Watching the Euphoria "Christmas Special" reminded me that it's about time for a recap of the year in TV. Euphoria hasn't been on for awhile ... Season Two will get here eventually, but the virus has made it nearly impossible to get back to work. So we're getting two tweener episodes that take place after Season One/before Season Two. The first featured Rue (Zendaya) in a tailspin after her love Jules (Hunter Schafer) left on a train. (Jules will be the focus of the second episode.) Rue goes back on drugs, and the episode we just got consisted almost entirely of her and her NA sponsor dealing with the situation. I was reminded of the Velvet Underground. That band made some of the most discordant music ever, but they also had lovely songs like "Pale Blue Eyes" which carried more power for being the vicinity of the discord. Euphoria so far is not a show for everyone. It's over the top, excessive in so many ways. Because of this, though, the Christmas episode was kinda like "Pale Blue Eyes" ... it carried more power for being in the vicinity of Season One's craziness. We got a two-person, one-set hour, perfect for filming during a pandemic, with both actors (not just Zendaya but also Colman Domingo as her sponsor) putting together award-worthy highlight reels. Domingo got to be a bit more showy, but Zendaya, who was the youngest person to ever win the Best Actress in a Drama Emmy for her work in Season One, played this special episode low key. We had to watch her face to see what she was going through, and she was going through a lot. I'm excited to see what else Euphoria has in store for us.
Meanwhile, some shows I wrote about this year, and a few I didn't.
The 100. I loved this in spite of itself. The fans were, shall we say, interesting.
Agents of SHIELD. "This final season is a delight, as they use time travel as an excuse for some great looks at the past."
Better Things. "These things are in alphabetical order, but this is the best of the shows. If you only binge one series from this list, this is the one. Pamela Adlon is a genius."
Devs. "While it tended to be obscure, that seemed appropriate for a show that was about philosophical truths."
Gentleman Jack. "It's created by Sally Wainwright, who also created the terrific and dark Happy Valley. The lead is played by Suranne Jones, who I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of, despite her acting for 25 years. Well, I've heard of her now, and I won't be forgetting her soon.
GLOW. "It doesn't get much more surprising than this. GLOW, based on a cheesy rassling show ("Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling") from the 80s, is funny, entertaining, and works as drama, as well. Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin are great as the leads, but the whole cast delivers. There is still one more season to go." (Sad editor's note: the final season was cancelled due to the pandemic.)
High Fidelity, High Fidelity. "From a Nick Hornby novel to a film with John Cusack, always very guy-oriented. This version benefits greatly from 1) making the main character a woman, and 2) casting Zoë Kravitz in the role. She's the best thing about it, although the supporting cast is appealing, as well. Never quite essential, but often fun to watch." Winner of this year's Karen Sisco Award.
Hot Ones. Not really a TV show, I guess ... I'm not talking about the game show on regular television, I'm talking about the YouTube sensation. I look forward to each weekly episode as much as I do any other show on this list. The premise is simple: invite a celebrity to eat ten wings with increasingly hot sauce, and then pump them with questions when their guard drops because they are too busy reacting to the heat. Host Sean Evans is a masterful interviewer who regularly gets compliments from his guests. Among the guests in recent seasons: Zoë Kravitz, Jessica Alba, The Undertaker, Daniel Radcliffe. Watch out for Da Bomb.
I May Destroy You. "What matters is when Arabella accepts that while she will never erase or forget what happened, she can continue with her life, can finally refuse to be defined by her assault. In what can only be called a delightful turn, she is able to clear her writer's block and finish her book, at which time, we realize the series I May Destroy You reflects the book Arabella writes, and serves the purpose for Coel that it does for Arabella."
Lovecraft Country. Mini-series version of a novel by Matt Ruff that was mostly faithful to the novel while turning the book's stylistic touches into filmic flourishes. Occasionally great, never less than good.
Outlander. "Outlander has pulled off a fairly rare feat: its fifth season was on a par with its first."
Perry Mason. "The recreation of 1932 Los Angeles is strong, and Tatiana Maslany delivers in every one of her scenes. Perry Mason is not yet a great show ... it may never be a great show. But it's a lot better than I anticipated, with room to grow."
The Plot Against America. "Anything David Simon does is worth your attention. Here, he and Ed Burns offer a miniseries based on the Philip Roth novel about an alternate history where Charles Lindbergh becomes president in 1940 and America turns fascist. As you can imagine, it feels familiar in 2020. Great cast, great writing, great world creating."
The Queen's Gambit. Not quite a trifle, with fine performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and Marielle Heller. Made chess nerds seem almost cool.
Vida. "A show that was ignored by too many people ... Hopefully, it will be discovered in future years."
Watchmen. "Watchmen is timely ... its made-up world is like our own in worrisome ways (including the fact that in the world of the show, Robert Redford is president). It's also oddly prescient, in a rather backwards way: while the universe of the show is an alternate one, it hinges on the actual events in Tulsa known as the Black Wall Street Massacre, which has been in the news of late."