We Took a Break

We took a break.

We got busy and we were tired and we all have demanding jobs and excuses, excuses, excuses.

There was a time when this blog didn’t exist at all and a time when we weren’t writing as regularly as we all do now and it would be easy enough to stop and go back to that. But we all decided to not let that happen. Taking a break is one thing but letting something good just fizzle out would be a true disappointment.

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Happy Valley: The best new series that I almost missed in 2014

The first thing that happens in Happy Valley is an introduction of character (by said character) that throws the whole “show don’t tell” ethos out the window. Catharine Cawood (the tremendous Sarah Lancashire, who the entire show hinges around, the standout in a uniformly good cast), a police sergeant in Yorkshire, is called to the scene where a young man, down on his luck, has doused himself in gasoline in a playground and is threatening to light himself on fire. Catherine introduces herself to the man saying, “I’m Catherine, by the way. I’m forty-seven. I’m divorced. I live with my sister, who’s a recovering heroin addict. I’ve two grown-up children – one dead, one who don’t speak to me – and a grandson. So.” And we are off and running. But what is strange here is that Happy Valley, after Catherine’s speech and the promise of being a by the book, heart-on-sleeve cop show, is much more a show about the way that violence, grief and guilt can turn people inward, can shut them down and turn them off. Catherine’s openness to this man in the opening moments of the show is a bit of a red herring to the rest of the output, and the show is all the better for it. Continue reading

Ball’s a Droppin’

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Christmas specials get all the ballyhoo. I do appreciate the modern ‘hipster” Xmas specials; Annie’s sexual infantalization on Community,  for example. But, for the most part Christmas specials are garbage. The holiday made for TV movie is an assault on its viewer. Featuring a sad parade of former starts – Corky from Murphy Brown, Ed from Ed, lower tier Duff sisters, and Dean Cain. Poor George Wendt who has played Santa more times than Michael Sheen has been Tony Blair. I will go so far as to say every Christmas themed movie since Elf has been a hackneyed, maudlin, ornament of blech. I probably chose that timeline as it parallels the death of my own Christmas spirit. I’m sure to some impressionable tween, Jenny McCarthy as Santa’s daughter in Santa Baby, and of course Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe fills them with holiday cheer as much as Bert and Ernie’s serenade of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the rain. Continue reading

The Winner’s Edit

Making the Audience Love the Winner

I know exactly who is going to win this season of Survivor. Well, I think that I know. He’s not the person that I like the best, hell, he’s not even the most deserving, but the way that this season has been edited has lead me to believe that ol’ Excitable Jon is taking home the million. Ol’ Excitable Jon that thinks he’s a wine connoisseur. Ol’ Excitable Jon, who will vote with whoever talked to him right before tribal. He just gets excited, that guy. He goes hard and falls hard. Ol’ Excitable Jon, whose girlfriend can’t bear children but “he will still love her anyway.”

He’s not the worst person to ever play the game, nor the best. He isn’t particularly annoying (he doesn’t spit and fart like Wes) and he isn’t socially clever (like Jeremy or Natalie or Reed) but he has been in the right place at the right time often enough to make it to the final seven. It helps that Jon and his girlfriend Jaclyn are playing together, and they often become the “swing vote.” It helped that Natalie told Jon to play his immunity idol on the vote that would have sent him home. (He wouldn’t have played it otherwise.) And yet, despite his mediocre gameplay and vanilla personality, Jon has had a ton of screen time this season. It’s what we Survivor fans (the type of fans that take to message boards of pop culture websites) call “the Winner’s Edit.”

What’s “the Winner’s Edit”? Well, it varies on every reality show. As the phrase “winner’s edit” suggests, the editors (and producers) of the TV show have cut the existing footage to favour the ultimate winner. Why do they do this? Because at the end of the season, the viewers need to be satisfied with the last episode. Can we believe X won Big Brother? If we can’t, the whole season seems like a waste of time. Continue reading

My Comfort Shows and TV BFF’s

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So, I have this anxiety disorder. I don’t really like going out these days. I’d rather be stuck by myself in an elevator with a full bladder than at a social event with a large group of people. However, the place I would most like to be when I’m not feeling like myself is in front of my television screen.

Maybe comfort characters is a more accurate title for this post. It’s the people in the shows that I love, that give me the most comfort. Watching these characters is more effective then any breathing technique or visualization exercise in my books.  Being unemployed I have a lot more time to spend with my TV friends. Here are a few of my favorites. Continue reading

Channel Surfing #4: My Week in TV – Gravity Falls, Sharon Van Etten, Reign

A quick collection of things that I’m finding fascinating, frustrating and fun on TV this past week. 

What’s happening on Gravity Falls?

Normally, when I do a round of Channel Surfing, I start by bemoaning that a once loved show has started showing signs of decay. This time I’m going to start by celebrating an already delightful show for steadily improving from its first season to its second. Gravity Falls is an animated series created by Alex Hirsch that airs on the Disney Channel (or Disney XD – the Disney conglomerate has a weird way of airing TV shows, sometimes months will go by without new episodes airing at all and sometimes an episode airs on one channel and then the next episode airs on the other – but I digress). Yes, it’s a kid’s show but it’s a kid’s show that has been heavily inspired by adult material: The Simpsons (most notably and obviously), Twin Peaks, The X-Files, old B-movies, among others. The show surrounds the Pines twins, Dipper and Mabel, who have come to stay with their old, bitter great-uncle, Grunkle Stan. Grunkle Stan owns and operates a tourist destination/hall of oddities called The Mystery Shack. You see, lots of very strange things happen in the town of Gravity Falls and Grunkle Stan intends to make a few bucks off of all the weirdness. The twins get thrown right into the thick of it, living and working at the Mystery Shack, solving mysteries, happening upon gnomes and monsters and clues and cyphers on an daily basis. The strangeness of Gravity Falls becomes a kind of new normal for the kids and they grow to love the town as much as they grow to love Stan. At the end of season one, they decide to stick around.

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Top Chelf

This blog has waxed poetic about TV cooking competitions, the granddaddy of them all being Top Chef. An effective milieu of sport, food, back stabbing, emotional dressing down, smack talk, and ridicule. If you add 1989 wrestling and loose-fitting cardigans it would have all of my favourite things. But it does well on its own. It’s one of the shows I still watch “live” and I have to cook along with it. As I have to eat when the judges are eating, watching it having already eaten, or to eat later in the day just seems wrong. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Toast will suffice. But you better finish in time. Continue reading