This is not a list of all the shows I watched this year. But I wrote about them, so they had some impact on me. I'll have another post or two about the current state of TV, but in the meantime.
A+ (the best show on TV):
The Americans. "The Americans sits out there, waiting to be discovered by bingers. The family on The Americans is on the wrong side of history, and we know that (it takes place during the Reagan years, and the spies, as true believers, don't know that they are going to lose). We care about them ... they are the center of the show. They are the 'bad guys', yet we root for them. And they do despicable things in the name of Mother Russia. It is one of the handful of best TV series of all time. You should watch it."
A (never missed them, in real time):
Atlanta. "It seems to be about a young black man in Atlanta, trying to make his way, his cousin who deals weed and raps, and their odd friend. It is that, but it is also simultaneously a comedy and a gripping drama. Calling it a 'dramedy' would insult what Donald Glover is doing. Atlanta oftens feels quite real, but it slides effortlessly into the surreal. One episode was so unique, I actually did get around to writing about it: 'Teddy Perkins'."
Killing Eve. "Jodie Comer is remarkable. She doesn't fall back on easy representations of a psychopath ... she reminds me of Sydney Greenstreet's Gutman describing Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon: 'By Gad, sir, you are a character. There's never any telling what you'll say or do next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing.' Comer has made Villanelle into the most fascinating character on TV. (Meanwhile, Sandra Oh is killing it as Eve.)"
A- (Flawed, but favorites, esp. The 100 and Sense8):
The 100. "Rothenberg has solved the problem of a series running too long by effectively rebooting it, not by making the show again in 20 years, but by drastically changing things now so that nothing can be the same. And yet ... I remain wary when something good happens. I fear that these oh-so-human characters will repeat past mistakes. I'll need to see it before I believe it. I can't wait for Season Six."
The Deuce. "The Deuce is a largely downbeat show ... I was going to say depressing, but I'm not sure that's the right word, so choose whichever you prefer. The best characters on The Deuce (and by 'best' I mean the most finely drawn, not just 'good guys') aspire to a better place in the world. The reason the show is depressing is that it is rare anyone actually gets to that better place. Part of this comes from our knowledge of where things are headed historically. The first season began in 1971, the second in 1977, and the third will be sometime in the 80s."
GLOW. I wrote about this show after Season One. Didn't get around to writing about Season Two, but it was better in almost every way. You should be watching this show.
Humans. "I like it at least as much as ever, perhaps more. The longer the show runs, the deeper its take on humans and machines and society gets, the more I can accept that it is its own show. Humans is not mundane, and if it deals in standard concepts, it does well with them."
Outlander. "Claire's perspective is foregrounded. Just to speak of sex (there is a lot of it in Outlander), Jamie is as much the eye candy as is Claire, and the love scenes between the two are not just highly erotic, but equal in a way you don't often see today. It doesn't hurt that stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have an incredible chemistry. Both are perfectly cast for their characters, but it's as a couple that they truly shine."
Sense8. Returned from the dead for a series finale after the show had been cancelled. It was a love letter to the show's fans. I honestly can't remember how the byzantine plot resolved itself, if it ever did, but then, the plot was the least impressive thing about Sense8, which really was a show you couldn't describe, you just had to watch it. I'm not sure if any show of recent vintage extracted more overwhelming emotions from me as Sense8. I wish I'd never seen it, so I could binge it for the first time.
Vida. "Vida doesn't just pay lip-service to diversity. It's about two Mexican-American sisters in East LA. It's about class and about gentrification. It's about gender, it's about grief ... it is all of these things and more, but they are all in service to the story, rather than the other way around."
Honorable Mention (I watched 'em, I liked 'em):
Counterpart. "J.K. Simmons is the best reason to watch. It's surprising that I like it ... honestly, I'm not sure how much I like it, because the plot (involving parallel worlds) is hard for me to follow, and my patience with such things is weakening." (This was written before the Season 2 premiere, which I am looking forward to.)
Homecoming. Based on a podcast, with an excellent star performance from Julia Roberts in her debut as a TV regular. But the person whose presence was most felt was Sam Esmail of Mr. Robot, who directed every episode.
The Looming Tower. "It stuck closely enough to the facts to feel real, it was fairly clear in presenting the byzantine plot, and it mostly avoided kissing the ass of the FBI or CIA. If it sounds good to you, you'll probably like it ... it delivers. I wouldn't say it was great, though."
Shameless. "Season 9 has too much Frank, as have too many recent seasons. Meanwhile, it seems like the writers no longer know what to do with Fiona. I don't blame Rossum for announcing she is leaving the show. I'm still sticking with it, at least until Rossum is gone, but it's a pale shadow of what it used to be."
Can't Go Without Listing Them (I watched them, I liked them, if not quite as much as what appears above):
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.