NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Relationships


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

NGN’s Best of 2015 TV Performances



It’s the most wonderful time of the year…The time when we reflect on all our favorite things about television from the past year! As 2015 draws to a close, I’ll be sharing with you the things I loved most from the world of television this year in a series of “Best of 2015” posts.

It’s always my hope that these lists allow you to reflect on your own favorite things about television in 2015. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments, and don’t forget to check out other fans’ and critics’ lists of their “Best of 2015” picks, too! (Heather always has amazing lists up at TVExamined if you’re looking for a place to start.) While you’re sharing your favorites, please be respectful of your fellow fangirls and fanboys, because our lists are all going to look different, which is what makes sharing them so much fun. We share so much about who we are when we talk about the media we love, and lists like these are such a great snapshot of who we were during a specific year in our lives.

Today’s “Best Of” list features my favorite TV performances of 2015. It was a fantastic year for acting on the small screen—especially for women (as you’ll see by the sheer number of women on this list). Many of the best TV characters this year were defined by complex motivations, stunning plot twists, and emotional storylines that called for new levels of vulnerability from the men and women who bring them to life. From new faces to old favorites, here are the actors that I thought stood out above the rest in 2015.

1. Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings (The Americans)
While I could have put the entire cast of The Americans at the top of this list, I chose to single out Taylor because no actor on television this year impressed me as much as she did. Season Three of The Americans boldly put a teenage girl at the center of everything, and the fact that it was a success speaks to Taylor’s ability to make Paige something more than just the stereotypes of teenage girls we’re so often shown in the media. In her hands, Paige became a character whose maturity I admired and whose innocence I wanted to protect. She wasn’t the one-dimensional morality police in a family desperately in need of one; she was just a girl who cared deeply about her faith, justice, and the truth and was thrown into a life she was unprepared to handle. In the hands of another young actor, that could have come across in an incredibly heavy-handed way, but Taylor appears to be learning the art of subtlety and honesty from her onscreen parents. It’s one thing for a young actor to carry a big storyline and not hurt a show; it’s another for them to do that and make the show better because of their work. Taylor’s ability to make viewers care about Paige—especially in the quiet moments this show does so well—played a critical role in making this the strongest season of The Americans yet.

2. Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva (Jane the Virgin)
I was late to the Jane the Virgin party (having just started watching this summer), but now that I’m here, I’m ready to gush about Rodriguez. With a premise as crazy as this show’s premise, the characters need to keep things relatable, and Rodriguez does that in such a brilliant way—by making Jane one of the most likable characters to hit television screens in the last few years. She projects a warmth that can’t be faked, and she has a rare ability to be both genuinely hilarious and heartbreaking within the same scene. When Jane does a happy dance, I want to dance with her. When Jane cries, I usually do cry with her. Rodriguez is the heart and soul of a show with so much heart and soul, and I can’t wait to watch her star continue to rise.

3. Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time)
2015 wasn’t an easy year for Emma Swan: She found out some difficult truths about her parents, was trapped in a tower in an alternate reality, became a Dark One, and had to watch the man she loves die three times. But while Emma went through the lowest of lows, Morrison reached new heights, proving that—even after four-plus seasons in this role—she still had plenty of new things to show us about Emma as a character and herself as an actor. When she was tasked with playing Emma struggling with her new identity as the Dark One, she rose to the occasion, deftly using her voice and body language to make Emma’s struggle feel as intense and desperate as it needed to feel for this “Dark Swan” arc to resonate. And when she was asked to show us Emma at her most vulnerable—uncontrollably sobbing after having to kill the love of her life to destroy the darkness—Morrison did what she’s always done best: She took a show about fairytales and made it feel real.

Continue reading

10 Things I Learned at NYCC


This year, I had the pleasure of being a part of the biggest gathering of nerds on the East Coast: New York Comic Con (NYCC). After hours spent waiting in a virtual queue last spring for tickets, months of extensive trip research (aka asking people where the best place to get cheesecake is—for the record it’s Junior’s in Times Square), and a very early flight from Buffalo to NYC, my equally nerdy best friend Mary and I finally made it through the doors of the Javits Center and into fangirl paradise.

I’d never been to a real convention before NYCC. Star Wars Weekends in Walt Disney World is similar in some ways but very different in others, so this was an entirely new experience for me. And it’s one I hope to have again as soon as possible. The early mornings, long lines, sore feet, and big credit card bills were all worth it when I look back on the experience I had. To be a part of an environment that isn’t just friendly toward nerds but created specifically for people like us was incredible, and it’s something I think every fangirl and fanboy should experience at least once in their lives.

I expected to have a lot of fun at NYCC, but I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did—not just about the con-going experience but about my own relationship with fandom and my place in it as a writer (forgive me for getting a tad bit introspective/sentimental). So here—in no particular order—are 10 things I learned during my time at NYCC that I wanted to pass on to my fellow nerdy girls (and nerdy guys).

1. It pays to be patient.
The theme of much of my NYCC experience was “Hurry Up and Wait.” Thankfully, years of Disney World trips have taught me how to handle waiting in crazy lines, but there were still more than a few moments at NYCC that tested my patience. Lines to get into panels felt like they went on forever, and the line to get into the convention on Friday morning wound around entire city blocks. For rooms that weren’t cleared between panels (anything besides the Main Stage), you needed to get there at least one if not two panels before the one you really wanted to see to ensure a seat. But I learned you can use that time to have fun chatting with people around you, to catch up on the eating/drinking you will inevitably forget to do during the day, and to enjoy some quality people-watching. And at least from my experience, once the lines start moving, they move very quickly; while it may feel like you’ve spent so much time at the convention standing in line, it was actually a small fraction of your day. So if you ever find yourself faced with a crazy con line, just remember that the experience waiting at the end of that line will be worth it. Patience is a virtue, fellow nerds.

Continue reading

Fangirl Thursday: 10 Reasons Why We’re All a Little in Love with Danny Castellano

Let’s face it: It’s hard to watch The Mindy Project and not fall a little bit in love with Danny Castellano. Is he perfect? Not at all. There are even some times when it’s hard to like him, but we still love him. Because when it counts, Danny is a man straight out of our best rom-com dreams.

Maybe it’s the complex and nuanced way his character is written. Maybe it’s the way Chris Messina brings him to life with such sincerity. Or maybe it’s the dancing. (It’s definitely the dancing.) Whatever magical combination is responsible for Danny’s charm, it’s been working on me for years, which is saying something, because after the pilot of The Mindy Project I might have ranked Danny my least favorite male character on television.

Danny was allowed to grow and evolve, and the show grew and evolved with him. The Mindy Project became a great TV rom-com when its leading lady was given a male character to play off of who’s as great as she is. In order for us to believe that Mindy could fall in love with Danny, we all had to fall in love with him, too. And the show gave us plenty of moments that helped us do exactly that.

Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why The Mindy Project made it easy for us to fall in love with Danny—starting with the most recent example. Click on each reason for more gifs to help you fall in love with him all over again.

1. He appreciates a strong woman—and he’s not afraid to say it. (4.02: “C Is For Coward”)

This entire post was inspired by the fabulous final minutes of “C Is For Coward.” When Mindy went into labor and fear started to overtake her, Danny stepped up in a major way—reminding her of her strength at a time when she was feeling weak. Danny telling Mindy she’s stronger than him was such a powerful moment because Messina made us feel that Danny believes that with his whole heart, and he loves her all the more for it. And Danny naming baby Leo after Leo the Lion because he’s strong like his mother would have been perfect enough on its own, but the adoring, awestruck look that accompanied those words just about killed me. Danny doesn’t just love Mindy; he respects her, and he respects her strength more than almost anything. And who doesn’t love a man who knows his fiancee will draw strength from being called a “stone cold bitch”?

Continue reading

Five Reasons “XY” Gave Me Hope for Castle’s Future



Hello, fellow Castle fans! While I won’t be writing about every episode of the show this season here at NGN, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on important episodes and moments as they present themselves, and this premiere seemed like the perfect place to start.

I’ll admit it: After Castle’s spectacular Season Seven finale, I was skeptical about Season Eight’s premiere. How could any episode follow “Hollander’s Woods,” which was written as a potential (and, had it been necessary, satisfying) series finale? How would the show survive without Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller at the helm? How would it bounce back after a season with a handful of strong episodes but far more mediocre ones?

“XY” was the answer to all those questions, and what a confident answer it was. With Rob Bowman directing and new show-runners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter penning the script, “XY” was an episode with a point to prove—that this show could still be exciting, engaging, and surprising in its eight season. And the way it chose to prove that point made me wonder why I ever thought the show might have been better off ending with “Hollander’s Woods.” There’s still plenty of story left to tell, and if this is how the show is going to tell it, then I’m more than happy to keep watching until the final chapter is written.

Here are five reasons why this season premiere made me feel confident that this show still has a lot of life left in it and has found the right people to bring that life out of it.

1. It went back to the show’s storytelling roots.
I know that Season Six’s “Veritas” felt like the perfect ending to the Johanna Beckett murder arc that drove much of the show’s drama in its early days. However, after the 3XK plot was wrapped up last season, the show was missing something without a familiar dramatic arc to push these characters to new places emotionally in ways that still made us care. Castle’s disappearance never quite became the new dramatic arc I think it was supposed to be, so I found myself eternally grateful that this episode’s intensity was rooted in a familiar conflict: Kate Beckett vs. Senator Bracken—as well as Rick Castle vs. the secrets Beckett keeps when dealing with Bracken. Those conflicts have produced some of the best episodes in the show’s history, and they’ve always allowed us to explore deep things about Beckett. I loved that this episode was driven by the idea that Beckett’s obsession with Bracken and all he’s done wouldn’t just automatically stop once he ended up in prison. He’s the root of so much emotional trauma in her life, and it makes sense for her to be unable to put that behind her. Bringing Bracken back also allowed us to see Jack Coleman in all his twisted, evil glory once again. It’s good to have a familiar foe to root against, and I liked seeing these writers embrace that familiarity with a new twist that kept things exciting.

Continue reading

On Grief and Knowledge: Thoughts About Broadchurch

Today at Nerdy Girl Notes, we have a little treat for Broadchurch fans: Leah is back with some thoughts about the show before the next season starts up! She’s also going to be posting reviews here after each episode, and I know she can’t wait to talk about the show with all of you!



I recently had the pleasure of binge-watching the BBC drama Broadchurch, and I promptly fell in love with it! The second season’s premiere airs on BBC America on March 4, and, after watching some of the sneak peaks, I am practically quivering with anticipation. In honor of Season Two premiering this week, I decided to write about my favorite aspects of Season One, as well as some reasons why I’m looking forward to Season Two.

Spoilers lie ahead, so if you haven’t watched Season One yet, read at your own risk. I have not named the killer or mentioned exactly what happened, but there are things that could point you toward the answer, so if you truly want to stay unspoiled, I would suggest avoiding reading this post until you are caught up.

For those of you who’ve watched Season One but need a quick recap, here is a short video recap from the BBC to refresh your memory.

Five Things I Loved About Broadchurch, Season One:

The Portrayal of Grief
One of the things I found so interesting and wonderful about Broadchurch was the way in which they portrayed the spectrum of grief in all its nuances. Though not the only ones shown grieving, the Latimer family was the main focus of most scenes involving mourning the loss of Danny, and each family member was allowed to grieve in different ways. We also saw through their eyes the way in which grief can permeate all the different areas of your life. I could write a whole post just on the way Broadchurch shows grief, and maybe someday I will. But for now, I will briefly talk about Beth as a great example of the complexity in this show’s portrayal of the grieving process.

Continue reading

Because I Care: My Top 10 Episodes of Parks and Recreation



This is it, friends—the countdown to the series finale of the happiest show on television, Parks and Recreation. Over the next few days here at Nerdy Girl Notes, there will be several posts dedicated to saying goodbye to this show that has impacted both the television landscape and so many people (myself included) in such a positive way.

Today, I wanted to take a look back on my fondest Parks and Rec memories by counting down my Top 10 episodes of the series. This was the toughest Top 10 list I’ve ever created because there were so many phenomenal episodes to choose from. It was a Herculean task, but I settled on the 10 episodes I return to the most often, the 10 episodes that make me the happiest—because that’s what Parks and Rec is all about.

This is by no means a definitive list of the best of Parks and Rec, but I hope it inspires you to share your favorite episodes with us in the comments!

10. Soulmates (Season 3, Episode 10)
This episode was filled with fun elements: a classic Chris/Ron showdown over their culinary skills, Ann helping Leslie create an online dating profile, the awkward hilarity of Leslie going on a date with Tom without him knowing it was a date…But the real reason this makes my list of favorite episodes is twofold. First, it gave us the brilliance of Aziz Ansari’s monologue about his nicknames for food, which I can (and often do) quote word for word. (I can’t be the only one who now uses “sammies” and “chicky-chicky parm-parm” in everyday conversation.) Also, it gave us Leslie and Ben’s first meeting at what would become their wildflower mural. The final moments of this episode—with Ben suggesting he and Leslie eat lunch together at her favorite place in the world—felt so real in their simplicity. Watching it unfold for the first time felt like watching two real people slowly falling in love, and it was then that I knew I’d found a new TV couple to love with all my heart.

Continue reading

10 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching The Americans

The americans S3

Let’s get one thing straight right away: The Americans is a show for grownups. Being a grownup is hard and messy and complicated—three adjectives that could be used to describe any of the characters or relationships on FX’s critically-acclaimed drama about Russian spies living undercover in a suburb of Washington, D.C., during the height of the Cold War. Being a grownup is also about realizing the world isn’t as black-and-white as you might have once believed it to be—a theme that goes to the very heart of The Americans as both as spy show and a family drama.

The Americans is a show to be savored, discussed, and thought about into the early hours of the morning after each episode ends. It’s also a show that deserves a bigger audience and more attention than it gets. So here are 10 reasons why you should catch up with the first two seasons of The Americans and watch as the third season unfolds Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.

1. Its themes are universal.
One of the most common ways to describe The Americans is to say it’s a spy show that’s actually about marriage and family. And aren’t all the best spy stories about more than just wigs (no matter how awesome they may be) and gadgets? They’re about secrets and identity and loyalty. The Americans takes those themes one step further by asking us to think about them within the context of marriage and family. What does it really mean to be intimate with someone? What secrets do we keep from our spouses and our children? What secrets are they keeping from us? What are our parents really like? These are the kinds of questions The Americans asks in every episode. Yes, it’s a show about Russian spies and FBI agents. However, most of its brilliance lies in the depths beneath its “spy show” surface.

2. You’ll actually like the kids.
In order for those universal themes of marriage and family to work, the family at the center of The Americans has to be one that’s easy to invest in. For many shows, this is where things begin to fall apart, because young actors are typically the Achilles’ heel of even the best shows. However, The Americans features perhaps two of the most engaging and likeable child actors on television. Keidrich Sellati is cute without being cloying as young Henry Jennings, projecting just the right amount of innocence. And Holly Taylor is turning in some of my favorite work on television right now as Paige Jennings. Paige is written and played with the kind of deft touch that teenage girls on television are hardly ever brought to life with. She’s moody and self-absorbed at times, but she’s also looking for the truth about so many things—who her parents are, who she is, and who she could be. Teenage girls’ ability to care deeply about things is often the subject of ridicule, but Paige’s passion and enthusiasm for figuring out her place in the world are treated with such wonderful respect. With Paige set to be an even bigger part of the story in Season Three, I’m so happy that both the writing for and performance of this character are as truly fantastic as they’ve been so far.

3. It features the best pair of scene partners on TV.
You can’t fake chemistry—you either have it or you don’t. And Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell have it. As Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the show’s central characters, they are asked to do so much in terms of their performances, and they always rise to the challenge, supporting each other every step of the way whenever they share a scene. The Americans is an unconventional love story about two people who have been in a fake marriage for 20 years finally trying to make it something real, and Rhys and Russell make you feel every step on that rocky journey, often without needing to say any words. They’re masters of silent communication, projecting incredible intimacy through gestures as simple as her holding his hand or him unzipping her boot. They’re able to have entire conversations using only their eyes that convey as much information and probably more emotion than they could using dialogue. Philip and Elizabeth have come to rely on the strength of their partnership, and the same can be said of Rhys and Russell. They’re two of the best actors on television right now who only seem to be getting stronger with each episode.

Continue reading

NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Moments

Orphan Black's big dance scene was my favorite moment on television in 2014.

Orphan Black’s big dance scene was my favorite moment on television in 2014.

This year was a great one for television, featuring plenty of memorable moments to keep us talking from the beginning of 2014 to its end. Whether those moments were happy or tragic, they stayed in our hearts and on our minds long after the episodes that featured them were over.

Today’s installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series features my picks for the 10 best moments on TV this year. I hope you all share your picks in the comments because there are so many excellent moments to talk about!

1. Clone Club Dance Party (Orphan Black: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried)
Orphan Black is a thrill-a-minute kind of show, but it was at its most impressive when it took a deep breath and allowed its characters to simply have fun dancing together. What made this moment the best of the year, though, wasn’t just its happy tone in the middle of chaos, it was the technical brilliance that went into making that scene. Besides the wonderful Jordan Gavaris, every other character in this scene was played by Tatiana Maslany. The way Maslany was able to convey the distinct personalities of each clone through their dance moves speaks to her incredible talent. There’s no one on television like Maslany, and there was certainly no scene on television in 2014 like this one.

2. Will Gardner Dies (The Good Wife: Dramatics, Your Honor/Last Call)
Death often blindsides us, and The Good Wife’s ability to blindside its audience with the death of one of its lead characters was one of the most talked-about happenings in the television world this year. In the two episodes surrounding Will’s death, The Good Wife delivered the most emotionally resonant hours of television in 2014. Every actor rose to the challenge, giving each scene weight and ensuring that no one would end either hour with dry eyes. Will’s death made everyone who watched The Good Wife think about the senseless nature of tragedy and the unanswered questions left behind when loved ones die. But even more than making us think, watching these characters grieve made us feel—and that’s what great television is all about.

3. Castle and Beckett Get Married (Castle: The Time of Our Lives)
I love a good wedding. And after months of waiting, Castle gave its fans a great wedding. Cheesy backdrops aside, everything about the scene was beautiful—from Beckett’s perfect wedding outfit and the way Castle looked at her in it to every word of their deeply personal vows. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic put such joy and love into their performances in that scene, and it created a beautiful moment of joy for casual viewers and longtime fans alike. And as someone who has been invested in this relationship since the show’s pilot first aired, I can say this wedding produced more happy tears than any other scene I watched on television in 2014.

Continue reading

NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Relationships

I hope all of you who celebrate the holidays had a very Merry Christmas yesterday and a Happy Boxing Day today!

Once Upon a Time's Emma and Hook were my favorite TV couple in 2014.

Once Upon a Time’s Emma and Hook were my favorite TV couple in 2014.

The television landscape in 2014 was filled with complex, compelling relationships—from old friendships to new romances. This was a great year for “shippers” of all kinds, with kisses we all rewatched 100 times, weddings that made us cry, and romantic moments that filled our hearts with joy. It was also a great year for platonic relationships, with friendships playing an even more important role than ever on some of my favorite television shows.

For today’s installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series, it’s time to take a look at my 10 favorite relationships that developed on our TV screens this year. After you’ve read my picks, I’d love to read yours in the comments section!

1. Emma and Hook (Once Upon a Time)
Is there anything better than watching a brand-new fairytale develop right before your eyes? That’s what Once Upon a Time is doing with the slowly-developing love story between a princess with a fighter’s spirit and a pirate with a hero’s heart. The beauty of this love story is its realism in the middle of a world of magical true love and soul mates discovered by fairy dust. It’s a story about two people who’ve been broken by love slowly learning how to open their hearts again to a sense of hope and happiness. That’s a kind of love story that’s easy to believe in and rewarding to watch—from first dances and first dates to emotionally-charged kisses and moments of quiet intimacy that highlight the fantastic chemistry between Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue. Emma and Hook’s relationship has made both characters stronger and happier, and their scenes together this year have been some of the show’s best and most beautiful.

2. Mindy and Danny (The Mindy Project)
In 2014, the best romantic comedy wasn’t found in a movie theater; it was found every Tuesday night on The Mindy Project. Through smart writing and excellent performances all year from Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina, the relationship between Mindy and Danny went from everyone’s favorite “Will they or won’t they?” to everyone’s favorite “They did, and it’s awesome!” Mindy and Danny’s relationship is an exploration of what happens after the ending of a romantic comedy, and it turns out the answer is even more great comedy and character growth. The chemistry between Kaling and Messina is electric, and it shows no signs of faltering now that these characters are in a real relationship. From a race to the top of the Empire State Building to a very revealing striptease, this relationship has found the perfect balance of heat, humor, and heart.

3. Leslie and Ann (Parks and Recreation)
Once upon a time, a beautiful tropical fish met a passionate, stubborn steamroller, and the two of them became one of television’s best examples of female friendship. This year, Leslie and Ann’s friendship took center stage as the latter moved away from Pawnee to start a family in one of the year’s most emotional episodes of any television show, “Ann and Chris.” That lovely episode paid tribute to the power of female friendship in a way that was touching and true-to-life. It’s a rare thing for a television show to let one of the great loves of a character’s life be their best friend, but Parks and Rec is a rare television show that honors the beauty of friendship as much as it honors romance. Leslie and Ann’s friendship is as genuinely supportive and healthy as it gets, and that’s such a wonderful example for people to see in the media. My wish for every woman is that she finds the Ann to her Leslie (or the Leslie to her Ann)—a friend she can talk to about anything and a friend who loves her like the first soul mate so many of our friends often are.

Continue reading