Parks and Recreation

Top Ten Thursday: TV Characters

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In continuation from the previous TTT’s theme, characters, here’s a quick and short list of my favorite 10 TV series characters. Took me a while to narrow them down, but here they are.

10. Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead)

If there was no Daryl, there would likely be no Walking Dead. Or otherwise it would have been a more boring show with less followers. Daryl started out in his brother’s shadow, and in a way he keeps living in the shadows. But he’s gone a long way, he’s bonded with the group and in some instances he leads it or helps Rick with that task. He’s an extraordinary tracker, somewhat bad-tempered, but otherwise fearless and he gets the job done. Needless to say Norman Reedus does a very skilful work of portraying the character.

9. Reginald ‘Red’ Forman (That ’70s Show)

If Red and Daryl share one thing, it’s their temper. Except Red tends to show it more often as he doesn’t live in the shadows and has a thing or two to say about everything. Kurtwood Smith was born to play the role, delivering all the sassy, ironic, and sarcastic comments with a passion. The show as a whole has fantastic writing and each character shines in its own way, but Red sort of still manages to steal the show.

8. Dana Scully (The X-Files)

Whenever someone says TV doesn’t have strong female leads, Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully is there to prove them wrong. With a background in science and medicine, the FBI saw her potential while she saw the chance to distinguish herself. She was still young when she attended the FBI Academy, but she was quickly assigned to the X-Files to assist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) but they were pretty much equals in their work. While we’re on the topic of the X-Files, A 6-EPI REBOOT HAS BEEN CONFIRMED THIS WEEK!! Same cast, same story, same feelings!

7. Dexter Morgan (Dexter)

He’s the hero no one wanted, but the one they deserved. That’s obviously a poor play on words, as I don’t think Dexter’s anywhere near a hero. They guy was a sociopath and a serial killer. But he avoided murdering innocent citizens and instead he focused his “work of art” toward the criminals, mainly other killers. He worked as a forensic blood spatter analyst with the Miami Metro PD so he had access to all kinds of police things, including the ability to discover potential killers. I think it’s safe to say Michael C. Hall‘s Dexter Morgan was my favorite character, up till that moment where his character arc got screwed up. And we shall not speak about that series finale.

6. Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Leslie (portrayed by Amy Poehler) is a true refreshment to TV in every sense of the word. She doesn’t just show the standard strong female lead, but she shows how she’s flawed and human. She keeps working hard, usually fails, but never gets disappointed and keeps her spirit high and jolly. There are very few words which can describe Knope, but let’s just say she’s eccentric and extraordinary. If you ever need something done, Leslie has probably done it for you already, included several versions for you to choose from, and has made a scrapbook about it.

5. Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)

Xena’s sort of the female version of Hercules, with a more interesting story arc. Also, Lucy Lawless.

4. Anthony ‘Tony’ Soprano (The Sopranos)

Tony Soprano through the portrayal of James Gandolfini is largely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, characters to ever appear on TV. All with due reason of course. While the character is an ill-tempered sociopath who for the most of the show tries to maintain his position as a street boss, he’s also shown as struggling with depression and experiences panic attacks. Anyway, maintaining one of the most powerful criminal organizations is obviously no small deal.

3. Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)

I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things. Peter Dinklage truly shines through the role of Tyrion Lannister, a witty dwarf-sized man born to the richest family in the whole seven kingdoms, which unfortunately is also the most elitist house. He gets hate and jokes on his account not only from the common-folk and the lords and ladies in the rest of Westeros, but from those around him, including his family. In fact, his family, with the exception of his brother, may hate him the most as they blame him for the death of his mother (who died while giving birth to him).

2. Walter White (Breaking Bad)

Some of the inspiration for Walter White actually came from Tony Soprano (see above at #4). You can see the similarities, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) struggles with an illness (though in this case it is cancer) while he aims to maintain his position as Heisenberg, the infamous king of the meth industry (would it be classified as an industry? Guess we can ring the bell ding-ding-ding a few times and ask Mr. Gustavo Fring, or whatever is left of him). Walter has trouble both with his health and his family, but it certainly is no easy task to hide a meth business not only from your wife and kids, but also from your brother-in-law who just happens to be a DEA agent.

1. Edmund Blackadder (The Black Adder)

Lord Edmund Blackadder, latter Lord High Executioner and Minister of Religious Genocide, was a true master of the verbal insult. Rowan Atkinson has had some fantastic roles, but in my honest opinion none are even close to his portrayal of Edmund Blackadder. The man outshines those around him with his intelligence, his charm, with the ability to hide his fear and pretend he’s brave, and obviously with the amount of hate he gets from his rivals.

Honorable Mention

Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Chandler Muriel Bing (Matthew Perry, Friends)

Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht, Suits)

Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, Firefly)

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Top Ten Thursday: TV Series Finales

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[No worries, this is spoiler-free!] There are so many shows out there, yet so little time to watch all of them. We may choose to watch only popular or critically acclaimed ones, but the truth is regardless of whether a show has had a good or bad course, the last episode can always go the other way. There are bad shows with great endings, good shows with bad endings, and if I’m being honest I’m not sure which case is better. Here’s my list of favorite top 10 series endings till today (do note there are countless shows I haven’t seen).

  • 10 – Lost

I’m listing this here not because of its greatness but because it marked this show’s end. Okay, jokes aside, it wasn’t horrible. It was something and it was likely the best it could have been after everything that happened in the previous seasons. This show got so complex, with double and triple meanings and “it’s up to you to decide what that is” that I was expecting it’d have a joke of a finale. And while the finale doesn’t really reveal much, it was decently done and managed to wrap up a series that should have ended way sooner.

  • 9 – The Sopranos

I’ve previously mentioned (might not have been here on this blog but I’ve definitely expressed that previously) that this show wasn’t really my cup of tea — but I cannot deny that it was quality TV. Its finale was controversial, some people still aren’t over how it ended, but I believe it was a bold move and something unique. If you’ve watched it, whether you loved it or hated it, it’s definitely something you’ll remember.

  • 8 – House MD

To be upfront here, I started hating this series because it got so ridiculously repetitive and lost all signs of a plot in it. It was basically running season after season because of the main character and his responses to those around him. Except in their final season it improved significantly, and managed to deliver a satisfying end to what was becoming a tiresome song on repeat.

  • 7 – 30 Rock

I feel this show was starting to become slower as time went by, but it picked up the pace for its ending and it certainly delivered a quality finale. So many references, so many jokes, so many references to jokes, and yet it also provided a lot of sweet and touching moments. It was a refreshing episode that shows the spirit of the whole series.

  • 6 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

A fantastic wrap up, a lot of highly emotional farewells, and overall a great ending for a great series. I

  • 5 – The Office

Small time jump, a reunion for all employees throughout the series, and a wedding. Maybe it’s all of those things that, maybe it’s the emotions, maybe it’s the humor, but the Office’s finale was a satisfying end to a very long (yet always funny and true to itself) series. I don’t believe it could have ended any better.

  • 4 – Friends

Another comedy, another very long series, and another fantastic ending. Everyone takes their separate way (except Ross with Rachel and Chandler with Monica), some sad farewells are said, a final cup of coffee is to be taken at the one and only place, and we have a final look at the now-empty apartments which look so sad.

  • 3 – Six Feet Under

I loved their series finale for two very simple reasons — it gave closure for all characters, but all of that was done by an episode completely different from how they ran the whole show. And it was the good kind of different. In many aspects I believe this show can teach every writer or producer a thing or two, because despite all their flaws it will go down in history as one of the best series.

  • 2 – Parks and Recreation

This one just took place but it has strongly placed itself near the top. After their previous season’s final episode I thought they will never manage to produce anything better for a finale. That episode in itself was better than most series finales, making anything as good as that was mission impossible. Yet, they managed to accomplish said impossible mission and delivered a finale which not only wraps up everything, but provides a lengthy and detailed view at the happenings of many characters from the series (both leading and supporting ones). Humor mixed with sadness, laughter mixed with tears. Ron Swanson would likely say “crying: accepted at funerals, the Grand Canyon, and the series finale of Parks and Recreation.”

  • 1 – Breaking Bad

There was a lot of talk about this one and it’s clear everyone didn’t enjoy it. But to me, it was perfect. It featured everything I think it needed to have, nothing less and nothing more. That’s how the whole series was, in my humble opinion, and I love that they stayed true to their goals. I had many scenarios in my head about which direction the show will take for the finale, but in the end I’m pleased with how things actually went down.

TV Finales & Endings

Okay okay, I promise I’ll move beyond the TV show posts, just have to get down these thoughts that have been haunting my mind lately.

Note — This post/article/rant/younameit contains spoilers for the following TV shows: The Walking Dead, Hannibal, How I Met Your Mother, Dexter, Lost, Parks and Recreation, Suits, and Breaking Bad. If you’re not caught with them and you do not want spoilers, please locate the shiny red ‘x’ button and fly away somewhere safe.

It is my opinion that a TV show’s strongest potential lies within the finale episodes. Assuming that the first few, or even just the premiere episode of a season captures your interest, you’re likely to stick with the season hoping what you saw at the beginning will get even better. Taking Hannibal as an example, the season 2 premiere starts with a showdown between Hannibal Lecter and Jack Crawford, it can’t get better than that! Of course you soon realize this is just a glimpse of the future, we move back to previous events right after that scene. But the point is, you’re shown what you can expect by the end of the season, and you’re practically hooked for the rest of it. Not that I needed any more reasons to watch Hannibal, but it definitely works in their advantage.

However, whether or not I’m satisfied with the season would depend on that actual finale that features said scene I’ve been waiting for all that time. You’re showing me the candy you have in store, and I’ll gladly pay the price, but if that candy ain’t no good, you might not see me back for more. Hannibal’s season 2 finale takes place tomorrow, on the 23rd, so I can’t comment yet on whether or not it will be as fantastic as we all hope it will be, though the whole season has been great. But, again, if the end goal is not good, it would lower the value of the whole walk to said goal. The Walking Dead‘s finales, for example, are simply mind-blowing, and are probably the main reason I still watch the show. I find quite a few of the episodes to be rather boring with no progress whatsoever (and no, they’re not character development episodes, they’re simply filler material since those specific episodes do not contribute to the story or the characters at all — I still strongly believe the show could have less but stronger episodes if they just cut off some of the watching-grass-grow elements), but they keep doing these finales that ensure I come back next year for another season.

The finale of finales, the ending episode of a show, has that same impact multiplied by 10. I can still feel the disappointed some great shows have left me with their ending whenever I think of them. A rather recent example would be How I Met Your Mother‘s final episode. You know, where in the first half we got everything that the show was working toward through all their seasons, and then in the second half we see it all crumble down and we get the complete opposite. I keep seeing “it was logical” in defense of the ending, which makes no sense really. HIMYM was never logical, no episode was fully logical, it is a comedy and it had only one goal — to show how Ted met the mom. Somewhere along the way, they realized they’re making big bucks so they decided to have a full season leading to Robin and Barney’s wedding, in addition to showing the kids’ mom and having the fans become closer with her. And all that was undone in several minutes when the mom dies, the kids show absolutely no emotion regarding that, and they push Ted to go to Robin who divorced Barney (who went back to his old slutty ways but got a girl pregnant and he “fell in love” with his daughter) because her work was too important to make any sacrifice.

I’m well aware that they had this ending filmed back when the show started. However, that is no excuse for going along with it. The show went longer than planned, had a lot more content that initially planned, obviously, so that “old ending” no longer fit there. Ted and Robin kept going back and forth that them being together in the end is absolutely the last thing I wanted to see.

A similar case, but on a smaller level, took place with Dexter‘s finale. After realizing that he cannot change who he is and that those around him would always be in danger, he has Hannah and Harrison leave the country while he disappears with his boat. That would have been an average ending, leaving up to our imagination on what actually happens afterward. But they decided to show him working as a lumberjack, apparently living with the consequences his actions left him. The issue with this? Well, if he managed to become a peaceful Buddha lumberjack, that means he can go back to Hannah and Harrison. If he still posed danger to those around him, then why wasn’t he shown doing the oh so lovely deaths he used to do? Shake my head in disbelief.

A complete opposite of the Lost ending, which added more questions than resolving the plethora of mysteries we already had going. Yet I cannot decide which one was worse. It’s not about closure, giving us something that says “well, this show is over”, but rather about finalizing the story you told, the story the fans have so faithfully followed for years. You owe the audience at least that, a proper ending. It doesn’t have to be anything Disney-like (heck, I’m all for the harsh, cruel endings), but something that will truly complete the tale.

I feel like Parks and Recreation just schooled every other show on that front with their season 6 finale. Yes, it wasn’t even the actual last episode of the show, but I can guarantee you if that was in fact the last episode, 99% of the fans would have been satisfied. Leslie met Michelle Obama, the Mouse Rats reunited for the Unity Concert which also featured a Lil Sebastian hologram, Tom finally has a good business going thanks to all his friends, Leslie accepted the National Parks job but managed to find a way to work in Pawnee thanks to Ron who was fixing the third floor throughout the season, and we fast-forward in time to actually see this. If that wasn’t enough, we see Leslie’s triplets, and a cameo from Jon Hamm (Mad Men) being fired by Leslie because he was apparently worse than Garry, Jerry, Larry, Terry. Seriously, the episode had everything (with the exception of Ann and Chris) that a fan would want from the actual ending, it was that good!

They might yet screw up the actual ending, but the writing is so brilliant I doubt that’s possible. Let’s move to something that’s already over though — Breaking Bad. It kept going better and better and I was rather worried that moving up the ladder all the time would lead to an inevitable downfall with the ending. Oh boy, was I wrong. And I’ve never been that glad to be wrong. The highlight, and likely the best episode on TV ever was definitely S5E14 – Ozymandias, but the two following afterward, Granite State and Felina, provided a rather bittersweet yet satisfying ending. I kept imagining possible scenarios for the end and I didn’t like any of them, so thank you Vince Gilligan for providing that unique one that felt just right. Heisenberg manages to pull a final mastermind act to save Jesse, while losing his own life. But obviously ensures that the money he worked so hard to obtain will eventually be given to his family. There’s a reason why everyone was, is, and likely will still be talking about Breaking Bad for a while.

Last, but not least, I’d like to give some credit to Suits. I feel like it’s this baby show that no many are aware of but it will eventually have its BOOM because they deserves it with the outstanding writing and acting. Its finales never disappoint, are full of twists and misleading plots, and they make the impossible quite possible — I don’t believe I can ever sit down and watch full seasons of any other lawyer show. Might be because it is not your typical courtroom lawyers, but still, season after season even when I think the show might start losing its juice and will likely end soon, they spin things around and bring enough freshness for me to crave at least a few more seasons. These lawyers have some tricks up their sleeves, and they know how to use them.

So, to sum up, if you’re going to do a finale for a season or for the end of a show, make it bloody count. Because it will have an impact on who continues to watch your show, and who praises or curses your show after it’s all done.