Category Archives: TV Reviews (International)

The Rise of the Prestige Documentary #TV #MANSWORLD #COLUMN

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Man’s World.

You could say it was after true crime series The Jinx in January 2015 or the Serial podcast in October, 2014, or with the satirical Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in April 2014, but no matter at what exact point of time you got sucked into the world of narrative non-fiction, there’s a good chance that there is, at this point, at least one piece of immersionist style documentary filmmaking that you are wholly obsessed with.

There’s been something for everyone in the age of ‘Peak TV’, over the past few years, with the most unusual channels or platforms making a foray into fiction, so as to not be left behind in the moment in pop culture, where nothing says prestige than making a TV series. Everyone from gaming platform Playstation to e-commerce site Amazon to tech giant Apple to the History Channel has put their fingers into ever-expanding pie and so it was only a matter of time where someone decided that it was time to move beyond fiction, into other realms of storytelling.

Not surprisingly, it was HBO again that was the harbinger of change, giving audiences, yet again, a taste of something they never knew they wanted. HBO had been producing or broadcasting documentary features for a good many years, with a focus on news-making content. But it was in April 2013 that they changed the game for TV for the second time since The Sopranos ushered in the era of golden TV in 1999.

In April 2013, HBO launched Vice, a documentary TV series that brought new media entrepreneur Shane Smith’s VICE magazine and digital news channel to TV. Produced by Bill Maher with Fareed Zakaria as Consultant, the series captured public and media attention alike, through the finale of its very first season – when it sent one of its journalists to document a basketball game with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. It was the first time any American TV show got access to Jong-Un, a man most famous for basically wanting America destroyed.

HBO again led from the front in 2014, when it launched a weekly news comedy show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, with a one-of-its-kind format that focused not only on satire about the week’s political or cultural absurdities, but also on one 10-15 minutes long main story that the show’s producers believe must be talked about. That story is essentially a satirical documentary-meets-rant about a hot topic of the week or the month, or even a long-standing problem, and from net neutrality to tax-exempted religious organizations to the American prison system, Oliver has taken on each with a cheeky grin.

But the narrative non-fiction storytelling device exploded into the collective conscience when Sarah Koenig’s began a weekly podcast, Serial, later that year, documenting the true crime story of the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee by her then teenage ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convinced and has been in prison ever since. As Koenig unraveled the case each week, interviewing the witnesses, the prosecutors, the family and friends of both, as well as Syed himself, she opened up a Pandora’s box that revealed a life-size hole in the prosecution of Syed and a legitimate doubt on whether he had committed the murder at all. The show has since been download a whopping 80 million times and the case has since, reopened.

Two more true crime serialized documentaries have since cause worldwide sensation. HBO’s The Jinx became watercooler conversation when the accused serial murderer it followed, Robert Durst, confessed to the crime on camera. After Netflix’s Making a Murderer was premiered last December, a petition of 128,000 signatures to free murder accused Steven Avery, was sent to President Barrack Obama. Amazon has now entered, what is being called the ‘prestige documentary’ business, by premiering The New Yorker Presents, a weekly series that will bring to life some of The New Yorker’s most acclaimed stories (both fiction and non-fiction).

The success of the immersive non-fiction narrative has led to many other documentaries being developed across TV and streaming media (but obviously), even as season 2 of Serial, season 3 of Last Week Tonight and Season 4 of Vice are on air currently. With VICE taking this success a step further and launching a 24-hours documentary channel in partnership with A+E Networks called ‘Viceland’, and additionally tying up with HBO for a weekly primetime news show, you only need to choose your poison now, but there’s enough of it to go around for everyone.

6 Unscripted Series to Follow Immediately:

VICE (HBO) – Multi-season documentary series covering one or two political, economic or cultural news topic in each episode, in gonzo style on-ground journalism.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) – Multi-season news comedy show featuring a main story in each episode that often puts center stage a systematic American problem.

Serial (Free Podcast) – Twelve-part true crime series following the case of convicted murderer Adnan Syed trying to determine if he indeed did the crime.

The Jinx (HBO) – Six-part true crime series following the case against accused serial murderer Robert Durst, with a sensational twist.

Making a Murderer (Netflix) – Ten-part true crime series following the allegedly wrongful conviction of accused murderer Steven Avery.

The New Yorker Presents (Amazon) – A recently premiered video magazine bringing to life some of the most talked about and acclaimed stories of The New Yorker.

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Note: This interview first appeared in Man’s World in the March issue.
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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.




2015 was a landmark year in what has come to be known as ‘Peak TV’. There was SO much TV and SO much of it was outstanding that I ended up watching over 100 TV shows through the year (out of which 70 were full seasons), and had to reduce my movie watching for the same reason. I’ve compiled below the list of the best new shows (drama and comedy) and the best returning shows (drama and comedy) of 2015. So this becomes a handy guide on what TV shows to look out for in their second seasons in 2016!


  1. NARCOS: Because there has never been any other show with such scale and ambition attempted so far, and the makers of Narcos have pulled it off like only the cartels could!
  2. MAKING A MURDERER: Because watching the show is like living in a nightmare that you can’t wake up from.. ever.
  3. MR. ROBOT: Because with this show, Sam Esmail has given us the ultimate f**k you to this generation’s obsession with technology, in a twisted, warped, incredibly gripping way.
  4. JESSICA JONES: Because this show has given the Marvel Universe (yes, the entire MCU) its first great villain outside of Loki: David Tennant’s Kilgrave (another Brit baddies, surprise!).
  5. THE JINX: Because before Making a Murderer came along, this show was the true-life crime documentary the world was obsessed with, and its climax is *the* pop culture moment of the year.
  6. AGENT CARTER: Because where Netflix’s other TV shows are tonally reminiscent to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Agent Carter is a refreshingly sassy hero, who is, for once, a heroine.
  7. BETTER CALL SAUL: Because not only did they get back Saul Goodman, they also got back Mike Ehrmantaut and that gave us the year’s most inimitable friendship.
  8. SENSE8: Because with Sense8, the Wachowski siblings may have pulled up the world’s first truly global TV series, spanning four continents, and trying to address the question of ‘identity’ across each.
  9. THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE: Because the alternate history world that the show resides in paints a truly compelling – and frightening – picture of how our lives could have been had WWII been lost.
  10. FORTITUDE: Because as Christopher Nolan had shown us with Insomnia, there is no better way to do a psychological thriller than to set it in the cold, dark, isolated Scandinavian setting.
  11. FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: Because the show proves there is more to fear when the world is on the verge of losing than when it’s already lost.
  12. MARCO POLO: Because it is one of the most vivid, visually arresting, epic shows and criminally underrated of our times, rivaling Game of Thrones in scope and spirit both.
  13. DAREDEVIL: Because the show gave us Marvel’s first thumping TV win and laid the foundation for the gritty Hell’s Kitchen setting that’s more DC than Marvel.
  14. THE LAST KINGDOM: Because while the ‘UK’s sprawling series about Brits vs Nordics may not be its answer to Game of Thrones, it’s still immensely watchable TV all the same.
  15. HUMANS: Because just like Black Mirror predicted, even in the future it’s not robots we need to be afraid of, but humans.
  16. AMERICAN CRIME: Because the kind of writing 12 Years a Slave writer, John Ridley, has brought to the small screen, has never been seen before on network TV.
  17. WAYWARD PINES: Because this is the first thing after The Sixth Sense that Manoj N. Shyamalan has produced where he gives answers and they happen to be creepier than the question.
  18. DEUTSCHLAND 83: Because German citizens got the short end of the stick at the end of WWII and this cold war spy coming of age will take you into their world that we never knew of.
  19. BLOODLINE: Because Ben Mendhelson is this generation’s most watchable character actor.
  20. EMPIRE: Because besides the heavy hitters in its cast, this show has more plot in every episode than Mad Men had over 8 seasons… it’s a true network achievement!


  1. FARGO: Because it’s easily Breaking Bad’s successor as the best TV show of today, and where I stand, Noah Hawley can do Coen Brothers better than Coen Brothers can – in fact Fargo is the reason why TV today is better than cinema, and is the shining example of the great times we live in called ‘Peak TV’.
  2. THE AMERICANS: Because as the most consistently outstanding and most criminally underrated TV show of the last three years, the cold war spy drama is a cable TV classic that should not be missed.
  3. GAME OF THRONES: Because somehow, every year, the show manages to raise the stakes and manages to beat every expectation the millions of fans have around the world.
  4. MANHATTAN: Because as the second most criminally underrated show of the last couple of years, Manhattan is just as consistent in being brilliant as The Americans is, and is about an even more intriguing plotline: the making of the atomic bomb.
  5. THE FLASH: Because neither Marvel nor DC have managed to make a superhero show that’s as much fun as this is – this show is what ‘comic’ books had intended their adaptations to be.
  6. MAD MEN: Because we may not ever be fully able to measure the impact of Mad Men on what we wear, but the series finale had a singular impact on how we think: that this was a show that defined the golden age of TV.
  7. SUITS: Because even in its fifth season, Suits manages to be just as exciting and entertaining as its initial run… and perhaps making Harvey Specter more human could have something to do with it.
  8. BATES MOTEL: Because before there was Wayward Pines, there was – and is – Bates Motel, the origin story of Pyscho’s Norman Bates, which is just as creepy, atmospheric and unpredictable in tone and as good in writing.
  9. THE LEFTOVERS: Because no one writes about life and loss like Damon Lindelof.
  10. THE KNICK: Because if TV is an art, no one can paint it like Steven Soderbergh can and that’s the most compelling reason to watch this show.


  1. MASTER OF NONE: Because Aziz Ansari has created, written and stars in this show about modern love and there is no greater reason to watch anything more than this.
  2. CASUAL: Because Jason Reitman is the only director today whose understanding and critique of modern love is just as sharp as Aziz Ansari’s.
  3. MOZART IN THE JUNGLE: Because Jason Schwartzmann and Roman Coppola have cast Gael Garcia Bernal and indie sensation Lola Kirke to make an ode to New York through the world of symphony orchestras.
  4. BIG TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, FL: Because if there was ever a stoner version of Fargo, this is it.. the best unseen show of 2015.
  5. RED OAKS: Because David Gordon Green has recreated the world of John Hughes through this teenage coming-of-age in the ‘80s throwback show.
  6. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH: Because Will Forte has teamed up with Chris Miller and Philip Lord (of 21 and 22 Jump Street Fame) for a post apocalyptic comedy so how could it not be gold?
  7. CATASTROPHE: Because though season two proved to be a dampener, there is enough to like in the adult romantic comedy for couples who don’t look like Brangelina.
  8. HAPPYISH: Because if you hate social media, technology, capitalism, consumerism, and umm, people in general, this show will validate you.
  9. TOGETHERNESS: Because just like all things by Duplass Brothers, this indie dysfunctional family comedy is also lovely as it’s about everything and nothing.
  10. BALLERS: Because it is from the guys behind Entourage and it looks, feels, walks and talks like Entourage but in sports and it stars The Rock.


  1. ABOUT A BOY: Because most underrated comedy on TV came to an end but not before making us feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy inside.
  2. SILICON VALLEY: Because if the Big Bang Theory made geeks cool, Silicon Valley makes the nerds hot… property.
  3. THE WRONG MANS: Because few people have managed to get the comic thriller space right on TV or films, and this show is hilarious and badass at the same time.
  4. MARRIED: Because in its season season, the comedy showed that you don’t necessarily need to be adults to be married, or at all, really.
  5. YOU’RE THE WORST: Because handling a tricky topic like depression in such a superlative manner shows that the best laughs come from the darkest situations.
  6. Veep: Because there are more memorable one-lines in Veep than there are comedy shows on TV.
  7. SURVIVOR’S REMORSE: Because this is not ‘Sports Entourage’ but ‘Sports Fast and Furious’ – it’s all about family, at the end of the day.
  8. FRESH OFF THE BOAT: Because as an Asian ‘Malcolm in the Middle’, FOTB is a fresh take on fitting in even when you stand out.
  9. BROAD CITY: Because girls can be ‘bros’ too, and if there ever was a show for girl bros, this is it.
  10. NEW GIRL: Because no matter how the good or bad the writing gets in subsequent episodes, that cast is the craziest comic ensemble on TV right now.


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Liked/disliked the piece? Think I’ve left out some fantastic shows? Think I’m awesome or really, really not? Leave your comments below 🙂
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.


Usually summer is the time when American network TV experiments with half-decent shows and cable TV comes out with somewhat decent-ish programming. But over the last couple of summers, the quality of super shows to come out of the summer has increased exponentially, especially from cable TV channels/streaming services. This summer was especially awesome and some fabulous shows were released; although I have taken the liberty of adding some new shows that premiered slightly earlier in the year; as well as British TV shows too.

I watched *everything* so you don’t you have to. Here are my recommendations and warnings:

I have watched the full seasons of all these shows; and 90% of them have been renewed for season 2

Fargo (FX) (Anthology Series) – Structurally similar to True Detective (small town, serial killer, big names, bloody brilliant) but in my opinion, better, because of the humanity. Stars Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, and the brightest star of the future: Alison Tomlan.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) (News Comedy) – The best and funniest news comedy show ever made. John Oliver is the hero the world needs. Period.
True Detective (HBO) (Anthology Series) – Matthew McConaughey.

Happy Valley (BBC One) (Anthology Series): Tense, heart-pumping Brit crime drama/thriller with a fantastic emotional core. Not to be missed.
Manhattan (WGN) – Still on, but hasn’t got one note wrong so far. Set during the World War II, about the making of the atomic bomb. Writing and direction-wise reminds me of Studio 60, perhaps because Thomas Schlamme (Studio 60’s exec producer) is exec producing. But what a show. Flawless writing.
Silicon Valley (HBO): The funniest show on TV after Veep with a phenomenal cast. About a bunch of geeks trying to launch a start up in silicon valley, created by Office Space’s Mike Judge. Hilarious is understating it.
The Honourable Woman (BBC/Sundance) (Mini Series): Brit series starring a phenomenal cast of the best character actor talent of UK, led by Maggie Gylenhaal. A spy drama/thriller about the Israel-Palestine issue. Complex, intelligent, real, layered: a stunning achievement.

Broad City (Comedy Central): About two girls slumming it in New York. Funnier, more real and more awesome than Girls can ever be.
Deadbeat (Hulu): Tyler Labine-led comedy about a slob medium who tries to solve the problems of ghosts. Quite funny.
Penny Dreadful (Showtime): A horror TV series, set in the 19th century during a time when everyone from Frankenstein to Dorian Gray and Van Helsing co-habited London. An outstanding show because of one main reason: Eva Green. Better than American Horror Story; also stars ex-Bond Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett.
Satisfaction (USA): A complex comedy-drama about marriage and extra-marital affairs and middle-age crisis. Hard to explain why this series is so good; but it really is.
The Assets (ABC) (Mini Series): This mini-series belonged on cable but got screwed because ABC picked it. A brilliant CIA spy drama set during the cold war about the mole that almost cost US the war. Fabulous cast led by Jodie Whittaker (a favourite) and Paul Rhys. Very reminiscent of The Americans, one of my favourite shows on TV.
The Divide (WE): Fantastic legal drama about race, politics and morality, when an old case is revealed to be wrongly convicted. Featuring a fantastic cast: Marin Ireland (new TV crush), Damon Gupton, Joe Anderson, Nia Long, Reg E Cathey. Really loved it.
The Knick (Cinemax): Created and directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Clive Owen, set in 1900s New York at a time when modern medicine was just about being invented. Only three episodes in, but super strong. Also great find: Andre Holland.
The Red Road (Sundance): Starring Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo and future Aquaman) and Martin Anderson, about a conflict involving the native Indian tribe and the white population of a small city. A solid crime drama and very, very well acted, especially by Julianne Nicholson.
You’re the Worst (FX): An R-rated FX take on dating; hilarious because of a fantastic young comedy cast featuring stars of tomorrow – Aya Cash, Chris Geere, Desmin Borges and Kether Donohue.

Married (FX): An R-rated FX take on marriage; hilarious because of the all-star comedy cast of Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate (who’s awesome) and Brett Gelman.
Murder in the First (TNT) (Anthology Series): Good timepass; a straight-up crime thriller about an investigation into a couple of murders. Starring Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy); has some emotional nuances that you don’t see in a NCIS or CSI.
Outlander (Starz): Based on a novel about a WWII nurse who gets transported to 18th century Scotland in the middle of civil war. Four episodes in; interesting but very slow. Will possibly move up to A by series end.
Rush (USA): Five episodes in, still not sure where it’s going, but it’s a guilty pleasure. Like all USA network shows, it’s slick, stylish and makes up in gloss and humour what it lacks in story. Also I can’t stop watching it because it’s created by Jonathan Levine, who I’m a HUGE fan of (search The Wackness).
The Leftovers (HBO): Spiritual sequel to Lost: About a city trying to deal with the loss of their loved ones who inexplicably disappeared one fine day. Quite good, but not a patch on Lost, even if it’s on HBO.
The Musketeers (BBC One): Brit action drama about the three musketeers. The same story, with a generous dose of humour. Good fun.
The Strain (FX): Campy, addictive and a guilty pleasure. Not a brilliant show by any stretch but damn good fun. Pre-apocalyptic series about the rise of some very weird vampires in New York city, created by Guillermo Del Toro.
Turn (AMC): Period Drama set during the American revolutionary war about the first American spies converted by George Washington. A bit slow, but quite good. Starring Jamie Bell.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): With a star cast led by Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy, this should’ve been at the top. Set during the computer revolution of the ‘80s, interesting story marred by campiness.
Power (Starz): Produced by 50 cent, about a major drug player trying to go legit; but obviously not having it easy. Surprisingly decent.
Prey (ITV) (Mini Series) – A three part crime thriller on the lines of The Fugitive; about a copy who is accused of murdering his own family. Good timepass.
Sequestered (Crackle): A legal drama based on 12 Angry Men; but with the twist of politics and power and shit going wrong. Interesting cast, feat Jesse Bradford and Patrick Warburton, but very bingeable because every episode is only 22 minutes long!
Tyrant (FX): This is not a good show. Basically Godfather set in Middle East type plot, but a major misfire from FX. I still watched it till the end because of one fantastic actor – Ashraf Barhom – who’s basically carried the series, and because it’s bout Middle East politics, which fascinates me endlessly. Likely to get cancelled.

I have watched 2-3 episodes of all the following shows; some I may binge on later, some I may avoid

Not Good
Crisis: Even with Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulraney at its helm, this is a bad, bad, bad show. A political drama about the kidnapping of rich people’s kids and what ensues. Even worse than last year’s Hostages.
Crossbones: Pirates. John Malkovich. Very weird.
Legends (TNT): A spy show. Sean Bean is fantastic, Ali Larter is fantastic, the show is created by Howard Gordon (Homeland and 24) but even after three eps, it fails to take off. Not as bad as the other shows here, but just, pointless.
Partners (FX): Stars Kelsey Grammar and Martin Lawrence and still worse than any other comedy on TV. Saw two episodes, couldn’t watch more. Cannot fathom what went wrong.
The Last Ship (TNT): It’s the summer’s big hit, and it is produced by Michael Bay. So now you know why it’s not good, and now you know why it still works. Couldn’t watch after 2 eps. Bad. Just like last year’s Under the Dome.

Timepass; may binge on long flights
Dominion (fantasy), Extant (sci fi; Halle Berry), Faking It (comedy), From Dusk to Dawn (vampires; Robert Rodriguez), Garfunkel and Oates (comedy), Matador (Robert Rodriguez), Taxi Brooklyn (comedy); The Lottery (scifi-ish), Welcome to Sweden (comedy; celeb guest stars)

Timepass; generic or not for me
Gang Related (crime), Rake (legal dramedy; Greg Kinnear), Reckless (legal dramedy), Salem (witches and stuff), Sirens (comedy), The Night Shift (medical drama), Twisted (teen/mystery), Undateable (comedy), Witches of West End (witches and stuff), Working The Engels (comedy)

All the shows I’m addicted to, that have already had one season or more – does not include pre-summer shows like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, etc.

The Ones I Loved:
The Americans (BRILLIANT – MUST WATCH), Masters of Sex (AWESOME), Rectify (GREAT), Suits (GREAT), Bates Motel (GREAT), Orphan Black (GREAT), Veep (HILARIOUS), Vice (BRILLIANT)

The Ones I Really Liked:
The Bridge, Ray Donovan, Banshee, Utopia, Vikings, Hannibal, The Killing, Da Vinci’s Demons, American Horror Story, Doctor Who (ALL GOOD)

That’s all, folks! Please come back Next Monday: I’ll be doing weekly lists on TV you must not miss :). If you agree/disagree, feel like trolling me for no reason, please leave a comment below!

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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Thank you, How I Met Your Mother #Blog #TV

Woke up at 5.30 am to watch the live stream of the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, with Sagar Taneja across two countries, along with the millions who watched it in the US, because we didn’t want to miss being part of the shared cultural experience the ending would be. It was supposed to be legend-wait for it-dary!

BUT. The writers ruined it. The ending was the most contrived, most out of place and most unbelievably cliched ending of all (HIMYM may be the LOST of sitcoms!). It didn’t do any justice to what the writers had worked so hard to build towards all season – and perhaps, all 9 seasons. Still, as they say, it’s the journey that matters, and not the destination, so here’s a fond farewell to possibly the most beautiful season of HIMYM, that, in some masterfully written 24 episodes, gave depth and maturity to what was once just a FRIENDS wannabe.

The heart of all fantastic shows is genuine emotion and hats off to creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas to have turned a sitcom into a sometimes melancholy, but always warm and enriching comedy-drama about the only things that matter in life: love and friendship. It pleasantly surprised me how often the eternally optimistic Ted Mosby’s quest to finding the mother of his kids tugged at my heart in this season because when you’ve been looking for love that long – and then you actually find it, there’s nothing more perfect.

And it was just that – perfect. Cristin Milioti as the mother was perfect. All the flashforwards between Ted and the mother were perfect. The first date was perfect. The romance was perfect. The marriage was perfect. And the culmination of their story, to me, was perfect. And that’s where the series culminated for me. In that moment when Ted met the mother and shared the yellow umbrella with her, and they realised how the universe had conspired in bringing them together, and they said ‘Hi’ to each other at the end of their conversation . Perfect!

HIMYM, in its own quirky way, reinstated to me many things I believe in myself: THIS:; How, just because you are an adult, you don’t need to act as one; How, if you try for something long enough, the universe conspires for you to get it; How the little stories we remember to tell are the ones that keep us going in finding new stories to tell; How, things may not always turn out to be perfect, but if you have love and friendship in your life, everything turns out okay; How, being eternally hopeful may possibly be looked upon as stupid, but hope is also possibly the only thing that is eternal – even when one story ends, another may begin if you have hope; and How, there are some people in your life you can never, ever let go off.

In the legendary words of Ted (S09E22), “Here’s the secret kids. None of us can vow to be perfect. In the end all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we’ve got. Because love is the best thing we do.”

Thank you Ted Mosby, Barney Stincon, Marshall Eriksen, Robin Scherbatsky, Lily Aldrin & Tracy McConell and thank you Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan & Cristin Milioti for the love. So long!

Note: This piece was first written on April 1, 2014

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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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