Dear Tara, Todd, and Willa:
I also loved One Day at a Time, Tara. I’m a longtime fan of Justina Machado’s. For some reason, showrunners like to showcase her hard edges—she played a sourpuss determined to squash her husband’s ambitions in Six Feet Under; an undocumented immigrant who disrupted her daughter’s life by taking her back to a country she didn’t know on The Fosters; a distraught mom of a high-school valedictorian father-to-be in the Bridget Loves Bernardo parade of ethnic stereotypes Welcome to the Family; a small-hearted matchmaker-to-the-stars on Jane the Virgin; and other ball-busting roles too terrible to mention.
Finally, on One Day at a Time she was asked to be more than a scold. She was an exasperated daughter, an anxious mom, the estranged wife of a soldier with PTSD, an injured war vet, a single woman in her 30s, but she also got to be funny and warm and lovable. Like many Netflix shows, it was a grower—in the first few episodes, I mostly noticed the flaws, like the contemporary version of Schneider, a hipster guy in a yacht-rock band, who just came across as a buffoon—like Mark McKinney’s character in Superstore, he’s too broad and dumb and feels like he took a bad turn on the lot and ended up on the wrong show—but by the end of the finale, I was bawling and wondering how I could possibly wait another year for a chance to hang with the Alvárez family.
My favorite comfort television involves foreign cops expelling strange vowel sounds as they swan around gorgeous landscapes investigating peculiar crimes. These shows have more realistic wardrobes (so many ugly winter coats) and far better scenery than anything made in America. (Did the Brits never learn to film indoors?) But I can’t get enough of Vera, George Gently, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Death in Paradise, and other shows that make you long for a cup of tea and one of those weird cakes they make on The Great British Baking Show. I also love Crownies—come for the lesbian barrister, stay for the imaginative Australian swearing—and its spinoff, Janet King. The most recent season of Janet King was objectively terrible—the writers seemed to think that lesbians choose partners based on an utter lack of compatibility—but I would gladly have sat through another 10 episodes about crook cricketers and the drongos who murder them.
The show I save for lazy Saturday mornings, when all I want to do is sit in my PJs and luxuriate in the variety of deep do-nothingness that is only available to the childless, is Syfy’s Killjoys. If you gave me an hour, I couldn’t adequately explain the plot. It involves bounty hunters, a weird dystopian future, one woman playing two parts, baths of green goo, and various developments that I don’t altogether follow. But I enjoy the constant sense that really hot sex could break out at any moment, no matter who’s in the room/spaceship/obscure planet. And the main trio, a pair of brothers and the woman who loves them, are such charming companions that I really don’t mind being a little vague on how exactly they’re going to save the world.
As you mentioned in your opening salvo, Willa, despite its stellar cast, Feud made barely a ripple this year. It was perhaps a bit too tasteful to really satisfy my craving for midcentury Hollywood gossip, but I loved the scene between Pauline (the wondrous Alison Wright, aka The Americans’ Martha) and Jackie Hoffman’s Mamacita, in which two unglamorous women plotted to make movies, all the while knowing that they would never be allowed to be anything other servants or assistants.
I want to end by blurting out some other outstanding acting performances of the year. Alison Brie, as GLOW’s Ruth “Zoya the Destroya” Wilder, who so effectively conveyed how annoying it is when someone tries too hard. She was far more interesting than those characters whose unlikability stems from grossness or bitchiness. Katy Mixon continues to charm in American Housewife, a show that purports to be about a former party girl from Florida fish-out-of-watering it up with the snobs of Westport, Connecticut. It’s really about Katie Otto’s reluctance to grow up, as everyone else in the cast knows. Is it OK to admit that I never really noticed Rachel Brosnahan before? She carries The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on her very narrow back. And the entire cast of Catastrophe, which is spiky and hilarious and makes me so grateful for my dull, boring life.
I must stop before I start to sound like Larry King randomly flipping through the pages of TV Guide. This has been a blast, as always.
Can you believe that Rachel Zane from Suits is marrying Prince Harry in May?