Thursday, November 14, 2019

The 10 Best “Mary Tyler Moore Show” Episodes

This entry began as The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 3, but honestly, I’ve written so many long essays lately, I needed a change of pace, and an old-fashioned 10-best list — drawn from the entire seven-season run — seemed like a good solution. What distinguishes this “best of MTM” list from all the others? Well, first of all, I’ve been watching the series since it originally aired. Second, I couldn’t settle on ten favorites, but I could settle on twenty, so after each episode, I’m offering up another that I love — so consider this sort of a “two for the price of one” sale. Third, as is my wont, I’m going to focus a lot on the intent behind — and development of — the episodes themselves (and how they reflect the seasons in which they aired). And finally, it’s the only Mary Tyler Moore Show list that won’t be counting down to “Chuckles Bites the Dust.”

Monday, November 11, 2019

Doctor Who: the companions' best and worst performances

In an essay in the summer of 2018, I looked at the actors who've played the title role in Doctor Who, and judged their best and worst performances. I thought I'd do the same for the companions. Doctor Who has, by and large, been blessed with such extraordinary actors as companions that it's easy to take their work for granted -- to presume their performances are uniformly strong. But actors, like the rest of us, have good days and bad days, and in the case of Doctor Who, there are all kinds of factors that can contribute to the quality of a performance -- just as there are all kinds of criteria I have for judging them. A few words in advance. I'm only considering companions who stuck around for more than two full-length stories, and I’m not including the threesome traveling with the current Doctor, as they’re only partway through their journey. And just to mix it up, I'm listing the companions alphabetically — so get ready to bounce around the decades. (As in my essay about the Doctors, I've bolded the stories that contain the companions’ best and worst work, but I vary the order in which I present them. Sometimes, I list the good before the bad, sometimes vice versa; if you only look at the titles bolded, you might be surprised, when you read the text, to discover which is which.)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Star Trek: Voyager season 4

I’d never seen an episode of Star Trek — in any of its incarnations — before last spring. At that time, BBC America typically ran eight-hour marathons of The Next Generation on weekdays, and after breakfast, my customary routine was to turn the living room TV to BBC America and hit “mute.” My husband and I — who work from home — knew that if we had to run errands suddenly, we could simply unmute the TV, and the puppy would be well cared for while we were gone. The little we knew of The Next Generation suggested that there’d be a steady stream of chatter and background music that would block out the street noise, and that it was unlikely to contain any of the sounds (thunderclaps, gunshots, fireworks) that tended to frighten him.

That was what I knew of Star Trek: it was a great dog sitter.