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By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay will premiere nationwide on November 21

San Diego Comic-Con is essentially the Mary Poppins’ bag of goodies for nerds. Insights into future seasons and new films might wet our whistle but right now, this teaser for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is putting everyone over the edge.

According to BuzzFeed, the minute long trailer debuted Friday in San Diego as a part of a promotion for Samsung.

Following the immediate aftermath of The Hunger Games: Catching FireMockingjay puts the rebellion against the Capitol in the spotlight. It follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in the new territory of District 13 as she tries to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capitol and become the Mockingjay, the symbol of the revolution, the rebellion needs.

Since I saw the midnight premiere of Catching Fire, I’ve been itching to see the next film installment. Francis Lawrence took over as director for the second movie and created an adaptation that far exceeded the first film’s achievements. With Lawrence still at the helm for both parts of Mockingjay, I know the rest of Suzanne Collins’ series is in capable hands.

Though Mockingjay may be my least favorite of the trilogy, I am beyond excited for the film. From what this short clip has shown, I believe what dragged in the book will soar on screen, for it seems a solid visual picture is needed for the impact of several situations in the book.

Why am I so confident? Because in the mere seconds Jennifer Lawrence is on screen, she perfectly captured how Katniss is in the third book: frightened, out of sorts, unconfident.

This is going to be good. I just need more.

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will air August 25 at 8 p.m. on NBC, hosted by Seth Meyers


Nominations for the 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards were held Thursday morning and announced by Mindy Kaling and Carson Daly.

HBO’s Game of Thrones ruled with 19 nominations with FX’s new buzzworthy series Fargo following closely behind with 18. American Horror Story: Coven earned 17, Breaking Bad received 16 and HBO’s The Normal Heart had 16 as well. On the network side, Saturday Night Live earned 14 noms and Modern Family earned 10. 

Many of the categories will look the same as previous years as Breaking BadDownton AbbeyThe Good Wife and House of Cards still dominate the drama categories while the same group is nominated in comedy (Modern Family, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jim Parsons, etc). 

Even with the same handful of names reappearing on the list year after year, there are still a decent amount of first-time nominees including (but not limited to) Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart), Joe Morton (Scandal) and Gary Cole (Veep). 

I’ll be looking to see if the much buzzed about series True Detective is able to win over longtime Emmy standout Breaking Bad. Here’s hoping Peter Dinklage scores a win once again for his amazing work in this year’s Game of Thrones. And props to Joe Morton for making me actually interested in who wins the Guest Actor in a Drama category. “You are a BOY.”

At least in the comedy categories there is a consistent mix of shows represented. Granted they are basically the same shows every year. I really never know which way the academy will swing, either going with a winner who has won several times (Jim Parsons) or with the choice no one expected (Merritt Wever). 

I’ll be pulling for AHS: Coven all the way but am hopelessly torn in the acting categories. Jessica Lange or Sarah Paulson? Angela Bassett or Kathy Bates or Frances Conroy? Frankly, Lange did have a better performance this season, but all three supporting actresses were amazing. The Normal Heart scored nominations in every acting category it could, though I personally hope they aren’t the ones to win them. I found Ryan Murphy’s HBO movie about the beginning of the AIDS crisis rather slow and unimpressive. On the other hand, I’m ecstatic Sherlock is back among the nominees, nominated for the final episode of its third season. Well deserved, Holmes.

And now let’s get to the snubs. A common theme in the Emmys is that the same people are nominated, and if new people are nominated, they are from shows with a history at the Emmys. The one snub I will never forgive is Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black. Never before have I seen such finessed acting. Maslany plays at least five different characters each season, and it never feels like one actress is playing all the roles. Each character is completely different from the others. Some actors can’t even manage doing one role, she does five. Stop the snub! #EmmyForMaslany

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is noticeably absent in many of the comedy categories, especially Best Comedy. After winning the Golden Globe this year, many thought the show was guaranteed a nomination. Personally, I think Andre Braugher’s nomination for Supporting Actor is enough. He truly is my favorite on the show. Plus, Parks and Recreation certainly is more deserving than the Andy Samberg-lead cop comedy.

Game of Thrones did receive many nominations, but I am surprised it still didn’t dominate more in the acting categories. Dinklage is definitely deserving and congrats to Headey for her first time nomination, but what about Charles Dance (this was his last shot to get a nomination) or half the cast really?

Here is a list of the major nominees. For a full list, click here.

Outstanding Drama
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
True Detective

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Kerry Washington, Scandal 
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Claire Danes, Homeland
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones
Kate Mara, House of Cards
Allison Janey, Masters of Sex
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Kate Burton, Scandal

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama
Paul Giamatti, Downton Abbey
Dylan Baker, The Good Wife
Reg E Cathey, House of Cards
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Beau Bridges, Masters of Sex
Joe Morton, Scandal

Outstanding Comedy
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Orange is the New Black
Silicon Valley

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Louis CK, Louie
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Fred Armisen, Portlandia
Tony Hale, Veep

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy
Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Joan Cusack, Shameless

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Steve Buscemi, Portlandia
Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live
Louis CK, Saturday Night Live
Gary Cole, Veep

Outstanding Reality Show Host
Betty White, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars
Jane Lynch, Hollywood Game Night
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway
Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
Anthony Bourdain, The Taste

Outstanding Reality Show Competition
The Amazing Race
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance
Top Chef
The Voice

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Real Time with Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live
The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

Outstanding TV Miniseries
American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie & Clyde
The White Queen

Outstanding TV Movie
Killing Kennedy
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
The Normal Heart
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful

Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV Miniseries or Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Minnie Driver, Return to Zero
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon

Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Miniseries or Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Idris Elba, Luther
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a TV Miniseries or Movie
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Allison Tolman, Fargo
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a TV Miniseries or Movie
Colin Hanks, Fargo
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
Star Wars: Episode VII is set for release on Dec. 18, 2015

lupita-nyongo-gwendoline-christieDance like an Ewok! Lucasfilm announced today Gwendoline Christie and Lupita Nyong’o will be in Star Wars: Episode VII.

This is not only great news because they are spectacular actresses, but also because it doubles the amount of important female roles in the film. Previously, only vet Carrie Fisher and newcomer Daisy Ridley were the women announced to be in the newest installment. Traditionally, Star Wars has been sadly low on notable female characters with Leia (Fisher) and Padmé (Natalie Portman) being the only ones from the films and the rest coming from other projects like animated movies or books. Four women is still a crazy low number, but let’s hope it’s on the rise.

Christie’s strong performance as Brienne of Tarth, a bad-ass female role in itself, on Game of Thrones makes it quite easy to see why she would be picked for a role in Star Wars. There is no news as to who these women will play, but I see Christie in an authoritative role.

This announcement simply adds to Christie’s nerd star power because not only is she in Game of Thrones, but she is also playing Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. She’s certainly found her niche market.

Nyong’o blazed on the screen with her breakout Academy Award winning role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. Rumors about Nyong’o’s involvement have been circling for months, for she apparently was in talks with director J.J. Abrams before she won her Oscar.

Many have pondered what Nyong’o would do next, and The Hollywood Reporter even said months ago that a film franchise would make her “golden.” It would be interesting if Star Wars actually helped launch Nyong’o as an actor for any role because of how much it hindered the careers of its original stars Fisher and Mark Hamill. Here’s hoping Abrams will take better care of his cast than George Lucas did.

“I could not be more excited about Lupita and Gwendoline joining the cast of Episode VII,” said Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president. “It’s thrilling to see this extraordinarily talented ensemble taking shape.”

Previously announced, John Boyega, Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow are joining original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Fisher, Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker in Episode VII.

TMZ also released photos today from the set of Episode VII that reveal the hopes of all Star Wars fans could be true: the new installment will lean more toward creating real life effects like the original trilogy rather than relying so much on computer-generated images like the prequels. I don’t rely on TMZ, but what else could that larger rhino-looking creature be in if not Star Wars?

What are you looking forward to in the newest Star Wars installment? What roles do you want Christie and Nyong’o to play? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl    
Maleficent | Directed by Robert Stromberg | Rated PG
Rating: 4/5    

mal movie posterInitially, this was going to be a standard review of the newest Disney film, Maleficent. Then, I researched online only to find several other critics who did not share the same good-natured feeling I had for the film. Instead, I found a lot of average ratings and even some harsh words. I found this a bit shocking, for I truly enjoyed those 97 minutes.

It’s a bit campy at times, but I’m taking it for what it is: an attempt at a summer blockbuster. It’s a visually huge film and has been highly promoted — and I’d argue highly anticipated — since its first teaser trailer. It’s not groundbreaking for the genre, but it does present a lot of interesting aspects that I truly enjoyed.

Maleficent takes Disney’s Sleeping Beauty to new heights as it tells the tale in a way that is a far cry from the 1959 animated version. Take the old story where Maleficent curses an infant Aurora (Sleeping Beauty’s actual name) to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and fall into a “sleep-like death,” and now add some great cinematography, an interesting re-imagination and an actress at the top of the A-list and you have Maleficent.

Angelina Jolie looks menacing as hell in the costume. She does an excellent job embodying the role and making Maleficent fun to watch. About every other scene features a close-up of Jolie, slight eyebrow raise, full red lips, cheekbones and all. I wasn’t opposed to them, but there are a lot.

Yes, visually Maleficent is perfect. But, the new tale does come with its flaws. As much as I liked the film, I have to say the backstory and “true version” of the story wasn’t as creative or full like the heights reached in the musical Wicked, which did an outstanding job retelling the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. Vengeance for a spited love and cruel boy are what drive Maleficent to her evil nature — a trope used countless times. However, the real world parallel to the act done to Maleficent that spawns her true hatred for her former beau is not the typical route for Disney.

Thus, where you think Maleficent will do well, it is mostly average. Where the film truly impressed me was the different tale it told as Aurora aged. That is where it got interesting. That is what drew me in. The scenes with a younger Aurora, played by Jolie’s daughter, were a refreshing comedic break; they also served as some of my favorite moments of the entire film. Interactions with the older, almost 16-year-old, Aurora (Elle Fanning) also proves interesting. It becomes a relationship that is in stark contrast to the one shown in the 1959 animated film. In fact, Aurora probably had triple the amount of screen time here than she did then. Although to be fair, she was actually in a sleep-like death in that film and really is only in a sort of power nap in the new tale.

In this relationship is what will cause the most stir: the different take on “true love’s kiss.” It’s not on par with what Frozen did for Disney princesses, but it is another attempt to please the modern generation, who often look at the early, meek Disney princesses with a hint of disgust, by taking back a signature move of the man swooping in to save the helpless woman. Again, it didn’t make as much of an impact on me as the true love’s kiss ploy in Frozen — now THAT was a statement — but it certainly fit the story the film was presenting.

Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) is thrown into the drama but is hardly monumental. Get the image of him tackling the thorn woods out of your head. For the most part in this film, he’s the sleeping beauty. And I don’t mind it. It’s not that I’m a bra-burning feminist who wants an end to the prince-princess storylines, it’s just that I could never accept the love between Aurora and Phillip or even Snow White and Prince Charming or Cinderella and Charming because their “love” was never developed. Once again, Frozen finally called out how ridiculous it is to rush into a marriage with someone you’ve only known for a day; he could try to kill you and your sister and take over your kingdom for goodness sake! Luckily, that nonsense is dealt with in Maleficent.

maleficentFurthermore, the film’s entire purpose was to humanize Maleficent, as Wicked did for the Wicked Witch. As much as I liked the film overall, I just wish they had allowed her to be actually evil for a tad longer. The famed Christening scene in which Maleficent curses Aurora allows Jolie’s creative whims to soar as she makes a larger than life performance. Jolie was deliciously evil, and I just wish we could have seen more of it.

What I liked least in the film was the portrayal of the three good fairies, played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville. They were absolutely my favorite characters in the original animation with their sass, wit and competence. But in Maleficent, they were fussy, inept and, well, incompetent. It was quite a disappointment. Because of the new relationship between Maleficent and Aurora, they were edged out, and their purpose in the story was essentially cut.

Maleficent’s right-hand man bird Diaval (Sam Riley) adds the moments of comic relief the good fairies fail to create. He’s really Maleficent’s only friend and is the one character who was truly expanded the best. He’s the sidekick I always imagined Maleficent deserved to have.

Perhaps I would have liked Sharlto Copley more as the antagonist had his accent not been so distracting. It was like a bad Sean Connery. Please stop talking.

The film has some faults, but Jolie is its saving grace. It’s not monumental filmmaking, but it’s definitely worth the hour and a half to see a great performance by Jolie, some very rich visual images and a cool new twist on an old tale.

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl

enhanced-30974-1399601497-18The entertainment world has been abuzz lately with the constant influx of information from the networks about their decisions for the upcoming season. The renewals and cancellations of already on-the-air shows have already been announced, but with those decisions also come the decisions for the networks’ future programs, all 50 of them.

The biggest shocker is the absence of a certain title on CBS’ list: How I Met Your Dad. It was announced Wednesday the spinoff of How I Met Your Mother “didn’t work out” for the network. It was probably one of the most anticipated shows for the fall, and it’s not even being picked up.

“We have an extraordinary track record of retooling shows,” said CBS chief Nina Tassler, referring to The Big Bang Theory, which originally featured two female leads. “We tried to reach out and engage them about redoing the pilot, but that it’s just not happening. You run into these kinds of issues. You hope they can resolve themselves. They haven’t. … I’m heartsick. It wasn’t what they wanted to do.”

I had more doubts about the reboot than hopes, but I was at least looking forward to seeing a finished product and critiquing it. This news doesn’t mean the show is canned for good. There is always the possibility it will be tweaked and presented to the network, or a different one, again. FX Networks does have syndication rights for the original. But who knows? At least HIMYM’s memory can live on for at least a year in peace — or however you feel after that terrible finale.

CBS has only ordered two new comedies this season: The Odd Couple featuring Matthew Perry and The McCarthys featuring Laurie Metcalf. Here’s hoping The Odd Couple reboot will work better for Perry than Go On. The rest of the new CBS shows don’t seem too appealing. There’s another CSI and NCIS spinoff and two more dramas about law enforcement. The only thing I have to look forward on the CBS side is Madam Secretary because Broadway favorite Patina Miller and also Bebe Neuwirth are in it.

On the other hand, ABC has at least one show in particular that I’m highly anticipating: Shonda Rhimes’ How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis and Dean Thomas Alfie Enoch. Personal favorite Davis stars as a professor whose Criminology 101 lessons may prove useful in hers and her students’ real lives. Watch the amazing trailer here. Thursday will be “ShondaNight,” according to Buzzfeed, as all three of Rhimes’ shows will air back-to-back. It’s sure to be an anxiety provoking evening.

There are also other dramas to keep an eye out for: Secrets and Lies starring Ryan Phillippe (held for midseason), Forever starring Ioan Gruffudd, and American Crime (held for midseason). Marvel’s Agent Carter is sure to garner up some attention, though I could do without another Marvel element in my life. And I have to mention the return of Doctor Who alum Karen Gillan to the small screen in ABC’s comedy Selfie, a revamp of My Fair Lady. I will give this show credit for creatively reimagining a classic, but I’m not sure how successful this will be. I love Gillan; I really do, but I have my doubts about that trailer.

A to ZOver at NBC, there’s another personal favorite making me excited for the fall season: Crisitin Milioti. The Mother is starring in the Rashida Jones produced comedy A to Z, which is all about love and relationships. I doubt nothing the phenomenal Milioti does, so I’m super excited to see her shine on my screen yet again. It feels like HIMYM but this time Ted is played by Ben Feldman. Other favorite Casey Wilson is also returning with Marry Me, whose trailer is like that of many comedies’ trailers: probably not the best insight as to whether or not you should watch it. I know I’m going to give it a shot. However, I’m actually hesitant about Tina Fey’s new show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, starring Ellie Kemper. Kemper stars as Kimmy who has to start her life over in NYC after escaping from a cult. It seems a little too ridiculous but with the comic genius of Fey behind it, I’m sure I’ll give it a try.

Fox has also managed to pick up a show or two that peaked my interests, whether they be good or bad. The anticipated Gotham will premiere in the fall and star Benjamin McKenzie as a young Detective Gordon who has to handle a pre-Batman Gotham. Finally, we might have a superhero TV show that will actually deliver. Another DC hero will be on the small screen this fall as well: The CW is airing The Flash in the fall. I’m not a fan of CW shows, and I think even a Batman-less Gotham will be more interesting than following a guy who can run fast.

Another Doctor Who alum is also making his way over to the American TV business: David Tennant is rebooting his role on the BBC’s Broadchurch in the American version called Gracepoint. I binged and LOVED the BBC crime drama about the tragic death of a young boy in a small town. However, I’m pretty sure the American version will get nowhere near the emotional depths the BBC version triumphed. Many times, translating British shows to the American audience does not work, and I’m certain this will be another example. Tennant’s American accent makes him less brooding. For me, all I did the entire time as I watched the trailer was compare the American actors to the British cast, and it’s in the Brits’ favor.

Also notable is Mulaney, focusing on SNL alum John Mulaney as he attempts to take his comedy career to a new level. Why is this worth mentioning? Because it’s an NBC show on Fox. This show stars a Saturday Night Live alum, and Lorne Michaels has a hand it along with several 30 Rock people. Typically, SNL alum take their shows to NBC, see 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. I’m interested that it’s on a different network and curious if any talks had happened between Mulaney and NBC. It also seems very Seinfeld-esque, so that only furthers my argument.

Fox’s Empire also seems worth checking out. Buzzfeed described it as “Nashville for the rap world,” and it stars the amazing Taraji P. Henson so I could definitely see thing garnering up its own Nashville-like cult fandom.

Here is a full list of all the new pickups for each network. Click the network name for a list with a description of each show, and also check out TV Line‘s listing here:

American Crime
The Astronaut Wives Club
Black-Ish — Laurence Fishburne, please just stick with Hannibal
The Club
Cristela — a comedy about Mexican Americans. George Lopez tired me out on that idea. No thanks.
Fresh Off the Boat — Danny Chung from Veep? No thanks
Galavant — looks terrible
How to Get Away with Murder
Manhattan Love Story
Marvel’s Agent Carter
Members Only
Secrets and Lies
The Whispers

Battle Creek
CSI: Cyber
Madam Secretary
The McCarthys
NCIS: New Orleans — do we really need another NCIS?
The Odd Couple

Bordertown — it’s an animated comedy that isn’t The Simpsons or from Seth MacFarlane, so it’s a jump for the network
Last Man on Earth
Red Band Society
Wayward Pines
Weird Loners

A to Z
Aquarius — This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius! Just kidding, it’s not Hair
Bad Judge
Emerald City — another twist on The Wizard of Oz. My obsession for that film is making me want to watch
Heroes Reborn
Marry Me
Mission Control — I’ll be keeping my eye out for this
Mr. Robinson
The Mysteries of Laura — two thumbs down to Debra Messing’s other return to NBC
One Big Happy
State of Affairs
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The CW
The Flash
Jane the Virgin
The Messengers

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl    
Rating: 2.5/ 5    

TURBP_Stills_(8)The worst season so far in Glee’s career finally came to an end tonight. Up until the end, it felt more like a regular episode than a season finale, but how much can you expect from a season that gave you an episode about twerking and a Lady Gaga versus Katy Perry battle?

First, it’s important to note a key piece that was missing from the episode: Naya Rivera. Rumors have been circulating about a feud between Rivera and Lea Michele and about Rivera being fired. While none of that might be true — but it probably is, let’s be honest — it is true that Rivera was cut out and written out of the finale. Her reps and Glee say she isn’t fired yet, but I’m guessing that announcement will be coming soon. So for tonight’s purposes, Santana (Rivera) is in Iowa filming a new Yeast-I-Stat commercial.

Yet, Brittany (Heather Morris) still came back. Do you mean to tell me that before coming to visit her girlfriend in New York, Brittany didn’t check to see if Santana was even in town? What else are they supposed to do to cover up whatever drama is happening behind the scenes, but seriously it was such a noticeable hole. But props for them acknowledging Santana’s absence unlike what they did for Cory Monteith’s absence in the last two episodes of season four when they simply never mentioned Finn.

The Klainers had a rollercoaster of emotions tonight as things went from bad to worse to great. Blaine (Darren Criss) was unable to convince June (Shirely MacLaine) to allow Kurt (Chris Colfer) to perform in his showcase, so naturally he sings “All of Me” alone at the piano. This was the worst usage of this song! This is a beautiful love song that should be set to a cute montage or sang to someone and not just thrown in to cover up the lost time that was created from cutting Santana out. Also, Criss’ vocals just weren’t there for me. I felt no emotion.

Speaking of that, Blaine finally told Kurt the truth about the showcase. Kurt is so mad he smacks the packed lunch he brought to share with Blaine off the piano. Gasp! Maybe those who actually are still invested in the show and actually believe it’s a decent program found that to be good drama between lovers. I, on the other hand, found it as one of the same old cogs in the same old mechanism the show has been using with this couple for years. They talk about how much they are in love with each other, but I don’t see or feel the love. Anymore, Kurt seems in such a stasis around Blaine while Blaine does puppy dog eyes at him. They need a new dynamic that proves to me they are in love. I just don’t see any chemistry anymore. I think there’s equal blame on both the actors and the writers for just assuming the audience is naturally in love with this pair and that they’re the OTP. Reality check, they’re not.

birdsAfter a weirdly long metaphor about birds, Kurt says he will choose to trust Blaine. Oh, well that’s good that you trust your fiancé. Glad it only took you a year. Seriously, how are we supposed to believe these two want to get married when they are only conquering the basic steps of a relationship? They are supposed to be much further developed than what the writers are displaying.

At the showcase, Blaine and June sing “No Time At All” and blow me away. It was the best performance of the night. They have adorable chemistry and I think their voices mesh really well together. After, Blaine announces the lesson he learned that “talent is nothing without passion,” and he is most passionate about Kurt so he calls him on stage to duet with him to “American Boy.” I definitely identified with MacLaine in this scene. At first, I was very hesitant about this song choice and this duet, and then it won me over. Also, go back and re-watch the end of the number when MacLaine side steps her way into the gang’s dance. God, I love her and the divas.

Though that relationship is sustained, another pair wasn’t so lucky. Sam’s (Chord Overstreet) and Mercedes’ (Amber Riley) careers are pulling them different ways. First, let’s talk about the original song in tonight’s episode. As a part of her new mall tour — do they really still do those? — Mercedes sang “Shakin’ My Head,” Glee’s wannabe “Whip My Hair”-esque single. I was not a fan. I loved seeing Heather Morris dance once again and Kurt’s head bobbing was fantastic, but those were the only good parts of the scene.

Meanwhile, Sam sang “Girls on Film” as dozens of girls climbed all over him during his photo shoot. Sam’s entire storyline tonight revolves around his troubles with his abstinence pledge, with the shoot being an all too obvious way to highlight that. Everyone in the gang thinks the two should break up, worrying that Sam won’t be able to stay loyal while Mercedes is on the road.

It all comes to a head when the flirty photographer (Beau Garrett) from the first shoot calls him back for another. Proving she is just a model and not an actress, Garrett attempts to seduce Sam, who’s all blocked up from his pledge. The two kiss. We think they did more but, Sam confesses he cried after and ran away. However, Samcedes break up in order to for their love to survive, otherwise Sam would just resent Mercedes for making him wait. Riley’s performance was great in this scene, but I was disappointed with Overstreet’s blank-face performance. Way to really show this relationship was real.

The title of the episode, “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project,” obviously falls in Rachel’s (Michele) storyline about getting a pilot written around her for Fox. In a very meta moment, Rachel explains her plan that while she may anger Sidney now, she can come back to Broadway after TV. The network sends “genius” writer Mary Halloran (Kristen Schaal) to hang around Rachel & Co. Unfortunately, Mary is crazy. Even worse, it’s a stereotypical wacky instead of a funny cuckoo.

URBPThe first draft doesn’t go over so well when it places Rachel in situations where she is eating a cake in the bathtub lamenting about her two gay dads or at an impromptu coffee rave in the apartment. It might be a terrible rough draft for Rachel, but for me, it was the best scene of the episode. There are certain moments where I can definitely see more Lea Michele in a scene than Rachel Berry, and I don’t mind it. That bathtub scene with Kurt in a dinosaur costume made me laugh for the first time tonight, and this show is slotted as a comedy.

To get her more in her direction, Rachel takes Mary to the Spotlight Diner and explains her ideas through song by singing “Glitter in the Air.” This does the trick and Mary does a rewrite that is more truthful to Rachel.

They all run outside when Sam sees his picture on the side of the bus. He finally fulfilled his dream, and he’s going to go out on top. He declares he’s going to quit modeling and go back home, especially because everyone else seems to be scattering. Thus, the monologues about friendship and nonsense take place and it ends in a promise to meet up in six months. And finally, the worst transition into a closing number that I have ever heard: While in a group hug, Kurt proclaims, “I would kill to break out in song right now.” And they do. Dancing down the street, they all sing “Pompeii.”

On the surface, it’s your typical big closing number: Big choreography through a big set, montages, etc. But a closer look reveals how good of an ending it is to the show’s old archetype. A line of original cast members dance down the street before they all part ways. It’s one last glimpse of what we are used to seeing each week before next season when apparently everything changes. We see Blaine move in with Kurt and Rachel, Artie at film school — seriously, can he please be gone for season six? This is the only thing going for him — and Sam back in McKinley, looking into what used to be the choir room and is now a computer lab. We see one last view of the room we used to frequent and realize it’s not the same anymore, just like the show isn’t the same anymore. That Glee is gone. This is especially noted when Rachel gets the call that the network has picked up her show; she’s moving to Los Angeles. Thus, the song ends with Rachel amid a sea of extras. She sings the last chorus before glancing up at the camera and walking off-screen.



Let’s look at the last lines of the song: “How am I going to be an optimist about this?/ If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?” This is what Rachel sings before she look at the camera. I’d like to think the writers were brilliant enough to purposefully do this or maybe they just wanted to go with a Top 10 song again, but that’s a great parallel to the end of this season. The show has undergone an enormous amount of change in this season with the loss of Monteith and McKinley High School. Everything in this show is different, but if you close your eyes, isn’t this the same show? Technically, no. However, I like the beauty of that last shot. It’s a lyrical throwback to the beginning.

According to a Q-and-A with press, Ryan Murphy revealed the final season will NOT be New York-centric but will be “a lovely, fitting season that dwells on the original people on the show and what happens to them and how they give back. … It’s a really interesting, very sweet, satisfying ending to the story.” It also includes a time jump, something I suggested for season five. It will be a waiting game, especially since Fox’s new schedule revealed Glee won’t be back until 2015. Here’s hoping the extra time will actually allow them to write the show off well. It’s unknown for now how many episodes it will get, but let’s pray it’s closer to the 13 end of the scale than the 22 end. There’s no way the final season would work if it is stretched that long.

I’m not even sure what I’m looking for in the final season. The show will never be as good as it used to be, but I guess I’m hoping they can play these characters off with justice.

What did you think of the season finale? What do you want to see in season six? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl