For those of us that like to spend just as much time indoors and in the air conditioning during the summer as outside by the pool or on the beach, the season is a good time to catch up on series that fell by the wayside or try out something new. In true TV/media addict fashion, I spent many of my weekends during the summer watching Netflix or heading out to the movie theater in order to catch some of the season’s biggest movies.
Since I haven’t been writing as many blogs this summer — and took a break from blogging for the entirety of August — I thought I should do a rundown of all the television series (both new and old), webseries, and movies I caught this season. Although this isn’t a comprehensive list, it’s certainly a highlight reel of some of my favorite — or not so favorite — shows, movies, webseries, that I watched this summer (aside from way too many celebrity ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos).
What I Watched: Returning TV Series
This summer, MTV’s Teen Wolf returned for its fourth season. After the death of Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) in last season’s penultimate episode, season 4 has had to bounce back from the dark place Teen Wolf found itself in at the end of season 3. As a longtime fan of Teen Wolf, I’ve been mostly disappointed by season 4. With a lackluster premiere, too many plot holes, poor character development, and a wildly convoluted overarching storyline, season 4 may have featured many throwbacks to Teen Wolf’s premiere season, but it hasn’t recaptured the magic that made season 1 so addictive. Truthfully, the main reason I’m sticking it out with Teen Wolf is the mystery surrounding Jordan Parrish (Ryan Kelley) and what type of supernatural creature he may be.
The third season of Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra was not without difficulties — though they had more to do with the distribution of the season rather than the actual story, characters, or animation. In fact, my only complaint about the season was that it seemed too short. But, Legend of Korra’s fantastic season was a bit overshadowed by the problems: before season 3 debuted, multiple episodes were leaked by an international Nickelodeon affiliate. Then, Nickelodeon aired 2-3 episodes of Legend of Korra a week for a few weeks, before finally turning to an online-only weekly release schedule. However, despite these issues, this season of Legend of Korra was by far the show’s best and I’m eagerly anticipating season 4.
The sophomore season of BBC America’s breakout hit, Orphan Black, premiered in late spring and ran until mid-June (so it totally qualifies for the summer). After such a good, tightly woven, and standout first season, I was a little worried Orphan Black would suffer a sophomore slump. While there were some low-points to season 2 — Tatiana Maslany’s portrayal of transgender clone, Tony, completely took me out of the show — Orphan Black proved it could continue to develop its characters and science fiction premise in a way that is highly entertaining. The show also has a fantastic talent for keeping viewers hooked, especially with the reveal that there are male clones at the end of season 2, which was one of the best unveilings I’ve ever seen on television.
Since Emma Approved originally began in July 2013, I’m counting this Pemberley Digital webseries as a returning show — especially since it took two very long (and unappreciated) hiatuses throughout the course of its run. Like its predecessors, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Welcome to Sanditon, Emma Approved was based on a work of Jane Austen: Emma. Although I didn’t start watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries until the series was almost over, I quickly became invested. However, I have to say, I think I enjoyed Emma Approved just a little bit more. It was put together well, the actors had plenty of chemistry (all of them, not just the real-life couple of Joanna Sotomura and Brent Bailey), and it was fun to watch.
Now in its 8th season, BBC’s beloved sci-fi series Doctor Who returned with a new actor portraying the titular character. However, despite the breath of fresh air usually infused into the series by a new face, Peter Capaldi’s run of Doctor Who has so far fallen into many of the same traps as previous seasons. Doctor Who originally began as a children’s show and when the series rebooted in the mid ‘00s, it seemed to keep at least some of the silliness of the original. Now, though, there are brief highlights of character development that often get lost in an overly convoluted plot that cannot hold up. That being said, I haven’t completely written off Doctor Who, I’m just not as excited to watch a new episode as I once was.
What I Watched: New/New-to-Me TV Series
In preparation of Starz and Ronald D. Moore’s adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I read the book earlier in the summer. Although it took me a long time to get through the novel, I became attached to the characters of Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Fraser (portrayed in the show by Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan). Now that the series has begun, Outlander has proved that it can be a successful adaptation as well as an entertaining television show. The premiere especially took its time to set up the characters and the drama of the first season in a way that was true to the story while still being interesting. Thanks to the work of Moore, Balfe, and Heughan, Outlander has become one of my favorite new shows this year.
For years, many of my friends have raved about Bob’s Burgers as a hilarious cartoon comedy that challenges sitcom stereotypes and offers a different kind of humor than shows like Family Guy. While I was interested in watching Bob’s Burgers, it took me until this summer to sit down with my Netflix and actually catch up on the series. However, I’m glad I did. The characters are entertaining and they’re all relatable in turn; the stories are strange but work within the context of the show; but the best part of Bob’s Burgers for me is that the show doesn’t make fun of its characters for laughs.
When I first watched the pilot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine last fall, I was entertained and thought the series had a lot of promise, but I didn’t keep watching it. However, after a friend of mine kept telling me that I would enjoy it, I gave Brooklyn Nine-Nine another shot this summer. I recently finished binge watching the first season and I have to admit: I really did like it more than I thought I would. At times, Brooklyn Nine-Nine falls into tired comedy tropes (such as the almost-romance between the two main characters), but for the most part, the unique and hilarious ensemble cast makes the show very enjoyable.
As one half of FX’s Thursday night comedy block, You’re the Worst premiered alongside Married. While I haven’t yet watched any episodes of Married, I have gotten completely hooked by You’re the Worst. As a slightly new spin on romantic comedies, the show follows two horrible, self-destructive people who attempt to embark on a relationship together. Although the premises of the episodes are often pulled from classic sitcoms, the enjoyable and relatable main characters — Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) — along with their best friends/supporting characters — Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges) — put a new spin on tired storylines in You’re the Worst.
Recently, Lifetime has begun to expand its original programming to include more than made-for-TV movies. In addition to The Witches of East End and the upcoming series based on horror film The Omen, Lifetime has ventured into science fiction with The Lottery. The series is set in a future where women have stopped getting pregnant. However, when 100 embryos are fertilized by scientists studying the crisis, a lottery is held to determine who will be the surrogates. The Lottery is very good sci-fi drama that has created a realistic and politically corrupt future. The only weak point of the show is its leading lady, Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton), but she’s surrounded by much more enjoyable characters that keep the show interesting.
What I Watched: Movies
Out of all the Marvel superhero films within the studio’s first phase, Captain America: The First Avenger is my favorite. So, when its sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, premiered, I want to see it opening weekend and it did not disappoint. The Winter Soldier managed to continue Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) storyline within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, tie into its predecessor, and offer an entertaining action movie with depth. Even more than the story and action, though, I really enjoyed Steve’s character and how he interacted with the rest of the cast: Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, and especially Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson. Overall, it was my favorite movie the of the summer (even if it debuted in April).
Marvel Studio’s other big release of 2014 was Guardians of the Galaxy, which recently surpassed Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the top grossing movie of the year. As the first origin film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe since 2011, Guardians of the Galaxy was a breath of fresh air. Plus, it was a fun, outlaw-filled, space adventure that was equal parts spectacle and heart. While the story was a bit cliched at times, each of the main characters — Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista) — were different and interesting enough to overshadow the problems (such as the two-dimensional villain).
Over the years, the X-Men films have been largely lackluster to me. While I enjoyed aspects of all of them, and wouldn’t mind watching them when nothing else was on TV, they don’t rank very high on my list of favorite superhero movies (let alone, my list of favorite movies overall). For that reason, I was a little hesitant going into the theater to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, I enjoyed the movie immensely. The way in which the film pulled both X-Men franchises together was fantastic and the movie itself was fun on its own. Of course, the standout scene was Quicksilver’s prison break, but the action scenes in the future were amazing to watch and the character interaction between young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) were enjoyable as well.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of science fiction b-movies, specifically Syfy’s made-for-TV movies, so of course I watched the premiere of the network’s followup to last summer’s viral hit: Sharknado 2: The Second One. The sequel managed to keep everything viewers loved about the first one (bad science, cheesy dialogue, and killer sharks) while improving upon other aspects of Sharknado, including the special effects. While Sharknado 2 shouldn’t be credited with doing anything spectacular in terms of CGI, what the movie lacks in good-looking graphics, it makes up for with ridiculous stunts. Let’s just say they do manage to top Ian Ziering’s dive into the belly of a shark just to chainsaw his way to freedom.
As a fan of the trilogy by Veronica Roth, I was very excited for Divergent. However, after not-so-great reviews and a lack of someone to see it with me, I didn’t end up seeing the film until it was released on DVD. To be honest, I’m glad I waited because the movie wasn’t quite worth the price of a movie theater ticket. While I thought the world of post-apocalyptic Chicago — with its factions and political structure — was interesting in the novels, it didn’t seem well-developed enough and that translated to the big screen. Additionally, the technology of the world, and especially the simulation serum, didn’t help to paint a realistic picture of the dystopian world. Divergent ended up feeling like some great ideas and some okay ideas were thrown into a movie with very little cohesion. But, I’m holding out hope for Divergent’s sequel, Insurgent, which premieres early in 2015.