Linda Holmes

The new Netflix film Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler from the book by Jennifer Mathieu, tries to stuff a lot of things into two hours. It's a story about Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a 16-year-old girl trying out the idea of a political self for the first time via a feminist zine (the titular Moxie) that she secretly begins publishing and stacking up on top of the hand dryers in the school bathrooms. The zine leads to the formation of a Moxie club, and then to something of a movement.

To understand the challenge presented by the new Netflix series Ginny & Georgia, it helps to know a little bit about Melrose Place.

As of this writing, as its Netflix adaptation is about to premiere, the 2008 Kristin Hannah novel Firefly Lane sits at #1 in the Amazon Kindle Store category called "Women's Sagas." And indeed, it is written and presented as a women's saga: the friendship of Kate and Tully, played as adults by Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl, as observed over several decades, beginning when they're teenagers and continuing into their forties (at least in these ten episodes).

When young veterinarian James Herriot first opened his eyes and saw the richly green hills around Darrowby in the new adaptation of All Creatures Great And Small, I felt my shoulders drop. When he saw the village tucked — it must be said — adorably into the valley between them, I felt my breathing slow.

I've been making annual lists of 50 Wonderful Things since 2010. And I have to admit, I was not sure I was up to it this year. It's been a hard one and a lonely one, even though I had the blessings of dear friends, a job I could do remotely and a dog who apparently never gets tired of me. As I point out every year, this is not the actual best things of the year, or it would be full of doctors and nurses and activists and delivery drivers and so forth.

It's tempting to review Bridgerton thusly: "I highly recommend this Shondaland series, which will remind you a little of Jane Austen and a little of Scandal, and which prompted me to specifically decline to seek out the precise definition of an orgy."

But let's say a little more.

It has been a momentous year for everything we consider TV.

A pandemic, civil rights reckoning, streaming war and presidential election shook up the industry in a dozen different ways. It blurred lines between genres, platforms and story forms, while also encouraging us to develop our own, deep rabbit holes of favorite media. So when our team of four critics sat down to figure out what we liked most onscreen this year, we each had a lot of stuff on our lists no one else did.

There is a whole genre of comedy-thriller that you might call the Long Night story. Our central character goes out and does something foolish, or perhaps just stumbles into the wrong place at the wrong time, and suddenly, everything is a mess. Maybe the police are chasing them, maybe criminals are; maybe it's just going to be a long time before they emerge, squinting and blinking, into the sun, probably looking a mess, maybe still wearing the Long Night outfit.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The holiday family romcom tends to go a certain way. The loving parents are having some kind of troubles (medical? financial? marital?) that they haven't fully shared. The kids come home for the holidays, and they have their own things going on: they're not ready to reveal a breakup, or they're not happy about running into an ex, or they're looking to introduce a new partner for the first time.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

To say there are many new holiday romantic comedies made for television every year is the kind of understatement that borders on parody. One of the reasons they tend to be formulaic is that to tell a love story in roughly an hour and a half without challenging an audience's settled expectations, there are only so many ways to go with the rhythm. Perhaps that's why Netflix has better luck with Dash & Lily, an eight-episode limited series that's got the sparkle and the swoon that a lot of holiday films lack.

Every year, a barrage of holiday films arrives to fill our lives with sweaters, children, chaste kisses, and even Santa. We've rounded up the ones from Hallmark, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lifetime, OWN, Hulu, Netflix, TV One, Bounce and BET, so you can find whatever you might be looking for.

The Netflix series The Queen's Gambit follows a chess prodigy named Beth, played Anya Taylor-Joy, from her childhood in an orphanage through her spectacular career in chess. She learns in a basement from a custodian and grows into a champion.

The spine of the Steve James documentary series City So Real is the 2019 campaign that led to Lori Lightfoot becoming mayor of Chicago. But the heart of it is the conviction that no single election, no matter how hard-fought and no matter how high-stakes, is the single cause of or cure for problems that are systemic and longstanding. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, but also fine films like Life Itself and Abacus: Small Enough To Jail) may not have gotten the story he anticipated when he started, but the one he tells here has arrived right on time.

Sarah Cooper is in a tough spot. A great spot! But a tough spot. And from that spot, working quickly to make her special Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine, she has managed to create one of the most effective pieces of the year when it comes to representing what this year has felt like.

The question that may determine whether you enjoy Netflix's new comedy-drama series Emily In Paris is this: Do you think Americans who take jobs in France and want the respect of their co-workers should probably be able to speak French?

Does it even matter that it's fall? We're stuck inside much of the time, anyway, and new TV shows come at us all year round. Well, yes, there's reason to celebrate precisely because of how the pandemic disrupted things. Broadcasters couldn't develop new material, thanks to production being halted. So, viewers watched more streaming services. Even HBO, FX and Showtime were forced to push back some of their best material to ensure they could get through the long summer.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In the pandemic era, the Emmy Awards are not the first major event that can't be a traditional shindig, but they're perhaps the most high-profile awards show so far to attempt quite this kind of socially distanced, mask-wearing, virtual ceremony. Host Jimmy Kimmel and everyone producing the broadcast had a pretty tough hill to climb in making it watchable.

And surprisingly enough, it was. It wasn't just watchable; it was ... pretty good.

Ratched is beautiful, but it's really bad.

A community of strange locals, closed-mouthed about their history and their practices but firmly separated from most of society, is a staple of mystery stories. So is the person who stumbles upon them, fascinated and frightened and seduced by the unknown.

One of the things we're still learning about the pandemic we're enduring is what art will come from it. That's for a few reasons: the emotions it produces can crowd out others, the political moment crisscrosses with and complicates it, and logistically, any art that requires gathering, of artists or audiences or both, is too dangerous to undertake in many places. It's not clear how long those things will be true.

Less than five minutes into the four-episode Showtime documentary series Love Fraud, a woman named Tracy says, "There's no excuse not to have teeth these days." She's talking about online dating and literal teeth, about arriving for a date with a man she found online and realizing he didn't have teeth. But could you take this as a little bit of a mission statement for the series? You could.

There's a species of giddy nostalgia that involves laughing off what you barely survived. It can be even more powerful if, at the time, you didn't know how lucky you got. It's the nostalgia of near-miss childhood accidents and times you almost set the house on fire, and of things that fell from the ceiling a foot from your head. It's also the nostalgia of the new documentary Class Action Park.

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he's almost always got pals around. He's made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

The HBO documentary series I'll Be Gone In The Dark, which concluded Sunday night and is now available on demand in its entirety, is based on crime writer Michelle McNamara's book about the case known as "The Golden State Killer," who was believed to be responsible for multiple rapes and murders during the 1970s and 1980s. But ultimately, the series is more about McNamara herself than it is about the case — and it's more interesting for it.

Nobody really knows what television, or the country, or the planet may look like in a few months, but that doesn't mean there aren't Emmy nominations. Tuesday's announcement was unconventional, and done remotely (of course), but the nominees are very much a mix of the old and the new.

Pages