The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (1/18 – 1/25)

While many TV shows took a little hiatus this week, there were still plenty of memorable moments to get us from Sunday to Sunday. The week began with playoff football, and the fallout from one of those games dominated much of the television landscape this week in the form of nonstop talk about “Deflategate.” On Monday, Castle featured a trip into the dramatic world of telenovelas. And Tuesday’s hour of Parks and Recreation offered plenty of laughs and even more tears.

“Leslie and Ron,” the second half of Tuesday’s Parks and Rec double-header wasn’t just the best thing I’ve seen on TV this week. It was the best episode of television I’ve seen so far this year (and probably this whole TV season). The phrase “instant classic” is often hyperbolic, but I honestly believe it’s the perfect way to describe “Leslie and Ron.” It was a series highlight for a series filled with highlights—that’s how special it was.

While it’s difficult to select just one moment in the episode as the best, I can’t stop thinking about the unforced emotion in the scene where Ron told Leslie what motivated him to leave the Parks Department. That scene was a testament to what happens when great writing over the course of an entire series combines with performances given by actors who love and understand their characters even more than their passionate fans do. Ron admitting to Leslie that he missed his friends so much that he was willing to ask for a job with the federal government only resonated the way it did because of who we know Ron Swanson to be as a character and the emotions Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler brought to that moment. It was sweet, it was sad, and it was simply perfect. Such a brilliant, effortlessly moving scene could only be achieved by writers and actors at their top of their game. I’m so glad that my favorite show on television seems to be going out on top creatively in a way few shows I’ve loved ever have before.

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

TV Time: Parks and Recreation 7.03/7.04

Title William Henry Harrison/Leslie and Ron

Two-Sentence Summary As Ron and Leslie’s feud continues to escalate, their friends realize they have to take drastic measures, locking them in the Parks Department office overnight. As they realize there’s nothing to do but talk about their feelings, both Leslie and Ron discuss the events that led to the dissolution of their friendship, including the Morningstar incident.

Favorite Lines
Ron: Why does anybody in the world ever eat anything other than breakfast food?
Leslie: People are idiots, Ron.

My Thoughts I think most fans of Parks and Recreation expected to cry more than once during this final run of episodes. However, I’m not sure anyone expected the deluge of tears to start as soon as the season’s fourth episode. But there I was, sitting on my couch on Tuesday night, sobbing into my sweatshirt sleeve as Leslie and Ron bonded over breakfast food once again. And I know I wasn’t the only one moved to tears in that moment.

It takes something really special to unite people on the Internet in a positive way, but “Leslie and Ron” was something really special. I’ve never before seen the kind of unanimous love for and emotional response to an episode of television that I’ve seen with this one. “Leslie and Ron” was an instant Parks and Rec classic, and it was the best single episode of television I’ve seen so far this TV season. It was a brave episode for many reasons but especially because it wore its heart so openly on its sleeve, and, as such, it represented the very best of what makes Parks and Rec such a treasure.

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TV Time: Castle 7.12

Source: tvequals.com

Source: tvequals.com

Title Private Eye Caramba!

Two-Sentence Summary While Beckett and the team at the 12th precinct investigate the murder of a telenovela star, Castle’s private investigator business is struggling to find worthwhile cases. To help him feel better, Beckett sends him a client—a friend and costar of the murder victim looking for her missing purse, which may be a bigger clue to finding the killer than anyone thought.

Favorite Line “Canvasing? Oh, that thing you get Espo and Ryan to do.” (Castle, to Beckett)

My Thoughts While it might not have been quite as much fun as last week’s “Castle, P.I.” (mainly because it didn’t have the element of pleasant surprise on its side), “Private Eye Caramba!” was still a thoroughly entertaining way to spend an hour. It featured some of the show’s most crowd-pleasing elements (plenty of “Caskett” banter—and kissing, a healthy heaping of bromance, and a fandom-inspired case that revealed a secret nerdy side of one of our main characters), and it was a good way to combine beloved elements of Castle lore with this new direction the show is heading in at least for the moment.

This new direction for the show seems to be including more interaction between Beckett and Martha, which I adore. Last week’s cute morning greeting was followed-up by this week’s breakfast-table discussion of Castle’s P.I. business. I loved seeing these two women share their worries about Castle’s new venture while still being willing to support him if it’s what he really wants. Martha fills such an importance place in Beckett’s life, and I hope these scenes are a sign that their dynamic is going to continue to be explored in such a positive way. Scenes between Beckett and Martha are also a nice reminder of Castle’s love for and admiration of strong women. Both his mother and his wife aren’t afraid to say when they think he’s wrong, but it’s also nice to see them still ready to encourage him if he really believes in something.

And Castle really does believe in his P.I. work. It’s something he’s obviously having fun with (hence his film-noir-style voiceovers), but it’s also something he takes seriously, which is why he was frustrated that he couldn’t find better uses for his time as a P.I. than doing background checks on teenage boys. And I loved that Beckett could see how much this P.I. work means to him (even beyond him getting to be his own muse, which was a fantastic line). I found her sending him a client to be a very romantic gesture, especially for these two characters. It was her way of supporting her husband in his new work the way he’s supported her in her work for so many years. Sometimes Beckett might tease Castle about his crazy theories or his goofiness, but she ultimately respects his ability to solve cases. And sending Sofia to him was a nice vote of confidence in his professional abilities, which ultimately paid off for her, too, as it helped her find Anna’s killer.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (1/11 – 1/18)

This week in television began with Sunday’s highly entertaining Golden Globe Awards, featuring strong jokes from Amy Poehler and Tiny Fey as well as big wins for some very deserving actors and shows. Sunday night also gave us a hilarious new episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and an episode of The Good Wife that attempted to tackle the issue of racial unrest in America while also featuring Alicia’s big debate. Monday’s episode of Castle proved that taking Castle out of the precinct was actually a wonderful decision for the show. And Tuesday gave us the return of Parks and Recreation, joining a night of television that also featured another strong episode of Agent Carter and an excellent guest appearance by Lee Pace on The Mindy Project.

I’m a sucker for a good award show acceptance speech, so this year’s Golden Globes were an embarrassment of riches for me. From George Clooney’s love for his wife to Michael Keaton’s love for his son, sincerity was the real winner, which is rare for a Hollywood event. However, no moment was more sincerely joyful and emotional than Gina Rodriguez’s acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Television Comedy. I don’t even watch Jane the Virgin (Yet! That will change soon.), but I found myself moved to tears by her pure gratitude. This was a year for inspiring, diverse projects and people to take home Golden Globes, and Rodriguez’s win set the tone for the whole evening in such a beautiful way: “My father used to tell me to say every morning, ‘Today is going to be a great day. I can and I will.’ Well, Dad, today is a great day. I can and I did.”

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

TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.13

Source: tvequals.com

Source: tvequals.com

Title San Francisco Bae

Two-Sentence Summary When Mindy runs into the guy she lost her virginity to in a San Francisco bar, she’s surprised to learn he’s become a major Internet mogul and even more surprised to learn he still thinks about her. Back in New York, Danny and Morgan think Lauren might be cheating on Jeremy with Peter.

Favorite Line “She won the secret Hunger Games we billionaires have!” (Alex)

My Thoughts “San Francisco Bae” was a really well-balanced episode of The Mindy Project. Both the A-plot and the B-plot were funny, the guest actors were used well, and the overall story arc felt fresh and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but some of that might be the fact that I—like most human beings—am powerless to resist the charms of Lee Pace.

Pace was a genius choice to play Alex because he can balance being an adorable nerd and handsome charmer like few others can. He was the perfect character to tempt Mindy in an episode that dealt heavily with the concept of infidelity—he’s a mix of all the cheating clichés: a person she has a fondly-remembered romantic history with, a powerful playboy billionaire, and a handsome man in a city across the country from her boyfriend.

Let’s be real; I think a billionaire who looks like Lee Pace would cause a lot of people to think twice about the men they have waiting for them back home. But ultimately, all Alex did was remind Mindy that she loves Danny. (And cause problems for himself and Mindy with his girlfriend, played perfectly by Chrissy Teigen.)

What I liked about all of Mindy and Alex’s interactions was that I never once believed Mindy would give in to the temptation he presented. The stability in Mindy and Danny’s relationship is a refreshing thing in the world of sitcoms, and the last scene with them talking on the phone reinforced the idea that they’re a couple that’s built on a good foundation. Danny may not have Alex’s money or prestige, but he’s the guy who’ll call Mindy at the end of the day just to say hi and smile at the sound of her voice. And that’s enough for Mindy, and it’s also enough to melt my heart.

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TV Time: Parks and Recreation 7.01/7.02

Welcome, fellow Parks and Recreation fans to the first of my weekly recaps for this show’s final season! I hope you’re all ready to laugh and cry with me as we spend these last few weeks in Pawnee together.

Source: glamour.com

Source: glamour.com

Title 2017/Ron and Jammy

Two-Sentence Summary As we catch up with the gang from Pawnee in 2017, we learn that Ron and Leslie had a falling out, and both of them are competing for land that the Newport family is looking to sell; Leslie wants to build a national park, while Ron is helping Gryzzl with their bid for the land. The two call a momentary truce, however, to get Councilman Jamm out of Tammy’s evil clutches.

Favorite Line “Who cares if they have more money. I have the most valuable currency in America: a blind, stubborn belief that what I’m doing is right!” (Leslie)

My Thoughts It felt so good to have Parks and Recreation back. There’s nothing on television quite like this show, and no other show makes me feel as ridiculously happy as it does. It’s been tough for me to even think about Parks and Rec over the last few weeks, because whenever I do, I want to cry. However, the winning combination of “2017/Ron and Jammy” made it possible for me to finally look at this final run of episodes with excitement instead of sadness. It may be the final season of one of my favorite television shows of all time, but if these two episodes were any indication, it’s going to be a triumphant final season full of all the things that make Parks and Rec so special.

With this being the final season of Parks and Rec, I’ve been thinking a lot about its legacy. In my opinion, the most enduring thing about this show should be its message that kindness and warmth are strengths and not weaknesses—that nice people can be funny, too. This was never a comedy for cynics, and, as such, it turned out to be the perfect comedy for me. Despite the three-year time jump dealt with in this premiere and all of the changes that came from that, some things about our favorite citizens of Pawnee stayed the same, and one of those things was their collective big heart—no matter how reluctant some of them may be to show just how big their heart really is.

I thought every character’s development over the course of the three years we skipped over was perfect, and it was because they grew in some ways but stayed the same where it mattered.

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TV Time: Castle 7.11

Source: spoilertv.com

Source: spoilertv.com

Title Castle, P.I.

Two-Sentence Summary As Beckett attempts to readjust to life at the precinct without Castle after he was banned from helping the NYPD, she begins to investigate the murder of a teacher at an elite NYC preschool. The complicated case gets even more complicated when Castle, now a licensed private investigator, tries to solve it, too.

Favorite Lines
Castle: Did I tell you I got pepper-sprayed today?
Alexis: You say that like it’s a good thing.
Castle: Yeah.

My Thoughts Although no TV fan enjoys a hiatus, sometimes they can be the best thing for a show. Castle’s last episode, “Bad Santa,” left me feeling depressed and blindsided by its big cliffhanger ending, but it appears that some time away from the precinct has done both Rick Castle and me some good. Having some distance from the bombshell ending of “Bad Santa” and some time to process what things could be like for Castle as a private investigator allowed me to approach “Castle, P.I” with an open mind. And the result was an hour of TV-watching that made me even happier than I’d imagined it would.

It’s tough for shows to stay fresh in their seventh season, and I think we can all admit that many of the procedural aspects of Castle were starting to feel stale. However, making Castle a private investigator breathed new life into the crime-solving part of this show, and it even added a nice little spark to the romantic part, too. The time in between “Bad Santa” and “Castle, P.I.” allowed the latter to have a light tone even after the former had such a heavy ending. Airing them only a week apart might have felt too jarring in terms of their vastly different tones when it came to Castle’s dismissal from the precinct. However, airing them a month apart made it seem less jarring and more of an example of the kind of tonal shifts only Castle can pull off so fluidly.

In my recap of “Bad Santa,” I mentioned that the case in that episode—which was neither emotionally compelling nor nerdy in nature—was downright boring. Imagine my surprise when I found myself thoroughly enjoying the case in “Castle, P.I.,” which was also without a fun theme or an emotional component tied to one of our protagonists. Instead, it was the pure thrill of good-old-fashioned crime solving that did it for me this week (and did it for Castle and Beckett, too—but more on that later). I really liked watching the different ways Castle and Beckett used their various skills and resources to take steps closer to solving the case. By putting the focus on the actual detective work, this episode reminded me of what made Castle so special even when it was a very young show: It features two main characters who approach the world in very different ways but whose different approaches are perfect complements for each other.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (1/4 – 1/11)

This week saw the return of a bunch of great TV shows from their winter hiatuses. Sunday’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine took all of its characters on a weekend trip, and The Good Wife featured a huge sigh of relief for Cary while tensions rose around Kalinda. Monday gave us the return of The Bachelor with farmer Chris looking for love. Tuesday staked its claim as a fantastic night for television in 2015 with an excellent series premiere for Agent Carter and our first look at Mindy’s time at Stanford on The Mindy Project. And there were plenty of things for sports fans to cheer about as the NFL playoffs kicked off.

This may have been one of the most difficult choices I’ve had to make yet for the best thing on television this week—between Captain Holt eagerly playing a game designed to poke fun at him on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Peggy threatening a sexist jerk with just a fork on Agent Carter, and Cary’s sentencing on The Good Wife. Ultimately, though, I went with what moved me the most—and that came from The Good Wife.

Matt Czuchry’s performance as it dawned on Cary that the case against him was being thrown out was so incredible that I want him to get an Emmy nomination this year for that moment alone. The pure relief and gratitude on his face was paired with a deeper sense of exhaustion that made the relief feel even more powerful. Playing “overwhelmed” can lend itself to overacting, but Czuchry proved that he has taken lessons from the Christine Baranski/Julianna Margulies playbook with the subtlety he brought to that moment. Being able to convey so much emotion in just a facial expression is something every member of the cast of The Good Wife excels at, and Czuchry’s reaction provided perhaps the most earned and cathartic moment I’ve seen on television this season.

The way The Good Wife balanced the relief Cary felt and we felt for him with the fear Kalinda felt and we all felt for her just added to the brilliance of that scene. Nothing on The Good Wife is ever simple; everything is layered. And that kind of emotional complexity made what was already a fantastic scene even better by showing that Cary’s freedom and happiness has a cost, and that cost is one Kalinda is going to have to pay.

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

Fangirl Thursday: New Year, New Loves

Welcome back, fellow fangirls (and fanboys!), to one more Fangirl Thursday post before this feature goes on another little hiatus until March to make room for more TV reviews here at NGN! I hope all of you had a lovely holiday season and are enjoying a nice start to 2015.

The holiday season is a great time to catch up on the media our busy lives often cause us to miss out on. Between books and movies and TV shows given as Christmas gifts and holiday hiatuses giving us some time to indulge in new interests, it provides the perfect combination of new things to fall in love with and more time to fall in love with them. There are also plenty of people who make New Year’s resolutions to read more, start a new TV series, or watch or read something from the past that has a lot of critical acclaim surrounding it. (We all know that one person who has a New Year’s resolution to watch The Wire in 2015.)

When I was 13, the holiday season was when I binge-read the first four Harry Potter novels. In college, winter break meant exploring the world of Doctor Who and Torchwood. A few years ago, New Year’s Day was the day I discovered Once Upon a Time and proceeded to watch the first seven episodes all at once. Last year, I spent the week after Christmas devouring Season One of Orphan Black.

This year, I was given the gift of three TV shows I’ve been wanting to watch for a long time by two people I know and love and trust (my sister and Heather). Heather’s gift of Eli Stone is waiting for me to explore this spring when I’ll need something to get me through the start of hiatus time. And one of my sister’s gifts for me—the first season of Veep—has already helped me start to heal from Amy Peohler’s Golden Globes snub and finally appreciate the brilliance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

My sister also got me the first season of The Americans, and, in doing so, sent me down a rabbit hole of thoughts and feelings I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from (and we all know I love a good rabbit hole of feelings!). Philip and Elizabeth Jennings have now joined the ranks of Harry Potter, Emma Swan, and Sarah Manning as characters I first met over a holiday break but who stayed with me long after the New Year started. When I began watching my DVDs of the first season of The Americans, I had a goal of finishing Season One and then watching Seasons Two and Three after the third season wraps up this summer. Now I only have nine episodes left to watch in Season Two, with every intention of watching Season Three as it airs, starting on January 28. I’m not sure I’ve ever binge-watched a drama series this quickly before, but if there’s a show worthy of being a weird combination of devoured and savored, it’s The Americans.

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TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.12

Title Stanford

Two-Sentence Summary Mindy starts her fellowship at Stanford off on the wrong foot, which prompts her to try to win over her professor, who is a friend of Danny’s from med school. Meanwhile, Tamra tries to channel her complicated feelings about Morgan after their breakup into a charity basketball game.

Favorite Line “What’s more important, your relationship with Dr. Lahiri or this basketball team I made you join two days ago?” (Morgan)

My Thoughts “Stanford” was a solid—if slightly formulaic—return episode for The Mindy Project. However, I don’t mind formulaic if the formula works, and this pattern that the show’s developing of episodes ending with Mindy making huge strides in terms of her personal growth is a good example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Another pattern I hope this show continues to run with is crafting really fun B-plots. I enjoyed basically everything about the basketball storyline. I loved that Morgan’s game tapes were just VHS copies of Space Jam, because any Space Jam reference is a good Space Jam reference. I loved Jeremy’s total confusion over the rules of basketball. I loved the use of “All I Do Is Win.” And I loved Tamra’s confidence in her child-sized shorts (which—let’s be honest— Xosha Roquemore looked amazing in).

I loved Tamra in general in this episode. Roquemore is such an underrated comedic talent in this cast, and I especially love any time she gets to play Tamra’s reactions to people discovering she pays no attention to the details of their lives. (Her inability to realize that Peter is in the same situation as she’s in with Morgan reminded me of her total confidence that Mindy’s name was “Glob” back in Season Two’s premiere episode.) Roquemore is also underrated in terms of the hints of softness she gives what could be a one-dimensional character. I really believed her feelings for Morgan, but I also really liked that they aren’t getting back together right away. Seeing her hit it off with Mindy’s intern was nice, and I hope it leads to more fun places for this character.

Sometimes watching characters develop apart from their relationship is a great thing, which I’m thinking it will be for Morgan and Tamra. It’s also a great thing for Danny and especially for Mindy. This was another really strong outing for Mindy as a character, and it makes me hopeful that the growth that landed her on my list of best character arcs in 2014 will continue into 2015 and beyond.

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