Top 15: 2017 Favorite TV Shows

For once I’m gonna be smart about it and not waste my time ranking them. Yeah, that’s the new way I roll. . .

Miraculous Ladybug
I’ve already blogged about how much I love this show, and now that it’s on TV—channel 5.3 in Los Angeles at 7:30AM—and not just Netflix, I can put it on this list. For those who missed it, two teens in Paris become the superheroes Ladybug and Cat Noir whenever someone—usually one of their classmates—gets evilized. (Yes, that’s one of the words they use for it.) In addition to that storyline, there’s the unrequited love between the two, though it’s made much more complicated because of their alter egos; it’s basically a love square between two people. There’s plenty of humor, and the 3-D animation is cutting edge. One of the shows I watch over and over and even sneak peeks at the second season over on YouTube.

Like it turned out for a lot of people, I wasn’t thrilled with the second season—one critic mentioned it should be renamed “Supergirl’s Boyfriend”—but it’s gotten back in the groove in its third year, not the least of it due to Odette Annable, one of my faves. For me the best parts are when Kara is all too human, especially sympathetic, rather than all the action sequences. The one thing that got me into this show, when I usually don’t care for superhero fare, was an early photo of Melissa in full Supergirl gear walking with a group of Girl Scouts while carrying a puppy, and sometimes they remember why that kind of thing works so well.

This show manages to do something that a lot try and almost all fail at: having a character who’s such an ass but also so charming you just can’t help but be on his side. And it’s the Devil!
You’d think there wouldn’t be any more “detective and x” combos left to try on TV, but I suppose eight years of Castle proves it’s still a viable formula. It helps that the detective is so darn likeable (and looks exactly like one of my favorite musicians!). There’s also a great supporting cast of celestial beings and all-too-humans that keep things light and dramatic in turn. A particular favorite is the psychiatrist who enjoys sex with angels. . . and the gorgeous demon who does just about everyone. . .

After all these years I’m still enjoying the adventures of Kensi and the nameless guys supporting her. (What? Nah, don’t believe you.) It helps that I’ve been on the set and got my photo taken with all of them. . .
In the last ten years or so dramas have become so serialized that I’m well over it, and this show has some of those arcs as well, but I prefer the individually plotted episodes. Still wish they’d do more undercover work like at the beginning, especially when they can be as good as Sam playing financial savant.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us
Basic premise: if you can perform a magic act, and Penn and Teller can’t tell how you did it, you get to open for their show in Vegas. (Suspiciously, there’s never more than one winner per episode.)
What’s better than magic? Funny magic. Some magicians excel at that, but none have hit it big with that formula like these two incredibly different guys. In later seasons they’ve taken to doing their own trick at the end of each show, but even better are all the different acts that have passed before them. While some of the magicians are so practiced it sounds like they’re reciting their patter, for the most part they’re so excited about performing on TV and in front of their idols that it gives a fresh enthusiasm lacking in so many shows today.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Still going strong after some thirty years, if you count the British era. As much as I love watching stand-up, this is so much better. There are some skits I’ve watched thousands of times, especially the ones with guest stars like Robin Williams, Richard Simmons, and Adelaide Kane. Even model Nina Agdal rocked it. But Colin, Ryan, Wayne, and rotating fourth seat are all comic geniuses, a joy to spend an hour with. Even Laura Hall, the pianist, is wonderful, even though I recently spent an evening listening to live music next to her without recognizing her!

Yup, this show is still on the air, and some might say better than ever. After a long time with Cote de Pablo in the female lead, the addition of Emily Wickersham has infused fresh blood, along with some other new faces to balance those who’ve been there the whole time. Gibbs isn’t nearly as much of a hardass anymore, no doubt due to his recent brush with death, and his scenes with Fornell show he does indeed have a sense of humor buried somewhere inside him. At this point the plots hardly matter; the fun is in the interactions of the team.

The Good Place
Where are we again?
Eleanor is Veronica Mars had she gone bad. She dies in the most ridiculous way possible and makes it to Heaven, where she obviously doesn’t belong. Now she has to deal with keeping her secret, spending time with the geekiest soulmate ever, and trying to figure out why Heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. . . and then it really gets weird.
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are both comic geniuses, and the supporting cast is definitely not bad either. But it’s the writing that makes this show amazing, superb in both comedy and twisty plots that no one sees coming, not even the other actors, as evidenced by a video Kristen uploaded recently of them reacting to the huge twist.

The Orville
The Space adventures of Alara and her crew. . . well, at least for one episode.
Who would have thought a funnier, slightly hipper version of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be so good? Not that it started out great, and definitely has huge possibility for growth if they can cut down on the sophomoric jokes. . . well, it is Seth McFarlane.
For me it’s the women who rule this show. Penny Johnson Jerald has always brought it, and must be having fun on this show after having to be so serious on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I’ve never been a fan of Adrianne Palicki until now, but it’s Halston Sage as Alara that is a revelation, the best new face of the season. (Even more fun is how totally different she looks in real life!)

After what started as one of the best premises of all time, the show has settled into a kind of holding pattern; even though the overall mission—and big bad—changes, it’s still about deciphering the tattoos to foil yet another plot. Jaimie Alexander is one of the most underrated actresses on TV, and even though I get bored with the goings-on sometimes, there’s still plenty to enjoy every week, including one of the funniest and most endearing techies on any show.

Death In Paradise
Now that it’s running on PBS rather than solely Netflix, I can include what might be my fave cop show. Sure, someone always dies, but at least they did it on a Caribbean island, amid a lot of humor. I will never forget Serious Cop screaming like a girl at the rubber snake, but that was years ago. Now there’s a third chief inspector, who is so understatedly funny it sometimes takes a moment, but provides a completely different yet thoroughly entertaining crime-solving technique. The other cops are fun too, and Danny John-Jules—The Cat on Red Dwarf—plays a character named Dwayne, but his last name is not Dibbly.

Big Bang Theory
Another show where there’s nothing much left to say after being on for so many years. On the other hand, it’s fun to watch the repeats and see how much has changed: two of the original four married—one of them with kids—the last guy you’d ever expect to find a girlfriend engaged. . . and then there’s Raj. At least he changed his hair. But in my admittedly biased opinion the show has gotten better and better since the addition of Melissa Rauch as Bernadette, who could easily be a star on a spin-off had she not had to carry Howard all these years.

Dancing With the Stars
I can’t believe I’m including this one, as I’ve never watched it before—and probably never will again—but my girl Lindsey Stirling was on so I had to tune in. . . and found I still remembered a lot of my own miniscule dance training. Even worse, I found I had many of the same thoughts that were then expounded by Grumpy Judge!
I wonder if Lindsey remembers the Meet-and-Greet where we posed in tango. . .

Time-travel change-the-future story, which I love. I don’t think there’s been anything like it on TV since Seven Days.
I’m not sure if the whole season was plotted out from the beginning, as too many things didn’t make sense, but counterfactuals are just so much fun. Doesn’t hurt that one of my unsung faves, Abigail Spencer, was the female lead. On the other hand, not nearly enough Matt Frewer!

Medical student gets bitten by zombie, then becomes a medical examiner so she can have access to brains. Finds out eating a dead person’s brains passes some of their memories to her, which she uses to fight crime. Remember what I wrote above about Lucifer? How many more variations of cop helper can there be? Doesn’t beat the Devil, but close.
This has to be a dream job for an actor: getting to play a different role, or at least a different version of their role, every week.

Why did these shows that I watch all the time not make the top 15? Mostly because I would otherwise not watch them if it wasn’t for an actress I like. . .

Criminal Minds
Paget Brewster’s back and they’re finally done with the debacle of Reid being in jail.

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
Perfect example. Alana de la Garza went right from Forever to the only Criminal Minds spinoff that made it past a season. If this show had one major problem, it was the writing, but who cares when I can spend an hour staring at those amazing cheekbones?

Chicago Fire
I’d never heard about this show until I saw a commercial featuring a wonderfully enticing innocent-looking braided blonde. That turned out to be Kara Killmer, and even though she’s amazing I actually like the show for its humor, rather than the people crazy enough to run towards fires. . .

Despite some good humor and prescient side stories, this was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill courtroom drama with horny lawyers. . . except this one had Katherine Heigl, and that’s that.

A great premise in a superhero world was basically wasted despite some great actors, particularly Danny Pudi (Go watch his movie The Tiger Hunter!). Vanessa Hudgens turned out to be surprisingly awesome as well, but how bad does the writing have to be when you turn an Alan Tudyk character into a huge disappointment?

Can’t include them:

Wynonna Earp
Because it’s on cable, and Netflix. Still, who would have thought Wynonna could become even snarkier and more awesome by being pregnant?

The X Files
How I wish I could put it on this list, but I am just as underwhelmed by this season as the previous one. The episode with the Mandala Effect was trippy, especially the Segway sound effects, but I’m hard pressed to remember any other worthwhile moment.



Top 16 Books of 2016

Yes, I usually do 15, but couldn’t cut it down.
Only a slight blurb here, but I’ve reviewed them all, so throw the title in the search box to the right and have fun.

Red Flags
Fourth in a series, first for me, featuring a female race car driver solving her cousin’s murder at the Long Beach Grand Prix. The description of running a car at over 200mph at Fontana race track is exhilarating.

Unicorn vr. Goblins
Came out just as I discovered this comic strip, which is the only one I read every morning. A self-described “weird” little girl named Phoebe makes friends with a unicorn titled Marigold Heavenly Nostrils; hilarity ensues. Goblins show up too.

Man, I Hate Cursive
Mostly simple self-contained jokes, like “the Far Side.” Sometimes corny but always fun.

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn
Continuing adventures of Phoebe and her Unicorn, as described above. Always hoping for another appearance of Todd the Candy Dragon.

Motions and Moments
Third in a series full of essays featuring an American living in Tokyo. This guy notices more stuff than Sherlock Holmes.

Dark Crimes
The best of a giant spate of detective series coming out of England. Sophie is easily my favorite police detective ever.

When Crocs Fly
Pearls Before Swine is one of the comic strips I lost touch with when my morning routine got truncated, so it was fun to revisit this in book form. Do not read if you are at all allergic to puns.

The Only Pirate At The Party
Anyone who reads this space knows I’m a huge Lindsey Stirling fan—just look at the photo at the top—but I can guarantee that had I never heard of her this book, her autobiography, would still be on this list as an amazing accomplishment. Read it for laughs, for commiseration—especially if you’ve ever suffered through an eating disorder—for the feeling of good triumphing over evil, or any other way. It’s just fun.

Wynonna Earp
You don’t need to see the cable series—I certainly didn’t—to enjoy what might very well be the best graphic novel of the year, in which a descendant of the famous lawman fights evil both human and not, and looks great doing it.

Dr. Mike Massimino is more famous for making fun of Howard on The Big Bang Theory than for actually going into space, but hopefully that will change as there’s more awareness of this incredibly accessible autobiography. Since a lot of people treat astronauts like superheroes—and who’s to say they aren’t?—this book goes a long way into proving they’re just like you and me too.

Baba Yaga
The Russian legend used to scare children into behaving gets a beautiful treatment, with a witty heroine drawn so cute you’ll want to adopt her.

Photographs From the Edge
Art Wolfe is the consummate nature photographer, and in this book spanning his decades in the business he proves it once again. The first photo, of the arctic fox, is stunning, and a fitting opening for what you can expect after that.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
The other contender for graphic novel of the year, this story from the “reimagined” version showcases Uhura as well as some new cadets, most of whom are enjoyable to get to know, even the taciturn Vulcan who unfreezes after a while; it helps that she’s got gorgeous green eyes. . .

You Had ONE Job!
A collection of photos that shows Americans not taking their jobs seriously enough to avoid even the simplest of bloopers. Nothing you can’t find on the internet, but packaged here in one place without having to do those stupid slideshows used to show off more commercials.

City of Blood
Police force in Paris look into a time-capsule-type murder, which escalates into a hunt for a serial killer. Unlike most books and especially TV shows, it doesn’t take an hour or even a few days to solve; forensics, autopsy, and interviewing all need time, and it’s given here. Also helps that the lead is completely professional—despite a family illness—rather than dour or suffering an existential crisis.

Fowl Language
A collection from a comic strip about an anthropomorphized family of ducks, with the father having trouble raising the kiddies, or ducklings. The LOL per page ratio is pretty high, as a lot of these get more than just a smile or a chuckle.


15 Fave TV Actresses of 2015

Unlike previous years, I’m not going to bother ranking them. And as usual this is only broadcast TV; no cable allowed.
This list is apparently brought to you by the number K.

Katherine Heigl—State of Affairs
Karen David—Galivant
Krista Allen—Significant Mother
Kaitlyn Black—Hart of Dixie
Kirsten Kreuk—Beauty and the Beast
Katherine McPhee—Scorpion
Daniela Ruah—NCIS: Los Angeles
Missy Peregrym—Rookie Blue
Alana De La Garza—Forever & Scorpion
Jaimie Alexander—Blindspot
Molly Quinn—Castle
Melissa Benoist—Supergirl
Jennifer Carpenter—Limitless
Darby Stanchfield—Scandal
Rachel Skarsen—Reign

First 5 almost in
Bellamy Young—Scandal
Adelaide Kane—Reign
AJ Cook—Criminal Minds
Zoe McClellan—NCIS: New Orleans
Rachel Bloom—Crazy Ex-Girlfriend


15 Fave Books of 2015

It’s possible for a movie critic to see every movie released, though I couldn’t imagine doing it. It’s be a lot harder for a TV critic to see everything that came out this year, though probably not impossible. But there’s no way for someone to read every book or listen to every song released.
My point is this list isn’t the best books of the year; this is simply my favorite books of the 220 or so I got to peruse this year. And to make things so much easier for me, I won’t do them in any kind of order. . . um, they might be chronological, but not from best to worse or vice versa.

Included are links to my reviews as well as the author’s website.

AlphaStephen Brayton
Female private eye in Iowa martial arts her way through
the bad guys.

Random ElementsKate Donovan
Actress/wannabe FBI agent deals with stalkers, costars, and Machiavellian series creator.

Sweet GirlRachel Hollis
She’s sweet because of the food she makes, not her disposition, but one guy tries to change that.

Cold MoonAlexandra Sokoloff
FBI agent and vigilante serial killer square off for the third time.

InsiderOlivia Cunning
Young journalist goes backstage with metal band; love somehow ensues.

Investigating SherlockNikki Stafford
Everything you wanted to know about the show, just in time for the one-off.

Citizen of the Galaxy–Robert Heinlein
One of the famous author’s sci-fi classics done as an excellent graphic novel.

I am Sophie Tucker–“Sophie Tucker
You may not have heard of this over-the-top actress from the past, but after this you’ll never forget her.

Worrier’s Guide to LifeGemma Correll
All your worries laid out in graphic form so you can laugh at them, and yourself.

History of War in 100 Battles–Richard Overy
Excellent synopses of exactly what the title says.

Secret Kindness AgentsFerial Pearson
Teens learn to be nice rather than cynical; this one will warm your heart.
(bonus—her TED talk)

The Customer Service RevolutionJohn R. DiJulius
Why it pays to be nice to your customers.

Wrapped in PlasticAndy Burns
Just in time for the Twin Peaks reboot.

Jem and the HologramsKelly Thompson
Everything a graphic novel should be: fun!

The Silver ShipsScott Jucha
This first contact story is the best sci-fi of the year!


Almost there. . . if this was a top 20. . .

Beauty and Chaos/Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens–Michael Pronko
Pointed articles on all the little things that make Tokyo so fascinating.

Summer of FireKitty Pilgrim
A tour of Europe while trying to hunt down a killer (or just stay alive).

Field Marshall–Daniel Allen Butler
Definitive biography of the one and only Desert Fox.

The Future of SexLexi Maxxwell
If this is indeed the future of sex, it’s in good. . . hands.


Top 15 Fave Actresses of 2014

Better do this before it’s time for the 2015 list. . .

Because this is only network shows, I can’t include Anna Silk, Emmanuelle Vauger, and Rachel Skarsen from Lost Girl and Rachel Nichols from Continuum, but they woulda made the list if it was so inclusive.

15 Zoe McClellan—NCIS: New Orleans
My fave character from JAG, her beauty still shines.

14 Madeline Stowe—Revenge
She must have a portrait in the attic. . .

13 Rachel Bilson—Hart of Dixie
I don’t doubt she’d be higher on the list if, like any sensible doctor, she didn’t wear five-inch heels.

12 Aisha Tyler—Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Nothing sexier than a sense of humor.

11 Stana Katic—Castle
She’d be higher if it wasn’t for the blondage that distracts from those gorgeous eyes.

10 Katherine McPhee—Scorpion
I think she’s far more attractive when she goes for cute rather than glam.

9 A.J. Cook—Criminal Minds
Another lady who doesn’t seem to age.

8 Jill Wagner—Wipeout
She’s funny enough to be on Whose Line.

7 Amy Acker—Person of Interest
From the cuteness that was Fred to the sheer bad-girl gorgeousness that is Root.

6 Molly Quinn—Castle
Amazing to look back at the Castle pilot and see how much she’s grown.

5 Missy Peregrym—Rookie Blue
Gorgeous and goofy; a deadly combination.

4 Kaitlyn Black—Hart of Dixie
So beautiful and so funny; another deadly combination.

3 Daniela Ruah—NCIS: Los Angeles
It took two of my all-time faves returning to TV to finally knock her from the top spot. Can’t really think of anything I haven’t already said about her wonderfulness.

2 Alana De La Garza—Forever
Amazing that from the first moment I saw her so long ago she hasn’t changed a bit.

1 Katherine Heigl—State of Affairs
There are no words. . .

Had Galavant debuted one week earlier Karen David would be on this list; as it is, she’s definitely on the 2015 edition.


Top 15 Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler songs

In keeping with the weirdest top lists I can possibly come up with, and in honor of buying my ticket to see Mark Knopfler in concert this summer, here’s my list of favorite songs from both his solo and Dire Straits days.

15 Sons of Scotland (Shot at Glory)
Who else could make Scottish soccer interesting? (Don’t answer that!)

14 Your Latest Trick
That amazing sax sells it. . .

13 Skateaway
I can picture Rollergirl so well. . .

12 Going Home (Local Hero)
Hardly anyone remembers this movie for anything but this song. . .

11 Private Investigations
Film noir music. . . I think that genre–if there are enough examples to call it a genre–was invented here.

10 Portobello Belle
I think I saw this girl at the famous market once. . .

9 Boom Like That
If you hate McDonald’s, this is the song for you.

8 Once Upon a Time–Storybook Love (Princess Bride)
You love the movie, you love the song. . . now you know who does it.

7 Sultans of Swing
“When he gets up under the lights to play his thing. . .”

6 Romeo and Juliet
Make sure you get the fingersnaps in the right place.

5 Brothers in Arms
Ah, that guitar outro. . .

4 Silvertown Blues
This is how all songs should be crafted. . .

3 Telegraph Road
14 minutes of sheer awesome

2 Tunnel of Love
When’s the last time a guitar solo broke your heart?

1 Sailing to Philadelphia
Even without James Taylor this song would be the most amazing tune ever. . .


Top 15 Favorite TV Shows, 2014 Edition

You know the rules: network TV only, no cable or Netflix, though I will mention a few of those at the end.

15. NCIS: New Orleans
Not a Bakula fan, but love Zoe McClellan since her time on JAG. There’s an easygoing Suthin’ charm to the show, which is to be expected in N’awlins, I guess.

14. Bad Judge
It’s awesome seeing the always cool and collected Kate Walsh be such an utter goofball.

13. Hart of Dixie
This show has only gotten better with the more frequent appearances of Kaitlyn Black, by the far the best character on the show.

12. CSI
Having been rejuvenated by Shue and Danson, it almost feels like the early years, though better. Perhaps that’s due to Jorja Fox coming back.

11. Rookie Blue
As long as Missy Peregrym keeps bringing it, I’ll keep watching it.

10. Criminal Minds
Not nearly the same since Paget left, but still fascinating in its delvings into the psychopathic mind.

Another show rejuvenated by a new cast member. Nothing against Ziva, but the new girl has so much more personality, and since she’s married we don’t get Tony being his usual annoying self hitting on her all the time. (Don’t worry, he’s still annoying in other ways, especially with McGee.)

8. Wipeout
There’s nothing left to say, only enjoy: the wipeouts, the snark, Jill in such tight jeans they look to be borrowed from her 12-year-old sister. . .

7. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
Have to admit to a bit of disappointment here with the plotting and the pace, but watching Coleson and May will never not be fun. Skye isn’t as wonderful as she usta be, though. . .

6. Big Bang Theory
Another one that just keeps rolling along, doing what it does best, which is making me laugh at people even geekier than me. . .

Never thought I would have it this low, but ever since that horrible plot used to cover Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy–sending Kensi to Afghanistan to snipe her former fiancé–it’s been tough to get back into. Still one of the best shows around, though.

4. Forever
Even in the show they had to mention Alana DeLaGarza’s cheekbones. Beyond that, the leads have the kind of chemistry all TV pairings wish they had and only Castle has achieved lately. Though I do wonder if Henry’s killed in Brooklyn or the other side of Manhattan if he’ll be reborn in another body of water. . .

3. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Aisha Tyler is more fun than Drew Carey. Miss some of the guys from the previous shows, but the new ones are just as good, and once in a while the celeb guests really hit it out of the park.

2. Castle
Far from going downhill with them getting married, this show just keeps chugging delightfully along. The western was my fave epi since the second season.

1. State of Affairs
You all know by now I love Katherine Heigl, but this show would be almost as spectacular without her. It’s quite obvious their consultants and writers know their stuff, and I am frequently impressed by the variety of plots they conjure up. That being said, I’ve got a few story ideas floating in the noggin, if they ever need them. . .

On Netflix
Warehouse 13
This is what happens when creative people make a show where anything goes; they frequently go anywhere and everywhere, in a good way.

Always liked Rachel Nichols, but this shows just how well she can act. At times the story is fascinating, at others tough to follow–changing to a different timeline, for example–she grounds the story with her fish-out-of-water attempt to get back to her time and family.

Lost Girl
Possibly the first nice succubus in history. The snark flies at full speed between her, wolf boy, 2 female humans, a no-longer king, and various other powerful creatures, now including a gorgeous blonde Valkyrie. . . but aren’t they all blonde?

Mostly gritty, sometimes weird, detective show set in Wales. The main character could be a little more. . . human, and I’m so tired of seeing damaged cops on TV–and hope to never see them in person–but some of the stuff here is as fascinating as Criminal Minds.

Where else can you go to get your myths busted? Even the narrator is hilarious as they take the experiments to their logical conclusions. . . and then well beyond. Hope Grant’s leg has healed from when the karma hammer smacked him. . .

The Wall
As hard as it is to watch Gillian Anderson as anyone but Scully–the blonde hair helps–she’s amazing as an incredibly cold-hearted detective on the hunt for a serial killer in Northern Ireland, played by the guy who’s gonna be the lead in 50 Shades, I’m told. . .