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Veep

Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, Reid Scott, Sufe Bradshaw

(HBO)

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Veep
HBO


In 2013, everyone’s favorite train wreck returned for a second season on HBO. I’m not talking about Hannah Horvath, I’m talking about Selina Meyer. Julia-Louis Dreyfus reprised her role as the always annoyed Vice President in Veep, Armando Iannuci’s extremely funny satire of the American government. Watching this show, you don’t know whether to laugh or cringe, and fortunately for fans, season two only got weirder. There are many standout episodes to praise, but the comedic gem of the season is “Helsinki”, a wonderfully bizarre episode in which Selina meets the prime minister of Finland. In the episode, Selina is groped by the prime minister’s husband, played by actor Dave Foley in a performance so perfect it deserves its own series, and awkwardness and chaos ensue with equal measure. With hilarious episodes like “Helsinki”, Veep proves once again that we are in a golden age of television comedy. Jon Lisi


 

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Parks and Recreation

Cast: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Paul Schneider, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, Retta

(NBC)

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Parks and Recreation
NBC


The episode entitled “Bailout” returns Parks and Recreation to its brilliant standard. It’s filled with the witty humor and touching moments we have come to expect, while posing questions about our political, social, and personal systems. As friends find common cause and seek similar goals, even if by different means, they also find ways to support one another and move forward. Validating and mocking both sides of the issue, Parks and Recreation also establishes this episode’s focus on friendship. Even as Leslie and Ron make mistakes (her desire to “give the people what they want” soon has Dennis turning his business into an adult video store), they see that their argument is not personal. Unlike their real world counterparts, these longtime friends and colleagues don’t their political differences drive a wedge between them. Liz Medendorp


 

19


Nashville
ABC


Good soap operas are all about the dirt and the drama beneath the glamour and the polish. The stress of ever-present danger needn’t be literal threat to life and limb, a lá Dallas (the ‘70s-‘90s original and the 2012 remake) or Revenge (2011) a show’s entire premise which springs from murder. Nay, the terrifying disintegration of family and/or career or worse, both, drive the compelling soap opera that is Nashville, and those are fears we can all relate to. If only we could handle such stresses with the style and grace of the warm and magnetic Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), born into a life of means, or the gorgeously bittersweet Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), who will always have the dust and rust of trailer park smudged somewhere on her skin. If only we could sing so well, too. (Well, that’s really aimed at Panettiere, who has a natural talent. Britton’s appeal stems from a different kind of essence, which makes us music fans more forgiving.)

It’s kind of funny, as I’ll bet all those fans of Nashville wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as fans of mainstream country music. In some circles, that’s akin to calling oneself a feminist. We’ve benefited mightily from these things, yet we tend to take them for granted. Funny enough, Nashville reveals itself to be a decidedly feminist show, and a show about mainstream country music, and a show set in America’s South. We’ve lost the brilliant treasure that is Treme, and only Nashville now stands against Southern stereotypes like Swamp People. Thankfully, Nashville is a helluva lot more popular. Guess a lot more of us really like mainstream country music than we realized, eh? Karen Zarker


 

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Game of Thrones

Cast: Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley

(HBO)

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Game of Thrones
HBO


In the third season of Game of Thrones, one of the most shocking events in television history occurred during the “Red Wedding”. Game of Thrones author George Martin is like a chess master, moving his pieces across the board, sacrificing characters to advance his game while driving the plot forward. Martin’s also quick to switch sides, as season one’s villain, Jaime Lannister, becomes the unlikely hero of season three. Game of Thrones repeatedly stuns its viewers with its dark vision of the sword and sorcery genre, where the Nietzschean will to power is the only reliable constant in a precarious world. John Grassi


 

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American Horror Story: Coven

Cast: Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Emma Roberts, Denis O’Hare, Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange

(FX)

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American Horror Story: Coven
FX


In the third season of American Horror Story, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk mix a volatile cocktail of humor and terror, blending both elements with assured confidence. Jessica Lange is the formidable Fiona, head of the coven. Opposing her is the Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, played with scorching intensity by Angela Bassett. AHS-Coven may have the greatest female cast in television history—in addition to Lange and Bassett is the terrific Kathy Bates. Emma Roberts is electric as the willful Madison, who challenges Fiona’s leadership of the coven. Set in New Orleans, the brutal past of slavery and oppression is never far away, as the plot moves ever closer to a bloody reckoning John Grassi


 

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Eastbound and Down

Cast: Danny McBride, Steve Little, Katy Mixon, John Hawkes, Andrew Daly, Jennifer Irwin, Ana de la Reguera

(HBO)

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Eastbound and Down
HBO


Gandhi. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King. Heroes who sacrificed themselves for others. Kenny Powers is not one of these people. He is vain, sly, selfish and would sell his firstborn if it meant getting back in the major leagues. But luckily for us his atrocities make for grotesquely entertaining viewing. Though this—apparently final—fourth chapter sometimes ran like an epilogue to “The Original Trilogy” it still delivered deliciously despicable scenes of debauchery, deviousness and devilry. On the rise again, Powers—the self-styled “Handsome White Jesus”—regained access to the “Elite” and a smorgasbord of high-class pharmaceuticals, “Vixens”, assault rifles, muscle cars and “A luxury swimming pool”. Eastbound was an epic morality tale—Part Scarface, Part Rocky—but with chin implants, karaoke, Viagra, “Exotic robotics”, pet wolves and one Taters N’ Tits restaurant chain. Powers lived the dream so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. Kenny fuckin’ Powers, you’re officially out. Matt James


 

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Orphan Black

Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy

(BBC America)

15


Orphan Black
BBC America


The BBC’s Orphan Black is part sci-fi thriller, part mystery, and part family drama, but what brings the whole thing together is the jaw-dropping performance by Tatiana Maslany. She plays no less than seven distinct characters and with the help of excellent production, they interact with one another so seamlessly that it’s easy to forget the same actress plays them all. The series’ twisty plot and the strong supporting cast make for a compelling and original first season that leaves the audience wanting more and eager to see what Maslany does next. Jessica Suarez


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