Yellowjackets Season One (Showtime) Written by Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, Jonathan Lisco, Sarah L. Thompson, Liz Phang, Ameni Rozsa, Chantelle M. Wells, Katherine Kearns, Cameron Brent Johnson Directed by Karyn Kusama, Jamie Travis, Eva Sørhaug, Deepa Mehta, Billie Woodruff, Ariel Kleiman, Daisy von Scherler Mayer, and Eduardo Sánchez
Yellowjackets was a show I knew of, a piece of background noise in the seemingly infinite media landfill of our age. What I knew about it before watching the first season is that it was about people getting stuck out in the wilderness. I also knew who some of the actresses in the series were, but beyond that, I couldn’t have told you much. It’s not too odd to know a decent amount about things I don’t watch simply through cultural osmosis. Nevertheless, something about what I had seen of Yellowjackets kept me interested enough to finally sit down and watch the first season. I was met with something I liked but didn’t love, an interesting mix of Desperate Housewives and Lost that intrigues me enough to be up for the second season.
Netflix Presents the Characters One Season, Eight Episodes
I’ve been surprised that Netflix never followed up on this one. It was an eight-episode anthology series, with each entry spotlighting the particular comedic sensibilities of a performer. Tim Robinson’s episode led to the greenlighting of I Think You Should Leave. It also focused on other great comedy writers/performers like Paul Downs, Kate Berlant, and John Early. Robinson & Early’s episodes are my two favorites out of the batch. Of course, with most shows of this kind, your mileage will vary from episode to episode based on your taste.
Lucky Hank Season One (AMC) Written by Paul Lieberstein, Aaron Zelman, Adam Barr, Emma Barrie, Jean Kyoung Frazier, Jasmine Pierce, and Taylor Brogan Directed by Peter Farrelly, Dan Attias, Jude Weng, and Nicole Holofcener
I went into Lucky Hank with moderately high expectations. I have been a big fan of Bob Odenkirk for decades and loved his time as Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul. I picked up the novel that the show is based on, Straight Man by Richard Russo, and it has been one of my favorite reads of the year so far. However, when I reached the season finale of Lucky Hank, I had one feeling prominent at the front of my mind: relief that it was over and I was never watching any more of this show. That doesn’t mean the show is horrible, but it does not fit my sensibilities. Instead, we got a single-camera dramedy sitcom hybrid with Lucky Hank, complete with spots where we are intended to laugh with the laugh track absent.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 “The Best of Both Worlds” Part I (June 18, 1990) Written by Michael Piller Directed by Cliff Bole
Once upon a time, television shows in America operated on a seasonal basis. Most new shows would premiere in September and wrap up their seasons in May, paving the way for a summer of reruns. Along the way, there would be mid-season replacements debuting around January, and networks followed this structure year after year. As cable began producing prestige dramas and streaming dominated everything, this cycle ceased. Now season finales can happen anytime in the year based on when you are watching something. I also want to point out that this is a season finale list, not a series finale list. The end of a show’s run is a whole different animal than wrapping up a season. You can bet there will be a list for that sometime.
Deadwood Season Two (HBO) Written by David Milch, Jody Worth, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Ted Mann, Victoria Morrow, Steve Shill, Regina Corrado, Sarah Hess, and Bryan McDonald Directed by Ed Bianchi, Steve Shill, Alan Taylor, Gregg Feinberg, Michael Almereyda, Tim Van Patten, and Dan Minahan
For those who like to think about the Old West as a time of genteel masculine honor, a show like Deadwood will disappoint you. This is not a cowboy show about the white hats taking down the black hats. David Milch had no interest in making a show that propped up myths of that sort. That doesn’t mean Deadwood is a dead-accurate show; it is still a piece of fiction. However, I suspect it may be one of the closest things we’ve ever had to detailing what life was like in the lawless places of America once upon a time. This is a visceral show that doesn’t shy away from the grotesque nature of a world where medicine was not commonplace and bodily fluids flowed as much in public as in private. The Old West was a filthy disgusting place. People who romanticize it wouldn’t be able to handle it if they were sent back there. Remembering what a shithole it was helps us understand why it is so vital that we move the needle forward on the human race.
The Last of Us Season One (HBO) Written by Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann Directed by Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann, Peter Hoar, Jeremy Webb, Jasmila Žbanić, Liza Johnson, and Ali Abbasi
Media has conditioned us to think the “end of the world” will be explosively catastrophic. Think of the movies of Roland Emmerich or the Skynet awakening of James Cameron’s Terminator films. The reality is collapse is a rolling event; it begins in the corners of the developing world and inches its way toward the imperial core. This could take place over any amount of time, but it is guaranteed that all civilizations collapse at some point. The Biblical story of Noah’s flood, an event that also pops up in various other cultures, was probably just a localized flood that devastated the region. Over time it was exaggerated, and details were added. If the collapse hasn’t reached you yet, when it does, you might not even notice it. When you take in the weight of it all, you may wish for some big explosive moment instead of the dull, soul-crushing march that lies before you.
Deadwood Season One (HBO) Written by David Milch, Malcolm MacRury, Jody Worth, Elizabeth Sarnoff, John Belluso, George Putnam, Bryan McDonald, Ricky Jay, and Ted Mann Directed by Walter Hill, Davis Guggenheim, Alan Taylor, Ed Bianchi, Michael Engler, Dan Minihan, and Steve Shill
On one level, Deadwood operates as a white dude character actor showcase. I guarantee you will spend time proclaiming some variation of “It’s that guy from that thing.” I have always been a huge fan of character actors, which is why The Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson are some of my favorite filmmakers. They can find great actors with unique looks and give them fantastic scripts to perform. The exact same could be said of Deadwood, one of the early “children’ of the success of The Sopranos on HBO. Once that series made its big splash, the network invested a lot more money in developing unique dramas with some of the most substantial writing in the industry. David Milch honed his skills on Hill Street Blues & experienced a controversial hit with NYPD Blue. Deadwood would serve as a tribute to his love of the Western genre, populating the television series with actual figures from the historical Deadwood but infusing it all with an air of Shakespearean gravitas.
Somebody Somewhere (HBO) Written by Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen, and Patricia Breen, Directed by Jay Duplass and Robert Cohen
“Real America,” they call it. The immense middle vastness of the United States, I suppose. Though it isn’t actually real. What they mean by that idea is exclusionary, shorthand for people “like you” who aren’t welcome here. It’s not entirely that simple, though. It’s a clash of the way of thinking in urban environments versus rural environments, which makes it more complicated because “Real America” is peppered with cities. Rural resentments towards cities are not totally unfounded; they are certainly misguided. These perceptions all come from a place that says there’s a limited amount of life in the world, and things unfamiliar to them threaten that sustained existence. If you step back, you can see that any sense of scarcity on the most basic human level of reality is a joke at this point, with excess wasted every day from sea to shining sea. There is room enough for everyone and plenty to keep them alive. Yet, we keep coming up with ways to ignore that.
The Enterprise Incident (S03E02) Original air date: September 27, 1968 Written by D.C. Fontana Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
The paradox of making good television: You need to make the episodes as high quality to attract viewers, but you have to make sure you can cut costs at the drop of a hat when the studio executives demand it, but if you lose viewers as a result, you will need to make more cuts as advertisers go, but if you can’t do that your show gets moved around the schedule which means you lose more viewers because they cannot find you. This curse plagued Star Trek going into its third season, relegated to the “death slot” of 10 pm Eastern on Fridays. As a result, Season Three has fewer great episodes than Season Two, and even this season’s strongest episodes don’t match up. However, there are some worth watching.
Amok Time (S02E01) Original air date: September 15, 1967 Written by Theodore Sturgeon Directed by Joseph Pevney
By the end of Star Trek Season One, the audience had come to a realization: Spock was fucking cool. Another person also realized this, Leonard Nimoy. The actor realized his role as Spock held just as much importance in each episode as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and demanded a pay increase. He got it. Desilu Studios, who produced Star Trek, did hire a backup actor just in case Nimoy walked. Amok Time features that actor Lawrence Montaigne as Stonn. This is also the season two premiere and the first & only episode of the original series to bring the crew to Vulcan. We dig deep into their culture as Spock experiences a critical time in every Vulcan’s life: Pon farr.