Category Archives: Television

Best Streams of 2021

Television:

The Mandalorian (seasons 1&2 on Disney+)

I heard great things about The Mandalorian when it premiered a couple years ago and had been wanting to see it, but I did not have Disney+ (until this past year). So I finally got around to watching the first two seasons of the show and really enjoyed it. I normally prefer movies over TV series, but The Mandalorian was better than the recent Star Wars film trilogy. That’s probably because the showrunner (John Favreau) had more creative freedom since he wasn’t working with the core franchise characters. There were likely too many cooks in the kitchen for the movies, with producers, studio execs, marketing experts, toy manufacturers, and Disney brand advisors all having a say in the plot and characters. Plus there were different writers and directors for the three movies and they apparently didn’t plan together. Beyond that, so much was on the line for the Disney mega-corporation with those movies because of the production and marketing budgets. The Mandalorian had a relatively high budget (~$120 million per season), but the budgets of each Star Wars movie were 2-3x that. They surely saved a lot on marketing by just dropping the show on Disney+ (while people were stuck at home during a pandemic with nothing else to do but watch TV).

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Visceral vs. Cerebral Horror

As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.

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Best TV of 2020: Too Many Shows

The theme this year is that, due to the abundance of streaming services, there is simply too many good TV shows to keep up with. I don’t have time to watch shows that are merely “good”—they must be great. Perhaps it’s just me, and other people (especially during COVID lockdowns) have more free time to devote to television. I used to have lots of time to waste watching TV before I became a writer. These days, the vast majority of my time is spent writing and doing other writing-related business. The second-most amount of time is spent reading. Books, especially science fiction, are generally better than TV. Then there are the daily essentials like exercising, eating, and other errands, during which I listen to podcasts. That leaves me about two hours at night before bed to watch a TV show, movie, or documentary. I’ve cut down on my television watching this year, focusing more on movies and documentaries—again because I don’t have the time to watch multiple multi-season series. I can easily get through a mediocre movie when it’s only an hour or two, but watching a mediocre TV series can take dozens of hours, which is time I don’t have to spare. In the past, whenever I started watching a TV series I’d see it through to the end no matter what, but I’ve been cutting the cord early on TV shows more and more.  My patience for mediocrity evaporates over time. Having said that, there were at least ten shows I saw in 2020 that were worth my time. 

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LOST Revisited

There have been many great television shows since, and the ending wasn’t perfect, but I’ve never had more fun watching a TV show than LOST. The finale was extremely divisive at the time, with many fans claiming it ruined the entire series for them. I won’t spoil any details of the ending other than to say that the dissatisfaction came from frustration that it didn’t provide enough answers to the many mysteries set up over the years. I thought the final episode was amazing in itself, but I was also frustrated that I didn’t get answers to certain mysteries—though ultimately that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the show.

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The Best of the Rest of 2019

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“Axe Cop” by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle

In my final “Best of 2019” post, I’ll be listing my favorite television shows, comic books, video games, and music albums of the year. I haven’t been watching as much television as I used to, (I simply don’t have the time) focusing more on movies, documentaries, and books (and of course, my own writing). There are several 2019 shows I’d still like to watch but haven’t gotten around to yet, such as The Mandalorian and the new Twilight Zone reboot (though I did watch a lot of the original series this past year, and most of the episodes hold up extraordinarily well). Continue reading

Black Mirror and the Future of Storytelling

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Black Mirror is the future. I don’t mean the dystopian technological prophecies in the show will come true (though many of them might). I mean the format of 50 to 70-minute self-contained stories are the future of film and television storytelling. Continue reading

George of Thrones

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The Game of Thrones television series concluded this past Sunday, but I won’t be talking about the finale or its quality. (No spoilers follow) Instead, I want to talk about the mastermind behind the entire Game of Thrones phenomenon. Not the actors or showrunners, but the author of the books upon which the show is based, George R.R. Martin. Continue reading

Earth is “One Strange Rock”

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One Strange Rock is a documentary series that aired on National Geographic in the spring of 2018. Hosted by Will Smith and directed/produced by Darren Aronofsky, the show features interviews with eight astronauts, a rare group of humans who have ever seen Earth from off of Earth. With their unique perspective, they can better understand the planet and our place in the universe.

As well as fascinating information, One Strange Rock also includes spectacular visuals: footage of Earth from above (outer space) and below (the strangest far reaches of the planet). It’s a show that every human on Earth should watch to better understand themselves and the planet we all share. It’s certainly a better viewing option than the daily news cycle. Whereas the news aims to invoke fear and outrage and divide people against each other, One Strange Rock is educational and inspiring and aims to bring us all together.
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Social Anxiety in Black Mirror: White Christmas

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Black Mirror is one of my favorite shows on television. It’s like a modern version of The Twilight Zone, an anthology series exploring the ramifications of technology on life in the present and near-future. “White Christmas,” the seventh overall episode of Black Mirror, touches on some ways in which technology might help people with social anxiety in the future. Continue reading