28 TV shows and movies to watch on Netflix Canada this summer

It’s summer, so you’re wondering what to watch on Netflix, right?

We weren’t all made to withstand high heat and humidity, so if your idea of a Not-Bummer-Summer is spending it indoors, here are nine TV shows (six of which are returning soon!) and 19 movies you should add to your Netflix List this summer.

Hannibal – 26 episodes, approx. 44 min. each (full series so far)

Hannibal

Another Hannibal adaptation? Yeah. Another one, and quite possibly the best one ever. The NBC series is two seasons in, and gets more creepy and spooky every week. Bryan Fuller’s reboot is totally enthralling and engaging, with unforgettable performances by Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, who portray the eponymous character and Will Graham, respectively. Laurence Fishburne also does his best work in years. The show’s also shined a light on two incredible Canadian actresses, Montrealer Caroline Dhavernas, as Dr. Alana Bloom, and Brampton’s Lara Jean Chorostecki, as the ruthless and conniving blogger Freddie Lounds. Hannibal returns to NBC/CityTV for Season Three in 2015. (Related: Hannibal, one of the best shows of 2013, is “sinister yet cheeky.”)

The Good Wife – 90 episodes, approx. 44 min. each (four seasons; Season 5 ended on CBS in May 2014)

??????????????????????

“That show’s for suburban white ladies.” – Me, before devouring the first season of CBS’s The Good Wife. Julianna Margulies’ performance anchors and elevates the show to much more than courtroom/law-firm drama. Though it goes the Boston Legal route around Seasons Three and Four (outrageous, ripped-from-the-headlines cases), the drama never falters. The rest of the cast is superb too, especially Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi (it also attracts some top-notch guest stars, like Michael J. Fox, Martha Plimpton, Nathan Lane, Carrie Preston, Dylan Baker, Anika Noni Rose, Anna Camp, Denis O’Hare and Scandal‘s Joe Morton, to name a few). I started watching The Good Wife shortly before Twitter erupted in shock over the surprising and shocking death of a main character. I quickly watched four-and-a-half seasons of TGW and finally got to the episode in question and my worst fears were quashed. This was not a show grasping for relevance or desperate to jolt its narrative; The Good Wife is a confident series, and an addictive one.

The Good Wife returns to CBS/Global for Season Six in September 2014.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Ranking 30 Rock’s Christmas episodes

It seems the only requisite for a series to have a Christmas episode is to be on the air during the month of December.

Magnum P.I.Without a Trace, even Walker, Texas Ranger had at least one Christmas episode during their runs. Special Christmas episodes are more commons for sitcoms, but that didn’t stop ER from having 15 during its 15 seasons, or Ally McBeal from having one in each of its five seasons (and two during its third and fourth seasons – I recommend the great “Saving Santa” episode from 1999 in which a department store is taken to court for replacing a plumper, older Santa with a younger, thinner one.)

30 Rock, one of my favourite shows of 2013 (and ever), had five Christmas episodes in its seven-season run – there was no Christmas episode in Season 1, presumably because the new show was building the foundation for the rest of the season, or maybe producers thought the show would be cancelled before Christmas, and no Christmas special for Season 6, which started in January to accommodate Tina Fey’s maternity leave.

I wouldn’t describe 30 Rock with any of the adjectives usually reserved for Christmas – heartwarming, cheerful, merry, jolly. Maybe “naughty.” It was an often cynical, always sarcastic show about a show that quickly became much more than that: a realist mirror onto society, race, gender, politics and business. Even around Christmastime, 30 Rock found a way to say something about the holiday, whether it was about family or consumerism or the stress of it all.

Here are 30 Rock‘s five Christmas episodes, ranked:

Continue reading

Best of 2013: Top TV shows

I like year-end lists. I like reading them to discover movies, music, books and TV shows I missed. I like reading them to validate my own taste. I like reading them to disagree with them. And I like making them to reflect on the year that was. But they’re particularly challenging to do for TV, I think.

Do you evaluate a show against all other shows on television? What about a show that had a particularly great, improved or poor season compared to other seasons in its series? And what about new shows that have only been on the air for a handful of episodes? Shows with seasons that span two calendar years? Shows with part of two seasons in one calendar year?

Here’s a list of TV shows, in no particular order, that had at least one episode air between Jan. 1, 2013 and today, that made me neglect my health and social life.

Orphan Black

Orphan Black

Orphan Black is one of the most exciting new sci-fi show in years. Compelling and highly addictive, it tells the story of Sarah Manning, a down-on-her-luck woman with a loser boyfriend and a daughter she wants to protect. Her life gets irreversibly more complicated after she witnesses another woman’s suicide – a woman who looks exactly like her. She runs off with the dead woman’s purse and learns they are just two of a set of women cloned. How many of them are there? Who did this? The show’s greatest asset is Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany who plays all of the clones, from the stay-at-home mom to the Ukrainian religious fanatic. Orphan Black is produced, set and filmed in Toronto. It airs on BBC America in the U.S. and Space in Canada.

Hannibal

Hannibal

One of the best photographed shows on television, that NBC’s Hannibal is on this list surprises me, too. Developed for television by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me), Hannibal pushes the boundaries of network television while also exercising surprising restraint.  You don’t see Hannibal … do what he’s known to do until four or five episodes into the series, which makes the first time all the more special. The show stars Laurence Fishburne, Montreal actress Caroline Dhavernas, Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen as the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter. I thought the poor cinematic follow-ups to Silence of the Lambs – Red DragonHannibalHannibal Rising – had left too bad a taste in my mouth, but NBC’s Hannibal is more than satiating. It’s chilling yet titillating; sinister yet cheeky. The episode names are food-themed, like the pilot’s “Apéritif” and later episodes’ “Amuse-Bouche” and “Buffet Froid.”

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

The show that continually topped itself week after week, season after season. After five seasons and 62 episodes, we bid adieu to Walter White, the meth-cooking former chemistry teacher who made an icon out of actor Bryan CranstonBreaking Bad is one show that’s tough to say goodbye to because it did so many things right – cinematography, score, script, supporting cast – and elevated the playing field for the medium. It was a satisfying finale that tied up everything for the characters and gave them and the audience what they deserved.

Scandal

Scandal

Appointment viewing. No show has as many twists-per-episode as Scandal does; no show is ever as close to the edge of the cliff as Scandal is; no show has ever been this serious in its craziness, and this crazy in its seriousness. At the end of the last episode alone (“YOLO”, Dec. 5), the vice-president (of the United States!) kills her husband after the president’s chief of staff sends her photos of her husband in a compromising position with another man – the chief of staff’s own husband, a journalist who the chief of staff arranged to interview the VP’s husband in hopes of outing him. Meanwhile, fixer Olivia Pope (the great Kerry Washington) is trying to get her mother – who she thought has been dead for 20 years after her plane was shot down by the now-president (yes, of the United States!) – out of the country before her father, who runs a super-secret off-the-books black-ops program, finds her. She calls in a favour to the man with whom she’s having an affair – the President of the United States of America. It’s a wonder it doesn’t self-destruct in its own ridiculousness, but it’s no wonder Scandal keeps me coming back week after week.

Continue reading

Live from New York: Women who should host Saturday Night Live

Women who should host Saturday Night Live

When it was announced that Kerry Washington would be hosting the Nov. 2 episode of Saturday Night Live, I was thrilled. Scandal, the ABC drama on which Washington stars and one of the highest rated network dramas, has become appointment viewing for me and one of only a handful of shows I insist on watching right when it airs (ABC/City, Thursdays, 10 p.m.).

Washington will be the first black woman to host SNL since Maya Rudolph hosted on Feb. 18, 2012 (Rudolph is a SNL alumna who was on the show from 2000 to 2007. Before Rudolph, you’d have to go back to April 24, 2010 to find a black and female host in Gabourey Sidibe).

Continue reading

Emmy Awards predictions: who will win (comedy series)?

Shifting gears now to lighter fare, Radina Papukchieva joins me to discuss who will win in the major comedy categories.

Radina is a contributor at The Cafe Phenomenon, a movie critic for Cult MTL, and Concordia journalism and film studies student.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live

As great as it would be to see Kristen Wiig win for the various cooky characters she’s played on SNL over the years, I think one of the Modern Family ladies will take home this award. Wiig’s years on SNL made her a household name and helped her branch out into film (last year’s Bridesmaids was a career-maker for Wiig). Kathryn Joosten, nominated posthumously for her role on Desperate Housewives was a fine actress whose best work was on The West Wing, not the Marc Cherry show that overstayed its welcome.

My pick: Julie Bowen took home the Golden Globe for her portrayal of Claire Dunphy last year, but Sofia Vergara, I think, has made great strides in her career. Gloria also had better storylines and material than Claire, although both women have been stellar throughout Modern Family‘s three seasons. My pick is Vergara. She’s been overlooked too often. Her performance in the first season of the show was incredible and really gave her character a great foundation for the next two.

Radina’s take: Kristen Wiig! It would be an honorary Emmy for her, since she left SNL at the end of last season to pursue her acting and writing career. She made late Saturday nights in front of the TV worthwhile, and was the best thing to happen to SNL in the past years. Sofia Vergara is also a favorite, however, with the saucy version of herself on Modern Family. The ease with which she plays Glorrrrria makes her performance all the more funny.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Max Greenfield, New Girl
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live

The entire adult cast of Modern Family is up for an Emmy this year. Among the men, Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s performance has been overlooked over three seasons on ABC. Ty Burrell took home the Golden Globe and the Emmy for his Phil Dunphy last year. Eric Stonestreet won this award two years ago. I think it’s great to see Max Greenfield nominated for New Girl, arguably the only new comedy of last year that has the chance of having any staying power, but his overacting and general over-the-topness exhausts me as a viewer. Bill Hader’s Stefon and his impersonation of James Carville are the greatest things to happen to SNL in the last five years, but they won’t be enough to take the award from the Modern Family guys. 

My pick: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, for being consistently great and for playing Mitchell with realness. It’s sometimes harder to play a subdued character than an over-the-top one. His most fierce competition would be Ty Burrell, who had some really great moments this season.

Radina’s take: It’s pretty safe to say it’s going to someone from Modern Family, they are all nominated! Who, I really can’t decide. It’s a tie between Ty Burrell and Ed O’Neill for me.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Lena Dunham, Girls
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

A category with two veteran TV actresses and former Emmy winners (Edie Falco and Julia Louis-Dreyfus), two comedy superstars (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler), two first-time nominees (Lena Dunham, Zooey Deschanel) and the incumbent. Melissa McCarthy won this category last year for her work in Mike & Molly. I can’t help but think her Oscar-nominated turn in Bridesmaids tipped the award in her favour.

Process of elimination: I don’t think Tina Fey stands a chance, even though she is one of my personal favourites. Zooey Deschanel may lead the only new network comedy that connected with audiences, this isn’t an adorability Emmy, it’s an acting one. Lena Dunham has received a lot of flack for her HBO show: I don’t think Girls‘s strength is its acting. I so desperately want Amy Poehler to win: Parks and Recreation is criminally under-appreciated and Poehler’s Leslie Knope is one of the most loveable characters on TV. Unfortunately, I think Parks and Rec will continue to be ignored.

That leaves a Melissa McCarthy repeat, badass Edie Falco and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

I absolutely loved the first season of Veep, though critics weren’t entirely sold. There are some solid one-liners, and I think it’s the lovechild of a potty-mouthed West Wing and Parks and Rec.

Nurse Jackie has been improving with every season, and that’s in large part due to Edie Falco and her badassness and fearlessness. Melissa McCarthy is a two-time nominee Sunday, also getting some love for her guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. I think that splits her possibility of winning both, with voters more likely to reward her for Mike & Molly.

My pick: Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie. This would be her fifth Emmy, winning three times for The Sopranos and in 2009 for Nurse Jackie.

Radina’s take: Amy Poehler, please.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

The fact that The Big Bang Theory is one of the highest-rated shows on television makes me lose faith in humanity a little. I’m aware “the masses” aren’t discerning, but the show for me is the equivalent of someone scratching their fingernails on a chalkboard. Ditto for Two and a Half Men: Jon Cryer is nominated in lead actor category this year after previously being considered a supporting actor (thanks to tiger-blooded Charlie Sheen’s departure).

Alec Baldwin won in 2008 and 2009, Jim Parsons in 2010 and 2011.

Don Cheadle is the best thing about House of Lies, an uneven new show that’s sometimes a mess.

My pick: Louis C.K. in Louie, one of the best comedies on television by one of the most brilliant comedians today. It would also be unwise to underestimate just how much the industry respects Louis C.K. for his work. He writes and directs and edits most of Louie. He is up for six Emmys Sunday night (a writing and directing nod for Louie, and three nominations for Louis C.K.’s Live at the Beacon Theater special).

Radina’s take: Alec Baldwin collects Emmys and Golden Globes for a reason: he’s simply the best. However, with Baldwin and Jim Parsons winning this category for the last four years, it would be nice to see a fresh face get recognized, and Louis C.K. is a deserving nominee.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Chris McKenna, Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory”
Lena Dunham, Girls, “Pilot”
Louis C.K., Louie, “Pregnant”
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation, “The Debate”
Michael Schur, Parks and Recreation, “Win, Lose, or Draw”

Hopefully, Parks and Recreation can be honoured in this category because it was snubbed in Outstanding Comedy Series. It is up against stiff competition, however, with HBO’s Girls, one of the most controversial new series, and Lena Dunham’s “voice of her generation” b.s. It’s a show that is not accessible or enjoyable. And for a comedy, it’s just not funny. Community‘s only nomination comes in the writing category, but I feel it’s too little, too late for the flailing NBC show.

My pick: Amy Poehler for Parks and Recreation‘s “The Debate,” as a consolation prize for not winning the lead actress category.

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Girls
Modern Family
30 Rock
Veep

Since 2007, the award has gone to 30 Rock (2007, 2008, 2009) and Modern Family (2010, 2011). The Big Bang Theory is a ratings juggernaut (I don’t understand how or why) and Girls and Veep are HBO’s newest. Curb Your Enthusiasm is the oldest show in the bunch. A little peeved that Parks and RecreationCommunity and Louie weren’t nominated. Three of the best comedies on TV aren’t nominated for the best comedy on TV…

My pick: I think it’s unlikely that Modern Family doesn’t three-peat, even though this was its weakest season. I’d love to see 30 Rock take it again. It really bounced back after a less-than-stellar season five.

Radina’s take: First of all, Parks and Recreation is not nominated? Community is not nominated? 30 Rock is nominated for the fifth year in a row, in its ,by far, least funny season? And who even watches The Big Bang Theory? OK, rant over. It would be between Curb Your Enthusiasm or Girls, for me. I haven’t even seen a single episode of Girls, but I’ve been meaning to, and a show that raises so many critics off their seats can only be good. But Modern Family is an audience favorite so it will probably get the Emmy.

Where have all the scripted shows gone?

On Wednesday, the only scripted show airing on the Big 4 American networks at 8 p.m. was a repeat of Suburgatory, followed by a repeat of Modern Family on ABC.

NBC won the night with the season premiere of singing competition The Voice and America’s Got Talent, with FOX’s season-two premiere of The X Factor (featuring a much hyped about panel of judges) coming in a far second for the timeslot. 

Modern Family
The fourth season of Modern Family premieres on ABC (CityTV in Canada) on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

It was more of the same Thursday. At 8 p.m., CBS was the only network airing a scripted show (the insufferable Big Bang Theory, an inexplicable ratings juggernaut), with more X Factor on FOX, Wipeout on ABC and the America’s Got Talent finale on NBC.

The Emmy Awards will air on ABC on Sept. 23. Hopefully that’ll be a good reminder wake-up call to viewers (and networks) alike that there is some great, quality, scripted programming out there.