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Our favourite Christmas episodes

Our favourite Christmas episodes

Studio 60 on the sunset strip: The entire episode was all sharp Sorkin dialogue and hilarity (a Santa that looked like it was giving a nazi salute) but the crux of it was that Matt Alby wanted a show that was “christmasy.” And he delivered. A moving end that had to be heard to be believed and one character finally making a big confession that changed the course of the series. This episode is all kinds of heart-warming.

Friends: We spent a fair amount of Christmases and thankgivings with the gang, but the episode where Chandler has to spend Christmas in Tulsa was our favourite. Of all the flashbacks he goes to, our favourite is of course Phoebe singing her Christmas song with all her friends’ names in it. And Chandler came back in the end. Because he missed his wife so much he couldn’t stand it. Awww.

Modern Family: The Pritchets and the Dunphys always know how to balance funny and sweet, but they outdid themselves at the Christmas episode where they all had to arrange Christmas in a day (December 10th). The clan split up and organised food, presents and decorations, all to the kind of comedy errors that cause you to cry with laughter. The episode ended with them all frolicking in fake snow. Perfection to the end.

Community: Abed’s uncontrollable Christmas is one of those episodes that make your jaw drop at the brilliance of this show. The entire show turns into Claymation as they travel through Abed’s head to a Christmas-themed planet. They sing songs and travel through a dark zone and find the true meaning of Christmas. So so cute.

The Big Bang Theory: Putting one of the most important issues of Christmas at the forefront; Sheldon is struggling to find Penny a gift equal in value to the one she gave him. But of course he fails, when Penny makes a thoughtful gesture and gifts him an autograph of Leonard Nimoy. Anything that has Sheldon Cooper stumped is a wonderful moment by our standards.

New Girl: Although New Girl is relatively new, season one had a rollercoaster of a Christmas episode that involved Paul giving Jess and expensive gift while she plans to break up with him, Nick struggling to make it home, Schmidt being Santa for his boss and Winston forming a bond with a little kid. And when everyone has clearly had a terrible day, the gang drives down to see Christmas lights and manage to wake up an entire street and it’s absolutely beautiful.

A jumbled sea of stories

A jumbled sea of stories

Usually I steer clear of movies that have characters with disabilities of any kind. I don’t like feeling forced to empathise with a character or be called insensitive if I don’t. But Bollywood, despite Guzarish and some others, has really handled disability very well in recent times. Paa, Taare Zameen Par and this week’s Barfi.
Barfi is a story about deaf and mute boy (Ranbir Kapoor is absolutely incredible in this movie and so cute!), an autistic girl (Priyanka Chopra) and of course the message of all Bollywood movies: love surpasses everything.

The movie successfully manages to skip past sympathy and gets straight to the story; that there is an autistic person and a deaf-mute is almost kind of incidental. I’m not an expert at writing movie reviews but this is a movie I would recommend to everybody. The music is very sweet and some of the scenes are shot extremely beautifully. The cast is great; it’s just a wonderfully made movie.

I caught the 11pm show and at 2.30 am, I took a rickshaw home from Andheri alone, plugged my headphones in and I realised, it was 2.30 am. A few years ago I wouldn’t dare go alone anywhere past midnight and yes, there is still that occasional moment of anxiety when I’m the only woman on Khar station and the sleeveless kurta seems to reveal more than it actually does. And then there are nights like these when I’ll stop on the way and smoke a cigarette with the rickshaw driver, when all of Bombay seems to mutter stories and the song that plays on shuffle seems to fit your life and even the street lamps look like fireflies. Nights like these when coming home and opening a word document seems organic. You have almost no idea what you’re writing but you do. It may not be as inspiring as you thought it was in the morning but what I’m coming to, after all this pointless build up is that Bombay is so full of stories, so many worlds, so many characters.

Speaking of Bombay stories, this week, Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (of the super cool Sridhar Thayil) was nominated for the Man Booker prize. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of the book, the story is great, the narrative is exciting but somehow it seem a bit, erm, pretentious. I know. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe I’m being a hipster and don’t want to like anything that’s popular (Ok, that’s not true. Look at the fangirlism on this website). But this is still terribly exciting news for Indian fiction and I do hope Thayil wins. We’ll know in about a month, and till then if you haven’t read Narcopolis yet, you should. Do tell me what you think.

And here’s something else I recommend this week, Go on. Matthew Perry’s latest show is about a radio jockey who loses his wife and has to attend mandatory group therapy sessions. Matthew Perry is one of my favourite actors and every time he fails I take it personally. Studio 60 lasted only one season (and what a spectacular season that was), Mr. Sunshine was terribly lackluster so I had my fingers crossed for Go on. Two episodes in, and I predict good things to come. A very cute story with Perry’s trademark humour and wit and a cast that makes for some crazy and sweet moments, Go on might just be the show to watch this season.

Movie-ception

Movie-ception

How great is the show within a show format? I know you think I’m going to start another I love Studio 60 post, but this time it’s something else. It’s an awestruck love letter to Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the rain. I skedaddled from Bombay this weekend and the moment I touched the green, green grass of home (don’t groan. I’m engineered to reference country western music. I was raised on it) I knew I owed myself a great classic favourite. I chose Singing in the rain and within minutes I was lost in the slapstick comedy, the singing, the tap dances and the genius of Donald O’Connor. I also found myself enthralled by the lengthy musical number from The dueling cavalier.

For those of you who haven’t had the immense pleasure of watching Singing in the rain, it’s plot is set in the time when silent films were just making the transition to the talking picture format. Screen legends Don Lockwood and Nina Lamont find themselves having to convert the film they’re acting in (The dueling cavalier) into a musical with modern dance numbers (for that era, this meant lots of fringe trimmed flapper dresses and those sexy cigarette holders). But how to make a film set in 16th century France more 1920’s and less balcony swordfight-ish? Easy. Just make it about a Broadway aspirant who happens to be reading A tale of two cities and call it The dancing cavalier. It’s genius. I tell you, if The Dancing Cavalier were an actual film, I’d watch that shit in a heartbeat.

It’s the same with all the other stuff I’ve seen on films about films or television series about films. I found everything in Studio 60, (with the exception of that biopic that Harriet was supposed to star in) hilarious and that includes peripheral vision man. In the King and I, the Siam dance drama of Uncle Toms cabin was just amazing and since we’re on the subject what was that movie with Lindsay Lohan where she stars in a play about a modern day Eliza Doolittle? Who cares, but I remember she stars in play about a modern day Eliza Doolittle! They should have given that more screen time. It would have made Lohan’s presence bearable.

Six television couples we love

Six television couples we love

Matt and Harriet from Studio 60

There’s something deeply romantic about these two. She’s his beautiful, spirited muse. He falls to pieces and becomes a gibbering wreck without her. Politically, socially, spiritually they’re at complete odds. She’s a star comedienne and he’s a deeply talented humour writer, so that’s a lot of funny in one relationship. She’s conflicted, he is stubborn.  But there’s something deeply romantic about these two.

Andy and April from Parks and Rec

“We’re in love, we didn’t over think it. I mean, I cannot emphasis how LITTLE we thought about this.” Best. Wedding. Speech. Ever. April and Andy are really children playing at being married. They eat out of Frisbees because who needs plates, their role play involves an FBI agent and a rich, 1920’s widow and they get a bunch of medical tests done for fun, when they learn they have health insurance. And they’re the cutest. April and Andy!

Marshall and Lily from How I met your mother

Lilypad and Marshmellow. Sigh. Where to begin. They met in college and they still tell each other what they had for lunch. She finds his calves irresistible and she knows never to bring up chucky before bedtime. He plans elaborate parties for her because she loves birthdays. “Happy happy lily day.”

Joey and Rachel from Friends

If I was friends with on again/off again/on a break/getting married/having a baby/load a gun and kill me already and whatnot Ross and Rachel, I would have slapped them. A lot. Joey on the other hand was perfect. He was madly in love with Rachel, so pretty, and he was closer to her IQ level than Ross was. Also, clearly he has better game.

Jackie and Hyde from That 70’s show

She is uptight and rich and he’s a rebel with sideburns; they are meant for each other. Unfortunately they don’t work out what with the strippers, weddings, Kelso and Fez in the middle, but Jackie and Hyde were the cutest couple on that 70’s show.

Joey and Pacey from Dawson’s Creek

Joey Potter was caught in the eternal struggle between her best friend and his best friend. Well, it happens to all of us (not really). The kids on the creek sure experimented with a whole bunch of people before a moderately bad boy swept Joey off her feet. And thank god for that. Dawson Leary is the most boring, weak-ass protagonist to roam the land of teenage romance television shows.

The best men on TV

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The best men on TV

It’s that time of that year again when most of my shows are on break and I’m trying to watch and get interested in the midseason shows (Girls, Veep).

But mostly I watch reruns and make lists. Here is one of my 10 favourite men on Television.

Steven Hyde from That 70s’ show

Curly hair, sideburns and boots; Steven Hyde is the epitome of Zen. His life’s philosophy is “whatever”. He has a streak of anti-establishment that makes him utterly hot.

P.S – Jackie and Hyde forever!

Dr John Dorian from Scrubs

JD is an insecure, compassionate and validation-seeking doctor with dreamy eyes. He has a constant inner monologue and frequently creates dream scenarios to make real life more like TV. No, I don’t identify with him at all. What do you mean?

Also, try getting this brilliant ode to Zach Braff out of your head (I don’t care what you say, in a non gay way, I love Zach Braff, Zach Braff).

Marshall Eriksen from How I met your mother

What kind of cold-hearted bitchasaurus rex would not love a grown man who believes in monsters, ghosts and calls the Loch ness monster, “Nessy”? He has a good job, he is funny, he wants to save the environment, he can fight when he has to, he makes adorable songs (Lily made some crème brulelelelele, you just got slapped woahohohoho); Marshal Eriksen is the perfect husband.

Dr Gregory House from House MD

Oh, Dr House is so manly. He is brash, he is in pain and he handles it like a man. An angry, crazy man. House is so hot; I want to cut my arm off so I can meet him. I want to be closed and intriguing so he wants to know me. I want to sit on his lap. I want to be Wilson so he can be best friends with me. (Just to clarify, I know he is fictional)

Matt Albie from Studio 60 on the sunset strip

Matt is the head writer of Studio 60. He is incredibly witty, smart and intelligent. He is an award-winning writer but his struggles with writing, depression, addiction and religion is so endearing, you just want to give him a hug. He is also incredibly hilarious.

 

Don Draper from Mad Men

I have only seen half of one Mad Men season (yes, yes, I should be hunted down and my head should be shaved) but that’s enough to fall in love with Don Draper. He is a smoker, drinker, womanizer and suit wearer and his eyes can cut though ice. I don’t think I’d really survive in 1960 (dresses that end tightly below your knees are uncomfortable) but Draper is a man that will stay hot in every decade.

Troy Barnes from Community

You know what’s great about Troy Barnes? He likes no-no juice, he can pop and lock like a champ, he has a talent in plumbing, he is distracted by shiny things and cries very easily. Also, he is the best friend anyone can ever find.

Stringer Bell from The Wire

Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell is the second-in-command of Avon Barksdale’s drug organisation. He is intelligent, ruthless, he has rock-hard abs, he takes business classes and owns a copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Rock-hard abs. Rock. Hard.

Phil Dunphy from Modern Family

“I’m cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip, I surf the web, I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: oh my god, WTF: why the face?”

– Phil Dunphy, ex-cheerleader, peerent.

Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreaction

“The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am. I’m not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes.”

As much as I’m in love with Ben Wyatt, Ron Swanson is THE man on television. He eats meat, he drinks scotch, he is a woodworker, he hates the government and he has the bushiest moustache in the world. He is also secretly a jazz player, Duke Silver.

Trivia: Nick Offerman who plays Ron Swanson is married to Megan Mullaly who plays Ron’s crazy ex-wife Tammy 2. 

Other Contenders: 

Ben Wyatt and Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock, Blaine Anderson from Glee, Neil Caffery ranfrom White Collar, Steely Booth From Bones, Richard Castle from Castle, Cameron from Modern Family, Omar from The Wire, Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock, Jeff winger and Abed Nadir from Community, Mark Sloane from Grey’s Anatomy.

We’ll be loving this show in two different millennia soon

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We’ll be loving this show in two different millennia soon

If someone had told me to watch Studio 60 instead of spending Rs 1,00,000 on a Post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass communication, it would be good advice. Off the top of my head, these are some of the issues the show throws out there. Stand up comedy, writing for television, Television’s responsibility to different communities and to society at large, sensitivity in a mass medium, journalism, TRP ratings and what drives them, comedy at a time when your audience is threatened with war, violence and uncertainty. Question: Why would you watch something that…heavy? Answer: It’s unbelievably HILARIOUS. I probably should have lead with that.

First some background for the uninitiated. Studio 60 on the sunset strip was created by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame. The show within a show format story is woven around the creators of a SNL type comedy sketch show called Studio 60. The series aired on NBC in 2006 and was promptly cancelled a year later because it lost its time slot to The Black Donnelly’s and later to The Real Wedding Crashers. I know. I’m speechless with rage too.
 

Here’s why you should watch, re-watch or Sunday-marathon-with-beer-watch Studio 60 on the sunset strip if you’re a/an

Amateur stand up comedian: If you want to get people to laugh at your material and at your jokes, here’s some free Studio 60 advice.

Harriet: I got a laugh at the table read when I asked for the butter in the dinner sketch, I didn’t get one at the dress. What did I do wrong?

Matt: You asked for the laugh.

Harriet: What did I do at the table read?

Matt: You asked for the butter.

And there’s plenty more where that came from.

Small fry Journalist (ahem): Yes, for a couple of episodes, a swinging, fast-talking Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Martha O’Dell, from Vanity Fair lands up to do a full-length feature on a behind the scenes at Studio 60. If you watch carefully, her character has a lesson or two for you. I can’t say too much without it being a spoiler, but I will say this. She doesn’t take notes during interviews (don’t try this at home. At least, not yet), she knows the answers before she asks the question but she asks the question anyway and she draws information and confessions out of the people she interviews, the way you draw doodles in your notebook fifteen minutes before filing your story.

Are working in Television: What’s important? Bowing and scraping to the network that airs your show or putting up content you feel the show demands? Every tussle you’ll ever have in the world of TV, every word you need to change in a script. Every bit of last minute writing you’ll have to do to make a deadline: It’s all here.

Are from the Entertainment industry: When is entertainment harmless and silly and when can it get dangerous? Do you have a responsibility to viewers and readership that do not come from the urban background that you do? Is taking a pot-shot at someone who can’t fight back okay as long as it gets you ratings?

Are a fan of Sting, Corrine Bailey Rae, Gran Bel Fisher, Three 6 mafia, and Natalie Cole:  They all appear on the show once, as themselves, and they perform. Also, Sting accompanies himself on a lute.

Get a kick out of celebrity impressions: Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter and Ben Stiller. For real.

Tend to beat yourself up after a bad job: There’s an episode on the show called The disaster show, where everything that can possibly go wrong goes twice as wrong and then some. The characters still weather on. Remember that sense of entitlement you felt when you started working? Remember how it all came crashing down your ears when you actually got down to work? What’s that? It still happens? Yeah, it happens to everyone. Wrote a bad story? Had a bad show? Missed a deadline? Shake it off. Move on and do a better job next time.

Want to find out why I chose the headline I did: You’ll get it at the end of the season.

Believe that true genius never really gets its due anymore: You know I’m right. Look at the ratio of shows that do phenomenally well and look at the ones that flounder before bravely dying out.

Don’t care about any of this but like good television: Aaron Sorkin keeps the action fast, the plot and writing tight, the characters believable and the backstory bulletproof. If you’re a fan of the walk-and-talk technique and snappy dialogue, then this is the show you watch and then watch again and then talk about till people stand up and leave the table.

– Sheena

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