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!

Monday, June 30, 2014

'If I Stay': Tragedy, Love, Music, And The Most Difficult Of Choices

I enjoy reading recommended or acclaimed young adult novels. I’m twenty-five years old and actually closer to twenty-six and though my apartment’s bookshelf contains things like The Great Gatsby, a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and The Kite Runner, it also contains things like The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. I’m aboard the theory that J.K. Rowling changed a lot within culture and specifically reading culture when the Harry Potter franchise became a monumental success. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be reading the series – grandparents, parents, children, college and high school students, etc. That one series began to subtly change the landscape of young adult literature to the point where now, in 2014, the genre is beginning to garner more interest and respect from those both in and outside of high school. One of my most recent ventures into young adult literature came in the form of If I Stay, a novel by Gayle Forman. It had been on my must-read list for quite some time and my roommate and I performed a book swap – her copy for my copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – so that I could borrow and read it. The premise piqued my interest and I was not disappointed when I concluded the book.

Below the cut, I’ll be discussing what made this young adult novel transcend the genre and why I feel that Gayle Forman turned what could have been a clich├ęd mess into something beautiful and poignant. *Spoilers abound so don’t read if you haven’t yet read the book and plan on it (or read on if you really just love being spoiled for things)!*

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x07 "Sydney, Australia" (I Barely Knew You)

"Sydney, Australia"
Original Airdate: November 7, 2013

A quite popular saying that I’ve heard often uttered by the people in my life is this: “You never know this side of heaven what impact you’ll have on others.” The reason that this sentence is uttered is for encouragement – it’s a statement that reminds us that our little actions have consequences and often those consequences are good; we may never truly know, in this life, what a smile in the hallway or a text message or a random of act of kindness could do for someone’s life. We could be the literal difference between life and death for someone and there’s a good chance we’ll never really know that. The benefit of this sort of living is that it encourages us to make the most of every opportunity. But we’re human beings, too. We have bad days and ignore people around us. Occasionally we snap or appear standoffish and it’s unconscious. We don’t often recognize the fact that our words and actions have lasting consequences. In “Sydney, Australia,” Sydney Roberts learns this firsthand when she re-acquaints herself with a former co-worker (and her current adoring fan/stalker) Danny Chase, played by the hilarious and talented Josh Groban. Elsewhere in the episode, Simon, Zach, and Andrew attempt to make a pitch to Australia in order to encourage and promote tourism to their country. It doesn’t go very well, but that’s also primarily because Simon hates Australia more than Joey hates sharing food.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Suits 4x03 "Two in the Knees" (The Shot Heard 'Round the World)

"Two in the Knees"
Original Airdate: June 25, 2014

Do you remember when you were in elementary and middle school how your gym teacher used to divide the class into two teams? He or she would select two team captains and those students would usually select, one by one, the people they wanted on their respective teams for dodge ball or kickball or whatever team sport happened to be occurring that day. If you were lucky, you would get placed on a team with your friends. If you were unlucky, you’d be separated from and forced to compete with them. It’s amusing and a little frightening how competitive we get in grade school when it comes to sports in gym class. There was always this unspoken question hanging in the air: “How far will you go to win?” How far did YOU go? Did you taunt the other team when the game began? Did you point out weaknesses in your friends on the opposing team? Did you go so far as to sabotage them or their chances of winning? The question of the hour in this week’s episode of Suits is this: How far will you go to win? Will you protect someone you care about, even if they’re on an opposing team, or will you protect yourself? And, when all of the dust settles from the battle, will you be happy?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mindy Kaling! Today We Celebrate You... Through GIFs.

A while back, I celebrated Danny Pudi's 35th birthday with a blog post, so I thought that it was only fitting to celebrate Mindy Kaling's in the same manner (maybe this will become a trend). When I watched The Office, I was fascinated with the off-the-rails, occasionally annoying, self-absorbed character of Kelly Kapoor. She was crazy, plain and simple, and there was something so hilarious about that crazy. I thought that no one could possibly say or do the things that she did, and then I looked around at some of the people in my own life and thought: "Well, maybe that's not entirely implausible behavior." Mindy Kaling started her own series after The Office ended titled The Mindy Project. I admit to not enjoying the first few episodes, but I eventually (thanks to the lovely people on Tumblr) found my way back to the series and after marathoning, have been delighted with it ever since. After reading Mindy's book, I found her to be even more endearing and desperately wished that I could be her best friend. That's the thing about Mindy Kaling, y'all: she is the kind of person you want as your best friend. And not because you want to take Instagram photos together or live-tweet The Real Housewives or something like that (though that would be a lot of fun), but because she's the kind of person who seems intelligent enough to hold a deep conversation with you about feminism or body image, but who is also fun enough to drive with you in the middle of the night to get ice cream. When I say that I adore Mindy Kaling, it's not because she actively talks about societal standards of beauty or how intelligent she is as a comedian. I don't even adore her because she's a successful sitcom show runner, a female playing in the pool primarily occupied by males. No, when I say that I adore Mindy Kaling it's because she's always herself and never apologizes for it. That's courageous, in a life where people try to hide who they truly are in order to please others. Mindy is unapologetic and that's not only admirable; it's also beautiful. She's an exceptionally talented writer with the ability to tap into the romance and comedy on both the broad and intimate spectrum, and also a delightful performer. And for all of those reasons and many more, we celebrate Mindy Kaling for the person she is, all that she's accomplished, and all she will accomplish in the coming year.

And now, some fun: click below the cut for a collection of some of my favorite Mindy Kaling/Mindy Lahiri/Kelly Kapoor GIFs (that I'm borrowing because I did not make them; I'm not talented in that area). And hit up the comments with some of your own favorite Mindy moments, too!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The A-ppeal of 'Pretty Little Liars'

I’m always fascinated with the success of certain television series. For instance, why did Glee blow up and become the phenomenon that it did? Why was Community – an arguably great show in its youth – a series that was consistently low-rated and overlooked? I’d like to believe that there is some sort of formula or science that is directly related to the success or failure of a television series. But the truth is that there is not. A well-written and hilarious show (like Enlisted) can end up on the chopping block, yet the same reality series can be on for twenty years or more. So what, dear readers, is the appeal of Pretty Little Liars? It’s an ABC Family drama and one that is intensely captivating, even if you’re not a teenager. What makes this show such a phenomenon and why do flocks of people from all across the world gravitate toward Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily? As someone who has recently completed her marathon of the entire series, under the direct orders of my 19-year old sister, I decided to try to pinpoint exactly what it is about this show that makes it such a hit.

So if you’re ready, let’s journey to the fictional town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania and see what, exactly, makes Pretty Little Liars appointment-viewing television.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x06 "Hugging the Now" (Why You Can't Live In A Snow Globe)

"Hugging the Now"
Original Airdate: October 31, 2013

Sometimes, I envelop myself in nostalgia. Recently, I was talking to my roommate about this. We both attended the same college in West Palm Beach for two years and were reminiscing over what it was like to trot across campus to classes or venture to the beach on weekends, eating brunch in the cafeteria and having adventures without much care. It’s always enjoyable to look on the past with fondness, isn’t it? There’s a part of you that yearns to retrieve those days again and to bottle them up, keep them safe. Sometimes we look on the past with fondness and sometimes we look on it with envy: we long for the times we were younger or thinner or in a relationship or carefree. But the problem is that we can never return to those days and I think that we often look at them not as they were, but as we want to remember them. I was stressed in college. I went through a bad break-up. I fought with friends. But when I delve into the pool of nostalgia, those things are fuzzy. I only remember the good. The problem, of course, with living in the past or longing for the past is that you cannot live in the NOW.

That’s where “Hugging the Now” comes in. In the episode, we see Simon and Sydney yearn for the past: Simon is aging and wishes he could regain his youth, fearful that he will not be remembered or taken seriously or viewed as a success in years to come. Sydney, meanwhile, desires to live in the past when her high-school crush appears in her life. She realizes (I think slightly) that she has a tendency to romanticize things, and the past is one of those things. Lauren, Zach, and Andrew are essentially background characters this week but when they’re in the background, they’re the actual best background characters you could ask for.

'Community' Post-Mortem: Jenn & Jaime's Great Big Discussion

It’s not a surprise, really, that I found Community’s fifth and final season to be lacking. This little-show-that-could will always (I repeat: ALWAYS) be near and dear to my heart but as someone who has learned to watch television critically over the last few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing a good comedy is difficult but sustaining one is even more difficult. I have a massive amount of respect for all of the time, effort, sweat, and tears that went into the creation of this cult hit’s fifth and final season, but that doesn’t negate the problems I had with it. I am not alone in my critical analysis of the series, as my best friend/co-conspirator/brilliantly articulate blogger Jaime of Stories in the End agrees. So, we’ve decided to combine our powers and present our Community season five post-mortem. We’ll critically analyze some of the flaws that were uncovered in this season (that, quite truthfully, did not originate in this season but have been existent for years), but also discuss some of the things that this show did right.

You are always welcome to disagree with us, but know this: we’re not watching Community (or most shows) like a vast majority of people do. We are not writing this post from the perspective of fandom, but rather the perspective of critics. I’ve found that being a part of a fandom is extremely lovely. It’s a joyous, wonderful, unique experience like no other. But sometimes being a fan of a series creates blinders – we only see the good parts of the show, not the parts that need to be improved. I’ve been guilty of this for years. I see what I want to see in a show; I flail because of shipper moments and I fail to acknowledge anything deeper within the recesses of the show because of it. So this post isn’t focusing on attacking anyone or anything; Jaime and I would simply like to pinpoint the areas we feel the show overlooked and could have improved upon. 

So venture below the cut to read our analyses, if you dare!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Suits 4x02 "Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner" (The Value of You)

"Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner"
Original Airdate: June 18, 2014

I always feel like in life, you’re in a constant state of proving yourself to the people around you. In grade school, you try to prove that you’re the coolest or toughest kid on the playground. In middle and high school, you prove that you’re fearless by accepting dares. In college, you strive to prove yourself to professors and bosses and potential bosses. And when you enter the working world, the post-graduate life, you find yourself having to prove your worth to everyone: your parents, friends, employers, and really, society at large. If life is a constant series of proving your capabilities and worth to the people around you, then our Suits characters know this better than anyone. “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” focuses on two almost interchangeable notions: proving yourself and pride. Mike Ross has turned into a stubborn and prideful character apart from Harvey. Now, that’s not necessarily BAD and it’s not to say that Mike was selfless when he was at Pearson Specter. But he’s beginning to learn – and we are beginning to see – that pride goes before a fall and when you fall out in the real world, you often take other people down with you. Elsewhere in the episode, Louis is competing with Jeff Malone to prove himself to Jessica, while Rachel is trying to prove that she can handle not letting a case come between her and Mike. Mike, meanwhile, is also trying to prove that Rachel’s relationship with Logan doesn’t matter to him. And what happens, of course, is that everyone discovers a little bit about themselves that they wish they hadn’t in their attempts to prove themselves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Suits 4x01 "One-Two-Three-Go..." (It's Time For A Knife Fight)

Original Airdate: June 11, 2014

The hinge that Suits swings on is a rather complex one. This has always been a show that has revolved, simultaneously, around relationships, lies, drama, and – perhaps most importantly – the notion of loyalty. Harvey Specter and Mike Ross have always had that aspect of their relationship tested. But, like a good 90s sitcom, normally by the end of an episode, the two have resolved their tension and made amends. The reason they’ve managed to resolve their differences in the past is because they’ve been fighting on the same side of the line. But the surprising and (quite frankly refreshing) shake-up that this series presented us with during the season three finale was that of extracting Mike from beneath Harvey’s wing at Pearson Specter and tossing him into the world of finance. The hidden game of cat-and-mouse grew too much for Mike: he knew that someone was bound to discover the fact that he never attended Harvard and was therefore not a real, licensed lawyer sooner or later. He had a future with Rachel to think about and that changed the game for him. So instead of risking being uncovered, he found a way to get out of the game altogether. It was a smart and strategic move but also one that now affords endless possibilities for Mike and Harvey to grow and clash, as the episode begins with Mike as a client and ends with him firing his former firm. Ouch.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Road to the Emmys 2014 (Or Jenn's Slightly Narrowed Ballot)

it's back to that time of year again, folks! back to when i write up my narrowed ballot for the emmys just like i have done the past two years! as i've said both years, here is how i usually determine what i select:

now, the way that i determined who i’d like to be nominated is as follows: if it is an episode that is nominated, i’ve seen the episode (not necessarily the entire series itself. i.e. without having seen the entire series, i think the finale of house deserves an award.) if, however, when you get to the lead actor, actress, etc. categories, i have only nominated shows which i have watched more than one episode, and mostly consistently throughout this season (i’ve seen some episodes of season 2 of modern family, for instance, but not this season, therefore none of the cast is mentioned, etc.)

this year, i am throwing a little twist into the ring and i'm going to try to predict who will be nominated (mainly to see how accurate i am at guessing what programs will be rewarded.). so, shows like breaking bad and the americans and homeland are listed on here, even though i've never seen them. based on the past two years (or more) and trends within the emmys, this year i'm going to try to accurately predict nominations in these categories. that being said, is here's the code:

if there is an asterisk (*), it is something that i want to be nominated.
if there is a (~), it is something i feel WILL be nominated, whether or not i believe it deserves to be.
if there is nothing by the item, it's something i feel deserves mentioning but not nomination.

okay, ready? set... go, emmys, go!


Monday, June 9, 2014

A Definitive Ranking of the Glee Mash-Ups

I remember when Glee first began because I remember watching the pilot after it aired on FOX. My immediate thoughts were this: “This show will either be a colossal hit or a huge flop, cancelled after thirteen episodes.” I suppose that it’s evident, what happened to Glee, but know this: even when the writing failed (and boy did it take a nose dive right after the first season’s end), the music was always the unofficial star of this series. The music was what captivated us in the first place. We all hummed “Don’t Stop Believing” for weeks after the pilot aired and we became enamored with the covers of classic pop, rock, country, and Broadway hits that the cast performed. I don’t like Glee now, mainly because I don’t respect the writing at all or accept how they blatantly assassinated perfectly lovely characters, but I do still enjoy its music. And quite frankly, one of the greatest assets this show still has in its chamber is its mash-ups.

So I decided to make a definitive ranking of all of the Glee mash-ups on the series to date (hopefully I got them all but feel free to let me know if I missed one or two). Will you agree? Will you vehemently protest some of my decisions? Click below the cut to find out what I’ve ranked from worst to best!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Crazy Ones 1x04 "Breakfast Burrito Club" (And The Process of Getting Un-Blocked)

"Breakfast Burrito Club"
Original Airdate: October 17, 2013

In September of 2012, I was suffering from one of the worst things that a writer could possibly suffer from: writer’s block. Usually my dealings with this particular demon have been rather short but I found myself struggling the entire month of September to sit down and write something – anything – that didn’t sound contrived or trite. It’s one of the strangest feelings in the world, writer’s block, because you desperately WANT to write but you find yourself unable to actually formulate thoughts or words when you sit down behind your computer screen. I was stuck in this quicksand-like trap of block and all I kept remembering was the advice that my college professor had given me years ago. When I had explained to him that my story had been going well until I hit a wall when I was writing, he looked at me with a slight smile and said: “There are no walls in writing – only secret passageways.” That quote has always stuck with me and it’s something that I latch onto whenever I encounter writer’s block (which happens infrequently, but is intense when it does strike). Speaking of being blocked, that’s actually the plot of this week’s Crazy Ones re-watch episode “Breakfast Burrito Club.” Simon Roberts may be a genius in many regards, but even the best and the brightest of all of the geniuses get blocked from time to time. This episode finds Simon stalling the creation of a pitch for a breakfast burrito because he’s blocked (and also because he prefers to un-block himself by “living,” which really means “distracting”). And who are we to judge Simon’s process, really? Everyone encounters a block at some point in time and everyone has a sort of process in order to maneuver themselves out of the grip of the block.

Sydney, however, is not a fan of her father’s un-blocking ways. She believes him to be dancing around the problem, trying to distract himself, Zach, Andrew, and Lauren rather than facing the real problem. She brings this notion back up later when she discusses with Andrew how she is from a family of addicts – they shove things down and banish them away rather than face them in the open. Sydney is so type-A in personality that she believes there is one solution to every problem. And while she tries to get everyone on the team to buckle down, her father forces them to loosen up, which causes a bit of a father-daughter conflict throughout the episode that’s resolved in a rather delightful way. Elsewhere in the episode, we learn more about Zach and Lauren’s respective love lives and something pretty shocking happens between Andrew and Sydney. But before we discuss that, let’s recap the plot, shall we?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In Defense of Katy Perry

I love a lot of pop stars because I love a lot of pop music. I listen to top 40 radio almost exclusively, so I’ve come to adore celebrity singer-songwriters like Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, and Mumford & Sons. To me, these people are gifted and talented and admirable. But out of all of the pop stars I’ve ever become invested in, not one has fascinated me quite like Katy Perry. I can’t explain why, exactly, the pop star and record-setting young woman has always captured my attention, but she has. So much like my In Defense of Annie Edison (Community) post and much like my In Defense of Taylor Swift post, I thought I would write up a post discussing why I’m so fascinated with her, why she deserves some respect and admiration, and why watching Katy Perry The Movie: Part of Me was an eye-opener into the life of this particular pop star and also pop stars in general.