Vote for the Worst Adolescent Children on TV

Photo:  Kent Smith/SHOWTIME -

Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME –

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

I usually defend the teenage characters that annoy most people. Maybe it’s something to do with being a mom myself but I tend to be more forgiving.

I root for Dana Brody and love what being a parent brings to Alicia’s character on The Good Wife. But after watching Grace wistfully eye the guns on Sunday night’s episode of The Good Wife, I began to think that maybe, like a lax parent, I’ve been a little too lenient.

Who do you think are the worst adolescent children on TV? I’m not talking about shows like Glee where teens are the main characters but show about adult characters who have teenage children. Talk about it below and vote!

Here are my picks:

Grace and Zach Florrick on The Good Wife

Pros: Zach’s great with computers and all things technical. His taste in girlfriends constantly disrupts his dad’s political life. He introduced us to Eli’s nemesis Becca.

Cons: Grace bounces from one distracting story line to the next. Now she’s going to be into guns?

Karen and Jerry Fitzgerald on Scandal

Pros: They never see their parents.

Cons: They never see their parents.

Dana Lazaro and Chris Brody on Homeland

Pros: Morgan Saylor is a great actress. She hasn’t had the best material to work with and she’s made it work.

Cons: Dana makes truly horrible decisions when it comes to dating. Has Chris had more than three words of dialogue all season?

Morgan and Jake Sanders on Hostages

Pros: Ummmmm . . . .

Cons: Just about everything that’s happened since the pilot.

I’m Running Away with ‘The Good Wife’

Photo: David M. Russell ©2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Photo: David M. Russell ©2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

After watching the “Hitting the Fan” episode of The Good Wife early last week, I tweeted “I want to whisk next Sunday’s episode of #TheGoodWife off to a romantic weekend in Paris. I love it that much.”

Sunday’s episode of the CBS drama was easily its best. But it was also one of the best hours of television this year and, I’ll just go ahead and say it, one of the best hours of television ever. It combined nail-biting suspense with humor and, most shockingly, the lead character’s decision to turn her back on her inner moral compass.

Not only is it rare for a series to hit such a creative high in its fifth season, but who would have thought the show would be in this position at this time last year when Kalinda was mired in a Fifty Shades of Food Products story line with her sneering ex-husband. Is this what the term October surprise really means?

The genius of the show is that it successfully mixes the courtroom drama with the work place drama with the political drama with the romantic drama with the family drama. And it’s doing that brilliantly this season. Here’s what’s going so right:

The Moral Downfall of Alicia
Alicia not only allowed Peter to threaten Neil Gross. She celebrated the fact that he did (and I’m not convinced that she didn’t explicitly ask him to make that speech). She was drinking champagne. Alicia started the series in horror of her husband’s transgressions. Now she’s embracing them. Alicia has always been a fascinatingly complex character but it’s so rare that a network show allows their main protagonist – their title character! — to break bad.

You can read the rest of this post at Antenna Free TV.

How are you feeling about The Good Wife this season? Talk about it below.

‘How I Met Your Mother’ and Other Fights I am Having with TV

Photo: CBS © 2013

Photo: CBS © 2013

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

“Our ninth season will tell the epic story of the longest wedding weekend ever.”

That’s How I Met Your Mother creator and executive producer Carter Bays in the official statement CBS released about the finale. It makes my stomach hurt. Look I completely understand artistic vision and no show runner can make all the viewers happy all of the time. Nor should they. They shouldn’t bow to viewers’ wants and desires. So if Bays and his co-creator and executive producer Carter Thomas want to spend the ENTIRE ninth season on Barney and Robin’s wedding, that’s their prerogative.

But, frankly, I don’t understand why. I was surprised to learn that Bays and Thomas had intended to end the series with viewers just getting a glimpse of the Mother as we did in the finale.  We’ve all invested eight years of our lives in this relationship and I, for one, would like to see it play out.  I want to see Ted and the Mother fall in love, maybe even get engaged. I want to see the Mother and Lily become best friends and share footwear. I want to see the Mother fully embraced by the gang.

Plus, for reasons I’ll never understand, the show has made such a big deal about the fact that Ted is still hung up on Robin. This last little do-si-do in the Ted and Robin dance is truly horrendous. Really we’re going to hold hands in the rain? The show has beaten the storyline in such a way that I’m worried there’s no way we can be happy if Robin marries Barney and no way we can be happy if she ends up with Ted.  They are slowly but surely sucking all the joy out of a show I once loved.

I get that Ted still being hung up on Robin may be somewhat realistic – some people do spend their whole lives trying to get over someone. But that truth doesn’t make Ted’s pining particularly interesting to watch.  For me to feel good about the Mother, I need to see Ted get over Robin and that can’t happen in one weekend.

In the “The Time Travelers” episode it seemed to me that the show was strongly hinting at the fact that the Mother was no longer alive. I still have this lingering fear that the Mother died when the kids were little and Ted has been married to Aunt Robin all this time. Is that what the flash forwards next season are going to tell us?

My other problem with this week’s big reveal is that it’s too little, too late. Timing is everything in romance and in television. What is arguably the show’s biggest moment happened at a time when I am past really caring who the Mother is. I am happy that she is a relative unknown. I’m happy for Cristin Milioti. TV is a tough business and it’s nice to see someone we haven’t seen before getting such a high profile role. Everyone is talking about her Broadway run in Once but I want to go back and watch the three episodes where Miloti played Johnny Sac’s daughter on The Sopranos.

How did you feel about the How I Met Your Mother finale? Talk about it below.

But it’s not just HIMYM that has irked me in the past couple weeks, I’m also bothered by the fact that:

Smash killed off Kyle: Ugh that episode was the worst. Kyle got the most amount of screen time after the show killed him off. And just a quick memo to Smash: We already get that Hit List is Rent. You really haven’t been subtle about that at all. And we already know that Jonathan Larson, who wrote Rent, tragically died the morning of the musical’s first preview. So did you really need the Rent poster in the background shot? No you did not. But if you were going to do that could you at least have the characters acknowledge Rent? The moment was already super meta because Jesse L. Martin stared in the original Broadway production of Rent. Honestly, I don’t know what the show was thinking with this maudlin VERY IMPORTANT EPISODE unless it was supposed to distract us from the rest of the show’s ridiculousness like Jimmy singing to himself or Tom becoming a different character every five minutes. Smash is in the midst of a colossal creative collapse. It’s rather fascinating to watch and see what they’ll come up with next (Derek being blackmailed?). I cannot wait until the cast is able to speak freely about what they thought about this second season.  Now that would be a show.

No closure on the Kalinda/Nick storyline on The Good Wife: I hear you. I don’t ever want to see Nick again either. But I do fear that the longer the story line goes unmentioned and unsettled, the more likely it could be that it could reappear when we least expect it. You can read my review of The Good Wife finale here.

Just about everything on The Following: I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m so willing to allow ridiculousness on some shows and so intolerant of it on others.  For example, I don’t prefer but will allow the fact that James ended up being the one to interview Mellie on Scandal (especially because Cyrus explanation was somewhat reasonable in the Scandal world). But everything on The Following irks me. Maybe it’s because the premise to begin with is so unsavory or that the show keeps trying to find some poignancy amid all the gratuitous violence but the FBI’s utter incompetence (seriously how many times did they go places without backup?) and the show’s lack of basic logic made what was supposed to be a dramatic finale completely laughable. Obviously Joe Carroll is not dead and I’m pretty confident Ryan will survive (obviously).  Maybe the show will take a page from the 24 first season playbook and kill off Claire.  I started to wonder what would happen in season two and how the show could possible eke out more episodes on this ridiculous premise and then I remembered, oh that’s right, I DON’T CARE. I won’t be watching.

Not one but two more seasons of Glee?:  What can I even say about such absurdity? The season finale was inane even by Glee standards. As most of us had predicted but none of us cared, Unique was catfishing Ryder. Suddenly Joe and Sugar were back sans explanation. Rachel appeared to sing one song and then disappeared for the remainder of the episode. Britney got into MIT. Blaine’s still in high school but he wants to marry Kurt (what show do they think they are on? 7th Heaven?)  Next season, I must break up with this show. I must. I might need to form a support group to get me through it because when the show is good, it’s very very good (seriously that “Everything was Beautiful at the Ballet” number was splendid) and when it’s bad it’s beyond horrid.

Are you in a fight with a TV show? Talk about it below.  And don’t forget to follow up my blog by clicking on the link in the top right hand corner.


‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘The Good Wife,’ ‘New Girl’ and ‘Glee’ . . . this week’s TV questions

Credit: CBS

Credit: CBS

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Let’s turn our attention to the TV questions that are plaguing me this week.

Is Jayma Mays the mother on How I Met Your Mother?

At first, I was very excited about last night’s How I Met Your Mother. “Jayma Mays is the Mother!” I thought to myself. That euphoria lasted about five minutes before I realized that it is much more likely that Coat Check Girl as the possible mother is yet another bait and switch the comedy is pulling on its viewers.  Ted said he would have run to go see his future wife but really that could be anyone.  Besides, it would be a little confusing if the Mother we’ve been hearing about for eight seasons turned out to be Mr. Schu’s estranged fiancée. There are plenty of actresses out there and I hope that How I Met Your Mother picks a less than familiar face to play the title role. But mostly I hope we find out who the Mother is before the end of the season. I’ve looooong contended that the show was a strong enough comedy by itself and that it no longer needed the conceit of the title to keep viewers interested. Now, it’s more than a little annoying that the series keeps dragging out the big reveal.

Also, does anyone else think that by the time Ted is telling his children the story of how he met their mother that maybe the mother has died? There was something a little sad about the way he was saying he wanted those “extra 45 days” with her.  I totally get the sentiment behind what he was saying – we’ve all been waiting for a long time the next phase of Ted’s life to begin. But something about the scene didn’t sit right with me –it was as if the show was trying to hint at something else.  Like there was something more to Ted saying “I’m always going to love you til the end of my days and beyond.”  The whole scene had a slightly maudlin undercurrent.  Am I crazy for thinking this? Did this occur to anyone else? (Also if Barney and Robin’s wedding is 45 days away and they haven’t picked a caterer yet. They are in trouble.)

On a much lighter note, Ted, Barney, 20-years-from-now Barney, 20-years-from-now Ted, 20-minutes-from-now Barney and 20-minutes-from-now Ted singing “The Longest Time” is definitely one of my favorite How I Met Your Mother moments EVER.

Is Alicia truly in love with Peter on The Good Wife?

On Sunday’s The Good Wife (you can read my review of the episode here), Alicia had a heartfelt conversation with her daughter where she told Grace she was with Peter because she loves him. But I couldn’t tell if she was just telling Grace what Grace needed to hear. I believe Alicia loves Peter – they have a history and two children together. And clearly she’s still attracted to him. But is she still in love with him? I’m not so sure. There’s been a shift in the power dynamics and the way Alicia has treated Peter this season. She has the upper hand in their relationship (he needs her more than she needs him) and often it seemed like she was using their little afternoon delights to show who had the true power in their relationship (she even laughed at Peter when he said he wanted to take her out on a date).  Yes Alicia has used Peter’s political position to advance her career this season but I don’t think that’s why she is staying with him. She knows how much it would disrupt her children’s lives if she divorced Peter and pursued her relationship with Will.  And it’s hard to let go of her relationship with Peter and the family they have together. What do you think?

Will Jess and Nick hooking up ruin New Girl?

No, it will not. Plenty of comedies put their will-they-or-won’t-they couples together and it benefits the show – Pam and Jim on The Office, Sabrina and Jimmy on Raising Hope to name a few. It would be far more unrealistic if these two people, who live together and are clearly attracted to one another, did nothing about it for two years. The problem is that Nick does not have his life together – at all. He needs to figure his own stuff out before he can truly pursue a relationship. The trick will be to not make Jess and Nick like Ross and Rachel on Friends – that dragged on for way too long. Let Schmidt and CeCe be the Ross and Rachel. Nick and Jess can be the Chandler and Monica.

Does anything on Glee make sense anymore?

No, it does not. Santana and Quinn hook up? The show doesn’t have Quinn on all season and then brings her back just to fulfill a male fantasy cliché? Really Glee? Really? And it’s not like Brody was this great character, but a male gigolo? Really Glee? Really? Nothing about the characters is consistent. This has always been Glee’s Achilles’ heel. But this season the characters have been out of control. As we’ve previously discussed, witness Tina’s crush on Blaine, Blaine’s crush on Sam, and the aforementioned Quinn/Santana hook up. And the story lines are so erratic. Rachael could be pregnant! No she’s not!

And I’m wondering – is there another Glee that regularly features Sugar, Joe, Kate Hudson, and Sarah Jessica Parker? Not that Sarah Jessica Parker’s character ever made sense, but way too many characters have disappeared this season sans explanation. I still love the musical numbers. Seriously there’s not a better way to my heart than an ‘NSYNC/ Backstreet Boys mash up. At this point, the series should be a musical revue show with no dialogue and no plot.

What are your thoughts on How I Met Your Mother, The Good Wife, New Girl, and Glee? Talk about it below.

Let’s talk about ‘The Good Wife’

Photo: Justin Stephens/ CBS Broadcasting Inc

Photo: Justin Stephens/ CBS Broadcasting Inc

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

I’ve been meaning to get this post up since last week but several other deadlines loomed and I didn’t have the time. And I thought I love The Good Wife. You love The Good Wife. There’s plenty to still talk about. I will warn you that there are some (relatively mild) spoilers ahead so read at your own risk.

Each week I review The Good Wife episodes over at (you can read my latest review here). Last week I participated in a conference call with Robert and Michele King, the creators and executive producers of the series. Here’s what you need to know about what’s coming up as The Good Wife winds down its fourth season:

  1. The gubernatorial election will take place this season. Matthew Perry’s Republican Mike Kresteva is back on March 24. The Kings would not say whether Peter would win the election but did say the way Chris Noth’s schedule works it would work out fine for the show if Peter were in Springfield at the Governor’s mansion and Alicia remained in Chicago. My guess is Peter will win the election  – it’s a more interesting angle for the show to take. This season, The Good Wife proved Alicia had no trouble using Peter’s position to further her own career (it’s why she was the one cherry picked to become partner). I’m kind of fascinated to see what happens when her husband is Governor. And, if he does become Governor, the Kings say he will turn his attention  to becoming President, which would be very, very interesting.
  2. The little Alicia/Will/Peter love triangle will continue. “It’s Alicia struggling with her attraction to two men and we are going to explore that all the way until the end of the year,” Robert King said. “Before she could tell herself it was not adultery. It’s getting a lot more difficult,” Michele King added. My whole thing with Alicia and Peter is sometimes I watch them together and think, “Ah yes the show is reminding us that Peter and Alicia were once in love and were in a marriage together and have a history.”  But sometimes I  watch the scenes and think “Alicia is just using Peter like he used her.” Discuss. (As an aside, I would definitely pick the man who knows the lyrics to the Growing Pains theme song over Mr. Big, but that’s just me.)
  3. Will we find out Kalinda’s role in Nick’s disappearance?  Producers declined to answer, but they were clear we would not be seeing Nick again (hooray!). Whatever happened with Nick, it will continue to change Kalinda. “ Kalinda is someone who is constantly resisting connection but also there’s something within her that’s trying to find connection to other people and I think that situation is just going to propel her closer to want to reach out,” Robert King said. My speculation is that Kalinda is eventually going to want to talk to someone about it (maybe Alicia? Maybe Cary?). And , by the way, I TOTALLY think Cary and Kalinda slept together in the last episode.
  4. Things are about to get really ugly. “Civil war is where we are headed with the firm,” Robert King promised. Last Sunday, Kalinda told Cary to stop but don’t look for that to happen.  “He’s in this mode of ‘I’ve been screwed over now it’s my turn,'” Robert said.
  5. Mamie Gummer will be back before the end of the season to reprise her role of Nancy Crozier.  I’m not sure this will allow me to forgive her for Emily Owens, M.D, but it’s a start. The producers would also love to have Anna Camp reprise her role of Caitlin but nothing is confirmed yet.  I would love to see Caitlin back on The Good Wife because I have long contended that Caitlin was playing the long, long game. Don’t you think if Cary starts his own firm she could pop up? You know who else could join Cary in his new firm? Nathan Lane’s Hayden Clarke, who is now a lawyer. This is just speculation on my part but I’m putting it out there.
  6. Just a heads up on the guest stars we will be seeing in addition to Perry and Gummer – Stockard Channing (who will return as Alicia’s mom), Will Chase (last seen as Michael Swift on Smash), Dylan Baker (back as the dastardly Colin Sweeney), Gary Cole (back as Kurt McVeigh), Morena Baccarin (back as Isobel Swift), John Shea (back as Cary’s dad), and John Noble (Fringe).

What are your thoughts on The Good Wife? Do you think Kalinda killed Nick? Do you think she slept with Cary? Is Peter going to win the election? Would you sing the Growing Pains theme song with Will? Talk about it below.

My Ten Favorite Episodes of 2012

The Final Page, Part One And Two

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Last week I talked about my ten favorite shows of the year. And, of course, those shows had some wonderful episodes in 2012. “The Other Woman” episode of Mad Men  was my favorite episode of the year.

But this week I thought I would turn my attention to my ten favorite episodes on shows that didn’t make it to my top ten list (got that?). It’s the holiday season — I’m spreading the love around.

My 10 favorite episodes of the year:

1. “Stride of Pride,” 30 Rock (October 18, 2012): This is the episode where I fell even more in love with Liz Lemon.  In 22 glorious minutes, Fey took on the ridiculous argument that woman can’t be funny. Plus we got a fun guest appearance by Olympian Ryan Lochte and a scathing commentary about how Hollywood treats actresses in their 40s. What more could you want? If you missed the episode, NBC is repeating it next Thursday, December 27.You can read my review of the episode for Paste Magazine here.
2. “The Final Page, Part 1 and 2,” How I Met Your Mother (December 17, 2012): This is the episode that made me go, “Oh right. This is why I love How I Met Your Mother.” In the final moments of the episode, viewers learn that Barney has pulled a long con on Robin to get her to realize that she’s in love with him.  The episode harkened back to the show’s glory days with inside jokes and delightful rapport among the friends (the jinx rule was right up there with the slap bet).  Plus it managed to shock viewers even when we knew was going to happen. Here I was annoyed that the show was drawing out the Barney and Robin engagement AGAIN and then the show pulled off one of the best surprises of the season.  It really was legen-wait-for-it- dairy. Bonus points for a terrific performance by Ellen D.Williams.  YESI’MTALKINGABOUTYOUPATRICE!
3. “Handle Your Scandal,” Nurse Jackie (June 17, 2012): I tend to binge watch Nurse Jackie. I’ll watch an entire season in one week. Perhaps that’s why the season finale hit me so hard. The anguish on Dr. Mike Cruz’s face as his son is brought into the ER stayed with me for a while. As brilliantly played by Bobby Cannavale, Dr. Cruz was a great adversary for Jackie because, even though he was often awful,  you could understand his point of view. Jake Cannvale, the son of Bobby Cannavle, was fantastic as a lost teenager trying to find himself in all the wrong places.  Every character dynamic reached its peak in the show’s season finale.
4. “Pilot” Smash (February 6, 2012): No, the musical drama did not live up to the promise of its pilot (boo Ellis! Boo!) but the pilot was a fantastic hour that did everything right from character introduction to central conflict. Let me be your star, indeed.
5.“Jimmy’s Fake Girlfriend,” Raising Hope (February 14, 2012): First of all I should have given an honorable mention to Raising Hope last week.  The show is terrific and weird and terrifically weird.  Its humor is out there and hilarious. And this episode, which found Jimmy conjuring up a fake girlfriend to make Sabrina jealous, was genius. The comedy upended audience expectations by putting the will-they-or-won’t-they couple solidly together (a move which totally worked) and putting the couple together in the sweet way while staying true to the unique humor of the show.
6.“A Reunion . . . “ Don’t Trust the B____ in Apt. 23” (October 23, 2012): Everything came together in this episode that found James Van Der Beek desperately trying to stage a Dawson’s Creek reunion.  I love the glorious relish with which Van Der Beek good naturedly mocks himself and the show that brought him fame. Add in cameos by Busy Phillips, Frankie Muniz and Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I don’t want to wait to tell you how much I loved this episode.
7.“The Dream Team” The Good Wife (May 6, 2012): Let’s all think back to the time BN – before Nick. Before the show went all 50 Shades of Food Products on us.  In this third season finale, two of my favorite guest stars (Martha Plimpton and Michael J. Fox) return to try to take control of the firm. The episode also featured the fantastic ending of Kalinda starring at her door with her gun loaded as she hears a knock on the door. Too bad that didn’t work out.
8.“Always”/“The Final Frontier”  Castle (May 7, 2012 and November 5, 2012): I know I’m breaking my own rules by picking two episodes from the same show but I simply couldn’t decide. “Always” brought television’s best star-crossed couple together in a way the delighted fans and “The Final Frontier” had such fun with Nathan Fillion’s status in the science fiction genre.
9.“My Life/Your World Parts 1 and 2” Cougar Town (May 29, 2012): I love the wine-loving cul-de-sac crew and never did I love them more then when Grayson and Jules got married and Travis confessed his love to Laurie. The title sequence read “Welcome to Cougar Town: Hopefully this is only the season finale.” Lucky for us it WAS only the season finale. The show returns with new episodes January 8 on TBS.
10.“The Countdown Reflection,” The Big Bang Theory (May 10, 2012): Since adding Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik to its cast, this comedy has thrived. The fifth season finale, which featured Howard and Bernadette’s wedding and ended with all the cast holding hands as Howard launched into space, was the perfect combination of humor and sweetness.

Those were my favorite episodes of the year. What were yours? Talk about it below.

My Favorite Shows of 2012


By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

When I first started writing about TV, I could list my ten best shows of the year with confidence. Sure one viewer’s trash is another’s treasure (some think American Horror Story is brilliant, I find it rather laughable). Lists are always subjective and my opinion is just my opinion. But, back then, I had at least watched one episode of every show and felt I had given every series its fair consideration.

That, my friends, is no longer the case. Even if I did nothing else but watch TV, I don’t think I would be able to say I’ve seen everything the medium has to offer. There are way too many shows on the air. For example, I will admit to you that I’ve never seen a single episode of Justified. It’s been on my “I need to watch this show” list for years. There are other shows I liked –The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad among them – that for whatever reason I haven’t kept up with. The second season of Downton Abbey is just sitting on my desk waiting to be watched. Do spa/TV viewing vacations exist? Because that’s what I need.

My other issue is the rise of what I like to calls shows that are rated NFA – Not For Amy. For example, I can appreciate that Lena Dunham is creating something unique with a distinct point of view with Girls. However, from the opening moments, I couldn’t stand the show. I found the characters to be whiny, obnoxious and self-centered. And series such as Game of Thrones are also NFA.  With its gratuitous sex and violence, I didn’t even make it through the series premiere of Game of Thrones.

What I can offer you are my favorite shows of the year. The shows that have been consistently high in quality. Show that each week offered thoughtful, moving performances and strong writing. Shows that make me laugh, cry or both. Shows that are among the best TV has to offer. I have ranked them in terms of what I would choose to watch first on my TiVo.

1.Homeland (Showtime): So we’re all kind of in a fight with Homeland and I totally get that.  The show is cutting corners and sacrificing realism to advance the story and get the characters where they need them to be. I mean we’re going to have to ask Carrie more follow-up questions about how she escaped from Abu Nazir, right? An acceptable answer isn’t “I got lucky” when it comes to freeing yourself from the world’s number one terrorist. But all my quibbles aside, no other show surprises me and keeps me engaged like Homeland does.  Especially in season two, I never knew what the show was going to do next. Every time I lulled myself into believing I knew what was going to happen, the series zigged in a totally different direction.  But what really sets Homeland apart is the incredible acting. Clare Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin are breathtaking every week. They rise above the most inane writing and ridiculous plot twists.  Danes and Lewis have made me believe in TV’s most unlikely and unhealthy romance. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to a show as much as I look forward to Homeland. And that means, despite the ridiculousness of late, the drama is doing a lot of things right.

2.Parenthood (NBC): This is the season Parenthood transitioned from a good drama into a great one.  I wrote about Parenthood being one of the best shows for Paste Magazine. You can read what I had to say here.

3. Southland (TNT): The best cop drama on TV. With gritty realism, Southland pulls the viewer into its world each week.  This past season the drama added Lucy Liu and, as much as I enjoy Liu on Elementary, I am really going to miss her on Southland. Her performance was transformative. I could write paragraphs about the brilliant acting that occurs each week on the show but I want to especially praise Regina King, whose Detective Lydia Adams is one of the strongest female characters on TV. Bonus points to the show for having C. Thomas Howell in its cast. When I was a girl, pictures of Howell adorned my bedroom walls. How wonderful it is to have him on TV. Some things that are gold can stay.

4. The Middle (ABC): This week Frankie (Patricia Heaton) woke up in the middle of the night to fight with Mike (Neil Flynn) and you know what I loved best about that scene? Frankie was in mismatched pajamas. That, my friends, is real life. (My biggest complaint with Homeland this season remains that Jess packed a negligee to go to a safe house). While Modern Family may be the show all the cool kids watch, The Middle is the show that truly captures the humor of family life. The comedy has the best teenage characters of any show. Each week Eden Sher and Charlie McDermott are perfect as the ever enthusiastic Sue and her older, slacker brother Axl. (For real fun, follow these two on Twitter to see how they interact in real life).  When people ask me what’s the one show they are not watching that that they should be watching, I always say The Middle.

5. Scandal (ABC): From her first power-suit strut into the office, I was all about Olivia Pope and her not-so-merry band of Gladiators. The show provides a juicy soap opera and intense mystery while, without making a big deal about it, has built a show around a successful woman of color. Plus nobody enunciates quite like Kerry Washington enunciates. I want to be a client of Pope & Associates just so I can hear Olivia say my name. Most of the time, I have no idea what the Huck the show is going to do next and I love that.

6. Parks and Recreation (NBC):  What other series could make local politics so utterly compelling? I literally love this show. Parks has the best ensemble cast on TV. There are no weak links. I adore every single character on it.

7. The Glee Project (Oxygen): The Glee Project is the only reality competition that is truly rooted in reality.  The audition process is grueling and, in the end, no matter how much the casting director, vocal coach and choreographer may love you, it all comes down to the executive producer’s capricious decision.  I love that this is a tough competition but one where none of the coaches are mean-spirited or nasty. If you’re not performing well, they will tell you but in a way that allows the performers to flourish. Bonus points to the show for 1):  Totally making up words.  We all need a little glee-ality and romanticality in our lives.  2): Giving me my new secret boyfriend Zach Woodlee. His proud papa face when he watches the kids perform makes me tear up every time.  3): Giving Glee Blake Jenner and Alex Newell. They’ve both been great additions to the series.

8. Mad Men (AMC): Not everything worked this season but when the show worked, it worked brilliantly. Joan finally telling her husband to get out. Peggy leaving the agency and coming into her own. Joan becoming a partner in the worst possible way. These are TV moments indelibly inked in my mind. Mad Men continues to create a world that is mesmerizing.

9. Awkward (MTV):  Yes I know I’m way too old to be watching this show. But what I love about Awkward is that although the technology has changed (no one had a blog when I was in high school), the experience of being a teenager hasn’t. Awkward takes me right back to the not-so-glory days of high school. But it’s not just nostalgia that makes me love the show – it is witty, hilarious, poignant and heart-breaking.  While I always rooted for Jake, the Jake/Matty/Jenna love triangle is one of the best ones out there.

10. New Girl (FOX): For a show ostensibly about a girl, it’s the men who have made this comedy flourish. The rapport between Schmidt, Nick and Winston is the stuff of TV magic. If Schmidt is the series breakout character, Nick is the sleeper breakout character. I still laugh every time I think about Jake Johnson’s “I give you cookie” diatribe.

Honorable Mentions:

The Good Wife (CBS): I adore this show. The only reason it isn’t part of my top ten is due to the mandatory “Nick is a bad husband” deduction. May we never have to see a fight involving raw eggs again.

30 Rock (NBC): As always, I want to go to there. In its final season, this smart comedy has enjoyed a greater and more hilarious freedom as it mocks its corporate parent and takes Liz Lemon through some major life changes.

Switched at Birth (ABC): Bunheads may be Gilmore Girls Redux but it’s Switched at Birth that has filled the hole Gilmore Girls left in my viewing schedule.

Go On (NBC): This comedy is doing exactly what a freshman comedy should be doing: It gets better every week as Ryan (Matthew Perry) continues to grieve his wife’s death with an unlikely support group. It can’t be easy to make a comedy about people continuing on with their lives after a great loss, but Go On is doing an excellent job.

Those are my favorite shows of 2012. What are yours? Talk about it below.

TV Throwdowns

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

As TV viewers, we must make tough choices. In that vein, I present to you my current TV throwdowns.

New Glee Students vs. New Grey’s Anatomy Interns: Glee had an obligation to add new students. It is, after all, a show about a high school Glee Club. It would be impractical to keep the actors high school students forever especially since many of them looked as if they passed the exit to high school long before the show started. But, we didn’t really need new interns on Grey’s. We have enough doctors to keep up with as it is. On top of that, while the Glee students may be knock-offs of the originals (in the grand tradition of Valerie becoming the new Brenda and Gina becoming the new Valerie on 90210), they have made an impact. I may not like Kitty, but at least I know who she is. While watching Grey’s last week, I did not even recognize Leah (Tessa Ferrer). When she talked about having slept with Alex, I thought, “Is this girl hallucinating? She’s never been on the show before.” Turns out she’s been on the show twice before. Who knew? The rest of the interns I refer to as the crying one, Smash and Tina Majorino. Winner: The new Glee students.

Marvin “Wait For It” Erickson (How I Met Your Mother) vs. Carl Porter (Revenge): I know it’s hard to have a real baby on a TV set. If my daughter had been on any TV show as a baby, you would not have been able to hear any of the dialogue over her screaming, but I digress. Last week when Marshall was wearing a doll in a baby carrier, it was as if How I Met Your Mother wasn’t even trying.  The scene was ridiculous. Say the baby is sleeping or out for a walk or whatever, just don’t show us a lifeless baby doll. It was disturbing Baby Carl may be the easiest, most well behaved baby on the planet but at least he’s usually played by an actual baby. Winner: Carl Porter.

Nellie Bertram (The Office) vs. BJ (Ben and Kate): Who is the better saucy British sidekick? The Office has done a lot of work to make Nellie a more tolerable character this season. The smartest move the show made was to make her one of the gang. Now she’s the one colluding with Jim and Pam to play a trick on Dwight instead of the antagonist. They’ve also attempted to give Nellie a personal life to try to humanize her character. But despite her character rehabilitation, too much damage was done last season. I still prefer Lucy Punch’s absolutely outrageous BJ. Winner: BJ

The technology on Scandal vs. The technology on The Killing: Both shows seem, at times, to be stuck in the early 2000 technology wise. Rumors spread a few weeks ago that Netflix might pick up The Killing for a third season. In addition to the fact that this might not be the best idea creatively (the show struggled so in its second season), I wondered if the characters on The Killing even know what Netflix is or that’s it’s possible to watch a TV show via the Internet. This is, after all, the show that has a police detective using a flip phone and driving a car with no automatic locks. But over on Scandal, Olivia still receives photos via fax machine (I honestly thought my mother was the only person who still used a fax machine so at least she’s in good company) and Cyrus’s husband is excited about being on the front page of a newspaper (wouldn’t he be more excited about being the featured story on the paper’s website or getting his own blog for a political website?).  Meanwhile the show has Huck who can hack into anything at any time. At least The Killing was consistent with its archaic technology. Tough call but winner: Scandal.

Stockard Channing as Alicia’s mom (The Good Wife) /Adrienne Barbeau as Victoria’s mom (Revenge): Which mom am I most looking forward to meeting this Sunday? Well I already love Alicia’s brother and I’ve missed having the Former First Lady on TV. Except for the Storyline That Shall Not Be Named, The Good Wife does an excellent job with its guest stars. Revenge, however, wasted Jennifer Jason Leigh. WASTED HER. I’m not even sure of the reason for having Leigh on the show.  Winner: Stockard Channing.

Where do you weigh in on some of these TV throwdowns? Talk about it below. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Heard a great quote? Email me and let me know.  And remember to sign up to follow my blog if you want to be part of my December TV Swag giveaway. Coming soon, my open love letter to Parenthood, Part 2.

Who needs to be Ellised? The Most Annoying Characters on TV

Photo by: Patrick Harbron/NBC

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

To Ellis: The act of removing a terrible, irritating character from a show.

When Smash returns next year, the much reviled Ellis will no longer be a part of the show.  Thankfully the new showrunner course corrected and decided to exile Ellis instead of trying to save his character. No amount of rewriting could have fixed the show’s Ellis problem.

Sometimes characters simply don’t work – a combination of a poor story arc, bad writing and questionable acting choices. They are characters who are so annoying that we fast forward through their scenes. Their presence brings the whole show down.

A few weeks ago I talked about good characters stuck on bad shows. Today, I turn my attention to bad characters who need to be Ellised out of a show.  They need to go to that great season pass manager in the sky or at least join Ellis on his Starbucks run for the creative team.

Here are the characters I would Ellis off a show:*

Hazel (Kristen Schaal) on 30 Rock: Kristen Schaal is a funny lady but I am so tired of Hazel. As a one-off joke as Kenneth’s replacement, she would have been fine. But I do not need to see her on a regular basis.  Hazel’s shtick got old very fast. Her character gets more freakishly bizarre in each episode but I’m not the least bit curious about her.  This is the final season of 30 Rock. We can’t be wasting valuable screen time on her.

Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) on Revolution: Of my many issues with Revolution, my biggest one may be that I cannot stand Charlie. I probably should be rooting for the teen at the center of this post-apocalyptic battle but she is whiny and annoying. Honestly she could work with Emily Owens.  Revolution has been about shocking deaths lately. Let’s make Charlie one of them.

Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) and Declan (Connor Paolo) on Revenge: Sure Fauxmanda also is an annoying character but at least she serves an important plot purpose. Declan has absolutely no reason to still be on the show. The show keeps wedging him into the ongoing storyline. Really now Declan is going to become a part of a teen robbery ring? Paolo is returning to Gossip Girl for its final season. Can’t he take Allen with him and then the star-crossed duo can live out their remaining TV days on the Upper East Side.

Sam (Taye Diggs) on Private Practice: Why I’m still watching this insipid show is a blog post for another time but Sam is my pick for the worst character on TV right now. He’s an awful friend, a terrible romantic partner and a lousy brother. He’s a different character each week who is always righteously indignant about something.

Nick (Marc Warren) on The Good Wife: We can’t blame all the problems with the Kalinda storyline on Nick. The whole thing is the epitome of When Good Shows Go Bad. But Nick isn’t helping matters with his petulant sneer and penchant for food products.

Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) on Glee: When I first heard about Lengies’ casting last season, I was confused. The actress played a teenager on American Dreams, then actually got to play an adult on Hawthorne and now she was back to playing a teenager again? Her vapid character really doesn’t serve any purpose on this increasingly over-populated series. She’s not nasty enough to be fun to hate. We don’t have enough of her back story to actually care about her character. It would be easy enough to get rid of Sugar. I often forget she’s even on the show. And then Lengies, who I’ve always liked, can move on to another project.

*Please note that I decided not to pick on any child actor. I simply couldn’t do it.

Who do you think needs to be Ellised off a show? Talk about it below. And remember to follow my blog so you will know every time I have a new post.

TV is Stressing Me Out

Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

These are the television things keeping me awake at night and stressing me out. I’m so going to need to invest in some new anti-wrinkle cream.

  1. That there might be a ninth season of How I Met Your Mother:  At this point I feel about the characters on How I Met Your Mother the way I felt when I saw Sex and the City 2. It wasn’t a good movie but I was happy to see everyone again. HIMYM hasn’t been funny this season (except when Barney recapped the entire show in true Barney style) but I still like spending time with the characters each week. I said this years ago and it’s even truer now – the show should tell us who the mother is and stop dragging it out. It was an inspired and clever gimmick to build a show on. And it was a gimmick that worked for a while. But the series, at its height, was funny enough without the gimmick. Now delaying the inevitable is making viewers cranky.  We all know Victoria isn’t who Ted marries so we are spinning our wheels watching any story lines about Ted and Victoria. Executive producer Craig Thomas told me that there’s an ending sequence that will get activated once the show knows it’s in its final season.  So please the show needs to end this season.  No more yellow umbrellas (what is that umbrella made of that it has lasted for all these years?). No more false hopes. Let us meet the mother and let the show have a glorious series finale in May.
  2. The leaps of logic and plot conveniences on Homeland: Let me be clear: I love Homeland. It is the absolute best drama on TV right now. That scene at the end of Sunday’s episode where Carrie realizes with relief and vindication that she was right?  Brilliant. And Damian Lewis is an amazing actor. Brody snaps a man’s neck and yet I still feel sympathy for him. He lies to his wife without flinching and I understand his plight. Lewis does an astounding job of conveying Brody’s internal struggle. But I have this nagging feeling about the show. There are times when you can totally tell the people behind 24 are behind Homeland.  It was a little too convenient that Brody just happened to be in the White House and was called into the situation room to see the attack on Abu Nazir, And that he was able to text a warning without anyone seeing what he was doing. Really? Isn’t Brody a nationally recognized war hero? Would he really simply don a red baseball cap to go take a terrorist to a safe house? Show his face to the gas station attendant? What I loved about the first season of Homeland is that the show continually surprised me. I never knew what it was going to do or where the plot was going to take viewers.  It makes me nervous when viewers are supposed to just roll with these leaps of logic and the writers take shortcuts to take the story where they need it to go.
  3. The Kalinda Storyline on The Good Wife: I’ve talked about this extensively in the weekly reviews I do of The Good Wife episodes for Paste Magazine but it’s time to sound the alarm. I am in full panic mode. The Kalinda storyline is in a free fall – it’s getting worse at an alarmingly rapid pace.  It’s bringing down the show and ruining one of TV’s best characters.  Make it stop. Now please.
  4. Daphne and Chef on Switched at Birth: I have had it with the whole teenage girl has a relationship with her boss/teacher/fill-in-the-blank authority figure.  Switched at Birth is such a terrific show – I’m bummed it’s taken on this television trope.  I miss Wilkie. Can he please come back from boarding school?

What is stressing you out on TV these days? Talk about it below. Also be sure to follow my blog so you’ll know every time I have a new post.  I’ll have this week’s “where have I seen them before” and quotes on Thursday so please email me your favorite quotes and familiar faces through my contact page.