It’s been another busy year of watching TV. Some beloved shows bid adieu, some jumped the shark, others enjoyed a creative resurgence, and many new excellent shows were added to my watchlist. To celebrate, here’s my ‘best of’ list for 2015. As always, this list is both subjective and ultimately meaningless. Cheers to the new year!
Let’s be real. “Best of…” lists are always subjective, I can’t possibly watch everything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to make one. I still watched a hell of a lot of TV this year, so without further ado, here’s my list of 2014 TV superlatives:
Summer may have a reputation for being the doldrums of television, but in my opinion there’s actually some really solid reality TV to be found. You heard me right, I just endorsed the viewing of reality TV. And I’m not even going to qualify it with the word ‘guilty’ because I have no qualms about admitting my love for the following reality competition programs:
Back in 2011 I read an article on the A.V. Club by Sam Adams called “The convenience trap: What the changes at Netflix reveal about an insidious trend”. Obviously it was about Netflix, but what Adams was really getting at, beyond discussing the announcement that Netflix was going to be focusing more solely on streaming video, was that the act of prioritizing convenient entertainment would mean forgoing a lot of other great entertainment simply because one would have to work for it or wait to get it.
As a Netflix DVD-only subscriber, the article really rang true to me. If I’m going to watch a movie, I want it to be a movie that I want to see, not just one that I can see at that moment. But despite my flimsy ‘fight the power’ attitude, I’m certainly guilty of choosing easy entertainment in many other scenarios. After all, television is probably the biggest convenience trap of them all.
Between the hundreds of channels available, OnDemand services, Hulu.com, Amazon streaming, iTunes, Netflix, and even YouTube there is always something to watch. Endless entertainment is available on just about every screen in your house, at the touch of a button.
It’s a wonder I even go outside. But you know, every now and then it’s really great to get off the couch to see some live entertainment. As good as an episode may be, or however much fun you’ve had live tweeting, there is something uniquely awesome about seeing a live performance and being surrounded by a crowd of people who share the same level of enthusiasm as you do.
A couple of weeks ago, after work, I hopped on a train to NYC to see the Shaping Sound Dance Co perform its last show of their 13-city North American Tour. Now I don’t dance, (believe me when I say I can’t), but I really really love So You Think You Can Dance, which in a roundabout way is how I even knew what Shaping Sound was.
Nick Lazzarini, the season one winner of SYTYCD along with Travis Wall, the season 2 runner-up and Emmy-nominated choreographer, teamed up with two of their other dance friends (Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson*) to create the Shaping Sound Dance Company. And I know this because their efforts were chronicled on the reality show All the Right Moves, which aired on Oxygen last summer. (Most everything I know, I learned from watching TV.)
In the final episode they were approached by Gil Stroming, founder of Break The Floor Productions who showed a real interest in producing their tour. Obviously he was serious because tour dates were announced this spring.
Long story short, on Monday June 17th I found myself in a packed theater in New York City sitting two rows behind SYTYCD alum Billy Bell, and one row ahead of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a self-proclaimed dance fan, occasional SYTYCD guest judge, and one of the stars of ABC’s hit sitcom Modern Family.
Yeah, I was totally nerding out, but honestly the dancing and the show itself was the real highlight of my night. At one point I even had goosebumps, that’s how incredibly captivating the performance was. Not only was the dancing mind-blowing, especially for an uncoordinated person such as myself, but the lights and the music – everything just came together.
I left the theater that night in awe, feeling like I witnessed something that only existed in that time and space. And I know that might sound cliche or over-dramatic, but the sentiment holds true when you apply it to other live events like concerts or even sports. My feelings were only further confirmed when I watched a YouTube video of one of the dance numbers a few days later. It was exactly what I’d seen that Monday night, but it also wasn’t. When I was sitting in the theater I could feel the excitement radiating from my fellow audience members and even see the facial expressions of the dancers, both of which were sorely lacking from the YouTube video.
So turn off the TV (that’s what DVRs are for), step outside of your comfort zone, and go see something live. Anything at all. Catch a baseball game, a concert, or even a local theater production. And if you’re really set on sticking with TV, well then find a convention that appeals to you, or mark the dates on your calendar for next year’s PaleyFest or ATX Television Festival. TV is great, but there is a lot of other great entertainment out there too. You just can’t always find it from the comfort of your couch.
*Fun Fact: Kyle Robinson was the Abraham Lincoln bachelorette party stripper on Parks & Recreation (“Two Parties” 5×10).
Despite the ongoing un-summer and even un-spring like weather we’ve had in Jersey lately, I take some comfort in the knowledge that it will eventually warm up. I know this because summer TV has slowly started to come back (and because it’s almost June).
So here’s a quick rundown of some of this summer’s new and returning TV series, you know for those rainy and lazy days.
I’ve got a long list of hour-long series I am excited about, which is tricky to balance given my desire to also go outside. Among my favorites – Pretty Little Liars (6/11 Tuesdays 8pm ABC Family) and True Blood (6/16 Sundays 9pm HBO). Both are so ridiculous, in a completely entertaining kind of way.
Falling Skies is also on my to-watch list. TNT’s original sci-fi series has really come into its own in the last two seasons and returns June 16th at 10pm. Under the Dome (6/24 Mondays 10pm) has also piqued my interest. This new series is based on a Stephen King novel and was produced by Steven Spielberg, it also kind of reminds me of Jericho and its cast is highly recognizable to TV nerds like myself.
I can’t say I’m excited about it, and I don’t know if I’ll even watch, but The Killing is coming back for a third season. Yes, it was cancelled and yes they solved Rosie Larson’s case, but if watching somewhat incompetent cops drive around in the rain is your thing, then make sure to tune in on June 2nd at 8pm.
And unfortunately it’s still going to be a long wait for Breaking Bad and the return of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. The last few episodes finally return to AMC on Sunday August 4th at 9pm.
One of my favorite summer series, So You Think You Can Dance (Tuesdays on FOX) has already returned, but don’t worry you haven’t missed much – they are still in the audition phase.
In the realm of guilty pleasures – Wipeout is back. Catch it at 8pm on Thursdays on ABC. If your a fan of fake scripted series, the second season of TLC’s Breaking Amish airs Sundays at 10pm.
America’s Got Talent kicks off its competition on Tuesday June 4th 2013 on NBC at 9pm. And for anyone who prefers winter, well, Ice Road Truckers is all new Sunday June 9th at 10pm on the Discovery channel.
There are also a good number of culinary competition shows making their debut over the next few weeks, if that’s your sort of thing.
Click here for a complete list of 2013 Summer TV premier dates.
If your favorite summer series wasn’t mention, my apologies, there is seriously way more ‘new’ TV on during the summer than you might think. Networks are even burning off cancelled series like 666 Park Avenue and Zero Hour, so if you were a fan now’s the chance to set the DVR and see what never was. But seriously, check out this comprehensive list of premier dates for summer TV -happy viewing!
Let me first say that the new one-episode a week format of So You Think You Can Dance is a welcomed change for season 9. But besides the elimination (pun intended) of the mostly-filler results show, this season has felt a bit off*.
So before we crown two season 9 champions, here’s a quick run-down of why I think this season has been weird but also why I still love SYTYCD.
It should go without saying that the dancers (all-stars and current contestants alike) are brilliant at what they do, which is why it generally sucks to cut people each week. With such a high-caliber of talent this season and no clear front runner, I felt like a lot of dancers were sent home before their time (mostly causalties of the double elimination nights).
I would have loved to have seen more from Alexa (who was heavily touted in Vegas week), Amber (who performed an incredible routine the week of her elimination), and Will (who I felt like we never really got to see dance without any gimmicks).
With that said, I’m still happy with the final four contestants (Go Eliana!) and this season has certainly provided its fair share of memorable routines too. Allison and Cole’s Sonya Tayeh piece might be my new favorite:
Kudos to SYTYCD for bringing back favorites like Christina Applegate and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, but what’s with the guest judges who have never seen the show before (Michael Nunn & Billy Trevitt) or ones who can’t speak without a script (Zooey Deschanel)?
On a related site note: Thank God for Cat Deeley. Not only does she save floundering guest judges but she keeps the show on schedule, builds a personal repertoire with all of the dancers, and keeps Mary and Nigel in check. I’m really hoping Cat Deeley wins an Emmy this year, she really deserves it.
With some of the most memorable routines to her name, I was super excited for her to come back, but the tribute show was a major mistep on SYTYCD’s part.
First of all, part of the fun of watching the show is seeing new partnerships develop and new works of art unfold in front of our eyes. If I want to watch an older number, I’ll just YouTube it. Second, some of Mia’s pieces like “Time” (about seeing her father again in the afterlife) is something that really was never critiqued the first time around because the the loss was so recent, but this time around it was like open season on the dancers since it’s been like five years. And third, some routines are just epic and any re-creation is not going to live up to what we all remember. The bench routine with Heidi and Travis and Hometown Glory with Katee and Joshua are two such examples.
“Yay” for just one episode a week, “Boo” for the multiple breaks the show took to accommodate the Olympics and 4th of July. Between all of the time off and double eliminations I felt like I hardly got to know the dancers this season.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still a huge fan of So You Think You Can Dance and despite my quibbles I still think it’s one of the best reality shows on TV – so with that said, I’m just hoping they continue to make changes for the better. Until then, make sure to tune into the Season 9 finale on Tuesday September 18th at 8pm on FOX.
*Not nearly as off as the ill-conceived fall season in 2009 (season 6).