My Year in Television

Granted this blog has had little use over the past 365 days, I have been busy as ever watching my favorite television series. Here is a list of my favorite shows from 2014. The order is arbitrary.

Parks & Recreation

“Moving Up” was brilliant. The Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert was everything a Parks fan could have wanted and more (Li’l Sebastian hologram is the “more”). I applaud Mike Schur and Co.’s decision to time jump the series for its last season into the future and I can’t wait to see how it pans out.

Homeland & The Walking Dead

The biggest comeback (sorry Lisa Kudrow) of 2014 is a toss up between Homeland and The Walking Dead. Homeland needed to start from scratch with the death of Sargent Brody (Damien Lewis) and The Walking Dead needed to terminate the Terminus plot. Thankfully, both of these dramas pulled through – in bloody fashion, I may add. Homeland’s “13 Hours in Islamabad” was one of the most viciously real hours of television ever, as the terrorist group infiltrated the United States Embassy in Pakistan, slaughtering diplomats and personnel. The season concludes tonight. On the other hand (leg), The Walking Dead’s “Strangers” gave us a taste of human flesh, as the Hunters from Terminus are revealed as cannibals. Aside from a social media screw up, which spoiled the finale for West Coast fans, it’s safe to say that The Walking Dead is back from the…dead.

Portlandia

Season Four brought us some new insanely funny characters, like the NPR Tailgaters, while giving our old favorites a new storyline, like Toni & Candice at the Portland Trailblazers’ cheerleading practices and Lance & Nina in “The Pull-Out King.”

Downton Abbey

I shamelessly watched Season Five of Downton Abbey in one sitting. Well worth it. As another series which has had a few missteps in it’s maturity, Season Five spreads the story lines amongst the upstairs/downstairs dynamic, unlike the Mary-centric Season Four. Where there’s heartache (Thomas’ transformation and Edith’s grievances), there’s joy (Daisy’s newfound education and Mary’s new haircut). By the end of the season, Julian Fellows had gone full-on “Marley and Me,” leading me to wonder the fate of the open credits for Season Six.

Halt & Catch Fire

Let me say this as clearly as possible: Halt & Catch Fire is NOT the Mad Men of 1980s. Surely it is inspired by the period drama, but it is by no means a time warp of AMC’s critically acclaimed series. This series follows the birth of the personal computer through a fictional tech firm, which decides to reverse-engineer an IBM computer. The acting from Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy is excellent, but the series’ relies on the outstanding performances from Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé, who both push the boundaries on feminist television. Fingers crossed we get to dig for the Giant for another season.

Game of Thrones

What can I say about Game of Thrones that no one else has already said? Great series, great acting, great Arya Stark laugh.

Netflix: Orange is the New Black & House of Cards

Netflix hit the jackpot yet again with its two original series returning for their second seasons. With water cooler moments like OITNB’s backstory on Morello and the HoC’s jaw dropping three way, there’s no escaping these captivating series. Oh, and I think Netflix might be trying to warn us about the dangers of transportation (vans, trains, etc.). Just a thought.

Silicon Valley

The first time I watched the pilot of Silicon Valley I turned it off. Biggest mistake of my life (aggressive?). However, something compelled me to give it another go and what I found was one of the funniest comedies in years. The way Mike Judge is able to blend high-brow and low-brow comedy is truly astounding, with “Tip-to-Tip Optimization” as a leading example.

Getting On

HBO’s latest BBC transplant about an extended-care hospital turned hospice unit truly hits the funny bone. With A+ performances by Laurie Metcalfe (Roseanne), Alex Borstein (Family Guy) and Niecy Nash (Reno 911!), this comedy knows how to hold a compelling storyline and make grand use of physical comedy.

The Newsroom

Allow me to air an unpopular opinion: The Newsroom’s final season was outstanding. People who argue that they should have focused on news stories as they did in the first season are missing the key story arc to the series. Season One shows the kind of news the team wants to make. Season Two shows what happens when the news they make goes wrong. Season Three shows what happens when the kind of news the team wants to make is threatened. At the end of it all, I was happy to see these highly developed characters end on a happy note (very Sorkin-esk). Also, I applaud the costume department for Jim’s oversized Sochi 2014 shirt. Jim and Pam (The Office) can step aside, because Jim and Maggie are the real thing.

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Why I Still Go to the Movies

In the never-ending debate between film and television, there’s no question in my mind that the third season of Lost blows any movie out of the water (pun intended). But in the Netflix era we live in, its so easy to become distracted with the rest of your life scattered around your bedroom. When you press the “Play Next” button, you realize you need to use the bathroom. You sit back down. Then you’re suddenly thirsty, so you get up and get a glass of water. You sit back down. Then an iMessage pops up on your computer screen, and of course you have to answer it right away. This turns into a ten minute conversation about when you and your friend are going to go to Chipotle. You “x” out of your chat window and notice an email from your professor. You have an assignment due in an hour. The episode of that show you really love is already halfway over, you’ve only caught a glimpse of the plot arc, none of the B story, and you feel defeated.

At the movies, you leave your life. Sure, some people bring their phones or their friends who bring their phones, but I don’t. I sit on the plush throne, popcorn in hand, and pray that nobody kicks the back of my seat. When the lights dim and the previews start, your life goes away. That big project that’s due soon washes away. That fight you’re in with your friend is muted. Everything that mattered doesn’t anymore.

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The other night, I went to go see The Skeleton Twins starring SNL veterans Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig as twins who reunite after Milo (Hader) tries to kill himself. By no right is this the full-blown comedy one would expect from this pairing, but instead it was a dark, tender look at life when it doesn’t go the way you planned. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pee-your-pants funny moments going on, especially by Luke Wilson, who plays Lance, Maggie’s (Wiig) fiancé. Go for the lip sync to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” stay for the unmatched dynamic of Hader and Wiig.

THE NEWSROOM Season 3 Trailer Hits Home

Yesterday, HBO released the trailer for the third and final season of critically-acclaimed series The Newsroomdropping hints that the subject matter will deal with the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. Without a doubt, Aaron Sorkin will be able to carefully craft this convoluted event, taking into account the various repercussions of media outlets using public tweets as facts in their developing stories.

Take a look at the trailer here:

Looking at the events that have unfolded over the past two years, its almost impossible that the series won’t cover the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which departed on March 8, 2014. While this is a rather recent event, I wonder if Sorkin and the team at HBO had enough time to fit this into the season. If they do incorporate this into their final season story arc, it would only be fitting for world-traveler and tragic-lover Maggie to board the doomed flight, after missing a phone call from star-crossed lover Jim, in which he intended to declare his love for her. Hey, Mr. Sorkin, if you’re looking for any writers for your future projects, look no further!

Can Homeland Return to Its Glory?

Tomorrow night, Showtime’s critically-acclaimed, two-time Emmy-winning drama Homeland returns for a revamped, rebranded fourth season, after its lackluster third season lost the support of fans and critics alike. This leads me to my question: Can Homeland return to its glory? Will the Brody’s being out of the picture help the show’s cause, or did the death of Emmy-winning writer Henry Bromell (“Q&A”) stunt the show’s growth at a premature peak? Claire Danes, being the multifaceted, talented actress she is, definitely has it in her to carry (Carrie) the show on her back with the death of Damien Lewis’ leading character. And don’t forget the incomparable Mandy Patinkin as television’s second favorite Saul (right behind Breaking Bad‘s and Better Call Saul‘s Saul Goodman, played by SNL alum Bob Odenkirk).

Take a look at this clip from season one, in which Carrie wires into the Brody household, tracking their every move. If this doesn’t scream stage-five clinger, I don’t know what does.

Fall 2014 Network TV

There’s quite possibly too much television to talk about nowadays and sorting through it can be quite a daunting task. But, alas, I’ll try my darnedest.

CBS has never interested me as a network, probably because I’m not in their target demographic, so there’s not much for me to discuss here.

ABC has launched a campaign to diversify their lineup. SelfieBlack-ishHow to Get Away with Murder, Cristela, and mid-season replacement Fresh Off the Boat, all feature minority leads, countering the network’s Caucasian-dominated programming.

NBC, on the other hand, seems to be adding more of the same “white-centric” sitcoms, with shows like A to Z, Bad Judge, and The Mysteries of Laura. The latter two sitcoms might have too specific of a premise to survive the year (think back to other NBC flops like Save Me and The Michael J. Fox Show). Once the kings of comedy, NBC is putting all the eggs in their Saturday Night Live basket, where they are still in a sort of generational transition. With a set of powerfully comedic women, lead by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, as well as strong newcomers Michael Che and 20-year-old Pete Davidson (yes, 20…like, my age), the show premiered last weekend to mixed reviews, as Guardians of the Galaxy star and NBC family member Chris Pratt hosted alongside musical guest Ariana Grande. The best bit of the night came as Pratt poked fun at the obscurity surrounding Marvel’s blockbuster hit, and the gang mocked a some of their upcoming flicks, including Marvel’s Pam 2: Winter Pam (a play on Captain America 2: Winter Soldier). Click the picture below to see the full sketch on Hulu!

AidyBryant_Marvel_Pam-690x262Last, but not least, is Fox. And I like Fox this year. Their solid Tuesday line-up of The Mindy Project and New Girl is sure to cure your mid-week blues, not to mention the sigh of relief that came with the solidification of both of their casts. Brooklyn Nine-Nine took a move to Sunday nights, along with the network’s famed Animation Domination, which includes newly-crowned Emmy winner Bob’s Burgers. While Fox seems to know their comedy, they’ve also taken a dark turn to fill the gaps in the drama department, once championed by House, M.D. and 24 (might we see yet another return of Jack Bauer??). Gotham takes a look at the world of the Batman before the Bat-Call. The heroes and villains we have come to know and love all have their own backstories, from the Riddler to Poison Ivy, Commissioner Gordon to the Penguin. Rumor has it that the Joker will be revealed at the end of the first season, so let’s hope they make it past the mid-year cuts.

In the coming weeks, the cable networks will take control of the airwaves. This Sunday, Showtime revamps Homeland sans Damien Lewis. On Wednesday, FX takes us under the tent with American Horror Story: Freak Show. And the following Sunday, AMC hunts the hunted with the Season Five Premiere of The Walking Dead. 

10 Year Lost-iversary

Ten years ago, I stayed up past my bedtime to witness the unprecedented premiere of the most provocative drama to ever grace network television. Lost, the story of strangers who are brought together by a series of traumatic, yet compellingly fated circumstances, taught me so much about life and the human condition. Sure, there were unanswered questions about polar bears and smoke monsters, time travel and immortality, but if you take the time to see past these plot points, you’ll uncover a host of thematic devices that rival anything you’ll read in your English classes.

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In a show that’s all about constants and variables, remember this: The island is real, the island is present, and the island is there when you need it most.

Thank you, Lost. I will surely see you in another life.

Why Are The Emmys Honoring Rape Scenes?

Before reading this, please note that I am not trying to take a stance on whether rape should or should not be portrayed on television. I understand that it is a severe crime that happens all too frequently in the world, but I also understand that it has become a go-to plot line for many of today’s most popular and critically acclaimed series.

To begin, let me note that four of the six nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series play characters who are raped on the screen. Anna Gunn, as Skyler White in Breaking Bad, is raped by her husband in Season Two, as he attempts to take out his pent up rage in the couple’s kitchen. Joanne Froggatt, as Anna Bates in Downton Abbeycaused two waves of controversy – once when Season Four’s fourth episode was released in the UK and again when it aired in the US – when her character is violently raped in the servants’ quarters. It was one of those scenes that never seemed to end. Christina Hendricks, as Joan Holloway Harris in Mad Men, is raped by her husband when he drunkenly visits her in her office. Lena Headey, as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, is raped by her brother and secret lover Jamie beside the corpse of their dead son, Joffrey.

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Each of these incidents mark a powerful character arc for the women involved, who end up forever scarred by the attacks.

After the nominations were announced, many fans of Scandal took to the Internet to vent about the snub of Bellamy Young in the same category. She portrays the First Lady of the United States, Melody “Mellie” Fitzgerald, who is raped by her father-in-law in a flashback.

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Another show that garnered a lot of attention from the Television Academy this year was FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, raking in 17 nominations. This twelve episode mini-series includes three separate rape scenes – the victims being Madison Montgomery, Queenie, and Kyle Spencer.

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Again, I do not believe I am qualified to judge whether or not these scenes should be so prevalent on our television screens, but it seems as though today’s most complex narratives are involving rape, and the actresses portraying the victims seem to be getting recognition for their work. Is it good that these women are helping to expose crimes that they are often forced to keep secret? In the example of Anna Bates, a married woman living in the 1920s, admission of being raped would mar her reputation and Lord Grantham would have no other option but to relieve her of her duties in order to avoid a scandal (something that household knows a thing or two about). On the other hand, is it becoming too normalized? Should we have expected Madison Montgomery to have been raped at the frat party?

I apologize if this post was a little heavier than usual, but I saw the trend in the nominations and thought it would be interesting to bring up.