There’s No Such Thing As Monsters

Clash Cultures

the_monster-2016-screen2The Monster, a small intricate movie now available for streaming on Amazon Prime, is a simple horror story revolving around a tortured mother/daughter relationship. Kazan stars as Kathy, an abusive and alcoholic young mother to shy and frightened Lizzy, played excellently by Ella Ballentine. A long road trip to take Lizzy to her father’s house leads the pair down a largely abandoned and unfamiliar road during the middle of a thunderstorm at night. A wolf runs into their path and they crash, sending the car spinning out of control and stranding them in the dark waiting for a tow truck and ambulance to arrive. After assessing the damage, they go out to check on the wolf but upon closer examination of the animal they notice it has more wounds than sustained from their car and a giant tooth is imbedded in its back. Then, the wolf disappears from the…

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Oscars 2016: Predictions / My Dream Wins / The Snubbed

Despite the fact that I am still disappointed with the selections this year, I cannot deny that I still enjoying predicting who will win. In fact, I was even tempted this year to participate in my friend’s Oscar pool, but I doubt I’ll get around to signing up before Sunday. Alas, even if I don’t win some cash, I decided to throw my predictions into the wind and see how it turns out. My predictions for the 2016 Oscars are as follows:

Best Picture: The Revenant / Spotlight / Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant or Spotlight could take home this prize, and it’s really a toss us for me. Despite not having seen the film, I’m leaning more towards Spotlight. I saw The Revenant and while it was a good film, I don’t think it was the best I’ve even seen this year. That award goes without a doubt to the film that wins in my dreams: Mad Max: Fury Road. I am already predicting it will sweep the technical categories, but as for best picture I would be thoroughly shocked if it actually won.

Best Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu / George Miller

In this case, I think The Academy will honor Inarritu 2 years in a row (he won for last year’s Birdman) which has not happened at the Oscars in 66 years! But of course, although I do respect Inarritu immensely, I was still gunning for George Miller’s incredible world building with Fury Road. Miller created a spectacular post-apocalyptic wasteland and proceeded to steal my heart.

Best Actor: LEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO / Michael B. Jordan / Idris Elba

I think this is it guys. This is the year Leo FINALLY gets his statuette. And if I’m being honest, this is not the role I would’ve hoped he would win for. Ideally, I wanted it to be The Departed, but alas better late than never right? However, even the nominations for this category are not great. I would have preferred to see Michael B. Jordon on that list for Creed or even Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, but they were not even nominated. Such a shame #oscarssowhite.

Best Actress: Brie Larson

I have loved her from Day 1 when she played eccentric daughter to Toni Collette’s Tara on United States of Tara. I am so excited for her to get some recognition!

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone / Tom Hardy / Benicio del Toro

So it looks like Stallone is definitely going to take this statue, and while I understand the choice, I still would have preferred Tom Hardy to sneak out a win for The Revenant. He was truly incredible in that film, even more so than Leo, and it’s a shame he’s likely not going to win. I also would’ve loved to see Benicio del Toro nominated for Sicario because he turned in a simmering and scary performance; despite being a similar character to ones he played before, it is easily one of his superior performances.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander / Rooney Mara

I agree with the AV Club’s assessment that Rooney Mara should’ve been nominated in the lead actress and Cate Blanchett moved to supporting, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference on the winners. Alicia Vikander came on the scene with her affecting turn as a cyborg in Ex Machina, and then followed it with seven more films in 2015 alone. After The Danish Girl, it would not surprise me that she snags the prize.

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short / Carol

Having just read the Price of Salt just last year, I would love for Carol to win this award. However, I think it will more likely go to The Big Short.

Best Animated Film: Inside Out

This film is brilliant and easily the most inventive and poignant film Pixar has made. It brought me to tears. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop everything and go do that now.

Best Animated Short: World of Tomorrow

Best Cinematography: The Revenant / Tangerine

Emmanuel Lubezki has been doing incredible work for years and after the awe-inspiring cinematography of The Revenant, I think it is finally his time to shine. However, the gimmick in Tangerine of shooting the entire film with iPhones is a staggering achievement and should have at the very least been acknowledged.

Best Film Editing: Max Mad: Fury Road

Fury Road ended up on so many critics best of 2015 lists, that it’s hard to accept it likely won’t win for Best Picture. However, the technical skills involved in creating this film are so impressive that in all its other nominated categories, I think this one is a cinch from nuts to bolts.

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

Best documentary Feature: Amy

I still have yet to watch this documentary, but my mother watched it and said it was amazing. The fact that my mother wants to watch it yet again says more about that movie than I ever could.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: Body Team 12

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Fury Road

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Cinderella

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The Hateful Eight / It Follows

I will be the first to admit that I was more excited for this film because of Ennio Morricone’s score than for Tarantino, but I do have my gripes. My only wish is that it was used more in the film. Morricone’s score for The Thing is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s used throughout the entire film. Tarantino had him create a theme and a couple variations, but they are not used enough in this film. But if you’re looking for incredibly innovative sound, the score to indie-horor darling It Follows truly made the film. If there was not such a genre bias against horror films, I would have no doubt this score would’ve been on the short list.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Til it Happens to You”

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Ave Maria

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: The Revenant

BEST SOUND EDITING: Fury Road

BEST SOUND MIXING: Fury Road

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Fury Road

Take my guesses and go forth and win your Oscar pools! To be completely honest, I might not even watch on Sunday.  But Chris Rock is hosting and the last time he did, I enjoyed it immensely so maybe I will tune in after all…

 

 

Best of TV in 2015

As many of you may already know, I am addicted to TV.  Now that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy great movies because if the mood strikes, I will gladly sit down and watch a movie. And this year I did get to enjoy a few that were new and a few that I’d never seen before. But TV has always held a special place in my heart for being able to tell in-depth stories over the course of weeks.  Movies are great, but they are over too soon.  I like meat in my storytelling and this was a bang-up year for excellent TV.

I realize I’m a little late on this post, as it is already the 15th of January, but you can still check out these great shows if you’re looking for something good to watch in the new year!! Sound off in the comments below  🙂

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  1. Bloodline (Season 1)

I began bingeing Bloodline at the start of 2015, so it feels like I’m coming full circle back to the beginning in order to start fresh in 2016.  Bloodline was captivating from the start, despite knowing what was going to happen from the beginning.  Netflix original series have not burned me so far, so when I heard good things about this show I decided to give it a chance.  The cast, for one thing, is incredibly stacked:  Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Kyle Chandler and the exceptional Ben Mendelsohn worked like a dream together.  Chandler and Mendelsohn’s scenes together were a special treat due to their incredible skills in front of the camera – an acting masterclass if you will.  Telling the story in reverse might have made a lesser show uninteresting, but despite knowing how it ends, the build-up leading to that moment was fantastic.

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  1. Jessica Jones (Season 1)

After her excellent turn on Breaking Bad, Krysten Ritter has not found her niche yet, despite her great work on the short-lived sitcom Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23.  I think she has finally found that with Jessica Jones.  Despite being a superhero, Jessica Jones does not act like one, nor does her show.  She is an abused woman who is trying to gain back her independence and her sanity by helping other people. The show challenges patriarchal values, explores abusive relationships and PTSD all through a super powered lens.  The antagonist Kilgrave, known as Purple Man in the comics, is a well-to do white man with mind controlling abilities that he uses to control everyone around him to do what he wants.  David Tennant is excellent as the depraved villain with no concept of right or wrong, who thinks his volatile and abusive attitude towards the people around him, specifically Jessica, is done out of love and naiveté, which makes him such a formidable foe. The cast is excellent and I cannot wait for season 2!

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  1. Marvel’s Daredevil (Season 1)

As Marvel’s first entry in their Defenders saga, Daredevil begins a bit like Jessica Jones, in that it is more concerned with the noir and crime elements of the story.  As the season progresses, it becomes more and more like a traditional superhero show.  Matt Murdock, played excellently by Charlie Cox, is a similarly guilt-ridden superhero like Jessica Jones (though he is accentuated by a heavy dose of Catholicism to boot).  As he begins to ensnare the criminals who populate the newly destroyed Hell’s Kitchen (thanks to the Battle of New York that took place in The Avengers), he becomes entangled with the most intimidating and nuanced villain in the Marvel Universe since Loki: Wilson Fisk, played by the indomitable Vincent D’Onofrio.  As the series continues, it leans heavier on the superhero side of things rather than the gritty crime drama elements and as a result loses a bit of magic in the process.  However, this debut season is excellent for many reasons, but for me it is their deft handling of the most incredibly intricate fight scenes which are unparalleled on TV.

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  1. Fargo (Season 2)

The first season of Fargo was heavily invested in the concept of good and evil, right and wrong and the consequences of the choices a person takes than can lead than down a dangerous or victorious road.  Season 2 takes us back in time to the 1979 case worked on by season 1 protagonist Molly Solverson’s father Lou (Patrick Wilson).  The case itself deals with a young couple who get mixed up with two of the biggest crime syndicates in the local areas of North and South Dakota.  Despite following similar patterns of character tropes seen in season 1, this season is far more focused on agents of chaos rather than the individual despicable actions of one individual.  The couple who get caught up in this whirlwind crime spree are Ed and Peggy Blumquist, Jesse Plemmons and Kirsten Dunst respectively.  Highlights of the season include excellent acting work from Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Donovan and Bookeem Woodbine as the sharp-tongued Mike Milligan as well as some of the most incredible cinematography seen on television today (only to be rivaled by perhaps another on my list: Hannibal).

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  1. Transparent (Season 2)

Even after the brilliant first season introduced us to the Pfefferman’s and their transgender matriarch Maura, I believed a sophomore slump was entirely possible.  However, under the care and direction of Jill Soloway, the second season has only expanded upon the first, letting us get to know the people that make up Maura’s orbit.  Without giving any juicy details away, this season’s MVP completely goes to Amy Landecker’s portrayal of Sarah as she falls apart following her divorce and marriage to Barb.  Ali (Gabby Hoffman) continues to try to find herself, this time through her exploration of new sexual awakenings and relationship with her best friend Syd (the fantastic Carrie Brownstein).  Josh (Jay Duplass) is trying to find his own footing in life, while still not dealing with the trauma of being sexually assaulted at a young age, as his past comes constantly creeping up on him.  The show has become more than Maura.  She is no longer the protagonist, as all the characters stories hold their own weight.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the third season if it’s any good as this one.

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  1. Justified (Season 6)

The final season of Justified was anyone’s game.  After the previous year’s dud that was season 5, I had hope that Justified would go back to its roots for the final season, and my, was I not disappointed.  Not only did they finally tie up some loose ends, but they did it during an explosive season with perhaps the greatest antagonists since Margo Martindale’s turn as Mags Bennett.  First we have Garret Dillahunt as Ty Walker, who has a nice run as the always respectful, but completely unhinged right hand man to the true evil of the season: Avery Markham.  Played by the incredible Sam Elliot, minus his trademark mustache, Markham is menacingly laid back so when he snaps its all the more terrifying.  Mary Steenburgen also has a great turn as Markham’s love interest Katherine Hale, a woman with nefarious plans of her own who wouldn’t let anything get in her way.  The show did not go out in a blaze of glory, but rather chose to honor Elmore Leonard in the best way possible, stay true to your characters and their development.  After finishing the finale, I realized I had only seen such a masterful ending to a show two times before that:  Breaking Bad and Six Feet Under.

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  1. Hannibal (Season 3)

When I heard that NBC was canceling Hannibal, I refused to acknowledge its inevitable end until it actually happened.  My denial of the show’s ending only made me more eager to savor every morsel that was left while I still had the chance.  The final season does feel a bit disjointed and as a result I have compartmentalized the first and second half of the season.  We begin following Hannibal’s escape with Bedelia in Europe and it almost seems unreal and ethereal; the drama is there but it doesn’t feel urgent. We are very much in Bedelia’s shoes and the absence of Will Graham feels palpable.  However once the drama returns to the US and familiar territory of the Tooth Fairy killer, played by the excellent Richard Armitage, the story feels like it took a detour and then circled back to the place where everything began.  The story of Will and Hannibal has always been a love story, albeit a disturbing and unhealthy one, and the show respects and understands that relationship intensely.  I’m sure that the final moments of this series will haunt me forever.

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  1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 3)

I will admit that I initially thought this show would be terrible, but even after viewing one episode I was sold.  This show has one of the greatest ensemble casts on television, whether it is a drama or comedy, and they work so well together that any pairing of characters works seamlessly.  Each of them bring something different to the table that enables them all to coexist so well.  As a result, this is easily one of the funniest shows on TV.  I have never sat down for an episode and not had a least 2 or 3 belly laughs, usually as a result of Gina’s brilliant one liners and Chelsea Peretti’s spot on delivery. While the storyline progressed a bit from the previous season (Amy and Jake are finally together!) the stakes are never too high on this show, so you can enjoy each episode on its own.  Do yourself a favor and binge this show and if it doesn’t put a giant smile on your face – you are most likely a cold, heartless bastard.

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  1. iZombie (Seasons 1 & 2)

When I look at best of the year lists for 2015, I am consistently surprised to not see iZombie among TV’s best.  There really isn’t another show on TV that melds its case of the week/serialization plots so seamlessly and with such a good sense of humor.  This season we have watched Major spiral downward as a he continues to be under control of Max Rager, learn more about Clive and what he is into (Game of Thrones!), as well as follow Liv as she continues to be a member of the undead while trying to help those in need.  The sophomore season has gotten darker as the stakes have been raised, while always keeping an excellent sense of humor (thank god for Ravi).  Liv’s brain transformations are consistently entertaining and I think I could watch Rose McIver play just about anyone after seeing how talented she is on this show.  I would highly recommend catching up because I promise you won’t regret it.

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  1. Sense8 (Season 1)

If you told me that the Wakowski’s created a TV series for Netflix, I may have been a bit dubious of its possible merit. However, I decided to delve into this show when I heard from other people and critics that is was a solid series with legs to stand on.  I decided to give it a try and I was hooked after episode one.  It really appealed to me for several reasons, including the fact that I didn’t know any of the cast beforehand, and I am usually not one to turn down a good sci-fi series.  The title refers to a sensate: someone who can sense and experience things another sensate is feeling in any given moment.  Sensates are grouped into pods of 8, and they can live all over the world, but still be connected.  And this show has just about everything you could ask for: car chases, crime syndicates, government conspiracies, sensate-fueled orgies and more.  Despite the occasional plot holes, they are really trying to build a world that eclipses time and space that shows the physical distance between sensates and the things they can experience together even on different sides of the world. It’s a very intriguing premise and I am eager to see how the conspiracies build into the second season.

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Honorable Mentions (Because I’m not caught up)

Ash vs. Evil Dead – This show is absolutely brilliant.  Bruce Campbell is the king of camp and this throwback series has everything I loved about the original series, but with even more camp.  There is a lot of blood and a lot of one-liners and I cannot get enough of any of it.  Just do yourself a favor and watch this show.

Jane the Virgin – I am in love with this show and all I need to do is catch up.  Alas, this is what happens when you decide to watch a show with your mother and she never wants to watch TV.  I’m not really sure what is going on in season 2 and I may just have to binge it all once the season is over because they might just be a lot easier.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp – I recently re-watched the movie after years and years and then I started the show.  It is so nonsensical and super weird and has an incredible comedic cast.  I love the absurdity and heightened stakes of the everyday camp minutiae.  Highlights include Christopher Meloni – who frankly should do comedy for the rest of his career – and Paul Rudd playing the perpetual immature rude teenager has only gotten better with age.

Luther – I just finished all 4 seasons of this short BBC series and it was the easiest binge I’ve done of a show.  Idris Elba is fantastic in a role that is more or less a grounded Sherlock.  He relies on series police work and tends to make questionable choices when he is cornered.  Ruth Wilson is also incredible as his sociopathic friend, who sometimes gets him out of a tight spot.  The acting is superb and I really can’t deny that I am just a sucker for British accents.

 

Show that Had Potential: 

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Flesh & Bone – I was so excited for this show from Breaking Bad exec producer Moira Walley-Beckett to be set in the world of cutthroat dance.  Ballet itself is an immensely demanding way of life and I had hoped that the drama would pull from the ballet, but it ended up working in reverse.  Claire Robbins started out interesting and then became a product of her situation with her past constantly creeping up to threaten her current position.  The season took a lot of detours only to land eventually where I expected they would.  I had hoped for a lot more from this show.

 

And the one I feel like giving up on…

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The Walking Dead- I have been enjoying TWD for 6 seasons now and thinking back, there was a lot of story choices I didn’t like, but I was able to enjoy the show all the same.  This season, the writers really lost me.  I find the endless battle between everyone and Rick tiring.  Knowing definitely that a character will die if they disagree with Rick is lazy storytelling, plain and simple. It constantly feels like I’m being bashed over the head with the same story beats over and over again.  Only this season, they decided to drag it out and create one conflict to stew in for the whole season.  They have marginalized characters who I enjoy and have gotten rid of new characters at a rate that is similar to another kill happy show, Supernatural.  I am hoping the back half of season 6 brings something different to the table, but my hopes are not high.  However, I will inevitably continue watching Rick and Co. as they make their way through the end times.

 

Fall Show Recommendations: New & Returning

Alright folks, it’s that time of year again where I get inordinately excited for all my shows coming back, along with some fresh meat.  My fellow purveyor of pop culture Emily and I have gotten together again for another list of shows you need to check out this fall.  Enjoy our Top Ten List of Best New & Returning Shows – Read, then go forth and watch!

Returning Shows:

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1.  Empire

Empire broke records in its debut season as its audience grew exponentially each new episode.  Despite plot issues and some slipshod acting, I thoroughly enjoyed the first season.  Empire chronicles the story of music mogul Lucious Lyon, his ex-wife Cookie and their three boys Jamal, Hakeem and Andre as they struggle for power and the controlling stake in the family company.  Lucious is a bigoted, egotistical father with a penchant for bringing out the worst in the people around him.  He doesn’t really understand his sons as much as he likes to control them and how they live their lives.  It’s a drama, heavy on the soap, and can sometimes veer into exaggerated territory.

However, the show is extremely watchable, mainly due to their secret weapon: Cookie Lyon.  Taraji P. Henson has taken the TV world by storm and she can only continue to tear shit up.  She is a bad-ass mama bear who will bite your head off if you try to mess with her cubs.  She is a tremendously melodramatic character, with all the juiciest one-liners, but Henson plays her with such incredible pathos she is incredibly compelling to watch. She is so fantastic, I would recommend the show on her talent alone. But alas, the show has more going for it than just Cookie.  Timbaland produces all of the music featured on the show and his talent is not to be underestimated; check out some of the fun music that’s already out from the first season for your listening pleasure – and tune in for season 2! – GN

For Fans Of: Scandal, Nashville

PREMIERE: Wed, Sept 23 @ 9 PM on FOX

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2. Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin had a lot going against it when it premiered last October for it’s first season. With a wacky title, oddball plot and scenes entirely in Spanish, it seemed Jane The Virgin might be the laughing stock of the fall television season. However Jane premiered to solid ratings and showed audiences how much heart it actually had.

Jane, the result of a teenage pregnancy by her mother, has vowed not to have sex until she’s married. While it is partly a religious decision, it’s also because she wants to take charge of her life and ensure that nothing will stop her from pursuing her dreams. She is engaged to her understanding boyfriend of two years and is pursuing her degree part time while she works at a hotel to help pay for her tuition. Her life is on track. Then when she goes to a routine checkup at her gynecologist she accidentally gets artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant, even though she’s a virgin. To make matters worse, the sperm belongs to her married boss, whom she also has a crush on. To say her life takes a turn is a bit of an understatement.

Based off a Spanish novella of the same name,  Jane proved early on that it while it could live up to the drama promised by its telenovela of the same name, it could also be one of the funniest and most genuine shows on television. Watching Jane struggle to figure out what to do with the baby is one of the most honest portrayals I’ve seen on tv. The family dynamic is also something other shows should envy. With three generations of strong women who live under the same roof, they always support, love and take care of each other and it’s beautiful. Even their love triangle is entirely original. Though a common device used on television, rarely has it been so well executed. The two men who are competing for her heart, are entirely different, yet completely fleshed out as characters with strong merits. The writers have done an incredible job at not making a clear winner out of her suitors creating two compelling, flawed and realistic men who both deserve to win Jane. With season two promising to bring about a baby, a wedding, and a cameo by Kesha as a neighbor who hates babies, it should be a hoot and a half. -EM

For Fans Of: Ugly Betty and Gilmore Girls 

PREMIERE: October 12, 2015 at 9 on CW

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3.  iZombie

Of all the new fall returning shows, I am most excited for iZombie.  Last season left off on quite a doozy of a finale and I can’t wait to see all of the blowback after some of the tough decisions Liv had to make.  In case you know nothing about the show, medical student Liv Moore is invited to a particularly hellish boat party and wakes up in a body bag with a craving for brains.  She quits her job, ends her engagement with fiancée Major and gets a job at the morgue where she has an endless supply of brains and no one to accidentally turn.  No one of course, except for her boss Ravi whom Liv confides in with her secret.

One of the perks of being a zombie happens to be both visions of the person’s life and traits the person had when they were alive – i.e. obsession with video games, agoraphobia, sniper skills and more.  After accidentally having a vision around detective Babineaux, Liv gets roped into being a “psychic for the police.”  Let me remind you this is only the set up, and it only builds as the season progresses from comedic weekly cop show to deeply serialized drama with high stakes by the finale. -GN

For Fans Of: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars

PREMIERE: Tues, Oct 6 @ 9 PM on the CW

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4. Sleepy Hollow

People were laughing when Sleepy Hollow premiered two years ago. Two and a half centuries after Ichabod Crane’s fateful encounter with the headless horseman, Ichabod is resurrected into present day Sleepy Hollow. He now has to fight demons and unravel history with the help of Lieutenant Abby Mills, all while trying to adapt to modern culture and kill the headless horseman who also has come back to Sleepy Hollow. Watch your head. But season 1 literally and figuratively killed, and it became one of the highest rated new series on television.

However when season 2 premiered, there was a marked difference in writing, tone, and stories. The show seemed to take a lot of wrong turns, by introducing new characters that weren’t necessary, underwriting some of the great characters they had already created, and moved away from the monster of the week format to push for reoccurring storylines over an entire season. Fans and critics were less than impressed.

So why is this show on the list? Well the season 2 finale showed a vast improvement from the second season. Also, the showrunner lost his head. I mean, was fired and replaced. With a new head boss, old fans that have given up should come back and give it another try. If it’s anything like it’s first season, it will return to being one of the funniest, most outlandish, and awesome shows on television. -EM

For Fans Of: Grimm and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

PREMIERE: October 01, 2015 at 9 on FOX

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5.  The Last Man on Earth

There has never been another sitcom like this one.  Will Forte created this series and upon viewing the pilot, I was sold on one of the first gags alone (I’ll let you guess which one).  Forte is frequently offbeat and weird, but creating a comedy about what people do after the end of civilization with such a small cast seemed like it could fail miserably, or be exactly what Forte needed; it turned out to be the latter.

The pilot episode introduces us to Phil, an average guy who is unraveling at the seams after a virus wipes out all of humanity.  Phil is narcissistic and lazy and spends most of his time wasting away his day bathing and drinking out of a kiddie pool filled with margaritas.  Phil thinks he’s all alone – that is, until he happens to run into another person – a woman – named Carol, the always hysterical Kristen Schaal, who is the antithesis of Phil.  Their friendship rivalry fuels the show and Forte and Schaal play off each other so well that even when you are cringing at their behavior, you can’t help but laugh.

This show was honestly a surprise for me; I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not.  It is the single greatest comedic pilot I have seen in years – thanks for that Emmy nod – and Will Forte has never been funnier.  There are a few bumps along the road, but it’s a solid first season.  I’m looking forward to what season 2 has to offer. – GN

For Fans of: Community, New Girl

PREMIERE: Sun, Sept 27 @ 9:30 PM on FOX

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6.  How to Get Away With Murder

How To Get Away With Murder had some of the highest expectations coming into the Fall 2014 television season. It’s Executive Producer was the great Shonda Rhimes, producer of two hit primetime shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and the show was starring Academy Award Nominee Viola Davis. It was also premiering immediately after Greys and Scandal providing it a built in audience. Needles to say, it had a lot to live up to.

Luckily for Murder, everything Rhimes touches turns to gold. The show is about Annalise Keating a high power lawyer and professor who teaches a class to freshmen known amongst everyone at the university as ‘How To Get Away With Murder.’ The show opens up in present day as four of her students frantically try to cover up the murder of Annalise’s husband Sam. The show then rewinds back in time to the first day of class. For the first half of season 1, the show splits back and forth between past and present as the puzzle pieces fall into place and audiences realize nothing is quite as it seems.

The second half of season 1 was just as good and suspenseful as it’s predecessor and the finale had one of the most jaw-dropping reveals of the spring. Audiences were finally told who had killed Lila Stangard, the mystery that had been plaguing us since the first episode. As it seemed that season 1 was wrapping up in a perfect bow, another shocking murder rocked the group, setting up season 2, to be just as crazy and unbelievable as its first. -EM

For Fans Of: Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal

PREMIERE: 09/24/15 at 10pm on ABC

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7.  Fargo

When they announced there would be a TV series about one of the Coen brothers’ best films, I think everyone was a bit skeptical.  How do you recreate that type of flash in the pan genius?  For starters, you don’t take a single character from the film and instead create the story around the atmosphere of the film – the cold Minnesota winter and the brutal violence hidden in such an innocent place.  By distancing themselves from the film’s storyline and characters, they were able to carve out a new space for their own story in the ever-expanding Coen brothers’ world.

Despite the lack of Frances McDormand, the show makes up for it with newcomer Allison Tolman as the headstrong and resourceful Molly Solverson, Billy Bob Thornton’s evil drifter Lorne Malvo and the deplorable Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard.  The show is visually stunning and the writing full of the darkly comic tone always present in the Coen’s films.  Since the show was released as a mini-series, season 2 will be a related but ultimately different story. (So you don’t even need to catch up to watch the premiere!) – GN

For Fans Of: the film version of Fargo, Breaking Bad, True Detective

PREMIERE: Mon, Oct 12 @ 10 PM on FX

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8.  Reign

Premiering two years ago Reign, was one of the riskiest and boldest shows to premiere. Historical dramas based on true stories are hard to target to audiences because history is often thought of as boring. Also a historical drama costs a lot of money to produce because of the expensive sets and costumes, which is why they are rarely produced on basic cable networks. A lot of heads were turned when the CW network, the youngest and least known of the major networks announced it was creating a show around Mary Queen of Scots with a cast of relatively unknown actors.

When fifteen year old Mary, Queen of Scots when she arrives in France to marry her betrothed Prince Francis, she has no idea what she is getting herself into. Chronicling her rise to power, Mary must face enemies who will do anything to break up the alliance between Scotland and France, dark supernatural powers, and a world of sexual intrigue. Long may she reign.

Though the first few episodes seemed to falter, by the end of mid season 1 finale, the show had gotten back on track. By the end of the first season, the characters and relationships had been fleshed out, the story lines were continuous and more believable and it featured some of the most fun plots on television. I dare any other show to portray a king accidentally/sort of on purpose hump a woman out of a window.

The end of the first season made Mary Queen of France right in the middle of a plague, with her husband riding out of the castle to chase after his mistress who just had his illegitimate child. Basically they set up season 2 masterfully and it did not disappoint. After getting rid of some unnecessary story lines and characters, the writers introduced some crucial new ones who were more fun, interesting, and important to the central plots. They also introduced a sensitive, and well written rape scene that was applauded by critics and fans alike for how it and the aftermath was written. With season three making Queen Elizabeth a season regular, it promises to be even better than before. Long may this show reign. -EM

For Fans Of: The Tudors and Gossip Girl

PREMIERE: Sept 9 at 8pm on the CW

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9.  Brooklyn 99

I was skeptical about this show at first, but after watching several episodes, it was clear that this was not just a silly cop show, but one full of heart and well-drawn characters.  And they are definitely an odd bunch.  Andy Samberg’s delightful prankster Jake plays off every character so well – from sarcastic, deadpan Rosa to Joe Lo Truglio’s clueless Charles.  Andre Braugher is the hardened, but fair Police Captain Ray Holt and his interactions with Jake (and Chelsea Peretti’s hysterical Gina) are some of the best moments on the show.  The station is a safe space for these characters, and despite being very different, they have all found a surrogate family and a home at work. They fool around a lot, but face reality when they need to – and they always have each other’s backs.

Season 2 is changing the casting up as bit as Bill Hader joins the cast as the new police captain while Andre Braugher takes a hiatus.  As much as I love Braugher, I can’t say I’m not excited to see Bill Hader join this already incredible cast.  I think he will fit into the quirky tone of the series and may be be a great way to shake things up at the precinct. – GN

For Fans Of: Parks & Rec, New Girl

PREMIERE: Sun, Sept 27 @ 8:30 PM on FOX

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10. Gotham

Capitalizing on the superhero love in film and on television, Fox network decided to get in on the action. While picking one of the most popular superheros of all time, Batman, creator Bruno Heller decided to tell a side of the story that is rarely told. Instead of giving us yet another origin story of a superhero, he decided to tell the story of the city Bruce Wayne would one day save, Gotham.

The story follows Police Officer Jim Gordon a man with morals in a station filled with corrupt cops, and a city full of criminals.  He and his partner, legendary Detective Harvey Bullock, must navigate the dirty politics of Gotham’s justice system, even as they tackle a high-profile case, the murder of billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gordon becomes a friend to their young orphan, Bruce. But this isn’t just his origin story, along for the ride is a young Penguin, Riddler and a preteen Catwoman.

Season 1, like a few shows on this list struggled in the beginning. It tried to fit every member of its ensemble cast in each episode, which made it a little crowded. It also tried to wrap up every story in a neat, one episode format. But the writers began to fix these issues half way through the season, and the show ended on a high note. With promises by the showrunners to ‘kill characters off quickly’ and an appearance by the famed Joker, season 2 promises to be better and darker than it’s freshman season. -EM

For Fans Of: The Mentalist and Daredevil 

PREMIERE: 09/21/15 at 8pm on Fox


New Series:

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1.  Ash vs. The Evil Dead

It is rare that a horror comedy does not attract my attention, but this new series continuing the adventures of Ash Williams and his endless battle with the Deadites has me hooked before you can say Necronomicon.  These days, Ash is working a dead end job without hope for the future when the Deadites find their way back into his life and he has to don his chainsaw arm one last time.  It looks very much like the tone of the original series will be consistent in this iteration and for that I am more excited than you know.  Having been badly burned by the remake of Evil Dead, I really look forward to getting back into the campy horror that I fell in love with in the first place.

Bruce Campbell is always a fun treat, especially in the Evil Dead series, and now he has some new faces to brighten up this series – ahem ahem, Lucy Lawless.  If you like your horror funny, and full of retro gore, I wouldn’t pass up this must see series! – GN

PREMIERE: Sat, Oct 31 @ 9 PM on STARZ

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2. Limitless

I am a big Bradley Cooper fan, so in 2011 when I saw he was starring all by himself in a dramatic movie, I knew I had to watch. The film Limitless ended up being a genuinely fun thriller that was entirely unique and really kickstarted Cooper’s career as a serious actor. Flash forward four years and the successful film is getting it’s own television series.

The movie and series is about a special type of drug that allows the taker to use 100% of his brain abilities. While this provides unlimited powers, intelligence and highs, it also causes some unwanted side effects and attention. The movie focused on Cooper’s character Eddie Morra, but the show focuses on a new user Brian Sinclair, though Cooper and his character will appear on the series.

While it’s mainly a gimmick for ratings, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see Bradley Cooper on the small screen. He’s been nominated for four Academy Awards since filming Limitless and is one of the highest in demand actors right now. Him appearing on this show for the first four episodes is kind of a big deal. So tune in for Cooper, but hopefully stay for the unique storyline. -EM

PREMIERE: 09/22/15 at 10pm on CBS

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3.  Fear the Walking Dead

Although the first couple of episodes have already aired, Fear the Walking Dead is indeed a different show than its originator.  (Which is great, because you can watch it without seeing TWD beforehand.) In the 90-minute pilot, there were only two or three “zombie” sightings, and at this point not many people even know what is going on, even after seeing it for yourself.  Where TWD focused on the aftermath of the apocalypse, FTWD is more concerned with the family at the center of the story and how a societal breakdown like this can affect an already strained family unit.

It seems promising not only because it takes place on the other side of the country, but because it is dealing with the chaos only beginning to tear people apart before they even know what is happening.  It’s cool to be excited for a zombie show where the zombies are not the forefront, the relationships are what matters here.  As a sucker for story, this had my attention from the very first scratch. You haven’t missed many episodes, so go and check it out now! – GN

PREMIERE: Sun, Aug 23 @ 9 PM on AMC

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4. The Bastard Executioner

I admit, this show had me at the title. What’s not to like?

The Bastard Executioner is a daring new show that follows  warrior Wilkin Brattle as he becomes an unwilling executioner in the 14th century. In a time of political upheaval, he walks a fine line of protecting himself, following orders, and listening to the advice of a mysterious healer, Annora. He must figure out which master he serves, all while fighting the ever growing connection between himself Baroness Lowry ‘Love’ Aberffraw Ventris.

I am a huge fan of historical dramas, especially British history and this story is taking place during the reign of King Edward III, a rarely explored time period before. I also typically love the anti hero and a show about an executioner with morals who is forced to continue his job is basically like catnip to me. I’m also beyond excited for Katey Segal to be a series regular.  She’s a phenomneal actress in her first regular tv gig since coming off the incredible Sons of Anarchy. FX is also a network who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to storylines and gore. All of these elements adding up, make this appear to be an excellent show. -EM

PREMIERE: 09/15/15 at 10pm on FX

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5.  AHS: Hotel

After skipping out on last season’s entry (I do NOT do clowns), I’m really looking forward to this season – it’s first without Jessica Lange as the series anchor.  There’s some fresh meat in town in the form of Mother Monster Lady Gaga.  Gaga has a very obvious love of the macabre and I think she will fit in seamlessly with the minds at AHS.  I am so ready for the buckets and buckets of blood to be released this season, along with some much more risky material now that Gaga is in the lead.

This season we are introduced to the Hotel Cortez, owned by Gaga’s Countess – a vampire queen who has attracted many characters to her hotel, including her lover Donovan (Matt Bomer) and his mother Iris (Kathy Bates), the manager of the hotel.  This season there are some old faces, some new.  Show veterans Evan Peters and Denis O’Hare return along with Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett.  Some new faces this season include Max Greenfield from New Girl, Darren Criss from Glee and Naomi Campbell. – GN

PREMIERE: Wed, Oct 7 @ 10 PM on FX

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6. Wicked City

This show has the potential to be the most ordinary and common place show on this list. It’s a pretty basic concept that’s been done before, however, if done right, it has the potential to be great and I’m really rooting for it.

Wicked City is a serialized anthology series a la American Horror Story or True Detective that resets itself in a different time period with brand new characters. The singular element between the hopefully  eventual seasons will be a murder in Los Angeles.

The innagural first season takes place in L. A. in 1982 as a pair or romantically linked serial killers wreak havoc on the sunset strip, while FBI, drug dealers, and club goers all look to capture them. This show has a couple of things going for it. With just a ten episode season 1, it doesn’t have to add filler episodes just to reach the 22 episodes it’s contracted for. A rare feat for a prime time show, hopefully the few episodes will be the perfect amount to tell this story.  The show also has a strong cast headlined by Tessa Farmiga and Ed Westwick. Lastly, who doesn’t want to spend some time in L.A. in the 80? – EM

PREMIERE: 10/27/15 at 10pm on ABC

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7.  Flesh & Bone

It has been a long time since I was this excited for a show (two including Evil Dead!) on STARZ.  Flesh & Bone looks incredibly juicy as the journey of a small town ballet dancer rising quickly through the ranks in the cutthroat world of ballet in NYC.  Dance is such a visceral sport and while there have been shows in recent years that take place in the world of dance (i.e. Bunheads), nothing has come close to showing the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a spectacular dancer.  Bring on the dance drama and petty rivalries and bleeding toes – I’m am there 100%.

If you are a fan of the film Center Stage, you’ll see a few familiar faces in this show (Sascha Radetsky, can I get an amen?) so there will be excellent dancers working alongside the actors – who can also presumably dance- and I am thrilled to see that kind of talent on TV. I definitely think it’s worth looking into and who knows, maybe STARZ will finally have won me over with a drama about a sport that I have loved my entire life. – GN

PREMIERE: SUN 11/8 @ 9P ON STARZ

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8.  Lucifer

This show is the one I am most excited about on this list. Lucifer combines my love of angels, acclaimed horror author Neil Gaiman, and angry mothers with online petitions.

Lucifer the Morning Star angel who fell from grace and became Satan, has grown tired of Hell. So where does he go? Obviously the place closest to it on Earth, Los Angeles. Now Lucifer gets his kicks helping the LAPD catch and punish the worst criminals and fussing about with humans.

The pilot premiered at this summer’s Comic Con to rave reviews saying the witty dialogue is effortlessly delivered by the show’s lead Tom Ellis. The character was also created by the great Neil Gaiman for his landmark comic book series, “The Sandman.” Gaiman is author of some of my favorite novels and am minorly obsessed with him. (PSA: Follow him on Twitter, he’s perfect.) Also a group of ‘concerned mothers’ have started a petition to get this cancelled because the show is glorifying and humanizing Satan.

BAHAHAHAHAHA.

Y’all should tune in just because people are boycotting it. -EM

PREMIERS: No Official word from Fox yet.

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9.  Scream Queens

As the Kappa house is forced to open pledging to all female students, rather than just the ones with access to mommy and daddy’s credit cards, a killer starts picking off sorority girls one by one. While I’m always down for a blood fest, I admit I needed a bit more to be on board with this show.  And then, in comes Jaime Lee Curtis to save the day – the OG Scream Queen herself.  I am thrilled to see her back in the horror genre (and I think I’m not the only one more than a little happy to see her on something besides those sad Activia commercials). Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are back with an all new horror comedy series.  Combining the whip smart bitchiness of Glee with the murder and mayhem of AHS was a good idea, and seemingly the logical next step of their journey in TV.

Murphy and Falchuk have created some pretty twisted shows, and I don’t expect this one to be different, but I do expect it to be fun and gruesome.  As Murphy and Falchuck already know, there are no rules in horror and although they have touched on the humor of the macabre, they are really putting both feet in first with this new series.  American Horror Story has bark, but I think this series – especially with snarky Queen Bee Emma Roberts in the lead – will definitely have the bite. – GN

PREMIERE: 9/22 @ 8P ON FOX

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10. Supergirl

In a world where Black Widow can’t get her own Marvel Universe film when all the boys do, it’s essential that we finally get a female super hero starring in her own series.

I don’t think I need to say anything more. Watch and support. -EM

PREMIERE: 10/26/15 at 8:30pm on CBS


Thanks for reading! Sound off in the comments if you liked our recommendations! And check out this post on Emil’s blog here.

The Stalk Stops Here: My Experiences as a Stalking Victim

My dear friend and blog partner Emily has just gone through an incredibly frightening ordeal and she could use some support. Sending lots of love and support her way.

emily miller writes; a crazy random happenstance

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My most recent blog post dealt with my experience getting harassed at work and how my management completely mishandled the situation. You can check it out here. I wrote the article because I wanted to highlight the sexism showed towards me at work and the casualness in which they dismissed my terror at being stalked on the phone. I hoped that if enough people read and shared it, then maybe change could occur. I sincerely thought though that that article would be the end of the story.

I was horribly wrong.

The following is an account of the past two weeks of my life, where I became a stalking victim and realized how difficult it is to get people to take the crime of stalking seriously.

About two weeks ago I was in my house when I received a phone call from the manager who had previously dismissed my telephone…

View original post 2,569 more words

Sisters are Doing it for Themselves – The 20 Best Shows with Female Driven Plots

While I was bingeing season 3 of Orange is the New Black, it occurred to me how rarely I get the opportunity to watch shows with nuanced female characters with extensive plots to match.  After talking to my pop culture soulmate Emily Miller, we realized that there are more shows with female leads than most people realize. We see women with all different backgrounds, different body types and of all ages.  In the mainstream, the opportunity to have characters like this is not all that common. In fact, sometimes it difficult for shows just to write one fleshed-out female character, much less an entire ensemble.  That rarity however, is becoming more and more commonplace. Shows like Orange are paving the way for large female casts with dynamic storytelling. And although these stories are on the rise, there have been more than a few other examples of this trend in the last decade alone.

  1. Orange is the New Black

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Why the Show is Great

Created by Jenji Kohan, Orange follows the lives of the female prisoners of the Litchfield Correctional Facility. Piper, played by Taylor Schilling, is our entryway into the prison system through the eyes of a white, privileged woman. The varied voices on the show are women with such different personalities, body types and ethnicities not often seen on television.   Their daily interaction provides consistent humor, while the prison is also a great location for conflict. The influence of privilege is seen in characters like Piper and Red and lack thereof in characters like Pennsatucky and Dayanara.  The struggle for acceptance and understanding of transgender women are touched upon through Laverne Cox’s Sophia. Despite struggling through some dragged out and uninspired plots, the relationships between these women is always the real focus of the show.

Crucial Characters

It is through Piper’s incarceration that we are introduced to the other female prisoners, most of whom are far more interesting to learn about than our self-centered protagonist.  Among these other inmates, we have women from all different cultures and backgrounds, women with mental health issues, immature women, fat women, tall women, transgender women and everything in between.  Some of the standouts include Susanne, played by the incredible Uzo Aduba, Taystee, played by Danielle Brooks, and Sophia, portrayed by the unstoppable Laverne Cox.  The best thing about this show, is that all of these women play their part in forming this community of diverse voices.

Sample Soundbite

Susanne (on what it means to be loved): It’s like you become more you. Which, normally is like *yuck*. But now it’s okay because the person, like, whoever, they chose to take all that on. All that weird stuff. Whatever is wrong, or bad or hiding in you. Suddenly it’s alright. You don’t feel like such a freak anymore.

Where to Watch:  NETFLIX.  Season 3 was just released last month, so you have plenty of time to catch up for season 4!

 

  1. Jane the Virgin

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Why the Show is Great

Created by Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin is one of those rare gems on television that makes me genuinely excited for every new episode.  In the world of binge watching, it is easy to just let the next episode play, but with Jane I am fully committed to the whole ride – despite the agony of waiting every week for a new episode.  Jane is a young woman thrust into pregnancy when she is accidentally artificially inseminated and her once ordered life starts to flip on its head.  Jane is played with incredible versatility by Gina Rodriguez.  While the show’s plot moves at breakneck speed, per telenovela tradition, the emotional resonance of the show lies in the intergenerational relationship between Jane, her mother Xo and her grandmother Alba. Jane herself is surrounded by women in all parts of her life.  Rafael’s sister, Luisa was the gynecologist who accidentally artificially inseminated Jane which sent her life into a tailspin.  Luisa’s lover Rose, also her stepmother, turns out to have some secrets of her own.  Petra, Rafel’s ex-wife, has become personally invested in the Marbella and is a constant thorn in Jane’s side, but is a multi-dimensional character with her own consistent character development.  These women are in Jane’s orbit, as well as being well-written and interesting characters in their own right.  The incredible ensemble cast of women, and indeed some incredible men, is what makes Jane such a refreshing series on television right now; it also doesn’t hurt having a strong cast of Latina women not reduced to stereotypes, a rare find on TV these days.

Crucial Characters

The Villanueva women are what makes this show tick.  They are the glue that holds the show’s emotional through line together and without them as an anchor, the millions of side plots and twists and turns would have no resonance and would likely fall apart.  I personally love Alba, who may not be able to speak great English, but is one of the sassiest, most level-headed women on the show. Her father Rogelio is also a piss and has some of the greatest lines on the show.

Sample Soundbite

Rogelio: Once I secure my Tony, all that remains is an E.G.O.

Alba: Pretty sure you’ve got that covered.

Where to Watch:  Season 1 just ended in May and the first four episodes are streaming on www.cwtv.com

 

  1. Ugly Betty

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Why the Show is Great

Another show very heavily invested in the idea of important and complicated female relationships is Ugly Betty.  I’ve most often compared Jane to Ugly Betty if only for their shared connection to telenovelas and the fact they are led by an incredibly talented female star, with solidly developed female characters rounding out their ensembles. However, Ugly Betty is a much different beast.  Betty Suarez, played by the incredible America Ferrera, is a bold, occasionally naïve Mexican American woman from Queens with a dream of making it in the editorial world.  After being hired at fashion magazine Mode, Betty is thrust into a world of high fashion, blackmail and petty rivalries.   Her family, including her father, sister, and nephew, support her as she finds her voice and stands up for herself. She finds friendship with fellow co-worker and seamstress Christina McKinney, the always charming Ashley Jensen.  Creative director Wilhelmina Slater, her personal assistant Marc St. James, and receptionist Amanda Tannen make Betty’s world more difficult on a daily basis as they try to run her over on their way to the top. The show was often very funny, but was always grounded in Betty’s uncompromisingly optimistic view of the world.

Crucial Characters

Betty and her family are extremely important to her, and she would not be the person she is without them.  She is very close to her father Ignacio, but he lost a part of him with the death of their mother and is often in need of Betty’s help, rather than the other way around. Betty’s older sister Hilda has a huge influence on her, especially because their mother passed away and they have to work together to keep their family afloat.  Her nephew Justin loves Betty, and her job, and is often there to help Betty when she needs a shoulder or help with a fashion disaster.  Personally, from day one, I have always loved Christina.  She is often the voice of reason in the chaotic world of fashion, but what I really admire is her ability to make the people around her laugh when they need it.  However, I can’t deny that the friendship between Amanda and Willy’s assistant Marc isn’t loads of fun to watch, even if they are pretty awful people.

Sample Soundbite

(to Stuart, after confronting him about the drug test she had performed on some of his hair.)

Christina: They found oxycontin, heroin… It’s like Rush Limbaugh fornicated with Amy Winehouse and they spawned you. 

Where to WatchThe entire show is on Hulu.  Go forth and binge!

 

  1. Broad City

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Why the Show is Great

Between Key & Peele, Amy Schumer, and even the boys on Workaholics, the millennial generation has some great comedic talents.  But when Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer burst onto the scene with Broad City, no one captured the zeitgeist of the time quite they have.  Abbi and Ilana, the characters, are young twenty-somethings with nothing to prove. Despite being complete opposites – Ilana is a balls-to-the-wall, confident risk-taker with nothing to lose and a laid back attitude to match, while Abbi is a cautious, silly over-thinker who can be a bit neurotic, but is always along for the fun – these women would do anything for each other and the heart of the show is their friendship as they explore New York City like their own personal playground.  Whether they are spending the day in Central Park with no technology or stumbling upon a late-night speakeasy in the Village, they are up for anything – so long as they are together. This type of female friendship is not often seen on television and it really resonates with our generation, providing a much needed catharsis from the overwhelming issues we face in the world today.

Crucial Characters

It goes without saying that Abbi and Ilana are the glue that holds the show together, but the people they surround themselves with are just as fun.  Take Lincoln, Ilana’s fuck-buddy/responsible dentist, played to perfection by the illustrious Hannibal Buress who provides endless laughs as a laid-back, put-together guy with not many expectations about life, but who always finds the joy in the little moments.  While they meet up with other lady friends from time to time, the real focus is on their relationship with each other and there is truly no other show that depicts such a real and loving friendship in today’s millennial world.

Sample Soundbite

Ilana: Nose. Vagina. Butthole. If God didn’t want us to put our fingers in there, then why did she make them perfectly finger sized?

Where to Watch:  First two seasons are available on Hulu!

 

  1. Downton Abbey

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Why the Show is Great

Downton Abbey may be a bit stodgy at times, but the atmosphere of tradition clashing with modernity is the lifeblood of the show – even if the writers forget that now and again– and most definitely a reason why you should watch. Lady Mary is the impetus of the show with her embrace of the tradition at Downton but with an eye towards the future.  She is young and understands the world is changing, but she is particular about what she will let go of in this new world. Then we have Mary’s sisters Edith and Sybill, her mother Cora and grandmother Dowager Countess Violet Crawley – the always spectacular Maggie Smith.  The servant staff downstairs, led by Mrs. Hughes, has introduced naïve Daisy, optimistic Anna Bates, hardened cook Mrs. Patmore and the always scheming Mrs. O’Brien.  The women are all on display, as was the custom, but we get to learn more about their backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses.  Once you’ve spent a weekend at Downton, you will always want to come back and visit.

Crucial Characters

Lady Mary is the voice of the show and is very interesting, in large part due to the deft portrayal by Michelle Dockery. However, if there was anyone I always come back to it’s the Dowager Countess.  She is known for her biting wit and is frequently the voice the reason in the chaotic life at Downton Abbey.  She holds true to her values, and is rarely willing to compromise, but she is not naïve or unintelligent – on the contrary, she seems to have the most level head and is by no means stupid.

Sample Soundbite

Isobel Crawley: How you hate to be wrong.

Violet Crawley: I wouldn’t know, I’m not familiar with the sensation.

Where to Watch:  Alas, the show airs on PBS so there aren’t many places to stream it.  I got the DVD’s for season 1-3 at Walmart for like $20.

 

  1. The Golden Girls

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Why the Show is Great

“Thank you for being a friend.”  Tell me another line that has this much meaning to female friends young and old who were fans of The Golden Girls.  Each one of these fabulous women had something amazingly funny to offer this show’s look into friendship as it ages.  In one of her best roles Betty White plays the incredibly naïve Rose and often acts as cannon fodder to the other ladies problems of the moment.  Blanche, Rue McClanahan, is the sauciest and vivacious member of group who decidedly has a better social life at 80 than I do at 24.  Then there’s Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur, who lives and breathes sarcasm. Dorothy’s mother, Sophia, is the snarky straight man of the bunch and always keeps her wits about her, despite being the oldest.  Sophia is truly my spirit animal in all ways, but mainly because she has no filter and a comeback for everything.  These ladies have such a strong bond of friendship, that no matter what happens, or how old they get, they always have each other’s backs.

Crucial Characters

Well the girls of course. No one really matters more than them.  Personally though, Sophia and Dorothy are where it’s at. ❤

Sample Soundbite

Rose: I haven’t been with a man in that special way since Charlie died.

Blanche: Get outta here!

Rose: It’s true! Charlie is the only man I’ve ever slept with, and my first time was on our wedding night.

Blanche: GET OUTTA HERE!!

Dorothy: Oh back off Blanche! Not all of us are classified by the navy as a friendly port!

Where to Watch:  TV Land all the way, baby.

 

  1. The Fall

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Why the Show is Great

No one brings class to the party quite like Gillian Anderson.  Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson is sent in to a small town in Ireland to catch a serial killer, Paul Spector. As Gibson, Anderson gives an incredible performance as a woman who is confident, independent and good at what she does.  She also happens to be a very nuanced and realistic character with depths hidden under her icy exterior.  And she is not the only complex female character on the show. Archie Panjabi is Professor Reed Smith, a pathologist assigned to Operation Musicman and an equal to Stella, professionally and personally.  Even Paul’s wife Sally Ann is a complicated woman.  She loves her husband and covers for him when she thinks he is having an affair, but once she finds out that it’s much more serious than that, she comes clean to the police.  She is conflicted and is never portrayed as dumb, only ignorant to her husband’s well-hidden extracurricular activities. Paul’s partner in crime and extremely vulnerable teen Katie gets involved way over her head after she falls for the serial killer. Once she is under his spell, it’s very clearly not going to be broken easily – she is stubbornly obsessed with him and is willing to cross a lot of lines just to make him happy.  There is a substantial amount of violence in this show, especially against women, but the story provides a very rich, nuanced look at female characters and situations that feel real, with incredible cinematography to boot.

Crucial Characters

Stella is the most important character on the show; she is extremely intelligent and good at her job. She does not apologize for her choices and does not mince her words.  She is also an emotional woman with incredible empathy. She has a depth to her that is becoming more and more common in female characters today, but which Anderson most definitely teaches the master class. Reed is invaluable to Stella during the investigation, as she is extremely good at her job as a forensic pathologist.  Stella likes to surround herself with competent people, especially women, which is why she calls on Danielle Ferrington, played by Niamh McGrady, to be her eyes and ears on the ground while she’s on patrol. Then there are the women who were victims of Paul Spector and are the impetus for Stella’s investigation:  Annie Brawley, Rose Stagg and Sarah Kay.

Sample Soundbite

Burns: Why are women emotionally and spiritually so much stronger than men?

Gibson (while cleaning his nose that she so calmly broke a moment before): Because the basic human form is female. Maleness is a kind of birth defect.

Where to Watch:  Netflix!  It’s a super short two seasons too, so it should be easy to binge watch 😉

 

  1. Orphan Black

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Why the Show is Great

Cosima. Sarah. Rachel. Allison. Helena. All played by the incredibly talented, Tatiana Maslany. When I watch this show, I am truly blown away by how often I forget all these amazingly different characters are played by one woman. Orphan Black is full of conspiracies and hijinks and ruminations on gender. It has tackled themes of family and sisterhood and bodily autonomy.  There is no other show on TV that explores women’s autonomy/control over our bodies quite like Orphan Black.  During this season we were introduced to another clone line – of men, called Project Castor.  While they have mostly focused on female body politics, adding another layer with the male clones was an interesting parallel.  This show tends to lean heavily on the conspiracy and can sometimes get wrapped up in its own machinations, but it is always worth it to see the work Maslany puts into this show. Sarah is the center of the clone circle with her birth sister Helena tightly in her orbit, both with the rare ability to have children.  Sarah is the heart of the show, with a daughter of her own to protect, as she jumps through conspiracy hoops trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  Helena is my favorite clone and also the most unhinged; growing up in a cage at a convent doesn’t really make you a people person.   Allison is a soccer mom with a bite as mean as her bark.  Cosima is a brilliant scientist who is trying to cure herself from a debilitating defect from the clone line, while working within the enemy that is the Dyad Research Institute.  Rachel grew up under Dyad and as a result is brainwashed to their mission, but she is ultimately connected to her sisters with a bond even she can’t break.

Crucial Characters

Her foster brother and gay artist extraordinaire Felix, played by Jordan Gavaris, is a piss and always lights up the screen. Felix is Sarah’s partner in crime and he has become like a one man support system for the Clone Club. Maria Doyle Kennedy is excellent as Mrs. S, Felix and Sarah’s adoptive mom. Mrs. S. is increasingly becoming a bigger player in the narrative, which is showing sides of her we haven’t seen before. This season Evelyn Brochu as Delphine has truly dug into her evil side with an incredibly nuanced performance. The universe is expanding and there are many characters to follow, but I promise it’s all worth it!

Sample Soundbite

Felix: I’m beginning to realize crazy is genetic.

Where to Watch:  Seasons 1 & 2 are on Amazon Prime!

 

  1. United States of Tara

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Why the Show is Great

The Gregson family seems completely normal, aside from the fact that their mother is occasionally…someone else.  Tara Gregson is a very laid back person, but her dissociative identity disorder throws a wrench into her everyday life at random.  There is no predictability for her disorder, but she does have consistent personalities: There’s “T”, the young-teenaged rebel who has an opinion on everything, 50’s housewife and overall buzzkill Alice, and of course the only male personality: loud-mouthed redneck Buck.  The show continued for 5 seasons and a couple more personalities were introduced, but throughout it all it never loses focus of Tara.  Tara’s kids Kate (Brie Larson) and Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) and her husband Max (John Corbett) are excellent characters in their own right with some of the best lines, often as comedic relief from the constantly spiraling Gregson family. While Tara is the protagonist, her kids often have some great storylines of their own, like Kate’s friendship with Lynda P. Frazier, the spectacular Viola Davis.  Toni Collette is spectacular in the lead role and her tone sets the mood for the entire series.  Nothing about the Gregson’s world is perfect; they all have secrets and something to prove, but in the end they are a family that supports each other in the only way they know how. USOT is a dark, but often hilarious, look at living life with a mental illness.  It’s one of those shows that really makes you sit and think about some dark topics, but always rewards the audience with incredibly biting wit and interesting and complicated female lead.

Crucial Characters

Tara’s alters are a part of her, even when all she wants is for them to go away.  Alice swoops in when a situation is too stressful for Tara to handle and T comes out when she is overwhelmed by responsibility.  Buck tends to take over when she’s feeling despondent or angry and often acts like her protective shield.  Tara’s immediate family is understanding of her disorder while her sister Charmaine and her parents are judgmental and uninformed about what she’s going through.  Charmaine eventually comes around to be a more supportive member in her older sister’s life, and their relationship is such a great example of how a sister’s relationship can evolve into something more meaningful. Even though her parents don’t ever seem to understand, she eventually comes around to accepting herself so their opinion doesn’t really matter. The show utilized some excellent guest stars including Patton Oswalt and Eddie Izzard, and a very memorably creepy Nate Corddry.

Sample Soundbite

Max: Is Mom here?

Marshall: Yeah. I mean Mom’s here… but, I’m just not sure if Mom’s ‘here’.


Tara [as ‘T’]: Dude, I have been digging around in your closet for an hour and I can’t fuckin’ get to Narnia.


Benjamin Lambert: Ow! Mrs. Gregor, stop! I can’t hit you!

Tara [as Buck]: What’s this ‘Mrs. Gregor’ bullshit? I’m Buck and I will fuck you sideways!


Tara [as Alice]: Kate, I know you aren’t fond of me, but I’m concerned about your development as a young woman, just like your mother. You’re promiscuous. You aren’t guarding your flower.

Where to WatchHulu Plus! Netflix! If you don’t have ‘em, ask to steal someone’s password!

 

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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If this is not the most intense 90’s picture you’ve ever seen, I’ll eat my hair.

Why the Show is Great

If you know me even a little bit, you’ll know that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my lifeblood.  I have been watching this show since I was about 11 and my love has own grown since.  Buffy was one of the first shows to come to TV where there was not only a protagonist who was female, but a female who could kick some serious ass and always had a witty comeback when needed.  I fell in love with that show from the pilot because it felt like something revolutionary, and yet so simple.  Sarah Michelle Gellar paved the way for young women’s stories on television.  Without Buffy there would be no Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and a handful of other shows that have been created since then. Not only was Buffy a badass, and the snarkiest of the bunch, she was also a flawed teenager who worried about boys and did not want to die at such a young age like so many of the slayers before her.  Buffy assembled a family of friends who were there to help her out whenever she needed them.  Willow Rosenberg, her best friend and tech nerd, starts the series meek and unsure of herself and grows up into an incredible Wiccan and one half of one of the first lesbian relationships on TV.  Buffy and Willow’s friendship went through some incredibly difficult hurdles, but they still found each other in the end. Xander Harris is her most loyal friend and doesn’t leave her side in all 7 seasons.  Even without any powers, he continues to support her and sacrifice his well-being in order to help her save the world.  The show is incredibly well written and full of complicated and fun characters and if you don’t go check it out now, you never know what you’ll be missing.

Crucial Characters

One woman may have been tasked with saving the world from vampires and creatures of darkness, but she likely could not have done it alone and survived.  Her friendship with Xander and Willow is the backbone of the series and without their constant support and sacrifices Buffy would not be the same person. Giles, Buffy’s father figure/mentor, loves her and would risk his life for her, but he can be a blind spot to Buffy as she sometimes takes him for granted. There is also Anya, an ex-vengeance demon, a member of the Scoobies (aka Buffy & Co.) who is brutally honest and has some of the greatest lines in the show’s run. Then we have the Slayer lineage which wasn’t explored as in depth until the final season, but the women who all came before Buffy and the ones who will come after, are a part of her history.  Despite the fact that the first Slayer was created by a group of men, these women have taken their power back.  Buffy could be campy or silly or heartbreaking, but what it did for me as a teenager was give me a sense of self – any girl could be strong but it was ok to be weak; kicking ass can be messy – but we don’t need to be perfect; when you take everything away, it’s only you left, so be brave and stand up for yourself.  Buffy saved the world. A lot.  But this show gave me the courage to believe that so could I.

Sample Soundbite

[After discovering the Slayer was real] Maggie Walsh: We thought you were a myth.

Buffy:“Well you were myth-taken.

Where to Watch: NETFLIX!! But you can always come over my house and we can binge watch together!


And of course, I could not include all of the amazing shows with excellent female characters and female driven plots, so here are some other shows to check out!

Inside Amy Schumer

The Killing

Bunheads

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Call the Midwife

American Horror Story: Coven

Girls

The Honorable Woman

Garfunkel & Oats

Another Period

Top of the Lake

Masters of Sex

Drop Dead Diva

 

Now, hop on over to Emily’s blog for Part 2! 

 

The Truth About Moving Somewhere New By Yourself

This is something I really needed right now.

Thought Catalog

Oriol SalvadorOriol Salvador

Everyone’s ecstatic for you- a little sad, but mostly proud of you for taking that big leap and venturing to a new place that you will soon call home. They toast to your upcoming adventures and promise to stay in touch- “it will be as if you had never left!”

However, you are the one who is itching the most to embark upon this journey. Why else would you uproot your entire life to move countless miles away?

Ready.

You are more than ready. Sad? -nah. Nostalgic? -a little. But you know you need this transition, even if you can’t put it into a concise and logical answer when people ask you why you are moving. You just know that you need to experience of a new way of living- in a new environment, surrounded by new people, immersed in new cultures, and exposed to new ideas and…

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