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.

I’m planning to write something more about this show once I finish what’s already looking like an excellent second season, but for now I will just say that this show is worthy of every bit of praise critics have sent its way—and more. (I’m looking at you, award committees who consistently fail to recognize its brilliance.) It’s the kind of show that keeps me up at night thinking about not just its plot twists and turns but its overarching themes of loyalty, love, family, and the secrets we all keep and the reasons we keep them. It’s also the kind of show that makes me sit with my hand over my mouth and tears running down my face because of something as simple as a whispered “Come home.”

It’s been said many times by people far more articulate than I am: The Americans is a show about Russian spies posing as a typical 1980s American family, but at its soul it’s a show about marriage and parenthood. It’s a show about partnerships and intimacy and the universal struggle of raising kids. And that partnership—the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip—is what got me invested in the show right away and has kept me hooked for the past two weeks. It’s a fake marriage that turned into something real and, thus, very scary for two people (especially Elizabeth) who were taught that emotional attachment is weakness. Watching the exceptionally talented Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys navigate every up and down in their journey so far has been such a joy. Those two actors can convey in silence what so many actors need pages of dialogue to express.

The subtlety of the emotional moments on The Americans isn’t for everyone, but it works so well for me. I love that this show makes me pay close attention not just to its plot but to every expression that crosses these characters’ faces. I like when shows whisper rather than scream (Although this show isn’t afraid of screaming when it’s called for.) because it draws me in rather than keeping me at a distance. And The Americans has certainly drawn me in to its tangled web of spies, secrets, and complicated relationships.

Now that all of you have heard plenty about my latest TV love, I want to know about yours. Did you fall in love with any new books, movies, or TV shows this holiday season?

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13 thoughts on “Fangirl Thursday: New Year, New Loves

  1. I am loving being able to watch you fall in love with something new over your many tweets and comments about this show! I can’t wait to eventually try it out as it sounds intense, fascinating, and really fun to watch.

    Over this holiday season I’ve sort of fallen back in love with reading again. Last year was a weird reading year for me because I kept getting distracted from books I’d start but then not finish, or I’d just completely forget to pick up the book that was sitting on my desk waiting for me. But over the past few weeks I’ve been really enjoying reading more! I made a goal to read more in 2015 (and to try to read at least a little every day if I can), and so far I’ve been keeping up with it well. I got Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and David Levithan’s “The Lover’s Dictionary” for Christmas, and finished reading both of those recently and loved both. And of course, Heather sent me the entire The Selection trilogy for Christmas and I’ve been devouring the first book! I am so happy you and Heather talked about this series so much (and that Heather sent me the books!) because I am loving it and I can’t wait to get to the second book.

    Not counting Marvel’s Agent Carter, which I loved so completely, and Galavant, which I though was hilarious and wonderful, I haven’t started any new TV shows lately. I am however supposed to be getting Orphan Black Season 2 in the mail today, so that is probably what I will start next. My to-watch list is seemingly never-ending though, so I will have plenty of options to move on to from there :p

    • Yay for more reading! I am so happy you are enjoying The Selection so far. Your excited texts about it always make me smile and I get to re-live the series through you.

      I can’t wait for you to start s2 of Orphan Black!

    • I’m so glad that people are finding my excessive tweeting about The Americans fun and infectious and not completely annoying. 😉

      I love that you’re falling back in love with reading, and both Yes Please and The Lover’s Dictionary were great choices for kickstarting that renewed love. Both books are so good for such different reasons. I’m also super excited to follow along on your journey with America and Maxon as you keep reading The Selection series! There are some moments in the second book that absolutely took my breath away because they were so beautiful, and I can’t wait until you get there! 🙂

      I also can’t wait to hear all of your thoughts about S2 of Orphan Black!

  2. Most of my holiday break was spent watching a combination of Grey’s Anatomy, Arrow, and The X-Files, but I did find time to squeeze in a few new things to me.

    First, on the tv side of things, I finally watched Top of the Lake. I really like the idea of having one case per season and I love the extent to which it allows communities to be fleshed out. Along those lines, Top of the Lake wasn’t quite as as successful to me as others have been but it did a couple of things so right. Everything about Robin was fantastic. Elisabeth Moss did a tremendous job with her character and she had a lot of really outstanding moments. The cinematography and choice of shooting location was also gorgeous. New Zealand is clearly just a really pretty place to film.

    On the book side of things, I started and finished Every Day by David Levithan. I have loved everything I’ve read by him so far and this was no exception. I loved all the descriptions of what people have in common and seeing the underlying humanity and patterns in everyone’s lives.

    I also started Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I’ve started and quit several times since 2010, and I actually managed to get really into it this time. The writing is beautiful and I get a kick out of all the footnotes and time that was clearly spent crafting the world.

    • I was very intrigued by Top of the Lake (especially Elisabeth Moss’s work in it), so I was so glad to see all of your tweets about it. I’m always happy to have you blazing a TV-watching trail in front of me, my beautiful tropical fish. 😉

      Also, isn’t Every Day such a beautiful book? I absolutely adored it, and it made me think so deeply about all of the ways we’re the same and the bittersweet nature of falling in love with someone that you know you won’t be with forever. David Levithan is a wonderful writer, and I’m always eagerly awaiting his next project.

  3. I have half watched TV series all over the place right now. I still need to catch up with Suits, and I am trying not to get too far behind on the rest of the new shows I watch to watch, Agent Carter at the top of my list. There is just too much good TV around these days!

    I was left alone with my jetlag/traveling cold on Sunday and also fell down ‘The Americans’ hole. I am through the first 6 episodes of Season 1, and I definitely understand why it is loved by so many, including you. TV Drama is one genre that is a hard sell for me (I dont watch many, and most people I know dont understand how its possible I did not like BSG, so just because something is loved by the masses does not mean its going to be my thing). My nerves are fragile and I can only take so much, but for some reason ‘The Americans’ works for me, and I think it has everything to do with how strong the main characters are. I keep finding myself sitting on the couch asking myself if it is ok that I keep rooting for the Russian spies to win. But thats what I love about it. It takes the concept of good guys vs bad guys and shows you that its all just a bunch of guys (to paraphrase one of my fav obscure movie quotes). No matter what Country you swear loyalty to, we are all human beings with similar needs and desires. I know this show is only going to get more intense as it goes, but I am pretty confident from what I have seen so far that they arent going to lose that human element.

    And I love that fangirl Thursdays gave you an outlet for your feelings! Happy 500th post Katie! You are a writing (and feels) machine.

    • There really is so much good TV happening right now. I have no idea how I’m going to balance all of my shows, especially once March/April rolls around (adding GoT, Orphan Black, and new OUAT episodes to my already crowded schedule!). Catching up with Suits and starting Agent Carter are both excellent choices, by the way.

      I’m also beyond thrilled to hear that you’re already so far into S1 of The Americans and that you’re liking it! When it comes to TV dramas, I’m very picky, too. I crave relatable characters, so I’ve tended to shy away from this wave of “anti-hero” driven dramas that are so critically acclaimed. (I’ve never seen Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, or Mad Men, despite knowing that I “should.”) Like you, I think what sucked me into The Americans from the beginning and what’s kept me hooked is that all of these characters have some basic humanity to them. They all have a deep ability to care for something or someone, and I very strongly relate to that.

      And as someone who just watched Episode 5 of Season Two, I can safely say that the show doesn’t just hold on to its human element; it gets perhaps even stronger as the series goes on (especially with Elizabeth). The action (while awesome) always seems secondary to the characters and their relationships, which is how I like my TV.

      • Shauna for as good as season 1 was, season 2 was stronger which almost never happens. It really just leans into the shows strengths in Russell and Rhys and draws great parallels with other character relationships.

        And Katie – I am with you on the anit-hero run of characters. I never liked the Sopranos and quickly abandoned Breaking Bad and Mad Men shortly into their 2nd seasons.

  4. First and foremost — HAPPY 500th! So awesome! And how appropriate that it fall on a Fangirl Thursday. As you know I am thoroughly enjoying your trip down this particular rabbit hole and it just makes me ridiculously eager for your to catch up so we will be watching S3 together in group gasping mode. Also because I need people to talk to about Stan and Nina parallels.

    However, I have to say I am UNBELIEVABLY thrilled that you received Eli Stone from Heather. My love of that show knows no bounds and I can’t wait for you to start it.

    As for me, my flu barred winter break included an intense, bizarre marathon. I finally started Gilmore girls and quickly devoured season 1. Feeling daunted by the six seasons that remained I found a fantastic recommendation of ‘Essential Gilmore’ that gave me an additional 15 episodes that gave me the full depth of this great show. As you know, I am a suck for parenting dynamics. So this show truly was built for me. I also have an entire group of friends for whom Lorelai Gilmore is their spirit animal. For me the relationship that is so profoundly real is that of Lorelai and her mother. I suspect that is in great credit due to the fabulousness of Kelly Bishop and her devastatingly complex and wonderful Emily. I spend a lot of the time watching processing my emotions as a parent and a daughter sitting in that strange in between. I also wonder more than once an episode what the show would have meant to me had I watched it during it’s original run when I was 27 as opposed to now at 42. It’s a compelling array of emotions that may or may not have included a fair share of ugly crying.

    That said, the most stunning revelation of the winter was my negating my zombie free living. In the fever haze of my flu I lost track of the remote and with no energy to get up and look for it I stumbled into the New Years marathon of The Walking Dead. A casual sit down turned into a five day saga of 4 1/2 seasons of power watching so that like you I am caught up for it’s return the first week of February. Once I was able to get past the gross factor of the zombies I discovered an amazing post apocalyptic saga and struggle for humanity that reminded me immediately of LOST and whose characters are unique, compelling and utterly surprising. I am reminded of 24 or Game of Thrones in the shows ability to shock and reveal and at the end of the day how this band of survivors evolves into a family. Watching the evolution of shock and gripping for survival to adapting and living in a new world that requires you to redefine hope makes for great television. I get why people are obsessed with it and I am all in on these characters. There is such fantastic nuance in this latter two seasons for the characters ability to adapt and adjust as opposed to looking for a solution that will save them all as they did in seasons 1 and 2. I still sometimes fastforward through some of the zombie pieces because my threshold for horror/grotesque is limited. But the show that is underneath I have discovered is a pure gem.

    • First of all, thank you! I’m also so excited to watch S3 of The Americans with everyone as it’s airing. I also have a billion feelings about Stan and Nina (and Oleg), but I don’t want to talk too much about it because I know so much has yet to unfold at the point I’m at in my watching (starting Ep 6 tonight!).

      I loved reading your Gilmore Girls thoughts for many reasons, but especially because I always loved Lorelai and Emily’s relationship, too. Emily Gilmore is one of my favorite TV characters of all time, and so much of that comes from the depth Kelly Bishop brought to that performance. There’s such fierce strength to her, but also such beautiful moments of vulnerability and love. And her relationship with her daughter is so complex that I get something new out of their scenes each time I rewatch an episode.

      And I might need to re-think my “never” stance on The Walking Dead after reading about how much you’re enjoying it. I was always so turned off by the zombie aspect because I don’t like gore or overly scary stuff (I’m a total baby about that stuff.). But maybe I should give it a chance.

      • See, chalk it up to another kindred spirit moment – Emily Gilmore and all of her gloriously flawed, fiercely loyally loving self! I am enjoying going back at a slower pace but feel like those nearly 40 episodes I’ve watched really gave me a sense of the characters and their journeys.

        As for The Walking Dead — I can clearly see were it isn’t for everyone. The zombies are incredibly creepy and ever present. The make up people are simply off the charts. That said, I think the violence is on par with Game of Thrones. The scary stuff is there, and as I said, I have skipped past fight sequences (thank you Netflix) when I wasn’t up for the gore of it. Some sequences with the zombies are pivotal to the plot and they are pretty self evident. I feel like the scare factor of the zombies is prominent in season 1 and 2. Season 3 pivots a bit on the zombie factor. It’s a violent season but clearly where the show pivoted out of the people being shock from the apocalypse and trying to figure out how to live within it. THAT’s for me when the series really becomes interesting because it is very Lord of the Flies of establishing tribes and redefining morality and civilization when you live in a constant state of survival. The question of living vs. surviving is a running theme as is the defining of family and loyalty and what earns you each. So much on these issues is interesting that the zombies have really fallen to the back drop. It very much keeps with the transition of the new world reality. They exist, it’s like a parallel to the reality that 9/11 forced us as a society to live in the reality that terrorism exists in our world when the US had been pretty isolated from it because of geography over the course of history. So yes, no one is more surprised than me about my adoration for this show, but it is truly SO much more than the sum of its parts.

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