“I Want It to Be Real”: The Best of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings

The Americans 3.10

Source: spoilertv.com

The Americans is a show about a lot of things: Cold War politics, international espionage, bureaucracy, ideological conflicts, and, of course, WIGS. But at its heart, it’s a show about marriage. It’s a show about trust, intimacy, honesty, and what it means to be truly seen in a world where we all are wearing some form of disguise more often than not. And that’s what’s made it stand out in both the sea of spy shows that have developed into their own genre over the years as well as the sea of antihero-driven dramas that have emerged in this Golden Age of Television. Instead of being focused on missions of the week or the internal struggles and dark deeds of one (usually male) character, the show has always been a kind of love story—a story that first and foremost cares about a husband and wife and how the world around them affects their union, and vice versa. From the pilot onward, the relationship between Philip and Elizabeth Jennings has always been the show’s driving force and its emotional core, and it seems that after a season of separation and tension, that relationship is poised to be at the center of what’s sure to be an emotional series finale.

My love for Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage is well-documented around these parts. It’s what initially drew me to the show, and it’s what’s kept my viewing experience from ever becoming too bleak. Even when bodies were being shoved in suitcases and throats were being slashed, one look from husband to wife had the ability to fill my heart with hope that even in the worst circumstances, something beautiful can be built. Even in a world of lies, something honest can exist between two people.

That’s why—despite the murder and the blackmail and the sex with other people—The Americans is the piece of fiction that I think best explains why people get married, why someone would choose to commit to another person for their rest of their life. And it’s because being married means having a partner. Even if your life doesn’t involve chopping up bodies in parking garages, it probably will involve raising kids and balancing careers and making big decisions in the same way Philip and Elizabeth have learned to do, and it’s nice to know you don’t have to do those things alone. And even if you don’t have to lie for a living, we all hide parts of ourselves from the world—but as Philip and Elizabeth have shown us, being married means finding the one person you can be your true self with. It means finding the one person who understands you better than anyone else, the one person you can be honest with, and the one person you know has your back when it feels like the world is against you. Even though there have been times when Philip and Elizabeth have struggled to be those things for each other, they always come home in the end. And that’s what marriage is more than anything else—it’s home. It’s the person who you stand beside when the rest of the world is falling apart around you, and that’s who Philip and Elizabeth have become for each other.

The journey Philip and Elizabeth have gone on—from strangers to fake married coworkers to co-parents to falling in love to getting married for real and all the stops, starts, and separations in between—has made for one of the most compelling relationship explorations I’ve ever seen in a piece of fiction. Brought to life through the incredible talents and heart-stopping chemistry of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (whose own working relationship turned into a real-life romantic partnership thanks to this show), Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are something special. As such, I wanted to celebrate the end of their journey (in whatever way it may end tomorrow) with a look back at their best moments.

These are the scenes, lines, and looks that I always come back to when I think of why The Americans told one of the most subtly affecting love stories of this Peak TV period. There were so many great moments between them that it felt nearly impossible to cut it to just 10. I hope you share your own favorites in the comments so we can keep the discussion going!

1. Elizabeth lets Philip in (1.01: Pilot) 
I can trace my love for The Americans back to one specific moment from the show’s pilot: Philip’s voice cracking when asking Elizabeth how Timoshev hurt her and then him killing her rapist with his bare hands as she watched, completely transfixed. In that moment, both the audience and Elizabeth had to confront an essential truth of Philip’s character: Elizabeth always comes first. He will give up everything for her, and he will choose her and her needs over himself and his needs every time. And once Elizabeth finally let herself believe that someone had her back and truly cared about her, everything changed. It led to the perfect “In the Air Tonight” love scene, but even more importantly, it led to Elizabeth breaking the rules by telling Philip about her past and revealing her real name. That simple act of emotional intimacy, punctuated by the most adoring look I’ve ever seen in Philip’s eyes as she intertwined their fingers, showed that Elizabeth had found something more important than her orders to keep her true self hidden; she’d found someone who would love that true self.

Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

That’s When the Fun Begins: The Best of Captain Swan

good form

Is there anything more magical than a wedding? On Sunday, Emma Swan and Killian Jones are finally tying the knot during Once Upon a Time’s musical episode extravaganza, and to prepare for their walk down the aisle, I thought it was the perfect occasion to take a walk down memory lane, reliving our favorite moments in their fairytale romance.

There’s never been a love story on television like Emma and Killian’s. From the very start, it’s been the perfect blend of sweeping fairytale and relatable realism. This pirate and princess have taken us on a journey that’s spanned years and realms; have found each other through lost memories, alternate realities, and a ridiculous number of curses; and have gone to the Underworld and back again for each other. Along the way, they’ve struggled with their own demons, fears, and emotional walls—forces of darkness just as strong as any villain they’ve ever faced—but they’ve emerged from those battles stronger as individuals and as partners.

Killian and Emma have proven their True Love many times—sacrificing for each other, choosing each other, fighting for each other, supporting each other, and making each other happy when they thought happiness might not be in the cards for them anymore. They’ve given each other hope, and in the process, they’ve given hope to so many people watching.

So before the next chapter in this love story begins, let’s take a look back at my 10 favorite moments along the way—from Never Land to the Underworld and from time-traveling adventures to breakfast table kisses. Don’t forget to share your favorites in the comments!

1. “Perhaps I would…” (3.02: Lost Girl)
There’s a moment in every “shipper’s” life when you go from liking the idea of a pairing and thinking they have good chemistry to being completely sold on what this relationship could be, and this moment of startling sincerity from Killian Jones was that moment for me. I appreciated Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison’s chemistry and could see the potential in pairing their two character together as far back as “Tallahassee,” but this was the moment I went all in. The way the scene shifted from playful and flirtatious to suddenly sincere stopped me in my tracks, and it made me realize that what Emma Swan truly deserved in a partner was exactly what Killian Jones was offering her in that moment (and would continue to offer her from them on): someone who would love her for everything she is and would patiently wait for her to let him see the true Emma behind her armor.

Continue reading

10 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Pitch

pitch_poster

Source: hollywoodreporter.com

This has been an excellent year for rookie television shows looking to make their mark right away. And in this strong crop of first-season shows, it might be easy for a good one to slip through the cracks.

Pitch is one of the good ones. FOX’s drama about the first woman to play for Major League Baseball (MLB) has been getting lost in the Thursday-night shuffle; it’s on a night that puts it in direct competition with NFL games and ABC’s monster TGIT lineup—not to mention actual MLB games at this time of year.

Luckily, Pitch is going on a one-week hiatus while FOX airs its version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show this Thursday night. That gives you plenty of time to watch the first four episodes (which are all available on Hulu or FOX’s website) before the next one airs October 27 at 9 p.m. I know there is a lot of television to watch nowadays, but Pitch is something special. It was one of the shows I was most looking forward to watching this season, and it has so far surpassed all my expectations to become one of the new shows I’m happiest to recommend to anyone who will listen. So whether you’re a diehard sports fan or someone who doesn’t know a screwball from a screwdriver, here are 10 reasons you should give Pitch a chance to work its way into your heart—and your TV schedule.

1. There’s nothing else like it on television.
Sometimes flipping through TV channels or scrolling on streaming services can feel repetitive: procedurals, superhero shows, “tough guy/girl with a heart of gold” dramas, comedies about dysfunctional but loving families…But Pitch is something totally new. It’s a show about a woman doing something that’s never been done before, and, as such, it’s something we’ve never seen on television before. From the diversity of its cast to the topics it tackles to the realism that comes from its partnership with the MLB, Pitch is something truly unique.

2. It’ll remind you why you love sports…
Pitch realistically presents problems professional athletes have—the way their bodies break down; the way they are often at the mercy of groups of rich, old, white people who could trade them or fire them any day; the sacrifices they make for the game when it comes to their personal relationships—but it never loses sight of the fact that there is something beautiful and mythic about sports, especially baseball. To love baseball is to appreciate it as part of a uniquely American mythology, so Ginny Baker is more than just a baseball player to those who watch the show and love the sport; she’s a mythic hero. It’s impossible to watch her record her first strikeout without getting goosebumps and remembering why you first fell in love with sports and all the hope and excitement wrapped up in sports fandom. The details of the game are fun to notice in each episode, but what really makes Pitch a treat for sports fans is the way it gets to the emotional core of why we love the games we love—because they give us heroes, they remind us to dream big, and they make us feel like we can be part of something special.

3. …But it still has a lot to love if sports aren’t your thing.
If you don’t like sports, Pitch may not seem like the show for you, but that’s where you’re wrong. The great thing about sports movies and television shows is that they remind us that the thrill of victory and agony of defeat are universal concepts; you don’t have to be an athlete or even a sports fan to know how great it feels to achieve a dream, how painful it is to fail, or how much fun it is to be part of a team. Pitch is about more than just baseball; it’s about the triumphs and tragedies that transcend sports. It’s about what it means to be a woman in a world where everyone wants a say in your life. It’s about getting older and being afraid of an uncertain future. And it’s about relationships—old ones that made us who we are and new ones that show us who we can become. You don’t have to care about Ginny’s ERA (or even know what an ERA is) to care about her story.

4. You’ll fall in love with Ginny Baker.
If you’re looking for a new female character to admire and adore, look no further than Ginny Baker. In order for Pitch to work, Ginny had to be a character audiences could instantly love, and I think it’s physically impossible not be utterly captivated by Kylie Bunbury. But what’s especially great about Ginny—especially considering the show is only four episodes old—is that she’s not just a one-note, “strong female character.” She is incredibly complex. In the pilot, she described herself as “a robot in cleats, and I’m malfunctioning” (with heartbreaking desperation by Bunbury), and that one line had me hooked; I had to know more about her. And I have loved seeing every layer exposed so far: the pitcher who just wants to play ball, the public figure who speaks out about rape on national television, the daughter forced to choose between two parents (and between her dreams and a normal life), the face of a brand who has to carefully control everything about herself—from what she says to who she loves, and the young woman who dances with abandon to her favorite songs and smiles from ear to ear when her catcher makes her laugh. Ginny feels like a real woman already, and that’s what makes her story even more inspirational.

Continue reading

What Are You Watching? Fall 2016 Edition

To me, fall has always felt like a season of new beginnings—from first days of school to season premieres of favorite television shows. The long hiatuses are finally over, and we can finally reconnect with our favorite stories and characters as if they were friends from school we’d missed during summer break. And there’s always the hope that a new show will come in to steal your heart just like a cute new kid walking in to your homeroom on the first day of class.

This is now my fifth of breaking down my list of must-watch season and series premieres to share with all of you, and it has continued to bring me joy year after year. This is NGN’s longest running feature, and I think it’s had staying power because it’s filled with the one thing that has kept this site going since the beginning: excitement. It’s been fun to see how this list has changed (and grown!) over the years, with shows that are now some of my favorites showing up as pilots I wanted to check out back when I first started this list. This year—with many of my favorite shows saying their goodbyes in the last couple of years and others not starting until the winter—I have a large number of new pilots I want to watch, and I’m hopeful that at least one of those will join the ranks of Nashville, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and black-ish as shows that started as possibilities on this list and have since stuck around on it for years.

To kick off our fifth TV season at NGN, here are the shows I’ll be watching this year, along with their season or series premiere dates. This doesn’t include reality TV shows like Dancing with the Stars or variety shows like Saturday Night Live. New pilots I’ll be checking out will be highlighted in pink. And don’t forget to share what you’ll be watching this season in the comments!

MONDAYS
Jane the Virgin (9 p.m. on The CW)
This show was one of my TV happy places last season. It always felt like coming home when I spent an hour with the Villanueva family. No matter what kind of crazy drama was happening, I always found myself laughing, crying, and often doing both in the same hour. After the intense cliffhanger that ended last season’s finale, I’ve been waiting all summer to see what’s next for Jane, Michael, Petra, and the rest of this amazing cast of characters.
Season Premiere October 17

Conviction (10 p.m. on ABC)
Part of me wants to be angry with this show, since the day it was announced was the day I knew Agent Carter was a goner, but once I saw the trailer, it was love at first sight. Shows featuring complex female characters who learn to let themselves care and become a part of something bigger than themselves are my ultimate weakness, and that’s exactly what this show seems to be about. Add in the fact that its supporting cast includes Merrin Dungey (who I’ve been a fan of for more than a decade) and it stars one of my favorite actors on television (Hayley Atwell), and there is no doubt that this is one of the new shows I’m most looking forward to adding to my viewing schedule.
Series Premiere October 3

Timeless (10 p.m. on NBC)
I have a soft spot for time travel, and the trailer for this show hooked me immediately by including World War II-era scenes, which has always been one of my favorite historical periods. This show seems like it could strike a great balance between action, drama, science fiction, and romance, and that is a winning combination in my book. Also, if the success of this show means the excellent Abigail Spencer won’t show up on Suits anymore to ruin my Donna/Harvery shipper dreams, then that’s even more of a reason to watch it.
Series Premiere October 3

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: Emmy Nomination Highs and Lows

62nd Primetime Emmy Awards - Audience

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

For TV fans, few days spark passionate discussion like Emmy Nomination Day. Especially during this time of “Peak TV,” there are so many good shows with so many great performances that the Emmy nominations provide the perfect vehicle to talk about why our favorite shows are deserving of awards—and why those who choose the nominees are either brilliant for agreeing with us or idiots for not seeing genius in the same place we see it.

On most Emmy nomination days, I find myself disappointed and angry about the same actors and shows being nominated year after year, leaving little room for fresh blood—and the shows and performances I love—to make the cut. This year, there is still plenty to be said about the stale taste of some nominations (We’re still nominating Modern Family and Homeland?), but there were more than a few new faces joining the party this time around. And that made today much more exciting than past Emmy Nomination Days. For once, my joy over who made the cut actually outweighs my frustration over who was snubbed.

Of course, that’s not to say there was nothing I would have done differently. There are still actors, shows, and entire networks I feel the Emmys are overlooking. But one very specific set of nominations today proved to me that even if the Emmys ignore a great show and its talented cast at first, they might eventually come around to seeing the light. So don’t lose hope, fellow TV fanatics. Next year might be the year your favorites finally break through.

Without further ado, here are my five favorite Emmy nominations announced today and five things that disappointed me about today’s Emmy news.

THE HIGHS

1. The Americans
FINALLY! It took four seasons, but the Emmys finally invited the best show on television to stand in the spotlight with not just one big nomination but a handful. Last year’s Outstanding Writing nomination was repeated; this time for “Persona Non Grata,” which featured one of the most beautiful and revelatory pieces of TV writing I’ve seen in William’s deathbed speech about the “absence of closeness.” And, of course, Beloved Character Actress Margo Martindale was nominated again. But I was pleasantly surprised to see those nominations joined by Best Actor, Actress, and Drama Series nominations. It’s about time the show itself was praised, but I’m most thrilled about Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s nominations. Both have been doing such great work since the show’s pilot, and I’m so happy that they are finally being recognized on the biggest stage for it. I think Russell turned in one of the most incredible season-long performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and more than any other category this year, hers is the one I can already feel myself investing the majority of my emotions in.

Continue reading

100 Episodes of Hope: Once Upon a Time’s Most Hopeful Moments

OUAT

“Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.”

Those words spoken by Mary Margaret Blanchard in the pilot episode of Once Upon a Time serve as the show’s mission statement. In a world that seems to be growing colder and more hopeless each day and in a media landscape that seems to be increasingly focused on antiheroes and darkness, Once Upon a Time proudly stands as a rare beacon of hope. For 99 episodes, it’s shown us that love is strength, that belief in others and in yourself can create magic, and that we all have the power be better than who we once were.

Once Upon a Time has helped its legions of passionate fans—myself included—believe in the possibility of a happy ending for ourselves. That will be this show’s legacy when all is said and done: the feelings of hope and happiness it inspired in those who watched it. And to celebrate the show’s 100th episode, which airs tomorrow night, I wanted to honor that legacy of hope and happiness by taking a look back at the show’s most hopeful moments—from the early days of Season One all the way through Episode 99.

1. Charming wakes up (1.03: Snow Falls)
“I will always find you.” Snow and Charming’s entire story is based on the hope that they will always find each other, that—no matter what dark forces separate them—they will always make their way back to each other. Not even the Dark Curse and a coma could keep them from each other, as we saw in one of the show’s best episodes, “Snow Falls.” As Snow read to a comatose Charming the story of how they fell in love (despite Snow having no idea it was their story she was telling), he grabbed her hand, proving that their love was once again strong enough to break through curses and bring them back to life. It wasn’t an easy road for Snow and Charming after he woke up, but that moment was a spark of hope that spoke to the power of True Love to do the impossible.

2. Henry wakes up (1.22: A Land Without Magic)
Emma breaking the Dark Curse with her True Love for her son remains Once Upon a Time’s defining moment. Not only did it teach us that romantic love isn’t the only true kind of love; it also taught us that even in the darkest moments, hope is not lost if there is love. Emma saved Henry not by fighting a dragon but by allowing herself to finally admit how much she loved him. By opening her heart to love—even when it meant incredible pain—Emma was able to break the curse that was cast on Henry and the curse that was cast on all of Storybrooke. This is the moment I always come back to whenever things look bleak on Once Upon a Time. It serves as my reminder that where there is love, there is hope.

Continue reading

NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Shows

The Americans finale

As we approach the end of 2015, I want to start off by saying that this year has given me so many wonderful memories as a writer. From sharing my NYCC experience with you to starting my book to writing perhaps my favorite post ever, I’ve grown so much as a writer and a woman this year, and I want to thank you all for being with me and supporting me on this journey. Also, I want to take this time to remind you that a great New Year’s resolution would be to write a letter for my book before the February 1 deadline!

With all that being said, let’s get down to business. For today’s final entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series, I’ll be taking a closer look at my favorite television shows this year. I think I watched more television this year than any year before, and I’m proud of the variety of choices on this list and the passion with which I care about these shows. Don’t forget to share your own lists of favorite shows in the comments. Also, more year-end fun can be found at MGcircles, The Girly Nerd, and TVExamined!

1. The Americans
The best show on television continued to get better in 2015, and it did so in the most unexpected way: by putting a teenage girl at the center of the show and allowing a young actress (Holly Taylor) to stand toe-to-toe as an equal with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (whose chemistry has never been better). In 2015, The Americans took big risks, provided us with huge moments of revelation, and did it all with the kind of subtle nuance that makes you pay attention to every beat because you don’t want to miss anything. There’s a lot to be said for whispering instead of screaming to get your point across, and this show has mastered that way of storytelling.

2. Parks and Recreation
In 2015, I said goodbye to my favorite show on television. But if Parks and Rec had to leave us, at least it went out on top. Its final season wasn’t just there to tie up loose ends and give fans plenty of sentimental moments before the end; it was genuinely great television that allowed its characters to continue to grow in believable ways, all while providing the combination of laugh-out-loud humor and heartwarming moments this show does better than any other. I couldn’t have been happier to see such a wonderful show have such a wonderful final season.

3. Jane the Virgin
Every time I venture into the Villanueva house as I watch Jane the Virgin, it feels like coming home. There is such warmth to be found on this show—such natural and believable love that makes the realistic moments of pain feel not so depressing and the moments of joy feel even more wonderful. I may be the farthest thing from a Latina (I’m as Polish as it gets in terms of my heritage), but I see my close, religious, supportive, and matriarchal family reflected so beautifully in Jane’s family. And I see so much of who I want to be in Jane—a woman who has flaws, who makes mistakes, but who is still as bright and warm as a summer afternoon. And, let’s be honest, Mateo is so cute that an hour of just his face would be one of my favorite shows on television.

Continue reading

NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Relationships

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

Source: ABC/Jack Rowand

The television landscape in 2015 was filled with incredibly compelling relationships. Whether you’re a fan of fairytale romances, supportive friendships, complex marriages, or loving families—there was something on television this year for you to be captivated by.

For today’s entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series, let’s take a look at the relationships that made us swoon, cry, and cheer this year. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and your own lists of dynamic duos (or groups!) in the comments! And if you’re in the mood for more “Best of 2015” lists, be sure to check out TVExamined and MGcircles for some NGN-approved fangirl fun!

1. Emma Swan and Killian Jones (Once Upon a Time)
I’m a sucker for a good fairytale, and there’s no better one right now than the epic romance between Emma and Killian on Once Upon a Time. This year, Emma and Killian faced beautiful highs (declarations of love, planning a future together in a new home…) and painful lows (a double dose of Dark One danger, a couple of almost-deaths before one that was all too real…). But if their story in 2015 proved anything, it’s that love is stronger than darkness. Whether they were reigniting a spark of connection in an alternate universe or kissing among the flowers of Camelot, they were a beautiful example of the power love has to help us be our best and strongest self. No couple on TV made me smile bigger or cry harder in 2015, and no couple had a more powerful ending to the year—with Emma ready to literally go to hell and back for the man she loves.

2. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans)
I always describe The Americans as a show that on the surface is about spies but is actually a fascinating study of a marriage and a family. In order for that premise to work, the marriage at the center of the show needs to be even more compelling than the espionage plots around it. Thankfully, this show has found a pair of actors in Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell who set the screen on fire when they’re together and are probably the best scene partners in the business right now. I find myself not wanting to blink when they’re together because I’m afraid to miss even the smallest look between them—because one look or one touch conveys so much emotional depth and honesty. In the middle of a life that asks these characters to constantly lie, it’s beautiful to see them develop a sense of truth and intimacy with each other, even when it’s imperfect and messy—because that’s what a real marriage is all about.

3. Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser (Outlander)
Watching Claire and Jamie grow from a pair forced into marriage to a pair truly living out what it means to love someone “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” was one of my favorite things I did as a television viewer in 2015. I don’t use the word “swoon” lightly, but these two made me do that on more than one occasion this year. There is no duo on television with better chemistry than Caitriona Balfe and Sam Hueghan, and this show wisely uses that chemistry to its fullest potential, creating the best love scenes on television this year (many of which I will admit to watching more than once…purely for research purposes, of course).

Continue reading