Best Episode of the Season: Girls Season 2

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Season Analysis: Girls consciously remained unlike most anything else on TV, and it was fitfully successful in doing so.  This season, I often found myself fascinated by the show instead of enjoying it.  This isn’t to say that Girls is that bad … in Season 1, I know I liked it; in Season 2, I’m not always so sure what I thought.

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“It’s a Shame About Ray”
Shoshanna Shapiro has been the most consistently strong character on Girls, and Ray Ploshansky was the most improved in Season 2, so it should be no surprise that an episode that featured a major plot development regarding Ray and Shoshanna’s relationship stood out as the best of the season.  “It’s a Shame About Ray” was already looking like a great episode before Zosia Mamet and Alex Karpovsky even had any screen time.  Hannah was hosting a dinner party at her apartment with a group of friends who currently were not on the best terms with each other – getting a group like that together in a room is always a recipe for entertaining drama, and  this episode did not disappoint in that regard, as Charlie’s new girlfriend Audrey spits fire upon Marnie, and the Charlie and Marnie confront their lingering feelings for each other.  When Ray and Shosh show up, it’s not clear how well they are working as a couple, but there is definitely something there.  At least they communicate more openly than all the other characters on the show (with the possible exception of Adam).  I always appreciate when people talk openly about sex, so it was a nice moment when Ray clarified that their reason for lateness was lovemaking.  And the discussion about Ray’s homelessness goes about as well as that discussion could possibly go, because, even though there is a lot of work to get through Ray’s insecurities, these two actually talk and actually listen to each other.

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The Best Sitcoms of the Past 30 Years

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The past few weeks, Vulture has been has been having a bracket-style “Sitcom Smackdown” to determine the best sitcom of the the past 30 years.  Yesterday, The Simpons was chosen as the winner.  Today, however, Arrested Development was crowned in the readers’ bracket.  Here’s how I how I would have ranked the shows that were in contention.  (I haven’t been a regular viewer of all of them, so for some, I had to guess based on reputation.  I’ve indicated how much I’ve seen of each show in parentheses.)

1. Arrested Development (seen every episode, most – possibly all – multiple times)
2. Seinfeld (seen most episodes, most of them multiple times)
3. Community (seen every episode at least twice)
4. The Simpsons (started watching regularly in season 11, seen a handful of episodes from before then)
5. Cheers (only seen clips)
6. The Larry Sanders Show (not sure I’ve even ever seen clips)
7. Louie (started watching regularly in Season 3)
8. 30 Rock (seen every episode)
9. The Office (seen every episode)
10. South Park (seen several episodes here and there)
11. The Cosby Show (only seen clips)
12. Roseanne (seen a few episodes)
13. Friends (seen a few episodes)
14. Malcolm in the Middle (watched it regularly until it moved to Fridays, then lost track of it)
15. Golden Girls (seen bits and pieces)
16. Sex and the City (walked through the room while my sister watched it a few times)

Some Good Shows That Could Have Made It:
-The Wonder Years – More of a dramedy, and thus it initially feels weird to include it a best sitcom discussion, but it was excellent.
-Parks and Recreation – If I were going to leave out one of the late 00’s/early 10’s NBC Thursday standbys, it wouldn’t be Parks and Recreation.  Actually I probably wouldn’t leave out any of them.
-Curb Your Enthusiasm – Maybe it loses influence points by virtue of its Seinfeld connection, but it is still curmudgeonly hilarity to the nth degree.
-It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – It’s strange that a show with a decidedly anti-mainstream sensibility has lasted 8 seasons.  It feels like it should have been a one- or two-season cult oddity.  That it’s not is surely some sort of accomplishment.
-NewsRadio – I’ve never seen it, but from what I’ve heard it was the little quirky comedy that could of the nineties.
-Archer – Comedy may be subjective, but Archer is the most purely funny sitcom on the air right now.
-King of the Hill/Beavis and Butt-Head – Mike Judge, never getting any respect.
-Frasier – The best spin-off of all time was different enough from its predecessor to earn recognition all its own.
-Futurama – The best sci-fi sitcom of all time.  Not that there have been that many of those, but this is still no faint praise.
-Family Guy – Before it became weighed down by a shock for shock’s sake sensibility in its current state, its mess of pop culture-saturated cutaways was innovative.
-American Dad! – What was once a Seth MacFarlane also-ran has now surpassed its predecessor.
-Murphy Brown – I’ve never watched, but I’ve heard that while it is a bit dated, it is worth remembering for how important it was at the time to the TV landscape.

Some Good Shows With Fewer Than Three Full Seasons (And Thus Not Meeting Vulture’s Criteria):
-Bob’s Burgers – Currently the best show on Fox’s Sunday animation block, and possibly the best show on TV right now.
-Stella – A one-season wonder that may have limited appeal, but if you are part of that appeal, then you are devoted to it.
-Flight of the Conchords – When I first read a review of FOTC, Gillian Flynn said that the show it most closely resembled was Stella.  So I was immediately on board.  But despite its uniqueness and surreality, FOTC is goofy and lighthearted enough to appeal to the masses.
-Happy Endings – I’ve never really watched Friends, but Happy Endings totally out-Friends Friends, doesn’t it?
-Girls – It provokes strong reactions from a great varitey of people – that is like the definition of great art.
-Enlightened – I haven’t started watching this, but I’ve been hearing several times this year that it’s the best show on TV right now.

Best Episode of the Season: Girls Season 1

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Season Analysis: Girls may be the voice of its generation, or at least a voice of a generation.  But really, whether Lena Dunham realizes it or not, what Girls gets is that everyone is lost in their twenties, and this particular show is honest about the experience of a particular group of lot people in their twenties.

“Vagina Panic”

“You couldn’t pay me enough to be 24 again.”
“Well, they’re not paying me at all.”

(Full disclosure: I am currently 24.  They are currently paying me.  But I guess it’s not for being 24.)  Abortion may be the most polarizing subject in the country.  It is not so controversial as to be completely off-limits for television, though.  I have seen abortion covered on plenty of shows, but never before as it was covered on Girls.  I never would have conceived it being dealt with the way that Girls did, and I am a bit surprised it didn’t lead to something of an uproar.  Jessa’s decision to have the abortion never seemed like it was that big a deal for her, or for Hannah, Marnie, or Shoshanna.  It wasn’t that it was treated like nothing, just that it was nowhere near the biggest decision Jessa could ever make.  Her friends were there for her, but they weren’t really there.  Hannah saw it as an opportunity to get checked for STD’s, Marnie was ultimately most concerned about Jessa being late for her own abortion, and Shoshanna didn’t how to deal with the situation and ended up kind of turning it into a party.  24-year-olds have a lot going on, and that seems all the more true for acutely self-conscious 24-year-olds.  A baby scare for yourself or your friend is not going to make everything else go away.  Hannah Horvath and her friends are just about the pinnacle of self-consciousness, which can make them petty at times, enough so that they turned the most polarizing topic in the country into something petty.