FOX

Favorite TV Shows of 2016

Writing about my TV-viewing habits as the year winds down brings about mixed feelings for me—I love TV and I love watching it, but I do get just slightly horrified upon realizing how much of it I’ve consumed.

In 2016, I have watched/caught up on 35 TV series/miniseries (you can see my complete list here). This does not include shows I watched multiple times during the year or anything I watched during its regular airing (and honestly, this number could grow in the final days of December). This adds up to something like 735 episodes of television, which is a lot. Basically, I like TV.

Bearing that in mind, the following is a list, in alphabetical order, of my favorite shows of the year. This includes shows that I both streamed and watched in real time. You’ll also find a list of honorable mentions at the bottom.

What TV shows did you love in 2016?


Call the Midwife

I’m a sucker for a good British period piece (as you may deduce from other listings to come), and Call the Midwife is the perfect balance of wholesome, kindhearted English entertainment that feels like ideal viewing on a cold winter night. I watched the first four seasons of the show in early January and quickly came to love the women of Nonnatus House, where a group of nuns and midwives works to serve underprivileged women of 1950s London. While Call the Midwife is undeniably charming, I think the thing I love most about it is its refreshing take on a diverse group of women without the cattiness that is so often represented in working women on the screen. Also, there are cute babies, so how could you not enjoy it?

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is essentially what my entertainment life is built around (if you exclude Hamilton, of course). I watched the entirety of Game of Thrones at least twice over the past year, not to mention that I watched each episode of season 7 twice during its normal airing. It might be obsessive, but come on—Jon Snow is alive and the Battle of the Bastards was the most stressed I’ve ever been. Also, please don’t speak to me about Margaery. I’m still not ready.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As a fan of Gilmore Girls for more than a decade, I’m a bit jaded about the immense surge in popularity it’s had in the past year or two. I love that people love the show, but I was here for a long time and I like to keep some things to myself. Because of my long love for this show, the thought of a reunion was both thrilling and terrifying, but I’m so very pleased with the result. Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop especially gave such beautiful performances in this miniseries, and I certainly hope they’re recognized after being overlooked by major awards when the show originally aired. While I’d love to see more of this revival, those last four words left me more satisfied than the entirety of season 7, and that’s more than I could ask for.

Insecure

It’s probably a little inaccurate to say that Issa Rae is basically my best friend, but that’s the kind of positive thinking I’m looking to implement in 2017. Insecure was one of the funniest shows on TV this year that also knows how to pack an emotional wallop when needed. I love a show that confidently hits its stride from the get-go, which is exactly what this show does in depicting twenty-something black women looking for love and success. Set yourself an afternoon to catch up on season 1 if you didn’t enjoy it this fall.

The Mindy Project

At the moment, I’m still making my way through The Mindy Project (though this journey has progressed at an alarmingly fast rate). I saw some of the shows first 2 seasons when they aired on Fox and never felt inclined to watch religiously, but after reading Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?, a few weeks ago, I jumped in headfirst. Turns out, I love it. Kaling is hilarious and ridiculous as heroine Mindy Lahiri, a woman who’s smart enough to be a gynecologist but otherwise, generally an idiot. The biggest surprise for me has been how much I enjoy the supporting cast (though my crush on Chris Messina has been serious for a few years now, so everyone else should just back off). Though I’m glad this show is still in progress, I’m a little sad that I’ll soon be waiting until February for new episodes, and even then only on a weekly basis. This show has been a perfect excuse to lounge around and “accidentally” watch 7 episodes without moving.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

There are few fictional heroines I want to be more than Miss Phryne Fisher. The girl is rich, has a great wardrobe, a generous spirit, perfect hair, a cool job, and a flirtation with a hot detective—what could be better? Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the kind of show you hope will magically have 50 more episodes waiting for you when you finish the three seasons currently on Netflix. Phryne is an unofficial detective with a knack for solving crime in 1920s Australia. She’s basically the cool girl you’d really want to be friends with if that cool girl was also nice and smart. 2017, I’m counting on you to get season 4 in the works.

My Mad Fat Diary

One of the saddest moments for a TV lover like me is suddenly realizing you’ve come not just to the finale of a season, but of a series. This is what happened to me last week when I fell in love with the British teen dramedy My Mad Fat Diary. The show follows the life of Rae Earl, a teenager who’s just been released from a psychiatric hospital after being admitted for self-harm. Rae’s life post-hospital features a supportive and sometimes frustrated single mom, a new group of friends and potential love interests, and therapy with a kind-hearted and stern psychiatrist (spoiler: her therapist is Professor Quirrell!). MMFD is an honest and real show that I came to love in an astoundingly quick time, especially considering the entire series only lasts 16 episodes.

Outlander

It would be wrong to say I only watch Outlander for smoldering shots of Sam Heughan, but those certainly don’t hurt the show’s cause. In truth, Outlander is like my little pet show. I’ve read the first three books in Diana Gabaldon’s series (books 4 and 5 are on my shelf and ready to go for 2017) and I rewatched season 1 more often than I care to admit. Thankfully, season 2 did not disappoint. It’s still beautiful, steamy, violent, and surprisingly funny (Ryan, insert your soixante-neuf comment here). Gabaldon’s narrative goes on a surprising journey from book to book, so I’m glad to see the show successfully keeping pace. I can’t wait to follow this journey further in the new year.

Rick and Morty

Okay, Rick and Morty is the undeniable outlier on this list, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. Who knew a bizarre little animated show about a young boy and his mad scientist/weirdo of a grandfather could be equally hilarious, insane, and heartbreaking? If you’ve never seen Rick and Morty, here are a few things to look out for: a surprising amount of burping and stuttering, lots of aliens and alternate realities, some Tiny Rick songs that you’ll want on a playlist, and a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole. This show is a national treasure.

Sex and the City

I’m pretty sure watching Sex and the City is a rite of passage for millennial women, and since I was seven when the show started on HBO in 1998, this year seemed like the time to get myself initiated. I watched Sex and the City embarrassingly quickly—seriously, I watch a lot of TV, but this was scary fast. Here are some things to know: I hated Miranda for a very long time but also I kind of am her (so I want a Steve, please), I thought Samantha Jones was too much but turns out she’s an icon and I adore her, and Mr. Big is the worst character to ever grace a TV screen and I hate him and do not comprehend why people like him. Though I’ve not yet watched the film sequels, I bought used copies this fall and look forward to a viewing party complete with drinking and lots of discussion with some people I love in the near future.

Stranger Things

I was a month or two late to the Stranger Things party because my roommate and I decided to watch together. We were both skeptical of the hype, but then the hype was correct and we loved it. We virtually adopted Dustin as our son. I generally hate child actors, but I loved this show and pretty much everything about it.


Honorable Mentions: American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Catastrophe (season 2), The Crown, Felicity, The Girlfriend Experience, Girls, Grantchester, The Good Place, O.J.: Made in America, Pushing Daisies

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! 🙂

 

TV Shows I Watched in 2015

I’m a bit of a champion at television-watching, so my TV list is usually rather impressive, especially at the end of the year. I don’t really set numeric goals of how many shows I hope to watch, but here’s my general list of things I wanted to watch in 2015.

Some members of my original list have been pushed to 2016, and I have two on-going projects that I’ll be finishing early in 2016 (those are the shows listed in bold). Here’s a look at what I watched this year.

  1. The Affair (1 season, 10 episodes)
  2. Angels in America (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  3. Bloodline (1 season, 13 episodes)
  4. Broadchurch, season 2 (1 season, 8 episodes)
  5. The Casual Vacancy (miniseries, 3 episodes)
  6. Catastrophe (1 season, 6 episodes)
  7. Empire (1 season, 12 episodes)
  8. The Fall, season 2 (1 season, 6 episodes)
  9. Frasier (11 seasons, 264 episodes)
  10. Game of Thrones (watched season 1 – season 5, episode 5)
  11. Inside Amy Schumer (2 seasons, 20 episodes)
  12. The Jinx (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  13. Jessica Jones (1 season, 13 episodes)
  14. John Adams (miniseries, 7 episodes)
  15. Lost (6 seasons, 120 episodes)
  16. Luther (3 seasons, 14 episodes)
  17. My So-Called Life (1 season, 19 episodes)
  18. The Office (U.K.) (2 seasons, 14 episodes)
  19. The O.C. (watched season 1 – season 3, episode 14)
  20. Olive Kitteridge (miniseries, 4 episodes)
  21. Outlander (1 season, 16 episodes)
  22. Rectify (3 seasons, 22 episodes) 
  23. Teen Wolf (4 seasons, 60 episodes)
  24. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (1 season, 13 episodes)
  25. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (1 season, 8 episodes)
  26. Wolf Hall (miniseries, 6 episodes)

After all this, I watched a grand total of 26 series and miniseries in 2015 and 764 episodes this year (though this doesn’t count any of the shows I watched live, so these numbers are a bit low).

Here’s to much more great TV in 2016!

Favorite TV Shows of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect back on another great year of entertainment, a process I find especially fun and rewarding. As you’re probably aware if you know me via blog or real life, I’m a serious TV-watcher. Like, embarrassingly so. So, in this time of reflection, here are my favorite shows of 2015. My selections include both past and current shows, as well as programs I watched for the first time and those I went back to revisit.

Read on for some recommended viewing for the holiday season!

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW, currently in season 1)

Crazy Ex-GirlfriendI have to say, I was skeptical of this show–I found the title to be a bit of a sexist cliche and the promos made me feel like it was some weird peppy version of Girls, but I’m happy to admit I was totally wrong. First, the show’s title is intentionally sexist (and the theme song makes fun of it). Rachel Bloom is totally deserving of her recent Golden Globe nomination for this smart, sweet, funny show. The fact that it’s also a pseudo-musical also doesn’t hurt. Go watch it!

Fargo (FX)

FargoWithout a doubt, season 2 of Fargo, which wrapped up this past Monday, was one of the best seasons of TV I’ve seen in a long time. The show’s first season which aired in the spring of 2014 was also stellar, but it’s crazy how incredibly perfect season 2 was. With a phenomenal ensemble cast of unexpected actors, Fargo told an interwoven story of some seedy Midwesterners in the late 1970s. Fargo proves it is possible for a show to be both hilarious and tensely dramatic, oftentimes simultaneously (see episode 8, “Loplop,” for several examples of this). I can’t say enough about the show and how sad I am to see it go. Is it possible for season 3 to reach this calibre? After this amazing season, I’d trust Fargo‘s creative team with the unimagineable.

Frasier (11 seasons streaming on Netflix)

FrasierFrasier is undoubtedly my most significant TV accomplishment of 2015; in fact, I watched all 264 episodes in just over 3 months this summer (a fact I choose to be proud of, so deal with it). I grew up with the show and have seen many of the reruns on Lifetime, but the experience of watching it all from start to finish was perfect. It’s hilarious and brilliant. A serious commitment, but absolutely worth the effort.

Game of Thrones (5 seasons streaming on HBOGO and HBONOW)

Game of ThronesIt’s nice to know there are shows you can always count on, like Game of Thrones, to maintain a high standard for TV. Season 5 was no different–fans of the show have come to expect exciting action sequences, thoughtful character development, and surprising twists along the way (as well as an exorbitant amount of nudity and gore, but I digress). Now that the show has officially surpassed the book series in production, I’m quite anxious to see where things go (especially where Jon Snow is concerned).

Jessica Jones (season 1 streaming on Netflix)

After falling in love with Krysten Ritter in 2013 when I watched Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, I felt it was only fair to give this a go, especially after Jessica JJessica Jonesones was receiving stellar reviews. The show is perfect for people who aren’t totally into superhero stuff–it’s much more a drama than a hero/action show, so the appeal works for a wider audience. David Tennant is a delectably despicable villain as Kilgrave, and, at 13 episodes, Jessica Jones is the perfectly bingeable show for a long weekend at home.

Lost (6 seasons streaming on Netflix)

LostLost carried me though my spring 2015 semester of school, and I really loved every moment of it. I hadn’t revisited the show since the original airing ended in 2010, so it was quite a treat to return. If it wasn’t for Lost, I’m not sure we’d be living in this so-called “golden age of television.” And to top it all off, I wrote one of my final graduate school papers on the show, so it turns out TV-watching can be meaningful after all. You can also read more about my favorite Lost episodes here.

My So-Called Life (full series available on DVD)

My So-Called LifeI first watched My So-Called Life when it was still on Netflix in 2012 and loved it, but haven’t had the chance to revisit it since. After receiving the complete series (which is just a single 19-episode season) for my birthday last month, my roommate and I quickly made our way through what is a truly delightful show (though finishing the show during finals week maybe wasn’t our smartest decision). Claire Danes is perfect as always as is the rest of the show’s ensemble. I was so happy to see that I loved the series just as much a second time around, and, now that I’m home for winter break, my mom and I have already begun our own viewing of the series. My So-Called Life is the perfect answer to a cold, cozy day spent indoors.

Outlander (season 1 available on DVD)

I fell in love with Outlander first through the TV Outlanderseries when it premiered in 2014 and have now read the first two books in the series to combat this loneliness of the show’s hiatus. My roommate and I also made our way through season 1 of the show earlier this fall, an experience that only made me long for season 2. Thankfully, the premiere is drawing ever closer, but for now, I’ll have to satisfy myself with rewatching.

Rectify (Seasons 1 and 2 streaming on Netflix)

RectifyI started Rectify on a bit of a whim late this summer because I’d heard good things about it in the past. I went into the viewing experience a bit ignorant about the story, but was quite pleased with this dark, poignant, and thoughtful show. (Side note: the show has had 3 seasons, so if you’re looking to watch it, consider finding season 3 elsewhere).

UnREAL (season 1 available On Demand)

UnREALOne lazy day this summer, I secluded myself in our basement to watch six episodes of Lifetime’s UnREAL, a show that’s fun and exciting and perfect for mindless viewing. The show follows the production side of a faux Bachelor-style reality dating show and has just as much entertaining drama as you would hope. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer shine in the lead roles, and despite the show’s campy nature, it’s messages about gender are actually quite interesting and progressive. Here’s hoping season 2 is just as fun as season 1 was.

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And, just for fun, here are a few honorable mentions that I’ve also enjoyed this year:

  • The Last Man on Earth (FOX, streaming on Hulu)
  • Veep (HBO, streaming on HBOGO and HBONOW)
  • Jane the Virgin (The CW, season 1 streaming on Netflix)
  • Broadchurch (2 seasons streaming on Netflix)
  • Empire (FOX, streaming on Hulu)
  • The O.C. (complete series streaming for free on the CW Seed)
  • Bob’s Burgers (seasons 1-4 streaming on Netflix)

And suddenly it’s December

Well, world, I have a strange announcement–I have finished my last semester of coursework for my master’s degree (and managed to pull off an unexpected feat of earning all As!). Since it’s been such a marathon, I think I’d forgotten how nice it might feel to reach this point, and now that I’ve come to it, I’m not really sure what to do with my freedom.

Sadly, the fact that I’ve been less-than-free this semester means I haven’t maintained my blog like I usually do. Now that I have the time, though, I can finally share some of the highlights of my semester.

I’ve made significant progress on my master’s thesis this semester thanks to a fantastic advisor who keeps me on track. I’m loving writing it, which means it’s only a little upsetting to know how far I still have to go before finishing it. As a reminder, I’m writing about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope in indie films. If you’re wondering what those words might mean, I did a post about it this summer that you should mostly certainly check out.

I’ve also had the strangely adult experience of prepping for my very first courses as a college instructor. Next spring, I’ll have 44 students in my very own classroom in the basement of Cherry Hall, and I can’t wait for it. I loved my time shadowing a wonderful instructor this semester who helped me figure myself out along the way. It’s so strange that it’s nearly my time to stand front of a group I get to call my own.

And somehow, in the midst of the chaos, we wrangled up enough students to head back the the Sundance Film Festival next month. I’ll be going along as a TA in pursuit of hands-on research for my thesis project and hope to see some great films along the way. Sundance was the most magical experience of my life thus far, so the chance to head back and do it all again is exceptionally exciting.

Now, for those of you who know me, it comes as no surprise that I simply cannot try to explain what my life has been like lately without also telling you the things I’ve been reading and watching. Here’s a crash course in my latest pop culture feelings.

Books — This semester wasn’t exactly the best for leisurely reading, but I did manage to squeeze in a few fun projects on the way. Just last night my roommate and I finished reading Dracula together, which was a long-term, laugh-filled, wonderful experience. I also recently reread Harriet the Spy, which I hadn’t read in at least 15 years (and I can’t believe I’m old enough to say that). For those of you who haven’t read it, Harriet the Spy is pure joy, so go get your hands on a copy!

Over Thanksgiving break, I rewarded myself by reading Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, a sweet and sad romantic story that’s perfect for some hours spent in a world that isn’t your own. And as of last night, I started Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s follow-up to The Shining, though since it’s a long book, I may end up doubling it with something else. We’ll see.

TV — This fall, I decided to be bold and write off several of the shows I’d previously watched, but mostly out of obligation. Turns out my viewing schedule is now much freer, which can be quite the blessing. Without a doubt, the show I’ve most looked forward to from week to week is FX’s Fargo. If you haven’t been watching, you’re crazy and need to change that habit immediately. I’m also loving Sunday nights on FOX with Bob’s Burgers and Last Man on Earth, and I’ve stuck with Empire, though the second season hasn’t nearly lived up to the first. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is another little gem of a TV show that I hope you’re all watching, and the fact that it’s paired with Jane the Virgin on Mondays on the CW makes the viewing experience all the sweeter.

As for side projects, I’ve continued to make my way through as much bingeing as I could hope for. My roommate and I watched the first season of Outlander together on DVD (which I also watched as it aired) and then, just yesterday, finished My So-Called Life together. Both of these shows are now invited to provide me with more episodes ASAP because I miss them dearly.

I also quickly worked through Jessica Jones last week and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Krysten Ritter is a gem and David Tennant is a perfect villain. What more could you want?

My longer viewing project these days is The O.C., which I’ve long been interested in but didn’t have access to until it recently became available on the CW Seed for FREE! It’s a fun, silly teen show, which is totally a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

Now that my time is freer, I’m hoping to spend some time catching up on shows I’ve missed out on, like USA’s Mr. Robot, especially after today’s Golden Globe nominations. I also imagine my mom and I will marathon through a few things, so stay tuned for updates on that.

Movies — Sadly, I’ve been lacking in the movie-watching department lately. I hit my goal of watching 100 new (to me) movies a few months ago, but I haven’t made tons of progress past that goal. However, I’m hoping to see a few of the Oscar-bait movies before year’s end and catch up on some things I missed earlier in the year. Some recent highlights in my movie-viewing experience have been We Need to Talk About Kevinwhich is disturbing in the best kind of way, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2which was a fitting end to the saga.

So now that this life of mine is freer for leisurely reading and watching, I plan to take full advantage of it (though I’ll also be doing my fair share of academic work during these weeks off). Happy Holidays, everyone! May you enjoy your time to relax as much as I intend to enjoy mine.

Summer Ends, Real Life Begins

Oh, world, how is it possible that my summer is already over? Wasn’t it just May?

Okay, I’m whining, but the prospect of returning to school this Monday, even though I’m pretty well prepared, just isn’t my idea of fun at the moment.

I’ve definitely reached the point in my summer when I need school to start back because I’m feeling especially lazy lately. Who says it’s wrong to watch an entire season of a TV show in a day? Sometimes that’s exactly the kind of day I need to rejuvenate, but I should probably get some real work done before I deserve a day of laziness.

In my final weeks before real life resumes, I haven’t totally wasted my time. In fact, only a few hours ago I returned home from a quick road trip up to Chautauqua, NY with my mom to visit my roommate, Ryan, during the final days of his internship at the Chautauqua Institution. Our visit to Ryan wasn’t entirely selfless, though; since Ryan has interned for the Chatauquan Daily, he was able to score us free passes to a sold out event at the Institution. That event just so happened to be An Evening with Carol Burnett, a woman who doesn’t need much introduction. My mom has loved Carol Burnett for most of her life, so the opportunity to see her on stage was one we couldn’t miss. We attended a Q&A featuring classic clips from “The Carol Burnett Show,” and Mom was even lucky enough to get to ask a question (Q: If you were making your show today, who would you want to work with? A: Steve Martin, Kristen Chenoweth, and George Clooney for obvious reasons).

We had a whirlwind of a trip, particularly because we woke up this morning at 5:00 AM to get an extra early start to our drive home, but the satisfaction of seeing a TV legend was totally worth it. Here are a few photos from our time.

A lovely sunset on Chautauqua Lake

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Enjoying our tour of the grounds on a chilly evening

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A failed attempt at finding an appropriately lit setting for a portrait

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The incomparable Carol Burnett taking her bows  


Now, onto the sad news: like I said, this summer is breathing its last, so my time will be far less available for my own entertainment. Sigh. In my attempts to soak in as much as possible before reality sets in, I’ve done my fair share of reading and watching lately. Here’s an update on all things pop culture in my life.

Books — I’ve been a bit slower than usual with my reading projects of late, but the fact that I only have 5 more books to read before reaching my goal of 50 books in 2015 seems like something to be happy about. I just wrote my reflection on reading Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicidesand prior to that I worked quickly through Tim O’Brien’s war novel The Things They Carried I’m still working my way through Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the Outlander series. I still have a bit over 300 pages left, but in a book of 947 pages, that seems pretty doable. I’m looking forward to dedicating my free reading time to finishing this one before moving onto something else (if there’s any time for personal reading this semester).

Movies — I don’t have anything terribly interesting to report in my movie-watching life, though I’ve been doing plenty of it. I’m just 5 movies short of my goal to watch 100 new (to me) movies in 2015, so it won’t take me any time to finish that list. I’m still lacking in one area, though; I hope to watch 8 movies I’ve never seen from the AFI Top 100 list, but I’ve only done 3 so far this year. I plan on dedicating some of my next movies to hitting that goal.

The one movie I do have something to say about is the German indie Wetlands. Wetlands screened when I went to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, but I didn’t watch it until Wednesday. A good friend of mine saw the film while we were at Sundance, and she recommended it, but told me some of it could be embarrassing to watch with other people. I wholeheartedly agree, but I really enjoyed the film. Essentially, Wetlands tells the story of a neurotic teenager exploring her sexuality and body in disturbing, hilarious, and rather repulsive ways. This is not the kind of movie you watch with family, but I still totally recommend it (to the strong-stomached, anyway). I also thought Carla Juri was superb in the film’s starring role. If you’re will to spend a sometimes uncomfortable hour watching a funny/sweet/sad film with subtitles, Wetlands is for you.

TV — If I’m good at anything, it’s watching TV. Though I’m still keeping up with a handful of TV shows this summer, I’m anxiously awaiting the return of real TV in a few weeks (I really need more “Empire” in my life). My favorite show of the summer was Lifetime’s UnREAL,” which sadly ended a few weeks ago. If you’re looking for some high drama binge-worthy TV, devote yourself to a day of “UnREAL.” You won’t be disappointed. I’m still keeping up with MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and “Scream: The TV Series” as well as NBC’s “Hannibal” and “Hollywood Game Night.” I’m wishing I was more interested in these final episodes of “Hannibal,” but mostly I’m just hoping for a satisfying conclusion at this point.

My TV-streaming life still consists of powering through “Frasier,” of which I’m proud to say I’ve watched 206 episodes so far. I had no expectation I’d get this far before starting back to school, but I definitely expect to finish the series sometime in September. Though I’ll feel accomplished in finishing such a big series, I’ll certainly be sad to say goodbye to such a thoroughly entertaining show.

While I’ve spent most of the summer watching only “Frasier,” I added a second streaming project on a whim last week, and so far I’m pleased with my decision. On Tuesday I started season 1 of the Sundance Channel’s Rectifyvia Netflix and I’m really liking it so far. The show is dark (it tells the story of a man who’s just been released from prison after 19 years on death row and his extended family) but it’s got a good balance of drama and humor to keep it from seeming to heavy. I’ve heard and read good things about the show in the past, so I’m glad I’ve started. There are only 16 episodes of the show on Netflix since its third season just finished airing, so I expect to finish watching it all pretty quickly.


All right world, now is the moment of truth. I have to face the reality that soon my time won’t always be my own, which sadly means I won’t have so many chances to fill my life with good books and movies. What are you watching and reading in these last weeks of summer? If nothing else, I hope your lives keep you entertained.

Thoughts and Things

It’s officially that time of the semester when things get crazy. That reality might be especially true for grad students: in the coming weeks, I’ve got 5 books to read, 3 major papers to write, and final exams to take. Somehow, though, I’m feeling pretty good about it all (believe it or not, writing this post isn’t just a way to postpone my homework).

In fact, things have been exceptionally good lately. Sure, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to go to work or school, but I’m feeling fulfilled and challenged in all kinds of wonderful ways.

Here are some things that are bringing me joy these days. No surprise, but many of these things are pop culture-related.

  • Watching “Empire” has been a joy. My roommate and I still have 4 episodes left, but we’re obsessed. Who wouldn’t love Cookie Lyon?
  • As of Saturday, “Outlander” is back in my life and I am so very happy about it. It’s safe to say that the books will find their way onto my summer reading list.
  • I’ve got a great thesis advisor and a project I’m really excited and passionate about. I’ve barely started the work, but I’m feeling ready and motivated toward progress.
  • I got to watch Dreamgirls today and it was pretty invigorating.
  • My assigned school reading has provided me with a wonderfully diverse group of books I may have never approached on my own. I sped my way through Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart for the second time over the weekend, and I’m now close to completing Maxine Hong Kingston’s harrowing The Woman Warrior. Up next: John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. 
  • I get to write research papers on topics I care about and feel confident I can talk about for 20 pages. This is kind of lame, but it’s a relief.
  • Rewatching “Lost” has been a little treasure in my life. Why is this show so much smarter than me?
  • I’m joining my dad and stepmom in New York next month! Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to visit a few friends during my visit.
  • I’m in a writing workshop course that’s challenged me to write personal pieces, something I haven’t really done since high school (apart from keeping this blog, of course). It’s been a bit scary, but I think I might actually make a habit of it.
  • In June, my mom and I will be traveling to Austin, TX to attend the ATX TV Festival! I bought our tickets when the “Gilmore Girls” reunion panel was announced last fall, but as they continue to make announcements of the programming, I get more and more excited for the adventure.
  • I’m almost halfway done with grad school! What is happening?!
  • I spent a lovely, relaxing, spiritually-fulfilling Easter weekend at home with family and friends. I’m so thankful for my fourth anniversary as a Catholic, and attending Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday was the perfect source of inspiration for the coming weeks.

And now, for my biggest news. Last year about this time, I was finishing my undergraduate days and preparing to start grad school, hoping for an assistantship with the English program in which I am enrolled.Things didn’t work out as planned, but I ended up with another assistantship that’s been a gratifying experience.

Things are still improving. I’ve been offered an assistantship in the English department, which will not only provide better funding toward my education, but also give me the chance to teach two introductory English courses next spring! Getting to start my dream job a little early is both exciting and terrifying.

And now for the icing on the cake. As you probably know, I attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, an experience that has absolutely affected my life (in the most positive way). I’ve planned on returning to Sundance in 2016, particularly because it directly relates to my master’s thesis topic, and after I didn’t receive a fellowship that would provide partial funding for the excursion, I’ve been thinking about how I’ll budget to pay for the trip.

Now comes the good news: to make a long story short, I’ve been asked to serve as a teaching assistant for the 2016 Sundance course, so I’ll serve in a somewhat advisory capacity for the students attending. In exchange, all my expenses will be covered. I repeat: I am going to Sundance FOR FREE. I expect this is an opportunity that will never arise again, but it’s one that’s made me wake up with a smile on my face every day.

So if you’ve read this or if you’ve been in my life recently, I just want to say thanks. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this life. If you’re feeling sad or stressed or bummed out, please let me know what I can do to return the favor. I’m in an especially “spread the love” kind of mood and the moment, and I want everyone in my life to feel as content as I do at this moment.

XOXO,

Gossip Girl