Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

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Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

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In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Doctor Who 12x02 Recap: “Spyfall Part Two” (Who Run the World? Girls!) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


“Spyfall Part Two”
Original Airdate: January 5, 2020

Here’s a quick refresher of where we’re at: The Master has returned, blown up the cockpit of a plane that the Doctor’s companions are on, and they’re hurtling towards death. The Doctor is trapped in another dimension by unknown aliens in league with the Master.

A MASTER PLAN


While clinging on for dear life, Ryan finds a series of instructions on how to land the plane. He plugs his phone into controls on the floor and a video recording of the Doctor appears to tell them what to do and gently chastises Graham for, rightfully, panicking. An app on Ryan’s phone allows him to level the plane. “I can fly a plane,” he says. “Can’t ride a bike, but I can fly a plane.”

The Doctor’s situation is trickier. She encounters a 19th century woman named Ada who has visited this dimension often, though she thinks it’s just her mind. One of the creatures appears at her side and the Doctor guesses that going through the creature is like going through a portal. With some reluctance, she takes Ada’s hand and they wake up in 1834 at an invention fair. Without the TARDIS, the Doctor is marooned there.

The Master is flying his Aussie house, which is a TARDIS in disguise, and is giddy that his plan is working. However, his good mood darkens when he learns the Doctor has escaped. He wastes little time in crashing the fair and shrinking people left and right. To stop him from killing more people, he forces the Doctor to kneel and loudly repeat his name. It’s a very uncomfortable image: a female Doctor kneeling in front of a sadistic villain and calling him "master."

But the moment causes the Doctor to come to an important realization: the Master isn’t controlling the aliens, whom he’s identified as the Kasaavins. That gives her some renewed hope. Ada, less helpless than we originally thought, uses a massive steam-powered gun to shoot the Master, allowing the Doctor to escape.

TWO HEARTS BEATING


Ada is the future Ada Lovelace, a famous mathematician, and her friend has a strange machine called the Silver Lady that the Doctor immediately knows came from the Master. It sometimes casts the same image as the Kasaavins and so now the Doctor knows they are alien spies throughout time too. Using the sonic on the Silver Lady, she summons the Kasaavins and jumps in to hopefully return to the 21st Century, but at the last second, Ada grabs her hand and disappears too. And so they land in 1943 Paris instead. Thankfully, they meet Noor Inayat Khan, a WWII wireless operator/spy for the British. Noor hides them in her apartment when the Master, disguised as a Nazi officer, comes looking.

It’s time for a new plan. “The Master tracked me down and wants me dead,” the Doctor says, “whereas I am a big fan of being alive.” To level the playing field, she sends out a code to him. It’s the four-beat drumming that John Simm’s Master heard, which made him insane. But it also sounds like the Doctor Who theme song and Thirteen describes it as the sound of two hearts beating, which is a fascinating idea and one I’d never thought about.

The code works. The Master and the Doctor make psychic contact and agree to meet alone in the Eiffel Tower. There, he admits to shooting C, hacking the car GPS, and convincing the Kasaavins to work with him. But they’re simply the ground crew doing his dirty work of wiping out humanity. When it’s over, the Master gleefully assumes Barton and the Kasaavins will also die. All part of his plan. His mood drops again though when he talks about Gallifrey. On a recent trip home, he found it desolate and destroyed. The Doctor doesn’t believe him, though his track record suggests a 50/50 chance he’s telling the truth.

Any further discussion of home is put on hold when German soldiers rush up the stairs. See, the Doctor sent a coded message saying the Master was a double agent for the British so now the Germans are mad. On her way out, she destroys the perception filter the Master had been using so now the Nazis will see him as his true self. They surround him. The Doctor meets Ada and Noor at the Master’s TARDIS, which he’s arrogantly left unconcealed.

LASER SHOES VS. ALIEN


The fam are doing kind of so-so. Because technology is ultimately tracking everything we do, Barton easily finds them. Ryan smashes their phones and they run to a construction site to hide. With no Doctor to instruct them, they decide to keep trying to stop Barton. Luckily, they still have some spy gadgets on them, which they desperately need when the Kasaavins show up. Graham “fights” them off with his laser shoes. Then the trio lays a trap for Barton’s people by having Yaz call home, knowing the call will be traced. When agents arrive, Graham “intimidates” them with the laser shoe, allowing the trio to take all of the guns, phones, and the car.

Sadly, it’s all for nothing. Barton happily lets the Kasaavins attack his mother, whom he has zip-tied to a chair. Ryan, Yaz, and Graham later find her there, dead. Meanwhile, Barton gives a creepy keynote speech about the unsettling reach of technology, then demonstrates this by texting every phone on the planet saying, “Humanity is over!” Humans and their DNA are now just hard drives to be used by the Kasaavins.

The Silver Lady in front of the fam lights up, delivering Kasaavins all around the world through people’s phones to start repurposing the humans. The trio can’t destroy the machine, especially when the Master, who has just had to live chronologically through the 20th and 21st Century, arrives. But his triumph is short-lived; the Doctor is there to save the day. Or rather, she already did. Using the Master’s TARDIS, she went back to last year and implanted a failsafe into Barton’s Silver Lady. As soon as it detected the Kasaavin army, it shut down. She’s also rigged it to send the Kasaavins back to their dimension permanently and for the kicker, she plays them the recording of the Master confessing he planned to betray them. They scoop him up and deposit him in their barren realm.

BROKEN HOME


The Doctor has no time for reunions with her friends because she has to go make the instructions and video that allowed them to safely land the plane. Then she reclaims her own TARDIS and drops Noor and Ada off in their correct times, wiping their memories of this adventure for good measure.

But another memory is nagging at the Doctor. She flies to Gallifrey and sees the Master was right. It looks bombed and ruined. A hologram activates in the TARDIS. A recording of the Master says he’s the one who destroyed Gallifrey in order to get back at the Founding Fathers for lying to them about the “timeless child” myth, something that has informed their entire identity. “I’d tell you more but why would I make it easy for you?” he says. “It wasn’t for me.”

Devastated and angry, the Doctor buries everything deep so she can fly off with Graham, Ryan, and Yaz again. Frustrated that they still know so little about her, they ask who she is and she tells them. She’s a Time Lord from Gallifrey who can regenerate her whole body. She stole a TARDIS to travel time and space. The Master is an old friend who became an enemy. Yaz wants to visit Gallifrey but the Doctor quietly brushes her off. “Another time.”

Final Thoughts:

  • I loved the attention to the Master and the Doctor’s relationship and moral tension but it meant the companions really had nothing to do this episode. Yes, they landed a plane but they ultimately had no effect on saving the day at all. That’s an issue I often had last season and I hope to see it much less moving forward.
  • Another pitfall from last season that has come back: the villain faces no consequences. The Master may be trapped in another realm but Barton ran off scot-free. 
  • What did the Doctor do with the Master’s TARDIS? And where did he get it?
  • There are a lot of parallels in this two-parter to past Doctor/Master storylines including "The Sound of Drums," "The Last of the Time Lords," "Dark Water," and "Death in Heaven." But all of those episodes were season finales, not openers. I’m curious to see how something as major as the Master’s return and the destruction of Gallifrey inform a season moving forward, rather than explaining a season at the end.
  • As far as we know from the show, the last time the Doctor was on Gallifrey he exiled the President and became the President himself, shot the General, broke all the laws of time and space, and risked the future of the universe all to save Clara Oswald.
  • I absolutely loved this exchange: Graham, shouting at the Doctor’s video recording: “Where are you?! We’re going to die!” The Doctor: “First of all, you’re not gonna die. Second of all, don’t talk back to the screen ‘cause obviously, I’m a recording and I can’t hear you. Third, don’t panic, especially you, Graham.” Graham: “I’m not panicking!” The Doctor: “Yes, you are. And I did just say don’t talk back to the screens.” 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

77th Golden Globe Awards Predictions: Television Edition [Contributor: Chelsea]


Trying to predict Globes television winners is a fool's journey, but we’re going to try anyways. Arguments can be made for every single nominee to win and I expect plenty of surprises Sunday evening. Check out my film predictions here.



Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy
Barry
The Politician
Fleabag
The Kominsky Method
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Frontrunner: The Politician
My vote: Fleabag
Dark horse: Fleabag

The Globes cannot resist a Ryan Murphy production, even if it’s complete trash like The Politician. My only hope is that they follow their hearts to Fleabag.



Best Television Series — Drama
The Crown
The Morning Show
Succession
Big Little Lies
Killing Eve

Frontrunner: The Morning Show
My vote: Killing Eve
Dark horse: Succession

The Globes like new shiny TV shows and movie stars, so The Morning Show shouldn’t have any trouble here. Look out for everybody’s new favorite show, Succession, though.



Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Drama
Brian Cox, Succession
Tobias Menzies, The Crown
Billy Porter, Pose
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Frontrunner: Brian Cox, Succession
My vote: Billy Porter, Pose
Dark horse: Tobias Menzies, The Crown

This is truly a category that could go any direction, but I think they’ll want to award Brian Cox or Billy Porter. The new season of The Crown wasn’t great but never underestimate this organization's love of British royalty.



Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Reese Witherspoon, The Morning Show

Frontrunner: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
My vote: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Dark horse: Olivia Colman, The Crown

The Morning Show is a perfectly fine show that wants to be great but Jennifer Aniston is the reason to watch. It’s hard to bet against a recent Oscar winner playing royalty, so don’t count out Olivia Colman having residual love from last year... plus the fact that she’s also in Fleabag.



Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kirsten Dunst, On Becoming a God in Central Florida
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Frontrunner: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
My vote: Kirsten Dunst, On Becoming a God in Central Florida
Dark horse: Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll

The Globes are good at rewarding new niche shows, and while Fleabag didn’t break out until its second season, it feels new and big. I personally just love Kirsten Dunst and wish more people would watch her new show. Lyonne in Russian Doll is the other new, big show and that would be such a fun speech to watch.



Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Bill Hader, Barry
Ben Platt, The Politician
Paul Rudd, Living With Yourself
Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Frontrunner: Ben Platt, The Politician
My vote: Paul Rudd, Living With Yourself
Dark horse: Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Another category that could go any way but I’m playing it safe and betting on the Ryan Murphy show. Ramy has turned into a big show for Hulu and this could be the perfect way to anoint its star.



Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Loudest Voice
Chernobyl
Unbelievable
Fosse/Verdon
Catch-22

Frontrunner: Unbelievable
My vote: Unbelievable
Dark horse: Fosse/Verdon

Unbelievable is the single best show or film I’ve watched in 2019 and would be the most worthy winner. Globes and Emmys don’t always line up but Chernobyl is also a huge hit. Fosse/Verdon feels like a lifetime ago but is starry enough to stick with the HFPA and is about what they care about.



Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Christopher Abbott, Catch-22
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Spy

Frontrunner: Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
My vote: Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Dark horse: Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice

Rockwell has become a Globes favorite since winning for Three Billboards and this is the exact kind of role the voters would love to reward. They could go with another Oscar winner with Crowe but I feel like nobody watched The Loudest Voice when Bombshell was right there. I’m just happy to see Jared Harris here and wish they remembered Jharrel Jerome.



Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Helen Mirren, Catherine the Great
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
Merritt Wever, Unbelievable
Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable
Joey King, The Act

Frontrunner: Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
My vote: Merritt Wever, Unbelievable
Dark horse: Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable

Williams was great as Gwen Verdon and is a previous winner for My Week with Marilyn on the film side. This organization is great at crowning young performers, so keep an eye on Kaitlyn Dever. She’s had a breakout year with this and Booksmart but faces competition from the equally amazing Merritt Wever.



Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Patricia Arquette, The Act
Emily Watson, Chernobyl

Frontrunner: Toni Collette, Unbelievable
My vote: Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Dark horse: Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

It’s insane to vote against Meryl Streep and royalty but I’m going to do it. Collette was the third lead in her series and the role is the complete opposite of what she’s doing in film nominee Knives Out. Plus new seasons of Big Little Lies and The Crown weren’t very good. 



Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Henry Winkler, Barry
Andrew Scott, Fleabag
Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl

Frontrunner: Kieran Culkin, Succession
My vote: Henry Winkler, Barry
Dark horse: Andrew Scott, Fleabag

These supporting categories are always so stressful to make sense of when they combine comedy, drama, miniseries, and TV movies. Henry Winkler will always have my heart and is a treasure. Succession feels like the safest version of a win here since Culkin was nominated last year and the show has blown up. But Hot Priest is a thing and this would be a fun way to reward Fleabag.

77th Golden Globe Awards Predictions: Film Edition [Contributor: Chelsea]

Image result for golden globes 2020

The only real value the Golden Globes have on the awards season is that they’re a televised award and it gives any winner the chance to make a great first impression on the awards season. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of roughly 90 members that range from journalists to photographers that report on the entertainment industry for magazines, newspapers, television and radio broadcasting overseas. They’re dubious at best with their love of nominating movie stars so they’ll show up at their ceremony, but they somehow matter when it comes to awards.


Best Motion Picture — Drama
The Irishman
Joker
The Two Popes
Marriage Story
1917

Frontrunner: The Irishman
My vote: Marriage Story
Dark horse: 1917

This is a predictably boring category that would have been much better with Little Women or if they had let the Foreign Language nominees compete here. I refuse to give any love to Joker, though it has a real chance of sweeping all its nominations if the HFPA wants to be chaotic. But they should do the right thing and reward The Irishman or Marriage Story. Perfect little films that have something to say about the world and will be remembered ten years from now.

Related image

Best Motion Picture  Musical or Comedy
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Knives Out
Dolemite Is My Name
Jojo Rabbit
Rocketman

Frontrunner: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
My vote: Knives Out
Dark horse: Jojo Rabbit

I am calling category fraud on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood but the Globes be Globes-ing. Lookout for Jojo Rabbit though. It’s a very easy film to like and they just awarded Green Book here last year when bigger films like The Favourite and Vice were right there. Knives Out has proven to be a huge hit though, so look out for that sneaking in Grand Budapest Hotel-style.



Best Motion Picture  Foreign Language
The Farewell
Pain and Glory
Parasite
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Les Misérables

Frontrunner: Parasite
My vote: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Dark horse: The Farewell

This is truly the most exciting category with four perfect films and one pretty solid one. Parasite should take this easily but I can always dream about the others having a chance. 15/10 would recommend all of these.



Best Director  Motion Picture
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Todd Phillips, Joker

Frontrunner: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
My vote: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Dark horse: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

It would be so easy for Tarantino to sweep this awards season but the film everybody loves is Parasite, and we cannot deny the masterful direction of Director Bong. I’d have more faith in Martin Scorsese if DeNiro had been nominated, but I think the de-aging works against The Irishman and that comes back to the director. If Todd Phillips wins when Martin Scorsese is right there though, I might have to give up on the Globes.



Best Screenplay  Motion Picture
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes
Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, Parasite
Steven Zaillian, The Irishman

Frontrunner: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
My vote: Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Dark horse: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Tarantino is always a favorite for these writing awards but it would be delightful if Bong or Baumbach could sneak in and snatch this one. Both of those scripts are so detailed and precise and should be studied in screenwriting classes.

Image result for little women gif

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama
Renée Zellweger, Judy
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Frontrunner: Renée Zellweger, Judy
My vote: Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Dark horse: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Little Women is everything and Saoirse brings new life and perspective to this lovely character so many of us grew up with. Watching Johansson took me back to my childhood and how broken but strong my mother was during my parents' messy divorce. Noah Baumbach put so much love and care into that character and Scarlett killed it. Renée is great in Judy but Judy is a film that won’t exist a year from now.



Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture  Drama
Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Frontrunner: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
My vote: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Dark horse: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Hoping the Hollywood FOREIGN Press Association takes note of the only Foreign Language performance and blesses us with a warm and delightful speech from Antonio Banderas. Adam Driver is the only other worthy winner to me, but I expect this organization to continue their nonsense from last year and give it to the only movie I truly hate this season.



Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture  Musical or Comedy
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
Ana de Armas, Knives Out
Emma Thompson, Late Night
Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Frontrunner: Awkwafina, The Farewell
My vote: Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
Dark horse: Ana de Armas, Knives Out

This is one of the few categories that is genuinely exciting, even with a wild Cate Blanchett nomination. Awkwafina, Feldstein, and de Armas are all insanely amazing but Awkwafina carries her film.



Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name
Daniel Craig, Knives Out
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit

Frontrunner: Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
My vote: Daniel Craig, Knives Out
Dark horse: Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Unlike the Academy, the HFPA has no problem rewarding Leo and I bet most groups feel silly rushing to give him awards for The Revenant when he gave a career best performance this past year. He should worry about Egerton with Rocketman because the Globes do love their musicals and Taron is great as Elton.



Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Annette Bening, The Report

Frontrunner: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
My vote: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Dark horse: Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

I am delighted to no end to see Annette Bening even in this conversation and had Amazon done a better job campaigning the film, she’d be a proper contender. Thankfully I want to live in a world where Laura Dern sweeps an awards season and I cannot wait to hear her speech.



Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Frontrunner: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
My vote: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Dark horse: Al Pacino, The Irishman

My dream would be Tom Hanks or even Joe Pesci but I don’t see a world in which the HFPA doesn’t reward Brad Pitt with this career achievement. Hanks is getting a proper Lifetime Achievement Award during the ceremony, so expect Pitt to begin his Oscar sweep.



Best Motion Picture  Animated
Frozen 2
Toy Story 4
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Missing Link
The Lion King

Frontrunner: Toy Story 4
My vote: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Dark horse: Frozen 2

Disney and Pixar are fighting for this win with their billion dollar “good but not great” sequels. Hopefully they split their own vote and something like the tragically unrecognized How To Train Your Dragon franchise finally wins, but we must not raise our hopes that high.



Best Original Score  Motion Picture
Thomas Newman, 1917
Hildur Guonadottir, Joker
Randy Newman, Marriage Story
Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
Daniel Pemberton, Motherless Brooklyn

Frontrunner: Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
My vote: Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
Dark horse: Randy Newman, Marriage Story

There’s no rhyme or reason to the nomination decisions the HFPA make, but I am so happy to see both Marriage Story and Little Women represented. Both would be worthy winners but I give the edge to Desplat as he has been a Globe favorite the last 16 years.



Best Original Song  Motion Picture
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman
“Spirit,” The Lion King
“Into the Unknown,” Frozen 2
“Stand Up,” Harriet
“Beautiful Ghosts,” Cats

Frontrunner: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman
My vote: “Stand Up,” Harriet
Dark horse: “Into the Unknown,” Frozen 2

A lot of people forget that “Let It Go” lost Best Song to “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a film that fully does not exist, so I’m hesitant for the HFPA to anoint Frozen 2 when the star power of Rocketman is right there. This category doesn’t have any good songs but I would love to see Cynthia Erivo give a speech Sunday night.

Stay tuned for Chelsea's television predictions!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Doctor Who 12x01 Recap: “Spyfall, Part One” (Guess Who’s Back?) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


“Spyfall Part One”
Original Airdate: January 1, 2020

Around the world, spies are being attacked by transparent entities that can appear suddenly through walls, the ceiling, or even a rock formation. Who are these creatures and what do they want? There’s only one woman to call.

BACK TOGETHER AGAIN


The Doctor and her “fam” are back on Earth for the humans to take care of a few things before heading off into time and space once more. But Ryan, Yaz, and Graham hardly get to spend an hour alone before they’re individually picked up by mysterious men in black. The same men come for the Doctor as she’s fixing the TARDIS. “Worst Uber ever!” Graham shouts from one of the cars.

Not long after being piled into a car together, the foursome realizes this isn’t just some shadowy government agency kidnapping. Something weird is going on. The GPS malfunctions, vaporizes the driver, and speeds the car towards a cliff. Then it starts chanting, “Die! Die! Die!” So, not a great sign. The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver is useless (the start of a theme for the episode) and only using a mirror to reflect an energy beam back at the GPS saves them. If that’s not enough excitement, “C” from MI6 suddenly chimes in over the radio to ask them to come in.

As we saw at the start of the episode, spies everywhere have been attacked. Security agencies are all asking the Doctor for her help in solving the crisis. She and her team examine one of the attacked spies, who is now just a shell that looks human. Her DNA has been rewritten. C believes there’s a connection to a former agent named Daniel Barton, who is now a tech mogul. He may even be a double or triple agent. Just as C is about to tell them more, he’s shot through the window. With more shots raining in, Ryan grabs the classic spy gear (think rocket launching cufflinks and laser shoes) MI6 provided and makes a run back to the TARDIS with the rest of the fam.

But even the TARDIS isn’t totally safe. The unknown creatures nearly force their way in, which is a surprise considering nothing is supposed to be able to get into the TARDIS when her doors are closed. The sonic screwdriver has no readings either. All the Doctor has is two leads. First, Ryan and Yaz will go undercover to speak with Barton. Second, the Doctor and Graham will visit a former MI6 agent who has always kept an open mind about extraterrestrial life.

FROM THE BAY TO THE OUTBACK


In San Francisco, Ryan and Yaz pose as a photographer and journalist to get close to Barton. They’re also using the spy gear and some of the Doctor’s own tech to aid them. The interview has barely begun when Barton gets a call and leaves. But he invites them to his birthday party as an apology. The DNA scanner shows he’s only 93% human so it’s safe to say, they’ll be attending.

The Doctor’s MI6 friend named “O” has been living in exile in Australia for a while. After hearing about the new and unusual threat, he wonders how the Doctor can be sure they weren’t followed. Cue the movement sensors around O’s house being tripped. The two Aussie agents there for protection very stupidly go to investigate. The creatures attack the agents, and there’s nothing the Doctor can do but retreat into the house with Graham and O. A forcefield fence stops all but one of the creatures, which the Doctor and O are able to trap in a glass box. She interrogates the creature and learns they are from “far beyond” and are in position to take over the universe.

Around this time, Yaz and Ryan have broken into Barton’s office to download files from his computer. When Barton returns, they hide and hear and see Barton speaking with the creatures, whom he has some agreement with. When the coast is clear, Yaz and Ryan try to leave but one of the creatures attacks Yaz and she disappears while Ryan escapes. But she’s not dead (thank God!), only in some other plane of existence that looks like a forest or maybe a central brain for the creatures. All around her, energy is flowing until suddenly it hits her. Just like that, she’s in the glass box in Australia instead of the creature.

CASINO ROYALE


While everyone is relieved Yaz is fine, the whole situation is strange. When the Doctor decodes a message between the creatures and Barton, she finds their threat to take over the world is real. They’re already positioned in every country, like alien spies. An odd look flicks over Yaz’s face but no one sees it. O speculates that Barton may be the “spymaster.” Luckily they have invites to his party!

The whole episode evokes classic James Bond films. With all of our heroes dressed in tuxes and playing casino games in a villain’s mansion, the Bond vibes are turned up a notch. Plus, the music sometimes sounds almost like the soundtrack from Skyfall and it’s a nice little touch. The Doctor confronts Barton alone outside about C’s death, the alien code, and the alien spies. Barton denies everything, then promptly takes off.

In classic spy fashion, the team chases him to his airplane hangar and all barely manage to jump aboard while he’s taking off. O’s poor running ability confuses the Doctor. He was supposedly a champion sprinter. His face splits into a crazed grin. The real O was captured on his first day at MI6 and someone else took his place. This O is, in fact, the Master.

The Doctor’s oldest enemy/sometimes friend or convenient ally is back. And just like always, the Master loves to make an entrance. Barton isn’t in the cockpit after all, but a bomb is. A sonic screwdriver-proof bomb. Oh, and the Master is controlling the new alien spies. The bomb goes off and the plane nosedives. “Everything that you think you know is a lie,” the Master says tauntingly to the Doctor right before he disappears and she’s taken to the same strange plane Yaz was in earlier. The others are nowhere to be seen.

Final Thoughts:

  • I did not see that Master reveal coming! After spending an entire season not acknowledging almost any Doctor Who history or lore, to come back in 2020 with the Master right away is gutsy. But I’m here for it. 
  • Sacha Dhawan is an excellent choice for the Master. He was a fantastic foe on Iron Fist and can convey a lot without doing very much. I’d like to see that more going forward because I wasn’t convinced he could pull off the typical manic energy of the Master. 
  • Also, I realize the Master/Missy had to regenerate again but I would’ve loved to have seen Michelle Gomez opposite Jodie Whittaker. 
  • C: “I’ve read the files. The Doctor is a man.”  The Doctor: “I’ve had an upgrade.”
  • There’s definite potential after this first episode for series 12 to resolve some of the issues with series 11. Starting off with a two-parter AND the Master is a huge turnabout from that season. But it’s also surprising to have the Master’s identity revealed right away, rather than a season-long arc like series 3 or 8. So let’s see where things go from here. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The 2010s: Some of Our Favorite TV Shows of the Last Decade [Contributors: Jenn, Deb, Jaime, and Araceli]

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It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks, we’ll not only conclude another year but an entire decade. While it’s hard to believe that 2000 wasn’t just yesterday, the truth is that we’re about to enter 2020. A new year (and decade) holds a lot of promise, but it’s always fun to look back on the years that have passed to see how much has changed.

Over the years, there has been a lot of television. With the boom of streaming services, more and more people have shifted their viewing habits from traditional cable models to solely consuming content on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, etc. But at the beginning of the decade, everyone was still in a frenzy for live television: we rushed to finish our dinners so we wouldn’t miss the beginning of our favorite shows.

And speaking of favorites... some of our writers thought it’d be fun to discuss our favorite television shows of the last decade. This is by no means an extensive list, as I’m sure most of us could talk for hours about the best television moments and series that have emerged in the last year alone, but it’s a snapshot of some memorable television shows. Settle in as we discuss our favorite comedies and dramas from the last decade! Then take to the comments section and talk about your favorites too.

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Community (Jenn)


On any given week, Community could be a paintball action/adventure, an 80s homage, or a stop-motion animated Christmas special. That’s pretty incredible, honestly, and no matter how good or bad Community was at its execution, one thing is sure: it always took risks.

I fell in love with Community during one of its “normal” episodes early on (“Football, Feminism & You”), and it was the show that spurred me to start writing television reviews and thinking critically about things I loved. So when I think about shows that made their mark on the last decade, of course this one stands out. “Remedial Chaos Theory” is perhaps one of the most brilliant episodes of television to exist in the last 10 years. It managed to be a “choose-your-own-adventure”-style episode, with the writers crafting six different timelines depending on which character left the apartment to get pizza. It gave us one of the most iconic GIFs of the last decade too.

Community wasn’t perfect; it stumbled a lot in later seasons to establish what it wanted to be and how to get there. But there is, perhaps, no other show that tried as hard as this one did to think outside of the box and boundaries of what a network sitcom could be. In the end, Community will always be a special, brilliant show.

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New Girl (Jenn)


Honestly, New Girl is one of the most iconic comedies of the last decade. Its ensemble-centric focus, recurring jokes and references (True American, anyone?), and focus on love and friendship makes it so significant. Additionally, behind the scenes, the fact that the show retained so many talented female writers and directors will always be admirable to me. New Girl, at its best, was a hilarious show about people living together who often had little to nothing in common. Jess was idealistic. Schmidt was materialistic. Nick was a slacker. Winston didn’t know who he was. Cece was tough.

But then the show decided to flip those stereotypes on their heads too. Schmidt could be sensitive and compassionate. Jess could be tough and fearless. Nick could be driven. Cece could be quirky. Winston could be... well, whatever Winston wanted to be! New Girl always did an incredible job of calling back jokes, displaying character growth, and proving that romance and comedy can always go hand-in-hand. Not much makes me cry as hard as that final game of True American. I’ll always be grateful for this beautiful gem of a comedy and count it as one of my “forever faves.”

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Jenn)


Few shows broke barriers in primetime comedy like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did. I’ve written about this show extensively and one of the things I keep coming back to is how brilliantly it discussed mental health and stigmatized issues with humor and grace and genuine respect. The amazing part of the series was that it was able to have those deep discussions within seemingly silly premises. There were musical homages aplenty, callbacks for days, and character growth that was immensely impressive. To see what Rachel Bloom could do with Rebecca Bunch makes me grateful that she won a Golden Globe for her performance; that woman deserved all the awards possible. Rebecca was such a complex, deep character and Rachel Bloom kept drawing from her time and time again.

I’ve rewatched various episodes and seasons of the show and I’m continually amazed by just how snappy, funny, and smart the comedy is. The music is extraordinary, and the story of a girl in love who comes to realize who she is and accept herself is one that deserved to be told. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend managed to mash up light and darkness, silly and serious, and humor and heart in a way that not many shows could. It was a brilliant musical adventure that will live on long beyond this decade.

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The Good Place (Deb)


I started watching The Good Place for two primary reasons, the first of which being that I had just lost Community the year before and there was a witty comedy-shaped hole in my soul that needed filling. The second reason was simply because I like Kristen Bell. The point is, watching The Good Place was an idle thing for me that I just kind of fell into with a shrug and a “I guess this’ll do.” I wasn’t eagerly awaiting the show’s premiere and, in fact, it was about halfway into its first season before my friend reminded me that I should probably check that show out since there was really nothing else on.

Even after I caught up with the episodes I missed, The Good Place hadn’t fully latched onto my heart. The next episode didn’t do it either, or the next, or the next. Not even the amazing twist in the finale of the first season totally cemented my love for the show, at least as far as I was aware — but then the second season rolled around, and suddenly I realized that I loved this show. When the second season was over, I realized I really, really loved this show. I even wrote about my love for this show here on Just About Write, in an article that mostly concerned itself with the astounding character-first writing the The Good Place focused on:
“Where other shows are straight lines, The Good Place is like a Spirograph drawing: constantly overlapping in different patterns to create a beautiful, unique whole. The more loops it makes, the stronger the design becomes, and the variations derive from the show’s focus not on the linear A-to-B success story, but on the intricacies of human behavior and the chaos that erupts from that.”
Since I wrote that post (just after the second season wrapped up) I’ve noticed a greater focus on the show’s larger philosophical ideas. Sticking to the Spirograph pattern metaphor, it’s as if the frame around a beautifully intricate drawing were removed to reveal an even larger pattern to which the first, smaller pattern belonged. The Good Place turned its story from a rather close-knit narrative about the only four real humans (plus a demon, plus a not-a-robot) in their world to a narrative about all humans. About what it means to be human. About how the fundamental point of humanity is to help each other, to improve each other, and to improve ourselves.

With incredible writing, acting, directing, and a large helping of honest-to-goodness heart, The Good Place hammers home the idea that we are all a part of the same incredible, complicated Spirograph pattern of life — that “We are not in this alone,” as Chidi put it — and it does so within a whimsical framework that makes its beats of philosophical thought and realness somehow more poignant. Despite the show’s propensity for irreverent silliness, it still manages to be reverent at all the right moments, pulled along by a thread of compassion and the idea that trying is always better than not trying. It is the anti-cynicism, the call to action for benevolence and empathy and constant improvement. It is nothing like I expected when I decided to watch halfway into its first season and it is everything I didn’t know I wanted from a TV show at this point in my life.

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Hannibal (Jaime)


On the surface, Hannibal should not be as good as it is. It’s the TV version of a popular film franchise, set before the first film and creating a storyline for two characters that is otherwise hinted at in both the film and Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon, but not seen. It would have been very easy for it to become another in a long string of NBC Thursday night dramas, with a case of the week format and shallow characters who feel like cardboard cutouts. But under the deep affection of showrunner Bryan Fuller, Hannibal immediately proved itself to be so much more.

The show follows Will Graham, an FBI profiler with the unique ability to put himself in the mindset of a killer and empathize with them in order to understand why they did what they did, and follow the steps backwards to catch them. His work takes a massive toll on his mental state, and he begins relying more and more on his psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a name that might be familiar even to non-fans. The series is dark and more often than not, brutal, with an unflinching look at madness and how easy it can be to succumb to the voices in your head. The true art of this show, and I would dare to call the entire show a work of art, is in its construction. Every week has a murder more grisly than the one previous, and yet, each crime scene (called a “tableau” by Bryan Fuller) is gorgeous to look at. Each aspect of every repulsive crime (and there are some repulsive things on this show that would feel much more at home on a paid cable network than on regular old NBC) is arranged artfully and cinematically, enticing the viewer to keep looking even though they want to look away.

That balance is the key to the whole show and permeates every aspect of it, including in the relationship between its two main characters, Will and Hannibal. It becomes harder and harder to watch as Hannibal’s psychological hold over Will grows, but it is impossible to look away.

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American Vandal (Jaime)


The mockumentary format was everywhere in the 2000s, and inspired some of the most iconic shows of recent years. The 2010s saw the rise of true crime documentaries, where filmmakers follow a crime and try to piece together evidence, often either to identify a suspect or clear an accused suspect’s name. But those shows don’t matter, because both formats were combined and perfected with American Vandal, which follows two high school students, Peter and Ben, aspiring filmmakers who begin making a documentary about a recent incident at their school, in which somebody spray painted a penis onto every teacher’s car. Dylan Maxwell, a burnout who would rather smoke pot with his friends and goof off in class than actually learn anything, is accused of the crime, and due to most teachers’ prejudice against him, he is expelled and facing criminal charges. The documentary hopes to explore the events of the spray painting incident, while seeking to humanize Dylan and prove whether or not he is actually guilty.

It’s one of the biggest tragedies of my life that Netflix only gave this show two seasons (the second sees Peter and Ben going undercover at another high school to investigate an incident in which cafeteria food was tainted and caused mass diarrhea). The concepts of both seasons are, at face value, solely comedic, paralleling every major breakthrough scene in true crime investigation shows. And this show is, without a doubt, one of the best comedies of the decade, if not ever. But as each season goes on, so much more is revealed. It aims to represent its teenage characters fairly and thoroughly, with ample time spent on characters’ insecurities and how they inform their actions. This show could not exist before this decade because the use of technology and how teenagers interact with technology is vital. One massively impressive sequence in season one uses snippets of character-recorded Snapchat videos to piece together the events of a party; small events in the background of one video prove to be hugely important in following the night’s progression, and the direction and production of this sequence is breathtaking. If you want to laugh, watch American Vandal. If you want to cry, watch American Vandal. If you want to watch the most accurate representation of youth today, watch American Vandal.

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One Day at a Time (Araceli)


Norman Lear has been at the helm of some of the most iconic and groundbreaking comedies in American history and, at 97 years old, he’s still making history. In 2016 he gave the go ahead to Gloria Calderon-Kellett and Mike Royce for a reimagining of the classic One Day at a Time, this time focused on a Cuban-American family. What makes this show comedy gold is not just that it took an old story and made it new or that it is one of a handful of shows in ALL of television focused on Latinos. I would even argue that the topical issues such as diversity, mental health, and LGBTQ+ rights aren’t totally what make this comedy so special. It is the fact that at its core, this is a show focused on a typical American family. That the Alvarez family happens to represent a high population of the country that has been severely underrepresented in mainstream television is whipped cream on this sundae. Said whipped cream comes in the form of the Spanish language and traditions that so naturally flow into the dialogue.

And Rita Moreno and Justina Machado are the cherries on top of this all! EGOT legend Moreno is comedy gold as the proud matriarch who never lets anyone forget that a) she is Cuban, b) she is still in her prime, and c) she is always right. As a single mom struggling with post-war anxiety and depression while trying to raise two teenagers with the constant influence of her own traditionalist, and fabulous, mother you can see the comedic frustration dripping off Machado in every scene.

The audience clearly agrees, since their vocal outrage at the show’s Netflix cancellation is the reason the show will be returning to Pop TV with new episodes in 2020!

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Arrow (Araceli)


The proof is in its fandom. Truly, and no offense to Game of Thrones fans, but you will find no more impassioned fandom out there than the superhero fandom. And DCTV has been very good to its fans over the years! When Smallville went off the air in 2011, DC fans might have been skeptical of bringing in a new hero so soon. But Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti took the vigilante that is the Green Arrow and turned him into a beacon of hope so bright, Arrow turned out to be just the beginning. The little superhero show that could has burgeoned into an “Arrowverse” with a multitude of superheroes who represent the spectrum of color, creed, as well as sexual and gender identity.

While there will be many articles in the coming weeks praising the brilliant work of the show that started it all, I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out the Green Arrow himself, Stephen Amell. From the beginning, Amell has worked tirelessly on and off-screen to elevate the show. From his memorable fan convention appearances to his championing of guest and recurring stars alike, Amell has shown that a true hero’s work is not done when the cameras are on. It is the tireless work ethic, commitment, and appreciation for every single cast and crew member, creator, and fan that Amell has shown, which has made the difference between Arrow being a simple DC show, and the lasting legacy that it is.

What were some of YOUR favorite shows of the last decade? Sound off in the comments below!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Jenn’s Pick: 15 of My Favorite TV Characters in 2019 [Contributor: Jenn]

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2019 felt like a really long year and I’m not even entirely sure why, but I feel like I’m not alone in that feeling. Options for television shows have become eve more overwhelming in the wake of new streaming platforms like Disney+ and Apple TV+. In the new year, NBC will launch their own streaming service which will just add to the ever-growing list of services that people will have to pay for.

Nevertheless, since there are so many shows out there (and not enough time to watch them all in), I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite television characters this year. You’ll notice a pretty wide range of streaming services and platforms, and if you haven’t watched some of these, I recommend you do so in 2020!

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15. Emily Dickinson (Dickinson | Apple TV+)


Dickinson is a wild ride. It’s equal parts confounding and compelling, and a large part of that compelling part is Hailee Steinfeld’s portrayal of Emily Dickinson. She does such a wonderful job of balancing the modern-day slang and humor with genuinely heartbreaking moments. Even if I’m confused by what Dickinson was trying to accomplish, I know one thing for sure: the portrayal of Emily Dickinson as an eccentric, deeply loving, funny young author who wanted to make an impact on a world that didn’t welcome her was refreshing.

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14. Dex Parios (Stumptown | ABC)


I decided that when I heard Jake Johnson and Cobie Smulders would be cast in a television show together that I needed to watch it ASAP. Stumptown is a good fit for both actors but Cobie Smulders truly leans into the complexities of Dex Parios. Cobie’s got a knack for playing very subtle vulnerability, and while Dex has a tough exterior, we get to see cracks in her armor. She’s incredibly sweet and protective of her brother, whom she’d do anything for. She’s smart, but she’s been through a whole lot in her life and while she tries to keep the darkness at bay through distractions, she can’t always successfully do that. But Cobie Smulders conveys this complex, incredibly strong and stubborn woman.

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13. Casey Gardner (Atypical | Netflix)


Netflix recommended that I watch Atypical, and I managed to binge its three seasons quicker than I thought I would. The story follows Sam Gardner, a high-school student who’s on the spectrum, and his family. And while I’ve loved watching Sam’s growth over the years as he’s learned how to cope with change, fall in love, and grow, the character I’ve really been drawn to is Casey, Sam’s older sister. Casey initially comes across as brash and rude, sarcastic to her mom but way closer to her dad. She makes fun of Sam, takes food from him, and shoves him. But she also fights people who dare to make fun of his autism.

Over the seasons, what’s been most impressive is seeing Casey grow into who SHE is as a person. She’s spent so much of her life looking after Sam that she gets the opportunity to take care of herself. She’s fallen in love, and gets caught between feelings for her then-boyfriend and best girl friend. She goes to a new school and we see that Casey’s tough, but she’s a human just like the rest of us — afraid of people rejecting her, scared to be alone. I love Casey so much, especially in the moments where we see her love for her family and others on display (the soft side of Casey is one she hates showing but it’s there!), and can’t wait to see her grow more.

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12. Lexi (Modern Love | Amazon Prime)


Lexi was played brilliantly in Modern Love by Anne Hathaway, which is partly why I love this character so much. But I also really enjoyed how complex and real Lexi is. She wants love. She loves life. And then some days, she cannot move from her bed because of her bipolar disorder. She’s a deep, feeling, beautiful human being who — on those high-energy days — imagines musical numbers in grocery stores. Anne Hathaway’s depiction of Lexi breaking down in a diner though is by far the most compelling scene in her episode. Your heart aches for her to find someone to trust with her story and when she does, you feel relief. By the episode’s end, we get to see the hope that there is for Lexi: hope to journey toward healing, day by day.

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11. Susie Myerson (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel | Amazon Prime)


Admittedly, season three of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel bored me. But the one bright spot in the season was the character development of Susie Myerson. I love that the show relies on Alex Borstein’s impeccable comedic delivery to continue to evolve Susie’s personality. The reason why she’s one of my favorite characters this year isn’t because of her biting wit (though she does keep everyone in line), but because of the emotional development we saw in Susie’s character this year. She loves Midge, obviously, but Susie has her own battles to fight. She loses Midge’s money gambling. She has high hopes for Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch), who utterly disappoints her. She tries to protect Midge, tries to be a good manager, and tries to be someone people can rely on. But Susie’s breakdowns in the last few episodes really and truly made her so endearing and compelling. Your heart ached for her because beneath all the snark and sarcasm is a woman who truly cares about others and is trying her best.

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10. Steve Harrington (Stranger Things | Netflix)


Let’s talk about how Stranger Things managed to take the teenage antagonist from season one and turn him into the endearing, wonderful character he is in season three. After Steve spent so much of his time mothering Will and his friends, we got the chance to see the softer side of Steve — the one who mentors Dustin before he goes into the dance, and the one who spends most of his storyline in season three also with Dustin (and Erica). One of the great things though this season was Steve and Robin’s friendship. We had the opportunity to see Steve be his sarcastic self while also softening in honest conversations with her. Steve Harrington is just such a wonderful, fun, quotable TV character and I’m so glad he graced my TV again this summer.

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9. Ruth Wilder (GLOW | Netflix)


I’ll always love Alison Brie, and in GLOW she plays Ruth Wilder. Ruth is an ambitious actress and someone who genuinely loves her family of female performers. One of the most wonderful things about Ruth though is that she’s genuine. She makes mistakes and doesn’t always say or do the right thing, but she cares. She genuinely cares about the people around her. She cares about silly things too, like hotel hot chocolate with whipped cream. She cares about Sam. But she also has learned, over the course of the seasons, to care about herself. GLOW season three ends with Ruth doing the bold thing we haven’t seen her do yet — bet on herself. She doesn’t want to give up her dream of being an actress; she doesn’t want to settle for just “okay” or “good enough.” Debbie’s dreams aren’t her dreams and Ruth is courageous enough this year to walk away. That’s why I love her.

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8. Aziraphale and Crowley (Good Omens | Amazon Prime)


Was there a better duo on television this year than Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant) in Good Omens? I don’t think so. I couldn’t separate these characters from each other because while Sheen and Tennant are incredibly talented, the best parts of Good Omens featured them working together. Crowley is a snarky, cynical demon and Aziraphale is an optimistic angel. But, of course, these two characters become way more than their archetypes. Crowley has goodness and softness in him, and Aziraphale defies orders when he believes justice isn’t being served. Their friendship is so comedic but also endearing, as they clearly care about each other (and saving the world).

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7. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (blackish and mixedish | ABC)


I’ve watched blackish for a while now, and was excited when ABC announced a prequel of sorts to that comedy, focusing on Rainbow Johnson’s childhood. The show, mixedish, shows what life is like for Bow and her siblings as they grew up mixed-race kids in the 80s. The show has the same kind of comedy, voiceover narration, and feel as blackish does which is why it works so well for me. And seeing how Rainbow grew up in the 80s makes me appreciate the character that we see in blackish in the present-day. I love Bow: she’s incredibly smart, a little weird, energetic, and a great mother. But watching Bow as a teenager (played wonderfully by Arica Himmel) gives me even more of an appreciation for her. We sympathize with her struggles at home and in school. Bow is so driven, optimistic, and hopeful and even when the world disappoints her, she chooses to get back up and try again. That’s what makes her so strong and important, as a teenager and as an adult.

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6. Rory, Emma, Amy, Sophie, and Graham (Single Parents | ABC)


As much as I love all of the adults on Single Parents, a “best of” character list this year wouldn’t be complete without the kids from the show. Each one brings something unique and hilarious to this ABC sitcom. Graham is just so quirky and fun, and his panic (specifically over Titanic being based on real-life events) moments are hilarious. Rory is just so great. His comedic beats, eccentric personality, and showstopping ensembles are great. Sophie is a bit of a wildcard, which is what I love about her. She’s often quiet and unassuming, the typical “good girl.” But she has moments where she’s more mature than some of the adults and some where she’s hyped up on sugar like the child she is. And then there are Amy and Emma, hilariously dry twins who love construction and snark at the adults in the most commendable way.

Single Parents is an absolute gem of a show, but it wouldn’t work as well as it did if the kids weren’t as great. Each of these child actors portraying the characters above does an incredible job of nailing comedic timing and emotional moments. Seriously, watch this show.

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5. Chidi Anagonye (The Good Place | NBC)


Chidi is so wonderful. This past year he chose to sacrifice himself for the sake of the neighborhood experiment, knowing there was no other way that the Soul Squad could have a chance at succeeding. That led to some incredibly emotional and heartfelt goodbyes (why doesn’t William Jackson Harper have awards?!), including an incredibly sad and romantic montage of moments between Eleanor and Chidi. Even though his weakness is his indecision, Chidi has grown so much over the course of the last few seasons. He’s become more confident, fell in love, and made decisions — including arguably one of the hardest anyone, even a good decision-maker would have to make. Chidi is just such an endearing character to watch grow and develop, and I can’t wait to see what the final episodes of The Good Place bring us.

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4. Alexis Rose (Schitt’s Creek | Pop TV)


One of the best parts of 2019 was everyone, including myself, getting into the delightful comedy Schitt’s Creek. Everywhere I turn, friends seem to be talking about how delightful the series is — and I agree! Though I love every character on this show (Patrick might be one of my favorites ever), Alexis holds a special place in my heart because of her growth. People underestimate her constantly. She’s always trying to prove that she belongs, even when she feels like she doesn’t. And she’s grown so much — in expressing vulnerability, in finding her place, in getting closer to her family and friends. Alexis is so underrated but she’s had an amazing character arc (and she’s just so fun too) that she deserved a place on my list this year.

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3. Fleabag (Fleabag | Amazon Prime)


When I heard the buzz around Fleabag, I had to check it out. The titular character is the very definition of complex — snarky, dark, and desperate for something. We don’t really get a sense of who Fleabag is or what she wants until the mystery surrounding her grief gets explored. But what brings this character and show to the top of everyone’s must-watch lists is how amazingly well Phoebe Waller-Bridge portrays a very deep, dark, dimensional character. I liked Fleabag in season one but the growth that her character displays in season two is just incredible. We watch Fleabag come to grips with guilt, process her emotions and responses, exhibit self-control, and fall in love. It’s a really satisfying journey to see unfold and she’s a dynamic character who deserves to be recognized for all of the intricacies and growth that make her Fleabag.

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2. The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda (The Mandalorian | Disney+)


I could talk for a few hundred words about how adorable Baby Yoda is (yes, I know, its name is “The Child” but we’re going with “Baby Yoda” throughout this piece), with his little coos and playing with buttons on a ship and sipping broth with the same level of intensity that Kermit sips tea. But I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll talk about how The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda are two of my favorite new characters this year because they work as a pair. Mando decided to rebel against orders and save Baby Yoda, which says a lot about him as a character. And even though we’ve never seen his face, Mando emotes in such a very tangible way that you feel what he’s feeling — fear, confliction, affection. It shouldn’t work but it does, mostly because of Pedro Pascal’s voice acting. Baby Yoda is already great because he’s adorable and powerful, and because he tries to protect Mando too! The Mandalorian is a series that’s a bit slower-paced than your traditional Star Wars fare, but it’s proving to be an emotional, dramatic ride with these characters.

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1. Rebecca Bunch (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend | The CW)


One of my absolute favorite character arcs this year was that of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rebecca Bunch. In the show’s first season, Rebecca is obsessive and manipulative, lying to everyone around her in order to get what she wants: Josh Chan. But as the series unfolds, we learn that there’s a lot more that’s going on in Rebecca’s mind and life than we initially assume. In addition, as she begins to form close relationships with people around her, she starts to recognize patterns in her own life and behavior. It isn’t until Rebecca hits rock bottom though (a place of darkness and desperation that Rachel Bloom deserved all the awards for conveying) that we truly see her character arc start to swing upward permanently.

Rebecca begins taking medication for her borderline personality disorder (BPD). She goes to group therapy. She does workbooks. And while she occasionally slips into old patterns and routines, Rebecca’s commitment to her own personal growth and self-discovery is so beautiful. The series’ finale focuses on Rebecca answering the question of who she is. She’s spent so much of her life devoted to finding love and filling whatever is missing within her that she really hasn’t stopped to figure out exactly who she is. And when she finds her voice, literally and figuratively, there is nothing more satisfying or lovely.

Who were some of your favorite TV characters this year? Let us know in the comments below!