romance

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

2016 Reading List #33: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie

Last week I spent some Amazon and Barnes and Noble gift cards I’d been holding on to for a while, and I’d say my reading habit has been happily indulged because of it.

Though I’m still working through Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I’m not rushing through it, and having a handful of new reading project arrive on the doorstep was too exciting a prospect to wait for.

Of these new treasures, I started with (and unintentionally sped through) Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the first book in the Grantchester mysteries series upon which the television series is based. My mom and I recently watched and loved the first two seasons of the TV adaptation, so I thought I’d give the books a try as well.

Luckily, the book series packs the same enjoyable punch as the TV series. This novel explores six different (but interwoven) mysteries through the eyes of Canon Sidney Chambers, an Anglican priest with a knack for crime-solving. Generally, the TV adaptation follows the book accurately, though some of the mysteries are reimagined and the supporting characters are made more dynamic on screen.

The Shadow of Death offers everything you can hope for from a British crime novel: jealousy, intrigue, a love triangle, jazz clubs, and a sweet puppy named Dickens. It was an incredibly quick read, and one that left me excited to continue through the series.

If you’re interested, give the TV series a try! It’s available on Amazon Prime (and James Norton is sure to keep your interest) and the perfect solution to a rainy summer day.

2016 Reading List #24:Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon

As of this evening, I’ve had a Master’s degree for two weeks now. Life has been weird (look for a follow-up post soon about other things that are happening in my life). The best of the upsides of this freedom? The time I can spend reading without any feelings of guilt. Ahhhh.

First on my reading to do list was finishing Voyager, the third installment in the Outlander series, after starting it in late March. Diana Gabaldon knows how to write a lengthy book, so though I had been making steady progress, I still had more than 300 pages to go when I took this on my quick jaunt to Orlando after graduation.

Thankfully, lengthy time spent on airplanes and in airports provides the perfect opportunity for some reading catch up, and I was happy to make a significant dent in my reading during my travels. That dent was big enough that I really couldn’t put the book down after I returned home.

Voyager covers lots of time and space in the Outlander world–we begin in 1968 where Dragonfly in Amber begins and ends, but eventually travel back through time to Scotland, followed by a journey to the West Indies, and ending in America. We’re also introduced to several new characters and revisit some surprising and familiar faces.

Though the beginning of the novel feels a million miles away since I started 2 months ago, one of my favorite aspects of Voyager was the development of Brianna, Claire and Jamie’s daughter. I was very thrown by the 20 year time jump in Dragonfly in Amber, but the more time I spent reading Voyager, the more satisfied I became with Gabaldon’s decision to mix up her narrative.

Finishing Voyager definitely left me itching to continue with the series, but I’m putting myself on hold so I can make more progress with other things I’ve been neglecting. Thankfully, the TV adaptation is only halfway through a great second season, so my Scottish-loving heart is still satiated.

2016 Reading List #12: After You, by Jojo Moyes

A couple weeks ago, I decided it seemed like the kind of day when I deserved a little treat, so I bought myself After You, the sequel to Jojo Moyes’s heartbreaker, Me Before You, which I read in November.

The fact that the film trailer for Me Before You was released around the same time certainly didn’t help–have you seen how adorable Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin will be?!–so it seemed like the only possible option to buy this novel and dive right into it after finishing my last reading project.

After You made me skeptical at first–if you don’t know how Me Before You ends, I won’t spoil it, but I was afraid this book would try to change my perception of a character I’d grown to love in the first novel.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There are two new characters of real prominence introduced in this sequel–Sam and Lily–neither of whom I really knew how to feel about early on, but I was quite happy with them in the end. After You is really more about heroine Louisa’s journey to re-find herself after suffering a loss, and she’s just as compelling as she was the first time around.

After You also isn’t quite the tearjerker that its predecessor was, but it still has a certain bittersweet conclusion that’s bound to leave you a bit misty-eyed. This was the perfect little distraction from my lesson planning and thesis writing, and also a great way to spend a snow day. 🙂

Now I’m returning to slightly more academic pursuits–in preparation for my master’s oral exam, I’m rereading The Importance of Being Earnest, The Glass Menagerie, and Much Ado About Nothing, so look for several new posts in the coming days.

Book #61: Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! There’s nothing I enjoy more than a few days at home, though I’d certainly enjoy this time a bit more if there weren’t so many papers looming over my head.

The worst part about being this close to the end of the semester is that I start to want more than anything just to watch TV and movies and read books of my own choosing. So to combat this (admittedly silly) woes, I’ve been trying to keep a reading project or two on the side just for me. It’s usually slow-going, but at least it gives me something fun to focus on. My latest project: Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, a sweet, sad romance.

I bought the book last weekend on a whim with a recently received birthday gift, and since I’ve been in the mood for a light read to reward myself for finishing the Divine Comedy, this seemed like the perfect treat. I read most of the book over two days, but it’s one you could either speed through or enjoy more slowly. To prevent the risk of spoilers, I’ll say this: the book tells the story of Louisa Clark, a young woman hired to help care for a quadriplegic man named Will. It’s a perfect book if you’re looking for a little escape from life, particularly if you like an escape that includes both romance and tears.

I’m very excited for the film adaptation of the book to come out, which stars Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, and Matthew Lewis (in other words, everyone will be adorable).  There’s also a recently released sequel to Me Before You, so that will definitely find its way onto my reading list in the near future.

Now, off to power through a boring paper about teaching writing. Hopefully the rest of you have more fulfilling lives than those of us stuck in academia for a few more days…

Book #49: Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll know I fell in love with the Starz series Outlander about this time last year. I started watching it after reading good reviews and was instantly hooked by the characters, drama, romance, and beautiful setting of the show.

Though I knew the series was based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series, I didn’t really pursue reading the books until this past spring when the first season of Outlander returned for the second half of its premiere season. I soon became too anxious to find out what would happen next, so I decided the only way to find out was to get to reading.

Since season two of Outlander (sadly) won’t premiere until the spring of 2016, I haven’t tried to rush through Dragonfly in Amber, the second installment in the book series. My copy of the book rounds out at just under 1,000 pages, so it doesn’t exactly make for quick reading. But after starting the book at the very end of June, I’m happy to say I finished it on this crisp fall afternoon.

Though the majority of the action in Dragonfly in Amber takes place in the 1740s like Outlander, the opening and conclusion of the novel are set in 1968, with Claire as a mother revisiting Scotland for the first time, hoping to share her story with her daughter, Brianna. This frame narrative was quite surprising for me, but worked in a way I really enjoyed; it kept things in perspective about the future for Claire, but didn’t skip over any of the story that I was so intrigued by in the previous novel.

In the most general sense, this novel sees Claire and Jamie doing what they can to keep the war between the Scottish highlanders and the English at bay, since Claire knows the Scots fight a losing battle. The story takes them on a journey to France where we meet several new characters. By the novel’s end, we’ve also seen the deaths of several familiar characters, all of which were surprising to me. It’s important to note that Gabaldon is the type of writer who isn’t afraid to kill off major characters.

There were times in the novel when I felt like the pace dragged a bit, but I love that it ended with some very tender moments between Claire and Jamie and a pretty fantastic cliffhanger (though I must say it was less surprising for me since I know a bit about where the series is headed). I’m especially interested to see how Gabaldon plays with the time changes throughout the rest of the series, and I’m curious to see if the TV adaptation follows this same structure.

At this moment, I’d love to dive into Voyager, book three of the series, but I know that my seriously heavy semester of coursework won’t allow it. Thankfully I haven’t bought the book so I won’t be too tempted to abandon my required reading just yet. For now, I’ll keep myself busy, but I’m hoping to journey back to the Outlander world sometime this winter. Here’s hoping!

Book #91: Landline, by Rainbow Rowell

Merry Christmas, world! So in my last post, I said that I was starting to reread To Kill a Mockingbird for my Southern Lit class in the spring, but I took a bit of a detour yesterday. On Tuesday, I got my copy of Rainbow Rowell’s most recent novel, Landline, in the mail, and I kind of read the entire thing yesterday (oops). Obviously, I had a very productive Christmas Eve.

Anyway, I was a bit bummed that Landline was my least favorite of Rowell’s books so far (I’ve now read everything she’s published). I think part of my reaction to this one was the fact that the narrator is thirty-seven, so I had a harder time identifying with her than I have in Rowell’s other works. It’s still a sweet, entertaining read, though, and I’d recommend it to fans of her other work, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

Here’s a quick look at the story: the novel is about Georgie McCool, a married mother of two whose job as a TV writer keeps her in Los Angeles while her husband and kids travel to Nebraska to visit his family for Christmas. Georgie and her husband haven’t been on the greatest of terms, and when she can’t get him to answer his cell phone after they’ve left, she calls his parents’ landline and (magically) ends up speaking to the twenty-two-year-old version of her husband, before they were even engaged. This magical element of the story may seem a bit odd, but it adds to the overall enjoyment of the book.

Now I’m going to (try to) be studious and go back to my required reading. Good news, though: I don’t return to school until January 26, so I’ve got a solid month of reading to look forward to before real life recommences.