TNT’s dark and filthy drama Good Behavior ― aka “Lady Mary’s Come Undone” ― wrapped its high-tension 10-episode run with the same heart, black humor and shenanigans that made its pilot so compelling.
Michelle Dockery’s explosive breakaway from the staid walls of Downton Abbey, as an alcoholic con artist with more wigs than Sydney Bristow, proved worth the binge ― and the hangover! Recently released jailbird Letty Raines, who gets off on stealing, loves to get high, and just wants her biracial son, Jacob, to love her is no scheming noble. She’s painfully honest, unable to be anything but herself, and when she meets a hit man who’s accustomed to wearing dozens of different identities ― played by Argentine hunk-and-a-half Juan Diego Botto ― it’s the catalyst for adventure, growth…and more than a few missteps. All of which make for riveting TV.
The many faces of Maslany
Award nominations are always a crap shoot. As someone who’s been involved in several smaller-scale award slates, I can testify to how complicated and idiosyncratic the process can be. But all of my knowledge—and the world-weary acceptance of a long-time TV and movie fan— doesn’t help when the Emmy and Oscar ballots come out and some stellar performances get overlooked for tired always-haves.
The 2015 Primetime Emmy nominations were announced today and the list saw some joyous inclusions — like Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, who plays several distinct clones with a mind-blowing talent and Taraji P. Henson, overlooked and underused on CBS’ Person of Interest and a force to be reckoned with on FOX’s Empire as Cookie Lyon.
I am beyond thrilled for Tatiana, Taraji and How to Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis. But the status quo hasn’t really changed. Where are the nominations for Orphan Black and Empire as shows? The latter brought in unprecedented numbers and had viewers riveted. Was Mad Men sincerely better this year? The Academy continues to rely on the Homeland/Modern Family/whatever-we-did-last-year model of nominations. We again see premium cable and Netflix cleaning up, without any recognition some of the year’s most breath-taking performances on network and basic.
After six seasons, FX’s Justified came to a perfect close this week. Though buckets of blood bathed the episodes leading up to the finale, the last hour was all about quiet, hard-won farewells. Viewers said goodbye to so many memorable characters. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, the gunslinger who, despite his white hat and noble intentions, was never quite the good guy he hoped to be. Joelle Carter’s Ava Crowder, the fierce survivor who struggled to look out for #1 and damn the consequences. Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder, the charismatic black hat to Raylan’s white and the other side to his coin. Tim, Rachel, Art, Wynn, Loretta…this season’s Big Bad, Sam Elliott’s Markham. Justified was a veritable community of personalities, almost impossible to leave — just like Harlan County itself, constantly drawing its residents back into damnation.
In any given discussion of Game of Thrones and the badassery of its characters, you’ll hear about Arya Stark, the mischievous daughter of Ned Stark of Winterfell who must find her way alone after his execution. Charged with learning to “stick them with the pointy end” and hiding amongst her enemies, the wily and troubled Arya is a fan favorite and often lauded as the strongest and most feminist character in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. But, here’s the thing, over the course of five books and four seasons, I think it’s clear that her older sister Sansa Stark is a badass, too. She may not handle a sword or seek out the Braavosi trick of shifting faces, but she handles equally sharp things and wears her own mask.
When The 100, based on the book of the same name by Kass Morgan, premiered midseason in spring 2014 I—like many others—was on post-apocalyptic teen angst overload. Though a longtime supporter of The CW network and its mixed bag of shows, I had a full belly of Hunger Games-eque dystopian fiction and mediocre sci-fi television shows. No thanks, I thought. I’ll pass.
It’s amazing how, when you suddenly find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, you start to second-guess that kind of decision. Less than a year after shrugging off The 100, I found myself marathoning 24 episodes in two days. It took me four days total to catch up to the second season as it aired. “I’ll pass” became “I’ll pass out if I don’t find out what happens next.” Why? Continue reading
Writing a sexual assault into your canon? Take a look at this handy-dandy checklist first:
When is it Okay to Use Rape as a Plot Device?
And, yet, it persists. So many television shows, both daytime and primetime, revert to rape as a “deep” or “edgy” stunt to move a story forward, reveal a piece of characterization, etc. The latest being HBO’s Game of Thrones. Sonia Saraiya at the AV Club wrote a brilliant takedown of the show’s insistence on changing consensual sex scenes to rape scenes here and there’s not much I can add to that but my anger. And my exhaustion.
My defection to ABC Family began years ago, with Greek (2007), The Middleman (2008) and Make it or Break It (2009). Now, it’s the channel I turn to first for smart, fun, diverse youth-oriented programming.
If you still think ABC Family is the “Family Channel” of yore, rife with conservative, preachy, Seventh Heaven-esque shows run back-to-back with The 700 Club, you’re missing out on some great TV. The network’s tagline is “a new kind of family,” and it delivers on that promise: putting forth fresh projects and taking risks on stories that might not get traction anywhere else. For instance, weekly sitcom Melissa & Joey is refreshingly adult, Who’s the Boss for a new generation, with fast and flip sexual banter and teens who can more than hold their own. But it’s the dramatic field where ABCF really shines.
PLL’s Fields family
When I was growing up, Beverly Hills, Sunnydale, Capeside and Roswell were very white, heteronormative enclaves. It didn’t matter if their corresponding real-life geography boasted more diversity, the shows were pretty homogenous. If you weren’t fair-skinned and straight, you didn’t really see yourself on teen TV. By and large, if there were characters of color, they’d be wacky sidekicks, the first to die in a murder mystery or part of a brief Afterschool Special arc wherein somebody fell for a person from The Wrong Side of the Tracks. ABC Family changed that. Lincoln Heights, about a black family in LA, ran for four seasons. Greek had a college-age cast, with black characters Calvin and Ashleigh each getting their own love interests. Calvin, black and gay, actually had two — complete with onscreen smooches and implied sex. Got any pearls? Feel free to clutch ’em. The Middleman featured Natalie Morales as lead character Wendy Watson. The flighty bestie? A blonde. How many times does that happen? Then there’s Pretty Little Liars‘ lesbian teen Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell). Her parents are portrayed by Eric Steinberg and Nia Peeples, and you don’t sit around wondering, “What are the Fieldses?” because you already know: a family trying to support each other while crazy crap happens around them. And ABCF continues to…you know, I don’t want to say “push the envelope.” Because it’s not scandalous. They’re just putting a bigger, better envelope on the table! This summer’s Twisted and The Fosters are prime (pun fully intended!) examples.