Ranking Netflix Original Shows: Part 1

I was hesitant to give a Netflix original a try back in 2013, but when the buzz around “Orange is the New Black” became too loud to ignore, I was swayed to appreciate the brilliant concept streaming really is: Consumers like it because of the lack of annoying network regulations and censorship, plus no commercials, and the ability to devour episode after episode without waiting a week in between (thanks to Netflix for that; other platforms like Hulu lack that particular perk). Showrunners probably appreciate the flexibility and innovation. And Netflix, well they get to see their numbers start shooting up because no one wants to be left out when the hype starts circulating about an awesome new show, so they hurry to sign up. Without delving into too much research, I believe Netflix was the first to offer streaming-only television. Now Hulu and others like Amazon Prime and HBO Go have jumped on the money-making bandwagon. I haven’t strayed too far from Netflix because it’s still top banana in my eyes, but I may have to make an exception soon to check out Aaron Paul in “The Path” (Hulu).

Anyway, the list of Netflix originals started small and has significantly expanded over the past couple of years and within the past few months, I’ve finally started to branch out and try a few more. Some of the newer ones with short episodes and truncated seasons take barely a day to watch. Others are more of a long-term commitment. And many are pleasant surprises. Below is a sampling of the ones I’ve tried so far and where they rank in my personal opinion. 

1. Orange Is The New Black

OITNB

The OG of Netflix originals. I was hooked instantly on the story of Piper Chapman, a wealthy good girl whose brief stint as a drug mule catches up to her just before the statute of limitations reaches its cut-off. She winds up having to leave her fiancé and incredulous family grappling with many questions and a slight inability to cope with these revelations as she enters a women’s prison in upstate New York for 15 months. What ensues is a very real, scary, uplifting, unflinching, funny, and sometimes heart-breaking look at life as an inmate. I read the biographical tale on which the show is based and was impressed with how the smallest paragraph in writing became a running theme for an entire episode on screen. I love learning the backstories of these incredibly complex characters. The show does hit some speed bumps, particularly as the seasons go on, but it still has that X factor that keeps you coming back for more. It’s also morphed into an all-out event that keeps viewers itching with anticipation. When season 3 was released a day early last year, the social handles for the show knowingly acknowledged that people would be devouring it all on the spot, tweeting out questions like, “Who’s still with us?” at 4 a.m. with winking emojis. It’s fun to feel like you’re part of a collective watching party and few shows elicit that vibe the way OITNB does. Continue reading

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Ageism is Alive and Well in TV Land’s ‘Younger’ Campaign

“Nobody at work knows this, but … I’m not 26. I’m 40. […] and I have to make myself invaluable before anyone figures it out and I become a think piece on Slate.”

Younger

We heard that, Liza! What’s old is new again over at TV Land and not just in their relentlessly lauded new program “Younger.” The network officially announced its rebranding last summer, rolling out fresh original series aimed, they say, at Generation X. They marked the launch with the Darren Star dramedy, which tells a parallel story of revamping image for professional gain. When Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) attempts to re-enter the work force after taking a 15-year hiatus to raise her child, she’s abruptly faced with the harsh reality of today’s job market—you’re either too young and therefore inexperienced or too old and therefore overqualified.

While it’s highly unlikely that this particular plot would be feasible in reality (social security numbers are a thing, people), it does beg the question: To what lengths are people willing to go to find work that’s meaningful to them? Liza Miller, fictional as she may be, probably could’ve found employment somewhere at age 40, but she has her heart set on returning to an industry she loves. In a highly competitive market, especially found within publishing/media, would she have managed to convince a company to let her start “anywhere,” even if that meant being the only assistant not straight out of college? Where is the happy medium between inexperienced and overqualified? Does it even exist anymore? Continue reading

Winter-Spring 2016 Mini Movie Reviews

SPOTLIGHT
11/25/15

Key Players: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo

SpotlightEven though I’ve only spent a couple of short months in a real hustle-and-bustle newsroom and never at a major paper, I still get really amped when I watch movies about that kind of setting. It takes me back to when I worked for my college paper—the Spotlight team’s tiny room sectioned off from the rest of the staff made me nostalgic for our tiny computer lab in the basement of the student union, heavy with the scent of newsprint and stale coffee.

Spotlight truly deserved its Best Picture win—what a powerful film. As a journalist, I easily related to their passion for the story, their sense of duty to discover the truth and unveil it to the world. As a former Catholic school kid, the statistics were staggering. Based on true facts, Spotlight tells the story of how The Boston Globe exposed the wide-spread scandal of pedophilic priests and the massive cover-up within the Catholic Church. It hit the front page of the Sunday paper in early 2002 and sent shockwaves around the country—and, as the end credits show, the world.

Should you see it?
If you enjoy journalism movies or are interested in the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

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Who will meet Lucille tonight?

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I have my theories. We all do. And in approximately 2 hours, we may have those theories confirmed.

My theory: Though a character or two may perish before the episode’s end, I think we’ll get an agonizing cliffhanger in that we won’t find out who meets Lucille’s business end until season 7 premieres. This leaves us the entire summer (and part of fall) to debate even more theories, a PSA I can’t wait to write. In the meantime, I want to hear your thoughts, so cast your vote and then discuss in the comments!

Top Five TV Power Couples

“Power couple” is a phrase thrown around rather often these days, particularly in pop culture. You’ve probably heard it applied to Brad and Angelina (accurately). Barack and Michelle (obviously). Kim and Kanye (painfully). It assigns a higher status to two influential people who are romantically linked—while giving them an impossibly annoying nickname—and using their combined prestige to make a difference, or, in Kimye’s case, make headlines. I don’t think it can apply to just anyone though. When I think of power couples, I envision those with actual power. It’s a little easier to pinpoint them within entertainment and they run especially rampant in television. So I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite characters whom I believe perfectly encapsulate the notion of the power couple.

Rick & Michonne
The Walking Dead

Rick and Michonne

Romance is rare in the zombie apocalypse, so it’s pretty refreshing when a new coupling makes their first move. Richonne just seemed like something all of Tumblr was screaming for but might not ever happen (like Caryl, though I’m still gunning for that one), but now it’s actually real. At the end of episode 6.10 “The Next World,” Rick and Michonne are chatting about their day “honey, I’m home” style and some impulsive hand-holding quickly leads to other things. The next day, Rick tells Carl “this is different.” And it feels different. Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira have both said in interviews that living in Alexandria and being in a place where they finally feel confident in their safety and their ability to survive has led them to remember that there’s more to life than stabbing, shooting, and slicing walkers on the reg. They’ve recognized something in each other that makes sense and it’s an organic acknowledgement of feelings that perhaps they just didn’t have time to accept before. It was a great moment and now that they’re official, it puts them at the top of my list. Nobody screams “power couple” more than the ringleader and the samurai—the couple that slays together stays together. Continue reading

The 88th Annual Academy Awards: Highs and Lows

2016’s big winners: (L-R) Mark Rylance | Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies,” Brie Larson | Best Actress for “Room,” Leonardo DiCaprio | Best Actor for “The Revenant,” and Alicia Vikander | Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl.”

In a lackluster award show year in the midst of perhaps the most publicized Hollywood controversy over the lack of nominations for actors of color, I knew the 2016 Oscars would be a rather different ceremony than in years past. That being said, I still wasn’t expecting so many uncomfortable moments shoved down the audience’s throat by host Chris Rock in his second stint on the stage.

88thoscars_key_hostWithout touching too much on a provocative subject I’m not exactly equipped to speak knowledgeably about, I thought he might use his opening monologue to address the debate, which he did, and maybe close out the show with some sort of call to action, which he did by citing #BlackLivesMatter, and leave it at that. However, the night was rife with crude jokes, relentless little jabs at the underrepresentation of black actors (not all minorities, just blacks) in film, and several awkward moments that made the talent in the room shift in their seats, tittering as though they weren’t sure if they were supposed to laugh or not. After scanning some reviews, it seems some people were a fan of his tactics, but I happened to find jokes like, “In the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies,” to be needlessly tasteless. Continue reading

Five Favorite Wedding Movies

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and ALL THE PEOPLE who apparently got engaged yesterday … thanks, Facebook, for reminding me that I am still single AF … I thought it was time to explore another trope of romance cinematography: weddings. Whether it’s the central focus of the plot or just a sweet scene in a saccharine will-they-or-won’t-they story, they’re abundant and extravagant across the board, cropping up in a vast number of films. When I started to compile a list, I realized how prevalent they are in quite a few of my favorite movies. Here’s just a small handful (and some honorable mentions). Enjoy!

1. Mamma Mia! (2008)

Mamma

Just reading the title gets the song stuck in my head. (“Just one look and I can hear a bell ring!”) As a huge theater nerd, I love all the stage-to-film Broadway musical adaptations. While Hairspray and Rent are very high on my list, this one is my absolute favorite. It was our favorite show when we saw it our first time back in 2009 and remained our favorite when we saw it again, just this past summer before it ended its 14-year run on the Great White Way. ABBA’s upbeat songs set the tone for a story of a young bride-to-be searching for her father against a stunning Greek backdrop, which ensured a beautiful cinematic version. Then throw Meryl Streep in as your lead—SOLD. I love this movie. It’s just so much fun and I always have an urge to watch it before I go on vacation to somewhere tropical.

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