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.

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!