Thanks to Mandy taking this series to a new level with the inclusion of Great™ TV, I’m offering my list: Great™ holiday TV and movies.
My list of Great™ holiday TV and movies is not limited to holiday-themed entertainment. It’s more of a breakdown of how I spent my extra time off over the holiday break. Each holiday season, after family gatherings have wound down, I tend to spend my extra free time catching up on Great™ TV shows and movies I’ve been meaning to watch, or rewatch, over the past year. My criteria are also more nebulous than past posts in this blog series. Unlike others’ approaches to the famed Sparano Scale™, I don’t have any hard and fast rules that define Great™ for me. Instead, I like to break things down into details that explain why a TV show or movie is great to me. This year my Great™ TV and movies span one classic holiday movie and two TV shows I can’t stop watching.
It’s a Wonderful Life
This is my only classic and holiday-themed holiday pick. It’s kind of a holiday tradition for me to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve, probably because NBC airs it every single year on Christmas Eve. On the surface, it’s a nice little story about the significance of family and friends. When you dig a little deeper, it’s the story of a man being crushed by the weight of the world.
Facing a dire financial situation that would ruin his family and possibly his entire small town, Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is on the literal and metaphorical edge. A mysterious, bumbling stranger interrupts George at the moment he’s facing the worst of his problems. I love stories about outsiders who change the lives of a group of characters. Think Eleven from Stranger Things. The mysterious stranger takes George on a journey to see how the lives of the people important to George would be different without him in their lives. George ultimately comes back from despair, while his community rallies around him.
I feel like this movie, which was released in 1946, is the bookend that bridges the dark years of the Great Depression and WWII to the more optimistic years that followed. Hopelessness and desolation transition to optimism. It’s a Wonderful Life is also somehow still relevant to our times and the financial calamity we found ourselves in not too long ago. The Atlantic recently had a great piece about how this movie is relevant to the recent bank crisis, and they explain it much better than I ever could.
I finished watching the first two seasons of Mr. Robot recently and I’m planning to rewatch both seasons very soon. After finishing the first season, I was comfortable calling Mr. Robot my favorite TV show of all time. Since I started working at Oxide, I’ve been unsuccessful at convincing my wonderful co-workers to watch this show. I guess that means I need to work on my persuasion skills because this show is simply amazing.
Without spoiling too much, Mr. Robot is about a group of grey-hat hackers looking to free the world of financial debt by hacking a fictional conglomerate called ECorp. ECorp is sort of like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Walmart all rolled into one giant company. ECorp owns a giant chunk of all private debt, so erasing all of ECorp debt holdings would theoretically free the world from debt. As the plot unfolds, this show turns into much more than a show about a group of hackers. It turns into a suspenseful story about global politics and the unseen forces that control the world. It seems paranoid, and it is, but it’s not just a story for people prone to believing conspiracy theories.
The show’s creator says Mr. Robot is an exploration of what loneliness looks like today. And the show’s hero, Elliot (played by Rami Malek), breaks my heart in nearly every scene. Elliot’s inner dialogue shares his world with the audience, so you feel a closeness with the main character unlike any other show. It is sad and heart-breaking, but don’t let that put you off from watching this show. When you consider all of the themes as a whole, Mr. Robot is almost prophetic and prescient in our time. It feels so immediate and observant of the world we live in right at this moment.
When this show originally aired, I resisted watching it because I didn’t really seem to fit the show’s demographic. It seems like a show like Gossip Girl, or something else that doesn’t interest me. But Gilmore Girls shares more characteristics with a show like Freaks and Geeks, that I can get into.
The very first episode closes on Yo La Tengo’s cutesy pop song, “My Little Corner of the World,” perfectly encapsulating Gilmore Girls‘ sentiment. As a viewer, you feel invested in this little corner of the world. The main characters are fully fleshed-out people and the atmosphere is filled with enough quirky characters that John Waters would probably be interested. The dialogue is fast and fueled by too much coffee. I once heard a rumor that Gilmore Girls scripts are twice as long as a normal 42-minute show. Gilmore Girls is not for everyone, but people who like it probably love it.
It’s main characters are precocious daughter Rory, free-spirited mother Lorelei, and snobby grandparents Richard and Emily Gilmore. There’s nothing particularly interesting or original about the story, but these characters are all great. I think the reason I like this show is because it’s the first show that really depicts someone from my generation. Rory transitions from cherub-like teenager to wayward twenty-something. It’s a character I relate to because I spent my early 20s figuring things out and making mistakes just like Rory.
Netflix recently released a new mini-season which takes place nearly 10 years after the show ended. Rory is almost the exact same age as me, so I find it interesting to see where that character is in life compared to my own.
What were the best things you re-watched or binge-watched over the holidays?