Ted Lasso, Rom-Coms, and Emotional Vulnerability

Why is it important that a show about men who play soccer did a rom-com homage?

Dickinson Behind-the-Scenes: An Interview With the Artisans

Meet the artists who brought the Apple TV+ series to life!

If You Like This, Watch That

Looking for a new TV series to watch? We recommend them based on your preference for musicals, ensemble shows, mysteries, and more!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Throwing Awards at Their Faces (Three Actors Who Deserve All the Nominations)

In a world of DVR, Hulu, and – in my case – television streaming, very few people concern themselves with watching television shows live these days. Families have commitments; children have sports practices or theatre rehearsal. College students are cramming for mid-terms or else procrastinating from cramming for mid-terms. And even nine-to-fivers cannot schedule their nights around television programming. We have busy lives and busy schedules, and sometimes (unfortunately) our favorite television shows suffer at the hands of the merciless but elusive Nielsen unicorns because we don’t watch “live.”

There are only three scripted shows that I make the effort to watch live each week: Community, New Girl, and Doctor Who. I’ll forgo watching How I Met Your Mother and then marathon in chunks. I used to skip weeks of The Office and be perfectly content. But the three shows I listed above, I will always make the effort to watch live. I’ll schedule my life around them (which… sounds pretty sad when I type it out like that, actually).

As all three have recently wrapped up their seasons, I thought it would be appropriate to talk a bit about actors within the shows that I feel deserve a lot more recognition and praise than they usually receive. I’m talking, of course, about actors Joel McHale, Jake Johnson, and Matt Smith. And I will be talking about them a LOT in this post – actually, I’m devoting the entire post to them – and how they each deserve to have all the awards thrown at their faces.

Well, not literally at their faces.

… You all know what I mean.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 5 Episodes of Season Two's "New Girl"

A lot of television series struggle to find their footing during their second seasons. The term “sophomore slump” is tossed around quite frequently, and I think that the reason is due to this: it is very easy to launch yourself – your characters, your stories, your sets – head-first into an adventure. That’s what first seasons truly are, if we’re being honest. They’re adventures, they’re explorations, and they’re meant to be that way. We, as audience members, need to be invested within a few episodes of a series, or else we will move on and find something else that will capture our interest. (Chalk it up to our short attention spans.)

So what tends to happen, in my experience as a television viewer, is that series try so hard to pull out all their stops during their first season: they want to make us invested in these characters and their lives so they throw hijinks and shenanigans and drama at the viewers. But many shows nosedive during their second seasons because they simply try too hard and have no idea how to progress, naturally, from the place where they ended their first season. The series becomes more and more about pleasing the audience rather than investing in characters (i.e. why Glee became so erratic as a show, and why the first few episodes of the second season of Community were shaky, in my opinion). The very viewers that the show tried so hard to please during the first season bolt at the uneven writing and/or acting in the second season.

“See Ya” is one of my favorite episodes of New Girl’s freshman year, and it is also the series’ first finale episode. The reason that I loved this episode so much was partially due to the amazing writing and acting, but truly rooted in the not-so-finale vibe that it provided. It ended happily – Nick returned to the loft and the characters had dance parties alone in their respective rooms. It didn’t feel like an ending, really, but a beginning.

I don’t mean to presume that series shouldn’t end on cliffhangers – the first season of Community did, and it was one of those moments where you suck in a breath and don’t exhale until the credits begin to roll. It was THAT good. But what I admired about the first season of New Girl and what I also admire about its second season is that the show doesn’t slam on the brakes at the end of a season and then rev the engine during the premiere of the following season. The transitions are smooth – “See Ya” and “Elaine’s Big Day” both had endings that felt rather organic. But perhaps that’s because they weren’t actually endings at all, but beginnings. These characters have new chances, new choices, and new adventures each day. I think that sometimes television series forget that.

Nevertheless, New Girl technically has ended until September (unless you join in on our #SummerRewatch this summer!), which means that it is time for me to reflect on five of my absolute favorite episodes this season (okay, six, because I am a cop-out). Its sophomore year has been so consistent, hilarious, and heartfelt that it doesn’t resemble anything close to that “sophomore slump” other shows encounter. I feel that this series has managed to avoid that pitfall by focusing more on developing their characters than catering to the audience whims. And that? Well, that combined with the talented writing, brilliant producing, and exceptional acting made this season of New Girl one of the best.

Ready to see which episodes ranked as my favorites? Grab some popcorn and put on your yellow tracksuit, because here are my top five episodes of this season!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

(In Which I Discuss My Internal Struggle in the Wake of #RenewCommunity)

While everyone else was adding “Renew Community” to their avatars over the last few weeks, I was sitting – quietly – and contemplating whether or not I actually wanted to see my beloved show return to television for a fifth season after all. In order to avoid being tarred and feathered, of course, I kept this to myself and smiled when I heard the news of Community’s renewal, mainly because I knew how hard everyone else had fought to save the show. They were happy, therefore I was happy.

Honestly, the fourth season of Community has been… well, rocky. And I don’t necessarily attribute that to the obvious lack of Dan Harmon. I really do believe that the show could have been great this year without him. Yes, it would not have been the SAME show, but it could have been GREAT no less. However, looking back over this season I realize that my feelings toward it can be summed up in one word: lukewarm.

Here’s the thing about the term “lukewarm”: it’s completely fine to be lukewarm toward episodes in a series. There are episodes that I feel lukewarm toward in Doctor Who, in Community, and in New Girl alike. But – and this is a BIG but – when your feelings toward an entire season of a series can only be categorized as such, you place yourself into rather dangerous territory. A season becomes forgettable and lost in the shuffle. And the one thing that I never wanted Community to become was a series like Scrubs or The Office or How I Met Your Mother. All three are arguably amazing sitcoms and I have seen each one of them. However, I often hear this in regards to them: “[insert show here] is SO good. You definitely need to watch! But just pretend season(s) [enter disappointing season or seasons here] doesn't/don’t exist.”

Whenever friends recommend shows to me, occasionally I will hear that line – because the fact is that certain sitcoms just go through seasons where their show declines so far in quality that it becomes un-recommendable. I never wanted Community to be categorized in that way, but now – I fear – it is. “Community is SO good! Just… pretend season four doesn’t exist.” And the painful reality is that the fourth season of Community didn’t HAVE to be that way – this was preventable.

So… where do we go from here? What can we learn from the pitfalls of the fourth season that can actually allow us (I keep using the first-person possessive, when I really mean “the people who make this series”) to rise from the ashes, as it were? Here are a few things I believe must fundamentally occur in order for the fifth season of Community to be smart, successful, and stable.

Friday, May 10, 2013

4x13 "Advanced Introduction to Finality" (I Don't Wanna See You Go But It's Not Forever)

"Advanced Introduction to Finality"
Original Airdate: May 9, 2013

No matter how prepared you think you are to say goodbye, I would argue that you can never be truly ready. Even if you are anticipating change in life, saying farewell to current comfort, current stability, or familiarity is intimidating at best and downright paralyzing at worst. When I was a junior in college (what feels like eons ago, but was only, in actuality, four years ago), I transferred from a college I had been attending in West Palm Beach back home to Orlando. Since I was a poor college student who had been attending a private school and The University of Central Florida was a fifteen minute commute, I moved home. And that is where I have been since, slowly saving up money to move out on my own. In less than a month, I’ll be moving across town to live with my friend Leah. And it’s going to be a great opportunity. I love my family, but I’m ready to live on my own. Still, saying goodbye – even when I am only twenty minutes from them – to my family is going to be strange. It’s a weird shift in dynamic and no matter how much you prepare yourself for it, inevitably a part of you mourns what once was and is scared of what’s to come. These days, my co-workers and I like to lament our college days. We miss being able to sleep in, make our own class schedules, and discuss literature. At the time of graduation, we were more than ready to bid our university farewell – we couldn’t WAIT to exist in a world where we didn’t have to take finals or write papers anymore. So… what happened between then and now? Why was it so easy to say goodbye then, but so hard in hindsight? Maybe Jeff Winger could answer this for us, because it’s this very dichotomy – the exhilaration of a new adventure and fear of the unknown – that grips him throughout “Advanced Introduction to Finality.”

Friday, May 3, 2013

4x12 "Heroic Origins" (You Can't Escape Destiny; She Comes For Us All)

"Heroic Origins"
Original Airdate: May 2, 2013

There’s a line, first famously sung in A Very Potter Musical that I absolutely love. It’s in the song that opens the musical, where all the main characters are returning to Hogwarts to begin another school year. They sang that they were going “back to the place where our story begins.” I think the reason that I’ve always loved that particular part of the song is because it really exemplifies what Hogwarts is to these students: it’s home. It’s the place where all of their stories started – where Ron and Hermione became friends and then fell in love; where Harry realized who he was as a person and who his family was; where Neville’s story of heroism began. It’s there that everything starts, both in the StarKid musical and in the Harry Potter franchise. And it’s there that it ends. I’ve, personally, always held fast to the idea that everything happens for a reason. There are no coincidences in life. Call it fate or destiny or a divine intervention, but I’m convinced that our lives are definitely woven with the lives of other people for some sort of reason or purpose. And we can play around with this notion a lot by contemplating how our lives could have been, for better or for worse. What if I had been at that intersection a moment earlier? What if I had chosen to sit in the front of the class instead of the back? What if I had joined that club or been at that meeting or gone to that movie? Moreover, what if I HADN’T done certain things, gone certain places? I think about this sometimes when I reflect on spending the first thirteen years of my life living in Pennsylvania. My parents wanted to move to Florida and I was vehemently against it. I had friends up north, I reasoned. GOOD friends. But what if I hadn’t moved to Florida? What if my parents had never desired to live somewhere else? I would have never gone to school here, never met my best friends, never been a part of so many things that made my life what it is today. It’s the what-ifs in life that sometimes paralyze us. It’s also the what-ifs that define who we have become. The study group contemplates their own individual journeys this week and reflects on how those journeys converged with the journeys of others in order to form – what Abed deems – “a crazy quilt of destiny.” Every choice in life we make has a consequence, he essentially states. We choose to turn left instead of right, and our entire lives are reconstructed around that decision. We change the game with just one simple decision. And we change our lives, as well.