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Click here for part 1 of my list of my favorite TV series of 2020, and click here for part two!

15. Curb Your Enthusiasm season 10 — Ok, sure, the best days of Curb Your Enthusiasm seem to be in the past.  And I thought the first few episodes of this season, in which Larry runs afoul of the #metoo movement, were misguided.  But come on: the episode in which Jon Hamm slowly morphs into a Larry David duplicate was an all-time great.  And that was just one of the season’s many comedic delights, which included (but were by no means limited to): Larry’s wearing a MAGA hat in order to prevent people from coming up and chatting with him; Larry’s getting seated in the “ugly section” at a restaurant; Jeff’s being mistaken for Harvey Weinstein; side-sitting, yo-yo-diets, texting while driving, and all sorts of other shenanigans.  (Click here for my full review.)

14. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian This behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Mandalorian is a lot of fun for a major Star Wars fan like myself.  The series is a delightful mix of after-the-fact roundtable discussions as well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage.  I was particularly delighted by the fourth episode, which took a deep dive into the revolutionary technology utilized to create the astoundingly beautiful and photo-real visual effects of the show, and the eighth episode, which explored all the myriad fun connections to obscure corners of the Star Wars universe that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and others incorporated into the show.  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Star Trek: Lower Decks This animated half-hour Star Trek comedy, exploring the lives of the lower-ranked “lower decks” characters on a Federation starship, is an enjoyable new version of a Star Trek show.  The animation is beautiful, and the show is very funny and packed with endearingly nerdy references to the vast breadth of the Star Trek universe.  It’s a pleasure to be back in the familiar 24th century setting of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and over the course of this first ten-episode season, I grew to quite enjoy this series’ cast of misfits.  The triumphant inclusion of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan in the season’s final moments gave me a lot of joy.  This isn’t exactly the type of new Star Trek show I most want to see (I’d have been more interested in a straight, dramatic telling of most of this season’s stories), but dang if I didn’t grow to appreciate it nonetheless.  Bravo to creator Mike McMahan and his team.  I can’t wait for season two.  (Click here for my … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Trek: Lower Decks Season One!

Star Trek: Lower Decks is the second Star Trek animated show (the first was Star Trek: The Animated Series, which aired in 1973-74) and the first Trek comedy.  The series focuses on four low-ranked crew-people on a Federation Starship, the U.S.S. Ceritos, during the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I enjoyed the first episode, and I’m pleased to report that I continued to enjoy the entire 10-episode first season!

There’s a lot that the show does very well.  First off, after suffering through two seasons of Discovery and one season of Picard on CBS All-Access, both of which made a complete mash of Star Trek continuity, it is an absolute delight to see this show which relishes in Trek continuity.  Just being back in the familiar 24th century TNG era (the subsequent Trek shows Deep Space Nine and Voyager were both also set during this time-frame) is a pleasure.  It makes me so happy to see the look of these TNG-era Federation starships (particularly in contrast to the very ugly starships seen in the J.J. Abrams “Kelvin-verse” movies, and Discovery and Picard), to see the look of TNG-era Federation corridors and computer interfaces and costumes, to hear the familiar sound-effect of the warp drive or the phasers or the turbolift or the computer… and on and on.  Even beyond that, I don’t think I exaggerated when I wrote, above, that this show relishes in Trek continuity.  Each episode has been jam-packed with all sorts of sight gags and background details and jokes in the fast-paced dialogue that reference a myriad of obscure details from across the Star Trek universe, eras, and shows and movies.  It’s fun, as a hard-core Trek fan, to try to spot all of these references, and it’s a pleasure to know that this show is clearly being made by people who know and love Star Trek.  Creator and show-runner Mike McMahan is obviously an enormous Star Trek fan!  This makes me very happy.

This initial ten-episode first season has done a wonderful job of fleshing out all four main characters: the nerdy, stick-to-the-rules Boimler; the audacious, resistant-to-authority Mariner; the joyful, tech-loving Tendi; and the equally tech-loving Rutherford, who is still struggling sometimes to adapt to his cyborg implant.  I loved Mariner and Boimler right from the first episode, though I didn’t feel I got a handle on Tendi and Rutherford in that premiere.  But over the course of this season, I really enjoyed how well-developed all four characters became.  By the end of the season, I loved all four of these characters!

The look of the show was terrific in that first episode and stayed consistently excellent throughout this first season.  … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Series Premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Star Trek: Lower Decks is the new animated series on CBS all access.  It focuses on four low-ranked crew-people on a Federation Starship, the U.S.S. Ceritos, during the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The series is a comedy, in the vein of Rick and Morty.  (The series’ creator, Mike McMahan, was a writer for Rick and Morty for several years, and was show runner of that show during its fourth season.  He’s also the person behind the hilarious TNG Season 8 twitter thread.)  Is this type of show what I wish new Star Trek would be like?  No.  But that being said, I’m open to a humorous take on Trek, and I thoroughly enjoyed this first episode!

First off, it is a DELIGHT being back in the TNG era of Trek.  This was the era of Star Trek I watched and enjoyed for almost two decades, through the eighties and nineties.  This is the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation,  the four Next Gen movies, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  After suffering through the two other recent Trek shows, Discovery and Picard, both of which made a hash of established Star Trek continuity and seemed to demonstrate zero interest in making their shows visually — or in any other way — consistent with the previous decades’ worth of Star Trek history, it is an absolute pleasure to watch a show that seems so attentive to the details of the Star Trek universe.  There are a million visual details that are all PERFECT for this TNG era.  I love the look of the Ceritos’ primary hull.  I love the look of the corridors.  I love the look of the computer consoles.  I got an inordinate amount of delight from seeing the very-specific look (and sound!!) of the Holodeck doors.

In the places where the show chose to strike new ground with its designs, it did so in a manner that fit extremely well with established continuity.  It’s a new Trek show, so of course they wanted a new take on the uniforms, but unlike the ugly uniforms of Discovery or Picard, I love the Lower Decks uniforms!  I love how they took the diagonal opening flap from the Original Series movie-era uniforms and merged that with the general look and layout of the TNG uniforms!  So clever!  (In a similar vein: it’s a new Trek show, so of course they want a new take on the transporter effect: but here again, the new effect 1) looks good and 2) is completely plausible and feels correct for this era of Trek.)

The show is also JAMMED full with a million references to Trek continuity.  One could almost say … [continued]