July 2, 2013

Death Be Not Whatever

I wish I'd decided to do episode-by-episode recaps of Teen Wolf this season. If I had, I'd have come here after the second episode and gushed about how much I loved it. Instead, I'm apparently only popping my head in to talk about episodes I hated. Like the season three premiere and last night's episode, "Frayed."

My chief complaint about last night's episode is that employing flashbacks the way they did only served to make it needlessly discombobulated and confusing. The sole purpose of the wacky timeline appears to have been to let the audience spend an entire episode thinking Derek was dead. Not the first time they've led us on like that - remember in season one when Peter was all Alpha'd up and stuck his arm clean through Derek's torso before tossing him into a heap and leaving him there all dead-seeming at the end of "Heart Monitor"? Scott, Stiles and the viewers then spent all of "Night School" under the impression that Derek was a corpse.

The death fake-out is trotted out a couple of times a season (if not a couple of times an episode) on Teen Wolf which is fine. It's maybe a little lazy and it definitely loses emotional heft the more they use it but whatever, it's fine. It's less fine when they resort to cheesy gimmicks to drag it out as long as possible at the expense of making an episode enjoyable or even comprehensible. Maybe if the flashbacks had happened in order, they'd have annoyed me less but they were all over the place. Essentially, we first flashed back to Tuesday afternoon, then flashed back to Wednesday morning, then flashed back to Monday evening, then flashed back to Thursday morning before flashing back to Tuesday evening again. All. Over. The damn. Place.

In one of our first flashbacks, Scott announced to Derek, Peter, Boyd and Isaac that the Alphas' hideout is in the penthouse of the building the Argents now live in (which Derek & The Boys already knew anyway). Ten minutes later we flashed back to the full convo Scott had with Deucalion in the elevator during which the only important thing we learn is that the Alphas are staying in the penthouse of the building the Argents now live in. It's like flashing back to a flashback we already flashed back to. That kind of hacky bullshit editing should come with Dramamine.

Meanwhile in the present, we're cruising down the road with a bus full of werewolves plus Stiles and Danny, with everyone under the impression that Derek and Ennis (who? I know, I don't care either) are dead and let me tell you, the extent to which most everyone does not seem to give a flying fuck is astonishing. I am more broken up about my coworker's mother-in-law's recent passing than Isaac and Stiles were about Derek's death. Boyd didn't seem sad but he at least he had the courtesy to be a little ragey about it. Scott wasn't sad though he did feel guilty but that's just because he's better than everyone else on the show.

Wacky timelines and temporary deaths aside, this show's over-reliance on the Alpha Pack is really impeding my ability to connect with or enjoy the season as a whole. They're just always around. They're fighting, they're chasing, they're teasing, they're speechifying, they're flirting, they're riding every fucking elevator in town. They're ubiquitous. Jeff Davis needs to go watch Jaws and take a note - what's really scary is what you don't see. I am one billion times more interested in the sacrifices than I am in whatever stupid shit Alphalpha and The Rascals are getting up to. As this episode came to an end my first thought was "well, at least we only have seven more episodes until this Alpha Pack nonsense is over." Because there's no way Teen Wolf would bring Alphalpha or even a single Rascal back for the second half of the season, right? RIGHT?

I've avoided dipping my toe into the Teen Wolf shipping pool thus far but here's where I have to wade in to say that I actually like the addition of Jennifer Blake and I think her character has been used better than any other new cast member this season. I had high hopes for how Cora could help us get to know more about Derek but she's mostly been written as a first season Derek with boobs thus far and we've been there, we're past it. Jennifer Blake on the other hand, after appearing in only a handful of scenes, has allowed us to see a side of Derek we haven't really seen before. We are able to see that not only does he care about people (which he's always been reluctant to admit or display), but he likes people. He's interested in interacting with some of them. He might even want to spend time talking or connecting with someone about something that doesn't involve claws and evisceration. He has layers. He's a real boy! I ship Sterek as much as I've ever shipped anything in my life, but I ship it like I shipped Damon and Alaric on TVD; I would like to see them make out because I always want to see cute boys make out, but mostly I want to see them be allies and reluctant friends. If a Sterek relationship becomes canon someday, I'll dance and cheer and cry real tears of joy; if it doesn't, that's fine too because I have fanfic and an imagination. In the meantime, I want both Stiles and Derek to have love interests because love interests mean kissing and shirt removal and when hot people make out with their tops off on TV, we all win.

My point is that adding new characters is great if it's done in a way that serves to give the characters we already have depth or to advance the story but not when all they do is take up space. The Rascals are taking up a lot of space and getting us nowhere.  

Lest you think I hated everything about "Frayed," I'll mention that there were three scenes I really enjoyed - Scott and Allison in her room, the planning confab at Derek's loft, and Stiles dealing with an insane Coach Finstock. I even rather liked the scenes between Allison and Lydia in the car and when Allison, Lydia, and Stiles were discussing Scott's injuries in the rest stop bathroom. But it's no coincidence that the scenes I liked were all scenes between established characters. They were all scenes where people we already know and care about were dealing with shit. I'm not saying the new characters should all go away, but I think we should spend a lot less time with newbies and a lot more time with people I'm invested in so that I can muster up some interest in what's going on.

Seems to me like Teen Wolf is hitting it's "sophomore slump" a season late and that's fine. Most shows have slumps and I've stuck around through a lot of them so I'll be here through 3A while they work out a shitty Big Bad and I'll look forward to a few bright spot episodes in an otherwise depressing, muddled season. But I sure as hell hope 3B is an improvement over this mess.

June 4, 2013

Mistakes Were Made

To say I've been looking forward to Teen Wolf's return to my television is a massive understatement. I've counted down the days (well, I've followed the show's official Twitter account while they counted down the days but I probably would have done it myself if math weren't so hard); I've fiendishly devoured every spoiler, hint, and set photo; and I've read a lot (a LOT) of fanfic. The lead up to last night felt like the week before summer vacation.

Then, after interminable months of waiting it was here. The season three premiere. And it was...fine, I guess. I mean, I've spent considerable time trying to convince most people I know that Teen Wolf is not the stupid, cheeseball show they think it is and if any of those people decided to jump in and watch last night's episode they will never believe another thing I tell them ever again, but I guess having any sort of credibility is overrated anyway.

If you're wondering what my beef with the episode was, I can only assume you either didn't watch it, don't care much about continuity, or that you're a huge Scott McCall fan in which case you are going to hate me so you might want to see yourself out now because oh my God I do not have a single fuck to give about Scott McCall.

Scott McCall is like a lot of main characters on television in that the show really wants you to think he's the "hero" and therefore brave, selfless, and generally perfect in every way so they tell you that by routinely having other characters just say it outright. What they don't do is have the character behave selflessly or heroically. Based on how he behaves I found Scott dumb, petulant, whiny, smug, childish and selfish through the entirety of the first two seasons. And as season 3 kicked off I have not changed my opinion in the slightest.

Scott's apparently spent the three months since we last saw him in summer school. So he's "smart" now. Which we know because he reads while doing one-arm pull-ups and way over-using the word ephemeral. What he hasn't done is ask Derek any questions about the disappearance of Boyd and Erica. Or try to find Boyd and Erica. Or think about people who are not Allison. He's celebrating his return to school with a tattoo that somehow symbolizes how proud he is of himself for managing to live without dating or seeing Allison for the past three months. While she was out of the country. Which is exactly like celebrating your restraint when you refrain from eating junk food while in a coma. So he gets the tattoo but his super werewolf healing absorbs the ink and the tattoo disappears.

Then a kamakazi deer plows into Lydia's car while she's with Allison and a murder of crows crashes into a classroom and Isaac is almost stolen from the hospital by a particularly ugly alpha who then beats the shit out of Scott until Derek shows up to save him (again. Some more). Once Derek and Scott have gotten Isaac out of the hospital and safely back to The House That MRSA Built to heal him up good and proper, Stiles shows up and is like "oh good, speaking of strange shit BIRDS!" Derek thanks Scott genuinely for helping him rescue Isaac and then politely asks him to leave but Scott's like "wait, there's all this terrible stuff happening to everyone with the almost getting killed and the missing for months and the When Animals Attack shit so can we just be serious for a minute? How did you make your tattoo stay on your skin?"

That's right, kids! In the midst of the creepiest shit since one of his friends turned into a giant murderous lizard, Scott's main concern is getting his important, symbolic tattoo. Selfless, heroic and deep like a puddle to the bitter end, our Scotty.

But while I could go on and on and on (and on and on and on) about how relying on Scott to carry an episode's story, plot and emotional core drastically reduces my enjoyment every time, this time he wasn't even the worst thing about the ep. What bothered me most was that the episode was overly ambitious. They were trying to do way too much to establish the arc for the first half of the season and they sacrificed character, coherence and continuity turning this ep into a muddled mess.

Last season Scott could smell a newly turned Isaac in a locker room full of teenage boys, last night he couldn't sniff out Deucalion's wolfitude when they were alone in an elevator and Deucalion was copping a damn feel.

The new teacher is fine but was maybe given too much screen time because she had literally nothing important to contribute to the story and we still had 300,000 other new characters to meet.  

Melissa McCall was a bright spot in the episode. Now that she's in the know about werewolves and kanima and other things that go bump in the night, she is able to help the hopeless in a number of ways and it is awesome. But you know who doesn't know and therefore can't help? The Sheriff. That remains not at all awesome. Let the Sheriff know what's up, god damn it! Ahem. This is probably my single biggest gripe with Teen Wolf in general because it seems to me the only benefit gained from not sharing information is the convenience of plot devices. Once your friends lives are threatened, tell them what is up. When you have information about what kind of extra werewolves could be in town and feeling murdery, call a meeting and tell everyone. And when you routinely get up to shit that involves destruction of property, dead bodies, and an array of broken laws, having a Sheriff at the ready to cover for you is a VERY GOOD IDEA!

Last but definitely most irritating, introducing seven new characters in one episode was stupid and unnecessary. New teacher? Fine. Mysterious girl rescuing Isaac and dropping cryptic clues about what's to come? Sure. One or two of the Alpha Pack weres? Ok. But Teach, Mystique, and all five members of the AP Crew? Huge waste. We know there will be several alphas but meeting one or two per episode would have given them some time to create several semi-fleshed out characters rather than just a gaggle of random baddies.

Whether it was a consequence of introducing too many people in too short a time or they were just really pleased with particular visuals, they made a couple of the AP Crew the werewolf equivalent of the dusted-in-the-tease vamps that littered the cemeteries of Sunnydale on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. While actual characters had human features that morphed into monstrous visages, the nameless BtVS stake fodder were in perma-vamp face - because unimportant characters don't get to morph. A couple of the AP Crew members - Ennis and Kali - seem to lack the ability to retract their claws. Seems a rather moronic move to hang out in an operating room with your claws popped through surgical gloves, or wander the halls of a hospital dressed as a nurse with bare feet and long black talons as toenails but that's exactly what Ennis and Kali were doing. No one in the world would fail to notice that shit which is why it comes off as just plain lazy TV making.

The twins got rather a lot of screen time and a frankly ridiculous full-alpha transformation but they didn't say a damn thing and I already want them to go away. When I heard that one of the twins would be getting involved with Danny and therefore Danny's role in the show would be expanded, I was optimistic but so far I just can't imagine that the twins will become at all interesting no matter who they get naked and have sex with. I guess I'll withhold full judgment until at least one of them has a line but as introductions go, this one was botched and yawn-inducing.

The only member of the AP Crew who didn't disappoint was Deucalion and I suspect that's partly because he was given the most to do and partly because Gideon Emery is pretty fantastic.

They have at least 12 episodes to tell this story so I can't fathom why they were in such a fucking rush to force all the baddies, the "what's gone on since we saw you last" exposition, and the introduction and possible immediate death of a character I was actually totally digging into the 20 minutes of this episode that weren't entirely about Scott's inane fucking tattoo.

I'm still looking forward to the season and I think the story they're setting up has a lot of potential to be fantastic, I just think the setup was a mess.

And fine, I'll just say it - not bothering to show Derek even once until the epsiode is half over is a HUGE mistake. Get it together, Teen Wolf.

May 8, 2013

Oh, Francis - I Need To Talk About Copper

Yesterday I tried to explain to a friend what Copper is about and found myself with too many ways to describe it.

It's a period piece. Cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, President Abraham Lincoln, hoop skirts, crazy facial hair (mutton chops for everyone!), and hats, hats, HATS.

It's a political drama. Set in New York in 1864, it's about the post-Civil War social and political climate in America. White people who are pissed about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Black people trying to make lives for themselves after slavery. Rich people looking to increase their power by owning all of Manhattan. Angry, bitter Confederate sympathizers who want to burn it all to the ground.

It's a police procedural. CSI: Five Points. A crime is committed and Detective Kevin Corcoran works with his partners Francis and Andrew to gather clues and evidence. Corcoran's friend Dr. Matthew Freeman, a black man who fought alongside Corcoran in the war, acts as medical examiner and forensic scientist. Cases get solved.

It's a psychological thriller. It isn't what the people on this show have done (though what they have done is straight-up traumatizing), it's what they might do. You don't see the horrible shit coming until it is happening right in front of you and you're powerless to look away. And when I tell you that one of the characters on this show is the scariest person on television by a country mile, that is not hyperbole. There is a scene where someone sits up in bed - that's it, just sits up in bed - that will make your blood run cold.

It's a love story. What drives Corcoran is love. The love he has for his daughter drives him to find her killer. The love he has for his wife drives him to track her down. The love he has for Annie drives him to keep her safe. The love Corcoran, Freeman and Morehouse have for each other is the purest, sweetest, most bromantic love in the land. Ok, that's all pretty accurate but really the love story is between me and all of the characters who are my TV boyfriends/girlfriends. Which character I love most depends entirely on which character is on the screen at that moment.

The quick and easy synopsis of the show is this: Detective Kevin Corcoran comes home from 4 years in the Civil War to New York's Five Points neighborhood to find that his daughter has been killed and his wife has disappeared. That's the set-up of the show. That's where it starts and before the first season ends at least a thousand awful, unbelievable, unnerving, and engrossing things have happened and watching it all unfold is one hell of a ride.

You should all watch Copper because it's interesting, well-acted, and well-written. Because it will keep you guessing and disturb you in big ways, small ways, good ways, and bad ways. Because I want to talk to everyone about how damaged Corcoran is; how incredibly engaging I find Morehouse's particular brand of not-evil evil genius; what a great, strong character Eva is; the nightmares I'll be having about Annie for the rest of my life; everything about Dr. Freeman. Because I need more people to understand why I've been shaking my head and muttering "oh, Francis" for two days. Because I have so many feelings about the show that I was inspired to write a blog post for the first time in six months. Because it's really very good and I think you'll like it.

November 9, 2012

Dear Diary, Today I cried and cried.

There were two reasons I stopped recapping The Vampire Diaries last season - the first is that I got a lot busier at work which made me less anxious to spend my free time trying to be witty. Being witty is exhausting. The second is that I wasn't enjoying the show enough to spend several hours rewatching and dissecting it. There were still episodes I outright loved last year but on the whole I found the third season by turns boring and irritating.

I loved the shit out of the way it ended though and I was looking forward to how a vamped Elena would spice things up and inject some much-needed badassery into the snoozy proceedings. The fourth season got off to a pretty good start and when everyone - literally EVERYONE - got a chance to be a badass in "Memorial" I thought the show had really gotten back to what made me love it in the first place.

But then things took a turn for the...well, whatever the opposite of badass is. Vamped Elena isn't fun and the continued fight over which Salvatore brother loves her more and is better at being her knight in shining armour is not interesting. 

It isn't interesting when one character is all, "I got this" while eveyrone else on the show has to sit around like helpless, ignorant, baddy-fodder with their thumbs up their asses. Or when Damon and Stefan threaten to kill each other over a girl. Or when Stefan and Damon treat Elena like a helpless kitten they must protect. It really isn't interesting when Elena whines.

You know what would be interesting? If TVD were never about how Elena needed to be saved, rescued, protected, looked after, tended to or otherwise treated as a damsel in distress. If every single person on the show didn't prioritize what's best for Elena above literally everything else. If it weren't always about which Salvatore knows better what's best for her.

I'd find it very interesting if everyone on the show got a chance to be a badass. To fight, to scheme, to be smart, to work together and know what the fuck was going on, and to save themselves and each other. If the Salvatores cared enough about Elena to let her take care of herself and make her own choices and be a strong, adult woman and then respected the choices she made rather than ignoring her decisions and substituting their own poor judgement instead.

I'd be very interested in a lot less whining.

I'd be interested in our whole Gang of Misfit Danger Magnets being looped into this "cure" business and then kicking back over several drinks in the Salvatore library to discuss how this is probably just like The Sun and Moon Curse and asking snarkily if anyone's checked the silverware drawers for the sword that holds the key to busting this secret wide open. And then, if they decide they're willing to risk their lives on the chance that this cure exists, they do it because EVERY ONE OF THE FUCKING VAMPIRES whats a chance to be human again and not because poor little Elena got the fuzzy end of the vampire lolly pop and who gives a shit how vampirism has screwed up anyone else's plans.

Nothing would interest me more than Elena putting on her big-girl pants and telling Stefan to take his chauvinism, his condescension, his sanctimony and his misplaced savior complex and worry about himself because she's got this. Then telling Damon to focus his energies on not threatening to kill everyone she loves instead of making sex eyes at her all the time. I'd watch those scenes on repeat forever just to erase the memory of her pathetic hissyfit over killing Connor. The Vamp Elena I'd like to see is the one who puts her game face on and is ready to protect herself and the people she loves at all costs and refuses to apologize for the casualties when she's pushed too far. Human Elena had it in her, why doesn't Vamp Elena?

I hope the show starts to be a little less about the complicated plot and how the characters' personalities can be stamped down to fit into the narrative and a little more about how a group of badass people can handle their shit if they're given half a chance because I'd hate to fall completely out of love with this show.

October 23, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 large box low sodium chicken broth
1 large can enchilada sauce
1 can Ro*Tel tomatoes with lime and cilantro
2 cans original Ro*Tel tomatoes with chilies
1 can black beans, drained
1 can hominy, drained
1 bag frozen corn

Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla strips

In a large stock pot, saute onion and garlic in butter, salt and pepper until onions are translucent. Add chili powder and cumin, cook another minute. Add uncooked chicken, chicken broth, enchilada sauce and Ro*Tel to pot. Bring to low boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours.

Remove chicken and shred with fork. Return chicken to the pot with black beans, hominy and corn. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, cheese and tortilla strips.

October 22, 2012

Virgin State of Mind

If you make a romantic comedy set in high school, I will watch it. And unless it's either offensive or sleep-inducing, I will almost certainly like it. Which is to say, you should not be surprised when I tell you that I really liked The First Time.

This movie was practically tailor-made to appeal to me. Cute, romantic boy played by the dreamy Dylan O'Brien meets adorable, hyper-verbose girl played by Britt Robertson with whom he has instant and amazing chemistry. They do cute things, they are cute together, a metric fucking ton of cuteness ensues. They fall in love. We all go home wishing for a Dylan O'Brien of our very own.

The movie begins on Friday night when Dave (O'Brien) and Aubrey (Robertson) meet at a party. He's harboring a hopeless crush on a girl who just wants to be his friend and she's dating an enormous douchenozel. They strike up an instant, flirty friendship that turns into dating which leads to sex all in the course of a single weekend.

It's been a while since I was a teenager but I don't think anyone ever really forgets what being a teenager felt like. How every little thing seemed a million times better and worse than it ever did before or will again. How you can not know a person one minute and feel desperately in love with them the next. How having sex for the first time can seem like a really good idea when your parents aren't home and he's kissing your neck but a huge mistake when it's weird and fast and maybe a little embarrassing.

What the movie does really well is convey this teenage awkwardness while still being sweet and funny. There were moments of perfectly accurate teenage awfulness that caused me to cringe and want to die but in a good, almost nostalgic way. And there were moments that were movie-perfect where the boy says just the right thing at just the right time the way boys never really do because life isn't like the movies. Plus a likable girl, a very cute boy, and Lamarcus Tinker. What more could you possibly want in a movie?

I would see this movie again in a minute. In fact, I think I'll go see this movie again tonight. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic comedies, movies set in high school, cute boys, charming relationships, and happy endings.

And seriously guys, all of Dylan O'Brien's shirts are directly from heaven.

September 26, 2012

Why Partners Might Be Better Than You Think

Sometimes when I watch a pilot I know right away that I'm going to love the show. Veronica Mars, The West Wing, Alias, My So-Called Life, and Friday Night Lights had perfect pilot episodes. A lot of shows do. But sometimes I watch a pilot (or even just part of a pilot) and decide right away that the show is not for me only to come back to it weeks, months or years later and find out that I could not have been more wrong. Teen Wolf and Nikita are two recent instances of this phenomenon that come to mind. Then there are the times that I watch a pilot and I honestly don't know how to feel about it. This is the category Partners falls into.

I'm not a person who has an aversion to the single camera sitcom format on its face - I adore The Big Bang Theory and my great love of Melissa and Joey is my secret shame - but I'm also not a person who'd voluntarily watch most of the "broad" single camera comedies currently on TV. A lot of money would need to change hands before I'd sit through an entire episode of Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, that Tim Allen show ABC foisted on America last year, etc. So I came into Partners with a clean slate, wanting to like it.

I didn't like it. Hardly any of the jokes (maybe even none of the jokes) were funny and several of them got call backs to remind me how not funny they were the first time by making them even less funny the second time. Brandon Routh's Wyatt could have easily been played by a cardboard cut-out of Brandon Routh and...well, now that I think about it, maybe Wyatt was being played by a cardboard cut-out of Brandon Routh. That would explain some things. The tone was manic and shrill and the editing was weird.

But I also didn't hate it because I'm not sure that the pilot is a fair representation of what the show will ultimately become. When Cougartown first aired I thought it was kind of meh. It wasn't unfunny but it wasn't great and it was just one joke. A few episodes later that wasn't the joke anymore and the show was hilarious. Partners is just one joke right now but David Krumholtz, Michael Urie and Sophia Bush are all really likable actors capable of being funny so I'm willing to give it a few episodes to shed that one joke and spread out into something genuine and funny. Something worthy of the actors who are in it.

And who knows, maybe the real Brandon Routh will show up in a subsequent episode and his cardboard cut-out will go make "I have a heart on" jokes outside of a WeHo Starbucks where he belongs.

September 11, 2012

The Pacey Principle

While I believe the logic behind The Krakow Theory is sound, I've had to give some extra thought to the central conceit that there are only two types of men in bed - the Krakows and the Catalanos. I think the theory is incomplete and that there is at least one type of man whose sexual skills are somewhere in the middle. That's why I propose amending The Krakow Theory to include The Pacey Principle. 

Pacey had relationships in high school. He may or may not have had sex but if he did it was because he was committed and patient. He's put in the time and he doesn't want to squander it. He wants to prove himself. He's probably not going to linger in the area but he's not afraid to get in there. He does what he has to do to get the job done. 

Whether Pacey is better in bed than a Krakow or a Catalano may be a judgement call. We all might need to do more research in this field of study before a diffinative conclusion can be reached. We owe it to ourselves, each other, and the world, ladies. It's FOR SCIENCE.

September 9, 2012

This Life Has Been A Test

In April, 2011 I had my then-16 year old cousin, Claire, over for a marathon viewing of My So-Called Life.  The show and the marathon were both delightful from start to finish. Below is the review that I wrote of that weekend.

My So-Called Life came out originally in the fall of 1994 when I was fresh out of high school and still going through many of the emotional tribulations that all teenagers do. It spoke to me on an intensely personal level, as I know it did many other people my age, and it continues to feel like a part of my own life experiences in a way that no other show does. 

I know that for all the ways that times change, the basic struggles of growing up remain pretty consistent through the generations, but I wasn't sure if the show would resonate with Claire the way that it had with me.  I didn't know if the dated fashions and music and cultural references would take a new, young viewer out of the moment and make the show seem old and out-of-touch.  I needn't have worried because Claire adored it. 

At one point, when Angela's voice over is making a resolution to be less introspective, Claire told me that the show was almost hard to watch because it was as though it made all of her inner-most, uncomfortable thoughts public.  That is what happens when this show is at its best - it gets inside of you to that place where your insecurities and your neurosis live and it makes you see that they're not just yours, they belong to all of us. 

There are still so many moments that get to me - when Sharon and Angela mend their fractured friendship; when Rickie confides in Angela outside of the dance about feeling like he doesn't fit anywhere; when Jordan crosses the hall to hold Angela's hand; when Rayanne thanks Patty, for her life - these and so many more are tied to my heartstrings so tightly that just thinking about any one of them brings a lump into my throat and a tear to my eye. 

A lot of us rabid fans have seen every episode dozens of times.  I watched the original run on ABC, then on a near-constant loop on MTV for a couple of years after that. I watched it again several years ago when The N aired it in the middle of the night, and I've watched my DVDs many times through.  While a lot of fans single out "The Weekend" as the "worst" episode in the run, I personally think "Halloween" takes that title.  I'm not sure I can pick a single favorite episode as six of them spring to mind immediately and there are only 19 total. 

There's a perfection to the show, to the way they speak and the relationships and the way experiences are shared between people, that, to paraphrase Angela, fit in a tiny place in your heart.  The unlikely friendships between Rickie and Brian or Rayanne and Sharon or Brian and Jordan.  The way everyone on the show has dumped and been dumped in some capacity by one another.  The struggling Chase marriage and the changing relationships between children and parents.  These are all things that look familiar to people.  Even when the show took liberties with realism (Nicky Driscole in "Halloween" and Juliana Hatfield in "So-Called Angels"), it was really just about ordinary people with ordinary lives.  These people could be us. 

The end of the series left a lot of unanswered questions, just the way life does.  Would Angela and Rayanne ever be friends again?  Would Rickie continue living with Mr. Katimsky? Would Graham have an affair with Hallie Lowenthal?  Would Graham and Patty divorce?  And would Angela get back together with Jordan even though she knew that it was Brian who wrote the letter?  I used to wish I knew the answers to those questions but now I'm glad I don't.  We can all have the ending we want as long as no one tells us any differently. 

It doesn't matter if you went to high school in the '90s, in the '70s or yesterday - the show is timeless.  If you haven't ever seen it, I encourage you to give it a try.  The writing is pitch-perfect and the acting is effortless and real.  If you're afraid of the emotional weight of it (because, for real, this isn't a fluffy teen soap, this is capital-D Drama), there are light and sweet moments as well.  Claire particularly enjoyed the running gag of the mysterious Tino - who she started calling "Tino the cat" since both he and the Chase's cat were talked about on many occasions but were never seen by anyone ever. 

When our marathon ended and I drove her home, I asked what she thought.  "We had a time," she told me.  We did.  We had a time.

How Bachelorette Changed My Life

The movie Bachelorette proposed a theory that will change my life forever. 

During a coke-fueled night of prenuptial mayhem, Lizzy Caplan's Gena drops some knowledge on Isla Fisher's Katie: "There are two different types of guys in bed. Number one: Brian Krakow. Didn't have sex 'til college; super grateful; literally makes a home 'down here' - sets up shop, wants to live in it. Number two: Jordan Catalano. Terrified of the area. Won't go near it. Very good looking but, you know, not worth the time if you ask me." 

When you first hear it you can't believe what she's saying. Brian Krakow is better in bed than Jordan Catalano. That's absurd. Jordan Catalano is JORDAN CATALANO. Every girl who has ever seen him wants to have complete sex with him. No one is better in bed than Jordan Catalano. 

But then it starts to sink in. Jordan Catalano got laid without trying. He had sex with girls and they were grateful that he paid them any attention at all because he's Jordan Catalano. He got off whenever he wanted and then he went back to leaning on things and singing soulful songs about his car. Sex was easy for him to get and easy to take for granted. 

By the time Brian Krakow had sex he would have spent hundreds of thousands of hours thinking about it. Of course he would be incredibly grateful once he got to the promised land. He would have done research. He would try hard. He would care more about making a good impression than on getting off. 

Women spend their entire lives wanting Jordan Catalano. Assigning him every characteristic their dream man should have because he looks the way the perfect man should look. But Jordan Catalano isn't secretly smart. He isn't secretly romantic. He isn't secretly funny. He isn't secretly anything. Jordan Catalano is just what he appears to be - an attractive, simple guy who does just enough to get by because getting by is good enough for him.

Brian Krakow is better in bed than Jordan Catalano. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go reassess all of my life choices and find myself a Brian Krakow. 

Weekend In Reviews

Open Gate - This is Tyler Hoechlin's face: 

Now that you understand why I watched Open Gate, let's talk about how this movie, which is classified as a "thriller," is the most boring thing I've ever done with two hours of my life. 

It's the story of a guy who doesn't test well and is therefore underemployed and treated like a loser by his loved ones. While working as a rodeo clown he observes some strange scars on the bulls. Then he finds mysterious tire tracks at the edge of his girlfriend's property. Roughly 2/3 of a movie later he discovers that it all adds up to drug trafficking. I don't know what the elapsed time in the movie was but it felt like it took him 6 months to put two and two together. Math is hard.

Once he figures it out the action really cranks up and...nothing happens. Well, that's not exactly true. His brother gets shot but we don't see it, someone dies of natural causes, then a drug trafficker gets shot in the out-of-focus background. But the movie is so boring that even when something happens it feels like nothing happens. 

The thing is, I'm almost certain that the entire point of the movie is that this is Tyler Hoechlin's face: 

And I can't really argue with that. I too would make a movie about only that. Just like I'd watch one for two boring hours. 

Bachelorette - I watched Bridesmaids several months after it came out and I was disappointed because I had heard too many things about how great it was and so I had too many expectations. It wasn't that the movie was bad it's that it couldn't life up to what I expected from it. Bachelorette is what I expected Bridesmaids to be and I kind of loved it. 

It was bawdy and raunchy and brash and silly. The performances were believable, interesting and ridiculous; the pacing was brisk without being rushed; the story was slim but not slight; the dialogue was real and crisp. It was a good movie that I'd absolutely watch again and again. 

L!fe Happens - Krysten Ritter is adorable and fun which is basically what her movie is. She's a wild-child who gets knocked up after some not-so-safe casual sex and ends up a single mom with questionable parenting skills. 

It's a generally decent story that gets a bit bogged down in the middle with too much focus on Kate Bosworth's Deena. Rachel Bilson is squandered as the dim-witted and well-meaning Laura. I would have given Geoff Stults more to do but I have quite a crush on him so there's rarely enough of him for my taste. If you're looking for a light, funny, adult girl's comedy with a heart this is a decent choice. 

Fall TV 2012

It's time once again to decide what to care about this coming fall TV season. There are a few shows I'm excited about this year but everything is going to have to try hard to get my mind off of some of the outstanding shows this summer offered. 

Here's how my fall schedule will look. 


Partners (CBS)
With a cast this charming, I have to give it a try. It hasn't gotten great reviews but I don't have a lot going on on Mondays so it pretty much only has to be mediocre and it's in. 

Switched At Birth (ABC Family)
I know people think that because this show is on ABC Family it's slight or fluffy or a guilty pleasure but it isn't. It is a genuinely good show with a talented cast and great writing that deals with deafness in the most beautiful, natural, respectful way. The silent fights are some of my favorite scenes on TV. And with the terrible breakup of the Bay/Emmett relationship, the second season promises to be another amazing emotional journey.

Hawaii Five-0 (CBS) 
Why do I watch this show? A police procedural in a pretty setting with one of the top five bromances on TV. And sometimes the good looking dudes take their shirts off. 


Hart of Dixie (The CW)
As charming and fun as this show was in its first season, I didn't really expect it to get a second. Now that it has, I hope they do something more interesting with George than making him the awkward third side in two different love triangles. More importantly, I hope they don't spend another season pretending Zoe wants him like she wants Wade when it is clear to everyone in the world that she really doesn't. 

Emily Owens, M.D. (The CW)
Mamie Gummer deserves to be a big star but I don't think this is the show that's going to do that for her but I'll watch it just in case her considerable talent makes an otherwise mediocre show somehow great. But when it's cancelled, I can't wait to have her back on The Good Wife

Don't Trust The Bitch in Apt. 23 (ABC)
Despite the incredibly stupid name, it's a sort of decent show. James van der Beek is pretty funny and likable as a douchey James van der Beek, Krysten Ritter is fun when she's being terrible and Dreama Walker is much funny enough that I'm going to give the second season a few episodes to see if the show will really start to click for me. 

New Girl (Fox)
If you didn't watch this show last season, go to Hulu right now and watch the episode entitled "Fancyman Part I" right now. Seriously. I'll wait. Ok, now that you've watched that episode you should be as in love with the show as I am and setting your DVR for season 2. 

The Mindy Project (Fox)
I want to like this show but after the pilot I'm only luke-warm on it. There's potential so I'm hopeful that it will find its footing and become the perfect, charming lead out for New Girl. 

Parenthood (NBC)
Having just watched the first three seasons of Parenthood I am deeply in love with the Bravermans, the show and the cast. The greatest compliment I can give this show is that it gets the feeling of being part of a family right. It is effecting in all of the small ways that become huge when they're brought together. 


Arrow (The CW) 
I don't think I'm interested in this show but it has received such good notice from enough of the critics I trust that I'm going to watch it because I'd rather discover that I really like a show I didn't want to watch, that to be disappointed by a show I did want to watch. And if I do like it that means Katie Cassidy in my life every week. What could be better than that? 

Suburgatory (ABC)
Suburgatory might be funnier than Modern Family. No, scratch that. Suburgatory is funnier than Modern Family. Cheryl Hines and Alan Tudyk are the best things about this show and just in general.

Nashville (ABC)
Connie Britton playing a country music singer who's star is being eclipsed by a Taylor Swift-esque ingenue played by Hayden Panettiere. Why wouldn't I want to watch this show? Why wouldn't everyone in the world want to watch this show? 

Chicago Fire (NBC)
I want this show to be the E.R. of fire fighting but we all know that's not what this show will be. It will be terrible and generic and I will watch all of the episodes because Taylor Kinney and Jesse Spencer are in it and I'm incredibly shallow. 


The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
It's a funny sitcom. It just is. 

The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
I wasn't in love with the 3rd season but I am in love with how it ended. Vampire Elena opens a world of amazing possibilities and I can't wait to see where they take it from here. But once again I start the season with this important message for the writers, do not kill Caroline or Matt or we're through. 

Last Resort (ABC)
Scott Speedman is back on TV every week. It's like a decade of wishing finally made it so. Added incentive: Autumn Reeser, Dichen Lachman, Jessy Schram and Andre Braugher. The fact that it's a Shawn Ryan show means there's slim chance of longevity but one of his shows is bound to catch on with a wide enough audience some day, right? That's just the law of averages. Maybe this will be the one. 

Up All Night (NBC)
With a funny, likable cast it seems like this show should be a no-brainer but it's actually kind of forgettable. I'll keep watching though because of the funny and likable cast. 

Parks and Recreation (NBC) 
Yes! You can't not Knope.

Scandal (ABC)
Like a perfect blend of The West Wing and early Grey's Anatomy which are two shows that you wouldn't think could be blended into something awesome but then you watch Scandal and you realize that the blend is exactly what your Thursday night has always needed. Seriously you guys, WHO IS QUINN?!


Nikita (The CW)
This show. I can't explain it. It shouldn't even be good because we already had an Alias and...I don't know. It's good. There's a central couple that's just, together. Like, for a season and a half they're a couple and they stay a couple and it's no big deal. There's a computer nerd who is bad ass when the shit goes down. Last season the will-they-or-won't-they of the Alex/Sean relationship had me screaming "ohmygod MAKE OUT" so often I got strange looks from my neighbors. And this season, Devon Sawa is a series regular. OWEN! God, I'm excited for this damn show!


Once Upon a Time (ABC)
I marathoned this one over the summer and it turns out that it's surprisingly engrossing. The casting is amazing and will include Teen Wolf's Sinqua Walls and Michael Raymond-James in the second season. If Sebastian Stan returns as Jefferson/The Mad Hatter, I will have no complaints. 

Revenge (ABC)
I'm not going to insult you by pretending I have to explain why I like this show. We all know why this show is great. What I will do is point out that JR Bourne has been cast in the second season. Casting hot dudes from Teen Wolf? That's the kind of show-running that deserves my adoration.

The Good Wife (CBS)
I have two words for you: Kalinda's. Husband. BOOM! 

666 Park Avenue (ABC)
Terry O'Quinn and Venessa Williams as a married couple who may or may not be Mr. and Mrs. Satan? Yeah, like I'm not gonna watch THAT. 

What will you be watching? 

July 9, 2012

In The End, It Was The Beginning

Last week I finished watching Battlestar Glactica for the first time. As I came to the end of the final season I had the following thoughts, in order: 1) Helo is perfect. 2) I'm glad that I blogged my love for the show midway through season 3 so any problems I have with the final season didn't prevent me from gushing about how much I loved it. 3) I'm glad I waited to watch this show when I could do it marathon-style instead of having it dragged out like special torture for weeks and months and years. 4) Tahmoh Penikett is so dreamy. Since the day I started watching BSG I have a lot of thoughts about Tahmoh Penikett. For this I am decidedly not sorry.

Anyway, my point is that while I loved BSG completely, I didn't love the last season as much as I loved everything that came before it. There was a sense of urgency and claustrophobia in the first 3 seasons that seemed to be missing from most of the final season. The show stopped being about the relentlessness of war and started being about everyone going cuckoo bananas.

It made a certain kind of sense for the tone to change but up to that point, everything had been so tight, so important, and so much in the service of surviving that there was no time to navel gaze or ponder - decisions had to be made now; action had to be taken without the luxury of contemplation. Sometimes haste caused them to make the wrong call but such are the risks in times of crisis. Then, near the end of the third season the pace was suddenly less relentless and by the 4th season they were adrift, meandering, and gazing at their navels with all their might while we waited, not for the next strike or in the war, but for the answer to a riddle.

And it turns out I didn't even care that much about the riddle. I wanted them all to find a place to set up a new civilization and live on the ground instead of in the fleet. I wanted the Final Five and the not-annoying cylons to finally defeat the irrational aggressors and learn to live side-by-side in peace. I really wanted the family Agathon to get a happily ever after and for Helo to take his shirt off (one track mind). I did not care why the cylons started the war against humanity, who the final cylon was, where in the span of history this story was taking place, or why everyone thought Hera held the answer to...everything.

Thank the Gods I didn't care about that stuff because the answers to most of it weren't all that satisfying anyway. If...no, when I watch this show again, I think I'll pretend it all ends 45 minutes sooner than it really does. I won't have to see anyone disappear improbably in a field and the apparitions of poshly dressed crazy people won't put a bow on it all.

However unsatisfying I found the end, or the lead up to it, does not tarnish or diminish my love for the show itself. It may be the most well-executed, genuinely entertaining allegory or work of social commentary I've ever seen.

And seriously, Helo is perfect.

What I've Been Watching - The Movies

Savages - Sometimes a movie is an absolute blast to watch because it's a great movie and sometimes a movie is a blast to watch because it's a great bad movie. Savages was a great bad movie.

Actually, there are many things about the movie that are very good. The acting in general was strong and I thought Salma Hayek, Benicia Del Toro and even John Travolta (I know!) were outstanding. Frankly, I'd watch an entire movie where Salma Hayek's Elena ate lamb chops and dropped wisdom. The directing was Oliver Stone-y but not distractingly so (until the end, anyway). It's brutal and heinous without being cartoony (except the one time they actually make the violence into a cartoon but that was funny so it's ok). Where this movie took a turn for the terrible was in the writing.

The plot was fine. I mean, it relied heavily on the audience rooting for two complete idiots and a simpering twit but it was plausible enough that the idiots and their twit would indeed fall head first into an assload of cash because Ben (Aaron Johnson) had a green thumb, Chon (Taylor Kitsch) was in a position to procure some pot seeds, and O (Blake Lively) looks amazing in wet, gauzy dresses. And if you can believe that these characters could be the most lucrative pot dealers in California, then you can likewise believe that a Mexican drug lord would want to become actively involved in their business.

Believing that said Mexican drug lord would be more interested in having the two idiots work with/for her than in just taking over their product and client base requires a much heftier suspension of disbelief but whatever. The plot is the plot and it's fine. It is all secondary to the insanely ridiculous dialogue which is what made this movie unintentionally HILARIOUS.

The movie is heavily narrated throughout by our simpering twit and the shit she says is so over the top it isn't even in the same galaxy as the top anymore. It would be impossible for me to list all of the crazy that's spouted in the movie but suffice to say, it kicks off with this gem in minute 2 of the movie: "I have orgasms, he has wargasms." You guys, WARGASMS!

The end was a hot mess of mind-fuckery that went from being exactly right to exactly stupid in an instant. Whether that's a product of the writing or the directing I'm not sure because I never read the book on which the movie is based but either way it was an ending that made the entire movie feel like a waste of everyone's time.

I can't necessarily recommend this movie as something worth watching on its merits but if, like me, you enjoy unintentionally funny movies with great performances and at least one scene of a wig being dramatically ripped off, this movie is for you.

Magic Mike - When I start to talk about whether or not Magic Mike was a good movie I always think of the old adage "sex is like pizza, even when it's bad it's still pretty good." This movie could be bad but it had a bunch of hot guys stripping so it was always going to be pretty good.

What I'm saying is that it didn't need to be good but it tried to be good anyway and I appreciate that about it. I don't think it succeeded on all the levels it attempted but it succeeded on enough of them to be entertaining. For the most part the cast was taking their work seriously but not themselves and it resulted in some genuinely fantastic performances. When people tell you that Matthew McConaughey should get an Oscar nod for his role as strip club owner Dallas, they aren't being cute.

McConaughey wasn't winking at the audience. He wasn't just collecting a paycheck nor was he playing to the cheap seats. When Dallas is teaching The Kid how to work it on stage, writhing around in front of that mirror or pressed up against Alex Pettyfer, whispering his wisdom in The Kid's ear, being big but playing it small in a spendex belly shirt and short shorts it never once looked like he was suppressing a giggle. He wasn't laughing at the movie, at his character, at the scene, at the audience or at himself. McConaughey was being serious just as Dallas was being serious. He was a revelation.

Channing Tatum held his own next to McConaughey and I was pleased to discover that Tatum has more in his acting repertoire than lip pursing and jaw clenching. Unfortunately neither Pettyfer nor Cody Horn brought anything to their roles at all. Their mutual lack of expression or affect did serve to make them believable siblings though, so I guess there's that.

On the whole it was a fun movie to watch and absolutely worth seeing again. As much for the laughs, performances, and multitude of things happening in the background of any given scene as for the asses.

People Like Us - In the interest of full disclosure, I love Chris Pine. I've recently become slightly obsessed with him and I am now physically incapable of having any kind of objective opinion about his movies because I love him too much.

Which is to say, I really liked People Like Us. It wasn't perfect but it was interesting and realistic and uncomfortable in a good way.

It's the story of Sam (Chris Pine) who's in financial and legal trouble when he finds out that his estranged father has died and just when he thinks the large sum of money that his father left will be the answer to his problems he discovers that the money is for a sister he never knew he had and his dad would like him to deliver it and see that she and her son are taken care of.

He tracks down his sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), and gets to know her and her son but doesn't give her the money or tell her who he is which leads to a lot of moments that felt really squirmy as you could tell that Frankie may be falling for Sam without knowing he was her brother. Part of me wished they'd gone a different way with that because, ew. But when it was all said and done it played out in an emotionally satisfying and cinematically appropriate way.

Chris Pine is amazing and his face is perfect. I TOLD you I can't be objective!

Brave - I'm not sure I can say anything about this movie that hasn't already been said by everyone. It was a bit like two separate movies pasted together. It was a gorgeously impressive feat that looked unbelievably realistic. And it was really nice to see a Disney movie where the central relationship had nothing to do with romance but rather was between a mother and daughter.

I liked this movie very much and would recommend it to anyone with kids old enough not to be afraid of the scary bear scenes.