Yoav Baram – Best shows you weren’t watching in 2016
2016 was a pretty rough year for culture with numerous celebrity deaths, but putting aside all the morbidity it was also one of the best years to watch some quality TV.
We’ve had a comeback by Michael K. Williams (Omar from ‘The wire’) alongside the great John Turturro in an excellent show with some nostalgia for ‘OZ’ (The Night Of). We’ve had a comeback by Winona Ryder in a great show with nostalgia for the most ridiculous decade in history (‘Stranger things‘) and one show with nostalgia for westerns (actually based on a 1973 western) which mixes philosophical elements alongside graphic violence and full frontal nudity – because HBO can do whatever the hell they feel like – starred by the wonderful Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris (‘Westworld‘).
It seems that the transitions of Hollywood film stars to the realm of TV is nearly complete, and there are literately no more limits to how acclaimed an actor is – before he decides to launch a TV career.
This trend is likely to increase seven-fold with the success of the above shows, but alongside those titles – that most of you are probably already familiarized with – this past year brought on some more excellent shows – some with the potential of becoming big hits, others just make an enjoyable pastime. It’s also a good time to mention some great shows that are coming back for a new season in the upcoming weeks.
Quarry – Wow. That’s the most appropriate word to describe this remarkable show by Cinemax which tells the story of a soldier who returns from Vietnam after being involved in some mysterious incident, only to find that similarly to many other veterans – and business management graduates alike – no one is waiting for him with a job. The lead character ‘mac’ (played by the excellent Logan Marshall-Green) gets mixed up with a powerful figure who offers him to repay a debt by doing the thing he does best – killing. Even though the story doesn’t sound very original – it’s simplicity is actually one of it’s best attractions in a landscape of shows who are trying hard to be more and more sophisticated (‘Westworld’ anyone?). The dark 70’s Memphis atmosphere, the slow pace at which Mac’s story is unraveled and his struggle to cope with the horrors of Vietnam are simply hypnotizing. Add to these an outstanding performance by every possible character in the show and my guess is that you’ll finish the season in less than a week (8 episodes of one hour each). The last episode is nothing less than a cinematic experience that will leave you with a taste of Apocalypse now and Platoon. The show is based on a series of books by writer Max Allan Collins, so we can probably expect to have at least a few fun (and horrifying) seasons.
Rick and Morty – The best cartoon show on TV (head to head with South Park) is expected to come back for a third season in the upcoming weeks. I know what most people who read this think – “Why would I watch a cartoon? What am I 4?” well If you think that – you must be 4 so no problem there. Rick and Morty is an adult cartoon which covers numourous subjects ranging from sex, life itself – and all the way to the bizarre deaths of some of the characters. The show focuses on a genius scientist (based on ‘Doc Emmet Brown’ form Back to the Future) and his neurotic grandson Morty, and the adventures they go through on surreal planets, parallel universes, inside a car battery and the human body – or just hanging out at home. The genius of the show comes from combining great humor with a philosophical touch and it’s one of the most refreshing show’s I’ve watched in recent years. Some of the episodes have such a brilliant story line and twists that they won’t shame a Christopher Nolan movie. I actually found myself on numourous times staring at the screen and wearing a dumb smile on my face, wondering “what the fuck did I just watch, and how the fuck did they come up with it?”. Rick and Morty is the kind of shows that should be projected on the walls of Techno Clubs, Galleries and work spaces 24/7. Or maybe just psychic wards. Warmly recommended.
People of earth – A very cute comedy that I can’t even recall how I came across, It tells the story of people in an alien abduction support group. I know, I know, it sounds really bad, but the lighthearted way in which the show is made alongside some good jokes and decent dialogues, all wrapped up in 20 minutes episodes – is quite a bargain if you ask me. The innovative part of the show actually comes from the aliens, some of which are basically portrayed as disgruntled workers who have to deal with their boring day job prepping the ground for an alien invasion. It all sounds pretty ridiculous and unwatchable and yet it’s hard to argue with fun 20 minutes episodes, when even the acting and writing are far better than expected. The whole thing comes with an ample amount of self humor that will make you want to watch the support group scenes in Fight Club.
Sneaky Pete – Sneaky Pete’s pilot by Amazon saw light on August 2015. It took another year and a half to produce 10 episodes – all of which were released simultaneously a couple of weeks ago. Giovanni Ribisi (that for some reason will always be remembered as Phoebe’s crazy brother on ‘Friends’) plays the roll of a conman who gets out of jail and steals his cell mate’s identity in order to escape his past. If it’s sounds familiar it’s only because it’s a bit similar to the plot of ‘Better call Saul‘ and any other con men movie/tv show. To be fair I only watched the first episode, which seems promising, at least as far as the main cast goes . The show was created by Brian Cranston (from the phenomenal ‘Breaking Bad‘) who even plays a small part in it.
Last Week Tonight – John Oliver’s late night show is a must watch for every person with access to Wifi. Oliver and his team pick a burning issue each week which they investigate and then tear to pieces; from storing atomic weapons, through tobacco companies who terrorize third world countries, to racial discrimination in the U.S and of course Trumpf (Oliver’s job is almost going to be too easy with his inauguration). The reason this all sounds boring is because you’ve never watched it – the writing is excellent and Oliver is shooting jokes in such a successive rate that its sometimes hard to keep track when you’re still busy appreciating the previous joke. No one is safe, and beyond all the truly sharp humor and hilarious analogies – you can learn quite a bit from watching the show – which is hard to say today about late night shows in particular, and TV in general. The show is returning for its fourth season on February 12.
OJ Made in America – Documentary enthusiasts will appreciate this film that was released half a year ago and tells the story of O.J Simpson form his early career as a running back in college football to becoming a superstar. Of course there are a couple of stops on the way, including his acquittal from a double homicide in one of history’s most famous trials, and his conviction 14 years later in a ridiculous armed robbery of memorabilia items in a Las Vegas hotel – for which he was sentenced for 33 years in prison. This documentary comes right after the hype of American crime story -another great show that employs a wide cast of celebrities and covers the famous murder trial nicely.
Gomorrah – To be honest I’ve never been a fan of foreign cinema, not to mention TV. Unless it made resonating reviews I’ll probably won’t bother to watch it. Italian ‘Gomorrah’ is one of those exceptions, it’s one of the few foreign shows I’ve watched and boy am I glad for watching it. The show is based on a book written by journalist Robert Saviano – which tells the story of the mob families in Napoli. The show is well made and the extreme violence of the organized crime in Napoli makes it look like a combination between Game of Thrones and The Sopranos – the latter almost looks like a kids show compared to the streets of Gomorrah. The acting is not the best but it’s pretty hard to tell when the show is in Italian (if you enjoyed the Spanish in Narcos, you’ll probably fall in love with the Neapolitan slang in Gomorrah). On some occasions you’l get a feel as if you were watching a soup opera (Rarely – and especially on Season 2) but all it takes to bring back your attention is one brutal wack of one of the lead characters.
Yoav is always looking for work in content writing and journalism opportunities. He speaks, writes and reads in both Hebrew and English.
I’m a 32 years old blogger who lives in Tel-Aviv. My writing often mixes contemporary culture with a variety of topics; whether social, economical or political, as well as any other topics that I feel important enough (and sometimes ridiculous enough) to discuss as a society. My aim is to pack as much knowledge in an accurate, fun and easy to read way.