
You’re the Worst picked up a renewal for the third season as the second season concluded, plus Stephen Falk received a deal to produce additional shows for FX and FXX. While the second season of You’re The Worst was not as good as the first, Stephen Falk deserves credit for taking the season in such a different direction for the second season. I suspect that it might have been the added depth he showed in the second season which led to his deal to produce additional shows.
The arc with Gretchen’s depression showed more depth in writing by Falk, as well as acting by Aya Cash, but it was the comedy, not potential for such drama, which made the show television’s best (even if under-rated) sitcom last year. Another consequence was that there was less interaction between the story lines of the various characters. On the plus side, this ultimately did lead to further development in the relationship between the two dysfunctional leads. Gretchen decided to consider medications for depression, which she never considered in the past, now that she was involved with someone else who was affected by her depression. (Her friendship with Lindsay doesn’t count.) Jimmy almost ran off with the girl who owns the bar, but in the end did not. Plus the two of them managed to tell each other that they loved the other, even if it required them to be drunk at the time.
Noah Hawley will not only be doing more of Fargo, but has signed a deal to develop additional shows for FX. He had one of the big WTF moments on Fargo last week (“It’s just a flying saucer, hon”), and there is still an episode to go. A UFO was also seen briefly in the first episode of the season. I now wonder if it will play a role in the finale, or just be something without further explanation. It sounds like it will be the later from Hawley’s comments. Perhaps Fox is getting us ready for the return of The X-Files.
Fox has renewed Wayward Pines for a second season. I haven’t seen this one, but a recent plug for the show and news of its renewal might change that.
The Leftovers has been renewed for a third and final season on HBO. This sounds about right. The second season was much better than the first, having completed the events of the Tom Perrotta novel and now able to explore new territory, but I’m not sure there is enough to do in this world which cannot be wrapped up in one more season.
This is the perfect series for Damon Lindelof . He can write about how people respond to unexplainable situations, without being expected to ultimately give an explanation as on Lost. A lot happened in the season finale, but for me seeing the Guilt Remnant show up and seeing Mary wake up was nothing compared to the WTF moment in the eighth episode, International Assassin, when Kevin was in a hotel from purgatory, if not hell. That episode alone made the season a success.
Blacklist has been much better this season with Elizabeth on the run with James Spader’s character. It has been renewed for a fourth season.
Showtime has renewed Homeland and The Affair. After its slip in quality over the years, I haven’t watched this season of Homeland yet, but might watch binge it Netflix style if time permits. There are many reasons to remember the first season fondly, but the recent start of Supergirl has led to additional attention for the show as viewers recall a topless Melissa Benoist being asked questions such as whether she enjoys anal sex and other women in the first season of Homeland. (Video here–not safe for work.) Kara would turn as red as the star she was born under if asked those questions on Supergirl.
Person of Interest strangely is not appearing on CBS’s schedule yet. There is speculation that it is being held back until spring or summer, and hope that maybe it can be renewed beyond this year if it is more successful than Extant and Under the Dome, which have been canceled.
The Man In The High Castle, which I completed this week, ended the first season with a couple of WTF moments. One was foreshadowed by events in the book, despite some major differences between the book and the television series. As there are still likely to be many who have not finished the series yet, I’m holding off on discussing this streaming series, as well as Jessica Jones, a little longer. Both are highly recommended.