Fangirl Thursday: Coming Home

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When a television show you love ends, it can feel like leaving home. But when a television show ends years after you stopped really loving it, it can feel like hearing that the house you grew up in—but have since moved far away from—is going to be torn down. You might not have the same connection to that place anymore, but you still feel that loss, and that loss makes you think about who you were when you lived there and how much has changed since then.

I haven’t watched American Idol in years, but for a brief time, that show and its fandom were my home. So before it ends tonight, I wanted to look back—not so much at the show itself (because people far more talented than I am have done that already) but at its impact on my own life as a fangirl.

I was an Idol devotee for its first two seasons. I had a picture of Justin Guarini in my high school locker and worshipped Kelly Clarkson. (Let’s be honest: I still worship Kelly Clarkson.) I saw the Season Two contestants on tour, and, yes, I will admit to casting more than one vote for Clay Aiken. That show was something my family—even my extended family—wanted to watch and talk about together, which was rare at the time.

But as time passed, I drifted away from Idol, only returning for occasional episodes and each season’s finale. In fact, it was during the Season Eight finale that I saw Kris Allen and Adam Lambert perform “We Are the Champions,” and I knew right away that I was in trouble. Allen had the cute, singer-songwriter vibe I always adore, and you had to be crazy not to be drawn to Lambert’s incredible voice and magnetic stage presence. When coupled with the genuine friendship I saw on display when Kris was named the winner, I knew it was only a matter of time before I fell down an Internet rabbit hole, trying to catch up on everything I missed during the season.

During my trip down that rabbit hole early in the summer of 2009, I encountered a LiveJournal community about American Idol, and it felt like finding a home. The people there were smart, funny, and just as obsessed with the show and its contestants as I was. It was the same magical feeling I got when I discovered my first Star Wars fan site and visited MuggleNet for the first time. I didn’t feel alone anymore. But I didn’t have much experience with actual fandom participation. Sure, I’d posted on message boards about So You Think You Can Dance and even had my own blog about my hometown hockey team, but this was bigger and crazier than a message board and much wider in scope than the Buffalo Sabres fandom. I was scared to make that jump from lurker to participant in the discussions.

But then it hit me: I wanted to be a part of this. I didn’t want to watch everyone else having fun and making friends like I did in the Alias fandom back when I was in high school. I wanted to have fun and make friends myself. So the night of the first stop on the Season Eight tour, I stopped lurking and started commenting, and I never looked back.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/22 – 11/29)

I hope all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving this week had a beautiful day, and I hope the start of the holiday season fills you with joy, love, and peace. 

A relatively light week in television started on Sunday with a beautiful episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that introduced us to Terry’s new baby girl and Jake’s new goddaughter, as well as an episode of The Good Wife that featured Kelly Bishop coming to play with this talented cast of actors in a showcase hour for Diane. On Monday, big changes and huge revelations were in store for nearly every character on Jane the Virgin, and Castle and Beckett reached a place of honesty and understanding on Castle. In addition, Monday also featured the first part of the Dancing with the Stars finale, which concluded on Tuesday with Bindi Irwin being crowned the winner. Finally, Thanksgiving Day gave us the always entertaining Macy’s Parade, as well as one of my personal favorite holiday traditions: the National Dog Show.

It was hard to choose between the two most joyful moments I saw on television this week. On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the birth of Terry’s daughter and Jake’s first time seeing her showcased just how much nuance and subtle emotional depth Andy Samberg has brought to this role. And seeing the way the whole team came together at the hospital reminded me of Parks and Recreation, which is the highest compliment I can give a television show. It made me cry, which is a true sign of a winning TV moment.

However, nothing could top the beauty and vulnerability (and the tears) on display during the first night of the Dancing with the Stars finale. While the lovely Gissane over at MGcircles honored Bindi Irwin’s strength and spirit better than I ever could, I would be remiss without writing about why her freestyle touched my heart so deeply.

For many years as a dancer and dance teacher, I’ve seen the way dance can help people express emotions that are difficult to reach with words. And that’s what’s so special about what Bindi and Derek brought to the stage in their freestyle: They showed the world the way dance can bring healing, express hope, and move everyone who experiences it. But even more than showing the power of dance, that routine showed the power of positivity in the face of pain. Bindi suffered such a great loss so young, but instead of using that loss to turn her into someone cold and afraid to open her heart, she became a beacon of light—a symbol that life can be beautiful again even after loss, as long as we choose to find the beauty.

Bindi has become a true inspiration for so many—myself included. Her big heart shines through in her dancing, and her generous spirit is mature beyond her years. And Derek’s ability to honor those things that make her special in her routines shows just how brilliant he is as a choreographer but also how attentive he is as a partner. It’s been wonderful to watch him grow from basking in her light, too. We’re all better for having watched Bindi Irwin dance this season, and I’m certainly going to miss having her on my television each week.

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

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/1 – 11/8)

This was a slightly lighter week than normal for my TV viewing schedule, thanks to some World Series baseball, the CMA Awards, and my choice not to watch Saturday Night Live last night. That gave me some time to start Aziz Ansari’s Master of None on Netflix. I’m halfway through the first season’s 10 episodes, and I already want to go back and re-watch “Parents” about 10 more times. It also gave me a chance to watch the early streaming of the pilot of Starz’s new series Flesh and Bone, which was everything my high expectations were hoping it would be.

As far as my normal TV schedule goes, Sunday featured an episode of Once Upon a Time that put the focus on Belle (and Rumplestiltskin, but I was far happier to see the spotlight on Belle, to be honest), as well as an episode of The Good Wife that reminded me why I’ve had a crush on Jeffrey Dean Morgan for almost a decade. On Monday, Supergirl continued bring some entertaining action to the start of my week. Also, the contestants paid tribute to people they admire on Dancing with the Stars, and the dancing fun continued over on Jane the Virgin. (Although it was less fun to feel my heart break over the latest twist in what’s probably the only good love triangle on TV.) Finally, Tuesday’s episode of The Muppets brought Kristin Chenoweth into the mix, Fresh Off the Boat tackled the topic of representation in great way, and The Flash made me love Patty Spivot and her adorable relationship with Barry more than ever.

Looking back, there was a lot of dancing on TV this week, and I loved all of it. However, no dance made me feel more deeply than Nick and Sharna’s contemporary performance on Dancing with the Stars. Everything about it was beautiful: the song (“Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”—a personal favorite of mine), the choreography (Sharna is doing amazing work this season.), and the execution (Nick looked like a real dancer out there in those side-by-side sections.) But what I’ll remember most about that dance was the emotion Nick and Sharna poured into it. The dance was dedicated to Nick’s wife and the baby they’re going to have, and the love the came through in every moment of that dance was stunning. It was such a vulnerable, honest moment for Nick, and it showed me how much Sharna cares about her partner and telling his story. This performance is what dance is at its best—it’s an expression of all the things you feel but can’t say with words; it’s emotion and passion and total honesty. It’s a thing of true beauty, and I’ll never get tired of watching it.

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

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/20 – 9/27)

This was the week Fall TV really kicked into high gear, and it was as fun and exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I already covered Sunday’s Emmys in last week’s Best Thing on TV post, but I’ll say that I’m still re-watching Viola Davis’s speech a week later. On Monday, Dancing with the Stars showcased the hometowns of its celebrities, and that was followed by a bold season premiere of Castle. Tuesday gave us a charming series premiere of The Muppets, a hilarious return for Fresh Off the Boat, and another strong episode of Dancing with the Stars—this time focusing on the stories behind its professional dancers. Tuesday also featured an episode of The Mindy Project that introduced an adorable new character and made me fall in love with Danny all over again. On Wednesday, Black-ish tackled a controversial topic in a great way, and Nashville balanced hope (Rayna and Deacon’s continuing love story) and heartbreak (all things Juliette) in its season premiere.

There were so many great moments on the scripted shows I watched this week—from Danny helping Mindy through her contractions to the introduction of the “three men and a baby” story on Nashville. However, my favorite moment of the week came from the world of reality television, and that was Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess’s foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars.

I love nothing more on television than good partnerships, and that’s what this dance was all about. During what was clearly an emotional dance for Sharna (She was dancing for her father and grandmother, who can’t ever travel to see her dance because of health concerns.), Nick was there for her every step of the way. From Nick’s little nod at the beginning to the solid, strong way he partnered Sharna throughout the routine, it was clear he was dancing this for her, and it elevated his dancing to new heights. It’s not often that a dance on this show genuinely moves me this early into the competition, but that’s exactly what this one did.

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

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/6 – 9/13)

As summer changes to fall and favorite TV shows begin to return from hiatus, it seemed like the right time to bring back this weekly celebration of the best TV has to offer.

What inspired the early return of this feature? Believe it or not, it was Bachelor in Paradise—a silly little reality show that somehow managed to feel very real and anything but silly by the time it ended with a two-part finale on Sunday and Monday.

On a show about rejects from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette finding summer love in Mexico, it turned out that the most profound relationship we were shown wasn’t a romantic one; it was actually the friendship between some of the women on the show that moved me to tears.

Female friendship is a powerful force, but it’s still a force we don’t see very often in the media. Healthy depictions of women supporting, defending, and protecting other women are still rare sights on television—although thankfully they’re becoming less rare. So imagine my surprise when Carly Waddell was dumped by her Paradise beau, Kirk DeWindt, and we were suddenly shown Jade Roper and Tenley Molzahn literally running to comfort their friend. What could have been a moment of solitary sadness was suddenly a moment of shared sorrow—something incredibly relatable for any of us who’ve helped a friend through a breakup (or had friends help us through one).

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/23 – 11/30)

This holiday week in television began on Sunday with another fun episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a very emotional midseason finale of The Good Wife. On Monday, a champion was crowned on Dancing with the Stars, and Esposito found himself in the middle of a hostage situation on Castle. Tuesday featured another Thanksgiving celebrated by the gang on New Girl and another exploration of Danny’s relationship with his mom on The Mindy Project. And, of course, with Thanksgiving comes the TV trifecta of the Macy’s Parade, the National Dog Show, and plenty of fun football games.

In a week that celebrates the things we’re thankful for, one thing I’m thankful for is the amount of dancing I get to see on TV. I don’t talk about my love for Dancing with the Stars a lot on here, but I’ve been a devoted fan of the show since its first seasons. And this season, Alfonso Ribeiro captured my heart like very few contestants have. His freestyle with Witney perfectly summed up everything I loved about watching him dance: his pure talent, his feel for the music, and his innate sense of joy. I love when you can see in someone’s body language and stage presence how happy dance makes them, and that kind of enthusiasm for dance was written all over this routine.

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

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (8/31 – 9/7)

This week in television began with the penultimate episode of Bachelor in Paradise, which mercifully featured Jesse Kovacs’s exit from the show while basically everyone else found a romantic partner. On Wednesday, Ricky was crowned the winner of Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance. And Thursday brought the NFL back to our TV screens, as the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Green Bay Packers in the league’s opening game.

If I’m being honest, the best thing I saw on my TV this week was probably the first three episodes of Masters of Sex, which I started watching on DVD Saturday afternoon. However, I know that’s cheating, so I’ll go with my second choice, which happened on Wednesday’s SYTYCD finale.

While I was disappointed with the fact that my favorite and pick to win (Zack) came in fourth, I have to admit that the most technically talented dancer won. And I couldn’t stay mad for long when there was so much good dancing to watch. In an episode full of reminders of some of the show’s best moments of the season, my favorite routine was a new one: the group routined that combined this season’s Top 10 and All Stars. It was incredibly cinematic; this routine was like something out of a movie musical. Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott created something so contagiously joyful. It was a true celebration of these dancers, and it was incredibly fun to watch.

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

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (8/24 – 8/31)

I apologize for the slight delay with this post. I’ve been enjoying the holiday weekend, and I hope all of you who are celebrating this unofficial end of summer have been enjoying yourselves, too! 

An entertaining—if very unimaginative—Emmy telecast began this week in television. The week continued with a “dramatic” two-part episode of Bachelor in Paradise that featured way too many people falling in love way too fast, an emotional breakdown in the middle of the jungle, and even a trip to the hospital. Wednesday’s So You Think You Can Dance performance finale was quite possibly the most entertaining episode of the season. And the Labor Day holiday weekend featured plenty of marathons of both TV shows and movies to keep viewers thoroughly entertained as they enjoyed their days off. 

While part me thinks I should choose Billy Crystal’s incredibly personal and moving tribute to Robin Williams at the Emmys as the best thing I saw on television this week, I decided to go in a bit lighter direction. August has been a heavy and often sad month on a lot of levels, so it was nice to leave this month with a smile brought to me via the SYTYCD stage. I’ve said probably too much already about the brilliance of Zack and Aaron’s “Piano Man” tap duet, but I could talk about it for days and never be able to fully express how happy it made me to watch (and re-watch…and re-watch…). Dance has always been my greatest source of happiness when other areas of my life have been stressful or sad. So it was a beautiful thing to see that happiness brought to such a large audience with the pure, easy joy of this tap routine. 

Thanks, Aaron, Zack, and Anthony Morigerato, for this lovely dose of instant happiness that we can all turn to whenever we need to smile. 

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

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 6 Perform”

I sincerely apologize for not posting a recap of last week’s episode. I spent most of the week traveling, so I didn’t have a chance to watch the Top Eight episode until Tuesday night. I hope this recap makes up for it!

How is it already almost So You Think You Can Dance finale time? My heart always ends up broken when it gets to the Top Six eliminations because, by this point, I’ve fallen in love with all of these dancers for one reason or another. This season was no exception. While I was fairly indifferent toward Jacque, I’d grown to love Casey. Watching him grow to become the confident, poised dancer he is every time he takes the stage now was a pleasure.

With that being said, I am ecstatic to see not just one but two tappers in the Top Four. In case any of you missed this the other 8 billion times I’ve made my bias known, I’m a tapper, and I get ridiculously attached to any and all SYTYCD tappers. I remember the days when there weren’t even any tap auditions shown, when any tapper who actually made the show was eliminated before the Top 10, and when “tapper” was basically a dirty word that the judges said with disdain (which still happens sometimes, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why). To see Aaron make the Top Four last season and be asked back as an All Star is incredible, and the sense of pride I feel when I think about his success only grows when thinking about Valerie and Zack both bringing the style I love to audiences in a SYTYCD finale. I know Ricky is probably going to win (and let’s be honest—he should win), but it’s incredible to see the style that has meant everything to me for 21 years represented in half of this season’s Top Four.

I cry at every tap solo on this show, so I can only imagine what a mess I’m going to be next week watching so much tap on that SYTYCD stage.

Solos
In a shocking turn of events, my favorite solo of the night actually belonged to Ricky and not one of my beloved tappers. I still think Zack is otherworldly in terms of the rhythms he creates and the ease with which he carries himself onstage (he’s also a noticeably better tapper than Valerie, actually), but Ricky danced with such abandon in his solo. His technique is flawless, but what astounds me the most about his dancing is the incredible emotion and passion he gives to each movement. He is poetry in motion. I thought Jacque’s solo was creative and cute; Casey’s was pretty predictable but still impressive with all of his turns; and Jessica’s was much stronger than Nigel made it seem. However, Ricky is just in another league. It’s a true joy to get to watch him dance every week.

Ricky and Valerie: Broadway
These two are still a match made in dance heaven. Ricky’s technical brilliance makes Valerie a better dancer, and Valerie’s effusive joy makes Ricky a better performer. That was true during their first weeks as partners, and it was true in their reunion, too. Is Valerie the most graceful dancer ever? No. But I can’t help but get caught up in how happy she looks onstage, and it’s a happiness that comes from within, a light that can’t be faked. Valerie shows on her face what I feel when I dance, and that pure, radiant joy was such a great fit for this routine. It wasn’t the night’s most memorable dance, but it did exactly what it was supposed to do: It made me happy.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 10 Perform”

This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance was a tough one to break down because so much of it boiled down to the politics of the show, which I dislike to the point that I actually stopped watching the show for a time because of it. I understand why Emilio and Bridget when home, so it didn’t come as much of a disappointment, despite the fact that they were one of my favorite pairings to develop this season. However, their elimination still frustrated me because it was telegraphed from the moment the show started last week: They were given a boring routine with uninspired choreography, ugly costumes that hid their expressive faces, and the unfortunate position of dancing first. I like when shows surprise me, and there was nothing surprising about this elimination.

This season appears to be yet another where the powers that be have anointed their favorites and will do anything to keep those favorites in the competition, including telling them over and over again just how much they hope they make it to the finale. Don’t get me wrong; Ricky is clearly on another planet in terms of his talent, but sometimes I wish the judges would just let us see that for ourselves.

It was also a bit of a bummer to see which contestants ended up in something close to their style of dance and which ones were thrown to the wolves. Thankfully, those results were a lot more surprising than I thought they’d be.

Bridget and Brandon: Bollywood Disco
If you need a clear-cut example of a contestant being thrown under the bus (and then run over by said bus), look no further than Bridget. Not only did she get stuck with last week’s forgettable jazz routine and first-dancer position, she also had to go first this week with a style that’s a made-up fusion of two types of dance that aren’t known to bring in voters. If Bridget wouldn’t have gone home this week, they certainly seemed to make sure she would go home next week. Her performance was bright and energetic, but I couldn’t pay much attention because I was so frustrated with the blatant fact that they clearly wanted her to go home.

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