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Best of 2016: Shows

There were 455 scripted TV shows that aired in 2016. No one could watch them all and no one save for critics could watch even a significant fraction of them. We have so many options now and a decent portion of them are really solid choices that are capable of exciting and enchanting us. This is always a hard list for me to make because I watch so much TV and I really love most of what I watch. So in addition to my top 10 that I’ve briefly talked about, I included an additional 10 honorable mentions that I would recommend just as enthusiastically as my actual top 10. Especially since when I finalize these lists, I always feel like I have more to say about my dramas so my comedy favorites get a little neglected.

1. Rectify (Sundance) What a beautiful, special show. Over the course of four seasons, this show has treated its characters with such empathy and grace. It has been a slow and thoughtful journey all leading up to the finale and an important realization. Mistakes of the past can’t always be rectified, but we can still grow and move past them. We can become better. We can heal. Daniel’s imprisonment and subsequent release are moments that will shape not only his life, but the lives of each member of his family and the people drawn into their world. But they do not have to define them any longer. There is room for hope and all the messy emotions that accompany it. There is a place for dreams that take you far outside your comfort zone. There is a place for family and love, for forgiveness and understanding. It is a time for rebirth. This show has been one of the most emotionally satisfying I have ever experienced and I will always be grateful that it existed and went out on its own terms.

2. The Americans (FX) This show just keeps getting better as the seasons go on. It’s in the act of maintaining the tension and the emotional release that I find the show most impressive and it did that better than ever this year. After years of service with little break, the Jennings finally got to step back from their duties and truly be a family. It was a peace that couldn’t last as they still have a job to do, but that small bit of relief made all the difference. This could be a dark and depressing show. It’s full of lies and secrets and pain, inflicted both intentionally and unintentionally. But just as Philip and Elizabeth’s break helped bring them back from their breaking point, this show finds ways to prevent itself from becoming unbearably bleak. It’s a show that loves and honors the connections these characters make, even if those connections ultimately end in heartbreak. It recognizes their value and the way Martha shaped Philip and Young Hee shaped Elizabeth. Just because they started as assets to be manipulated didn’t mean that was their full value. We were encouraged to love them and care for them just as much as the Jennings did even when we knew we shouldn’t. It’s remarkable storytelling and I could never recommend this show enough.

3. American Crime Story: People vs. OJ Simpson (FX) I can’t speak to the authenticity of this series but I do know what it has done to re-contextualize this trial and the people involved in it. The original was such a media spectacle that it seems a perfect fit for a television show like this, especially when combined with a talented cast such as this one. We got to see the role racism and sexism played, the way it became a media circus, and most importantly, we saw a show that never forgot the victims in this case. Yes, the trial was technically centered around OJ Simpson but it never felt like he was the star of the show. It was a battle of the lawyers and we saw how deeply the outcome of this case affected Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. They wanted to win it for the Brown and Goldman families. They may not have won then and they have been mocked for it ever since, but I appreciate what this show has done to make people see how wrong they were to do so and for ending the show with Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, who somehow got lost amongst the madness of this trial.

4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW) This show could have made the list for the music alone, which continues to be fantastic, but even beyond the clever songs, this is one of the most confidently made shows on TV. It always feels like it always knows where it wants to take these characters. It knows when to lean into expectations and when to run the other way from them. The second season has been especially smart in ditching the love triangle in a believable way while focusing on the real relationship of the show, the messy friendship between Rebecca and Paula. The supporting characters round out the cast in the most delightful ways and the show has become even better as more of them are able to be highlighted.

5. Person of Interest (CBS) I would have loved a longer final season but there were so many outstanding episodes in the one we got. This season gave us a look into Shaw’s mind and the depth of her love for Root. No matter what happened, in any scenario Samaritan could dream up, Root was her constant. Her touchstone. She is her safe place and the only thing on the planet she would die to protect. I think the writers would have loved to give these two more time, but maternity leave made that impossible, so we were given this beautiful gift and I’m grateful. We got some truly lovely moments of Team Machine coming together to protect The Machine and Finch. We saw to see the people the Machine had saved and later recruited to her cause come together to save the people who originally saved them. We saw this family come together to save each other and save the world. However unrealistic, I would have loved if they could have done it all without any losses. But I know that was never in the cards. John’s death was always coming and I’m sure he’s in the Machine listening to Root call him a big lug and having all those conversations with Joss they never got to have while she was alive. These characters will live on and the memory of this show will live on in the hearts of the fans and create new ones as people discover it through Netflix.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Shows

Best of 2016: Episodes

It’s been another outstanding year for television. With so many truly great and memorable episodes to choose from, I had to find some sort of logical way to whittle down this list to my top 10. This year it seems, I really loved episodes that wanted to be about something. I want my TV to take a hard look at topics that can be uncomfortable and shine a different light on them. I don’t want them to gloss over the uglier or more painful sides to humanity in service of a story. At the same time, I don’t want that ever be the whole focus. The best episodes are the ones that show a light ahead and connections being made between people even in the bleakest of times. The idea of connection and focus on relationships is so prevalent on this list, in both the top 10 and the honorable mentions. I love that this is the direction television seems to be going after the age of the solitary antihero and look forward to more fantastic episodes in 2017.

1. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia (American Crime Story: People v. OJ Simpson) This show tried to address a lot of things, many of which are found in this episode and all of which I find fascinating. But when I look at this episode in isolation and not part of the larger whole it is contained it, one thing stands out most in my mind. I remember Marcia Clark (as I should, given the episode title). I remember the sexism that surrounded her during this trial that manifested in ways large and small. While also prosecuting the biggest trial of her life, Clark was facing another battle. She was in the middle of custody and child support disputes. She wasn’t a good enough mother to her children because she wasn’t there enough. She wasn’t sufficiently attractive and well-dressed enough to win the public’s approval. And when she tried to change it, she didn’t do a good enough job there either. She dared to have her husband (at the time) take photographs of her naked on a beach, where they were presumably alone, and his decision to profit from their release became another flaw in her character. She failed to uphold traditional gender ideals and was punished for it. Yes, as a prosecutor, she and Chris Darden failed to convict OJ Simpson for a variety of reasons. But it would be foolish to act as though her gender didn’t hurt the way she was perceived in the years that follow. Sarah Paulson is simply incredible here in the way she portrays the toll things like this take on a person’s psyche. Her haircut made her feel confident. She was asked to care about it so she made a change and she felt beautiful. That confidence was quickly burst by the reactions of everyone in the courtroom, save for Darden. It was humiliating and hurt but she couldn’t show it because it would have made her weak. It would be yet another example of her failure to compose herself and be somehow unfit. So she blinked back those tears and pressed forward, knowing that the room and the world were now laughing at her. During all of this, she even had the pleasure of interacting with a store clerk who is so awful that I thought he was made up for the show. He wasn’t. Of almost everything she faces in this episode, all of which is gross and unfair, the period joke made by the cashier makes me the most mad. It is so intrusive and reiterates the idea that hormones and emotions make women unstable for a quarter of their lives from around the age of 13 until they hit menopause. The idea that you would make such a comment to a stranger as a joke is appalling to me, even more so because I know it’s not an isolated attitude. But even in the midst of all the awfulness, all is not dark. In the hardest times in our lives, sometimes we’re lucky enough to find someone who will hold us up when the burden in too much. In this episode, we see how much Darden was that person for Clark. He supports her, encourages her, and makes her laugh at a time she felt most alone. That connection is something special and beautiful and important and I love that it was highlighted here as well.

2. Twenty-Two (You’re the Worst) This episode is the best that You’re the Worst has and possibly will ever create. It’s episodes like this that make me love the show so fiercely, even when Gretchen and Jimmy are being nearly unbearably awful. In 25 minutes, Stephen Falk’s directing and Desmin Borges’s acting give us the most visceral example of PTSD that I can remember seeing on television. We not only see what Edgar is going through with the action onscreen, but we are put in his shoes with the ringing in his ears that never quite goes away and the lack of focus. We feel how broken down and exhausted he is by trying to survive day to day in a world where everything around him feels threatening and takes him back to his days in the military. Despite the heaviness of this episode, all hope isn’t lost. Just when Edgar is at his lowest point, he finds something that gives him a reason to hold on. It leads him back to his car, which is in the process of being towed, and he finally finds someone who is willing to listen to him and who can truly understand what he’s going through because he’s been there before. It’s a moment of pure connection that brought tears to my eyes. On a character level, I love that this moment made Edgar feel like he had the power to make changes for himself. It’s scary to know that you’re the one who is ultimately responsible for changing your life. But it’s scarier to believe that it’s entirely out of your hands. We can’t always fix the broken systems that surround us but we can do what we can to make a better life for ourselves despite their limitations. It was the message Edgar needed to hear. He was hoping that there would be a magical fix that could make him feel alive again because it’s exhausting to exist as he does. But letting go of that idea and committing to fixing yourself as best as possible is the only way to get the power back to truly start living. On a larger scale, I love the compassion that this episode has for veterans and the systems that may be well-intentioned but fail them anyway. It never loses sight of the twenty-two veterans who commit suicide daily and give this episode its name. It extends empathy for their struggles and shines a light on what they face after returning from war. It’s not always comfortable for civilians to think about and their struggles often get overlooked once they’re home. In an ideal world, it shouldn’t take episodes of television to make us care about real world issues like mental illness or police violence. But to deny the power of this medium to make abstract struggles personal and understandable to people without direct experiences with them would be a mistake and it is my hope that this episode made people think and feel and care just a little more than they did before.

3. The Threshold (Halt and Catch Fire) What a magnificent episode. As is not at all atypical for me, this one’s a tough one to watch and I love it. It hurts to see these characters implode. It hurts to see the relationships these characters have formed explode. I will admit to not being much of a Joe McMillan fan. I am aware that he has a story line in this episode but for me, it pales in comparison to what happens at Mutiny. No matter what combination you put them in, the actors were magnificent. We saw the entangled weave of personal and professional connections among the core four of Mutiny and how that became their undoing. We saw relationships solidify or come back together only to be destroyed in the end. In the hands of lesser actors or writing, it could have felt manipulative. For Halt and Catch Fire, it felt right. The characters all made the decisions that made the most sense for them and their development. Had it strictly been a business dispute or a personal fight, it would not have had nearly the same impact. No one exemplifies the lack of separation between business and personal than Cameron Howe. She was Mutiny. It was her. She had a vision of what the company could be and she poured her entire being into making that vision come to life. It didn’t always make business sense. She was terrible at delegating and there was no way to create what she wanted in the time frame she was given. So to reject that vision instead of a deal that seemed to make more business sense was to reject her and what she had given to the company. And when everyone voted against her, she felt that loss on a personal level. She lost a partner, a mentor, and a friend. All she had left was her husband, who she spontaneously married during a time of emotional distress. While the relationship wasn’t terrible, it lacked the foundation she had with Donna and Bos. Donna tried to keep things separate at first. She thought she could have Cameron’s friendship and also her own vision for the company, knowing it conflicted with Cameron’s. But when the disagreement about the business became heated, the attacks quickly became personal. The choices made in that room on that day broke what they once shared. When no compromise could be found, all that was left was destruction. It took out Cameron and Bos’s recently repaired relationship and what was becoming a sweet friendship between Cameron and Gordon with it, but at the end of the day, those severed bonds were only casualties of the rift between Cameron and Donna. It’s tense, painful and brilliantly constructed and acted.  

Continue reading Best of 2016: Episodes

Best of 2015: Episodes

Choosing the best episodes of the year is always tough because it can be tricky to compare against many different types of shows. Ultimately, as always, I opted to discuss the ones that touched me the most. Whether it was for a standout moment, a departure from the ordinary, the relationships showcased or saying goodbye to a show, these are the episodes I could watch again and again. They were executed well and made me feel and there isn’t a better qualification, in my opinion.

One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation) To close out seven seasons of the show, Parks and Recreation chose to spend their final episode by reflecting on these characters and how they have been changed by knowing Leslie Knope. For a character whose dreams always included the happiness of her friends, I can think of no better ending. The unique structure allowed us to peek into the future and know that these characters had bright lives ahead of them. We got to say goodbye to each of them individually before we got to celebrate one final moment of them working together to make a difference in a small, rather unappreciated way. We got one more chance to celebrate the friendship between this intense, occasional steamroller of a woman and her beautiful tropical fish (and cry many tears at their reunion). We got one more look at the unconditional support and belief that Ben Wyatt has in his wife and got to see Leslie accomplish everything she had ever wanted. We even had time for one last library joke. Nobody does anything alone. Leslie taught us that has she achieved all of her goals with the people of the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana by her side. It is a beautiful message and the only real way to say goodbye to this beautiful show.

Stingers (The Americans) A single scene and its fallout elevate this episode into one of the best of the year and the best thing The Americans did in an incredible season. This scene wasn’t loud or splashy, but instead was quiet and almost painfully tense. For the first time in her life, Paige’s parents decided to be honest about who they were. It was a question she had every right to ask because no one can pretend that their life is perfectly normal. It was also a question whose answer she was in no way prepared for. Her parents were similarly unprepared to tell her the truth though I’m glad they did. They understood what they were asking of Paige even if I think they overestimated what a teenage girl could reasonably be expected to bear. And so they told her with as much compassion and love as they could muster because despite their history and everything they have been asked to fake, they’ve never needed to fake their love for their children. This scene was so affecting because you could feel Philip and Elizabeth’s need for Paige to understand and accept what they were saying just as much as we felt how overwhelming all of this information was to Paige in this moment and for the rest of the episode. Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, and Holly Taylor are all so talented and made this a scene and an episode I won’t forget.

Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television (Community) There was no other way for Community to end. The final episode needed Jeff to come to terms with himself and be wonderfully meta about the role television plays in our lives. This episode was Dan Harmon’s thank you letter to his fans. It was an acknowledgement of the show’s ups and downs and a statement of his vision and everything he put into creating such a weird little show that never found mass success but inspired a dedicated following. It was his frustration of the way the show was received by fans and an admission that it’s hard to create a TV show that is everything each viewer needs and wants it to be. Saying goodbye is hard, whether it’s to a show you love or to your best friends as they go off and start new chapters in their lives. But things can’t stay the same, in television or in life. Change is needed. People need to move on and grow so they don’t end up in a permanent stasis that isn’t true to who they are. This episode was about welcoming that change and by making it as much about TV and the viewers as it did about the characters, Community gave us a fitting end so we would be ready for whatever the future held for the show.

The Devil’s Mark (Outlander) In this episode, Claire found out that that she wasn’t the only time-traveler in Scotland and Jaime found that that Claire was from the future. These two events changed Outlander and solidified the bond between Claire and Jaime. From now on, these two are full partners, with the knowledge that they have chosen each other and their life together. When a character is keeping a secret as big as Claire’s, we know as viewers that it can’t last forever. Eventually, someone one has to find out. Often times, it gets revealed for an easy source of drama, but Outlander chose to go a different route. Jaime may not understand how all of this was possible but he listens and he chooses to trust his wife and let her decide how she wanted to move forward. Their separation at the stones was painful because you could see the effect it was having on both. They got married out of necessity but the love between them is real. Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have incredible chemistry with each other and they sell the epic love story that is Jaime and Claire. Their reunion at the end and the tender kiss they share says what words couldn’t at the moment. Claire no longer wanted to go home. Or rather, she didn’t want to go back to her own time. She did choose to go home but that home was now wherever she and Jaime could be together.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Episodes

Fall TV, We Need to Talk

At the beginning of every September, I get very excited about the upcoming television season. I want to try out new shows and welcome back old favorites. This year, however, while the excitement was there, the payoff has been lacking. While there are some new shows that I enjoy, I’ve failed to find one that I really love. And though many of my shows are having phenomenal second seasons, many that are older have fallen flat.

With many of my favorite cable shows airing in the spring, my falls are primarily driven by broadcast networks. While often derided in favor of their more niche cable counterparts, I tend to genuinely enjoy many of the shows they have to offer. Until this year. Whether it is an inexplicable writing choice in the hands of new showrunners, a lack of momentum and cohesion, or the choice to make every single character on your show miserable, several of my network shows have lost the things that made me love them.

Even though I have many options when it comes to things to watch, it makes me sad to drop a show I used to love. In some of these cases, I would have counted them among my favorite things to watch. It’s been wearing on me a little as the season has progressed, even if I’m not watching them. I know the medium and these shows are capable of great things. I’ve seen some really good work on all of them. And actually good work, not good for a network show or good for a procedural or whatever other qualification others may want to add. I know they can do more and all I ask is that they remember and believe that too.

So, since I’ve been disappointed in many shows this season and I know I’m not alone in that, I’d like to provide some alternative shows that I am very happy with in case you need to fill a recently developed hole in your viewing schedule.

Sundays

Once Upon A Time I love what the Dark Swan arc is bringing out in this core cast. Jennifer Morrison in particular has been absolutely fantastic bringing out all sides of her descent into ultimate darkness. While this season has been heavy on Emma and Hook’s connection, if you’re not interested in that, there is still plenty more to love with the best versions of Snow and Charming (individually and together) that we’ve seen in quite some time and some wonderful moments for Regina.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine I will love Mike Schur and the things he creates until the end of time. He writes such wonderful characters and ensembles and never fails to make me smile. This season has gotten off to a great start with Jake and Amy entering into a solid relationship that remains one aspect of their characters, rather than the entire focus. With Holt and Gina back at the precinct, I have no doubt this show will continue to do even more and be one of the bright spots in my week.

Continue reading Fall TV, We Need to Talk

TV Thoughts: 2/8-2/14

What a week of TV! This is the kind of week that is so incredibly satisfying as a fan of good TV. There were so many great episodes this week and so many tiny character moments that filled me with pure joy (and sometimes the best kind of heartbreak). What did you love about the past week in television?

Sunday

  • Looking: I can’t say that I’m disappointed to see Kevin go. Seeing Richie and Patrick talking and hanging out again reminded me that I like them together so much better, even if it’s just as friends. Patrick needs someone to call him out when he’s being an idiot, like when he’s having an affair with his already-taken boss and getting too emotionally invested in a future that wasn’t going to happen with Kevin. I’m glad it made him realize that he needed to stand up for himself and ask for what he needed out of the relationship, then leave when Kevin wasn’t capable of giving it to him. In other breakup news, I’m also proud of Dom for leaving Lynn. I liked Lynn a lot last season but he’s an awful boyfriend. Like Kevin, he wasn’t capable of giving Dom what he needed because he is still emotionally in a relationship with Brian. It’s understandable but unfair and Dom deserves better. I’m so happy that he has Doris who is so supportive and has his back 100% of the time. We all need a friend who will look into ways to Kickstarter our restaurant and help us make our dreams come true for no other reason than it is important to us. Finally, to round out the group, I cannot tell you how happy I am with the changes and growth in Augustin between s1 and s2. Eddie has been such a good influence on him and I am excited to see how he adapts to working at the shelter.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This wasn’t a brilliant or groundbreaking episode of this show by any means, but it was so much fun to watch. I loved the more action-oriented scenes as the team took over the training and took down all the other agents. It’s easy to forget that this is a show about cops and this was a nice way to bring their jobs into focus a little more while retaining all of the great character moments I love about the show. Amy’s failure to start the Nine-Nine chant (and her subsequent excitement when it worked) was adorable and so Amy. Terry’s description of the team as “boss ass penguins” may be my favorite Terry line in a while, and Rosa opening up and explaining why she needed Saturday off was perfect. Back at the precinct, I loved Captain Holt’s apology most of all. While I’m not sure that I necessarily agree that they should have ended up with the same personality classification, it’s nice when a leader can recognize that part of leading is encouraging and accepting the strengths of those who work for you. It takes a lot to admit your failings to an employee and it made me respect Captain Holt as a character even more.

Monday

  • Jane the Virgin: I fall a little more in love with this show every week. I am all-in on Jane and Rafael’s relationship (even though he is acting awfully shady at the moment) and thought their mutual concern for the health of their unborn child was so well done. I’m glad that Rafael went with his gut and planned the graduation celebration for Jane even if it was cheesy because it led to the best moment of the episode. It’s just become a fact of this show that any scene featuring the three generations of Villanueva women will be outstanding. Xo’s speech to Jane was beautiful all on it’s own but the shot of the three women sitting on Jane’s bed as she asks for the secret to being a good mother is one that will happily stay with me. No matter what is happening with Jane and the men in her life (Rogelio included), her relationship with her mother and grandmother is always stable and always a source of comfort, love, and acceptance.
  • Castle: Oh how I love the 3XK arc. It never fails to be wonderfully chilling and it brings out such good things in Nathan Fillion’s performance. Both Castle and Ryan carry so much guilt over Jerry Tyson and the murders he committed that both feel responsibility for and you could feel that guilt this week. When they found Tyson, I was not alone in thinking that maybe there was a chance they found someone who really had surgically altered their face to look like a serial killer and I loved that doubt. It wasn’t until that brilliant final interrogation scene that I felt sure they had caught Tyson only to have things go so terribly wrong when the precinct realized it was all a part of Tyson and Nieman’s plan to kidnap Beckett. That interrogation is some of the best work Nathan Fillion has done on this show. He found the story and my jaw dropped when he pulled out the pictures of Tyson’s mom and compared them to the recent victims. I have been anxiously awaiting part two of the episode and I’m so glad that tomorrow is Monday.
  • The Fosters: So many things happened in this episode, it’s almost overwhelming. The most-talked about this week was the Jude and Connor scene at the movies. However this unfolds, I am in no way prepared. I feel so incredibly protective of Jude and his happiness and I just want everything to work out for him. Regardless of what direction his relationship with Connor goes from here, it’s obvious that these two deeply care about each other. They are young and figuring out who they are and unfortunately, only one of them has the space to do so. If Connor decides he might like to move forward with a future relationship with Jude, his dad isn’t going to be supportive and it’ll just make this time that much more confusing for him. I trust this show to handle it all well but I guarantee it will make my emotions a mess. Just the small scene of them touching (and eventually hooking) pinkies tells me that there are so many good and heartbreaking things to come for them. It was full of innocence and excitement and uncertainty and everything that a first crush should be.
  • In other brief thoughts of the week, I love most of what they are doing with Mariana’s character. I love that she is enjoying STEM Club as well as her dance team. She’s one of the more unapologetically feminine characters on the show and it’s nice to see her continue to maintain that identity while excelling at a traditionally male-dominated field. I’m less excited about her wanting to go on tour with the band and would rather see her work through some of her abandonment issues, but I sometimes forget that she’s still a teenager and sometimes they don’t make the best choices. Along similar lines, Jesus could also stand to work through his own issues regarding his mother and how that’s affected him and I will look forward to seeing that happen so he will stop making such stupid decisions. Finally, Robert and Callie. I want these two to have an actual relationship that doesn’t just have Callie calling him when he’s in trouble. I think they have a lot they could offer each other and I want to see that develop. In order for that to happen though, Robert needs to realize that he can be Callie’s dad without being her guardian. As a parent, you have to think of what’s best for your child and I just don’t see how taking Callie away from the family she’s chosen for herself and her brother is going to help her, especially not at 16 when she may not have that many years left at home.

Continue reading TV Thoughts: 2/8-2/14

Galentine’s Day 2015

Happy Galentine’s Day everyone! It’s time to celebrate all of the amazing women in our lives and that includes the fictional ladies of TV. I had so much fun writing my Galentine’s Day post a couple years ago that I couldn’t resist bringing it back this year. This list is made up of just a few of the incredible female characters currently on the air right now and I know you all have plenty more that also deserve some love. So head over to the comments and lets talk about our favorite women!

Jane/Xo/Alba Villanueva (Jane the Virgin) This whole show is one that celebrates women. The showrunner is a woman, as are many of the directors and writers. If today is all about celebrating women and what they can do for each other, the cast and crew of Jane the Virgin deserve a shoutout. These three women, on their own or in any combination, are among my favorite on TV right now. I can admire Jane’s optimism and desire to work hard, Xo’s persistence in following her dreams and selflessness when it comes to Jane, and Alba’s unwavering dedication and support of her family. Jane may be the character I relate to the most, but she wouldn’t be who she is without the influence of her mom and abuela. These women support each other, no matter what, and it’s been beautiful to watch.

Bow Johnson (Black-ish) It’s never easy to be the fictional character in a relationship with another character who has a big personality. If not played or written right, this sort of character could easily fade into the background but I’m so glad that Bow hasn’t. Yes, she may end up reacting a lot to something Dre is doing (though that can often work to the show’s advantage, like her attempted prank on Dre with the kids) but occasionally she’ll get her own rant that will just crack me up and remind me of how much I adore her. She’s talented in her own right and is proud of her successes as a doctor. She’s not afraid to say, that yes, she is in fact pretty great if no one else is going to step up and recognize her and that’s a trait I really admire.

Amy Santiago/Rosa Diaz/Gina Linetti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) I’ve spent the past few days trying to choose just one of these wonderful ladies for this list but I haven’t succeeded so I’m picking them all. Each has found their place in the world and they are very comfortable in it. Amy has found security in rules and organization. They help her make sense of things and she’s very relatable to me in that aspect. Rosa finds security in her tough exterior. It’s partly emotional protection for her and partly her innate tendency to tell it like it is and she can have trouble when others don’t do the same. Like so many of the other women who present a prickly exterior to the world, she does care and she’ll always have your back. She’s not going to pretend she likes you when she doesn’t but if she likes you, she’ll be a loyal friend for life. Gina just exists on her own plane of existence. Like Rosa, she’ll tell you exactly what she’s thinking (which is something about herself more often than not). She’s self-absorbed and a bit intense for a lot of people, but there is something so amazing about the fact that she’s as likeable as she is. What makes these three women great is that they exist simultaneously on the same show. It’s not a show with a token woman with the same basic strengths and weaknesses as the characters on other shows. All are different and all are celebrated for who they are. They are never pitted against each other and are allowed to simply be.

Linda Belcher (Bob’s Burgers) I know that Tina and Louise are internet favorites but Linda has always been my favorite of the Belcher women. She may get stuck on crazy ideas and take them too far (like every other member of the family) but when it comes down to it, she’s an enthusiastic and passionate woman who loves her husband and children. She’ll fight for them and be their champion when others doubt them because she accepts them just as they are.

Continue reading Galentine’s Day 2015

Best of 2014: Actors

In my second to last installment of the Best of 2014, I want to take a moment to celebrate the brilliant work that so many actors did on TV this year. It was a year full of talent and it could be found everywhere you looked, across all networks and platforms.

Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) I’m sure that Jeffrey Tambor has been in a great number of things but until this year, I only knew him as George Bluth, Sr. Within just a few minutes of meeting Maura Pfefferman, all images of George Bluth were erased in my mind. Jeffrey Tambor has been rightly praised for his work in Transparent. He captures the vulnerability, the strength, the fear and the relief that comes with being the person you always knew you were supposed to be. There is a gentleness to his portrayal of Maura, a sense of trying to relearn everything you thought you knew about the world while holding onto sometimes (like family) you don’t want to leave behind.

Allison Tolman (Fargo) The casting department found gold in Allison Tolman. Without the warmth and dedication she brought to her role as Molly Solverson, Fargo would have been far less memorable to me. Whether it was her relationship with her father, her growing relationship with Gus and his daugher, or her pursuit of Lorne and Lester, there was an emotional and moral base to all she did. I sincerely hope this becomes a breakout role for her and we see much more of her in the future.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) I’m cheating and picking two people for this spot. Each of them are fantastic on their own and definitely shine in their individual scenes but it’s the combination of Russell and Rhys that makes the acting on The Americans so compelling. The Jennings are complicated characters, torn between their loyalties to their mother country and their children who are still unaware of who their parents really are, and every bit of that conflict and complication comes through in these two performances. Whether it is a quieter moment, like Elizabeth reaching out to Emmett and Leanne’s son and deciding to not tell him the truth about his parents or a louder moment like Philip’s meeting with Paige’s pastor, you don’t want to take your eyes away from them.

Continue reading Best of 2014: Actors

Best of 2014: Episodes

Welcome to my second Best of 2014 list! Today we are taking a look at some of the best episodes of the year. This is always a tough list to make, as evidenced by the fact that my honorable mention list is nearly as long as my actual list. It was truly a great year in TV with so many episodes that made me laugh, cry and think. In no particular order, here are the episodes that stuck with me most this year. As always, feel free to make your own list in the comments below and for even more Best Of fun, head over the Nerdy Girl Notes for Katie’s favorites of the year.

Outlander – The Wedding It’s a crazy situation when two characters need to get married after knowing each other a short time in order to protect one of them from an angry English soldier. It’s even crazier when you consider that one of them recently traveled back in time 200 years and left a husband behind in the present. Yet Outlander makes these unusual situations work and that is largely due to the strength of the chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. It is believable that Claire would be drawn to Jamie in this strange world and the 6 episodes preceding “The Wedding” shows that progression. Claire may be terrified and conflicted but there is no denying that she wants Jamie. Jaime would have married Claire just to protect her because it was the right thing to do, but it’s also undeniable that he deeply cares for her. And this episode shows just that – two strangers who are drawn to the other and navigating their feelings under a speedier timeline than usual. The sex, while required to make it official, isn’t an event of dreams. Jamie started out a bit confused about which direction each of them was supposed to face and then quickly finished as he was told women wouldn’t enjoy it much. And here is where the episode (and the book series it is based on, does something remarkable). It allows Claire to tell Jamie how much she did enjoy it and to teach him how to please her. Claire is a woman who knows what she wants and rarely has a show focused so much on her desires and pleasure. The episode gave us a moment solely from Claire’s perspective as she enjoys and examines her new husbands nude body before turning and allowing him to do the same for her. We get a female perspective of the sex and that is something that has been sorely lacking for too long.

The Good Wife – Dramatics Your Honor While not my favorite episode in the season (that would be The Last Call, the episode following it), this episode pulled off an impressive feat. It killed off a main character with absolutely no buildup. There were no spoilers that a character’s life hung in the balance, nothing about an actor leaving, nothing in previews for the episode. It was abrupt and it was startling. It allowed us (or at least the East Coast viewers who happened to be watching live) to be hit with the full emotional impact of the death. Even for those of us who were spoiled thanks to a combination of a different timezone, the internet, and more than a little bit of impatient curiosity, those final few moments were still breathless viewing. It was the second time in one season that The Good Wife took what we thought we knew about the show and threw it all away. It sent the show in a new direction and was one of those episodes of TV I was happy to experience with everyone else online.

Rectify – Donald the Normal Sometimes the only possible reaction one can after watching a particularly powerful episode of TV is to sit there in stunned silence and just experience the moment. That’s what this episode of Rectify did for me. Just the scenes with Kerwin’s family would have been enough to make this episode emotionally powerful. But what really made me love this episode was Daniel’s attempt to live life for a day free of his history and the suspicions of the residents of Paulie only to realize that you can’t outrun your past. It’s heartbreaking to see Daniel’s joy at getting to interact with other people without any baggage clouding their view of him. He gets to be the person he might have been without the murder charge and years in prison hanging over his head. Then he runs into a couple who recognizes him and any chance he thinks he has of a normal life vanishes. It is a beautifully acted episode from Aden Young and takes wonderful advantage of the slow and contemplative tone of the show. It was emotionally intense for me to watch but I loved how resonant and full it felt.

True Detective – The Secret Fate of All Life The editing and acting in this episode are fantastic. I loved listening to Rust and Marty tell the story of what happened to the Ledoux cousins back in 1995 while we saw the actual events unfold on the screen. It was a fascinating look at how we construct stories about our past to suit our needs (in Rust and Cohle’s case, to cover up the killing of the Ledoux cousins) and while Rust’s philosophizing has gotten a lot of the attention on the show, I enjoyed the emphasis on the psychology behind these two men getting from who they were when we first see them in 1995 to their present state, especially Rust. We saw their journey and that was never more clear than it was in this episode.

Continue reading Best of 2014: Episodes

Episode of the Week: February 2nd-8th

This week in television, we learned about the existence of a Wall around the city that has never been mentioned on Almost Human, Beckett and Castle moved up on their wedding on Castle, Ted let go of Robin on How I Met Your Mother, Scott and Kira continued to be cute on Teen Wolf, Callie made some important realizations on The Fosters, Jess and Nick had an encounter with their exes on New Girl, Captain Holt had a birthday party on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Diane was overly competitive on Trophy Wife, Dallas and George saw each other for the first time since the breakup on Suburgatory, we learned more about Joan’s past on Elementary, and Randy continued to be the best character on Enlisted.

This was a great week for my sitcoms. They all had some hilarious moments, particularly Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Suburgatory. It was a tough choice between those two this week, but overall, I felt all of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was strong while the Victor and Fred story suffered a little on Suburgatory this week.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has consistently been one of the best new sitcoms of the season because of the way it understands and utilizes its characters. “The Party” took the characterizations we knew and put them in a different, non-job oriented context and did so with a lot of really funny moments and the sort of heart-warming moment that Mike Schur and Dan Goor excel at.

I am going to have to start by expressing my deep love for Terry Jeffords. He makes me laugh every single week and this week was no exception. From his comparison of the synchronous movements of the group to gazelles, to “stop eating crab wrong!”, to the freeze frame of him holding the chubby corgi in the bathroom, Terry Crews was at the top of his comedic abilities.

This episode was such a good showcase for the quirks of the department. Amy attempting to learn about Captain Holt by rummaging through his belongings was so perfectly her, as was her incredibly awkward attempts to engage him in conversation during the party. It was also the best use of Gina being Gina that we’ve seen yet on the show.

What I appreciated most about the episode was the ending. Jake has suddenly had great insights that have led to last-minute arrests, but he’s never been shown to be particularly in tune with his emotions or the emotions of those around him so it was refreshing that it was him who identified why Holt’s husband disliked them so much.

The ending with the birthday dinner that featured each member of the department utilizing their skills to arrange such a lovely dinner was perfect. It resonated because we have come to understand and care about these characters and it’s nice to see that they clearly care for each other too.

Episode of the Week: January 12th-18th

This week in television, Emily blackmailed Daniel into staying married to her on Revenge, concerns about vote rigging arose on The Good Wife, Castle learned that blood doesn’t make you family on Castle, Barney got slapped on How I Met Your Mother, the Mills sisters were awesome on Sleepy Hollow, Jude blamed himself for Callie running away and broke everyone’s heart on The Fosters, Jake and Amy went on the worst date on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jess tried to bond with Coach on New Girl, Danny called his father on The Mindy Project, Kate learns how to punish kids from Diane on Trophy Wife, Casey continued to struggle from the aftermath of his injury on Chicago Fire, Antonio’s son was brought home safely on Chicago PD, Suburgatory returned and the Altman’s decided to stay in Chatswin, Pierce wants Troy to sail around the world then inherit Pierce’s fortune on Community, Ben was horrible at pranks on Parks and Recreation, Carrie found her killer instinct and learned Sebastian didn’t have one on The Carrie Diaries, and Enlisted showed us that empathy is not a negative trait for men.

This week, two sitcoms really stood out in my mind and I think both are deserving of the title of Episode of the Week. First, Enlisted really demonstrated how much potential this show has by the way it deals with the character of Randy. Randy loves being a soldier but he is terrible at it. He has a hard time turning his empathy off and it makes things like target practice difficult when your target has a family and backstory. I was sad when his brother Derrick broke that part of him in order to pass the marksmanship test until the show made Derrick regret what he had done. Randy is an enthusiastic, deeply caring character and the show doesn’t judge him negatively for that. His commanding officer instead commends him for that and tells Derrick that the Army needs more people like Randy to help the families left behind when someone is deployed. It was a beautiful message to send and made me really wish this show had better ratings.

This was also the week of the best Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode to date. Coming off its Golden Globe win, this episode (which would have been the last one had the episode order not been extended) provided a nice callback to Peralta and Santiago’s bet from the pilot and gave us some hilarious moments from Boyle and Captain Holt.

I love that a potential romance between Peralta and Santiago hasn’t been the focus of the series but I enjoyed seeing what that potential romance could look like if it happened in the future. The worst fake date was so detailed and I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of it because Santiago’s reactions would have been hilarious but I loved the scene on the roof that we did get even more. There’s a possibility of something interesting happening with these two characters. Their fake break-up leading to the arrest was so well done and showed how well these two characters can work together. I wouldn’t want them to date any time soon but I would like more interactions like the ones in this episode in the future.

All that being said, however, this episode was made by Captain Holt with an assist from Boyle. Holt faking a text message to get away from Sergeant Jefford’s wife was the funniest thing I saw on TV this week. It wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if Boyle hadn’t tried the same thing earlier in the episode and it just had me cracking up.