An Extremely Short List of the Top Shows on Netflix Right Now

NOTE:  there is no specific way in which these TV shows are ordered; they are all amazing in their own way.

Master of None
This new Aziz Ansari comedy is undoubtedly the best new show on Netflix right now. So, you know, start off with bang right? What I like about it is that it’s fresh and unique. I can guarantee you will not find another show on TV (or rather Netflix) comparable to this. While most shows attempt to grasp every single tiny laugh from its audience, Master of None is confident enough to let the viewers decide on their own terms what’s funny and what’s not. And it works. This hilarious and thoughtful TV show about an actor navigating through the world of show biz and his personal life is a must watch for all.

House of Cards

When I talk to people, some of them still tell me they haven’t seen or heard of House of Cards. Others don’t say anything about House of Cards because, well, I don’t always talk about TV to other people. But that’s not the point. The point is that people still haven’t watched this show, and that’s a scandal (haha Netflix reference). House of Cards is Netflix’s Mona Lisa. It is, in all its essence, its masterpiece. Politically charged, this is a story about a man’s rise to power, and all the immoral, illegal paths he takes to get there. With Kevin Spacey as the lead, they can do no wrong. Please do yourself a favour and watch the first season. I promise, you will not regret it.

Chef’s Table

For those who enjoy learning about food and the chefs who make it, this is the show for you. Chef’s Table is a documentary-type show that explores the idea of beauty in food. The show brings you around the globe, each episode interviewing different world-renown chefs and showcasing their unique take on the food they create. It’s amazing, highly educational and you will finish watching it with a new sense of admiration towards food.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

While this show isn’t as intellectually stimulating as the previous two, I can assure you B99 is just as much of a joy to watch. Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows a team of detectives led by a newly-appointed captain in the 99th precinct of the NYPD. The nonstop goofy humour produced by the show’s cast, including Andy Samberg, never fails to make me laugh. If you’re in for a good time, this is the show to watch.

Well there it is, my extremely short and indisputable list for the top shows on Netflix right now. Get watchin’.

Archer: Losing Its Spunk?

If you like James Bond and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, you’ll adore Archer. This fast paced, ridiculous, smart, vulgar and most importantly hilarious show combines the wit and dark sense of humour of creator Adam Reed with an amazingly talented voice cast, to create one of the highest rated adult animated series on TV right now. In the honour of the latest episode being released tonight, I thought I’d talk a bit about the show’s current direction.

Something that every TV lover painstakingly awaits is a show’s demise. Sometimes it happens slowly, sometimes in a blink, but it usually happens at some point in a show’s airing. I, being an optimist, and seeing the true value of Archer, never thought this day would occur. The show is on its sixth season now, and the past five have been more than phenomenal. The fifth season took on a huge turn when the company we knew and loved, ISIS, was shut down by the CIA, and our lovable secret agents were turned into rogue drug dealers. It was a crazy turn of events, and in the beginning, something that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but as season five progressed, I began to fall in love all over again. The most important aspect of the show didn’t change: the characters. Each character performed in their predictable, crude ways, and it was so exciting seeing them in a variety of new environments and taking on new threats. It was amazing, and I loved it.

Season five ended last April, giving me not a lot to do with my time, seeing that Archer was really the only TV show I watched. I went three weeks with no television. Eventually, it fazed me that I couldn’t get along without my favorite characters, so I started re-watching old episodes. I was astounded; I went back to the first episode of the first season, and the show was flawless. I re-watched the entire five seasons in Archer’s 10-month hiatus, and was so proud to be a fan. I mean, how many shows can you think of that were perfect right from the get-go and stayed that way for the rest of their run? Not many. I mean even my other all time favorite show, Friends, wasn’t that great for the first and last couple seasons. I couldn’t wait until Archer returned to the screen, it had never let me down before, so why would it now?

Season six debuted, and it started out a little slower than I expected. The first episode, “The Holdout”, we see Archer in Thailand, once again running away from his problems, this one being his new child with Lana. Malory gives him a mission to blow up a crashed cargo plane and he then meets a Japanese war veteran who hasn’t realized the war was over, and ends up teaching him about the value of family. Archer returns to America ready to be a father. This episode wasn’t bad…it wasn’t great but I mean I didn’t have any major complaints, and I was excited that Archer was so ready to be a responsible parent. I mean this was the guy who got matching tattoos with Seamus, his other son (but not really – it’s a long story) with prostitute Trinette.

Episode two of the sixth season was where I was really let down. The premise of this episode was supposed to be where Archer and Lana rekindle their hatred of Conway Stern, a double agent who stabbed Archer in the back…literally. I was so excited to see Conway again, he hadn’t been in an episode since the beginning of the first season. Sadly, this episode didn’t quench my thirst. It seemed…fake. I honestly thought that someone else wrote this episode because it seemed like it was an imitation of Adam Reed’s style. The dialogue wasn’t as witty, the plot was stupid and the fact that Lana and Archer walked into Conway’s trap AGAIN was hard to believe. Lana has always been the rock in the show, she always knows what to do and what’s best, and now the fact that she was just following Conway and not thinking for herself was a hard to swallow. What I did like about this episode was again, the fact that Archer was taking responsibility for AJ, their baby, when asking Lana what would happen to AJ if they were both killed in action.

I enjoyed the third episode, “The Archer Sanction”, which was in reference to a really obscure Clint Eastwood movie. This episode reminded me of the good old days – Archer wasn’t prepared for the mission, Ray was being his fabulous, flamboyant self, and Lana and Archer’s witty banter was on point. One thing I didn’t really understand in this episode was when the rest of the gang went to Malory’s apartment to look for AJ (Lana was convinced that Malory absconded with her child while they were on a mission), and Pam went into the kitchen to find food. Later on in the episode, we see everyone in the apartment throwing up, and Krieger discovers the fogging insecticide NOT HIDDEN in the kitchen. How did Pam not notice that when she was in the kitchen before? Whatever, the episode ended off well and I thought things were getting back to the way it was before.

The fourth episode hit me hard. This was another episode that I was insanely excited for because of the introduction of a new character, Edie, Pam’s sister. Edie was getting married and Archer decided to be Pam’s date for the wedding. This also marked the return of Barry, who was last seen being controlled by his cyborg girlfriend, Katya in season four. Again, there was something missing with this episode. It didn’t seem real – for some reason the characters weren’t written in their usual demeanor. Archer was being way too nice to Pam, it was like he really cared for her well-being. Archer’s ‘kindness’ really hasn’t been a reoccurring theme in the show so it was a little offputting. Secondly, Pam’s sister wasn’t written in a way that you could connect with her. I’ve found that every single character in the show was written in a way that even if they were a bad person, you could still connect to them and they were still likeable and funny. Maybe in this episode, they were trying to make the audience hate Edie as much as Pam did, but to be honest, I just saw Edie as a minor annoyance. I mean if she wasn’t even in the episode, I don’t think I would have noticed or cared. The show has always had a moral code, a part of it being that family is family and you love them no matter what. We can see this with Archer and Malory or Ray and his brother Randy, but I really felt nothing between Pam and Edie. No sisterly love, no hidden warmth…nothing. Barry was also written in a different way. He’s usually oddly charming and funny, but in this episode he was just overly angry and trying to hard too seem crazy. This episode just didn’t have any heart to it; it was a major disappointment.

So far, the sixth season has had it’s ups and downs, but I’m hoping as the season goes on the show regains it’s footing. I had high hopes because FX did pick up the show for another two seasons last year, so I thought that they would have had more time to craft something excellent for the sixth and seventh season. Tonight’s episode is called Vision Quest, and the promo trailer debuted the plot ass the gang getting stuck in an elevator. I’m really excited for this episode, the idea is great, I love seeing all the characters interacting with each other, and I’m hoping that the writing is as sleek and smart as ever. As you can see, I’m still hopeful.

A Summer Movie Breakdown

Summer traditionally beckons thoughts of beaches and iced cream, of swimming in outdoor pools and sunning next to outdoor pools because there are children in there and you’d rather not swim in urine. You know, the pleasant stuff.
This summer, however, we’ve had fairly limited sun, and many days of rain and murky weather have nullified the above activities. But don’t worry, kids, there’s another traditional summer activity that is as much fun in and out of the rain: the summer blockbuster. For your education and entertainment, we present:

The Four Kinds of Summer Movies
(and some examples, and why you should see them)


The Fun Movie
Remember in your childhood when going to the movies was pure, uncomplicated fun? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and so do we. Since then your expectations have probably changed; you probably now want your movies to be clever and original, and possibly also insightful and with some message about social change. These are good things, yes, but sometimes there’s nothing better than suspending your grown-up expectations and watching a movie just for the enjoyment of it. Take, for instance, Man of Steel, probably the most anticipated blockbuster of the summer. It’s a retelling of the Superman story, beginning with the eponymous hero’s birth on the planet Krypton, his upbringing in heartland America, his dalliances with reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams!), and his fight to save the world from genocidal aliens. I was treated to an advance screening of Man of Steel, and I can tell you that it’s the epitome of a fun flick. Plus, there’s an even amount of explosive violence and shirtless Henry Cavill, making Man of Steel a perfect date movie for couples divided.
Also worth considering: World War ZThis is the EndStar Trek Into DarknessThe Heat 

The Interesting Film
As a student, you probably know the importance of connotation, and why someone might call one thing a “movie” and another a “film.” A film is a little more deliberate than a movie; rather than strive towards a goal like fun or romance, it asks complex questions and sometimes, if you’re lucky, answers them. Interesting films might not thrill the way fun movies do, but they stay with you a little longer. Mud, for instance, has proven immensely resonant in the days since I saw it, popping up in my head whenever I experience something that reflects its story: two children in the Deep South, interacting with the vagrant who mysteriously appeared near their community.  Interesting films are especially good for conversation, so they’re well-seen by groups of friends.
Other interesting films: Before Midnight, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Kings of Summer, The Painting.

The ‘Oh, You Haven’t Seen It?!’
These kinds of films take interesting and turn it on its head. They’re usually documentaries, foreign films, or art-house pieces, and they rarely see wide release. These films may be enjoyable, but the guaranteed appeal is being able to bring them up and conversation and follow with “oh, you haven’t seen it?!”

“I saw this fabulous documentary about homosexuality in Uganda. I really enjoyed the director’s use of personal storytelling to blur the lines of personal and political. What did you think? Oh, you haven’t seen it?!”

Of course, non-pedants see these kinds of films as well, they’re just not me. Recommendations are difficult to offer (because I, um, haven’t seen many) but if you’re looking for quality cinema you should check out independent theatres like Bloor Hot Docs, TIFF Bell Lightbox, and the not-independent-but-very-affordable Carlton Cinema.

The Television Show
Well, duh, of course it’s not exactly the same as cinema, but we are in the golden age of TV dramas – and the summer is when they really shine. Mad Men wraps up soon, but Nurse Jackie is still in full swing. And, as the internet reminds us every day, Breaking Bad is coming back for its final episodes. These shows might not mirror movies in terms of production quality and star power, but the medium offers unparalleled suspense and continuity.
Some other awesome summer TV shows: VeepThe Newsroomand the first season of Graceland.



The 50 Hour Film Festival (or, A Character, a Line of Dialogue, and a Prop Walk into a Bar)

We come to university to learn, or at least that’s what my dad says when he sees me blogging and shakes his head. It is true that classes impart a lot of useful (or not) information, but it is also true that much of what we learn comes not from lectures or exams, but from frantically preparing for lectures or exams. By half-way through their first year, the average student has mastered the all-nighter, the cram session, and the ability to meet a seemingly-impossible deadline on nothing but determination and Red Bull. We learn these skills to help us learn other things, of course, but it’s also so satisfying when we can apply them to other situations.

Take, for instance, Lost Episode Festival Toronto‘s upcoming 50 Hour Film Competition. A creative contest open to anyone and everyone with a camera and some friends, this local challenge encourages aspiring film-makers (or anyone else interested in winning terrific prizes) to re-create “lost” scenes from famous TV shows, or to make fake advertisements or trailers, all in only 50 hours. Remember those consecutive all-nighters for that econ final? Remember cursing the time and energy spent in learning something you thought could not have any practical application? Well, now you can put at least some of that experience to use.

The competition begins on the night of Friday, May 3, when each team is given a character, a line of dialogue, and a prop to incorporate into making a film. The teams then have only 50 hours to write, shoot, and submit their masterpieces. The entries will be evaluated by the festival’s judges and the winning teams will be awarded cash, prizes, and all the glamour and prestige that comes with winning a film festival. There’s also an audience choice award, for the film-makers who somehow manage to go commercial in under 50 hours. All entries will be screened in the big, beautiful, fully-licensed Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, only a few blocks from campus

To participate, simply sign-up on the festival website here. Participation costs less than a statistics textbook and is, I’ve been told, at least twice as enjoyable. Anyone of any level of skill and experience is welcome to enter, and a team can be of any size. It’s the perfect activity for those, like me, who have only a few weeks between the end of exams and the beginning of summer school to have a little fun. Or a lot of fun. Or 50 hours of fun.

The OC: A Review

So, I just finished watching The OC and, I must say, I was skeptical about the show near the beginning. I even got bored at certain points but, now that I’ve finished it, I realize how much I truly loved the show. For those who haven’t watched, it’s about a 14-year-old kid named Ryan, whose mother is an alcoholic and whose Dad and brother are in jail.

The show begins with public defence lawyer Sandy Cohen bailing Ryan out of jail (Ryan’s brother forced him to help steal a car) and, after seeing how hopeless Ryan’s situation is, he decides to bring him home. Sandy lives in Newport Beach, where everyone is extremely rich: they all have huge mansions and all the teenagers have their own cars. Soon, Ryan becomes part of the Cohen family and bonds with Sandy’s son, Seth, who is a social outcast until Ryan comes into his life. From there on, Ryan meets Marissa, who is a popular and attractive girl. Things get especially complicated as Marissa’s boyfriend starts getting into fights with Ryan. By the end of the show, you see how much everyone’s lives (including Ryan’s) have been impacted because of Ryan’s arrival to Newport.

This show does a believable job of presenting the class issues involved in having a “poor kid” move in with a “rich family”. Others have pointed out that it avoided the initial cliché by having Ryan and Seth become friends, but later episodes have shown that, in spite of their friendship and common interests (like comic books), there are still deeper issues of class and sexuality that show how different their worlds really are.

Finally, I was surprised to see that the writers were actually able to make me care about the problems of the rich characters! (The adults, anyway.) For too many nighttime soap operas, portraying the “problems of the rich” are just a way to get us “unwashed” types to sneer at the problems that money brings (“I wish I had those problems!”). In The OC, the writers actually explore questions of money, class, and love in the various adult couples in a way that brings Jane Austen to mind; we can relate to the struggles the characters are going through even if their day-to-day lives are completely foreign from our own.

If you haven’t watched this show or still feel skeptical, I suggest you watch the first 5-6 episodes. I’m sure you’ll be hooked.

How The Big Bang Theory Changed My Life

The other day, while I was at the gym, I experienced that awkward moment when the day locker I returned to just so happened to be in between two other young women in the process of changing.  I said excuse me and they both glared, annoyed that I had interrupted their gossiping.  They continued discussing how Julia was upstairs, but they wanted to avoid her because of a previous altercation involving the trio that supposedly ended poorly.  Their hostility towards me dissipated slightly, and they were happy to treat me like an invisible being: one that could be thoroughly ignored.  It was my last thing to do that day on campus, so I figured I’d skip the gym shower and go straight home to the comforts of my own bathroom.  After all, I was only a little bit sweaty.  I quickly pulled off my gym shorts, replaced them with my jeans, and threw on my boots.  Throughout all of this, the two girls continued to give me cut-eye, silently screaming at me to get out of their territory.  And then, when I pulled out my winter jacket, their attitudes did a complete 180. Continue reading “How The Big Bang Theory Changed My Life”

TV in 2012

People always look at me with a hint of skepticism and disturbance when I tell them just how much television I watch on a weekly basis. It’s true that the amount is substantially higher than that of the average passing university student, but there’s also the generations-old stigma attached to television that calls it an inferior art form and insists it is essentially trashy. What these people don’t seem to realize is that over the past few years television has changed drastically. New shows like Breaking Bad and The Good Wife present all the drama, profundity, and depth of character of cinema while others like Community take full advantage of their self-aware medium and present smart, funny comedy on a weekly basis. With the end of the calendar year, mid-season schedule changes will replace old shows that were floundering in the ratings (among them Glee and, unfortunately, Community) with these new, exciting, television programs:

Continue reading “TV in 2012”