Yesterday, I put the spotlight on Comedy Series, where I named Breeders the winner of Writing for a Comedy Series. Drama is equally tough. Remember, I will have a third category highlight genre series like House Of The Dragon, Strangers things, The Boys, etc. There is one show in here you might question why it isn’t in the Genre category, and I’ll explain when I get there.
As far as honorable mentions go, it did hurt my soul a little bit to leave off Tulsa King (Paramount Plus), From Scratch (Netflix), The White Lotus (HBo), The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray (Apple Plus), As We See It (Amazon), Bridgerton (Netflix), The Good Fight (Paramount Plus), and Inventing Anna (Netflix).
10) Reacher (Amazon)
I didn’t know what to expect from this Jack Reacher relaunch, or even what category to put it in. It feels like a little bit of an elevated detective formula though, where Reacher is one of those guys who is always two steps ahead of everyone else. I was actually surprised by the ending, as I had not read the book this season was based on, and I’m now really looking forward to a second season.
9) Yellowstone (Paramount)
One of the few shows without audio description on this list, but the writers here have managed to carefully craft a dynamic family drama with a well developed ensemble, that continues to feel fully energized in its fifth season. That’s not easy to do.I do wish the show had audio description, as we all do, as I’m sure it would rocket up this list.
8) Five Days At Memorial (Apple plus)
This limited series had me angry at things I’m not sure i was supposed to be angry at. But the point is, I was invested. I remember watching the first episode, when everything was still kind of calm, and thinking how I could stay invested for multiple episodes. By the end of this thing, I was shouting at my TV.
7) The Undeclared War (Peacock)
Another show I expected very little from, this limited series explored what could actually happen if war was never declared, and just left to hackers and deep fakes. It was kind of a brilliant show, realistically horrifying, and I couldn’t stop watching. With the show taking place in both the UK and Russia, it was amazing how they managed to balance both sides, and give us someone to follow and cheer for on the Russian side. It’s easy to pretend one side is just all bad all the time, but it’s far more complex to present the citizens of that country as being forced to do things they don’t necessarily want to do.
6) Gaslit (Starz)
Another show lacking audio description (but, the last one on the list to do so). As someone who was born after this whole Nixon/Watergate thing, it’s just always an interesting part of history. And I thought Gaslit did a great job of focusing on a very specific viewpoint, instead of retreading All The President’s Men. by focusing on Martha Mitchell, and highlighting her and her husband, we got this side story that was equally compelling, and had nothing to do with deep throat.
5) The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
I’m not sure I loved every moment of this past season, but what the writers did, by playing with the idea of good and evil in a world they spent four years committing to what was good and what was evil, was so well done. I’d love to have this show on top, but the writers have frustratingly had no idea what to do with Moira for a few seasons now, and even though they made me question just whether or not Lydia and Serena can be redeemed at all, it still has a strong actress whose sole purpose seems to be to hold a baby.
4) For All Mankind (Apple Plus)
It’s the show I was talking about. The reason I don’t group this in with the genre television is that this show really approaches it realistically and with historical accuracy. It started out with actors playing real people, and it evolved into a “what if” show. Technically, this past season took place in the 90’s. It’s not really science fiction, as some of the stuff they tackle, we are doing, or are in the process of doing. Space Tourism and a trip to Mars are things we are just now getting around to. The strength in the writers room comes in making us care about all these characters, and when we keep losing them, or some of them each season, it’s always heartbreaking. I do really love this show.
3) Severance (Apple Plus)
Apple is winning a lot of spots. So if you aren’t subscribing, maybe you should? Here, this is one of the big breakouts of the year, and what makes the writing so good is that the ending surprises of season 1 do feel like they come out of nowhere, but they also feel like you should have seen it coming. It’s also a show that feels original in a space created just for it’s own existence. It’s hard to directly compare this to something else, because only maybe a fraction, or a taste comes from something else. It is a truly new and original concept, and that’s why it stands out.
2) Blackbird (Apple Plus)
Not only does this show have terrific audio description, but the writing on this show, tracking a serial killer who might just get away with it, is so tense. There are moments in this show I was holding my breath. In one of the later episodes, when Paul Walterhouser’s character finally opens up, not only is that so well acted, but it’s so incredibly well written. And it’s the culmination of everything Taron Edgerton’s character had worked to up to that point, and to watch him not be able to run from that room and share it with the world, was just some really profound work this season, and it started in the writers room.
1) Ozark (Netflix)
Of course, I had to put the swan song of this great show on top. Saying goodbye to Ozark, which had a bloody final season that left a lot of bodies on the floor, is hard to do. It’s crazy to think we got only 4 seasons of this masterpiece, but Blue bloods is in like it’s 13th season. They say only the good die young, and i suppose that’s true for TV shows as well. Four really strong seasons made you care for unsavory characters doing terrible things to each other. When writers can write villains as heroes, and convince you that they have some moral standing, that’s the sign of a great script.