Bates Motel

Reading and Watching in 2017

In my Sundance reflection I posted over the weekend, I promised to catch up on my recent pop culture ventures since I’ve neglected my duties of late (full-time jobs really just hinder this whole recreational blogging thing).

So, in an effort to stay true to my word, here’s a quick glimpse at all the popular stuff I’m consuming these days. Spoiler alert: I’ve become kind of savage with things I don’t like, so you’re in for a treat.


Books

At the moment, I’m on my sixteenth book of 2017, but I doubt I’ll be finishing it any time soon. I’ve returned to the Outlander series with the fourth installment, Drums of Autumn. I’m at the 200-page mark in an 880-page saga, so who really knows when I’ll finish or what shenanigans I’m in for along the way. Thankfully, Diana Gabaldon doesn’t let me down and keeps things entertaining and unexpected, unlike many books I’ve started and stopped recently.

I’ve given up on two books so far in 2017, which generally provokes a sense of relief, while also being a big ol’ bummer. I don’t like to dislike books, especially when I spend 100 pages of effort on something I end up tossing aside. My rejected novels were Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which I bought on a whim at a used book store, and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I didn’t have harsh feelings about The Poisonwood Bible—the same cannot be said of the former—but I just didn’t feel it going anywhere. To be fair, I started the novel and read a good chunk on my way to Sundance and didn’t really pick it up again until returning, so I was struggling to readjust. But at over 500 pages, I wasn’t feeling compelled enough to trudge through, so I put it aside. This is one I could see myself returning to in future, just not any time too soon.

Other quick reading notes: I’ve already crossed off 3 of the authors I planned to read in 2017, have made progress on 2 others, and have completed 2 other reading goals for the year. I read Rupi Kaur’s poetry collection milk and honey in about 12 seconds over the weekend and enjoyed it. I read a collection of Emily Dickinson’s works and consumed something like 700 poems in a week. I also recently read the Russian novella The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk after seeing the film adaptation at Sundance. The novella is fun, but the film is far better.

I’ve basically been reading Drums of Autumn exclusively, but fairly soon I’ll double up with something else, likely Romeo and Juliet in my goal of reading four of Shakespeare’s plays this year. I don’t want to pair Drums of Autumn with another novel, so I’ll keep the balance with other plays or short story/essay collections for a while.


Movies

I’ve seen a fairly ridiculous number of movies in 2017—forty-three, to be precise, which is just two short of the number of days in the year thus far. To be fair, I did start the year at a film festival, but I’m also just in the kind of mood that basically involves at least one movie a day.

You can read my Sundance post to hear about what I liked there, but there have been plenty of other fun things I’ve seen on my own time. Arrival was the most recent Best Picture nominee I saw (I still haven’t seen Hidden Figures or Hacksaw Ridge) and I loved it way more than expected. Other things I’ve really liked include Sing Street (2016), Grey Gardens (2009), Y Tu Mamá También (2001), Temple Grandin (2010), The Handmaiden (2016)and Fifty Shades Darker (2017). Yes, the last one is kind of embarrassing, and yes, the last two have something very specific in common, but I’m fine with that.

Here’s hoping I reach 50 films—which is 1/2 of my goal for the year—by the end of the month (but honestly, it will probably happen by the end of this week).


Television

TV has been unexpectedly complicated for me in 2017. TV tends to be my breeziest medium, but I’m having a very difficult time finding something that clicks for me this year. To be fair, I’ve still completed 7 series this year, but each of those has been under 20 episodes, so I haven’t had to really commit.

My biggest surprise was my lack of interest in The Americans, a show I started expecting I would love it and planned to catch up before the new season comes later this spring. I watched the entirety of season 1 and the premiere of season 2, and just kept finding myself underwhelmed. This is the show every critic says is totally underrated and deserves nominations it rarely receives, but nothing about it really hooked me. I kept watching in the hopes that would change, but I finally decided to stop. It was a decision accompanied by a surprising amount of turmoil, but I really haven’t thought about the show at all since, so I think I made the right decision.

I’m finally committed to a new project with Flight of the Conchords, though this show is only 22 episodes overall, so again, it’s fairly temporary. It’s silly and strange and I like it. Same goes for Moone Boy, which I watched very quickly a few weeks ago.

There is a handful of shows currently airing/soon to return that I’m keeping up with, including: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Mindy Project, Girls, Legion, and Bates Motel. It’s nice to have a few things to rely on, especially when I’m not particularly inclined elsewhere.

And speaking of my lack of interest, my roommate and I have developed an exciting and cut-throat habit of “canceling” movies and books and TV shows (aka we deem things “canceled” when we stop liking them, and they cease to exist). So The Americans? Canceled. Together we tried to start back on Penny Dreadful, having both watched the first season when it aired, but that only lasted 14 minutes before cancelation. I also canceled The Leftovers after watching 19 minutes and feeling like I never needed to return. I have a lot of random things on my TV list for the year, and I expect some of them to be canceled as well. At least I’m giving them all a shot.

Of the things I have actually watched, I would most highly recommend A Series of Unfortunate Events because it is just delightful, and I also had fun watching Chewing Gum, Looking, and Glitch in January. And seriously, Moone Boy is super sweet and charming if you’re looking for that type.


Now I’m off to go finish a movie I started this afternoon and enjoy some quality reading time. Next time I write, I fully expect to have canceled a few more things.

I can’t wait.

My life lately

It feels like years since I’ve updated, but part of that comes from the timing of the semester. Three weeks ago today, I defended my master’s thesis project (and passed!), though it somehow feels like that was really decades ago. Apart from some final copy editing, my thesis is DONE! I’m both thrilled and a little sad to say goodbye to this project. I have a strong sense I’ll return to it in the future (dare I say dissertation?), but I’m quite content to both physically and metaphorically put it on the shelf for now.

Since preparing for my defense and rigorously studying for my oral exam are no longer activities that occupy my days and nights, my time has felt suspiciously free. As a present to myself for my defense, I ordered Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, which was really the perfect treat to come home to. Reading for fun without feeling any guilt is one of the most wonderful feelings.

I’m also entering the final weeks of my first semester of teaching, though that seems ridiculous. Somehow I feel like the semester has just started, when in fact we’re three weeks from its conclusion. I will certainly be sad to see my first crop of students go (though I can’t say every moment of teaching and prepping are all that joyous).

So, to atone for being M.I.A. for a month, here’s my update of the pop culture I’m consuming these days. No one ever said being a teacher meant you couldn’t still enjoy copious amounts of television (and I think I’ve proven that).

Books — As mentioned above, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Voyager–though, at 870 pages, it isn’t what you’d call a quick read. I’m only now closing in on the halfway point in the book, but knowing that there are still several other books in the series to dive into means I’m hungry to keep going.

Before starting Voyager, I’d been reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, though starting a new book meant I sort of abandoned this one until finishing it last weekend. This was the third Steinbeck I’ve read (after Of Mice and Men in 2014 and The Grapes of Wrath in 2015) and very tonally different from the others–Cannery Row is a very place-oriented, descriptive novel, not a plotty one. It wasn’t my favorite, but it’s a book I see myself returning to later in life.

I’ve generally felt like I’ve been slacking on my 2016 reading list, though I’ve still read 22 books thus far this year. Depending on my pace with Voyager, I may work through another Arthur Miller play or something of that sort to speed up a bit and feel like I’m making better progress. I’ve also got Hamilton: The Revolution (also known as the Hamiltome) waiting on me at home. Though I’m regretting the decision to have it shipped there since I won’t see it until next weekend, the distance means I’m not diving straight into another book, so that’s probably a good thing.

Movies — My movie-watching pace has also slowed considerably (though I’ve currently seen 41 new-to-me movies this year, so I really shouldn’t be complaining). I’ve not seen anything very noteworthy either, though I did watch The Danish Girl last weekend. I liked it, but it makes sense to me that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. I’ll likely be spending a quiet weekend in, so this might be a good time to knock a few things off my Netflix and Amazon viewing lists.

Television — It would be fair to say that my movie-watching has been hindered by my TV-watching, because I’ve been doing more than my fair share. As far as current programming goes, I’ve been keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, The Last Man on Earth, Call the Midwife, Girls, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bates Motel, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Broad City, and Outlander (and, because I’m kind of an old woman, even Dancing with the Stars and Survivor). Since Girls, Broad City, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend all come to an end this week, my schedule will be a bit freer (though they’ll be replaced next week by Game of Thrones and Veep, so I guess things aren’t changing that much).

As for all these shows… I think The People vs. O.J. Simpson was a really terrific season of TV all around. I smell a well-deserved Emmy in Sarah Paulson’s future (though my ideal situation would feature a tie between Paulson and Kirsten Dunst) and hopefully the same treatment for the stellar Sterling K. Brown. I think Bates Motel is the best it’s been since season 1, and I kind of love the romance between Norma and Alex. I don’t think this is Broad City‘s best season, but there have been a couple standout episodes, including last week’s wonderful Mrs. Doubtfire homage. And OUTLANDER! There’s only been one episode so far in season 2, but I’m enthralled. I’ve rewatched bits of season 1 and can’t seem to get enough of this show lately, so I’m quite happy for its return.

Apart from what’s currently airing, I’ve also done a significant amount of side watching, including lots of Game of Thrones prep. This week I watched the Starz ballet miniseries Flesh and Bone, which was only okay. Lots of pretty dancing, melodramatic storylines, and mediocre acting. And just today (because I’m kind of terrible) I watched all of season 2 of Amazon’s Catastrophe, which I find very charming. Having met these characters last summer in a quick-moving first season, I was glad to see that season 2 developed them further into funny and likeable people (not to say they weren’t that way already). I’ve also watched the pilot episode of the new Starz series The Girlfriend Experience, which I think I’ll stick to since it’s getting good reviews. I didn’t have any particularly strong reactions to the pilot, but I’ll stick it out. And tomorrow’s release of season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix means my weekend will be just a little brighter (in a fairly literal way, considering Kimmy’s costuming).

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In summary, I’ve been watching a lot of TV–though I swear I do other things too. What things are you reading and watching? I’m always up for additions to my ever-growing lists! 🙂

 

Spring Break

Don’t get too excited — this isn’t going to be a post chronicling all the exciting adventures I’ve had in my days off. Actually, my spring break has primarily been spent sitting on my bed with either a screen or book in front of my face. This, of course, is my little version of paradise.

My spring break was made a little sweeter since we got an extra two days off because Kentucky has been a haven for major snow fall in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, we had a week off school for about a foot-and-a-half of snow and ice. Last Wednesday and Thursday, we received another 21-23″ that closed the university two days early for spring break. Now it’s 60 degrees. Things have been a bit odd in the weather department, to say the least.

Since it’s been a few weeks since my last post of this sort, I thought I’d take a few minutes to do another update. Here’s what I’ve been watching and reading lately.

Books — I haven’t accomplished as much reading over break as I’d hoped, but I’ll try to remedy that in my last days off. Earlier this week I finished Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a book I’d read partially several years ago, but came back to after borrowing it from my roommate. Didion’s nonfiction is relatable and comforting, especially if you’ve recently lost a loved one.

Last night, I finished Cecelia Ahern’s Love, Rosie, previously published as Where Rainbows End. I got it as a cheap Kindle download from Amazon, and knowing it was from the same author as P.S. I Love You (which I haven’t read), I hoped it’d be a decent book. I found the writing incredibly weak and the overall story rather boring and frustrating, so that was a pretty giant waste of time, unfortunately.

Now I’m turning back to my assigned school reading. My plan is to begin reading John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces today. The book isn’t due for a few weeks, but since it’s long and, I’m assuming, fairly dense, I want to have ample time to finish it. I’ve also got some Flannery O’Connor short stories to read for classes next week, so I’ll try to get a head start on those. O’Connor is always a pleasure, so that’s something I’m excited about.

Movies — I haven’t watched much recently that’s very noteworthy, but I’m at least happy to be making progress on my intended watch list for the year. I rented two Redbox movies this week, Chasing Hearts and Men, Women & Children. The first was really lame; because Jamie Dornan is the film’s star, the distributors apparently tried to milk his Fifty Shades success, but the movie was mostly boring.

I rented Men, Women & Children because I really like Jason Reitman, but his movies have been rather off lately, especially since this was the first film he directed following the ridiculous Labor Day. The movie’s cast is good, but the story is rather melodramatic and depressing; it presents the dark side of a society controlled by technology. I was interested enough in the story to keep watching, but it’s not a film I’d watch a second time.

I also watched the film adaptation of Love, Rosie, which is thankfully far better than the book. The film’s writer and director took lots of liberties with the book’s story, and ended up producing something much more entertaining. It’s a pretty formulaic romantic comedy, but those can be fun, so I’d recommend it if you looking for something of that type.

TV — I think most of my viewing time this break has been spent on TV-bingeing. I started watching Teen Wolf on a whim just over two weeks ago, and I’m currently watching the final episode so I’ll be caught up when season five begins this summer. It isn’t a great show by any means, but it’s fun and entertaining, and I’m glad to have something to watch during the dry months of summer TV.

My mom and I also started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. We got through the first five episodes in one sitting, but haven’t returned to it yet because our timing hasn’t really worked out, but I think I’ll plan to finish it now that I’m done with Teen Wolf. Once that’s done, I’ll return to Lost, since I paused in the break between seasons two and three.

As for on-air TV, I’m SO excited that Bates Motel returned this week. It looks like things have officially gotten inappropriate this season, so that should be loads of fun. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, and Girls will all be reaching season’s end in the next week or so, so that should lighten my TV-watching load a bit (though I’m sad to see them all go). Otherwise, I’m still keeping up with Jane the Virgin, Reign, and Scandal, and I believe I’ll wait until the summer to binge on the current season of Broadchurch with my mom, so that will slowly begin building up on our DVR.

Now back to real life. Here’s to soaking up my last moments of no obligations before school and all those pesky deadlines and assignments return.

lost-cast

Snow Days

I couldn’t be happier to be writing this from the comfort of my bed, snuggled under a pile of blankets with snow falling outside my window. My semester got off to a busy start, so I thought I’d take this moment of reprieve to write a quick update of my pop culture life these days.

Books — School reading obviously takes precedent over any leisurely reading, but I’m still free enough that I’m able to maintain something for myself. After forging my way through a book of William Inge plays, I took a sharp turn to reading Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, a fun teen novel about murder (I guess it doesn’t sound that funny, but it really is). My latest Southern lit reading assignment was Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, a super strange and darkly comic book chronicling the strange lives of a group in Depression-era rural Georgia. It’s a truly entertaining read. This past weekend I finished My Ideal Bookshelf, a collection of lists made by various celebrities of the handful of book they’d put on their “ideal” bookshelves. It was especially fun to read the lists of celebrities I like (like James Franco), and the book provided me with several books I’ve added to my own reading list.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and I’m enjoying the experience tremendously. I’ve also started Ernest Hemingway’s short story collection In Our Time, a book I’m required to present about in one of my classes next month. This snow day (which just might turn into two snow days) is giving me the perfect opportunity to stay in and read guilt-free.

Movies — I’m well on my way with my 100 movie goal for 2015, having watched 23 new movies this year. Some recent favorites include the classic Pulp Fictionwhich I hadn’t seen until recently, and Still Alice, the movie for which Julianne Moore is likely to win an Oscar. Admittedly, I also got really into this Lifetime movie called Restless Virgins that I watched on Netflix, so I guess that should make the list as well. Sometimes you need something mindless to watch, I guess.

TV — I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so busy with TV-watching as I do now. I’m making pretty good progress on my rewatch of Lost (I’m currently watching episode 2×15), but I’m also kept very occupied by all the normal TV shows I watch that are airing. This list includes: Downton Abbey, Girls, Bob’s Burgers, Jane the Virgin, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, Scandal, Reign, and How to Get Away with Murder. It’s both sad and a little stress-relieving that Parks and Rec and How to Get Away with Murder will be ending in the coming weeks so my watch list can be pared down a bit. However, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones, and Veep will all be returning soon, so the madness continues, I suppose. For now, though, I’m content to stay in my bed and enjoy my cozy day inside.

Snow Day Musings

Since I’m currently experiencing the great fortune of having snow days for two days running, I thought I’d take full advantage of the opportunity and write more while I’ve got the time. Here’s what a snow day looks like in your last semester of college.

Homework still exists, unfortunately.

Having this time off is great, but that doesn’t mean professors ignore your assignments. I’ve got a proposal to turn in for my major capstone project and I had two days worth of Italian homework to complete. And I’ve got a quiz to study for tomorrow. It’s really difficult to make yourself work on important things when you have days off, though. It’s a real struggle. I’m trying to persevere.

There’s time to write blogs and watch classic movies and start new TV projects.

As you may have noticed from my posts today and yesterday, there’s time for me to actually sit and think about things and write them down. Hooray! I also watched A Streetcar Named Desire yesterday, fulfilling not only my required viewing for my Modern American Drama course, but also crossing off another movie from the AFI Top 100 list I’ve been working on. My goal is to watch 10 films from the list this year, and this was my first. Progress!

I’m all caught up on all my TV/DVR projects, too (except for How I Met Your Mother, which I’ll watch later today). Girls was great as per usual, and I thought Sunday’s penultimate episode of True Detective was the best yet. And can we talk about how Bates Motel came back? Because I LOVED IT. I rewatched season one’s finale yesterday (because I had so much free time) and I was so pleased to be reminded of how wonderful this show is. Norma Bates is a queen.

I’m also currently watching the third episode of HBO’s Romemy newest TV project. My friend Ryan really enjoyed it when he watched it last fall, so I decided start my newest venture with a show that came highly recommended from a trusted source. Since I’ll be on spring break next week, there’s a good chance I’ll be finished with Rome rather quickly. This thought makes me happy, because I really, really love crossing things off my to do list. It’s the little things.

You never have to leave your home. It’s really fantastic.

Since making a quick run on Sunday to return two movies to Redbox (Don Jon and the new Carrie, if you’re interested), I’ve not left my apartment. I’m a bit of a hermit, so I really love when I don’t have to go places. Leftover food from my Oscar viewing party and TV shows have kept me quite happy in my comfy little corner of the world.

No word yet on whether school will be back to normal tomorrow, but I can say that these two days have been so very satisfactory that I can go back to real life feeling rejuvenated. And, since I start spring break next week, I think I can survive three days of school before having an entire week off. Oh, the joys of being a student.

Bates Motel

Year in Review: Top 10 Favorite TV Shows of 2013

For this list, I’ll just be sticking to the shows I have on my TV Bucket List, because if I attempted to cover all the shows I watch regularly, I’d probably be here for days. 2013 was a year of eclectic TV watching for me, so this will be a rather varied list. Here goes nothing!

Bates Motel

1. Bates Motel, A&E, completed May 2013

I’m a huge advocate for this show, so be prepared for some fangirling here. Bates Motel is a modern-day prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho, and, though that may seem a daunting challenge, the show certainly lives up to its predecessor. Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga give fantastic performances as Norman and Norma Bates, who are probably the most compellingly dysfunctional mother-son pairing since Oedipus and Jocasta. This shows moves easily from creepy to sad to hilarious and pulls riveted viewers through lots of twists and turns. Season two premieres in 2014, and I’ll anxiously be waiting for that moment until it happens.

Breaking Bad

2. Breaking Bad, AMC, completed January 2013

I really only watched a season-and-a-half of Breaking Bad in 2013 if you don’t count the final eight episodes, but that certainly doesn’t diminish its status as one of the greatest shows of the year, and probably in TV history. There isn’t much to say about it except that I’m still reeling over the final episodes, and so very happy with the show’s conclusion. In essence, this is a perfect show, despite its many terribly dark and disturbing moments. You’d be surprised how quickly you think meth dealing might be a viable career option.

Dawson's Creek

3. Dawson’s Creek, Netflix, completed December 2013

I’m kind of stretching the truth on my completion date as I’ve still got one season to go, but at the rate I’ve sped through the past three seasons, it’s safe to say I’ll be done before the end of the month. I was looking for an easy and fun show to balance out some of the dramas and comedies I’d been watching, so I turned to Dawson’s Creek on a whim, and I’m very happy with the decision I made. First of all, the show has totally changed my feelings about Katie Holmes (the moment when someone FINALLY happened tp mention Tom Cruise’s name to Joey was probably the highlight of my week) and I’ve developed such a crush on Joshua Jackson (or maybe just Pacey Witter… it’s kind of hard to say). Though the stories can get a bit dramatic, I’ve really enjoyed watching the show, especially because of the varied and well-developed teenage females that are somewhat rare in television. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic for the 1990s, this is a must-see.

downton_abbey3

4. Downton Abbey, PBS, completed March 2013

Even though I do a lot of binge-watching, there are only a few shows that with which I become truly obsessed, and Downton Abbey has earned its place among the chosen few. Watching Downton is kind of the equivalent of snuggling up on the coach with a hot tea and a good book on a winter day. It’s comforting, heartbreaking, and hilarious, and just British enough to make Americans feel somehow more cultured. It’s safe to say I’ve never cried harder for TV than I did watching Sybil’s death, largely because Tom Branson is basically my favorite fictional human ever (okay, that may not be true, but I just have a lot of favorites). This is perfect for binge-watching over the holidays, especially since the fourth season premieres in the US in January.

Game of Thrones

5. Game of Thrones, HBO, completed March 2013

I have to admit, I was a bit slow on the uptake with this one, but I’m very glad I persevered. After watching the first two episodes in January and feeling underwhelmed, I decided to give it another try in March before the premiere of season three. After overcoming the difficulty of attempting to remember all the characters’ names, I became totally enraptured with the many layered stories in the show. Nerd culture is cool largely in part to this show, so give it a chance if you haven’t. But be warned, the “it’s not porn, it’s HBO” slogan could basically just be applied to just this one show. A word to the wise: this isn’t the kind of show you want to stream in a public place unless you’re looking for some serious embarrassment.

Scandal

6. Scandal, ABC, completed October 2013

I was very reluctant to start Scandal, but when my roommate started watching it, I decided to join in, and it ended up being totally worth it. The first season, which is only seven episodes long, drove me a little crazy, but it still kept enough of my attention to keep me moving with the show. Then, at some point in season two, it just got better; the stories got more interesting and less episodic, the characters developed in unexpected ways, and the chemistry between Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant is too hot to ignore. As an added bonus, Jeff Perry and Joshua Malina are fantastic in two secondary roles that can almost always be relied on for a few laughs during tense episodes. This is a total guilty pleasure show, and since it’s only in season three, it isn’t hard to catch up if you’re interested. On an unhappy note, the show’s last new episode for the fall airs this week and it won’t return until February 27, and they recently cut season three’s total run from 22 to 18 episodes. A serious bummer, but still totally worth a watch.

Top of the Lake

7. Top of the Lake, Sundance Channel/Netflix, completed August 2013

Top of the Lake is perfect if you’re looking for an quick and enticing show to stream over the holidays. It’s a miniseries that premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival and is now available on Netflix, and with only seven episodes, you can easily cruise through it in a day or two. Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss stars as a cop searching for a pregnant 12-year-old who goes missing at the end of episode one, and the series follows this search and the lives of the strange characters who populate a small New Zealand town. The show at times is both dark and violent, but the story is so interesting you won’t be deterred. Also, Holly Hunter gives a great performance as a total weirdo, so that’s always a plus.

Twin Peaks

8. Twin Peaks, Netflix, completed June 2013

Twin Peaks is a show I’ve heard my mom talk about for years, so this summer, I finally decided to sit down and watch the 30-episode show on Netflix, and it was definitely worth it. (Side note: it’s interesting to watch this before Bates Motel or Top of the Lake, because you’ll see definite similarities in these newer programs). Twin Peaks is about a small community near the Canadian border in Washington that’s populated by a rather eclectic group of people. When a high school sweetheart’s body washes is found in the pilot episode, an FBI agent is brought in to investigate the case. I would say that some of the show’s intrigue wanes toward the end of season two, but there are many moments that will both freak you out completely (I’m serious) and will haunt your nightmares (there are a few images that I still see every time I wake up in the middle of the night, and it isn’t pleasant). This is a bizarre show, but it’s very fun to watch, especially since it plays with various aspects of comedy, horror, and melodrama in a way that keeps viewers guessing.

Veep

9. Veep, HBO, completed June 2013

If you’re interested in watching Veep, the best advice I can give you is to stick it out through season one to get to season two. On the plus side, season one is only eight episodes, so it’s easy to cruise through the opening season when it appears the show was still figuring itself out. Season two, however, flows perfectly, and viewers will certainly see why Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale took home top awards at the Emmys this year for their performances. One line I repeat over and over is that I think the role of Vice President Selina Meyer was absolutely written for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, because she has an uncanny talent for making unlikeable characters intensely likeable. If you’re looking for something smart and funny, this is the show for you.

thewonderyears

10. The Wonder Years, Netflix, completed August 2013

Aside from Dawson’s CreekThe Wonder Years is the longest show I completed this year (I’m still watching Seinfeld and Cheers, so those don’t really count). This is the kind of show to watch with your family; it has endearing characters, moments of happiness and sorrow, and an historical context that adds a layer of complexity to an often lighthearted show. Watching Kevin Arnold and his friends grow up in often funny, sweet, and sad, especially when you get to the final season and realize how much the actors changed over the show’s course. This is an easy show to stream while you’re doing other things since the plot lines are never very complicated, and it’s a pretty comforting way to spend your time. Also, if you’re at all a fan of the new ABC comedy The Goldbergs, you should absolutely watch The Wonder Years since they’re basically the same show, just set in different decades.

What new shows did you discover in 2013? What are you looking forward to next year?

Emmy Awards Part 2: My Predictions/Hopes for the Drama Categories

If you read my earlier post about my picks for the nominees in the drama categories at the Emmy Awards, then you get the gist. If not, it’s pretty basic. Here are my thoughts about this years Emmy-nominated dramas.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Breaking Bad • AMC
  • Downton Abbey • PBS
  • Game of Thrones • HBO
  • Homeland • Showtime
  • House of Cards • Netflix
  • Mad Men • AMC

This category gives me a lot of feelings because I care about all of these shows except for House of Cards (Sorry, world. I watched three episodes and was super annoyed the whole time. Oh well.). However, I can definitely eliminate Mad Men from my top choices, because I think this was their weakest season, and as much as I love Downton Abbey (which is just so, so much), I don’t really see it fitting into this category. My top pick this year is Breaking Bad, but I’d also be happy seeing either Homeland or Game of Thrones winning. All three of these shows tell great stories, but the originality of Breaking Bad makes it my top choice.

Breaking Bad

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Bryan Cranston • Breaking Bad
  • Hugh Bonneville • Downton Abbey
  • Damian Lewis • Homeland
  • Kevin Spacey • House of Cards
  • Jon Hamm • Mad Men
  • Jeff Daniels • The Newsroom

Again, I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS. But here, I’m also ruling out Jon Hamm, as sad as I am that he’s yet to win for this role (the real showdown will happen next year when Hamm and Cranston will presumably face off for the final seasons of their respective shows). I’m so happy to see Hugh Bonneville nominated, but the same goes for this show as I mentioned above. My top pick here is Bryan Cranston, who never ceases to amaze me. However, I would also be happy to see Damian Lewis win it again this year. If you don’t think “Q&A” is one of the best-acted episodes on TV from this past year, you’re crazy.

Bryan Cranston

Episode 212

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Vera Farmiga • Bates Motel
  • Michelle Dockery • Downton Abbey
  • Claire Danes • Homeland
  • Robin Wright • House of Cards
  • Elisabeth Moss • Mad Men
  • Connie Britton • Nashville
  • Kerry Washington • Scandal

I’m really, really, REALLY rooting for Vera Farmiga on this one. I had such high hopes that Bates Motel would receive a smattering of Emmy nominations, but at least the nomination it did receive was its most deserved. Farmiga plays Norma Bates in a way that makes audiences relate to her, feel wary of her, and empathize with her all at the same time. She’s also incredibly funny, so she’s my favorite in this category. However, I’d also be pleased to see Claire Danes win it again (see “Q&A” comment above), and of the Downton Abbey acting nominations, I think Dockery is most deserving of a win, but she’s got some tough competition here. (Side note: if you’ve followed my recent posts, you’ll know that I’m rooting for Elisabeth Moss for Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.)

Vera Farmiga

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  • Bobby Cannavale • Boardwalk Empire
  • Jonathan Banks • Breaking Bad
  • Aaron Paul • Breaking Bad
  • Jim Carter • Downton Abbey
  • Peter Dinklage • Game of Thrones
  • Mandy Patinkin • Homeland

And, once again, this category gives me some internal conflict, because I’m a big fan of all these shows (apart from Boardwalk Empire). However, in my attempts to narrow the playing field, I think I’d first eliminate Aaron Paul. He’s fantastic as Jesse Pinkman, and I’d be happy to see him win, but his two past wins and his diminished role this season make me root for others here over him, and I’d prefer Jonathan Banks to win if it goes to a Breaking Bad actor. I’d also eliminate Jim Carter for the same reasons as the other Downton nominees, and Peter Dinklage’s past win makes me more inclined to root for Mandy Patinkin here. Let’s face it, Saul is such a wonderful character, and his calm, reasonable character is a great balance to all of Carrie’s crazy.

Mandy Patinkin

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  • Anna Gunn • Breaking Bad
  • Maggie Smith • Downton Abbey
  • Emilia Clarke • Game of Thrones
  • Christine Baranski • The Good Wife
  • Morena Baccarin • Homeland
  • Christina Hendricks • Mad Men

This category is again difficult for me, but in a bit of a different way than the other categories. While I again have issues because I watch all of these shows apart from The Good Wife, I’m having a hard time trying to say if one of these actresses really impressed me more than the others. Maggie Smith is always a voter favorite, but I’d be happy to see the award go to someone else this year. I’m not sure I’d root for Christina Hendricks this year, either, due to a smaller role this season for Joan. I could also say the same for Anna Gunn. However, Gunn did give a great monologue (her “I’m just waiting for your cancer to come back” moment), but she still does a lot that drives me insane (i.e. brushing her hair, putting on lotion, doing that dumb thing with her upper lip). Overall, I think I’m rooting most for Emilia Clarke, but I really do think I could be happy no matter who wins. I think my problem with this category is that, apart from Clarke, each of these women’s respective characters didn’t have their best seasons. (Side note: based on the preview for the upcoming season of Homeland, I’m wondering if Baccarin might be able to shine with the new developments for her character this season.)

Emilia Clarke

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

  • Nathan Lane • The Good Wife
  • Michael J. Fox • The Good Wife
  • Rupert Friend • Homeland
  • Robert Morse • Mad Men
  • Harry Hamlin • Mad Men
  • Dan Bucatinsky • Scandal

Okay, my opinions in these last two categories probably aren’t as trustworthy because I watch fewer of the nominated shows, but I do feel strongly about my choices here. Because I only watch Homeland and Mad Men out of the nominees here, it’s a no brainer for me to support Rupert Friend in this category. Friend is hilarious as Peter Quinn, but he also gave the character the necessary intrigue as it became revealed that Quinn may not be who he seems. I can’t wait to see his return in season three. I was never overly impressed (or even very interested) in Hamlin, and I’m honestly a bit confused how it’s possible for Morse to be nominated here, since he’s been a part of the show since the very beginning. Regardless, I give my full support to Friend.

Episode 204

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

  • Margo Martindale • The Americans
  • Diana Rigg • Game of Thrones
  • Carrie Preston • The Good Wife
  • Linda Cardellini • Mad Men
  • Jane Fonda • The Newsroom
  • Joan Cusack • Shameless

Again, I don’t have the greatest background for this category, but I am very confident in my support of Diana Rigg for her role as the hilarious Olenna Tyrell. The only other actress I know much about here is Linda Cardellini, but, in this case, I felt like her character’s most intriguing characteristic was her effect on Don Draper, rather than anything about herself. It doesn’t take much thought for me to support Rigg in this scenario. (Side note: Though I don’t watch The Good Wife, I really love Carrie Preston on True Blood, so I’d be fine if she won as well.)

Dianna Rigg