The streaming service formerly known as HBO Max completed its magical girl transformation this year, dropping arguably the most recognizable part of its name to just become Max. The questionable rename came at the conclusion of the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery and, according to WarnerDiscovery executives, was meant to signal to subscribers that the new Max has content for the whole family to enjoy.
Immediately post-merger, Max lost 1.8 million subscribers (that WarnerMedia attributes to simple attrition). But the great mushing together of libraries means that highly polished dramas like The Sopranos and Oz appear alongside the highly popular (what’s a polite way to say ‘schlock’?) like 90 Day Fiance and Property Brothers that, in the long run, will appeal to prestige TV snobs and families alike.
In the age of streaming, appointment television has largely gone away with more people watching shows at their own pace in their own time. But Succession was a show that defied this convention. Social media has a tendency to make entertainment events seem bigger and more widespread than they are, and Succession took advantage of that. Though it had a relatively small audience peaking at 2.9 million viewers, it became the Sunday night show on Twitter. Its final season was no exception, managing to do what Game of Thrones could not with its own final season: finish in a strong, satisfying way. Succession’s final season delivered as many emotional, discourse-inspiring moments as its earlier seasons. It’s the show you subscribe to Max for and hopefully there will come along another that makes watching TV together fun again.
Barry is one of those shows that you have to watch through your fingers. Its final season premiered this year and was a spectacular send-off for a series that disarmed you with comedy so it could get in close enough to shatter your kneecaps with an aluminum bat.
Barry’s (Bill Hader) series-long obsession with being a good person has turned him into a paranoid and highly violent version of himself. His inability to accept any responsibility for his actions leads him on a path that ironically gives him exactly what he wants but with no way to enjoy it. And that inability to own mistakes infects others around him, making their lives just as miserable. Barry exposes the artificiality of Hollywood, both as its own entity and how that fakeness is internalized by the people who live there. The show’s characters will ironically commit the most heinous crimes in order to avoid either looking or feeling bad about themselves.
Barry’s ability to make you laugh while terrifying you with menacing performances from Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, Anthony Carrigan, and Henry Winkler made it TV that hurt to watch.
BattleBots has become an institution in my house. My husband loves this show with a zeal he only has for Ohio State football, and his enthusiasm has infected me. The key to a good competition show is investing viewers in the competitors, and though in BattleBots’ case the competitors are inanimate objects, the show has done a fantastic job building narratives for bots and their teams.