FLASHBACK: STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP

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During my screenwriting class last semester, our professor showed us the teaser to Aaron Sorkin’s pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and I was in awe. First of all, they introduce us to flustered production assistant, scurrying around the studio moments before the broadcast of a fictional variety show – think SNL on the West Coast…and on Fridays…and on a fictional network, NBS. Anyways, this PA turns out to be none other than my favorite actress at the moment, Merritt Wever! But back in 2006, she didn’t have her Emmy.

Anyway, the show follows veteran comedy duo Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) as they are called back to the variety show that helped define their careers. Matt is somewhat hesitant to return to Studio 60 because his ex, Harriett Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is now the show’s star, alongside Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) and Tom Jeter (Nate Corddrey).

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To complicate matters, NBS has just hired a new president, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), an attractive, young, sensible woman who doesn’t have the social wits about her. Sound like another Aaron Sorkin character to you? Sloan Sabbith, anyone? And that’s not the only Sorkin staple he throws into this show. The power outage right before airtime? The same problem plagues The Newsroom staff before News Night with Will McAvoy. The show also executes Sorkin’s famous “walk and talk” scenes, as made famous in The West Wing.

The combination of writing in acting in this show is surprisingly succinct for an NBC drama, but the lack of ratings and the promising comedy 30 Rock kept Studio 60 from being renewed for a second season. In its one season, however, Sarah Paulson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, a well-deserved nod that put the show on the map too late in the game.

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If you’re interested in watching, you’ll have a tough time finding it online. I found the complete series at Newbury Comics for nine bucks – quite the bargain compared to my subsequent Chipotle lunch.

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The Zoe/Zoey/Zooey’s of TV

Zoe or Zoey or Zooey is a pretty unique name. And it’s no wonder why all the most compelling characters on television today bear this name. Let’s take a look:

Zoey Barkow

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Show: Nurse Jackie
Actress: Merritt Wever
Occupation: ER Nurse
Description: This fun-loving, colorful scrub-wearing ball of fun scored an Emmy this past year for taking her character to a new emotional level. When taken home by Dr. Ike Prentiss, she confesses that she’s “not the nurse that goes home with the doctor.” But we’re cheering for you, Zoey. We’ll watch the edited-for-television version of Dirty Dancing with you and attend your Nurse’s Appreciation basement bash. And maybe we’ll throw in a driving lesson if you promise to wear your kimono to work.

Zoe Barnes

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Show: House of Cards
Actress: Kate Mara
Occupation: Journalist
Description: She’ll blackmail you until the day you die, but she won’t kill you – so that’s a plus! With the nation’s most prominent media outlets at her fingertips, she will do whatever it takes to make a name for herself. And she’s not above sleeping with members of Congress – I’m looking at you this time, Francis Underwood.

Zoe Benson

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Show: American Horror Story: Coven
Actress: Taissa Farmiga
Occupation: Witch/Student
Description: With a vagina that kills, this is one witch you do not want to mess with. I didn’t mean for that to sound crass, but Zoe Benson’s super power in this horror thriller is to take the life of any man she has sex with. Tragic, yet she works it. When she’s not out protecting the coven, she can be found having a three-way with her undead boyfriend and undead classmate. If they’re already dead, she can’t kill ’em!

Zoey Brooks

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Show: Zoey 101
Actress: Jamie-Lynn Spears
Occupation: Boarding School Student
Description: By joining the first ever class of women at Pacific Coast Academy, it’s not an overstatement to say that Zoey Brooks is truly a pioneer. From the spacious dorm rooms straight out of a PB Teen catalog, to the mouthwatering dining hall food, she made us all want to go to boarding school. Until she got pregnant and ruined everything!

And because I couldn’t resist:

Zooey Deschenel

New-Girl
Show: New Girl
Character: Jess Day
Occupation: Teacher
Description: Quirky.

Flashback: Three Shows Gone Too Soon

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Eli Stone

Network: ABC

Duration: 2008-2009

In Eli Stone, the title character, played brilliantly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a San Francisco lawyer who develops a brain aneurysm, which gives him visions of God, who speaks through the one and only George Michael. Like an adult version of That’s So Raven, Eli’s visions act as his moral compass in working his various cases.

Eli confides in his acupuncturist Dr. Chen (James Saito), who is able to facilitate Eli’s darkest memories – particularly those of his abusive father.

His once secure job under supervision of his fiancé’s father becomes compromised when the couple calls off their marriage. The tension in the office only grows with Eli’s newfound gift.

The show is in the ever-evolving comedy-drama genre, with quirky musical/fantasy sequences to the tune of George Michael songs, making Eli Stone one of a kind. The cast is supported by veteran film actors Loretta Devine (Crash) and Victor Garber (Titanic), which gives the show’s side stories real depth, without ever lagging.

In the final moments of the second season (right before it’s cancellation) Eli’s nose begins to bleed a dark red, hinting that his aneurysm had ruptured, but did God have other plans for him? Did the writers? All I know is that ABC, for sure, killed him off too soon.

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FlashForward

Network: ABC

Duration: 2009-2010

Riding off the coattails of Lost (and borrowing some of its actors, too) comes the second show gone too soon: FlashForward. The show follows the FBI investigation of a worldwide human blackout, which gives people a brief vision six months into the future. While many try to make their lives fit the ominous prediction, others strive to change their fate. But those who see nothing, like Agent Mark Benford, played by Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story: Asylum), worry that they will meet their demise before the fated day.

The investigation gets heated when the FBI discovers footage of a hooded man walking out of a baseball stadium during the two minute and seven second blackout.

With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Sonya Walger (Lost), the show surely should have lasted for a second season.

Like Eli Stone’s ambiguous cliffhanger, FlashForward ends with the world blacking out yet again. The vision we see is that of the Agent Benford’s daughter, Charlie, who receives a phone call saying that “he” has been found. The “he”? Possibly her presumed-dead father. And possibly not.

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Person’s Unknown

Network: NBC

Duration: 2010

While the first two shows actually received some buzz in their short-lived runs, NBC’s summer flop Persons Unknown was kind of my guilty pleasure show, full of countless plot holes and terrible acting. Regardless, I would have liked to see it renewed for another summer slot.

The show follows a group of strangers who wake up in a ghost town with no communication to the outside world. They receive a series of tasks from the many monitors planted across the town. Soon, the castaways become restless and a mole is revealed.

After the strangers unite and rebel against the system, they are all placed in a new setting, called Stage Two. The show closes on the castaways opening the door of their new hotel to discover they are now on a freighter in the middle of the ocean. I want to watch Stage Two, please.

My Short-Lived Run with ORPHAN BLACK

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After Tatiana Maslany’s shocking win over the likes of Claire Danes (Homeland), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), and Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, I felt the need to watch her performance in Orphan Black. What I found, however, left me less than impressed.

The BBC America produced, sci-fi drama follows Sarah Manning (Maslany), a streetwise hustler, who so happens to catch a glimpse at a woman who appears to be her twin just before she jumps in front of a train. Thinking she can leave her troubled past and abusive relationship, Manning decides to steal this woman’s identity, becoming Elizabeth Childs. The conflict? Childs is a cop.

As the episodes go on, we come to learn that Manning is one of eight-or-so clones, and her creator is killing them off one-by-one.

Sure, Maslany is tasked with developing a host of accents, postures, and demeanors to differentiate the clones, but all of the characters are very one-dimensional. The “uptight soccer mom” clone is just an uptight soccer mom. The “German” clone is just German. And the “lab geek” clone is basically just a rip off of Abby from NCIS.

I think the leading factor in my dislike for this show is that it’s a British show. So far in my nineteen years of existence, I’ve had a hard time stomaching a show from across the pond. I’ve tried The Office (U.K.) with very little success, followed by Torchwood, which justified my dislike for British television even more. The only two exceptions I’ve made are Downton Abbey and Sherlock – but who wouldn’t?

Who knows – maybe I’ll give Orphan Black another chance once my Instant Queue has been depleted. But, for now, it’s a drop.

Flashback: My “Red Wedding” Reaction

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Before I had my wisdom teeth surgery, I binged on Game of Thrones like so many Americans do on the daily. However, before embarking on my journey to the medieval lands of Westeros and Essos, Twitter spoiled something that I would come to know (and hate) as “The Red Wedding,” from Season 3, Episode 9’s now-imfamous episode, “The Rains of Castamere.” Knowing the spoiler, I thought I was ready for the brutal massacre of some of our beloved characters, but, alas, I was still caught off guard. Here is the series of events that transpired, reenacted by my friends…

First, I realized that I was about to watch “The Red Wedding” episode. Clearly, I was excited.

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Then, the scene came. I noticed a guard in the background close and lock the hall doors. What’s gonna happen?

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Then, the killing started.

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Followed by more killing.

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By the end of it, I didn’t know how to express my emotions. The result looked a little like this:

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But, when I finally finished my tantrum and calmed down, I realized how great of an episode it truly was.

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Flashback: GAME OF THRONES Seasons 1 & 2

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Whoa. Wow. Gee wiz. These are among the many interjections I use to describe the amazing and captivating HBO series, Game of Thrones. People have been telling me over the past two years to watch it, but someone definitely should have sat me down and forced me to see this one-of-a-kind television phenomenon.

Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the show follows the separate stories of the various Houses of the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos. And I just read that Martin drew much of his inspiration for the series on one of my favorite historical events: The War of Roses, in which the House of Lancaster and the House of York each make a claim to the English throne during the fifteenth century. Notice, if you will, that Lannister greatly resembles Lancaster, much like Stark resembles York. You go, George R. R. Martin.

The show follows the ambitious Daenerys Targaryen (aka Dany, aka Daenerys Stormborn, aka the khaleesi, aka “Mother of Dragons”), who is forced to marry the leader of the Dothraki, named Drogo. As cool as she is in season one – jumping into fires, hatching dragons, and all – she kind of becomes a broken record in season two.

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Much like Emilie de Ravin’s character Claire Littleton in Lost, Daenerys spends the second season screaming about how no one’s going to take her dragons, but once they are taken from her, she continues to scream about getting her dragons back. Just replace “dragons” with “baby,” and she’s Claire!

The feud between the Lannisters and Starks turns to a war after SPOILER Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Hand of the King, is murder for treason he did not commit in the wake of King Robert Baratheon’s death.

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The new king, Joffrey of House Lannister, is a total jerk and no one likes him. I mean, if I had three bullets and Hitler, Stalin, and King Joffrey were in front of me, I’d probably shoot Joffrey all three times. Just saying.

All the while, Jon Snow, the bastard son of the late Ned Stark, is off with the Night’s Watch doing (Old) God(s) know(s) what. What I do know is that the White Walkers are back after thousands of years and they intend to kill, like, everyone.

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Meanwhile, Arya Stark, Ned’s youngest daughter, escapes from King’s Landing, but becomes enslaved by the Lannisters in an attempt to return to the North. She disguises herself first as a boy, then as a mason’s daughter and becomes the servant girl for none other than Tywin Lannister, the head of House Lannister. She has a pretty cool storyline, good for her.

However, her sister, Sansa, has a shitty storyline. She’s being held captive by King Joffrey, who intends to wed her – which no longer makes sense now that House Stark has fallen from grace after her father was murder for treason and her brother, Robb, has started a rebellion against the crown. Regardless, Sansa’s story is boring.

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While you’re not supposed to like the Lannisters, Tyrion Lannister, played by Emmy-winner Peter Dinklange, gives the House its only shred of humanity. He prides himself in caring for “cripples, bastards, and broken things,” as he, himself, is a dwarf (others call him “The Imp” or “The Half-Man”). He’s well educated and uses his wit to compensate for his lack of physical presence on the battlefield – just like he does at the end of season two with the magical “Wildfire” that sets the bay outside of King’s Landing aflame, engulfing Stannis’ rebellion fleet in flames.

I could go on and on about the various characters, but I think you get the point. If you’ve yet to see Game of Thrones, I suggest you re-evaluate you life and sort out your priorities. With only three seasons of ten episodes, each about fifty minutes long, you’re looking at less than thirty hours. One a day and you’ll be done in a month. Ten a day, and you’ll be done in three days. Thirty in a row and you’ll clock in at just over a day. Totally doable and totally up to you.

Flashback: Shows I’ve Dropped

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Once Upon a Time: From Adam Horowitz comes this reimagining of our favorite storybook characters, conveniently living in the isolated town of Storybrooke, Maine. While I enjoyed its first season and its writers many allusions to their previous work on Lost (the clock being stuck at 8:15, the Apollo candy bars, etc.), the second season was a runaway train from the get-go. The writers added too many characters to a show – and since they decided to combine the fairy tale realm with all literature in general, their options were seemingly limitless. I did, however, like the introduction of Captain Hook, who brought a nice spin on the infamous character. However, by writing characters like Mulan and Lancelot into the plot, the writers overstepped their “fairy tale” boundaries. In the last episode I saw, ABC decided to give Jorge Garcia, a Lost alumnus, another job as the Giant. The special effects were just too ridiculous and I finally came to realize how bad of an actress Jennifer Morrison is on this show – her talents were much more appreciated on House, M.D.. From what I’ve heard, the show had a great season second season finale because of another mind-bending cliffhanger, but I don’t think I have it in me to watch twelve more episodes of uncomfortable mother/daughter moments between Snow White and her same-age daughter, Emma.

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Bates Motel: In my opinion, this show has the greatest ratio of most hype to biggest flop that I’ve ever experienced as a television viewer. Promotions for this Psycho prequel were everywhere – in newspapers, on billboards, and even in movie theaters. Where show runner Carlton Cuse, another former Lost writer, went wrong was making this prequel modern. When you think about the original Alfred Hitchcock film, the majority of the fear generated from the film comes from its grainy, black and white lens and its haunting soundtrack. The A&E show has neither. While Vera Farmiga plays the part of Norma perfectly, Freddie Highmore lacks the necessary acting abilities to compare to his counterpart, Anthony Perkins. At least he isn’t becoming one of those reckless child stars, like his contemporary Amanda Bynes.

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Da Vinci’s Demons: I think I made it through two and half episodes of Starz’ newest period drama before realizing I didn’t care for any of the characters, whatsoever. Where this show went wrong was trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. On any given day, you can find a special on the Renaissance or da Vinci somewhere in your local listings, but this show tried to over fictionalize the prominent historical figure to the point that he just could not have done all the things he does (i.e. two-handed swordfights while solving an age-old mystery…while intoxicated). Also, if I had a nickel for every time Leonardo got high in the two and a half episodes I saw, I would be able to buy many packs of gum…like, many packs.

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The Killing: Although I made this my Netflix Pick last week, I just finished the first season this morning and I do not feel confident in my ability to see the second season through. I am getting sick of the pointless red herrings and even sicker of the Larson family crying about their dead daughter. Again, I get where the show is trying to go with showing a side of a murder that most shows ignore, but it’s a bit much after seeing Mitch cry every five seconds. Also, I cannot comprehend why the badass Linden would even want to marry her fiancé in Sonoma. He’s a total sketch ball (and I thought he was going to be Rosie’s killer). On that note, I don’t even know if I know who the killer is or not. I mean, I think we’ve all established that the Councilman did it – he did use the screen name Orpheus after all – but the final scenes of the finale make you wonder if it was him or not. I did not sign up for “Who Killed Rosie Larson? A Two Season Saga,” I thought it was one and done. Now, I guess, critics are raving about the third season, as Linden and Holder get assigned to a new case. Maybe I’ll just pick up from this season so I can get rid of the Larson family once and for all.

Have you dropped any shows? Comment below on which one and why! Maybe you can even make a joke out of it – your call.