The Last Man on Earth

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! 🙂

 

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)