Billie's Best of 2016

Happy new year! It is a Doux Reviews tradition that I get to post my "best of" piece last. Did you know we've been doing these year-end posts since 2009? This is our eighth year at this. Eighth!

I usually post my thank yous last, but this year I'm going to post them first. A big, huge, enormous thank you to all of the readers who stop by and read our stuff, because we wouldn't be here without you. And thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, to all of the writers past and present who have contributed to this site. It is particularly delightful that we acquired a record of five new writers in 2016: Thomas Ijon Tichy (who reviews Gotham), Morgan India (Lucifer) (although technically, Morgan is a return, not a new), Mallena in October (Farscape) Victoria Grossack in November (Rome), and Lamounier in December (3%).

All's well that ends well

I don't usually highlight a piece from another site, but I was floored by TVLine's recent rundown of all of the shows that were cancelled or ended in 2016. All 88 of them. That's two eights. Good freaking bananas. For years, it's felt like there were just too many shows out there to even attempt, but 88? And those are just the ones that ended this year.

So I went through their list, wondering how many I'd even tried. In that list of 88, I'd only seen five from beginning to end: The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Rectify, Limitless and American Gothic, and those last two barely count since they only ran for one season. There were five other shows that I'd begun or watched for awhile, but ultimately dropped: Castle, Marvel's Agent Carter, The Muppets (sigh), Bitten, and The Musketeers.

What's wrong with this picture? Is there simply too much dreck to wade through anymore in order to find the good stuff? I suppose that the best way to look at it is that's another reason for Doux Reviews to exist, right?

Aden Young, consistently amazing in Rectify
While I was totally bummed about the way that The Good Wife ended (leaving me uninterested in its approaching spinoff, The Good Fight), I was thrilled that Rectify went out so well. It is one of the best television shows I've ever seen, period, and now that it has ended as beautifully as it began, I can gladly recommend it forever.

Ditto Person of Interest. While PoI occasionally lost its way and may have given us a few too many Case of the Week episodes, it ended pretty much perfectly with a moving finale that kept its mission statement intact. Thank you so much, Sunbunny, for reviewing PoI for us. I'll admit that I was about to drop it a couple of times, but I hung on because of Sunbunny. I'm glad I did.

Whatever did we do before Netflix?

Orange is the New Black, Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley, The OA, The Crown... no, seriously. At this point, if Netflix went under (or, more likely, if I had to drop it for some reason), I would be television-bereft.

I should probably start with the show that many of the other Agents of DOUX loved: Stranger Things. Why was it so good? Was it how accurately they brought us back to the feel of the eighties? Was it all the wonderful kid actors they managed to find? Maybe it was the Christmas tree lights that Winona Ryder tacked up all over the house, a detail that I absolutely loved. Stranger Things was a delightful surprise, I watched it twice, and I'm looking forward to the second season.


I also loved the Gilmore Girls revival,  mostly because I only finished watching the original series for the first time this past summer (on Netflix, of course.) I had just completed this wonderful series, wished for more, and there it was. Talk about wish fulfillment.

Here's something about me that you may not know: I like design and cooking shows. For some reason, I had never tried one of HGTV's mainstays, Property Brothers, probably because ads for it seemed to set off duomaieusiophobia. Three seasons of Property Brothers turned up on Netflix, and I finally gave them a try. Now I love them. They're smart and cute and I've been spending a lot of time with them this fall as I catch up on reruns on HGTV.

Jonathan and Drew Scott, Property Brothers
I especially liked their four-part miniseries, Property Brothers at Home, (also on Netflix), in which Jonathan and Drew gently squabbled as they renovated their own home in Las Vegas and turned their enormous backyard into a luxurious retreat for their family and friends. In the last episode, they capped off the series by building a guest house, from the ground up, for their mom and dad. As my mother would say, what nice boys.

One last big thing that Netflix has given me in 2016: many documentaries. I particularly like the historicals and biographicals; sometimes I listen to them while I'm painting. Just recently, I saw Lucy Worsley's Empire of the Tsars, a three-part history of the Romanov dynasty, that was so good that I stopped painting and watched it. (I recommend avoiding Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States, which seems instead to be all about Russia. I've had enough Russia this year.)

When did The CW become my favorite network?

It's not just Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, although I enjoy all four. Come on. What other network would have the chutzpah to give us twelve seasons of a show like Supernatural? I swear, any other network would have dropped it by now simply because it had been around so long.

As Juliette mentioned in her "best of" piece this year, last spring Supernatural managed to resolve their biggest unanswered question in the most satisfying of ways with an episode called "Don't Call Me Shurley." I've been reviewing Supernatural since its second season and am still impressed that they can still do things like this. I'm also hanging in until the bitter end with The Vampire Diaries, and very much looking forward to the return of The 100 and The Originals in 2017. I'm especially interested to see what The Originals will do now that it has been unleashed from its parent show.

I've been a little less thrilled with this year's new CW crop. Frequency, much like the movie it is based on, started out well but got convoluted way too quickly and I can't seem to warm to the leads, Peyton List and Riley Smith. I watched the pilot of No Tomorrow and moved on. And since I have no interest whatsoever in the Archie comics, I'm only trying Riverdale this coming January because it's supposed to be subversive.

I did find a new show to love on another network. Last month, I finally caught the amazing pilot of This is Us and was enthralled; I later caught up with the rest of the episodes On Demand. While I've always loved Justin Hartley (he helped make the last few seasons of Smallville bearable), I am mostly watching because of Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson as Randall and Beth Pearson, who are turning into my new favorite television couple.

Over on Fox, I'm also still really enjoying Tom Ellis as the vacationing devil on Lucifer. Their second season is already better than their first. I love it when that happens.

Less happy stuff

And then there's Timeless. There are three reasons why I haven't given up on it yet: time travel is one of my favorite things, they've surprised me a few times, and the show stars the wonderful Abigail Spencer from Rectify. But they'll have to find a way to grab me pretty soon, or I'm gone. I also gave up on Designated Survivor relatively early despite my fondness for Kiefer Sutherland, although that might have been due to extreme election fatigue.

After hanging in with Scandal for probably longer than I should have, they finally lost me last spring when we learned that the virtuous veep turned out to be lying and grasping like every other character on the show. I don't know why that was the last straw, but it was. Bye bye, Scandal.

While the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead had a better second season than its first, I have had mixed reactions to The Walking Dead's controversial seventh season. I am definitely a fan of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but like many fans I was unhappy with the premiere back in October, and they haven't helped alleviate the trauma they inflicted on us with a fragmented fall season with wall-to-wall new characters. I haven't given up on The Walking Dead yet, but the second half of this season had better be good.

Of course, Richonne did help
Along with an election that will undoubtedly live in infamy, all of the celebrity deaths really got to me this year. In particular, I was deeply upset by the loss of David Bowie, a unique rock poet extraordinaire whom I have loved since a boyfriend got me to try his music back when I was 21 years old; Ziggy Stardust is, quite seriously, my favorite CD/album ever.

And the year ended sadly with the shocking deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. As I said in my brief memorial, Carrie Fisher was more than just Star Wars: she was a brilliant writer and a fascinating human being. And Debbie Reynolds starred in Singin' in the Rain, one of my mother's favorite musicals. If you like musicals and haven't seen it, you might want to give it a try. It's a classic for a reason.

Finally, a short section on books and movies

I didn't see a lot of movies this year and wasn't enchanted with the ones I saw. Two exceptions, that for some reason both starred Chris Pine, were Star Trek Beyond and The Finest Hours. The latter, which is now available on Netflix, is a true story about a nautical rescue that I thought was terrific.

This year, I subscribed to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, a service that lets you read as many ebooks as you like for $10 a month, but only includes books that authors choose to add to the service. That might be why I seem to have read a lot of bad books this year. I did really enjoy two different series: the Joe Dillard mystery series by Scott Pratt, who is very John Grisham-y but has a unique voice of his own, and the Rho Agenda books by Richard Phillips, a science fiction series that I occasionally found too violent but ultimately enjoyed. (I was ticked when I reached the end of Rho and discovered that the final book in the series won't be released until August 2017.)

(I should add titles: the first book in Scott Pratt's Joe Dillard series is An Innocent Client, and the first book in Richard Phillips' Rho series is The Second Ship.)

But the best book I read in 2016, and only last week, was Wild by Cheryl Strayed, after Josie recommended it in her "best of 2016" post last week. It's about a woman who works out her grief after her mother's death by hiking the entire length of California and Oregon. Honestly, I haven't spent an entire day immersed in a book for a long time, but I couldn't put this one down. It strongly reminded me of a time in my life when I was completely submerged in grief, which might not sound like a positive recommendation, but it is. Wild is a powerful book that touched an emotional center for me. Not to be missed.

That's it for me. Here's hoping for the best in 2017,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.

14 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

Just recently, I saw Lucy Worsley's Empire of the Tsars, a three-part history of the Romanov dynasty, that was so good that I stopped painting and watched it.

Psychic link intact. I just added that to my Netflix queue. It looks good, but I'm worried that the reenactments will get silly. Do they?

Billie Doux said...

Re: Empire of the Tsars isn't big on reenactments. Mostly Worsley walks around the actual spots where this stuff happened and talks about it. The death mask of Peter the Great completely creeped me out.

Josie Kafka said...

OMG I'm on the death mask now.

Spoiler space:










That's his real hair!

Lamounier said...

I'm looking forward to the return of The 100 too. I haven't watched the trailer, though, because The CW spoiled two thirds of season 3 on its trailer. I'm also planning to start watching Rectify next year, I only read good things about it.

Happy 2017, everyone. :)

Mark Greig said...

The CW clearly hasn't learnt its lesson judging by the latest Arrow trailer.

Cecile said...

HI Billy. Although lately I hardly see any series, I still often came to this site to read reviews and comments. Feels strange to read about something that I don't completely understand, but also is like listening to some friends talking about what they like or not in their life.
Thanks to you, Jossie and all collaborators here, for the great times. Have a wonderful 2017!

Billie Doux said...

Cecile, what an interesting comment and kind comment. I'm happy you found us. If you're not into TV that much, how did you find us?

Happy new year on U.S. east coast, with just over two hours until 2017!

Anonymous said...

I actually do the same thing as Cecile. I found you guys five or six years ago (Damn...) when I was looking for Doctor Who reviews. And when I found out that you also reviewed Supernatural, I kept coming back. And even though I don't really watch either show anymore, I still visit your site at least once or twice a day.

You guys always have really thoughtful and interesting reviews and comments. And everyone is always so nice and respectful to each other. Even thought I may not completely understand what's happening, like Cecile said, it's kind of like listening to friends talk about something they're enjoying. (Or not!)

So thank you, Billie, Josie, sunbunny, JRS, J.D, Mark, Paul and everyone and anyone else I may have missed, for a wonderful site. I hope you all have a very happy New Year!

Patryk said...

Thank You for another year of great TV reviews, honestly I would be lost without reading a Doux review after every ep. Right now I'm doing the 100 binge watch which would never happen if not for the site. So thank You and please never stop being awesome. :)

I completely agree with everything You said about the CW. The network knows what the genre fans like (and it grew up cast-wise a bit from teenagers only to 20 somethings only so it also helps) and it can get away with a lot more experimental stuff thanks to being so small and underapreciated. I would just add iZombie to the list of stuff I wait for on the network.

Completely agree about Vampire Diaries, it was past it's prime a while, but this season and last was almost unwatchable. Which is sad cause I loved the show in late season 1 and entire season 2/3 and even defended it as better written Vampire show then True Blood.

Netflix rocks and not only Marvel Netflix, but in it's entirety. That's how TV should have been since the start of it.

Mallena said...

I'm in agreement with you in most of your picks, except that I can't watch HGTV anymore because it has become all Property Bros, all the time. They do seem nice, but I'd like some new shows with new people. I miss the competition shows they used to have, though.

I love The CW and Netflix, just wish that they didn't have to remove old shows. I was going to watch Quantum Leap and Chuck, I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. I am watching Nikita, now, because I try to match shows that Netflix has to offer with this site because it is more fun to watch that way. They also took off Farscape, which makes me sad because now more people won't have an easy way to watch it.

My New Year's resolutions: To be as poetic as Heather, as smart as JD and the other super smart writers, to be as socially conscious as Josie, to be as prolific and speedy as Victoria who I suspect is really a bunch of clones; like Sarah/Alison/Cosima/, right?...as profound as all the writers that I am too tired to name because my dog wouldn't stop barking on New Year's Eve, and mostly as kind, patient, and encouraging as Billie. You all inspire me, have a great new year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Billie and the team, this is still my #1 go-to spot. I especially enjoyed Rectify, and would not have found it if it weren't for you.
Cheers and Happy 2017!
Sooze

Victoria Grossack said...

These reviews make it possible to feel as if you are watching "with" other people, even when you watch at a completely different time. They also allow us to share ideas - to participate in our own "great conversation."

It's an excellent site - thanks for starting it, Billie.

Billie Doux said...

What lovely, lovely comments. :) Thank you all so much for contributing to Doux Reviews.

Heather said...

These comments are so inspiring.
Billie, I love your list and I just wanted to add that I watched Rectify over the xmas break -- all 32 eps, and I LOVED IT MORE THAN I LIKE BREATHING AIR. It killed me on so many levels, in the best way possible. In the end, we are all the Talbot/Holdens. Just spectacular.
Patryk: I agree with what you said about Netflix. It's a perfect model.