2016 in Review: How Pitch Beat the Odds and Became the Year’s Best New Show

Who doesn’t love a good sports movie?

They’re predictable, trite and cheesy as can be, but when everything clicks it’s hard to find a genre that can compete with sports films. An underdog team coming from nowhere to win the championship, the scrawny nobody challenging the undefeated belt-holder, a last second hail-mary to win it all. It doesn’t get much better than that, right? From Rocky to Hoosiers to Miracle to The Sandlot, some of the best movies of all time are corny, cheesy, predictable sports films.

As easy as the sports movie formula is to predict, it’s incredibly tricky one to replicate. Every sports movie is a small misstep away from having audiences rolling their eyes at the corny, cheesy, predictability of it all. More so than any other genre, sports films are often a zero sum game: Either the movie is great, or it’s a cringe inducing mess, with little-to-no in between.

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Stranger Things, Blockbuster Reboots, And The Best Way To Profit From The Past

Hollywood is obsessed with the past. Whether it be reboots, remakes, reimaginings, or regurgitations, the biggest trend in blockbuster filmmaking is to dust up old properties and revamp them for the present. Essentially, movie studios are cashing in on the public’s nostalgia for the stories they grew up with. Just this year alone, audiences have seen new iterations of Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Jungle Book, Tarzan, Independence Day, Star Trek, and Alice In Wonderland, just to name a few. While some elitist pop-culture snobs like myself might complain about the lack originality in blockbuster filmmaking these days, there is very little reason for Hollywood to change this philosophy. Financially, existing franchises and properties are more reliable bets for box office success. Additionally, funding truly new and unique ideas is a risk no matter the scale, and making an original big-budget blockbuster is an even bigger one. So, if movie executives are choosing between green-lighting a $120 million reboot of a story they know people love or an equally expensive original film with no established  audience, it’s easy to understand why the original ideas are losing out.

But what if these two seemingly opposite ideas could be merged? What if we could combine the built-in audiences of stories past, with the originality of stories future? Wouldn’t that be, to complete the “Christmas Carol” metaphor, the perfect way to create stories present?

It’s easy to be skeptical of the idea, after all it’s admittedly a bit outlandish, but stick with me for a couple paragraphs, I’ve seen Stranger Things come true.  

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How HBO’s Silicon Valley Became TV’s Best Comedy

Sitcoms are simple. I know that sounds kind of odd coming from someone who has written a frankly embarrassing amount of articles analyzing the medium, but they really are. A group of people, either a family or friends/coworkers who function as a sort of family, gets themselves caught in a situation and hilarity ensues (Hence the name, situation comedy). Storytelling wise, a sitcom is as formulaic and simplistic as they come.

Over the years, people have tinkered with the formula. The most revolutionary innovation being the introduction of serialized stories, or plots that last longer than one episode. The basic sitcom formula necessitates that all conflicts and plots should be wrapped up in a neat little bow by the end of each episode. Early innovators like Cheers changed the game by telling stories that played out over entire seasons. Those stories weren’t that complex or hard to follow, most of the time they were just standard romantic comedy plots (Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, they don’t get together for what seems like forever, you know how TV romance works).

But the saga of Sam and Diane paved the way for TV comedies to tell more complex stories than ever before. Though that might sound like a good thing, it has become a double edged sword. Some writers are compelled to tell stories that are too complex and lose the comedy (Remember The Comedians?), while others go all-in on one serialized story that doesn’t connect with viewers (Still lookin’ at you, The Comedians). The other side of the coin, however, is TV’s best comedy: HBO’s Silicon Valley

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Before We Go: The Story Of How I Fell In Love With An Objectively Bad Movie

Have you ever felt like a movie was made just for you? That every frame on the screen, every line of dialogue, every note of the soundtrack, was carefully crafted and curated just because someone, somewhere, knew you were out there to see it. Admittedly, it’s a pretty absurd, idealist notion. Hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of people work tirelessly on creating these films, the idea that all of their hard work is all for one person is insane, and people who subscribed to it are even crazier.

Maybe that’s the magic of film. The idea that an operation on such a massive scale can produce something so personal to so many people is a miracle in and of itself. Or, maybe the magic lies within film’s ability to make you forget that there even was an operation to begin with. I don’t quite know, exactly. It’s a Pandora’s box of questions that no one has really nailed down an answer to.

Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking about this relationship, between a film and a single viewer, a lot recently. It all started on a foggy Sunday morning last month when I watched Chris Evans’ directorial debut Before We Go instead of engaging in my regularly scheduled productivity.

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How Superstore And The Carmichael Show Found Originality (And Success!) In The Cliche-Riddled World Of Sitcoms

Anyone who knows me, or has access to my Netflix history, knows that I love sitcoms. The warmth and enduring appeal of the format has made it a TV staple, and regular resident of my Netflix queue, practically since both technologies were invented. While the format has evolved slightly over time, unlike a lot of pop culture, the sitcom is a genre heavily resistant to change, and that’s not an accident.

Ideally, when someone turns on a traditional sitcom, it should feel like they are going home. The characters on screen should feel like family to viewers, and that connection and relationship between the characters on the screen and the people at home will keep audiences coming back week after week. That formula, one of the most lucrative in TV history, isn’t very conducive to change.

Why not? Well, the heart any sitcom’s appeal is familiarity. Audiences, for the most part, want to know what to expect when they turn on a show. If they don’t, you lose the connection that brings people back week after week. At the same time, most people don’t like watching a show that’s a carbon copy of something they’ve already seen before. So, the underlying question is, how do you create a show unique enough to stand on its own but familiar enough to not scare away audiences?

For new shows, this balancing act is tricky to say the least. Tens of series fail every year at striking this balance. Two that haven’t though are a pair of NBC comedies: Superstore and The Carmichael Show. These young shows navigate the line between innovation and familiarity outstandingly well, and have become two of my favorite TV comedies in the process.

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On Star Wars, Escapism, And The Magic Of Movie Theaters

The first time I saw Jurassic Park changed my entire perspective on movies forever*.

I was in high school, and the movie was being re-released in 3D. Yeah I know, I was just a tad late to the whole Jurassic Park trend. I’m not perfect, okay? I had caught glimpses of the film here and there on TV and knew the basic idea of the franchise (Someone finds a way to recreate dinosaurs, opens a theme park, spares no expense, everything goes horribly wrong, the kids are idiots, etc). I would tell people I’d seen it, because in my mind I had. I knew the story, I knew the characters, and I definitely knew the ending. I didn’t need to sit down and actually watch it, right?

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Celebrating The Year In TV: My 10 Favorite Episodes From 2015

The end of the year is a time for traditions. Annual rituals like putting your presents under the tree, watching your favorite Christmas movies with your family, pretending you know the name of that one relative who comes over every couple of years (You know, the classics). For the past two years, I’ve started what I like to think of as my own little tradition here on the blog, with my annual end-of-year TV celebration post where I list the ten episodes I enjoyed the most from the year that was. Now, as 2015 winds down, it is time for this year’s edition, but before we get started, let’s go over some ground rules.

GROUND RULES: The episode must have originally aired in the United States during 2015, 1 episode is allowed per show, two-parters (EX: Finale Part 1/Finale Part 2) are counted as one.

DISCLAIMER: I am human, there’s no way for me to watch every episode of TV that came out this year. This isn’t a list of the definitive best episodes of TV released this year, or even the best shows, this is just one man’s opinion on what he liked most from the year in TV. So if your favorite show isn’t on here, that’s why.

Now that we got that all cleared up, without further ado, I present my 10 favorite episodes of television from 2015.

Episodes are listed in no particular order.

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