in Top Ten

Let’s see what’s on the ‘ol idiot box this year… I kid, I kid. Seriously though, I am more of a movie guy. TV shows are a commitment, and with the amount of “content” out there it’s getting harder and harder to even remember what I’m supposed to be watching. There are genuinely good shows I will probably never see. Does that stress me out? Oh definitely, but hey man, it’s just TV.

As for shows I started but didn’t finish, I want to give props to; She-Hulk, Andor, and Interview with the Vampire. As for shows I have yet to watch? I should probably be watching Abbott Elementary, Reservation Dogs, and White Lotus. What’s embarrassing is that I am all caught up on Euphoria. I don’t know what horrible spell that show has cast over me, but it’s strong.

Alright, Top Ten TV Shows, here we come!

10. Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

I have always felt horror works best in the short form, so I love a good anthology, and I can’t think of a better curator of creepy things than Guillermo del Toro. Cabinet of Curiosities is a series of gothic and grotesque horror stories from a diverse group of filmmakers that del Toro hosts a la Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Directors include; Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Vincenzo Natali (Cube), Ana Lily Amanpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Panos Cosmatos (Mandy), Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), David Prior (The Empty Man), Keith Thomas (The Vigil), and del Toro’s longtime cinematographer Guillermo Navvaro. 

Most of the stories are adaptations of either classic horror short stories from H.P. Lovecraft and Henry Kuttner, or more contemporary short stories. There are a few originals too. Not all of the period piece episodes translate well to this format but every episode is visually stylized with solid performances.

My favorite episode is “The Viewing” from Panos Cosmatos. This episode is about an eccentric billionaire (Peter Weller) in 1979, who gathers a group of artists, writers, and scientists, to his semi-futuristic estate, where he then encourages them to drink, take drugs, converse, and then try to make sense out of an alien-like meteor that has come into his possession. It’s even got Eric Andre! Check it out if your skin is due for a good crawling.

9. House of the Dragon

I’m not one of those people who disowned the Game of Thrones show just because it went out on a sour note. For years, that was my favorite show. I even went to see stupid Game of Thrones in Concert! I made that decision as a rational adult. So I was always open to more stories in the world of Westeros. 

What makes House of the Dragon entertaining, and separates it from its predecessor is intimacy. HotD is almost solely focused on the interpersonal relationships and power struggle within the Targaryen House (the house that has all the dragons).The show is less leaping across landscapes, fighting wars, and more arranging marriages between adults and children. 

The show is yucky. Which is also what makes it compelling. It puts characters in uncomfortable situations. The drama is high. On top of all that, it looks amazing. This show looks expensive and you see it all on screen every week. There’s so much detail in every castle block, every scale, and every rotting king. 

8. Severance

What a dynamite premise for a show, and it’s by a guy from Olympia, WA! I’ve been there! In the world of Severance, a tech company called Lumon hires employees who agree to have their mind wiped every day they come to work and every day they leave. Meaning their work-half doesn’t know who they are outside of work and vice versa. That’s some Orwellian shit right there. 

The show bears a striking resemblance to Lost in the amount of the mystery boxes it sets up. “What do the employees actually do? What’s real? What’s not?” It’s the kind of show that gives you a lot to chew on. Whether any of these questions will ever be swallowed i.e. answered, is yet to be seen. But as for the time being, Severance is the most cerebral show on TV.

7. What We Do in the Shadows

There’s a whole episode this season presented as a house flipping show called “Go Flip Yourself”. This show is in good hands.

6. Atlanta 

Atlanta is a weird show and its final season was no exception. What began as a dramedy about friends navigating their way through the world of Hip-Hop slowly evolved into an anthology shows of sorts. There were scary episodes, somber episodes, episodes with a partial cast. Some episodes featured zero members of the cast. 

One of my favorite episodes of season 4 (with none of the central cast) was the episode, “The Goof Who Sat By the Door”, which was presented as a faux documentary about an alternate timeline where in the 90s a black animator became the CEO of Disney and made the blackest movie ever made… A Goofy Movie.

Atlanta had a lot to say about the black experience and rarely followed any kind of roadmap to tell those stories. The show was unpredictable and strange but always interesting. I miss it now more than ever. I was all about that paper, boy. 

5. Barry

I was honestly checked out on Barry after season 2. “Where can this show go?” Yet season 3 really ups the stakes. Barry season 3 is in a place I wish the show Dexter had ended up. Without spoiling too much, season 3 has a real “the walls are closing in feel” which has elevated this show from a clever hitman comedy to a razor sharp thriller. The fact that one of the highlights from the latest season was a motorcycle chase says a lot. 

“Where does this show go now?” I have no clue. It really seems like Barry is done for. But this show has surprised me before and will likely continue that trend in season 4.

4. The Bear

I love a show about food. I also like shows about the workplace. You know, real jobs. The kind of work you put your blood, sweat, and tears into… maybe some spicy peppers too? The Bear is about the most stressed out man in the world (Jeremy Allen White), as he struggles to keep his dead brother’s Italian sandwich shop above water. The kitchen is a mess, the staff is unruly, and the show is something to sink your teeth into.

3. Pam and Tommy

Never have I seen a show, or a movie, or any piece of media that captured what the early days of the internet were like so perfectly. “Logging on” was such a vague and mysterious concept. What could you find on the internet? What were the rules? Were there any rules? Could you really steal someone’s sex tape and sell it online? What if said sex tape had celebrities on it? 

Developed by Robert Siegel (Big Fan, The Wrestler, The Founder) from a Rolling Stone article by Amanda Chicago Lewis, Pam and Tommy is the true story of how an angry contractor (Seth Rogen), stole a sex tape from his celebrity employers; Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) and Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and distributed said tape on the internet. 

The genius of this show is that we get to see this story from almost every conceivable angle. We see it from the point of an average guy who feels screwed over by asshole celebrities. We see the story from the eyes of an arrogant rock star trying to balance his floundering career with his rocky relationship, and we see this story from the point of view of an actress trying to make the transition from TV bombshell to serious movie actress, only to see her career derailed by a sex tape. 

The show is fair to all sides, and man, the internet stuff is so funny. We didn’t know what the hell it was! And seeing that this website you are on right now is still a thing, we probably still don’t know.

2. The Rehearsal

This has to be one of the most conceptually elaborate docudramas ever conceived, which has in many ways become Nathan Fielder’s trademark. What begins as a self-help show, where Nathan Fielder helps people work out real-life dilemmas by roleplaying them on fake sets with actors, descends into madness, with Nathan becoming a part of his own experiment.

The results can be cringey or embarrassing, but also heartfelt. Or even heartbreaking when an actor hired to play Nathan’s son starts to see Nathan as his actual real-life father. I’ll never forget the twists and turns this took and can’t wait to see where this show goes next. Because I’m not even sure what it is anymore.

1. Better Call Saul

Last June I got COVID, and let me tell ya, that first day of being sick was a doozy. Everything was sore. I could barely crawl out of bed. But if there was one thing that got me through that day it was watching Better Call Saul. I watched a whole season that one day. Truly, all I did was sleep and watch Better Call Saul. And in a weird way, it was one of the most fun days I had last year. 

Better Call Saul has all the appeal of its predecessor, Breaking Bad. Both shows are high stakes and stylish. Both shows are filled with deep symbolism and deeper performances. But I think Better Call Saul gets the edge. Why? Because we like Saul. Bob Odenkirk’s iconic performance as lawyer Saul Goodman is far more sympathetic than that of Walter White. Saul isn’t a bad person, he just makes a lot of bad decisions. He’s almost too clever for his own good. 

Fortunately, the show made the right call in the end with Saul doing the right thing over the clever thing. I’ll never forget that ending. I’ll never forget that show. S’all good man.