About Katie

I'm a writer and editor; a dancer and choreographer; and a passionate fan of more things than is probably healthy. I love film, literature, television, sports, fashion, and music. I'm proud to be a Nerdy Girl.

NGN’s Best of 2017: Reasons to Hope

the good place

Source: avclub.com

One woman, standing in the middle of no man’s land with only a shield and an unshakeable sense of purpose, drawing all the fire to protect those who cannot fight for themselves.

One woman, staring down certain death with steel in her eyes, deciding to sacrifice herself to save the people and the cause she believes in with everything she has.

Two sisters, coming together despite their differences, finally executing the man who caused them, their family, and their home so much loss.

A mother and daughter, training together in a garage, learning what it means to never feel like a victim again.

A team, finding their strengths in the wrestling ring, using their bodies for themselves and not for anyone else.

A group of mothers, putting aside the things they believed divided them, acting as a force of nature to make sure an abuser never lays a hand on his victims again.

When I looked back on my favorite media moments of the year, one theme emerged loud and clear: This was a year that so many pieces of media—from prestige TV dramas to big-budget blockbusters—let women be their own heroes. This was the year that women teamed up, fought back, and found strength in themselves and in their relationships with one another.

This was the year female characters said “No more.” No more pushing us to the background. No more telling us people don’t care about our stories because of our gender, our race, our sexuality, or our age. No more trying to divide us or painting us as each other’s enemies. No more abuse. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was also the year more women than ever before started to say “No more” in real life, too.

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Hope and Heroism in The Last Jedi

last jedi poster

Source: StarWars.com

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED WITH CAUTION! 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is many things. It’s surprising. It’s emotional. It’s visually stunning. It’s challenging. And at its heart, it’s deeply, profoundly, and unashamedly hopeful.

Star Wars has always been a story about hope—who embodies it, how it spreads, and what happens to those who lose it. In this way, it’s perhaps our most cherished piece of uniquely American mythology. For generations now, people have seen reflections of our collective national fears and aspirations in this saga, and they’ve found hope in this story that has now been passed on for more than 40 years. And that’s what myths are. They’re the stories we tell ourselves to get through the darkest nights, to inspire us to keep going, and to help us believe that heroes exist and maybe even exist inside of us.

In the eyes of some people, The Last Jedi takes that mythology and smashes it—making heroes fall and hope shrink. However, those eyes are trained on the past, and The Last Jedi is a story about the past giving way to the future and old heroes passing the torch to new ones. It doesn’t destroy the Star Wars mythology that’s been passed down since 1977; it expands it. And in doing so, it provides us with a new message of hope that is deeply important for the world we’re living in:

You don’t have to look like a traditional hero to be a hero. You don’t have to be born into greatness to do great things. Your worth isn’t determined by other people’s expectations; every person has value, and everyone’s journey can be a hero’s journey.

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NGN’s Best of 2017: TV Performances

nicolekidman

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—the time when we look back on all the great media we consumed during the last 12 months and talk about our favorites! These Best of the Year lists have been a part of NGN since our earliest days, and they’ve always served as a way to start great conversations about the TV shows we love and provide recommendations to fellow fans. (Comments on these lists were actually the reason I started watching The Americans a few years ago!) So please share your own lists and your thoughts on my picks in the comments. This has been a crazy year, and I’ve missed all our discussions about great TV more than I can say, so before 2017 is done, let’s get back to what’s always made NGN so fun—conversations with each other about the media that means the most to us.

Today, I’ll be sharing my picks for my favorite performances on television in 2017. It was a fantastic year for actors on the small screen, which made this list wonderfully challenging to compile. As I’ve been doing in recent years, I limited myself to only one actor from a particular show, or else I probably would have picked some entire casts. Don’t forget to tell me who turned in your favorite work on television this year in the comments, and for more year-end fun, check out the lists over at TVexamined and Marvelous Geek Circles!

1. Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright (Big Little Lies)
Big Little Lies was the show that challenged my “one actor per show” rule the most, but when it came down to choosing just one member of this extraordinary ensemble, there was ultimately no question that it would be Kidman. Her performance was heartbreaking in its vulnerability; the physical and emotional trauma Celeste went through was depicted with unflinching realism, and such a harrowing portrayal of the complexities of life in an abusive relationship required an actress who isn’t afraid to go to dark places and take the audience there with her. Kidman is exactly that kind of actress, putting her whole body into this performance—not just in the horrifying scenes of abuse but in the way she made her statuesque body seem small and fragile throughout the series, as if she was curling in on herself in a constant state of fear. Kidman’s gift for nuance was used to brilliant effect, as so much of who Celeste is exists under her picture-perfect surface. In those moments when Kidman let the façade slip momentarily (like when Celeste reveals to Jane that sometimes little boys who bully little girls don’t grow out of it), the quiet force of her performance left me breathless. I watched Big Little Lies months ago, and I still feel haunted by Kidman’s performance. It got under my skin and has refused to let go of my mind and heart, which is when you know an actor did something extraordinary.

2. Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans)
The fact that Russell still doesn’t have an Emmy for this role is criminal. (You have one more chance, Emmy voters! Don’t screw it up.) This season more than any other pushed Elizabeth in new directions emotionally, and Russell made the new layers added to this character feel believable, which is no small feat for a character who has always been defined by her lack of overt emotion. Of course, she was just as fierce as ever, but Russell was also able to show a gentler side of Elizabeth, deepening the character in complex new ways. The things Russell can do with just her eyes, her smile, and her body language never fail to astound me. So much of what makes this show work is the fact that it can go for long stretches without dialogue because its cast is so good at making quiet beats living, breathing moments, and it all starts with Russell. Every emotion seems to radiate just under her skin—just restrained enough to remind us that this is a woman who plays things so close to the vest it almost hurts to watch her struggle to find the words to show her husband or children the truth of how she feels. This was the season in which Elizabeth Jennings allowed herself to love someone enough to put their needs above the cause—with all the joy and pain that comes with it—and Russell made that journey breathtaking from start to finish.

3. Ted Danson as Michael (The Good Place)
The Good Place has an incredible cast, but the reason its many twists and turns have worked as well as they have (and they work SO WELL) is because of Danson. He gave Michael just the right amount of anxious energy in Season One to make us initially care about this bumbling architect, but his entire performance (and the entirety of the show’s plot) hinged on one moment: that laugh. If you’ve seen the show, you know what I’m talking about. That devious, gleefully evil laugh turned what was an entertaining performance into something so much bigger and bolder—a performance that becomes even better when watched again with the knowledge of the truth. And that performance only got more entertaining in Season Two, as Danson was able to let Michael’s annoyance with the characters around him drive his scenes to great comedic effect. But it wasn’t until we were able to see that Michael has a heart buried under all his evil plans when faced with the possibility of “killing” Janet that the full range of Danson’s skills as an actor were utilized. Danson’s career is already legendary, and after this year, that legend has added another fantastic chapter.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: A Terrific Trio

It’s been a while since I’ve written from a dancer’s/choreographer’s perspective on here, and I’ve missed it. Few things in my life bring me more joy than combining my two passions: dance and writing. I knew it was only a matter of time before this season of Dancing with the Stars made its way into one of these posts—it’s been a phenomenal season with one of the most talented and charismatic casts in recent memory. I just needed the perfect routine to inspire me.

And then two Disney Channel boys teamed up with a creative choreographer, and I had no doubt what I was going to write about this week.

I dare you to watch that without dancing in your seat and smiling from ear to ear. It’s impossible. The joy this combination of dancers—Corbin Bleu, Lindsay Arnold, and Jordan Fisher—radiates is infectious, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen people look like they’re having more fun on the Dancing with the Stars dance floor.

I know it’s a weird thing to say, but this routine made me cry the first time I watched it. There’s something moving and magical about watching people having so much fun doing what they love. The joy of performing is something I’ve never been able to accurately describe, so I love those rare moments when I can point to a performance and say, “That’s it. That’s what it feels like.” This was one of those moments. It brought me back to my days as a competitive dancer, stepping onstage to perform a routine you’re 100% confident in with people you love dancing with. Every so often as a dancer, you’re part of a routine you know is special from Day One, and when you know you’re performing it well on the biggest stage, everything about you radiates happiness: your body language, your facial expressions, the sharpness of your movements, your eye contact with your audience…You can tell when a dancer knows they’re on, and I’ve never seen three people on this show as on as these three were in this routine.

I could go on and on about the technical brilliance of this trio—the way Lindsay’s choreography flowed and seamlessly utilized everyone’s strengths, the tricks, the rhythms—but what made this dance were the smiles all three dancers had the whole time. Dancing has always made me happier than anything else—yes, even happier than writing—and it warms my heart whenever I get to see other people find joy in it, too, and project that joy for everyone watching.

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

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: A Romantic Reunion

My love for a good love story is well documented around these parts. And there is no more sweeping love story on television than Jamie and Claire’s epic Outlander romance. Every chapter in their story feels cinematic, so I was thrilled when it was announced that their long-awaited reunion episode, “A. Malcolm,” would be almost feature-length (74 minutes, and I could have watched another 74). Their farewell in last season’s finale was one of my favorite TV moments of 2016, so it was safe to say my expectations for their return to one another were high. But even the (probably too many) hours I spent imagining how the show would depict their famous “print shop” reunion could never have prepared me for how wonderful it would be to see Jamie and Claire—and Sam Hueghan and Caitriona Balfe—together again.

The chemistry between Hueghan and Balfe is something special, and sometimes you have to go without it for a while in order to fully appreciate how much it elevates the already beautiful story they’re telling. “A. Malcolm” asked them to do a lot of heavy lifting—imagine how cheesy some of those lines could have sounded coming from anyone other than Hueghan or how long some of those silent beats could have felt without all the emotions we see so clearly in Balfe’s eyes. And one of the hardest things they had to do in this episode was play this reunion as realistic rather than pure wish-fulfillment. Obviously, both the audience and the characters end up quite satisfied with their return to one another, but it’s not all smooth sailing. There were awkward moments, shy glances, secrets told and some still kept, doubts, anxieties, insecurities, bumped heads, and many other complications that needed to be shown beyond pure relief, joy, and passion, and Balfe and Hueghan gave us a true sense of the roller coaster of emotions these characters were on. It would have been easy to play this reunion as a one-note explosion of passion and longing, but that wouldn’t have felt real. Instead, by infusing this reunion with an honest sense of hesitation, they made it even more beautiful because it was believable.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: A Perfect Proposal

It’s finally back! I apologize for the delay, friends, but everyone’s favorite celebration of the best of the week in television has returned here at NGN—and with a slightly new look. Instead of titling it with the days the post will be covering, I’m now leading with a hint at what the choice will be. And as you’ll see as you keep reading, I decided the scrap the little weekly rundown of TV shows to just get to the best of the best. I hope you enjoy—and that you share your favorite moments with us each week in the comments! This has always been one of my favorite features to write and read your responses to here at NGN, so no matter how busy the rest of my life gets, I’m excited to get back to sharing this special part of my Sundays with all of you! 

There’s nothing like a great television proposal.

From Ben and Leslie to Emma and Killian, I’ve written about some beautiful proposals over the years here at NGN, so when another one happened this week on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, there was no way I could keep myself from writing about it.

There was so much to love about “HalloVeen” even before its genuinely surprising ending (everyone joking about Jake in prison, the Tramps, Andre Braugher’s perfect delivery of “This bitch?!,” Jake getting a lot of enjoyment out of Amy being mean to him, Terry eating all those GPS trackers, etc.), but let’s cut to the chase: Jake and Amy got engaged, and it was perfect.

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A Happy Beginning: A (New) Letter to Emma Swan

I know I’ve already written one of these, but so much has happened in both Emma’s journey and mine since I wrote my first letter to her that I needed to write something new. This is also felt like the right way to say goodbye to a character who has meant so much to me. If you’re interested in writing a letter like this one to a female character who’s inspired you, this post has all the details about The Fan Mail Project! And if you’ve already written a letter to Emma (or any other character) but want to change any part of it, you can always send me an edited version at nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com!

once-upon-time601

Source: ibtimes.com

Dear Emma,

As I watched you and your husband step toward a portal to return home to live a happy life with your growing family, it hit me…

This might be the last thing I ever write about you.

I’ve written thousands of words about you over some of the most tumultuous years of my 20s, and as I approach this last post, I keep thinking about what could possibly sum up the journey we’ve been on together for more than half a decade.

When I started writing about your story, my entire life changed. I wrote things that reflected parts of myself I never imagined showing to the world. As I wrote about your discovery that there is bravery in vulnerability, I became a more vulnerable writer because I wanted to be brave like you. As I wrote about your story, I began to write my own story.

I found myself as I wrote about you finding yourself.

Needless to say, it’s a little intimidating to think of how I can put all that into a proper tribute. But because you taught me that opening your heart is the most heroic thing you can do, I’m going to try.

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What Are You Watching? Fall 2017 Edition

Even though we’re in the midst of a crazy heat wave here in Western New York, it’s still the official first day of fall. And although I love all the same cliche things about the season as everyone else—the pumpkin spice lattes, the clothes, the apple cider—my favorite thing about fall is that it brings some much-needed renewal to my fangirl soul. My favorite sports (football and hockey) are back, the fall movie season begins with blockbusters mixed in with early Oscar contenders, and, of course, new television shows and seasons are found everywhere you look.

The return of this most wonderful time of the year means the return of our longest-running feature here at NGN. Whether this is your first time visiting this post or your sixth (Time flies when you’re writing about good TV!), very little has changed. Below you’ll find my fall TV viewing schedule with premiere dates (or next episode dates for shows that returned early), times, and networks included to help make your scheduling easier. And as always, new pilots I’m checking out will be highlighted in pink (because of course they will be). I’m also going to stick to scripted shows and leave out reality TV and variety shows because there’s just too many of those to keep track of!

After you finish perusing my picks, tell me what your fall in TV Land looks like in the comments. I always love comparing viewing schedules with my fellow fans!

Monday
The Gifted (9 p.m. on FOX)
The X-Men were my first favorite group of superheroes (I learned all about them from my comics-loving cousins as a kid.), so media about mutants and young people with special powers will always be a kind of catnip for me. For being someone who adores superhero movies, I haven’t found a ride-or-die superhero show yet (especially after The Flash disappointed me in Seasons 2 and 3), so I’m trying a couple of new ones this season and hoping one will stick. This one looks like it has a great cast (Amy Acker!) and an intriguing premise (What happened to the X-Men?), which might finally be enough to satisfy my superhero-loving heart.
Series Premiere October 2

Tuesday
black-ish (9 p.m. on ABC)
This is one of the returning shows I’m most excited about. The way this incredible cast blends humor, real conversations about real issues, and just enough sincerity to tug at your heartstrings is unlike anything else on television, and I can’t wait to see where this next season takes one of my favorite TV families.
Season Premiere October 3

This Is Us (9 p.m. on NBC)
I’ve stocked up on plenty of tissues in preparation for this season premiere. Although I’m ready to put the focus on Jack’s death behind us (the uncertainty surrounding it made me incredibly anxious last season) and I know the show is certainly not, I’m still looking forward to seeing what this incredible cast brings to the table every week. With two-time Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown leading the way, my emotions are certainly going to get a workout.
Season Premiere September 26

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (9:30 p.m. on FOX)
I feel like I start every season of this show wondering how the writers are going to work their way out of the corner they backed their characters into, and they have yet to disappoint me in how they do it. In fact, I have loved every season opener of this show, and I expect this premiere to be no different. The Nine-Nine has been my TV “happy place” for years now, and I’m read to be back there among one of the funniest casts on television and a writing crew who has managed to outdo their own brilliance year after year.
Season Premiere September 26

The Mayor (9:30 p.m. on ABC)
This is the new show I’m most looking forward to trying out this season. First and foremost, my love for Lea Michele and the characters she plays is well-documented around these parts, so even though I still wish she’d return to Broadway, I’m excited to see what she does in this role. But even more than my support of former Glee cast members, what drew me to this show was the heart the trailer showed. This seems like more than a satire; it seems like a show about someone who learns to become a part of something bigger than themselves, which is my favorite kind of story. There’s a real story to be told here about neglected communities, civic engagement, and what it takes to make real change—and I’m hopeful that this show will be brave enough to tell those stories with laughter and love.
Series Premiere October 3

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Nerdy Girl Predicts: The 2017 Emmy Awards

62nd Primetime Emmy Awards - Audience

(Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

My relationship with the Emmys has always been complicated. I can still feel the bitter sting of teenage years spent waiting for the day Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber would be recognized for their work on Alias, the bitter sting that happened all over again every year Amy Poehler was passed over for Parks and Recreation. Every year, I rant about the unfair snubs (RITA MORENO! THE AMERICANS FOR BEST DRAMA!), and every year I find myself praying for a rule change that says you can only win one time for playing a role.

With all that being said, I can also still feel the joy of young adult years spent watching wins for LOST and Grey’s Anatomy, joy that was echoed last year when The People vs. O.J. Simpson took home so many well-deserved awards. And every year, my anger at certain snubs is balanced out by joy over some pleasant surprises. (I literally leapt off my couch in excitement last year when Kate McKinnon won.)

No matter how you feel about who ultimately ends up with nominations and wins, the Emmys are a night for those of us long-time TV nerds to enjoy getting to see our favorites in the spotlight. It’s a celebration of a medium that has given me so much over the years, and I’ll always be thankful for times when I get to reflect on just how much good TV there is in the world right now.

I love award shows. I love eating pizza on my couch in sweatpants while I look at gorgeous celebrities in designer gowns and tuxedos. I love seeing what clips they choose for nominees and yelling about what I would have chosen instead. And I love making my predictions and sharing them with you.

Below you’ll find my picks for most of the night’s major categories, and I’d love to read yours if you want to share them in the comments! And if you want to get in on the Emmy fun on Twitter, I’ll be live-tweeting the entire evening (including the red carpet) starting at 6 p.m. EST!

Outstanding Drama Series
My Pick: The Handmaid’s Tale
My Thoughts: This is a category that could go in so many different directions depending on what Emmy voters want to honor—buzz (Stranger Things), popularity and bringing strong storytelling back to network TV (This Is Us), complexity (Westworld), beautiful period pieces (The Crown), or unflinching political statements (The Handmaid’s Tale). I might want to change my pick based on how the rest of the evening goes, but I think the timeliness and fearlessness of The Handmaid’s Tale will push it over the edge. And not only is it an important piece of drama in our current political climate, it’s a great television show—plain and simple. Its performances are incredible, its cinematography and direction make every episode feel like a movie, and it did a phenomenal job of adapting a beloved piece of literature into a bold and brilliant drama.

Outstanding Comedy Series
My Pick: Atlanta
My Thoughts: Although I haven’t had enough time to watch Atlanta yet, I can’t see Emmy voters looking past its fresh point of view and smart execution. Everything I’ve heard about the show makes me think it’s a breath of fresh air, and I’m hopeful that Emmy voters will give new voices the praise they’re rightly due this year. Out of the shows I’ve seen, I would be thrilled if black-ish won, but I won’t be upset at all if (and most likely when) Atlanta takes home the victory instead.

Outstanding Limited Series
My Pick: Big Little Lies
My Thoughts: Big Little Lies was the best thing I’ve watched on television so far this year. Every single episode left me breathless, and it struck the perfect balance between making me laugh, making me sob, and making me so physically upset and anxious that I could feel my entire body shaking during certain scenes. The cast was filled with A-list stars bringing their A-games. And what struck me the most while I was watching it—and what I hope Emmy voters recognize—is that this told a story about women as we really are, and that’s not something shown on television very often. These women were trauma survivors and moms and no-nonsense bosses in the boardroom (sometimes all three at one time), women with careers and women who gave up their careers, women who are fierce and flawed and who love and hate deeply. No two women on this show are the same—there are no tropes, stereotypes, or one-note characters among them. Instead, this show aims to go beyond the surface to reveal that every woman has her own story. Big Little Lies is a show about the power of women—women who might be completely different but who will fight like hell for each other when they sense a threat to one of their own—and that focus on telling the truth about the strength of women and the complexity of our relationships with each other made for the most powerful and poignant story told on television in 2017.

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Game of Thrones Season Finale Roundtable: Part 4

game-of-thrones-the-dragon-and-the-wolf-02

Source: time.com

After a week of fun discussion, it’s time for the conclusion of our Game of Thrones roundtable! For those who need a quick recap, this exciting exercise has featured a collection of supercool fangirls sharing their thoughts on “The Dragon and the Wolf,” with segments dedicated to the Dragon Pit summit, the show’s various relationships, and the best moments and performances.

Now, let’s wrap this thing up and start looking toward the coming winter!

Before we go our separate ways, “The Dragon and the Wolf” ended a season that had everyone talking—even more than usual. What were your feelings on this season and on the way this episode closed it?
Katie: This was the first season of Game of Thrones I’ve watched live from premiere to finale since Season 4, and I was honestly happy that I came back after how this season ended. It had its fair share of bothersome moments (the Arya/Sansa tension, Cersei’s pregnancy, the plot holes and logical flaws in the timeline, the general lack of Brienne), but it also had some incredible moments that will rank among my favorites when the whole show is done (Arya/Brienne sparring, Jon and Daenerys holding hands on the ship, Tyrion and Varys talking about the leaders they’ve served, the first dragon attack on the Lannister forces, etc.). After a lot of thought, I’ve come to appreciate this season as a place-setting season. It got the characters where they needed to be physically and emotionally for the final battles to come, but it didn’t always do so in the most graceful way. However, I do like where most of the characters found themselves at the end of this season in terms of the stories set up for the final six episodes, so as a penultimate season, I think it did its main job—preparing us for the end—really well.

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