Best ___ Of 2015: Some Really Specific Superlatives

2015 is over, and so is vacation. For a lot of us, this is the first day back at work for a week or two, and I, for one, am not ready. How not ready? I’m just going to bury my head in the sands of time and think about 2015 for a few more minutes. By now all of the year’s Best Of lists are out – best movie, best new television show, and so on. However, I think a few categories were left off the lists. From best Ham4Ham performance to best original song by a fictional artist, there’s a lot more of 2015 left to enjoy*.

*There isn’t, though. It’s over. Better get back to work after this. Yuck.

Best Ham4Ham performance of 2015: Love For The Techies Day

We aren’t going to talk about the best musical of 2015 – there’s no need, because I think we all agree here (#WeAreAHamiltonBlogNow). So how about the best performance from Ham 4 Ham, the Hamilton lottery? There are a lot of excellent contenders and you could make a solid argument for a handful of them, but I’m going with one of the more unorthodox performances: Love for the Techies Day. The whole company performed the Ten Duel Commandments, but it wasn’t just amazing because the entire cast was there. The stage manager called out all of the cues, and when you realize that he does that for the entire show, every day, you’ll be blown away.

Best dance craze of 2015: Whip & Nae Nae

… and NOT because it’s a good dance, but because it has followed the classic Dance Craze trajectory. It is easy enough that anybody can execute it, though maybe not well. It started as a reasonably “cool” thing to do, then trickled down to the elementary school set. From there, it has traveled way up the age bracket, and there’s a good chance that your mom or aunt has learned it at a wedding (possibly from a child). In a lot of ways, the nae nae is like the Macarena of 2015. Complete with annoying song that we’re all sick of.

Best viral video with a puppy in it: Drunk Girls Get Surprised With Puppies

This was not an easy choice, and I am fully open to more puppy video suggestions because I can’t get enough. I am particularly partial to puppies making friends with other species. But this one basically summed up my internal monologue when I see a puppy, so I’m going with it. Also my favorite puppy/horse video is from 2014, anyway.

Best viral video with a kitten in it: Meet Koko’s New Kittens

Koko always wanted a baby, but she got kittens instead. Apparently when a human does that it’s “sad” (whatever) but it sure is adorable when a gorilla did it. The gorilla is so gentle I want to cry.

Best new Netflix series – comedy: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The magic starts with the theme song and just keeps going. Master of None is a close second, but I’m not considering it a full-out *comedy* (we’ll explain).

Best new Netflix series – drama: Jessica Jones

I don’t know if this makes my opinion more or less valid (probably less?) but I’ve never seen a superhero show before. What I like is that it’s plot- and character- driven (and I realize that most superhero dramas are…) and there aren’t too many action sequences unless they actually move the story forward. Gratuitous action sequences are just something that tends to make me lose interest and avoid the genre. As a character study alone, I’m pleasantly surprised by how good this show is. [Full disclosure: real life got a little too real and I haven’t seen the last 3 episodes yet but I heard they’re excellent.]

Best new Netflix series – documentary: Making a Murderer

This isn’t the last you’ll hear from us about Making a Murderer, so I won’t say too much now. We both love how this filled the Serial-shaped hole in our lives (the new season of Serial is still good, but different).

Honorable mention for best documentary: Master of None, because I know it’s a comedy but it was also the REALEST thing I’ve seen in a while.

Best 90s television reunion: Saved By The Bell on Jimmy Fallon

This was 100% more Bayside-like than that weird school in the Lifetime movie about Saved By The Bell. I wonder at what point Mark Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez will stop looking exactly like 1993-era  Zach Morris and A.C. Slater given the right hair and wardrobe.

Best 2000s television reunion: Gilmore Girls 

And not just because we were there.  It’s not often that the entire cast of a show will reunite like that, and it’s even better now that we know that the series will be getting the sign-off it deserved.

Best original song by a fictional artist: Drip Drop – Hakeem Lyon on Empire

We love original songs by fictional artists so much that we did a whole playlist on the topic, but if we did that today there’s a chance it would just be Drip Drop ten times. Just think, a year ago at this time we had no idea what Empire was going to unleash on all of us.

Best children’s movie for adults: Inside Out

It’s great for kids, too, but something about this one really grabs most adults, plus a lot of the references to things like art and psychology are geared toward the grown-ups, anyway. Fair warning: this is also 2015’s Best Children’s Movie To Cry During, based on an informal survey of … us. We both cried.

Best uncanny resemblance between a  celebrity and a presidential candidate: Larry David/ Bernie Sanders

Many of the best impressions are performed by people who look nothing like the subject they’re impersonating. Still, there’s something so exciting when a politician has a ready-made celebrity doppelgänger (see: Tina Fey and Sarah Palin). It looks like we’ll all be feeling the Bern for at least a while longer, so let’s all hope that Larry David is willing to reprise his spot-on, no-effort impersonation.

Best surprisingly heartwarming pop culture moment: Shia LaBoeuf watches the Even Stevens movie

 

I don’t know how I feel about Shia LaBoeuf, but I DO know how I feel about Even Stevens: that it’s an essential part of my childhood television cannon, and when I say childhood I mean that it aired when I was in high school and was made for 8-year-olds. Shia’s latest performance art piece, #AllMyMovies, involved him… watching all of his movies. Yet when I watch all of Shia LaBoeuf’s movies, it’s not performance art, it’s just a weird Saturday. Anyway, his reactions to Even Stevens were actually precious.

Playlist of the Month: Best TV Theme Songs

It’s been a trend as of late for shows to skip theme songs in favor of the extra 30 seconds to 1:30 minutes of extra episode time. Remember when Grey’s Anatomy had an actual theme song? They gave up on that and now it’s just the white title screen. Elsewhere in Shondaland, Scandal just goes on a 3 second shutter speed sound so we can watch more of Fitz & Olivia argue why they can’t be together then immediately make up (and make out).

Back in the day, theme songs were more of a prominent fixture in TV culture, and as much a part of the show as the scenes in the program itself. TV theme songs were the equivalent of old movies putting all the credits in the beginning of the film so you saw all the cast & crew prior to the start, rather than the end. And while this practice of creating catchy, memorable and good tunes isn’t as much of a priority as it used to be, we still can’t forget the classics, and that’s why we’re throwing it back to our fave TV theme songs over the years.

Traci’s Picks

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights Theme by W.G. Snuffy Walden

In general, Friday Night Lights is an emotional show. It will make you laugh, cry, feel frustrated with Julie Taylor and elated when the Panthers win a game. Like with all Jason Katims-run shows, he incorporates music into the fabric of the storyline, and it never takes you out of the scene when one of composer W.G. Snuffy Walden’s instrumentals start swell during one of these forementioned emotional moments. As any FNL fan can tell you, hearing the first few notes of this theme song will make you feel all the feels, despite it not even having lyrics. But that’s how powerful it is – it doesn’t even need them. Also, it’s worth noting that this is my current ringtone, so it makes me feel the feels of not wanting to pick up phone calls.

Growing Pains

As Long as We’ve Got Each Other by B.J. Thomas & Jennifer Warnes

I watched Growing Pains off and on when I was a kid, and I can kind of tell you the basics of the show. However, one thing I can recite to you from memory is the theme song. It’s a classic 1980s jam that was sung by Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head singer B.J. Thomas and (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life star Jennifer Warnes. It has the sappy 90s family feel perfect for the show, and perfect for me to play on loop in 2015.

All That

All That by TLC

We talked about this during SNICK Week, but this song still holds up. As soon as you hear, “Fresh out the box…”, it brings you back to sitting on your couch and watching Nickelodeon, ready to laugh at some jokes from the best sketch comedy show for kids to grace the TV. Yeah, it was a great theme song, but in general, it was a track that could’ve been a radio hit, too.

The Nanny

The Nanny Named Fran by Ann Hampton Callaway

Besides the extreme catchiness of this song, the best part about it is the fact that it tells you the premise of the show before every episode. Like just in case you tuned in for the first time and were wondering what a brash lady from Queens was doing in a Manhattan mansion, no need to worry because Ann Hampton Callaway (and fans of The Nanny everywhere) can sing her origin story to you in a flash.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Love Is All Around by Sonny Curtis

This song sounds so dated and I just love it that much more. I was one of those kids who watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show at Nick at Nite, and this song is as embedded in my brain as All That and Pretty Little Liars. It’s a song of joy, positivity, and a sets up a strong female character – much like another Unbreakable female on this list.

Honorable Mentions:

Perfect StrangersNothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now by David Pomeranz. This song was written by the same guys who wrote the Full House, Step By Step and Family Matters theme song, so no wonder it was so good.

Girl Meets WorldTake on the World by Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter. Genius move to have the two main girls of the show sing the theme, and a super catchy one at that. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you were a Boy Meets World fan and you’re not watching this show, you are wasting your life.

Molly’s Picks

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Theme Song by Tina Fey/ Robert Carlock / Jeff Richmond / The Gregory Brothers / Mike Britt

UNBREAKABLE. They alive, dammit! It’s a miracle. This is one of the most creative, innovative theme songs you’ll ever hear, spoofing those wacky neighbors who always give interviews when shocking news breaks — paired with an auto-tuned news segment a la Antoine Dodson. So how’d they do it? (1) Tina Fey and Robert Carlock wrote the neighbor’s monologue. (2) They picked out the lines they want repeated in the song, and Jeff Richmond created the melody. (3) Mike Britt recorded the role of the emphatic neighbor Walter Bankston. (4) They hand it off to the Gregory Brothers, the guys behind Songify The News. (5) Kimmy Schmidt begins streaming on Netflix. (6) It has been over 6 months and you still have the song in your head, don’t you?

Cheers

Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Yes, this is mainly a song about people knowing what your name is. Yet it is so iconic that I had never seen an episode of Cheers, but I think I’ve known all of the lyrics since I can remember. It doesn’t sound as synth-ed up or jubilant as the classic 80s theme song. In fact I think something about it is sort of melancholy. It sets the tone for an unpretentious show about a Boston bar where there are no name tags.

Party Of Five

Closer To Free by The BoDeans

If the 60s and 70s were the era of the theme song that told the entire backstory and lasted 8 minutes, and the 80s were the era of the synthesized, schmaltzy pop song that’s just sort of vaguely about love or family, the 90s were the age of the crossover alternative music/ TV theme song radio hit. Think I’ll Be There For You (Friends) or I Don’t Want To Wait (Dawson’s Creek). I started watching Party Of Five when I was probably too young, and it was HUGE for me. The theme song still makes me feel like I’m about to kick back with the Salinger clan (and Jennifer Love Hewitt) (but not Claudia when she’s at boarding school) (and usually not Owen, when you think about it).

Parenthood

Forever Young by Bob Dylan

I’m not crying, you’re crying. Fine, we’re all crying. But if it were the Rod Stewart version, I would not be.

Friends

I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts

Is this song even good? I can’t be sure anymore. But it was such a hit that it launched the (largely defunct) TV soundtrack trend of the 90s and early 2000s. Plus just listening to that opening riff reminds me of one of my favorite Comfort TV shows – have a cruddy day? Turn on Friends and you’ll feel a bit better. You could almost say they’ll be there for you (but don’t).

Honorable Mentions

The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father – Best Friend by Harry Nilsson. Yes, that’s Harry Nilsson, of the Lime In The Coconut Nilssons. As Traci mentioned, our cultural touchpoint are colored by how much time both of us spent watching repeats of old shows as children.

Sesame StreetCan You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street? by Joe Raposo. It’s good and you know it’s good. And as an adult, sort of brings you back to being 4 years old in a kind of bittersweet way, right?

Fresh Prince of Bel AirFresh Prince Of Bel Air by Will Smith and Quincy Jones III. One of the proudest moments of my life was realizing that we were on a train of 100% American college kids in Spain going to a Jack Johnson concert, and leading a singalong to this theme song. It is SO good. Okay, I’ll stop here before I get into The Muppet Show and All In The Family.

Playlist of the Month: Beat the Winter Blahs

After months of snow and cold, are you struggling to shake a case of the winter blahs? Well, consider the blahs beaten – today is the first day of Spring! In honor of the change of seasons, we decided to create a playlist for sunny days and warmer temperatures.

Okay, that isn’t entirely true. During our blog planning meeting – months ago, might I add – we never really came up with a playlist theme for March. We came up with a date – the first day of Spring – and I guess must have slapped “beat the winter blahs” down as a title, but neither of us can remember why. Seriously. We have no clue what we meant by it. Like, why did we put “winter” in the title, when winter is officially over? But that’s our playlist title and we’re sticking to it, so, um… here are ten songs. Happy spring?

{Enjoy the whole playlist on Spotify!}

Molly’s Picks

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Theme Song

In case you’re late to the game, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is pure, tv sunshine. And by the time you’re three episodes in, you will not be able to get the theme song – a play on those autotune-remixed news reports – out of your head. Besides, after emerging from months of brutal winter, doesn’t it almost feel like the Greek Chorus should be proclaiming “they alive, dammit! It’s a miracle?”

All Star – the Kidz Bop Kidz

Remember in the late 90s and early 2000s, every time a commercial or movie trailer wanted to evoke “summertime fun” they’d use the song All Star by Smashmouth? It is like the musical version of a waterpark ad. So here, here it is. And to make it even worse, I’m giving you the Kidz Bop version, because why the hell not. [Feel free to substitute Sugar Ray’s I Just Wanna Fly. It’s the same thing.]

Springtime For Hitler – The Producers

It says Spring. What else do you people want?

Rockin’ Robin – Bobby Day

Spring. Robins. Yes? Yes. This is what happens when we choose nebulous playlist themes. Tweet tweet tweet, y’all.

Sunshine Day by The Brady Bunch Kids

Okay, in our modern age warm-weather songs are all like “it’s so warm, I need to take off all of my clothes. Let’s rhyme party with Bacardi, etc.” But in the early 70s, when the temps started heating up, people were all “groovy, let’s listen to some children sing about taking a walk.” On second thought, that’s probably less because it was a more innocent time and more because people used the scary kinds of drugs that will break your brain.

Traci’s Picks

Steal My Sunshine by Len

Fun fact: Len is Canadian. And I thought that was cool. 90% sure I loved this song so much in 1999 that I bought the CD single. What happened to Len, BTW? Just one peppy spring/summer single and they’re gone? Or did they become famous in Canada?

I Really Like You by Carly Rae Jepsen

Whatever. I like this song. It makes me happy and also, Tom Hanks.

Drip Drop by Yazz and Serayah McNeill (from the Empire soundtrack)

GUYS EMPIRE THO. DRIP DROP LIKE SPRINGTIME SHOWERS, BUT ALSO, HAKEEM. (#TeamJamal. #TeamCookie. #TeamPORSHA)

Beautiful Day by U2

Let U2 tell you what kind of day it is. They already control your iTunes purchases.

Totally Fucked from Spring Awakening

Because, spring. Also baby Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff. Gosh, I love this musical. Not exactly a happy springtime show, but at least this song is upbeat!

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

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

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

Basic Plot

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

Filling The Void

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

Unbreakable Ellie Kemper

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

Jane Krakowski Fabulousness

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

30 Rock Realness

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

90s/00s Refs Up The Whazoo

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

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

Cults

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

Netflix to the Rescue

uks

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

 Theme Song

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