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The Best Dramas of 2012: 1 – Homeland

December 22nd, 2012 by Sheila Dichoso

(The ten best dramas of 2012 were revealed on Hulu’s homepage this week. Here’s your winner. To view the rest of the list, click here.)

1 – Homeland

Let’s be real: The first season of Homeland was an epic masterpiece.

After it ended for me, anxiety sunk in. This show that I became addicted to, that I finished watching in merely two days and had made me all sorts of Carrie Mathison-crazy, pretty much left me incredibly satisfied: The mystery behind Brody was the driving force of the series, and that had all pretty much unraveled by season’s end.

Yet season two definitely brought it. While it may not have had the magic of the misdirection that made the first one so compelling, it certainly kept its badge as one of the best — and most addicting — shows on television. The creators were able to continually weave a story of unexpected depth and mystery beyond Brody — not an easy undertaking for a show that began with such an enigmatic and powerful storyline.

Set six months after the season one finale, the second season fleshed out Abu Nazir’s plan, had Nick Brody (Damien Lewis) as a political powerhouse as well as Vice President Walden’s choice for a running mate for his presidential run. Intriguing characters were introduced that we could only be suspicious of, such as Peter Quinn, a kind-of-obnoxious CIA black-ops agent elegantly played by Brit actor Rupert Friend. And recurring characters were fleshed out: Brody’s daughter Dana snagged herself a main storyline that started out quite endearing; The blossoming Dana and Finn relationship peaked with a night time kiss inside the Washington Monument (oh, young love!) then crashed and burned with a fatal hit and run. Even worse, Dana was season-one-annoying once again.

Ironically, this show about terrorism is, essentially, a love story. The second season moved along the Carrie and Brody relationship. And you can say whatever you want: Is it unrealistic? Sure. But it’s a TV show, and the undeniable chemistry between Carrie and Brody is earth-shattering hot: It’s intense, sexy, heartbreaking, sweet.  From the kiss in the clearing to the motel tryst, they know that feeling this way is wrong, but in those rare moments they can be alone, wrong is right.  You want to root for these two crazy kids.

But of course, it’s Claire Danes who absolutely runs this show. As a strong female protagonist, she’s layered in ways rarely seen on TV. Carrie is reckless and self-destructive, yet she’s passionate and perceptive. We’ve experienced her extreme lows (the night she tried to kill herself with wine and a dozen pills), extreme highs (her smile the moment she found out she was right about Brody), and her raw intensity that’s sometimes difficult to watch, all in between.

In what was one of the best scenes of the season, Carrie has a drink with Brody at the hotel bar as part of a CIA surveillance of Brody. After, Quinn orders her to come back to the headquarters, but instead, she goes up to Brody’s hotel room where she immediately blows her cover and tells him that she knows everything. As Saul and Quinn listen in and as federal agents arrest him, Carrie also reveals that she loved him. Although you’d cringe if this were anyone else, you don’t want to do that when it comes to Carrie. Her reckless honesty breaks us, right in the heart.

Maybe season two wasn’t perfect, but Homeland has continued to hook us in with complex characters with shades of grey. Sure, the show still surprises us with incredibly smart and unexpected plot twists and cliffhangers, but what it really excels in is illustrating Carrie and Brody’s journey together toward goodness, and hopefully, some kind of happiness.—Sheila Dichoso

Last comment: Jul 18th 2013 6 Comments

The Best Dramas of 2012: 2 – Breaking Bad

December 22nd, 2012 by Gabe Pasillas

(The ten best dramas of 2012 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of this week. To view the rest of the list, click here.)

2 – Breaking Bad

Another year, another second place for the best show on television, Breaking Bad.  Last year, I wrote this same post. My sentiment stays the same: There is nothing like the frenzy that is another season of Walter White.

This year, my love for Breaking Bad stayed true.  There were no marathons to learn the origins of Heisenberg.  I already knew what happened to the infamous Gus Fring.  I was already in love the quotes of Jesse Pinkman.  The only thing that changed is that I got my girlfriend involved.  When I learned that she had never seen the show, I insisted she watch.  This turned into a two-to-three-episode-per-night marathon of the entire season once again.

I was just as happy to watch it all over again.

The repeat viewing not only made me love the show even more, but I was able to focus more on the nuances and the brilliance of every side of the production of this show.  While my girlfriend was learning how to hate Skyler White, I was noticing the set design, the cinematography, the writing, the acting, the directing—everything that makes this show what it is and what gives the viewer such a realistic connection to the characters involved.  My obsession became my girlfriend’s addiction, and because of that we got to see (spoiler alert) the last deathly “ding” of Tio Salamanca before the first episode of the split-up final season of Breaking Bad.

This season (or is it half season? I’m still thoroughly confused about the season number thing) pulled out all the stops and really hammered home “the beginning of the end,” both for the show, and for our favorite anti-hero, Walter White.  At the forefront, there’s Walt’s full transformation into Heisenberg.  In the background, the collapse of a family, friendships, and promises.  Anyone could do anything at any moment, and the no one would be surprised.  The writers and producers made the viewers think W.W. was, in fact, invincible and completely fragile at the same time. With the final scene, they opened up a can of worms that will keep people enticed until the final (part?) season hits AMC in the summer of 2013.  The cat and mouse game has officially started, even though it’s been there all along.

I have come to terms with the fact that a show about the destruction of a man through the world of methamphetamines may never be No. 1 on the critics lists.  Once again, the award shows seem to be snubbing certain people involved in the show, perhaps this time for a certain little show about the CIA and terrorists. It’s been a long time since any medium has brought such an artistic view to such an ugly world, and I don’t think another show will be able to for some time to come.  So, for now, I accept Breaking Bad at No. 2, and thanks to AMC’s wonky scheduling, perhaps we’ll have another episode of “Breaking Bad at No. 2″ at the end of 2013.—Gabe Pasillas

Last comment: Jan 12th 2013 1 Comment

Best Comedies of 2012: 1 – Parks and Recreation

December 21st, 2012 by Rebecca Harper Editor

(The ten best comedies of 2012 were revealed on Hulu’s homepage this week. Here’s your winner. To view the rest of the list, click here.)

1 – Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation made it to the top of Hulu’s Best Comedies of 2012 list because a group of us here at Hulu HQ agreed that it really is the No. 1 comedy of the year. And this may be the first (only?) time this has ever happened, but someone at Time magazine agrees with us.

But what makes it one of TV’s best shows?

It comes down to the relationships.

First, the obvious one: Ben and Leslie (Adam Scott and Amy Poehler). Some of the show’s most tender moments are centered on their courtship, from their clandestine relationship to their decision to be together, no matter what, to a teary-eyed wedding proposal and a pretty amazing engagement gift.

Of course, there’s also Andy and April (Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza), and what I’d call the office romance between everyone in the Pawnee Parks Dept. However, what makes Parks and Rec truly great is a different relationship which borrows a page from the 30 Rock playbook: Leslie and Ron (Nick Offerman).

Ron and Leslie are much like Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy on that other NBC show. Ron takes on a fatherly role as he (somewhat reluctantly) guides Pawnee’s most enthusiastic citizen through her career and her life. Meanwhile, Leslie meddles in Ron’s life every chance she gets, whether she’s ambushing him with birthday cheer or protecting him from his dreaded ex-Tammys in her self-appointed role as his “emotional guardian.”

So I’ll go ahead and say it: Parks and Rec is the best comedy on TV today. Maybe it’s a strange alchemy of Ron’s gruff persona, Leslie’s eagerness, and Ben’s terrible accounting jokes. But I think it’s because it hasn’t shied away from the tender side of humanity. The show took a risk by letting its characters fall in love and be happy. In the past, that’d be considered jumping the shark, but here, the writers are smart enough to keep the relationships real and unforced. We’re rooting for Ben and Leslie. And April and Andy, Ron and Diane, and yes, even Jerry and Gayle.

Then again, maybe it’s really all about Ron’s bushy mustache. That would make a lot more sense.

Last comment: Feb 3rd 2016 7 Comments

The Best Comedies of 2012: 2 – Louie

December 21st, 2012 by Ben Collins Editor

(The ten best comedies of 2012 were revealed on Hulu’s homepage this week. This is the final day. To view the rest of the list, click here.)

2 – Louie

Since the parallels are easy, a lot of critics say this is the Seinfeld of this century. Both are comedians at their peaks trying to tell the truth about themselves.

This is not our Seinfeld. Seinfeld lived in a box impervious to the true stresses of everyday life. There was no genuine quest for identity seeking, there was no custody finagling, there was no worry that rent would genuinely not get paid. All of that is in Louie, and some of that is rattling around in the heads of all of us right now.

We don’t have the option to drop everything and go to China. Characters on TV shows have the option to drop everything and go to China for us, just to show us what it would look like. Louie‘s not just good. Louie‘s important.—Ben Collins

The Best Dramas of 2012: 3 – Downton Abbey

December 20th, 2012 by Nathan Alexander Video Editor

(The ten best dramas of 2012 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of this week. To view the rest of the list, click here.)

3 – Downton Abbey

I can’t remember when it was, but at some point last year, it became clear that I was going to have to watch Downton Abbey. There were simply too many people in my face talking about it. How could a British costume drama that takes place in the teens be so exciting? I had to find out. I watched Episode 1 with my wife and her parents, but after a while, I found it hard to hear the dialogue over the sound of three people snoring. It was like a room full of chainsaws.

After my first failed attempt, I tried to get my wife to watch Downton Abbey with me. She resisted. All that snoring had traumatized her. It was like being sniffed all over by a pack of invisible wild boars. It was then that I realized – Downton Abbey has some plot points that are tricky for an American viewer to pick up on. Once you’ve got those covered, you’re in – so I’m going to throw the basics at you:

Robert Crowley, the Earl of Grantham, lives in this freaking huge house called Downton Abbey. The place is so massive that it requires a great deal of money to maintain, with the help of an enormous staff – cooks, maids, valets. Robert ran out of money, so he married a rich American woman, Cora. Now here’s the tricky part: Robert and Cora signed this agreement called an entail. The entail says that Downton Abbey, and all of Cora’s fortune, can only be passed to a male heir. And Robert only has daughters. Basically this means that the house, and all the money, goes to Robert’s cousin, and the daughters get nothing. So the oldest daughter, Mary, actually gets engaged to the cousin, so she can stay filthy rich – but then, oh snap, the cousin dies on the Titanic. So who inherits Downton Abbey, and all that money? The new heir turns out to be a distant, distant cousin – a working-class guy who hates all this posh stuff. Butlers and whatnot. And Mary hates him, immediately. And just like every single movie you’ve ever seen with Matthew McConaughey in it, you know they’re going to hate each other right until they start making out.

If you watch Downton Abbey and you don’t know what an entail is, you’ll spend half of the pilot trying to figure out what’s going on, and then your wife’s stepdad starts snoring with enough force to make ripples in your water glass, and shake books off the shelves. By the way, guess who’s getting a CPAP for Christmas?

Once I got my wife up to speed on the whole entail business, and after (seriously) every couple we went out with wouldn’t shut up about Downton Abbey, my wife agreed to watch, and within two days she was totally hooked.

What’s the big deal with Downton Abbey? Oh, so much.

The beautiful photography, set decoration and scenery serve as a sumptuous backdrop for a story full of scandalous secrets and evil schemes.

Downton Abbey is two houses in one building – a house full of of rich-ass loafers: fox-hunting, tea-sipping, port-drinking, dinner-jacketed nobility, and a house full of super-poor waitstaff, scuttling all over the place, lighting fireplaces, making beds, preparing and serving lavish meals, actually putting the clothes on the rich people. The poor people work their asses off and the rich people literally do nothing. Like, nothing, ever. The incomparable Maggie Smith, unbelievably lifelike as the ancient Countess of Grantham, cracks her best line when working-class Matthew mentions his weekend plans, and the Countess says “What is a weekend?” Then you realize – every day is Saturday to this lady.

And you just get into all their dirt – who they sleep with, flirt with, steal from, their shady past dealings… the show is juicy.

Watching Mary and Matthew hate each other is awesome. She’s the ultimate snob. Mary treats Matthew like trash, and the whole time you’re watching her become more and more attracted to him.

There’s two seasons of Downton Abbey on Hulu right now, so if you haven’t already… get started. Feel cultured for watching a snotty British costume drama. Feel trashy for watching a soap opera. Feel anxious for Season 3, which ends next week in the UK, and is set to hit the US this January. But most of all, feel proud that you totally know what everyone’s talking about. You’re in.—Nathan Alexander

Last comment: Feb 4th 2016 25 Comments