Part I, Thursday
After a festive Christmas holiday in Newport, Dick and I are looking forward to New Year’s Eve. Since before 2000, we’ve been celebrating at my sister/brother-in-law’s farm outside of Lynchburg, VA, where there is an abundance of food, wine, and laughter, often at one another’s expense. When not gathered round the table, shooting, hiking, swimming often round things out, but no pressure on anyone who opts out of activities. The enclosed pool is heated by burning (gasp) wood from the farm’s fallen trees.
From the Spectator editors and a few “esteemed” guests are suggestions for anyone who would rather enjoy sitting on a couch for a couple of hours, enjoying a world of fantasy.
From Ross Anderson, life editor:
Bad Sisters was far funnier than I expected, The Super Models was just fantastic, and Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker is almost as long as its title, but is also the best sports documentary I’ve seen in years.
But the three best shows I watched though it were Silo, Drops of God and Hijack. Silo is a dystopian thriller, where the world’s population lives in an underground silo, with many questions about how they got there, few answers and a cracker of an ending; Drops of God sees the estranged daughter of a wine-mogul and his pupil competing for his enormous inheritance; and Hijack is a dumb, fun Dad-thriller, high on drama, tension and bingeing-pleasure.
From Amber Duke, Washington editor:
The Last of Us was my top show this year because usually I just watch Sopranos re-runs, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to see another video game adaptation fail miserably. Unfortunately — or fortunately — for me, the first season hit all of the horror, tension and character building that makes the game series so enticing and hard to put down.
Pedro Pascal was a bit overexposed in 2023 but his emotionally walled-off portrayal of Joel showed his acting range and proved why he’s been getting so much attention lately. The big test will be if the second season of the show can outdo the video game sequel, which most players agree was a bit of a disappointment. Either way, it was nice to have another Sunday night show to look forward to.
Charles Lipson, contributing editor:
The best TV, by far, is South Park. Though it may resemble a children’s cartoon show, it features that rarest of creatures: comedy that lampoons the verities of leftist ideology. How could Harry and Meghan possibly respond to the devastating humor of South Park‘s “World-Wide Privacy Tour?”
What could the Disney Company and Lucasfilm do besides sputter and threaten lawsuits when South Park gave them the treatment in “Joining the Panderverse?” “Pander” is the right word for what those companies have done to destroy iconic, once-profitable franchises. South Park captures the zeitgeist by transforming the cartoon show’s little white stars into black, adult women.
Ben Brantley, former NYT’s film critic
The Korean writer and director Lee Sung-jin’s ten-episode series, which traces the ever-expanding fallout of a road rage incident, is one of those show that keeps you asking, “They’re not really going to go there, are they?” But, oh yes, Beef keeps progressing further and further out on a limb and then lets its characters, and its plot, spiral into free fall. As risky as it might sound, the approach is fiendishly appropriate to a work about how anger divides and multiplies, transforming the seemingly trivial into rabid obsession, and id turns ego inside out. Starring Ali Wong (best known as a stand-up comic) and Steven Yeun (an Oscar nominee for Minari) as characters of Asian descent at very different levels of American-style success, Beef manages to explore all sorts of varieties of classism, racism, greed and ambition, and the ways in which such elements combine and combust, pushing resentment into homicidal hostility. It is as painful and exhilarating a watch as television offered this year.
As monomaniacal adversaries, Wong and Yeun blur emotional boundaries until unadulterated hate blossoms into something obscenely like love. The seriously damaged state in which they end up is sick, terrifying and all too convincing, a funhouse mirror for a divided nation that has never been angrier.
Tune in Friday for more recommendations.