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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 10 Episodes of "Community"


It is a truth universally acknowledged that I love Community. If you have ever doubted, even for a moment, that I do… well, picture me wildly gesturing to the entirety of this blog, mmkay? What’s difficult about a series like Community, however, is the process of narrowing down one’s favorite episodes. My top three favorite episodes of the-little-show-that-could are pretty much set in stone, but others fluctuate more wildly. There are so many wonderful stories and threads of stories that weave throughout the course of four years. And when you sit and contemplate which of these are “favorite”-worthy, it becomes quite difficult to narrow those choices down and squeeze them into ten slots.

I always have a tendency to over-think and over-analyze nearly everything in my life. It’s a great trait in certain circumstances, but rather detrimental in other aspects (such as attempting to choose your favorite episodes or moments of a television series). Nevertheless, I am ready for the challenge and will explain, throughout the remainder of this post, why I chose the ten episodes that I did! So if you’re ready, don that Greendale t-shirt and find your purple pens to make your own lists. Because we’re about to embark on a journey through MY ten favorite episodes of Community!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Girl 1x02 "Kryptonite" (Learning to Let Go)


"Kryptonite"
Original Airdate: September 27, 2011

Who or what is your kryptonite? Last weekend, friends of mine went to see the new Superman movie Man of Steel (don’t worry – this story has a purpose). My friend Kate was mulling over the fact that kryptonite, as a destructive element, is so ironic. Wasn’t it kind of absurd, she explained, that the very thing that was Superman’s ONE true weakness was found on his home planet? That the very thing that could undo him was so close to him every single day of his life? I didn’t think much of Kate’s statement until I finished my re-watch of New Girl’s “Kryptonite.” And then, that conversation replayed in my mind. Isn’t it intriguing that Jess’ weakness – her kryptonite – is the very thing that had been closest to her for six years – Spencer? Maybe it’s not ironic at all; maybe it actually makes complete sense. But I often think about weaknesses, about our external enemies, as things or people we keep at arms’ length from our lives. A vice isn’t something we want to keep close to us, after all. It’s something that we KNOW is terrible for us (be it junk food or an ex-boyfriend or Keeping Up With the Kardashians) and try to rid ourselves of. But kryptonite is different – kryptonite is something you are close to, something you surround yourself with, and something that could – if used as a weapon – destroy your very existence. Spencer isn’t a terrible person, necessarily. Yes – he cheated on Jess which was terrible and gut-wrenching. But there was never any evidence to suggest that Spencer mistreated Jess in their relationship. He seemed aloof and lazy, but not malicious or violent. We wonder, just as the loft guys do, exactly WHY Jess is so completely undone by Spencer until Nick explains the concept I noted above: Spencer is Jess’ kryptonite. He’s toxic because of how close Jess allows him to be in her life, still, in spite of their catastrophe of a break-up. And really, that’s what “Kryptonite” is all about, at its core – the idea that relationships can be toxic and disastrous… only if we ALLOW them to be. They can also be gratifying and loving (Jess/the loft/Cece) or full of respect-ish things (Schmidt/Winston).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jenn's Pick: 10 "Friends" GIFs That Have Changed My Life


I wish that I had something witty to set this post up with. That I could tell you that I was truly and deeply contemplating the emotional and comedic impact that Friends has had on our society. That I was reveling in the fact that this 90s-00s sitcom changed the way that my generation perceived and consumed television comedy. That I was enraptured with the notion that a show - a franchise - as powerful and long-lasting as Friends has influenced even our social media today.

... The fact of the matter is that I am bored and I love using GIFs to express myself. Quite frequently, my co-workers and I will instant message one another a link to a GIF (and yes, I pronounce it with a soft 'g' like the peanut butter brand, shhhh) that adequately expresses how we feel in that moment. A surprising number of these are Friends-related!

So I thought I'd take inventory of some of my favorite GIFs from one of my favorite shows of all time and let you guys kick back, relax, and re-live some awesome moments in comedy. ;)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Road to the Emmys 2013 (Or Jenn and Jaime's Slightly Narrowed Ballots)


it's beginning to look a lot like... emmy awards season! if you will recall, last year i spent a lot of time selecting programs and actors that i would like to see nominated in certain categories. obviously, i have about 0% say in who actually is and isn't nominated for the emmys, so this is merely a fun game to pick and choose nominees for my ballot.

since the consideration ballots are now out for this year's emmy awards, i thought i would, again, throw in some of my thoughts and suggestions on who i'd love to be nominated and win in some categories (and, more often than not, who i am torn between). here's how i'm deciding my nominations, as i said last year:

the way that i determined who i’d like to be nominated is as follows: if it is an episode that is nominated, i’ve seen the episode (not necessarily the entire series itself. i.e. without having seen the entire series, i thought the finale of house deserved an award.) if, however, when you get to the lead actor, actress, etc. categories, i have only nominated shows which i have watched more than one episode, and mostly consistently throughout this season (i’ve seen some episodes of season 2 of modern family, for instance, but not the most current season, therefore none of the cast is mentioned, etc.) 

i'm marking my particular choices for wins/nominations with an asterisk, and keeping those that i think deserve mentioning (but maybe not necessarily a win or nom) as well. those choices will have no asterisks beside them. another change is that this year, i'm joined by my cohort, jaime, who added her own selections to my list! i'll be mark her particular selections with a (j). she, like me, listed all of those that deserved mentioning in a particular category. but when she sent me her nomination ballot, she also marked some choices with an asterisk. these mark her particular choices for wins/nominations, not just those that deserve mentions. as such, i'll dictate them throughout this ballot with a (j*)!

are you ready? grab your own ballots and jump below the cut because it's nomination time!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

New Girl 1x01 "Pilot" (What It Means to Be Adorkable)


"Pilot"
Original Airdate: September 20, 2011

I’ve always really adored Zooey Deschanel. Even when I only knew her as “that girl from Elf” or “that actress in (500) Days of Summer” or “the one who sings,” I thought she was endearing. Zooey Deschanel is the type of person who is unique and could care less how others perceive her. She’s confident with enough humility to leave her grounded, but bold enough to not second-guess her decisions. And even though I don’t know her, personally, I can deduce these things because of what I have seen and heard. The combination of these characteristics (or portions of them) is transferred onto Jessica Day, a young woman we meet in the pilot episode of the partially Deschanel-produced series New Girl.

When I learned that Zooey would be getting her own television series, I was excited. And when the promos for the pilot episode began surfacing, I was even more excited. The show had promise, I decided. Three men living in an apartment with a quirky young woman who was just broken up with rather terribly? Well, it had potential. I’ve talked a lot about pilot episodes on this blog before, but I’ll reiterate this – most people, when asked, will not pinpoint the pilot episode of a television series to be their favorite. Pilots aren’t necessarily meant for us to covet as favorites; their purpose is to introduce us to characters and situations that engage us just enough so that we will become invested in them and learn to form a relationship with them. Friendships and relationships in our lives are built upon the foundation of an initial meeting, but only truly develop when we make the continual effort to connect with that individual. The same logic applies to a television series. That’s why it’s such a struggle for television pilots to succeed – viewers (those of us with short attention spans, at least) want instant connections to characters and jokes or drama and… that doesn’t often happen. Community’s pilot was a bit rocky, in terms of comedy. The series grew though and found its footing. Doctor Who’s 2005 reboot, similarly, was a bit on the rocky side until it, too, found its stride.

Both of those shows noted above are now my favorite, and yet they weren’t always that way. In order for a pilot to engage me – or for me to want to set aside time throughout the week to sit down and watch it – there needs to be some sort of emotional connection between the audience (me) and the characters. I’m a sucker for sap and sentiment, but not without the promise of growth. I’m a sucker for jokes, but not without a solid foundation to anchor them on. I was a fan of New Girl from the pilot episode because I saw that this series had the potential to develop its characters into something special. It, like many pilots, was a bit rocky, but it knew where it was headed. One of the things that my friend Jaime and I have discussed before in regards to this series is that it never had Coach (and Winston), Nick, and Schmidt learn to like and care about Jess as a person – they just DID. And I’ll discuss this more throughout the review, but this element is something pretty beautiful. These are three characters who didn’t have to struggle against their prejudices or dislikes in order to learn to love Jess. A lot of series DO follow this format (Community is an example) and that worked for the show and made sense for the character of Jeff Winger – here’s a jaded ex-lawyer who has probably never had much of a family, learning to love these study group strangers. The loft boys may have rolled their eyes at Jess’ antics. They may have thought it was a bad idea to let her move in. They don’t always understand her. But they immediately – without having to learn this – care about her and make sacrifices for her. That’s always been a theme of New Girl, and it’s something that really drew me to the series. And I think I recall reading an interview with Liz Meriwether where she essentially said that this isn’t a series about a weird girl and three normal guys who learn to deal with her weirdness. It’s about four people, all who are a little weird, who learn how to live together and support each other. THAT is what New Girl is truly all about.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

In Which Jenn Moves On Up!


This weekend was a pretty momentous occasion in my life. And I am sure that most of you know that, as well! Yesterday, I moved out of my parents' house and into an apartment with my darling friend from high school, Leah. It's been something that I have wanted to do for a while, but not because my living situation was tumultuous. I, like many twenty-somethings, wanted a feeling of independence and a feeling of making something of myself. I really love my family, I truly do, but it was time to move on.

And as someone who is introverted (does that surprise you all?), I knew that I could live on my own, but that -- having gone from living in a house with four other people to an apartment of one -- it would be a difficult adjustment to be completely on my own. For as much as I enjoy my personal space, I know how lonely I would be without someone to share anything with. Leah was looking for a roommate, and it worked out so that we were both able to find a new apartment in the complex Leah already lived in (we're literally a building over from her old apartment).

Moving out is a surreal feeling, really. For as much as I built it up in my head to be this monumental experience, it really felt rather ordinary. Granted, yesterday was insane between packing and unpacking and moving boxes and bags, but thanks to the help of some of my wonderful friends and our amazing families, we were able to physically move everything in an hour and a half. And soon, we began unpacking boxes and building furniture. Our new place -- that we've nicknamed The Lit, due to the fact that both of us are English majors and insane book lovers -- is coming along really well, for having only lived here for twenty-four hours!

And now, onto the process of packing, unpacking, and LOTS of before/after photos that I am sure you all want to see. ;)


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Character Appreciation Post: Ben Wyatt ("Parks and Recreation")


There are a few television shows that I’ve been convinced to watch solely because of the influence that my Twitter followers have had on me. One of these shows is Suits; the other is Parks and Recreation. As many of you who follow me know, I’m currently four and a half seasons deep into my marathon of the series, and loving every single moment of it.

“But Jenn,” you gasp, “I can’t believe you’ve never watched Parks and Rec before!”

I, in fact, HAVE watched many Parks and Rec episodes… just not consistently. When 8 PM rolls around on Thursday nights, my attention is focused solely on one thing – Community. And by the time 8:30 draws near, I’m busied with finding a download of the episode so that I can start on my notes for the following morning’s blog-review. I found myself half-watching episodes of Parks and Rec, while scouring for links on the Internet for Community. I knew enough about the series when I started my marathon – I knew Ben and Leslie would eventually be together; I knew who each of the characters were; I knew about Jerry’s tendency to ruin… well, everything. 

But I didn’t truly know each of these characters until I watched the series from the beginning. And then I fell in love with each of these characters, including one we will discuss and praise today: Ben Wyatt.

Jaime (@elspunko) is my faithful best friend and also my companion in compiling these Character Appreciation Posts. As I said our introductory post a while ago, these entries aren’t necessarily meant to highlight characters that are disregarded by viewers. Rather, they are meant to celebrate characters for their individual quirks, hang-ups, and arcs. Our Character Appreciation Posts strive to fill you up with feels, but also illuminate the qualities that make each of these characters worthy of our time. 

And Ben Wyatt is definitely worthy of our time.

In an ensemble series like Parks and Rec, it’s easy for certain characters to get overlooked or forgotten. But one thing I truly admire about this series (and one thing that is on my wish-list for season five of Community) is its constant shuffling of pairings – one episode may see a Chris/Ann, Ben/Leslie, and Ron/Donna/Tom storyline; the next episode may feature a Leslie/Ron/, Chris/Jerry, and Ben/April/Andy plot. And what’s beautiful and wonderful about this series – something that I have mentioned to Jaime as I’ve been marathoning – is that each of these pairings WORKS. Everyone on the show has chemistry with everyone else, which makes it genuinely difficult to choose a favorite friendship or favorite platonic pairing. It’s something really rare and magical to see on a series… especially considering the fact that Ben and Chris weren’t introduced until the very end of the second season, and yet both characters melded seamlessly into the fabric of the show.

But back to Ben Wyatt – I was warned that Adam Scott would ruin my life and yet, here I sit, still completely ruined by his perfect portrayal of a lovable, nerdy, sweet accountant. And I think that I’ve settled on the reason why I love Ben Wyatt (and why I love Nick Miller and why I love Jim Halpert): he’s real. Each character on the series is written with flaws, because flaws make us human. Each character on Parks and Rec and on New Girl and on Community and The Office and nearly every other show on television is written so that we love them, but also sometimes disagree with them. What makes Ben so swoon-worthy is the fact that he’s realistic – he’s imperfect, but he cares. He’s flawed, but he loves. He’s weird and dorky but he’s also compassionate and fun. That’s what makes a good romantic lead, in my opinion – not this intricate construction of sappy lines and lingering looks, but the realistic portrayal of someone who is flawed but who loves deeply. And without a doubt, Ben truly loves Leslie and it shows in the way that he cares for and supports her throughout the series.

So now, Jaime and I will talk about Ben Wyatt’s wonderful stories and qualities. Her insights will be italicized throughout the post! So are you ready? Swing by the Low Cal Calzone Zone and join as we celebrate Ben Wyatt!