Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BEST AND WORST TELEVISION SHOWS OF 2014

This post is a continuation of my best and worst of 2014. This month I'm focused on the best and worst of television. I qualify this as a best and worst list of the television shows that I've seen. I've heard really good things about 'True Detective,' 'Manhattan,' 'Silicon Valley,' 'Fargo,' 'Shameless,' and 'The Affair,' but haven't seen them yet. So I can't speak to any of these shows. Noticeably absent from my list is 'Orange is the New Black,' since I have only seen about one half of the first season. You can see my favorite films of 2014 here.

In her best work in years, Gillian Anderson plays master detective Stella Gibson in the creepy crime drama, 'The Fall.' Set in Belfast, Ireland,  Superintendent Inspector Gibson is hot on the trail of fledgling serial killer Paul Spector, played by future Mr. Grey of 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' Jamie Dornan. Stella is a Sherlock Holmes-like character with complex inner workings that are rarely fully expressed. We get a look into her psyche when she describes the man she's hunting as “very controlled, calm, cold-blooded.” Hunting men such as this may frighten some people, but not Stella. She's unflinching in her pursuit.

Stella is also an unapologetic lothario of both men and women. She doesn't have time for serious relationships because her job is her primary focus and she is not ashamed of that fact. It simply is what it is. And make no mistake, Stella is very, very good at her job. Dornan brings just as much "umph" to the role as Anderson does. It takes guts to play a role this dark and twisted, but Dornan does it well. Moody and visceral, you follow his character's uneasy descent into darkness. Similar to real-life killers, Dornan brings a sickening charm and swagger to the character.

But my favorite thing about 'The Fall' is the pacing. It's a compact series (of 5 to 6 episodes per season), but it takes its time creating a palatable tension between the two lead characters. The pacing is unique to British television and it's refreshing to those of us across the pond. There are audible silences and dramatic pauses amidst a tense game of cat and mouse. Anderson herself said that the directors allowed her "to take her time" to flesh out the stillness of her character. I will say that the ending of Season 2 left me a little cold. The ending was a cliffhanger and a little too Hollywood for my taste. However, it set up a perfect transition to Season 3, which I suppose was the point.

'American Horror Story: Freak Show' has been quite good this year. It's certainly not the best show on television, but it's been my favorite fall show in no small part because of the wonderful cast. Par for the course, the ensemble cast is fantastic and appropriate. Some of the cast members are real-life sideshow performers. Amazingly these unexperienced actors (with regard to being on television) hold their own against the likes of Jessica LangeSarah PaulsonAngela Bassett, and Kathy Bates.

It doesn't hurt that AHS has had a few new additions such as Dandy (Finn Wittrock), Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch), Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), and a few fantastic guest stars like Wes BentleyMatt Boomer, and Neil Patrick Harris. My favorite aspect of this show is that it's an anthology (or a repertoire), so any character is fair game and can be killed off. No one is safe. It's almost as brutal as watching 'Game of Thrones.'

AHS is horrifically cheeky and not for the queasy, which you should be able to discern from its title. Unlike previous seasons, this year's season successfully tapped into its theme: the latent creepiness of American freak shows. However, like previous seasons, Ryan Murphy seems to run out of steam towards the latter half of the season. That said, this season of AHS Season 4 is just shy of exceptional and one of its best seasons. You can see more on my review of those episodes here.

We all know that the CW specializes in bad teeny bopper television, so it should come as no surprise that 'The 100' is centered around the lives of teenagers and you best believe that the words "star crossed" and "lovers" are floating around somewhere. In 'The 100,' teenagers have been sent back to earth (from a spaceship called the ark), to determine the earth's habitability. It has an interesting concept, but there's only so much teen drama one can tolerate. Also, there are way too many annoying characters to keep track of. I stopped watching mid-season. This show is 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' material. I have heard the show improved this past fall, but I just can't bear to tune in again.

Season 8 of 'Doctor Who' had some hiccups. The first few episodes were really difficult to watch and in need of improvement. 'Doctor Who' is a well known franchise, so I assume that most people know that the actors who play the doctor change periodically. The last doctor (Matt Smith) was the youngest doctor in the show's history, so when the show transitioned to Peter Capaldi (a brilliant 56 year old character actor), it was almost as if the producers/writers felt like they had to apologize, which was bizarre to say the least.

'Doctor Who' fans are well aware of the changing faces of the doctors, thank you very much. It's ingrained in the show, similar to the James Bond franchise. Overall, the good outweighed the bad, and season 8 was a solid showing, in no smart part due to the awesomeness of Capaldi. Capaldi is a natural doctor, with a sharp wit and suave style all his own. I love Capaldi's doctor. My only wish for him was a better writing team.

I can't say enough about this show. Tatiana Maslany is really a one-woman show. How this woman hasn't been nominated for an Emmy or a Golden Globe is anyone's guess? She plays a gazillion different characters and somehow brings something unique to each one. She's a crafting soccer mom, a psychopath, a brilliant grad student, a street thief just trying to survive--this was just season 1. Admittedly Season 2 was not as good as the first season, but it's still one of the better shows on television. 'Orphan Black' is about the complicated world of human cloning and the woman caught in the middle. It's intelligent, inventive, and wildly entertaining. Clone club rocks. I reviewed it earlier in the year, you can see that review here.


'Penny Dreadful' started out as a typical cable television show--way too much skin with too little plot. I love Katy's description of 'Penny Dreadful' as "Penny Pornful." I'm still laughing about that! Thankfully the show transformed over the course of the season, particularly after episode 5. It soon became clear that 'Penny Dreadful' was really a performance piece crafted specifically for Eva Green...and yes she delivers. Season 2 is coming soon. You can read more about my take on Season 1 here.


Yes, yes, I'm a comic book fan. So I'm biased. I really enjoy the 'Flash' because it's light, airy, and amusing. I watch a lot of dark and heavy stuff (I don't like comedies), so I need a light drama thrown in for good measure. The 'Flash' is just good fun. Grant Gustin who plays Barry Allen looks like he's 13 (he's actually 25), but he's adorable and easy on the eyes. My main criticism of the show is that although it is entertaining, it is also extremely formulaic. Similar to its predecessor, 'Smallville,' the 'Flash' needs to move past the "freak of the week" formula. I'm hopeful that once they lay out the foundations, the freak of the week episodes will become less frequent. Whatever the 'Flash's flaws, at least it's coherent. I can't say the same for some of the shows on this list.

[Question being asked..."who's costume is better?]

'Gotham' really surprised me. The show is well written, sharp, and the actors are great. I so wanted to hate this show because it was yet another DC Comics show that was not Wonder Woman and it took the place of my beloved 'Almost Human,' in the Fox lineup, but alas don't knock before you try it.

Ben McKenzie plays the young, dogged detective Jim Gordon. Jada Pinkett is the over the top villain the show, Fish Mooney, and newcomer Robin Taylor is perfectly cast as the Penguin. Unlike the heroes and villains in the original campy 60's show or the colorful films of the 80s and 90s, the heroes and villains of 'Gotham,' are gritty and foreboding, similar to the 'Dark Knight' franchise.

The one BIG weak link is Jim's future wife, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards), who is written with the mental capacity of an single celled amoeba. I continue to believe that geek genre shows like this have a difficult time writing intelligent love interests. Den of Geek just wrote a wonderful article on this phenomena, "What is Comic Book Tv's Problem with Love Interests." I'll echo what I wrote on the Den of Geek message board. "Love interests" need to have more to do than just be "love interests." The love interest characters should be fully developed characters. For whatever reason the writers on these shows tend to write female love interests as angsty, fickle, harpy-like women, without a fully functional brain.


Sorry, I couldn't make it past the first episode. I just couldn't. The pilot wasted too much time on a problematic character Liv (Lucy Griffiths). Her character was so bad that she was dropped after the pilot. This tidbit makes little sense since the pilot focused so much attention on her and not enough on Constantine (Matt Ryan). In other words, the pilot was a hot mess. I can see why the show failed to receive a 22-episode order and is likely to be cancelled. 'Constantine' is a perfect example of just how important a good pilot episode is because you may not get a second chance to grab the audience's attention. 

With episode descriptions like "Rose tries to get a wireless at Downton," "Lady Mary has a secret tryst with Lord Gillingham," or my favorite--"It's grouse shooting season and Rose's father-in-law..." Seriously, are these people supposed to be real, likable, or even slightly relatable? I can't believe I'm watching this slog as if it's an actual reflection of real life--even in the early 20th century.

I'm in no way saying that people with means and wealth don't have problems, because of course they do. I've seen plenty of period films and television shows about wealthy families that were more engaging than these people. In fact 'Downton Abbey's first season was wonderful. In the first episode we learned that several relatives and friends of theirs had just gone down in the Titanic. Mind you, there won't always be a major disaster, but does 'Downton' have to be soooo soapy and bland? I really don't understand why people love this show so much? I'm totally hate watching.



I should note that 'Black Mirror' has been on British television for a few years now, but it just made its way across the pond through Netflix in 2014. I have only seen the pilot, but so far, it is probably one of the most provocative television shows I have seen in a long time. It's not science fiction, but it reminded me a lot of 'The Twilight Zone,' partially because it's an anthology, but mostly because it's completely off the wall.

The first episode sets the tone for what you're in for. The prime minister of England is wakened in the middle of the night with an urgent request: a member of the royal family, Princess Susannah (a woman of similar standing to the real-life Kate Middleton) has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. The kidnapper has a most unsettling and unsavory set of demands: he wants the prime minister to have unsimulated sex with a pig on national television or the princess will be killed. Seen as a joke at first, the ransom and the media flurry around it soon escalates. Wow, just wow. I have no idea who came up with this, but wow.

'Scandal' is so insane, that it borders on incoherent, but that's part of its disgusting charm. I believe myself to be a stalwart, or someone not easily taken in by crappy shows or "shipping wars," but I've become quite a fan of "Olake" (Jake and Olivia), because at least Jake isn't married and he seems to really love Olivia. Yes, Jake (Scott Foley) is a cold blooded murderer who occasionally kills Olivia's friends, but deal with it. Everyone on that show has killed someone at some point.

Olivia Pope (played by the lovely Kerry Washington) is one of the most unlikable, awful characters on television, as is her on again/off again lover, Fitz/President (Tony Goldwyn), who doesn't seem to understand why its inappropriate for him to carry on with another woman whilst he's married to another. I almost stopped watching 'Scandal' cold turkey when he told his pregnant wife that he was leaving her for Olivia. Perhaps because I was pregnant at the time, but I thought to myself--"what an absolute scumbag." Am I supposed to like these people? Who leaves their pregnant wife? I don't care if she's a nagging shrew? You don't leave your pregnant wife. 

Watching 'Scandal' is like dating someone you know is really bad for you. You can't quite manage to give them the boot. What's amazing is that the best thing on this show is the President's disgruntled wife, Mellie (Bellamy Young). I know that this will alienate some folks, but I adore Mellie. Her character is the reason I keep tuning in.


Season 4 of 'Game of Thrones' was both high and low for me, but the high parts almost always involved Oberyn Martell flawlessly played by Pedro Paschal. Paschal's mannerisms and acting ability would frequently give me chills. Paschal was just so...darn...good and he moved like a cat. The choreography of Oberyn and the Mountain's fight scene was exquisite. It was like watching a bird fly flutter around a tree stump. Paschal may not be traditionally handsome, but he was one sexy beast as the Prince from Dorne. He's also a close second to my favorite male performance of the year. Yeah, yeah, I really like Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards' too, but Oberyn Martell was just delicious.

So I've been catching up on the 'Arrow' because everyone has said how wonderful it was, which was partially true. Binge watching the 'Arrow' on Netflix has allowed me to see some of the flaws on the show. It's really not as good as I had hoped it would be. It's way too soapy and predictable, with a multitude of poorly written and unlikable characters, the main one being Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). Geez. How could they make the future Black Canary so incredibly irritating? Somehow they found a way!

Remember what I was saying about geek writers and female love interest. Den of Geek extrapolates that was the reason 'Arrow' promptly shifted the love interest from annoying Laurel to cool tech girl Felicity Smoak (Emily Rickards). Why was Felicity so much cooler you ask? Because the writers didn't write her to be a love interest, but wrote her as an actual person. For some reason being a love interest is akin to having a lobotomy.
They also spent way too much time on mysterious island flashbacks. It's like 'Lost' only in reverse. But in my opinion the last scene of the mid season finale between Arrow and Ras al Ghul, who is smoothly portrayed by Matt Nable, was bloody wonderful. I'm sure the Arrow is still alive as they have to finish season 3, but it's a thrilling cliffhanger for Ras al Ghul beat the life out of Arrow, stab him, and proceed to throw him over a cliff. How often does that happen to a main character? 

The season premiere of Season 5 of 'The Walking Dead' restored my faith in television. They single handedly brought the show back from the brink of becoming the new 'Lost,' by unleashing "the Carol." 'The Walking Dead' took a turn for the worst in the latter half of season 3 and most of season 4. The show's 5th season gave me reason to hope again. The first half of the 5th season was just fantastic. After being banished, Carol (Melissa McBride) basically became the hero of the show. My only complaint is that there needs to be more Carol and Michonne. The first half of season 5 of 'The Walking Dead' gave me hope that even if a show experiences a downturn, it can recover. Good writing covers a multitude of sins.

Admittedly, 'Agents of Shield' has improved since last season, but it basically went from being intolerable to being tolerable. Tolerable does not mean good. In 2013, 'Agents of Shield' was very close to being culled off my DVR list. It was just so boring and the characters were even more boring. Thankfully Joss Whedon spiced things up by shaking up the two worst characters: Skye (Chloe Bennett) and Ward (Brett Dalton). Unfortunately, the writers didn't go far enough. Skye became a mini-me of Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) and Ward become a villain in training. I'm still watching 'Agents of Shield,' barely. 'Agents of Shield' is still in need of a little more shake and bake. I'm going to hold on until the end of season 2. Thankfully the new show 'Agent Carter,' is on during 'Agents of Shield's hiatus. 'Agent Carter' is absolutely sublime and my favorite show of 2015...so far.

I love 'Supernatural,' but 10 years is a long time for a show to be on television. Whether in television, at a party, or as a visiting house guest--you have to know when it's time to go. It's a running joke on the show that both Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padlaecki) have literally done just about everything they can do: they've died, they've gone to heaven, hell, and purgatory. They've fought with angels, demons, every type of monster under the sun. As an example I will give you a list of some of the monsters that have appeared on 'Supernatural' below.
Let's start with the obvious shall we: werewolves, vampires, killer clowns, wendigos, killer bugs (yeah that was a terrible episode), demi-gods, wraiths, reapers, amazons, shape shifters, dragons, worms, leviathans, ghouls, Japanese drunk monsters, hell hounds, phoenix, Peruvian fat suckers or pishtacos (yes, that was actually a thing), rugarus, sirens, killer mannequins, and genies.

What pray tell is left to do? I will continue to watch the show until it ends, because I'm no quitter, but I really do think it's time for the show to go. Ten years is quite an accomplishment for any show. They are already five or so years past syndication requirements, so TNT will likely be showing reruns of 'Supernatural' until kingdom come. Is an 11th season really necessary? I think not. One reason I think this show has lasted so long is because of its female fans...and of course the "all-male" cast. Us women love to watch all the men folk on 'Supernatural.' In fact, the show's main demographic is now primarily female. So come on ladies, let's let this one go.

Keri Russell is a wild woman on this show. I've been really impressed with this show and the cast. I've only seen four episodes so far, but me likely. I haven't seen much of this show so I can't write a lot about it, but I can understand why this show is as popular as it is. I'm not a big fan of the male lead (Matthew Rys), but Keri Russell is just so superb. 'The Americans' follows a seemingly all-American family...comprised of two Russian spies in the early 1980s.


What's the destruction of history amongst friends? Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' was a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trails, but the television show 'Salem' is on a whole other level. Oh what a sexy little time these puritans are having in 'Salem.' 'Salem' is chock full of sex, gratuitous violence, gore, and nudity. There is something grotesquely deranged about this show. I couldn't even make it through the first season. I'm all for Hollywood butchering history for the sake of entertainment, but...oh...come...on.

I still can't even believe I actually watched this movie, but alas I was on Christmas vacation. I was pleased to see the lovely Jennifer Beals acting again, even if it was in a terrible Lifetime movie. 'A Wife's Nightmare' is in that category that it was so bad it was good. Jennifer Beal's jerky husband moves in a girl he claims to be his long-lost daughter, but in reality is his mistress.

The ending was awful and wonderful at the same time. How is that even possible? And I thought the 'Flowers in the Attic' television remake was the worst thing I had seen on television this year? Nope this one takes a cake. What's even better is that supposedly this is based on a true story. 'A Wife's Nightmare' is exactly what it sounds like. It's also a viewer's nightmare.

I loved the television series '24' with Kiefer Sutherland. It was like watching 8 seasons of 'Taken,' it was formulaic, indulgent, and made little sense, but it's incredibly entertaining. This segment starred the fantastic Michelle Fairley ('Game of Thrones') as the main big bad. The special 12-part episode was supposed to end with Jack's death, but it just left off with his kidnapping. One assumes that Jack will live to see another 24.

Oh the trailer looked so good. Had I known that 'The Strain' was just a television version of 'Blade 2,' I could have spent several hours of my life doing something else. 'The Strain' is about a vampire/zombie virus infiltrating the United States via airplane. The CDC is called in and oh boy are they a bunch of idiots. All I can do is pray that if something really goes down the CDC sends people smarter than they are portrayed on television. Supposedly 'The Strain' was attempting to emulate 'The Walking Dead,' which is why the creatures are vampire/zombie hybrids. EPIC FAIL.


'Sleepy Hollow' season 1 was fantastic. Season 2 has been the opposite. Words like mediocre and excessively formulaic come to mind. The whole "fish out of water" bit was really funny in the first season, but now (in the absence of a fresh storyline) it's just getting old.
Hope may yet be found because 'Sleepy Hollow's mid-season premiere showed promise with the introduction of an angel named Orion played by an attractive former male model no doubt. Angels make everything better, especially telelvision. Just ask 'Supernatural.' I'm convinced that the angel storyline is the only reason 'Supernatural' is still on the air. The angel was a nice touch. The only weird thing is that he carries a shakram (Xena-style) and not a sword. But alas, last week's episode was about a killer who hides in a painting. One step forward--two steps back.

The nude kung fu segment was a highlight. Oh and then there are all the nude women women rolling around on silk sheets. That should tell you something. 'Marco Polo' is so bad that it's embarrassing. There entire series is like a lesson of what not to do in a television series. I felt like I was watching 'Hercules: The Legend Journeys' without the humor. Netflix is typically better at this than network television, because Netflix can do what it wants to do and is not beholden to advertisers. What the heck happened?

I really really tried to like 'The Leftovers,' but I just got sooo bored. I couldn't get through it. I just don't have the patience anymore for bad television. If it doesn't capture me within 3 to 4 episodes, I'm out. Maybe someone can tell me what happened. The show had such a great premise: Two percent of the world's population suddenly disappears in a rapture-like event. No one knows what happened to them. Great idea you think, but then you realize Damon Lindlelof (the writer who lost 'Lost') is an executive producer. Whenever I hear Lindlelof is involved...

I hope you've enjoyed my best and worst of television list. If you disagree with me or want to add a few of your own please feel free to comment! Thanks. 

18 comments:

  1. MST3K fodder - that's not good!
    I kind of gave up on The Strain.
    Downtown Abbey fans will freak. Well, not really if they like the show and it's boring.
    The Flash has been great. Haven't missed any of those.

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    1. Ha, yes I know. I will be on the downton abbey hate list. The strain was just terrible. I couldn't get through it. I've really loved the flash.

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  2. A solid list Ms. Mariah and Flash is the best superhero show in a long time. I have to disagree about the 100 though. While the focus of the show did start out on the kids by the midpoint there's so much happening on the Ark that the teens are almost an afterthought. Plus the show makes some surprising and dramatic shifts by the end of the season. In my mind, it's the best science fiction show no one is watching. I'm glad I haven't watched Marco Polo though.

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    1. You know i just watched an episode of the 100 from season 2...accidentally. It definitely improved. Yes, Marco Polo is beyond redemption.

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  3. Yaaasss Carol! I agree they need more Carol and Michonne. They need them together, specifically. I think they could be great friends.

    I gave up watching Gotham, I really wanted to love it, but it just felt bland. Agents of SHIELD on the other hand really stepped up this season (and on the back half of last season) that surprised me.

    I need to watch Orphan Black.

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    1. Oh I think you would love 'Orphan Black.' The first season in particular was amazing. I really like 'Gotham,' but it could use some improvements. I've been keeping up with 'Agents of Shield,' but I still can't get into it, although Skye's new super powers are certainly interesting.

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  4. Amazing list! I was actually meaning to watch Salem but I don't think I will now :) I really have to check out the Fall

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    1. Thank you Sati! Yes, I would skip Salem. Maybe it improved. I just didn't keep watching. I really do like 'The Fall.' It's a powerful series.

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  5. Great post!
    I couldn't agree more about Peter Capaldi. I love him as the grupy, quick witted Doctor.
    Arrow vs Flash was the best crossover ever. They continue to build a tv universe that is second to none
    Constantine did have the worst pilot, they never brought her back, but instead replaced her with another character. I am still watching it Matt Ryan has done a great job as Constantine, even if the writing hasn't helped the show much. Agent Carter is so much better than Agents of shield. It is nice to have a female kick butt, and do it in a time period that was not so kind to women.

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    1. Hi David! Thank you. Yes, I really love Capaldi. I wish he had better writers. Loved the Arrow/Flash crossover event. Really wonderful. I've been really liking the flash a lot. I was so disappointed with Constantine. I just couldn't bear to watch again. I have all 9 episodes on my dvr so maybe i'll watch them. I don't know. Agent Carter is fantastic. I was so disappointed when my dvr didn't record this week's episode!

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  6. Great post! I haven't seen most of these, but I did like The Fall, and I haven't seen many people talking about it. I also liked Peter Capaldi as the new doctor.

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    1. Yes, the fall hasn't received a lot of discussion for some reason. It's a great show, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Capaldi is great. He just needs better writers. He's so wonderful. I love his doctor.

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  7. Impressive number of shows you follow! I wasn't aware "24" was still going. Way to go Gillian Anderson, good to see her back in the limelight
    Last year, I caught up with True Detective and IT Crowd, both of which I enjoyed. In 2015, I have plans to see TV mini-series Olive Kitteridge (2014), which I've heard great things about.

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    1. Thank you. Some of the shows I didn't finish the first season. I just stopped watching. Yes, 24 had a special limited even this year. It isn't technically still on the air. I adore Anderson. So I was thrilled to see her back on television. I will have to see Olive Kitteridge? I wonder if it's on netflix?

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  8. i am so glad tv shows are the least things i watch, i do enjoy Agents of Shield, Blacklist, Hannibal... and for the funnier stuff... Big Bang Theory [losing interest, it's gone way like shows that have been on too long... they start to attack the others, in a not so funny way], I know there is more, but cannot think of them... that is sad I think...

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    1. Hi Jeremy! Agents of Shield has definitely improved, but it still needs work. You know the Big Bang Theory never interested me, probably b/c it's a show making fun of geeks. I feel like they are laughing at us..not with us.

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  9. After just one episode of The Leftovers, I didn't give a rhymes-with-wit. I have to say, though, I liked Marco Polo. I'm actually looking forward to the next season.

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    1. Hi Eric-- thank you for your comment! Yes, the leftovers left me cold. I think I saw 5 or 6 eps and had to stop. Maybe I need to give Marco Polo another chance!

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