P.H.I.M.Y.M.D.

Suit up, because you’re in for a long ride.

PHIMYD: Post-How I Met Your Mother Depression. I always knew that when HIMYM finally came to a close after nine seasons, that I would feel a little emotional. There are few shows that I have really watched from start to finish. Sure, I will always identify myself as a Friends die-hard, but I was too young to really watch the whole series live as it aired (it premiered when I was five), and every other series that I can think of that I have watched from start to finish has been on Netflix, HBO Go, etc. Wracking my brain, I think that HIMYM is either one of, or the only, show I have watched live as it airs from start to finish. I remember stumbling upon it in Season 1 with my mom – neither of us had heard of it, but we thought it was hilarious, so we started tuning in every week (this also happened with Happy Endings, which I guess quantifies as a show that I have watched from start to it’s too-soon end). In college, I was lucky enough to become friends with a group of people that also loved HIMYM, and it became referenced so often among us, you might have thought the jokes were actually ours. Last night, we all texted during/after the finale, and we all shared the same thought — how could they do this to us?

I understand why the writers ended it the way that they did. In Seasons 1 and 2, having Ted end up with Robin probably seemed like a great idea (Side bar: I read in this piece that the character of Victoria was placed in just in case the show was cancelled after 1 season. I just want to add that I always loved Victoria and would have been perfectly okay with her being the mother/Ted’s wife). The blue french horn! He shows up at her door! Nothing good happens after 2am! A lot of the shows best moments happened during these seasons, and it was certainly the time when both Ted and Robin, as well as their relationship, were at their best. But we’ve grown, the show has grown, and Ted and Robin’s relationship has certainly grown, and time changes things. The viewers are over their relationship — especially when the last 2-3 seasons were spent convincing us that Trobin (it’s getting to hard to type Ted and Robin) could never be, and convincing us that Barney and Robin were meant to be. I’ve been reading a lot about the finale this morning, and I think what makes myself and my fellow fans most upset are two things: the crumbling of character development, and the likability of the mother.

The finale completely crumbled any character development that had happened in recent seasons, to the point where it was incredibly obvious that the writers had cooked up this finale during Season 1. This was most apparently with how they chose to handle Barney. Barney has probably been developed more than any of the characters. Yes, he still loves laser tag and the Bro Code (which, by the way, Ted ultimately getting with Robin at the end of the series = major violation of the Bro Code), but think of how much we have been through with him — from the search for his father, to his brother’s marriage and divorce, to his own engagement to Quinn ending. The scene at the beginning of the reception really showed this — we’ve never seen Barney happier. I literally laughed out loud when he said “holy grape scotch!” after having the idea to set Ted up with the bass player/mother. Twenty minutes later, we’re back at MacLaren’s with Barney hitting on girls half his age. Like, what the…?

The grape scotch reference was one of my two favorite call backs in this episode. Although there were many, which, even if you’ve had the ending spoiled for you, still make it worth watching. The second callback I loved was the renaissance fair in Ted/Tracy’s (the mother, for those of you who may have forgotten) home. Which brings me to main fan peeve #2 of the finale: we like the mother! We could have easily not liked her — after all of these seasons of build up, if she were a dud, sure, maybe we would have called for Ted and Robin to end up together. But we didn’t. We liked the mother, and we wanted them to be together. Season 9 was only worth watching for those moments where we caught flash forwards of Ted and Tracy. She was delightful. She was nerdy. She was everything Ted needed or wanted — and for a fan base that was nearing its wit’s end with Ted Mosby, she made him likable once again, and made us realize why we love Ted, and why we’ve been so invested in his search for 8 years. The finale showed us that she was not only perfect for Ted (I mean come on, she dressed as an elderly Floridian to match his hanging chad costume!), she was perfect for the group. She certainly passed the front porch test — and I would have loved if the writers would have kept her alive for us to see it. Craig Thomas and Carter Bays giveth, and Craig Thomas and Carter Bays taketh away.

I guess as a fan who invested nine years into the lives of Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin, I’m not really sure where to go from here. I’m still going to watch the episodes when they’re on, I’m still going to count it as a favorite sitcom, but I just wish it didn’t all lead back to Ted and Robin after all. With that, a few notes on my favorite moments/episodes/jokes throughout this show that I have been watching since I was (wow) 16 years old (again, damnnn that’s a long time):

  •  Everyone knows that my all-time favorite episode is “The Best Burger in New York.”
  • I loved Lily’s white whale costume.
  • I felt like this was the best acting I had ever seen from Alyson Hannigan. When she cried, I cried.
  • Alyson Hannigan shared on Inside the Actors Studio that her favorite moment from the show was the scene when Marshall finds out his dad died. I would have to agree. This was one of the most raw, emotional moments from the show. It’s such a real thing for a group of friends to have to go through together. This is why the show strikes a chord with us 20 and 30-somethings.
  • Same goes for the fights between Lily and Marshall. They’re almost a little too real.
  • ROBIN SPARKLES. Enough said.
  • The cast breaking out in song. From Marshall’s photo montages to “Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit” (NPH is one of my favorite people, and he does a musical number like no other. Example: his gigs hosting the Tony Awards. Wonder if he’ll host again this year if he’s in a revival?!)
  • Oh, and on the topic of songs — how could I forget the slap bet? (“Ya just got slapped, wo-oh-oh-ohhh”)
  • And on that note, the flashbacks. Like when Barney was a hippie.
  • Puzzles. I’m still waiting for a bar named Puzzles.

I could go on…. but I won’t. All in all, if you’ve never seen an episode (well, first of all if you haven’t seen an episode, I don’t believe you since this has to be one of the most syndicated shows… but I digress), despite this less than glowing review of the finale, you should really watch it. It’s still a great show, and I still love the jokes, the cast and the characters. And every season (except the last one) is available on Netflix.

And with that, Stinson…errrr, Gruber… out.

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Happy Veteran’s Day

This Veteran’s Day I am reminded of one of the best episodes of The West Wing.

Throughout the series, you will notice that Toby’s reverence and respect for America’s veterans is unparalleled. I can only hope there are those in our government today who feel this strongly.

Thank you to all those who have served and continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

All about the Emmys

Apologies for my hiatus from blogging recently. Ironically, a large portion of my absence is due to the fact that I started a new job working on entertainment. But the television season is back, and so am I. Of course, I typically would have live-blogged the Emmys, but I was actually attending the abysmal performance of the Buffalo Bills vs. the Jets, so I missed the first half of the broadcast. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the awards, of course.

It was certainly an interesting and surprising year for the awards. There were a lot of surprises and upsets – I, for one, am basically referring to the fact that Modern Family only took home two awards. Which, if you ask me is two too many. It’s not that it’s a bad show, it’s just not the best show any more. The first year it was on, yes, maybe it was deserved. It was a new, smart, unique, comedy. But, it’s now tired, and there are some viable competitors to take it on. Specifically, VEEP. VEEP is a smart, unique, quippy comedy that definitely got the respect is deserves last night, with a win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus (her second for VEEP) and a win for Tony Hale. Let’s also talk about how great JLD’s acceptance speech ft. Tony Hale was. If you will recall, JLD also did a bit with Amy Poehler last year when she won. In case you needed further proof of how amazing she is.

(By the way, props to Netflix for tweeting about Tony Hale’s win – especially when it was for a non-Netflix show. This tweet was so well-crafted.)

I would have liked to see VEEP take home the best comedy award, but at least it won something. As for my other bias favorites, I was glad that House of Cards at least took home one award with David Fincher winning Best Director. It is an incredibly well-produced and well-directed series. I was cheering for Robin Wright for Best Actress, but respect for Claire Danes of course. Sadly, no love for Mad Men, when I think that this season was one of their best ever. I was really pulling for Jon Hamm – the audience of Mad Men, after years of making excuses for Don Draper, finally stopped and realized how sad and pathetic Don has become – and Hamm played this transformation perfectly. Alas, we saw one of the biggest upsets in recent years with Jeff Daniels taking home Best Actor for The Newsroom. Seriously, who saw that coming?

Other upsets on the evening included Bobby Carnivale taking home Best Actor in a drama for Boardwalk Empire, in a category which seemingly belonged to Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad. While I think in recent seasons Boardwalk has lost it’s spark (admittedly I fell out of in after season 2), the acting and production quality are still great. In Best Supporting Actor in a comedy we saw Jim Parsons win, and we all collectively yawned. Granted, this was a category where there wasn’t really a favorite to win, but when will America get tired of Big Bang Theory? So over it. I don’t need to watch more than 5 minutes of it to know that I hate it.  CBS programming is stale and tired and needs a serious revamp — it might get a lot of viewers, but is it really bringing anything to the table?

All in all, I think what the real success of the evening is that you can’t say that the night “belonged” to any one show. While Breaking Bad and Modern Family took home the night’s biggest show awards, it’s not like any shows made a sweep. In my view, it reinforces that there’s some seriously good television happening right now in both the realm of comedy and drama. It definitely gave a boost to the industry as a whole (even if you thought the broadcast was weird) and kicked off the new television season. Cheers to a great year of TV. 

RIP Cory Monteith

I am genuinely upset about the death of Cory Monteith. So upset, in fact, that myself and a friend of mine had a pseudo-Glee Season 1 marathon on Sunday following the news. Even though I have fallen out of closely following the show, Glee will always have my respect. I remember watching American Idol and seeing the preview for it. I instantly thought “I am SO watching that.”

In high school, I was very involved in music and musicals, and in fact, the only people that I stay in touch with from high school are my friends that I became close with through being involved in theater. Glee finally gave us a show about being “those kids” in high school. I have to say, I really “pulled a Finn” (lacrosse player one year, doing theater the next). I joined the theater clique later on in my high school days, but I never felt more a part of something and more accepted in my teenage years as I did in this community, and no experience in high school taught me to be who I am more. Glee really portrayed this experience. No matter how corny the show can be sometimes, it truly is an ode to being who you are and expressing yourself. Few characters on the show personify this more than the character of Finn, and Cory Monteith portrayed it perfectly – the vulnerability, the uncertainty, and of course, the talent and leadership. I felt like I could have known Finn in my theater circle of friends in high school (and hey, let’s face it, I probably would have had a crush on him).

Certainly, the show will never be the same. It almost feels wrong for it to go on, knowing that from the “old Glee” phase to the “new Glee” phase, Finn was the character that held it all together. But, like in any show business, the show must go on – but it will do so with a heavy heart. Cory will be very sorely missed – but his time on Glee certainly made an impression on not only me, but millions of fans. RIP.

It’s not the greatest show, but it can be.

Love it or hate it, the Newsroom is back for Season 2 on Sunday.

I recently took the opportunity to re-watch most of Season 1 while on a mini-vacation at my parent’s house with HBO On Demand. I felt pretty much the same about it as I did when I was initially watching it airing live. The series started so strong – the pilot hooks you in immediately from Will’s on-stage rant. It’s classic Sorkin, incredibly reminiscent of the West Wing (I can see Toby or Josh spewing this out). The main difference between the Newsroom and the West Wing is that the Newsroom gets personal. A little too personal.

I’m watching this for the drama of the news, of the workplace, not to see if Don and Maggie are back together. I suppose comparatively West Wing probably focused on personal relationships at the same level, but the characters were a lot more likable. I wanted Josh and Donna to get together. I wanted everything to be okay between the President and the First Lady. I hoped Leo wouldn’t fall off the wagon. With the Newsroom, I see a scene with Maggie and Jim about to happen and I get nauseous. In my opinion, Maggie completely ruins the show.

Every other character is pretty badass. Don is a likable jerk, Sloan is a lovable awkward nerd, Jim is adorkable, Will is a classic Sorkin character. But Maggie is the personification of everything that gives a bad name to women. I am by no means a feminist, but come on, dating not only one, but two of your superiors in the workplace would be incredibly frowned upon in the real world. And how many times have we seen Maggie cry at work? Pull yourself together and learn to be a professional. I know you got the job as an assistant producer by a stroke of luck, but at least act like you’re qualified to hold a job. Not to mention, the actress , Alison Pill’s, little mannerisms like her excessive blinking, are incredibly annoying (She’s also annoying IRL having “accidentally” tweeted a topless photo of herself in hipster glasses… really? Was that an “accident“?).

That said, I am interested to see the second season. Re-watching it, I did pick up on some key scenes are moments that reminded me why the show is still worth watching. It’s still an interesting concept, and there’s still some scenes that are just good TV. Case and point, this scene with Don breaking down Nancy Grace’s coverage of the Casey Anthony trial is fascinating and well-written, and explains essentially why television production is such an art.

With Sorkin having apparently fired the entire writing staff from last season, he knows that the show didn’t perform to expectations – but this writing shake-up means I am expecting Season 2 to really deliver to classic Sorkin standards (although in the grand scheme of things, he hasn’t written for a show for longer than four seasons. You can fact check that for me because it’s totally just a guess). That said, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see – and at least if I lose interest, I can watch all of the West Wing on Netflix for the third time….

Oh, Stefon. I shall miss thee.

While SNL cast members have come and gone throughout the years, I think that Bill Hader’s announcement that he is leaving the cast following Saturday’s finale was the one that I was most disappointed with as a fan. While other cast members have had funny characters, or really had time to come in to their own and figure out their place in the cast (I’m looking at you, Fred Armisen – who used to annoy me to no end, but is now a beneficial member of the cast), Hader never really had an awkward period, and has really been the most consistently funny cast member. In both his original characters and his impressions, it’s rare that I don’t laugh at a sketch that Hader is in.

That said, I also think that he has the most promise to be a successful cast member after leaving SNL. Hader has already proven that he has more than just sketch comedy chops through his other projects, such as appearing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and as a writer for South Park for a few seasons (including one of my favorite episodes, Margaritaville). While I know this won’t be the last we see of Hader, it might be the last we see of several of his characters and impressions (although fingers are crossed for a Stefon cameo when Seth Meyers transitions to Late Night). And so, I wanted to pay a small homage to some of Hader’s best sketches.

Clint Eastwood: Who could have known how many times this impression would come in handy for Hader? Oddly, we encountered two major pop culture references to Eastwood during Hader’s tenure in the cast. The first being his stint of Super Bowl commercials for Chysler, the second being the RNC invisible chair fiasco.

James Carville: It’s not an election season without Hader playing everyone’s favorite Cajun peanut, James Carville. Every time he does this character, it gets more and more ridiculous. In the character’s last Weekend Update appearance when Hader played the air drums and mimed throwing a drum stick in the air and waiting for it to drop, I lost it.
Tommy Lee Jones: Hader’s impression of Tommy Lee Jones was literally the only thing that kept Jennifer Lawrence’s monologe from not completely tanking.
Vincent Price: Admittedly, when I think of Hader’s Vincent Price impression, I’m mostly thinking about “Vincent Price’s Halloween Special” with Jon Hamm. Hamm and Hader playing off each other was hilarious. (Although most impressively, Hamm rehearsed this sketch as Dean Martin and they switched the character to James Mason at the last minute. Hamm never rehearsed it, and completely nailed it)
Lindsey Buckingham in “What’s Up With That?”: “What’s Up With That?” is a completely underrated sketch. I am literally laughing out loud every time it’s on despite seeing it a hundred times. While obviously Jason Sudeikis dancing in the red Adidas jumpsuit, the straight face Hader keeps at the end (to cracking a smile) is unreal.
I had to. One of my favorite GIFs.
Herb Welch: This really needs no explanation. Herb Welch is an underused Hader character. You know that any character that makes the cut into a Justin Timberlake episode must be good.
Robot in Amusement Park: This sketch is the embodiment of the “it’s funny because it’s true” area of comedy. If I went on this ride, I would absolutely be creeped out by these animatronic singers. Hader popping up to ding the triangle is so subtle, and yet so hilarious. I believe in prior sketches of this, he played a more prominent role.
Saul in Homeland Sketch: Because for any Homeland fan, you know this sketch is perfection. So accurate. His voice, his stature. So spot on.
Devin in “the Californians”: I actually really hate this sketch. It’s only salvation is that Hader completely mangles the words that he says.
Anthony Peter Coleman – Puppet Sketch: This sketch was the highlight of Seth McFarlane’s hosting gig – solely because of Hader’s weird veteran puppeteer. If you watch one sketch from this season (with the exclusion of every sketch from Justin Timberlake’s episode), it might need to be this one. This character is so odd but so hilarious, Hader completely nails it – not only Anthony and his puppet, “Tony,” but Tony’s alternative voice “Clark,” who likes biscuits and waffles.
Stefon: Hands down, the best Hader character of all. This needs no explanation. We can only hope Stefon really goes out with a bang this week. I love you, Drunk Uncle, but if there is no Stefon in Hader’s final SNL appearance, NBC isn’t doing it right.

A Note

The night of Hurricane Sandy was one of the scariest moments of my life. My apartment at that time was bordering the East River. Despite our location, we were not evacuated; and in fact, were in evacuation Zone C. My power went out, and not long after, the smell of smoke and burning filled my building. As we began to grab our belongings in the midst of the storm, someone ran down our stairwell yelling “the building is on fire! Everyone out!.” I couldn’t think of a worse scenario to be happening, as we ran out of the apartment with all we could carry and into the storm. Thankfully, the fire was small and the building was okay, but of course, we were shaken up for days. Boston was my refuge. I packed my bags and escaped the stress of Sandy (and my dark, vacant apartment) to Boston, which welcomed me with open arms.

Despite the fact that I don’t live in Boston, today’s tragedy has really taken a toll on me. Although four hours away, it hit close to home. Boston has been a third home for myself and my family, since my sister moved there three years ago. Since her relocation, I have connected with my family more times in Boston than I have in my own home of Buffalo. With a penchant for all that is rich in history, I instantly fell in love with the city upon my first visit, and my love for the city has grown upon each trip back.

An emotion that my generation is incredibly familiar with is fear. And why wouldn’t we be? At our prime coming of age, we experienced 9/11 and its ensuing events. We grew up exposed to the ugliness of the world, taught to hope for the best and expect the worst. While our parents, of course, grew up during Vietnam with the threat that a piece of their home life might leave them, never to return; we have subsequently grown up with the threat that while our home may be there, it might never be the same. Living in New York, I often wonder what life was like here before 9/11. Although I wasn’t here, I know it has changed. The Financial district will forever feel haunted. It will always be uncomfortable to see a photo of the skyline that hasn’t been updated.

The day of 9/11 taught me a lot. About misinformation, about fear, about treating kids like adults. Even at thirteen, I knew that my administration at my school was handling it poorly. Consider it my first lesson in the mishandling and withholding of information. Not being clear and direct – stating what you know or don’t know, only leads to more misinformation and false rumors. My school chose not to tell a group of able-minded middle schoolers what was happening, despite hinting that there was a dire matter at hand. Kids were spreading outrageous rumors, the one that I remember most being that Cuba was invading the US. I knew that couldn’t be the case, but I never could have guessed what actually happened. I had never even heard the word “terrorism.” My parents treated me like an adult. My mom instantly described to me what happened as she picked me up from school, and I remember watching the news for the rest of the day. I also remember how I felt that night. I couldn’t sleep, wondering what would happen next. What location would be next? Would I wake up to another attack?

I guess that was the same fear that filled me today. Despite the terrorism we have seen in recent years, you still think that it can’t happen again. Or that it won’t happen again. Today was a shocking reminder that we still live in the same world. Marathons are supposed to be a celebration of life, achievement of the human body and mind, strength and perseverance. As we have seen in the past, and as we will see with Boston, they will surely mirror the mindset and endurance of a marathon runner, as they attempt to recover from this tragedy.

I know this is not at all within the wheelhouse of my blog, but I needed to get my thoughts out. I will connect it in saying that prior to this happening, my biggest disgust in humanity of the day was reading about Justin Beiber’s remark about Anne Frank (which still makes me nauseous). This did, however, remind me of this quote from Anne, which I think is more relevant than ever.

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

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Photo via Riley Woods