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The best, bingeable shows 2017 had to offer

If you’re planning a little TV binge-watching this holiday, there are plenty of great shows from the past year to catch up on. Eric Deggans of NPR and Jen Chaney of Vulture join Jeffrey Brown to offer their top picks of 2017 for best TV and streaming shows.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And before we go, a helpful guide for those of us who may do a little binge-watching during this holiday season.

    It is part of our year-end look at some of the most interesting work in different fields of the arts.

    Tonight, Jeffrey Brown showcases the best of TV and video.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Trying to pin down the best TV of the year is becoming ever more difficult in this age of streaming and unlimited channels.

    For a flavor of the year, we turn to a pair of critics who somehow try to keep up with it all, Eric Deggans of NPR and Jen Chaney of New York magazine. She writes for its pop culture site, Vulture.

    And welcome to both of you.

    Eric, you start.

    One on your list was “The Deuce” from HBO. Tell us about that one.

  • Eric Deggans:

    So, this is an interesting series.

    It was done by David Simon, the creator of “The Wire.” And it’s a detailed look at how the porn industry grew, from becoming this sort of illegal venture in the 1970s around Times Square to a becoming a more legitimate business that was actually controlled by the mob.

    And James Franco gets a lot of attention for playing twins actual — based on actual people who were at the center of this. But I was really entranced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who does an amazing job playing a street walker, a prostitute, who decides to change her fortunes by becoming a director in porn films, just as pornography is being transformed from something that is sold illegally under the counter in brown paper bags, in certain bookstores, to something that you could see in peep shows and something you can see in movie theaters and actually buy openly in bookstores.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

     Yes.

    Let’s take a look. We got a short clip here.

  • Actress:

    So, what are you offering? Next time I get my as kicked, I can cry on your shoulder? What’s the cut you take for that?

  • Actor:

    There won’t be no next time you come with me. I have your back everywhere you go, baby.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    All right, Jen, you also had an HBO show which was also on Eric’s list, “Big Little Lies,” a bit hit of the last year.

    Tell us why. What did you like about it?

  • Jen Chaney:

    Well, I loved the series. It was my favorite of the whole year.

    And what I really liked about was, you had these amazing female actresses, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, in the story that really put women front and center. It was about the politics between moms in Monterey.

    And it was sly and funny, but, as you kept watching each episode, it got deeper and deeper into these characters.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    And darker in some ways.

  • Jen Chaney:

    And darker.

    There was a whole story line about Nicole Kidman’s character and a domestic violence situation that I thought was just a really insightful and powerful look at that type of situation.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    OK. We have a short clip from that one. Let’s take a look.

  • Actress:

    You’re wearing the dress I bought you.

  • Actress:

    I know, my new dress, my new shoes. This is my new friend, Jane Chapman.

  • Actress:

    Hi.

  • Actress:

    She came to my rescue when I was trying to save young lives. It’s a whole story. I’m going to kill Abigail. That’s her son Ziggy right there, who is playing with Chloe and the boys.

  • Actress:

    Can you believe that they’re in first grade?

  • Actress:

    I know. Take a lot of pictures.

  • Actor:

    Hi, Maddy.

  • Actress:

    Nathan, hi.

    Bonnie. And this is Jane. This is Bonnie. Nathan.

  • Actress:

    Nice to meet you.

  • Actress:

    Hi. Oh, I love this.

  • Actress:

    Oh, thank you. I made it in Peru.

  • Actress:

    Of course you did.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    All right, Eric, how about one or two others briefly just that struck you this year?

  • Eric Deggans:

    Well, my top pick was actually another show that talks a lot about women pushing against patriarchy, “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu, an amazing translation of a classic novel that talks about a dystopian society where a theocracy has taken control of the United States and has subjugated women and in particular has forced some women to become breeders for the leaders of that country.

    Elisabeth Moss is amazing. Samira Wiley is amazing in it. And, again, given the themes of the moment, given what we’re talking about now with sexual harassment and assault, it’s an amazing story about how women are pushing back against a patriarchy that takes over America.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

     Jen, got another one?

  • Jen Chaney:

    “The Good Place” which is an NBC comedy. And I think it is great because it’s both light, but it’s also really intellectually rigorous, in that it deals with philosophy.

    It’s about a woman who ends up in what she thinks is heaven, but has not been a very nice person on Earth, but is trying to kind of keep maintaining the fact that she should be there.

    And there’s a big twist at the end of the first season that I won’t reveal for people who haven’t seen it. But it changes your entire understanding of what “The Good Place” is. And in the second season, it continue to just surprise over and over again.

  • Actress:

    You pervert!

  • Jeffrey Brown:

     One thing, Eric, that did get a lot of attention this year is — on late night and elsewhere is the coverage of politics, right, bringing politics into television.

    You told us before we started about the Jimmy Kimmel moment on health care. Tell us a little about why that struck you.

  • Eric Deggans:

    Jimmy Kimmel was viewed as someone who I thought sort of kept politics at an arm’s length in his comedy.

    But when events got to the point where he was touched personally — he had a son who had a health scare — or not a health scare — health problems and multiple surgeries after he was born. And it brought him in contact with the health care system. He realized that some of the things that were happening in politics just weren’t quite right, and he called it out on his show with detail, with humor.

    He was somebody who knew what he was talking about. He wasn’t someone who was known for being a political firebrand, but when he decided to make his voice known, he was very effective.

  • Jimmy Kimmel:

    If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something now, whether you’re Republican, or a Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Is there a moment for you where the country was kind of hit by stuff like that?

  • Jen Chaney:

    To me, this was the year of, are you kidding me? Like, I just felt, all year long in politics and other ways on television, social media, I was constantly being surprised by what I was seeing.

    And the great surprise sort of in the pop cultural realm was the Oscars this year, where…

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    The mistake.

  • Jen Chaney:

    The mistake, where we saw “La La Land” win, and then, all of a sudden, wait, no, they didn’t.

  • Man:

    I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. “Moonlight,” you guys won best picture.

  • Man:

    “Moonlight” won.

  • Man:

    This is not a joke.

  • Man:

    This is not a joke. I’m afraid they read the wrong thing.

  • Man:

    This is not a joke. “Moonlight” has won best picture.

    “Moonlight,” best picture.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Jen Chaney:

    And even that had a political kind of subtext to it, because it was “Moonlight,” this film about an African-American gay man coming to terms with that, and really living his life the way that he should be. And a lot of people were rooting for that.

    And so when “La La Land” seemingly won, it was, like, oh. And then it was meaningful that “Moonlight” did.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    One more subject.

    Eric, we have talked about this year to year as things change. And this was the evolution of television. This was the growth and power of Netflix, though, does continue, right? Is that that — tell us what you’re seeing happening.

  • Eric Deggans:

    Well, Netflix really stepped up this year.

    I mean, they had a major release of a TV series almost every weekend throughout the year. Something like three dozen new shows debuted over the year.

    They spent $6 billion on new — on original programming. They’re projected to spend more next year.

    And you get the sense that, in the media world, these — some of these mergers that we’re seeing, AT&T buying Time Warner, Disney thinking about buying parts of 20th Century Fox, you wonder if part of their strategy is trying to compete with Netflix, which seems to be trying to offer everyone everything, from stand-up comedy, to documentaries, to movies, to TV series, to old TV series that you can watch as reruns.

    And can the rest of the media world compete with Netflix, or will Netflix get to the point where it becomes the Google of television?

  • Jeffrey Brown:

     All right, Jen Chaney and Eric Deggans, thank you both very much.

  • Eric Deggans:

    Thank you.

  • Jen Chaney:

    Thank you.

     

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