Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Episodes of 'Psych'

After binge-watching this delightful, quirky, meta (and hilarious) series on Netflix, I ranked my top 15 episodes of 'Psych.' Do your favorites make the cut? And more importantly... can you spot the pineapple?

Will-They-Won't-They: A Study in the Success and Dangers of This Trope

It's a sitcom cliche, really: the "will-they-won't-they" relationship. In examining a few of the more popular versions of this genre of relationship, I took to a blog post to discuss what works and what doesn't. The answers will hardly surprise you.

The "A"-ppeal of 'Pretty Little Liars'

Why, exactly, is this ABC Family show such a phenomenon? Grab your red coats and prepare those menacing text messages, because I spend this post explaining why 'Pretty Little Liars' is such a successful and captivating television series.

In Defense of Danny Castellano: Part 1

My brilliant friend Ann is the guest-poster at Just About Write for this piece where she explains why she loves 'The Mindy Project' and its leading man, Danny Castellano. In part one of her defense, Ann details Danny's journey throughout season one. It's a must-read!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Suits 4x06 "Litt the Hell Up" (Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn)

"Litt the Hell Up"
Original Airdate: July 23, 2014

The theme of “Litt the Hell Up” is really just that: sparks. There are spark flying like crazy in this episode – romantic sparks and angry sparks and sparks of betrayal mingled with regret (those are totally a thing, right?). The first few episodes of this season have been building toward a fire. Slowly but surely, the kindling has been placed and the flint has been struck. Harvey and Mike have clashed on multiple occasions and every sign pointed to a forest fire as the end result, not a fizzle. What’s so interesting about the resolution of this storyline is that the fire rages and burns in the most unexpected way. And when we back away from the flames, we see that Louis Litt is holding the match.

I admit that I was surprised by this resolution as I presumed there would be a final confrontation between Harvey and Mike – that those two would have a final duel and one (or both) would emerge covered in soot but somehow restored in their relationship. What happens instead in “Litt the Hell Up” is that Mike emerges, covered from head to toe in ashes, Harvey roasts marshmallows over an open flame, and Louis watches the flames erupt around him with feelings of remorse. So let’s discuss how this episode managed to connect everyone emotionally.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jenn's Pick: What You Should Binge-Watch This Summer

It's summertime, y'all! What does this mean for you, the avid television viewer? It means that you are free to peruse Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video because your TV schedule is open. (It also means you're probably spending time basking outside in the glow of the afternoon sun, reading magazines or novels while sipping a cool drink and working on your tan.)

In case you're in the market for some good television to watch this summer, I've compiled a list of some comedies and dramas available on Netflix or other sources that you can binge-watch with reckless abandon. So if you're prepared, check out the list of series below the cut and then go out (er, technically in) and watch some pretty great television shows.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Episodes of 'Psych'

I have very few television regrets, if I’m being honest. I suppose that this is because I’ve found myself becoming involved in fandom or social media at just the right time – I joined the Community fandom just as it was beginning to surge and take on more life (and social media prowess). I was pretty much at the ground floor of the New Girl fandom. And I am proud that I was watching the pilot live and got the opportunity to witness Sleepy Hollow soar into success. In recent years, I cannot recall a regret that I’ve had regarding television. I don’t even regret watching Smash or Glee as being involved in both shows has afforded me the opportunity to discuss their faults ad nauseam and bond with others who felt similarly (long live #SmashBash).

But there is one television-related regret that I have and it is this: I regret that I didn’t watch Psych when it was on the air and become a part of its meta, delightful fandom. Funnily enough, I first recall hearing about Psych from my friend Sarah. We were at her apartment, marathoning the second season of Community when she told me that since I loved that show, I should marathon Psych next. She told me that the humor was so similar that I was certain to love it. I vowed to follow her advice but then life and other fandoms got in the way and I found myself forgetting about the show until I was home sick one afternoon with a blanket on the couch and the near-limitlessness of Netflix. After taking a poll via Twitter – of which one person and I do not remember who, but thank you, responded – I decided to kick off my newest television binge of Psych. I had been drowning myself in Pretty Little Liars so I was overdue for some good, solid comedy. And boy, did I find it.

I wrote a post a few years ago in which I ranked some of my favorite pilots of all time. Looking back on the post, I have no regrets about which shows I selected, but I would now like to retroactively add Psych’s pilot to that list. It’s rare that I fall in love with a show from the pilot alone. Most shows usually take a while – at least three to five episodes – to really find their groove, but Psych drew me in immediately and compelled me to continue watching. After the completion of my initial binge-watch this weekend I can safely say that Psych ranks among my top five television shows in recent memory (perhaps of all time). Not only are the characters appealing, hilarious, and delightfully nuanced but the stories and cases are solid and the humor is self-referential in the way that makes me laugh and swoon. I didn’t think a show could be more meta than Community, but Psych is just that and – if I dare to say it – does meta humor better than Community.

I fell deeply in love with this USA comedy series and its characters over the course of my binge-watch, so I thought that I would rank some of my favorite episodes of the series. What’s delightful about this show is that there are so many amazing homage-style episodes and “normal” ones to choose from that I doubt any two “top 10/15 episodes of Psych” lists between fans are identical. I think that’s actually pretty cool, to be frank. So grab a pineapple and maybe some fries quatro queso dos fritos while you’re at it, because we are about to count down my top 15 episodes of Psych!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Suits 4x05 "Pound of Flesh" (Or How About A Truce?)

"Pound of Flesh"
Original Airdate: July 16, 2014

When I was in elementary school, I clearly remember two of my friends getting into a huge argument with each other. Our friend group was split on the playground during that week at recess – you were either with Laura, or you were against her. I tried to be in the middle, to be neutral, to not be forced to choose a side. Neither side of the fight really liked that. The truth is that until there is a truce or the fight manages to fizzle out organically, fights don’t usually end themselves over time. They usually do just the opposite and intensify. And no matter how much you will it to end or push it away, there will always be a layer of bitterness and resentment until (and sometimes long after) the dust settles. Suits’ most recent episode titled “Pound of Flesh” doesn’t get to the truce until more than halfway through the episode. The first part of this season has focused pretty heavily on the dissolution of the Harvey/Mike relationship. They’ve done more than fight, if we’re being honest. They’ve crossed personal and professional lines with each other and it has been messy and brutal at times. But the episode comes to a head when Harvey and Mike realize that little sliver of the Venn diagram where their personal and professional interests overlap (Rachel) and decide to call a momentary ceasefire in their war. The problem, of course, is that while Harvey is a soldier, he isn’t the general.

Elsewhere in the episode, everyone else spends the majority of their time figuring out how to stab each other in the back, Rachel spends a chunk of the episode unconscious, and Louis and Donna perform some Shakespeare. And that’s what you missed on Suits!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x09 "Sixteen-Inch Softball" (Stuff of Legend)

"Sixteen-Inch Softball"
Original Airdate: November 21, 2013

Simon Roberts concerns himself a lot with being a legend.

The Crazy Ones is a show that focuses on his relationship with his employees and his daughter but it also heavily focuses on the man’s desire to be remembered and his fear that he will slip into anonymity once he is gone from the advertising world and the world in general. It’s a universal human fear, to be honest. We all have this desire within us to be remembered. We want to do something that puts us on the map. So we work hard and we strive to be noticed by our bosses or our peers or Internet strangers. We want to feel like our lives are significant and that we make an actual, tangible difference in the world. No one at Lewis, Roberts + Roberts understands this feeling more than Simon who spends most of “Sixteen-Inch Softball” weighed down with concern over whether or not he will remain a legendary figure to his staff. Elsewhere in the episode, Sydney spends most of her time trying to buddy up to Nancy, Andrew’s girlfriend, who hates her. The younger Roberts is nothing if not persistent, but continues to fail and Andrew dissuades her from pursuing a friendship with Nancy (the reasoning for which we learn near the episode’s end).

So if you’re ready, let’s discuss more of “Sixteen-Inch Softball” and its plot as well as some character development and insights, shall we?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

In Defense of Danny Castellano: Part 1 [Guest Poster: Ann]

In the first of what is sure to be more collaboration, I've invited my extremely articulate and passionate The Mindy Project fandom friend Ann to guest post at Just About Write. This is the first part of her guest post titled 'In Defense of Danny Castellano.' Please welcome her to the blog and check out her brilliant commentary regarding our favorite fictional doctor below (and subscribe to her Tumblr while you're at it)!

Hello everybody! I am Ann (overanalyzingtelevision on Tumblr) and I love TV and I love writing and I love talking and I am so excited to be talking about my most favorite of characters on my most favorite of shows.

When the title of the majority of the writing you do about TV is under the name OVERANALYZING TELEVISION, the two assumptions most people make is that you’re a) a television sage or b) a television snob. Neither of those are true. I just love TV. I love tropes and I love seeing how writers on TV shows tell the story they want to tell, and I love seeing actors rise to the challenge of stepping in a character’s shoes and help tell that story, too.

A show is nothing without its characters. No plot is good enough that lame, inconsistent characterization can carry it. And when a show has great characters—with help of the writers, and with help of the actor in charge—it’s the difference between Pizza Hut pizza and pizza from Italy. Like, you’d still eat them both, but which one are you going to Instagram?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Danny Castellano is one of the best characters on television.

To begin my discussion on why a character is great, I want to make it clear that the answer isn’t goodness, or even likability. If we’re being honest, goodness can be boring. What if Hannibal didn’t like killing people and was, like, a dentist?

It all boils down to texture. Realness. People are parts likable and unlikable. People carry conflict and they start conflict. They have idiosyncrasies. They fall in love. They get pissed. They have vulnerabilities and hopes and fears. And memories! The best characters are people, not vehicles for jokes or underdeveloped shells.

A half-glance at Danny Castellano gives you only a shell: a divorcée with daddy issues who begrudgingly falls in love with his banter buddy and best friend. If I had a shot for every trope I just listed, am I right? But he is above and beyond this basic description.

I am a writer—like, the story kind—and I have always viewed fiction storytelling as the construction of an elaborate lie. A good writer is a great liar, and the reader (or, in this case, the viewer) is the one administering the polygraph test. The best readers will be skeptical and the best writers will expect and prepare for this skepticism.

The three questions a writer should prepare for: Why, how and so what? What motivations did a character have to do something, what was the process to lead to an outcome, and what effect does that have on the story?

‘Danny Castellano is a divorcée with daddy issues.’ Both of these were true of Danny before the events of the Pilot. And while ‘daddy issues’ isn’t Danny’s fault—it’s purely, at least to our knowledge, reactionary—the divorce well could be.

Why are things the way they are? What do we know about the divorce that is interesting? We’ve met Danny’s ex-wife—we know she is a dramatic, impulsive, manipulative woman who cannot keep things private (whether she’s asking for Danny back, breaking up with him, or displaying a collection of pretty hot nudes to all of Manhattan). And we know that after the divorce, Danny was devastated—going to Suze Orman conferences, writing letters with drawings of imagined children (in 2008!!), and missing his wife 5 years after she’d left.

Maybe it’s unfair of me to love a character so much based on speculation of why he is the way he is, but it fascinates me the picture these facts, dropped sporadically throughout the 2 seasons, paint before we even consider what Danny does in the present day.

Because here’s who Danny Castellano is, all things considered: he’s a man who has an enormous capacity to love. Enormous, for his devastation to last so long and be so strong. Enormous to try to heal—heal from his dad with Christina, and heal from Christina with Suze Orman.

If we know this as we watch Danny be a complete asshole to Mindy Lahiri in the Pilot, it’s clear that for all the efforts Danny made to find love, he failed. Not because he didn’t want it enough, but because the cards he was dealt were so bad that he lost hope.

How does that manifest itself in Danny? He’s a smoker. He thinks work should be for work only, and he doesn’t mind spending Thanksgiving alone. And, most importantly, the problems in the past have made him terrified—and absolutely doubtful—of love itself.

And then there’s the second part of our statement, the falling-in-love part. How does a man who has shut himself away fall in love with a woman who thinks of romance in the exact opposite way?

You can’t start a fire without a spark, and that tension between Mindy and Danny is the conflict that drives the relationship and the show. Mindy is a person who gives everyone a chance. Danny resists warmth because he’s been burnt before—but the reason the show keeps moving and these characters keep growing is that Danny keeps coming back because despite everything—everything!!—he has been through, and despite his best efforts, he can’t help himself from wanting love. And Mindy sees that potential within him.

What’s that? Hearts in your eyes? Me too.

In the first season, the conflict between Mindy and Danny is primarily about friendship (with a dash of somethin’-somethin’). Mindy is the initiator most of the time. She seeks him out for advice, she texts him, and she challenges him. And Danny, who underneath the gristle and icy exterior a warm heart beats, responds. He goes to the club because of her. He picks her up from school jail. They’re not friends, but they are familiar, and with each episode increasingly so.

The first big turning point between Mindy and Danny, to me, is in Josh and Mindy’s Christmas Party, which is the first time Mindy is vulnerable around Danny. In the previous episodes it was on her to support him, and this episode provides the checkpoint that these little gestures have meant something to Danny, whether he admits it to himself or not.

Here’s a metaphor, Hazel Grace: personality is a tree, with a trunk and a branches and fruit. And if the trunk of Danny’s personality is that he has a high capacity to love (a personality trait my dad would just call ‘emotional’) the branches are that he is protective, caring, selfless, and sweet. And the ‘Josh and Mindy’ fruit is juicy, man. Protective, like telling Ellie Kemper that it’s ‘uncalled for’ to call Mindy chubby? Caring, like going after Mindy when she just wants to cry in her room and close herself off? Selfless, like ditching a date to help a friend (ha) in need? Sweet like a GINGERBREAD HOUSE WITH COTTON CANDY INSULATION?!?! Above and beyond. Danny Castellano is just gross.

Danny’s first deliberate moment of vulnerability (‘Harry and Mindy’) comes not far after ‘Josh and Mindy,’ and it’s as adorable as you’d think it would be, but it’s on the same trajectory. Mindy pushes and Danny responds.

That trajectory is disrupted, however, with ‘Pretty Man,’ as Mindy and Danny and the audience has to question what we’ve seen develop between the two of them but especially within Danny and question what will develop next.

Why is Danny so interesting in ‘Pretty Man’? Because the episode is so much about Danny—all of Danny, the raw, the mean, the suspiciously not platonic. For the first time, Danny expresses to Mindy the fear that everyone hates him (to her shock, having not expected him to react so strongly). Which is cool, but then he keeps going—he is jealous of Brendan, and then loving (“He’s an idiot for treating you badly”) and then that shower seems awful small all of a sudden.

Mindy and Danny as a romantic possibility, from episode 1, is something I could talk about for eons—and something I really believe is palpable from the beginning of the show—but the writers are a lot more conservative than Chris Messina’s eyeballs. I think ‘Pretty Man’ … take a deep breath, this is linguistic acrobatics … ‘Pretty Man’ clues us in on the underlying romantic tension that explodes in ‘Santa Fe,’ an episode which then sets in motion the tension building to the big moment in ‘Take Me With You.’

Stay with me here! So in ‘Pretty Man,’ Danny is vulnerable, which we as an audience have become used to, but then we get a peek of something more from him (‘potential to love,’ you know?) .

With the end of ‘Pretty Man,’ and the end of Danny’s resistance to Mindy’s friendship (in light of deeper feelings), a cycle with increasing stakes begins, where Danny and Mindy come closer—and almost connect—but just miss each other. In ‘Santa Fe,’ Mindy and Danny hold hands, and Danny responds (grabbing her hand again), but then Christina comes in. The season closes with an almost kiss, but Casey and Christina are enough to stop Mindy and Danny, at least temporarily.

I love ‘Take Me With You’ because it juxtaposes the Pilot with itself so well. (It wouldn’t be a critical essay if I didn’t use ‘juxtapose,’ right?) Mindy and Danny are back in the doctor’s lounge, but now so much has changed.

Especially with Danny. Yeah, it’s called The Mindy Project, but in the course of that season Danny is the one that changes most. And though he doesn’t leave New York City or cut his hair to Ellen Degeneres lengths, he leaves the first season finally ready to fall in love with Mindy, the only person who believed In him enough to get to that point.

By the end of season 1, Danny Castellano is warm. Not only that, but the almost-kiss paves the way for season 2 and the advent of Danny Castellano love eyeballs. Not that they didn’t exist in season one—because MAN DID THEY:

But season 2 is a whole different animal, an arc produced as a result of the almost-kiss. The central conflict in the first season is whether or not Danny and Mindy can become friends. Though it’s hinted at in every single episode of the first season that there’s something more, it’s only in the final episodes that the tension is acknowledged by the show in a significant way.

As ‘Take Me With You’ ends in the same place, but with very different circumstances, as the Pilot, Danny is not the same person. He’s better. He’s awesome. And he’s more than ready to fall in love.


Part two will be coming soon so keep your eyes open for it! Until then, folks. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Suits 4x04 "Leveraged" (From A Place of Strength)

Original Airdate: July 9, 2014

“Good lawyers negotiate from a place of strength, not weakness.”

And just like that, this week’s episode of Suits titled “Leveraged” can be summed up. Thus far, this season of USA’s hit drama has been all about fighting – it’s focused on how to fight fair, fight dirty, fight against yourself, and fight FOR yourself. It’s allowed us glimpses of Harvey Specter in vulnerability, torn because of his desire to win and also his care for Mike; it’s shown us Mike Ross at his most cunning and conniving. It proved that you should never back him into a corner. It’s also showed us what a managing partner torn between romance and her career looks like, as well as a man (Louis) desperate to be seen as an equal and a partner, rather than an afterthought. The dichotomy between strength and weakness is strong within this week’s episode and this season in general.

Have you ever noticed that the metaphorical claws only ever come out during conversations in which you feel threatened? I’ve noticed that about myself, to be honest. I’m a rather pleasant person in general; it takes a lot to rattle me. But when I am rattled the most is when I’m cornered – when I feel trapped and weak and lash out to hurt someone before they hurt me. Brand it what you will, but the bottom line is that everyone has a pressure point and the more they feel cornered and smothered, the more vicious the attack. We justify how we act in these moments by labeling it “self-preservation.” We excuse our behavior by spinning ourselves as the victims or telling ourselves that we had no choice.

But what we learn in “Leveraged” is this: there is always a choice. And sometimes once choice can mean the difference between success and failure, but it can also mean the difference between maintaining a relationship and destroying it.