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Best of 2015: Moments

If you haven’t already, take a look at my choices for Best Shows I Didn’t See, Best Characters, and Best Relationships and share your own choices for these categories. For even more end of the year TV fun, check out Nerdy Girl Note’s best performances of 2015 and MGCircles Media’s best shows of the year

In a year of great television, there will always be moments that stand out to you and that resonate with you just a little more. It is these moments that you will carry with you as you continue to watch more television and it will be these moments that you remember from their respective series. These moments all made me feel deeply and it was truly a pleasure to experience them this year.

Connor and Jude hold pinkies (The Fosters)  I don’t watch very many shows with younger characters so I don’t often get to experience a character’s first love. The Fosters had been slowly moving toward a relationship between Connor and Jude and the process of watching them figure out their feelings toward each other has been incredible. I love this moment for two reasons. First, it perfectly captures the early stages of a crush that could maybe turn into something more. The hesitation, the fear, and the exhilaration were all there on both Connor and Jude’s faces and actions. It feels right and takes me back to those days in my own life. Second, while it has a lot of older fans, The Fosters is geared toward a younger audience. I love Stef and Lena’s relationship and think it’s one that is so important to see on TV but they are older and more sure of who they are. They have already gotten past the early stages in their relationship when they are trying to figure things out. Jude is just now getting to go through that and for younger gay or questioning teens, this is a moment they haven’t gotten to see on TV the way their straight peers have. It is the sort of moment I want to see more of on TV as we allow for stories to be told about a greater variety of people.

Elizabeth kills Betty (The Americans) What a moment of television. The work that Keri Russell and Lois Smith did for this entire episode was brilliant but it was in the moments just prior to Betty’s death that Elizabeth was forced to take a hard look at what she was doing with her life. Betty knew that there was no getting out of the situation. She was going to die that night and nothing she said would change that fact. But she left Elizabeth with a lingering thought. Would killing her, an old woman who happened to be in the building at the wrong time, make the world a better place? Elizabeth has rarely shied away from the difficult aspects of her work as a spy. The cause is a part of her and the things she does are in service to that cause. Even with all she has seen, this price was higher than usual. She gave Betty as gentle of a death as she could but having to do so rattled her more than an ordinary assignment. Betty brought out a moment of vulnerability in Elizabeth as she told the story of her life and her relationship with her husband and for a moment, Elizabeth allowed herself to feel (and us to see) the weight of her actions upon her. She may believe in the cause and she may be a very talented and committed spy, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the collateral damage her line of work brings.

Clarke leaves Camp Jaha (The 100) This scene hurts. From the haunted look in Clarke’s eyes to the pleading look in Bellamy’s, you can’t help but feel for these characters and everything they’ve been through. These two just made a choice that led to the death of hundreds of people, some of them innocent of the crimes committed against the Sky People. It was the last straw in a series of hard choices that left Clarke broken and questioning who she was. She needed to heal and find herself again but she is also punishing herself by depriving herself of the comfort that people like Bellamy, Monty, and Abby could provide her. She needs to walk away because she doesn’t believe she deserves the forgiveness Bellamy is offering her, the forgiveness she once offered him for his crimes. The callback to Clarke asking Bellamy to stay because she needed him and her own inability to do the same for him is heartbreaking. These two are separating at the time both of them need the comfort of the other and the reminder that they share this burden and can overcome it together. You see it in the way Clarke pulls Bellamy close and the way he holds on like he doesn’t want to let go. And you see it in the way she pulls away and the haunted yet determined look on his face as she does. In their final words, the “may we meet again” isn’t just what Sky People say to each other to say goodbye, it’s a promise that they will see each other again, this isn’t the end of their journey. One way or another, these two will find their way back to each other.

Lily rises (Penny Dreadful) Accent slip aside, Billie Piper is phenomenal in this scene. In life, Brona was a prostitute, an object for men to use and discard. In death, Lily is still an object, dressed up and posed for Victor and Caliban to fight over and possess. She is something they are owed because they find her beautiful and it is because of them she has been brought back from death. For all the lip service Victor gives to Lily being her own person, she could never be anything more than his toy. After remembering what her life had been like and comparing that to her life post-death, in this moment, Lily has had enough. She has had enough of being used. She’d fed up with the lack of agency afforded to her in life or death. She is done with the idea that women in Victorian England exist only for the enjoyment of the men around them. And so she rises, not as Brona the prostitute or Lily the reanimated corpse, but as a villain, furious and terrifying. No longer will she bow and cater to the whims of men. From now on, they will cower in front of her as she takes back all the power she’s never had in life and channels it into a roaring flame within. Piper gave this scene everything she had and it was powerful to see.

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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.

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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.

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Best of 2014: Characters

When I look back at this year in television, what I most want to remember is how it affected me. I want to know what I loved or what impressed me and why and that’s exactly what this list and the ones that will be coming out over the next couple weeks set out to document. There is no formula for choosing what went on the list. Nothing here is objective, nor would I want it to be even it were somehow possible to objectively quantify an opinion. It will not look like anyone else’s list, though there will undoubtedly be similarities, and that’s a good thing. So enjoy my picks for my favorite/the best in television of 2014 according to me and please share yours in the comments below.

In any given year, there are a lot of characters I love. I admittedly have a tendency to love the emotionally guarded woman who is learning how to open herself up to love and happiness and this is the year many of those women did that in amazing ways. It was great year for so many of my favorites and the actors who brought them to life. There may have been better, more interesting, or more original characters on TV (if one can quantify characters in that way) but these are the 10 who touched my heart the most.

Kelly Severide (Chicago Fire) Kelly has always been one of my favorite characters but this year (this fall, in particular) has made me love him even more. Thanks to my years of TV watching, I had a horrible suspicion that both Severide and Shay wouldn’t make it out of the events of the s2 finale alive. Their friendship has been one of my favorite things about the show since it started and I was devastated to learn that my suspicions were correct. I watched him grieve for his best friend and turn into kind of a disaster for a few weeks only to wind up marrying a girl in Vegas who he barely knew and managing to turn it into something positive. He’s hurt and grown and has come out stronger. He and Casey have finally gotten their friendship back to where it should be and I have a feeling he’ll continue to be Casey’s support system through his problems with Dawson. If I can’t have his friendship was Shay on the show, I’ll take his friendship with Casey as a backup.

Abbie Mills (Sleepy Hollow) Sleepy Hollow may have fallen apart a bit in season 2 but Abbie Mills is still the best part of the show. She remains fiercely dedicated to her role as Witness, whatever that may entail. Need someone to stay behind in Purgatory so Katrina can do the magic needed to stop an Apocalypse? Abbie volunteers. Katrina needs a second person to help her do magic? Abbie steps up. Sheriff Corbin’s son needs saving? Abbie never gives up on him. She is loyal and true and a fighter and that’s why I love her. The episode where she and Jenny were briefly reunited with their mother and able to learn more about their family’s history was easily the best of the season because the focus was where it should be – on this incredible character and her role in fighting this war.

Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time) What a year it has been for her as a character and all of us as fans. We got more backstory about her heartbreaking past, we saw her be afraid and fall back on her instinct to run away and survive on her own, we saw her open herself up and find not only a home with her son and parents, but a dashing pirate who loves her, and a new friend who understands her. She’s growing and trying to be her best self and letting people help her along the way. It has been so incredibly rewarding to watch her allow herself to be vulnerable, especially as someone who struggles with that herself, and I can’t wait to see her continued growth and relationships with everyone in her life in 2015.

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A Celebration of Friendships

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

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

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

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

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Best of 2013: New Shows

This has been a great year for TV. I love that there were so many great new shows that they warranted their own list even if I didn’t get to as many as I wanted. I love the shift away from the antihero that happened this year and what it means for this new era of TV and I love the complexity and diversity of characters that we got to see this year. So in no particular order, here were my picks for the best new shows of the year.

Masters of Sex I have not shut up about this show since September but I will happily talk about it some more. I love this show. I love learning about the research of Masters and Johnson, the acting is fantastic, and I have completely fallen in love with the women on the show. It is a show that manages to combine my academic love for sex research with my love for great characters so it’s pretty much perfect for me.

Orphan Black It’s impossible to talk about this show without highlighting the incredible work that Tatiana Maslany is doing on it. It is really a testament to her that I’m able to forget that she’s playing several different characters. However, it also says a lot about the show that her talent isn’t the only thing that makes the show great. All of the clones are genuinely interesting characters, Felix is just the greatest in general, and I was completely drawn into the story.

Orange is the New Black If you like shows that feature complex female characters, stop what you are doing and watch Orange is the New Black if you haven’t already. I loved the use of flashbacks to show how some of the characters got to where they are today and I cannot wait to see more of them in season 2. These characters aren’t just criminals – they are allowed to be people with hopes and fears and insecurities and strengths. We understand them and fall in love with them as Piper’s perspective widens and she starts to care for them as well. On a lesser show, Suzanne would have remained Crazy Eyes and Tiffany Doggett would have remained Pennsatucky the religious nut. It is this show’s commitment to its characters and telling the stories of women that are rarely shown on television that make this show such a success.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Parks and Rec is my favorite show so it wasn’t a huge surprise that I would enjoy another show by the same people. Just like Parks and Rec, it is funny and warm at the same time. Captain Holt cracks me up with his complete lack of expression at anything and Andre Braugher plays him perfectly. It feels like it’s been around for longer than half a season because the characters all feel fully formed and that’s something to be impressed by.

Trophy Wife This show was an unexpected treat. The name is a bit off-putting at at first glance, the characters seem like they could be one-dimensional but that hasn’t been the case at all as the season develops. They are an unconventional family but that is exactly what they are – all 4 adults and 3 children. It’s warm, funny, and gave me one of my new favorite Christmas episodes of TV.

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