The Top 10 Greatest Halloween Episodes of TV!

My So-Called Life Halloween My So-Called Life Halloween

by REBECCA, October 16, 2013

I love holiday episodes of television. The fantasy world on the screen intersects with our mundane world during those episodes, as if the pull of shared seasonal moments is too strong to resist. Since I don’t usually watch tv in real time, though, one of my favorite things to do in the weeks leading up to Halloween is watch Halloween-themed episodes. Whereas Christmas and Chanukah and Thanksgiving episodes tend to revolve around family dynamics and issues, Halloween is nearly always a friend-centric holiday, making it perfect for Young Adult tv shows. But, since Halloween is the ultimate day of becoming someone we’re not, especially in terms of dressing up and acting childlike, it creates perfect opportunities for a YA feel even in adult tv shows.

1. My So-Called Life, “Halloween” (1994).

My So-Called Life HalloweenThis is, without a doubt, my favorite Halloween episode of tv; it really hits all the high points. Characters’ costume choices reveal insights into their personalities, like when Rickie decides to dress as Brian Crakow and comments, “I thought this Halloweek I’d be everyone else.” There’s an actual supernatural happening, in which Angela is visited by the ghost of Nicky Driscoll, a greaser who died in the gym on Halloween in 1961 (she got his book in English class, where every good haunting is born). Then there’s the parents’ humiliating storyline where Patty (gag me with a spoon I hate her) dresses as Rapunzel, and the poignant one where Danielle dresses as Angela because she can’t decide whether she wants to understand her or mock her. All in all, it’s grade-A Halloween.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Halloween” (Season 2, 1997).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer halloweenBuffy and her friends get their Halloween costumes from Ethan Rayne’s shop, and the costumes are magicked so that each one turns into the costume she’s wearing. Buffy is a meek damsel, so she can’t do anything; Zander is an army guy who, in an amusing twist later in the season, still remembers some of his army training; Willow is a ghost. This is a fun literalization of the idea that people become what they dress like. Also it’s fun to see Buffy, who’s usually such a badass, be scared of things, while Zander, who’s usually scared, gets to be capable.

3. Supernatural, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” (Season 4, 2008).

SupernaturalThe day before Halloween, Sam and Dean are investigating a man who dies from swallowing razor blades in candy and a girl who was bobbing for apples at a costume party and was boiled by the water, and realize they’re dealing with a witch who’s trying to raise Samhain. When Sam and Dean confiscate the dude’s candy to check it for supernaturaly things, there’s an amusing gag in which Dean eats ALL the candy. A fun episode and, bonus, it guest stars Ashley Benson, of Pretty Little Liars fame, a very spooky show—and, Ashley Benson is almost the same name as Amber Benson, who stars in Buffy. See what happens on Halloween?!

4. Roseanne, “BOO” (Season 2, 1989).

roseanne halloweenRoseanne did a Halloween episode every season after this one, god bless it, and they’re all pretty awesome. This is one show that’s an exception to the Halloween-is-for-friends theme I mentioned above—Roseanne and Dan are both obsessed with Halloween, and they spend the episode trying to one-up each other on pranks. They have their living room set up as a tunnel of terror for trick-or-treaters, but really Roseanne and Dan are mostly trying to scare each other. Roseanne forever!

5. Bones, “Mummy in the Maze” (Season 3, 2007).

BonesBones and Booth are investigating a mummy found in a haunted maze. Soon, another body shows up, and it seems like the person has been scared to death. The whole gang dresses in costume for the annual Jeffersonian Halloween party, so when Booth and Bones are called away to try and find a missing girl, they have to go in costume. Booth is a nerd squint and Bones is Wonder Woman and it’s amazing. Favorite moment: Booth and other FBI types are trying complicated systems to explain how to find the mummy in the maze and Booth is getting super annoyed. Then Booth realizes the maze is made of hay bales and just knocks the whole thing over.

6. Will & Grace, “Boo, Humbug” (Season 1, 1998).

Will & GraceSuch classic shenanigans! Jack begs Will and Grace to go with him to the Village, but they hate Halloween and are planning on having an Ingmar Bergman film festival at home. Jack begs Karen to go with him instead (and I think this is the episode where they really become friends—one of the greater tv alliances in recorded history). Just as W&G are pouring the wine, Will’s boss shows up and dumps his kids on Will, so he and Grace have to take them trick-or-treating. Hijinks ensue and W&G rediscover their childlike glee. Meanwhile, everyone in the Village thinks that Karen is a drag queen and worships her, which is really only her due.

7. Pushing Daisies, “Girth” (Season 1, 2007).

Pushing Daisies "Girth"Really, nearly every episode of this delight kind of seem like Halloween. Ned (Lee Pace, I love you) hates Halloween, because as a child it was the day he found out that his father had gotten a new family after sending him to boarding school. Emerson and Olive are on the case of a ghost-jockey and ghost-horse that are haunting other jockeys. Turns out, Olive used to be a jockey (amazing backstory choice since Kristin Chenoweth is so tiny) and is therefore in danger of being killed too. In a poignant ending, Chuck dresses up as a ghost and trick-or-treats at the aunts’ house. God, why is this show SO good?!

8. Grey’s Anatomy, “Haunt You Every Day” (Season 4, 2007).

Grey's AnatomyGrey’s Anatomy doesn’t usually do much in the way of Halloween episodes, but I really like this one because it’s more about a Halloween feeling than the holiday itself, although, there are some amazing Halloween moments, including when the boy born without ears goes to Sloan and trick-or-treats for ear surgery. In this episode, Meredith is carrying around her mother’s ashes in a bag and is trying to decide what to do with them, but can’t make the decision—her mother haunts the halls of the hospital and the decisions Meredith makes. The theme of haunting continues in a particularly creepy and interesting instance of a man who is convinced that his foot is “dead” and needs to be cut off.

9. Gossip Girl, “The Handmaiden’s Tale” (Season 1, 2007).

Gossip Girl The Handmaiden's TaleRemember when Blair and Nate were still dating! Well, Blair has arranged an elaborate scavenger hunt at the Halloween Masked Ball. Because it is a MASKED BALL, naturally cases of mistaken identity and disguise abound. In a show where appearance is everything, the opportunity to be mistaken for someone else is a dangerous one, and one that creates opportunities for people who are willing to take them. Bwah ha ha.

10. Beavis and Butthead, “Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest (Butt-O-Ween)” (Season 6, 1995).

Beavis and ButtheadI just found myself transported back to the moment I first saw Beavis and Butthead (sixth grade) and everyone (well, everyone whose parents didn’t immediately force them to stop watching it) was talking about it at school the next day, trying to figure out if they were using real words or just making stuff up. Sadly, my poor mother waged an epically losing battle against the phrase “that sucks” for years, which she can lay firmly at Beavis and Butthead‘s feet. Except they’d probably tell her, “shut up, dumbass.” Anyhoosier, this episode is 1990s MTV Halloweenery at its finest. B&B are watching a horror movie when trick-or-treaters show up at their door. When they realize they, too, could go trick-or-treating and get free candy, they take to the streets. After being dismissed for not wearing costumes, Butthead pours melted cheese all over himself and goes as nachos. Meanwhile, Beavis eats all the candy corn, and is transformed into Cornholio. Somehow, B&B end up at a farm, where they variously turn into zombies, are suspended on meat hooks, and are chased with chainsaws. Oh, the nineties.

So, there you have my picks for the 10 best Halloween episodes of TV. Tell me yours!

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Fall 2013’s Young Adult(ish) TV Lineup

A List of 10 Exciting-Looking YA(ish) Shows Premiering in 2013

Supernatural Beauty and the Beast

by REBECCA, August 22, 2013

It’s the dog days of summer and I’ve sweat through every article of clothing I own. All I want to do in the whole world is drink ice cold cocktails made with Saint Germain and some kind of fresh herb and watch something amazing. Thus, my thoughts turn, inevitably, to the upcoming Fall tv schedule! I am still reeling from the disappointment of Smash being cancelled after its second season, but I’m trying to pull myself together because there is a ton of stuff premiering this season. Lots of it looks intriguing, much of it looks entertaining, and some of it looks legit promising.

So, in addition to being super psyched about my friends, Supernatural, Beauty and the Beast, Elementary, etc., here are the 10 (vaguely) young adult(ish) shows I’m looking forward to checking out, in order of pilot premiere.

sleepy hollow sleepy hollow

Sleepy Hollow, FOX (September 16th)

“In this modern day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, Ichabod Crane is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Bound to the Headless Horseman by a blood spell cast on the battlefield of the American Revolution, Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC (September 24th)

I’ll definitely be checking this one out. Produced by Joss Whedon, he also writes and directs the pilot.

“Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel’s feature films, as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary. Coulson’s team consists of Agent Grant Ward, highly trained in combat and espionage; Agent Melinda May, expert pilot and martial artist; Agent Leo Fitz, brilliant engineer; and Agent Jemma Simmons, genius bio-chemist. Joining them on their journey into mystery is new recruit and computer hacker, Skye.

the originals The Originals

The Originals, the CW (October 3rd)

The Originals is a spinoff of The Vampire DiariesI thought The Vampire Diaries was boring, so I’ve probably missed some backstory to The Originals; I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to follow along, though. This is set in New Orleans, though, and I’m hoping for some Southern awesomeness. Plus: psychology grad student/bartender.

“Klaus Mikaelson, the original vampire-werewolf hybrid, has returned to New Orleans, the city his family helped build, the city from which he and his siblings were exiled a century ago by their relentless hunter father. Klaus is intrigued by his recent unexpected reunion with his former protégé, Marcel, a charismatic but diabolical vampire who now has total control over the human and supernatural inhabitants of New Orleans. Tensions between the town’s supernatural factions—vampires, witches, werewolves and humans—are nearing a breaking point as Marcel commands his devoted followers and rules with absolute power.

Even the human population of the Quarter is unwittingly drawn into this supernatural battleground. A recent arrival to New Orleans, Cami is a whip-smart psychology grad student who appears happy to pursue her studies by day and work nights as a bartender, unaware that many of her customers are vampires. Hiding the dark secret that has brought her to New Orleans, Cami soon finds herself fascinated by both Klaus and Marcel, and totally unaware of the danger that they pose for her and everyone around her. Now, in the midst of a thriving New Orleans, a city known to be steeped in magic and history, the long-smoldering war is about to reach a fever pitch, and the Originals stand as the catalyst.”

The Tomorrow People CW

The Tomorrow People, the CW (October 9th)

The Tomorrow People is based upon a British show of the same name from the 1970s. This looks like it’ll be a bit of a departure for the CW, so I’m curious.

“They are the next evolutionary leap of mankind, a generation of humans born with paranormal abilities—the Tomorrow People. Up until a year ago, Stephen was a “normal” teenager—until he began hearing voices and teleporting in his sleep, never knowing where he might wake up. Now, Stephen’s issues have gone far beyond the usual teenage angst, and he is beginning to question his sanity. In desperation, Stephen decides to listen to one of the voices in his head, and it leads him to his first encounter with the Tomorrow People—John, Cara and Russell—a genetically advanced race with the abilities of telekinesis, teleportation and telepathic communication. They are being hunted down by a paramilitary group of scientists known as Ultra, which sees them as a very real existential threat from a rival species, and the outcast group has been forced to hide out in an abandoned subway station just beneath the surface of the human world. They offer Stephen the chance for a normal life with his family and best friend if he will help in the struggle to isolate and eradicate the Tomorrow People.”

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, ABC (October 10th)

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland is a spinoff of Once Upon A Time, which I enjoyed for the first season and then got bored of. Still, I’m always willing to give an Alice a chance.

“In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she’s seen during this impossible adventure. Surely this troubled girl must be insane and her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything. Alice seems ready to put it all behind her, especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever—the handsome and mysterious Cyrus. But deep down Alice knows this world is real and just in the nick of time, the sardonic Knave of Hearts and the irrepressible White Rabbit (John Lithgow) arrive to save her from a doomed fate. Together, the trio will take a tumble down the rabbit hole to this Wonderland where nothing is impossible.”

Reign CW Series Logo for Reign

Reign, the CW (October 10th)

Ok, let’s be serious: this will probably be both horrendous and very historically inaccurate, but I will definitely check out the pilot, if only because it looks like the CW is trying to tap into a Harlequin Historical kind of vibe here. Plus, costumes and castles, duh.

“Hidden between the lines of the history books is the story of Mary Stuart, the young woman the world would come to know as Mary, Queen of Scots. The teenage Mary is already a headstrong monarch─beautiful, passionate and poised at the very beginning of her tumultuous rise to power. Arriving in France with four close friends as her ladies-in-waiting, Mary has been sent to secure Scotland’s strategic alliance by formalizing her arranged engagement to the French king’s dashing son, Prince Francis. But the match isn’t signed and sealed, it depends more on politics, religion and secret agendas than affairs of the heart. Prince Francis is intrigued by the fiery Scot, but like most young men, he resists the idea of settling down into marriage, especially when he has a history with a lady of the court and his own point of view on the wisdom of an alliance with Scotland. Still, an attraction between Mary and Francis is ignited.

As Mary learns for herself that fierce foes are conspiring to sabotage her marriage to Francis and even threaten her life, she becomes aware of other dark forces. There’s a mysterious presence in the castle; a shrouded figure who may become her unlikely ally. Villagers cope with the brutality of the times by trusting in magic and superstition. And in the dark woods surrounding the French Court lurk those who offer human sacrifice to a being who seems to require blood.”

dracula nbc

Dracula, NBC (October 25th)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is very close to my heart, but it’s been done so many times that I don’t have any squeamishness about the story being changed. This really could go either way, but I’m cheered by the fact that Daniel Knauf, creator/writer of the awesome Carnivàleis the head writer and showrunner.

“It’s the late 19th century, and the mysterious Dracula has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. He’s especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night—useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: he hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan… until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.”

Believe NBC JJ Abrams

Believe, NBC (Midseason)

I’m super excited about this because J.J. Abrams is producing and Alfonso Cuarón is producing, writing, and directing!

“Levitation, telekinesis, the ability to control nature, even predict the future… since she was two years old, Bo has had gifts she could neither fully understand nor control. Raised by a small group known as the ‘True Believers, the orphaned girl has been safeguarded from harmful outsiders who would use her forces for personal gain. But now that she is 10, her powers have become stronger, and the threat has grown more dangerous.

With her life and future now in jeopardy, the ‘Believers’ turn to the only person they see fit to be her full-time protector. That is, once they break him out of jail. Tate, a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate who’s lost his will, is initially reluctant – until he witnesses one of her extraordinary abilities. Bo sees people for who they truly are . . . and who they may become.”

Surviving Jack surviving jack

Surviving Jack, FOX (Midseason)

Surviving Jack is based on the book I Suck At Girls, by Justin Halpern, of Shit My Dad Says fame. I am assuming, then, that the character of Jack here is the eponymous “dad.” Whatever, I don’t usually care for comedies, but Jack is played by Christopher Meloni, my favorite ever SVU detective, and in the preview he looks hilarious. Le premise:

“Jack Dunlevy, ex-military and an oncologist, is a no-bull kind of guy. He sees little, if any, need to sugar-coat the truth. Up to this point, Jack’s been the parent who’s left for work early, come home late, eaten the big piece of chicken, yelled at his kids and gone to bed. But after years of deftly raising and running the family, his wife, Joanne, is going back to law school, leaving Jack as a full-time parent for the very first time.

Jack’s teenage son, Frankie, is just starting his freshman year in high school. Lanky, quick-witted, self-deprecating and not entirely sure of himself, all Frankie wants to do is fly under the radar. But over the summer, he grew 10 inches, threw a no-hitter against a rival team and started to attract girls—all of which put him in some awkward situations—especially when the only base he’s ever been to is on the field.”

Resurrection

Resurrection, ABC (Midseason)

Resurrection is based on the novel The Returnedby Jason Mott, which comes out next week. I have an ARC of it and have been looking forward to reading it; it seems like a premise that would translate well to tv.

“The people of Arcadia, Missouri are forever changed when their deceased loved ones suddenly start to return. An 8-year-old American boy wakes up alone in a rice paddy in a rural Chinese province with no idea how he got there. Details start to emerge when the boy, who calls himself Jacob, recalls that his hometown is Arcadia and an immigration agent, Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), takes him there. The home he claims as his own is occupied by an elderly couple, who lost their son Jacob more than 30 years ago. While they look different, young Jacob recognizes them as his parents. Those closest to the family try to unravel this impossible mystery, including the Sheriff, whose wife Barbara drowned 30 years ago trying to save Jacob. But this boy who claims to be the deceased Jacob knows secrets about his own death that no one else knows—secrets that Fred’s daughter will begin to investigate and discover to be true.”

What about you? What shows are you looking forward to this season?

5 Reasons You Should Watch Hemlock Grove!

A Review of Hemlock Grove, Season 1, created by Eli Roth & based on the book by Brian McGreevy

Netflix, 2012

Hemlock GroveNetflix debuted its third original series on Friday: Hemlock Grove, a tale of a small town with big secrets. Now, nearly every news outlet and reviewer has panned Hemlock Grove. However, lest you find yourselves without my opinion on the matter, here it is: I TOTALLY ENJOYED IT!

Hemlock Grove is set in a small Pennsylvania town where girl has just been violently murdered—torn apart by . . . is it an animal? a crazed killer? We don’t know. But, in the crosshairs of the rumor mill surrounding the murder are the newly-arrived Peter and Lynda Rumancek, a Romani mother and son who the suspicious town calls filthy gypsies, and the Godfrey family, most notably to-the-manor-born Roman, who uses his beauty to get what he wants (and, when that doesn’t work, his gaze, which compels obedience), his mother, Olivia, the “most beautiful and hated woman” in Hemlock Grove, and his sister, Shelley, a lurching, seven-foot-tall girl who can’t speak and glows with strong feeling. The first murder, of course, is no isolated incident; they are occurring every full moon, giving rise to rumors that it’s a werewolf committing them—and that Peter is the werewolf.

Is Hemlock Grove the smartest, least misogynist, most disciplined, least derivative, and most sex-positive show that’s ever aired? Em, no. But it has a totally awesome opening credits sequence. And here are five reasons why I think Hemlock Grove is totally worth watching.

1. Genre Feast! If you’ve ever read Crunchings and Munchings or met me (or, really, talked to me for, like, two minutes) then you know I am a fool for genre; especially interesting combinations of genre. Well, Hemlock Grove has . . . all of them, really. Its main genre is a kind of horror-light supernatural mystery. It’s a werewolf story, complete with its own set of werewolf lore, from a Romani perspective, and what is probably my new favorite human-to-wolf transformation method. Hemlock GroveIt’s gross and cool and the effects are done really well. Then, there’s the small-town gothic, one of my favorite genres. Hemlock Grove is a creepy place, complete with secrets, cliques, only one high school (which we all know can tip any show into horror!), and an eerie combination of woodland and broken-down industrial wasteland. In addition, there are definite notes of the fairy tale, the 18th-century novel (hello, Shelley, anyone? p.s., she lives in the attic . . .), and good, old-fashioned camp. There is also a bit of a science fiction twist: Godfrey tower, the town’s only skyscraper, houses secret medical experiments, run by the sociopathic Dr. Pryce (yet another nod to classic horror). This storyline is less developed, presumably to keep our interest for season two . . .

2. Binge! Netflix has gotten a mixed response to their experiment of releasing all the episodes of their original programs at once—folks seemed to love what it did for House of Cards and hate what it did for Hemlock Grove. Well, I say, bless you, Netflix, for finally acting on the behalf of people like me who would rather wait a year to be able to watch a whole season of a show at once, rather than wait around week-to-week and watch one episode at a time. Now, the critiques of this strategy are that without the necessity to compel an audience to come back each week, Hemlock Grove writers and producers were not nearly as disciplined with their cliffhangers and structure as they would otherwise need to be. But I really liked the feeling of chugging through all at once, not just because I am a binger, but because many episodes picked up exactly where the last left off, giving it a novelistic  or filmic feeling. Also, it allowed them to avoid one of my all-time pet peeves of serial tv: when the “previously on” recap totally gives away what’s going to happen in the episode based on what clips from previous episodes they show. WHY, for the love of god, has no one solved this problem, yet, I ask you!? But Hemlock Grove doesn’t need to do this, so I was never taken out of the story. It uses flashbacks where necessary, which aren’t the most graceful thing ever, in terms of filmmaking, but totally serve their purpose. And, at thirteen episodes, it was the perfect length for a weekend binge (#don’tjudgeme).

Hemlock Grove3. Depressed Industrial Town! Hemlock Grove‘s setting is a small town in Pennsylvania that used to be home to a booming steel industry, a downturn in which threw the town into a depression, only saved by Roman’s late father, who turned to the biotech industry, but in the process laid off many people in town. This made the Godfrey family many enemies and resulted in huge, abandoned factories and broken-down machinery for bored teenagers to smoke in, have sex near, and search for bodies in. It also created a stark disparity of wealth between the Godfreys and nearly every other family in town, especially the Rumanceks. Roman wears tailored overcoats, does a lot of drugs, drives a fancy sports car, and has perfectly coiffed hair while Peter is scruffy, with long fingernails, vaguely dirty hair, persistent two-day stubble, and grimy jeans. Class, then, is always subtext in Hemlock Grove, and while the show does a shitty job with gender, it’s more savvy in terms of economy. Plus, abandoned industrial shit is awesome-looking.

4. Wacky Casting! One thing that amused me about Hemlock Grove was the fact that its casting directors clearly didn’t give a good goddamn about realism in terms of casting, so the show is kind of accent soup. But it really worked out well (except for Famke Janssen who plays Olivia Godfrey, doing a British accent like she was barely even trying). Peter, played by Landon Liboirin, is charming and not smarmy and doesn’t overdo things, for the most part. I do not know what is in the water over in Sweden, but Roman is played by Bill Skarsgård, another in the seemingly endless line of extremely beautiful children sired by Stellan Hemlock GroveSkarsgård. Like, seriously, I’m starting to think that every time I clap my hands a Skarsgård cheekbone sharpens. Anyhoo, Roman is totally delightful as the mercurial heir apparent: he’s fucked up for sure, and you can see exactly how he got that way. He also does my favorite thing a character can do, which is that he sometimes makes really terrible decisions and sometimes makes really good ones. Because, you know, that’s what people do. Also delightful is first-timer Nicole Boivin as Shelley, who is expressive when not speaking, but also really touching and funny in her voice-overs as she writes Jane-Austen-inspired emails to her uncle (Dougray Scott!). But the you’re-awesome-why-weren’t-you-in-every-scene award goes to the always-amazing Lili Taylor, who plays Peter’s mother. Ah well; maybe next season.

Hemlock Grove Brian McGreevy5. A Real, Season-Long Plot! Hemlock Grove is based on the novel by Brian McGreevy, who also wrote some of the episodes. As such, the whole season was already plotted out for the creators/writers. This is such a good thing, I think, because with so many elements at play (genres, mystery, murder, relationships), Hemlock Grove is a mixture that could quickly have gotten out of hand and turned crazy. And if there’s one thing I will argue to anyone about the show it’s that it does not go off the rails, plot-wise. There are definitely things that aren’t tied up completely or explained fully—possibly because we’ll get more about them in the next season, if they make one—but for the most part, this is a well-plotted show. It’s not particularly tight, which has been a critique of the show but which I found thoroughly enjoyable: this is a show that sits back and stretches its legs, sure the next thing will happen pretty soon, not a show that chases every speck of dust. It’s not particularly invested in action, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t suspense. There is; it comes from having a mysterious plot instead of trying to building a cliffhanger before every commercial break. So, for me, the fact that the show was confident in where its material was going allowed for it to take the long way, something that gave the show texture and mood, even if it didn’t make every second count. I was never bored and I felt like I got the time to get to know the characters.

So, there you have it: five reasons I really enjoyed Hemlock Grove! There are, of course, negatives as well, and it will likely come as no surprise that they’re nearly all to do with misogyny. The show—and I don’t know if this is the book or creator Eli Roth—just can not stop punishing women for having sexual desire, so that’s a total bummer. There is a plot point (no spoilers) that goes Hemlock Grovetotally unacknowledged, but which makes me feel wretched for still liking Roman. Olivia Godfrey/Famke Janssen is a “strong and beautiful woman,” which apparently now is synonymous with a cold borderline sociopath with incestuous tendencies where her son is concerned. I’m so deathly sick of this character (and Famke Janssen seems to play her in 4/5 of her movies). I haven’t read the novel that Hemlock Grove is based on in order to know how much of that is the show’s interpretation of the character. Either way, I want to go on record as providing future novelists/tv and film creators with the following cheat sheet:

It is possibly for women to be strong without being evil; it is possible for women to be evil without being sociopaths; it is possible for women to be strong and evil in ways that are not fixated on their children!

SO, have you watched Hemlock Grove? What did you think? Are you going to watch it? Why or why not? 

5 Reasons You Should Be Watching Beauty and the Beast!

by REBECCA, December 3, 2012

Beauty and the Beast CW

In August, I included the CW’s Beauty and the Beast in a list of new YA(ish) shows that I was excited about:

Beauty and the Beast meets crime procedural (maybe?). Homicide detective, Cat, meets the mysterious man—or beast—who once saved her life. He has been hiding out for ten years, protecting his secret: that when angry he totally Hulks out into a beast. Cat agrees to keep his true identity a secret, and he begins to help her solve cases. And, of course, they become drawn together in ways that I’m sure are mutually delightful and destructive. I know, I know: this show will probably be terrible, but I can’t help but hope that maybe it’ll be kind of like Angel meets The Vampire Diaries meets Jean Cocteau . . . no?

Well, guess what: I WAS WRONG! IT IS NOT TERRIBLE AT ALL!

We’re about mid-way through the first season, but I feel pretty dang confident going ahead and declaring Beauty and the Beast a success. Here are my top five reasons why you should be watching.

Beauty and the Beast1. Kristin Kreuk/Cat! I can’t lie: I love me some CW, but they do tend toward female characters that I don’t like. As a result, I wasn’t really expecting much from Cat. But she’s great. She has awesome qualities that I almost never see in TV aimed at younger audiences: she’s a sensible, sincere, matter-of-fact human being. Yay! She’s not boring at all, but there’s nothing super special about her (except that she’s gorgeous, but this is TV), which is so refreshing. I never watched Smallville, so I had never seen Kristin Kreuk in anything before this, but she’s great. She’s vulnerable and sympathetic, but she’s subtle, thank god, and a totally good actor. Kristin Kreuk, I salute you for managing to be the beautiful romantic lead in a CW show while being neither a bitch nor a dishrag!

2. Government-Engineered Beastliness! The premise of Vincent’s beastliness (and we learn this in episode 1, so I’m not really giving anything away here) is that he was the subject of drug-testing when in the military, in an attempt to engineer the perfect fighting machine. As we know, this NEVER works out. So, Vincent drops off the grid and, occasionally, saves people’s lives—Cat’s, for instance. This is great because it opens up the plot for future seasons. In this season (so far), mostly Vincent manages to stay off the government’s radar, but I imagine that in future seasons Vincent and Cat may end up taking on/running from a major government conspiracy. In his real life, though, Vincent was a doctor, so he is a great combination of nurturing/aggressive, healer/harmer, etc.

Beauty and the BeastJay Ryan, who plays Vincent, is pretty great, too. For one thing, he’s handsome in a very non-obnoxious way (avec wicked scar!). He has this super-gravelly voice that sounds exactly like the voice someone would have if they were experimented on by the government and had to live in a warehouse and barely talk to anyone. Also, congratulations, Jay Ryan, for your excellent American accent. I am driven to the brink of insanity when movies/shows do a bad job with accents (that’s why there are dialect and accent coaches, people!) and Jay Ryan’s is spot on. Also, I love how his best friend/housemate is a total dweeb, but he is treated like an equal, not like he’s lucky to be friends with handsome doctor man. Because Vincent isn’t handsome doctor man anymore, and he totally knows it. I mean, he’s still handsome. And I guess he’s still a doctor. Wait, he’s still a man . . . I, uh, anyway, you know what I mean.

passive-aggressive3. No Passive-Aggressive Behavior! If there is one thing that I hate about people (and believe me, there are many) it’s when they are passive-aggressive. This goes double for TV and movies, because in addition to it annoying me personally, I also think about all the impressionable young flowers out there who will watch it and then potentially act passive-aggressive in the world. But here, in the world of Beauty and the Beast, that doesn’t happen. Are you reading this, Hollywood?! It is totally possible to make a great movie/show where people are able to actually express their needs and opinions without devolving into a puddle of passive-aggression. Take note! It’s a brave new world out there.

Make It Or Break It Kelly Parker4. Ensemble! I love a show with a good ensemble. Although Cat and Vincent are the main game in town, Cat’s partner, Tess, is a badass, sassy player, and her coworker Evan is charming. On Vincent’s team is only his bestie J.T., who is also great—he’s a sweet science professor who totally cares about Vincent enough to shack up with him and keep his secret, even when it’s tricky. I love that J.T. tries to protect Vincent by telling him not to see Cat, and that instead of being jealous or anything, he gets all pissed at Cat for putting their secret in danger. And, the crowning jewel . . . Cat’s sister is played by Nicole Gale Anderson, who played Kelly Parker on my favorite show, Make It Or Break It! (Check out why you should absolutely watch Make It Or Break It HERE.)

Beauty and the Beast5. A Remake That Actually Benefits From Being Remade! What I didn’t realize when I first started watching Beauty and the Beast was that it is a remake of the 1980s Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, in which she plays a district attorney and he plays “a sensitive and cultured lion-man” (thus spake imdb). I have never watched this show, but now I totally will because (yay, Ron Perlman!) Vincent is part of “a secret Utopian society of outcasts living in an underground sanctuary where Vincent is protected and loved.” What with the rash of Hollywood remakes that do not benefit from being recontextualized, this is a remake that totally makes sense. Shifting the story to have a component of the military-pharmacology complex is a great update.

So, are you watching Beauty and the Beast? What do you think? Tell me in the comments!

10 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Suburgatory

by Tessa

I’d finished Breaking Bad. The new New Girl was under Hulu embargo. I watched all of Don’ Trust the B*tch in Apt. 23 when I visited Rebecca (it counts as bonding, ok?). Make it Or Break It was sadly cut short in its prime. I still am resisting Gossip Girl for some reason. What was I to do with my “turn off the brain” time?

Then I read an article about Suburgatory. Which I can’t find right now. But it does exist, because it’s too boring of a reason to make up. I felt compelled to watch it, because A. the girl’s name is Tessa, and I have to scrutinize all bearers of my name who appear in popular media B. the article compared it to the WB’s Popular, which I remember liking and should watch again and C. it’s on ABC which is apparently home to all shows that I will become addicted to.  But what, you may ask, is the particular appeal of this show?

1. A Gilmore Girls-style family pairing

In no way are Tessa and George fast-talking homebody small-town bffs like Rory and Lorelai, but they are a father and daughter who have grown up with only each other, have their own inside jokes, and, because George has moved Tessa out to the richie-rich suburbs of Chatswin, NY, they have a us-against-the-world vibe going on. It’s touching to see and a little different than some of the nuclear family stuff or blended family stuff you see on sitcoms.

2. Suburb satire

The cafeteria offerings.

Everyone in Chatswin is obliviously ridiculous and the set designers and writers aren’t afraid to go over the top, while keeping everyone human.  After all, we’re supposed to see why Tessa feels like she’s an alien but also see how she can get used to the Chatswin bubble. So the water fountain in the school has fresh lemons and limes in its holding tank, and prime rib and sushi for lunch. There ends up being a pet kangaroo for one of the characters. Dallas, the lonely wife who commissions a skylight from George only to become his first new Chatswin friend and a strange kind of mother figure for Tessa, opens up a store that sells only crystal, as in blocks of crystal etched with portraits of loved ones, crystal chef hats, and crushed crystal called “Tears from Heaven.” The Halloween episode this season is about “The Witch of Chatswin” who ends up just being… a feminist.  And the bumbling, self-absorbed, but genuinely enthusiastic guidance counselor, Mr. Wolfe, comes out to the student body by saying something like “I’m gay, which means I will now be driving a Mazda Miata.” I think the best part about the absurdity of Chatswin is that it’s not all in your face suburb satire all the time. It comes out in one-off jokes and sub-main plotlines, and no one reacts to it except for Tessa and George, which heightens the feeling that this is real life for these people.  It doesn’t stop to explain itself and that’s funny.

3. A great cast

Although I think Jane Levy is cute as a button, droll, and good at stomping around like a real teenager, she still seems a little too old to be believable. Luckily, the good attributes outweigh the weirdness, Jeremy Sisto and the other main cast members are great (more on that later), and George and Tessa’s next door neighbors played by are Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell. Jay Mohr plays Dallas’ oft-travelling husband who is mainly worried about shoes being worn in the house while he’s gone. Mr. Wolfe is played by Rex Lee from Entourage; I don’t know if that means anything to anyone but he’s really funny on this show. Tessa’s next door neighbor and best friend comes to us from Weeds, and even though I’m sad to see that she lost her normal body to become thinner and blonder as the seasons progress, she’s still hilarious and a treat every time she’s on screen, so it hasn’t affected her character. And she did just graduate high school (omg) so I shouldn’t judge at all because bodies are still settling into themselves and forget I said anything.

4. Jeremy Sisto acting funny.

Sisto has played so many douchey characters that it’s surprising to see him play a dad. A normal, slightly neurotic single dad who attempts to make his daughter break a date by planning a surprise board game night with her friends.

And it works! Except when he tries to date Alicia Silverstone. I didn’t buy that at all.

5. The Mean Girls aren’t really mean.

Dalia, the daughter of Dallas and what passes for Tessa’s nemesis, is clearly modeled on Paris Hilton, with her blonde hair, eyes ringed with smudgy black eyeshadow, and deadpan delivery of all her lines, often ending with a crisp “bitch.”  Her minions are, as so often is the trope, foolish followers. No one, though, is really following them, and no one is really their target. (Except for one instance in the pilot episode, and I think the writers realized their misstep after that).

Most people at Chatswin High have their own money and social status, which makes for an almost neutral playing field.  We catch glimpses of nerdy characters, but they are clearly preoccupied with their AP classes, and Tessa, who often interacts with and is therefore insulted by Dalia, has too much self-esteem to let it effect her. Dalia’s insults are more because she has no etiquette or filter between her brain and her mouth, rather than a desire to hurt anyone. If anything, she just wants people to go away because she’s so solipsistic, not have a crowd of worshipers following her. It’s kind of refreshing.

6. Awkward neighbor is not really awkward

Lisa might be my favorite character on Suburgatory. She starts out being a flustered girl who wears a cream-color based palate, accented with tiny flowers, bullied by her controlling mother. Early in the first season we have this exchange at the end of a forced neighborly dinner between the Shays and the Altmans:

Lisa: May I be excused? I’m having a terrible time.

George: What about dessert?

Sheila: Lisa can’t have dessert.

George: Whu-uh, Why not, the sugar?

Sheila: No.

But she slowly takes a page from her own mother’s book and uses it to rebel against her tyrannical reign. And I don’t think it’s all due to Tessa’s Manhattan influence. You can just tell that that spark was living inside of Lisa, waiting to start burning. Everything she says has this undercurrent of plotted derangement, and there’s no episode about how she’s afraid to get a boyfriend. She just gets one, no angst, and proceeds to gross Tessa out with her PDAs.  (And her boyfriend, Malik, is also a funny character. He’s mostly a well-rounded dude who is very into the school paper, but is also part of a Medium fan club and will very occasionally be seen to dress like Patricia Arquette.)

Lisa is disgusted by high fives.

7. Cheryl Hines rocks her character, and has the best accent.

Cheryl Hines plays Dallas, and she imbues the stereotype of a bored trophy wife with real charm.  Then she subverts the stereotype by being a happy-go-lucky loon, not at all weighed down by the grim business of beauty. And she has the weirdest accent that is not southern, but sort of is. If a voice could be “tangy” that would be Dallas’s voice. Here’s the first time we get to hear it:

8. Alan Tudyk’s crazy smile.

9. Jane Levy plays a kind of reverse teenage Carrie Bradshaw/Daria/Cady from Mean Girls hybrid and it somehow works.

Ostensibly Jane Levy’s Tessa is the crux of Suburgatory. It’s her life that is being upended and her voiceover that delivers the Carrie Bradshaw-like homilies at the end of the episode. As you can tell, though, the show is about much more than Tessa.  Instead of a woman embracing the big city and writing about it, Tessa is forced to embrace the suburbs and live… about… it. And instead of being fashion obsessed and finding herself she’s obsessed with being true to herself and not caring about fashion (her outfits are still cute).  She wears motorcycle boots and skirts and plays the outsider/observer, but she’s also not so invested in that role that she won’t become involved in the world of Chatswin. And she’s not too cool — in fact, when she goes out of her way to define her coolness it ends up making her look dorky, and that’s very endearing.  For instance, her favorite band plays at her 16th birthday party and for the first song it’s just her rocking out on the dance floor, with that face that means that you’re REALLY FEELING THIS SONG more than ANYONE ELSE, and when a poetry class is being taught by a tattooed teacher, Tessa trips all over herself to try to be the star pupil, creating a monster of a mother poem in the process.

the I’m Feelin’ It face

Which leads me to my last reason–

10. Because if there’s going to be a character named Tessa on American TV, I’m cool with this one.

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