Favorites, Television

My Favorite Things: 15 Television Shows

I’ve watched a lot of television in my (almost) 23 years of life. Anyone who knows me is well aware of that fact. And while I’ve always been quick to say “That’s one of my favorites” to a variety of different shows, I’ve never actually made a list. When I sat down to write this, I intended for it to be a Top 10. However, there were some that I just really needed to include. So, without further ado, here is the list nobody really asked for…My Top 15 Television Shows!


1. Friends

I have been watching Friends my entire life. I was only two years old when it started so I truly can’t remember a time when it wasn’t on TV. I didn’t read Harry Potter as a child like a lot of people in my generation (I have since read it, don’t worry). I always say that Friends was my Harry Potter. These six people have been there for me in literally every stage of life. When it ended in 2004, I cried myself to sleep and thought I would never love again. From this list, you can see I was clearly wrong about that. But I’m thankful that Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross will always be there when I most need them.

Favorite Character: Chandler Bing

Favorite Episode: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

Friends is available to stream on Netflix.


West Wing

2. The West Wing

I can’t lie…I probably do love The West Wing more than Friends. However, I have to give it the number 2 spot because it’s been in my life for significantly less time. I watched this show mainly because my best friend asked me to. I knew I would enjoy it, but I had no idea I would fall deeply in love with it. This show combines everything I love into one: politics, smart writing, walk-and-talks, and the most perfect television ensemble of all-time. But most importantly, this show is about a family of people–Jed, Abbey, Leo, Josh, Donna, CJ, Toby, Charlie, and Sam–trying to make the world a better place. It gives me hope that maybe one day we’ll actually have some politicians like them in office.

Favorite Character: Donnatella Moss

Favorite Episode: 20 Hours in America

The West Wing is available to stream on Netflix.

Previous blog posts about The West Wing can be found here and here.


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3. The Office

I recently rewatched all nine seasons of The Office and was immediately taken back to the days when I was deep in the fandom on message boards and OfficeTally. The Office was the first show I can remember binge-watching. It was back in 2007 so I had to do it the old-fashioned way—I purchased the DVDs for seasons 1 through 3. It was a complete obsession that I left behind when Steve Carell exited the show. But as I rewatched it, I really missed those glory days. It’s such an intelligent and hilarious show with the most wonderful cast. I also didn’t hate seasons 8 and 9 nearly as much as I thought I did. I won’t ever forgive them for what they did to Andy Bernard, but everything else about it is pretty perfect. If you can find me a better season of pure comedy than season 2 of The Office, please let me know.

Favorite Character: Pam Beesly

Favorite Episode: The Dundies and The Injury (tie)

The Office is available to stream on Netflix.

A previous blog post about The Office can be found here. (This list has changed a bit since then.)


4. Breaking Bad

Is there a show quite as flawless as Breaking Bad? I have yet to find one. It’s clear from the beginning that Vince Gilligan meticulously planned every facet of this show, and it definitely pays off. Each season builds wonderfully on each other, which made the show better as time went on. That’s rare in television, and I’m glad Gilligan and AMC had the sense to end the show when they did rather than keep it on the air for ratings. It’s the only show in the top fifteen that I continued watching despite the hatred I felt towards the main character and the weekly anxiety I had for Jesse Pinkman and Skyler White. The show is so perfect that it makes all of those things so worth it.

Favorite Character: Jesse Pinkman

Favorite Episode: Ozymandias

Breaking Bad is available to stream on Netflix.


5. Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation that just ended is incredibly different from the Parks and Rec that premiered in 2009, and I could not be more grateful. The first two seasons of this show are a bit rocky. Originally slated as a spinoff of The Office, Parks and Rec truly became its own show by the end of season two. And once the characters were firmly established, Parks and Recreation was an incredible treat about a group of misfits with big dreams to make their crazy town better. Throughout its seven seasons, the show remained optimistic, lighthearted, and genuinely hysterical, culminating with a finale that for any other show, I would have loathed. For Parks and Rec, though, it felt just right.

Favorite Character: April Ludgate

Favorite Episode: Flu Season

Parks and Recreation is available to stream on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime.

Continue reading “My Favorite Things: 15 Television Shows”

Television

A 22 Year Old Girl Meets the Most Important Show on TV

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Like a lot of people my age, I grew up watching reruns of Boy Meets World every day after school. The ABC show about Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) was always one of my favorites. Like Cory, I’ve had the same best friend since I was 3 years old, and we’ve gone through life together calling ourselves “Cory and Shawn.” I even ended my high school graduation speech with my favorite quote from Mr. Feeny (William Daniels): “Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good. I love you all. Class dismissed.”

So, when Disney Channel announced a spinoff show about Cory and Topanga’s daughter, I was skeptical. As we all know, for every spinoff like Frasier, there are 10 spinoffs like Joey, and this was going to be on a children’s network instead of ABC. I felt a little better once Savage and Fishel signed on as series regulars, but I still worried the magic of Boy Meets World would be lost. Eighteen episodes of Girl Meets World later, I’m thrilled to say I was 100% wrong. Honestly, there is a part of me that is starting to like Girl Meets World even more than I like BMW.

I’m so grateful that young kids have the opportunity to watch Girl Meets World. Here are five reasons it is so important to me that they do.

1) A strong female friendship.

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The greatest thing about this show is the friendship between Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard) and Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter). Blanchard and Carpenter are incredibly talented young ladies who have actually become best friends offscreen, which helps their television friendship seem effortless. From the first episode, it is clear to older fans that these two are meant to be like Cory and Shawn. Riley is a slightly awkward young girl who wants to believe she’s as rebellious as her best friend. Maya is the cool and calm best friend whose single parent struggles to provide everything that she needs in her life. However, the writers do a wonderful job of making Riley and Maya their own people too. They are smart, funny, and adventurous, and most importantly, they completely negate the stereotypes given to preteen girls. Riley and Maya have a strong, loving friendship in which they maturely discuss their wants and needs with each other. They’re quick to support each other in any way possible. They fight, of course, but who doesn’t? But as they work through their conflict each week, viewers young and old are able to see a healthy female friendship on a children’s television show.

2) A discussion of nontraditional families.

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In an interview, Sabrina Carpenter said “To my knowledge, there has never been a character on a Disney Channel show with an absentee mom and a dad who has another family, because that’s not a typical, perfect life. But that’s what life is. It’s not perfect.” The 15-year-old actress is so right. Like her Boy Meets World counterpart Shawn, Maya doesn’t come from “a nuclear family.” Her parents are divorced, and her mother is often nowhere to be found because she’s working extra shifts at a restaurant to provide basic life necessities for her daughter. Unlike her best friend’s life, Maya’s family life is often difficult. She sees the Matthews family as her own, like Shawn did on BMW, which also brings up the important realization for kids that family does not always mean you are related to a person by blood. Maya’s situation is not an unusual one for children to experience. Shows made for kids rarely feature families that are not the “normal” family lifestyle of a mother, a father, and two or three kids. It is refreshing for young children who don’t have that family life to see one a little closer to their own on television.

3) Cory’s continuous growth.

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I’m new to this whole adulthood thing. So far, I’m not a fan. As a kid, I thought when I became an adult, I would magically know everything I needed for life. All of the adults I saw on television seemed to have it figured out. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. On Girl Meets World, they not only understand that but they show it in every episode by allowing Cory to grow as much as his daughter and her friends do. He’s grown tremendously since we first met him in middle school on BMW. But Cory still has a lot to learn about being a father, a husband, a teacher, and a human being. As a 22-year-old fan of a children’s show, I’m thankful that the boy I watched every day on TV after elementary and middle school still has not figured it all out, and I hope kids are able to watch this and see that adults do not know what they’re doing either.

4) Tackling world issues.

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While I take issue with the fact that the middle school featured on Girl Meets World lacks a significant amount of diversity amongst their students for a school in New York City, this show has tackled many vital issues for kids in just 18 episodes. In one episode, we learned that Lucas (Peyton Meyer) has recently moved to NYC from Texas. He didn’t want to leave his friends and family behind, and as someone who experienced this twice in my childhood, I connected deeply with Lucas. It is not easy to do, but Lucas and I are far from the only children to experience this life event. I never saw it on television as a child, and I wonder if it would have been easier if I had seen some small representation of it on one of my favorite television shows.

Like most shows for young people, the writers have also tackled an episode on bullying, but they addressed popularity, bullying, and self-image in unique ways that made the episode standout from the other shows. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of that episode was Cory’s lesson on cultural appropriation to Riley and his other students. When Riley begins dressing in Harajuku style to become popular, he discusses the dangers of cultural appropriation. Since viewing the episode, I have seen some interesting discussion on the fact that Harajuku is meant to be shared with the world and is therefore not cultural appropriation. And while I do not know a lot about Harajuku and cannot speak to that, I found the overall explanation of cultural appropriation incredibly important for a children’s show. In a time when singers like Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea, and Selena Gomez are appropriating other cultures for their music videos and tours, the issue is rarely discussed in the mainstream media. Instead, it is either ignored, or even worse, celebrated as “art.” By explaining to children what the issue is, even if they did not explicitly use the term “cultural appropriation,” they are helping kids learn early that it is exploitative and racist.

5) Allowing former fans of BMW to enjoy it with their kids. 

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I know I am not ready to be a mother, but a small part of me wishes I had a child who was old enough to watch this show with me. One of the things the Girl Meets World writers have done so intelligently is bridge the gap between the old show and the new. In doing so, they provide a perfect opportunity for the two generations of fans to watch this show together. People who enjoyed BMW as teenagers now have kids around the ages of Riley, Maya, and Riley’s younger brother Auggie (August Maturo), and the show is more than enjoyable for these adults to watch. So far, GMW has featured the return of Shawn Hunter, Cory’s parents Amy and Alan Matthews (Betsy Randle and William Russ, respectively), and Topanga’s school rival Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris). We even saw a brief appearance from Mr. Feeny, and season two promises even more Shawn and Mr. Feeny as well as the return of Cory’s older brother Eric Matthews (Will Friedle). They use flashbacks creatively to show the younger fans what they missed on BMW in a way that is not confusing or overwhelming. By keeping the new generation of viewers informed about the past, they make the show nostalgic and exciting for loyal fans of BMW and build a deep connection between the two shows. And even though I am a huge fan of GMW without having kids to watch it with, I know I would love to spend my Friday nights watching this Disney Channel show with my children if I was a parent.

I don’t know how long the show can last without moving to ABC Family to keep it relevant to the aging audience, but for now, Girl Meets World is exactly what this world needs.

Television, Travel

Spring Break 2014: Walking and Talking in Washington DC

This is a bit delayed, but my best friend and I finally had a chance to go through our pictures from our spring break trip to Washington DC and I wanted to post a little bit about it.

The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. So here goes: I am obsessed with The West Wing. My best friend, Allison, and I talk about the show constantly, and I recently started rewatching it (after just finishing it) as I work on my thesis. Allison and I reached the height of obsession, though, when we decided to spend our spring break on a West Wing-inspired trip to DC. People seemed confused when we said we were going there instead of Florida, but trust me, this was an excellent decision. We made a list of places we wanted to go because they were mentioned on TWW (and the DC episode in season five of Parks and Recreation), and we had the best time. In fact, we both immediately started looking at graduate schools and potential jobs there because we loved it so much.

If you’re planning a trip to DC in the future, which I recommend whether you love The West Wing and American politics or not, here are some things you cannot miss! (And yes, almost everything on this list does have significance to The West Wing. I would apologize, but I’m not sorry.)

  • The White House: Of course, this was the first thing on our “To Visit” list. We visited the grounds almost every day, saw Marine One taking off from the White House, and even got to take a tour of The East Wing one morning. We may or may not have cried. (We totally did. The experience was just too much.) We even took a selfie with a Secret Service agent outside of the White House, but he threatened my life if it ever showed up on social media. I think he was joking, but I don’t want to take any chances.
  • The Newseum: I’ve been to the British Museum, the Louvre, the Met, the Museum of Modern Art, and a slew of other museums in Europe and New York City. However, the Newseum is by far my favorite. In fact, we spent two days in there because one just wasn’t enough. We were able to touch the Berlin Wall; explore an exhibit called “Creating Camelot” about John and Jacqueline Kennedy; see artifacts from the Anchorman movies at a special exhibit that actually made the films educational; see Tim Russert’s office and the Unibomber’s cabin; pull out newspapers with headlines about Lincoln’s assassination and women getting the right to vote; learn how journalists risked their lives on 9/11; understand how technology has changed the news over the years; pretend to be White House correspondents; and so many other things. It’s one of the few museums in DC that charges admission, but it’s well worth it. (The Newseum does have significance within The West Wing world as well—prior to its move to the heart of DC, it resided in Rosslyn and was the location of the heartbreaking shooting in the season one finale.)
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: I’ve been to the concentration camp Dachau, and nothing will ever be as haunting to me as that. However, this museum is still horrifying and intense. We quietly walked through the museum for about three hours, and it’s not something I really want to blog about. It’s just something that everyone should experience for themselves at some point.
  • Arlington National Cemetery: Once again, this is significant on The West Wing since it is the burial site of three major characters. However, we really wanted to go for the experience. Arlington is beautiful, as you would imagine, and it’s also massive. We barely covered even a fourth of it. We were able to see the burial sites of the Kennedys and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as well as the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Once we left Arlington Cemetery, we made our way to the Arlington Bridge, a beautiful bridge that connects Arlington, Virginia, to Washington DC with a great view of the Lincoln Memorial. This was a particularly important site to us, as it is featured at the end of one of our favorite episodes of The West Wing: “20 Hours in America (Part 2).”
  • The National Cathedral: This was a must see for us (spoiler alert!) since it is where those on The West Wing said goodbye to the beloved Mrs. Landingham in season two’s finale “Two Cathedrals.” The cathedral is stunning, and I was immediately taken back to my time in Europe, when I went to dozens of old cathedrals. While the National Cathedral, like everything else in the US, is not as old as the churches of England, France, and Italy, the National Cathedral lives up to the beauty. It was wonderful and peaceful to explore. (We even watched “Two Cathedrals” prior to our trip here to see where each character sat. See our super cool pictures below.)
  • The Capitol: We took a tour of the Capitol Building on International Women’s Day, and while the tour is a bit short, it’s a lot of fun. They force you to watch some serious Congress propaganda before the tour, and then take you through the Crypt, the original Supreme Court chambers, the original House of Representatives chamber, and of course, the Rotunda. Allison and I even got to talk a bit about Kentucky to the group since Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln are frequently referenced throughout the historical building.
  • The Supreme Court: We had no idea you could go inside the Supreme Court, but you can and it’s super cool! It wasn’t in session while we were there, but if it had been, we even could have gone to watch some hearings with the Supreme Court justices. That’s been added to my bucket list!
  • The Library of Congress: I didn’t give the Library of Congress enough credit before going because it really was a lot of fun. I didn’t realize it was like a museum until we got there, but they had a number of wonderful exhibits throughout the building. We saw the George & Ira Gershwin exhibit as well as a fascinating exhibit about politics and popular culture, an area of research I have always been interested in. I would love to go back and spend more time exploring in there.
  • The American History Museum: This museum features a lot from our nation’s short history in both politics and popular culture. Kermit lives here as do some inaugural dresses of the First Ladies (Grace Coolidge is our favorite). There was a lot of ground to cover, but we made our way through every room and loved it. We even stood in the spot where Ben and Leslie are reunited in “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” on Parks and Recreation. We were also a little bit famous in this museum—a guy took our picture because he liked our sweatshirts (I had on Bartlet for America while Allison wore her Lyman/Seaborn 2016) and then a group of people ran up to us as we were leaving to compliment them and discuss The West Wing. We were instant friends.
  • The Memorials: There are beautiful memorials throughout DC, and the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial are all pretty close together, which makes for an easy and beautiful walk. (Just be aware that they’re far away from any metro station. The walk back was a bit torturous.) It’s definitely worth a visit, and you can even stand where Martin Luther King Jr. did when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. As a lover of all things history, that’s a pretty cool and powerful thing to do.
  • A meeting on the Hill: During our second day in the Newseum, we got a phone call from someone at Congressman Massie’s office, who had arranged our White House tour for us, telling us to stop by his office so that we could pick up the pass we needed for the White House tour. Being West Wing fans, we immediately started calling it our “Meeting on the Hill.” We headed to the Cannon House Office Building, went to Congressman Massie’s office, and then explored the building for a bit. We made the most of the experience, that’s for sure.
  • The Mall at night: This is when DC is truly beautiful. It’s just so peaceful. If you stand in between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument at the reflecting pool, you’ll get some stunning pictures.

We went to a ton of other places (including a Target with a cart escalator!), and I know there are still quite a few things on our list that we missed (18th & Potomac, for instance). However, we both plan on returning to DC as soon as possible! Below are just a few of the pictures we took!

And one final thing: A HUGE thanks to Allison’s cousin and her roommates for being so hospitable so we didn’t have to pay for a hotel!

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Marine One lands at the White House.
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Happy International Women’s Day to my favorite fictional ladies, Donna Moss and CJ Cregg!
George and Ira Gershwin's piano
George and Ira Gershwin’s piano
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Taken right before a mother yelled at her son for sitting on the Republicans bench. My kind of parenting!
Allison enjoys the Washington Monument on a beautiful DC night (before getting "attacked" by some ducks.)
Allison enjoys the Washington Monument on a beautiful DC night (before getting “attacked” by some ducks).
THIS IS THE ONE
We weren’t originally going to wear these on the same day, but it was International Women’s Day so WE HAD TO. Also, this is one of my favorite pictures of all-time.
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The best amendment on the entrance of the best museum.
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While looking at artifacts in the First Amendment exhibit, we heard a familiar voice reading the First Amendment over the speakers. We turned the corner and saw our beloved President Bartlet. We then proceeded to freak out.
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Channeling my inner Veronica Corningstone at the Anchorman exhibit.
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White House Correspondent Allison Cole.
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The Unibomber’s cabin
Spring Break 2014- Washington DC
Some of the many important headlines at the Newseum. (From L to R): the end of World War I, Hitler dead (from The Louisville Times!), women get the right to vote, Hawaii becomes the 50th state, Lincoln assassinated, and Kennedy assassinated.
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I’m terrible at taking selfies. That is something I learned on this trip. However, Ben and Leslie stood here so this was necessary.
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What kind of day has it been? (Season 1, episode 22 of The West Wing)
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Josh: “Sam went to Foggy Bottom.” CJ: “What’s he doing in fwoggy bowtew?” (Season 1, episode 15 of The West Wing)
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Thank you for saving Josh Lyman!
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Hanging out with our pal, Lincoln. Leslie: “‘In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.’ Andy, what are you doing?” Andy: “Have you ever seen any of the National Treasure movies? Everything in this city is a clue.” (season 5, episode 1 of Parks and Recreation)
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The Korean War Memorial (featured in season 1, episode 10 of The West Wing)
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World War II Memorial
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The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
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The burial site for President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Arlington National Cemetery
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The Arlington Bridge (featured in The West Wing’s season 1 finale “What Kind of Day Has It Been?” and season 4 premiere “20 Hours in America (Part 2)”)
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Allison was super excited for our meeting on the Hill!
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Outside of the White House after our wonderful tour!

 

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Of course we had to take this picture!
Just call us both CJ Cregg!
Just call us both CJ Cregg!
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Allison poses for her presidential portrait in President Bartlet’s chair at the National Cathedral while I happily sit where my girl Donna Moss did. (We both have pictures in each person’s chair but I decided to post these based on the super scientific results of the “Which West Wing character are you?” Buzzfeed quiz.)
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The Supreme Court of the United States
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An exhibit honoring Sandra Day O’Connor at the Supreme Court! Yay ladies!
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Our last visit to the White House wouldn’t be complete without one final Bartlet for America picture!
Television

Ten Reasons You Should Watch The West Wing Right Now

West Wing

By the end of The West Wing‘s pilot, I knew I would love the show. Now that I’ve seen all of it, I can officially say it has a place in my top five favorite shows of all-time. There are hundreds of reasons why I love this show so much, but here are the ten reasons you need to watch (or rewatch) this four-time Emmy winner for Best Drama Series on Netflix or Amazon Prime right now!

10) The Theme Song

I love a good theme song. As I was binge-watching The West Wing during my winter break, my mom jokingly asked me if I got goose bumps every time the song themestarted. I answered with a very serious “Yes.” In my head, President Obama gets ready every morning by playing that theme. It’s just such beautiful and powerful music. It really does give me chills. I have the theme song as my ringtone so whenever someone calls or texts me, I feel much more important than I actually am. Like the theme for Game of Thrones, I can never skip over it, even when I’m watching 5 episodes back-to-back. 

9) Josh & Donna

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This show is not about romance at all. The characters go in and out of a few relationships, and the President (Golden Globe winner Martin Sheen) and First Lady (Emmy winner Stockard Channing) are wonderful together. However, this show is first and foremost about a Democratic president and his staff in the White House. Honestly, the lack of constant relationship woes was one of the most refreshing parts of the show. That said, these two killed me. Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Emmy winner Bradley Whitford) and his assistant Donna Moss (Emmy nominee—should’ve been a winner—Janel Moloney) are the perfect duo. They’re not officially together but you can tell something is there from the start. Every character knows it too.  She’s the one person he can let his guard down with—he’s actually very sweet under all the stress and sarcasm—and when Josh gets too cocky or rude, Donna isn’t afraid to put him in his place. In season one, it’s clear that Josh’s love interest was intended to be Mandy (Moira Kelly, who left after just one season). However, from the first episode, Whitford and Moloney have a very natural rapport that continues to grow stronger throughout the seven seasons. Their relationship was a joy to watch from start to finish, even if it was the most frustrated I’ve ever been as a “shipper.” I’ve always considered Monica & Chandler (Friends) and Leslie & Ben (Parks and Recreation) to be my favorite television couples, but now I don’t think there’s a better pair than Josh and Donna.

8) The Educational Value 

If you watch this show and don’t learn something from it, you’re probably lying. From President Bartlet’s tangents about the history of the word filibuster to the handling of 9/11 and wars in the Middle East, The West Wing opened my eyes to issues I knew almost nothing about. I’m not saying that this show got every fact right. I’m not naïve enough to believe that. However, because of this show, I spent a lot of time reading about current events and how the issues on The West Wing related to those. I know this show will encourage me to stay even more informed in the upcoming election. (Also, the clip above will be played for anyone who tries to give me a biblical argument against same-sex marriage. Thanks, President Bartlet!)

7) The Politics

I’m not talking about Democrats vs. Republicans here. I’m talking about how ideal these politicians would actually be to have in office.  Sure, the problems President Bartlet faced were all planned in a writer’s room weeks in advance, and the Bartlet Administration still dealt with a few scandals (most notably, at the end of season 2). However, I stopped watching Netflix’s House of Cards after five episodes because I couldn’t stand the dark and cynical look at the government. Even ABC’s Scandal is sometimes a little too corrupt for me, though it’s often humorous. The West Wing is different, and it’s actually been criticized for being too optimistic of an administration. That’s what I love about it, though. It’s exhilarating to see politicians who are doing things because they honestly believe in doing it for the betterment of the United States and its people. They still must consider reelection and other personal goals with their decisions, and President Bartlet certainly isn’t perfect. However, it makes me hopeful. I would vote for any of them in a heartbeat. 

6) Toby Zieglertoby ziegler

Each character takes up a spot on my list of a hundred reasons to love this show because they are all inspiring in their own ways. Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Emmy winner Richard Schiff) is a special one, though. He’s incredibly sarcastic, and he and President Bartlet argue often. But he has a deep love and respect for all of his coworkers, including his boss. He’s unapologetically candid, and he’s charming, quirky, sweet, devoted, and a little mean when necessary. Basically, he’s everything you want to watch in a television character. Also, at Sundance, I met Richard Schiff. It was pretty cool.

5) The Directing and Editing

This show had a large budget of $6 million per episode, and it shows. Each episode feels more like watching a film than episodic television. The West Wing takes risks with its directing and editing, and every single one of them pays off. Since I took an editing course last fall, I have a new appreciation for people who can master the art of editing; this show has some of the finest editing I’ve ever seen, especially when using flashbacks to Governor Bartlet’s campaign for presidency. Each episode is beautifully pieced together, which makes the already strong cast and script seem even better.

4) The Walk-and-Talks

This kind of goes with the directing, but it’s such a special part of the show that I have to talk about it separately. This show made the walk-and-talk technique famous. It certainly didn’t invent it, but it’s a favorite of Emmy-winning director/producer Thomas Schlamme so it’s used all the time. Because the White House is a busy place, the characters often walk up and down the hallways together from meeting to meeting trying to accomplish their work. It’s how I always imagined the White House running. Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 8.37.58 PM.pngEveryone runs around the hallways trying to find a minute of time with their coworkers. One character leaves the long tracking shot at the end of a conversation, and another one jumps in to start talking about something else. The hustle and bustle of the White House seems extremely realistic, and it makes the scene much more interesting than it would be if they were just sitting in their offices all the time. It also leads to some truly hilarious moments—an intern falling down because Josh and Donna are walking too fast or the height difference between Allison Janney and Kristin Chenoweth.

3) The Cast

There’s a reason these actors were nominated for 36 individual acting Emmy Awards and won 9 of them as well as back-to-back Emmys for Outstanding Achievement in Casting. It’s also why America voted it the Best Drama Cast of all-time in a 2011 TV Guide poll. The performances from this cast are beyond words. the castThis show was originally meant to center around Rob Lowe’s Sam Seaborn. However, after realizing the beautiful ensemble they had created, the creative team made the decision to focus on the group instead. This is an ensemble at its finest. It’s a group that every showrunner dreams of for their show. The cast is extremely close (trust me on this one, I’ve watched way too many interviews and listened to quite a few episode commentaries), and that love is palpable in the chemistry, trust, and respect the characters have with each other. It never once feels forced. You’ll also get some fun recurring guest stars who work wonderfully with the main cast: Elisabeth Moss, Lily Tomlin, Marlee Matlin, John Amos, Teri Polo, Kathryn Joosten, Anna Deavere Smith, Mary-Louise Parker, and Timothy Busfield, just to name a few.

2) The Writing

The first four seasons were almost exclusively written (or co-written) by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin.  In true Sorkin fashion, the dialogue is fast and incredibly intelligent. The speeches are electrifying, and the characters are full of sass and wit. Each episode in those first four seasons is as close to perfect as anyone can get when writing for television. When Sorkin departed the show at the end of season four, there is a definite difference in the following episodes. It took John Wells (whose work I love on ER and Shameless) a bit to figure out where he wanted to take the show without Sorkin, and there were a few decisions that felt out of character for the staffers I spent four seasons getting to know. However, it doesn’t last forever, and the worst episodes of The West Wing are still far better than most shows’ best episodes. It never goes back to the Sorkin glory days, but it certainly wasn’t bad enough for me to lose interest or quit watching. All of the elements I love and mention on this list are still there in the last three seasons, even with the split in seasons 6 and 7 between those in the White House and those who leave to work on the next presidential campaign. And when episodes in those last three seasons feel as if Sorkin wrote them, you’ll probably find yourself simultaneously beaming and crying from joy.

1) Claudia Jean Cregg and Donnatella Moss

cj and donna

I’m bending the rules a little bit on this one, but these are my ladies! This is Donna’s second appearance on this list. However, she deserves it, and this appearance is strictly about how wonderful she is as a character. White House Press Secretary CJ Cregg (Janney) and Donna Moss are two of the most incredible ladies in any television show. I aspire to be like them in my everyday life. Donna, although “just an assistant,” has brilliant ideas and was quickly able to make herself an important part of the administration. She’s witty, intelligent, hardworking, empathetic, and just all around perfect. Allison Janney is responsible for four of those nine individual Emmy wins for playing CJ Cregg, and if I were deciding the Emmys, she would have won three more. CJ never falters on what she believes is right and works hard to bring issues to the administration that may be overlooked for political reasons (for just a glimpse at this, see one of the episodes for which Janney won an Emmy: Season 3’s “The Women of Qumar”). She also brings some joy and laughter into the press briefing room and the Oval Office. Janney and Moloney play these two women with finesse and a perfect balance of comedy and drama. I’m so happy Sorkin made Moloney a main cast member in season two, and I’m overjoyed that these two represent my gender well on The West Wing.

Three honorable mentions that just barely missed the top ten: Josh Lyman, Leo McGarry (the late Emmy winner John Spencer), and that time the First Lady got drunk with CJ, Donna, and Amy (Mary-Louise Parker) at her birthday party in the nearly-flawless season 3 episode “Dead Irish Writers.”

I never expected to fall this madly in love with this show, but I couldn’t help it. Do yourself a favor and start watching The West Wing now!

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Television

Golden Globe Nominations: Television!

460x300_goldenglobes

It’s early. I just finished my last final of the semester, which is a good reason to be excited. But I’m happy and excited today because of something that actually affects me in no way, shape, or form. The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning, and as I was putting on make-up and fixing my hair, I kept refreshing my Twitter feed to see the nominations. As always, the Golden Globes are shocking this year. However, they’re surprising in a few really good ways this time! They are shaking things up!

Even though I still love Homeland a lot, I was not at all surprised to see it missing from the nomination list. If anything, I was mostly surprised to not see Claire Danes in the Best Actress category. I take comfort in the fact, though, that she has four Globes and three Emmys sitting in her home right now. (Plus, she was still nominated for the SAG Awards which means we’ll get the Claire Danes/Jared Leto reunion everyone wanted this year.) I was surprised, but slightly happy, to see Mad Men missing. I have a lot of thoughts about that show, and I feel slightly validated now that it has been snubbed by both the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I do enjoy Mad Men, but season six was exhausting to watch.

I was extremely excited to see Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation, Michael Sheen, and Masters of Sex get some much deserved love. Since the Globes gave Steve Carell his award for Michael Scott, I’m hoping they’ll do the same with Poehler. It’s not fair that she keeps getting ignored. And with Masters of Sex, I hope this just a sign of many good things in the future. A nomination for Lizzy Caplan is the only thing really missing here.

However, the happiest moment for me came when I saw the nominees for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series. I immediately texted both my best friend and my mother to celebrate, and I may or may not have started crying. (Spoiler alert: I did.)

So, here are my thoughts and picks on each category of television, including what made me so damn happy about that Supporting Actress category.

Happy Awards Season!

Best Drama Series:

  • Breaking Bad
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Good Wife
  • House of Cards
  • Masters of Sex

My Pick: It’s not even a contest in my mind. I don’t watch The Good Wife, though I really want to after the buzz about this season. I tried both Downton Abbey and House of Cards and didn’t love either (though my preference goes to DA). I do love Masters of Sex. It’s been a surprising and high-quality show since the pilot premiered on September 29. However, the award has to go to Breaking Bad, right? I don’t think there has ever been a more flawless or stressful show on television. With its intricate plot, amazing cinematography, brilliant performances, and smart directing, nothing on this list comes close to Breaking Bad. I hope that Masters of Sex will continue to get better and better. In due time, it can get its awards. However, let’s just all agree to give Breaking Bad everything for its final season.

Best Actor- Drama Series:

  • Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
  • Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
  • Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
  • Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
  • James Spader, The Blacklist

My Pick: Okay, I know I just said we should give Breaking Bad everything. However, Bryan Cranston has won three Emmys before. He’s never won a Globe, but he’s been recognized a lot for his performance of Walter White. So, in this category, I’m torn between Cranston and Michael Sheen. Cranston has gotten better and better with the show, and he made me feel absolute rage that I didn’t know I was quite capable of. Sheen, on the other hand, gives a very subtle but heartbreaking performance as Dr. William Masters. It might be interesting if he wins here. It will change things up a bit, but I will also completely agree with the HFPA if Cranston takes it home.

Best Actress- Drama Series:

  • Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
  • Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
  • Kerry Washington, Scandal
  • Robin Wright, House of Cards

My Pick: WOAH. What a weird category. First, I love Claire. And Vera Farmiga of Bates Motel. Neither one is on this list, which makes me sad. Second, my roommate and I tried Orphan Black and were bored. We stopped after two episodes. Third, I love Taylor Shilling and Orange is the New Black. It was my favorite new show of the year, but I still think it should be in the comedy categories. So, I’m going to go with Kerry Washington for Scandal. Olivia Pope is simply the best, and in a category like this, she has to be the winner for her phenomenal performance. The show could easily be seen as a primetime soap opera, but it never feels that way largely because of Washington and the supporting cast, who are sadly always forgotten.

Best Comedy Series:

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Girls
  • Modern Family
  • Parks and Recreation

My Pick: Parks and Recreation! Parks and Recreation! Parks and Recreation! No contest. No further comment.

Best Actor- Comedy Series:

  • Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
  • Don Cheadle, House of Lies
  • Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
  • Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
  • Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

My Pick: I honestly do not know. I don’t watch House of Lies, The Michael J. Fox Show, or The Big Bang Theory. Arrested Development was disappointing this year, and as much as I love Bateman, I’m not feeling the nomination here. So, I guess I’ll go with Andy Samberg. He’s goofy, hilarious, and heartwarming on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and I think it would be kind of fun if he won. I’m disappointed Matt LeBlanc is missing. Even though I don’t watch Episodes (yet), I cried when he won a few years ago. It would have been nice to see it happen again.

Best Actress- Comedy Series:

  • Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
  • Lena Dunham, Girls
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
  • Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

My Pick: Amy Poehler. Again, this is no question for me. As I said above, she deserves it.

Best Supporting Actor- Television Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie:

  • Josh Charles, The Good Wife
  • Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
  • Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
  • Corey Stoll, House of Cards
  • Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

My Pick: Aaron Paul. I think it’s weird and unfair that the Globes combine Supporting Actor for all of television. It puts unequal and very different programs against each other and leaves a number of people out of the running. Paul, though, is definitely my favorite on this list. My love for Jesse Pinkman knows no bounds. When I talk about Breaking Bad, 90% of my time is spent talking about how much I want to take care of Jesse. He breaks my heart. Aaron Paul deserves it.

Best Supporting Actress- Television Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie:

  • Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
  • Janet McTeer, The White Queen
  • Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
  • Monica Potter, Parenthood
  • Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

My Pick: THIS IS THE ONE. This category actually made me tear up this morning. It was the happiest surprise to see Monica Potter’s name on that list. I don’t know how many times I can say “I love Parenthood!” but I’m going to say it again. I LOVE PARENTHOODParenthood has been overlooked by every major awards show since the beginning. (It’s most surprising to me that the SAG Awards forget about it every year, since it is the most ensemble-y of all the ensemble shows, but I digress.) This is a much-deserved nomination for Potter, who took a character that could have been so one-dimensional and made her incredibly human. I would absolutely burst into tears if Potter wins, and I really hope she does. I don’t know anything about Bisset’s and McTeer’s performances in those miniseries, but Potter seems to be the strongest on the list.

Television

Pushing Daisies: The Happiest Show on Earth

The perfect cast of Pushing Daisies: Swoosie Kurtz, Ellen Greene, Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Chi McBride.
The perfect cast of Pushing Daisies (from L to R): Swoosie Kurtz, Ellen Greene, Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Chi McBride.

“Young Ned’s secret gift was governed by three simple rules: Touch a dead thing once, alive. Touch a dead thing again, dead forever. Keep a dead thing alive for more than a minute and something else has to die.” Season 1, Episode 2

As I type this, it’s been 4 years, 3 months, 5 days, 1 hour, and 54 minutes since ABC’s Pushing Daisies ended. Recently, for the first time since its 2009 cancellation, I decided to break out my DVDs and rewatch it. And it did exactly what it did to me from 2007 to 2009—gave me a feeling of overwhelming happiness for 21 episodes and left me feeling empty and sad after the 22nd. This isn’t because the show is bad or ends in a disappointing way. It’s simply that the show was not given a proper run, forcing the writers to piece together a last minute ending for air. But the sadness felt as the 42 minutes of episode 22 come to a close is worth the sheer joy this show brings with it—a joy that no other TV show has quite matched since.

The facts were these…Pushing Daisies, created by Bryan Fuller, follows Ned (the brilliant Lee Pace), a piemaker in the fictitious town of Coeur d’Coeurs with the secret ability to wake the dead with a simple touch. When Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), a sarcastic and money-hungry private investigator, discovers Ned’s special talent, he convinces Ned to enter into a crime-solving partnership. Ned will wake the dead for one minute, ask them a few questions about their murder, and put them back to “sleep.” In the show’s pilot episode, Ned is forced to wake up his childhood love, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), after she has been murdered on a cruise ship. He can’t bring himself to touch her again, and so begins television’s cutest and most unique romance ever. Chuck and The Pie Hole waitress Olive Snook (Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth) join Emerson and Ned as investigators, and the rest is television magic.

Despite strong critical reception and 17 Emmy nominations in just two years, it could never seem to find a large audience and was sadly canceled by ABC. It didn’t help that the show premiered just before the WGA strike of 2007, and the show was very expensive. Still, I never understood why it didn’t catch on. In the age of too many crime shows to count on your fingers and toes, Pushing Daisies gave the world a creative alternative to all of the CSIs and NCISs.  The show seemed to have the perfect recipe for success: witty writing, creative directing, phenomenal acting, bright colors, mystery, a detailed and unique set, beautiful costumes, and an adorable dog. But for some reason, my family seemed to be the only 4 people in the world who watched it. In fact, when we went to the Warner Bros. Studios in between seasons 1 and 2, our tour guide was shocked that someone did watch it. (She actually tried to get us onto the set but couldn’t, much to my mother’s disappointment. We did get to see the morgue and The Pie Hole from a distance, though.)  We loved it dearly then, and as I’ve rewatched it over the last week, I’ve loved it even more. It’s truly a magical 22 hours of television, and it’s proving very difficult to find a show that will fill the pie-shaped hole it left in my heart.

If I had the power to bring any show back from the dead, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to bring back Pushing Daisies, even if it meant that, like with Ned’s power for dead people, another show had to die in its place. (Maybe it would finally get Two and a Half Men canceled?) However, since I don’t have that kind of power, can we at least start the Kickstarter for the additional episodes or TV movie that’s been talked about since 2009? I would definitely donate some money. The series finale just isn’t enough. Until then, I’ll proudly wear my Pie Hole sweatshirt around campus, force my best friend to watch the series, and drown my sorrows in a pear pie with Gruyère cheese baked into the crust.

Television

Some quick thoughts on the new season of Arrested Development!

Read at your own risk! Some light spoilers ahead.

  1. The cast seemed to fall effortlessly back into this show. I was happy to see the chemistry was still there after all those years apart.
  2. My favorite episode was definitely Colony Collapse. Gob’s should-should-should-you-ask-too-many-questions “speech” to Ann Veal was phenomenal comedic acting by Will Arnett. This episode also brought back some of my favorite running gags from the earlier seasons. Most notably, I had to pause the episode when the church expanded to show “H E R” (standing for Holy Eternal Rapture) during Gob’s wedding to Ann. It was too perfect.
  3. I also really enjoyed A New Attitude (Gob), Señoritis (Maeby), It Gets Better (George-Michael), and Off the Hook (Buster). All 15 episodes had good moments, but these were my five favorites.
  4. Alia Shawkat and Michael Cera have grown so much as actors, and I was really pleased to see how much they have developed. They delivered some of the best moments of the season.
  5. There simply wasn’t enough Buster. I know Tony Hale has another show (that I love) and that made scheduling difficult. However, the lack of Buster was very noticeable. I found myself spending most of the episodes thinking “Where is Buster?! I miss him!”
  6. Actually, it wasn’t just Buster I missed. I really wasn’t in love with the structure of this season. Again, I realize scheduling all these people must have been incredibly difficult. However, I think I would have waited a little longer for a new season if getting the whole family together was possible in the future. The first three seasons are truly about the weird family dynamic, but season four wasn’t about that at all. Following one character for a whole episode often made me sick of the particular character. I was hoping that at least the last episode would go back to the whole family structure of the first three seasons, but it didn’t. That said, I did really enjoy the unveiling of a new person in the penthouse scene with each episode. Ann Veal being there the entire time was the true icing on the cake.
  7. The new structure caused the narration over the opening credits to change, and I really love tradition so that bothered me.
  8. This season relied way too much on the narration.
  9. This show does better with 22 minute episodes. 35 minutes often felt too long. George Sr.’s episodes, in particular, felt way too excessive.
  10. I wish the guest stars were kept under wraps before the premiere. All of the cameos were wonderful, but they would have been even better if we weren’t anticipating them for so long. If they were only going to keep one a secret, I wish it would have been Kristen Wiig’s. I was so excited for hers, but I know my reaction would have been Lucille when she sees Gene Parmesan if I didn’t know about it beforehand.
  11. Max Winkler wins best guest actor for his work as young Barry Zuckerkorn. He impersonated his father (Henry Winkler) to a tee. Kudos to him! Wiig wins for best guest actress. Her young Lucille was spot on! You can tell she did her homework for this part because she really incorporated the character decisions Jessica Walter made for Lucille into her portrayal.
  12. I’m going to have to name my future dog Maeby. After watching so many episodes of Arrested Development, I’m starting to think it’s a good name for my future daughter. I don’t want to subject my daughter to a lifetime with the name Maeby. So, I’m claiming it as my future dog’s name. No one take it from me. And don’t judge me.