All The Single Ladies of 2016 Music

2016 has been a shit year in so many aspects. We’ve lost so much. Women in particular have had a challenging year-but I truly believe that if women take a stand and support one another that we can rise to any occasion. Being confident in yourself and lifting other women to do the same is one of the most effective ways that we can come together to be stronger. Lets do this.

I was inspired to highlight all of the amazing music that has come out this year from talented and inspiring female musicians once I realized how much of my recent playlists have comprised of women. All of these women are known for their incredible voices, their songwriting, and their positive energy that they bring to an industry that criticizes women left and right. Coincidentally, most of them are mainstream pop singers-therefore the subject of alot of media scrutiny. The themes and the messages that they explore in these records all cry out for the same things-confidence, independence and the need to overcome. I have found inspiration in all of them in times that I have needed a spot of confidence in my own life.

Albums are listed in order of release.

  1. Rihanna – Anti 

When it comes to confidence, sexuality and catchy hooks-Rihanna is the expert. On her eighth studio album ‘Anti’-which she served as a songwriter and executive producer on- she blends elements of reggae, R&B, dance and hip hop in a style that is signature Rihanna. She brings in influence from her Barbadian roots in songs like “Consideration” and “Work” and goes right into left field with a soulful, hypnotic cover of “Same Ol Mistakes” by alternative rock band Tame Impala. Her unique voice has grown and improved dramatically since her first record and ‘Anti’ is a perfect example of her strengths. This is a fantastic album to wind down to at the end of the day.

2. Sia – This is Acting

If you find yourself struggling with your demons, your past, or your identity, ‘This is Acting’ is a healthy dose of medicine that is sure to penetrate your shell. Sia articulates her personal battles to become herself in spite of her past and those who may get in the way of personal growth in an album full of powerful vocal performances and brutally honest lyrics. Right from the first track ‘Bird Set Free’ she muses about empowering herself through her music-while the soaring ‘Alive’ is a passionate proclamation that she has survived-and thrived. Though most every song maintains the irresistible hooks that she is known for, the lyrics remain some of the most genuine in her genre. Things turn to the lighter side on songs like “Cheap Thrills” and “Move Your Body” in a roller coaster of emotions.

Standout tracks: Alive, Unstoppable

3. Gwen Stefani – This is What the Truth Feels Like

Unfortunately for Gwen, her strength as a songwriter has always come from heartbreak.  That emotion is what drives ‘This is What the Truth Feels Like’ through songs like ‘Used to Love You’, ‘Me Without You’ and revenge tracks ‘Naughty’ and ‘Red Flag’. Fortunately, the musings of a jilted ex are outweighed by the feeling of being happy and vulnerable again with a new love. Many of the strongest songs on the record talk about bouncing back from betrayal and trusting someone again-subjects that she approaches in an relatable and optimistic way. Things get a little weird when she tries her hand at rapping halfway through, but if you get past that, this is one of Gwens strongest albums of her solo career.

Standout tracks: You’re My Favorite, Send Me a Picture

4. Meghan Trainor – Thank You

Anyone in need of a confidence boost can take a cue from Meghan Trainor. This young artist takes constant flack for her figure, but she has something to say about it. The entirety of ‘Thank You’ is an homage to self love and to love in general. With a fantastic blend of infectious hooks, foot stomping beats and rock solid vocals, Trainor shines from beginning to end. ‘Watch Me Do’, ‘Me Too’ and ‘I Love Me’ boast a confidence that is spectacularly refreshing for a young woman-while tracks like ‘Kindly Calm Me Down’ and ‘Better’ explore the importance of supportive and healthy relationships. Things get a little silly towards the end with a cheery dedication to Trainors mom-simply titled ‘Mom’, and a goofy tribute to dancing Dads (‘Dance Like Your Daddy’). Overall, ‘Thank You’ is a beacon of positive energy that is genuinely uplifting and contagious.

Standout tracks: Watch Me Do, Kindly Calm Me Down, Better

5. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death

I recently fell in love with T&S’ seventh album ‘Heartthrob’ right before ‘Love You to Death’ was released. It carries very closely along the same themes and follows their recent foray into dance/pop music. The result is a unique blend of indie-alternative and mainstream pop that is a departure from their roots, but a successful one. One constant remains-and that is the vulnerability of their songwriting. Every song rings out about love, loss, longing and accepting your own role in these. Complicated relationships are a common theme, and these girls sing about them with honesty and little bravado.

Standout tracks: That Girl, Stop Desire

6. Lady Gaga – Joanne

As a woman at the forefront of spreading love and acceptance, ‘Joanne’ shows us a side of Gaga that is stripped off her flashy stage persona and electronica/pop style that lets us see the real her. Everything about the album speaks of coming out of the other end of loss and heartbreak-the loss of her aunt Joanne (the inspiration for her albums ‘cowgirl’ persona) and of a longterm relationship. She expertly weaves back and forth between the highs of independence and self worth-to the difficulty of dealing with tragedy. Although the sound of this record will come as a surprise to fans and skeptics alike, it sports a confidence that comes from her recent venture into jazz music and focuses less on production value and more on vocal capabilities. This is a welcome surprise for everyone.

Standout tracks: Diamond Heart, John Wayne, Perfect Illusion

7. Alicia Keys – Here

From the first few minutes of listening to this album all that I could think was “this has SOUL!”-and it does. Keys blends her signature soul flair with hip hop, blues and slam poetry that speaks to “truth” in every song. “Truth” is something that has become evidently influential in everything from her personal style to her musical inspirations. The best way that I can describe the experience is “groovy”.

Standout tracks: The Gospel, She Don’t Really Care

 

I’m sure that I missed a few-but these are the ones that I listened to the most this year. How about you?

Its Going to Be Okay: My Battle with Mental Illness

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week-I have decided to take the plunge and spill my guts about my battle with mental illness in as open and honest a way that I can muster. I am in no way, shape or form a medical professional, nor am I an expert in mental illness in any way. Anything that I say here is strictly based on my personal experiences. I simply want to share my story in hopes that people will identify with it and pursue steps to treat themselves, or at the very least-they will know that they are not alone.

To start, I have battled-and continue to battle-a few different strains of mental illness that all happen to intertwine at certain points of my life. At times I cannot differentiate them-as one is either a catalyst for the others or they are blurred beyond the point of recognition. There are three in particular that I can confidently assert as a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Depression, anxiety, and OCD.

Depression is one that I feel laid its eggs in my psyche when I was a child, only truly manifesting itself when things aren’t going well in my life. Anxiety has taken over much more predominantly as I’ve grown older-and new challenges and responsibilities have come about. In what is an incredibly frustrating chain reaction, anxiety causes me to destroy myself both physically (heres the OCD) and mentally, therefore leading to shame and depression.

Knowing

One factor that has amplified these afflictions, unfortunately, has been the complete and total awareness of them. Knowing that I have a problem challenges my brain to say “well, how are we going to fix this?”. Knowing that if I could just change jobs, make more money, cut people out my life, find ways to relax-if only it were such an easy thing. Knowing that there are people out there making spontaneous and major life decisions with ease makes me wildly jealous and all the more insecure that I cannot do it myself. My inability to act and to take positive steps towards a happiness that I imagine to exist causes the insecurities and the stress to swirl through every minute of every day. Knowing that tomorrow I will wake up no better off, even though yesterday could have been the day that I did something real. Knowing that the voices in my head that are shouting threats of failure and running through every possible negative consequence-might be wrong. Knowing that these small issues that I damage myself over are nothing to worry about in the vast spectrum of space and time. Knowing that I cannot do this by sheer will alone, as much as I want to. It hurts.

Understanding

On my first day of second grade, I took a small bus to school and met a group of new kids (I had just moved to town) and they made a comment that stuck with me my entire life. “Dont talk to that girl. She talks too much.” Now I constantly worry that I am bothering everyone by simply talking to them. I struggled in my youth with problems at home, being insecure about my appearance, and wanting to fit in. I wanted everyone to like me. I would sacrifice my own well being and happiness to give to others in a hopes that I would gain their admiration. I wanted to be smart, beautiful, desirable, well liked, independent-everything that I want to be as an adult. Perfect. Something that simply does not exist. I was afraid of absolutely everything. I would see the “doomsday tabloids” set up at the cash registers in the grocery store and believe what they said. I was constantly convinced that the world was going to end. I would hide when my family watched the news so that I wouldn’t have to hear about robbers, aliens, ghosts or killer bees. I knew so little about the world, but somehow I was afraid of all of it. I had no idea what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like-whether romantic or platonic, and that continues to elude me in many ways. I spent nearly a decade working in an industry that brought me absolutely no joy-and in fact made me even more depressed as I dreamt of a life where I was doing something that I loved.

I always knew that I was depressed, but I never knew what to call it. I was just sad. My soul felt heavy. I felt lost and hopeless. I felt like my body was empty. Sometimes I still catch myself sitting in silence, dwelling on absolutely nothing, as if my brain had turned to mush. It is a feeling akin to floating on top of the water while it fills your ears. It steals away your emotional depth and your capacity to care. You simply exist while times slips away in an instant.

Anxiety is quite the opposite in that you care about everything to the point that it causes you distress. I stress about how many hours of sleep that I might get if I fall asleep at *x o clock* and if it will be enough to function tomorrow. I stress about every interaction that I have with the outside world and hope that I did it “right”. I worry that I will never strike a balance between a career that allows me to channel my creativity while being financially prosperous. Now that I’m a Mom I worry that all of my insecurities and my emotional weight will affect my son someday. All I do is worry.

Anyone with anxiety will likely tell you that an anxiety attack is the worst bi-product of this ordeal. You feel like you are at the peak of a roller coaster that will never descend, like the contents of your stomach have relocated to another region of your body. It is as crippling as fear and steals the air from your lungs-like the feeling right after you nearly get in a car accident. I have been taking anti depressants for months now, but I decided one day that I would discontinue them and try to treat myself. Within 48 hours I was in fetal position, bawling my eyes out and hyperventilating. I thought that I could fight this alone.

The one thing in my life that continues to bring my tremendous stress and confusion is my OCD. Since I was very young I would pick at my scabs-and since I seemed unable to lift my feet properly when I ran-I had a lot of them. I started to pick my nails, and when I hit puberty I began to pick at my face and body. These habits never ceased and eventually got much worse. I started wearing foundation when I was in my early teen years to cover my scabs from incessant picking and prodding at my face, my arms, my chest, anything that I could get my hands on. In my early 20s I continued these bad habits, and my boyfriend would point out what I was doing. I felt utterly ashamed and embarrassed of this bizarre behaviour because I didn’t see it happening to anyone else around me.

Only recently did I decide to do some research in hopes that I would gain a better understanding of what I was doing. I came to not only learn that it had a name-several in fact-but that I was most definitely not alone. What I always thought was “just a thing that I do” I now know as Dermatillomania, Excoriation disorder and skin picking disease. Although this has helped me significantly, it has not stopped the symptoms. In fact, in the last few years it has gotten to the point where I pick and cut my nails completely out of my finger. I unconsciously pick at things that I have already picked to the point of blood and pain and I participate in a cycle of destruction and shame on a daily basis that never ceases to leave me feeling overwhelmed and ugly. There is no way around it, I CANNOT stop. I have also come realize that this is likely the same demon that makes it impossible for me to make the right dietary choices. No matter how much I want to lose weight, I continue to punish myself with food that I want and proceed to beat myself up emotionally when I look at myself in the mirror. These thoughts follow me around like a shadow and frankly,it is a burden that have taken over my life.

Healing

With full support from my partner I walked into my doctors office several months ago and tried my best to articulate my feelings and my afflictions. Even though she is a doctor, I still felt apprehensive and embarrassed about being a grown woman who can’t stop picking her nails and worrying about whether or not people like her. Somehow, I managed to express that I was suffering and that I needed help. She offered me anti depressants to help with the anxiety, and they have been a big help. Like I mentioned above, as much as I want to get through this on my own, sometimes that is not an option. The Dermatillomania is still on shakey ground as it is not something that is well known to doctors and requires special knowledge to understand-so I am working on that.

When it comes to my everyday life, I have made an effort to bring things into my life that give me joy and relief from the weight of the world. Whether it be watching my favorite shows, enjoying the fresh air of the outside world or spending time with my family. I have made an effort to change my perspective and focus on all of the wonderful things that I have and the things that I have to look forward to. Pop culture is a huge passion of mine, so being able to look forward to new movies, new comics, new shows and new music everyday gives me a lot of positive energy and allows me to see a light in my future at all times. I try to get extra sleep when I can. I indulge in my hobbies, like writing and cooking. I talk to my husband whenever I am feeling low. As much as I feel that I am burdening him with my problems, he is supportive and encourages me to open up-something that I have rarely done with anyone in my life.

For nearly two decades I have walked around with a chaotic soul searching for peace. I have grown and matured but often feel that I haven’t moved an inch. I still feel the insecurities of a teenage girl and I still crumble at the first sign of failure. I am passionate and incredibly caring, and I know that has a tendency to be my greatest weakness. I know that many of the invasive thoughts that eclipse my brain are figments of my imagination and that I need not let them consume me. I know that I am loved, and that I need to love myself.

My name is Danielle, and I have a mental illness, and its going to be okay.

The 5 Best Things from the New Civil War Trailer(that weren’t Spiderman)

I must admit that my salivary glands were in full force when I started watching the new Civil War trailer. I have such high expectations-from the epic story from which it is based, to the enormously talented Russo brothers, to the new characters that are being integrated into the MCU. I really didn’t want to see another trailer. I just want to see the damn movie. Nonetheless, I watched it, and this is what got me all teary eyed.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

  1. Scarlet Witch

First of all, DID YOU SEE HER TAKE OFF!?dwenuudyomi3ilqycdyk

In Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch does not show any indication that she has the capability to fly. In fact, I fondly remember the touching scene where Vision comes to her rescue when Sokovia begins to crumble. 

It makes complete sense that she did not know that she had the capability to fly, seeing as she and her brother were locked in cages like laboratory rats since they became “enhanced” by Baron Von Stucker. Since then, she has spent time being molded as an Avenger. They have clearly brought her up to speed on what she is truly capable of. Whether she is truly flying-or simply leaping to great heights-is yet to be seen.

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Another memorable snippet involved Scarlet Witch and Vision in a moment where she appears to be overtaking him using magic. At first I had to ponder if the Vision would be susceptible to magic-seeing as he has one of the galaxies most powerful objects implanted in his head-but it is very possible that he is allowing himself to be overtaken because he does not want to harm her. Again, we won’t know until we see it. I hope to see their relationship being built over time, hopefully to eventually bloom into the amorous partnership that they are famous for in the comic universe.

2. A Shot of Ant Man

One scene that many fans were hoping to see in the new film was realized in this trailer. I almost wish that they hadn’t shown it, but it certainly does create a massive anticipation for what Ant Man is going to be able to contribute to the group dynamic.

Namely, perching himself on top of one of Hawkeyes arrows and being shot into the impending battle. Seriously, did you see it!? IT WAS SO BADASS!

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3. The (Iron)Man with the Iron(Man) Fist

One of the most anticipated aspects of any new Iron Man appearance is what new technological advancements he will be employing. The new Civil War trailer does not disappoint. We see a suit that can be expanded entirely of what appears to be some very miniaturized robotics. It got me thinking about how cool it would be to eventually have a showdown between Hank Pym and the prodigal son of Stark industries-a battle for the Pym particle and Hank’s revolutionary tech.

That was a little off topic, but the main point is that Tony has clearly not taken a day off from innovating and progressing his own tech, and we are going to see some pretty amazing Iron Man suit features.giphy

4. Black Panther Takes Off!

In the first trailer for Civil War we saw our first quick glance at Black Panther, and it was pretty amazing.nmdxcdxzfyvvbk5v4hnwWe have seen a few small glimpses of him since then-but not a ton of action shots. This time around, we not only see T’Challa amongst the rubble of-what I assume to be Sokovia, or some kind of conference-crumbling around him, but we see him leap in true cat-like fashion towards Bucky. upeevdpddk8lkxni3tijI am very excited to see how they not only introduce Black Panther, but how much time they spend telling us about him.

5. BATTLE

One of my favorite moments in the first Civil War trailer was the final scene showing a hand-to-hand combat fight between Iron Man, Winter Soldier and Captain America. That scene alone gave me definitive hope that the Russo brothers were going to give us another amazing action film-much like they did with Captain America:The Winter Soldier. The newest trailer did a lot more in the way of explaining the plot of the film, but it was certainly not short on action. I look forward to seeing alot of well choreographed fight scenes between any and all of the heroes and villains alike. iogv5ufupru2d6jxsp5l

IS IT MAY YET!?

My Favorite Shows of 2015

There was A LOT to watch in 2015. Even though we recently lost several great programs (RIP Parks and Recreation) there is plenty out there to fill the void. Although the majority of my viewing this year was comedy, there were a few dramatic, suspenseful and straight up disturbing shows that not only rocked in 2015-but will be returning in 2016. I can’t wait!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Anything that Tina Fey is involved with is basically an automatic win for me. Kimmy Schmidt turned out to be a creation that was very similar in tone to 30 Rock, but with a far more outlandish premise. At 29 years old Kimmy and three other women are freed from an underground bunker where they have been living as part of a Doomsday cult for 15 years. The man responsible is put on trial while the women are forced to readjust to the real world. Kimmy decides to move from Indiana to New York City, but her apparent lack of worldly knowledge and social skills are a hurdle at every turn.

Ellie Kemper is still very much the ditzy, bubbly and naive character that she was on The Office for many years, but she grows a little stronger as this series goes on. She gets a job, finds an apartment, makes friends and develops a crush-all while deciding how to take down the man who kept her imprisoned under false pretenses for half of her life.

Titus Burgess is the standout for me in this series-you may remember him as one of the cast members of “Queen of Jordan” in several episodes of 30 Rock. Carol Kane steals the show several times as well.

Better Call Saul

After the triumph that was ‘Breaking Bad’ Vince Gilligan has a lot to live up to in his future projects. ‘Better Call Saul’ was a smart and natural choice to be his next project. It is an origin story of sorts about Saul Goodman, the shady, fast talking lawyer who cleaned up and perpetuated many messes for Walt and Jesse right to the end.

The show takes place before he moved to Albuquerque, he was still  James “Jimmy” McGill and his office was basically a closet in a spa. The first season focuses on his relationship with his bizarrely ill brother, his struggling practice and his ambitions to be bigger and better-and the path that leads him to ‘breaking bad’ himself. Johnathan Banks (Mike) costars in the series and arguably steals the show on many, many occasions.

Rick and Morty

This show is most definitely not for everyone, but it is fantastic. From Dan Harmon-the man who is known for his edgy, off the wall shows that are always in danger of being cancelled (Community, anyone?) this is another show that has a dedicated following, an uncertain future and a niche audience. 

Its second season was just as good as its first-if not better, but things have taken a very disturbing and dark turn this year. At its core, it is a goofy, explicit sci fi buddy adventure show that is hard to take seriously. Over time though, we are seeing glimpses of harsh reality and morbidity. They keep things interesting by introducing new space-time elements and by shitting all over Jerry. Get a job, Jerry!

Mr. Robot

No other show had me enthralled quite like this one did. We started watching this show on a recommendation from a random website and kicked ourselves for not hearing about it sooner.

In a ‘Fight Club’ meets ‘Wanted’ story, young tech genius Elliot is drawn into an underground movement of hackers led by a mysterious man named ‘Mr Robot’ (played by Christian Slater) towards an end goal of bringing down the worlds biggest and most corrupt tech company called E Corp-also known by its pet name ‘Evil Corp’. They hope to bring the company to its knees financially and wipe clean the debts that they have imposed on their millions of clients around the world. Sounds impossible, yes?

The real appeal to this show lies in one immediately obvious fact-Elliot is completely and utterly mentally unstable. You spend this entire show wondering what the hell is going on, and if any of it is real. Rami Malek has the majority of the screen time and he nails it. Its broody, dark and full of doom-and-gloom, but it has an expert grasp on current events.

Daredevil

Not arguably the best thing that Marvel did in 2015, Daredevil nailed its first season. It is the first time in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe that we saw a graphically violent take on a superhero, but Daredevils story was the perfect choice to take that detour.

Matt Murdock takes a journey-in a series of flashbacks-from being a curious young boy who is blinded in an accident, to a young lawyer turned vigilante who takes control over his life and over the injustices that plague his city. The cinematography and the fight choreography is memorable, the story is gripping and the variety of relationships keep you invested in the characters.

No character was more enigmatic than Wilson Fisk-played by Vincent D’onofrio. So rarely do we see a villains human side the way that we see the ‘Kingpin’. Here is a man who has the capacity to fall in love, to be broken down, and to show vulnerability. He seems so sure that he is doing the right thing that he forces those around him-and the audience to question if he truly is the bad guy, or if he is the necessary means to an end.

Agent Carter

2015 was definitely a year that women in popular culture started to take a respectable step in the right direction-front and center. Agent Peggy Carter was the perfect choice to bring a Marvel heroine-though not your typical one-into the spotlight. As a rock solid lead heroine with wit, determination and strength of character, Peggy has no superpowers but she has all of the necessary elements to change the world.

After many smaller roles in Captain America: The First Avenger and a few flashback scenes thereafter, Agent Carters story needed to be elaborated on. As one of the founding members of SHIELD, Peggy Carter goes from being an important member of the United States military-aiding in the missions to assist Steve Rogers-to being a secretary and glorified errand girl for the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve). Surrounded by an office full of men with a stereotypical 1940s attitude towards women, she fights past her limitations to help a publicly disgraced and wanted Howard Stark clear his name with a little help from a man that I was overjoyed to see-his butler, Jarvis.

Silicon Valley

This show is absolutely ridiculous at the best of times and incredibly smart at the worst of times. When I think about how we will look back at the 2010s this show stands out as one that we will reference as a snapshot of modern culture. From the slightly offbeat but brilliant man who brought us Office Space, Silicon Valley is an insightful peek into what goes on behind the scenes of this ever expanding technological era that we are living in.

Now about to enter its third season, Silicon Valley centers on a group of socially awkward, brilliant, crass and immature friends who spend a significant portion of their days holed up in their “office” coding, programming and trying to create the next big tech breakthrough. Led by Richard (Thomas Middleditch) the company ‘Pied Piper’ comes to fruition based on his data compression algorithm that could revolutionize the world of streaming. Richards tech and his company are being batted around and manipulated by his friend and entrepreneur Erlich (TJ Miller) Hooli-the biggest player in the industry and venture capitalist Peter Gregory-who is incredibly weird but also very, very wealthy.

The small startup company is desperately out of its depth in this cut throat industry, and we see them fall down so many times but we so badly want them to keep fighting-even though the majority of them are really douchey.

The Mindy Project

After I finished marathon watching the third season of this show on Netflix I was heartbroken to learn that it had been cancelled. Luckily Hulu has since revived it for a fourth season. Phew.

One of my favorite “easy viewing” shows of the year, The Mindy Project centers on Mindy (Mindy Kaling) who is a successful young OB/GYN working in a small NYC practice surrounded by a cast of quirky coworkers. She is very similar to Kaling’s character, Kelly Kapoor, from The Office-albeit slightly less dramatic and narcissistic. Only a bit less. The big difference is that while she possesses the same overconfidence that Kelly did, she is also incredibly insecure and self deprecating.

Although Mindy is the star, this is a classic ensemble comedy that brings in several primary, secondary and recurring characters to shake up the wacky and wild storylines. You can see Kaling flexing her star power in the sheer volume of quality cameos that she rakes in to play her many boyfriends, coworkers and acquaintances. At the moment the show is gaining its stability along with its main character and there is a bit more continuity to latch yourself onto. If you need to watch something that is just plain fun, this is a fantastic choice.

Brooklyn Nine Nine

This is one of my favorite shows on TV right now, and it definitely has my favorite theme song. Andy Samberg leads an ensemble cast whose dynamics and overall feel are reminiscent of Parks and Recreation (with a lot less emotional depth) through the personal and professional antics at the Brooklyn 99 police department.

Currently in its third season the show has started to stabilize its extreme wackiness and now focuses just a bit more on its relationships and aspects of actual police work. Andre Braugher continues to expand his comedic chops and is arguably the most likable character-which is saying a lot in a cast that includes Samberg, Chelsea Peretti AND the amazing Terry Crews.

This is another fantastic choice if you need a show that just makes you feel good after watching it.

South Park

Considering that this show has now been on the air for 19(!) seasons while being one of the most deliberately offensive things to ever grace television, you have to give South Park some major props. They are always on top of current events and trends and they seem to be very in tune with their audience. Somewhere in between making two video games and running a very successful Broadway show, they found time to put together a hilarious new season that-for the very first time-has continuity. 

South Park Elementary has a new principal named “PC Principal” whos sole prerogative is to make sure that South Park is as politically correct and non-offensive as possible, guilting its residents into being void of any bias towards anyone. As it always does, the show finds a blatant and intelligent way to turn a mirror to society and show us that we just might be taking our “PC” culture a bit too far. Everyone from Caitlyn Jenner to Donald Trump is roasted in this season.

Meanwhile, Kennys decrepit neighborhood is turned into the new hipster-laden destination when they get South Parks first ‘Whole Foods’. The new area is dubbed “Shi Pa Town”. Oh, you guys.

I know that I likely missed ALOT in this list but there is a lot of television to wade through and I am only one woman!

12 Days of Christmas (Specials) Day 1-“Abeds Uncontrollable Christmas” from Community Season 2

I saved this particular episode for last because-even though none of these entries were in any specific order, this one is my favorite.

While Greendale celebrates its watered down and politically correct version of “Christmas”, for reasons unknown to the group Abed suffers from some sort of mental breakdown that causes him to perceive everyone and everything around him as stop motion animated “puppets”. Worried for his mental health, Britta recruits Professor Duncan (John Oliver) to use his psychology methods to help him snap out of it before he gets kicked out of school. Duncan agrees to conduct a group therapy session disguised as a Christmas wizard-with the intention of publishing Abeds case to further his career. 

Abeds imagination takes the group on a magical and musical adventure to Planet Abed, where Christmas is paramount and the air is made of 7% cinnamon. Most of the group plays along while Duncan tries to lure Abed into a trap where he can confront the reasons for his breakdown. As the situation becomes more and more heartbreaking and transparent, his friends begin to see that this coping mechanism needs their support. Together, they turn on Duncan and help Abed confront his pain through song.

This episode is the epitome of Christmas in my eyes. It is whimsical and festive, but with an underlying and sobering sadness that is the reality of Christmas for so many people. The changing of times, the loss of old traditions and the need to adapt to new life situations are so common during the holidays. We often forget about the sad side of Christmas, but this episode shows us that change can be positive.

That last song makes me cry, everytime. Merry happy to everyone!

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 2-“Anatomy Park” from Rick and Morty Season 1

Jerry is in full Christmas mode and very upset with his families lack of excitement and interaction. While he makes supper and prepares for his parents arrival, he is angry to find that Beth, Morty and Summer are all sitting around on their phones and tablets-so he takes them away. Things start to get even more uncomfortable as his guests arrive-Rick, who brings a homeless man in a Santa suit named Ruben, and Jerrys parents-who bring a strange young man named Jacob and a worldly new philosophical outlook on life. 

Rick steals Morty away from dinner, shrinks him and injects him into the body of the homeless Santa in order to help save his life. When he arrives, he finds that he is in an amusement park called “Anatomy Park” which houses several deadly viruses on display. When Ruben dies from all of the viruses and bacteria in his body and a park employee is exposed as a traitor Morty must escape from the rampant diseases with the parks employees- including Dr. Xenon Bloom (John Oliver) and a cute girl named Annie. Rick steps in and takes the body into space. Things get weird.

Back at the dinner table the family discovers that the mysterious and charismatic Jacob is in fact the lover of Jerrys mother and that his parents are on a sexual spiritual journey with him. Beth is inspired by their willingness to live life to the fullest, while Jerry sees the situation for how awkward it truly is. Things get weird.

Christmas is saved when Jerry gives everyone back their electronic devices to calm them down and Rick brings Morty back to earth in one piece.

 

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 3-“XMas Story” from Futurama Season 2

I honestly don’t watch a whole lot of Futurama. It just isn’t up there for me. However, I always seem to remember this particular episode and its repetitive use of the word “XMas”.

Fry longs for the traditional Christmas that he used to have in the 20th century, so his friends decide to help him celebrate ‘XMas’-the modern interpretation of the holiday. Advancements in robotics have produced a mechanical Santa that performs the duties of the traditional Santa Claus, including figuring out who is naughty and who is nice. Unfortunately, a glitch in his programming caused him to become a gun wielding psychopath who murders (who he interprets to be) the “naughty” after sundown.

Fry realizes that Leela has only sad memories of the Christmas and sets out to find her a great gift. After buying her a parrot, she soon shows up to rescue him from the homicidal Santa. Bender and his robot friends offer shelter, but before long Santa finds his way in and has to be thwarted by Dr Zoidberg.

He promises to exact his revenge.

Does he exact his revenge? Maybe I need to keep watching the show…

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 4-“Snowflake Day” from Clone High

I absolutely, truly, genuinely,sincerely and undeniably love Clone High. I miss it so. I watched this show over and over and over again in my teens-as a part of the killer ‘Teletoon at night’ lineup including Undergrads, Mission Hill and the Oblongs. It consumed every night of my life for a few hours.

In very much the same way that fans grieve and pine for the one season wonder that was ‘Firefly’, I too find myself mourning the loss of Clone High (and the Undergrads…what the hell!?). It was brilliant, stupid and ridiculous-but the talent involved in creating and executing it was top notch.

Their one and only holiday themed episode takes place on what they call “Snowflake Day”-a strange Christmas-like holiday that involved traditional spices and meats. Joan of Arc is sick of the materialistic holiday and her oblivious family, so she retreats to the outside world. While near a dumpster she encounters a sexy homeless woman who looks alot like Mandy Moore (voiced by Mandy Moore). She tries to use her magical powers to help Joan see the meaning of Snowflake Day.

Meanwhile, Cleopatra tells Abe that she wants an expensive present. This convinces both Abe and Gandhi to get a job, where they get the inspiration to invent a new utensil called “the knork”. Oh, and JFK records a Snowflake Day album.

In true Clone High fashion, we end up learning absolutely nothing-except that if you see a sexy homeless person that looks like a celebrity, they are not homeless and cannot be trusted.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 5-“Holidays of Future Passed” from The Simpsons Season 23

There are many fantastic Christmas specials from the shows 27 year run, but this recent episode from season 23 is one of my favorites.

We see a glimpse into the future of the Simpson family and their now extended family. In the year 2041 Lisa and Milhouse are married with a bratty teenage daughter name Zia, Bart is a divorced father of two sharp young boys and Maggie is a rock star who is about to pop. Homer and Marge have the family over for Christmas dinner and drama ensues.

Bart is currently at an all time low, living at Springfield Elementary under Seymour-who is now his landlord. His boys arrive for Christmas and bring complaints and the heartbreaking news that their mother has remarried. Lisa is fed up with her disrespectful, cyber addicted daughter and desperate to communicate with her while Marge tries to criticize her parenting style. Both feeling frustrated, Bart and Lisa bond over their family issues.

Homer decided to have a day out with his two grandsons, so he takes them to a some of Springfields famous spots-like the Kwik E Mart- and to a bizarre cryogenic freezing cemetery to see their great grandpa Abe. After seeing how hurtful and inconsiderate he can be, Homer explains to them that even though a father isn’t perfect, it doesn’t mean that you won’t miss them someday.

After a weird Mad Max-meets-Matrix-esque storyline transports Lisa inside of the internet to talk to her daughter, and a revelation brings Bart to apologize to his kids, all of the families issues are resolved by the episodes end. 

This episode speaks to me as one of the more relatable. Marriage issues, parenting issues, personal issues and professional issues are all forms of baggage that people carry around with them-even in such a joyful time as Christmas. A group of people come together and either wallow in their miseries or they forget all about them for a few hours. Sometimes your family is worth giving up a little bit of pride if it will keep them close. Family is-at the best of times-what Christmas is all about.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials) Day 6-“An Eric Forman Christmas” from That 70s Show Season 4

There is a lack of Christmas spirit among Erics friends and family. Eric and Hyde complain that the season isn’t exciting now that they are adults, to which Kitty responds by guilting them into organizing the church Christmas pageant. His friends agree to participate-all the while complaining and trying to manipulate their characters into something more interesting-like spacemen and a unicorn riding Virgin Mary. Red is fed up with Bobs obnoxious and loud decorative display and steals his decorations in the night and tries to lie about it. Jackie berates Michael into growing out of his whimsical love for Christmas specials.

Eric becomes frustrated with his friends and families constant bickering and quits the production. Kitty, sick of Reds negativity and Grinch-like behavior, convinces him to change his tune in the name of Christmas.

By the end, everyone sees the error of their ways and comes together to bring Eric back to the play and back into the holiday spirit. Red forms a truce with Bob and puts up his own festive display to impress Kitty, and Kelso realizes that he can keep his love of Christmas for as long as he wants.

We learn that Christmas can be extravagant and loud, but it is all about tradition and being together.