The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (7/20 – 7/27)

This week in television started off with the annual “Men Tell All” episode of The Bachelorette on Monday. On Wednesday, new group routines added some spark to this season of So You Think You Can Dance, and alliances continued to shift on a new episode of Suits.

Overall, this wasn’t a terribly exciting week in the world of television. In fact, it was pretty darn boring. Thankfully, there was plenty of fun media content to be found on the Internet—thanks to all of the interviews and panels coming out of San Diego for Comic-Con. I know it’s bending the rules a little bit to pick something not on television for “the best thing I saw on TV this week,” but for this week, let’s change it to “the best thing I watched this week.”

I watched so many amazing Comic Con panels over the last few days—from the emotional Orphan Black panel to the adorable Once Upon a Time panel. However, the best content to come out of San Diego was brought to us courtesy of Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ. While I loved the Orphan Black Nerd HQ panel (especially Levi talking about how special the cast seems because that feels so true), I’m not sure anything I’ve watched on any platform this summer compares to the inspiring perfection of Nerd HQ’s “Conversation with Badass Women Mystery Guests.”

The list of panelists featured some of my favorite women in television: Yvonne Strahovski, Retta, Missy Peregrym, Jennifer Morrison, Ming-Na Wen, and Sophie Turner. What I loved most about the women on this panel was the fact that they represent so many ways that women can be badasses. From the moment I saw that Turner was on this panel, I knew I was going to love it because Sansa Stark doesn’t get enough credit for her strength. I’ve always believed there are so many ways women can be strong, and it was nice to see all of those kinds of strength represented on that panel. It was also lovely to see the women themselves acknowledge that strength doesn’t just come from taking down bad guys; it’s often shown in being vulnerable and open with others.

As the panel went on, I found myself more and more impressed by each woman on that panel. They were all so articulate, so passionate, and so different. It was amazing to see that these women didn’t just represent characters who prove there’s more than one way for women to be strong; these women themselves each exuded their own kinds of strength and confidence. But they all have one important thing in common: They all have the courage of conviction to be exactly who they are. It was very inspiring for me to see these actresses talk with such confidence about owning who they are and the choices they make.

It was beautiful to watch the women in the audience talk so openly about how these actresses have inspired them because I relate so strongly to that. Whether it’s Sarah Walker or Sansa Stark as characters or Jennifer Morrison as an actress, I saw my own respect for these women and their fictional counterparts reflected in the emotion on display by those in the audience who asked questions. I closed my computer after that panel last night and went to bed feeling more inspired to be true to myself and proud of my own strengths than I’ve felt in a long time.

I’ll leave you with these beautiful words spoken by Morrison, which serve as perfect advice for us all and remind me of exactly what I strive to do every day as a writer and blog runner:

Be brave enough to be yourself, and be good to each other.

What was the best thing you saw on TV or from Comic-Con this week?

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 16 Perform”

This week gave me a couple of things I’ve been waiting for since the live shows began: a breakout moment for more than one contestant and a bottom six that I actually really felt really invested in. I’m still sad that no one dancer has stepped up to the point of becoming my favorite yet, but some are starting to separate themselves from the pack. And I think seeing some dancers I really enjoy in the bottom six had something to do with that separation. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s (almost) gone.

Seeing Tanisha, Bridget, Serge, and Zack face elimination made me see how much I’d come to really enjoy all four of them. It’s never easy to watch people on this show go home, but the outcome of this elimination—with Marcquet and Brooklyn leaving—turned out as well as I could have hoped for. I appreciate both of them as dancers, but they never really had that spark that makes a great So You Think You Can Dance contestant. If people had to go home, I was okay with it being them.

Despite giving me a scare right away with the bottom six, this was an entertaining episode, and I think a lot of that entertainment came from watching a series of dancers have their first shining moments on the SYTYCD stage. Yes, there were some blasé routines. I couldn’t believe Dmitry tried to pass off that mess as a foxtrot; Brooklyn and Casey’s hip hop was boring at best; I appreciated Zack and Jacque’s technique but found their routine a pretty uninspired Sonya effort; and I’ve decided I’m just not a fan of trying to make these dancers learn Bollywood. (They always look like they’re trying, when dance should always seem effortless.)

However, there were more standout moments than we’ve had yet this season. Serge continued to prove himself as an outstanding partner for Carly, and her final move displayed a strength that was astounding. Emilio and Bridget followed up their adorable jive from last week with a very grounded and beautiful contemporary piece that allowed both of them to really compliment each other as dancers, and it allowed Emilio to show some serious growth (pointed feet!). Tanisha wowed everyone with her very unforced sexy stage presence in her hip hop with Rudy. And Ricky blew me away in Travis’s small group routine with both his technique and his style.

I may not have a dedicated favorite yet, but the list is narrowing down. And I love that I’m starting to really get invested in these dancers and their journeys.

Standout Performers: Carly, Tanisha, Bridget, Emilio, Serge, and Ricky

Favorite Routine: I love a good group routine, and this week had two of them. Don’t get me wrong; the small group contemporary piece was pretty, but we’ve seen all of that before. The Top 16 Mandy Moore routine was a wonderful exercise in synchronicity. It’s always a brave thing to show these dancers doing the same thing side-by-side because it highlights strengths and weaknesses, but when it works, it works so well. The same thing happened with Travis’s small group routine, which was my favorite routine of the night.

This was the first routine of the season where I know I’ll think of the dance whenever I hear the song (in this case, “Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic). The song has a great beat and wonderful dynamics; it was made for routines like this one. And Travis’s choreography pushed a lot of his dancers out of their comfort zones to great effect. Like Mandy Moore, he didn’t shy away from big choreography sections done by the whole group, which can have a very powerful impact. It was fun to watch each dancer really embrace the style of the dance, and it was a unique style that didn’t look like the same kinds of dances we watch every week. The lifts were creative, and the movement was fresh. And it seemed like a dance tailor-made for a contestant like Ricky. It was fun to watch him shine technically, but it was even more fun to watch him so clearly enjoying performing this routine. It was the perfect marriage of dancer and dance, and I could watch him in this piece all day long.

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (7/13 – 7/20)

This week in television began with a new episode of The Bachelorette on Monday, which left little doubt as to the identity of the next Bachelor (Chris) and the man Andi ultimately chooses (Josh). The week continued with an episode of So You Think You Can Dance that featured the return of some favorite contestants from Season Three (Pasha, Anya, and Lacey), as well as an episode of Suits that put conflicts on the shelf for a moment in favor of exploring the show’s complex characters and their relationships with one another. Finally, Thursday featured another highly entertaining episode of Hollywood Game Night.

I’m not sure there’s anything better on television this summer than what Suits has delivered in its last few episodes. Last week, it was Louis who took center stage, and he once again had some incredible moments in this episode. But the real star of “Pound of Flesh” was Donna, and it was wonderful to see a character who is so beloved but so mysterious in terms of her past given a real moment in the spotlight and true character development.

Of course, as an admitted Harvey/Donna “shipper” (I just want those two crazy kids to stop fighting their feelings already!), I loved the episode’s last scene. It always makes me smile to see just how easy it is for Harvey to be attentive and open with Donna when it’s so difficult for him to do that with anyone else. Donna has supported Harvey for so long, so I love little moments like that final scene, when we get to see Harvey be just as supportive of her and her goals.

Although I loved Harvey telling Donna he was a fan of hers, my favorite moment in the episode—and my favorite TV moment of the week—was one that didn’t focus on Donna and Harvey’s relationship; it focused on Donna’s growth as an individual character. When Donna told Louis about her decision to pursue her current career path instead of chasing her dream, it was her best moment in the whole series to that point. Suits is a show about a heightened world of designer clothing and million-dollar deals, but it’s at its best when it touches something real—something we can relate to. Sometimes we don’t chase our dreams—sometimes we make the tough decision to prioritize security and stability above the romantic idea that we could be the rare person who “makes it” in a creative profession. That’s a truth that’s been told before, but never with the quiet vulnerability that Sarah Rafferty gave to that scene. I felt her regret, but I also felt her fear that regret may be better than the reality that could come with chasing that dream again.

That’s the truth that doesn’t get told very often: Giving up on your dreams allows you to live with the idea that you could have been great instead of facing the reality that maybe you would have fallen on your face. In a weird way, giving up on your dreams still allows you to dream—to pretend that you could have been great had you decided to try. The honesty of that moment, delivered with such genuine sincerity and emotion by Rafferty, floored me. And it made Donna’s decision to act again feel like the courageous move that it really was. It takes bravery to try again at a dream we put aside for a long time, and I loved that her bravery was rewarded with success and with the support of two men who genuinely care about her—first Louis and then Harvey.

Each week, Suits keeps dishing out these little character moments that stun me in the best possible way. If they keep it up, it might make for the show’s strongest season yet.

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 18 Perform”

And so it begins…

This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance was the first of what I’m sure will be many times this season that I was disappointed with at least half of the duo that was sent home. I wasn’t heartbroken to see Jourdan leave—I didn’t connect with her in her pieces, and I think, out of the two ballerinas on the show, Jacque seems to be more versatile and energetic as a performer. But I loved Stanley. He wasn’t given the best material to work with (that boring telephone Broadway routine last week and this week’s Tyce Diorio flop), but I saw so much potential in him. His leaps were a thing of beauty, and he had a quality of movement that was truly unique. The good thing about SYTYCD is that I usually like all of the dancers that make the Top 20. The bad thing is that it makes watching eliminations difficult from the beginning, and it’s only going to get harder from now on.

One thing that wasn’t hard for me to watch at all was another fabulous week of Misty Copeland commentary from the judges’ table. Her critiques are always so direct and constructive, and I loved that she called Nigel out for his comments about Serge and Carly’s hip hop. She’s right; a judge’s job on this show is to educate the audience about the difficulty inherent in different routines—because a dancer’s job is to make the difficult look easy, so a judge’s job is to explain just how challenging a routine really was. Nigel doesn’t do that enough, and I am so happy he got taken to task even a little bit for it.

Misty was also on-point with her comments about the dancers’ performances this week. Technique is important, but so is stage presence. My favorite routines of the night were ones that had that X-factor in terms of the overall performance of a piece, while the routines I can barely remember were ones that missed the mark when it came to facial expressions. Everyone on this show is a good dancer; the ones who will separate themselves from the pack will be ones who stand out as strong performers and commanding presences on the stage (see last season’s entire Top Four).

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (7/6 – 7/13)

This week in television began with an episode of The Bachelorette on Monday that featured hometown dates as well as the tragic revelation of former contestant Eric Hill’s death. Tuesday’s season finale of The People’s Couch was as entertaining as ever. Wednesday’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance didn’t quite live up to the standard set by the first week of live competition, but Suits had quite possibly its strongest episode of the season later that night. World Cup soccer action came to a riveting conclusion this week, and no mention of TV’s best can go by without a mention of a Harry Potter Weekend on ABC Family when it occurs.

I watch a lot of reality TV during the summer, so I’m always thankful for Suits, which allows me to keep one foot in the world of smart, scripted drama. This week’s episode featured stellar performances from every member of the show’s talented ensemble, but I have to single out Rick Hoffman’s work as the best of the best. Louis Litt has had some of the best character development on television in the last couple of seasons of Suits, and this week’s episode made me love this character more than ever before. Louis could have been the antagonist or the bumbling office idiot, but the writing and Hoffman himself have given this character such relatable humanity that it’s impossible not to feel for him.

When Louis told Harvey that he didn’t understand how Harvey could be so cold yet so loved while he’s so emotional but so hated, my heart broke. Hoffman was brilliant in that moment—I found myself moved to tears by his vulnerability. Louis and Harvey are such brilliant foils for one another. Louis is driven by emotion, while Harvey closes himself off from emotion as much as he can. Both are extremists in their own ways—too open and too closed. Louis’s emotions sometimes get in the way of his professional life, while Harvey’s lack of emotions (or at least lack of understanding about how to display them) gets in the way of him ever forming healthy relationships outside of his professional circles. They need each other to balance each other, and all I want is for Harvey to see that without any help from Donna. Louis deserves it, and the fact that Hoffman’s performance moved me enough to want this so badly for a fictional character is proof of just how good he is.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

 

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 20 to Top 18″

Sorry for the delay in my recap this week, everyone! I went on a little long weekend getaway, but now I’m back and ready to talk dance with all of you.

After being very impressed with the diversity and overall performances in the first week of live So You Think You Can Dance competition, I’m sad to say I found myself less than impressed with what we were presented this week. There weren’t any truly terrible routines, but there wasn’t anything groundbreaking either. I was sad to see Malene and Nick go because I liked both of their performances last week, but their work this week wasn’t nearly as memorable.

The biggest thing I took away from this week was the difficulty these partners seemed to have connecting with each other and sometimes also with the material they were given. There were more than a couple of routines where one partner seemed far more emotionally invested in the partnership than the other half of the duo. Valerie was so focused on her (surprisingly graceful) technique in her contemporary with Ricky that I felt nothing coming from her emotionally. Jessica and Nick seemed too labored in their West Coast Swing routine to create the fun atmosphere Benji Schwimmer wanted. And in perhaps the most egregious lack of connection this week, Emily was almost comically pandering to the audience and cameras instead of trying to create a connection with Teddy.

Many of the routines suffered from looking too much like routines we’ve already seen done and done better on the show (a common complaint I have after watching since the show’s early days). All of Sonya Tayeh’s jazz pieces feel the same now, and the same can be said for many of Travis Wall’s contemporary routines. All Argentine Tango routines will be measured against Allison and Ivan in Season Two, and all West Coast Swings will be measured against Sara and Pasha’s from Season Three—and the two we saw this week simply weren’t as good.

However, there still were some standout performances on the stage this week—especially from dancers excelling out of their given styles (with the exception of the brilliant work Ricky did in his contemporary routine, of course). Tanisha’s power and flexibility surprised me, as did Zack’s jazz technique (although the rhythmic nature of African Jazz works perfectly for a dancer with a tap background). And no one blew me away like Serge did this week. He was a bit of a disappointment last week, but his maturity and partnering abilities served him so well in his contemporary routine.

Standout Performers: Serge, Carly, Tanisha, Zack, and Ricky

Favorite Routine: I like being surprised by SYTYCD dancers, and Serge completely surprised me this week in his Sonya contemporary piece with Carly. Nigel was right when he said Serge dances from his heart. There was something so genuine about his performance, and I think it brought something deeper out of Carly than she would have found with anyone else in the competition. As is true for most male ballroom partners, he let Carly shine and was there for her in every lift and trick. I feel like that steady presence allowed Carly to find an impressively fluid kind of strength to her movements. They were one of the only partnerships on the show this week where I could feel real trust between them.

Serge’s maturity gave this piece a lovely, unforced kind of tenderness. Nothing felt overwrought, which can happen sometimes in SYTYCD contemporary pieces. Instead, it felt honest; it felt grounded. Carly’s technical precision elevated Serge’s technique, and Serge’s emotional honesty elevated Carly’s performance. That’s what good partnerships are all about, and I love that this partnership surprised me with just how good it was.

My Advice for Emmy Voters

This year’s Emmy nominations are disappointing as a whole (despite some bright spots), and that statement has become as predictable as the nominations themselves. Every year, it seems the Emmy nominations are plagued by the same complaints: predictability and a very narrow view of what’s become a very broad medium.

In order to cope with my overwhelming frustration over this year’s nominees, I wanted to offer a little advice for Emmy voters. Follow these helpful tips, and maybe next year’s nominations will be met with something other than bored shoulder shrugs and frustrated sighs.

1. Stop nominating the same shows year after year when they’re not showing any growth.
Few things annoy me more when it comes to the Emmys than strong seasons of “dark horse” shows getting overlooked in favor of mediocre seasons of perennial “favorites.” Don’t get me wrong; I think Modern Family is still a very funny show, but maybe it’s time to open your eyes, dear Emmy voters, to see that there’s a whole world of network comedy beyond that show and The Big Bang Theory. Brooklyn Nine-Nine had one of the strongest freshman seasons I can remember. The Mindy Project created a season of television that was a better romantic comedy than any shown in movie theaters this decade. And Parks and Recreation continued to prove its underappreciated brilliance with a season full of brave storytelling that culminated in a truly genius finale. You have only one season left to honor Parks and Rec; don’t screw this up next year.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (6/29 – 7/6)

This week was heavy with reality television and not a lot of scripted programming (with Suits taking a week off). It began with a new episode of The Bachelorette that made it perhaps more obvious than ever that Josh is the one for Andi. (Her genuine, glowing smile when he said he was falling in love with her was a close runner-up for my favorite moment of the week.) The week continued with the hilarious penultimate episode of The People’s Couch and the first So You Think You Can Dance live show of the season. The rest of the week was filled with special TV events—from World Cup soccer and Wimbledon tennis to Marvel Universe and Indiana Jones movie marathons.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise that the most fun I had watching TV this week was when Zack and Valerie performed their tap duet on SYTYCD. It always puts a smile on my face to see my favorite style of dance in the national spotlight, and this routine brilliantly captured the essence of why I love tap. It was complex in its rhythms, stylish in its execution, and entertaining from start to finish. Watching Zack in this routine is like watching a master at work, and his performance only gets more impressive with repeated viewings.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 20 Perform”

I hope all of you who celebrate it are having a fun and safe Independence Day!

So begins another season of So You Think You Can Dance live shows, and I’m trilled to be writing about them once again. As a dancer and choreographer myself, no other show on television makes me smile like SYTYCD, and I can’t wait to discuss the highs and lows of each week of the competition with all of you. Until the Top 10 is selected, my recaps will be a bit more general—focusing on some thoughts about the episode as a whole as well as my favorite routine and dancers of the evening (there will also be some predictions for who’s going home after I’ve started to see who the audience is gravitating towards).

If this episode is any indication, we’re in for a real treat this season in terms of both the talent and variety of dancers we’ll be getting to see over the next several weeks. Yes, there’s still an abundance of contemporary dancers who are difficult to tell apart (but some did make a name for themselves in this episode), but I loved seeing a Top 20 episode with multiple ballroom duets, two ballerinas, two tappers, and two hip-hop dancers with very different styles. If there was one thing I was most impressed with while watching this episode, it was the variety of dance styles I saw on display.

In an episode that featured 10 dances (and one subpar group number from Sonya Tayeh), it was easy for at least a few routines to get lost in the shuffle. Despite the variety of styles presented, there were still too many contemporary routines about a couple in the middle of an argument. (Travis Wall, you can do better.) Also, the embarrassment of riches in terms of ballroom numbers meant that there was now the ability to directly compare partnerships, and the duos of Nick/Tanisha and Serge/Brooklyn didn’t have the same fire and stage presence as the dynamite pairing of Malene/Marcquet.

The dances that stood out to me more than any other in this introductory week were the ones unlike anything else we saw that night. The energy of Malene and Marcquet was unmatched. The rare treat of the female pas de deux between Jacque and Jourdan was impressive to behold, even if I did feel the choreography was a little above their abilities. (There were simply too many turns.) Teddy and Emilio’s “Night Shift” duet was an inspired blending of their two hip-hop styles. Zack and Valerie’s tap duet was as challenging as it was entertaining. And Ricky and Jessica’s breathtaking contemporary piece set them apart from their fellow contemporary dancers by showcasing a stunning combination of strength and grace.

Standout Performers: Malene, Marcquet, Teddy, Emilio, Ricky, Jessica, Valerie, Zack

Favorite Routine: If you read my SYTYCD recaps last season (or my Tweets so far this season), you know that I will readily admit to being biased towards tappers on this show. Tap is the style of dance I specialize in as a dancer and a choreographer, so it has thrilled me like little else to see the style I hold close to my heart finally getting the SYTYCD respect I felt it was denied for so many seasons. In fact, thanks to last season’s Top Four finalist Aaron Turner (and Nick Young before him), we’ve been treated to some great tap routines on this show in the last few seasons. But none of those could even hold a candle to the show Zack and Valerie put on this week.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (6/22 – 6/29)

After Orphan Black‘s season finale last Saturday, my summer TV season officially began—which means a lot of reality TV and very little scripted television. Monday started off with an episode of The Bachelorette that featured quite possibly the dumbest group date idea ever: a lie detector test. The Top 20 was picked on Wednesday’s So You Think You Can Dance, and Harvey and Mike’s battle got decidedly uglier on Suits. Episodes of The People’s Couch and Hollywood Game Night made me laugh this week, and there was plenty of exciting sports action to catch as the World Cup continued and drafts were televised for both the NBA and NHL.

While Harvey and Mike’s fight may have gotten uglier on this week’s episode of Suits, there was nothing ugly about the outfits worn by the women around them—in fact, the fashion statements made by those women were my favorite things I saw on TV all week. It’s no secret that I pay perhaps more attention than I should to fashion on television, and there were moments during this episode of Suits that I was so distracted by the beautiful clothes worn by Jessica and Donna that I stopped paying attention to the actual scene and started imagining owning those aforementioned beautiful clothes. Sometimes the best thing I see on TV in any given week is just something that stops me in my tracks for a moment in the best possible way. This week, it was the fabulous wardrobe choices made to highlight the class, elegance, and power of two of my favorite female characters on television. I’ve always said that Suits is one of the most stylish shows on television, and never has that been more true than it was this week.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?