I started watching Cowboy Bebop in the last few months. I’m not yet through the series, and I’ve enjoyed it so far, but something that has caught my attention since I began watching it has been the conversations I’ve had surrounding it.
“I started Cowboy Bebop last night.”
“Oh, nice! I like that show. It doesn’t really have an overarching story but it’s still pretty good.”
“I can’t hang today, I’m watching Cowboy Bebop right now.”
“Oh, I watched that but it’s pretty episodic.”
Why does the quality of this show seem to come with a disclaimer that it’s episodic?
Serialization has taken over television in the past two decades and is fairly synonymous with the rise of the Golden Age of TV. With this rise in serialization, episodic television started to crumble; specifically the dissolution of how episodic television is perceived.
The word “episodic,” in many cases, is currently seen as an automatic con. The word “procedural” makes some TV fans run away in disgust, rushing to their favorite show to cleanse their minds with some sweet serialization. What is it about serialization that is so great? And what about episodic that is so wrong?
Episodic television provides singular stories within each episode that often don’t connect to each other in any significant way. Whether that’s solving a new mystery each week or getting into a new crazy situation with the gang, each episode stands alone. Due to their bite-sized nature and adherence to a status quo, major plot lines don’t move forward very quickly, if there are even any at all. Common complaints towards episodic television are its repetitiveness and lack of build to any major climax – two issues that serialization can solve quite nicely.
Serialization provides an opportunity for consistent character development, multiple intriguing plots, and major changes in the status quo – all ingredients to create an engrossing story from start to finish. It’s easier to get sucked into the story because each episode plays as a chapter within a larger plot, begging you to hit play on the next episode to find out what happens next. Cliff hangers and plot twists galore! Now THAT’s entertainment. They also provide something that episodic television shows don’t get to benefit from – a crutch.
Serialized television means that the story doesn’t end at the conclusion of an episode. This promise of a continued story lures viewers into watching the next episode based on what might happen, instead of being solely dependent on the quality of previous episodes. Serialized shows can lean on this crutch to help carry their stories and audiences with them throughout the series. You have to watch them all because each episode matters by its relation to what’s come before and what will happen next.
Episodic television doesn’t have this crutch. Instead, they have to go through the difficult process of making each episode matter on its own terms. Creating meaning for singular episodes is not easy, but when done correctly episodic television shows can provide a wider (and in some ways deeper) exploration of character and themes.
To highlight the power of episodic television, let’s once again turn to my favorite beautiful mess of a series: Lost. Viewers got hooked on Lost due to its intriguing characters and tantalizing mysteries, and many fans stuck with the series until the end just to see how it all ended, despite falling out of love with the show long before. Each season ended with a massive cliffhanger that kept viewers checking their calendars for the return of the show, and even today encourages binge-watching with its serialized “find out what happens next” format.
And yet the series’ most acclaimed episode, “The Constant,” is one of the most stand-alone episodes of the series. It uses characters and plot threads from previously established episodes, sure, but the story of a man hopping back and forth through time and reconnecting with his long lost love is very self-contained. The logistics of the plot-line are all explained and concluded within the episode, and the love story is told in a way that first-time viewers can immediately identify with. The contained story also helps keep this potentially convoluted time-hopping plot clean and centered, forcing the story to be as lean as possible and not giving it a chance to overstay its welcome.
When episodic television is taken full advantage of, wild and risky story-telling techniques can be attempted without threatening to derail the series. As episode counts for seasons get shorter, I fear that these riskier episodes will be tossed aside in favor of consistent storytelling for a long-form narrative. An episode like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s brilliant “Hush” doesn’t seem as likely to be green-lit if that means 10% of the season is going to be dialogue-less. Episodes like Breaking Bad’s “Fly” will become less and less acceptable the further we get from episodic storytelling, and you don’t have to go much further than the split reaction to that episode to understand why.
“Fly” is the most unique episode of Breaking Bad for many reasons. Its plot-line is razor-thin, its cinematography is much more experimental, and it doesn’t move the main plot along at all. But this experiment allows us an in-depth look at Walt’s mental state and the thematic resonance the fly represents to his world. The changes to the usual structure of Breaking Bad proved to be too much of a departure for many fans, though. This wasn’t the Breaking Bad they had signed up for.
This is ironic because, as I stated before, one of the biggest criticisms of episodic television is its repetitive nature and adherence to a status quo. Tune in, solve a mystery with your favorite characters, and see you next week, folks! It’s almost like comfort food (which in some circles is somehow seen as a bad thing).
I’d argue that serialized formatting encourages the “comfort food” idea even more, despite its ability to change its characters and status quos, because serialization requires consistency – consistency in writing, direction, character choices, musical score, etc. The world and characters may change each episode, but the structure normally does not.
Episodic television doesn’t have this limit. It allows for structural changes. Characters can be explored not just through varying situations, but through varying storytelling techniques. You can look at an apple with the naked eye, but you’ll see it differently under the lens of a microscope, or through a window, or in a mirror. This is what episodic television can provide when taken advantage of – completely different approaches to the story and characters, or perhaps even completely different characters!
Yet today the format is ignored by many outside of comedies. For some reason, singular episodes are just fine for providing us laughs, but not for drama. Perhaps this is a result of too many episodic shows resting on their laurels and just repeating what works, or maybe it’s the result of some of the greatest dramas ever created pushing serialization to its finest peaks.
However, I hope the conversation around episodic television changes, and instead of dismissing the format audiences instead begin pushing for series that actually take full advantage of what an episode structure can provide in terms of storytelling. Some of the most inspirational series ever created were episodic (The Twilight Zone, Columbo, The X-Files), and I hope the format lives on, both on its own and within serialized stories, and receives the respect it deserves.
What do you all think of episodic television versus serialized? Am I totally out of touch and all of your friends love episodic TV and hate serialization? Let us know in the comments below!
(As I was editing this article, I came about this quote from an interview on IO9 about Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop remake: “Another reason for making tweaks to Bebop’s story is that the team behind the show wanted to broaden out Spike’s story into a longer narrative in and of itself…”
So it seems as though even the episodic show that inspired this article will be remade to be more serialized. Take that as you will!)
17 Forgotten LGBTQ+ TV Characters
No matter who you are and who you love, you certainly know the iconic LGBTQ+ TV characters like Grey’s Anatomy’s Callie and Arizona or Schitt’s Creek’s David and Patrick.
But since Pride month is finally here, we figured why not list off some of the lesser-known LGBTQ+ characters that are equally as powerful.
And maybe you’ll find some new queer TV shows to watch along the way.
1. Fran- Shrill
Simply put, Fran’s a Sagittarius queen on Shrill. Although not always that way, Fran successfully depicts the internal challenges of coming out in an immigrant family. Raised in a traditional Nigerian family, she’s had to suppress herself during her early years, but once she felt ready to come out, her entire personality blossomed into the Fran we know and love.
2. Levi Schmitt- Grey’s Anatomy
When Callie and Arizona left the show, there was a gay-ping hole that needed to be filled. Thus, Levi Schmitt was born. His storyline might not be as prominent as his predecessors, but his characterization has since grown, and he’s made his own place in the Grey’s Anatomy family.
3. Edie Palmer- Almost Family
Sadly, Almost Family was cut short. But Edie Palmer’s character showed the struggles of coming out later in life in the midst of a marriage with a man. We’re sad we didn’t get to see the evolvement of her story, but if you haven’t seen the first season, make sure to add it to your list.
4. Gael Martinez- Good Trouble
It’s a rarity for a show to portray a bisexual man, but it’s so important. Gael on Good Trouble is suave, sexy, and totally comfortable in his sexuality. Coming from a traditional Latino family didn’t make his coming out particularly easy, but with the support of his sister and friends, he’s able to find his way.
5. Maggie Amato- Younger
Maggie on Younger is the OWL (old wise lesbian) that every queer woman aspires to be. An artist and a true OG of Brooklyn before it was totally gentrified, she’s not tied down to anyone and prefers to play the dating field of NYC. Because who wouldn’t when they’re surrounded by the largest pool of datable women?
6. Titus Andromedon- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
The diva that steals the show, Titus on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the stereotypical flamboyant gay man. Somehow managing to survive in NYC as an aspiring Broadway performer. He may not give off the “straight” vibe Broadway wants from him, but his wardrobe is certainly better.
7. Abbi Abrams- Broad City
In Broad City, the show explores the fluidity of sexuality effortlessly without putting a huge emphasis on labels. Both leads date men and women, but Abbi’s understated coming-out moment mirrors the actress’s own personal experience.
8. Darryl Whitefeather- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
In this fun and musically driven show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does an outstanding job including multiple queer characters into its small cast. Darryl Whitefeather is an older man, who discovers he’s bisexual early on in the first season after he divorces his wife and finds he has feelings for White Josh.
9. Rhonda Johnson- Blackish
Rhonda’s not a series regular, but she does show up on the occasional episode of Blackish. She’s able to keep her sexuality a secret from her family for so long, that Dre, her brother, doesn’t totally believe she’s gay. Until he realizes that her–roommate– is actually her partner.
10. Victor Salazaar- Love, Victor
Love, Victor is a coming-of-age show set in the same universe as the movie Love, Simon. This time centering around, Victor, a Latino boy whose traditional parents aren’t as accepting of homosexuality. With its Season 2 coming out in a few days, the emphasis will on the family dynamic after Victor comes out.
11. Dani Clayton- The Haunting of Bly Manor
In a beautifully written show about love and loss, set against the backdrop of a mild thriller, The Haunting of Bly Manor stories Dani as she grapples with her sexuality after an incident that leaves her haunted by her past.
12. Lionel Higgins- Dear White People
Lionel from Dear White People is an important representation for Black gay men. Homophobia’s not something he often faces, instead his own flaws inhibit his dating life. However, he doesn’t need a relationship to distract from his three-dimensional characterization.
13. Frankie Coyne- Workin’ Moms
Workin’ Moms is a comedy that depicts the realities of motherhood. One of the series regulars, Frankie, struggles with postpartum depression, ultimately leading to a split with her wife. She navigates singledom, dating women here and there, while also trying to build her real estate career.
14. Toni Shalifoe- The Wilds
When The Wild’s dropped on Amazon Prime, the characters were easily lovable. Especially Toni, with her spitfire and confident personality she won over many gay hearts. She’s out and proud, and doesn’t let Shelby’s homophobic tendencies take her down.
15. Mae- Feel Good
In this comedic series that draws on the comedian Mae Martin’s real life, Mae is a drug addict who is having a hard time with sobriety as she’s too focused on her new relationship with her closeted girlfriend.
16. Elena- One Day at a Time
Elena’s the social justice warrior of the family in One Day at a Time, and figures out she likes girls early on. She comes out to her family and the different generations seem to handle it differently, but it doesn’t stop her from being herself.
17. Eric Effiong- Sex Education
With his impeccable fashion that is sometimes gender-bending, Eric on Sex Education shows that you can be gay and actively religious. And despite the teasing he endures at school, he doesn’t stop being proud of his identity because he’s already been in the closet and it was dark and lonely.
Please comment below with any characters that you think should be on this list!
Sara Ramirez Joins the ‘Sex and the City’ Reboot as Non-Binary Character
HBO Max’s Sex and the City reboot has officially snagged Grey’s Anatomy alumni Sara Ramirez as a new cast addition.
The star is replacing Kim Cattrall’s iconic character, Samantha.
Ramirez, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, will portray Che Diaz, a queer, nonbinary standup comedian. Che is the host of a widely popular podcast that will regularly feature Carrie.
The 10-episode series titled And Just Like That… will follow the original cast, including Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis), during a new chapter in their lives. It will examine how their friendship has shifted and evolved since their early 30s.
The decision to include a nonbinary character is a progressive move for the series and was inspired by Cattrall’s refusal to join the reboot. The actress called for the show to provide greater inclusivity and suggested that her character be replaced by “another actress–possibly a woman of color.” Executive director Michael Patrick King certainly delivered hoping to make some necessary amends to former episodes.
In the original Sex and the City, Carrie made some questionable and problematic comments about the LGBTQ+ community. Notably, the line: “I’m not even sure bisexuality even exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to Gaytown.”
Hopefully, Carrie takes this opportunity to learn from her past homophobic beliefs and we see a shift in her perspectives.
It’s exciting to see an aged classic rewrite its troubled past and take ownership of its outdated content. Now, we can properly look forward to a trendier and more millennial-esque show.
What do you think of the casting addition?
Cruel Summer Review – First Day of School (1×08)
The first day of school was quite eventful as it gave us a glimpse into the day Kate Wallis went missing, tackled Jamie’s guilt, and Ben’s accident.
Much like all the other episodes, Cruel Summer Season 1 Episode 8 was broken up into three timelines — 1994, 1995, and 1996 — in order to emphasize how different the first day of school was with each passing year.
In 1993, Jeanette, Mallory, and Vincent were best friends who just wrapped up their list, which as many fans believed, did play a crucial role in the overall mystery.
The final item on the list included breaking into the AV Club room to play their prank video, which included footage of Martin Harris getting sprayed down with a sprinkler as he left his house that morning.
However, no one besides Mallory really seemed into completing the final item and holding onto the past.
Vincent was more preoccupied with his feelings for Ben, so he left his post to chat him up about losing their moms.
Meanwhile, Jeanette was tired of being pushed around by Mallory and bullied into doing things that she didn’t want to do.
When she saw Mrs. Wallis walking towards Mr. Harris’s office, she also left her post and eavesdropped on their conversation detailing Kate’s disappearance.
Without her lookouts, Mallory was a sitting duck when Martin walked into the AV club.
While the prank seemed harmless, he freaked out over the footage and gave Mallory detention.
As he played back the tape several times, it became clear why he was so frazzled over something so trivial.
The VHS seemed to show Kate standing in his window as he left for work, which makes it the only piece of evidence connecting him to her disappearance. And that’s not good considering he just told Kate’s mother he had no idea where she was.
Naturally, he stomped on the VHS to destroy it, but I wonder if Mallory held onto another copy. Or better yet, did she notice Kate when she filmed/ played it back?
Martin was very clearly in the circle of trust with the Wallis family, so he was able to control the narrative to some degree.
Joy made his office her first stop when Kate went off the radar and he lied straight to her face.
He even gaslighted her by encouraging her not to go to the police because they might view it as negligence.
Seriously, that should’ve made Joy rethink the whole situation, but as I said, she trusted him and thought he was giving her sound advice.
At this point, it seems as though Kate is still hiding out at his home willingly, but it’s frustrating that we’ve yet to see what transpired between them once she entered his home.
Based on the previous episodes and how Martin didn’t have anything prepared for her downstairs including food or clothing, I don’t necessarily think he planned to keep her a prisoner. My guess is that once the cops were involved and the whole town was searching for Kate, he figured that things had gotten out of hand and he needed to keep her locked away so that she wouldn’t incriminate him.
Jeanette overheard this whole conversation and used it to get in with Jamie, who thought Kate was mad at him about the drinking from the night prior.
Throughout the whole season, it seemed as though Jeanette “stole” Kate’s life, but from the looks of it, she simply fell into a more popular role in school following her glow-up, which started when she first got her braces off.
Jamie was nice to her even before she changed her whole appearance. He was one of the few who noticed she got her braces off and commented on her pretty smile.
Jeanette didn’t have to become a completely different person to get on his radar. And though she wanted that popular lifestyle, the guy, and the friends, it was a more natural transition for her than I previously thought.
As was her falling out with Mallory.
To be quite honest, Mallory wasn’t a good friend. She was pushy, judgemental, and controlling. She kept trying to manipulate Jeanette, and when she began blooming in her own way, she tried to push her back down a notch.
It was a clear sign of someone who is jealous and feels their friend slipping away so they do everything to ensure that things don’t change.
Eventually, Jeanette got sick of it and called her out, which led to their big public fight and the end of their friendship.
Mallory is a tough character to crack. I haven’t gotten good vibes from her from the beginning, but I think it’s too obvious if she were to be involved or responsible for what happened to Kate.
And though she clearly hates Jeanette, the hate was fueled by pain and hurt, so I doubt that she’d do anything to punish her or get revenge.
Under the surface, there’s still some love there.
In the present day, when Jeanette went by her house to get the snow globe, Mallory appeared indifferent, but in reality, she knew exactly where the snowglobe was, which meant that she still cared about Jeanette and their friendship on some level.
But now there’s the mystery of the snowglobe. What does it symbolize? Why is it important?
And why did Jeanette think of it when she heard Jamie’s sinister recording of a girl breathing while a movie with the words “till death do us part” played in the background?
Did she recognize the movie? Did she think it was Mallory calling Jamie? What happened on Christmas Eve?!
Initially, I thought the recording might have indicated that Mallory was somehow involved, but Jeanette was more concerned about getting the snowglobe and didn’t seem too concerned about Mallory.
The episode also painted a full picture of how Kate’s disappearance ruined several lives.
Jamie spiraled and began drinking to cope with his grief. Up until now, Jamie had come off as a selfish jerk, but underneath that facade, he’s just a guy whose world came crashing down after they found Kate.
He didn’t know who to believe or who to stand by. In trying to defend Kate’s honor, he assaulted Jeanette and was then overcome with guilt after his actions led others to blame and torment her publicly.
All of that pent-up guilt and rage led to Jamie’s drinking, which then led to an accident that destroyed Ben’s football career.
In one of the earlier episodes, Ben tells the lawyers that he blames Jeanette for destroying his life. Aside from the obvious Kate and Jeanette drama, it’s one of the storylines that I’ve been most curious about.
Ben got into Jamie’s car, who was under the influence. He sped off to Jeanette’s house to apologize to her and T-boned another car. He was fine, but Ben wasn’t so lucky and badly injured his shoulder.
Ben has every right to feel angry and resent what happened, but blaming Jeanette for what happened is unfair.
Jeanette didn’t tell Jamie to drink, nor did she tell him to drive drunk. Those were his decisions.
Jeanette has been nothing but good to Ben and even kept his romance with Vince a secret since they weren’t ready to come out publicly.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Jeanette has been painted as a villain mostly through no wrongdoing of her own.
Jamie’s actions forced everyone to doubt her story. Kate’s tell-all put her in the spotlight as the bad guy without ever giving her a chance to refute the claims. And Ben blamed her for an injury that she didn’t have anything to do with.
Now, I’m not saying Kate is to blame in any of this because she’s not; she’s also a victim who was groomed by Martin and thought he was a good guy that she could trust and confide in.
However, since she is the kidnapping victim, she’s avoided the scrutiny while Jeanette has bared all of it.
That also doesn’t seem fair.
The fact that Vince confronted Jamie about leaving Jeanette alone also indirectly led to the accident, so one could argue that it was a series of events that led to Ben’s injury, and everyone played a part.
Even Jamie didn’t seem to think Jeanette was guilty when he apologized to her, which might mean that she’ll begin to have more people in her corner now.
Of course, we still haven’t seen the moment in which Kate alleges that Jeanette saw her.
Could it be the moment where they played a prank on Mr. Harris and she was standing in the window? Because if so, technically, Mallory and Vince should’ve seen her then too.
Also, is it possible that Kate saw Mallory recording on Jeanette’s bike and assumed that Jeanette saw her being held captive?
And does this explain why present-day Mallory is so obsessed with being Kate’s friend? Is it stemming from some sort of misplaced guilt?
There’s also something off about Joy’s reaction to seeing Jeanette in the hallway back in 1993. Jeanette was all too eager to help the Wallis family, but Joy brushed her off and was outright rude to her.
Why does she hate the Turner family so much? Is it because she wasn’t able to snag Greg?
There have been some theories that Greg may also be Kate’s father, which would make this that much messier.
All I know is that there has to be more to Joy’s hatred of the Turner family. I don’t think she’d be that vile to the children simply because she didn’t like Cindy.
Speaking of Cindy, we finally saw her reconnect with Jeanette in the present day, but her approach was pretty terrible. Jeanette’s obviously been through hell and back and finally has compelling evidence that casts doubt on Kate’s credibility, but her mother insisted that she drop the lawsuit because it’s a losing game for her.
Is she trying to protect her daughter from more pain or does she continue to think her daughter is guilty?
Cindy seemingly left the house the moment she learned that Jeanette was lying about having the key, which led to the end of her marriage with Greg.
She pursued her career, which, on one hand, is deserved, but on the other, does seem like an attempt to run away from the issues and abandon the family.
The negative press was too much for her, but it was also when her daughter needed her most.
Greg might not be perfect, but he stuck around and vouched for Jeanette at every turn.
We also find out that he made Jeanette come clean to the police about having Harris’s key and being in his home once before, which means Jeanette’s only hiding the fact that she went back there multiple times.
And considering the allegations against her, I’m not surprised she kept that a secret.
No one would even hear anything else if they knew she frequented his home.
Sadly, there was no movement on the Annabelle front, and while I’ve read some pretty out-there theories, I’m going to refrain from theorizing because I have a feeling that what the writers come up with will blow me out of the water.
I’m hoping we get more scenes from Martin’s perspective as I like knowing what was going through his mind throughout all of this.
I also want to see the alleged moment Kate thought she saw Jeanette while in captivity.
What did you think of the episode? Do you think it’s fair that Ben blames Jeanette? Do you see Jamie in a new light?
What’s with the snowglobe? Is there something off about Joy? Who is Annabelle?
Let us know your thoughts and theories in the comments!
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