2021 was a crazy and unpredictable year for nearly everyone and that certainly was the case here at AllYourScreens HQ. We set new traffic records and the Too Much TV Newsletter tripled in size.
But despite our best efforts, what readers responded to was often hard to gauge ahead of time. Highly reported pieces we thought would make a huge splash sometimes barely found am audience while at the same time, random reviews turned out to be wildly popular.
I think the big takeaway from this list is that our niche is the subjects and shows that don't get covered much by the big industry web sites. All ten of these stories received at least 300,000 pageviews and in most cases, they are reviews and features that focus on the cool things readers might otherwise miss.
BTW, here's the link to our 10 most-read stories in 2020.
10) How The Politics Of 'The West Wing' Ruined America (June 9th)
"Yet it's notable that in recent interviews Obama still seems to be wedded to this Jeb Bartlett view of politics. He will concede that Republicans weren't cooperative and were often actively working against him to block policies he still believes are good for Americans. He has recently admitted that these beliefs might even threaten democracy. But he also still believes that it is possible to change minds, to reach out to opponents, and open their minds in the same way that Richard Schiff's Toby Ziegler changed the conversation by crafting just the perfect turn of a phrase."
9) 'Gold Rush: White Water' Recap - 11/05/2021 (November 5th)
"There are some reality (or unscripted) shows that I continue to watch each week, even though they include gaps of logic and missing context that leave the show more than a bit hard to believe. Take - for instance - the Discovery series Gold Rush: White Water. The father and son team of have been mining the river of what is now beginning its fifth season. And while they have found small amounts of gold each year, the amounts are so small that it seems impossible to believe they can stay in business.
Each season ends with the two teams adding up their gold haul and the conversation ends with an unveiling that is along the lines of "Hey, this is our best season yet! We found $27,000!" An amount that would seem to be not enough to cover the rice and beans bill for a team of five for the summer, much less all of the equipment, gas and other costs of a mining operation. And yet, the next season they're back and apparently not just coming out of another bankruptcy. They are obviously making money somehow, but it doesn't appear to be the result of their search for gold."
8) Commentary: I Want No Part Of Louie C.K.'s Comeback (And Neither Should You) (July 9th)
"This leads me to my problems with Louie C.K.'s upcoming sets at the Acme Comedy Club. Most rational people who had admitted to yanking off repeatedly around co-workers might approach the subject with a bit of insight into their behavior. Perhaps figure out a way to use their admittedly impressive comedic skills to make fun of themselves in a way that didn't come off as if they were petulant dick-obsessed brats.
But in the special, Louie C.K. attempted to come across as the Richard Pryor of pulling one off, explaining why he enjoyed having an audience for his self-pleasuring:
"I like jerking off, I don't like being alone, that's all I can tell you. I get lonely, it's just sad. I like company. I like to share. I'm good at it, too. If you're good at juggling, you wouldn't do it alone in the dark. You'd gather folks and amaze them," he says.
Now I won't get into the likelihood that any man who claims to be good at masturbation is actually any good - and how does that criteria work anyway? But he continues to be oblivious to the consequences of his behavior as he complained that it's hard for men to know when women are "faking" pleasure or honestly giving consent."
7) Review: 'Insiders' (October 21st)
"It's difficult to fully explain the insanity of Insiders without giving away some of the best "what the F%^k did I just watch?" twists. At one point, the contestants are told they are actually in a competition and the eventual lone surviving houseguest will take home €100,000 ($117,720). But literally ever other aspect of the show is a lie. The "producers" are really actors, the methods used to decide who is eliminated are just made up by the real producers and there are so many layers of twists and turns that you couldn't keep track of them all with a giant white board and a set of twenty colored markers. Even after the winner is chosen, there is one last twist as the cameras fade which was so nuts I literally screamed out in surprise."
6) 'Feel Flows' Is The Best Beach Boys Music You've Never Heard (August 27th)
"When the album Sunflower was released in 1970, the Beach Boys were at a financial and creative low point. It had been four years since the release of Pet Sounds and Brian Wilson was primarily curled up in a fetal position on most days. The band had released several poorly received low-fi albums (Friends, Wild Honey) and the only music fans were buying were the string of Greatest Hits packages being released the band's former label. The band was split into new camps: the Mike Love "let's give the fans the surf music they want" contingent and the Carl & Dennis Wilson-led members who believed they could create new music as a band that fans who learn to appreciate."
5) The NY Times And Its Whitewash Of Dan Schneider (July 4th)
"However, all of these more serious (and oftentimes more ludicrous) rumors overshadowed Schneider's often emotionally abusive behavior. It was so well-known in Hollywood circles that the mere mention of his name often brought comments along the lines of "uggg. THAT guy." But those stories tended to get lost beneath all of the more ludicrous rumors and it all just mixed together into a mess of conflicting stories."
4) Opinion: The Cowardice Of Conservative Talk Radio (September 23rd)
"This inability to see any opposing opinion as valid or honestly held is a large part of the reason why it's been so easy for the idea of 2020 election fraud to burrow deep into the psyche of the conservative movement. If all you hear are people who believe as you do, if you're constantly told that your beliefs are in the majority, then the next logical step is to suspect that if your side loses, it has to be the result of fraud."
3) Review: 'NCIS' - Gibbs Has Left The Building (October 21st)
"Tonight's episode is being billed as the final regular appearance by Mark Harmon's character Leroy Jethro Gibbs and while his exit is not a surprise, it's a near fatal blow for a show that has felt the absence of its original cast in recent years. Gibbs is the emotional center of the show, the glue that allows everything else to work in a coherent fashion. The parts are all there to pull off a reasonable procedural show without Gibbs. But no other character in the series has the ability to make the audience care about the characters. Harmon's acting throughout the series has been subtle and easy to ignore. But he is the primary reason why audiences care about the show in a way that they never have on other competing dramas."
2) In Defense Of Chris Hayes (October 7th)
"When he moved to primetime in 2013, All In With Chris Hayes was a reflection of his editorial point of view. But it was also a pretty traditional cable news show. But the eventual success of Maddow's approach gave Hayes a bit more cover to experiment and his show evolved into its own distinctive editorial mix. His A-block editorial/commentary each night is a textbook example of what you want in a cable news show. Yes, he obviously has a political point of view and he is comfortable expressing it. But unlike the competition on Fox, it's never 90% opinion and 10% vague facts. He backs up what he says with figures and builds an argument with context and relevance in the same way that he used to craft arguments back in his early blogging days."
1) Review: 'NCIS Hawai'i' (September 19th)
When I sat down to watch the four episodes of NCIS: Hawai'i provided to me by CBS, I didn't have any grand expectations one way or the other. Despite the NCIS name, the show was unlikely to share any DNA with the mother show. Both NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans have managed to have nice runs without having anything in common with NCIS other than the name. But the question for me was whether NCIS: Hawai'i could carve out a distinctive identity and be a show with a unique point of view and chemistry.
The answer to that question is "not yet," but that doesn't mean that you won't like the show. It is slickly produced, and there is not a wasted moment in any of the episodes. The scenes fly across your screen like cars on a NASCAR track, and unlike the case in a lot of procedurals, there weren't any awkwardly constructed interactions that took me out of the moment.