TV Review: FRESH OFF THE BOAT

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Yesterday the new ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat premiered (it should be noted that I only watched the pilot, but two episodes did air). The show is about a young boy whose family moves from Washington DC to Orlando so that his dad can open up a new restaurant. The series is based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, but its real headline is that it is something like the second primetime television show to be about Asian-Americans.

The show follows Eddie as he deals with his family’s move from the far more diverse Washington DC to the monoculturally white Orlando. It is a comedy partly about the immigrant experience, partly about family, and partly about growing up. Its jokes aren’t the most brilliant, some of them fall flat, but the show absolutely thrives off of its core cast and their experiences. It’s pretty simple, but highlights how much we miss out on when we ignore a diversity of voices in our pop culture and media.

Eddie is an Asian-American who is in love with hip-hop culture–he says it’s always been the anthem of the outsider–and the show makes great use of 90s hip-hop legends like Notorious B.I.G. and Nas. His dad, Louis, is in love with America and the opportunity it can provide for his family–this is shown by his restaurant’s wild west theme. His mother, Jessica, tries to fit in with a rollerblading group of young blondes in the neighborhood, much to her chagrin. His siblings Emery and Evan adjust quite well to their new neighborhood, though one eats string cheese and discovers he’s lactose intolerant.

The immigrant experience and the cross-cultural America we our currently experiencing (though it has always been a big mix of people) is pertinent and fascinating. The show does a good job of representing the mix of people and varying experiences. Eddie and a group of white boys bond over Biggie, Louis hires a white guy (played by Paul Scheer!) to attract customers to his restaurant, the restaurant’s cook is a tattooed Latino, and Louis’ biggest problem at school ends up being the only other minority–who picks on him in order to elevate himself from his perceived place at the bottom. Fresh Off the Boat acknowledges the multicultural world, using it to its advantage  to make a pilot episode that is exciting, charming, and very promising.

Top 5 TV Shows of 2014

Alright people only three best of lists left to make before the best of the year 2014 coverage is wrapped up.

In years past I’ve never done a best of TV, because I figured I always watched the same shows and so it would be just the same shows over and over. This year however, there was enough new great television (that I saw) to spark a list out of me. This is filled with great seasons of old shows as well as brand new ones.

5. Parks and Recreation

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This show is in the running for my favorite of all time and season six–the penultimate–was filled with great moments, probably its best since the start of season four. It ended with one of the most unique twists in sitcom history making the wait until the finale even more unbearable.

4. True Detective

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The internet’s favorite show this year certainly lived up to the hype with its spectacular performances by McConaughey and Harrelson, its pessimistic philosophy, intriguing mysteries, and amazing camera work by director Fukunaga. I didn’t watch it live which probably made certain moments less epic than if they were experienced with commentary from the Twittershpere, but I do think it made me like the end more than general consensus–which I really liked.

3. Survivor: Cagayan

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Certainly a personal bias (I’m a superfan of the show), but anytime a franchise can put up perhaps its best season 28 seasons into the show you have to give credit where credit is due. Featuring some of the most memorable characters and moments from episode to episode, Cagayan was some of the best TV all year.

2. The Americans

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This is the show that I desperately beg each person to watch (though I think I have failed in every effort), The Americans improved from an excellent first season, raising the suspense, stakes, and character dynamics in this show that simultaneously deals in international spy affairs and personal familial dynamics with equal tension. The sheer fact that a central tension of this season was the daughter rebelling against the parents by going to church is a brilliant move by the shows creators and excites for what’s to come.

1. Fargo

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I checked out this show after it had received all of its hype, but figured it may have been everyone overreacting to the fact that it didn’t totally do injustice to the original. What Fargo ended up being was a companion to the film that actually competes with it. This show has great characters, explores themes like justice and evil, and makes some of the best editing choices out of anything I saw all year.

Honorable Mentions: Veep, Review, Sherlock, Community, Silicon Valley

Why the Television Show Survivor is Among the Best Games Ever Created

This is something I wrote for my creative writing class and is for all people, hoping to explain my love for the show Survivor.

CBS’s television show Survivor helped to bring an array of cheesy reality shows onto viewers television sets, much of which people would consider to be the downfall of television as we know it. Shows would be created, where people battled in order to win love from a stranger, or where people competed to win plastic surgery, or to see who could lose the most weight, as well as shows following around faux celebrities, cake shops, and balloon makers. All of which contribute to the mind numbing of American teens and the ever increasing American obesity rate. Survivor however, remains unique and interesting after 11 years and 22 seasons. The reason being that in Survivor, we have one of the most fascinating games ever created. Today, I will give my reasons as to why I believe Survivor to be one of the best games ever created by stating its history, contents, unique attributes, and strategies that have helped players succeed.

The show was first created by British producer Charlie Parsons in 1992 and was first picked up by Swedish television in 1997. After 3 years on the Swedish airwaves, the show was brought to America, with Mark Burnett producing. The show took off due to its intriguing premise, 16 people living on an island with no outside interaction or help, forced to survive both the elements and each other, with a person being voted off every 3 days. This process continues until 1 person remained that person earning the title Sole Survivor and a million dollar prize.

When the game starts the 16-20 individuals are split into two even teams. For the first three weeks or so, the two teams compete in challenges, the winning team gaining “immunity” while the loser is forced to go to “tribal council” and vote off one member. Once there remains 10-12 players, the teams combine into one in what is called the “merge”. From then on, each challenge is an individual one, where players hope to earn “individual immunity”.

During the show’s first season, most castaways (as the competitors are often called) focused on surviving the elements, rather than surviving getting voted off. This meant that you wanted to keep people to were able to get food, build shelter, and worked hard around the camp, while being physically capable of helping your “tribe” win a challenge. At first, players were eliminated for being either weak or annoying. However, at the time of the merge, this all changed. One player, Richard Hatch, decided to come together with 3 other players and vote as a block each time they voted for someone to exit the game, making it more likely that whoever they voted for would be voted out. This would become known as an alliance, and would end up becoming an integral part of the game. This alliance, which featured weak and abrasive former Navy Seal Rudy, voted off tribe leader and hard worker Gretchen, much to the surprise of many. This would set the precedent for the rest of the season (and the show/game as a whole) and Richard’s four would come to be the final four left in the game.

Probably the most important part of the game, is how to win when it gets down to the final 2 players. Rather than having the final 2 compete in some sort of challenge, to decide the winner, the winner is decided by a jury made up of 7 to 9 of the last players to be voted out. The jury asks questions to the 2 or 3 remaining players and judges who they believe to be the winner. This way each player is held accountable for every move they made the entire game. Often times, the best way to get to the end is to deceive and to backstab alliances, but in the end, you must face the very people that you have deceived and backstabbed. Some players, such as Rob Mariano in All-Stars, were not awarded the final prize solely based on the fact that he lied to people so much. Yet, Thailand player Brian Heidik did the exact same thing and still received the title, because his jurors saw him as the best. Others, like Todd Herzog from China and Chris Daugherty from Vanuatu buttered up their jurors, making them feel important and smooth talking their way to victory. It is almost ironic that in a game that nearly requires the making and breaking of friendships, the final decision goes to the people who were screwed over. It would be like deciding the Super Bowl by asking all the other teams in the NFL who was better. In Survivor the losers do get vengeance, and that is something that players must keep in mind while forming their strategies.

Having the jury makes Survivor completely subjective every single season. There is never one way to win, because players must always be adjusting to the people they are around. The game’s tagline is “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast” which serves as a guide, but in the end, it really is all up to the jury and whatever qualities they feel like the winner should have. In Australia, Colby Donaldson dominated the challenges, winning nearly every single one, yet lost in the finals, while in Palau, Tom Westman did the same thing and was awarded the title. In Africa, Ethan won for being a nice guy, but in Marquesas Neleh lost for being too nice. In order to win the game, you must adapt to your situation at each moment, because even the game adds new twists every season. While the core stays in tact, twists such as tribal swaps, where the teams are switched up, or the hidden immunity idol, a device that if played correctly makes a player immune from a vote, have forced people to have elastic strategies.

Survivor lasts 39 days. For these 39 days, there are no breaks. It is 24/7. Thus, what become everyday tasks like gathering wood or cooking food, are integral parts of the game. Every action that is made for 39 days, is by default strategic. Every conversation has a potential impact on the game. This often causes real friendships to be formed, despite the fact that there is always a knowledge that you are trying to beat that other person. In Amazon, player Rob Cesternino had a solid alliance with three other players, whom he considered to be his friends. With only 7 players remaining in the game, he basically had a spot in the final 4, if they stuck to voting out the other 3. But, when friend and alliance mate Alex admitted to him that when it came down to the final 4, he would join the other 2 and vote out Rob, Rob rethought his strategy. While Alex thought that since they were friends, it wouldn’t really matter what place they all got, Rob wanted to win it all. That night Rob joined the other 3 not in his alliance and voted out Alex that night, completely blindsiding him. It is the challenge to separate real life from the game that makes it so complicated, yet so interesting.

All kinds of strategies have been employed to get further in the game. What works in one season, may not work in the other. A list of some strategies:

-The physical player: this player is often athletic and hopes to immunity and protect himself from being voted out each week. E. Colby Donaldson Australia, Ozzy Lusth Cook Islands

-The schemer: this player will lie, cheat, and steal to advance himself. He will often tell you one thing while planning to do another. Ex. Rob Cesternino Amazon, Jonny Fairplay Pearl Islands

-The leader: this player gathers a group of people around him/her and sticks with those people while telling them how to vote each week. Ex. Ami Cusack Vanuatu, Lex Van de Berge Africa

-The “anyone but me” strategy: this player is willing to vote for anyone, no matter how close they are to that person just to make it one more week. Ex. Sandra Diaz Twine Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains

-The coattail rider: this player will often stick to a leader and just follow their lead all the way to the end, hoping that jurors will be too angry at the leader to vote for them to win Ex. Natalie Tenerelli Redemption Island, Fabio Birza Nicaragua

-The scapegoat: this player sets themselves apart as “crazy” making themselves a viable option to take to the finals as nobody will want to vote for them to win Ex. Phillip Sheppard Redemption Island

There have been many other strategies that have been put into place, and what makes Survivor so great is that each one can be great or terrible depending on who is there.

The game of Survivor is among the most intense, well thought out games to ever exist and although it hides in the middle of primetime TV on Wednesday nights, it is first and foremost a game, that is well worth the watch.