Television shows I’m following

tv blog

♪♫♪ Born free, hanging in the trees and waiting for the duties coming for me / All we ever do is count the time, following something, riddles in their diamond ring…

No matter how busy I get, there are certain things that I always make time for somehow. Calling my family, hanging out with friends, working out…and television shows. When I was a freshman, I could easily go through binge marathons of various shows online with no repercussion toward my schoolwork or activities. It was easy to lose myself in a brand new show and live vicariously through outlandish characters. After all, television is arguably the easiest and laziest form of escapism.  Nowadays though, I have to be slightly more selective about what I watch because time is not nearly as flexible as it was two years ago.

Here’s the thing about TV shows and me — I treat them like relationships. A complete emotional commitment. I’m the kind of person who gets completely wrapped up in the characters and universe of the show to the point that where the plot goes has a direct effect on my emotional well-being. I’m one of those wackos that goes on show forums to discuss the nuances of characterization and symbolism on the same night that the new episode air. I look for Easter eggs thrown in that only diehard fans would pick up. I do research on the show’s background, its music, its actors and directors…

Basically I can be a complete geek about my favorite shows. I mourn the death of my favorite characters and I seethe when some plot outcome doesn’t turn out the way I want. I watch and I rewatch my favorites when I’m happy, sad, or bored. I enjoy being completely lost in a whole other world for a half hour or an hour that I’m in love with. And I’m sure many people understand the feeling.

To my delight, since 2015 began, there is no shortage of shows to entertain me! Actually, I think I’m following more shows on a weekly basis than I ever have before. Usually I have one or two shows in the fall that I will painstakingly wait all week for a new episode, but right now, there are more new shows and seasons out that I’ve ever been invested in before…it’s gotten to the point that I let them build up and then sometimes go on a watching spree one day of the week. In any case, here are the shows I’ve been following/indulging in whenever I find a spare moment.

 

The Walking Dead

The quintessential zombie apocalypse show…that, in my opinion, is not actually about zombies (or “walkers,” as they call them on the show). The show is more focused on the lengths people go to for survival and questions of humanity. Right now the plot is at mid season 5 right now, and the themes, style, direction, and characterization methods have changed a lot since its inception. But the gist of it is still the same — former sheriff Rick Grimes is trying to survive the zombie apocalypse with his family and allies by battling the undead and a slew of evil characters. That description really doesn’t do it justice — there’s a lot of action (some graphic violence), interesting character dynamics, and plot devices used to keep the show interesting. While it’s not always fast-paced because much time is spent on character development, I enjoy these “filler” episodes because they flesh out who the characters were and are becoming.

I know some diehard fans who have read and follow the comics as well (and look down on show-watchers who haven’t), but I can say confidently you would not have to be a comic book fan in the slightest to enjoy the show. You only have to enjoy action, zombies, and maybe be able to stomach some gross scenes. I knew about this show a long time before I gave it a chance because it never seemed like something I’d like. But while Netflix is the death of productivity, it also brings my attention to trying new genres, and I was hooked after two episodes.

Season 5 is airing every Sunday night now on AMC! It’s a great way to decompress the night before a week of school for me…even though some of the scenes really have me on edge.

 

The 100

Speaking of Netflix, I’m grateful that I got the chance to check out this interesting and drastically underrated show! Actually, one of my friends first introduced it to me, and I have to admit, the first episode is pretty bad. Like, cringe-worthy directing and cheesy lines and pop music choices inserted. But I would recommend to start anywhere from episode 3 onward to give it a try…it’s actually quite compelling, even though it’s akin to the many dystopian-futuristic-crisis books/movies/shows that seems to be ubiquitous in young adult entertainment these days.

The premise of the show is that in the future, humans live in a space station called the Ark because Earth is no longer habitable. All crime is punishable by death, and when resources on the station run low, the government of the Ark decide to send down 100 condemned teenagers (who are all conveniently super attractive for television) to Earth in order to test if the land is still salvageable. Spoiler alert for the first ten minutes: it is. The show blends together the elements of Lost, Lord of the Flies, and The Walking Dead, and one of my favorite parts is the writers relentlessly moving the plot forward. There are no filler episodes in The 100 — every episode counts and has big scenes for characters, making for fast-paced entertainment.

I also feel that the show underscores feminism on a new level — all the major leaders of the different factions are women, making the big calls for entire societies. Everyone depends on the skills of a female engineer. Women are fierce, fearless warriors, capable of holding their own in battle. Cheesy plotlines and art style aside, there is one thing that is undeniable about this show: it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.

Yes, it’s on the CW, and yes there will be plot holes. But give The 100 a chance…you may be surprised. I was.

 

Shameless (US version)

One of my favorite show, if not my favorite! I started following this show during its third season and can’t believe that it’s already halfway through its fifth now. The series is based on its original UK counterpart, which I admittedly haven’t watched, but in no way are comparisons necessary at all. This version is set in Chicago, which makes it fun to catch scenes on the El or on familiar streets and landmarks in Chicago. The best part of the show, however, is the cast. The show centers around the individual lives of the raucous Gallagher family run by Fiona, the beautiful eldest sister who acts as matriarch (portrayed by the flawless Emmy Rossum) of her five younger siblings. Her alcoholic, selfish father Frank is played by the brilliant William H. Macy, and his antics (as well as those of every other character) truly name up to the name of the show.

The show is a “dramedy”— mainly comedy, but with lots of drama infused in. I might have started watching for the comedy, but it’s the drama that has kept this show consistently my favorite. After five seasons, I find the character development to be consistently satisfying, even for the little Gallaghers who started out as little kids in the first season. When I talk about being invested in characters of shows, Shameless is the first that I think of because every single person on the show does such a phenomenal job of making the characters come alive. It’s a show that I recommend to anyone and everyone, and everyone who has taken up my recommendation has told me that it didn’t disappoint.

Bonus: The show has filmed at UIC before! You can catch glimpses of west campus in season 4 if you look carefully enough. The 157 bus gets a nice cameo.

 

Fresh Off The Boat

Ever watch Everybody Hates Chris? Welcome to the Asian American version of it. This is a brand new show by ABC based on the book of the same name by author Eddie Huang. The show has been featured in the media because it’s the first time that television cable is seeing an Asian American sitcom—and that has me excited. Growing up, I watched a ton of family sitcoms on TV with the same tropes — bumbling father, prudent mother, squabbling siblings. But never did I see a family that looked like the one I grew up with. Fresh Off the Boat is based on the childhood of Eddie Huang, who grew up with his two younger brothers in Orlando with his father and mother, who recently opened a steak restaurant. It quickly becomes clear that assimilation will be difficult for the whole family, particularly for Eddie who struggles to fit in at his school.

So far the show is very reminiscent of the style of Everybody Hates Chris with there being narration by grown-up Eddie in the scenes. The show is set in the 90s, which makes it fun to watch for nostalgia’s sake as well. It’s only a couple episodes in so far, so I’m just getting to know the feel of the show—but so far I find it promising and I’m excited to see as Asian American presence on TV!

 

Better Call Saul

The legion of Breaking Bad fans probably already know about this show — it’s the spinoff off the insanely popular and brilliant original after all. The title says it all — the show revolves around Saul Goodman, the notorious lawyer from Breaking Bad that is integral to the success of chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-manufacturer Walter White. Viewers will see the origin of Saul Goodman, a.k.a. Jimmy McGill, who will go from being a criminal lawyer to eventually becoming (as Jesse Pinkman would say) a criminal lawyer.

There’s a reason why Breaking Bad has won a slew of television awards — all well-deserved, in my opinion — and with the same people handling this spin-off show, I’m sure I’m not alone by setting my expectations high. So far I have not been disappointed. Only a few episodes in, the show has started off strong by setting up the scene for Jimmy McGill, a lawyer down in his luck, to enter a darker side of business. Plus, for Breaking Bad fans, there are several familiar characters and nods to references from the original show even from episode 1. I’m both excited and terrified whenever the time for a new episode comes around…it reminds me the exhilaration that came with watching Breaking Bad for the first time.

So between handling all my obligations and these shows, I feel like I’ve established a decent balance between work and relaxation, particularly on the weekdays. If I have a hard, long day with classes, work, and meetings, in the back of my mind I know that there is usually at least one new episode on deck for me from one of these shows. No matter how busy I become, I’ll never stop myself from stealing a little reprieve when I can get it.

Where, where do we go? Where the, where the wind blows / Generation with no mythologies to follow ♪♫♪

(No Mythologies To Follow – MØ)

 

Sarah Lee (F)

 

Sarah Lee is a junior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of  life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.

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