Gone are the days when picking the best television programmes of the year had a unanimous take. With both quality and variety of cinema on the rise, selection of the best shows has now become downright Sisyphean.
While it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the shows worthy of consideration, a handful of dramas and sitcoms clearly stood out this year.
Here’s looking back at some of the more notable shows from 2017.
FEUD: BETTE and JOAN
Starring Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis, created by Ryan Murphy, Jaffe Cohen, and Michael Zam it is artistic expression at its best. This series focuses on the animosity between two of the greatest actresses Bette and Joan during the 60’s and 70’s Hollywood. It gives us a sneak peek into the nasty world of Hollywood which is mostly run by sexism, ageism, and misogyny. “In our story, it was a fact that (the people behind Baby Jane) encouraged the animosity between (Crawford and Davis) first of all to control them, second of all to make what they thought was more onscreen tension and that really hasn’t changed a lot.” – Susan Sarandon. It portrays how Hollywood is such a brutal industry to women.
As creator Ryan Murphy says, he was not really interested in “a campy, bitchy exploration of these two women” but was interested in “the sadness and the regret and the pain and also the reward, and just to show how hard they worked.”
Both Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon have delivered outstanding performances. They had prepared for their larger than life characters by watching and listening to TV performances and recordings. The eight-episode series brings to light, how patriarchy can mess with women. You need to watch this show in order to appreciate it.
BIG LITTLE LIES
Shows like these are rare these days. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée the seven-episode season one was based on a novel by Liane Moriarty. It has got a stellar and powerful cast- Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, James Tupper, and Jeffrey Nordling.
The first episode kicks off with a murder in a public school during trivia night but neither the murderer nor the victim is revealed to us until the last episode. Madeline (Reese), Celeste (Nicole), and Jane (Shailene) befriend each other while dropping their kids at school. Jane is new to the place Monterey with a troubled past, Celeste is a retired lawyer and Madeline is a wealthy, strong-willed woman in the town. The lives of everyone in the town is turned upside down after the murder takes place. Everyone becomes a suspect!
Every character in the show has a lot of depth and history, which cannot be put into words. The show is written incredibly by David E. Kelley and it gives off a feeling of empowerment. Everything comes together beautifully in the end. The ending will make one smirk and say “what goes around comes around.” After this exceptionally good season one, we hope they do justice to season two.
The show is a biographical drama on the life of Albert Einstein. Johnny Flynn and Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush portray the genius- Einstein. All of us know about his achievements and contributions in the field of science. However, we know very little about his personal life or how he started out as a patent clerk. The drama is based on the book Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.
This series also shows how Mileva Marić (Samantha Colley) Albert’s first wife had contributed in his first scientific discovery. In a span of ten episodes, the show takes its viewers on a journey through Albert Einstein’s life. How many of us were aware of the tragic cases of Einstein and Mileva’s children? Their first daughter was born out of wedlock and died within a year of her birth. Their youngest son Eduard had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
According to Hillary Busis of Vanity Fair, “When you move past his scientific contributions Albert’s life story- what his youth was like, who his friends were, who his enemies were, his tumultuous love life- is a story people don’t know … I think audiences are going to be riveted as we tell this ambitious and revealing human story behind Einstein’s scientific brilliance.”
This show is definitely worth a watch.
Portraying the dystopian world in the silver screen has become a common practice of modern productions yet Black Mirror sets itself apart by elegantly juxtaposing human impulses and technological singularity. It is a science fiction anthology which debuted in 2011 and came back with its fourth season this festive December. Having garnered its name for predicting the abominable cruelty of inclusive technology in human life, this season garnishes the recipe with dashes of humanity and compassion.
Arkangel tells you about the extent to which parents go in order to protect their children not knowing when the fine line towards their privacy starts to diminish. What is worse, when an implant into your child’s head ends up turning good intentions into deplorable actions.
Hang the DJ mocks the facilitation of dating by technology informing every partner the expiry date of their relationship and making them solely dependent on algorithms to find their perfect match. It reveals the angst and frustrations of people when they are robbed of the ability to choose despite not having to fear rejection. Every episode leaves you with circumstances to muse and contemplate over, slowly appealing to your emotions and ultimately compelling you to address your inner conscience.
When you come across a film or TV Series with ‘crime’ occurring in its genre you expect a nail-biting chase, full of twists and turns with a pacing plot leading to the villain being eventually apprehended. Mind Hunter is different, there isn’t any goose chase or cars colliding in the checkered New York traffic but the likes of David Fincher, Asif Kapadia, Tobias Lindholm and Andrew Douglas still do a scintillating job in keeping every second of the 10 episode series gripping enough that the audience doesn’t budge from their screens.
Mind Hunter mostly follows a linear storyline with not too many subplots ensuring not to distract the audience from trying to wrap around the peculiar fetishes of felons serving sentences in federal prison. The idea isn’t to understand ‘how’ the crimes were committed but to delve into the psychological reasoning of the ‘why’; so that future behaviour of such serial killers can be drafted and predicted. Despite the linear plot, character development and progress takes place at an enjoyable pace.
The only starkly independent element of the series is how each episode opens up with an ADT servicemen in a thick moustache who initially looks to be a regular husband. However, as the series progresses, it leaves the audience wondering if he, in reality, is the infamous BTK killer who murdered nearly 10 people before being caught by the police in 2005. Mind Hunter is like Foie Gras, an acquired taste, appreciation of which is only possible after substantial exposure.
Abhishek Mishra and Sayantani Saha for MTTN
Design Credits: Mayank Kashyap