The Terror, Season One - AMC
I had just sat down alone in my house on a Saturday to write a few emails and read an article for work. I was between shows, and for months AMC’s The Terror had dutifully waited on my DVR for such an opportunity. I queued it up on my TV with my laptop ready to split my attention in the usual way. Within minutes of starting the first episode I realized that no work was getting done. If you will pardon the cliche, I was gripped by The Terror almost instantly, and it didn’t let me go for ten straight episodes. The show is based on a 2007 novel of the same title by author Dan Simmons, which in turn was a fictionalized account of the very real HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Led by Captain Sir John Franklin (played by the incredible Ciarán Hinds), the expedition was mounted in 1845 to chart the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific. Both ships and all 128 men who crewed them never arrived at their destination. The show and book both treat the expedition’s end as foregone conclusion, but the events that lead to it are thrilling every step of the way and should not be spoiled here.
Cobra-Kai, Season One - YouTube Red
Everything I wrote about Cobra-Kai back in June stands. I was honestly flabbergasted at how neglected this show has been in the year-end lists, although I suppose this is the price of living in “peak-TV.” For what it’s worth, I will be watching Cobra-Kai for a third and fourth time before I even consider watching whatever the heck The Americans is. Cobra-Kai! Never Dies!
G.L.O.W., Season Two - Netflix
I love wrestling and a good ensemble comedy, and the first season of G.L.O.W. fulfilled both those promises. I really enjoyed it a lot, particularly Ruth (Alison Brie) and her fraught relationship with friend/rival Debbie (Betty Gilpin). Amazingly, the second season took all the groundwork laid in the first season and brought it to the next level. I was especially happy to see the writers engage more with the wrestling aspect, using it to drive forward the storytelling in really fun and surprising ways. It’s so satisfying to see a show deliver on all the promise it shows. Come for the fun, wacky premise, and stay for the incredible performances and excellent writing.
Aggretsuko, Season One - Netflix
I didn’t expect a whole lot from Aggretsuko; I was mostly looking for a fun way to spend fifteen minutes with some cute animals. But beyond the show’s terrific elevator pitch (timid office worker by day; heavy-metal monster by night) Aggretsuko managed to pull off one of the most incisive critiques of the cult of corporate capitalism I’ve ever seen (although Comedy Central’s Corporate did some excellent stuff with this idea too and deserves a shout out). While lovable Retsuko could easily carry such short episodes on her own, the show also has one of the best supporting casts I’ve ever seen. Aggretsuko filters some incredibly relatable experiences through these adorable animals, and shows a lot of empathy towards its characters, even the villainous ones. Even if you think you aren’t interested in Hello Kitty for sad adults, I recommend you check it out. You might be surprised.