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Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Best of 2012

So as we hit the end of 2012, I offer up my best in entertainment of the past year. Keeping in mind not all of these were released this year, it’s just what I saw/read.

Best Movie – Lincoln
Honorable mentions – Pina, Skyfall

Best Book – A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Honorable mentions – Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Best TV series (drama) – Mad Men
Honorable mentions – Downton Abbey, Sherlock

Best TV series (comedy) – Happy Endings
Honorable mentions – 2 Broke Girls, Modern Family

Best Music (album) – Magic Hour by Scissor Sisters
Honorable mentions – Some Nights by fun., The Truth About Love by P!nk

Best Music (single) – Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
Honorable mentions – We Found Love by Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris), Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

Best Theatre – Black Watch
Honorable mentions – Once, Now.Here.This.

Best guilty pleasure – Pitch Perfect
Honorable mentions – Revenge, seeing Betty White live and in person

Best Board Game – At the Gates of Loyang
Honorable mentions – Seasons, Airlines Europe, Heartland

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Five reasons to watch Mad Men

Yes, I know the fall TV season has begun, and I am going to talk about it.  But in the meantime here’s an important post about an important show that’s already in progress.  Let’s talk about this year’s Emmy winner for Best Drama Series (even though Lost was a fierce contender) – Mad Men.

Five reasons to watch Mad Men

1. The writing moves easily between heavy drama and lighthearted moments. One reason I think this show is catnip to Emmy voters is that it doesn’t shy away from storylines that are full of darkness or despair (witness what happened to Salvatore at the hands of that Lucky Strike guy).  But to balance that, the writers aren’t afraid to throw in some screwball moments to lighten the mood – a technique that worked well with other classic dramas like L.A. Law and ER.  Farewell, Ida Blankenship!

2. Characters you love (or love to hate). Amongst the sprawling cast there are plenty to root for and even adore.  The pluck of Peggy!  The sass of Joan!  The abs of Don!  And on the flip side are characters so deliciously awful that you really get into hating them.  Pete Campbell – what a wiener!  Betty Draper – worst mother of the century!

3.  Actors that make the most of every moment. It’s easy to say that the actors in the bigger roles are stars.  But on this show even actors in the smallest roles make the most of every line.  Rich Sommer consistently cracks me up as beleaguered TV man Harry Crane.  Don’t get me started on Alison Brie who portrays Trudy as a perky Lady Macbeth!  And can we say how scary it was this week to watch Kiernan Shipka turning her Sally into a miniature version of her mother?

4.  The style of the times. Now we come to the reason that Mad Men gets so much attention – it’s the detailed depiction of a bygone era.  The show is set against a backdrop of historical events, and the attitudes of the day reflect them.  The sets and costumes are meticulously crafted in a way that makes you miss a “kinder, gentler” time.  And the drinking!  Who hasn’t wanted to toss one back at work now and again?

5.  Men that are men, while women struggle with identity. So yeah, some of the men on the show are a bit odd.  But you can’t deny the sex appeal and rugged manliness that is Don Draper.  You know he’s a letch, and yet you find yourself rooting for his every conquest.  But the really interesting aspect of the show is how women are shown – they range from those settling into the roles defined for them by society (Betty and Trudy) to those seeking to break out.  This past week’s episode – ‘Beautiful Girls’ – was the best example yet.  It was embodied by a simple closing, as a fiercely independent lesbian took one elevator, we watched three women take another.  An elevator that represented trying to be a career woman in a glass ceiling society.  Peggy – never getting into the boy’s club meetings where real decisions are made.  Joan – supporting her husband but wanting to be recognized for her own accomplishments.  Dr. Faye Miller – an established professional that still gets asked to babysit.  The rise of feminism is what makes this show so darn intriguing.

So check it out!  Next time I’ll tell you a bit about what’s on our schedule to watch in the new fall season.

All images courtesy AMC Television.

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Five reasons to watch Modern Family

With the fall TV season approaching rapidly (how on EARTH is it already September?), I’m realizing that there are a few shows I love but haven’t mentioned here on the blog as yet.  So over the coming days, watch out for more installments in my “Five reasons to watch” series!  First up, this year’s Emmy winner (deservedly so) for Best Comedy Series – Modern Family.

Five reasons to watch Modern Family

1. The writing is sharp and clever. Not for nothing did this show clinch an Emmy for its screenwriters.  What this talented crew has figured out is a way to weave together traditional sitcom plots and present them in a way that feels fresh and, well, modern.  They take those everyday foibles that bind families together and present them to us like holding up a mirror.  It’s funny because it’s true.  And these families are truly modern – no Cleaver stereotypes to gag over.  I can’t tell you how many times ScottE and I argue over who is more Cameron and who is more Mitchell.  (OK, so sometimes I’m Claire, too.)

2. Characters to care about. In a comedy, nothing is worse to me than a character that’s just loathsome and played to the hilt for laughs.  But on this show you won’t find anyone like that.  Each character has elements that you want to root for, and you recognize elements of your own family in them.  Who hasn’t had known a parent that tried too hard to be cool with his kids?  Or a kid that was unusually mature for her age?  They live, hope and dream just like us.  That reality is truly appealing.

3.  Actors that kill it. All my love to Eric Stonestreet for his win as a Supporting Actor winner!  But trust me when I say he’s not the only gem on this show.  In fact, I defy you to find a weak point.  From the adults to the kids, this is a very talented ensemble that milks every word for a laugh, but in a way that isn’t desperate or pandering.  Even actors that I haven’t much liked in the past (Julie Bowen and Ed O’Neill) positively shine on this show.  It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to call myself a Sofia Vergara fan – her Gloria is a vamp, a brain and a tender mother all rolled into one.  And amongst the kids I can’t get enough of Sarah Hyland as oldest daughter Haley – her looks to the camera speak volumes!

4.  The interview style. OK, I know it feels overdone after The Office and all the Christopher Guest movies.  But I finally figured out why this style has an appeal; it mirrors the inner monologue narrative that we read in so many novels.  Have you ever read a great book where the character thinks to him/herself a lot and you think, “This book is awesome, but how could they make it into a movie?”  To me, the interview format accomplishes that in a tongue-in-cheek way that is unique to comedy.  Could it get old after 5 seasons?  Perhaps.  But for now it works.

5.  It has heart, and lots of it. Here is where we get to the crucial element that I think puts Modern Family just a nose ahead of Glee, and thus earned that Emmy trophy.  Underneath the madness, the improbable situations and the slapstick, this is a show that touches you.  You’ll find no better example than the Hawaii trip near the end of the season where Phil gave Claire a gift that still makes me teary just thinking about it.  Those tender moments catch you unawares, and that’s such a blessing in a sitcom.  Don’t bash me over the head with “a very special episode of…!”  When I watch this show I’m always smiling at the end – sometimes from laughter, sometimes because my heart just melted.  Either way it’s a treat.

So check it out!  Next time I’ll talk about a show already in its current season that’s worth catching up on if you’re late to the game – Best Drama Series winner Mad Men!

All images courtesy ABC Television.

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For the sass, for the sex, for the Southern quips – farewell, dear Blanche.  Golden Girls, forever.

And lest we not forget her times on Maude.

Peace out, Rue!

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Lost’s elegant elegiac ending

As it begins, so it must end.  After six strong seasons, one of television’s most profound and baffling dramas has come to a close.  Lost – what was it about?  What do we know?  And did it really matter?  Let’s discuss.

First I’ll say the usual blah-blah SPOILER ALERT, because I’m about to talk about last night’s finale.  And if you still haven’t seen it and you’re reading the internet, what are you thinking?

All photos below courtesy ABC.com

Gut reaction – I really liked the ending.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, but then again I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe I thought it was going to be focused on free will and the Losties would end up deciding whether to live in one world or another.  But of course what we learned was that this new world wasn’t so much a world at all.  It was what I’d call a collective unconscious meeting place.  And what a great place – hey, Juliet!  Missed you!  Oh look, it’s Shannon!  Ah…the joy of reunion.  Because really that’s what the finale came down to – a way to reunite the characters we have loved and lost over the years in a place of peace.  As they said goodbye to each other, we were also able to say goodbye with a smile and a tear.  What we needed was closure with our friends, and that’s what we got.

Now, let me tackle some of those burning questions and choice moments from last night’s marathon episode.

So the sideways world isn’t real?

I’d say this is one area left up to interpretation and will be debated for years to come.  On the one hand you might say that it wasn’t, as the description from Christian Shephard implied that Jack had created it in his mind.  But it wouldn’t make sense that it just sprung from Jack’s mind – take Ben, for instance.  Jack’s mind would have no idea or perception about Ben’s storyline involving Alex and a certain woman with a French accent.  That’s why I favor this idea that it’s a place of shared experience, and some will be there for some time “working things out” while others will move on when they are ready.  I’m still a little unclear as to why Eloise didn’t want Desmond to “take Daniel away,” however.

And the mystery of the island is what exactly?

Clearly the metaphor of the island is mythical.  I think of it as Pandora’s box in reverse.  In the classic Greek myth, Pandora opens the box and releases all manner of evils into the world – envy, anger, pride, etc.  But she closes the lid just before hope escapes.  On our island, I think those evils are contained (corked, if you will) and what’s holding them in place is a powerful wellspring of faith and positive energy.  By replacing the stone, Jack ensured that evil wouldn’t spill out and extinguish the good.

Which leaves Hurley as the new Cork Protector.

Yes – clearly Jack wasn’t meant to truly replace Jacob.  He did what he always needed to do – fix things.  His whole life was this constant attempt to perform a heroic act that would be selfless, but somehow it never worked out just right.  Finally he was able to do that, and let go.  Which leaves Hurley as the true man of faith and protector of the island.  Which is what I’d been hoping for last week, anyway.  Now he gets to star in his own island sitcom with Ben, in which they get into wacky adventures, occasionally encountering Rose, Bernard and Vincent!

So why was Desmond in the church, but Michael wasn’t?

Christian made it clear that these were the people that had a powerful effect on Jack’s experience at this point in his life, which explains why some non-Oceanic 815 people came to the party – Juliet, Desmond, Penny.  But I think this place in space/time/mind might have its own set of rules.  And I’m guessing murdering someone in cold blood for personal gain doesn’t go over very well.  Sorry, Michael.  Looks like an eternity of the whispers for you.

Any other thoughts?

I have to give props to Evangeline Lilly for this episode – I’ve found Kate such a difficult character to get behind for so long.  But in the finale she was amazing – I just loved her.  Easily her best performance since the pilot.  I also loved all the reunion moments and flashbacks, which reminded us how far we’ve come – like bringing Boone back – hello!  Sun and Jin made me cry for the umpteenth time.  The grins on their faces when they walked out of the hospital room looking at Sawyer – priceless!  It was all just well-executed – often you saw what was coming and didn’t care.  Then again, I predicted Eko would somehow officiate a service in the church, but I guess that would have been one step too far!  Ooh – and I loved that the stained glass window in the church showed many denominations to make it clear this wasn’t a church of a single faith – it’s just a place of spirituality.  Nice touch.

Jin Sun Lost finale

And before I leave you, let me offer some parting thoughts on the six seasons of one of my favorite shows.  I’m going to borrow from my pal Mr. Robleto (a.k.a. BabyDaddy) and answer his fun questions.

  • Most heartfelt moment: Well you know I’m a sucker for my girl Sun.  And her scene at Jin’s grave in “Ji Yeon” just about killed me.  Runner-up – Rose being reunited with Bernard in season 2.  That’s faith!
  • Best turnaround: Benjamin Linus, who turned from evil to good so often he’d give Dr. Jekyll a run for his money.
  • Most shocking twist: I still remember shouting out loud near the end of season 1 when Locke pounded on the hatch, and the light came on.  Whoa!
  • Most confusing Islander: I’m going to have to go with Walt.  Due to his premature exit from the show we never really closed the loop on what it was he could (or couldn’t) do, and why the Others wanted to capture him.
  • Most frustrating writing slip-up: Introducing Nikki and Paulo at all.   And giving them a full episode to star in.  Boo!  Heck, I’d take another Ana Lucia episode over “Exposé.”
  • Best of a bad situation: Sex in the bear cage.  Pretty much the only redeeming quality of that time on Hydra Island.
  • Worst of a bad situation: Fish biscuits.
  • Worst episode to date: “Stranger in a Strange Land” in which we learn that the origin of Jack’s tattoos is boring, and Bai Ling is a terrible actress.  I give this a slight edge over “Exposé” which at least featured a cool scene of Sun slapping Sawyer.
  • Best episode to date: Not a cop-out – it’s the pilot episode.  It was a cinematic tumult of characters and action that left me reeling and hungry for more.  And I came back every week for 6 seasons!

That’s it for now, folks.  Please feel free to add your questions and comments below.  I could talk about this for days, seriously.

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Je suis désolé

Do not read a word further, and do not even look at the pictures below until you have seen Lost‘s latest episode, ‘The Candidate!’

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Farewell my Lost friends.  You shall be so very missed.

Photos courtesy ABC.com

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Dixie Carter was a wonderful actress of the stage and screen, who passed away this week at the age of 70.  Although I’d mostly seen her on television, I did once get to see her on stage at The Shakespeare Theatre, performing in Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windemere’s Fan.  She was delightful to see.  (I heard some less flattering stories from backstage, but for today I’m focusing on the positive.)

Dixie had many roles, but none so memorable as her larger-than-life portrayal of Julia Sugarbaker in seven seasons on Designing Women.  It was a show that celebrated the power and humor of women and often took on controversial issues like pornography, the Anita Hill hearings and AIDS.  This combination of brutal honesty and brassy broads is why I think it has been such a favorite of gay men for many years.

Don’t believe me?  Try this.  Walk into any gay bar where the average age is over 30, and start saying this line at the top of your lungs.  “Excuse me, aren’t you Marjorie Leigh Winnick, the current Miss Georgia World?”  If you don’t hear at least half a dozen men quote this scene in full, then it’s not a gay bar.

So with fond memories of a favorite Georgia peach, I present a few more choice moments of Dixie as Julia.  She left a searing feminist mark on television that will never be forgotten.

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