TV Catch-Up 2023

TV Catch-Up: 2023

TV Catch-Up 2023

I can’t possibly review every show I watch. I have a job. And a little bit of self respect. So rather than sit there looking at the the overwhelming list of shows I watched in 2023 that I never reviewed, I’ll just put them all (or mostly) here. Because, as you’ve probably figured out, this site is just a giant cataloging excercise anyway. I’m sure I missed a bunch. And am only including those series that I completed. Here we go.

Abbott Elementary: Season 2
Network: ABC
Previous Full Review: Abbott Elementary: Season 1
Capsule Review: Look, the first season of this show was a great example of what broadcast television could be. It could show us a community that we rarely get to see. Set in Philadelphia, a city with a horrible inferiority complex and a drug problem that is the stuff of nightmares. Not that they really mention this second piece — it is a major network sitcom, after all — but it does have that underdog quality that Philly embodies. It’s a sweet show with likable characters, but it can also be wallpaper at times. And maybe that’s because I haven’t watched a 22-episode season of television in years. It’s too much. There are going to be not-as-great episodes. And, honestly, none of the episodes is “great” per se. They are mostly quality broadcast TV. Some better than others, and some just kinda eh. I found myself finishing episodes and just moving on with little to no thought about it two seconds later. It showed up in the DVR, I hit play and deleted it afterwards and moved on. The season ended and I barely noticed. I’m sure I’ll continue to watch season three with the hope they bring in some new blood and inject a bit of drama or comedy gold to amp it up a bit. Solid is fine, but I want extraordinary in these days of media overload.

American Born Chinese: Season 1
Network: Disney+
Capsule Review: It’s a fish-out-of-water, who is actually a Chinese god of some sort. I think. This show is actually reasonably cute, injecting humor and exploring what it’s like to be the weird foreign kid amongst a bunch of non-weird foreign kids. It’s a YA thing, I imagine, but I was watching it with a YA, so it’s okay. Even so, it’s breezy enough to keep adults engaged, even if it definitely skews young and a little D&D for my taste. I don’t read much manga or watch anime, but it definitely has that odd manic nature to it. It’s fun and a little strange, which I think is the whole point.

Barry: Season 4
Network: Max
Previous Full Reviews: Barry: Season 1 / Barry: Season 2 / Barry: Season 3
Capsule Review: I guess we could call this Barry’s artsy season. Not that the show hasn’t done some funky, weird stuff in the past, but this — the fourth and final season — just went straight auteur with Bill Hader pretty much taking over the series from a writing and directing perspective. And why wouldn’t he just pour in all of his ideas and make this shit wacky while he was at it? Granted, the show has been heading that way, with each season moving further away from the hitman-turned-actor conceit, becoming something more psychically intense. Something darker, somehow, but also deeply black comedy. More sophisticated and strange, but in a really good way. Hader really dialed up the TV-ness of this season, closing it out in style and reminding us that he’ll be around as a filmmaker and a visionary comedic voice for a long time.

The Big Door Prize: Season 1
Network: Apple TV+
Capsule Review: This is what happens when someone has a two sentence pitch, sells it and then a bunch of other someones need to figure out what to do with it. This pitch involves a machine that shows up in a small town one day that spits out Zoltar-like cards that have a profession on them. The mystery of the machine and the cards leads the townsfolk to believe that these cards somehow predict their life’s potential. So, I’m a teacher now, but I get a card that reads “chef.” Or sometimes the cards will be more vague and have things like “hero.” And, again, for whatever reason the idiots (and the show portrays most of these people as vain idiots) in this town follow the cards blindly. Interesting concept, terrible execution. The tone of the show is all over the place, swinging from unfunny comedy to much more serious. And, look, I generally like Christopher O’Dowd, but he is deeply annoying on this show. His lack of maturity and constant amalgam of self-doubt and wide-eyed stupidity is just bad. Aside from a couple of the young peoples’ performances, it is an all-around stinker across the board. Which I honestly attribute to the writing and this concept just being spun in completely the wrong way. It’s unsubtle, way too broad and just generally an unpleasant hang. All this and we’re apparently getting a second season. Must be cheap to produce, I suppose.

Black Mirror: Season 6
Network: Netflix
Previous Full Reviews: Black Mirror: Season 3 / Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Capsule Review: Season 6 is a mixed bag. Mostly good, but also really, really terrible. The incredibly meta “Joan is Awful,” is just fun stuff. It uses its own platform, Netflix, to basically skewer platforms like Netflix. Which I appreciate. “Loch Henry” is a twisty-turny psychological drama that has just enough creepiness around the edges to make it a true Black Mirror. The third episode, “Beyond the Sea,” is very Twilight Zone in its period sci-fi morality. It’s a classic straight-forward thriller that builds tension and has a great payoff. Then we have “Mazey Day,” which may be one of the worst episodes of Black Mirror ever. I’m not ruining anything by saying that it involves werewolves. Because it’s super-obvious from go — and not something I have any interest in seeing ever. It’s bad. The final episode, “Demon 79,” is more in the vein of “Mazey Day’s” monster tale than the typical tech-oriented stuff (and is labeled not as Black Mirror, but as Red Mirror), and it too suffers from a really odd tone. The thing is, the story isn’t a bad one, but could have been adapted to the more typical Black Mirror technology threat rather than the demon-related nonsense the episode actually employs. It’s really strange, and not what I expect from this show. Again, it could have been worse, but it also could have been so much better.

Network: AMC
Capsule Review: A true story done in the style of any number of recent comedic interpretations and over-the-top dramatizations of a wacky real-life situation. This one is breezy and relatively low-stakes in terms of lives on the line, but everything Canadian is always funnier than it should be. I used to love my BlackBerry. I wrote a whole novel on one. The company, however, couldn’t get out of its own way in the most Canadian of manners. It’s funny that an American company, Apple, came along and wiped these dorks out. Though if the dude at BlackBerry is anything like Glenn Howerton played him (which was amazing!), he kind of deserves to go down.

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace
Network: Max
Capsule Review: This was one of the weirder things I’ve seen this year. I’m honestly not sure what I thought it was going to be, but a maybe-dwarf girl fooling an adoptive family into thinking she was a small child when she was, in fact, a twenty-something adult. Depending on who you asked. Honestly, every scene seemed to contradict the one that came before it. Natalia was at once a sociopath, a psychopath, a scammer. But also an inept child who couldn’t even wash or feed herself. I’m not even sure we ever get to a conclusion, but it is a WTF-fest the whole way through. Bizarre.

Dave: Season 3
Network: FXX
Previous Full Reviews: Dave: Season 1 / Dave: Season 2
Capsule Review: Dave has always been a show that almost has to be a serendipitous find. It speaks to a very small audience. An audience I wouldn’t have the first clue how to describe. Teenaged white boys? Twenty-something bros? I’m honestly not sure. But it has a fan in me. Until the dick jokes get to be too much. This season, we get to focus on a maturing Dave. A successful Dave. A person who has found himself without much to complain about — which was pretty much his default in the first two seasons. Now that he’s found professional success, it’s time to focus on that personal success. A girlfriend! For real. And while it’s not as funny — and, oddly, not as emotional — as previous seasons, it’s still a show filled with fun and funny ideas. It didn’t reach the heights of season two by any stretch, but this more plot-heavy season finds a man in comfortable stasis (after passively faking his own death). It’s weird to see Lil’ Dicky mixing it up with celebs we actually recognize (including a hysterical Brad Pitt), but I guess this is what success looks like in that world. The meta world of Dave Burd the actor/rapper and Dave “Dave” Burd the rapper/character.

Invasion: Season 2
Network: Apple TV+
Previous Full Review: Invasion: Season 1
Capsule Review: This may be one of the most boring sci-fi shows of all time. And that’s a pretty high bar even in 2023, what with Silo and Extrapolations on the docket. But, no, this beats them both by quite a large margin. It’s dull. And nonsensical. For instance, the US Army sets up an impenetrable base to maybe, kinda fight against an alien invasion on the edge of a corn field. And literally forgets to fence in the side of this base that faces the field. So all people have to do to get into this guarded base is literally walk through some corn. And it just keeps happening. And also there are some kids who manage to get from London to Paris on foot, and I so don’t care about them or anything going on with the Japanese woman who talks to the aliens. It’s all a mess. A slow-moving, expensive mess.

Loki: Season 2
Network: Disney+
Previous Full Review: Loki: Season 1
Capsule Review: There is fun to be had with this series. Certainly more fun than some of the other Marvel stuff of late. I’m not sure this time-travel thing is long for this world, however. It’s overly complicated, but also under-explained. And let’s not forget the Jonathan Majors of it all. They’re kind of fucked. Both because they based this whole world on his character, and because his acting is, at times, seriously suspect. The man does not have a chill bone in his body. Clearly. Anyhow, there are some very entertaining things going on here. But also some stilted ones that felt like they were done more in duty to building out the Marvel Universe than making a better TV show.

Love & Death
Network: HBO Max
Capsule Review: Another in a long line of true-crime dramatizations, this one involves a housewife killing her friend and fellow church-goer with an axe. Because, well, you know, she was also having an affair with the dead woman’s husband. It’s a weirdly chaste, but not sexless, affair. And “good Christians” killing each other is always fun. The cast is great, what with Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons (aka Fat Matt Damon), among others. It’s a pretty nuanced look at 1970s religious Texas and familial dynamics between men and women and whatnot. It’s well done, and a pretty compelling story to boot.

The Mandalorian: Season 3
Network: Disney+
Previous Full Review: The Mandalorian: Seasons 1 & 2
Capsule Review: This show is kind of a mess, truth be told. There are plot holes you could drive a starcruiser through. There are narrative arcs that just kind of fizzle out. Expectations are constantly foiled by over-indexed expectations. Which may be our fault, and not the fault of the showrunners. But there is really some head-scratching stuff going on in every episode. There’s some okay stuff, mind you, but overall the show feels stiff and unwilling to be as much fun as it could be. There just seems to be some logic lapses that are a bit unforgivable. And are we really going to watch another whole season of a dude who may or may not be Pedro Pascal in that suit. Take off your helmet, bro.

MasterChef: United Tastes of America (Season 13)
Network: Fox
Previous Full Review: MasterChef: Season 6
Capsule Review: Following another season of meh is this gimmicky East Coast / West Coast feud setup that is equally as lackluster as last year’s gimmicky setup. It’s just not fun watching Gordon Ramsay berate home cooks. It’s like yelling at grandma to walk faster. And Joe Bastianich’s tiny bites off the back of his fork while grimacing got old seasons ago. It turns out watching a bunch of yokels make middling grub just isn’t that much fun. And the geographic silliness just didn’t work. Let’s scrap this thing and get another food contest that involves blindfolds and an elevator. Or, let’s not.

The Morning Show: Season 3
Network: Apple TV+
Previous Full Reviews: The Morning Show: Season 1 / The Morning Show: Season 2
Capsule Review: This show is a drag. It was kind of fun and trashy, but now — in its attempt to be Succession — it has shown its spots as a glossy soap opera for aging superstars. Introducing the generic tech billionaire (a la Succession and every single other show in 2023) in the form of Jon Hamm didn’t necessarily help anything. And, honestly, just underlined the desperation to try to keep this show afloat given its sunk cost and fading relevance in a crowded star-laden television landscape. And brining in “current” events like January 6th isn’t doing the show any favors. Nobody needs moralization from our clumsily written entertainment.

Only Murders in the Building: Season 3
Network: Hulu
Capsule Review: This show has outlasted its cuteness. Old guys being old guys in the presence of a less old girl is funny. Nebbishy guys doing a podcast about murder is funny. But then they got just too much. The Broadway stuff is just too inside baseball. I mean I’m sure it’s hysterical to the actors and the writers, but as an audience, it’s just too niche. Too twee. Bring back the dead condo weirdos. Introduce some characters we can relate to, but who are also entertianing. I don’t know, this one felt a bit like a throw-away, despite having Meryl Streep in it. Also, I’m starting to question if Paul Rudd is a good actor outside of playing stoner everymen. It’s rough.

One Piece: Season 1
Network: Netflix
Capsule Review: This was some seriously weird shit. Based on a manga, there’s this kid who eats a magic fruit, which makes his bones rubber. His name is annoyingly Monkey D. Luffy, and the actor who plays him seems like he’s on a combo of meth and happy pills. He and his crew live in some sort of alt universe, and his biggest dream is to become the world’s most well known pirate. The whole thing is like an acid trip inside of an acid trip. I both hated and was intrigued by it. The things we do for our kids.

Perry Mason: Season 2
Network: HBO
Previous Full Review: Perry Mason: Season 1
Capsule Review: I’ve never been a big fan of Matthew Rhys. Something about his mouth and his hair. Probably left over from my viewing of The Americans with his bad wigs and stupid teeth. A show that I abandoned, by the way, mostly due to my displeasure with this face and acting. I will admit he’s better in this show, but this season is a bit of a drag. After transitioning to be a full-time, successful lawyer, they should have made this more of a case of the week. Quick hitters to show how sharp and daring Mason is. And then, after they establish him as a lawyer, you get into a season-long murder mystery, courtroom drama. Or whatever. Instead, we focus on this one boring case for the whole season that seems to just kind of tread water while we watch characters go about their lives. It felt like a bad plan. And HBO agreed and canceled this thing. Should have listened to me, the Monday morning asshole.

Reservation Dogs: Season 3
Network: FX on Hulu
Previous Full Review: Reservation Dogs: Season 1 / Reservation Dogs: Season 2
Capsule Review: I loved the first couple of seasons of this show. They showed us a different culture through the lens of a typical teenaged experience. Even if the show itself isn’t typical. Filled with emotion and even some magical realism, it was funny and enlightening in equal measure. After all, I imagine very, very few of you reading this grew up on an Indian reservation and experienced a life apart from the experience of the larger, white world. At the heart of the show is the young crew, who we see grow up before our very eyes. The coming-of-age tale set in a world few of us recognize, but that we can all understand after delving into it for a couple seasons. It was a little jarring, then, to kind of move away from the gang in the third and final season. And this is perhaps because season two essentially ended the Res Dogs’ goal. They closed the books on their dead friend and everything seemed to be perfectly complete. Making this whole season — while still a great group of episodes — seem almost like an epilogue. As we met the older generation that we either have to assume this crew will grow into, or look at them to understand their past. Either way, it was very good TV, but felt a bit apart from the other pieces of the puzzle.

Rick and Morty: Season 7
Network: Cartoon Network
Previous Full ReviewRick and Morty: Seasons 1-3
Capsule Review: Look, I know Justin Roiland is a complete piece of shit, but the voices he usually does – basically all of them — didn’t sound quite right this season. Granted, I was kind of listening for it, but it did distract me a bit. That’s on me. But if you’ve seen a season of Rick and Morty, you’ll pretty much get what you’re looking for with another strong season of wackiness. Though there does seem to be a strange suicide string running through these episodes. I’m not sure what that’s all about. Maybe a subtle hint to Roiland from his co-creator, Dan Harmon? That would be unsurprising, I guess. Because with this show, nothing you experience is surprising at this point. Until it is.

Secret Invasion
Network: Disney+
Capsule Review: My god, this show is a… Well, it’s a shitshow. Because it’s boring. And nobody cares about Skrulls and Super-Skrulls. Honestly, I’m not sure what exactly they were going for here, but this tone, this pacing and this absolutely atrocious dialogue isn’t doing the future of these Marvel shows any favors. My assumption is that they’ll pretend this thing just never happened and move on with white guys in capes and masks and call it a summer.

Servant: Season 4
Network: Apple TV+
Previous Full Reviews: Servant: Season 1 / Servant: Season 2
Capsule Review: If there was ever a show that needed to wrap it up more than M. Night’s Servant, I can’t think of one. The narrative and plot meandered in an incredibly confusing way in season 3 and continued to confound in season 4 as we headed toward the overarching mystery of who this Leanne person really is, and where the re-animated baby Jericho came from. The answer is a mix of WTF and huh? There is just no continuity from season to season, and the writers seem to go out of their way to make Leanne’s story super-murky. Ultimately the conclusion is both silly and dissatisfying. A real disappointment for a show that had promise, but squandered it trying to tweak the tone from year to year and making the narrative impenetrable without a string chart and a time machine.

Slow Horses: Season 3
Network: Apple TV+
Previous Full Reviews: Slow Horses: Season 1
Capsule Review: It’s exciting to know that we’ll be revisiting Slow Horses every year for the foreseeable future. At least I think that’s the case. They’ve really built a nice machine here, what with every season being a different case or set of cases with our lovable losers in Slough House. This season was a little more convoluted than the others and involved more firefights than you’d typically experience with this show, but it had wit and action and terrific dialogue and acting. Granted, I certainly had my preferences in terms of who we spent time with. Mainly Gary Oldman and Jack Lowden, if I have to be honest. They’ve found something really special in Lowden, who plays the role with amazing clarity in and amongst his bravado, foibles, ineptitude, humor and surprising sensitivity. They keep killing off peripheral characters, but I do hope in the next season they bring in a couple new recruits or two and maybe some more bad guys that can juice up some of the secondary cast. Especially awesome this season is Chris Coghill, a furious gum chewer and member of the tough-guy dogs unit for the MI5. More of that, please. And we’ll all be happy for years to come.

Succession: Season 4
Network: HBO
Previous Reviews: Succession: Season 1 / Succession: Season 2
Capsule Review: I’m not sure this season hit the high highs of some of the past seasons, but as usual this final group of episodes was incredibly consistent, biting and horrifically funny. I like that they wrapped it up after four seasons, which will make the re-watch a more concise and enjoyable experience. I think they did nail the ending, as it finished off the series in the only way it could really end without feeling like a contrivance. And, as usual, the acting is better than just about anything around.

Sweet Tooth: Season 2
Network: Netflix
Previous Full Review: Sweet Tooth: Season 1
Capsule Review: It feels like there was a pretty dramatic tone shift between season one and season two of Sweet Tooth. The apocalypse is never fun, of course, but the first season felt dramatic and even dark at times. Despite revolving around the whole lone wolf and cub trope, it showed the darker, more terrifying side of familial relationships and trust. Whereas season two had way more muppets and a bad guy who I think maybe was ripped from that doctor dude from Sonic the Hedgehog. It felt like it was made for kids, maybe? No more murdering your neighbors because they showed signs of the plague. Instead there are way too many goofy hybrid kids in prosthetics and a somewhat more simplistic approach to good and evil. I didn’t enjoy it even half as much as season one, and probably won’t continue with it for the third and final season. Unless they promise me more indiscriminate murder and betrayal!

Ted Lasso: Season 3
Network: Apple TV+
Previous Review: Ted Lasso: Season 1
Capsule Review: Popularity can be both a blessing and a curse. Expectations build. Merch flies out the door. Awards are bestowed. And then you have to make more TV. The whole thing just becomes ubiquitous. The mustache. The positive vibes. The aphorisms. But what was once fresh and new can quickly become a rote, self-referential drag. Unfortunately Ted Lasso fell into this trap. Trying to give the audience more of what they thought was special about their show. Which only exposed the fact it was always kind of a middling fish-out-of-water concept that is just incredibly unrealistic. And so obviously based on Major League. This, the final season of the series, just kind of cruises to its inevitable conclusion. One that you can see coming together, one page of the script at a time. It’s fine, but the magic of season one just never rekindled itself with these characters that became characatures.

Top Chef: World All-Stars (Season 20)
Network: Bravo
Previous Full Reviews: Top Chef: Colorado / Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.
Capsule Review: You know what I think about when I think about awesome cuisine? London. Ok, not at all. But this is where Top Chef decided to place this season of its long-running chef contest. One of the major issues here is that you have to find contestants who are at least conversational in English, which definitely diminishes your contestant pool. And your talent pool. The concept here is good, but the execution still felt locked in COVID and had this insular feel that didn’t allow us to get out into the community in a way that used to make this show good. Now it’s kind of stagnant and has become more of a game than an inventive artistic endeavor. Also, the dude who you think is gonna win from episode one ends up winning. Because, frankly, he’s head and shoulders above his other competitors. And that makes for pretty boring television.

Unstable: Season 1
Network: Netflix
Capsule Review: I honestly had no recollection of what this show was until I watched a trailer on YouTube. And then I was like… yeah… I watched this. Rob Lowe and his son, starring in yet another show about an Elon Musk type tech titan who is a disaster of a human being, but brilliant and weird. Terrific. Granted, Lowe and his son, John Owen, were a fun hang in their ghost-hunting reality show, The Lowe Files. So they kind of knew what they had here in this scripted series with Rob and John Owen playing father and reluctant son. Their dynamic in real life (or as real as “reality” shows get) is not too different. Rob as the free-spirited, endlessly optimistic eccentric and the son as the grounded skeptic. This show is occasionally quirky and funny, but mostly it’s a little cliched and something that would feel at home on Fox next to late-teens half-hour goofball comedies like Ghosted. It’s cute, I guess, but I’m surprised it’s getting a second season. Must be cheap to produce, and Lowe must really enjoy hanging out with his son.

What We Do In the Shadows: Season 5
Network: FX
Previous Full Reviews: What We Do In the Shadows: Season 1 / What We Do In the Shadows: Season 2
Capsule Review: I feel bad that this show keeps ending up in the catch-up page for the season, but consistency is the enemy of… Well, not much new or revelatory happens in season five of this continuously fun and funny show. This season is pretty breezy for a particularly breezy show, focusing on the Guillermo character and his slowly growing vampiric powers. But, honestly, the dumb neighbor, Sean, kind of steals the middle of the season. A character that is truly one of the best side characters in series history. Truly the beating heart of Staten Island awesomeness. Oddly, there is some crossover with Sweet Tooth (thematically, not literally), which I didn’t see coming. Also, the New Jersey gags and the ongoing bizarreness of dumb-ass ancient creatures hanging out in a crumbling mansion in a lame borough is always going to be funny.