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Your Preseason Guide to The Bachelor, 2019 Edition

The Bachelor is basically a sport now. There are different seasons, you gather with friends to watch for 2-3 hours, you complain about how many commercials there are, hell – the franchise has its own Adam Schefter in Reality Steve. And while fantasy Bachelor leagues used to be something you’d have to explain to your coworkers, now your coworkers are asking you if you want to be a part of their league. (The answer is NO, Jennifer.)

Thursday marked my favorite Internet day of the year: the public release of the contestants. This year we have 30 (!!!) girls vying for Colton Underwood’s heart and flower. (The guy is a virgin, as I’m sure even your grandparents have heard by now.) ABC used to grace us with questionnaires from each contestant that 90% of the time only told us that they like avocados and Crazy, Stupid, Love, but they were still fun and led us to believe that we knew something about these women before they stepped out of the limo. Now all we get is a tweet-length summary of each contestant and a few words on them directly from the mouth of Chris Harrison. Still, as someone who has been a fan of this franchise for over a decade and a drafter of Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants for years, I’d like to think I have a good sense of who’s a TOTAL CONTENDER and who’s a TOTAL PRETENDER solely based off pictures, ages, and occupations. (Important note: comments will not reflect my personal opinions of these women/women in general. It’s The Bachelor, so it’s about to get really superficial in here.)

I actively avoid spoilers, but all public information is fair game by me. So all we have to work with is the official cast page on ABC’s website, Chris Harrison’s Facebook livestream, and Colton’s appearance on Ellen. That’s it. I’ll go in descending order from who has zero chance of winning the final rose to who I think will get the proposal. (So to clarify, I might think a girl that I rank in the 20’s will advance a few episodes, but she’s ranked there because she won’t win.) Here we go.

the-bachelor-abc-jpo-181206_hpMain_12x5_992

NOT IN THE AGE RANGE

This is the most crucial component of Bachelor drafting. Even more so than looks. (ABC used to tell us height too, which we desperately need back.) With The Bachelorette, anyone older than the girl in power is fair game, so it makes it harder to draft. With The Bachelor, you’re pretty much toast if you’re not between 24-28. But considering that Colton is only 26, we’re going to adjust our scale to 23-27. I’ll allow for the occasional exception to this rule (don’t make me remind you that 36 year-old Arie seriously considered 22 year-old Bekah), but this is pretty much gospel.

 

30. Elyse, 31, Alaska

elyse

Let me get this straight: Elyse has a negative percent chance of winning. Being 31 on The Bachelor is like being 93 on Hinge. Colton also has an obvious type, and “redheaded Alaskan” ain’t it. But she’s a lock to advance past Night One. Chris Harrison says that she “becomes the mom of the group.” In case I needed to remind you that 31 is ancient in this world.

 

29. Tracy, 31, Los Angeles

tracy

31 and apparently the center of drama on Night One. AKA, she’s gonna get trashed, sent home, and then bawl her eyes out because she can never find love.

 

28. Angelique, 28, New Jersey

angelique

The reveal of the contestants via Facebook Live is actually pretty fun, because it allows Chris Harrison to go off script for once. But the downside is that he inadvertently let a few minor details slip. One of them is that Angelique is 99% a goner on Night One.

 

27. Nina, 30, Raleigh

nina

Nina is 30, originally from Croatia, and “fled the conflict there amidst bullets and bombs.” Colton is 26, from Illinois, and likes puppies. This isn’t going to work out.

 

26. Heather, 22, California

heather

Heather is going to be a main character this season. Apparently she has never kissed a boy before…you think the producers are going to bludgeon that joke to death or just casually let it go? But Heather will not win. SHE IS TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD. I can already tell you that my favorite moment of the season will be when a bunch of 23 year-olds lecture Heather about immaturity.

 

25. Alex B, 29, Vancouver

alex b

In other seasons, Alex B would potentially rank fairly high. But Colton isn’t proposing to someone three years his elder regardless of how much she talks about her dogs.

 

NOT BASIC ENOUGH

The Bachelor isn’t where we turn to see progressive stuff. There is a pretty clear formula to winning this show that basically boils down to “the cuter, the blonder, the better.” I mean, two of the past three winners were 25 year-old blonde girls named Lauren B who clearly came from wealthy upbringings. Now that’s not to say that brunettes or girls with more originality don’t stand a chance. But considering that half of the contestant pool this year is 23 year-olds from either California or SEC country, let’s just say it’s definitely a benefit if she uses “like” five times per sentence.

 

24. Revian, 24, California

revian

Despite having a name that rhymes with elitist water, Revian does not meet our criteria.

 

23. Tahjzuan, 25, Colorado

tahjzuan

Last season there were FOUR contestants named Lauren. Tahjzuan is not winning this show.

 

22. Kirpa, 26, California

kirpa

Neither is Kirpa.

 

21. Onyeka, 24, Dallas

onyeka

Nor Onyeka.

 

20. Alex D, 23, Boston

alex d

This is one area where I’m pretty sure I differ from the majority of Bachelor Nation: I don’t find the fake job titles amusing whatsoever. Fortunately we don’t have as many this year as we usually do, but we still have Alex D who works as a “sloth.” And she dresses up as a sloth on Night One, because apparently the costumed contestant is something we need every season now. (Even though they never do well.) And she’s a Red Sox fan. I will be fervently rooting against Alex D this season.

 

19. Erika, 25, California

erika

Self-described as “The Nut,” I’m annoyed by Erika already. I’m going to need her sent home ASAP. Note to all blonde Californians going on The Bachelor: you can just not say anything and advance very, very far on this show. Do less, Erika.

 

18. Courtney, 23, Atlanta

courtney

Every season, we have a contestant who is way too good for this show yet doesn’t make it very far. I’m banking on that being Courtney this go-around. Courtney is an attractive, family-oriented 23 year-old originally from Germany who now runs her own catering business. Trust us, Courtney. When Colton inevitably doesn’t pick you, it will be the biggest blessing in disguise.

 

17. Laura, 26, Dallas

laura

Black hair?!?! An accountant?!?! Um, are you lost sweetheart?!?!

 

16. Nicole, 25, Miami

nicole

Chris Harrison made it seem like Nicole is a factor this season, which surprised me. But I’m going to stick to my guns here and declare that Nicole is not basic enough to win The Bachelor. Prediction though: she becomes a superstar in Bachelor in Paradise.

 

THE VILLAIN

We’ve seen villains win this show and we’ve seen villains only last two episodes. Who knows what her fate will be this time around, but you know that I will be rooting for her.

 

15. Catherine, 26, Florida

catherine

I am already captivated by Catherine. She’s magnificent. You could tell that she’s going to be the villain of the season just by her headshot, and all of the marketing has already confirmed as much. Chris Harrison said that she probably broke the record for the most “can I steal you’s?” on Night One. And then add in the fact that she’s a DJ FROM FORT LAUDERDALE. This is Jason Mendoza’s dream woman. The Joker. Cruella de Vil. Hannibal Lecter. Regina George. Catherine.

 

WILD CARDS

These women could either play themselves out of the competition on Night One or they could go on to win it all. Either I can’t get a good read on them, or they’re just plain crazy.

 

14. Sydney, 27, New York

sydney

The first of the three women who appeared on Ellen that I’ve mentioned so far, Sydney just doesn’t stand out in any way to me. She also completely butchered her pickup line to Colton, which makes it a lot less surprising that she’s never had a boyfriend before. I’d give her crap for quitting her job to finish like twelfth on this show, but she’ll 100% make more money as a Flat Tummy Tea sponsor than as a NBA dancer.

 

13. Devin, 23, Oregon

devin

Devin seems cool and is definitely hot, but I just don’t see it happening. She’ll probably be the one to bring a football to the mansion and pull the ol’ “no way, I like sports too!”

 

12. Cassie, 23, California

cassie

I am SO confident that Cassie will be the one to make it pretty far and then the audience simultaneously says to themselves, “wait, has that girl spoken a single word this entire season?”

 

11. Jane, 26, Los Angeles

jane

More than any other contestant this season, I’m having an impossible time pegging Jane. Her real name is Adrianne but she goes by Jane. That’s like me telling people to call me Daniel. Just can’t trust someone like that.

 

10. Erin, 28, Texas

erin

Erin has a trillion red flags. She’s 28. Her job title is “Cinderella.” She mentions her love of pumpkin spice lattes in her bio. The only thing is…she’s super hot. I’m not sure what will win out with Colton. (The hotness will, who am I kidding.)

 

9. Tayshia, 28, California

tayshia

Tayshia also has a lot going against her right out of the gate. She’s 28 too, and a black contestant has never won The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. But considering that she’s gorgeous and possibly the most impressive woman in the group, none of that could matter. Here’s to hoping that this is the season where things change! (It won’t be.)

 

8. Demi, 23, Texas

demi

RUN AWAY, COLTON! RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!! I get some major Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers vibes with Demi. Chris Harrison basically confirmed that she’s totally off the wall. Is she going to be fun to watch? Definitely. Could she advance really far in this show? You bet. Might Colton be afraid of her by the end of the show? Absolutely. “Don’t ever leave me! Because I’d find you!

 

CONTENDERS

Any of these women could realistically win the show, and each of them stands a solid chance to make it to Hometown Dates and Fantasy Suites. Where I guess this season they’ll just…watch Netflix and maybe do some hand stuff? God, why couldn’t they have just picked a guy who has had sex before?

 

7. Hannah B, 23, Alabama

hannah b

Hannah’s entire bio is about Alabama. She’s Miss Alabama 2018, she went to the University of Alabama, she never misses an Alabama football game…you get the point. We’re all going to be diehard Auburn fans by the end of this season because of Hannah B. But she’s 23, hot, and blonde, so she’ll do well.

 

6. Caitlin, 25, Toronto

caitlin

Chris Harrison didn’t seem too enthused about Caitlin during the livestream, which is odd because she’s stunning, successful, Canadian (they do VERY well in this franchise), and the perfect Bachelor age of 25. I’m going to guess that Chris Harrison was just up to his sneaky old tricks and that Caitlin will make it far. If she doesn’t, well, then she should expect to hear from every male Bachelor fan on Twitter.

 

5. Katie, 26, California

katie

I promise you that Katie will be on the show for most of the season. The pretty, bubbly, California girl always does well. She came off as really basic but really fun on her Ellen appearance, and Chris Harrison said that she “changes the course of the entire season.” The first “I love you,” perhaps? I’d guess that we get to see Katie’s hometown, but I’d be surprised if she wins due to shitty reasons that I’ve already mentioned.

 

4. Caelynn, 23, Charlotte

caelynn

Caelynn has the genuinely impressive point on her resume of being the 2018 Miss America runner-up (collect $10 from Community Chest)…which I think has to mean that she beat Hannah B in that competition? Ipso facto, I neeeeeeeeeed that drama. But anyway, she’s really hot and will go really far. If she gets eliminated, then expect one of the “I need a moment, get the cameras away from me” breakups. If she wins, well, then Colton and Caelynn will probably name their kids something like Jax and Paisley.

 

3. Hannah G, 23, Birmingham

hannah g

Chris Harrison’s worst moment of the livestream happened here, so if you want to go into this season totally blind then you might want to skip to the next contestant. *Gives readers time to scroll* I’m 95% sure he revealed that Hannah G wins the first impression rose. C’mon, Chris! That’s a major prop bet that we’re talking about! Honestly, Hannah G sounds like she kinda sucks. She loves glamping and is a “Content Creator,” which just means that she’s better at picking Instagram filters than I am. But she’s beautiful, and if my first impression rose hypothesis is correct, then history tells us she will advance very far…or win the show.

 

2. Annie, 23, New York

annie

Annie is my personal favorite, and I’m scared that Colton will feel the same way. She murdered her Ellen appearance, making the best impression of the three girls by a mile. She’s 23 yet successful, and she has both a farm girl and city girl thing going on. If she doesn’t win the show, then she’s a prime Bachelorette candidate. (Yes, I am aware that I’m getting completely ahead of myself.)

 

THE FAVORITE

My prediction to win the final rose. I don’t have the best record on this subject, but I have a feeling that this is the year!!!

 

1. Bri, 24, Los Angeles

bri

I mean…scroll through these 30 women and tell me with a straight face that Bri doesn’t stand out. She looks like all of the former Bachelor winners meshed into one person for god’s sake. Models historically don’t do well on this show, but Bri’s bio and Chris Harrison both went out of their way to let us know that Bri is more than just a pretty face! She’s the only contestant who managed to screw up her short bio – she wants us all to know that her biggest dating fear is farting too loudly. That’s such a painfully Jennifer Lawrence thing to say, but at least it tells us that Bri has a personality. We’ll take it, and Colton probably will too.

 

Follow me on Twitter @Real_Peej as I live tweet all of The Bachelor drama starting Monday, January 7.

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THE OFFICE Episodes Bracket

bracket last time

The Office is my favorite show of all time. And I know that a ton of other people feel the same way, especially since the show’s popularity has grown proportionally with Netflix over the past few years. While some diehards go back and forth over the best character (Michael is the only real answer) or the best season (2 or 3 are both acceptable), the debate that’s probably most up for interpretation is best episode.

There were 201 episodes of The Office filmed over the show’s nine-season run, and in the spirit of March Madness, I trimmed that number down to 64. No rules or guidelines were followed in the seeding – if the episode was one of the Top 64 in the catalog, then it made the cut. So that explains why “The Incentive” or “Trivia,” two of the better episodes from Season 8, didn’t make the cut, but “Ben Franklin,” one of the lesser episodes from Season 3, did make it. I considered Michael’s highlights and lowlights, impact on the greater story arc, and GIF-ability when putting the list together, but when voting feel free to follow your heart…or Michael’s personal philosophy of “don’t ever, for any reason, do anything, to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what, no matter where, or who, or who you are with, or where you are going, or where you’ve been, ever, for any reason whatsoever.”

WINNER

michael and oscar

2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Thanks to everyone who voted! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rewatch the series for the 497th time.


 

CHAMPIONSHIP

office finals

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

A fun piece of trivia about DIVERSITY DAY is that…the episode was webcast on Myspace two weeks prior to airing on NBC as a promotion for the then-upcoming premiere.

A fun piece of trivia about GAY WITCH HUNT is that…the kiss between Michael and Oscar was completely improvised by Steve Carell.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

FINAL 4

office final 4

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 1. DIVERSITY DAY

Best random Michael quote of CASINO NIGHT is…“Dinkin Flicka” – Michael to Darryl.

Best random Michael quote of DIVERSITY DAY is..“This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell out of here.” – Michael to Toby.

2. STRESS RELIEF vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Best random Michael quote of STRESS RELIEF is…“Five thousand three hundred dollars for a dummy?” – Michael to David Wallace, after David told him that the dummy cost thirty-five hundred dollars.

Best random Michael quote of GAY WITCH HUNT is…”Oh, there’s Gil, Oscar’s roommate. I wonder if he knows.” – Michael to camera, right after Oscar came out of the closet.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – ELITE 8

scranton 8

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 3. THE INJURY

Worst part of CASINO NIGHT is…Jim’s “I’m sorry I misinterpreted our friendship” line. This isn’t an actual criticism. Honestly it’s really good writing. It’s just fucking brutal to watch.

Worst part of THE INJURY is…that some people apparently didn’t know the rules of Shotgun in 2006? (1:10). I know that’s a lame pick again, but these two episodes don’t really have flaws.

 

STAMFORD REGION – ELITE 8

stamford 8

9. BASKETBALL vs. 2. STRESS RELIEF

Worst part of BASKETBALL is…Michael. He’s essentially an unrecognizable character when you go back and watch this episode. The show was still attempting to emulate the British version at this point, so Michael’s character exists under the similar concept of “what if your boss was the biggest asshole in the world?” Don’t get me wrong…the aggressively non-PC version of Michael Scott is still funny. But I significantly prefer the version we grew to know and love, where Michael exists more as an idiot who will go to literally any lengths for approval.

Worst part of STRESS RELIEF is…Jim and Pam watching the bootleg DVD with Andy. This hour-long episode aired directly after the Super Bowl, so they had more time and money to work with. Those extra resources turned into this subplot featuring Jack Black and Jessica Alba, which ended up being way more weird than funny.

 

NASHUA REGION – ELITE 8

nashua 8

4. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Worst part of THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT is…the callback to Jan (0:43). There are some amazing ones to old characters in this episode (shoutout Karen), but Jan’s was underwhelming.

Worst part of GAY WITCH HUNT is…how poorly some of the dialogue has aged. Even though this episode is a classic specifically because of how far it crosses the line, some of Michael’s homophobic slurs to Oscar catch you so off guard nowadays that you can’t believe this episode aired on NBC in 2006.

 

UTICA REGION – ELITE 8

utica 8

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 2. THE DUNDIES

Worst part of DIVERSITY DAY is…Jim. This is a bit of a stretch, especially considering “not a bad day” is probably Jim’s best line of the entire series. But his character was not nearly developed yet. It’s strange to rewatch this episode and see Jim care a lot about work and call a girl “hot” (1:03).

Worst part of THE DUNDIES is…Ping. He ranks near the bottom of my list of Michael’s go-to characters. I feel like this might be a reference to something that’s going completely over my head though? If not, then yeah it’s just a lazy and mildly funny Asian impression.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – SWEET 16

scranton sweet 16

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 13. A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS

Episode MVP of CASINO NIGHT is…Jim…for finally professing his love to Pam, obviously. But less obviously, for co-discovering Kevin’s band, Scrantonicity.

Episode MVPs of A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS are…Pam and Karen…for having more people show up to their Christmas party.

3. THE INJURY vs. 2. BEACH GAMES

Episode MVP of THE INJURY is…Dwight…for being nice to Pam and for dropping an A+ “that’s what she said” in front of Michael (3:28).

Episode MVP of BEACH GAMES is…Pam…for doing the coal walk, calling out the office for treating her like shit, and telling the truth to Jim. Huge episode for Pam.

 

STAMFORD REGION – SWEET 16

stamford sweet 16

9. BASKETBALL vs. 5. FINALE

Episode MVP of BASKETBALL is…Jim…for actually being really good at basketball.

Episode MVP of FINALE is…Dwight…for burying the hatchet with Kevin, reuniting with Michael, and marrying Angela.

6. THE FIRE vs. 2. STRESS RELIEF

Episode MVP of THE FIRE is…Michael…for being the first one out of the building.

Episode MVP of STRESS RELIEF is…Dwight…for somehow not getting fired.

 

NASHUA REGION – SWEET 16

nashua sweet 16

1. DINNER PARTY vs. 4. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT

Episode MVP of DINNER PARTY is…Jan’s assistant, Hunter…for gracing us with “That One Night.”

Episode MVP of THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT is…Michael…for finally finishing his passion project, even if he realizes that it actually sucks.

3. GOODBYE, MICHAEL vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Episode MVP of GOODBYE, MICHAEL is…Michael…for giving meaningful goodbye gifts to everyone, besides Oscar.

Episode MVP of GAY WITCH HUNT is…Oscar…for getting three months paid vacation and use of a company car to not sue Dunder Mifflin for Michael outing him.

 

UTICA REGION – SWEET 16

utica sweet 16

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 13. GOODBYE, TOBY

Episode MVP of DIVERSITY DAY is…Kelly…for slapping Michael for his terrible Indian accent.

Episode MVP of GOODBYE, TOBY is…Phyllis…for gaining the upper hand on Angela after she catches her hooking up with Dwight.

14. DRUG TESTING vs. 2. THE DUNDIES

Episode MVP of DRUG TESTING is…Creed…for acing Dwight’s drug test.

Episode MVP of THE DUNDIES is…Ryan…for winning the “Hottest in the Office” Dundie.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – ROUND OF 32

scranton 2

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 8. THE NEGOTIATION

CASINO NIGHT…also known for: “Why are you the way that you are?”

THE NEGOTIATION…also known for: Roy attacking Jim.

5. OFFICE OLYMPICS vs. 13. A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS

OFFICE OLYMPICS…also known for: Michael asking Ryan to come into work early just to bring him breakfast.

A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS…also known for: Dwight’s Christmas miracle.

11. PHYLLIS’ WEDDING vs. 3. THE INJURY

PHYLLIS’ WEDDING…also known for: Jim conditioning Dwight with Altoids.

THE INJURY…also known for: Dwight’s concussion.

10. GOSSIP vs. 2. BEACH GAMES

GOSSIP…also known for: Michael telling everyone about Stanley’s affair.

BEACH GAMES…also known for: Team Voldemort.

 

STAMFORD REGION – ROUND OF 32

stamford 2

1. BOOZE CRUISE vs. 9. BASKETBALL

BOOZE CRUISE…also known for: Michael’s motivational dancing.

BASKETBALL…also known for: Phyllis requesting to cheerlead.

5. FINALE vs. 4. SCOTT’S TOTS

FINALE…also known for: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

SCOTT’S TOTS…also known for: “Andy sowwy.”

6. THE FIRE vs. 3. SAFETY TRAINING

THE FIRE…also known for: Who would you do?

SAFETY TRAINING…also known for: “Hey Darryl, how’s it hanging?”

7. NIAGARA vs. 2. STRESS RELIEF

NIAGARA…also known for: Andy tearing his scrotum.

STRESS RELIEF…also known for: The Roast of Michael Scott.

 

NASHUA REGION – ROUND OF 32

nashua 2

1. DINNER PARTY vs. 8. THE JOB

DINNER PARTY…also known for: “SNIP SNAP, SNIP SNAP, SNIP SNAP!”

THE JOB…also known for: Jan’s boob job.

12. THE MERGER vs. 4. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT

THE MERGER…also known for: Michael trying to push Tony Gardner onto the table.

THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT…also known for: Goldenface.

6. THE CONVICT vs. 3. GOODBYE, MICHAEL

THE CONVICT…also known for: Andy hitting on Pam.

GOODBYE, MICHAEL…also known for: Michael and Jim’s goodbye.

10. TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY…also known for: Little Kid Lover.

GAY WITCH HUNT…also known for: Gaydar.

 

UTICA REGION – ROUND OF 32

utica 2

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 9. FUN RUN

DIVERSITY DAY…also known for: Pam falling asleep on Jim’s shoulder.

FUN RUN…also known for: Michael’s carbo-loading.

5. THE CONVENTION vs. 13. GOODBYE, TOBY

THE CONVENTION…also known for: Michael’s hotel room party.

GOODBYE, TOBY…also known for: Michael giving Toby a rock as his going-away present.

6. COCKTAILS vs. 14. DRUG TESTING

COCKTAILS…also known for: Pam and Roy breaking up for good.

DRUG TESTING…also known for: “You look like you want to tell me something.”

7. INITIATION vs. 2. THE DUNDIES

INITIATION…also known for: Dwight ditching Ryan.

THE DUNDIES…also known for: “BEST. DUNDIES. EVER.”

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – ROUND OF 64

Scranton Region

  1. CASINO NIGHT (S2/E22) vs. 16. HAPPY HOUR (S6/E21)

 CASINO NIGHT…best known for: Jim finally making his move.

HAPPY HOUR…best known for: Date Mike.

  1. THE NEGOTIATION (S3/E19) vs. 9. THE CLIENT (S2/E7)

 THE NEGOTIATION…best known for: Michael accidentally cross-dressing.

THE CLIENT…best known for: Michael holding the business meeting at Chili’s.

  1. OFFICE OLYMPICS (S2/E3) vs. 12. THE RETURN (S3/E14)

OFFICE OLYMPICS…best known for: Phyllis beating Kevin by a nose in Flonkerton.

THE RETURN…best known for: Andy punching a hole through the wall.

  1. CHRISTMAS PARTY (S2/E10) vs. 13. A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS (S3/E10-11)

CHRISTMAS PARTY…best known for: Yankee Swap.

A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS…best known for: Michael’s “Bros Before Hoes” speech.

  1. MURDER (S6/E10) vs. 11. PHYLLIS’ WEDDING (S3/E16)

 MURDER…best known for: The standoff at the end of the episode. (Also Tube City.)

PHYLLIS’ WEDDING…best known for: “This is bullshit.” (Also Kelly’s emergency.)

  1. THE INJURY (S2/E12) vs. 14. LOCAL AD (S4/E9)

THE INJURY…best known for: “I burned my foot.”

LOCAL AD…best known for: Andy forgetting the Kit Kat slogan.

  1. VALENTINE’S DAY (S2/E16) vs. 10. GOSSIP (S6/E1)

 VALENTINE’S DAY…best known for: “The Faces of Scranton.”

GOSSIP…best known for: Parkour PARKOUR!

  1. BEACH GAMES (S3/E23) vs. 15. MICHAEL SCOTT PAPER COMPANY (S5/E23)

 BEACH GAMES…best known for: Pam’s confession to Jim.

MICHAEL SCOTT PAPER COMPANY…best known for: Pam making her first sale.

 

STAMFORD REGION – ROUND OF 64

stamford region

  1. BOOZE CRUISE (S2/E11) vs. MICHAEL’S LAST DUNDIES (S7/E21)

 BOOZE CRUISE…best known for: Michael’s advice to Jim.

MICHAEL’S LAST DUNDIES…best known for: “9,986,000 Minutes.”

  1. WEIGHT LOSS (S5/E1-2) vs. 9. BASKETBALL (S1/E5)

WEIGHT LOSS…best known for: Jim’s proposal to Pam.

BASKETBALL…best known for: “Secret Weapon” Stanley.

  1. FINALE (S9/E24-25) vs. 12. BRANCH WARS (S4/E10)

FINALE…best known for: Michael’s return.

BRANCH WARS…best known for: This incredibly awkward conversation between Jim and Karen.

  1. SCOTT’S TOTS (S6/E12) vs. 13. BEN FRANKLIN (S3/E15)

SCOTT’S TOTS…best known for: Being the most polarizing episode of the show.

BEN FRANKLIN…best known for: Dwight’s interrogation of the Ben Franklin impersonator.

  1. THE FIRE (S2/E4) vs. 11. SEXUAL HARRASSMENT (S2/E2)

 THE FIRE…best known for: “RYAN STARTED THE FIRE!”

SEXUAL HARASSMENT…best known for: The debut of Todd Packer.

  1. SAFETY TRAINING (S3/E20) vs. 14. THE DUEL (S5/E12)

SAFETY TRAINING…best known for: The stress of Michael’s modern office causing him to go into depression.

THE DUEL…best known for: Andy using his Prius as a weapon.

  1. NIAGARA (S6/E4-5) vs. 10. DIWALI (S3/E6)

NIAGARA…best known for: Jim and Pam’s wedding.

DIWALI…best known for: Michael proposing to Carol.

  1. STRESS RELIEF (S5/E14-15) vs. 15. PDA (S7/E16)

 STRESS RELIEF…best known for: The fire drill gone wrong. And the CPR demonstration gone wrong.

PDA…best known for: Kevin enjoying Michael and Holly’s PDA.

 

NASHUA REGION – ROUND OF 64

Nashua Region

  1. DINNER PARTY (S4/E13) vs. 16. CASUAL FRIDAY (S5/E26)

DINNER PARTY…best known for: Jan breaking Michael’s flat screen TV.

CASUAL FRIDAY…best known for: Kevin’s Famous Chili.

  1. THE JOB (S3/E24-25) vs. 9. MICHAEL’S BIRTHDAY (S3/E19)

THE JOB…best known for: Jim asking Pam out.

MICHAEL’S BIRTHDAY…best known for: Michael’s birthday call to Jan.

  1. CAFÉ DISCO (S5/E27) vs. 12. THE MERGER (S3/E8)

CAFÉ DISCO…best known for: Michael’s dancing.

THE MERGER…best known for: “Lazy Scranton.”

  1. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT (S7/E17) vs. 13. CHAIR MODEL (S4/E14)

THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT…best known for: “The Scarn.”

CHAIR MODEL…best known for: Phyllis trying to set up Michael with her friend.

  1. THE CONVICT (S3/E9) vs. 11. FRAME TOBY (S5/E9)

 THE CONVICT…best known for: Prison Mike.

FRAME TOBY…best known for: Michael’s reaction to Toby’s return.

  1. GOODBYE, MICHAEL (S7/E22) vs. 14. MONEY (S4/E7-8)

GOODBYE, MICHAEL…best known for: Being the episode that should have been the series finale.

MONEY…best known for: “I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!!!”

  1. PRODUCT RECALL (S3/E21) vs. 10. TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY (S2/E18)

PRODUCT RECALL…best known for: Jim impersonating Dwight.

TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY…best known for: Stanley yelling at Ryan.

  1. GAY WITCH HUNT (S3/E1) vs. 15. HEALTH CARE (S1/E3)

GAY WITCH HUNT…best known for: Michael kissing Oscar.

HEALTH CARE…best known for: Dwight’s health care investigation.

 

UTICA REGION – ROUND OF 64

utica region

  1. DIVERSITY DAY (S1/E2) vs. 16. DID I STUTTER? (S4/E16)

 DIVERSITY DAY…best known for: The index card game.

DID I STUTTER?…best known for: Stanley erupting at Michael.

  1. BACK FROM VACATION (S3/E12) vs. 9. FUN RUN (S4/E1-2)

BACK FROM VACATION…best known for: The topless photo of Jan.

FUN RUN…best known for: Michael hitting Meredith with his car.

  1. THE CONVENTION (S3/E2) vs. 12. GARAGE SALE (S7/E19)

THE CONVENTION…best known for: “I hope it’s urine.”

GARAGE SALE…best known for: Michael proposing to Holly.

  1. BUSINESS SCHOOL (S3/E17) vs. 13. GOODBYE, TOBY (S4/E18-19)

BUSINESS SCHOOL…best known for: Michael showing up to Pam’s art show.

GOODBYE, TOBY…best known for: Holly thinking Kevin is mentally challenged.

  1. COCKTAILS (S3/E18) vs. 11. TRAVELING SALESMEN (S3/E13)

COCKTAILS…best known for: Dwight inspecting David Wallace’s house.

TRAVELING SALESMEN…best known for: Ryan taking the lead on the sales pitch.

  1. THE DEPOSITION (S4/E12) vs. 14. DRUG TESTING (S2/E20)

THE DEPOSITION…best known for: Michael pushing Toby’s tray.

DRUG TESTING…best known for: Jim convincing Dwight that he smoked the joint.

  1. INITATION (S3/E5) vs. 10. BROKE (S5/E25)

INITIATION…best known for: Pretzel Day.

BROKE…best known for: “Well, well, well…how the turntables…”

  1. THE DUNDIES (S2/E1) vs. 15. COMPANY PICNIC (S5/E28)

THE DUNDIES…best known for: Pam’s acceptance speech.

COMPANY PICNIC…best known for: Jim and Pam realizing she’s pregnant.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE

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Should We Be Excited For WESTWORLD Season 2?

Westworld 2

I suppose now that my HBOGo has temporarily stopped working in the middle of my Westworld rewatch, it’s as good a time as any to write this up. HBO flexed on us all and dropped their Season 2 trailer during the Super Bowl. Twitter caught fire, Facebook caught fire, even Neopet Island is probably burning (RIPinpeace). We were afforded a quick break from the 24-hour news cycle based around the geopolitical landscape that has purposefully bastardized itself into pop-entertainment and created a distrusting, uninformed public. BUT, I’ll give that rant another time, it’s all very disconcerting.

Getting back on track…the large majority seems super pumped for the show to return, though not all were jazzed about the trailer itself. So, Westworld Season 2, let’s talk about it.

Right off the bat, let’s just discuss how crazy this is. I have invented a brand new type of blog post, addressing whether or not to be excited for something new. Instead of taking a paycheck for it I will be receiving 20% off the back end. Now putting my finances and incredible inventions aside, hear my words, children.

Westworld is a complicated subject for me. On our old podcast, I proclaimed that it would win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. And ultimately, I was uhhhhh…wrong. Which I completely understand, because my biggest takeaway after Season 1 was a huge feeling of disappointment. The trailers for the first season were jaw dropping, I was so incredibly excited for it. The involvement of Jonathan Nolan, the variety of big screen actors, the promise of gunslingers and whores, what could be better?

But like I said, I was disappointed. V disappointed. V V disappointed, if I’m being completely honest with myself. I thought this was going to be the series of the year, if not the decade. I thought that HBO had seamlessly created their next big hit in preparation for the post-Game Of Thrones world. Well, all of that expectation played a major part in my final opinions of the show. I hopped aboard the hype train and when it didn’t deliver what I was looking for I was quick to write it off. Westworld is not as bad as I thought immediately following the season, but I’m going to walk you through some of the very real problems it has.

My most minimal complaint: the NOLAN-STYLE EXPOSITION DUMPS. The world within the show that they present to us has so many profound differences from ours; they need to establish the rules as soon as possible to help us enjoy it. Upon rewatching, however, these exposition dumps are GLARING. If you’ve never noticed that Chris and John Nolan favor pretty overt exposition scenes in their films, you won’t be able to unsee it now. A confused character, an outsider, a new guy: they all represent the viewer and get to ask the questions that the viewer would ask. The wiser character onscreen explains the rules of the universe and voila! We get to kick back and enjoy it from that point forward. They shell out massive details about backstory and plot just so we can catch up.

With Westworld specifically this creates a larger problem. This show is like a parfait, there are a ton of layers. With each layer comes different rules, different backstory, and different intrigue that needs to be set up. For example, we get exposition about the real world, and then about the people in the real world. We get a shit ton of exposition about the park, and then hosts within the park. Then we start getting exposition from and about the humans within the park. And this goes on and on for the first few episodes and serves as pretty ineffectual storytelling. This technique might work for a 2-hour feature film but it really sucks you out of a TV show, especially when it’s right out of the gate.

A bigger issue: THE STORY IS KINDA FUCKING DUMB. Don’t get me wrong, certain elements are fascinating. Machines on the quest for awareness and intelligence, great. There’s a lot of meat in that. But following the least attractive Hemsworth (maybe he’s the friendliest, idk) brother as he apprehensively walks around the park and then literally disappears while no one addresses the head of security vanishing — kinda fucking dumb, dude! How about the story arc of Lee Sizemore? Oh, you don’t know who Lee Sizemore is? Obviously that’s the sign of a great character within a great story! Lee Sizemore was the angry little developer that was trying to head a coup and overthrow Ford. Do you remember where his plot line ends? Me neither! And it’s upsetting because this wasn’t sleight of hand. They weren’t drawing our eyes to one side while having the real story creep up from the other. They were attempting to thicken the world but it ultimately meant so little.

And Sylvester and Lutz (the two scientists that give Maeve way too much leeway which results in mass human murder and possible total robot overthrow and genocide) make a series of the dumbest possible decisions in the realm of character. The story needs to get to its final destination though, so someone has to make these dumb decisions. The story, in its current form, NECESSITATES stupid/unlikeable characters. Maybe it’s a commentary on human hubris? Except eh, because it is a story about human hubris, just not in that way. We created our own replacements, we can’t fathom intelligence rising and surpassing us, what does it mean to truly be alive? All great questions, but tech specialists not resetting a host once she has the ability to murder humans? Blahhhh.

While John Nolan’s contributions to “Christopher Nolan” films go largely unappreciated by most people, his work is usually great. But if you think that stories like the one found in Inception are brilliant and everyone who doesn’t appreciate them are just idiots, then I wouldn’t be surprised if this is your favorite show. Inception is far superior to Westworld, but each is pretty heady in its own way. Westworld is complicated like a maze, okay yeah like a maze. Except this maze also has fire shooting from the walls, kind of a hat on a hat.

Now we’re entering the most important spoiler territory: the BIG twist of the season. It turns out that we’re watching multiple timelines and that William is the Man In Black. I did not think this was executed well. In this media age, people sniffed it out from the first episode. I was mostly onboard the denial train, because this wasn’t a clean getaway. There are mistakes in the timelines, some that can’t be explained away by “employees are hosts.” Two general rules for a good twist: you have to make a clean getaway because people can rewatch whenever and look for your mistakes, and you have to provide such a strong story that even the most discerning of people don’t look for twist — because they’re so enraptured in the story that you put in front of them. The latter is the trick.

HBO seems to favor the “big twist” ending to shows. When that’s your m.o. you need to come up with new and inventive takes. The best way to do that seems to be, hire me to write your movie and give me the life I deserve. That’s just a fact. That’s completely without bias.

If Westworld is your favorite show, cool. I’m not going to take anything away from you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I want every show, every movie, to be great. I just can’t be complicit in pretending that this show is objectively great. It is good. The production value is off the charts, and the fact that they could pull it off as well as they did was an amazing achievement. I’m just spoiled and expected more.

To answer the initial question: “should we be excited for Season 2?” Plain and simp — yes. Watching it for the second time, it’s much easier to take a step back from criticism and enjoy the ride. It’s an impressive technical feat with strong performances and fascinating themes. I’ll enter Season 2 with tempered expectations and go with the flow. Get your milk ready for April 22nd.

Oh…and the THEME! The music on this show is perfect.

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Arie Was A Good Bachelor

Arie 2

THE MOST DRAMATIC HEADLINE IN BACHELOR HISTORY RIGHT THERE FOLKS. Ok, so maybe that’s an overexaggeration, but it’s definitely not an opinion shared by most of the fellow citizens of Bachelor Nation. Arie Luyendyk Jr., the 21st Bachelor in the history of this beautiful franchise, has been getting absolutely crucified by fans over the past few days in a way that none of his predecessors had been following the conclusions of their seasons. And it’s not totally unjustified Internet rage. In case you’ve spent the past 72 hours living under a Twitter rock, or a Twock (don’t use that), then allow me to catch you up to speed. By the finale, Arie had professed his love for the final two contestants: Becca Kufrin, the likable and “ready for marriage” option, and Lauren Burnham, the hottest option from Day 1 who just so happens to have zero original thoughts. Determined to follow the rules of the show and propose by the end of the season, Arie surprised most fans by choosing the safe route and popping the question to Becca. She instantaneously said yes, and we soon learned that they were happily engaged for about two months following the proposal….or at least it seemed that way to Becca. Arie was internally agonizing over his decision. After a private conversation with Lauren, Arie decided to give it a shot with her before it was too late. And here’s the kicker…HE ALSO ALLOWED THE CAMERAS TO CAPTURE THE ENTIRE BREAKUP WITH BECCA.

I’m not kidding when I say it was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever watched on television. It lasted about an hour, even though Becca told Arie to leave around the five-minute mark. It nearly broke social media, with people sending threats to Arie and Chris Harrison for allowing it to unfold before our eyes. But not me. I want to personally thank both of them. BECAUSE THIS IS THE BACHELOR WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. THIS IS WHY WE WATCH. Go watch 60 Minutes or some shit if you’re preoccupied about being a good person. It was drama and entertainment in its purest form. (And, for the record, Becca is doing just fine.) Which, at the end of the day, isn’t that the reason we tune in in the first place?

That’s a good question, PJ. Entertainment value is definitely one of the methods we should use to measure Bachelors and their seasons, but it isn’t the only one. Everyone has their own standards for grading these suitors, but here are the core four that I consider:

  1. Was he qualified to be the Bachelor?

This takes into account his job, his history within the franchise, and whether or not he is handsome enough to carry the torch. Basically, does he deserve this honor?

  1. Was he serious about being the Bachelor?

This show is infinitely more interesting when the protagonist is genuinely looking for a wife. It sets up way more drama, because these people are all terrible actors and it’s obvious when they are just pretending to go along with the narrative. Take that bullshit to Bachelor in Paradise.

  1. Was he a good guy?

This is a tough one. Ideally we want our Bachelor to be someone worth rooting for, but you have to balance that against the risk of a boring season. Some of the best Bachelors in the show’s history were dickheads. But with that being said, there’s no way to spin misogyny, verbal abuse, or general disrespect as a good thing.

  1. Finally and most importantly, did he anchor an entertaining season?

Once again…it’s the reason we watch.

 

So now that we know the ground rules, let’s put Arie to the test. We’ll stack him up against each of the five Bachelors who predated him, going back to Sean Lowe because that’s just about when social media took this show to another level. (It’s also when I started paying attention again.) GET YOUR ROSES READY.

 

Was Arie qualified to be the Bachelor?

Best Recent Example: It’s probably Arie.

Worst Recent Example: Nick Viall

You have to go pretty far back into the archives to find a hard yes to this question. Among our most recent Bachelors are a 27 year-old software salesman, a farmer from Iowa, and a man who struggled with the English language. And we were also fresh off the season of Nick Viall, a debatably good-looking Salesforce employee who had already been through THREE difference chances at love within the franchise. So yes, Arie was a good choice to have the title bestowed upon him. The initial feedback wasn’t exactly positive, but that wasn’t because people were upset with the decision. We were just completely thrown off. It had been over five years since he finished as the runner-up on Emily Maynard’s season of The Bachelorette, and EVERYBODY was expecting Peter Kraus from Rachel Lindsay’s season. But in hindsight, the producers made the right call. I like Peter, but he was pretty boring and only lost because he was openly critical of the expedited nature of the show. Not sure if that’s the guy you want with the power. As for Arie, he was well liked despite his weird “kissing bandit” reputation, and professional racecar driver is elite when it comes to Bachelor occupations (even if he sucked at it).

Verdict: Absolutely.

 

Was Arie serious about being the Bachelor?

Best Recent Example: Sean Lowe

Worst Recent Example: Juan Pablo Galavis

We’ve seen both extremes of the spectrum on this one lately. At the “yes” end, you have Sean Lowe, who respected the process and is still happily married to the winner of his season. Right behind him is Ben Higgins, who broke the rules by telling two women that he loves them but also still seems genuinely distraught over his broken engagement with (Real) Lauren B. On the far other end is Juan Pablo, who was clearly there to hook up (shoutout the ocean sex with Clare) and dismissed all of the girls telling him that he doesn’t deserve love with his trademark “ees ok.” And Nick Viall isn’t far behind him, because it didn’t take long to realize that he was way more into the status of being the Bachelor than actually finding a wife. Arie is somewhere in between all of these guys. He too told two women that he loves them, and opting to have the cameras rolling for his post-show breakup proved that he had a pretty major taste for drama. Keeping around a 22 year-old for the majority of the show also raised a red flag. Still, I’m giving Arie the benefit of the doubt here. He sent home women as soon as he didn’t see a future with them (for the most part), and he handed out multiple one-on-one dates to the women he was clearly the most interested in. Oh yeah, and his proposal to (Fake) Lauren B tells us that he didn’t back out of his initial engagement just for entertainment purposes.

Verdict: Not the most serious, but yes he cared.

 

Was Arie a good guy?

Best Recent Example: Ben Higgins

Worst Example: Juan Pablo Galavis

I’m not gonna try too hard to sugarcoat this: the answer is no. Even though he was on his best behavior for the first 10 episodes of the season, Arie undid all of it and more with his performance in the finale. It was seriously that bad. I know I’ve already covered it, but the way he went about the breakup with Becca was just so, so bad. Pretty much every former Bachelor and Bachelorette validated that he had the option not to do it in front of the cameras too. But that’s not even what concerned me the most about it. How about Arie just turning into an emotionless sociopath out of nowhere in the moment where he needed more empathy than ever? I’m still so confused what happened to him in that moment. He said his feelings towards Becca changed when they were “hanging out”…dude you were ENGAGED for two months. Or how about when Becca was emptying her tear ducts in the bathroom about a half hour post-breakup when Arie had the audacity to ask her “are you ok?” I get that this was an extremely tough moment for him to compassionately execute, but it seems pretty indicative of his true character that he seemed so slightly concerned about the news that he was breaking to Becca.

Even with all of that though, I don’t really think Arie is a bad guy deep down. He’ll deservedly have a dark shadow cast over his season forever, but he came off as a nice guy for most of it. He handled his first 28 breakups well, and all of the women in the mansion seemed to genuinely like him. He was totally respectable to each of the four families that he met with, and he didn’t start any controversy whatsoever before the finale. Yeah I know…it all comes down to the Becca breakup. But for what it’s worth, he wasn’t the first Bachelor to change his mind. And he actually handled it better than the first guy, Jason Mesnick, who broke up with his then-fiance across the couch from Chris Harrison during After The Final Rose. (For the record, Jason absolutely made the right decision. 15 year-old PJ was absolutely in love with Molly, and Jason is still married to her.) Arie probably doesn’t deserve this consolation prize either, but there have been recent Bachelors with objectively worse temperaments too. I already covered Juan Pablo, Nick was a narcissistic asshole, and just take a quick look at Jake Pavelka if you wanna go back a little farther. I mean, I’m not even sure they’d be allowed to air this kind of behavior anymore. So while Arie wasn’t even the worst we’ve seen in the past few years, all of your “Arie is literally all guys in 2018 #fuccboi” tweets were fair game.

Verdict: No, but his douchebaggery is getting overblown.

 

Did Arie anchor an entertaining season?

Best Recent Example: Juan Pablo Galavis

Worst Recent Example: Chris Soules

I’ve already said it: some of the most entertaining Bachelors in history were some of the worst at it. Looking right at you, Juan Pablo. And some of the nicest guys to ever have the platform, like Ben Higgins and especially Chris Soules, ended up on the boring side of things. As for Arie, his season was pretty entertaining, even before the finale. Yes, part of that is probably due to the fact that we were coming off a series low point with Nick’s season, but Arie deserves props for bringing the show back to its roots. He maintained control throughout while keeping around contestants for almost always the proper amount of time. We’ve seen villains last too short and too long in recent years, but Arie entertained the idea of Kyrstal for just about the perfect length. He was articulate, blunt when he needed to be, had a solid sense of humor, and brought along the finest wink game the show has ever seen. And this is a guy who brought a taxidermist to the fantasy suite…he kept it interesting.

Don’t get me wrong…Arie had his drawbacks. It’s been years since we’ve had a cringier Bachelor. I wanted to die whenever he whispered or opened the door with “hiiiii” or asked a girl in the highest octave voice “what’s wrooooong?” And sure, he loses some points for ending up with a girl that 0.1% of viewers were hoping that he’d end up with. But let’s not act like the finale goes in the cons column for this category. In fact, it’s the biggest pro. It was the most purely entertaining Bachelor moment…maybe ever? And this franchise NEEDED it. I know the show isn’t in danger or anything, but I’m pretty confident that it had slipped over the past few years and that the producers knew it. I personally know a ton of fans that dropped out after Nick and Rachel’s shitty seasons, so when you extrapolate that it’s likely way more fans were lost than gained. I don’t have the numbers to back that up, but I think I’m right considering the show decided to run a spinoff AGAINST ITSELF near the peak of this season. None of that will be the case for the near future. The show is back in a big way, and it has Arie to thank for that.

Verdict: Without a doubt.

 

So with positive grades in three of the four qualifying categories, Arie checks out as a strong Bachelor. Definitely not perfect, but fans should remember him fondly. I thank him for his contributions.

 

If you were wondering, here’s how I rank the Bachelors discussed above:

  1. Sean Lowe
  2. Arie Luyendyk Jr.
  3. Ben Higgins
  4. Juan Pablo Galavis
  5. Chris Soules
  6. Nick Viall
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The Up-To-Date, Best-On-The-Internet Guide To Binging Black Mirror (AKA My Personal Rankings)

Unless you live under a rock or in a dystopia where you sleep in a boxed room with advertisement-laced screens for walls, then you are at least familiar with Black Mirror by now. It is Charlie Brooker’s masterpiece series that poses questions of what not-so-distant futures would look like if certain technologies advanced beyond our control, and more importantly asks how humans would instinctually react in the face of these technological adversities. “The Twilight Zone for millennials” is how your uncle would probably describe it. The tone ranges from funny to thrilling to just plain dark, but above all else, each chapter is seriously thought-provoking in its own unique way. For fans like me, it has become an absolute obsession, which I’m well aware is setting up perfectly for a meta finale centered on the Black Mirror community who treat the show as a way of life.

Part of the beauty of the show is its anthology format, meaning each episode is completely independent of one another. Now, unless there is an actor or director attached to one of these episodes that prompts you to watch that entry first, you probably would have no idea where to properly begin your journey. Allow me to serve as your cookie and help out (nailed that reference…you’ll get it soon.)

Almost every episode has a major twist and is way more fun if you have no clue what’s about to go down, so I’ll keep reviews simple for all of the newbies. I will include spoiler-filled sections though, because these are essentially my personal rankings and debating Black Mirror with fellow fanatics has become a hobby of mine. So whether you’re watching for the first time or the tenth time, go forth and enjoy!

1. “The Entire History Of You” (Season 1, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: I’d say there are four of five Black Mirror classics, but this is the only one of that group that embodies everything we love about the show. In an alternate reality where everyone has devices implanted in their brains that allows them to rewind and stream memories, how far down the rabbit hole would you go to potentially prove suspicions about a loved one, even if it meant tearing apart everything that matters to you? Would you be able to resist those feelings of jealousy and paranoia? Black Mirror has tackled the subject of memory in a few episodes now, but this spin is still the most original and chilling.

entire history of you

For The Veterans: Fucking Jonas. That name is forever ruined for me. I’ll never forget my feelings of doubt and embarrassment for Liam slowly turning into “oh no…oh no…oh god no he’s actually right.” It’s been nearly two years since watching this episode for the first time, and I still have absolutely no idea what I would have done in his shoes.

2. “San Junipero” (Season 3, Episode 4)

For The Rookies: The episode that officially brought Black Mirror into the mainstream, with some assists from the Emmys and Saturday Night Live. It’s commonly called “the happy one,” although that totally shortchanges the script and isn’t even all that true. The story seesaws between beautiful and heartbreaking and poses the deepest of deep questions. Would you spend your afterlife on loop in a virtual paradise or roll the dice on the natural outcome? What if your loved ones didn’t get the chance to make that same decision? And good luck getting “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” out of your head!

san junipero

For The Veterans: Kelly and Yorkie forever. One of the best love stories ever produced on television, I can’t even begin to describe my rush of emotions once those credits rolled and we found out that Kelly chose her. It’s like the “Red Wedding” episode of Games Of Thrones in the sense that it’s impossible to overstate just how shocking the ending was at the time. Oh, and you bet your ASS that I’m picking San Junipero if I’m in Kelly’s deathbed.

3. “Be Right Back” (Season 2, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: So I settled on the order of this list through a mixture of objectivity and subjectivity, which is the reason that “Be Right Back” clocks in at only third. While I absolutely adore this episode, I might be underselling it because it could definitely be called the best episode of the series. Would you bring back a deceased loved one if he/she left some of himself/herself behind? It is truly a spectacle to watch and features what is legitimately some of the best acting I have ever seen from Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson. And it’s just about as emotionally gutting as it sounds.

be right back

For The Veterans: That scene on the cliff. My god. I’m getting teary-eyed just writing about it. Do I buy the idea that Martha would let the daughter visit the clone of her father? I guess so…beats her stumbling upon him during a game of hide-and-seek. Do I buy the idea that Martha isn’t breaking Robot Ash out of the attic every other night to take advantage of his jackhammer abilities? Uhhh no.

4. “Hang The DJ” (Season 4, Episode 4)

For The Rookies: I love this episode so much. If you told me prior to the season that Black Mirror would be taking its magnifying glass to dating apps, I’d be irrationally excited. And “Hang The DJ” still exceeded all expectations for an episode of its kind. Depending on the kind of person you are, you will either immediately sign up for eHarmony or delete your Bumble account following this essential hour of television.

hang the dj

For The Veterans: I knew the twist had to be coming, and they laid out a bunch of clues along the way, but I was still so pleasantly surprised when it finally happened. And you better believe that I was smiling like an idiot during the real-life meeting in that final scene. Considering the perfect chemistry between Frank and Amy, I’m assuming the 0.2% of simulations that didn’t end in rebellion were due to Frank killing himself after a year of a forced relationship with that one nightmare of a girl.

5. “USS Callister” (Season 4, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: Another gem from Season 4, “USS Callister” is nothing short of an accomplishment. Its 76-minute running time allows it to address more than the average episode, but it still effectively explores so many themes without feeling overstuffed. The episode has star power, is extremely topical, looks amazing, and happens to be really funny in a super twisted way. Only Black Mirror can have an episode get this dark while still touchingly paying tribute to Star Trek.

uss callister

For The Veterans: Lesson learned: be nice to the tech guy in your office. This episode does such a good job of having us buy into Daly as a simply misunderstood guy just to suddenly reveal that he’s actually the Harvey Weinstein of cyberspace. I do think the plot has some flaws – how does the smartest coder in the world miss a backdoor in his own simulated reality that leaves him vulnerable to permanent entrapment? Still, the rebellion led by Lt. Cole is so exciting and ultimately rewarding that all faults can easily be overlooked.

6. “White Christmas” (Season 2.5)

For The Rookies: Maybe the most ambitious chapter of the series, even to this day. It has a 74-minute running time and doesn’t waste a single second, considering it’s essentially three mini-episodes squeezed into one holiday special. There’s so much to break down with this plot, but at the same time there’s almost too much to tease. It might sound like I’m of the opinion that this episode tried to do too much, but I actually think it all comes together in a pretty compelling fashion. Oh, and Jon Hamm stars in it…just trust me on this one.

white christmas

For The Veterans: Where to begin? The first vignette, the one where Jon Hamm’s character accidentally coaches a man into a murder-suicide, could have been an episode on its own. The second vignette, with Talisa from Game Of Thrones playing the digital copy of a rich woman stuck inside an Alexa-like product, is horrifying in a good way, but also underdeveloped and improved upon by future episodes. The final vignette, which reveals why the two men are at the outpost in the first place, is the highlight of the episode. The resulting two-part twist is both a hit and a miss. From the perspective of Rafe Spall’s character, it’s absolutely devastating and a nightmare to consider. But for Hamm’s character, it feels kinda weak and anticlimactic.

7. “Nosedive” (Season 3, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: The premise of “Nosedive” is one that you might’ve discussed with friends with some possible marijuana involvement: what if we judged each other in our daily interactions on the Uber five-star scale? The bright color palette fits perfectly with the episode’s materialistic tone, even if they both make you want to throw a brick at your TV by the end of it. If you choose to watch chronologically, then you’re definitely gonna be thrown off by an episode written by The Office and Parks and Recreation alumni. But it’s a great introduction to what Netflix brings to Black Mirror. nosedive

For The Veterans: I know a lot of people don’t love the ending. It’s definitely predictable and barely qualifies as a twist, but I’m cool with it. Bryce Dallas Howard is amazing in that wedding speech scene, and the final shots from the jail cells really stuck with me. Also shoutout Alice Eve, who’s just delightful in everything she’s in.

8. “The National Anthem” (Season 1, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: The episode that got it all started, and Charlie Brooker definitely didn’t choose to lay up with his first shot off the tee. I sincerely apologize for this graphic image, but it’s the question this episode asks (in modern American terms): if a universally beloved figure, say Reese Witherspoon, was kidnapped and her captor’s only demand was for the President to bone a pig on live TV, would you expect him to do it? And on top of that, would you watch? Yup…things get real FAST. It’s captivating stuff and speaks volumes to modern societies, but I rank it closer to the middle of the pack than the top. Black Mirror doesn’t have to go total sci-fi to succeed, but this chapter still just doesn’t feel much like Black Mirror. An undoubtedly great episode of television, but not where I’d recommend you start.

the national anthem

For The Veterans: Still one of the best twists, and I still feel like an idiot for not catching it before it went down. Bravo to Brooker and Co. for making the audience feel like just another person at the bar watching the pig fucking.

9. “Metalhead” (Season 4, Episode 5)

For The Rookies: A ton of fans probably don’t have kind things to say about “Metalhead,” but I really like this episode! I’ll just get out in front of what makes it different: it’s shot in black-and-white and it’s the series’ shortest with a 41-minute running time. That’s probably what so many people hate about the episode, but I thought the minimalistic strategy was risky in a good way. I can also tell you entirely what the episode is about, because that’s revealed right off the bat: humans are running for their lives from murderous robot dogs. That’s it, and it’s awesome! And Boston Dynamics…hey idiots…keep this shut down forever, ok?

metalhead

For The Veterans: There really isn’t too much else to discuss because of how straightforward this episode is. I was momentarily confused why the woman chose to attack the dog that was blinded by paint, but then a few minutes later it made sense once it was revealed that more dogs were on the way. The teddy bear twist also totally worked for me.

10. “Black Museum” (Season 4, Episode 6)

For The Rookies: Arguably the most polarizing episode of the show. I’ve seen a lot of people whose opinions I trust call it Season 4’s best episode, while I’ve also seen a ton of reviews calling it a series low point. I fall somewhere in the middle, because I really enjoyed the episode but also recognize its glaring weaknesses. I can’t really preview anything from the story without giving something away, so my only advice to first-timers is that “White Christmas” is required watching first, because “Black Museum” rips off its structure to a point where it would be copyright infringement if done by a different show.

black museum

For The Veterans: OK, I’ll start with the bad. I didn’t like either of the first two asides that Rolo narrated. The pain addict story just made zero sense to me. I almost think it was supposed to be parody of some sort, but if not then good lord that sucked. And as for the dude who signed up to have his comatose wife’s consciousness put inside his brain…how the hell did he think that was going to go?! He voluntarily signed up for schizophrenia! And even Rolo’s side comments like the boner joke…beyond cringe-worthy. So if you’re wondering why I really liked the episode, it’s because the twist is that good. It was set up perfectly and registered as a full 10/10 on the satisfaction scale. I think the final scene with the stuffed monkey being put in the front seat and Nish’s mom being implanted in her brain (did she not learn the lesson of that story?) was really cheesy, but oh well.

11. “Men Against Fire” (Season 3, Episode 5)

For The Rookies: This episode is pretty consistently ranked near the bottom of similar lists, but I think it’s a bit underrated. It takes place in a post-genocide dystopia brought on by the American military, so it’s probably not surprising that “Men Against Fire” focuses on possible advancements in military technology, which I think is a fascinating subject. It’s a powerful episode that places the Black Mirror microscope on the ruthlessness of the people in charge of American institutions.

men against fire

For The Veterans: Yes, the overall message of the episode is heavy-handed and essentially exists as a middle finger to American military strategy. And yes, the twist is kinda obvious and is executed way too early. But the reveal that the “roaches” are actually genocide survivors is still devastating and works as a painfully effective metaphor for how certain leaders view certain groups of people. Take your pick which scene is more emotionally crushing: the one where Stripe is forced to watch his murders on loop, or his return home to what’s actually a rundown shack.

12. “Hated In The Nation” (Season 3, Episode 6)

For The Rookies: This episode is probably better than a few in front of it on this list, but I’m sorry…it’s just way too long. Clocking in at an hour and a half, it’s still the longest of the chapters (besides “Bandersnatch”) when it really didn’t need to be. It’s paced perfectly for a murder mystery, but there are just some elements of the story that felt like fluff to me. But like I was saying, “Hated In The Nation” is still great and finally gave us the Black Mirror spin on social media that we had been waiting for. Just get ready for what’s practically a movie when you sit down to watch this episode.

hated in the nation

For The Veterans: You KNOW that you or one of your friends would’ve participated in the #DeathTo hashtag. While the twist is incredible, this is the worst episode to watch with your parents, just because of the inevitable “you know you’re never really protected behind a keyboard” lesson during the ending credits. And I know from memes that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate, but did we really need the Black Mirror take on colony collapse disorder?

13. “Striking Vipers” (Season 5, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: The only solid entry from Season 5, “Striking Vipers” has all the makings for a classic episode. It has a bona fide star in Anthony Mackie, the director of two of the top three episodes on this list, and insanely impressive visuals and effects. The central idea is great too, diving DEEP into masculinity through VR erotica. So why does it only land at #13? Because “Striking Vipers” plays it disappointingly safe, and that’s especially frustrating in an episode where two best friends are syncing into a video game to hook up with one another.

striking vipers

For The Veterans: I do think this episode is good, but man it could have been GREAT. The scene where Danny and Karl kiss in person is so ambiguous that I don’t even know what they were trying to say. And when a hard stance is finally taken on a theme, it happens during the credits and focuses on…monogamy? Super random.

14. “White Bear” (Season 2, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: Ahhh, “White Bear.” The story opens with a woman waking up in a house with no recollection of how she got there, only to go outside to find other people either hunting her or filming her. So basically, a woman lives an actual nightmare. But considering this is Black Mirror, you can correctly guess that there’s more to it than that. I’m not at liberty to divulge what that is, but just know that you’re probably gonna be sitting in silence for a few minutes after this one.

white bear

For The Veterans: It’s been nearly six years since this episode was released, and it’s still widely debated by the “love it” and “hate it” camps. Personally I lean more towards the latter camp, although I totally get the appeal. While you can’t really dispute against this twist being the most disturbing, you can definitely argue that it’s still the best that the show has ever pulled off. My thing is, it just took so long to pull out the rug from underneath us that I was almost bored during the first 30 minutes. And as for the twist itself, it lasted so long that my “HOLY SHIT” reaction had time to devolve into “oh ok” before the episode was over. Some critics probably have ethical issues either empathizing with a child murderer or publicly torturing someone against their will, but this is Black Mirror we’re talking about. I actually think “White Bear” offers one of the more accurate representations of our culture, because I am positive that I know people who would willingly participate in this social experiment on a nightly basis.

15. “Fifteen Million Merits” (Season 1, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: Another reason why I’d recommend binging in this order instead of chronological order is the show’s suggested back-to-back of “The National Anthem” into “Fifteen Million Merits.” It goes directly from the most tech-absent episode into what is by far the most sci-fi entry in the series, and it might catch you off guard. This episode takes place in a dystopia where humans are relied upon to pedal stationary bikes in order to generate electricity, which in turn earns them virtual currency called “merits.” Merits can be spent sparingly on vending machines or to skip advertisements on the television walls within bedrooms, or they can be spent in bulk to participate in a talent competition that offers the only escape from this indentured servitude. I actually think this is one of the most profound episodes of the series, and you get an A+ performance from Daniel Kaluuya in it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t blame you for writing it off as too weird.

fifteen million merits

For The Veterans: I struggle a lot with this episode, because I think it manages to simultaneously be ahead of its time while falling victim to not aging well. The final twist is BRUTAL and yet so good, and left me permanently paranoid that politicians have the leaders of the resistance movements against them on their payroll. Also something I didn’t remember until a recent rewatch…how about Black Mirror low key exposing the Harvey Weinstein types six years early in the scene where Abi has her drink spiked then is peer pressured into doing porn? Still, I really dislike a lot of the technical aspects of this episode. I’m not too sure why the show assumes that Wii avatars and shows styled like The Wiggles will be staples of our future culture. And while American Idol and X Factor were huge when this episode was released, we’ve fortunately started to move past shows where people publicly try their hardest to prove their talents just to face judgment from millions of viewers at home.

16. “Shut Up And Dance” (Season 3, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: I actually kinda like this episode, but I admit that I am overrating it despite its ranking at #15. It’s not particularly good. In a way the events of this episode are strangely relatable, considering we are shown in the first few minutes that our teenage protagonist is a normal kid who rides his bikes to and from his restaurant job. But then he downloads some shit he shouldn’t have downloaded, and all hell breaks loose. Sure, it’s well acted (Bronn!) and definitely exciting, but it doesn’t really offer any insight whatsoever. I just don’t understand its purpose outside of terrifying every single person who watches it.

shut up and dance

For The Veterans: If “Shut Up And Dance” is one of your favorites (which I know is the case for a lot of fans), that’s all good. You and I just happen to like Black Mirror for different reasons then. The climax of this episode is absolutely bananas. The kid LITERALLY MURDERS a man. So yeah, I’d argue it’s way more nonsensical than thoughtful. Like, what was the message here? That some people are just dicks? That we shouldn’t watch kiddie porn? Um…got it?

17. “Arkangel” (Season 4, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: This episode asks the question that makes every 21st century teenager’s heart sink: what if your mom had one of those child tracker apps embedded into your brain as a toddler? I was SO psyched for “Arkangel” upon learning the premise of the episode, which is why I am sorry to report that I found it really underwhelming. Look, I’m not aiming to rain on any parades here. I encourage you to still watch it, and I hope you enjoy it! But aside from the acting (Rosemarie DeWitt gives an all-time Black Mirror performance), I’m not really sure what there is to like about it.

arkangel

For The Veterans: Ugh, how did this end up as such a “meh” episode??? There was SO much potential here. It just seems like every decision related to the episode’s vision was the wrong one. The mom choosing to reactivate the tablet just as her daughter was losing her virginity then later snorting coke was way too convenient. But those are minor critiques…let’s talk about that ending. It STUNK. Sara literally beating her mother over the head with the tablet was some laughably clumsy writing. And like, I get that Sara had no sense for the exact damage that she was inflicting, but how was she surprised that she was fucking up her mom’s face? And then she freaks out and decides to…hitchhike a ride? Whatever.

18. “Playtest” (Season 3, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: A lot of fans vouch for this episode, and there’s a solid chance that you’ll soon be one of those fans. But I think it’s the single-most overrated episode of the show. I was STUNNED when some people told me that this was their favorite episode of Season 3. It just does nothing for me at all. Maybe it’s because I’m not a gamer. Maybe it’s because I’m completely disinterested in virtual reality technology. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t love the horror genre. But if you feel differently about one of those qualifiers, then this could be an episode for you.

playtest

For The Veterans: I know I’ve already told you how I really feel about “Playtest,” but even from an objective standpoint I think it’s a mediocre episode of Black Mirror. I’ll acknowledge what I found great about it. The cheap-looking CGI monsters trick Cooper into thinking the haunted house isn’t so scary, only to be lured deeper into the test to have his Alzheimer’s fears exploited. That was really smart and genuinely terrifying. But the twist that reveals that Cooper actually died within a second of beginning the test is just so convoluted that it leaves the audience with the wrong kinds of questions. I’m not really sure what the social commentary of this episode is either…Cooper seems like literally the only person that would face the consequences of this technology. He goes out of his way to visit an experimental video game company and knowingly breaks the specific rules given to him. What did he expect? And what’s the overall message? To call your parents more? The whole episode is just way too clever for its own good. Oh, besides when it decides to take the simple route when Cooper casually hooks up with the hottest girl I’ve ever seen through a dating app. Honestly more unrealistic than any of the video game tests.

19. “Bandersnatch” (Season 4.5)

For The Rookies: “Bandersnatch” is…a lot of things. It’s the longest chapter of the series, with a minimum runtime of 90 minutes. It’s probably the most innovative of the bunch, being the first of the Choose Your Own Adventure variety. It’s also possibly the…dumbest? The interactive technology is definitely cool and impressively operates without any glitches, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling annoying and confusing and unnecessary all at the same time. Tie that in with a forgettable story and forgettable themes, and you have this whiff of an episode. It’s a whiff I suppose you can appreciate, but a whiff nonetheless.

bm_bandersnatch_9

For The Veterans: I might have just given “Bandersnatch” too much credit in that opening section, because this plot stinks out loud. On top of being impossible to follow and not genuinely Choose Your Own Adventure since the characters basically tell you no if you make the wrong choice, it’s just so goddamn lame. It features an unbearable amount of meta commentary, especially with the Netflix stuff. Hated that. Will Poulter’s character is cool and has the only interesting things to say on the subject of free will, but his moments are few and far between. There was definitely a massive miscalculation here, because instead of going back and watching the alternate endings when my path ran its course, I was just relieved that the episode was finally over.

20. “Smithereens” (Season 5, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: “Smithereens” is one of the few Black Mirror episodes to take place in a world that closely resembles our own, and guess what? It would have been a hell of a lot more interesting if that wasn’t the case! While this chapter is thoroughly not good, it’s more silly and annoying than offensively bad. Questioning our obsession with social media and our impulsive reactions to notifications? It’s minor league stuff. Of all the episodes to clock in at 70 minutes, it’s unfortunate that it’s one that feels more like it was written by a freshman psych student than by Charlie Brooker.

smithereens

For The Veterans: I’m repeating myself, but “Smithereens” just annoys me. The characters all suck and are thinly written — seriously, why was that mom with the dead daughter not cut out of this episode — and it’s not nearly as dramatic as the premise would imply. And what on earth was the goal with Topher Grace’s character? The not-so-subtle inclusion of a Jack Dorsey type CEO was funny, but to go fairly out of the way to sympathize for him? Weird move.

21. “Crocodile” (Season 4, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: An episode about insurance investigations that is just about as exciting as that sounds. A total dud from Season 4, “Crocodile” starts out with a genuinely interesting scene where a couple accidentally kills a biker then decides to dispose of the body. It all goes downhill from there. It’s another episode built around memory-based technology, but this take is the least cool and innovative of the bunch. Again, I encourage you to watch it and form your own opinions, as is the case with the previous 20 episodes on this list, but I’m pretty positive you won’t love this one.

crocodile

For The Veterans: Whew, I have so much to get off my chest about “Crocodile.” I’ll start with the acting, which was easily my least favorite of Season 4. And that’s coming from an Andrea Riseborough fan, but her performance was way too one-note for my liking and limited my engagement in her character. Are we positive that Mia doesn’t just get off on killing people? When it became clear that she was also going to murder the investigator’s husband (yes, her fourth kill of the episode), I was out. And THEN she decided to kill the baby. WHAT. THE. FUCK. And then we find out that the baby was blind and didn’t need to die at all, because of course he was. I seriously felt like I was being tested by this episode. Even for Black Mirror standards, it went too far and was barely even worth the watch for entertainment purposes.

22. “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” (Season 5, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: I clearly do not hold a high opinion of this episode with where I have it ranked on this list, but I do have some kind things to say about it. It’s an original idea with Miley Cyrus as the perfect casting choice to carry it out. OK, that’s actually all of the kind things I have to say. It flat out sucks. It’s terribly paced, not funny, and falls into the eye-rolling thematic trap of “pop music = bad” that’s plagued movies and TV over the past few years. You are consistently asking yourself “what the hell am I watching” throughout the episode, and not in the good Black Mirror kind of way.

ashley too

For The Veterans: Like…I think I know what Brooker was going for here? It was supposed to be a fucked-up spin on a Disney Channel original movie starring the Queen of the Disney Channel herself? But yeah…no. If Miley wanted an excuse to do Nine Inch Nails covers, she didn’t have to resort to this.

23. “The Waldo Moment” (Season 2, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: So I’ve said it a few times now, but I cannot recommend highly enough that you watch every available episode of Black Mirror. Each chapter brings something new to the table for the most part, and public opinion is so split on so many of them that you might end up really liking an episode that’s among my least favorite. HOWEVER, none of these rules apply to “The Waldo Moment.” It is the only episode of the show that has zero redeeming qualities. I’m paraphrasing here, but it essentially asks, “what if Stewie Griffin ran for President?” You can seriously just skip it.

the waldo moment

For The Veterans: This episode annoys me so much that I don’t even want to spend any more time writing about it. It is aggressively non-funny, and I’m pretty sure at least part of its purpose was to be the first comedic Black Mirror episode. And get the hell outta here with your thinkpieces on how it’s gained relevancy in the age of Trump and Brexit. It was bad in 2013, it was bad in 2016, and it’s still bad in 2020. It’s so fucking bad.

 

 

Disagree with my rankings? Or want to just tell me how smart I am? Find me on Twitter @Real_Peej

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The Most Dramatic Podcast: Season 22 Preview

The Bachelor is back and we couldn’t think of a better way to bring in 2018. We give our thoughts on Arie, all 29 of the contestants, and which of those lucky ladies we think will emerge as contenders. Whether you’re preparing for your Bachelor fantasy draft or are just a fan of the show, then listen up and follow along here.

 

 

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej and Alex at @AlexIanGarcia

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I’m Not Positive That Riverdale Is Actually Good, But You Should Definitely Be Watching It

Let the record show that I love teen dramas. I’d call them my “guilty pleasures,” but I don’t feel guilty about it whatsoever. The truth is, you probably feel the same way even if you don’t identify as a fan of the genre. So you just happened to walk into the living room right as your sister was starting new episodes of One Tree Hill? Got it. You watched Friday Night Lights only for the football scenes? Ok dude. Now I can admit that shitty teen dramas are some of the trashiest TV you’ll ever watch, but when these kinds of shows are hitting the right notes, it’s can’t-miss stuff. I maintain that Season 1 of The O.C. is one of the best television seasons of this millennium, and I kept watching Degrassi WAY after guys my age presumably stopped watching the show. If you’re like me and have shows like Mr. Robot in your weekly rotation that make your brain hurt, then you need a popcorn show that makes you say shit like “ugh that BITCH.” May I suggest Riverdale?

Based off Riverdale’s strong ratings and Netflix popularity, there’s a solid chance you already watch the show or have at least heard of it. But if not, don’t worry about it. Allow me to catch you up to speed like Jughead does before every episode (I’ll be much less of an ass about it). Riverdale is based on Archie Comics, with the main cast taking the exact character names and looks. You don’t need to know anything about the comics (I didn’t) to quickly understand what’s going on. These characters fit perfectly into the teen drama stereotypes that have been around since 90210. And while the show does a good job of paying homage to its source material, it still takes place in 2017. Like Betty and Veronica have their face-to-face meetings while drinking milkshakes at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe, but most of their communication happens through texting. Oh yeah…it’s also a murder-mystery that takes place in a paranormal town! YUP, it’s a pretty weird show.

I’ll avoid major spoilers in here since this blog exists as a recommendation to watch the show, but here’s something you’ll discover pretty much immediately: all of the characters are hot. It’s the foolproof formula of casting borderline models or actual models in their twenties to play high schoolers that has been followed by…well…just about every teen drama ever. But for a show that prides itself on being progressive and self-aware, you’d think that Riverdale maybe wouldn’t prioritize looks during its casting. NOPE! They brilliantly did the opposite and chose to flaunt it. Within the first five minutes of the pilot, you see Betty in a bra and a shirtless Archie flexing his abs. One of the literal first lines of the show is, “Gamechanger! Archie got hot!” And judging by the multitude of babes that Archie gets with and the reactions of just about every girl I know who watches the show, he is, in fact, hot (which is beyond impressive considering it looks like they dyed his hair using a Ronald McDonald Halloween kit). There’s a representative for just about anyone’s type: you have the sweet girl-next-door Betty (#TeamBetty for life), the spunky it-girl Veronica, the crazy redhead Cheryl, the fiercely independent Josie and her Pussycats, the friendly jock Archie, the mysterious hipster Jughead (I’m being generous here…I don’t get the love for him at all), the suddenly jacked gay-best-friend Kevin…and those are just the kids on the show. But Riverdale fans of all genders and orientations know what’s good…its ladies run the show. If they aren’t already, then Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes are bound to become the next Blake Lively and Leighton Meester. They both seem like locks to become stars. (Realize I’m swimming near the shallow end here, so I should acknowledge that they’d become super famous mainly because they’re both legitimately great actresses. But yeah…it definitely helps that they’re really fucking hot.)

riverdale-betty-veronica

The actual best thing about Riverdale though is how it owns its identity as a teen drama while staying extremely original. It mostly avoids the common and overdone tropes of the genre, and when Riverdale goes conventional, it does so almost to the point of satire. Like there isn’t nearly as much jealousy and heartbreak as you’d probably expect for a show like this, and when there is it’s usually subplot. The writing is sharp, filled with witty pop culture references and metahumor, and avoids those cringy instances of adults trying to write how they think teens actually talk…for the most part. (I still haven’t fully recovered from the early “you totally would’ve been a trending topic last year” line yet.) The storylines never really go full soap opera, and Season 1 moves along at an exciting pace with a climax that is some truly gripping shit. The town of Riverdale also could not be any more different than the settings of most of the classics. It’s a place that’s constantly foggy, dimly lit, and probably wouldn’t show up on any maps. For a show that airs on The CW and probably shares a huge chunk of its audience with the Kardashians, its production value is pretty incredible. They totally nail the aesthetics of a creepy yet charming town that looks like it’s constantly time traveling between the 1950s and 2017. It’s apparently a small town, but it still manages to be filled with murderers, Ponzi schemers, gangs…just about every type of criminal you can imagine. It’s a completely unrealistic story in a completely unrealistic place, but that’s 100% intentional and honestly what makes the show so addicting.

I’m hyping up Riverdale like it’s the greatest show ever and deserving of all the Emmys. That is…not the case. There is A LOT to criticize here. The pilot does a solid job of introducing us to the town and the characters, but its plot is almost irrelevant to the point where it seems like the writers changed their minds on the direction of the show after its script was finished. (Seriously, would we think Archie and Betty even like each other’s company if she wasn’t constantly reminding us that they’re best friends?) The show also aims to be as #woke as possible, and they miss the mark a few times with it. Like the episode all about slut shaming definitely had a strong message, but Betty and Veronica’s methods of shaming the slut shamer are so preposterous that the message kinda gets lost in the shuffle. Or how about when Josie tells Archie that the Pussycats only play songs written by people of color, and then Archie writes them some music like two seconds later? (To be fair, a lot of Riverdale’s social commentary is effective. Season 2’s tension between the powerful Northsiders and marginalized Southsiders is topical, unforced, and fits naturally into the story.) I’m also concerned that the show might go so extreme on the absurdity with some of its elements that it could start to border on disinteresting. This is the exact issue that derailed The O.C. in my opinion, and we’ve seen flashes of it in Season 2 with Jughead. (Jughead is played by Cole Sprouse…yes, the wimpier twin from the Suite Life…and this season he *MINOR SPOILER* becomes the de facto leader of a biker gang. It’s just about as convincing as it sounds.) And do not even get me started on Archie’s singing scenes or the HUUUUUGE misfire also known as the Ms. Grundy storyline.

But all things considered, I could not recommend Riverdale highly enough. It’s as close to a phenomenon as a network show can really be anymore, and it’s always good to be in the know of whatever is so hot right now. And if you’re adamantly against watching it because it’s “for chicks” or something like that, then it sounds like you could use Riverdale as a conversation point at bars instead of your fantasy football teams. Like I mentioned earlier, Season 1 is already streamable on Netflix and we’re only about halfway through Season 2. So cancel whatever plans you might have with other human beings next weekend, get comfortable, lock yourself in your bedroom, and set aside a huge chunk of time. Because I guarantee once you start watching Riverdale, you’re not gonna want to stop until you’re caught up.

 

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej