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Andrew Osborne’s 2023 Top 10 & Episodic Streaming Picks

 

1. RESERVATION DOGS (FX on Hulu)

The Rez Dogs stuck the landing in a final season packed with everything that made the quietly revolutionary Sterlin Harjo/Taika Waititi series great, from the charismatic regular and recurring ensemble to the surprising cameos and unexpected episodic tangents (including a giddy Dazed & Confused homage and a bleak reminder of the abusive American Indian boarding schools that attempted to erase the cultures of tribes already badly traumatized by centuries of violence and betrayal).  Yet despite centuries of shitasses attempting to silence their stories (including three seasons of near total snubs by Primetime Emmy voters), the show’s mostly indigenous cast, crew, directors, and writers continued pushing back, creating a funny, heartfelt lollapalooza of a series that was a total gas while it lasted.  Aho!

2. SUCCESSION (HBO)

Epic in its scary fictionalization of the 1%’s hostile takeover of media, politics, and life on Earth as we know it, Succession earned its accolades with some of the best acting and writing on TV — and, crucially, all the pitch perfect smaller moments of relatable sibling bickering, daddy issues, professional frustrations, and total gut punches of unexpected grief.

3. FARGO (FX)

Noah Hawley’s TV distillation of the Coen Brothers’ “true” crime ethos has always been good — but the fifth go-round is great in ways reminiscent of the first two seasons (and the eponymous film that inspired it all).  Like Succession, the tale of a MAGA-style sheriff (Jon Hamm, finally reclaiming his Mad Men swagger) and a predatory billionaire (Jennifer Jason Leigh) menacing all they survey hits uncomfortably close to home — making it that much easier to root (and fear) for the good-hearted folks who oppose them (including, most particularly, Juno Temple as a tiger disguised as a Midwestern mom).

4. OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH (MAX)

Taika Waititi scored yet again with this sweetly surreal romantic pirate comedy we never knew that we needed till it somehow inexplicably appeared.  Despite the periodic bloodshed (and a grisly jar of noses), most of the violence in the series is emotional as a foppish captain (charm bomb Rhys Darby), a legendary cutthroat (Waititi), and the rest of the crew (including Spud from Trainspotting (!!!), a.k.a. Ewen Bremner as an eerie bird enthusiast) continuously try and fail and try again to avoid hurting the ones they love.

5. HOW TO WITH JOHN WILSON (HBO)

Though each episode purports to explore topics like watching birds or finding public restrooms, John Wilson’s impressionistic video journals invariable spiral off into wildly unpredictable adventures in and around (and sometimes far afield from) New York City while the man (allegedly) behind the camera ruminates on life, the universe, and the nature of reality in a mix of wry, surreal, and frequently poignant vignettes unlike anything else on TV.

6. THE BEAR (Hulu)

Lauded for its relatability to anyone who’s ever worked a high-pressure customer service job (particularly within the specific madness of a restaurant environment), The Bear boosted the stakes in season two as its characters attempted ever more harrowing feats of personal and professional growth.  Likewise, the show itself often teeters on the edge of losing control of its own overwrought theatricality, but the top-flight cast somehow managed to pull off a series of tragicomic feasts.

7. THE OTHER TWO (HBO Max)

As visceral in its way as The Bear‘s evocation of “yes, chef!” kitchen cornering, The Other Two is an unapologetically insider-y look at life on the fringes and smack dab in the heart of “the Industry” (with great jokes throughout about dating, New York, social media, and everyone’s dumb obsessions with status, pop culture, social media, and performative everything).

8. SURVIVOR 44 (CBS)

Some of us have been watching this grandpappy of all reality competitions since it took the nation by storm back in 2000 while others are surprised to hear the show’s even still on the air.  But whether you’re a casual viewer or a diehard fan, the best seasons are always the ones with the most charismatic and/or eccentric players, and in the 44th go-round, Yam-Yam and Carolyn dug deep with loony all-star charm.

9. JURY DUTY (Amazon Freevee)

Duping a civilian into believing they’re serving on an actual jury while surrounding them with actors improv-ing their way through a fictional trial seems like a questionable prank that could easily go awry — but fortunately for the producers, the star juror in question turned out to be a total mensch named Ronald Gladden, meaning a big part of the show’s charm is simply watching the comic ensemble fall in love with their unwitting co-star.

10. SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE (HBO)

A sweet, low stakes confection with just enough grounding in heartbreak and bitterness to hit home, this tale of a woman finding her chosen family while learning to deal with her biological one is a tribute to the power of simple niceness, a dream board vision of purple state America, and a great showcase for actors who look and behave like actual people (particularly the delightful duo of Bridget Everett and Jeff Hiller).

Honorable Mention (Episodes)

“Long, Long Time” – I might’ve watched more of The Last of Us if I wasn’t still suffering an acute case of post-Walking Dead zombie fatigue.  But reports of the unmissability of this particular episode turned out to be true thanks to the big-hearted performances of Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as a loving couple embracing life in the midst of death.

“Sleep, Dearie Sleep” – The final season of The Crown wore out its welcome with way too much screen time devoted to the bickering of Charles and Diana and the moping of their children (plus a terribly miscast Queen Mum) — but the finale itself was a beautiful, heart-tugging reminder of how good the series was in its prime with all four versions of the Queen (Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, Imelda Staunton, and Viola Prettejohn) reflecting on the monarchy and mortality in this showstopping swan song.

Honorable Mention (Shows):

Abbott Elementary, Beef, Cunk on Earth, Julia, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Nora from Queens.

Wildcards (potentially list-worthy shows as yet unseen by moi):

The Curse, Picard (Season 2), What We Do In The Shadows (Season 5)

 

 

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