Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Wasn't Supposed to Put Beef in the Trifle! A Friends Thanksgiving Countdown

Happy Turkey Day, Everyone!

Do like Monica and make your Thanksgiving extra memorable this year...

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for so many reasons:

The food, the food, the food, and of course THE FOOD.

Need I say more?

But there's more to the last Thursday in November than just stuffing your face. What about the entertainment? Sure, there's always the parade, football, and that one crazy relative who might light something on fire, but nothing says it's Thanksgiving like a marathon of the show that did it best: Friends. 

What Halloween episodes were to Roseanne, Thanksgiving episodes were to Friends, and every year the gang from NYC brought the laughs, the flashbacks, and the holiday spirit like nothing else on TV. So grab a pumpkin beer (with a cinnamon-sugar rim if you know what's good for you) and sneak an early piece of pie - it's time for The One With All The Friends-giving Episodes! 

Season 1: The One Where Underdog Gets Away

When the Underdog balloon becomes untethered during the parade, the six friends run up to the roof to see it, but accidentally get locked out of the apartment as the turkey dinner is cooking. By the time everyone gets back inside, the food is ruined, but luckily a Thanksgiving-hating Chandler saves the day with grilled cheeses for everyone.

This first Friends-giving is an instant classic that set the tone for the rest of the series: 
3 out of 4 Turkeys

Season 2: The One With The List

Sorry, but without a real Thanksgiving story line, even Monica's many Mockolate recipes can't get me to count this one as a true Friends-giving. Not a bad episode by any means (Phoebe's love-triangle song is a classic), but on this list, I can only give it: 1 out of 4 Turkeys

Season 3: The One With The Football

The friends play a football game that grows increasingly more competitive in what is most likely the best episode of the season, and one of my favorites of the entire series. We get Ross vs. Monica, Chandler vs. Joey, and eventually, the game turns into a boys vs. girls battle 'til the turkey timer buzzes. Everyone's pride (and, of course, the Gellar Cup) is at stake, but just like in the real world, almost everyone makes up once the turkey hits the table. As a child, this episode taught me to approach sports like Rachel: if your friends won't let you play, just go realllly long and get a hot pretzel. 

This one has to be on your marathon list: 4 out of 4 Turkeys

Season 4: The One With Chandler In A Box

After kissing Joey's girlfriend, Chandler spends Thanksgiving in a box to prove his friendship. When Monica gets ice in her eye, she meets a hot ophthalmologist who happens to be her ex-boyfriend's...son. The gang chooses their Secret Santas (which is also my family's tradition!) and Ross and Rachel fight over why she always exchanges his gifts. There's a lot going on in this one, but it's all Thanksgiving perfection: 3 out of 4 Turkeys

Season 5: The One With All The Thanksgivings

Everyone competes for who has the worst Thanksgiving story, and we get some of the most memorable flashbacks a series has ever done (How I Met Your Mother and New Girl obviously owe A LOT to Friends, but this episode in particular pioneered the art of the flashback that is so commonly used in sitcoms today). Between two hilarious 80's Long Island Thanksgivings, Joey's head-in-a-turkey incident, and Phoebe's past lives, this is another series-best.

This one's a late-night Thanksgiving tradition for me - I gotta give it: 4 out of 4 turkeys

Season 6: The One Where Ross Gets High

To me, this is the absolute best of the bunch: Chandler and Monica are living together but have to pretend they aren't even dating since Monica's parents don't like him (yet no one seems to know exactly why). Meanwhile, Joey and Ross are trying to rush through Thanksgiving dinner so they can go drink with some hot dancers, but Rachel's attempt at dessert (a custard trifle with...beef, peas, and onions?) keeps them later than they thought. Phoebe has an inappropriate dream about Mr. Gellar, and before the end of the night, secrets about everyone have been revealed.

As Rachel would say, cooking is easy! If the recipe says boil two cups of salt, just boil two cups of salt! If you're only going to watch one, make sure it's this one: 4 out of 4 turkeys

Season 7: The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs

Phoebe brings a dog into the apartment but Chandler's fear of them causes some problems. The gang plays a game where they have to name all 50 states without looking at a map, and Ross takes it a little too seriously. Rachel's assistant, Tag, also joins everyone for dinner after a bad breakup and a little romance starts up between the two. Not one of my personal favorites, but Clunkers the adorable dog does wins it some points: 2 out of 4 turkeys

Season 8: The One With The Rumor

Brad Pitt joins everyone for Thanksgiving as Monica's newly transformed friend, Will, who used to be a nerd in high school and really hates Rachel for making his life hell. She doesn't remember him, but learns that he and Ross to created the "I Hate Rachel Club" in which they started a rumor about her being a hermaphrodite. When Monica decides not to make a turkey since no one except Joey wants one, he challenges himself to eat the entire 19 pound bird by himself (I'm with Joey: "Thanksgiving with no turkey is like Friday with no two pizzas!"). Phoebe and Chandler pretend to love football so they don't have to help Monica in the kitchen, and we get another fun Turkey Day with the crew.

This Massapequa high school reunion gets: 3 out of 4 (19lb) turkeys

Season 9: The One With Rachel's Other Sister

Christina Applegate guest stars in this one as Rachel's spoiled, self-centered sister, Amy. The fighting around the table this year centers on who will be Emma's guardian if something were to happen to Ross or Rachel, and both Chandler and Amy are offended that they're not on the list. There's cat fighting, broken china, and of course plenty of Thanksgiving fun. This one gets: 2 out of 4 turkeys

Season 10: The One With The Late Thanksgiving 

Monica and Chandler don't want the stress of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but the rest of the group begs them to host by convincing Monica to compete with herself for the best meal ever (Monica reminds me of my mom in this one: "This dinner is going to be so great! In your face, last year me!"). But during the day, Ross and Joey sneak off to a Rangers game and Phoebe and Rachel take Emma to a baby beauty pageant so everyone gets to the apartment way too late. Monica and Chandler lock everyone out in protest, and Joey gets his head stuck in the door trying to get in.

After dinner ends up on the floor, all is forgiven when Monica and Chandler learn they're finally getting to adopt a baby! A fitting way to end the marathon: 3 out of 4 turkeys

OK! You've got the comprehensive list, now call up your best buds, and before or after your Thanksgiving-eve fun, kick the holidays off right and tune in to Nick at Nite tonight, Wednesday November 27th starting at 10, for a Thanksgiving marathon!

I hope all of your Thanksgivings are full of food, fun, family, and of course friends who'll always be there for you toooo! See you next week!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Netflix Whisperer

Wednesday, 7PM: After a long day at work, you decide on a night in, complete with popcorn, Cherry Garcia, and wine (don't fight me on this - they go together). What's missing? A great show to watch of course! But after hours of scrolling through Netflix's many TV options, your ice cream is melted, your wine is warm, and the trans fats in your popcorn have officially been banned by the FDA. You go to sleep feeling overwhelmed after adding thirty new shows to your list, but watching none of them.

Don't let this happen to you.

Luckily, you are in the presence of Liz, the Netflix Whisperer! I'll give you 5 shows to start watching now based on other series you may have enjoyed in the past (ok, so Netflix already does this, but according to Buzzfeed, they don't always get it right). Say goodbye to the weeknight streaming cycle of frustration, and hello to:

Liz's Top 5 Shows to Stream on Netflix NOW (in no particular order)!

Do you like Arrested Development, The Office, and Scrubs? Then you should check out:

5. Better Off Ted

Want a smart, single-camera sitcom that's only a short term commitment? Better Off Ted is for you. At only two short seasons, you'll be able to blow through this series in a few marathon sessions (but you'll be sad when it's over, let me tell ya). Veridian Dynamics may be the most dysfunctional office out there, so after you leave yours, get ready to laugh, cringe, and suffer through the workweek with Ted, Linda, Lem, and Phil. 

Breakout Character: Portia de Rossi's hilariously terrifying boss, Veronica. 
Best Episode: "Get Happy"
Already Watched It? Try: The IT-Crowd for more bonkers-workplace fun.

Do you like The Killing, and Broadchurch? Try:

4. Top of the Lake

For the crime-drama lover who likes their thriller with a side of WTF???, this seven-episode mini series is one of the most original, weird, and addictive things on Netflix. Detective Robin Griffin, played by Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, comes back home to New Zealand to investigate a child's disappearance but discovers more about her home town and her past then she bargained for. Dark, creepy, and funny, Top of the Lake will be your new weeknight escape into another world.

Breakout Character: Holly Hunter (Yup!) as the more than slightly unhinged women's refuge leader, GJ.
Best Episode: "Episode 4"
Already Watched It? Try: Twin Peaks for another small-town mystery.

Do you like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Hoarders? You might like:

3. Clean House

Nothing will inspire you to clean up your place more than a marathon of Clean House. It's a reality show where a team of experts, led in the first few seasons by the charismatic Niecy Nash (Reno 911), clean some super-messy homes, then sell people's stuff at a garage sale and use the proceeds to make their decorating dreams come true. BONUS: you will feel amazing about yourself after seeing some of these hoarder-dens and may even learn some tips about how to have a successful tag sale!

Breakout "Character": Hostess with the mostest, Niecy Nash (duh - she's awesome).
Best Episode: "Alpha Epsilon Phi Fraternity House"
Already Watched It? (Kudos! Even I haven't watched all of this.) Try: Long Island Medium for more reality TV comfort food.

Do you like Nurse Jackie, Shameless, and Orphan Black? Start watching:

2. United States of Tara

Toni Collette is just a regular Kansas mom (and teenager, and 50's housewife, and trucker, and therapist, and id personified) trying to keep her family together. Huh? Oh, she suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, a mental illness in which she transitions between different personas when off her meds. It gets to the point where you can tell exactly who she is before she even says a word - this is Toni Collette at her best for sure, and with a supporting cast like John Corbett (Sex and the City), Rosemarie DeWitt (Mad Men) and Patton Oswalt (Everything!), you'll want to keep visiting the Gregson's over and over. 

Breakout Character: Brie Larson's crazy teen, Kate.
Best Episode: "Tornado"
Already Watched It? I haven't actually seen this series, but check out: Alias for more ladies playing multiple versions of themselves.

Do you like Two Broke Girls, Happy Endings, and The Mindy Project? How about:

1. Don't Trust the B- In Apt. 23

I just started watching this rcently cancelled ABC sitcom and believe me, it's a lot funnier than its unfortunate name implies. A girl from Indiana moves to New York City, loses her job and apartment upon arrival, and moves in with a con-artist roommate whose best friend is James Van Der Beek. It's weird, sly, and so full of throw-away jokes, re-watching is a must in order to catch everything (and at only 2 short seasons, that shouldn't be a problem!).

Breakout Character: James Van Der Beek as James Van Der Beek!
Best Episode: I'm new to the series, but so far I'd say start with the pilot - it sets up the world really well, and you'll know if you're into it right away.
Already Watched It? Check out: New Girl for more wacky roommate hijinx.

That oughta hold you for a while! Now go grab your laptop and start getting your money's worth with that subscription. 

In other TV news...

- The new Fox comedy, Enlisted, has recently been rescheduled from its original November premiere to Friday January 10th, so I sadly won't be reviewing that one for a while. At least Raising Hope is coming back this week though!
- Parks and Recreation also returns from it's brief hiatus this week with back to back episodes! One of them will be Halloween themed since it was postponed from it's original time slot, so keep that fall spirit going, snow-flurries and early Christmas commercials be damned! 

I'm sorry midterms have made my posting schedule wacky - to all of you out in TV land, thanks for bearing with me!

Friday, November 1, 2013

BONUS: Halloween Sitcom Countdown!

Happy Halloween to all you zombie cops, Waldos, and Miley Cyrus look-a-likes!

I hope all of your pillowcases are full of candy, and your pumpkins are still squirrel-free.

To keep the holiday spirit going, here's a king-sized bonus post! So take off that sweaty mask and break out the Butterfingers - here's my TOP 5 Halloween Sitcom Episodes of All Time:

5. New Girl - "Halloween"

Nick initially wants to impress his visiting college crush, Amelia, but after they actually get together, his fear of committment rears it's ugly head. On Halloween, Zombie Jess is working at a haunted house (which turns out to be less scary than telling her new crush Sam her true feelings) and accidently gets punched for scaring a phobic Nick. Schmitt transforms from Abe Lincoln to Magic Mike after a fight with Ninja Turtle Robbie, and Cop Winston and Pretentious-Costume Shelby ("Reigning Cats and Dogs"? Come on.) break up. It's an episode with a lot going on, but I love how it tackles how the high expectations of Halloween don't always match up with reality.
Best Costume: Nick as "Bee" Arthur (Thanks Jim Halpert for setting the precedent that it's cool for guys not to put effort into their costumes by giving us Three-Hole-Punch version of Jim in The Office, "Halloween")

4. Modern Family - "Halloween"
Halloween obsessed Claire and and Phil (as Zombie Bride and Groom) want to make their house terrifying for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, but things don't go as planned. While I'm not the biggest Modern Family fan these days, this episode brings the talented cast together with great writing to make comedy magic.                                                         
Best Costume: Cam as Head on a Platter

3. Happy Endings - "Spooky Endings"

The Chicago gang brings it for one of the funniest episodes of the series. Brad and Jane try to spend Halloween in the "quiet"suburbs but quickly learn the dangers of running out of candy too early. At the Monster Mash Pumpkin Bash, Alex goes as Marilyn Monroe but gets mistaken for a man in drag, Dave tries and fails to get a girl as Austin Powers, and Penny and Max both struggle to flirt with guys while attached in their ill advised couples costume. This episode also has David Walton's second guest appearance in the countdown (he also appears as Sam in New Girl's "Halloween"! He must love Halloween specials as much as I do...

Best Costume: Penny and Max as New Mom and Baby in Baby Bjorn 

2. Friends - "The One With the Halloween Party"

Bunny Chandler and SPUD-nik (let's be honest, he's Doody) Ross have an arm wrestling match to impress their respective ladies, Catwoman Monica and Nurse Mona. Meanwhile, a pregnant Rachel practices being maternal by giving out candy - and cash - to trick-or-treaters, and Phoebe meets her twin sister Ursula's fiancé (Sean Penn!!). A classic.

Best Costume: Joey as Chandler
And a Three-Way-Tie for #1. Parks and Recreation - "Greg Pikitus", "Meet 'n Greet", "Halloween Surprise",

Parks has the edge on Halloween episodes for sure, and these three are all so great, there's no way I could choose just one! While the first two feature very memorable Halloween parties, "Halloween Surprise" is the best of the bunch with one of my favorite moments in TV history (SPOILER: Ben's proposal!!).
Best Costumes:  Tom as T-Pain, April as a Sumo Wrestler Who Lost Weight, Ann as Olympic Gold Medalist, McKayla Maroney and an Eggplant

Honorable Mention: Boy Meets World - And Then There Was Shawn
This technically isn't a Halloween episode since it first aired in February 1998, but it has enough scares to qualify (Mr. Feeny's scissor-stabbing death scene really freaked me out as a kid and I know I'm not alone in that). If I catch it in re-runs this time of year, I have to drop everything to watch Cory, Shawn, and Topanga solve the mystery of the John Adams High killer (spoiler alert: it's Shawn!) and make it out of detention alive.

Two other spook-tacular episodes for your Halloween marathon: Everybody Hates Chris - "Everybody Hates Halloween" (it perfectly captures that weird feeling when you're too old to be trick-or-treating but too young to do anything else on Halloween) and Ben and Kate - "Scaredy Kate" (an episode that embraces the nerd in all of us - Kate as Babe Ruth Bader Ginsberg wins best costume in the countdown).

There you have it! Now you can keep the spooky spirit alive all the way until Thanksgiving. Don't forget to have candy for breakfast for the next week - it's tradition.

Catch all you ladies and ghouls next Sunday for more TV fun!