Usually when a director drops his calling card, he has a few minor credits on his IMDB resume before that. But Andrew Patterson’s resume is empty other than “The Vast of Night” (Amazon Prime); the same goes for writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger. The film itself shows few signs of being helmed by first-timers, and not only in the sense of professionalism, but more importantly in its original sense of style.
Watchmen” popularized the idea of superheroes run amok, but that saga quickly moves beyond the question of “Who watches the Watchmen?” to its answer of “No one.” “The Boys” (July 2019, Amazon Prime) wallows in the question more, to its benefit. Based on a Wildstorm/Dynamite comic-book series that launched in 2006, the eight-episode first season introduces a corporation that sponsors and markets vigilante superheroes, but then it digs into the military-industrial complex. The Vought Corporation aims to have a relationship with the government similar to Lockheed-Martin, but with superheroes – not missiles — as the weapons they are peddling.
These were my 10 favorite TV series of 2019, a year that saw the continued dominance of streaming services and the rise to prominence of standalone miniseries, but also a few stalwart network favorites:
In chronological order, these were our 20 favorite TV shows of the 2010s:
Season 3 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime) starts off in the too show-offy fashion that marks the worst excesses of writer-director Amy Sherman-Palladino. Comedian Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) opens for singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) at a tour-launching USO show, and there are colorful costumes, long panning shots, tons of extras, and big music numbers. But after episode one, something remarkable happens in the following seven: “Maisel” no longer feels the need to prove itself, and it even features moments of subtlety – yes, subtlety from Amy and Daniel Palladino (who each take four episodes this season).
Iwatched the trailers of some notable fall TV premieres so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
The ABC Murders,” a three-part miniseries that aired last year on BBC and is now on Amazon Prime, is a case study in the creativity and/or annoyances that come from reinventing source material in an adaptation. I’m not much of an Agatha Christie historian, but writer Sarah Phelps’ previous adaptation of the mystery author’s work, 2015’s “And Then There Were None,” rates an 8.0 on IMDB compared to a 6.6 for this one. My mom is a big fan of David Suchet’s work in “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” (1989-2013, ITV), and she found the reinventions here to be strange, making John Malkovich’s turn essentially PINO – Poirot in Name Only.
It’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.
Recent Hollywood offerings remind us that any stupid thing guys can do, girls can do just as stupidly, from the “Hangover”-esque “Girls Trip” to the “American Pie” update “Blockers.” The latest offering in this subgenre is “Never Goin’ Back” (on Amazon Prime), the answer to stoner comedies such as “Pineapple Express” and other entries from the Rogen-Franco oeuvre.
Saying a TV show spends a lot of money might be an odd way to extoll praise, but that’s what pushes “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” from great into the stratosphere of “I might cry if it gets canceled before the story is over” in its sophomore year. Season 2, now available on Amazon Prime, takes various members of the Weissmans and Maisels to Paris, their annual summer vacation in the Catskills Mountains, comedy clubs around the Northeast, and of course the familiar haunts of New York’s Upper West Side.