When you are growing up in the years that will somewhat shape the kind of person you will be, something that will form no matter how you look at it is the type of person you are attracted to. Straight, gay, or in between, a lot of what we see that influences us into determining who we like happens to be on the big screen or the television at home. So many of us have an attraction to bears and bear types, yet there had to be a starting off point that got us to where we are today, whether it is from a dating or sexual viewpoint. I recently polled a ton of my bear & bear loving friends with the simple question- “Who was the first bear-type of guy that did it for you on television and/or the movies?” The colorful responses I got were quite in depth and interesting, as the tastes varies depending on body hair, age, charisma, race, and so much more. [Read more…] about Who Was Our First Celebrity “Bear” Crush Growing Up?
Ever since Breaking Bad ended last fall, it’s been a hot-button issue among TV heads to ask what the best show on television currently is. Alright, so this is frequently discussed no matter what the television climate, but Breaking Bad’s premiere turned out to be somewhat prophetic, as it aired during the near end of The Wire’s final season. Therefore it would only feel systematic that another show would crop up around now that could take on the title of torch-bearer. Many will say Game of Thrones is, as its most ardent fans will make a case that besides the unbelievable scale of its production values, it carries a mythology and story to it that truly makes it masterful. Those less inclined to fantasy, however, might argue that Orange is the New Black is a valid contender, having just released it’s excellent second season all in its entirety, and shown viewers that the series isn’t afraid to shake up formula from time-to-time. Others would also point out that True Detective’s freshman year was both stellar and unique for the TV landscape, and it will be intriguing to see how it will make its mark on anthology-format shows.
Still, as great as all these shows are, there’s one ostensible factor that causes them to automatically jump to the top of people’s must-see lists: They’re all hour-long dramas. Keeping that in mind, that’s probably a good reason why FX’s Louie isn’t brought up as much it should be, in regards to discussions of contemporary television’s most elite. We still live in an age where the dramatic is considered more prestigious and weighty than the comedic, but that’s why my personal choice for “best-show” on television is so relishable. Not only does Louie flip that distinction on it’s head, but it also finds humor in the melancholic, and vice versa. It’s the type of film-making and writing you usually find in independent and foreign cinema, certainly not for a show on cable, but Louie is just the sort of bitter-sweet stroke of brilliance that television has just never aired before-hand, and in its fourth year the show has only gotten better with age.
Ever since the show premiered back in 2010, much consideration has been giving to how much the series resembles Woody Allen, and I don’t think there’s still any reason to argue with such. With it’s “New-York-for-New-Yorkers”-vibe, jazzy soundtrack, and musings on philosophy, Louis C.K. is every bit the heir to the king of neuroticism (only with more dick jokes), and in a sense the show is funniest when it is at its most derivative. Episodes like “Model” and the six-part “The Elevator”, adopted a format that was almost European, coming off as both whimsical and dreary, but Louie never lost his own voice, with his singular comic timing, and relatable sad-sack stories. Still, the show also plays as something of a satire for city life, with this season opening with a hilarious scenario, that involves Louis C.K. trying to explain an unfunny joke to a stereo-typical working-class New Yorker. Better still, the show remained as intellectual as ever, with some of the season’s best lines coming from new-comer Charles Grodin as Louie’s new doctor. Replacing Ricky Gervais’ cheerfully sadistic Dr. Ben from previous seasons, Dr. Bigelow proved to be an even more hilarious allegory for Louie’s personal woes, giving him advice both sound yet abstract (“Know what’s the only thing happier than a three-legged dog? A four-legged dog.”) fittingly for his dead-pan stance.
Still, the most impressive moments in Louie come from those that stem from Louis C.K.’s personal experience. One of the most endearing running gags for Louie is how his character is always so eager to meet and elope with beautiful women, but his un-attractive body type and neurotic sensibilities usually keep his success rate low. For this reason, this season’s third episode, “So Did the Fat Lady”, came off as particularly memorable, as it involves an overweight girl (played by Sarah Baker) showing strong interest in romantically pursuing Louie, yet he shrugs her off. When the episode climaxes with a torrential outburst from Baker’s character (complete with what I think is the first case of “fuck” being uncensored on FX) about her life long struggle with being a “fat girl”, then you realize that this season has entered a whole new realm of provocation previously unexplored by the series.
Even more impressive though, comes in the season’s mega-episode “In the Woods” which looks at Louie’s formative years as a teen. Delivered with virtually no laughs, and running at 90 minutes with commercials, this episode takes a sentimental look at youth, exploring Louie’s problems with his parents, peers, and marijuana (in real life, Louis C.K. had said that he had dabbled with even stronger drugs than pot), all while being a good student, and narrowly escaping a prosecution. While the show has always been so affable for how it’s been able to tell thoughtful and satisfying stories in brief increments, you can tell that this very personal episode necessitated having a feature-length running time to it. Topped with guest appearances from the likes of Skipp Sudduth and Jeremy Renner, it was the season’s biggest surprise, and the fact that it ended with a dedication to Philip Seymour Hoffman (who was supposed to have a role in the episode as well) made it all the more heart-felt. This might very well be the show’s finest hour to date.
Honestly, I could just go-on-and-on about how special this season was. To the guest appearances of Louie’s comedy pals Sarah Silverman and Todd Barry, to the growing chemistry that he has with his children, to the three-part concluding arc that ends on a note between Louie and his love interest Pamela that verges on the serene, this is what all comedic television should aspire to. Throughout it’s run, people have compared Louie to previous off-beat comedies such as Seinfeld, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or The Office. Louie may very well have garnered plenty of influence from those series, but by now it’s amassed an identity far more transcendent. If anything, I would compare Louie to shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Breaking Bad, not just because they are in vogue, but because they’re all series that have broke out of any genre base they might have had, and formed into something far more qualitative.
December is pretty much the most satisfying month of the year for me, but not for the usual holiday cheer or what have you. As a cultural critic, I get incredibly giddy and anxious about composing a best of the year list, and will often spend so much of December’s 31 days going over and over in my head about what titles deserve what place in my self-coveted spot. Some friends of mine will verify that last year I blew off a post-Christmas party so that I could catch a screening of D’Jango Unchained so that I could write my 2012’s best films list ASAP (Please help if you think I might have a problem. D’Jango Unchained did not even make my top 10 for that year.).
So it comes with great pleasure that I was able to formulate a top 10 list for television shows relatively early in the month. I was a bit hesitant about writing is just now, but as my fellow Manhattan Digest contributor Michael Tyminski just elaborated on (here), we’re currently in a stand-still for weekly quality television at the moment, and we should consider that the best of the year has already happened. Therefore, I feel now is the perfect time to unleash my take on what were my favorite shows of the past year, right before unleashing my gargantuan best-films list at the month’s end(I’m currently aiming for it to be a top-25). Keep in mind I haven’t seen everything that aired this past year, with The Americans, The Bridge, Justified, American Horror Story, and Hannibal being a few of the critically acclaimed shows I missed. You could say I’m unqualified to write this list, but believe it or not, I do have a social life.
10. Masters of Sex
Those that read my review for the Masters of Sex pilot know that I basically saw it as Mad Men-lite, so I’m both glad and surprised to say how strongly the quality of the show shifted during the rest of the season. It really is an intelligent break down on sexual relations of all shapes and forms, without being overtly raunchy or obvious. It certainly isn’t without melodrama (like Nip/Tuck, it’s essentially a sexed-up soap opera), but the acting often surpasses the occasionally hokey writing, with all the cast fully understanding how to find quality tv drama here, and who would have thought Michael Sheen and Liz Caplan would have such chemistry? I even take back what I said about how I felt the film making seemed anachronistic, as the production values do allow the show to look both modern, and a part of the time period it’s depicting. Here’s hoping it doesn’t follow the same pattern of other Showtime series like Dexter and Homeland, which followed up their strong debut seasons with subsequent ones that were more a mixed bag.
9. Parks and Recreation
It’s just so re-assuring to see that this show has remained so strong into it’s 6th year. Maybe it’s the consistently witty writing, or the unique subject matter to fit the now tired faux-documentary format, but I think that it’s more or less because of the cast. They really did pick a dream-team of comics for this show, and I’m hoping my holy trinity (Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, and Nick Offerman) will be getting a very special collaborative episode in the near future. My pick for the best show on network television right now…at least until we see Dan Harmon’s return as showrunner for Community next year.
8. House of Cards
2013 will probably go down as the year web-based-television really took off, and what’s a better show to ring it in than House of Cards. An intimidating political thriller featuring an all-star cast of film actors, the show really demonstrates that Netflix is interested in garnering some of the prestige that HBO has hogged up since The Sopranos. Executive producers David Fincher and Eric Roth, and show runner Beau Willimon clearly wanted to do more than just adapt the British mini-series, and they’ve created a very modern take on Shakespearean drama, in a very seedy and all too present backdrop. Stylish and chilly (albeit a little soulless at times), I for one am really hoping the show doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump next season…but I don’t think that will be a problem.
It seems like every year there’s a great show that’s taking off the air way too early, and this year’s was definitely Enlightened. After a rough but entertaining first season, the show really found it’s voice in these final eight episodes, which saw main character Amy try and take down the corporate world that had employed her. Carefully plotted from start to end, the season was thoughtful, angry, cautious, and sweet in a way that’s hardly seen on television, even on HBO. It’s a shame that it didn’t find it’s audience in time to avoid a cancellation, but it can rest peacefully with the likes of Terriers and Party Down with this mantra lain upon it: “We just needed a little bit of time to be brilliant”.
6. Mad Men
I’ll admit the show had a bit of a rough start this season. Seeing Don reading Dante’s Inferno, or hearing Betty make bizarre comments about rape made me think that Matthew Weiner and his writers had finally lost a grip on subtlety. Fortunately though, the show got back to it’s usually excellent standards quickly enough, with episodes that ranged from thematically rich like A Tale of Two Cities, to the deliciously surreal The Crash. A really unexpected ending too, and also one that makes one think that the real face of Don Draper has yet too be uncovered.
5. Orange is the New Black
Jenji Kohan’s fictionalized take on Piper Kerman’s memoir is the best new show of the year by a long shot. While Kohan’s past experience as the creator of Weeds is visible in the show’s sense of humor and strong female characters, it will surprise many how this one season of Orange is the New Black is already so much more complex and subversive than Weeds was throughout its entire eight season run. It’s an examination on ethnicity and gender, as well as a suspenseful serial with no aversion to using cliffhangers, as well as a cheer inducing drama about the power of the human spirit. There’s been much talk over the past few months about how a lot of signature television series are ending soon, but we should rest assured that if Orange is the New Black is the designated torch holder for the likes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, then there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. This is the reason you got a Netflix account!
4. Game of Thrones
I have to admit that I haven’t been as in love with Game of Thrones as some of you other people. Sure, it’s a show that possibly has the most impressive production values in TV history, and the nerd in me is just so elated to see a beloved series of fantasy novels turned into an exceedingly popular and adult television serial for a premium station. Still though, I have to say that I had found the previous two seasons too removed from reality for me to care too much about the characters. This season, however, changed everything and I did find myself completely immersed in George R.R. Martin’s characters, and the horrible ordeals he puts them through. There were just so many great scenes this season, from Jaime and Brehn’s tear-soaked bath, to Jon Snow’s coupling with Ygritte, and of course there was that little scene in the penultimate episode that made us go straight to our twitter feeds and express how incredible this fucking show is! No need to exaggerate here, Game of Thrones is the best high fantasy epic ever put to screen.
Did Lena Dunham silence the haters for the sophomore season of her rather divisive HBO dramedy…hell no! What we can be thankful for, however, is that Ms. Dunham did indeed step up her game as a writer and director this season, making it even more raw and dirty than the first year, but with far greater pay-off. We witnessed the characters explore issues of sexuality and over-privilege, while also dropping great hints about how unhappy they are underneath their seeming self-regard. People will continue to think Girls is a shallow and niche take on contemporary 20-something life from a jaded and shallow 20-something, but these people seriously needs to see the episode One’s Man Trash, as I feel it’s the most indepth and intrinsic work that Dunham has done to date. Feel free to continue calling the show a pretentious piece of shit, but just don’t call it the new Sex and the City, as it’s a lot closer to being the new Sopranos.
2. Eastbound and Down
I was wary at first about Eastbound and Down returning for another season, as the creators had previous stated that season 3 would be their last. Fortunately though, it didn’t take long into this season to realize there was still more story to be told about Kenny Powers, and in the end this season proved to be an even better ending for this series. Seeing the character regress from a family man back into a debaucherous dick-head just seemed so genuine for the show, but it was also surprising to see the merits this character would achieve as the season went on. It all led up to a finale that was even more grandiose and satisfying than the conclusion for that other brilliant show that ended this year (see below), and really makes me hopeful that Eastbound and Down will be looked at as an influential American comedy in future years, and find a larger audience. It’s a sit-com that re-invented itself each year, told a fluid and progressive story, and managed to be consistently funny, yet a sad and weighty tale as well. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to watch all 29 episodes of the best comedy that HBO has ever aired (with all respect to Curb Your Enthusiasm).
1. Breaking Bad
No surprise, right? Those of you that read my Breaking Bad: The Legend Ends column already know my thought concerning this show’s final batch of episodes, but I would like to make one final comment: The episode Ozymandias, is what I feel really made this series shine. It was just such a devastating and no holds barred episode that used the serialized and organic nature of the show’s entire run to bring it to an all time dramatic high. It really was the episode we had been waiting for since we witnessed Walt make that unfortunate decision to become a meth cook back in the pilot, and the result was the show’s true transgression from brilliant pulp into great tragedy. It was one of the very best episodes a TV show has ever had…and the next two weren’t too shabby either. There, that’s all that remained to be said.
This year’s Grammy awards brought out an array of fashion. Despite CBS’s comical dress code, the stars still looked hot this year. CBS sent a notice that the attendees of the Grammy awards should not wear anything revealing; no plunging necklines, side boobs, or butt views. Although CBS tried to control the fashion, many artists clearly disregarded the networks warnings. This is the 2013 Grammy Fashion review.
One artist who visibly paid no attention to the dress code was Katy Perry. Perry’s revealing mint green Gucci dress was skin tight and the peep hole at her chest was anything but censored. Her cleavage was fully exposed! The dress was unattractive and Katy Perry looked a little undone. Not her best.
Another artist who ignored the no “bare skin’ rule was Kelly Rowland in Georges Chakra. The fitted black gown was beautiful and had many, many revealing lines. If she moved the wrong way all of her naughty parts would have been on display. Thankfully there were no slips, but it was obvious Rowland was unfazed by the clothing regulations this year.
I have to admit I was slightly let down by the fashion at the Grammy’s this year. Nothing really astounded me. That being said, there were a few celebrities whose choice of dress was beautiful and warrants mentioning.
My best dressed this year goes to; Rihanna!
I must admit I fully expected Rihanna to completely go against the dress code and shock us all, but she decided to keep it tasteful. The singer rocked a dazzling red Azzedine Alaia gown, sheer panels’ criss-crossed over the chest and haltered on the neck. The skirt was full and flowing chiffon. She looked elegant and still made a statement.
Carrie Underwood looked striking last night. She was put together from head to toe. The strapless Roberto Cavalli gown hugged her curves and accentuated her toned arms. The pattern on the dress was elegant and the beading on the skirt was breath taking.
Faith Hill really surprised me this year. The knee length frock she wore fit her perfectly and the sheer, embroidered top was lovely. The lace jacquard on the skirt was so subtle you could barely see it. This J. Mendel dress looked stunning on Faith Hill.
And now for my favorite part of the Grammy’s… the WORST DRESSED. The Grammy’s always brings out some of the most outrageously heinous fashions. And, oh, they did not disappoint me this year! I’ll try and narrow it down to my top 5 this year.
#5 – Jennifer Lopez
J.Lo’s dress looked like a hefty bag. The cut out for her leg to stick through made no sense!
#4 – Nicole Kidman
Her dress aged her and the muted colors washed her out.
#3 – Adele
I feel wretched naming Adele as one of my worst dressed, but the pregnant Grammy winner looked like she was wearing curtains!
#2 – Solange Knowles
Beyonce’s younger sister looked like a cracked out Diana Ross. The sparkly green dress was cheap looking and the orange heels were horrible.
#1 – Ashanti
Ashanti’s floral dress was too revealing and looked cheap.
Lastly, I want to shout out a few of the men who rocked it last night…
Country cutie Hunter Hayes looked handsome in his Hugo Boss black suit.
Justin Timberlake rocked his Tom Ford suit and had all of us ladies swooning.
The fashion at the Grammy’s this year was toned down compared to previous years. No one really amazed me. I remember tuning into the Grammy’s and being dazzled by the unique costumes the musicians would adorn. I look forward to the outrageous red carpet and can only hope that next year will be more eventful.