Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Flashback: Television

<--- Click here to jump to the FILM section             Click here to jump to MUSIC, BOOKS, & MISC. --->

OK, I swear I watched a lot of TV this year. I just think most of it really sucked, so I don't have a lot of options as far as episodes to praise. As a result, I'm making an unprecedented move and doing a Top 5 Best Episodes and a Bottom 10 Worst Episodes, because this is the oasis I need in my cultural desert. 

Apparently we're in a peak TV era, and I've just made the wrong choices. But sue me, nothing about The Bear seems to my taste!


2022 TV Shows I Missed That I Wish I Had Seen Before Compiling This List: Our Flag Means Death, Interview with the Vampire, A League of Their Own, The Sandman, The Rehearsal, The White Lotus, Sanditon, Severance

2022 TV Shows I Missed, Don't Regret Missing, and Will Go Out of My Way to Continue Missing Until the End of Linear Time: The Terminal List, Peacock's Queer as Folk, Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin

Top Five Episodes of 2022

#5 "Yasper" The Afterparty

The premise of The Afterparty is that each person's testimony in a murder mystery is presented in a different genre, and the one that combines star Ben Schwartz and a full-tilt musical couldn't help but be the best. 

#4 "Twenty Two and You" Big Mouth

Just when you think Big Mouth couldn't possibly get any more repulsive and hilarious, they up the ante. This particular episode, in addition to being a stellar exercise in pure vulgarity, is also a pristine sitcom setup, following the characters as they explore their roots and learn how the ways their parents' lives have shaped their own.

#3 "Genie" What We Do in the Shadows

The litany of mythological beings that What We Do in the Shadows has dragged into modern day Staten Island now includes a genie thanks to this hilarious episode exploring how badly the ancient vampire warrior Nandor understands his own desires.

#2 "Kiss" Heartstopper

Heartstopper is a show designed to make viewers squee at least three times an episode anyway, but this third episode is where they really open up the show and bring in the experiences of the characters around the central couple, becoming an intoxicating celebration of queer joy in many different flavors.

#1 "Death on Denial" Chucky

Chucky is a series that has its ups and downs, but this season the proportion leaned far more heavily toward ups. This Halloween special could have just coasted on the fact that it has Jennifer Tilly front and center, in addition to some terrific cameos from her Bound castmates Gina Gershon and Joe Pantoliano as well as her real-life sister Meg Tilly. However, it's top to bottom funny as well, and provides what might be the single most deliciously over-the-top Universal horror-esque shot in the series, where Tilly's screaming face is blasted out into the rainy night on an outdoor video screen that's part of a security system.

Bottom Ten Episodes of 2022

#10 Season 1, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window

The show, which is meant to be a parody of Wine Mom thrillers like Gone Girl and The Woman in the Window, does have funny jokes. Unfortunately, it has about one of them per episode, and the rest of the time it runs viewers through an intentionally generic and hyperbolically boring plot that chokes itself out before the end of the first episode.

#9 "Return of the Mandalorian" The Book of Boba Fett

I don't see a way to review this episode objectively, considering that it is a random episode of The Mandalorian crudely wedged into a miniseries about Boba Fett. 

#8 "First Impressions" The Courtship

Look, reality dating shows have never been my thing. But Jane Austen adaptation fundamentally are, so I had to give this Regency-inspired dating show a shot. The heroine, upon seeing the show's stately manor for the first time, immediately shares her awe that "it's just like a Jane Austen movie." Movie, I ask you! The show goes on to compound that with a variety of bizarre errors about Austenian life and Austen in general (including explicitly referencing a time period that she literally wasn't even alive during).

#7 "Asylum" Moon Knight

After a promising pilot episode, Moon Knight quickly devolved into a bunch of Marvel nonsense. This episode is where it all comes to a head. It thinks it's delivering a fascinating study in subjectivity where we wonder whether the events of the series are all in the lead character's head. What it instead has to offer is a redundant, repetitive, tedious slog through smoke and mirrors with absolutely no stakes.

#6 "A Normal Amount of Rage" She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

I thought Moon Knight was messy, so imagine my surprise when the She-Hulk pilot episode spent an interminable amount of time showing She-Hulk sharing boring chats with her cousin Bruce before darting back to Los Angeles and showing a villain bursting through a wall who then doesn't appear for another four episodes.

#5 "Flipping the Pieces" Only Murders in the Building

Forget the bizarre plotting or ridiculous visual metaphor this episode insists on hanging its hat on, this episode is the second time the series attempts to tell the story of a deaf person and falls flat on its face, assuming that having Selena Gomez loudly scream her lines would be "funny" rather than seriously puzzling.

#4 "Brave" Love, Victor

Season 3 of Love, Victor was fine, but this too-pat series finale fundamentally misunderstands what was appealing about watching the show in the first place. And I'm not just saying that because he ended up with the wrong person, I promise.

#3 Season 3, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Sweet Jesus, Disney+ was not on its shit this year, was it? This summer camp season tries to pull a Midsummer Night's Dream switcheroo of its romantic couplings and ends up closer to that meme where Charlie Day is standing in front of a corkboard covered in knots of red string. 

#2 "Is This Not Real Magic?" She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

In this episode, She-Hulk revealed how vigorously the writers were willing to scrape the bottom of the comedy barrel. Not content to revel in the most basic and asinine "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" comedy punchlines that they'd been relying on in the first couple episodes, they had to throw in magicians and make a couple dusty cracks about them as well. While She-Hulk was convinced it was a sharp modern legal series, it was actually a hoary sitcom and this episode bears the brunt of the absolute worst of those instincts.

#1 "Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine" The Book of Boba Fett

Disney+ has been doing their best to make inoffensive twaddle for several years now, so why on Earth or Tatooine did they think this bizarre retread of Dances with Wolves featuring the Tusken Raiders would be something anyone would be thrilled by in 2022?

Best New Show: Heartstopper

In addition to just being a totally adorable high school romance, Heartstopper is a series that uses graphic elements to heighten its romance with perfect delicacy. These elements, like the leaves sweeping across the frame in the photo above, both pay homage to the story's origins as a graphic novel and spin a delightful fairy tale universe out of a fairly straightforward meet cute story.

Worst New Show: The Book of Boba Fett

This is a mind-boggling object lesson in how not to craft a narrative. The overreliance on flashbacks that informed nothing interesting about the character's current exploits (current exploits which get about 5 minutes of screentime per episode) were bad enough, but then then sending its main cast offscreen for an entire episode revolving around The Mandalorian is an unforgivable mistake, compounded by the fact that its title character doesn't speak a single word in the following episode either, which is doing more or less the same thing. It's a repulsive exercise in branding over narrative, shoving as much Star Wars as it can down your gullet with no consideration as to what might be pleasant or interesting to watch.

Most Improved Returning Show: Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever has always been a totally pleasant show that hasn't gone out of its way to be particularly funny. However, this season was chock-full of laugh out loud moments, showing off a sharper and much more interesting perspective and making me much more excited for the impending season 4.

Best Streaming Show Not Already Mentioned: Ms. Marvel

Not only is Ms. Marvel the least messy Marvel show of the year, it's got an exuberant aesthetic that is pure candy to witness.

Worst Streaming Show Not Already Mentioned: Is It Cake?

This reality show based on the popular meme built around people making cakes that look like real-life objects should have been a "turn your brain off" slam dunk. Unfortunately, SNL's Mikey Day strains to find anything interesting about his hosting gig and the format is just off, forcing most of the contestants not to participate but nevertheless remain sitting in a line onstage the entire time. It must be torture for them, and it feels even more tortuous to witness.

Best Returning Show: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows is nothing short of a miracle, providing a blast of pure comedy with every new episode and never skimping on the uncanny or bizarre.

Best Dramatic Actor: Brad Dourif, Chucky

Dourif has always been a terrific killer doll, but season 2 of Chucky has really allowed him to show off his range, playing a variety of different Chucky personalities that show off just how much he can do with his voice.

Best Comedic Actor: Mark Proksch, What We Do in the Shadows

Colin Robinson's arc this season was weird, as he slowly aged from a baby with a CGI face to a surly teen, and Proksch perfectly captures each stage of his development in a way that would be funny even without the uncanny valley FX sweetening.

Best Dramatic Actress: Lucy Boynton, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Boynton takes this stock character from a not-quite-classic Agatha Christie novel and runs with it, providing a sparkling vein of comedy while also grounding the romance and drama almost singlehandedly.

Best Comedic Actress: Tiffany Haddish, The Afterparty

Tiffany Haddish is an excellent comic actress, as her breakout role in Girls Trip proved, but this is the first  major role that has really challenged her to try something outside of her Thing in some way, and she knocks it out of the park!

Best Dramatic Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke, Moon Knight

Although the series kinda loses track of its villain, Ethan Hawke is absolutely terrifying here, especially in episode 1. Between this and The Black Phone, he's really embracing the creep factor this year.

Best Comedic Supporting Actor: Corbin Bleu, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

While the fact that the series is having Corbin Bleu play himself as a much bigger star than he actually is feels kind of mean, he's having such a blast playing "Corbin Bleu" that way that it's hard to feel too bad about it.

Best Dramatic Supporting Actress: Andrea Carter, Chucky

This character's entire job is to look at Devon Sawa and say "no, that's incorrect," but Andrea Carter breathes such life into it that she becomes one of the most powerfully human presences on the series.

Best Comedic Supporting Actress: Olivia Colman, Heartstopper

This particular honor is being awarded on the basis of a single reaction shot, but that's how powerful Olivia Colman is. Her split-second facial expression after her son attempts to explain not breaking up with a girl because her dog died is pure gold and probably the best TV moment of the year.

Best Actor Outside the Gender Binary: Lachlan Watson, Chucky

This might only have been the case for my Seed of Chucky loving ass, but Watson had big shoes to fill taking on the role of a grown-up Glen/Glenda. But they embrace the gender fluid glamour of the characters while making sure that at any given point while using subtle gradations of performance to craft two entirely distinct personalities, making sure you always know exactly which twin you're dealing with.

Best Couple: She-Hulk and Daredevil, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

Marvel cross-promotion scores a big win here, as Tatiana Maslany and Charlie Cox prove to have totally irresistible chemistry.

Worst Couple: Dean & Nora Brannock, The Watcher

Forget the stalker, the scariest thing in this series is the main couple's complete inability to communicate. Dean is a pissant at the best of times whose only approach to a problem is to scream at it, but Nora compounds this by constantly attempting to fix their marital issues by asking a clearly stressed out and busy man to have sex right when he's in the middle of something and then getting mad that it took him more than 6 seconds to warm up to the idea.

Least Couple: Charles and Joy, Only Murders in the Building

Why oh why hire Andrea Martin just so she can compliment Steve Martin two times over the course of two episodes? Hopefully they have something big planned for her next season.

Best Costume: The Farewell Mr. Big Dress, And Just Like That

Spoiler Alert: Mr. Big dies on a Peloton in AJLT, but you already knew that. To spread his ashes, of course Carrie Bradshaw flies to Paris, dons a dress worthy of Audrey Hepburn, and transfers her long-suffering husband's ashes into an Eiffel tower-themed carrying case for the occasion. Glorious!

Worst Costume: The Versace Gown, And Just Like That

This dress is brought back into the fold via a line where a woman basically implies that it's so good she would have sex with it. Reader, it's not good. Not at all.

Best Worst Costume: The Sun Hat, And Just Like That

Another not at all good look, but this one is making a statement, my friends!

Best SNL Sketch: "Meatballs"

Sometimes when SNL goes weird, everything just goes right. I don't think I can put into words what a transcendent experience watching this sketch for the first time was. 

Worst SNL Sketch: "Kitchen Staff"

Some other times when SNL goes weird, everything goes catastrophically wrong. Heidi Gardner is having the time of her life here, and that provides something of a boost, but the idea that the syllable "lur" can be in and of itself a punchline is an idea that completely escapes me.

Best Musical Performance: "Yeah Sure Whatever" The Afterparty

Ben Schwartz having fun in a musical! What can I say that I haven't already said?

Worst Musical Performance: "For the First Time in Forever/Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Say what you want about the show itself (and I have), the kids in HSM:TM:TS are a very talented bunch. So why on Earth did the show whiff this Frozen mash-up so hard? And I'm not talking about the intentionally bad auditions they threw into the montage. This is a scattershot, strained performance that reflects just how lazy the creators of the show got in general this season. And that final thirty seconds where it builds to a crescendo might be the most unlistenable work put out by professional singers this entire year.

Best Guest Star: Yalitza Aparicio, Los Espookys

Aparicio deserves so much more than this being her first prominent role since she starred in Roma four whole years ago. But at least Los Espookys understood what they had and gave her a juicy role as the literal moon.

Worst Guest Star: Mark Ruffalo, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

I really don't know what went wrong here. But every time he's onscreen in this series, Ruffalo delivers his lines in an affectless shout so intolerable that I wanted to fall on my knees and beg for Marvel to move on.

Best Line: "Oh my god, you have such a large penis, why do you always have to bring up Yale?" Reboot

A very fun reversal on expectations for a very annoying character.

Worst Line: "If I'm you, then I've got this too." Moon Knight

Basically a cheesy motivational poster for a character with dissociative identity disorder, which is less fun than it sounds.

Most Unhinged Commercial: "Taste So Good"

This is normally the spot I reserve for Best Commercial and Worst Commercial, but when it comes to this completely off-the-wall, star-studded music video/commercial for the cannabis-infused beverage Cann, there is no distinction between those two things. It really has everything. Gus Kenworthy looking hot as fuck in a skimpy green outfit while spectacularly failing to dance? Check. Patricia Arquette drinking a Cann and transforming into Kesha? Check. Sarah Michelle Gellar making a cameo for no apparent reason? Also check. What a wild ride this is.

2022 Crush: Aramis Knight

Not to be a backseat writer, but maybe Ms. Marvel could have gone to Pakistan in episode one so we could have more time to spend with Mr. Red Dagger, huh?

Word Count: 2873

No comments:

Post a Comment