Tag Archives: call the midwife

Best of 2015: Characters

Now that I’ve discussed the shows I didn’t get to see, it’s time to start talking about all the things I’ve loved about television this year. I watch TV for the emotional engagement more than any other element of a show and that’s what this list and the other four I will be releasing represent. They represent the characters, relationships, moments, episodes, and shows I have been drawn to the most over the course of this year. Each list has gone through several iterations until I landed on one that felt the most right and authentic to my engagement over the year and I would like to think that in years to come, I will be able to look back on this list and see who I was in 2015 and how that related to the media I connected with. That, even more than recommending new shows to people, is why I enjoy these lists. They are a record for me of what I loved and how I loved them, as I believe they are for everyone else who makes similar lists.

There were a lot of characters that caught my attention this year. Some for their personality, some for the struggles they went though, and some for what they represent and their importance to the larger pop culture landscape. These are the ten that resonated with me the most.

Mariana Foster (The Fosters) This year, Mariana coded a routine for her dance team’s competition and lost her virginity to her sister’s ex-boyfriend. She did amazing things and she made huge mistakes. While that level of complexity from a teenage girl (who isn’t even the main character on her show) shouldn’t be remarkable, it still is in today’s TV environment. She has wholeheartedly embraced the power of “and” by refusing to fit into a convenient mold. She loves both dance and STEM, looking pretty and being valued for her intelligence. She wants it all because she’s been taught she can be both and she will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. And that is a remarkable thing in any character, let alone one who is only 15. But despite that, she’s not perfect. She’s not immune from society’s messaging. She slept with Wyatt because she was hurt and because she felt like everyone else was having sex so she should be able to as well. She messed up and did something she regretted and caused herself and people around her pain but it never made her less of character. There were consequences but she wasn’t demonized for her choice even though she knew it was the wrong one.

Ilana Wexler (Broad City) This was a fabulous year for messy, flawed women in comedy and Ilana Wexler is their queen. As Lindsay Jillian (You’re the Worst) would say, Ilana “wears her stains on the outside” except Ilana doesn’t even think of them as stains, just another aspect of herself that makes her fabulous. She’s self-absorbed and a terrible employee and is kind of awful to most people she interacts with but you still can’t help admiring her confidence in herself. Ilana has no front, she is exactly who she is at all times. She is entirely controlled by her impulses and makes messes that Abbi ends up cleaning up, but at the end of the day, Abbi doesn’t care because she knows Ilana would do anything for her. Ilana loves Abbi so entirely and it grounds her character. She’s always going to be someone most of us envy at least a little for her ability to do whatever she wants with seemingly few severe consequences but it’s in her love for Abbi that she becomes a full person and not just a chaotic, impulse-driven plot device.

Clarke Griffin (The 100) If anyone needs a hug on TV right now, it’s Clarke. She went through more in 7 episodes than many characters do in an entire season. She has been in so many situations where there is no clear answer and she’s done her best to make the right choice but the weight, pressure, and consequences of those choices have been their toll. Clarke is a good leader because of her love for her people. It’s what drives her to keep them safe and risk everything to get them back. But she knows that alone won’t save them. She needs to be smart and strategic as well. She needs to be pragmatic. She believes herself to be a good person (and I think she’s right about that) but when that belief, her love for her people and her strategy and pragmatism come into competition, how is anyone supposed to hold on to who they are? Especially in the face of a strong leader who is telling her that the love that partly defines her is weakness. The choices she has made have been strategic and worked toward her goal of rescuing her people. But they weren’t without a heavy cost. She was responsible for a lot of pain and death this year and now that the battles have been won, she must learn to face herself and the person she’s become.

Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful) Where season one Vanessa was haunted and more reserved, season two gave us a new side to Vanessa. She’s still haunted, as one could expect of someone being courted by the devil, but she’s no longer alone. She has gathered a group of people around her who care for her and wish to protect her, not out of obligation or to use her for their own ends, but because of who she is. Her rift with Malcolm repaired, her friendships with Ethan and Victor strengthened, and the loyalty of Sembene affirmed, Vanessa is free to experience moments of happiness and something akin to peace. And in those moments, we see the kind soul she possesses underneath the evil power she is capable of wielding. Vanessa can be both the person who saw and loved the poet in a monster and the person who essentially told the devil to go to hell in his own language. She longs for a normal life but knows that as long as she still suffers, it’s not a life she can allow herself to have. She longs for a lasting peace, one in which her thoughts, dreams, and prayers are safe. And as we see her goodness and the care she shows to those who are otherwise outsiders (not a pleasant place to be in Victorian England), we want her to find that peace. We want the struggle to be over so she can live the life in her dream. She couldn’t grasp that vision this season, but you can bet I’ll be tuned into the next one to see her continue to battle her demons.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Characters

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Shows to Get You Through the Summer Hiatus

We are about two months away from the start of the fall season of TV and while there are some great options for summer viewing, one of my favorite things to do in the summer is to start a new show. I’ve already written one piece on short-lived shows that are well worth a watch, but in case you have already seen those or are simply looking for more recommendations, I present to you 15 different shows to get you through the remainder of the summer hiatus along with the approximate length of time it will take you to complete them.

Galavant (3 hours)
Episodes: 8
If all you want is something fun and short to watch, look no further than Galavant. It is a musical comedy with catchy songs and an incredibly fun cast of characters. I’m predisposed to like all shows with a musical element but this was one of my most enjoyed shows of the 14-15 TV season.

Selfie (4.75 hours)
Episodes: 13
If you’re willing to overlook a shaky pilot before watching two people who thought they knew who they were and wanted to be before the other came along to show them another way, then join me in my love for Selfie. Karen Gillan and John Cho are wonderful together as Eliza and Henry and sell every moment of their development as a team and as individuals. While Selfie was canceled far too soon, this show came so far and is one I’d recommend wholeheartedly.

Agent Carter (6 hours)
Episode: 8
If you’re a Marvel fan or just need more intelligent spy ladies in your life, it’s time to watch Agent Carter. Hayley Atwell reprises her role as Peggy Carter from the Captain America movies and shows us what it meant to work in the man’s profession of Intelligence in the 1940s. Watch her help a Howard Stark clear his name with the help of his butler Jarvis and her friend Angie Martinelli all while mourning the loss of Steve Rogers. Atwell is wonderful here as are James D’Arcy and Lyndsy Fonseca as they all show that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero.

Broad City (7.5 hours)
Episodes: 20
If you like friendships between female characters, you really need to be watching Broad City. Abbi and Ilana are in their 20s and living in New York City. Their lives are kind of a disaster but their friendship is solid and unshakeable. Ilana may be selfish and self-absorbed most of the time but her love for Abbi and desire for to experience all that life has to offer is incredibly endearing and will have you rooting for her. Add in some fun recurring characters in Lincoln, Jaime, and Jeremy and you have two seasons of friendship, weed and adventure.

Noah’s Arc (8.25 hours)
Episodes: 17 + a wrap-up movie
If you are looking for a show that features gay men of color, this is the little-known show for you. The characters on this show are so easy to love and root for as they navigate life, love, and challenges specific to their sexuality and race. I’m personally not a fan of the movie that followed the show’s cancellation but 17 episodes was simply not enough with these characters. It aired on LOGO and never seemed to achieve mainstream popularity, but it deserves to be seen.

Continue reading Shows to Get You Through the Summer Hiatus