Hey everyone. Matthew Thompson here with something a little different and new for The Triple Option. I have come to really enjoy the WordPress community in my time here, but I’m not as involved with it as I’d like to be. So I had the idea to reach out to some other writers on WordPress as well as some readers of my site to collaborate on a post. To kick things off, I have two posts set up – one for TV and one for games – with contributions from the community and other writer friends of mine that take one final look back at 2015.
For this first post, I asked some other TV writers to do the following:
“Tell us about a great show you watched in 2015
that you feel was overlooked or is underrated.”
The idea was to shed light on some shows that have gone under the radar. Everyone knows about critical darlings like Fargo. Everyone is already watching things like Game of Thrones. So here we aim to tip readers off to some great television series that aired this past year that don’t get enough attention. Here are the choices that four other writers and I each came up with.
First up, thedailyopine tells us about a new SyFy series:
The drab TV days of December were brightened by SyFy’s airing of The Expanse (based off the novels of James S.A. Corey). Two hundred years in the future mankind has expanded into the solar system. Earth is under control of the U.N.; Mars is its own military power; and the Asteroid Belt is the resource that keeps everyone alive. On the Belt, water and air have become precious gems. Tension between the three is at an all time high and war is imminent.
Detective Miller (played by Thomas Jane), who has the worst haircut in the universe, is investigating the disappearance of a missing girl, Julie Mao. James Holden (played by Steven Strait) is on a ship and ends up getting involved in an incident that could be the tipping point for war. And Chrisjen Avasarala (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo) is the UN exec on earth, who, with questionable actions, is trying to stave off the impending war.
Right now the series has a very isolated feel between the three storylines, but this does not take away from the show. Miller’s scenes have a very noir look and feel to them and Thomas Jane is excellent in the role. The scenes with Strait are fun to watch, and while not offering anything new in terms of SFX, there are neat elements here and there (taking off in space and getting up to speed is painful, when zero G goes into effect, etc.). The earth scenes are the least interesting right now – they are more about political drama, which is boring compared to the other two storylines. What I enjoy about The Expanse is that it’s an intriguing plot. Viewers get a glimpse of where the missing girl is in the first episode and are being slowly exposed to how she got there. I like the deliberate pace and time the show is taking to tell the story. I also like how the show is giving time to get to know the characters and not forcing situations between anyone.
The segmented storytelling may not be for everyone. Though it is clear the three stories have a connected thread and I’d expect they’ll converge at some point. There’s a mix of sci-fi, mystery, and noir, which gives this show a unique look and feel. Given this airs on the SyFy channel, the SFX are unexpectedly very good and you can tell they didn’t cut too many corners on the production side. Only four episodes aired in 2015, so I’m taking a chance here, but this show has a lot of potential and it hasn’t disappointed so far.
You can read more from thedailyopine on her site thedailyopine where she discusses other television series worth watching and reviews books she has been reading.
Mozart in the Jungle
Next up Mel Rook talks about an overlooked Amazon Original comedy:
Mozart in the Jungle is a half-hour comedy. It is a tribute to music and the love of music. It is the story of the fictional New York Symphony. The Players. The Board of Directors. And the Conductors. It begins when the old conductor is forced out and a new young phenom is signed on to restore life to the aging institution. He’s energetic. He talks to dead composers. He’s sexy. He suffers from performance anxiety. He’s talented. And of course he’s completely insane. Gael García Bernal plays Rodrigo, the young conductor. Malcolm McDowell plays the previous. Then there’s the orchestra itself with its politics and crazy cast of characters. These are professional musicians. Masters of their craft. Band geeks who stayed with their instruments. Casual drug-users. Casual sex-havers. Union members. I’m making it sound boring. It’s really not. It’s sexy. It’s funny. It’s wacky. It’s Mozart in the Jungle.
But at its core, Mozart in the Jungle is a tribute to music and the love of music. Every episode features the most gorgeous classical music interpretations. So if you have it set-up where the next episode plays automatically, turn it off because every one ends with the most amazing music played over the credits.
This show was my pick for most overlooked program when Matthew first asked me to submit one. But this was before it won all the Golden Globes this past weekend. I was into it from the start. The Golden Globes are just following my lead (as if I were the great conductor). Best Actor; Gael García Bernal. And Best Musical or Comedy Series. Mozart in the Jungle is the best.
You can find it on Amazon Prime (with Man in the High Castle, Catastrophe, Transparent and many others).
You can read more of Mel’s writing on his site Mel Rook & The 7 Deadly Sins where he talks more about TV, lets people know which movies are worth their time (and spoils the ones that aren’t), and shares pictures from around the block.
Omarey Williams tells why this Starz half-hour comedy – which follows the lives of a family after one of their own nabs his first big contract as a professional basketball player – is worth a watch:
Survivor’s Remorse is an excellent show. It is a shame so few people are experiencing it. Survivor’s Remorse is such a hidden gem because it is a very funny show with characters that you can relate to, that isn’t afraid to tackle real issues. This might seem like an unorthodox recipe for a must-see comedy, but it really works here.
This show is just flat out funny. It is a mix of different kinds of comedy. There is clever, more intellectual comedy with really great quips and references peppered throughout the dialogue. There is great physical comedy and many situational comedic moments as well. Some of these gags just come out of nowhere and leave you cracking up. The entire cast is really funny as a whole but Mike Epps is the standout. He consistently delivers some of the biggest laughs but the rest of the cast is really funny as well and make a great ensemble.
The family on this show is so entertaining to watch. I love how the Calloways interact. Although they crack jokes on each other and sometimes put each other in uncomfortable positions, you can tell how much they love each other. They feel like a real family. It is amazing how genuine they feel despite the fact that they are the multi-millionaire family of a star pro basketball player.
One of Survivor’s Remorse‘s biggest strengths is how they tackle real issues. The show does not shy away from what could be considered taboo things. Episodes have taken on the subjects of police brutality, HPV, teen pregnancy, and domestic abuse. These issues are heavy and this show gives them the proper amount of gravitas but it doesn’t bring the tone of the episodes down. It is a neat feat to be able to broach them in such a way but also poke fun and make jokes around them at the same time. The show strikes a great balance.
Survivor’s Remorse is a 30 minute comedic powerhouse. This show is funny, relevant, warm, engaging and just all-around entertaining. Make sure you check out this show.
You can find Omarey (who some may remember used to write on The Whiteboard blog with me) on Twitter here.
Next polarbears16 writes about an FX drama that finished up this past year (and shouts out to a couple more shows):
Over the last six years, Justified took a simple premise—a federal marshal deals with criminals in Kentucky’s Harlan County—and transformed it into something challenging, rich, and endlessly enjoyable. Based on Elmore Leonard characters and stories, it built a world full of complicated individuals, and it used its setting to its advantage as these characters worked together or clashed with each other. One of television’s best pleasures was listening to the dialogue that flowed smoothly from page to screen, and it was clear from the start that this show assumed the mantle from Deadwood for “Best Dialogue on TV”. Speaking of that show, any Deadwood fan would love to see all the familiar faces that pop up throughout Justified.
The show has received its fair share of critical acclaim—especially during its all time great second season, featuring an all time great performance by Margo Martindale—but after a weaker fifth season, it felt like the final one was met with significantly less attention. However, it delivered a near flawless final run, integrating new characters extremely well as it provided closure to all of its main characters. It built on the themes of the series—justice and morality, for instance—continued to be both hilarious and tension-filled, and provided a showcase for two of the best actors to ever grace our screens: Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins. The dynamic between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder is without parallel, and if there’s a #1 reason to watch this show, it’s that. These characters are more than they seem, and this show is more than it seems.
Also, a shoutout to Nathan For You and Review, comedies that both have unique premises and can tap into what it means to be human. The former consists of Nathan Fielder going to people and giving them hilariously awful business advice, and the latter consists of Forrest MacNeil “reviewing life”. Both shows feature amazing performances at their centers, and they’re absurd and dark and absolutely brilliant.
You can read more of polarbears16’s work over at Polar Bears Watch TV where he reviews television shows and films along with writing other features about both subjects.
Les Revenants (The Returned)
Lastly, here is my own choice:
Les Revenants (aka The Returned) is a supernatural drama that follows the goings on in a small French town where the dead have begun to return to the land of the living. They look just as they did when they passed away and are unaware of what happened to them. This includes a teenage girl who died in a bus accident and a groom-to-be who died shortly before his wedding. The series will slowly unravel the mysteries of why and how these people have come back along with how they originally died, but just as importantly it shows the effects their return has on their family, loved ones and the population of this remote mountain town.
It is all very fascinating, but what I love most is the atmosphere. The mood here is like nothing else I watch on television. It can be somber and creepy and at times quite unsettling. It is a zombie show of sorts, but feels so different from similar genre series. It’s one that trades shambling hordes, shotgun blasts and machete kills for quiet dread and a more deliberately paced horror. Working in tandem with this eerie atmosphere is a haunting musical score from the band Mogwai. It is one of TV’s best and most unique soundtracks and it helps to set the series’ pervasive mood. Despite the general tone I have described, there is an understated beauty to Les Revenants as well.
Now I get why some people might not watch this. It moves slowly. It is a foreign series and tucked away airing on SundanceTV stateside. Unless you speak French, you will likely have to read subtitles (I know that reading is the last thing you want to do when you sit down to watch a TV show). But Les Revenants is worth the trouble for its intriguing premise, unique brand of horror and brooding atmosphere. The first season is available on Netflix Streaming with the recently wrapped second presumably soon to follow. And don’t confuse this with the inferior and bland American remake either (plus that one was cancelled after one season anyway). It’s the French version or bust. Trust me.
That will do it for this first community post here on The Triple Option. Hopefully after reading this, you have found a new series that has piqued your interest. I’d like to thank thedailyopine, Mel, Omar and polarbears for contributing to this feature. Make sure to check their sites out and give their blogs a follow if you haven’t already. I hope to do posts like this about once a month, so if any other readers or bloggers would like to get involved, let me know and I will get in contact with you for a future one. Feel free to let us know what shows you felt were underrated or overlooked in 2015 in the comments below. Thanks for reading!