2019 Year in Review : Favorite TV Shows

2019 Year in review : Favorite TV Shows

I tried quite a few shows in 2019 UMBRELLA ACADEMY, LUCIFER, GOOD OMENS, THE WITCHER, BLACK MIRROR, GAME OF THRONES but my favorite TV shows, BY FAR, were the following:

 

THE TERROR 1st Season – One of the most grueling and terrifying and brilliant things I saw on TV in 2019

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BODYGUARD 1st and only season- One of the best action/spy shows I’ve seen since SPOOKS and the first season of JACK RYAN.

THE GRAND TOUR – One of the worst mistakes TOP GEAR made was pissing these guys off and forcing them out. TOP GEAR has become an un-watched joke, and THE GRAND TOUR … simply fun and brilliant.

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HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE Season 1- After THE TERROR, the 2nd most terrifying tv show I saw in 2019. And that one episode with the reveal of the hanging lady, is just horrible to think about. The more you think about that episode the more effed up it becomes, and the more you feel for that character. A brilliantly written show.

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LUKE CAGE Season 2- Speaking of a brilliantly written show, LUKE CAGE season 2 when you get past some cringe worthy scenes in the early episode ( I do not want to see Shades and Black Mariah kissing on each other, the less of that the better) but when you get past that bit of self indulgence, it really takes off and has a story that is more complex than people hitting each other. Which kinda is why I lost interest in the other Marvel/Netflix shows. It is the small moments where this series sings, like the scene of Cage and Rand just talking as they overlook Central Park. That is one of my favorite scenes, and not a punch in it, just people talking. And the Antagonists were so rich, no clear good, or clear evil, but people in varying degrees of pain. Add to that just the best ending/cliffhanger of any of the Marvel/Netflix shows. Really hope this comes to Bluray soon.

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MANDALORIAN Season 1 – Baby Yoda Rules! And the show is great, a nice back to basics western in space.

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THE BOYS Season 1 – Jaw Dropping, and one of the best examples of the adaptation being superior to the source material. Not a fan of THE BOYS comic, loved this show,

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THE EXPANSE (Seasons 1-3) – I’ve praised this show often. It is the best scifi show currently being aired.

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PENNYWORTH – Only saw 3 episodes, that was all that was available for free, but what a 3 episodes. Phenomenal and fun and gripping.

 

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WATCHMEN – Only saw the first episode, but what an episode. Had my doubts about this show, the first episode made me a believer.

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With an honorable mention to BABYLON 5 as a show I revisited in 2019. Currently on season 4. Holds up as one of the best shows of all time. Straczynski creating the first novel for TV.

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The Most Influential TV show of all Time? Breaking Bad? THE WIRE? No… It is…

I am re-watching Michael Straczynski’s seminal BABYLON 5, after a lapse of probably 2 decades, and by the time you hit Season 3 Episode 10 Severed Dreams, and have sat thru the awkward first season, and rough effects (at the time innovative, but now quaintly dated, yet oddly still beautiful) it is clear… this show is what Straczynski intended. The first Novel for Television.

Whereas THE HONEYMOONERS forged the concept of the Sitcom for television, And DRAGNET (following in its Radio Roots) would define the form of episodic tv for decades to come, BABYLON 5 is very much the jumping off point for long form storytelling in television.

Prior to Babylon 5, in television largely the characters, kept showing up week after week and telling the story for that week, with no real vast growth or change for that character from first episode to last. 

Whether BONANZA or THE FUGITIVE or “insert series here”, it may have 2 or 3 part episode, but largely there was no overarching theme or arc for the season or the series.

It was episodic television, monster or crime or issue of the week.

And then enter Michael Straczynski and his idea, of going one step further than STAR TREK’s aborted idea of a 5 Year mission, and try a multiyear story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Where there were stakes, And characters would have arcs, and change. 

Enter BABYLON 5.

An experiment in television, in an age of ‘done and one’ TV.

It holds up.

Despite the meddling of the Networks, the lowball budgets, the always under threat of cancellation seasons, Michael Straczynski’s BABYLON 5 was then, and remains now, one of the best written shows. A grand saga, writ large. With tragedies and triumphs and growth and betrayal and change… and hope. 

And that BABYLON 5 is as good and as coherent as it is, despite the constant meddling and threat of cancellation it endured every year of its existence (which forced writer, cast and crew to always have to gear every season like it was their last, the last couple of seasons clearly suffering because of the the blade that was always over the show’s neck); you have to put it down to Michael Straczynski’s passion and his writing and his fighting for it.

And a team of people around him, from actors to directors to makeup artists to set and wardrobe designers to consultants (the late great Harlan Ellison) all championing this unheard of dream, of a novel for television.

So no, not LOST, not SOPRANOS, not THE WIRE, not GAME OF THRONES, not BREAKING BAD, not BATTLESTAR GALACTICA… though all those shows with their continuing story structure owe a debt of gratitude to BABYLON 5 (which paved the way for TV, to break out of its episode of the week, short form storytelling mode) … none of those shows are TV at its most influential.

TV at its most innovate and influential (post Star Trek the Original Series)… Well that mantle remains 30 years later, still… BABYLON 5; which dragging and screaming, changed the face and scope of what television could be.

You don’t get any of those shows, without Straczynski, actually showing that long form narrative could be done on television.

So if you have never watched BABYLON 5, or have not watched it in a long time, all 5 seasons are available courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Give it a look, the first season is admittedly rough, stick with it. It takes off by the 2nd season and never looks back. And by the 3rd season, it is a hands down masterpiece.

 

Highest  Recommendation.

 

And honestly, it is the type of series that deserves to be owned in physical media, that you do not want to trust to the vagaries of Streaming licenses. It is a series, like HOMICIDE, like GRIMM, like MUSKETEERS, that deserves to always be at your fingertips and available for viewing.

It unfortunately does not yet have a Bluray option, but you can get the complete series on DVD at the link below:

BABYLON 5: THE COMPLETE SERIES WITH MOVIES

 

Movie Posters of the Day!

 

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Harriet

The poster grabbed me, but what really made me excited about this film was seeing it was being directed by Kasi Lemmons of EVE’S BAYOU fame. One of my favorite films, just such a magical, yet somehow easily beautiful little film, that defies easy genre labels. If she can bring that deft touch to this ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ tale of HARRIET TUBMAN, we could have something very special here.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Movie Poster

Intriguing poster and trailer, but the jury is out on this.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Terminator: Dark Fate (#1 of 2)

THE TERMINATOR franchise has largely been a case of diminishing returns since the second one. And while I have no great interest in a new one, with Tim Miller at the helm, I’m intrigued to see what he can do.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Expanse (#5 of 5)

THE EXPANSE is one of the best scifi shows(full blown space opera) to arrive on the scene since FARSCAPE. Not sure if we are getting a new season but the existing three seasons are a brilliant self contained novel, ala BABYLON 5 and DEEP SPACE NINE. If you have not watched it, watch it. You’ll find it time well spent.​

 

DEAL OF THE DAY: SPACE 1999 THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE BLU-RAY

DEAL OF THE DAY: SPACE 1999 THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE BLU-RAY

I’m still not a Blu-Ray convert. I prefer the DVD form-factor, it’s more aesthetically pleasing to me than the cheap dinky Blu-ray Boxes. And often there is a negligible difference in quality, particularly when the source has issues, or the studio just cuts corners.

In short, all things being equal, I’m not paying more for Blu-ray. However in the cases where there is a substantive improvement in quality, and great special features, and the price is competitive with DVD pricing… well then I’ll pull the trigger.

Case in point SPACE 1999: SEASON ONE on Blu-ray. All reports point to this being an effective re-mastering and improvement on the DVD release.

“It has been revealed that A&E Home Entertainment will release Space: 1999 – Season 1 on Blu-ray on November 2. No technical details are available, other than it will be a “complete, uncut and restored in high definition” release, in pillarboxed 1.33:1 video.

The series, originally shot on 35mm film, was restored [by] BBC studios, which posted a detailed description of the work done. The telecine was done from a new interpositive. Even with the new film elements, a great deal of grading was still occasionally required.

Dust and scratches have been removed in two stages. The first process is automatic, but the BBC emphasizes that it is important not to have it “too high”; otherwise, “an unnaturally flat and ‘plastic’ looking smeary image can result.” In the second stage, the Digital clean-up team, armed with pen and tablet, painstakingly removes remaining defects and areas of larger damage.

Also, the opening titles were rebuilt from the best available materials in HD.”
–Blu-ray.com

And currently priced at 52% off it’s a no-brainer.

It’s only going to go up in price, just like the BABYLON 5, DEEPSPACE 9, and FARSCAPE sets I notified you of.

A great series, now remastered to look better than it ever did when broadcast. SPACE 1999! Our past and our future— has never looked so good. So get your copy today!

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray] – Buy it here!

And for more on SPACE 1999 check out the space1999.org website.

FAVORITE TV SHOWS OF ALL TIME!!! Spenser for Hire, Justice League, Firefly

The RECOMMENDED READS page (look over at the column on the right of your screen) has been updated

with reviews of Cornell Woolrich’s FRIGHT, recently published by Hard Case Books after being out of print for fifty years. And also a status review of CROOKED LITTLE VEIN by Warren Ellis and published by William Morrow.

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Now onto TV stuff:

My recent exposure to what passes for good television these days, garbage like LOST, and the new BIONIC WOMAN and insert Reality TV show here, has left me for an appreciation for the great TV shows of yesteryear.

So here’s my list of great Television shows (in no particular order):

NYPD BLUE Just the first season with David Caruso. The forerunner to the rash of police procedurals currently polluting the airwaves.

HOMICIDE Love this series. Caught everything but the last season. A tremendous show.

BABYLON 5 – People may gripe these days about MJ Straczynski’s comic book work, and the complaints aren’t unwarranted. But what ever issues of the present or the future his work may contain, his past is beyond reproach. His BABYLON 5 being the most ambitious television show ever. A man’s singular vision turned into a novel, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It’s the kind of vision that is lacking in “make it up as you go along” shows, such as LOST.

SPENSER FOR HIRE– Love, love, love this series. It’s a crime that it’s not available on DVD.

All SPENSER FOR HIRE images are by Dave McCraken

And real quick I’m going to rant: There is some art floating around, whenever you pull up info on this series (I’m not going to reproduce it here, because it annoys me, but click here to see it or here), showing some doctored up picture of Spenser and Hawk, with Hawk being positioned so he’s like six inches shorter than Spenser.

What the f*** is that? The following pic is how Spenser and Hawk look on the show:

It may seem like a simple thing, but it really isn’t. Like anyone whose done advertising, or product placement can tell you, ads are meticulously thought out. And the fact that such an obviously out of scale picture (to anyone who has seen the show) is occurring on multiple sites, has become a defacto standard… seems and is… odd.

Odd in the same wacky way that every network station at the same time decided to call people refugees who are not, or insurgents… who are not.

America is funny that way. 🙂 . It’s this wonderful nation where people call coincidence, what can only be design.

Avery Brooks is 6’1, Robert Urich was 6’2. A negligible height difference, but the picture makes it look like Hawk is a much shorter man. However both the character Hawk and Spenser were always portrayed as the same height. About 6’3ish.

So where does this box-art come from misrepresenting Avery Brooks and the show? Where does the idea of that come from?

That’s like doing a picture of me beside Avery Brooks and having me tower over Avery, it’s just as much bs. There’s great photos of the two of them from the 60 plus episodes they did, and they are always the same height. Yet someone is going to photoshop in this obviously… flawed picture. Just coincidence? Accident? Could have just as easily been Bob Urich misrepresented as shorter?

Come’on!

Someone made a conscious choice to misrepresent the heights of the two stars. Not coincidence, not a mistake, but a choice.

But why that particular choice? Maybe someone is cockeyed? 🙂 .

I don’t like pointing out this nonsense. I don’t like the fact that there is still nonsense like this to point out, but there it is. The media has grown and continues to grow more skewed, not less, it really is very much spiraling into minstrel like days. But subtly. Unfortunately, I catch subtle.

So I’m going to call a fowl when I see a fowl.

It’s very much like when Ford Motor Company had an advertisement showing all their engineers, and they photo-shopped out all the Black engineers for European distribution. It made the national news, so feel free to look it up if you don’t believe me. Was that coincidence? That big choice, and this little one… the same choice.

And some of you make say I’m making mountains out of molehills. But when one sees as many molehills, time after time, as I have… they tend to add up… all by themselves; to a looming mountain.

Molehills, the little lies we integrate into our world and self-view, create and recreate our reality. What men like Maslow and Berger called the Social Construction of Reality.

It’s how our enemies are made, and our friends.

Social construction of reality. We learn quietly, invisibly to absorb these minor molehills without question, so by the time we should question the really serious issues, we have accepted too much… to question the steps that have brought us here.

Bigotry and using the media as a weapon, is alive and well, and it’s not going to go away because we stick our heads in the sand, it just grows when we do that.

So when I see BS, especially involving my favorite show. I call it BS. And this is a case of BS.

Here endeth the rant.

For anyone who wants a free SPENSER FOR HIRE review guide just contact me. I’ll provide them to the first 10 emailers free. It’s a great series and deserves to be remembered correctly. If for nothing else, as the series that launched a young Samuel L Jackson. (in a bit part where he gets roughed up by Hawk. Great stuff!)

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WEREWOLF– I recommend just the premiere. Beautifully done, but the later episode are cheaply done and don’t go anyplace.

SIMPSONS– I lost interest a few seasons ago, but the first few were great!

SANFORD AND SON– My favorite comedy show of all time!

DEEP SPACE NINE– Brutally sabotaged by stations like Sinclair Broadcasting on initial airing, on DVD you can reexamine this series, and it builds to a brilliant conclusion. Like Babylon 5, and unlike the other Trek shows, this series actually has a wonderful storyarc. It may even on the broad scale, be superior to Babylon 5 (which had stronger individual episodes), making it one of the greatest series ever.

FARSCAPE– This was a FANTASTIC series, unfortunately killed before it could come to it’s conclusion, but the episodes we did get are stunning. All driven by the phenomenal, and at times heart wrenching performance of Ben Browder. If DEEP SPACE NINE and BABYLON 5 are in a tie for first place, this show is solidly in 2nd place as my favorite sci-fi series.

FIREFLY– I’m not a Whedon Fan. I could take or leave his BUFFY and his ANGEL. And while not a flag waving fan of FIREFLY, I thought it was easily his best show, possibly for it’s brevity. It didn’t get a chance to out stay its welcome ala the X-FILES. And had an interesting take on tomorrow.

QUANTUM LEAP– Women love this show. And in another life, a woman turned me on to it. And I have to say she was right. It’s a great, great show, much like FARSCAPE powered by Heart Wrenching performances by star, Scott Bakula.

CHAPPELLE SHOW-This is not even just brilliant comedy, it is the most courageous examination of the American id ever aired. A fantastic two seasons.

ROBIN OF SHERWOOD– John Carpenter’s mythic redefining of the Robin Hood myth, brilliantly brought to life by two phenomenal directors, and a young, hungry, and brilliant cast. And at the same time a wonderful mirror on the 80s age that spawned it. Easily in my top 5 shows of all time.

MIAMI VICE– It’s slick MTV style is old hat now, but this was the show that did it first and best. This and CRIME STORY make a great one, two punch.

JUSTICE LEAGUE helmed by Dwayne McDuffie is one of the best cartoons ever made. And for a guy who grew up on cartoons, that’s saying a lot.