Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: The Handmaid’s Tale

This weekend you could turn on your TV  to watch a totalitarian regime use self-serving but ostensibly biblical rationale to oppress women, the LGBT community, intellectuals and others – or you could turn the news off, flip over to Hulu and watch the first five episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. We suggest the latter.

If you aren’t familiar with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, you won’t need to know much before you watch the Hulu series. Creator Bruce Miller wonderfully establishes the setting and reveals information at a pace that will answer all your questions in time. The Handmaid’s Tale depicts life in Gilead, a quasi-biblical military dictatorship established in the former United States after the constitution was suspended sometime in the near future. With the birth rate drastically low, low-status fertile women are assigned to Commanders as “Handmaids” to bear their children if the commander’s wife is unable to conceive. There’s no real choice in the matter: the other option is to get shipped off to the “colonies” and clean up nuclear waste. The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her experiences with her commander (Joseph Fiennes), his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and fellow Handmaids (Alexis Bledel [Ofglen], Madeline Brewer [Janine], Samira Wiley [Moira]).

The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Timely It Will Scare You

Since Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, it’s always had unsettling echoes of reality … but sometimes it’s extra prescient. In 1985 America was experiencing the rise of the Moral Majority – a far-right backlash to developments both negative (the rise of street drugs, the growth of the AIDS epidemic) and positive (the gains made by the ’70s Gay Liberation Movement and the reproductive rights developments in Griswold v. Connecticut  and Roe vs. Wade). The back-and-forth between periods of social progress and reactionary periods of regression are familiar to anyone who’s opened a history book. An adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale probably would have been well-received in the 90s or early 2000s, but the Hulu adaptation feels almost necessary now. With news stories about an Oklahoma bill requiring a man’s permission to get an abortion, the commodification of children in unethical surrogacy and adoption contracts, and gay men being rounded up into camps in Chechnya, it’s not hard to envision a future like Gilead.

In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood makes it clear that not long has passed between its 1980s publication and the establishment of Gilead– she refers to cassette tapes, 1950s military surplus and 1970s magazines all still in existence. Likewise, the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future: in flashbacks to Offred and Moira’s recent past, there are references to Tinder, Uber and Craigslist. If Gilead looks familiar it’s because it should – Atwood has commented that everything that happens in The Handmaid’s Tale has already happened somewhere in the world. Even smaller details are accurate, such as the Handmaids’, wives’ and Marthas’ (housekeeper/cook/maid) old-timey outfits —  they’re spot-on when you look deep into the trenches of some Christian Fundamentalist movements or the FLDS church, where womens’ wardrobes are a kind of Little House throwback.

The Handmaid’s Tale Is Probably Going To Win All The Acting Awards

… or at least it should. If you watched Mad Men you already know that Elisabeth Moss can do everything, but if not we’re letting you know: Elisabeth Moss can do everything. She seamlessly switches from young, carefree Offred, to Offred as a Handmaid concealing her distaste for the regime, at once defiant and compliant. Moss excels both in scenes without dialogue and in voice-overs (I especially enjoyed the voiceovers after re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale and getting to the epilogue — no spoilers, but I forgot about that part). Joseph Fiennes is just as the Commander should be: he’s clearly part of the regime, but you can’t help but have some questions about him. Yvonne Strahovski is delightfully icy as Serena Joy. I admit that when I read The Handmaid’s Tale I was expecting something a little more Tammy Faye Bakker, but she’s actually perfect for a 2017 version. I can just picture Serena Joy as the Pinterest-perfect upper-class housewife before Gilead.

The real revelation, though, is Alexis Bledel as Ofglen. We’re both longtime, reunion-panel-attending Gilmore Girls fans, but having only seen Alexis as Rory I didn’t really know what range she is capable of. In one instant you can see why Offred believes that Ofglen is totally sold on the Gilead lifestyle, and in the next you understand that Ofglen is a rebel. Ofglen is both unbreakable and quietly devastated, and Alexis’s innocent appearance is used to better end here than it is in Gilmore Girls; as Vanity Fair noted, “she’s less Bambi here and more trapped bird.”

For what it’s worth, in my notes I wrote “somebody should have told me Samira Wiley was in this,” so I’m telling you now. If Poussey was one of your favorites in Orange Is The New Black, you’ll absolutely love Samira as the ebullient Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale. If Moira’s character in the Hulu series has the same outcome as Moira in the novel, I can’t wait to see it, but at least through episode 5 she is seen only in flashbacks.

The Handmaid’s Tale Works Really, Really Well As A Show

Many books suffer in film adaptations, and I think even more suffer in television adaptations. However, the Hulu limited series is the perfect way to adapt The Handmaid’s Tale. The format has allowed for expanded stories of some of the characters — for instance, Ofglen has a bigger backstory and a different fate in the show; we have filled in Moira and Offred’s history, but there is still more of Moira’s future to come as of episode 5. Although some characters have been altered or expanded on a bit, every change preserves the spirit of the book. Bruce Miller also made the wise choice of adding in details to show that we aren’t too far off from 2017. Now that The Handmaid’s Tale has been renewed for a second season, I do wonder how the comparison to the book will pan out. Does the first season encapsulate the whole novel, or will the season end partway through? If you have read the book, you’ll know that the Epilogue gives fodder for how the show could continue if season one does end with the book.

Still, I’d argue that all of the best adaptations succeed because they can be enjoyed on their own merits, and that’s my belief of The Handmaid’s Tale. The whitewashed lighting and beautiful set and costume design lend a real cinematic feel, and the writing includes plenty of time for suspense and speculation — but it doesn’t go full Lost and add a ton of elements that the viewer doesn’t have time to make sense of. Even the songs at the end of each episode are perfect. It’s dystopian fiction without any teens being sorted, and it’s grounded enough in reality that you won’t feel like it’s set on a different planet. The Handmaid’s Tale is a series so gripping that when I remember it’s Wednesday and a new episode is up, I’m more than happy to switch off the news. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.

‘Anne With An E’ Thoughts, And Other Anne Reading

Where my kindred spirits at?

We are mere days from the Netflix premiere of ‘Anne With An E,’ but I had the pleasure of viewing the first two episodes earlier this spring when my Canadian TV signal was coming in. There’s a lot to be excited about,  so I’ll just mention a few things now:

  • In an epic Meeting Of The Canadian Cultural Icons, the opening titles of ‘Anne With An E’ are set to The Tragically Hip’s Ahead By A Century, giving the song a new meaning and perfectly encapsulating Anne.
  • The aesthetics are phenomenal. The ‘Anne With An E’ production strove for authenticity in its sets and costumes, but certainly also to meet a modern appeal. To wit: the puffed sleeve dress won’t look as ’80s as the one in the (dearly, deservedly beloved) Megan Follows version. Yes, that ’80s dress was historically accurate, but the choice was one that complimented a 1980s aesthetic; the choices in this production, similarly, are historically accurate but complement a 2017 aesthetic. That is to say that many of the rooms in Green Gables are beautifully bare and folksy, like a Kinfolk spread. Both the CBC and Netflix premieres included flower crowns and a flower wall. The town shots of Avonlea are a little more ‘gritty’ and a little less Little House on the Prairie. The colors are at once washed out and sepia-tinged. It’s just PRETTY, in a way any production set in Prince Edward Island should be. You can see what Anne’s swooning over.
  • ‘Anne With An E’ does depart from the books, for better or worse. I hate to bemoan too much imagination in a discussion of Anne of Green Gables, of all things… plus the (dearly, deservedly beloved) Megan Follows version strayed from the books in its own ways. With this adaptation helmed by Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett, safe to say things are considerably darker. There are two arguments to be made here. The first is that Lucy Maud Montgomery knew darkness as a child, as her mother died when she was very young and her father effectively abandoned her, but chose a light and optimistic outlook in the Anne novels. The second is that the darkness is implicit in the Anne series anyway. We know Anne was overworked and abused in her earlier placements, and we knew of her loneliness in the orphanage. Her use of imagination as an escape permeates Anne of Green Gables, especially. She does face rejection and fear abandonment; she cannot remember being loved.
  • However, some plot devices that were used to increase the dramatic tension in ‘Anne With An E’ felt unnecessary. The classic Anne debacles – the hair dye, the ridgepole, the Lady of Shalott business, good Lord, the cordial – are enough.
  • I think Anne Shirley was always a feminist, but ‘Anne With An E’ couches that in more modern terminology. For instance, Anne tells Marilla that girls can do anything boys can. It struck me as anachronistic, but then I remembered my niece who I’ll be watching this with and realized that it’s not for me. I’ll take some improbable dialogue if it’s to a good end, especially in a children’s series. I’d compare it to the 1994 adaptation of Little Women that way.

  • Finally, if there’s one reason to give this adaptation of Anne a chance, it’s Anne herself. Amybeth McNulty is the closest to the Anne of my imagination of any actress so far. Anne is aged up to 13 in this series, and Amybeth really does look like a 13-year-old who sees herself as scrawny; it was hard to suspend disbelief when the wonderful Megan Follows looked 17 in the first movie. Amybeth has just the right intelligence and spirit behind her eyes to make a convincing Anne, effectively conveying Anne’s disappointment, trauma and high-flying spirit. If I was 15 I’d totally want to be bosom friends with her.

The take-away: ‘Anne With An E’ – or any Anne adaptation – won’t meet muster for some fans of the 1985 CBC series Anne of Green Gables, but there’s a lot to love if you judge it on its own merits. I’ve loved Anne since I first read Anne of Green Gables in second grade, and I enjoyed the episodes I saw of ‘Anne With An E’ enough that I’m anxious to see the rest of the series. You could say that some liberties were taken with the stories, but you could also say that there was plenty of scope for the imagination in the original texts.

Other Anne Reading
Marilla Cuthbert Was a Creepy Church Hag

My analysis of Marilla Cuthbert – whom I love, of course – as a creepo who kind of did try to buy a child to do chores. And if you have enough cash-money to buy a human child, you can buy her the ugly sleeves she wants, right?

Gilbert Blythe, Dream Man or D-Bag

Is Gilbert Blythe a swoon-worthy match for Anne or a total jerk who should leave her alone? Both? Neither? Or is the problem with Anne herself? Join me on the journey to unravel basically every weird romantic situation I’ve ever been in.

Anne of Green Gables 2013

Several years ago there were rumors of a modern-day Anne of Green Gables adaptation. I tried to parse out what, exactly, that would look like. Mr. Phillips and Prissy Andrews? Yeah, that’s a Dateline special waiting to happen.

Questions, Comments, Concerns: Anne Of Green Gables

Because I’ve never skipped an Anne of Green Gables adaptation, I wrote about the PBS version that aired in November of 2016. Takeaway: it was fine, I guess.

Related articles

Ridiculous Pretty Little Liars Plot Lines You Forgot Happened

It’s been a very long, twisty road, PLL Army, but we’re finally at the end of the road.

Season 7(B) of teen drama Pretty Little Liars kicks off tomorrow, and honestly, it’s about time. Regular viewers got sucked into the mystery of “Who Is A?”, the mysterious person who stalked, tortured, and harassed teenage girls for years. Everyone became a professional conspiracy theorist, taking every single hint on the show and turning it into their own personal A lair.

And fans can attest that throughout the seven years there has been more than enough red herrings and insane moments that either made us question what the eff was going on, or why the eff we’re still watching this show. And there are so many of them that it’s hard to remember every single one. Before we dig into the final 10 episodes, let’s take a look back at the previous 150 episodes and see just how many ridiculous plot lines we’ve had to accept as canon over the past seven seasons.

  • Before Emily came out as a lesbian, she had a boyfriend named StraightGuy. At one point, he attempted to assault her in the girls’ locker room, but Toby came to rescue and beat him up. Tender is the Toby/Emily friendship.
  • While glamping, A hits Hanna with a car. At this point in the timeline, Mona is A. Mona aka Hanna’s BFF, hits her with a vehicle.
  • Spencer, the most scholarly of the liars, willingly takes off her bra in order to get back on the Decathlon team. It’s the Sixteen Candles underwear scene of Rosewood.
  • Rando You’ll Never Meet Again #4 is Duncan Albert, a dude who used to be Alison’s secret summer boy toy. He arrives to Rosewood in hopes of meeting with “Vivian Darkbloom” (TL;DR) and ends up meeting Aria. He happens to have his pilot’s license, so natch he invited her up in his two-seater for a romantic fly over Pennsylvania. And then he LETS ARIA, WITH NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE, STEER THE GD PLANE.

  • Caleb just lived in the school. IN the school.
  • Mona falls off a cliff. And lives.
  • Emily gets a gift from A, and instead of a Tiffany’s necklace, she gets a necklace made of out teeth – teeth that belonged to her dead girlfriend.
  • Speaking of teeth (BECAUSE THAT’S THE TYPE OF SHOW THIS IS), instead of giving a teeth necklace to Hanna, A decided to play dentist by performing surgery on her while she was unconscious, and then left the world’s tiniest message in her tooth.

  • The girls became models for a bridal show (again, they’re teenagers), and Spencer finds out that her corset wasn’t the most comfortable because it had finger bones in it. Duh.
  • Ravenswood.
  • In order to relieve stress for a v important swim meet that could determine her collegiate future, Emily rubs muscle lotion cream on herself to make her calm down. Except the cream was actually poisonous steroid cream that A obvs had a hand in. At the hospital, Em got even more bad news, because doctors discovered the steroids in her blood, which is never good for someone who wants to be a professional swimmer.
  • Aria’s dad’s mistress (and later Rosewood High teacher) Meredith, tends to a sick Aria, not in a ‘let me make you chicken soup’ kind of way, but in the ‘i’mma slip drugs into her hot tea’ kind of way. And then she locks her inside her bedroom, but when Aria tries to get out, Meredith knocks her unconscious. Hanna and Emily arrive to help save Aria, but then Meredith locks them up too. Reminder: all these girls are high schoolers.
  • Spencer gets trapped in a sauna:

  • Spencer and Aria get trapped in a freezer:

  • Emily and Jason get trapped in an elevator:

  • Emily gets trapped in a coffin (which is on a conveyor belt closing in on a chainsaw):

  • Aria gets trapped in a box on a Halloween train (with a dead body):

  • Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna all get trapped in a dollhouse (complete with replicas of their own real bedrooms):

  • Not only does Spencer have an Adderall addiction, but it’s actually a relapse since she was hooked on the drug before. There’s even a scene where Maddie Ziegler shows up in Spencer’s drug-addled dream:

  • During one of PLL’s famous Halloween episodes, a little girls shows up at Hanna’s house looking for her mom. Instead of, I don’t know, calling the police (which everyone in Rosewood apparently has an aversion to), Hanna’s mom Ashley leaves her alone in one of their rooms, but when she comes back to find her, little girl is gone – BECAUSE SHE WAS A GHOST.
  • There was a bird named Tippi who repeatedly sang a phone number
  • And this. This is what Toby looks like in jail:

Ranking The New Crop of TV Shows: Fall 2016 Edition

It’s well known we’re currently living in the Golden Age of Television, inundated with just way too much great TV. It’s honestly such a burden, I don’t know how any of us make it through the day. So with our precious time at stake, we have to skim the fat and decide which shows are worth our time. This problem is even more prominent in the fall when a whole new crop of programs come into our lives vying for our love and affection. Luckily, with every new batch of freshman shows, there’s always ones that turn out to be the next Jane the Virgin and ones that will probably end up being more like Wicked City. Exactly. So we’re here to help you decide which shows to let into your life and which ones you can do without.

Definitely Watch This

This Is Us

What: A drama about a loosely connected group of people (think Crash, Love Actually) who were all born on the same day. Fills the character-driven, life-affirming drama spot vacated by the likes of Parenthood and Friday Night Lights.

Why: So I got to see the first episode a couple months ago and I think it’s maybe the best pilot I’ve ever seen? Including Friday Night Lights? I laughed. I cried. I gasped. I screamed. I cried again. It’s everything that you want in a Parenthood/FNL-type show and more. When the trailer was released during upfront week in May, it made history when it was viewed over 15 million times in a little over 48 hours on Facebook. And all those people better tune in come September 20th. On top of it being a well written and unique show, it features Milo Ventimiglia & Mandy Moore as new parents, the dude from Passions and Chrissy Metz as twins, and The People Vs OJ Simpson’s Sterling K. Brown making you wonder why he isn’t more popular yet again. Seriously, you’re going to be missing out at 11:01pm if you don’t watch live. I have a feeling it’s going to be trending on Twitter. And in a good way.

When: Tuesday, September 20th @ 10pm on NBC

The Good Place

What: Centers on a woman (Kristen Bell) who was killed and wakes up in the afterlife aka The Good Place. She’s stuck in a world where everyone is nice, and she’s caught between staying in The Good Place or trying to find a way to return to the mundane life she had back on Earth.

Why: Do you miss Parks and Rec? Love Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Like comedy? Mike Schur, the creator of both those shows, has created The Good Place, which is the right place for you. It’s one of the most promising new shows with the best people starring in it – Kristen Bell and our 80s/90s crush Ted Danson. Plus, we know the writing will be up to par based on Schur’s resume alone, so all these things make for a series that’s better than good.

When: Monday, September 19th @10pm on NBC

Maybe Watch This

Pitch

What: Centers on a young female pitcher (Kylie Bunbury) who defies the odds when she becomes the first woman to play in the major leagues.

Why: Can you believe a woman can be a baseball player? CRAZY, right? Well you better buckle up, skeptical men, because it’s gonna happen and it’s gonna be great. In this fictional world, we get to see the drama behind the woman, and I am here for it. Especially since Mark-Paul Gosselaar is in it. God bless you, preppy.

When: Thursday, September 22nd @9pm on FOX

Atlanta

What: Centers on an ambitious college drop-out and his estranged cousin, who suddenly becomes a star in the Atlanta rap scene. Donald Glover, who created, executive produces and stars in the show, jokingly described it as “Twin Peaks for black people”.

Why: If you’ve ever seen him do stand-up or listened to Childish Gambino, Donald Glover has always had a unique voice that’s not really anything similar to what others are putting out in the world. Enter Atlanta. If you’re looking for Community 2.0, I don’t think this will be your answer, but I imagine it will be as well-written as the first few seasons of Community, but with, you know, more substance. Also, Donald Glover needs us to do this for him. He’s given so much to us, it’s the least we can do.

When: Tuesday, September 6th @ 10pm on FX

Designated Survivor

What: A low-level Cabinet member becomes President of the United States after a catastrophic attack kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession.

Why: Although the concept sounds a LITTLE like ABC Drama Word Soup (Cabinet! President! Catastrophe! Lines of Succession!), the trailer is solid and, if Scandal and The West Wing has taught us anything, it’s that presidential dramas make for great television.

When: Wednesday, September 21st @ 10pm on ABC

Lethal Weapon

What: Based on the feature film of the same name, Lethal Weapon centers on a Texas cop/former Navy SEAL suffers the loss of his wife and baby and he moves to LA for a new life. He gets paired up with Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.), who, having recently suffered a “minor” heart attack, must avoid any stress in his life. Comedy and action ensue.

Why: TBH, I’ve never even seen any of the Lethal Weapon movies. But this trailer actually appeals to me for some reason? Maybe it’s because I have nothing to compare it to, but on its own, the story looks compelling, so why not try it out?

When: Wednesday, September 21st @ 8pm on FOX

Frequency and Timeless

What: Two shows built around the concept of time travel.

Why: I’ve been obsessed with time travel since I read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine in fourth grade – but with such similar concepts and with two OTHER time travel shows set to premier mid-season, these shows will have to duke it out for a spot on our schedule. Here’s what we’re looking at:

  • Frequency – a police detective communicates with her father, who died in 1996, via radio
  • Timeless – a criminal steals a time machine to ruin America; other time travelers have to go stop him.

Check back in January when we introduce Making History and Time After Time, the midseason replacement time travel programs. Too much of a good thing, perhaps?

When: Frequency – Wednesday, October 5 on the CW; Timeless – Monday, October 3 @ 10pm on NBC

Pure Genius

What: A tech billionaire and a surgeon team up to build a hospital that uses innovative technology and doesn’t burden the patients with sky-high bills. Believe it or not, it is not billed as a fantasy (can we get an ‘amen’ from anyone who got a surprise ER bill recently?).

Why: The concept doesn’t grab me right away, but the show was created by Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) and we will watch anything he creates or produces because he has earned it. This man gave us Tim Riggins, Tami Taylor and the Bravermans; we can give him an hour of our time.

When: Thursday, October 27 @ 10pm on CBS

Speechless

What: A middle-class family moves to an affluent area to provide better opportunities for son JJ, who has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal.

Why: Some of the ABC Wednesday Night Family Sitcom Lineup (modern TGIF, basically) is very good; some of it is mediocre. This show has potential to be one of the better ones; besides, there aren’t enough characters or actors with disabilities on television and when one comes around, we like to give it the benefit of our viewership numbers.

When: Wednesday, September 21 @ 8:30pm on ABC

The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey

What: A six-hour docuseries about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey and the theories about who killed her.

Why: Between Serial and Making A Murderer, true crime is having a moment. There are several JonBenet documentaries leading up to the 20th anniversary of her death (CBS and A&E series, a Lifetime movie, and ID and Dateline NBC specials), but with a full-scale replica of the Ramsey home and six hours to devote to all of the theories and loose ends, this one is our pick. Also, we need you to watch so we have somebody to discuss our 20-year-old suspicions with.

When: Sunday, September 18 @ 8:30PM.

Don’t Waste Your Time

Kevin Can Wait

What: It’s like CBS bingo: Kevin James. Cop. Family life. Skinny wife.

Why: See Above.

When: Monday, September 19 @ 8:30pm on CBS

The Great Indoors

What: Joel McHale works with millennials in some kind of internet office

Why: Look. This was on our “maybe” list until I watched the trailer. It’s all “millennials love the internet and texting and vocal fry” jokes, with a side of “gay joke where the whole punchline is just that a person is gay and another person said it.” Basically The Big Bang Theory with hipsters instead of nerds.

When: Thursday, October 27 @ 8:30pm on CBS

MacGyver

What: A reboot of MacGyver.

Why: I’m just not confident that anyone who wants this is still alive.

When: Friday, September 23 @ 8pm on CBS

Basically Anything On CBS

What: Most of the shows on CBS

Why: Remember when CBS had the reputation as the Grandma channel (Touched By An Angel, Dr. Quinn, Everybody Loves Raymond), and then they went after suburbanites with their Fat Guy/Skinny Wife lineup, and then they redeemed themselves with How I Met Your Mother, and then they completely betrayed our trust with that finale? They’re going to have to earn it back, and that hasn’t happened yet.

When: Monday-Friday @ 8pm – 11pm on CBS

Cheers Chats #7: Thanksgiving Orphans

It’s Thanksgiving in July! We’re back for more Cheers and we’re chatting turkey and food fights and possibly the show’s best episode ever.

Episode 5.9: Thanksgiving Orphans

Originally aired: November 27th, 1986

Netflix synopsis: Diane is among a select few graduate students one of her professors has asked to spend Thanksgiving with his family, in the pilgrim tradition.

Previously, on Cheers

T: We’ve skipped an entire season and it happens to be Coach’s last season. Nicholas Colasanto passed away in real life from a heart attack, but in the show, they didn’t really explain how he died. Woody Harrelson comes in to replace him and he not only replaces Coach as another bartender, but as the one to tell all the stupid jokes now. For some reason I can tolerate it way more than Coach?  

Case in point, the first joke in the cold open:

“Boy, it seems like Christmas comes earlier every year, doesn’t it?” Sam

“I think if you check, Sam, it always comes on the 25th of December.” Woody

M: “This is my first Thanksgiving away from home. I mean, unless you count last year” – my boo, Woody.

I kind of feel bad that I said before that Coach was the character they kept around in case they needed something bad to happen to somebody but also … accurate?

T: Sam and Diane aren’t back together but still mackin’ on each other. At the end of season 4, when Sam is dating Kate Mulgrew, the finale ends with a cliffhanger in which he calls someone and asks the person on the other end to marry him. However, it wasn’t until the S5 premiere that we find out it’s Diane. She makes him propose again in a more romantic way, but then she says no because she feels like she’s his rebound from Kate Mulgrew, making Diane even more annoying. Ever since, they’ve been on and off and it’s like fahkin get it together people.

M: Carla, I think, had another baby, right? And I now have a theory that Cheers is to blame for show runners thinking audiences love “will they/won’t they” romances.

T: Oh and Frasier stuck around. Probs because he has a spin-off to look forward to.

So What Had Happened Was…

(Basic recap of the episode’s main plot)

T: Diane’s professor invites select guests to a Thanksgiving dinner much like Professor Slughorn’s Slug Club Christmas party. But she ends up at Carla’s with the rest of the gang after she showed up at the Slug Club only to find out she had only been invited to serve as a waitress.

M: I got so excited when I saw we were writing about a Thanksgiving episode – usually some of my favorite sitcom eps!

Did we even know that Diane was still in school? I thought she was like 30. By the way, Diane is an 80s Muggle Hermione Granger what with all her sucking up to the professor. Except, you know, not written by JK Rowling.

T: Carla holds Thanksgiving at her new place (right next to the airport), but everyone’s got their own problems. Norm, who brought a frozen turkey to Thanksgiving, has a big fight with Vera, Sam’s date doesn’t show up, while Fraiser is annoyed with the guys constantly moving the TV.

M: It’s neither here nor there, but Carla’s apartment set is where the change in aspect ratio for Netflix really stood out. There were just like 3 feet of plain white wall above her wallpaper and paneling.

T: The tension in the room is so palpable but it’s finally broken with a food fight, resulting in the best scene to date.

T: Plus they cheered for Coach, which was almost enough for me to cry.

M: So far, this is the first of our Cheers Chats episodes that I would recommend to someone who had never seen the show so they’d understand how great it is.

T: Sidenote: I love Woody’s friendship with Diane it’s so tender.

Carla’s My Boo

T: Woody says he’s thankful he can do  a weird thing with his tongue, and everyone’s response is to do weird shit too. Sam licks his plate for some reason and Carla has her leg wrapped around her head which explains why she has 8 children.

Shut Up, Diane

T: Perfect example of Diane needing to shut up is when she makes everyone go around and say what they’re thankful for. She gets up and says:

“…But on this very special occasion, my mind goes back over the years to the people who have influenced me. And I would like to name some of them for you. Teilhard Chardin, George Sand, Caravaggio. Oh, Emily Dickinson, the Buddha, Frank Lloyd Wright [time jump cut] Jean d’Arc, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop.”

M: I was picturing Lisa Simpson’s Thanksgiving centerpiece the whole time:

It featured Georgia O’Keefe and Susan B Anthony.

 

M: I do feel a little sorry for Diane in her Pilgrim outfit grumbling that serving as waitstaff for her professor might be okay when you’re a “wide-eyed 19 year old, but not when you’re… not.” Which I guess answered my question about whether she’s a mature student.

T: Diane has to be a party pooper and attempt to end the food night and she gets all Red Ross like when Ross’ angry side comes out when he plays rugby on Friends. 

Little Ditty About Sam & Diane

T: Diane gets jealous and whines about Sam having a date for Thanksgiving.

“Besides, I know that we’ll have many holidays together when you and I are one.” Diane

“You already are one, Diane.” Sam

M: “I’m thankful that I have a super car and a cool stereo and I’m not wearing a pilgrim outfit” – SAMUEL. Just make out with her.

T: Diane is all cutesy with Sam after his date ends up spending TGives with her sister instead of going to TGives at Carla’s

No, I’m serious. I had a date and it fell through. Sam

Oh, you don’t have to convince me, Sam. I believe you. Diane

I’m telling you the truth. Sam

And I love you for it. Diane

T: Sam is the first to throw beets? And at Diane, no less.

LLOL

(Literal Laugh Loud Loud moments from the episode)

There’s a scene where the guys are sitting around the TV watching a WWF match featuring Hulk Hogan. The actual scene wasn’t necessarily funny but LOL at Hulk Hogan

Just sort of generally everything Woody said was great. Not the words, but the delivery.

“The little pop thing has a name, can we all say thermometer” – Frasier. Then everyone says “thermometer,” but angrily.

“Please, please! We are not here to be thankful for strange things we can do with our bodies.” Diane

Diane tries to get back at Sam and she attempts to throw a pie at him, but lands right on the face of Vera, who decides to come after all. WE ALMOST SAW VERA’S FACE. Is she like Mr. Kim or Wilson from Home Improvement. And apparently this is the only time we “see” Vera in the whole series.

M: When the food fight starts in earnest, Diane tries to break it up with a guttural yell like she’s Leslie Knope v. Eagleton.

Say It Again, Sam

(Memorable lines from the episode. Not exclusively from Sam Malone.)

 “This time of year is filled with arguments, suicides, murders. Yeah, I guess it’s the seasonal happiness of others tends to throw a glaring light on the flaws in our own interpersonal relationships. But see, of course, that’s no problem for me. I’m alone.” Fraiser

“Are you kiddin’? I did my part this year. I was in “Hands Across America,” remember?” Cliff refusing to volunteer at the soup kitchen for TGives with his mom

“Oh, who the hell do we think we’re kidding? We’re all a bunch of pathetic dropouts. Scorned by our loved ones, as if anybody ever loved us at all.” Fraiser

Cheers Queries

T: What ever happened to Woody’s hometown girlfriend? I don’t think they ever explained that.

T: Why is Norm the only one in charge of the turkey? Why don’t they try to help?

M: Couldn’t they have at least started with the sides when they were warm?

Barfly Fashion

Diane’s Thanksgiving Outfit

She describes this as “An absolutely authentic example of feminine colonial headwear.”

Carla’s leopard print shirt

Carla’s got a new stylist and it’s called the effects of the ’80s.

Sam’s plaid jacket

It’s Thanksgiving, not Easter, Sam. But also it might not be clear in this pic, but he is V tan.

Woody’s red sweater

More specifically the napkin. It’s to do with the napkin.

Final Thoughts

Next Up: We are basing our watch list off of AV Club’s 10 Episodes That Show How Cheers Stayed Great For 11 Seasons. We’re going chronologically, so stop by next month when we’ll discuss season six, episode 23, Bar Wars.

 

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.

Saturday Spotlight: Countdown To Back To TV Week

HERE

It’s May. Season finales are airing. And over here, our eyes are already on fall premieres (or, as we celebrate it, back to TV week.) There’s actually some good news: we looked at your new 2016 favorites and for the first time in a long time, there are a lot of new shows we’re really excited about! Since it’s network TV, there’s also bad news: CBS passed on Nancy Drew because it was “too female” – but really, I think, because they’re a network that grossly misuderestimates (thanks for that one, George W., what a gift) the average, Middle American audience.

THERE

I’m not even sure what I’m doing tonight, but in TV land, the fall schedule is already set in stone. So check now, before you find out your favorite show was moved to an “all new night and time” (they always say it like it’s a good thing, but I can’t be the only one with a finely-calibrated TV schedule).

We already gave you the best fall TV trailers but how about the worst? Also, remember when there was no such thing as TV trailers?

Funny Or Die has a spoof on the new shows of 2016. It’s reminiscent of- but in our biased opinion, not quite as good as- one of our favs from last Back To TV Week: Meet the new shows of 2019!

 

2016 Unofficial Guide to Your New TV Addictions

If you’re a TV nerd, May is quite an exciting time. Current shows are wrapping up and rolling out their season finales, but networks are also announcing what they’re canceling and what they’re picking up so we can be addicted to brand new shows come fall. This year, ABC decided to Game of Thrones their line-up (did I even use that ref correctly) and axed a bunch of shows, NBC and FOX surprised us with a lot of promising pilots and CBS continued to be CBS-y and very white male-y. So in this “Golden Age of Television”, it’s of utmost import to be more selective than usual when it comes to picking up new shows, which is why I’ve compiled this handy guide to help you on your travels. Here are my picks for the most appealing new shows coming this fall (and midsesason) so you don’t have to waste your time on shows that will only last a few eps and get canceled right away.

The Comedies

The Good Place

Thursdays, 8:30pm • NBC

The Good Place was created by Michael Schur of Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office fame, and I feel like that should be enough for you to watch this. But if you still need more, it also stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson (our new #MCE). More? It’s written by a lot of the same writers from Parks. More? It’s features Kristen Bell as a woman who died and went to The Good Place (as opposed to The Bad Place), and now she’s living in a perfect world where she’s wrestling with what it means to be “good”. More? Ugh, stop being a dumb bench and watch the darn thing.

Making History

*Midseason* Sundays, 8:30pm • FOX

Oh Adam Pally. Ever since you walked into our lives as Max in Happy Endings, I never wanted you to leave. He had a great run on The Mindy Project, but he’s definitely making a splash with his own series, Making History. Written by the dudes who brought you 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, it centers around three friends who “find a way to travel through time for truth, justice and riches, which complicates their lives in 2016. They visit some of the greatest moments of the past as they try to resolve their personal problems, while history and pop culture comically collide.” Also, Leighton Meester is in it and the complete opposite of Blair Waldorf. It’s great.

Lethal Weapon

Wedensdays, 8:00pm • FOX

I’ve never actually seen the OG Lethal Weapon movies (I know), but if they’re anything like the trailer for the TV adaptation, I’m here for it. Technically, it seems like the show is more in the dramedy category, but much like Season 1 of Orange is the New Black, I’m lumping it in the comedy section. Anyways, much like the movie franchise, it follows cops Riggs and Murtaugh who work for the LAPD. Former Navy SEAL Riggs (Clayne Crawford) recently lost his wife and unborn child, while Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.) is back in the saddle after a near-fatal heart attack. I admit this isn’t the type of show I’d usually put on my radar, but I was sucked in by the trailer from the first second.

Honorable Mentions

Great News (NBC) {Midseason} – Much like Mike Schur or Shonda Rhimes, I will follow Tina Fey where ever she leads. This time, she’s reunited with 30 Rock writer Tracey Wigfield (they won an Emmy together!), who created and wrote the pilot, in addition to being an EP. It centers around a millennial woman whose mother (played by My Big Fat Greek Wedding aunt Andrea Martin) gets a job as an intern at the same cable network she works at. I also managed to see the trailer for Great News and it feels like Tracey’s voice – a mix of 30 Rock with The Mindy Project, where she was a writer and actress, playing Adam Pally’s new wife Lauren. There were some LOL lines in the trailer AND surprise – Horatio Sanz is in it!

Powerless (NBC) – {Midseason} Powerless is technically a workplace comedy – except that workplace is an insurance company within the universe of DC Comics. It centers on claims adjustors played by Vanessa Hudgens and Danny Pudi, among others, and how they deal with situations like if Batman ruined a Forever 21 at the mall while saving a little girl, and they have to deal with the aftermath. I managed to see a leaked trailer for the show (which has now been taken down) and it looks like it should be on CW or NBC in the era of Heroes. However, I love BBV with Danny Pudi and it’s a great high concept show that could find a big audience.

Imaginary Mary (ABC) {Midseason} – TBH I didn’t expect the trailer to be as intriguing as it was. Imaginary Mary stars Jenna Elfman as a career woman who meets the love of her life, who happens to be a divorced father with three kids. To help her navigate the transition, her childhood imaginary friend pops up, and she’s voiced by the one and only Rachel Dratch. It seems quirky enough that it might be charming, however it could go the way of The Goldbergs (currently in its 3rd season) or Trophy Wife (RIP). Sidenote: I didn’t realize it was created by Adam F. Goldberg who legit created The Goldbergs, so this will probably be a hit hahaaha

The Dramas

This Is Us

Tuesdays, 9:00pm • NBC

Out of all the new crop of shows, I am the most excited about This Is Us. And I’m not the only one. The trailer for this show has been viewed over 15 million times in a little over 48 hours on Facebook – it’s the most watched new-show trailer ever uploaded during upfront week. The previous record was CW’s Legends of Tomorrow which hit 4.1 million last year. In full disclosure I feel at least 7 million views is from me. Needless to say, people are liking it. And what’s great about it is that while it does star B-list actors like Milo Ventimiglia (<3) and Mandy Moore (<3) and Sterling Brown from The People v. OJ Simpson (<3), it’s not a show with a superstar name attached to it. People are responding to the trailer because it’s good.  This Is Us is written by the folks who brought us the brilliant Crazy Stupid Love, and NBC’s been promoting it like a replacement to Parenthood, which I’m totally fine with. It’s a multi-story show featuring characters who have one thing that times them together, and it’s their birthday. I full expect to laugh and cry and ship Milo and Mandy to the fullest. Gimme this show now.

Designated Survivor

Wednesdays, 10:00pm • ABC

Guys, believe it or not but I’ve never watched a TV program (maybe even movie) that Keifer Sutherland has been in…? This might be the first. Instead of playing a Jack Bauer character, Keifer gets promoted from a lower-level Cabinet member to President of the USA after an attack during the State of the Union kills the President, VP, Speaker of the House and everyone in line to be Pres. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a real law, and if you’re a The West Wing fan, you might remember the storyline from one of the eps. While the plot isn’t necessarily super original, the trailer makes it intriguing and appealing to watch. Because course I need another political drama to get into.

Frequency

Tuesdays, 9:00pm • The CW

I didn’t even know this pilot existed until my friend Jennie brought it up – it’s based on a 2000 movie starring Dennis Quaid of the same name. However this TV version features a female police detective in present day who discovers she is able to speak via ham radio with her estranged father who died in 1996. They have to “work together to change the history of tragic events to come.” Starring Mehki Phifer & Peyton List of Mad Men fame. While this wouldn’t usually be on my TV line-up, I still think it has the potential to be a great series.

Pitch

Thursdays, 9:00pm • FOX

Dan Fogelman of Crazy Stupid Love and This Is Us (see above) has HIT A HOME RUN this TV season, as his other show, Pitch has also been picked up to series. The show centers on a young female baseball player who becomes the first MLB pitcher. Think Mo’ne Davis, but a few years from now. It stars newcomer Kylie Bunbury as lead Ginny Baker,  my forever boo Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mark Consuelos, Ali Larter and Dan Lauria, the dad from The Wonder Years who I also had an irrational fear of. Again, this type of sports show isn’t my usual jam, but I feel like it has Friday Night Lights vibe in that you won’t be focusing so much on the sport, but rather the good drama happening during it.

Shots Fired

*Midseason* Wednesdays, 8:00pm • FOX

I recently got into American Crime and loved both seasons so much – it felt like it should be required viewing for all Americans, since it deals with tough issues like racism and gun control that we’re dealing with day to day. Shots Fired has that same feel. The series from EP Gina Prince-Bythewood, the brilliant writer behind Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights, takes place in a small Southern town where racially charged shootings have just occurred. It stars Sanaa Lathan, Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Moyer, and Tristan Wilds – not to mention I am 100% behind the title of this show.

Honorable Mentions

Still Star-Crossed (ABC) {Midseason} – As previously menitoned, I will follow Shonda to the ends of the TV earth. Her latest show is written by a Scandal alum, and based on the book by Melinda Taub. This period drama picks up where Romeo & Juliet left off, and what happens to the Montagues and Capulets once R&J drank the poison. I am such a sucker for Shakespeare that I would’ve watched this anyways, but the Shondaland factor just ups it a bunch of notches.

Bull (CBS) {Tuesdays at 9p} Hamilton’s George Washington AKA Chris Jackson plays a possibly gay dresser in this show kind of based off of Dr. Phil’s life. Except much more interesting and no Dr. Phil.

Star (FOX) – {Midseason – Wednesdays at 9p} Get ready for another music drama from Lee Daniels, this time starring Queen Latifah and a girl group. No Jussie Smollett, so maybe not worth your time?

Doubt (CBS) {Midseason}  – CBS execs originally developed this show last season, but passed it over, revamped it, replaced Private Practice’s KaDee Strickland with Katherine Heigl in hopes of finally giving her a big break on TV that doesn’t involve her being a doctor. In Doubt, she plays a defense lawyer who gets romantically involved with her client who may or may not be guilty of comitting a brutal crime. Hence, she has doubt. Reasons I’m looking forward to this: A) The rest of the cast includes Steven Pasquale, Dule Hill, Dreama Walker, Elliott Gould B) It also stars Laverne Cox, who will be making broadcast TV history when the show features a transgender series regular character played by a transgender actor. C) It’s created and written by Tony Phelan & Joan Rater, producers from Grey’s Anatomy. They also had another pilot up this season, Drew, featuring Sarah Shahi as a modern day adult Nancy Drew. You know, the whole #TooFemale thing.

Chicago Justice (NBC) {Midseason} – The #OneChicago franchise is like CSI/NCIS for CBS or Law & Order on NBC – like do we need another version of this Chicago series? I guess. Will I watch it? I mean probably if nothing else is on.

#TooFemale: Nancy Drew And The Mystery Of The Old Network Executive

I feel the same way about lowbrow taste as I do about cooties: I’m not sure that it exists, but I’m also far too old to care if you think I have it. You can call it middle American, or white-bread, or basic, and it’s a way of dismissing accessible or popular culture. I guess I know a thing or two about it: I listen to Top 40 music and have enjoyed several Target Book Club picks. Experimental theater is great but I really liked Rent. I have been as moved by some performances on So You Think You Can Dance as I have by the real-live ballet. I tuned into CBS every week to see if Ted and The Mother would stop playing umbrella tag and meet already. And as a lowbrow 7-year-old, I pored over my mom’s 40-year-old copies of the Middle American favorite, Nancy Drew.

Popular culture is popular for a reason. Sure, today it’s market researched to achieve maximum returns but it goes beyond that; people still have to like it. It’s popular because somewhere in it there’s a truth that people can relate to.

I’m suspicious of anyone who automatically dismisses all of popular culture. That reaction is usually tied to classism, often with a heaping side-order of regionalism (thing these people probably also profess to hate: heaping side orders). If you think everything popular is beneath you, you’ve risen above the masses. You’re better educated, higher class, smarter, more cultured. And it’s tied to regionalism because people often equate these tastes with suburbia, or the Midwest, or the rust belt, or… really, any of the “belts.” People live in these places for any number of reasons. They’re not idiots, and I’m confused by anyone from the coasts who rips on the cultural savvy of the “flyover states.” Guys. We’re all reading the same internet. 

Okay. I had to get all of that out of the way to clarify what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that CBS is questionable because their shows appeal to “Middle America,” wherever and whoever that is. The problem is that CBS doesn’t have any faith in their “lowbrow,” “Middle American” audience. They underestimate “white bread” America as much as the lit snob giving side-eye to the woman on the train reading Danielle Steel. The proof: CBS passed on a pilot not because it was bad, but because it “skewed too female” – as though the average audience will turn, horrified, to NBC if a man isn’t helping to solve the crime; as though half of the audience isn’t female itself.

The pilot, by the way? A modernization of Nancy Drew. Twenty years ago, those yellow hardcover books brought me on the journey to uncover the mystery of the old clock – and the old attic, and the old stagecoach, and the old album – with a cool, competent teenage girl who was smarter and quicker than the sneaky or bumbling (usually) adult men she faced off with. But now we’re at the final chapter of Nancy Drew and the Mystery Of The Old Network Executive, and I don’t think she’s going to win this time.

I would have given Nancy Drew a try. So would Baby Boomers who grew up knowing that Nancy Drew was always the smartest person in the room, even if she was underestimated. Nancy Drew might have been just another CBS procedural, but maybe it would have brought to life the savvy sleuth I idolized when I was a skinny, freckle-nosed second grader. Heck. Maybe Bess and George would have finally gotten together.

Your average American audience isn’t afraid of a show where a girl solves the crimes (have we forgotten Veronica Mars?), and they weren’t afraid of the concept over eighty years ago – 80! – when the first Nancy Drew book came out. The problem isn’t that the consumers of popular culture don’t want women’s stories. It’s that the gatekeepers of popular culture won’t tell them. If a network lineup consisted, 50%, of shows about a female protagonist with well-developed female secondary characters, people wouldn’t stop watching TV. At least I don’t think so: I guess I’ll tell you if it ever happens.

As for CBS, thinking typical tv viewers are too close-minded or stupid or narrow to accept Nancy Drew following The Big Bang Theory? That’s the worst kind of snobbery there is.

American Idol, #Nvr4Get

The American Idol series finale was last night, and the country crowned its 15th and final winner La’Porsha Trent Harmon. The show was jam-packed with special performances from former Idol contestants (Tamyra Gray, Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Jessica Sanchez, Pia Toscano, Kellie Pickler), winners (Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie, Jordin, White Guys With Guitars, Kelly SINGING A MOMENT LIKE THIS), and Brian Dunkleman. It was clearly emotional for all those involved in the show for the past 10+ years, but it full disclosure, it was emotional for me too.

Yeah, 15 seasons is quite a long run and it’s definitely time to go, but you can’t deny how much of an impact this show has had on reality TV, the music industry, and most importantly, the lives of all those involved. For instance, Kelly Clarkson was waiting tables when she auditioned for the show, and was barely getting by. Now she’s become one of the most successful and acclaimed artists not only as an Idol alum but in pop music, and she probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the level of success she’s at without this platform.

But what I’ve realized over the past few days is that I’m not so much “sad” to see the show go – it’s more of the nostalgia I get from the Idol, yearning for the glory of what the show once was. Case in point last night’s finale. Reuniting the Three Divas (Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson & LaToya London), teaming up Justin Guarini & Jordin Sparks, throwing to Sanjaya & his hair in the audience, and that entire Gospel medley. The producers brought all these people back because THEY are what made Idol great. Back in its heyday, circa 2003 to 2009, Idol became the highest-rated TV show in the United States for an unprecedented seven consecutive years. It became bigger than anyone could ever have imagined. There were even people lit’rally making money off of Idol online with dedicated websites (because the Internet was still emerging as a thing) like Rickey.org and MjsBigBlog, and that type of fandom for an unscripted reality competition series had never been seen before.

But back then, everyone was watching it because it was entertaining. People got sucked into voting for their favorites (or their least favorites – Vote for the Worst, anyone?) and it became watercooler fodder the next day. I am not ashamed to admit that I, too, became a crazed fan of Idol. I purchased not only the winners’ albums but the Idol compilation albums. I’ve gone to a few of the Idol summer tours, and if you recall from a previous post, I may have been in the audience in season one holding up a sign that in all honestly, I partly made so I could get on TV. It worked.

LOL HI

Anyway, all this to say that while a lot of people consider the past few seasons of Idol completely moot, a series finale makes you remember why you fell in love with the show in the first place. Over the past 15 seasons, Idol has definitely given us plenty to talk about, and what better time to talk about all those moments than on the day after the show ends? Thanks for all the memories and lasting legacies you’ve left us with. We’ll Nvr4Get.

The Audacity of Season 1

Season one was kind of a shit show, but a good shit show. Production value was lower than Scotty McCreery’s basso profondo and it took a while for people to tune in. As we know, the auditions are sometimes the most entertaining episodes, and season one was no exception. It was the first we’d see of the extremely outspoken, cutthroat, no filter Simon Cowell. It was like he was being rude to all these contestants (who admittedly couldn’t carry one note) and America was like, ‘Yo, who the hell is this British dude?’ It was also telling of the singers who came in to audition – it was jarring to see a handful of people fight back against the judges and Cowell, since we weren’t necessarily used to the harsh talk back on TV. Enter Tamika Bush, who was one of the very first rude singers to grace the show. I personally enjoy her two-glasses style approach. Why keep your prescription sunglasses in your bag when you can just wear it you head?

Forget JHud, Give From Justin to Kelly An Oscar

Ok, you probably didn’t forget this happened but did you even watch it at all? WELL I DID. In the theater. And maybe with Molly? (yes, and I didn’t realize it would be a musical. YEAH.-M) Either way, it wasn’t that good, but it was along the lines of so bad it’s good. Bless these two for having to do this. The downside of fame, y’all.

Simon + Paula = Saula

In the first couple of seasons, viewers noticed there was an odd chemistry between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. They’d be at odds with each other one second and the next it felt as if we all needed to leave the room so they could have it to themselves. During the season two finale, producers had fun with this and came up with this little sketch that is something you can never unsee.

World Idol Was a Thing

If you didn’t know, American Idol was adapted from the British version called Pop Idol, which was a huge hit in the U.K. Soon after its major success, more versions of the show started popping up around the world, and by late 2003, when we had already crowned our first and only Idol Kelly, producers of Pop Idol decided it would be a good idea to create World Idol. Think of it as Eurovision, but less importance on the song choice. Don’t get that reference, you lousy Americans? It’s like of the Olympics had a singing event and had one representative from each country compete. Kelly repped the U.S. but came in second to Norway’s Kurt Nilsen, who won with U2’s Beautiful Day. Foiled by Bono again.

Beating the System

For season four, a tricky concept called Dial Idol was introduced, and it’s important to know this had no affiliation at all to American Idol itself. Dial Idol was a Windows program and its associated website that tracks voting trends for Idol contestants. Using your PC’s modem, viewers can automatically vote for their faves and the program reports back to the main website. That site, DialIdol.com, kept track of all the voting data, and therefore was usually a good indicator on who was leading week to week. From seasons four through 13, Dial Idol’s prediction on who would take home the crown was only wrong once, and it was for S13 when the data predicted Jena Irene would win over Caleb Johnson (I barely watched that season too). It was controversial for many reasons, but for those betting money on Idol, it proved to be a secret weapon and guide to win that dough.

The Three Divas Debacle

This was an epic moment from season 3, and maybe the best/worst elimination ever? (Watch it above around the 28:23 mark) It was the results show revealing who was going to make the top 6. Ryan divided the remaining contestants into two groups – on the left side of the stage, it was Fantasia, LaToya and JHud. On the right side of the stage, it was Diana DeGarmo, John Stevens and Jasmine Trias. Ryan then told the remaining contestant, George Huff, that he was safe and to go to the group he also thought was safe. He apprehensively approached the groups, with the Three Divas motioning to come to join them. The audience cheered but then Ryan announced the plot twist – he had joined the wrong group. Note: they did this fake out again in S6, but Melinda Doolittle (in the George Huff position) decided to sit in the middle of the stage and didn’t pick a side lololol). Anyways, the result was the shocking elimination of Jennifer Hudson, but I hear she’s been doing fine since then.

Queen of Crying Memes

Ah, crying girl. The most memorable fan to come out of the pits of the CBS studio audience. Crying girl, aka Ashley Ferl, was 13 years old when she was left in hormonal teen tears after Sanjaya seductively moved his hips as he sang You Really Got Me in season six. The camera only panned to her for a few brief moments, but she’s lived on in the Internet forever. She’s now 22 and a college student majoring in liberal studies. And while she may not be a Fanjaya anymore, she’s still an Idol viewer. Wonder what she thought about Sanjaya’s random wig appearances on the finale last night.

American Juniors

After the unprecedented success of the first two seasons of American Idol, producers decided to capitalize on it even more by launching a spin-off show called American Juniors, looking for the best five young talents to create the country’s next big pop group. The format was a little different than Idol Senior, wherein each week one kid would get voted into the group as opposed to being eliminated. The group barely became anything, but the only thing you need to take out of it is that American was introduced to Lucy Hale of Pretty Little Liars fame. She made it to the group, but now runs from some Big Bad trying to kill her and her friends in designer clothes.

American Idol Experience

In 2009, a theme park attraction called the American Idol Experience, opened at Disney’ World’s Hollywood Studios. It was basically set up to be just like the show, with singers actually auditioning and performing in front of a real audience for a real shot to audition for the real show. There were a handful of Idol finalists from the AI Experience who made it to the show, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that at the grand opening of the attraction, a bunch of Idol alum took the stage, including winners S1 through 7, and that provided for a duet of two of my faves, Carrie and David Cook as seen above. And if you want to go to this attraction, too late. It closed in 2014.

The Best Hollywood Week Groups

Hollywood Week is notoriously difficult, and maybe my favorite part of each season. The contestants are really put to the test, and it always seems like everyone is sleep deprived, hates most people the interact with, and can’t remember the words to well-known songs for the life of them. Tensions run high, people get sick (S11 winner Phillip Phillips even had to be hospitalized during Hollywood Week due to kidney problems) and many are cut from the competition. But every year it’s the group rounds that separate the best from the worst, and in season six, four guys did their damn thing. Three of them even made the semi-finals, with Blake coming in as the runner-up to Jordin. Special shout out to White Chocolate from season eight.

Pants on the Ground

Civil rights activist “General” Larry Platt auditioned with this song in season nine and it became a viral hit. The actual track is meant to protest the practice of guys sagging their trousers, but I have a funny feeling most of the people who bought the single didn’t even realize the real meaning behind it. Either way, it was so memorable he even made a brief appearance on the series finale.

Idol Gives Back

Idol Gives Back was a charity campaign that happened three times throughout the run of the show. The episode featured performances from current and past Idols, celebrities, and music superstars in an effort to get people to donate their money to charity. From the three specials, the campaign raised over $185 million for underserved communities in America and around the world. And also Brad Pitt.

The Scandals

Listen, you can’t have thousands of people across America going to an open call for a hit TV show without meeting a few folks with colorful backgrounds. It began in season two with Corey Clark who was disqualified during the finals (he made it to the top 9) because of an undisclosed criminal record. He later claimed he had an affair with Paula during the show, and that led to her giving him preferential treatment. That went away, but he became a hot mess afterwards. Similarly, Frenchie Davis who I thought was going to be a frontrunner (see: Band of Gold that I still listen to to this day), was disqualified for having previously modelled for an adult website. Other notable controversial contestants include S4’s Mario Vasquez (a frontrunner, left on his own accord citing personal reasons, rumored to be related to lewd conduct with a crew member), S6’s Antonella Barba (racy pix of her surfaced online), S7’s David Hernandez (used to be a stripper), S11’s Jermaine Jones (concealed arrests and outstanding warrants).

Seacrest’s High Five Faux Pas

There is no back story to this besides Ryan can’t read the room.

The Life of Pablo

That time Seacrest used his connections to get Kanye to audition.

“Other Door”

Contestants in the initial rounds had a lot of trouble figuring out which door to leave through, and this montage still gets me cracking up every time. In recent years, they’ve noticeably put an Idol-branded sticker on the door to indicate which one they should go out of.

Bikini Girl

In season eight, a gal called Katrina Darrell showed up to the auditions in only a bikini. It became this whole thing and she even managed to steal a kiss from Ryan. Second-hand embarrassment. She surprisingly made it to Hollywood but got cut in the group rounds. She appeared in the finale alongside judge Kara DioGuardi, who also showed up in her bikini and sang. This show, I swear.

Nicki vs. Mariah

Like what even happened that season? Rumors of their fighting surfaced (maybe that should be in quotes) on TMZ long before the first episodes even aired, and it continued for the whole season. It was annoying. It was even more annoying because the focus turned from the contestants to them, and that’s not fair.

Bigger and Better Than Idol

Listen, not everyone can get it right. And that includes Idol judges. There have been a handful of singers who auditioned for the show, didn’t make it, but eventually became superstars. For instance, Tori Kelly got cut during Hollywood Week, and Simon was not a fan of hers. Cut to 2016 when she got nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy. Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, COlbie Calliat, and Glee’s Amber Riley both didn’t even make it past the preliminary rounds, while The Swon Brothers’ Colton Swon and The Hunger Games star Alan Ritchson also didn’t make the cut.

#YouTried

And finally, here’s an ode to all the finalists who left an impression on me and other Idol fans throughout the 15 seasons. Most of the contestants listed below were underdogs and/or underappreciated, and I feel like they need one more shout out before Idol rides off into the sunset… for now (an actual phrase Seacrest said at the end of the finale, which could mean anything but I don’t need it to come back).