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TV Thoughts: 1/18-1/24

I apologize for the delay on this post and the general shortness of my thoughts this week. It’s been extremely busy at work, which makes me more unproductive on weekends unfortunately. Fortunately, it was a shorter and less critical week of TV as shows take a hiatus or air slightly less pivotal episodes in preparation for sweeps.

Monday

  • Jane the Virgin: The episode itself had a lot packed into it. As a result, it wasn’t the best episode this show has produced but it had an important message imbedded into it. Earlier this season, we found out that Alba was undocumented. When she was hurt in the midseason finale, I was immediately concerned for her physical fate, not considering what her status would do to her treatment options. It didn’t occur to me until I was trying to fall asleep Sunday night that Alba had concerns beyond her physical health and it made me sit up and gasp in shock and dismay. I live in the southwest, approximately 1 hour from the Mexican border. Conversations about legal status and what services are provided to whom are not uncommon in our local politics yet it’s still very depersonalized. It’s easier to have these conversations when there isn’t a face attached to the issues and if it’s easy here, I can only imagine it’s easy elsewhere in the country where it is less of a concern. I applaud Jane the Virgin for calling attention to the concept of medical repatriation (which I had never heard of) and for taking a stand on immigration reform. This show knows it has a platform and it’s willing to use it and that’s admirable.

Tuesday

  • Parks and Recreation: I’m so glad we had two episodes of this show to watch last week. “William Henry Harrison” was a decent episode with some moments that made me laugh and any time Andy is a great husband (which is often) it’s a good episode. But it pales in comparison to “Leslie and Ron” which was the real star of the week. Whenever Parks and Recreation intensely focuses on the relationship between Leslie and one other person in her life, the episode is an outstanding success. This show is all about these characters and their relationships and they know how to make them shine. Leslie and Ron have always been very different people who feel equally strongly about their opposing beliefs so their feud seemed inevitable. It was easy to think it was about a difference in politics or misunderstanding as a result of their beliefs but what we got was a far deeper examination of friendship and what happens when the circumstances that brought two people together as friends changes. It was a beautiful tribute to these two characters and their love for each other. Both Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler were outstanding, especially in the scene where Ron confesses that he was planning to ask Leslie for a job, and I know they very likely won’t win awards for it because award shows are terrible and blind, but they really should.

Thursday

  • Parenthood: This was Lauren Graham’s episode to shine. She got to shine as a daughter who is faced with losing her father and as a mother who is watching her daughter give birth to a child of her own. This is the episode I have been wanting to see for Sarah since the show started. Her relationship with Hank played a role as they decided on a wedding location and date, but it was primarily about her relationship with her family. I would have loved to see so much more build-up throughout previous seasons for that scene with her dad, but even without it, it was one of the most powerful moments of the episode. I also loved the ending, with Zeke and Camille meeting their great-grandson. I don’t care if it was expected or not, it seems so beautifully fitting that Amber would name her son after her grandpa. Their relationship has been one of the best of the series and as the family prepares to say goodbye to Zeke Sr., it’s only right that they have a new Zeke to love in a different but equally strong way.

Best of 2014: Shows

Of all the year-end lists, this one is by far the hardest for me. There are fewer choices when compared to my lists of characters, episodes, or actors but it’s also the least defined. I don’t even entirely know what I mean when I say these are the best shows of 2014. I watch and love so much television that it’s hard to know what the “best” is. Are they the shows I loved the most? Sometimes. I do love all the shows on this list but different ways. Are they the best, most popular shows I watch as determined by the wide variety of television critics online? Again, sometimes. There does seem to be a consensus that many of these shows are good-quality television. So what I’m left with is a combination of the shows that I feel consistently did things well over the past year and the ones I have loved the most. I’ve left off many of the “big” shows of the year that may have been technically good but failed to emotionally engage me in the same way. I’ve probably overrepresented comedies or comedy-adjacent shows but apparently that’s what I most wanted to watch this year because this list just feels right to me. As always, this is a list that says more about me than it does about the state of television in 2014. Head to the comments to tell me what you think makes a show worthy of a place on a “Best of” list and let me know your choices for 2014!

The Good Wife (CBS) Since the start of season 5, The Good Wife has proven itself to be a show that doesn’t shy away from the unexpected. It continues to reinvent itself and head in new directions. This year saw some changes for the show – Will’s death being the most notable. Diane left Lockhart Gardner, Cary was arrested, and Alicia started a run for state’s attorney. None of these characters are in the same place they were a year ago and the show is better for it. It’s allowed characters to interact in new ways and in combinations that had been previously lacking. With a continued use of fantastic guest and recurring stars, it remains one of the best-acted and most compelling dramas on TV.

Enlisted (FOX) You know a show must be something special when it touches the hearts of so many people. Enlisted’s fanbase may have been small but like many other comedies that have come before it, fans were passionate about this show and what it meant to them. It gave the focus to a set of duties that is little-known to civilians and it provided a look into just how hard the transition from war to peace can be. There was a lot this show did right. It thoughtfully examined the effects of PTSD, provided a wonderfully empathetic male character in Randy, and did it all by being genuinely funny. Perhaps the thing it did the best though was the focus on the relationship between the Hill brothers. All so very different, especially in the way they expressed their emotions, but the bond was always there. “Hands on head” moments were a surefire way to make me tear up because it felt so real. The chemistry between Geoff Stults, Parker Young and Chris Lowell was perfect. I wish we could have seen more of this amazing show but the 13 episodes we did get were well worth the time and emotional investment.

Transparent (Amazon) I knew this was a show for me very early on in the first episode. The Pfeffermans may not be the most likeable family on TV but they feel achingly real. The kids are selfish and self-absorbed in a way that a lot of us are without necessarily realizing it but they have moments of incredible kindness and compassion. They make big, life-altering decisions on a whim. They mess up and fight with each other and hurt each other but they forgive and accept each other as they are. The acting is wonderful and it is a beautiful look at becoming who you are. Maura’s transformation is the heart of the show. Flashbacks speak to her struggles and process of discovering who she is and the present time shows the lightness that comes with embracing yourself. This show is about people in all their beauty and ugliness and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jane the Virgin (CW) I’ve already written up why I think this is a show more people need to be watching, but since I wrote that piece I’ve only fallen more in love with the show. In a TV landscape often filled with unhappiness or unrelenting drama and angst, Jane the Virgin feels remarkably grounded for a show about a girl who was accidentally artificially inseminated and whose roots are a telenovela. The plot may be extraordinary and soapy but the characters are full and emotionally rich. It’s hard not to love Jane, Xo, and Alba and want happiness for all of them. Rogelio is a true joy to watch. His personality is large and over-the-top but he remains real by his love for his newly-found daughter and his affection for Xo. It’s a show that makes me happy to watch every week because no matter what is happening (and it’s often a lot), my connection to these characters will draw me in to this heightened world.

In The Flesh (BBC America) What a beautiful gem of a show this is. At only 9 episodes between two seasons (with the fate of more seasons still up in the air), In The Flesh is a twist on the popular zombie stories of late. It’s not a story of human survival after a zombie apocalypse but rather a story of how medicated zombies are reintegrated into the society on which they wreaked havoc. The cinematography is beautiful, the characters will break your heart and make you love them, and and it examines issues like bigotry, the way religion is used to create zealous movements, the effects of PTSD and other mental illnesses on both individuals and their loved ones, and accepting who you are and the person you’d like to be.

Continue reading Best of 2014: Shows

Why You Should Be Watching Jane the Virgin

When the CW announced their fall line-up in May, I thought Jane the Virgin sounded and looked terrible. I had absolutely no intention of watching until reviews started coming in. While not the definitive word on what I will like, critics whose opinions I have historically agreed with started raving about how good this show was. That got me watching the pilot last week. Less than halfway through the pilot, I was hooked and by the time the episode ended, I was ready to fast-forward a week and watch the next episode immediately. It is unexpectedly one of my favorite new shows of the year and one that should really have a larger audience than it does, especially now that it has been picked up a full season. So I’ve put together a list of reasons why this show is worth a look in the hopes that it will inspire more people to check it out.

One of the best things going for this show is the gem it found in its lead actress, Gina Rodriguez. As Jane, she exudes this warm energy that draws you to the character and backs that energy up with some grit and determination. Jane is strong and smart and proud of who she is. Off-screen, Rodriguez shows the same level of intelligence and understanding of what a powerful role this is. Until more shows embrace diversity in their lead roles, those lead actresses (and actors) of color will have to answer questions about their race and how it has affected the roles they have been offered and ultimately chosen and Rodriguez has handled all of those questions beautifully. She understands that this role will give young Latina women in the future a chance to see themselves on TV and what that means for them and she relishes that opportunity. She’s unafraid to stand up for herself and take roles that are meaningful to her, even if it means a lower-profile career. She refuses to simply play a stereotype and I think that is something to be commended.

Continue reading Why You Should Be Watching Jane the Virgin