Decade in Review: 2010

To start off my decade in review, I watched my randomly selected episode from 2010. My date from 2010 was September 26. These are the shows I have written in my TV diary from that day:

Mad Men – 4.10 – Hands and Knees
Brothers & Sisters – 5.01 – The Homecoming

This was such an easy pick for which one I would rewatch. Mad Men is topping so many best of the decade lists and I was not going to turn down the opportunity to rewatch an episode.

This was the episode of Mad Men where government agents interview Betty to do a background check on Don for security clearance for an account. He starts freaking out that his secret identity is going to be unraveled. Meanwhile, Joan gets an abortion and Lane takes his dad to the Playboy Club.

This episode was only 3 episodes after “The Suitcase,” which is rightfully being hailed as one of the greatest television episodes of the decade. This episode sadly did not have Peggy in it at all, which was disappointing since she was always my favorite character. It did, however, have Jon Hamm acting the hell out of Don Draper. Which, I know, can be said for every episode of the series. The scene that stuck with me the most was Don’s panic attack as he realizes his life may be about to unravel. It is hard to do a good panic attack on screen. Typically, panic attacks are super overwrought. Or the director relies on the soundtrack and cinematography to convey the character’s inner turmoil. As someone who has had a fair number of panic attacks in her life, I typically roll my eyes when one happens onscreen. Jon Hamm, though, did the most realistic one I’ve seen in quite some time. I felt his despair through the screen. It reminded me why everyone was so outraged that he didn’t get an Emmy for this role until the final season.

I also had forgotten how matter-of-fact the abortion storyline was. Even though Joan didn’t ultimately go through with it, the show just gave it as an option she considered. There was no grandstanding about the morality of it. It was just something she could decide to do or not do. From the outset, it was presented as Joan’s choice. It was so refreshing to see it presented in such a quiet, realistic way.

Mad Men was the first “prestige TV” show I watched in (mostly) real time. I watched the first two seasons over Christmas break my freshman year of college. I loved all the rich discussion surrounding this show, especially as it gained in popularity. I remember watching “The Suitcase” and being blown away by the sheer genius and simplicity of the episode. This show seemed really popular at my college, but it could have just been that it was popular in my groups. Jon Hamm is an alum of my alma mater, so he was featured in the commercials that would play during football games. Plus, a good number of my friends were in the journalism school, so this was very much up their alley. After I graduated in 2012, I got my parents hooked on the show. I didn’t have cable and wanted to be able to watch the show live, so I would go over to my parents’ house on Sunday nights when it was airing. We would watch it together every week. I think this was the last TV series my dad and I ever agreed on watching. Even then, we liked very different things from it. My dad detested Peggy and loved to see her humiliated, whereas she was the secondary hero of the show for me. We would get into arguments all the time because I was fiercely protective of her. We would laugh at the end of episodes when those cryptic previews would play that gave away absolutely nothing about the next episode.

When I think of prestige TV from the early 2010s, “Mad Men” is always the show that comes to my mind. I tried to get into “Breaking Bad” and it never captured my attention the way that “Mad Men” did. Even just watching one episode out of context of the rest of the series, I was still struck by how solid the writing and acting was. It made me want to go back to the beginning and rewatch it, which is always the mark of a great show.

 

 

Decade in Review Preview

As we get closer to the end of 2019, it seems like everyone is looking back on the state of entertainment over the past weekend. Everyone is putting out their decade-end lists of the best television shows and movies. I don’t necessarily have anything to add to the “best of” conversation that hasn’t already been send. My best show of the decade is absolutely “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” My best movie changes on a daily basis. I don’t even know what I would say it is today. Instead, I decided to do something different. Since I was 14, I’ve been keeping a “TV diary.” Every week, I write down the exact episodes of shows I’m planning on watching that week. Part of it is to keep me organized so I don’t miss a new show. Part of it is because I like looking back on the shows I’ve watched at different points in history. I started this back in 2004, so this is the first full decade I have listed. I decided to pick a random day from each year and write about an episode of TV I watched that originally aired on that day. I made it as random as I could. There were a couple days I got that either had no shows airing that day or it was only something like “Top Chef.” So, starting next week, I’m going to rewatch 10 episodes from assorted shows from this decade. Here is what I have landed on for this.

2010 – September 26 – Mad Men 4.10 “Hands and Knees”
Betty is a bit unsettled when a surprise visitor arrives at the Francis home.

2011 – October 4 – Glee 3.03 “Asian F”
Rusty and Rose Pillsbury pay Emma a visit and we get a sneak peek into her deep rooted issues. Meanwhile, Mike Chang struggles with his grades and his parents step in to make sure he stays on track.

2012 – February 7 – Parenthood 3.15 “Politics”
Mark invites Sarah to a friend’s engagement party which stirs up a serious conversation about a baby in their future. Meanwhile, Amber receives a job promotion but questions her own qualifications, Adam and Crosby clash over business strategy for The Luncheonette and Zoe’s behavior causes Julia and Joel to question their adoption agreement.

2013 – June 18 – Pretty Little Liars 4.02 “Turn of the Shoe”
“A” almost kills Mona. Meanwhile, Aria takes self-defense lessons; Alison’s mom gives Hanna a parrot; Toby reveals a poignant secret to Spencer; and Hanna uncovers something surprising about her mother.

2014 – August 10 – Masters of Sex 2.05 “Giants”
The study costs Masters his obstetrics and gynaecology practice. Johnson struggles with DePaul.

2015 – February 16 – Jane the Virgin 1.14 “Chapter Fourteen”
Michael is convinced that Rafael is helping to hide his father and puts the thought into Jane’s head as well, making her grow suspicious of Rafael’s recent actions. Elsewhere, Jane forces Xo and Rogelio to reveal how they really feel about each other, but neither is prepared for what the other has to say. Petra finds a new way to torture Rafael that even he could not have imagined. Meanwhile, Jane’s friends want to throw her a baby shower, but it brings up some serious questions about her and Rafael’s future.

2016 – November 7 – Pitch 1.08 “Unstoppable Forces & Immovable Objects”
A rain delay at Petco Park causes the team to hold Kangaroo Court in the clubhouse in order to pass the time. Meanwhile, per Oscar’s suggestion, Mike mulls over the option of trading to a new team, and an unexpected visit from Ginny’s brother, Will (guest star BJ Britt), causes friction with Amelia.

2017 – December 4 – Supergirl 3.09 “Reign”
Supergirl learns that a mysterious Kryptonian symbol suddenly appearing around the city heralds the appearance of the World Killer, Reign. She’s a Kryptonian whose powers exceed Supergirl’s… and who is determined to bring judgment to a sinful world. The tension between Lena and Morgan Edge continues to build.

2018 – April 12 – Scandal 7.17 “Standing in the Sun”
Cyrus and Jake’s mission to take the White House reaches a new level of deceit when Liv is called to testify against Mellie.

2019 – February 28 – Brooklyn Nine Nine 6.08 “He Said, She Said”
Jake and Amy investigate a difficult “he said, she said” case. Holt becomes suspicious after learning his lifelong arch nemesis died in a prison transport accident.

 

Fall TV Reviews: Nancy Drew (The CW)

And here we are at the end of the road. The last new fall show to premiere. Another one of the ones I’ve been anxiously awaiting. I grew up reading Nancy Drew novels with my mom beginning around age 4. When I started kindergarten, they were my favorite series to read at school. Let’s see how this update pans out.

Premise: Nancy Drew (Kennedy McMann) is a recent high school grad from small-town Horseshoe Bay. She used to enjoy solving mysteries, but then her mom died. Now, she just spends her days waiting tables at The Claw and occasionally having sex with a hot guy named Ned. Then she gets pulled back into solving mysteries when Tiffany Hudson, the wife of local shady guy Ryan Hudson (Riley Smith) is found dead right outside the diner where she works. The mystery takes a turn when they keep getting pointed in the direction of “Dead Lucy,” a local ghost beauty queen.

The Good: This pulls a lot of influences from “Veronica Mars,” “Twin Peaks,” and of course since it’s the CW, “Riverdale.” All of these things are very good, in my opinion. All of the key elements that make Nancy Drew great are there. Nancy is strong and independent with more vulnerability than she was given in the novels. She’s a more fleshed-out character. All of the characters honestly are.

The Bad: This has some supernatural elements that I don’t know if I love yet. If you’re looking for a completely faithful adaptation of the novels, this isn’t it. George and Bess are major characters, but they aren’t Nancy’s best friends. Not yet at least. Ned is more of a “bad boy” than he was in the books. Depending on your attachment to the source material, that may color your opinions on this adaptation.

For me, everything that makes Nancy Drew enjoyable is there. She has always been a timeless character and this is no exception. Most other adaptations have not been very good, in my opinion. I’m absolutely on board for the rest of the season. You can catch “Nancy Drew” on the CW Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m.

Fall TV Reviews: Bless the Harts (Fox)

Okay, this one may be the one where I don’t finish the episode. If there is anything that is truly my kryptonite, it’s animation. I loathe “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” I would leave the room anytime my friends wanted to watch “Futurama” when I was in college. People have told me I might like “Bob’s Burgers,” but what I’ve seen of it has not really sparked my interest. That lands us here at “Bless the Harts.”

The Premise: Jenny Hart (Kristen Wiig) is the mother of a family who is just trying to get by. Also in the voice cast are Maya Rudolph as grandma Betty, Fortune Feimster as neighbor Brenda, and Ike Barinholtz as Jenny’s boyfriend Wayne. Oh yeah, and the great Kumail Nanjiani as Jesus.

The Good: The voice cast is phenomenal. Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph are great as the two main characters. The series was created by Emily Spivey, who has previously written for “Saturday Night Live,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “The Last Man on Earth.” The storylines are relatable. I do like the touch of Kumail Nanjiani as Jesus, who basically serves as a confidant for Jenny.

The Bad: I just truly hate animated shows. I find them so thoroughly boring. It’s only a 21-minute episode, but I found myself drifting off about 10 minutes in. It’s nowhere near the worst show I’ve seen from Fox’s Animation Domination lineup. It’s actually probably the best one I’ve seen. I just don’t ever want to see another episode of it. Ever.

If you do like animated shows, you might want to check out “Bless the Harts” on Fox Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m.

Fall TV Reviews: Kids Say the Darndest Things (ABC)

I almost didn’t include this one in my round up, but decided to stick to reviewing all new shows. This is one that feels like it’s been on forever. Mainly because I remember watching the old iteration of it hosted by Bill Cosby when I was a kid. Clearly, that didn’t really age well for reasons. Before the Bill Cosby iteration, this was hosted by Art Linklater in the 60s(?), I think.

Premise: This iteration is hosted by Tiffany Haddish. She does a variety of on-the-street segments and in-studio interviews with children. They say things. She reacts. It’s a very basic set-up.

The Good: Tiffany Haddish is extremely likable and she is game for anything. She does well with interacting with the kids and setting them up to say crazy things. They show some old clips of the Art Linklater version, which are fun.

The Bad: There’s really nothing bad here. There’s a reason this is paired with “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on Sunday nights. You can turn on the TV for two hours, do something else, and just periodically jump in. When you’re paying attention, it’s funny. You won’t miss anything if you tune out, though. Honestly, you could tell me this show has been on 10 years and I’d believe it. It’s not anything particularly fresh or original. It’s just the same show that’s been airing off and on for years.

You can catch “Kids Say the Darndest Things” on ABC Sunday nights at 7:00 p.m.

Fall TV Reviews: Batwoman (The CW)

The CW joins in for the last week of premiere fun. Their full lineup rolls out this week, starting with the newest addition to the Arrowverse: “Batwoman.” This is the fifth show to join the Arrowverse. I currently watch three of the other four: “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” I’ve never gotten into “Arrow” for the same reason I’m not particularly excited for “Batwoman.” I like my superheroes to be quirky and fun, not dark and gritty. Anything that has the word “Bat” in its title is going to be dark and gritty. I’ve never been interested in the Batman universe. There are some things that make this show somewhat interesting to me, though. Let’s get into it.

Premise: The show centers around Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), cousin to Bruce Wayne. You might have heard of him. The Kane family runs Crow Security, which has been providing security for Gotham City ever since Batman disappeared three years earlier. When Kate’s former girlfriend Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) is kidnapped, she sets out to find her. On the way, she encounters this episode’s villain, Alice (Rachel Skarsten). And yes, that’s Alice as in Alice in Wonderland.

The Good: It was not nearly as grim and gritty as I was expecting. I wouldn’t say there was humor in it, but it did not get as grim as I was expecting. Ruby Rose is very likable as Kate and I want to see her succeed as Batwoman. I also like the touch with Rachel Maddow voicing the gossip columnist. There was a twist at the end that I actually really enjoyed.

The Bad: It was still plenty grim. Everything was pretty dark and humorless, which is a shame because Ruby Rose has a great dry wit. I definitely found my attention wandering for a lot of it. I prefer it to anything else involving the Batman-verse. It’s just not something I want to watch on a weekly basis.

If you want to catch the newest addition to the SuperFlarrow-verse, you can watch “Batwoman” on The CW Sunday nights at 7:00 p.m.

 

Fall TV Reviews: Almost Family (Fox)

The bulk of premieres have aired already, so I’m in the home stretch of this project.

Premise: A prominent fertility doctor (Timothy Hutton) is discovered to have used his own sperm to impregnate a large number of clients. His daughter (Brittany Snow) then finds a couple of women who are biologically her siblings (Emily Osment, Megalyn Echikunwoke). It’s based on a popular Australian show called “Sisters.”

The Good: This comes from Jason Katims, one of my all-time favorite television creators. Katims is the one responsible for “Parenthood” and the completely amazing “Friday Night Lights.” I have no doubt the relationships are going to be deep and complex. The dialogue is going to be natural and insightful. I already want to know what happens next. Each of the three main sisters has an interesting hook to them and I want to see how their stories unfold. I’m fully on board for the duration of this show.

The Bad: It’s such an icky concept. They really did not need the twist where Brittany Snow’s hook-up from the day before came into the clinic to see if he is potentially her brother. At the end of the episode, Hutton is arrested for potential sexual assault. They need to quickly downplay the “how” of everything and just focus on what happens next.

Like I said, I’m fully on board with this show. They had me from Jason Katims. You can catch “Almost Family” Wednesdays on Fox at 8:00 p.m.