Jul 19 2013

Emmy Nominations: Now I have to re-order my Netflix queue

Last year Homeland got a bunch of Emmy nominations and I found myself frantically working through the first season to find out what all the fuss was about. (I thought the first season was amazing and wish they’d left it at that. I cannot find Brody a hero or leading man, and that woman should not be working for the CIA. Make the show about Saul and Virgil and you’ll have something!)

Anyway, this year that slot goes to House of Cards. A show that isn’t even on television. Are we officially in the future? I guess The Jetsons could really happen (which would be great because I’m desperate for that thing that makes Judy’s hair perfectly coiffed in seconds!)

So my Netflix queue was filled with Sons of Anarchy and The Good Wife. Those are two shows I missed the first time around and enough of you recommended them that I was using my Summer to try and catch up. But now, I have to move House of Cards to the top.

The Emmys can be so stressful!

Strays:

Surprised that Modern Family got so many nominations. It continues to be a warm and comforting show..like a Friends re-run, but I wouldn’t call it the best on TV. Has definitely peaked and I feel frustrated that it took up so many slots. (Except for Ty Burrell who never phones it in and always surprises me.)

Very frustrated that Justified  and Parenthood were shut out.

I wish Parks and Recreation had a Best Comedy slot – my favorite show by a mile

Would have loved to see Schmidt or Nick from New Girl get a supporting nomination.

Thrilled to see Top of the Lake get a nomination for Mini-series and I’ll be stunned if Elizabeth Moss doesn’t win lead actress for her role as the detective in this nail biter.  (THANK YOU to all of you who recommended it to me)

Crossing my fingers for 30 Rock to get all the accolades it deserves for its final season.

See all the nominations here.

The actual ceremony, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, is held on September 22.

– Jen

 

 


Apr 24 2013

We need to talk about Mr. Selfridge

We are now half way through the latest Masterpiece Theater mini-series, Mr. Selfridge, and the most obvious problem is that no one seems to even notice or care that it’s on television (of course airing on Sunday nights during Game of Thrones/Mad Men season doesn’t help.)

Well, Leslie noticed it and sent me this email:

Jen,

Did you catch this abomination, Mr. Selfridge? Every time Piven was onscreen, I cringed. It was, at best, boring. Would love your thoughts.

Leslie

Her letter gets us straight to the problem:

Based on the true story of an American who opened a hugely successful department store in London in the early 1900s, it has many of the elements that draw us to Downton Abbey. Similar time frame, beautiful sets, tension between the lower-class employees and the wealthy shoppers and owners…

But the success of the show is entirely on Jeremy Piven’s shoulders and that’s where it all falls apart. He plays him like Ari Gold on Entourage but without the humor. He feels like such a modern day man, almost as if he time traveled there. He’s your classic “my dad didn’t love me so I’m going to be successful and awesome and make everyone love me to fill the dad-shaped hole in my heart.”

But we don’t love him. He’s a nice enough employer, a cheat of a husband, overly impressed with himself and just generally, nothing new. He also mopes, which is NEVER GOOD in a leading man.

I’m enjoying the show mainly because I really like some of the supporting characters: Agnes Towler (the shopgirl who has an abusive dad but a great eye for window display visuals), Lady May (the chorus girl turned aristocrat who enjoys the fact that Selfridge is beholden to her), and Miss Mardle & Mr. Grove (store managers having a secret affair).

With the right portrayal of Mr Selfridge (by which I mean a combination of Matthew, Bates and Mr. Darcy) this show could have been a real standout. But that could only happen if Selfridge was the kind of man you were attracted to and rooted for and couldn’t wait to see what he did next. I always know what he’s going to do next: get a glint in his eye, clap his hands and loudly proclaim his store’s greatness. I’m not attracted to him and I’m rooting for Lady May, Mrs. Selfridge and those sweet Towler kids.

Cute side note: Amanda Abbington, who plays Miss Mardle, and her partner Martin Freeman have two adorable children:

(PLEASE bring back Sherlock!)

– Jen

 

 


Apr 12 2013

Why I can’t fully enjoy Mad Men (mild spoiler alert from last season)

I want to eat up this picture of the partners of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, except then I remember how Joan got her shares and I feel a little sick.

Also, it kind of ruins Jaguar for me…

I’ve always loved her: 

*for being so good at her job (still love the scene when they were leaving in the night to start the new firm and had to call Joan because, as Roger put it, “She would know what to do”)

*because she was fair to Peggy and didn’t look down on her for wanting to be an executive

*the pen on the chain around her neck is awesome (and surprisingly hard to pull off)

*her compassion (especially toward Lane)

But I don’t understand why she marries a guy who doesn’t respect her, who has self-esteem problems, oh and rapes her in Don’s office!

And then to follow Pete’s plan (PETE!) and sleep with the Jaguar guy for partnership…it just makes the picture sad instead of triumphant.

– Jen

 

 


Mar 28 2013

TV made better by a good theme song

Family Ties and Growing Pains, Facts of Life, Diff’rent Strokes…I loved these shows for their theme songs almost as much as the actual shows.

And lately I’ve been noticing how much I look forward to theme songs again.

Some of my favorite shows have boring, repetitive, or discordant themes that I simply fast forward: Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and Dexter. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment, it’s just a non-factor.

But when the song is just right…it gets me pumped for the show and puts me in the exact right place.

I’ll start with Justified. This ridiculous “rap” by Ganstagrass has somehow wormed its way into my heart to the point that it comes on and I feel happy…happy that hillbilly meth dealers have a song all their own…and happy that we get to rap along to “God get acha boy” and then sing the ending refrain “I seen them long hard times to come”. As those last notes play, I get giddy for my Raylan and Boyd time.

On the shorter side, the :16 second opener to The Mindy Project is adorable, sassy and perfectly fits her and the mood I’m in when I watch:

And my current favorite, is the theme to Parks and Recreation.

The show has barely started and I feel the perfect combination of civic pride, joy, and loyalty to Leslie Knope. I will follow her anywhere!

– Jen

 


Mar 20 2013

Girls Finale: Adam is no Mr. Darcy

It seemed like the ending was straight out of a romance novel. Boy and girl break up and then descend into their own forms of madness because deep down inside they love each other and fall apart when they aren’t together. Then the girl is in danger and the boy realizes what we’ve known all along: They belong together! So he races to her rescue and we all sigh with happiness.

Except she has a serious condition that I highly doubt he can “fix” (I’m talking about her OCD, but her narcissism is a pretty big problem as well.)

Except he has a girlfriend who apparently forgave him for an act that I am not sure what to name it, so I’ll say “sexual mistreatment” and she now seems to be teaching him about healthy sexuality. Lesson #1: “Just because I’m having sex with you doesn’t mean I’m a dirty whore”

I don’t know if we were supposed to laugh at the image of Adam running shirtless through the city streets to save Hannah from her bad haircut or if we were supposed to be swooning. Maybe my reaction was the one they were going for: I felt used and disappointed, like I went on this really interesting journey that ended abruptly because time was up and there was no fix for the things that had happened. So is that like a metaphor for life or for love or for your 20’s? I’m trying to understand.

I totally believe that Adam would do everything he did in this episode, I just don’t think any of it makes him a good guy and certainly no savior for Hannah, which I can’t imagine she would want any way! 

If I had OCD, it would have been in full effect. I do have some mild anxiety and I had to hide under my blanket and take a Xanax by the time Hannah a) tried to explain how she wasn’t sure if she’d spent her book advance, b) tried to get a loan from her dad, c) turned to the internet community with bizarre health questions, and d) gave herself the worst haircut I’ve ever seen, until the ex-junkie from downstairs made it worse.

I’m all for heroes in books and movie and even in real life. I love my Knightleys and my Darcys, my Atticus’ and Aragorns and even my Sully Sullenbergers.  But Adam is no hero.

– Jen

 


Mar 13 2013

Girls: Was that rape? (Frank sexual discussion ahead)

Sunday night we went to a dark place.

I was deeply upset to see Hannah alone in the hospital, asking for help, getting no compassion, and then ultimately asking for the Q-tip to take home. She knew that the other ear wasn’t “clean” and she would need to finish the job. It was so heartbreaking and also so illuminating. I genuinely wanted to climb through my television, bring her to my house and make her better. Which is, of course, what every person feels who loves someone with OCD.

I was ashamed of Marnie and then I was ashamed of Charlie. And then I was ashamed of me because I can’t find any compassion for either of them.

But what about what happened in Adam’s apartment.

I see many people on the internet calling it rape while some merely found it disturbing. I think we must be clear:

The day before, in Natalia’s apartment, she told Adam she wanted to begin a sexual relationship. This was explicitly explained, including the fact that she did not want him to ejaculate inside her.

At Adam’s apartment, he told her to get “on all fours” and he told her to “crawl to the bed.” She did both of these things at his request, which gave implicit consent to a sexual experience with domination.

When he took off her panties she protested by saying she hadn’t showered. This is an implicit request not to touch her “below the belt.” He did anyway.

Then he ejaculated on her chest which was horrible and disturbing because she felt it was. It was clear on her face and in her repeating, “I didn’t like that at all”

Much like the scene last year when Adam peed on Hannah, Natalia didn’t like it and made some noises to that effect but at no time did she tell him to stop.

It was awful. I hope she never goes out with him again. However, we have no idea how Adam would handle a woman saying an explicit “no, stop doing that” because we haven’t seen it happen.

I want to like Adam, but now I can’t. But I don’t think I can call him a rapist. I will call him a man who uses sex for power and debasement and that makes him a man with whom I can’t be friends. What I’m not sure about is Lena Dunham’s point of view. As the director of this episode, she took him to a place from which I don’t think she can bring him back. And I hope that’s what she meant to do, because I can’t love him anymore…even if he rescues another dog from in front of a Manhattan eatery…we’re done.

– Jen

 

 

 

 


Mar 1 2013

The Week in Review (Girls)

This week Jessa said goodbye. The actress is pregnant in real life, so I assume this is how they wrote her out of the season. Hannah accompanied Jessa to her father’s farmhouse in upstate NY, where we got to see firsthand why Jessa is like she is and why she needs to disappear for awhile. Her scene with her dad where he tried to place the blame for abandoning her was especially chilling as she repeated, “but I’m the child.” 

Hannah found the worst possible guy to sleep with (although, to be fair to him, he did lose his virginity to Rihanna, which is impressive) and it all led to Hannah having a “too late” epiphany that she’s a lucky girl.

I loved Jessa’s stepmom’s idea that we’re all in a video game, kind of Matrix-style, but as one blogger put it, more like Mario Bothers. It perfectly explained Girls: These girls are stuck on one level and collect bad experiences (mushrooms) for points, but never actually accumulate enough to move forward.

Finally, I love this viral video of “Lena Dunham” auditioning for Zero Dark Thirty:

– Jen

 

 

 


Feb 22 2013

If you’re not watching American Idol…

You are missing out on Nicki Minaj as the judge. It’s possible that it might be some Joaquin Phoenix-esque Punk’d episode, but I’m falling for it because it’s the weirdest, most interesting thing happening on TV right now.

You probably heard that she and fellow judge, Mariah Carey were fighting and calling each other names. This happened during the auditions, which were held months ago. Now that the show is live, they just try desperately to ignore each other. Randy sits in between them and they either look away while the other talks or refer to each other in code, “Some other people on this panel might disagree…” This kind of passive aggressive behavior is actually pretty fascinating to watch because they’re grown-ups, at least if you are counting a 30 year old and a 42 year old as grown-ups, which I do.

They both preen non-stop. They wear their hair really long and they like it to hang down to their boobs where they can fondle it (the hair, not the boobs, at least not yet)

But back to Nicki. She’s like a parent that has a really strong opinion about everything but you never have any idea what it’s going to be. This is what I’ve figured out so far (although it may be completely wrong next week):

*She really likes confidence. Show no fear. (this is even more important than hitting notes by the way)

*She doesn’t like weakness (one poor guy who was really short would mention it a lot and she told him he was having a pity party, it was brutal)

*The more offbeat you are the better (she told 17 year old Charlie Askew that she’s obsessed with him and wants to have his babies)

To be fair, she says stuff like that a lot.

*Do not write the lyrics of your song on your hand. She thinks that’s disrespectful. However, one girl forgot all the lyrics, only hummed, and Nicki LOVED IT

Sometimes she’s southern, sometimes British and sometimes she’s a robot. But she’s entertaining at all times and she’s made this show a must-see for the first time in years.

– Jen

 


Feb 20 2013

One more thing about the Downton finale-SPOILER

I just read this quote from Downton Abbey creator and writer, Julian Fellowes:

“Actually, nothing is harder to dramatise than happiness.”

This justification for killing Matthew drives me crazy. Shows need a couple to root for, a couple that feels solid and loving and respectful. If all you have is cheating and break-ups and death and fighting, I’m not interested in you. The TV shows that retain my loyalty are the ones that treat couples realistically. They might fight and they might get sick and they might lose each other for awhile, but that’s okay, because that happens to all of us sometimes. You don’t have to kill off characters or break up marriages to keep things interesting. I think that’s lazy soap opera writing.

Off the top of my head, here are some happy, solid, committed couples who remain interesting:

Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt (Parks and Rec)

Tami and Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights)

Ma and Pa Ingalls (Little House)

Cliff and Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

Liz and Max (Roswell)

Sandy and Kirsten (The O.C.)

Joel and Julia (Parenthood)

I’m sure you all can think of a hundred more…

Life is inherently interesting and Matthew didn’t have to die just because Mr. Fellowes wants to write about car crashes and burn victims and young wild socialites. What a crock. This is the exact reason I gave up on the new show, Nashville. They don’t have one solid couple to give the show a central place where you can feel safe. I get that ongoing dramas need tension, but it’s just self-defeating to think that means killing people off when they find happiness.

– Jen

 


Feb 19 2013

The Downton Abbey Finale -SPOILERS

I had heard rumors of Dan Stevens’ departure from the show (some even mentioned it the comments on this site) but I chose not to believe it. I simply couldn’t conceive of the show without Matthew Crawley, and I still can’t. Having Matthew at Downton was a comfort to the viewer, like when you were a kid and you felt scared until you remembered your parents were home and could handle any trouble that came along. When he declared to Rose last week, “I am on the side of the downtrodden” I clapped and announced that it was the most wonderful life motto I’d ever heard. And now that is lost. And the Grantham clan desperately needed him and his progressive ideas.

Also, I hated the way they did it. Certainly we’ve all heard the show referred to as a soap opera, but this lead-up to his death lacked finesse or creativity. Cutting back and forth between Matthew’s smiling face and family members talking about how valuable he is to the family? I might as well have been watching Hope die on Days of our Lives. Of course, she came back from the dead, so who knows?

The ending was so shocking and upsetting that it’s hard to remember what else went on.

Most of the family took a vacation to visit Rose and her family in Scotland. Rose’s parents have an extremely unhappy marriage which everyone was forced to endure. I thought it was a pretty good approximation of every vacation I’ve ever been on with a squabbling couple. Just let us go home!

*Mr. Molesley got super drunk at the big dance and was so fantastic, nobody even seemed to mind.

*Anna and Bates were madly in love and lovely to everyone they encountered. I particularly loved his adoring look when Anna took to the dance floor. For a moment I thought it was going to be one of those, “She has two good legs and I’m just a cripple” scenes, but I should have known better. Of course his face lit up with pride and joy watching her in the spotlight.

Everyone else was back in the village enjoying some freedom, much to Carson’s chagrin. Most of the action centered around the local fair where all attempts at romance failed.

*Thomas rescued Jimmy from goons and was beaten up. But his sacrifice caused Jimmy to forgive him and they became friends. I really loved how the scene ended with Jimmy sitting at his bedside reading him the paper.

*Also getting the “let’s just be friends” message was the doctor who realized at the last minute that Mrs. Crawley wasn’t interested. (I have no idea why…they’re perfect for each other. Just think of the hours they could spend complaining about the Dowager Countess.)

*Mrs. Hughes, who is this season’s MVP, rescued Mrs. Patmore from accepting a proposal from a cad who just wanted her for her cooking skills. She also dealt very well with the new maid who had eyes for Tom. In a few short episodes, I’ve come to really like Tom and I’m cheering for him, but as TSwift would say, I knew she was trouble when she walked in.

*Carson loving on the crying Baby Sybill and then worrying about Mary’s health and then rejoicing over the birth was all pretty sweet.

But Matthew is dead and I find it hard to feel much joy about any of it.

– Jen