Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013's Pop Culture Gifts (Part 1)...

Thanksgiving may be over, and Christmas is still a few weeks away, but those are not the only two days of the year when we should be celebrating the gifts for which we are thankful. This year pop culture gave us quite a lot of those, and I think it's time to call out some of my personal favorites. Some of these are expected if you've been following my writing for awhile, but there are a few that took even me by surprise.

Danny Castellano's sweet, sweet dance moves on The Mindy Project. While I know technically these were introduced in season one when Schulman & Associates spent a night out at a New York Club, things get even better in season two's upcoming Christmas episode. Chris Messina gets to shine in that episode not only by making yet another amazing gingerbread house but also by delivering the best gift to us all with a choreographed routine to a song you would assume Danny would hate. I won't spoil it by saying which song it is; you just have to see it in all of it's glory for yourself when "Christmas Party Sex Trap" airs on FOX on December 3rd at 9:30 p.m.

Softer songs like "Legacy", "The Monster", "Headlights" off Eminem's MMLP2". While I wrote about how this album was a bit uneven, I also pointed out that it could potentially be his last, and that makes it-- and especially these songs on it that shine-- all the more special.

Taylor Kitsch surfacing at a random Broncos football practice. Kitsch has been busy this year filming an HBO project in NYC, and that's great, and I'm excited to see that project when it's done. But it's a slight period piece, and it puts him in a suit with suspenders and Sun-In style blond hair, while these images present the much more rugged Tim Riggins style Kitsch with which we all first fell in love. The Broncos may be in Colorado and not Texas, but Riggins Forever, am I right!?

The book-ended close-ups of Katniss in Catching Fire. Not only did this perfectly set up that the audience was going to be from her point-of-view, but it immediately set you into the mindset of someone who had gotten back from hell and was still exhibiting resonating feelings from it, and it proved Francis Lawrence as a director had a clear plan and vision. But it also proved that this was Jennifer Lawrence's movie. She has come so far as an actress and as a star in such a short amount of time, and she is one of the rare ones who is only going to get better and more deserving of the attention and accolades.

Ben and Leslie's impromptu Parks and Recreation wedding. Everything about this episode was amazing and sweet and so heartfelt and aspirational. There was one blemish on an otherwise perfect episode: Jamm's presence-- but thankfully even that was handled with care and made okay by him getting punched in the face. But from Lil Sebastian (sort of) to Leslie's newspaper wedding dress to Ron taking her arm in the hall to Retta singing along to an appropriated version of Andy's song to the fact that Leslie and Ben's rings were made from a waffle iron-- it was a beautiful piece of television.

Ron and Diane's impromptu Parks and Recreation wedding-- or more specifically, Diane's middle name fake-out and Leslie's reaction to it all. This show is just perfect.

Just Trophy Wife in general. I admit it was hard to get over ABC taking away my Happy Endings, and I was reluctant to fall in love with any of their new programming this fall, let alone their comedies, but Trophy Wife completely won me over. The blended family is charming on its own, but with the wit of Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern behind it, the show has been able to be both sly and smart with its comedy. Whether it's something big like Warren dressing as Ellen Degeneres for Halloween or Jackie "Misery-ing" Pete when he got sick or something much more subtle like the screen name for Warren and Bert's gum web series' number one fan, Trophy Wife has created a really clever comedy with layered laughs. The intention here was to pick a small favorite moment to call out, but honestly, that proved extremely hard. They're all great (okay, Diane as a Catfish is probably my favorite).

Dexter's final season homages to its beginnings. I wasn't nearly as outraged by the series finale of Showtime's Dexter as many, but even if you absolutely abhorred the final minutes, you had to appreciate what came before it. The eighth and final season was chock full of nods to the first season, most obviously with the dive into Dexter's past to again have a truth surface that blindsided him, down to the trap he set for one of his last kills. In season one Dexter used a fake Debra made of prosthetics and pillows to lure the Ice Truck Killer into his apartment. In season eight, proving just how far they had come and together, Debra was in on the trap with her brother. It was the Easter eggs that meant the most in this season (a personal favorite was J. Mitchell as a file on the Brain Surgeon's computer), if you were paying attention to them. You may not have always liked the paths down which this show took its characters or stories but it was hard to argue that they weren't paying attention or that they were ignoring history.

Will Chase on Nashville. In general, Nashville has turned itself around quite a bit since the second season premiere, but with the loss of Smash and the disservice that that NBC series had done to Chase's character before spiraling down the Cancellation Bear's gullet as perhaps the most satisfying meal of the season, I was hoping Chase would pop up somewhere more deserving soon. An episode of The Good Wife was moderately satisfying, but it's really only perfect if he gets to use all of his talents, and singing may just be his greatest one. So Nashville painting him as a country star who has now fallen into a professional and personal relationship with Rayna, letting him share screen time with Connie Britton, has just been perfectly enjoyable.

Penny's "Black Plague: A Love Story" play on Happy Endings. There were a lot of great moments from what turned out to be Happy Endings' final season, but watching Casey Wilson sing and dance and prance around stage as a literal black plague of death in the 1800s while figuratively viewing herself as a black plague of love for breaking off her engagement was certainly a highlight in its silliness-- and also the growth it allowed the characters afterwards. Not only did Penny prove she wasn't willing to settle to get married just to get married; it had to be right, but Max also stepped up and offered some solid, mature advice, too.

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