Servant Season 1 (Apple TV+) Written by Tony Basgallop Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Daniel Sackheim, Nimrod Antal, Alexis Ostrander, Lisa Bruhlmann, and John Dahl
A few months ago, I posted reviews of the first episodes of a handful of Apple TV+ shows, and overall I wasn’t very impressed. The entire slew seemed very derivative of already popular shows from the past (The Newsroom, Game of Thrones, etc.). I was intrigued by Servant, a horror series produced by M. Night Shyamalan. Despite my intense disappointment with that director’s recent output, I figured he was producing so he couldn’t screw the show up too badly. The first couple episodes were a little rough going, it took some time to get a feel for the tone the series was going for. By the end of the season, they had me hooked, and I am ready for season two to get here.
555 (2017) John Early and Kate Berlant became two of my favorite comedic talents during the 2010s. They met while doing stand up in New York and shared the same sensibilities. That leads to some of the best videos on YouTube and eventually, this limited series on Vimeo. 555 is five episodes centered around people who work in the entertainment industry. They are at different levels from a child actor to two self-centered executives to actors in a class. The other common thread is that these people are insanely self-absorbed and will passively-aggressively try to one-up each other to the point of absurdity. There is a beautiful line that gets crossed in every episode where it goes from awkward to the stupidest people in the world trying to impress each other. No one else can hit this type of comedy as well as Early & Berlant, and I want more.
The Mandalorian (Disney+) Season One, Episode Eight – “Chapter Eight: Redemption” Written by Jon Favreau Directed by Taika Waititi
It comes down to a shoot out in the streets, a showdown with the man in black, the sacrifice of one to save the rest. The Mandalorian gives in to its Western roots most completely in this season finale. Dyn Jarren is pinned down in a cantina with Cara Dune and Greef Karga. The odds are not in their favor as the Imperials set up some devastating weapons. But we know that despite how many times he gets knocked around or has his ass handed to him, Jarren always seems to luck out.
Over the Garden Wall (2014) Born out of the inspiration that Adventure Time brought to Cartoon Network, Over the Garden Wall is a mini-series following two brothers wandering through a mysterious forest and encountering strange people. The series was created by Patrick McCale, who had previously worked on Adventure Time and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Over the Garden Wall is a deep dive into the Americana aesthetic of the 19th & early 20th centuries. Many musical numbers consist of pre-1950s phonograph recordings. You’ll be reminded of early animation from the 1920s & 30s in many of these episodes. There’s such a remarkable charm to this show that few animated series possess. It’s funny while being genuinely terrifying at moments, enigmatic and wistful. It’s a program that understands what nostalgia actually is and how that feeling is different from reality. Our protagonists drift through abstract forest landscapes emerging into the dreams and fantasies of others, interacting for a while before being pulled into another story.
Billy On the Street (2011 – present) The late-night show is a tired format in the 21st century, the same template slapped on the program no matter what the network. You see, a suited man deliver a monologue, maybe do a skit, interview a celebrity, add, rinse, repeat. Billy Eichner has taken the boring talk show and the game show and blended them together in a chaotic, frenzied, and beautiful mess. Often, Eichner tows a celebrity guest along with him as they rush through the streets of New York, asking passersby lightning speed questions and giving them little time to respond. The best moments are those subjective questions where Eichner inserts his personal opinions as to the correct answer, usually involving Meryl Streep. The series began on the obscure Fuse cable channel, transferred to TruTv, got picked up by Funny or Die, and is now currently sponsored by Lyft. Previous seasons have hopped around digital platforms but currently find their home on Netflix.
Lost The Final Season (2010) The decade began with an ending, the finale of one of the biggest shows of the 2000s. The phenomenon of Lost is something that will likely never be captured again. It was a network television series that became a must-see obsessive viewing for almost everyone you knew. The series was entrenched in conspiracy and theories, and each fan had their own wild take on what things meant and where the story was going. The reactions to the series finale were definitely mixed, to say the least. Some fans absolutely hated the character-focused wrap-up while others (like myself) defend how the story concluded. I followed the weekly podcast by Damon Lindeloff & Carlton Cuse religiously and knew that the first three seasons were stretched out longer than the creators wanted to. Once the series got to its fourth round of episodes, the show moved at a much faster pace with a clear intention. There was still plenty of mystery, but I argue that a lot of things were answered in subtle, ingenious ways. I also recommend watching the fan edit of Chronological Lost, where all flashbacks come first before the island, and the flash-forwards feel more cohesive. You can find that fan edit on the regular torrenting locations, and it gave me a great appreciation of the whole show.
All Good Things Parts 1 & 2 (original airdate: May 23rd, 1994) Written by Brannon Braga & Ronald D. Moore Directed by Winrich Kolbe
We live in an age where the future is a blur, hazy, and unfocused due to so many dire circumstances. The clash of ideologies with fascism gaining a sort of traction that it hasn’t had in a long time. The screaming threat of climate change, setting off klaxons, and demanding our immediate action. The existential crisis of the soul that has come about from two decades of war. The hypernormalization of a system that is collapsing. Star Trek posits that one day this human strife will end, and we will ascend into new enlightenment, a socialist utopia where our species unites with the galaxy. It’s hard to see that while you stand in the middle of the burning forest but I hope this show is correct.