Favorite Shows and Movies I Watched in 2016
I rarely go to the theater because Dollars, and I don't watch all the talked-about shows because Time. Still, I love nostalgia as much as the next blogger at the end of a year, so here's my list of the favorite shows and movies I watched in 2016. And unlike my favorite reads of the year, these are actually in order.
1. The Great British Baking Show
My favorite not just of the year but possibly of all time. If you've seen it, you understand. Mel and Sue, Paul and Mary, pastel mixers, hearing English people pronounce pecan as PEE-cun. It is some of the most delightful television I've ever experienced, and I've experienced a lot. Are you a fan or need some convincing? Here are seven life lessons from The Great British Baking Show.
My husband and I just started season three, and I'm glad we're watching slowly because this show is GOLD and I never want it to end. When we watched the pilot, I looked at him with an expression of delighted confusion and said, "What is this?" It was unlike anything I'd ever seen to the point where I thought it was really smart or really dumb. Now I see that it's just brilliant. Veep is groundbreaking and one of the best things I've ever seen. Warning: it's foul. Like, incredibly profane. Don't watch if you're sensitive to language.
3. Stranger Things
THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD. The genius of Stranger Things is that it's a happy and hopeful show set inside a horror story. It's weird, y'all. Horror has never been happy until Eleven and Co. (Let's be honest... until Dustin and Co.) Please don't avoid this one because you think it's too scary. It's not. There are moments that make you jump, but there's nothing that will make you wary of going to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night. And I'm a wuss, so trust me on this. In any other year, this would be a solid number one choice; it just so happened to release the same year I discovered two of my all-time favorites.
4. The Jinx
Now, this one might make you afraid of midnight water. But only because it's a documentary and therefore true. I'd never heard of Robert Durst before seeing this docuseries, and I kind of wish I hadn't. But wow is this story compelling and expertly done (it was the Emmy for Best Documentary). Andrew Jarecki, a curious Hollywood filmmaker, interviews Robert Durst, an eccentric real estate tycoon who's a suspect in a string of murders. You feel like the guy did it, and then you see Andrew sit across from him in a pair of cushy armchairs and just shudder because oh my word he's probably a murderer. It's compelling storytelling with a finale worth waiting for. I watched the full 4.5+ hours in two days which is magic for a mom of three tiny humans.
5. The Killing, Season 3
WOW. I loved the first two seasons that asked Who Killed Rosie Larson? and frankly I didn't think a third season could follow. Oh my gosh the third season blew the first two OUT OF THE WATER. Great acting, writing, moody Pacific Northwest cinematography, and a twisty story that left me speechless. When I finished, I sat in shock, mouth agape like I was in a Hulu commercial. You don't have to have seen the first two seasons to enjoy the third, and there's no reason to watch the fourth. It's lame. But if you like crime shows that focus on the hunt and not on the gore, you'll love this. And Joel Kinneman slays me. He's so weirdly hot.
6. OJ: Made in America
Most of this docuseries isn't really about O.J. Simpson; it truly is about the America that created him. It's a compelling narrative about racism, riots, Los Angeles culture, gender roles, class... and that's way before the actual murder and trial coverage. Even though I knew I'd have to wake up four times throughout the night to feed a tiny baby, it was still worth it to stay up for the classic "let's just watch a little bit more." A hard watch but so worth your time.
A worthy Oscar Best Picture winner, you guys. And not just for Rachel McAdams and her 90s khaki pants and cardigan sets. It was a nail-biter, and I couldn't believe how much the story grabbed my attention. The acting - Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci - was top notch. The writing was killer - quick, reverent, curious, desperate, and sometimes funny. And the story? Anything based on a true story is interesting to me, but the filmmakers told this one in such a compelling, engaging way that I thought about it for days after.
8. Making a Murderer
Talk about days after... this one still has me reeling. An amazing series on storytelling alone, but when you add in questions about the poor, the judicial system, the treatment of minors, and all of the things that made the case of Steven Avery so jaw-dropping, you can't help but list it in an end-of-year list. It's a fantastic series about a man exonerated for murder years after his conviction due to DNA evidence... and that same guy gets arrested for a different murder. Man, is it good. If you avoid hype, don't let that stop you from this one.
9. Veronica Mars (the series)
When I had Annie back in April, I needed a nursing show... something that was interesting and fun but not too dark or nightmare-y. Several people have suggested Veronica Mars over the years, and I've always been skeptical. But, hey, who wants to be picky at 3am with a baby on your boob? So I turned down the volume, turned on the closed-captioning, and watched the entire series on my phone in the first two months of my baby's little life. I. Loved. Every. Second. The characters are so good. I love shows that give characters just deep and drastic arcs, when the villain becomes the hero and the heartthrob becomes the jerk. And Kristen Bell's Veronica is really good, and her chemistry with her dad; her best friend, Wallace; and even her dog, Backup took me by surprise. I had her pegged as not very good, and this show proved me wrong. Loved it so so much.
10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens was one of two movies I saw in the theater the entire year. (This was the other one.) Totally worth the million and a half dollars. I loved it with the love of a thousand moons. That's a little space humor for you. It was fun, nostalgic, full of new characters that I love almost as much as the old ones. I had low expectations coming in, but if they'd been high, they still would've been surpassed. We've been watching the original three Star Wars movies in ten minutes increments with our boys every night before they go to bed, and we finished Return of the Jedi around Thanksgiving. Can't wait to show them The Force Awakens.
Do you y'all know about Superstore? It's a workplace comedy set in a big box store in its second season on NBC. The creator was a producer and writer on The Office for several years, so the sensibility is similar... but not. It feels accessible but super original. One of our favorite things about it is how diverse the cast is; it covers the racial, religious, and social gamut making it one of the most representative shows on TV that no one knows about. You'll laugh out loud multiple times an episode. We love it so much.
12. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
I'm a big fan of Gilmore Girls; they've taught me lessons about food, I've curated a binging guide for every kind of viewer, and had enough to say about the show to fill an episode of Tsh's podcast The Simple Show. Needless to say, I was pumped about the Netflix revival, and I was not disappointed. Fall was by far my favorite season, but I think ASP did a fantastic job bringing the show back to life with the perfect blend of nostalgia and new story. Except Rory is still the worst.
A sign of a great series is making a familiar story feel fresh and surprising. I knew every single plot point and even most of the lines of this series, and it was still a delight. Romola Garai (who I loooooved in The Hour) was a fabulous Emma - spunky, immature, self-righteous, and eager to help when her help wasn't wanted. And yet totally endearing. That's why I love Emma; she's kind of annoying, but you still love her. The acting was great, the cast was perfect (helloooo, Jonny Lee Miller), and the English countryside was everything it should be. Rehashing a familiar story shouldn't be an essential watch, but this one is. So, so lovely, and Jane Austen fans would be remiss to pass it by.
14. Veronica Mars (the movie)
When I finished the TV series, I immediately ordered the movie on DVD and watched it twice in as many days. Yes, a lot of that was because Logan was in sailor whites (have mercy), but it's such a good movie! Much like the Gilmore Girls series, Veronica Mars had the perfect blend of old and new. Such a treat... and I'm not just talking about Logan. Mostly.
15. Mr. Robot, season one
Caveat #1: I felt stupid 65% of the time watching this show. Caveat #2: I quit in the middle of the second season because it was too slow, too weird, and too much. Caveat #3: I don't need to finish a show to make it worth watching, and season one is a masterpiece worth your time. It's so weird and cool and crazy, and the lead Rami Malek is PERFECTION. I mean, stupid good. I'm so glad I binged the first season and equally glad I quit the second. TV is weird that way sometimes.