All photos sourced from Creative Commons.
Black Mirror’s fourth season aired on December 29, 2017, bringing Charlie Brooker’s unsettling creation back on Netflix viewers’ radars as they entered the new year. Black Mirror offers a dark, twisted, and often downright terrifying glimpse into the future of modern day technology (the title itself refers to your phone screen when it’s switched off). Each episode tells a different story with new characters, new settings, and new thematic kernels, ranging from an extreme dating app in “Hang the DJ,” to a scathing political satire in “The Waldo Moment,” and culminating with “Black Museum,” the chilling final episode that brings each detached idea together. Black Mirror could not be a more relevant show in these years of constant scrolling and double-tapping. But be warned: it will make you want to lose your phone for a while. Maybe forever.
- Sam Baldwin
S+H TOP 10 TV Shows:
The Good Place
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Jane the Virgin
Queer Eye is a makeover show with a heartwarming, wholesome center. The level of emotional engagement the team brings to every episode makes the show a personal transformation as much as a physical one. The wide-ranging skills of the team, coupled with their camera-ready personalities, make for a super fun and binge-worthy show. It’s also family and all-ages friendly, especially for those wishing to inject a bit more acceptance into their family life.
- Zoe huettl
The Good Place
Featuring amazing characters—including a trash bag from Arizona, an all-capable artificial being and literal demons—The Good Place was lauded during its first season for one of the most fun plot twists in all of television. The show began with the death of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell)—the aforementioned Arizona trash bag. She arrives in the afterlife, or “The Good Place,” but there’s a little hitch: she’s not meant to be there. Since its first season, the show has only grown more clever, striking a careful balance between its absurdity, emotional arcs, and philosophical questions. Unlike most other sitcoms, the stakes of The Good Place go beyond life or death: the show explores the nature of the afterlife and the soul. The third season, in which the characters return to Earth, asks if humans can truly change to become better people. The best moments thus far this season include the nighttime ritual of everywhere in Arizona turning into a porn shoot location after closing time (as a native Arizonan, I can confirm this is the truth) and a truly great roast of the early 2000s one-hit-wonder band The Calling. The season will wrap up in mid-January after a thirteen episode run, and the show has been renewed for another season, promising more zany philosophy for fans to look forward to.
- Grace gay
After Big Mouth’s huge success with its first season, the coming-of-age show bounced back with an even better second season. The animated Netflix series was co-created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett and it follows a group of middle schoolers as they experience their changing bodies in the least beautiful way possible. The first season didn’t hold back in exposing the incredibly shameful yet exciting aspects of puberty; Season 2 doesn't either. Andrew (John Mulaney) continues to be tormented by his hormone monster, Maury (Nick Kroll), who usually succeeds in making Andrew succumb to his own weird desires. The Shame Wizard (David Thewlis) is introduced in this season, and he tortures Andrew—and eventually the rest of the gang—to a whole new extent. The show makes you relive middle school in a harshly accurate way: Nick and the other boys make a ginormous deal about Gina’s (Gina Rodriguez) boobs, Jessi goes through an angsty phase and robs some lipstick, and Missy and Jay discover a roaring horniness. The voice-work alone highlights the creators’ abilities to keep the show consistently heartfelt and hilarious. With Season 3 on its way, fans are already prepared to binge their way through the next dose of hormonal raunchiness.
- Montserrat Vasquez-Posada
The fifth season of Bojack Horseman is uncomfortably relevant in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #metoo movement. The show has always critically interrogated industry practices in Hollywood and American culture as a whole, but this season digs deep into the objectification of women on-screen, the treatment of women off-screen and the romanticization of damaged men. And it still manages to leave room for its trademark absurd visual puns and witty commentary. The show is less funny than in previous years, and its themes of recovery and rebound—of how people return again and again to unhealthy relationships and addictions—can make the progress the characters have made in the last few seasons feel pointless. Though perhaps that’s the point. Breaking out of unhealthy cycles is difficult, even more so when industries and institutions hire you not despite but because of your myriad problems. In true Bojack fashion, there is one structurally ambitious, standout episode in “Free Churros,” in which Bojack delivers a eulogy for the whole of the 20 minutes. It serves both as a turning point in Bojack’s character arc and a monologic showcase for Will Arnett’s acting chops, proving that this show about an animated talking horse is, in fact, one of the most impressive and incisive ongoing pieces of media today.
- Claire Pak
Rachel Brosnahan dazzled in the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the fantastically witty comedy-period-drama that has charmed us all. Brosnahan plays Midge, a 1950’s Jewish housewife living in New York City who, after a series of personal mishaps and life disappointments, finds herself in the turbulent and exciting world of stand-up comedy. Together with her right-hand woman Susie (Alex Borstein), Midge works to perfect her act and take on the New York stand-up scene. The result is a hilarious, whirlwind adventure, replete with poignant moments that point to the barriers that still exist today for female comedians. The show gained traction throughout 2018, dominated awards shows, and had fans waiting in excitement for season two, which was released on December 5th.
- Elizabeth Vogt
Few shows are as meticulously constructed and executed as The Crown, which premiered its second season on Netflix this past year. The season's opening three-episode suite, which uses a particularly tense conversation between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to frame the couple's marital challenges and Britain's position as a declining colonial power, is a tour de force of screenwriting, acting, and cinematography, while later episodes like "Matrimonium" and "Dear Mrs. Kennedy" showcase nuanced and patient character development. These macro-level achievements are awe-inspiring; and yet, they never detract from the emotional power of the series' smaller, more subtle details - when the camera lingers an extra second on one of Princess Margaret's shimmering expressions of indignant resolve, or when sharp dialogue recedes for a moment to let the tension of an uncomfortable conversation hang mid-air. These moments, though delivered with cinematic ambition and artistic flair, are the true markers of great television, and they are what make every episode of The Crown's second season so affecting
- Steven Norwalk
Kidding revolves around the production of Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time, a world-famous children’s TV show teeming with fantastical inspiration. But when Jeff Pickles’ (Jim Carey) son is killed in a car crash and his entire family suffers a slow, agonizing slip from stability, he struggles to put on a happy face for the millions of kids watching his every move. At its heart, Kidding asks about emotional repression: How do you share your brokenness with the world? With your loved ones? With yourself? With children? The show is sharp and efficient with language, and yet violently offbeat in its storytelling. The episodes are stuffed with chaos, coincidence, and formally experimental stretches which all darkly echo the tact and whimsy of the kid-friendly show-within-the-show. Kidding’s through line is its characters quietly simmering until they boil over—over and over again. And these moments when they do snap can be at once both searing and tender. “This is not insanity,” Jeff tells his father—and boss—after he expresses deep worry over Jeff’s mental health. “This is what honesty looks like when you’re inside out and upside down.”
- Noah franklin
Jane the Virgin
Jane does not deserve the hurt she goes through, and we feel this more than ever in Season 4 of Jane the Virgin. After the death of the love of her life, Michael, we watch Jane fall in love all over again with her first love Adam, while dealing with the pain of Michael’s loss and the struggles of parenthood: figuring out where to go to school and faking where she lives, all while dealing with her parents and their love struggles. What Jane the Virgin: Season 4 does so well is balance the intense drama of its telenovela style with the real issues that accompany parenting, family and love. The best part? Jane and Rafael again become close, and begin to form the family Jane always wanted for Mateo. We find ourselves hoping, wishing, dreaming for their success, only to be faced with the biggest plot twist yet: a resurrection. With one season left in the series, Jane promises excitement and drama, but with more depth: this season Jane matured, and now we wait as she faces the most heart-wrenching decision of the series.
- Audrey Valbuena
With its second season, Westworld manages to expand upon the high-tech, post-singularity universe fans fell in love with in 2016. Evan Rachel Wood shows audiences her range as she takes on a new “story,” showing that there is more to her than just the role of the farmer’s daughter. The show has a series of complex plot lines that do not compete, but rather contrast and intertwine with each other in a way that gives the show a layered diversity of thematic relevance. Thandie Newton (Maeve), Jeffery Wright (Bernard), and Ed Harris (The Man in the Black Hat) are just a few of the actors who bring stability to Westworld’s inventive and dynamic storyline. After Game of Thrones comes to a close and HBO has millions of marketing dollars to shove elsewhere, keep an eye out for Westworld to be the next thing of equivalent global captivation.