Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year-End Round-Up: Top 25 TV Characters of 2014

My Annual Top 25 TV Characters of the Year list (last year's list can be found here):

1. Andy Daly as Forrest MacNeil in "Review"-In his tragically misguided (and quite hilarious) quest to push the boundaries of human understanding, Forrest turned himself into the ultimate human punching bag: He suffered the heartbreak of divorce, developed an addiction to cocaine, awkwardly made his way through an orgy, and came to the realization that he might have  pedestrian racist tendencies. On the flipside, he saw space (with the corpse of his late father-in law in tow), enjoyed a brief marriage to Maria Thayer, and rediscovered how important his family was to him. 

"Review" was one of the year's most enjoyable roller coaster rides and Forrest's discombobulation was shocking, disturbing, and extremely fun. Andy Daly, who has carved an admirable career for himself in straight man and supporting roles, has found his niche here.

Source: HollywoodReporter
2. Richard Jenkins as Henry Kitteridge in "Olive Kitteridge"-Olive's downbeat personality would give the show's tone Ingmar Bergman-like levels of depression if not for Richard Jenkins’s kind-hearted Henry acting as a counter balance. Jenkins’s presence here was enormous. The kind and gentle nature of Henry Kitteridge shines so powerfully, that his absence was acutely felt whenever he was not in the room.

3. Stephen Colbert as Stephen Colbert (with a silent t) in "The Colbert Report"-Colbert's epic cameo-saturated swan song capped off a nine-year run in which he was second to none at the intersection of comedy and politics. Brash and ambiguously oppositional, Colbert used his whip-smart improv ability when conversing with with chief political and academic figures of the era to produce some of the most memorable, hilarious and insightful interviews of the past decade. Because he was on every night, it was easy to take "The Colbert Report" for granted, but we can be thankful that Colbert and his prolific team have produced a Fort Knox's worth of comedy gold on reserve.

4. Nick Sandow as Joe Caputo in "Orange is the New Black"-Although he might have morally erred in the series finale with Fig, Caputo stepped up at Litchfield to become a hypothetical source of hope among the administration that Piper (and the audience) thought would never appear. It remains to be seen whether he will be trampled by the system like his predecessor, but for now Caputo is riding high and in a show like "Orange is the New Black," which tugs at the viewer's emotions, Caputo's ascension and (mostly) noble intentions were strangely cathartic.

5. Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in "Bates Motel"-This mercurial woman's son will grow up to become the iconic knife-wielding serial killer. Although we know that Norma will eventually become her son's toy skeleton, the relationship dynamic was fascinating because it only hinted at dysfunction while leaving the primary impression that this is a passably healthy mother-son relationship with an extra-doting mother.  The unexpected surprise of "Bates Motel" is that "Psycho" was never a character piece and this show is a slow simmer. In another wayward season in which Norman doesn't overtly become a knife-wielding maniac, Norma pulled a "House of Cards" on us and slowly crept up the social scene of White Pine Bay. 

6. Clive Owen as Dr. Thackery, The Knick- Owen's brilliant portrayal was not particularly far removed from Hugh Laurie's curmudgeonly doctor on "House" except Thackery's backstory and emotional complications didn't get any analysis. What fascinates me about Dr. Thackery is that he's not so much a hero or an anti-hero as he is just a crusty opium addict who happens to be in charge.
 7. Chris Parnell voicing Cyril Figgis in "Archer"-Cyril finally developed some backbone. He stood up to Archer and ran a Central American country with more efficiency than the dictator who came before him (and quite probably whoever will be running that country after him). Attorney, accountant, field agent, military strategist, is there anything this guy can't do?

8. Karen Gilliam as Eliza Dooley in "Selfie"-This cancelled-too-soon show had a great pairing at its center in Eliza Dooley and Henry Higgs. Together, the two personified the changing landscape of etiquette in the media age occupying extreme ends on the spectrum between too much or too little reliance on your cell phone. Naturally, the social media-obsessive was the more fun character and Karen Gilliam goes to town with the role. I'll brushing aside the questionable plot hole of how Eliza managed to amass such a strong Twitter following so quickly and focus on how  Gilliam hit perfect notes as an aloof Millennial with an inflated ego and all the requisite vulnerabilities of a TV romcom lead.

9. Katja Herbers as Helen in "Manhattan"-I've always read "Manhattan" as a show about brainy outsiders at heart and Helen is no different. She's a woman in a man's club and is (secretly) Dutch, but she mixes that peripheral perspective with a swagger that makes her stick out in a good way. Her no-nonsense demeanor allowed her to cut through the BS (a trait that's useful for a drama set in the repressed '50s). She was not just refreshingly unapologetic about her sex life, but always could be counted on to stir up the pot. 

10. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot in "Gotham"-In its first half-season, "Gotham" has had its share of flaws for such an ambitious comic book adaptation, but the show deserves a lot of credit for bringing back a potentially campy character and fleshing him out. Ultimately, you could see Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin fitting in with one of Batman's better adaptations. Hid performance was rich with nuances from the physical to the tics that slyly hint at a sociopathic mindset.

11. Yael Stone as Morello in "Orange is the New Black"-We came in to the season thinking of Morello as the sweet but impressionable romantic and soon learned that she was Litchfield’s own version of Kathy Bates in Misery. And yet, even though we knew the other side of the story, it was hard to stop seeing her as a sweet well-intentioned character. The show challenges us to look closely at society's miscreants and reassess whether they really are bad apples. Morello’s storyline fell into the middle of all that with heartbreaking poignancy.

Source: ABC/Bob D'Amico
12. John Cho as Henry Higgs in "Selfie"-John Cho is rapidly climbing up the list of most underrated TV actors and "Selfie" was another home run for him. As Eliza's other (platonic) half and counterpoint in the culture wars, Cho's Henry Higgs (like Eliza Dooley, he's modeled after a "Pygmalion" character) isn't just a straw man for stodgy old luddites who are unable to get with the times. Higgs is a thoughtful man with a critical eye towards the latest app and an old-school sense of etiquette and style. He might even be classified as suave. Cho deserves a lot of praise for breaking the mold of Asian-American stereotypes as well.

13. Jim Jefferies as himself in "Legit"-Jefferies and his sitcom fall under the category of "Goshdarnit, I like this guy!"Jefferies doesn't do much of anything except hang out and fuel his two roommates' moral depravity but he has an amicable style that wins me over because the show is so tonally congruent with his style of comedy. The show's second season saw Jefferies grapple with death, friendship and love a little more than the first, while still hinting at a slow evolution.

14. Ramon Franco as Fausto Galvan in "The Bridge"-With his casual sloppy attire and his penchant for buying boats, Fausto Galvan does not conform to the typical image of a mob boss, but he's a brilliant tactician and knows how to intimidate an enemy. As a childhood friend of Detective Ruiz, Galvan is also an ever-present reminder of another direction Ruiz's life might have taken in the show's morally ambiguous world. I, for one, enjoyed the show's more Fausto-centric view of Juarez.

15. Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank Lawson in "Royal Pains"-Even if "Royal Pains" isn't one of the most respected shows on TV, Hank Lawson deserves praise for being such an uplifting and relevant character. He's just a desperado concierge doctor equipped with a scalpel, lightning-quick diagnostic skills and the mysterious ability to constantly be around some of the rarest medical emergencies ever recorded. He was my #2 character last year (and yes, I pretty much copied and pasted his entry from last year as well).


16. Ashley Zukerman as Charlie Isaacs in "Manhattan"-It was partially due to a strong ensemble of characters that "Manhattan" made its way onto my viewing schedule this year. Charlie Isaacs is the hot-shot alpha male of the bunch with his dashing good looks, a smoking hot wife, and (considering this is Los Alamos) his brains. Because my basis of comparison for this show is the 1989 film "Fat Man and Little Boy" and there are inevitable similarities between Charlie and the John Cusack's character who was heavily colored by 80's conventions, I see Charlie as a rebellious bad boy of sorts. Charlie was also an interesting character because he seemed destined for adultery until the plotline was sidestepped (his marriage fell apart and his wife cheated first) making him, in essence, an individual of "good" character.

17. Annaleigh Ashford as Betty DeMilo in "Masters of Sex"-The practical-minded ex-hooker was a curious foil to Michael Sheen's Dr. Masters last season as he only paid her begruding respect despite his supposed sexual tolerance. Nonetheless, DeMilo dealt with Masters with swift resolve and dangled the use of her brothel as a bargaining chip. In an expanded supporting role this season, DeMilo provided some of the heart-rending ups and downs. Her marraige fell apart while she succumbed to the temptations of Sarah Silverman's Helen (to be fair, Silverman in a 1950's accent certainly would be hard to resist). Nevertheless, she showed a touching solidarity with Dr. Masters simply by showing up for work when everyone else abandoned him.  
18. Olivia Cooke as Emma Decody in "Bates Motel"-The first season left me wanting to see more from Emma Decody's POV. She is quietly drawn to the tumultuous Bates family but it's clear that she exists on the periphery of their trials and tribulations. The show's second season gave us a better glimpse inside Emma's world. It showed us a character who's relatively comfortable in her own skin as a disabled teenager but who's also self-aware of her desire to belong. Her relationship was also one of the sweetest examples of teenage romance on television.

19. Kat Dennings and Beth Behr as Max and Caroline in "2 Broke Girls"-Part of what keeps "2 Broke Girls" among the most comfortable shows on television is the chemistry between Max Black and Caroline Channing. They're rat-a-tat dilaogue is a stylistic throwback to the days of vaudeville. Caroline lobs the set-up and the acerbic Max hits it out of the ballpark. The humor isn't necessarily the most sophisticated on TV but the chemistry between the two best friends of circumstance is immense.

20. Kristen Schaal voicing Mabel Pines in "Gravity Falls"-Between "Bob's Burgers", "BoJack Horseman" and this (not to mention the countless gigs she's involved with that I'm not watching), Schaal deserves all the praise she's getting and more as a voice-over actor. She has a unique voice that creates a recognizable comic personality (in this case, the overexcited child) and has shown enough versatility with it to create three memorable and distinct comic characters. Mabel Pines' never-ending positivity is just infectious on and, on a visual level, her sweater designs and stickers are the show's Easter eggs.

21. Emily Rios as Adriana Mendez in "The Bridge"-Daniel Frye, Adriana's partner-in-crime, occupied a high spot on last year's list and while that entry was a way of honoring the touching Frye/Adriana relationship, I didn't anticipate that Adriana would become so much more fleshed out this year. While the Frye and Adriana are still one of the underrated crime-fighting duos on television, Adriana became a fully realized character in her own right. Her response when Galvan's goons victimized her was one of the dramatic high points of the season and a poignant reminder that no one is really a passive spectator to this conflict. It also helps that I have a soft spot for reporter characters.

22. Megan Stevenson as AJ Gibbs in "Review"-Stevenson does so much with every facial reaction and stilted smile as Forrest's sidekick AJ Gibbs. The result is a mercurial character that makes a very strong impression with very little screen time. With "Review" renewed, the increased presence of AJ Gibbs as sole host of the show is on the top of my anticipation list for this coming year in television. 

23. Aaron Paul voicing Todd in "BoJack Horseman"-Satirizing the empty lives of the Hollywood rich and famous, "BoJack Horseman" is largely about characters going nowhere and repeating the same patterns, and no one is staying still faster or as consistently hilariously as Todd. His severe ADD ensures that nothing will ever get done as long as he's around. Todd bounces off others with supreme comic ease as evidenced by his teaming up with Quentin Tarantulino to produce a movie that morphed into a bimonthly snack subscription followed by a business partnership with Mr. Peanutbutter that produced some of the most absurd ideas to ever hit animated TV. It is also Todd's childlike need for approval from BoJack that keeps the tone of the show positive.

Source: Yahoo Screen
24. Cecily Strong as The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party in "SNL"-As someone who is generally sober in situations where other people are drunk, I know the experience all too well of talking someone who thinks they're the most interesting person and is on a different planet regarding their definition of interesting conversation. So yes, this character certainly resonates with me on a personal level. A shout-out here to my other Weekend Update favorite: Kate McKinnon's economically depressed Russian version of a Borsch Belt comedian.

Source: NY Post
25. Eliza Coupe as Nina Whitley in "Benched"-Coupe is the rare stunningly beautiful actress who can dive into the part of a flawed woman so thoroughly that you actually believe she would have trouble getting a date. Coupe charms her way through the series in a way that makes you forget this has been done before in many screwball comedies before and after her. Through Nina Whitley's slow learning curve at adapting to the upside-down world of public defending, I have learned more about the nuts and bolts of the legal system (and its shortcomings) than from many a pedestrian legal drama.

Aimee Carrero as Lucia, The Americans; Alison Pill as Maggie Jordan, The Newsroom; Andre Holland as Dr. Algernon Edwards, The Knick; Barbara Rosenblat as Rosa Cisneros, OitNB; Demian Bichir as Marco Ruiz, The Bridge; David Harewood as Saperstein, Selfie;  Franka Potente as Eleanor Nacht, The Bridge; Frances McDormand as Oliver Kitteridge, Oliver Kitteridge; Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein as Toni and Candice, Portlandia; Kate McKinnon as Olga Povlatsky, SNL; Keegan Michael Key as Mark, Playing House; Kimiko Glenn as Brook Soso, OitNB; Leslie Bibb as Dakota, About a Boy;  Minnie Driver as Fiona, About a Boy; Natasha Lyonne as Nicky Lyons, OitNB; Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbath, The Newsroom; Parvesh Cheena and Hong Chau, Dinesh and Lora, A to Z; Sarah Silverman as Helen, Masters of Sex; Zoe Kazan as Betty, Olive Kitteridge

Here's a list of all shows I watched this year, for reference (that aren't in my Top Ten):
About a Boy (NBC) , Americans (FX), American Dad (TBS), American Horror Story (FX), America's Got Talent (Fox), Awesomes (Hulu), Bad Teacher (CBS), Bad Judge (NBC), Black Box (ABC), Blacklist (NBC), Broad City (Comedy Central), Brooklyn Nine Nine (FOX), Benched (USA), Crazy Ones (CBS), Chicago PD (NBC), Comedy Bang Bang (IFC), Conan (TBS), Colbert Report (Comedy Central), Daily Show (Comedy Central), Deadbeat (Hulu), Family Guy (Fox), Finding Your Roots (PBS), Flash (CW), Fugget About It (Hulu), Gotham (Fox), Glee (Fox), Gravity Falls (Disney), Ground Floor (TV Land), Hannibal (NBC), Houdini (History), Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), House of Cards (Netflix), Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central), Key and Peele (Comedy Central), Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel (NBC), Late Night with Seth Meyers (ABC), Larry King (Hulu), Librarians (TNT), Louie (FX), Marry Me (NBC), Mulaney (Fox), Madam Secretary (CBS), Mindy Project (Fox), Modern Family (ABC), Mother Up! (Hulu), Mysteries at the Museum (History Channel), NCIS: LA (CBS), Newsroom (HBO), New Girl (Fox), Nathan For You (Comedy Central), Playing House (USA), Portlandia (IFC), Red Band Society (Fox), The Strain (FX), Saturday Night Live, Tonight Show (NBC), Turn (AMC), Under the Dome (CBS), Video Game High School (YouTube), Veep (HBO), Vikings (History Channel), The Voice (NBC), Web Therapy (Showtime), The Wil Wheaton Project (SyFy), Welcome to Sweden (NBC)

Additionally, my top 12 TV shows can be found at this year.
They are:
1. Archer, FX
2. The Bridge, FX
3. Orange is the New Black, FX
4. Review, Comedy Central
5. The Knick, Cinemax
6. Manhattan, WGN
7. Olive Kitteridge, HBO
8. Selfie, ABC
9. Late Night with John Oliver, HBO
10. Quick Draw, Hulu
11. Masters of Sex, HBO
12. Silicon Valley, HBO
Runner-Ups: 2 Broke Girls (CBS), A-Z (NBC), Bates Motel (A&E), Bojack Horseman (Netflix), Crossbones (NBC), Finding Your Roots (PBS),  Legit (FX), Portlandia (IFC), Royal Pains (USA), Suburgatory (ABC)

Additionally, I had the honor of participating in Cory Barker's end-of-the-year round table at TV Surveillance, where I contributed thoughts on the best performances in 2014 on TV, the best new TV show, the worst TV show and the best performances.

I also have just been hired at TV Fanatic and contributed to all their year-end slideshows including best plot twist, most underutilized character, best breakout character, and several more.

In short, I've now analyzed 2014 in TV to death at this point, but being included on Cory Barker's year-end roundtables and TV Fanatic's year-end polls have been a goal of mine for four years so I'm quite pleased. Some people want to build mountains or create great paintings and I just want to watch a lot of TV and discern obscure categories within that medium.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Blast from the Past: Breakout Stars of 2007

Here's a sample of a piece I submitted to a humor website back in 2008 involving the break-out stars of that year:  Casey Affleck, Ellen Page, Seth Rogen, Tilda Swinton, Marie Courtillard, Jonah Hill, Jason Bateman, Shia LeBouf, Michael Cera, Keri Russell, Emile Hirsch and Nikki Blonsky

Jonah Hill:
Before 2007: Jonah Hill was a walking contradiction to the old Hollywood adage that you have to be at least moderately attractive if you want to be a movie star. Despite looking more like an amorphous blob of playdough than Cary Grant, Hill had managed to find work upon arriving to L.A. in small roles starting with bit roles in I Heart Huckabees, Click, and The 40-Year Old Virgin culminating in the Justin Long comedy Accepted, where Hill started to get major screen time as a portly sidekick who's benefit to Justin Long's character is a naive willingness to follow him along on his crazy schemes (think of the Zach-Screech relationship on Saved by the Bell).

In 2007, Hill had a great year playing the portly sidekick designed for comic relief, once again, in Knocked Up  before transitioning to starring in his own film in Superbad. This was not only a major step up for Hill in terms of screen time, but also, in Superbad, he gets to play a character who doesn't completely repulse women. He even gets a love interest and while she didn't respond favorably when he tried to kiss her when he was drunk at a party, she didn't slap him and scream "Ewwwww, get away from me, fatso!" which is what would have previously happened in a scene with a Jonah Hill character. On top of that, Hill managed to score some extra cash and provide comic relief for playing a suck-up assistant in "Evan Almighty."

What does Hill's future look like? Because Hill has had the fortune of appearing in two very funny movies, the public is temporarily forgetting about how he doesn't exactly look like Cary Grant or even Jason Alexander but they are bound to come to their senses eventually. Hill, is playing it smart, however, by working on a screenplay however and the general rule of that in Hollywood is that if you write the screenplay you can cast yourself in it, regardless of how ugly you are, so Hill's career should be able to stay afloat through at least one more movie.

Ellen Page:
Before 2007: This spunky Canadian had her first gig in the Canadian TV series "Pit Pony" (your guess is as good as mine) and dabbled in the Canadian film industry (the Canadian film industry consists of approximately 7 people in Halifax with hand-held cameras looking to fill their spare time since being cut from the club hockey team) before being cast as Shadowcat in X-Men 3. Being somewhere around the 11th most important character in a very, very crowded story, Page
didn't get a whole lot of notice and they probably couldn't even find a seat for her at the premiere. 

2007: Paired up with a screenwriter who matches her spunk, Ellen Page becomes the star of the year's biggest Indie hit "Juno." Critics are won over because, in all honesty, they don't comprehend what the characters are saying and decide to just give the film a good review for fear of looking stupid and Page goes onto win a prestigious Oscar nomination.

What's her future looking like?
Page's biggest obstacle to becoming filthy rich and being in lots of movies is that she seems to be somewhat picky. According to her imdb profile, Page "Considers herself to be a Feminist and tries to steer clear of the 'stereotypical roles for teenage girls' because she finds them to be 'sexist'" which disqualifies her for 98% of what Hollywood has to offer, so unless she wants to make Juno 2 there might not be too much work for her.

Casey Affleck:

Before 2007: Casey was best known as Ben’s little brother. Ben even managed to score Casey apart in Good Will Hunting and gave a shout-out to him in his Oscar acceptance speech.  Casey’s greatest accomplishment aside from sharing a set of parents with Ben has been appearing in the Ocean’s 11 series. If you’re going to respond to this last sentence with, “Huh? I had no idea that Casey Affleck was in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy and I’ve seen all the films,” don’t worry about it. I’m sure Brad Pitt and George Clooney were too busy giving charming and witty interviews and admiring themselves in the mirror to even learn the names of their costars as well. But after 2007, not only will Pitt and Clooney know Affleck’s name but they might even be willing to invite him into their trailers because………

In 2007: Affleck became a movie star. How did he accomplish this? Sheer nepotism. Ben Affleck made his directing debut which he used as a chance to help little brother out with a starring role in Gone Baby Gone. You know, however, that you've made it when someone who isn't related to you casts you in a movie as was the case with The Assassination of Jesse James where Affleck received an oscar nomination.

What's the forecast for Affleck's future? Let's just see that when Ocean's 14 comes around, Pitt, Clooney, and Damon will be carrying Casey's luggage on the film's press tour. In all seriousness, however, Affleck should be able to use his Oscar nomination to land more film roles because in Hollywood, the promotion department always wants to be able to put "Starring Oscar nominee" in front of an actor's name as long as he doesn't make the mistake of dating J-Lo or doing movies with Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton:
Before 2007: Tilda Swinton was not really anyone. She had a few lines in Adaptation and played the wicked witch (or possibly the good or mild-tempered witch, I didn't see it) in Chronic-what!-cles of Narnia Part I. In 2006, I would have probably had an easier time getting a cab than Tilda Swinton.

In 2007: Tilda Swinton has an Oscar, bitches. Even better, she got out without having to suck up to Paula Abdul or weather verbal abuse from Simon Cowell, like last year's Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Hudson. She did have to effusively compliment George Clooney on the press circuit and do a weird scene in a mirror where she stared at herself while running her finger along the outside of her bra.

What's the forecast for Swinton's future? Swinton will be competing on American Idol in hopes of getting 7th place. No but in all seriousness, Swinton is next appearing in a dramatic movie by the writer of Forest Gump where Brad Pitt ages backwards in time and falls in love with Cate Blanchett who's aging forwards, so at both ends of the timeline, one of them will be a pedophile. Not sure what Swinton's role is but let's hope she's not going to be having to have sex with any old people or babies.

Jason Bateman:
Before 2007:  Bateman was the brother of one of Michael J Fox's sisters on "Family Ties" who broke out in Arrested Development which lasted three seasons because goddamnit, no one else was watching it. Also, Bateman decided to use his newfound fame to give his sister an acting gig on Arrested Development that included his sister trying to make out with him. Weird.

In 2007: Bateman seems to be on track to being a character actor and will just show up to any film as long as they have a craft table whether it's "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium" or "The Kingdom." His big breakout role was Juno where he acted alongside his Arrested Development son and gave some pretty hilarious interviews. 

What's the forecast for Bateman's future? Bateman will continue his quest to randomly show up in as many films as possible and endlessly talk about Arrested Development's possible return to torture the 6-10 people who watched the show on the first run.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How many Oscar winners are on TV in 2014?

TV is truly in a Golden Age right now. Can you imagine TV would be this great 10 years ago. It was in the 2004-2005 school year that I declared a minor in film studies with aspirations to gobble up everything I could about film. TV wasn't even in my radar and rightfully so. It was a wasteland at the time.

The only shows I watched at the time were "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" because I thought David Spade and James Garner were both pretty interesting additions, "Arrested Development" which was constantly on the verge of being cancelled and "Conan O'Brian" because, hey, I was in college. Occasionally I caught "CSI: Miami" and "Monk" and that was about it.

2004 was a year in which "Friends" and "Frasier" went off the air with "Everybody Loves Raymond" on the way and the attempts to replace it were pretty lackluster with the exception of programs on HBO. Nowadays, when a great show ends there's hardly reason to worry as there are dozens of great shows right around the corner. The last time I mourned a show's departure was "The Office" but "Sillicon Valley," "Go On," "Review" "Broad City" and "Archer" quickly filled that void.

When "Frasier" and "Friends" went off the air, NBC filled the void with "Joey" and the animated "Father of the Pride" both of which were terrible. Nowadays, Matt LeBlanc's comeback vehicle is "Episodes" (nurtured on a network like Showtime which allowed for the proper creative freedoms) and comedies thrive on networks such as Adult Swim, FX, and Fox's animation block where they are encouraged to be offbeat and quirky.

 2004 was a year in which reality TV was threatening to take over programming. "The Apprentice," "Survivor" was as strong as ever, "Fear Factor" had been added to the mix, and there were dating shows galore. Behind the scenes, the WGA was pushing for more inclusive credits for writers on reality TV shows as if those writers were never gonna get their names on scripted shows and it was the best they can do.

These days, reality TV is an afterthought except for a few established brands. There's little fear of good TV being programmed out.

Pretty soon, things would change as a couple of the 2004-2005 hits started to grow "Entourage" "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" and this was followed by great shows. "Desperate Housewives" the ratings darling of 2004-2005 might not be that memorable in retrospect but it did have a star-studded cast and was jumped time shifts.

Also of note, the talent is going to television now. In 2014 alone there were 17 Oscar-winning actors and actresses who had won the highest honor filmdom can bestow and were acting on TV in either a recurring guest role, a miniseries, or a full-fledged credit. They are: 
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Marcia Gay Harden (The Newsroom), Jane Fonda (The Newsroom), Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge), Halle Berry (Extant), Jessica Lange (AHS: Freak Show), Kathy Bates (AHS: Freak Show), F. Murray Abraham (Homeland), Adrian Brody (Houdini), Robin Williams (Crazy Ones), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), Anna Paquin (True Blood), Marlee Matlin (Switched at Birth), Chloris Leachman (Raising Hope), Geena Davis (Gray’s Anatomy), Linda Hunt (NCIS: LA) and Octavia Spencer (Red Band Society).

Monday, December 15, 2014

My annual thank you list

Getting an actual job is about putting your resume in a box and hoping someone in HR picks it up. What I do (journalism/blogging/public relations) involves the help of a lot of other people hiring me, inspiring me, collaborating with me, and pointing me in the right direction and the least I can do is devote a blog post to them every year.

So my annual thank you edition starts with a guy named Noel Murray. He’s a TV critic and writer who I spontaneously messaged on Facebook four years wondering how I might go about becoming a TV critic from him. He was nice enough to point me I the right direction and give me some guidance for a while. I know that seems small but my high school graduation speaker (true story: Thisguy writes for Jimmy Kimmel now. Don’t ask me how he pulled off that career trajectory) once said never underestimate the potential impact of a single kind at, and I contacted Noel at a juncture in my career where I had no idea what I wanted to do next so who knows what would have happened if he didn’t pull me in that direction.
So as previously mentioned, I first applied to be a TV critic in October 2010. It took until November 2014 until I got hired as one. That’s right kids, it will take exactly 4 years, 1 months to accomplish your dreams so be prepared for the wait. Speaking of which, I’d like to give a big thanks to the person who eventually hired me. Her name is Carissa, she’s pretty tough on me, but in all fairness, she’s done two wonderful things for me: 1) Hire me and 2) Not fire me (at least not as of yet), so thanks Carissa.

Which brings me to the part where I thank everyone who's published me over the past 12 months: Scott and Neil at Film School Rejects, Scott at InsideNova, Jenny at Arlington Mag, the guy who hired me several years ago at where I just resumed my column, Erin at Mental Floss Magazine, Steve at Nostalgia Digest, Brendan at CBS TV, Haley at CollegeHumor, the folks at Cracked, and Lynn at Northern Virginia Magazine.  Thank you for taking a chance on me. I’d also like to thank anyone who gave me money to do anything for honoring me with your money, because I’ve come to learn over the years that having money is better than not having money. And remember folks, if you or someone you know is spending an inordinate amount of time writing about movies or TV, chances are that person is poor too, so remember to give them money as well.
I also have to thank someone named Liz Shannon Miller from Indiewire, who did not accept my submissions but gave me all I could ever ask for: A couple lines of advice on how to improve my pitches and left the door open for some day in the future. That makes a big deal and 95% of editors don't do that, so big props to the 5% of editors who do something that nice. which in this case is Liz.

Similarly, I’d like to thank all the people who cooperated with me in writing stories by being interviewed and the people who gave me credentials for events. There was a showrunner in Hollywood who was very cooperative on an interview with me and his entire family cooperated with me. The lovely Emily Jefffers, who I've now known for something like 20 years (wow), eventually let herself be interviewed (or rather, eventually let the interview go to press). Also, thanks to the people at Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Maryland, for example, gave me all kinds of swag and a seat next to some of the most prestigious journalists I’ve ever met. I never watched the Spelling Bee before and  would have never guessed it was interesting but I'm totally hooked.

I’d like to thank James Madison University’s School of Media Arts for inviting me to appear on a journalism panel. That was one of the highlights of my year and allowed me to briefly feel  important. I also went to that school and it hit me as I was back there: Hey, my alma mata isn’t that bad of a place!
From that conference, I met someone named Taylor Hudson who partnered up with me in my PR business and I’d like to thank her for having the confidence in me that I could somehow get her work (I did get work but after she already found another job) and I’d recommend her for a job if anyone actually listens to me for that stuff.

I’d also like to thank a guy named Dennis Perkins who is a TV critic and works at a video store (in Dennis’ own words “Shut up!”) He helped me through my creative lows a couple times this year and I’m happy he’s finally doing his thing with the AV Club.
Cory Barker deserves a shout-out for inviting me to participate on his TV roundtables. I used to read his blog quite frequently and thought it was one of the better things out there and he can now be read at, and now I’m part of the cool kids club.

My friend Adam Spektor deserves a big shout-out for running the DC Cinema Lounge in DC that meets to discuss films. It's a great time and it wouldn't happen if he didn't facilitate it. I get a lot of inspiration for my writings at those meetings.

I have an acquaintance on twitter named Christy Admiral who I once contacted when I was feeling down about my writing and she gave an opinion on my blog when I asked her. The thing is that she did this late last December so I've been waiting for 350-something days to include her in my next annual issue and I finally can get that big thank you out. See Christy doing her thing on twitter right here.

I have to give credit to all the people who are big in the world of TV criticism who treat the little people like me as equals and discuss stuff with us like Kenny Herzog, Emily Nussbaum and Matt Zoller Seitz. Nussbaum in particular is like a tweeting superhero.

As always, Christine Becker deserves special mention for looking out for all the little people (I suppose, technically, the big people benefit from her too, but let's call that an unintended consequence) in the world of TV film criticism. Christine can be found at @crsbecker and her News for TV Majors site can be found at---don't be lazy, check your twitter feeds.

There's also a guy named Jim Ciscell who  co-wrote an article with me at Cracked a while ago and is a great tipster and sounding board. @jimCiscell.   Speaking of Cracked writers, Eddie Rodriguez helped me get back in Cracked's good graces and there's a moderator there named The Pendant who is the only moderator there who's ever gone out of their way to be nice to me. I don't really  know a single thing about that person and I'd love to plug them but I have nothing to work with.

There’s also Will Harris who at this point is the MVP of my career this year. He has spent countless hours guiding me through the business and being a bouncer off of advice.  I can't possibly thank him enough or pay forward  everything he's done. Witness Will's generosity in person at the twitter handle @nonstoppop

The other MVP is a friend of mine who I've also known a gazillion years since middle school named William Marlow (it's funny because I know him as Brian) and I have no idea how he did it but he's always been pretty bright (come to think of it, literally everyone I went to high school with was ridiculously bright, it was highly annoying) and started his own company where he does big things for people. I can't even understand how big these things are, but he's been kind enough to let me in his great big world a little so I could learn, and I'm eternally greatful. Check him out

Lastly, I’d like to thank my lovely sister Yasmine for deciding two years ago she would no longer read my blog. That is wonderful news as I am no longer obligated to read her blog which is really boring. No, but in all seriousness, thanks for the support Yasmine.