In an era that seems to be defined by the increasing domination of the big streaming services, I was surprised that I couldn’t recall any outstanding moments last year from Netflix or Amazon, which are apparently pursuing a “quantity over quality” strategy.
I was even more surprised that I’d experienced many of these highlights on old-fashioned broadcast television. So maybe there’s hope for the old medium after all.
With that said, here are the moments that moved me the most last year:
10. Dan Crenshaw forgives Pete Davidson on “SNL.” I’ve already written about this at length, but when Congressman-elect and war hero Dan Crenshaw went on “Saturday Night Live” to gently rib and then forgive Pete Davidson, who had made an insulting joke about his eyepatch, it was a moment of rare grace. Real life intruded a month later when the bipolar Davidson posted a quasi-suicidal Instagram note and Crenshaw supportively called him and encouraged him to keep fighting his depression. It would be great if people with different political perspectives could follow their example.
9. Andrew Benintendi dives to make the final out in game 4 of the ALCS. As a Red Sox fan, I’m going to exercise my prerogative as the author of this list to cite a play in the American League play-offs. With the Red Sox ahead 8-6, the Astros had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth. The Astros’ best player comes to bat against a shaky reliever. The tension builds and builds until you think you will faint. Suddenly the ball is unleashed and smashed to left field — and somehow Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi dives to make the final out, and despair turns to ecstasy (or the other way around if you’re an Astros fan) and the game is over.
8. The final episode of “Succession.” I had no interest in watching HBO’s “Succession” until my son told me it was a comedy. And yeah, it does turn out to be a very dark satire about a media baron loosely based on Sumner Redstone or Robert Murdoch and his scheming, mostly useless, children. The series had so many outrageous scenes that it’s impossible to pick one, so for the sake of argument I’ll say that the entire season finale was one of the greatest moments of the year.
7. Bishop Curry’s homily at the royal wedding. You usually don’t turn to a royal wedding for inspirational oratory, but Bishop Curry’s sermon during the ceremony marrying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was genuinely moving. As the speech stretched longer than normal and many of the noble guests became either amused or exasperated by the concept of a religious figure taking his responsibilities as a spiritual leader seriously, I found my patriotic hackles being raised. How dare these twits look down their noses at a great American preacher? USA! USA!
6. George W. Bush’s eulogy for George H.W. Bush. This year could have been subtitled “four funerals and a wedding,” since the royal hitching and the widely televised funerals of George and Barbara Bush, John McCain and Aretha Franklin delivered so many inspiring moments. George W's emotional tribute to his father was one of the few times during the year when people tried to put politics aside in memory of a politician who had tried (and failed) to govern from the middle.
5. The armed robbery opening scene of “Atlanta” season two. “Atlanta” is second only to “Twin Peaks” as the most surreal show in TV history. The new season opened with a couple of kids robbing some drugs hidden in a fast-food restaurant. This had nothing to do with the arc of the season, so why were we watching this? I don’t know, but it set the tone for a season in which everyone is hustling or robbing someone else — and everything is deeply weird in a society where racism has distorted reality and driven many people crazy.
4. Paul McCartney visits his childhood home with James Corden. James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment is widely beloved — but never more so than when Paul McCartney gave him a driving tour of Liverpool and reduced Corden to tears with his story of the inspiration behind “Let It Be.”
3. Kim Wexler rips Howard Hamlin a new one on “Better Call Saul.” Played magnificently by Rhea Seehorn on “Better Call Saul,” Kim Wexler was the best female character on television last year. Smart, capable, unpredictable and fiercely loyal to her boyfriend Jimmy, she really lays into Jimmy’s former boss Harry Hamlin for telling him that his brother probably burned himself to death. Her righteous anger was unforgettable.
2. Chidi tells Eleanor he loves her on “The Good Place” It’s a miracle that a show this good is on a broadcast network. “The Good Place” revolves around four humans who go to The Good Place when they die and subsequently struggle to stay out of The Bad Place. The plot is too convoluted to summarize — except to say there’s unresolved chemistry between Eleanor, a self-proclaimed “dirtbag” from Phoenix, and Chidi, an Australian philosophy professor, that finally got resolved in the final episode of the calendar year.
1. Stan confronts the Jennings spies on “The Americans.” In the final episode of this great series, the identities of the Russian spies begin to unravel. FBI agent Stan Beeman tracks them down in a parking garage as they prepare to flee. Stan and Philip were neighbors and best friends, and this final confrontation is raw and emotional. Many series finales fail to “stick the ending”— but “The Americans” delivered a powerful one that demonstrated the cost of doing evil when you think you’re doing your duty.