Year in review: The best TV shows of 2023

Year in review: The best TV shows of 2023
‘Succession’ stars Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 December 2023
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Year in review: The best TV shows of 2023

Year in review: The best TV shows of 2023
  • Grand finales, stunning returns and outstanding newcomers, here are the shows we loved most in 2023 

‘The Last of Us’ 

Starring: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey 

HBO’s adaptation of Naughty Dog’s highly acclaimed and much-loved post-apocalyptic video-game franchise was one of the year’s most hotly anticipated releases — and also the one that seemed most likely to immediately incur online wrath if it wasn’t great. Thankfully, it was great. Fans’ initial concerns over the casting of Pascal and Ramsey as the main protagonists — broken, world-weary smuggler Joel and his ‘cargo,’ a young girl called Ellie who is mysteriously immune to the fungal infection that has turned the majority of mankind into zombie-like monsters — proved to be unfounded: their chemistry was a major part of the show’s success. Watching Joel and Ellie’s father-daughter-style relationship unfold on their road trip across the US was truly moving and grounded the show’s fantastical elements in reality. Season two can’t come soon enough. 

‘Beef’ 

Starring: Ali Wong, Steven Yeun 

The fact that “Beef” appeared with so little fanfare suggests that either (a) the creators were so sure of its brilliance that they didn’t think it needed marketing, or (b) the execs at Netflix really had no idea how good it was. Korean director Lee Sung Jin’s comedy drama focused on the conflict between struggling contractor Danny Cho (Yeun) and tightly wound entrepreneur Amy Lau (Wong), initially sparked by a road-rage incident that quickly escalates into an all-consuming obsession with ruining each other’s lives. Yeun and Wong were both fantastic throughout, and the show managed to be both hugely funny and horribly sad.   

‘Succession’ 

Starring: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin  

The (deserving) critical darling of the past five years, “Succession” reached its climax in a suitably bleak fourth season that saw the Roy family continue to tear itself apart as the children of patriarch Logan pitched themselves against each other to become the successor’s to their father’s global entertainment empire. As always, Jesse Armstrong’s satirical radar was spot-on, and the main cast once again somehow pulled off the trick of making these entirely unlikeable characters engaging. Its ending has left a big hole to fill for HBO.   

‘Silo’ 

Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, David Oyelowo, Common, Tim Robbins 

Like “Beef,” this dystopian sci-fi drama about a community living in an enormous underground 144-level silo, supposedly because the air outside is immediately fatal to humans, arrived with little fanfare. “Silo” was tense and engaging throughout, and treated the audience with respect — eschewing exposition to better maintain momentum. Ferguson was compelling as Juliette Nichols, an engineer who becomes the silo’s unwilling sheriff and is working to unravel the mystery of the structure’s origins and purpose. Robbins was also excellent as a manipulative mayor. “This is one dystopian world that you’ll want to revisit,” our review concluded. 

‘Somebody Somewhere’ 

Starring: Bridget Everett, Jeff Hiller, Mary Catherine Garrison 

This bittersweet comedy drama about a lonely, somewhat lost, 40-something woman returning to her home town and struggling with grief after the death of her beloved sister is one of the most understated shows on television. It may have a huge array of flamboyant characters, but the cast never overplay their scenes, instead happy to do their bit to ensure the story remains the star. Each episode can make you cry with laughter and sorrow within moments of each other. It’s a show full of heart. 

‘Slow Horses’ 

Starring: Gary Oldman, Jack London, Kristin Scott Thomas 

At the time of writing, the third season of this UK spy thriller still has one episode to go, but the finale would have to be an unmitigated disaster for “Slow Horses” not to merit its place on this list. Each episode is gripping, thanks to the dark humor, political satire (the venal minister Peter Judd wouldn’t seem out of place in the actual British government), edge-of-your-seat action, and Oldman at the top of his game as Jackson Lamb, a former secret-service great whose job now involves overseeing the misfits and miscreants of Slough House — where MI5 sends the agents it wants to forget about (to whom the titular nickname applies).  

‘Only Murders in the Building’ 

Starring: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez 

Season three of the comedy mystery was arguably its strongest yet. The trio of protagonists continue to share enviable chemistry, and were joined by some serious big hitters, including Meryl Streep (superb as an undiscovered musical-theater actress) and Paul Rudd, as the spoiled A-lister heading to Broadway. The showrunners really upped the ante on the silliness levels too, with creepy hallucinations and impromptu musical numbers. But for all its goofiness, “Only Murders” never forgets its “mystery” side, nor its human side. And, as usual, it looked amazing. 

‘The Bear’ 

Starring: Jeremy Allen White, Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach 

Last year’s surprise TV package — about a hugely talented young chef, Carmen Berzatto, returning home to manage his late brother’s rundown sandwich shop — managed to live up to its newfound fame in season two. It took all the first season’s finest ingredients — the claustrophobic stress of the kitchen, the tension between Carmen and his late brother’s best friend Richie, the superbly written and acted dialogue, the stellar direction — and combined them with a touch of real flair and the confidence that comes from having earned so many accolades first time out. Shout out to Jamie Lee Curtis, too, for her astonishing turn as the Berzatto matriarch.  


Emirati actress Meera AlMidfa reflects on Cannes and her first feature-length film, co-starring Saudi actor Fahad Al-Butairi

Emirati actress Meera AlMidfa reflects on Cannes and her first feature-length film, co-starring Saudi actor Fahad Al-Butairi
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Emirati actress Meera AlMidfa reflects on Cannes and her first feature-length film, co-starring Saudi actor Fahad Al-Butairi

Emirati actress Meera AlMidfa reflects on Cannes and her first feature-length film, co-starring Saudi actor Fahad Al-Butairi

DUBAI: Emirati actress and filmmaker Meera AlMidfa has two short films screening at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival — “Shame” and “Umm Salama The Matchmaker”. Both provide sharp insight and commentary on Arab womanhood, while approaching the subject from separate viewpoints and taking a different tone.

While in “Shame” AlMidfa plays a woman whose attempt to flee from home is abruptly halted when her mother catches her and leads to an intense confrontation, in “Umm Salama The Matchmaker,” she plays the daughter of a matchmaker trying to avoid getting hitched.

Meera AlMidfa (right) in “Umm Salama The Matchmaker”. (Supplied)

“The two films were made as part of Arab Film Studio workshop by Image Nation Abu Dhabi. And I was cast by the filmmakers who were doing the filmmaking course, both female directors. And they both explore similar issues about women and marriage,” AlMidfa said in an interview with Arab News.

However, AlMidfa is most excited about her first full-length feature, “Al Eid Eiden,” Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s Saudi-Emirati family comedy. “I play an Emirati woman married to a Saudi man,” said AlMidfa.

Starring opposite AlMidfa is Saudi actor Fahad Al-Butairi (“Telfaz11,” “The Office,” “From A to B”), with the film’s worldwide release planned for July 4.

Meera AlMidfa will soon star in her first full-length feature, “Al Eid Eiden,” Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s Saudi-Emirati family comedy. (Supplied)

The production brings together an all-female Emirati creative team featuring first feature director Maitha Alawadi, producer Rawia Abdullah and writer Sara Al-Sayegh.

The film’s logline reads, “‘Al Eid Eiden’ follows a Saudi-Emirati family as they make the final preparations for an Eid getaway in Abu Dhabi. An unexpected turn of events on their day of travel changes things drastically for the parents, but not wanting to disappoint their three young children, they decide to go ahead as planned.

“What ensues is a roller-coaster ride of comedic mishaps and misunderstandings as they hurtle through uncharted parenting territory, a theme park, and Eid gatherings with relatives. Through the chaos, they discover unity as a family.”

Having been an integral part of the theatre and acting scene for more than a decade in the UAE, AlMidfa — who has a master’s degree in film directing from the American Film Institute — is also interested in working behind the camera as much as she is performing in front of it.

“I would say acting comes more naturally to me. But the more I do production work, the more it sinks in as well. But it’s like a complete personality switch. So, you need to kind of figure out how to balance yourself when you switch from one to the other based on the project. So, I don’t mix them up too much — I don’t direct something and then act like back-to-back,” she said.


Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work

Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work
Updated 56 min 56 sec ago
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Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work

Review: Cannes title ‘Everybody Loves Touda’ is a sparkling example of Nabil Ayouch’s work

CANNES: Directed by Morocco’s Nabil Ayouch, Cannes Film Festival title “Everybody Loves Touda” is a compelling look at a single mother, Touda (an excellent Nisrin Erradi), who lives by the age-old dictum “never say die.”

Living in a small town, she is a bundle of music and mirth and her dances seem to bring cheer to her audience, but she soon faces unwanted attention.

The Cannes screening ended with a standing ovation, and Ayouch’s fourth outing at the festival seemed to garner far more audience appreciation than in earlier years. In 2012, his critically acclaimed drama “Horses of God” played in the Un Certain Regard section, which is second in importance to the main competition and is widely seen as a platform for experimental cinema. But Ayouch has also played in the In Competition section for the coveted Palme d’Or — his 2021 feature “Casablanca Beats,” the first title from Morocco since 1962 to vie for this honor, proved a sensation.

 Maryam Touzani and Nabil Ayouch attend the "Everybody Loves Touda" Photocall at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival. (Getty Images)

Like his other movies, Ayouch approaches “Everybody Loves Touda” with fascinating realism that at times may appear a little too harsh. Having written the script with Mayam Touzani (“The Blue Caftan”), Ayouch may have given us formulaic fare, but he infuses Touda with a kind of determination that is awesome. Striving to relocate to Casablanca, where her deaf son would have better schooling and she herself could find greater opportunities, Touda begins to sing in village nightclubs, bearing with a grin the lecherous gaze of men drunk with delusion.

This is not the first time that Ayouch puts women in such precarious positions. His 2008 “Whatever Lola Wants” talks about the trials of a postal worker in New York who dreams of becoming an Egyptian belly dancer, and “Much Loved” (which played at in the Director's Fortnight section) created a storm with its exploration of prostitution in Morocco.

Peppered with lively music (by Flemming Nordkrog), Touda croons folkloric songs on liberation and other forms of women’s rights. The actress’s gripping performance causes the narrative to sparkle —Erradi has a remarkable on-screen presence that makes the movie a joy to watch.


Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival

 Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival
Updated 53 min 59 sec ago
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Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival

 Lebanese designer Georges Chakra puts on a show at the Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Georges Chakra is making a splash at the ongoing 77th Cannes Film Festival and has so far dressed a number of stars on the red carpet.

Australian actress Claire Holt hit the red carpet before the premiere of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga” in an all-white gown by the designer.

The Georges Chakra Couture look was created from white satin and chiffon and featured pleated detailing across the hips and a dramatic chiffon shoulder train. The look hailed from the designer’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection.

Meanwhile, Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk attended the “Women in Cinema” gala dinner hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival in a white satin bustier gown with a satin cape encrusted with hand painted gold feathers from the label’s Fall/Winter 2023-2024 line.

Dorra Zarrouk in Georges Chakra. (Getty Images)

Finally, Chinese actress and model Crystal Zhang chose a Georges Chakra Couture gold sequined gown with a draped veil from the Spring/Summer 2024 collection to attend the Marie Claire China event which took place on the sidelines of the festival.

Holt showed off her choice at the premiere of Costner’s latest film on Sunday. “Horizon: An American Saga” sees the director return to his favorite Western genre with a three-hour film that is just the first of four mooted chapters.

Costner put millions of dollars of his own fortune into the decades-long passion project.

“At a certain moment I just said OK, I'm going to do this myself. And so I mortgaged property, I raised the money,” he told AFP at the festival.

The early reviews were mixed, with The Hollywood Reporter deriding it as a “clumsy slog” while British newspaper The Telegraph said it was “earnest yet hopeful... (and) perhaps its full grandeur won't be fully realized until part two.”

Costner says he is unconcerned about risking his money.

“If they take it away from me, I still have my movie. I still have my integrity. I still listened to my heart,” he said.

 


US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia

US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia
Updated 20 May 2024
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US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia

US comedian Jerry Seinfeld heckled by Pro-Palestinian supporter at standup show in Virginia

DUBAI: Pro-Palestine protests disrupted US comedian-actor Jerry Seinfeld’s Saturday night comedy set in Norfolk, Virginia, resulting in one protestor being escorted out of the venue.

Seinfeld has been vocal in his support for Israel following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. The comedian also met with families of the hostages and visited a kibbutz during a trip to Israel in December.

In videos posted online, Seinfeld’s show can be seen being interrupted by a man who stood in the crowd and yelled toward the comedian that he was “a genocide supporter.”

Another video posted to Instagram shows the individual yelling, “Save the children of Gaza,” “No more American tax dollars for genocide” and “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Seinfeld responded to the heckler, later joking, “This is exciting. I like this.”

Last week, several students walked out of Duke University’s commencement ceremony to protest Seinfeld speaking at the event.


‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes
Updated 19 May 2024
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‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

DUBAI: Sudanese first-time director Mohamed Kordofani’s “Goodbye Julia” won the best feature film and best screenplay awards at the eighth Critics Awards for Arab Films that took place on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

French-Tunisian composer Amin Bouhafa, who worked on “Hajjan,” won the best music award for the Saudi Arabia-based film. 

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s hybrid docudrama “Four Daughters,” which missed out on the Best Documentary win at this year’s Academy Awards, scored three prizes: Best director for Ben Hania, best documentary and best editing.

Amjad Al-Rasheed’s “Inshallah a Boy” picked up the best actress prize for Palestinian star Mouna Hawa and best cinematography for Kanamé Onoyama.

Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri nabbed the best actor prize for his role in “The Teacher” while Egyptian filmmaker Morad Mostafa’s “I Promise You Paradise” came out on top in the best short film category.

The awards ceremony is organized by the Cairo-based Arab Cinema Centre (ACC) and winners are voted on by 225 critics from more than 70 countries.