2024 in lists: Television

A work in progress. 

Television

    • The Crown, Season 6. We finally finished the last season of the Crown. While I appreciated the acting, particularly of Elizabeth Debecki and Imelda Staunton, it all felt a little too intrusive to me, the fact that many of the people portrayed are still alive, and the series is proposing stories about them which may be true (or not at all). Couldn’t miss watching it after watching and enjoying the other seasons, though. 
    • Fellow Travelers. Familiar with gay history, while I was looking forward to this show, I was also apprehensive. Would they get parts wrong? Could they tell such complex social histories well? I was very impressed all in all, with a real jigsaw puzzle of timelines that worked, and the two lead performances, which were compelling (and of course, they were very handsome). We really enjoyed this. 
    • Berlin. I watched 3 episodes and they were so bad that I wondered why House of Paper (Casa del Papel) was so good. But I remember: a great premise, magnetic characters, suspense and smart storytelling. None of which Berlin has. Of note: weird music video sequences with the characters excessively happy and mugging for the camera. Or Bruce, flirting with Keila, and saying he likes to ask himself whether his female objects of desire shave their pubic hair. Or not. WTF? 
    • Deadloch. We were superfans of Iceland’s Trapped and the amazing series ‘The Bridge’ so a Tasmania-set parody, with not just similar but almost exact recreations of the suspenseful and mournful music, the red herrings, the partnership between opposites, the quirky minor characters: all of this delighted me at almost a subconscious level. A good thing, since I also found the farce too much: that most characters spoke with the same voice and the same slang; that nearly all had an obsession with talking about genitals, shit and lesbians. That the episodes were a bit too long and that the characters’ quirks overstretched beyond farce to bloody annoying and utterly illogical. But overall: quite amusing. 
    • Boy Swallows Universe. The last episode was so weird and implausible that I had to look up what others were saying and they agreed (including a review of the book, which explains why they put it in the TV show). But it wasn’t so bad that it cancelled out a fair bit of enjoyment: a real sense of place, a milieu that I was unfamiliar with, some cracking Aussie dialogue, and great performances. The juxtaposition of a boy’s adventure tale with such violence of gangland mafia and drug addiction and dealing was jarring though.
    • Everything Now. Somewhere around 1991, I saw the movie ‘Flirting’, an Aussie coming-of-age story, and I loved it. The awkward main character and the sophisticated love interest, played by Thandiwe Newton. So, I always remembered her. Her daughter, Ripley Parker, only 23, is the creator and main writer of ‘Everything Now’, which I watched initially to check out the lead actor, Sophie Wilde, since she came for a reiki treatment! And I love the show. It’s like a more sophisticated and real version of Sex Education. The performances are amazing and the script complex. I thought it was really, really good TV. 
    • Sex Education, Season 4: I really did enjoy the early seasons of this show. I was charmed by the characters and happily shocked by how frank and open the show was about issues around sex and identity for young people. But this season, there are new characters and they and the old ones EACH get a storyline and the formidable Gillian Anderson spends the whole season in post-natal depression. It was a series of issues more than stories – bullying, transgender identity, religion and queer identity, asexuals, post-natal depression, sibling rivalry, sex counsellor rivalry, coercive behaviour, the cost of top surgery, adoption, a cancer scare, disability and accessibility, addiction, the loss of a parent. I was bored and disappointed. 
    • Expats: Having loved Lulu Wang’s gentle and moving film, The Farewell, I was primed to see this, in a setting that I’ve observed but not seen portrayed on TV: expat life in Hong Kong, with Filipino maids and wealthy Westerners. I loved parts of it, especially the feature-length episode focusing on the maids. Such diversity portrayed: different cultures, different languages and different classes. But I didn’t love all the series. 
    • Three Body Problem. Having read the book, the first one at least, I was very curious how they’d adapt it (and I loved Game of Thrones). Like the book, the science part is so complex that you just have to go with it. But I’m glad they tried to humanise the story, as I found it mighty impersonal and mental in the book. And like the book, it was disappointing to watch eight episodes with little resolve or idea of what’s going to happen next. 
    • Supersex. We thought that this would be like the Spanish series, Veneno, unapologetic about sex and sexual identity and infused with Latin passion. And some of the actors are very charismatic, including the lead. But I found this series more and more tawdry. So much focus on the brother, an unlikeable violent drunk, and a message becoming clear that straight male sexuality is pretty much uncontrollable: we lost our patience and liking for this. 
    • Baby Reindeer: Did that really just happen? I kept asking how this was brought to TV, how the writer would show not just his traumatising experiences, but his host of bad decisions. But I read Netflix asked if he wanted to do it, based on some of his stage shows, and he is an artist, a confessional artist. A harrowing watch and I think useful for the world, to see the sexual assault of a man and the aftermath. It’s quite a trick though: with the word ‘comedian’ in the description, you’d think it would be funny, but there was really nothing funny about this. 
    • Mary and George: Julianne Moore was amazing and Nicholas Galitzine held his own but this series didn’t grab me as much as it should have. A dark time, the early 17th century.

Documentaries and Reality Television

    • Queer Eye, Season 8: We’ve been faithful watchers of this reboot from the beginning, and while husband cried pretty much every episode, I was unmoved. I didn’t fall in love with the heroes, as usual, and I often disagreed with various decisions. I used to love Tan’s fashion advice but have somehow become bored with it. Karamo’s therapy: shout it out! shake it out! doesn’t work for me at all. So, I’m likely to take a permanent break from this one when it comes back without Bobby (who did all the heavy lifting anyways).
    • Great Pottery Throw Down, Season 7: British reality shows astonish me. In North America and Australia, people are generally after fame and making monetary deals, and the winners get $$$ and merchandise. So, to see a group of nice, interesting, kind people, doing what they love, in front of quirky judges, for the chance to win … a ceramic trophy and a bunch of flowers, is such a down-to-earth and humble experience. And I love Rose, the kiln technician. It’s got to be one of the most positive representations of transgender people on TV, because it doesn’t focus on her identity. She just does her work, brilliantly, while everyone treats everyone else with respect, kindness and support. 
    • Blown Away, Season 4: I’ve always loved this show, as the material is so beautiful and it’s a pleasure to learn about what makes a great piece. This season, with a new host, has the most breakages and the largest pieces yet. It’s harrowing!
    • Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down, Season 1: As a Canadian playing with clay, already a fan of the pottery throw downs, and from Vancouver, where the series was filmed, this was a LOT of fun for me to watch. 
    • Physical 100, Underground: When I was a kid in Vancouver, Canada, they used to have a show called ‘Battle of the Network Stars’, where they’d take attractive actors from the current popular shows and have them compete in athletic races, like a school sports day. I liked it. Those were the days I discovered superhero comic books, and there was this interesting framework about whose particular powers or attributes would allow them to win battlers against others. Flash forward to 2024, and this is what I remembered watching this Korean athletic competition. There is something interesting about seeing contests between firemen and secret service agents and weightlifters and wrestlers, and a category not known when I was a child: crossfitters. It’s also really interesting to see the Korean culture. I don’t think this show would work in the Western world: the egos and competition would be unpleasant to watch. But these Korean athletes, at the top of their game, often, are so humble, and kind to each other. At the same time, episodes could really drag on. We were glad when it was over.
    • Survivor USA, Season 46: I’ve always found the storytelling in this series outstanding, so much so that while I didn’t really fall in love with many of the players this year, I still loved the story.

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