by Julian Spivey
FX’s “Atlanta” is the wacky brainchild of multi-talented actor, comedian and rapper Donald Glover, who takes on multiple roles on the show as actor, writer and executive producer. Like “Black-ish,” “Atlanta” is able to give viewers a realistic and unique look at race, but in a more mature way without the constraints of network television. Glover plays Earn Marks, a Princeton dropout looking to make it as the manager of his hip-hop performer cousin Paper Boi (the hilarious Brian Tyree Henry). The first season was slightly uneven, in my opinion, but when it hits it hits hard. This one will make a lot of year end lists.
9. This Is Us
NBC’s “This Is Us” is the surprise hit drama of the fall network season, riding an incredible “you didn’t see it coming” shock ending to its pilot to a successful first half of its freshman season. The realistic family drama follows two generations of the Pearson family through two different eras, in a unique format that many network viewers haven’t seen before. The realism of the show is akin to former NBC series “Parenthood,” which was an all-time favorite of mine.
ABC’s “Black-ish” after only two and a half seasons has turned itself into the best sitcom on network television. The show following the Johnson family manages to make race funny in a way that we rarely ever see from a network comedy and more importantly it often does so in a manner that makes you think. The lead performances from Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are among the best and funniest on television.
Fox’s “Pitch” is my favorite new series from the network’s fall season. Sure, as a huge baseball fan I’m probably a little biased, but the show has been incredibly entertaining and well-made. “Pitch” follows Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to pitch professionally in Major League Baseball thanks to her mastery of the specialty screwball pitch. The show gets the life of baseball down pretty well and mixed the sports scenes with drama better than just about any show ever, outside of “Friday Night Lights.” “Pitch” recently wrapped its first season, but unfortunately due to low ratings it may not see a second.
6. Orange is the New Black
I know multiple people who were put off by the fact that Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” took on a more dramatic, dark turn in its fourth season. But, as someone who’s always enjoyed the dramatic aspects of the series a little bit more I absolutely ate it up. ‘OITNB’ got real in season fourth with topics that mirrored real life issues – like race relations and police (or in the show’s case guard) brutality. TV is often at its best when bringing in the realness of the world and ‘OITNB’ proved it tenfold.
5. The Blacklist
I must be honest about this one – I actually haven’t started the fourth season of NBC’s “The Blacklist” yet, with episodes piling up on my DVR to be binged at a later date. So, “The Blacklist” selection on this list is solely for the second half of the show’s third season, which wrapped up in May. In my opinion, season three of the show was its best yet with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) on the run and then presumed dead and Red Reddington’s (James Spader) reaction to both.
4. The People v. O.J. Simpson
It’s not often you see what is essentially a mini-series raved about as much as FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” was this spring. It took the O.J. Simpson murder trial, which took America’s interest by storm 20 years ago, and showed us an accurate behind the scenes portrayal featuring fantastic performances all around, especially from Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown. Creator Ryan Murphy will take on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the second installment of this series.
For years I’ve been watching the annual Emmy Awards and seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus take home the honor for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy for her performance in HBO’s “Veep,” but had never gotten around to seeing it. This summer I finally started the series and before I knew it had binged through all five seasons, the fifth of which aired this summer. It’s quite simply the funniest show on television now, and frankly seems to be getting better. Watching it during this year’s weird political climate likely helped the entertainment factor.
2. Late Night with Seth Meyers
Seth Meyers took a struggling ‘Late Night’ and completely revamped it into what’s currently the best late night program on network television and he did it by mixing his old job at ‘SNL’ doing Weekend Update and filling the hole left behind by Jon Stewart by calling out the B.S. of the political world. Meyers’ “Closer Look” was one of the smartest and funniest things on television all year and with the election of Donald Trump the segment and its importance probably won’t be ending anytime soon.
1. Person of Interest
CBS essentially burned off the fifth and final season of crime drama “Person of Interest” during the early summer, but the show went out on top story-wise. “Person of Interest,” one of my favorite shows on television over the last half decade, was true to itself to the very end, which meant not necessarily giving fans a happy ending, but certainly a breathtaking one.
by Aprille Hanson
In the years since the TV show “Gilmore Girls” ended after seven seasons in 2007, fans have been guzzling coffee, eating tacos and waiting patiently … or actually let’s be real: crying out that ‘We need sustenance!’ in the form of a movie or revival featuring the best mother-daughter duo ever to grace any size screen.
Many of us were unhappy with the final season, particularly the last episode after the exit of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel. For six years, Amy had taken us along this journey into the quaint town of Stars Hollow, Conn., with its cast of characters that could easily be found across small-town America that nestled their way into our hearts. Central to everything was Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), the woman who escaped the luxuries of her debutant upbringing in Hartford, Conn., with parents Richard and Emily (Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop) when she found herself pregnant at just 16 years old. She fled to Stars Hollow, working as a maid at the local Independence Inn to afford a living for herself and daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel).
We enter onto the scene when Rory is 16 years old and what could easily have been a series just focused on a sweet mother and daughter relationship turned into a story told with masterful writing -- rivaling only Aaron Sorkin -- that was witty, biting, culturally relevant and easily lived up to its tagline: “Life’s Short. Talk Fast.”
It spawned a following and a “Gilmorisms” guide for fans to keep up. When we left Stars Hollow, Rory, the new Yale grad, was jetting off as a political reporter, following the campaign then-Senator Barack Obama on his bid for the White House. Lorelai and crotchety diner owner Luke Danes’ (Scott Patterson) relationship was left somewhat up in the air and fans never got to hear the final four words that Amy had always envisioned to end the series.
“Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” premiered on Netflix Nov. 25 and fans rejoiced that Amy and Daniel were back at the helm. The miniseries consisted of four hour-and-a-half episodes that followed all three of the Gilmore girls -- Emily, Lorelai and Rory -- throughout a year of their life in present day. The original intent was to release each episode to correspond with the season it represents -- Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall -- but given the very nature of Netflix and binge-watching, the streaming company opted against Sherman-Palladino’s wishes and released them all at once.
In the week or so since I completed all four episodes, I’ve read several articles of commentary and reactions from a Gilmore Girls fan group I’m apart of on Facebook and it occurs to me that I might be in the minority when it comes to my opinion about the revival.
Overall, it was everything I hoped it would be. Right out of the gate, we see Lorelai and Rory meet at the Stars Hollow gazebo as the town sits blanketed in snow and launch into an epic back and forth banter about how Rory should look more disheveled after flying in from London. It leaves both actresses gasping for some air, smiling about how they haven’t done that in a while. It was the perfect, feet-first jump into this story that’s been on pause for almost 10 years.
The first episode and the last were my favorites, as the first re-introduced us to characters we’ve missed: Kirk (Sean Gunn), who cares for Petals, a pet pig bought for him by the town when they caught wind that he and his wife were considering having a baby. He’s focused on his new ride service called OOOber, not to be confused with Uber; Lane Kim and her husband Zack (Todd Lowe), who still have rock star dreams and jam out when they can; Michel (Yanic Truesdale) who is ornery as ever and pissed that Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) has disappeared for two years from the Dragonfly Inn to study food growth, leaving them chef-less; Stars Hollow Mayor Taylor Doose (Michael Winters) who thinks the only thing the town is missing to make it perfect is a sewer system; the infamous Paris Geller (Liza Weil) who is going through a divorce but successfully running her own surrogate business that boasts of “top breeders” and clients like Neil Patrick Harris; and Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), who is still with Lorelai and managing Luke’s Diner, where he fends off WiFi-craving weirdos by giving a different password every time someone asks what it is. Some of the gems were the cameos from Peter Krause, Jason Ritter and Mae Whitman, who starred alongside Graham on the critically acclaimed but sorely underrated show “Parenthood,” which wrapped up after five seasons in 2015.
One character is notably missing -- Richard Gilmore. The actor Edward Hermann died of brain cancer in 2014, leaving the show to deal with the passing of the family’s staunch, but lovable patriarch.
While the series is very much about bringing us back into this world for another glimpse of what these characters have been doing, its central focus is an odyssey story for the Gilmore girls. Emily must learn how to live a life without her other half. Lorelai must come to grips with the death of her father and what the future holds for her in a life that has pretty much stood still since we last saw her. Rory must figure out where her life is heading after she is essentially a freelance writer, couch surfing after selling her Brooklyn apartment to chase the next story while finding each of her “irons in the fire” she boasts about cooling off. There’s no mention of why this driven Yale grad doesn’t have a steady job or what happened to her on the campaign trail when we last saw her. Her love life, as always, was a mess as she casually hooks up with former love Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry) in his London apartment while he’s engaged to a French woman.
What this series did was add a depth to the three women that lacked in the original run. The show never pretended that life was rosy for the women, but the revival showed just how lost each of them were. What shocked me the most was the epic backlash by fans and critics against Rory. She was always a flawed character with great drive but an immature outlook on the world. Fans expected Rory to be mature, to accomplish great things in her life but we find her, she’s a hot mess in her career and love life.
It was a bit jarring, but ultimately, it’s a trajectory that the show’s creator planned from the beginning. Rory did have some success -- including a piece in The New Yorker -- but we wanted more. But while many felt everything came crashing down for her life in the final four words of the revival, I viewed it entirely different.
In a series of challenges that lands her as the editor of the Stars Hollow Gazette, she finally meets up with Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), a fan favorite that most hoped she’d wind up with in the end. While she doesn’t end up with him -- at least for now -- I feel his contribution to her life is the most important of the whole revival. He suggests, as she’s floundering and complaining about what to do next, that she write a book about the relationship between her and her mother.
This is the moment where Rory’s life comes together, despite Lorelai’s initial resistance to their life sprawled across the pages of a book for all to read. She finally found the greatest story she could ever write, aptly named “Gilmore Girls.”
Emily finds her new life in Nantucket while Lorelai finally decides to marry Luke, in a scene that will leave all fans wishing to stay in that moment just a little longer.
Until the final four words, their lives were wrapped up in a neat bow. Then Sherman-Palladino yanked it lose.
“Mom,” Rory said. “Yeah,” Lorelai replied. “I’m pregnant.”
The entire series really did come full circle and made sense from a creative standpoint. It was her wish all along for those to be the final four words because Rory is essentially a mini Lorelai, in more than just her never-enough appetite and caffeine cravings. Logan (presumably the father of Rory’s child) is Christopher, Rory’s father and Jess is Rory’s “Luke.”
I don’t believe for a second Rory’s life is destroyed. I envision “Gilmore Girls” being a bestseller and for Rory to navigate her new role as a mom with her best friend and the ultimate role model in Lorelai by her side.
The revival was not perfect. That Stars Hollow musical that wouldn’t end took up valuable time. Rory complaining about money problems yet jetting back and forth to London doesn’t make sense (coupled with the fact that her inheritance from her grandfather probably would have kept her set for life). And I would have loved to see a little more Sookie than we were granted.
I would love to see another revival or a movie. But as a fan, I would also be satisfied to leave it at that.
Amy Sherman-Palladino opened this world for us and if this was always where it was heading, then I will happily rejoice in the journey I’ve been able to take with two coffee-addicted, fast-talking best friends.