As 2017 draws (crawls? barrels?) to a close, the time has come to reflect on what made us laugh, cry and think — or all three — in the last 12 months.
Devin Mitchell and I recorded 19 episodes of The M&M Report in 2017. Highlights included all-out fisticuffs over La La Land, a look back at the pop culture legacy of President Obama and a look ahead at the impact of President Trump; a long-awaited deep dive into Game of Thrones; a sober reflection amid the Harvey Weinstein allegations; and a truly revolutionary take on the acclaimed movie Lady Bird.
But there’s plenty more entertainment we didn’t have time to address on air. Here’s a look back at a few more of our favorite cultural items of the year.
For the Emmy nominations to “get it right” in 2017 — when there has never been more television shows or places to find them — they must reflect the landscape’s diverse options by rewarding shows that expand the boundaries of the medium or innovate within it.
With so much to choose from, it’s never been harder for the Emmy nominations to get it completely right. But it’s still not that hard for them to get it wrong. Case in point: Yesterday!
Diversity of many varieties was on the brain for many spheres of television this year. Network executives, showrunners, critics and audiences alike engaged in thoughtful discourse about what it means to make diverse television in 2015. There are more places than ever to watch TV, and more places than ever to distribute it. It makes logical sense that TV offerings this year would touch on a wider range of issues, feature a wider range of character types and demographics and explore a wider range of stories and universes than ever before.
But with great power comes great responsibility. My favorite shows in 2015 were the ones that used the expanding boundaries of what’s possible on television to their fullest advantage, crafting rich and surprising worlds, telling stories that dovetail with the themes, ideas and controversies guiding our daily lives. In relatively arbitrary order of preference (who’s to say whether a dark comedy about an animated horse is superior to one of the most beloved drama series of all time?), here are my ten favorite shows of 2015.
Some of 2015’s buzziest dramas stumbled when they were expected to soar. True Detective followed up a thrilling first season with a turgid retread. Game of Thrones tested viewers’ patience with an uncomfortable rape scene. The Walking Dead “killed” a fan favorite character just long enough to convince people he had actually died before bringing him back to life.
Defying the trend is HBO’s The Leftovers, whose second season has delivered one extraordinary episode after another. Read the rest of my essay at The Week.
I just read an excellent New York Times Magazine profile of Damon Lindelof, and I have a few thoughts about it.
1. The profile describes Lindelof’s tumultuous experience with the fans of Lost, the show he co-created and ran for all of its much-scrutinized run. For years, Lindelof endured outraged cries from devoted fans of the show who felt that the series finale failed to wrap up the mysteries the show had allegedly set out to solve. The feedback turned so sour that Lindelof deleted his Twitter account with a flourish on October 14th, 2013, explaining later that the resurgence of negativity that followed the polarizing Breaking Bad series finale left him feeling psychologically battered.
I never watched Lost to solve the mysteries. I was certainly interested in finding answers, and I enjoyed delving into Jeff Jensen’s exhaustive analyses for Entertainment Weekly, but when it came time to watch the finale, I was far more invested in where the characters would find themselves at the end of the episode, and how the journeys we’d watched unfold for six years would conclude. I realize I’m in the minority, and that the frustrating banality of the Smoke Monster, the Whispers and the Magic Cork left people frustrated to the point of dismissing the entire show. I think that’s an unfair response, given that the show always cared about people as much as it did smoke and mirrors. I was glad I’d spent six years with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Ben, Juliet and the dozens of other characters who popped in and out. It’s not wrong to want more from a show famous for its mysteries, but it’s also not right to condemn the creator for having other ideas about how he wanted his show to end. There’s no use crucifying Lindelof for “wasting our time.” That we were invested in the first place means that he was doing his job right for quite a while, and that counts for something.