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

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

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

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Year In Review: 2013 (More Superlatives, Ahoy!)


Last year I decided to recap pop culture of 2012 (with nearly the exact same Lea Michele gif, to boot!) and post some superlatives from the year. As we are now on the verge of rounding out 2013 (IS ANYONE ELSE AS BLOWN AWAY AS I AM BY THIS FACT?), I thought that I would review some of the highlights in television, movies, and music from this past year, while looking forward to the year ahead.

Ready?

Set?

RECAP!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Farewell to Matt Smith: Eleven's 11 Best Lines/Monologues


When I began to watch Doctor Who, I was advised to take a break between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor’s eras. I didn’t understand why, of course, until I watched “The End of Time” and sat at my desk, sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t want David Tennant to leave. I didn’t care who the next Doctor would be, really. I just knew that my Converse-wearing, “allons-y”-shouting, great-haired Doctor would be gone. And under the guidance of those friends, I took a break from marathoning Doctor Who.

It’s the best advice I can ever give to someone watching new Who, really. I feel like too many people breeze through the Doctors and don’t really take the opportunity to mourn them. You lose something when you lose a Doctor – whether it’s Nine, Ten, or now Eleven – and if you don’t wait at least a little while before picking the series back up, you’ll never quite appreciate the actor who replaced your beloved. If I hadn’t waited before beginning season five, I would have spent the entirety of the rest of the series lamenting the fact that Matt Smith wasn’t David Tennant – that Eleven was nothing like Ten. And honestly, I DID do that throughout 90% of “The Eleventh Hour.” I was skeptical of this new face; he wasn’t like Tennant at all. He was younger and sillier and he talked with his hands and babbled.

But the end of “The Eleventh Hour” changed my perception. As “I Am the Doctor” swelled and the audience saw flashes of each Doctor’s regenerated face, I felt the sudden sense that this new Doctor – Eleven – was not a child. He might have been younger than Ten and he might have been a bit goofy but he was also every bit as determined and strong and willing to defend the planet. He was epic. He was a hero.

Over the years, Matt Smith has really grown on me, to the point where I now cannot tell you exactly which Doctor (Ten or Eleven) is my true favorite. I’m going to miss Matt Smith a lot, who brought this quiet sort of intensity to his Doctor. He was unsuspecting but not to be dismissed. He could be cold like Nine and full of self-loathing like Ten. He was a man with nothing to lose and should therefore not be trifled with. He had fantastic episodes (“A Good Man Goes to War” is my favorite new Who episode of all time and one of Matt Smith’s best episodes), brilliant co-stars and companions and some pretty epic emotional moments. And he put EVERYTHING out there as The Doctor. Literally, his transformation from series five until now is just astounding. He’s physically aged, of course, but you see the aging of the Doctor with him. You see those “big sad eyes” and the pain and heartache that occasionally drags him down. You see every single emotion of The Doctor in Matt Smith’s face and I cannot adequately express how much I will miss him.

As Eleven, Matt Smith has been fortunate to have had some amazing and memorable lines and speeches. He’s a master at delivering a monologue, and Moffat has given him plenty of meaty, emotional, and gut-wrenching material because of it. So I decided that in order to celebrate Matt Smith’s era and send him on a proper farewell, I’d revisit eleven of the best lines/monologues from Eleven’s era.

Grab those tissues, cuddle up with your TARDIS blanket and head below the cut, because we’re counting down some of the best moments in Matt Smith’s era now!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jenn's Pick: My Top 10 Must-Watch Christmas Movies


It’s no surprise that I love Christmas. I love everything about the holiday, from the twinkling lights to the carols and warm, fuzzy feeling that spreads throughout your chest at the sight of stockings and trees and presents. Most of all, I love settling into a comfy pair of pajamas, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and putting a good Christmas movie into the DVD player. So, in the spirit of Christmas, I decided to make a list of some of my must-watch holiday films. Most of these are from my childhood and hold a sentimental place in my heart (ANOTHER staple of Christmas, really!).

Which films made my cut? You’re just going to have to click below the cut to find out!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 10 Christmas Episodes of a TV Comedy Series


I love Christmas.

I love everything about the holiday: the music, the lights, the warm feeling you get whenever you look out your window and see snow spiraling onto the pavement. Or, in my case, whenever you don a pair of sunglasses and tank top and head outside to soak up the 85-degree weather.

(Ah, Florida.)

Nevertheless, Christmastime is my favorite time of year, and nearly every television show makes the decision to do a Christmas-themed episode. I’ve narrowed down my list to ten of my favorite yuletide episodes in comedy series. It was difficult to choose because there are SO many amazing Christmas episodes out there, but I feel pretty good about my selection. So what episodes made my “nice” list?

Grab some Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, and cuddle up with my top ten favorite Christmas-themed comedy episodes!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary Special: "The Day of the Doctor" (#SavetheDay)




"The Day of the Doctor"
Original Airdate: November 23, 2013

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep – slowly and then all at once.”

While John Green’s poignant and oft-quoted line has been utilized to describe the deepest and most profound love… it also pretty aptly sums up how it feels to be in a fandom, doesn’t it? You never anticipate falling headfirst into a television series, but somehow – for a vast majority of us, at least – we DO. It’s this wild and wacky ride down a rabbit hole.

I started Doctor Who by complete happenstance when I was perusing television series on Netflix one evening. And the rest, as they say, is history. Recently, Doctor Who celebrated its 50th birthday, which is quite a feat, making it the longest-running science fiction series on television. It is with good reason that this series is so beloved: though the face of The Doctor has changed over the years, though there have been numerous monsters and companions and writers and showrunners, one thing has remain unchanged: this is a story about a mad man with a box who is desperately trying to save the world, but who also – more often than not – needs to be saved by the humanity he is attempting to protect. The Doctor may be the heart(s) of this series, but the companions are the soul and backbone.

“The Day of the Doctor” is the 50th birthday episode of Doctor Who, and it perfectly encapsulates everything that the series does: humor, heart, a touch of horror and – most importantly – humanity. It was quite effortful to attempt to review the nearly 90 minute episode, but I have decided to break my review down into categories, pinpointing the particular elements of the episode that wove so brilliantly into the fabric of the overarching story.

So, if you’re ready, grab your sonic screwdriver and let’s dive into “The Day of the Doctor”!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

New Girl 3x10 "Thanksgiving III" (Prove It)


"Thanksgiving III"
Original Airdate: November 26, 2013

We’ve all done some pretty absurd things in the name of “proving ourselves” to our friends and families, haven’t we? From the playground to the high school halls and beyond, there’s something within each of us that seeks approval from someone – anyone – and acceptance. I’m not a guy (shocker), but I can only imagine that there is pressure in society and within social circles to be “manly.” Men, by the world’s standards, are expected to be able to accomplish certain tasks, earn a particular amount of money, and be fearless. Guys joke with one another that certain activities are indicative of “man cards” being taken away. Men and women both seem to encounter these pressures and struggles from members of their same gender, and this week’s episode of New Girl finds Nick Miller attempting to prove his manliness to Coach and the rest of the loft crew by means of camping in the woods for Thanksgiving.

Nick Miller is a complex human being.

No, he really is though: he wants to mature and evolve, but doesn’t quite know how. He cares a lot about Jess (one might even argue that he loves her), but he acts like a child. He wants to grow up, but he also wants to continue his old single lifestyle of drinking and being carefree. Nick is wonderful and so deeply human and flawed that it makes it all the more endearing when he attempts to prove something to his friends, to his girlfriend, and – ultimately – to himself. He’s on a constant journey of learning to evolve, but also knowing what he is. Nick knows that he’ll never be as outdoorsy as Coach. He’ll never be as wealthy or secure as Russell. He’ll never be as optimistic Paul. But there are weeks where Nick genuinely TRIES to be these people because those are the kind of people that he thinks Jess and the world admire. And every week that Nick tries to do this – to be someone that he is just NOT – we see how it always ends in disaster. Because it is one thing entirely for Nick to want to have a checking account or be a hunter. He might be able to succeed if he was attempting those feats to “better” himself.

But Nick doesn’t do things because he’s trying to become a better version of himself. Not really. He does them because he’s AFRAID. He’s afraid of losing Jess. He’s afraid of losing credibility or reputation with his friends. And the root of his fear ultimately is pride. And pride is never a wise place to act from. This all may sound, of course, like I believe everything Nick has attempted to do this season has been out of a selfish or prideful place, either in regards to Jess or his friends. That’s not the case, obviously. I believe that Nick is, deep down, a guy who has everyone’s best interests in mind. He is, after all, the dysfunctional glue that holds this dysfunctional group together. Nick acts heroically and selflessly in “Thanksgiving III” when he realizes that Jess is in danger toward the end of the episode. He cares for and loves her like any good boyfriend would do. But that’s AFTER he realized that the reason they had been in that mess in the first place was because of his ego. So while I believe that Nick is not an inherently selfish person (like, say, Schmidt), I DO believe that Nick is an inherently insecure person. And insecurity and pride are two vices that are quite inseparable from one another.

Nick may not always make the correct initial decision, but he always remedies the situation. He apologizes profusely in the episode for ruining Thanksgiving. But he doesn’t just stop at apologies – he actually makes it up to Jess, because that is who he is. He’s the guy who hurts Jess’ feelings but shows up at her school or makes breakfast for her on the roof. But before we launch into any further discussion regarding Nick Miller’s characterization, let’s talk about “Thanksgiving III” as a whole!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 10 TV Characters I'm Thankful For in 2013


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means a time to bust out your sweatpants, carve a turkey, and eat so much pie that you begin to turn into one. It’s also a time to reflect on the things that we have in life that we are thankful for: things like family, health, freedom, happiness, and good friends. I’m thankful for a lot this year, to be quite honest. It’s been a pretty weird year in terms of my job and environment, but I have had more amazing things happen than bad this year. And I’m blessed with family and friends and my health so really, I have no right to complain!

There’s something else that I’m thankful for around this blog: awesome television characters to write about! As a self-proclaimed blogger and fandom nerd, there have been a lot of introductions this television season to new characters, re-appearances of old favorites, and “where did this person even COME from?” moments. So I thought that I would take the opportunity to write about the characters on television that I am most thankful for this year and why.

If you’re ready, grab that slice of pumpkin pie and settle in to read all about some of the great characters on television this year!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Girl 3x09 "Longest Night Ever" (Say Hello to Moving On)


"Longest Night Ever"
Original Airdate: November 19, 2013

I’ve noticed something about relationships.

Actually, I’ve noticed a lot more things being out of a relationship than I have being in one. The first – and perhaps most key – thing that I have learned in my journey of single life is this: people may not always ask you directly, following a break-up, when you are ready to move on. But they will THINK it. They will subtly hint at it. And then, if all else fails, they will forcefully attempt to get you to “move on” from the ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. People like this are well-meaning. They really and truly are. They care about you and want the best for you. And they believe, in their hearts and souls, that they know how to help you get over your failed relationship. Perhaps they take you out to a bar. Maybe they’ll buy ice cream and watch chick flicks with you in your pajamas. Maybe they’ll write you an encouraging text message or help you work out your feelings at the gym.

Or maybe they’ll hit you with their car.

Wait… okay, perhaps that last one is just relevant to this week’s New Girl episode titled “Longest Night Ever.” In it, we find a few things uncommon to this sitcom: 1) an episode that features pairings that usually receive less focus (i.e. Schmidt/Jess, Nick/Winston, Coach/Cece), and 2) an episode that strings a singular, important theme throughout all three stories. The focus of “Longest Night Ever” is in regards to moving on. In it, we see Schmidt attempting to move on from his failed relationship with Cece, Nick trying to aid Winston in moving on from his failed relationship with Daisy and channeling his efforts from his cat onto a human woman, and finally we see Coach and Cece both attempting to move on from their failed relationships as well.

Each person who is attempting to move on clings to something different in the episode and each learns a truth about themselves and their relationships. Schmidt learns, at the end of the episode, that he isn’t fine. He spends the entire night attempting to convince himself that he is, but learns that being truthful to himself is one of the first and most integral steps in the healing process. Coach learns to regain confidence in who he is as a person. His identity had been tied into his ex-girlfriend for so long that he forgot how to be himself without being an “us.” And Winston? Well, Winston learns the values of trusting in himself, rather than his security blanket (Ferguson). Both he and Coach have been hurt in their previous relationships, so this episode heavily focused on both characters regaining their confidence and learning to “put themselves out there” again, as it were.

But “Longest Night Ever” wasn’t just an important episode in developing characters with failed relationships – it was an episode that also highlighted the importance of Jess and Nick’s presence in the lives of these wacky roommates. It also, interestingly enough, provided a (whether intentional or not) great contrast between the failed relationships of these friends and roommates and the successful and solid relationship between Nick and Jess. The two weren’t heavily featured as a couple throughout the episode (there were some cute moments in the beginning), but I quite enjoyed that. Their presence as individual characters is so important to New Girl and I know that Liz never wants to sacrifice their individuality for the sake of their romance. Jess and Nick play important roles in their friends’ lives and this episode exemplified the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to see their friends happy, successful, and growing as adults.

I think that last part is key: Jess and Nick want Coach, Cece, Schmidt, and Winston to grow and evolve as individuals. Now, I’m not claiming that Jess and Nick are mature, completely evolved human beings. Nick wishes he had a dog cage to keep Schmidt in. Jess hits Schmidt with her car. These two have clearly come a long way since the pilot of New Girl, but neither – I would argue – have finished growing. But what’s really wonderful about this episode is that Nick and Jess who are two flawed, beautiful tropical fish, are helping their friends because they genuinely care about them succeeding and being happy. “Longest Night Ever” also hinges on an element that I’ve come to quite enjoy this season: Nick’s leadership. It is the curmudgeonly bartender who instructs his roommates on how to behave. And Nick has truly stepped up this year not – as so many people tend to whine and gripe about – because he’s in a relationship with Jess. Nick and Jess’ relationship is not purposed to ensure that Nick becomes a “better” person or character. The fact is that Nick has always been the leader of the loft. He’s the one who holds the rest of them together (“First Date” confirms this with the Winston/Schmidt story; Nick is the glue of his family in “Chicago,” etc.), and whether or not he always makes the wise decision is irrelevant in light of the fact that he actually impacts the lives of others. And Nick is just beginning to realize this season that he can wield that power proactively or lazily. Up until this point, he’s done the latter. But after Schmidt and Cece’s horrid breakup, Winston’s personal crises, and the reintroduction of Coach into the loft, Nick – I believe – knows that he and Jess are the glue that is holding the ragtag group of individuals in some sort of offbeat balance. So that is what they intend to do in “Longest Night Ever.”

(You know what? Major props are awarded to Ryan Koh, the writer of the episode, who did a splendid job balancing all three stories without making the episode feel rushed or incomplete. I actually was uncertain as to what the B/C stories were since they were both given ample screen time. So congratulations on a job well done, sir!)

Happy Birthday, Joel McHale! (From A Bunch of Internet Strangers Who Think You're Pretty Okay)


There are, at the moment, approximately 200 million users on Twitter.

I follow about 700 of them.

That’s a pretty small fraction, really, and even smaller when you consider the fact that I scroll past a great chunk of those users every day on my timeline without a second glance. I’ve been fortunate, however, to make some pretty amazing friends thank to this social networking site, and it’s given me opportunities (to blog, to connect, etc.) that I would have never dreamt were possible.

And then, there are celebrities. Because of Twitter, you and I are 140 characters away from our favorite actors, writers, producers, athletes, and directors. There are a lot of celebrities that are on Twitter, but my absolute favorite of them all is Joel McHale. And since today is his 42nd birthday, I thought it only appropriate that I celebrate him with a little blog post.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Girl 3x08 "Menus" (The Doers vs. The Dumpling-ers)


"Menus"
Original Airdate: November 12, 2013


I’m in this weird stage in my life right now.

I opened my review last week explaining that I’m rapidly approaching my 25th birthday and – much like that one John Mayer song – it appears that the vast majority of my friends and I are encountering “quarter life crises.” Let me preface this with the following: I have a great life. I am, quite truthfully, blessed to have a job (though not in my desired field), health, a roof over my head, and awesome friends and family.

My friends and I all seem to be in this weird stage of life, though. We’re at the point where we are no longer defined by what colleges we attend or what degrees we hold. And what’s funny is that in spite of the fact that my friends and I are all vastly different, we can all agree on one thing: we wish we would have been told what it would be like to graduate from college and enter your twenties. No one prepares you, really, for this strange stage of life. We’re adults, but we don’t feel like them yet. We want to make a difference in the world. We want to do something – ANYTHING – to make our lives count. We yearn to travel or go to graduate school or get married and start families because that’s what being in your twenties feels like. It’s a strange mix of all of these emotions that have been buried deep inside of you but have been hiding behind textbooks and thesis papers and part-time jobs.

We feel useless when we spend eight hours a day seated behind a desk, staring at a computer monitor. “If only,” we muse, “I could do something worthwhile. If only I could have an adventure in Paris or spend a week tutoring children in Africa. Then my life would mean something.” But our full-time jobs call, our student loans haunt us, and the expectations of what society says a twenty-something should be filter into our thoughts.

The characters in this week’s New Girl episode find themselves at similar, albeit not identical, crossroads. Jess spends the entire episode frustrated – she wants to make a difference in the lives of her students and wants to be respected by her principal, but she’s getting absolutely nowhere. So she takes all of the pent-up emotions and frustrations that she feels and transfers them into a side-project. Because if she can accomplish ONE task (getting a new Chinese restaurant to stop delivering so many menus to her apartment), then perhaps she can feel like she’s accomplished something REAL, like she is actually making a difference in the world around her. Similarly, Nick and Coach – with Winston in tow – set out to accomplish tasks this week. Namely, their goal is to get Nick into shape. And while Nick agrees to work out with Coach, it is COACH who has more at stake in their training.

Elsewhere, Schmidt refuses to acknowledge the fact that he misses Apartment 4D and his former roommates until the revelation smacks him in the face later on. But more on that later! Instead, let’s take some time to break down the episode in terms of character development, because it was a great one.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New Girl 3x07 "Coach" (Never Grow Up)


"Coach"
Original Airdate: November 5, 2013

In a few months, I will turn 25 years old. I guess this is a pretty big deal in the eyes of our society because it means important things – like being able to rent a car – will be within my reach. I know a lot of people in their mid-twenties. They’re my comrades and cohorts. They’re people I went to high school with and those who I’ve seen grow up over the years. I know a lot of people in their mid-twenties and some of them, quite frankly, act as though they’re in their late teens or early twenties on their best days. I watch these people post about their drunken debacles on Facebook and see their passive-aggressive status updates and hear stories about something they did that was immature.

But as I’ve grown up and as I approach my mid-twenties, I’ve also seen something else noteworthy: a lot of these people are finally growing up. Those girls in high school who were in the popular clique? Some of them are married. Some of them have children. My theatre friends have moved to New York and Los Angeles. A vast majority of my closest friends have moved to other states to pursue graduate degrees and I’ve come to the staggering realization that the people I knew in high school – those silly, giggly, crazy people – aren’t necessarily the same people I see today. It’s difficult, sometimes, to reconcile the memory that you had of someone’s youth with the reality of who they’ve grown up to be.

The truth is that some people will never really grow up or out of their wild phases, but most of us WILL. But what happens when we reconnect with the people who refuse to acknowledge their real-world problems and use the escapist tactic of reverting to wild and crazy behavior? Well, for the answer to that question, I’ll direct you to the latest New Girl episode titled “Coach.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments (Or, If Being #Pathological Is Wrong, I Never Want to Be Right)



Months ago, a Twitter blowup – for lack of a more eloquent term – occurred when some Community fans began to pester Andy Bobrow to the point where he grew defensive of his work, his unaired episodes, and his decisions as head writer in the absence of Dan Harmon.

These fans were shippers. In particular, they were Jeff/Annie shippers – a handful of them, to be exact – who wanted answers that Bobrow could not give them. As the ladies of Hot Switch and I explained in a recent episode (and I believe it was Jaime who made this observation), there are moments that cause dysfunction and dismay within a fandom. These moments occur when the image that the fandom has created in their minds of a particular character, including their wants, desires, dislikes, likes, etc. does not coincide with the character that the writers create on paper. Bobrow told us, in the final lines of his explanation on Twitter the following:

And can we at least agree on one thing that I hope and pray you can all see as clearly as I can? That Jeff Winger sabotages his relationships, and that Jeff Winger, deep down, doesn’t think he deserves happiness? Do you guys not buy that?

In our episode of Hot Switch, I argued that Bobrow was incorrect… or at least, the intention of the writers to convey that persona of Jeff Winger had failed. Because when there is a disconnect between the way that characters are written and the way that they are either acted or perceived, THAT is when things like our affectionately named “Bobrowgate” occur. See, it doesn’t matter in this scenario if Andy Bobrow is right or if Jeff/Annie shippers are right.

What matters, I’d argue, is that what the writers believe to be true about their characters are not what the actors and then, subsequently, sect of audience members (“shippers”) believe to be true about them. THAT is why “Bobrowgate” occurred and will never truly be resolved. We can argue and tweet and apologize all we want, but that will never solve the underlying issue – the truth of the matter is that the writers still see Annie Edison as an eighteen-year old schoolgirl with a “crush,” and Jeff as a creepy, smarmy ex-lawyer who will never find true love or happiness in a relationship. And the audience sees Jeff as a maturing, albeit flawed man and Annie as a 22-year old, self-possessed woman.

But that, as Joey Tribbiani would say, is a rather “moo” point. So instead of debating the merits of “Bobrowgate,” let’s take some time to discuss fifteen instances in which Jeff and Annie were NOT creeped out by their feelings for one another, shall we? I ship Jeff/Annie, and I feel like a vast majority of the people I know and follow do as well. What is their reasoning for doing so? Well. For starters, these two characters complement one another’s personalities so seamlessly – Annie is Jeff’s conscious; he talks her away from the edge. She forces him to buckle down; he causes her to loosen up.

Joel McHale and Alison Brie have fantastic chemistry together as Jeff and Annie. Granted, either actor could have chemistry with a ROCK, but the fact of the matter is that this chemistry – this attraction or pull or gravity that keeps bringing Jeff and Annie back to one another – cannot be ignored. It cannot be swept under a metaphorical rug. When these actors portray their characters as having a genuine and true connection with each other, the most offensive thing a writer or producer can do is insist that their audience is somehow wrong or warped for picking up on that chemistry.

#Pathological started out as – per his words – a way for Andy Bobrow to hurt the feelings of the Jeff/Annie shippers the way his had been hurt during the Twitter debacle. I’m not saying that either side was right: Andy shouldn’t have engaged the fans and spurred the dissention as much as he did, but the handful of Jeff/Annie fans should not have pestered the writer, nor should they have taken up arms when he didn’t respond the way they wanted him to.

All of that is irrelevant, or at least not as important as this, however: the Jeff/Annie majority managed to do something pretty exceptional – we took #pathological back. What was originally utilized as a weapon turned quickly into a battle cry and a badge of honor that I wear proudly. If being #pathological when it comes to Jeff and Annie is somehow wrong, well… then I don’t want to be right. So I’ve decided to compile fifteen of the best #pathological moments beneath the cut to discuss. If you’re ready, don those shipper caps because we’re about to set sail on the S.S. Milady/Milord!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Girl 3x06 "Keaton" (Our Heroes Are Never Who We Want Them to Be)


"Keaton"
Original Airdate: October 22, 2013

I remember being an elementary and middle school student during the first day of classes. Every year, at least one of my teachers would ask each of us to fill out a sheet of paper – it was a “getting to know you” form, peppered with questions ranging from our favorite colors to our favorite board game or hobby. One question that I always remember existing on these forms, no matter what grade or class I was in, was this: “Who is your hero?”

Without fail, I would write down the same answer year after year: “My mom.” And truly, my mom was and is my hero. In the eyes of the world, she’s nothing quite extraordinary. She’s not famous or wealthy. She hasn’t done anything extremely significant to be recognized. She never went to college and was a stay-at-home mom when I was younger. Yes, in the eyes of our culture, my mom is nothing to marvel at. But to me, she was always special: she was loving and kind; she read me bedtime stories every night; she let me be creative and use my imagination to play dress-up or tell her stories. Now, as a 24-year old, I use the word “hero” to describe her because she represents how I want to be, someday, as a mother.

A lot of us have our own personal heroes, whether they are family members, friends, or complete and total strangers like actors or athletes or musicians. There are people in life we aspire to be, surely, but that’s not all that a hero is. A hero isn’t just someone you marvel at, in my opinion. A hero is someone who is representative of how you want to live your life – how they handle circumstances in their lives speaks more to us, I would argue, than the circumstances themselves. My mom is my hero because of how she responds to the issues life throws at her. And interestingly enough, the Halloween episode of New Girl this season addresses the low point in Schmidt’s life and how the resurfacing of his own personal hero affects him and his attitude.

“Keaton” is an episode that focuses on the relationship between Nick and Schmidt, which is really quite fantastic in and of itself, but a lot more touching when it is revealed that NICK has been taking care of SCHMIDT for twelve years. The last time we truly got a glimpse into the Nick/Schmidt dynamic was in “Tinfinity.” In that episode, the pair was celebrating ten years of friendship… with Schmidt essentially proving to Nick throughout the entirety of the episode, that HE is the more responsible of the two (arguably, Nick does have a lot of issues with responsibility). Schmidt hits a low point in the evening, however, when Shivrang proposes to Cece. He hits a truly low point, and the one person who is there for him when he hits the bottom is Nick. What a beautifully ironic moment too, right? Schmidt spends the whole episode convinced that he always has to pick up Nick’s slack – that he never, in their ten years of friendship, anticipated Nick following through with anything. But it is Nick in “Tinfinity” and Nick again in “Keaton” who picks Schmidt up. Whether or not it is intentional, I love the image of arguably the most broken character in the loft being there to support and rescue one of the most stable.

But before we discuss Nick and Schmidt’s relationship, Jess’ amazing costume, and the end-of-episode twist that everyone saw coming (but that I still loved anyway), let’s talk about the rest of the episode, shall we?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Girl 3x05 "The Box" (The Right and Wrong Question)


"The Box"
Original Airdate: October 15, 2013

When Harry Potter was concerned that he was becoming bad – that his connection with Voldemort was somehow turning him angrier and colder – his godfather Sirius Black spoke these words in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

“I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You're not a bad person. You're a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.”

That particular passage in Harry Potter has always resonated with me, and never more so than after seeing the latest episode of New Girl. “The Box” is an episode that raises an interesting question: how do you know if you’re a good person? Schmidt spends the entire episode begging for the approval of others. He NEEDS them to affirm that he is good because he feels like he is not. But Schmidt doesn’t get the answers that he wants in this episode, and that is mostly because he spends the entire time asking the wrong question. And we, too, spend our entire lives fixating on this same incorrect question.

The question that we asks ourselves shouldn’t be “am I a good person?” Because the truth of the matter is that this question is rooted entirely in comparison. Being a “good person” is comparative. I, for instance, am certainly a “good person” when I compare myself to a convict on death row. But I’m not, perhaps, a “good person” when I compare myself to a pristine nun or missionary. This question is entirely based on comparing ourselves to others. “Well, I’m not as bad as THAT person,” we argue. Asking this question, though, allows us to give ourselves a false sense of self-worth and security. As long as we are better than someone else, we reason internally, it doesn’t really matter if we are “good” or “bad” – we just have to be better than the next person.

Asking “am I a good person?” is the wrong question to ask because it requires a selfish answer in response. The question we should be asking ourselves – and that Schmidt should be asking himself – is this: “Is what I did GOOD?”

(And Winston Bishop, eternal voice of reason, recognizes that this is Schmidt’s issue and confronts him about it at the end of the episode.)

“The Box” focuses a lot on this idea of being good – of being a “good person” or a “good steward” or a “good, functioning human being.” We’ve always known Nick Miller to be a bit immature. Okay, we’ve all known him to be VERY immature. It’s not that he’s stupid. It’s not that he doesn’t know better. He does, I would argue. He’s just lazy. His box is both physical and metaphorical. If I’m being honest with myself, I have totally put people and situations and feelings into a “box” and shoved it into the recesses of my mind. It’s easier to place your bills in a box and shove them into the back of your closet. That prevents you from seeing and dealing with them.

It’s easy to shove your problems into a box, too.  It’s easy to bury the issues you know that you need to deal with and tuck them far away. Dealing with bills, problems, and emotions is difficult. It might even be painful. Nick doesn’t like confrontation (remember that this theme keeps cropping up this season) and confronting his box is the last thing he wants to do in this episode, not because it requires money.

Nick doesn’t want to confront his box because doing so means he has to confront every time he has failed. That box is a constant reminder of his shortcomings – every unpaid bill, every failed project, every lost cause is documented and stored in that box. It’s understandable, then, that Nick wants to keep that part of himself, that extension of himself, as far away as possible from everyone. If he can’t see it, it doesn’t exist and he won’t have to deal with it. Right? And if Schmidt can convince himself that he’s a “good person,” then he won’t have to actually deal with the guilt and anguish over what he did to Cece and Elizabeth. Right?

Wrong.

Nick and Schmidt have Jess and Winston, respectively, to instruct them and help them grow as individuals. And by the end of the episode, I think that all of these characters have a better understanding of what it means to be good, what it means to be stable, and what it means to grow.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Girl 3x04 "The Captain" (In Which Sabo is Still Short for Sabotage)


"The Captain"
Original Airdate: October 8, 2013

I’m a pretty emotional human being.

I chalk this up partially to the fact that I am a woman, but more so to the fact that I am sensitive. I like having deep conversations with friends over coffee or homemade dinners about life. I recently had dinner with my best friend of eleven years – a nice, simple crockpot dinner at my apartment – and as we sat on the couch discussing society’s expectations for us (and our parents’ expectations of us) as young, single woman. After a moment, Simi paused and smiled. “I like that you know exactly what I mean.”

And of course I know exactly what she means. We’ve been friends for half of her life, after all. But it’s more than that, really, and we both understand that in order to have a successful relationship, we have to let one another in. We have to be vulnerable from time to time. And we have to communicate.

Nick and Jess are one of my favorite romantic pairings currently on television. But every romantic pairing, I realize, has flaws and one of the flaws of Nick/Jess is that they are both so fundamentally different and so very stubborn. Jess is a giver, emotionally. She lays her emotions bare for everyone around her. She told Sam that she wanted a relationship with him, even though he rejected her. She admitted that she didn’t love Paul. She walked away from Russell because she wanted passion in their relationship. And, before any of the others came along, Jess was rejected by Spencer. So Jessica Day realizes that there are highs and lows associated with being an emotional giver. And yet… she continues to express herself. She’s not afraid of how she feels.

But Nick is an emotional… well, turtle. Conversing about feelings and emotions and thoughts sends him into short circuit-mode. No, literally, he merely twitches and mumbles incoherently and avoids the topic altogether. And Nick is this way because his relationships have drained him, emotionally. He was rejected by Caroline. He was never shown a lot of love by his father. He bounced from woman to woman without committing. If Jess is an emotional giver, then Nick is an emotional hermit. He recognizes the truth that emotions and feelings make relationships complex. They can often, even, cause aforementioned relationships to go awry and dissolve. Nick, then, in his typical Nick Miller-ness, would much rather avoid confrontation (of any kind, as we saw in last week’s episode) because it preserves him.

There are threads woven together in Nick and Jess’ story that continue to surface. And they’re not plot threads, per se: they’re character personality traits. Nick expressed in “All In” that he did not want to lose Jess. In “Nerd,” we saw how he protected her – how she was his “old lady” and that meant he had to do everything in his power to keep her safe and happy. In “Double Date,” Nick avoided confronting Schmidt about his infidelity, but did so once he realized that – if he didn’t – Jess would be the one to suffer. In “The Captain,” we see this aspect of Nick’s personality surface which I think is truly intriguing: his desire to preserve his relationship with Jess.

Now, Schmidt’s arc this season has also been about preservation. But, it is important to note that Nick’s arc centers around the turtle-faced bartender trying to preserve the joy and stability of his new relationship with Jess. Schmidt, however, is focused entirely on self-preservation which – obviously – is selfish and only destructive in the end. But I truly appreciated the depth that this arc is providing me with in terms of Schmidt’s characterization. There were some truly fantastic moments in “The Captain,” which I’ll discuss in a bit.

Returning to our Nick/Jess conversation briefly, it’s important to understand how fundamentally different Nick and Jess are as characters in order for us to comprehend the weight that the resolution of this episode provides. I think that I, often times, know how different Nick and Jess can be as characters, but beyond that I tend to forget that they not only have different personality types but process information differently and handle conflict differently and see the world differently. The question then arises: how can Nick and Jess have a lasting, substantial relationship if they are so different? The answer to that is not as simple as the question, of course. But the simple answer is that compromise is both an inevitability and also a necessity.

So let’s discuss Nick and Jess’ relationship in “The Captain,” Schmidt’s attempt to sabotage it, and the possibility that Winston was the most sane person in the loft this week, shall we?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Girl 3x03 "Double Date" (And That's The Way the World Works)


"Double Date"
Original Airdate: October 1, 2013

The best television shows always center around one important concept: stakes.

Whether the stakes are small (like that of locating a missing purple pen in a study room) or life-altering (such as preventing the world from being destroyed by a fleet of Daleks and Cybermen), the fact remains that they are necessary in order to make a television show relatable and successful. If there are no stakes, we feel no connection to characters as audience members. We coast from episode to episode, from season to season without any investment. How can characters possibly grow if they aren’t forced into situations that allow them that opportunity?

New Girl has never been a high-stakes series, but there’s a shift that is pretty evident in its most recent episode – “Double Date” – that propels the characters from a low-stakes situation (a double date) to a high-stakes one (Nick and Jess learning that Schmidt is cheating on Cece with Elizabeth). And truly, this is what the series needs in order to progress in a natural, logical manner. As fun as self-contained episodes are within a show, there are usually themes that bridge episodes and span seasons which serve to connect the audience to a larger narrative. These themes are what really capture our interest as viewers, and they’re what allow the characters we love to either progress or regress.

The first season of New Girl introduced us to Jess and it was focused primarily on her life transition – how would she form relationships with these three complete strangers she met on the Internet who happened to be her new roommates? The second season’s progression, in terms of Jess, was focused primarily on self-discovery and re-branding. She lost her job and was forced, headlong, into an identity crisis. She spent most of the season trying to figure out her purpose in life and in her romantic relationships. And, of course, the back half of the season was spent exploring the Nick/Jess dynamic. Threads of truth about love and life and how you can be a thirty-something and still not have it all figured out wove their way into these episodes and keep us invested.

Schmidt began the series a rather douchey but lovable loft roommate. I was talking to my friend Kim yesterday regarding his characterization (which she laments over the past few episodes). She noted that when he was introduced, he always had a “heart of gold,” even when he made poor decisions. And while I agree, somewhat, with that sentiment, I have to argue something about Schmidt’s characterization that I know to be true and that has always been true, especially after seeing “Double Date”: Schmidt loves his friends and the people placed in his life… he just always loves himself MORE.

I’ll be talking a lot about Schmidt during this post, because I think it’s important that I walk through my own dissection of his characterization (and perhaps you will find it useful as well) as this cheating storyline draws to a close. I’ll also discuss my ever-growing fondness for Nick/Jess and why the Winston storyline was both sad and wonderful this week. So let’s head below the cut for some analysis!

Monday, September 30, 2013

In Which Jenn Grades the New Fall Television Series (And Some Returning Ones)


One would assume that I watch a lot of television given my penchant for talking and tweeting about it. But the fact of the matter is that there are few shows I am truly passionate about (and I talk about those ones a lot), and a lot more that I have yet to see. But I made the effort during the fall 2013 pilot season to watch as many new pilots as possible in order to expand my horizons and potentially gain some new fandoms in the process. So I’ve decided to go all AV Club on you guys and grade each of the pilots I have had the opportunity to watch. You’ll notice that there are some missing on here, either because they have yet to air or because (in the case of Dads, Hostages, Betrayal, We Are Men, etc.) certain series HAVE aired and I have not watched them.

Nevertheless, I hope you will be interested in the new fall shows – and some returning ones – that I have chosen to focus on. Click below the cut to read about which series to watch, which to avoid, and which to give a second chance.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Girl 3x02 "Nerd" (Who Do You Think You Are?)


"Nerd"
Original Airdate: September 24, 2013

When I was in high school, I was kind of a nerd.

Granted, I didn’t wear glasses or perform in Renaissance garb at my talent show, but I certainly wasn’t in the popular clique. Instead, I found most of my friendships in the drama club and choir class. We sat in the courtyard outside of the drama hallway every day during lunch. Those were my people, and I felt comfortable being in their presence because they accepted me for my love of Broadway musicals and I accepted that they would sometimes get loud and crazy and maybe burst out into Rent.

When I went to class, it was a bit different. I think one of the most unique aspects about my high school experience as a whole was that I wasn’t popular, but the popular kids – or at least some of them – seemed to accept me and others like me. I took quite a few AP classes in high school and the “popular clique” seemed to have its members scattered throughout those classes. I’ll never forget the moment Cyndel – one of the head cheerleaders – sat beside me in AP Psychology. We became friends that year. She had been in another AP class of mine the year prior and though she knew I wasn’t one of her own “kind,” she was still friendly.

The day she invited me to a party was the day I felt like I actually MADE it. (I didn’t go because I was, am, and always will be a goody-two-shoes, but the fact that I was invited by one of the “popular” kids made me feel included.) Cyndel and I were never truly close, but she did write some nice things in my yearbook and for the hour or so that we were together in class, we pretended like our cliques didn’t exist.

I know what it feels like to want to be included because you’re a nerd, and I’m here to tell you that this particular feeling – at least thus far in my life – has not waned. Everyone wants to feel that they belong to someone, that they’re meant to be SOMEWHERE. Human beings were meant to be relational, for community, and to be included. That’ll always be truth.

So in “Nerd,” we see a rare side of Jess – a side that feels insecurity. I’m so used, as a viewer, to seeing crazy, fun, weird Jess who loves that she rocks polka dots and ribbons and her giant glasses traipse around my television screen. But it’s easy to forget that television characters are human beings, and in this episode, our title character struggles with feeling lonely in her new school. Elsewhere, Schmidt is attempting to balance a relationship with both Cece and Elizabeth (we’ll get to that whole storyline in a bit, don’t worry), while Winston is trying to take care of Daisy’s cat. And by “take care,” I mean it in a very mobster sense.

The motif of identity is a strong one in this Kay Cannon-penned episode and I, quite frankly, enjoyed the exploration of this topic by our main characters. (Of course, one of her other episodes - "Eggs" - ranks among my top ten favorite New Girl episodes ever, so my enjoyment of this week's episode is unsurpirisng.) 

Now, let’s dive into the episode then, shall we?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday to You, Blog!


Dear 22-year old Jenn,

Hi there. I’m you, two years from now. That’s crazy, right? But it’s true – I’m sitting here, typing out a letter to you, back there in 2011, to let you in on some important tidbits of information. First and foremost: you’re going to have a whirlwind two years in terms of writing.

You’ve started this blog, you see. You’ve named it A Still and Quiet Conscience, because it derives from one of your favorite Shakespeare quotes and also because you think that this will just be a placeholder – that eventually you’ll stop keeping up with the blog anyway so it really doesn’t matter what you name it now. You don’t even really know WHY you wanted to start this blog in the first place. You tried your hand at another blog earlier this year, where you wrote entries spring boarding from famous quotations, but your updates started getting fewer and far between so you’ve kind of given up on that venture entirely.

You really like Community right now, and I’m here to tell you that in two years’ time… that won’t change a bit. In fact, over the course of the next two years, you’ll become even MORE invested in this series, in its characters, in the plot, and in the writing of the episodes. You still have this blog two years from now, Jenn. Can you believe that? You’ve managed to go two WHOLE years without giving up on writing as a side project. That’s pretty awesome for you, so be excited!

Can I let you in on a little secret? A week from now – your second blog-entry ever – you’ll review “Geography of Global Conflict.” You’ll sit in the corner of your office at work and contemplate tweeting the link to your review to Dan Harmon. Do it. The trajectory of your blogging will actually be altered in ways you could never imagine when you do. Because, you see, Dan Harmon is going to READ that review. Moreover, he’s going to respond to you, via Twitter, about it. He’s going to praise it and you.

It will be a moment that you revel in, that you talk about two years later (still) because you can’t believe it actually happened. Dan Harmon is the reason you’re even writing that first blog-review right now – he’s the one who created Community, after all. And Jenn? Dan Harmon is going to be the reason you continue to do this. His tweet is going to be the greatest source of encouragement for you. Because without it, you may have succumbed to the writers’ block and likely would have let this blog fizzle out entirely.

But that one tweet from him? That’s going to open doors.

You thought that this blog would slow down and then out after a few months like your other one did. You’re thinking, right now, that this adventure will probably be short-lived. But you see, Jenn, when Dan Harmon responds to you… your entire blogging life will change. You’ll review every single episode of Community’s third season and you will gain new Twitter followers and readers. A woman named Kim is going to reply to one of your entries and start following you on Twitter.

You and Kim? You’re going to become really good friends. You’ll Gchat nearly every day. You’ll text and talk and eventually you’ll get to know her good friend Sage. And, down the line, you, Sage, Kim, and Jaime will end up starting a podcast together where you discuss fandoms and pop culture and television shows. Can you believe that?

It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows though, I’m afraid. You see… you don’t know it now, but the Community fandom is going to get a shake-up soon: your beloved show will be put on hiatus. But that’s not going to stop you. Because you’re going to take part in a movement to bring the show back – it’ll be called #sixseasonsandamovie. And it’ll be one of the best things you ever witness on the Internet. Hundreds and thousands of Community fans will come together: they’ll start flash mobs, they’ll tweet advertisers, they’ll write letters and bombard social media outlets about their favorite show. They’ll convince the network to bring it back.

And you’re going to witness that first-hand.

Moreover, you’ll be a PART of it.

Once your show is put on hiatus, you’re going to have this idea, because you’re so passionate about the series and about writing your reviews, to do a #CommunityRewatch mini-movement on Twitter. You’re going to start at the pilot and work your way through the first and second seasons while the show is off the air, watching each of the episodes and writing reviews of them. You’ll gather fans on Twitter and together, you will live-tweet the episodes on Thursday nights at 8 PM, just as if they were airing for the first time.

You’ll write a review of “Debate 109,” and post it on Twitter. You’ll claim that you’re no Alan Sepinwall, but you’re doing your best at reviewing the series. He’ll retweet that and note that re-marathoning the series as if you were watching it for the first time is one way to deal with hiatus. (Your page view count will skyrocket after that.)

Your Twitter friends will help you promote your blog-reviews, too. Yvette Nicole Brown will read two of them as a result of this and compliment you, saying that SHE learned from YOU about the characters and the show. (You’ll feel very flattered.)

During your re-watch, Megan Ganz will compliment your writing as well, and you’ll feel elated. She’ll read your season four finale review, too, and thank you. She’ll call your analysis “well-written” and “thoughtful.” One of your absolute favorite television writers will say those things about you. It’ll knock the wind out of you for a moment, but you’ll smile so much that you feel like an idiot.

Here’s the thing: you’ll never stop feeling extremely touched and grateful, Jenn. You’ll keep meeting people via Twitter and your blog, but it’ll never stop being exciting and exhilarating and weird to you. It’ll feel like an out-of-body experience when you think about it too much – when you consider the fact that the people you admire are actually reading what you have to say. YOU.

Community will be on hiatus for a while, but that won’t be the only bad thing to happen in the fandom. Dan Harmon will be fired as showrunner. Your heart will break, but – as you have seen happen before – the fandom will join together and make the night you hear about the news something so hilarious, so wonderful, and so random that you’ll stay up way too late just because you don’t want the experience to end. Community will get a fourth season. And it’ll even get a fifth season.

(You’ll still review the fourth season in-depth, even though you know that it just wasn’t the same quality as the first three seasons. You’ll lament this a lot.)

Things will eventually start to change for your blog, too. You’ll continue to write about Community more than anything else, but there will be this YouTube series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries that will emerge soon, and you’ll become utterly engrossed in it. When the series ends, you’ll write a lengthy goodbye/tribute post where you spend paragraphs dedicated to each of the actors and their characters.

That post will become your most viewed post EVER.

The cast (Wes Aderhold, Julia Cho, Allison Paige, and Christopher Sean) will promote that post for you, will profusely thank you, and will make you misty-eyed. As a result, you’ll gain some new friends in the LBD fandom and discover that they share your love of other series as well.

Jenn, you’re also going to start watching Suits. And when you do, you’ll fall head-over-heels for the best character on television: Donna Paulsen. She’ll be the queen of everything and you’ll write a post stating just that. Sarah Rafferty – the actress who plays Donna – will retweet that post and your little-blog-that-could will earn the attention of a lot more “Suitors.”

This blog – this thing that you think is going to fizzle out, is going to succumb to your writers’ block – will inevitably become an extension of who you are. People will know you as the girl who writes the in-depth reviews of Community. People will anticipate those reviews, just as they do Alan Sepinwall’s or Eric Goldman’s. You’ll be thrown, headfirst into this crazy, awesome, wonderful world of fandom. You’re going to grow so much as a writer, as a person, as a Twitter user, and as a blogger in general. You’re going to make friendships – LASTING friendships. That will be the best part, Jenn: the friendships. Because no matter how many page views your blog gets in the future, no matter how many writers or actors read your work… you’d be nowhere without the amazing friends and followers who constantly support you.

You’ll love them, too. They’re random and hilarious and kind and sweet. They’ll be there for you when your dead-end job sucks (because I wish I could tell you that in 2013, you have a new job but you don’t yet). You’ll be there to witness engagements and weddings and the birth of children. You’ll laugh with these people until your sides hurt, and you’ll cry when they encounter the worst kind of heartaches. You’ll tweet about movies, text about celebrity encounters, and Gchat about your weekend plans.

These people will become your community. Cherish them, Jenn. You’d be nowhere without them.

And you don’t know it now, but this one small step – this decision to start writing blog-reviews no matter how silly or insignificant you think the idea is (because right now you think it’s absurd, that Jaime will be the only ones you ever show these to, etc.) – is going to completely and utterly change your life. And it all starts when you hit “Publish.”

So don’t give up on yourself, kiddo.

Because I know, from where I sit, that you’ve accomplished a lot. And I can only assume that there is much more to come.

Thank you ALL who have been with me on this two-year journey. I wouldn't be here without you guys, and I know it may seem silly and insignificant to celebrate the birthday of a blog, but... well, then I guess that makes me silly! ;)

While I prepare the cupcakes and streamers, hit up the comments below and let me know how you discovered this blog & which post or posts have been your favorite thus far! Have a great week, folks, and thanks for being a part of this adventure with me!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Girl 3x01 "All In" (South of the Border Shenanigans and Puzzles)


"All In"
Original Airdate: September 17, 2013

There’s this common misconception that occurs in television, and that a lot of series eventually succumb to, no matter how hard (or perhaps because of how hard) they try to avoid it. It’s this idea that putting a couple with chemistry together on a comedy will inevitably sink the sitcom. There’s this precarious line that writers and producers walk when they deal with will-they-won’t-they tension and unresolved chemistry. Do they acknowledge the chemistry and pursue it? Do they acknowledge the chemistry and back away from it? Or do they never acknowledge the chemistry and tension and pretend it does not exist? Developing a couple with will-they-won’t-they tension on a television series is much like skydiving: there’s a chance that your landing will be smooth, that your parachute will open, you will touch the ground with relative ease, and all will be well.

But the problem is that so few series ever reach that ground because of their fear of jumping out the plane in the first place. Too many shows are afraid of destroying the tension that they’ve built up between characters, so they fail to develop anything further than “long looks and stolen glances.” What’s ironic, actually, is that THIS movement – this non-movement – is what ends up destroying the pairing in the end. Audience members become bored at best when will-they-won’t-they tension is prolonged, and downright frustrated and resentful at worst. The key, in my opinion, to making a central couple on a series work is this: remembering where the heart of the show truly lies.

So where is the heart of New Girl? Where are the stories at their strongest? While the Nick/Jess relationship is an intense and integral part of this series, as Jaime and I discussed this evening, this particular romantic pairing is intensely linked to the heart of the show: the loft. Winston is a hilarious character. Schmidt’s one-liners and rapid-fire jokes make him an amazing character. Nick’s curmudgeonly demeanor and wacky schemes make him endearing and funny. And Jess’ positivity, her naiveté, and her heart make her character both unique and significant. But what happens when these four roommates are together is something akin to the study group banding together in Community, or the gang in Happy Endings sharing a scene, or the friends from Friends supporting one another – chemistry and heart.

“All In” is the perfect title for the season three premiere of New Girl both because of its contextual significance (Jess and Nick repeat this phrase to one another frequently throughout the episode), but more importantly because of the thematic implications that will overarch this season. Liz, Brett, Dave, and their team of writers took a risk last season: they jumped out of the metaphorical plane when they had Nick and Jess ride off together in the finale. The critics are waiting for this to backfire. They’re anticipating, perhaps, that the series will lose its focus. And yes, some critics failed to enjoy the season three premiere (maybe) because of that. But I think that “All In” is exemplary of where this season is headed. The writers and producers are completely invested in their characters and in telling these stories. They’re not afraid of being wrong or making things messy. I think, perhaps, that this is something other showrunners and writers could learn from: it’s OKAY not to know how your characters are supposed to end up. And Liz has expressed this idea before. For better or for worse, she feels out stories – she has direction and plans, but she also isn’t afraid to disrupt those in favor of what is best for the characters she is writing for.

But before we dive too much into the metaphorical meaning of this series premiere’s title, let’s discuss the plot of this episode because it’s crazy and random, and yet somehow oddly grounded. If you’re ready, grab your passports and plenty of food because we’re headed to Mexico!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jenn's Pick: 15 of the Best Female Characters on Television


As a woman, I’ve grown up admiring various television characters for their strength, wisdom, hearts, and determined natures. It’s amazing to me that fictional characters can have such an intense impact on me as an individual – that I can debate the merits of their characters with friends, that I contemplate their actions long after I’ve finished watching an episode, and that they influence my life to the point where I simply cannot help but write about them and their legacies.

The darling Maggie (@MaggieTrundles) suggested a blog post topic that pulled me out of my miniature writing rut: the top 15 female characters on television. There are a plethora of amazing female characters on television, both past and present. In Community, for example, there are three strong, independent, wonderfully flawed female characters that are featured each week. However, it was Kim (ugh, KIM) who challenged me to be more definitive in this list and only pick one female character per television series. That’s extremely difficult to do, but I think that was Kim’s point. And, if I am being honest, it really allowed me to contemplate the particular merits of these brilliant female characters and select those I would not have usually selected, had I only chosen multiple characters from the same series.

So, below the cut you will find 15 of the best female characters on television of the past and present. Are you ready to find out who I selected? Check it out, friends!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jenn's Pick: 10 Television Shows That Defined My Childhood


I was born in 1989 and therefore spent my childhood in the 90s. It was there that I was free to tote around my Cabbage Patch doll, try and keep my Tamagotchi alive for more than a few days, and then play Pretty Pretty Princess. The 90s were a great decade to grow up in, truthfully. School was enjoyable, ‘N Sync was on the radio, and there were so many wonderful and influential television shows on each week. I think one of the greatest things about life is that you’re often unable to fully appreciate the impact that your childhood has on you until you leave it behind. Gone are the days of playing in the backyard with neighbors until your mom called you in for dinner. It’s been years since I’ve been able to enjoy a complete day without any responsibilities.

Being an adult has its perks, of course, but there’s something to be said about taking time to reminisce on the “good old days” of our youth every now and then. I’ve mentioned this concept before in my Community reviews – it’s important for us to reflect on where we started our journey in order to appreciate where we are now and focus on where we want to go from there. I love being retrospective, I love being nostalgic, and I love the era that I grew up in. So many elements of my childhood shaped who I became as an adult, so it seems fitting to celebrate ten television shows that influenced me as a child.

Bear in mind, of course, that unless you grew up in the 90s like I did, these will probably differ from the shows that influenced YOUR childhood and stuck in your memory. And that’s okay – hit the comments below and let me know what specific shows had an impact on your life, too! So if you’re ready, grab those Lisa Frank pencil cases, your Power Ranger action figures, and put on those bell bottoms because we’re about to head back into the good ‘ol days of television!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 TV Friendships


My longest friendship to date with another person is eleven years.

I moved from Pennsylvania to central Florida when I was thirteen years old (what a great age to uproot your life and form new friendships, right?) and started my new school a month later than everyone else. For those who are unaware, northern schools start in September while schools in Florida start back in August. As an incoming eighth grader, I knew that most students had already formed their friendships and cliques long ago. Being shoved into a new surrounding wasn’t easy for me, as someone who doesn’t like change, and I suffered through my first week of school and first new experience with a bully in my choir class.

As I rode the bus home that day, trying not to cry over the cruel note I had received from another girl in the soprano section, a girl who had also been in my choir class approached me. Gesturing to the empty space next to me, she asked if anyone was sitting beside me. I shook my head and she sat down. I found out that she lived in my neighborhood, got off at the same bus stop I did, and was a pretty nice girl. I tell her to this day that she chose to sit beside me at the exact right moment. Because I really needed a friend and she has been mine for the past eleven years.

There are a lot of wonderful friendships on television, if we’re being honest. And there are a lot of characters that we wish would be OUR best friends. In contemplating this list, I decided to pause and revisit not only the more recent television brotps and friendships, but also ones that defined my childhood. The 90s were, after all, a ripe time for sitcoms and with that came plenty of memorable, solid television friendships.

So whether you’re the outcast or the jock, the overachiever or the nerd, or the Time Lord Victorious and a temp from Chiswick, I hope you find these television friendships to be as inspiring and enjoyable to read about as they were to watch unfold on our television screens! :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Defense of Annie Edison


I am not, nor have I ever been a Carrie or a Miranda or a Samantha. I am a Charlotte, through and through. I’ve never identified with the Rachels or the free-spirited Phoebes – I’m completely and utterly Monica Geller, down to my last color-coded spreadsheet. And I’ll never be a Britta Perry or a Shirley Bennett, if we’re being honest. Though I have traits that both women possess, the fact of the matter is that I am actually an organized, driven, perfectionist, a reliable student and employee, and a romantic.

In other words, I am Annie Edison.

Annie Elizabeth (since her real middle name isn’t canon, it’s been established fanon that it is Elizabeth, so deal with it) Edison is one of my favorite female characters on television and there are a LOT of amazing female characters on television these days, for which I am thankful. But what really delights me about Annie as a young woman is that I relate to her, I admire her, and I root for her. In any television series (or movie, for that matter), there need to be characters that the audience consistently cheer on, ones that we desire to see succeed. And I desire that for Annie. She’s not without her faults, though, which is also what makes her a well-rounded character. Rather than portray the young academic woman as having her life completely and totally together, the writers and producers choose to highlight qualities and aspects of Annie’s character that make her likable, but also aren’t afraid to humanize her by making her annoy us or one of the other characters.

(As an aside, a lot of hardcore Annie fans like to hate on Britta – as do some Jeff/Annie shippers but that discussion will be saved for a little bit later – because there are qualities about the blonde that make her annoying or irritating, or because she antagonizes Annie. But what I think those people fail to remember is that ANNIE also isn’t perfect, is prone to judgment and mistakes, and though her manipulations and irritating habits may be more subtle than Britta’s or Jeff’s or Pierce’s, they’re no less frequent.)

It may seem baffling that I’m writing a post entitled “In Defense of Annie Edison” when I spent the last paragraph explaining how the character annoys and grates other characters and their nerves, but I think that, when examining a favorite character or favorite series or favorite pairing, it is necessary to not only explain what is right and good with them/it, but also examine why they are flawed. Because that’s the beauty of Annie, the beauty of Community, and the beauty of life in general: we’re all broken people in a broken world, but somehow when we’re around these weird, damaged people, we learn from them, we grow, and we make each other slightly less broken. Watching perfect people is boring – it’s dull and unexciting because there’s no way those people can ever grow or learn or change. They remain stagnantly perfect. But watching Jeff Winger grow from a selfish ex-lawyer into a humanized man who is (albeit) still broken but learning to love and feel again? Well that’s beautiful.

And watching Annie progress from an insecure, love-sick teenager into a young woman with heart and strength and determination is just as beautiful.

So here’s what I intend to accomplish with this blog post: I am not going to attempt to sway you into the belief that Annie Edison is the best character on Community. While she is certainly MY favorite character, I will not force you to subscribe to that same opinion. I WILL, however, spend some time examining: Annie’s development from the first season until the fourth season, the issues I have with the unevenness of the writing of her character, why I feel she is misunderstood and harshly judged in the fandom as a result, and why she deserves love, happiness, and the chance to be more than a stereotype. And maybe, if I’m up for it, I’ll talk about her relationship with Jeff.

Maybe.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies)


As I sat sipping on my morning coffee, I was thrown into a tidal wave of nostalgia. Chelsea’s daily #top3 on Twitter yesterday centered around our choice of the top three best DCOMs, or Disney Channel Original Movies. Scrolling through Wikipedia, I realized something: between the years of 1997 and 2010, I watched every single DCOM that was available to watch (and I do, in fact, still remember clearly watching Under Wraps as a child).

I was born in 1989, which meant that I grew up in the 90s and early 2000s and that was Disney’s prime for movies and television shows. I idolized Lizzie McGuire and Ren Stevens. I longed to go to camp like the kids on Bug Juice. I had a crush on Shawn Ashmore long before he was ever in X-Men or The Following because of Cadet Kelly. I remember when Lindsay Lohan was an adorable teenager and the period for a few years where Brenda Song starred in nearly every DCOM.

Up until the time I was in seventh grade, I was convinced that I wanted to travel the world, studying plants and animals as a naturalist. I grew up watching Going Wild With Jeff Corwin, you see, and wanted to do exactly what he did. It was only when I began taking a Writing class in seventh grade that I desired to become a writer and not a naturalist. (I guess I also didn’t really think about the fact that becoming a naturalist would require me to do well in science and… yeah, that just wasn’t going to happen.)

Disney Channel was an impactful force in my childhood, and DCOMs were just as influential. Having seen, as I said, nearly every DCOM that was made over the span of thirteen years, it was difficult to narrow my favorites down to a list of fifteen. But, alas, as my friend Kim has always advised me, sometimes you have to be decisive and make some cuts. And so, below this cut, you will find a list of my top 15 DCOMs.

So hold onto your nostalgia, folks, and prepare your feels because we’re about to kick it old school. ;)


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 5 Most Emotional Moments in "How I Met Your Mother"


I’m a huge fan of comedies and television comedies are no exception. Throughout the years, I’ve fallen in love with my fair share of television shows – Community, New Girl, The Office, Ben and Kate, Go On, etc. – and each of these series, as you may know, is a comedy. But the beauty of each of these shows is that they are distinct in the way that they make us laugh or connect with us emotionally. New Girl and Community are both typified as “comedy” but both approach all that entails – the punch lines, the emotional heart, etc. – differently. Similarly, shows like The Big Bang Theory and Girls are classified as “comedies,” and yet both are entirely different TYPES of comedies. It would be difficult to compare them, to note which is “better” but alas, that is what the Emmys do year after year.

One comedy I always admired and loved throughout college was Scrubs. The show was witty and quirky, but also relatable. The characters were completely unique and distinct in personality and in humor (Elliot had a specific brand of ditzy, fast-talking humor while Dr. Cox was dry and sarcastic). It was a long-running series, too, where viewers felt emotionally invested in the journeys of each of these characters, where they grew alongside J.D. as he navigated his career as a doctor. But there was one element of Scrubs that consistently impressed me and still does to this day – its emotional steamroller.

What IS an emotional steamroller, you ask? This is something that is – strikingly – very rare in comedies today. It’s this secret power that writers and showrunners have, and because of that, choose to release infrequently so as to not diminish its prowess or drive the show into the drama category. And there’s nothing wrong when shows do not possess this emotional steamroller. I love Community and New Girl, but these series don’t pack the powerful punch that could classify them in “steamroller” territory. There are only two series that I (personally) believe possess these powerful weapons: Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother.

Now, I’ve contemplated the presence of the “emotional steamroller” in both of these series and realize why this weapon exists in the series’ arsenals: it launches the show into uncharted territory. Scrubs was always a very quirky show – the entire series was narrated by J.D. as he went about his daily life at Sacred Heart. A typical episode’s desire was to extract laughter from the audience (it was a single-camera show, so there were no laugh tracks or live audience) by utilizing dry humor, pratfalls, or flashes into the weird and insane reality of J.D.’s thoughts. Similarly, How I Met Your Mother’s goals from episode-to-episode are similar: extract laughter from the audience (which is deceptively not a multi-camera sitcom even though it looks and sounds like one with the utilization of a laugh track/live audience) by utilizing its quirky characters and placing them into weird or awkward situations that require them to do something insane and/or hilarious to get out of them.

Both of these series were and are good at what they strive to accomplish comedically. But what takes them to the next level – what makes them stand out above all of the other comedies I mentioned at the start of this article – is the utilization of the “emotional steamroller.” Because just when the audience feels like they’re wading through territory cultivated by The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family or Friends, the writers and creators release the emotional steamroller, throwing the audience from their feet and into a sobbing mess on the floor.

Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother are the only two series that I’ve found myself literally SOBBING during. And these moments are completely unsuspecting (hence the “steamroller” part of my analogy) because we, as the audience, anticipate comedy and slapstick and general absurdity from characters like Doctor Cox and Marshall Eriksen. But just as we become comfortable in these generalizations of these people, right at the moment we’ve decided that they are snarky or hilarious and nothing much more, we are hit with the emotional weight of what these people can and will suffer – what we, the audience, so often ignore or are not shown. So when Doctor Cox loses his organ transplant patients and walks out of the door, blaming himself for their deaths, we grab the nearest box of tissues and cry until our eyes are rimmed red because the fact of the matter is that we never think of Doctor Cox as a dimensional character until we are forcefully hit with that reality. And Scrubs was never more profound, more relatable, and more beautiful than when viewers were hit with these truths.

My relationship with How I Met Your Mother began in high school (yes, high school, because that is how long this show has been around in conjunction with how old I am) when my male friends began watching it and would obsessively quote the show to one another at lunch. Seizing the opportunity to join in on conversations (and what they informed me was a hilarious series), I began watching. Somewhere, years down the road, I fell off the HIMYM bandwagon, jumped back on, fell off again, and then began to ride the wagon with one foot dragging on the ground.

(Basically I started and stopped watching the show in spurts throughout the years, in case the metaphor isn’t sticking.)

I am never more in awe of this show than when it sends its emotional steamroller barreling toward its audience. And I am convinced that the actors always shine their brightest when placed into these emotional situations.

So in the spirit of making lists, I decided to compile the top five most emotional moments in How I Met Your Mother’s history thus far. You all tweeted some wonderful suggestions (and Audrey nearly matched my list exactly!), and really four out of these five were winners without any contest. If you’re ready, then, click below the cut and we will discuss some of the saddest, most heart-wrenching emotional steamrolling moments in this comedy’s history.

(You might want to find some tissues as well.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spoilers! (Or "When Is It Okay to Tease Your Viewers?")


When I was a part of the CSI:NY fandom, I joined a message board like the hip teenager that I was in order to connect with others and post my thoughts about episodes that had aired. One such message board was where I met my now-bestie, Jaime. On this particular board there were two options for post-registration: you could choose for a little button next to your username to read “Spoiler Free” or “Spoil Me.” That way, throughout the forum, those who wanted to remain spoiler-free for certain episodes or the entire series had the option to do so, and those who wanted to – in fandom terms – receive “ALL THE SPOILERS” would have that option without fear of accidentally spoiling the people around them. It was an ingenious idea, really, and something I wish was implemented more into other fan forums, message boards, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, etc. around the Internet.

I’m a spoiler kind of girl and I wore that “Spoil Me” badge – metaphorically – with pride. I enjoy knowing what to expect throughout the course of the season of a series because I like to speculate. I enjoy discussion, dissection, and the thrill that comes with knowing the details of what’s to come. I’m the girl who reads the last page of a novel before she starts it. That’s ALWAYS been my personality, but I know of plenty of others who can patiently wait weeks or months to see an episode or movie or read a book with absolutely no idea of what’s to come.

Recently, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary trailer was released at Comic-Con and it’s incited quite a bit of indignation from a great chunk of the Whovians at large… and with good reason, I’d argue. But before I delve into that discussion, here’s something to ponder: when is it okay for a series or producers to leak spoilers? When should spoilers be withheld from viewers? How can networks releasing spoilers, clips, or trailers be detrimental to viewers, and how can that action be beneficial?

So if you’d like, come and take a journey with me down spoiler-lane: a place where I’ll discuss why Moffat is being unfair in his refusal to leak the trailer and why his audience is upset as well.

To the barricades!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Emmy Nominees 2013 (Or "A Parade of Angry GIFs")


Every year, the Emmy nominations prove exactly one thing and one thing only: I can never have too many rage-related GIFs in my collection.

The nominations were announced last week, inciting some glee, but mostly rage from me. I’ve come to expect this each year from the Emmys, so I really shouldn’t be as surprised as I am to find myself writing about how much I loathe hearing the comedy nominations, in particular, read aloud each year. And most years I lament the lack of Community nominations (especially ones for Joel McHale), the lack of The Office or Parks and Recreation acknowledgments and the ovewhelming presence of The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family (shouldn’t we just start calling them Modern Families instead of Emmys?)

But this year was different: this year I was rooting for New Girl, whose second season didn’t suffer through a sophomore slump, but rather rose above every other comedy I watched. The effortless chemistry between all of the cast members, the emotional weight that the writers juggled in this year’s storylines made me appreciate the little sitcom even more than I had during its first season. And truly, New Girl grew leaps and bounds between its first and second seasons, thanks in part to the progression of the Nick/Jess romance. To me (and to Liz, Dave, Brett, and the writers), that is where the heart of the story is found. The second season did a brilliant job at tapping into this heart, from tense emotional episodes like “Chicago” to equally tense, passion-filled ones like “Quick Hardening Caulk,” and to – of course – the most awe-worthy kiss on television this year at the end of “Cooler.”

Jake Johnson deserved an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Nick Miller this year. You can tell, as a viewer, that Jake completely and utterly understood who, at his core, Nick was – he knew what frightened him, motivated him, and he played that effortlessly. He was New Girl’s leading man and we fell in love because of that.

Of course, I should have expected that the Emmy nominations would take everything I love about television and tear it to shreds in front of my face.

It’s cool.

That’s what rage GIFs are for, right?

So below the cut I’ve basically decided to do something a little different (but very reminiscent of the BRILLIANT Head Over Feels #SmashBash GIF Caps), since I talked about these categories extensively in our second episode of Hot Switch. All of my feelings about this year’s nominations can be summed up in GIF form and that’s EXACTLY what I plan to do.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the parade of angry GIFS! ;)