And the world finally bid goodbye to that strange, strange year that was 2016, when watching the news on TV became a bit too disturbing. It was a political mess of a year, what with the Brexit in the UK causing the pound to fall off its lowest level in decades and the world market to go all kinds of crazy in the middle of the year (it is still reeling until today), and the last remaining superpower electing a very unlikely candidate into the GOP, and then the presidency in the US elections.
Locally, it was not much different. A so-called “last-minute” candidate with no experience in national government (and a penchant for unsavory jokes about raping women and genocide) won the national elections by a landslide, and supporters are now listing about six thousand deaths from supposedly drug-related extra-judicial killings as part of the administration’s brilliant achievements in its first six months. This should not be surprising given the sudden level of ambivalence demonstrated by the citizens of a country who, not so many years ago, was also ravaged by a madman hungry for power – the same man whose body now lies among heroes in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
A great article I read in NYMAG.com published months before Trump was even nominated into the Republican candidacy describes recent events as what happens when a democracy becomes too democratic. In his article, political analyst Andrew Sullivan reminds us that Plato himself wrote about this phenomenon in his Socratic dialogue described in Republic. He claimed that tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy itself. Ironically, while many people nowadays seem to think that they have a voice through social media, their petty squabbles and unintelligent pondering are just a whole lot of white noise that drowns out the reality that tyrants are taking over. The same article highlights what political philosopher Eric Hoffer once postulated – that “the most accessible, comprehensive, and unifying of all elements is the evocation of hatred”. Mob mentality was alive and kicking in politics last year, and that mentality called for blood.
Such is my short and bitter political commentary on 2016. For the most part of the year, I avoided local news like the plague, and got my sources from CNN (the local version was acceptable), or legitimate online news agencies (while carefully avoiding reading the comments section). And when you want to escape it is always good to have somewhere to tune out to. I refused to join the white noise around me, and instead focused on the few good things that were available on TV – great TV series.
There were quite a few awesome ones that started this year. To name just a few:
- Westworld – I just cannot shut up about this Terminator-meets –Jurassic-Park-meets-the-Hannibal-movies series on HBO Go about a robot up-rising amidst a Western-themed park enclosure for the ultra-rich. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a sci-fi story so much since the first season of Sliders back in the ‘90s. Westworld is based on a 1973 movie of the same title.
- Designated Survivor – the newest Keifer Sutherland (I believe he is a brand name now) is an ABC production about a low-key US Cabinet member who becomes the lone survivor of a terrorist attack during the State of the Union address. With the entire government literally blown up in flames, Sutherland’s character must build on what’s left, while also warding off a potential scandal about his parentage and roots, and finding out who the traitor in the White House really is.
- Better Things – A personal favorite, since I find myself getting drawn into stories of single parent families these days. It just so happened that the show has also received generally favorable reviews at a Metacritic score of 79 out of 100, and 94% Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Although viewership does not point to mainstream yet, the series has gained some following since its launch on FX in September, and a second season is in the works.
- Atlanta – I’m not a huge fan of rap music, nor of the whole drama surrounding the world of rap music, but there’s something about Atlanta that drew me in. It is a story of Earn Marks (Donald Glover), a young Princeton dropout, who was living in his parents’ basement when he tries to launch his cousin’s rap music career in an effort to provide better for his 2-year old daughter. There’s not a lot to which I can relate in the story, but I do think Childish Gambino’s acting alter ego is superbly hot.
I could go on and on about what a good year it was in the made-up world of TV series, but instead I’ll move on to the next topic at hand, which is my wish list of books that should be made into TV series for the coming year.
There are some good ones out there now that I have been following, the most obvious of which is The Game of Thrones series. But there are also some that are less popular. One of my favorites is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, from the novel in a series of the same name. Produced by Starz TV, it is a historical drama about Claire Randall, a WWII nurse who gets transported back to Scotland in the 1700s, and meets a young rebel with whom she promptly falls in love. I don’t care that the plot is a dime a dozen. The books were memorable enough to spurn a second season (Dragonfly in Amber), a graphic novel, and even a musical. Because of the huge popularity of the series, people may have already forgotten that Showtime’s Dexter was from a series of mystery paperbacks by author Jeff Lindsay, or that the racy HBO show True Blood was actually derived from a collection of young adult novels called the Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mysteries.
So here is my wish list of books that should be made into TV series for the 2017 season:
- The Harry Potter books – even if creator JK Rowling herself pretty much gave a firm no to that idea, I still think it’s worth considering. So what if the books have been turned into so many different movies that are lengthy enough on their own? And what does it matter that there is already a Broadway opera, Potter-on-Ice, prequels and sequels, and even massive Universal Studios theme parks? These only prove that fans of this magical world cannot enough of these characters, and really, Ms Rowling, could you please reconsider?
- 1Q84 – speaking of magic, this Haruki Murakami novel is strangely enchanting as well, but in a more subdued manner. The story is set in dystopian Japan, and follows the stories of two star-crossed lovers living in alternate realities who are destined to never meet in person. However, Murakami’s classic ethereal style of story-telling has to be captured perfectly by a well-executed script. Maybe because of the characters and the setting, I keep thinking that the story would really make for a really good Korean novela.
- Before Ever After – Six years after its publication, I am still wondering why this book has not been made into a movie yet. I’ll concede and say that yes, the book falls into the “chic lit” category, and the story is not exactly all too original, but plot is so charming, the setting so magical, that it deserves some consideration. Shelley was struggling to cope with her beloved husband’s death when she comes across his doppelganger during an excursion into roads less travelled in Europe. With the help of a long-lost relation, she travels the world to follow his trail, and learns more about herself than the person she was looking for.
2016 produced a myriad of good TV shows to look back on, and I hope the new year becomes just as fruitful. Happy new year, third world geeks!