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. 

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.

Emmys domestic violenceStills from TV series "Mad Men"

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.

bellamy-young-scandal

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.

american-horror-story-coven-2

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.

A Little Song & Dance: MAD MEN Mid-Season Finale

mad-men-season-7-poster-featured

I apologize to my readers who haven’t had any posts to read over the past few months, but I’m back with a take on last night’s Mad Men mid-season finale.

The episode, entitled “Waterloo” brings us full circle with Peggy’s decision to give up her child in the first season, as she shows remorse when her neighbor/quasi-son Julio hugs her goodbye and she gives a rousing presentation to Burger Chef about families from a mother’s point of view.

Then, Bert’s death makes Don realize two things. First, that he is to Peggy as Bert was to Roger: a mentor. Second, that “the best things in life are free.” Sure the moon landing cost $35 billion (according to the Francis-Draper houseguest that Sally didn’t get with), but the feeling of togetherness that the historic moment brought to the country and its families was priceless. Everyone was watching the moon landing with their families (even Roger and Mona), but Don was alone in his hotel room calling his family from half-way across the country.

Bert’s post-mortem song and dance at the end of the episode reemphasizes how Don is spiraling into insanity and falling further from the facade he has held up all these years as Don Draper. Maybe it’s time for Dick Whitman to come back?

Now, let’s look further at what’s to come from the final episodes next Spring. Don ended things with Megan last night (or the other way around), which I believe will set us up for a tragedy next season. With his new wisdom from the ghost of Bert Cooper, I think that Don will fly to Los Angeles to surprise Megan, only to find her victim to the violently brutal Charles Manson killing spree (the signs have been adding up for multiple seasons at this point). And with Betty fighting with her new husband, maybe Don will go crawling back to his family – it’ll be like Bobby’s summer camp all over again.

Let’s not rule out big changes to the show’s other leading protagonist, Peggy. She’s sacrificed everything a woman should have for the times – a husband, children, a home. The show can go two directions. Either praise her for her independence, or lay on the societal pressures to make her leap from the windows of Sterling Cooper & Partners – a homage to the “Falling Man” from the show’s title sequence.

The first half of the season started slow, but ended with some nice, original Mad Men vibes. Let’s hope Weiner and Co. keep up the good work for the last seven episodes, slated to air Spring 2015.

 

THE WALKING DEAD Mid-Season Finale

the-walking-dead-season-4-poster-comic-con

Are you still feeling the adrenaline kick from last night’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead? I know I am! (Dramatic pause). Sure, this season’s antagonist was just the zombies, then the flu, then we think the zombies might have had the flu, but really it was the rats/pigs that had the flu…regardless of what seemed like the longest season of The Walking Dead since the Sophie played hide-and-go-seek in the barn, the climactic showdown between Rick and the Governor was worth the wait. And little kids got guns; that was cool!

After the writers pushed the envelope with two whole episodes dedicated to the Governor and his newly converted minions, the one-eyed tyrant led a march on the prison, taking Hershel and Michonne hostage to tease Rick into a bloodless overthrow. However, Rick pleaded to the Governor that both groups could live in complete harmony in the separate cellblocks. Meanwhile, seasons 1-3 Rick turned his cheek the other way, mumbling, “I’m not with this guy.” The Governor wasn’t convinced, so naturally he took to Michonne’s sword and offed Hershel’s grinning head.

Then, war.

I want to take a moment to talk to the characters individually to critique their performance in the epic showdown.

Hershel: I’m glad you went with a big smile on your face. We were all crying just like Beth & Maggie, machine guns included.

Beth & Maggie: I was moved by your powerless shrieks when your father was beheaded. That being said, you didn’t have to waste all your ammo with your emotions. Slow it down next time.

Michonne: I’m not sure how you rolled your way to safety without any of the Governor’s men (or the Governor himself) noticing. Good for you for using that trailer hitch to free your hands from that super strong rope.

Rick: You really lost a fistfight to the Governor? We just saw two whole episodes where this guy was literally emaciated and was contemplating suicide. I feel like your farming should have prepared you – both physically and mentally – to beat the crap out of him. SMH (Shaking My Head – even though I just learned this wasn’t an acronym for “So Much Hate”).

Tyreese: I’m not sure how you stumbled upon those brutally mutilated rats – slash the battle was an easy way for us to forget about the plot of a potential psychopath living amongst the survivors – but you are really bad at shooting. You had to be saved by four little kids with pistols; never forget.

Lizzie and Her Band of Badass Munchkins: Carol taught you a thing or two, I see. Best moment of the season – by far – slaying Alisha, whose lesbian plot line didn’t really amount to anything, but probably appeased the LGBT community.

Miranda: Since when are you against using guns? I’m very confused. Your character arc makes no sense to me. And your lover was killed by an eight-year-old. Maybe it’s time to rethink your life?

Lilly: I don’t get you. You’re just a less cool, less attractive version of Andrea, minus the gun skills and the personality, plus the daughter (then minus the daughter when she dies, so you even out with her there!).

Daryl: You’re way too cool for all these people. I hope you ditch the group and go find Carol in Season Five and live happily ever after.

Sasha: You were barely able to walk at the start of this episode, then all of the sudden you’re shooting down the Governor’s army and walkers left and right? You were totally faking the flu.

Glenn: You very much still had the flu. You need to heighten your immune system somehow. Maybe some tea? Tea should help.

Carl: YOU HAD ONE JOB! WHERE IS LIL ASSKICKER NOW? HUH? JUDITH’S CAR SEAT WAS PRETTY BLOODY, SO IT DOESN’T LOOK GOOD, CARL. IT. DOESN’T. LOOK. GOOD. Ugh.

After the smoke cleared, the good guys really only lost Hershel, maybe Judith, and their home. They did a pretty good job, considering how our heroes were outgunned by the Governor’s mini-army. And they also had a tank, which forced me to suspend my disbelief a little – were the keys just sitting in the tank? Did someone hotwire the tank? Was there that much ammo still left in the tank? So many questions, so little time.

Now we all must brave the cold without our favorite cold-blooded friends (get it!), as The Walking Dead returns in February to cap off their fourth season. Fingers crossed that there’s an episode dedicated to Carol driving down the coast all the way to Disney World. A guy can dream, damn it!

TV Haikus

Two weeks gone, and to what avail? So I’ve decided to write haikus to make up for my lack of television blogging. This is cool, right?

NEW GIRL

Coach is back, thank God!

But Schmidt moved out, Cece’s sad.

Nick and Jess? In love.

“Temple Grandin” jokes,

A lot of diversity

For a show on Fox.

THE MINDY PROJECT

Mindy rebounds and

Makes a bro club for her friends.

Appreciated.

Josh Peck guest stars, what?

Doc Reed’s dad? Charles Widmore.

Danny in the nude.

MODERN FAMILY

Cam and Mitch engaged,

Extravagance? No Pepper.

Prostitute downstairs.

Manny vs. Manny

Can they both win? But, of course!

Lily makes me laugh.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

Nan and Christian boy,

Fiona kills new supreme,

Where’s your tongue, Spaulding?

Zombies attack house,

Who blinds Delia? Burn her!

Misty Day revives.

DOWNTON ABBEY

Edith’s pregnant. Yikes!

Mary rolls in the mud. Yikes!

Violet’s sick, then not.

Robert takes the states.

Bates learns truths about Anna,

Baxter’s the new spy.

HOMELAND

Carrie pees on stick.

Plus? Whose? Saul goes duck hunting.

Random people die.

Dana changes name.

Moves out of the house, abrupt!

Where is Brody? Huh?

THE WALKING DEAD

Who burned the bodies?

Carol. Sorrowful goodbye,

Alcohol poisons.

Flu plagues the prison;

Beth – no tears in this new world.

Carl should die soon.

Well, that was a fun segment, right? Let’s just look at this picture and laugh:

tumblr_mufpveoLMC1s76wa4o1_500

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/challenge-haiku/

Sunday Funday

As a college student, Sunday’s are just too busy to cram into 24 hours. And to make matters worse, the television industry loves to put all my favorite dramas on the same night – adding up to three hours  (four if I choose to watch Masters of Sex).

That being said, I can’t possibly devote three to four hours to television on the day when I do a week’s worth of work, so I have to spread them out – all while avoiding spoilers around every corner of every social media outlet. And the only thing worse than a spoiler is a false spoiler. Example? Someone Instagrammed a picture of a grieving Michonne holding baby Judith. My initial thought? They killed off Rick! Needless to say, I had an extensive and intensive panic attack during the first thirty minutes of Sunday night’s episode, until I learned that Michonne was just really emotional about babies and the flu. Tangent aside, let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s dramas.

the-walking-dead-season-4-poster-comic-con

On The Walking Dead, a deadly flu is sweeping through the prison – but its not as deadly as the zombies it produces. Cell Block D has quite the night of feasting, to say the least. While the group focus its efforts on putting down the walkers within the walls of the prison, a herd amasses outside the western wall, and the wire fence begins to give. In a game time decision, Rick chooses to lure the walkers away from the prison fences with his precious pigs, sacrificing them with a slight slit of their hamstrings.

Meanwhile, Carol is continuing to be the most well-thought out, developed character on the show, worthy of “cool aunt” status. After losing her own daughter in season two, she has made it her agenda to teach the youngsters how to defends themselves.

In other news, the writers are poking fun at themselves by having Michonne poke fun at Carl for taking his stupid sheriff’s hat off.

804_3_0_prm-keyartb_1024x640

On Homeland, Carrie is released from the mental facility and we get one last glimpse from her supervisor Abby, who is arguably the greatest guest star Homeland has ever had. There’s a lot of CIA jargon thrown around that all boils down to Carrie collapsing into the arms of a weeping Saul. In a 24-inspired twist, we learn that the two pals have been working together all along to make Carrie a double agent for the Venezuelan-Iranian terrorism operation. More stuff happened with Dana, but none worth mentioning after I thought her story was supposed to be over after coming to terms with her mother.

downton-abbey_series-4

Across the pond, Downton Abbey is on its game. Trouble is brewing downstairs with the addition of the new Lady’s Maid, Baxter, who serves as a new con buddy for the low-lying Thomas. Meanwhile, Daisy is forced to help Alfred for his cooking exam – a feat that strains on her heart strings, knowing that she will be helping him leave. However, her efforts come to fruition when he fails the test at the London Ritz – a scene that’s masterfully shot – and he comes crawling back to her. Mr. Bates seeks answers from Anna, but goes straight to the gossip ringleader herself, Mrs. Hughes, who sets things straight and reunites the battered couple.

Upstairs, it’s all business. Mary learns that Lord Gillingham has proposed to another woman, and it a moment of solitude she cracks –knowing that he was her last chance at happiness in a world without Matthew. The world is ending for Edith because Michael hasn’t written to her in a week. Like, honestly Edith – no one cares about you. Meanwhile, Rose is being a bimbo and jumps at the thought of Robert’s birthday party, where something bad is bound to happen. Either Robert himself will drop dead or his elderly mother, Violet the Countess Dowager, will suffer a heart attack during a loving toast to her son and the estate. While Dame Maggie Smith is truly the corner stone of this period drama and makes us laugh week after week, it is pivotal that we see a member of the old generation finally bid farewell, as the youths have suffered so much in this time – starting with Downton’s heir dying on the Titanic, to World War I taking the lives of men from all walks of life (including Daisy’s betrothed William), and ending with Sybil and Matthew passing long before their time.

Because I didn’t want this post to end on a sad note, here’s the best Dowager meme to grace the Internet:

main-qimg-700365fcc6ed518964642e09d864bfe9

dowager-meme-generator-what-is-a-weekend-7cbc86

3t4jos

A Word on Last Week’s HOMELAND

804_3_0_prm-keyartb_1024x640

In a few hours, Homeland‘s fourth episode of the season will premiere on Showtime. However, the show has been receiving a lot of negative critical feedback as of late. While I understand that focusing on Dana for two whole episodes was unnecessary, the critics who wrote that the season’s third episode was painfully boring are gravely mistaken.

Writer Ross Jones of the British paper The Telegraph, had this to say:

“If nothing else, this season of Homeland will be remembered as a highly effective piece of immersive television. The two lead characters, Brody (Damien Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes), are now stuck staring at the same scenery with no obvious way out, devoid of hope and anaesthetised against their will – feelings all too familiar to anybody who made it through this episode.” (full article)

He hit all the points of why this episode, entitled “Tower of David,” is a masterpiece, only to rip it to shreds and write it off as boring.

I equate this episode to Breaking Bad‘s episode entitled “The Fly,” in which Walter attempts to kill a fly in his meth lab to ensure the purity of the product. Both episodes showcase a snapshot of the main characters’ lives, which so happens to be a low point for all of the characters in both shows. Even though Brody and Carrie don’t interact in this episode, we feel their bond become stronger and stronger as they both descend towards their rock bottom. Similarly, the character study in “The Fly” teaches Jesse the value of purity and we get a glimpse at Walter’s blooming obsession (almost addiction) with meth – something confirmed in the final moments of the series.

Episode-10-Walt-6-760623x439

Critics, however, loved what Vince Gilligan and the team did in “The Fly.” Time‘s writer James Poniewozik compared this episode to an episode of The Sopranos:

“After I watched the screener of “The Fly,” I tweeted that the episode was like “Breaking Bad’s ‘Pine Barrens,’ plus.” The “Pine Barrens” comparison, while a little facile, meant this: like The Sopranos’ classic, this was a set piece involving two characters in isolation, on a quest/hunt together. It was, first, incredibly well-directed for maximum tension. And the object of the hunt, like it was for Paulie and Christopher with The Russian, was not just important in itself but as a device to bring them into extremis and place their relationship under stress.” (full article)

So, by transitive property, “Tower of David” is Homelands “Pine Barrens,” right?