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Why Year-End Top 10 Lists Actually Matter — TV Podcast

Even if you don't need another reminder that "Fleabag" is great, there's guidance, affirmation, and more to be found in all those lists.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, "Fleabag"



It’s finally December, that magical time of year when Hollywood boards up its windows, hands the keys over to Star Wars, and vacates the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area until the Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 5.

But the real blessing (or curse) of a given year’s end is the opportunity for every Tom, Dick, and Harriet with access to an outlet to post their final, definitive rankings of, well, any pop culture product in the form of a top 10 list.

In a year like 2019, the prospect of perusing all those lists can be daunting, especially given the fact that it’s not only the end of the year, but the end of the decade. So why bother? If you’re plugged into pop culture, surely you’ve been following along all year and already have your fingers firmly on the pulse of what’s cool and what’s crap.

But do you really?

In a year packed with more scripted television options than ever before, can anyone, even the professionals, say that they’re really on top of of all the content that comes down the streaming pipe? Probably not. And the same goes for film, music, heck, even memes.

That’s why the year-end top 10 list holds more power than ever before. Netflix’s algorithm can only take you so far before you start wondering what quality programming lies beyond your queue. Which is where critics lists come in. In the era of (too, too) too much TV, audiences have no choice but to depend on word-of-mouth or critical acclaim to winnow the field of possible options.

And it’s because there are so very many — really! — exceptional options on television, it’s only fair to have just as many top 10 lists to choose from. While there are some shows that seem to appear on near every published list, from Amazon Prime’s “Fleabag,” to HBO offerings “Succession” and “Watchmen,” the divergence from list to list is stark. Over at Variety, the No. 1 picks of TV critics Caroline Framke and Daniel D’Addario — Netflix’s “Russian Doll” and HBO’s “Years and Years,” respectively — don’t appear on the other critic’s list at all.

There is a comfort, then, in finding the critic who shares your own sensibilities and seeing if you’ve forgotten a hidden gem or finding that you have great taste in television. And there’s a thrill to reading a write-up of someone you regularly disagree with, only to find their distillation of a series intriguing enough to sample.

For more on the insightful and infuriating nature of top 10 lists, check out this week’s episode of “Millions of Screens” with TV Awards Editor Libby Hill, TV Deputy Editor Ben Travers, and Creative Producer Leo Garcia. Plus, the gang gets ready for the looming Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild award nominations due next week.

Millions of Screens” is available on AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.

This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.

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