Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Television Shows of 2015

Mr. Robot
The Americans
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Better Call Saul
Silicon Valley
Game of Thrones
Rick & Morty
Blindspot (first half)

There's too many television shows on TV. I couldn't possibly watch them all. There were over 400 scripted TV series in 2015. Not even the most dedicated and obsessive television viewer can watch them all. That doesn't even include the unscripted stuff like reality shows and min-series. We're living through the golden age of television just like home owners are living through the golden age of the housing market in 2007. But soon bubble will burst and the decline will come. It's inevitable, but I don't know if we've reached the peak yet. There just isn't enough viewers and creative talent out there to sustain that many. While it's possible to carry on and keep growing, growth should at least slow. There just isn't enough viewers and creative talent out there to sustain that many TV shows.

In many ways, I go on to watch what everybody else watches. Making my choices first from recommendations of personal friends or co-workers. Then I gloss over the ratings on aggregate sites like IMDB and make a decision about whether or not I'd enjoy the series based on the score and a few reviews. However I can't watch them all, and the ones I've picked are in no particular order based on what I've seen. I've decided to expand on a few.

Tyrant is the successor to Breaking Bad as the greatest drama.  Every season has built off of the last, If you've tried to watch it and have stumbled on details of plot plausibility, you're missing the point: the emotional core of the show is agonizing and spectacular. Every glance between Barry and Jamal contains multitudes. This was the best season yet, and I am positive that it will be topped as it marches towards the end.

Mr. Robot stands out as an out of nowhere series from a network brand that hasn't really pleased me with their offerings. However, it only took the first episode for me to realize how amazing the script writing was, particularly with the narration dialogue. It has some of the most trenchant observations and comments on modern day society. The series is probably one of my most anticipated shows to watch each week. The protagonist Elliot is the modern day hacker superhero, portrayed realistically.

Silicon Valley is probably the funniest show on TV this year. It takes place in the high stakes pressure city of the eponymously named show and follows the ongoings of a bunch of guys in a startup. I love it so much, probably because I find the characters so relatable. I can identify with the awkward socially challenged nerd. I can see myself at times as the ambitious middleman investor. I can definitely see the companies and brands they use as satirical versions of the real life versions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

2015 provided us with a dense volume of television programs.This list may’ve very well missed worthy entries; nonetheless, it includes the best out of what was seen.

Top 10 (Loosely ordered)

Master of None
There’s no show that will make us want to call our parents and grandparents more. Call them. See it. Call them again.

Jessica Jones
Arguably the best Marvel Studios TV series. See our Series Review starting with Episode 1.

Silicon Valley
Mike Judge delivers yet another classic worthy of his Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill resume.

Rick and Morty
Season 2 had a lot to live up to; it met the bar and concludes with an incredibly powerful cliffhanger.

Better Call Saul
A spinoff with mixed expectations that found its way into many of our laboring hearts. The ideal show to watch before heading into the middle of the week.

The Knick
A stirring period show exploring the social dynamics around the world of 1900’s medicine. Featuring a season finale that leaves many of us to wonder whether it was actually a series finale.

Come for the accidental Minnesota humor, stay for the, often, in a class of its own story-telling.

Mad Men *Second Half
A solid series finale with revelations that range from harsh and definitive to ongoing and fittingly inconclusive.

Show Me a Hero
A cold hard look at Yonkers' Mayor Nick Wasicsko’s involvement with public housing policy and how it would define his legacy.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Arguably the most daring and unexpected premiere of the year. It may not be for everyone, but it’s an absolute treasure for those who it’s for.

Honorable mentions

Mr. Robot
Impressive debut, though the season feels too incomplete to be among the favorites. Looking forward to Season 2 completing the picture for its inclusion in our 2016 list.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The most quality bit for bit faux news show around.

House of Cards
Fun season, even if they double dipped into the Underwood marriage drama.

Broad City
A blunt comedy show that’s worth checking out.

Key and Peele
While not the best season, it still added impeccably poignant bits to an incredible series run.

Revision: December 24, 2015
It is with great regret that this author admits to having unintentionally neglected to include The Americans on the list. It, without a doubt, deserves to be in the Top 10.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

An analysis of Kobe Bryant’s “Dear Basketball”

Kobe Bryant has ended his love affair with basketball. The Los Angeles shooting guard announced his retirement from the team through poetry, using florid imagery and professing his lasting love for the game he knew from the young age of seven.

The stanzas have no pattern, with some lasting one line, others three, and others as long as seven. The variance could be read as the pattern of Bryant dribbling a basketball, a technique the all time great used to deceive his defenders to great effect in his storied career.

Bryant tells the story of his love affair with the personified basketball chronologically, from a tender boy “shooting imaginary… shots” and only knowing “one thing was real: / I fell in love with you.” As Bryant grew, his love only deepened. With sexual overtones, he says that “I ran up and down every court / After every loose ball for you.” Money and prestige did not push him, Bryant emphasizes, “but because YOU called me. / I did everything for YOU.” Using artistic license with his dismissal of capitalization, the brash use of capital letters here demonstrates Bryant’s anguish and implies that the recipient of this poem has failed to listen in the past.

Bryant’s frequent use of apostrophe communicates his pain. Basketball’s silence is deafening in this poem and it appears to have no response to Bryant’s long-lasting affection for it or any shared moments together. The actions Bryant describes are one-sided and laden with sacrifice: “A love so deep I gave you my all – / From my mind & body / To my spirit & soul” or “I played through the sweat and hurt.”

Using anthropomorphism, Bryant bemoans of basketball, “You asked for my hustle / I gave you my heart.” The slight alliteration of “hustle” and “heart” really emphasizes the connection Bryant and his basketball have. The bloody imagery of Bryant ripping out his heart echoes the climax of many William Shakespeare tragedies.

Unsurprisingly, Bryant’s repeated use of the word “love” shows that he has always loved basketball. Nevertheless, Bryant says “I can’t love you obsessively for much longer … my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.” This repetition of “love,” or, “heart” and “feel,” carries through the poem all the way to the penultimate line, “Love you always,” which serves as a letter closing. There are six mentions of “love,” two mentions of “heart,” three mentions of “feel,” two mentions of “deep,” and two mentions of “ball.” I've provided a word cloud below to help further analyze word frequency in his poem.

There is a shift towards the end of the poem from Bryant talking to basketball, to referring to them both as “we.” For example, Bryant tells basketball that “I want you to know now” that Bryant is retiring “so we both can savor every moment we have left together. / The good and the bad.” In this way, Bryant is telling basketball and all of his fans that he has had a difficult journey full of obstacles, which until this season he has been able to overcome to dominate the National Basketball Association. But just as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neil have successfully pivoted away from a career as an athlete in the past, so may Kobe's love of basketball guide him onto his next endeavor.