Nick Miller: Perfect Human Man

Nick Miller

New Girl went off the air two years ago but I only finally watched it this past year. Even though I knew a few people who were fans it never seemed like my kind of thing, and with seven seasons that were all about twenty-three episodes long (minus the shortened final season), it felt like a huge time investment for something that was unlikely to pay off. The whole cutesy, adorkable thing Zooey Deschanel has going on is not something I tend to enjoy. Then COVID happened and all of a sudden I was quarantined and working from home for the foreseeable future. Now almost 3 months later I’ve watched the entire show twice through, and my favorite episodes multiple times each. It took me a while to get into it but Schmidt made me laugh so much right away. Plus Coach was hot, Cece was fun, Winston was cute, and Jess actually ended up being fairly tolerable (although it took a good half a season for her to stop relentlessly annoying me), so I kept going. Nick Miller on the other hand? He did not jump out at me at all. At first glance he seemed like nothing special- a lazy underachiever, a lovable slacker, and a bit of a slob. Besides the slob part which is very much accurate, it turned out that this was not in fact the true essence of Nick and the longer I watched the show the more I realized how little those other labels actually applied to him. Nick Miller might be a mess but he is also a grown-ass man in every sense that matters, and a stealth hottie you do not see coming.

The realization that I was watching my literal dream boyfriend on the screen came on gradually and then grew stronger and stronger until it was overwhelming. I mean there were times I had to pause the show and just sit with it. Part of it is just a quality that defies explanation. There is an aura of comfort and warmth, and just a solidness he exudes, the source of which I can’t really pinpoint. But there is also a lot I can pinpoint and I will attempt to do so here. Since watching the show I found that I was far from alone in my obsession with this trash hunk, so in order to sort through my feelings and explain his appeal (to myself as much as to anyone else) I am going to list 5 reasons why this man burrowed his way into my very soul.

  1. Nick Miller consciously chose the life he lives.

It is made known pretty early on that Nick dropped out of law school. He began working as a bartender instead, which seemed to place him in the category of an underachiever. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that this assumption is really just born of snobbishness. Who says the life of a lawyer is worth more? Who says higher social and economic status should be more important to a person than their happiness?

All of the things that make people underestimate Nick or think of him as a man-child are things that not only don’t harm anyone (except sometimes Nick, when it comes to things like never exercising or eating a vegetable) but they are also conscious choices that Nick has made and consequently, he is living the exact sort of life he wants to be living. This really clicked for me when Nick eventually reveals that he actually took the bar and passed it. He explains, “I wanted to prove to myself that I dropped out of law school because I wanted to be a bartender, not because I couldn’t be a lawyer. … The point is, is that I want this. It makes me happy.”

Nick requires no outside validation of his life choices, which is why he doesn’t go around telling people he passed the bar. He only needed to prove to himself that he could. He doesn’t need anyone to think of him a certain way because he knows who he is. He cares whether or not his closest friends respect him, sure, but he would never have befriended the sort of people who would have less respect for him because he chose a job in the service industry over a fancy lawyer gig. Nick eventually ends up owning the bar with Schmidt and then also becomes a writer, because Nick isn’t afraid of success itself it’s just that he’s not going to trade what he has for anything that will place him on a path that is both more demanding and less fulfilling. It would never even occur to Nick to make decisions based on the expectations of others.

When Nick’s father passes away they all go back to Chicago with him for the funeral and Jess, the newest person in his life, is shocked to discover that Nick is the stable, responsible member of his family that everyone else relies on. They immediately look to him, the youngest brother, to organize everything. Choosing to avoid certain types of responsibility should never be confused with an inability to be responsible.

  1. Almost all of Nick Miller’s emotional labor goes towards trying to spare his friends pain, embarrassment, and disappointment.

Nick Miller is a pessimist right down to his bones. In his own words: “Nick Miller- making lemons out of lemonade since 1982”. Personally I think of him more as a realist but that’s just me. But unlike most pessimistic characters who are at odds with their optimistic friends, Nick does not place value on his pessimism or think of it as “smarter” or more valid than other ways of viewing life. Jess, Schmidt, and Winston are all incurable optimists and instead of trying to convince them they are wrong he incessantly goes out of his way to protect them from disappointment. He tries to warn them against getting their hopes up about things to be sure, but in the end he always backs off and agrees with them- that maybe this time it will be different, that this awful person will change, or that doomed relationship will work, knowing the whole time that it won’t end well. Nick knows the world will do plenty to break his friends’ spirits so he’s damned if he will contribute to it. He gives gentle warnings then shuts all the way up, prepared to pick up the pieces afterwards like he always does. Nick is the king of damage control.

Mostly it is with Schmidt and Jess, only because they are the ones who need it the most. Winston might be an optimist and a sweetheart but he is also much better equipped to deal with reality, because growing up black meant that he was unable to escape it. He needs Nick’s help much less frequently, and Coach needs no such help at any time. Schmidt however is the most delicate of emotional flowers, and Jess sees the world through a pair of rose-colored glasses so strong they were probably forged by mountain dwarves. But we will cover Nick taking care of Jess later so instead let’s talk about the episode Return to Sender. In season five Schmidt is engaged to Cece and is justifiably the happiest boy in all the land. His dad Gavin (played by the always wonderful and still smoking hot Peter Gallagher) is back in the mix. Gavin left Schmidt and his mother behind when Schmidt was young, and ever since then he has dropped back into Schmidt’s life intermittently. Because Schmidt completely lacks the emotional armor that fully encases Nick, he manages to get his hopes up every single time that his father will stick around and so gets his heart broken over and over.

Ever since Nick came into the picture in college it has been the same story- Nick warns Schmidt not to get his hopes up, Schmidt does anyway, Gavin lets him down, and Nick is there for Schmidt with a milkshake and a shoulder to cry on. This time though, Nick has had enough. When Gavin refers to the location of Schmidt’s wedding incorrectly, Nick points out that the wedding is actually being held somewhere else and that Gavin would know that if he was around more. Schmidt takes him aside and asks him to be nice to his dad, because maybe this time it will be different. Nick, ever the voice of reason, says “Schmidt, I want you to have a relationship with your father. I’ve just been down this road so many times. He just shows up out of the boo (“blue”, Schmidt corrects him), he shows you a great time, you get sucked in, then he disappears and breaks your heart and I’m left to pick up the pieces.” But Schmidt begs Nick to let him have this, so of course Nick does. He starts getting along with Schmidt’s dad just fine and they share some drinks. Then Gavin invites Schmidt out to dinner to celebrate and Schmidt is thrilled, both that his dad is back in his life and that Nick and Gavin are getting along. Nick first agrees that it is great, then says gently, “I just want to check in. You said you weren’t getting sucked in.” Schmidt denies that he is. Later as Gavin leaves, Nick follows him into the hallway to give him the type of talking-to that only a surrogate father or brother can give. (He begins this talk by saying, “I feel like I can say this to you because we shared a cup.” Gavin replies “Wow you really live by a specific code.” This is not particularly relevant but “Nick Miller Lives By A Code” is a strong runner up for this list so I wanted to include it.)

Nick: “Look we both know how this is gonna go down, Gavin. You’re gonna get Schmidt’s expectations up then you’re gonna bail.”

Gavin: “I know.”

Nick: “Just BE better. Be his dad. Just be there for him even when it’s not fun, and sometimes it’s really not fun. I know, I’ve been doing it for 15 years.”

Gavin: “Thank you.”

Nick: “Don’t thank me, just promise me if you show up for dinner tonight you’ll show up tomorrow, and the day after that, and the week after, and basically forever.”

Gavin: “I will.”

Nick: “Will you, Gavin?”

Later Nick finds Schmidt at the restaurant alone and he hands him a milkshake and sits down, because even though he said he was tired of picking up the pieces of course he will never stop doing it. Luckily this time Gavin shows up and Nick doesn’t have to.

Contrast this with a much earlier episode in season two called A Father’s Love, in which Nick’s own dad (who soon after passes away) comes to town. Nick also has a very charming but disappointing man for a father, but where Gavin is only unreliable Walt Miller is also an actual con man who cheerfully swindles even his closest friends and family members out of money at every opportunity. Nick is immediately on edge once his father arrives, and while he is angrily “fixing” the sink (well, mostly banging on the pipes with a hammer), Jess of course encourages Nick to talk to his father. Nick explains that there is no changing his dad. (“You wanna know why I’m messed up? Why I don’t trust people? Why I have anger issues? Why I have the blood pressure of a hummingbird?”) Jess being Jess, she is optimistic about Walt’s ability to change. Nick stops trying to argue with her but he also doesn’t consider for a second the possibility that his father will change, not even a little. He is not Schmidt. He keeps watch from the sidelines, his only real concern being to prevent his dad from taking advantage of Jess’s trusting nature. He knows that Jessica is wrong to expect the best in people, but he also loves that she does.

After his dad eventually pulls one of his cons and sneaks out of the apartment, Jess is the one who is upset, not Nick. She is disappointed and sad on Nick’s behalf, but Nick is fine. He finds Jess angry and frustrated, banging on the same pipes under the kitchen sink.

Jess: “Walt’s gone. I know how hard it was for you to talk to him, and- some people, I just don’t underst! They just! Ughhhh! I understand why you want to break pipes now. Let’s just drink a bunch and destroy the sink.”

Nick: “I don’t need to break the pipes, Jess. I’m fine. I mean truth be told, I was happy to see him.”

Jess: “I thought if you talked to him, then maybe-“

Nick, shaking his head: “No, Jess, people don’t change. When someone’s broken, they just stay broken.”

Jess: “You’re not broken.”

Nick, with a sad little laugh that cuts me to my core: “I’m a little broken.”

Jess: “You should be so much worse. I don’t know how you made it out, but- you’re good.”

Even after Nick was the one to be let down he was still more worried about how it affected the people closest to him. Because he saw it coming a mile away and he knows that there are at least two people in his life who never will.

  1. Nick Miller’s protectiveness and love of Jessica Day exists outside of romantic context.

Of course Nick proved he would do anything for Jess when they were a couple, but I’d rather talk about how he was just as protective and supportive before and after they were. In the very first episode he began doing the thing he would do over and over and over for the next 7 years- he dropped everything the second she needed him. This is a common trope in TV shows when there is a romantic pairing, but what makes it different and so attractive in Nick is that it is born of his protective nature and not out of any sense that he wants something in return. Nick behaves the way he does towards Jess because that is who he is as a man, not because he is a doormat and never because he sees her as a possession or object to defend. He protects her because he loves her humanity and wants her to hold onto it, and this subtle distinction might be the actual one thing that makes him irresistible to me. Here are a handful of episodes that illustrate this really well:

-Pilot

At the end of the pilot episode Nick, Schmidt, and Coach are outside of a club trying to get in. Nick runs into his ex-girlfriend Caroline, who recently dumped him and who he is still in love with. They’re about to go get a drink together (giving him hope of the reconciliation he so desperately wants), but then he sees the guy he knows Jess is supposed to be having a date with that night. This is the very first date Jess has gone on since she walked in on her long-term boyfriend cheating on her, which was what caused her to move into the loft with them in the first place. They were the ones who encouraged her to start dating again after weeks of watching her cry on the couch while watching Dirty Dancing on repeat. Immediately Nick demands to know where Jess is, and the guy says he blew her off because she texted him 7 times throughout the day which clearly makes her a crazy person. Disgusted and pissed off, Nick asks “So is she waiting for you to show up, or did you call her?” The douchebag laughs and makes it very clear he didn’t bother. The realization that Jess has been stood up the very first time she put herself out there again and is sitting in a restaurant alone at that very moment flashes across his face and it is enough for him to leave Caroline at the club without a second’s hesitation, telling her only “I gotta go help a friend.” Nick runs off. Coach goes with him right away, and Schmidt eventually follows after throwing a brief fit about missing the party. At the restaurant Jess is in tears as the waitress is telling her she needs to give up the table. Nick comes running in first, the other two hot on his heels.

Nick: “We’re here, Jess! We’re here!”

Coach, right behind him: “We’re here for the date.”

Waitress: “You’re ALL on a date?”

Nick “Yeah, we’re her boyfriends. We’re reverse-Mormons. One man just isn’t enough for her.”

Nick can never see Jess cry without trying to cheer her up, so he starts singing a song from, of course, Dirty Dancing. Badly. Coach and Schmidt join in and they cause a minor scene in the restaurant. It is intentional- Nick takes all of the public humiliation off of Jess and puts it firmly upon himself. That moment alone really should have tipped me off to the fact that Nick was going to low key be the MVP of the entire show.

-Fluffer

There is an episode still prior to Nick and Jess’s relationship called Fluffer, which was probably the one that first started me down the road to Nick Miller-induced madness. Jess is having casual sex with a very hot man named Sam, but Winston starts to notice that Nick is the one doing all of the “boyfriend” tasks for Jess, even going out to dinner with her before she goes home to hook up with Sam. The final straw for Winston is when Jess asks Nick to go with her to an Ikea an hour and a half away so he can help her buy furniture. Winston tells Nick he has become Jessica’s emotional “fluffer”, essentially a boyfriend without the rewards. Nick brushes it off, but then after they get home from Ikea she also hints to him that she would like him to put the dresser together. The dresser that she just bought to replace the one she and Sam broke while having sex. What Winston said finally gets to him and he tells Jess no, that he won’t be her emotional fluffer and also that he won’t just drop everything and do anything she asks anymore. Nick and Jess briefly argue about what constitutes a friendship vs. a relationship.

Nick and Winston later have another conversation in which Winston tells him again that under no circumstances is he to build furniture for a girl who is not his girlfriend. Nick agrees but then he walks by Jess’s room, sees the unopened box, and he starts putting it together anyway. Jess walks in while he is building it and tells him to stop- she has realized he’s right, and that it is not fair. Nick says it’s fine but Jess feels bad.

Jess: “I can’t let you ‘fluff’ me! I can’t let you work in emotional porn, you have too much to offer.”

Nick: “Forget it Jess, I’m building you the dresser. I love this stuff, it’s like high-stakes Legos. Just don’t make a big deal of it. I don’t need a bunch of people telling me what we can and can’t do together. That pisses me off. If I wanna build you a dresser I’m gonna build you a damn dresser.”

Nick Miller is nobody’s white knight waiting in the wings he is a grumpy, cuddly papa bear taking care of his friends. Nick knows what he is comfortable with and he is completely okay with taking care of Jess whether they are dating or not. He always has been. He let Winston get in his head for a hot minute but at the end of the day Nick is the one who decides what his relationships are going to be like. He isn’t pining, he isn’t being a martyr, and he isn’t waiting for Jess and Sam to break up. He just likes taking care of people, especially Jess. He likes building things. Most importantly he isn’t going to let anyone tell him what he should and shouldn’t do for the people in his life.

-Halloween

Then we come to Halloween, which is definitely my favorite New Girl episode that pre-dates their relationship. Jess is working seasonally at a haunted house as a zombie. Nick is scared of haunted houses and everyone duly mocks him for it. Jess is still hooking up with Sam but they are still not technically dating. They had agreed from the beginning it would be casual sex only, which was going just fine until Jess finds out he is a doctor- and not just a doctor, a pediatrician. Jess is an elementary school teacher and anyone who takes care of children is kryptonite to her heart, so naturally she catches feelings. Later Jess runs into Nick in the hallway as they are both coming out of their rooms (a girl Nick was into in college is visiting and is in his room- the first thing they do is high-five and say “High-five for sluts!”, referring to themselves, because they are supportive like that) and she tells Nick she likes Sam and is going to ask him for a real relationship. She invites Sam to visit her at work that night, and figures that if he shows up it means he likes her back and it is a sign she should talk to him about dating for real.

Later at the haunted house Nick and Jess talk about Nick’s fear of getting serious with the girl who is visiting. Jess tells Nick he should be brave and just “go into the haunted house”, as a metaphor for a relationship. Then, Sam shows up! Nick is happy for her. After greeting him though, Jess has to go back into the haunted house to do her job. Sam takes out his phone and Nick makes a comment about how doctors are always busy, but no, says Sam, he is texting another woman. He tells Nick he is so glad he and Jess are on the same page and it is clear that Sam does not want a relationship. Once again, the knowledge that Jess is about to be rejected and possibly humiliated flashes across Nick’s face and he knows he needs to find Jess, and if not save her from it then at least prepare her for Sam’s answer. So Nick Miller squares his shoulders, slaps himself in the face a few times, and walks right into the haunted house (this is obviously a callback to the conversation they had earlier since it shows exactly who Nick would walk into a haunted house for).

He is terrified and starts screaming repeatedly at a clown who is following him, which makes me die laughing every time I watch it. He faces his fears to try to help her and again, he didn’t hesitate for a second. I mean he ends up accidentally punching her when she comes out of nowhere and grabs him, but nevertheless. Jess ends up asking Sam for a relationship anyway because she is convinced that he too is just scared, but he very gently tells her that he is not scared he is simply not interested. Sam and Jess are done for the moment, but at least she didn’t have to go in blind. Plus later Nick makes her punch him in the face in retribution for his punch, which is very funny and also probably cheered her up.

-Cooler

There is one more pre-relationship episode I will talk about because there is no way we can discuss Nick and Jess without mentioning Cooler. This is the episode that has their first (and insanely hot) kiss, but I only want to mention a moment that happens early on. Nick, Schmidt, and Winston go out to try to find girls to hook up with. Jess is now dating Sam who had a change of heart and won Jess back after rejecting her on Halloween. But Sam is working, Cece is on a date, and Jess is home alone. She hears scratching at the door but doesn’t see anyone, and starts to get freaked out. It keeps happening and she finally calls Nick, who is beyond frustrated with her because of the many times she has now cock-blocked him (they use the term “the cooler” to describe what Jess is to Nick, which I guess is a much more polite way of putting it). She asks him to come home. He tells her no, that he’s had enough of this. But then Jess says, “Nick, I need you.” Nick closes his eyes and you know right away that those were the magic words and he is now completely resigned. A few minutes later and he is walking through the apartment door with Winston, Schmidt, and the girls they were talking to at the bar all in tow, to make sure Jess is okay.

-Helmet

The last episode I will talk about here is Helmet. This takes place well after Nick and Jess have broken up, during the time when Jess has started dating Sam yet again. Jess has a sex dream about Nick which prompts her to get rid of some of the stuff Nick gave her when they were dating, including an old Cubs helmet she was keeping her change in. Nick finds the helmet and asks her why she got rid of it. Between Cece and Jess not being able to keep a secret he quickly learns of dream. Of course he’s happy and amused but he’s not smug, and he doesn’t make a huge deal about it or try to make her feel embarrassed. He does want the details, but being Nick, asks things like “Was I 100% human?”.

After the three of them laugh about the dream Nick goes to leave but tells her that she can’t get rid of the helmet. Jess asks him why he cares so much, and Nick reminds her that he gave it to her as a Christmas present. Jess claims that it was just a last-minute gift he grabbed from his room and didn’t even wrap. She proceeds to put it on to point out about how little use she would have for it, and it gets stuck on her head. Nick tells her of course it got stuck, as it is a child’s helmet. She can’t get it off and instead starts trying to break it. Finally, after he is completely out of other options, he blurts out that she can’t break it because it was a gift from his father. His father who is dead. Jess is shocked. “You gave me something your dad gave you? Why didn’t you tell me?” Nick says it’s hard for him to talk about his feelings, especially when they have to do with his dead dad. But they can’t get it off, and so eventually of course he is the one to insist they break it to get it off her head so that she isn’t late to a dinner where she is supposed to meet Sam’s parents.

At the end of the episode Jess gifts him a broken piece of the helmet that she framed beautifully to hang in the bar he owns. Those two actions- him breaking the helmet and her making the artwork for him… well my friends, that is some Gift Of The Magi, O. Henry-type nonsense and it perfectly encapsulates their relationship. They take care of each other.

Like many people I grew up thinking that stories about unrequited love were incredibly romantic. I slowly came to realize over the years that the majority of them are bullshit messages designed to tell women that men are entitled to them if they put in enough effort, and to tell men that they can “win” a woman if they just hang around and are persistent enough. Nick and Jess have a beautiful story because the love and respect between them has always flowed equally in both directions. They might realize their feelings have swung back around to romantic at different (and usually inconvenient) times, but the core of their relationship is mutual love and an unshakable friendship.

Nothing drove this home harder than the breakup they went through, which only happened because they were fighting and they hated fighting, and they both agreed that they missed their friendship too much. Not only was their breakup completely mutual and utterly devoid of rancor, but they supported each other through it as much as they were able to. There is a scene soon after where Jess is crying on the couch watching her go-to breakup movie, Dirty Dancing, and Nick calls her from his room where he has also been crying. They each check that the other is okay, reiterate how much this sucks and how sad they both are, then Nick throws a box of tissues out of his room onto the couch when she says she is out. They know they can’t support each other physically in that moment because it would be too hard, so they do absolutely everything else that they can. I adored that scene because how can something be so sad and so fucking comforting at the same time? I loved them as a couple but I knew their friendship was never in any danger because they both protect it at all costs. At the end of the day that’s what mattered the most to me too. I frequently refer to New Girl as “friendship porn” because that’s exactly what it is.

I feel I must add that if you’ve not seen the show this section might make the relationship  between Jess and Nick seem lopsided, but rest assured if I wrote a post about Jessica Day’s love of Nick I could list just as many examples of her supporting and protecting him, if not more. But this is about Nick so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

4. Nick Miller is masculine without being remotely toxic.

Schmidt is immediately established in the pilot as the most stereotypical male of the loft in the areas of “womanizing” (Lord that word is so stupid) and full-strength douchiness, but that’s where it ends. Besides being fastidious about fashion and grooming Schmidt is also incredibly emotional and dramatic. He showers Nick with affection and fusses over him constantly. Nick is the one who has a hard time expressing his feelings, but this shortcoming is made endearing rather than annoying through his many efforts to address it.

These efforts are most effectively demonstrated in what might be my favorite episode between Nick and Schmidt ever, called You’re the Turtle. Schmidt randomly gives Nick a cookie and Nick thanks him, but asks him why. No reason, Schmidt says. Nick, confused, asks if it was a buy-one-get-one-free situation. Schmidt tells him no- that he was simply thinking of Nick, he saw the cookie, he knew Nick would like it, so he bought him the cookie. Nick wonders why Schmidt would be thinking of him for no reason and Schmidt says he thinks about Nick all the time. He then asks incredulously if Nick never even thinks about him when he’s not around. Nick says of course he doesn’t, in a tone that implies this is the weirdest question he has ever been asked. Schmidt of course becomes very upset. Nick takes it to Winston to try to figure out which of them is the crazy one in this situation. Winston immediately sides with Schmidt and then points out to Nick that he has always had a tendency to be emotionally distant with his friends, even back when the two of them were children together. He finally tells Nick “That wasn’t a cookie, it was a piece of his heart.”

Later an exasperated Nick also talks to Jess about his relationship with Schmidt, who he has now lived with for almost 10 years. How does Nick know it has been that long, you might ask? Because he has recently received an email from Schmidt asking him what he would like to do for their “tin” anniversary. Nick tells her, “The truth is, Schmidt loves me so much. And to be honest Jess, it scares me. I mean, I don’t think I deserve all of Schmidt’s love.” At this point, Schmidt emerges from his bedroom with red eyes and asks if Nick is happy now because he is “finally out of tears”. He walks back into his room and Nick turns to Jess and says, “That’s a third of my life.”

Finally at the end of the day Nick approaches Schmidt in the kitchen and gives him a cookie he went out and bought for him. This whole scene is hysterically funny which is the only reason it gets away with being so sweet. When Nick presents him with the cookie Schmidt gets even angrier, as Nick is obviously missing the point. Nick is frustrated and confused as to why this didn’t fix it and finally he just starts yelling “You gave me a cookie I gave you a cookie! You got me a cookie I got you a cookie! GAVE ME COOKIE I GOT YOU COOKIE. We’re even Schmidt! We’re even! You love me too much, Schmidt! And you picked the wrong guy! And when are you gonna get that through that giant head of yours! I’m just gonna let you down.” Nick is starting to choke up at this point. Schmidt realizes that Nick has been agonizing about this all day and the fact that Nick is so upset about it is enough for him. Nick says, “I got you a cookie, Schmidt, it’s the best I can do.” Schmidt hugs him and Winston hugs them both. Nick ends the hug saying, “You guys are the best, I love you guys. I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry.” Nick Miller cares, and he tries his best. As the other two are leaving the room a smiling Schmidt says “This needed to happen” which made me laugh out loud. Man do I love a show with straight male friendships that are so full of love and affection. Normalize that shit- normalize it all day. Normalize it until the cows come home, then normalize it to the cows.

  1. Nick Miller is incapable of true dishonesty or disloyalty.

One word: Sweatback. Nick Miller does not cheat and he does not lie. Even small lies eat him alive. It’s frustrating for his friends when they need him to keep a secret because even if his mouth doesn’t betray him his body does. When Nick is forced to lie his entire body sweats profusely, producing the telltale “sweatback”, which is what his friends call it when the back of his shirt soaks through with sweat. It is always played for laughs (and it is hilarious), but it’s also a rare quality for a grown man to have and speaks not only to his simplicity but to his integrity. Being deceitful goes against his very nature and he absolutely hates doing it. It’s admirable, completely adorable, and so goddamn funny.

Another consequence of this is that Nick tends to blurt out random confessions when literally no one has asked.

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I had to cut my list down to 5 because I could talk about this man for days, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include one honorable mention. Nick Miller panic-moonwalks away from people when he becomes too uncomfortable and there is nothing funnier in this world.

I’ve definitely become more cynical and critical as a TV viewer, not just of the romantic relationships we are supposed to be invested in (usually trite, doomed, or shallow) but also of the type of men we are supposed to admire. The age of the anti-hero was perhaps stronger a few years back, but it is still prevalent enough that I appreciate it when a show values kindness in its characters more than anything else. Not that all shows need to be this way, I loved Breaking Bad as much as anyone else and I am obsessed with more murder shows than I can count, but I can tell I am getting overly saturated in it when shows like New Girl or Parks & Recreation still feel like breaths of fresh air. As much as I love watching nightmare humans on screen (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is literally my favorite TV comedy of all time) I also need at least a couple of shows that are about fundamentally good people. I don’t want the characters to be boring or perfect, just people that you can feel good about rooting for. New Girl provides this while also being really, really funny.

The four main dudes of New Girl are very different from each other, and of course they make mistakes all the time like everyone else, but they are all good men. Whether you prefer Schmidt and his constant melodramatic affection, Winston with his awkward, utterly weirdo-brand of sweetness, Coach with his cool-guy distance that is the hardest to break through, or Nick. My slovenly, devoted, pure-hearted king with his grumpy old man personality and the sexiest nose on TV. There need to be more men on TV like Nick Miller, if for no other reason so that all kids who crush on boys can grow up knowing there are other men to pine for besides alcoholic serial cheaters and emotionally distant homicide detectives.

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TV: My Greatest Hits

Post published on Geeky Girl Guide on April 16, 2018

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Greetings my new friends! I am excited to join the team here as a contributor and I hope to entertain each and every one of you with my shouting. There are so many books, movies, and television shows that I plan to talk about individually, but it was too difficult to choose only one to kick off my contributions here. So I didn’t! Instead I made a list of 35 television episodes that I think are worth talking about. This list is in no way comprehensive but it should definitely give you an idea of the things I will be writing about, and in what way I will be writing about them (for instance I am more than a wee bit sweary so apologies in advance if that is not your jam). I am saving discussion of the problematic elements of some of these shows for individual posts or this list would be a novel. In the future I will be ranting a-plenty, but I’ve decided to kick things off on a positive note. These are not necessarily my favorite episodes, but rather the first ones that popped into my brain when I thought about the show in question. I’ve listed them in no particular order really, but the last two are my favorite shows of all time so there’s that.

Let’s do this.

30 Rock: Sandwich Day

30 rock sandwich day

30 Rock is a great show, but it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the episode I relate to more than any other is the one that revolves around sandwiches. There are so many shows I watch where the protagonists never seem to eat, or if they do they are coolly disinterested in the entire process. They often have to be reminded to eat by concerned family and friends to illustrate how tortured they are. That might be someone’s experience but it sure as hell isn’t mine. Liz Lemon loves food. Food is her therapy, her friend, and her father confessor. Liz kept repeatedly taking her ex-boyfriend Dennis back because despite all of his douchebaggery, every time she came home exhausted from work he had food waiting for her. Liz eats cheese at night and sings about it. She doesn’t understand why men offer to buy her drinks in bars and not mozzarella sticks. And when faced with the choice between chasing the man she loves through an airport and enjoying the delicious, perfect sandwich she only gets once a year from a mystery location, she refuses to choose. Because food is important. Because goddamn it, we can have it all.

Honorable Mention:  Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land because there’s only one Wesley Snipes in the world.

Sex and the City: The Post-It Always Sticks Twice

sex & the city coulda shoulda woulda

Sex and the City was not a particularly consistent show, and it wasn’t even a show that I loved. I liked it a lot. There were bits of it I disliked and bits of it I thought were absolutely brilliant. But this episode is classic. Things had been shaky between Carrie and her sullen writer boyfriend (played so wonderfully by Ron Livingston it was hard for me not to dislike his face forever afterwards), and he-of-the-fragile-masculinity finally decides to end it for good one morning. She wakes up after a night together to find him gone, and a post-it note on the table that says simply, “I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me”.  Carrie is furious and decides that all four of the close friends are hitting the town and having an epic night because “This can’t be the day that I was broken up with by a post-it. This has to be the day that something else happened”. Hijinks ensue, obviously. The episode is clever and heartfelt and was for me, the funniest the show has ever been.

Honorable Mention:  Coulda Woulda Shoulda because the end makes me cry every time.

Parks & Recreation: The Fight

parks & rec the fight

Parks & Rec is everything a television comedy should be. Funny, poignant, smart, silly, and frequently inspiring. But I didn’t even have to think about this one because for me there will never be anything funnier than these characters when they are drunk and/or hungover. Here Tom talks all of them into coming out to his nightclub where he and the always hysterical Jean-Ralphio are promoting their new alcoholic beverage- Snake Juice- which is, as Donna points out, “basically rat poison”. Everyone who drinks it becomes wasted almost instantly. Leslie and Ann have their very first fight and it’s every bit as ridiculous as you could imagine. From nonsensical insults to angry dancing, it is a fight that only two of the nicest people on Earth could have. Meanwhile this episode also blesses us with April & Andy’s alter-egos (Janet Snakehole and FBI agent Burt Macklin) and Ron Swanson dancing around manically in a tiny hat. What more could I ask for.

Honorable Mention:  Ron and Tammys because Paula Pell is a treasure and again- drunk Leslie.

Scrubs: My Way Home

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I’ve worked in hospitals since 1997 so I can tell you that Scrubs is the most accurate medical show that has ever been on television. If you want to know what the life of a resident physician is like, look no further. J.D. has a single, precious day off, and the episode begins with him in a bubble bath listening to Toto (I’m sorry, how do YOU spend your days off??). Then he gets paged in to the hospital for something inane that could have been handled over the phone (real). Then while trying to leave he gets waylaid over and over by nurses, patients, and friends all needing his help (REAL). He just wants to leave but at the same time, he has no real personal life to get back to anymore. The hospital has become his home and his family, and he can’t desert anyone in it or say no. That’s why Scrubs can do something fantastical, like pattern an entire episode after The Wizard of Oz, and still be so realistic. Because that show understood the way your life gets absorbed into residency until there is literally nothing else left. There is a reason most doctors marry nurses, drug reps, or other doctors- because no one on the outside really understands what the life entails. It’s not a job, it’s an existence. And everything else will always, always come second. Even your own sanity.

Honorable Mention:  My Fallen Idol because there is no physician alive with more of a conscience than Perry Cox, and this episode showed the tragic downside of that.

The Wire: Cleaning Up

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The Wire is brilliant and everyone knows this. For me this episode choice is not about “favorite”, or even best, episodes or seasons. This is about my heart breaking in half hearing D’Angelo say “Where’s Wallace? Where’s Wallace, String?” That scene will follow me always. It hurts. The whole thing hurts. Instead of clear-cut villains, I hurt for Bodie right along with Wallace. That was the moment I sat up and went holy shit, this show is going to ruin me. And I was right.

Honorable Mention:  -30- because everything comes full circle.

The 100:  Spacewalker

100 Clarke Lexa

The 100 is relentless. It is a chaotic mix of warfare, politics, and above all survival. I originally had no real feelings about Clarke in either direction. At first glance she seemed to be a standard-issue, spunky blonde white girl. I didn’t dislike her but I didn’t see anything special to get excited about. But as the second season came around she more than earned her leadership role, and this episode proved she was capable of making the most horrible, difficult decisions a leader has to make. Finn lost his shit and massacred almost twenty Grounders in a village as revenge for something he could not be sure they had done. Clarke had a choice- try to save him even though it would mean the end of the shaky treaty she had forged with the Grounders on behalf of the Sky People and possibly start a war, or let him be slowly tortured to death as punishment for his crimes by the tribe he had wronged. Instead of doing either she went to the Grounder Chieftess and requested to say goodbye to her friend- then she herself slid a knife into the pretty white boy the show had set up to be both a main character and her romantic interest. I was fully shocked, because this never happens. He deserved to face the consequences of his actions, but pretty white boys on the good side don’t ever face consequences- they get away with things! They are saved at the last moment! They are redeemed. Decades of television had taught me this. I had not yet realized that, with very few exceptions, this incredible show was going to center entirely around the female characters. Clarke gave him the gift of a swift death. She knew that some of her own people would be mutinous, but would eventually understand she had saved him from a worse fate. She also knew that although the Grounders would resent their prisoner being spared torture, they would ultimately respect the fact that she killed one of her own for his crimes against them. From that moment on, Clarke was my everything.

Honorable Mention:  The Culling, because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Bob’s Burgers: Mother Daughter Laser Razor

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Bob’s Burgers is the funniest, sweetest show. We need shows like this to balance out the awfulness in our world. This episode holds a special place in my heart because the kind of dad that Bob is makes me wish that I had a dad like that. I wish that everyone had a dad who would get his legs waxed just to support his awkward daughter. I loved Linda and Louise’s forced mother-daughter-date-turned-lazer-tag-battle, but in the end watching Bob quietly make sure that Tina knows that she is loved for who she is no matter what she decides to do with her body is what made this episode so goddamn special.

Honorable Mention:  Boyz 4 Now because that first time you become hormonally obsessed with a boy… the struggle is real.

Roseanne: Halloween IV

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There hasn’t been anything like Roseanne since it went off the air (we shall not speak of the heinous re-boot here). Seeing a working class, fat woman on TV with a loving husband and a family mirrored everything I saw in real life and absolutely nothing I saw on TV. The Halloween episodes were always special because as a kid I LOVED how much she loved Halloween. I was raised by people who thought Halloween was the Devil’s birthday, so I envied the Connors of their cool mom. I recognized myself in Darlene, and I recognized my life in the cheap linoleum, the yard sale furniture, and the non-trendy clothes. Watching Roseanne lose her Halloween spirit bummed me out- watching her get it back was epic. Yes the show took a complete nosedive in the end, but the first few seasons were important in so many ways that they still do not get credit for.

Honorable Mention:  Crime and Punishment because Roseanne started talking about the reality of domestic violence way before we started listening.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus: The Spanish Inquisition

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What can I possibly say about Monty Python that hasn’t already been said by someone smarter and more British than I. They really were The Beatles of comedy. The show was ridiculous, absurd, surreal, and frequently brilliant. The Spanish Inquisition sketch was a simple concept but that didn’t stop it being hilarious.

Honorable Mention:  Face the Press because the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch will never not kill me dead.

Archer: Lo Scandalo

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No matter how many times I watch this episode, I laugh out loud all the way through it. Lo Scandalo is a masterpiece and it has everything I love about Archer. Malory’s sociopathy, the gang all working together, Kriegar being a sick weirdo, hilariously clever rapid-fire dialogue… the manipulation by Malory that takes place here is utterly bananas and as usual she is ten steps ahead of everyone. But for me, Sterling provides the funniest, most relatable content upon learning of his mother’s kinky (or in his words: “dildo-ey”) S&M sex with the Italian Prime Minister (“Doesn’t Italy use a king?”). Malory, “Look!” Sterling, “You, look! I bet I’ll never be able to have sex again without thinking about this! I bet I won’t even be able to eat spaghetti and meatballs. -Oh God!” Malory, “What!” Sterling, “…I could eat! I mean not necessarily spaghetti and meatballs… but, you know, not necessarily NOT spaghetti and meatballs… I mean I really like spaghetti and meatballs. Man, if I don’t get some spaghetti and meatballs I may literally die.”

Food is important.

Honorable Mention:  The Limited, because fighting mounties on top of a train… and more importantly, BABOU.

Breaking Bad: Phoenix

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I feel like this is along the same lines as my pick for The Wire. It’s not that it’s the best episode, or even my favorite episode. But again it’s the episode when I first realized that this was a show that was not fucking around. For me Walter White’s character development can be separated into two parts: before Phoenix and after Phoenix. When Walter watched Jane choke to death on her own vomit when he easily could have saved her, you knew a line had been crossed that couldn’t be un-crossed. He made an inhuman decision rooted in pure selfishness, and its only end was to better manipulate Jesse. That was the moment Heisenberg was born.

Honorable Mention:  Felina because this show died as amazingly as it lived.

Psych: American Duos

Psych - Season 2

Psych is so much fun. It’s one of those shows you can always watch. Overall it’s fairly hit and miss but watching the friendship between Shawn and Gus is like a soothing salve for your brain. Tim Curry pretty much steals this particular episode away from James and Dulé and the American Idol parody ep becomes a vehicle for his brilliance. But the boys shine in their hilarious dance sequence and it’s one of the funniest episodes they have ever done. Good luck getting through all 8 seasons and not picking up at least 5 of their catch-phrases. Come on, Son. You know that’s right.

Honorable Mention:  Last Night Gus because it is nonstop fun and a large donut gets murdered.

X-Files: The Ghosts That Stole Christmas

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How much more fun could this show possibly have??  A haunted house. A classic ghost story. Scully and Mulder in the role of a loving but murderous couple. This episode can’t be written off as purely fan service because it is too fucking clever. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are both massively comedically talented and neither one of them hardly ever gets to show it off- especially Gillian who seems to go from darkly brilliant, somber murder show to darkly brilliant, somber murder show. Anytime the X-Files let them cut loose and be funny I was all in. Hysterical and genuinely creepy in equal amounts, this episode is a classic and I watch it at every year at Christmas.

Honorable Mention:  Quagmire because RIP Queequeg.

Cougar Town:  Lost Children

cougar town sardines

Yes, you heard that right. Cougar Town. The show with a name so stupid it was doomed to be underestimated forever- which was a damn shame because it’s actually charming as hell. Courtney Cox dates a young guy in the first few episodes then the title never holds any relevance, ever again. Eventually the show leans into it and just starts relentlessly mocking its own name in the title credits, which never stops being hilarious. Jules’ life consists of wine, her hot (but age-appropriate) neighbor boyfriend, her hilarious circle of friends, her ex-husband, her son, and a LOT more wine. Did I mention wine? This show revolves around wine. This episode popped into my mind because it’s ridiculous and silly and I loved watching the crew run around the neighborhood playing sardines. It reminds me of when we were kids and we would just… go outside and play? When did we stop doing that? Adults should still do that. Saying that Cougar Town doesn’t ever challenge you sounds like an insult, but it really, really isn’t. I need shows like this. Some days instead of watching people lie, kill, and scheme, you just want to watch a show where you know the writers will never break up your favorite couples. They will never try too hard to be cool. They will instead make up awesome games like Penny Can and have the gang make ridiculous bets with each other, all while drinking buckets of wine. They create small issues here and there that are easily resolvable, usually in one episode. This show pats your bottom and tells you everything is going to be okay. It looks good and it feels good. It makes you want your very own cul-de-sac crew.

Honorable Mention:  Little Girl Blues because I am all in favor of having actual funerals for your favorite wine glasses when they break. #RIPBigJoe

Star Trek TNG: Déjà Q

TNG Deja Q

I love almost all of The Star Treks, but I grew up with TNG. The very first episode had featured Q and he was immediately my favorite. I recorded all of his episodes on VHS tapes. His god-like powers, his sass, and his flair for the dramatic made him the most fun the show ever had with a villain. No being in the universe got under Jean-Luc’s skin like Q. I loved the way he effortlessly exasperated Picard. I loved it when Guinan stabbed him with a fork. I loved the way he said “Mon Cap-it-an”. I. love. Q. This was my favorite Q episode because it was the first one that showed the cracks in his armor. This was Q’s “human” episode.

Honorable Mention:  Elementary, Dear Data. I love every Data-centric episode and I’m obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, so this was inevitable.

Bojack Horseman: That’s Too Much, Man

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The Bojack Horseman episode “Stupid Piece of Shit” has been heralded as a brilliant look into the depressed mind. It’s is a fairly normal Bojack ep, but with the addition of his inner monologue berating him mercilessly the entire time. It’s truly great, but so much has been written about it that I thought I’d choose another one that stuck with me. This episode finds Bojack painfully lonely at rock-bottom. He calls up Sarah Lynn, his one-time TV daughter turned drug-addicted pop star and frequent partner in crime (“That’s too much, man.” was Sarah Lynn’s catchphrase on the show ‘Horsin’ Around’ when she was a kid). She is in a sober phase at the moment but the second the chance for a bender presents itself she is all in. Sarah Lynn always represented Bojack’s failure to be a good person. At one time he could have chosen to make her childhood a little less terrible by being there for her, but he never did. He wasn’t cruel, just self-absorbed, and Sarah Lynn (now in her 30’s) has always paid the price for the adults around her being self-absorbed. Bojack tries to go on a therapeutic journey of making amends, but he keeps blacking out and forgetting the conversations he has when he visits the people he has wronged, so then he has to go back and do it again. It’s hilarious and awful. Both of them stoned and wasted, Sarah Lynn drives Bojack from place to place as he keeps fucking up even more with every stop… until the end when he finally notices she’s been asking to go to the planetarium all day and takes her there, realizing he is not the only person alive on the planet who matters.  Sarah Lynn is obsessed with the planetarium simply because it is a dome. Sarah Lynn, who never got to choose what she wanted to be, quietly says “I want to be an architect.” Then she dies of a drug overdose with her head on Bojack’s shoulder. It’s one of the most brutal things I’ve ever seen a show do. But it was brilliant.

Honorable Mention:  Time’s Arrow because it is definitely the most well-crafted episode of the whole show.

Veronica Mars: Pilot

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Veronica Mars was ahead of its time and the first season was truly perfect. I chose the pilot because unlike most shows that take a while to hit their stride, Veronica Mars comes out swinging and shows you exactly what the show is going to be. It’s great from literally the very first frame. Even with The Good Place (which is phenomenal) this remains my favorite Kristen Bell role of all time. Veronica is constantly underestimated- this tiny blonde with a chip on her shoulder and more brains than is good for her. Armed only with her sharp mind, a Blackberry, a pit bull named Backup, and the best Dad in the entire history of television, she fights for people who can’t fight for themselves. One thing is absolutely certain- when shit goes down, you want Veronica in your corner.

Honorable Mention:  Leave it to Beaver because it’s rare that a show sets up the amount of mystery and intrigue that S1 of VM did and then manages to pay everything off.

The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye

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Over the past 8 seasons The Walking Dead has changed a lot, and not for the better. But for my money, there are also hardly any zombie shows or movies that can compete with the first season of that show. I am obsessed with zombies and I’ll watch any movie or tv show with zombies in it, no matter how awful. But from the first moment of Days Gone Bye to the last, you feel like you are watching a movie. A really good movie. The acting, the production value, even the music of the opening sequence. You are right there with Rick, experiencing his bewilderment and fear alongside him. It’s a shame it has dragged on for so long because TWD was really something special once.

Honorable Mention:  Tell It to the Frogs because when Rick found his family everything changed, and Shane started down the dark path that would ultimately lead to violence, shirtless head-shaving (thank you for that), and utter tragedy.

Penny Dreadful: Possession

Episode 107

Penny Dreadful is a beautiful, violent, twisted fairy tale. The first two seasons are worlds better than the third, in my opinion. Vanessa Ives has a dark power, but she also has an honesty and a vulnerability about her that seems to draw everyone to her, and through the course of the first season you see Ethan Chandler, Victor Frankenstein, and even the mysterious Dorian Gray come to trust her and care for her deeply. But Sir Malcolm continues to blame Vanessa for the loss of his daughter and is pitiless in his regard for her. This episode is disturbing, terrifying, and heartbreaking. Eva Green is incredible here. When she becomes possessed and everyone rushes to her side without hesitation, you can finally see Sir Malcolm realizing that he might have lost a daughter, but he found one too.

Honorable Mention:  Demimonde because Ethan and Dorian Gray. BLESS THIS SHOW FOREVER FOR THAT SCENE.

Jessica Jones: WWJD

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I enjoy all of the Netflix Marvel shows, but the first season of Jessica Jones outshines them all. Instead of starting out in the usual way- person gets powers, person decides to use them for good, etc., JJ starts out in the middle of her story. She has already done the superhero thing. It didn’t work out. A mind-controlling sociopath used her powers for his own destructive purposes, and even though she broke free of his control she remains haunted by what she has done, and what was done to her. She is trying to do some small amount of good by being a private detective, while at the same time drinking away her PTSD and alienating herself from anyone who cares about her. Then the man who ruined her life shows back up- obsessed with Jessica now that he can no longer control her. David Tennant is brilliant here and if you had told me he had this performance in him before I saw it, I never would have believed you. Not because he isn’t good because he very much is, but because he is just too goddamn lovable. But he blew me away by legitimately creeping the entire fuck out of the place. This is the episode with his grand gesture- he BUYS HER CHILDHOOD HOME and restores it to exactly the way it was before she lost her parents and younger brother in a car accident and had to go away. Watching the psychological cat-and-mouse between these two characters under the same roof is thrilling and to be honest I didn’t want it to end.

Honorable Mention:  Top Shelf Perverts because bringing a severed head into a police station is always a great plan.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: 100 Dollar Baby

always sunny 100 dollar

Always Sunny is my favorite television comedy of all time and no matter how many times I watch my favorite episodes it never seems to be enough. It’s original, abrasive, addictive, and much smarter than it should be. It’s self-aware (unlike the characters) and the perfect amount of Wrong. These people are so awful but so goddamn fun to watch. It was difficult to pick one episode but 100 Dollar Baby might be the funniest Charlie Day and Kaitlin Olson have ever been. Every single time these two team up the result is pure comedy gold, whether they are ruling a virtual video game world (THIS GAYME HAS GOWNE ON LOUNG ENOUF), attempting def poetry, trying to talk themselves into cannibalism, or beating the shit out of a random dude while hopped up on steroids. The “training” sequences with the three guys make me laugh out loud and the ending is fucked up in every way that makes Always Sunny awesome. This episode is also responsible for the greatest gif to ever come out of the show.

Honorable Mention:  Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack because THERE IS NO PEPE SILVIA.

Les Revenants (The Returned):  Camille

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The American version never happened. As long as you remember that, you will love The Returned. The acting, the writing and the tone in the French version is such that you wish they would give every other horror show lessons. The American attempt to copy it was hot garbage. Camille is the name of both the first episode and the name of a girl who calmly shows up at her family home 4 years after being killed in a bus crash, thinking it’s just a regular day. She is the first but eventually people all over the village start coming back from the dead. But they are not groaning, decomposing monsters. They are in fact completely themselves, having no memory of dying or the time that has passed since- in most cases, years. They return to their families on pure instinct, and the shock and joy felt by their friends and relatives slowly crumbles into horror as it becomes clear this isn’t as simple as it seems. It is an incredible show about love, family, grief, and retribution. Zombie show? Kind of. But so much more than that.

Honorable Mention:  Simon, because I am a complete sucker for a good quality, doomed love story.

Space Ghost: Coast to Coast: Snatch

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Space Ghost Coast to Coast seems like a show you have to be high to enjoy, and since I’ve never watched it high I have no excuse for how much I love it. It makes me laugh harder than any other animated show, ever. I’ve spent what is frankly an embarrassing number of hours watching it in my lifetime. I find it strangely soothing. It’s packed with in-jokes, bizarre storylines, minor celebrities, and weird rivalries. It contains long stretches of silence that are funny, then go on so long they stop being funny, then keep going until finally they are funny again. It’s fucking weird. Snatch is a body-snatching pod-aliens episode, which is enough of a reason for it to be my favorite. I can put on the DVDs of SGCTC and watch it continuously for like a day straight.

Honorable Mention:  Banjo because why do we hurt the ones we love? WHY BANJO, WHY! BANJOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Sense8: All I Want Right Now Is One More Bullet

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Sense8 is a brilliant antidote to the million-and-one boring-ass, heteronormative shows floating around out there. As far as representation goes it is the fresh air you never thought you would live long enough to breathe. It is beautiful, compelling, and sexy as all hell (Three words: Psychic. Bisexual. Orgies.). And if you can get through even half of the first season without longing to have a cluster of your own, then I can’t relate to you at all. The psychic connection between these characters is such a joy. Every single character is fully fleshed-out, fascinating, and given their own personal journey, relationships, and backstory- no one is neglected by the writers. But I chose this episode because every time they drop everything and come together to help one of their own it makes my heart soar. This show- every second of it- is better than we deserve.

Honorable Mention:  What Is Human? because of two scenes- the one where Lito steps in to help Wolfgang by doing what he can’t (“Lying is easy. It’s what I do.”), and then Wolfgang returning the favor by showing up to beat the entire living shit out of the domestic abuser Lito is trying to save his friend from (“Fighting is easy. It’s what I do.”). Those two scenes together might be my favorite interaction between any of the Sense8s in all of season one.

Dexter: Surprise, Motherfucker

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Most people who loved Dexter agree that the first 4 seasons are the only good ones and the rest was downhill. Aside from the god-awful series finale, I beg to differ. My choice of the season 7 finale would not be a popular one among Dexter fans but I am a sucker for pain and I will die on this hill. When Deborah discovers that her adopted brother is the Bay Harbor Butcher, she starts to crack. You can see her mental state deteriorating slowly through the course of the season as she continues doing her job as a detective while trying to grapple with the fact that she is unable to turn Dexter in. He has always been her foundation, her only family, and she loves him desperately in a way that confuses her. Her entire universe has been shattered. Dexter tries to help her cope, tries to help her come to terms with it. Not having much in the way of emotions himself, it gets to the point where he genuinely doesn’t understand why it’s so hard for her. Then it all falls apart in the season finale when a suspicious Maria LaGuerta finally discovers Dexter’s secret. Deborah is faced with a choice- and even as Dexter encourages her to choose LaGuerta’s side for her own sake- rather than lose the person she loves most in the world Deb shoots and kills her own Captain. You know in that moment that everything Deborah Morgan was before has been lost. The final part of the episode, with Dexter protectively leading his dazed sister through a celebrating crowd, is a perfect scene.

Honorable Mention:  The Getaway, for the ending that shocked us all.

Sherlock: His Last Vow

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It would be difficult for any villain to follow Moriarty. The consulting criminal with his hands in everything was Sherlock Holmes’ perfect counterpart and an utter delight to watch. Trying to compete with Andrew Scott’s strange charm would have been pointless, so instead they went in the complete opposite direction and gave us the most repellent villain of the entire show. Nothing about Charles Magnussen (played brilliantly by Lars Mikkelsen) is intriguing, charming, or fun. He is a smug, dead-eyed bastard who “collects” people by discovering their secrets. Unfortunately Mary Watson has a dark and extremely illegal past that she’s managed to keep even from Sherlock. Sherlock makes a promise to protect Mary and he keeps it- by blowing Magnussen’s head off in a shocking ending once it became clear that he couldn’t beat him any other way. This episode revolves around the thing I’ve always loved most about Sherlock as a show: loyalty. The show began with John Watson shooting someone in the head to protect Sherlock, who he had only just met, and with His Last Vow it all comes full circle.

Honorable Mention:  The Reichenbach Fall because Honey, you should see me in a crown.

The Fall: What Is in Me Dark Illumine

The Fall What is in Me Dark Illumine

The police finally have Paul Spector in custody, but he refuses to cooperate with anyone but Stella Gibson. The interrogation room scene between the two of them is one of the best scenes of television I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve watched a million of these types of scenes- a criminal fixated on one particular cop, two people trying to get as personal as possible to get under the other’s skin, trying to get information out of a pure psychopath to save someone who is in danger. But somehow, using dialogue and acting that deserves every single award that exists, this show elevated an old trope to something else entirely. One of the most amazing things about The Fall is that every time you think you see what’s coming next, you don’t. If you want to see real, honest-to-goodness skill, these two actors volleying the ball back and forth is on another level.

Honorable Mention:  Beauty Hath Strange Power, for being a masterclass in rape culture.

House: Birthmarks

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House is a good show, if pretty formulaic, but the character of Gregory House is certainly nothing new. In fact, the character and the show are both pretty obviously inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Here we have yet another funny, cynical genius/bastard who treats people around him like crap, yet everyone still seems to care about him and everything revolves around him, etc. etc. But even though there were plenty of great characters and interesting arcs throughout its eight seasons, the reason the show mattered to me from the beginning was the relationship between House and Wilson. Maybe less than a romance but definitely more than a bromance, this relationship was consistently the most devoted and interesting one of the show. Arguably the only person House truly loves (although an argument could certainly be made for Lisa Cuddy as well), James Wilson is generous, terrible at romantic relationships, and thrives on fixing people. But House is unfixable so it was inevitable Wilson would become just as addicted to him as House was to Vicodin. Birthmarks was a perfect encapsulation of their relationship and it was also sad, funny, and poignant. Wilson decides that House needs to attend his father’s funeral and House wants nothing to do with it. Wilson tries everything to try to talk House into going, until finally he gets Cuddy to help him literally DRUG AND KIDNAP HIM. House and Wilson have trouble with boundaries. Naturally it ends with House verbally ripping his father to shreds in front of the mourners and Wilson throwing a vase through the stained glass window of a funeral home. Their relationship is ridiculously unhealthy and co-dependent and yet it is the most fun relationship ever. The pranks, the adventures, the monster truck shows… House and Wilson, forever.

Honorable Mention:  Last Temptation mostly because House and Wilson having a pointless bet to see who can keep a live chicken in the hospital the longest without security catching on is possibly the funniest fucking thing they have ever done.

Angel: Hole in the World

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This is a perfect episode of television, from beginning to end. Joss Whedon can get predictable at times, so I feel like every once in a while he sets you up to think you know what kind of story you are about to get then purposely turns it on its head. At the start of the episode he subtly guides you into thinking you are going to be cheering the team on as they save the day, then he rips the rug out from under you in the most gut-wrenching and epic way imaginable. This episode is everything- hilarious and sweet at first, exciting, and then utterly heartbreaking. It sets up a huge shift in the direction of the season and if you thought Wesley Wyndam-Pryce couldn’t possibly catch any more bad breaks, you would be very wrong. Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker knocked those final scenes so far out of the park. This episode took Fred from us, but it also brought Illyria into the show and our lives were all the better for it.

Honorable Mention:  Not Fade Away might be my favorite Whedon finale of them all. If Buffy’s finale was about finding your strength, Angel’s was about those who keep fighting even after they have none left.

The Thick Of It: Season 3, Episode 3 (episodes are not titled)

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British politics, bleakness, humor, and a whole, WHOLE lot of swearing. The Thick Of It often leaves American viewers confused because they are generally used to tidiness. If not a hero, an anti-hero. If not a happy ending, a meaningful or tragic one. If not a point, then artistry in pointlessness. The problem is that none of that exists in British politics. It’s a messy, frantic, never-ending clusterfuck. Power grabs, secrets, alliances… the tide can turn against you so fast that in under a day you can go from a Minister of the Crown to sludge on a tabloid reporter’s shoe. It’s brutal. If you count the two brilliant hour-long specials (“Rise of the Nutters” and “Spinners and Losers”) it gets too hard to pick because you can do much more with an hour than 30 minutes, so I chose my favorite of the regular episodes. This is easily the funniest one of the series and it also shows you exactly who Malcolm Tucker is. Up until that point he is portrayed as a bit of a bogeyman, but the truth is he that he simply does what needs to be done- granted in an extremely sweary and bullying way. In fact, people beg for his help in a panic every bit as often as they curse his name, because when shit hits the fan they know he is the one who will know exactly what to do. Malcolm is the one pulling the strings- right up until the second he isn’t. He has always understood the game they are all in and he spends his days waiting for everyone else to catch up. He frequently prods them there with strings of creative expletives that would make an 80 year-old sailor cry for his mother. But eventually even he is brought down by the poisonous system that has taken over his life and ruled his existence for decades. He sees it coming, tries to get in front of it, then goes down quietly, knowing better than anyone that this is it for him. The Thick Of It is one of those shows that is, at its heart, so bleak that you will never understand why you want to watch it over and over again. But you will. Because it is goddamn clever, and hilarious as all fuck.

Honorable Mention:  Season 4, Episode 7 because it has Malcolm’s final speech- the one he gives to the young unscrupulous fuck who decided he wanted to be his protégé from almost day one. I can’t summarize it, so here it is.

“You know fuck all about me! I am totally beyond the realms of your fuckin tousle-haired fuckin dim-witted compre-fucking-hension. I don’t just take this fucking job home, you know. I take this job home, it fucking ties me to the bed, and it fuckin fucks me from arsehole to breakfast. Then it wakes me up in the morning with a cup full of piss slammed in my face, slaps me about the chops to make sure I’m awake enough so it can kick me in the fucking bollocks! This job has taken me in every hole in my fucking body. Malcolm is gone- you can’t know Malcolm because Malcolm is not here! Malcolm fucking left the building fucking years ago! This is a fucking husk, I am a fucking host for this fucking job. Do you want this job? Yes? You do fucking want this job? Then you’re gonna have to swallow this whole fucking life and let it grow inside you like a parasite, getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it fucking eats your insides alive and it stares out of your eyes and tells you what to do. I’m gonna leave the stage with my head held fucking high. What you’re gonna see is a master class in fucking dignity, son. The audience will be on their feet. “There he goes!”, they’ll say. No friends – no *real* friends. No children, no glory, no memoirs. Well, fuck them.”

Doctor Who: Midnight

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Midnight is not a “representative” episode of Doctor Who but in my defense there aren’t many of those in existence. It is the very nature of this show that it can be a tragedy, a comedy, a drama, a sci-fi, a fantasy, an action-adventure, or a horror show depending on its mood. This episode shoots for creepy and it doesn’t miss. It’s reminiscent of The Twilight Zone as the horror is mainly psychological. Being trapped in space with strangers, all of whom slowly turn on each other as they realize they are not alone… that something alien has gotten in. Ten is at his most clever and most desperate here- clever as he tries to solve the mystery of what’s possessing them and desperate as he races to do so before any of the passengers hurt each other. There are many episodes of DW that restore the Doctor’s faith in human beings and many that make him think they might not be worth it after all. Midnight ends up being a combination of both.

As an aside, this is the only show that consistently breaks down my cynicism and leaves me optimistic and hopeful for the human race. No pressure, Doctor Who.

Honorable Mention:  The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances because it introduced us to our dashing pansexual hero Captain Jack Harkness, because it was the first genuinely creepy episode of Doctor Who, and because I love Nine so, so hard.

Supernatural: Swan Song

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“So what does it all add up to? It’s hard to say. But me, I’d say this was a test… for Sam and Dean. And I think they did all right. Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well, isn’t that kinda the whole point?”

Let’s be honest, Supernatural should have ended with Swan Song. No, I don’t begrudge my boys their now THIRTEEN seasons (just renewed for fourteen!) and yes, we would have missed out on incredible episodes like Death’s Door, The Man Who Would Be King (which is actually my 3rd favorite ep), and The French Mistake. We would never have met Kevin, Charlie, Soulless Sam or Demon Dean. It would be sad to not have all of the great things about the subsequent seasons (although we also would never have had to meet Amelia or suffer through the despicable way they killed off Charlie, sooooo…) but if they had gone out with Eric Kripke’s planned series finale, it would have been perfect storytelling. The story of the Winchester boys and the destiny that had been forced upon them came full-circle. Sam and Dean threw middle fingers up to every mystical force in the universe and refused to be used- not even by all of the hosts of Heaven. And honestly, where does a show even go after it manages to beat both God and the Devil? In its subsequent 8 seasons it has never come remotely close to matching this episode. Swan Song has everything that makes Supernatural special. It was a perfect episode and a perfect finale.

Honorable Mention:  Lazarus Rising for having the most badass character entrance in the history of television.

Black Mirror: San Junipero

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Almost every episode of Black Mirror has something to do with a disturbing dystopian future based on our over-reliance on technology. Not this one. It takes place in the future and technology certainly comes into it, but for once it isn’t bad or the cause of the downfall of society. It’s just part of the story. San Junipero is a love story and also a story about love. The sacrifices we make for those we love versus the choices we make for ourselves. It’s a beautifully crafted episode- the music, the wardrobe, the casting, everything is spot-on amazing and nothing is overdone. This is one of the only episodes of Black Mirror that bears repeated watchings, and the end never gets any less affecting. Also, if you’re going to watch this be prepared to cry every time Heaven Is A Place On Earth comes on the radio for the rest of your life.

Honorable Mention:  The U.S.S. Callister because it’s creative, funny, and disturbing as fuck. For any respectable Star Trek fan there could be no other choice.

Hannibal: Wrath of the Lamb

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There has never been a show quite like Hannibal. How this orgy of blood and gore was ever allowed to air on network television I will never know. Thomas Harris’s novels have always been favorites of mine, but Bryan Fuller has a knack of knowing exactly what to throw out and what to keep when it comes to material that is dated. When creating his version of Hannibal he kept the essence of the characters intact but added much-needed diversity to a cast that would have otherwise been painfully dull. Far from taking away from the story the changes he made added layers upon layers to the material. Hannibal is, in my opinion, the most visually beautiful television show ever made. I defy you to get through the entire thing without accidentally finding at least one of the cooking scenes appetizing, and considering Hannibal’s favorite ingredient that is no small feat. This show is over-the-top and the characters talk like nobody on Earth speaks in real life, but every word is carefully chosen and the scripts are practically poetry. It’s dramatic and bloody and wildly unrealistic- and definitely not for everybody. The series finale was everything I needed and considering the time constraints (the show was prematurely cancelled), nearly impossible to pull off this flawlessly. Instead of shrinking from the story it had created or pulling it back at the end, the show followed through on what it had been setting up since the very first episode: Will Graham becoming everything Hannibal wanted him to be.

Honorable Mention:  Mizumono because a true friend doesn’t stab you in the back, he stabs you in the front.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Body

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This is the most brilliant episode of my favorite show. Joss lost his own mother suddenly, which comes as no surprise because nobody could make an episode of television like this unless they themselves had experienced sudden loss. Death is everywhere on television in countless forms, yet this episode is singular. If you’ve ever experienced grief you will absolutely recognize your feelings or reactions in at least one of the characters. The Body captures the empty space around death- the silence, the boredom… in Joss’s own words, “the monotony of grief”. It’s such an accurate depiction of the hours that pass immediately following a sudden death that, having suffered horrifically through those hours myself, I can barely talk about it. I have watched every season of Buffy over and over throughout the years, but I only re-watch The Body when I feel the need to sob until I almost barf, which is usually once every year or so. It’s simultaneously the best and most painful episode of television I have ever seen.

Honorable Mention:  Once More With Feeling because it reigns supreme over every other musical episode of television ever made. And because also, it’s important to remember that it could be bunnies.

Do you have any particular episodes or scenes of television that have stayed with you? Feel free to share your own in the comments!

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It is 2016 and Everything Hurts

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Like any good little blogger I had planned to write a post wrapping up 2015 and listing my personal ups and downs, as well as the events that defined the year in general.  I was procrastinating a bit but slowly putting together an outline in my mind of what it would look like.  Then last Monday, I woke up at about 1:00am to pee (you’re welcome for the detail) and like the social media-addicted asshole I am I checked my phone before going back to sleep.  I looked at Twitter and learned the news that the Earth was officially short one David Bowie.  I cried for two hours straight before I was able to fall back to sleep.

I had just had the most wonderful weekend ever, which I had also planned to write about (and maybe will later), but in that instant all of the good things I had wanted to write about were swept out of my brain and I literally could not think about anything other than the tremendous loss we had all just suffered.  I’d had no idea he was even ill, and 69 is really not so old, and I was not prepared.  Turns out that not only had he been battling cancer…

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(and looking dapper as fuck while doing so, because he’s David Fucking Bowie)

but he had also been preparing a farewell for us in the most beautiful way imaginable- in the form of a last album.  He was saying goodbye and I didn’t even realize.

I cried a lot that day.  The first memory I have of any movie was watching Labyrinth, curled up in my sister’s lap with a vicious case of food poisoning.  I was only 6 years old but I remember that the goblins were scary, the baby’s outfit was stripey, and the Goblin King was the most beautiful human I had ever seen.  David Bowie literally inhabits one of my very first clear memories.  By the time I was in high school I was fully obsessed with not only his music, but with him as a person.  He seemed like an impossibly brilliant alien we had somehow managed to trap on Earth with all of us boring Normals.  He had hits and he had misses and he just kept going.  He just kept being David Bowie, which could change from year to year, and meant whatever the fuck he felt like it meant in that moment.  To lose him so suddenly was devastating, but somehow I felt like he was always just visiting.  If I learned today that he was an actual fucking alien from another planet I would not be surprised.  The world looked painfully dull now that he wasn’t in it, and I felt in my heart that it would never be as interesting again.

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The fact that this had happened on a Monday morning was some real fucking bullshit.  I had to carry this around for a week, I thought, before I could properly mourn.  This sort of thing involves ritual: It involves planning.  There were songs to play and tears to cry and whiskey to drink and oh yes, one of the best movies of all time to watch.  So I dried my tears and determined to soldier through my work week until Friday was finally over.

You all know what’s coming next.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/14/alan-rickman-death-movies-actor-harry-potter-snape?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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If I in ANY WAY managed to convey the bleak sadness I felt at losing David Bowie, please triple it and add putting my heart in a blender then pressing purée.  I grew up watching Alan Rickman.  I can’t talk about all of his movies or this post will be ridiculously long (although for the record, I unironically love “Love Actually” even though it is a sexist hot mess) but here are the ones that for me, are the Greatest Hits.

The first movie I ever saw him in was Robin Hood.  While Costner and the movie in general was widely panned (I was like 12 so it was a perfectly good movie to me, but you know, hindsight and all that), critics loved Rickman’s performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham and for very good reason.  He was so deliciously over-the-top as a temper tantrum-throwing bastard that it was impossible not to enjoy him in that role.  Not to mention he had one of the best threats in all of movie history, which my sister and I still quote to this day.

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(“BECAUSE IT’S DULL YOU TWIT IT WILL HURT MORE”)

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(And come on, who the fuck else could have pulled off this line)

I loved every part of Robin Hood and watched it repeatedly when I was a kid, and although beyond Rickman’s and Morgan Freeman’s performances the movie does not hold up now (for the love of all that is holy HOW did I not notice how bad Costner’s accent was), I will never not feel sentimental when that cheesy-ass movie fades into the Bryan Adams music video at the end… ahhhhh VHS tapes.  Those were the days.

Next up, I was finally old enough that my older brother would let me watch Die Hard.  I loved Bruce Willis as a kid and knowing Rickman from Robin Hood I was excited to see him play another baddie.  With Hans Gruber, Rickman portrayed an entirely different type of villain.  Ice-cold and seemingly completely bored with his own terrorist plotting, he went ahead and walked away with that entire movie as well.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one rooting for him to live through it.

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(RIP Hans, you were cool as fuck- sorry you didn’t get your money)

 Along with Love Actually, watching Die Hard every year at Christmas is one of my personal traditions, and now the holidays will never be the same.

Dogma is my favorite Kevin Smith movie and it is so fucking stupid and smart at the same time that I can’t even deal with how much I love it.  It is supremely silly yet at the same time when it comes to the Bible, they clearly did their homework.  It is the type of light-hearted blasphemy that is pure catnip for non-religious people who were raised in extremely Catholic or Christian homes.  It’s packed with some of the biggest stars of the era and is full of hilarious lines, but my favorite parts of that movie are Matt Damon as an angel running around killing everyone with a Desert Eagle (“YOU DIDN’T SAY GOD BLESS YOU WHEN I SNEEZED”), and Rickman’s hysterical turn as Metatron.

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(Well before Supernatural, THIS was the sassiest angel in the garrison)

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(Coincidentally this is exactly how I have felt all week)

Galaxy Quest was brilliant and Alan Rickman was 100% the best part of it.  That movie is underrated as fuck and you should watch it if you haven’t.  It accurately depicts the borderline-insane passion that goes into being deeply involved in a fandom (although they are clearly spoofing the Star Trek fandom, it speaks to essentially all of them) and all of the positive and negative things that go along with it.  It was so loving towards nerds, while never letting us off the hook for our more annoying qualities.  I can’t think of any movie like it.  Because I am an obsessive fan of so many things it speaks to me on a very deep level, and as such I can’t begin to describe it without going on for at least 8 more paragraphs- so just watch it please.  So.  Many.  Feelings.

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(If this GIF does not convince you, nothing will.)

Now we come to my favorite Alan Rickman role of all time, in a movie that I have probably seen over a hundred times.  Sense and Sensibility was my favorite movie for many, many years, and still resides in my top 10.  It had a stellar cast, but Colonel Brandon was the character that made it so incredibly romantic and substantive.  Instead of the sweep-the-girl-off-her-feet narrative we’ve seen so many times, here we get a real, proper love story.  The story of a man who quietly and selflessly loved another human being, never expecting one tiny thing in return.  Not even recognition of it.  He kept his distance when he felt he wasn’t wanted, and was the first to her side if he felt he had even a remote chance to be of use.

 

In Colonel Brandon I saw what a real partner should be.  Kind, generous, respectful, and unfailingly loyal.  If he sold himself short or faded into the background, it was due to his intense abhorrence of the thought that he might accidentally be a nuisance to the woman he adored.  In a world that is and always has been bursting at the seams with entitled Nice Guys bitching about friend-zones in whatever language is common of the era, the character of Colonel Brandon stands as a shining example of the literal opposite.  Many people use words to say that as long as the person they love is happy then that is enough for them, but Brandon personified those words.  It was truly his deepest desire that Marianne be happy, end of sentence, and he supported any choice she made that she felt would make her so.  Luckily for Marianne and happily for Brandon, through the course of the film she learns that infatuation fades and true devotion is the most attractive trait in the world.

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(Anyone who does not tear-up at least once during this movie is a cyborg, run from them immediately.)

Rickman played the role of my beloved Colonel Brandon with such heart-breaking, stoic sincerity that I cannot even begin to imagine another actor coming close to touching his performance.  When I think about it, that is the one thing every single one of his roles have in common.  It is impossible for me to picture anyone in his place.

And finally, of course, we come to Severus Snape.  A polarizing figure in the Harry Potter fandom, you will find people who defend him relentlessly as a hero while others consider him to be worse than Voldemort.  The one thing I have never seen criticized however, is the choice of casting and the performance given by Rickman.  In the latter movies his fierce loyalty shines through, as the reasons for his miserable sadness and isolation are finally revealed to the audience.  For me, even from the beginning Rickman managed to make Snape’s humanity show through his eyes, whether his behavior was at its best or at its worst.  Being a total sucker for stories of eternal love and devotion beyond death; even if bitter and unrequited (Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  It’s been said that the most cynical people in the world are just disappointed idealists.), I am a Snape fan myself.  But since I’m not twelve years old, I have no desire to argue the position or tell anyone else their opinion is wrong.

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Here is the part where I get pissed off.  I am 35 years old.  Many young people discovered Rickman’s work through Harry Potter, and to some that is the only role they know.  They have changed their profile pictures and called him Snape instead of Alan and raised their wands as they grieve for the person who brought their complicated hero/villain to life.  Guess what, Douchebags of the Internet: That is entirely, completely okay.  Rickman himself spoke many times of how much the role of Snape meant to him and if you spent two minutes reading anything about this wonderful man, you would know that he would be every bit as touched by those tributes as he would be by the lengthy ones written by those who have seen and celebrate virtually every role he has ever played.  By all accounts he was a kind and generous person.  So when I see shit like this, it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut:

img_0785-1 (So I don’t.)

Fuck completely off with that shit.  Considering this is one of his most famous quotes, you are only exposing yourself as a celebrity death-hipster (the worst kind) and simultaneously revealing how little you actually know about the man.

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I have written clumsily about a sampling of his movies that have meant the most to me because I can’t seem to find the words to pour my heart out and explain why this particular loss has cut me so deeply.  I woke up yesterday to the news (Twitter again, goddamn it) and instantly started sobbing.  I cried the entire time I was getting ready for work and cried all the way to work.  My co-workers pretended not to notice my red eyes and I shut myself in my office all day so that they wouldn’t see the tears that I could not seem to be able to stop.  I am crying now.  As in the case of Bowie, I had no idea he was battling cancer and I assumed he WOULD live to at least 80.  After all, he promised.

There was something so singular and warm about Alan Rickman and I fully loved him, and I’m sorry if that is weird for you.  I’m sorry if the fact that I feel like I’ve been physically gutted seems silly.  People seem to really enjoy judging other people for how they grieve, and most especially how deeply they feel the loss of people they’ve never actually met.  To those people I have absolutely nothing to say, because how can I communicate these feelings to them when we don’t seem to belong to the same species.  As someone who has lost family members and friends it’s not like I don’t know the fucking difference.  But as I’ve said so many times: Caring about one thing does not mean you do not care about another thing.  There are different types and levels of grief.  Art is life-changing.  The right book, album, or movie in the right hands at the right time can mean the difference between hope and despair.  Between life and death.  If you don’t deeply connect to fiction or art in general my guess is that you’ve had a fairly uncomplicated life, so perhaps go easy on those of us who may have needed stories to escape ours, even if only temporarily.

As for me, even though the Harry Potter films aren’t my absolute favorite of all his movies (although I adore them), I will raise my wand in solidarity with my fellow nerds and in defiance of those who would look down on something just because of the fact of who loves it.  Today, I am proud to be a Slytherin.

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Although my heart is broken, as of today I have officially made it through my work week.  In 3 hours I will be home, and I probably don’t need to tell you at this point what my weekend will consist of.  I will try my best to enjoy everything my beloved artists left behind and maybe even push through my sadness enough that I am able to laugh as easily as I cry while re-watching my favorite moments.  Because the wonderful thing is: I got to have these two people in my life, whether they knew it or not.  I got to be alive at the same time as they were and they have left behind so many gifts that will never leave; will never die.  How much worse to have lived in a world where they didn’t exist?

I don’t envy those individuals who genuinely aren’t affected by the passing of their favorite artists.  I’ll take the pain if it means that I get to feel the rest of it.  So if you are like me and your heart is broken too, just try to remember that.  And know that you are never alone.

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(art credit: https://society6.com/product/should-you-need-us_print?curator=artagainstsociety#1=45 )

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8 Things I learned Growing Up Broke

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I am 34 years old. I have a fairly decent job now, and health insurance. I also have a metric fuckton of debt; mostly student loans, but also older credit card and loan debt from when I did NOT, in fact, have a decent job and health insurance. Growing up without much money not only helped shape the person that I am, but taught me many valuable lessons and skills.

1. Growing up poor, you do not generally know you are poor until you are around people who are not. This doesn’t necessarily happen for a while. For me it was when I made my first friend in third grade who happened to come from a middle-class family. Here is what will happen: You will be at their uncomfortably clean suburban house one day, and they will open the door to a pantry in your presence. That pantry will be crammed full of beautiful, expensive snack foods like Pop Tarts and Cheetos and other name brand snacks you would never in a million years even try to sneak into a grocery cart, and they will then loudly whine to their Mother “There’s nothing to eeeeeat!!” The reflexive desire to punch them in the kidneys until they puke blood will be strong. Resist it, because…

2. They are helpless in ways you are not. You heated up beans on the stove when you were five years old (I still have a scar on my arm from when my big brother tried to make hot dogs by boiling them on the stovetop in a glass casserole dish. It exploded, I was playing on the kitchen floor… it could have been worse.), you learned to make boxed mac and cheese when you were six, you learned to stomach generic cheerios with water instead of milk, and if there were at least 3 things in the refrigerator, you could come up with something edible from the age you could reach the refrigerator handle. Is this sad? Sure. But if you ever fall on hard times in the future, you will have a skill and ingenuity with food staples that never will have left you. On a related note, when that same friend complains about “McDonald’s AGAAAAAIN?” you can comfort yourself with the fact that eating out, anywhere, will never feel as special or taste as good to them, because they don’t have to wait for a birthday to get a damn Big Mac. So don’t feel anger at their ungratefulness, which incidentally all children deserve to have a bit of, but instead feel a little sorry for them. Because also…

3. They will never, ever appreciate Christmas the way you do. Yes, they will look forward to the toys that are slightly more expensive than the ones they get all year long, but they will never know the magical excitement that only comes with anticipating toys one single day a year- knowing that the rest of your year will be filled with garage sale clothes and playing with your friend’s toys. And sometimes, as a bonus, throughout the year there will be nice adults who give you little gifts, or show you kindness, and your heart will burst with a gratitude that you will scarcely understand. When I was about eight I had a friend from school whose mother took care of me. My mom would dump my little sister and I off at her house ALL of the time. This woman had hardly more than we had in the way of money, but she cared for us like we were her own, sometimes even taking us to the 99-cent store and buying us toys for NO REASON. We were never once made to feel unwelcome even though she had zero reason to watch us. She gave love to me when I was small and vulnerable, and now, 26 years later, I still get her a mother’s day card every year and snuggle into her hugs in a way I am not comfortable doing with any other mother figure. I will never, ever be able to repay her kindness. Which reminds me…

4. In my experience, people will help you, especially if you are young (insert acknowledgment of my light-skin privilege here- young kids of color probably find adults a lot less helpful). When my mom abandoned my younger sister and I to go live with her boyfriend in a Motel 8 a few towns over we were fine on our own… for a while. We were only 12 and 10 years old, but we had a carpool that picked us up and took us home from school, we were very used to feeding ourselves, and we were well-trained in the art of keeping our mouths shut about our home life to adults. Then the food finally started to run out. So we started “coincidentally” going over to my best friend’s house next door around dinner time, and they fed us without question. Eventually they became suspicious about the frequency of our visits and called CPS. My mom returned home, angry with us for blowing her cover, but nevertheless the food issue was solved. At another low point around my first year of high school, we told our teacher in private that we had no food in the house, and baskets of donated canned and packaged food were dropped off at our front door weekly until we were back to “normal” again. Was it fun to see our pastor (who was also my principal) bringing food to our house then having to face him at our small school the next day? Nah. But that’s what you learn growing up poor- you learn to ask for help, accept it gratefully, and simply tell yourself that someday you will be an adult and you will never have to ask again. Then eventually you are old enough to get your first job and everything is gravy, right? Except…

5. As you get older and start working your first part-time, minimum-wage job, you may quickly learn you are now expected to buy your own toiletries and even groceries for the house with your miniscule paycheck until you manage to move out. Do so as quickly as you can. I was lucky enough to be in a stable relationship at the time and so had a built-in roommate, but do so even if it means acquiring a less-than-desirable roommate. Or two. You will never get anywhere if you are now basically a bonus parent and are expected to contribute and not allowed to save. So get out. Once you are on your own it will be time to navigate a world of finance you’ve had zero experience with and nobody bothered to teach you about. So you start to find grown-ups to ask…

6. People will give you advice when you first start applying for a lot of credit cards or loans- mostly “don’t”. Those people mean well and are often technically right, but my advice is to do what you have to do to survive. Learn how to write checks with perfect timing so they do not bounce but you have groceries to float you until your next paycheck. Learn to prioritize bills. If you are making $6.50/hr. and living paycheck-to-paycheck, you need credit cards in case your 1989 LeBaron, I mean your really cool car, breaks down. You have to get to work and school. Number one priority: Get to work and school. So get yourself some credit. Speaking of school…

7. Unless you land a full scholarship somewhere, start off at community college. Starting at a 4-year school is a ridiculous waste of money unless it is free on a scholarship or someone else is paying for it. There are many outstanding community colleges and if you play your cards right, you can get 2 years of quality general education in the can with zero student debt accrued. Then you transfer to that 4-year school and your FAFSA applications begin. Get that government cheese. That Bachelors Degree WILL help you get a higher-paying job, eventually. And until then, one word: Deferment. Now here comes the tricky part: How to not become a bitter asshole…

8. This one is more an emotional and social lesson than a practical one. As your social circle expands, you may end up becoming friends with people who are well off, or even very rich. Personally, besides having the random rich friend here and there, I have worked with doctors for 15 years. They may often seem like aliens to you: Their houses, their cars, their priorities, and their problems. Sometimes you may feel like a deeper human, and even morally superior to them when they are having a meltdown to you about their interior decorator’s stubbornness, or the flakiness of their dog walker. You will listen patronizingly, knowing in your heart that it is you who Truly Knows What Is Important and they clearly do not. But chances are, they care just as much about their friends, family, and world peace as you do. Caring about one thing doesn’t mean you don’t care about another thing. Maybe they lack perspective and maybe they don’t. But be very careful about making assumptions when chances are you probably threw a fit about something petty in the past few weeks too- like Netflix taking too long to bring back goddamn Peaky Blinders.

Then there will be other times when you feel deeply ashamed that you are technically an adult yet you do not own a house or car like many others your age. There will be the inevitable times one of them will ask if you can be the one to drive to lunch, and a wave of embarrassment will wash over you as you direct them to your 15 year-old dingy car, with its musty smell and broken air conditioner. But always remember that you are not better or worse than they are- your circumstances are just different.

Lastly there will be days you end up on the phone with a friend who is innocently and excitedly telling you all about his new iPhone/Pad/Watch (his 3rd this year), his recent vacation to a tropical resort, or his $2000 rims. This conversation may happen to take place on the literal next day after you sobbed in a parking lot for half an hour because you had to bounce a $10 check to get your anti-depressant prescription filled because your car decided it needed two of its tires to explode in one pay period. That old feeling- you know, the punch-ey one, will return. Again, resist it. They are not calling you to make you feel like crap, they are calling you because they are excited about something and they want to share it with you because you are their friend. It is not wrong to feel frustration with their cluelessness, and it is difficult to walk around with the knowledge that the thousand or so bucks they dropped on a new toy they will barely give a shit about in two weeks would mean the difference between you being able to fix your car and pay your bills that month and a series of panic attacks in the middle of the night as you lie awake wondering how you are going to scrape by this time… but the thing is, you have made the choice to be their friend so they probably have good qualities too. Try to remember those and also the fact that you are likely no picnic to deal with either, for a host of other reasons. And most importantly of all, remember that you WILL get by. Because you know what you are doing. You know because you grew up broke.

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Pictured: Me, broke. And adorable.

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Doctor Who Series 8 Wrap-Up

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I’ve been a bit behind here, so this is a rather delayed reaction.  I was watching in real time, then got to “Kill The Moon” and sort of dropped off… I got bored truth be told, and there were so many other shows.  But Netflix just added Series 8 so I decided to catch up!  I finally watched Mummy On The Orient Express straight through to the finale.

Ahem: *Spoiler Alert*

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So much of Doctor Who rests on your connection to the companion/Doctor relationship and I was so bummed with how badly the relationship between Clara and Twelve has been written. If I were a Clara fan (which I’m not) I would have been infuriated with how they wrote her this season. She’s been ALL OVER the place and melodramatic. The inconsistency of the writing was really apparent in the Mummy episode (which should have been her last one, honestly) because it was otherwise a cool episode- the train, the mummy mythology, the humor in the script- it should have been great.

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HI I AM SPOOOOOOKY

But the contrived drama between Clara and Twelve just ruins it. The whole episode sets up this sad-eyed, tragic Clara who doesn’t trust this Doctor, doesn’t like him anymore because he lies, this trip is their “last hurrah”, she’s gonna quit and go be with Danny, etc. etc. There is even a mechanic character on the train who is subtly set up to step in for her at the end… then in the last TWO MINUTES Clara changes her mind-

(upon finding out the Doctor ISN’T a heartless asshole- which apparently she didn’t know before, because what is continuity?)

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-and decides to stay and keep lying to her boyfriend instead. Even the SCRIPT acknowledges it was an irrational and sudden turn-around, and Clara is basically painted to be an emotional, erratic person who can turn on a dime- and that characterization continues the rest of the series. When she tries to ransom the TARDIS to bring Danny back from the dead before she EVEN TRIES ASKING the Doctor for help??? Are you fucking kidding me? Every single companion, no matter which you like, whether the bond was friendship, romantic, whatever- they all had the same thing in common- LOYALTY. Even if the Doctor lied to them or they were pissed at him or whatever, they would never stab him in the back. Can you even imagine Donna, Rose, Martha, Jack, Amy, or even Mickey, threatening to destroy everything the Doctor loved, unprovoked, just to get their way- without even asking for his help first?

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Even if it was an illusion, it was nothing more than a hissy-fit. Ugh. OF COURSE HE WOULD TRY TO HELP, which he does, even after she acts like a toddler.

Having Clara trying to “juggle” the Doctor and Danny was just a juvenile plot-point and for her to keep jerking the Doctor around and treating him like crap instead of just leaving seemed to be designed to turn fans against her. They make a big deal out of Twelve being grumpy to her, and he is- but it’s mostly on the surface, especially in the latter half of the series. You have a funny face, you’re short, etc. LOLZ. In the beginning it could’ve easily been said (and it was, by many) that he was the one being a total asshole to her by constantly criticizing her personal life and looks, but she is the one who truly mistreats her best friend in the end by constantly questioning his humanity.  It honestly feels like an insult to her relationship with Eleven. Are we really meant to believe that Clara cannot see past appearances and know that this is the SAME PERSON? Whoever is writing her character does not seem to think much of her.

Keep in mind that all of this directly follows the reveal that Clara had jumped into the Doctor’s time stream and “saved” multiple versions of him (past and future).  That would mean she was not only accustomed to seeing him in different bodies, but felt a connection to him that was so strong that she ran after him every time, no matter how “old” or different the body was.  That entire story relied heavily on the notion that Clara’s connection to the Doctor was profound, and in fact that she literally “was born to save the Doctor”.  Her behavior towards Twelve in the season premiere was slightly odd considering this, but since she had unarguably been closest to Eleven’s form it was understandable, and I thought it was handled very well and wrapped up nicely.  In one episode.  Which was then promptly and conveniently forgotten for the rest of the series.  Having Clara’s confidence in the Doctor waver would have been fine, had they not set up the Impossible Girl narrative.  But since they had, it felt like all previous characterization and story was forgotten, and this was an entirely new companion.

I HATED the fact that they killed Osgood off, and the way they did it felt pointless, abrupt, and cruel. She should have mattered a little bit for fucks sake, and it felt way out of character for the show to do her like that. The same show that gave us such beautiful notions as “Nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important.” and “There’s no such thing as an ordinary human” gives us this perfectly “ordinary” human who idolizes the Doctor and showed her bravery in the wonderful anniversary special; this now confident girl calmly states “Bow-ties are cool” in the finale, before SHE GETS VAPORIZED AND NO ONE GIVES A SHIT, THE END.

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(We know you would have given a shit, bby)

The Good: The Mistress was great- Michelle Gomez plays her to be absolutely chaotic and over-the-top but I thought it worked, and Danny Pink’s role in the finale made it heart-wrenching. He was easily the best character of the entire season (sorry series, goddamn Brits), and even though I will never forgive Moffat for sacrificing him on the alter of convenience at least he went out like the honorable badass he was, saving the world in the process.  That being said, it was incredibly frustrating to have this wonderful (and gorgeous) character written into this series and then placed in a position to be the Fun-Killer who doesn’t want Clara running off and having adventures.  He deserved better.

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One thing series 8 did very well was comedy- there were so many hilarious moments and lots of terribly funny bits of dialogue.  “Flatline” was fun, along with a couple of other episodes, and “Listen” was straight-up terrifying.

Overall I was just really disappointed in series 8 because it started out so strong- I love Peter Capaldi so much and I think he did a wonderful job.  I liked a handful of the episodes but the writing mostly ranged from uneven to terrible. I really, really hope something changes next season. If not the companion then for fuck’s sake, hire a writer that can develop her into something beyond a concept because otherwise the only impossible thing about the Impossible Girl is liking her. I am so sick of her giant teary eyes moping around the TARDIS, her frequent bouts of indecision sandwiched in-between sassy, cutesy one-liners. I try to be sensitive to the people who like Clara because (besides my best friend being one of them) Lord knows I get annoyed when people talk shit on my favorites.  But as I said before, if Clara was *my* companion I wouldn’t be annoyed- I would be livid. Because the way they wrote her to be unbearable this season felt intentional. Half the fun of this show is watching the companions hurl themselves into space with the Doctor without a second thought. If you don’t want to be along for the ride, get the fuck off and let someone else on.

I understand they can’t all be Rory Williams, but this is getting ri-goddamn-diculous.

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I Tried The 4 New Lay’s Flavors So You Don’t Have To

You all know that I am First and Foremost: A Scientist.

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The other day I happened to make a Facebook status stating how disgusting the new Lay’s flavors looked to be.  What followed was a surprisingly lengthy thread of people debating and discussing the merits of the various experimental flavors that Lay’s keeps insisting on debuting.  That would have been that, as I had no intention of wasting money on giant bags of chips I almost certainly wouldn’t like, but then the other day I saw these small, individual bags at Subway…  I went ahead and got one of each since I am plagued by an insatiable curiosity and also apparently a desire for pain. I tried one flavor a day last week to see if any of them were palatable, and voilà.  Here are my reviews and now you don’t have to go through this yourselves:

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1. Truffle Fries.  I totally expected to like this one since I love truffle oil and it naturally pairs with potatoes. But of course these chips in no way contain truffle oil, which is expensive as ass, but instead an artificial flavoring that tastes vaguely like truffle oil that has gone a bit moldy.  To me they tasted exactly like French Onion chips with just a vague background of extra stank on them. Did not like. Managed to eat maybe half the bag before I gave up and tossed it.

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2. Gyro.  Dear Gods this was the worst one. It was like someone dumped an entire jumbo container of the cheapest Greek seasoning in existence into one little bag. They were so over-flavored it was revolting and to add injury to insult they were kettle-cooked, which means in addition to everything else they were mouthblood flavored. I ate like 5 or 6 to give them a chance then threw them into the garbage, which probably tasted better than these chips.

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3. Reuben.  These were tolerable, probably because The Reuben is the best sandwich in existence and these managed to resemble the taste of one, a bit. I could taste rye bread flavor the strongest, and a little bit of corned beef. Finished the bag but it was not super exciting.

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4. Biscuits and Gravy.  These gave me an existential crisis because of all four flavors, this one was the MOST ACCURATE. These goddamn things actually tasted like biscuits and gravy and it confused my brain. I expected to hate them the most but I liked them. I ate the whole bag.  I ate them for breakfast which somehow felt more okay. My Southern relatives are somewhere weeping and praying for my soul (for a new reason now!), but what can I say.

The problem is that they could never GO with anything, which I think is my main problem with all of these flavors as a whole. While one might be good and another tolerable, I am never going to want biscuits and gravy-flavored chips on the side of my hot dog or a sandwich-flavored chip on the side of my sandwich. Chips should be made to compliment other foods, not contain 50 different flavors within themselves all drowning each other out.

I guess I could see dipping the Reuben flavor in some sort of sour cream/horseradish dip but on the whole all of this feels really unnecessary.

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Conclusion: Give me my Salt & Vinegar chips and Get Off My Lawn.

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Jon Voyage

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I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.

When I was 13 years old I bought a tiny, black-and-white television set from a yard sale for $10.  It got 4 channels and you had to wrestle with the bunny ears to even get those, but it was a huge deal for me.  Although we had a TV in our living room it was closely monitored, and most shows were forbidden.  My siblings and I would set our alarms to sneak into the living room and watch Saturday Night Live every week, and if my Mom was out of the house we would catch In Living Color and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, and when I was home sick it was Beverly Hills 90210, all the way… but there was always the fear of getting caught and having all privileges revoked.  No secular television was technically “allowed” – the only reason for the existence of the TV was so that there was something to hook a VCR up to so we could watch a series of Christian cartoon videos.  You can imagine how exciting and stimulating those were to a pre-teen who was already hiding borrowed Steven King novels between her mattresses.

Once I had my own TV hidden in my room it was ON.  I could now watch whatever I wanted (well, as long as it aired on those 4 channels) and one day, I found The Jon Stewart show.  Not only did I find the writing hilarious and smart, but I developed the type of obsessive crush on the host that only a young teenage girl is capable of forming.  I thought he was brilliant, handsome, and was drawn to his endearing humility and quick wit.  This crush actually ended up creating my “type”, something that has followed me into adulthood.  From that point on, show me a nerd with dark curly hair and I will swoon like a motherfucker.  Some of those crushes (*ahem* Jeff Goldblum) not only survived into my adulthood but have actually grown.  Once Jon moved over to The Daily Show, I loyally followed him.  Cable was trickier but being old enough to stay over with friends at that point, I made it work.  I moved out of the house at age 17 and it was never an issue again.  Since then Comedy Central has been non-negotiable in any apartment I lived in, even when I was making $7 an hour and had to go without other things.  The ritual of watching the show and the comfort it brought me was a form of the actual therapy I should have been in and could never have afforded.

Growing up I was a very well-read, smart kid, but I had zero interest in politics.  I didn’t have much interest in reality in general to be honest, because most of what I saw of it was shitty.  I despised organized religion, having grown up in it, and spotted hypocrites everywhere I turned.  As far as I was concerned, politicians fell into the same category and the whole thing seemed like a hugely sexist, racist, homophobic pile of unending shit that could never be changed.  I never had anyone to look up to in real life outside of my older siblings, so I rejected real life.  I cared about fiction.  I cared about creating realities that were better than this one.  As a child I was either not very empathetic, or was so much so that I had to turn it off and just retreat into fantasy.  I’m still not sure which one of those things is true.

But as the show progressed, something changed in me as it grew more deeply analytical and political in tone.  Besides my love of watching Jon, he seemed to have a way of pulling back the curtain and showing us the working parts that make up the world that we live in.  He also had a way of doing it piece by piece, so that none of it felt overwhelming or insurmountable.  I started engaging.  I started examining my political views, trying to understand how they were formed and whether or not some of the foundations they were based on might be made of bullshit (spoiler alert: they were).  Although I knew I was an Atheist from the time I could form such thoughts I never realized how the narrow, bigoted world I had grown up in had affected my political stances without my even noticing.  Sure, I never treated people who were “different” from me badly or thought of them as lesser, the way I was taught to (my Mother once screamed at me for almost an hour accusing me of being a lesbian because I refused to stop hanging out with a gay friend I had as a teenager), but of course all murderers should get the death penalty I mean why are we even talking about this?  And capitalism??  YAY.  Although I had rejected the religion I was raised with and the Evangelical Christian Republican label that went with it, my political views by the time I was about 20 had ended up falling somewhere in the region of Naïve-Ayn Rand-ian-Libertarian-VagueTown.  I had yet to truly explore that part of my mind and expand my understanding of how the world worked outside of the only country I knew.  But along with reading and watching the show, I was now actually reading world news almost every day- something you would have had to put a gun to my head to get me to do just a few years earlier.  I also suddenly wanted to travel outside of the country, and saved so that I could do so.

My older sister, who eventually went on to get her Masters in political science at Harvard, rejoiced.  Always the most earnest child you have ever met in your life, she wanted to make the world a better place from the time she was small, and politics was a way she saw to do that.  In the past whenever she had tried to talk to me or get me excited about politics, my eyes would glaze over after about 5 minutes.  I had no trust of adults in positions of authority of any kind, no matter what political party they belonged to or what words came out of their mouths.  They were all liars and none of them really cared about anything but themselves.  My life up until that point had taught me that lesson, and I had learned it well.  But now I was the one calling her, wanting to have discussions about politics and asking questions of someone who was years ahead of me in learning about this strange clusterfuck of a system we live in.  She was ecstatic to oblige.

All of that was well over a decade ago and when I look back I certainly cringe to remember how strong my political convictions were, especially considering my limited understanding of pretty much everything.  But when you are 20 years old you tend to think you know everything, so I try not to be too hard on myself.  I don’t need to tell you how The Daily Show got better and stronger, or try to emphasize the enormous effect his show has had on the young people and the culture of this country.  There have already been so many articles written on the subject, and I trust that you have access to google.  This is a selfish post, explaining what he did for me.  And yes, he has had a strong team of writers and correspondents behind him and they all deserve praise and recognition, but for me, if not for his voice, I wouldn’t have tuned in.  His empathy is palpable and his willingness to be criticized is admirable.  He will also make a complete and total ass of himself in the service of a bit and that is something that has never changed, no matter how successful the show has become.

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When someone points out something problematic in one of his segments, I don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to get mad or defend him.  Truthfully I think that is because thinking critically and deeply is exactly what he is trying to get people to do.

The departure of Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report (another blessed gift Jon has given me) made me sad, but the sadness was off-set by the fact that not only did I still have Jon’s show to watch, but Stephen was going to be back on my TV soon in the form of the Late Show, which I will now be watching (sorry dudes, never thought Letterman was funny unless he was standing next to Leno).  With Jon leaving to apparently go live on a farm in Jersey with his family and a bunch of rescue animals, I don’t know when I will get to see him on TV again.  After 20 years of his presence on my television being one of the only constants in my life, it leaves a huge hole in my heart.  I adore him more today than I did when I first found him as a stupid kid, and I will forever remain in his debt.  I’d like to think that I could have evolved into the kinder, more empathetic, intersectional feminist I try my best to be even if he’d never come along, but I’d rather not think about that.  And yes there have been many life experiences and many, many books, television shows, movies and articles by amazing women and men that have expanded my knowledge and understanding of the world after the fact, but Jon is the person who initially challenged me to snap out of the apathy and cynicism I was far too young to have, and find the strength to care.  He ignited the flame.

I am still a little surprised when I turn on my television at night and don’t see a new Daily Show on my DVR- I think it’s going to take a while longer for it to sink in.  Until then, I can always watch this handy VHS tape I made of an episode of The Jon Stewart show when he had Kate Mulgrew and Van Halen on as guests.

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Over 15 years and countless re-locations later, I still have it.  If only I had a VCR.

Farewell, Jon*.

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*pleaseohplease take me with you that farm sounds amazing and peaceful and I will bring my own snacks I promise you won’t even know I’m there

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San Diego Comic Con: Diary of a First-Timer

Hello humanoids!  Last week I attended San Diego Comic Con for the first time with my sister and a handful of friends.  For someone like me, this is basically The Promised Land.  Let’s get to it.

Wednesday: Preview Night, Hop Con 3.0: w00tstout

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Comic Con started off with a bang.  After many awesome cosplay sightings outside the convention center we managed to get onto the floor and buy a shit-ton of merchandise before heading out to Hop Con.  Hop Con is a food + craft beer party thrown by Wil Wheaton and Aisha Tyler at Stone Brewery every year.  If you haven’t been- the place itself is gorgeous.  Koi ponds, gardens, beautiful landscaping; Stone is worth the trip even without any special event happening.  Wil and Aisha are super nice and Aisha even collaborates on a beer every year and serves it up herself, like the motherfucking boss that she is.

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Thursday:  Extant, Doctor Who, Con Men, Carry On My Wayward Cocktails

I went to the Extant panel because it was in Ballroom 20 before the Sherlock panel, which I had initially planned to attend.  Halle Berry and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are both fucking stunning.  Halle said some lovely, insightful things about representation on television as opposed to movies, getting roles as a woman of color who is “no longer young”, and preferring to have more control over her projects now.  Of course she looks amazing but since Hollywood is a sexist, ageist, whitewashing monster, I was in no way surprised to hear about the shit she’s had to deal with.  I’ve never seen the show but based on the preview it looks fucking cool.  Extant: Added to my list.

After the Extant panel I happened to check Twitter and saw that the motherfucking HALL H LINE WAS SHORT AS HELL.  This does not ever happen.  So I hauled ass over there to see the Doctor Who panel instead since the Sherlock panel was not going to have any of the actual stars from the show and Doctor Who was.  During the brief time we waited in the Hall H line, a cosplayer had mingled in with the Jesus protesters that show up to SDCC every year, and provided us with entertainment as we waited.

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Troll Level: Joker

The panel was great.  Moffat was surprisingly likable and I’ve always loved Peter Capaldi.  Jenna Coleman continues to be adorable and also about as interesting as a bowl of dishwater.  She was clearly never interested in DW until she took the role, so she had very little insight or stories to offer, but she is perfectly nice.  Michelle Gomez, who plays the newest incarnation of the Master (or the Mistress, as the character is now known) was the best and most surprising part of the panel.  Clever, quick, whip-smart and hilarious, she had great responses to all of the questions and is a whole lot sexier in person than her severe characterization on the show would have you believe.  I can’t say I cared a whole lot about her character either way for the first half of series 8 that I managed to watch, but count me in as a fan now.

After that came the Con Man panel.  The brainchild of Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, Con Man is basically a love letter to the Firefly fandom.  It looks hilarious.  Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Seth Green, and other nerdy fan-favorites completed the panel.  It was even more fun than the DW panel, and it was capped off with a surprise marriage proposal between two of the crew members.  The man who was proposing clearly caught his boyfriend completely by surprise, and when they started choking up, so did everyone else.  Now thanks to SCOTUS, these longtime partners can return to their home in the South and tie the knot.  Not a dry eye in the house.

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In the evening we had tickets to a Supernatural fandom-run cocktail party at a downtown San Diego bar.  There was food, an open bar with SPN-themed cocktails (I myself was drinking single man-tears) and best of all, SWAG BAGS.

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Best.  Party.  Favors.  EVER.  The Hillywood girls were there, and at the end of the party they played their amazing video and everyone sang along.  Good times.

(Here is the video, for any nerd left on the planet who hasn’t seen it)

Friday:  Exhibit Hall, Chris Hardwick’s Funcomfortable Tour

My sister and I walked the floor and managed to talk to Jane Espensen and Orlando Jones, get autographs and pictures with Taran Killam, and even spotted the gorgeous actor who plays Lestrade in Sherlock walking around.  Did I mention he is gorgeous?  Because he is.  Also the BBC booth took so much of my money.  Taran was a highlight because after I told him how much I loved the SNL sketch in which he played John Boehner opposite Miley Cyrus for the “We Did Stop” video, this happened:

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Too adorable for words.

After a fruitful day in the Exhibit Hall we got to see Chris Hardwick perform stand-up at the Balboa.  If you think you know Hardwick because of all the shows he hosts, lets just say he is a little different when he is unfiltered.  He started off with a joke involving mothers and jizz and it only got better from there.  I laughed so much my sides hurt.

Saturday:  Fan Favorites, Simpsons, Seth McFarlane, Grimm, Outlander, Hannibal, Hall H Sleepover

I spent most of Saturday in Ballroom 20.  My goal was to get a good seat for the Hannibal panel (or “Pannibal”) at 5pm, so my ass was in the seat by 11am.  Besides Grimm at 3pm I didn’t even know what else would be in the room, but as it turns out the Comic Con Gods were smiling down upon me.  The panel I walked in on was a “Fan Favorites” panel and boasted Norman Reedus, Maisie Williams, Yvette Nicole Brown, Wendi Mclendon-Covey, and David Anders.  Maisie and Norman were every bit as cool as they seem- especially Maisie.  My favorite story of the panel was how a young fan tweeted her and said anything Maisie tweeted back, she would use as her yearbook quote.  Maise replied “Anyone can be killed”.

Maisie = Real Life Arya.

The Simpsons panel was mostly notable because it featured Gulliermo Del Toro, whose movies I love.  I haven’t actually watched the show itself in years, but the panel was fun.  Ditto for McFarlane’s, mostly because all of the Family Guy voice actors busted out their character voices and read lines.  Grimm is a really fun show full of hot people, so naturally that was a great panel.  I’ve never seen Outlander, but those people were clearly having a blast with each other which is always awesome to watch.

FINALLY: THE PANNIBAL.  Bryan Fuller is the best.  Hugh Dancy and Richard Armitage were there as well, and all three of them humored us by rocking flower crowns.  I do not have time to even scratch the surface of how amazing Hannibal is and what a fucking travesty it is that it was cancelled.  Bryan gave us a sliver of hope that someone else might still pick it up, but I have been burned too often by shitty network decisions to hold out too much hope.  My favorite moment was when Bryan was asked why he has chosen to leave out most of the sexual violence from the books, and Bryan explained that if you are going to portray rape or sexual violence you have a responsibility to present it carefully; fully examining all of the consequences to every person involved, and if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort to do that, you should simply omit it. He mentioned that many shows right now don’t do this, and he didn’t want his show to be cheap or lazy. And this is why Bryan Fuller is my favorite.

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Yet another reason why women and gay men need to helm more shows. Also: Fucking cosplay on point.

Apparently he is also putting Richard Armitage in short jean shorts later this season.  Fannibalism forever.

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After the Pannibal it was time for our Hall H camp-out.  We had a friend with us who did not have a badge for Saturday, so she got in line for Hall H at 11am (bless her).  After our panels were done, my sister and I joined her and our other friends for what turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable, restful camp-out.  It helped that the Hillywood girls came by and handed out chocolate, then about 10pm Misha Collins himself rolled up with the Random Acts crew and brought us all pizza.  Because the Supernatural fandom is better than all of the other fandoms (yes, we were camping out for Supernatural- I will address that on my Sunday post so shut your fucking face).  They filed us onto the grass under the tents, and we snuggled into our sleeping bags and slept in the wonderfully mild San Diego weather.  You don’t have to camp out to get into Hall H, necessarily (except for the day before ANYTHING Star Wars), but you do if you want decent seats.  Out of a hall packed with thousands of people, we were in row SIX.  Boom.

Sunday: Supernatural in Hall H AKA the fat cherry on the Comic Con sundae

So: Supernatural.  If you follow this blog at all you will no doubt remember my vow to stop watching this hot mess of a show and participating in the fandom.  I’m leaving that post up because I fully meant it, and also because everything I said about the way Charlie was treated is 100% accurate, but leaving the fandom proved to be a bit more difficult than I imagined.  The panel demonstrated beautifully why that is and actually helped me put it into words.  There were so many amazing things crammed into a single hour that I hardly know where to start, but leaving aside how hilarious and engaging the panel was overall, it can be broken down thusly…

1)  For the most part, WE ALL FEEL THE SAME WAY.  The fandom, the actors, the good writers- we are all united in hating the same things, and one hero had the guts to get up to the mic and call out Jeremy Carver to his fucking face about it.  This girl gets up there in front of thousands of fans and basically asks Jeremy- given how female deaths are so frequently used to further the male character’s storylines on Supernatural, how did he think it was a good idea to kill Charlie, who was their only queer character to boot, and dump her in a bathtub?  The hall went nuts with applause.  The actors (who were pretty vocal about their disagreement with that decision after the subsequent outrage exploded online) literally half-stood to rotate their chairs and TURNED THEIR FUCKING BACKS ON HIM while he answered.  They left him twitching in the wind as he fumbled his way through a non-explanation which basically consisted of “well, um, we kill everybody, blah blah bullllllshit”.  He seems to think that killing everyone is what keeps people watching, which just goes to show how little he understands the fandom.  Sorry bro, but we keep watching DESPITE this constant dumbfuckery with fridging.  But honestly, just hearing someone speak for all of us and call out the showrunner reminded me why I love the fandom.  We are frequently disgruntled.  We do not blindly defend our show, even though we love it.  We are overall a thoughtful, intelligent, passionate bunch, and that is good company to be in.

2)  The actors.  A huge part of why I could not bring myself to dump the show is because after ten seasons, I could not desert these people.  These kind, beautiful people who come to every con, who show up ready to listen, who share their family photos with us, who cry with us, laugh with us, and listen to us bitch about the show without a shred of impatience or anger.  These boys are angels.  They understand the characters better than any showrunner (besides Kripke) or writer (besides Robbie Thomas) at this point, but as actors, they do not always have the control that they would like to have.  I have been to 5 SPN cons at this point and I have yet to see their kindness or commitment waver.  I watch countless television shows and am part of so many fandoms, and there is literally no other cast like this one.  They embrace us and allow us into their lives and personal struggles, and by doing so have turned a fandom into a family.  No matter how much your family pisses you off, you can never really leave.

3)  Always Keep Fighting.  Our fandom is powerful.  We are capable of ugliness, but we are also capable of wonderful things.  From the fan art, to the fan fiction, to the charitable projects, we are always ready to find the beauty in everything and lend a hand when it is needed.  This was exemplified in the candle display in Hall H that I was so proud to be a part of.

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For some background: Earlier this year Jared was forced to take a break from shooting the show and fly home abruptly.  He has been fairly open with us about his struggle with depression and even started a t-shirt campaign last year that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for “To Write Love On Her Arms”, a charity that provides resources to people struggling with depression and addiction.  The t-shirts he created had the words “Always Keep Fighting” on the front- a motto many fans have adopted as their own.  After his break this year, someone got the idea to organize a huge show of support at Comic Con.  With the help of Random Acts they distributed small electric tea lights to almost every single person in line for Hall H.  Hall H can hold about 7,000 people.  After the Q&A portion started, everyone in the audience was signaled and we all held up our lights.  It is dark in the hall, so if you looked at the screen, all you could see was a sea of twinkling lights that looked like stars.  Everyone on the panel was confused for a few seconds, then after hearing the shouts they slowly realized what was happening.  Jared barely held it together and he was clearly touched beyond words.  To be in that hall was to feel wrapped up in the support and the warmth that the fans show to the actors and to each other, and that the actors give right back to us.

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That is why I am still here.

And with that, my San Diego Comic Con adventures came to an end.  One of the hardest parts of Supernatural Cons is returning to normal life and San Diego Comic Con gave me the same emotional hangover, times 50.  I was not prepared for how amazing the experience would be so I was equally unprepared for how difficult it would be to come home.  I anticipated that the good parts would be evened-out by bad parts.  Long lines, huge crowds, not getting to see everything I wanted to, and most of all, exhaustion.  I felt none of those things.  The crowds were nowhere near as bad as I anticipated, I waited in practically no lines besides Hall H (which I was mentally prepared for), and I saw almost every single thing I wanted to.  I didn’t drink too much and I slept enough, so by the time I woke up Monday morning, I was still high off of the experience.  There is nothing like spending five days around people who are as passionate as you are about the same types of things.

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If I ever miss a SDCC from here on out, it will not be from lack of trying.

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File To: Office Dwelling

[Note: After listening to a conversation between my co-workers that made me want to smash their heads together, I decided to instead keep my job and channel my frustrations into this post.]

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Although I’ve worked in hospitals my entire adult life, most of the work that I have done has been in Medical Records, secretarial, or in medical education.  Translation: Office work.  I also worked very briefly for a property management company dealing with homeowner associations, which was easily the most soul-crushing job I’ve ever had.  My short, in-between stints in food service and retail were paradise by comparison.  So I have worked in many offices.  I have had many wonderful co-workers over the years and some have even turned into lifelong friends.  They make day-to-day drudgery tolerable and occasionally even enjoyable.  They are the ones you go to happy hour with and bitch about your jobs, because they are the only ones who really understand your pain.  They are your lifelines.  This post is not about them.

Anyone who works in an office for any extended period of time will also have co-workers who drive them batshit, for reasons ranging from a mildly annoying habit made intolerable by close quarters combined with the passage of time, to the fact that your co-worker is in fact, Satan.  The interesting thing is that certain awful co-workers seem to crop up in different bodies no matter how many times you change jobs.  If you haven’t worked in an office then you may be blessedly confused by the following list.  If you have, then I guarantee you will recognize at least a few of these demons in human form:

The Hall Monitor:  This person is the master of passive-aggression.  If there is one day you decide to throw caution to the wind and wear jeans, or you let a swear word slip out, this is the hero who catches you.  Do they approach you?  No of course not.  But sure as shit, the next day you get called into your supervisor’s office (who frequently looks embarrassed to bring up such a small thing but is now forced to) where you will be reminded gently of company policies.  The Hall Monitor does not really care about the dress code and is never genuinely offended by any of their co-workers transgressions; they are just very into earning brownie points that do not exist.  This person should have to wear the sash they so desperately desire, so that they can be identified and shunned.

The Lover of Inappropriate Topics:  “So do you think this Woody Allen stuff is true?”  “I don’t know about letting refugees in, what do you think?”  “Do you think Hilary could actually win this election?”  This is the person who loves nothing more than bringing up not-remotely-appropriate-for-the-workplace topics out of nowhere.  Politics, religion, rape, nothing is out of bounds.  If it’s in the news it is fair game.  Because you want to keep your job you grit your teeth and make non-committal noises as the rest of your co-workers trot out every ignorant sound bite they heard on Fox News over the weekend.  But those people would never have brought it up themselves- it always takes the initial person to get the douchebag-ball rolling.  The Lover of Inappropriate Topics has a captive audience of people just trying to do their goddamn jobs and they use it for evil.  This person might be male or female, but they are always white.

The Killjoy:  Every office has one of these assholes.  The Killjoy has a crappy or non-existent personal life that they hate almost as much as they hate their job.  They are completely miserable so they need everyone else to be miserable, to the point that they actually hate the sound of laughter.  The sound of anyone enjoying themselves causes them physical pain.  This is the person who will, during a rare and glorious moment of mirth or bonding, bark something to the effect of “some of us are working, please keep it down.” Or “Okay I think break time is over, ladies…”  The moment is brought to a screeching halt and everyone shoots figurative daggers at the asshole’s head.  The daggers should be literal.

The Office Cliché: This person walks around talking as though they have never seen a movie, television show, or a comic strip that skewers office dwelling in their lives.  Every Monday they will talk all day long about how it is Monday and this is bad!, on Wednesday the words “hump day” will come out of their mouth a minimum of six times, and God help you on Friday.  Worried that no one will make the “See you next year!” joke on December 31st?  This person has you covered.  They un-ironically say “TGIF!” and “Working hard, or hardly working??” with abandon.  I personally believe this person knows goddamn well what they are doing and is one of the more clever types of sadist.

The Pusher:  This person wants you to be fat.  This person wants everyone to be fat.  To be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with being fat. There IS something wrong with taking someone’s personal diet choices and body shape personally. If you work in an office then you know that baked goods and candy are everywhere.  Even if you don’t take into account that every single person in the office gets a cake on their birthday and all holidays are an orgy of fudge, there are still bowls of candy on everyone’s desks and a constant stream of leftovers and homemade cookies “just because”.  If you do not accept a treat from The Pusher, they will respond with “Oh but these are SO GOOD, just have one, you have to be bad sometimes!” etc. etc. until most people cave and just take the damn cookie.  If you don’t, The Pusher sees you as an anti-social prick who exists to make them feel “bad” for eating said cookies.  Every time you tell them no they act like you kicked their puppy in the teeth.  Personally I don’t like sweets for the most part so I am immune to this person, and they always hate me.  (Little do they know if people brought cheese platters into offices I wouldn’t stand a chance.)

The Too-Nice Person:  Oh bless her heart (it’s always a she).  This person could also be called The Punching Bag.  She takes on everything she is asked to do whether it is her job or not, no matter what tone you ask it in.  When The Killjoy shuts down the moment of mirth, she is the first (and usually only) person to apologize for the noise.  Her tone is always deferential and her voice always soft.  At first you feel sorry for this person and may even try to help her to be more assertive.  This will not work because eventually you realize that Too-Nice usually has a martyr complex and is getting some weird emotional payoff from being treated this way.  Too-Nice is The Killjoy’s favorite person to torture.

The Instigator:  This person loves drama… for other people.  They are bored and instead of checking Facebook or blogging on office time like a normal fucking human, they like to stir shit up.  They will never say anything bad about another co-worker but they will gleefully relay any negative gossip between two other co-workers that they can get their nosy-ass ears around.  In an office there is always shit to stir and the rational person will stay out of that shit at all costs.  It makes everyone’s life tense and never accomplishes anything.  There will always be people in the office who don’t like other people in the office, which is perfectly natural and to be expected.  But be very careful not to vent about a co-worker in front of The Instigator, whether to your friend on your lunch break or by letting them overhear you on the phone.  The person you dislike will magically find out and congratulations: Now you work in hell.

The Patriot:  While at first glance this person seems similar to The Lover of Inappropriate Topics, The Patriot’s focus is much narrower and the discomfort they make you feel is mostly related to the shit they put up in their cubicle or office as opposed to anything they actually say.  They still have a 9/11 remembrance picture up of the twin towers with a bald eagle crying one single tear in the background.  They also have Bible verses up (this person is always Christian) which is against office policy but you don’t report them because you would feel like an asshole.  The verses they choose tend to be the ones that vaguely insinuate Hell awaits every non-believer.  The Patriot sees no problem with Columbus Day being a holiday but thinks the MLK holiday is pandering.  This racist asshole will unfortunately never say or do anything bad enough to get them fired until they retire at the age of 105.  This person exists to make brown and non-religious people uncomfortable in the workplace.

The Screech-Laugher:  This one is self-explanatory.  It’s not really their fault or even intentional, so you try not to hate them.  You fail.

The Malcontent:  Oh that one’s me.  Hi.

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If you don’t recognize yourself on this list congratulations, your co-workers probably don’t fantasize about putting your face through your monitor.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, please let me know if your office has any openings.

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Welcome Back, Doctor

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 8 PREMIERE: YES

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If you are familiar with Doctor Who, you know that the series 8 premiere starring a new Doctor (Twelve) aired last Saturday on BBC. (If you aren’t familiar with Doctor Who- it is about a mad man with a blue box. That’s about the best I can do. I’d just exit here.) I was never much attached to Matt Smith’s Eleven, so I was extremely excited to see what Peter Capaldi would bring to the role. I was not disappointed. Moffat’s writing tends to be hit-and-miss in a huge way, i.e. AMAZING STORYTELLING THAT I LOVE or WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED, THAT WAS TERRIBLE, so the fact that he was writing the premiere meant little to me either way. This is the man responsible for the 50th anniversary special which I LOVE UNTIL THE END OF TIME, who then turned around and gave us the worst regeneration episode I have ever seen. I already liked Capaldi however, so I went in with cautious optimism.

The dinosaur. The fucking dinosaur. Brilliant. Eleven had an episode with dinosaurs that didn’t work, in my opinion, so it was nice to see it done well. I was sure it was just going to be used as “Oh cool it’s a dinosaur” without there being a reason for it being there, but they didn’t waste it. By having Twelve interpret her lonely noises then grieve for her death, Moffat showed us that Twelve’s empathy was intact. There has been a lot of talk about this being a darker, tougher incarnation, so I think it effectively showed the audience that yes, this Doctor might have a different style, but it’s still our beloved, squishy-hearted Doctor. The cyber-ish human thing was cool enough, although that particular element has certainly been done before. The lack of originality there didn’t bother me much though, because I was just too busy getting to know our new boy.

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Attack Eyebrows.  I laughed so fucking hard.

Although Clara is a returning character, in a way I felt like this was her very first episode. Clara is a character they sort of created then failed to fill in the blanks. It always felt like the show was telling us over and over that she was Great and Important, without ever bothering to actually make her those things. The end of Eleven’s story finally delivered on the premise that Clara’s existence is incredibly crucial to the Doctor, but it didn’t make her any more interesting as a person.  But finally, FINALLY, Moffat wrote her a personality. She went from being basically a pretty, occasionally sassy girl who stood around being impressed by Eleven, to being an actual person who reacted to things the way an actual person would. That is to say- not all that well all of the time. Her treatment of the Doctor after he had changed into an older man was uncomfortable for some, but it was an absolutely human reaction to have. When Ten regenerated into Eleven I wanted to quit my job and live in a blanket fort eating pizza and crying for the rest of my life, so here I found my first real opportunity to identify with Clara. Of course she was attached to “her” Doctor. We all are. Yes that sucks for Twelve, and it also sucks for Clara.  Eleven held her hand, gave her hugs, and made it very clear what she meant to him.  Twelve does not appear to have that in him and she has to deal with the fact that he probably never will.  Their relationship will be entirely different and she has to grieve her relationship with Eleven, all while trying to be a companion to this new version of the man she cares about. At any rate, Clara got to be happy, sad, irritated, scared, and brave- all in one episode. Just like a real girl. Oh, and the awkward hug at the end was basically my favorite thing.

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So that’s it, ladies and germs: I loved it. I am so excited to be excited for Who again.

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