Roswell’s” Max and Liz are my favorite TV couple of the “meant to be together” type. There’s admittedly something fantastical, idealistic and possibly even unhealthy about fixating on this type of love. But it’s so beautifully portrayed thanks to the chemistry between shy starman Max (Jason Behr) and journal-writing girl-next-door Liz (Shiri Appleby) that I allow myself this one diversion into the idea of soulmates.
With the failed experiment of the “choose your own adventure” movie “Bandersnatch” in the rear view, I was happy to hear “Black Mirror” Season 5 (Netflix) was finally on the horizon. I was very disappointed, however, to learn it’s only three episodes. With only a little over three hours of new material, my expectations were high for some quality episodes. Unfortunately, that’s not what we get. This is by far the weakest season yet.
If the first episode is any indication, “Big Little Lies’ ” second season (9 p.m. Eastern Sundays on HBO) lacks the zest of the first but has so much momentum in the wake of the death of Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) that there won’t be a shortage of reasons to tune in. David E. Kelley returns to teleplay duties, working from a story co-written with “BLL” novelist Liane Moriarty, but Jean-Marc Vallee has handed the directing reins to Andrea Arnold. The show’s mesmerizing quality ebbs during the memory-refreshing, regrouping episode “What Have They Done?,” even though the transporting theme song by Michael Kiwanuka is back, subtly remixed.
As “Harper’s Island,” “Dead of Summer,” “Scream” and other slasher TV series have found, this medium can’t escape the law of diminishing returns the way a brisk movie can. As the story goes forward, the cast of characters gets dwindled until the mystery has evaporated: The killer is whoever is left. Also, we might get to really liking a character only to see them killed off, thus lessening our interest from that point forward.
Here are my 10 favorite characters from the last 12 months of television, from networks to cable to streaming, counting down from 10 to 1:
Last season, when “iZombie” constructed its new reality wherein the U.S. government and the Fillmore Graves corporation team up to keep zombies and humans behind a wall in Seattle, I thought “This can’t last.” As “iZombie’s” fifth and final season (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on The CW) opens, we’re starting to see the specifics of why it can’t last. Meanwhile, creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright are maintaining their delicate balance wherein Liv Moore (Rose McIver) and newly zombified Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) behave in humorous ways depending on whose brain they most recently consumed.
On the “Buffy” fan Facebook page I frequent, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) is often mentioned when someone asks “What’s a new show that’s sort of like ‘Buffy?’ ” It’s hard to resist the comparisons. After all, the nine episodes of Season 1, Part 2 end with (spoilers follow) …
Gotham” (2014-19, Fox), which aired its final episode Thursday – and will likely draw more fans on Netflix in this age when shows are perpetually “new,” so I’ll discuss it in present tense — won’t be remembered as a top-shelf superhero franchise in this decade of superheroes. But I have to give it credit for being its own thing. It’s one of very few shows where if I hear someone say it’s horrible, and if I hear someone else say it’s great, I agree with both. Sometimes the quality wavers that much within one episode, and also, a lot depends on your mindset when tuning in.
The Punisher” Season 2 (January, Netflix) might be the most violent season of TV I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the budget listed fake blood and wound makeup as the biggest expense. Some episodes are bleak enough to affect my overall mood for the next day. Still, while the usual Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe problem of slow pacing is present in the middle episodes, this is overall solid serial storytelling.
Phil Spector” (2013), the last film from writer-director David Mamet before what has become the longest filmmaking hiatus of his career, manages to be a compelling murder-trial biopic without digging as far into the case as one would assume. Mamet focuses on building a character portrait of legendary music producer Phil Spector (Al Pacino), someone who is brilliant, strange, mostly off-putting, occasionally terrifying, occasionally kind, and possibly murderous.