The Best TV of 2015

I‘ve really been lazy and neglecting this blog as of late, and I’ll try to remedy that in the new year, that is, unless I make it a resolution, as we all know how those turn out.

But I’m already making excuses… so let’s get to the best television that has aired this past calendar year. Sure, I could go through and put them in some sort of order, but that is trivial and will cause some people to call me an idiot (which I don’t dispute) for not liking a certain show or putting it too far down on the list. So instead I’m cheating and listing things alphabetically. Yes, I’m a chicken-shit like that.

So here are the 15 best TV shows of 2015:

Broad City – Abbi and Illana are not like most women you see on television. They feel real. They have dreams and flaws like every human on this earth. Yet their characters are what you’d normally see in a Judd Apatow-esque comedy from the dudes. But these girls make me laugh over and over, week-after-week and I can’t wait for season 3. Best episode: Knockoffs (S02E04)

Catastrophe – When I first landed on Twitter I followed a bunch of celebs and comedians before finding out that I was wasting too much of my time and deleted a bunch. One of the few that I kept following was Rob Delaney, so I was stoked to find out he would be starring in a TV series. While this comes from across the pond, it still hits home by having Delaney as the American fish-out-of-water who sticks around after knocking up Sharon while in London. While series from Channel 4 are shorter than their American counterparts, I wanted more episodes, even if the two series that aired this year perfectly paced. Best Episode S02E01

Game of Thrones – Of course Game of Thrones is on my list, but it is quickly falling in rankings if I were to put this in numerical order. At times I wish the season could be longer as there are just too damn many characters to deal with, so each character seems to only receive a couple minutes of screen time per episode. But I keep coming back. Best episode: Mother’s Mercy (S05E10)

The Jinx – I was late to the game on The Jinx, having to binge the series in one week to be caught up by the time the finale rolled around. Robert Durst is an interesting man. A man who believes everything he says, or is it that he perfectly calculates every move, word and emotion that he utters? The man is clearly insane, but as each episode unravels, more is added to the madness, all coming to a strong conclusion in the final minute of the series. Did Durst know he was still mic’d, and it was all part of the game, or did he finally slip up once and for all? Best Episode: What the Hell Did I Do? S01E06

Last Week Tonight – I used to have time to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but as 2015 became more and more insane with each passing week, the amount of free time to watch 8 episodes a week was perfectly boiled down to an hour a week from John Oliver. Some episodes barely contained laughs, while others had perfectly crafted segments to go viral so they could educate some of the masses on a variety of topics.

The Leftovers – Season 1 was depressing as anything I’ve ever endured on television. It was bleak. Bleary. And knowing the creators would never answer the question surrounding why three percent of the world’s population vanished, I was questioning if I should go on another ride from Damon Lindeloff. But season 2 has cemented this show as one of the finest things to grace the small screen. Sure, there were more questions than answers, but the finale at least gave the viewers enough closure, that if HBO were to cancel it too soon, at least it would be satisfactory. Thankfully the decision makers have decided to give it one more season to come to a conclusion. Also it helps that this show has some of the best use of music of any filmed medium, supervised by Liza Richardson. Best Episode: International Assassin S02E09

Master of None – Speaking of use of music… Master of None has the second best use of music in a television series. But that isn’t all this show has going for it. The laughs are solid. The characters all feel real, the situations seem true to life, and having a great mix of supporting characters helps balance out Aziz. Best episode: Parents S01E02 (Hell, this episode could be chosen based on the cold open alone)

Mr. Robot – I was weary stepping into this show based on the title and billboards that were everywhere in LA. Plus coming from USA, which hasn’t been known for its serious dramas, didn’t help matters. By the end of the pilot I was hooked for the rest of the series. The idea of a blackhat hacker isn’t new. Hell, the show is even obvious to some of its predecessors that it was clearly influenced by (e.g. An instrumental of Where is my Mind). Hopefully Rami will be someone that shoots up on the casting departments lists. And honestly, this show has me struggling on which is the best episode, so I’ll say Eps1.0_hellofriend.mov S01E01 so you start at the very beginning.

Parks and Recreation – Sure this might be the weakest pick on the list, based that it had one of the weaker seasons in recent memory. Or maybe it’s the fact that NBC decided to burn this off with a shortened season where 2 episodes aired each night. I don’t know why it felt weak to me, but it did. Where it exceeded though is in the series finale. Think back to previous series finales for a comedy, and some of the most loved shows had final episodes that even the most beloved of fans hate (e.g. Seinfeld). But the creators sent all the characters of Pawnee off in fashion, perfectly wrapping up the present with a magnificent bow. Best episode: S07E13

Rick and Morty – No, this series doesn’t make the list because it was co-created by fellow Manteca alum Justin Roiland, but because it is one of the most crazy, bat-shit, insane thirty minutes of television each and every week. And thankfully they toned down the burning of Rick this season, as it was one of the few complaints from season 1. Best episode S02E04 Total Rickall

Silicon Valley – Another great season, even if it didn’t have a moment as wonderful as the “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” that was in season 1. Though the show was strong from beginning to end, constantly following the paradigm of Entourage, but in a way that feels fresh and invigorating week-after-week. Sure, every episode begins with the guys on top, then being knocked down, only to try and end up or further down by the end of the episode. Yes, it’s formulaic, but somehow works. Probably from the strong ensemble cast, where there is not one week character. Best Episode S02E04 The Lady

South Park – Seriously? How the hell is this series still this strong so deep into their run? It could be due to the short production window (from concept to air in 6 days), or maybe when the world is in such a horrific PC-state, those who do satire well have the pulpit to preach from. And the season-long arcs help each episode to build to an epic (though I had higher hopes) conclusion. Best episode S19E08 Sponsored Content

Transparent – Okay, this is sort of a cheat, as I haven’t seen any of season 2, which is what actually aired this calendar year. But I’m making a decision to include this, as I finally was able to catch season 1 during this year. Sure, it’s cheating, but it’s my list and I’m allowed to make a single concession without losing credibility (like I have any). The Pfefferman’s are all sorts of fucked up, but they’re worth going on the journey. No one is likable, and this is proof against those screenwriting gurus that constantly tout “you’re characters need to be likable!” It’s Always Sunny has been on the year for how many years, and those are some of the most despicable humans on TV (except maybe the two leads on Difficult People – which deserves an honorable mention), yet they keep coming back year-after-year. Best Episode S01E08 The New Girl

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – The new 30 Rock. What, you didn’t like that? Then you might as well move on as you will hate this show (probably) just as much. The laughs come flying a mile a minute, and the just downright likable Ellie Kemper as Kimmy, this show makes me smile non-stop. But Zac, you contradicted yourself from the previous entry regarding the whole likable/unlikable thing. See kiddos, there are no rules in storytelling, other than to make your stories riveting and the characters someone you want to see week-after-week, whether you love ’em or hate ’em. Best episode S01E05 Kimmy Kisses a Boy

You’re the Worst – Never has a comedy made me feel so bad at times. While season 1 was a true gem, season 2 took everything and pushed everything up a couple notches. I would laugh one minute and have “the feels” (god, how I hate this saying) the next. Some people complained that they went a little too deep with Gretchen and her depression, but that is what sealed the deal for me. I’ve been there. I’ve been there before and I know how that feels. I know what it is to push something away, yet want nothing more. To feel like you’ll never be good enough, but know you kick ass. Thank you Fxx for having the faith to give this hard-to-sell show another season. It makes up for cancelling The Comedians, which for some reason people hated, but I found a soft spot for it in my heart. Best episode S02E13 The Heart is a Dumb Dumb (but since I’ve put too many season/series finales I’ll say S02E08 Spooky Sunday Funday

Stuff that I didn’t watch that I plan to catch in 2016:

The Affair (season 2), Ash vs. Evil Dead, Better Call Saul, Daredevil Fargo, Jessica Jones, Making a Murderer, True Detective (yes, I still haven’t seen season 1), Unreal.

So is there anything that I missed that I should add to my watch list?

2013 Goals (and a look back at 2012)

2012 was probably one of my most productive years in recent memories. There was some good movement forward on both sides of the career, both the writing and the producing and there is tons more to be proud of than to look down upon. So I guess it was win-win in the end.

At the end of 2011, Wave Goodbye was nothing but a dream. I had an idea with Adam Morris and Eric Goodwin to create a webseries of epic proportions on a small budget. We set out to raise a total of $10k on IndieGogo to produce a total of 40 episodes of content for the web. We only raise a little over half that (and about half the goal once they took their cut). With the wonderful cast and crew that you can find listed in my post “It Takes a Village”, we were able to produce twenty episodes. Sure it was half the intended goal, but we only raised half the money, and since we’re all starving artists, we couldn’t throw the rest of the money into the kitty to make the other twenty episodes happen. Plus the size of the production, along with the cast and crew working for pizza, we couldn’t ask for more than we got. In the end, I’m happy with the final product. Is there a couple episodes that could have been better, sure, but as the whole it is amazing, especially at the price tag. On top of it all, it was a feature film in length, so we all did an amazing job. I’ll get more to season 2 in a bit.

I also had a great time writing and rewriting some projects that have been gestating for too long.

IAMW has been something I’ve been working on and off on for over five years. It’s had countless rewrites and starts and stops over that time. My writer partners (Trevor Smith & Tai Logsdon) were able to finally find the right direction in which to take the project and I’m pretty happy with the final product. It needs a little bit of a polish, but the notes we received (solely from females readers) was encouraging that we might have a good writing sample and spec to finally take to market.

AOM (formerly TACOM) has been another project that has been in development just as long. D. Jordan Knight and I have been through hurdles with that script, and most of it is due to her relentless passion for the project. After we went down the wrong rabbit hole with a previous Producer, we finally put it in the right direction and it is a solid Family Comedy with some Rom Com aspects. While IAMW is a Hard-R comedy, this is family friendly and one of the best things to mix up my writing. In 2011 we ended up in the top 10 percent of Nicholl, we rewrote it based on some ideas, and then ended up in the top 15% in 2012. Sure it may not have been as high, but we both feel the project is a million times better. We even had another Producer fall in love with it, but they weren’t the right fit in the long run, plus it was out of their budget range. To hear him say “It’s in one of top 1% of scripts I’ve ever read” means more to us than you could ever imagine.

But enough about old projects, there was also time for a couple new ones on the horizon that were brought to fruition.

MCICTT was written during ScriptFrenzy. It’s been an idea that has peculated for many years and an awesome 4Q comedy that covers a mythic creature that has never been seen in this light before. DJK gave me some amazing notes and we’re eventually going to rewrite it, even if someone else did something similar this year, considering their take and product wasn’t as top notch as it could be. It’s an interesting premise that is hard to pull off, considering it is an adult story that is aimed at kids. 2013 will hopefully see a good rewrite on it to finally take it to market.

BWOML was my attempt at a John Hughes-esque coming of age teen comedy. There’s a bit of me in the story, but I hate saying that. The main character is so far removed from me, but his passion and his change is something I went through leaving a career to pursue a passion. The script was completed in the first week of 2013, but I’ll still count it as an accomplishment of the previous year. I’ve submitted it to my writing group and am currently awaiting notes to rewrite it… just hopefully I didn’t make it too dramatic.

I also produced a music video with the amazing Michael and Marisa and hope to see it posted online soon, once they’re done shopping it to record companies and other entities. It was a tough one day shoot that could have used one more, but in the end, you take what budget and limitations you have and try to make the best product possible. I’m happy and proud to have this as another accomplishment in 2012, considering I also was one of the main editors on the project so it added another new skill to me repertoire.

So I guess I should finally get to 2013 and my goals, since that is really what this post was supposed to be about. I figure putting my goals out here in the open will help make me more accountable, not to any of you, but having them in writing will show me how much I was able to accomplish in the end.

So as many of you know, my weight has been something I’ve struggled with since I was a young nine year old lad. I love food. I hate exercising, but I’ve made some huge strides. People that haven’t seen me for a while already see the changes that have already taken shape, but I still have a long way to go. I started out when I finally tipped the scales at 266. Yes, you read that right, 266. On a 5’7″ frame and in the town where image is everything, it was time to make a change. I lost fifty pounds from my high, but put a couple back on during the holidays.As of this writing, I’m still forty pounds down and back on the right track. It’s all about making little changes. Moving more and eating less. Making the better choices, but I’m still allowed to partake in vices every now and then.

Not like it’s a really big thing, but I’m also trying my best to become a single-spaced typer. In my day of learning how to touch-type I learned on typewriters which were monospaced, so you learned to hit the space bar twice at the end of each sentence. With the advent of computers and non-monospaced fonts, it is now an older art form, but I’m really trying. Plus that extra space can make the difference in the end when page count really matters in a script. Nine days in and I think I’m making progress, but you might catch a couple double spaced sentences here and there.

On the writing front my biggest goal of all isn’t the amount of projects or completed (but I will list those in a bit), but to become the writer who sits and writes EVERY DAY. Yeah, life gets in the way. From the social, to the paycheck, to everything else in between. Nine days in and I’ve hit at least an hour every day. Those who are accomplished writers make sure they’re writing and growing their craft every day, so why not be like the pros.

On the project side this is what I want to accomplish:

I want to rewrite the two projects I finished in 2012 and get them ready for the marketplace. I’ve grown enough and see in feedback that I’m ready to take that leap. Will their be passes and people that don’t like it, sure. With how much I read and have done in the past in a producing capacity, less than five percent of the scripts rise to the top. Once I’ve got the three writing samples, it’ll be time to look for representation or try to set them up through my own contacts I’ve made on my own.

New stuff includes the follow-up to Wave Goodbye. No longer are we aiming to make it a second season of a webseries, but as a feature. We’ve got an eye on some investment capital, and I hope to have a first draft before the end of the month. I’ll be writing this with Trevor Smith, and producing along with the director of the webseries. The outline is solid and the draft is coming along smoothly at this juncture. I also want to finally develop a dramatic TV series with Jamie Livingston-Dierks and maybe another comedy project on my own or with Trevor. There may be other stuff as the muse hits me, but those three new projects, along with the rewrites, are my main focus for the year.

So will I be able to do it? I know I can. I just have to put my head in the game and make sure I’m working every day towards these goals and accomplishments. If you’ve read this far, I can’t believe it, but thanks for being part of my ride as I try to get to the next step in crazy Hollywood.

Here’s hoping your 2013 is productive and you’re able to make strides in your goals and accomplishments.

The Best Films of 2012

2012 has come and gone. While I felt 2011 was just an okay year for film, this year had many great surprises and quiet a bit of upsets. I went in with high hopes for several films, only to be let down.

Tom Hooper side-eyes Quentin Tarantino

Also, this year will be a little different for the list. While I used to rank every film I’ve seen, I’m only going to list the films that were OKAY (Liked enough to admit it), GOOD (my top 13-25) and the BEST (top 12 films in 2012). The films that ended up in the MEH category and the bottom 12 films will not be listed on this site, but can be requested if you know how to reach me personally. I don’t want those listed publicly as you never know who you’ll work with in the future. :)

So without further ado, here is the list of the better to best films of 2012. As always, disagree, agree, whatever… comment on this post and let’s discuss further. You’ll notice some heavy hitters missing from this list so you can assume I either didn’t like them or didn’t catch them.

OKAY (alphabetical order):

21 Jump Street
The Ambassador
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Bernie
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Celeste and Jesse Forever
The Central Park Five
Chronicle
The Dark Knight Rises
Detention
End of Watch
Flight
Footnote
Frankenweenie
Goon
The Grey
The Impossible
In Darkness
The Innkeepers
Jack Reacher
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Juan of the Dead
Kumare
Last Days Here
Lincoln
Marley
Michael
Moonrise Kingdom
ParaNorman
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Pina 3D
Promised Land
The Queen of Versailles
A Royal Affair
Robot & Frank
Save the Date
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Seven Psychopaths
Side by Side
Silent House
Skyfall
Smashed
Teddy Bear
Undefeated
West of Memphis

GOOD:

25. Turn Me On, Dammit!
24. Sound of Noise
23. Sleepwalk with Me
22. The Sessions
21. Headhunters
20. Sound of my Voice
19. Searching for Sugar Man
18. Klown
17. Safety Not Guaranteed
16. Ruby Sparks
15. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
14. Cloud Atlas
13. Wreck-It-Ralph

BEST OF 2012:

12. Kill List
11. Compliance
10. Pitch Perfect
09. Life of Pi
08. The Raid: Redemption
07. Silver Linings Playbook
06. The Cabin in the Woods
05. Argo
04. Bullhead
03. Amour
02. Zero Dark Thirty
01. Holy Motors

There it is. Have at it. Tear it apart. Question my tastes all you want, especially by putting Pitch Perfect in my top 10, but that was one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences of the year.