Here are my 10 favorite characters from the last year of television, from networks to cable to streaming, counting down from 10 to 1:
Stargirl” (Mondays on DC Universe; Tuesdays on CW) – one of 14 current TV series executive-produced by Greg Berlanti – falls into the category of what my buddy Michael calls “product”: something that exists for commercial rather than artistic reasons. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good, but this latest addition to the DC TV universe is as stiff as the Cosmic Staff wielded by its title character, teen Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged”).
It’s been three years since the previous season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO), so Larry David and his writers had plenty of absurdities from the real world to turn into absurdities on the show. Suffice it to say Larry gets into a lot of trouble in Season 10, which recently wrapped a 10-episode run that’s a nice mix of political correctness inanities and everyday annoyances that only “Curb” would latch onto.
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.
In the early going, “High Fidelity” (February, Hulu) so precisely re-creates several iconic scenes from the 2000 movie that it’s like watching a painful amateur stage production of a classic play. We might as well be rewatching the film or reading Nick Hornby’s 1995 book. But as the 10-episode Season 1 moves forward, it starts to repurpose the familiar scenes in new ways, and it ultimately justifies its existence.
Roswell, New Mexico” (Mondays, CW) returns with an excellent Season 2 premiere that smoothly reminds us of the threads from the long-ago Season 1 while also moving things forward. “Stay (I Missed You)” is written by showrunner Carina Adly MacKenzie, who continues to tap into the spirit of the original “Roswell” – the small-town haunts, the star-crossed romances, the alien mysteries, the ’90s tunes — while making a show that is often slicker and even better than its forbearer. Even though I love the original series more, I admire the way “RNM” is walking that fine line.
Ilove the fact that there are still some weekly shows on TV (as opposed to all-in-one seasonal drops), but “Westworld” (Sundays, HBO) is not the ideal show for this format. Then again, even when binged, it’s hard to keep all the characters and their goals straight. Still, after a Season 2 that I found tough to get through, I decided to give Season 3 a chance. And the season premiere, “Parce Domine,” is one of the best episodes of the series to date.
Creator Damon Lindelof has taken the lessons learned on “Lost” – where time-jumping was a sometimes fun, sometimes hoary narrative device – and beautifully applied them to the nine-episode “Watchmen” (2019, HBO), a sequel to the comic/movie of the same name. Time is central to the “Watchmen” saga, the primary image of which is a clock counting down to the 1980s nuclear doomsday, especially with Dr. Manhattan existing outside of time as we mere mortals perceive it.
After the first two parts showed a lot of potential and sometimes were quite fun, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Part 3 (January, Netflix) is more of a slog to get through, even though it’s eight episodes instead of the usual 10. Or maybe it’s because of the lower episode count but slightly longer episodes. The writers lean into the “Gilmore Girls” approach of telling as much story as they feel like in one sitting, but “Sabrina” should ideally use the “Buffy” approach with an act-based structure.
The “Riverdale” empire expands further with its second spinoff, “Kate Keene” (Thursdays, CW), about three gals and a gay dude trying to make it big in New York City in their various careers that just happen to be perfect for dramatic TV portrayals. In the pilot episode, Michael Grassi’s series – based on a title character who debuted in Archie Comics in 1945 – does some good things and some bad things. Your verdict will come down to whether or not “Katy” is your thing.