Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Insecure

A fun thing to do if you’re sane is to pretend you’re just going to watch one episode of a TV show and then just stop cold turkey.

This is exactly what happened to me a couple Sundays ago when I casually decided to watch the pilot of Insecure. My friend suggested it to me a while ago, and of course it’s received all these accolades (hello Emmys), but I finally sat down and watched it. And then I watched the second episode. Then the third… next thing I know it’s four hours later and I’m at the season one finale. Which was perfect because the season two premiere aired that night. Which I also watched.

Obviously I liked it enough to binge watch it in one Sunday night, so I’m here to add to the praise it’s been getting and tell you that if I can (accidentally) set aside 4 hours of my life to watch Insecure, so can you.

Basic Plot

Follows the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman.

That African-American woman is Issa Rae, the co-creator, writer and star of the show. Insecure follows her life in Los Angeles and the people that surround her on the daily.

Watch This If You Like

Atlanta, Girls, Sex and the City, Dear White People

Started From The Bottom

Not to say “the bottom” is the internet, but Issa first gained acclaimed with her popular webseries Awkward Black Girl, and that award-winning series was the reason and basis for Insecure. Like Insecure, Issa wore multiple hats for her webseries, including starring as J, the titular Awkward Black Girl. While a few changes were made for the TV series (she works at a non-profit and not a weight-loss pill company in ABG), the one holdover, and what made the show unique, is how J talks out her thoughts and problems through raps.

Issa’s Raps

These “freestyle” raps are, to put it simply, brilliant. They never come off corny, but rather necessary for how Issa deals with her problems. These are usually performed in some type of mirror, which is super effective because it’s as if she’s hyping herself up or building confidence by looking the problem in the eye (the problem is herself). Plus, it’s a great way to get into Issa’s thoughts without extra dialogue or having a narrator tell us what she’s thinking. It’s modern, usually involves some type of pop culture reference, and always entertaining.

The BFFs

Molly, Tiffany and Kelli, make up the core of Issa’s squad, and their dynamic is what reminds me of a Sex and the City vibe. As seen in the video above, they’re always open with each other and the tribulations in their love lives, giving advice just like your friends would IRL. They’re also constantly supporting each other in their individual endeavors – in the above clip, they’re all on hand to support Kelli’s cousin’s horrible Jesus/gangsta play. Ultimate friend goals right here.

The BFs

In the pilot, we learn that Issa’s been in a long-term relationship with Lawrence, who seems to be unmotivated and unemployed. But good LORD is he a smokeshow. Jay Ellis isn’t new to acting (he was on The Game for years), but new to me. I’m so sorry I had no idea who you were before this, Jay Ellis. You deserve more. You deserve everything. God bless you. Plus the other gentleman callers on this show like Daniel (Y’lan Noel) and Jared (Langston Kerman) are super easy on the eyes and there may or may not be naked bums. Of the male species. God bless Issa Rae.

The Music

At least once every episode, I found speaking into my phone, saying, “Siri, what song is this?”. The soundtrack is spot on and perfectly matches the mood and vibe of the show. Lo and behold, they got a heavyweight to serve as the music supervisor on the first season, enlisting Raphael Saadiq to take charge of every track on the show. Plus, Solange was a music consultant, which makes sense why it was so easy for them to get the rights to Cranes in the Sky. For a song breakdown per episode, go here!

The Realness

One of the most unique qualities of this show is that it isn’t afraid to put real talk into its scripts. The dialogue feels normal and familiar in a way you might think you’ve had the conversation with the characters before, but really, you’ve had it with your friends IRL. Moreover, every character, from Issa to recurring ones, feels real too, from their clothes to their jobs and everything in between. For example, Issa works at a non-profit for disadvantaged youth, while her boyfriend is a struggling tech genius who ends up working at Best Buy. Her BFF Molly is a successful lawyer, and she ends up dating a non-college educated guy who works at Enterprise. AND there’s even a literal Blood. Like member of the Bloods gang (who has a v cute daughter) who lives in Issa’s building. A wide range of people are featured on the show, reflecting not only a lot of people’s friend groups, but shows that a variety of people are represented on screen as well.

The first season of Insecure is OnDemand and streaming on HBOGo. Season 2 is now airing on Sundays at 10:30pm.

Pilot You Should Watch If You Haven’t Already: Andi Mack

It’s mid-season premiere season, and we’re bringing you the best of the spring debuts: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Big Little Lies, and today’s pick, Andi Mack. Andi Mack is a decidedly different Disney Channel Original Series. Focused on 13-year-old Andi as she discovers (pilot spoiler!) that her cool big sister Bex is actually her mother, Andi Mack is at once more modern than your typical Disney sitcom and a real throwback to the beloved live-action kids’ shows of our 90s youth.

We grew up during the golden era of children’s sitcoms. Ghostwriter, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, Clarissa Explains it All, The Secret World of Alex Mack (if you think I didn’t already accidentally type Alex Mack at one point in this post, you’re underestimating how very old my brain cells are) … there was some excellent live-action tween fare in our day. I’m not saying this out of millennial nostalgia: there has been a real change in kids’ TV over the past decade or so. When execs realized that sitcom viewers weren’t the tweens (say, 8-14-year-olds) in the “target audience” but rather their younger siblings, something happened to children’s programming. Sets got brighter. Outfits got crazier. Jokes got hammier. Adults got buffoon-ier. It might be my age, but things also got really, really loud, right? Moments of sentimentality were sometimes slapped at the end of a “very special episode,” but these shows, as a whole but with exceptions, don’t really challenge kids to think deeper or feel more.

Andi Mack is the return of a children’s show that gives children credit. It assumes that kids today are savvy and smart, that they can engage in a show without neon living rooms and dopey dads and literal bells and whistles (no really, those shows are loud). The premise itself is grown-up. In addition to a young teen dealing with very serious questions of identity (‘my mom is my grandma’ has potential for real V.C. Andrews-level trauma), Bex’s age means that unplanned and teenage pregnancy are necessary issues to be addressed. Early reviews mention that a teen character’s sexual orientation will also be discussed.  Story lines will be played out over the course of the season, rather than resolved within a half-hour — in fact, the pilot is the first kids’ show I’ve seen in a long time that left me wondering what’s next.

Andi Mack is a situation comedy with actual comedy in it. An Amber Alert quip is – for a Disney show – darkly funny, the kind of joke the darkly funny 10-year-olds in my life would actually make. There’s a “first period” joke that’s more mature than the jokes you see in a lot of other Disney/Nickelodeon sitcoms, and the punchline is implied; again, these writers give children credit that they can get jokes. Children’s television can be almost aggressively multi-cam, and the on-location filming and four-walled-looking sets give Andi Mack the feel of a hip modern-day sitcom.

We usually don’t let a sitcom review go by without an unofficial Representation Is Important Corner, so here it is. The Macks are a mixed-race family, which at least for the first two episodes is presented without comment because that’s pretty much the most normal thing a family can be these days. Andi’s grandpa (previously known as dad) is white and grandma (previously known as mom) is Asian (I know that’s broad, but we don’t have further info). In a country where nearly half of all children are from multiracial households, it’s important that these kids can turn on a TV and see a family that looks like their own. There hasn’t been an Asian-American child protagonist of a children’s sitcom since Shelby Woo, a show that premiered over two decades ago. There have been a whole lot of Hannah Montanas and Sams and Cats since then. In addition, Andi’s friends include at least one kid who isn’t white and one kid who isn’t straight.

The grown-up plots, actually-funny comedy and quality representation aren’t the only reason I’ll be nudging the kids in my life to turn on this show over some of the more neon-‘n-noisy options. The characters and casting are great too. Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) is an imaginative teen in the tradition of Pretty In Pink’s Andie, a sort-of tomboy with cute short hair and a motorized bicycle who is known not to play sports — a win for every girl who wasn’t stereotypically girly, but who still found clothing fun and wasn’t necessarily athletic. That is, Andi is a multidimensional 13-year-old, exactly like real 13-year-olds are. Friend Buffy (Sofia Wylie) is confident and fun, and may or may not be named after that other TV Buffy (although she has started watching it). Her buddy Cyrus  reminds me exactly of the funny, self-assured boys I was friends with in my out of school theater groups as a middle schooler; he’s a cool kid who isn’t at all bothered by being friends with girls.  Bex is supposed to be about the same age we are, and her youthful looks and personality are why it’s believable that Andi thought Bex was her sister instead of her mom. Lilan Bowden comes from an improv and writing background, so her Bex comes across as the kind of person I’d actually know in my real life. This is where I have to accept that I’m now in my Lorelai Gilmore stage of life: we’re looking at roughly the ages of the Gilmore Girls in the pilot, minus a couple years. I’m hoping for some good references to Bex’s high school days in the early 2000s.

The bottom line: Andi Mack has a more “adult” concept, styling, and sense of humor than your typical children’s sitcom. It brings much-needed cultural representation to kids’ tv, and the pilot will leave you wanting to watch the second episode. If you have kids in your life, you’ll want to get them into this show so you have an excuse to watch it. If you don’t have kids in your life, the only excuse you really need is that this is a good show.


Andi Mack premieres April 7 on the Disney Channel. The pilot is already available on Disney’s website and YouTube platform.

 

Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Big Little Lies

A first grade class that’s almost like if Lululemon, Whole Foods, Real Simple and Dwell collaborated on an elementary school. Upmarket Monterey moms with a lot of mystery, intrigue and in-fighting. The return of David E. Kelley at his best. And somebody dead — murdered at a tony school fundraiser, quite possibly by another parent. HBO’s Big Little Lies (produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, a Nashville dream team if ever there was one) is only four episodes in but I’m already knee-deep in theories and questions. I don’t want to give away too many plot points, so I’ve devised a handy equation to explain the show instead:

Twin Peaks + Desperate Housewives + (1/2 x Stepford Wives) + ( Mean Girls x The Alison Hendrix Parts Of Orphan Black) = Big Little Lies

We have the piece-by-pieces investigation of an unsolved murder of Twin Peaks, the dark, suburban dealings of Desperate Housewives, the surprising satire of upper-class femininity of The Stepford Wives, the social machinations and stratifications of Mean Girls and the tightly-wound perfection of Alison Hendrix’s fast-unraveling life. It’s a quick watch, and a show you’ll want to catch up on.

Although it can be fun to see a well-known actor cast totally against type, there is something incredibly satisfying about the on-the-nose typecasting going on in Big Little Lies. Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline Martha Mackenzie, the high-strung, type-A scheming mom to first grader Chloe and teenage Abigail. Imagine Tracy Flick mixed with Regina George, but somehow less devious: Madeline is one of those perfectionists who has to carefully arrange her whole personal and social world just-so or it might all fall down around her. Madeline is the spoke of the Monterey mom circle, both in that she’s the center of everything and in that if she’s spun too hard, you get the impression that pieces will go flying about in all directions. Madeline is married to Ed (Adam Scott), who while not quite Ben Wyatt nevertheless can seem like the quintessential Decent American Man.

Madeline’s circle also includes Celeste Wright. Once again the role is cast to perfection: Nicole Kidman as a pristine, wealthy, slightly icy former lawyer — and half of a couple that’s so well-manicured that you just know something’s way off behind the scenes. Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) is her husband, free of surface flaws but bubbling with some kind of rage under the surface.

At the beginning of the series, a very non-Monterey mom enters the picture. Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) is easily 10 years younger than the other moms, decidedly moderate-income, and the single mother to little Ziggy (Iain Armitage AKA Iain Loves Theatre – don’t sleep on this kid). It’s a deliciously Shailene Woodley-esque role. Jane is a little crunchy, a little new-agey, and kind of lovably kooky. Still, you’ll have as many questions about her as you will about anyone else, some of which will be answered over the course of the first 4 episodes (there was a little glimpse of something in the first episode that suddenly made sense in the third, that kind of thing).

All of these characters have children in the same first-grade class, and the rest of the core circle revolves around the same classroom. Nathan Carson (James Tupper) is Madeline’s ex-husband, married to younger Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz, in a role I could have EASILY seen Lisa Bonet in a decade or so ago. Or maybe still? Woman hasn’t aged). Renata Klein (the fantastic Laura Dern) is the mother to Amabella, set at odds against Madeline’s clique when Amabella accuses Ziggy of hurting her during first grade orientation.

Unlike another little lies show you may know – Pretty Little Liars – this whodunnit (and to-whom-dunnit) won’t be dragged out for season upon season. Four episodes have aired, and there are three more to go. It’s a limited series, and director Jean-Marc Vallee has promised that “you will know everything.” Until then, I’m enjoying all of the questions.

Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Last-Minute Binge Edition 2016

Since it’s only the first week of September, old shows and new shows are slowly rolling out this month and next month. And you know what that means? You still have time to sneak in one last binge-watch before a new season premieres! But what is easy to catch up on and worth your time? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Traci’s Picks

For viewers who miss the camaraderie of The Office, the quirkiness of 30 Rock, and the community of Community: Superstore

Seasons to catch up on: 1

Next season begins: September 22nd at 8pm on NBC

Why you should be watching: Remember how the first seasons of The Office and Parks and Rec were a little slow moving but you knew they had so much potential? That’s what I felt about the first season of Superstore. It could also be because the executive producer used to be a writer at The Office. But like both those shows, Superstore is a workplace comedy about a rag tag bunch of folks who work at a Wal-Mart/big box type store. It stars America’s sweetheart America Ferrera and Ben Feldman, who I’ve decided I will watch anything he is in. There’s also a Filipino character that was prominently featured in the Olympics episode they aired a couple weeks ago, and that satisfies me greatly.

For people who liked American Crime Story, but also literally every human alive: American Crime

Seasons to catch up on: 2

Next season begins: 2017 (I’m cheating since this doesn’t come back until next year)

Why you should be watching: On the real, because this show is an anthology, you don’t even need to watch the two previous seasons. But you should anyways. The first season centers on a home invasion in California which leaves a war veteran dead and his wife seriously injured. The investigation and trial deals with issues of race, class and gender politics, and stars Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Lili Taylor and Regina King. All four of them return for the second season playing completely different characters. This time, the season is set in the midwest at a private and public high school, when two of the private school kids are accused of drugging and assaulting a guy from the public school. Issues of sexual orientation, class and more (which I don’t want to spoil) come into play. Both seasons are spectacular in their own ways and it’s one of those well-written, well acted, and socially important programs that I feel like everyone needs to watch.

For all Americans and Hamilton fans who are OK with modern music being used to score a show about true events in the 1800s: Underground

Seasons to catch up on: 1

Next season begins: 2017 (all the shows I want you to watch aren’t coming back until next year!)

Why you should be watching: I hate that Underground didn’t get the Emmy recognition it deserved, because it could easily have been nominated for writing, acting and directing. The story follows a group of escaped slaved called the Macon 7 as they attempt to make it to the North. With the feeling they’re going to be caught making you tense in every episode, along with the romance, unwanted romance, race relations and general drama throughout the first season, the 10-episode binge will not be hard to get through at all.

Molly’s Picks

For fans of musicals, comedy, musical comedy, and anybody who thought “that’s a sexist term” upon reading the show’s title: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Seasons to catch up on: 1

Next season begins: October 21

Why you should be watching: Did you watch Glee because you love people spontaneously bursting into song, but you wished it was actually funny even ONCE? Are your favorite SNL sketches the clever yet relatable songs like (Do It On My) Twin Bed or Back Home Ballers? Do movies like Ghostbusters or Sisters make you want to start a letter-writing campaign to all of the major studios asking for more of this, please? Do you like a good rom-com where the protagonist is torn between two appealing gentlemen? Are you into 90s junior high flashbacks? Hey. Come watch this show. You’re going to love it.

 Rebecca Bunch is a New York lawyer who moves to West Covina, California after a chance run-in with her camp sweetheart, Josh. There’s a lot of Rebecca trying to act chill and normal so Josh doesn’t think she’s, well, a crazy ex-girlfriend, often with the help of her buddy Paula, the coworker we all wish we had. Oh, and Josh is engaged to Valencia, a yoga-teaching Pinterest goal board come to life. But then there’s Greg, Josh’s friend who Rebecca should definitely end up with … or I mean, you should watch and form your own opinions.

For viewers who love psychological thrillers like Orphan Black, tech conspiracies, or handsome men who hate themselves: Mr. Robot

Seasons to catch up on: 2

Next season begins: 2017 (season 2 is in progress and ends later this month)

Why you should be watching: Like Orphan Black, I feel like you should watch the pilot and second episode then just TRY to stop watching. There are a few plot twists and it is best to watch unspoiled, which is why you should begin the show now instead of waiting until Season 3. Besides, then you won’t need to wonder how there are so many nominations for a USA show come Emmy night.

Largely spoiler free summary: Rami Malek plays Elliot, a lonely hacker with some degree of mental illness, an omnipresent black hoodie, a mild but appealing lateral lisp, and a vendetta against E Corp (a global conglomorate responsible for his father’s death from cancer when Elliot was a child). Elliot joins fsociety, a Coney Island-based hacker group that’s working to bring down E Corp. Standout characters : fsociety leader Mr. Robot, acerbic hacker Darlene, and Elliot’s childhood friend Angela (who, along with Rebecca Bunch, is one of the only lady lawyers on television who seems like a human).

For people who didn’t listen to us last year: Jane The Virgin

Seasons to catch up on: 2

Next Season Begins: October 2016

Why you should be watching: Last year, JTV was on our last-minute binge watching list with a caveat: we should have been watching it too, but we had to wait for season 1 to get to Netflix. Between then and now both of us have emerged from heavy JTV binges and are obsessed.

Jane The Virgin, like real telenovelas before it, rides the line between comedy and melodrama. The writing is sharp and the show is brilliantly styled, but the whole thing rests on the endearing and spirited performance of Gina Rodriguez. Her Jane is nothing like the character I imagined when I heard the “virginal pregnant 20-something” descriptor. If the concept sounded a little iffy to you, give it 2 episodes and prepare for your mind to change.

As an aside, I “watched” the first 15 episodes while I was painting the downstairs of my house, so I actually listened like it was a radio play. This show works perfectly for that viewing style if you have any big projects to tackle this fall (as long as you’re fluent in Spanish for the occasional captioned scene). Only downside: realizing half the characters look NOTHING like you imagined when you start watching for real.

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Difficult People

Tomorrow the second season of Hulu’s Difficult People premieres which means you have 24 hours or less to catch up (or at least start the first season if you haven’t already). If you haven’t heard of it, let me introduce you to a show about the most ridiculous human beings who you love and dislike greatly at the same time.

Basic Plot

As best friends living in New York City, Billy and Julie’s typical, irreverent behavior lands them in some very awkward situations.

It’s obviously not high concept, so it’s nothing like your Orphan Blacks or Mr. Robots. Think of it like Will & Grace meets… a less boring version of Seinfeld? But you know what else isn’t high concept? The reasons why you should start watching and catch up to ALL 8 EPISODES FROM THE FIRST SEASON (!) just in time for season two.

Queen Amy Poehler Is Responsible For This Gem

If you trust Queen Poehler’s comedic chops, then you should probably at least give this show a try. Game recognize game, ya feel me? Amy is an executive producer of the show, and had known both Billy and Julie pre-Difficult People. She obviously had known Billy from Parks and Rec, and Julie was a performer at UCB, the improv company Amy co-founded. We know Amy has already hit it out of the ballpark as an executive producer of Broad City, and while I admittedly don’t think Difficult People is as strong as Abbi & Ilana’s masterpiece, Amy still stands behind the show 100%. So I do too. She’s said of Difficult People, “I would binge-watch the shit out of this show if I weren’t involved with it.”

For A Dollar…

Billy Eichner first came into the comedy world with a Funny or Die webseries called Billy on the Street, which eventually led to his TV show on TruTV. At some point during his TV show, he got hired as the boisterous (and not too far off from his Billy on the Street character) Craig Middlebrooks on Parks and Rec. His alter ego Billy on Difficult People is somewhere in between Billy on the Street and Billy Eichner IRL, but all equally hilarious.

Hulu’s 30 Rock of Cameos

The recurring characters on the show are worth it alone – Gabourey Sidibe as a waitress at the restaurant Billy works at, Rachel Dratch as a customer at said restaurant, and the glorious Andrea Martin as Julie’s psychologist mother. Then there’s the season one guest stars who you are pleased to see come across your screen, such as a weird Seth Meyers and magician Kate McKinnon. For the second season, they got some pretty heavy hitters, including Tina Fey and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Need I say more?

Pop Culture Refs

I love a good pop culture reference. It’s 90% of my daily conversation. There are enough pop culture references in Difficult People that would rival Gilmore Girls. And Gilmore Girls had literal booklets in their DVD sets explaining what all the refs were. Julie (a Real Housewives of New York recapper – a job she really had for Vulture) and Billy (an aspiring actor) are the same, and their interactions with each other are based on their love for celebrities. At one point, Julie tells Billy at an Oscars party, “There was a small earthquake in L.A., but don’t worry: Emmy Rossum is fine.” I mean, thank GOD.

Your Emotions On Screen

One point of contention not all people may enjoy about the show is that Billy and Julie aren’t afraid to speak their minds and ruffle some feathers. They are at times brash, a little too honest, but entirely self-aware. Is this a good thing? Who knows. Is it what you’re probably thinking inside but too afraid to say outloud? Yes.

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Master of None

I’ve said it before on this blog, but I’ll say it again. I watch a lot of television. Like, I have an app on my phone to help me remember when everything is on so I don’t miss anything type of obsession. That being said, I’ve seen a lot of programs in my day, but nothing has quite affected me like Master of None.

Basic Plot

Loosely based on Aziz Ansari’s life, he plays Dev, a 30-something actor in New York City, navigating between his professional and personal life, romance, and identity.

To be honest, after first watching the trailer, I was just expecting another comedy from Aziz Ansari. I knew he was re-teaming with Parks and Rec alums  – creator Mike Schur, writers Alan Yang and the late Harris Wittels – to produce it, so I knew if anything, the writing was going to be fantastic. I didn’t think twice about the actors and subject matter he chose to feature. I knew I was going to watch it no matter what, but I was pleasantly surprised by the content matter and show as a whole after watching the pilot.

Like the trailer above, the first scene of the series features Aziz and former SNL featured player Noel Wells mid-coitus. The setup feels akin to a Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow joint (no pun intended), but as you watch the rest of the episode unfold, you realize it’s much more than that.

Dev, a single guy, goes to his friends’ kid’s birthday party in the same ep, and a show you initially thought was going to be a crude look at relationships, turns into a deeper look into friendships with friends who have children, friendships with friends who have no children, the inner debate of whether you should or are even mentally able to have children, and so on and so forth.

In fact, the evolution of the series itself was somewhat similar, in that when Aziz and Alan originally conceived the show, they focused more on dating as a 20-30 something (Modern Romance, anyone?), but then both of them realized they could speak volumes if they just wrote about their own experiences, personal journeys and backgrounds.

“Neither of us are older white guys. We’re younger minorities, and that does inform our world views in some ways. Not everything is viewed through that prism, but it does affect how we move through society, so we want to be honest about that and put that in the show.” – Alan Yang {x}

And honestly, the way Alan described how he and Aziz viewed Master of None is exactly what I, as an Asian-American millennial, want to see represented in the media. Yes, minorities’ culture should be accurately depicted onscreen, but does that mean I want to see a person of color going on a long, laborious, slightly embarrassing rant about how the white man is trying to take us down? No. But does it mean I would like to see a person of color awkwardly walk into a room of all unexpectedly white people in a professional setting? Yes.

A while ago, I wrote about Fresh of the Boat, and how that show needs to stay on the air for the sole purpose of representation. And luckily it has. FOTB is a comedic take on a Chinese family with immigrant parents in the 90s, and everyone can relate to their dynamics no matter their background. However, it is a sitcom in the truest form, in that it doesn’t necessarily feature the more serious issues that minorities in America deal with daily. Shows like FOTB are like a gateway drug into another culture, letting viewers in middle America slowly get a peek into a different world they might not be familiar with, one joke at a time.

But then there’s something like Master of None, which portrays a culture in a serious light (even though it’s a comedy), in a way that is real and moving, and has a cast that rivals even Shondaland. As previously mentioned, Aziz plays Dev, an Indian-American, and he has a Chinese-American best friend, Brian, played by Kelvin Yu. Their friend circle includes a black lesbian, Denise (Lena Waithe) and Arnold (Eric Wareheim), lit’rally the “token white friend”. Just the mere fact that a TV show has more minorities in the lead roles than white people is already lightyears ahead of most of the programs already on TV. And because it’s created by Aziz and Alan (and probably a lot to do with the fact they’re on Netflix and not a network), they’re not afraid to talk about the lack of POC in media, either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, this speaks to the fact that personal identity isn’t how we view ourselves all the time, it’s just one thing about us that makes us see the world in a different view than others. But it also touches upon the state of media today, and, full circle, what Viola Davis said during her Emmy Award speech in September.

“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

People like Shonda Rhimes and Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari are creating the roles for POC to break through those barriers, because no one else was creating the content that provided the platform for people like them to shine. No one was developing a show that was featured the life of children of immigrants in an honest fashion, so Aziz and Alan did so (PS: if you haven’t read Aziz’s article in the NY Times about this, do it now! Or I mean, after you finish reading my post. Come on.)

Which leads me to the second episode of Master of None titled Parents, and perhaps the single most important episode of TV I’ve seen in my life. I don’t want to give too much away, but it basically deals with Dev and Brian airing out their grievances about their parents’ requests (‘Fix this thing on my iPhone’, ‘Pick up rice on your way home’), and it’s juxtaposed with their parents’ lives in their native countries prior to immigrating to America. Dev and Brian realize they don’t really know about much about their parents, and spend the second half of the ep learning more about them.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I started crying within the first five minutes of this episode. It hit so close to home, in a way that I’ve never felt about a piece of media before in my life. I’ve obviously related to TV characters such as Lane on Gilmore Girls, but that was because I felt like my parents were the most like the immigrant, super religious, strict Mrs. Kim, not because I was an Asian girl with glasses. In this Parents episode, I saw myself in Dev & Brian’s position, wanting to shrug off my immigrant parents’ simple requests, and often forgetting just how much they gave up to give me a better life. I don’t want to turn this blog into a therapy session, but the episode brought up issues I had already felt lingering before, so to see it manifested in front of me on screen felt like a punch in the gut. A good one, of course.

After watching the episode, I went on Twitter (as one does) to just let the Interwebz know how great and life-changing the show is, even if I was only on the second episode. Lo and behold, look who responded to me:

Photo Nov 08, 12 35 39 PM

Yeah, it’s cool that people are liking his show, but I imagine it’s got to have an even bigger impact on a show creator when viewers are truly connecting with the art they’ve created. To know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life must be a rewarding experience.

And for Aziz, it seems to be. Yesterday, he posted this sweet post on Tumblr about his dad, who was happy to use almost all of his vacation time to shoot the show. They appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, and Aziz’s dad told him, “This is all fun and I liked acting in the show, but I really just did it so I could spend more time with you.” Aziz wrote, “I almost instantly collapsed into tears at the thought of how much this person cares about me and took care of me and gave me everything to give me the amazing life I have. I felt like a total piece of garbage for all the times I haven’t visited my parents and told them I wanted to stay in New York cause I’d get bored in SC. I’m an incredibly lucky person and many of you are as well.”

He went on to say how he is “overwhelmed” by the response to the Parents ep, and how writing the ep and filming it with his real parents (who play Dev’s parents) ironically made his relationship better with his parents IRL. If that doesn’t tell you just how powerful the storytelling is in this series, I don’t know what will. I hope this show will be able to reach people like me, who can strongly relate to Dev and Brian, but also, and maybe even more importantly, reach the people who don’t have a similar background. With everything that’s going on in this country on college campuses and in the streets, I think it’s more important than ever to get a sense of what people are going through from “the other side”. Empathy is the catalyst for change and acceptance, and if something like this show can do it for people, then I’d say Aziz certainly is the Master of One.

The entire 10-episode season of Master of None is now streaming on Netflix

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Catastrophe

It’s summer (technically almost the end of summer, but let’s be in denial of that for a while), which means new and quality TV programs are slim pickings. If you’ve already caught up with Orange is the New Black, rewatched all of Seinfeld on Hulu, and want a short binge to fill your extra time before you head back to the beach, I’ve got a show for you. Let Catastrophe take over your life.

Basic Plot

Boston executive Rob (Rob Delaney) visits London on a business trip and he meets Irish schoolteacher Sharon (Sharon Hogan). They hook up – and hook up and hook up – and he heads back home to America after the sex-filled weekend. She later finds out she’s pregnant and he heads back to the UK to attempt to figure out where to go from there.

But why exactly should I watch?? WELL LET ME TELL YOU.

Rob Delaney Out Of Twitter

I personally was introduced to Rob on Twitter, like thousands of other people. He’s a comedian, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those skills always transfer over on Twitter. It is 140 characters after all. Rob has the skill of not only being extremely funny, but an accessible type of funny which make his followers want to favorite and retweet to their own followers – thus becoming a Twitter sensation. In 2012 he was literally named the Funniest Person on Twitter at Comedy Central’s Comedy Awards. So in saying all this, would his comedy also translate onto the small screen? The answer is yes. He co-created and co-wrote Catastrophe with Sharon, who, ironically, he met over Twitter. If you go through his timeline and enjoy his comedy samplings, you’ll enjoy a whole script by him.

Introducing Sharon Hogan

In America, Sharon Hogan is a relative newcomer ( The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, anyone?). At home in the UK, she’s been referred to as the “Tina Fey of British TV”. Like Tina, she acts, writes, produces, and directs (unlike Tina). Her “30 Rock” was a sitcom called Pulling, about three single female friends in London. The show was nominated for Best Sitcom at the TV BAFTAS (the UK Emmys), and she was nominated as an actress for the show as well. Needless to say, she’s hilarious, and together with Rob it makes the perfect comedy ‘marriage’.

A Rom Com for Non Rom Com Folk

If you hate rom coms because they’re so predictable, you’re going to love this show. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that their shotgun relationship actually works in a weird way. The writing by Rob and Sharon is so clever and funny that it’s unpredictably delightful. Just when you think the other person is going to be offended by something, they find it endearing. If you think the storyline is going one way, it does, but not in the exact manner you thought it would. And although we’re introduced to these two as folks who can’t stop having sex, the rest of the season shows them as people in the ‘real world’ who are sweet to each other and romantic and a normal couple who seem like they’ve been together forever, but not. You believe that they could be not only romantic partners but best friends, and that’s also a testament to the chemistry Rob and Sharon have together.

Realistic Pregnancy

Now I’ve never been pregnant, so I have no idea if I’m right on this or not. But often times in TV and movies, pregnancy is treated like something that is just akin to a food baby for nine months, like everything goes well and all of a sudden a baby is produced. But Sharon keeps it real on Catastrophe. Not only is she pregnant with a baby from a guy she just met, but she’s also older than the average new mom. She discusses this on the show, as well as the higher risks that are involved if you’re over a certain age. Again, this aspect adds to the overall reality factor of the show as a whole, and yet another reason to love it even more.

It’s Short

There are six episodes. Each is 24 minutes. I had to stop myself from watching all of them in one night. So I watched them in two nights. You can fit this in your schedule.

Catastrophe is streaming now on Amazon

Show You Probably Don’t Need To Watch But Might: The Lizzie Borden Chronicles

I hate you, Lifetime. I hate you so much. I hate you for making a campy television movie about a historical murder-mystery starring a 90s child star, because you know that I will watch it. I hate you for following up with a miniseries about the same gross 1800s murder. Oh, Lifetime. You always know how to hold up a mirror to my worst self.

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is not a “show you should be watching if you aren’t already,” as so many of our posts are tagged. Watching it only encourages what we all know Lifetime thinks: that we take delight in the most lowbrow tv experiences cable has to offer. Lifetime is right, of course. That’s why even though Lizzie Borden isn’t a show you should be watching, it’s a show you might watch anyway.

Number one reason you might watch: the Lizzie Borden story itself. Lizzie Borden was a spinster whose father and stepmother were found axe-murdered under suspicious circumstances (the circumstances being holy cow, someone killed them with an axe). Circumstantial evidence strongly pointed to Lizzie, but reasonable doubt prevailed. It seemed possible Lizzie was the killer, maybe even probable – but you just can’t be certain. You may be familiar with Ms. Borden from the jump-rope rhyme she stars in. In a pre-Nancy Grace world, the sensational Borden story spread far outside the borders of Fall River, Massachusetts. Over a century later the murders are still unsolved and hotly disputed.

Although, forensic analysis reveals that Borden had a serious case of Crazy Soulless Eyes.

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles picks up after Lizzie’s acquittal. The real Ms. Borden lived until 1927, spending her days outcast from Fall River’s polite society, taunted by local children and eventually driving her sister out of their shared home. The account is fictionalized – very fictionalized – but for those of us with unanswered Lizzie Borden questions, it satisfies some of that desire to know more about what happened, or at least to imagine what might have been.

Borden is dead, but her murder house lives on. You can actually sleep here if you are completely out of your mind.

Another reason you may watch: the cast. Christina Ricci has been playing creepy weirdos since she was in the single-digits, and she was honestly born for a role like Lizzie Borden. The cast is a dream team of Intense Youths From The 1990s: Clea DuVall (Girl Interrupted, Argo) plays Lizzie’s sister Emma, and Cole Hauser (School Ties, Dazed and Confused) is an investigator. That’s about it as far as big names go, but that’s more than you’d usually get in a Lifetime miniseries.

Of course Wednesday Addams would grow up to play Lizzie Borden.

You also might land on The Lizzie Borden Chronicles if you have a love cheesy historical dramas. Did you grow up on Little House on The Prairie or Dr. Quinn? Do you love when old-timey stories have incongruous modern soundtracks (thanks, Baz Luhrmann)? This series will fill your quota of straight-talking 19th century New Englanders with ruffly collars.

I will not be watching the Lizzie Borden Chronicles after the first episode. It’s not that it’s bad – I mean, it is bad, in a Lifetime Series way, but that’s why we watch it. It’s just that I’m in the middle of moving and I’m waiting to see if my new house is spooky. I’m not saying that ghosts are real, but that’s because I don’t know if they can read my blog and exact revenge or whatever. Anyway, I’ve put a moratorium on anything spooky until I see how things pan out. Hell, even the word “moratorium” was probably a bit too scary.

That brings me to the last reason you might be watching: creepy stuff. This one isn’t exactly as scary as most horror movies, but I don’t think anyone expects it to be. If you have a high tolerance for spooky entertainment and want a low dose of it, this might be the show for you. It was actually a bit much for me, because I’m not particularly interested in dead bodies, but all of the “suspenseful” scenes were truly laughable. It’s more campy than scary, but Lifetime -cruel, cruel Lifetime – knows we’ll probably watch it anyway.

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is one of those shows that you put on a pedestal and expect great things from because it has all the ingredients for your next new TV obsession. Interesting/unique plot? Check. Likable actress as the lead? Check. Tina Fey and 30 Rock crew on board? Check. But it’s very rare that shows like this not only meet your expectations but exceed them. Luckily, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt does just that.

When UKS came on Netflix at midnight Friday, I watched the first episode at 1am and had to physically stop myself from staying up all night to watch the rest of the short 13-episode season. It’s like sunshine crack and you can’t get enough of it. UKS soon was watched by thousands of other Netflix subscribers over the weekend and has gotten a lot of positive reviews from both critics and fans alike. If you’re not one of them, get on board, because this show certainly won’t let you down.

Basic Plot

Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) was kidnapped when she was in 8th grade and taken by a doomsday cult leader, who had kept her and three other women in an underground bunker. The pilot takes place years later when Kimmy is 29, and she and the other “Indiana Mole Women” are rescued from the bunker. The show centers on Kimmy adjusting to life again as an adult in New York City.

Filling The Void

30 Rock ended a little over two years ago and we lost Parks and Recreation less than a month ago. While some of us are still in mourning for both of those shows, I’m happy to report that while Kimmy Schmidt will not be able to bring back Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope for good, it will help cure the pain. Kimmy is surprisingly positive and optimistic for having spend most of her formative years underground and secluded from the world, and she has the similar ‘Knope We Can’ attitude in life as Pawenee’s favorite political figure. She’s also like Kenneth the Page – actually she and Kenneth would probably get along rull well. Meanwhile, UKS itself has the same unique, “bizarre” tone as 30 Rock had, the same pacing the same joke after joke after joke storytelling style that is so clearly Tina Fey and nowhere else on television. Put those two together and you have a force to be reckoned with in Kimmy Schmidt.

Unbreakable Ellie Kemper

Like Friends and “The One…”, every episode title of UKS ends in an exclamation point. Kimmy Goes Outside! Kimmy Gets a Job! Kimmy Gets Venereal Disease! (JK about that last one) But the exclamation is totally and completely necessary because Kimmy lives life in an exclamation point. When one is rescued from a crazy cult (as one does), you can go in two directions. As Kimmy says, “You can either curl up in a ball or die” or “you can stand up and say, ‘We’re different! And you can’t break us!’ And Ellie Kemper is the perfect person to carry out the latter. Like Erin in The Office and Becca in Bridesmaids, Ellie in real life is just as lovable and quirky and has the ability to make you smile without even realizing it. Her natural excitement for life is shown through Kimmy’s own positive outlook on the new life she has. I don’t think Ellie is as naive as Kimmy, but she has a similar pureness to her. Kimmy is a girl who exclaims “What in the ham sandwich – I just got a job!” Ellie can pull that sort of ridiculous and childlike curse replacement without making it seem obnoxious, and it’s why she’s perfect as Kimmy.

Jane Krakowski Fabulousness

Jane of course has history with Tina, having played the egotistical yet affable Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock, a role that has earned her 4 Emmy nominations. As Jacqueline Voorhees in UKS, there might be more nominations in her future. While not quite as insane as Jenna, Jacqueline is a rich housewife with a son whom Kimmy is the nanny to. Despite the fact that Jenna and Jacqueline have a lot of similarities, Jane (a lot of Js going on) is proving she’s not just one dimensional as an actor. Although Kimmy is the main character, expect a great B story with Jacqueline, especially when it comes to her background.

30 Rock Realness

Speaking of which, UKS is just as offbeat as 30 Rock was. I mean it’s a show based on a girl who escaped a doomsday cult in a bunker. Not the type of show you will see on CBS’ Monday night lineup. And since Tina is still the brains behind the who shebang, it’s littered with her ‘odd’ sense of humor. There’s a new Sabor De Soledad in the Febreeze-like product Buh Breeze, and like Jenna Maroney’s impersonator-turned-husband Paul L’Astname, there are larger than life characters like Kimmy’s roommate Titus Andromedon and Tristafé the spiritcycle instructor. There’s a whole storyline where Titus and his other furry friends band together to go against a swindling costume shop owner. It looks ridiculous on screen, and only this type of show can make it as funny as it is. Speaking of Tituss, he played Da’Fwan, one of Angie Jordan’s crew on 30 Rock, and now he’s getting the role he deserves as Kimmy’s roommate/best friend. As an aspiring Broadway star (IRL, Tituss is actually a Broadway star), Tituss helps Kimmy back into the real world but also provides for some wacky stories.

90s/00s Refs Up The Whazoo

Because Kimmy has been literally living under a rock (of the earth) for 15 years, her brain is still stuck as a middle schooler, so all her pop culture and life references are from the 00s and before, that don’t make as much sense or are as relevant in 2015. And it’s amazing. Some things mentioned throughout the series include, but are not limited to:

  • American Girl
  • Light up sneakers
  • Moesha
  • “As If”
  • Tamagotchi
  • “Opposite Day”
  • Mavis Beacon
  • Frasier
  • The Breakfast Club

Cults

If you’re into like, learning about Scientology or the Illuminati or true crime or the Duggars, just watch this knowing it could be real and you’ll love it. The leader of the Mole Women cult is a guy named Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (classic Fey), and they’re actually dressed like they could be a Duggar. Naturally, they’re odd and have been taught weird things but also do normal activities like have secret santa, because, priorities.

Netflix to the Rescue

uks

Tina and her 30 Rock partner Robert Carlock originally had a deal with NBC, but the UKS pilot wasn’t picked up to series. Luckily, not only did the fine folks at Netflix pick it up, they picked it up for a second season. As you can imagine, this is good in a number of ways for UKS – not only have they already known their fate, they can undoubtedly be a little more risque on Netflix as opposed to network television, which is saying something, because Tina’s crew is the one that brought you hard-hitting comments on sexism and race couched in comedy, James Franco’s infatuation with his Japanese body pillow, Margaret Cho as Kim Jong-il who kidnaps a popular U.S. newsanchor, and a pornographic video game, among others. Netflix will be different. Better different.

 Theme Song

I’m not even going to link to it because when it first appears in the pilot it happens so naturally and it was one of those moments when a light bulb with heart eye emojis appeared over my head and I knew I was going to love the show. Plus when you binge watch, it gets stuck in your head.