tv

How to Get Away with Murder Recap: He Has A Wife

Hey, I wrote this—again!

The Stake

how-to-get-away-with-murder-he-has-a-wife

by Miles Behn

Last night’s episode of How to Get Away with Murder was three parts disaster, two parts forced drama, and five parts snooze fest. Literally, the case of the week was a woman who murdered her kids’ nanny while sleepwalking.

Welcome to unfettered Shonda Rhimes, where the science only sort of matters. What’s next? An extra chromosome means you’re a vampire? Is that you, Stephanie Meyer?

Last week we left our heroes in the heat of sweeps drama. Wes and Rebecca fleshed out their young adult novel romance (heightened stakes, long stares, sex that just seems to mean bonded-for-eternity), Frank and Laurel also made poor decisions on the porch (I mean, really guys, splinters?), and we found out that Mr. Darcy is pretty against birth control. Also on the docket: Michaela’s served a pre-nup from her fiancée’s family, and Rebecca is in cahoots with Annalise’s scorned ex-lover.

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How to Get Away with Murder Recap: He Deserved to Die

Do you watch How to Get Away with Murder? Because I do, and I wrote this article, and you should read it. Just saying.

The Stake

KATIE FINDLAY

by Miles Behn

There are few things I love more than the first season of a Shonda Rhimes TV show. I jumped right on board with Grey’s Anatomy in high school, crowding around the TV with my sisters, shouting and crying at the cliffhangers, medical drama, and sordid love affairs. A few years ago I fell into the black hole of Scandal, surprised and moved by Rhimes’ remarkable cast of strong women, and well-rounded statements about gender politics (I may or may not have cried during Olivia’s “earn me” speech).

Suffice it to say, I have my tent stakes firmly planted in Camp Rhimes. When I heard Rhimes was creating another show for ABC, this one starring the incredible Viola Davis, and appropriately named How to Get Away with Murder, I knew I had to watch it. It’s wonderful to watch Rhimes’ characters in their first…

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2014 Fall TV Round-Up: Pt 1

If you haven’t caught on yet, I watch a lot of TV. I’ll give just about any show a chance if enough people are talking about it, or if the fandom is crazy/adorable. But it’s more than just critical acclaim and good fans—I want shows that are smart, witty and well-scripted, shot and acted. I want shows that are original and culturally aware. They don’t all have everything, but if I’m ditching one thing (like acting), it better be worth it for something else (cultural commentary)—ie, Teen Wolf*. I like shows that push the envelope and encourage its viewers to do more than just zone. If a show is making me think, I’m on board.

Here’s my scale:

1 – Miserable, don’t even think about it/talk about it. Don’t feed the ratings in any way. (Two and a Half Men)

2 – Meh, I won’t watch it again, but I can see its appeal. (Once Upon a Time)

3 – Maybe? I’ll give it a few more episodes. (Agents of SHIELD, pre-giant plot twist)

4 – Memorable, I might not tell everyone to watch it, but I’ll keep watching. (Teen Wolf)

5 – Magnificent! Everyone should watch this show. I won’t stop talking about it until you do! (Hannibal)

Here’s my Fall TV Round-Up so far:

Meh.

1. Gotham

Fox, Mondays 8/7c

I really wanted to like this show. It has so much going for it. In the wake of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Gotham attempts to dive into the seedy side of the Batman universe. But ultimately, the script isn’t strong enough to carry the weight of the plot and world. Lines like “if you let this hair go frizzy, you’ll be sorry,” and “one of my staff has been stealing money from me so we’re beating his punk ass” build a villain (Fish Mooney) who is forced and unbelievable. The sets are quite stunning, but characters walking on them are flat and one-dimensional. So far, I’m not rooting for anybody, certainly not Gordon, who I am supposed to like on morals alone.

Episodes I’ll Give It: 2-3

Rating: 2.5

Culture: There is one moment where you wonder if a female character has had a girlfriend in the past, and it could play out to be a successful bisexual character on TV. Or it could just be ridiculous fodder for romantic drama later. It also deals with the issue of a corrupt police force, but I highly doubt it will do anything important with that platform.

Should You Watch It: People are going to be talking about this show, so it will come up around the water cooler. It’s worth watching the first episode, to see if you can stomach it.

Prediction: The show will be quite popular, and hopefully grow into itself. Definitely picked up for another season, but unless a new batch of writers are hired, will peter out in its second arc.

Glee in a hospital.

2. Red Band Society

Fox, Wednesdays 9/8c

I’m on the fence about this show. It’s sort of like if The Fault in Our Stars had a baby with Glee. Teen drama in a hospital. Cancer kids. Eating disorders. Sexual tension abounds! The problem with heartstring shows like this is they often overdose you with emotional baiting. At any moment, the writers can decide to wake up the boy in the coma, or send someone in for emergency surgery to bump ratings. I don’t know if I trust this show to create memorable characters that I care about, and not just drama and tears. So far, everyone is either way too likable or way too unlikable. I expect the show to flesh out a bit more, but with the suspense of “cancer” always waiting in the wings, I worry no one will feel real for long.

Episodes I’ll Give It: 5-6

Rating: 3

Culture: Recreational drug use and underaged drinking, but these kids have cancer, so it’s excusable? Possible lesbian character development. May explore issues of race, but not a high POC line-up.

Should You Watch It: Again, this is a water cooler show. While I’m wary of the plot devices, I think most people will enjoy the drama.

Prediction: This is the new Grey’s Anatomy. It will run for too many seasons, and by the end, have an entirely new cast who can’t support the original intent of the show.

Shonda Rhimes is a powerhouse.

3. How to Get Away with Murder

ABC, Thursdays 10/9c

I have to admit, I’m already predisposed to love Shonda Rhimes. I think she creates brilliant characters and solid tension. Her female heroines are unapologetic, complex women, who are real people with real faults. I guessed going into the episode, that I would likely enjoy How to Get Away with Murder. I’m definitely intrigued by the set up. As of the first episode, the plot seems to be pushing a bit harder than it ought to (like an extra character), but I think it will settle out soon. I’m slightly worried that the high tension of the pilot might force the show to juggle too many dramatic devices (law school, murder, adultery), but again I’m trusting this was just to pull viewers in. Already, I love the characters (with Viola Davis and Aja Naomi King bringing brilliant performances), and I’m enjoying the moral conflict.

Episodes I’ll Give It: full season

Rating: 4.5

Culture: I expect we’ll discuss race in the show a few times, so I’m intrigued by that platform. There is also a gay character, and it comes out of nowhere. It’s well played. Hell yes, screw your heteronormativity!

Should You Watch It: Yes! It’s got believable characters, strong women, and witty law school banter! Plus, I expect copious amounts of sexual tension will arrive soon.

Prediction: The show will get picked up for a second season, but might struggle to find a third. I’ll stop watching around the end of season two, middle of three if it stays on air. I love Shonda Rhimes, but even I have to admit that her shows can sometimes cave in on themselves quickly (I’m looking at you Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal).

Close, but no.

4. Scorpion

CBS, Mondays 9/8c

This is clearly CBS’s star player this season. The pilot is packed—driving a Ferrari at 200 mph, hacking the LA traffic grid to get to an airport, LAX software meltdown, threatening the lives of 54 planeloads of people. Unfortunately, it’s too much. The premise of the show is cool enough. Four highly intelligent people (marketed as “nerds save the world” EYE ROLL) are drafted by the United States government to solve highly complex problems. The characters are great, and the show is almost nothing but tension (I bit my fingernails through the entire pilot). But I expect it won’t be able to hold up to a full season. The one normal person on the show (Paige, a waitress) is a bit too damsel in distress-y, and is given the job of “translator” for these gifted people. Meh.

Episodes I’ll Give It: Maybe a second, but probably not.

Rating: 2

Culture: Prevalence of POC as main characters, which is pretty awesome. Female mechanic is witty and rugged, but that could backfire quickly. Might deal with social stigmas associated with high intelligence, but I doubt in a meaningful way.

Should You Watch It: I expect the show will end up feeling like a procedural, so if you’re into that, it might be for you. Don’t get too attached though, I don’t think it will get a second season.

Prediction: Will develop a small but mighty fanbase, but will unfortunately not get picked up for a second season.

What are you watching? Tell me your favorite new shows in the comments!

*I have to admit, for all the raving I’ve done about Teen Wolf’s cultural commentary, it has fallen off the wagon a bit recently. I suppose nothing gold can stay.

Your Next Binge Watch: Teen Wolf

It has a beautifully campy premise: not-so-popular lacrosse player (Tyler Posey) and bumbling best friend (Dylan O’Brien) wander into the forest at night. Not-so-popular boy gets bitten by some strange animal (THERE HAVEN’T BEEN WOLVES IN CALIFORNIA IN 30 YEARS, SCOTT), and slowly discovers he’s turning into a werewolf—terrible sideburns and all.

As a loose remake of the 1980s movie of the same name, Teen Wolf greatly surpasses the original (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t seen), except, perhaps in the make-up department.

Is there a word to describe something well past mutton chops?

The first season is corny and hard to watch at times (some of the acting is far lower than subpar), but an appreciation of Dylan O’Brien (the bumbling best friend, Stiles), the on-point plot pacing, and the copious amounts of teen drama make it worth the watch.

In the vein of Gossip Girl, Teen Wolf is fleshed out with a painfully beautiful cast–many of them insistent on taking off their shirts more than once an episode. (Just to give you a hint as to how often, when you google image search Derek Hale—one of the characters—the first google autocomplete is “Derek Hale shirtless.”)

See what I mean?

Thankfully the beautiful cast can hold their own(ish–I really can’t handle Tyler Posey’s acting), and the smart writing keeps them pretty well afloat. Unlike a lot of other shows on TV right now, Teen Wolf is insistent on challenging many pre-conceived notions and stereotypes, attempting to build real people. The most popular girl in school and rich bitch (a main character) is also the smartest. The captain of the lacrosse team (also a main character) is both a jackass and best friends with the resident gay character, who is never once made less for his sexuality. An entire family of werewolf hunters have been built on a matriarchal system, and gender is never considered a detriment to one’s abilities. On top of that, sexual orientation is rarely dismissed as comical, every character is confident in his or her own and how it relates to others. Teen Wolf is wickedly smart—it recognizes that on an MTV platform it has the power to direct the conversation of teens, and it uses it (for the most part) well.

As for plot, the show can hold tension, knowing when to give out information, and when to leave the audience guessing. Plot arcs feel real and well-paced, and the teen drama makes way for infinite subplots that are somehow both indulgent and interesting. Like many shows about the supernatural emotions are heightened to an insane degree, but thankfully Teen Wolf knows how to balance chaos and loss with humor and truth. Perhaps too often they skate quickly by loss (people don’t die AS often as a Whedon show, but they die pretty often), but many shows suffer a similar fate.

The world Davis has created feels real enough, and like a Whedon show, it’s hard to tell where actual mythology and show mythology separate. The lore is well-researched and well-used. On more than one occasion it’s used as dues ex machina, but for the most part it’s smart and plays well into the plot.

Finally, since we are talking about an MTV show, Teen Wolf has a stellar track list. Each episode is set to a spectacular soundtrack filled with new songs from up-and-coming artists in a vast range of genres. The placement is great, usually laid to invoke emotion, but not cheaply. It is a powerhouse of upbeat, pump-up music and thoughtful, sad, teen drama sap. It’s one of the show’s greatest strengths, and I’ve found more than one of my new favorite artists from them (BANKS. I LOVE YOU BANKS).

Teen Wolf certainly isn’t perfect. The characters are often too clever and too lucky, and some plots can quickly resolve without much tension. But at it’s fourth season, Teen Wolf has been able to hold some great tension all the way from the first episode. It’s well-written and quite funny. It teaches you to love the characters, to root for them when the going gets tough, to rejoice with them when they defeat the big bad. Should it win an Emmy? Probably not. But is it fun to watch several episodes in a row? AwwoOOOOOooooOOOOOoooo!

Teen Wolf seasons 1-3 are streaming for free with Amazon Prime. Current episodes (airing now on MTV, Monday nights at 10/9 c) can be watched on Hulu+ or MTV.com (released on a delayed weekly basis).

Your Next Binge Watch: Supernatural

I watch a lot of TV. I mean, a lot. I used to find shame in finishing a season of an American television drama in under a week, but now… it’s just part of who I am. Stop ending episodes on cliffhangers if you want me to have a normal life (I’m looking at you True Blood). If only it were the 90s again and television wasn’t as great as it is now.

There are a lot of good TV shows out there. Let me help you sort out the madness. Let me tell you about the wonders of Supernatural.

Supernatural follows the lives of two “hunter” brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they eradicate the world of ghosts, poltergeists, demons, witches–anything supernatural is game in this show (and let me reinforce–ANYTHING). After the mysterious disappearance of their father (also a hunter–FAMILY BUSINESS), the boys team up after years of estrangement to find him.

Like any good character-driven show (ahem, Buffy), the first season of Supernatural is campy and can quickly turn you off. If you’ve ever tried to get a friend to watch the reboot of Doctor Who, you’ve most certainly uttered the phrase “just get through the first season, I PROMISE it gets better.” (No hate to Christopher Eccleston–I love the first series, but I could only appreciate it after having watched the whole show.) I will now say those words to you: just get through the first season of Supernatural. It really does get better.

Initially, I think the show expected to be something else. The premise sets up a like a TV version of a horror movie–dark, filtered, tight shots, creepy sound effects, tense music. It goes for scare tactics, attempting to push the plot forward with action, rather than character growth.

Thankfully, in casting Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, the writers opened themselves up to follow Sam and Dean rather than some Big Bad.

In season two they get smart–they let the boys run the show, or at least, they let their characters run the show. By season four, they’ve completely taken the plot into their own hands–decisions feel real, plot follows character movements, directly related to the growth of Sam and Dean. Their relationship is the one thing that keeps this show running. Even nine seasons later, they still feel like real people.

Supernatural also finds its groove in the tension. Unlike some long-running shows (Gossip Girl, HIMYM, even Lost), Supernatural maintains character and plot tension enough that I don’t feel like I’m being led into false emotional traps. They’ll let sexual tension, familial tension, even overall plot tensions cool for three or four episode arcs before they pick them up again. The writers know how to drive the plot forward, without dragging the characters along behind. They know how to hold your attention so acutely that you’re screaming at the television, and then the next episode they’ll pick up something else entirely to let you cool off.

Finally, perhaps the best part of Supernatural is the fandom. (A quick google image search for “Supernatural Fandom” will give you a good idea.) Good fandoms grow from good shows, and Supernatural fans owe a lot to the cast. Padalecki and Ackles (and now Misha Collins) have signed on through season 10–and Padalecki talks all the way to season 19. They love their characters as much as we do. The writers have broken the fourth wall enough that nobody takes themselves seriously anymore (season 6, episode 15 had me in stitches), and, at this point, Supernatural is smart enough to know when to be ridiculous and when to be serious. It shines when it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Like any TV show, there are pitfalls to Supernatural. But that’s why it’s a great binge watch. Season 6 and 7 are considered some of the worst in the show, but a lot of shining episodes keep you going. If you were watching it live (on a weekly basis), you may have bailed in the middle. If you hit one or two bad episodes in a binge, just keep plowing through–you’ll start laughing again soon.

Supernatural is smart and charming. Strong characters lead the show, and secondary characters flourish in frequent return cameos. By the end of your binge you may not exactly ship Destiel, but I promise, if you’re anything like me, you’ll refer to the Winchesters as “my babies” any time they’re in danger. The show makes you love it.

Just give it a chance.

Supernatural seasons 1-8 are available on Netflix instant streaming.