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The 12 Best TV Shows of 2016

Two seasons in, Black Mirror has etched itself as one of the bleakest show in recent memory but in its third season, it strays away from its established narrative territory and performs a balancing act between cutthroat social satire and a more hopeful depiction of a world gone wrong.

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  1.      Black Mirror

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Two seasons in, Black Mirror has etched itself as one of the bleakest show in recent memory but in its third season, it strays away from its established narrative territory and performs a balancing act between cutthroat social satire and a more hopeful depiction of a world gone wrong. Thanks to its creator Charlie Brooker’s observant eye, the show has elevated to a level of even more terrifying precision– almost feeling prophetic at times– while managing to instill a much needed sense of hope without verging on saccharine or forced sentiments. The varied styles and genres each episodes give the show the advantage of keeping each entry unique but also cohesive as far as the overarching theme goes. Black Mirror is one that dabbles in societies left unattended which, considering our very own, makes it a very important watch.

  1.      Atlanta

Community’s alum Donald Glover’s venture to TV realm has given 2016 a portrait of black America that is equal parts everyday and fantastic. With Atlanta, Glover carves his intimate drama with humor that is as witty as it is strikingly humane, further bolstered by a terrific cast that  feels  at home with the material covering nuanced issues of race. It’s quietly political when it wants to be and Glover is just the right man for that kind of subtle yet powerful political display. The subdued direction contributes to the show’s own brand of dreamlike atmosphere which avoids the ordinary from becoming clichéd and captures the city of Atlanta dripping with personality almost as if it’s a character of its own. To say that Atlanta is revolutionary television isn’t enough to cover how great the show is; it is funny, depressing, joyful and more importantly, as real as a life of a black man can be.

  1.      Game of Thrones

The epic fantasy has come a long way since its first airing in 2011, blood has been spilled and wars have been waged and yet much is to be known about the seven kingdoms. Thankfully, season 6 has finally moved past localized, individual machinations and into one central story line that aims to merge existing story arcs and hopefully tie up loose ends as the inevitable end nears. Through its 6 years of airing, if there’s one thing Game of Thrones has proved; that it’s mightily good in setting up a scene. The season finale alone is filled with great examples of this which saw many key players advancing their positions long at last. Like any other show nearing closure, Game of Thrones doubles its emphasis on character development and to do this, cutting off dead weight is a necessary step. The popularity of the show and its surge in viewership is sure to continue seeing as how the series shows no sign of holding the epic-ness back.

  1.      The People vs OJ Simpson

Simply irresistible to watch from start to finish. The People v OJ Simpson has lots to unpack given the magnitude of the trial it centers itself on and bounces the focus back and forth between its large ensemble cast but as surprising as the many twists in the story, the show pulls all of it off in an excellent run of ten deftly created episodes. TPVOJS exercises control over its stretch and never loses the balance between showcasing the factual side of the story and the more emotional turn of events that clouded the trial to the extent of shaping its very outcome. The dense writing guarantees no dull moment makes its way to the screen and smartly copes with the heavily sensationalized drama by downplaying it to a volume that aims to keep the narrative grounded to the truth but nevertheless compelling, if not more so than the real thing. Explosive moments are guided with meticulous precision while the silent ones creep on the viewers with raw emotions and linger on even after the scene has played itself out.

  1.  Search Party

If there’s one thing millennials are often jabbed at, it’s our supposed collective laziness cultivated by this so called culture of entitlement which on the surface, seems to be the sentiment of the show but fortunately, Search Party is not like any other show about millennial generation. At the center of it all is a disappearance that pushes 20-something, New Yorker Dory out of her millennial ennui and into a Nancy Drew-esque mystery-solving puzzle. Sure enough, her journey to finding a missing person morphs into a journey of self-discovery but one that avoids the usual trappings of shows about shallow people for it understands that, especially in the age of Facebook, it’s easy to mistake self-absorption for self-growth. With this, the show becomes a social satire and a modern mystery story, succeeding in both areas thanks to its impressive cast and sharp writing. In its pursuit of a hollow purpose, Search Party achieves a poignant look of what it means to live in the now.

  1.  High Maintenance

In 2016, anthology format continues to flourish with High Maintenance as it tackles the life of a weed dealer and the lives of the people it provides service to. The many characters encountered throughout highlight the vibrant and often, dark cityscapes of urban life with kinetic grace. It’s a compelling collection of equally compelling individuals painted with emotional depth despite the shortage of its running time per episode. But as much as it is about private lives, High Maintenance also gives focus to the poignancy in trivial human interaction. The way our nameless pot dealer enters the scene and leaves as emphasis is given on his clients affords a feeling of connection in a sprawling world like New York where every second is a chaotic pace. The show is intimate in many ways but in its most intimate, throws emotional heavyweights even from the most banal of story lines and characters.

  1.  Transparent

When Maura Pfefferman declared her gratitude for her family and her chosen family during her 70th birthday, it became clear that having a family is just half the problem; sometimes, family isn’t enough to secure yourself a piece of belongingness and at the crux of its third season, Transparent explores the family or the idea of such we choose for our own. It’s a choice that rarely comes but when it does, bears the heavy burden of choosing. Transparent is not one to shy away from the topic of identity, but this time around, it acknowledges the impact of identity to the family it’s a member to. Towards the end of the celebration, Maura requests that her children start calling her “mom” as she begins her transition but unbeknownst to her, destroying the patriarchy, whether symbolic or not, is not as easy as swapping words. Sometimes we’re forced to confront the very basic institution that makes up our patriarchal society: family.

  1.  Lady Dynamite
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Comedienne Maria Bamford’s semi-biographical series Lady Dynamite hits all the right notes in crafting comedy especially for such a delicate subject as mental illness. The show’s winning formula all boils down to its intoxicating self-awareness and meta-humor pushing the limit of what comedy is able to offer to the table. Maria Bamford plays a version of herself with whimsical grace as she swims through the muddy waters of Hollywood fame and simultaneously the deep trenches of her embattled mind. Although most of the show’s success can be attributed to sharp comedy, it grounds itself in intimacy as it borrows events from Maria Bamford’s life in creating a larger than life account of a woman barely holding it together paved with surrealist humor involving talking pugs and colorful, off-meds hallucinations. You’re sure to miss a few jokes here and there and some will make zero sense but part of the appeal of Lady Dynamite is the fun when you’re already losing half of your mind.

  1.  Better Call Saul

Comparisons of the show to Breaking Bad that act to critique no longer hold weight at this point. Breaking Bad was a show led by 2 characters, tagged along by the people who revolve around them while on the other hand, Better Call Saul isn’t a show that ties itself to a story of one. The writing doesn’t cater entirely to Jimmy, instead people around him are given as much opportunity as him to be in possession of their own story. Direction is also one area Better Call Saul thrives in. The show is beautifully shot and offers one of the most creative and technical camerawork I have seen in a show. One recurring theme I love this season is the juxtaposition of light and darkness especially during Jimmy/Chuck scenes. That one shot where Chuck was merely a silhouette standing against the streaming light while Howard was encroached in the shadows was something I never expected from a TV show. The show was also filled to the brim with kinetic montages and managed to pull an excellent 4-minute opening tracking shot up its sleeves, indications of how Better Call Saul is not afraid to experiment, as all great series are.

  1.   The Good Place

Morality is not a dichotomy of good and bad, heaven and hell but according to NBC’s The Good Place, it most certainly is. Fortunately for Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman with highly questionable life decisions, a glitch in the heavens has landed her a spot in the good place where all good people go after death. The show pokes fun at the conventional idea of morality and offers up some philosophical inquiries of the human condition and the nature of action. Nonetheless, for all its inclination to philosophy, The Good Place is a comedy through and through headlined by an excellent Kristen Bell as the self-proclaimed medium person and TV veteran Ted Danson as the human-loving, god-being architect. The comedy marries serious subject matter with A-grade humor employing oddities from quotations of Immanuel Kant to Ariana Grande’s Break Free in creating the most morally sensitive comedy of 2016.

  1.   Girls

The tagline for season 5 of the HBO show Girls was “Finally Piecing It Together” and looking back, there are no better words to describe the gradual evolution to maturity of both the show and the characters that inhabit it than this very sentiment. Unlike the previous seasons, Girls on its 5th carried an air of self-assuredness. The brass moments of levity are there and the girls still can irritate even the most sympathetic soul but with these familiarities is a sense of poignant awareness of the self and the impending end knowing that next season will be the show’s last. Fortunately, the writing of the show never saw the obligation to rush itself to meet a penultimate narrative that would give way to a clear endgame. Instead, it takes its time and builds on its characters, giving them the depth and development they’ve been screaming for since day one.

  1.   Preacher

Amidst the sea of family friendly superhero shows that have been popping up everywhere like clockwork, Preacher stands out in the crowd as the irreverent comic book adaptation that packs more than vapid fart or dick jokes.  It’s a welcome deviation from the usual scenery of PG-rated, sanitized adventures of heroic individuals and Preacher is anything but heroic and sanitized. Fans of Garth Ennis’ original work will feel right at home with the show’s perfect mix of over-the-top violence and campy gore that celebrates the quirky madness of its source material. But besides carnage, the show also offers a biting satire of organized religion and at the blasphemous forefront is Jesse Custer, the titular preacher blessed with the Word of God, a power that forces anyone to obey his commands and such great power comes great responsibility or in Preacher’s case, a whole lot of glorious insanity.

Collage by Mariah Quintano

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Marcos is still not a hero

After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY 2018. (Photo by Christine Annemarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

When we look a few years back, we remember that one of the biggest political controversies we have encountered is Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. The rites were private and intimate for the family and he was also given a 21-gun salute. Is this 21-gun salute an ode to the 21 years that Marcos has ruled as a kleptocratic dictator? This event has garnered negative criticism since a number of Filipinos don’t consider Marcos as a hero. It may have given peace to Marcos’ family, but it caused the victims of the Marcos rule to remember a grim chapter in their lives.

A few days into the present year, Bongbong Marcos sent out a statement calling for the revision of history books used in the academe, which he deems are only teaching the students lies about what his father, former President Marcos, has done. He believed that those from the opposition are in control of the data in published materials, that’s why it is so against his father. He also claimed that the contents of these textbooks were just used as propaganda against their family and that the allegations that his father was a thief and murderer were never proven. The thing is, if these allegations weren’t true, then why was the Presidential Commission on Good Governance recovering money from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth? 

During Marcos’ rule, Proclamation 1081 gave the military power to arrest, detain, and execute those who are standing up against the government or those who are pushing other people to do so. A proclamation like this is set to violate a series of human rights, and yet it went on for several dreadful years. According to Amnesty International, about 70,00 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured under Marcos’ term. 

In 1991, Marcos was found guilty by the US Federal Court system of ‘crimes against humanity,’ which covered torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances. The Philippine Constabulary was the law enforcing body during those times and was notorious for being liable for numerous human rights violations. Take the case of Dr. Juan Escandor, a Radiation specialist from the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital, who was involved in nationalist initiatives and even founded a leftist student organization, was killed by constabulary troopers that ended in a crossfire. Though authorities say that he died due to the gunfight, his autopsies show signs of torture, with his skull emptied and filled with trash, plastic bags, rags, and underwear, and his brain placed inside his stomach cavity. 

Bongbong Marcos has always justified his father’s ways. Although he acknowledged the numerous human rights violations that were committed during his father’s regime, he says that people should also remember the numerous projects his father launched, which includes thousands of kilometers of roads built, progressive agricultural policies, power generation, and the highest literacy rate in Asia. However, could these projects ever compensate for the pain inflicted on the victims of Martial Law? Even if the Marcoses’ contributions to the country are worthy of acknowledgment, it is not a valid argument to be used to push the people to leave their dreadful experiences in obscurity. Marcos apologists can’t tell others to just ‘move on’ because failing to acknowledge the people’s grievances during Martial Law is purely insensitive.  You can’t just tell people to forget such inhumane acts brought about by a leader they all trusted to lead them through progress. 

Recently, it was shared to the public that House Bill No. 7137 was approved to declare September 11 as ‘President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day’ in Ilocos Norte, which aims to honor the late dictator. Senate President Vicente Sotto III then said that bills with local applications like this are usually easily approved in Senate hearings. This, in turn, has sparked controversy and garnered criticism from the people.

Members of different rights groups and numerous people have expressed their disapproval of this bill. They say that this bill encourages the alteration of narratives of the dark days of Philippine history under Martial Law during the Marcos regime and that it practically promotes the invalidation of what people went through during the strongman rule.

We ought to #NeverForget the numerous accounts of torture and abuse that normal Filipinos went through. In case one forgets, the Twitter account @PangulongMarcos is devoted to tweeting daily on whether Marcos is a hero today.

The approval of this bill not only pushes to erase the kafkaesque events in our history that took place during Martial Law, but it also neglects the loss of the people who mourned for the loved ones that they lost in an all-out battle against the provisions of a power-hungry government that only sought to assert dominion over the people it ought to serve. It also makes us look at tyranny straight in the eye and just be resilient about it, without being able to #ResistTyranny. After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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Why “Pinoy Pride” exists in online Filipino culture

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereño/TomasinoWeb

Filipinos entering the foray of different online media allowed for Filipino culture to gain an even larger audience, but it inevitably exposes aspects that would otherwise only be seen within our borders.

Emman Nimedez and Lloyd Cadena’s passing has shown how impactful online media has become for the youth. While traditional media like TV and radio broadcasting maintains the largest audience in our country, we have slowly crept into the online world with the rising presence of Filipino personalities. Though this puts our heritage on a much larger stage, it has unfortunately exposed the pitfalls in our society. Any Filipino browsing comment sections on their favorite social media and video platforms will have inevitably seen the words “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” on their screen at least once, usually bearing a negative connotation. How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

“Peenoise” was a term originally coined by online users within gaming communities to refer to Filipinos who are considered to be toxic in-game. Now, it is generally used to describe Filipinos who exhibit toxic behavior online, such as trolls or bullies. On the other hand, Pinoy Pride is another aspect of “peenoise” that is less aggravating but is much more reflective of who we are as a society. Pinoy Pride revolves around being endlessly proud of a Filipino personality for achieving something that led to global notoriety. 

How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

These behaviors, ironically enough, could be coming from the Filipinos’ prioritization of family values. The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture. Our innateness to find “kababayans” and treat them like family could both be a blessing and a curse in situations where we band together to defend our identity. This is even exploited in media channels that release “Filipino-themed” videos where personalities would experience Philippine culture or would have a part-Filipino cast member be the center of the content.

Another aspect that could be contributing to these online behaviors is the lingering effects of crab mentality in our society. As this blog puts it, we are quick to throw praise and be proud of our own people once they achieve success, but are also quick to call something “cheap” if it has not achieved prominence. But this even goes beyond Filipino artists as any individual who has the slightest hints of being Filipino is quickly embraced and celebrated as if they were our own. We like living through other people’s success as if they were one of our own, yet we pay no heed to those still climbing the ladder and even go as far as ridiculing them for their efforts. 

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

Finally, these attitudes don’t really hinge on being Filipino, but rather being Filipino outside of the Philippines. Pinoy Pride only begins to matter once something done by a Filipino gets recognized outside of the Philippines. This can be attributed to the Filipino’s “American dream” or the notion that the ultimate goal as a Filipino is to make it outside of the Philippines. 

If we ask most college students what their goals are after graduation, it will probably be about building their careers until they can go abroad. Whether it’s nurses, teachers, or artists, they’re usually aiming for a career outside the country and for good reason. The same professions would normally be paid less here, not to mention having to work harder just to get paid half of what they would’ve made had they gone off to work abroad. 

A few weeks ago, a wave of posts took Facebook by storm as Filipinos started sharing images from Harvard and placing either themselves in the context of being Harvard students or Harvard being a university in the Philippines. While this short-lived trend was merely humorous for most, it shows how we ultimately aspire to live a life outside the country rather than to flourish within it. It shows the condition which we live in and how we’ve had to make do with subpar standards in our country.

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better. They hinge on the strong family ties Filipinos are known to have which, while bringing a strong sense of unity, also brings to light the aforementioned “crab mentality” that some tend to have. Ultimately, it comes down to the desire to live a better life than what our current social and political situation allows. 

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better.

Much like how we’ve stood out in beauty pageants and boxing, we also stand out as audiences but in an unflattering light. While such behaviors do not necessarily include all Filipinos, these do exist in our online space. We have the ability to change this and, while we cannot enforce it onto others, starting with ourselves can be a huge step in the right direction. Rather than embodying the bad sides of our culture, we can showcase our most prominent characteristic: bayanihan.

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Cramming Playlist: Buzzer Beats

Yeah, it’s big brain time.

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Artwork by Ayeesha Panotolan

The most dreadful time of the semester is here and with it comes every student’s best friend: cramming. We all know that it’s an ineffective and unhealthy way to retain information. Yet, we still choose to condense weeks worth of lectures into hours of late night study sessions because it somehow still gets the job done. 

Studying in the wee hours of the morning means you need something to keep you and your brain awake and functioning. Below, we’ve compiled a playlist that will surely get those neurons firing as you burn the midnight oil.

 

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