Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dean & David's Televison Top 10 for 2014: Part Two

Yesterday I posted  my Top 10 Television shows of 2014 and I willingly let Dean comment upon it.

But now I get to offer up Dean's views and give my comments about what HE wrote--and trust me when I tell you that he is wrong in many ways.


So, I’m the one that suggested this, and I already kind of regret it. Narrowing down a list of my favorite TV shows down to just 10 is a herculean task. I have this cornucopia of great TV shows to choose from, each one I love for their own unique reason. Picking only ten would cause me too much pain, so I will start off by cheating and listing my Honorable Mentions: Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon), Community (NBC, but soon to be Yahoo), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox), Adventure Time (Cartoon Network), Ground Floor (TBS), Justified (FX), Enlisted (Fox). I could plausibly swap any of these shows into my top ten and wouldn’t regret it. But them’s the shakes I guess.

David: First, didn’t Hercules perform 12 tasks? And wasn’t this supposed to be a Top 10 list? Can’t you count? And second thing, I should have thought of a way to include Adventure Time . . . and maybe even Gravity Falls--which my kids have worn me down into watching. But, I understand what 10 means.

I would also like to give a semi apology to Legend of Korra: This show could easily have cracked the top 10, but because Nickelodeon makes me watch it on a small computer monitor instead of my TV, I have fallen behind on the episodes, and it falls out of the top 10.

You should watch all of those shows. They are great.

On to the winners. (You’re winners too, Honorable Mentions! I love you all equally!)

10. Archer (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Look, any show with Jon Benjamin is already going to have an easy time making my top ten list, so it’s not really fair. Add in Cheryl/Carol turning into the country music star complete with a real life musical album (sung by the super-talented Jessy Lynn Martens) and I’m putty in Archer’s hands.

Notable quote: “Are we not doing phrasing anymore!?”

David: Maybe someday I’ll watch Archer . . . but that time is not now. It feels a bit too much like more mainstream Adult Swim. How would I explain it to anyone else?

9. Rectify (Sundance)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because there’s nothing else quite like it on television. While some shows are seemingly afraid of showing stillness, this show sometimes is nearly nothing but an exploration of stillness. It provides an intimate look at the wounds a (possibly wrongful) murder conviction left on a family and it’s great.

Notable quote: “We call it lethal injection humor - more humane, but not as funny.”

David: I’ve never even heard of this show. Do you mean Justified? What is going on?

8. Bob’s Burgers (Fox)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Well, Jon Benjamin is the star…but also it’s endlessly quotable, amazingly funny, and it’s got heart. Never underestimate the power of heart in making a comedy great.

Notable quote: “My life is more difficult than anyone else’s on the planet, and YES, I’m including starving children, so DON’T ASK.” (Runner up: Ugh, my heart just pooped its pants.”)

David: Look, I’m as tired of hearing about H. Jon Benjamin as YOU are tired of hearing about “Arrow”. But I’ll overlook it this time because I appreciate the Captain Planet reference that I am waaaaaaay too old to admit that I remember.

7. The Americans (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s a tense spy thriller that’s actually about family! What could be better? (The answer is . . . these six shows listed below this one. Are you paying attention?) It’s also a top 10 show because it highlights the incredible wig technology of 1980s Soviet spies. This is an important public service.

Notable quote: “You know a Salisbury steak is technically a hamburger. In the shape of a steak.” Wise words Paige. Wise words.

David: Horrible job by me that I didn’t include this in my list. No excuses. I apologize to the 80s hot Keri Russell’s, to Keri Russell’s excellent blue jeans, to Matthew Rhys’ “Glen glasses”, to what USED to be Margo Martindale’s career, and to all of those Soviet wigs.

6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: I named my daughter Arya, so I’m predisposed to like this show and rate it highly. But if I need to defend it more: It has dragons, wights, and medieval combat: what’s not to like?

Notable quote: “There is only one hell…the one we live in now.”

David: What? You cover Game of Thrones in less than 50 words? You’ve changed, Dean and I’m not sure I like it.Where is the dude that posted thousands of words about GoT?

5. Broad City (Comedy Central)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because Ilana and Abbi are vulgar, messy, and hilarious. Also because of this:
Notable quote: “I'm not putting weed up inside of me because I'm an adult and I'm responsible.”

David: Are you making these shows up? I do watch TV, you know. You can’t just make up fictional shows and expect me not to notice.

4. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s a version of Back to the Future that takes the relationship between Marty and Doc seriously in the most demented wondrously weird way possible. Anything is possible, even if they can only get away with destroying their earth three or four more times, tops. Also because of Mr. Meseeeks.

Notable quote:  “I'm Ants in My Eyes Johnson here at Ants in My Eyes Johnson's Electronics! I mean, there's so many ants in my eyes! And there's so many TVs! Microwaves! Radios, I think! I can't, I'm not 100 percent sure what we have here in stock, because I can't see anything! Our prices, I hope, aren't too low! Check out this refrigerator! Only $200! What about this microwave? Only $100, that's fair! I'm Ants in My Eyes Johnson! Everythings black! I can't see a thing! And also, I can't feel anything either, [sets ablaze] did I mention that? But that's not as catchy, as having ants in your eyes, so... that always goes... y'know, off by the wayside! I can't feel, it's a very rare disease, all my se— all my nerves, they don't allow for the sensation of touch! So I never know what's going on! Am I standing, sitting? I don't know!”

David: Well, I hope you had fun with that quote because we’ve lost our adult, tax-paying demographic now. Next time, why don’t you try to explain “Too Many Cooks” to the WWYG?! audience?  I think I need to go over the focus testing numbers with you again before I let you guest post in the future.

3. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s funny and poignant. I really don’t feel like I need to write too much here as so much ink has been spilled on this show already. It deserves its spot here is all I’m saying.

Notable quote: “O’Neil, scatter the nuns!”

David: I think I find this show more intriguing if I listen to yáll mysteriously talk about it during lunch while I sit silently and chew.

2. Review (Comedy Central)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because somehow they took the premise “A man reviews life experiences” and turned it into something incredible. Andy Daly’s performance as Forrest slowly unravels is a marvel to behold. Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes is the most bleakly funny episode of any show this year.

Notable quote: “Racism: Half a star.”

David: Again, Comedy Central is an actual functioning network. It is not your playground of imagination. I think you could have fit a few of your Honorable Mention shows on this list IF you hadn’t been making up fictional programming.

1. You’re The Worst (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: There were a ton of new romantic comedies this year, and all of them forgot the comedy part of rom-com, and probably not coincidentally, all of them failed to make me care about the romance as well. They all had quirky best friends who were actually just annoying. All of them except You’re The Worst. Somehow it made me care about a romance between two awful people, and it made it look easy. It took the stock quirky best friends and made them human beings with flaws and wants and needs. Take notes other romantic comedies, You’re the Worst knows how to do it. Also Paul is the best. You blew it Lindsey.

Notable quote: (said sadly) “They’re everyone’s stars.”

David: I WILL watch this.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dean & David's Television Top 10 for 2014: Part One

The end of the year means lots of Top 10 lists.
And so I teamed up with my guest blogger partner-in-crime Dean to have a bit of a back-and-forth about the best shows of 2014.

If we were smart, had more free time, and were more tech savvy we might do this in a podcast form since Serial is so hot right now, but this is the best that we could do on short notice. (Dean only mentioned this to me at the end of last week, so the fact that we put our thoughts together over the weekend and that it is up at all for your viewing enjoyment is a bonus.) And you know that Dean's views are guaranteed hit counts for my blog, so I didn't hesitate to say yes.

If you are unfamiliar with this, I've been writing about television on this blog for many years. And in recent versions, Dean has been chipping in with his thoughts on the quality Cable shows that I tend to eshew (more on that as you read through this, I'm sure). But enough of the set up . . . here are my initial thoughts on the Best shows of 2014, along with Dean's commentary.

And if you like Part One, then expect more of the same later this week, but in opposite structure.

Let's get to it . . .

Here are my rankings of my favorite shows of this past year. I will predict before I read through Dean's manuscript that my choices are more mainstream than Dean's. (But I bet mine are better.)

1. The Flash This show could've been a train wreck. Super hero TV shows can be very dicey propositions. (See most every season of Smallville.) But this show has avoided these problems so far. The characters seems to make sense and the dialogue and acting in the cast and staff isn't nearly as cringe-worthy as some similar shows were in their first season of work.

Dean: OK, first off, everyone knows you start at 10 and work back to one, so we’re already off to a bad start. Secondly, I like The Flash because it shows you don’t have to be unrelentingly grim to have a successful superhero show. [Which is why I’m not watching Arrow and will probably drop Gotham.] But number 1? That’s crazy town.

2. New Girl In its latest season, this show has come back strong and is consistently funny again. It makes me laugh out loud on a weekly basis. If they promise to give me more classic Winston & Cee Cee mess-arounds I might rocket this show right up to the number one slot.

Dean: I’m not going to say anything bad about New Girl. That’s just not going to happen. Put New Girl wherever you like.

3. Gracepoint This is a show that has a very moody vibe--similar to Twin Peaks without all the mystical weirdness. A very, very, veeerry slow burn. If you are a fan of BBCAmerica, you might already have watched the Anglo original Broadchurch (which I have not, so I can't say if the American version tells the same overall story.) But it was a very sad ending.

Dean: I watched the British Broadchurch which was great, and I like Olivia Colman more than Anna Gunn. I am curious if they changed the ending like they said they would, so you’ll have to spoil it for me at lunch.

4. black-ish This is the surprising new show of this season and I like it quite a lot, considering that I completely panned it in my initial Fall Previews back several months ago. The writing has been strong and the characters are funny. I am tempted to say that this is a new generation's Cosby Show, but I should avoid any and all mention of Bill Cosby.

Dean: blackish is one of the few new broadcast comedies that I’m glad I’m still watching. It was a rough year for broadcast comedy. It’s legitimately good, so everyone check it out.

5. Game of Thrones It ended early in the calendar year, but it definitely has to get listed. If I don't rank it, The Mountain will crush my skull.

Dean: Oh look, we both have this. So that’s great.

6. A to Z The darkest of dark horses on this list, because the show itself has been cancelled and won't be returning next season. And that is too bad because this is a pretty good show that should have been given more of a chance. I mean, what else does NBC have going on right now? Is the network surrounded with quality shows that I don't know about? This seems like a good chance for another network to step up and take over this show to give it more time to tell its story?

Dean: A to Z (and the unlamented Bad Judge) helped kill NBC comedy Thursdays. It took something I loved and buried it in the ground. The best night in television is now a barren wasteland of insipid dramas. Also it wasn’t actually very funny, which is a shame as I like both Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman. Those sidekicks though: eesh. [You're right that the sidekicks are the weaker parts of the quartet. But it isn't fair to say that the show wasn't very funny. What do you know about funny anyway? You like The Goldbergs and willingly watched The Neighbors a few years ago. And anyway, how about that Wallflower boss, huh? She's funny in a Michael Scott-lite sort of way, right?]

7. TableTop This is a weekly YouTube "show" that is hosted by Wil Wheaton. He features a new board game in each episode, explaining how the game works and then broadcasting the playing of the game with a rotating cast of friends. This is the start of season 3, so there is not much to go on yet, but I'm going to rank this show on the quality of past performances.

Dean: If we’re doing YouTube shows then I’m going to put Veronica Mars on this list, because I watched it online and in the past year so IT’S NEW TO ME, DAVID. See what you’ve done? Now everything has descended into anarchy.

8. Legend of Korra It's no surprise that Dean and I both have this show listed--though I happen to know that he won't put it in his Top 10. This series has never been as strong as Avatar: The Last Airbender was episode-by-episode, but it has shown overall improvement from season to season. And when you consider that no show since Scrubs has been so mistreated by its network during its tenure as Nickelodeon has done to Legend of Korra, I probably ranked it higher than it strictly deserved.

Dean: And now I’m yet another episode behind. I’ll catch up one day Korra. One day.

9. Arrow It has been an okay season so far. The addition of Brandon--don't call me Superman, I'm Ray Palmer--Routh hasn't added much in this first half of the season, but things are beginning to heat up. I mean, Oliver [SPOILER ALERT] and then Ra's al Guhl said [SPOILER ALERT] and they had to go to the [SPOILER ALERT] which will most likely cause Oliver to go [SPOILER ALERT]! Luckily Palmer almost has his A.T.O.M. suit ready to go and Felicity will be there to help him, so I am predicting that [SPOILER ALERT] for the first month or two when the show comes back in January.

Dean: I’m not sure what anything in that paragraph means, and I’ve already noted my issues with this show above, which are totally valid even though I’ve literally only seen one episode of it when it crossed-over with The Flash.

10. Star Wars Rebels Hey guys, Star Wars is so hot right now . And this animated show is providing some interesting angles on the universe.

Dean: BUT IS IT CANON!? In all seriousness I haven’t seen it, so I can’t intelligently comment. 

CODA--The fact that I remembered to include black-ish from my initial draft means that Elementary gets bounced to number 11 on my list. And that is too bad because this Sherlock story is still good, but I had my doubts at the beginning of season three. A new character was introduced as Sherlock took on Kitty as a new protege. Joan Watson is striking out on her own with her own detective consulting gigs. But Watson and Sherlock continue to interact all the time. I imagine this is what it was like when Robin left the Batcave and became Nightwing. He kept running into the old man on Gotham rooftops as they went after the same jewelry thief. I expect the small-talk would be pretty excruciating.

Dean: There’s this thing called cable David. You should watch it.

So, there are my top ten, counted up in the proper order, no matter what Dean says.

Tune in tomorrow to see what Dean's favorite shows were and what I had to say about them.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Holidays 2014 from the Martins

Here is this year's Holiday e-card and Year in Review.

 I hope that you had a good 2014 and that 2015 may be shaping up to be a good one as well.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Shopping Counter-Programming

Grace and I are spending our Saturday Christmas shopping. So I probably won't have much time to write any post. But that's okay because there's no football today anyway to counter program.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #14

I had an idea for what to write earlier in the week. As is the usual occurrence, I had a clear idea and even some fairly clear ideas for the first few paragraphs of what I would write.

But as I sit here this morning, tasked with the duty of writing one of my last Football Counter-Programming posts, I can't recall any of what I might have planned. So now I am trying to figure out where to go with this day's post instead.

I guess I should start with an image search. Okay, go over to Google and type in the usual: "football fantasy nerds". Ignore scantily clad women, ignore offensive things, try to find something that is football-related and nerd-related. Wish I could reuse last week's image again, but that is against the rules I set for myself . . . hmmm.

Oh! This is a good one--and I haven't USED it yet.

Alright. Now that THAT bit of business is out of the way . . . what can I write about?

Hold on, I'll get some opinions from around the house.

Sarah, who is sitting nearby, studying for a geometry midterm suggests that I talk about family Christmas traditions. So I'll write up some stuff about that.

In my adult life, here in Ohio, our family traditions have always centered around travelling. Because all of our family members live several states away, we are the family that travels to meet up with everyone else year-to-year. And so that means we usually have our own family present-opening a few days before actual Christmas--usually on a Thursday or Friday prior to us leaving town on the weekend before Christmas week. We want the kids to have a chance to enjoy their gifts before they leave them behind for the car ride south. (This was especially important when they were young and were getting primarily toys. We wanted them to play with the toys ahead of travel.)

Then we would drive down to Georgia and split our time between various destinations for days at a time: Lynda's parents in north Georgia, my parents in south Georgia, Lynda's brother in east Georgia. In the 10 to 12 days that we are typically gone between December 20ish and January 1, we manage to see all of the immediate family: moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and first cousins.

It can be somewhat exhausting, true--living out of suitcases for days, remembering to pack all of the gifts for various households and have them ready, always having somewhere else to be in a few days. But if we don't do it in December, it may be six more months (if we are lucky and available) before we might possibly see most of them again. And since I don't do a very good job of talking to anyone on the phone regularly, this is made even more important.

One of the bigger challenges with all of this December travel is that I feel that our holiday planning is even more compressed than most. Because we are on the road by the third week of December, we have a tight window to get our shopping done, have any holiday parties with our Ohio friends, and the like. (But since I don't know what other people's pressures are, I'm probably just projecting.)

But enough about travels. Everybody has December stressors. What do we do for fun?

Every year we go to the Zoo Wildlights Christmas displays. (I posted a few of those pictures from this year on my Facebook account a few weeks ago. Grace and Hannah were riding a camel in the dark.) That is always fun . . . and COLD. Hot chocolate is always a welcome addition to that event, as it frequently snows while we are there.

This year, we also visited the Franklin Park Conservatory with some friends from church. Linda and Jenny are unofficial godparents to all three of our girls and they love to shower Sarah, Grace, and Hannah with lots of gifts--some of which are aimed for the long car ride's southward. In the last few years, we've met at Culvers (home of Wisconsin's famous butterburgers) for a meal and to open gifts. The conservatory was decorated with lots of poinsettias and the usual plants and Chihuhly glass. There was also a display of gingerbread houses and choirs singing season hymns. Good times.

What else do we do? Well, let's see . . .

We almost always make sugar cookies, iced with lots of colorful frosting and in the traditional shapes. I also organize a food-based bacchanalia at work that I happily call Gluttonfest. And if the company is doing well, we might even have a holiday company party each December. When the kids were smaller, there was also a daycare Christmas party to attend.

There is always lots to do and never enough time to do it well enough. Unfortunately, we don't often (if ever) get to spend Christmas eve with our church family, but they get us almost every other feast day of the year.

But . .. what about you? What sort of traditions do you have year to year? Where do you go? What places and events do you look forward to?