Monday, March 2, 2015

Bye Bye Lil' Show That Could: A Farewell to Parks and Recreation

NBC, are you trying to kill me, or just drown me in a pool of my own tears? In just under a month, both Parenthood and Parks and Recreation have ended their respective six and seven year runs. What are we supposed to do now? Watch shows that aren't honest and beautiful depictions of human relationships? It's almost too sad to talk about.



Alright, alright. I should probably take a page out of the Parks book and focus on the positive. For a series frequently on the brink of cancellation, we were beyond lucky to have it on the air for nearly a decade. Plus, it got to go out on top, still bringing the laughs in its incredibly well crafted and inventive final season. Sure, the show had some stumbles along the way, but I think its high points (The Harvest Festival! Leslie's campaign! Ben's wedding proposal! Hang on while I go watch the whole series again real quick...) put it in the company of some of the greatest sitcoms in television history.

If Parenthood's defining theme was "family", Parks and Recreation's was most certainly "friendship". The series was a master class on the subject, giving all of us viewers something to aspire to. Because while the Parks crew didn't always agree on everything, they were people first and political ideologies second. The characters actually listened to and learned from each other, shared what they were passionate about, and collaborated to make other people's lives better (even those frustrating townies who always found something to complain about). Throughout its run, Parks was a model for how good we could really be; a stealth public service announcement for the benefits of civility and respect. And it did all of this while being supremely and utterly silly! It takes a special show to pull off a combination like that, and Parks and Rec did it masterfully.

**Warning: Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't watched last week's finale, "One Last Ride"**

In the final episode, Leslie, Ben, Ron, April, Andy, Tom, Donna, and Garry/Terry/Jerry/Larry meet up one more time in their old office before everyone scatters to follow their dreams*. Before they say their goodbyes, Leslie convinces everyone to go on one last mission: helping a Pawnee citizen by fixing a broken swing in his local park. As Leslie leads the team, we visit each member of the ensemble in the future, experiencing success, change, and the many surprises that life brings. We get to see Donna and Joe start the non-profit "Teach Yo' Self", a wedding for Craig and Typhoon, and a new baby for April and Andy. Tom becomes a successful writer on the subject of failure, Ron gets to start a new adventure as head of the Pawnee National Park, and Garry remains the city's most beloved mayor until his 100th birthday (yay, Garry!).

*Check out the extended producers cut on for a few more cast flash forwards including Jeremy Jamm, Shauna Malwae-Tweep, and Bobby Newport!

In another time-jump to 2025, after Ben and Leslie are both approached to run for Governor of Indiana, Ben gathers everyone (including Ann and Chris!) together again in Pawnee to help them decide who should run. Even though we know it's going to be Leslie's race to lose, this last reunion is a sweet one. We get the satisfaction of seeing these friends back together again in the future, certainly changed, but in many ways the same as they were all those years ago. In 2035, Leslie makes a commencement speech at IU, inspiring the graduates to "find your team, and get to work". And therein lies the thesis statement of Parks and Rec (well, it's either that or something about the superiority of breakfast foods, as I'm sure we can all agree). With a final flash back in time, we see Leslie, sad to leave Pawnee but ready and willing to take on her next, big adventure (cue the tears). I ask you, could this show end any other way?

I will admit I was hoping for more laugh-out-loud moments from the finale, and I was disappointed that we didn't get a full future story line for Ann and Chris (Why? They're two of the most important characters!), but overall, this ending left me feeling deeply satisfied. We got to spend seven years with these folks, and the fact that we got to see good things happen to them? That, to me, was the cherry on top of the Belgian waffle that was this show.

Some of my favorite things about the finale include:

- Donna finds the paperwork the team needs in "Thanks Form The Memories", Leslie's scrapbook dedicated to government forms.

- Some hidden gems: the presence of a Jean-Ralphio brand wine in the future, Mayor Garry's name spelled wrong almost everywhere it shows up, the StarLord-dressed trick-or-treater at Andy and April's house, and the fact that the concerned citizen (Jon Daly) was the drunk stuck in the slide in the pilot episode!

- Everyone has colorful hair in 2025, except Leslie who accidentally ate the special pills that you're supposed to use topically…because they were delicious.

- Could the security detail at Garry's funeral and the end of Leslie's commencement speech mean that she ends up becoming president? I sure hope so, but I love that it was just slightly hinted at so we could decide for ourselves.

- Also, Garry's wife never ages! And Ben is still confused and obsessed with this fact as always.

- Ron's smile as he canoes out into his new job. Perfect.

- Future Leslie still hates both vegetables and libraries (even those named after her) with a passion.

- The end credits are what really made me lose it. What can I say, I'm a sucker for outtakes, and of course, that cast group hug put it over the top.

"That's a series wrap on Parks and Recreation."
Well, Parks and Rec, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for the laughs and the tears. Thank you for giving us Lil' Sebastian and "Treat Yo Self" and Cones of Dunshire and Galentines Day. Most importantly, thank you for giving all of us a truly incredible heroine in Leslie Knope. May we all strive to have her ambition, her gift-giving skills, her drive to make the world a better place, and her passion for waffles (we already share that last one, so the rest shouldn't be too hard). The good thing is, if we ever need a shot of positivity, Pawnee is only a re-run away.

Want more on the Parks finale? Check out the cast on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Entertainment Weekly's inside look at the last day on set, and an interview with executive producer and's interview with showrunner, Mike Schur.

Until next time, keep watching!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

May Your Wishes All Come True - A Farewell to Parenthood

Ok, so yes, I did watch Empire. And yes I really liked it and I can't wait to talk about it with all of you and analyze all the cool and complicated and campy things about it but I just can't right now you guys. I can't.

Because Parenthood ended on Thursday.

And it was beautiful and touching and such a perfect finale that now I have to organize my feelings and attempt to give this show the send off it deserves. Writing about a show like this, one that has meant so much to me, well it's not going to be easy. But I'm going to try my absolute best (in true Braverman fashion), since, as a series, Parenthood has honestly brought me more joy and more things to think about than any other show on television.

I wrote about Parenthood after last year's beautiful season finale which, at the time, I felt could have worked as a series finale since it's renewal was still up in the air. As wonderful as that episode was, thank goodness the show got picked up for one more year, because we were lucky enough to get this final, emotional season that ended up being the perfect conclusion to the Braverman's story. These last 13 episodes were much more than extra time spent with some of the best characters on television. With them, we got a truly masterful and satisfying wrap up of Parenthood's six years on the air; a final victory lap for Jason Katims and Co. to solidify their place in the TV canon for years to come.

**Warning: Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't yet seen the entire last season - if you're catching up on NBC on demand, finish watching first and then come back and see me. I'll make nachos and we can cry together and everything will be fine**

Of course when I think about this final episode, I immediately want to jump into discussing the sublime and cheer-worthy ending montage (which you can watch over and over again here) and gush over the whole darn thing. I'm definitely going to do that, but first, I think it's important to analyze what Parenthood was really about. This show meant so much to me, and to so many others, because it centered on human relationships, and the challenges that we all go through every day. If I could boil it down to one sentence, I think Parenthood was a show about letting people in, and what happens when you take that risk. Sometimes scary things happen: heartbreak, loss, anger, regret. And the show didn't shy away from that reality. But beautiful things happen too. Friendship and growth; happiness and love; a new experience or opportunity that could change you, and push you to be better. The message I got from this show was, even though it's hard, you have to try. Because that's what living a full life is about. And there isn't enough entertainment today that promotes that, in my opinion (see Parks and Recreation for another excellent example of this and PLEASE YOU CANT GO TOO! THIS MONTH IS TOO HARD! WHYYYY?). Even though Parenthood was often under watched and underrated, they always brought their A-game as a force for positivity, showing all of us the rewards that come from not giving up even when things get hard.

And oh, the rewards both we, and the Braverman's got from this season finale! Where to begin? Well let's start in the present day. Sarah and Hank got married - in a beautiful ceremony that only took, like, four days to plan, but lets gloss over that - and Drew made a beautiful and perfect speech as the best man (Ray Romano and Miles Heizer had some of my favorite scenes of the season together, but Hank asking Drew to be his best man topped the list). At the ceremony, Zeek and Camille invited Amber and baby Zeek to move in with them, and a newly back together Joel and Julia decided to adopt Victor's biological sister into their family. Like we all guessed, Crosby, with support from both Zeek and Jasmine, decided to keep the Luncheonette open without Adam and run it on his own. Max also chased his dream, proving himself to be an excellent wedding photographer, and he and Haddie shared a touching final scene together that provided some nice closure to their often fraught brother/sister relationship. He even boldly brings a girl out on the dance floor, putting himself firmly "in the picture" as his mother hoped he would, instead of always being on the outside looking in.

Post-wedding, Kristina dropped a pretty great bomb that a non-profit was looking for her to replicate the Chambers Academy model in other schools, giving Adam the headmaster position he didn't even know he wanted. While that plot point seemed a little dropped from the sky, I love that over the season, we got scenes of Adam finding his bliss as a cooking teacher for kids with disabilities (and kudos to Parenthood for featuring those kids exploring their own talents and showing the benefits of vocational training - the school counselor in me notices these things of course). Since running the Luncheonette was never really Adam's passion, it was a lovely compromise in the end that Crosby was able to live his dream and keep the studio as family run business without the guilt of keeping Adam tied to something he no longer fully wanted to be a part of.

But not everything ended on a joyful note. Before we get our final look at the Braverman's lives, we see a sad, yet beautifully done scene in which Camille finds Zeek's lifeless body in his chair, going out the way he wanted to after getting to walk Sarah down the aisle. That was a real gut-punch of a moment for me - I guess I just wasn't expecting us to actually see Zeek's death - but it was the right choice for a show that didn't pull punches with its audience. Of course, this leads to the final moments of the series, as we witness the family granting Zeek's final wish to have his ashes scattered over center field. As they play baseball together in his honor, we get a series of flash forwards into the future showing all that he left behind: his legacy in the growing family that he and Camille created together.

Can one of you get me some tissues already??
So what happens to the Braverman's in the near future? We're lucky enough to get to see some small, intimate moments that shed some light on their lives. Crosby, Amber, and a pregnant Jasmine run the Luncheonette (and they record the artists whose cover of the Bob Dylan theme song is used to score this montage). Joel and Julia get a new puppy for their FOUR children at Christmas. Max graduates high school as his family cheers him across the stage. Camille visits the Paris inn that Zeek wanted to take her to before he died. And finally, Sarah and Hank's family all comes together for a dinner that includes Amber's new husband and daughter, and the return of Ryan, who is in her son's life as she always wanted him to be. It's a joyous compilation of scenes, cut in with the family's baseball game that gives everyone their moment in the sun. "Boy, we did good, didn't we?" Zeek says to Camille at Sarah's wedding as he looks out at their family. You have no idea, Zeek. You have no idea.

Damn, Parenthood. I'm really going to miss you. Thank you for your optimism, your realism, and your ability to approach difficult things with humor and grace. You've been thought provoking and challenging; inspiring and eye-opening. There's no question you've left some pretty big shoes to fill. I can't wait to see the next show that has the guts to try and do just that.

Already seen that ending scene 100 times? Check out some of the cast and crew's tweets and photos from the last day of filming here and an interview with Jason Katims about the final montage here.

Until next time, stay watching!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

CH-YEAH, Dude! The Triumphant Return of Broad City and a Handy Midseason Calendar



I feel you, Molly.
It's cold, it's dark, the holidays are over, and we're all just a bunch of vitamin-D deprived human sleeping bags trying not to pass out before 8PM on a weekday. Well friends, I urge you - PLEASE TRY! Get caffeinated any which way you can post-work (or just stay home?) because damn there are a lot of great things coming out this mid season that I know you'll want to be fully awake for.

Exhibit A: The long-awaited return of Comedy Central's extraordinary sitcom, Broad City! And while we may be freezing our butts off IRL, our favorite blazed buddies, Abbi and Ilana, are sweating through a New York City heat wave in their season two opener, which premiered this past Wednesday, January 14th.

If you read this blog (or know me personally, or have only met that one time on line at Panera) you know that Broad City was my favorite new show of 2014. It's hilariously written, perfectly and subtly acted, and depicts the New York City that I have come to know - and both love and hate - in a way I've never seen it before. Abbi and Ilana's NYC is dirty, surreal, and populated with the kind of specific nut jobs that I've actually seen walking down 6th and A on any given day. Last year, these ladies came to us fully formed and ready to take on the five boroughs (plus one mysterious - and actually real - island) and all of the crazy contained within them. After watching this season's premiere, I'm happy to say Broad City returns even stronger than before, continuing to carefully and realistically build upon its unique world, and the broads and dudes that inhabit it.

We meet up with Abbi and Ilana on the hottest, stickiest day of the summer. With no air conditioner in her apartment, Abbi accidentally "takes advantage" of her new boyfriend, Male Stacey (played by Seth Rogen!), after he passes out from the heat. Afraid she's become an unintentional female rapist - thanks, of course, to Ilana - Abbi enlists her friend's help in tracking down an AC so that she can have her man over without the possibility for another…mishap. And thus begins the type of bonkers quest that Broad City does best. First, the ladies go to Abbi's beloved Bed Bath and Beyond where her frequent shopper status is cemented by multiple, complex secret handshakes with the employees. But after the AC she purchases gets stolen off the sidewalk, they have to find more creative ways to get some cool relief. They help Abbi's pseudo-roomie Bevers' friend (awesome guest star number 2, Kumail Nanjiani) move while he creates his Amazing Race audition video, but his AC promise to them is literally broken, thanks to a Facebook post misunderstanding. Finally, they head to Ilana's old dorm room to try and steal her air conditioner, but end up smoking her secret stash with the current residents who turn out to be a little younger than they expected. In the end, we get a brief AC celebration, a screaming match with a mystery kitten, and an intimate moment between Ilana and Lincoln (who shall from this moment on be known by his blogger name, "The Aldente-Dentist") over a stolen NYU meal card. With that, another day in the life in Broad City comes to a close; it's next chapter already off to a hell of a start.

As we move through the city with our two high heroines - and "moving" is the operative word, as this show totally thrives on manic energy - it's hard not to notice how much action they pack into 22 short minutes. But with Broad City, it's not so much about what happens, but how these two friends interact and deal with the insanity that's around - and is created - by them. In the excellent cold open, the two traverse a moving subway full of obstacles including pervs, toe-nail clippers, and poop cars** (all only only slightly heightened from an actual MTA-rider's experience, by the way). Watching Abbi and Ilana react to these often unknown pitfalls that come with life in the city makes both the show, and their relationship hit close to home. Their conversations are often such dead-on representations of how my girl friends and I talk to each other, I constantly find myself smiling with recognition and the pure thrill of seeing the kind of women I know and love reflected on television. But honestly, you don't have to be a New Yorker or a woman to relate to these ladies, their friendship, and their mini-triumphs over the unexpected garbage we all have to put up with on the daily. I for one can't wait to keep cheering on these bad-ass bitches all season as they take on their city together, one adventure at a time.

**Broad City is simply excellent at being disgusting. In addition to the "poop car" visual, everyone is literally drenched the whole episode, and the "sweat angel" that Bevers leaves in Abbi's bed is so gross, but so perfectly…Bevers. 

While I could talk about Broad City all day (challenge accepted - call me if you would like this to happen) I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't alert you to the veritable goldmine of other shows airing this mid season. Check out my handy calendar below for premiere dates and where to find your returning favorites!

Already on:

Empire, Wednesdays at 9 on Fox new!

Hindsight, Wednesdays at 10:30 on VH1 new!

Portlandia, Thursdays at 10 on IFC

Cold Justice, Fridays at 8 on TNT

Shameless, Sundays at 9 on Showtime

Girls, Sundays at 9 on HBO

Togetherness, Sundays at 9:30 on HBO new!

Parks and Recreation, Tuesdays at 8 and 8:30 on NBC **final season**

Broad City, Wednesdays at 10:30 on Comedy Central

Coming up!

Fresh off the Boat, Wednesday, February 4th at 8 on ABC new!

The Odd Couple, Thursday, February 19 at 8:30 on CBS new!

Last Man on Earth, Sunday, March 1st on Fox - March 1 new!

Broadchurch, Wednesday, March 4th at 10 on BBC America

Call the Midwife, Sunday, March 29th on PBS 

Orphan Black, Saturday, April 18th on BBC America 

Inside Amy Schumer, Tuesday April 21st on Comedy Central 

Where do I begin? I've got my work cut out for me so let's start with a newbie: Next week I'm jumping into the booth with Fox's soapy new musical drama, Empire! See you then!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Five Favorite New Shows of 2014

Happy almost New Year, everyone! Have you made your resolutions yet? Have you already broken them? Fabulous. That's what the holidays are for! You have a whole year to get back on track, so for now, no stress allowed.

It feels incredible to take a break from stress, I must say. 2014 has been an incredible and jam-packed year for me, full of change, fun, and joy for so many reasons. But now that I finally have some time off to reflect on the year that's passed, I realized I was so busy, I only got to write a fraction of what I would have liked for this blog, and I barely made a dent in my list of new shows to watch. As I started to work on this post, at first I was worried that I wouldn't be able to create a best-of list with my glaring lack of exposure to what most critics would consider the best shows of the year. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the five new shows that made my 2014 special (with a few honorable mentions of course). So get in your new comfy robe and grab the last cup of egg nog - let's review the best newbies of the year!

Broad City (my personal favorite!)

If I could give you one gift this holiday season, it's the gift of watching this perfect, hilarious, gem of a show (my Christmas gift to myself this year was the DVD of Season 1 which was released earlier this month). Broad City follows the oh-so-relatable and laugh-out-loud adventures of real life friends, Abbi and Ilana as they work, play, and smoke their way through their twenties in New York City. All year, I practically forced Broad City on people, and wouldn't rest until folks who I knew would love it were as invested as I was - I even saw them live, twice, and laughed like a straight up crazy person. Trust me, watching these two women simply interact will bring you more joy than most of what's on television at the moment. And after you blow through all ten episodes, you won't have long to wait for Season 2! It premieres on Wednesday, January 14th at 10:30 on Comedy Central. DUDE. It can't come quickly enough.

You're The Worst

My wonderful boyfriend (who knows my sense of humor to a T) turned me onto this new FX comedy which I happily gobbled up - as he happily re-watched - in less than a week. Centered around Jimmy and Gretchen - a couple who would normally be the screwed-up sidekicks to the main character on another show - You're The Worst is a romantic comedy full of dark humor, earned emotion, and dialogue so sharp and outrageous, you can feel the sting through the screen. As our two anti-heroes traverse the tricky road that leads to a real relationship, we join them as they grow, mess-up, self-destruct, and put the pieces back together on the way to adulthood. The best news is, Jimmy and Gretchen will return to our TVs for a much deserved second season that I'm already beyond pumped to watch, and write about, come summer 2015.


What a shame that such an optimistic, funny, smart, and beautifully acted show had to be canceled after only one season. With only 13 delightful episodes - and one of the best sitcom series finales in recent history - Enlisted brought us to a Rear-D unit in Florida, building a world around three Army brothers and their fellow soldiers that felt fully formed after just a few short installments. Tackling tough subjects gracefully with both humor and heart, Enlisted and its truly talented ensemble will be missed. Here's hoping for a DVD or Netflix release some time in the future, but for now, you can share this one with your family over Hulu or iTunes this holiday. You won't regret it.

Rick and Morty

A weird, wacky cartoon adventure like I've never seen before, Rick and Morty was just plain, effed-up Adult Swim fun. From the comedy genius brains of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, this show took well known film tropes and bent them around a crazy, drunk inventor and his anxious grandson as they travel through space and time together. In the grand tradition of cartoons meant for adults, Rick and Morty pushed the boundaries in the best ways this year with episodes like "Meeseeks and Destroy" and "Rixty Minutes" that explored some dark themes in clever, and riotous ways. Will some of the through-lines from last year (alternate-reality Ricks!) come back in Season 2? We'll have to wait until mid-2015 to find out.

Playing House

I wasn't completely sold on Playing House when it first aired, but since it starred two of my favorite improv comedians, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, I stuck with the USA series, and I'm so thankful I did. Each week, it grew into a heartfelt, laugh riot of a show, filled with great little moments between the two leads that felt so relatable, it was a pleasure to tune in. This unique show about two best friends preparing to raise a baby together (created by two best friends who both have children of their own), was on the fence to be picked up for so many months, I had just about lost hope that we would get to see a second season. Luckily, USA picked it up earlier this month, so we'll get a whole new crop of episodes some time in 2015! Until then, enjoy the first ten installments of this sweet series online with some good friends!

Honorable Mention: Marry Me 

This show is on the right track to becoming one of the funnier network comedies out there. From the creator of my all-time-favorite, Happy Endings, and with casting that was tailor-made for me (Ken Marino, Casey Wilson, John Gemberling, Tim Meadows, I mean, come on!), I'll be willing to forgive its slightly rocky start as it develops into a consistently funny half-hour. Look out for my review of this wedding-centered hang-out sitcom as it continues it's first season in 2015.

Honorable Mention, "Not Really New" Category: The Comeback

It was great to have Valerie Cherish (played by the always perfect Lisa Kudrow) back on television ten years after the Comeback's first season was thought to be it's last. While the first few episodes were a little rough, the season as a whole was great television, full of cringe-worthy moments, returning characters, and sharp commentary on Hollywood and the celebrity machine. I'm not sure as of this writing if it's ever coming back, but I'd be perfectly satisfied if the excellent, emotional ending we got this year was the conclusion to Valerie's story. 

Hmm…seems like all my favorites of 2014 were comedies. Peculiar how those things work out! I guess next year I'll have to get to my long list of dramas that I've been putting off. Hey! Now there's a resolution I just might be able to keep.

Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for reading! See you in 2015 for more TV fun!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Going to Bat for Gotham

Welcome to October! Since it's been feeling like summer here in New York - which, aside from some big hair days lately, I couldn't be happier about - it's easy to forget we're in the throws of the spookiest month of the year. While there's no shortage of creepy programming on the air to keep TV fans satisfied until way past Halloween night, there's one new thriller out there that's really got me hooked: Gotham.

As I wrote in my fall preview, I was really looking forward to the premiere of Gotham, and after four episodes, I have to say I'm not disappointed. Gotham is dark, pulp fun; a caper-of-the-week serial with a familiar, series-long story running through it's center. The saga of Bruce Wayne and Gotham city isn't anything new, but the pre-Batman world that Gotham is creating has opened it up to fresh possibilities, creative takes on old characters, and new additions to the ever-growing Batman mythology. With everyone suffering from potential TV superhero overload (Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., et al), I totally get that pitching another comic book based series is a tall order, but this one is pretty good, and someone's gotta do it! Note: I have seen the past four episodes of the series for review, but I won't be spoiling any plot points for you in this post, so read freely, and check out Gotham for yourself, Mondays at 8PM on Fox!

Gotham's cast has been bringing new life to some very iconic characters, and that's not an easy task. For example, Sean Pertwee plays everyone's favorite butler, Alfred Pennyworth, in a way we've never seen before - gruff, cold, and no-nonsense. While I found myself wishing at times for Michael Caine to walk through the door and give Bruce a much needed hug (his recent portrayal of the character in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was much kinder than what we get here), I like that the show is willing to make some fundamental changes like this in order to set itself apart from what came before it. Similarly, we get a look at the lives of Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz, and Catwoman, played by Camren Bicondova, as young teenagers, bringing a new perspective that helps shed light on who they will eventually become and why. The kids are also not really the series' focus at this point, which leaves room to explore some new additions to the Batman universe. One of these is Fish Mooney (a truly badass Jada Pinkett Smith), a terrifying nightclub owner with an Eartha Kitt voice who's got the police in her pocket, and designs on overthrowing her boss, mafia don, Carmine Falcone (John Doman), and taking control of Gotham herself.

Gotham is a city where even those who are meant to protect its citizens can't be trusted, and with good reason. Detective Harvey Bullock (played by one of my favorite actors, Donal Logue), is one such corrupt cop who works for Falcone and is willing to keep secrets, frame people, and lead a double life in order to keep his superiors happy. When straight-edge Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) becomes Bullock's partner, the two clash, and tensions rise as the lies begin to pile up between them.  Logue provides a lot of necessary comic relief during these tense moments, along with a very funny Robin Lord Taylor as a young Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot, another future foe for the caped crusader.

Yes, Gotham isn't exactly the most subtle show out there. Some of the acting (specifically McKenzie's) is over the top, you can see the scares coming from a mile away (although I must admit, they still make me jump), and the foreshadowing is a little heavy handed at times (we all get that the coroner, Edward Nygma, played by Cory Michael Smith, is going to become The Riddler, Gotham; you don't have to hit us over the head with it). But for a show like this, I don't think subtlety is a must. Gotham should learn from big successes like Sleepy Hollow, though, and take itself a little less seriously, play up the fun, film noir thrills, and dial back on the more melodramatic aspects that don't seem to fully fit the theme.

Gotham has done a great job of world building in these past four episodes, so hopefully with the characters we've already met, and the many others from the Bat-verse that are sure to arrive, there won't be any shortage of rich plot lines to come. Since we're currently DVR-less at my new place, Gotham has literally become appointment viewing for my roommate, Meagan, and me, and as the series evolves, I hope it stays that way. Because while Gotham certainly has room to grow, I plan on spending my Monday nights as a citizen of this crazy, messed-up city until further notice.

Got any opinions on the show? Leave 'em in the comments - I'd love to know what casual fans (like myself) and hard-core Batman obsessives think, and if you have any suggestions for other superhero shows I should check out this season! A new episode of Gotham airs tomorrow, Monday, October 20th  at 8PM on Fox.

Come back next time for a look at the new crop of fall sitcoms! Until then, happy watching!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall TV Preview: 2014 Edition

Welcome to fall, friends! Today's the official last day of summer, and as sad as I am to see my favorite season go, I'm looking forward to this fall more than ever for a number of reasons. After years of post-college couch surfing and instability, I'm enjoying the change of season in my new place by the beach, taking on an exciting new internship, and making it through my final year of grad school. And aside from all the other wonders fall has to offer (sweatshirt weather, apple picking, all the pumpkin flavored things we've been denied the rest of the year) in just a few short weeks, I'll be turing the big 25. Let the quarter life crisis celebration begin!

With all of these crazy adjustments, it's been hard to stay current on what's happening this TV pilot season, but I've finally sat down long enough in one place to tell you what I'm most looking forward to (and what I'm happy to skip) come autumn. If you were here last year, you know the drill: sit back, grab that pumpkin beer out of the fridge, and put on your coziest snuggie. It's time for my Fall TV Preview: 2014 Edition! *Note: I haven't seen the pilot for any of the following shows (except for NBC's A to Z) so everything that follows is merely a guess at what I'll like and pass on this season. Only time will tell, so stick with me through the fall for reviews of the shows below as I check out their premieres!

New Shows:


I'm really excited for the shows in this category - I'll hopefully be watching at least the first few episodes of each for review.

Gotham (Fox) September 22nd at 8PM

This one looks interesting: a look at the life of a young Bruce Wayne, Gotham promises to bring a new perspective to the character, following him through his teen years before his chapter as Batman begins. Featuring one of my personal favorites, Donal Logue, as Detective Harvey Bullock, and a creepy turn from Jada Pinkett Smith as nightclub owner Fish Mooney, this dark origin story has the potential to be one of my new favorite dramas.

black-ish (ABC) September 24th at 9:30PM

Let's be honest, it's been quite a while since we had a network sitcom centering around a black family, which, for this child of the 90's (and a viewer of all of the diverse TV programming that came with them) has seemed like a glaring cultural omission. black-ish, ABC's new family sitcom, seems like the breath of fresh air network TV needs this year in terms of telling the kinds of diverse stories that have been missing lately from the comedy landscape. After reading some early reviews, it's clear the show has some very smart things to say about race, perception, and the clash that comes from how different generations of black Americans view their cultural identities, all while being, oh yeah, a hilarious sitcom featuring the likes of Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne. Can't wait to put this pilot on my watch list.

Transparent (Amazon) September 26th, streaming

Amazon introduces it's new streaming network with Transparent, a show about a Dad (Jeffrey Tambor) who comes out as transgender to his ex-wife and kids. Based on the real-life experience of creator Jill Soloway, this show is opening up the conversation about gender identity in a big way, and looks to be an emotional, funny, and unique look at one family's journey through self-discovery.

Gracepoint (Fox) October 2nd at 9PM

An remake of Broadchurch, one of my favorite shows of 2013, Gracepoint features a similar season-long case, and, interestingly, the same lead actor from the original, David Tennant (new American accent, same brooding, mysterious persona). With Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn as his partner in this version, I'm hoping the series brings a unique story to the table while keeping the parts that made it's inspiration so beautiful and exciting to watch. It's a tall order, but if they can pull it off, I'll be in it for the long haul once again.

Marry Me (NBC) October 14th at 9PM

If this is anything like the dearly departed Happy Endings, then consider me fully on board. From creator David Caspe comes a sitcom centering on two of my favorite comedic actors, Casey Wilson (Happy alum and Caspe's wife) and Ken Marino and their characters' very long engagement. The preview looks great, the pedigree is there, and the premise is so refreshingly low-concept, I may be so bold as to say Marry Me could win the Brooklyn Nine-Nine "exceeded my high expectations" award for 2014. Don't let me down, NBC!

The Comeback (HBO) November 9th at 10PM

We've been waiting a loooooooong time for this one, Comeback fans! Ten years after it's initial cancellation, Valerie Cherish (played by the always wonderful, Lisa Kudrow) returns to HBO with a very meta twist on the show's original reality TV (before it was what it is today) premise. Now, she's been asked to play herself in the HBO series about the first season of the show. Head spinning yet? Don't worry. If it's anywhere near as hilarious, cringeworthy, and groundbreaking as the first season, we're in for a real treat.


Here's a few shows I'm not totally sold on, but I'm willing to give 'em a try!

Red Band Society (Fox) September 17th at 9PM

Octavia Spencer stars in this dramedy about chronically ill teens living in a hospital ward. Could be a touching, tearjerker, could be a later-seasons-of-Glee-esque train wreck. Either way, I'll at check out the pilot to see if it's up my alley.

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC) September 25th at 10PM

A Shonda Rhimes production about a college professor, played the wonderful Viola Davis, and her shady, murdering…students? Be it creepy or intriguing, I'm not sure about this one, but with Rhimes' track record, I have to give it a shot.

A to Z (NBC) October 2nd at 9:30PM

I saw an advanced release of the pilot of this one, and I'm still on the fence. Pro: the presence of the always charming Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother's final season's only saving grace). Con: It's so corny, you guys. Just so incredibly corny. Maybe the show will redeem itself come episode two?

Mulaney (Fox) October 5th at 9:30PM

John Mulaney is one of my current favorite comedians out there. His special, New In Town, can currently be streamed on Netflix, and I can't recommend it highly enough. You'd think I'd be completely sold on his sitcom, but he problem is, the preview for this show doesn't seem to highlight Mulaney's strengths, and with a multi-cam format, I'm worried this one is going to be a rough watch. Still, with SNL's Nasim Pedrad as a series regular, I'm looking forward to seeing what the show has to offer.

The Flash (CW) October 7th at 8PM

Should you add another superhero drama to your already spandex-packed television schedule this fall? I'm going to find out when I check out the pilot of this CW drama next month. So far, I've heard great things regarding how much fun this show is, but as someone with no knowledge of the comic or the backstory of this character, I'll have to see if it's good enough to make it into my line up.

Cristela (ABC) October 10th at 8:30PM

Created by stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo, this new ABC sitcom centers around a Mexican-American law school grad juggling a stressful, unpaid internship and a family who isn't exactly supportive of her career choice. I've read some great interviews with Ms. Alonzo, and I'm really excited to see the pilot of this one. The only issue is, ABC already has her in the Friday night time slot, which doesn't necessarily bode well for her chances of getting picked up for a full season.

No way. 

I'll be passing on the following new shows (unless I hear a lot that tells me otherwise) since, to put it mildly their previews and descriptions look pretty...rough. But don't take my word for it - check them out for yourself - if you must:

The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) September 17th at 10PM
Forever (ABC) September 22nd at 10PM
Selfie (ABC) September 30th at 8PM
Stalker (CBS) October 1st at 10PM

One last thing! Here's a calendar of when my favorite returning shows will premiere this season. While my new show picks are mostly guesses, I can fully vouch for the quality of everything below:

September 16th - New Girl and The Mindy Project (Seasons 4 and 3, respectively) premiered. I watched, and loved, both first episodes, and can't wait for the year to come (Fox, 9 & 9:30PM)

September 25th - Parenthood comes back for its 6th and final season (NBC, 10PM)

September 27th - Saturday Night Live's 40th season begins (NBC, 11:30PM)

September 28th - Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns for it's sophomore season (Fox, 8:30PM)

October 5th - Bob's Burgers is back with its season five premiere episode (Fox, 7:30PM)

Well, by my calculations that should take us all the way through this winter! Keep checking in for my reviews of new, and returning show premieres as they roll out over the next few months. Happy autumn everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Awards Show Rundown: 2014 Emmy's Edition!

Ah, the Emmy's. For me, tuning in every year is a no-brainer. It's an awards show? I love awards shows! And it's all about honoring the best of TV? I love honoring the best of TV! Wait, will Amy Poehler be there? Yup. I'm in for the night, no questions asked. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Beyonce!

While I really enjoyed parts of this year's ceremony, I must say I'm feeling slightly disappointed in Television's biggest night for a few reasons. For one, it was on a Monday. A Monday, people! Apparently this was the first time this had happened since 1976, and since we all know awards shows are to Sundays as Saturday Night Live is to, well, Saturdays, why would NBC choose to do this? Well, apparently it would have aired against the MTV Video Music Awards (countdown to sounding old in 3, 2, 1: Who cares?) and it conflicted with the network's commitment to airing a preseason game of Sunday Night Football. While it doesn't seem like a big deal, it definitely cut down on the pre-show pomp and circumstance (aka red carpet time) which adds to the whole viewing experience. Plus, who's having an Emmy's party on a Monday? It's just weird. 

Then we have Seth Meyers, who I absolutely adore. The only problem was, as a host, he was really struggling to connect with the crowd. Either the audience wasn't miked properly, or they just weren't laughing because the reactions to his jokes were very subdued, creating an awkward vibe in the room that did not come off well in the live broadcast. I can't completely complain since some of his monologue jokes were great, and it was a joy to see so many SNL alumni helping Seth out with some of the segments. Still, between the strained cringe-worthy banter, the startling lack of nominee performance clips, and the weird, technical issues that caused some strange transitions, it didn't feel like an altogether coherent show. 

Finally, let's get on to the winners. Spoiler alert, but people who win all the time also won last night and it was somehow surprising and not surprising at all. Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep? Ok, great, but instead of giving her two awards in a row, how about letting someone else win for a change like the above mentioned (and currently Emmy-free) Amy Poehler, or relative newcomer, Lena Dunham? And Jim Parsons? For the third time? Again, why? How about giving one to the very deserving Matt LeBlanc, or, the nearly perfect William H. Macy for his portrayal of Frank on Shameless? It was great that Lizzy Caplan got a well deserved surprise nomination for Masters of Sex, but what about recognizing the work of Emmy Rossum, Tatiana Maslany, or, I don't know, anyone from the cast of Parenthood? Instead, we get a re-tread of many of the same nominees, making the ceremony a bit too predictable. Although there was a well deserved final season sweep for Breaking Bad, when Modern Family won for best comedy, again, that's when I knew the voters had really gone off the rails. In my opinion, the best comedies weren't even nominated this year (hello, Broad City, Parks and Recreation, Enlisted, Bob's Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine?) but even the non-comedy Orange Is The New Black should have waltzed away handily with that category. 

But! We can't end on a downer, since even the most boring of awards shows can have exciting and beautiful moments. Sara Bareilles' soulful performance of "Smile" for the In Memoriam segment and Billy Crystal's heartfelt speech about the late, great, Robin Williams had me welling up, Billy Eichner and Seth Meyers' Emmy's edition of Billy on the Street had me cracking up, and Sarah Silverman's win for her hilarious stand up special, "We Are Miracles" rivaled last year's Merritt-Wever-awesome-surprise-victory moment (although nothing will ever top Wever's perfect speech). All in all, this year's Emmy's were a bit of a let down, but even the most critical of watchers must have cracked a smile as Jimmy Fallon tried to take Stephen Colbert's award after a pronunciation gaffe by Gwen Stefani (a personal hero of mine, but come on girl, learn your category!). Let's hope those fun, fleeting moments aren't so few and far between as the 2014-2015 awards season kicks off in earnest. Because even this diehard awards-head thinks it's time to step it up, trim the fat, show some clips, and make with the laughs already. 

(Hold for applause). 

Tune in next week for an overview of the Summer TV Season and my first look at new Fall Shows!