My Top TV Moments of 2016

Atlanta, Legends of Tomorrow, and House of Cards

Atlanta, Legends of Tomorrow, and House of Cards

I love watching television. It started with  Batman: The Animated Series, progressed into my teenage years spent watching Homicide: Life on The Streets, and has coalesced now into me now having no shortage of quality programming to choose from, in between my writing.

I’m a firm believer in the saying that we’re currently living a golden age of television. A time where whatever your tastes are, you’ll find at least a couple of television programs that will fill your palate.

Netflix. Hulu. Amazon. Crackle. Heck even You Tube. All of these streaming providers, and more offer a great staple of original programming. Add to that such cable networks as Starz, USA, FX, HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and you’ve got an infinite amount of things to watch.

So with everyone doing their own “Top TV List of 2016” list, combined with my television watching enjoyment, I thought I’d put together a short list of some stand out moments from TV land. These are the moments that held the most impact for me, ranging from mouth open in an “ohmigoddidthatjusthappen” reaction, to getting a little choked up at a particular moment.

And can I say as a writer, I also enjoyed the superb craftsmanship that was on display with each of the below moments. This guy was taken to class in a few instances, while also enjoying the work as a fan.

ALSO BE WARNED:

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My “Laughed Out Loud Throughout The Entire Episode Like A Madman” Moment:

Atlanta/ FX/ Season 1, Episode 7, B.A.N

I’m going to start by saying this: WATCH THIS SHOW.

Now.

Next to Stranger Things, this series was my favorite new series of the year, and every episode is solid.

Basic premise: two cousins try to make their way up in the Atlanta rap scene and hilarity ensues. Believe me when I say, my weak description does nothing in the way to prepare you for how solid Atlanta is.

The writing on this series is sharp as hell, the satire is extremely on point, and just watching Earn (Donald Glover), Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Heny), and Darius (Keith Stanfield) just trying to make it within the Atlanta music scene is great to watch.

One particular episode that stood out for me for how against the grain that this show is would be episode 7 titled “B.A.N.”. Paper Boi appears on an Atlanta talk show called Montague, and finds himself subjected to an interview that’s going nowhere fast.

What works extremely well about this in addition to Paper Boi’s deadpan reaction to all of the ridiculousness that’s taking place around him via the host and other guest, is how the episode is formatted.

As you’re watching B.A.N there are fake commercials mixed in with the actual Montague episode, creating this weird cross section of fake narrative and real life. Mixed into the talk show are some really creative news spots (the Trans-Racial segment deserves an Emmy nod on its own) that are hilarious and had me rolling.


My “No Honey, I’m Not Crying. There’s Something In My Eye Excuse” Moment

Game Of Thrones/ HBO/ Season 6, Episode 5, Door

In a season of Game of Thrones that had no shortage of great moments, this one stole the show for me.

In the most heart-wrenching, gut punch, kick in the nether region way possible.

Hodor (Kristian Nairn) has been the Bran Stark’s lovable big guy protector for all 6 seasons that we’ve watched Game of Thrones, and to see him taken out by the White Walkers was hard to watch.

When the famous catch phrase “Hodor” was explained, as a fan I was hit pretty hard. As a writer/ creator I silently stood up and did a slow clap for the creators of this show.

Masterful and impactful storytelling at its best.


My “I Was Smiling and Feeling All Types of Hyped” Moment

Legends of Tomorrow/ CW/ Season 2, Episode 7, Invasion

The CW Arrow-verse (Supergirl, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash) is like getting a fanboy Christmas every Monday through Thursday night.

You get a great helping of all of the DC characters that you know and love, and its not just pandering special effects laden theatrics being presented. Sure there have been some weak episodes and seasons for a few of the shows, but speaking from the perspective of a guy whose watched this universe grow from the earliest days of Arrow, these shows are fun and deserve to be checked out.

In the seasons before we’ve had small crossovers involving the crews from Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tommorrow. With this being the first year of having Supergirl at its proper home on the CW network, the creators of the universe decided that an ultimate crossover was in order.

If you’re a fan of comic books crossovers are a regular thing. Its nothing to see Spidey web-slinging across the Manhattan skyline with Iron Man skyrocketing pass him, or to see Batman doing his ole’ scowly face routine as he, Wonder Woman, and Superman team up to take on a world destroying despot.

For casual fans of the recent glut of super hero movies/ television shows, crossovers such as these are something new, as presented in the growing cinematic universes of Marvel Studios and DC Comics/ Warner Bros.

The same applies for the Arrow-verse. So after a 4 night crossover event,  for casual and long time fans of these DC properties, seeing the rooftop battle against the DC heroes and the invading alien Dominators was awesome to watch.

Some folks are definitely right to draw comparisons between this and the epic airport battle in this years Captain America: Civil War, but it was still fun to watch nonetheless. And I’ll also admit the Dominators were kind of on the cannon-fodder status for the heroes.

But dammit, what we got was an epic/fun scene of kick butt action, with a little bit of saving the day thrown in.


My “WTF. Did That Just Happen?” Moment

House of Cards/ Netflix/ Season 4, Episode 13, Chapter 52

The Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) are probably some of the worst people on Earth. They lie, they cheat, they manipulate, and they kill to get what the want.

And like Vic Mackie (Michael Chiklis) in The Shield and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad, the audience loves to root for them. In Mackie’s case I wanted him to get caught for the entirety of the series, but watching him duck and dodge the system was fun to watch, in a twisted sort of way.

In the final few minutes of Chapter 52 the Underwoods have taken their viciousness to a new level, having found themselves backed into a corner where there is no escape.

As result they decide to use their power as President and First Lady to set the country on a path of “fighting terror” in a total war type of fashion to deflect attention away from their troubles. The fact that it begins with a “sacrificial lamb” moment, with the death of an unfortunate character makes it all the more worse.

I don’t want to give away the whole story here of how things have led to this point, because the season deserves to be watched. This moment stands out as this year’s WTF moment for me.

Book Review – The Dagger and the Coin Series

This is what happens when you are waiting for a new Game of Thrones novel. You expand the search a little bit.

Here’s the thing: I love the Fantasy genre. When I began reading, the second series I read was Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. Not long after that I dove into Dragonlance novels and Forgotten Realms novels… However, I stayed away from the giants of their craft – Brooks, Jordan, Eddings, etc. For some reason I didn’t want to make that leap into some world I had no connection to (unlike all the D&D related books where I at least had some passing interest in those worlds having played in my fair share of campaigns). Those others though, I just couldn’t pull the trigger.

Years passed and I read other things, lamenting that I’d love to read some good fantasy at some point. Then came the TV show for Game of Thrones… and it was over. My self-imposed drought finally ended. I devoured the five books over the course of maybe two months (it might not have even been that long).

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And then I got to experience (and still am) the waiting (I guess this is karma for “knowing what’s going to happen”).

So the call went out again… what could I possibly fill the years with?

Miraculously, it was answered when my buddy Egg couldn’t stop raving about this fantasy series he’d been reading.

“You don’t understand, one of the main characters is a Banker. And it completely works. Like I could see Banker now being a D&D class… that’s how much this works.”

Honestly, I’m not sure if he said anything else about the series other than talk about how this author made banking cool.

Not knowing where else to possibly turn, and maybe because Book 1 went on sale, I bought it and-

Wait… that’s not entirely true. I went to Daniel Abraham’s website and decided to read one of his shorts in order to get an idea of his style (see if I liked it or not). So I read “The Cambist and Lord Iron“.

I’m not kidding about this – go and read that story right away. It’s one of those stories that I’ve reread because I loved it so much. And it effectively has a banker in it as well. And the man knows how to write bankers.

THEN I downloaded The Dragon’s Path. And devoured it. And grabbed the next one and the next one… until I reached a point in January where I’d read all 4 of the released books… and had to wait a whole 2 months until the last book in the series came out.

 

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He gets it.

 

But we’re past all of that (and I realize I’ve not told you anything about the series yet).

Thousands of years ago Dragons ruled everything. And they created the races of men of specific purposes. Some were bred larger, stronger, with tusks or claws, to be their foot soldiers. Others were graceful and slight, but with higher intelligence so that they might create works of greatness. Regardless of your station, if you were human, you were a slave.

And then an uprising happened – the dragons disappeared… died out… leaving their charges to fend for themselves. Great empires rose and fell, connected by the old Dragon Roads of Jade. Countries attack each other almost seasonally, trading in more pomp and circumstance than actual real battle.

And that’s where our story innocently picks up…

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With a ward of the Bank sent out in disguise to smuggle all their Bank’s wealth away prior to the combat.

With a grizzled mercenary captain who happens to be in the wrong city at the wrong time.

A noble from a lower house who is teased and picked on by the rest of the men in his regiment.

Very humble beginnings, with no guess that this place and this time will set in motion events that have been dormant for thousands of years. That there is a change coming to the land, a new magic unknown to almost everyone, and an ancient sect waiting to be discovered.

I really don’t want to give anything more away than that as Abraham does an excellent job of making seemingly unconnected things come together. Bits and pieces of world building that appears to be just that and nothing more turn out to have a purpose I wasn’t expecting.

More than that, though, is how not only the POV characters are portrayed, but the “secondary” characters as well. By being able to view them through different eyes we get a glimpse of not only how the POV characters might see them, but also how the other secondary and tertiary characters view them. And just like the greater world building ties together, so too, does the interactions between everyone.

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I’m not sure how those other Fantasy books do it. How do they deliver the stakes? Do they tell you up front and explain that if X and Y aren’t accomplished, then the end of everything will happen? Because with The Dagger and the Coin series it isn’t known what we’re fighting for (big EPIC picture-wise) until the 3rd book. And I think that is a benefit of the series. Again, looking back I see how the pieces fit together, but Abraham allowed me to get immersed in the world, in his characters, the LITTLE moments, before he revealed the true STAKES for the characters.

Well worth checking out and for you, there will be no more waiting as the series is done. Though, a little irony that I’m saddened by that aspect. What can I say, I grew to love the characters and want to know what they’ll do next.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.