Top 15: 2017 Favorite TV Shows

For once I’m gonna be smart about it and not waste my time ranking them. Yeah, that’s the new way I roll. . .

Miraculous Ladybug
I’ve already blogged about how much I love this show, and now that it’s on TV—channel 5.3 in Los Angeles at 7:30AM—and not just Netflix, I can put it on this list. For those who missed it, two teens in Paris become the superheroes Ladybug and Cat Noir whenever someone—usually one of their classmates—gets evilized. (Yes, that’s one of the words they use for it.) In addition to that storyline, there’s the unrequited love between the two, though it’s made much more complicated because of their alter egos; it’s basically a love square between two people. There’s plenty of humor, and the 3-D animation is cutting edge. One of the shows I watch over and over and even sneak peeks at the second season over on YouTube.

Supergirl
Like it turned out for a lot of people, I wasn’t thrilled with the second season—one critic mentioned it should be renamed “Supergirl’s Boyfriend”—but it’s gotten back in the groove in its third year, not the least of it due to Odette Annable, one of my faves. For me the best parts are when Kara is all too human, especially sympathetic, rather than all the action sequences. The one thing that got me into this show, when I usually don’t care for superhero fare, was an early photo of Melissa in full Supergirl gear walking with a group of Girl Scouts while carrying a puppy, and sometimes they remember why that kind of thing works so well.

Lucifer
This show manages to do something that a lot try and almost all fail at: having a character who’s such an ass but also so charming you just can’t help but be on his side. And it’s the Devil!
You’d think there wouldn’t be any more “detective and x” combos left to try on TV, but I suppose eight years of Castle proves it’s still a viable formula. It helps that the detective is so darn likeable (and looks exactly like one of my favorite musicians!). There’s also a great supporting cast of celestial beings and all-too-humans that keep things light and dramatic in turn. A particular favorite is the psychiatrist who enjoys sex with angels. . . and the gorgeous demon who does just about everyone. . .

NCIS:LA
After all these years I’m still enjoying the adventures of Kensi and the nameless guys supporting her. (What? Nah, don’t believe you.) It helps that I’ve been on the set and got my photo taken with all of them. . .
In the last ten years or so dramas have become so serialized that I’m well over it, and this show has some of those arcs as well, but I prefer the individually plotted episodes. Still wish they’d do more undercover work like at the beginning, especially when they can be as good as Sam playing financial savant.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us
Basic premise: if you can perform a magic act, and Penn and Teller can’t tell how you did it, you get to open for their show in Vegas. (Suspiciously, there’s never more than one winner per episode.)
What’s better than magic? Funny magic. Some magicians excel at that, but none have hit it big with that formula like these two incredibly different guys. In later seasons they’ve taken to doing their own trick at the end of each show, but even better are all the different acts that have passed before them. While some of the magicians are so practiced it sounds like they’re reciting their patter, for the most part they’re so excited about performing on TV and in front of their idols that it gives a fresh enthusiasm lacking in so many shows today.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Still going strong after some thirty years, if you count the British era. As much as I love watching stand-up, this is so much better. There are some skits I’ve watched thousands of times, especially the ones with guest stars like Robin Williams, Richard Simmons, and Adelaide Kane. Even model Nina Agdal rocked it. But Colin, Ryan, Wayne, and rotating fourth seat are all comic geniuses, a joy to spend an hour with. Even Laura Hall, the pianist, is wonderful, even though I recently spent an evening listening to live music next to her without recognizing her!

NCIS
Yup, this show is still on the air, and some might say better than ever. After a long time with Cote de Pablo in the female lead, the addition of Emily Wickersham has infused fresh blood, along with some other new faces to balance those who’ve been there the whole time. Gibbs isn’t nearly as much of a hardass anymore, no doubt due to his recent brush with death, and his scenes with Fornell show he does indeed have a sense of humor buried somewhere inside him. At this point the plots hardly matter; the fun is in the interactions of the team.

The Good Place
Where are we again?
Eleanor is Veronica Mars had she gone bad. She dies in the most ridiculous way possible and makes it to Heaven, where she obviously doesn’t belong. Now she has to deal with keeping her secret, spending time with the geekiest soulmate ever, and trying to figure out why Heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. . . and then it really gets weird.
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are both comic geniuses, and the supporting cast is definitely not bad either. But it’s the writing that makes this show amazing, superb in both comedy and twisty plots that no one sees coming, not even the other actors, as evidenced by a video Kristen uploaded recently of them reacting to the huge twist.

The Orville
The Space adventures of Alara and her crew. . . well, at least for one episode.
Who would have thought a funnier, slightly hipper version of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be so good? Not that it started out great, and definitely has huge possibility for growth if they can cut down on the sophomoric jokes. . . well, it is Seth McFarlane.
For me it’s the women who rule this show. Penny Johnson Jerald has always brought it, and must be having fun on this show after having to be so serious on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I’ve never been a fan of Adrianne Palicki until now, but it’s Halston Sage as Alara that is a revelation, the best new face of the season. (Even more fun is how totally different she looks in real life!)

Blindspot
After what started as one of the best premises of all time, the show has settled into a kind of holding pattern; even though the overall mission—and big bad—changes, it’s still about deciphering the tattoos to foil yet another plot. Jaimie Alexander is one of the most underrated actresses on TV, and even though I get bored with the goings-on sometimes, there’s still plenty to enjoy every week, including one of the funniest and most endearing techies on any show.

Death In Paradise
Now that it’s running on PBS rather than solely Netflix, I can include what might be my fave cop show. Sure, someone always dies, but at least they did it on a Caribbean island, amid a lot of humor. I will never forget Serious Cop screaming like a girl at the rubber snake, but that was years ago. Now there’s a third chief inspector, who is so understatedly funny it sometimes takes a moment, but provides a completely different yet thoroughly entertaining crime-solving technique. The other cops are fun too, and Danny John-Jules—The Cat on Red Dwarf—plays a character named Dwayne, but his last name is not Dibbly.

Big Bang Theory
Another show where there’s nothing much left to say after being on for so many years. On the other hand, it’s fun to watch the repeats and see how much has changed: two of the original four married—one of them with kids—the last guy you’d ever expect to find a girlfriend engaged. . . and then there’s Raj. At least he changed his hair. But in my admittedly biased opinion the show has gotten better and better since the addition of Melissa Rauch as Bernadette, who could easily be a star on a spin-off had she not had to carry Howard all these years.

Dancing With the Stars
I can’t believe I’m including this one, as I’ve never watched it before—and probably never will again—but my girl Lindsey Stirling was on so I had to tune in. . . and found I still remembered a lot of my own miniscule dance training. Even worse, I found I had many of the same thoughts that were then expounded by Grumpy Judge!
I wonder if Lindsey remembers the Meet-and-Greet where we posed in tango. . .

Timeless
Time-travel change-the-future story, which I love. I don’t think there’s been anything like it on TV since Seven Days.
I’m not sure if the whole season was plotted out from the beginning, as too many things didn’t make sense, but counterfactuals are just so much fun. Doesn’t hurt that one of my unsung faves, Abigail Spencer, was the female lead. On the other hand, not nearly enough Matt Frewer!

iZombie
Medical student gets bitten by zombie, then becomes a medical examiner so she can have access to brains. Finds out eating a dead person’s brains passes some of their memories to her, which she uses to fight crime. Remember what I wrote above about Lucifer? How many more variations of cop helper can there be? Doesn’t beat the Devil, but close.
This has to be a dream job for an actor: getting to play a different role, or at least a different version of their role, every week.

Why did these shows that I watch all the time not make the top 15? Mostly because I would otherwise not watch them if it wasn’t for an actress I like. . .

Criminal Minds
Paget Brewster’s back and they’re finally done with the debacle of Reid being in jail.

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
Perfect example. Alana de la Garza went right from Forever to the only Criminal Minds spinoff that made it past a season. If this show had one major problem, it was the writing, but who cares when I can spend an hour staring at those amazing cheekbones?

Chicago Fire
I’d never heard about this show until I saw a commercial featuring a wonderfully enticing innocent-looking braided blonde. That turned out to be Kara Killmer, and even though she’s amazing I actually like the show for its humor, rather than the people crazy enough to run towards fires. . .

Doubt
Despite some good humor and prescient side stories, this was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill courtroom drama with horny lawyers. . . except this one had Katherine Heigl, and that’s that.

Powerless
A great premise in a superhero world was basically wasted despite some great actors, particularly Danny Pudi (Go watch his movie The Tiger Hunter!). Vanessa Hudgens turned out to be surprisingly awesome as well, but how bad does the writing have to be when you turn an Alan Tudyk character into a huge disappointment?

Can’t include them:

Wynonna Earp
Because it’s on cable, and Netflix. Still, who would have thought Wynonna could become even snarkier and more awesome by being pregnant?

The X Files
How I wish I could put it on this list, but I am just as underwhelmed by this season as the previous one. The episode with the Mandala Effect was trippy, especially the Segway sound effects, but I’m hard pressed to remember any other worthwhile moment.

;o)

Netflix Fun: Miraculous Ladybug

Overview
Not being much of a comic book reader—until recently—and never that interested in the superhero genre, I will take the word of the creator when he says that this is the first ladybug-based crusader of right and justice. Even I know there have been other cats, but mostly they’re bad and/or female, or at least big brawny bashers.
Put simply, this is one of the best animated shows I’ve ever seen, and it is one of my favorites of all time after just its first season. Rather than me bothering with explaining the premise, here’s a promo video that’ll tell ya all you need to know.

Writing
Did you catch the last thing mentioned in the video? (It did go by pretty fast.) Except for the superhero aspect, the most important thing in this show is the relationship between the leads. It’s actually quite funny how Marinette likes Adrien when he’s himself and is easily annoyed by him when he’s Cat Noir, even though they’re the same person. And he likes her as Ladybug but doesn’t spare her a second look in her civilian guise, thinking of her only as a friend. So that dynamic makes for four relationships between the two characters: without wasting my time trying to remember or look up their portmanteaus, there’s Marinette/Adrien, Marinette/Cat Noir, Ladybug Adrien, and Ladybug/Cat Noir (LadyNoir; I remember that one). It’s amazing that each of those have their own special elements that make the show so watchable as well as relatable.
The other superb part of this show is its humor. Most of my favorite moments involve Marinette’s adorkable attempts to speak to Adrian. Of course a major part of that is in the animation and acting, but it wouldn’t work at all if not for some great writing.
Some of my faves:
Marinette’s hand sliding down the railing {Guitar Villain}
Her fall off the bench and Cat Noir’s dances {Mr. Pigeon}
Her weird walk in the park, the sighing chin drops, and the best of what are usually puns that are smellier than Plagg’s cheese: Coldilocks {Stormy Weather}
The phone message and Baywatch-style slo-mo run through Copycat’s eyes {Copycat}
Marinette making “yada-yada-yada” gestures behind Cat Noir’s back {Evilistrator}
Using one hand to make the other stop waving, and the incredibly corny—on purpose—dramatic moves during Ladybug’s song {Santa Claws}.
And of course her catchphrase when she has to go before she turns back into a pumpkin: “Bug, out!”
But as a photographer, I must protest about all those “the boy ate too much spaghetti” lines! I’m stuck somewhere between outraged and amused, but those ridiculous red pants drop it into the outraged side.
Another thing that abounds is shoutouts. My favorite is in “Stormy Weather,” when Manon is hiding under the table and giggles, right out of Brave! Even though I’ve never watched a Spiderman movie, I still recognize the iconic scene where he’s hanging upside down next to right-side-up girl, and this happens twice, although one time it’s the girl upside-down. In “Pixillator,” Mr. Damocles uses the line, “Surely you can’t be serious,” but Jagged Stone doesn’t bite. I’d be shocked if Gabriel’s scream of “Adrien!” from the Christmas episode isn’t recognized by all. And this one might be me projecting, but there’s something about the vertigo-inducing scenes in the Origins episodes that remind me of Lindsey Stirling’s “We Are Giants” video.
Now for a small downside. I think the writers made it a little too obvious and over the top with the clues as to who Hawkmoth is, so it’s entire possible they’ll pull a switcheroo in the second season. My no-evidence guess is that he’s actually Gabriel’s brother, who was jealous that the gorgeous blonde woman didn’t pick him, so he kidnapped her and is holding her hostage. He wants the ultimate power that having all the miraculouses would give him so he can give her the world. Or perhaps she ran away so he wouldn’t nab her, having to leave her family to protect them. Yes, I’m a master of the delicious art known as fanwanking  . . .

Directing
I admit to not having a single notion as to what a director does in animation. Everything must be storyboarded to an OCD degree and then sent to the animators. It’s noteworthy that when I do catch a director credit, it’s always the creator. So, since there’s really nothing to say here, I’ll just leave it at that.
There is one thing I have to mention, though I don’t know if this started in the writing room, done on purpose, or if it was an animation error. Since at least some of the animation must be done in Japan, it’s completely possible it wasn’t noticed, but in “Guitar Villain,” Marinette is outside the hotel talking to Tikki—this is when the Gorilla catches her and she says it’s a talking purse from Japan—but behind him you can see the traffic going on both streets. We don’t see the intersection, but enough cars pass by so that if they were stopped for a red light, we’d see them stopped behind the Gorilla. So with both directions going at the same time, there’d be plenty of crashes. . . and they’re driving on the British side of the road. . . which is also the driving style in Japan.
I also wonder about the background characters. Of course in order to save money they’ll reuse the same images, thinking no one will notice, but there’s a regular cast that appears in almost every episode. The one who’s really noticeable, is the redhead in the green sweater; in “The Mime” she’s on the bus and then is right outside it too!

Acting
I don’t follow voice actors, but apparently the two English leads are pretty famous, and they show here that they very much deserve to be. There’s a few BTS vids of Marinette’s actor both vocalizing and singing, and she’s truly stunning to watch. In “Evilistrator,” there’s a scene where Marinette—not Ladybug—tells Cat Noir how they can escape from the box they’re in. As usual he thanks her in a flirting manner, only to have her turn his face away with a dry, “Yeah, I’m a genius” that he doesn’t pick up on, but is a subtle yet amazing piece of acting. In “Guitar Villain” after she slips down the railing, after Adrian leaves, she murmurs, “I can’t feel my legs anymore,” and it sounds incredible. Then there’s the beginning song of the Christmas Special, when her mom tells her to be nice to Chloe: she gives a small “ugh,” compared to Chloe’s over the top reaction. But the crowning moments had to be all those tiny squeaks when she’s around Adrien. . .
One last note: I would think one of the best reasons for a writer to go into animation is that you don’t have to worry about the actors adlibbing! Given that constraint, I have a new and higher respect for the job these voice actors do.

Cinematography (“Artwork” if animated)
I’m no expert on animation, though I did get why Brave was so amazing in that respect. With such little experience, it may not mean much when I say the CGI here is every bit as spectacular.
Perhaps the best example is in Ladybug’s transformation sequence: if you look closely you can see the geometric patterns of her suit, which shine when the light hits them and makes the view shimmer, but not in a “that-looks-like-a-mistake” kinda way.
It’s startling how quickly one gets used to the visuals of Paris, with that iconic if ugly tower and the buildings around the river. Other landmarks are delightfully rendered, like the Trocadero, the Louvre, the Grand Palais, and the zoo. But once in a while, particularly when they’re jumping along the rooftops to get somewhere quickly, there are glimpses of the city that tourists would never notice, and possibly locals don’t bother with either, the best being the park next to the bakery, now featuring a statue of Ladybug and Cat Noir.
Perhaps the best episode for visuals was “Stormy Weather,” where the very first shot is from above, looking down the building. And the final storm taking place on top of the same building looks spectacular. When Marinette gets off the bus in “Mr. Pigeon,” the street and buildings look gorgeous. The only recurring scenery worth noting is every time an akuma leaves home, giving an overview of the Paris suburbs, with that damned tower in the background.
Closer to the camera, there’s plenty of freeze-frame bonuses, my favorite coming in “Timebreaker”: during the scene in the restaurant, with Alix and her dad celebrating her birthday, there’s a close-up of the Egyptology specialist, and you can see he’s wearing a shirt decorated in hieroglyphs. . . and it looks a lot better than mine! Another one occurs in “Mr. Pigeon,” when Plagg lands on the bed in the hotel after declawing. As the dish of cheese is brought to him, you can see a pillow in the shape and color of a ladybug behind him.

Music
Possibly the best theme song since Jack of All Trades. Here’s the complete version, in English.

But it’s kinda surprising that there isn’t much of an emphasis on sound in this series. An interview shows that this is on purpose: “The music plays a very minor role in the show. Often times it’s hardly audible over the dialogue or sound effects, but it provides the right subtle push that guides the emotion of the episode.”
There’s some great soft music at the iconic scene at the end of “Origins 2,” not quite romantic but still emotion-inducing. Once in a while there’s mood music, like the soft stuff when Adrien’s dad finally hugs him, or during the first scene of “Horrificator,” where it’s melodramatic horror; on the other hand, “Smelly Wolf” might become the next “Soft Kitty.” Then there are the themes, particularly Ladybug and Cat Noir’s transformation sequences, which immediately go into earworm territory, though the “Fly away, my little akuma!” theme does not. Besides the Christmas episode, which is actually a musical episode, there’s one other that features music, “Guitar Villain,” where we get Jagged Stone jamming on the electric guitar—actually pretty good instrumentals—unlike XY’s (purposeful) crap.

“Feel”
If I had to pick one moment above all others to encapsulate exactly what this show is made of, it would be the climax of “The Puppeteer,” where a split second before she’s going to be turned into an evil minion and have her powers taken away, Ladybug uses Lady Wifi to “pause” the villain. . . then, having all the time in the world, she casually strolls to the Puppeteer while whistling her own theme song!
But more than anything, this show has so much heart, particularly in its young heroine. While someone like Clark Kent has had decades to learn how to be both himself and Superman—and to a lesser degree the same goes for Batman and Bruce Wayne—Marinette not only has been an unexpected superhero for only a few months, she’s a teenager! She’s got school, she’s got family, she’s a babysitter sometimes, she’s trying really hard to be a fashion designer, and she’s dealing with her first case of puppy love. . . all these things pull for her attention, which is hard enough for your average teen, but then add the humongous responsibility of saving her city at least once a week. This also goes for Adrien, but to a lesser extent. Thankfully there’s a few scenes that show how much of a weight this is for her, as well as times when she doesn’t make the right choice, choosing herself first over her job as Ladybug. . . usually involving jealousy whenever another girl’s around Adrien.
Yet despite all that, Marinette is an awesome character. For a teen to be a superhero but unable to gloat about it, and always failing to get what she wants in the end, she takes things remarkably in stride, never losing her sense of humor or sweetness. Her big aquamarine eyes, which get even bigger when she’s joyful, perfectly offset the blue/black hair to the point she goes from incredibly cute to downright beautiful. Early on there’s a shot of her caught as she’s rooting through the trash, and the look she gives is priceless, worth the price of admission alone. She usually doesn’t mind being teased, quirky but lovable, so she’s someone girls can relate to. All this makes her one of the most intriguing teen protagonists I’ve ever seen. Adrien manages to pull that off in no small way as well, even when his fame and wealth are added to it, though he becomes a bit of an arrogant jerk when he’s dressed feline.
But of course I can’t leave this without mentioning the giant elephant in the fandom: the far-too-common complaint by supposed fans who spend all their time whining about how no one recognizes Marinette as Ladybug. That doesn’t seem to bother people about Superman, but for some reason it’s a big issue here. This surprises me because you’d think such creative people as the fans claim to be would rather spend their time coming up with fanwanks rather than whimper about it.
So here’s mine. There’s a comic strip called “Phoebe and her Unicorn,” where in order to keep herself hidden from most people Marigold the Unicorn has something called the Shield of Boringness. Now, considering all the magical powers Tikki gives Marinette, especially the way her mask didn’t come off when Lady Wifi pulled on it, then you’d think over 5000 years they would have developed a power that disguises their faces and bodies. See, simple?
(And as I wrote above, I don’t believe Hawk Moth is Adrien’s Dad, but that’s a story for another time.)
9/10

;o)