To Spoil or Not to Spoil? TV Critics Reveal Their Policies About That Shocking Event — IndieWire Survey

Spoiler alert! Nobody can agree on how or when it’s OK to reveal that big twist or surprise.


Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question:  What is your spoiler policy regarding a) When and how you think it’s OK to mention spoilery content to the public (social media? spoiler warnings? in headlines? is there a time limit?) and b) What are your personal feelings/threshold about getting spoiled on content on TV?

Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx

My general philosophy is to try to make it so people have to opt in for spoilers. i.e., I won’t put the spoiler in a headline, or a tweet, but if you click on the piece, it’s because you know I’m discussing something that’s already aired and you will find out who died, who kissed, etc. Everyone’s watching on their own schedules these days, and while it’s obnoxious for someone who’s six months or more behind on a show to demand that everyone discuss things according to their delayed pace, it also doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to exercise a bit more caution.

And I hate being spoiled on things. Being a visible recapper of “Game of Thrones” — and someone who has not read the books — meant that I was frequently spoiled on big and small things by a small but corrosive subset of that show’s audience. One guy kept creating new accounts to remind me of exactly how and when a certain character would die, often making his username things like @CHARACTERdiesatLOCATION and then tweeting, “How are ya?” at me. How things happen on shows is at least as important as what happens, but I still enjoy being surprised, and am usually unhappy when I get spoiled, either through my own carelessness (I once made the mistake of Googling a minor character in “The Pacific” before I’d finished watching, which quickly revealed the death and circumstances of said death of a major one), or through other people’s. So I try when I can to prevent readers from feeling the same way.

But not only is everyone on their own schedule, everyone has their own definition of what a spoiler is. Someone yelled at me for my photo choice in my “Jessica Jones” Season 2 recap piece because they felt it gave away a major twist of the season, even though I believe the only way to understand that picture’s meaning would be if you’d already watched the whole thing. I generally define spoilers the way Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography: I know it when I see it.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby

I’m so glad you asked. I’ve expressed my feelings about spoilers here, but tl;dr: I welcome them. Tell me anything. Seriously. Anyone who knows me knows they don’t need to keep spoilers from me, even if they’re shows I don’t watch — I’ll just be here to listen to you as you work through your feelings. Spoilers do not ruin the enjoyment of a show or movie for me; I far more enjoy the process of getting to the “reveal” or “twist” than the actual “reveal” or “twist” itself. I’ve already read the spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War.” Now, I am not a dick, so I would never intentionally spoil something for someone if they don’t want to be spoiled. As for spoilers in stories, I try not to lay it out directly in headlines, and I include spoiler warnings, but I believe anything is fair game for discussion after a show airs on both coasts. For scripted shows, I think you can get a couple days to “catch up” — and it’s not a spoiler by the time the next episode airs — but you can totally talk about who was eliminated on any reality show the next day, especially since many of them do press. If spoilers mean that much to you, that’s on you to make sure you don’t get spoiled. And if you do get spoiled, who cares? It’s a TV show. The world does not revolve around anyone’s viewing habits.

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

For our site, we always preface any reviews or interviews that covers a series in detail with the spoiler forward warning, otherwise people moan. Answering your question, A) After a show has aired, it’s game on regarding “spoilery” content. During and before a show has aired, a different matter. Poor impulse control for some out there makes the Internet and specifically Twitter a no-go zone if you want absolutely no indications of what will occur on a show. Getting angry about it is like going to a water park and getting pissed off that someone splashed you. Now, cleverly alluding to and cryptically hinting about a key moment or series are entirely different matters, go for it.

And for B)… Personally, I am amazed there are people out there who haven’t figured out the Internet’s entertainment section is rife with recountings, analysis, critique and suppositions of what happened on any given show – so if you truly want to be in the dark about every aspect of a series that has aired (which is completely fair game to discuss in my opinion) just don’t go looking for any insight on the Internet until you’ve had your chance to watch. My personal feelings are that reading recaps of scripted shows are a boondoggle of precious time and proper reviews only interest me after I have seen the show myself.

Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire

In general, I try to be as cautious as possible when it comes to spoilers (though of course pobody’s nerfect) — mostly because I feel awful any time I spoil someone by accident. Twenty-four hours at the least feels like a basic window, maybe a week solid for anything forward facing, though it’s become tougher and tougher to police as more and more people choose to binge and watch shows at their own paces.

As for getting spoiled, 99 percent of time it’s a bummer if I’m a fan of the show. Every once in a while, though, there’s a 1 percent instance where I’m glad of the spoiler — like most recently with “Into the Badlands,” where I needed to catch up a few episodes of Season 2 still, but got a major twist of the Season 2 finale ruined for me by the press materials for Season 3. However, knowing that twist helped me prepare mentally for it (because it was a doozy) — don’t know how I would have reacted to that moment, had I not been ready for it to come.

Danny Wu


Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

I just try not to ever put spoilers in headlines or in tweets. If it’s treated as a surprise in the show, I’m not going to come out and say it in a visible way (and I also won’t discuss it in a pre-premiere review). That being said, I don’t always write my own headlines and I acknowledge that Search Engine Optimization sometimes demands being a bit less oblique than my own instinct would tell me to be. It’s tough. You want people who watch the stuff to know what the story is about, because otherwise they probably won’t read it, but you don’t want it to give up the farm to somebody who hasn’t watched the stuff. [An exception/variation would be when I used to do reality TV exit interviews. I never called them “elimination” interviews or anything, but the stories had no purpose if you didn’t put the name of the eliminated contestant in the headline. So… those were invariably spoiler-y. However, on Twitter, I always just tweeted it without the contestant’s name in the tweet.] For me personally? I don’t like getting spoiled and I get annoyed when somebody on the East Coast spoils something on Twitter for no reason and I get REALLY annoyed with a publicist sends out a “Do Not Spoil” weeks ahead of premiere that spoils stuff, BUT my policy is always that a twist should work even if you know it’s coming. If it only works because you didn’t see it coming, it’s badly constructed and poorly motivated.

Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

OK, first off, I hate how spoilers have been weaponized on social media. As an East Coaster, I try my damnedest to tweet during shows with the least-specific content so as to not ruin it for anyone outside of my time zone. But then folks or outlets on the West Coast who get the early feed go and fucking tweet out such detailed information that it’s all spoiled, usually just so they seem like they’re getting it out there first. Those people should be put on a rack.

As for my time-limit policy, like I said, at the time of air, I try to go vague but fun and engage folks who are watching along without including things like “I can’t believe Bernard was a Host all along!” or “They killed Ralph Dibney and Midge in the same week?!” Post-airing, I am fine with discussing details the morning after because by then, most post-mortems, recaps and think pieces have been posted…often by sites that run headlines that spoil things in their links anyway. And most definitely, it is safe to talk about things before the next episode airs. If someone replies that they’re behind on “Gotham” after I tweet out that the Nygma-Lee coupling is working for me, that’s on them. Movies get at least a full week on lockdown because not everyone goes on opening weekend but really, if you ever feel the need to tell people that [blank] dies in “A Quiet Place,” you can go to hell every day. Along with anyone who gets advance access to a screener and ruins it before the episode is even scheduled. I have recently fallen in with the “Riverdale” fandom’s requests for info from press screeners and all I will give are one-word hints, emojis and teases that can be read in multiple ways. The fun is in the watching, right?

Diane Gordon (@thesurfreport), Freelance

a) Please oh please, no spoilers in headlines. Though people know to stay off social media, it’s tough for a lot of people to do and it’s not difficult to craft a headline without revealing major plot points. For broadcast shows, I think it’s fine to talk about big plot points the same night with appropriate “spoiler alert” warnings at the top of the post. For streaming shows, all bets are off because so many people like to binge series the first weekend they drop. Personally, I rarely binge an entire series over a weekend, so I know if I read about a show, I’ll probably be spoiled about a plot point or two.

b) I don’t get upset if I see a spoiler before I watch a show because if I like a show, I still want to watch and see how they tell the story. I don’t seek out spoilers but if I run across one in my social feeds, I don’t really care.

Westworld Bernard Drone Host HBO



Tim Surette (@timsurette),

This is an impossible question to answer. If you spoil something in a headline, you’ve gone too far. But if you’re still dancing around that [spoiler] [spoilered] [spoiler] in Season 2 of “Lost” then you need to loosen up. The correct answer is somewhere in the blurry, blubbery middle. Anyone who tries to put a specific timeframe on when it’s OK to openly talk spoilers is fooling themselves; it’s unenforceable. That’s like asking YouTube commenters to be nice. You’re on your own to protect yourself from spoilers, and you never know when they’ll come at you because there’s no standard. It’s every person for themselves out there, dude. Stay vigilant and stay on top of your shows. It takes work, but it’s worth it.

Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote

Ohhhh boy. Spoilers. My mortal enemy. But they were also my former addiction, so I get it. When I was a kid, I spoiled myself to a ridiculous degree on “X-Files” and even “Friends.” Now, it’s a tough line, because knowing more absolutely helps plan coverage…but it does take away from the experience. I love the moments that genuinely blindside you (I will never forget bolting up at “Fringe”‘s first season finale and literally lunging for my laptop, so I could write up a piece on it); losing that sucks as a television fan. But it’s also part of the job, so I suck it up.

That being said, I also feel responsible to not ruin the experience of shows I cover for those fans. I love teasing, but never ruining, what’s going to happen. I’m all for vague headlines, spoiler alert in posts, whatever can be done to avoid accidentally ruining an episode or twist for someone else. If I wasn’t writing about TV, I’d be reading everything I could about the shows I love, so I try to think about what lines I wouldn’t want crossed for that alt-me.

However, social media makes things difficult. If it’s a show I love, I know I can’t be on Twitter before the episode airs on the West Coast — between people sharing their reactions or the official account live-tweeting, it’s a minefield. I try to be as vague as possible week-of, because with a zillion shows on the air, it’s getting more and more difficult for people to view things immediately. That being said, I’m insanely paranoid talking about old things I’m watching for the first time on social media, because SO OFTEN people will reply to newbies with spoilers. Let’s just be kind/respectful to each other, OK?

Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider

Ultimately it has to come down to the simple fact that if something has aired to the public (so not something from a screener, obviously), then it’s ok to talk about.

HOWEVER … there are a lot of caveats to that. Not everyone watches TV at the same pace, and not everyone can watch things live. You can tell people to stay off of social media if they don’t want to find out something that happened, but also, be polite and consider your social media followers. If you really want to talk about it, cloak yourself in a mutable hashtag. Don’t spoil things in headlines, especially for major series. Ask someone if they’re caught up before launching into the details of the latest episode.

So maybe there’s not a rule to spoilers exactly, but there’s certainly an etiquette. There’s also definitely a spoiler statute of limitations, which usually comes down to one outlet posting a full spoiler headline, pissing everyone off, and clearing the way for everyone else to also post about it openly.

It’s my job to stay informed on all things TV, yet it’s also impossible for me to watch every TV show the night it has aired (or sometimes even days or weeks after). Spoilers happen, I accept it. I just try to make it a priority to stay current on shows where I would actually be upset if I learned about a plot point before I was able to watch it happen.

Sandra Oh and David Haig, "Killing Eve"

Sandra Oh and David Haig, “Killing Eve”


Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling),

I have a complicated relationship with spoilers that ultimately depends on the medium. I tend to be more strict when it comes to movie spoilers, because not everyone has the option of seeing a film at the exact same time. Plus, movies are contained storytelling units and this means there are fewer opportunities to pull off the Big Moments. When I saw “The Force Awakens” a few weeks after it opened a few years ago, my brother leaned over just as the lights went down in the theater and whispered “Han dies” in my ear. After decades of this kind of emotional abuse, I punched him in the chest as hard as I could, which unfortunately wasn’t very hard because I was sitting next to him. My brother can be kind of a jerk. But if we’d been watching a TV show, I wouldn’t have had the same reaction because TV spoilers don’t usually carry the same weight as movie spoilers. There are very few instances in which being spoiled for something on TV would ruin my enjoyment of it. Now, if shocking twists are built into the fabric of a show the way they are on “Jane the Virgin,” I don’t want to know anything in advance that might jeopardize that surprise. If a show relies on building tension — think something like the later seasons of “Breaking Bad” — I don’t want to know what happens because I might not be in the intended emotional state. Everything else is fair game though, especially if it’s the morning after a TV show has aired.

As someone who ran a TV website’s social media accounts for three years, I’ve dealt with my fair share of (stupid) complaints about spoilers. I don’t think anyone should go out of their way to spoil a major plot twist or character death, especially the night of, but I also think if someone is on social media or a TV website after an episode airs, they need to accept they might be spoiled. It’s not on journalists or critics or company Twitter accounts or random strangers on the internet to protect someone else from spoilers. If we have to protect them 24 hours later they’ll want us to protect them months later. Someone recently yelled at me on Twitter for “spoiling” that Ben Barnes’ Billy Russo is a villain and that his beautiful face gets cut to pieces at the end of “The Punisher.” First of all, read a comic book or a Wikipedia page, bro. Second of all, this was five months after the show had aired. It’s not my fault you didn’t watch the show when the rest of the world watched the show. You knew the risks, angry internet guy! Basically: TV spoilers are fine, but don’t purposefully spoil Han Solo’s death for your little sister.

Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

In general, I try not to put majorly spoiler-y stuff in headlines or on social media for a period of months, if not years. Like I would still feel a little weird spoiling some of the big twists from the end of “The Last Jedi,” even though conservatively everybody has seen that movie at this point. I guess it’s just polite, even if I do feel like from every moment the movie opens, or the TV show airs, the responsibility of those who haven’t seen it to not be mad if they’re accidentally spoiled increases exponentially. If I told you Darth Vader was Luke’s dad two days before “Empire Strikes Back” opened, yeah, I’m an asshole. If you’re mad that I just said it in this sentence, well…. I mean…

Also, I don’t care about being spoiled. When I was a wee copy editor, at my first real job, I read an AP piece that spoiled a really big “Lost” twist (it was something Michael did in the Hatch), and after I processed my irritation at being spoiled, I realized that I was really excited to see the moment play out. Knowing what was coming made it that much more exciting! I get that I’m a geek for structural stuff, and that not everybody else is, but if you consume media primarily on the level of plot, you’re missing out on a lot of other things. I don’t actively seek out spoilers, but in my line of work, it’s all but impossible to avoid them entirely. Come on in, spoilerphobes! The water’s fine!

Matthew Fox, “Lost”


Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

Spoilers should be relegated to a safe space at all times (not in headlines or social media), unless they’ve reached a saturation point in the public eye. So spoiling the fact that Darth Vader is Luke’s father is fine circa 2018, but putting the ending of “The Last Jedi” in a tweet is not. Even in this example, I recognize my protective nature toward spoilers is greater than others — as someone who never, ever, ever wants to be spoiled — but that’s the audience you have to write for; anyone with a lower threshold isn’t at risk, so you have to protect the ones who are.

And that brings me to the more difficult question: What is a spoiler? I like Alan’s attitude of “you know it when you see it,” but I struggle with specific designations. Like all TV fans, critics want to talk about exciting moments from the shows they see, and unless you’re posting an article after it airs (and loading it up with proper spoiler warnings), you’ve got to decide what’s OK to highlight (so people get excited about the show you’re praising) and what’s something they need to see for themselves, untainted by an early tip-off. Comedies often trip me up: Is that scene in “Veep” going to be as funny for viewers if I mention it in my review? Will people be excited enough about the new season of “Archer” if all my descriptions of its best aspects are vague? Finding that balance is key, but it’s rarely easy.

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Killing Eve” (eight votes)

Other contenders: “The Americans,” “Superstore,” “The Terror,” “Westworld” (one vote each; one disqualification)

*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.

The Best Films About Filmmaking — IndieWire Critics Survey

Every movie is partially about its own making, but these ones reflect on the process in order to show us why it’s so valuable.

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: In honor of “Godard Mon Amour,” Michel Hazanavicius’ movie about Jean-Luc Godard, what is the best film about filmmaking (or filmmakers)?

Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz),

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

I always thought the best movie about filmmaking, and filmmakers, and about artistry in the commercial system generally, is “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” A lot of people have similar visions based on real life incidents, and pursue it in various creative ways, but only one makes it to the landing site, and he only succeeds because he’s devoted himself to it so singlemindedly that he throws his own family aside. He has the mind of a child and ends the film surrounded by childlike beings. All the scenes of Roy Neary trying to realize the shape through sculpture of various materials are the best metaphor for the process of working through an artistic vision that I’ve seen. The moment of catharsis comes somewhat at random — after missing a news report that would’ve handed him the answer, he grows frustrated and rips off the top of the clay mountain he’s been building in his living room, and eureka, he’s finally got it.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough), Vague Visages

“8 1/2”

Both Federico Fellini’s “Otto e mezzo” (“8 1/2”) and Martin Scorsese’s “My Voyage to Italy” inspire me to think deeper about filmmaking.

“8 1/2,” released in 1963, doesn’t necessarily focus on technique and craft within the narrative, however that’s what ultimately stands out through Fellini’s surrealistic lens. It’s a beautiful film about inner conflict and vulnerability, suggesting that one can remain emotionally available (aka “Not An Egocentric Psycho”) while navigating creative hell. I imagine that Darren Aronofsky watched “8 1/2” once or twice before filming “mother!” — a polarizing film that’s chaotic and visually challenging but ultimately focused on creative hell, in my opinion (don’t @ me).

Instead of dropping money on Martin Scorsese’s MasterClass, I suggest watching his 1999 documentary “My Voyage to Italy.” It’s essentially a four-hour class on Italian Neorealism, Italian Art House Cinema and the productions that inspired Scorsese during his formative years. Directors like Robert Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Vittorio De Sica laid the groundwork for Scorsese’s style, and he later incorporated some noir and French New Wave elements for 70s classic like “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver.” For a film like “Raging Bull,” many people don’t “relate” to the subject, Jake LaMotta, but it’s important to remember that Scorsese didn’t initially relate to boxing itself. In many ways, “Raging Bull” mirrors the style of selected films in “My Voyage to Italy,” most of which feature difficult narratives about flawed people trying to find some sense of inner peace.

So, films like “8 1/2” and “My Voyage to Italy” can (help) keep creatives grounded when things don’t go their way.

Vadim Rizov (@vrizov), Filmmaker Magazine

“Day for Night”

The answer to this question inevitably says more about the attitude of the respondent towards the filmmaking process than the quality of their choice; the standard answers, while boring, are all pretty excellent, just with wildly different perspectives. Do you think the making of a film is an invigorating collective effort that’s deeply pleasurable, madness and all? The answer is “Day For Night.” Conversely, do you believe the process of production is so draining and unpleasant that it’s fit only for alcoholics who oscillate between masochism and sadism? In that case, “Beware of a Holy Whore.” Are you somewhere in the middle, where filmmaking is a noble goal but production is so beset with office problems and on-set dysfunction that it’s hard to stay focused? Then it should be “Irma Vep.” Are you convinced that the best way to represent filmmaking is metaphorically? In that case, choose “Fitzgerraldo,” in which the protagonist’s quest to drag a steamship up a mountain. echoes the quest to do the same. As for me, I’ll go with another boring but solid answer: 1995’s “Living in Oblivion,” which seems to be less cited these days but captures the draining minutiae of low-budget production minute by minute better than anything I know of. (Honorary mention to shine a spotlight on the underknown: Wu Wenguang’s excellently titled 2005 documentary “Fuck Cinema,” a depressing but bleakly funny look at independent film in China at the time, which places a lot of things in perspective.)

Kyle Turner (@TyleKurner), Paste Magazine

“Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”

Actors count as part of the filmmaking process, yeah? I’d wager “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” as one of the best films about filmmaking and filmmakers. Its levels of sophistication seem almost foreign compared to much of the “Nightmare” franchise, but Craven is heavily invested in unraveling the kind of dream machine image that studios posit themselves as. Underneath, you have directors with writer’s block, crazed fans, and actors that still ultimately suffer the consequences of the so-called legacy. In an attempt to get her to come back for a new “Nightmare” movie, Craven has his lead, Heather Langenkamp (who played Nancy in the original “Nightmare”), confront her traumas and reconcile with the subtext of the first film, as Freddy comes to life into the “real world”. The film asks of its lead, Can you really shake a character completely? Arguably better than “Scream,” “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” refracts the cost of cult appreciation into a distorted, horrifying, self-reflexive image, all the while considering social implications of  horror cinema in the mainstream.

Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker), Harper’s Bazaar, IGN, Thrillist

“Ed Wood”

“Ed Wood.” It’s inspired by one of the most fascinating filmmakers of all time–one whose story still defies convention in almost every way. It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, consistently engrossing, and boasts an array of supporting characters that boldly underscore the film’s radicalism.

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker

“King Lear”

That’s an easy one: “King Lear,” about a certain Professor Pluggy, who’s pursuing research in the audiovisual field, and played by one Jean-Luc Godard—unless maybe it’s Godard’s “Contempt,” in which the filmmaker is Fritz Lang, or “Passion,” in which Jerzy Radziwilowicz plays a director making tableaux vivants of paintings in a studio when life is impinging on it from the outside, or “Scénario du film ‘Passion,'” in which Godard shows how he conceived the film; or Godard’s “Every Man for Himself,” in which Jacques Dutronc plays a filmmaker named Paul Godard and Nathalie Baye plays a filmmaker named Denise Rimbaud; unless it’s “Keep Your Right Up,” in which Godard plays a director known both as the Idiot and as the Prince; or “For Ever Mozart,” in which Vicky Messica plays Vicky Vitalis, an elderly filmmaker racing against time and money; or “In Praise of Love,” in which a young artist named Edgar (played by Bruno Putzulu) is trying to make a “project” that’s a film that’s not a film and Steven Spielberg is (not really) present off-camera to make a film about two elderly former French Resistance fighters who made the mistake of selling him rights to their life stories.

Of course there are other great ones, such as Agnès Varda’s “The Beaches of Agnès” (and “The Gleaners and I,” and “Lions Love”), William Greaves’s “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One,” Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close-Up,” Catherine Breillat’s “Sex Is Comedy,” Vincente Minnelli’s “Two Weeks in Another Town,” and Jim McBride’s “David Holzman’s Diary”—because the very concept is at the heart of cinematic modernity, which starts with “Citizen Kane,” a movie about an effort to make a newsreel documentary. But for Godard, the concept is virtually coextensive with his career and, above all, with the concept of his art, which is to pursue an answer by way of the cinema to the question “What is cinema?”

Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film), Freelance

“The Dirties”

By constructing fictionalized, an ultimately disturbed, versions of himself and his best friend for his debut feature “The Dirties,” Canadian director Matt Johnson procured a tonally ambivalent character study in which the making of a student film documents the plotting of a murderous revenge. Presented as a found footage drama adorned with morbid humor, the film follows Matt (Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams), a pair of teenage film buffs fed up with the savage bullying inflicted upon them at school. The Matt in the movie attempts to use a filmmaking class project as an artistic outlet, but when their teacher rejects its violent content, the novice auteur’s initial intentions turn into ideations to leave the safety of fantasy behind for the horror of real life consequences.

Both Matts, in front and behind the camera, only understand the world when guided by cinema, thus “The Dirties” becomes a self-reflective exercise in which a young helmer films himself playing another version of himself, who is also an aspiring director making a movie for class, and who is in turn being recorded for documenting purposes within the fictional narrative. The layers of entanglement in terms of analyzing the creative process are fascinating. References to gruesome classics abound, including a direct one to Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” also about a high school shooting. Johnson would carry this concept over to a larger venture with his sophomore effort, “Operation Avalanche,” in which he and Owen play 1960s versions of themselves, but now as rookie CIA agents tasked with making a film so convincing that can fool people into thinking mankind landed on the moon. Using footage from the making-of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in a convincing period piece, he once again blends artifice with factual information to revise history for our amusement.

Edward Douglas (@EDouglasWW), The Weekend Warrior

The Player

“The Player”

Fine Line Features/Photofest

I’m sure I’m not going to be the only one to pick Robert Altman’s “The Player” since it deals with the most realistic aspect of filmmaking — what’s going on behind the scenes with studio execs, casting, etc. Sure, it’s mainly a drama about a studio exec. who is accused of murder, but the way that Altman and screenwriter Michael Tolkin (adapting his own novel) poke fun at Hollywood and how it works makes it one of those unforgettable films. Personally, I still think it’s one of Altman’s best, up there with “Gosford Park” and I really need to see it again because it’s been a while.

Rafael Motamayor (@GeekWithAnAfro), Flickering Myth

“Singin’ in the Rain”

“Singin’ In The Rain.” It seems like every two weeks Netflix does something to prompt dozens of articles naming “the end of cinema as we know it”, but if you really want to see how cinema as people know it dies then you owe it to yourself to revisit “Singin’ In The Rain” (because if you have never seen it, shame on you). Beyond the extraordinary musical numbers and Debbie Reynolds’ dancing skills that rivaled Gene Kelly himself, this film shows the panic caused by “talkies”.

Ray Pride Movie City News (@raypride), Newcity


Even without subscribing to the bittersweet, maybe too indulgent notion that every movie is a film or documentary about its own making…

Three brutal pictures about the abrupt moment when mid-career filmmakers’ lives overtake their pitiable patterning: Jean-Luc Godard’s “Le mépris” (1963), Wim Wenders “State of Things,” (1983) Nicholas Ray’s “In A Lonely Place” (1950); acrid yet melancholy. They discover their perception of romance is an illusion, a burden. (Plus, Minnelli, Minnelli, Minnelli.)

On a more cheerful note: “F for Fake” (1977), a film about art forgeries forged into a film about film. (In real time.) Pretty much the whole Caveh Zahedi ball of wax, the best self-pest, less self-questioning than self-scratching, not limited to “I am a Sex Addict” and “I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore.” Catherine Breillat’s “Sex is Comedy” (2002): every gesture a fucking mess.

And two immmortal choices for the real, rueful thing, life, fiction, metafiction, heart, hurt, cinema: Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy. (1987-94). What does a filmmaker owe the world? Everything. Apply that, too, to “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival Today

“Sullivan’s Travels”

There have been some terrific films about the filmmaking process. On the documentary side, my favorites include “Man with a Movie Camera” (Dziga Vertov, 1929), “American Movie” (Chris Smith, 1999), “Lost in La Mancha” (Keith Fulton/Louis Pepe, 2002), “Side by Side” (Chris Kenneally, 2012) and “Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” (Stig Björkman, 2016). On the fictional side of things, I love “Sullivan’s Travels” (Preston Sturges, 1941), “Sunset Boulevard” (Billy Wilder, 1950), “The Bad and the Beautiful” (Vincente Minnelli, 1952), “Singin’ in the Rain” (Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly, 1952), “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (Alain Resnais, 1959), “Hollywood Shuffle” (Robert Townsend, 1987), “Barton Fink” (Ethan and Joel Coen, 1991), “Living in Oblivion” (Tom DiCillo, 1995), “Adaptation.” (Spike Jonze, 2002) and the criminally overlooked “Their Finest” (Lone Scherfig, 2017) (which I put among my Top 10 of last year). Perhaps the best of the best, however, is the 7-minute experimental short “Lemon” (Hollis Frampton, 1969), in which the titular fruit remains static as lights rotate around it, thereby revealing the essence of cinematic beauty (and trickery) in all its glory.

David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich), IndieWire



The Criterion Collection

Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close-Up” is the best film about anything.

Question: What is the best film currently playing in theaters?

Answer: “The Rider”

Subtitles vs. Dubbed: Critics Debate How They Prefer Their Foreign-Language TV

Surprise! There’s no consensus on how TV critics like to watch shows like “Dark,” “3%,” and “Babylon Berlin.”


Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: Do you prefer subtitles or dubbing on foreign-language TV shows? Why? Are there cases in which you’d make an exception?

(This is partially inspired by the report that Netflix defaults to dubbing because viewers are more likely to finish a series than if it defaulted to subtitles.)

Pilot Viruet (@pilotbacon), Freelance

Both, sort of! I usually go for dubbing when it’s available but I also always, always prefer subtitles on everything I watch, no matter the language, unless it’s a live event with terrible closed captioning. The dubbing preference is because I tend to do other things while watching television, whether it’s taking notes for a review or washing dishes, so even if I’m not looking at the screen at any given moment, I can still hear what’s happening. And my love for subtitles is mostly just a habit: I’ve always watched TV with subtitles because it makes it much easier for me to focus on what’s happening (and because I have tricky issues with the sounds of certain words/letters which is why I find it extremely annoying that screeners aren’t required to have them). I do sometimes make an exception with Spanish-language shows—because I’m Latinx myself — and challenge myself without dubbing, but even then it can get tricky.

Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx

In an ideal world, we’d only ever watch foreign films and TV shows with subtitles, which provides the original performances in their entirety, and the rest unmarred by dubbing that doesn’t match, even when the audio performers are good. But we live in a time where there’s a flood of content, where lots of the foreign shows we’re getting are the kind of intensely serialized, not always briskly paced, dramas that we already have tons of in English, and I’ve found that going back and forth between dubbed and subtitled versions is the easiest way to move through something like “Babylon Berlin” relatively quickly. When you watch a subtitled show, it’s the only thing you can do — even note-taking to a degree is more difficult, because you have to focus on reading the subtitles — where the dubbed versions offer a bit more freedom to either multi-task a bit or simply not sweat so much over the long expository/filler stretches in the middle. So I tend to toggle back and forth between the two language settings, which makes me feel like a philistine, but also makes the task feel far more manageable.

"Babylon Berlin"

“Babylon Berlin”


Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider

I’m someone who likes subtitles on English-language shows even as a native English speaker, so they certainly don’t bother me. Subtitles for all! I also think that subtitles give foreign series an important sense of context; it’s a good thing to hear and take in those languages and cadences, even in the background. It’s also the last thing that keeps viewers from drifting off to look at a phone, or wander into the kitchen to make a snack while the show plays — subtitles demand your attention.

There are certainly examples where dubbing can be successful, and I think that lies mostly with animated series, like “Cowboy Bebop’s” famously great English dub. But it can also go pretty terribly awry. Basically, don’t be afraid to read your TV, folks! You tend to get a lot more out of it when you do.

Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

Who on EARTH do you think you’re talking to? When it comes to animation, I accept at least some degree of conversation on the subject. After all, in that case you’re replacing the work of one group of craftsmen with another comparable group. But if it’s live action and you have a choice between subtitled or dubbed and you take dubbed, you deserve to be stripped naked, smeared in Nutella and left tied to a stake at the base of a hill of fire ants. And that’s my generous and kind opinion on this subject. This opinion had better be unanimous. It was bad enough that we weren’t unanimous on “Teddy Perkins” last week, but heaven help him if Eric Deggans says “dubbed.”

Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR

I’ve always been a subtitles guy, mostly because subtitles preserve the original rhythms of the scene. In watching shows like Netflix’s “Narcos” and the Chilean political thriller “Bala Loca,” for me, the subtitles eventually fade and I barely realize I’m reading. But dubbing, even when expertly done, pulls me out of scenes when the words don’t match the movement of the actors’ mouths. Also, I find I enjoy the feeling of intersecting with the culture that subtitles allow. And, in the case of Spanish-language shows, I can even try to practice some of my long-ago college classes while enjoying some of TV’s coolest programming. Win-win.


Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire

Subtitled! Please! Even though it requires so much more of our attention, the subtleties of the original language can’t really be underestimated, and subtitles are the best way to appreciate that.

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

C’est un excellent question. Pour moi, bien… oh wait. No subtitles on IndieWire! Well, this depends on how good the TV production actually is. Overall I prefer dubbing… if it is done well. I hate any kind of bottom screen scroll (that includes tune-ins or “coming up on adverts” you sneaky networks!) and trying to read films and TV while I am trying to soak in an actor’s performance. My exception to this rule was lifted for two very good series, “Les Revenants,” the original French-language version series of “The Returned” – which was superior, in my opinion. And the Danish political drama “Borgen,” which was also excellent.

Regarding Netflix’s decision… my opinion is many people are in relax mode when they are settled in and watching TV. Having to attend to “reading” the TV show or film while watching the action for a lot of people can be wearisome.

Can you imagine your gig is having to write and contextually translate the subtitles for “Twin Peaks” for a non-English speaking audience? Nightmare.

Tim Surette (@timsurette),

Subtitles all the way. I freak the fuck out when the audio on my TV isn’t synched with the picture; there’s no way I’m going to willingly experience that just because I’m too lazy to read. Plus, watching foreign shows in dubbed English takes away part of what is amazing in the industry right now, which is that the Golden Age of television isn’t just confined to America right now.

Louis Hoffman, "Dark"

Louis Hoffman, “Dark

Julia Terjung/Netflix

Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling),

I was offended when I pushed play on the first episode of the German-language series “Dark” and heard the English dubbing. When I watch a foreign show, I want to be able to watch it the way a native speaker from that country would. I want to immerse myself in the show completely, even if it means I have to spend my time reading (it probably helps that I also really enjoy reading). Language might not be important to everyone — I totally get that this is a personal preference — but to me, there’s something vital that is lost when a show is dubbed. The simple act of replacing dialogue with English erases a part of the original series, and I don’t want to silence the voices of the people depicted within a foreign show simply to make my life easier. Plus, I just can’t stand it when characters’ mouths don’t match up with what I’m hearing.

Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

I generally prefer subtitles, but one of the most entrancing film-going experiences of my life was seeing “Spirited Away” with the English-language dub, whose cast was assembled by Disney. It’s an already beautiful movie, and with the right actors chosen for the roles, I was able to just concentrate on the eye-popping visuals and not worry so much about having to read something every few split seconds. So I try not to be religious about it.

That said, I feel like it’s a different scenario when it comes to live-action compared to animation. In a live-action series, you really do want to concentrate on the actor’s WHOLE performance. I can’t imagine watching Sidse Babett Knudsen’s incredibly subtle work on the great Danish drama “Borgen”… then hearing the voice of, like, Dana Delany coming out of her mouth, much as I love Dana Delany. So while I can appreciate a good dub (especially for animation), I would generally rather watch something with subtitles, even if I have to look away every so often to absorb the text. I don’t think I miss THAT much of the performance in the process.



DR Fiktion

Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote

I feel bad about it, but: dubbing. In a perfect world, I’d be able to devote 100 percent of my attention on a television show when I’m watching it – and there are, maybe, three shows I have done that with over the past couple of years — but the fact is there’s no time. (You may have heard there’s a lot of TV right now.) Sadly, the odds are better I’ll be able to watch your show if I know I can dedicate even 85 percent of my attention to it vs. knowing I’ll have to keep my eyes on the screen the entire time.

Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby

Ugh, no dubbing. Subtitles forever! I will never understand people’s aversion to subtitles. Reading is not hard! Subtitles are efficient, helpful and add way more to the experience than dubbing does. I often watch English-language shows with subtitles. You can read a line that might not have been enunciated well or had bad ADR, you can judge all the words and names the closed captioners misspelled or marvel at the Hall of Fame captions they come up with. The only downside is they might block something you need to see on screen, but it’s not a huge deal to rewind. I suppose some people like dubbing so they can be free do other things while just listening to the show, but that means you’re not really paying attention in the first place. And no disrespect to voice actors, but they never truly capture the greatness or intricacies of the original performance via dubbing, and oftentimes might convey something else entirely — even worse when the dubbing is out of sync with what’s on screen. Watch — and read — the show the way it was meant to be seen.

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

I like my foreign language TV like I like my English-language TV: with subtitles, plus spoken word as a backup. Years ago, I learned to truly appreciate the benefits of subtitles. They really help hold your attention, especially for those times when it’s harder than usual to keep your mind from wandering. In the day-and-age of “too much TV” and shortened attention spans, it’s important to take advantage of any means necessary to trick yourself into being as immersed as possible with shows that deserve it.

It’s the ones that are on the fence between great and OK that need spoken word. Maybe you’re doing dishes or baking a soufflé and you need something in the background to enjoy, but it’s only getting half your attention. As a professional TV critic, I often have to stay up to date on TV this way, and I imagine obsessive fans do, as well. Heck, maybe that’s just your favorite way to spend your alone time: guilty pleasure TV + another activity. Then you need to be able to listen, since you can’t always be watching the screen.

This practice might make it more difficult to keep up with foreign language shows that don’t offer dubbing, so again I say, give us both! Subtitles are always better, under ideal circumstances, but you never know when dubbed voices will come in handy.

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Killing Eve” (four votes)

Other contenders: “The Americans” (three votes), “Atlanta,” “Barry,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Howards End,” “Legion,” “Trust” (one vote each)

*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.

The Best Monster Movies to Watch Instead of ‘Rampage’ — IndieWire Critics Survey

“Rampage” may be the highest-rated video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but it feels like puny stuff compared to these epic monster movies.

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)

Last weekend saw the release of “Rampage,” which may be the highest-rated video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but probably won’t go down in history as the king of monster movies.

This week’s question: What monster movie should people watch instead of “Rampage?”

Matt Zoller Seitz (@MattZollerSeitz),


The 2014 “Godzilla,” directed by Gareth Edwards. Try to watch it on the biggest screen you can find, in a dark room. It’s the most aesthetically daring monster movie, and one of the most daring big budget SF films, released in the last decade, owing as much to “Close Encounters” as it does to anything Toho made. I was shocked by how much money it made. It was basically a Terrence Malick Godzilla movie, right down to the cutaways to other animals in the ecosystem and that final shot, which was reminiscent of “The Thin Red Line.”

David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich), IndieWire


Kimberley French

I will go to my grave defending (and being mocked for defending) Gareth Edwards’ 2014 “Godzilla,” a peerlessly graceful monster movie about humanity’s ultimate insignificance. Call it “post-human,” call it prescient, call it whatever the hell you want, but it only gets getter as the Americanization of the genre gets worse.

Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker), Freelance for Harper’s Bazaar, IGN, /Film

“Jurassic Park”

“Jurassic Park.” One of the many things that’s so great about this movie is that it introduces these gargantuan creatures as empathetic beings that should be protected. And because of the compassion Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) has for them, how she marvels at their mere existence, we come to see these otherwise frightening dinosaurs through her sensitive lens. But as the movie progresses, some begin to retaliate and embody the very traits that terrified us in the first place. It is one of the precious moments in film when the giant monster actually gets a really interesting arc that is as conflicting as it is horrifying.

Stephen Whitty (@StephenWhitty), Freelance


The first thoughts that came to mind were Joon-ho Bong’s “The Host” and “Okja,” but I suspect they’re the same titles a lot of people are thinking of right now. (And if not, why not?) So I’ll go a little further afield and suggest fans of big monsters — particularly the city-stomping kaiju variety — check out the original, non-export cut of “Godzilla” from 1954. Still called “Gojira” then (and definitely not featuring cutaways to a curious Raymond Burr) it’s surprisingly serious, and a strong metaphor for the horrors of invasion, Hiroshima and the arms race. The always invaluable Rialto Pictures re-released a restoration, with English subtitles, theatrically in 2004 and 2014; it’s available on disc from Criterion as well.

Joshua Rothkopf (@joshrothkopf), Time Out New York

“The Mist”

Can’t pass up an opportunity to hype for my beloved “The Mist” with its downbeat ending—the darkest Hollywood ever pushed on an audience. (Seriously: Stephen King read Frank Darabont’s revised ending to his original novella and called it “such a jolt—wham! It’s frightening.”) Yes, you’ve got giant monsters: huge scuttling spiders with razor-wire webs, vicious scorpion thingies, praying mantises. It’s awful. And yet, Marcia Gay Harden might be the scariest of them all. On the plus side, you’ve got Toby Jones, Action Hero.

Rafael Motamayor (@GeekWithAnAfro), Flickering Myth


A gorilla fighting a giant crocodile and a flying wolf isn’t enough for you? How about a mature film about addiction and toxic friends that also features giant monsters? Nacho Vigalondo plays with the kaiju-genre in “Colossal” and delivers a genre-mashup that has a lot to say about alcoholism, self-destructive behaviour and empathy, while also featuring a monster and a robot destroying Seoul, South Korea. Plus, Anne Hathaway shot drunken fight scenes while pregnant, can The Rock do the same?

Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko), Pajiba/Riot Material

Anne Hathaway


Brightlight Pictures

“Colossal.” Nacho Vigalondo’s amazing monster movie got a lot of buzz out the festival circuit for being the “Anne Hathaway / kaiju” movie. Then somehow, after its release, the talk of it died off with a whimper. In it, a giant, mysterious beast appears in Seoul, bringing senseless destruction to the city. Then a reckless drunk (Hathaway) half-way around the world realizes how this creature connects to her. The monster becomes a metaphor for the consequences of our actions made through selfishness in various forms. First, it’s tied to the heroine’s alcoholism. Then in a fascinating second-act, it smoothly shifts focus, revealing the true monster of the movie, and a clever exploration of gender politics.

I don’t want to say more, because the surprises of the film are one of its richest assets, among many including sharply funny performances from Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, and Tim Blake Nelson. But this is an absolutely fantastic, imaginative, and hilarious movie that deserved more attention.

It’s now on Hulu. So, check it out yourself to see why it was my favorite film of 2017. 

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker



Cate Cameron

Movie monsters have gotten worse as they’ve gotten fancier; the cheesy splendors of the spate of low-budget nineteen-fifties monster-apocalypses are in keeping with the pulp-loopiness of the plots. The ease of destruction by means of CGI ramps up the stakes for overwhelming yet seamlessly plausible effects while, at the same time, the naturalistic earnestness with which movies of mass destruction are both received and made strips out even the hectic and operatic glories of earlier threadbare catastrophes. But the most perceptively ironic and inventively gleeful of recent monster rampages is Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal,” starring Anne Hathaway, in which the very subject is the monstrosity implicit in daily life (and which also builds the discovery of effects and the power of image-transmission into the story).

Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival Today 

“King Kong”

I hate to be boring and traditional, but sticking strictly to the genre of giant world-destroying monsters, I’d have to go with both “King Kong” (Merian Cooper, 1933) and “Godzilla” (Ishirô Honda, 1954), both of which were extremely influential for their respective eras, and remain both artistically engaging and narratively entertaining to this day. The former was a pioneer in the craft and technology of stop-motion animation, with lead animator Willis O’Brien leading the way in the aesthetics of creature combat. I highly recommend finding the 2005 “RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World” (available on the 2005 DVD and Blu-ray re-release of the original “King Kong”), which features, among other things, director Peter Jackson and his team, as research for their own 2005 “King Kong,” recreating a lost sequence from the first movie. Watching them work with O’Brien’s techniques offers a wonderful lesson in why the 1933 film remains such a touchstone.

As for more modern films, I’d go with “The Host” (Bong Joon-ho, 2006), “Cloverfield” (Matt Reeves, 2008), and “Monsters” (Gareth Edwards, 2010). The last one, especially – far superior to the same director’s inert 2014 “Godzilla” – is a terrific example of innovative low-budget filmmaking. Traveling through Central America with a tiny crew, Edwards prioritized story and careful capture of location sound to later emphasize character and space, supplemented by his own brilliant use of post-production effects. The last sequence of two enormous alien monsters gently dancing against a nighttime sky as actor Scoot McNairy watches, mesmerized, is a thing of great cinematic beauty.

Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film), Freelance

Michalina Olszanska in The Lure

“The Lure”

Concealing their sharp fangs and murderous appetite, the two mermaids in Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s mesmerizing horror musical “The Lure” are monsters with complex desires, but still driven by gruesome, man-eating motivations. Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszańska) are not stomping on cities when their reach Polish shores in the 1980s, but instead gain the trust of their potential victims, many of whom want to exploit them as novelties, before deciding whether to feed on them or not. Smoczyńska subverted the Hans Christian Andersen approach to the mythological figure of the mermaid, and looked back to the ancient and much more monstrous tales of sirens who would prey on gullible men through songs. It’s only fitting that songs are also integral part of this utterly unique exploration of a creature whose dangerous qualities had been cleaned up by Disney in the collective consciousness. Also, the director went to great lengths to use practical effects -particularly for the massive mermaid tails the protagonists wear on screen -like many monster-loving directors before her have done.

Question: What is the best film currently playing in theaters?

Answer: “You Were Never Really Here”

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Which Beloved Shows Have Overstayed Their Welcome? – IndieWire Critics Survey

For the love of all that’s holy and the 500-plus scripted shows on TV, just die already.


Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: What’s a show you enjoy (or have enjoyed more in the past) that has had a good run, but it’s high time it wrapped up and ended?

(This is inspired by the adorable “New Girl,” which kicks off its final season on Tuesday this week.)

Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

Someone please stick a screwdriver into the head of “The Walking Dead.” It’s done everything it needs to do and has been excellent at most of it. But my god, enough. And this is coming from someone who watched “Desperate Housewives,” “Glee,” “Teen Wolf,” and “Pretty Little Liars” all the way to their finales.

As admirable as Rick’s crusade to keep hope alive amid all of the sweatiness, no one has come up with an antidote, nobody has been able to create a community that’s NOT riddled with “man’s own evil” and we have pretty much run out of characters worth rooting for except for maybe the walkers who can put us out of this misery. AMC needs to stop trying to be Showtime and running their hit way past its expiration date (see: “Homeland,” “Shameless,” “Weeds,” and “Dexter”). The end of mankind is nigh. Let’s let it go with some dignity.


Rose McIver, “iZombie”

The CW

Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

A lot of the answers here are pretty obvious and easy and I’m not going to say something awful like “Criminal Minds” because it was never good to begin with, but man it’s time for that show to end. I’m also going to try to resist the gag answer, which is probably that “Roseanne” should probably wrap it up and end. Real answers? “New Girl” probably overstayed its welcome by a season, but I’m OK with letting them sign off on their own terms. “Modern Family,” a show that was innovative and progressive when it premiered, is into its fifth or sixth season of being stale and inconsistent and probably its second or third season of being straight-up unwatchable and yet I continue to watch. “The Flash” needs to get back in touch with its early charm and reset its tone, but “Arrow” has probably lived out its usefulness at this point. “The Amazing Race” had probably exceeded its lifespan by five seasons, but it had a real comeback this past season, and now I’m confused. “The Walking Dead” is a soulless mess of characters I don’t care about and it should be put out to pasture, but I understand why AMC doesn’t care what I think on this subject. “Designated Survivor” may have been good for five minutes, but at this point ABC is only keeping it around to see if it can break some sort of record for “most showrunners cycled through.” I’ve been trying to write until I come up with a “cool” or “creative” answer, but I can’t, so let’s go with two answers, one that will get me in trouble and one that won’t: “iZombie” is a show I had a great amount of affection for, and the cast has a great chemistry you can’t force, but the attempts to shift and shake up the premise haven’t made the show better, and at this point I’m watching for the charm of Rose McIver and ignoring almost everything else. Sorry. And then “Homeland”? You’ve had a good run. Stop now before Carrie becomes a bipolar lumberjack.

Claire Danes, "Homeland"

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Antony Platt/SHOWTIME

Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx

If I’m not picking “New Girl,” which inspired this question and has definitely reached the end of its creative lifespan, I’m not sure I have a great answer among current series. Peak TV means I no longer feel compelled to stick with shows I once loved but am now bored by (“Dexter”), or ones I’ve grown to outright dislike (“How I Met Your Mother”). If I lose patience with a show these days, it’s incredibly easy to just drop it and move onto one of the six dozen others I’ve been meaning to get to (or to watch more “ER” repeats). So I can’t speak to whether “Homeland” or “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Survivor” or some other show I was once addicted to but haven’t watched in years really needs to be put out to pasture, because in nearly every case, I already made that choice for myself.

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

“Ray Donovan.” Just loved the series and felt after a great Season 4 the story had exhausted itself. And the death of Paula Malcomson’s Abby opening Season 5 just never sat well with me in the arc of the story. I also felt the series lost a bit of its magic, and squandered Katherine Moennig’s Lena and Steven Bauer’s Avi to a degree by that point as well.

But what a run it has had thus far, and the guest role casting of Ian McShane, Stacey Keach, Hank Azaria, Leland Orser, Katie Holmes, Ann-Margret, and Sherilyn Fenn over the seasons were just superb. The core cast too, Eddie Marsan broke hearts, Liev Schreiber was brilliant, and Jon Voight, probably some of the best work he has ever done and he’s won an Oscar! Hard question to answer.

THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the "Rm9sbG93ZXJz" episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Feb. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Shane Harvey/FOX

Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire

I’ll keep this simple: I loved writing about “The X-Files” in 2018. But, much like Gillian Anderson, after that finale, I’m good.

[Editor’s Note: It should be noted that “The X-Files” isn’t currently on the air, nor does it have plans to return at this time. That said, with a movie and two revivals that have followed up the original series’ cancellation, it’s clear that the show shall always exist in a paradoxical realm of life/death shared with Schrödinger’s cat.]

Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote

This feels like cheating – because most of my long-running shows have gone to TV heaven—- but the first thing that pops to mind is “Gotham.” It’s not that I necessarily *want* it to end, but it’s a show that’s building to such a specific end-point. When it ends, I want the powers that be to know it is ending and conclude the story on their terms. (My worry is they’ll find out after the series has wrapped that it’s not coming back, especially with all the uncertainty at Fox right now. I’d really like to avoid that.)




Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider

There’s a reason why so few series in their later seasons end up on year-end lists, particularly when it comes to dramas. Some rare shows continue to get better and better (like “The Americans”), while others, like “Homeland,” reboot the plot often enough to keep viewers interested in where things will go next. But mostly, series eventually spiral too far out from where they started, or fall prey to the same cycle of problems over and over again. The CW superhero series almost all belong in that last camp (minus the crazy glory of “Legends of Tomorrow”), thanks in large part to 22 episodes a year and typically only one major villain to focus on, leaving the stories feeling stagnant.

“Arrow,” though – the one that started them all – has gotten stuck in a particularly bad rut (maybe not as bad as Seasons 3 and 4, but certainly close). The show bounced back to form in Season 5, which saw it return to its roots in a number of ways and introduce an extremely effective villain. And with the wrapping up of its island-set flashbacks and even returning to the island for its final Season 5 episodes, it had all the makings of a series finale. The explosion that left the fate of most of the cast in question at the close of Season 5 would have been a wonderfully haunting way to leave the series, likely becoming legendary for its boldness. But if it did have to come back after that (because the Arrowverse is so interconnected now), the nihilist in me wanted the explosion at the end of the finale to act as a reboot or a reset, one where (maybe after mixing in some timey-wimey “Flashpoint” stuff) could have let “Arrow” really becoming something fresh. Instead, it’s back to business as usual.



The CW

Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

This feels like a bad answer, because I believe all involved have stated they want a sixth and final season to wrap things up, but when watching the screeners HBO sent out for the fifth season of “Silicon Valley,” I found myself laughing and smiling a fair amount, but I also found myself wanting the series to find a way to push toward some sort of ending. In theory, letting the guys of Pied Piper find some success should open up rich new veins of creativity in the series; in practice, it’s mostly more jokes about Richard throwing up and “ironically” racist gags about Jian Yang. There’s still a ton to love in the series, especially when it comes to the rivalry between Dinesh and Gilfoyle, or Zach Woods’s always impeccable work as Jared. But there’s probably no better indictment of the show’s general struggle to evolve than the fact that Josh Brener (Bighead!) is still a regular cast member, even though he doesn’t appear in the first three episodes. In theory, the first season post-Erlich should have provided a rich creative opportunity. In practice, it’s been good but stagnant, which is always a good sign that it’s time to head for the exits.

Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling),

The correct answer is probably “Supernatural”; the CW series, which was just renewed for Season 14, has been recycling the same story for years. But I find myself hesitating in the wake of an episode like “Scoobynatural.” The animated Scooby-Doo crossover reminded me just how much I enjoy “Supernatural’s” brief interludes of wild creativity. And honestly, the show’s ongoing existence isn’t hurting anyone. It’s kind of comforting to know the Winchesters are always there when I’m ready to jump back into Baby for another ride. It’s one of the few constants in my life now. But is it worth it if the show’s crazy imaginative episodes happen with less frequency than they once did? Honestly, I don’t know, and that is why my real answer to this question is “Suits.” I don’t even like Mike Ross, but I know that “Suits” without Mike Ross is unbalanced. The show hasn’t been must-see TV for me for a while, but the central bromance at its core kept me from writing it off completely. Knowing that relationship will soon be gone and that the show literally has two storylines it just repeats every year – the firm is in trouble/Donna and Harvey can’t be together for Reasons A, B, and C – means it’s time for me to just let this one go. Bye, “Suits.”

Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle, "Suits"

Patrick J. Adams and Meghan Markle, “Suits”

Nigel Parry/USA Network

Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby

Most of Showtime can fall under this since they clearly still haven’t learned from “Dexter” Season 8. But I’ll go with one of my go-to laundry-folding show, “Suits.” Look, “Suits” isn’t towering TV, but the first couple years was fun, addictive with all the movie references I needed to half-chuckle. But it also loves recycling the same story – the firm is in danger! What ever will they do?! — and with Patrick J. Adams — the human embodiment of the whole premise – and royalty-to-be Meghan Markle leaving, Season 7 was the perfect time to hang it up (pun fully intended). Meghan Markle gave you an out! Take it! There is no reason to continue without the central couple intact — no, not Mike and Rachel, but Harvey and Mike — which is the main reason people like the show in the first place. And now we’re stuck with an eighth season and a “Doubt” reunion no one asked for.

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

After seeing just how good Sandra Oh is on “Killing Eve,” I’m tempted to say it’s time for “Grey’s Anatomy” to end and let its talented ensemble discover new opportunities… but then again, many have already made their way off the long-running ABC series, one way or another. “The Affair” is the kind of show that I think would’ve benefitted greatly from a shorter overall lifespan, but I gave up before Season 3, so it’s hard for me to say it’s out of juice so much as it made some really questionable choices. Then there are a number of shows that are ending, some at the right moment (“The Americans”) and others a few years past the expiration date (“House of Cards”). “New Girl” definitely needs to end, if only to put a stop to the exhausting Nick and Jess saga, but since that’s the impetus for the question (and thus too easy of an answer), I’ll push for “American Horror Story.” Barring a creative renaissance, Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking horror show is on its last legs and has been for a few seasons. Even when the show has tried to do something bold and different — like with the mysterious “Roanoke” and the politically charged “Cult” — they haven’t held together well, and “Hotel” was just plain awful. Its structure means hope springs eternal, so it’s hard to ever really write it off, but I think it’s clear by now that horror fans deserve better.

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Atlanta” (five votes)

Other contenders: “Killing Eve” and “Legion” (two votes each), “Jane the Virgin” and “Nailed It!” (one vote each)

*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.

The Best Movie Jump-Scares of All Time — IndieWire Critics Survey

“A Quiet Place” cleverly weaponizes one of the horror genre’s favorite tricks, but its jolts aren’t nearly as nerve-fraying as these ones.

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)

Last weekend saw the release of “A Quiet Place,” the premise of which is a fiendishly clever mechanism for celebrating the time-honored art of the jump-scare. Some of us love them, some of us don’t, but there’s no denying that they get the job done.

In that light, we ask: What’s the greatest jump-scare of them all?

Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko), Pajiba / Riot Material


“Jaws.” There’s no jump scare as thrilling and iconic as when the shark pops out of the water while Brody is grousing and shoveling chum. Spielberg abandons that chilling theme that played as warning that the beast was coming. He breaks the contract with the audience that they will be warned. And it takes the terror of Jaws to the next level, sold by Roy Scheider’s shocked expression, not even a scream. It’s a scene that plays on complacency and visuals alone. And no matter how many times I’ve seen it, it still makes me jump.

Siddhant Adlakha (@SidizenKane), Freelance for The Village Voice, Slash Film

“The Fellowship of the Ring”

Show me someone who says anything other than Bilbo Baggins lunging at Frodo with those Devil eyes in “The Fellowship of the Ring” and I’ll show you a filthy, lying Hobbitses. Let’s see Jeff Bezos try and top that with his $1 billion dollar “Lord of the Rings” series shot with Amazon drones. “Guhhh I provide free shipping and launched a newspaper into space or something,” yeah, well, a kindly Ian Holm let the deep wounds of his trauma momentarily consume him to the point of of almost harming his nephew. What have you ever done that was that nuanced, Jeff? Pretty ironic that the wealthiest man in the world (Forbes, March 6th 2018) is about to make such a POOR decision by having a Tolkien series sans Holm revealing the greed and jealousy lurking within all our souls in a mere 0.4 seconds of screen time. All the cashier-less Amazon stores in the world couldn’t sell me on the true cost of carrying the One Ring the way Bilbo’s transformation and immediate regret did. Jeff Bezos retire bitch.

Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic), Film School Rejects, Nonfics


Two jump scares come to mind that are relevant to “A Quiet Place,” actually. And they both have very different effects on the characters, which I find interesting. The first is when Alan Arkin jumps out from the darkness in “Wait Until Dark.” The audience gets the scare a second before Audrey Hepburn does, because of her blindness. But then he grabs her leg and shares our screams. As far as the fear of having limited senses goes, the moment is right there with Millicent Simmonds’ deaf character in “A Quiet Place” being suddenly stalked by a creature she can’t hear and doesn’t realize is behind her. The other movie is in “Signs,” M. Night Shyamalan’s similarly set, similarly small-scope alien invasion thriller. When Joaquin Phoenix is watching a clip on TV and the alien first walks into view, we jump and he jumps at the same time. That identification with the character makes us even more aware of what’s just happened to us directorial. Both instances were very effective in the theater as a shared experience with there rest of the audience (so I hear with “Wait Until Dark,” but I did experience that with “Signs”) as well as the people on screen.

Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker), Harper’s Bazaar, IGN, /Film

“The Ring”

While it’s certainly not the only great one, “The Ring” jumps immediately to my mind. I just remember watching the movie for the first time the year it was released and the scene when Samara crawls out of the TV screen. It was everything about that moment in the movie. We finally see more than the relatively harmless well scene we’d seen several times before in the movie, so just like Noah (Martin Henderson) we’re watching the screen intently to find out more about what happened to Samara. As she crawls closer and closer to the screen, never was I thinking that she was going to actually come out of it and into Noah’s living–essentially crossing the boundary between horror footage and reality. I think I was shocked into silence at that moment. It remains an utterly crazy yet effective sequence.

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker


From the start of my movie days, I’ve preferred jump cuts to jump scares, which are generally easy tricks underlined by a blunt music blast. (Haydn’s “Surprise” symphony got the jump on them all, in 1792.) But the first one that made any impression on me, at at impressionable age, is the climactic bathtub scene near the end of Clouzot’s “Diabolique”; to that point, I found the film dull, but I’ve never forgotten that jolt, or the second shock in quick succession that sustains the jump as if holding its breath in mid-air.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough), Vague Visages


In my opinion, a truly effective jump scare should be able to pass through all five levels of inception. Meaning, the screaming Nana in M. Night Shymalan’s “The Visit” (2015) shook me up (much like the jump scares in classic horror films), but — during a first viewing – she didn’t have the same effect as the Sloth victim in David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995). That jump scare still gets to me; I’m like Dom Cobb waking up on the beach, confronted by an image that permanently lives within my subconscious. It’s all about the narrative context.

Back in ’95, “Se7en” instilled a real-life sense of cinematic horror that I hadn’t previously experienced as a naive 15-year-old kid from small town Minnesota. When detectives David Mills and William Somerset approach the “Sloth” crime scene, one can anticipate something gruesome. Furthermore, the dark visual aesthetic strengthens the overall mood. But the inherent horror is the “WHY?” — what’s this all about? It’s a slow burn as the pieces come together… and then the skeletal victim comes to life, leaving one to process the visual, along with the backstory.

Joshua Rothkopf (@joshrothkopf), Time Out New York

“Mulholland Drive”

Maybe they’re shameless, but a well-deployed jump-scare requires timing and craft. I respect filmmakers who can pull them off. It’s part of what makes horror a stylish genre—not for those who simply want to plunk down the camera and roll. My favorite comes in “Mulholland Drive” (yes, David Lynch isn’t above jump-scares): It’s the moment when we see the monster behind the diner. (This isn’t a “hobo” and I refuse to call it that.) Two technical elements make the instant especially effective. First, Lynch’s droning sound design creates a carpet of unease long before we’re shocked: echoey footfalls, smeary orchestral strings, that “whooshing” noise Lynch must have a bottomless supply of. Second, when we cut back to the alley (did we actually just see that?), you notice a hint of the creature sliding away. Ruinous.

David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich), IndieWire


As pretentious as my answer might sound, the truth of the matter is that the individual “jump-scares” that tend to stick with me are the ones that aren’t in traditional horror films (where the jolts have a way of blurring together). For me, the two jump-scares that gave me the biggest fright came from very unexpected places. The first comes from the last shot of Abbas Kiarostami’s “Like Someone in Love,” the late auteur — who was always happier to put an audience to sleep than he was to shake them awake — ending his final narrative feature by shattering a glass window. The second one announces the opening shot of Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” Michael Haneke’s fiercely anti-sentimental love story beginning with the BANG of a police team bursting into a musty Paris apartment that hides a morbid surprise.

Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival Today


I am neither a horror aficionado (nor particular fan) nor lover of the jump-scare, though like any cinematic device, it can work if used in moderation and in the right place. I happen to be one of the few film critics (3%, according to Rotten Tomatoes, a percentage I am proud to have contributed to!) who did not much like “A Quiet Place,” either, though I enjoyed much of Krasinski’s direction (it’s the script I found profoundly wanting). I did not, however, enjoy the directors trite use of jump-scares. And there’s the rub: when you sense the obviousness of the manipulation (of anything, really), it makes it a lot less fun. Bah, humbug.

So, take that as you will as I offer up the following as the best jump-scare of all time. My absolute favorite comes in Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975), when we are under water with Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) as he is looking for signs of the killer great white, at night, along the hull of what appears to be an abandoned boat. We keep expecting the shark, itself, to show up, so when, instead, the severed head of the boat’s owner pops into the gaping hole in the hull, it comes as a complete shocker, terrifying … but also kind of funny (as amusing as human death can be, anyway). We scream, but then laugh with relief, because it was a true surprise (the best kind of jump-scare) and … not the shark. Chalk one up for Spielberg and his terrific editor, Verna Fields (who won an Oscar for her work here).

Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film), Freelance

“It Follows”

The Tall Man Through the Door in “It Follows.”

Maligned because they are often overused and cued in by overbearing musical scores, jump-scares are the bread and butter of plenty of horror films. In fact, many of these movies exist solely to house a series of jump-scares forcefully written into the plot, and most of them are included in the trailer. However, when a jump-scare is executed with an imaginative and inconspicuous approach, it can become the highlight of a film that will have audiences reeling long after the piece is over. One of the greatest examples in recent memory of an ingeniously terrifying jump-scare is in David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows.”  When Jay (Maika Monroe) and her friends are in her room in a state of panic, there is a knock at the door. Reluctantly, after hearing their friend’s voice on the other side, they decide to open it, out of nowhere a horrific tall man with empty black eyes walks through the door making the protagonist (and the audience) scream. Mitchell’s fantastic “It Follows” has several unexpected and highly effective jump-scares like those during a beach sequence or every time one of the otherworldly entities appears. He manages to fit the trope into an inventive concept. We’ve come expect jump-scares and have become almost desensitized to them, but when a director turns them on their head with a clever set up, they work.

Stephen Whitty (@Stephen Whitty), Freelance

“Phantasm II”

I’m not a huge fan of jump scares, which strike me as about as creative as the director suddenly jumping up behind me in the theater and shouting “Boo!” (Actually, I might prefer that. It sounds very William Castle-y.) Certainly they have their place, but it’s been a long road down from Val  Lewton’s “bus” in “Cat People” to the endless parade of slammed medicine-cabinet and refrigerator doors, revealing a menace on the other side. Or the obligatory sudden shocks at the end of long, protracted walks through the spooky house/abandoned factory/empty building (in which the editing has gotten so predictable you can practically count the beats). That said, they occasionally do work — best, I think, when they have a certain mocking self-awareness. Like the end of “Phantasm II,” which seems to wrapping things up with the comforting assertion “It’s just a dream…” Until the Tall Man appears with a sudden, snarled “No… it’s not!”

Edward Douglas (@EDouglasWW), The Tracking Board

“The Orphanage”

I don’t want to spoil it, because I feel that there are people still discovering Juan Bayona’s “The Orphanage” and maybe even more will after seeing “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” It’s a great little Spanish ghost story that’s going on at a quiet but eerie clip, and then something happens out in the real world that isn’t necessarily scary. But as you’re watching this real-world event, Bayona throws in an unexpected jump scare, and I remember watching this, I think at the Park Avenue Screening Room, and when that happened, I literally exclaimed “Holy Shit!” very loudly, to the point where I looked around me to see if anyone noticed because this was a press screening filled with mostly quiet critics.

Jordan Hoffman (@JHoffman), Freelance for The Guardian, Vanity Fair

“Drag Me to Hell”

There’s a nifty moment in “Drag Me To Hell,” in the parking garage, where the camera slowly pans back to the car to reveal that the creepy old lady is in the back seat. It is very effective because there is no pinpointed jump. She is just simply there. When the jump happens is entirely dependent on when YOU realize that something scary is happening.  I saw the movie is packed theaters twice and the shouts (“oh shit!”s to be more precise) happened at different times.

Another weird one is “The Dreamlife of Angels” (seriously) which I saw on opening night at the old Quad. One main character sees something horrible and yelps but does it in such a real way that the audience yelps with her before we even see what she sees. Once we see it, we yelp again! (Maybe I just went to that with a jittery crowd.)

Also: “Jaws,” naturally. Saw that at the Ziegfeld, packed house, and the place went bonkers. Good times!

Question: What is the best film currently playing in theaters?

Answer: “A Quiet Place”

Critics Reveal the Hit Shows They Underestimated – IndieWire Survey

Although some critics like the “Roseanne” revival, most were blindsided by its mondo ratings. Here are other shows that surprised critics.


Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: What is the most surprising TV show hit of a show that you didn’t think would do well?

(This is inspired in part by the “Roseanne” revival but is not confined to just ratings success. Basically, you expected something to do poorly or at best, just OK, but instead viewers went nuts or it became part of the pop culture conversation.)

Tim Surette (@timsurette),

As soon as I saw Shaun’s mental diagrams pop up in the pilot episode of “The Good Doctor,” I thought it would be laughed into a quick cancellation and never spoken of again. Well, I was a dummy. I still don’t know why it’s so popular, or why it works with audiences but say “The Resident” doesn’t (people would rather watch nice doctors, I guess?), but its success won’t keep me from my annual thinking that this is the year that procedurals are done. I’m also baffled about why “This Is Us” does so well since it is exactly what I would write up if I wanted to create my own slow oatmealization of my brain via emotional manipulation. I guess this is why I am not a network executive.

Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby

Since I watched my, like, ninth episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” ever last week just for Scott Speedman (how great that Ben Covington did indeed become a doctor!), I have to go with that. “Grey’s” has never been my cup of tea, partially because “ER” is my ride or die. (“ER,” predicted to crumble against “Chicago Hope,” is another option here.) I remember being bombarded with ads for “Grey’s” during “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” way back in March 2005, and I more or less expected another serviceable midseason replacement that might last a couple of years. Nothing special, you know? I was not completely shocked that “Grey’s” became a hit and I totally get why people immediately latched onto it — its soapiness, romantic permutations and McVernacular were a breath of fresh air just as “ER,” while still good, was getting long in the tooth — but I doubt anyone foresaw the 14-seasons-and-counting cultural phenomenon it’d become. Its peak second season was appointment television in my dorm and I was forced to watch the finale with all the girls on my floor, which was honestly one of the longest nights of my life. I used to be incredulous/in denial that “Grey’s” could surpass “ER” as prime time’s longest-running medical drama, but I made peace with the inevitable long ago. I respect “Grey’s” endurance — through cast turnover, behind-the-scenes drama, changing viewing habits, and ridiculous, nonsensical storylines — and it’s going to outlive us all at this rate… well, maybe not “Supernatural.” “ER” is still the better show though.

Scott Speedman and Ellen Pompeo, "Grey's Anatomy"

Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter

“ALF.” Nah. That probably doesn’t count, both because it’s before my time, pundit-wise, and who wouldn’t have predicted great things for that adorable cat-muncher! This is a tough one. And a broad one. Generally I can make sense of what succeeds, which isn’t the same as being able to predict stuff accurately all the time. Of course I’m surprised by EXACTLY how big the “Roseanne” premiere was and anybody who says they predicted those exact numbers is a liar. “The Good Doctor” felt like a pretty disposable medical procedural to me, toplined by a very fine actor coming off of a cable show that was NOT a hit. But look at it! It’s big-time! I can’t say I’m surprised that “Criminal Minds” was a hit in the first place, but after a decade, I’m amazed there’s any audience at all for repetitive woman-in-peril unsub-porn. But there it is! The same is kinda true of a “Grey’s Anatomy” or a “Survivor,” shows that get “That show is still on?!?!” tweets if you mention them on Twitter, but are FAR larger, even in their aged years, than dozens of supposedly “cool” shows.

You wanna know what TRULY surprises me? Shows that build. Because the “Cheers” effect is such a unicorn. We talk about it ALL the time, but shows that actually grow are so darned rare in today’s TV landscape. I suspect if you looked at the overall body of statistics, 80 percent of shows probably have their biggest audience in Week 1 and then there’s probably another 15 percent that get a higher rated episode thanks to a trick of lead-in or guest star or something. So when a show is like a “Scandal” or an “Empire” or a “This Is Us” start off solidly and build an audience, even if they subsequently fall off a cliff, that impresses me. Along those lines, I guess I was REALLY surprised when “Breaking Bad” went from niche-y critical favorite that only was discussed by my circle of friends to being a huge popular culture thing. I know the Netflix effect and all of that, but there are a TON of shows that have had their back catalogues on Netflix and haven’t suddenly blown up. But that one blew up and it blew up overnight. So… Let’s say that’s my answer. “Breaking Bad.”

"Breaking Bad"

“Breaking Bad”

Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire

I confess I was quite emotionally struck by the pilot for “This Is Us,” but my reaction when watching it, months before it premiered on NBC, was “this isn’t a TV show.” Like, the actors were great! I cried a lot! I was even pretty down with the twist! But I didn’t see how it would work as an ongoing series, coming up with new stories every week… needless to say I was wrong about that. That said, while the show is still cooking along after two seasons, I do wonder how much of a game plan there is for beyond Season 3. (Fingers crossed for a scene set in the future where Sterling K. Brown gets a jetpack.)

Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote

Oh, “This is Us”…you puzzling creature. Yes, there have been bigger hits and more undeserving hits—and, of course, bombs that still break my heart—but I still laugh a bit when I think of *how* big this show is. When we saw the ambitious pilot, it felt like “Parenthood” 2.0, with a timeline twist that would drive many network television viewers away. Instead, people jumped on the show, embracing its heart, but also diving deep into the “how did Jack die?” mystery until its post-Super Bowl conclusion. (One could argue leaning into that mystery was manipulative, but clearly many viewers responded.) But hey, almost any show that reminds people that network television is still kicking is ultimately a good thing.

Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, "This Is Us"

Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling),

I could say “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a show many people underestimated but went on to become one of the greatest, most iconic TV shows of all time. I could also probably say “Breaking Bad,” a show that started small but eventually took over the entire world. But I was not actually surprised by either of those things. In fact, there’s really only one show that has ever truly surprised me in terms of its success: “Jane the Virgin.” The show has never been a ratings or commercial success, but every season I find myself pleasantly surprised by how good it is on a regular basis. I remember laughing at the premise when The CW first announced the pilot; how could a show about a virgin who was accidentally artificially inseminated be any good? I was so judgmental! I was so mean! I absolutely made fun of the show and its title every single time it came up. And it came up a lot! Now, I will never stop apologizing to the show, to creator Jennie Snyder Urman, to star (and Golden Globe winner!) Gina Rodriguez, to literally everyone involved in the production. It’s one of my favorite shows. It brings me joy and happiness — even when it’s also making me sad — and as Season 4 is winding down, it remains one of the best shows on TV, regularly delivering heart and humor through its many layered, compelling relationships. I never expected “Jane the Virgin” to make it this far when it was first announced, but now I’m eternally grateful that it has. I’m not ready to entertain the idea that the show might be heading into its final season, but it does feel like a good time to officially apologize for ever making fun of the show simply because of its title. Honestly, given how much I believed in “Buffy” from the start, I really should have known better.

"Jane the Virgin"

Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox

I’ll be honest: I didn’t really think “This Is Us” stood a chance. I liked the pilot just fine, but family dramas of its type have almost always crashed and burned, despite the family drama being among my favorite TV genres of them all. And the show’s complicated timeline structure seemed to me to be exactly the sort of thing viewers would tire of quickly, nor did I know if the series could sustain the twist it dropped at the end of the pilot.

And, listen, my opinion of “This Is Us” is probably more negative than most of America’s, but I have to give the show props for not just finding but hanging onto an audience. Against all odds, after decades of family dramas flailing in the primetime lineup, here’s one that isn’t just surviving but thriving. People are crazy about the show, in a way I didn’t realize was still possible for a broadcast drama. There are plenty of other recent broadcast hits that have shocked me (most notably “The Good Doctor”), but I keep coming back to the way I so prematurely wrote off what is now one of TV’s biggest shows.

April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics

Most surprising for me is “NCIS,” the “JAG” spinoff that started in 2003. It just doesn’t die. Now into 14 seasons in on CBS, yet I know no one who watches it and certainly, among TV critics I speak with, it’s never brought up in conversation as a show to follow. When it first came on I tried to stay with it, but it had no hook for me. I never thought that one would last, and here we are, viewers went nuts for it and watch it.


Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine

I continue to be thrilled that “The Magicians” has managed to become what it has. From the pilot, I was smitten but saw it as a hard sell for mainstream audiences. Not everyone wants to spend time with A) millennials, some of whom are dealing with B) mental health issues, C) sexual assault, and D) magic that’s not “Harry Potter”-ish. Fantasy alone is tough enough to get right. Mixing genres shouldn’t look as good as it does here.

Now in its third season, it’s clear the crowd has assembled for the adaptation of Lev Grossman’s books and it’s just as clear as to why. The cast is uniformly fantastic, the themes, while inky dark at times, are handled with piles of smart humor and, because the show has veered from the source material, we never know what is coming our way from one episode to the next, much less season after season. And another sign that it’s become a hit? Hot Topic now carries a line of “Magicians” merchandise. That makes me happy for all of the hedge witches, Travelers, and Quentin Coldwaters out there who have finally found their tribe.

"The Magicians"

Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire

Somewhere out there in the world is an analysis I wrote of “Breaking Bad” Season 1 that would be highly embarrassing if discovered. But since this week I’m embracing humiliation (apparently), I’ll just say it here: I absolutely thought “Breaking Bad” was going to get axed after Season 1. My piece incorporated elements of a review and ratings reports, arguing that the show was absolutely brilliant, but that I still had to stop watching as a preemptive strike against its inevitable cancellation. I simply couldn’t see how, at a time when shows like “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars” were dominating the ratings, anyone would choose to spend time with a dying chemistry teacher who turned to drugs. I didn’t have enough faith in prestige TV fans, in part, because prestige TV was just becoming a thing people talked about, nor did I properly respect the blooming original space on cable, where ratings weren’t the only thing to keep a show on the air. (“Mad Men,” after all, was never a ratings behemoth either.) Obviously, I couldn’t be happier to have been proven wrong: the Netflix effect and critical raves turned “Breaking Bad” into a massive hit, but my doomed prediction is still out there… and now it’s here.

Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*

A: “Trust” (four votes)

Other contenders: “The Americans” (three votes), “Atlanta,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and “The Magicians” (one vote each)

*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.