Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer Lovin’ -- Week 22

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In Florida, you know it's summer when, at a predictable time of 3:30 in the afternoon, it storms every single day. You can usually set your watch by it, scan the sky around 3 p.m. and watch dark clouds rolling in. Summertime means that most of our favorite shows are off the air for a few months, and that leaves room in our schedules to binge-watch Netflix and take vacations.

It also marks the return of one of my favorite things around here: our Summer Lovin' Series! Each week during the summer, we'll talk to you about what we are lovin' that week -- it could be a movie, television series, podcast, summer hit single, or something else. To kick off our 2017 edition of the series, the following lovely staff writers are joining me:

Let's get started!


What Jenn's lovin': Young & Hungry

Why she's lovin' it: A while back, I was looking for a fluffy, lighthearted new show to binge-watch on Netflix in conjunction with the super dark 13 Reasons Why. And then I stumbled across Young & Hungry, a Freeform original series starring Emily Osment. I think our staff writer Maddie has said it best: this is basically what The Nanny would look like in the 2010s. It's silly, with Gabi (Osment) playing the personal chef to on-again, off-again boss/love interest Josh (Jonathan Sadowski). She often gets into the kind of shenanigans that Fran Fine found herself in.

With the fifth season currently airing, I caught up on the episodes I had missed this weekend and absolutely loved the fun, campy little show all over again. "Young & Amnesia" is a particularly great episode, showcasing Osment's physical and facial comedy. If you're looking for something that is a fun binge-watch this summer (or are looking for a new OTP to get invested in), I'd highly recommend Young & Hungry. Because with so many intense shows on television these days, sometimes it's great to be able to kick back with something that is fun, filled with talented people, and just makes you laugh.

What Isabella’s lovin’: Superstore

Why she’s lovin’ it: I watched the premiere and the first few episodes of season one when they aired, but eventually lost touch with Superstore as my life got a little busier. I decided to catch up after the episodes began backlogging my DVR, and wow, how I regret not keeping up with it sooner. But that’s what tends to happen with me with the shows I like best (i.e. Community). I don’t connect with them at first, but I end up falling in love with them a little later on.

Superstore is about the crazy hijinks that ensue in a megastore like Walmart. It’s packed with quirky characters played by an incredible ensemble cast including America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, and Colton Dunn, to name a few. The main group of characters are comprised of people of color, queer, and disabled characters, and yet their story arcs are serious and not taken lightly or used as the butt of jokes. The relationships between these characters are pure and constantly evolving. Any two characters could be paired up for an episode, and come out learning more about themselves while appreciating the other person. I’m particularly looking forward to how the complicated relationships between Amy/Jonah and Dina/Garrett will be written in season three. Superstore is not only witty and hilarious, but also takes on important topics like gun control and immigration.

And despite all of this, it’s an underappreciated gem.

It’s a show that’s filled the void in my heart that shows like Community and The Mindy Project left behind. It makes me feel safe and comfortable, knowing that every episode’s going to be a great one. It’s the kind of show that’ll help you unwind, but at the same time make you think.

I highly recommend it for lovers of The Office, Parks and Rec, Community, Brooklyn 99, and The Mindy Project — seeing as how some of the writers for these shows are now writing for Superstore!


What Erin’s lovin’: The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Why she’s lovin’ it: When I was in 5th grade, Mary Tyler Moore was on Nick at Nite weekly at 10 p.m. I wasn’t allowed to stay up that late, so I taped it and I would watch it as soon as I got home from school. I would sing along to the theme song and laugh out loud, just lost in the world of 1970s Minnesota from my home in 1990s California. Shortly after the 2016 election, I broke out my DVDs and started watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show again from the beginning. It brought me so much comfort, and a much needed escape from the horrors of the news and seemingly endless attacks on humanity. I had been watching the night before Mary Tyler Moore passed away, and even as I felt despair as yet another one of my idols was taken from this world, rewatching the show still brought me that comfort, and a joy I didn’t think was possible in times like these.

I’ve been watching on and off since November last year, and I am now in the middle of season five. Valerie Harper has left to do her own show, Rhoda, and Betty White is now a regular as the feisty Sue Ann Nivens. I can’t believe how well this show holds up. There are topics like equal pay, feminism, and news reporting that we are still talking about today. The format is the typical multi-camera sitcom with a studio audience that has been phased out of modern tv, but it doesn’t seem antiquated. Most of the jokes still work, and I am understanding it more now than when I was a kid.

One of the things I love most about the show, is that even though Mary is the star, the supporting cast gets the majority of the jokes. She is happy to step back and let others shine. But, then she can surprise you with a hilarious delivery or a funny face, too. It shows the humbleness and generosity of the character of Mary Richards, as well as Moore herself. The cast is just stellar; from Ed Asner’s gruff Lou Grant to Ted Knight’s dim-witted Ted Baxter to Cloris Leachman’s vain Phyllis Lindstrom. The guest stars that pop up, too, are exemplary — Henry Winkler, Penny Marshall, and Craig T. Nelson, to name a few.

Mary Tyler Moore was groundbreaking at the time with its female writers. The second episode was written by Treva Silverman, who stayed on through the fifth season, and won an Emmy for the season four episode, “The Lou and Edie Story.” Not only did women have a place in the writer’s room, but in the director’s chair, as well. Women directed a handful of episodes throughout the run of the series, including Mary Tyler Moore, who directed the last episode I watched during this rewatch, “A Boy’s Best Friend.” Marjorie Mullens started as a script supervisor on the show and went on to direct four episodes. (As a former script supervisor, this makes me extremely happy.) One of the most talked about and memorable episodes, “Chuckles Bites The Dust,” was directed by Joan Darling, for which she was nominated for an Emmy and a Director’s Guild Award.

Even as a kid, seeing female names in these roles in the credits had as much of an impact on me as the character of Mary Richards forging her way in a man’s world. Mary Tyler Moore has a lot to do with the “girl power” that runs through my veins, and rewatching it is nostalgic, but a reinforcement of those feelings I had as a young girl, too. It makes me want to run out into an intersection and throw my hat in the air. After a couple episodes I really do feel like I can turn the world on with my smile.

What Anne’s lovin’: The Keepers

Why she’s lovin’ it: I am not sure if it is a part of adulthood that I am increasingly drawn to documentaries. Probably not; it is their scandalous nature that makes them so fun for me. Nothing is more entertaining than the truth, am I right? But The Keepers would be wrongly classified if called scandalous. Although I guess the synopsis points that way: the documentary centers around a cold case of the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969 Baltimore. As the show goes on, however, it’s clear that this project is more ambitious, more tragic, than "scandalous" could ever allow. What presents itself at first as the story of a cold case evolves very quickly into a larger web of conspiracy.

One potential theory for Cathy Cesnik’s murder was that she knew too much information about a slew of sexual abuse performed by a priest at the high school where they both worked, and that he — and the Catholic church — took extensive steps to cover up both crimes. Many true crime documentaries would spend their remaining running time compiling evidence to adhere to a suggested whodunnit narrative. While The Keepers does present evidence and highlight suspects, most of its time is (better) spent interviewing those affected by these tragedies: victim or otherwise.

To hear the victims of sexual abuse give their side of a story, when they are so often silenced or ignored, is thrilling. It’s been decades since the events of the documentary transpired, but these interviews feel significant as the first time these people can feel safe to tell their truth. And at the same time, by allowing those who stood by the chance to speak for themselves, the outrage the viewer feels isn’t as a result of the director’s narrative... it’s the direct result of what these men and women say.

I love scandalous television. And I love to death true crime documentaries — no pun intended. But so often these documentaries are so much fun because of how narrow a focus they have. Somehow, we’re able to distance ourselves enough to turn murder into entertainment. The Keepers tempts you to do this (no doubt it’s successful from an entertainment standpoint) but its greatest success is the broad and emotional scope of the crimes it describes. I don’t know if it will ever become watercooler conversation the same way Serial and Making a Murderer were. But when I consider all that The Keepers accomplished, I don’t think this implies low quality; I think the exact opposite.

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What Alisa’s lovin’: Rizzoli & Isles

Why she’s lovin’ it: I first discovered Rizzoli & Isles, seasons one through six, on Hulu a few months ago and binged my way through them crazy fast. Season six left off with a huge cliff-hanger (of course!) and I’ve been anxiously waiting for season seven — the final season! — which arrived on Hulu this week. During my wait, I started reading the book series the show is based on by Tess Gerritsen. I love both the show and the book series so much.

Rizzoli & Isles follows two strong, smart women who also happen to be best friends. Jane Rizzoli is a tough, funny cop played by the wonderful and witty Angie Harmon, and Maura Isles is the chief medical examiner for Massachusetts, played by the hilarious and lovely Sasha Alexander.

From the first episode, the show created a steadfast dynamic between these two women. They’re both the best at what they do and they respect and support each other at every step. Unfortunately, it’s still rare in this day and age to find a show with two female main leads who aren’t competing over a man or something. That’s one of the reasons I love this show so much. In all of the episodes and over all of the seasons, not once have Jane and Maura ever fought over a man. Sure, there have been plenty of boyfriends and heartache, but they’ve supported and comforted each other through it all. The show solely focuses on how amazing these ladies are at their jobs and their friendship and it’s not just refreshing to see — it’s needed. I wish more television could be like this!

The show is also rounded out by a stellar cast of supporting characters who are all so lovely and adorable. Maura’s family is pretty complicated (she’s adopted but finds out mid-way through the series who her real parents are, and boy, it is shocking!), while Jane’s family is big, loving, and crazy. Jane’s mother and two brothers are recurring characters who keep her grounded.

I’m so glad I discovered Rizzoli & Isles and can’t wait to see how the series wraps up in season seven (I only have a few episodes left!). I’ll be so sad to see it end because I’ve grown to love all the characters so much, but on the bright side, there are 12 books in the series so far (the twelfth is coming out in August), so that should keep me busy for a while!


What Ashvini’s lovin’: The Gilmore Guys podcast

Why she’s lovin’ it: During my freshman year of college, the internet briefly lost its mind when all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls were put on to Netflix. Naturally curious by the swaths of Gilmore-related think pieces on Buzzfeed, I binge-watched the cult favorite and fell in love. However I found that it wasn’t the rapid-fire, His Girl Friday, farcical sweetheart that the media often make it out to be. To me, watching the show was like being wrapped up in my favorite blanket, sipping on peppermint tea, on a lazy Saturday. Pure comfort.

Fast-forward to a few days before my sophomore year of college started. Upon a podcast suggestion from my older brother, I was scanning through the charts of my app when I saw an intriguing title: Gilmore Guys. The cover art featured two twenty-something guys, looking at each in pure delight, holding ginormous coffee mugs (shoutout to Luke’s Diner). I was quite amused yet curious to see what the podcast exactly was. I just chose an episode, which had comedian/actor/Gilmore Girls enthusiast Jason Mantzoukas as a guest (fun fact: he had a brief cameo in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life). They were reviewing season three, episode seven, “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” which happens to be one of my favorites. The hosts, Demi Adejuyigbe and Kevin Porter, had me in tears laughing at their very pointed and fond analysis of the episode. And Jason Mantzoukas is absolutely hilarious so I instantly became a fan; his opinions on Logan Huntzberger in particular really sold it for me.

This is the premise of the podcast: veteran-Gilmore fan Kevin analyzes every episode of the show with Demi, who — before doing the podcast — had never watched an episode or explored the Gilmore zeitgeist. Every episode features notable guests, one of my favorites being actress Stacey Oristano, best known for Friday Night Lights and Bunheads, which is another Palladino creation. I have kept up with the podcast for two years now and it feels like I have gotten to grow with Demi and Kevin. Because of the podcast, my love for Gilmore just grew exponentially. I got to hear them interview so many of the wonderful, talented people behind the show from one of my writing heroes Jane Espenson to musician Helen Pai to Lauren Graham herself.

Sadly, the podcast reached its end last week. But I won’t forget the way it floored me. I loved it so much that I even went to one of their live shows in Portland. Being able to connect with other fans was incredible and having the opportunity to hear the impact the show has had on the TV world has been awe-inspiring. Really, I found the podcast to be an extension of what it’s like to be a fangirl at its most positive. And in a world where we are teased endlessly for our TV-related passions, what a lovely thing Gilmore Guys is.


What Chelsea’s lovin': Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Why she’s lovin' it: Season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt started off very strong with storylines following Kimmy’s divorce, Jacqueline being in love and having to provide for herself, and of course, Titus Lemonade-ing. Even though the last third of the season slowed down and didn’t go anywhere, I found myself loving so many of the moments with this cast.

This season saw our Titus developing from the delightful cartoon he is into an emotionally intelligent cartoon. Titus finally experienced some character growth after he gives up Mikey and learns to be a hair less selfish and more empathetic to those around him. Him taking in Laura Dern like a lost puppy and bonding with her was easily the highlight of the season. He became the heart of the show this year, and Tituss Burgess finally got to spread his wings.

While it feels like the writers are just making up weird, incohesive storylines for Jacqueline, Jane Krakowski manages to sell all these odd and ridiculous bits. Her crazy seduction with Titus and Duke (Josh Charles), trying to rename the Redskins, giving Lillian a makeover, all brilliant. Like Titus, she grew early in the season after she fell in love with Russ and it was great watching her trying to work within his weird family. Jane Krakowski is too good for the material and we simply do not deserve her, but I cherish every moment she’s on my screen.

While uneven at times, the show improved so much this year compared to its second season, and I love being in the kooky world. The little crossover with Orange is the New Black made my heart squee almost as much as Daveed Diggs’ Perry, and I will never say no to more Kimmy being Xanthippe’s best friend. If you want a fun summer binge, look no further than this show.

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What Megan's lovin': "2u" by David Guetta and Justin Bieber

Why she's lovin' it: Listen, I love a good summer tune. I really do. And I was already convinced that "I'm the One" and "Despacito", both featuring the Biebz, would be those tracks. Well, guess who lied, my friends?

I have been stuck in a bunch of traffic this weekend and have heard this song a handful of times and each time that it comes on, I'm no longer mad that I'm stuck. I just hang and jam out and have people look at me. It's great.

Instead of putting out his own songs, it seems that Bieber is going down the Nicki Minaj route and is instead doing a mess of features. Well, let me just say that it's totally working. This track, along with his others, have "summer jam" written all over them. They're exactly what you want out of summer songs. They're fun, have a great beat, the lyrics aren't super serious and you can listen and you feel the same way at each stage. I mean, what more can you ask for?

Viva la Bieber summer track features!

What are you lovin' this week? Sound off in the comments below!


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