8 debut TV seasons to watch before the end of 2018

While the rush of the end of the year seems daunting, it’s good to sit back and relax to take some time to yourself. While I obviously promote reading a lot, television is an easier escape.

Here are eight shows that mostly premiered this year that you can check out in their first and only season so far in their entirety right now. Two shows have their second seasons premiering in December; I’ve notated that in their blurb.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
An Emmy-award winner that takes the best of Gilmore Girls (from the same creators) and Mad Men. Expect fast-paced witty dialogue coupled with cozy melodrama. Transport to 1950s New York City to follow the titular character as her husband leaves her and she finds her own voice through stand-up comedy. Season two premieres December 5, 2018.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)
Halloween may be over, but you can avoid scary political discussions with that uncle by watching some teen witches get real dark. The Melissa Joan-Hart sitcom is far in the review window as this drama chooses to follow a horror comic book version of the half-human, half-witch teen. It can feel a little stiff, but it’s worth the payoff.

Homecoming(Amazon)
Based on the popular podcast of the same name, Homecoming explores the psychological effects the war has on soldiers. Julia Roberts was a case manager at a facility that helps transition soldiers back into civilian life. The real eerie twist comes years later when she discovers the real purpose of the facility was a lot more sinister.

Pose (FX)
Live. Work. Pose! Welcome yourself into a blooming drag house in the late-80s that was inspired by real life events. The story balances the queer community in Harlem with the  Wall Street lives of money hungry businessmen. This was the largest cast of transgender actors ever assembled for a major television production. For fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Joseph Cassara’s debut novel, The House of Impossible Beauties.

Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader’s comedic chops are tweaked in this dark comedy. He was a longstanding bright spot on SNL and proved his dramatic skills in films like The Skeleton Twins. He finds the perfect balance as a hitman who becomes passionate about becoming a commercial actor. 

Everything Sucks! (Netflix)
This show was canceled after this one season. It’s a mid-level teen melodrama set in the 1990s. It hits all of your typical beats (some extremely well and some only so-so), but the characterization of the main characters is extremely unique. The young actors turn out some terrific performances.

Killing Eve (BBC America)
Expect a slow, drawn out murder mystery with this one. My sister, who prefers Bob’s Burgers and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and rarely likes anything serious, swears by this show. Sandra Oh turns a brilliant performance as an obsessive MI5 officer.

The Runaways (Hulu)
Adapted from a comic series where teens with special abilities discover their parents are basically super villains, this is a good one for you and your teenage relatives to connect over. While it’s a superhero story, the teens are very well written and show the different facets of the world we live in today ranging from depression to immigration. Season two premieres on December 21, 2018 in its entirety. 

2018 in books

It’s only halfway through November, but I’m already done reading books published in 2018. I’m exhausted. Plus, I’m already diving into 2019 publications.

Narrowing my favorite books to ten works of fiction with an additional ten non-fiction books was hard. Normally, I cop out and just list a few dozen books in alphabetical order. This year, I attempted to rate the books in some semblance of an order. I considered books I fawned over during my initial read, ones I recommended the most since reading, and the ones I looped back to the most to find a breathtaking passage or standout line.

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Gimme 5 (aka the best of everything so far in 2018)

It’s the time of year when established media outlets and blog boys alike put out their “Best ____ of 2018 so far” lists. Ya know I’m no different. However, I don’t make money off of my last name dot com, so I don’t need 50 different lists to appease my advertisers. I limited myself to five of each. If you don’t see your favorite album/film/goldfish, it was probably 6th on my list. Or I haven’t encountered it yet.

gimmefive

Gimme 5: albums from the first half of 2018

One Stone by Trixie Mattel (self-released) March
A drag queen superstar goes against making EDM club music in favor of earnest Americana. Must listens are “Little Sister” and “Red Side of the Moon.”

Clean by Soccer Mommy (Fat Possum) March
The cream of the crop when it comes to college-aged people mastering their feelings with a guitar. Must listens are “Your Dog” and “Scorpio Rising.”

Saved by Now, Now (Trans-) May
These high school besties turned pop power duo didn’t disappoint after it took five years to make this album.  Must listens are “SGL” and “Holy Water.”

Nightstand by Tancred (Polyvinyl) June
Jess Abbott could have written the soundtrack to any angsty teen movie from the late-90s. Must listens are “Apple Tree Girl” and “Underwear.”

Verdugo by Richard Edwards (Joyful Noise) June
The result happens when your life and health go to shit but so you write two albums – the bummer one and this one. Must listens are “A Woman Who Can’t Say No” and “Olive Oyl.”

 

Gimme 5: books from the first half of 2018

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara (Ecco)
Before RuPaul made drag mainstream, there was the queer community of NYC in the late ’80s struggling to find acceptance. This is their story. [My interview with the author can be found here.]

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove)
Modern-day Nigerian folklore crossed with a sincere coming-of-age story is perhaps the best way to describe this novel.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley (MCD)
Essays about topics ranging from porn to volcanoes to personal musing. Expect to laugh, cry, and dry heave.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Hogarth)
A woman in the midst of an existential crisis mixed with a cocktail of depression and anxiety has a sexual relationship with a merman. Or does she?

Florida by Lauren Groff (Riverhead)
A collection from one of the best writers out there. She explores different characteristics of the state through time and location with such emotional precision. [My interview with the author can be found here.]

 

Gimme 5: returning TV shows from the first half of 2018

The Americans (FX)
A final season about Cold War Russian spies in America that wasn’t watched or respected by nearly enough people. Standout episode: “START.”

Atlanta (FX)
Completely different, yet somehow exactly the same from the first season. Auteur television perfected. Standout episode: “Teddy Perkins.”

Brockmire (IFC)
Baseball is America’s pastime. Hank Azaria is America’s future. Minor league baseball has never been so fun. And that’s saying something considering how fun MiLB is already. Standout episode: “Knuckleball.”

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)
It never takes itself too seriously and is lighthearted and hefty throughout. Sometimes even in the same scene. Standout episode: “Suspicious Objects.”

Westworld (HBO)
Well, well, well. If there was a show I turned sour on, it’s this one. Still, I can’t stop thinking about it week in and week out. Standout episode: “Kiksuya.”

 

Gimme 5: new TV shows from the first half of 2018

Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader proves he’s more than a funny man in this dark hitman comedy. 

The End of the F*ing World (Netflix)
Two disturbed teens go on a dangerous roadtrip across England that is filled with drugs, sex, and murder.

Queer Eye (Netflix)
Five men so fabulous a second season came out less than half a year later.

The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Problematic, sure, but an honest retelling of America’s darkest hour.

Killing Eve (BBC America)
A twisty murder mystery that avoids the typical tropes and has stand out performances lead by Sandra Oh.

 

Gimme 5: films from the first half of 2018

A Quiet Place by John Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (Paramount)
It took 90 minutes to explore the themes The Walking Dead still hasn’t figured out.

Black Panther by Ryan Coogler(Marvel)
The best(?) superhero flick since The Dark Knight. Wakanda forever.

Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson(Fox Searchlight)
The film auteur returns to stop motion and surpassed all expectation.

Love, Simon by Greg Berlanti, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger(20th Century Fox)
Queer stories are more important than ever; especially for teens.

You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay (Amazon Studios)
Joaquin Phoenix returns to form and might as well be nominated for Best Actor right now.

 

Gimme 5: podcasts from the first half of 2018

Keep It with Ira Madison, Karen Brown, Louis Vitrell (Crooked Media)
Pop culture commentary with a political twist.

Homophilia with Dave Holes and Matt McConkey (Earwolf)
One of the best podcasts on queer culture other than Nancy.

Nancy with Tobin Low and Kathy (WNYC)
Speaking of Nancy. The best podcast from 2017 is back and better than ever!

Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo (CBC)
Canadian true crime about indigenous women. More light needs to be shed on this.

I Think You’re Interesting with Todd VanDerWerff (Vox)
One of my favorite critics chatting with people he thinks is interesting. VDW has great views on culture and is a must read.

Trixie Mattel: comedian, folk musician, and ‘Drag Race’ winner

Trixie Mattel is dominating the drag scene right now. She has her own show The Trixie and Katya Show on Viceland with fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Katya Zamolodchikova (and later Bob the Drag Queen), a stellar folk album called One Stone, and recently took home the title for RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 3.

The drag queen, born Brian Firkus, embarks on her own headlining U.S.-wide tour called Now with Moving Parts, a reference to lyrics from her folk album.

I spoke on the phone with the multi-talented queen while she was on tour for the Haters Roast about all of the aspects of her blossoming career. You can tour dates, as well as purchase tickets, to her upcoming tour here.

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Trixie Mattel – “One Stone” review

Congratulations – excuse me, condragulations are in order. Trixie Mattel was just crowned the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 3. She also has the number one album on iTunes. Unlike other drag queens who release EDM-based dance tracks meant to play in gay clubs across the country, Trixie release a… folk album.

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Joseph Cassara illuminates the rise of drag culture in ‘The House of Impossible Beauties’

I was looking for a specific type of book in the summer of 2017. I asked the subreddit Suggest Me a Book “History of Drag. Any suggestions? Not biographies. But a cultural/sociological look into Drag Queen history and such. Thanks!”

I wanted a definitive history to read like explored in the documentary Paris is Burning. I got a few upvotes and two responses – My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones and Sex Change, Social Change by Viviane Namaste – but nothing I was particularly looking for. I didn’t even ask to think of looking for a good literary fiction book about queer, trans, and drag queens during the 1980s and early 1990s because, well, I had a feeling it didn’t exist.

At some point I got an advanced copy of a book. Upon a quick glance it just seems like a romance. It has Beauties in the title and has a glamorous shot of a woman.

I glance at it a few days later. It’s a man with make up on. In drag.

This is the book I was waiting for. Joseph Cassara wrote The House of Impossible Beauties and I am going on record by saying this is going to me one of the books of 2018.

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