The Golden Age of television just keeps on shining. Here are some of my favorites of the year.
Amazon’s Homecoming sends its characters — and viewers — down a mysterious rabbit hole, following Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) during and after her stint working at a government facility for veterans. Loading an impressive amount of twisty psychological drama into a half-hour, director Sam Esmail and an outstanding ensemble cast (including Bobby Cannavale, Walter Cruz and Shea Whigham) build tension until the truth is finally revealed. With so many hints, cinematic references, clues, red herrings and “easter eggs,” Homecoming begs for a binge and re-watch.
Jim Carrey and director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) have teamed up once again, this time on the small screen in Showtime’s heartbreaking and hilarious Kidding.
In Carrey’s first regular TV role since In Living Color, he stars as Jeff Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-esque children’s program host struggling with the dissonance between his squeaky-clean on-screen (and off-screen) persona, being the face of a billion-dollar brand and dealing with his own personal trauma. In a time where comedies can be pitch-black and dramas are peppered with humor, Kidding jolts back and forth with the best of both worlds.
Like director Jean-Marc Vallée’s last mega miniseries Big Little Lies, HBO’s gothic murder mystery Sharp Objects, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel, centers on “complicated women” — characters whose stories are much more than meets the eye. Each episode peels back these layers like an onion, revealing bits of truth and misdirection.
Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and newcomer Eliza Scanlen shine collectively as a family shrouded in secrets, rocked by a string of murders in their small Midwestern town as they each battle their own demons. As a journalist struggling to make sense of it all, Adams excels in her rawest role yet.
Donald Glover had a hell of a year, between releasing his timely anthem “This Is America,” playing a young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story and being cast as Simba in the forthcoming Lion King. But it’s his work on FX’s Atlanta — a show he created, stars in, produces, writes and sometimes directs — that best showcases what a talent Glover is.
This year’s “Robbin’ Season” (aka Season 2) is no exception as it uncovers a new facet while exploring class, race and other social experiences each week. “Teddy Perkins” might be my favorite episode of TV this year.
Forget all the click-baity reviews dubbing Netflix’s Wild Wild Country a “sex cult doc” — the truth is far more complicated and fascinating than a group of horny hippies living on a commune.
Rajneeshpuram, a self-made community that seemingly popped up overnight on a Central Oregon ranch in 1981, and the controversies that surrounded it have been largely forgotten by those not directly affected. In this time of documentaries and dramas rehashing highly publicized true crimes, Wild hits a sweet spot by exploring an unbelievable real-life American saga that is still news to many viewers — without bias.
When much of Ryan Murphy’s anthological offerings are becoming self-serving and ubiquitous, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story knocked it out of the park as a follow-up to The People v. O.J. Simpson. The story focuses on deranged killer Andrew Cunanan (portrayed fantastically by Darren Criss), who ended a cross-country murder spree with the public slaying of the famed Italian designer. Touching on the LGBTQ issues of the 1990s, Versace is truly Murphy at his finest.
Honorable Mentions: Because there really was so much to watch this year, I must also recommend: The Americans’ satisfying final season; Netflix’s heartfelt Queer Eye reboot; BBC’s sexy thriller Killing Eve; the visually stunning Maniac; another solid season of the oft-overlooked Better Call Saul; American Vandal and Making a Murderer’s surprising second chapters; Bill Hader’s breakout Barry; the high-octane British political drama Bodyguard; High Maintenance’s refreshing review of the human experience; and The End of the Fucking World, a dark teen saga that gives 13 Reasons Why a run for its money. And for my fellow reality junkies, Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules and Below Deck continue to entertain.
Contact Jac Kern: @jackern