Joey Moser presents his Best TV Shows of 2016.

Television felt really diversified this last year. Not just in terms of bringing important themes to light, but in a way that all different types of shows put out quality work. Both network and streaming shows stepped it up this season. This Best TV Shows of 2016 list could have included way more than 10 entries, but I’ve managed to narrow them down.

10. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS

There was a lot of talk about the roles of men and women on late night talk shows, but TBS gave us a wonderful gift. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is the only way that I want to receive my political news from now on. Is that OK with everyone? Bee has the easiest job in the world partly because a lot of people in politics can’t resist the overwhelming urge to be complete assholes, and she is more than happy to call them out on it. During the election (or the Decision That Shall Not Be Named), she provided an intelligent and acid take both candidates, but she’s not a one trick pony. Full Frontal is not SNL — it won’t be good just every four years. Watch her angry reaction from this summer’s Pulse nightclub shooting, and you will see someone who wants to see positive change for everyone. Plus, she’s hilarious. Dangerously hilarious. We need her.

(Photo: HBO)

9. Westworld – HBO

It’s safe to say that we should only build theme parks if guests can be assure they won’t be shot or murdered. Westworld, the presumed Game of Thrones successor, isn’t perfect. Some of the story feels rushed and some loose ends feel like they will never be revisited again. But when Westworld works, boy, does it work. The show features boasts production design and costumes, and you can tell the creators are having fun with a show that questions identity and playing God. It’s aided by a heavy hitting cast including Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright. It’s Thandie Newton, however, that rips the rug right from under her co-stars. As the host Maeve, we sympathize with her, cheer for her, and, by the end, fear her.

(Photo: ABC)

8. American Crime – ABC

A limited series in only its second season, American Crime feels risky for one of the big networks. The topics of racism, homophobia, and bullying are catnip for HBO and FX, but the show succeeds because of its restraint and good writing. Lili Taylor breaks your heart as a mother trying to protecting her son that admits to being raped by a fellow teammate, but Connor Jessup is the real star here. It’s criminal that he was snubbed for an Emmy this past year. While the adults scream and fight with one another, his sensitivity and confusion quietly radiate through the entire season. Another actor would have changed the entire tone of the entire season.

(Photo: ABC)

7. black-ish – ABC

ABC has been slowly churning out family sitcoms for the last few years, but the best brood to watch remains the Johnsons. It feels like this family–consisting of Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Jennifer Lewis, and Laurence Fishburne–has truly made its mark on the network and broken away from the shows that surround it. This season’s premiere (where the family heads to Walt Disney World) started things off very strong, and they have continued through the winter finale. Anderson and Ross balance out each other’s crazy and allow one another to shine, and the kids are starting to take center stage in a way that would make Modern Family jealous.

(Photo: FX)

6. The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story – FX

The most buzzed about show of the year is also the most awarded, and that’s because it’s damn good television. Ryan Murphy has disciplined himself to create one of the most captivating true crime saga ever. Packed with top notch performances, Murphy managed to re-create a volatile time in American history and pulled back the curtain to showcase the anguish this case caused. Bravo, Mr. Murphy.

(Photo: Hulu)

5. Difficult People – Hulu

My favorite show from last year has only gotten bitchier and funnier. It’s a testament of how great this television year has been if I can say my number 1 show came down to number 5 and it’s actually a better season. Thank God for Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner! I only hope that they would scream at me one day. A guy can dream. I don’t need to convince you anymore. All I will leave you with is this: Patches.

(Photo: Logo)

4. RuPaul’s Race All Stars – LOGO

Come at me, bitches. Is is wasteful to put a drag queen reality competition series on my top ten? Hell no! Drag Race is the most self-aware reality show out there. It embraces the ugly and diverse and raunchy, but the highly anticipated second season was also great because it gave us ten contestants looking for redemption. And the twists just kept coming from Mama Ru. In first episode, she informs the girls that they will be eliminating each other in the competition. It was as if the Plastics and Heathers were bitching in the girls’ room, and she threw in a rabid honey badger to mess with them. Choices.

(Photo: Netflix)

3. Orange is the New Black – Netflix

Trust me, I had no idea that I was going to put Orange is the New Black so high in my top ten this year. Season 4 was its best season so far, and the stakes are raised from the very beginning. By the time the credits roll on the first episode, a few inmates have dismembered a guard’s body and bury it on the grounds. Corporate shakeups put angry, inexperienced, and immature people in charge of the safety of the inmates, and the last shot of the season has to make viewers wonder if more lives are in the balance at Litchfield. This isn’t a show about a basic white girl going to jail any more. This dark season could be the launching pad for another landmark, topical season.

(Photo: Netflix)

2. Black Mirror – Netflix

There are images from this season of Black Mirror that haunt me so much that it makes me want to move to the Amish country and take up basket weaving. The anthology series has effectively made us justifiably wary of the devices in our hands, yet we don’t learn and keep on tweeting, texting, messaging and judging from the safe, warm glow of our individual machines. Bryce Dallas Howard is sad as a woman desperate to make a connection in the premiere, “Nosedive,” while fan favorite “San Junipero” swoons with 80’s influences and a warm color palette. Mirror also delves into nightmarish horror based on your fears in your head (“Playtest”) and the potential from very real outside threats (“Shut Up and Dance”). I’ve only seen each episode once, but I’m too scared to go back just yet.

(Photo: Amazon)

1. Fleabag – Amazon

It’s difficult to bare your soul and put yourself really out there. For instance, would you be able to play a character that wonders if her new plaything is into you because you have a…shall we say…large anus? And would you be able to air these concerns out within the first few minutes of your new show? Didn’t think so. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the hilariously inappropriate mind behind this British gem, makes a splash in the starring role of a woman who is trying to get by and not let everyone know what a total wreck she is. This is the what an actual mess looks like. She makes the viewer her friend whether you want to be a part of it or not, but it’s handled in such an easy way that it’s not distracting or obnoxious. To go into the plot details of this 6-episode comedy would be a disservice to the material, so just go watch it now. It’s simultaneously sad and shocking and so, so funny.

ADTV’s Megan McLachlan proudly proclaims her Best TV Shows of 2016

I’m a self-proclaimed comedy queen when it comes to TV, but this year a lot of my favorite shows are either dramas or are comedies with dramatic ends. Here are my Best TV Shows of 2016.

10. Black Mirror – Netflix

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(Photo: Netflix)

What makes Black Mirror scarier than conventional horror shows like American Horror Story is that there’s a very real element to it, in the form of where technology is taking us. “Nosedive” is one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen, with so much depth, hilarity, and drama rolled into one episode. It may make you think before you post the next time you’re on your favorite social network.

9. Lady Dynamite – Netflix

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(Photo: Netflix)

During the first 10 minutes of Maria Bamford’s show, you may wonder if Netflix sent everyone the wrong copy of the episode. But stick with it because this show is unlike any series you’ve ever seen, dealing with one woman’s battle with mental illness while she tries to succeed in show business (comedy, of all genres). Bamford is wonderful and weepy, and even though it’s billed as a comedy, there are some seriously dark moments. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: This is what I hoped Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on CW was going to be like.

8. Insecure – HBO

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(Photo: HBO)

Issa Rae was one of the freshest faces on TV in 2016. Her show Insecure may be compared to Girls, only for the network and demographic, but at the core of this series is the special friendship between Issa and Molly (Yvonne Orji), a closeness you don’t necessarily see on the Lena Dunham series. Issa is at a crossroads on Insecure, mining through relationships and career opportunities while rapping to herself in the mirror to amp herself up. Issa feels complacent, but thankfully television didn’t in 2016. Otherwise, we might not have been gifted a show like this one.

7. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS

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(Photo: TBS)

Trevor Noah does a fine job in Jon Stewart’s chair on The Daily Show, but Bee’s the one who’s really grabbed the reins of political comedy and discourse. In 2016, we desperately needed Samantha Bee for her coverage of the election, and in 2017, we’ll need her even more.

6. Fleabag – Amazon

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(Photo: Amazon)

Think: Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, but with depth (and an editor). Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is a cafe owner who’s really just the worst. Worst girlfriend (she treats poor Harry like crap), worst sister (she steals her sister’s clothes), and worst stepdaughter (steals her stepmother’s artwork). But she’s spiraling out of control for a reason, surrounding the death of her best friend and co-owner of the cafe. Waller-Bridge is wickedly enchanting, her witty asides smoothly interrupting the scenes without skipping a beat.

5. Schitt’s Creek – POP TV

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(Photo: PopTV)

Schitt’s Creek only got better in Season 2, which is rare for a sophomore season. It’s dangerous to have a fish-out-of-water premise like this one, which can seem one-note, but this show continued to challenge its characters in interesting and funny ways. The rich-man-poor-man jokes have worn off, and now we’re just dealing with this quirky characters in this quirky town. How Catherine O’Hara’s Jazzagals’ scene didn’t earn her an Emmy nomination and win, I’ll never know.

4. Casual – Hulu

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(Photo: Hulu)

What I loved most about the second season of Casual was its exploration of adult friendships and how rare it is to form strong connections as you get older. Michaela Watkins is heartbreaking in the episode “Trivial Pursuit,” when she discovers she has no friends. This series really pushes interesting buttons, including Tara Lynn Barr’s storyline where she gets involved with someone who has leukemia and loses interest in him when she realizes he’s going to live.

3. Divorce – HBO

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(Photo: HBO)

No show surprised me more in 2016 than Divorce. How do you make a show out of a divorce? THIS is how. Everything from the inescapable wintry setting to the supporting players is pitch perfect. A lot of attention is on Thomas Haden Church, and rightfully so; Robert is so layered with sadness and comedy, getting most of the funniest lines. But Sarah Jessica Parker is just as vital to the show’s success. You need both actors for the show to work, and thankfully, the chemistry between the two is a match made in heaven.

2. American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ Simpson – FX

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(Photo: FX)

Ryan Murphy’s TV miniseries feels like the equivalent of flipping open a People magazine from 1994. But this particular magazine gives you a new perspective on an old case, especially in the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” episode which highlights the blatant sexism within the media and how it affected Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson). I watched the Pilot of the series at least three times, and it has one of the most chilling openings ever.

1. Search Party – TBS

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(Photo: TBS)

Don’t let the promos fool you: This isn’t a twee Hardy Boys mystery show with everything tied up in a bow at the end. After watching the devastating finale of Search Party, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. But it sat with me, helping me discover that this is really the only way you could end the season while staying true to the theme. If you want one of the most unpredictable endings of the year, you got it.

The Weakest Scene in the Gilmore Girls Revival Touches on Key Difference Between Lorelai & Rory

Like the original series as a whole, the Netflix Gilmore Girls revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, mostly succeeds in everything it does, like some sort of prep-school upstart.

The idea that Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Luke (Scott Patterson) never get married, but stay in a committed relationship following the series finale, feels like the next logical steps that relationship would take, especially considering all the drama the duo endured. Kirk (Sean Gunn) trying to capitalize on the success of Uber with his own ride-service business around Stars Hollow also feels like a natural, modern-day progression. Hell, even Michel (Yanic Truesdale) being in a same-sex marriage and dreading parenthood was a welcome and logical plot development (like many Stars Hollow residents, my bet was always on Taylor Doose as the first to come out!).

But the weakest scene in an otherwise entertaining and satisfying reboot comes in “Fall,” the final 90-minute installment. Rory (Alexis Bledel) discovers little messages leading her to believe something is coming (Petals the Pig runs by with a sign that says “Kick Up a Rumpus”). Who wants to kick it up with her? Why it’s The Life & Death Brigade, Logan Huntzberger’s group of buddies from Yale, who somehow travel all the way to Stars Hollow to cheer up an estranged classmate.

This scene rang surreal, almost like one of Lorelai’s weird Paul Anka-not-the-dog dreams. Gilmore Girls has never had a musical montage (this one is set to “With a Little Help From My Friends” from Across the Universe). How does the Life & Death gang know where everything is in Stars Hollow? How are they able to leave clues somewhere they’ve never been? Maybe GG creator Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to up the grandness a notch since it’s a 90-minute Netflix finale, but the logistics of this musical number didn’t quite work, even if the montage was beautiful. I’m just not quite up for the suspension of disbelief that these dudes wouldn’t have something better to do that day.

But even though this scene was unnecessarily grand, it also highlights a huge difference between Rory and Lorelai. For most of the series, these two have been compared to each other, and even in the final scene, we can all agree that history repeats itself in a way. But one thing Rory has been attracted to that Lorelai hasn’t is money, and this scene perfectly encapsulates that notion.

Again, how are Colin, Finn, and Robert able to leave their lives for a day to escape to small-town America? Because they are all affluent, throwing around money and even purchasing a bar on a whim by the end of the night. Rory, unlike her mother, has always been a sucker for wealth, like her grandmother and grandfather. It impresses her.

And in a way, the scene is filmed with the intent to impress audiences with its beauty and carefree whimsy, which is why it’s almost disturbing to watch. The Life & Death Brigade represents everything that Stars Hollow isn’t: Wealthy, cosmopolitan, and ill-intentioned. During Rory’s graduating speech in Season 3, she mentions living in two worlds: one of books and one of reality. For the second half of the series, the true clash became the world of wealth versus the one Lorelai helped raise Rory in. This reboot scene, a blemish in the Netflix revival, is actually a perfect demonstration of that.

I whole-heartedly enjoyed the Gilmore Girls revival and am interested to see if the series will continue in some capacity. Even though the final four words opened a door to the past, Rory is certainly not Lorelai, which could make for fresh storylines and struggle. And we’ll see if she’ll get a little help from her friends then.

Unlike what some critics are saying about Season 2 of Lifetime’s UnREAL TV series, I’ve been a champion for this sophomore season for a variety of reasons.

For one thing, it had the balls to do what no ABC dating show has ever done (cast an African American as the Bachelor). Second, it’s become a character study of Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) as much as it’s given audiences a glimpse at Everlasting‘s on-screen and behind-the-scenes drama. In fact, what’s depicted on UnREAL often feels more real than anything you’ll ever see on The Bachelor.

But during the most recent episode titled “Ambush,” the series takes a strange, twisted turn down a road that doesn’t necessarily feel natural.

*Stop Reading to Avoid Spoilers*

In the most recent episode, Rachel, ever the stirrer of the drama pot, calls the cops on Darius (B.J. Britt) and Romeo (Gentry White) after they take a car out for a spin with two of the women vying for Darius’s heart. After Rachel reports that the car is stolen, there is a showdown between the cops and Darius, and Romeo ends up getting shot.

If someone would have told me at the beginning of the season that Lifetime’s UnREAL was going to address police violence and Black Lives Matter, I probably would have said, “The same show where the chick took too many pills and jumped off the roof?” UnREAL doesn’t necessarily scream “ripped from the headlines,” and that’s actually a big reason why I watch it. I want drama, but nothing that’s too real (“UnREAL” implies that it’s, you know, not actually real). After all, scripted sudsy dramas like UnREAL are an escape from the tragedy you see on the news.

The cops pulling Darius over just doesn’t fit, as surely at least one of the cops would have recognized the football star. When he tries to tell them who he is, they act like they’ve never seen or heard of him. Meanwhile, the beginning of the season stressed the fact that Hill has been in the headlines for his indiscretions and for saying “Bitch, please” to a reporter. It’s not like he’s a faded athlete – he’s a hot topic. (Plus, one would think that the police and security would be aware that a reality show was filming in the area.)

Plus, thematically, how will the show within the show be able to recover from this? If Romeo dies (please say he doesn’t), Everlasting already has one murder on its record. Are the fictional producers really going to bring it back another season after someone else is killed? If UnREAL is going to aim to do “ripped from the headlines” stories, then it should face the “ripped from the headlines” reality of it. In real life, the show would surely be canceled. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids and Counting haven’t been back on the air since their public turmoil. Two murders on a reality show feels like something that isn’t greenlit for another season.

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter storyline on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was appropriate given that the series has never been a warm and fuzzy look at prison life (except for that lackluster third season). There’s a power structure on the show, and there always has been, between the guards and women, so there’s a deluge of stories to uncover whether it’s about being a woman of color in prison, a Muslim woman in prison—the cultural stories are endless. Here, political topics feel more logical.

But for UnREAL to pull a police-shooting storyline feels like a power play to be a more “legitimate” drama series when it simply doesn’t have to be. The second season development with Darius Hill is interesting enough and already made a bold statement about how white dating shows are. The shooting just feels fabricated and over-the-top, two words usually reserved to describe UnREAL‘s real-life muse.

Does a recent analysis of IMDb’s user ratings of women-centered shows extend to the Television Academy?

Earlier this week, stats-based website FiveThirtyEight published a piece that studied the way gender directly affects IMDb ratings of television shows that are, more or less, “skewed” in targeting one gender over the other. The piece proposes that the members of the opposite gender sabotage shows that are not “made” for them. In considering this analysis, I have to wonder whether or not the same bias extends to the Television Academy and the Emmy Awards.

Writer Walt Hickey found men’s influence on female-skewed shows to be overwhelmingly more present in television shows than women’s influence on male-skewed shows. At the heart of the piece, he highlights the the way the true value and merits of a television show aren’t being assessed properly or fairly if people purposely vote down a show that is simply not targeted at them. The problem becomes gendered because, according to his findings, men make up 70 percent of the voting base on IMDb, which disproportionately favors the judgment of people who have lived from the male perspective.

Television Academy

The example Hickey uses to justify his theory and to put his statistics into perspective is Sex and the City. The show’s overall score on IMDb is 7.0; when broken down, the average score by women for the HBO series was 8.1, whereas men rated it at 5.8, which is a huge disparity. He questions this fact considering Sex and the City’s laudable reputation in general, having won several Emmy awards (one for Outstanding Comedy Series) and a plethora of Golden Globe awards. Hickey makes a point to acknowledge that differing opinions exist and everyone is entitled to their particular view, but objectively, it’s probably not a stretch to say a show with the record of Sex and the City is not subpar.

This is not to suggest men who do not enjoy Sex and the City are misogynist, but their position of power over more disenfranchised voices allows for insidious, unconscious sexism to permeate through art forms.

When I read this piece, I found it to confirm observations and struggles I have battled as an IMDb user and as someone who is active participant among the film and television community. The reality of the situation is that products made for the (heterosexual, white) male audience dominate just about any medium and art form, and more times than not, it is members from that group of people who are allowed to vocalize their opinions and establish their interpretation of quality.

In a way, the quandary FiveThirtyEight describes mirrors the problem with the entertainment industry, and most institutions, at large: only some voices are heard about quality, and similar people given the power to make artistic decisions about what kinds of shows are produced in the first place. It’s a circular journey. Television shows (and movies for that matter) are created targeting men, and those shows go on to be well received by men who have the privilege of watching and loudly expressing their views.

For this FiveThirtyEight article to make sense, one has to accept, more or less, that there are “girl shows” and “boy shows” based on target audiences, which is a sentiment I personally dissent but understand is a cultural reality. But with that, shows aimed at men are often recognized as the industry standard. Shows aimed at women are forced to the sidelines as trivial and foolish. Men – in particular heterosexual, white men – are granted the privilege of having the power to express how they feel about artwork, even when it’s not made for them.

The territory FiveThirtyEight uncovered does not live in a vacuum. It lives and breathes in just about any forum of subjective discourse about television and media. Because they outnumber women specifically with voting on IMDb but in general areas of power, men have the power to dictate what’s “cool” and “not cool.” Even the hint of femininity and a non-heterosexual, white male perspective in film and television projects can tarnish a project’s status as shown with Sex and the City’s take on “modern women” and women’s agency over their sexuality.

Television Academy

The IMDb debacle can be applied to the politics of the Emmy races. Women-driven comedy series especially tend to do well. Sex and the City actually won the Emmy for Comedy Series, and Veep, the incumbent winner, has a woman protagonist. Yet, particularly in the Drama Series race, a woman lead is toxic to their chances of being voted into the club. Recent years of The Good WifeBates Motel, and The Affair all come to mind among others. That makes sense when considering the fact that men historically make up the majority of Television Academy voting blocks.

Shows that dominate the drama series race rarely feature “female-skewed” shows. Some have broken through such as Orange is the New Black which works in even deeper ways than just gender equality, but with intersecting sexuality and racial components contributing too its success too. Orange is the New Black, in its heart, has evolved to an ensemble show and has a particular advantage of being on Netflix, the industry’s cutting-edge method of watching media.

But don’t be deceived by shows that would seem to fit the bill for “female-skewed” shows breaking past the cool “boy shows.” Homeland, a series which has been riding a comfortable wave through the Outstanding Drama Series category over the years, shouldn’t be counted as a “female-skewed show,” since the female protagonist was coupled with a male, co-lead counterpart for the first three seasons and, despite Carrie being the main character, it’s still a story being told largely from a masculine perspective.

Shows like The Good Wife and Scandal that are not afraid of the fact that their sole lead characters are capable, complicated women are not even allowed to be in the conversation for awards like Outstanding Drama Series. We live in the days of male-centric shows dominating the big category at the Emmys. The worst example of this anti-female-protagonist shows at the Emmys was in 2014. After having its most critically acclaimed season ever, The Good Wife was trampled over in the Outstanding Drama Series category while the cooler, “male-skewed” shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and True Detective reaped the rewards.

Similar to that of the author in Hickey’s original FiveThirtyEight article, the point I’m trying to make is when “male-skewed” shows are raised to the highest standard more easily than their “female-skewed” equals (in quality), it’s difficult not to see how cultural privilege is working to advance some shows (“boy shows).  Conversely, other shows not manufactured for the (masculine, straight, white) audience are presented to look inferior. It’s a circular cycle of cultural oppression.

Television Academy

TV deaths at this point are a dime a dozen. Are producers enjoying toying with viewers?

This article is going to spoil some major TV deaths that have occurred recently. Consider yourself warned…

So Norma Bates is officially dead. It finally happened.

The thing I’ve been dreading ever single season one of Bates Motel has finally happened. No amount of Twitter campaigning to flip the script over the original material would alter the original intent of the producers. And I have to salute that, honestly. After some high profile returns, it’s almost a breath of fresh air to find someone who dies actually staying dead.

TV deaths are clearly not unusual. They’re handy for revitalizing a stale property or explaining away the absence of a TV star who elevates to bigger and more financially rewarding things or for getting rid of troublesome actors the production couldn’t really afford anyway. And then there are the “TV deaths.” Those deaths that happen as a season cliffhanger that weren’t ever really deaths to begin with.

Personally, I tend to go back to the 80s soaps to classify all sorts of TV deaths. First, there’s the cliffhanger fake or the “Who shot J.R.?” Larry Hagman never intended to leave Dallas, but his shooting jumpstarted a well-performing series into the pop culture stratosphere. That leads us to the second type of TV death: the “Bobby Ewing in the shower” death. This rarity is an admittance on the part of the actor that he/she made a HUGE mistake in leaving a hot role on a medium-hot series for a film career that never materialized. This can also be referred to as the “Pamela Sue Martin gets abducted by a UFO” exit, except Dynasty never brought her back. They recast. Checkmate, bitch. Then, third, there’s the death is death is death, and you ain’t coming back. This is used to thin out an overwhelming cast. See the “Moldavia Massacre” from Dynasty.

There are undoubtedly other examples, but that’s fine. You get yours where you will. I’ll stick with my 80s soaps.

So that leads us to where we are today, and four major character TV deaths that have bubbled up in pop culture over the past year.

The most frustrating and frustratingly awful example of a TV death is that of Glenn (Steven Yeun) on The Walking Dead. Naturally, The Walking Dead isn’t a show afraid to kill off its cast members. Once you start a show with a cop, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), shooting a little girl zombie in the face and then later feature his wife effectively butchered by her own son after she dies during childbirth… Well, all beats are totally off. That said, the tease of “Is he or isn’t he?” dead became incredibly exhausting over the span of a few months. The producers painted Glenn into a corner upon which he could not reasonably escape, but then he did. By shuttling himself under a dumpster. There was no reason to bring that character back. Maybe one, but that’s even more perverse for fans of the comic. This TV death was pointless and insulting. Dead is dead.

Similarly, as much as I love Game of Thrones, “killing” Jon Snow was nothing but a publicity play. It’s not particularly the death in this case that bothers me because I deep-down never really believed he would die. I mean, what else is Melissandre the Red Priestess for anyway? But it’s the ridiculous behind the scenes insisting of the cast and crew that Jon Snow was dead. Well, yeah, technically he died and was later revived, but any casual viewer of the series knew he wouldn’t die. His story wasn’t finished. We still need to find out who his real parents were. Game of Thrones isn’t afraid to thin out the cast (particularly if your last name is Stark or if you’re a direwolf), but this middling commitment to character death is weak and laughable. That said, welcome back Jon Snow. When you reconnected with Sansa Stark, I got goosebumps. Carry on.

Now, onto the deaths with real meat. First, Sleepy Hollow apparently killed off one of its stars Nicole Beharie (Abbie) a few weeks ago. She’s not scheduled to return for a fourth season, so she may indeed be dead. Why did she have to die? I don’t really know, and I don’t really care. I don’t watch the show. But while I do applaud their commitment to shocking the viewers with an unexpected death, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag. Did they really have to kill off an empowered minority female character? Why not the white guy? You can’t tell me they can’t dig up some other historic corpse to return from the dead? Why does it have to be the black girl? This is a mixed bag, in my opinion, but if they somehow magically bring her back in season four, then… Well, I don’t watch it, so no skin off my back. They’ll lose my respect, how about that? OK, they never had it. Dammit.

Finally, the deepest cut of all, Bates Motel killed off its star Vera Farmiga by following the prescription of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Norman Bates didn’t stab or strangle his mother. Instead, he peacefully gassed her, giving her the most graceful death possible. That is, until he dug up her corpse, kissed it repeatedly, and glued her eyes open. It’s a macabre turn even for that show. And it was brilliant. Sure, I’m personally devastated that Vera Farmiga’s Norma is dead. Her arc was straight up classic tragedy, and I may never recover from her death (never recover being until The Conjuring 2 when I can again gaze at her perfect face and not-glued eyes). But I applaud producers Kerry Ehrin, Carlton Cuse, and Vera Farmiga for committing to Norma’s death.

I mean, I TRIED to get them to flip the script, but whatever. I “love” it still even if it breaks my heart. I have to praise the ladies (and gents) with the balls to truly commit to such an impactful character’s death.

Now, did you really have to glue Norma’s eyes like that???

That’s the stuff of nightmares.

AwardsDaily TV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race aficionados debate who will win the Drag Race crown

The eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race comes to a close on Monday night, and the final three is arguably the most worthy trio the reality show has ever seen. There have been some rocky moments (that horrible Madonna-inspired runway that led to kimono-gate), but there shouldn’t be too many complaints as to who is up for the crown this season.

The final three queens represent three backgrounds and facets of drag performing, and RuPaul is going to have her work cut out for her this season. Megan, Jalal, and Joey make the case for comedian Bob the Drag Queen, artist Kim Chi, and model-in-the-making, Naomi Smalls. Who makes the best cast?


Bob deserves to be America’s Next Drag Superstar because she knows how to play the game. She branded herself with a signature catchphrase on day one (“Purse First!”) She is by far the most confident queen with the strongest sense of self-awareness in the competition without being arrogant. She excelled where it counted by winning the most challenges (the Empire acting challenge, Snatch Game, and Shady Politics) and showing class and stage presence under pressure when she had to lip sync for her life. When the rest of the competition took the easy route during the Madonna challenge by wearing a kimono Bob dressed in her infamous Boy Scout uniform. I fell in love with Bob a year ago when I ran across some of her videos on Youtube. In her lip sync performances she references Nene Leaks, Crazy Eyes, Celine Dion, Viola Davis, and even Brian De Palma’s 1973 film Sisters.

Once the show began I fell in love with her passion for performing and that she just seemed so grateful to be a part of her favorite show. Her strong personality made her come across as brass, but she is also humble. She is the perfect spokesperson for the LGBT community, having protested in drag on a weekly basis in Time Square until gay marriage was legal in all 50 states (even being arrested at one point). No other queen in the competition exhibits C.U.N.T. like Bob (remember her premiere look?). While the other two contenders are still developing as performers, I think Bob knows exactly what she would do with the title and would represent Ru, New York City, and World of Wonder proudly. #IMWITHBOB –Jalal


No one is as surprised by Naomi Smalls’ presence in the top three than me, and I mean that in the best way. Like most people, I had written off Naomi Smalls as a “glamour queen.” With her focus on fashion and posing prowess, Naomi might be the most model ready contestant that Drag Race has ever seen. She has consistently kept up with the pack right until the end, and she’s even won us over with her relationship with her mother.

Naomi made quite the impression with her first photograph. RuPaul never declared a winner of that mini challenge, but she had the most striking picture. She’s been able to keep up with the acting challenges (like in the Empire inspired skit), and she admits that she stumbled with this season’s maligned Snatch Game/Madonna runway challenge. That lip synch obviously shook her to the core, because she broke out of the middling middle to deliver some serious model realness on the runway after falling into the bottom two (That Wizard of Oz look? Book club couture? Yes, please!) It sometimes takes real balls to acknowledge your own mistakes. Naomi is easily the most confident on the runway this season, and it’s incredible watching her strut her stuff every week. Naomi exudes sex appeal.

Like Bob the Drag Queen, Naomi understands how important it is to learn from LGBT history. She is not just a pretty face. Naomi has a thirst for knowledge and pop culture that doesn’t twinkle in older contestants’ eyes. She wants to become better and become a well-rounded queen and performer. Can I point out that she’s only 21 years old? It also doesn’t hurt that she’s young and not a total jerk. She’e sweet and charming. Anyone who has that much ambition and determination is someone that Ru would consider a rightful heir to the RuPaul’s Drag Race throne. –Joey


Kim Chi has a familiar narrative of past RuPaul’s Drag Race winners like Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles. She’s a misunderstood outsider (she hasn’t even come out to her family yet) who has a unique look (her paper outfit was runway-worthy). But she’s quieter than Monsoon and Needles. She’s a rarity on RuPaul’s Drag Race in that she rarely, if ever, has thrown actual shade.

She’s young and still coming into her own, but she’s made so many (literal!) strides this season. If you look at her runway walk from the beginning of the season to the end, she’s a completely different queen, more confident and capable. Ru loves to reward an underdog, and Kim Chi truly fits that story for this season. –Megan

Megan doesn’t like The Catch, but she can’t look away.

On paper, ABC’s The Catch has all of the elements of a great show.

One, it’s produced by Shonda Rhimes. Two, its plot has so much potential for sexy fun with a luminous private investigator (Mireille Enos, The Killing) tailing the fiance (Peter Krause, Six Feet Under) who stole millions from her.  And three, it’s created by Kate Atkinson whose book Life After Life left Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn dumbfounded, “There aren’t enough breathless adjectives to describe LIFE AFTER LIFE: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound.”

But easier said than done.

The Catch may be nestled in the Thank God It’s Thursday lineup, but it could just as easily be on a Tuesday. Or maybe even *gulp* a Friday.

What could be a post-feminism show about a woman getting revenge on the man that did her wrong ends up being about a mopey Mrs. Magoo-esque P.I. who’s frankly just not very good at her job. From the very first episode, we learn that Alice Vaughn (Enos) just got engaged to “Christopher” (Krause), and that she’s on the trail of the never-seen Mr. X (who also just happens to be “Christopher”). Mr. X is milling about a Los Angeles plaza, right in the open, but Alice never sees him. He even walks by her in a baseball cap and sunglasses (master of disguise).

A more accurate title for this show would be “The Catfish” because that appears to be EXACTLY what “Christopher” is doing to Alice. Yeah, you feel bad for her for about 15 minutes in “The Pilot,” until you learn that she’s kind of an idiot. Instead of paying attention to important Mr. X news at work, she gets caught in a daydream before exclaiming, “Christopher asked me to elope!” Women, huh? They don’t think about anything but men!

And Christopher’s marriage “proposal” isn’t actually a proposal. It’s the kind of exchange you’d cringe at if one of your girlfriends told you about it over drinks (“Alice, you in danger, girl“).



You ever want to get married?


Yeah. In theory. I guess I just never met the right guy.


I’ll try not to take that personally.


I wasn’t talking about you.


So if I were the right guy, you would marry me?




You wouldn’t?


No, that’s not what I’m saying. What about you?


What about me?


Would you?


Would I what?


Marry me?


Did you just ask me to marry you?


I guess. I’m sorry.


That’s all right. I just want to think about it.


After this flashback to the proposal, Alice exclaims to her colleagues, “I proposed to myself!” Yeah, duh! And over frozen yogurt in the park just like you always imagined it. And even worse, this bitch is so enamored with herself that she failed to see that in all the photos of her and Christopher, he’s CLEARLY covering up his face. So when she goes to track him, she doesn’t have a face to go on!

After Christopher goes missing with her millions in the pilot, the rest of the episode tries to explain why she’s still smart even though she was duped… like it could happen to anyone.

And yet, with virtually no training, just intuition, I feel like I am a better private investigator than her.

In the third episode titled “The Trial,” the crew has to go undercover at a lab in order to figure out why a particular drug trial is producing adverse side effects on multiple sclerosis patients. Just as Alice is about to be administered the drug, at the last second, she pulls out the IV, grabs it, and takes it to be tested. But then, as she’s leaving, the doctor says, “Don’t forget to take your orange juice.” While watching it, I thought, “Don’t do it. That’s probably how patients are receiving these side effects.” Whatdoyouknow, yes! Alice drinks it and starts experiencing blindness and loss of hand-eye coordination.

Also in this episode, in a flashback, Alice mistakes cute couple conversation for yet another marriage proposal.



How long have those two been married?


Almost ten years.


If that’s what ten years of marriage looks like, I’ll take it.


I’m sorry. Did you just agree to marry me?


I think I did.


Hmmm. No, he technically didn’t. He was just commenting that he hoped he looked that good after 10 years of marriage. You were never mentioned.

Alice reads into everything except real concrete details. Like don’t consume ANYTHING at a dangerous drug trial and then get in a car and go after your ex at a bar. This will only result in embarrassment (and it does).

So. . .why am I still watching this show?

Well, there’s something to be said about schadenfreude. Given that the premise of the show is that Alice is trying to catch her ex, you know she’s not going to do it any time soon. Otherwise, the show would not exist. It’s fun watching her fail and miss him, again and again, and even more so, the flashbacks that give all of the hints that he’s probably a skeez (you mean to tell me the ever-astute P.I. never flipped through her photos of him and wondered why HIS FACE WAS NEVER LOOKING AT THE CAMERA?).

I guess I watch because if I were Alice’s friend, we would have solved this issue months ago.



Do you ever notice how he always turns your conversations around?


Hmmm. How so?


Well, you keep proposing to him. He never proposes to you.


Whoah. I’ve been a private investigator for decades but never noticed that. You may be on to something.


Also, in all of your Facebook pics, he’s never looking at the camera.


No shit. What do you make of that?


Probably has a wife and kids he doesn’t want you to know about.


Did you also ever notice that he dresses like a ventriloquist without a dummy?

OK. So maybe I’m wrong with my wife-and-kids hypothesis, but I would have saved her MILLIONS of dollars.

What do you think of The Catch? Are you syncing with Megan’s thoughts? Are you hate-watching too? Sound off in the comments below!

Does Netflix really top the cable giant HBO in TV programming content? Clarence thinks not.

Within a week of this posting, someone will call me an elitist snob. I guarantee. And that’s fine, but you’ll never make me believe that Netflix holds superior TV programming over HBO.

As posted in today’s Variety, a Morgan Stanley polled just over 2,500 Americans on the subject of which premium TV or Internet streaming service had the best original content. For the first time since the origination of the survey six years ago, Netflix led the pack and beat perennial champ HBO 29 percent to 18 percent. 34 percent of the respondents answered with “I don’t know.”

This shift is more damaging to HBO than rewarding to Netflix, ultimately. HBO’s 13-point drop in the poll (down from 31% a year ago) comes at a time when HBO’s original content lineup has been plagued with setback after setback. It’s new Martin Scorsese-produced Vinyl disappointed in its premiere and has already seen showrunner Terence Winter leave the series. Then, there’s the problem of Westworld, a reportedly very experience sci-fi series which recently stopped production due to unresolved script concerns. No premiere date has been established for the Anthony Hopkins starrer.

Effectively, the cable giant has been unable to reliably replicate its highly successful programming block of Emmy winners Game of Thrones and Veep as well as critic darling Silicon Valley.

Netflix, on the other hand, may have yet to fully hit a home run with Emmy-winning comedy or drama series, but they’ve hit a hell of a lot of solid doubles. The uptick in popular opinion does come at a great time for the streaming service as it recently announced its first subscription price increase in years.

But looking head to head at HBO and Netflix’s programming, I find it very hard to crown Netflix the champion over HBO. No Netflix drama can even try touching the epic scale, dramatic thrills, and emotional depth of Game of Thrones. Sure, I like the Marvel block of Daredevil and Jessica Jones as much as the next guy. House of Cards has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, but Orange is the New Black is already wearing out its welcome after a mixed third season. The closest thing stylistically to Game of Thrones has to be Marco Polo, but there’s no comparison – Thrones wins that game hands down. And while everybody (rightly) hated True Detective season two, let’s not forget how much you all wet yourselves over season one.

On the comedy side, Netflix runs a little more competitive thanks to everybody’s favorite Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. HBO rules the Emmy house with Veep, but Veep isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Sure, Emmy drinks it in heavily, but the “average Joe” (here come the emails) doesn’t gravitate to the series’ more European mixture of the absurd and the cerebral. I would also posit that Silicon Valley and Girls (currently in a shockingly great renaissance) are also better than anything Netflix has to offer outside of Kimmy Schmidt, which I do love too. HBO’s comedy duds include Ballers and the cancelled Togetherness and The Brink.

Netflix, though, just throws anything against the wall to see what sticks. Kimmy Schmidt only landed there because NBC is literally the worst network running right now. But Grace and FrankieLoveFuller HouseFlaked, and The Ranch are all at best very mediocre and at worst outright duds. Only Master of None has that “HBO quality” to it, thanks to the wit and perspective of star Aziz Ansari.

Bottom line: I would place HBO far above Netflix simply because it mostly swings for the fences every time its at bat. It may not always hit Game of Thrones-level TV programming, but you have to appreciate the bold vision for its programming. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Netflix series. There’s a lot of solid programming on the streaming content provider, but they’ve yet to prove to me that they’re capable of producing the Really Great Television that HBO has time and time again.

Netflix lives on a steady diet of fast food TV programming, and America really prefers its McDonald’s.

What’s really going on right now is Game of Thrones isn’t in season, so it’s not as buzzy right now despite the whole “Is Jon Snow Dead?” campaign. Nothing else on the schedule really appeals to a broad audience, which we did discuss during the last Emmy season. HBO is serving up a feast of niche programming. Niche programming doesn’t appeal to the “Average Joe.”

However, its upcoming slate is likely to engender a great deal of popular good will. Shows like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (starring Amy Adams), The Night Of (the buzzy drama starring John Turturro), and Big Little Lies (featuring a bevy of fantastic actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern).

So, no, I don’t think Netflix is better than HBO. You can have your McDonald’s programming.

I’ll take my HBO-branded filet mignon any day.

What is your take on HBO versus Netflix TV programming? Sound off in the comments section below.

FX’s landmark miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson more than sticks the landing

I wanted to write something about The People v. O.J. Simpson‘s brilliant finale and fantastic overall series run last night. I chose to wait, though, for a few reasons. First, even though it was fresh on my mind, Simpson finished late on the east coast. And I ain’t no spring chicken. But, more importantly, I wanted to sit with the series. I wanted to soak it in a bit more before putting thoughts to paper. Ironically, it’s a valuable lesson I learned in college thanks to Mr. Simpson.

On the afternoon of October 3, 1995, I and a lot of other Americans were glued to their televisions, waiting to hear the verdict for which we’d waited 10 months. Even then as now, I was convinced of Mr. Simpson’s guilt. It just seemed so completely clear to me. After all the testimony and DNA evidence and ample justification, I felt a guilty verdict was the only possible outcome. How naive I was.

The jury handed down its infamous “Not Guilty” decision. I was incensed. And it wasn’t an anger that passed quickly like so many emotions you have in your early 20s. It was a seething anger, perhaps even rage. Unfortunately for me, I worked for the North Carolina State University student newspaper Technician at the time, and I used my platform to write a vitriolic essay about the verdict. As I remember it, it wasn’t without merit. I justly brought up several valid points about how the jury ignored the strength of DNA evidence and the dangers of spousal abuse (having once interviewed Denise Brown). But as I also remember it, it was the writing of an immature, petulant child. I’d committed the cardinal sin of op-ed writing. I’d written with an angry pen. A few people (rightly) called me on it. I fielded an angry phone call or six. I deserved it. Thankfully, that was pre-internet days. It exists only in archives somewhere. Don’t go digging it up.

Greater than 20 years later, The People v. O.J. Simpson brilliantly taught me something about the trial. I think it’s the fortunate result of an older, calmer mind combined with the perspective only time can bring. As director Ryan Murphy and his enormously talented stable of writers seemed to be conveying, the verdict was unfortunately not really about the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson or Ronald Lyle Goldman. The trial had been co-opted for bigger scale issues.

Thanks to the defense team and the strategy of lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran (vividly rendered by Courtney B. Vance), the theme of the trial evolved into one of race relations. Of racism. Of the LAPD and of Mark Fuhrman. Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (the amazing Sarah Paulson) tried her best to bring it back to the victims. The jury wasn’t having it.

The People v. O.J. Simpson makes a lot of important statements about our culture. None is more devastating than the terror and brutality waged against Los Angeles-area African Americans by members of the L.A.P.D. Now, do I think all L.A.P.D. officers are racist and evil? Absolutely not. Were (are) some? Absolutely. In the end, Murphy and team seemed to tell viewers that, in my opinion, the verdict really wasn’t about saving O.J. Simpson. It was about fighting back against police brutality. It was about taking a stance against the predominantly white authoritarian figures. In the finale “The Verdict,” African American jurors clearly bonded through their 10-month sequester, and they shared a cultural experience by voting O.J. Simpson not guilty. By effectively sticking it to the man in a cataclysmic way.

How do I know that’s what Murphy wants to say? The miniseries ends with O.J. Simpson standing alone at a party populated with white and black hangers-on. He’s standing in the shadow of the enormous statue in his backyard. Standing in the shadow of former greatness. Alone. Even Robert Kardashian ran away from The Juice as fast as he could.

No, the verdict wasn’t about setting O.J. Simpson free in American Crime Story. It was a bigger “Fight the Power” message shouted to the roofs in an L.A. County courthouse by at least 10 jury members. It was a complete refutation of the authority and stature of the L.A.P.D. It was a battle cry against those who’d mercilessly beaten them without repercussion, and it continues today. It was an early birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, perhaps. It was a bigger picture that my 20-year-old self could possibly have grasped or understood then. This message is deeper and more resonant today.

Thanks to Ryan Murphy for bringing that clarity and perspective in The People v. O.J. Simpson. We’ve already discussed it’s Emmy potential, and little has changed to shift our thinking. Provided HBO’s All the Way doesn’t dominate, Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics Choice awards will rain down on Murphy and his enormously talented cast. Who were my favorites? Paulson, Vance, and Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden all have my votes in their categories.

When I saw the first episode, I considered it Ryan Murphy’s finest direction to date. That opinion has not changed. The People v. O.J. Simpson is his finest work to date. Bravo.

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