Quickly approaching her 30th birthday, Issa Dee is unsure about her long-term relationship and her uninspiring job. As the season progresses, her friendship with her best friend (the fantastic Yvonne Orji) and periodic encounters with an ex keep her life complicated AF. Issa Rae created a character who is charmingly awkward, imperfect yet winning. The slice-of-life stories she tells are both specific and universal. They are smart, authentic, and very funny. It's a joy spending time in her world.
This version of Anne, from Emmy-winning Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett, is darker and more realistic than some might expect. After opening on a beautiful expanse of Canadian Maritime countryside and shifting to the nervous Cuthbert siblings, who are expecting an orphan boy to arrive at Green Gables, we finally are introduced to Anne. We don't see lightness and excited curiosity, but rather a troubled reaction to a nearby baby's cries, leading to a dark flashback to life in an abusive home. The story, about this unwanted girl's slow but steady effort to win over the Cuthberts and the people of Avonlea, is over 100 years old but feels remarkable relevant, spotlighting themes of identity, sexism, and bullying.
I think that as the show begins its final season I'm able to realize just how much I like "Girls" and appreciate what Lena Dunham has done. It wasn't always pretty, but it was always interesting. More than any other show, "Girls" was under the think-piece microscope and Dunham, despite the occasional gaffe, typically took in the valuable criticism and adjusted. And again, more than any other current show, these characters were so often conflated with the actresses. I think it'll take a couple of years for people to really see this for what it was.
Bill Maher's weekly late-night show premiered in 2003, during a particularly divisive moment in the Bush administration's first term. From the hunt for weapons of mass destruction to the legalization of same-sex marriage, Maher has been on HBO for all of the most important political moments of the past 15 years. But perhaps no moment is more important — or bizarre — than this one.
Watching two good-looking, privileged Matts with acclaimed acting careers lounge in a gorgeous Italian villa while tasting wine brought to them from all over the world may sound like an exercise in self-loathing, but those adorable charmers manage to make it work. The duo's chemistry is outrageous, the production values are fantastic, and the balance of informative reports and silly banter is just right.
If you are allergic to Mario Batali or Gwyneth Paltrow, you will not enjoy this show. I am Paltrow-tolerant and Spain-obsessed, so this is among my favorite travel shows. A really deep dive into the incredibly diverse areas of Spain, with many stops for the crew to eat and cook. And Batali + Paltrow both have surprising links to Spain, so it's fun to watch them having so much fun sharing what they love about the country.
Even if you don't care about soccer, this show has enough humor, drama, and family dysfunction to hold your attention. Luis Gerardo Méndez is great, as always, but the MVP is Mariana Treviño, who transforms what could have been just another uptight clichéd businesswoman character. Mexico has produced some really high-quality programming in the past few years (Once TV's "Soy Tu Fan" and "Alguien Más" among the best of them), and Netflix has created another home for the country to show off its talent.
I don't know why, but I'm relieved Tyler Oakley is not an "Amazing Race" millionaire. However, he and BFF Korey won the whole thing with that teary, emotional lovefest at the end. The producers know what's up.
Was "Downton Abbey" a good show? Not really. Especially as it progressed, it was all cliched characters and, frankly, pretty dumb writing. And yet, it was incredibly watchable. And GIFable. I don't think I'll ever rewatch an episode, but I could stare at Maggie Smith GIFs for hours.