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Josh Reviews How To with John Wilson

 

One of my very favorite TV shows of 2020 was How To with John Wilson.  This was one of my absolute favorite discoveries of 2020, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

This bizarre, beautiful documentary series is hard to describe, and I think it’s best to go into it knowing as little as possible.  I can say that the series is six half-hour episodes.  Each episode purports to explore a different “how to” topic, such as “how to improve your memory” or “how to split the check”.  However, inevitably, the joy of each episode is in the unexpected (and often deep and moving) digressions from that initial topic.

The series is a beautiful, funny, sometimes melancholy exploration of our wonderfully weird fellow human beings.  The series is packed with unforgettable characters.  Some of them we only glimpse for a second, in a moment Mr. Wilson has captured from afar with his camera.  Others are those who Mr. Wilson (and, by extension, us) slowly get to know after a happenstance encounter.  There are plenty of moments in which you might find yourself rolling your eyes or laughing at some of these people; I know I did.  But there’s a gentleness to Mr. Wilson’s approach that continually reminds us of these people’s humanity, and of our own.

The series is a love-letter to New York City.  Mr. Wilson’s camera captures image after image, vignette after vignette, that cumulatively present an expansive, loving view of that weird, crazy, beautiful, ugly, complicated city.  Mr. Wilson’s eye for finding indelible moments or images is extraordinary.  There are so many tiny beats that I find myself continually thinking about, long after I finished watching the show.

Watching How To with John Wilson during the COVID pandemic gives this exploration of New York City an extra layer of emotion and melancholy.  There are a million moments in the series that now feel like a window into a long-forgotten time.  And when the series does catch up with the arrival of COVID in the final episode, I found it to be very moving.

Mr. Wilson himself (or, at least, a version of himself), is a participant in the show, though not in an intrusive way.  It’s a delicate balancing act that Mr. Wilson strikes perfectly.  I was immediately endeared by his somewhat stumbling, mumbling narration.  (The show’s narration includes small stumbles or mistakes that in any other show would have been edited out.  That’s clearly intentional, and I thought it worked very well.)  Mr. Wilson can come across as awkward, but I loved his curiosity and I was continually impressed by his talent for striking up conversations, and connections, with all sorts of different people.

John … [continued]

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We’ve arrived at the conclusion of my list of my favorite TV series of 2020!  Click here for part 1 of my list, click here for part two, click here for part three, and click here for part four!  And now, here are my five favorite TV series of 2020:

5. How To with John Wilson This bizarre, beautiful documentary series is hard to describe, and I think it’s best to go into it knowing as little as possible.  Filmmaker John Wilson has created six short masterpieces with this incredible first season.  Each episode purports to explore a different “how to” topic, but inevitably the joy of each episode is in the unexpected (and often deep and moving) digressions from that initial topic.  The series is a love-letter to New York City, and also to our wonderfully weird fellow human beings.  (My full review will be coming soon.)

4. Ted Lasso Jason Sudeikis, working with Bill Lawrence (mastermind behind the wonderful comedy Scrubs), Joe Kelly, and Brendan Hunt, took Mr. Sudeikis’ silly commercial character and turned him into the basis for one of the best new TV comedies I’ve seen in years.  The show is absolutely hilarious; but what makes it great is how soulful it is too, how joyful and life-affirming.  Mr. Sudeikis is absolutely perfect in the leading role as the incredibly up-beat Ted Lasso, an American football coach who, improbably, winds up coaching an English Premiere League football (what Americans call soccer) team.  The entire cast is dynamite.  This is a show in which I almost immediately fell in love with every single one of the main characters: Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard (his Doc Brown impersonation was amazing!!); Hannah Waddingham as team owner Rebecca Welton; Jeremy Swift as Rebecca’s sweet and unassuming assistant Leslie; Phil Dunster as the hot arrogant young super-star Jamie Tartt; Juno Temple as Jamie’s girlfriend Keeley Jones; Brett Goldstein as aging veteran Roy Ken; and Nick Mohammed as Nathan Shelle, the team’s kit man who flourishes under Ted Lasso’s influence.  I love this show!!  I can’t wait for season two!  (My full review will be coming soon.)

3. Brockmire season 4 The fourth and final season of this amazing show brought the story and characters to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion.  I love the way these four seasons gave such a rich and complete story-arc to the character of Jim Brockmire, the broken and profane disgraced baseball announcer.  As I have written many times before, this is the part Hank Azaria was born to play.  It’s an incredible comedic performance and an incredible dramatic performance, all in one.  I love how deeply this show is in love with baseball.  … [continued]