All the Shows That Aren’t Game of Thrones: Best and Worst

Looking

Looking was the show I was most interested in watching this winter (I mean, the show I was most interested in watching that wasn’t about post-apocalyptic teenage models). It seemed oddly determined to make us dislike the main character, but I still became weirdly invested in whether he’d be able to work things out with his equally horrible boyfriend.

The best part: listening to Patrick the Horrible and Kevin the Horrible argue about whether it’s cheating to cheat on someone. One of the things Looking does best is draw out a story by slowly revealing additional layers to the characters’ motives and interactions. Patrick and Kevin got together at the end of season one when Kevin started cheating on his boyfriend. It’s obvious to say that, if a guy cheats on his current partner to be with you, that guy will probably cheat on you, but it’s still interesting to watch the way this story unfolds, because it effectively explores the different ways that people think about relationships.

The worst part: the part where the writers try to be topical by having all the characters stand in a circle and talk about PrEP in a really unnatural way.

My wish for next season: that it got to have a next season instead of being cancelled after this one.


Shameless

Shameless kind of peaked last season. Like, when it tricked me into thinking it was good through the magic of caring about poor people and Emmy Rossum’s acting. This season, I barely remember what happened, except that Fiona’s horrible car thief boyfriend came back, Debbie got weird, Carl went to juvie, and Sheila left the show for some reason. It was also sometimes funny and sometimes offensive, and sometimes both at the same time (“Rape walker!”), but that’s the same as every season so far.

The best part: the moment when Lip gets a post office box. Both last season and this season, the show has done a surprisingly good job of dramatizing the challenges Lip has faced since landing in the middle class environment of college. I mean, this is Shameless, so it’s also given us insane, improbable plot lines about Lip having sex with his poly professor, and Lip getting stuck in a drug deal gone wrong, but there’s also some more subtle stuff about how he’s starting to feel alienated from his family, and how he doesn’t fit in either at home or at college. The very best moment is when, after he discovers that his family never gave him his financial aid papers, because they didn’t understand why it was important, he quietly goes to the post office and tells them he needs to get his mail somewhere else.

The worst part: anything involving Sammy, the character who serves no purpose except to be annoying. Also the part where Sheila drove away, never to be seen again. Sheila was the best.

My wish for next season: Sheila comes back, Sammy moves somewhere far, far away, and Ian’s entire personality is not defined by being bipolar.


Girls

This season of Girls felt a little bit chaotic, but it was also pretty funny, and I think I enjoyed it. A lot of stuff erased itself from my memory as soon as it was over, but I remember laughing sometimes, even if we traveled down a lot of roads that didn’t seem to lead anywhere.

The best part: when Adam’s girlfriend, Mimi-Rose, hosts some kind of performance art thing where people have to walk around and take turns telling the same stories or something. It’s dumb and pretentious, but it’s that special kind of dumb and pretentious that makes me think “Ha ha, look at them, going to this stupid art show” and “I wish that I was at that stupid art show. That looks fun.”

The worst part: the last ten minutes of the season finale, where the show can’t resist telling us that Adam wants Hannah back after dumping her earlier on. Also, the part where it thinks the most important, burning question in our minds is whether Hannah will date someone else who’s not Adam. I get it – it’s about how Hannah is maturing as a person and she can see that a relationship with Adam isn’t good for her. But I wish the show could entertain the possibility that maybe Adam’s better off without her, too.

My wish for next season: Adam and Hannah are both happy not dating each other and they stop trying to get back together, or acting weird and jealous when they see each other.


House of Lies

I really just hung in there because the last two seasons were good. This time, I liked Kelsey the tattoo girl and not a lot else.

The best part: other than Kelsey the tattoo girl, the best part is when Marty’s son Roscoe commits a hate crime against himself. I know that sounds dumb, but it’s actually a really emotional, dramatic, topical story line. House of Lies is always surprisingly good at talking about social injustice, and it makes the characters a lot more sympathetic when it does that. I wish there had been more serious stuff this season.

The worst part: the part where they had to make Jeannie pregnant because Kristen Bell was pregnant. I get it, and I don’t know what else they should have done, but it didn’t feel organic.

My wish for next season: Kelsey the tattoo girl becomes a regular part of the group; the show does more of the interesting psychosocial/interpersonal dynamic stuff it was doing in seasons two and three.

Image: Looking; HBO | April 10, 2015