Supernatural: Some Early Thoughts from a Newbie Binge-watcher

supernatural ssn1

I’ve grown exceptionally bored with TV lately. Ok, I know that’s hard to say since Mad Men is in its final episodes and Game of Thrones just started up last night. But The 100 finished its season (and I’m still recovering from it), and The Vampire Diaries just hasn’t been capturing my attention lately. I started watching Hart of Dixie. In fact, I binge-watched it on Netflix and caught up on The CW — and it just ended. I’ve already watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and while we’re going through Bloodline, it’s taking some time. Quite frankly, while Gilmore Girls is my go-to, I really don’t want to go through it again for the third time in two years (if that).

So I needed something new. I’d heard a lot about Supernatural in a way that told me very little. In other words, this is a little engine that could with a cult following that has standout episodes and is in its tenth season — and yet I can’t tell you any plotlines except that Dean from Gilmore Girls plays Sam, and Jensen Ackles plays Dean, which makes it incredibly confusing to discuss with someone who’s only seen Gilmore. Anyway, I figured, hey, let’s check it out.

(As a side note, I just realized that Supernatural is the only series left from the WB network era. Can’t say I don’t appreciate that.)

That was Friday night at about 10 pm. Keep in mind, I have a toddler, so I can’t really stay up all night long to watch a series since I really need to function early the next morning when he wakes up. That said, I still watched four episodes that night and another two on Saturday night.

And considering that (at least right now), it’s very much in the monster-of-the-week mode — like many famed supernatural shows started out with, like Buffy, Angel, Fringe, and The X-Files — I’m still really enjoying it. Sure, I’ve seen shapeshifters on all kinds of series in all kinds of forms…literally. But they still made the episode enjoyable and interesting. What I’m most appreciating about the series is the little tidbits they share about all of the various lore they’re fighting: where the windago came from, for example, or the woman in white.

I also like that they keep it light and humorous, especially since so many of the scenes take place in the dark. Fringe, for example, was very dark with little humor until the show settled on Walter’s ideal craziness, and even Buffy left humor to Xander for many years. Here, we get a good camaraderie with the two brothers, and I almost make it a game to guess when Dean will call someone either a bitch or son of a bitch.

As for downsides? It’s taking me just a little time to get used to some of the color choices, particularly in driving, and in these early episodes, it really feels like Sam’s story — not the story of brothers. And it might become a little too predictable if in every episode Sam gets in trouble and Dean jumps in to save the day at the last minute. But I’m only six episodes in; I’m sure a lot of that will get worked out. And sure, I am certain that there’s something magical, mystical, or at the very least mysterious about Sam that caused that dark figure to loom over his crib and kill the only women in his life. It’s about Sam, not the demon, and that might be a wee bit predictable.

But for now, I’m just enjoying the ride and looking forward to binging on more.


The 100: Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2


THE 100: 2.16 “Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2”

I have been thinking nonstop about last night’s finale of The 100. I had no idea where this episode would take us, where they’d draw the line. And for a show that’s been said to have never held back, last night was definitely a harsh example of that.

I’m constantly impressed with this show. Just looking at how much these characters have developed since the beginning — hell, since the beginning of season two — shows how much depth and complexity the show has. It doesn’t sugar-coat things. It doesn’t hide real life-and-death choices behind sappy melodrama. It’s tough, it’s brutal. I could go on for quite some time about how this show has exceeded expectations, how it’s so well-written, and how it’s become the show I’ve really been amped about watching week to week. All of that’s true, but I should probably focus on what actually happened in this finale.

I was crying for about 15 minutes during this finale. I’m a natural sap, so that shouldn’t surprise you. But I wasn’t crying over losing someone we’ve loved as a character for a while (ok, yes, perhaps some sentimentality over Maya did slip in there). And I wasn’t crying for some character I knew less well but was forced to have a reaction to because of the crescendoing music to give me sad feelings. I was crying because I was watching a tough, impossible situation. I was screaming at the TV through fat tears because I knew that what was about to happen was wrong, and I didn’t want to see it happen. I was crying because I saw Clarke do something that could never be changed, had so many shades of gray behind it, and ultimately, was something no one would be able to accept again.

I saw Clarke feel the weight of her people on her shoulders, the minute she put her hand on that lever. She felt the weight of family and friendships. And she knew she had to do it even though she knew what it meant she was doing. I saw Bellamy flash back to his days on the Ark, where his one responsibility was to watch out for his sister, no matter the cost. The characters we knew and love were changing before our very eyes, doing something they may never recover from.

But it wasn’t just the 100 I was thinking about. I was thinking about those kids we saw filing into a classroom a few episodes ago, and the kid playing with a soccer ball on Level 5. All the people dining, enjoying themselves, smiling, living life. They were all going to suffer because of this war and these actions.

The writers behind the show could’ve made all of Mount Weather’s people into greedy monsters. But they weren’t. And in the end, innocent people became casualties of war.

It was ugly, and it hurt. And here I am, more than 12 hours later, still thinking about it. Analyzing it. That’s the sign of an effective episode. Kudos.

I didn’t think they’d go there. Sure, I suspected Dante would die in some way, maybe Cage, maybe even Clarke’s mother. Jasper or Maya, for sure (by the way, I think it was IGN who commented that it was brilliant to kill off Maya in this way, illustrating explicitly how Clarke and Bellamy’s actions would hurt the ones who helped them). But the lines that were crossed. Just wow. They didn’t hold back.

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My Favorite Parks and Rec Moments

Parks and Recreation is ending tonight after seven seasons. It’s one of my favorite series. It’s a go-to series to put on when there’s nothing else to watch, and if you ask JC, you’ll find out that I’ve actually memorized lines from some episodes.

I wish I could say this was one of these series that I watched from the start and immediately fell in love with. It wasn’t. I remember watching the first season and being so disappointed. I didn’t love Leslie; I found her annoying. I hated Tom. Andy was just awful — why would Ann possibly date him? They were a couple that lacked any chemistry whatsoever. And Ron Swanson? Well, he made no impression at all.

I stopped watching for the second season, insisting all those reviewers that said it got better weren’t in their right mind. But in a sweet turn of fate, I started watching Party Down that year. I grew attached to Adam Scott. And in my sadness in discovering I had two short seasons of that show and nothing else, I discovered Mr. Scott was turning to an NBC favorite. He was joining Parks and Rec.

I started watching season three and never looked back. No, that’s not true. I looked back just this past weekend, when we officially started the series from the beginning (my habit was to start at the last two episodes of season two, Adam Scott and Rob Lowe’s first appearances) to see how bad those episodes really were. I now admit: I was wrong. They weren’t terrible. They weren’t the Parks and Rec I now know and love, but knowing what the show would become, they were suddenly better. And season two was even better than the first. And the show just kept improving since then (well, except for any episode centered on Councilman Jam; I’m still not a fan of those).

Now tonight we’ll say good-bye to Pawnee, Indiana, and the group of misfits that came with it. But before we sign off, let’s look at some of my own favorite memories.

Snake Juice: I should save this for last, but come on, it’s just too awesome. So let’s start with one of the funniest moments on the show, particularly Ron Swanson’s dancing.

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Switched at Birth: At the First Clear Word


SWITCHED AT BIRTH: 4.05 “At the First Clear Word”

Last night’s episode of Switched at Birth was meant to start a conversation.

That’s not an easy thing to do. If you’re going to tackle a tough issue, you have to do it well. You have to raise awareness by showing people what they don’t want to see. And honestly, you have to go into places that people probably don’t want to spend their time. And I think Switched at Birth did a commendable job.

It certainly wasn’t an episode I was looking forward to. In the hours leading up to airing, I kept saying how it was going to make me sad. Why sad? Well, because it’s taking on an issue that too many people face today in college campuses. It’s going to be emotionally heartwrenching for Bay. And it’s going to take good ol’ Tank and put him in a very dark light.

And it did all that. We started with Bay waking up naked, next to Tank, wondering what happened. She knew something didn’t go as planned, but she didn’t remember. And, of course, her mind first goes to Emmett, worrying that she cheated on him.

I must applaud the show. It was 25 minutes into the episode before the word “rape” was used. But as viewers, the idea of it hung in the air, so that we were all kept wondering if that’s really what happened. It came as such a surprise when Bay herself heard it and digested what might have happened — what she had a feeling did happen.

And even by the end of the episode, we still don’t really know. We’re not meant to. In situations like these, when it’s a question of drunkenness and he said/she said, we may never know. And I have a feeling that Bay never will (though I suppose that we’ll have to wait until next week to know for sure). We just know it was a bad situation, there are too many shades of gray, and something wasn’t right.

Now, at first, I was a little hesitant that we put Tank in the center of this scenario. But as I think about it more and more, I think it was a fantastic choice on the writers’ part. It’d be easy to assign some nameless, one-episode character to be the one that Bay spent the night with. But in a situation like that, you’d be left thinking that of course it was his fault. He’s just clearly a bad guy.

But in this situation, we know Tank. We know Tank’s not a bad guy. Heck, Travis even said so in last night’s episode. We don’t want to think that Tank was capable of crossing a line like that. And Tank doesn’t think he did. She was into it, he said. She kissed him, he claimed. She didn’t say no.

But what this episode wanted you to take from it was that not saying no isn’t the same as consent. Bay asked, “Did I say yes?” To Tank, this was just a drunken night. To Bay, it was clearly something else.

I must say, I appreciated how they did the flashbacks in this episode, displaying Bay’s fuzziness in blurred vision. And showing the scene in the bedroom was especially effective, using similar dialog but different intonations to indicate the differences in perception and understanding of the situation. It was tense and uncomfortable.

I’m sure many people are standing on both sides of the line, saying that either Bay just got drunk and it happened, or that Tank took advantage. It’s a debate that many people have outside of the Switched at Birth world. Clearly, neither of them were in the best frame of mind that night. But in the end, we’re left with Bay’s lasting message to Daphne: it didn’t feel right. Something felt wrong.

There’s a lot of ways this could go. I can imagine that since she doesn’t know for sure, Bay won’t want to do something to hurt Tank if she’s wrong. But then again, can you just let it go? And while I’m sure we’ll cover Emmett’s reaction, it’s the one I care least about. True, I like “Bemmett” as much as the next guy, but this is about more than that. I care more about what this will really mean for Bay in the long run.

Fortunately, of all people on this show, I know that Vanessa Marano is one that could handle whatever is thrown her way. It’s not going to be a comfortable thing to watch, but if in the end, it does, in fact, start a discussion and raise awareness, it looks like the show’s done its job.

*Photo by ABC Family

The 2014 Awards: The Best, Worst, and In Between on TV

Well, I had a rough year on this blog. I was reminded via an automatically generated email — in a very congratulatory way — that I only had 59 new posts this year. Ouch. But hey, here’s number 60.

It only seems fitting in this very up and down year in TV to give a shout out to some of the best and worst moments. While I may have been writing little, I’ve still been trying to watch.

So here goes, with the 2014 Awards from Raked.

Best Surprise Series: The 100. I’ll start with what sticks out in my mind as one of my biggest surprises of the year: The 100. For a show that was touted as the CW’s version of The Hunger Games when first pitched, it quickly became one of my favorite shows. And it’s one of the few that I’m eagerly anticipating week to week. It increasingly surprises me with its twists and turns, and it’s not afraid to make its beautiful cast dirty. No, really. Very few other shows do this, but most of its characters are running around with mud, dirt, and blood streaking their faces all the time. Hair is tangled. Cuts are revealed. Kudos to making it real, especially for a sci-fi series.

Best Season Finale: The Vampire Diaries. Holy crap, Bonnie and Damon died. You could see it coming (heck, Bonnie even knew), but this episode still had me hopping from one leg to another in anxiety as the episode progressed. I was so upset, I wrote about it twice. TWICE. Talk about a cliffhanger. This then leads us to…


Best Dynamic Duo: Bonnie and Damon, The Vampire Diaries. For two characters that despised each other, it was great to see them have to work together in a love-hate friendship back in 1994 (and quite frankly, I just loved revisiting 1994!). I personally  think they separated these two too early in the season, but it was nice to hear that sentimental phone call that Damon left on Bonnie’s voicemail once he was back in the present.

Most Ridiculous Branding Ploy: Once Upon a Time. Because OUAT can’t seem to let anything Disney go, we pulled in Frozen. And while I do like the movie, and Elsa and Ana eventually grew on me, at the end of the day, it was a weak storyline that was solely for the purpose of grabbing all those Frozen fans into the series and spreading the Frozen brand. Personally, I’d prefer content over Disney’s attempt to control the world.

Biggest Reality TV Controversy (at least in my house): Top Chef. Should a contestant ever give up immunity? That was the question in last season’s Top Chef (sneaking into 2014 by the skin of its teeth — a January air date). No one had ever been asked to do this before. And it’s a competition show. You’ve won immunity; you shouldn’t have to give it up, whether you made a mistake or not. But be the big man and get yourself back in during Last Chance Kitchen. All this — and more — was debated. It made Nick a jerk but ultimately the winner. Where do you stand on the topic now?

Lamest Use of Guest Stars: Girl Meets World. I’ve been really amped about seeing my favorite Boy Meets World characters return to TV, and the show has done a good job of it with the return of Minkus and Harley. But the recent return of Sean and Cory’s parents was lacking. Overdramatic, unfunny, and not highlighting what I like best about the characters. For example, suddenly Topanga and Cory’s mom have some issues in the kitchen. And diving into the reasons Sean is MIA just seemed over the top. Stick with the best friend bit — the highlight of the episode — and leave the heavy emotion at the door.

Best New Show I Never Thought I’d Watch: Last Week Tonight with John OliverNot that I have anything against John Oliver, or the Daily Show style type of show he was launching at HBO, but I got tired of the Daily Show a while ago; you can only make fun of depressing news (and 2014 had plenty of that) so many times before it wears you out. But Oliver’s weekly show turned out to be hilarious, and carefully measured out at once a week intervals to avoid oversaturation, and his one long story per episode always dug into an important but off-the-radar issue.

Best Season-long Procedural You Watched: True Detective. We didn’t write about it here, but we were continuously impressed with the series. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise. But I did want to reiterate it.

Best Season-long Procedural You Didn’t Watch: Gracepoint. I’m back and forth about the ending — certainly there could have been improvements — but ultimately, I enjoyed the FOX series Grace Point, which was based on a UK series. Good cast. Good acting. It’s too bad no one really saw it.


Biggest Cancellation Mistake: Selfie. Many people mocked Selfie. In fact, when you read the pitch, you probably would, too. But it was cancelled just as it hit its stride. I raise my glass to you, Selfie. You probably could’ve been a good little comedy if you just had a little more time.

Biggest Cancellation Mistake, Part 2: Manhattan Love Story. The mistake here wasn’t cancelling the series. Manhattan Love Story was by far the worst new series to hit the airwaves. The mistake here was that they didn’t cancel it sooner.

Biggest Question of the Year: “Will Zeke Die?”, Parenthood. My goodness, have we gone through the ringer on this one. Previews have hinted at it. We’ve had close calls. And now we’re waiting until January because another promo shows him having heart issues. It’s the final season, so we kind-of expect it. But then again, wouldn’t it be nice to have him holding Amber’s baby as a final scene of the series? And speaking of finales…

Biggest No-Win Situation: How I Met Your Mother. Yes, I was one of those frustrated and outraged by the end of HIMYM. And I still contend that the final episode was unfunny and could use some work. But in the time sense, I’ve given it some thought. The writers of HIMYM couldn’t win. If they did the predictable episode where it ended with Ted meeting the mother and that was it, viewers would complain that it was boring and ask why we spent all this time looking at Robin if it was all moot. But at the same time, the current ending had people complaining the opposite? Why say it was about the mother when it wasn’t? Really, artistic vision, viewer expectations, whatever — they were in a tight spot. It really was a no-win situation.

himym finale

Worst Forced Christmas Special: Chasing Life. Chasing Life had a lot going for it — but it’s “Christmas episode” was not one of them. Not only did it kill the cliffhanger we were left with, but they forced Christmas in May. The dialog was stilted. The decorations were sparse. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Or better yet, don’t do it at all.

Worst Christmas TV Movie: Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. I can’t even describe how bad this was. Oh wait. I did here. If you don’t want to read it, just imagine Aubrey Plaza’s voice saying, it was bad! Stop asking me!

TV Movie I’d Like to Forget: The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. It was boring. Just boring. And poorly cast and acted. And I read Dustin Diamond’s book in advance of it. I want all that time back.

Well, those are my picks. But what do you think? What should be added to this list? What’s been the best and the worst for you? I know I’m missing some big series. Let me know in the comments.

And here’s to more good and bad in 2015!

*Photos by The CW, FOX, and CBS

The 100: Spacewalker


THE 100: 2.08 “Spacewalker”

Midseason finales can be rough. And with a show like The 100, which is rather brutal and surprising every week, this rough finale was no surprise. If you haven’t yet seen last night’s episode and you don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest you stop reading now.

While the events of last night may not have been surprising, they were certainly poignant and painful. In the aftermath of Finn’s massacre and on the brink of war, the Grounders and Skypeople finally came to a truce. Unfortunately, that truce would only move forward if the Skypeople handed over Finn to die the 18 deaths of their people.

Of course, Clarke and crew were against it. Finn was their friend. Finn was one of their people. It was no surprise that Bellamy, Clarke, Raven — even Murphy — were trying to save him. What was surprising, to me at least, was that Clarke’s mother and other officials at Camp Jaha were trying to save him as well.

Why was this strange? Well, sure, he’s just a kid. He shouldn’t have to be handed to an enemy camp for death by torture. But then again, when did those in charge of Camp Jaha — those who used to run the Ark — ever look the other way at death for breaking the law. Floating people was their usual punishment. And while some of that might have been for the purposes of oxygen preservation, somehow I doubt that mentality would change once they were on the ground. It was in their government and culture. You break the law, you die. And when basically world peace is at stake (this is the only world they know now), it seems an obvious choice to sacrifice one boy for the sake of the rest of your people. (Perhaps this is just early insight into discovering that Clarke’s mother may not be all that great of a chancellor.)

What I wasn’t expecting for this episode was the flashbacks, where we finally discovered why Finn had been imprisoned. It wasn’t that he spacewalked himself, but he covered for Raven after helping her do it. Of course, all that was moot once Raven discovered that her physical reason for being held back was overturned given her records. Had Finn never been imprisoned, he would never have gotten on the ground, never met Clarke — well, you get the point.

This guilt for Raven was pushing her to extremes. She was willing to sacrifice Murphy, kill the Grounders’ leader, punch one of the Camp’s own officials. Honestly, this only made the episode better. I worried that we’d focus too much on Clarke and Finn, a relationship that was fine but not my favorite on the series (Bellmay/Clarke shippers unite; you now have your chance). So seeing Finn and Raven’s relationship back in the glory days of the Ark was really nice.

That said, Clarke’s desperate attempt to save Finn’s life — “He did it for me.” “Then he shall die for you.” — was just heartbreaking. And while it will only create a rift between Raven and Clarke (and possibly many others), it was the right choice to kill Finn to save him from the terrible torture ahead of him.

The ending somehow has stayed in my memory long after the episode ended. While it wasn’t necessarily a shock, I suppose I held out hope that somehow Finn would make it (even though you could easily argue that the show will be even better without him now that Clarke has to live with her actions and many people may be angry with her). I even wondered if that stabbing was really a kill — if it was all just a setup to have Finn released.

But no, I think it was the last we’ve seen of Finn, who ended up being a good-hearted kid. And when I woke up this morning, I felt that same sadness I felt as tears fell out of Clarke’s eyes (she did a great job on that scene, by the way). Once again, The 100 impresses. And now I’m just haunted, much like Clarke herself may be, until a January return.

*Photo by The CW

Some Early Thoughts on Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever


Thanksgiving has passed, which means we’re officially in Christmas territory. Don’t hold it against me, but I’ve already dipped my toes into some Christmas movies, though in my defense, not many. We’re talking one or two from Hallmark (which I won’t name here — they weren’t worth seeing, even if one was a new premiere this year). And, I did go ahead and check out the screener for Lifetime’s upcoming movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, which premieres tomorrow night at 8/7c.

You may remember Grumpy Cat from her (yes, her) internet fame. If not, just take a look at this rather straightforward Google image search. Well, this very “famous” cat has moved from meme to merchandise to movie.

In the movie, Grumpy Cat (voiced by Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec fame) lives in a pet store, sarcastic and bitter from having one too many families return her. Or just because she wants to be sarcastic and bitter. It’s your guess as to which is the right reason. But Grumpy is surprised to find a friend a young girl named Chrystal, who can suddenly hear Grumpy speak. Together, they must stop some big bads from stealing a very important object in the mall: a million-dollar dog.

Naturally, this description would make you believe this is a kid’s movie, right? Well, it is — kind-of. Sure, the heroine is a young girl and there are talking animals. In addition, there’s some rather Home Alone slapstickish antics. That being said, it all takes place in a mall, and they knowingly call their mall Santa “Rodney,” so if you’re like to have your kids watch the movie, you better set them straight about why this particular mall might not have a real Santa. (Sure, you may discover that there’s some magic in the air, but I’d imagine there might be some level of complication there.)

So let’s put aside the idea that this could be considered a kids movie. How about the adults? Well, in its defense, it does make fun of itself. You know how I mentioned that Grumpy has progressed from meme to merchandise to movie? That’s literally a joke in the movie itself. Not only that, but it introduces its own commercial breaks, and Aubrey Plaza even appears in the movie in a soundstage at one point. It’s very meta.

Unfortunately, what happens is that all of these quirks adds up to a rather disjointed movie, which is probably why even Aubrey Plaza said that this movie is best watched drunk.

In addition, this movie has its own definition of grumpy. Sadly, Plaza fails to come across as grumpy — just sarcastic. In fact, the same tone of voice she uses comedically in Parks and Rec when she’s trying to be over the top is the voice used throughout the entire movie. I’ve seen enough Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street and even dwarves in Snow White to understand what it means to be grumpy; sarcastic is not the same. And in the end, it comes across more as annoying narrative than anything else.

Overall, I can’t specify who this movie is supposed to be for or who would necessarily enjoy it. If you can get over the “mall Santa” thing, perhaps it’s a nice family film. But even then, I think you’ll discover that the way it’s spliced together will be too distracting and quite frankly puzzling to enjoy.

My recommendation? Pass on this movie and look for the next Christmas family film. I’m sure ABC Family is counting down to one even as we speak.

Disclaimer: As a side note, I did receive a rather entertaining Grumpy Cat calendar to go along with the screener. My 1.5 year old son truly enjoys it. Given his love of cats, he’d probably highly recommend the movie. Take that as you need to.

*Photo by Joseph Viles/Lifetime