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Best Episodes from the shows I’ve watched this year

Salon is putting up their best episodes of 2011 so that got me to thinking about what the best TV I’ve watched this year has been. I’ll do my own top 15 list! I’m only counting shows that were new to me (sorry, Buffy). I am going to exclude reality shows because as I looked at each I would think “yeah, I like that show, but nothing really stands out to me as a fantastic episode that made great TV” (sorry “Jersey Shore”). Oh, and for the sake of simplicity, I’m only going to count shows where I watched at least a full season.

Here’s what I’ll be choosing from (and not everything will make the list):

Skins: Season 3
Damages: Season 1
Survivors: Season 2
Life after People: Season 1
Pulling: Season 2
Downton Abbey
Life on Mars (the US version)
10 Things I Hate About You
Sherlock
The Pillars of the Earth
Star Trek: the next generation:  Seasons 1-3 (and part of 4)
Ghost Whisperer: Seasons 1
Home Movies Seasons: 2-4
Portlandia Season: 1
Fringe: Season 1
Being Human (UK): Season 3
Leverage: Season 2-current
Community: Season 2-current
Parenthood: Season 1-current
Modern Family: Season 1-current
30 Rock: Season 4
Bones: Season 6-current
Family Guy: Season 9-current
Glee: Season 2-3
Grey’s Anatomy: Season 7-current
Parks and Recreation: Season 3-current
Terra Nova: Season 1
Revenge: Season 1(current)
Grimm: Season 1(current)
How I Met Your Mother: Season 6-current
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Doctor Who: Season 6
The Office:

Combine that with reality tv programming and shows started but not finished…yeah, I’d say I watch a lot of TV. What was the best?

15. Fringe: “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”
I seriously need to see more of this show because it is just smart SciFi. Not every story is gripping, but it’s always based on some sort of reality. I chose this episode as a favorite because we meet a reoccurring villain. It’s also a tense and exciting episode that highlights what this show does best. Not a watch instantly, but you can catch up via disk through Netflix and watch more recent stuff on Hulu.

14. Leverage: “The Rashomon Job”
This is one of those before they all met episodes crossed with a they’ve crossed paths before story. But in pure “Leverage” fashion it’s funny, interesting, and fun to watch. This episode really won’t hold with anyone that doesn’t know the characters because, really, this show is about them as people and how they interact with each other. It reinforces why each person plays the role they do in the group (or, you know, you could watch the intro credits to see who does what…but this is a more interesting way). I was recently very thrilled to discover that Amazon has recent eps online, so I pay per episode for this show.

13. Home Movies: “Renaissance”
Go watch this show right now. It will make your day. Especially if you’re a nerd and you get to the episode “Renaissance.” SciFi nerds and Fantasy nerds face off. It’s hilarious. It may be my most favorite animated show of all time.  Watch on Netflix!

12. Downton Abbey: “Episode 6”
I can’t wait to watch Season 2 of this show, and it’s hard to pick just one favorite episode. But what is it about penultimate episodes in British series? “Episode 6” was probably my favorite of the series. Political events of the times come to a head as well as two characters finally admitting their love. There’s all sorts of good drama in this episode of a fantastic show. Watch it on Netflix!

11. Sherlock: “The Great Game”
Ok, I don’t mean to litter this list with all British shows, but this is another great one. And again, I can’t wait for season 2. The first season is only 3 episodes long, but my favorite was the third, “The Great Game.” We learn more about both Sherlock and Watson and about their arch rival. It ends in a cliffhanger too! Available to watch instantly on netflix.

10. Community “Paradigms of Human Memory”
If ever there was a hard show to pick a favorite from it would be “Community.” I couldn’t fill this entire list with their episodes so I narrowed it down to two. The first is this one. Or maybe I should have picked “Critical Film Studies”? ARGH too hard! Human Memory is so great because it’s made up of a ton of flashbacks that never actually happened. That’s the genius of this show. And in the end the group comes together-which is what I like best. Hulu it now (yes, I just turned Hulu into a verb).

9. Grey’s Anatomy “Song Beneath the Song”
Aka the musical episode. Not every song is a hit, but Sara Ramirez’s rendition of “The Song” by Brandi Carlile moved me so much I asked my husband if we could include it as a reading at our wedding. We did. Any episode that can touch me personally is a good one in my book. This episode in particular is haunting and moving like the best Grey’s episodes are. I believe this is on Netflix, but it’s also a Hulu show.

8. Modern Family “Dude Ranch”
This is one of those shows where I say that I like it, but it’s hard to point to any one episode that really does it for me. Yet, there is “Dude Ranch” which opens up the 4th season. It’s kind of like the epitome of a “Modern Family” ep. Cameron is a drama queen, Mitchell is awkward, Phil just wants recognition from Jay, and Clare is a control freak. Yet they all come together as a family at the end…after an episode full of pithy one liners and tons of wit! Older seasons are available through disk via Netflix, but new stuff is on Hulu.

7. Parks and Recreation “Citizen Knope”
I’m not sure if I picked this episode because it is the freshest in my memory or not, but it’s still a great one. It’s the latest episode to have aired and in perfect Christmas spirit it’s incredibly sweet and shows all the Parks and Rec crew coming together to honor Leslie. It, of course, displays the same brand of humour the show always brings. I watch it on Hulu.

6. How I Met Your Mother: “Disaster Averted”
I think that this episode does what HIMYM does best. It utilizes the flashbacks in a smart way and also recalls past actions by the characters (2 slaps in this ep!). Kevin seems like a natural addition to the show which helps, and we get to see how Baby Eriksen came to be. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have to pay per episode on Amazon for this show.

5. Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife”
Penned by Niel Gaiman, it’s a sun in a season full of stars. I can’t think of an ep that I hated this season, but this one is definitely one of the best. The TARDIS takes human shape! How cool is that? It was a weird and wacky episode with the Doctor being very Doctor like. Amy and Rory are there which is cool too. In fact their scenes are really kind of creepy. Such a good example of what this show does best! I get my in-laws to DVR this for me, but now I own the 6th season on DVD and will definitely give it a re-watch!!

4. The Office: “Goodbye Michael”
Ok, I cried during this episode; the one where Steve Carell leaves the show. How touching was it to see everyone sing for him? And his farewell with Pam when he says (although we can’t hear  it because his mic has been given back) “that’s what she said.” The previous couple of seasons leading up to this weren’t exactly stellar, but it’s like I had a history with these people and the emotional impact of Michael Scott leaving was pretty great. You can catch up on Netflix or watch via Hulu. Your choice!

3. Doctor Who: “The Wedding of River Song”
I love getting the answers to questions that a show has set up all season long, and this episode answers a lot of them (not all, because that wouldn’t be fun). I also love how they bring back a lot of familiar faces. I can’t go into too much detail of the plot because that would take a ton of space, but I do like how everyone comes together in the end and things seem to work out.

2. Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Best of Both Worlds Parts I and II”
Oh man, what can I say about the season 3 cliffhanger and season 4 opener? I’m sure this episode tops a lot of lists for best TNG eps. I knew Picard’s transformation was coming, I just didn’t know how it would go down. There have been other episodes that feature the fine acting by Patrick Stewart, but this one really does a great job at highlighting his skills. Aside from the acting (which, really, was great all around) the story was pretty intense, smart, and compelling. It’s everything I look for not only in good SciFi, but in good television. All of Star Trek (classic to current) is on Netflix watch instantly.

1. Community “Regional Holiday Musical”
From Troy and Abed rapping to Annie subtly (?) mocking sexy Santa songs the last episode to air (for a long time) not so subtly pokes fun at “Glee.” It’s really a great example of their usual storytelling. It combines aspects from Human Memory by planting fake flashbacks and really shows how these characters all have an effect on each other. Also, completely hilarious! I think this episode really got me to laugh the most during this season. Go watch it right now on Hulu!

This was wicked hard to do! I had more than 15 but couldn’t quite make it to 20 so I had to pare it down. But I want to give an honorable mention to “Portlandia” for that song in the first episode. I also cut “Survivors” but that deserves a mention too.

Shows that span the 90s and 00s

This morning I watched the first episode of “Charmed.” It struck me that the show is actually a little dated. Aside from hairstyles and clothing (which, really, isn’t so terribly dated. It’s not like looking at a show from the 80s) I noticed that a lot of our modern conveniences don’t appear in the show. They won’t appear for a few years yet.

This got me to thinking about how much has changed in just 13 years (“Charmed” first aired in 1998). Not one character carries a cell phone on them and there’s no computer in the house. Computers were pretty common around 1998 (42% of households vs. 68% in 2010), but there was no broadband internet yet so I can see why the sisters didn’t rush to the computer to research their newly discovered powers. In 1998 69,209,328 people had cell phones compared to 233,000,000 users when the show ended in 2006. The iPhone would be released the following year.

Another interesting chart to look at  is Home Internet Connections by Technology 2001,2003.

I noticed something similar when watching “Buffy.” The seventh season (2003) is the only season I can remember characters owning a cell phone. Previously everyone had to find each other and use landlines (and, let’s face it, Giles will always be the type of guy to stick to the landline). Willow could always hack into the city morgue or whatever, but she had to do it over dial-up. Again, the seventh season has a mention of Google (which Xander thinks sounds dirty) and shows Buffy using a search engine to gather info on The First.

It feels dated to watch the earlier episodes, but does that diminish their appeal or likeability? I don’t find it to be so right now, but what about in another 10 years? Will it feel like watching a show from the 80s or early 90s now? And then will it eventually feel like watching old shows on Nick at Night because they’re so quaint?

BTW you can watch Charmed on Netflix watch instantly.

A Buffy Retrospective

Ever since I first watched the series (which, sadly, was not as it aired) I’ve rewatched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” just about every year. That’s a lot of rewatches (which kind of annoys my husband). Every time I delve back into the world of Sunnydale I discover something new or I see how all the pieces were meant to fit together even when the set-up was seasons before. I marvel at the writers’ brilliance. I like stepping back and thinking about what each season’s them was allegorically. The first three are obviously about how school is literally hell. The fourth is all about college and growing up/letting go. The seasons afterwards seem to lose a bit of it’s messages and that may be why they’re not as enjoyable. As a whole, the last three seasons speak about the pressures of the world, how hard it can be to make tough decisions, and about being an adult in general.

My favorite season is the third. There are just so many great episodes in this season. We meet Faith in “Faith, Hope & Trick.” But there’s other great episodes like “Band Candy.” “The Wish,” “The Zeppo” (Xander’s best episode in my opninon), “Doppelgangland,” and ending with “Graduation Day 1 & 2.” I feel like this is the season where The Scoobies are united the most. If you’re into the whole Buffy/Angel romance of the series then this one is a high point (ok, except for the end because David Boreanaz has to leave to go do his own spin-off show).

In this rewatch I found myself more tolerant of Dawn for some reason. Yes, even in the fifth season where she is her most annoying. I also  enjoyed the entire sixth season more than usual. I’ve always loved “Once More With Feeling,” and “Tabula Rasa.” I’m also a fan of evil Willow’s arch. But, normally I really don’t care for the episodes that explore Buffy’s re-integration to the land of the living. Her sour attitude is a downer and doesn’t keep with the previous seasons. But, this go-round I felt more invested with her figuring out how life works. I guess because I’ve passed/am passing through that stage of my own life where it seems like nothing goes right, there are too many bills to pay, and oh my god why can’t I get anything right.!?!

And then there’s the seventh season. I don’t think I’ll ever come about to liking this season. It’s just so. effing. serious. Even their lighthearted episodes like “Beneath You” just seem like it has a different pace and tone than a usual Buffy episode. It’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” so there’s still humor and plenty of witticisms to be found, but this season just felt like it was all about the Big Bad. I guess when you have an endpoint in sight you need wrap everything up so that there aren’t too many loose ends. You don’t have time to set up sub-plots that send characters in different directions. Everyone needs to be in place for the finale. Unfortunately that leaves us with a super serious season that becomes obsessed with the end. On the plus side? After several times viewing this season I’ve learned to just ignore the annoying Potentials and focus on what the main cast is doing.

The only other show that has captured my attention and devotion as much as BtVS has been “Doctor Who”. They both are great examples of shows where there are characters to love, an over-arching season theme/mystery, fun to watch, and really well written (ok, most of the time. Each show has had it’s share of terrible episodes). I wish there were more shows out there like it!

If YOU want to watch Buffy for the first or millionth time, it’s available on Netflix!

Re-watching “Jericho”

I can’t say I had forgotten “Jericho” completely, but I was pleasantly surprised when my husband added it to our watch instantly queue on Netflix. I watched the series during it’s original airing in 2006. Like the other outraged fans, I was sad when it was cancelled and I applauded the pounds of peanuts sent to the study in protest. That resulted in a short second series that wrapped up a lot of the story lines.

Now I’m watching it again. It hit me that “Jericho” was really a show before it’s time (like a lot of shows that are cancelled early usually are). If it had been aired now in the days of post-apocalytic/dystopian worlds fiction rising in popularity, and “Walking Dead” having a huge following of the TV show and graphic novel I think it would have gone for longer. So far, in re-watching the first season, I can only say that 2 episodes haven’t kept my entire attention. Every other episode is exciting, has some sort of action, and character development.

Can you say the same for “Walking Dead”? It’s like WD wants to be like Jericho, but it’s missing an ingredient. “Jericho” may not have a heavy philosophy attached to it, but characters do explore personal and moral dilemmas which audience members can relate to.

Plus, nuclear inhalation is a lot more likely than zombies so there’s always a sense of “omg what would we do if this happened tomorrow?”

Netflix: ignoring customers? doing what’s best for them? both?

Thanks to Kurichan on Flickr

 

Netflix apologized for the price hike, but then followed up by announcing a split in service. Traditional mail DVDs will remain as Netflix, but streaming service will now belong to a new website called Qwikster.

My first reaction to this news is….why? I can’t figure out the reasoning behind this move. Is this just an attempt at rebranding? If it is, well, “Qwikster”? Really? That is a truly terrible name. That isn’t a name that grabs me. Who did your market testing? Who did you run that name by?

Netflix…Qwikster…whatever…is pretty determined to wean us all off of DVDs. First there was the price hike and separating of plans. That caused quite the stir two months ago. And it resulted in losing half the company’s market value. Now the company is forcing people to use two different websites if they want both services. It’s pretty inconvenient – the opposite of what you should be striving for as a business. But like I said, Netflix really seems set on forcing people into the streaming age.

The problem? (and many people have pointed this out) Netflix’s catalog on the digital side is kind of lacking. I’ve complained about this before. Once I’ve gone through the stuff I’ve wanted to watch I’m left with the crap we’ve added to the queue but don’t totally have a vested interest in watching. So I have that “there’s nothing on TV to watch” feeling.

I can applaud Netflix for wanting to drag people into the 21st century where we should be pushing our technology forward. But maybe they should have timed it better; timed it for when they had a totally kick ass catalog of stuff that they could have pimped out. After they’ve made deals with all the major networks and studios and said “CHECK THIS OUT BITCHES! You want the latest ‘Harry Potter’? GOT IT! You want to watch lame ass shows like ‘The Mentalist’ or something? GOT IT!” That’s when people would have switched over to all digital. Also by then maybe more people would have had the capability to watch streaming more comfortably in their households.

Just because my husband and I have a PS3 and can stream Netflix (er…Qwikster?) to our TV doesn’t mean everyone can. Actually, my in-laws really do want to stream Net…Qwick…whatever on their TV but can’t because of compatibility issues. I forget if it’s the laptop or the TV that’s missing a component, but basically the two can’t talk to each other. So they miss out. Just because you can stream the service to a computer doesn’t mean people want to sit at their desks and watch. That’s not comfortable or convenient. People don’t watch TV that way, and they won’t want to pay for that. Especially when a large amount of people still pay for cable AND this service. They’ll drop the extra service first.

He, too, was my first TV crush

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Why isn’t Home Improvement a Watch Instantly on Netflix? It seems like the perfect show for it? It seems like one of those shows that, when browsing through what is available to watch I would stumble across it and exclaim “I remember this show! I’m so adding it to the queue!” Maybe I’d get through a season or two before the nostalgia wore off. Or maybe it actually hold up. Who knows.

This article on Pop Watch does, however, exactly express why I loved the show so much when it first aired. A little bit of lust for JTT and a little bit of love for just all around how good the show was. Plus my dad was the type of guy who did home improvement projects around the house. It wasn’t a rare sight to see him with a tool belt on during the weekends so Tim Taylor kind of reminded me of him. Watching Tim and Jill was like watching a better and funnier version of my parents marriage.

Obviously if you weren’t a girl growing up in the 90’s you’re not going to relate in any way to the JTT fever. But there’s always Pam Anderson.