What To Watch On TV 2015

There is too much good television these days and it’s almost impossible to keep up with what is on and when it starts and if you should watch it or not.

The idea here is a list of cable and streaming series to watch, ordered chronologically by premier date. For returning series it is easy to decide what makes the list. For new series, it’s always going to be hit or miss. Shows will be added and possibly subtracted throughout the year.

The letters after the channel show if earlier seasons are available for streaming onYkiZiACkmazon Prime,Huluulu Plus or 3ohmlq2rqnur0ajbydi8etflix. HBO series are only available for steaming on HBO Go and Showtime series are available on Showtimewtime Anytime.

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The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

I don’t remember why the alarm was set but it went off one weekend morning. The station, of course, was WNYC and the show that was starting was about Jason Isbell. I’ve since gone back to find that the show was The New Yorker Radio Hour in which John Seabrook talks to Isbell. The first song played is “Cover Me Up.”

A heart on the run keeps its hand on a gun
You can’t trust anyone
I was so sure what I needed was more
Tried to shoot out the sun

I was hooked. I sat up (figuratively) and tried not to fall back asleep but also not let on to my wife that I was awake and should be getting ready for whatever we had set the alarm.

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The Big Sick

The Big Sick is your standard romcom: Boy meets Girls, Boy Loses Girl By Being Stupid, Boy Eventually Wins Girl Back. [Sorry, SPOILER] There is nothing in this broadest outline of the story that makes it unique, but of course what makes romcoms work are the details. It’s Sally and Harry trying to set each other up and having their prospective dates fall for each other. It’s William’s friends making him see he was an idiot for breaking things off with Anna. It’s Aaron burying the lead and telling Jane that he loves her. In The Big Sick its Kumail’s attempts to keep both himself and his family happy, and the impossibility of trying to anything meaningful halfway.

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The Leftovers and The Book of Me

When I was a teenager I came up with this theory of life that I’m sure is not unique. Basically, the idea was that from your own perspective you live until you grow old and then accept death. While someone else may perceive that you, say, die in a car crash, from your point of view you survive the crash, or maybe you were never in that crash. It was a perfect teenage theory in that it was inane and neither provable nor dis-provable.

The human mind tries to bring order to chaos, which explains why we think we can beat slot machines and why we come up with religions. As the universe is based on the laws of physics, of action and reaction and equilibrium, the human mind seeks equilibrium, creates explanations to fill in where there are none. I don’t know what was going on when I came up with my theory. Maybe I was bored. But it was a natural action, an effort to fill some of the space in my world.

I thought of this while watching the third and final season of The Leftovers, a series that takes place after the Departure when two percent of the world’s population suddenly disappears without explanation. Or at least there is no explanation until people start creating their own. The series is about grief and loss, of course, and its also about relationships and what they are built on, but especially in the final season it’s about what we need to believe about things that can’t be explained. Kevin Garvey believes that he needs to die to really live. Nora Durst believes she needs a scientific-ish explanation for why her husband and two children disappeared. By the end of the series Kevin and Nora are at peace, ready to love each other in whatever time they have left. The explanations no longer matter.

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I Love Dick

A few weeks ago I started watching the Amazon series I Love Dick, the latest from Transparent creator Jill Soloway. I only got partway through the first episode, only to the point when Chris speaks to Dick for the first time, when I had to stop watching. (I no longer remember why I had to stop.) I only watched enough to be intrigued but what was going to happen, only long enough to be reminded that Kathryn Hahn is a treasure and that I would watch her in anything.

I finally made it back to I Love Dick last night. My wife was doing something and we were going to watch TV when she was finished so I was going to watch something to kill some time. Then my wife walks in when Chris is reading to her husband Sylvère her first letter to Dick and my wife was hooked and we watched the rest of the series.

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Thinking of Marion Ravenwood

So I was watching Raiders of the Lost Ark the other day, partly because its great and partly because it’s on Amazon Prime. Now, I’m hardly the person to talk about direction and form but there is so much pleasing in the movie, not just in the story and the acting but in Steven Spielberg’s direction. This was a bit on my mind lately because Matt Zoller Seitz tweeted this:

Mavericks often turn into has-beens, right, and maybe we are all tired of Spielberg now (although Stranger Things begs to differ), but in Raiders Spielberg was in his prime and the camera movement especially is so enjoyable. (To be clear, I’m not tired of Spielberg, or Scott for that matter.)

One other thing that I loved in the movie is the shadow work. I may post something later about other ways Spielberg used shadows but look at these few examples with Indiana Jones thinking about Marion Ravenwood.

This first shot is from the scene in which Marcus Brody goes to Indy’s house to tell him that the US government wants him to go find the Ark of the Covenant. While Indy is packing, he asks Marcus if he thinks “she” will be with his old mentor, Abner Ravenwood. (Yeah, the names in this series are excellent.) “She” is Abner’s daughter, Marion, with whom Indy had a relationship. Look at Indiana’s face in this shot.

Indy is in shadows while Marcus Brody is clearly lit. We know from context that something happened between Indiana and Abner and Marion that caused a falling out (and we can probably guess what it is), and the shadow on Indy’s face reinforce this.

Indiana travels to Nepal to find Marion who he hopes will give him the headpiece that he needs. (I assume you’ve seen the movie so all this makes sense to you.) Their reunion is not exactly joyful (Marion slugs Indiana and refuses to give him the headpiece). Marion tells Indiana that he broke her heart and hurt Abner also. She tells Indy to come back the next day to get the headpiece. This shot is of Indy as he walks out the door.

Again, his face mostly in shadow. There is still something between them but maybe they will never be able to put the old hurt behind them.

Shortly after Indy leaves, Marion is attacked by Nazis who are also looking for the headpiece. Indy rescues her and Marion takes the headpiece and tells Indy she’s his partner. Together they go to Egypt.

In Egypt, Indiana and Marion are in the sun with Sallah’s family, enjoying the weather as well as each other’s company. Eventually Marion gets kidnapped by those pesky Nazis and when Indy tries to rescue her he causes the truck she’s in to explode. Marion is dead. (Marion is not dead. [SPOILER])

So yeah, Marion is not dead but Indy doesn’t know this. So first Indy drowns his sorrows, then threatens to kill Belloq until Sallah’s children rescue him, and then he confronts his grief. This is the shot that brings it all home. Look at this.

It’s a callback to the door for Marion’s bar in Nepal and again there is Indiana’s face partly in shadow. Indiana and Marion reconciled somewhat but now they will never fully reconcile. Simply, there will always be a shadow when Indiana thinks of Marion.

Two Experts Talk On GChat, Canonicity Ensues

I have read Alan Sepinwall’s work since Bill Simmons’ gave Alan his imprimatur by having Alan on the B.S. Report. Because of his prodigious — and insightful — output, Alan is one of the giants of the Recap Industrial Complex. Sometime later I came to Matt Zoller Seitz, probably because I kept seeing people link to or quote him in my Twitter feed. Or maybe it was after Matt became the editor at rogerebert.com. Or maybe it was after I read one of Matt’s recaps, er, overnight reviews and was struck by his focus on form, and by his humanity.

In TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, Alan and Matt rank the one hundred greatest scripted American television shows of all time. It’s an audacious undertaking, but one which Alan and Matt are certainly capable and qualified of undertaking. As they write in the introduction, they have a combined forty years of experience, not counting their “misspent” youths. And if I had any doubts about whether Alan and Matt were up to the task, those doubts turned to dust in a section called “The Great Debate: How Do You Pick the Best Show of All Time?”.

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Oathbreaker: The Limits of Our Stories

We are all heroes of our own stories. To that end, we construct the stories of other people in our lives so that they fit our themes. In the third episode of season six of Game of Thrones, “Oathbreaker”, Bran Stark and the Three-Eyed Crow witness the confrontation at the Tower of Joy between Ned Stark and his bannermen, and members of the Kingsguard. What Bran sees does not conform to the story that he “knew” from childhood, from the story he remembers being told. And it makes me wonder if, in the world of Game of Thrones, the old stories matter very much in the current situation.

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A Prayer to the New Gods

So after watching the season six premier of Game of Thrones I started working on this theory about the women that were featured and relating them to the gods in the Faith of the Seven. It felt very useful and I was pretty proud of myself when I did this mapping.

Daenerys = The Mother
Cersei = The Father
Melisandre = The Crone
Sansa = The Maiden
Arya = The Stranger
Brienne = The Warrior

This seemed so good that I spent some time trying to shoehorn another woman in The Smith role, but was unable to do it. To be honest, I know that not all these matches are perfect. Then I watched the second episode of the season and now I think I know who The Smith is.

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I Still Don’t Know What I Am Waiting For

To me, a boy growing up in Vermont in the seventies and eighties, David Bowie was a threat. Bowie was too clever, too variable, too strange, too complicated, too challenging. I didn’t know what to make of a musician whose lane was seemingly whatever he wanted it to be. That this also applied to Bowie’s movies and fashion was overwhelming. To that boy who wanted so badly to fit in, to not be thought of as strange or different or weird, Bowie was a warning and a danger.

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A Dream of Winter

Today George RR Martin posted an update on the progress of The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin announced that the book will not be released before season six of the HBO series Game of Thrones premiers in April. This means that the book readers and the non-book readers will be, for the most part, on equal footing. This also means that things will happen in the series before they are in the books, theoretically spoiling the books. I am one of millions of book readers and my reaction is as follows: meh.

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