My 2016 Watchlist



Graham Sedam, blog, thoughts, life, interests, eye, close-up, watch, watching, watchlist, tv show, television, movies, stand-up, documentaries
About half-way through last year, I decided to start tracking the TV shows and movies I watched for the year. I thought it might make for an interesting post, maybe not. In the least, I thought it was something that could be interesting for myself to see. Starting it half-way through the year means I might have forgotten about some of what I had watched. I believe I captured most of it, if not all.

Around September, I started thinking about how dull a list of things I've watched probably was. Perhaps, it was my brain trying to ask me if I really wanted to know. A person can't always justify everything they watch. It won't all be the best that screens have to offer. And that's when I decided that a better route might be a post consisting of what I thought were the best things I watched through the year, the most noteworthy.

But, then I looked at my list at year-end and thought that there was not very much at all on it. I'm pretty sure that of all of my TV and movie watching years, at least over the last ten to fifteen years, it seemed a little lean. Or, maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Our toddler son has certainly affected my wife's and my nightly watching schedule, in part because he hasn't been a great sleeper (to put it mildly) and thus requires our attention away from the screen. Also, because it can be hard to hear the dialogue when we do have him with us in the living room, our viewing choices are influenced. We've recently started using subtitles, which sometimes help even when he is sleeping.

In the end, I decided to just leave the whole damn list, organize it, and make comments where I felt like it. So, if there's not much for comments on some, consider it simply as something I enjoyed watching but really don't have much to say about it. If you consider these as recommendations, then thank you for the opportunity. The year-in-review style post may turn out to be a one-time thing. I think I'll be more likely to write about shows and movies that inspire a post, and a larger theme beyond, throughout the year. I actually have some yet to be posted that I have worked on that follow more of that format.

For the most part, I enjoy what I watch. On one hand, it could be said that I'm not terribly picky. On the other hand, it could be said that I'm picky in choosing what to watch in the first place. Also, I don't expect each show, episode etc to be the best moment that I've ever experienced. So, take a look and see if my list clashes with your tastes, if you differ in opinion from me.

Organized, but in no particular order...


Graham Sedam, blog, thoughts, life, interests, eye, close-up, watch, watching, watchlist, tv show, television, movies, stand-up, documentaries


My 2016 Watchlist



-Television Shows-



How to Get Away With Murder (Seasons 2-3)

This show hooked me right away. I like the style of story telling, and there are always mysteries along the way that need sorting out. There are certainly aspects to the show that are starting to bore me now that it's in the third season. Ideas that originally seemed fresh (to the show at least) have been turning into standby plot crutches. For the most part, this show somehow keeps the storyline interesting and keeps me wanting to know what's coming, how it will unfold. This is built into the show as the style of story telling is heavy in the flash-forwards, giving you more information through longer scenes in those flashes as the show progresses through each episode.

I have to wonder how much longer this show can pull it off. They seemed to have avoided the Twin Peaks effect. The ratings didn't tank after finding out the mystery that drove the first season and its popularity. Still, only so many characters can hook up or take the "hitting rock bottom and then rising" plot, arc, rollercoaster-thing so many times. This show, to me, seems to be speeding to that end. And if it did end after this season, I think it would make a pretty great piece of art. If it doesn't, I have to wonder how long it's going to get drawn out and if the show can keep things interesting.

But then, they come back from the mid-season break, kill a main character, and completely mix up the dynamic between the rest of the characters. Just when you think this show is going to get boring, it finds a way to stay interesting. Everything I previously stated stands, however. They seemed to have wrapped everything up pretty quickly before the third season's end. I don't know if that was a good idea as they had some good material to stretch out into a fourth season. It does leave the show with a clean slate, but once again, who are you going to have rise and fall or die... AGAIN. Or, are they just going to draw out past transgressions etc ad nauseum. That aspect works, but within the framework of a bigger story. Perhaps, season four will put the past of all of the characters to bed, once and for all.


Raising Hope (Seasons 1-4)

My wife and I were sad when we got to the end of this series. In part, because we thought we had some more episodes left, but mostly because we felt this was a fun and clever comedy. I never watched it while it was on-air, but I had seen at least a few episodes years before we methodically watched it on Netflix. I don't know what else to say about it other than it seemed like a show that didn't get the respect it deserved.


Saturday Night Live (Current)


To start off with, I'm sick of hearing what most people say about this show. It almost seems en vogue to say that it's "not funny anymore" or that it will "never be what it was." Honestly, I think that's bullshit. *Why? Can't people have an opinion?* Of course, people can keep whatever opinion they want. However, in my opinion, SNL has had good and bad episodes and skits throughout its entire history. I have to wonder how often someone who dislikes the show checks in to watch, or if they just like to be hatin'.


SNL has mostly been a topical show that plays within the comedic environment of the day. There are certainly years that rely more heavily on character driven sketches. If you are going to have a negative opinion of SNL, it makes most sense to me that it would be in reference to a character you don't find to be amusing. I find that the times I'm lost on a skit is because I'm not familiar with the pop culture or news references it alludes to. Does this mean I ALWAYS find the show funny when I do understand? No. There are certainly skits that I understand but just don't find amusing in the least. And, this applies to every season I've watched. EVER. Whether it's character driven or pop culture fueled, I've always felt this way.


With the new presidency and SNL's commitment to commentary on the current political climate, more people are taking notice and tuning in. It seems as though SNL may be experiencing a bit of a Renaissance in popularity. The points I expressed earlier are only strengthened by this surge of interest in the show.


Vikings (Season 4)

I began watching this show when it started airing and was hooked immediately. The production and acting are great, and the story is interesting. The fact that it is historically based (but not necessarily completely accurate) doesn't hurt either as history is an interest of mine.

The fourth season had been quite a ride, and in the spirit of not giving any spoilers, I will leave it mostly at that. I must say that I wasn't thrilled with the jump in time half-way through the season, but I understood their reasoning more as the second half (known as 4b) progressed. It was necessary to keep the show from getting stale, and it allowed new life to be breathed into it. Realistically, with this shift, the show could go on for another four seasons and not feel like it's dragging on. If you've followed the show, I believe you can understand my meaning.

Once again, a character can only rise and fall so many times before no one cares anymore. The audience has to care about the character for the story to work.


Game of Thrones (Season 6)

What can be said about this show that hasn't been said a bazillion times? I agree with many people in saying that this is a great show. They've made it through six seasons and have kept people guessing the whole time, even the people who have read the books. With the amount of "main characters" and supporting characters contributing to the storyline, it's hard to imagine a scenario where any character gets overplayed and thus gets boring. In fact, one could posit that some or most characters become underutilized. The show moves pretty fast.

I've watched this show from the first night it aired and onwards. I liked it right away. The last few episodes of the first season said a lot about how the show would progress, and it showed a departure from how many shows, many stories go. The good guy didn't win. Don't get attached to a character that is "supposed" to stick around. This is going to be a very convoluted "Hero's Journey," if one at all. I like stories that throw the trappings of convention aside.

I never expected the show to become as popular as it has. I certainly understand it, just didn't expect it. I didn't hear about anyone watching it after the first season. Right before the second season started, a friend of mine discovered the show. He had never been a huge TV watcher, so I started to understand the reach it was having. During the second season, I started hearing more and more people talking about it. By the time the third season was airing, even more people started watching it. I literally watched the show being passed around at work. New converts were being won over as each person who borrowed it became a super-fan. Because really, if you like Game of Thrones, you're probably a super-fan.


Better Call Saul (Season 2)

If you've read a little piece I wrote on Breaking Bad last year, then it's probably not a stretch in your mind that I watch it's spin-off, Better Call Saul. I questioned whether or not a spin-off, and also technically a prequel, was a good idea. I know there's always going to be the temptation to prolong a successful project. I had to wonder if this show was going to downgrade the universe it resided in.

The success of this show certainly relies in part on Breaking Bad and the anticipation and knowledge of what we know is to come. However, Saul is a great character and Bob Odenkirk couldn't be more perfect for the role. It is the strength of these two men morphing together as one that makes Better Call Saul a great show on its own. A testament to this? Although at first I was anxious for Jimmy McGill to quickly become Saul Goodman, I now am content in watching his story unfold for as long as it takes... Within reason, of course!


Master of None (Season 1)

I wanted to check out this show the second I saw it come up on Netflix. It wasn't too much longer when my wife and I actually watched it. I should actually start this out by saying that I wasn't originally a big fan of Aziz Ansari. I found him slightly annoying when he came onto the scene in Parks and Recreation. I never was a loyal viewer of that show, but I've seen a fair amount of episodes. He didn't annoy me as much as I didn't get anything out of his character—not as much as the outlandish pizzaz his character warranted.

I have seen a couple of his stand-up specials. One of them I know I saw in 2016. If I saw the other last year, then it's lost on me. Anyway, I laughed at his jokes and commentary and I warmed up to him a bit. So, when I saw his new Netflix show pop up, I thought it could be a welcome freshening of the old screen watching. Translation: Something different.

I hope there's a second season, and I hear there will be. However, if there only ends up being one, they ended it well for proper closure. And, that might have been the point.


Girls (Season 5)

I found out recently that this show would be ending after the sixth season in 2017. I know this show has been somewhat of a critical darling and all, but it's definitely time for the show to end. I've enjoyed the show throughout its run and am looking forward to seeing how they wrap it up for good.

It's hard to put my finger on when or why the show seemed to lose the 'piss and vinegar' it had when it started. There's a very good chance it was due to getting acclimated to the show's style and abrasiveness. Perhaps part of it came from the characters exhausting their arcs too much. I know for certain that I've grown more annoyed with certain characters, especially the main character, Hannah. 

However, that could be the point. Art should make you feel something even if it is annoyed. And, there are definitely people in the real world who are flawed beyond reason. I really hope the last season allows the 'girls' to grow up (at least a little?) and move on from their painfully naive and narcissistic twenties.


Stranger Things (Season 1)

Who doesn't love Stranger Things? Seriously, where are you? Probably hiding. Well, you should. Maybe, you've wandered into the Upside Down.  But seriously, I'm serious. Mysteries make for great company.

It's hard to come up with much to say, regardless of how much I liked this show. Upcoming seasons will help define and build on what the franchise will ultimately mean to people and myself. If there were no seasons coming in the future, it'd make for a fine miniseries. They wrapped it up neatly enough.

Oh, and nostalgia. I can't forget that. Anyone alive in the eighties will appreciate a look back to those not so distant times. I did.


High Maintenance (Webisodes and Season 1)

I plan on checking back in with this show when season two rolls around. It may not the best TV show ever, but they all can't and don't need to be. The show started out on the internet as webisodes. They were picked up by HBO and then filmed a first season. All of these are available at HBO.

The main character is a weed dealer, and he makes house calls. However, the main character is hardly the main character. He's merely the common thread running throughout the other supporting characters lives. It makes for a different kind of show, and that's welcome to me.

What I like best about the show is the realism it portrays. Most television shows and movies portray people who partake in this lifestyle in stereotypes. This show depicts life more accurately and gives the audience a much more realistic portrayal of people throughout society who smoke weed.


Garfunkel and Oates (Season 1)

It appears that there won't be a season two anytime soon or ever. The show came out on Netflix in 2011. It was entertaining while it lasted, but my heart isn't broken if that's all I'll get. Sounds harsh, I know. But, I did get some laughs in and that's a good thing.

To me, the show is basically the female version of The Flight of the Conchords. The show follows two young women who are trying to make a career writing and performing funny songs. Like Conchords, this sometimes leads to a dreamlike music video or two in each episode. They don't rely completely on the music to carry the show. There is plenty of character development and shenanigans to support a half-hour show.


Westworld (Season 1)

HBO, how I love you so. You continue to produce some pretty wonderful content. And while not every show you create is a hit (and I have seen and do like some of those), the ones that do become an instant hit are addicting-ly good. Westworld is no exception.

I was not familiar with the previous movie or book before the HBO incarnation came about, and I still have no desire to seek them out. I feel that way about Game of Thrones as well. This version is good enough for me. I've got plenty of other things to watch and read.

I like it when shows dare to not draw the story out and instead race to the end of a season. It makes me wonder with joyful anticipation what they could possibly do to keep things interesting in the next season. It makes me believe that there's still great material ahead. Westworld could have drawn out the first season into two if they really wanted to. Well, maybe one-and-a-half seasons. I know some people don't feel that way, but I do.


Freaks and Geeks (Season 1)

I didn't know very much about this show going into it despite it coming out in the 1990s. I did, however, know there were quite a few actors in it that I recognized that are much bigger names nowadays. Apparently, this was the show that gave some of them a bit of a break. I also knew that the show had developed a cult following. Since it only lasted one season, there has been an unfulfilled demand to pick up with a season two. A wish that was recently shot down by Judd Apatow.

After watching this show, I agree with Judd. Sure, they could recast and reshoot, but why? Are you sure that what made it work in the first place will still work now? It probably would not. Sometimes it's best to acknowledge belated success and move on.

This show works as a one-season wonder, even though I, too, would've liked to continue watching a second. The main reason behind this: character growth. Each character ended the series a different, better person than when the show started. That is how we measure people, real or fantasy. We get to know people, we learn new things, we change. When the age range of the main characters is high school, there's a lot to work with.


Fixer Upper (Seasons 1-2)

Remember how I said that some shows are easier to watch with a toddler in the room, one that just won't go to bed and is chatty? The act of watching this show came partly from that. I do like watching shows like Fixer Upper from time to time. It doesn't hurt that the hosts are so damn likable. By the time we finished the two seasons, I was referring them to my toddler as Uncle Chip and Aunt Jojo.

My one big beef is the routine they go through each show. Of course, it's not just this show that has one. All similar shows do. But, at a certain point, it's hard to see the show beyond the routine, and then it just becomes something to wait for and joke about. We all know there's going to be an unknown 'fix and extra expense' at some point. Surprise! And now for a commercial break! The show and its routine does evolve over the first two seasons, but it still made it a little harder to watch by the end of season two. I get bored with procedural style shows, if you haven't figured that out by now.


Fresh Off The Boat (Season 3)

My wife and I started watching this when it first started airing and have just kept up with it. While I do enjoy watching the show, I wouldn't be heartbroken if I were to stop watching it. It's a half-hour show, and sometimes it's nice to put on because that's what we have time for. I find the show more amusing than funny. Plus, one does get a little invested in the characters by mere exposure.



-Documentaries-



Soaked in Bleach


This is a documentary about Kurt Cobain. While I was/am a fan of his, I've never been a huge one. Some people were/are in love with him. I enjoy his music occasionally and both respect and appreciate what he did for music. However, this documentary isn't about any of that. The focus is on his death and who the people behind the documentary believe did it. They believe Courtney Love was behind it, using a mutual "friend" to do the dirty work.


The documentary was very interesting. My ignorance to the theory prior to viewing made it all the more exciting to watch. The story makes a lot of sense, and considering the person producing the documentary was someone who had first-hand experience with the situation leading up to Cobain's death, it seems incredibly credible. I left the program a bit disturbed by how things actually turned out and not by how they seemed like they should have. But, that's reality, not a story.


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Maybe I'm showing my socio-economic class, or maybe, this is just a people problem in general. I feel that anytime I can get motivated to down-size is an opportunity to live better. Sure, I'm not going to purge half of my belongings regardless of what anyone says, but if I can be true with myself and sell, donate, or toss a few things I'm really not using and probably won't ever, then I have achieved a small and healthy victory. Smalls battles win wars.

This documentary is very motivational. I suppose there are plenty of people that wouldn't feel that way, but I do know I've heard other people comment on how much they liked it and how it stirred the minimalistic feelings they have. It's a movement that has been building for years, the same movement that has inspired tiny homes, and the same sentiment behind recycling and reusing everything we can. It's a concept hard to argue, and it's a push-back from a long, growing trend of 'bigger houses and more stuff.' Spending less time and money on stuff allows more time for experiences. Experiences are the memories we build our lives out of. How is that not motivating? Still, I will argue, stuff has its perks.




-Stand-up Comedy-



David Cross: Making America Great Again

I'm a bit of a fan of David Cross even though I haven't seen most of his work. I'm mostly familiar with his role in Arrested Development. I've never seen his stand-up before, but I figured I would get some laughs out of it. It was funny and much cruder than I expected.



Eugene Norman: A Vegan on His Way to the Complain Store


Eugene Norman is another person whose work I'm familiar with. I enjoyed this comedy special much, much more than I expected to. Much like David Cross', there were plenty of moments I reacted merely because of the extremes of what he said, which made the comedy seem that much more risqué.


Joe Rogan: Triggered


I've never pictured Joe Rogan as a stand-up comedian, but then again, sometimes it's just about someone in front of an audience talking, and it just so happens to be amusing. There are plenty of acts out there like that. How often, anymore, do you actually watch someone telling traditional jokes? I definitely enjoyed it more than I thought I would.



Michael Che Matters

Funny. Worth the watch. If you enjoy Michael Che on SNL's "Weekend Update," you'll like this special. I wasn't overly impressed or surprised, but it's probably in part because I'm familiar with the roots of his routine.



Donald Glover: Weirdo

Some people really love Donald Glover. He could throw his poop at those people, and they would still love him. I've never quite understood those people's love affair with him and all that he does. He's definitely very talented: rapper, comedian, actor. It also seems like he has a personality that would charm a straight man's pants off. I did get a glimpse into why people like him so much as this comedy special was genuinely entertaining.




Aziz Ansari: Dangerously Delicious

I laughed. I laughed some more. See commentary on Master of None.


John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid

Not the first special of his I've seen. He's reliably funny but not necessarily jaw-droppingly. I wish I had more to say on it, but I don't. If I can remember correctly, a lot of the routine looks back on his childhood.



Jimmy Karr: Funny Business

I feel like I'm going to start repeating myself. If you like mom and girlfriend jokes, this may be the routine for you. While I did enjoy the show, I don't feel inclined to search him out to see any other specials. If you aren't sure who he is, you will know by his laugh.



-Movies-



The Bridge on the River Kwai

I would have never chosen to watch this movie. My wife thought it would be nice to watch something out of the ordinary, it was going off of Netflix, and it's a classic movie. The movie is old but it's not so old that it isn't in color. Although I did like the story, I tend to find the other aspects in storytelling, such as acting etc, to be just as interesting. Over the years, the craft of acting changes, the way stories are told or shot changes, and the way movies are scored changes as well. I find that exposing myself to older media is enriching. It tells a history all its own.



The Martian

I love space. Enough said. But seriously, even if there are issues with the scientific authenticity of the story only a scholar would notice, ahem Neil, it was captivating. Predictable? Yes, mostly, but still good, even in its overarching predictability.


The Aviator

It took me many years to get around to seeing this movie. I wasn't very familiar with Howard Hughes. Now I am. I enjoyed it.


Contact

I saw this movie many years ago, but my daughter expressed interest in watching it with me. She's a fellow space enthusiast, so that makes sense.


Joy

Very motivational. As someone who is also creative and business minded, I felt a bit of a kinship with the main character. This movie is based on real events and people, so it only made the message and the impact stronger.


The Revenant

Historically dated revenge flick? Yes, please. And, oh yeah, a huge bear going totally crazy with a passion to kill. All of the people involved with that scene should get all kinds of awards. How did they do it? Probably computers.


Deadpool

I join many voices when I say, hilariously wonderful. I've never been a comic book guy, but I enjoy great characters and story lines all the same. I look forward to number two.


Eagle vs Shark

This movie is an indie film led by Jemaine Clement. He's probably best known for his role in the show, The Flight of ConchordsThe story is ultimately about the ups and downs of two people finding love and also themselves in the process. The feel of the movie is awkward yet funny, and it leaves you with a warm feeling at the end. Yep, that was a loaded line. I like quirky, low budget, artsy films. If you do, watch it.  I saw it on Netflix.


Hotel Transylvania 2

Eh. Family time. We saw the first one together.


Penguins of Madagascar

Yes. I'm an adult that thinks the penguins are funny. Also, family time.


The Little Prince

I had no idea what to expect from this animated film before I saw it, but it was getting great reviews. This film certainly deserves it. It touches on all of the emotions, and while there is a certain sense of predictability in the story, they put it together so well that you don't even notice. Plus, toward the end, it goes in a direction no one (I can only assume) will see coming that really makes the movie special. 



Do you have any favorites from 2016? Let me know in the comments!




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