Bates Motel: How Will It End?

by: LGreen

image via A&E

“Maybe we don’t get to start over.” So said Norman way back in the series premiere. Norma didn’t want to believe it, it was pretty clear Norman was on to something. After all, if you’re in a prequel (of sorts) to Psycho, and your name is “Norman Bates,” there’s a reasonably good chance your fate is sealed. But just how prophetic was Norman? As Bates Motel prepares for its Monday night checkout, what will happen to the surviving members of the Bates family?

After all, Bates Motel may rely heavily on its source material, but that has proven to be mostly for mood and inspiration. These characters are as close to living and breathing originals as you can get. Season 5 finally took us into Psycho territory, running headlong into the Marion Crane subplot, but that turned out to be a bait and switch, a mere blip in a much more complex story that, as it turns out, barely factors in Marion Crane at all. (Though, for what it’s worth, I really hope she’s made it to Mexico and is living a fancy fugitive life.)

With one episode left, Romero, Norman, Dylan, and Emma are all in impossible positions, with fairly unhappy outlooks. Are they, as Norma once said, “all doomed in the end”? Let’s take a closer look, one by one.

Romero:

Aside from Norman, who is Norman Bates after all, Romero is the character whose fate seems mostly sealed, because he has nothing left to lose. His motivation is a straightforward revenge fantasy and Romero’s on a one-man mission to kill Norman or die trying—an uncomplicated plot point, though nonetheless compelling. Literally, the only way Romero doesn’t kill Norman is if he dies first. Because I feel that Norman’s fate is more tangled up in his relationship with “Mother,” he won’t meet his end at the hands of a stepfather. Will there be a showdown? Yes. Will Romero walk away avenged? Probably not (Sorry, Romero). But he definitely is not someone willing to go back to prison. So what then? I have pointed out all season that Romero’s hidden Bob Paris money is still in that basement. I think the most we can hope for is that he makes it out alive and flees to Mexico to join Rihanna on the beach for frozen margaritas.

Dylan:

Last week we watched Dylan scroll through pictures of his family. Well, both families. The happy normal one he created with Emma—the one waiting for him far away from White Pine Bay. And, well… the other one. The one with Norma and Norman, that didn’t include him, but still calls to him. Will Dylan want to belong so badly, that it literally kills him? Because Bates Motel, despite its darkness, isn’t really a cynical show, I truly believe Dylan will make it out as the one glimmer of hope. Norman might be a hallucinatory hot mess that Norma allowed to manifest on her watch—but not for lack of love. Weirdly, Bates Motel is about the love you have for your family, even if it kills you. I think Dylan will be spared to live another, happier day.

Emma:

First of all, no matter what horror Bates Motel subjects us to, killing off Emma, would be a step too far. Logistically, it makes no sense—she’s well on her way home, far away from crazy town. I wish we had seen more of Olivia Cooke this season, though the moments we got were just enough to see just how much Emma has grown. She left White Pine Bay and can literally and figuratively breathe for the first time. Norman has only loved two women his whole life. Norma, whom he loved to death, and Emma, who gets to have the life Norma couldn’t. Last week she said goodbye to Audrey, made her peace with Norman, and left town. She’s headed back to her bright future, which I’d like to think still includes Dylan. Either way, Emma, as the only truly innocent character, is guaranteed some happiness.

Sheriff Greene:

Minor character, you say? I beg to disagree. First of all, as one Green to another, I’m Team Green(e) all the way. Also, what a refreshing change to have somebody levelheaded in that kooky town, who’s not a mess and not corrupt. She’s not a character who’s going to go down without a fight. Not that it isn’t possible; surely she’s the most expendable than anyone else. But if Sheriff Greene dies, who’s going to discover and publish the book Chick was writing?

Norman:

What good can come of Norman? He’s killed a lot of people and left a path of misery in his wake. The fact that we can still feel sympathy towards him is a testament to the writing and Freddie Highmore’s performance. Though he only consciously and intentionally killed one person, that’s still a pretty big deal. Going free isn’t an option. Saying he’s sorry and moving on, isn’t realistic. The fact that he was unaware of how sick he was and what “Mother” did on his behalf, doesn’t quite cut it as a defense.

Should Norman make it back into custody (though I doubt it. Why have a dramatic jailbreak if he’s just going to end up back in jail 40 minutes later), I don’t think we’ll end up seeing a call back to the end of Psycho, with Norman in a cell, smirking and channeling “Mother”. Bates Motel hasn’t spent 5 seasons carefully weaving an intricate story only to end on a been-there-done-that callback to something less compelling. Nor would “Mother” be allowed to still exist. Surely she’d be medicated right out of Norman’s subconscious. Even after all he’s done, seeing Norman confined to a life sentence without Norma somehow seems too cruel.

Sadly, or not so sadly, depending on your sense of justice, Norman has to die. It’s the only way he can be reunited with Norma—and not “Mother”. It’s just a matter of how and at whose hands. As I predicted, likely not Romero. And probably not Dylan. Though the Cain and Able symbolism would be interesting, that’s not really here nor there. This is a story about Norma and Norman—and the chord between their hearts, etc. etc. Both are flawed, but neither are villains. The only true villain is “Mother,” who has to go. Norman’s still deep down a sweet and damaged kid. So here it is…

To avenge his own crimes, Norman will have to destroy “Mother,” thereby sacrificing himself. Oh, Norman. You never stood a chance.

 

 

 

Hello Again

Hey.

by: LGreen

Well, hello again, TV friends. Long time no read. I’ve taken quite a bit of time off since last we spoke. I don’t get paid to write about TV, so you know, I do what I want. So what have I been up to since we last chatted? Oh you know, this and that. Lots of reading, some writing. Lots of TV watching minus the added self-imposed pressure of having to put coherent thoughts together about it.

So here’s the deal. My main rule for writing about anything is that it has to be something I love, even if it’s just a teeny bit. This doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. I’ve written about plenty (again for emphasis… plenty) of less-than-perfect shows (ahem, Revolution) because there was something fun, interesting, or otherwise redeeming about it. Little by little, post by post, there was just nothing I loved or hated enough to talk about. Or maybe I’m coming out of a year-long Hamiltonmania fever dream and finally have room in my brain for something else. Either/or/probably both. Though, for the record, I do think a little dose of added Hamilton could make for some interesting TV (see below).

You guys, he’s a lawyer!

So let’s catch up! What are the shows I’ve previously cared about (for good or bad)? And where do they stand now? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? Let’s:

American Horror Story. Errr…. watched 2 episodes of Hotel and bailed. I tend to pop in and out of this show, so maybe I’ll return. And that’s a hard maybe. Wasn’t there something about witches too? Not 100% ready to write this off for good. More like 95%, but I’ve learned never say never.

Bates Motel. One of the most brilliantly written and acted shows ever. And one of my last holdouts for written coverage. But week after week, I found myself so blown away by consistently great episodes, I needed time to absorb what I watch and by the time I had anything to say, it was time for the next one. Since this one is coming to an end and already off to a great season, I’ll definitely revisit this. But first I’ll have to come to terms with Sad Romero. So so sad.

Better Call Saul. I wrote about this once and might again. But I’m still definitely watching. It’s so nice to see Mike alive and well. Well, wellish.

Breaking Bad. Gone but not forgotten. The show that made me want to force my opinions on people in the first place. (you’re welcome, everyone) Having just read “A Life in Parts” by Bryan Cranston, I’m ready for an eventual rewatch of this series sometime in the near future.

Empire. I should probably go back to this. Do it for Cookie!

Fear The Walking Dead. I only have room in my life for one zombie show. And barely even that.

Fresh off the Boat. I think I forgot about this one week and then just kept forgetting. This will likely be a Netflix binge one day.

Fringe. I miss Fringe and I can guarantee it will come up again. Suddenly network TV is filled with time travel shows, yet Fringe never took off?? I’m still annoyed. Like, really annoyed.

Game of Thrones. I want to love Game of Thrones so much. But I just don’t love all the swords and beheadings and such. It’s very well done if you can look beyond all those things.

Hostages. What was “Hostages”?

How to Get Away with Murder. I was sad to let this one go. But I could never remember who was who and who did what and why were all these stylish law students such cold blooded murderers? Everyone should go and just let Viola Davis do an hour-long one woman show where she just delivers the best speeches.

Jessica Jones. Cannot wait for this to come back. I only wish they could resurrect David Tennet. Creepiest villain ever.

Lost. This will eventually get a rewatch, stopping of course after season 5. I have no interest in the temple people and their island shenanigans.

Mad Men. I love Mad Men, but am pretty sure I’ll never rewatch it, and rarely talk about it. I prefer to let it just seep into the background of my subconscious. Frankly, Don Draper is too sad to dwell on for too long. And Matthew Weiner’s next show looks fascinating!

Odd Mom Out. I watch this. I enjoy it.

Orange Is The New Black. You guys, this got really sad.

Scandal. I have so many mixed feelings about Scandal. My favorite thing though, is all the clothes!

Shameless. This went from must-watch viewing to Netflix binge viewing, so I can fast forward through the Frank parts.

Shark Week. I wish it was Shark Week already.

Sleepy Hollow. I was on the fence until Abby was killed off. Nope. Crane is still one of the best recent characters though.

The Affair. This show went from being about an affair to an affair’s 5 year aftermath and 30 year buildup. Fascinating stuff. (needs more Cole)

The Bridge. I recall liking this.

The Good Wife. I should have said something about the Good Wife finale because people seemed stunned that Alicia ended up not being so nice. Why did we all assume so was so nice in the first place? Because her husband was worse?

The Last Man on Earth. Sadly this didn’t survive what I like to call the Sunday Night TV Thunder Dome.

The Leftovers. A 1000% the most interesting show out there. Cannot wait for this to come back.

Treme. Gone be never–NEVER–forgotten.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I love that this is quirky and upbeat with occasional reminders that Kimmy’s story is actually pretty dark. There’s so much honesty packed into such a weird show. If 30 Rock and Parks and Rec had a redheaded love child, it would be Kimmy.

Veep. I think I love Veep. But now that we’re all living it, I question everything.

Wayward Pines. Few things in life are certain. Never talking about Wayward Pines is however, a sure bet.

Zoo. I gave up when there were CGI’d ants or some such thing. Still sort of fun show, if you’re down with CGI’d ant attacks.

So that’s where we stand, TV friends. There is also a slew of new things I’m loving and watching. To be discussed at a later date…

Happy viewing!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: 13 Favorite Moments from Season 2

by: LGreen

image via Netflix

image via Netflix

Are you still watching Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or like me, did you binge it in one weekend? …You binged it, didn’t you? Understandable. Kimmy Schmidt’s second season is as catchy and irresistible as its theme song, dammit! Kimmy and the gang all return (no supporting player left behind!), for more post-bunker New York adventures. And in that way, this second season is not much different than its first. But rather than a season dedicated to a series of Kimmy’s “firsts,” season 2 takes the time to develop characters and tightly weave their lives together. Without evoking too many 30 Rock comparisons, you can see this group of oddball friends as intertwined and connected as Liz Lemon and Co. were. Kimmy Schmidt’s second outing is as charming as the first, but also weirder, sharper, and even funnier.

Here are 13 of its best moments:

  1. Mike the season 1 construction worker: The development of the catcalling season 1 construction worker from one-off joke to not only a returning character, but one so pivotal to Titus’s development, is possibly my favorite turn for season 2. Mikey’s search for honesty for himself and his relationships injected a huge dose of reality into this otherwise over-the-top version of New York. It proves that Kimmy’s New York is a small world and every character is important.
  2. Titus falls in love. I love everything about Titus. But I mostly love that Kimmy Schmidt is letting him become a deeper person. I could watch his fame-seeking-pinot-noir-drinking self forever, but watching him learn how to earn his happiness brought out more feels than I ever expected. If his monologue about never having a coming out moment didn’t move you, well then, your heart is probably a little bit frozen. Sorry.
  3. Music. Kimmy Schmidt is the best scored show on TV, with music adding that extra zaniness that makes Kimmy’s New York so downright weird. Its use of music integral to the plot is delightful, whether it’s Kimmy’s all-cartoon faux-Disney happy place fantasy, or Titus’s musical theater history lessons. Admit it, you’d go see “Jeff, the Gangly Orphan,” wouldn’t you?
  4. Lillian has a purpose. Lillian was my least favorite thing about season 1, often seeming weird for the sake of being weird. And don’t get me wrong, weird is awesome, but her sharpened offbeat passion for the degentrification of East Dogmouth gave her a relatable focus. Also, she dates Robert Durst, which I can totally see.
  5. Junkyard Elmos. I’m glad a show like Kimmy Schmidt is finally calling attention to the scourge of dirty Elmos plaguing midtown. Let this be a warning to your innocent and naive friends visiting from out-of-town, just say no: No to drugs, and especially no to doing them with junkyard Elmos.
  6. Dyziplen. Buckley needs some discipline dyziplen. This joke would have been enough as a single punchline, but was followed through by showing hordes of vacant Upper East Side kids drugged into complacent stupors. Honorable mention goes to therapist Andrea’s t-shirt shout out.
  7. Pacey! Can Joshua Jackson show up for cameos in every show?
  8. Jacqueline is sort of nice. While Jacqueline was busy spearheading her doomed cause to her rich friends, something interesting happened: she became sort of nice. Proof that Kimmy’s influence on everyone is the heart and soul of this very strange show. Also, Jacqueline will end up super rich again, so it’s really win/win for everyone. And she has to put up with Russ’s fipple and moist beard, so she’s totally earning that money
  9. Oh heyyyy, Tina Fey. I was enjoying this season so much, I was completely caught off guard by Tina Fey’s late season arrival as drunk Uber passenger/therapist Andrea. This is my favorite of all of Fey’s characters, a smart, wise truth-telling hot mess, that’s very caring, but also a little bit mean.
  10. Bye, Dong. In theory, I like Kimmy paired up with her GED friend Dong because they’re both newcomers to this world. But Dong is sort of boring  and I like that the show didn’t drag out his stay. Sorry you got deported, Dong, but at least a fancy night in an abandoned Poconos resort is how one exits in style.
  11. Mike’s grandmother. In case you’re still watching, I won’t post a picture of Mikey’s grandmother at family dinner. This was the best laugh-out-loud sight gag yet on Kimmy Schmidt. Or probably any show.
  12. A cliffhanger? I’m not a huge fan of this season’s last moments, essentially a cliffhanger in which the Reverend calls to say that he’s getting married while in prison, so he and Kimmy need a divorce. If she’s married, wouldn’t Kimmy already know? And how hard would it be to get divorced from someone who went to prison for kidnapping you? This doesn’t seem like much of a cliffhanger. But… if this means more Jon Hamm next season, then I’m all about it.
  13. Kimmy’s mom: I was so ready to hate Kimmy’s mom, but it’s impossible to hate Lisa Kudrow, so well done, Kimmy Schmidt! She’s just zany enough to fit into this world, but has enough heart to remind you that everyone has a story. “Sometimes you just wanna scream your head off, and a rollercoaster’s the only place no-one looks at you weird.” How can you hate someone as honest as that?

Odds and Ends:

  • Of course Jacqueline has a bag made of the skins of famous internet cats
  • If I can see NJ, then it can see me!” (I love NJ jokes)
  • I loved that Titus’s one-man show was actually good. For anyone who’s ever been dragged to one at 10:30 at night in the Lower East Side, you were surprised too.
  • Does anyone else miss seeing Josh Charles on TV!?
  • Everyone sounds like Chandler on the internet” is the most succinct description of the internet ever.
  • SpongeBob does look like a cheese businessman, and is that really any stranger than a sponge who wears pants and lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • I can identify with Kimmy, because I too really loved Frasier in the 90s.

 

 

Orange Is The New Black: Is Piper the Worst?

by: L Green

am I?

am I?

As much as I enjoy the inmates of Orange Is The New Black, I don’t necessarily sympathize with what landed them in prison. The brilliance of Jenji Kohan’s characters is that I can still feel for their daily struggles, worries, and fears. Every little indignity they endure under a Pornstache/Healy type is a reminder that ultimately we’re more similar than not. This used to be especially true of Piper–our everywoman guide through the maze that is Litchfield.

As for Piper’s crime, it doesn’t garner much sympathy. Which, to her credit, Piper admits. Over educated, super-WASPY, Connecticut Piper engages in a post-college drug adventure mostly for the thrills and a little bit to please her then and future girlfriend. Some people teach abroad for a year after college; Piper goes on drugged-funded trips to Bali. Tomato tomahto.

For 2 seasons, Piper was still the hero of our story.  A there-but-for-the-grace-of-God cautionary tale that we shouldn’t assume the worst can’t happen to us. Her surprise that prison was actually worse than what she imagined shocked us too. We could still care about Piper. And as she grew a backbone and some self-awareness, we cheered her on. Piper is no better than anybody in Litchfield, so it was refreshing for her to see her throw her hair up in scraggly pony tale, train a cockroach, and take a place firmly with the rest of the Litchfield gang.

Yes, Piper is no better than anybody else in Litchfield, but maybe that’s because she’s actually worse. Her long ago crime was mostly for kicks and excitement, but has she learned anything or changed her ways? Season 3 finds Piper running an underground used-panty empire–smuggling out cheap pink panties worn by her friends for sale to international perverts. It’s very gross. It’s also very funny. Until it isn’t. Piper takes her new role as the Panty Godfather a little too seriously, beginning with her prison yard rallying cry that this is how she and her fellow inmates can immortalize themselves for ages and ending with her squashing unions and framing her new girlfriend. When Stella confesses that she stole Piper’s profits because she was facing release with no money and no options, Piper nods sympathetically and says she understands, that that will be her fate soon. But we all know it isn’t really. Piper’s parents have run out of patience for her, and yes, Larry is gone, and her options as a felon are limited. But she still has a family. She still has a degree. She wasn’t selling drugs to feed her kids, so that argument falls a bit short.

Piper is enjoying her new role because she likes the power. Who wouldn’t? But in a villainless season 3, it looks like the biggest villain might actually be our former hero. And while that could be interesting, Piper is no Walter White. This isn’t a downtrodden everyman finally finding his due in a world that’s overlooked him. Up until Piper went to prison, she was already part of the privileged elite. To drive this home, Piper exiles Flaca from the operation, as punishment for trying to “unionize”. Earlier in the season, Flaca already earned the titled of unluckiest inmate in Litchfield history, and even Alex tries to set Piper straight that most of these women have far less than Piper.

A little humility goes a long way so what should we make of a Piper that has very little? Pennsatucky for example, killed an actual human being just because she was angry, and still manages to be more sympathetic this season than Piper. What else to make of Piper receiving comparatively little screen time, compared to her fellow inmates? So much time was spent fleshing out the back stories and struggles of the other women this season, that one wonders if this is the new structure of Orange Is The New Black or part of a larger plan for returning the story back to Piper.

On one hand, the success of the show is that there are endless possibilities for characters to explore. Need someone new and interesting? Voila! a new busload of inmate just pulled up. Miss someone? Oh hey! here they are back in prison. With this set up, Orange Is The New Black can stay refreshing and new for years. On the other hand, will the show come full cycle back to Piper’s story and have a clear beginning and end? Perhaps the larger focus on other inmates will ultimately continue to drive home Piper’s isolation from her peers, fueling real self-discovery. With the real life Piper as inspiration, I could envision Piper leaving prison and going on to work on behalf of prison reform, motivated by the stories of her friends. Or she could continue on running her panty empire and screwing over anyone who gets close to her or to her power. Is Piper the worst or on her way to long-term redemption? Time will tell, which luckily Piper still has plenty of.

 

What’s Next for Orange Is The New Black?

by: L Green

orange season 3

Season 3 of Orange Is The New Black sneaks up on you. It quietly reinvented itself into a villainless comedy but managed in many ways to be sadder than season 2 (which is really saying something).

It took about three episodes in before realizing that Piper is no longer the captain of this ship. In fact, Piper could go altogether (her release date is fast approaching, no?) and the show could reasonably continue on without skipping a beat. Personally, I’d miss her. Piper is the character through which I, and likely others, originally navigated this world–she was our stranger-in-a-strange-land guide through Litchfield. But now that we no longer need that, we’re good Pipes, you can take your place in the back with everyone else. Also gone is the villain narrative of season 2. It’s a show full of criminals, how bad does the villain have to be before the tone of the show changes into something much darker altogether? Isn’t life in Litchfield bad enough without having a super villain? And how much drama can we ultimately tolerate over who runs the kitchen??

It’s too soon to know if Orange Is The New Black will suffer from losing its narrative arc. Relegating Piper’s story to the sidelines means that Orange could potentially go on indefinitely as a quirky prison soap opera. If the larger point of the show is to highlight the truth about women in prison, that could work–there will always be new characters, new stories, and new heartbreak. But it could also feel aimless as time drags on. In an encouraging bit of truthfulness, Nikki was given the boot fairly early on this season, transferring to maximum security. People come and go; some stories come to an end–a reality that can help the show remain fresh.

One of the strengths of this lighter more whimsical third season is that it highlighted the tragedy of these women’s lives in a way that no mustache twirling uber-villain like Vee ever could. One minute you’re going along having a nice time at the duck pond before the awful reality of how bad your life is hits you square in the gut. Every time we got pulled into a bit of happiness for these ladies, Orange was there to remind you that no, their lives are terrible. No good deed goes unpunished in Litchfield. And the light/dark back and forth worked every time. Don’t think for a minute you can ever have a nice Mother’s Day in prison, because prison will always win.

So what’s next for Orange Is The New Black? Will it continue to reinvent itself or will the focus shift back to Piper? Season 2 left us with this large question, but many other smaller ones. Here are some issues Season 4 will hopefully address:

Alex’s fate. Alex didn’t have much to do this season other than brood and worry–which, as it turns out, wasn’t misguided. But it’s not terribly compelling either. It’s unlikely she’ll make it out of her final confrontation unscathed, if she makes it out at all.

Daya’s baby. This is probably a done deal. Daya’s baby being shuffled off to the foster care system without her knowledge was one of the show’s most heartbreaking stories. I’m still holding out hope that Pornstache’s mother can still save the day, slim as that might be.

Judy King. Will Blair Brown’s entrance as Martha Stewart/Paula Deen hybrid Judy King be a hit in Litchfield? People really seem to like her, but she also seems a tad awful. Blair Brown is fantastic in anything, so I’m eager to see this play out. And does this mean Red have another rival for the kitchen?

Will Caputo be a change for good? Poor Caputo just wants to be important. We saw him struggle and fight on behalf of the ladies, but did he really just sell his soul to his corporate overlords for a better paycheck? Better keep that Les Mis soundtrack ready to go, just in case a rebellion is necessary.

Will Nikki come back? Sure it was crappy that Nikki took the fall for something she wasn’t alone in. But as her flashback revealed, she had a good start and many chances. Will she come back and will she finally start taking responsibility for her life?

Will Soso and Poussay become a couple? There was a surprising amount of chemistry between these mutual outsiders. Will this become a thing?

Will Piper’s panty empire be her downfall? Technically, Piper should be heading towards her release date, but Orange Is The New Black can do whatever it wants, and this could be a convenient was to extend her sentence, if she’s caught. Remember, there’s no such thing as a benevolent dictator…

Will Piper get released? On the flip side, Piper could get released and her story follow her real-life trajectory. What would it mean for the ladies in Litchfield to see their lives become a pop culture phenomenon while Piper moves on with her life? Very meta, but it could be an interesting twist.

Will the kitchen go back to having real food again? I hope so. I can barely watch them eat that sludge.

See you in season 4!

TV’s Best and Worst Mothers, 2015 Edition

By: L Green

image

image via HBO

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s that time again to check in with TV’s best and worst moms. A new year and a new crop of great and …less than great moms has sprung up. So who are 2015’s contenders?

Worst: Cersei (Game of Thrones). Cersei really loves her kids, so that’s great. Yay for Cersei! But she also created the soulless turd that was King Joffrey, so… that’s a strike against her. Joffrey is what happens when kids get medals for participation.

Best: Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation). Is Leslie Knope ever on a list for being something other than the very best? Leslie Knope is the reason why macaroni art projects and World’s Best Mom mugs exist. She makes her kids eat broccoli, is a positive role model, and lets them hang out with Andy. Wins all around!

Best: Norma (Bates Motel). Last year Norma graced this list as both the best and the worst. But season 3 Norma is the best Norma. Yeah, she did give Norman an unfortunately blase sex ed lecture, skirting the real issue here, but overall is much improved and far less of an enabler (starting with cleaning out the basement taxidermy lair!). She even sincerely likes Dylan! Get Norma a medal!

Best: Jessica (Fresh off the Boat). Jessica Huang is simply the best. Best mom, best wife, best tutor, real estate agent, theater director, overall winning overachieving no nonsense loveable hardass around. She’ll make you eat Squiddies, but will buy you Lunchables too. That’s love.

Worst: Frankie (The Middle). I get it. Working and raising three kids is hard. And Frankie tries. Sort of. But she also forgets about her kids, is actively disinterested in many of their activities and makes them eat dinner in lawn chairs. On the plus side, she really loves them. But Brick is still a weirdo and you should have better results by the third go around.

Worst: Barb (American Crime). Felicity Huffman as Barb is great. Barb, herself? Less great. She’s very dedicated to getting justice for her son, but it’s looking like she might have raised a sociopath. She has one son left and is a bit of a nightmare to him too. Sorry, Barb, you’re the worst.

Best: Nora Durst (The Leftovers). Of course Nora Durst is the best mom, because Nora Durst is awesome. She’s even willing to tolerate the Chief’s annoying kids, take in the weirdo prophet’s abandoned baby, and spends time bonding with her creepy fake children dummies. Nora Durst: patron saint of selflessness.

Worst: Laurie (The Leftovers). …and then there’s Laurie, The Leftover’s worst character in a gaggle of already terrible characters. She abandoned her kids to join a cult so she can skulk around town in her winter whites, terrorizing everyone else and making a mockery of their grief. And then, as if that’s not already horrible, she’s throws out the Cry for Help Christmas gift from her own daughter. Cold.

Worst: Mrs. Schmidt (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). We never meet Kimmy’s mom, which is why she’s the worst. Your daughter is rescued from a cult’s underground bunker after 15 years and you’re a no show? Unacceptable.

Worst: Sammi (Shameless). Sammi is the worst everything–daughter, sibling, girlfriend, neighbor, citizen, advice-giver, human being, and especially mother. Advising your special needs 13 year-old-son on how to win over prison guards and carving a mini Charles Manson-esque tattoo into his forehead has to be a new low on Shameless. Most of the mothers on that show are at least vaguely trying to not mess their kids up.

Best: Cookie (Empire). Do not get in between Cookie and her sons. Don’t do it. DON’T DO IT. Nothing stops Cookie from protecting her boys. Not prison, not Lucious, not even Courtney Love.

Worst: Cherry (The Affair). You forgot about Cherry, didn’t you? The Affair seems like a long time ago, but Cherry’s ice cold guilt trip to Alison about Gabriel’s death is still horrifying. Cherry’s also a liar and a hypocrite, but those are just bonus points.

8 Other Shows That Need Spinoffs

by: L Green

image via AMC

image via AMC

Better Call Saul is going strong on AMC and challenging the whole concept of what a spinoff can be. Who’d have thought that little ‘ol Saul Goodman would be the guy to make us forget Walter White? This makes us here at Green TV (basically just me) wonder what other unmined spinoff gems are lurking in some of our favorite shows? Pay attention, TV execs, here are some new spinoff ideas for you:

Sleepy Hollow. What’s going on with Katrina these days? Nobody knows. Right now she’s back in the good old days, where she wanted to be. Does she stay there? She could and we could have an entirely separate witch-infused colonial drama on our hands. Sort of like Girls, but more Revolutionary. Zing! (Katrina is such a Marnie)

Parks and Recreation. Raise your waffles in honor of TV’s best comedy as it prepares to say goodbye. But the sweet spirit of Parks and Rec can continue on with the Donna Meagle spinoff of our dreams. What does Donna do all day? What are her fabulous weekends like? Now we can know! It would be called “Treat Yo Self,” obviously.

Lost. I can’t let Lost go. Can’t stop, won’t stop; we have to go back, etc. etc. I know people are very over Lost and still (still!) have some very polarized feelings on it. But here’s what I want to know: in the finale Kate, Sawyer, and Claire all fly away off the island and presumably lived happily ever after? Kate broke parole, Sawyer should be dead, and up until a day before, Claire had a dead squirrel baby. Did the three of them and Aaron move in together in the zaniest episode of Three’s Company ever?? I want to see it.

Downton Abbey: In an earlier rant about Downton Abbey, I suggested a Dowager Countess/Isabel spinoff that goes something like this: “They are Downton’s answer to Ben Linus and John Locke, antagonistic buddies, more similar than they’d like to believe. The DC will occasionally pop up with a zippy one liner and Isobel is relentlessly earnest to a fault. They are likeable, but they are not interesting. They’re becoming bffs, which has interesting potential. I’d like to see these two transported via time machine to present day London, where they open up a detective agency/finishing school where they take on London’s worst crimes and crimes against etiquette. That, I’d watch.” I stand by this.

Glee. New Directions is over. Everyone’s grown up and moved on, except Will Schuster. He’s still there and his failed experiment has come and gone; the music is over and he’s left as a bitter old lonely wandering around Lima, Ohio. This should be on HBO. It can be called “Glum“.

Mad Men. Mad Men is ending and the debate about whether or not Don will change or can change really doesn’t seem to matter anymore. It’s ending and chances are Don will be exactly the same as when the show started, only older. So let’s shift focus and see what Sally’s up to! Sally Draper, super smart party girl dancing away from her childhood of neglect. You know you’d watch that.

The Good Wife. Why why why does Elsbeth Tascioni not have her own show by now? TV is filled with good lawyers and zany lawyers and now finally we have both. (sigh) Maybe she can at least pop up on Better Call Saul.

Orange Is The New Black. Almost any character on OITNB is worthy of their own spinoff, except for the boring nun. But how about a Crazy Eyes prequel? And if it’s too horribly depressing and disturbing to watch a sweet little girl’s ultimate decline into crime and mental illness, we could have one on Morello and her shopaholic antics and tragic love life. It could be called “I Love Christofa“.

Shameless. Flash forward 10 years. Lip is now “Philip” and a wildly successful engineer and entrepreneur, forced to continuously deal with his family’s self-destructive antics after they all move into his lake front mansion. Frank can be the butler. And Sammi’s not allowed.

 

Better Call Saul: Why It’s No Average Spinoff

by: L Green

image via AMC

image via AMC

Spinoff. Is there any word in TV that inspires such skepticism, conjuring up long forgotten thoughts of Joey and The Golden Palace? Spinoffs are pale comparisons of their originals–great concepts watered down by commercialism and fatigue. The word even sounds dirty; Spinoff. Leave it to the creators of Breaking Bad to find a way to make a spinoff seem fresh and new.

Better Call Saul, predating Breaking Bad by about 6 years, isn’t exactly a spinoff though. Nor is it quite a prequel, considering that Walt and Jesse won’t really factor into the action of Saul. Rather than a story of ‘before’ or ‘after’, it’s more a story of ‘also’. It’s reminiscent of The Simpsons’s Springfield or as I’ve been arguing lately–Parks and Recreation’s Pawnee–quirky fleshed-out worlds where even the smallest character has a story to tell; it’s just your job to look.

The hook of Breaking Bad (at least at first) was its relatability, the idea that this could be you too–a person who’s done everything the right way and is still kicked around by an unimpressed world. Breaking Bad showed us how a loser turned into the ultimate winner and it looks like Saul is set to do the same thing. Mr. Chips turned into Scarface and now a cartoon character is turning into a real live man.

So yes, Better Call Saul is a lot like Breaking Bad, but it’s its own thing too. It feels like a sneaky revelation, like realizing it’s okay to hang out with your friend’s ex. If that’s not enough to convince you, here are some of the best moments of Saul’s two-night premiere:

That Cinnabon opening. The most talked about scene was that gorgeous black and white opener, where Saul’s prediction to Walt about his fate has come true. It’s both a cheeky inside joke to Breaking Bad fans and a hint at where we’re headed. Saul’s disappeared himself and is hiding out in Nebraska, a manager at Cinnabon. He’s alone, he’s scared, he’s a nobody. Possibly worst of all–it’s snowing! He comes home and cries quietly to a video reel of his old Better Call Saul commercials. A crying Saul. Anything is possible.

Saul’s cracked windshield. Is there a better call back to Breaking Bad than Saul’s little junky car getting as beat up as Walt’s puke green Aztec hatchback? Walt’s little car was a character in its own right, a manifestation of just how crappy Walt’s life was. Same thing for Saul’s little rusted out clunker (aptly named an Esteem).

Mike! We knew Mike would be back, but seeing him as a parking garage attendant was an unexpected surprise. Mike is best enjoyed in small doses, so his hilarious deadpan was perfect against Saul/Jimmy’s growing hysteria.

Back in the Desert. If Walt’s car was its own character, so too was the desert. It’s beautiful, yes, but also dangerous and imposing–the perfect landscape for showdowns and ultimatums. It was great to be back (as long as you’re not Saul).

Tuco! Did we ever think we’d see Tuco again? His appearance at the end of hour 1 was a great reveal, both surprising and interesting. Tuco is almost the character we know; the core characteristics are there, but he’s not crazed on meth yet. It’s almost endearing how much he loves his family. Almost.

Saul is just getting going. And Saul himself is still Jimmy. He’s not a criminal  yet and that white-columned oval office is still a while way. If the first two episodes are an indication, we can expect great things from this Jimmy McGill guy.

Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10EST on AMC

In Praise of Mellie Grant, Scandal’s Greatest Character

by: L Green

ABC

ABC

It’s time, Gladiators! Scandal is back and it’s time for some answers. What happened to Olivia? What is the VP’s plan? What will Fitz do about it? And most importantly: What’s Mellie up to?

Ah, Mellie Grant! Scandal’s black sheep in a smart suit–that perpetual underdog and eternal thorn in Fitz’s side. Or who I like to think of as Scandal‘s greatest character. If I’m cheering for anyone, it’s the boozey, Ugg-wearing, chip-eating hot mess with a law degree. Olivia politely sips vintage wine; Mellie guzzles scotch in her sweats. And while everyone is running around fixing things and moralizing and jumping into action, Mellie’s on the back porch with a plate of fried chicken. Mellie does what she wants. Finally.

It’s easy to love Olivia. She’s perfect, flawless–she always wins. She rejects a relationship with the President of the United States only to end up in an island paradise with Scott Foley. (Olivia wins again!) She wears crisp white suits that stay spotless while Mellie brushes chip crumbs off her yoga pants. Olivia is perfect, but Mellie is human. And she’s finally ready to win.

There’s nothing more satisfying than an underdog finally getting their day and Mellie’s day is coming. She’s Gretchen Weiners to Olivia’s Regina George. After repeated humiliation from her husband, her family, the press, the staff, Mellie’s deciding what’s what and taking what’s hers. She’ll say whatever the Hell she wants, to whomever she wants; she’ll have an affair with the Vice President and doesn’t even really care that he’s sleeping with someone else. This Mellie–season 4’s I Do What I Want Mellie–shrugs and doesn’t care anymore what you think of her. She’s Scandal’s honey badger and it’s fantastic.

Mellie may be the chronic loser in Scandal–# 2 to Olivia, to Fitz, even to Liz! But being the smartest person in the room, a lawyer, and the first lady is nothing to write off. Being second best to Olivia is still better than most people everywhere, so Mellie can’t be underestimated. What’s particularly refreshing about her sudden about-face is that it’s disregarding the unlikable TV wife conundrum. Mellie isn’t easy to like and she’s done plenty of questionable things, but none of them as immoral or criminal as the people around her. And yet, she’s been relegated to bitchy wife status while her husband repeatedly displays grossly worse behavior and is admired. (She and Skyler White would have a lot to talk about.) Mellie (and Shonda Rhimes) don’t rehabilitate her image, they double down and let Mellie be Mellie.

So… What happened to Olivia? Sure, I care. But while that plays out, keep an eye on what Mellie’s cooking up in the background. Mellie’s had enough and anything is possible. Get it, Mellie! Here’s hoping you tear down everyone and everything around you while you’re at it. Team Mellie! Mellie 2016! Go get ’em, Mellie–this is your year!

Parks and Recreation: Everything That’s Changed in Pawnee

by: L Green

NBC

NBC

If you last watched Parks and Recreation–a little show about a group of local government workers in Pawnee Indiana–only to tune in in the last few weeks to be very confused, don’t worry. You haven’t emerged in the future from a waffle-induced sugar coma. Parks and Rec is the one time jumping here, moving from 2014 directly into 2017, and a lot has changed in Pawnee. Here are all the differences, big and small:

  • Leslie left the parks dept and works for the National Parks Service (but this is old news).
  • Ben and Leslie have triplets! (also, old news, but let’s start slow).
  • Andy works part-time for Leslie but is also the star of his own TV show, the “Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show”.
  • Larry is now called Terry (“There was a guy at National Parks named Larry, so they suggested I go by Terry and I said my real name was Gary and they said ‘who cares’. It’s just a fun group.”)
  • Terry sometimes makes appearances on Andy’s show as “Mailman Barry”. Sometimes he’s attacked by ninjas.
  • Ben is Pawnee’s City Manager (he got a prestigious award!).
  • Gryzll is moving to Pawnee to build its Midwest Regional Headquarters, er, sorry… “Gryzll Campus.”
  • Donna now runs Regale Meagle Realty and is getting married!
  • Donna has a wedding dress designed by Shia Labeouf, which I desperately want to be a real thing.
  • Tom’s Bistro has expanded to include chopped salads dropped from a recommissioned military helicopter.
  • Joan Callamezzo wrote another memoir (or “portrait in words”), Game of Joans, and received a star on Pawnee’s Walk of Fame.
  • Ron left the parks dept to start his own construction company: Very Good Building and Development (he wanted to connote the quality of their work without sounding “flashy”).
  • “The nurse’s” house (Anne’s) got bulldozed to make room for Morningstar (Morningstar!) Apartments.
  • Ron and Leslie had a huge falling out over the construction of Morningstar. (Leslie was sort of mostly to blame.)
  • Elton John bought Chick-fil-A.
  • Tom is one of Pawnee’s “35 under 35”!
  • Kevin James was great in the new Jason Bourne reboot.
  • April and Andy got a bank account and became boring.
  • Tammy 1 and Jam became a couple, which was slowing killing Jam/turning him into a sad version of Ron (“I”m depressed, I’m constantly sick, nothing really brings me joy.”).
  • Gryzll is the new Apple, except their tablets have terrifying AI software. (turn them off at night).
  • Jon Hamm is “hanging at Subway” if anyone is looking for him.

But Parks and Rec is still awesome, so that’s still the same!