Fangirl Thursday: Making an Impact

parks prom

We’ve all seen those lists popping up on our Facebook feeds—“15 Movies that Changed My Life,” “10 Books that Stayed with Me,” “10 Albums that Have Defined My Life,” etc. We’ve probably even made one or more of those lists ourselves. (I’ve done both the book and movies ones.) But I haven’t seen any of these “challenges” devoted to television.

That’s about to change.

I am the woman I am in no small part due to the movies I’ve watched and the books I’ve read in my 26 years. However, I’m also the woman I am because of the TV shows I’ve watched and the television characters I’ve loved. More than any other form of media, television has given me characters and stories to grow up with, to be inspired by, and to learn from over the course of many years.

Therefore, today I’m making a list of the 10 TV shows that have had the deepest impact on me. And I’m challenging all of my fellow nerds to make their own lists and post them in the comments!

1. Sesame Street: My love for television as a medium and my respect for it as a positive force in people’s lives can be traced back to mornings spent watching Sesame Street with my mom. It was the first TV show I was ever exposed to, and I want it to be the first TV show I expose my own children to someday. I love Sesame Street not only for the things it taught me (Spanish, letters and numbers, the continents…) but also for how happy it made me as kid and still makes me as an adult every time I see Grover or Big Bird or Cookie Monster spreading joy to a new generation of kids.

2. Boy Meets World: This was the first show to teach me that a piece of media can mean different things to you at different times in your life. I grew up with these characters not only when the show first aired but also through reruns that seemed to air just when I needed them in high school, in college, and even now. Boy Meets World’s series finale is one I treasure as an adult far more than I did as a preteen watching it for the first time, and it gave me some of the most profound advice any TV show could ever hope to give: “Dream. Try. Do good.”

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Daily Dose of Feelings #3

When I think of television moments that make me cry from pure joy, there’s nothing better than Jim and Pam discovering that they’re going to be parents at the end of the “Company Picnic” episode of The Office. What begins as a heartfelt moment of reflection from Michael Scott about his relationship with Holly perfectly transitions into a moment of complete bliss from the couple Michael was obviously thinking of and hoping to emulate.

The Office: Company Picnic.

This scene was the first one that made me fear breaking the rewind button on my DVR—and it’s all because of John Krasinski’s face. The decision to use no sound in the moments when they first found out about Pam’s pregnancy was genius. It forced us to focus on their reactions, and Krasinski is the king of reaction shots. The complete surprise on his face was adorable, but the tears started flowing for me when he hugged Pam. I love how real it still feels after so many re-watches; when he holds her, it’s such a genuinely beautiful moment. It feels like you’re watching a private moment between these two characters, and that only adds to the emotional power of the scene.

And once Jim calls Dwight back, I lose it every time. The little crack in his voice, the tears in his eyes, and the gloriously shocked look on his face when he finally faces the camera say it all. There’s no need to directly say what’s going on in the scene; we can see it, and, more importantly, we can feel it. There’s no better example of the “show, don’t tell” mantra of great storytelling.

Grading the Series Finales: The Office

Title Finale (9.24/9.25)

Written By Greg Daniels

What Happens? One year after the Dunder Mifflin documentary aired, the whole gang reunites and is filmed once again for two very special occasions: a panel discussion about the documentary and Dwight and Angela’s wedding. After catching up with various characters, we learn that Darryl is making a lot of money and loving life in Austin as he enjoys the success of Athlead, which has now changed its name to Athleap. Jim, however, has stayed in Scranton but appears happy with his decision and his life with Pam. Andy’s breakdown at his singing competition audition went viral, and he’s now a nationwide joke—but he did get a job in the admissions department at Cornell. Kevin and Toby were both fired by Dwight, Nellie moved to Poland (the Scranton of Europe), and Stanley retired to Florida.

The day before the wedding, Jim does his best to throw Dwight a fun and Schrute-friendly bachelor party, which is his duty as “bestest mensch.” Meanwhile, Angela is kidnapped by Mose at her bachelorette party and forced into the trunk of a car as part of a traditional Schrute pre-marriage ritual. The wedding day begins with the panel discussion, where Andy discovers he has fans, Erin finally finds her parents, and Pam has to face some tough questions about her reluctance to let Jim follow his dreams.

Following the panel, the wedding preparations begin in earnest, but Jim tells Dwight there’s a problem—the bestest mensch is supposed to be older than the groom, so he can’t do it. But he finds an even better alternative when Michael Scott shows up with a smile and a classic “That’s what she said!” Michael, now a family man with kids of his own, happily sits back and basks in the joy of watching the love that grew out of his office—even the dysfunctional love of Kelly and Ryan, who run off together into the sunset, leaving behind Kelly’s boyfriend and Ryan’s baby (who is then given to Nellie).

Before going to a big reception for the documentary back at Dunder Mifflin, Jim and Pam stop at home, but Jim is surprised to find a realtor showing their house. Pam reveals to him that she had been secretly showing the house for months because she wants Jim to be able to live his dream in Austin with Athleap and have his family there to support him. Seeing the documentary made her see that some things are worth the risk; sometimes you need to do the big, brave thing.

The night ends with a private party in the office where each member of the Dunder Mifflin team says goodbye to their friends who are moving on and to the people behind the cameras.

Best Moment The moment Michael Scott appeared onscreen, I knew that this finale was going to go down as one of my favorite series finales ever. For so long, NBC had been trying to deny all reports of Steve Carell being a part of the finale, but I think everyone knew that a finale of The Office without Michael Scott would just feel wrong. Michael needed to be there—not just for the fans but for the characters as well. Dwight’s face when he hugged Michael was one of the most beautiful single moments of the finale, and it was because it signaled that everything was right in the world: Dwight was marrying Angela, Michael was there to be his best man, and Jim had just pulled off the best prank ever. The emotion in that scene was just right. It wasn’t cloying or heavy-handed; it was filled with the sense of joyful pride that a reunion between these characters needed to have. Michael is proud of Jim and Dwight like a father is proud of his kids, and he should be. But he doesn’t need to say it: It’s all in Carell’s smile. And then he follows that smile with the most-anticiapted “That’s what she said” moment of the series, reminding everyone of the way this show can deftly walk the line between sentimentality and silliness. This moment was everything I’d been waiting for and everything I could have hoped for. It was that kind of perfect series finale moment when you could see the emotions of the actors coming through in their characters in a way that worked wonderfully with the material they were given.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (5/5 – 5/12)

This past week was the relative calm before the storm of season finales coming my way as a TV viewer. Most of the shows I watch had strong episodes that set up what look to be even stronger season finales.

Once Upon a Time had its best episode in weeks with an emotional hour that made me love Bae/Neal more than ever before and absolutely broke my heart with his tragic separation from his family once again. Game of Thrones continued to effectively build a sense of foreboding and lay the groundwork for the incredible moments coming in the rest of the season. Castle gave us a compelling case and an even more compelling cliffhanger surrounding Beckett’s future at the 12th precinct. New Girl featured some great scenes with Jess’s father and one ridiculously romantic moment on the rooftop. The Mindy Project was absolutely hilarious—from Mindy and Casey in the shower to Mindy accidentally performing a routine on a stripper pole. And Saturday Night Live welcomed back Kristen Wiig with some of my favorite characters she brought to life during her time on the show (Garth and Kat! Target Lady!).

While all of these shows featured some great individual moments, my favorite thing on TV this week came from The Office. The show’s penultimate episode was its most enjoyable and emotional in a long time—mainly because of the scenes between Jim and Pam and Dwight and Angela.

Jim’s way of showing Pam how much she means to him left me a crying mess. From the clips of their best moments set to a fantastically appropriate song (“Open Your Eyes” by Snow Patrol) to John Krasinski’s flawlessly earnest delivery of “You are everything,” this moment was all that a diehard fan of their relationship could have hoped for as the show ends its run. And the callback to the Christmas card was perfect, but what I loved most was that we’ll never know what it said. That’s for Jim and Pam—not for us—and that’s the way it should be.

The huge leap forward for Dwight and Angela was also incredibly emotional. Rainn Wilson gave me a new favorite Dwight scene with his proposal. He doesn’t usually show that kind of emotion or sincerity, so seeing such pure joy and love on his face was a beautiful thing. I never thought Dwight and Angela could make me cry, but I guess I was wrong. I am going to be an absolute wreck on Thursday when I say goodbye to Dunder Mifflin for good.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week? Do you have any predictions for what’s going to be the best moment next week (in what’s sure to be a week of exceptional moments)?