Friday, December 12, 2014

TQ's Year of TV (2014 non life threatening list)

(non life threatening edition) 
2011's post / 2012's post / 2013's post / 2014's life threatening list

For this year's TV rankings, I've split my list in two. I am not a fan of the typical comedy versus drama distinction, because a great show needs to have elements of both. Instead I chose a more morbid route. If a show has no history of character death, it will be on the below list. A separate list exists for shows in which characters have died.

My Favorite TV Shows of 2014
Ron Funches

30. Undateable (NBC)
This is the worst comedy I watch, but I'll continue to watch it as long as Ron Funches is featured.

29. Unlisted (Fox)
A good show nobody watched, and has since been cancelled.

28. Marry Me (NBC)
They should just call this show Happy Endings Redux, which is both the show's strength and curse. Every time I consider quitting this show, it makes me laugh.

27. Kroll Show (Comedy Central)
Kroll Show's 3rd, and final, season premieres soon. It will probably be much  higher on next year's list.

26. Archer (FXX)
I had fallen away from this show in prior years, but I marathon watched the back seasons to get current. Similar to how memories of Happy Endings keeps Marry Me down, I can't help but wish we had more Frisky Dingo when watching Archer.

25. Chosen (FXX)
Honestly, just laughed more during Chosen than during Archer.

24. The League (FXX)
I rank these shows based primarily on what I would choose to watch in a head to head competition. The League ends next year, I think the show is still funny, but has run its course.  Unless they spinoff a Rafi only show, which would be spectacular.

23. Bojack Horseman (Netflix)
An animated show on Netflix that produced some of my biggest laughs this year. Primarily because of the character voiced by Paul F. Tompkins.

22. Key and Peele (Comedy Central)
The Golden Era of TV Drama that began less than ten years ago was followed by the Golden Era of Sketch Shows which started with Key and Peele's first season. No other show has a better voice, look and feel.

21. Broad City (Comedy Central)
Original comedy is the best comedy. Bonus points for Hannibal Burress in the cast.

20. Playing House (USA)
If you follow the comedy world, Playing House is the UCB all-star game. It's a shame that it's buried on USA and the only people that watch it are the same people who only know about it from comedy podcasts. It's also too damn sweet to be "edgy" but the laughs are huge nonetheless.

19. Girls (HBO)
Here's the first example of how my dual list strategy may not make sense. Girls is really more of a drama, which makes it tough to rank amongst the other titles in this list. I can't say anything more about it than what has already been said elsewhere. I still enjoy it.

18. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
I know two people who will be mad that this show isn't ranked higher. Everyone else will have zero idea of this show. It's fun and wonderful.

17. The Eric Andre Show (Adult Swim)
Eric Andre
If you don't know who Eric Andre is by now, I do NOT recommend this show under any circumstances. It is off the rails wild with zero purpose other than to mess with anything in its orbit. Splitsider calling his comedy Punk Rock was spot on accurate.

16. Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail (Comedy Central)
There have been a slew of TV Shows built around stand up comedy sets, but none have made it as entertaining as Johah and Kumail. I really want to go to Los Angeles to see this comedy club in person.

15. Too Many Cooks (Adult Swim)
It takes a lot to make a stew / A pinch of salt and laughter too / A scoop of kids to add the spice / A dash of love to make it nice / And you've got Too Many Cooks / Too Many Cooks / Too Many Cooks / Too Many Cooks / Too Many Cooks / Too Many Cooks / Too Many Cooks / Too Many... / It takes a lot to make a stew / When it comes to me and you / And him and her and the baby too / Too Many Cooks is True / The saying goes it'll spoil the broth / Honey, I think that's not true / Well, maybe Too Many Cooks will spoil the broth but they'll fill our hearts with so much SO MUCH LOVE!

14. Newsreaders (Adult Swim)
Similar to NTSF:SD:SUV, Newsreaders was born as a joke on Children's Hospital. The mock news magazine is 100% brilliant.

13. Comedy Bang Bang (IFC)
For an impossible to translate podcast, the show does very well. I wish I was Scott Aukerman.

12. You're the Worst (FXX)
For a show with a horrible title, and a suspect marketing campaign, I was very pleasantly surprised. A great raunchy show with a dirty beating loving heart.

11. Maron (IFC)
Maron wasn't on last year's list because I didn't watch it. It didn't take me long to watch both seasons and get caught up through OnDemand/Netflix. I can't wait for more episodes. This show is the West Coast Louie. I desperately hope Marc Maron doesn't see that line because it will probably make him angry.

10. Silicon Valley (HBO)
I loved the first season, and I wish I could rank it higher. Please note that the only reason it is "low" at ten is because of an incredible depth of quality elsewhere on the list. Quite possibly the single best joke of the year was on this show.

9. Veep (HBO)
Veep got better, way better. Either that, or I was just wrong about this show in the past. No other show uses profanity as creatively as Veep - especially when a character insults another.

8. Brooklyn 99 (Fox)
Yes, it's Parks and Rec Junior, but somehow this show doesn't have the same copy vibe that I mentioned earlier with Marry Me and Archer. Every character is three dimensional and still has the ability to surprise.

7. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Parks and Recreation hidden joke
If you don't record this show in order to pause every once in a while to read background jokes, you're watching it wrong. For example, Andy Dwyer crossing out "Indie Bands" for "Indy Bands."

6. @Midnight (Comedy Central)
Pure fun. A long over due platform to allow funny people to be funny. And easily the show on this list that is best at engaging with its audience.

5. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
The Tim Duncan of Comedy. You forget how long its been around. It keeps wining championships.

4. Louie (FX)
No show is tougher to classify than Louie. It's easily more of a drama, and actually they do have death as a theme in this show - but it's my list and I'm placing it here. The episode in the Hamptons, the "So Did the Fat Lady" episode, and the extended arc around the foreign neighbor confirm its unrivaled range. Not to mention, I went back to watch the Robin Williams episode after his death... Yeah, maybe should have this in the other column?

3. Review (Comedy Central)
This is a show in which Andy Daly, one of my favorite people in all of comedy, plays "Life Reviewer" Forrest MacNeil. Viewers of the fictional show-within-a-show submit life experiences for him to review. He explores topics such as cocaine, group sex, pancakes, and working in a coffee shop.  It's a work of art: watch every episode!

2. Nathan For You (Comedy Central)
Nathan Fielder
Of all my television choices of 2014, such as which shows to quit and which shows to start, the best decision was to go back to watch last year's first season of Nathan For You before his second season begun this year. He got famous for his "Dumb Starbucks" episode, but that was just the most visible experiment. I don't know how to wrap your head around the show's concept - picture a casserole of The Daily Show, Punk'd, Bar Rescue, Dateline, and The Office.

1. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
The most important show one can watch on television. It's beyond what The Daily Show accomplishes, with none of the embellished gravitas of Colbert. It's also more focused and informative than Real Time. It definitely has a voice, but doesn't feel biased, as most of the topics are either international or apparent in system (not one side of the political aisle) motivated. HBO realizes that it can't sell past seasons of a current events minded show on DVD, which is why they post all its content for free on YouTube. Check it out:

TQ's Year of TV (2014 life threatening list)

(life threatening edition) 
2011's post / 2012's post / 2013's post / 2014's non life threatening list
For this year's TV rankings, I've split my list in two. I am not a fan of the typical comedy versus drama distinction, because a great show needs to have elements of both. Instead I chose a more morbid route. If a show has a history of character death, it will be on the below list. A separate list exists for shows in which characters don't die.

Note: two shows I still have intention on watching are The Affair (Showtime) and Rectify (Sundance).

My Favorite TV Shows of 2014

20. 24 (Fox)
What has happened to our lives? The show that I would've, without hesitation, place atop any TV list from 2001-2004 finds itself at the bottom in 2014. There was no show I watched worse in 2014 than The Jack Bauer Party Hour. I wrote a separate post about my disappointment.

19. Banshee (Cinemax)
This is the only title I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit. For I actually watched the first two seasons of this action show. It's pulp rush of butts and bullets. I'm an American.

18. Orphan Black (BBC America)
Tatiana Maslany
Season two was a step down, in my opinion. However Tatiana Maslany remains outstanding and I am along with everyone else crying about the lack of formal award recognition.

17. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Speaking of season two letdowns, don't believe the hype on OITNB. It started great, but I think Netflix is really playing into the binge watching habits of the audience. If episodes were released weekly, it would be fighting for DVR space versus superior shows.

16. Parenthood (NBC)
Parenthood isn't a show that has guns blazing and people about to die of drug overdoses or at the hands of serial killers. I'm still placing it on the "drama-centric" list nonetheless because I'm bending my own rules. The show has grown beyond its control, and is maybe ending a year too late. Too much Joel/Julia and too much Saint Kristina Braverman Principal of Life. This will be a top five show the last five episodes are a road trip with Craig T. Nelson, Ray Romano, Peter Krause, and Dax Shepard. Yup, that'll be good - with a dash of one of my all time favorites Mae Whitman.

15. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
This is an underrated drama. It is also (like the previous entry) not exactly "life threatening" qualifying, but I wasn't going to make a third list of Louie, Maron, Girls, Parenthood, and Masters of Sex.

14. House of Cards (Netflix)
House of Cards is not a great show, but it is incredibly entertaining. Every episode's ending demands you remain paralyzed until the next episode automatically starts. But whenever I find someone who is also current with HoC, I simply ask, "what's the point?" I've yet to find someone who knows.

13. The Bridge (FX)
Here's the best show nobody watched, and now that it's cancelled, never will.
Emmy Rossum

12. Shameless (Showtime)
The less they make this show about William H. Macy and more about Emmy Rossum the better. Keep it up.

11. The Walking Dead (AMC)
I was close to quitting The Walking Dead before this season. It's vastly improved.

10. Justified (FX)
One more season left for a show I've long said was a Best Show nobody was saying was a Best Show. Last season was a bit of a step back compared to some of its earlier seasons. However, I have nothing but full confidence that the show will end fantastically.

9. The Leftovers (HBO)
I can't recommend this show to anybody. It's a mystery with no intention of solving its own mystery. No other show makes me as depressed as The Leftovers. I feel spell bound by it as I try to cope alongside all its confused characters.

8. Homeland (Showtime)

Did someone say Bounce-Back-Year?! I had ranked Homeland #4 in 2011 and #5 in 2012 before plummeting to #21 in 2013 - that's how disappointing season three was... We are not through the end of season four yet, but I feel confident again in Carrie and company.

7. Hannibal (NBC)
Of any show in 2014, no show is as visually striking as Hannibal. Nobody that watches it believes they are watching NBC because it feels like an art flick from Scandinavia. It also does something more shows need to do: make the bad guy a bad guy (not a cool guy). And we all fear Hannibal.

6. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
A victim of its own success, maybe, but I wasn't as sold on the final season of Boardwalk Empire as I have been in years past.
Elizabeth Moss and Jon Hamm

5. Mad Men (AMC)
Emmys for Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss please. They are more than due and its their last shot. Madmen (with the exception of the last 3 minutes of the season finale) have never been better. I may have this show number one if wasn't for that finale's closing scene.

4. The Americans (FX)
There a ton of shows in which its first season was its best season. It's not the case for The Americans. Season one was very good, but season two was great.

3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
The more I thought about my show ranks, the more I had to keep bumping up GoT to a higher place. There were so many incredible episodes, amazing set pieces, riveting plot developments. I can't even narrow it down to a single defining moment.

2. Fargo (FX)

If you haven't watched Fargo, but plan to, I have a bit of advice. Watch the Coen movie (again) before you start watching the television show. The TV Show is not a remake, but it does take place in the same world. Additionally, you'll appreciate just how well the TV show emulates the overall tone of the movie inspired by it. This show was fantastic, with so many great characters and angles. Ah jeez, the show was just pure ACES!

1. True Detective (HBO)
Rust Cohle taught me that time is a flat circle and not to dip your dick in crazy.
Marty Hart taught me that he likes to mow his own lawn and that T-Mobile has the best service.
They both taught me not to take simple named villains such as the Yellow King or Spaghetti Monster lightly as we all went to Carcosa together.
Everything was different with this show and nothing felt the same after you watched.

TQ's Top 10 IG posts (plus 4 videos) of 2014

Last year I shared my personal Top 13 IG pictures from 2013 and here's to another year of what is becoming my favorite social network:

10) Lone Detective
I loved True Detective, and the beer it featured

9) Social Butterfly
Notes from my Dad's "Internet Class" at the library
8) Hops n' Heels
It's a Schlitz in a shoe

7) Highlight of my day
This is how I amuse myself

6) Bey of Pigs
(see previous caption)

5) Civic Pride
I live in this city

4) Juan Jamón
Representing the entire "Juan Jamón" photo project

3) Bowling Pin
South Carolina was the 9th state to host my Bowling Pin

2) Achieving Friendship
Achievers Kenny (from Georgia) and Shayna (from Tennessee) reconnect at the 13th Annual Lebowski Fest (in Kentucky)

1) Great Parenting
My cousin holding up his daughter for a better view of the first concert of her life

Top 4 Instagram Videos:

This year I tried to get better at the video side of Instagram. Although I hesitate at taking much credit for these when it is just me "paying attention while watching TV" for some of the video captures. I haven't figured out how to embed IG video, but I hope my description is tempting enough to click the links.

4) While just a simple video capture of a display of ebullience on Review, it was great to see that Andy Daly himself was the first to like it!

3) When a sad Georgetown fan was very sad

2) Facebook is awful

1) This Kingpin Detective mashup should have gone viral

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The 2014 TQ Music Awards

Jim James of My Morning Jacket
Welcome to my annual year end music review post. If you have the patience to read all of it, you will see:
- My ten awards with winners and runners up
- Embedded Spotify playlist of my favorite tracks
- More explanation of how I chose my award winners
- Photos of note I posted to Instagram from the shows I attended
[Previous Year End Reviews: 2013, 2012, 2011]

1. The “Perpetual Repeat” Song of the Year: "Seasons (Waiting On You)" by Future Islands
Runner up: "Do It Again" by Röyksopp and Robyn

2. The “Share with All Friends” Album of the Year: The Inevitable End by Röyksopp [with the Do It Again mini album of Röyksopp and Robyn]
Runner up: Into the Wide by Delta Spirit

3. The “If Every One Could Be Like This” Concert of the Year: Delta Spirit at Vic Theatre
Runner up: Kevin Drew at Lincoln Hall

4. The “Phoenix” Becoming Too Big To Not Easily See Again: The War On Drugs
Runner up: The National

5. The “Franz Ferdinand” Must Now See Every Time They’re In Town: Delta Spirit
Runner up: Sylvan Esso

6. The “Bon Iver” Regret of the Year: Only seeing half of the Local Natives set in Las Vegas
Runner up: not seeing Alvvays and Varsity at Beat Kitchen

7. The “Medulla” Most Disappointing Album: Michael by Les Sins
Runner up: Supermodel by Foster the People

8. The “Should I Quit You” Most Disappointing Concert: The Knife at Aragon Ballroom
Runner up: Ought at Empty Bottle

9. The “Shadenfradue” Guilty Pleasure Track of the Year: "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift
Runner up: "Turn Down For What" by DJ Snake and Lil Jon featuring Juicy J, 2 Chainz, and French Montana

10. The "Buy an iPod stereo for the car" Best Decision I made in 2014: Informing my cousin that a favorite band of his (Guided By Voices) was performing a block away from my apartment.
Runner up: Asking Jim James for a picture.

1. If you haven't watched the video from Future Islands performing on The Late Show with David Letterman, please scroll up and watch it. Watching that video was exactly how I discovered that amazing song, sadly just a week after a local show of theirs sold out. Thankfully, the band rolled back through town and I was able to see this song live, which appears to have become a prerequisite for a song winning this award.

For the second straight year, my "song of the summer" finishes just below the top spot. It also helped that my summer was punctuated from an amazing live performance of "Do It Again" - complete with graffiti cannon - at Pritzker Pavillion (arguably the most scenic spot for music in all of Chicago). Speaking of that concert...

2. This is my list, and I'm able to bend the rules if I want, which is why I'm combining Röyksopp's Do It Again five track mini album with Roybn with the full length album released a few months after the aforementioned concert into my favorite album of the year. Call it a disjoined double-album, there isn't a weak spot on either album that features tempo blasting tracks alongside introspective instrumentals.

Delta Spirt's latest album may not be called its best from their most loyal fans, but it is easily their largest album. It deserves this ranking on my list because of how well it was expressed live, leading me to my next point...

3. Delta Spirit's concert was stellar enough to force a change to my Favorite Band rankings. It also required a separate blog post: Delta Spirit at The Vic. I usually shy away from concert review blog posts, unless something like a failed pick up attempt almost ruins it.

I had so much fun both the night of Kevin Drew's Lincoln Hall show, but also in the months leading up to it. The latest album that Drew was supporting may not have been his best, but the track "Mexican Aftershow Party" sparked a thousand inside jokes and a hashtag that I desperately wanted to trend. The tour in support of this album had a few issues, many shows were cancelled, and it appears that Drew had to recruit a few friends to help him close out his truncated trip in Chicago. This lead to an unofficial Broken Social Scene mini-reunion complete with more than a couple BSS songs. Drew gave a small shout out to the #MexcianAfterpartyShow efforts, but sadly didn't join us for a burrito next door. (It didn't lower my opinion of the food I devoured with a Mart-On-Special fueled hunger)

4. The War On Drugs headlined this year's Hideout Block Party. At first glance I wasn't sure if they were big enough name to be a headliner (the previous night of the fest featured Death Cab For Cutie). I was wrong. Their sound is huge, their latest album may be their best, they are officially the most successful effort ever named "The War On Drugs."

The National is already huge. They sold out four straight nights at the Chicago Theatre's for beard's sake. However I have always been lucky enough to see them easily enough, highlighted from my friend winning the Ticketmaster lottery with the seats he got us this year. This luck is sure to run out, which is why I'm listing them here.

5. This is a tough answer to expound without repeating myself - but now that Delta Spirit is in my Top Ten favorite acts, I need to see them again every time they return. For more reasons than just the song I have on the above playlist, the album I think is the second best this year, or the concert I wrote about earlier... It's also because there's a small group of friends who have similar opinions about this band, and I know I will have a fun time if we can all reunite to see them again.

One of those fellow Delta Spirit fans pointed me in Slyvan Esso's direction. Never underestimate the importance of friends helping you discover new music.

6. Local Natives released my second favorite album of 2013. If it wasn't for losing a head-to-head concert matchup with Franz Ferdinand last year, I would've seen them earlier. Thankfully, they were playing a brand new venue in Las Vegas while I was there on vacation. The 2014 Vegas Vacation is (with the possible exception of my first Vegas Trip) was the best Vegas vacation I've had in my ten trips to the town. However, part of what made the trip fun was the nonstop aspect of it, and when it came time for the Local Natives show, I had nothing left in my tank - and chose to leave it early to make sure I didn't die on the strip.

I need to see Varsity in 2015. I know someone in the band. I have been invited to many of their shows. I feel bad that I haven't seen them yet. I understand that Alvvays is about to blow up and may never get a chance to see them in a place this small ever again.

7. Not sure what I expected out of Les Sins. I like Toro Y Moi, and hoped the debut solo album would've been... I don't know. Also - Foster The People - this album was fine, I guess, but I think they will always just be a pumped up kick in a bottle for me.

8. The Knife was great for my concert resume, but because I wasn't a big fan of their latest album, this show was underwhelming. As far as Ought is concerned, they came in extremely recommended, but couldn't compete with the adrenalin rush of a public bus stop yelling match between me and a former friend before the concert.

9. If I get the opportunity to hijack the playlist at your party, BOTH "Shake It Off" and "Turn Down For What" will be played.

10. My cousin Steve and I aren't too close, at least in terms of how many of my friends refer to their close cousins. He lives in another state and we don't see each other beyond maybe one family holiday a year. But I've always looked up to him and respected him. He's now a single father of four and has a life more difficult than I know. When I learned of a Block Party featuring one of his favorite bands (Guided By Voices) was happening in my neighborhood, I sent him a simple note about it and offered my apartment as lodging. This led to him bringing two of his daughters to Chicago (which was the first concert experience for his youngest daughter) and created the most beautiful musical memory for the year. There's so much more I want to gush about the 24 hours they spent in my company, but this is a public blog post.

Only a moment such as my cousin holding up his daughter so she could rock out to a band nobody realized was months away from breaking up could have topped what also happened this year... While at Lebowski Fest (an annual "overgrown birthday party with the same bowling movie party theme" event in Louisville) I saw local hero Jim James also enjoying my favorite movie of all time. I asked Lebowski Fest's cofounder/president/dictator/saint if he thought he'd be cool if I asked for a picture. I received a very Dude-like non answer, but chose to pursue it anyways. I could've said a lot more, like how I make sure "One Big Holiday" is always blasting with my car windows down when I drive over the Ohio River, but instead just said thank you and how much I appreciated both his band and solo albums and concerts. The picture is at the top of this post.

Special Music Mention of 2014:
I need to talk about U2.
U2 was my first "favorite" band.
We fell out of love after the horrid No Line Left On The Horizon album.
Then the excellent, genre smashing, podcast "U Talking U2 To Me" with Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman changed everything.
"Bonobos, Thedge, Adam Claytwothousandpounds, and Larry Mullen's son" did a "very U2 thing" with the new album release.
Many went apeshit.
Bono fell off his bike.
I defend U2.
I defend their right to act as total self important publicity engines, which is collateral damage if you want rock stars.
Today I learned a friend had secured tickets to see them perform in 2015.
I haven't seen U2 live since 2001.
Today was, in fact, a Beautiful Day.

If you don't like U2, don't listen to them. If you don't want U2 on your iPod, delete the album. Are you that concerned about how pristine your mostly-stolen music library is after this? Are you incapable of deleting something you could have either not downloaded or known better to not have an automatic download setting on your device? Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses? I'm sorry if you were Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of.

For those that don't know, I quit taking in-concert photography last year. I explained my logic in a Danger!Sound essay. I strongly suggest you read the article my close friend wrote on the topic for Medium's new music centric site Cuepoint: Raise Your Smartphone To The Sky.

Thank you very much for reading. To close, here is the concert log (through IG posts) from 2014:

(Concord in January)
(Schubas in February)
(Double Door in February)
Local Natives
(Brooklyn Bowl in March)
The National
(Chicago Theatre in April)
The Knife
(Aragon in April)

I Break Horses
(Empty Bottle in April)

(Beat Kitchen in June)
Fuck Buttons
(Bottom Lounge in June)
Delta Spirit
(Taste of Randolph in June)
Guided By Voices
(Green Music Fest in July)
Blackbird Blackbird
(Empty Bottle in July)
Diarrhea Planet
(Wicker Park Fest in July)
(The Vic in August)
Machinegun Mojo
(Hideout in August)

Röyksopp and Robyn
(Pritzker in August)
Arcade Fire
(United Center in August)

Death Cab For Cutie
(Hideout Block Party in September)
The War On Drugs
(Hideout Block Party in September)
(Empty Bottle in September)
Delta Spirit
(The Vic in October)
Kevin Drew
(Lincoln Hall in November)
(Subterranean in November)
(The Vic in November)
St. Vincent / Future Islands
(Chicago Theatre in December)