Category Archives: Television

The 15 Best TV Performances of 2016

In many ways, this is a harder list to do than a list of the best TV shows of the year. Often a great TV show is filled with great performances from everyone involved. So if I have 20 great TV shows than I probably have 100 great performances.

But I can’t really do a list of 100 – although the first draft of this list had 40 performances – because who has time for that? And that kind of list is also not really about “best” so I decided to give myself an arbitrary cutoff – 15 – that I immediately cheated on.

Whatever. It’s my list.

By making this 15(ish) I forced myself to really hone in on the performances that really moved me in a profoundly emotional way this year, rather than just pick technically great performances that left me a little cold or that I admired in an intellectual way.

But it’s worth just listing a few of the folks who missed the cut.

Runners-up (in order):

  • Rutina Wesley, Queen Sugar
  • Naturi Naughton, Power
  • Constance Zimmer, UnReal
  • Yael Groblas, Jane The Virgin
  • Robert Buckley, iZombie
  • Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Pitch
  • Justin Hartley and Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
  • Fred Savage, The Grinder
  • Marcus Scribner, Black-ish
  • Daniel Gillies, The Originals

So with that, onto the 15 (or so) performances that I personally think are the best TV performances of 2016.
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Best TV Shows of 2016

I don’t know that I have much to say other than I watched a lot of TV in 2016, most of it was damn good, and increasingly this is because we are finally getting black TV that is for, by and about us.

So without wasting any more of your time, here are the 20 shows that I think are the best TV had to offer this year.

20.  The Magicians – For my money, this show worked almost entirely because of Arjun Gupta as Penny.
19.  Suits – The show finally made Mike pay for his crime and turned out its best season since season two.
18.  Survivor’s Remorse – This show gets deeper and more slyly profound every season.
17.  Fresh Off The Boat – Constance Wu, Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen kept me in stitches.
16.  UnReal – Season two was messier than season one, but it was also much more ambitious and a beautiful, brilliant indictment of white liberalism’s limited ability to address race.
15.  Insecure – One of the finest first seasons of a comedy in years and the best depiction of friendship on TV.
14.  The Carmichael Show – Somehow, this show manages to not feel like work despite always being about something important.
13.  Luke Cage – A perfectly cast show that found a way to make Luke Cage relevant in the 21st century.
12.  The Good Place – High concept, lots of laughter. You can’t really ever go wrong with Kristen Bell.
11.  Pitch – Smart, fun and filled with fascinating characters that make baseball compelling.

And the 10 best TV shows of the year…

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My 2016 Primetime Emmy Wishlist

Photo Credit: Television Academy

Photo Credit: Television Academy

There is so much good TV that nearly any average TV viewer could probably do an Emmy wishlist and put together something that another average TV viewer couldn’t really fault. This is a good thing.

But the glut of goodness does mean that the structural biases and barriers of the Emmys are more present than perhaps they’ve ever been simply because the single biggest factor in getting an Emmy nomination is having gotten one before. The sameness of these awards are partly a function of the way TV is made (shows run for years), but my suspicion is that this (admittedly reasonable) factor is mostly a crutch for Emmy voters who are frequently behind the 8-ball on TV innovation and biased against whole swaths of shows (sci-fi, soap, multi-cam comedy, most anything specifically produced for people of color/or on a POC network).

So why not put together my own dream list? And that’s what this is. This is simply a list of who I would love to see get nominations.  I have no illusions that the Emmys would ever be this awesome and diverse in its tastes.

I kept each category to 6 nominees as is pretty typical of the Emmys. Let me know what you think in the comments.

One note – I didn’t pick episodes for writing or directing because I don’t really have access to all of the episodes and for categories like that I feel like I would have had to rewatch everything to make honest, informed choices. But I think we can all probably agree that the writing and (especially) the directing on American Crime was remarkable.

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Fixing ‘The Boondocks” Huey Freeman Problem

I, like a lot of people of my generation, am excited that The Boondocks is returning because it remains one of the sharpest examples of satire in modern pop culture. And I’m excited to see what cultural moments from the last four years (since Season Three aired) Aaron McGruder will work into the show.

UPDATE 3/28/14: Apparently, McGruder is no longer involved with the show and was not involved in the creation of the upcoming 4th season. I wrote this before that information was available. I hope he still owns the rights. Read his explanation here.

But the one thing I really want him to do is recognize that there’s a problem at the center of the show: Huey Freeman.

Huey, by virtue of being the show’s most passive, reactive character, has all but receded into the background in favor of the more flamboyant active characters like Riley and Uncle Ruckus. This, despite the fact that he’s ostensibly the lead character (e.g. the trailer above).

In the strips, that was sort of the point since the satire in the strips was always deeply rooted in Huey’s observations about the world around him (particularly his brother and the people in Woodcrest). But The Boondocks TV show is different, as Aaron McGruder has found by building out the world around Riley (with the addition of Ed Wuncler III, Gin Rummy, Gangstalicious, and Thugnificent) and Granddad (Uncle Ruckus and the DuBois family).

But Huey is frequently adrift in episodes where he’s not the protagonist (especially Riley-centric stories) and damn near silent in ones where he’s the driving force (i.e. “It’s a Black President, Huey Freeman”).

If Huey is to regain the power he had in the strips and truly move to the forefront of the show, McGruder has to build out the world around Huey as well.

And there’s a way to do this:

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My 13 Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2013

I don’t have a long preamble for this. This list is just my way of trying to pull together a lot of disparate pop culture moments that struck me in some profound way during the year. I think the more you engage with pop culture the more it can feel like you’re always having the same conversations, with the same people, in the same way. So when something disrupts that monotony, frustrates the dominant ways we think and talk about our relationship to one another, I think it’s important.

Here are the 13 moments this year that made me sit up and look at the world just a little bit differently.

 

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