Dream Emmy Nominees 2016

In a few weeks, the nominees for the 2016 Emmy awards will be announced and as is almost inevitable with the amount of good television right now (and the somewhat repetitive nature of Emmy nominations), there will be a good number of worthy actors and shows that are once again overlooked. I may not have any control over the eventual nominees, but I can take this opportunity to celebrate some of the outstanding work I’ve seen over the past year and share the shows I watch that I would love to see recognized.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Catastrophe
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Jane the Virgin
Master of None
Mom
Transparent
You’re the Worst

Wow. What an incredible year it’s been for comedy. There were seven other shows that could have easily been on my own personal list and that’s not counting presumed nominees Veep and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. From the absurdity of Broad City to the diversity of perspective added by Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat to the resurgence of the Norman Lear-style multicam in The Carmichael Show, it’s time for comedy’s moment to shine.

Outstanding Drama Series

The Americans
Hannibal
Outlander
Penny Dreadful
Rectify
Sense8
UnREAL

I have a type when it comes to acclaimed dramas. I want them to focus on emotion and connection more than I do drama or darkness. I want them to have a specific look and feel that distinguishes them from everything else. And apparently, I want them to be watched by about 10 other people (not including all the critics who loudly love them) because none of these shows have high viewing numbers. If we get very lucky, this may be the year The Americans finally breaks into the nominees, but otherwise, I recognize that this list is just a dream (and a nice set of recommendations for anyone looking for a new show).

Continue reading Dream Emmy Nominees 2016

What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2016

Another season of television has come to a close and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to new possibilities. To say that this season was trying would likely be an understatement.  While I found a few new shows to enjoy, many fell flat with me and even returning favorites tested my patience and love for them. Then of course, there was the spring doldrums, where each week seemed to bring a new show making inexplicable choices to kill (or not re-sign) vital characters who made a tremendous impact and a general state of misery that befell too many shows. Now that the season is largely behind us, it’s time to look forward and hope for a brighter season next fall.

Summers can be a great time to catch up on new shows that you missed or fell behind on or try out an older show that you hear great things about but missed on its first run. My last summer was spent largely with Grey’s Anatomy and LOST but I was also able to try out shows like You’re the Worst, which quickly became a favorite and a highlight of the fall season. This summer, I’m continuing on my multi-year journey with The X-Files, finishing up Avatar the Last Airbender, watching Freaks and Geeks for the first time, starting Happy Endings, hopefully watching Grace and Frankie, and likely becoming obsessed with Shadowhunters, though I’m sure I’ll find time to squeeze a few more things in there. In case you’re looking for some ideas for your own summer watching, I’ve listed a few shows below that I think would be a fantastic way to spend this hiatus.

Sense8 To understand this show is to understand me and that has nothing to do with these characters (who I love dearly) or the plot (which is fine) but everything to do with its central theme of connection and the beauty that results from it. My love for this show is all about the way it makes me feel. I love shows that understand the value in simple moments between two people, allowing them to share themselves with each other, and this show loves those moments. Its strongest moments are often when two sensates are doing nothing more than talking to each other and lending each other emotional support. The fun action sequences and the excellent romances make it even better but its core principles are what move me and what has made it stay with me.

The Americans This show is in its 4th season and it just keeps getting better, which most TV fans know is a truly remarkable accomplishment. Rather than being a fast-paced spy drama, this show is about a family struggling for connection and facing the consequences of their actions. That family just happens to be headed by two Russian spies. It’s a look at identity and loyalty to one’s country and family and how those things can change over time. It is incredibly well-made television that is comfortable in quiet moments and gives them the proper space to truly resonate. It can be nearly unbearably tense at times but only after it’s asked you to care about these people on an emotional level. It’s dangerous being a spy and external threats will always be a part of the show but the most compelling work is done on a smaller more personal level. The emphasis on the people behind the actions and the talent at all levels of this production make it one of the best shows on television at the moment.

Gilmore Girls With the revival nearly wrapped, what better time could there be to travel to Stars Hollow and fall in love with this special show? The lighter tone of the show is perfect for lazy summer days and the fast-paced, witty dialogue will leave you quoting the show long after it ends. No matter with Gilmore girl most resonates with you, there is inspiration to be gained and laughter and tears to be had. For all of the disagreements about boyfriends on the show, the heart of the show exists in Lorelai and Rory’s relationship with each other and it is something that should be cherished all these years later. If you’re not already a fan of this show, check it out and see what makes it special to so many.

Jane the Virgin I am continuously amazed at this show. It juggles so many different tones and stories and while it doesn’t handle them all equally well, it comes together to form an incredible whole. No matter what it is trying to do, it has three reliable strengths to fall back on. The first is Gina Rodriguez’s talent and love for this role. She puts everything she can into whatever this show throws at her and her natural warmth and light shine through it all. The second is the relationship between the Villanueva women. This will always be the best love story on the show. The dynamic between these ladies is always feels beautiful and real. This is the grounding point in the show, amidst all the telenovela styling and crime boss plots.  Finally, it’s the coherency that the Narrator brings to the show. It adds a lightness and awareness to everything the show is doing and gives it that fantastical edge that sets it apart from other shows. This is such a special show and there is truly nothing else on television like it.

Continue reading What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2016

Too Many Feels: The TV Moments That Make Me Cry

Whether it is for a happy or sad reason, I love it when an episode of television can move me to tears. As Katie said a few weeks ago, it gives us the opportunity to examine ourselves and figure out why it affects us so much. It also gives us an outlet for our feelings when they get to be too much. Sometimes we just need to cry but if you’re like me, you don’t always give yourself the space to fully feel, so clips like these are waiting for us and give us the freedom to fall apart on our own terms. These are 10 moments that not only made me cry the first time I watched them but continue to make me feel deeply on re-watches as well.

Sawyer and Juliet remember (LOST) Yes, I know this finale is one of the more divisive in television history. But if it’s one that works for you, it is almost guaranteed to make you cry. While all of the reunions are emotional, the one between Sawyer and Juliet makes me cry the hardest. This love story snuck up on me and got one of the most perfect episodes imaginable in “La Fleur” before being tragically separated. Their typical banter is so beautifully reflected in this scene but it’s the montage of their relationship that starts the sobbing for me even before the looks of wonder that cross each of their face as they remember their history. It was a gift they could never have imagined and the way they cling to each other and that glorious smile on Juliet’s face as she tells Sawyer to kiss her will stay with me forever.

Tommy and Eric reunite (Girl Meets World) There was no better story arc for Eric on Boy Meets World than his brief relationship with Tommy. Eric loved Tommy enough to give him up so he could have his best chance. Eric wasn’t in a position to be a full-time parent, no matter how much he wanted to be. So he let Tommy go and find the family he deserved. It was a story that made me cry every time I watched it and just hearing that it had been revisited on Girl Meets World had me crying before I watched the clip. Hearing Tommy talk about Eric is such glowing terms and knowing that as he grew up, he recognized exactly what it was that Eric gave him and never forgot him was simply beautiful, as was the look on Eric’s face when he realized who he was. It was a moment that probably played better for fans of the original series than fans of the new one, but I’m so grateful they made the decision to revisit such a successful story line.

Seasons of Love (Glee) I think Glee handled “The Quarterback” in the best way they could but this song is most successful as the cast’s tribute to Cory Monteith. The grief wasn’t what their characters were feeling for Finn, it was what these actors felt at the loss of their friend. The staging was simple and it was a remarkably understated moment for the show, which just felt right.

Rory’s going away party (Gilmore Girls) As soon as Jackson and Zach show up with umbrellas to escort Rory and Lorelai to the party, I am a mess. I love seeing everyone we love in Stars Hollow there to celebrate Rory and that it’s also a way for the audience to say goodbye to them. Kirk’s ridiculous sash is perfectly fitting as is Taylor’s awkward preamble to Rory’s speech. In recent watches, however, it’s been Lorelai’s conversation with her parents that gets to me the most. Richard is right, the party wasn’t only for Rory. Yes, Stars Hollow has fallen in love with her and many of the adults at that party had a hand in shaping her as she grew up. But it’s also a testament to the life Lorelai made for herself and a tribute to the love this town has for her. It does take a remarkable woman to inspire that love and there is not a more fitting word to describe Lorelai Gilmore.

Continue reading Too Many Feels: The TV Moments That Make Me Cry

The Situation’s a Lot More Nuanced Than That: My Top 10 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Songs

Tonight, the extraordinary first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wraps up. It could have been a disaster. It had originally been designed as a half-hour comedy for Showtime before being re-tooled as an hour-long comedy for the CW. It was easy for many people to write it off because of the title, but it would be a mistake to do so. Yes, Rebecca moved across the country after running into a former boyfriend, but as the theme song delightfully points out, the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that. It’s a show full of rich, three-dimensional characters, a very flawed protagonist, and a lot of amazing music. In honor of the finale tonight, I’ve chosen ten of my favorites to spotlight.

1. Feeling Kinda Naughty (1×02, “Josh’s Girlfriend is Really Cool!)

First of all, this song is ridiculously catchy. Second, it’s a nice bit of commentary. By the title and the styling, you would expect something similar to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and you get exactly the opposite. It rejects the idea that a “girl crush” (or obsession, in this case) is sexual in nature and takes a much darker turn. It takes this performative view of women’s sexuality that too often gets fetishized and in its place, offers up a scenario in which Rebecca’s obsession with everything about Valencia is creepy and destructive.

2. Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes (1×03 “I Hope Josh Comes to My Party!”)

This song couldn’t be any more made for me if it tried. It is the perfect boyband parody and it’s about psychology. Though I don’t think it’s too likely that anyone specializing in CBT would also be Freudian in their views. But nitpicking aside, I like that right at the beginning, the show didn’t shy away from Rebecca’s mental health struggles. Josh’s love was never going to fix her problems, but it makes sense at this point in time that she could believe it might.

3. Settle for Me (1×04 “I’m Going on a Date with Josh’s Friend!”)

The styling on this is just gorgeous. It’s a homage to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that suits Santino Fontana’s voice perfectly. The ballroom dancing and tap break and the outfits are beautiful all while the song is incredibly depressing. Greg knows he’s not Rebecca’s choice but he doesn’t care because he thinks so little of himself. They share their self-loathing tendencies and makes them understand each other well and gives them an easy rapport but it also makes you want more for both of them, individually and together.

Continue reading The Situation’s a Lot More Nuanced Than That: My Top 10 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Songs

The 100 3×11: We Survive Together

In the immortal words of Octavia Blake, we’re back, bitches! This episode marks the first time the 100 has been together on-screen since the season one finale. Yes, off-screen, they shared the walk back to Camp Jaha from Mount Weather but I don’t think any of them were up for much talking at that time. After a half-season that tested my love for this show with it’s poor writing and increased violence, this episode gave me back the hope that I once found in this series.

Things are still terrible. Abby is now in the City of Light, a pawn in ALIE’s game. Octavia is grieving over the loss of Lincoln. Clarke is grieving over the loss of Lexa. Jasper hasn’t healed from the loss of Maya. Monty killed his mom, shortly before learning that people who have taken the City of Light chip can be saved. Bellamy finally realizes that he made the wrong decision and now can be more full of guilt and self-loathing. But they are no longer suffering alone. They are a family once more and they’ll get through their challenges, both internal and external, together.

Before I talk about what made this episode work so well for me, I have to single out Lindsay Morgan for her exceptional performance. Everyone did a wonderful job this week but Morgan stood out by throwing everything she had into her portrayal of Raven. The physicality and emotion she put into her reactions and taunts this week was some of her best work on the series.

While not the underlying problem with the season, the separation of this core team has made it a difficult season to watch. Not only has Clarke been physically separated from them and her mother, but the rest of them have been separated by their own mental and emotional struggles. Friendships and bonds that once provided strength and comfort have been tested and broken. The result has been the isolation of these characters, with only small moments of overlap. It’s left each of them with little support system at a time when they could all use it. Yet despite their own problems and the tension between many of them, when one of their own needed help, they all risked everything to help.

Continue reading The 100 3×11: We Survive Together

I Will Remember You: A Look Back on American Idol

As soon as the final season of American Idol was announced, I knew I wanted to write something about the show. This show had an enormous impact on pop culture and gave FOX several years of incredible ratings. It gave them a platform to launch new shows, it inspired several similar competition shows, and while it didn’t make as strong of an impact on the music industry as it may have liked, it did launch the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, and many more. From that perspective alone, the fact that the show is ending is a big deal, even if it doesn’t draw the same attention it used to. But while I love it from a TV history perspective, that not why I needed to write about the show. In fact, the reason I needed to write about it has little to do with the show itself. Instead, in honor of its finale, I want to talk about what one season in particular brought to me as an individual.

It seems that most American Idol fans have one season they love just a little more than the rest. Maybe it was the first they watched. Maybe it was the one in which their favorite won. Maybe it was the one that had the best vocalists. Maybe it was the only one they watched. For me, that season is season 8. It’s not the first I watched (that would be the first season) and honestly, I didn’t even watch all of season 8. But it was the one that will forever be a part of my heart and an important part of my personal history.

As has been the case of most of the media I hold close to my heart, season 8 of American Idol came to me at the start of a transitional time in my life. I was getting ready to start the process of applying to graduate school and deciding whether I wanted to pursue psychology or pop culture studies. I was in the process of defining my own identity and beliefs distinct from the one that had been taught to me through 13 years of religious schooling. I was still struggling with the loss of a few old friendships and was very hesitant to let new people into my life. Then in blazed Adam Lambert.

My mom has been a fan of the show for as long as it has been airing so I would often hear pieces of songs when I went to get a drink of water or ask her a question. If I’m remembering correctly, I wandered through during Adam’s performance of “Ring of Fire” and I was intrigued by him. Then I happened to be back next week for “Mad World” and I was hooked. If I didn’t see an episode, I asked her how he did. There were other contestants I liked but he was my favorite. While both Kris and Adam had strong final performance nights (except for “No Boundaries”, congratulations AI, you found a song that fit neither of their strengths), my prior love for Adam won out and I voted for a performer for the first time since season one. He didn’t win, but I wasn’t concerned. I’d been aware enough of the show and the success (or lack thereof) of the winners to know that the top 3-4 was usually guaranteed to release at least one album. For any other season and any other time, my interest probably would have stopped there. I might have enjoyed a song on the radio by a contestant and that would be it.

But once again, it was Adam that kept me invested. His Rolling Stone cover got so much press, both the fact that it was the runner-up on the cover and not the winner as well as the admission of his crush on Kris. At some point that summer, I stumbled across a Livejournal post celebrating Adam and Kris’s friendship, which led to a fan community, which led to a year I won’t ever forget. 

Continue reading I Will Remember You: A Look Back on American Idol

100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Two

It’s time for Day Two of my 100 Days of Fan Favorites challenge. Once again, I’m back to talk about a romantic relationship that is very close to my heart, that of Jimmy and Gretchen from You’re the Worst. 

Jimmy and Gretchen don’t have a conventional love story and would be horrified at the suggestion that they did. When the show started, neither of them particularly believed in the idea of love or commitment. But somehow, what started as a one-night stand grew into a quiet and deeply affecting love story.  

The show wastes little time establishing that these two people are in fact, kind of the worst. When we meet Jimmy, he’s taking pictures of his penis with the disposable cameras at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding before being thrown out of said wedding for getting in a loud fight with the bride. Which is where he meets Gretchen, outside for a smoke after stealing a wedding gift. They end up in bed together and in between rounds, spend some time discussion the terrible things they’ve done in their past. It’s not your average pillow talk, but they both recognize that they are able to be honest about their awfulness because they have no intention of seeing each other again. This becomes the base of their relationship.

The next day, after returning to Jimmy’s house to retrieve her purse, Gretchen returns a little bit of that honesty Jimmy is so fond of before stealing his car to visit her occasional boyfriend/sex partner. She attempts to open up to him about terrible things she’s done and he is understandably appalled and confused. So she calls Jimmy. He may be the worst, as she pointed out earlier, but he understood her. He is more impressed at her audacity than upset that she actually stole his car and they proceed to have a conversation about his foot fetish as she provides him with helpful fantasy material. Before long, they realize that they’ve unintentionally started enjoying each other’s company and that they’d like to see each other again.

The problem is one of them (Gretchen) is scared of anything slightly resembling commitment. Which turns out to be perfectly fine because after his relationship with Becca (the bride in the beginning of the episode), Jimmy doesn’t believe in love. So because they both know any chance of an actual relationship is doomed, they agree to continue seeing and talking to each other.

I loved the first episode of this show nearly instantly the first time around but it wasn’t until I did a rewatch a few days ago that I really saw why Gretchen and Jimmy work so well together. With each other, there is an understanding that is lacking in most of their other relationships. These people see so clearly everything that makes the person kind of terrible but they don’t want to run away. They recognize the worst parts of themselves in the other person and therefore have someone to share that with. Relationships should absolutely encourage us to be our best selves but I also think the best ones should understand us at our worst. Our worst may be a little less extreme than Jimmy and Gretchen’s, but it’s always there.

Continue reading 100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Two

Thoughts on The 100’s Character Death and The Reaction To It

Over the past year, I’ve not hid my love for The 100. I sung its praises and encouraged others to watch, it was one of the most featured shows in my Best of 2015 series, and I was excited enough to want to try my hand at weekly reviewing for the first time. As you may have noticing, that hasn’t worked out so well. There were some other, real life factors, that went into my decision to stop but even more than those, it was because I no longer knew what to say. Unlike the first two seasons, which had the characters moving the plot forward with logical development, this season has taken the opposite approach. Pacing issues and pivotal moments happening off-screen has led to a show that moves characters around to suit the plot, with much less thought to their overall development.  It has left me with much less desire to talk about the show as a whole but given the events of last Thursday’s episode, there are a few things I’d like to say.

The way Lexa’s death was handled was a disgrace. I can understand the need to work with Alycia Debnam-Carey’s schedule on Fear the Walking Dead. I can even almost understand the need to kill Lexa at all, though I can think of ways that could have eliminated the need and kept her character off-screen in a believable way, as it did give us a significant piece of information that should have a large impact on the show moving forward. However, what I won’t accept is the way they chose to kill her.

Lexa, the Commander of the entire Grounder nation and proven warrior, deserved more than a stray bullet. Had she died protecting Clarke from Titus or at the hand of one of her people who was unhappy with her rule, I could have accepted that. That would have allowed her to go out on her own terms or at the very least, in a way that recognized the cost of her leadership position. If the show is considered entirely on its own, it was a bad decision and just another one of many missteps this season.

I was spoiled for the ending of this episode. Being the fangirl that I am and knowing what a character death does to fans, I took a look at the Clexa tag on Tumblr to see how fans were doing. I expected sadness and anger at the specifics on how the death happened. I didn’t expect the personal heartbreak. I didn’t expect the resignation and the loss of hope that I found there.

I love TV. I’ve seen a lot of it and I’m continually striving to see more. I also know the importance of representation and it’s something I feel passionately about. I’ve written an entire post about the importance of media literacy. And I failed at it. I was thinking about The 100 in a vacuum and the loss of Lexa as just another character and I was wrong. I had the luxury of overlooking the history of killing lesbian women on television, often right after happy moments. It wasn’t ignorance, I’ve seen more than one show do it and have known of more. But they weren’t the first things that popped into my head. They didn’t have to be because I’m not a lesbian. I haven’t seen characters like myself die with alarming frequency.

Continue reading Thoughts on The 100’s Character Death and The Reaction To It

I’m An Optimist, Not an Idiot: A Letter to Savannah Monroe

Nine months ago, Katie launched The Fan Mail Project. In honor of today’s deadline for letters, I thought I’d share another one of mine. Today is all about my love for Hellcats’ Savannah and how she reminded me of two influential people in my own life. 

Dear Savannah,

My final two years of cheerleading was bittersweet. Our captain graduated and her loss took much of the energy out of the program. I was still getting to do what I loved but not nearly at the same level or with the same number of people. It dampened a lot of my love for the sport but it’s impossible to be fully rid of something that meant so much to you. It’s been nearly 10 years since I last picked up my pom poms and I’m happy to say that thanks to you, a fuller version of my love of cheerleading has returned.

Thank you for being proud to be a cheerleader. It’s hard for people who aren’t involved in it to truly understand what goes into the competitive side of cheerleading. It’s seen an activity that is performed for the benefit of other people rather than something that pushes you and is personally fulfilling. But you never let that stop you. When others were dismissive, you shined brighter. Cheerleading wasn’t a popular thing to do at my high school. We won the first state championship in my school’s history and no one cared. It’s hard to remain positive about something when the general response is that of apathy or disregard. But we did it anyway. You would have loved my captain, she shared your passion and even came from a similar background as you. It was her who initially sparked my love for the sport by showing me everything it could be and instilling a level of confidence in myself and my abilities I didn’t know I had. It was you who made me reconnect with that girl.

Continue reading I’m An Optimist, Not an Idiot: A Letter to Savannah Monroe

Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang

For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katie (creator of Nerdy Girl Notes) is writing a book! She believes, as I do, in the power of the media to shape us and positively impact our lives. So she created The Fan Mail Project as a way for us as fans to say thank you so some of the fictional characters who have meant the most to our personal development and to highlight all of the good that comes from having diverse, positive examples of female representation in the media. The submission deadline for letters is 3 weeks away, so there is plenty of time to contribute yourself or spread the word. If you need somewhere to start, here’s a few suggestions of characters who aren’t yet represented in the book but are often cited as making a difference. Or if you’d like to see more examples of letters, Katie’s can all be found online as can the contributions of other fans

Dear Cristina,

I’ve always believed that there are some people who come into our lives exactly when we need them. These are the people who fill a piece of your heart and never really leave us. This is who you are to me. I met you a year ago. I was nicely settled in at work, doing a job I enjoy, but am not particularly passionate about. You were a first year resident and already sure you were taking the right path. You were a little off-putting at first, with your confidence and lack of interest in sugarcoating your thoughts. But you quickly revealed a deeper inner life and drive and in you, I found myself.

I didn’t find myself in all of your many positive attributes. I admire your unwavering sense of purpose and your dedication to all things related to cardiothoracic surgery. I cheered at your many successes in the operating room and with your research. But I don’t share that soul-deep certainty that I have found what I want to do with my life. You give me hope that one day I will and that I can approach it with the same tenacity and devotion so thank you for pursuing your dreams without hesitation.

Instead, it’s been in your weaknesses that I am most drawn to you. When you had your ectopic pregnancy and tried to push through like everything was fine, I recognized that impulse. I recognized the need to be strong and not show that you were hurting because in your mind, there was no reason to be. You didn’t want the pregnancy, so you weren’t grieving over a child in the same way you could have been. So life and work continued on and you probably even thought you were fine for a while. But as you and I both know, emotions aren’t that convenient and logical, as much as we wish for them to be at times. When we finally give in and allow ourselves to breakdown, we do it in a big way. Thank you for being so much like me in that moment. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my somewhat ineffective way at handling events and feelings that are beyond my control.

Continue reading Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang