“Orange is the New Black”: The More, The Merrier

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Starting a season of Orange is the New Black a week after it drops on Netflix is like traveling back in time to an indeterminate date in March 1912 and boarding the Titanic. You know bad things are going to happen — it’s just a matter of where and when.

I haven’t been spoiled on any major developments yet, but I’ve seen enough references to plot developments and general story directions to have a clue about a few very unfortunate events to come. I also know which characters will play a prominent or notable role in the season, at least to the degree that they’re worth tweeting about.

A little bit of foresight helps with an episode like “Work That Body for Me,” which bounces in manic fashion around the Litchfield women’s prison, in an effort to pick up as many of last season’s dangling plot threads as possible. For the first time in the show’s history, the new season picks up in media res, immediately after the events of last season’s closing scene, in which most of the prisoners escape through a hole in the fence and revel in a nearby lake. They didn’t say it, for fear of spoiling the moment, but even the prisoners knew the ecstasy of their brief escape couldn’t last long.

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SAG Awards 2016: My Predictions

SAG.jpgHere’s the latest installment of my new tradition: hastily assembled predictions for the winners of tonight’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, broadcast at 8pm on TNT and TBS, and streaming here. (These predictions don’t reflect my preferences, except when they do.)

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2015 in Review: Great TV Episodes, January to June

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In an era of Peak TV, for which we need a new and less overused buzzword, a Top 10 list for the year’s best television simply isn’t enough. What follows is a collection of good-to-great shows that, for a variety of reasons, just missed my marquee year-end list. I’ve organized this two-part guide to TV’s wide range of greatness in 2015 through the lens of one key episode per show. Some of these episodes are the best of their respective seasons. Others are the most emblematic of their respective series’ strengths. All of them are worth watching, if you’re so inclined.

(Note: I didn’t include episodes of shows that appeared in my top 10. But if I had, I’d have included the Edward Snowden interview on Last Week Tonight, the Broad City finale “St. Marks” and the Mad Men stunner “Time & Life.”)

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Emmy Predictions 2015: Don’t Hold Your Breath

This post took ten minutes to write. I went down this list of Emmy nominations, thought for a moment and then picked the nominee I could most easily imagine winning the award on tonight’s Andy Samberg-hosted telecast, which airs at 8pm on Fox. I didn’t double back and reconsider my choices, and I don’t apologize for any outlandish or unlikely picks. If I had to do it all over again, I might make different predictions. But I don’t, so I won’t.

See you back here tomorrow when we find out how well I did.

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“Orange is the New Black” Season 3: Running Diary

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Just like last year, I’ll be writing up some reactions to each episode of the third season of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. It’s likely my reactions will vary in length, depending on my energy level at the time that they write them.

Episode One: “Mother’s Day”
Episode Two: “Bed Bugs and Beyond”
Episode Three: “Empathy is a Boner Killer”
Episode Four: “Finger in the Dyke”
Episode Five: “Fake It Till You Fake It Some More”
Episode Six: “Ching Chang Chong”
Episode Seven: “Tongue Tied”
Episode Eight: “Fear, and Other Smells”
Episode Nine: “Where My Dreidel At”
Episode Ten: “A Tittin’ and a Hairin'”
Episode Eleven: “We Can Be Heroes”
Episode Twelve: “Don’t Make Me Come Back There”
Episode Thirteen: “Trust No Bitch”

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Emmy Nominations 2015: Forget Me Not

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Here’s an admittedly incomplete, scattered list of shows and performances I’d love to hear on Emmy nomination morning, tomorrow at 11:30am Eastern. If it’s not on here, I either haven’t seen it, don’t like it, or like it but think it’s so likely to get a nomination that writing about it now is just superfluous.

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“Orange is the New Black”: Welcome to the Fun Zone

OITNB

The third season of Orange is the New Black (which arrived three hours early on Netflix tonight) opens on a sex joke – nay, several jokes about bad sex jokes. Thus begins one of the most loosely plotted episodes in the show’s history.

That’s a smart move on the part of Netflix and showrunner Jenji Kohan. The structure of a television season that unfolds weekly need not apply to a television season that’s intended for speed-consumption (I’ve been trying to purge “binge-watching” from my vocabulary, with mixed success). As soon as the first episode is finished, you can cue the second one without even lifting a finger.

It’s smart, then, for OITNB to return on an episode that immerses viewers in its richly detailed world without submerging it in a sea of intertwined plotlines just yet. And Orange, more than most shows, sustains such an approach. Seeing all of the Litchfield inmates again is like being reminded of a group of old friends you haven’t thought about in a while. For a few minutes, all you can do is think about the good times and the great one-liners. Then reality sets in, and you remember that sometimes you had issues with those friends. Or rather, that they had issues of their own.

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“Jane the Virgin”: Watch It, Por Favor

And now, a humble request from a TV fanatic: don’t be a Jane the Virgin virgin.

In an era when the term “prestige television” means dark antihero dramas and niche single-camera sitcoms, Jane the Virgin stands out. This loving parody of and homage to Spanish-language telenovelas is a complex, character-driven show with a specific point of view, an eye towards diverse perspectives and an array of colorful performances. Watching the pilot, I was overwhelmed by the seemingly unsustainable tangle of plot threads. And yet, by some miracle, the show has sustained those threads and deepened beyond them.

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2014 in Review: Television is a Beautiful Mess

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When Breaking Bad departed from television in a trail of crystal blue persuasion last September, television lost its center of gravity. At the time, this development seemed troubling. Without a consensus show around which to rally on social media, television fans and critics alike had to search elsewhere to find a show worthy of their devoted attention and undying affection. But a year removed from Walter White’s final blaze of glory, the loss of Breaking Bad seems more like a gift.

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2014 in Review: The Year in Episodes

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This list is exactly what it looks like: a list of one great episode in each of twenty shows that I watched this year. I could have filled the entire list with episodes of The Americans and Hannibal, but I decided to impose a limit of one episode per show. This list is different from a list of my favorite TV shows of the year, though there’s plenty of overlap between the two. And if it’s not on this list, I either didn’t like it, liked it but preferred other things, or didn’t watch it.

And now, in chronological order, twenty of my favorite TV episodes of 2014.

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