Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Come Cry With Me: A Parenthood Season Finale Recap

Hang on while I grab a beach towel to dry my tears after that finale...

Phew. Now that was a good hour of TV.

Parenthood always knows how to tug at my heartstrings, but last Thursday's, "The Pontiac", really knocked me out. From Victor reading his winning essay, to Zeek and Camille's last dance in their empty home, the moments here were all so beautiful, and to quote my mom, "so human", the quality that in my opinion defines Parenthood and makes it so special. My mom and I have been watching Parenthood since it started airing back in 2010, and it's something I've always felt so lucky to be able to share with her. In college, every Tuesday night at 11, I'd call her from my kitchen and we would unpack everything that happened to the Bravermans that week. No matter how soapy or goofy some of the stories got at times, there was always a realness there and a genuine compassion for and between the characters season after season that would keep us talking late into the night. What I've always loved about this show is how you can see the perspective of almost every character - no one is inherently good or bad, people are just human and they make decisions that aren't always the best, but their family is there for them whether they succeed or screw up royally. That's all we can hope for in life, right? To know we have a group of people behind us who accept us for who we are and love us even if we do dumb things. No one is perfect, but we all have the potential to be better to each other, and if there's one thing to take away from the characters on Parenthood, it's to never stop trying, even when it's hard.

Every year the show gets better and better, and the ensemble cast (who is shockingly NEVER recognized at awards season for their incredible work - WAKE UP EMMY VOTERS!) has been tighter than ever this season. I'm always blown away by the chemistry this group of people have with each other, and how incredibly real their conversations are. The Bravermans are the only family on TV (aside from the Belchers of Bob's Burgers) who talk like my family when they get together, and the cast has said that the ability to improvise together is what makes those big group scenes so natural and close to home for viewers. Between the top notch acting and the soundtrack that never fails to blow me away every week, this season has been a joyful, tear-filled journey that was hard to say goodbye to.

Now it's time to get into that finale! I wouldn't call Parenthood a "spoiler heavy" show, but if you haven't gotten a chance to watch yet or if you've never seen the series before, just know that I will be giving away some important things below.

The only real miss-step that the show has done recently was essentially forgetting about Haddie entirely, but they sure tried to make up for her disappearance in this episode. Turns out, Haddie hasn't been calling as much from college lately because she's in a relationship with a girl (played by Rookie founder, Tavi Gevinson!) and was nervous about coming out to her parents. The scenes between her and Kristina and Adam were played to perfection, and after her long absence, it was great that they actually gave Haddie an interesting story to go out on. Both Sarah Ramos and Mae Whitman have been excellent at showing the similarities between their characters and their respective mothers (Mae Whitman and Lauren Graham are so similar it's easy to forget they aren't really related) and I liked how in these scenes we really saw some of Monica Potter's speech patterns and facial expressions reflected in Ramos' performance.

The Holt family also had some interesting romantic developments this week. Drew and Natalie (BOO) are officially a couple in love, and thanks to Zeek - in another water-works moment - Drew is now the proud owner of the Pontiac he's been fixing up all season. Miles Hizer is just so adorable (his thin chain - I just can't.), and his drive up to Portland was a great way to complete his character's journey this season, even if the girl he was driving up to be with is less than my favorite. Amber has also moved forward with Ryan after taking care of him in the hospital, and while we don't know if they're getting back together as of yet, her calm purchase of a pregnancy test at the drug store speaks volumes about what she really wants (another shout out to Mae Whitman - she's not only the best crier in the business, but she's consistently hilarious and perfect in her role - just watch her and Hizer pretending not to be high at a family dinner in this year's "Limbo" and try not to crack up). And the biggest and most exciting thing of all - Sarah and Hank are together again!! Lauren Graham and Ray Romano have the best chemistry on TV right now, and their honest conversation in the car about his Asperger's and its potential effects on their relationship was wonderful. After Sarah tells Hank her concern that he can't look at her sometimes, Romano's quiet reading of "I look at you" just killed me, and I expected that to be the end. But of course this is Parenthood after all, so Sarah marches into the photo shop and silently kisses Hank, bringing me more happiness than I knew what to do with.

Ray Romano, you never stop surprising me with this performance. Floored. Every week.
If that isn't enough heartwarming wonderfulness for you, we also have Victor's adorable essay about fixing the car with his grandfather (did anyone else feel bad that he won't be getting the Pontiac? No offense Drew, but you didn't even help build it, just saying), and the potential reversal of Julia and Joel's "conscious uncoupling". I like that the season didn't end with Julia revealing to Joel that she had sex with Mr. Knight (sorry Zachary Knighton, but you'll always be Dave from Happy Endings to me), since it wouldn't serve the story at all, and in my opinion, if you're separated and your husband doesn't want to get back together, then for god's sake, get it girl! Instead, we got a sweet moment between Julia, Joel, and Sydney, but no big "they're getting back together!" moment either. In fact, Joel wasn't even at the last big dinner at Adam and Kristina's (the torch has officially been passed and their backyard is the new Braverman hang out, as it should be) but we can decide for ourselves what might happen with those two for now, and I like that.

Finally, we get a great send off to the Braverman home with a hilarious Adam and Crosby stair-sledding scene, and the aforementioned Zeek and Camille living room dance that had me reaching for the tissues. I think we can all agree there's nothing sadder than seeing an empty house (especially one that we've spent the last five seasons in) but that scene took the classic TV trope and made their leaving a beautiful tribute to the memories they made there together (plus they're moving to a beautiful home in San Francisco with an awesome deck, so let's not get too sad).

I truly hope this isn't the series finale, but if I'm being honest with myself, it would make a pretty damn good one. A lot of important things were wrapped up, but then again, like life, some plot lines, like Amber's potential pregnancy and Joel and Julia's reconciliation, weren't tied up so neatly. Still, I just can't imagine a world without Parenthood on my TV, and I'm kind of hoping that those plot threads were left dangling for a potential sixth season. So goodbye for now, Parenthood. Until we know for sure if you're coming back, there's always Netflix which is currently streaming seasons 1-4, so don't wait - for a much needed dose of optimism, start your marathon now! Watch it with your family - trust me, it'll get you talking...and crying. But you knew that already.

NEXT WEEK: Orphan Black! Orphan Black! Orphan Black is back, and we'll have two episodes to discuss! There will be clone-spiracy (nailed it!) theories, questions, and plenty of CAPS LOCK EXCITEMENT. Get pumped, Clone Club - it's time for Season 2.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Mindy Project

Have you seen The Mindy Project this season?

If you had told me last year that I would be as big a fan of The Mindy Project as I am now, I never would have believed you. In fact, I really didn't like this show when it first premiered in 2012, and decided to bail after watching just the pilot episode. When all of Season 1 was available on demand last spring, I figured I'd give it another shot, and I'm so glad I did. Now, we're far into Season 2, and Mindy has proven to be one of the funniest sitcoms on TV (another win for Fox - you go Fox!). With four episodes having aired since the winter hiatus, Mindy and Danny are in a completely different place than anyone would have guessed after that hot airplane kiss back in February, but judging by what a main character coupling has done to New Girl this year, maybe that's a good thing? Let's discuss.

First, that kiss. WOW. I knew Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling have some of the best chemistry around, but that last scene took it to the next level (if you haven't seen it, watch here - I'll wait). Then all of us had to be patient for weeks to find out what that was going to mean for our two favorite Docs, and I must admit, I had my concerns. Could the show stay funny after putting Danny and Mindy together so quickly? Turns out, The Mindy Project took a different path entirely, and broke the characters up during "Be Cool", the third episode after they got together! At first I was bothered by this, but when you really think about it, it makes total sense. Danny, who is so far from being in touch with his feelings, and Mindy, who is constantly analyzing hers, wouldn't be able to date in secret without someone getting hurt. People make impulsive choices and then regret them later, and a sexy hook-up in the back of a plane doesn't always lead to a successful relationship down the line. Of course there's always the opportunity for these two crazy kids to get back together before the end of the year (the season finale is titled "Danny and Mindy" so place your bets now), but it's nice to see that the show isn't rushing to pair off these characters just for the sake of all the shippers out there. I think we've got something more interesting here - the opportunity to see two friends trying to work together after their short-lived romance didn't work out as they expected. And that break-up scene? Another knock-out acting job by both Kaling and Messina (just don't make these tear jerker scenes a habit, Mindy Project - Parenthood and Call the Midwife are giving me enough to cry about lately).

Now lets talk about the most important thing: this show is damn funny. While the secondary characters were often problematic in Season 1, things have finally fallen into a comfortable groove at Schulman and Associates. The group scenes in the break room are some of my favorites, and between the always lovable Ike Barinholtz as Nurse Morgan and the genius addition of Adam Pally's Pete, the office feels more developed than ever. It's so easy to miss the incredible throw away lines that come up in every episode, and the cast's collective comic timing has gotten scary-good - Kaling's delivery of "I'm sorry that I have to admit this but I'm actually banned from Lincoln Center, because apparently there is a three strikes policy...for falling in the fountain there" had me rolling last week, and pretty much everything Xosha Roquemore's Tamra comes out with is perfection. It seemed like a long shot for the show to get picked up, but I'm beyond happy to report that we will all get to see this ensemble continue to grow and make us laugh every week next year for Season 3!

So what do I hope is next for Dr. L and the gang? I'm honestly loving the growing friendship and mutual respect between Mindy and Pete this season, but it would be nice to see Mindy with another strong girl friend to bounce off of (I know things didn't exactly work with Anna Camp, but that doesn't mean there's not another cool, fashion forward lady that Mindy can share her sour straws and Rihanna obsession with). Also, the few appearances we've gotten from Mark and Jay Duplass - as the slimy upstairs midwives - have been great this season. I'd love to see more reluctant teamwork between the offices this year, though. Maybe they can join the OBGYN's on their new, fabulous mobile healthcare bus?

"Why did you guys use a picture of me sneezing?"
There's only four more episodes until the end of Season 2, but you have plenty of time to catch up! For a Chris Messina/Aaliyah dance scene that you'll be rewinding over and over again, I highly recommend "Christmas Party Sex Trap", or check out my favorite episode of the season, "Danny Castellano Is My Personal Trainer". So I'm sorry for doubting you, Mindy Project, but I'm really glad I made the effort to "Try Again".

SHAMELESS SEASON FINALE RECAP: Season 4, Episode 12: Lazarus

I'm about to make the understatement of the century, but this season of Shameless has been rough. For the first time since I became a fan of the show, I didn't gobble up the episodes as soon as they were avaiable, and watching more than one at a time when I fell behind proved to be way too depressing. I wasn't sure if I was going to be happy last Sunday night, but I should have had faith because, damn. That finale was fantastic. I mean, who could complain about an episode where Fiona is finally back in her rightful place as Gallagher matriarch, Frank is back up and finding ways to ruin his new liver, and Lip managed to get through what was certainly THE WORST semester any college freshman has ever had. The biggest downer was in regards to Ian's bi-polar disorder - turns out his "drugged out" state was just one, long manic episode - but with his family's past experience and the new guy that Mickey has become, I think he's going to be just fine. And OH - did I mention the biggest mid-credits reveal ever? SUPER SPOILER: Jimmy/Steve/JACK(!!?) isn't dead! Seeing his face back on my TV reminded me what I felt Shameless had been missing this year, but now that the Gallaghers are in a completely different place from when he left, what new trouble is his return going to bring? I guess we'll have to wait until next year to find out! Thanks for watching along with me, Shameless fans. Now let's all get a beer at The Alibi - after that season, we need it.


This. Just this.

ORPHAN BLACK IS BACK: Saturday April 19th at 9 on BBC America. I know where I'll be!


Another big TV family says goodbye for the summer as we join the Bravermans on the season finale of Parenthood! Tune in on Thursday, April 17th and break out the tissues...just a hunch.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How I Met Your Mother and then Everything Was the Worst EVER

WARNING: There is a blatant use of Caps-Lock in the following post. I'm sorry, I was angry. Proceed with caution...

Kids, I'm sorry that story wasn't worth the 9 year wait.

Ok. I'm sure if you haven't been living under a rock, you've seen a million articles about this online already, but WHAT THE HELL was that series finale, you guys??

I'm sorry, but as a fan of the show who stuck it out until the bitter end, disappointment doesn't even begin to cut it.

Let's back up: The ninth season of HIMYM was spotty, to say the least. It seemed overly long, often forced, and just straight up tired for the most part, but there were some really beautiful moments sprinkled in which got my hopes up just enough for them to come crashing violently down last Monday night. Pretty much all of my favorite moments of the season involved The Mother (Cristin Milioti) which made the final episode an even more bitter pill to swallow because, and I'm getting ahead of myself here but, MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: the mother has been dead this whole time.

I'm sorry, WHAT? I admit, I knew this was a possibility, but I always thought the series creators would think better of this and change the ending if, as it seemed, this was their plan all along. To add insult to injury, Ted ends up asking Robin out with the blue french horn from the pilot, effectively reversing all of his, and Robin's, growth as characters that we experienced along with them for over nearly a decade. Maybe this would have made sense if the show had ended after 1, 2, or even 3 seasons, but now? After 9 years, it seemed almost too terrible to do this to the fans who had been waiting to see Ted finally move on from Robin and be truly happy with someone else. And when that someone else was literally PERFECT and was able to elevate an entire season of the show every time she came on screen, it makes this depressing ending even more difficult to accept.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that we just spent AN ENTIRE SEASON suffering through Robin and Barney's wedding weekend, and minutes into the series finale THEY BREAK UP? Sorry, but I call bullshit. After what seemed like an eternity, Robin and Barney finally commit to being together, and then it's just too hard for them to make a life together? Sure, they were both narcissistic and clearly focused on their own goals, but I think we spent too much time watching them grow and mature as a couple to watch them completely reset to their default, Season 1 selves once again - and if they were just going to get divorced all along, then what was the point of that whole diversion filled, gimmicky season?

To make things even more depressing, Robin stops hanging out with the gang entirely, and yeah, yeah, I know, friend groups change as people grow up and have kids and it's completely natural, blah, blah, blah - but this is a TV show, people! We don't want to see that! I get that after the divorce, obviously a single and lonely Robin wouldn't want to hang around with her ex-husband and two happy couples, but what a sad place to take a character who had always been so loyal to her friends and so assured of what she wanted out of life. Barney's descent back into his past douche-bag playboy persona was even harder to watch, and NO, his "heartfelt" speech to his new baby daughter that he had with a woman who NEVER EVEN GETS A NAME does not make up for this pathetic, downward spiral (and no intervention from the gang? Really? At least give us that.). I'm sorry, but after an hour where Lily and Marshall have almost nothing to do, Barney and Robin are floundering from their late-thirties and beyond, and Ted ends up losing the titular mother with little send off and no emotional reaction to show for it, even after the truly sweet and heartwarming final meeting scene, I still felt empty, and like I had wasted my time.

Ever the optimist, I assumed that even with a messy past few seasons, HIMYM would pull it out in the end, and give me an ending that was worth waiting for. I had visions of my 14-year-old self crying on my aunt Nan's couch after the Friends series finale, feeling sad, but satisfied, and realizing for the first time how much the ending of a show you grew up watching can impact you if it's done right. Instead, 24-year-old Liz had a Will & Grace series finale moment (another "best friends don't talk for a million years until they're old" depress-fest), and threw an empty box of girl scout cookies at the TV while yelling "THIS IS SOME JACKED UP GARBAGE!" aloud to no one. Before the credits even rolled, I was on the phone with my best friend, Alison, who I had a hunch would also be watching live, and we had a half hour long, anger-fueled conversation about how cheated we both felt. We had invested a lot of time in these characters, like so many others, and we felt we deserved more than what we got. If anything, I guess that just goes to show how much this show meant to us, and hammered home how the journey was ten times more fun than the destination in the case of Ted, Barney, Lily, Marshall, and Robin.

Before I started watching on Monday, I called my boyfriend, Joe, to let him know what I was planning to do for the night. As a former fan who had jumped ship many seasons ago (and rightly so), Joe's response to my watching the HIMYM series finale was: "YOU'RE FINALLY FREE!". And I guess now I am. I'm no longer obligated to watch a show that I once loved circling the drain. I can move on, and choose to remember the good parts and why it meant so much to me. As a series, I give HIMYM an A. It was innovative, fun, touching, and a peice of pop culture that has influenced the way a lot of today's best sitcoms play with structure and storytelling. As for the finale, in my opinion, it's an alternate ending on a DVD box set at best, getting a C for effort, and a big fat F for execution. I choose to believe the series ended a long time ago, or at the very least at the end of last year, as Tracy (The Mother) bought her fateful ticket to Farhampton and everyone's lives weren't ruined forever.


So goodbye, How I Met Your Mother! See you on Netflix and in syndication, but if this episode ever comes on, sorry, but I'll be switching over to Scrubs.

Want something to take your mind of the finale? Check out the most recent Inside the Actor's Studio with the cast of HIMYM for a great moment between Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel singing "The Confrontation" from Les Miserables!

See you all next week for my Shameless SEASON FINALE RECAP and a look into the spring return of The Mindy Project!