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!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary Special: "The Day of the Doctor" (#SavetheDay)

"The Day of the Doctor"
Original Airdate: November 23, 2013

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep – slowly and then all at once.”

While John Green’s poignant and oft-quoted line has been utilized to describe the deepest and most profound love… it also pretty aptly sums up how it feels to be in a fandom, doesn’t it? You never anticipate falling headfirst into a television series, but somehow – for a vast majority of us, at least – we DO. It’s this wild and wacky ride down a rabbit hole.

I started Doctor Who by complete happenstance when I was perusing television series on Netflix one evening. And the rest, as they say, is history. Recently, Doctor Who celebrated its 50th birthday, which is quite a feat, making it the longest-running science fiction series on television. It is with good reason that this series is so beloved: though the face of The Doctor has changed over the years, though there have been numerous monsters and companions and writers and showrunners, one thing has remain unchanged: this is a story about a mad man with a box who is desperately trying to save the world, but who also – more often than not – needs to be saved by the humanity he is attempting to protect. The Doctor may be the heart(s) of this series, but the companions are the soul and backbone.

“The Day of the Doctor” is the 50th birthday episode of Doctor Who, and it perfectly encapsulates everything that the series does: humor, heart, a touch of horror and – most importantly – humanity. It was quite effortful to attempt to review the nearly 90 minute episode, but I have decided to break my review down into categories, pinpointing the particular elements of the episode that wove so brilliantly into the fabric of the overarching story.

So, if you’re ready, grab your sonic screwdriver and let’s dive into “The Day of the Doctor”!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

New Girl 3x10 "Thanksgiving III" (Prove It)

"Thanksgiving III"
Original Airdate: November 26, 2013

We’ve all done some pretty absurd things in the name of “proving ourselves” to our friends and families, haven’t we? From the playground to the high school halls and beyond, there’s something within each of us that seeks approval from someone – anyone – and acceptance. I’m not a guy (shocker), but I can only imagine that there is pressure in society and within social circles to be “manly.” Men, by the world’s standards, are expected to be able to accomplish certain tasks, earn a particular amount of money, and be fearless. Guys joke with one another that certain activities are indicative of “man cards” being taken away. Men and women both seem to encounter these pressures and struggles from members of their same gender, and this week’s episode of New Girl finds Nick Miller attempting to prove his manliness to Coach and the rest of the loft crew by means of camping in the woods for Thanksgiving.

Nick Miller is a complex human being.

No, he really is though: he wants to mature and evolve, but doesn’t quite know how. He cares a lot about Jess (one might even argue that he loves her), but he acts like a child. He wants to grow up, but he also wants to continue his old single lifestyle of drinking and being carefree. Nick is wonderful and so deeply human and flawed that it makes it all the more endearing when he attempts to prove something to his friends, to his girlfriend, and – ultimately – to himself. He’s on a constant journey of learning to evolve, but also knowing what he is. Nick knows that he’ll never be as outdoorsy as Coach. He’ll never be as wealthy or secure as Russell. He’ll never be as optimistic Paul. But there are weeks where Nick genuinely TRIES to be these people because those are the kind of people that he thinks Jess and the world admire. And every week that Nick tries to do this – to be someone that he is just NOT – we see how it always ends in disaster. Because it is one thing entirely for Nick to want to have a checking account or be a hunter. He might be able to succeed if he was attempting those feats to “better” himself.

But Nick doesn’t do things because he’s trying to become a better version of himself. Not really. He does them because he’s AFRAID. He’s afraid of losing Jess. He’s afraid of losing credibility or reputation with his friends. And the root of his fear ultimately is pride. And pride is never a wise place to act from. This all may sound, of course, like I believe everything Nick has attempted to do this season has been out of a selfish or prideful place, either in regards to Jess or his friends. That’s not the case, obviously. I believe that Nick is, deep down, a guy who has everyone’s best interests in mind. He is, after all, the dysfunctional glue that holds this dysfunctional group together. Nick acts heroically and selflessly in “Thanksgiving III” when he realizes that Jess is in danger toward the end of the episode. He cares for and loves her like any good boyfriend would do. But that’s AFTER he realized that the reason they had been in that mess in the first place was because of his ego. So while I believe that Nick is not an inherently selfish person (like, say, Schmidt), I DO believe that Nick is an inherently insecure person. And insecurity and pride are two vices that are quite inseparable from one another.

Nick may not always make the correct initial decision, but he always remedies the situation. He apologizes profusely in the episode for ruining Thanksgiving. But he doesn’t just stop at apologies – he actually makes it up to Jess, because that is who he is. He’s the guy who hurts Jess’ feelings but shows up at her school or makes breakfast for her on the roof. But before we launch into any further discussion regarding Nick Miller’s characterization, let’s talk about “Thanksgiving III” as a whole!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 10 TV Characters I'm Thankful For in 2013

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means a time to bust out your sweatpants, carve a turkey, and eat so much pie that you begin to turn into one. It’s also a time to reflect on the things that we have in life that we are thankful for: things like family, health, freedom, happiness, and good friends. I’m thankful for a lot this year, to be quite honest. It’s been a pretty weird year in terms of my job and environment, but I have had more amazing things happen than bad this year. And I’m blessed with family and friends and my health so really, I have no right to complain!

There’s something else that I’m thankful for around this blog: awesome television characters to write about! As a self-proclaimed blogger and fandom nerd, there have been a lot of introductions this television season to new characters, re-appearances of old favorites, and “where did this person even COME from?” moments. So I thought that I would take the opportunity to write about the characters on television that I am most thankful for this year and why.

If you’re ready, grab that slice of pumpkin pie and settle in to read all about some of the great characters on television this year!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Girl 3x09 "Longest Night Ever" (Say Hello to Moving On)

"Longest Night Ever"
Original Airdate: November 19, 2013

I’ve noticed something about relationships.

Actually, I’ve noticed a lot more things being out of a relationship than I have being in one. The first – and perhaps most key – thing that I have learned in my journey of single life is this: people may not always ask you directly, following a break-up, when you are ready to move on. But they will THINK it. They will subtly hint at it. And then, if all else fails, they will forcefully attempt to get you to “move on” from the ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. People like this are well-meaning. They really and truly are. They care about you and want the best for you. And they believe, in their hearts and souls, that they know how to help you get over your failed relationship. Perhaps they take you out to a bar. Maybe they’ll buy ice cream and watch chick flicks with you in your pajamas. Maybe they’ll write you an encouraging text message or help you work out your feelings at the gym.

Or maybe they’ll hit you with their car.

Wait… okay, perhaps that last one is just relevant to this week’s New Girl episode titled “Longest Night Ever.” In it, we find a few things uncommon to this sitcom: 1) an episode that features pairings that usually receive less focus (i.e. Schmidt/Jess, Nick/Winston, Coach/Cece), and 2) an episode that strings a singular, important theme throughout all three stories. The focus of “Longest Night Ever” is in regards to moving on. In it, we see Schmidt attempting to move on from his failed relationship with Cece, Nick trying to aid Winston in moving on from his failed relationship with Daisy and channeling his efforts from his cat onto a human woman, and finally we see Coach and Cece both attempting to move on from their failed relationships as well.

Each person who is attempting to move on clings to something different in the episode and each learns a truth about themselves and their relationships. Schmidt learns, at the end of the episode, that he isn’t fine. He spends the entire night attempting to convince himself that he is, but learns that being truthful to himself is one of the first and most integral steps in the healing process. Coach learns to regain confidence in who he is as a person. His identity had been tied into his ex-girlfriend for so long that he forgot how to be himself without being an “us.” And Winston? Well, Winston learns the values of trusting in himself, rather than his security blanket (Ferguson). Both he and Coach have been hurt in their previous relationships, so this episode heavily focused on both characters regaining their confidence and learning to “put themselves out there” again, as it were.

But “Longest Night Ever” wasn’t just an important episode in developing characters with failed relationships – it was an episode that also highlighted the importance of Jess and Nick’s presence in the lives of these wacky roommates. It also, interestingly enough, provided a (whether intentional or not) great contrast between the failed relationships of these friends and roommates and the successful and solid relationship between Nick and Jess. The two weren’t heavily featured as a couple throughout the episode (there were some cute moments in the beginning), but I quite enjoyed that. Their presence as individual characters is so important to New Girl and I know that Liz never wants to sacrifice their individuality for the sake of their romance. Jess and Nick play important roles in their friends’ lives and this episode exemplified the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to see their friends happy, successful, and growing as adults.

I think that last part is key: Jess and Nick want Coach, Cece, Schmidt, and Winston to grow and evolve as individuals. Now, I’m not claiming that Jess and Nick are mature, completely evolved human beings. Nick wishes he had a dog cage to keep Schmidt in. Jess hits Schmidt with her car. These two have clearly come a long way since the pilot of New Girl, but neither – I would argue – have finished growing. But what’s really wonderful about this episode is that Nick and Jess who are two flawed, beautiful tropical fish, are helping their friends because they genuinely care about them succeeding and being happy. “Longest Night Ever” also hinges on an element that I’ve come to quite enjoy this season: Nick’s leadership. It is the curmudgeonly bartender who instructs his roommates on how to behave. And Nick has truly stepped up this year not – as so many people tend to whine and gripe about – because he’s in a relationship with Jess. Nick and Jess’ relationship is not purposed to ensure that Nick becomes a “better” person or character. The fact is that Nick has always been the leader of the loft. He’s the one who holds the rest of them together (“First Date” confirms this with the Winston/Schmidt story; Nick is the glue of his family in “Chicago,” etc.), and whether or not he always makes the wise decision is irrelevant in light of the fact that he actually impacts the lives of others. And Nick is just beginning to realize this season that he can wield that power proactively or lazily. Up until this point, he’s done the latter. But after Schmidt and Cece’s horrid breakup, Winston’s personal crises, and the reintroduction of Coach into the loft, Nick – I believe – knows that he and Jess are the glue that is holding the ragtag group of individuals in some sort of offbeat balance. So that is what they intend to do in “Longest Night Ever.”

(You know what? Major props are awarded to Ryan Koh, the writer of the episode, who did a splendid job balancing all three stories without making the episode feel rushed or incomplete. I actually was uncertain as to what the B/C stories were since they were both given ample screen time. So congratulations on a job well done, sir!)

Happy Birthday, Joel McHale! (From A Bunch of Internet Strangers Who Think You're Pretty Okay)

There are, at the moment, approximately 200 million users on Twitter.

I follow about 700 of them.

That’s a pretty small fraction, really, and even smaller when you consider the fact that I scroll past a great chunk of those users every day on my timeline without a second glance. I’ve been fortunate, however, to make some pretty amazing friends thank to this social networking site, and it’s given me opportunities (to blog, to connect, etc.) that I would have never dreamt were possible.

And then, there are celebrities. Because of Twitter, you and I are 140 characters away from our favorite actors, writers, producers, athletes, and directors. There are a lot of celebrities that are on Twitter, but my absolute favorite of them all is Joel McHale. And since today is his 42nd birthday, I thought it only appropriate that I celebrate him with a little blog post.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Girl 3x08 "Menus" (The Doers vs. The Dumpling-ers)

Original Airdate: November 12, 2013

I’m in this weird stage in my life right now.

I opened my review last week explaining that I’m rapidly approaching my 25th birthday and – much like that one John Mayer song – it appears that the vast majority of my friends and I are encountering “quarter life crises.” Let me preface this with the following: I have a great life. I am, quite truthfully, blessed to have a job (though not in my desired field), health, a roof over my head, and awesome friends and family.

My friends and I all seem to be in this weird stage of life, though. We’re at the point where we are no longer defined by what colleges we attend or what degrees we hold. And what’s funny is that in spite of the fact that my friends and I are all vastly different, we can all agree on one thing: we wish we would have been told what it would be like to graduate from college and enter your twenties. No one prepares you, really, for this strange stage of life. We’re adults, but we don’t feel like them yet. We want to make a difference in the world. We want to do something – ANYTHING – to make our lives count. We yearn to travel or go to graduate school or get married and start families because that’s what being in your twenties feels like. It’s a strange mix of all of these emotions that have been buried deep inside of you but have been hiding behind textbooks and thesis papers and part-time jobs.

We feel useless when we spend eight hours a day seated behind a desk, staring at a computer monitor. “If only,” we muse, “I could do something worthwhile. If only I could have an adventure in Paris or spend a week tutoring children in Africa. Then my life would mean something.” But our full-time jobs call, our student loans haunt us, and the expectations of what society says a twenty-something should be filter into our thoughts.

The characters in this week’s New Girl episode find themselves at similar, albeit not identical, crossroads. Jess spends the entire episode frustrated – she wants to make a difference in the lives of her students and wants to be respected by her principal, but she’s getting absolutely nowhere. So she takes all of the pent-up emotions and frustrations that she feels and transfers them into a side-project. Because if she can accomplish ONE task (getting a new Chinese restaurant to stop delivering so many menus to her apartment), then perhaps she can feel like she’s accomplished something REAL, like she is actually making a difference in the world around her. Similarly, Nick and Coach – with Winston in tow – set out to accomplish tasks this week. Namely, their goal is to get Nick into shape. And while Nick agrees to work out with Coach, it is COACH who has more at stake in their training.

Elsewhere, Schmidt refuses to acknowledge the fact that he misses Apartment 4D and his former roommates until the revelation smacks him in the face later on. But more on that later! Instead, let’s take some time to break down the episode in terms of character development, because it was a great one.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New Girl 3x07 "Coach" (Never Grow Up)

Original Airdate: November 5, 2013

In a few months, I will turn 25 years old. I guess this is a pretty big deal in the eyes of our society because it means important things – like being able to rent a car – will be within my reach. I know a lot of people in their mid-twenties. They’re my comrades and cohorts. They’re people I went to high school with and those who I’ve seen grow up over the years. I know a lot of people in their mid-twenties and some of them, quite frankly, act as though they’re in their late teens or early twenties on their best days. I watch these people post about their drunken debacles on Facebook and see their passive-aggressive status updates and hear stories about something they did that was immature.

But as I’ve grown up and as I approach my mid-twenties, I’ve also seen something else noteworthy: a lot of these people are finally growing up. Those girls in high school who were in the popular clique? Some of them are married. Some of them have children. My theatre friends have moved to New York and Los Angeles. A vast majority of my closest friends have moved to other states to pursue graduate degrees and I’ve come to the staggering realization that the people I knew in high school – those silly, giggly, crazy people – aren’t necessarily the same people I see today. It’s difficult, sometimes, to reconcile the memory that you had of someone’s youth with the reality of who they’ve grown up to be.

The truth is that some people will never really grow up or out of their wild phases, but most of us WILL. But what happens when we reconnect with the people who refuse to acknowledge their real-world problems and use the escapist tactic of reverting to wild and crazy behavior? Well, for the answer to that question, I’ll direct you to the latest New Girl episode titled “Coach.”