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”

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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!

Marine One...WHAT
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.
congress shall make no law
The best amendment on the entrance of the best museum.
wait is that..
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.
you serve at the pleasure of the president
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.
BEN AND LESLIE STOOD HERE
I’m terrible at taking selfies. That is something I learned on this trip. However, Ben and Leslie stood here so this was necessary.
what kind of day has it been
What kind of day has it been? (Season 1, episode 22 of The West Wing)
what's he doing in fwoggy bowtew
Josh: “Sam went to Foggy Bottom.” CJ: “What’s he doing in fwoggy bowtew?” (Season 1, episode 15 of The West Wing)
THANKS FOR SAVING JOSHUA
Thank you for saving Josh Lyman!
hanging with linc
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)
one time tobias was here
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
kaitlynn and allison at arlington bridge
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)”)
so happy to be at our meeting on the hill
Allison was super excited for our meeting on the Hill!
the best
Outside of the White House after our wonderful tour!

 

allison is jack kennedy
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!
Barlet for America
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

josh and donna

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!