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Words and picks by Adam Smith, Brodie Fogg and Fergus Halliday
Some people say there's no such thing as the "best television shows." It all comes down to personal preference, they say. Those people are wrong.
Believe it or not, the team at Reviews.org Australia were all born with the superhuman ability to always be right. Though this power manifests in many ways, it's strongest whenever the topic of TV shows is raised.
These are the TV shows we've thoroughly enjoyed this year. We're certain you will too.
It’s little surprise that Damen Lindelof’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Watchmen and The Leftovers would be good, but there’s a joy to be found in just how clean a break Mrs Davis is from the showrunners’ recent foray into the world of prestige drama. This zany and colourful series follows a defiant nun (Betty Gilpin) who teams up with her old flame (Jake McDorman) and is tasked with finding the Holy Grail as part of a quest to destroy an impossibly powerful and omnipotent AI called Mrs Davis. That premise is as high concept as science fiction TV gets, but the show doesn't take itself too seriously and is all the better for it. Mrs Davis is ambitious, ridiculous and utterly unique among this year’s crop of new original series in ways that make it very easy to recommend.
Since the conclusion of Lost, there really hasn’t been a high-concept puzzle box show to rival it. From seems its logical successor, particularly since 11 of the show’s 20 episodes were directed by Lost alum Jack Bender, and it stars Harold Perrineau (who was criminally underused as Lost’s hapless Michael Dawson). The show finds an ensemble cast drawn to a small town by mysterious forces, only to find out they can’t leave. Oh, and every night they’re attacked by unkillable monsters who feast on human flesh. It’s grim stuff, and genuinely scary at times. The mystery of the town’s hold on its residents deepens episode by episode, while the show drops just enough clues to give a sense that the showrunners actually have answers to the questions they’re asking.
Double Fine PsychOdyssey
2 Player Productions has been churning out great documentaries about gaming and geek culture for almost two decades now and their latest effort represents a new personal best and peak for the sub-genre. Filmed over the course of seven years, Double Fine PsychoOdyssey tracks the trials and tribulations of the titular studio as it embarks on the journey towards building a sequel to one of its most beloved releases. It’s an insightful, heartbreaking and at times confronting glimpse of what game development looks like at this scale. The best part? All 32 episodes of the series are also entirely free to watch on YouTube.
Produced by Collegehumor and available through Dropout, Game Changer is the most online game show you’ve ever seen. Each episode sees three comedians, improv actors and internet personalities enter the metaphorical ring with no idea of the kind of challenges they’ll be faced with and how far they’ll need to go to come out on top. You never quite know what you’re going to get when you hit play on the next episode of Game Changer, but the thrill of discovery is just as big a drawcard as the chaos of watching it all unfold.
Developed by the same comedy duo behind The Katering Show and Get Krack!n, Deadlock is a pastiche of prestige crime dramas like Broadchurch with an Australian twist. It’s True Detective meets Tasmania and is deadly serious until it isn't. That kind of juggling of tone is a difficult act to pull off but Deadloch’s cast is littered with Australian comedians that make it look easy. It’d be one thing for this series to make fun of crime dramas, but Deadloch’s best trick is managing to balance out its laughs with all the clever twists and turns you’d expect given the genre.
On the surface, The Rehearsal is part comedy, part reality television about (theoretically) improving participants' lives by rehearsing every possible outcome and leaving nothing to chance. But those familiar with the complicated mind of comedian and host of Who's Tallest Canada Nathan Fielder will already know that his work always shares one common thread: they impossible to sum up in one sentence.
Whether it's helping someone come clean about a long-standing white lie, confronting a sibling about a disagreement over inheritance, or an extensive training regime for a would-be parent, Fielder promises to leave nothing to fate. Of course, real life isn't as predictable as we'd all like to imagine, and that's where Nathan finds himself at home, where his comedy shines, in the absurd and unexpected.
Short of last year’s The Rehearsal, Jury Duty is one of the most bizarre and extreme takes on reality TV out there. It’s a documentary series that follows the members of an American jury asked to determine the outcome of a civil court case. The twist here is that every person involved, from the jurors to the witnesses to the court staff, is an actor. Everyone is in on it, except for one guy named Ronald. Jury Duty is a wacky one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t look away from as the people pulling the strings throw curveball after curveball at its central subject just to see how he’ll react and whether he’ll ever put it all together.
Dramas about rich people problems aren’t typically my cup of tea, and there was nothing about Succession’s marketing that convinced me it wasn’t just another Billions. But what I didn’t realise until I took a chance on it was that Succession doesn’t actually glorify the wealthy elite, rather tears them apart, limb by limb. with whip-smart satire and a healthy serving of schadenfreude.
Brian Cox is perfectly cast as a Super Saiyan-level bastard, Logan Roy; the family patriarch and co-founder of a fictional media giant Waystar Royco that is maybe definitely based on Murdoch’s media empire.
Succession's final episode aired in 2023 and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. The more I do, the more I truly believe it's one of the greatest works of fiction ever created.
It hit streaming services only months after the release of Glass Onion, but Rian Johnson’s Poker Face is the antithesis of his Benoit Blanc mysteries. Centring on the exploits of Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie Cale, the woman who wants to do well but can’t help but tell when people are lying to her, each episode of this series is an airtight thriller where it feels like the audience is walking on eggshells throughout. The question of whodunnit is never in doubt. Instead, the tension in Poker Face comes from seeing just how close the series’ star-studded rogues come to getting away with it… only for one loose end to unravel anything.