As said, this year I expanded my note keeping. I’m also recording TV and movies I’ve seen and while I’m not sure if there isn’t a whiff of lunacy to the scope of my tracking, it can be useful, especially for multi-seasonal TV content to decide if one should give next season a go when it comes out. I watched a lot of TV and I mean a lot. I could despair about time I spent doing it if much of it wasn’t to relieve boredom of indoor exercise, there were better things to do or if I was snobbish about TV watching as such which I am not. However, it does make this post absurdly long.
I did spend comparatively little time watching movies. Ironically that was because they are longer and it is easier to fit up to an hour long chunks of content into exercise regimen or dying hours of a day. As blasphemous as this is to many directors, maybe I should watch movies in parts next year (except those rare few I still grudgingly see at local cinemas).
Shows and movies I most liked are marked in bold.
Of all the things that could be watched this year, Leaving Neverland had and will have by far the most profound and doubtlessly lasting impact on me and I didn’t even see it!
Every year there are shows on which I disagree with most critics. This year I was most bothered by gushing over Succession, which is well done but forgettable and poor reception of The Morning Show, which deserves more respect.
I was especially impressed by the first episode of Fleabag, mini series Chernobyl and all seasons of Rectify. I think they are all masterpieces.
- The ABC Murders. I was at first skeptical about Malkovich playing Poirot, but he did the excellent script by Sarah Phelps full justice. Her changes to original material were substantial and not for Christie or Poirot purists, but have really elevated the material above a light evening entertainment. It is the only Christie adaptation I remember thinking about days after I saw it and could not recommend it enough.
- Camping (Season 1). An odd and occasionally funny outing of mostly unlikeable characters that really goes off the rails in the last episode and makes you question why you bothered watching.
- No Activity (Season 1). A US adaptation of an Australian show about two bored coppers on a stake out where nothing much happens. Uneven, but mostly funny enough for light entertainment.
- Luther (Season 5). Luther was always also silly, but Neil Cross really stopped caring. The best I can say about season 5 is that it wasn't season 4 or Hard Sun and I could ignore nonsensical stuff most of the time. Still, no matter what happens to Luther in the future, this is the last one I'll see.
- Inside Look: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, American Crime Story (Season 2). Did not expect to like or be interested in this one, but it was excellent. Versace's murder is used not only to show what happened to the famous designer, but also to explore and explain what led to it and how difficult it was to be gay.
- Mrs. Wilson. Ruth Wilson plays portrays her grandmother in an extraordinary story about consequences of a marriage to a bigamist.
- Friends from College (Season 2). Not well received second season of a show about a group of friends from college (hence title) of questionable character. Obviously not for everyone, but I liked both seasons.
- Schitt's Creek (Season 1). A sitcom about a family of suddenly impoverished living in a town they own. Funny enough, but I've been told it gets better in later seasons.
- Russian Doll (Season 1). A young woman keeps dying and reliving her birthday party while trying to figure out what is happening. Could easily be a tropey take on popular reliving a day theme, but is absolutely terrific in so many not always obvious ways. A must see.
- Billions (Season 3, aborted). I liked first two seasons even with some reservations, but had to stop watching 3rd after 4 parts. Problems with script and to a lesser extent acting just became unbearable.
- Catastrophe (Season 4). A decent ending to fantastic series that might not have reached previous heights (for good reasons), but that I enjoyed throughout.
- The Good Fight (Seasons 1-3). Spinoff of The Good Wife with some improvements, but with the same unappealing female acceptance of male transgressions in first season. Gets better in second and completely absurd by the end of the third. For fans of the original series.
- The Durrels (Season 1, aborted). Series made after a popular English book. Could not keep interest after 4th episode of the first season.
- Shetland (Season 5). If you are a fan of competently done crime series, Scotland accent and moody landscape, then this is a show for you. I am.
- Amy Schumer Growing. Comedy special for fans of Amy's humour. Not among best, but I laughed plenty.
- The Romanoffs (aborted). Watched only the first episode of this anthology series. Waste of time.
- Rectify (Season 1-4). Probably the most realistic take on life and life challenges after surviving death row. Profound, engaging and uninterested in cheap thrills. One of the very best TV series ever made.
- Ófærð (Trapped) (Season 2). I liked the first series a lot and had great expectations for the second. It was fine at first, but script got more ridiculous as it was coming closer to the end. Still beautiful shots of Iceland's landscape, but not much to recommend otherwise for those not exceptionally gullible.
- John Mulaney Comback Kid. Funny.
- The Victim. A short drama series about aftermath of a horrible event, when a boy murdered a younger boy. Thoughtful, provocative and well acted. Not an easy viewing, but very worthwhile.
- Back To Life (Season 1). A dark comedy about rebuilding life after 18 years in prison. Moving, funny and, apart from too long prison sentence, believable. Hope there will be a second season.
- Good Trouble (Season 1, aborted). Awful, bloody awful. A rare miss from usually reliable source of recommendations. Ditched in the middle of the second episode because we couldn't stand the stupidity of it all anymore.
- Dead to Me (Season 1). Liked it better than most critics. Would watch another season.
- Veep (Season 7). Last season of a very funny show that had to work very hard not to become a documentary.
- Wanda Sykes: Not Normal. Like most comedy specials best for fans of the performer which I am.
- Chernobyl. A short series about the accident and its aftermath. The best HBO series in years and I cannot recommend it (and its official podcast) enough.
- Good Omens. I love the book so I am ill equipped to judge this series, but book's fans should definitely like it.
- Catch-22. Not so much an adaptation as it was inspired by the book. Probably this series can be alright for those who haven't read the book and should NOT be a substitute for reading it.
- Enlightened (Season 1). 9th episode is a small gem, but I otherwise could not warm up to this highly regarded series. Maybe it would leave a better, more ground-breaking impression in 2011, but in 2019 its mostly odious characters really don't need this much time and space.
- Fleabag (Season 2). A great follow-up to the excellent first second with the first episode a spectacular Pinter-like comedy drama deserving to be taught in film school.
- Years and Years (aborted). Unexpectedly horrible to the point where we gave up after 2 episodes. Paper thin characters, speechifying, trying to touch so many issues it becomes a pale ideological satire of present. I have no idea how this can be Russell T. Davies' work and why critics like it.
- Simon Amstell: Set Free. Funny.
- Mindhunter (Season 2). Drama about development of FBI profiling. Second season is as good as the first one.
- Succession (Season 1-2). A comic drama series of Murdoch/Sinclair/Redstone like family. Or as someone described it: HBO Billions. Fine in the first season, but much better in its second. Good, but not as great as described.
- Unbelievable. A short series based on true events of catching a serial rapist. Excellently executed with respect to everyone involved in original events.
- State of the Union (Season 1). A series of 10 minute episodes about a couple with marriage in crisis. Written by Nick Hornby. Opinions about it are divided in our household, but I liked all episodes except last one.
- Better Things (Season 3). Hard to give a good short description of this series that is even more structureless in this 3rd season, but it remains being one of my favourite.
- Criminal: United Kingdom (Season 1). A police procedural anthology series with 3 well written and played episodes, especially first two.
- Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh. Another comedy special with Gary talking about his struggles with depression. Worth seeing.
- Big Little Lies (Season 2). Not great as the first season, but fine. I do wonder what it would look like if they kept Andrea Arnold's vision.
- Criminal: Germany (Season 1). Second part was bad, but not unwatchable as Criminal: France, the rest of it was very good with two stellar supporting role performances.
- Grantchester (Season 4). Fourth series of crime drama for fans of sleuthing vicars in post-WWII England. As it ever was, but I've had enough.
- The Deuce (Season 2-3). A three season drama about systemic exploitation of women and other marginal groups through prostitution, pornography and government/police indifference and corruption. Not an easy watch, but absolutely worth it.
- The Crown (Season 3). New cast, same family. This time with less affection for people involved, but otherwise much like first two seasons. Meaning still a very good TV.
- Les témoins (Witnesses) (Season 2, aborted). First series was great and second is like watching a car crash. I couldn't believe the same people were involved in creating a series that is even worse than the abysmal 3rd season of Line of Duty. Why in the world did I not give up sooner?
- Mike Birbiglia: The New One. I worship in the church of Birbiglia whose every outing makes me want to become a writer. There is no better storyteller among comedians and his most recent show is no exception.
- The Guilt. A fun to watch comedy crime series with unexpected ending that tests those who like moral or just endings.
- Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby. Funny. I especially liked the part channeling his wife.
- The Morning Show (Season 1). Underrated show about TV morning show examining #MeToo revelations and its consequences on all. Less flashy but with more depth than better received Succession.
There were few real duds this year and a few movies I really liked, but the one that I keep thinking about is Portrait of a lady on fire. It is rare I see a movie which cannot be moved to a different art form without losing some of its magic.
- Manbiki kazoku (Shoplifters). A bittersweet story about a family of misfits trying to survive on margins of Japanese society with help of small crimes and contemplation of what constitutes a family. Not a mood lifter, but one of the best films I've seen in last year.
- The Favourite. Drama often mislabeled as a comedy because of comic bits about life of Queen Anne. Absolutely must see even if you don't care one iota about Anne.
- Den skyldige (The Guilty). A Danish thriller about a police dispatcher receiving a distress call with nothing but his phone, wits and police database to go on with to genre befitting twists and turns. Wholly well done and definitely recommended.
- Vice. A movie about Dick Cheney's rise to power with an almost distractingly good performance from Christian Bale. Well made and certainly above a typical biography and I enjoyed the movie greatly.
- Widows. More drama than a thriller about a group of robber widows organising a heist. Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn raise the movie above normal genre fare without sacrificing any of the thrills.
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Rewatched it after a long time and can still be enjoyable if one can get pass Ferris' obvious psychopathic traits.
- Post Mortem. A movie about a shy Chilean clerk falling in love with his neighbour during 1973 military coup. Good movie, but not an easy watch.
- Wine Country. An addition to comedy genre of group of friends celebrating birthday on a long weekend trip. Fairly formulaic and mostly for fans of people involved.
- Phantom Thread. A well produced and acted character study of broken unpleasant people. It kept my interest for 2 hours, but did not left me with any lingering thoughts.
- Frygtelig lykkelig (Terribly Happy). I feel like I've seen this noir thriller before. My wife was disappointed, but I thought it was OK.
- Office Christmas Party. I did not dislike this movie as most seem to even though it can be really ridiculous. Kate McKinnon is a comedic goddess.
- Booksmart. This movie deserves a better trailer. It's a very funny and refreshing take on a known end of high school formula. Certainly one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in recent years.
- La Gomera. Another wife's disappointment and I can see how Gilda's part can be really grating, but I enjoyed it while watching even though its main idea is ridiculous on the first examination.
- Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a lady on fire). Cinema at its finest. There's not a tone played wrongly in this love story and I hope to see it again soon.
- The Souvenir. Movies do not get better reviews than this one and I have no idea why. I liked Hogg's Archipelago and Souvenir is certainly technically well done, but the story is pedestrian and has been better done too many times before and I couldn't find anything else to get out of this movie.
- Ema. I've seen most Larraín's movies and liked all of them except this one. I got confused by focusing on the wrong thing in a crucial scene, but even with that it shows that parts of the movie were done without script as I found characters rambling off-putting. It's still Larraín's movie so not without merit, but I was still overall disappointed.
- The Accidental Tourist. The kind of movie studios don't really make anymore. A story about life after family tragedy, end of marriage and new hope. Worth seeing.