Netflix of 2019
Sex Education: Season 1 – this show was bite my knuckles funny throughout – it also freaked me out as the location was my university campus! The slight weirdness about trying to place it in time / location was actually a worthy eccentricity in the end.
Top Boy – at times it felt a little like it was trying a bit too hard to be The Wire: London but this Drake/Netflix return to Summerhouse was really great viewing. It was bloody dark at times and anyone who thinks it glamorises crime just isn’t watching!
The Umbrella Academy: Season 1 – the greatest EMO superhero team in history. It was weird and often put style over substance but it deserves love for the ‘I think we’re alone now‘ dance scene.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2 – I’m still waiting for the inevitable crossover with Riverdale but ‘Dark Sabrina’ was a lot of fun. The show is still a struggle sometimes from a visual design point of view – its so dark and murky – but I will binge the next season for sure.
Kim’s Convenience: Season 3 – consistently my favourite sitcom. Who knew Canadians were so funny! Everybody in this show is so damn likeable.
Tales of the City – this was a big, glossy production with some A list cast members but it was nicely done even if some of the twists were a bit bungled I thought. That said the whole thing of the it being the same actors for many of the roles from much earlier adaptations I saw on Channel 4 years ago confused the crap out of me!
Jessica Jones: Season 3 – a fitting end to our favourite self destructive, leather jacket wearing, bourbon swigging, super powered, private eye. It never hit the heights of season one but was much improved on the second outing and she went out swinging.
Stranger Things: Season 3 – this show has amazingly managed to maintain its standards and this was another wonderful throwback to 80s adventure movies. The secret base under the mall was inspired. Erica Sinclair was a break out star. Dustin and his “hotter than Phoebe Cates” girlfriend (for the record – this is not possible) and their song was gold. Love it.
GLOW: Season 3 – controversially I think this was the best season of GLOW. I thought it really hit its stride in Las Vegas and all the characters had their moments to shine but Alison Brie shines brightest as ever.
Hip Hop Evolution: Season 3 – not so much for re-hashing the East/West Coast wars and the deaths of Pac and Biggie but the episodes about the underground / alt rap scene of the 90s and the rise of Atlanta and the Dirty South were brilliant episodes.
I actually rewatched a lot of comfort shows this year – The OC, Justified, Gossip Girl, some Veronica Mars, some Buffy, Sons of Anarchy, the Netflix Gilmore Girls…I’ve been struggling mentally again so I’ve leaned on old favourites.
Elsewhere my favourite shows of the year overall were:
Watchmen – it is both weird and worthy but never less than wonderful. Totally wasn’t expecting it to be so great. I’m not sure it works without some familiarity with the comics universe in which it is set (friends definitely seem to have struggled) but I love it and I hope it is just the first of many seasons!
Veronica Mars – I am a Marshmallow in good standing. I was always likely to love this show returning but they really did a wonderful job (in a way they didn’t really in the movie to be honest). Sure I missed Mac and the ending was brutal but it was great to be back in Neptune.
The Mandalorian – clearly Baby Yoda has ensured this show will forever have a place in pop culture but I think the fun thing is it most resembles something like ‘Kung Fu’ – or an old 60s/70s TV Western (or maybe the A Team). New adventures every week exploring a universe of troubles where Mando always has the fix.
I’m also loving Stumptown – it is one of my favourite comics and it is a great adaptation with a wonderful cast and it is kind of comfortable in its own skin – not trying to be anything it isn’t.
Movies of 2019
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – I totally understand the things people disliked about this movie and Tarantino in general but I loved it. I just enjoyed the relationship between Brad and Leo, the period details, the way it just felt so unrushed and out of time.
Hustlers – this is like the antithesis of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Female led with amazing performances from Jennifer Lopez (who is forking 50!) and Constance Wu (who I really only know from ‘Fresh Off the Boat’) and it is visually loud and hectic and brilliant.
Booksmart – this was sweet, and funny and occasionally pretty crude. It generally had me laughing out loud and wincing in the cinema. It is just really well done.
Joker – like just about everybody I am in awe of Phoenix’s performance and generally I enjoyed the movie but less so than the majority I suspect. At times it felt like a Scorsese tribute movie (and he did that himself this year) and I guess I’m just a bit too deep into comics mythology and especially the attempts in the 80s and 90s to make it all more ‘grown up’ to think many of the ideas were original or shocking.
Le Mans ‘66 – I don’t like motor racing and had no idea about the ‘true story’ portrayed here and went to watch it mainly to see the Bale and Damon double act. I found it a really compelling tale and the race scenes were thrilling. The trailer(s) were totally misleading though!
I really enjoyed The Irishman – it was like Scorsese doing a tribute to himself! – but I watched it on Netflix and not the cinema so it doesn’t qualify according to my ‘rules’.
I suspect I will love Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker but I’m not seeing it until the 23rd.
(I clearly have a bit of a thing for double-act movies!)
Books of 2019
Beastie Boys Book – I’m cheating a bit here as I got this book last Christmas but I finished it this year. It is a massive tome and it probably the most fun I’ve ever had reading a book. The evolution of the Beasties is an amazing story and the early parts of the book about their adventures in NYC in the early 80s should be a movie!
Go Ahead in the Rain – a love letter to A Tribe Called Quest that had me weeping on the train one morning. I love this group. I remember buying their first album and trying to convince people in my sixth form they were the greatest band ever. It is a beautiful book about a bunch of childhood friends who changed hip hop (and thus music) forever.
Hell is round the corner – Tricky is kind of a Bristol legend. In some alternative universe version of Bristol where he never made music he is still famous for something. He is just that kind of guy. I haven’t followed his career for years really but I have a piece of art on my wall portraying him and his early work is never far away on my Spotify. This is a fascinating, funny, frantic and terrifying honest book. It most resembles the Tyson autobiography of a few years ago. It ends with a gut punch that I knew was coming but didn’t soften the blow.
I’ve never really read music books before but they dominated this year. You can see everything I read (or failed to finish) on this spreadsheet. It is an unusually small amount.
Comics of 2019
Mister Miracle – this book is really something special. The writing. The art. The concept. It is NOT an easy read. It is not the Mister Miracle you may remember from the 80s. Except it is. Sort of. Brilliant. Also every book needs more Big Barda.
Die Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker – I’m not a fab of D&D or fantasy stuff at all really so I suspect I miss some of the subtleties and references in this but it is smart writing and it is gorgeous.
Immortal Hulk Vol 1 – who knew there were still interesting new takes on the Hulk. This is nearer to a horror comic than a superhero book which seems right somehow. It requires – I think – a bit of an understanding of the history it is paying with but it is a great read (and you don’t need to be up to speed with the rest of the Marvel happenings!)
Spider-Man: Life Story – a real time retelling of the life and times of Peter Parker – Spider-Man. From the 60’s until now. It is a conceit I have disliked elsewhere but this is lovely somehow – it has real heart and again it would appeal to anyone with a fondness for Spidey but no real interest in keeping up with the Marvel madness.
Black Hammer: The Quantum Age – the emerging Black Hammer universe it fast becoming my favourite corner of comicdom. This is their take on the Legion of Super Heroes (which itself returned this year.) The Legion is a title I’ve always loved in theory (sci-fi and superheroes!) but not always in practice but this is a great spin on the concept as it has less constraints from years of continuity and baggage.