Huh. I usually watch way more TV in winter, but . . . not this winter, apparently. Here’s the short list of everything I did end up watching (and, in many cases, abandoning):
Running Man (Episodes 89-101 and 631-645)
Star Trek: TOS (Season 3, Episodes 19-24)
Alice in Borderland (Season 2)
The Last of Us
Willow (abandoned, probably for good)
1899 (abandoned, probably for good)
Kaleidoscope (abandoned, probably for good)
Avenue 5 (Season 1)
Ticketing With Two Feet/Bros on Foot
Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special
Our Blooming Youth (abandoned, may return to)
Of the shows I’ve abandoned, I’m probably the least likely to return to Kaleidoscope. The structure really interests me—I’m fascinated by the idea of a heist show you can watch in any order—but I bounced off the first episode I tried and haven’t felt like going back, despite the excellent Giancarlo Esposito and my deep nostalgia for Bad Guy Rufus Sewell. I also probably won’t return to 1899, although I had originally planned to. I did find the first episode very intriguing, but then Netflix cancelled the show, those bastards, and I’m not sure I wanna pick it up again when it feels doomed for an unsatisfying conclusion. (I’m also less interested in returning to Willow, now that I know it’s been cancelled too, although I did enjoy the first episode well enough.) Then again. I did recently finish playing Return of the Obra Dinn and am VERY into ship based murder, weirdness, and horror right now. So, 1899 is still a possibility.
I’m most likely to give a second chance to Our Blooming Youth: I didn’t get into quite as much as I’d hoped, but there’s a lot to potentially to work with here: Park Hyung Sik, mysterious curses, murder investigations, female friendships, etc. I’m also happy to see more of Yoon Jong Seok, who I enjoyed in The Crowned Clown, but I’m already worried I’m not going to like where his character arc goes. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong!
As for the rest of what I’ve been watching . . .
Favorite Variety Show; Favorite Betrayal; Most Fabulous Fashion (TIE)
A lot of funny moments, as usual. Some badass ones, too: Seok Jin taking out Jong Kook in a name tag race? Dude, I was cheering. And Yoo Joon Sang forcing Jae Suk to eliminate Running Man members for him? That was great. Yoo Joon Sang was a fantastic guest star. Park Ji Sung was a funny and endearing guest, too, and both might’ve had a decent chance at Best Scene Stealer – Guest Star—except DAMN, Poker Face and The Last of Us dominated that category.
It was very frustrating when Viki abruptly pulled a bunch of classic Running Man episodes without any warning, especially since, these days, all my favorite episodes are the older ones. In fact, I’m pretty sure every episode listed below is from 2012. I still enjoy the current iteration of the show, but I definitely get more invested in past missions, as they tend to be more creative and action-heavy with fun themes like Alice in Wonderland, Mission Impossible, and Superpower Soccer. We had to get Kocowa just to keep watching classic Running Man, damn it. I have too many goddamn streaming services as it is.
Honorable Mentions: Best Scene Stealer (Guest Spot); Grand Prize for Survival; Best Badass Moment; Favorite Surprise; Worst Plan
Favorite Episode: Episode 91 (Spy Yu-Mes Bond/Prison Break)
Other Awesome Episodes: Episode 89 (Wonderland); Episode 95 (Mission Impossible); Episode 96 (Superpower Soccer); Episode 98 (Zombie Class Trip); Episode 100 (War of the Deities); Episode 103 (The Princesses and the Beast)
Star Trek: TOS
Most Unintentionally Hilarious Moment; Worst WTF Moment; Worst Last Line of a Series; Most Badass Moment (TIE)
It took a few years, which is very embarrassing, but I finally finished TOS last December! Wow, these last six episodes. Body swaps! Hippies in space! Abraham Lincoln in space! (Absolutely nothing is funnier than this.) “Turnabout, Intruder” is definitely not anyone’s idea of a great series finale, but it is a fantastic episode for superlatives, earning Worst WTF Moment (what do you mean, women can’t be Starfleet captains), Most Badass Moment (Sulu declaring he’ll stop an execution, no matter who’s the captain), and Worst Last Line of a Series (Kirk heavily implying how a female villain might’ve been happy, if only she’d known her womanly place). Worst Plan really should go to the Space Hippies because their scheme to takeover the Enterprise is literally just distracting everyone with groovy music, but—somehow—it works and, very unfortunately, still isn’t the worst plan I saw this winter. Speaking of . . .
Honorable Mentions: Worst Plan; Chief Asshat
Favorite Episode: “The Cloud Minders”
Best Body Horror; Favorite Title Card/Opening Credits; Most Basic Boring Hero; Most Disappointing New Show; Worst Plan (TIE)
Man, I really wanted to like Connect. It has so many good things potentially going for it! We’ve got super wacky and weird body horror. We’ve got Kim Hye Joon, an actress I adore. We’ve got serial killers and corpse art and psychic intuition nosebleeds, and the whole thing is directed by Miike Takashi? And yet, despite all that, I found Connect to be, well. Mostly a dreary slog. It’s only six episodes, and I almost didn’t finish it.
On the upside, I still do like Kim Hye Joon! (Though I’d recommend both Kingdom and Inspector Koo over this.) Also, Kim Roe Ha, who plays our detective with the psychic nosebleeds. I’m particularly amused by how nonchalant the other cops are about these nosebleeds, too, all, “Oh yeah, no, that’s just a thing here. This guy’s nose starts dripping red? We pay attention.” Also, some of the corpse art and gore ranges anywhere from deliciously creepy to hilariously goofy and fun. That’s all good stuff.
Unfortunately, I don’t really care about anybody else, especially not our hero, who . . . man, I don’t think I’ve been this bored by an MC in a while. He shouldn’t be boring! He’s basically immortal in the absolute weirdest way possible! He’s psychically connected to a serial killer through an eye transplant and plot relevant music! And yet Dong Soo is just so flat. It’s like six episodes of moping, more moping, and terrible decisions. (In fairness, Worst Plan actually goes to someone else, which I will discuss further in the Spoiler Section.) I can’t say I find the villain particularly compelling, either, and I actually enjoy how South Korea manages to squeeze a serial killer into every single genre of Kdrama. Connect could’ve been so much fun, but I just felt too—oof—disconnected from it to care. (Apologies. The pun really was unintentional.)
Favorite Episode: Episode 4
Honorable Mentions: Chief Asshat; Worst WTF Moment; Favorite Song; Best Death
Alice in Borderland (Season 2)
Best Battle Scene; Favorite New Player; Worst Redemption; Most Disgusting Moment; Chief Asshat; Grand Prize for Survival; Worst Plan (TIE); Favorite Supporting Character (TIE); Least Favorite Ship (TIE); Most Holy Shit Moment (TIE); Favorite Individual Song (TIE)
I enjoyed watching this season of Alice in Borderland, but I was definitely more invested in Season 1, and I actively disliked the last episode. It wasn’t the Big Reveal, either, although I’ll admit that didn’t do much for me; mostly, I was just disappointed by the Final Game, which I found deeply uninspired. The games are generally where this show shines: creative, emotional, brutal, and tense as hell. Unfortunately, to me, the Final Game was absolutely none of these things. I also don’t particularly care about our protagonist, Arisu, and while Usagi on her own doesn’t usually bother me, I find these two together boring as hell. Which is unfortunate because we spend a lot of time with them, time I would much rather have spent with supporting characters like Kuina and Ann. In general, I think I would’ve enjoyed Season 2 better if our group had split up into different, more interesting pairs.
On the upside, I did enjoy plenty of the other games: the King of Clubs, the Jack of Hearts, the King of Diamonds, etc. All of Chishiya’s scenes are great; he’s easily one of the best characters in the whole show, and I enjoy Murakami Nijiro’s performance quite a bit. I also liked our new character, Heiya Akane, and—despite their limited screen time—I still enjoyed the Ann and Kuina scenes. There are plenty of fun, violent, holy shit moments that make Season 2 worth watching; I’d just make a few changes throughout, that’s all. Also, I’d scream at some people for their truly boneheaded game strategies because you can bet I was ranting at my TV while my sister laughed at me. But those details, and others, will have to wait until the Spoiler Section.
Honorable Mentions: Character Who Most Deserves a Better Show; Best Death; Most Fabulous Fashion
Favorite Episode: Episode 3
Other Awesome Episodes: Episode 4, Episode 6, and Episode 7
The Last of Us
Favorite New Show; Favorite Parent/Child Dynamic; Favorite Sibling Relationship; Favorite Surprise; Most Horrifically Tragic Character; Best Death; Jimmy, NOOOOOOO!; Best Scene Stealer – Guest Spot (TIE); Favorite Song (TIE); Favorite Canon Ship (TIE); Most Badass Moment (TIE)
Honestly, I’ve enjoyed this show way more than I expected to. Which isn’t to say that I thought it would be bad, just . . . y’know, Depressing Shit, even Quality Depressing Shit, can be something of a chore to watch sometimes. Here, though, I’ve actively looked forward to every episode, even when I knew it was gonna break my heart. Having said that, I’m not sure I’m actually gonna watch Season 2. I’ve played the games—well, I’ve watched the games, anyway—and I just think that maybe I’m not up for that much heartbreak. Call it a character flaw.
The Last of Us is immensely well done. I still kind of miss the spores, NGL, and I think the last two episodes are, overall, a little weaker than the ones that came before. (Though “When We Are In Need” has a couple of my favorite moments in the whole series—if you’ve seen the episode, you know which ones—and I actually think “Look For the Light” is pretty great; it just feels a bit rushed to me, that’s all.) OTOH, the production quality has been amazing, the adaptational choices have been extremely smart, the humor is downright perfection, and the acting just absolutely incredible. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey do outstanding work here—Emmys, don’t you fucking leave them behind this year—and every guest star does an amazing job, like, the potential nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor alone? I mean, holy shit. I think maybe I’d pick Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett, if I had to choose? But I’m not sure because I’m also extremely fond of Merle Dandridge, Anna Torv, Melanie Lynskey, Lamar Johnson, and Storm Reid, like, this cast is just phenomenal. I’ll discuss a few other superlatives like Best Death later, but for now, yeah. This is damn good television.
Honorable Mentions: Grand Prize for Survival; Chief Asshat; Most Adorable; Best Badass Moment; Favorite Opening Credits
Favorite Episode: Long, Long Time
Other Awesome Episodes: When You’re Lost in the Darkness; Infected; Please Hold to My Hand; Endure and Survive; Kin; Left Behind
Avenue 5 (Season 1)
Best Comic Freak Out; Best WTF Moment; Most Painful Cancellation; Supporting Character Who Most Deserves a Shout Out (TIE!); Most Holy Shit Moment (TIE)
I heard about Avenue 5 back when it started in 2020, and I was interested for obvious reasons: Hugh Laurie, various space hijinks, etc. However, it got pretty middling reviews, and there’s always so much to watch, so the show ended up on the back burner. Recently, however, I decided to give it a go, and I actually really enjoy it! Avenue 5 is a quick easy watch with a sense of humor that bounces between a little wacky and very dark. (The airlock scene, oh my god.) Truly, I could watch Hugh Laurie having a series of nervous breakdowns all day, and the rest of the cast is great, too, particularly Suzy Nakamura, Lenora Crichlow, and Zach Woods. Matt (Woods) is a cheerfully blasé nihilist, the absolute worst person to be in charge of customer service, and has some of the best one-liners in the show. (“Classic Jesus. You mess with his money, he fucks you right up.” Perfection, no notes.) Billie (Crichlow) is hilariously dry, pretty consistently annoyed, and is probably the only reason everyone’s still alive. And Iris (Nakamura), well, I might love her best of all, since I’m weak for right hand characters and deadpan, cutthroat competency. I haven’t seen Suzy Nakamura in anything since The West Wing, so this was a really nice surprise.
I was planning to quickly catch up on Season 2, but sadly, Avenue 5 was recently cancelled, and—as with 1899 and Willow—I’m trying to decide if I still want to finish what’s left or just end where I’m at. I don’t suppose anyone knows how Season 2 ends? Decently? Badly? Is it worth checking out?
Honorable Mentions: Grand Prize for Survival; Chief Asshat; Best Badass Moment; Best Death; Favorite New Show
Favorite Episode: And Then He’s Gonna Shoot Off . . .
Other Awesome Episodes: I Was Flying, Eight Arms But No Hands, This Is Physically Hurting Me
Best Poetry Recitation; Favorite Fight Scene; Favorite Montage; Favorite REVEEEEEENGE; Best Hair; Favorite Song (TIE); Favorite Surprise (TIE); Most Fabulous Fashion (TIE); Best Scene Stealer – Guest Spot (TIE)
Poker Face is extremely charming. I’ll admit, I was initially a bit disappointed when I realized that this show wouldn’t be a whodunnit, especially since the first three or four episodes had almost the exact same setup, telling you pretty much everything except how the culprit gets caught—but as the series has gone on, I’ve enjoyed how there’s been more and more variation in the inverted mysteries. And it’s been such a fun watch throughout; Poker Face is clever and laid back and chockfull of hilarious moments: the fight scene in “Time of the Monkey,” the Blues Traveler scene in “The Hook,” etc. (The Blues Traveler scene—and the montage at the beginning—had me smiling for days.) I really enjoy all the music, too—with the possible exception of “Sucker Punch,” which actually is a super fun and catchy song, but . . . hilariously not metal? Like, not even remotely metal?
Natasha Lyonne is an utter delight, and the lineup of ridiculously talented guest stars in this show is absurd. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite, I mean . . . fuck. I guess I’d go with S. Epatha Merkerson and Judith Light because they were awesome, but—just as with The Last of Us—there’s a lot of strong competition here: Hong Chau, Stephanie Hsu, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Tim Meadows, Ellen Barkin, Larry Brown, Brandon Micheal Hall, David Castañeda, Ron Perlman, and—obviously—Benjamin Bratt. (I was also super happy to see Tim Russ, but I wish he’d had more screen time. Tuvok, I’ve missed you!) I can’t wait to see who else shows up in Season 2.
Honorable Mentions: Grand Prize for Survival; Biggest Jimmy NOOOOO Moment; Favorite New Show
Favorite Episode: Escape from Shit Mountain
Other Awesome Episodes: Dead Man’s Hand; The Stall; Time of the Monkey; Exit Stage Death
Ticketing with Two Feet/Bros on Foot
Most Adorable; Best Bromance; Favorite Product Placement; Best Use of Slow Mo; Favorite Comfort Show
Travel variety shows aren’t usually my go to, but I’m kind of obsessed with Yeo Jin Goo, and I’ve enjoyed Joo Ji Hoon in both Kingdom and Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds, so I decided to check this one out. TBH, I liked it more than I expected: Bros on Foot is just a very soft, very relaxing comfort watch with four guys traveling through various parts of New Zealand, doing any number of challenges to earn vacation tickets for young people in Korea. And since I’m a terrible person, I enjoyed watching them suffer. Glacial lakes! Swing bridges! So much biking! Poor Ha Jung Woo, I think he suffered the most of all. I found him very relatable here. Also relatable: Joo Ji Hoon’s attitude about bungee jumping. I am with you, Ji Hoon.
The guys all tease each other, but they’re also all really supportive of one another, making this show some quality feel good shit. Joo Ji Hoon was especially funny; in fact, I’m considering checking out Jirisan just because I enjoyed him so much here. He’s also the reason I’m tempted to buy kimchi seasoning, despite the actual kimchi we already have. (Hilariously, the kimchi seasoning wasn’t even official product placement, although I’ll admit that the sunblock, which was product placement, did also tempt me.) And of course, I continue to love Yeo Jin Goo, who just seems to be such an adorable puppy of a person, so sweet and earnest and enthusiastic about everything.
As with basically every Korean variety show, I feel like each episode could be at least 10 minutes shorter—but I also wish we could’ve had at least 2 more episodes. It’s just very relaxing to watch these serious dramatic actors being all super goofy and casual as they camp around New Zealand.
Honorable Mentions: Favorite New Show
Favorite Episode: Swing Bridges and Cold Lakes
Other Awesome Episodes: Freedom and Risk
Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special
Favorite Homage; Most Fabulous Fashion (TIE); Favorite Canon Ship (TIE); Least Favorite Ship (TIE)
First, a warning! The clip above includes the last scene in the special, so maybe don’t watch—at least, not all the way through—if you haven’t seen it yet?
This special was cute, hilarious, demented—all of my favorite things. I don’t know if I have very much to say about it, but it was a nice holdover while we all wait for Season 4. If you don’t like Harley Quinn, you obviously aren’t going to like this. If you DO like Harley Quinn, I expect you’ll probably enjoy this, too. I did, anyway—although I will say that I just couldn’t get into the inevitably doomed romance between Clayface Head and Clayface Butt. Those scenes mostly bored me, I’m afraid. Otherwise, though, this was fun! Bane always brings me joy, I really liked the Harley/Ivy flashback scene, and, the interviews above were great. Also, Brett Goldstein. I mean, come on. He’s giving us this, Ted Lasso, AND Sesame Street? Truly, the man has range.
Honorable Mentions: Best Scene Stealer (Guest Spot)
Finally, to the Spoiler Section!
I could talk about each of these shows in a lot more detail, but this post is already a few days later than I’d hoped, so let’s just stick to a few of them, shall we? Specifically, let’s get straight to the ranting.
Worst Plan (TIE)
There are several bad plans in this show. Both our hero and villain make some monumentally poor decisions here, but Lee Sun Hee really takes the cake when it comes to WTF choices. For example, let’s say you find out that your crush and coworker is almost certainly a serial killer. To which I say, that’s rough, dude, I feel for you. But there are really only a couple of options at this point. Either A) go to the cops immediately, or B) say nothing and never let him know that you know.
Or—if you’re Sun Hee—you can go with Option C: confront the serial killer on the fucking roof of a high rise with only one coworker secretly hiding nearby as backup.
Seriously, I don’t even understand what Lee Sun Hee expected to happen here. Did she think Oh Jin Seop was just gonna say, “Oh no, you’re right, I feel so ashamed of what I’ve done; I guess I’ll go turn myself into the cops now?” I’d get it if she was trying to blackmail him. I’d get it if she was trying to record a confession. It would still be ludicrously stupid—the roof, FFS—but at least I’d kind of get it. But as far as I can tell, Sun Hee is not trying to do either of these things. She just . . . she just decides that she has to confront him, the notorious serial killer, without having any weapons or martial arts training or even muscly backup. Her one dude is just her office coworker friend who doesn’t even have his phone on silent.
It will come as no surprise, I’m sure, to learn that neither Sun Hee nor her buddy make it out of this alive. Jin Seop breaks Sun Hee’s neck, and the buddy goes over the side of the roof. I wish I could feel bad for them, but wow, I don’t.
Alice in Borderland
Worst Plan (TIE); Chief Asshat; Grand Prize for Survival; Worst Redemption; The Stannis Award, aka, The Blood Thirst Letdown
Truthfully, I don’t know if anyone can really beat ‘meet serial killer on rooftop’ for Worst Plan, but Team (Mostly) Good Guys display such poor strategy in the King of Clubs game that I’m counting them here, too. Because Jesus Christ, in what’s essentially a modified Capture the Flag game where the penalty for losing is death, you can’t leave your home turf defended by the absolute weakest player, what the fuck. That’s like when shitty Little League coaches automatically throw their worst players in the outfield, only in this case, there’s only one weak kid in the outfield, and if he doesn’t catch that fly ball, everybody’s head explodes. Like, of course Team Antagonist was desperate enough to risk a suicide assault—because their only alternative was everybody in their group dying. I could maybe understand this being a rookie error in judgment, but Team (Mostly) Good Guys are in the big leagues now, and have lived long enough to know better—and they’re so fucking cocky about how easy the game is, too! It was absolutely infuriating. I was yelling at my TV screen so much.
Team (Mostly) Good Guys includes Niragi, who is very much NOT a good guy. On one hand, I have to give him Grand Prize for Survival because this dude should be dead, like, so many times over. I thought he was dead last season, first when Chishiya set him on fire with a flamethrower, then later when he came back, only to get set on fire again. But no, this fucker is still somehow alive in Season 2. Dude’s all burnt to hell and coughing up blood, and that’s before he gets shot with a shotgun—and still this bastard doesn’t die, even making it through the finale and choosing to return to the real world and (presumably) living a better life, rather than staying behind and continuing to be a monstrous homicidal dick. Which, yay? Like, I will award Grand Prize for Survival to anyone who beats these kinds of odds, but also, dude’s a murderer and attempted rapist and all around whiny bastard. Forgive me for not giving a shit about this so-called redemption. I wanted blood.
The Last of Us
Best Death; Favorite Surprise
Finally, let’s end on a positive note. There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of deaths in The Last of Us, and I don’t think any of them felt cheap, which is a victory in and of itself. The most hell yeah death, obviously, is David, and I think the most depressing deaths are Sam and Henry. I also quite like how the show doesn’t make us watch Riley die because we really don’t need to. The ending of that episode is powerful as is.
But I think Bill and Frank have the best deaths in the show. I couldn’t remember that portion of the game very well, but I did know that one or both of them had died, and tried to prepare myself for something extremely violent, hugely depressing, and dishearteningly inevitable. Instead, we got this wonderful queer love story where Bill and Frank lived a whole post apocalyptic life together and died (as much as possible) on their own terms. And sure, I still definitely teared up—people, this episode is so good—but I honestly found this one almost uplifting because, in a world like The Last of Us, this is truly as happy of an ending as it gets. And defying years of cinematic expectations, it’s actually a queer couple who gets that ending.
Well, that’s all for now, I guess! Let’s see if I manage to watch (and actually finish) more TV shows in the spring!
3 thoughts on “TV Superlatives: December, January, February – 2022/2023”
The hopefulness you observed in “Long, Long Time” is well taken and might inspire me to resume watching TLOU. I’ve played the games and enjoyed the first three episodes of the show, but after “Long, Long Time” I needed a break.
To be clear, I loved the episode, it was just heavy.
While I do find the episode hopeful, you’re 100% right: it was VERY heavy. If you do get back into TLOU, I think that I, personally, found Episode 5 the heaviest, but obviously mileage will vary. I didn’t end up needing a break with TLOU—at least, not yet, although as I said, I might preemptively quit before Season 2 even starts—but I’ve definitely done that with other shows. There was a Kdrama I watched called The Crowned Clown, and at the halfway point, Mek and I were like, “Okay! Okay, we need a few weeks here before we go back cause JESUS.”