As temperatures drop and classes pick up, Georgetown students may find themselves searching for comfort from the cold weather in the wake of a dearly missed syllabus week. Luckily, the beginning of the second semester perfectly coincides with the start of a highly anticipated winter television season. As hit shows, new and old, begin to grace our screens, viewers can already see signs of promise for the new year in entertainment.
Fan favorites returning this season include three critically acclaimed ABC dramas: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” Produced by Shonda Rhimes, founder of TV-production company Shondaland, these shows share several commonalities both in structure and theme, all reflecting their creators’ clear and purposeful vision.
Rhimes’ productions feature diverse, largely female casts — “Grey’s Anatomy,” in particular — with strong female leads. Like the characters she develops, Rhimes has been deemed by many as a “feminist heroine,” especially for women of color.
Also central to Rhimes’ legacy is her unparalleled ability to create plot twists and love triangles — essentially, to create pure, addictive fun. However, with “Grey’s Anatomy” on its 13th season, some fans question if Rhimes has little left to add, having already explored so many plotlines with the medical drama’s ever-shrinking cast of characters. Many hope that she keeps her creative focus on new developments instead —“How To Get Away With Murder,” for example, now on its third season, continues to attract new viewership.
Those looking for the romantic drama of Shondaland in a more light-hearted setting should certainly consider watching “New Girl” or “The Mindy Project,” both also returning this season. Filled with will-they-or-won’t-they couples and loveable — if, at times, gimmicky — sidekicks, both sitcoms also star feisty female leads. Zooey Deschanel and Mindy Kaling, playing Jess Day and Mindy Lahiri, respectively, perfectly fit their roles as quirky underdogs lost in love. Both actresses, too, possess natural talents for both humorous and heartfelt delivery.
For fans of more eccentric comedic fare, “Portlandia” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” constitute other options well-suited for the binge watch. Having recently returned this January, they each follow the hilarious misadventures of classic “gangs of misfits.”
“Portlandia” is uniquely shot in a sketch-comedy style. Starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, an incomparable duo, the show is the source of iconic, viral humor. The critical hit was recently renewed for its eighth and final season. “It’s Always Sunny,” a more traditional sitcom, also packs a punch in just 22 minutes, with Frank — the show’s offbeat father figure, played by Danny Devito — often stealing the spotlight.
Quite a few shades darker is AMC’s apocalyptic horror-drama, “The Walking Dead,” which kicks off next month. Having garnered a major cult following over the past few years, “TWD” is sure be met with excitement by fans, especially those hoping upcoming episodes will redeem the “gratuitously gory” first half of the seventh season. The midseason premiere is scheduled for Feb. 12.
That same day, HBO hit “Girls” will also return for its sixth and final season. Chronicling the personal and professional lives of four young women, “Girls” has consistently generated buzz with culturally relevant, at times controversial, storylines. Although the show is not as popular as it once was, loyal fans are still likely to tune in to see how the fates of their favorite characters unfold.
Also a successful member of the comedy-drama genre is NBC’s unexpected hit, “This is Us,” which first debuted in September of 2016. Starring former teen-drama actors Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, the show has an underlying sense of millennial nostalgia, as well as an emotional family feel. Already a critic’s pick, “This Is Us” has the definite potential to dominate TV screens at least for the present month.
Many Georgetown students may also remember reading “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which achieved celebrity in the realm of children’s fiction in the early 2000s, and was later adapted as a feature film in 2004. Now adapted to the small screen, Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” stars a sensational Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Count Olaf, who emerges as the primary antagonist of the series. With a dry sense of humor reminiscent of his character on “How I Met Your Mother,” Harris expertly establishes himself in the hilariously sinister role, distinguishing the character from that of Jim Carrey, who played the role in the poorly reviewed 2004 movie.
Satirical news junkies have plenty to look forward to in the weeks to come in light of the seasonal returns of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver.” Following a tumultuous political cycle, we can expect these TV hosts to deliver powerful bits of extra compelling and comedic commentary.
As the winter TV season unfolds, critics and avid fans alike are eager to see which shows will deliver on their producers’ promises and which will fall short of viewers’ righteous expectations. After a year characterized by major cultural and sociopolitical change, audiences should look forward to seeing what thematic forces take hold of the television in 2017.
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