My Favorite Television - 2018

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Even though it’s officially 2019, I’m going to continue talking about 2018 this week. I’m going to talk about my favorite television shows from 2018 today and Friday will be my favorite movies. Much like my list of favorite songs, these shows may not be from 2018 but they are the shows I watched a lot last year.

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When I first saw a commercial for The Good Place back in 2016, I wrote it off as a fluff show. The premise didn’t sound interesting at all. Then I ran out of shows to binge on Netflix. So in a moment of “why not,” I turned it on. It is SO GOOD.

The original commercials made me think this was about Kristen Bell in heaven. It’s not. Well, it is but it isn’t. Kristen Bell’s character, Eleanor, is a trash person. She insults everyone, she literally defrauds old people for a living, and she is only out for herself. When she dies, she is sent to heaven. But she knows she doesn’t belong there. So she tries to get her soulmate, Chidi (William Jackson Harper), to help her earn her way into heaven. Since he was an ethics professor when he was alive, it makes sense that he might be able to teach her how to be a good person.

I would really love to tell you more about the show but I would hate to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it. There are currently three seasons of The Good Place. They are all available either on Netflix or Hulu. You should definitely check it out. You won’t regret it.

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If you couldn’t tell from my Instagram, a lot of my life revolves around dance. Both my daughter and I dance. We spend a lot of time in the dance studio or at dance events. Normally, we don’t watch a lot of dance reality shows. I’ve only seen one season of Dancing With The Stars and I’ve never seen So You Think You Can Dance. But World of Dance had a few dancers that we recognized from social media. Since it’s on this list, you can figure out that we enjoyed it.

We aren’t big fans of the judges. Sometimes they make decisions that make no sense to us. But that’s OK. We’re really there to watch the dancers. Thanks to this show, we have been introduced to a lot of amazing dancers and dance groups that we never would have seen otherwise. If you love dance and you can tune out all of the actual reality show stuff, WoD is a pretty good show.

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Even though we’ve never really watched Dancing With The Stars (beyond watching a few favorite celebrity routines on YouTube), my daughter was looking forward to the junior version of the show. Once again, the lineup featured a couple of dancers we followed on social media. (I think that might be the key.) Juniors was a little more light-hearted than other dance reality shows, which added to the fun a bit. I’m not sure if we would watch a second season, though. It depends on who the competitors are.

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The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I’m not sure I actually have words for this Netflix series. It has almost everything I want out of a supernatural television show. I only say ‘almost’ because I think I would prefer a little more theatrics in my television witchcraft but the show isn’t any lesser without it. The show has a perfect balance between Sabrina’s witch life and her mortal life. And Kiernan Shipka is amazing as the title character.

Sabrina recently released a holiday special that is a perfect witchy companion to all of the Christmas specials out there. If you are into supernatural witchiness, this is definitely the show for you. (Much better than CW’s Supernatural and it can easily be binge-watched in a day or two.)

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything I watched in 2018, these were my favorites. A few shows that didn’t quite make the list are Netflix’s Nailed It!, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Doctor, and Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. However, these weren’t shows that made me run to my TV every week to watch. I enjoyed them when I remembered to watch them but I didn’t carve out time in my week to fit them in. Let’s just say I’m thankful that DVRs exist.

Were there any shows that you absolutely loved this year? Or are there any older shows you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments.




Doctor Who - "The Magician's Apprentice"

The ninth season of Doctor Who premiered on BBC America on Saturday, September 19. Being the Whovians that we are, my family joined together for a rare night of live television. (We usually DVR our shows.) Were we in for an exciting night! As a note, I will try my best to stay away from spoilers.

Every Doctor Who episode has a grand entrance, right? This one is no different. A war rages on some world. It vaguely looks like Earth but the airplanes are shooting laser beams at the men on the ground. Men who are only armed with bows and arrows. Not exactly an even match. One of the men come upon a child running from the fray. Unfortunately, this child has run into a hand mine. (That would be a mines made of hands...) If the hand grabs you, it will drag you under the ground to your death. The child stands still, not knowing how to handle his situation, when a strange object lands near his feet. We hear the voice of The Doctor, amplified through the sonic screwdriver he threw to the child. As The Doctor talks, telling the child that he will not die this day, he asks the child his name. And it is the name The Doctor fears the most. Davros.

OK. I said I was staying away from spoilers. That is the closest I will get because it is very important to understanding the episode.

Clara is in her classroom when she notices the airplanes have all stopped mid-air. They aren't falling. They are just stopped. Of course, she gets a call from UNIT (the UNified Intelligence Taskforce) and rushes off.

So, yeah, UNIT has been around for years and years and years. Since the Second Doctor, I believe. At what point do you think they will stop hiring morons? They seemed pretty intelligent when Martha was working with them. But now they are stupid? I found their whole part in the episode annoying. It was nothing more than an easy way to slide Missy (formerly known as The Master) back into the show. (Hey, she was on some of the promo posters and trailers. Not a spoiler!)

Missy is the one that stopped the planes. She needed to talk to Clara but it's not like Clara would willingly go have tea with her for no good reason. It turns out that Missy received an item that means The Doctor will die the next day. Or at least he thinks he will. They need to find The Doctor and save him. Clara uses UNIT's computers to lock down the time and place The Doctor is hiding. And off they go.

Hm. Does this mean that the writers are officially saying The Doctor is out of regenerations? Supposedly this thing Missy received is akin to a will. Why wouldn't it get sent out every time he changes? I mean, The Doctor isn't dying in the first two episodes of the series. Duh. But what are they saying about the future of the show?

From here on out, the episode is all about The Doctor living with decisions he has made. Has he made the right ones? Has he doomed us all by making terrible ones? While this is a two-part episode (it looks like most of the season will be as well), there are quite a few surprises in the second half of this episode. And a lot of it revolves around relationships. How The Doctor views the people he interacts with on his travels. I have to admit that I thought it was rather interesting.

Even though I hate cliff-hanger episodes, I thought this was a good way to open Season 9. We had The Doctor asking Clara if he was a good man in the beginning of Season 8. Will we find out the answer to that this season? Will Peter Capaldi be the final Doctor? I really hope that the writers give us the answers to the possibilities they have given us. I also hope this isn't really the end for the series. I do love it.

 

 

Six Degrees of Everything

The Fine Brothers, famous for uploading React (Kids React, Teens React, etc.) videos to YouTube, have come to TruTV with something completely different. Six Degrees of Everything is a take on the popular Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. The brothers will try to connect two seemingly random things in only six steps. Since I always try to support YouTubers and their attempts to break into mainstream media, I watched the first two episodes. 

I have to admit that I was fairly skeptical of the premise of the show. It sounds interesting to connect Albert Einstein to breast implants but is it actually interesting? On top of that, Benny and Rafi Fine are usually behind the camera. When they are on camera, they can be funny. But will they have the personalities to hold an audience's attention for a half hour show? 

The answer to both of those questions is "not really."

The connections that they make between "degrees" are often tenuous, at best. Since the rules aren't as strict as the original game's, they can make any connection they want. For example, in the premiere episode, they connect Einstein to Cousin Couple because his second marriage was to his cousin then they connect Cousin Couples to Elvis Presley because he had a song called 'Kissing Cousins.' As you can see, that first connection is pretty strong but then that second connection is, well, weak. And the connections don't get any better from there on out. Elvis is connected to comic books (because he based his look on Captain Marvel Jr), which is then connected to Lie Detectors (the guy that created Wonder Woman also created a component of the modern lie detector) , which is then connected to breast implants (because one way to detect lies is with an EEG and they can be thrown off by  breast implants). See? Weaksauce.

In between these connections, the brothers give us tidbits of information. Sometimes they are slightly interesting but, most of the time, they are not. Instead of feeling like a conversation between brothers, it feels like they just needed to fill space. Sure, they probably did need to fill space but it shouldn't feel like it. 

On top of that, the brothers just aren't interesting enough to keep the audience's attention. I honestly think this show would be better if it were presented as a conversation between brothers. Sometimes they get along, sometimes they fight, but they always get excited when the reach the end of their trail. Instead, everything feels overproduced. Their "fights" are obviously scripted and they don't have the acting chops to make them feel organic. (For an example of a show hosted by brothers that feels like a natural conversation between them, check out Hank and John Green's pocast - Dear Hank and John. There is a little bit of awkwardness as they change subjects but their 'arguments' feel real.) As a result, Benny and Rafi come off as stiff and almost inhuman. This show proves that they need to stay behind the camera.

TruTV only ordered 10 episodes. The first two have already aired. I'm not sure the show will make it through the next 8. Even though I love The Fine Brothers and their productions, this one is a bust. The show's production staff should watch a few episodes of Outrageous Acts of Science on the Science Channel. Everyone on that show has the personality to explain complex science experiments and keep them interesting. While OAoS doesn't connect their videos, I think their format could easily be modified to fit the Six Degrees format. That would be amazing! Since that is unlikely to happen, I'm just going to skip past Six Degrees and hope something better comes out of it. 

Disney's Descendants

Disney's heavily hyped Descedants movie aired Friday night. While everyone in my family has been on the fence about actually watching it, we ended up spending the day Sunday sitting through the 2-hour movie. Was it worth it? Well...

In case you have been living under a rock, here is the premise of the movie: The fairy tale villains have been shipped off to a desolate island to live out their years. In the meantime, Beauty (Belle) and the Beast have united all of the kingdoms and everyone is living happily ever after. Fast forward to everyone having 16-year old kids. The children of the villains have all grown up as good-for-nothing scamps while the good children have grown up in boarding school. Ben, the son of Belle and the Beast, is about to be crowned king. His first proclamation is to bring four of the villain-kids to Auradon to go to school. After all, they are not their parents.

So. The characters. The four villain-kids are Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen), Carlos (son of Cruella deVil), and Jay (son of Jafar). The main good-kids are Ben (son of Beauty and the Beast), Audrey (daughter of Aurora, Sleeping Beauty), Jane (daughter of the Fairy Godmother), and Doug (son of Dopey). There are a few more good-kids hanging around but they aren't particularly important to the plot. 

Maleficent sees this school transfer as an opportunity to get Mal to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand, which will give her tremendous power. Fairy Godmother is the head mistress of the academy so it shouldn't be too difficult, right?

OK. I think we have everything laid out now. First, I'd like to say that the movie wasn't as awful as I thought it was going to be. That said, it isn't particularly good either. There are problems and there are a lot of them.

I'm not sure why they picked these particular villains as the main characters. I understand Maleficent and the Evil Queen. They are usually the first baddies you think of when you think Disney. I'll even give Cruella a pass. But Jafar? Of all of the Disney baddies, they picked Jafar? It wasn't a good choice. 

And while we're talking about the characters, let's address their names. Every single kid is somehow named after their parents. Mal is Maleficent's daughter, Evie is the Evil Queen's daughter, Lonnie is Mulan's daughter...the list goes on and on. While I could understand one or two narcissistic princes/princesses/queens naming their kids directly after them, I can't believe that every single parent would be like "How can I make my baby a direct comparison to myself?" Insert facepalm.

Next up, let's talk plot. Maleficent is the big baddie here. The other three villains simply go along with her. Everyone is afraid of her. Except the other three kids. They are only afraid of their parents, even if those parents haven't actually shown any reason for the kids to be frightened. Everything seems to hinge on the sole fact that they were the villains in their stories. 

Most of the plot is typical Disney fare: the kids are (slightly) shunned by the other kids because they are villian-kids. The villain-kids do "bad" things like stuff their faces with chocolate. The good-parents are shocked when their kids get along with the bad kids. Prince Ben and Mal fall in love. Love conquers all. You know the story.

Then we get to the songs. Man, there were some stinkers in there. Mal and the gang are introduced through a song - "Rotten To The Core." Where none of them really do anything rotten beyond walking on some tables. OK, at the end, Mal does steal a lollipop from a baby but it wasn't particularly difficult nor did it come off as a terrible act. We were just supposed to THINK it was terrible. The best song of the bunch was a remake of "Be Our Guest" that the good-kids sing when their parents come to visitation day. Sigh.

In the end, the movie was just barely tolerable. They should have gotten rid of Carlos (for serious, Cameron Boyce is NOT a good actor. Get rid of him!) and Jay (though Booboo Stewart did a really good job with the crap he was given) for more interesting villains. Mal should have been way more evil in the beginning. I get the evil-turned-good plot device but she wasn't all that evil to begin with. To be honest, the best villian-kid was Evie. She was never in it to BE evil. She just wanted to be beautiful and marry a prince, just like every other kid in the kingdom. Her turmoil was the most honest. The movie's ending suggested a sequel. I hope not. I can't see this getting any better. 

TV Review: Sherlock

I can't believe I forgot to talk about this! Way back in the summer of 2010, the BBC aired a new series titled Sherlock. Created by Steven Moffat, the same guy that created the currently-airing version of Doctor Who, I heard great things about the series. It wasn't until I came upon the episodes on Netflix that I got a chance to sit down and watch them. Boy, am I glad that I did!

Pretty much everyone knows who Sherlock Holmes is so I won't go into too much detail. For those of you that don't (shame on you), here is the nitty gritty: Sherlock Holmes is a strange man who reaches grand conclusions with only the smallest of details. Since he is not much of a "people person," he requires someone to not only help him out in day-to-day activities (such as shopping) but also someone he can bounce thoughts off of. This person is John Watson, a former military doctor who longs for more action in his life. Together, they help Scotland Yard solve the toughest cases.

First, I want to talk about the bad points of the show. There really is just one. The entire first season is a mere three episodes long. Just as we're starting to love Sherlock and his insane ways, they unlovingly dump us on the floor. There is a second season, which is also only three episodes, but it didn't start until this month! I haven't watched it yet so I'm hoping it's as good as the first.

Now. Let's talk about the good points. Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely amazing as Sherlock. He is able to bring forth the smugness and frustration that is Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock knows he is smarter than everyone else in the room and it frustrates him when people miss things he considers obvious. Also, Martin Freeman is an ideal match as Watson. Watson isn't there to be brilliant or awesome. He is just there to continually keep Sherlock grounded in the real world. I couldn't imagine anyone else in these roles. The show would fall apart of these two weren't so good.

I also love the cinematography of the show. In the first episode, as Sherlock notices things, random words appear on the screen. It isn't until Sherlock pieces everything together for us that we realize what the words mean to him. For once, we get to see a bit of the inner workings in Sherlock's brain. No wonder the world is so frustrating for him.

For you old-school Sherlock fans, there are some minor changes but not a lot. He no longer smokes pipes (not even cigar specials). Instead, he uses nicotine patches. He claims the nicotine helps him think but it isn't convenient to smoke in London nowadays. We do get to see him playing the violin a little. Though, I fully admit that it isn't very good violin playing. Perhaps we'll get something better in the next season.

Sherlock is an awesome piece of television. If you get a chance to see it, be it on PBS or on Netflix, do it. You definitely will not regret it. And, if we're lucky, we'll get to see the second season sooner. I'd hate to have a wait another year and a half to see what happens!

TV Review: Grimm

Last week, I talked about ABC's fantasy drama Once Upon A Time. Now I'd like to talk about NBC's fantasy drama Grimm. The two shows are similar yet so different. Both shows revolve around fairy tale characters in the real world. However, where Time is a pretty straight forward drama, Grimm is a gritty police drama.

Nick Burkhardt (David Guintoli) is a homicide detective who recently finds out that he is a descendent of the famous Grimm brothers. However, the Grimm brothers were more than just fairy tale writers. They were part of a group of hunters that fight supernatural creatures. Now that Burkhardt's powers have been activated, it is up to him to protect humanity from the evil creatures in the world.

I am always very excited when fairy tale series come to television. Even though I know in my heart that they could be very disappointing, I always set aside time to tune in. Unfortunately, Grimm is not a very good show. Despite wanting desperately to enjoy it, I found it severely lacking. Instead of focusing on the fantastical creatures, we are relegated to watching Burkhardt try to solve a crime without letting anyone, including his partner Hank (Russell Hornsby), know that the responsible party is an animalistic creature masquerading as a human. It is painful to watch Burkhardt trying to figure out what is going on. Even though his Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) left him a trailer full of information about the various creatures, he barely touches any of it. Sure, there are a few scenes of him slowly paging through a book but that isn't anything like real research. If the show wanted to focus on the police aspect, they should stop being so half-hearted about it. There are plenty of good cop shows to show them how to do it.

It's not always a good idea to compare shows. However, since Once Upon A Time and Grimm both debuted around the same time and contain the same underlying plot, it's difficult not to compare them. Time is a great fantasy drama that drops hints about the true identity of each character. Grimm, on the other hand, is muddled and doesn't seem to know what it is. I am going to give Grimm a few more episodes to redeem itself. I'm just not going to hold my breath waiting for redemption.

TV review: Once Upon A Time

It has been quite some time since I've seen a MUST SEE television show. Once Upon A Time fits the bill. Airing on Sunday nights at 8:00PM (Eastern) on ABC, the show takes the classic fairy tale characters and throws them into the real world. While that isn't a new plot (see: The Charmings from the late 80s), this does have a bit of a different take on it.

The series revolves around the fight between Snow White and the Evil Queen. Snow White married her Prince Charming. At the wedding, the Evil Queen storms in and threatens to destroy Snow's happy ending. Fast forwarding a few months, a troubled Snow White is pregnant. She turns to Rumpelstiltskin, who can see the future. He informs the princess that the queen will banish everyone to a realm with no happy endings and that her unborn child will be their savior. The queen unleashes her curse, not only transporting everyone into our world but also wiping all of their memories.

I think what I find most interesting about the show is trying to figure out what the fantasy world counterparts are for the real world people we meet. The heroine, Emma, is, of course, Snow White's daughter. Ten years before the first episode, she gave up a son for adoption. This boy, Henry, is the glue that holds everything together. He brings Emma to Storybook, Maine to help the town regain their memories and restart time. As of the second episode, the only explanation for Henry knowing about the fantasy world is that he believes a fairy tale book that his teacher, who is Snow White, gave him is fact.

Both my husband and I highly recommend this show to everyone. As a matter of fact, he turned it on for our 9-year old daughter this morning. There is nothing really scary in it (yet anyway) so the kids are likely to enjoy it. And the plot is good enough to keep the adults interested as well. It is definitely a show that is good for all.

Love The New Shows

Post contributed by Fletcher Vargas I got DirecTV a while back and I didn’t think I’d use it all that much – boy was I wrong about that! I have gotten utterly addicted to BRAVO and all the reality shows on it. It’s a great network all around and they do other stuff, too, like some really good old school movies but why I really tune in is all the reality stuff. I love all the Housewives series, especially the Beverly Hills seasons but I’m having a hard time watching this year with all the off screen drama surrounding the death of one of the husbands. I also really like Flipping Out with that decorator guy Jeff Lewis but man is he hard to watch sometimes. He’s so mean and straightforward – it’s no wonder he can’t keep his staff or clients happy! Look at me talking about all these people like I know them…that’s the side effect of watching too much TV I guess! I never would have imagined I’d watch this much each day but I really like it!

Glee

I know I am way behind everyone on this. My husband, my daughter, and I have started watching Glee on Netflix. They only have the first season up and we're about halfway through it now. I get why so many people like it. Not only is the music pretty good, it's also catchy and most people recognize the songs. Unfortunately, that is the only good thing about the show. The characters are annoyingly two-dimensional, which doesn't leave a whole lot for the actors to do between songs. Supposedly the glee club "needed" 12 members in order to participate in competitions. However, half of them are barely there. One of the characters is even referred to as "Other Asian." If you're going to bring in new characters, at least use them. In addition, the "plot" is only there to carry the characters to their next musical interlude. Almost everything in the show is based on lies and trickery. It would be nice if the show didn't use music as a crutch. Let the characters carry the plot. There are some great beginnings there. Stop forcing them into song just because they haven't sang for 10 minutes.

Even though I will continue to watch the show, I can't guarantee that I will ever actually like it. It's too big of a hit for them to make any changes to it now. And that is rather sad.

The Cape: Goggles and Hicks

I tried posting this yesterday but we kept losing power due to high winds. I think we're stable enough now for me to get this done.

During his last battle, Vince managed to break some ribs. Max wants him to take the day off to rest. Unfortunately, heroes don't always get a day off.

Vince tries to spend the day watching his son, Trip. Halfway through the day, He (and Orwell) gets attacked by Goggles and Hicks, a pair of assassins hired by Fleming to get rid of The Cape. Of course, Orwell and The Cape defeat the dastardly duo.

Meanwhile, Trip manages to make a new friend....even though the friend is a little on the weird side.

I found this episode to be fairly boring. Nothing new was revealed other than the fact that there are more members of Tarot. (um, duh.) I suppose Trip's new friend could be interesting. It'll definitely be better than his mom hounding him all the time about stuff.

I'm ready for the show to be better now....