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Our favourite episodes of Community

Our favourite episodes of Community
30 Rock’s last episode was has left a pretty big void in our lives and we are going to miss Liz and Jack and DotCom and Tracy and Kenneth so much. But, thankfully Community season 4 is coming back this week (7th of Feb! Save the date!) and we are looking forward to it with some trepidation. Dan Harmon isn’t writing anymore and Community is too precious to be messed with. While we wait for 7th of Feb! we went back to the three brilliant season of Community to list our 10 favorite episodes of all time.

Spanish 101 from Season 1

In just the second episode, the show managed to reach high-levels of awesomeness with Spanish 101. We meet Senor Chang, we see Annie and Shirley protest ‘Guatemala’, we see Pierce and Jeff give an amazing presentation (there’s fireworks and robots involved) and the best of all, we hear the ‘Spanish rap’. That rap had us hooked to the show and we have been rewarded.

Contemporary American Poultry from Season 1

The crisis of diminishing chicken fingers in the cafeteria turns into an episode of Goodfellas meets The Godfather. Abed takes control of the “family” from Jeff, and everybody becomes corrupt with power (over chicken fingers) till Abed decided to take them down. With this wonderfully made episode, Community pays homage to the classic American mafia movie.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons from season 2

The gang realise that they have to simulate a complex Dungeons and Dragons game in order to save Fat Neil from committing suicide. Meant to boost Fat Neil’s confidence, the game becomes more than just that, when a thwarted Pierce starts counter playing the gang and Abed is Game Master. Great Stuff.

Dinner with Andre/Dinner with Abed from season 2

How was this episode legendary? Let us count the ways: It paid tribute to Dinner with Andre. It paid tribute to Pulp Fiction. It showed us a very bewildering Un-Abed Abed (No Cool cool cool and actual eye contact. Argh. Were that we were struck blind before this.) And you know what, if you watch Cougar Town, you’ll see that Abed was actually an extra on that episode which (supposedly) changed his worldview.

Cooperative calligraphy from Season 2

Or as it’s more famously known, the Bottle episode. The gang tries to find out who it was that stole Annie’s Pen. Tempers rise, secrets are revealed, deep subjects like religion and sexuality are heatedly debated and the dialogue gets sharper as the plot gets more ridiculous, more funny. Cooperative Calligeraphy is one of the gems of the show, a tightly written, lightly delivered gem.

Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design from season 2

Jeff takes on the ultimate blow-off class (one that doesn’t really exist) but wait, what’s this…It does exist? And who is this fake professor who is actually a real professor? This episode is wave upon wave of conspiracies and its jam packed with exaggerated hilarity. It is also the origins of Troy and Abed’s Blanket Fort, where you need permits to hold demonstrations and where there’s a real live Turkish District.

Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples from Season 2

Shirley attempts to get people to believe in God and decides to let Abed make a pro Jesus movie. Except she shouldn’t have. Abed goes crazy with it and makes a super-meta film where he is Jesus Christ and the movie is reality and reality is the movie. The closing credits with Troy and Abed dress and start talking like Jeff was beautiful.

Regional Holiday Music from Season 3

The Greendale 7 have always professed a certain bewilderment at the popularity of Glee. “I don’t understand the appeal at all.” This fact made it doubly hilarious when they found themselves subbing for the original glee club one Christmas. Suddenly life was all about wanting to “get to regionals.” Hilarious. Also, we got to see Troy and Abed do a ‘music through the ages duet’ about Baby Boomer Santa.

Remedial Chaos Theory from Season 3

Every time the dice is rolled, the future splits into multiple timelines where one details changes the course of time. Remedial Chaos Theory is definitely one of the most intelligently written episodes on television. The concept itself; every timeline starts out with the same premise but the everything goes crazy, is so epic. It also introduced the darkest timeline where Jeff loses an arm, Pierce gets shot, Shirley becomes an alcoholic, and Annie ends up in a mental institution. Oh and Abed makes felt beards.

 

The soap opera hypocrisy

The soap opera hypocrisy

­­Soap operas come with some sort of magical power that causes your brain to say “This is so stupid. I’m smarter than this. I scored 92% in SSC,” over and over again but still have you absolutely addicted.

I have secretly watched Brothers and Sisters, openly been in love with Parenthood and grudgingly caught up on Packed to the Rafters.  People fall in and out of love, constantly keep dealing with life-threating diseases, kill someone by mistake or deal with death in a few months. Plotlines and themes repeat themselves in the shows with younger characters (like 90210 and Gossip Girls). But, we still watch these, while being pretty public about our hatred for Indian soaps. I don’t know anyone who admits to being a fan of Bade Ache Lagte Hain or Balika Vadhu, but we’re all about who kissed who at whose party on that-show-where-mere-17 year olds-dress-like-Tyra-Banks.

I have had a lot of conversations about this with people my age and people like my parents (who are usually connoisseurs of both hindi and English soaps), and the only real difference seems to be; the way people dress on Hindi soaps and the slow-motion sequences. Just last week, Sakshi watched her not-really-but-kinda husband Ram Kapoor walk down the stairs; the lights dimmed, the music got louder and her eyes twinkled. Ten minutes of a 30 minute show. It is the exaggeration of emotions that make them so cloying and annoying.

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Divorces, gay marriage, drugs and illegitimate children are dealt with better in say, a Parenthood than they are in the Hindi serials. Not that they’re aren’t multiple divorces and a crop of illegitimate children in these shows as well but they are definitely less dramatic and more real.

But honestly, reality isn’t a strong forte of soaps in English or Hindi. Take One Tree Hill, for example (now showing season 1 to 9 on Star World. I might as well just quit my job now). The two half-brothers have been married, had babies, changed sexual orientation, dated pretty much everyone in their town before turning 25. I think the Rafters are a family that has probably faced every problem to have ever befallen humanity in just a few months. Liking these shows but bad mouthing the Hindi ones is just a case of double standards.

Not to say that if you like Brothers and Sisters, you must like Diya aur Bati, you can have preferences but then dissing “K-serials” is a bit weird.  I’m pretty open about watching English soaps and hating myself for it. I guess that makes me feel better.

Not the voice of my generation

Not the voice of my generation

There’s a scene in Season 2 of Girls where Marnie announces that she’s got a new job as a hostess at a club. She’s wearing her uniform: high-waisted shorts and suspenders. (Elijah tells her she looks like a slutty Von Trapp child. Haha.) Her friend and former roommate Hannah, who is as usual by the fridge stuffing her face, says she would never work there because SHE has made an active choice not to sell out her gender. Ouch. Lets forget that both girls have taken jobs that are clearly meant to make rent, given the economy has rendered it impossible for them to make money at jobs they are qualified it. So, let’s call you un-feminist because you’re doing what it takes to make it in the city.

Increasingly, I have become disgruntled with the characters in Girls, and indeed the whole show, which is sad considering I loved it to death in its first season. For starters, since season 2 premiered last week, it became evident that the writers should change the name to Girl, or Hannah since Lena Dunham’s character occupies all the episodes screen time. Very little Marnie, a slim bunch of scenes with Jessa and worst of all HARDLY ANY SHOSHANNA WHO IS TOTES THE MOST AMAZE PERSON ON THE SHOW. While the dialogue still holds a semblance of sharpness, the characters (the character) are starting to grate on my nerves.

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It was all very well in season one, where Hannah and gang had to establish the plight of a young person living a hardscrabble existence in tougher-than-nails New York. Part time jobs that make the rent, long term boyfriends that have started to piss you off, jerk boys you obsess about and get bored of when they start liking you…I got all of that. There’s even a scene in season one where Hannah has just found out her ex boyfriend is gay. She’s messed up about it, but instead she starts dancing in her room. Have I ever had “All-my Life has been a lie’ moments and then literally started dancing with a friend right after? Yes. Which is why I was looking forward to season two. But if the show has tried to bring back the kind of spontaneous freshness of that moment, it has failed and that’s me being nice about it.

Hannah has done a fair bit of annoying things this season. She broke up with Sandy (who breaks up with Troy?) because he didn’t like her essay and she threw a fit about it and put it down to “wouldn’t date someone who didn’t respect women and gays.” Please!

Be a confused toss-up of defiance and insecurity, “Oh you’re saying I’m not good looking enough for a pretty girl job?” As a person who always sees slights where none are intended, I get that Hannah can be insecure about her looks and her writing but she should at least rein it in. Or try to.  Getting snarky when Marnie got her waitress job. Just say, good for you, and move on like a friend. You work at Grumpy’s and Ray is your boss for heaven sake. (Though Ray is amazing btw. Love that guy)

In any case, I am still giving Girls a chance. I would perhaps be ready to forgive the increasing annoyance of Hannah, if Lena Dunham writes in scenes with the rest of the cast. You’ll understand my not wanting to spend thirty minutes of my week dealing with all the problems in Hannah-world.

Our favourite gay characters on television

Our favourite gay characters on television

With Pride week this past week in Mumbai and everything you know, we realised we hadn’t ever acknowledged our favourite gay characters on television. No time like the present though! Whether it’s for their style, wit, humour or personality, we really really dig these guys. Here are our ten best.

Kima Greggs from The Wire: So Kima has been on about five different lists on Project Small Fry and that should prove our eternal fandom. She’s awesome! Not only is she a well-written, nice rounded of character, her no-nonsense, let’s get down to work attitude is downright kick ass.

Omar from The Wire: President Obama called Omar the most interesting character on television. Word. Not only is he the Robin Hood of Drugs in Baltimore, but he carries his sexual identity with pride. Omar comin!

Ian Gallagher from Shameless: We become aware that Ian was gay in the pilot episode of Shameless and we’ll admit it, the moment we saw his pretty face we felt a horrible sense of doom. Would he be written off as a caricature? But hells to the no! Ian trains in JROTC, can shoot straight, can punch out (and then get with) the meanest bullies ever and has a kind, kind heart (remember what he did for Mandy Milkovitch?)

Cameron from Modern Family: Cameron, the more flamboyant of the gay couple in Modern Family simply takes the prize for being interesting. I mean, the man used to be a clown, he won prizes for fishin and huntin, he sings, he dances, he has “reactions” and he loves his mama. Yay Cameron!

Sam from How I met your mother: Though he’s barely on the show, Barneys gay brother, made a great impact. This brother got the Stintson swag, well tell you that much AND he’s about as funny as Barney, which really say a lot. Also, do you remember the style on his kid?

Kurt from Glee: Kurt is a brave teenager and the only openly gay person in his town. He’s dealt with way too much bullying and had way too many slushies thrown in his face and he stays true to who he is. He and Blaine make a perfect couple (We are assuming they are still together. We gave up on Glee some time ago).

Max from Happy Endings: Max is sloppy, gross, funny and kind of hot. He is exceptionally un-cheesy and has no grandiose ideas of romance. He is constantly plotting crazy things and he keeps himself pretty entertained. And his taste in guys is superb.

Callie from Grey’s Anatomy: Callie, of course takes a while to realize she loves women. She is briefly married to George and sleeps with Mark Sloane and has his baby but she is strong and funny and so good at her job. Even this season, when Arizona is being pretty darn difficult (we don’t blame her really. She doesn’t have her legs anymore), Callie is a pillar of resilience.

Oscar from The Office: That episode where Steve Carell attempts to kiss Oscar to prove that he is not homophobic was so tough to watch and we weren’t surprised when Oscar decided to quit (but a paid vacation changed his mind). But post that, Oscar has became a fun, a bit of a know-it-all but very likable.

Jack Mcfarlane from Will and Grace: Just Jack. *Jazz hands*

Why is nobody talking about Go On?

Why is nobody talking about Go On?

Go On premiered on NBC during the Olympics, a thing most people seem to be really pissed off about. At least that’s what I understand from reading internet outrage about NBC’s stupid idea. Yes, I get it. How could they do that? Those bastards. But now, Go On just had its 14th episode and nobody is talking about it. As with any new sitcom, there are a lot of problems with it, but I’m sure no fewer than the The Mindy Project but people cant shut up about that one (Just to be clear, I’m a huge fan of Kaling. The show is a bit weak, but her character is hilarious and I watch it with dedication).

Go On is the story of Ryan King (Matthew Perry yay) who has to attend mandatory group therapy session to deal with the grief of his wife dying. It started out a bit rocky because Perry plays a smart ass who doesn’t seem to take anything seriously and most of the characters seem like caricatures at first watch. But it manages to stay funny. Post it’s initial settling-in episodes; Go On has become a engaging show that deals with grief in a real, if sometimes over-the-top way (the episode where his wife plans his birthday before dying was a bit much really).

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The rough edges of most of the supporting cast have been sanded out and some of them are really shining now. Especially Anne played by Julia White. Dry, acerbic and angry, Anne lost her wife and doesn’t care at all for King’s charming ways. John Cho who plays King’s boss is amazing as usual though I wish they’d give him more screen time. All the scenes where he is in the radio station are well done.  The episode with Lauren Graham (Matthew Perry’s ex girlfriend) had a nice genuine quality to it and we hear Bradley Whitford (Or as we know him, Danny Tripp) is going to do a special cameo sometime soon. Woot woot for a studio 60 reunion.

The thing with sitcoms is; they need breathing space. The pilot is usually never a good time to judge a show; you don’t know the people yet, the first 15 of 20 minutes is spent introducing you to the characters and their personal quirks and there’s pretty little time to grab you. Parks and Rec had a pretty boring first season, but look at it now. It’s one of the funniest shows on television. In its first couple of episodes, Happy Endings seemed to me like pretty forced humour. But once the cast clicked it’s amah-zing. Go On isn’t as funny as either of these shows right now but it has potential, I just know it. Go on, give it a try.

Reflections on Toni Morrison’s A Mercy

Reflections on Toni Morrison’s A Mercy

Sometimes I can’t thank providence enough for making me a person who loves reading. If I didn’t read, my life would be horrible and empty and if I have ever known a single truth, it is that literature has enriched my life in ways I cannot describe.

I recently finished Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, a layered, slim novel (only 165 pages) published in 2008. Though it took me a week to read it, I found that it took much longer for me to mull over it and sort of digest the contents.

A Mercy is set at least a century before the events in Beloved, her better known work, took place. In 1690, America was on the brink of the kind of civilisation from which Beloved was born. It all begins with Jacob Vaark a white settler trying to make a living in a homestead, accepting a little 8-year-old slave Florens, as payment for a debt. He does this despite his distaste for “trading in flesh,” (Which is ironic given the arc the story takes later) but soon Florens is absorbed into life on the Vaark homestead. There’s Vaark’s wife Rebekka; Lina, a Native American slave and a simple-minded foundling Sorrow. The Vaarks, surprisingly, are not the evil-whitey motifs, that you find in a lot of narratives about slavery. They treat their slaves pretty well all things considering – no terrifying stories of beatings and torture. In fact, if you were very dumb, you might even call them a family. Except, of course that they’re not. The word slave runs deep. Morrison uses the story to really explore the beginnings of slavery, to find out the meaning of what it means to be free. She explains, in this discussion at the New York Public Library, that she wanted to eliminate race from the equation completely.

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The story really takes a turn when Jacob dies of small-pox and Rebekka catches it too. Florens must undertake a journey to find a freed man – a blacksmith of African descent- who is some kind of a marvel with medicine. The journey has personal reasons tied up with the obvious; Florens, now 16, is hopelessly in love with the blacksmith. Back stories come through the narration of other three women – Rebekka, Lina and Sorrow and in their stories we get creepy insight into what freedom really means, how slavery was born, what nurtured it and how it stayed untouched and unquestioned for so many years.

It is not a good idea to read Morrison novels and examine your feelings right away. The intensity will mess you up. You have to pause, breathe, read up on your history, re-read and only then can you search your soul to identify the depths that the story and the narrative offer. I did all of that and I was amazed at the things I discovered. Popular culture hasn’t even scraped the surface of what the modern world knows of slavery. Florens’ mother, who in the beginning of the book, begged Jacob to take her daughter, (she sensed that Jacob was a decent man, who would keep Florens safer than she could) was shipped over to America and the book ends with her perspective. “It was there that I learned how I was not a person from my country, nor from my families. I was negrita. Everything. Language, dress, gods, dance, habits, decoration, song – all of it cooked together in the colour of my skin.”

A Mercy is the kind of book that stays with you for days afterward. Its short but it hits so hard, it leaves you breathless. Read. It.

P.S: A shout out to The book lady’s blog that lead me to a bunch of insightful post-book reading.

 

 

Our favourite Proposition Joe moments

Our favourite Proposition Joe moments

There are a lot of great characters on David Simon’s The Wire. As you get drawn into the world of drug slinging Baltimore and everything that comes with it, you tend to identify with the characters. When we heard that Robert Chew, the actor who played Proposition Joe on the show passed away, we called back all those moments spent analysing characters and discussing plots. This is a list of our best Prop Joe moments. A businessman, a dealer and a manipulator with wisdom and cunning that made him come alive.

Our first glimpse of Prop Joe was at the famed Eastside vs Westside basketball game in the projects. We were impressed with his cool nonchalance, which came off as even cooler next to Avon Barksdale’s cussing and angry stomping. When Avon asked him why he was wearing a suit, acting like Pat Riley and carrying a fake clipboard when he couldn’t even read a playbook, Prop Joe uttered his fist lines in the show. “Look the part, be the part, motherfucker.” Epic stuff.

This moment is from The Wire prequels shot after the series. The short reel shows us a much younger Joe’s crafty manipulation with his teacher. A school test, money and a teacher he tries to bribe. It was the makings of a Joe who would later be in charge of selling product in East Baltimore and a lifetime of making propositions that slyly benefit him.

Season 5. Herc, cop turned lawyer, met Prop Joe in lawyer Maury Levy’s office. They both sit down and grab a paper. Ervin Burrel, the police commissioner has finally been given the big goodbye by the Mayor and Joe casually remarked that Burrel was a year ahead of him in school. Herc looks like he’s dying of curiosity and he finally spits out, “I gotta ask…” “Stone stupid,” Prop Joe confirmed coolly.

Every single moment that Prop Joe held meetings with the players in Baltimore. He commanded the room with his drawling voice and he had organisational skills that genuinely kicked ass. A born leader and a crafty old dog, Joe kept things simple and well oiled…for a while.

Prop Joe got his name by giving propositions to people he slyly wanted to control. He perceived quicker than anyone else that Marlo was just biding his time with this whole round table deal and so he decided to take the young man under his wing and lead him to a lawyer who would clean his drug money up. He figured, you help, you get saved, and you can practically hear the cogs in motion when he approaches Marlo and tells him how one dealt with the world.

“Who you tellin’? I got motherfucking nephews and in-laws fucking all my shit up all the time and it ain’t like I can pop a cap in their ass and not hear about it Thanksgiving time. For real, I’m livin’ life with some burdensome niggers.”

The way Prop Joe faced and accepted death and betrayal. It always struck us as awesome that the big Baltimore players were always ready to accept the code of the game. “Its all in the game, yo,” said Omar in season one and this how they faced defeat and death. But no one accepted his fate more than gracefully than Joe, who closed his eyes and waited for the bullet. There’s a deadly tenderness in the way Marlo says, “Joe relax. It won’t hurt none.” That scene was the most powerful one in the season.

“Wanna know what kills police more than bullets and liquor? Boredom. They just can’t handle that shit. You keep it boring, String. You keep it dead fucking boring.”

Godspeed Robert Chew. You made a character feel real.

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