2023 in lists: Television

A work in progress. And … a sign of the times that I am watching so much TV these days, that it’s better to make a separate post for it, and leave the movies, books and theatre in their own post.


  • Wednesday: I did find this entertaining, and Jenna Ortega is a star. I found it slow in parts and that it could have been a bit better, but I don’t think I was the target audience.  
  • The Resort: This science fiction time-travelling murder mystery was called a cross between ‘White Lotus’ and ‘Murders in the Building’, so we HAD to see it. Starring William Jackson Harper, Cristin Milioti and others, this was really engaging and whacky. We quite, quite liked it. 
  • Welcome to Chippendales: A sordid tale, told with camp abandon. Some critics have been calling it shallow but I found the performances great and was drawn in.
  • Fleishman is in Trouble: Such a dark vision of middle age, at least rich, straight, Jewish middle-aged New Yorkers with kids. And never have I seen a television show (a mini-series at least) with so much narration, literary narration since it was adapted from a book (that I loved) and that it worked. I found this to be amazing television: funny, sad, transfixing, engaging and original.
  • Borgen, season 3: Husband is watching this for the first time and I’m rewatching it. Such good TV. I’m transfixed by the great actors and wonderful storytelling. This was the season where Birgitte launched a new political party, the New Democrats. Excellent.
  • Smiley: A gay Spanish rom-com, told in eight episodes, based on a play. I actually found the writing really weak in parts, but I was so charmed by some of the characters, and felt their emotion, that I’m glad we watched it. 
  • Conversations with Friends: 12 half-hour episodes of dreamy melancholy, it took me forever to get all the way through it: I found something interesting about how natural the characters were and spoke and yet, in the end, not enough happened for me, not enough developed. Asked to engage with a lead character who is supposedly such a promising writer, but is, as clearly spelled out, unemotional, inexpressive and with little self-knowledge: in the end, I wasn’t on board. 
  • The Last of Us: A mushroom zombie thriller? It reminds me in parts of the Handmaid’s Tale, and then of horror films. The gay episode was spectacular and unexpected. I didn’t like it as much as everyone else seemed to, and some parts were weaker than others, but I was still engaged.
  • Beef: I’m still processing this but I loved it in so many ways, and it totally blew my mind. 
  • In Our Blood: A four-part dramatisation of Australia’s response to HIV. Having worked in the HIV sector here, I just found it too weird to relate to: how a complex success story was translated to a play then TV with some cover versions of songs at the time and marketed as a musical. 
  • Schmigadoon, Season 2 (Schmicago): If you love musicals, golly gosh, this show is so much fun. Stepping forward from Rogers and Hammerstein into Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd, the actors are clearly enjoying the hell out of themselves.
  • Poker Face. We loved Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll and I found this really, really fun, a retro vibe, unusually episodic. Yup, I enjoyed it. 
  • Modern Love Amsterdam. I always loved the Modern Love column in NYT, but have only caught a few episodes of the American television series. But both of us love Amsterdam and our Dutch friends, and it’s surprisingly attractive to just HEAR Dutch being spoken from our television. It felt sometimes like the storytelling was culturally unfamiliar, so I didn’t ‘get’ it all the time, but all in all, the series, only six episodes, was enjoyable.
  • Only Murders in the Building, Season 3. Silly, entertaining, watchable. I love watching Martin Short and Steve Martin overact, and Selena Gomez underact. A fun season. 
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Season 2: Husband is the Trekkie and he’s introduced me to how fantastic Anson Mount’s hair is, and hot Spock. I enjoyed this season enough, particularly the lighter episodes. The musical episode was great, and I liked the manic cartoon mash-up with Star Trek: Lower Decks (which I am unfamiliar with). But I felt manipulated with the finale, so tonally different than the other episodes, and seeming only to exist to create a cliffhanger and make us wait until … next year (and after the writer’s strike) for the next season. 
  • Lupin, Part 3: I really enjoyed the earlier ‘parts’ of Lupin but this one not as much. Too many actions were out of character and the plot twists not believable. They seemed to be more about creating story and plot instead of being true to the character that I’ve been introduced to and charmed by. 
  • All the Light We Cannot See: These days, I don’t actually require TV to be good, just to be entertaining. So we didn’t mind this series, not having read the book, and I’m somewhat amused by how terrible the reviews are from those who liked the book. Really terrible. I couldn’t get over the device of every character speaking in accented English, no matter their nationality AND that they could understand each other automatically. That and Mark Ruffalo’s terrible contrived accent. 
  • The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart: Beautiful cinematography and I really enjoyed seeing Sigourney Weaver, Leah Purcell and the young Alice, Alyla Browne, who was astonishing. But after a few episodes, I think they lost control of the story all together, substituting coherent plot with vibe and music. Then, once you’ve got a gist of it, it was disturbing and hopeless. Pretty much every woman character has a terrible secret involving violence committed on them by one-dimensional male abusers. And if you’re not going to inject some hope (or retribution) into the story, then at least make it realistic. This almost felt exploitative in its pain. 

Documentaries and Reality Television

  • Physical: 100. I’ve always liked TV competitions, such as Gladiators or the challenges on Survivor. But this was next level. Take 100 attractive and generally interesting athletes from Korea, and combine it with Squid Game and we were completely transfixed by this. 
  • Next in Fashion, Season 2: I was a little confused that this was an all-American version as I quite liked the international flavour of the last season. But it’s very good reality TV: no drama, just enough back stories, the focus was all on the talent, and I found it engaging and informative to see what fashion looks like now. 
  • Survivor Season 44: Husband watched almost all of the latest Australian Survivor series, Heroes vs Villains, which I think is so simplistic and dumb, I could barely watch any of it. The American version is clearly the standard. They know their storytelling, the competitors are gold and they’re constantly tweaking the formula to be surprising. Go Caroline!
  • Pamela, a Love Story: I read that this was worth a watch, and it definitely is. Pamela Anderson comes across as likeable and smart, and subject to a level of trauma and abuse that makes her a real survivor. Uncomfortable to watch that her major love story was basically from taking ecstacy for the first time. Yikes.  
  • Alone Australia: I never watched the other versions of this, thinking it sounded like a bunch of grim survivalists out in the woods. But my husband’s best friend is in it, and watching it, it is sensational TV and Gina is doing so well. Go Gina! (She won…)
  • Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate. What a story. What stories. Expertly woven together, I found it riveting and touching. Wow. 
  • Queer Eye Season 7 lands us in New Orleans, for me an interesting setting, and the formula, tried and true, works well. I think the Fab 5 have actually upped their game: they seem generally interested in helping their heroes, give genuine and skilled life advice and I often end up crying. I saw an old episode not long ago, the trip to Austraia’s Yass, and they were not so comfortable and polished, and actually a bit frantic. I think they’ve really settled in. 
  • Project Runway All Stars, Season 20. Surprising, after 20 seasons, that unlike RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I’m over, sadly, I still love watching Project Runway. Christian seems like he’s having a ball, and I really do love seeing the talent and the fashion (the drama not so much). 
  • On Broadway. A surprisingly good documentary from 2019 that we found on SBS on demand. Describes the rise and fall of trends on Broadway, and Broadway’s popularity, coming together with cogent analysis and some great personalities helping to narrate. Enjoyable for theatre queens. 
  • Great Pottery Throw Down, Season 6. I love pottery but husband isn’t as interested. But it doesn’t matter because this is SUCH GOOD TV. Silly, fun, heart-warming and emotional. And as I’m doing ceramics now, it’s inspiring. 
  • Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy, Seasons 1 and 2. What a great find. We love Italy. We love food. Stanley is fun and charismatic. The writing on the show is really strong, not shying away from social issues. We really, really loved it. 
  • Dessert Masters, Australia. We thought we’d give this a go, and Amaury and Mel make a great team as hosts and the competitors are all pros, so the vibe is great, it’s entertaining as well as inspiring. Yum yum double gum. 
  • Out in the Ring. A documentary about LGBTQ wrestling. An interesting film though with so many people talking and so many stories, I found it not as interesting as I could have. Maybe lacked a tighter narrative or clearer story?
  • Squid Game: The Challenge. I loved the original a lot. And I love reality TV competitions. So what would this be like? Reader: I loved it. It was pure entertainment and suspense, no lessons to be learned like from food and arts reality competitions nor any moral lessons from a narrative. It was brutal and cruel (as luck and chance can be) and I found it very, very entertaining. 
  • Survivor, Season 45. We have always loved Survivor, and know that the seasons can be better or worse, depending on the players (mostly) and whatever twists and challenges come up. This season was really quite engaging and enjoyable, pretty much right from the start.

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2 Responses to 2023 in lists: Television

  1. James says:

    Thankyou. That’s quite a comprehensive list. Will work my way through it.

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