Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 6: #15

Lucky number 15, folks!  “Why lucky?” you ask.  Well, that’s simple: Kevin Bacon.  That’s right, each season of the departed series The Following clocked in at fifteen episodes per, and I think we can all agree how lucky we are that that show is no longer spouting off its brand of cult-flavored nonsense despite the fact that we all secretly hate-watched the bejesus out of it.

Don’t worry, my fifteenth favorite show of 2015 is not The Following.  But Ryan Hardy, am I right?  If I were handing out an award for Best Cop (Whose Incompetence Would Have Assured His Termination) of the Year, then The Following would have topped the list.  But, unfortunately, the Creative Emmys aren’t for several months yet.

Shall we continue?


#15: Hannibal

When you weren’t looking, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal became the most romantic series on television.  Sure, the romantic leads at the heart of it were troubled empath Will Graham (an outstanding Hugh Dancy) and brilliant psychopath Hannibal Lecter (an all-time classic performance from Mads Mikkelsen), but in its third and final season, we finally realized just how much these two meant to each other.  Neither Will nor Hannibal would ever find someone else who could love them for who they were, and yet in each other, they found just that.  It was beautiful, violent, and deeply, deeply disturbing, but dammit it all felt — from its rich color palette to its surrealistic dream imagery — so incredibly romantic.

The show was always at its best when it used Thomas Harris’s novels as the springboard to its story rather than adhering to them as a strict adaptation, and that riffing reached new heights in its third season, inverting the order of the novels Hannibal and Red Dragon to tell a story of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham gravitating toward one another once again — as if they ever had a choice.  All it took was Francis Dolarhyde to bring them together.

Hannibal - Season 3

I still say that Hannibal will go down as the most violent series I’ve ever watched — either on network or cable — so we’ve got to give credit to NBC for allowing Fuller to do his twisted thing.  Never has horrific violence been depicted with such an eye for the beauty within it, the balletic tango between life and death so artfully displayed week in and week out.  Sure, it’s not for everyone, but for those of us trapped under its spell, there was nothing like it.  Dare I say, we won’t see anything like it for quite some time.


Hey, what’re you doing tomorrow?  Jk, I already know: waiting on tenterhooks until I post the fourteenth best show of 2015.  #top20in20

Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 5: #16

Did you happen to get the invite to my #top20in20 project’s Sweet Sixteen party?  The one with the picture of Chris Harrison’s face on it because he is America’s treasure?  It’s cool if you didn’t…I guess it’s up to me to eat the two hundred English Muffin pizzas I made.  No biggie.  Shut up, you’re crying.

Oh, you made it?  That’s great.  Would you like two half-eaten English muffin pizzas?  I can pop them in the microwave if you’d like.

Yup, that happened.


#16: Community

This was one hotly contested slot on my list.  I went back and forth amongst four contenders, ultimately choosing Dan Harmon’s gut-busting sitcom over The Mindy ProjectiZombie, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine not because I don’t adore those shows (I do) or they couldn’t have been on this list (they absolutely could have) but because, for me, the sixth and final season of Community harkened back to the inspired lunacy of its earlier years, and that nostalgia wrapped me in a warm hug for thirteen episodes and refused to let me go.

Whether it was Chang auditioning for a stage adaptation of The Karate Kid, the gang learning how to grift, a menacing prisoner ineffectively terrorizing Greendale students via telerobot, an underground paintball game, or Dean Pelton’s obsession with virtual reality, season six consistently brought the funny.  Throw in new characters played by Paget Brewster and an immediately-perfect Keith David, and the show was firing on all comedic cylinders.


But it was the finale episode “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” — which, due to Yahoo’s recent announcement of its intention to discontinue the Screen project, serves as a series finale — that landed this show on the list.  When it was at its best, Community relied on the emotional truths of its characters.  With Abed asking his friends to imagine pitching a TV show about what a seventh season of their lives would look like, the show’s meta-commentary dovetailed beautifully with the dreams and aspirations of this motley crew we’ve grown to love.  We couldn’t have asked for a better send-off for Jeff, Annie, Britta, Abed, Pelton, Chang, or Shirley.  And that’s canon.


I received your RSVP to #top20in20’s quinceanera tomorrow, so I hope you show up because, frankly, that would be pretty inconsiderate to back out on such short notice.  But no pressure!  See you then!

Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 4: #17

Yesterday, I posted the eighteenth best show of 2015.  That ring any bells?  The answer is obvi yes because, to my knowledge, you are not Guy Pearce from Memento, and, even if you were Guy Pearce from Memento, you would have had the forethought to tattoo that information on your body somewhere, so we’re back to the same answer: yes, you do remember.  Wasn’t that fun? #timelyreference

All this talk of number eighteen has made me eager for seventeen.  What say you, fellow TV-aholics, shall we?  We shall!

Nailed it.


#17: The Good Wife

There are those detractors out there who decry the fact that The Good Wife hasn’t been able to recapture the creative surge it experienced in its fifth season, and to those people I say…fair enough.  But setting that aside, Michelle and Robert King continue to churn out spellbinding television that, even if it’s not on par with season five, remains quintessential viewing and one of the very best shows — dramatic or otherwise — on network television.


It’s been fascinating, particularly during the front half of the currently-airing seventh season, to watch Alicia Florrick rebuild herself and her reputation in the wake of  last year’s scandalous State’s Attorney run.  A once-revered figure, Alicia must rely on the help of plucky attorney Lucca Quinn and enigmatic investigator Jason Crouse as she toils to make yet another law firm start-up a success.  Throw into the mix Peter’s bid for the White House, Alicia’s continued conflict with Agos/Lockhart/Lee, and begrudging partnerships with the likes of Louis Canning, and the Kings prove that serialized drama can work within a twenty-two episode framework when handled with this level of skill.

Sure, veteran dramas like The Good Wife settle into a narrative groove after this long on the air, but this show can still surprise, too. Eli’s truthbomb of a confession in the winter finale promises to blow up the show yet again, proving that the most predictable thing about this wonderful drama is its guarantee of unpredictability.  That a show can manage this in its seventh year is, in my mind, revelatory.


Well, there you have it.  Come back tomorrow when I get your weekend started off right with the next entry in my #top20in20 series!

Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 3: #18

So, math is pretty cool, am I right?  Turns out if you’re counting down from 19, the next number is 18, or the approximate number of times the average American buries his or her face into a pillow out of sheer vicarious embarrassment while watching any given episode of The Bachelor.  #themoreyouknow

Don’t worry, the eighteenth best show of last year isn’t The Bachelor because if I picked any show for “best of” status from that particular trainwreck of a franchise it would obvi be Bachelor in Paradise due to reasons.

Anywho…onto the third entry in #top20in20!


#18: Wet Hot American Summer – First Day of Camp

As a love letter to fans, this wackadoodle Netflix mini-series allows us another welcome opportunity to visit Camp Firewood’s staff of lovable goofballs: Katie, Andy, Coop, Susie, Gail, Gene, and all the rest.  Even more impressive are the new editions (including Josh Charles, Jon Hamm, Kristin Wiig, H. John Benjamin, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Cera, and John Slattery) who make a phenomenal cast even better.  As a companion piece to the film, the continuity holds up surprisingly well.  As a pure comedic experience, the hijinx and utter wtf-ery prove difficult to beat.


While the self-awareness of some shows can come across as wink-at-the-camera BS, Wet Hot uses it brilliantly to its advantage to create a hyperbolic pastiche of so many genres — from political thriller to teen “drama.”  The resulting world that gets so lovingly created is one where anything can happen and probably will, including but not limited to toxic waste spills, warring camp feuds, government hit man, reclusive musicians, puka shell necklaces, burp fights, and “Weird” Al Yankovic.

Plus, we can thank this show (and Paul Rudd) for one of my favorite TV lines of the year: “I’ll fart my way into that snatch, just you watch.”  See?  Chivalry isn’t dead!


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in #17.  How have I been doing so far?

Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 2: #19

Quick question: do you remember when I posted the twentieth best show of 2015 right on this very spot just yesterday?  And you furrowed your brow because I actually dedicated a portion of my blog post to describing tentacled sex aliens?  Well, guess what? Now it’s time for #19.

Gird your loins, ladies and gents, as volume 2 of #top20in20 heads directly your way.


#19: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Leave it to Tina Fey and Robert Carlock to devise a comedy series around a downright grim conceit: a plucky young woman, recently rescued from a doomsday cult, starts her life over in New York City.  As they did in 30 Rock, the jokes — fired at such lightning speed — range from quippy one-liners to sophomoric scatological humor, so you’re bound to find something to laugh about even if the scattershot style of comedy promises that not everything lands for every viewer.  But let’s be clear on two things.  One, this is the unquestionable spiritual successor to 30 Rock, and, two, NBC wouldn’t have had a clue what to do with this oddball series.  So let’s raise our glasses of pinot noir to Netflix for letting Kimmy’s freak flag fly.  Exhibit A: that autotuned ear worm of a theme song.


Ellie Kemper’s effervescent turn as the titular Kimmy might ground the series with her misguided optimism (those light-up sneaks kill me), but it’s Tituss Burgess’s Titus Andromedon who emerges as the shining star.  Whether lampooning the entertainment industry, gay culture, or life in the Big Apple, Burgess tiptoes to the line of caricature but wisely pulls back when required.  With its heart on its weirdo sleeve, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt proved to us that original ideas are still out there, even in 2015.  They just might be held captive in a subterranean fall out shelter is all.


Until tomorrow, friends!  Any guesses on #18?

Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 1: #20

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken, hasn’t it, friends?  Sorry about that, but rest assured: my DVR has not enjoyed the respite.  It’s as overstuffed as ever, but now that 2015 lies in our collective rearview mirror, it seems as good a time as any to take stock of the best in TV, wouldn’t you say?

Around this time of year, top 10 lists are like dead Starks: throw a rock in any given direction, and you’ll hit one.  Many television critics lament the inevitable subjectivity that creeps into such lists, as well as the gaps that invariably appear since there is no conceivable way to watch every show available.  However, neither of those issues bother me, but I’ll tell you what does: ten isn’t a large enough a number to list the best in television.

In planning for this post, I said to myself, Why not expand my list into a top twenty?  But even with so many slots available, I found myself still leaving off excellent television series.  Penny Dreadful improved exponentially in its rollicking second season, turning in a carnival funhouse of Victorian horror.  It’s not in my top twenty.  Few shows delighted me as pure entertainment like The Flash, and Veep produces one belly laugh after another, but you won’t find either here.  For crying out loud, American Horror Story: Hotel might be my favorite season of the anthology series, but nope, not gonna do it.  Netflix’s W/Bob and David brought me back to the glory days of Mr. Show, and yet I couldn’t find a place for it.  How To Get a Way With Murder is pure pulpy perfection, but…You get the point, right?

Here’s the deal.  You’re going to roll your eyes at some of these, but that’s okay; you’ll get the next number on the list the following day.  That’s right, for the next 20 days, I will unveil one show at a time, culminating in what is — in my estimation — the best show of 2015.  Care to take any guesses?

Without further delay, let’s get to it, the inaugural post of my #top20in20 series!  Enjoy!


#20: Man Seeking Woman

Jay Baruchel stars as hopeful romantic Josh Greenberg, attempting to recover from a breakup with his longtime girlfriend, in Simon Rich’s wonderfully subversive comedy.  The brilliance of Man Seeking Woman lies in its ability to plumb the depths of male insecurity and extrapolate them to the point of surrealistic farce, as in the show’s must-watch second episode “Traib,” in which Josh’s agonizing over the phrasing of a text message devolves into a full-blown war-room strategy session.


But keeping the surrealism grounded is Josh’s very relatable journey back from heartbreak, even if that means putting up with his crush’s “friend” — a tentacled sex alien named Tanaka — and his ex’s rebound beau, a  very frisky Adolf Hitler.  Few shows embrace this level of zaniness with such zeal, and even fewer prove as successful at striking that tone as Man Seeking Woman.  


Thanks for reading!  Same time, same place for #19 tomorrow.  Any guesses?

If I Had An Emmy Ballot: Drama Categories

In many ways, writing about dramatic television series is considerably easier than doing so for comedic series.  There’s something inherently subjective about comedy, so you might have been incensed that I didn’t include Modern Family on my list and absolutely mystified by my inclusion of Togetherness.  People look for different things when it comes to their comedy, but we seem more in consensus over what qualifies as superb dramatic work.

Sure, the matter of subjectivity still applies here, but my statement that Downton Abbey doesn’t belong within one hundred yards of a Best Drama Series nod likely wouldn’t make you as irate as my declaration that I’ve never found The Big Bang Theory funny.  Why is that?  I don’t have anything like a sound answer, but comedy just seems so personal, as if what makes us laugh is an extension of our personality, and — I suppose — it very much is.  Dramas entertain and provoke, sure, but for whatever reason, they do not seem as imbued with sentimental meaning as our favorite comedy shows.

And yet, we can’t deny the fact that not all dramatic moments achieve the desired effect in every viewer.  For some, the closing moments of Sons of Anarchy‘s finale might have felt shocking and powerful; to me, the whole thing came across as silly, buckling underneath the weight of its unearned pretension.  Maybe the season finale of Game of Thrones knocked you off the couch, or maybe it simply evoked a shrug of the shoulders and a confirmation that it sucks to be a Stark.  Maybe Bloodline bored you to tears, or it might have gripped you from the first frame.  Opinions are still opinions, after all.

Having said that, it’s time for me to imagine what the dramatic categories would shape up to look like if I had an Emmy ballot, so — submitted for your approval by the Midnight Society (yup, that happened) — I present to you the following:


Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

dever    lavin    Episode 109

rigg    smith    tyson

Dream Nominees: Kaitlyn Dever, Justified; Linda Lavin, The Good Wife; Julianne Nicholson, Masters of Sex; Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones; Lois Smith, The Americans; Cicely Tyson, How To Get Away With Murder

Why these ladiesWhen you’re a performer that can absolutely floor me within minutes of appearing on screen, then you’re one masterful actor or actress, guest or otherwise.  Dever’s Loretta grew into one tough cookie over the course of the series (not to mention heir of the Harlan County drug business, so good for her, I guess?), but she deserves the recognition just for the look on her face when she kicks the gun out of Boone’s grasp in the finale.  If you saw it, you know what I mean.  Elsewhere, no one plays sassy manipulator like Rigg in her turn as Lady Olenna, and Linda Lavin took an otherwise token character and gave her such complexity and depth that I looked forward to seeing her pop up.  Cicely Tyson crushed it from the first word as Annalise Keating’s mommy dearest, and Julianna Nicholson plumbed brilliant depths as Dr. DePaul, a woman driven to professional goals in female health due, in part, to her own diagnosis.  But, for me, it’s #AllAboutThatSmith; in just one episode, Smith created a tragic arc for a tragic woman caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, and her death by episode’s end — foretold the minute she appeared on screen — resonated so deeply, so profoundly that it were as if I mourned the death of a series regular.  A powerhouse.


Outstanding Guest Actor In a Drama Series

cole    coleman    goggins

fox    pierce    vance

Dream Nominees: Gary Cole, The Good Wife; Chad L. Coleman, The Walking Dead; Walton Goggins, Sons of Anarchy; Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife; David Hyde Pierce, The Good Wife; Courtney B. Vance, Scandal

Why these gents?  I know, I know: lots of love for The Good Wife herebut with good reason.  Pierce was a breath of fresh air as Alicia’s opponent in the State’s Attorney race, Frank Prady, a man struggling to run a clean contest but sometimes falling short.  Gary Cole continues to shine as Diane Lockhart’s husband Kurt; the whole he’s-a-Republican-she’s-a-Democrat shtick found a new gear here and resulted in great dramatic dividends that Cole managed nicely.  Fox has already been nominated three times for his turn as the cunningly manipulative man you love to hate, Louis Canning, but Fox’s charm also gives this huckster a compelling nuance.  As for those non-Good Wife candidates: Coleman — always a force on The Walking Dead — gave Tyrese a fitting send-off, Walton Goggins turned his character from a seeming joke into a fully realized human being (and love interest of Tig!), and Vance portrayed the father of a young man — killed by the police — with heartbreaking pathos.  Well done, gentlemen, well done.


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

acker    aduba    baranski

headey    toussaint    Parenthood - Season 6

Dream Nominees:Amy Acker, Person of Interest; Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black; Christine Baranski, The Good Wife; Lena Headey, Game of Thrones; Lorraine Toussaint, Orange is the New Black; Mae Whitman, Parenthood

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Maura Tierney, The Affair; Sissy Spacek, Bloodline; Holly Taylor, The Americans; Emily Bett Rickards, Arrow

Why I’m pulling for them: Aduba (who won an Emmy last year, in the Guest Actress category) and Toussaint were brilliant in Orange‘s second season, with the latter striking the perfect balance between charismatic leader and ruthless manipulator and the former taking the brunt of Vee’s deception.  It was because of these two that the tension in the sophomore round of the Netflix series reached such a fever pitch, so they should be rewarded accordingly with the credit.  Meanwhile, three of the best shows currently on or recently departed from network television get the support from a trio of performances: Acker’s Root couldn’t be a more enigmatic or compelling creation, Baranski’s Diane Lockhart had a great deal to work through in the wake of her partner and dear friend’s death last season (inevitably finding her way, of course, back into the fold), and no one on TV emoted better than Mae Whitman as Amber Braverman.  Over in Westeros, Headey showed us — often with the steeliest of expressions — just how hard it is out there for a Lannister, culminating in a forced act of public degradation that showed Cersei at her lowest (and we thought seeing her, a few episodes prior, lick water off a dungeon floor was bad).  Is there a way we could have a six way tie?  #dreambig #Emmywishlist


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

czuchry    goggins    mckean

mendolsohn    Celebrities Visit SiriusXM Studios - February 17, 2015    williams

Dream Nominees: Matt Czuchry, The Good Wife; Walton Goggins, Justified; Michael McKean, Better Call Saul; Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline; Jussie Smollett, Empire; Michael Kenneth Williams, Boardwalk Empire

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul; Vincent D’Onofrio, Marvel’s Daredevil; Timothy Dalton, Penny Dreadful; Jimmy Smits, Sons of Anarchy; Michael Shannon, Boardwalk Empire; Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; David Eigenberg, Chicago Fire; Craig T. Nelson, Parenthood; Jere Burns, Justified; Tobias Menzies, Outlander; Frank Langella, The Americans

Why I’m pulling for them: This was, probably, the hardest category for me to whittle down — see my interminable list of honorable mentions as proof of that.  Ultimately, I decided on those performances that showed me something new and fresh, leading me, first off, to choose McKean over the fan favorite Jonathan Banks from Better Call Saul.  It’s likely an unpopular position, but Banks had a reserve of goodwill accumulated during his time on Breaking Bad, so — whether it’s fair or not — we expected excellence and got it from Banks in spades.  However, McKean, as Jimmy McKill’s brother Chuck, was an unexpected revelation, a man whose mental illness obfuscated the the hidden cruelty lurking within him.  It’s a gut-punch of a performance.  Speaking of punches directly in the feels, Goggins earns his spot (his second on my roster for those of you keeping score) almost solely based on his conversation with Raylan in the finale.  #wedugcoaltogether  Michael Kenneth Williams, meanwhile, capitalized on his last opportunity to break our hearts as his Chalky White met a heroic and inevitable end with his head held high.  Over on what you’re likely thinking as my obligatory Good Wife nomination (I’m sorry I’m not sorry that the acting on that show is unbelievable), Matt Czuchry finally had a season to shine, with his crushing realization of Kalinda’s departure landing brilliantly.  Jussie Smollett absolutely killed it as Jamal on the Fox megahit Empire — his is a performance of such confidence, such swagger, and such heart that you can’t help but be cast under Smollett’s spell.  That leaves the most revelatory for last: Ben Mendelsohn deserves every award for his turn as prodigal son Danny Rayburn, whose nefarious activities and general duplicity catalyze the firecracker of a plot underpinning Bloodline.  It’s a performance with so much depth and complexity that it’s difficult to capture in words; suffice it to say, Mendolsohn never shies from the darkest corners of Danny’s psyche, making for sometimes difficult but always gripping viewing.  So yeah, there’s just a smidgeon of talent on display here.  Just a tad.


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

balfe    davis    green

henson    The Deep Web   russell

Dream Nominees: Caitriona Balfe, Outlander; Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder; Eva Green, Penny Dreadful; Taraji P. Henson, Empire; Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife; Keri Russell, The Americans

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Kerry Washington, Scandal; Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex

Why I’m rooting for them:  I have one word for you: C-O-O-K-I-E.  Seriously, I love all the women here, but holy cow does Henson absolutely destroy every scene she’s in, bringing her character to the edge of cliche without ever — and I mean ever — pushing her over.  It’s a finely tuned performance and an acting masterclass.  Not to be outdone, Viola Davis embodies Annalise Keating and all her myriad foibles and insecurities; who can forget that scene in Murder in which she takes off her wig and makeup and appears before us vulnerable and stripped of pretense?  It’s a wordless sequence and the perfect example of how much Davis can do without uttering a syllable.  Months later, that scene still resonates in my mind.  Eva Green is doing outstanding work on Showtime’s underwatched but fantastic gothic drama Penny Dreadful as Ms. Vanessa Ives, a woman marked by the Devil and struggling to control the demonic impulses that grip her; this is the kind of acting that pushes an actress to the brink: demanding, grueling, but ultimately completely satisfying work.  Balfe, of the Starz hit Outlander, grounds our time-traveling protagonist in reality even in the face of a plot that is anything but; because her Claire Beechum (later Fraser) is such a strong-willed, confident, kick-ass, and brilliant woman, her palpable humanity serves as the perfect entrance into this otherworldly world.  Keri Russell continues her acrobatic work on The Americans, and I’m not just talking stunts; it takes a special kind of skill to balance the innumerable crosses, double-crosses, deceptions, and counter-deceptions that her Elizabeth must handle, but she does so with breathtaking craftsmanship and assiduity.  Oh, and hey there, Julianna!  You’re still doing your wine-swilling, butt-kicking thing on Good Wife, so say hello to all the other nominees from your show.  You guys should start a fan club or something.  It was a great year for TV acting, and few could hold a candle to the women listed above.  You go, girl(s)!  Too much?


Outstanding Lead Actor In a Drama Series

chandler    hamm    heughan

d5bf6475-8d08-14e1-3dc0-82efc7b2b099_BCS_101_UC_0604_1124.jpg    olyphant    rhys

Dream Nominees: Kyle Chandler, Bloodline; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; Sam Heughan, Outlander; Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul; Timothy Olyphant, Justified; Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Terrence Howard, Empire; Dominic West, The Affair; Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex; Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Why I’m rooting for them: I’ve never been a regular watcher of AMC’s Mad Men, but I did watch the finale, and Hamm prevented the whole thing from collapsing under the weight of itself, and he’s always been good, so there’s no reason to deny him a nod for the series’ victory lap.  Likewise for Olyphant, who gave Raylan Givens a more than worthy send-off and enough to justify (see what I did there?) a nod — if for no other reason than the scene that earned his co-star above my stamp of a approval.  #wedugcoaltogether  Seriously, it’s a great scene, you guys.  Rhys manages to make his performance more compelling with each passing season, particularly as the show continues to push Phillip into situations that increasingly test his morals — as this third year did time and time again.  Kyle Chandler showed his edgier side in Bloodline as eldest sibling John Rayburn — Coach Taylor he is not — and this new gear made for an exciting performance from this perennially excellent actor.  Meanwhile, we all knew we loved Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman, but who knew this guy could more than carry a show entirely on his own?  I was consistently impressed with Odenkirk’s ability to walk the tight rope upon which his character is built: a mostly good person struggling to do right when it’s so much easier to do wrong.  It’s a gripping performance, and Odenkirk allows us to peer into his character’s depths to feel the weight of his decisions.  Miraculously, we root for him, even though his becoming a complete shmuck is a foregone conclusion.  That leaves Sam Heughan, whose work on Outlander impressed, particularly when that series ventured into darker territory; as a victim of repeated torture and sexual abuse, Heughan’s Jaime becomes a creation of resilience and bravery in the wake of heinous degradation.  It’s tough stuff to watch, but  Heughan (who auditioned for roles on Game of Thrones myriad times  to no success) committed to the role in ways few actors would.  These gents all brought their A-games, and Emmy would be foolish to overlook any of them.


Outstanding Drama Series

americans    saul    bloodline

thrones    good wife    justified


Dream NomineesThe Americans; Better Call Saul; Bloodline; Game of Thrones; The Good Wife; Justified; Orange is the New Black

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): The Affair; Masters of Sex; Empire; Parenthood; Penny Dreadful; Person of Interest; Banshee; Outlander

Why I’m rooting for them: I could extoll the virtues of each of the series I’ve listed (not to mention the excellent shows that narrowly missed the final cut in my honorable mentions list), but I’m going to keep it simple and limit myself to ten words per series.  Here goes nothing.  The Americans: Truths, unearthed with devastating consequences, ratchet up the stakes.  Better Call Saul: Brilliant, standalone companion piece holds own against Breaking Bad.  Bloodline: Closest thing to a novel on television; patience earns dividends.  Game of Thrones: Dany riding a dragon; Olly being a butt face.  The Good Wife: Characters finding their ways after friend’s death; surprising as always.   Justified: Perfect swansong for TV’s coolest show; they dug coal together.  Orange is the New Black: Red versus Vee; Susanne caught in middle; crazy tension.  Well, that was fun!


There you have it, folks, my drama Emmy ballot.  What do you think?  Was on I the mark or completely off-base?  John Stamos and Uza Aduba will announce the nominees on July 16th, so we’ll see if my wish fulfillment exercise has any basis in reality!  Thanks for reading!

If I Had An Emmy Ballot: Comedy Categories

If you love television, then you have to come to terms with an alarming factoid about yourself: you’re also a masochist.  Sorry to reveal this dark corner of your psyche, but think about it.  You fall in love with a new series, only to find yourself lamenting its loss once said show finds itself cancelled.  You follow a series for many years, only to have your favorite character killed off.  You watch a once-great exemplar of the form descend into a cavalcade of cliches in its later years.    If you choose to follow television closely, these are inevitable outcomes.

However, the apex of masochism for television lovers arrives once a year as the Emmy nominations linger nearby.  We wish, we hope, we plead, we pray, but it is all but a certainty that the shows we treasure and hold dearest to our hearts will more than likely emerge without even a single nomination.  Still, the occasional glimmers of hope — the carrots to tempt us — keep us around like the television deviants we have become.  I’ll be honest, if you guys want to start a support group or something, I’m totally in.  I’ll bring the cookies and juice even– but not fruit punch because that’s just nasty.

Last year, I let my imagination run wild and selected actors whom may or may not have even submitted in a given category.  The result?  Acute and persistent heartbreak.  In order to mitigate this emotional brutality as much as I can for this second go-around, I opted to consult the Emmy submission list and choose my dream nominees from there only.  I forewarn you of this for one major reason: as we discussed last year, the blurring between comedy and drama has become even more difficult to disentangle, so if you see something in comedy that you think is a drama, take it up with the Emmys or write a strongly-worded letter to your Republican presidential nominee of choice.

I love TV, so the list below is the product of much deliberation.  Shows and performers I love found themselves narrowly bested by others I simply could not ignore.  Needless to say, if a show wound up even in my honorable mentions, then it is an excellent performance and/or series that demands your attention.  You’re sick of hearing about “the new Golden Age” of television, but we’re in it, folks.  For all the quality we get week in and week out, maybe the pain is — in the end — worth it.

Without further adieux, here are my dream nominees for performers in a comedy series.


Outstanding Guest Actress In a Comedy Series

adlon    cusack    fey

NUP_148711_0225.JPG    perlman    sedgwick

Dream Nominees: Pamela Adlon, Louie; Joan Cusack, Shameless; Tina Fey, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Kathryn Hahn, Parks and Recreation; Rhea Perlman, The Mindy Project; Kyra Sedgwick, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Who am I really really really pulling for:  I love all these ladies and hope they all get nominated, but Pamela Adlon’s character on Louie is such a bizarre creation.  The fact that Adlon humanizes her at all and refuses to let her devolve into cliche is a testament to this brilliant performance.  Nipping close at her heels, though, is Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Wuntch, ultimate nemesis of Braugher’s Captain Holt, and Joan Cusack as the perennially-terrific Sheila, a character that literally went out in a blaze of glory, or at the very least a blown-up house and a getaway in a Winnebago.


Outstanding Guest Actor In a Comedy Series

charles    ritter    rogen

schwartz   whitford    STEVE ZAHN

Dream Nominees:Josh Charles, Inside Amy Schumer; Jason Ritter, Girls; Seth Rogen, The Comeback; Ben Schwartz, Parks and Recreation; Bradley Whitford, Transparent; Steve Zahn, Modern Family

Who am I really really really pulling for: If you’ve seen Transparent, then the answer is simple — Bradley Whitford.  But how great would it be to see Ben Schwartz get nom-IN-aaaaated for his series-long stint as Jean-Ralphio, or Steve Zahn for injecting some energy into the Modern Family cast as a cultured yet trashy neighbor of the Dunphys?  As you well know, there’s never a bad time to put #CharlesInCharge, and — as he proved brilliantly in the FNL parody standing at the center of his episode submission — ain’t it good to be the coach?  Seth Rogan did fine work playing a version of himself on The Comeback and gave that show’s solid second season an interesting counterpoint to Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish, but, I’ll say it again: this one’s about Whitford, pure and simple.


Outstanding Supporting Actress In a Comedy Series

chlumsky    fumero    jacobs

landecker    lynskey    wever

Dream Nominees: Anna Chlumsky, Veep; Melissa Fumero, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Gillian Jacobs, Community; Amy Landecker, Transparent; Melanie Lynskey, Togetherness; Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Amanda Peet, Togetherness; Gabby Hoffman, Transparent

Why I’m pulling for them:  Some veered toward the more dramatic: Amy Landecker’s portrayal of eldest child Sarah Pfefferman was so nuanced, so heartbreaking, and so complex that her closest rival is Melanie Lynskey’s equally nuanced performance as beleaguered wife and mother Michelle.  Merritt Wever’s Zoe had a tumultuous final year as she watched her idol crumble to ruins around her.  Meanwhile, Anna Chlumsky had an epic breakdown on Veep, Gillian Jacobs got caught in gigantic prop hand (funnier than it sounds), and Melissa Fumero had the perfect balance of ass-kiss perfection and romantic longing.  Whether they made us bust a gut laughing or broke our hearts, these were performances for the ages.


Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Comedy Series

braugher    burgess    dunn

offerman    woods    zissis

Dream Nominees: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Tituss Burgess, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Kevin Dunn, Veep; Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation; Zach Woods, Silicon Valley; Steve Zissis, Togetherness

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): TJ Miller, Silicon Valley; Tony Shalhoub, Nurse Jackie; Cameron Monaghan, Shameless; Keith David, Community; Gary Cole, Veep; Timothy Simons, Veep; Tony Hale, Veep

Why I’m pulling for them: These performances had it all: pinot noir (Burgess is a national treasure), Velvet Thunder (Braugher’s funniest moment yet), and even Hitler quotes as inspirational workplace adages (is Woods playing a long-lost relative of the Fuhrer?).  Meanwhile, Nick Offerman sent off Ron Swanson with his trademark heartwarming humor in tact and Kevin Dunn became the best male supporting player in a show loaded with outstanding support.  But it’s Togetherness‘s Steve Zissis who deserves our special attention here.  Where has this guy been all our lives?  Seriously, this is the ultimate breakout performance: he plays lovable sad-sack Alex, a struggling actor and unlucky-in-love everyman, who is imbued with such humor and pathos that you find yourself rooting for this man even as you desperately want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him.  I guess that’s what captivated me in the end: Zissis is a natural, and his performance felt so damn real it hurt.


Outstanding Lead Actress In a Comedy Series

dreyfuss    falco    kaling

poehler        schumer

Dream Nominees: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep; Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie; Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; Emmy Rossum, Shameless; Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Ellie Kemper, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Aya Cash, You’re the Worst; Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback

Why I’m pulling for them: Lots of repeats here, so forgive me.  But how can you not want to throw every award in the world at Dreyfus, who managed to find freshness in a role four years old as Selina bumbled her way through the Presidency?  Or Poehler’s pitch-perfect swansong for one of television’s best characters ever?  Or Falco’s brilliantly real turn as an addict in search of redemption but struggling to find it?  Or Rossum’s complex pseudo-antihero Fiona on television’s most dramatic comedy series?  Or Kaling’s spot-on balance of bigheartedness and narcissism in a world of tongue-in-cheek romcom tropes?  That leaves breakout star Amy Schumer, a comedienne enjoying ubiquitous popularity in the past year as her fantastic sketch show proved to us that, sometimes, the best way to talk about the tough issues is through comedy.  All these women are brilliant, whether repeat nominees or newbies, and Emmy (award, not actress) had better recognize!


Outstanding Lead Actor In a Comedy Series

louie    mchale    French Me, You Idiot/Indian BBW

middleditch    samberg    tambor

Dream Nominees: Louis C.K., Louie; Joel McHale, Community; Chris Messina, The Mindy Project; Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley; Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Honorable Mentions (not pictured): Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation; Jay Baruchel, Man Seeking Woman; Chris Geere, You’re the Worst

Why I’m pulling for them: While Thomas Middleditch and Andy Samberg did wonderful work proving that their first-season turns were no flukes, Louie C.K. continued to subvert our expectations at every turn, vacillating from a story about hurrying home from the grocery store to poop to one about a recurring nightmare plaguing him after he dismissed a helpless divorcee.  Messina has been good since day one, and it’s high time he got the sparkling accolades Diamond Dan so richly deserves.  McHale also delivered his finest work to date in Community‘s fantastic sixth season as Jeff struggled to imagine a life at Greendale without two of his closest friends.  That leaves us with Jeffrey Tambor’s towering turn as Maura Pfefferman; I can’t recall having been so profoundly moved by a performance — comedic or dramatic — as I was by this one.  Achingly beautiful and beautifully human, Tambor’s Maura is the character we all need, now more than ever.


Outstanding Comedy Series

brooklyn nine nine    community    parks

shameless    togetherness    transparent


Dream NomineesBrooklyn Nine-Nine; Community; Parks and Recreation; Shameless; Togetherness; Transparent; Veep

Honorable Mentions (not pictured)Nurse Jackie; Silicon Valley; Louie; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; You’re the Worst; Man Seeking Woman; The Mindy Project; The Comeback

Why I’m pulling for them: Comedies are tricky these days: some of them go for the funny bone and strike it consistently, while others take a more dramatic approach and strive to break our hearts more than move us to laughter.  Fortunately, Emmy allows for seven best series nominees, forcing me to consider each show on its own merits and judge it by its successes based upon its goals.  No other show in my consideration even dared to produce 23 episodes of comedy, and the fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine pulled it off brilliantly, while also remembering to evolve its characters, earned it a spot here.  Veep managed to probe new depths of comedy with Selina in the White House, and no series on TV is as raucously profane.  Parks and Recreation signed off with an outstanding final crop of episodes, capped off by a sweet, nostalgic, and hilarious finale that gave all our characters (okay, so maybe not Jean-Ralphio) the happy endings they all deserved.  Community made the transfer to Yahoo! Screen and seemed rejuvenated by the process; the thirteen episodes hearkened back to the show we all fell in love with (“Ladders,” “Grifting 101,” and “Modern Espionage,” in particular, felt vintage), while the likely series finale hit absolutely every note just right. Shameless continues, inexplicably, to fly under nearly everyone’s radar, even as its storytelling continues to service its motley crew of characters so, so well.  Togetherness felt like an eight-hour indie movie from filmmaking team the Duplass Brothers, a whimsical, sad, wistful, and funny exploration of the no-man’s-land that is life in your late 30s. And then there’s Amazon’s Transparent, the vitally relevant series from Six Feet Under‘s Jill Soloway that uses the coming-out of an erstwhile patriarch as a trans woman to tell a universal tale of identify, love, and family in a way few shows would dare to.  With the exception of a handful of scenes, Transparent didn’t make me laugh aloud, but its bittersweet tone gave me so very much on which to ruminate that we didn’t need to laugh to identify the sometimes heartbreaking but often ridiculously unexpected twists our lives take.  These aren’t the only great comedies on television (see my honorable mentions), but they are very much in need of honoring.


Well, that’s it for now!  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Look for my dramatic series dream ballot to come out by the end of the week.  Thanks for reading!

My 10 Favorite Things That Have Happened On TV Since I’ve Been Gone

Friends, a lot has happened since I’ve been away.  I can tell my four-month hiatus has reduced you to a shell of your former self; you didn’t mean to, but without my guidance and words of wisdom, you’ve been marathoning The Mysteries of Laura — recently renewed for a second season because God hates you — and State of Affairs — recently cancelled because God hates Katherine Heigl more.  Look, I’m sorry, okay?  I didn’t expect to be taken out of the game like that, but I’m here now.  Just step away from the NBC lineup and let’s talk about this.

During my forced time off, the television world did not stop spinning, that’s for sure.  Long-running beloved series like Parenthood, Parks and Rec, and Justified have signed off for good, with others like Mad Men and Nurse Jackie airing their final stretch of episodes.  Meanwhile, cable dramas have been crushing it (Better Call Saul, Penny DreadfulThe Americans, and a little show called Game of Thrones have turned in or are in the midst of turning in excellent seasons).  Hell, outstanding network dramas like Person of Interest, The Good Wife, and the lesser but still fun as hell Scandal are exploiting their twenty-two episode seasons for all their worth.

Series orders have been handed out, including an inexplicable all-African American cast version of Uncle Buck, as well as the TV adaptations of classic films Minority ReportLimitless, and Rush Hour that we’ve all been clamoring for since approximately quarter to never.  Shows have been cancelled, some of them crushingly disappointing (I’m looking at you The Mindy Project) and others inevitable (I’m looking at you, The Following).

Community is having a wacky old time over at Yahoo! Screen, and Netflix continues to churn out interesting programs, including the hilarious Tina Fey/Robert Carlock sitcom The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which has gifted us with national treasure Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon), the underappreciated dramatic series Bloodline, and the gritty as hell Marvel offering Daredevil.  Oh, I guess a new season of House of Cards dropped, too because that’s still a show, I guess.

For Christ’s sake, McDreamy died.

That’ll show me to hit the pause button on this blog. Okay, Shonda, I get it: you love my stuff and will do anything to get me back.  Message received loud and clear.

There’s no conceivable way for me to make up for all the lost time, so here’s my thought: I’ll give you my ten favorite things that have  happened on television that, under different circumstances, I would have been compelled to write about.  These are in no particular order, but here they are in all their spoiler-laden glory:


1) Bloodline emerges as Netflix’s best show

I’ll keep this simple: don’t listen to the middling reviews from critics who only streamed the first handful of episodes.  This one unfolds like a novel and rewards patience in the same way.  I wouldn’t dream of ruining the plot, but this show — from the creators of Damages — is an absorbing and immersive exploration of the Rayburns, a family whose myriad secrets and scars make for compelling drama.


Kyle Chandler, Norbert Leo Butz, Sissy Spacek, and especially Ben Mendelsohn (as prodigal son Danny, whose return to the Florida Keys beachfront hotel the Rayburns call home drives much of the plot) are brilliant.  Smart, entrancing television like this is a rare breed.  Watch it.


2) Amy Schumer’s “Football Town Nights” sketch

Taken just as a parody of Friday Night Lights, this sketch works.  Schumer’s impersonation of Connie Britton’s Tami Taylor is spot-on (the ever-growing glass of white wine is a hilarious sight gag), and Josh Charles matches her stride for stride as the Coach.  But it’s the skewering of rape culture that elevates this segment to soaring heights of excellence.  You don’t need to know FNL to get the joke** because Schumer’s aim is to create something as universally hilarious as it is vital and resonant.


**Um, why are you wasting your time reading this if you still haven’t seen Friday Night Lights?  Go now!


3) Better Call  Saul Shatters All Expectations

When we heard this was coming out, who amongst us can truthfully say the announcement didn’t fill your heart with trepidation?  I mean, sure, who doesn’t love Saul Goodman, but an entire show — and a prequel, nonetheless — dedicated to him?  How would it work?  Would it manage to escape the shadow cast by the show from which is would spin off and the greatest dramatic series ever, Breaking Bad?

Turns out, the answers are: very well and hell yes.  Bob Odenkirk is as excellent as ever in his portrayal of “Slippin” Jimmy McGill, the man who would become Saul Goodman.  This is a fascinating series, completely different in tone from its predecessor, and with different aims entirely.  This is not the story of an emasculated man searching for power in the face of death, but the tale of a man wanting to be good but giving into his unethical tendencies.  It’s a morally fraught balancing act that makes for outstanding television.


Jonathan Banks’s return as Mike Ehrmantraut is one of several cherries on top, along with Michael McKean’s turn as Jimmy’s brother Chuck.  The season-ending reveal that Chuck had been the one holding Jimmy back this entire time was devastating, a gut punch that gives Jimmy’s character and the show an all-new depth.  Breaking Bad this is not, and that’s a good thing.  Most shocking of all?  I love this series so much, I didn’t even want it to be.


4) Game of Thrones Is Incapable of Anything But Excellence

Now in its fifth season, the ever-expanding world of Westeros continues to grow richer.  Those characters lucky to have lived long enough to be a part of this season find themselves on collision courses with fascinating counterpoints: Jamie and Bronn’s quest to Dorne to rescue Myrcella, Brienne and Pod trailing Sansa (herself betrothed to psychopath Ramsey Bolton), Jorah Mormont’s “wasted kidnapping” of Tyrion, and Margaery Tyrell’s battle of wills and wits with Cersei.  It’s all so damned gripping, I never want an episode to end, which is about the highest compliment I can pay to any television series.


Oh, and did I mention Jon Snow is Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch?  Because Jon Snow is freaking Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.


5) Parenthood Plays One Last Game of Baseball

If you didn’t cry at least two or three times during this truly excellent series finale, then you (sir or madam) have a cold lump of moon rock where your heart should be.  Everything about Sarah and Hank’s wedding was spot-on and made me feel all the feels (Drew’s best man speech emerged as one of the highlights); it would have been more than enough for a quality series finale.

But then Jason Katims went and did it: Camille finds her beloved husband and Braverman family patriarch slumped over in his chair, golden sunlight filtering around him.  She calls his name a few times before realizing what’s happened, sits on the edge of the couch, and stares.  The scene still gives me chills.


The closing sequence then took a page from Six Feet Under‘s finale playbook and intercut a family game of baseball played in Zeke’s honor with flash forwards: Camille visiting the French chalet she never had a chance to with Zeke, Max graduating from Braverman Academy, Joel and Julia continuing to grow their family, Crosby crushing it at the Luncheonette, and Amber’s new family with her baby, a new man (hey there, Jason Street!), and a very involved Ryan.  It’s enough to turn you to mush, but then one of TV’s best families had to walk, hand in hand and laughing, off the baseball field. I’d like all of the tissues, please!


6) Your Yearly Reminder to Watch The Americans

FX’s best series is criminally under-watched, but for those of us caught in its grip, this one-of-a-kind spy series — which recently concluded its third season and has been renewed for a fourth — continues to reach new heights of storytelling.  If you’re not watching the weekly exploits of the Jennings family, then you’re missing out, it’s as simple as that.  Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are out-of-this-world amazing, the labyrinthine plotting simmers with tension and suspense, and the 80s details are perfect (turns out Henry Jennings does a surprisingly solid Eddie Murphy impression).


Sure, it’s a show about Soviet spies, but it’s also a rumination on family, responsibility, loyalty, and sacrifice.  It’s a parable, an allegory, a — oh, just watch the damn show, would ya?


7) Oh My, a Downton Wedding!

The fifth season of Downton did a noteworthy job of smoothing out the narrative bumps that plagued much of the fourth, finally putting the insufferable murder of Greene in the rearview.  Sure, Ms. Bunting was the equivalent of Parenthood‘s Sydney Graham (aka a hell spawn) and losing Branson hurts, but there was more right than wrong this time around.

Most right of all?  Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are engaged, following this wonderfully Downton-esque exchange:

Carson: “I do want to be stuck with you.”

Hughes: “I’m not sure I can be hearing this right.”

Carson: “You are if you think I’m asking you to marry me.”

Hughes: “Of course I’ll marry you, you old booby!”


A match made in heaven is my point.  This is a perfect central plot for the upcoming sixth and final season of Downton Abbey — oh, how I look forward to Mrs. Padmore’s inevitable mental breakdowns as she scrambles to cater the event.  Until then, Downtonites!


8) Parks and Rec Signs Off With Characteristic Sweetness

You and I both know we’re never going to see another show quite like Parks and Recreation.  The fact that it derived so much of its humor not from cringeworthy moments or through ridicule of its characters but by gently exploring their very human flaws and quirks is something of a miracle.  That sweetness permeated the series’ send-off, dishing out one happy ending after another, and I couldn’t have loved it more.


Like Parenthood, this one borrowed from the Six Feet Under model in the best possible way in depicting where our characters would end up, a transition managed each time Leslie reached out to touch one of our cast members.  Jerry lives to be 100, the mayor of Pawnee several times over, and surrounded by an enormous loving family; Ron oversees a national park; Tom finds love and success through failure; Andy and April create a brood of Ludgate-Dwyers; Donna is happily married and forming a charity in Seattle; Ann and Chris return to Indiana; Ben creates a sequel to Cones of Dunshire; and Leslie may or may not be the President of the United States.

The touch of  ambiguity, the infectious optimism, and the heaps of humor (“Ann’s here!”) made this a deeply satisfying conclusion to this one of a kind series.


9) Community Lives

Dan Harmon has recaptured and harnessed the show’s inherent wackiness and brought it back to a level of quality reminiscent of the second and third seasons.  It sure helps that Paget Brewster and Keith David, fantastic additions to the team, and the remainder of the cast are still game for absolutely anything.


Chang in a stage adaptation of The Karate Kid?  Sure!  Honda product placement taken to sublime levels of comedy?  Check!  A Sony-esque e-mail hack at Greendale in protest of an offensive and puerile comedian coming to campus?  You got it!  A re-imaging of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to the more Dean Pelton friendly anthem “Gay Dean?”  Absolutely!  I’m tempted to recount all of the season’s high points — and there are many — but it’s best if you just hop onto Yahoo! Screen and start streaming now.


10) Raylan and Boyd Dug Coal Together

Talk about bounce-back!  After a lackluster fifth season, Justified came out with its guns blazing for a stellar final run.  There are too many highlights to the season to mention them all here — though the Katherine Hale/Mikey brawl in Wyn Duffy’s trailer, Ava and Boyd’s tense hunting trip, and everything about Sam Elliot’s performance as Avery Markham warrant mentioning — and culminated beautifully in a fitting and unexpected series finale.

Justified went out of its way to convince us that Boyd, Ava, or Raylan would die by the time the curtain went up on this series.  Hell, the finale even played the show’s favorite song, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” as Ava drove away — again — after Raylan put down Boon in one of the best-shot sequences I’ve seen from this show.  But, in the end, Raylan couldn’t shoot Boyd and Ava escaped Harlan.  Two of the three are parents now, and Boyd’s back to his proselytizing ways.

The final exchange between Raylan and Boyd — one of the finest character pairings ever on television — was perfect.  Of course Raylan couldn’t shoot Boyd; Harlan put them on opposite sides of the law, but Raylan finally accepts that, with a minor alteration of circumstance, he just as easily could have been a Boyd Crowder.  They are reflections of each other, reflections of Harlan County, and that binds them.  Boyd gets it, and he says, “We dug coal together.”  The camera, holding tight on Raylan as he thinks of a response, finally nods his head and replies, “That’s right.”


Series finales don’t get better than this.  Sorry, Sons of Anarchy.


Well, there’s my list!  Sorry for such a long post, but it’s been so long, you know?  Stay tuned for the next blog post coming soon because I’m just getting warmed up…

Downton Abbey, S05E02: “Episode 2”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “a lively exchange of views.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how much more my heart can take of the high-stakes storytelling going on right now in this show.  Seriously, Downton, how is a man supposed to keep his ticker pumping with all this talk of getting a “wireless” at the estate?  Allow me to translate for those of you who aren’t fluent in ridiculously archaic British colloquialisms–and you definitely should consider taking night classes to brush up tbh: a wireless is apparently a term for a radio.  A radio, people!  A radio at Downton.   Banish the thought!  What is this, a brothel?

While the saga of the radio admittedly jumped the tracks and headed on a collision course with silliness**, it presented yet another example of the inexorable forward march of progress.  Problem is, I’m not sure we needed this reiterated, but since this plot strand climaxed with the likes of Mrs. Padmore boogeying down, I’ll allow it because reasons.

**It certainly didn’t help that Rose, a character with whom I’m not dying to spend any additional time, stood at the epicenter of this narrative thread.  Turns out, when homegirl’s not handing out arbitrary awards at local schools, she’s straight up repeating herself until Robert gives in rather than murdering her and feeding her to Isis.  Families, am I right?

Robert dubs the radio a waste of time and then, out of nowhere, reveals a deep-seated anger when he snaps at Cora that she wouldn’t understand his feelings because she’s American. Whoa there, pally! Holster those hate pistols and count to ten, would you? Anyhow, Robert concedes to keep the radio around even after he gets one just to hear the king speak, so he is coming around, don’t you see?  It’s a metaphor.  And now I’ve wasted more time than I meant to talking about this plot.  Damn you, Downton, you win again.

Hey, is it hot in here, or is it just Mary’s love triangle kicking the temperature up to 180 degrees?  Ha!  #mathhumor Seriously, you didn’t actually think Downton would make it that easy for our plucky, sexually adventurous heroine, did you?  I mean, sure, last week ended with #Gillinghammer inviting Mary to join him in the no-pants cha-cha, but it was only a matter of time before #BlaketheSnake would burst back onto the scene.  And did he ever!  Faster than you can say plot contrivance, Blake’s slithering his way back to Downton in the company of one Mr. Bricker**, some dude writing a book about a painter whose work happens to be featured in the hallowed halls of our favorite estate.  Um, sure?

**What is it with our characters this year, friends?  I mean, Mr. Bricker’s got a serious case of the hornies, what with his rather obvious eye-humping of Cora from across the room.  I’m not sure what it tells us about Robert when he assumes Bricker’s flirting with Isis and not his wife.  Um…Robbie?  Do I need to be worried about you?  #animalscience

Turns out #BlaketheSnake’s arrival is rather fortuitous, as it occurs days before Mary is meant to depart on her “sketching” trip with “Annabelle Portsmith.”  And when she says sketching, she means “sexing” and when she says Annabelle Portsmith, she means “#Gillinghammer.”  That’s right kids, Mary’s getting straight up duplicitous, and it’s wonderful, though she needs to work on the fine art of the cover story, as this one has Mr. Bates’s suspicions raised as being an uncharacteristically bohemian excursion for her.

Regardless, homegirl has preparations to make, leading her to send Anna on the most awkward errand ever in a great scene that allowed Joanna Froggatt to show off her comedic acting chops**.  You have to give it to #BlaketheSnake (Mary’s not…hey yo!) because he accepts the terms of his defeat with dignity, but not before engaging in a randy fireside chat with Mary on the eve of her departure for Liverpool.  #BlaketheSnake, you rascal!

**Anna should have a subplot this year where she continues to have to purchase prophylactics because that would be life-affirming. Seriously, her quest to buy a diaphragm for Lady Mary, from her awkward body language in the shoppe (#bringingitback) to her hurried exit, played perfectly.  But it was her realization afterward, upon decrying the proprietor’s shaming of her, that the real feminist heft of this thread came into sharp focus.

Speaking of rascals, it’s time for #MoseleyWatch!  Although there wasn’t so much as a drop of hair dye in sight in this second episode, he still remains my favorite sad sack on television.  Carson completely shutting down his inquiry about becoming first footman, all the while Moseley dared to balance pudding and sauce on the same tray, had me chuckling.  However, it was Mrs. Hughes interjecting that footmen weren’t likely long for this new world that sent me into full-on paroxysms of laughter.  Upon hearing her prediction, Moseley’s face contorts in a way not dissimilar to the distortion of features that would result from attempting to pass a whole, uncooked ham through one’s small intestine.  Discomfort is my point.

On top of that truthbomb, Moseley knows that Baxter is keeping secrets from him, and he struggles to keep his frustration tamped down until she reveals her thieving ways to him as he aggressively scrubs shoes for strictly symbolic purposes because those puppies were clean enough to eat off of.  I’m not sure about you, but I’m boarding the USS MosBax because I’m ‘shipping these two hard!

Meanwhile, the dynamo of local politics that is Mr. Carson commences the process of finding a place to build the Great War memorial.  Much to Robert’s incredulity, Carson suggests building it on a cricket pitch, and Robert gets all, “You do realize that if we do this, the terrorists win” which strikes me as ironic given the dog nipping at his heels.  You see, Robert thinks it better to build the memorial not in a place for silent reflection (as Carson says) but in the centre (#Britishspelling) of town where more people can appreciate it.

Enter Mrs. Hughes to break the tie, and she sides with…Robert!  Mr. Carson does not feel warm and fuzzy at the thought of what he initially perceives as betrayal from his favorite hand-holding beach buddy.  A coincidental run-in with a local widow, however, convinces him otherwise, and (ugh) Robert emerges victor of this no-stakes contest.  Finally we can put one in the win column for a white male one percenter.  Phew!

Speaking of percentages, Mrs. Padmore continues to be an utter delight when she arranges to have Ms. Sarah Bunting tutor Daisy with her maths problems.  To top it all off, she even insists on paying Bunting’s modest stipend out of her own pocket.  And how great was Mrs. Padmore’s response to Mrs. Hughes’s compliment about her generosity, wherein she essentially complains about making more work for herself?  Ha!  Classic Padmore.

Elsewhere, Jimmy’s sexcapade with Lady Anstruther leads to his termination from Downton (fare thee well, I guess?), Mr. Drewe asks #SadEdith to be be Marigold’s “sort of godmother” (whatever the hell that means) despite Mrs. Drewe’s palpable displeasure, Isobel discusses diabetes with Dr. Clarkson over tea because Wilford Brimley and then turns around to demand, rather forwardly, a stroll through Dicky Merton’s garden, and emo Thomas wonders why nobody loves him.

With one Mr. Willis arriving at Downton with news of a witness stepping forward to provide fresh insight into Mr. Green’s murder, this episode might as well have ended with a “dum dum dum…” before its fade to black.  Still, episode three will no doubt carry on with the high quality entertainment provided by these first two installments.

Until next time, Downtonites!


Snippets of Intrigue

– Jimmy [to Thomas]: “I’m sad to see the back of you.”

– Carson: “Since you are the only footman, you are first, second, third, and last.  Make what you will of it.”

– Bates: “I know you mean to lead me into further inquiry, but I couldn’t care less what you think, Thomas.  On that subject or any other.”

– Mrs. Hughes: “That’s a nice thing you’re doing.”

Mrs. Padmore: “Is it?  I think I’ve been a damn fool and doubled my workload.”  #padmorewisdom #padmore4president

– Carson: “I don’t like it when we’re not on the same side.”

Mrs. Hughes: “We’re different people, Mr. Carson.  We can’t always agree.”

Carson: “I know, but I don’t like it.”

– Mrs. Padmore [listening to the King on the radio]: “I suppose he can’t hear us.”  She’s a treasure, folks!  A treasure!