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Well last night was the finale to one of my all-time favorite dramas, Breaking Bad. It’s the only show I can remember that actually got better with age. Each season raised the stakes and built our expectations. Last night’s payoff was well worth the commitment (which is far more than I can say for Dexter). 

Series finales are usually a tough maneuver to execute. When a story becomes so captivating and person, each viewer has their own version of the right way it should all end. Lucky for us, Vince Gilligan is no ordinary show runner. I heard some complaints about last night’s finale being a bit too predictable. That may be true to a degree, but I think the ending was far more satisfying than a cliffhanger or a “draw your own conclusion.”

Here are my favorite things about “Felina” :

  • “I did it for me.” It took five seasons, but Walt finally admits that he did it all for himself. Its a powerful moment of clarity that really brings the whole series full circle.
  • Uncle Jack gets a bullet to the face as he pleads for his life. Polar opposite of Hank, who died with honor. The blood spatter on the camera helped reinforce the power of that moment in a Django-kind-of-way.
  • Glad that Walt gave up the coordinates so that Hank and Gomie can get a proper burial. I liked Gomez, and he didn’t deserve to die.
  • Lydia gets the ricin in her tea cup. Drink up.
  • Jesse got to kill Todd, which was rather cathartic to watch. Remind anyone of Walt and the bike lock from season one? The crunch at the end was a tasty little detail.
  • I’d say the biggest surprise of the night was the scene involving Gretchen and Elliot. Vince really knows how to play with our expectations. Instead of murdering his ex-business partners,  Walt blackmails them into laundering the money for his family. The icing on the cake is a fake sniper lasers. I was also really happy to see Skinny Pete and Badger one more time.
  • Walt and Jesse share a final moment. It always felt that their father/son dynamic was always more important than Walt and Flynn.
  • Jesse has a touching day dream about life as a carpenter. Despite all that he’s been through, Jesse still has something to live for. In a series full of darkness, Jesse has always been a small ray of hope.
  • Love the camera angle as Walt dies. You can feel his soul leaving his body. Definitely feels like a callback to “Crawl Space.”

I could go on and on, but those are my highlights. I find it admirable that Breaking Bad is so elaborate, yet so concise. In only five seasons, Vince took us on ride of complete transformation. Although we’ve arrived at our destination, the journey will stay with us forever.

 

Also, Breaking Bad has helped me realize how much Dexter sucks. I’m sorry, but its true.

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Dexter, Season 8 (Showtime)

Dexter Season 8

It’s been a long road for everyone’s favorite serial killer, but we’ve finally reached the end. This summer brings the final season of Dexter. After last season ended in the surprising (but welcomed) death of a major character, it’ll be interesting to see where this season will take Dexter.

We’re already three episodes in, and it seems like the primary story will focus on the rocky relationship between Dexter and Deb. I personally think the series finale will end with the death of either one of them. I don’t think they’ll both be sailing off into the sunset on the Slice of Life.  The writers have quickly introduced a new character from Dexter’s past who conveniently already knows a ton of information about him. We’ll see how that plays out. There’s also the loose end of Hannah McKay.  

The Killing, Season 3 (AMC)

The Killing Season 3

It’s a rare thing when a TV series can successfully reinvent itself. For two seasons, AMC’s The Killing dragged out a single murder mystery and risked losing my attention span. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to cruise through the two seasons within a week or two. If I was forced to wait two years to see the outcome, I doubt I would have stayed with the show. But, now that the Rosie Larsen murder case has been resolved, the show now has the freedom to explore new territory.

Linden and Holder are still the most interesting part of the show, but the addition of a death-row subplot creates an extra level of suspense and urgency. This season also trades in the old hat political drama for an interesting look into the secret lives of homeless teenagers. Some of the most compelling scenes take place between Holder and Bullet, a street girl in search of her missing friend.   

Orange Is the New Black, Season 1 (Netflix)

Orange is the New Black Season 1

Ever since Netflix released their first original series House of Cards, I have eagerly awaiting the streaming site’s next hit. Well, Netflix has proven themselves once again. Orange is the New Black is the latest creation from Weeds show-runner Jenji Kohan. Keeping alive the same sense of dark humor, Orange follows Piper Chapman as she navigates the complexities of a female prison.

The show is full of uncomfortable moments which help to illuminate day to day prison life. What surprised me most is how well-rounded each supporting character is. Like Lost, each episode focuses on a different inmate and shows us their backstory through a series of flashbacks. We see everyone’s secret motivations and develop a full understanding of why and how the prison politics operate. So far I’m four episodes deep, but I already can’t wait until season two is released next year. Hopefully this starts a new wave of quality streaming content.

Finally, there is a reason to celebrate. This afternoon, it was announced by the show’s creator, Dan Harmon, that Community will return to NBC on Thursday, March 15th at 8 p.m. Things were looking grim when it was announced last fall that Community would be taking a hiatus. Thanks to the outpouring of support, the show is back… for now. This means that if we want the show to return for a fourth season, we need to actually watch it and improve the ratings. Watch The Big Bang Theory the next day on CBS.com or something. Sheldon isn’t going anywhere. Help save Greendale! #sixseasonsandamovie

 

Last night, the 54th annual Grammy Awards went exactly according to plan– singer Adele dominated the evening. The ceremony served as well-deserved recognition that 2011 belonged to soulful British queen. Adele was victorious in ever major category she was nominated in, including Best Pop Solo Performance, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and the highly coveted Album of the Year for her breakout hit 21. The accolades came as a surprise to no one because she honestly deserved them all. After her live performance of “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele was again honored with a thunderous standing ovation.

Another focal point of the evening was remembering the death of Whitney Houston. This year’s host, LL Cool J, began the evening with a prayer, stating, “We’ve had a death in our family.” (Cool J might seem like a strange choice for a host until you realize that he stars in NCIS: Los Angeles, a show which just so happens to air on CBS). Jennifer Hudson later paid tribute to Houston by performing her famous song “I Will Always Love You.”

Fortunately, the Grammys focus less on the actual awards and more on the live performances (who really needs to see famous people pat themselves on the back). Like every year, there were some outstanding displays of talent as well as some head-scratchers. Bruno Mars sang a high-energy rendition of “Runaway Baby” and Maroon 5 and Foster the People paid tribute to the Beach Boys. My personal favorite was the Foo Fighters playing “Walk,” although it would have been nice to see them actually play inside the Staples Center. Years from now, the most memorable performance will end up being Adele who brought the house down.

The stranger performances came from Chris Brown who danced on a mountain of light up blocks (and didn’t sing much) and the blue-haired Katy Perry who sang inside a glass cube (maybe it was a glass case of emotion). The trophy for weirdness goes to Nicki Minaj who put on a dramatic production involving lots of church imagery. It feels like anyone who tries to do the “weird” act just seems like they’re doing a Lady Gaga impression. Somehow when Gaga does goes for weird, it seems sincere, but when others try it seems fake.

Best acceptance speech goes to Dave Grohl, the lead singer of the Foo Fighters for their award for Best Rock Performance. This award was extra special for the Foo Fighters because their albumWasting Light was recorded in Grohl’s garage using analog tape– basically, it was made without computers. During the speech, Grohl stressed the importance of authenticity and that making music is “not about being perfect.”

For me, the most pleasant surprise of the night was that Bon Iver won Best New Artist. I had a feeling he might not win because technically, Bon Iver a.k.a Justin Vernon has been around since 2007. Part of me was also hoping that the award would go to electronic artist Skrillex. In the span of only a year, Skrillex went from being unknown to widely popularizing dubstep.

At the end of the night, the stage was given to the biggest star in the room– Paul McCartney. As the performance fittingly concluded with the Beatle song “The End,” McCartney was joined on stage by Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh, and Bruce Springsteen.

Aside from the game itself, the most interesting and most talked about part of the Super Bowl is usually the commercials. I felt like this year’s batch of ads were mostly based on rehashed ideas. Yes marketing geniuses, we get it. Beer makes everything better, Dorritos make you crazy, polar bears really like Coke, and GoDaddy is really vague about what they do. Same old stories. The only commercial that I found to be truly creative was done by Audi. The featured a vampire driving to a party, but when he gets there, the super bright LED headlights end up killing all of his vampire buddies. The commercial did a good job of commenting on how everyone is sick of the Twilight/True Blood vampire bandwagon.

When I’m watching Super Bowl commercials, I always look for movie trailers.  Movie studios usually pick Super Bowl Sunday to unveil teasers for the year’s most anticipated movies. I was hoping for another sneak peak at The Dark Knight Rises, but we weren’t so lucky. Instead we were given gems like Battleship and John Carter. Two epic trailers for two mediocre-looking movies. One is a Transformers rip-off and the other is an Avatar rip-off, two movies I am in no rush to see again. Also, I probably won’t see The Lorax, but I can appreciate a trailer that features a Vampire Weekend song.

For me, the only Super Bowl commercial worth viewing again is latest trailer for The Avengers. As beautiful as the original 30-second trailer was, the good people at Marvel also released an extended 60-second version.  The teaser shows us the Avengers fully assembled, yet still only gives us brief hints of what the Hulk will look like. I also love the exchange between Tony Stark and Loki at the end. Counting down the days until May 4.

This article originally appeared on North Branford Patch

Everyone knows that Madonna and football go together like peanut butter and jelly. I’m pretty sure “Like a Prayer” was written about a Hail Mary pass, right?

The woman who gave us such hits as “Like a Virgin,” “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Vogue” will be our halftime entertainment during next Sunday during Super Bowl XLVI. Just when you thought the halftime show couldn’t get any better, it turns out, according to the Associated Press, that Madonna will also be teaming up with the people from Cirque du Soleil. Wow, ’80s pop hits and Canadian acrobats in weird outfits–it’s a match made in football heaven.

The whole thing just seems bizarre until you realize that it’s all a big promotional stunt. The Super Bowl performance will coincide conveniently with the United States release of the new movie W.E., directed by Madonna. This romantic drama follows two parallel love stories which take place in different time periods. Sounds exactly like something football fans would be interested in, right?

I respect Madonna for branching out beyond music and exploring the art of directing, but after listening to her acceptance speech for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes, I have absolutely no interest in seeing this movie. The speech was basically two minutes of her patting herself on the back. Also, isn’t it sort of egotistical to name your song “Masterpiece”?

The problem with acts like Madonna and previous artists like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Janet Jackson is that much of these performances are based on smoke and mirrors. They feature elaborate dance numbers, flashing lights and expensive stage setups. The average football fan could care less about these things.

The perfect example is last year’s half time show, which I consider to be the worst I’ve ever seen. The performance featured the auto-tuned Black Eyed Peas dressed in ridiculous light-up Tron outfits. Just as I thought to myself, “There’s no way this could get any worse,” Slash from Guns N Roses comes out on stage playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

Instead of creating weird Frankenstein pop collaborations, the Super Bowl halftime show could feature artists who who have proven that they can pack stadiums and pump up a massive audience. If it were up to me, I would book bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters or Dave Matthews Band. Even popular country artists would be more appropriate for an audience of football fans (although I personally dislike country). But let’s face it. Next year they’ll probably get Justin Bieber to perform with the cast from the musical Cats.

The best television programming of 2012 will no doubt be March Madness, perhaps only to be outdone by the MLB season.  I’ll save commentary on either for a more appropriate time, should the gracious editor-in-chief of this esteemed website allow for it.  For now I’ll address what I believe to be the only non-sports programming and TV art form worth my regular viewership.  I talk, of course, of the sitcom.

Workaholics– Season 3

For those of you unaware of this supremely funny show, Comedy Central’s Workaholics follows the domestic and occupational lives of three men who not only share a home, but also a cubicle.  The show has been renewed for a third season which I hope will begin this spring (Season 1: 10 episodes in spring 2011, Season 2: 10 episodes in fall 2011) and shows no signs of slowing.  The main characters, much like those of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, are far too self-involved and disillusioned to leave room for the sappiness, romance and sentimentality that has plagued The Office and will too soon kill (dare I say it?) Parks and Recreation.  I’ll borrow a phrase from the show’s character Adam to simply describe the essence of the show as, “tight butt-hole.”

30 Rock– Season 6

30 Rock has returned after a brief hiatus.  Huzah!  The show is hilarious and its return to NBC’s Thursday night lineup is definitely welcome.  Need I say more?  But don’t take it from me, check out this ultra enticing promo for season 6!