Thursday, December 14, 2017

MASKED 10 (OR 15) SHOWS FOR 2017

Here’s the annual list of my favorite shows of the year. In no way are these the “best” shows of 2017 because, for the life of me, I don’t know what that means. I try not to be cute and impress you all with some obscure series that is on some unknown network. These are all pretty well-known properties. Although I call it the MASKED 10 it’s really made up of 15 shows and eight of them were carryovers from 2016.

A lot of critical darlings are missing and, yes, I watched several of them but I enjoyed these more. The one I have yet to see is THE HANDMAID’S TALE which I hope to get to possibly over the Holidays. I think I’m going to like it a lot.

As a scheduler, I cannot help but put some of these shows together since the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

They are listed in some order of favoritocity so there is sort of a new favorite among the favorites this year. So, here’s this year’s MASKED 10

Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Americans (FX)
Billions (SHOWTIME)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Master of None (NETFLIX)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
The Deuce (HBO)
Jane the Virgin/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/Riverdale (the CW)
Fresh Off the Boat/The Goldbergs (ABC)
Catastrophe (AMAZON)

Here are the five that didn’t make the cut but I thoroughly enjoyed and would strongly recommend if you have yet to see.

The Magnificent Mrs. Maisel (AMAZON)
Girls (HBO)
Chewing Gum (NETFLIX)
Difficult People (HULU)
Fargo (FX)

If I can say there was one disappointment for me this year it was the return of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO). It has run its course.

The Emperor’s New Clothes series of the year (there always are a bunch to choose from) was LEGION (FX).

Here are the shows I watch out of loyalty and I’m looking forward to a time when I no longer feel the obligation. I’m a completest.

The Walking Dead (AMC)
Orange is the New Black (NETFLIX)
Suits (USA)
Homeland (SHOWTIME)
Empire (FOX)

Finally, PREACHER (AMC) was the freshman show that I was so looking forward to but I found the second season a disappointment.

I already have lots of stuff on the runway for 2018 viewing. It never stops but there’s a lot of really good stuff out there 365 days a year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Here are the MASKED 10 Jazz albums of 2017

Although there was a lot of sweet Jazz this year there was nothing that I would call great or transcendent. These are the ten that would catch my attention while I shuffled through the albums in my collection. The pleasant discover was Joao Barradas and it’s always great when Cecile McLorin Salvant blesses us with an album.

·      DAVID MURRAY & AKI TAKASE – Cherry-Sakura
·      CHARLES LLOYD NEW QUARTET – Passin’ Through
·      JOAO BARRADAS – Directions
·      HELENA ECKEMOFF QUINTET – In the Shadow of a Cloud
·      CECILE McLORIN SALVANT – Dreams and Daggers
·      SHERMAN IRBY & MOMENTUM – Cerulean Canvas
·      VICTOR GONCALVES – Victor Goncalves Quartet
·      JEN SHYU – Song of the Silver Geese
·      JOHN BEASLEY – MONK’estra, Vol.2
·      TROY ROBERTS – Tales & Tones

Thursday, July 13, 2017


TCA the Television Critics Association Press Tour is rapidly approaching. I’m not going to go into my annual rant about its obsolescence but rather I want to recommend that you check out these thought pieces written by two of the preeminent Television writers. Alan Sepinwall and Tim Goodman. I respect them both although Tim finds it necessary to block me on Twitter for some fakakta reason.

Tim’s piece is in the Hollywood Reporter titled “The Post-Review, Post-Premiere, Post-Finale World of Peak TV”. Alan’s article can be found at UPROXX with the catchy title “Does Anyone Still Have Time To Wait For Shows To Get Good?”. The reason why I recommend them prior to the start of TCA is that both, in their own way, are pointing to an existential crisis among those who write about, review or recap shows. Both articles also point the finger at “Peak TV” as the cause of the current woes. I’ll talk more about the myth of Peak TV in another column.

Tim’s concern is that, as viewing becomes increasingly untethered from a schedule, reviews and recaps are still “linear”. The review comes out before the premiere, Recaps are generally written the day after and discussion of the finale occurs at the end of the run of a show. The consumption of the writing is becoming untethered in the same way schedules are becoming less relevant. What’s a writer to do and, oh yeah, he or she can’t get to everything either.

Alan comes at the woes of Peak TV from a different angle. His thesis is (and I agree with him) that, with so much TV to consume viewers no longer have the luxury to wait for a show to “get good’ in the sixth or seventh episode. Consumers will move on and the critic has to accept that they will not return. Viewers don’t have the luxury of screening several episodes before realizing that something may be a gem. Alan points out that it may take well into the second season of a show before it blossoms. He credits his wife with the term “hope-watching” to describe this phenomena.

One of the more interesting points in the article is Alan’s theory that part of the blame for the slow starts of shows is that streaming series are dropped in entirety (most of the time) which emboldens the show creator to see his or her oeuvre as a movie rather than an episodic TV show. What is even more intriguing is that Alan posits that this form of storytelling is being adopted by cable and even network television.

I have talked about cable envy, the notion that networks started to see more failure as they tried to act like a cable network in show selection forgetting that many quality cable shows get small audiences. I actually had to shut down my blog back in the day for making this point regarding a show called LONE STAR. Whether intentional or not Alan has pointed out that there is now “streaming envy”. I want to think more about it because I also think it has some negative consequences for the biz.

What’s sort of ironic about these pieces is that network television has been described as a dinosaur by many who write about the business and now they are realizing that the same is true for their game. Theses to pieces talk about how to adapt to the new realities…something the networks have been doing for decades.

I could go on but read these two excellent think pieces. My guess there will be a lot of talk about Peak TV and the business of writing and reviewing at this year’s TCA.