Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer TV Review

With all this talk about Peak TV this summer, you would think there would be tons of original shows to watch and obsessed over the past few months. Oh wait, there were! With the fall TV season already starting up, I just wanted to take a few moments to celebrate the great TV I saw this past summer starting with my favorite...

1. Sense8 - This Netflix sci-fi series from  Andy and Lana Wachowski absolutely took a hold of me like no other show this year. The show's concept is as intriguing as it is epic. Eight individuals, strangers to one another and situated around the world, suddenly find themselves connected physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. They are able to experience what the others experience, take over each other's bodies and minds, share skills and memories, and so much more. This unique ability shared among the Sensates as they are called provides the show with many opportunities to highlight issues of identity, family, sexuality, among many others. Plus with a truly diverse and international cast and shooting locations, the scope is appropriately epic. Of course all of this would mean nothing without great characters and honestly it is impossible to pick a favorite from the main Sensates to the large supporting cast playing their loved ones. Is the show perfect? Hardly, especially with its thin and convoluted government conspiracy plot. But it's still one of the most high-reaching and highly empathetic show you'll ever find.

2. Orange is the New Black - Netflix making a second appearance already, but why not? This show was groundbreaking two years ago when it premiered and it's still breaking ground. One of my absolute favorite things about this show is its ability to get into every character, no matter how small, and see what makes them tick. Their decision to switch it up from last season and not have a central villain character shows the show's willingness to keep experimenting as well as making their "protagonist" becoming a little antagonistic and, more surprisingly, a bit more of a supporting player. But it's unavoidable with a large and talented cast, still one of the best and most diverse in TV these days.

3. Mr. Robot - USA Network is usually known for its light and casual procedurals so I initially didn't give Mr. Robot any mind. That was until all the critics couldn't stop raving about it. Since I was already a fan of lead actor Rami Malek, I gave it a shot and thank goodness I did because what I discovered was a thrilling hacker drama with more layers and twists than I dare thought was possible for a TV show. Malek, with his sharp features and wide eyes, is the perfect lead playing the brilliant, insane, socially anxious Eliot Anderson. The show, like its central character, keeps wanting to alienate, but only pulls you right into its drama. The show's technical prowess must also be commended from its truly cinematic and arresting visuals to its bombastic sound. All of it plays in perfect service to the truly fucked up world where you hardly know who is good or evil, real or imaginary, friend or foe.

4. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp - Yeah, so Netflix is just kicking ass and taking names even more so with this most improbable show. How did they possibly decide to do a prequel to a cult film from a decade ago starring all of the original actors, most of whom have gone on to much bigger, better things? And once they did and got everything done to see it through, including getting all of the aforementioned actors to agree to appear on the show, how did they actually make it as good as it was? To get into specifics would be moot, but creators and writers David Wain and Michael Showalter truly captured the wacky spirit of their film and adapted it well to TV. And huge kudos to the all of the actors being back as it really wouldn't have been the same without all of them participating in this very weird, very funny show.

5. Hannibal - The fact that this show lasted on NBC for three seasons seems just as improbable with its dark and grotesque subject matter coupled with its tragically low ratings. But thankfully Bryan Fuller and company were able to have relatively free rein to tell their masterful tale of Hannibal Lecter and the people he consumed, both literally and figuratively. Granted this season, I think they went a little too out there even for my taste, but the fact that they went to those crazy places is one of the things I loved and will miss about the show. Shout out to Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Gillian Anderson, and everyone else on the cast for what they did and were able to do.

Quick thoughts on other shows...

- Yes, this summer there was a show about humans called Mr. Robot and a show about robots called Humans. Multitudes. Anyways, this "robots have feelings too" show was really quite good with some aces acting.

American Ninja Warrior - Still one of the best competitive reality shows to watch over summer. Compelling (and attractive) cast of characters doing something only few of us can attempt to do.

So You Think You Can Dance - The Street vs. Stage format change was super annoying enough to make me think for a moment about not watching this season, but the immense talent, which never left, convinced me to stick around.

Teen Wolf/Scream - Lumping both of these together, because they're both on MTV and gave me my requisite "hot teens in immortal danger" and "hot teens dying a lot" storylines I apparently crave.

Face Off - Yes, another reality show, but this one is so good. They do cool special effects makeup! And the contestants actually help each other! And the judges know what they're talking about! What a concept.

Unreal - And finally, I only saw the pilot of this show before it suddenly became unavailable to watch, but that one episode showed me exactly why so many people became quite obsessed with it this summer. Hope to see more of it when it's available to watch again.

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