an awesome way to watch TV

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oh, Hello!

It's been almost a year since I posted here - I've been busy doing other things, writing in other venues, and attending grad school where I get to write about television in a much more in-depth place.  But I still have a soft spot for The Hedgepig, and if you've found this site and want to go delving into my writing, I ask that you keep in mind that opinions, much like the quality of a television show, are subject to change.  If you find something I've written to be objectionable or wrongheaded or simply naive and silly, well - it's possible that I still feel that way, and possible I don't and either way, I'd love to engage further on the matter and update you on what I've learned in the interim.  Whether you like my work or hate it, I welcome your comments - feel free to contact me on here or Twitter because I absolutely adore having nuanced, well-reasoned conversations about TV and media and the social ramifications of pop culture.  If you just want to browse the site - go ahead!  Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you enjoy yourselves.

Still sincerely sad about Enlightened being cancelled,


Image via aotc

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"THIS IS THE END" Of My Complacency

First, go read this.  It's not very long, and it's information you'll be glad you have.  Linda Holmes really rocks it sometimes.

And now we're going to talk about This Is The End.  I guess I'll say that there might be spoilers? Insofar as a movie like This Is The End can have spoilers, since it's not really about anything and other than the world ending, nothing really happens.  And that's in the title.  Anyway, I'll be talking about the movie as someone who has seen the movie, so if that bothers you don't click the jump.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Because You Asked What I Think About...Dan Harmon Returning To Community


When companies like Sony realize that quality programming can be more lucrative than shitty programming, it's a step forward for all of us.  We're living in the future, and I guess that means sometimes good things happen and the right decisions are made! And Dan Harmon is wonderful and should be making as much television as possible and I can't wait for Abed to be Abed again.

Try not to speculate too much.  Just let it be whatever it will be.  Have faith.

Because You Asked What I Think About...Family Tree

Family Tree is the new HBO show created by Christopher Guest (of This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, For Your Consideration, etc) and starring Chris O'Dowd (of The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids, and general adorableness) as a man who starts searching out bits of his family history.  It's quirky in a delightfully non-hipster way, and like all of Guest's work it's imbued with his unique charm while still being entirely its own piece of work.  The half-hour television structure is working well, and the actors we've seen so far (some familiar Guest faces like Michael McKean, some new ones) are flat-out superb and quietly hilarious.  O'Dowd's sister Bea (Nina Conti) and Monkey are some of my favorite new characters in recent memory.  Suffice to say, if you've enjoyed any of Christopher Guest's work in the past, you'll adore this, and if you're new to him than this is a lovely entry-point.  Funny, self-effacing, weird, and relatable, it's my favorite new show of the year.  The opposite of a disappointment.  Family Tree!  Go watch and tell your friends and make sure it doesn't get Enlightened.

Image via LATimes

Because You Asked What I Think About...The Office Series Finale

It wasn't perfect, you know.  But it was pretty damn close.  I really think the last three episodes should be considered the finale, because they did such a wonderful job of closing the characters' stories in appropriate and satisfying ways.  Was there a bit of wish fulfillment going on?  Obviously.  But I think it was earned.

The character of Andy has been so fucked with that any real redemption for him was impossible, but at least the Baby Wawa thing was hilarious.  I really, really love how Dwight matured in a perfectly Dwight way so that he finally was the right man for the job.  I thought all of the work done with Jim and Pam was pretty beautiful.  It was awesome how Angela basically became Meredith for a couple episodes there.  I liked all of it, really.  And there was definitely some commentary on television and on The Office as a show going on in the writing of the finale, but I mostly didn't mind it.  At its best, The Office was hilarious and smart and heartfelt and a little uncomfortable, and all of that came through in these final episodes.  Do I wish Season 8 didn't exist?  Yes.  But Season 9 did an excellent job of closing out the story arcs for these characters that we've come to care so much about in one way or another, from Darrell to Kelly to Creed.  And the finale left me satisfied and smiling.

"I just want to lie on the beach and eat hot dogs.  It's all I've ever wanted."
- Kevin Mallone

Because You Asked What I Think About...Arrested Development Season Four

There's been a lot of wonderful shit going on in the realm of television lately, and I've been asked repeatedly to share my opinions about a number of them.  So I'm going to write these little mini (for me) posts to try to write about everything in one fell swoop.

Arrested Development Season Four was, I thought, pretty awesome.  I have a long and storied relationship with the show - I can say with certainty that I have seen it more than you.  Probably watched the entire series at least 15 times, if not more.  And I'm still finding jokes that I missed the first time around!  It's great.  Going into it, I tried not to have too many expectations - I didn't even watch the trailer, though I did watch the teaser scene with Lucille and Buster smoking, which, UGH, so perfect.  And once I got to the fourth episode and the jokes really started to build, I was totally in, but the first three episodes were a little rough.  The first one with Michael and George Michael was very exposition-heavy and had a kind of sad, negative tone.  The George Sr. one was just confusing and a little dull.  And then there was Portia de Rossi's face.  But once the exposition was out of the way and we got to the meatier Lucille, Gob, Tobias, Maeby, Buster, George Michael was just plain delightful.  The new form of storytelling that Mitchell Hurwitz experimented with here worked quite well for the most part, and after some fits and starts the whole thing really came together.  My absolute number one complaint is with the Kristen Wiig/Seth Rogan flashbacks.  In the past, Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter played themselves in the flashbacks, often in a funny wig.  Breaking with that tradition ruffles my feathers, but what I really can't stand is Wiig's over-the-top, utterly cartoonish Lucille impression.  Rogan is more low-key and behaves like an actual human being and I don't mind him as much, but Wiig's purposeful, winking scenery-chewing takes me out of the show and puts me in a place of anger and ire where I start using words like "sacrilege".  The entire season would be better served if those flashbacks were just removed entirely.

I won't get into what jokes I liked or what callbacks I noticed because that just drains all the fun out of them.  Suffice to say, most of it, although I thought Ron Howard inserted himself into the plot a little (maybe a lot) more than was necessary or enjoyable.  I wanted more Buster, more Maeby, and MORE GOB, though I am hopeful for a movie or possibly even more seasons.  Jessica Walter is magnificent.

And yes, I liked the ending.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

So...Mad Men Kinda Sucks Now, Right?

There was a time when I could not WAIT for a new episode of Mad Men.  I used to have a ritual, back when I smoked tobacco, where I would fix myself a nice cocktail and maybe get some fancy Trader Joe's snacks and I'd and drink and smoke along with the characters, happily indulging while a guy got his foot run over by a lawnmower and Sally masturbated and Betty was the worst and Don wrote a letter about quitting tobacco that changed everything.  But I quit smoking tobacco over two years ago, while Don Draper's still going at it.  Don's resolutely continued habit seems to be a clear symbol of his inability to change, even when everyone is his life is telling him he should; even when he wants to.

After having watched the first four episodes of this season, after having been bludgeoned over the head by the "HISTORY IS FUCKING DOOMED TO REPEAT ITSELF AND PEOPLE DON'T REALLY CHANGE" theme that has so obviously become the through-line of the show...I am bored.  Like, legitimately bored.  Why do I need to watch Don unable to control himself AGAIN and cheating on his wife AGAIN and smoking too much AGAIN and treating all women like whores AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN?  I don't.  People who don't take proper agency over their own lives are either very lazy or very stupid or both, and any way about it they don't make interesting characters.  There's a Tumblr dedicated to Dan Harmon called "Having Changed" - so-called because Harmon's characters tend to take a Joseph Campell-esque hero's journey and return from whence they came, having changed.  It's compelling and gives more weight to the characters and their motivations, providing the show has an adequate sense of continuity.  On Mad Men it feels like, sure, we're following the characters down this path, but most of them are actively trying not to grow, stubbornly clutching at the old ways of doing things even as the old ways are crumbling to dust in their hands.

Yes, I know that this isn't true of everyone.  There is some interesting work being done with Dawn and Stan and bratty teenage Sally.  There are a lot of characters on the show, and not all of them are static.  But the Mad Men sun rises and falls with Don, and the plain truth is he's just no fun to watch any more.  He's even sadder and more pathetic then when he was living in an alcoholic stupor in his depressing man cave, because he's had an opportunity to learn from his mistakes and move forward, but totally didn't.  That is a choice that the writers made, and ultimately I think it was a terrible one.  What are we going to see happen over the next season and a half?  Worse and worse things until the show finally ends in a way that is both tragic and enigmatic.  But just because a show is a drama doesn't mean that it has to be depressing, and just because a character is flawed doesn't mean that he has to slowly destroy his entire life until the audience is left feeling empty and wasted.

Believe me, I read enough blogs to know that the show has changed in very deliberate ways - as we've moved into the late sixties, we've seen the old guard from Sterling Cooper struggle with the changing world.  We've seen the presentation of the show become brighter, brasher, and more on the surface.  But purposeful or no, these changes have caused Mad Men to lose the subtlety that was its trademark.  Everything is big, crazy and dramatic these days; the writing is more predictable and, like I said, the themes and symbolism are bashed over the viewer's head instead of being allowed to gradually and delicately reveal themselves.  It's still a beautiful show to watch, of course - the aesthetics have always been top-notch, but they've gone from A reason to watch the show to THE reason.  And I will keep watching, if only to finish what I've started, but Mad Men has definitely lost its top-ranked spot on my personal list of favorites - honestly, it lost it last year when Joan became a prostitute because didn't you know ALL WOMEN ARE WHORES?  Ugh.  I don't know why Matt Weiner decided to take his show on this repetitive, circular path of hopelessness, but I can't fathom it ending in any truly satisfying way.  I suppose you could say that after Lost, I've got some trust issues (even though I don't mind the ending of Lost, but the writers did not do what they said they were going to do and wasted a lot of time on stupid things) but I think that's only fair.  Don't build your show up to be so grand and then expect that people will stick by you when it becomes lazy and pedestrian!  I know that a lot of you will disagree; I know there are aspects of the show that I haven't even touched upon.  It's impossible to write a post on Mad Men and talk about EVERYTHING without it being a goddamn research paper.  But it's important to evaluate things we once loved because sometimes, when we stop to really think about it, we'll find that we don't love them quite as much any more.

Image via nydailynews

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert, My Grandmother, & Me

Ten minutes ago, I went on Twitter to post a link to that Game Of Thrones piece.  And I found out that Roger Ebert passed away.  And now I'm back, typing through the tears because Ebert was a man who changed film criticism forever, who defined perseverance and passion for a craft, and who was a universally loved voice of good and reason in a world that is sorely lacking in both.  But part of my emotion comes from a much more personal place.

My grandmother died in 2006.  She had been diagnosed with cancer three years earlier, and, then 17 and out of high school, I moved to Los Angeles to take care of her and my partially-blind grandfather as she went through chemo.  It was a time that I'll always be thankful for, because she got to know me as an almost-adult, and we had so many moments together that I now cherish constantly.  My grandmother, who I called Mimi, grew up in LA.  We shared many characteristics - a strong, opinionated personality; a love of art and history and books and singing and travel and food and gin; some big-ass titties - but what connected us when I was a child, and what continued to bring us joy as I grew up, was our passion for film.

My parents and sister were never as interested in movies and television as I was, so when I visited my grandparents, not only did I get to watch CABLE (and The Disney Channel, which was a premium channel back then), but they took me to movies.  We would make a whole day of it - beginning by browsing through the LA Times to see what was playing and read the reviews.  I grew up in a small, isolated town where the movie choice was limited and often delayed, and I still remember the rush of turning page after page and being able to choose from all the newest, coolest releases.  But the reviews were always part of it.  We would read the newspaper reviews, but we would also be sure to watch that week's Siskel & Ebert.

I admit that as a kid, I would get frustrated by film critics.  Especially in my middle school teenybopper days, the critics were always panning the movies I loved the most.  But Siskel & Ebert wouldn't dismiss something just because it wasn't "high art".  They reviewed movies on their merit, and gave honest and balanced critiques.  Often they disagreed, and that was okay!  Watching the show with my grandmother, I learned how to have conviction in my opinions and express them in a positive way.  Mimi and I would see a movie and discuss it afterwards, sometimes thinking completely opposite things, but I always came away from those conversations feeling both like I had been heard, and that I had learned something.

My relationship with Mimi wasn't always easy; we were both so strong-willed, and she had a knack for being tactless, especially when it came to comments about my weight (a projection of her own weight issues, but still hurtful nonetheless).  She wasn't as funny or easygoing as my grandfather, but as I grew up I came to appreciate her for who she was instead of who she wasn't.  She didn't like that I got a tattoo on my 18th birthday, or that I pierced my tongue (and my neck, and my collarbone, and my eyebrows), but she made it clear that it didn't make her love me less.  She didn't approve of how much cleavage I wanted to show, but she bought me the low-cut shirts I wanted anyway.  We had established that we could disagree and still get along - that there were lessons to be learned in our differing opinions.  Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert taught us how to be honest with each other without creating enmity.

When Mimi died, after two years in remission during which she was able to travel and go to movies and do the things she loved, I know she was proud of me.  The last time I saw her I knew it was the last time, and we were able to say goodbye.  I read her some of my poetry and we talked about some of our favorite memories and then just sat together until it was time for me to leave.  I looked into her eyes and felt all the love and acceptance between us.  Her death was peaceful, and the years we had together had been a gift, and at the time although I was very sad, I didn't feel the loss as acutely as I might have.

But now I am an adult.  And it's been almost ten years since I lived with my grandparents and we went to see The Manchurian Candidate, the last movie we saw in the theaters together.  We both thought Liev Schreiber was great but that it couldn't possibly live up to the original.  And now I write about film and television, and now I'm going to graduate school to study film criticism, and I'll be studying at UCLA, her alma mater.  And I think about Mimi all the time these days because I miss her so much and want to talk to her about all of it.  I know how happy she would be with who I've become, I know she'd be so proud of me but I want to hear her say it and I want to see the look in her eyes when I tell her how much she's shaped my future, how she helped me become the strong and passionate and capable woman that I am today.  And I think that in many ways, every piece I write is a letter to her - a way to have those conversations like we used to, and to keep her with me as close as I can.

And now Roger Ebert has died, after his own fight with cancer, after his own years of survival that were a gift to all of us.  I don't believe in heaven, but I do believe that the good that we put into the world is what lives on after we die.  I hope that I can carry on Roger's spirit in my work, a spirit that calls for joy and honesty and humor and THOUGHT, and I know he'd be happy that a part of him now resides in my heart, along with Mimi.  The company and the conversation couldn't be better.

GAME OF THRONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey, I'm back!  I've spent the last month traveling a fair amount to have a ton of sex with my friend (who, coincidentally, looks like Jon Snow) because I am a genius and have mastered what neither Ashton Kutcher or Justin Timberlake could.  Also, I got into grad school!  So I've been celebrating and not watching too much of the television.  I'll be moving to LA in August to get a Masters in Cinema and Media Studies from UCLA, and until then I'll try to keep up with the ol' Hedgepig blog a little better because once school starts my writing will be heading in a whole other direction.  I'll probably end up posting more since I'll be writing so much anyway, but who knows what'll happen.  So stay tuned!  Exciting changes ahead.

Speaking of things that are ahead...winter is coming!  Winter is almost here!  As everyone on the internet already knows, the third season of Game Of Thrones premiered on Sunday, and it was FUCKING AWESOME.  Weirdly, for me (because I love A Song Of Ice And Fire with all of my heart and I love Peter Dinklage just as much. Holy shit he's so goddamn hot.  I had a dream last night where I got to make out with him and YES JOEY YOU CAN HEAT UP YOUR COFFEE ON MY LOINS because they are ABLAZE.), I hadn't watched most of the second season until Sunday, when I luxuriated in a full-on GoT marathon after returning home from my spring break sexcation.  And...dude.  That show.  It's just The Best! Like, I'm not sure how it could be better.  Well, Lena Headly's eyebrows are horrible and SO distracting, but that's it.  That's the only thing I'd change.

I'm a big stickler for adaptations remaining true to their books, but I also recognize that film is a different medium and so some changes are necessary.  The Harry Potter movies (at least 1, 2, 5, and particularly 6) are a perfect example of movies that made tons of unnecessary changes with huge adverse impacts on plot and characterization (don't even get me started on Harry not being under Petrificus Totalis when Dumbledore dies because I will get angry and you'll be like, "Lauren, I agree with you, stop ranting" but I WON'T because it's The Stupidest Thing Ever and it completely destroys the meticulously constructed storyline UGH ok sorry I'm done now).  However, Game Of Thrones pulls its adaptation off with greater skill and dexterity than even Lord Of The Rings.  With George R. R. Martin involved with the show, he seems to be using it as an opportunity to expand on stories and characters that weren't completely fulfilled in the first two books (which he wrote almost 20 years ago).  The episodes, for the most part, remain very true to the books, but when they diverge it never feels forced or constrained.  Rather, the show allows new perspectives and reimaginings without razing what was already written.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Here's What I Love: Enlightened

I was talking about Enlightened (the Laura Dern/Mike White HBO dramedy now in its second season) with a friend the other day and she said, "Oh yeah, I have HBO Go now, I should watch that."  And I immediately shouted at her, "YOU SHOULD!  IT IS GREAT!"

I haven't really talked about it before (except in this post about the awards' tendency to undervalue comedy) and there's a reason for that:  literally no one I know watches it or talks about it or is even aware of its existence.  But I've been watching steadily and if you are into incredibly good actors being very raw and vulnerable and dealing with some very intense yet universal aspects of being human, then you will definitely enjoy Enlightened.  The first season MAY leave you feeling empty and hopeless and full of despair, but know that the second season moves in a more optimistic direction without sacrificing any of the tumultuous emotion or complex characterization of the first.

This is gonna be a short post because I don't want to ruin any of it for all of you who almost certainly haven't watched the show, but here are some basic highlights:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Christopher Robin Has Left The Study Room

I've been avoiding writing this post.

I have now seen the first two episodes of the new season of Community and honestly, I don't have too much to say.  It's not great.  It's not the show I fell in love with.  It is instead a Bizzaro version of the Greendale world that resembles far too closely the traditional sitcoms it used to skewer so well, and even the actors, whom I adore, seem to be fumbling to find out who their characters are now that they're not a pure embodiment of Dan Harmon's neuroses.

Donald Glover is handling it the best; all of the even-approaching-funny lines last night came from him ("Things.") and he's such a brilliant comedian that's he's making the best of a difficult situation.  Danny Pudi seems to be struggling to find the right tack to take - he's still playing Abed, but Abed is being written very differently now and you can sense his discomfort with the changes.  The character faring the worst is definitely Britta, who was a delicate and complex balance of awkward to begin with and has now become clumsy and obvious.

But it's not just the writing of the characters that's off - it's the staging.  Harmon knew when to pull out all the pop culture stops and when to scale back and focus on relationships, and these first two episodes try to mash it all together with very little success.  Everyone on Twitter was talking about how the Valloween episode was "a REAL Community episode" but it felt hollow compared to "Epidemiology" or even "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps". Abed and Troy's Calvin and Hobbes costumes were a great visual joke that made me smile but were tragically never used or referenced to any other comedic effect.  The Dean wearing a wig for his ring-girl costume just felt WRONG, like a joke from some other show.  There was an attempt at a Clue reference that was hasty and half-assed and the big reveal of Hawthorne Manor wasn't anywhere near as exciting as the glimpse in to Joan Callamezzo's bedroom that Parks & Rec gave us last year.  And the through-line of Jeff's daddy issues was painfully forced and completely inauthentic to his character.  Remember in "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking" when Jeff straight-up BEAT UP PIERCE because of his anger at his dad (and, to be fair, at Pierce)?  If the new Community insists on having a selective memory towards its characters' motivations, it is going to fail.

Surprisingly, one of the things I miss most about Harmon's absence is his skill at incorporating the right kind of music into a scene, whether it's ambient or the Dean's Abba/grocery playlist.  Watching these first few episodes the scenes felt empty, like they were missing a character - the character of Harmon.  I know that Community still has some of the same writers and directors, but, for me at least, every scene feels like an attempt to recreate a magic that simply doesn't exist anymore.  It lacks the childlike joy that Harmon  imbued into the entire show.  Community has become The Thousand Acre Wood without Christopher Robin - a bunch of characters who like each other alright but are missing the one person whose imagination created and connected them in the first place.

I held out hope for the new Community, but the sad truth is this astounding show was so wonderful because it was hilarious yet bursting with heart - the heart of a man named Dan Harmon.  Without that injection of honest and passionate emotion, Community is just another sitcom on a network that increasingly does not understand what young, intelligent viewers want to see.  And even though Donald Glover can still make me laugh, the empty, unbearable sadness that blankets every Harmon-less scene has turned my favorite show into something I dread even having to talk about. 

So I'm gonna go listen to some Harmontown and turn that frown upside down.

Image via reddit

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weird. Weird weird weird.

If you're wondering what I thought about last night's premiere of Dan Harmon-less "Community", well...I'm about to go out of town, so you'll have to wait.  I'll have more to say once I watch it again and give it some time, but my feelings are pretty well summed-up by this tweet:

So.  You should watch the episode if you haven't already - I'm really interested to know what other fans think.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wherein I Brave The Wilds Of Harmoncountry

This past week I went to the Harmontown show in San Francisco (listen to it here!).  I volunteered to go up on stage during Erin McGathy's This Feels Terrible (listen to it here!), and was called back up during Harmontown itself. The following is a description of my night to my friend Casey, who knows nothing about Harmontown beyond who Dan Harmon is.


me: oh my god so i went to the Harmontown show ALONE because Katherine bailed on me

Casey: alone is not necessarily a bad thing...
  opportunity to find people to not be alone with with

me: yeah, it was fine, I wasn't stressing it. and I ended up going on stage and talking about my relationship issues and did a really poor job explaining what happened with Isaac and talked a little about David and how awesome people from Arcata are and my tendency to hook up with all of my friends. and I called myself a proud slut which I should have qualified with the very true fact that I am really good at having casual sex but am lazy and picky and don’t actually just fuck random people but I didn’t really and the rest of the night hella guys were being HELLA creepy towards me, which I guess is to be expected after something like that.  and Erin tried to set me up with the other guy on stage and got moved to a much better seat and he was pretty lame but it didn't really matter because then we went on stage again
and got asked what the chances were that we were gonna make out and the dude says, very confidently, “I’m gonna go with 95%” and I give him a look

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why "Girls" Is Bad For America

I am so fucking sick and tired of hating "Girls".  Every time someone on Facebook posts something about how much they love it or about how they "are SO Hannah", I die a little inside.  It's not because I think the show is bad.  It's because I think it's bad FOR US.  It's bad for our culture and our nation.  And I didn't really know how to express WHY until I saw this post (from Craigslist via Videogum):

Ever feel like life in the big frantic city is just too much? Are you a twenty-something young woman seeking fame, fortune, love or even a hookup with potential? How do you get from here to there when you can’t even get a seat on the L train! Come to a casting call with our Emmy-winning production company and tell us your dreams and woes, your highs and lows, your tales of *** in the city and the outrageous opportunities that have come your way. Is your circle of friends bound together by not just the parties, fights, and brunches but frequent bouts of commiserating over your struggles? It isn’t easy taking the road less travelled, but making it as a writer, designer, entrepreneur, actress/model or glorified dog walker never is!
The real life television show we are making follows the trials and tribulations of an ensemble of wise-beyond-their-years young ladies. We are with you living the dream in hipster Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Only well educated and cultured extroverts need apply. Are you thinking about that show–”Girls?” Well we didn’t say it but. . that you mention it.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Besties 2012

Well, it's a new year, and my housesitting job got interrupted and then, you know, there was all that life-living I try to do sometimes so I wasn't able to get this out before January 1st.  But guess what?  That means it's officially awards season now, so this year I'll be handing out Besties for those who deserve it.  The categories are determined by whatever I make up and think of right now.  So exciting!

Best Cartoon

Bob's Burgers wins this one handily.  Although Archer came first (and I love Archer), Bob's Burgers has the market cornered on wonderfully weird whimsy.  Archer can get a little screamy and a little gross, and I'm still  on the fence about Pam (ha ha) (bisexual humor).  But Bob's Burgers is always excellent voice actors, whipsmart writing and visual jokes, and really just pure delight.  Along with Parks and Recreation, this is the show I prescribe to people who are feeling down after watching too many Michelle Williams romantic dramas.  And the Thanksgiving episode, with Kevin Kline and Linda's Thanksgiving song and the absinthe and everything, was perfection.

Best Fancy Show

Out of all the shite put out by HBO and Showtime this year, Game Of Thrones was the clear winner (with Episodes and Veep tied for a close second).  I haven't even watched all of Season 2 and I still know it's the best show out there.  After devouring all the available books over the summer, it didn't take much for me to love the television adaptation.  Add my forever boyfriend lover, Peter Dinklage, totally killing it from all sides to the sharp, concise, funny writing and the amazing directing, cinematography, and production values, and Game Of Thrones comes out on top.  Consider this my acknowledgment that GoT (and Dinklage) could have swept The Besties, but I'm trying to spread out the love. I can't wait for Season 3, since Storm Of Swords is my favorite of the books.  In the words of the great Ben Wyatt, "They would never cancel Game Of Thrones!  It's a crossover hit!"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

UGH, The Worst! 2012

Because when you have a blog you make lists at the end of the year otherwise it's not a real blog.

Lena Dunham/"Girls"

This was the year in which an uber-privileged white girl wrote a show called "Girls" in which the people of color that populate New York City became a backdrop upon which to paint a portrait of said privilege.  The fact that Dunham knew exactly what she was doing and made a conscious decision to NOT include any queers or POC in significant roles on her show makes it all so much worse.  And yet, even after a brutal take-down by critics, blogs, and viewers, white people's love of watching neurotic white people won out.  The AV Club, which is my go-to place for online TV criticism, wrote this and I died a little inside:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Expert Discussion On The Closing Of The "Gossip Girl" Ouvre

Lauren: Ok so seriously I did not even know about Gossip Girl ending until this morning when I read this article:
Lauren: Otherwise I would have been texting you much more often about it than I already have
Lauren: That, for me, is the saddest part about this whole thing...the end of our texts about Gossip Girl
Lauren: "I am riding the Dan & Blair train all the way to Awesomeville. DAN+BLAIR4EVA"
Lauren:  "Chuck has a dog. Its name is Monkey"
Lauren: “uggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh Serenaaaaaaaaaaaa”
Lauren: "ugh, serena ruins everything."
Lauren: But I have to say that as someone who was initially not only resistant to, but actually disgusted by Gossip Girl, the show, in all its multifaceted horribleness, has really come to grow on me
Lauren: I went back and found all my posts tagged "Gossip Girl" - this first one is worth reading. And you HAVE to watch the video, the video is still amazing:
Lauren: And the show came back from that and was on my "The Best" list last year:
"Dan and Blair (and Chuck?)
I know that it is never to be and that Chuck and Blair are meant to be together, but Dan's love for Blair and the possibility of them boning has kept me watching Gossip Girl even after I stopped reading Richard's Gawker TV recaps. And while Dan and Blair (Dair? Blan?) may never be a couple, that doesn't mean a future plot twist won't involve them knockin' da boots and putting everyone into a tizzy. MAKE IT HAPPEN, writers. Honestly, maybe THEY should all be polyamorous, Chuck and Dan seem to be getting pretty tight with all that talking and bonding they've been doing. Dan got him a DOG and Chuck named that dog MONKEY. That's at least worth a handy during a three-way."

Friday, December 7, 2012

"The Perfect Last Christmas Party"

I realized a few days ago that I haven't really been talking about my shows much this fall - by that I mean the shows that are my real favorites, like Parks & Recreation.  Partly it's because I've been so busy, and partly it's because Community's not on the air, but it's also partly due to the fact that I've been watching with a more over-arching point of view, instead of simply evaluating shows on an episode by episode basis.  And with that in mind, it is time to talk about The Office.

Now, I have loved The Office for a very long time, and I was never the hugest Michael Scott fan.  I even thought the show had the potential to improve in his absence.  But they made some bad decisions along the way and cast the wrong people and went way too far down the Robert California rabbit hole and last season the show was, let's face it, bad.  Very bad.

But then this season came around.  And since we all know this is the final year, the show has been given a chance to get back to where it started as well and demonstrate how far it's come.  At the center of all that is the combination of relationships between Dwight, Jim, and Pam.  Oh, sure, there's Erin and New Jim, and Angela and Oscar, and all the rest in between and they're great, but resolving the Dwight/Jim/Pam relationships is clearly the documentarian's goal.  As someone who knows the early seasons to an obsessive point it is absolutely captivating and joyful to watch the pleasantly gradual denouement of these characters.

The Office's first Christmas episode was a classic in both the Michael-is-a-clueless-jerk and the Jim-and-Pam-are-tragically-in-love veins, with the Yankee Swap and the teapot and the shameless-but-apt iPod promotion and the Meredith's boobs.  It set the stage for many, many more great Christmas episodes - the dueling margarita/nutcracker parties (which includes my favorite Creed line: "I don't care which party I go to. Once you've danced naked at a hash bonfire with the spirits of the dead, all parties seem pretty much the same"); the Morrocan Meredith Intervention Christmas (which I believe was also the Princess Unicorn episode - "My horn can pierce the sky!"); the one where Phyllis is Santa.  The Christmas party is a time where the employees of Dunder Mifflin open up and get drunk and embrace the holiday spirit, and it's always a highlight of the season.  Last year's Christmas episode was a bright spot in a dark, glum year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Boardwalk Empire: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

After every episode of Boardwalk Empire this season, I've thought, "Should I write about it now?"  And the answer has always been no, because the show has been leading to something big, but until these last few episodes I had no idea what it was.  Maybe I should've waited a few more weeks until after the season finale, but the time finally felt right.  We found out where Nucky's path this season is taking him, and it looks pretty grim.  I've actually been working on this piece for a couple weeks now because most of my time has been consumed with applying to grad school, and then I had a personal tragedy that didn't inspire a desire to watch people get beat to death or shot to shit.  I'm still dealing with that loss, but this piece has been eating away at me and it's finally time to finish it.

I'm going to backtrack for just a second and explain my feelings about Boardwalk Empire previous to this season.  I've watched it since the beginning, and enjoyed the performances and the beautiful set design, costume design, direction, and cinematography enough to keep coming back to the show, but it wasn't until last season when I really began to FEEL for the characters.  Much of this has to do with my current favorite dramatic character, Richard Harrow AKA Sexy Richard Half-Face, but not all.  As the stakes became higher and important character information like Jimmy and Gillian's fucked-up history was revealed, the show became imminently more fascinating.  The season two finale proved that Terence Winter and the rest of the writers aren't afraid to make big sacrifices for the sake of valuable plot and character arcs.  Ok, I was trying to avoid it, but we're gonna get all sorts of spoilery up in here now.  Join me after the jump!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Moving Forward With "Modern Family"

Damn, it's been too long, folks.  Unfortunately, when you're applying to grad school and traveling and picking up extra jobs to pay them bills, your little-read blog about television is the first thing to fall by the wayside.  That doesn't mean that I haven't had things to talk about, or been building up posts in my head for when I finally have the time to write them.  This season of Boardwalk Empire has been spectacular, and I'll be writing about it some time in the next week.  The Mindy Project is going well, but the real surprise of the new fall shows has been Ben And Kate, which is just a delightful, smart, playful romp every week.  Go On is solidly enjoyable.  Last Resort keeps getting better.  Revolution keeps getting worse.  The Office is, surprisingly, mostly turning it out for their last season, although everyone agrees that making Andy into a horrible monster was a terrible move.  Parks & Recreation is great, of course, although I do have some small nitpicks we'll get to eventually.  How I Met Your Mother is what it is, which is to say a little dull, very repetitive, a nice vehicle to get my Jason Segel fix, and still very staunchly Not Friends, however hard they try.  RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars is so poorly formatted that not only are the wrong people going home every week, but the show itself is actually boring.  What a disappointment.

But you know what's not a disappointment?  This season of Modern Family.  Oh, there have been some missteps (that stereotypical lesbian couple?  Let's not ever mention that again.) and just last night Jay made a homophobic joke ("If you had a man who wanted to pick out strollers with you, you wouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place" UGH).  But this season seems to be focused more on the individual characters we've developed a relationship with, and less on making lazy jokes about whatever boring archetype they belong to (shrewish wife, trophy wife, nerdy girl, effeminate gay man, etc.).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Harmontown Evening

So, depending on whether you know me in real life, you may or may not know that I went to Harmontown tonight.  If you don't know what Harmontown is, I'm not going to explain to you here.  Go listen to the podcast, it's amazing and engrossing and funny and weird and, like most television, best when enjoyed serially.

Afterwards, my friend Matt and I went to The Drawing Room along with some of the folks from the podcast and I expressed my love and admiration for Spencer (who looks precisely like a Dungeon Master SHOULD look, ie very wise and bearded) and talked briefly with Dan Harmon who I THOUGHT had been putting Sam Cooke songs on the jukebox which would've been awesome but instead was getting money from the ATM which was completely normal if not totally awesome.  But he was hella chill and cheersed me and I felt too weird to engage him in a conversation about his inadvertent Lindsey Weir costume which probably would've taken some explaining and man, it's like, I'd really like to just talk to these guys (Jeff Davis included, he's so adorable & I was gonna say impish but really it's Deanish) but even at a tiny bar post-Harmontown I feel like I'm imposing which is my own constructed bullshit & probably partly Matt's fault (sorry, Matt) but that doesn't mean it makes me feel magically confident (which I usually am, BTW, magically confident is kind of my middle name) or anything.

There's this weird paradox with comedians-as-celebrities where, because these days they often share a lot of their real, personal selves with the public, they seem more accessible.  And man, I can't wait until I live in LA and can go to Harmontown every week and become the token queer chick and all of that.  It'll happen.  But until then I just feel like an asshole talking to them.  They don't want to talk to me.  They want to talk to their friends!  And while *I* think I'm awesome, thinking that in public makes me an asshole.  Or maybe not, who fucking knows.  I still can't really figure out what's going on with some of the Harmontown regulars who are, as my friend Katie would say, totally Aspy.  Part of me wants to act just like them and put myself out there, and part of me hates them for being just as narcissistic as I myself definitely am.

I think that last sentence sums up a lot of aspects of LA culture.

In conclusion, Sir Dan Harmon:  I am even more awesome than everyone else (yes, I am an "awesome" girl, Dan).  I enjoyed the "Fag" anecdote as much as I enjoyed the faggot episode of South Park, which is to say A WHOLE FUCKING LOT...but wish you had called for at least one of us gays to join your multicultural coalition (I would've been much more funny and MUCH less creepy than the Puerto Rican girl).  I could sit in a tiny room and watch you all play Dungeon and Dragons FOR YEARS.  And wearing that coat with even semi-baggy jeans makes you look like you're in a half-hearted Lindsey Weir costume.  JUST FYI.  All you need is a brunette wig and to get Jeff wicked stoned so he can be Jason Segel.

Wish I could be there for Jarreth week next week.  Come on tour to San Francisco.  Next time, make the jukebox your bitch.  And I love you all forever, in the least creepy and most narcissistic way possible.

Thus ends my first LiveJournal entry in many a year.

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Drama Showdown: "Last Resort" vs "Revolution"

As we all know, the networks have been searching for the next Lost for some time.  There was The Event, Persons Unknown, V, Alcatraz, and a whole bunch of other short-lived shows I can't even remember that failed to hook and capture the public in the immediate, visceral way that Lost did.  I was reading an interview with Zeljko Ivanek where he was talking about being bummed he didn't get to work with Blair Underwood more on The Event, and while I love Zeljko and I love Blair Underwood, the sad truth is that The Event was terrible.  Just really, really bad.

My love of Lost got me into a quandary with some of my best friends when the sixth season aired.  I had been pretty obsessed with Lost since about mid-way through the second season, when I watched the first season DVDs and then went off to a new college and realized I could buy episodes on iTunes.  That shit hooked me pretty hard.  After I graduated and moved back home, I made a bunch of people start watching. I swore to them that the writers knew what they were doing and all the loose ends would be neatly tied up if they would just be patient.  Now, I still maintain that Lost was, for the most part, a great show, and after careful consideration, I even became a fan of the finale.  But fuck, the writers really dropped the ball during season six.  The episodes aren't all terrible and we do get some satisfying answers, but they spent WAY too much time introducing unnecessary new characters, faffing around with Charles Widmore, and getting to the heart of the Jacob/Smoke Monster thing and not enough time wrapping things up satisfactorily with the original cast and some of the mysteries they'd been developing for years.  Don't even get me started on the alternate reality/limbo thing - while I do like the finale, the build-up to it was frustratingly dumb.  Anyway, this is all to say that Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof robbed me of some of my well-earned reviewer credentials and to this day, my friends still give me shit when I recommend a mysterious drama.

Well, I'm hoping that I can redeem myself now.  There are two new dramas this year that have already found some success with the Lost style of a large, diverse ensemble cast and gradually-revealed mysteries, and it turns out that they're both pretty good.  One is already pulling ahead of the other in my book, though.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Real Gay Talk

One of the things that I'm not sure comes across all the time in my writing is the fact that I am always willing to have my mind changed, given there's a compelling reason for it.  I'm an incredibly logic-driven person and while I DO hold strong opinions, when presented with new evidence, I'm always up to revisit and possibly alter the way I feel.  There are plenty of things I've said on this blog that I have since come to look upon differently, but if I were to go back and change each post it would be, not only a pain in the ass, but also dishonest.  So instead, I'm here to explain myself.

Last weekend, a (young, gay, white, male) friend and I were having a conversation about the presentation of queers in the media.  I was talking about how it feels like the only gay people given any sort of representation  lately are white men, and he brought up that he feels like that being a gay woman is more socially acceptable than being a gay man, and because of that it's more important for men to have the media representation in order to make people comfortable with it.  My other (straight, female) friend brought up the point that the only really socially acceptable form of lesbianism is two traditionally attractive women who look like they could be straight having casual sexytimes with each other, usually presented as an object of male fantasy.  She also brought up that the most socially acceptable form of gayness usually comes in the Gay Best Friend role, a role which is almost always so neutered and de-sexualized so as to make him more palatable for the masses. I went on to argue that the gay male perspective currently being presented was so limited (usually young; ALWAYS white) and often offensively stereotypical and that what the queer community REALLY needs is a wide range of characters displaying a wide range of sexualities.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Weeds" Crumbs

So I finally re-watched the Weeds series finale.  Like every other series finale basically ever, it made some people happy and left some unsatisfied, but most viewers, like me, probably felt some combination of the two.

It was nice what they tried to do with the symmetry of the show, with plenty of callbacks to the pilot and to the early halcyon days of the show.  But opening on a PTA meeting and bringing back Josh just weren't enough to make this episode the perfect cap on the series.  I've been talking to a number of my friends about it, and most of them agree that the early seasons were by far the best (though I would argue that Season 4 had some strong comedic highlights, particularly with Andy and Lenny but also Celia and Ignacio).  Season 5 was where things really started to go off the rails, and Season 6 was an absolute mess.  They brought back some of the spark for this final go-round, but it really was too little, too late.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Go On" Just Isn't Quite There Yet

About a year and a half ago, there was this show that premiered around mid-season on ABC called Mr. Sunshine.  It was fantastic.  It was created by Matthew Perry, and served to highlight his notably wry brand of humor.  It was cancelled after six episodes, and I'm pretty sure that I remain the only person who has ever seen all six.  Its cancellation had nothing to do with the quality of the show, and everything to do with the fact that it premiered on a Tuesday in March, and all the promotion in the world won't help a show that isn't given a chance to find an audience or build up steam.  I was really bummed out about it, because I love Matthew Perry (and Allison Janney and Jorge Garcia and everyone else who was on that show), and it seemed such a shame for him to have finally found the perfect vehicle and then to have the politics of television programming just totally fuck that up.

Go On is not Mr. Sunshine.  Is Perry good in it?  Yes, because he is good.  Is John Cho my favorite for ever and ever and do I love him SO MUCH?  Yes.  But remember when I was talking about bland comedy?  Go On is it.  I've heard a couple other people compare it to Community, and after watching the third episode this week, such a comparison is inevitable.  You've got an emotionally closed-off man who joins a group for purely selfish reasons and then, you know, learns things and becomes friends with them and everyone is very different and diverse and isn't it hilarious? isn't.  It isn't very hilarious, and that's not because they talk about his dead wife all the time.  It's because I have seen this show before, done a million times better.  And, it's because, as much as I love Matthew Perry, it's really John Cho who should be given his own starring vehicle.    Funny, handsome, young, and whip-smart, Cho could connect with viewers in a way that, if he were in the lead, would drive this show to success.  And who knows?  It's still early days; Go On has the potential to get much sillier and more creative as the season goes on.  But right now, it's looking like the easily-digestible, very standard show that everyone at NBC wished Community had been.

But at least it's better than Animal Practice.  Animal Practice is TERRIBLE.  You guys remember that episode of The Office where Jim and Pam and Andy are watching a fake movie starring Jack Black and Cloris Leachman?  That's what Animal Practice feels like.  A fake TV show that fake people watch on another TV show, played for laughs at how bad it is.  Uncle Andy, what have they done to you?  Annie's Boobs, what have they done to YOU?

Image via IMDB

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Guys With Kids" Parties Like It's 1999

So, I watched the Guys With Kids pilot.  Here's what I'll say - it wasn't sexist or homophobic or racist or anything like that.  It also wasn't very funny.

The show is filmed in front of a live studio audience, and it very much feels like an attempt to return to old school classic NBC sitcoms.  I say attempt because such a return doesn't really feel possible.  When shows like Louie, Parks & Recreation, and Community are pushing the boundaries of what television can and should be, a show like Guys With Kids feels out of place and perilously un-hip.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The List, Part Three

So, with all of my working full-time and devouring Game Of Thrones and changing the blog name this summer, The Hedgepig's second anniversary just passed on by without comment.  And really, there's not much to comment on other than to say that I hope you guys enjoy reading this as much as I love writing it, and that recently I've been getting some really good feedback from people who've taken some of my recommendations, which just makes it all worth it.  So thanks for reading and all of that.  You can check out last year's anniversary post if you're interested in a more lengthy acknowledgement.  In lieu of that this time, here's one of my favorite Abed moments ever.  I really, really like talking about TV, you guys.  In case you hadn't noticed.

Now comes the part where, if I had a shame gland, it would start acting up.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Vacation Is Over

Since it's now the weekend after Labor Day, and summer is officially over, it's time for Miss Hedgepiggy to return to the grind.  And man, do I have things to say and opinions to express!  Fall season premieres start this week, although, to be honest, none of the new shows aside from The Mindy Project have me feeling anything other than whelmed.  But I'm very excited for the return of some of my favorites, and to get back to a regular schedule of healthy analytical opinionating.  Here's a list of what I will and won't be watching this fall - new shows, old shows, and shows that weren't good enough last year to make the cut now.

The Mindy Project

If you haven't watched The Mindy Project yet, and you are a functioning human with a brain, vocal cords suitable for laughing, and eyes that enjoy looking at attractive people, YOU ARE MISSING OUT.  The pilot has been up on Hulu for a couple weeks, and I highly recommend it to anyone.  Mindy Kaling!  Chris Messina!  Stephen Tobolowsky!  Richard Schiff!  Bethany from Mad Men!  Penelope from Gossip Girl!  A hot guy with a British accent!  Literally something for everyone.  It's smart and funny and aimed toward women in the same way that New Girl seems to be but is MUCH more interesting and not at all divisive and there are no stupid jokes about the ways that women and men are SO different to each other.  And it has Mindy Kaling, a fantastic actress and writer instead of the grating, dumb, obliviously saccharine star-who-shall-not-be-named of that OTHER show.  Most importantly, it is something NEW and DIFFERENT and it acknowledges the fact that not all funny, smart, and sexy people in the world are skinny white people.  183% MUST WATCH show of the season.  Everything else I could take or leave, but The Mindy Project is a straight-up glass of finely distilled awesome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Watch List

So, as you may have noticed, it is summer.  And aside from a time where some of us like to engage in this little-known activity called reading, it is also a time when the cable networks put out some of their best shows.  So what have I been watching?  Not Breaking Bad.  But lots of other things!


I'll admit that I've already finished Season 2 of Episodes.  Much like Downton Abbey, it airs in the UK months before it comes to the States, and so it's easy to find links online.  And so even though I only started watching the season last weekend, I'm already done.  The reason for this is that it's SO EFFING GOOD.  Literally everything about this show is fantastic, but especially the actors.  Matt LeBlanc continues to be great at playing a parody of himself, and Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan are always brilliant as the transplanted British writers/producers, but this season gave more of the spotlight to the supporting actors, and Kathleen Rose Perkins shines like a goddamn star.  Her portrayal of Carol is at once pathetic and empowering; infuriating and endearing; hilarious and sad.  She's taken the character from the one-note Rigid Studio Executive and turned Carol into someone we root for and whose motives we come to understand.  And she's just SO fucking funny.  John Pankow as the studio head Merc Lapidus is a comedic gem, and Genevieve O'Reilly as his blind wife Jamie plays her role with a quiet subtlety that'll make you laugh out loud (as two characters are fighting and chaos erupts amongst the cast, she just keeps yelling, "What's going on???!!!").  Daisy Haggard as the erstwhile, clueless exec with the weird moaning voice steals every single scene she's in and Joseph May as Andy Button is the type of character who would eat a popsicle made of shit if you told him it was fudge - while smiling.  I honestly can't pick a favorite character because I love them all, and I didn't mean to brush past Greig and Mangan because they carry the show, and both actors' abilities to transform from glib to gutwrenching in the blink of an eye is astounding.  They grab you by the heartballs, and just won't let go.

Anyway, not to give anything away, but the season finale is one of my favorite moments of comedy of the entire year.  There're only nine episodes, so get watching and seriously, don't miss out on this show.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Girl Glows Green is now The Hedgepig

So, you might have noticed, while checking this page to see if I had FINALLY updated (I haven't, though I hope to in the next few days), that Girl Glows Green no longer exists.  I've been wanting to change the name for a while, as I begin to make steps towards my own actual website, but it took me a very long time and a lot of really bad ideas before The Hedgepig arrived in my brain.

Why The Hedgepig?  The reasons are myriad.  To begin with, hedgehogs are MY animal, if you will.   Small, round, sometimes prickly, sometimes cuddly, intelligent, and wily creatures, I've always had a fondness for them.  And I feel like their opposing dichotomies are pretty representative of the tone of this blog - sometimes sharp, sometimes soft, always discerning.  Hedgehogs have shown up in important things and at important times in my life, and I've always been interested in and strangely drawn to them.  There are more stories here, but I won't bore you with childhood dreams and obscure details.  And as for why it's The Hedgepig and not The Hedgehog, well, there's this E. Nesbit story in her collection The Magic World called "The Princess and The Hedgepig" that you should all read because it's really wonderful...but that was just the impetus.  In truth, hedgepig is simply more mellifluous and uniquely recognizable.  I like it.  It's a fun word for my favorite animal, and really, that's that.

The Hedgepig will continue to be what Girl Glows Green always strove to be - a funny, nuanced, and critical look at television and pop culture - and my plan is to make it even better.  I hope you'll come back to check out what's to come.

Image via Shutterstock