It’s become a tradition here at Standing in Front of a TV for me to write about what I’m thankful for each Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for this year: family, friends, health, etc. However, 2016 wasn’t the best of years otherwise, making me more grateful than ever for the escape that television provides. Here are eight TV-related things I’m thankful for this Turkey Day:
- Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I’m sure this is on a lot of people’s lists given that it premieres this weekend, but I’m beyond excited to revisit this cozy blanket of a show. The revival also gave me an excuse to rewatch the series again, and falling back in love with Stars Hollow was just the distraction I needed this fall.
- A strong crop of new shows. A lot of my shows got canceled or held for midseason this year, leaving me with some holes in my fall TV schedule. Luckily, this was one of the best seasons in recent memory for new shows, and I’ve happily added new favorites like This Is Us, Pitch, and The Good Place.
- The CW. Last year, I mentioned superhero shows specifically, but this year I’m grateful for the network in general. Yes, their DC lineup remains strong (especially with the addition of Supergirl), but they also have other wonderfully unique shows I love, such as Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
- The West Wing. Regardless of your political affiliations, I think we can all agree that this was a tumultuous year, making President Bartlet and Co.’s idealism both reassuring and refreshing. This was my first time watching the show all the way through, and I’m definitely glad that I picked this year to do so.
- Divisive female characters. I love characters who aren’t traditionally likable–especially female characters because women have only recently been given those parts. Right now, I’m thankful for characters like Petra Solano, Cat Grant, and the returning Paris Geller for reminding people that women are complex individuals who need not smile.
- Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Seth Meyers. Not to make this list all about politics, but these three were life savers this year, providing just the right blend of outrage, humor, and optimism during the election season. It was also great to see a woman break into the late-night boys’ club in such spectacular fashion, offering a long overdue female perspective on social issues.
- ‘Shipping. Yes, discussing ‘shipping on the internet can get nasty pretty quickly, but watching couples like Emma and Hook, Amy and Jake, and Jane and Michael (all of whom are particularly happy and adorable this season) brought me a lot of joy this year. When your love life gets you down, it’s nice to disappear into someone else’s for awhile.
- Once Upon a Time. This show’s brand of optimism is exactly what the world needs right now, and watching it is the perfect way to head into a new week. It’s also chock-full of wonderful female friendships and has some of the most believable and swoon worthy romantic relationships on television, despite the show’s fantasy elements.
What are you thankful for in the world of TV? Let me know in the comments, and have a great Thanksgiving!
In light of today’s news about the show, my usual review didn’t seem appropriate. Instead, as our time with her draws to a close, I want to take a moment to celebrate the amazing Kate Beckett.
I’m going to avoid talking about the politics of the decision, because in the crazy world of Hollywood there’s really no way to know for sure how it happened, who was involved, and what their reasoning was, but I will say that if Stana Katic truly didn’t have a choice in the matter, then it’s a real bummer that an actress who clearly took her job and her character very seriously wasn’t given the chance to say goodbye to that character on her own terms. Katic took the words on the page to new heights with her fearless, badass, and, at times, heartbreaking performance. She made Beckett who she was, and I can’t imagine anyone else doing justice to such a wonderful character. She sold every one of Kate’s emotions without it ever feeling jarring, creating a nuanced character who was flawed and believable and achingly human. So, in addition to thanking Kate, I want to thank Katic for her hard work and unflagging commitment to the role.
That nuance that Katic, as well as the writers, brought to Kate Beckett is one of my very favorite things about her. Kate is strong. She’s vulnerable. She’s tenacious. She’s brave. She’s kind. Sometimes she’s all of those things in a single moment. She’ll take a murderer down without batting an eye, then laugh at her husband’s cheesiest joke. She worked tirelessly for years to get justice for her mother, despite the personal cost. She’s an excellent captain, mixing compassion and authority effortlessly. She survived countless near-death experiences because of her nerve and intelligence and brave reliance on friends and family. She let herself fall in love and choose happiness, even when her past screamed at her to never get close to anyone ever again. She proved to herself and to viewers that love isn’t a weakness or a weapon; it’s the purest strength imaginable. Broadly, she proved that women are multi-faceted, complex individuals, making her an excellent role model, especially for young women.
I know she’s been one for me. I binge-watched the first three seasons of Castle when I was in the middle of college, trying to figure out the whole adulthood thing (I’m still figuring it out, to be honest) and feeling more than a little self-conscious about doing so. But I swear, the minute I saw that fierce, leather-jacket-wearing detective with the wicked smile, fantastic at her job and oozing confidence, I somehow felt a little more confident myself. If this woman with an impossible past and a dangerous job still managed to be so self-assured, then why couldn’t I? Shortly after, I bought my first leather jacket and a pair of high heel boots, putting a little bit of Kate’s fire in my own life at a time when I really needed it.
Now, I’ve happily gotten to a point where I don’t need the jacket or the boots to feel confident; it’s just something I am now. However, I’ve grown rather attached to them, partly because they remind me of what Kate Beckett taught me about finding your best self and remaining steadfast in who that person is. So thank you, Kate. Thank you for being a role model and a positive influence, for being unapologetically imperfect, for kicking ass and letting yourself have fun along the way. No matter how you leave the show, I, and every Castle fan out there, have that to hang onto, “always.”
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: friends, family, health, happiness, etc. But, in addition to those things, TV plays a pretty big role in my life (and this is a TV blog), so I’d like to take a moment to celebrate all that I’m thankful for in the world of television this year.
- A wealth of new shows. This is the age of peak TV, and, while some believe there is simply too much of it out there, I’m of the mindset that you can never have too many options, even if it can seem overwhelming at times. This year, I started watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Blindspot, Master of None, and probably others I’m forgetting about. I like each for different reasons, and all have only made my love of good television grow.
- Challenges for couples that will hopefully make them stronger. This has been a tough year for ‘shippers in a lot of ways: Captain Swan, Caskett, Danny & Mindy, Juliette & Avery, etc. have all been put through the wringer in the last few months. And, while I’ve had issues with some of their obstacles (especially Castle and Beckett’s), others have been written in a heartbreaking but beautiful and realistic way (like Emma and Hook’s) that have only increased my love for the couple. Also, in most cases, I’m confident that the challenges the couple is facing will only make their relationship stronger in the long run.
- Relatable, realistically awkward leading ladies. Truth time: Like a lot of people, I can be ridiculously awkward sometimes. So it’s been really, really nice to see more women like me on television lately: women who don’t always say the right thing and don’t always have it together. Amy Santiago, Jane Villanueva, Felicity Smoak, and Kara Danvers are all great alternatives to the many stereotypical “cool” girls on television. These ladies are cool too, but in their own badass, original way.
- Large ensemble casts that allow for endless character combos. One of my favorite things about shows such as Once Upon a Time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Grey’s Anatomy is that, with such huge casts, there’s an infinite number of ways to create new dynamics amongst characters. Some of my favorite recent storylines on those shows have come from grouping characters in ways I never considered, such as Mulan, Ruby, and Merida working together to save Merida’s kingdom, May and Hunter teaming up to infiltrate Hydra, and Richard acting as Arizona’s wingman. It’s also a great way to add life to aging shows; if the characters are still interested in creating new friendships and alliances, then I’m interested in watching them do it.
- Hot men with babies. For whatever reason, this has been the year for men and babies together on television, and I’m totally on board with it. The Originals, Jane the Virgin, The Mindy Project, and Nashville have all had angsty moments this season, but they’re a little bit easier to swallow when you see a guy like Elijah Mikaelson or Rafael Solano holding an adorable baby.
- Superhero shows. This time last year, the only superhero show I watched was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now I watch five (!): S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl. This may seem a tiny bit excessive, but, though all originate from the world of comics, these shows go far beyond that, creating unique worlds and characters of their own, all while staying grounded in the genuine emotion that makes a great TV show. They also each bring something different to the table, whether it’s grit and friendship (Arrow), a sleek spy world (S.H.I.E.L.D.), heart and humor (Flash), a film noir escape (Agent Carter), or a superhero for the every woman (Supergirl).
- Shows constantly redefining what they are. When Nina Dobrev and Patrick Dempsey left their shows last year, I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about the future of TVD and Grey’s. So, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the creative resurgence in both of those this year. The flash forwards on Diaries and the taut, emotional scenes with Stefan and Damon, amongst other things, have made me more excited for each new episode than I’ve been in a long time. And, while I don’t think this is going to go down as my favorite season of Grey’s, I respect the way the writers are filling the void left by Derek, and the new sister scenes with Meredith, Maggie, and Amelia have struck a comedic and emotional chord reminiscent of the show’s glory days.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Quite simply, for being my happy place. Each week, I tune into that show knowing I’ll be with characters just trying to do what’s best for one another and having a hilariously fun time doing it. Plus, with Jake and Amy together romantic-stylez, the show has never been sweeter or more romantic.
What are you thankful for this TV season? Let me know in the comments, and have a wonderful Turkey Day!
Parks and Recreation, one of my favorite comedies of all time, airs its series finale tomorrow night. I thought for awhile about what type of post I might do to honor it, and this was the one I kept coming back to. Thank you, Amy and Co., for the lessons, the sidesplitting laughs, and most of all, the creation of Leslie Knope.
1. Optimism is not a character flaw. As an almost aggressively optimistic person myself, one of the things I most admire about Leslie is her unfailing optimism, despite the adversity that she often faces. In particular, I admire the lengths that she goes to to show that being that hopeful is brave rather than naive. Watching the show, I always know that no matter what is thrown her way, Leslie will make it to the other side, largely because of the positivity that she exudes.
2. Be good to your friends, not because you expect anything in return, but because you love and care about them and want them to be happy. Friendship plays a huge role on this show, and one of my favorite storylines in its entire run is Leslie’s campaign for city council. There was something so special about her friends coming together to get her elected, just because they genuinely believed in her and what she had to say, not because of what they thought they would receive in return. Additionally, the friendship between Leslie and Anne has long been one of the most realistic friendships portrayed on television, and that is largely because of how supportive they are of one another.
3. Never stop looking for love. Let’s be clear; being in a romantic relationship is not necessary for survival, and the show has never portrayed it that way. But just because you don’t need love, doesn’t mean that it makes you weak to hope for it. In the early seasons, Leslie bravely went all out in her pursuit of the one; she went on dates with all kinds of different guys and laid her heart on the line every single time. And she showed that no matter how old or tired or out of practice you feel (and trust me, sometimes I do), you should remain a hopeless romantic anyway, because you’re gonna find love where you least expect it.
4. When you find it, don’t be afraid to pursue it wholeheartedly (especially if he has a cute butt). By the time Ben Wyatt graced our screens for the first time, Leslie Knope’s heart had been through a lot. But that didn’t stop her from pursuing a relationship with Ben, despite the fact that he was her boss and that there were a zillion reasons that it might not work out. And she was rewarded for this bravery when she found in him her soulmate (in an episode called “Soulmates”, in fact). April and Andy, another one of my favorite couples, were so sure of their love for one another that they got married a month into their relationship. And like Ben and Leslie, they didn’t let fear of failure stop them from doing so.
5. Be passionate and unapologetic about the things that you love. One of my favorite things about Parks and Rec is how open the characters are about their passions. Ben is obsessed with Star Wars and Game of Thrones. Leslie loves waffles and the work that she does. Ron enjoys woodworking and delicious meats. April and Andy love each other and a variety of other weird, wonderful, and often unpredictable things. Donna and Tom get excited about pop culture and buying new stuff (and can you blame them?). But despite the variety in their passions, the one thing that all of these characters have in common is that they aren’t afraid to talk about them. They may get teased a little, sure (after all, this show’s friendships are about as realistic as they come), but they also know that they their friends respect them and the things that they care about.
6. Challenge those around you. As Leslie has done time and time again, don’t be afraid to push your friends and co-workers to be their best selves. When we first met April, she was apathetic about her future career, but Leslie encouraged her to advance in the Parks department and find projects that she could be passionate about. Leslie is also part of the reason that, this season, April realized that there may be something out there that she would enjoy more, because Leslie taught her not to settle for something that she doesn’t love.
7. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson, Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Leslie, it’s that putting all of your time and energy into something is the most effective way to get it done, whether it be turning a giant hole into a park or getting elected to City Council. So make a giant binder detailing all of your plans, be the last one left at work every night, and show everyone around you that you mean business. Bonus points if you whole-ass the thing with your best friend in the world, Anne Perkins (you beautiful tropical fish).
8. Eat waffles as often as humanly possible. Waffles are delicious. Leslie would not have spent over a thousand dollars of her yearly income at J.J.’s Diner if they were not.
9. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in. The characters on this show are eternal underdogs; whether they’re being impeached as the mayor of Ice Town, recalled as a City Councilwoman, or facing intense business competition from the Fonz, they are quite frequently down on their luck. But that never stops them from fighting for what they believe in. Ben went back to government because it was what he enjoyed, even knowing that he would be ridiculed when people found out about his brief run as a teenage mayor. Leslie made the most of her time as City Councilwoman to better the very town that voted to have her recalled. Tom worked hard to find another business venture that he could love just as much, if not more, than Rent-a-Swag. Whatever they’re up against, these characters never give up on themselves and what’s important to them.
10. Do what you want. This applies to everyone, but I’ve never had feminist role models quite like the ones on this show, so I’m directing this one to the ladies especially. Parks and Rec is chock-full of women who have made very different choices in their careers and personal lives and are happy because of it, because they did what they wanted, not what was right for someone else. And it’s worth noting, they have the constant support of the men in their lives. They have Ron, who loves strong, brunette women as much as he loves breakfast food; Jerry, who adores his wife and daughters; and Ben, who wasn’t named Woman of the Year for nothing. But it was Leslie, who has always been wonderfully unapologetic about her choices, who gave one of the show’s simplest and most important pieces of advice just a few episodes ago:
If you want to bake a pie, that’s great. If you want to have a career, that’s great too. Do both or neither. It doesn’t matter. Just don’t judge what someone else has decided to do.
So when I think about this show, this marvelous, marvelous show, I’m going to remind myself to do what I love. To do it with the people that make me happy. And hopefully, to make Leslie Knope proud.