Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Empire

If we made a “Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already Bingo” – and Holy Netflix, why haven’t we? – then Empire would have a full board. Empire is a musical drama about the family of music moguls and artists behind Empire Enterprises, a fictional hip-hop label. None of those key words appeal to you? Don’t worry.  Empire has so many of our favorite tv show qualities and characteristics that I can’t think of too many people who wouldn’t like it. It has a classic television series premise (we’ll explain!), family struggles, fancy people – who used to be underdogs, if you’re the sort who hates fancy people, music, few enough episodes that you can catch up in a weekend, and 90s flashbacks. Okay? Okay. Let’s discuss that bingo card.

Classic Pilot Premise
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBzu_jKLJek]

Maybe none of your favorite TV series are about hip-hop dynasties, but you don’t have to be into the genre, you just have to like a good television drama. One of the classic tv series premises is the “shake up”: the pilot introduces a shift in circumstances for the characters, and the series progresses as people try to deal with it. I’m going to do this without giving out much info beyond the first episode. Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is the CEO of Empire Entertainment. Two of his sons are artists on the label: singer-songwriter Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray). His third son, Andre, is the company CFO. Lucious is diagnosed with ALS, and he has to decide which of his sons will take over the label. Probably not Jamal, because he’s gay and Lucious can’t deal, but who knows? So that’s shake up, Part I. Shake up part II: The boys’ mother, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), is released from prison after 17 years and wants her piece of the Empire pie.

Biblical Family Struggles

Which child will be favored? Will the fight for their father’s blessing tear the brothers apart? And what happens when one parent chooses one child as a favorite, and the other parent favors a different child? It’s a family dynamic tug-of-war that’s as old as the Bible, and it makes for great television.

Fancy People

I like my television aspirational. Even when a series is about lower or middle-class folks, I want their clothes and house to be nicer than my own. Like, I wasn’t one of those people who was furious that Monica could never have afforded that apartment in Friends. What can I say, if I want to look at mall clothes and Ikea furniture, I can see them anytime I want. The Lyon family is totally loaded, and they’re in Hip Hop, so conspicuous consumption is the name of the game. Palatial estates, fur coats, a gold chain as thick as my hair braid … that’s what television is for. Lucious is partially inspired by Jay-Z, if that gives you an idea.

But maybe you disagree. Maybe you hate “rich people” (hi, Dad, didn’t know you read my blog). The Lyons rose from humble origins, and if the Jay-Z reference meant anything to you, you see where this is going – Lucious is a former drug dealer, which is what landed Cookie in prison.

Hip Hop
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtfFF_vYqrs]

I know, I said you didn’t have to like hip hop to like Empire. And you don’t. But if you do like hip hop, you should definitely be watching. Just about every episode has amazing musical performances. Jamal has a gorgeous voice, Hakeem is a solid rapper and most of his songs are collaborations with other great artists, and the original songs are actually good. Since it’s a show about the music industry, the transition to song is pretty seamless. It’s not like a musical where everyone is talking and then decides to rap-battle their family meeting (I would watch that though). It’s not hokey. Think more Nashville, less Smash.

90s Flashbacks

If there’s one thing a tv series needs to be truly zeitgeist-y, it’s 90s stuff. Counterintuitive, but you know it’s true. Cookie was arrested 17 years ago, and there are plenty of flashbacks that take us back into the world of Empire during that time. For those of us who grew up on 90s hip hop and R&B, it’s a dream come true. [We also think you should be watching Fresh Off The Boat, another 2015 series with a fondness for 90s hip hop. What a time to be alive.] All I can do is hope that as the episodes go on, we’ll get to delve into the East Coast/ West Coast feud.

Speaking of the 90s, you may recognize Jamal from the 1990s series On Our Own, where he played an orphan growing up with his J-named siblings (sis Jurnee Smollett is one of those actresses that you definitely know, even if you think you don’t). He was also in Mighty Ducks. 90s royalty, is all I’m saying.

And You Can Watch It All Over A Weekend

There are a lot of shows I know I should be watching if I’m not already, but it’s just too hard. If there’s more than a season or so, you aren’t just deciding to start a show, you’re making a massive time commitment. But Empire just started in January, and as of right now, you can watch all of the back episodes online or on demand. Once you’re all caught up – so, by tonight if you have a free and clear schedule today, and by next week for sure, unless you have a busy weekend – you need to be watching this show. It airs on Wednesdays on Fox. The more people who watch it, the more people we have to discuss it with, so thanks in advance.

 

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: The Getaway

I feel like with all the Kadrashians and Housewives and Honey Boo Boos of the world, reality TV has gotten a negative stigma, where as soon as you label a show as such, most people are keen to brush it off. But believe it or not, there are plenty of great reality TV – ahem, unscripted docu-series – shows out there that deserved to be watched. One of them is a show called The Getaway on the Esquire network.

What It’s About

If you have the desire to feed your wanderlust, this show’s for you. Each episode features one celebrity who picks one city anywhere in the world, and they get to explore it for a few days. They take in the culture, eat the food, get to know the locals, etc. Also, the show is executive produced by Anthony Bourdain, so you know you’re getting the real deal.

Street Cred

The first season of The Getaway premiered last year, and after the first episode featuring Joel McHale, I was hooked. Other celebs who took the plunge in the first season included Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Seth & Josh Meyers, Eve, and Josh Gad. Here are just a few highlights that will give you a taste of what to expect.

Shopping

Rashida’s episode in London is my favorite out of the bunch, not only because I adore her, but because London in like another home to her and when she takes us to various places around the city, it’s as if she’s our personal tour guide. And thanks to the help of special guests like Chris O’Dowd and Adam Scott, it makes for a truly hilarious episode. In the scene above, Chris takes her to a super odd shop that’s part boutique and part weird museum that you see in the don’t go here but go here section of travel guide books.

Eating

Naturally, eating is a big part of traveling a foreign city, and the same goes for The Getaway. When Seth & Josh Meyers visit their old home of Amsterdam, they are treated to a special pig cuisine – stop the vid when the waiter explains the type of meat he puts on their table. And then there’s Broadway star/Olaf Josh Gad who opts to return to New York City and go to Carnegie’s Deli where he attempts to eat a sandwich that weighs more than some newborn babies. But hey, when in Rome, right?

Drinking

Because The Getaway is on the Esquire network, there has to be some classy drinking involved. Another episode I’m partial to is Bridesmaids director Paul Feig’s visit to Boston, where he pays a visit to one of the classiest drinking joints there is in the 617. Like the bartender uses items such a blowtorches and centerfuge. Yeah, exactly.

Activities

Rashida’s Parks and Rec pal Aziz Ansari opts to go to Hong Kong. If you are a fan of his or stalk his Insta, you know he’s a giant foodie, which is part of the reason he goes there. However, he has to do something besides eat, so his tour guide Denny (the best) takes him to the pony races. Who knew it was a thing there?

Culture

The great thing about The Getaway is that they don’t just show you the local hotspots, but they delve into the local culture and language too, all from the mouths of locals. When Joel McHale goes to Dublin, he gets a lesson on food slang. Albeit he doesn’t understand at first, the actual food looked really good.

 What to Expect

For the upcoming second season, a new slew of celebs get to pick the getaway of their choosing, including Chrissy Teigen who goes to roots in Bangkok, Thailand, Jack McBrayer stands out as a white dude in Hawaii and Adam Pally stays home in the U.S. for a wild trip to Las Vegas with his pals (In fact you can watch that episode now!). So fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a trip around the world from the comfort of your own home and enjoy getting away.

Season 2 of The Getaway premieres on Wednesday, October 15th on the Esquire at 9pm 

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Trophy Wife

Well folks, we’re about a month into the new fall season and unfortunately, a few shows have already gotten the axe (See ya Lucky 7. You were DOA).

But there’s one show that luckily hasn’t received the same fate and that is Trophy Wife. While it has been picked up for additional scripts (yay!) I’m writing this in hopes that more people will watch to keep it alive for at least a whole season (and obviously more!).

Trophy-Wife-ABC

Trophy Wife was one of the comedies I put on the shortlist of promising shows this season and it has (yet) to disappoint. So let’s keep it that way, shall we?

Storyline:

“A reformed party girl finds herself an insta-family after falling in love with a man with 3 manipulative children and two judgmental ex-wives”

Clearly since the show is only a few episodes in, this plot description holds true, but I feel like as time goes on, it will feel more like a Modern Family-esque show that is a sitcom at its core, but still has a lot of heart – that may or may not make you shed a tear by the end of the episode.

The above chart is really what you need to know in terms of relationships, it’s pretty simple.

5 Reasons to Watch

5) The Ex-Wives

Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden plays ex-wife number one, Diane. She’s a doctor, which means she’s totally type A personality and can be the bitch of the group when need be. She’s protective of her two teen kids, so much so that she did a little ‘light catfishing’ in order to keep track of them.


Ex-SNL performer Michaela Watkins plays Jackie, ex-wife #2. Completely different than Diane, Jackie is a total granola, hippie, Whole Foods going lady. Put the two of them together and you’ll see why Pete decided to marry Kate after being with these two.

4) The Writing & Brains behind the show

The show was created by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins. Emily comes from Shondaland – Private Practice to be more accurate – and Sarah is a comedian who loosely based the lead character of Kate around her own life. She married someone who is almost 20 years her senior (and the stepson of Julie Andrews!?), and also had to learn how to co-parent his nine and 19 year old kids. You can tell that there’s an honesty on the show that’s not pretentious or stereotypical, especially when it comes to Kate.

Not to mention, a few of my favorite former The Office writers are producers/scribes on the show, including Danny Chun, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. Okay, writer nerd ends here.

3) The Kids (read: BERT)

The teens from wife #1, Warren and Hillary are played by accomplished actors, who have been in This is 40 (Melissa McCarthy’s kid) and Disney Channel hit Wizards of Waverly Place (she played ‘Maxine’ aka Max in girl form). Luckily Bailee comes into the show with fans already – she was on WoWP after all – and they do a great job of being kids without looking like they’re acting.

But listen, one of the greatest parts of this show is Bert. Played by Albert Tsai (his name is like an 85 year old Chinese man who does Tai Chi in the park), Bert is the adopted son of Pete and Jackie. And good LORD is he hilarious. Not only are his lines to die, but his delivery is spot on.

2) Bradley Whitford

I may have been a few years late, but I am still a West Wing fan. Well, If we’re talking Brad, I was a fan of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip prior to his excellent work on TWW, so basically, I’m just a Bradley Whitford fan in general.

As Josh Lyman, he played a suited-up Deputy Chief of Staff (who made us swoon with his will they/won’t they with Donna), in Studio 60 he played a suited-up co-executive producer of a SNL like show (who made us swoon with his unconditional love for Jordan), and in Trophy Wife he plays a suited-up lawyer (who makes us swoon. period).

BDubs handles the role effortlessly, and doesn’t play Pete as someone we dislike for marrying a former party girl way younger than him. He plays the perfect role – a dad.

^Taken from that same ‘Catfishing’ ep!^

Not to mention he JUST started a Twitter account and has posted stuff that is exactly what I would assume Bradley Whitford to post.

1) Family Dynamic

Here’s the thing. ABC is really banking on its ‘family shows’ theme. With Modern Family, The Goldbergs, The Middle, Suburgatory, etc., they’ve created a niche that totally works for them. And with Trophy Wife, it fits right in. Just like Modern Family, Trophy Wife shows what a lot of families in America look like these days. Not everyone comes from a nuclear family anymore – this is The New Normal, if you will (RIP The New Normal).

RYAN LEE, BAILEE MADISON, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, BRADLEY WHITFORD, MALIN AKERMAN, NATALIE MORALES, MICHAELA WATKINS, ALBERT TSAI

No matter what your family may look like, no matter how many ex-wives may be involved, at the end of the day, they’re still a family. I appreciate that at the end of every episode, whatever ridic conflict occurs is eventually resolved at the end and the one thing that matters is that they still have each other.

And hopefully we’ll be there for them too.

Trophy Wife is on ABC, Tuesdays @ 9:30pm

Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: #Scandal

For me, summer isn’t just about basking in the sun, vacations and 90 degree days. It’s the perfect time to get caught up on the TV series that I have been meaning to watch but don’t have time to during the regular TV season. So this is the list I made for myself this summer:

Photo Oct 01, 11 34 23 PM

I’d like to point out that American Dreams was a rewatch and I actually decided to watch all four seasons of The League over It’s Always Sunny, purely because there were far less episodes. I mean, get a life.

Scandal was one of those, ‘I’ll watch it if I get around to it’, not one of those ‘I need to see this immediately because it’s literally been called the best series in the history of TV’. So color me surprised when I actually found myself not only liking Scandal, but becoming obsessed with it.

Now I’m not a newcomer to Shondaland, I’ve been with the kids at Seattle Grace since they were interns, and I just realized that I called it Seattle Grace, when it’s actually called Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (RIP), an I’ve seen the folks over at Oceanside Wellness with my boo Taye Diggs. So I’m well aware of the addictive TV crack Shonda Rhimes stirs into her beloved shows. But I didn’t expect it to be this good.

Scandal begins its highly-anticipated third season TONIGHT, and I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t spent the summer (read: one week) catching up on the past 29 episodes, you’ve wasted your time. But – it’s never too late. Here are 5 reasons why you should start DVR-ing the third season now, and after reading this post, go directly to Netflix and watch the first two seasons. I’m telling you – it’s that good.

Before we start, here’s the basic plot:

Meet Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington. Former White House Director of Communications, overall HBIC.

She also exists on a diet of wine and popcorn.

She runs Olivia Pope & Associates, a crisis management firm that handles major scandals in Washington, D.C. and fixes them. Her team is comprised of her ‘Gladiators’ (which is also the nickname for Scandal fans): Harrison, Huck, Abby and Quinn.

Meet President Fitzgerald Grant. Leader of the free world, sexy grown ass man, former Ghost villain.

He is married to another HBIC in her own right, First lady Mellie Grant. Fitz’s right-hand man and Chief of Staff is Cyrus Beene, a guy who is willing to do anything to keep the President the President, and probs the best actor on the show.

Other people of note: US Attorney for D.C., David Rosen (played by The West Wing’s Josh Malina), White House Reporter/Cyrus’ husband, James Novack (Emmy winner Dan Bucatinsky), and Officer Jake Ballard (Felicity’s other Ben, Scott Foley), who I won’t reveal his exact role in the show.

Oh BTW, Olivia and Fitz have been carrying on an affair ever since they met on his campaign trail, and have been off and on while he’s been in the White House. So you know, probably the biggest SCANDAL there is.

So wrong, it’s right.

If the basic plot wasn’t enough to convince you, here are 5 reasons to indulge in your next guilty pleasure:

5) Social Media

There’s a reason why I hashtagged ‘Scandal’ in the Post title. Scandal started as a midseason replacement last year. With only seven episodes, it still found a fan base, and was renewed for a second season. It seemed that with every passing week, it became bigger and bigger, and ABC execs finally decided to give it a full 22 episode season.

And a lot of its popularity is thanks to social media and word of mouth. I remember seeing it pop up more and more among the people I was following both on Twitter and Facebook, and it was the reason why I put it on my list in the first place. Since the show itself is highly addictive, people wanted to share their addiction with everyone else, and of course, in 2013, what better way to do that than with the internet?

Apparently Kerry went to Shonda and suggested that the cast join Twitter (because she didn’t want to seem controlling over them!) and soon they began livetweeting along with their fans. Thursday nights became an event. If you couldn’t watch it in real time, don’t bother going on Twitter. It became a worldwide trend every week thanks to the #Gladiators, giving it even more free publicity than ever before. Between January and June of this year, almost 3.5 million tweets were sent about the show alone!

Now it’s come to the point where the cast gets together before the next episode airs and watches it together in order to prep for the live tweeting on Thursday. And let’s be honest, watching your favorite show along with the cast and other fans is pretty cool. So I’m warning you now, if you see #Scandal, #Gladiators, #TheStormIsComing or #Olitz trending on Twitter tonight, you’ll know why.

4) Fashion

Olivia Pope is a classy broad. A classy D.C. broad who makes thousands of dollars, and she lets her strong fashion sense be a reflection of her own strong character as a woman. Costume Desginer Lyn Paolo is the creative genius behind Olivia’s wardrobe, who picks the best of the best for Olivia. From Burberry capes to Dior evening coats to my personal fave, a Jean Fares gown that would even make me want to have an affair with Olivia (slash Kerry).

Fans have been dying over her style so much that Paolo and Scandal bosses partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue, and just yesterday, Kerry helped kickoff the collaboration at its flagship store in New York City. The famous window is curated by Paolo herself, which includes fashions are worn by Olivia, including Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Carolina Herrera.

fyi, that is supposed to be kerry washington and tony goldwyn

3)  Cast Camaraderie

Nothing makes my TV obsessed heart happier knowing that people on TV who play friends are actually friends IRL. And although there’s a lot of drama on screen, it doesn’t seem like there’s any drama off screen.

Like I mentioned before, the cast gets together at someone’s home the Sunday before the show airs, so they can watch the ep together for the first time in order to prepare for the live tweeting. And they post pix on Twitter of their gatherings (as seen above)! If you delve into the black hole of Scandal interviews on YouTube, you can clearly tell that they all really enjoy each others’ company, and even hang out when not on set.

They remind me of the Parks and Rec cast, which I think is probably the set I’d most like to hang out at, for many reasons, but mainly because it seems like they’re just friends tooling around, who happen to be filming a TV show together. That’s what Scandal is like.

2) Characters first, adjectives second

Shonda Rhimes is known for her “colorblind” casting. You can see it with Grey’s and you can see it on Scandal. Despite the fact that Olivia Pope is the first African-American lead actress on TV in a very long time, that’s not what she’s all about. She’s a powerful, confident woman first, and black woman second. In fact, her interracial relationship with Fitz isn’t even mentioned until halfway through season two, as seen in the clip above. Earlier in the episode, an angry Liv scolded Fitz for treating her like a Sally Hemmings to his Thomas Jefferson. In fact, race has only been mentioned a couple times throughout the series, and that’s really what it should be.

Also take Cyrus, a high-powered Republican who just happens to be gay. Just like Olivia, he isn’t defined by his sexuality. He’s defined by his ability, his fortitude, his passion and allegiance for his country, for the President.

Scandal proves that a TV show can have a diverse palate of characters, without them being the stereotypical “gay best friend,” or “sassy black girl.”  They are just Cyrus and Olivia.

1) OLITZ

While my second reason on the list should be enough, let’s keep it real. The making of a really good drama/soap/Shonda Rhimes show is a hot relationship. And save for maybe Sam and Naomi from Private Practice, this is absolutely the hottest relationship to come out of Shondaland. Not only are Kerry and Tony extremely hot on their own, but they have an inexplicable chemistry that makes you feel like you’re being a voyeur into their sex lives. Seriously, just YouTube some of their scenes together if you want a sampling, but I’m telling you it’s hot hot hot! The clip above is from the pilot, where we first discover they’re having an affair. It gets sooo much hotter!)

Although I suppose the other thing that makes their love even hotter is that they’re divulging in forbidden territory. I think it’s easy for viewing to forget the onnneee little detail about “Olitz”: these two are committing adultery. We are rooting for CHEATERS. Well, a lot of us.

But I think that  that’s amazing that a series can make us support people who we would otherwise judge in the outside world. Obviously no one is perfect, but the very thing that has most people tuning in is considered taboo in real life. What is right? What is wrong? Is it wrong because he’s married, or is it wrong because he’s forcing himself to stay in a relationship where his wife isn’t at the top of his list anymore? Would it be right to leave the First Lady and become the ‘Divorced President’, or just keep up the facade for the American public, knowing full well you’re living a lie?

As we’re about to delve into season there, we still haven’t figured out right from wrong, whether the Olitz relationship can still be strong or not, but one thing for sure is that if they’re gettin down dirty in the White House – we’ll be the pervs watching…

Scandal is on ABC, Thursdays at 10pm (No, I do not work for ABC or Scandal, I’m just insane)

Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Call The Midwife

First things first. The show is called “Call the Midwife,” and the promotional images feature nuns on bicycles. This probably sounds great if you’re into the whole tea-and-twee thing, but I promise there’s a broader appeal to it if that’s not your thing. I’d venture to say if you like Downton Abbey, Grey’s Anatomy, or Orange Is The New Black, you should give Call The Midwife a try.

This show follows Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine – and narrated in the present day by Vanessa Redgrave), a young midwife working in East London in the late 1950s. Jenny lives at a nursing convent, so her colleagues are a mix of old nuns and young nurses. The East End was super-poor at the time, and super-fertile as well, apparently. So, what does this all have to do with Downton, Grey’s, and OITNB?

Downton Abbey

Let’s start with the obvious. These shows are both set in England in the past. The thing is, although the late 50s is usually considered a pretty modern era, the East End was still struggling to recuperate from World War II, and the area had a lot more in common with Downton in the teens and 20s than modern London.

Then, there’s the class thing. Jenny’s from somewhere in the comfortable classes, and she has good intentions to help out in the East End. Like plenty of well-intentioned 22-year-olds before her, though, she can’t help but feel a little judgmental towards some of the less-privileged folks she meets. You can see her journey from sympathy to empathy as the seasons progress. Then there’s Chummy, a nurse from the upper-upper class who seems to only make positive assumptions about everyone she meets. There’s also plenty of screen time given to the patients from the East End, and not all of them are exactly fawning over the upper-class nurses. The nuns, of course, are sort of in a class all to themselves. If you want to see how the upstairs-downstairs thing would play out 40 years down the line – say, when Ethel’s and Mary’s children are adults – you should probably watch this.

Grey’s Anatomy

… or E.R… or Chicago Hope… In many ways, Call The Midwife is a historical medical drama. There’s none of the mystery of House, because – surprise! – all of the patients are pregnant. Nevertheless, Call The Midwife follows a different patient or two each episode. Of course, sometimes a more compelling patient will show up again later on.

I should mention that childbirth is really not my thing, but you don’t see any of the gory details. If you think medical problems and procedures are interesting, but can’t stomach too much blood and guts, this is a good bet.

Sometimes, Call The Midwife reads as a love letter to the NHS. It kind of feels like that kid in fourth grade who would brag about having an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and you’d be like “you don’t really have to brag about it, I was already jealous of you.” But don’t mind me, I just have a high-deductible plan and am bitter about it.

Orange Is The New Black

I’m sure there’s some sort of analogy there between nuns and prisoners, but that’s not exactly what I mean. I mean, there’s this great, diverse group of characters, and you get to learn about every one. Everyone – nuns, nurses, or  disadvantaged patient – is presented on equal footing. You don’t get the full backstory of every character, but between the writers and the actors, everyone does such a wonderful job of presenting each character as a full, complex person.

If you want to watch Call the Midwife, act fast. Season One is on Netflix, but season 2 is only streaming on PBS through September 3. It watches fast, though, because there are only 15 episodes in all. Both seasons (series, they call them in the UK, because they’re just a bunch of cuties) are available on DVD, so hopefully season 2 will make it to Netflix soon.

Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Moone Boy

As we’ve mentioned, summer is the perfect time to start up a new tv series, since you have plenty of time to catch up on episodes before the new season starts. I just wrapped up Orphan Black (watch it!) and Hulu was promo-ing the heck out of Moone Boy, so I figured why not?

If you’re not already, you should be watching this show. It’s the perfect light summer tv fare – like the sitcom version of strawberry shortcake, but made with more of a biscuit base so it’s not TOO sweet. Let’s review:

This show is about Martin (David Rawle), a 12-year-old boy growing up in Ireland with his parents, older sisters, and imaginary friend. Yes, an imaginary friend, who actually appears on screen and is an adult man. This sounds horribly twee, but it really isn’t. The reason? Kids having imaginary friends isn’t cute to begin with. It’s weird and kind of creepy. One of my nephews has a whole gaggle of imaginary friends. He can tell you their birth dates, the age they were at any given year, their eerily realistic-sounding life stories (Sara got married when she was 17, but got divorced in 1979). None of the details ever waver.

Guys, I think my nephew sees ghosts.

At any rate, the imaginary friend thing isn’t too cutesy, which was my main concern.

Imaginary man aside, this show is refreshingly realistic, and that’s what I like about it. If you watch a lot of shows from Ireland or the UK, you already know that the actors are a lot more … plausible-looking than they are in US television. The kid looks like a regular awkward kid and his sisters look like regular, awkward teens:

The family interactions are lifelike, too – thanks to a great cast and solid writing. Like, Martin’s dad Liam confronts the school bullies’ dad. In most shows, he’d this big hulking dude who would intimidate Liam. Instead, this man instantly agrees that his kids are the worst, and the dads commiserate about how they can’t stand their own children sometimes. When the local women campaign for Mary Robinson’s presidential race, they have feminist motives but also just really like her haircut.

If the Mary Robinson reference didn’t tip you off, Moone Boy is an early ’90s period piece. It’s odd that my childhood is now distant yesteryear in TV-land, but it’s pretty fun to see the fashions and home furnishings of the day. Granted, I’m American, so my main point of reference for the Ireland of 1990 is this kid Paul who used to stay with my cousins every summer. It was some kind of American family/ child of NRA prisoner exchange program. Nice kid.

The really embarrassing thing is it took until the second episode for me to realize that the show was set 23 years ago. With God as my witness, I just thought that maybe people abroad were still really into Dynasty. Sorry, Ireland — it’s not that I think that you’re permanently stuck in 1990. It’s that I am.

Maybe you still aren’t sold, so I’ll pull out the last big draw. The imaginary friend, Sean Murphy? He’s played by the wonderful Chris O’Dowd, who you’ll know from Bridesmaids, Friends With Kids, and Girls. Also apparently Monsters vs Aliens, but we don’t need to dwell on that.

But we CAN dwell on Chris O’Dowd, who is kind of oddly appealing.

If you’re looking for a funny but not too fluffy show to add to your summer schedule, this is it. New episodes are posted on hulu.com every Wednesday, and the first two are up now, unless you have Hulu plus – you lucky folks can watch the whole series. However, like imaginary friends, Hulu Plus users may not actually exist, because I’ve never met one yet.

Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: The New Normal

I was mighty incredulous about The New Normal. It seemed too much like it was riding the coattails of Modern Family – like network TV had just realized that people had weird family arrangements or, you know, that gay people actually had families, and they were really gunning for it. I definitely gave this a bit of a side-eye when NBC gave it a promo spot during the Olympics. I felt like if they had to try that hard, it wasn’t going to be very good. I also felt like this was the two weeks every four YEARS that I watch sports, so they should just show me the goddamn swimmers already.  Happy to say, I was mistaken – it is actually worth watching. Here’s why:

Bebe Wood as Shania
I know child actors are frequently the worst part of the show, but Bebe is oddly hilarious. The reason this quirky kid character is so funny is that the writers actually abide by the “show, don’t tell” rule. Instead of having the adults comment on how “offbeat” the kid is, they have her doing these amazing impressions of Little Edie Beale and the Dowager Countess. Her glasses aren’t prescription. She writes Charlie Rose fan-fiction. And best of all, while Shania isn’t a perfect kid, she doesn’t fall into the bratty sitcom child trap. Thank goodness.

The Rocky-Jane Adversarial Friendship

I like to imagine that they’re IRL besties, too.


Things got off to a rough start between TV producer Rocky (NeNe Leakes) and uber conservative/former Ohioan/World’s Youngest Great-Grandmother Jane (Ellen Barkin). See, e.g.: “The last time I checked this diamond speckled watch my gay boss bought me, without his consent, it was 2012. Now, why don’t you take your Callista Gingrich hairdo and your racist mind back to the past, or the south, where they belong?” Of course, the producers didn’t leave us hanging too long, and by the second half of the season we got to see these two (sort of) join forces, largely because of a shared dislike of the same things and people.

The Adorable Goldie/Bryan/David Friendship
Goldie (Georgia King, who is Scottish?!) is a gestational surrogate with a heart of gold. She is also younger than me, I just realized, which is BANANAS, but probably doesn’t matter to you. She’s a former teen mom who is acting as a surrogate to raise enough money to go to law school. And to think all I did was take out a few LSAT books from my college library. She, Bryan (Andrew Rannells), and David (Justin Bartha) become one of my favorite friend-families on T.V. right now. You get the feeling that even if she didn’t need the money, she’d still help the guys start their family, and that even if she wasn’t carrying their baby, Bryan and David would still do what they could to help her start her career and take care of Shania. I can’t wait to see how this family develops after the baby is born.

The Wacky but not too wacky plot lines
With its fairly involved premise, this show doesn’t really need to go to extreme on the plot lines. Almost everything is plausible, and some lean toward the classic sitcom setups — but if you want a mindless half-hour of tv that doesn’t change the face of sitcom television, this is it. A few favorites: the group goes gadget-free, causing Shania to get a little too into Pilgrim character; Tofurkey causes Thanksgiving dissent; a babyproofer apparently hates fun and Christmas.