A Celebration of Friendships

So far this month, I have celebrated individual characters and touched a little bit on other types of relationships but I haven’t had much to say about friendships on TV yet. I love seeing all the different ways that friendships are portrayed on TV. I love them in all their forms and amount of emphasis on any given show. Some of the ones I’ve chosen to highlight today can also easily be construed as romantic but as they are non-canon and I am of the strong opinion that the best romances grow out of friendships, I’m including them in the friendship category. In (mostly) no particular order, here are 10 of my favorite friendships on TV, past and present.

Leslie and Ann (Parks and Recreation) It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever spoken to me that this is my favorite friendship on TV. The bond and love that these two share is so special and genuine. Ann grounds Leslie. She acts as an anchor in times of crisis and shares in her joy in times of happiness. She gives her balance and an outlet for all of her passion and excitement for everything. Leslie believes in Ann. While Leslie is very good at knowing who she is and what she wants, it’s something Ann has been working on since the show began. By the sixth season, she had figured out something to make her happy and then pursued that idea to completion despite negative opinions and setbacks, just like Leslie would have. Like any true friendship, they are there for each other in the big moments (like having a baby or buying a house) and the small (sharing opinions about Jennifer Aniston). They may not be alike but they complement each other and help each other be their best self. Above all, they love each other and know the other one is always just a phone call or text away.

Esposito and Ryan (Castle) There are a lot of really great friendships on Castle but the one between Esposito and Ryan may be my favorite. Once again, these two are very different but there is a loyalty and love between them that can’t be beat. Their friendship got a brilliant showcase in season 6’s “Under Fire” as they tried to encourage each other not to lose hope as they were trapped. The small moments of friendship we get between them are often funny but have an underpinning of trust and respect that you can tell goes back a long way. These two are partners and always will be.

Severide and Shay (Chicago Fire) Like Castle, Chicago Fire has a lot of great friendships. The friendship between Severide and Shay has been one of the most constant throughout the first two seasons and one of the most endearing. Like most of my favorite friendships, this one is built on trust and loyalty. These two would do anything for each other and they both know it. They may disagree on the other’s choices at times but the rift never stays for long. It’s clear that they have each other’s best interest at heart and want them to be happy and safe. I would have loved for them to be able to start that family together, but maybe it’ll happen sometime in the future. Assuming that they both survive the events of the s2 finale, that is.

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Life’s Short, Talk Fast: My Favorite Gilmore Girls Episodes

I am currently enjoying my the first half of my vacation with my best friend, so I thought I would celebrate by talking about one of our shared favorite shows. We both watched religiously on Tuesday nights then talked about it before school Wednesday morning. We may not have always shared opinions, but this was our show. One Christmas, we both decided that it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of Gilmore Girls things off of CafePress, unbeknownst to the other. I don’t know what we liked more, the actual things or the fact that we basically got each other the same gift. So in airing order, here are my 10 favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls!

Pilot (1×01) While characterizations shifted a little (particularly Emily, Richard, Sookie, and Luke) this pilot is a perfect introduction to the world of Stars Hollow and the titular Gilmore Girls. The rapid dialogue, pop culture references, Michel’s less-than-stellar customer service, and Lorelai’s coffee addiction were all there from the start, compelling people to fall in love.

Forgiveness and Stuff (1×10) Who could not love the disgusting Santa Burger? This is really the episode where we see just how deep the relationship between Lorelai and Luke runs. When something happens, he drops everything to help her. As Lorelai told her mother, they weren’t on a date, he’s just Luke. It’s also a great episode to see the relationship between Lorelai and her father. It may be strained and they may have difficulty relating to each other but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about each other.

Love, Daisies, and Troubadours (1×21) Max was never my favorite of Lorelai’s boyfriends but the 1000 yellow daisies scene is still pretty spectacular. The look on Lorelai’s face is so beautiful and touched by the gesture and it makes me so happy. I also mostly liked Dean at this point, so I love Rory’s “I love you, you idiot”. It was a moment that made me smile a lot on first watch and that’s only been diminished slightly by knowledge of what was to come with them.

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Fictional Crushes and What They Say About Me

I spend a lot of time looking at the women of TV and they way various female characters have influenced and inspire me. But that’s not the only way TV can impact or reveal our beliefs and desires for ourselves. We can also learn about what we look for in a partner by the characters we develop fictional crushes on. We can start to recognize patterns (either physical or personality-based) and it can help us refine or better understand what it is we like. It’s a topic that satisfies my introspective nature as well as lets me focus on characters who I like because they make me happy.

My two current fictional crushes are Jack Hodgins from Bones and Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation. They have a lot in common, so I thought I would discuss them together and explain what makes me so drawn to them.

One of the traits that most defines both Hodgins and Ben is their passion and excitement for things. Nothing in this world, other than Angela and their son, will ever make Hodgins happier than a rare bug found at a crime scene or a new experiment he gets to try. His love for bugs runs so deep that only was he not grossed out by the fact that he was acting as a host for them after a bug laid eggs in his neck, but he was genuinely honored to have that privilege. It wasn’t a physically comfortable process but he recognized that it was necessary for the bugs and was happy and willing to be a part of it. He’s passionate about science and the work that they do about the Jeffersonian and it comes out in every scene he’s in.

Ben gets genuinely excited about numbers and solving problems with accounting. He’s also a huge, unapologetic nerd and he gets really excited about Batman, Game of Thrones, board games, Claymation and his Star Trek fanfiction. He embraces the things he loves and gets so much enjoyment out of them that you can’t help but love it.

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The Joys of Unscripted Television

Scripted television will always be my primary love but today I want to spend a little time celebrating the wide world of non-scripted television. Though it’s all too often looked down on, there is a lot that it has to offer. Game shows, home decorating shows, cooking shows, competition reality shows, profession-based shows, and shows that just follow a group of people around all have a place in the television landscape. Today I’ll be talking about some of the shows I have loved throughout my TV history.

Game Shows

I grew up watching game shows. I could spend hours watching Card Shark, The Newlywed Game, Family Feud, Pyramid, and the Price is Right. I was also particularly fond of all the great game shows on Nick in the mid-90s like Legends of the Hidden Temple, GUTS, and Figure it Out.

Legends of the Hidden Temple will always be my favorite non-scripted show of all time. I watched it every time it was on and dreamed of competing on the show. When Nickelodeon created their Games and Sports channel, I was in high school and still really enjoyed watching the show, even if now I got extra annoyed at the kids who couldn’t figure out how to assemble a three-piece monkey. I am a Blue Barracuda at heart, even if I recognize that I would have been a horrible competitor. Even if I managed to get past the water stage, I would have been the kid who didn’t wait for Kurt to finish asking the question before I buzzed in and answered the wrong question. Then if I managed to get in the temple, the guards would have scared me when they jumped out and I would be flustered and slow down. It wasn’t an ideal show for my set of skills as a kid but nothing else gave me as much enjoyment watching it.

The summer between my 7th and 8th grade years, I completely inverted my sleeping schedule and as a result, got very interested in the late night airings of Blind Date and Elimidate. The snarky comments that were displayed in the corner were a particular favorite of mind and while I’m sure none of those couples went on to find everlasting love, there was something entertaining about the strange dates the couples went on. Currently, my dating show love is being filled by another completely ridiculous show – Baggage, hosted by Jerry Springer. The premise is simple. One contestant has a large piece of baggage that remains hidden in a suitcase. They have three dating prospects, who each have 3 suitcases, concealing a piece of small, medium, and large baggage. They reveal hidden quirks or things that may make potential suitors pause a moment before starting a relationship. Throughout the course of the show, the field gets narrowed down to one match, at which point the contestant’s baggage is revealed and the other person gets a chance to either accept the baggage and go on a date with them or reject it and move on. It’s especially fun to play along and guess who the person will go for and what their baggage is but it’s also fun to play along with a romantic partner and talk about what baggage they would or wouldn’t accept out of the options provided.

Last up in this category is a classic that I have been with through many iterations. If I am near a TV that is playing Family Feud, I will be watching it until the end of that string of episodes. I particularly like the latest episodes that Game Show Network is playing because Steve Harvey has the best reaction faces and he will continue to gently tease the contestants about their ridiculous answers for the rest of the episode. I have way too much fun playing along, especially during Fast Money.

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One of my TV Firsts: CSI and Sara Sidle

You never forget your first “grownup” show. Though you may still watch shows made for teenagers, it signals your arrival to the world of primetime network dramas or comedy. For me, at least, it was also my introduction to TV fandom. It gave me my first ship and my first character to look up and relate to (who shares a remarkable number of similarities to my favorites today). Though I stopped watching the show long ago, it will always hold a special place in my TV history so today I’d like to tell you all about my early love for CSI.

I didn’t start watching CSI from the beginning. In fact, I don’t even remember why I started watching at all. For whatever reason, I watched the second season episode “Chasing the Bus” and I was hooked for the next several years of my life. I went back and watched all the previous episodes on DVD and started watching live in the fall of 2002. Before the days of DVR and online streaming the next morning, appointment TV was much more popular than it is now and this was must-see-TV for me. Friends knew that they were not to call me while it was airing because I didn’t want to talk to them. Everyone who knew me knew this was my show and I was so enthusiastic about it that I got several other people watching as well. I got fingerprint powder and lifting tape for my birthday in 2003 and I owned more than one book about the forensic science behind the show. I was part of the generation of teenagers who grew up watching the show and who were inspired to learn more about the field.

CSI introduced me to Sara Sidle, the first character I have felt fiercely protective over. She wasn’t great with people (a trait that my teenage self greatly related to), she had some huge emotional walls that she didn’t often left people cross (again, something I related to), she cared deeply about getting justice for victim’s families and the victims themselves, and she was a really good CSI. She was also deeply unhappy and all I wanted was for her to find some happiness in her life. Her demons constantly haunted her and did until she left the show in season 8 in an attempt to figure out her life and what she needed.

She was my reason for watching the show and her final (at the time) episode was my final one as well. But her influence over me and the fictional characters I love continues to be seen in my current life. So many characters I love struggle with opening up to people. Kate Beckett, Emma Swan, and Cristina Yang are probably the best current examples of that. And I recognize that’s not strictly because of Sara. It’s because it’s something I struggle with, therefore I relate to characters with the same problem. But Sara was the first who made me believe that it was something I could improve on. She did open herself up little by little before she left to take care of her own mental health. She grew and she found happiness and she made me feel proud.

Speaking of her happiness, it was her relationship with Grissom that introduced me to the world of shipping. From the moment their characters were reunited on the show, it was clear there was something special between them. There was flirtation, moments of prop/music-related subtext, protective moments, and heartbreak as each explored other relationships. The moments may not have been frequent but they were looked at and analyzed over and over again. The connection and caring between these two very private, very emotionally closed off people spoke to me at the time and was a relationship that I was very invested in.

It was a ship that taught me patience. It took 4 seasons for Grissom to admit his feelings for Sara. It took another season for Sara to open up to him about her past and start the process of letting him fully in. It took another season still for them to officially be shown as a couple. It was another season before anyone else in the lab knew about their relationship. Then finally Grissom proposed the next season in season 8 and Sara left 4 episodes later. All in all, it’s not the most satisfying ship I’ve ever had but it was my first. Even if I recognize why they didn’t work out in the long term, knowing that they went through all of that only to be broken up off screen still hurt. That was how much I loved this show and this ship. Six seasons after I stopped watching, I was still disappointed to hear they had divorced.

I haven’t watched the show in years but I still like knowing that it’s still on. It’s a reminder of such a large period of my life and some very happy fandom memories. There’s something special about firsts and that’s exactly what this show is in so many ways.

I want to hear about your TV firsts! Tell me about any of the firsts that make you the happiest – first show, first ship, first favorite character, first fandom experience or any other first I’ve forgotten about.

 

 

Polarizing TV: My Love for the Episode “Unfinished Business”

It is an inevitable fact that episode quality will vary over the course of a show’s run. Some episodes will be nothing short of brilliant, some will be somewhere on the not very good to horrible spectrum depending on the show, others will fall in the space in between good and bad. Then there are the polarizing episodes – the ones you either love or hate because there is no middle ground. They are usually the ones that feature some sort of risk, whether it be narrative, related to the structure of the story, or focusing on a controversial character. Whatever the cause, they result in strong reactions from both parties.

I’ve encountered many such episodes in my TV watching history, from Breaking Bad’s “The Fly” to The West Wing’s “The Debate” to the entire 6th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But there is none of these polarizing episodes that I love quite as much as I love Battlestar Galactica’s “Unfinished Business”.

As I demonstrated last week, I like Battlestar Galactica when it is breaking my heart. Katee Sackhoff in particular is good at making me hurt with her acting. Therefore, it is not too surprising that I love this episode since emotional pain is the theme of this bottle episode. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not complete sadness. There is quite the adorable scene of Bill Adama and Laura Roslin being cute and happy while getting high together. But mostly it’s just sadness.

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Start of the Show: Theme Songs and Opening Credits

A good theme song or set of opening credits sets the tone for a show. They are one of the first things you associate with that show and when done well, just hearing the music will bring you back to the show again and again. While they have gone slightly out of style in recent years, at least on network TV, they seem to be holding strong on cable. These are 10 of my favorites, though of course, there are some I have left out or else this list would become unwieldy.

Gilmore Girls The opening credits of this show are very traditional and made up of a collection of shots from the show while the actors name appear on the screen. The theme song, however, is one of my favorites. Carole King’s “Where You Lead” was a great choice for the show and it sets the warm, fun tone for the rest of the show.

Growing Pains Yet another theme song that I can’t help but sing along to. This one was one of my favorite shows growing up and so the theme song has a lovely nostalgic value to it.

Friends This theme song is a classic. It makes me happy every time I hear it and I think it just suits the show so well. I’ve been known to listen to the full song often for the happiness boost.  

Parenthood I love the combination of photos taken specifically for the credits and photos from the actors’ childhoods. It creates an immersive world where it is even easier to believe that these people really did grow up together and have a shared history.

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The Show that I Can’t Stop Talking About: Masters of Sex

Some shows take a while to grow on you. You see a trailer or read a synopsis and think that maybe the pilot could be worth checking out. Then you watch the pilot and it shows enough potential that you stick around for a few more episodes and before you know it, you’re hooked. With other shows, you read the synopsis and immediately know that this is a show for you. Everything just clicks and you know that you’re gonna love this show from minute one of the first episode. Last season, Masters of Sex was that show for me.

My early interest in the show was academic. The only thing I love more than television is sexuality research and Masters and Johnson played such an instrumental role in early research that I was immediately intrigued. Even if the acting and writing were bad, I still would have watched just to see how their research was portrayed and the issues that came up.

Fortunately for me, the show was fantastic. It was exactly what I wanted – a show about the research done by these two pioneers that was firmly anchored in the era it was a part of with some incredibly well-acted characters.

Let me start my singing the praises of Michael Sheen. As a character (and presumably as a person) William Masters was not a likable guy. He thinks like a scientist 99% of the time which was great for his research, but terrible for his personal interactions. He’s very reserved and does not spend a lot of time examining his own emotional state or how that may impact those around him. He’s arrogant, rude, and often loses sight of the human element of his work. Because his character is so internally driven when not actively engaged in research, he’s also a difficult character to play. Michael Sheen is able to portray the genius of the man as well as the part of him that is kind of a mess. It’s a quiet performance, it’s not at all flashy. But it makes that moment when the exterior facade that Masters has around him cracks that much more powerful and emotionally resonant and Sheen plays that perfectly. Still reserved and with a protective wall, but now with emotions that just couldn’t be contained any longer no matter how hard he tries to stop them.

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One-Two Season Long Shows You Should Watch

We all have the shows that we loved that were cancelled too soon. For whatever reason, they just never caught on with a large audience. I found the majority of these shows after they had already ended and I’m grateful that online streaming has made that possible, though I still would have loved to see more episodes. Here is my top 10 and I look forward to hearing some of your cancelled favorites!

Better off Ted If you are in the mood for a new comedy to watch, do yourself a favor and watch this on Netflix immediately. It is a workplace comedy that looks at and critiques the absurdity and lack of ethics of many large corporations. That pitch may not demonstrate it well, but it is also hilarious. It’s smart and is full of interesting characters. For those of you who enjoy random asides in your TV, most episodes feature a fake commercial for Veridian Dynamics (the company around which the show is based) highlighting one of their new products or developments and they are incredibly enjoyable and funny.

Sports Night I recently finished this show after it was recommended to me and I am so glad I watched it. It is definitely an Aaron Sorkin show. It is primarily about the relationships between the characters and it features his well known rapid dialogue and the “walk and talk”. The heart of the show really is in the characters, not in the sports show they work on. It features some great friendships, great mentorships, and a romance that I’m pretty sure I was always destined to love because I seem to love every character Joshua Malina plays. It’s standout episode is “The Six Southern Gentleman of Tennessebe” and that if you don’t watch anything else, I highly recommend you watch that one episode. It is truly great and stands up very well 15 years after airing.

Dollhouse This is an unpopular choice, but this is probably my second favorite Joss Whedon show. It starts off a little rough, but once it settles into its exploration of the morality of what the Dollhouse is doing and the characters find their own identities, it becomes truly special. The season one finale “Epitaph One” was one of those episodes of TV that just leaves me stunned after watching it. If Orphan Black is the only show about cloning or other related issues that you are interested in, Dollhouse features probably the only person as talented at creating distinct characters with the same face – Enver Gjokaj.

Best Friends Forever I have a lot of love for this adorable show that only lasted 6 episodes. Created by real-life best friends Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair (who also created and star in USA’s current show Playing House), it really was just a show about two friends who would do anything to help each other when they need help or emotional support. It’s a celebration of friends and the bond that is shared as well as a look at how friendships like these work as we get older and get involved in serious romantic relationships. As is to be expected, everything about this show just feels like we are watching two actual friends navigate their crazy lives together. It’s a lot of fun to watch and well worth the very short time investment.

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Nothing But the Rain: The William Adama and Kara Thrace Story

I love plots of TV shows and I love individual characters, but there is something special about the various relationships between characters depicted on a show. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s our connections with others that give our lives meaning and the same is true on TV shows. The relationships our characters find themselves in broaden our understandings of each character as we can see them in relation to others. Whether the relationship is a friendship, a romantic relationship, familial or even antagonistic, they provide meaning and direction to the lives of individual characters.

I don’t talk nearly enough about Battlestar Galactica (which will probably be corrected at some point, if not later this month) but it is a show full of compelling and occasionally heartbreaking relationships. I can tell you the exact moment in the 4th episode when I fell in love with the show and it all had to do with the relationship between Bill Adama and Kara “Starbuck” Thrace.

From their first interaction on the show, it was clear that their relationship was different than the one Adama shared with the rest of his crew. They have a greeting that is entirely their own that is used a few times throughout the series. We find out later that Kara is the daughter that Adama nearly had (twice). She was engaged to his son and played a role in his accidental death by passing him during a flight exam when he should have failed.

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