Issues Degrassi Has Never Dealt With

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I promise this'll be my last Degrassi post for awhile, other than to review their season premiere that's happening on October 8th. I'm just about finished up with rewatching the first six seasons (having watched seasons 7-10 in the last year) and I just read a fantastic article with the show's current Exec Producer, Stephen Stohn, that had a ton of insight for fans of the original series, the next generation, and the current generation (just titled 'Degrassi' these days). Check it out here:

Anyway in the article Stohn mentions they've done 236 episodes, in contrast to the original 65 episodes Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood produced thinking they had told every story there was to tell. You may drop your jaw at that number and think, has Degrassi REALLY covered 236 issues? The short answer is no. While the first few seasons of TNG had a much more issue of the week format, as the series has progressed many issues are told across multi-part A-plot episodes, while others branch out across dozens of A-Plot and B-Plot storylines that could last a season or longer (see: Marco's sexuality). So realistically if I sat down and counted, they've probably covered countless issues, plus a good number of the shows plots, particularly in the later seasons, dealt with 'event' issues - like who to cast in a play, the stress of year-end finals, reactions to the shooting or JT's death, etc.

That being said, there is still a fair bit of ground for Degrassi to cover, shockingly enough. Some of these ideas are borrowed from the original series, some are things that just haven't been done, and some are modifications of existing plotlines. Without further ado, I bring you: Issues Degrassi Hasn't Dealt With:

ADOPTION - Other than Liberty giving up her baby for adoption and Derek briefly telling Liberty he was adopted, this plot hasn't ever really been fully explored. It could be a piecemeal development, spurred on by the likes of 'multicultural day' to find out one's heritage, only to realize something isn't quite adding up. Someone I know found out their dad wasn't their real dad via a letter delivered to their high school...needless to say it made for a pretty emotional showdown between kid and parent(s), and has space for future development i.e. trying to hunt down the birth parent with no luck, meeting the birth parent, considering leaving their adoptive parents for the birth parent only to find it's a bad idea, or living with the birth parent and loving them, getting angry and rebelling against the adoptive parents, etc. So many possibilities Degrassi! This was a big plot for Wheels on the original series, but it could definitely be reinvented for the next next generation.

SUICIDE - The show always has to tread a fine line between storylines that will seriously screw their characters' storylines up and storylines they can conceivably come back from. This is why you don't see them getting DUI's, even though drinking and driving IS a teen issue. Anyway, it's shocking Degrassi has never done a suicide storyline as it was the major death plot point in the original series, and it's the only teenage type death they haven't done yet (and would make for a huge plot point on par with the series' two other deaths), other than a tragic car accident or something (ahem, drinking & driving). Rick did not commit suicide (unlike his school shooting compatriot on One Tree Hill, Jimmy, ironically enough), and JT certainly didn't, other than his half-hearted attempt with the pills...there's definitely a few characters that could be potential suicide victims. Perhaps Eli's tortured artist will catch up with him, Fiona's mental instability, Riley being bullied for being gay (see: the recent rash of suicides in the USA), or Adam's identity challenges will make him do the deed. A suicide pact might also be an interesting tip-off for one character, it's just a question of whether the series will save the hero before they die. Obviously it's way more powerful when a character does leave, they just have to make sure they're okay with them leaving. Hence, don't kill Eli!

HE SAID SHE SAID - Can I just say this was one of the most frequent plot points in my actual high school? A couple would break up and rumours would run rampant about who did what as the couple basically divided everyone between who was friends with who. By the time we graduated things got a little fragmented. There was obviously an opportunity to do this with the KC/Jenna/Claire triangle, although Jenna & Alli seem to have patched things up and Claire was even around them at the S10's mid-season finale dance prep. Perhaps if Eli and Claire breakup this could be an interesting storyline.

DUELLING EXES - In theory this has been done, but primarily between the ladies and not strongly enough (again see: missed opportunity for Clare/Jenna drama). I think with Declan's return this season there is room for some interesting developments for Declan to try and win back Holly J from Sav's grimy clutches.

INTERRACIAL DATING TENSION - I give credit to Degrassi for being 100% realistic about this, that interracial dating isn't an issue for 99.9% of the population these days. That being said, this was a choice storyline from the original series between Michelle and BLT, and I'm surprised not a single one of these oh-so-traditional, uptight 'cultural' parents (Marco and Riley's in particular) haven't been inserted into an oblique "You're dating HIM/HER"? plot line.

ABORIGINAL ISSUES - This is a minefield, and one that isn't particularly relevant to the show's huge US fan base, so I don't blame them for not tackling it. If anything it's something they would have done in the earlier seasons. Regardless, I can't believe Degrassi has never had an Aboriginal character, as there is a rich amount of opportunity for them to be a good role model for the Aboriginal community and also tackle some of the issues facing Aboriginal people in Canada. If they came from a disadvantaged family, wanting to break the mould would make for an interesting storyline.

SCHOOL CHEATING - This is such a basic issue that has barely been touched by Degrassi. Toby tried to hack the system for Jimmy and Paige handed in a bought essay in University, but the show has never done the classic 'steal the test answers' plot line that is used on so many other shows, which would make perfect sense for a character that is struggling with their studies. Or there's ye ol' chestnut from the original series where Yick handed in a paper that Arthur's older sister Stephanie Kaye (ah she was so cool hah) wrote the previous year - Yick received a better mark on the paper than Stephanie did, proving Raditch's bias.

DEPRESSION - I wish they had done more to explain Paige's S6 breakdown. I know someone who has been prescribed as having actual panic attacks, and that is another specific plot device they could have used (while also visiting the checks and balances of taking your meds vs. being overmedicated). Anyway, the show hasn't ever really tackled depression. Craig had a mental disorder and Emma's extreme mood swings post-shooting and during Spike & Snake's split were tied to other issues (safe sex & eating disorders), so the show hasn't ever really had a character that is suffering from clinical depression. Might be a good lead-up to a suicide storyline!

STALKING - We had Darcy's creepy internet 'pal' and Rick was debatably interfering with Terri's life, but no character has ever been continually stalked for longer than one episode. Perhaps it might be a way to write off one of the two villainous duds introduced this past season - Fitz or the antagonistic football player, Owen - as they stalk Bianca or something.

UPPERS & DOWNERS - Have there seriously been no caffeine pills consumed on this show?

I could go on...all one has to do is look at episode lists for the likes of Dawson's Creek, The OC, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, etc. to see there are plenty of opportunities abound for the show to continue on.

Finally a parting thought: we now have three Degrassi babies circulating out there. Who do you think will lead the third generation's development? If the show continues on its current schedule of one school year every year and a half (they've talked about next summer being the wrap-up for the current seniors), then:

Mia's Baby Isabella - Conveniently named after a Twilight character, Bella will be teenaged (at least grade 9 aged) in about a decade. She was three years old when we met her and Mia was in grade 10. Mia would now be a senior with Holly J, Sav, and Anya which would make Bella five, so for her to be a full-blown 13 or 14 year old is ten years down the road which seems ample time for a reboot. By then, Nina Dobrev's CW-infused career might be flagging and she might be willing to come back, or they could just cast someone new as her mom, or she could be living with her dad since her mom is in theory a supermodel.

Liberty's Unnamed Baby Boy - Adopted boy is off in Seattle, and was born when Liberty was in grade 11, which would make him about three years old by now. Perhaps his journey could start by opening up the chest Liberty gave him and discovering he's, gasp, adopted!

Jenna's Unnamed Fetus - At this point the show looks like they're going to make Jenna go through with the baby. This is the only baby storyline they haven't tapped yet - despite arguments that Mia's storyline was all about the rigors of being a teenaged mom, Jenna's is part Liberty's (being a pregnant mom) AND part Mia by taking us through her baby journey from start to finish. Although a miscarriage might make for an interesting late-in-the-game twist (would she feel sad? relieved?), I suspect she'll have the baby. Obviously this one will take the longest to mature which means it's either the most or least likely to lead the crusade for D:TNG 2.0.

S'all. Any other Degrassi topics you can think of that have never been touched? I think suicide & adoption are the two biggest ones for sure. Yes they were covered on the original series, but there's a ton of new, long-term development ways they could look at them.

- Britt's On

The last of the season premieres: TAR 17 is it?

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You know, I have a small bone to pick with Jeff Probst. I love the dude, don't get me wrong, and I'm very much part of the faction of people that believe Survivor will be half the show it is now if he leaves. I just...don't want it to stop. Ever! Seriously, few other shows have managed to engage me for 20+ seasons (because no shows have that many seasons), and make me as delighted as I am on a weekly basis to watch a bunch of loons on an island of the non-Canadian persuasion. Plus I still feel like they have a fair bit they could do: Survivor Couples (wherein each pairing of teammates are split onto two tribes)! Celebrity survivor! Bring back all the former winners that actually want to come back (and see if Sandra can make it a threepeat)! ARCTIC SURVIVOR!

Anyway my beef is that JP has whinged about the strain it takes to shoot Survivor, given he's off in some remote destination for 40+ days. That's right, Jeff Probst works (remotely anyway) for about 90 days a year, because let's face it, he doesn't have a bunch of other successful gigs lined up for him. Phil Keoghan of Amazing Race fame however, probably works for about six to eight weeks, and spends the rest of his time riding bikes and writing books. The difference is, Phil is zipping all around the world for those six to eight weeks. No doubt he's staying in nice hotels, but dude is suffering from the same amount of jet lag and travelling from challenge destination to challenge destination to make the race happen. So Probst, can it and keep on doing Survivor! Although how cool would it be if they swapped jobs for a season? I digress.

Another note on The Amazing Race. This is the first year they lost their Emmy. It's also the first year Survivor was NOT nominated, which is so bizarre it hurts after coming off of a pretty phenom season like 'All Stars'. Perhaps it's because Samoa was a pretty terrible season (sans Russell's world domination) and they don't consider 'All Star' seasons to be as creatively charged as brand new casts. It's just a tragedy because they lost to Top Chef of all things, which as far as I know doesn't even air in Canada. Lametown. That being said, I'm not in disagreement - TAR has a pretty weak year last year, with way too much time spent in one general area (Asia) and pretty lame casting.

Much like Survivor, the secret to a good reality show is in the casting. It needs to be a balance of gimmicky (see: acrobatic little people, Kentucky coal miners, beauty queens, etc.) and explosive (see: every violently angry couple on the show ever), with a dash of heart and goodwill (see: the hippies that won their respective seasons) and 'relative' hotness in the form of relatively douchey male teams (see: almost every season where a team of beefcakes was entered, they won).

This year it seems the folks on TAR are reallllly pushing for an all female team to win, with FOUR entries into the mix and NO beefcake male teams to speak of. The last time they did this was Season 14, with the flight attendants, the antagonistic but athletic (except for swimming) black sisters, and the former redheaded NFL cheerleaders (who ultimately placed second). Unfortunately none of these female teams had the charisma and fan base that Dustin and Kandice, the two-time second-place finishers had, and thus it was kind of okay that another chirpy, happy, intelligent brother & sister duo won (shortly after Ryan & Starr a season or two earlier).

Of the ladies on the race this year, I suspect the doctors or the volleyball girls have the best chance. Brook was annoying as all get out this episode, and I suspect Clare will lose enthusiasm as the race continues to NOT include taping thirty-minute segments while fondling some jewels. The mother/daughter reunion team is just all kinds of awkward, and beyond that, they don't have that competitive "We've both wanted this for SO LONG!" spirit that the majority of the other teams have. The doctors preformed solidly and calmly throughout the episode, making them a touch boring, but at least commendable. The volleyball chicks will likely be able to bring a bit more interest to the table, and they're buff and gorge, which will help them throughout.

Other than that, I think the male/female couples all have some interesting and potentially explosive dynamics. Nicky & Vicki are America's Best (idiots) so while they provide good entertainment value their time on the race is going to be short. Jill & Thomas (I keep on wanting to say jack & jill) may be interesting as well after a solid finish on the first leg, I'm curious to see how the Express Pass plays out, and whether the set-up dynamic for him being Ivy League and her being a beautician will come into play. She certainly got them across that lake fast enough, which contributed to their win. Finally I can't remember their names, but team 'Roid Rage' as I've dubbed them promises to be the couple 'most likely to be reconsidering things' after the race. I get squeamish at the verbally and physically abusive couples, but I hope it's at least a wake-up call for them.

Finally we have a scattered remaining group. I love the Gleeks! LOVE! I will be putting them in my early teams to root for that's for sure. They had a rough start but pulled off a very respectable third-place finish despite being on the second flight, so kudos there. Just as the race has never had an all female team win, they've also never had a parent/child team win, and I've loved many of the parent/child teams. So I'm also waving a small flag for our two parent/child teams - the Asian internet Sensations and Little Miss Sunshine & her dad. Truthfully I wasn't too sad to see Tony the Tiger & Ron leave. Their musical antics sounded interesting in the interviews but I was kind of yawning at their raceplay. There are other teams I want to see more of and it was nice that all of the female teams made it past leg 1.

Overall because of the solid casting here and the drive of the producers to have some very strong female contenders for the win, I'm giving TAR a promising thumbs up for the season to come. The Express Pass is an interesting twist / alternative to the underused Fast Forward (remember the first two seasons??) and not quite as dramatic of the Medallion of POWAHHHH! on Survivor, so I'm happy they shook up the game a bit. I'm wondering if they'll keep on popping more of those passes in the race or not, but content with the one for now. It's much better than the damn 'team' detours they throw in every once in awhile.

I'll also mention that Dancing with the Stars has fallen by the wayside. The cast just wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped in comparison to last season, and quite frankly watching that show without a PVR to skip through the excessive ads is not my cuppa tea. It's a very spoilerrific show and I'm very much an internet surfer, so watching it the next day on my laptop just isn't a good option either. I also skipped Desperate Housewives' premiere this week, as I feel the show has become a mockery of what it set out to be all those seasons ago. Easy come, easy go.

A friend of mine watched the new JJ Abrams show 'Undercovers' and being a mega-Alias fan was quite disappointed. I haven't heard the best things about it, and frankly, Abrams isn't a guaranteed hit-maker (and will jump ship once a show has launched to a higher ground) so I'm not chancing it. I am planning to tune into the new drama premiering tonight, 'No Ordinary Family', about a family of superheroes. Sort of like Heroes meets The Incredibles. It hasn't gotten a lot of buzz, but perhaps it'll build if the first few episodes are good.

That's a wrap on my fall round-up. We're in the home stretch for summery shows including Mad Men and Project Runway (seriously WTF TO MAD MEN THIS WEEK?), which is fine and good because a bunch of awesome-sounding movies are coming out right away. Stay tuned for my thoughts on four of fall's biggest movies: Easy A, The Town, The Social Network, and Let Me In!

- Britt's On!

Degrassi TNG Drinking Game - Updated

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Okay kids, I've been adding steadily to my drinking game for Degrassi the Next Generation in my previous post, but I thought it was time to repost here as I finish up with Season 6. I promise to simply update the date next time around, but since I fundamentally changed the layout of it I figured it was worth a repost.

So my friends, take a sip, or a shot, every time:

- There’s a confrontation in the bathroom (a bizarre replacement for ‘confrontation in the stairwell’ of the original series)
- Characters talk about one another using their full first and last names
- Kid Elrick is mentioned
- A teacher is totally incompetent at catching a misbehaving student
- An original series cast member makes a guest appearance (unless they're credited as regulars)
- Somebody gets stuffed into or slammed against a locker
- Downtown Sasquatch or Studz plays
- Whenever someone brings up Heather Sinclair
- The show goes meta and uses internet slang (as per Palex) or talks about how 'West Road' has 'terrible writing' and is so 'issue of the week'
- There is a reference to Bollywood
- Someone brings up how something didn't happen on school property
- Someone says the word Lakehurst
- A dance is held
- A Degrassi couple breaks up
- Dream sequences!
- A new character with speaking lines shows up
- Somebody dies
- The Spirit / Power Squad needs or gets new uniforms

- Emma protests something
- JT wears a top hat
- JT pretends to be gay
- Sean talks about being poor
- Sean wears a wife beater
- Toby mentions his bubby (grandma) or being Jewish
- Manny uses the term 'Coo coo bananas'
- Someone makes a joke about how slutty / skanky Manny is
- Emma talks about the environment
- Liberty is at a student council meeting / involved with morning announcements

- Paige says ‘hun’
- Paige & Spinner call each other Honey Bee
- Spinner gets a new hairstyle
- Paige changes her mind on whether she's interested in men or women
- Someone calls Ellie 'Frosh'
- Ellie calls Jesse 'Boss Man'
- Anytime Marco or someone else talks about Marco being gay
- Terri has a storyline or scene regarding her weight
- Spinner misuses a word
- Ellie does something related to journalism
- Jimmy develops a new talent
- Jimmy wears something from Triple 5 Soul

- Darcy does something deliberately un-Christian (see: breaking Paige's leg, drinking beer, running an online semi-pornographic site)
- Peter has a camera with him

The NEW Next Generation Kids (Season 7 Onwards)
- Holly J has a clipboard in her hands
- Clare talks about her faith and morals
- Bianca wears hoop earrings
- Alli and KC demonstrate why they don't belong in the advanced Grade 9 class
- KC makes a reference to his shady past / halfway home situation

Finally! Drink if anything on the show happened to you!

- Britt's on!

In & Out

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The other week I posted about how this season of Project Runway was going down as one of the best in recent memory. A good chunk of that in my mind has come from the expanded format of the show that has allowed for getting to know the designers - and their catty mentalities - a little better, much like the earlier seasons allowed for based on the way they were editing. Let's face it, the characters on the show are half the fun - the designs themselves are the other half.

Unfortunately, the last two episodes have been - to borrow a phrase from another fashion-related reality show - dreckitude. Sadly, I don't feel it's the designers to blame here, but the producers of the show that have done TWO Back to Back episodes of 'surprise! design another piece at the 11th hour! cheers!'. As a result we had two of the worst runway shows PR has EVER seen, with the top 3 barely scraping by and liberal critiques being heaped on the top 3 almost as much as the bottom 3 (and god only knows what the middle 'safeties' would hear from the judges were they on stage).

As a result, my favourite designer this season - Valerie - has been in jeopardy. Both times she has had pretty nifty sounding plans / sketches, only to be thwarted by the producers of the show that think it's so shocking and cool to cram as much design as possible into one episode - perhaps the negative side of 90-minute shows where they need to stretch the design room time. I mean, for this week's challenge we had eight designers left...why not bring the eight eliminated designers back to assist them with the second look?

The thing is, I'm not asking for the show to revert to its early season slower pace, where designers frequently had two days to design showstopping garments, I'm simply asking them to be upfront with the designers - at least once - about how much time they have instead of continually springing additional pieces and challenges on them. I'm thinking back to the couture challenge of Season 4, featuring Chris March and Christian Siriano's STUNNING gown (and ready to wear companion piece). The judges were clearly looking for something of that calibre this week and they didn't get it - and it's partially because of the crazy twists and turns the show keeps on piling on. I just want to see the designers have the time to complete something for once, and get a proper sense as to whether or not they are good designers, plain and simple, or if they really do bite off more than they can chew.

Moving on, we have SEVEN designers left and only 'THREE' spots at Fashion Week. Can I point out that in past seasons, PR has been a very unique show in that it airs (primarily) during the ten-week span the winning designers have to go home and work on their collections. This year however, there were so many designers 'left' on the show, that TEN, count em, TEN of them had shows at Fashion Week. That's more than half of the contestants - and although only three (or four) of them are up for the grand prix, it still kind of diminishes the specialness of "only three of you will make it to fashion week". I'm sure the decoys are given much smaller budgets to work with, but they still have the prestige of going to fashion week, and the big PR prize ain't that special, sorry (I mean, Mondo won nearly the equivalent of the model's prize this week!).

Moving on to the final 7 and my predictions:

April - The show can be a bit maddening in its criticisms, sometimes telling designers they seem stuck in one style, other times criticizing designers who try to shake up their aesthetic (as per Ivy getting the axe with her foray into BRIGHT colours this week). However with April, I lean towards the 'one trick pony' designation, as I've found nearly all of her pieces are black, tattered, and snoozy. I'm not interested in seeing a final collection of April's, and I have a hunch she'll be shown the door before fashion week.

Valerie - It feels to me like Valerie (up until recently anyway) was given a bit of a winner's edit - she has easily become the fan favourite with a very likable, witty, endearing edit and her 'always the bridesmaid' designation has won her many fans that think she is the rightful winner on same challenges. I wanted to think that with her breakdowns over the last few weeks - why don't the judges get my work? why am I second guessing myself? why did I create a vest over a jacket (stupid twist)? - they were giving her a 'Phoenix rises from the ashes' storyline, but now I'm not so sure. I think the producers were definitely wise to keep her in over Michael & Ivy the last two weeks, and I think she could pull it out with adequate time a la fashion week, but I'm not sure her confidence is up to it at this point.

Mondo - I'm on the fence about Mondoman. On one hand I feel like he just throws together a bunch of crazy shit, sews it decently well, and the designers credit him for it not being totally fugtastic. On the other hand, I have flashes of S3's Uli and her innate ability to mix patterns - while Uli's was a much more subtle bohemian look, Mondo's is a lot more like a box of crayons got bulimia on his work table, yet I at least find his work *interesting*. I think seeing a final collection from him that requires some cohesion and thought would be interesting, but I don't know that I'm rooting for him to win at this point. I'd be okay with him making it to the final 3, and I wouldn't be surprised if I did.

Gretchen - I feel like Gretchen still has a pretty negative edit, and that her clothes still aren't that imaginative. What they are is modern, well-made, and designed for women who very much share her aesthetic, which is a trendy one. I've noticed the designers this season have really projected their design style into their personal style - Mondo's wacky combos, Valerie's cutesy reconstructed outfits, Ivy's chic little dresses and skirts, April's goth bombshell look, and Gretchen's boho model gear. I think it's a wise choice to represent your point of view as a designer by looking like your work, and Gretchen does that in spades. She does have the strongest track record - falling into the bottom only once on the team challenge - and the show seems to have indicated it's a forgone conclusion we'll see her at fashion week, I'm just skeptical she can pull it out to walk away with the win. I'm smelling Daniel Vosovic of S2.

Andy - I feel like Andy is sort of the forgotten child of this season (along with Chris). He's supposed to be the avant garde one, and has a style similar to last season's fellow lost boy Jay, but Mondo is totally eclipsing him and I think it might lead to his late-season ouster. I credit Andy for being uber bold, but I don't particularly like his clothes - just elements within them. He might be a surprise contender for that third spot though...I just feel like he hasn't received enough praise or airtime to take that winner's spot, but perhaps the producers are blinding me with the drama and the central characters in that mess!

Michael C - The other designers hate him, and although the show has edited Michael C's storyline to have a sympathetic nod in his favour, I suspect the show will throw them a bone by eventually delivering his comeuppance. Here's my conclusive thoughts on MC: he makes quite beautiful clothing that in general, always fits well (this week's mini dress was moulded to that girl's body), looks nice, and seems on par with today's contemporary evening looks. However, I agree with Gretchen that he doesn't have a deeply engrained POV. In fact, I could probably describe each designer in one phrase, and not really come up with something for Michael. April (Shredded Goth), Valerie (Bright & Basic), Mondo (Colour & Pattern Barf), Gretchen (Boho For Hipsters), Andy (Futuristic Industrial), Chris (Classy Dream Gal)...Michael just makes nice clothes, period. That being said, the concept of him putting together a collection kind of tickles my fancy. What would he send out? A Carol Hannah line of evening gowns? Probably, which the judges don't want to see, and won't earn him the win. I guess he's auf'd in the next week or two.

Christopher - I always forget Christopher Collins is on the show, until he butchers something and ends up in the bottom, flailing. He's a cutie, but a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to joining in on the dishiness, or even having a particularly interesting design point of view or specialty. I think he makes *nice* clothes like Michael C and veers towards a ladylike aesthetic, but I couldn't tell you much about Chris beyond that. I feel like he's a throwaway pick to get rid of before the final episode.

So my picks for the final three? I think Gretchen, Mondo, and either Valerie or Andy will be 'officially' at fashion week. Chris Collins is next on the chopping block, and then it's a free for all.

Do me proud PR!

- Britt's On

Best Buffy Seasons

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As a companion to my list of the Best Buffy Episodes Ever? I present to you my breakdown of the best Buffy seasons, in order this time. Partially inspired by the fact I just read Julie & Julia, and to J Powell's credit, she has good taste in TV shows.

Order goes from the BEST to the WORST:

SEASON 5 - Hands down, this is easily my favourite season. I was truly mystified how Buffy was going to overcome Glory, the twist and turns of the entire season were insane (albeit towards the end it got a bit jam-packed, I'm looking at you Knights of Whatever), and the finale ranks among the best finales - and Buffy has great finales. Some people argue that the story here was a little too steeped in mythology, but I always enjoyed the episodes and parts of the show that delved into what it means to be a slayer. The season opened up with this very premise in what I think may be the best season premiere - Buffy vs. Dracula - and followed it throughout the season, including the spellbinding episode 'Fool for Love' and the death of Joyce bringing home the weight of humanity in 'The Body'. There were a handful of snoozy episodes this season, but in general, it boasted the strongest overall story arc while still providing plenty of laughs and twists.

SEASON 6 - I thought about this long and hard, and it actually surprises me to put Season 6 in the second spot, but at the end of the day I was amazed at how deftly the show slowly unwound the consequences of Buffy's death and resurrection across the entire season. I might call this one a tie with Season 2, but unlike S2, I feel like Season 6 had very strong character / story arc episodes throughout, while the so-called filler episodes were for the most part, actually quite *good*. I always enjoy a good bait & switch, which the show throws at you in Seasons 2 & 6 most dramatically (and arguably a bit in 3 & 4 regarding Faith and Maggie Walsh respectively), and the four-part finale - although not made up of any of my individual favourite episodes - let to a pretty explosive ending. There's something special about this season and I think it boils down to the fact they overcame the impossible - Buffy's death - and did it well.

SEASON 2 - Most people will put S2 at the number one or two spot, and I don't disagree. It's when the show found its legs and cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with. The introduction of Spike and Drusilla, the bait & switch between them, and the second switcheroo with Angel at the helm was inspired, especially for all the fangirls out there that were in love with TV's most star-cross couple. The finale is possibly the best of all season finales, and the 'arc' episodes are among the strongest in the entire series. However, the reason why this drops to third on my list is there is still a ton of crappy monster of the week type episodes that not only detract from the main plot (Hello 'Go Fish', thrown in at the end of the season), but actually don't really do anything at all for the characters or the show. The difference between the filler episodes here and in season 6 are like night and day - I actually think I like S6 more *because* of the filler / fun episodes, versus S2 probably has stronger arc plots, making them more or less tied for second.

SEASON 4 - Again, a relatively unpopular choice, but I generally liked the post-high school years of Buffy better than the high school ones. S4 suffers the same counter-balance issues with S3 - I think I like S4 because the filler episodes, the overall change of pace and vigour with which Buffy says "Okay, we're doing the college thing, at least for this year" make this season stand out in terms its overall tone and messaging. Some of the funniest episodes of the entire series happen here, and I actually thought The Initiative and Riley were awesome the first time around. It also boasts some of the most memorable episodes, including 'Hush' and 'Restless'. Although the season's story arc probably sputtered out the most, the overall zesty rebrand of the series here puts it right in the middle of my list.

SEASON 3 - A lot of people tend to put S3 at number one or number two, and if you're partial to the high school years, that totally makes sense. It has the strongest continual development of the major story arc - The Mayor and Faith - with only a handful of filler episodes, and for the most part, even those tie into the major storyline with cameos from the aforementioned main players. I always want to like this season more, but I think because it lacks a ton of standout episodes for me - and I got irritated by this point at how old those high school seniors were looking - it has never resonated quite as much. It's still a great season, but I just don't get that excited about it.

SEASON 7 - Oh Buffy, what could have been. After a very strong start, the show kind of lost itself mid-season and never fully recovered. Like Season 5's weakness, it tried to do too much in too little time, throwing new villains and unnecessary twists at us, while also feeling like it was dragging on as the slayerites huddled down in Buffy's house. The lack of interaction with the outside world, other than glimpses at the high school, made this season feel strained and drawn out at times. That being said, there are a large number of episodes I quite liked this season, and the overall series finale left me feeling satisfied, so I can't totally bash this one.

SEASON 1 - Everyone and their dog drops Season 1 at the bottom and I'm no different. It's hard to convince people to watch the show when they have to sit through the cheese that is S1, particularly in the SFX department. That being said, the creators make the best of it, frequently referencing moments in S1 in later years for funny running jokes and half-decent payoffs. The show is definitely quite campy and funny this time around, but it shows glimmers of the razor sharp humour and kick-ass fearlessness that defines the show.

- Britt's On

Literary Meets Culinary

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In the last month I have read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, watched the film adaptation, and read Julie Powell's memoir, Julie & Julia (I watched the film about a year ago). I have to say, it always surprises me when memoirs get made into films because in essence, a memoir is about infusing yourself in your words, something films generally can't capture. The exception to this in recent memory is the adaptation of 'An Education', however someone I know that read the book explained the romantic relationship the film is centred on is only a minor part of what is otherwise the ramblings of a fairly unremarkable person.

Here's my verdict on these two entries into foodie memoirs turned foodie films:

Eat Pray Love
The book: I am not really on the same wavelength as Elizabeth Gilbert. Her spritely, indulgent personality doesn't well mesh with the way I lead my own life, and I sometimes found her to be shallow, condescending, and self-absorbed. I walked away from the book shrugging my shoulders and going 'Really?'. I still generally feel that way, however I will say the spirit of the book has stayed with me. I recently moved, and some of the lessons Liz hands down from one traveler to another I have taken to heart and it has helped me make the transition and enjoy myself. So in that sense, I give her a pass, and say that I did appreciate the actual visible growth of herself as the pages turned.

Julie & Julia
The movie: All I have to say is ech. The movie didn't have spectacular reviews so my expectations going in were pretty low, and they were, humbly, met. The movie was way too long, and the devices by which to transmit Gilbert's written words were sloppy - often being told by minor characters instead of from the writer herself. Also the spiritual and emotional significance of certain scenes was downplayed compared to what they meant to Liz in the book. It was basically a rambling, overlong travel log, instead of a movie about a journey. Julia Roberts was a good pick for Elizabeth, and Javier Bardem as Felipe was awesome, but I felt like the book focused too much on some areas and not enough on others.

The Winner: Surprisingly, the book version.

The Book: A note. Sometimes people will stick like glue to whatever they encounter first - be it movie or film version. However my issues with the film were reflected in the book. I felt like the whole thing was sort of...meta. The book isn't so much about the Julie/Julia Project, it's about writing the Julie/Julia blog, experiencing a bit of fame and attention, the day to day gripings of a Generation X-er, and generous sprinklings of the trials and tribulations and general insanity of the project (524 french recipes in 365 days). The most enjoyable portion of this was, by far, the stories of cooking. In fact, I often found myself thinking, I'd rather be reading Julie's blog right now (or when the whole thing went down) than reading a book about blogging. The fact is, the end point in Julie's journey was getting a book deal, and reading a book about getting a book deal does not a good memoir make. Elizabeth Gilbert had her book deal in hand when she went on her trip, so perhaps that's the difference (although she also took care to show the journey was about the book deal, it was facilitated BY the book deal), but I felt like the concept here was spread thin and lent itself better to Julie's initial blog format (which is still online FYI) than a book.

The Movie: Going into the movie I'd been told two things: it had a very whimsical joie de vivre (to be all french) tone, and the Julia part was way better than the Julie part. I wholeheartedly agree. While the Julia segments in Julie's book are short little snippets with little bearing on the plot, the film actually picks up Julia's story more or less where Julie ends it - when she decides to attend Le Cordon Bleu. Meanwhile Julie is just as hysterical and condescending and critical in the film as she is in the book - it makes the generally likably but tiny bit shrill Amy Adams into a Shrill Sergeant (hah) and results in the temporary breakdown of Julie's marriage (which in real life doesn't happen till her second book). I thought the film did a great job at drawing that parallels and character traits that unwittingly bonded these two women, and picked up the highlights of Julie's story (including yes, the inevitable fame, attention, and book deal that lead to said movie, again META!) versus the spread like butter concept in the book.

The Winner: The Movie, by a long shot, although even there the Julie parts wear thin.

- Britt's On

It's a Motherf*ckin Walk-Off

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Oh Project Runway, just when I think you're lagging in entertainment value, you come back and surprise me with one of the best seasons in recent memory. After the disaster that was Season 6's sojourn to LA and the relatively snoozy final 4 from last year, Season 8 is back with a vengeance!

I've been busy moving the last few weeks, plus in Canada the show runs on a two or three week delay anyway, so I had no choice but to download the episodes to catch up. So far I've made it through the first five (and I'm *trying so hard* to resist moving forward as I'm enjoying this daily dose of PR) and I believe another one will pop up tomorrow, and I have to say, I'm enjoying myself.

General thoughts:

Eliminations: one thing PR does well is eliminating people more or less at the right time. The people who have gone so far are people I wasn't too keen on seeing more from, although to Sarah's credit, I thought she had a *fantastic* attitude and it saddened me that her party store dress was so blase.

Gretchen vs. Valerie: PR hasn't had an epic battle like this in forever, it harkens back to Kenley vs. Leanne or the Season 3 fantastic final four. Personally I'm on team Valerie (as per the show's edit) - she resembles Shiri Appleby which automatically makes me like her, her deconstructed personal wardrobe is very fun, and I've loved everything she's sent down the runway - girl hasn't missed the top to date! Gretchen on the other hand, I've *liked* her clothes but I feel like she's reminiscent of Season 2's fallen wunderkid, Daniel Vosovic, he of many early wins and praise that had too big of a head and produced a snoozy final show. Her holier-than-thou condescending attitude, especially in the confessionals, is just so off-putting, it reminds me of my most hated winner, S6's Irina. Gretchen's wardrobe of 'check out my boobs with no bra but a cami under a sheer and or / cropped shirt' seems more suitable for one of the models than the designers, although to her credit she's very pretty and has a rockin model-esque bod, but still. I think I'd hate her in real life.

Two Team Challenge: This is the last episode I watched and it was pretty unique, which is saying something this far into a series. The symmetry of the winners and losers each being the top 6 and bottom 6 was cool, and having them produce collections close to the size of the finale collections was interesting. I definitely agreed with the winners - the oversized proportions of the 'Luxe' team were fugly, almost as much as their in-fighting. I agree that Gretchen should have taken the fall, however I see the producers / judges point of view - AJ was not going to win the show with his gimmicky OTT looks, while Gretchen had two wins and a frenemy rivalry with Valerie (the other team's de facto leader!) to play out.

The Innovation Challenge: This is my favourite innovation challenge in a l-o-n-g time. I was literally flabbergasted at how far from 'party stuff' each outfit looked, and I loved the top three designs and beyond. After last season's disastrous hardware store innovation challenge, it was refreshing to see the designers get actual sewable materials to make it work - and they did, in spades.

Bitching & Michael C: I felt terrible for Michael C in the last two episodes. I actually loved his dress from last week and thought it complimented his hat/mask fabulously as well. Obviously I'm not there and I don't know the level of his technical skills but the team throwing him under the bus when he had immunity was just ridiculous. The hat challenge was the weakest one of the show to date, so I suppose it makes sense he won it. Regardless, Michael see and bald guy with glasses have been the best commentators this season, so I don't want either of them to go.

Extended Play - The new 90 minute format is a welcome addition to the show for me. I'd rather watch more reactions and gossip (and see more in-depth challenges like the double collection episode I just watched) than have to tune into another 5 minutes of 'Models of the Runway' (which is about all I watched as I fast forwarded the rest).

Predictions - I wasn't spoiled per se, but simply reminded by Entertainment Weekly recently to start watching the show when they mentioned something about Casanova, this season's lah-tin lurv-er, he of the frustrating misunderstanding but hilarious pull quotes from Kors. I had no idea how Casanova would make it past the first few episodes, but his quasi-deserved immunity win in the team challenge (personally I loved bald guy with glasses' shredded top) explains how he makes it to at least Episode 7. I don't see a long future for Casanova, Peach, or April - they've failed to impress me throughout, and I suspect the bashing Michael C got this episode will come to fruition eventually. Valerie, Bald Guy with Glasses (hm, other Michael?), and Gretchen stand the best chance of pushing through, especially after Gretchen was taken down twenty pegs or so this last episode. I don't love Hawaiian wunderkid, Christopher Cowie's or Mondo's stuff - although the winning party dress look was insane! - so I'm on the fence about how far they'll make it. I *do* like Ivy. She's the best of the females for commentary with her pseudo-valley girl chirping, and I think she's produced some really beautiful stuff that's been overlooked by the judges - hello chiffon-backed jacket from the hat challenge! She could prove to be a worthy adversary to the two amazons running the show right now.

Finally I leave you with my suggestions for 10 New Project Runway Challenges, in the order I've thought of them in. Project Runway producers, credit me if you steal one!

10. Halloween - Have the designers shop in a Halloween / costume shop to create a party look. Taking actual costumes made of cheap materials (and / or a palette of strictly orange, purple, and black) and making them non-costumey? That's what I call a make it work moment!

9. Laboutins - We've had a hat challenge, why not a shoe one? Take a major shoe designer - Laboutin, Blahnik, Choo - and give each designer a pair to draw inspiration from. Obviously everyone will be doing cocktail dresses so they don't cover up the goods.

8. Icons - Assign each designer an iconic OTT dress from a major awards show and have them use it as inspiration for a new red carpet dress - think: Liz Hurley's safety pin dress, Jennifer Lopez's green Versace stunner, Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's movie-opener, Halle Berry's sheer topped Oscar winning gown, Geri Halliwell's Union Jack micromini, Bjork's swan dress, Julia Robert's vintage Versace, Marilyn Monroe's Seven Year Itch gown, Madonna's Material Girl dress.

7. Stewardesses - Runway loves to do 'uniform' challenges, including the Olympic Games and Postal Workers. Since they love to call tacky clothes Stewardess-inspired, why not have them design a fashion-forward look for an airline stewardess?

6. Umbrellas - This is not a new challenge to be fair, but I thought it was a cool innovative one on Project Runway Canada. The designers were told to grab umbrellas as their only fabric for a challenge. However what they didn't know is they had to use *all* of the fabric they'd collected, meaning the designers that greedy and the designers that went all grabby for anything were sort of effed, but it worked out.

5. Haus of Gaga - Get the designers to whip up an outfit inspired by a Lady Gaga song / video, and obviously have the Lady herself in to judge - and okay the music rights. It'd be like the Christian Siriano / Chris March couture duo but amplified!

4. Office Supplies - We've seen gardening, party, grocery, and hardware stores be ransacked by the designers - why not office supplies? I'm again drawing on Project Runway Canada and the post-it challenge which was so-so, a little too neon to be fashion, but I think Office Supplies is up there as a viable choice for an innovation challenge.

3. Musical Instruments - The show is a game of musical chairs, so why not design clothes inspired by different instruments? Let the designers peruse an orchestra's worth and each select one to be inspired by - picture: silver column dresses with 'fluted' sleeves, golden evening gowns with 'trumpet' flares, grecian-inspired dresses with bias-cut harp-string fringe...pianos, timpani drums, smooth walnut bass curves, oh my!

2. Literati - Dresses based on famous books. I mean FAMOUS books - at least give the designers a synopses and pull sections out that reference the fashion of the book. Ideally books that don't have films with specific iconic fashion tied to them (a la Breakfast at Tiffany's) but more generic fashion eras - Little Women, 1984, Peyton Place, Harry Potter, the Bible (!), The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights etc. Bring Penguin Books on as a sponsor of the classics!

1. Fitness Wear - Another thing the show likes to do is make the designers create relatively exceptional pieces of clothing for the likes of female wrestlers, drag queens, and figure skaters. Fitness Wear is an area they haven't touched on too closely - yet designers like Stella McCartney have made a bundle on their athletic lines, while tennis and golf hotties like Sharapova, Wie, and the Williams sisters have made a splash with their fitness wear. Having the designers create a look for someone like Jillian Michaels would make for an interesting episode yes? Although it might be interesting to assign each designer a fitness area to draw inspiration from - golf, tennis, swimming, skating, running, yoga, aerobics, hiking, dance.

0. Ballroom! - Actually athletic wear is a legitimate challenge. Ballroom dancing costumes however, are more in tune with the wackadoodle challenges I just mentioned. Apparently on Dancing With The Stars they have a full-time team of seamstresses that whip up those costumes week to week, so surely our designers could create something sequinned, feathered, and bedazzled in a day or two to wow the judges with? This seems like such a surefire match for some OTT style!

- Britt's On

Two More!

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I knocked out two more season premieres last night, and here are my thoughts:

Survivor: Nicaragua
After two all star-ish seasons across five seasons (16 and 20 respectively), it was nice to see a fresh cast of characters with some potential to be memorable. Survivor's stumbling block in the last few all-new cast years has been poor casting, and that is a massive part of that show, especially as it carries onto its 21st season! Samoa had one of the worst casts in history, with Russell as the breakout star over two tribes of idiots and mannequins (save for Shambo, although I wasn't much of a fan). Tocantins, well, it was nice to see the good guy win and Coach alone kind of made the season, but in general this season was a snooze because everyone handed JT the win. Gabon had a pretty unlikable cast and villainized the most interesting people in my books, but it had its moments.

As for Survivor Nicaragua? I'm tentatively optimistic about this season:
- Well for one, Jimmy Johnson added some star power that ruffled many feathers on the show. I'm interested to see how he plays out.
- Technically speaking Thailand was not divided by old vs. young, but the way the tribe leaders selected their tribemates it ended up that way. The only other time they've done old vs. young is Danielle's 'Exile Island' season which had four initial tribes - old men, old women, young men, young women. Interestingly the final four had one representative from each group, and a young male took home the prize. The difference this time is there is a ten-year age gap between the young guns and the old folks, while before several Survivors (such as Cirie) commented they felt more in tune with a different group than the one they were assigned to.
- The medallion of powahhhh has one of the cheesiest titles of all time and felt a bit gimmicky, although the choice it provided the survivors in the beginning and the fact it will be cycled back and forth (potentially) between the teams throughout the season makes it an intriguing experiment for this season at least. I agreed with the old folks choice to not use it this time, not only because the reward wasn't as great as the producers intended (read Jeff Probst's blog on, but also because this wasn't an incredibly physical challenge, which is where they'll need more help.
- I'm intrigued by how the first clues to the hidden immunity idol were presented this season. For one, does that mean those two girls will always have to go get tree mail to ensure they are the only ones to get additional clues? Or will additional clues be rolled out in different ways, causing suspicions to arise as the contestants try to figure out how else has a piece of the puzzle? I can definitely see how Russell's domination of idol snatching came into play when rejigging the idol thing. For another, did anyone on the other tribe get a clue yet? If not, why? The young girls got the clue *before* the immunity challenge so it's not like it was a reward for winning. Was it because they didn't have the medallion of powahhhh? Curious.
- I have no early favourites, but I enjoyed watching a celebrity in the midst of the Survivors. It also inspired me to think up a few Survivor casting twists for the future, although I thoroughly get that a big part of the show is tied to the idea of 'group of strangers thrown together - make it work!' (or am I just mixing up my reality show catch phrases now?)

Moving on to Life Unexpected, The CW's new-ish sweet family drama about a teenager whose parents gave her up for adoption until she was reunited with them through the courts at 16. When we last left the LUX cast, Base realized he had feelings for Cate and tired to break up her wedding, Ryan and Cate went through with said wedding, and Lux was sort of caught in the middle of her two fathers. The season opener shook things up and provided some short and long-term threads for the show, some expected, some not so much. General thoughts:
- Cate getting sacked from the radio station wasn't entirely unexpected. Knowing all about the radio biz (and hearing the boyfriend continually gripe during this week's episode 'NEVER DATE SOMEONE YOU WORK WITH IN RADIO') I was expecting some sort of career friction to break their happy union. I'm not loving the Bree Van De Kamp-esque replacement and her obvious lusting after Ryan, but perhaps they can define her character to be less of a caricature and more of a foil to Ryan & Cate
- Cate being fired and Base having to rebuild the bar...I'm sensing the two of them having a lot of free time will have an impact on their respective relationships.
- I'm not a fan of removing Allison, even though her character was a bit underdeveloped. She provided (along with Cate's understandably MIA sister) an outlet for Cate to talk about what was going on in her life. Without her, I'm worried Cate will become as two-dimensional as Ryan seemed other than the scenes he had with Lux.
- On the introduction of Paige: well, I thought it was a bit contrived for her not to be at last season's wedding (a mere two weeks ago by the show's timeline) regardless of her character's free-spirited adventurer persona, but I am intrigued because A) Base knows she's responsible for the fire and had a steamy night with her, and B) Last season I specifically talked about how Ryan really needed someone in 'his world' in the same way Cate had Allison and her sister and Base had his roomies, while Ryan really only shined and was given dimension in his scenes with Lux. The introduction of Paige - however radically different she is from her brother and the fact she's already intertwined in their story - provides a platform for us to see more of Ryan.
- Ryan and this mysterious Julia I think it was, gifter of fancy-looking vases. Again I felt it was a tad contrived to throw us for a mysterious loop, but as the same time I felt like there really WAS a dead zone last season where we didn't know just what Ryan was up to. And quite frankly if he hooked up with someone during that time, when he was referring to 'Cate not knowing anything', I wouldn't blame him. I'm glad he has his own little plotline to unwind though.
- Yay for the potential end of Lux and Bug. After two misguided romantic leads last season, I was surprised the writers threw another challenging relationship at Lux in the form of a new teacher (not even playing the student teacher card, wow) who she recently shared some smooches with. I don't know how long this will last for but I hope the show hits a stride when it comes to finding Lux a suitable mate for the audience to fall in love with - the best episodes of Gilmore Girls often centred on Rory's romantic relationships (Dean! Jess! Tristan! Logan!), but I feel like the show hasn't hit on who exactly Lux should be with. I guess when the right fictional relationship comes along it'll be that much sweeter next to these duds.

Overall I thought this was a solid season premiere in terms of setting up tons of drama for the season to come. Sometimes I worry that Life Unexpected has set the Cate/Base 'destined to be together' bar a bit too high too soon, especially since they've made Ryan a relatively appealing alternative so far, but I have faith the show will continue to tangle and untangle their feelings for one another for quite some time.

Two solid season premieres, and just a handful more to go!

Fall In

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Shock of all shocks, I am NOT watching any new series this fall. The closest I've come is picking up mid-season newcomers Life Unexpected and Parenthood earlier this year, but none of fall's big offerings appeal to me. I have no faith in JJ Abrams to follow through on a show, and this year's 'Undercovers' seems like a blah retread of Alias. The new CW offerings both look like they have short futures, and I'm extremely skeptical to watch the only remotely Lost-esque replacement, 'The Event' after last year's Flash Forward debacle.

Instead that leaves me with the opportunity to rate the season premieres as they roll through town, starting with the first four I've consumed in the last few days:

America's Next Top Model - first out of the gate, I was skeptical about tuning into Top Model this year. The show is consistently cornballish and gimmicky and the talent pool has, ahem, thinned out so to speak. Last year's winner was a disappointment, not because she didn't take good pictures but because after judging a modeling contest with scouts from around the world (including the agency last year's winner got scouted to), there was NO WAY Krista would ever actually be scouted at the age of 24 to start her career. Sorry. No way.

Regardless, the season's opener was better organized and less cheesily themed than the last few and I got to know the finalists a bit better than normal - and saw potential in several of them (my money is on Jane). It also provided humour from the girls instead of Tyra herself trying to force her way into the spotlight, which I appreciated, and the prizing is...intriguing. I have decided to watch this year, which is saying something as usually I find the first episode a total snoozefest. Consider me entertained.

Gossip Girl - I am a reluctant Gossip Girl watcher. The show hardly belongs in the hallmarks of great YA dramas, yet it consistently comes back with ridiculously soapy turns. I guess I can tolerate them more here than I can on two other soaps I watch because of the fantastic clothing and the line delivery by Penn Badgley, who was severely underused last year and has a lame storyline this year. At least him and Vanessa are splitsville. I hope. The season opener was fluffy as all hell, with yet another Blair/Serena "I hate you, I love you!" smackdown reminiscent of Emma & Manny on Degrassi in a single episode, but I did appreciate the nod to the book series which also pulled some sort of European royalty card in one of the later volumes. At least they'll be going to school this year? Sort of. Also is Juliet Gossip Girl? She looks way too old. And not like Kristen Bell. How awesome would that be if they brought on Kristen Bell to reveal herself as Gossip Girl??

Parenthood - Last night's episode reminded me of what I like about the show, soundtrack and all. Also the show touched on two points that I said were essential to its second season success - it gave Joel a storyline of his own (and looks like we'll develop his persona further next week with the Julia/baby debate) and it showed us more of Adam's life at work. For a guy that can support his family quite handily off whatever his job at the shoe company is, I expected Adam to be a little more ballsy and a lot less ball-less when it came to working with his Baldwin brother of a boss (fresh off a stint on Gossip Girl). I like the set-up of Sarah working at the office, and the Julia/Joel storyline, and I called the Crosby/Gabby hook-up as soon as I saw them interact. I think it'll be an interesting interwoven plot line once they make that happy - Crosby and Jasmine only being kept apart by her ambition, Crosby as a (potential) single parent, Crosby and Gabby making it work in the insane household of Kristina & Adam? Has promise. The Hattie/Kristina/Adam stuff this week drove me up the wall, although the two Max breakdowns (including the one where Hattie rightfully snapped, regardless of whether the kid has Asperger's, any teenage girl would) were well done. Overall I'm looking forward to diving into this season!

One Tree Hill - Blarghity blargh blargh. I don't know why I'm still watching. I guess in the hopes that they'll wrap things up satisfactorily by season's end and not carry out this torture any further. General thoughts in bullet form:
- OMG Peyton and Lucas EXIST AGAIN. After being personas non grata last season, we had Haley writing Lucas an illustrated notebook letter thinger, photos of Peyton and Brooke on the fridge, and reference to the fact Peyton used to be engaged to Lucas. Are we setting up a guest appearance, preferably during a series finale? I hope so!
- Brooke's company heading for financial ruin felt a little forced, but I get why they wouldn't want to drag out a state of limbo for several episodes. Let's face it, her store and clothing line hasn't had much point since season 5 when they first introduced it - with Baby Brooke shelved and Clothes For Bros nowhere to be seen - so I'm not weeping over it so much, just the fact that why let all the characters 'achieve their dreams' and rip them away in one episode? Lame.
- The return of a montage-y opening credits! Fun, and I appreciated the longer timeline flashbacks for the three rightful leads.
- Which member of Naley will have complications in the medical department? It ain't tree hill without a visit to the OR!
- Both Parenthood and OTH tackled small children asking about where babies come from and tried to be all cute and funny about it. I think OTH won, although Parenthood's had more relevance to where the show is going versus Naley being all "Tra la la baby time!"
- I have no words for Clay is Haley's sister's name? Oh Quinn. I spent the whole episode repressing puke during their sappy as all hell lovey dovey pointless scenes, was pissed at the show's creators for making the shooting a dream, and wondering what the point of their endless sex on the beach scenes were for...and then they got me with the dream within a dream thing, similar to Clay's first season hauntings from Sarah. I clapped with joy at the prospect it really wasn't a dream, only to realize they will survive (likely) because they are in the credits, and if I bothered to look on IMDB I'd see they were there as well, and on the CW website. The only thing stupider than a season-ending death cliffhanger is a season opening one, because you know their contracts are signed and sealed if they're in the goddam credits. OTH is not crafty enough to trick us with a "Oh look they're in the credits but they're actually dead!" Joss Whedon-esque move, sorry.

Well that's all for now. Survivor tonight, a downloaded episode of Life Unexpected to go, and a few more new shows kicking off next week.

Till then!

Britt's On

The Best Buffy Episodes...Ever?

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I have to admit, sometimes when I'm feeling a wave of Buffy nostalgia, I'll just google around and hunt down new sites that have "Best Buffy Episodes" ranking lists - and there are plenty. It did direct me a couple of years ago to the incredibly thorough and thoughtful website Critically Touched, which has crazy in-depth reviews of each episode, season, and character. As a matter of fact, I was actually supposed to write this particular post - my own take on the best Buffy eps ever - eons ago, it was one of the things I thought for sure I'd do in this blog, but I just found it too challenging and shelved it for awhile.

Well folks, that ends today. I happened upon one of the worst compilations of Best Buffy Episodes ever today, and scoffed at the audacity of the creator to pick such a random group of 25 episodes - leaving out at least one universally revered episode, and several more that often make people's 'best' lists.

That being said, I understand every list is very subjective - there are often a handful of episodes out there that people will go 'Really?' to, and many that are quite polarizing. There are some that often make people's 'best' lists and they don't really make mine.

The other problem is the definition of 'best'. Some people define it as, plain and simple, what are the best episodes for character & plot development combined with artistic integrity? To that end, episodes like 'Hush' and 'The Body' are up there, even though the latter is generally pretty painful to watch in comparison to something fun like 'Halloween' or 'Storyteller'. I came across a web forum discussion at some point in my life that covered the debate between 'best' and 'favourite', which in the Buffyverse are generally two different things.

So here is my compromise. I've selected the top 20 episodes that I simply look forward to the most whenever I watch the series (or know that a friend of mine who has it on loan is about to watch). I've found in the three times I've watched the entire thing now, I get a general sensation as I go to hit the play button on each episode - sometimes doom - but even the dark but awesome episodes like 'The Body' generally give me the squee feeling of excitement, especially when it comes to someone new watching the show.

One final thing I'd like to point out - the seasons that typically have a stronger season-long story arc are the ones with less individual standout episodes. Seasons 3 and 5 in particular had a great continual thread, but less knock-em-dead episodes. Meanwhile seasons 4, 6, and 7 are generally regarded as weaker seasons, but they have a few amazing standouts each. Without further ado, these are my favourite Buffy episodes, ranked by order of appearance. Please don't ask me to actually rank them. I will crumble...this was hard enough!


Episode 12: Prophecy Girl
Here's the thing about Season 1 of Buffy: it's generally universally regarded as a campy joke, and in general, it's hard to convince people of the show's awesomeness as they go through eleven episodes of monster-of-the-week hokeyness. That being said, the show cleverly interweaves mythology from Season 1 in a humorous way in future seasons (particularly in regards to jokes about Xander) to make it an integral part of the Buffy watching experience. The good news is, the season finale of the show's first season gives a solid glimpse into the world to come and Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting chops. The scene in the library when Buffy overhears her prophesied death and yells and Angel and Giles to tell her what her fortune is shows the emotional weight the show manages to pack, even in a relatively light season, and rewards the dedicated viewer with a teaser of just how good the show can get. Plus, Buffy's death sets up a variety of interesting scenarios with long-lasting repercussions on the show. Shame about the hokey library monster though :)


Episode 17: Passion
Much like the Season 1 finale, Passion showed us how grim Joss Whedon was willing to get, shockingly killing off a major non-evil character and then setting up one of the series most brutal send-offs with Giles' discovering the deceased Jenny in a decidedly creepy faux romantic scene. Rewatching the series, this is the episode of all the evil Angel episodes that told me this guy meant business, and got me truly nervous for what was to come.

Episode 22: Becoming Part II
Generally considered the best season finale (or at least up there), this episode makes me cry every single time I watch it. There are so many emotions running so high - Willow is in the hospital! Xander is hellbent on seeing Angel die! Buffy and Angel swordplay! Giles is being tortured! Angel backstory! Spike is making bargains! Plus the devastating final scene between Buffy and Angel, I was incredible. Plus I enjoyed the very clear beginnings of outlining the true burdens of being the chosen ONE that were particularly highlighted in this episode towards the end, and the sacrifices Buffy will continually have to make in her life. Fantastic!


Episode 22: Graduation Day Part II
I feel weird not picking out more episodes in Season 3, but I've always felt like the season suffered a little in the balance between too many monster-of-the-week main plots with b-plot story arc development. There are several others I considered - Earshot and The Prom being key - but ultimately I feel like giving a nod to the Season 3 finale is a nod to the general solidness of this entire season. There are a lot of classic moments here, including the set-up for the Season 5 finale (I mean really!), Angel feeding on Buffy, the dream sequence that - like many others for Buffy - unlocks the key to her success, and the final epic battle. Mixed in with all of the drama we had genuinely touching moments between Anya and Xander, Willow and Oz, and Buffy and just about everyone. Great solid episode representing the culmination of Buffy's first consistently solid, tied together storyline.


Episode 10: Hush
Many people thought Hush was the best Buffy episode ever, until they saw Season 5 of course. Hush was just about the mid-point of the series and tied in the monster-of-the-week set-up of the earlier seasons with the mythology / plot arc-heavy style of the later ones. We got some truly hilarious scenes and moments - Giles' lecture being the number one example - as well as the series' most creepy villains, ever. This episode ranks high for artistry, and even higher for wiggins' inducement.

Episode 16: Who Are You?
I often forget about this episode, but I actually really love it. I always manage to suspend my disbelief and get into the headspace with any body switching storyline that they really *have* switched bodies, and Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting here is a testament to how believable this plot device can be. I liked how even a brief reintroduction of Faith shook up the slayer's world so thoroughly, while also giving new depth to the character. Seeing Buffy through Faith's eyes kind of made me as a loyal Team Buffy fan step back and go, hm, maybe she is a little too Suzy Sunshine for her own good. It's certainly a creative way to get the viewer to look at both characters in a new light, so kudos there!

Episode 22: Restless
For the record, I don't put as much stock in this episode as other people do. I simply appreciate it for its artistry more than anything - there are many little memorable scenes and moments that I've never asked to make sense, I just simply enjoy. I've read many interpretations of what the episode is foreshadowing, exploring, and revealing but at the end of the day, there is some ethereal quality about this episode that makes it worth rewatching, versus a Lost-esque "WHAT IS HAPPENING?" curiosity. Of course, knowing some of the obvious hints - like the references to Dawn - are satisfying to pick up on as you watch it, and making observations that may have nothing to do with Whedon's original intent or lack thereof is always a fun game. Also, I tend to really enjoy episodes that explore specific elements of Slayer mythology, and the introduction of the first slayer here is done in an interesting way that sets up her return in the future. I could point to scenes in the Season 5 opener, and many in Season 7 that could be plucked from each episode for their excellence at building a portrait of what it means to be the slayer.


Episode 7: Fool For Love
I decided to do this post (note: in multiple sittings, go save drafts!) because the latest 'best Buffy episodes' list that I read did NOT include this fantastic ep in the top 30. For the record, I tend to love the stories that explore the characters beyond the Buffyverse, which is why episodes like Becoming, Selfless, and even Hell's Bells appeal to me so much. The development of Spike here sets up his arc quite well for the remainder of the series, and the continued development of 'What does it mean to be a slayer' is seen through a vampire's eyes. I actually use Spike's commentary of 'They had a bad day and I had a good day' when it comes to killing slayers as a metaphor for when a favoured sports team just can't make a big W happen.

Episode 16: The Body
Many people call this not only the finest hour of Buffy, but the finest hour of television ever created - including Entertainment Weekly's look at the top 100 pop culture moments of the past 20 years. I was emotionally devastated when I watched this episode, and repeated feelings make it feel no less raw. The sheer genius of subtle shifts in what we're used to as viewers and Buffy fans - no score, single scene 'acts', and humanity interfering in a world dominated by the supernatural. It's crushing. It's not my favourite episode owing to how dark it is, but it's easily the *best* episode of Buffy.

Episode 21: The Weight Of The World
This is an obscure one to be on any person's list, but it's always resonated with me for some reason. I thought it was a very interesting set-up to the dilemma Buffy faced in the season finale, and the reverse of what we saw at the end of S4 (action-packed finale followed by dream sequence). Deciphering what was going through Buffy's head and actually being told what was going on was a welcome change from 'Restless' however.

Episode 22: The Gift
Season 5 was my favourite season, and the season finale had a lot to do with that - it culminated in a truly heartwrenching climax, but really the entire episode was enjoyable. I spent the whole season wondering how Buffy would overcome this super demon and was truly nervous for her in the end - and Whedon surprised us all by giving us an ol' you win some, you lose some smackdown. The image for this episode is possibly one of the most famous of the series.


Episode 3: After Life
The success of this episode really lies in the scene this screencap is from. When I first unpacked my complete series, I randomly but specifically sought out this particular episode just to rewatch this scene. That being said, the rest of the episode is a welcome change of pace from the razzle dazzle hocus pocus of the season opener - it doesn't let Buffy off the hook right away, and it explains why to the viewers by the end of the episode. I also found the villain (minus the final fight) pretty creeptastic.

Episode 5: Life Serial
There are a lot of dark humour episodes in Season 6 that I like - Tabula Rasa and Gone among them - but for whatever reason Life Serial goes down as one of my fave fun episodes in the entire series. The four-act set-up lends itself brilliantly as an introduction to our so-called villains, and I particularly enjoy the claw scene the most. The final drunken scene is relatively funny as well...kitten poker anyone?

Episode 7: Once More, With Feeling
How could a top episodes list not include the Buffy musical, Once More With Feeling? I own the soundtrack to this and know pretty much every lyric, which while not the most sophisticated stuff ever written, certainly is clever and on point with the plot development. The fact that an episode that was such a departure from the show could gel with it so incredibly well speaks volumes about how damn good this show actually is!

Episode 17: Normal Again
Unlike 'The Wish', which shows up on most people's top lists, 'Normal Again' is the episode for me that turns the series on its head. In fact I often tell people it's my favourite episode because it doesn't ram this potential explanation down your throat - it simply inserts a level of reasonable doubt into your mind for the remainder of the series. Obviously fans would have been disappointed if this were the series finale, but it wasn't, and it put all of Buffy's angst and struggling into perspective. Loved it!


Episode 3: Help
Another random choice, up there with 'WOTW' (S5), but I've always enjoyed this episode and look forward to watching it. There are echoes of Joyce's death here, except this time Buffy is given fair warning. The message in both is the same however - that sometimes you can stop humanity from interfering. The actress that plays Cassie (Azura Skye) is what makes this particularly convincing for me -hope she gets some future work in Hollywood.

Episode 5: Selfless
I always thought this episode occurred earlier in the series, and last time I watched it I was so choked you have to wait this long for a brilliant Anya-centric episode in the same vein of Spike's S5 turn in 'Fool For Love'. The flashbacks mix hilarity with heartbreak (the revisit to the musical episode and 'Mrs.' put S6 into perspective) and the actual real-world storyline between Anya, Xander, and Buffy was a shake-up like none other. Plus the payoff of Season 2, with the truth finally coming out about Xander's lie to Buffy when she was off to kill Angel in a similar fashion.

Episode 7: Conversations With Dead People
Wow, three really strong episodes in the first string of Season 7. What went wrong? Sigh. Regardless, I didn't get what all the hype with this episode was until I rewatched the series. There is something magical at work here, and I once again enjoyed the decision to separate the storyline based on the four-act structure of the show. The creepiness by the end of the episode set up high expectations for the rest of the season, which sadly were never met.

Episode 16: Storyteller
I always loved Andrew as the newcomer to the nerd trio in Season 6 - his self-deprecating unintentional humour was a welcome change to Jonathan's backstabbing and Warren's downright scariness. Keeping him around in Season 7 paid off both hilariously and emotionally in this episode as we once again - my fave! - get to watch the Slayerverse through an outsider's eyes - that which hilariously echoes the fanboy to end all fanboys of the show.

Episode 22: Chosen
Whenever I lend the series out to people, this is what I say: don't worry, it ends well. I had NO clue how Whedon could successfully end the show, and yet he did. He didn't wuss out too badly when it came to some final bloodshed (although I totally forgot about one of the major deaths and was shellshocked the last time I watched it), and he provided a successful resolution to the weight of being the chosen one, at least within Sunnydale. Brilliant and epic in an uneven season.

And for the record, episodes I know people LOVE that for whatever reason just didn't make my cut:

- Season 2 'Innocence' - I know this is a really classic episode of Buffy and the major turning point of Season 2 (plus rocket launcher) but for whatever reason it doesn't resonate with me. I always find it kind of uncomfortable to watch Buffy have to continually reveal what exactly might have made Angel wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

- Season 3 'The Wish' - Another episode I know people view as critical to the series. At the end of the day, I always go into this ep thinking that I will love it, but I never do as much as I think I will, tingly "Press Play" feelings aside. It's fun to see the characters in an alternate state, and weird to see Cordelia in such a main role, and Giles' line of 'Because it has to be!' is one of the greats of that season, but I just can't put my finger on why I'm not blown away by this one.

Also, some honorable mentions:

Season 1
Nightmares - The first episode I ever saw, and a precursor to another honorable mention in Season 4, Fear, Itself. A good example of foreshadowing re: Buffy's fear of dying.

Season 2
Halloween - The first episode I really remember being eager to make. sure. I. taped. and discussed with friends. I know I had been watching Season 2 up to that point, but this episode always sticks out in my mind and has many fun moments. Again, kind of a precursor to another hon. mention in Season 6, Tabula Rasa.

What's My Line Parts 1 & 2 - I know a lot of people hated Kendra, but the whole other slayer thing was such a 'WHOA!' concept to me that I quite enjoyed this two-parter. Plus, the start of Xandelia!

Ted - Although this follows the MOTW format I kind of eschew, John Ritter's performance here makes this episode memorable, funny, and creepy.

Innocence - See the above. I know it should be in my top 20.

I Only Have Eyes For You - I actually really love this episode and was tempted to put it in my top 20, but alas, here it sits, a notch or two shy of greatness. The main thing I will highlight here is that this episode eases us into a 'What if Angel *could* be good again?' scenario, which makes the season 2 finale that much more crushing.

Becoming Part 1 - I like the Angel development here, and the set-up for part 2 is a-ok in my books.

Season 3
Lover's Walk - Great character development here that sets up Angel's departure, adds depth to Spike, and has some heartbreaking moments between the b-characters.

The Wish - I know I know. It's a great episode.

Consequences - The contrasts between Buffy & Faith throughout this episode brilliant set up the race to the finish line.

Doppelgangland - Return of evil Willow, plus good Willow as evil Willow! Funny stuff.

Earshot - This episode mixes humour with one last 'after school special' issue that the show so brilliantly turns into metaphors throughout its existence. From feeling invisible to turning invisible in Season 1 to feeling unheard and wanting to eliminate oneself in this season, the show has always done a good job at highlighting the oddballs (given Buffy and her friends are outcasts themselves).

The Prom - I hate the 'monster' in this episode and find much of the Buffy/Angel stuff superfluous by this point - the set-up was all there between Lover's Walk and the Mayor's speech in Consequences I think. That being said, it's fun to see the show's take on prom, and Jonathan's little heart-tugging speech on Class Protector (an award that is symbolically destroyed at the beginning of next season).

Graduation Day Part I - Lots of great set-up here, including the epic battle between Faith and Buffy.

Season 4
Fear, Itself - I like this revisit to Season 1's 'Nightmares'. It's funny yet also insightful at continuing to delve into our character's psyche's in supernatural ways. Possibly the best of the 3 Halloween episodes.

Pangs - This is one of the stupidest episodes in terms of Buffy lore (with an obligatory Angel appearance and an uninteresting and kind of offensive villain), but also one of the funniest. Unfortunately for it, the *best* episodes combine both.

Something Blue - I know some people don't like this episode for whatever reason, but I always have. Seeing the characters in a different light as we do in Halloween, Once More With Feeling, and Tabula Rasa is always a treat.

The I In Team - This is sort of the peak of The Initiative episodes - in some ways I felt like our insider introduction was followed by too swift a kick to the ass out, but I always enjoy this most revealing look inside and the big mid-season cliffhanger that happens at the end.

Superstar - Buffy's hair is awesome for these last few episodes, can I just say that? Why didn't she keep it like this always? Whatever. This episode was a clever way to reintroduce Jonathan and keep him somewhat top of mind before season 6, and it was done in a funny way that still advanced the plot a bit.

Primevil - There are things I like about Primevil, but I'm glad it wasn't a season finale. The rebonding of the Scoobies, and the first big exploration of just how powerful Willow has become makes this a decent episode.

Buffy Vs Dracula - My favourite season opener, although I always enjoyed 'Anne' and 'The Freshman' as well. Slayer lore abounds here as the show pays homage to the ultimate vampire.

No Place Like Home - The big reveal about Dawn was thankfully done relatively early in the series, plus we got a taste of the big bad unlike any other we've seen before. She's not aiming for immortality like our past villians, she's got that in spades kittens.

Intervention - This episode combines more of my fave slayer lore stuff (plus sets up the finale perfectly) while also featuring a pretty hilarious look at the Buffybot, she of a thousand lives.

Tabula Rasa: If you couldn't tell by now, I like this episode, a lot. The last time I watched it I didn't love it as much as a few other similar episodes so it's just a hair shy of the top 20, but I think it's another fun 'What If' scenario the show plays with while also putting the final nail in the Willow/Tara relationship, and a 'No Turning Back' label on Willow's use of magic.

Gone: As I mentioned when talking about Life Serial, there are many fun episodes in this season, and Gone is one of them. We've had several bouts of invisibility here, but none as interesting as the slayer's, and the dark emotional feelings behind it.

Dead Things: The morality lessons of Season 3 come back to bite Buffy as she grapples with having blood on her hands. Plus the gang finally figures out who they're up against.

Hell's Bells: Another episode I wish I could have room for in the top 20 - definitely in the top 25. I didn't like the payoff for who the 'old Xander' really was, but the glimpses into the future and Anya's heartbreak made this one of the best character episodes in the entire series.

Season 6 4-Part Finale: This is the only finale that did not make my list of top 20 episodes. I think it's partially because it spreads across these four episodes so it's hard to pick one single episode that rocks the most. I liked the bait and switch of the real villain in town, and there are tons of great epic battles, and mortality via human-oriented murder was a big shocker.

Get It Done - I was pretty generous in awarding 5 episodes from season 7 among my faves. In fact as I write this I'm considering swapping 'Help' for something like 'Tabula Rasa' or 'Hell's Bells', but whatever. As a result, the only other episode worth mentioning in my books is 'Get It Done', which explores the final themes leading up to the battle side of the finale - Willow tapping into dark magic, Buffy and the shadowmen and understanding where her power comes from, and the big reveal of just what they're up against make this the best of the otherwise pretty weak story-arc episodes.

Phew! That was done over a couple of sittings. Sorry for the EPIC length but this is an EPIC show!

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