Some TV Highlights of 2016

Better late than never.  Extra long post!

My 2016 TV in review, for better or worse.  This overview is more of a mixed bag for me than ever, as I’m still not on the streaming tv or premium cable options (so, no to “Stranger Things”; “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”; “The Man in the High Castle”; “Westworld”; or even “Game of Thrones”).  I can’t even figure out a top list.

So, here goes:

  1. Galavant” (ABC) – back for one more time! It was fun and weird, and musical! Glad that ABC gave it one final shot.
  1. The X-Files” (FOX) – good episode – “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” – Mulder, Scully, and the were-monster, and actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani. Hilarious! And moving all at once. And, even a little existential. But, the rest of the revival run was much less positive, and became annoying. Showrunner Chris Carter’s weaknesses came through, and I just wanted so much better for Mulder and Scully. Very disappointing, and I was one who made it through the final season and two uneven movies of “The X-Files.”
  1. Downton Abbey” (PBS) – under the Masterpiece umbrella, the final season. I was never really on the bandwagon for this show, but I watched the final season because my sister wanted to watch it. It was okay, in that British soapish way.  Actor Matthew Goode came along, to give that Lady Mary storyline a conclusion.
  1. Masterpiece Mystery! (PBS) brought out the last season of “Inspector Lewis,” in which things were wrapped up with Lewis, who went through the Inspector Foyle route in having two seasons of “I’m officially retired as a policeman, but I’m still here as a consultant!” (yeah, I suppose that explanation was better than “We got renewed and we need an explanation for why this inspector is still on the job, when in the real world, he really would have been retired and not still solving crime like this”). The relationships on the show were best – Lewis’ common sense solving crimes, and his being the friend to poor Hathaway (who really is becoming the contemporary sad Inspector Morse). Who would have thought that this spinoff of the Inspector Morse series would have made it as long as it did?
  1. Masterpiece Mystery! is apparently moving on with “Endeavour” – the prequel series to the Inspector Morse series, as opposed to how “Inspector Lewis” was the next generation series. Young Morse back in the Swinging Sixties – tumultuous times, and his cynicism (and early days of striking out with women) are not hidden at all. An enjoyable series, even when it reminds me to re-watch the old Morse series.
  1. I did watch “Grantchester” on Masterpiece Mystery! in 2016. It was still fun, insofar as Robson Green as the grim police detective working with the vicar, played by James Norton. The season finale episode’s ending, however, annoyed the hell out of me, as a “what were the writers thinking?” moment that didn’t fit the time period of the show, forget how the characters had been characterized.  Even though I really like Green and Norton, because of that season finale ending, I don’t even know if I’ll watch the series if it’s back on PBS (and I believe that British tv renewed it).
  1. The O.J. Simpson stuff: “O.J. Made In America” (ESPN) was a fascinating documentary series. “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX) – amazing. Oh, and actor Sterling K. Brown – as Chris Darden on the O.J. Simpson FX drama series, and on “This is Us” – is the It actor.  He out-acts everyone, and captures his characters as characters.
  1. This is Us” (NBC) – had quite a pilot episode. It’s so determined to do twists, though, that it can be annoying – but the characters keep pulling a viewer in. I’m not much of a consistent viewer, but this is a show to keep in mind, I think.
  1. Designated Survivor” (ABC) – I watched the first four episodes or so. Kiefer Sutherland as the HUD Secretary who becomes president after the biggest disaster – he’s good to watch as a man who’s trying to be sincere but dealing with reality, along with his own Scooby team of young staffers (including a potentially dubious White House Chief of Staff). I get a kick out of Sutherland’s moments of “I’m not trying to be Jack Bauer of ’24,’ but yeah, I used to be him, and I’m mad that America isn’t holding onto its better angels!”  Maggie Q, as the not-Jack Bauer FBI agent, kind of annoys me; I keep wanting better for her storyline.  The rest of the show leaves me wanting, but we shall see what happens.
  1. Sherlock Holmes… On “Elementary” (CBS) Sherlock and Joan are still at it, but sometimes the stories get so ridiculous, even when they are inspired by the books and short stories. I still wish the showrunners could tone down the winding weirdness, and keep increasing the ensemble. The other Sherlock – on BBC/PBS “Sherlock” – around New Year’s of 2016, on Masterpiece Mystery!, we had “The Abominable Bride” special episode.  Did it make any sense?  No.  Sherlock had some revelations, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock became that much more similar to Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock on “Elementary,” insofar as the addiction problem goes (yes, this might be a spoiler, but if you’ve read the 100+ year old stories, this is not a spoiler at all).  Well, that and the “I have problems with getting along with people” goes.
  1. the ultimate reality shows: the Summer Olympics and the Presidential campaign of 2016. Good or bad, that was… hmmm… one couldn’t get one’s eyes off of this, even if one wanted to do so…
  1. Saturday Night Live” (NBC) – I liked how Colin Jost and Michael Che have gotten better with the Weekend Update bit. The political stuff on SNL was okay, but how much longer is Alec Baldwin going to be playing the now-president-elect?
  1. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central) – Trevor Noah may never really fill in the Jon Stewart shoes, but I like his determination to be entertaining. Let him be Trevor, and maybe this could be something. And, anyway, Ronny Chieng managed to highlight Asian American rage, when he did the man-on-the-street in NYC’s Chinatown, after FOX News had that horrendous man-on-the-street bit in Chinatown,
  1. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (CBS) – Stephen’s improving, I will say; I wonder if the rise of the president-elect has gotten to him (much as this clearly gotten to everyone). I’m not a consistent viewer, but he’s getting more interesting. I still find Jon Batiste and the Stay Human band as great.
  1. Other late night stuff – well, okay, I’m not remotely consistent. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) (still terrific from what I was able to watch on YouTube), and I kind of wonder if James Corden over at “The Late, Late Show with James Corden” (CBS) might be overdoing the Carpool Karoake, but they’re still worthy watching. I think that Comedy Central was a little unfair in pulling Larry Wilmore and “The Nightly Show,” but late night tv is too competitive.
  1. Dancing With the Stars” (ABC). Okay, I was still watching this one.
  1. The Great British Bake Off” (BBC) – seen on PBS in the US. I got really entertained by this one. Watched some of this summer.  Even watched the American one, one ABC, when they got the judge Mary with actress Nia Vardalos and actor Ian Gomez (wife and husband in real life) as hosts.  Helpful feedback are given to the bakers and amazing baking is on display.
  1. Cartoons! I still like “Adventure Time” and I’m starting to like “We Bare Bears” (both on Cartoon Network), and ought to do a binge soon.
  1. I don’t think that I can watch more of “The Walking Dead,” since I read on what was done to poor Glenn (because I’m so into spoilers, and I couldn’t get myself to watch the episode anyway).
  1. The Night Manager” (AMC) – great stuff. Not quite the book, but in some ways, smoother.
  1. Doctor Who” (BBC/BBC America in the US) – no new episodes in 2016, except the Christmas special, “Doctor Mysterio.” It was a charming episode, with the thin connection to Christmas. It also had a trailer for the new season, which BBC America will have sometime in 2017.
  1. That other reality tv moment: Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Gripping tv. I now realize in hindsight that the Cubs really did cause the end of the world as we knew it.
  1. I still like Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” (CNN).
  1. PBS Newshour” and “Washington Week” (both PBS) – thankfully sane in an insane tv news world. The passing of Gwen Ifill still feels so strange and her absence from both shows is noticeable and sad. But, I will keep watching the sane stuff, because I need it.
  1. I meant so much to watch lots of other stuff – like “Preacher” (AMC) (I did watch the first episode, but it was very strange; more like “I don’t know” strange and I never quite got back to it);”Agent Carter” (ABC) (which, like “Galavant” got one more shot, but no more than that); “Better Call Saul” (AMC); “Supergirl” (CBS and now CW); and many, many other things. Consider this the honorable mention category. I’m probably forgetting a lot of other things, but I never pretend to be comprehensive.

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