Things I Watched That I Loved: Week of February 17th, 2013
This is the first edition of a new blog post series on Heroine TV. I watch so much television, but I have often lamented that this blog doesn’t really reflect that. So I thought I’d try out this new format as a way to cover my favorite TV of the week. I’ll keep the list down to five, with some honorable mentions at the end, and just discuss each show briefly.
1. The Americans
Episode 1×04, “In Control,” aired Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
When I reviewed the pilot, FX’s new spy drama was off to a great start and I was cautiously optimistic. But pilots are funny things, and can only do so much (or so little, as the case may be) in terms of predicting the future quality of a television series. Now, four episodes into The Americans, and I am more enthralled each week. Honestly, I look forward to this show more than any other at the moment. I rush to watch it live each week, and am sad when it’s over. Luckily, the series was renewed for a second season already, so we can feel free to get invested.
“In Control” did something new for the series in that it focused on a specific historical event: the assassination attempt on President Reagan. The shooting by John Hinckley, Jr. is something still in the public memory. Although I was only a few months old at the time, the fact that a crazy person tried to shoot the president was something I was definitely aware of later on, as a young child. Like Mad Men’s episode about Kennedy’s assassination, “The Grown-Ups,” it captured the ways in which an act of violence affected ordinary people in the nation. While it wasn’t as an emotional of an episode as “The Grown-Ups,” we got a glimpse of the unrelenting news cycle, and how kids like Paige, Henry, and Matthew reacted to this event.
More importantly, “In Control” depicted how this very real event might affect not so ordinary people, people keyed into political events, like Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings and FBI agent Stan Beeman. I was a little confused at first as to the Soviet reaction to the shooting. What was Elizabeth afraid of, and what exactly were her directives? But at a certain point in the episode, it hit me: the Soviets were afraid that General Haig, the U.S. Secretary of State, would stage a coup. I was watching the episode with my mom, and when we realized this, we both started laughing. The idea was preposterous! In the decades that we’ve spent in this country, the idea that a Cabinet official would stage a coup and take over the U.S. government never even occurred to us. The fear that the democratic process would fail in such a violent way never even occurred to us. And I have to admit, this realization sparked a brief moment of profound relief and gratitude that this was the case.
The fact that it not only occurred to Elizabeth, but was a very real fear, said everything. Combined with the flashbacks to Elizabeth’s childhood, her fears told us everything about her ideology and her attitude towards America. And when Phillip pointed out that the stakes were a potential World War III, and he tried to convince her that she was wrong, that scene told us everything about this show. That was some amazing TV.
On a side note, how great are the spy trappings on this show? I remarked in my pilot review that other than Elizabeth’s blond wig, the show avoided cheesiness. It also avoided high tech gadgets to solve the spies’ problem. The espionage of The Americans was down and dirty, with no easy tech solutions. But then in episode two they introduced wiretapping. Yet it was the 1981 version of wire tapping, requiring an elaborate scheme to steal a clock and replace it, and also requiring Phillip to listen in down the street, with shaky reception. No easy way out. I am really getting a kick out of the early 80s tech. Another example was putting a piece of paper in some kind of chemical solution, which revealed a secret message. This stuff is fun, but believable. I love it. Also, Phillip’s wigs are a revelation. Take note, other man-wigs of television.
2. Parks and Recreation
Episode 5×14, “Leslie and Ben,” aired Thursday, February 21st, 2013
“I love you and I like you.” Leslie and Ben’s wedding ruined weddings for the rest of humanity, but it was worth it. Will you feel that your special day is special enough without Ron Swanson to walk you down the aisle? I think not. If your wedding rings weren’t forged out of a light fixture stolen from your best friend’s home, can it even be called a marriage? I think not. If your wedding dress isn’t made of newspaper clippings from your career, shouldn’t you just give up? Seriously, “Leslie and Ben” melted my cold, unromantic heart. I teared up at least three times, and I’m not sorry.
But it was way more than a sob fest or fan service. The episode was also genuinely funny. I always marvel how Parks and Rec can manage to be moving and inspiring, while also completely hilarious. Amy Poehler is just magical, I guess. As is Lil’ Sebastian. Of course, the rest of the cast was excellent as well, as usual. I always love the episodes when everyone pulls together to help Leslie. As funny things go, Chris Traeger’s investigation of Anne’s jewelry box stands out for me, in particular. A toe ring with a brown gemstone, Anne? Seriously? “Is that a ruby that’s gone bad?” The best. Rob Lowe, never leave us. Oh, and who knew Retta could sing? Perfection.
Episode 3×05, “The Sins of My Caretaker,” aired Sunday, February 17th, 2013
Emmy Rossum is insanely good in this show, and more people should be talking about it. She is incredible. I don’t have the words. While this wasn’t my favorite episode of the season, the events at the end begin a stellar arc for Fiona that I am really excited for you guys to watch. Seriously, the next three episodes are great, as they really explore what it means to be a Gallagher. While certain storylines are not really my cup of tea—a lot of the raunchy and outrageous humor isn’t really my thing—Shameless kills it when it comes to the family relationships. No matter how crazy things get, I always pull for the Gallaghers, as I buy their love for each other so totally and completely. I’m so glad that this show is on the air. (And where is Emmy Rossum’s Emmy?)
4. Hart of Dixie
Episode 2×15, “The Gambler,” aired Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Hart of Dixie is my happy place. And even though Wade might have cheated on Zoe this week (I think it’s still unclear or maybe I’m in denial), that is still true. All the band shenanigans, George singing again, and Lemon’s purple hair … it’s just a fun show. Like comfort food for my jaded soul. Plus, is there any TV character more perfect than Lavon Hayes? He needs to be my best friend. Also, zombie musical proposal. Zombie musical proposal, you guys! What other show would do that? What other show could do that? Never leaves us, Bluebell!
5. Lost Girl
This is a Netflix pick, and I’m nowhere near caught up to the current season, but I had to include it on this list. I’ve only watched five episodes, but I’m already hooked! I knew about the series already, since my friend Melissa is a fan, but I have so many other shows that I never took the time. Then last week, Tash and Amy recommended it to me on The VRO, during our online radio show about The Following, and they compared it to Buffy. That was the magic word. So, I check out the pilot, and it was dark and sexy and quirky and funny, so I kept watching. I love it!
If you haven’t heard of Lost Girl, the premise is this: a succubus named Bo has spent her whole life lost, not knowing who or what she is, but now she’s determined to find out the truth about her past. In the pilot, Bo saves a girl named Kenzi from a rapist, who put a drug in her drink and followed her into an elevator. Using her succubus powers, Bo kills the man, but not intentionally; she can’t control her powers. On the run from the police, the two ladies strike up a partnership. The friendship between Bo and Kenzi is central to the show, and what really drew me in. Ksenia Solo is incredible as Kenzi, and so much fun to watch. And can we talk about her wig collection? But back to the plot. Bo is captured by the Fae, discovering that there is a whole supernatural underworld divided into light and dark. She refuses to choose a side, making her a wild card in the Fae world, and a key player is something we don’t yet understand. Oh, and there’s a hot werewolf named Dyson, who is also a detective. His chemistry with Bo is electric, and there are major sexy times. Also, Bo’s sexuality is fluid, and there’s a female doctor that she really connects with too. And I’m only five episodes in, so who knows what’s in store? Pretty tempted to drop all other shows off my TV schedule and dedicate all my evenings to Lost Girl.
- I am really digging FOX’s new creepy serial killer drama, The Following. While there were never characters so stupid as some of the law enforcement officers (and victims) on this show, that is par for the course in the horror genre I guess. Regardless, it is a heart-pounding, crazy ride. The cast is incredible, and the character dynamics are dark and twisted. I am hooked. Like I mentioned above, I cover The Following on The VRO, with Amy and Tash. We discuss the series on a weekly basis, and have so much fun doing it. You can listen in on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET, or catch the episodes on demand. We’re not recording this week, but tune in next week for a recap of two episodes.
- Matt Davis is back on TV! While I found the Cult pilot to be pretty terrible (sorry!), at least it was terrible in an interesting way. I am curious to see where the series will go in its thirteen episode run, though it looks like those episodes will be all we will get, given the ratings. And did I mention that Matt Davis is back on my TV? Obviously I will watch every episode of Cult. Because of reasons.
- Scandal is insane right now. “Nobody Likes Babies,” the episode from February 7th, was one of the most shocking things I’ve ever seen on TV. I watch a lot of TV, so it takes a lot to shock me. Death, coming back from the dead, whatever. It doesn’t faze me much these days. But Scandal succeeded, where other shows have failed. In spades. Shocking events, after shocking events. I was IMPRESSED. And I needed to lie down afterwards and recover. They completely overturned the world of the show, and the lives of all the characters. Again I say, it was impressive.
- Switched at Birth, you guys! It is so good. The show rebounded from its weaker soapy stint during the summer, and it is back to being worthy of recommendation. Since it returned in January, it has been on a roll. No other show does what it does. And I even forgive Vanessa Marano for April Nardini. This is powerful stuff.
- I am continuing to love Spencer Hastings’ downward (but really upward) spiral into crazy on Pretty Little Liars. I can’t get enough of her frizzy hair of depression. Troian Bellisario is carrying that show right now. On that note, I’ve been joining Amy and Nat on The VRO on Wednesday evenings at 7pm ET. You can check out our last episode here.