Best of 2017

During Thanksgiving weekend, my nephew wanted my family to play a game. It was pretty simple, actually: name your favorite thing, from categories he chose. Name your favorite TV show. Name your favorite movie. Name your favorite video game. Etc. As simple as the concept of the game is, however, it was wholly impossible for me to answer his questions. Having to choose my favorite movie would be like having to choose which is the favorite hair on my head. The idea of even trying to narrow down to just a handful, let alone one, was way too complicated. While I was happy to rattle off all-time favorites (“Back to the Future,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” all of the “Star Wars” movies, etc.) there was no way to pick just one.

So why am I bringing this up now? Because, as in years past, I’m not going to blog about my “ten favorite shows” or “eight favorite films.” I’m not bound by space or word limit. These are just the things that I either loved or thought about critically in the world of entertainment in 2017. Even though it’s been a dumpster fire of a year politically,  a lot of the below shows and movies allowed me some form of escape, at least temporarily. Here now is my list of the best of 2017, broken down by category. If you are able to narrow down your list(s), please feel free to provide it in the comments section below.


Love (Season 2)

Season 1 ended on a pretty good cliffhanger (Gus and Mickey kissing at the gas station seconds after Mickey has told Gus she needs to be alone for a year), and Season 2 really delved into the question of whether or not 1) these people actually like each other 2) these people are capable of love and 3) these people should be dating each other, either now or ever. Funny, and the show just feels…real. Special shout-out to Claudia O’Doherty’s Bertie, who cracks me up at least once an episode. Here’s hoping that the newly-announced Season 3 (the final season) sticks the landing.

Master of None (Season 2)

Man, this show. Season 1 was pretty great, and then Season 2 just upped the ante. From the premiere episode, filmed on location in Italy in black and white, to the incredible Thanksgiving episode (which rightly won an Emmy for comedic writing), to the doorman/cab driver/hearing impaired woman episode, to the episode at Storm King and ending with the helicopter ride, Season 2 was just incredible. I know Ansari is on record as saying he needs to live more before he can do a third season, and I don’t blame him. If we can get a third season as rich as this one was, I’ll happily wait a few years.

The Good Place (spoiler alert in the clip below)

Holy. Forking. Shirt. I thought The Good Place’s first season was pretty good, and it was a show that, like The Office and Parks and Rec before it, would get its sea legs in the second season. But that twist at the end of Season 1 was genius, and I did not see it coming. Special shout-out to Manny Jacinto, who has made Jason into the show’s MVP.


When I was growing up, NBC’s Thursday night line-up (aka “Must-See TV”) was the place for comedy. Cheers and Seinfeld and Friends are all sitcom legend, and some shows (Caroline in the City, The Single Guy, Boston Common) brought some laughs, despite lackluster ratings and having to be compared to those mentioned above. What does any of that have to do with Superstore? Superstore ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s a funny workplace ensemble that really feels like a spiritual heir to The Office (without the awkwardness and the talking heads), and feels like it is of a place where it could have fit very easily into the Must-See TV schedule. It’s not the kind of show that will win accolades or awards (except from this blog, I guess), but it is consistent week-to-week, and its episode about health insurance was the best primer on the subject (in a funny way) that I’ve ever seen. Humor + distillation of timely political facts = a win in 2017.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 3)
Full disclosure: I thought this season felt a little muddled. Kimmy goes to college! Kimmy struggles in college! Kimmy leaves college! That’s a huge arc, and it was done in about 3 weeks of the show’s timeline. This season did great some great mileage out of guest stars like Laura Dern and Daveed Diggs, which I think bumped it up a notch for me.

Saturday Night Live

“Now I’d like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you, to me, for how you have treated me these last two weeks. And that apology is not accepted!”

While some may argue that Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin overshadowed the regular SNL players, SNL is clearly having a renaissance. Also, “Woke Jeans” is the sketch of the year for me, in a walk.

Billy on the Street

In a year when a lot of us wanted to just yell and scream out our frustration, Billy Eichner was our avatar.

The Leftovers (Season 3)

This show just got better and better. The final season didn’t waste time, even as the characters moved from Texas to Australia. Unlike a certain other Damon Lindeolf show, this one stuck the landing in the end. And Carrie Coon – just wow. What an all-time performance as Nora Durst.

Veep (Season 6)

The first season with Selina out of power entirely (and without Sue – who I really missed), the show smartly pivoted into a few funny story lines, most notably three terrifying words: Congressman Jonah Ryan.

Silicon Valley (Season 4)

The other half of HBO’s spring comedy duo, Silicon Valley took a few characters in new directions this year. Big Head taught at Stanford, Gavin Bellson became something approaching relatable, and poor Erlich is now stranded off in an opium den.

The 2017 Academy Awards

Well, the ending, anyway. I don’t think we’ll ever see another moment like that again, especially for presentation of best picture.


The Challenge: Dirty 30

Didn’t necessarily end the way I’d like, and there was a lot of drama from some random people (Nelson, I’m looking at you) and way too much (racist) Camila. That said, what a stacked cast. Wish they could just run it back.

GLOW (Season 1)

GLOW makes the brave choice of (spoiler alert) having the main character (Alison Brie) sleep with her best friend’s husband in episode 1. The show concentrates so much of its time on good guys and bad guys (or “heels” in wrestling parlance) both in and out of the ring. Like my friend Mags, I found myself compelled to root for the bad guys. Bonus points to Marc Maron for killing it as the show’s director and as a surrogate father figure to all of the GLOW ladies.

New Girl

Mostly because we finally got this moment:


Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

When I first saw Wet Hot American Summer, and it had the joke about meeting up ten years later, I never thought I’d be watching a whole TV season of the counselors’ lives. Of course, I also didn’t know what “streaming” or “Netflix” was, but that’s another matter. This whole series is insane, but in the best way possible.

Late Night Shows

John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and even Jimmy Kimmel really stepped up to the plate this year and delivered scorching, heart-felt, and/or impassioned monologues and comedy bits about everything from health care to net neutrality.

My friend winning Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

When I was growing up, I used to ride the bus (and later gave rides home to) a kid named Buzzy (whose dad, fun fact, sold me my Bar Mitzvah suit). Really exciting to watch him win the whole Tournament of Champions. (And let’s be honest, Austin was really fun to watch, too.)


Other shows I enjoyed: The resurgent third season of Mr. Robot (especially the one-take/”oner” episode), When We Rise, Handmaids Tale, The Young Pope, Future Man, This is Us, and Big Little Lies.


James Franco

The Disaster Artist was great, full stop, and his performance on The Deuce was what brought that show from “huh, interesting idea” to fully watchable.

Laura Dern

Between Big Little Lies, her role as Jon Hamm’s new wife on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and, of course, as Admiral Holdo, Laura Dern had an amazing 2017.

Comic Book Movies

Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, and especially Spider-Man Homecoming were all solid popcorn movies. (Of course, Justice League was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but that was the exception, not the rule.) Bonus points to the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War for looking amazing.

Star Wars

While The Last Jedi isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie, at the end of the day it was a lot of fun, and years from now I’ll still be thinking about that scene of R2 playing Luke Leia’s original “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” recording. #DroidGuiltTrip

Other Movies

The Big Sick was the best movie of the year, and I’ll be quite upset if it doesn’t get nominated for several Oscars. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote a tremendous screenplay, Zoe Kazan does great character work in what amounts to not a lot of screen time, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are both incredible.

War for the Planet of the Apes

I’ll admit it: I love this new “Apes” trilogy. I love the original, Charlton Heston-led Planet of the Apes (and its goofy sequels), but the serious tone of this new trilogy (especially the last two) is really enjoyable.


Gyllenhaal is on such a weird streak of choosing interesting, good roles, some of which really pay off (Stronger, Nightcrawler), some of which are disappointing (Demolition, Life), but all of which are captivating on the big screen. I wish this movie had gotten more awards-season recognition, but c’est la vie.

Other enjoyable movies: Get Out, I, Tonya, The Post, Call Me By Your Name, The Meyerowitz Stories, Lady Bird, and the movie I’d vote for Best Picture, The Disaster Artist.



Um, did both Gallagher brothers release new CDs this year? And did the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” become the unofficial rallying cry of the city of Manchester? Yeah, no matter what Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift tried to do, it was a good year for music in 2017.

Good Riddance

To the men who committed horrific acts (Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose) and to those who covered up or abetted their behavior, don’t let the door hit you.


Always tough to lose people who meant so much to the entertainment world, and I obviously cannot touch on everyone. But 2017 will be remembered for the losses of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Bill Paxton, Mary Tyler Moore, Miguel Ferrer, Erin Moran, Martin Landau, Powers Boothe, Don Rickles and, of course, Tom Petty.

Anything I missed? What did others enjoy in 2017? For what will you remember this year? Let me know in the comments.


2017 Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test

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Having seen many of the movies likely to be nominated for an Oscar, I can say that a particularly discouraging trend is how few of them would pass the so-called Bechdel Test. For those not aware, the test has three criteria:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

A few weeks ago, I saw a screening of “I, Tonya” and, besides great Margot Robbie and Allison Janney performances, one thing that struck me is how easily it passes the Bechdel Test. Tonya and her mother speak about many things (especially Tonya’s figure skating career). How disappointing, then, that so many of the movies I’ve seen recently fail this test. Here are just some examples off the top of my head:

  1. “The Post” – Meryl Streep does have two scenes with her daughter (played by blog favorite Alison Brie) in which they discuss personal troubles. The scenes last a total of about 90 seconds, but this is actually pretty close to a pass.
  2. “Downsizing” – Hong Chau (who is wonderful in the movie) only speaks to men, as does Kristen Wiig, the only other notable female character.
  3. “The Last Jedi” – Rey only speaks to Leia at the end (about Luke), Leia speaks to Holdo (but only about Poe), and Rose only speaks to Poe and Finn.
  4. “Call Me By Your Name” – Elio’s mother only speaks to Elio and his father, or to other female characters about food preparation.
  5. “The Disaster Artist” – literally everyone speaks either to or about Tommy.
  6. “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Frances McDormand’s character does not interact with other women except her ex-husband’s girlfriend (and they only speak about her ex).

Now, not every movie fails – “Lady Bird,” which I just saw today, has some great scenes between female characters (though boys/men often are topics of discussion). But in a world in which Hollywood has been exposed as a place of rampant sexism, misogyny, and harassment, I hope that more movies will be made that emphasize many great, strong, female roles.

Best of 2015

In many ways, 2015 was pre-ordained to be a massive year. After a down year at the box office in 2014, pundits predicted 2015 would be huge, given the releases of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the final “Hunger Games” movie, and “Jurassic World.” And (for those that have been released), those movies delivered well at the box office (including “World” setting an opening weekend record, and then, you know, “Star Wars” demolishing it.). But there were a number of pleasant surprises that pundits didn’t see coming, and that’s what made 2015 quite an impressive year for entertainment. These are my favorite pieces of entertainment from 2015, presented in no particular order, but, for sake of readability, I’ve broken my list down by categories. Let me know what I missed, or what you enjoyed, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading this blog – and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2016. Continue reading

Fall TV 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 9.32.40 PM

I know we’re still a little ways away from the beginning of the fall TV season, but I figured it’s as good a time as any to write about what I’ll be watching this upcoming season. While some of last year’s picks ultimately ended up being disappointing (I’m looking at you, “Mom” and “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,”) here’s my best effort at predicting what I’ll be watching live, what I’ll be DVR-ing, and, most importantly, what will be entertaining me for the 2014-2015 TV season. One other note: this is just for broadcast (i.e. traditional network) shows. That’s why, say, “True Detective” season two or stand-bys like “The Soup” or “Last Week with John Oliver” or “The Daily Show” won’t make the list.


What I’ll Watch Live: Once Upon a Time, NFL Football

What I’ll DVR: The Simpsons, Mulaney, Family Guy, Brooklyn 99

I am an admitted “Once Upon a Time” fan. Last season, the show had two half-season story arcs: a journey to Neverland to battle the evil Peter Pan, and the Storybrooke crew fighting The Wicked Witch. While the show is never going to mean as much to me (or be as well-written or well-executed) as LOST, it’s still a show I enjoy week-in, week-out, that rewards longtime viewers. As for FOX’s Sunday comedy block, Brooklyn 99 was my favorite new comedy last year; it’s a show that really clicked early on, and gained momentum as the season went on. Besides Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta, the rest of the cast shines, but especially Andre Braugher and Chelsea Peretti.

As for “Mulaney,” having seen him do stand-up and with the knowledge that he created Stefon, he’s earned a season pass on the DVR, even if that first trailer looked rough. Besides, anybody who can write this Girl Scout Cookies monologue has my undying admiration:

And “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”? They’ve been on the air, what, a combined seventy-five years? (Approx.) And still deliver laughs. Sundays are going to be great for comedy.


What I’ll Watch Live: Gotham, Monday Night Football

What I’ll DVR: Big Bang Theory [until it moves to Thursdays at the end of October]

Wow, Mondays do not look promising. I know many people will watch “Dancing with the Stars,” “The Blacklist,” “The Voice,” and “Sleepy Hollow,” but…yikes. Not for me. Instead, I’m really looking forward to “Gotham.” Let’s be honest: when you are looking to make a TV show, and toss in Ben McKenzie, Gotham City, and multiple origin stories? Yeah, I’m there.

“Big Bang Theory” is the TV equivalent of comfort food, but I always enjoy it, and to have a few saved on the DVR makes for perfect Saturday-afternoon TV viewing.


What I’ll Watch Live: Selfie, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What I’ll DVR: Marry Me, New Girl, Mindy Project

I really loved Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s last few episodes, especially they way they tied into the events happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (after Captain America 2). Bill Paxton as The Clairvoyant, Agent Ward as a HYDRA spy, the uncertainty surrounding Nick Fury and Fitz and Simmons…all much more enjoyable plot threads than the first few episodes, which were spent dodging the question of whether or not Coulson was a Life Model Decoy. Anyway, a show that, now that it’s entering its second season, I know what it will provide week-in and week-out. As for “Selfie,” I watched the pilot and, while I didn’t live it, the show’s creator Emily Kapnek was the showrunner on “Suburgatory,” a show I loved. Plus, John Cho. “Marry Me” has Casey Wilson, who I loved on “Happy Endings,” and Ken Marino, who I thought was contractually bound to always work with David Wain. The show is from the showrunner of “Happy Endings” (who is engaged to Wilson in real life). Should be funny.

I loved “New Girl” in its first two seasons, but last year was rough, to say the least. With “Mindy Project”, I have high hopes for it, but the show has to stop shuffling cast members and guest stars and figure out what show it wants to be. Both will still be in heavy rotation on my DVR, but I’d like to see both be more consistently funny.


Literally nothing.

No, seriously. Take a look at this schedule:Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 10.01.51 PM

The best show might be “Black-ish.” You could talk me into “Red Band Society,” possibly. And that “Mysteries of Laura” show? Oof. Here’s the trailer. Never have I not wanted to watch something more. It looks like a bad SNL sketch:

By the way, here’s where I remind you that NBC cancelled “Awake,” one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen, and greenlights things like “Mysteries of Laura.”


What I’ll Watch Live: NFL Football

What I’ll DVR: Grey’s Anatomy, A to Z, How to Get Away with Murder

Grey’s is also just comfort food at this point – I don’t really like many of the characters, it’s sometimes too soapy for words, and there’s rarely a plot twist I haven’t seen coming hundreds of miles away. That said, it too makes for fine viewing on a cold Saturday when I don’t feel like leaving my couch. “How to Get Away with Murder” looks like one of the more promising new shows, with star Viola Davis as a law professor with a potential dark side.

As for “A to Z,” I watched the pilot and found it incredibly charming (I’ve embedded it below). It’s got a lot in common with “(500) Days of Summer,” especially given the close-ended nature of the central relationship. But I’m going to give it a shot. However, if the showrunners kill off Cristin Milioti like “How I Met Your Mother” did, I will be very upset.

Also, let me just bemoan the fact that “Parks and Rec” won’t be airing until winter 2015. I’m going to miss that show.


What I’ll Watch Live: Masterchef Junior

Kidding. Made the same joke last year. Will hopefully have social plans. Nothing worth DVRing on this night anyway.


What I’ll DVR: Saturday Night Live

Even after a down season, this show still provides laughs in its best sketches. And I have high hopes for last year’s breakout stars Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett.

Other Notables:

Whenever “Community” premieres on Yahoo; “The Cosmopolitans” on Amazon, assuming it gets picked up (because any show with Adam Brody deserves my full attention).

Any shows you think I missed? Shows that I just shouldn’t be watching? Be sure to leave a comment.

Best of the Rest


Especially in the summer blockbuster season, it seems that the only movies released are giant, action franchise tentpoles. Just this summer, we’ve had a new X-Men movie, Trans4mers, Godzilla, and Spider-Man, and we’re only two days into July. And I’m not alone in thinking that the good, mid-range movie has gone the way of the dodo (or, flocked to AMC and FX and HBO to become the next great miniseries. See: Fargo. See also: True Detective. See further: Mad Men.)

Vulture interviewed Billy Bob Thornton in advance of the premiere of Fargo, and this is what he had to say about television versus cinema:

It’s been a long time since you’ve done series TV. Why come back now?
It’s where we are headed. If you’re going to make something for adults, the mid-level movies the studios used to make, they’re gone. TV is where you do it. This is where actors get to actually do the kind of acting we used to do. If you’re going to do an independent film like I’m known for, now they give you $2 million to make it, and they want you to have 12 movie stars so you can get the foreign value, so we’re really restricted in a lot of ways in movies. Meanwhile, the studios are making big event films or real broad comedies or action movies, and that’s really not my bag.

While I would never disagree with Sling Blade (mmhmm), I happen to think that there are some solid, mid-level movies that have come out in the last few years. So, with that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of my favorites. Outside of Star Wars, the Avengers, and countless Lego movie sequels (I hope), we’ll just call these the best of the rest. Continue reading