tvDownload Gives Thanks II: Anthologies, Real-Talk Cartoons, and ‘Olive Kitteridge’

Anthology TV
Yes, even you, True Detective. Let’s face it: before TD, it was hard to imagine getting A-list talent like Matthew McConaughey signed on to star in a TV series...even if it was HBO. But thanks to the nature of anthologies--which change locales and casts every season (and in the case of episodic anthologies, every week) and tend to have less episodes than a network show-- we now have whole seasons with cinematic heavy-hitters on the bill. Kirsten Dunst on Fargo, Lady Gaga in American Horror Story, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro in the upcoming American Crime Story, Timothy Hutton in American Crime (I know, it’s getting confusing!), Jon Hamm in Black Mirror. And let’s not forget Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams on True Detective Season 2...although I’m sure they’d love us to.
Dramas With More Than 20 Episodes
Give it up for The Good Wife, Gotham, Arrow, Law & Order: SVU, Grey’s Anatomy, The Blacklist, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Supernatural, Once Upon a Time, The Flash, Persons of Interest, Scandal’s 2 and 4th seasons, and all the other network and cable shows that still pump out quality television, week after week, and then have to compete in the same awards categories as shows with half the amount of episodes. Don’t think your hard work doesn’t go unappreciated! In fact, I think Netflix, Amazon, and other chord-cutting, original content providers should aim a little bit higher than 13 episodes (Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards,), let alone 10 (Casual, Narcos, Transparent, Marco Polo, The Man in the High Castle.) Just because Game of Thrones gets away with only 10 hours of television a season doesn’t mean you should follow suit and assume quality will always trump quantity. If I wanted to watch ten hours of storyline and then call it a year, I’d be wearing out my DVD set of the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings.
Comedy's Second Life on Streaming
When Arrested Development was revived for a fifth season on Netflix, we all cheered...that is, until we saw the finished project. There’s an argument to be made that reviving a cult comedy is a little bit like making a wish on a monkey’s paw: sure, you get that dedicated fandom super psyched...but you also raise their expectations so ludicrously high that nothing could ever live up to the sacrosanct original run. Thankfully, this year has shown more and more streaming providers willing to take another gamble at making some unoriginal-original content: Community, The Mindy Project, Mr. Show and Wet Hot American Summer all got brought back from the dead (with decidedly mixed results, but still). And we have a lot more to look forward to in 2016: Pee-Wee, Degrassi and Gilmore Girls Netflix and new streaming comedy platform launching next year from NBC--has picked up a new series by the same foursome that founded UCB (both the theater and the show) as well as an animated version of the popular podcast HarmonQuest.
The Ensemble Scene-Stealers
Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan in Fargo. Raúl Esparza as Dr. Chilton in Hannibal. Evan Peters on every season of American Horror Story. Allison Tolman in Fargo’s first season. Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones. No, I’m not just naming men I have a  crush on (although I really, really do): these five are also a great case study on the rule that there are no small parts, only Peter Dinklage. (Sorry!) Though their more famous co-stars may get top billing, the Ensemble Scene-Stealers (ESS for short) are the breakout performances that make you tune in every week. So, to all the Eli Popes, the Mycroft Holmes, the Betsy Kettlemans, the Gavin Orsays, the Mickey Doyles and the Taystees of TV: we salute you.
Real-Talk Cartoons
Yo, when did half-hour animated comedies become the deepest shit on television? If you want to hold a mirror up to your crippling neurosis and just, man, you’ll learn more in a season of Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, Adventure Time, Archer, Bob’s Burgers and Venture Brothers then you will in a season’s worth of HBO’s “gentle comedies.” (H/t: Julie Klausner/Difficult People for coining that phrase.)
True-Ish Crime
In 2013, HBO released a documentary called The Cheshire Murders, about the home invasion and murder of the Hawke-Petit family in Connecticut. Then came Serial, paving the way for a more novelistic form of true crime documenting: more Capote, say, than In Cold Blood. This year, the precise point where journalism met artistic license on the X-Y axis produced The Jinx, HBO's mini-series that had everyone crying "Spoiler alert!" when The New York Times scooped the last minute reveal for its headline about an IRL murder suspect. From the way fans reacted, you'd think Robert Durst was a pseudonym for "Mopey Jon Snow."

Fresh off the hype surrounding The Jinx came a slew of projects in a similar vein: Erin Lee Carr's documentary Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop, produced by HBO Documentary Films; Fox Studio's upcoming scripted series about the MAKING of Serial; Netflix's 10-part mini-series, Making a Murderer; TV One's For My Man; TNT's Cold Justice and Cold Justice: Sex Crimes, etc., etc.,

Ironically, the best show boasting it's true crime status right now is Fargo, which uses the conceit of the genre without having to adhere to any of its squishy truthiness.
Time Constraints, Lack Of
Adult Swim kicked this off with a late-night programming lineup that runs in 15 minute chunks (Too Many Cooks!), though FX is definitely winning on "arbitrary episode lengths" front, with American Horror Story now running anywhere from an hour to an hour thirty, depending on the whims of Ryan Murphy, and Louie being however long it should be, which is always the exactly right length. With HBO’s acquisition of High Maintenance, the Vimeo series with episodes that run anywhere from 8-15 minutes, premium cable seems to finally be on board with the trend, meaning that in five years, "appointment viewing" will become a bygone buzzword.
Network-Defining Series
Lifetime basically rebranded itself with UnReal. USA’s Mr. Robot convinced us that the network isn’t just about Psychs in Suits. TruTV is now HipsterTV. WGN is a channel we all watch now, or at least know about. In this post-Breaking Bad/Mad Men/House of Cards world, all you need is one really good show--It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, say-- and boom: you’re the new FX. Good luck with Baskets!
Adult Swim in General
They are just so great. Not only because of their phenomenal late-night "infomercials" are the most terrifying things on TV, but for Rick and Morty, Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, FishCenter, On Cinema, Children’s Hospital, and their seriously amazing slew of upcoming entertainment in 2016. And for not taking themselves too seriously, a major pitfall in this, the golden age of calling everything "Prestige TV." God bless.
Olive Kitteridge, Yo
Olive Kitteridge is my jam, yo. Seriously, it was amazing. If you liked Six Feet Under, do yourself a favor and watch this HBO mini-series ASAP. And then talk to your mom about it. Hey, it’s better Thanksgiving fodder than the Syrian refugees!

Yesterday Vinnie gave us his gratitude list for this year’s current television lineup. Click through today’s slideshow to see what I’ll be sending my leftover turkey-basted blessings to this year.

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