richard pryor live in concert (jeff margolis, 1979)
tv 2016: jane the virgin through mr. robot

tv 2016: fleabag through the 100

Fleabag. “It’s one of the best accomplishments of this television season. Creator/writer/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is the key to what makes Fleabag great, which given her multiple duties might seem obvious. I’m inclined to hail a new star, and ask where she has been all of our lives, but of course, she’s been around for a long time (she’s 31, and has been at this for a decade). It’s her face that does it. Her unnamed character regularly breaks the fourth wall, which is a cliché by this point, but she makes it work because 1) she gives herself great dialogue, and most importantly 2) because of the wordless times when she stares at the camera and tells us everything we need by facial expressions. She sucks us in from the very first scene ... she is so engaging in a recognizably human way that we don’t just want to root for her, we want to be her.”

Game of Thrones. "There is no question that Game of Thrones is treated with respect in part because of the network on which it airs. It has won 26 Emmys and counting. Even if you don’t like it, you can’t escape it.” The most admirable thing about Game of Thrones is that it maintains a level of consistency. Some seasons are better than others, just as some episodes are better than others. But, to this point, you always know what you are getting: a quality show with violence and sex, with the latter often exploitative. The acting is variable, but the good actors are great. Many of the characters are memorable. I can’t imagine anyone out there is still making up their minds about this show.

Girls. What does it say that I don’t seem to have written about Girls Season 5, and that I had to look it up to remind myself what happened during the year? Perhaps it’s more important that I am still watching. A look at critical reaction tells us a lot. According to Metacritic, the “Metascore” for the first five seasons has been 87, 84, 76, 75, and 73. This shows a gradual fade, but 73 translates to “generally favorable”. Girls may not be the center of the zeitgeist any longer, but that’s probably good for the show.

Happy Valley. Season 2 was as good as the first season. Happy Valley benefits from having short seasons (six episodes), and from the stunning performance of Sarah Lancashire in the lead. Downton Abbey fans will enjoy seeing O’Brien (both seasons) and Molesley (S2). Advance warning: Happy Valley is often quite dark.

The 100. “Became quite problematic in its third season, yet I may be looking forward to next season more than any other show on this list, and it’s another I recommend you catch up on (be aware it takes a few episodes before it reaches its potential). The season finale proved that the creators of The 100 know quite well how to properly send off a beloved character. If the send off we got had occurred in, say, Episode 307, I'm guessing the uproar would have been reduced, or even absent. That those creators felt perfectly happy saving this send off for the finale, while participating in a trope that lost them a significant part of their viewership, is remarkably clueless at best. I love The 100, and I loved most of the season finale. I really loved that send off. But it pisses me off the way it was mishandled. For many people, Episode 307 made The 100 beyond redemption. I'm still here. But part of me wishes I'd just skipped all the episodes between 307 and the two-part finale. (After Ep. 307, I wrote, ‘That moment when what happens in fiction is so affecting you can't feel the real world for awhile.’)”

The now-infamous first scene of Fleabag:

Game of Thrones Season 6 trailer:

Girls Season 5 trailer:

Happy Valley Season 2 trailer:

The 100 Season 3 trailer: