The Top 20 Television Moments of 2016 – Part One

Posted by Kim and Sage

WE DID IT YOU GUYS. The end of 2016 is nigh. Everyone take a deep sigh of relief.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. It was brutal with the celebrity deaths and it felt like the world was on the verge of imploding every time you turned on the news. I can’t help but think of Samwise Gamgee at the end of The Two Towers when I think of 2016. “How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.” These end of year posts are the stories that have stayed with us. We hope you enjoy the memories as much as we do. –Kim

1) Michael Phelps swims the 200 Butterfly – The Rio Olympics

Michael Phelps did not come to the Rio Olympics to play. After being disappointed with his performance in the London Olympics (you know, a measly six medals, four of them gold), Michael returned to the pool as a man on a mission. The most important part of that mission? Getting back the gold medal in the 200 meter butterfly that South Africa’s Chad le Clos had taken from him. As fate would have it, Phelps and le Clos were in the same semifinal, swimming right next to each other. It’s the perfect sports story, really. The undisputed King of the Pool and the younger and cockier rival who had lorded his victory over Phelps for four years. Who would triumph? Here’s why I love the Olympics so fucking much: the completely pure and unstaged moments of human emotion. As cameramen in the holding room focused on the two rivals they caught le Clos showboating and shadowboxing in front of Phelps. And there sat Michael, his hood up over his head and his trademark headphones on making a FACE OF DEATH. Seriously…laser beams were about to shoot out of his eyes. Thus, the greatest meme of 2016, #PhelpsFace, was born. (It’s also the default facial expression to describe the year.)

Was le Clos trying to psych Phelps out? Was Michael truly just in the zone, as he later claimed, or was he making the face at the obvious showboating? We’ll never know, really. What we DO know are the results in the pool. Phelps and le Clos qualified 2nd and 3rd in that semi, which set up an exciting final that was packed with contenders for the Gold. There was something about Michael’s swimming and attitude in Rio though. While he never looked MISERABLE in previous Olympics, it was clear that Michael had always been focused on winning and shattering records alone. In Rio, he seemed to have rediscovered the JOY of swimming and it showed in his interviews and his emotions on the podium. Michael shaved off nearly 8/10ths of a second off his semifinal time to take back his precious Gold Medal and his jubilation was reminiscent of a certain end zone dance by Rod Tidwell. One might say that Michael Phelps found the Kwan in Rio and we all got to see it. — Kim

2) The #HamilTonys

Look, Hamilton was going to come into the Tonys like a wrecking ball. Everyone knew it. Hence the joke in the opening (Hamilton-themed) number: Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, and Okieriete Onaodowan advancing on a Tony-toting James Corden, who stops them by singing, “Just you wait, just you wait…”

The Best Musical award was a foregone conclusion. (In any other year, Waitress. Any other year.) Score and Book were too. The tightest races in a couple of the acting categories were actually BETWEEN Hamilton castmates. And though no choice would have been the wrong one, the Tonys – in our opinion – played it just right. For once, Alexander Hamilton didn’t spoil an Aaron Burr victory; Leslie accepted the Leading Actor Tony he deserved. There was no controversy, since Lin went home with a wheelbarrow of other awards. Broadway veterans Christopher Jackson and Jonathan Groff looked on proudly as newcomer Daveed Diggs was handed the Featured Actor Tony. It’s safe to say that being in Hamilton would change anyone’s life, but of those three, it changed Daveed the most. And come on, the guy plays one character per act, spits RECORD-BREAKING fire, and delivers the best asides in the show. (Whaaaaaaat?) Renee Elise Goldsberry cried as she gave her Featured Actress acceptance speech. And if it hadn’t been for the unstoppable Cynthia Erivo, Phillipa Soo would have been on that stage too.

All told, Hamilton took home 11 Tonys, falling just short of the The Producers‘ record. But that wasn’t the whole story. Hamilton in its very existence is a statement. In the same awards cycle when #OscarsSoWhite trended worldwide, Hamilton contributed to the Tonys’ incredible diversity achievement of all four musical acting awards going to non-white performers. The show made this the hippest Tonys (is that a thing??) in recent memory. The 2016 telecast was the highest rated in the last 15 years. And those new viewers were tuning in SPECIFICALLY to see Hamilton – a piece of art that’s reinvigorated and redrawn the medium by prioritizing inclusion, truth, and a ridiculous amount of work.

A dark shadow was cast on the Tonys. Early that same morning, the Pulse massacre occurred in Florida. The telecast was dedicated to the victims and their families. One of Lin’s speeches was a quickly composed sonnet honoring them too. And Hamilton‘s producers made a decision to alter their performance. There were no muskets in “Yorktown.” The actors and the ensemble mimed their presence. And that image – two dozen people in Colonial garb pointing invisible guns into the audience – will stay with me for a long time.  –Sage

3) The Origin of The Big Three – This Is Us

I was fully on board with This Is Us from that first trailer that featured guaranteed tearjerker “I Won’t Give Up” as the soundtrack (and because it had Mandy Moore). But I was also completely aware that a great trailer by no means makes a great show and that This Is Us could easily be saccharine overdose. I was lucky to get to see an early screening of the This Is Us at the Paley Center a couple of weeks before it premiered. I was immediately taken in by the sharp and funny dialogue and the tightly drawn characters. (Sterling K. Brown gets Randall from the GET GO, guys.) I was so drawn in by the four principle stories of the pilot that I forgot to look for the twist of how they were all tied together (SILLY ME). I ignored niggling questions like why in the hell with triplets did Mandy Moore’s Rebecca NOT have a c-section scheduled? I missed the hints of Randall saying that he was abandoned at a fire station and adopted by a wonderful couple. I COMPLETELY missed it…and so did most of the people in the Paley screening room.

A collective GASP swept through the room when Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, mourning the loss of one of his triplets, stood at the nursery window smiling at his two babies and started talking to the fireman standing next to him, who pointed out the baby who had been abandoned at his fire station. “OH MY GOD,” I quietly (or not so quietly) exclaimed, as the camera panned back to reveal people in period clothing wandering the halls of the hospital. “THEY ARE A FAMILY.” It was in that moment that we KNEW that This Is Us was going to be a special kind of show: unabashedly sentimental, expertly acted, and one that would take us along on the journey.  — Kim

4) The Blood Threesome – Penny Dreadful

Rest in peace, Penny Dreadful. You crazy bitch.

Showtime’s literary horror masterpiece pulled out all the stops for what we didn’t know would be its final season. We didn’t get this gory orgy not in the finale, oh no. This was episode THREE.

I have some issues with the way it was resolved. But overall, I am all about Penny Dreadful turning the horror of being a woman of no consequence in Victorian London around on the godless men who exploit them. It facilitated some jaw-dropping Billie Piper monologues, that’s for sure. It also facilitated this consummation: Lily, her benefactor Dorian, and their bloodthirsty protege Justine celebrate Justine’s first kill by indulging in the most indulgent act possible. Lily and Justine are celebrating being masters of their own bodies for once. And Dorian? Well, Dorian’s just a hedonist.

The camerawork, the candles, the score: it’s all so over-the-top and UBER-DRAMATIC and not really that necessary for the plot. I love TV that will throw over subtlety when necessary, and go to these places just because it’s FUN. –Sage

5) Murtagh gets his vengeance – Outlander

When I look back at Season Two of Outlander, I can sum it up with a singular text I got from Sage whilst she watched episode 11, “Vengeance is Mine”: “THIS SHOW IS SAVAGE.” Season Two was a LOT, from all the shenanigans in Paris to the emotional wallop that was the entire episode of “Faith” to Jamie stabbing BlackJack Randall IN THE DICK to a pregnant Claire being sent back through the stones. The entire season was a masterclass in pacing and storytelling because we KNEW the ending in the opening moments of the season premiere, yet the show managed to keep us on our toes and have us HOPING that said ending would not come to pass. But sadly, I can’t single out the entire season for this post. Thus I settled on the moment that prompted Sage’s text message: Murtagh’s savage beheading of the Duke of Sandringham. Because as a book virgin, I did NOT see that one coming.

Let’s face it: Murtagh is the unsung hero of the series. He faithfully stands by Jamie and Claire’s side in France, even though every expression on his face says “I MISS SCOTLAND”. His only reaction when Jamie FINALLY told him the truth about Claire was to punch him in the face for not trusting him with this information sooner. He pulled a “I’m with you till the end of the line” with Jamie at The Battle of Culloden when Jamie tried to send him away. (SIDE NOTE: MURTAGH BETTER BE ALIVE IN SEASON THREE BITCHES.) Murtagh is good people. So it was devastated to see him wracked by guilt over not being able to protect Claire and Mary when they were attacked (and Mary was brutally raped) on the streets of Paris. HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS WHAT COULD HE HAVE DONE? Nevertheless, his promise to avenge Claire and Mary was one he took to heart. The last minutes of “Vengeance is Mine” were absolutely thrilling, from Red Jamie storming in ready to kick some ass to Mary grabbing the knife and stabbing her attacker once Sandringham’s complicit involvement in the attack came to light. But it was all capped off by Murtagh grabbing a fucking AXE and taking a swing at the Duke. Off came his head and he grabbed it and placed it at Claire and Mary’s feet as they looked on in shock. “I lay my vengeance at your feet,” he said, kneeling before them. That’s Murtagh for you. Taking things literally. — Kim

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I Watched 11 Seasons of Bones in Three Months, and This Is What I Learned

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Source: jigsmave

Posted by Sage

I currently pay for a full cable subscription. I also subscribe to Netflix and Hulu. My dad pays for HBO Go, and, well. I have access to so many miniseries, event series, reboots, prestige adaptations, and critical darlings that I sometimes feel dizzy with television responsibility. And for the last 12 weeks or so, I ignored all of those trending programs in favor of catching up with one of basic cable’s longest-running procedurals before its final season. From the PILOT. No, I did not lose a bet. I didn’t mean to hand my life over to Bones. It just happened.

Kim often calls herself a Bones “lifer.” And Kelly at The TV Mouse is probably the show’s most passionate advocate. The crime dramedy has been recommended to me, and by people whose opinions I really respect. But it seemed to me to be too late to get on board. What value could be squeezed out of embarking on a show with 234 episodes already in the can, especially when the central ship had already set sail and a few of the major twists had already been spoiled for me? During a kind-of TV potluck party we had a couple of years ago, Kelly and Kim had me watch the season 2 episode “Aliens in a Spaceship.” And though I found it to be a harrowing and masterfully acted episode of TV, I enjoyed it as a one-off. That was that.

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Source: drinkupthesunrise

By the time I joined a new gym in my neighborhood, I had only seen two episodes of Bones ever. “Aliens” and the Bones half of the Sleepy Hollow crossover. I’d graduated from a community rec center located somewhere in the Dark Ages to a gym with actual TELEVISIONS on the machines. It was the middle of the day, and I’m not a talk show kind of person. I settled on a random syndicated episode of Bones, already in progress. I figured a murder case and the pretty people would distract me from the physical activity. Little did I know that this was a season finale I stumbled on. The season 5 finale, to be exact. Painfully aware of how little time I’d spent with Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan by that point, I was still inconsolable when they said goodbye to each other at the airport and promised to meet on “their” bench in one year. Snotty sobs are not ideal for a cardio workout, I can tell you that.

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I knew – though OUR time together had been short – theirs had definitely not been. Five years of context was not necessary to read the regret and affection on their faces. (Though HOO BOY, that context does make it 1000x worse.) I quickly alerted Team Bones on Twitter to my accidental emotional attachment, and I was done for. An immersion night was scheduled and a hit list was put together. No, I did not watch ALL 235 episodes of Bones this fall. But I watched the good ones, thanks to my savvy friends.

It wasn’t just the romantic farewell in that episode that caught my attention. All good Bones finales are Jeffersonian family affairs, and “The Beginning in the End” was no different. All of her colleagues come to see Dr. Brennan off. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never worked anywhere that included a Bon Voyage committee. Anyway, the following exchange really got me, possibly because my only other pure Bones episode experience featured Hodgins and Brennan facing death side-by-side.

Hodgins: Okay, I made you this chart of all the poisonous reptiles and insects, what they look like, how to avoid them, and what to do if you get stung or bitten, so…
Brennan: Thank you, Dr. Hodgins. I love you, too.
Hodgins: Wow.
Brennan: Booth informed me that proffering of overly solicitous advice is indicative of love.
Hodgins: Wow.

Brennan can’t interpret the meaning of such gestures as easily as her friends. She needs Booth to tell her what it means if someone shows that they’ve put time and effort into something that will make her comfortable or keep her safe. That would make a lesser person feel unsure or self-conscious about showing affection. But Brennan doesn’t hesitate to return the sentiment. I stuck with Bones till the end for many reasons. But, let’s be honest, reason #1 was Dr. Temperance Brennan, a character who deserves as many tributes and thinkpieces as her premium cable counterparts. If she even HAS any premium cable counterparts.

I’m getting super ahead of myself. So, Bones is about the world’s most foremost forensic anthropologist and bestselling crime novel writer, Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and her FBI partner, Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz). Brennan and her colleagues at the Jeffersonian Institute are whizzes with desiccated and often extremely gross remains. (Brennan is based loosely on IRL writer/anthropologist Kathy Reichs, a producer on the show.) Through their work in the lab, they can provide Booth with the identity of the victim, cause of death, and other physical evidence, all ideally leading to the killer. Bad guys get caught. Booth calls Brennan “Bones.” She pretends to hate it. The sexual tension is insane.

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Sounds like a nice, cozy mom-show, doesn’t it? A couple of longing gazes, a solved case, and in bed before the 11 o’clock news? But what this brief synopsis of Bones doesn’t convey are the details that make the show exceptional. For me, it starts at the Jeffersonian, where LADIES are doing SCIENCE. In addition to Brennan, we have Dr. Camille Saroyan, the head of the institute’s forensic division and unflappable boss bitch. And then there’s Angela Montenegro, the artist and tech wizard who can pull actionable evidence out of almost thin air. The women on the team outnumber the male professionals at this world-renowned institution for ten of 11 seasons. They are freakishly intelligent and capable. Their authority is never questioned, because they are the best in their field. And they know it.

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It’s not as if the men are sitting around picking ticks off of each other. They’re busy being the show’s nurturers. Booth and Brennan are complex individuals – no less so because they’re both so extraordinary. But if you must break it down the basics: Brennan is the head, Booth is the heart. I don’t understand how Booth subverts so many Alpha Male/TV cop stereotypes while simultaneously being a hot Alpha Male TV cop. (“Booth is a big, strong, hot guy who wants to save your life. I mean, you actually have a knight in shining FBI standard-issue body armor, so cut him some slack.”) Booth believes in everything that tired archetype does: that the system works; that America is the greatest country in the world; and that his role in it is to be a protector. But his nobility runs DEEP. Booth wants to hold onto things that he sees slipping away, but he won’t sacrifice his soul to keep them.

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He’s already sacrificed enough already. Booth isn’t an FBI agent because he wants to run around with a gun. He does what he does because he’s literally trying to make up for the lives he took as a sniper in the Armed Forces. He’ll threaten a gang leader to protect her and still be damn proud of the way that Brennan can handle herself in a fight. And sure, Booth will puff his chest out at an ornery witness, but he’s a wreck any time he’s driven to exercise lethal force. Brennan understands how much that hurts him, and it’s a strong part of their bond.

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I held my breath when I met Booth’s sexy girlfriend in the first season and hoped REALLY hard that I wouldn’t be put through a string of random hook-ups. Again, the show surprised me. BRENNAN is the show’s player, because she’s able to enjoy the pleasurable aspects of casual sex minus the emotional fallout. Booth is a soft marshmallow, who just wants to love and be loved. I could barely deal mid-series when the poor guy couldn’t even GIVE it away. Not to Parker’s mom, not to Hannah, and not – fuck everything – to Brennan. It left him broken for a while. Bones showed me a man experiencing real heartbreak and insisting on being allowed time to heal. “A good man” is a phrase applied over and over again to Booth by several characters. And I love that it recurs, because that’s what he is. Bones won me over first with these incredible, brilliant, varied, and DIVERSE women. Factor in that Booth is everything that is loving and positive about masculinity, and they’ve got me for life.

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Source: purplelephantsarewrong


Perhaps the workplace romance isn’t as prevalent in real life as it is on the show. But if Bones is going to give the fans what they want by coupling up coworkers, then it’s going to do so in a way that challenges traditional gendered dynamics. Brennan, Angela, and Cam aren’t on the hunt for husbands by any stretch of the imagination. Brennan has anthropological reason to distrust monogamy, (canonically bisexual!) Angela would like the option to fly off to Paris at any moment, and Cam knows she’s a full person on her own. In the opposite corner, we’ve got Seeley “I’m that guy, Bones” Booth; Jack “I’m nuts about Angela” Hodgins; and Arastoo “I always wanted to be a husband and a father” Vaziri. There is wish fulfillment in the success of these relationships, even though they are troubled by outside circumstances. But I’ll take it, because it’s the kind of fantasy that treats both male and female characters with respect. A desire to be alone does not make a woman frigid. And men are fully capable of being professionally motivated and emotionally open at the same time.

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I’m going to try very hard not to go overboard here, because we’ve got a Temperance Brennan appreciation post queued up for the final season. But I can’t fully explain myself without discussing her. I am STUNNED by how well written this woman is, and the fact that she’s not on every best character list that’s been created since 2005 is shocking to me. Also, Emily Deschanel should have shelves full of awards. I can only guess that it’s the stigma of a network genre show in a post-X-Files age that’s prevented it. I give Fox credit too, for greenlighting a show that revolves around a female character who has difficulty relating to people because of her brilliance without worrying over her “likability.” Once as I was gushing to her about it, Kim said to me, “I feel like Temperance Brennan is the character you’ve been waiting for your entire life.” “SHE IS,” I answered. “And she’s been here THE WHOLE TIME.”

I can’t relate to Brennan’s staggering intellect, but I can appreciate that she’s in a class by herself. I also went into Bones worried that Brennan’s experiences with Booth and rest would “fix” her – make her more palatable to the outside world and thus, a “better” heroine. Though she becomes more confident with her emotions over the course of the series – i.e., she stops announcing her hugs to Angie before she gives them – Brennan remains herself, because she was just fine to begin with. Extraordinary, as she would tell you. Women are conditioned to alter their behavior for the comfort of others. Brennan thinks that’s a waste of time. The world adjusts to her. Her friends respect her boundaries. They take her awkward shows of support, comfort, and love in the spirit in which they are given. The only appearance she cares about is her reputation as a scientist – and that’s not artifice, it’s fact. Let the whole world think she’s cold. Brennan isn’t bothered, as long as the people she loves know that she loves them.

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Source: boothseeley

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