Wednesday, December 21, 2016


In years past, I collaborated on a year-end Best Of list with various other luminaries from  Now that I'm on my own, the list will be more unfiltered and nonsensical, and also separated into individual entries. Oh, and it's scripted TV only (it's simpler that way).  The ordering of said list is largely arbitrary, but if strict quantification of artistic merit makes you feel safe and aroused, consider this # 8.  


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Many shows with great debut seasons suffer fairly steep sophomore slumps (see Mr. Robot for this year’s most striking example).  But there are rarer occasions wherein a sophomore surge occurs, and a previously good show hits a peak that it will never quite reach again.  Sometimes, an incredible season takes an immediate nosedive following a questionable ending, and spends year after year chasing that dramatic dragon to increasingly diminished returns (Sons Of Anarchy, Dexter). Other times, the show is able to carry through enough of its strengths to continually flirt with that summit, but can never find a replacement for that particular conflict or antagonist that allows them to quite reach it (Justified, Boardwalk Empire).

For YTW, that antagonist was Gretchen’s depression, and if all the examples I’m citing are from dramas, that’s because the arc that propelled it to that sophomore surge was largely dramatic.  And while the third season was still very insightful and very, very funny about the ways we allow our baggage to sabotage our relationships and general happiness, it couldn’t help but fall short of the raw pathos of Gretchen’s spiral and Jimmy’s struggle to comprehend it.  The show tried to compensate by giving more dramatic material to supporting players Lindsay and Edgar, but the final dissolution of her marriage veered into territory that was too unremittingly cruel (a fine line the show generally walks with aplomb), and he is a character that just rarely works for me.  While he took center stage for the series highlight “22”, that touching, format-bending episode is not enough to lift the entire season on its shoulders.  Nor to make sense out of his ass-backward fall into success as a comedy writer/performer, despite never showing the slightest aptitude for delivering even the most basic joke (the character, not Desmond Borges, who is capable of wringing laughs out of fairly bleak material when the opportunity presents). 

So the show falls back, as always, on the considerable strength of the central couple.  And while their material, dealing with his father’s death and her blusterous forays into therapy, provided plenty of laughs, it did not have enough feels to keep the show from slipping down the list considerably (last year I rated it #1 overall).   If the show is ever able to tap into a dramatic vein as rich as last year’s again, it’s a given that Aya Cash and Chris Geere will be able to knock it out of the park.  Until then, we’ll have to settle with them being funny as fuck as the most oddly, blackly sweet couple to grace the airwaves.  At least to each other.  Literally everyone else in the world can eat a bag of diseased assholes.

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Watch It For:  A wake turned ill-advised heckling session, with live piano accompaniment by Ben Folds providing tinkling punctuation for each jab.

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