Top Ten Shows of 2013

It is a great time to be an audience member right now, as network television starts to fight back against the domineering cable powerhouses like AMC, FX, HBO, Showtime, and, now, Netflix. And because we live in 2013, I decided to make a list about it. So here you go, Internet. Here’s a look at my top ten picks for the past year in television:

10. The Mindy Project

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In her quest to take over Hollywood, writer/producer/actress Mindy Kaling and crew step up their game big time in the sophomore season of The Mindy Project. With the addition of Adam Palley (Happy Endings), the cast finally seems complete and grounds some of Mindy’s pop culture rants. While most people have written off this show as a mind-numbing sitcom, Kaling brings a hint of her Dartmouth intelligence to the mix, crafting the lovable Nurse Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) and the bromance to end all bromances between Dr. Castellano (Chris Messina) and Dr. Reed (Ed Weeks). Mindy’s biggest problem is that she only appeals to the Generation Y – my mom doesn’t get half the jokes.

9. American Horror Story: Coven

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There is a house in New Orleans…and shit hits the fan. Ryan Murphy’s latest installment of the horror series follows the struggle between the witches and voodoos in the great Mardi Gras city, all while juggling massive themes of racism and acceptance. Sarah Paulson, who shined in Asylum, takes a back seat in this chapter, letting veteran Jessica Lange battle it out against industry staples Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. With an eclectic group of supporting characters like mind-reader Nan, human voodoo doll Queenie, Fleetwood Mac-inspired Misty, and vagina-killer Zoey, the women of AHS take a stand, once and for all.

8. Top of the Lake

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Speaking of women taking a stand, let’s take a moment to talk about Elisabeth Moss, who killed 2013. Like, the reason 2013 is coming to a close is because she killed it. Moss stars in this surreal Sundance drama as a Detective Robin Griffin, who looks into the disappearance of a twelve-year-old pregnant girl, and uncovers the dark underworld dealings of rural New Zealand. Better yet, Holly Hunter delivers the performance of her career in the best side-story of the year as GJ, the psychedelic con artist who leads troubled women into the plains of Paradise. With a supporting cast comprised of Peter Mullan, Thomas Wright, and David Wenham (Lord of the Rings). In a sort, Elisabeth Moss’ Robin Griffin was everything that Claire Danes’ Carrie Matheson wasn’t this year… I still love you, Claire.

7. Modern Family

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We’re keeping it in the family this year with yet another amazing season of ABC’s Modern Family. While their Emmy days are starting to fade (even though they won Best Comedy for the fourth year in a row), the show remains strong as ever. As always, Phil and Claire Dunphy (Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen) bring the show to a whole new height, with the sadly realistic mix-ups that occur daily in households across America. Even Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) has stepped up her A-game. If you disagree with me, go rewatch “ClosetCon” and then we’ll talk.

6. Please Like Me

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“The Best Show That You’ve Never Heard Of” award for 2013 goes to the Australian comedy Please Like Me. While most Americans knowledge of Australian television extends as far as Chris Lilley’s HBO partnerships like Summer Heights High and the recent (flop) Ja’mie: Private School Girl, this is one show you should add to your list. It stars Josh Thomas as a twenty-something who realizes he is gay when his girlfriend dumps him over a seventeen-dollar sundae. It’s the intricacies like the seventeen-dollar sundae that make this show so great! Josh goes to stay with his depression-stricken mother, as his father lands himself with a young Thai woman. With the help of his best friend Tom and his new ex-girlfriend Clare, Josh attempts to navigate the world as a gay man – and he’s very bad at it. You can find Please Like Me on the new Pivot channel – check your local listings and whatnot. This is one show that’s too smart to miss.

5. Game of Thrones

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Red Wedding. While this episode of Game of Thrones was truly a masterpiece, I now forget what happened in the rest of the season. I’m sure it was good, but then again I do recall a lot of Jon Snow/Ygritte whining, awkward Brienne/Kingslayer conversations, and general Joffrey bitchiness. Eh, it still deserves a spot on my top ten, I suppose.

4. House of Cards

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House of Cards made history by winning Netflix’s first ever Primetime Emmy Award, which went to David Fincher for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. That aside, Kevin Spacy and Robin Wright are cruelly captivating as Congressman Francis Underwood and wife Claire. This dynamic duo brings a new spin on the anti-hero, since the majority of the spouses of today’s most complex anti-heroes are not in on their secret vices (think Don Draper, Walter White, Nurse Jackie, Nicholas Brody, etc.). This show exposes the underworld-like dealings that occur in our nation’s Capital. With the addition of budding reporter Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara (not Anna Kendrick), we see how the media influences political dealings and ultimately lead to national cover-ups. With the convenient “Play Next” button, it’s hard to resist watching the first season in one sitting.

3. Veep

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My favorite comedy of the year goes to another story of political intrigue, Veep. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as the manic Vice President of the United States in the second season of this HBO comedy about the day-to-day dealings with her political team. This year, Tony Hale was the breakout-star (even though his work in Arrested Development has already been universally appreciated), earning him an Emmy in September. Dreyfus also took home an Emmy this year, as her character strived to appear sane in the public eye through a slew of scandals from the ill-timed pig roast to “the song” to the tit grab. Assisted by Anna Chlumsky, Reid Scott, and Matt Walsh, the show’s fast pace has become its saving grace because there’s never a dull moment. Looking ahead at 2014 – Selina’s running for president, and I can’t wait.

2. Breaking Bad

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We bid a tearful farewell to many shows this year (30 Rock, The Office, Dexter), but none of were able to live up to American audiences’ expectations quite like Breaking Bad. In its final stretch, the AMC drama heated up as Walter White ping-ponged with his own destiny, coming full arc to admit to his wife that everything he has ever done has been for himself and not for his family, as he reiterated time and time again throughout the series. His sidekick Jesse, receives redemption of sorts – but at what cost? Two girlfriends, countless bystanders, and his own sobriety. All the while, Anna Gunn brilliantly embodies the hollow shell of Skylar White, the overtired wife of America’s most wanted criminal. Farewell Walter White; we’ll see you in Godzilla.

1. Orange is the New Black

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At number one comes the most groundbreaking television series in some time: Orange is the New Black. Debuting on Netflix early this summer, social media exploded with glowing reviews and raves about the dramedy, which tells the real life story of Piper Chapman, an inmate at an all-female correctional facility. This show encompasses the ultimate “stranger in a strange land” mantra audiences have come to love over the years, but at the same time makes this prison and its eclectic group of inmates somewhat familiar. We see the human side of these women, as we delve into flashbacks of their lives pre-orange jumpsuit. Taylor Schilling just received a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress, and there’s no doubt America will be rooting for her all the way to SHU with her bloody, tooth-marked knuckles.

Some honorable mentions that didn’t have great seasons, but great episodes:

The Office – “Finale”

Homeland – “The Star”

The Middle – “The Jump”

Downton Abbey: Series 4 – “Episode 4”

Girls – “One Man’s Trash”

Mad Men – “In Care Of”

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Fall Television So Far…

Now that the first few weeks of fall television are under our belts and we’ve bid adieu to Breaking Bad and Dexter (on gravely different terms…spoiler pun intended) it’s time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working with my line up.

What’s working:

New Girl

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I’ve gone “all in” with the third season of New Girl, and the cast has never been stronger. Between Jess and Nick’s honeymoon phase, Schmidt’s juggling of CeCe and Elizabeth (played by the hilarious Emmy winner Merritt Wever), and Winston’s obscenities, the laughs keep coming. The latest episode hit home with a broad range of emotions, when Schmidt is finally caught in his double life. Both Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone change the tone of the quirky show in a tear-inducing break-up, but Merritt Wever perks us up again with her devil-may-care attitude, giving Schmidt a pie to the face. Now, he vows to split up the seemingly innocent couple, Jess and Nick. Will he succeed? Will Winston be able to take care of Ferguson the cat? So many questions!

The Mindy Project

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The OB/GYNs are back for a take two, after Fox barely renewed the show for its second season. Mindy is back with a host of guest stars like James Franco and Beth Grant. So far, the season is fast paced, well-written, and generally funny. However, the plot line of Dr. Reed being fat just isn’t working out and Mindy Kaling needs to pen in some more lines for Betsy Putch, the more naïve version of Pam Beasley.

Modern Family

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What’s there to say about Modern Family? As much as I ragged on them for winning their fourth consecutive Emmy just last month, the first few episodes of this season have reminded me why it is one of the greatest shows on television. It’s managed to stay topical, tackling the legalization of gay marriage by having Mitch and Cam get engaged – but not before a comedy of errors. Elsewhere, Gloria is convinced that Fulgencio is possessed by the Devil and Phil has found a new niche of real estate customers – divorced wives.

Parks and Recreation

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Pawnee’s Parks Department crossed the pond in the season opener of Parks and Recreation to accept Leslie’s award for women’s achievement in government. With the town still against her, Leslie learns to come to terms with her constituent’s ignorance with the help of April. Meanwhile, Tom has a new competitor in the clothing rental business: Jean-Ralphio’s father. Retta is still doing her thing (thang?) in the office, as Chris and Ann Perkins break the news to their co-workers about their pregnancy. I’m expecting big things from this season of Parks and Rec, even though Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are slated to bow out halfway through the season.

Downton Abbey

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Over in the UK, the upstairs/downstairs drama Downton Abbey is back in full swing, but the mourning of Mister Matthew has put a damper on their lives in the past six months. Also, O’Brien skipped town in the middle of the night (little explanation here), making Anna the head Lady’s Maid for Cora. Edith is off gallivanting in London with the publisher, while Mary mourns in her room, until Carson and the Dowager pushes her to her brink and she choses life – for her and her child. I’m loving the introduction of the electric mixer in the kitchen, finally giving Daisy something she’s good at. However, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, she’s left with a fake letter from Mrs. Patmore, while Olive gets one from Alfred, but she thinks it’s from Jimmy. It’s so middle school and I love it. All the while, Thomas has had a slight change of heart, and wants to be more of a part of baby George’s and baby Sybil’s life – much like Carson was a part of Sybil, Mary, and Edith’s life. I have a feeling the first two episodes were catch-up/set-up episodes, and hopefully they keep the drama coming.

What’s not working:

Homeland

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What was going on with the Homeland premiere? I understand that Brody’s confession must have destroyed his household, but by seeing the season three premiere, you’d think Dana is our main character. And don’t get me wrong, I think Dana is a very interesting, dynamic character, played by the very talented, Morgan Saylor. We saw very little of Claire Danes freaking out, which upset me, and too much of her having sex, which also upset me. Also, I know Brody is supposed to be MIA, but at least let us know what he’s up to, right? And Saul’s wife is back? Why? That part didn’t make sense. Let’s pray that this was just a bad set-up episode and that Carrie Mathison will go ham on some terrorists.

The Middle

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Just make a Sue Heck spin-off and I’ll be happy.

Looking Forward with BREAKING BAD

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What more can I say about Sunday night’s antepenultimate (fancy word meaning third to last; sports fans may know this as the quarter finals) episode?
Between Hank’s death and Walter’s now infamously misconstrued phone call to his wife, the episode exceeded my expectations and has been attracting a lot of attention. Since the episode aired, employees at AMC’s headquarters have been stuck in a continuous Sue Heck dance-loop.
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While other blogs have given you a play-by-play of the full forty-two minute masterpiece, I thought I’d spend this time contemplating a few matters at hand as we prepare ourselves for the final two episodes of this great series.
Before I make a prediction of the White family’s fate, let me lay out what we know:

1. Walter White skipped town, presumably with the help of Saul’s vacuum repairman, after knowingly victimizing his wife and family with his police-tapped phone.
2. Jesse Pinkman is being held prisoner by Todd and his Nazi-branded uncle. Using the picture of his ex-girlfriend Andrea and her son Brock, they blackmail Jesse into cooking meth again. We assume that he will be forced to continue as a part of Lydia’s global meth operation.
3. In the Season Five Part 1 premiere, we saw a flash-forward of Walt returning to Albuquerque. By the way he places the bacon on his plate at the local Denny’s, we know that it is his birthday – one of Skyler’s tradition we see in the episode “51.” In the same scene, he has a full head of hair, a New Hampshire license plate, and a pretty hefty gun.
4. In the Season Five Part 2 premiere, we see Walter drive from the Denny’s to his now-abandoned and dilapidated home. The living room appears charred and “Heisenberg” is spray painted on the wall. Walter goes into his room to retrieve the ricin, which has been stored in his handy-dandy wall outlet.
5. On his way out, his neighbor Carol appears petrified. It is obvious that the world now knows the truth about Walter White.

So what does this all mean? Here’s what I think/hope is going to happen.

1. Skyler, Flynn, Holly, and Marie will be put under Witness Protection. Walter will never see them again.
2. Walter will return to Albuquerque to kill Todd and his uncle’s crew, thereby liberating Jesse of servitude. This is what the gun is for.
3. Walt will then give the ricin back to Jesse – this will be a symbolic gesture, as if he is giving Jesse the power to kill him, just as Walter had the power to kill Jesse many times before.
4. Walter and Jesse will drive through downtown Albuquerque and pick up Wendy for old time’s sake.

So these are my (edited) predictions for the final two episodes of Breaking Bad, which will forever be one of the most realistic, dramatic, eye-opening, genre-shattering, mind-bending show on television. In addition to its amazing writing, the cast is brilliant – especially noting the often hated on Anna Gunn. Let me just say, her New York Times article perfectly narrates her life’s struggle over the course of the show’s production. Let’s just say I got chills when this happened.

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While I will be watching the Emmy Awards next Sunday night, I expect ratings to dip a bit for Breaking Bad‘s upcoming episode, but the finale on September 29th should hit record numbers. Maybe surpass The Walking Dead? One can dream.

September: The Television Enthusiasts Purgatory

Now that September’s here and I’m back at school “studying,” I face a sort of “atheist’s dilemma,” only you have to replace “atheist” with “television enthusiast” and it kind of makes sense. While I am super grateful that Breaking Bad has been delivering Sunday after Sunday (and while Dexter has become a chore to watch), I am not fulling satisfied. I need everything back.

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I need Homeland and Modern Family.

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I need Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.

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If I pray hard enough, maybe this fall will see new seasons of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Or maybe that would be pushing the envelope a tad.

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Be on the look out for posts on these shows and more (including, but not limited to, Parks and Recreation, The MiddleCommunityNew GirlThe Mindy Project, American Horror Story: Coven, and Girls. I might try to get into some new shows, but they all just look so bad this season. The ones I’ll test are The Masters of SexSleepy HollowAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Dads. If you have any suggestions, let me know ASAP. Well, not, like, super ASAP, just whenever you feel like it. Cool. Good talk.

And shout out to tumblr for having these TV cross-over images. I’m glad to know my Internet folk are keeping busy and paying their bills.

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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CRITICS’ CHOICE TELEVISION AWARDS 2013

Last night, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) presented the third annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards. The always funny Retta of Parks and Recreation hosted the night of triumphs and snubs. Although winner Patton Oswald (Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Parks and Recreation) noted that the ceremony was only being broadcasted on UStream to “Internet shut-ins,” I highly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the acceptance speeches.

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When the nominations were released last month, I tweeted my support for three underdogs: Eden Sher for The Middle, Alex Karpovsky for Girls, and Elisabeth Moss for Top of the Lake. Probably because the critics read my tweets, both Sher and Moss took home the awards in their respective categories. However, Sher tied for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series with the blown-out-of-proportion The Big Bang Theory star, Kaley Cuoco. Sher noted that this was her second happiest moment, “right after [her] bat mitzvah.” As for Moss, who basically robbed Jessica Lange of the award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series, she joked that she had no one from Mad Men to thank, since this was her first ever big-scale recognition as an actor.

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Lange’s co-stars, Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto, redeemed her loss by snagging their well-deserved awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series, respectively, for their bone-chilling roles in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum.

Although I have yet to see HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, I wasn’t too keen on it taking home the awards for Best Movie or Mini-Series and Best Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series (Michael Douglas). I was pulling for AHS to take home the big award and for Benedict Cumberbatch to receive some sort of recognition for his hauntingly detached portrayal of Christopher Tietjens in HBO’s Parade’s End. Let’s hope the Emmys don’t get it wrong, too.

As far as drama goes, HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s Breaking Bad tied for Best Drama Series. And while I think a tie is sort of a cop-out, both shows have been groundbreaking in the past year and deserve the recognition.

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While Bryan Cranston added another trophy to his collection for his work on Breaking Bad, newcomer Tatiana Maslany, from BBC America’s Orphan Black, scored her first acting award. Although I’ve yet to see this show, her win over the likes of Claire Danes, Elisabeth Moss (the night’s only double-nominee), and Julianna Margulies prove that I’m missing out on the next best thing.

The Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama Series never go to who I want, which is why Michael Cudlitz of TNT’s Southland and Monica Potter of NBC’s Parenthood took home the awards. I didn’t know anyone watched these shows, let alone the critics!

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And in terms of the comedy awards, I don’t really want to talk about it. The Big Bang Theory took home three-too-many awards, but the one silver lining was Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ win for HBO’s Veep, in which she portrays a fictional Vice President of the United States. Louie C.K. took home the award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series and his countless wins keep reminding me to watch his show.

A common theme throughout the night’s acceptance speeches was the diversification of television today. No longer are the four broadcast networks the kings. Stations like AMC and FX are continuing to define television, and newcomers like the Sundance Channel and even Netflix are following in their footsteps.

While the ceremony was underway, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences posted the ballots for the 2013 Emmy Awards. The nomination period closes on June 28 and the ceremony will take place September 22, just in time for fall programming.

A Graduation and a Funeral: THE MIDDLE & MODERN FAMILY Season Finales

ABC wrapped up its 2012-2013 programming last night with the finales of The Middle and Modern Family, two comedies that are continuing to define comedic television with each progressive season.

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Over at the Heck household, Axl is gearing up for graduation, but is remaining distant from his nagging mother, Frankie (Patricia Heaton).  Meanwhile, Sue announces to her classmates that it will be her last week riding the bus because she plans to pass her driver’s test. Sixth times the charm, right? As the school year ends, Brick is reminded of his duty as class historian to create a picture slideshow of his grade’s elementary school memories – needless to say, he’s got nothing.

After a disastrous road test, Sue is awarded her license for braving all the elements, and she, once again, breaks out her accomplishment dance.

The episode ends with Axl walking across the stage, as Frankie, who has already declared she would not miss her son when he departs for college, turns into a sobbing mess. This, in turn, translated into my own mom breaking out in tears.

In the final scene of the season, Axl and Sue, both with their licenses, go off to see their friends, and Frankie clutches onto Brick, comically pleading for him to never leave.

The Hecks will be back for a fifth season in September, and recent Critics’ Choice nominations should give them a well-deserved boost in ratings. The show was nominated for Best Comedy over their glorified rival, Modern Family, and Eden Sher is finally getting the recognition she deserves with a nod for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy.

The Critics’ Choice Awards take place on June 10th and will be hosted by fan-favorite, Retta, who plays Donna on Parks and Recreation.

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On Modern Family’s season finale, the clan heads down to Florida for Phil’s mom’s funeral. Again, another somber scenario for ABC Comedy Wednesday.

While Mitchell clears up Gloria’s alleged prostitution charges in a Florida court, Cam is out making friends with the elderly women in the retirement community – stirring up gossip amongst the ladies.

Jay bumps into his “first,” a woman thirteen years his senior, and he is discouraged to find out that what he thought was a special night between the two of them was just another one-night stand for her.

The Dunphy kids each receive a gift from the deceased grandmother, and Alex contemplates the meaning of hers: a lighter. Soon, she discovers an accompanying note, which informs her that Paul Newman had left behind the lighter in her restaurant and that she had taken it without attempting to return it to him. The one customer who saw her steal it turned out to be her future husband and Alex’s grandfather. She reminds the straight-edged Alex to break the rules every now and again, so Alex uses the lighter to set off a beautiful fireworks display during the funeral, giving the perfect backdrop for the season’s close.

The Dunphy/Pritchett/Tucker gang will also be returning to ABC in the fall. Oddly, the Critics’ Choice decided to nominate Sarah Hyland, who plays the dim-witted, but good-intentioned oldest daughter Haley. Hyland’s nod is the only for nomination the show received, who could be a testament to the show’s waning dominance in the comedy world. Don’t get me wrong, the show’s consistency and originality is almost unparalleled to anything else on television, but new niches being created by premium cable shows like Girls and Veep, are changing the game completely.