The morning of Oscar nominations is one of my favorite of the entertainment year. As always, I make my choices morning-of, so as to not be too swayed by narrative. The past few years, that’s become more difficult, as Oscar punditry has become more popular (and started earlier in the year to boot.) Some of these choices are shoo-ins, some of these are dark horses, and each contains who *should* win as well. As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.
Well, as John Oliver rightly noted, 2016 was not a good year. And while I’ll do my best to keep updating this space, regular readers (if there is such a thing) can vouch that I’ve been lacking in posts; mostly because it feels like the world is falling apart. (I say this not as a wholly political statement; for instance, Alan Thicke and Florence Henderson and George Michael have passed while I’ve been working on this draft. Update: Carrie Fisher, too.) But with that said, entertainment is often a good way to express discontent with the current political and social climate, and can often serve as a distraction from, well, our impending doom. So enough prologue: I humbly submit the winners and losers of the entertainment world that were on my radar in 2016.
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
Happy Sugar Ray/Visor Day 2015, everyone!
I’m going to start with a statement that might shock you: The first song I listened to today was not by Sugar Ray. No, the first song in my head was “April Come She Will” by Paul Simon (specifically this version):
I know, some of you will think it blasphemous not to rock out immediately to Sugar Ray on its eponymous holiday. And while I try not to get too personal on this blog, let me explain why today I needed to hear Paul Simon.
As I said in last year’s oral history, SRVD has always been a way for me to remind myself (and my friends and family) that April is a wonderful harbinger of better times ahead. Over the last twelve years, April has meant Opening Days, finishing finals, warmer weather, and, most importantly, being able to wear a visor again. Above all else, it’s meant that things were going to improve, from the dreariness of winter to the sunshine of summer.
Mark McGrath and company were traditionally a perfect gateway for that, at least for me, and April 1st always perfectly coincided with that feeling. The fact that April 1st also had positive meanings for others made it all the more special: my friend Kevvy’s birthday; Kevin and Sarah’s anniversary; and, of course, Edible Book Day. (That last one is real, by the way.)*
*Evidently April 1st evokes negative feelings for others. Sorry, John Oliver:
So while it’s clear that Mark McGrath is still just as big a fan of mine as I am of him
I had some epiphanies:
The biggest realization is the limitation of the visor. Over the years, I’ve posted pictures and videos of celebrities in visors, arguing for their status as the essential summertime emblem. And then I saw something that broke my heart:
Enjoying a baseball game, that man publicly displays the fatal flaw of the visor: its inability to catch a home run ball. Never before had I seen a visor fail, on such a national stage. It was brutal to watch.
The other realization is that, in the spirit of everyone celebrating in their own way, I have to loosen the reins. No longer can I insist upon a Draconian standard of everyone wearing a visor and listening to the best Sugar Ray songs. (Although let’s be honest: aren’t they all the best?) Sure, April 1st is Otto von Bismarck’s birthday (look it up!), but that doesn’t give me an excuse to act like a Prussian dictator. As Gandhi said, I should be the change I wish to see in the world. And today, that meant not starting with a Sugar Ray song.
So why Paul Simon? Maybe it’s because of all of his SNL appearances (he is, after all, a member of the Five Timers’ club, and his performance of “Still Crazy After All These Years” at SNL40 was tremendous); maybe it’s because of his Yankee fandom; and maybe it’s because, standing in center field at Yankee Stadium, I have no doubt that his Yankee cap would be suitable for catching a home run ball:
But the real clincher? I think even Sugar Ray would approve of me changing things up. As they put it so eloquently in the song “Someday”:
When the sun begins to shine
I hear a song from
And fade away
And fade away
And today, that other time was Paul Simon in 1965. Or, more accurately, me in 2011 watching April and Andy get married on Parks and Rec:
Sugar Ray will never fade away for me. Rest assured, after listening to one Paul Simon song, I put on their entire 2001 album. I’ll be seeing them in concert for the second straight year this summer, and fifth time overall. I’ll be wearing visors (though not using them to catch baseballs) from April through October, and both reminiscing of good times gone by and great times still ahead. But any major holiday, be it Thanksgiving or July 4th or Sugar Ray/Visor Day, has to adapt. It’s evolution. And Sugar Ray itself has had line-up changes, and released albums of…varying…quality over the years.
A visor is a wonderful thing – it surrounds your head, but also leaves available room for ideas (and yes, technically, your hair). It’s protective, but not restricting. And so, for this year, I wish that you all are able to celebrate this wonderful holiday in your own way, however you see fit. Even if that means wearing an 80s style cap that is, for all intents and purposes, 90% visor/brim and 10% hat, like Mr. Simon himself:
But be sure to tune in next year, when SRVD turns 13. That’s going to be epic. The Sugar Ray Bar Mitzvisor.
Well, it’s that time of year. I’m hesitant to do a traditional Top 10 list, if only because there may not be ten shows that I loved, or there may be more, and, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog and I’ll make the rules. So without being beholden to numbers, let’s dive in to the television that I enjoyed the most in 2014. Note: some of these will be individual episodes or moments from a show, and some will be the show’s entire season. I’m sure you’ll figure it out as I go along. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
I don’t care much for the Emmy’s, especially because the lion’s share of what I watch rarely gets nominated (and because it’s hard to root for an academy that failed to recognize Steve Carrell as Michael Scott, Jon Hamm as Don Draper or Jason Alexander as George Costanza). But I’ll certainly be watching (and live tweeting! @jacobsjj), and here are my quick picks. Unlike with my Oscar picks, I’m not going to do a “who will win, who should win, who I hope to win” type of break-down. I’m going to give you who I would vote for, period. Please not that these predictions aren’t likely to come to fruition, and are made based on my subjective, irrational like or dislike of the various nominees. Continue reading