Overrated/Underrated 2017: Looking back at pop culture’s best and worst
There’s a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week. Times staff writer Chris Barton offers his take on what’s up and what’s down in music, movies, television and just about anything else out there that is worth considering.
Read more from me on Twitter: @chrisbarton.
UNDERRATED The coming digital crash: For all the misguided “pivots to video” in media this year, there’s a very real possibility that the internet may not be the limitless, life-enhancing cabinet of curiosities it once was.
Overrated/Underrated: Leave TV’s New Year’s Eve programming off your party plans, and ‘Twin Peaks is seriously not a movie
UNDERRATED “The Farthest: Voyager in Space” on Netflix: For all its promise, 2018 will surely bring more bad news, which is precisely what makes this documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Voyager I and II missions that approached Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and beyond so essential.
Overrated/Underrated: Marvin Pontiac is a man for all seasons, and ‘Mrs. Maisel’ isn’t all that marvelous
UNDERRATED HBO’s global reach: With a holiday break within range, the fear of the endless scroll through limited streaming options is real, but thankfully HBO has restocked with some international fare.
Overrated/Underrated: One is enough for ‘Baby Driver,’ and Netflix’s aptly named ‘Dark’ casts a spell
UNDERRATED ‘Dark’ on Netflix: For all the advances in spooky sci-fi TV made with “Stranger Things,” this German import proves nothing can touch the Old World for an unsettling story.
Overrated/Underrated: Album of the year honors for ‘Awaken My Love,’ and what is Netflix’s hurry?
UNDERRATED “Loving Vincent” (2017): Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, this biopic of Vincent Van Gogh is built around the sort of inspired, lunatic ambition that would have made its subject proud.
Overrated/Underrated: Goodbye, Warped Tour, and Adam Sandler steals ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’
UNDERRATED Danny Janklow’s ‘Elevation’: Not yet in his 30s, this saxophonist has made a name for himself around L.A. as part of John Beasley’s revered MONK’estra, along with stints backing Kendrick Lamar and Aloe Blacc.
Overrated/Underrated: ‘Alias Grace’ is essential, and is anyone still shocked by Marilyn Manson?
UNDERRATED ‘Alias Grace’: Adapted from a work by novelist Margaret Atwood, this patiently drawn Netflix miniseries also holds a prism up to current times, but unlike “The Handmaid’s Tale,” maybe doesn’t force the viewer into a fetal position of despair for the future.
UNDERRATED Cameron Britton in “Mindhunter”: Like a few David Fincher projects, the early episodes of this Netflix series are far more interesting to look at than to listen to and think about.
Overrated/Underrated: Alexander Payne’s comic timing, Netflix’s thirst for awards recognition and more
UNDERRATED Alexander Payne’s comic timing: It’s been six years since Payne last wrote a feature film, and “Downsizing” (Dec. 22) — which looks to have only a philosophical relationship to corporate restructuring — finds him in a more absurd place than usual as it features a couple (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) who shrink themselves to a fraction of human size.
Overrated/Underrated: Patton Oswalt’s ‘Annihilation’ finds the humor and humanity in darkness
UNDERRATED Patton Oswalt’s “Annihilation”:There aren’t many stand-up comics with the courage to take audiences into the depths of some dark emotions and and still bring them back laughing.
Overrated/Underrated: The ugly loop of ‘Rick and Morty’ and its secret sauce, and ‘Sky Music’ honors a master
UNDERRATED Katherine Hahn in ‘I Love Dick’: “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway’s latest series for Amazon has its flaws, but there’s no denying the impression made by Hahn at the center of the series.
UNDERRATED Ray Romano and Holly Hunter in ‘The Big Sick’: A recent on-demand arrival, this acclaimed rom-com adapted from the lives of co-writers Kumail Nanjiani (comic and star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and Emily V.
Overrated/Underrated: James Franco is weirdly perfect in ‘The Deuce,’ and ‘2 Dope Queens’ rules
UNDERRATED James Franco in “The Deuce”: Full of the rich dialogue expected from two minds behind “The Wire,” this series from David Simon and George Pelecanos vividly captures the sleazy stories of 1971 Times Square and the rise of porn.
Overrated/Underrated: Don’t sell your DVDs, and do we actually enjoy Darren Aronofsky movies?
UNDERRATED DVDs: Those box sets and BluRays have been tough to hang onto in the streaming era, which has allowed us all to binge on classics at our leisure until — surprise!
UNDERRATED Julia Garner in “Ozark”: Already a black-hearted sleeper of a series on the strength of stars Laura Linney and a typically dry Jason Bateman (who also directs), this relative newcomer on Netflix gets a boost by this actress, who plays a local up to no good as she works alongside Bateman’s endangered but equally amoral character.
UNDERRATED The anthology series: Call it the “Black Mirror” effect, or maybe the result of so many daunting long-form series narratives available to stream, but single-episode storytelling has been enjoying a boost of late.
UNDERRATED The slow TV of ‘Twin Peaks’: This year’s Showtime resurrection of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s ultimate left-field mystery was one of the most anticipated shows of 2017.
Overrated/Underrated: An ‘Atypical’ ‘scene-stealer and New York celebrates itself in ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’
UNDERRATED Brigette Lundy-Paine in “Atypical”: This Netflix series primarily about the dating misadventures of a high-functioning autistic teenager is far from perfect, despite its often smartly handled, underrepresented subject.
UNDERRATED “Exit 57”: Though TV sketch comedy feels like an endangered species in 2017 once past the orbit of “Saturday Night Live,” the genre’s history is a goldmine, particularly once you look past standard-bearers such as “Kids in the Hall,” “SCTV,” “The State” and, of course, “Monty Python.”
Overrated/Underrated: The shallow appeal of ‘Ready Player One,’ and why do we care about Madame Tussauds?
UNDERRATED Pip Torrens in ‘Preacher’: AMC’s “Preacher” is ridiculous, relentlessly violent and incapable of taking itself seriously.
UNDERRATED Pilou Asbæk on “Game of Thrones”: With its reputation for loathsome villains well established, “Game of Thrones” is embracing a touch of camp this season with the help of this Danish actor, who portrays the conniving, frequently water-logged Euron Greyjoy.
Overrated/Underrated: ‘Downward Dog’ demands a rescue, and it may be time for a ‘West Wing’ reboot
UNDERRATED “Downward Dog”: This show led by a talking dog clearly was on a short leash at ABC, which canceled the series before it ended an eight-episode run this summer.
Overrated/Underrated: Arcade Fire burns out with ‘Everything Now,’ and the gentle heaviness of Cloakroom
UNDERRATED “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Ahmanson Theatre: A Tony Award-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s bestselling 2003 novel, this story of a boy named Christopher who investigates the death of a neighbor’s pet offers an immersive, empathetic venture into its main character’s mind, which functions somewhere along the autism spectrum.
Overrated/Underrated: ‘Star Wars’ dilutes its own brand, and catch up on ‘The Good Place’
UNDERRATED ‘The Good Place’ on NBC: An excellent streaming option while waiting for “Game of Thrones” to return, this newcomer created by Michael Schur of “Parks and Recreation” starts off slow, with a superficial, breezy look at the afterlife amid some mistaken-identity comedy for star Kristen Bell.
Overrated/Underrated: The unstoppable rise of ‘Transformers,’ and Rory Scovel is your new favorite comic
UNDERRATED Carl Craig’s ‘Versus’: In wake of an EDM boom that saw Dutch DJs earning piles of money for pushing buttons in Vegas, it’s easy to forget the forward-looking legacy of electronic music.
Overrated/Underrated: Pixar has lost its standout status, and Ambrose Akinmusire comes alive
UNDERRATED Hasan Minhaj: If you were placing money on the next breakout star from the still-durable comedy academy of “The Daily Show,” Minhaj may be your surest bet of 2017.
UNDERRATED “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (1992): Now that David Lynch’s provocatively inscrutable world has come to Showtime to baffle a new generation, it’s worth making time to appreciate this dark, at times weirdly funny prequel, which received a harsh reception at the time.
Overrated/Underrated, Summer TV edition: ‘House of Cards’ faces an uphill battle, and the rise of the reboot
UNDERRATEDEvery show that’s ended, apparently: Were you sad when your “Friends” finally parted ways with network TV, and — to an extent — you?
Overrated/Underrated: Resonance Records keeps delivering buried treasures and Carrie Coon in ‘Fargo’
UNDERRATED Carrie Coon in “Fargo”: Already earning accolades for her nuanced portrayal of a grieving widow in HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Coon is walking away with the third installment of Noah Hawley’s Coen Brothers-adjacent anthology series.
Overrated/Underrated: Which comeback do we need less — ‘American Idol’ or a (rumored) Led Zeppelin?
UNDERRATED ‘World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’: Previously available only to collectors, this recent Luaka Bop release of rare cassette recordings made by jazz composer Alice Coltrane at an ashram in Agoura Hills in the early ’80s offers a profound continuation of her rich legacy.
Overrated/Underrated: The sadness of a Johnny Depp theme park ride, and Slowdive makes a welcome comeback
UNDERRATED Mark Bonnar on ‘Catastrophe’: Assuming you have access to Amazon Prime (or some dark portal connecting you with British TV), there are many strong reasons to dive into this comedy series, which was created by Sharon Horgan (“Divorce”) with comic Rob Delaney and which recently released its third season.
UNDERRATED ‘Seed: The Untold Story’ on PBS: With the world struggling to navigate a crisis on seemingly every front, dedicating another hour to learn of another isn’t an easy proposition.
Underrated/Overrated: Welcoming an escape from summer movie escapism, and someone please help Tom Cruise
UNDERRATED Summer’s lack of escape: So how are all those “worst year ever” tweets from 2016 aging?
Overrated/Underrated: ‘Girls’ is finishing on a high note, and Coachella no longer stands out
UNDERRATED “Girls”: Heading into its finale Sunday, this show has probably generated more stories about its provocative story lines and sociological import than what was used to write its 60-episode run.
Overrated/Underrated: Scarlett Johansson, post-human action hero, and breathe easy for ‘The Great British Baking Show’
UNDERRATED ‘The Great British Baking Show’: Listen: Modern life is difficult, the news is a burning roller-coaster of oncoming crises and the bulk of “Peak TV” trawls through some the worst in human behavior.
Overrated/Underrated: Get to know Michael Kiwanuka, and we’re not yet nostalgic for ‘True Detective’
There’s a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week.
Overrated/Underrated: The Shins’ ‘Heartworms’ buries its strengths while ‘Hotel Beau Séjour’ is worth checking out
UNDERRATED ‘Hotel Beau Séjour’ on Netflix: This worthy new addition to a crowded streaming field of moody European crime thrillers adds a twist by placing the victim at the center of the investigation.
Overrated/Underrated: Bill Irwin’s quiet strength on ‘Legion’ and Ed Sheeran’s exhausting nice-guy image
UNDERRATED Bill Irwin on ‘Legion’: An early contender for one of the most twisted shows on TV this year (or any other, really), Noah Hawley’s nightmarish reinvention of the superhero origin story is inventive with its visuals, sound and casting, which includes this veteran stage performer.
Overrated/Underrated: Netflix moves to interactive storytelling, and going overboard on ‘Overboard’
UNDERRATED ‘Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead’ (2015): A welcome recent addition to Netflix, this documentary examines the rise and fall of the National Lampoon, a subversive humor magazine that helped shape comedy.
Overrated/Underrated: SpaceX takes off (for a price), and Grandaddy makes a welcome comeback
UNDERRATED The range of Bill Paxton: Destined to get overshadowed by the Oscars, the loss of Bill Paxton at 61 last week generated numerous tributes to his oafishly arrogant characters that included the goofily fatalistic Hudson in “Aliens,” and the abusive Chet in “Weird Science.”
Overrated/Underrated: Oscars 2017 have never mattered less yet continue to stand for more
If the annual Oscar campaigns are convinced of nothing else — other than the greatness of whatever film they represent — it’s their own importance.
Overrated/Underrated: The bizarre charm of ‘The Barkley Marathons,’ and what is Lady Gaga doing?
UNDERRATED Craig Taborn’s ‘Daylight Ghosts’: The inventive pianist and composer, who’s as adept with exploring electronics-girded grooves as a sort of ghostly minimalism, assembled a group of jazz all-stars for his latest release, which is already a sure bet as one of the strongest albums of the year.
Overrated/Underrated: Let the Super Bowl ratings fall, and ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ should aim elsewhere
UNDERRATED Ben Foster: A force of twitchy chaos onscreen since appearing on “Six Feet Under” years ago, Foster won’t be a contender on Oscar night, but the best picture nominee “Hell or High Water” wouldn’t carry the same weight without him.
UNDERRATED Pete Holmes: If you’re looking for a breakout success story for 2017, here’s a solid candidate.
UNDERRATED ‘In Order of Disappearance’ (2014): While we wait for the next season of “Fargo” coming this spring, this recent arrival on Netflix offers a rewarding mix of snowbound violence and deadpan humor that will feel familiar to fans of the Coen Brothers.
Overrated/Underrated: Post-holiday surprises in ‘The OA,’ and ‘worst of’ lists are the worst
UNDERRATED ‘The OA’ on Netflix: A propulsively structured story from “Another Earth” creator Brit Marling, this series arrived like some kind of surprise stocking stuffer for those looking to ride out a post-holiday hangover and/or coverage of current events.