This was a tough year, right? Here, nevertheless, is my traditional annual round-up of the best things about the year. Here are the things that stood out this year as being bright spots for me. I’m hoping there are a lot more next year.
Favorite Show: “Good Behavior.” This probably shouldn’t be a show that I love, and it’s true that I find it kind of stressful and part of me is like, “Is this going to end poorly? Should I not be getting invested in this show?” Like, terrible life choice on my part to be watching this show, let’s be honest. And it’s not at all a show about a con artist, really, which was the description I read that made me start watching. But this show is incredibly compelling, and once I turned it on I could not take my eyes away from it. Michelle Dockery is amazingly good in it. And I was a person who strongly disliked Lady Mary, so the fact that she’s making me root for her is credit to what a good actress she really is. With a truly stellar American accent, btw. *Multiple* American accents. Every character is complex, with layers slowly revealed, so that it’s hard to hate (or even love) any of them, because they all have so many sides to them, and all do terrible things and then turn around and do amazing things. And even when you’re desperately wishing they’d make better life choices, you can’t fault the narrative, really: their motivations always make sense. Relationships develop slowly and in a way that feels organic, and crazy stuff happens but the emotional core feels real. The episode involving Javier’s family dinner was a tense tour de force that I was utterly transfixed by. Honestly, the majority of the shows that I watch on television I watch with half an eye, doing other things. “Good Behavior” hasn’t let me do that from its very first episode. So, even though I’m terrified that next year I’ll be like, “WHAT WAS THIS TERRIBLE STUPID SHOW,” I figured that this year I should give credit where credit is due.
Most Fun New Show: “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.” I watched my first episode of this show the day after the election. Which was, frankly, perfect timing. If you need a show that will disengage your brain a little bit, let you relax and not worry that something terrible is about to happen (LOOKING AT YOU, “GOOD BEHAVIOR”), then this is the show for you. It’s so surreal a premise that I’m not sure it’s not all happening in my head, tbh. But if Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are hanging out in my head having a dinner party, then my head’s a pretty good place to be. The show is random, the guests are random, the dinner party games are random, but it’s all the best kind of randomness. What makes the show truly genius, and truly so delightful to watch, is that it feels like Martha and Snoop have a genuine fondness for each other. Their banter doesn’t seem forced or manufactured. I have no idea how they feel about each other in real life, but I want to live in my fantasy world where they like each other a lot. In a year that was so much about divisiveness, let me believe these two very different people actually do want to have dinner parties together. Let me have at least this illusion.
Most Fun Returning Show: “Lip Sync Battle.” Much like “Martha and Snoop,” I know it’s going to just be *fun.* And I need that. I will probably keep watching this show as long as they keep making it.
Show That I Wish More People Would Watch: “Pitch.” Let’s be frank: “Pitch” was basically tailormade for me. It’s a network drama about the inner workings of a baseball team. WHAT COULD BE BETTER FOR ME? So yes, it’s tailormade for me, but I still selfishly ask that more people watch it, because I think it’s so, so good. It’s packed with excellent characters, and while a baseball player is at the heart of the show, it doesn’t skimp on giving us the lives of the people around her, like her agent who’s not really a baseball person but is a good agent, or the team’s general manager who has to negotiate a demanding owner and the needs of his players. There’s a little bit of a “Moneyball” feel to the GM storylines, and a little bit of a “Bull Durham” feel to the baseball player storylines, but the show manages to meld those two together really well in a way I haven’t really seen a baseball story fully tackle before. For every baseball dilemma, we see a bevy of perspectives on it. Plus, Mark-Paul Gosselaar is so, so good in it. *So* good. He plays a star catcher trying to come to terms with the fact that his baseball career clock is winding down, even though by regular human terms he’s not old. I’m not a huge fan of the recent pivot the show made toward a Ginny/Mike relationship, because I actually really loved the idea of him just being a platonic mentor to her, and I also loved him with her agent, but part of me feels like they went that route because I’m in the minority on the Ginny/Mike thing. At any rate, I’m hoping the show doesn’t let that overtake what’s otherwise a really sprawling perspective on baseball life. (Plus, it’s got one of the best bromances on television, apparently.)
Show That Makes Me Exclaim in Shocked Glee Most Often: “Versailles.” WHAT THE HECK EVEN IS THIS SHOW????? I watched the first episode out of curiosity and stayed because I spent most of the first episode shrieking, “What?!” at the television. Seriously. I have no idea how historically accurate the show is and I don’t even want to look it up because I don’t want to spoil myself. It’s a crazy, gorgeous romp of a soap opera and I’m okay with that. Especially now that I can finally tell the men apart (they all have long brown hair! I have facial recognition issues! It was tough!).
Show I Thought Was Lovely, Harmless Fun: “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” There has been a theme to most of my television viewing lately, and it’s been “please be light and frivolous and not upsetting. “Dirk Gently” fit the bill. I know it’s not at all like the books but I never read the books so that didn’t bother me. What I appreciated was how madcap it was, and how it was filled with really delicious lines of dialogue I wanted to wrap up and carry in my pocket. One of my favorites being, “You’re a person of interest, even though you’re not an interesting person.” Hahahaha! Elijah Wood plays an excellent straight man along the Jason Bateman line of such things, and Samuel Barnett is really good. He had these puppy dog eyes that just make me feel terrible every time Dirk is sad.
Favorite New Ship: Letty/Javier from “Good Behavior.” I don’t want to be shipping these two. I think they have a terribly unhealthy relationship. But I kind of can’t help it. #1, because they are very, very hot together. #2, because actually their relationship with each other is weirdly the healthiest thing about their lives? And I love it. I gobble it up. Every time they turn to each other for support, even when they don’t want to, I just sigh at the two of them. And the way Letty trusts Javier with her son, and the way Javier is so sweet with him. And the way Letty stuck by Javier after the disaster with his family. Love these two. And also, see #1. I mean. Michelle Dockery is so beautiful, and Juan Diego Botto is so hot (THAT CROOKED SMILE), and they have incredible on-screen chemistry. Part of why I couldn’t look away from the first episode of this show was because of how magnetically connected these two were from their very first conversation. Runner-up: Dirk/Todd from “Dirk Gently.” Like, is it weird to be shipping Dirk/Todd a little?
Show I Totally Didn’t Realize Was Still on Television: “Teen Wolf.”
Show I Know Is Still on Television But Is So Painful Now and When Can It End and Can It Not End Too, Too Badly (Or Is It Too Late for That?): “Vampire Diaries.” Otherwise known as: “How is Matt, like, the only character who keeps surviving on this show?”
Weirdest Ending: “Castle.” Like, I appreciate them trying to tack on the happy ending—trust me, I *so* do—but that was just so abrupt. No money in the budget for anything smoother, I guess.
“How Is This Show Still On But Now It’s Been a Constant Through So Much of My Life I Don’t Want It to End”: “Pretty Little Liars.” This show is a terrible show. It makes absolutely no sense. Major storylines have come and gone that both I *and the show* have completely forgotten about. But right now it doesn’t matter. Because there are so few shows I watch that have been around for very long, and this one has been a constant in my life for so many years. My mother and sisters watch it and when we’re all in one place we get together so we can watch it together. So it’s a terrible show but I’m attached to it and I’m going to be sad when it’s gone.
Best Television Moment: Tom Hardy at the Oscars. I don’t know why I didn’t expect Tom Hardy to go to the Oscars? But I didn’t? And then he was there? Being Tom Hardy? I can’t even with him. Tom Hardy at the Oscars was hilarious unexpected fun and it was early in 2016 and we didn’t know how bad it was going to get but I’m still grateful for that moment.
Favorite Album: “Yuri on Ice.” Up until, oh, two weeks ago, I had no idea what I was going to put for this category (I start thinking about this round-up around September or so, because I’m crazy). Then I watched “Yuri on Ice.” I ended up not really liking the show all that much but I *love* the soundtrack. I thought the cleverest thing about the show was not using any existing music for the skating numbers but instead being all sly and tongue-in-cheek about them. It was genius and made me giggle while I was watching the show, because the songs were just *so* spot-on. I think they work well independently, though, too. Like, “Yuri on Ice” is just unbelievably gorgeous music that makes every single scene I write while listening to it gloriously angsty (MAGIC). And “You Only Live Once” is lovely, bouncy music. Basically, there’s a song on this soundtrack for every mood, which I appreciate. So watching the show was a little bit of a disastrous experiment for me, but I am grateful to have been introduced to the soundtrack.
Song I Listened to Most This Year: The Lagoons’ “California.” THIS SONG, YOU GUYS. My love for this song is INTENSE. I started this thing this year where I actually, like, COOK MYSELF DINNER, like an actual GROWN-UP ADULT PERSON, and I listen to Spotify as I cook, and this song came up on Spotify, and I found myself singing it basically all night. So then I added it to my playlists and I basically started listening to it constantly. It’s just such a *happy* song to me. It makes me happy. And I needed that this year (see basically EVERYTHING above). Tbh, I went with some intense writing songs down below, but this is currently the theme song for the “Next Big Thing” wedding sequel. Which might tell you everything you need to know about the wedding sequel.
Song I Did the Most Writing To This Year: Myzica’s “Drive.” I love this song in its original version, but this particular version of it kills me in a very special way. Excellent mood-setter, especially for an Arthur/Eames fic. Every word of this song is so them to me. (Also, I weirdly and randomly think this singer looks like me? Idk, I’m weird.) Runner-up: Kodaline’s “Autopilot.” Another great mood-setting song for me. This one was on my Archer playlist, which probably says a lot for the kind of writing I do when this song is playing.
Song I Was Happiest to Encounter on the Radio: Fitz and the Tantrum’s “Handclap.” This wasn’t a great radio year for me. Most of the songs were completely and utterly forgettable. This fun bouncy song wins mostly by default, for being way more fun than most of the stuff on the radio, in my opinion. Runner-up: The Chainsmokers’ “Closer.” This one gets a sentimental vote because my sister loves it and so whenever it comes on my two-and-a-half-year-old niece shouts, “Mommy’s song!” and then basically sings an approximation of the refrain, which is actually sing-song enough for a toddler to pull off. So yeah, one of my happy memories from 2016 is going to be me driving my niece home from school with both of us shouting this song at the top of our lungs while I’m blasting it and she is just SO happy in the backseat, grinning ear-to-ear and bouncing in her car seat. At times like those I think how quick and fleeting their childhoods are and how it’s those tiny moment I’m going to miss so much. And finally a shout-out to Kelly Clarkson’s “It’s Quiet Uptown.” I actually really love her version of this song, and stumbling upon it on the radio was one of the most amazing things. Like, there’s “Hamilton,” mainstream, on a radio station in L.A. Another good 2016 thing.
Favorite Movie I Saw for a British Actor: “Doctor Strange.” I’m not actually much of a movie person. And when I sat down to think about the movies I watched in 2016, I realized it was…two. Like, seriously, I’m pretty sure I saw two movies. This was one of them. And it was good! I’m not much of a superhero person, either (probably why I don’t go see many movies), but OF COURSE I had to go see Benedict run around in his sexy cape. Although, tbh, Benedict has MANY sexy outfits in this movie. Let’s just spend a few minutes thinking about all of the sexy outfits Benedict wears in this movie. …………Okay. Let’s regroup. I will say: the facial hair grew on me (the way his haircut in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” did), but the American accent never did. Sigh. FREE THE BRITISH ACCENT.
Favorite Movie I Saw for an American Actor: “Snowden.” This was the other movie I saw in 2016. It was a treat to myself on a Friday afternoon, and I actually thought it was really good. Like, I’m one of those people who objectively believes that the invasion of privacy is a bad thing but this movie really made me *feel* it, in a way that I didn’t before. I know it didn’t get good reviews and it probably is too preachy but I learned a great deal I didn’t know and there were genuinely a couple of scenes where I was like, “Wow, I never fully thought this through before.” And I saw this movie when it came out. I don’t even want to see it anew with the fresh knowledge of Trump in my head. The movie basically violated my “only happiness!” rule in fiction of 2016.
Movie Not Even Michael Sheen Could Get Me to Go See: “Passengers.” Look, Michael Sheen. I have seen some ATROCIOUS movies on your behalf. I sat through “Tron: Legacy.” I sat through…some horrible “Twilight” movie, I don’t even know which one. But I draw the line, sir, at “Passengers.” I hope you bought yourself something lovely with your paycheck, though!
Best Book I Read This Year: “The Game of Kings.” THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. I thought it wouldn’t be. I read the summary and was dubious. But it is amaaaaazing. I had to read the last two hundred pages in one huge gulp because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. And Lymond. LYMOND. Gah. My love for Lymond is severe and intense. Lymond is delightful. Do yourself a favor and read this book and fall in love with Lymond for yourself. Dunnett is a genius at characterization, so, so good at revealing an entire complex character point with one telling little gesture or well-constructed phrase. The slow reveal of who Lymond is—I don’t mean factually, I mean *as a person*--was so incredibly well-done, and that is so hard to do. I ended up not finishing this series because I did that thing I do where I got so protective of Lymond as a character that I was annoyed that Dunnett was being mean to him and had to bow out. But you should read this first book and you should fall in love with Lymond and you should cherish the wonder of him. Because he is amazing.
Aaaaaand the year in review on Tumblr. Here are all of the posts I saw fit to mark with the tag "NEW FAVORITE POST" this year. The test is it has to make me laugh out loud, and most of these still did now:
January: Rome mixtape
January: Kylo Ren cat
March: Text messages
May: One of the great masterpieces of the 20th century
May: Me as an ancient Greek
May: Movie fights
June: Brendan on Facebook
June: Friends' parents paying for food
June: Sausage winking
June: Scottish Grindr Users on the EU Referendum
June: Smoking fish
July: How God created animals
July: Popsicle with three sticks
September: In the air tonight
October: Your celery is ALWAYS FILTHY
October: Two thumbs and three arms
October: Sleeps on neck strangely
October: Ali vine
Knit Husbands of the Year: Yarnthur and Crocheames. My newest acquisition to a stable of husbands that includes Cardboard!David and Paper!John and Paper!Sherlock. Crocheames does a lot more leering than any of the others, but Yarnthur’s serious little frown is very in keeping with Cardboard!David and Paper!Sherlock. Really, they all get along marvelously well.
"Let’s just spend a few minutes thinking about all of the sexy outfits Benedict wears in this movie. …………Okay. Let’s regroup. I will say: the facial hair grew on me (the way his haircut in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” did), but the American accent never did. Sigh. FREE THE BRITISH ACCENT."
My sentiments exactly!!!
I'm afraid I haven't seen (or, on occasion, heard of!!) any of the others you mention, but it's always lovely to read your critiques and hear your opinions. It sounds as if you've been wonderfully entertained this year!
I won't spoil you by telling you how historically accurate Versailles is, let's just say that French historians were expecting a lot of accuracy, since it's a French-Canadian production and they couldn't sigh, "Ah, well, they're American, how would they know..." in a condescending way. When they watched it they did as you did, they spent most of the first episode [and the other ones too] shrieking, “What?!” at the television (except that they were rather shrieking, "Quoi?!"), and they exclaimed a lot too, but I'm afraid it wasn' in Shocked Glee, it rather was in Shocked Shock. :D Although it may be a good thing for you because if the series was historically accurate all the men would wear white wigs and telling them apart would be even harder!
Also I know why you persist in talking about Doctor Strange's cape, you just want to be corrected by Benedict, don't you? :D
P.S. Yes, I'm still using my Christmas icon. Sue me.
Edited at 2016-12-28 08:43 pm (UTC)