It’s only towards the end of 2014 that I started to actually track the movies & TV shows that I watched, and to consciously talk about them a bit more (which I do in the revised version of my monthly round up posts). So this is necessarily a bit shoddy as a record goes. However, this was a pretty good year for me and there’s definitely a lot to mention.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: A glamorous detective in 1920s Melbourne, which should be enough to sell you on this show. But if you want more: not only is Phryne Fisher a fantastic character, the rest of the cast is great as well. And Phryne’s clothes deserve a post of their own–I didn’t know I liked 1920s fashion until I started watching this series. Happily, Miss Fisher is returning for a third season!
Call the Midwife: The story of Jenny Lee and the midwives of Nonnatus House continues to be gripping. While the storylines occasionally border on the melodramatic, there’s a depth to a lot of what’s shown which counterbalances that. And there are some moments that are truly just beautiful. I will admit that I cried almost every episode of this season, which is a good sign. I’ll be interested to see where the show goes in the next season, since there are a few significant changes.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: I liked the first Captain America mvoie quite a bit, but the second one knocks it out of the park. Not only is it much more of an ensemble movie (Natasha and Sam Wilson are basically as important as Steve), it also delves a lot into some of the larger questions as far as the moral authority of SHIELD and ideas of freedom and what is necessary. There was a pivotal scene that actually reminded me a bit of Rose Under Fire and had me cheering in the theater. All in all, this is not only a fun movie, but a smart slick one with great representation (Sam Wilson forever!) and cast.
Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Part 1: I watched these back to back and I remain really impressed by the movies. Especially in Mockingjay, the way visuals are used worked very well for me. I wanted to say a lot more about Katniss and her relationships with Coin, Cressida, and Prim, and about the way Collins subverts and, quite frankly, destroys our storytelling expectations. But I’ll just say that I think these do really well at adapting and translating the books into a different medium and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss is absolutely compelling.
Parks and Recreation: This was the year of Parks & Rec for me. I watched six seasons in six months and fell in love with the characters and the town of Pawnee. Comedy is a hard sell for me because so often I have to look past storylines or “jokes” that are offensive or hurtful. Parks & Rec manages to steer clear of this, making it a show that I am genuinely happy to watch. I’m already sad that it’s ending and the last season hasn’t started to air yet.
Person of Interest: This show should not work as well as it does, but I love it. I’ve seen the first two seasons and find that its gradual transition from slightly SFnal puzzle of the week into a complex, thought-provoking story is really well done. I also appreciate that while the two main characters are white men, there are significant characters who are women and not white. It’s brain candy, but a smart thoughtful kind that doesn’t leave me with a bad aftertaste. (I may have stretched that metaphor a bit far.)
Orphan Black: I’ve only seen season 1, but I’ve been very impressed by this show and the way it’s both slightly over the top fun while having a more serious undertone to it. And Tatiana Maslasny is fantastic; it sounds silly to say this, but there are times I forget that all the clones are played by one actress because she gives each their own gravitas.
Pitch Perfect: I saw the trailer for Pitch Perfect 2 when I went to see Mockingjay and the friend I was watching it with got super excited. So I finally broke down and watched it, and it’s such a FUN movie. Like Parks & Rec, I felt like I could watch it without feeling like I had to excuse anything. Purely enjoyable, with some great music and hilarious moments.
I’ve found that, with the exception of a few older shows I’ve rewatched (ie, Poirot) I’ve largely lost my interest in shows that foreground white guys as inherently fascinating. This is really personal preference: for the last few years I’ve really found myself by far most interested in and moved by stories about women especially and other minorities. All of the media I’ve enjoyed this year, except perhaps Person of Interest, has foregrounded women and their stories (The Winter Soldier is almost as much about Natasha and Steve as it is about Steve and Bucky). Sadly, this does leave me a bit limited in terms of shows I’ll actual enjoy and if you have suggestions I will happily take them! One of my goals for the coming year is to catch up on some period dramas I’ve missed.
I’ll also note, period drama wise, that I am officially eating my hat. A few years ago the big British networks said they were taking a step away from Austen and Dickens adaptations. At the time, I felt quite annoyed by this, since I had been hoping for some more solid adaptations like Andrew Davies’ Little Dorrit. However, when I look at the period dramas that have come out of the last few years, I was clearly Wrong: Miss Fisher, Call the Midwife, Bletchley Circle, The Hour–even, for all its faults, Downton Abbey. If anything, we are in the middle of a burst of creative, smart period dramas most of them featuring women not only as characters but as writers and producers and I am all for it.
Finally, I continue to like the Marvel movies and even Agents of SHIELD, which is not nearly as bad as I was led to believe. And I am SO EXCITED for Agent Carter, and Age of Ultron, and Captain Marvel. I’ll continue to hope, probably in vain, for a Black Widow movie (srsly guys, whyyy) but overall I’m happy with what we have.