Friday, December 21, 2012

Best TV Shows of the Year

My Favorite TV Shows of 2012

1. Best new TV show: Mindy Project

I looooove this show. It has quickly moved to the top of my "Must See" list and is one of only 2 shows each week that I actually sit down to watch (also, see #2). Mindy Kaling is hilarious and speaks to my life. I could be Mindy Lahiri, M.D., without the one-night-stands. The supporting cast is not as strong as I think they could be, which drags down the comedy a bit, but Mindy and supporting lead Chris Messina have great chemistry and witty banter. Mindy's lines are so funny that my friend Sarah and I post our favorite quotes from the episodes each week on each other's Facebook. Some of our favorites:
Mindy: "To paraphrase another great woman of color, Mariah Carey, 'All I want for you'."

Mindy to a patient: "Please do not give me print outs of Wed MD. This is like bringing recipes to a restaurant and saying, here cook this."

Teen: "Henry says we're going to be together forever. It's even his signature at the bottom of all his emails."
Mindy's boyfriend: "Well my law firm forbids tampering with the standard confidentiality notice at the bottom of all our emails."

2. Best old favorite that keeps getting better: Grey's Anatomy

After 9 seasons, this show just keeps getting better and better.  How could it be that these 6 are the only original cast members still left?? Because Shonda Rhimes keeps killing off every good character! Sloane is gone, Lexi's dead, and Teddy left the hospital. Instead, we've got a batch of new surgical interns to follow and as usual, juicy drama between Cristina and Owen (will they work it out?), Meredith and Derek (what will happen with Derek's hand? Meredith's pregnancy?), and several other great story lines (Callie and Arizona adjusting to Arizona's disability, Richard's ailing wife Adele, and Miranda's impending wedding). They've all signed on for 1 more season, giving me a decade of my favorite show, through my 4 years of college and 5 years of grad school. I'm hooked.

3. Best farewell season: 30 Rock

This show is a witty, campy delight. It shot out big in the first few seasons, sweeping the Emmy's and Golden Globes, and then simmered for a few years. But I love the writing and the characters, and I'm especially happy to see Liz Lemon get what she has been wanting for years: a husband (love her feminist refusal to have a big wedding) and fingers-crossed, a baby.

4. Best guilty pleasure I try to resist: The Bachelorette

After the Jason-Melissa-Molly debacle of Bachelor, I vowed never to watch again (unless Jillian, who I loved, was the Bachelorette). Then I watched Jillian. Then Jake. Then Aly, who I don't care for. Then Brad Womack's second try, since I followed his first. Then Ashley because she was cute. Then Ben, who I hated, because I was sucked in. Then came Emily, the best season of the Bachelorette since the original, Trista. Sure, she ended up not working out with Jef (did she cheat? is it because he's Mormon? what went wrong???), but she made smart choices along the way. In the end, I watched 10 seasons of the Bach franchise, at 2 hours per week, at about 8 episodes per season, I've spent 160 hours on this franchise. I keep trying to pull myself away, but I'll keep watching. I'll see you in January when Sean tries to find his wife on the Bachelor.

5. Best new cult favorite: Downton Abbey

O.M.G. This show is AMAZING. I love British period pieces, so this show was made for me. I love romance, I love drama, I love scandal. It's a perfect fit. Season 3 is about to air in the United States, but shhh...I've already seen it all online! It's out of this world... Some spoilers that can be revealed: Mary and Matthew do marry, Downton may be in peril, and there will be at least one wedding, one baby, and one death in the new season. Enjoy!

Do you agree with my choices? What would yours be? Any runner-ups? Share your thoughts below!

Life-changing books I read this year

My Best Books of 2012

1. Addiction and Grace by Gerald May
This book was truly life changing for me. I read it at the beginning of the year, and finished it by the end of January. At the time I read it, I was working in a rehab facility for teen boys, and wanted to better understand the spiritual nature of drug and alcohol addiction, since I have never personally experienced that issue. But Addiction and Grace is about so much more than "addictions." Addiction is anything that we are attached to that takes the place of God. This book helped me see that I use many objects of attachment, whether it is work, achievements, relationships, or approval to numb my need for God. I shared some of this book in class devotions, and also in group therapy sessions with my clients. One client and I even wrote letters to our "addictions" in session, him to drugs and myself to approval and achievement, shared them with each other, and then tore up our letters to symbolize detaching ourselves from these life-controlling attachments. It was a powerful moment in therapy for me and for him, but the lessons of Addiction and Grace continue to impact my life every day, in how I view addiction and how spirituality can heal.

2. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
My dad first introduced me to Brene Brown through her amazing TEDTalks. She's a professor and researcher at UT Houston with a PhD in social work, but as she'll tell you, she's really more of a storyteller. I first read this book, then her new one Daring Greatly, and was most impressed with The Gifts of Imperfection. In it, Dr. Brown's research on vulnerability, authenticity, courage, shame, and living what she calls a "wholehearted life" come alive through stories from her own life and the participants in her research. As a grad student, I appreciated her qualitative research, but also found her book very practical, readable, and applicable to a broad audience. Each chapter focuses on a key to wholehearted living, all with the goal of "letting go of who you think you're supposed to be and embracing who you are." Not a day goes by where I don't think of what I learned in Brene's book, and try to live it out in my life.

3. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
This is a little bit older book (2003), having been an Oprah's book club selection back in 2005, and then surrounded by controversy when it came out that this "memoir" was part fiction. Oprah withdrew her book club endorsement and publicly flogged James Frey for the embellishments in his story. Nevertheless, I wanted to read it to, again, help me understand the mind of an addict and life in drug rehab. Frey was candid, gritty, and his stream of consciousness style really portrayed the confabulated mind of a hard-core drug addict. I also shared pieces of this book with a teen client (see #1) and even gifted him with a copy of the book when I left my job at the rehab. There's a lot of explicit language and gory details, but in the end it's a story of hope and the power of the human will to overcome.
4. Hunger Games 1-2 by Suzanne Collins
I'm not usually a fan of young adult fiction. I refused to read the Twilight series or Harry Potter. I also don't like fantasy fiction. So why is the Hunger Games on my list of the best books? After seeing the movie, I borrowed the books from my little sister and read books 1, 2, and 3 all in one week during school break. It's engaged, attention-grabbing and the blend of romance, suspense, and action speak to the violent nature of the world we live in now. The second book was probably my favorite, while the third doesn't make my list. Now I am eagerly awaiting the release of Catching Fire in theaters November 2013.

5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This was the best fiction book I read this year, beating out one of my favorite author's Emily Giffin's Where We Belong. In The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh flawlessly blends together the stories of Victoria's childhood growing up in foster care, her present life trying to escape her reality, and her gift of communicating through flowers. A heartfelt story with beautiful, deep character development.