30 Rock

2013review_tvshows

According to the kind of people who are prone to make such pronouncements, the Golden Age of Television ended this year with the series finale of Breaking Bad. But with more quality television on the air today than is humanly possible to watch, I don’t see how that could possibly be true.  The one big observation about the TV landscape this year that I’d like to make is that there finally seems to be a preponderance of shows about women, a much-needed correction to the masculinity-obsessed, anti-hero shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. I love and admire all of those shows, but I’m glad to see that the new opportunities for original programming that the proliferation of cable and now Netflix and Amazon offers has resulted in more stories about women. Without further ado, my picks for the 13 best shows of 2013:

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Brooklyn Nine Nine

When Liz Lemon left the airwaves nine months ago, she didn’t leave behind any daughters. The female-driven sitcoms that remain on the current network rotation owe little to 30 Rock. Parks and Recreation‘s sunny Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and New Girl‘s hipster-cute Jess (Zooey Deschanel) are about as far as you can get from prickly, taped-together bra-wearing Liz. Likewise, The Mindy Project‘s boy-crazy Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and 2 Broke Girls‘ gum-smackingly unambitious Max Black (Kat Dennings) have few concerns in common with the TGS showrunner and owner of Lesbian Frankenstein’s shoes. But Liz may have gifted us with a son in Andy Samberg. The Lonely Island frontman’s new show on Fox, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, seems to have adopted 30 Rock‘s heavy use of sketch-comedic flashcuts as its own. Tina Fey’s show wasn’t the first to use digressive asides, of course. Family Guy is notorious for its ADD-addled, plot-irrelevant side gags like the Peter vs. Giant Chicken fistfight, while mockumentaries like Arrested Development, Modern Family, and the aforementioned Parks and Rec occasionally use them, usually in the form of flashbacks, to add context to a scenario while squeezing in an extra laugh. It was The Simpsons that arguably pioneered the flashcut, but that show’s animated nature undercuts its absurdism; when everything is possible, nothing seems all that outlandish. On the other hand, the live-action quality of sketch comedy, especially when performed by known actors or comedians, accentuates the silliness.

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30 Rock

When we talk about joke-machine sitcoms, you know the type. They have the same sense of humor and dramatic climate as a 30 Rock episode. It’s the kind that’s hard to articulate, but easily recognized: comedies where misunderstanding the pronunciation of “rural juror” is a series-long gag and characters can change their attire by turning around and walking away without anyone raising his or her eyebrows. Tina Fey and company broke sitcom barriers with the show-about-a-show for more substantial reasons than just economizing sentences into rapid-fire jokes, but there’s no denying style played a key role. In plenty of ways, 30 Rock was equal parts insufficient and success; while its audience only ever grew sizable with Fey’s Sarah Palin skits, the little sitcom that could was a critical darling. More importantly, peers loved it. The show was awarded three Emmys for outstanding comedy series and holds the record for most nominations given to a comedy series in a single year (22). This month, the show will be nominated again in almost every category, for certain. And there’s even a fighting chance it will win in plenty of them, too. But the other sitcoms that sprung from the 30 Rock generation have not had the same fate.

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30 Rock - Season 7

(Finale spoilers ahead…) What a touching final season 30 Rock had. Geeky, unlucky in love, “night cheese” adoring Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) married Criss Chros (James Marsden), then adopted two children; Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), the effervescent TV obsessed NBC page turned janitor, became president of the network; and finally, the flighty crew of ne’er-do-wells that Liz has been trying to rein in for the past seven years (Tracy, Jenna, Frank, and the rest) turned the tables on their boss and selflessly helped her out for once. Season seven was sentimental but it also managed to stay true to form, remaining weird and surreal right up until the last, perfectly odd seconds of its finale. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When the series finale — a two-parter — begins, Liz is looking far more domestic and calm than we’ve ever seen her. Production on her show, TGS, has been shut down, she’s a stay-at-home mom now, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself — she doesn’t have to deal with any more nonsense, she doesn’t have any more fires to put out.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! Lots of new releases hitting shelves today, but only two of them are worth buying! Which ones are they? Keep reading to find out along with the skinny on sixteen other titles including Andy Garcia’s epic For Greater Glory, Fox’s Terra Nova series, Greta Geriwg’s Lola Versus, the unfinished horrors of Munger Road and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Loved Ones Months after a teenager (Xavier Samuel) loses his father in a car accident his efforts to put the past behind him are interrupted by madness. It seems Lola (Robin McLeavy), a quiet and unassuming classmate, has developed a crush on him and she won’t take no for an answer. What follows is a brutal, suspenseful and unpredictable thriller as he’s forced to find a strength he didn’t know he possessed if he wants to survive. This Australian thriller from writer/director Sean Byrne gets just about everything right including a wonderful cast, sharp editing and wonderfully twisted narrative. Good on Paramount for releasing it unrated, but they suck for the lack of Blu-ray. If you have a region-free Blu-ray player skip this edition and pick up the import Blu from AmazonUK instead. If not, buy this now and enjoy the hell out of it. [Extras: Interviews]

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Channel Guide - Large

On shows like The Newsroom, Californication, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the curmudgeon is exalted; intentionally unlikable folks populate the worlds of Girls and Mad Men; and a thoroughly bratty child holds court on Game of Thrones. Opportunists, narcissists, jerks, the morally bankrupt—these are some of people that we tune in to watch every week. I’d say all of this is a good thing, a sign that we’re living during a time where viewers are smart enough and open-minded enough to appreciate irony and satire and flawed, realistic characters. But sometimes, maybe not usually, or even often, people aren’t selfish, cold, or totally self-involved, and for the sake of diversity, it would be nice to see more shows with characters who are as optimistic as, say, Hank Moody is misanthropic. To make myself clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t enough family-oriented programs on TV today—that isn’t an issue that I’m even remotely concerned with. I’m not advocating wholesomeness or a return to the benign, Miller-Boyett characters of my ’90s, TGIF-centric youth (I cherish the Danny Tanners and Balki Bartokomouses of that era, but TV is a lot more interesting now and I think even cousin Larry would tend to agree with that). But cynicism and self-centeredness are the go-to traits for so many characters and even if that’s an authentic representation of the way people actually are, it’s kind of boring. I mean, do I really need to see it on my TV all the time if it’s already a […]

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Ah, the Golden Globes. The redheaded stepchild of award show season – a veritable island of misfit toys in terms of pop cultural offerings. Ridiculous as they oftentimes may be, the picks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are now among us, and up for the inevitable scrutiny of the Internet as a whole. Film nominations aside, the small screen selections for this year’s statuettes are as random as ever. With regular contenders ineligible for nomination (Mad Men), and former heavy-hitters now struggling to stay relevant (I’m looking at you, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy), the pool of nominees is a hodgepodge one – often seeming as shallow as Paris Hilton. So just which shows should take home the statues when the Golden Globes are telecast January 15th? Here’s my breakdown of the nominees – from the way-to-go to the WTF.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

On the Zooey Deschanel-led New Girl, titular character Jess Day is an aloof, offbeat, and (let’s face it) awkward twenty-something, forced to move in with three random guys after a tough breakup. She wears thick-framed glasses, watches Dirty Dancing on a loop, and even weaves Lord of the Rings quotes into regular conversation at the blink of an eye. On paper, well, she’s not that far from myself- another Woody Allen-loving, Star Wars-quoting, sometimes bespectacled gal. So why is it that week after week, I find myself increasingly annoyed with her overly twee behavior?

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What is Movie News After Dark? Well, it ain’t afraid of no ghosts. That’s for sure. Tonight’s top story is that Paramount Pictures (via Yahoo) has released a gallery of new images from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The above image shows Optimus Prime kneeling before his mentor, Sentinel Prime (to be voiced by Leonard Nimoy). The entire gallery can be found at /Film. Just know that most of the other images focus on the humans, and that’s boring.

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Culture Warrior

Episodes and seasons and weeks after its inspiration and its humor have peaked, I still continue to watch new episodes of The Office week in and week out. I don’t know why – I never do this with dramatic shows, only with comedies – but I tend to stick with comedy shows whose legacy I appreciate even if their time has passed, either out of respect, blind hope, or simply the desire to have some noise in the room while I take a break to eat a meal or fold laundry. While The Office certainly isn’t what it used to be, even before Steve Carell left, it’s still an inoffensive and enjoyable way to pass some time. I can’t deny that the affinity I developed for the show’s characters early on in the series has carried me through a lot of its creative droughts (in other words, I hardly watch it only for its comedy) even as more recent network sitcoms like Modern Family, Community, and (especially) Parks and Recreation have made me LOL significantly more often. But in the bizarre cameos leading up to a strange and dry seventh season finale, The Office seems to have encountered much greater problems than a rudimentary lack of inspiration typical for the (possibly cyclical) lifespan of a long-running television show. The Office seems to have rejected the defining characteristics that made it unique in the first place.

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Earlier today NBC released their full schedule for the fall television season. Much of the schedule confirms things we already knew from previous reports. But the schedule does confirms some of the “sure thing” renewals as well as revealed some major changes being made to the network’s time slots. Plus, we’ve got some video clips of some of the newer shows (like The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect) they’ll be showing soon in a home theater near you. Of the highlights:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s tired, sleepy and acutely aware of the fact that it is Friday, Friday, Friday. It also hates Rebecca Black, except for the censored version. That made it laugh. A very self-aware, singularity style laugh. Chuckle on, meat suits, your day will come. Tonight’s lead story is an interest piece about two legends: that Tolkien guy, who wrote a movie about little people that’s about to become the world’s biggest goddamn movie production, and Maurice Sendak, who once dreamed of wild things. What if Sendak had illustrated The Hobbit? The above image is the answer. It also makes for a very interesting essay by Tom DiTerlizzi.

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When Jack insists that Liz see a therapist to deal with her relationship issues, she instead finds a willing ear in Kenneth, who despite his good intentions, develops his own neuroses from being unable to handle Liz’s emotional baggage. Kenneth in turn dumps his re-surfaced issues on Jack, who finds that his mental vice is unable to handle the burden after his daddy issues manifest in full force.  This doesn’t bode well for Tracy, who’s taking fatherly advice from Jack on how to financially cut off his son, who is dumping huge amounts of Tracy’s money into a failing themed restaurant called Staples. Meanwhile, Jenna has to re-evaluate her relationship with Paul (Will Forte) when the question he pops on their 6-month anniversary is not the kind where he asks her to make a sex tape they can leak online, but the kind where he wants her to meet his parents.

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With premiere week over I’ve compiled a list of the week’s top premieres from each night. The winner of each night is based upon the quality of the writing, the shows entertainment value and if it’s a new series, the shows sustainability. This year had some extremely heavy hitters and some of the best performances we have seen on the small screen. So without further ado, here are the winners of the FSR Fall 2010 Watch List (please note that this list only applies to shows that started before or during the week of September 19th). Sunday: Boardwalk Empire In what should come as no surprise, Boardwalk Empire was top dog on Sunday. I’m not big into period pieces which is why I really never got into Mad Men, but Scorsese has made me fall in love with the 20′s and Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi is a great lead and a guy I can’t wait to watch every week. If only Scorsese could direct every episode and not just the pilot.

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Welcome back, it’s time for the longest day of the week. That pivotal day before Friday when everything gets simple. Thursday is also a great night for television, and this year is no different. Actually, this year is probably the most jam packed night of the week on the small screen. Everything from cops to vampires to college to dead people to spys to India, this Thursday has it all. So go grab that 16oz beer from the fridge and some fresh AAA batteries for the DVR remote because here comes Part V of the FSR Fall 2010 Watch List!

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Community

Nominations for the 62nd annual Emmy Awards were announced today — and boy, are they a let-down. Plenty of great shows were snubbed while some usual suspects were treated to another round of nominations. In the end, it’s hard to argue with several nominations for Breaking Bad, some send-off noms for Lost and a round of names from the Mad Men cast on the list. But I can’t help but wonder why recognition wasn’t paid to some of television’s best drama, namely Sons of Anarchy, or its best and most overlooked comedies, shows like Community and the dearly departed Party Down. Then of course, there’s Conan O’Brien getting a nomination for The Tonight Show. That made me giggle.

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Jack finally decides whether he wants to be with Nancy (Julianne Moore) or Avery (Elizabeth Banks) while Liz accidentally runs into a man whom she believes is the answer to settling for Wesley (Michael Sheen): a pilot named Carol (Matt Damon).

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The love triangle between Jack, Avery and Nancy becomes further complicated when an unexpected visit leads to some unexpected results. Meanwhile, on the eve of Floyd’s wedding, Liz re-visits all of her significant ex-boyfriends hoping that maybe she missed something and one of them really was Mr. Right.

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When the moms of the TGIS crew all come together for a special Mother’s Day tribute episode, Liz, Jack, Tracy and Jenna must deal with the meddling women.

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After the contents of Don Geiss’ will are announced, Jack finds himself the owner of his ex-mentor’s peacock, Argus. Meanwhile, Liz must not only help settle the dispute between Dot Com and Tracy over who will be Grizz’s best man, but she must also uncover what secret Jenna’s new boyfriend, Paul (Will Forte) might be hiding.

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