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.

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! ;)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Jenn's Pick: 10 Reasons Why Donna Paulsen Should Be Your Favorite TV Character


Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.

A while ago, I began to notice a pattern among my Twitter timeline on Thursday nights. While I was busy hammering away at my Community blog-review notes, others were animatedly tweeting about a show on USA called Suits. After a few weeks of this excited tweeting, I began to feel like I was missing out on something rather entertaining. And my middle school mentality of not wanting to be left behind while all of my other friends bonded over something began to gnaw at me. So, in my intrigue, I decided to marathon Suits.

I fell completely and totally in love with the series.

Suits is a cable drama, but it is chock full of hilarious moments, fantastic one-liners, and great inside jokes. Each character is effortlessly and powerfully portrayed by their actor or actress. These are characters who are independent, strong-willed, and extremely intelligent. I love Harvey Specter’s resilience. I love Mike Ross’ charm and his compassion. I love Jessica Pearson’s take-no-prisoners attitude. I love Louis Litt’s soft side. And I love Rachel Zane’s determination. But there is one character on Suits that stands out above the rest for me – Donna Paulsen.

It’s not very difficult to explain WHY Donna is my favorite – she’s sassy, quick-witted, hilarious, and she’s got perfect red hair, to boot. But there’s a lot more to Donna that makes her such a strong, solid character in this series. She’s Harvey’s anchor, his conscience, and his other half. She’s a role model for Rachel. She’s just as tough as Jessica. She can go toe-to-toe with Louis as well as Hardman and emerge victorious. She’s confident in who she is as a person and has never lost sight of that throughout the series. And I admire Donna Paulsen (and Sarah Rafferty, who does such an excellent job portraying her), because she is flawed, too.

Donna proves to us all that you can be both confident and imperfect, both loyal and vulnerable, and both strong and compassionate. Plus, she also loves ice cream and coffee drinks with lots of whipped cream, solidifying why she is awesome. Below the cut, I decided to list ten reasons why Donna Paulsen should also be YOUR favorite character on television.

Grab that can opener, because here we go!