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?

Grading the Season Finales 2014: Orphan Black

orphan-black-season-2-finale

Title By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried (2.10)

Written By Graeme Manson

What Happens? In an attempt to gain access to Kira after she was kidnapped by Rachel, Sarah surrenders to Dyad, and upon her surrender she’s interrogated about her sexual and reproductive history and forced to allow Dyad to harvest her eggs. Kira has her own plans for getting out of Rachel’s clutches; she steals a cell phone to call Cal, who appears at Mrs. S.’s house with plenty of revelations of his own: He’s figured out that Sarah is a clone, and he’s been in contact with a mysterious source who brings up the name Castor, which seems to mean something to Mrs. S.

Sarah and Kira aren’t Rachel’s only captives. She visits her father to try to get him to reveal the secrets to his genetic sequence, but he poisons himself with his own teabag before they can get any more information out of him. In a fit of rage, Rachel shows up at Sarah’s bedside before the surgery that will remove one of her ovaries, and she smashes the tubes of bone marrow Kira donated to help Cosima. The connection between Kira and Cosima has grown to be stronger than just bone marrow, though, and a drawing Kira made of a science lesson her Aunt Cosima taught her leads Sarah to a projectile device rigged up by Cosima and Scott. She frees herself (and ultimately Kira) by putting a pencil through Rachel’s eye with the help of a fire extinguisher.

Momentarily safe from Dyad, Sarah is able to enjoy some time with her sisters, introducing Cosima and Alison to Cal before Felix brings Helena home to meet her family. The sisters, Kira, and Felix are able to enjoy a night of family bonding (aka one big dance party) before chaos resumes in the morning.

Helena is kidnapped by men who are somehow connected to Mrs. S. and Paul, and the last we see of her, she is being put onto a military plane as they watch. Back at Clone Club Headquarters, Cosima experiences a near-death vision of Delphine before Kira wakes her. The little girl brings her aunt the book Rachel’s father gave her, and Cosima sees that his formulae and sequencing codes are hidden in its pages.

Meanwhile, Sarah visits Marian and meets her adopted daughter Charlotte, the only child to survive the 400 attempts to continue Project Leda and create new clones. Marian explains that Project Leda was never really shut down, and it has a brother project continued by the military: Project Castor. As Sarah sees one of the Project Castor clones, it’s revealed that Mark—the ex-military man who helped Gracie escape the Prolethean compound and married her (knowing she was carrying Helena’s child/children)—has plenty of “brothers” that he may or may not know about.

Game-Changing Moment The entire sequence of events at Marian’s home featured one big, game-changing moment after another. For two seasons, we assumed that Project Leda was finished, we assumed that any and all clones would be the same age as Sarah, and we assumed they would all be played by Tatiana Maslany. The introduction of Charlotte, a Kira-aged clone with Sarah’s DNA, blew all of those assumptions to bits. And the introduction of Project Castor changed the game in perhaps an even bigger way. Not only did it add a military angle to the scientific/political/religious debates this show brings to light every week; it broadened the entire scope of the show’s universe by adding a whole new set of clones into the mix. I don’t think their stories will pull too much focus from the female clones we already know (we first discovered Project Castor through Sarah’s eyes, after all); the producers know what’s working for them and probably don’t want to mess too much with that formula. But it will open up some interesting new avenues of storytelling for the show’s third season (which will hopefully be announced soon, pretty please!).

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (6/15 – 6/22)

This week in television began with a conclusion, as Game of Thrones wrapped up an excellent fourth season with its greatest finale yet. Monday’s episode of The Bachelorette provided plenty of drama of its own, as accusations of racism and jealousy plagued an episode that featured my favorite suitor (Josh) getting his first one-on-one date. After a slow Tuesday night, Wednesday was quite eventful: more auditions on So You Think You Can Dance, a wedding on Melissa & Joey, big moves and almost-kisses on Baby Daddy, and one of the greatest episodes for Donna and Louis in the history of Suits. The week ended with another finale, as Saturday’s episode of Orphan Black closed the book on the show’s sophomore season with enough twists to keep viewers on the edge of our collective seat until Season Three (hopefully) airs.

I’ll be writing much more about this when I grade it (hopefully tomorrow!), but nothing on TV this week—not even a very strong Game of Thrones finale—could compare to Saturday’s Orphan Black finale. Off the top of my head, I could pick about five different moments that would qualify as the best thing I saw on TV in almost any given week. However, since I want to save some opinions for my full analysis of the episode, I’m going to pick the moment that brought me the most joy and also reminded me just how brilliant everyone involved with this show is: the Clone Club dance party.

I loved the fact that—in this breathless finale, filled with twists and crazy plot revelations from start to finish—the creators were brave enough to include a scene that had nothing to do with moving the plot forward. Its purpose was simply to show the dysfunctional but beautiful little family that has formed between these sisters, Kira, and Felix over the last two seasons. Watching all of these characters let off some steam and enjoy each other’s company by dancing together was everything I never knew I always wanted.

What impressed me the most in this scene was the totally unique movements Tatiana Maslany gave to each of the clones. Each dance style reflected each clone perfectly, and it was yet another moment where I completely forgot I was watching the same actress work her magic as so many different women. But upon reflection, I find myself even more in awe of this scene because of the technical work that had to go into shooting it. This scene demanded nothing less than complete dedication from the cast and the crew, but it ended up looking so effortlessly fun. That’s the mark of a great work of art—it takes a hell of a lot of work but looks like the most natural thing in the world.

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