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, February 28, 2014

5x07 "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality" (Of Pettiness, Manipulation, and Handcuffs)

"Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality"
Original Airdate: February 27, 2014

I don’t think that anyone likes to believe that they’re a petty or manipulative person. I really don’t. But what’s funny is that children are petty and manipulative (don’t get me wrong, they’re also adorable and often pretty wise) without ever having to be taught those characteristics. My mom is a pre-school teacher and I’ve visited her classroom on multiple occasions. If you enter, you’ll find children playing and coloring and building with blocks. And, nine times out of ten, you’ll find one child playing with a toy longer than another. Then there will be inevitable complaints and children whining about how they don’t WANT to share. My mom is a great teacher, so she reminds the children about how sharing or, alternatively, not sharing actually has nothing to do with the toy. It has everything to do with how selfishness makes the other person feel. She’ll tell the children to look at their friend and apologize. Children never have to be taught to be selfish, you see. It’s this innate quality they possess that lingers with us through adulthood. Here’s something else about children: they don’t like time-outs. They really don’t. If you’re around children long enough, you’ll realize that they don’t like punishment, even when they know they’re in the wrong (who does, really?). So here’s what children do: they say the magic words in hopes that through apology, their parents will lessen the punishment. They do this into their teenage years and adulthood and it’s this subtle little form of manipulation that we see play out in Community’s first post-Olympics episode titled “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality.” In this week’s episode, say goodbye to Shirley and Annie who disappear at McDonald’s, but say hello to potential ghosts, the ghosts of Britta’s past, and cartoon ducks. That’s right – only on Community.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Girl 3x17 "Sister II" (You STILL Can't Choose Your Family)

"Sister II"
Original Airdate: February 25, 2014

I’ll admit something to you right now that I’ve probably admitted before and will definitely admit again: I’m a lot like Jessica Day and a lot like Annie Edison. I’m a fixer. I like to fix people. And that’s not to say that I believe myself to be better than everyone else or that I think I have all the right answers. It’s just… I long for people to be the way that I want them to be. I want them to act according to their age and potential; I want them to make the “right” decisions. I want them to be better. I want them to be fixed. I think this part of my personality derives directly from my slight compulsion for perfection. I like things to be neat and well-ordered, so it makes sense that I want my relationships to be the same way. But here’s the problem: people aren’t toys to be fixed or pawns to be improved upon. I learned that the hard way when I got into a relationship with a guy who wasn’t where I wanted him to be emotionally. I thought that if I just spent enough time with him and influenced him, then he would change. As if people can change because I will them to, right? People change when they want to change, not when I want them to. It’s a truth I have had to learn the hard way and it’s something that Jess learns in “Sister II” in regards to her relationship with Abby. Abby is a mess. She makes Nick look like the most responsible human on the planet and makes Schmidt look like the most selfless person alive. She’s a train wreck and I think it’s just because she’s bored. I think she acts the way that she does and treats people the way that she does because she knows that she CAN; because her life is an endless ring of screwing up and then leaving that mess behind to go face a new mess or adventure.

Nick is actually the one to deliver the hard truth in the episode though. It’s one thing for the show to contrast Abby and Jess’ behavior, which I think that it does rather well. I’m glad that the presence of Abby has not only illuminated her character but also the characters within the loft. But what I loved about “Sister II” was that the “point” of the episode wasn’t that Jess suddenly accepts her sister’s behavior or that Abby suddenly changes and becomes less selfish. That would be a quick, tropey sitcom fix to a situation that is much more complex. I admire that New Girl didn’t try to wrap a bow on the relationship and resolve everything. What I truly loved about “Sister II” was that the truth Nick presented the sisters with was this: neither of them was honest with the another. And since they both avoided confrontation, a complex web of lies and deceit and manipulation enveloped both sisters, Nick, and Schmidt in the process. Actions have consequences, but similarly INACTIONS also have consequences. It’s a truth that threads its way into our B-story this episode, too, when Winston tries to prolong checking his entrance examinations core for the LAPD. But before we get to all of that good stuff, let’s talk briefly about the episode’s plot, shall we?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

About a Boy 1x01 "Pilot" (About Unlikely Friendship and One Direction)

Original Airdate: February 25, 2014

For all of the love I have for Hugh Grant (and I DO have a lot of love for him in Love Actually and Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics), I have never watched the movie About a Boy. I don't know why, to be frank, but I just know that I have never seen the film. But when I heard that NBC would be reworking the film and the book that it was based on into a television comedy series, I was intrigued. My interest was piqued further when I realized that the main character - Will - would be played by David Walton, who I had fallen in love with during his guest stint on New Girl last season. Perhaps knowing little to nothing about the movie plot and the book plot aided me in my viewing of the pilot. It's difficult when a network decides to turn something that was so beloved as a movie into a television series. Inevitably, certain elements of the film or the book will either be abandoned, lost in translation, or otherwise watered down in order to accommodate an audience that the network must presume is unfamiliar with the source material. I think that in some ways, it's better to be unfamiliar with a movie or book that becomes adapted, that way it lessens the inevitable disappointment or comparison to the original.

As someone who has never seen the original About a Boy, I was relatively pleased with NBC's adaptation. There are a few kinks that need to be worked out in order to make the series a success, but overall I thought the half-hour comedy pilot was endearing. It is the only mid-season series that interested me enough to actually catch the pilot online (sorry Believe and that comedy series about the blind dad) and interested me enough to prompt a review. So below, I decided to switch things up. Instead of rattling off a play-by-play of the episode, I thought I would note what elements of the series worked, which did not work, and which need to be improved upon in order to make this series great.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jenn's Pick: 15 Times Joel McHale Was My Favorite Person Ever

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that my favorite actor is Joel McHale. Besides being incredibly talented, hilariously snarky, down-to-earth, and a pretty decent human being (and Human Being, for that matter), he’s got a certain presence about him that just endears you toward him and everything he does. He’s a genuinely good person and you know what? Good people like him – people who care about the work they do, who have enough energy and time and love to put forth into not just work relationships but a spouse and children, and who genuinely care about and appreciate their fans – deserve good things to happen. And I’m really happy that Joel’s beginning to become respected and noticed in the eyes of more and more people – he’s hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner soon, after all! – and thought I would compile some of my favorite moments from Joel’s interviews and shows. There are fifteen in all and I hope that they somehow manage to brighten each of your days. And who knows, maybe they’ll brighten them so much that the inevitable snow will melt wherever you are.

(Unless you’re in Florida like me where there is no snow, only 80-degree weather. #sorrynotsorry)

So let’s narrow these down and call them "15 Times Joel McHale Was My Favorite Person Ever" because that sounds catchy and almost like a BuzzFeed article, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jenn's Pick: 15 Favorite Musical Moments on TV

Sometimes I wish that my life was a musical. Wouldn’t it be amazing to walk down the street where everyone on it was a dancer, where there was a catchy song playing, tempo picking up while the chorus joined in? Sometimes I hear songs and think to myself: “If my life was a movie, this would be the song I’d want to play over the credits.” The truth is that a vast majority of us can relate to this because we can relate to music. Music is such an integral part of not just our daily lives but also our emotional ones. We connect to songs and artists. We hit the repeat button on tracks on Spotify and blast albums in our car. We make playlists upon playlists and whether you love The Beatles, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, The Jonas Brothers, Katy Perry, or anything in between, music is personal and music is an experience.

I love when television series integrate musical numbers into their episodes. And this post is to celebrate fifteen of my personal favorite musical numbers! Whether it’s on a show that constantly features music (like Smash or Glee) or on a series that utilizes a musical number to parody a series (like Community), I’ve picked some of the stand-out performances. These make me laugh and cry and they’re also up for debate. So sit back, grab a cup of something hot, and hit play because we’re about to take a musical journey through television!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Girl 3x16 "Sister" (You Can't Choose Your Family)

Original Airdate: February 11, 2014

When I was little, I wanted a sister. I’m the oldest of three siblings, and at one point in time, it was just me and my little brother. That is, until my mom announced to us that she was going to have another baby. I begged for a sister; my brother begged for a brother. Spoiler alert: I won. Well, as much as one can “win” when they have no real pull in the outcome of a situation whatsoever. My sister is seven years younger than me and nearly polar opposite in personality. My parents discovered this at an early age, but never more so than when she became a teenager. She doesn’t have a filter; where I used to placate my mom by quietly obeying everything she told me to do and never raising my voice, my sister demands answers and argues. This often leads to her getting grounded, of course. My sister was a cheerleader throughout her entire high school life; I was a chorus and drama nerd. My sister is outspoken and outgoing and sometimes impulsive; I’m reserved and responsible. I never do anything without thoroughly thinking through the outcome first.

I’ve always been the big sister and that means that – for however much s he annoys me sometimes – my little sister is someone I would fiercely protect and defend. But what happens when it’s the little sister who takes care of the older one? Well, this is a question raised in New Girl’s latest episode, aptly titled, “Sister.” In it, we meet Jess’ wild-child older sister named Abby. There’s a reason we haven’t met Abby, it turns out: she’s got a bit of a rebellious streak and the episode picks up with Jess’ mom calling her daughter to inform that Abby is in jail. Jess then spends the entire episode trying to prevent Abby and Nick from meeting, though the latter is desperate to meet his future in-law (it’s my headcanon, shh) and keeps getting shot down at every turn. It’s Jess’ job throughout the episode to try to take care of her sister, but some interesting revelations about how Jess sees herself (and how she is seen) through the eyes of her family come to light. Elsewhere in the episode, Nick attempts to play wingman to Schmidt at a bar mitzvah while Coach and Cece endure the most awkward dinner ever with Winston and Bertie.

So before we talk about family and giant sunglasses, let’s recap the plot for the episode, shall we?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Romantic Comedies (Re-Post)

(I've been having some issues with spam on this post so I'm re-posting. Originally published July 2013.)

I am the target demographic for romantic comedies – I’m young, single, and a hopeless romantic. I’m truly a sucker for nearly anything that boasts and brags that it is a “rom-com.” I’ll laugh and coo and (if the story is compelling enough) shed a tear. And I’m not exactly sure what it is about romantic comedies that draw a majority of the female population. Is it the inevitably handsome leading man? Is it the love story? Is it the banter and the comedy? If I’m being honest with myself, I think it’s a combination of all of those elements as well as this little added kick: believability. We, as women, have to WANT to become the leading woman in the rom-com. We have to feel like we could be her, or – at the very least – feel like we know someone like her in our lives. Relatability is a key element in any and every story, and it’s never more integral than in a romantic comedy.

There are a LOT of rom-coms out there. I mean… a LOT.

And what’s interesting is that there are a lot of movies that I would typify as a romantic comedy that, say, my friends Kim and Sage and Jaime might not. Every person has their own particular formula for what makes a romantic comedy “great.” My favorite movies will (I guarantee) not all be included in your list of favorite movies. But that’s what makes rom-coms so wonderful: there are a plethora to choose from and each have particular elements that make them stand out from the rest of the pack.

Kim, Sage, Jaime, and I will be discussing our lists in depth this coming week when we kick off our first ever podcast together. So be sure to keep an eye out for that link (and this week for everyone’s respective lists). We’ll probably be debating our selections quite a bit so you don’t want to miss THAT spectacle!

What landed on MY top 15? Click below to find out and be thinking of your own lists as you do! ;)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

In Defense of Taylor Swift

and the saddest fear comes creeping in
that you never loved me, or her, or anyone or anything

On my birthday weekend, I was in the car with two of my good friends and co-workers. We were listening to the radio and as a Taylor Swift song came on (“I Knew You Were Trouble”), my friend Kate stretched out her fingers to turn the station but then swiveled to face me and said: “Since it’s your birthday, we’ll let you listen to her.” I then proceeded to sing and dance in the back seat. Kate and Heather are like a lot of individuals in that they dislike Taylor Swift quite a bit. They find her annoying and irritating and obviously their feelings aren’t a “make or break” condition in my friendship with them. Still, it does rather unsettle me whenever people complain about or make fun of the young woman I’ve grown to adore over the past few years. And though this post isn’t meant to sway your opinion, nor is it intended to force you to accept or even like Taylor Swift, it IS a post meant to defend her. Because my name is Jennifer, I’m twenty-five years old, and I absolutely admire the blonde, sassy, immensely talented young woman known as Taylor Swift.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

10 Reasons You Need to Be Watching 'The Crazy Ones'

When I log into my Twitter account on Thursday nights, I find my timeline overrun with Community live-tweets. The next half-hour, Parks and Recreation fans are at it, quoting the series and laughing at the jokes. But when 9 PM rolls around, only a few of my friends and I stick around to live-tweet The Crazy Ones, a series that has rapidly become one of my must-watch network comedies. With the crop of comedies this season at a seeming all-time high, I sifted through some bad (Mom, Welcome to the Family) pilots and middle-of-the-road series (The Michael J. Fox Show) in order to watch the one pilot that I was truly anticipating. And The Crazy Ones does not disappoint. It’s a series that fires on all cylinders nearly every single week. And though it took a few episodes to truly find its footing, the recent ones have been the strongest yet. I consistently find myself laughing at the amazing one-liners, quirky and crazy scenes, and occasional pratfalls that I generally cannot tweet jokes fast enough.

In the spirit of making lists, I decided to compile ten reasons why you should be watching this endearing, hilarious sitcom if you’re not already. Ready? Set? Let’s count them down starting… now!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Girl 3x15 "Exes" (Let's Be Friends, 'Kay?)

Original Airdate: February 4, 2014

My best friend is still friends with her exes. Well, some of them at least and to varying degrees. One of her ex-boyfriends invited her to his wedding. They’re friends, though not the intensely chummy friends that Jessica Day and Berkley are in this week’s (second!) episode of New Girl. I want to believe that exes can be friends and I want to believe that men and women can just be friends. I want to be Sally, not Harry. But… can an ex ever return to being a “just” after you’ve had a relationship? Think about it: for most people, friendships turn into relationships. You’re “just friends” for a while and then somewhere along the line, BAM. You form a romantic relationship. But when that relationship ends, can you return to being a “just” with them anymore? That’s the fundamental question at the heart of the appropriately titled episode “Exes.” In it, Nick runs into his ex-girlfriend Caroline at the farmers market and it’s relatively awkward for him since they didn’t leave their relationship on the best of terms. Meanwhile, Jess boasts that she’s still great friends with her ex-boyfriend Berkley and that it is possible to remain platonically connected to someone you were once romantically involved with. And, for the record, Jess learns that she is wrong by the end of the episode. So very wrong.

New Girl has always been focused on relationships – friendships, romantic relationships, familial ones – so it makes sense that the series would take one episode to focus on what happens when you have or try to have a relationship with someone after your romance has ended. What’s great about the episode’s resolution is that both Nick and Jess get the chance to admit not that they were wrong, but that each person was RIGHT. Jess was right about Nick needing closure with Caroline; Nick was right about Berkley wanting more than friendship with Jess. One of New Girl’s fundamental pillars is the idea that Nick and Jess see the world very differently. Jess always gives people the benefit of the doubt. She’s proud, though, whenever she discovers she is wrong. Nick, meanwhile, is the curmudgeonly, turtle-faced bartender who sees the worst in everyone (“yeah, because people are the worst!”).  “Exes” was less focused on helping us understand more about who Nick and Jess are than it was on allowing us to understand WHY Nick and Jess’ exes act the way that they do. It was a nice change of pace, really, because we’ve had a lot of epsiodes throughout the series that have highlighted Jess’ naivete and Nick’s pessimism. “Exes” didn’t need to rehash those topics. Instead, the story was driven by the exes – by understanding what Nick and Jess have done to other people in their lives, as opposed to understanding the way in which these two characters see the world. Spoiler alert: it’s really enlightening to see the return of Caroline and the apperance of Berkley.

Elsewhere in our episode this week, Schmidt is beginning to realize exactly how lonely he is without new roommates and attempts to bond with Winston and Coach. Things go awry, however, when all three of them bring women back to the apartment for the evening. And though I wasn’t quite sure how this story propelled any sort of character development – except to perhaps illuminate how much Schmidt actually needs other people – it was fun for these three to be in wacky, farce-shenanigans together. And what I’m really appreciating about the back half of the third season is the either conscious or unconscious decision on the part of the writers to only try and work with A and B stories. A lot of comedies try to throw C and D plots and, for a while, the team tried to throw Winston into his own C-plot. But now, I’m appreciative of the focus on only two stories as it allows us to not only interact with all of the characters in a larger setting, but also improves them as characters, comedically.

But before we talk about the heartwarming (and, arguably, pretty canon) revelation at the end of the episode on Nick’s part or how Schmidt talks to his grapes, let’s recap the plot!

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Girl 3x14 "Prince" (Those Three Little Words)

Original Airdate: February 2, 2014

The first time that Chandler ever told Monica he loved her in Friends, he didn’t actually tell her directly. He yelled it at Phoebe, who was trying to seduce Chandler in order to make him admit that he and Monica were sneaking around. The first time that Ben and Leslie of Parks and Recreation said “I love you,” it wasn’t spoken at all. The court stenographer read their professions to one another, and then they kissed outside in the snow (and it was perfect). And the first time that Mr. Sheffield told Fran Fine that he loved her, they were in a plane that looked like it was about to crash. He then took the sentiment back after they managed to land safely and that plot point became a revolving joke throughout the remainder of the series of The Nanny. Sitcom professions of love have always been sweet and sentimental, but the focus has not – in my experience – been about a long, drawn-out, romantic admission. A comedy is focused on, obviously, comedy. The “I love you” moments between two characters are often in the midst of hijinks or wacky, weird scenarios. They don’t often mirror The Notebook, and I don’t think they should.

It makes sense, then, that the Nick accidentally blurts out his “I love you” to Jess three minutes into “Prince” and Jess reciprocates at the episode’s end by yelling it at the pop star’s party. While I’ve seen some fans dismayed that their profession wasn’t private or long or riddled with clichés that would otherwise make the episode reminiscent of a cheesy romantic comedy from the 90s, I personally think that the profession was perfect. It was utterly and entirely in-character and the progression from Jess being afraid to utter the words to her yelling them out in front of everyone at  a party is quite telling. I feel like… I feel like fanfic is a double-edged sword in how television viewers perceive romance in a sitcom. Now, I love fanfic. I love people who write it, because I am also one of those people. But when it comes to overly romanticizing characters and pairings, fanfic is king and reigns supreme. So much so that I believe those who have read fic where Nick and Jess profess their love were most disappointed in the episode because it was not as “romantic” as those stories were. It’s a fine line that members of fandom walk, really, when they become invested in a series beyond what a “normal” viewer would.

When you become immersed in fandom, you begin to develop your own canon for certain characters. Take, for instance, Jeff and Annie in Community. Regardless of what the television series’ actual canon will tell us, shippers of Jeff/Annie hold fast to certain elements that they’ve brilliantly and intricately constructed within their web of fandom. They have built certain truths within their mind and framed the characters of the series around these truths. In doing so, they (and I’ll lump myself in here and say “we”) have managed to construct parallel versions of the canon characters – a fic!Jeff and fic!Annie if you will. These fandom-created fictional versions of fictional characters behave and act slightly differently than the canon fictional characters do. And that’s not inherently BAD – sometimes I do believe that fandom understands characters better than creators and writers of the series do – but it CAN be dangerous, only when you become so immersed in your fic!canon that you lose sight of actual canon.

Now, I’m not accusing New Girl fans of disregarding canon altogether. The shippers of Nick and Jess understand those two characters intensely well. I’ve seen beautiful meta critiques and analysis of them on the show. But the disconnect between canon and fandom occurs whenever the immersion in fic!canon becomes so extreme that actual canon leaves a viewer dissatisfied. So when Jess professed her love for Nick by yelling it in a public party and Tumblr users were disappointed that it wasn’t heartfelt and long and private and sentimental (like what they’ve read in fics or seen in romantic comedies), they were disappointed. They were a bit let down. And while I personally was not, I can see WHY these people would be. We all kind of hate cheesy romantic comedies, but we also kind of love them. Would I have enjoyed seeing Jess and Nick in the garden, with the woman – tears forming in her eyes – talking about how long she’s loved Nick for and all the moments she fell in love with him? Oh, absolutely. But the more that I think about it… the more I realize that this is fic!Jess, not canon!Jess. While that would have been tear-inducing and sweet and extremely cliché, it wouldn’t have been entirely true to a character who fumbles with her words and is a dork. The same thing goes for Nick Miller – I would have loved to have seen that profession he planned in his mind, but I think that the ultimate professions of love were so true to the characters (and exhibited AMAZING growth in them). I really love that the writers didn’t go the sappy and sentimental route with these two, because Nick and Jess HAVE had those moments leading up to “Prince” (think of episodes like “All In” and “The Captain” and “Birthday”) so that any added saccharine would have made the moment feel trite.

(But that’s just my humble opinion as a blogger.)

Before I delve too deep into character analysis, let’s recap the plot of “Prince,” shall we?