Tag: television

HIMYM: Best of How I Met Your Mother

himymGather round folks let me tell you about a little show I have loved called How I Met Your Mother.  Back in 2009 I wrote about it in one of my first posts to get a decent amount of hits.  Regina Spektor and the Murtaugh List

At that point I described it as ‘my favorite show’ and while it has fallen on hard times in the writing department the last 3 years, it will always be one of my favorite shows ever.

If you don’t know the conceit of the show is a middle aged man named Ted sits his kids down and tells them how he met their mother.  This narration continues each episode for all 9 seasons- long story! (It really should have ended at season 6).

In truth, the title might have been more correct as ‘How WE met your mother’ because it is not just Ted’s story but also his best friends Marshall (Jason Segal), Lily (Allison Hannigan), Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). The cast is legend-wait for it- dary.

The key to this type of sitcom is a likable cast and they are incredibly likable. Enough so to keep me interested even when the writing got super lame.

Ted is that friend we all have who wants a relationship so badly they never seem to be able to keep a relationship. Lilly and Marshall are the sweet married couple we all wish we could be like.

Robin is the career obsessed, practical girlfriend most of us girls know (or are) and Barney, well there’s nobody I know like Barney (thankfully).  He’s the womanizing cheese ball who admittedly gets most of the good laughs.

Anyway, with the finale airing tomorrow night, I thought it would be fun to share with all of you my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

All of these episodes are available for streaming on netflix so give them a watch and see if you think it as charming a show as I do.  I really loved getting to know these characters over 9 years.

Top 10 How I Met Your Mother Episodes

1. Murtaugh (episode 19 season 4)

Let’s start with the episode that inspired me to blog. Ted creates a list of things things he’s too old to do now that he has turned 30 including attending a rave, getting an ear piercing, toilet papering, sleeping on a cot at a friends house etc.

Barney then decides to do everything on the list to prove he is still young and it sends him to the ER. I related enough to this idea enough to create my own list.

murtaugh

2. Monday Night Football (season 2 episode 14)-

Every year the group meets up to watch the Super Bowl but this year a guy from their favorite bar dies and the funeral stops them from watching.  So, they DVR the game and have to go 24 hours without finding out the score.  This proves to be especially difficult for Robin given she is a news reporter.

Given my recent rant on spoiler complainers it is probably of no surprise I find this episode funny.  The effort each one must go to in order to stay away from the Super Bowl winner is very entertaining and it made me think of the good times I’ve had with friends over the years watching something on TV.

To avoid hearing who won the game Ted tries out the sensory deprevator 5000
To avoid hearing who won the game Ted tries out the sensory deprevator 5000

3.  Lucky Penny (season 2 episode 15)-

Ted and Robin are racing through the airport trying to make a flight to Chicago for the interview of his dreams.  As they run, they try to figure out who is to blame for them being late.

Is it Barney running the NY Marathon and then losing his ability to use his legs? Or perhaps Lilly for wanting to camp out in front of a bridal salon next to a car alarm going off? Maybe it is Marshall breaking his toe?

As they unwind the events that caused them to be late we can’t help but think back to similar moments in our own lives and the seemingly insignificant puzzle pieces that led up to them.

lucky penny4. Slap Bet (Season 2 Episode 9)-

Robin refuses to go to the mall with the gang and everyone starts guessing why.  Marshall and Barney make a bet called a slap bet where the person who wins gets to slap the loser as hard as they can.

The results of said bet are carried out through each season creating one of the best story threads for the show. It is also the introduction of Robin Sparkles, Robin’s teenage popstar alter ego.

5. Arrivederci, Fiero (Season 2 Episode 20. Season 2 had a lot of my favorites)-

In this episode Marshall’s beloved car, the Fiero, finally conks out after nearly 200k miles.  For Marshall this is a symbol of his youth and it turns out to have sentimental value for all of the gang.

Perhaps the reason this season really hit me so hard is that it was 2007 when I was so unhappy at work and both Marshall and Ted are struggling with work-related issues. Marshall had dreamed of doing environmental law but with a new wife and her spending habits he is forced to take a corporate sell-out job.

At the same time Ted is working for a pompous idiot who has stifled his creativity and yells at him.  I just related to the story of becoming an adult and how the work-world isn’t always what you thought it would be when you were in college.

The other day I was going through  my dishes with my roommate and I still have my melmac plates from college.  The idea of getting rid of them made me cry. That’s what Marshall feels with the death of his car.

There is also probably more backstory to the characters in this episode than any others. In a funny scene we learn that Barney doesn’t know how to drive:

 

6. Matchmaker- (Season 1, Episode 7)

I really only like this episode because of the B storyline.  The A story is about Ted and Barney going to a matchmaker service and Ted finding out there are 8 women for him in the fishbowl that is New York City.  In fact, there may not even be 8…

The B story is one of my favorites  because it shows off Marshall’s innocence and charm.  He is extremely superstitious and one afternoon He and Lilly see a creature in their apartment.  She thinks it’s a cockroach.  He thinks it’s a mouse.

After seeing it again they conclude it is the ‘cockamouse’. Skeptic Robin doesn’t believe them and scoffs at their crazy notions.

How-Met-Mother_Ep107_300

7. Spoiler Alert (Season 3 episode 8)-

Ted is dating what he see’s as the perfect girl but his friends can’t stand her.  He can’t figure out what the problem is and they warn him about spoiling the image he has created of this girl.

Finally after incessant begging they tell him how she talks and talks and suddenly it starts driving him crazy.  He didn’t notice it until someone pointed it out but once they did he can’t get it out of his head.

Through the course of the episode each of the friends has a similar spoil behavior- Lilly chews to loudly, Robin says literally all the time, Ted corrects everyone, Marshall is always singing etc…

I think most people who have friends or family can relate to this episode.  We all put up with our friends bad habits because we know they are putting up with ours.

bad habits8. Intervention (Season 4 episode 4)-

Ted is engaged to Stella who he has only known for 6 months and the gang is concerned he is rushing into things.  He is about to move to New Jersey to be closer to her when he finds out his friends are going to hold an intervention to show how worried they are.

It turns out this intervention strategy has been used many times before by the gang for things like Marshall’s ugly pants or Lilly’s Scottish accent.

We see the intervention come up in later episodes and it is a funny plot device.  It’s just a well written funny episode.

Robin-Intervention-how-i-met-your-mother-17656939-500-375 x240-vGl9. Dowistroplia (Season 3 episode 7)-

Marshall and Lilly are thinking of buying an apartment but Lilly has a secret credit card debt she hasn’t told Marshall about.  What makes this episode funny is the narrator gives us what the friends ‘should have said’ and then quickly what they actually said. For example, when Marshall see’s the apartment:

Marshall Eriksen: I’m going to stop you right there. Don’t bother with the hard sell. We can’t afford this place just now, and besides, we just started looking.

Narrator: Is what Marshall should have said.

Marshall Eriksen: I’m going to stop you right there. I love it! We’ll take it!

This rang true for me.  How many times have friends asked you for feedback when what they really want is just a reassurance of what they have already done?  It is also a great Marshall and Lilly episode because she finally has to admit she has a huge problem and debt.

Dowisitrepla_-_no_spoiler10. Stuff (Season 2 Episode 16)-

Ted and Robin start off the episode with a fight.  She doesn’t like how most of the items in his apartment were given to him by ex-girlfriends.  She wants him to get rid of all the ‘stuff’.  Then he finds out that her 5 dogs are presents from boyfriends and Ted get’s upset calling Robin a hypocrite.  Instead of dogs he now see’s her 5 ex-boyfriends hanging around her all the time.

That is all funny but the true cream of this episode is when Lilly asks the gang to come to her avant garde play which is awful.  Barney is the only one who tells her he hated it and she’s offended.

To show her his side Barney makes them all go to his play where he dresses up like a robot, says the word moist over again and sprays Lilly with a squirt gun.  It is also the 2nd showing of the slapbet. ,

I found this episode funny because haven’t we all been to that terrible recital or play to support a friend? I have no doubt that some have done that for me, that’s for sure!

barneys playSo that’s my list.  What are some of your favorites?  I didn’t have any later episodes.  Any those that you particularly like?

If you haven’t watched the show and have Netflix check out these episodes.  I’d be surprised if they don’t at least make you smile.

(Oh another one I love at Christmas is How Lilly Stole Christmas)

Feminist Fantasies

women actresses

So yes it’s another one of my feminism posts but it’s late at night and I feel like writing about something so why not! Over the weekend I was talking with my sister about her women’s studies classes and it got me thinking about the differences between the ideal woman of her era and of mine.

When I was in college we talked about a cycle of female imagery that we saw in the 40’s and 50’s. From Rosy the Riveter of WWII to the June Cleavers and Donna Reeds of the 50s.

I particularly remember analyzing I Love Lucy and how the working woman of the war had been turned into a silly, foolish, klutz always needing to be rescued and scolded by her husband (btw I think some of the episodes are very funny but that does tend to be the theme- Lucy get’s in trouble, Ricky groans and then saves the day)

I remember thinking that such a cycle was an oddity of the past and surely wouldn’t be seen again in my enlightened future.  Little did I know that I had already seen it in the change from the 80s to the 90s.

Then we have seen it change again in 2000’s and 2010s

See if you recognize them and if my descriptions ring true.

Feminist Fantasies- What I mean by that is the kind of woman that is put out as the ideal or ultimate example of womanhood.

1980’s feminist fantasy-

Well, the formation of the 80s ideal really started in 1978 with films like An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh and then in 1979 Kramer vs Kramer with Meryl Streep.  Both movies are about women dealing with divorce- one forced upon her, another by her abandonment of family.

While Streep never seems quite happy after leaving her family in KvsK, Clayburgh is happier, and by the end of the film grateful for her husband’s cheating ways. She’s liberated and free to experience all the new things suburbia and housewife life could have never taught her.

So the fantasy of the free woman starts…

Then the next decade you had women “learning” all kinds of things from divorce or not marrying.  Working Girl, 9 to 5, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Broadcast News, When Harry Met Sally all have women that rebel what’s expected of them, are independent and strong. Even if they found love it was a very ‘don’t put me in a corner’ kind of love- no rescuing required.

On television we saw young women living together (The Facts of Life) and old women living together (The Golden Girls).  There were also women cops, attorneys, executives and even the mothers were kind of tough girls (Growing Pains, Family Ties).  Even the cartoons of the 80s featured independent women.  I mean Smurfette is the only woman of her species…

So then the 90s

The fantasy woman of the 90s technically started in the late 80s and it is what I call the ‘perfectly balanced. I can do everything woman’. No person exemplified this more than Clair Huxtible from the Cosby Show.  I realize the show ended in 1992 but I still think it influenced that generation of girls more than the 80s.

Clair was a fantasy woman for any era.  A lawyer married to a doctor with 5 kids in a seemingly perfect brownstone neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Never once did the show discuss the problems such a lifestyle would face- daycare, family abandonment issues, latch key kids etc.

They got around a lot of it by having Cliff’s office at their house but the idea that someone like Clair wouldn’t have a nanny was a true fantasy.   Who needs a nanny when the modern woman can balance home, work, life, community so well?  Sigh…

Another great example of the 90s superwoman is the movie Baby Boom.  It’s a charming movie but the ultimate in feminine fantasy.  Diane Keaton plays a busy career woman who literally scoffs at the notion of home and family creeping into her work.  Then surprise her distant cousin dies and gives her a baby as an inheritance.

Now the workaholic must allow a baby into her busy schedule.  At first she’s overwhelmed but eventually (spoiler) she quits her job, moves to Vermont, dates a hunky vet and starts a gourmet baby food company that her former employer ends up offering a bid on which she turns down so she can run her little company and take care of her baby.

What I think is amazing about this movie is there is no even semblance of ‘let’s try to make my old world work with this new world of family’-a dynamic you’d have seen in the 80s.  In the 90s, it was this illusion if you retooled things and moved them around you could balance everything- even dating the hunky vet… (Murphy Brown would be a TV example of a Baby Boom type story).

Then we get the 2000’s.   I was already in college at this point so most of my female life fantasies had been fully entrenched by that point but there was definitely a shift.  The independent power woman of the 80s, and the perfect balancer of the 90s gave way to a dichotomy of women on one end of the spectrum or another.   The fantasy woman of the 2000’s was either a heroine or a villain.

Villains you ask?  What I mean is someone we might have lauded in the 80s as ambitious and accomplished became an ice queen who never took time for life.  Nowhere is this more true than in 2006’s Devil Wears Prada- a favorite movie of mine.

The career and image obsessed Meryl Streep (twice on this list. I guess she’s just an all around fantasy woman!) doesn’t have time to even pick out Christmas presents for her kids or have a stable relationship within home or the work environment.

In one of their first interactions Streep’s character Miranda gives a list of things for Emily to do.  It is remarkable how this same list would have been seen as great in the 80s and 90s but was definitely the sign of a witch here:

“Details of your incompetence do not interest me. Tell Simone I’m not going to approve that girl that she sent me for the Brazilian layout….Yes to Michael Kors’ party…Call Natalie at Glorious Foods and tell her no for the 40th time. No! I don’t want dacquoise. I want tortes filled with warm rhubarb compote. Then call my ex-husband and remind him that the parent-teacher conference is at Dalton tonight. Then call my husband, ask him to meet me for dinner at that place I went to with Massimo”

Perhaps it is an improvement that such multitasking is even acknowledged as opposed to Clair Huxtible it being all tucked under the table?  And I must admit I relate to this movie because when it came out in 2006 I totally had a Miranda boss who made my life miserable.  What can I say- sometimes people live up to the female fantasies of their era.

At the same time you had the ambitious ice queens of the 00’s you had the ‘desperate to be married’ and be loved group of women (like I said a dichotomy).  Every movie starlet of this era played the part of ‘I can’t get a date to save my life and all I really want to do is get married but I have to work’.  JLo, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Hiegel, Sandra Bullock to name a few.

The ultimate example of this type of needy, desperate woman is in JLo’s The Wedding Planner where her lonely character has to be rescued from a runaway dumpster (you read right) by the hunky doctor (quite the comparison to Baby Boom…).  She then sits and plans his wedding to another woman as the chemistry percolates.  (huge hit I might remind you).

The description on Imdb says a lot about this end of the fantasy woman of 00s. “Mary Fiore is the wedding planner. She’s ambitious, hard-working, extremely organized, and she knows exactly what to do and say to make any wedding a spectacular event. But when Mary falls (literally) for a handsome doctor…or will Mary finally get to be the bride herself? When it comes to love, you can never plan what’s going to happen.”

Some of these desperate women were actually quite likable and funny because let’s be honest those women exist and there will always be cream in any trend.  Bridget Jones for one was just witty enough to make it work (and the fact it is based on one of the best books ever written Pride and Prejudice helped).

2010-present

So, what’s the fantasy woman now?  What is the image none of us can live up to?  I would say we have abandoned the desperate woman rom com (literally only 2 released last year)and embraced the tough, grizzled warrior woman (Hunger Games, Divergent, even Snow White is a warrior).  You also have the crass, grizzled, foul-mouthed comedic female characters such as in Bridesmaids.
Even Bella was turned into a warrior at the end of the Twilight movies!

That or we have reverted back to the more submissive roles of the 50s (again we are talking about media here).  You have Bella needing to be rescued at every turn and the women on Mad Men falling sway to the alpha males in their lives (I realize that show is set in the 60s but it still can be emblematic of a type of current fantasy).

It’s like the idea of being objectified for sex is suddenly a desirable thing. (The Mad Men website literally has a quiz ‘which of Don’s women are you’?  Not which character on the show but Don’s women)

The women on Mad Men are also kind of a tough talking and world-weary type you see a lot lately. I even read an article the other day about how the CDC did a study and that women report being more exhausted on a regular basis than men.  (Duh!).  To me that is interesting when you think of the cycle of women.  Are we trying too hard to be the warriors?

Clair Huxtible was tired once and Cliff took her to a hotel for a night and then she was fine.  In 2010’s even in our fantasies the women are tired from all the fighting, and warrioring they do.  Interesting.  (I mean can you imagine Miranda Priestly admitting she was tired?  No way!).

The warrior woman also demonstrates an undercurrent of boldness and leadership while being an inherent part of a movement or team.  Part of that is probably due to social media and the dichotomy it gives women between isolation and togetherness.  So, the ideal woman is the warrior with a dash of fatigue and dependence thrown in.

What do you think about the ideal or fantasy woman throughout the years? What have been some that have tantalized you or perhaps made you work harder (fantasies are not always negative)? What do you think are current trends? What women do you wish you could be more like? Or am I totally off on the idea of a fantasy woman changing in different eras?

Even minutes after writing the post I have thought of many other women roles and parts I could have mentioned.  What women came to mind as you were reading my post?

TV Modern Women Mixology

mixology2

I was a little conflicted about how to title this post because I have no desire to give the piece of garbage I watched last night publicity but I couldn’t not speak out. It amazed me on so many levels but mostly because I can’t believe that such things are considered entertainment to any modern audience especially women.

For years I’ve had issues with the ABC show Modern Family.  Not because it can’t be funny but the way that it portrays women I take issue with.  It is supposed to be a MODERN family and yet the 2 main characters are a trophy wife and housewife.   The former who is charmingly stupid and the latter who is a relentless nag.

That’s a modern woman?  Even if you accept that those type of women exist, which they do, how is a show modern to only show it?  No working Moms? No adjusted housewives, no young ambitious women.  Even the lesbians shown on the show are unflattering. Sigh…

So that’s my issue with that show but I gave it a partial pass because for the first year it was funny.  After about 2 seasons it stopped being funny and I could no longer rationalize it.

However, any issues I had with Modern Family pale into comparison with the garbage they had after that show yesterday.  It was a show called Mixology and I had heard good things so I recorded it on the DVR. Dumbfounded, shocked, sickened are not too loud of language.

So the point of this show is about 10 people at a bar trying to meet people and their various escapades.  The whole season is one night (and you thought the How I Met Your Mother premise was strained.. It’s like 24 but for sickos at a bar.)

This could be funny but it ends up being an advertisement against drinking or interacting with men…It’s seriously so bad.

The 5 female characters are all gorgeous but treated as nothing (or witches) by the men.  One actual joke is:

“You are a Viking! You rape and pillage and take what you want!” Pause for the big finish: “Obviously, don’t rape her.”

That is comedy in 2014?

Another girl is shown wearing flats and we learn that she is not worthy of conversation because, and I quote, ‘the higher the heels the looser she feels’.  We also get a woman who says she feels like Helen Miren because she is 30 in a room clearly full of men over that age.

We get a woman who says that she looks for the ‘Don Draper types’ who would ‘smack her in the mouth if she sassed’  Another man can’t remember a girls name when she clearly thinks they have a relationship and the break up will be painful and THEY WORK TOGETHER. What man isn’t going to remember the name of a woman who is breaking up with him, that he works with?

Seeing the show is about one night it is no surprise that there are many flashbacks- all of them ghastly.  The women fall out of love and toss men aside at nothing and are genuine beasts including mothers.  One woman is engaged to a ‘Ted Mosby’ type and announces that she doesn’t want to be with him out of the blue because he ‘looks too much like a beaver’.  You think that might have come  up after dating for 8 years!  Then the man who set him up with her says ‘I always thought she was a  whore’.  Message- women are beasts or sluts and men are beasts except for a few men that are pathetic and a few women that are old.

Another woman is so nervous about an online date that she drags her best friend along because he might kill her, and then she throws up in her purse, and the frat boy watching it says, and I quote, ‘look at that chick throwing up.  I’m going to…’ (it’s to offensive but fill in the blank and you won’t be worse).   Oh yes, because that’s what a woman who is afraid she is going to be murdered, and so desperate to meet any man that she is nauseated needs, a predator!, – that’s prime time meat for the men in this show. Let’s pick the must vulnerable person imaginable to seduce… Change the music and this could be an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

An embarrassment for ABC and oddly enough the Kleenex company.  Who knew it was so out of the norm for men to have a box of Kleenex in their house (a case of most unhappy product placement by Kleenex)? Evidently, in the eyes of this show owning a facial tissue is a sign of great femininity and to be avoided at all costs.

Got the idea that I am upset! Pilot Viruet on flavorwire.com said it well:

“The best thing I can say about Mixology is that it’s so hateful and negative that it has made me feel self-conscious about how hateful and negative I’m being toward it. It is also a show that has angered me to the point of talking in circles.”

I just can’t believe it.  I’ve read that an average network see’s 500+ pilot concepts in a year, 70 of those are made into scripts and 20 pilot orders are actually created.  So that means someone at ABC thought this idea was better than 480 other ideas and that they liked it enough to put it after their biggest show, Modern Family.

You should all read Tim Goodman’s 0 out of 10 review on The Hollywood Reporter but he sums it up pretty well:

“Chalk this up as a politically correct knee-jerk response to humorous envelope-pushing if you want, but Mixology is a tone-deaf, poorly executed, badly written series that, in the parlance of the show, kind of rapes comedy.”

I’m just so stunned it almost seems like some kind of bizarre stunt. Remember when Joaquin Phoenix acted like a maniac to see what people would say?  That’s what this seems like.  As if ABC executives sat together and said  ‘let’s see how awful we can make something to see if people respond’  You should be ashamed of yourself ABC and anyone who had anything to do with this trash.

Did any of you see it?  Were you as shocked as me?  How do you think something like this gets made in this day and age?  How? Why?  Who thinks this is funny?  Where is the NOW’s of the world decrying such filth?  Where are the women’s organizations out for blood?  It’s so bad I just can’t believe it.

Ok. Calming down.

Favorite Simpsons Episodes

The_Simpson__s_Family_by_Simpsonix

For some reason people are nearly always surprised when they find out I love The Simpsons.  Even now in its 25th season it makes me laugh (and is visually stunning these days).  We didn’t have TV for spurts while I was growing up but when I was in high school my sister, brother and I watched The Simpsons every week.

I think my parents allowed it because they recognized how smart it was. The writing encourages thinking, pondering and in the end it is about a family that truly love each other.  Honestly, I would have no problem with my teenage children watching it either. In fact, I look forward to it one of these days.

Just for fun I was thinking about my favorite episodes and a lot of them are in seasons 7-10 because that is when I was in high school and watching it the most regularly.  While the Simpsons can follow standard sitcom formulas (for instance, how many times can they go to a new foreign country and leave bedlam?) it is also clever and mixes all types of comedy from satire to slapstick.

Anyway, what separated the good from the great is when a layer of social commentary and/or tenderness lies underneath the silly plot.

What the Simpsons does that is so brilliant is they make fun of everyone, all the time.  Nobody is kept from skewering and that makes us laugh at ourselves, which is usually the best kind of humor.  I couldn’t find video clips on a lot of them but I have a photo, summary and explanation of why it’s my favorite.  Rent them from your library or pay on amazon prime (or borrow from me).

My Favorite Simpsons Episodes

1. Homer’s Enemy- This is perhaps an odd choice for my list but this episode is so surreal it is funny.  We start off with a heroic 20/20 like piece on Frank Grimes, a man who fought back all his life and struggled to see any benefit to all that work.  Mr Burns see’s the piece and decides to hire him at the nuclear plant, working alongside Homer.

Frank (or Grimey as Homer says) can’t believe Homer’s laziness and it starts to eat at him. For the first time we as viewers see someone that is jealous of Homer and there is a character that treats Homer probably the way we would  in the same situation.

If you like What About Bob you will like this episode.  Just as Bob is completely oblivious to his irritating behavior, so Homer is unaware he could be seen by anyone as anything but loveable and sweet.  Season 8 Episode 23

22-homers-enemy

2. King-sized Homer- You might be surprised to see this one on the list because on it’s surface it is a bunch of fat jokes but there’ s more to it.  Homer decides to gain weight so he can go on workman’s comp.  This requires a complete change in his already bad diet and a fitness regime of nothing to match.

The reason I think this episode is so funny is that it is really a skewering of the diet industry.  Every bad life changing advice Homer gets to ‘gain weight’ is basically what is told to you to lose weight but in reverse.  Instead of eating whole grain bread Homer is told to use poptarts.  That’s funny.

It also has a lot of humor about the work world and how most of us would do just about anything to get out of going to the office everyday.

Plus we have a classic appearance from Lionel Hutz voiced by the great Phil Hartman. And I think the first appearance by Dr. Nick.

Season 7 episode 7

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3. Marge vs Monorail-  This is probably the most universally loved episodes in Simpsons history.  In it we have 2 appearances from Phil Hartman characters, a song and a lot of laughs.

This episode is about a con-man who swindles the town into building a cheap, shoddy monorail and he does it with a song similar to 76 trombones from Music Man.  Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance on this one.  It is just funny.

Season 4 episode 12

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4. Lisa Gets an A-  This is one of the best Lisa-centric episodes.  Lisa is such an earnest character that it is hard to not root for her.   At the beginning of the episode she is feeling sick and stays home from school.  Meaning to study her homework, she accidentally gets involved with a video game and forgets about the test.

Not wanting to let her A+ streak go she decides to cheat, and get the answers to the test from the local bully, Nelson.  The plan seemingly works but she is riddled with guilt.   This episode has lots of jokes about the public education system, bureaucracy, and our cheating-accepting culture.

Also it is a great performance by Yeardley Smith.  I love Lisa/Bart bonding episodes and Lisa/Homer episodes and this one has moments of both

Season 10 Episode 7

Lisa.gets

5. Homer the Great- Homer discovers a secret society called The Stonecutters and decides to join.  Unfortunately on his first day he ruins the Stonecutters sacred scroll and is forced to walk abound the town naked carrying behind a giant boulder.  However, one of the men notice a birthmark that Homer has and they realize he is the ‘chosen one’ and begin to worship him.

This is great comedy skewering our need for both collectivism and feeling special.  A group like this makes Homer feel important, and I think that’s an emotion we can all relate to.  Nearly every joke works and it has one of the best Simpsons songs in years.  It also takes a few jabs at religions but I can laugh at myself and thought they were funny.

Season 6 Episode 12

stonecutters

6. Secret World of Lisa Simpson-  This one is maybe a surprise because it’s a little bit less well known, but I love it because it is a Lisa/Bart episode, and I love when those characters connect.  Bart pulls off a massive prank at the beginning of the episode and is sent to military school against his will.

When the family drops him off Lisa see’s the higher quality of education and asks to attend as well.  Both Bart and Lisa get homesick and there is a sweet scene where Marge sings to her ‘special little boy’ on a tape and it is emotional.

Lisa loves the learning but has a hard time fitting in as the only girl cadet.  She makes it a goal to endure the same hazing and physical challenges as the boys and with Bart’s help gets in shape and ready to go.  It is a sweet tender episode with enough laughs to make it work as a Simpsons episode.

Season 8 Episode 25

simpsons military school

7. Treehouse of Horror V- The Simpsons is famous for their annual Halloween of horror episode but while always visually beautiful some of the jokes are lost on me because I don’t watch many horror movies.  However, in the 6th season episode 5 they take on the Shining. which is a horror movie I have seen and my favorite.

As in the movie The Simpsons go to a mysterious inn in the middle of nowhere.  As they stay, the father (or in this case Homer) start seeing strange images, growing more and more paranoid by the minute.

In the movie Jack Nicholson plays the father and he begins chanting and writing “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.  While Homer says, ‘No TV or beer makes Homer crazy”.  There are a lot of other illusions to the movie and it is also very funny.

homer shining

The other 2 bits are also funny.  They have Homer discovering his toaster is a time machine but every time he changes so does the world around him (one time they are all lizards, other times lizard tongues and Homer says ‘close enough’)

The final bit has dolphins taking over the world.  It is a very funny mock up of disaster movies like Jurassic Park that were so popular at the time.

8. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment- This episode is funny because it takes on every drinking cliche in show business flawlessly.  After a rowdy St Patricks Day the town decides to start having prohibition.  As last resort Homer starts a bathtub distillery in his basement and becomes something of a kingpin.  It manages to make fun of everything from the Christian right to mafia movies such as The Godfather.

Season 8 Episode 18

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9. The Cartridge Family-  Starting out with a hilarious bit on how Americans view soccer, a riot starts in the stadium and Marge asks Homer to get a security system.  Finding out they are $500 Homer gets a gun instead which infuriates Marge.

She comes as close to leaving Homer as I think ever happens on the show but somehow it still manages to be really funny.  The meeting of the NRA is hilarious and the creative ways Homer uses the gun are funny. The writing is great especially when Mayor Quimby declares mob rule. And it is not a hate piece on the NRA or guns.  In fact, the ending kind of reinforces why they might be a good idea.  Leaves it open to you to decide while laughing at both sides.

Season 9 episode 5

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10. Homer and Apu- There are so many great side characters on The Simpsons and they all have their moment but Apu is one of my favorites.  In this episode Apu is fired from the Kwik-E-Mart because the actor James Woods wants to do some acting research (very funny guest voice).  Without his store Apu feels miserable but the Simpsons try to cheer him up, and that makes for one of the best Simpsons songs.

apuApu and Homer end up traveling to India to see the head of the Kwik-E-Mart about getting Apu’s job back.  That part is less funny but still a great episode.

Season 5 Episode 13. Another great Apu episode is Eight Misbehaving when Apu has octuplets.

11. Bart Gets an F-  One of the more emotional episodes Bart finds out he is going to be held back a grade because of his low test scores.  He bunkers down and really tries to study only to get another F.  He begins to cry and it’s a very tender moment.  Haven’t we all been in that spot where nothing seems to go our way despite our best effort?  Most media tells you if you work hard you will succeed but that isn’t always the case and I love how this episode shows that.

This episode was also the first episode of the second season so you can see the voices coming together and the animation getting crisper. Terrific voice performances and music

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12. When Flanders Failed- In this episode Flanders decides to quit his job and open up a store for left handed people- the leftorium.  When hearing about it Homer makes a wish on a wishbone that it will fail because he is irritated by his neighbor.

Things begin to go badly for Flanders from the start.  Eventually they are ready to repossess his store and house.  Homer grows more guilt ridden by the second,  and finally decides to help out Flanders, making the business a success.

It’s a really touching episode for both Flanders and Homer but also very funny.  Things get bad for Flanders.  He is living out of car and his bubbly personality is practically destroyed (causing humor and tenderness).  Love it.

Season 3 episode 3

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13. Bart on the Road- If I had to pick one this may be my favorite.  There are so many good gags.  Just the opening take your child to work day with Bart at the DMV with Patty and Selma is hilarious. “Some days we don’t let the line move at all.  We call those days weekdays”… Hilarious.

Bart, Nelson, Millhouse, and Martin decide to use a fake ID to rent a car and drive to Knoxville World’s Fair.  On their way they get a hilarious Al Gore doll “You are hearing me talk” and go to a Andy Williams concert “I didn’t think he’d do Moon River and then double encore”

There is also a funny bit with the kids picking up a peddler and him wondering if he is still on drugs seeing the kids driving.  It’s just full of funny laughs.  It is also another one where Lisa and Bart have to work together and I always like those moments in the show.

14. Bart the Mother- This episode has the greatest laugh of any season.  It starts out with Marge warning Bart to not play with Nelson because he is a bad influence.  Bart lies to her and goes to Nelson’s anyway and while they are playing he kills a mother bird with his BB gun.  Marge see’s it and is horrified.  Feeling guilty Bart takes the eggs and decides to take care of them until they hatch.   Great line:

MARGE
What do you think he’s doing up there?

HOMER
I don’t know. Drug lab?

MARGE
Drug lab?!

HOMER
Or reading comic books, what am I, Kreskin? You tell me what he’s doing.

To learn about caring for birds Bart watches a film strip narrated by Troy McClure in what is the final appearance of Phil Hartman on the show.  It is a hilarious film strip and I only wish I could find it somewhere for you to see it but find the dvd and watch.   There is also a great gag about introducing new species into an environment.

SKINNER
Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

LISA
But isn’t that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we’re overrun by lizards?

SKINNER
No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They’ll wipe out the lizards.

LISA
But aren’t the snakes even worse?

SKINNER
Yes, but we’re prepared for that. We’ve lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

LISA
But then we’re stuck with gorillas!

SKINNER
No, that’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death

Season 10 Episode 3

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So those are my favorites.  What are some of your favorites?  Do you have a fondness for the Simpsons or hate them?

Oh and the music is some of the best on TV (theme by Danny Elfman and other music by Alf Clausen)

Survivor Blood vs Water

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Let’s lighten things up a bit and dive into some delicious reality TV.  My roommate asked me the other day “Do you like any shows with a plot?”    There are a few comedies that I enjoy (How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory etc) but the only drama I like is Downton Abbey.  Everything else is reality TV of some kind.  Probably my 2 favorite are The Amazing Race and Survivor.  Despite both being on for 10+ years, they manage to capture my interest and entertain.

This season is the 27th season of Survivor and it is one of its best, which is interesting because when they first announced it my eyes did a serious roll.  It sounded like another gimmick- blood vs water.  The twist this season is 10 returning players, 10 family members/relationships but it has done a great thing for the game.  Jeff Probst has talked a lot about the twist adding layers but it really has.  In the past the tribes formed alliances and then when the merge happened those alliances stayed strong, with the stronger team picking off the weaker team one by one (think last season with the bros).

However, this season that line is a lot fuzzier because now at the merge you have family members coming together, which gives the potential for old alliances to be dropped.  You also have the redemption island situation where castmembers compete to get back on the show.  I’m not a fan of redemption island but it has been a chance for people to switch with their loved one’s, so some people like Rachel have been voted off not because they were strong but because they hoped that their loved one would switch, which did not happen in the case of Tyson/Rachel (who are 2 of the many survivors from Utah!)

This is what makes survivor interesting.  The strategy.  You have to constantly be thinking ‘what is in the best interest of my tribemates?  What will they want the most?  Tonight was a great example with Monica losing her husband out of the game and finding out Kat was considering voting her off.  She immediately got to work and changed the vote from Vitas to Kat.  She’s gone.

It is also key to lead at the right time in Survivor.  Boston Rob learned this lesson on his master class on Survivor Redemption Island.  He was a friend while still being the leader, making the big moves.  Cochran actually did that quite well.  This is why the winners of Survivor come in 2 packages- you have the likable leader (Boston Rob, Cochran, Parvati) and the likable peacemaker (Sophie, Fabio, Todd Herzog).  You also can’t lead to soon or too late.  You can’t work too hard or be too lazy.  You have to help on the challenges but not be too threatening.

It’s really interesting.  I’ve been impressed with Aris and Vitas (sp?).  I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them wins.  Especially Vitas going over to the all girl tribe and how he ingratiated himself so quickly.  Made him seem sympathetic and kind.  It’s also got to be tempting to keep a man on the tribe to help with physical chores, caring wood etc.  I wonder how long they will keep the new tribes.

Anyway…you can tell I don’t get to talk Survivor chop shop with anyone.  I do enjoy listening to Rob Cesternino’s podcasts on Survivor.  He is funny and the analysis very entertaining.

It’s really a very entertaining show.  Do any of you watch?  Are you fans?  What do you think of the blood vs water spin?  Do you think you could vote out your loved one to appease your alliance?  I don’t know.  Depends on the loved one (just kidding).  I guess most of them have probably had conversations before hand about what they would do, but it would be tough.

Oh!  The other weird thing about this season is everyone is burning the hidden immunity idol clues.  It was first the Culpeppers that did it twice and now Vitas did it today which was baffling.  I don’t know why they don’t just find it as a tribe or an alliance and use it collectively?  Usually the idol clues aren’t that important to finding idols (Parvati and Russell were the kings of idol finding and it defintely helped Parvati to win).   It just shows what a weird season this is.

So that’s all I have to say for the moment.  Let me know what you think of the season and the show.

 

 

Fall 2013 TV Review

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Anyone who knows me knows I love television and yet I don’t think that has gotten quite the treatment on the blog that it deserves.  I have written a lot about books and movies but not as much about TV.

The funny thing about me and TV is that neither of my parents watch it at all.  There is not one show that my parents watch on a regular basis or have ever devotedly watched.  Even the siblings I grew up with (Megan and Ben) are not huge TV people.  Aside from the Simpsons there wasn’t anything we were big fans of (and yes I have like 12 seasons of the Simpsons on DVD.  Not sure why that surprises people but it does).

Why do you think that is?  Why would I be such a fan of TV from an early age when I had almost no exposure?  I suppose part of it is my friends watched a lot of TV so I picked up some of it from them.  I also have a bit of a lazy streak in me and I’ve always liked TV as a way to unwind.  A movie is more of an investment where television is 30 minutes to 1 hour (less with the magic of DVR).

TV is also a longer commitment so you get to know the characters better and I’ve always been a lover of layered characters.  Even silly shows like Boy Meets World provided relatable personalities that grew up with me (literally when I started high school Corey and Topanga did, college, etc).

Anyway, so I’ve watched a lot of the premiere’s and new shows for the Fall 2013 line up and here are my initial thoughts

New Shows (this seems to be the year of the return of the sitcom where last year was the ‘we want to be Mad Men dramas):

Mom- Anna Feris,  Allison Janney are a mother daughter team of misfits.  Kind of a recycle of Reba with a bit more bite.  I thought the pilot was promising but the second episode not as much.  We’ll see.  Good casting.  Love Janney in just about anything.  Has lead in of How I Met Your Mother so that could help it.  B

The Crazy One’s- Robin Williams, Sarah Michele Gellar- father, daughter ad executives (that seems to be the big fall back career for Hollywood when they need a blah job for its characters).  Didn’t think it was funny and Gellar looks old and haggard.  Whoever does her makeup isn’t doing her any favors.  Robin Williams does the same schtick he has done since Mrs.  Doubtfire.  D

Dads- So bad.  Corny.  Nothing was funny.  Sons and their competitive annoying Dads (seems to also be a theme this year child and obnoxious parents).  F

Super Fun Night- Rebel Wilson stars as a buisnesswoman who has just gotten a big promotion, but parties with her girlfriends to keep her motivated at work.  It is a cliched premise but I laughed a lot.  It hasn’t gotten great reviews so probably won’t last long but I thought it was really funny.  Dialogue is sharp.  The banter between the girlfriends was natural.  Watch it America A+

Back in the Game- James Caan is a former baseball player who’s daughter comes back to live with him and ends up coaching the little league baseball team of her son with her Dad’s help.  Basically the same kind of banter that was in King of Queens or Everybody Loves Raymond.  A real dud.  It makes the crucial mistake of taking itself seriously.  F

Devious Maids- Kind of entertaining for a soap opera.  Good performances although some latina cliches (how many times can they say hot salsa or hot mama in one show?) Still, if you are in for some drama and can’t watch telenovelas without english subtitles check it out B-

Returning Shows-

Middle- Still my favorite show on TV.  I think the writing is funny.  I love the child actors.  I love that it is about Indiana and they get the details right.  I love that the couple aren’t constantly bickering.  I love that there isn’t always a moral at the end of every episode (had enough of that with Modern Family).  I just love it!  A+

Modern Family- Speaking of the before mentioned show its back and returning to its boring, cliched ways.  I’m so sick of the women on this show.  They are all such types.  Now Cam and Mitch are getting married which could be funny but everyone I know is over this show.  It isn’t modern and worse it isn’t funny D

Simpsons- The premiere episode was a spoof on Homeland and as I’ve never seen Homeland I didn’t really get it.  It still looks great and the even on a sub-par episode the nostalgia alone is enough to get some votes.  25 years I’ve been watching that show . 25 years!  B-

Drop Dead Diva- (This was actually a summer season but I didn’t mention on the blog and it is a great show! I love the leads.  I love the return of old Jane (Although they got rid of her way too fast). They need to bring Fred back . New angels have all been bad.  Was totally on team Owen until he was a petty jerk all season.  Go Grayson! The cases are so stupid but they are really just angles to get to the juicy developments with the characters.  A

How I Met Your Mother- I was very skeptical of a 9th season for this show but it was renewed and I’m glad.  The first couple of episodes have been really funny and sweet.  I’m glad we get a whole season getting to know the mother and seeing how she meshes with Ted (although they haven’t met just yet).  All the characters are returning to their original warmth and the plot has become simpler I think this entire season is focused on Barney and Robins wedding.  We will see how it ends.  A-

Big Bang Theory- In premiere episodes Leonard comes back from sea and hides from Sheldon to spend time with Penny.  Very funny.  Rajesh can now talk to girls so that should be funny and I’m going to make 2 predictions- Sheldon has long island iced teas and things progress with Amy and Bernadette gets pregnant.  I think both of those would be really funny.  Still, really funny start to season. A

Downton Abbey- And yes, I am watching the UK stream online and it is great!  Matthew is gone, Mary is reeling, O’brien is also gone but a new hire has a previous connection to Mr. Branson now Lord Branson husband to the late Sybill.  Edith is coverting with a married publisher.  Lady Violette is keeping everyone honest and change is happening all around them.  Fashion is noticeably different this season..  Love the addition of Lady Shackleton.  She’s going to give Lady Violette a run for her money.  B+

Mindy Project- Anytime Morgan is on screen I laugh and luckily he is on screen a lot.  The cameo with James Franco was funny.  Wish he could have been fulltime cast because it was good.  Bummed Casey is getting the heave-ho so fast after Haiti but it had to happen.  Clearly the producers want Danny and Mindy to get together but they will probably drag that out over 8 seasons.  Still I laughed a lot at the first 2 episodes.  A-

Reality Shows-

This is my favorite category this season

Survivor 27: Blood vs Water- I was very skeptical when I heard about the latest twist.  10 returning players and their family members are battling it out for a million dollars.  I think its a little lame when they’ve had now 2 all star seasons in a row (well basically 2 fans vs favorites in a row).  However, the family angle has proven to be better than I expected.  What makes it interesting is that there is a new layer at tribal council.  For instance, when the team voted out Rachel it wasn’t because of her strategy or her skill/lack of skill in challenges- it was because they wanted Tyson, her boyfriend, out of the other tribe.

What I don’t like about the new season is the return of redemption island.  Didn’t Boston Rob’s epic season basically prove that was a dumb idea?  It doesn’t work.  The person who makes it back on redemption island will get voted off every time.  Think about who would want to face a scrappy redemption island winner at the final tribal?  Plus, it is anti-climactic to have people not really be leaving the game after tribal council.

My pick to win it all- I’m going with Tyson.  He doesn’t have the burden of family early on, can be more strategic, he’s great at challenges and is likable guy that a jury will want to vote for.

Could you guys believe the whole Colton fiasco tongiht?  What a wimp!  I mean did he think survivor would be so different this go around?  What on earth?   He kind of pulled a Brandon Hantz and knew he was on the outs and quit.  That is so lame and Probst said that he faked the appendectomy on One World.  I guess the producers brought him back to create drama but please.  Quitters are so lame.

Still, very entertaining season so far.  A

The Voice- Christina and Ceelo return and I’ve lost interest for some reason.  The contestants just aren’t doing it for me and I would rather watch HIMYM and Dancing with the stars on Monday, so I’m done with this show.  Plus, I can’t remember a single name from last season.  Clearly they didn’t make an impact.  D

Amazing Race- new season started this Sunday and it is looking interesting.  There honestly isn’t a team that I’m really pulling for.  At first I thought the Afghans were going to do well but they’ve made some pretty dumbheaded mistakes.  I couldn’t believe how many people didn’t read the clues all the way in Chili.  Come on!

Boy girl teams usually have the best chance so I think Tim and Marie or Nichole and Travis could do very well.  I love seeing the different cultures, challenges and characters.  Still the show I would most like to be on.  I think my brother and I would be a fun match up because we are so different.  A+

Dancing with the stars- this season is pretty entertaining. Diverse stars from Bill Nye to snookie. Lots of high scores early on. Leaves little room for improvement. Only Monday episodes this season which is very smart A

Project Runway- An interesting and quite volatile cast (how many meltdowns can one cast have!).  So far I haven’t been blown away by anyone but I think Braden will probably win.  There hasn’t been a great season since Christian Siriano won.  C

I guess those are the biggies.  The Foodnetwork I give a C.  The old shows like Chopped are still good but new shows like Cutthroat Kitchen have been lame.  They are clearly running out of ideas.  Nothing on Bravo has interested me for many years and I do not like much on premium cable.  I am told the season finale of Dexter was a big disappointment but never watched the show.  I did watch some of the season of Mad Men that just finished and it was depressing.  Don Draper is just a despicable human being and so is everyone else on that show.  I admit I’m curious to see how it ends but not that curious.

I also have tried to watch Breaking Bad 3 times and each time I get to episode 3 and start to squirm.  Too violent and cynical for my tastes.  So you all enjoy it and I’ll stick to my lighter fare.

What shows do you like this year?  What about returning shows?  I am disappointed Bunheads doesn’t appear to have been renewed.  I liked that show.   Oh well.  That’s Hollywood for ya!

Please share in the comments section what you think of reality tv, comedy or anything else.  Also please share if there is something I missed which you enjoyed.    I would love your feedback.

Thanks!   (anyone seen Orange is the new Black?  What do you think? I’m leary to try netflix again after what they did to my arrested development.  Egads.)

fall preview

Enough Drama in My Life

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Don’t like any of them except for Downton Abbey and maybe Lost

So I’ve been living with my roommate since the beginning of February and everything has gotten better than I could have ever hoped for.  Seriously, I was worried after living alone for 3 years that I would be hard to live with, and I might be but things seem to be working.  Phew!  Maybe one of these days I will be able to convince her to do a profile on this blog.

I think what makes it work is we have a similar cleaning style.  She’s better than me but we’re in the same realm.  We are also both hard core Republicans (love talking politics with her!), both strong in our LDS Faith and both have big, loud families. We also both like TV, which may seem like a little thing but it helps.

What has been interesting is to compare our television viewing.  We both like bride shows and project runway (our biggest argument was over a PR elimination).  I like Survivor, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, and Food Network shows.  She likes the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Dexter and Girls.

The other day we were talking and she asked me ‘Do you like a single drama with a plot?’  To my surprise, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Finally after thinking about it forever I came up with 1 show- Downton Abbey.  I guess Masterpiece I like but that was it.  I could think of shows I used to like such as 24, ER, Lost or an occasional old school Law and Order. (I watched Mad Men for a while but it got too adult themed and ridiculous for me)

This had never occurred to me.  No drama in my TV life!   I wonder why?

Part of it is I am an anxiety absorber and so if something is very tense and dramatic I feel tense and upset.  I internalize things much more than I should but I honestly can’t really help it- especially if it is about murderers or rapists, things like that.  I honestly don’t go to very many dramatic movies because they leave me unsettled.  There has to be an element of hope in them (ie Slumdog Millionaire) for me to benefit from the experience.

Some shows like Drop Dead Diva or How I Met Your Mother have occasional moments of drama while carrying on a comedic tone, and that is nice.  Some shows like Bones I liked but I got bored with.  I tried shows like Breaking Bad and it was too violent, and too much profanity for my taste.  Plus, it felt so pessimistic and somber.

I guess when it comes down to it I watch TV to be entertained.  I’m tired at the end of the day and I don’t want to be challenged.  I want to have fun and laugh.  I also admit that I prefer things that are PGish on television, but I think I would lean to comedy and reality TV anyway.   I don’t like seeing dead bodies or medical procedures and I don’t like being scared, upset, or seeing things about murderers, so that takes out most detective shows and medical dramas.  I used to like X-files but even that got a little gross sometimes.

I also never watch shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians or other follow me around kind of shows.  I do watch Pawn Stars and shows like that but I can’t even handle the reality version of drama.  I don’t even like Restaurant Impossible. I want to have confidence in my restaurants and that show freaks me out.

Anyway, it was just a funny revelation.  I don’t like drama.  Is there anything I’m missing that I just have to see?  Please let me know!

I do like the new BYU TV show Granite Flats which is a drama, so you never know!

2012 Favorites

Happy New Year!  My neighbors are lighting a million fireworks so I’m still up despite coughing my head off.  I thought it might be fun to give you some of my favorites of this year.  Here goes

Favorite 2012 Book

1.  Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson- Should be no big surprise to anyone as I’ve been pedaling this book to everyone I know (and everyone else has liked it to.)    It is a ‘regency romance’ in the style of Heyer or Austen.  It is a juicy story of Marianne Daventry as she tries to train herself in the ways of good society at large estate of Edenbrooke.  Along the way we get a highway robbery, kidnappings, miscommunications and tons of romantic dialogue.

edenbrooke

2. Other books I loved this year- I read 50 books this year and some of my favorite are Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg, Boomerang by Michael Lewis, The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfield, and the somewhat trashy but enjoyable Chicago Stars series by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Favorite 2012 Music-

1. Chris Mann- Roads- The standout on season 2 of The Voice (much better than the winner who I can’t even remember his name!).  A great debut album.  If you like Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli you will like Chris Mann.   He has a light opera voice  but isn’t afraid of a modern song like Viva La Vida

2.  Phillip Phillips- Home- Probably my favorite single of the year.  I must say I didn’t think his album was as good as the single but I still love this song. The winner of the last season of Idol made me wonder if I should watch the show again.  A folksy, earthy song that I could listen to again and again.

Favorite 2012 Movies-

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower- I’ve mentioned it a couple times on this blog but this movie really spoke to me.  It is set during my high school years (the setting could have been my high school) and I could relate to every character.  Dark, sad, tragic, funny, bizarre, disturbing, intriguing and everything else.  I liked all the performances and even little details like the music were perfect.

Written, and directed by Stephen Chbosky as adapted from his novel, it is one of the rare instances where I think the movie actually improves upon the book, which is written in the tired cliche of a letter-format.   I loved Emma Watson who does a convincing American accent and all of the teens felt like teens with authentic problems, parties, attitudes and romances- something so rarely seen in the teen movie genre.  I felt so inspired after seeing this movie for the first time that I went home and wrote a chapter of my book.  It made me want to write, express myself, and be creative.

I will say that this movie is not for everyone.  It is challenging but I found it exhilarating!

2. Les Miserables- The much hyped live performance version of the broadway musical adapted from the Victor Hugo novel (which I have never been able to get through btw).  I first saw Les Mis when I was 14 years old and went to NYC with my choir group.  I knew every song, every line of dialogue and for once my high expectations were completely met. I was blown away.

I then saw the show again in 2006 with my Aunt Kate when they did a revival and it moved me once again.  I love the story of the merciful Jean ValJean hunted by the ruthless Javert who seeks only justice.  I love the music and aside from a bit of over-the-top antics from the Thenardiers I thought the movie totally nailed it.  I loved the performances, cinematography, long fading shots, singing (with the exception of Javert), staging etc.  I loved it.  It brought me to tears and I wanted to see it again almost immediately.  I liked almost every single choice they made.  Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.

3.  Other movies I liked- Friends with Kids, The Hobbit, Bully, Pirates: Band of Misfits, ParaNorman, and Brave.

Favorite Television 2012-

Such a weak year for television.  All the reality shows are getting tired including once reliables like Dancing with the Stars, Pawn Stars and Project Runway.

1. Downton Abbey- I got on the Downton Abbey bus early in 2011 but really loved both seasons this year, although I’m still traumatized by the recent Christmas episode!  Still, Dame Maggie Smith’s scenes are worthy of note alone.  There are so many well developed characters and the dialogue is always sharp.  I’m a believer in soap so I don’t really mind those elements.

2. Drop Dead Diva-  My favorite show this year. Drop Dead Diva had a great season with a huge ending that has me dying to know what is going to happen.  They got slightly less ridiculous in the cases presented and the romance between Jane and Owen felt believable.  With the return of Fred in a slightly altered form next season proves to be great.  A campy, silly show but done so well I love it!

3.  BYU TV- I’ve been enjoying BYU TV lately especially their shows American Ride and The Story Trek.  American Ride is a bikers version of American history.  Interesting and entertaining.  The Story Trek is great.  They literally go door to door and try to get interviews, hearing everyone’s story.  It is great what they come up with.  I like that I can turn on BYU TV and always find something enriching and clean.  It is not overly Mormon, just squeaky clean and fun shows.

4.  Other standouts- Go On about a widowed radio sports jock who goes to a grieving group, Up All Night about a couple struggling to raise their little girl in yuppie LA, Portlandia making fun of all things hipster, The Mindy Project basically the tv form of Mindy’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which is another favorite book of the year and I thoroughly related to. I also enjoy Bunheads written by the writer of Gilmore Girls and has the same crackling dialogue.  Plus, it has Sutton Foster in it who is divine.

So there’s some of my favorites of 2012.  What are some of your favorite books, movies, music, TV?

Annoyed Women

So today I was watching some TV after going to the gym and doing some errands.  I flipped from King of Queens to Everybody Loves Raymond to Home Improvement.  At the end of all this channel swapping I felt depressed, depressed for me and for all women.  The women presented in these and many other shows are constantly irritated by their lives, jobs and especially their husbands.   These women seem to have a continual roll in their eyes and a groan on their mouths.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Its interesting because if you think of the history of TV it used to be the other way around.  For instance, in I Love Lucy Ricky was the man with the constant eye roll.  When did things change?

The thing that gets me is why would anyone want to stay in a marriage or live a life they are perpetually annoyed with? I like my life and if something is annoying me it is usually my own pride that is to blame, more than anything else.  Of course, I live alone so maybe I don’t have as much potential to be annoyed as others….

What say you my married friends? Do you find yourself continually annoyed with those you live with? Do these images of nagging women make you more or less likely to imitate their behavior?

I guess part of it comes from the comic standby of needing a ‘straight character’. Not straight in the sense of sexuality but just in the sense of comic timing.  If everyone is crazy, off the wall, it isn’t funny but if one character is normal in contrast to the crazy it is more humorous.   This can be seen in all of the famous comic duos such as Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.  I guess you have to have one character to the be the idiot for most humor to work but why does it always have to be the man? Couldn’t it be a little bit of both?

A show like the Big Bang Theory allows all of its character to be smart, stupid, crazy, funny and ridiculous at moments.   The men and women are the butt of equal jokes.   One of my favorite shows, the Middle, does a pretty good job with an even keeled humor between the sexes and spares the constantly annoyed wife routine.  (Most of the real humor in that show involves the kids).

Arrested Development created great humor by having a straight man (Michael Bluth played by Jason Bateman) surrounded by both male and female idiots and wackos.  That approach works well too.

The funny thing is that I rarely notice this behavior with one viewing.  Its only when I have a day of leisure and watch a number of episodes in a row that it starts to bother me.  I wonder if as a society we cumulatively view episode after episode if the annoyed women  can be damaging.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into all this?  Some might say- “it’s just entertainment, no big deal?  It doesn’t impact my marriage/life?”.

That may be true but the subtle messaging the media gives us can be important.  It can cause women to expect men to behave like animals and then encourage men to then behave like animals.  Most of us after all are what others expect us to be.

I would think viewing such programs would make women more prone to fault finding and feel validated in their anger and irritations.   Things that should just be ignored are played out on TV to a comic benefit, creating a subtle approval of such behavior.

I live alone so I am free from annoying people most of the time (one of the great advantages of my lifestyle!).  Still, I hope when I get married I am not perpetually annoyed by those I live with.  What kind of life is that?  Why not find something you like  if you are so annoyed?

Reality TV isn’t much better.  In fact it is worse! Instead of fictionalized harping of wives towards their husbands we get ‘real life examples’ of a Jon and Kate Goslin or Bruce and Kris Jenner hating on each other.  (Not to mention the scores of ‘real housewives’ who mostly complain despite all their opulence).  I don’t really watch much reality tv but it can get depressing real quick!

Of course, you can always turn the TV off and pick up a book, which I did today. (Although the annoyed wife is certainly prevalent throughout modern literature as well!).

That’s my soapbox for the day! 🙂

What do you think about all the annoyed woman on TV? Do you think it has damaging effects for men, women and relationships? (or maybe you are all just annoyed with me 🙂  Sorry!)

Rachel’s Favorite Things

So today I am playing Oprah and am going to share some of my favorite things. Unfortunately I can’t give you free stuff so it might be less exciting but always fun to share.

Nantucket Bike Basket

First item I’m excited about is my new bike basket from LL Bean.  Isn’t it so cute and nice and deep to carry a bag of groceries or some mail 🙂

The Nantucket Bike Basket Co (talk about specialization) makes several baskets for LL Bean but this was my favorite.

http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/69236?feat=69237-ppxs&dds=y

The description on the website says “This durable bike basket is made from very fine rattan cane, woven for a classic, retro look. A replica of the style originally made in Nantucket during the whaling era of the 1920’s. Leather straps attach to your bike’s handlebars.”

What can be wrong with that?
It was actually hard to find a good bike basket so I’m thrilled with this find.

It is $39 with free shipping.

 

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I rarely find a new book that I love.  It’s just hard to get through all the sludge to find something that is clean, engaging and that excites me. Certain genres are harder than others, romance and comedies being the most difficult. Recently I found a book by local author, Julianne Donaldson, called Edenbrooke, that totally won me over.

It is about a girl named Marianne who in the 18th century (Jane Austen era) is bored and lonely with the society at Bath and is sent to the estate of Edenbrooke where she faces some startling situations and a dramatic romance with the flirtatious Phillip.

I was expecting it to be fan fiction but I was engrossed.  It really had great momentum, fantastic romantic tension and wonderful character development. I think Donaldson did almost the impossible by writing a believable Austen-like story that is not over the top romantic but engages the reader.  It was certainly a bold undertaking and I think she totally pulled it off.

It actually had one thing Austen never has- romantic dialogue.  We get it in spades but not so much that it feels like a dime romance novel.  To me it was perfect.  (You know its a good book if you stop listening to the audiobook and start reading because you are dying to know what is going to happen).

Go find it! Read it!

                                                                                  GoPicnic.com

One of my biggest challenges is finding meals that are easy and healthy, especially when I’m exhausted. I need things to be fast, healthy and delicious.  Recently I discovered the gopicnic meals in a box.  They have 9 different boxed meals, 6 of which are gluten free.  Most are under 400 calories and loaded with protein.

I’m not going to say they are the most substantial meal but in a pinch they will do fine.  An example of one meal is:

Turkey Stick and Crunch Meal

  • Old Wisconsin Turkey Snack Stick
  • Popchips Barbeque Potato Chips
  • Niagara Natural Tropical Fruit Bites
  • Sweet Perry Orchards Baja Blend Fruit & Nut Mix
  • Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Cookie

Sounds pretty good hah? I love them as a replacement for fast food or after a work out.  They also worked great for a road trip.

On the gopicnic website you can sign up for a subscription and get them for as low as 3.30 a box.

 

The Middle

I’ve mentioned it briefly on this blog but I love the show The Middle. It has just finished up its 3rd season and I think it gets better and better each year.  The show tells the story of the Hoosiers middle America, Heck family, and their hilarious struggles with everyday living.

The family has a stressed out mom played by Patricia Heaton (much more likable here than in Everybody Loves Raymond).  The level-headed but not stupid Dad is played by Neil Flynn from Scrubs. They are a very realistic couple who  seem to enjoy one another.  It is not a continual complain session by the wife over the husbands dumb antics.

The real stars of the show, however, are the children in the Middle.  The oldest son Axel is played by Charlie McDermott and he is basically my brother as a teenager but maybe more athletic.  Most of the show he is in boxer shorts.  It is a great performance.

My favorite performance is by Eden Sher as middle daughter Sue.  The costume department gets the tween fashion look right and she is perfectly eager. Sue tries out for things and never makes them. (I can certainly relate to that!).  She is also eager to make friends and fit in but that eagerness makes her not fit in and make friends.  I love her!

The youngest Heck is played by Atticus Shaffer as oddball kid Brick.  It is another funny nerdy performance.

In the end the Heck’s feel like a real Hoosier family and they get all the Indiana details right from Colts shrines to trips to Brown County to Tasty Kake and Steak N Shake (regional specialties). As an honorary Hoosier I love the all the details.  Watching The Middle is like being back in Indiana with my friends. 🙂

Lands End Swimsuits

Yes, that’s me in a swimsuit and yes, I have no issues with that.  I’m a big girl and I look good in a swimsuit. Deal with it!

The reason I can say this is thanks to Lands End Swimwear.

They have a wide range of swimwear both casual and active and the thing I love the most about their suits is they have active wear for plus size.  All 3 of my suits are from Lands End.  I don’t know what I would have done without their unique suits.  It is so hard to find active wear for plus sizes and I appreciate their presence in the market.

This month I got my first non-plus size suit from them because I wanted a tankini for longer swims.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked better in a suit. Hurray!

I also like that Lands End has suits that are modest with a low leg line and without being super tight.  Thanks!

 

So there are some products I’m mad for at the moment.  Will keep you posted as I find more.