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.

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. 

I’m Back, But I Never Really Left

Hey gang,

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. I know you all must be worried about my well-being, so I’m here to tell you this: I’m OK. Well, sort of. In the past few weeks I’ve watched a few shows here and there and nothing has really wowed me. While the Sochi Olympics are providing some quality entertainment, my regular shows have been lagging a bit. The Walking Dead returned. It was blah. But it did make me want to eat some pudding – right, Carl?!?!? Girls has been blah. No one cares about Hannah moping around. I want season one back, Lena! 

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The one beacon of hope in these dark days arrived today. Netflix released Season 2 of House of Cards this morning, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve only seen the first episode, but wow. What a way to start the season off with a bang…or a shove, I guess. Francis Underwood went for his second kill in the season premiere, taking out budding reporter and quasi-mistress Zoe Barnes with a swift push into a train. Truly kicked off my Valentine’s Day with high hopes about the world! But, to be fair, Claire Underwood did remove the ash tray from the home – no more smoking for a Vice Presidential nominee. How loving. I’m looking forward to my binge this weekend, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

THE WALKING DEAD Mid-Season Finale

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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3t4jos

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.