TV Diary Quarantine Edition

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever is a cute rom-com teen show. Devi is high school girl who everyone thinks faked paralysis after she had hysterical paralysis following the death of her father. She is trying to move on with her life without really confronting her feelings about her father by chasing a crush she has on a popular boy at school and fighting with her nemesis and competition for top of the class. I really loved this show and it’s about much more than the teen romance stuff. It’s about family and friendship and culture and the show does not let Devi off for being a selfish jerk for significant portions of the show.

Newsradio

I never watched Newsradio when it was on in the 90s though I had a cultural consciousness of it to some degree. I definitely got wrong how some of the storylines play out. In my head the show had more a narrative arc like Friends did, but it really does put the situational in sit com as the stories mostly reset every episode. I assumed that the show spent seasons leading up to the relationship between Dave and Lisa, but it turns out they got together literally in the first episode of the show and for the most part anything related to their relationship occurred within the confines of single episodes rather than across seasons. I definitely didn’t like it as much as I like some other 90s sitcoms, but it was a fine distraction. I did not however like Jon Lovitz as the replacement for Phil Hartman after his tragic death.

Quiz

Quiz was a three episode mini-series about the scandal that rocked the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in which a husband and wife were prosecuted for cheating to win the million dollars. I was surprised that I had no recollection that it happened until watching the show and realizing that the news broke on September 11, 2001 so there were a few things I was paying a bit more attention to. I thought it was a great miniseries that felt just about the right length and I may have enjoyed the beginning episode that went into the development of the show itself more than I cared about the whole cheating part of it.

Looking for Alaska

I read the book Looking for Alaska and remember liking it well enough so I was interested in watching the show, especially since it was created by Josh Schwartz who has a history of using great music in shows. Ultimately though I think I am way over shows, books, movies, etc. about pretentious unrealistic teens at boarding school (or camp or college). It’s been awhile since I’ve consumed anything with that bent that I haven’t been annoyed by. I just didn’t care about these characters or any of the charades they were getting up to.

High Fidelity

I definitely watched the movie High Fidelity around the time that it originally came out, but I never rewatched it and didn’t have many memories of it. You would think that it would be a movie that I adored, but it never really was. It might have been the Jack Black of it all. It’s been so long I couldn’t tell you. I think I also read the Nicholas Hornsby book at some point, but again like two decades later I can’t really say how faithful this tv version is to either of the previous properties. The show does gender flip the lead with Zoe Kravitz playing Rob, John Cusack’s character from the movie. She is wonderful in the part. I loved, loved, loved this show. It basically combined all my favorite things. It’s got fantastic music. There are great romance stories and friendships. Plus it was really funny. I laughed out loud almost every episode and I rarely laugh out loud while watching tv. I cannot wait for more episodes of this show.

Sweet Magnolia

I gather Sweet Magnolia is based on a book or possibly series of books, but I’ve never read them. It follows three woman in a small town outside Charleston. One is a recently divorced mother of three whose husband cheated on her and got another woman pregnant. One is a chef, and the other is a lawyer. Lifelong friends they decide to go into business together and start a spa. It’s basically Hallmark Channel level of quality. It’s not really very good, but the level of fluff was about the speed I was looking for in the height of the COVID crisis.

America to Me

I had wanted to watch this docuseries following kids, teachers, and administrators at a diverse high school in suburban Chicago when it first aired on Starz, but I don’t have Starz and it never moved to any other streaming platform. In the recent rush by companies to make content they have related to race available for free, Starz made this available for free for a weekend. I jumped at the chance to finally watch it and since I have no plans these days watched all 10 episodes in two days. It’s so, so good. It really perfectly encapsulates so many issues with race and racism that our country faces. It should really be required watching. I wish Starz would make it available more widely since not too many people subscribe to Starz and who are like me and even if they’re interested are not wanting to pay to buy it episode by episode.

Love, Victor

I never read the book that it was based on, but I liked the movie Love, Simon so I was looking forward to this show. Love, Victor is spinoff of the movie with the title character texting with Simon as he has heard tale of Simon’s own coming out love story as he himself is trying to figure out is sexuality under less ideal circumstances than Simon had. This show was originally slated to be a Disney+ show before they punted it to Hulu. It definitely has a vibe of being aimed more towards the pre-teen set as a result. I didn’t connect with this show as much as I did the movie. I didn’t care about the drama surrounding Victor’s parents’ marriage. Even though based on the opening lines this was supposed to be the story of someone who was less supported in the coming out process to address some of the criticisms lobbed at Love, Simon ultimately it kind of felt the same way. I think I’d rather watch a show about Mia, the girl that Victor dates for much of the first season.

TV Diary

Twenties

Twenties is the newest show created by Lena Waithe on BET. She doesn’t actually star in this particular show though, which I didn’t realize before watching it. It follows a group of black women navigating their twenties in Hollywood. It’s very stylized with lots of nods to old Hollywood. The characters were great. I liked the relationships and found it quite amusing. I really enjoyed the show and very much look forward to new episodes at some future date whenever TV can actually go back into production.

I Am Not Okay with This

I Am Not Okay with This is a short series on Netflix. It shares the same DNA with The End of the F***ing World, as they are both based on graphic novels by the same author and produced by the same creators. I didn’t care for this nearly as much as The End of the F***ing World. It just seemed like a poor imitation to me. I think the only reason I even finished it was because it was really short both in episode length and count and it came out at a time that there was a lull in other television.

The Sinner

It’s obviously no secret that I am tv lover and watch way too much of it, so I have no idea how this USA show got to three seasons without me even knowing it existed. The only reason I even heard about it in season three was because Matt Bomer starred in it, and I love me some Matt Bomer. As best as I can tell the seasons sort of stand alone with separate storylines connected by Bill Pullman as the detective investigating whatever happens that season. Matt Bomer’s character is very messed up in this show and winds up pulling Bill Pullman’s character down with him. It was an okay show, but I didn’t like it enough to bother going back and watching the first two seasons and I won’t be watching any future seasons either.

Feel Good

Feel Good is a Netflix show following comic Mae who is recently sober and her girlfriend George who is still hiding their relationship from her family and friends. I liked this show while I was actually watching the episodes, but for some reason it just kept falling out of my head when I wasn’t watching it. I kept having to remind myself what it was every time I saw it in my Netflix list and it’s not something I’ve thought a whole lot about since I finished it, but if there’s another season I would watch it.

Unorthodox

I did not read the book this very limited Netflix series is based on. When we started watching the show I didn’t realize it was only 4 episodes and then felt like I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I looked it up and it turns out the show is only very loosely based on the story. Pretty much in concept only with an Orthodox Jewish woman in Brooklyn fleeing her marriage. That’s pretty much where the stories diverge completely. It’s worth watching though.

The Baker and Beauty

Daniel Garcia helps run his family’s Cuban bakery. After publicly turning down his girlfriend’s proposal in a video that goes viral he winds up running into supermodel Noa Hamilton and getting drawn into her orbit and throwing all their lives into disarray. This was some mindless summer entertainment that was perfect for keeping my mind off of COVID-19. It’s based off an Israeli show. I don’t know if the title is literal translation of the Israeli title, but it bugs me that the show is not called Beauty and the Baker like it should be. I did also hear someone say it should have been called Beauty and the Yeast, but that’s probably taking it a bit too far.

Messiah

Messiah is a Netflix show about a mysterious man who appears first in the Middle East and then the United States. Some people say he’s a new messiah and others believe he is a con man. The show ends on what could be considered a cliffhanger, but could also serve as a satisfying although somewhat ambiguous ending since Netflix cancelled the show after one season.

Cybill

If you don’t recall the show Cybil it was a sitcom from back in the 90s starring Cybill Shepherd and was the first acting role that Christine Baranski had as more than a guest star. Cybill is a C-list actress doing guest star roles, commercials, and bad movies. Baranski plays Maryann her best friend, a rich divorcee who spends much of her time plotting revenge against her cheating ex-husband. It’s a goofy show and something I only saw a few episodes of when it originally aired because the humor was too adult for me at the time and I didn’t really get it. Now as an adult I get it, and it was kind of a mindless fun show to watch on Amazon Prime.

Winter 2020 TV Diary

Jeopardy Greatest of All Time

We watched the primetime Jeopardy tournament they did featuring Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. It was fun to watch, and I appreciated how much fun it seemed the contestants were having with it and each other. I’m happy Ken Jennings was the winner. I thought the format they used was a little wonky though as it pretty much telegraphed that Ken had won given that there were no more episodes scheduled. It took a little bit of the drama out of it.

Cheer

I’m sure no one here needs me to tell them how they really need to watch Cheer on Netflix, but if you somehow haven’t yet you really should. It’s obviously their continuation of a similar series to what they started following junior college football players in Last Chance U, which is also a really good show by the way. Cheer follows cheerleaders from the award winning Navarro College cheer team. I always knew cheerleading was hard, but this show really shows how physical it is how much stress these kids are putting on their bodies. A lot of the kids they follow have really heartbreaking stories, but also seem to be fighting for their futures especially with the help of the coach, Monica. You really just want nothing but the best for them and want them to be able to succeed in cheer and in their future lives. And seriously, if nothing else you really do have to watch the show for Jerry because we should all live our lives a little more like Jerry.

Virgin River

Virgin River is a Netflix show that I imagine to be somewhat of a cross between Hart of Dixie and Northern Exposure, although I’ve never seen Northern Exposure so that’s a little bit of a guess. It definitely shares the same DNA with a medical professional (in this case a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor) moving to a small town to take over a medical practice. In this case it’s a rural town in northern California and oddly the doctor whose practice she is joining against his will is played by Tim Matheson who is plays practically the same character on Hart of Dixie. The nurse is running away from her past, which exactly what that means you get doled out over the course of the season through flashbacks. There’s a love story with the local bar owner, who apparently doesn’t ever actually have to work at his bar since he’s always offering to drive her to whatever remote locale she needs to get to for that episode’s medical case. It’s sort of like a 10 hour Hallmark movie. I can’t say it’s a great show, but I also kind of really like it. I started watching it when I was home sick from work and watched like 6 episodes in one day and finished off the remainder in short order. I’m already looking forward to the next season, which probably won’t be out for like another year but I’m happy to already know they’ll be one.

On My Block

On My Block is yet another Netflix show. With the characters being teenagers I’m sure it’s supposed to be aimed at teens, which is perhaps why I haven’t heard many people talking about it, but really they should because it’s a really good show. I like teen shows so I had added it to my queue when it first came out but never watched it. Then someone I know was talking about catching up on season 2 before the third season comes out next week and saying how much he enjoyed it. I was in need of a new show to watch at the time, so I decided to finally give it a shot and I’m so glad I did. I’m about 2/3 through the available episodes, and I love it. It’s about teenage friends in a poor neighborhood in L.A. and it’s kind of hard to describe the rest of it. At the heart of it the show is about their friendship, but it also has some Goonies type capers in it, it has real drama about living in and around gangs, it also plays with stereotypes in a lot of ways too. It kind of is all things. It’s humorous, it’s dramatic, it’s sweet. It’s just an all around great show and I highly recommend it. The episodes are 30 minutes or less so you can get through it pretty quick.

Katy Keene

Katy Keene is a spin-off from Riverdale with Josie of Josie and Pussycats heading out from Riverdale to New York to pursue her music career where she befriends the titular Katy Keene who works at Lacy’s department store and dreams of being a designer. Gorge who is a drag queen dreaming of being a Broadway star and Pepper who seems to be somewhat of a con-woman attempting to be a great artistic icon rounding out their friend group. It’s completely frothy and ridiculous drama and stupid fun. It is exactly what you expect from it and that’s perfect. I could use a little bit more mindless fun in my tv these days.

Party of Five

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum is the Party of Five reboot where rather than dying the kids are left on their own because their parents were undocumented immigrants who were sent back to Mexico. It’s a really smart and timely way to reboot the show. I only watched part of the original as I didn’t start watching when it first came on when I was in high school and back then if you didn’t watch when it was on you just had to start in the middle of show with no real watch to catch up (kids ask your parents), and I quit it before it finished it’s run because I grew frustrated with the storylines. Plus I had gone off to college by then and it was harder to keep up since it wasn’t as easy to record shows if you weren’t around to watch them (again kids ask your parents). I really do like the new one a lot and appreciate it every time I’m watching it, but it’s also generally a depressing watch and I admit that I often put off watching it for awhile but then am happy I watched it once I do.

McMillions

We’re four episodes in to the six episode documentary series on HBO about the McDonald’s Monopoly games scandal where essentially no one real one the game all through the entire run from 1989 to 2001. I really didn’t know much about it, so I’m learning things and it’s a decently made documentary. I’m also pretty sure it could have been half the length and conveyed just as much of the story. It definitely feels a little bit dragged out to me, but I’m obviously going to finish it.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

This is a fun, silly little show with actors I like getting to sing and dance. Jane Levy plays a character who somehow while getting an MRI when an earthquake takes place somehow winds up with something happening to her whereby the people around her sing her songs conveying the feelings they’re having at the time. Lauren Graham plays her boss. Skylar Astin plays her coworker/best friend/potential romantic interest. Mary Steenburgen plays her mother. Peter Gallagher plays her father who has some sort of neurological disorder that prevents him from communicating, but who she is now able to somewhat able to communicate with due to hearing his song thoughts. It’s definitely ridiculous, but again I’m all in on tv that is kind of mindless and silly at this point.

Encore

Speaking of singing and dancing, Encore is a show that you can now watch on Disney+. The first episode aired on ABC some time ago, but obviously didn’t do very well and they shelved it. But now that they have Disney+ why not make available all those episodes they already had in the can. It’s a reality series where they get back together casts of high school musicals to reperform whatever musical they did in a week’s time. As a musical lover I enjoy it, but to some degree the episodes are a little bit samey despite the different musicals and different casts so I can only watch one episode at a time. Thus I still have a lot of episodes to get through, but I’ll make it eventually.

Gentefied

Gentefied is a new Netflix show that follows a family, a grandfather and three of his grandchildren who are all involved in some degree in the taco business he has been running in a now gentrifying neighborhood. Now they’re trying to figure out how to save the business as the rents go up and tastes are changing. We’re only a few episodes in, but I’m enjoying it so far. Be aware that due to the characters speaking a lot of Spanish in addition to English there are a significant number of subtitles.

Everything is Going to Be Okay

Everything is Going to Be Okay is a show on Freeform following an Australian in his mid-twenties who winds up becoming the caretaker for his two teenage half-sisters who he barely knows in LA after their father dies of cancer. One of them is on the autism spectrum. This show has been sort of hit and miss for me. I like some episodes and others don’t do much for me. I’m still watching at this point, but it’s definitely one of the last things I watch each week.

Medical Police

Medical Police is a show on Netflix that is a spin-off of the Cartoon Network Adult Swim show Children’s Hospital. I never watched that show so I don’t know how it compares other than that this one is much longer with the episodes running between 20 and 30 minutes as compared to around 12 on Cartoon Network. Given the comedy style that is the parody sort like the Naked Gun or Airplane! this one might have been better if the episodes were shorter as well. It was dumb as one might expect from a show trying to double spoof medical and cop dramas with some of the doctors from Children’s Hospital being drafted into a secret force run by the CDC. Oddly enough though a little too much of it seems weirdly relevant with all the coronavirus news. If it hadn’t been released during an otherwise slow tv time I’m not sure we would have started watching it and if we didn’t use it to fill in weird little times where we had 20 or so minutes to kill we probably wouldn’t have finished it. I get bored with that kind of comedy pretty quickly, so I would be curious to know what people who are really into that sort of thing think.

Winter 2019/2020 TV Diary

Before we get full force into the new mid-season shows I thought I would do a roundup of the things I’ve been watching over the past few months.

The Great British Baking Show

Hi, it’s me the last person on the planet to watch this show and tell you how wonderful The Great British Baking Show is. I think literally every person I know told me I had to watch this show because I love to bake. I don’t watch too much reality television including cooking shows aside from an occasional episode of Chopped on an airplane or in a hotel, so I just ignored everyone for a very long time. I finally broke down and decided to start watching because I needed a show I could download from Netflix to my iPad to watch on a cross country flight. I thought this show would make great plane fare. It did and as it turns out great fare any time. I love how good natured the show is. I don’t care for all the false bravado and meanness that Americans seem to think needs to go into all their competition shows. I love how the other contestants will try and help each other out instead of someone else’s mishaps just being a way to make sure they get to move ahead in the competition. Aside from usually one or two people at the beginning who generally get kicked out fairly quickly each season I like all the contestants on this show and quickly get sad when any of them has to leave. Plus everything sounds so delicious. Even though I like to bake I would never make it on this show because I don’t like to get that complicated and I definitely don’t do decorations.

Schitt’s Creek

I just finished a binge watch of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix in time to watch the final season on PopTV. I hadn’t watched it up to this point because it didn’t seem like something I would be interested in. I was never a big fan of the movies like Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and Best in Show that Eugene Levy helped write and star in as he does this show. Plus I have never cared for the one character that Chris Elliot plays in everything he stars in, so I just discounted this show. Then with the lead up to the new season I just kept seeing people raving about it and decided to finally give it a try. Chris Elliot still does nothing for me, but I can overlook him because the rest of the show is great. Man this show does an incredible job of threading a crazy needle of somehow both writing a show full of characters that are to a large degree caricatures while also creating a show with the biggest heart and the most amazing little emotional moments. There are so many moments that are just little gestures or looks that the characters give that just melt my heart. It’s crazy how much real sentiment these characters can convey without saying a word when their characters are so over the top unrealistic. David and Patrick’s relationship of course is the best. I also love David’s friendship with Stevie. I adore how Patrick and Stevie sometimes gang up on David to make fun of his particular crazy, but nothing about it seems mean spirited. I think my favorite part of the whole show so far is the pointing gesture and thumbs up Stevie gives to David at the end of the scene that starts at 1:26 in this video. (Sorry I couldn’t find the scene on it’s own or get the YouTube video to start at the right time stamp when embedding it.)  I never expected to like this show as much as I do. Now I’m already sad that it’s almost over.

Soundtrack

Soundtrack is a super gimmicky show on Netflix. Each episode involves the characters breaking out into elaborate lip syncs to pop songs to express their feelings. Each episode is about an hour long and I felt like it would have been a much stronger show if they had made it a 45 minute show and cut out the terrible (and I really mean terrible) lip syncing numbers. They didn’t add anything to the story and did I mention that no one on this show can actually lip sync well? It’s a shame because I actually did mostly enjoy the rest of the show which followed several characters back in forth in present day and the past when two of the characters met and fell in love. Which characters the show focuses on changes in each episode. It’s not a bad watch, but I would recommend just saving yourself some time and fast forwarding through all the lip syncing scenes.

Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings

Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings is an anthology series on Netflix with episodes based on Dolly Parton songs. Some of them were better than others. They’re all super saccharine and even less offensive than a Hallmark movie. I’m not sure I would say any of them are particularly good, but I felt compelled to watch them all anyway.

Home for Christmas

I started watching Home for Christmas on Netflix thinking it was a Christmas movie, but it turns out it was actually a 6 episode tv series in Norwegian no less. We realized pretty quickly it was dubbed in English so changed the settings to get subtitles instead because I refuse to watch things that are dubbed. It was an enjoyable little rom-com series about a nurse named Johanne whose family is obsessed with her finding a boyfriend so she lies and says she’s dating someone and will bring him home for Christmas. Now she only has a few weeks to find someone to fill the role. I’m not sure I loved the way they chose to end it, but overall I found it a very pleasant show to watch. You can save it for next Christmas or just watch it as a winter treat. I don’t feel like it’s so over the top Christmasy that you couldn’t enjoy it at other times of year.

Spinning Out

If you can get over the terrible American accent the lead, who is actually British, is doing then Spinning Out is a very enjoyable show. The tagline says it’s The Cutting Edge meets I, Tonya and I would say it’s pretty accurate. Kat is a former singles figure skater who had a terrible fall during a competition that has left her spooked and unable to compete or even pass the test to become a coach. Now she has one last chance to save her skating career by trying her hand at pairs skating with rich, playboy Justin. Her younger sister Serena is also an up and coming skater. Both Kat and her mother played by January Jones are bipolar which adds another layer to the show. I’m only 3 or 4 episodes in at this point, but I really like it so far.

Succession

I never watched Succession when it started because I heard how every character on it is unlikable, which is not something I like in a tv show. It’s why I quit watching Scandal pretty early on in its run. But everyone seemed so obsessed with it after the second season, even critics who normally share my distaste of shows that only feature abhorrent people, that I decided to give it a try. I’ve only seen two episodes so far. Everyone is terrible, and I’m not yet hooked. I might give it a few more episodes, but I’m not sure this show is for me.

Dare Me

Dare Me is a new show on USA based on a YA novel by Megan Abbott. I’ve read some of her stuff and not loved a lot of it. I haven’t read this particular book, but the tv adaptation has the same trappings of the things I don’t generally care for in her books. It’s about a high school cheerleading squad whose former captain is at odds with the new coach. You know there’s a murder that happens at some point, but you don’t really know who is involved yet. It’s all a lot of drama and terrible people. There have been two episodes so far. I don’t love it and can see it falling by the wayside as shows I’m more interested in start to come back in the next few weeks.

 

 

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2019

Once again it’s time for my annual post on the pop culture that was most memorable to me over the past year. As always it doesn’t have to be something created in 2019. It just has to be something I consumed over the past year. And as always I emphasize that these are the things that meant the most to me, not necessarily the things that I think are the best thing made in any given category. In past year’s I’ve mostly tried to limit myself to one thing per category. I’m going against that this year in several categories because who says I have to choose just one thing? Sometimes I enjoy multiple things an equal amount and don’t want to choose between them. These are the things that brought me joy this year and why shouldn’t I want to introduce you to as many great things as possible? I make the rules here, so I say no arbitrary limits on how many things I’m allowed to write about!

Movie I Saw in a Theater

I often lament the lack of good romantic comedies like there once were, so I always try and go see the few and far between rom-coms that make it into movie theaters even when I know they are going to be terrible because I want Hollywood to know there’s a market for them. This year though the one rom-com I saw in a theater was not terrible. In fact it was my favorite movie of the year, The Long Shot starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. I was slightly dubious about it because I don’t love Seth Rogen and all his drug humor. There was some of that in this movie, but just the right amount. I thought it was a very funny and sweet movie with a great modern day rom-com set-up for why the two leads just couldn’t be together.

I’ll also give a shout out to Knives Out, which was a very fun whodunit.

Movie I Watched at Home

This is the category I always have the hardest time filling out partly because I can never remember what I watched. Last year I kept a list and that worked out really well, so I thought that I would do that again this year. It didn’t really work though because every time I watched a movie at home, which wasn’t that frequently, I thought well that was okay, but I’m not even going to bother adding it to my list because there’s no way I would put it in my end of the year blog post. And that’s how it went for pretty much every movie I watched this year. There were zero movies on that list as of mid-December.

I didn’t initially think to include it because it’s not a traditional movie per se, but I’m going to go with the four hour Tom Petty documentary, Runnin’ Down a Dream. I’ve been meaning to watch it for years because Tom Petty is one of all time favorite artists and I’ve always heard good things about it. I just never wanted to commit 4 hours to it, but this year when I had a snow day back in February I thought today is the perfect day to finally watch this. It was indeed a very good music documentary. It focused mostly on Tom Petty’s musical career and didn’t delve much into his personal life, so I felt like it was a very good companion with the book Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes which gets much more into Tom Petty as a person.

Fiction Book

I have two very different books I’m putting in this category this year. First is The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, which I recently read for my book club. The book moves back and forth in time between 1980s Chicago during the height of the AIDS crisis and 2015 Paris where you pick up with the sister of one of the young men who died and who nursed many of the men in his friend group as they too succumbed to the disease. The 1980s part is for sure the better half of the story. Some of those characters are still with me. The 2015 half while not as good is still engaging enough as to not drag the entire book down and I appreciated how everything came together at the end.

The other novel that I really loved this year was Fear of Falling by Georgia Beers. It was just a really great romance about a famous singer who recently lost her manager and whose label assigns a woman to manage her that she winds up having feelings for. It has very realistic obstacles throwing a wrench in their budding romance and I literally couldn’t put it down. We were on vacation in L.A. and my husband finally had to force me to quit reading so we could go out to the Griffith Observatory.

Non-Fiction Book

I actually have three non-fiction books that I want to write about. One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten. In this book a reporter picks a random day out of a hat and writes a book about what happened on a day that historically we would say nothing really happened. He digs into stories that may not have garnered national attention but that certainly impacted individual people, families, and communities. I found it to be a really fascinating book.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe is fantastic book covering the modern history of the I.R.A. and the Irish troubles. It’s a really well written book that presents a lot of information in a really accessible way. I learned so much more than I ever knew and it gave me a much better understanding of why a hard border being imposed as part of Brexit would be such a big deal.

My final non-fiction book is Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan Metzl.  Physician and sociologist Jonathan Metzl explores how long held ideologies based on both overt and covert racism cause people to create policies that are detrimental to their own lives. Using focus groups and lots of comparative data analysis looking at states both before and after they passed certain laws and comparing them to states with similar demographics with opposite laws. He looks at gun laws in Missouri and how they have led to a huge increase in gun based suicide by white men. In Tennessee he examines the decision to not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act causing significantly worse health outcomes compared to people in Kentucky where the Medicaid expansion was passed. Finally, he looks at tax cuts passed in Kansas particularly focusing on the effects on education. It’s a really well-researched book and a really compelling though maddening read.

TV Show

As much as I lament the lack of certain types of tv shows that once existed in larger quantities before streaming and prestige television took over there were still a number of tv shows that gave me great pleasure this year. I have already implored you multiple times to watch both Atypical and The Bold Type, and I’m not sure I have much new to say about them. However, as far as I know I haven’t convinced anyone else to watch them yet, so I’m going to keep trying because they are really great shows. I rarely rewatch tv shows because there’s always so much new stuff out there, but I’m already considering an Atypical rewatch because I miss those characters.

Chernobyl was an excellent show. I avoided watching it for a long time despite all the rave reviews because I thought it was going to be too depressing. I thought maybe I’ll watch just one episode a week to make it more bearable and then I wound up binge watching it because it was so good.

Derry Girls was pure delight. I also liked that having read Say Nothing meant I had a little better insight into the time and place when the show is set, but it’s not really necessary to know that much about the Irish Troubles to enjoy the show. It’s just a wonderful broad comedy about teenagers in Derry, Ireland in the 80s. The 12 episodes that exist right now are just not enough. I can’t wait until the release more.

Speechless ended its run on a high note back in the spring. If you’re unfamiliar it’s a sit-com about a family whose oldest son has cerebral palsy and who is played by an actor who does in fact have CP. It was a funny and heartfelt show that I think ended in a perfect way even if I wish we got more episodes. Also a special shout out to two other shows I loved that ended their runs this year Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin.

Unbelievable was a really well done limited series based on a true story of a young woman who was raped and not believed and the two female cops working on rape cases years later who finally brought her justice. It stars Kaitlyn Dever, Toni Collette, and Merritt Weaver giving excellent performances.

I also really enjoyed Ken Burns’ documentary Country Music. It was well worth the 16 and half hours of my time. I even wanted more because he didn’t go far enough in time for my liking. Maybe he’ll add more onto it down the line at some point.

I also would be remiss to not include Grey’s Anatomy because it’s still one of my favorite shows to watch every week. Last season and this season have felt like somewhat of a resurgence for the show even though I’m super annoyed with all the tie-ins to Station 19 to try and force people to start watching that. Seems like it’s only going to get worse when that show actually returns after the new year, which is just going to make me madder. All they’ve done is make me never, ever want to watch that show just out of principle.

TV Episode

The best tv episode I watched this year is also the hardest episode of anything I think I’ve ever watched. It was the fifth and final episode of the limited series When They See Us about the Exonerated Five who were wrongly convicted of brutally attacking and raping a woman in Central Park when they were teenagers. The final episode focuses on the experiences of Korey Wise, who was the oldest of the boys and the only one sent to an adult prison. It’s a brutal watch even beyond the rest of this series, which is extremely difficult but important.

In an entirely different vein, I love episodes of character based tv shows that just feel like a joyous pay-off for the characters where you get to mostly just watch them enjoy themselves. It obviously wouldn’t make for compelling television if every episode were like this, but I love when a show has developed its characters enough that they get a well deserved episode to just have fun and have good things happen to them. Season 2, Episode 9 of Pose, “Life’s a Beach”, felt like that. There were many excellent episodes in season 2 of this show which only got better this season in no small part because they dropped the stupid white characters from season one that were obviously there to sell the show to the network. Anyway, in this episode the ladies get to mostly take a break from their struggles and head away to a weekend at the beach. Their road trip is wonderful and watching them singing together in the car on the drive to the beach brought me great joy.

Album

If you don’t know what’s coming in this category then you obviously have not been paying attention to anything happening here in the past year. There were two albums that dominated my 2019. Way back on January 18 when it was released I predicted that Maggie Rogers’ Heard It in a Past Life would very likely be my album of the year, and I was not wrong. Every amazing album that came after it in 2019 did not manage to unseat it from my heart. It is by far the album I have listened to the most in 2019 (my highly skewed Spotify stats notwithstanding). I adore every song on it, and it’s one I’m sure I’m going to continue to go back to in 2020.

The album that Spotify thinks is my most played album of 2019 is the other album that deserves a spot here and that’s the debut (and maybe only) album by The Highwomen the country super group composed of Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby. Spotify thinks that because I did for sure listen to this album a lot, but unlike other albums pretty much only on Spotify because I bought the album as a physical CD along with a hoodie and bumper sticker. The CD is still sitting under my coffee table wrapped in cellophane. It’s too much of a pain to drag out the external optical drive to upload the songs from the CD onto my computer (#firstworldproblems).

The Highwomen’s album is full of amazing songs by these women that seek to uplift other women. As they have said many times it’s more than an album or a group it’s a movement. I adore everything that it stands for. I love these women together and separately. Even though the idea for the group came from Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile has sort of been the front woman for the project. I’ve heard them call her their quarterback. This is only a small part of what she’s doing to lift up other women in music and there’s a reason I will follow her to the ends of the earth (I already have tickets to see her three times in 2020 in places nowhere near where I live.)

Recently she was awarded the Trailblazer Award for Women in Music by Billboard. It so happens that Maggie Rogers was the one to present the award to her and Maggie’s speech pretty much exemplifies why I love both of these women so much.

Song

2019 was a fantastic year for music. My 2019 playlist of songs I loved during the year is longer than any playlist I’ve created by over half. I’ll share that in a future post, but for now I’m going to focus on a single song here even though I could include a hundred. It’s the title song from The Highwomen called “Highwomen”. It’s a rewrite of the song from The Highwaymen, the 80s and 90s male country super group which they created a female alternative to. It re-imagines the lyrics with each verse telling the story of a woman who was persecuted. It’s an incredibly powerful song. I first heard it before it was even released when they performed it at the Newport Folk Festival. It gave me chills and made me know for sure that this album was going to be something that I loved to my very core.

Actually I lied. I have two songs because I was just reviewing the list I keep throughout the year for this blog post and realized that I had Gary Clark Jr.’s song “This Land” listed under this category as a possibility and I think it deserves a mention. It is one of the most powerful songs I can remember hearing and the video just drives it home. When I watched his Austin City Limits episode I was wondering if they were going to bleep the n-word in this song, which they did. But then I saw a promo for the episode that included a snippet of this song that didn’t bleep it. Go figure.

Concert

I usually don’t allow myself to choose a set from The Newport Folk Festival to go in this spot because I’m pretty sure I would never write about anything that didn’t happen at Newport ever again. Perhaps I should just create a new category for the best thing I saw at Newport, but I’m not going to do it this year. I am however going to write about two sets that happened at Newport though because one would have been the highlight of my year if it weren’t for the second and the second is the literally the most amazing musical experience I have ever had in my life so there was no way I couldn’t include it here.

The first set I’m referring to was The Highwomen’s debut and as of this writing still the only actual full concert set they’ve done. I thought that they would at least do a couple dates in conjunction with the release of their album and was willing to travel anywhere to see them again, but they never did and at this point I don’t know if they ever will. I’ve seen up to three of the four of them join each other for a few songs at each other’s shows, but no other full on performances. I’ll be seeing Brandi Carlile at the Ryman in January and Natalie Hemby is opening for her. Since Amanda Shires and Maren Morris both live in Nashville and it doesn’t look like either one of them will be touring then I’m hoping maybe we can get a little reunion during that show if Maren isn’t in labor since she’ll be hugely pregnant by then. Anyway, I feel so blessed to have seen them perform. The album wasn’t out yet at that point and listening to them play it through I knew it was going to be one of my favorite albums of the year. Since I already embedded my favorite song in this post here’s a song I love, but the best part of this video is the intro.

The other set was obviously the Saturday night all-female headlining set curated by Brandi Carlile with surprise guest Dolly Parton. It still really don’t have any words for it. It was truly magical to see so many awesome women up on stage together collaborating. It would take me to long to even name them all. One of the stories I read about it after the fact said something to the effect of can someone please go check on Jade Bird and make sure she’s all right. She was smiling so big up on the stage I’m worried she hurt herself. It’s true. I went back and looked at her in some of the video and I don’t think she could have been smiling any harder. That’s how I feel about it. I still smile every time I think about it. Newport always surprises me, but I don’t know how anything can ever possibly top this experience in my book.

Broadway Theatre Production

For some reason I apparently was very into pop culture reflecting stories about 1980s Northern Ireland and the Irish troubles in 2019. I don’t know why. It’s not something I sought out. It just happened. This is all a lead in to say that my favorite thing I saw on Broadway this year was the play The Ferryman. It’s for certain the longest show I’ve ever seen as a three act play clocking in at 3 hours and 15 minutes including a 15 minute intermission and a 2 minute “pause”. It has a sprawling cast of people from seniors to a real baby about which I jokingly wondered how many babies do they have backstage to make sure they have one that isn’t crying during the show? It pretty much had all your emotions covered bringing you through experiences of great joy and others of sadness. It was also super intense at times particularly the ending, which I did not really see coming. I left that play thinking I have no idea how those actors do that 8 times per week. It’s closed on Broadway now, but if you ever get a chance to see a production I highly recommend it.

Baltimore Theatre Production

I adored Come From Away when I saw it on Broadway and saw it again in 2019 as part of our 2018/2019 season tickets at the Hippodrome. It was just as effecting as when I saw it the first time. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorite musicals ever. It’s still running on Broadway and if you’re ever in New York looking for a show to see I can’t recommend it highly enough. Don’t let the fact that it’s about 9/11 make you think you’ll leave horribly depressed because you won’t. Of course there are sad and difficult parts, but it will also leave you filled with a hope for humanity that seems in very short supply these days. The current cast did a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR this year on the anniversary of 9/11, which will give you a great taste of the show.

Podcast

I still love Make Me Smart, which I’ve mentioned in this category the past two years, but this year I’m branching out and talking about two limited series podcasts. At a total of 19 episodes between the two of them you can listen to them both in less than a day’s time. I seriously did listen to Bhi Bhiman’s Peace of Mind in a single day save for the final episode, which hadn’t dropped yet when I discovered the podcast. It’s billed as the first album released as a podcast. Bhi Bhiman wrote a bunch of songs related to social and political issues and then recorded podcast episodes exploring further the topics he wrote about in his songs. It’s really fascinating and is something I for sure have never seen done before.

The other podcast I have to recommend to you is Dolly Parton’s America, which I feel like everyone has been listening to. I’ve seen so much written about it, posted on social media, talked about on other podcasts, etc. I even overheard the people at the table next to me at brunch the other week talking about it. Jad Abumrad uses interviews he had with Dolly over the course of several years as a spring board to talk not only about her and her career but how they relate to the larger country and the issues we face as a whole. It’s really great.

Podcast Episode

Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed and very much recommend all the episodes of the podcasts I just talked about, but I thought I would branch out a little for my favorite episode and talk about the two episodes (part 1, part 2) of the Out of the Blocks podcast titled “Out of the Docks”. I’m not going to lie. There’s a good chance I picked these episodes just because I love the punny episode title so much. In these episodes rather than visiting a single city block in Baltimore like they normally do they talk to people who live and work on boats in some of Baltimore’s harbors. It was a fascinating look at the difficulties of living on a boat and the reasons why people choose to do it.

The Best Streaming Show You’re Not Watching: Atypical

We just finished watching the third and most likely final season of Netflix’s show Atypical. I love this show so much. My husband insisted we only watch one episode a night so I could have a little treat every day instead of binging my way through it and running out of episodes in like two days. The show is a great character based dramedy focused on the Gardner family.

Keir Gilchrist plays their teenage son Sam who has autism. Although the show is a lot about how his autism affects the family all of the characters are fully formed and have their own personalities and lives in their own rights. The show is equally about his younger sister Casey who is a high school track star, who loves her brother but doesn’t coddle him. They have a fantastic brother-sister relationship that I love. She also has one of the best depictions of a high school kid questioning their sexuality that I’ve ever seen.

The parents played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rappaport also have their own drama. Elsa, the mother who has poured everything into raising a special needs child, is now facing no longer being needed as much as she once was as her kids are growing up. Their marriage becomes strained and much of the series focuses on them trying to come back from that.

The show never shies away from the difficulties Sam faces or the headaches he can cause for those around him, but it also shows his growth and the great things he also brings to other people. The relationships he has with his girlfriend Paige and his best friend Zahid are wonderful.

My only real quibble with the show, which isn’t a huge one is that for whatever reason they kept Sam’s therapist around after season 1 when things that happened during that season really meant she should have been gone. She shows up fairly sparingly during the third season, but every time she came back I wondered why. The creators must have really liked that actress.

All the relationships on this show feel so real, and that’s why I love it so much. It’s funny and heartfelt. It’s really just such a good show the likes of which are few and far between these days. I’m sadly betting that Netflix won’t be renewing it for another season. They seem to cancel a lot of things after 3 or 4 seasons these days and since I don’t know a single other person who watches this show I feel like it probably doesn’t bring them huge ratings and obviously isn’t bringing them much word of mouth. They did leave all the characters in a good place with the writers obviously sharing my presumption that this will be the end. There’s still plenty of story left to tell if Netflix doesn’t break my heart and actually renews it. Here’s hoping. Seriously go watch it right now and give them a reason to bring it back for a fourth season.

Fall TV Diary: Returning Shows

Last week I wrote about the new shows I tried out this season. Now I thought I would give my thoughts on the returning shows I’m watching. Warning if you’re not caught up on these shows there are most likely spoilers included in some of them.

Grey’s Anatomy

I do still love Grey’s Anatomy, but good lord they are doing their best to make me hate Meredith this season. She completely deserves to be going to jail, but also I am uninterested in watching her be there. I wish they would just finish off this stupid plot. We all know she’s somehow going to manage to keep her medical license and get a job back somewhere because the Ellen Pompeo is contracted for at least one more season after this.

I also do not understand why everyone is pregnant. Amelia was just involved in a pregnancy storyline last season with Teddy and Owen, so at first I thought the actress was pregnant and they decided to write it in. That apparently is not the case and now that they’ve made Bailey pregnant I’m even more puzzled.

And finally I never watched Station 19 previously and if I ever have thoughts that I might want to they have now guaranteed that I never will with all this forced crossover crap to try and get the Grey’s audience to finally watch. At least they’ve decided to make most of the crossover stuff focused on Jackson because he is a character I have never cared for, so I can mostly just tune all that nonsense out.

Sorry For Your Loss

Sorry for Your Loss is a Facebook Watch show, which is now a little over halfway through its second season. New episodes drop every Tuesday. I adore this show. It stars Elizabeth Olsen as a woman whose husband died unexpectedly possibly by suicide although the circumstances mean it could have been accidental or intentional. Kelly Marie Tran plays her younger sister who is a recovering alcoholic. They’re both trying to navigate through their new lives amid the dysfunctional relationships they have with each other and their mother. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a show where the characters felt so realized and I cared so much about what happens to them. I don’t know anyone else who is watching this show, but you really should. Sadly, I’m guessing this will be the final season since Elizabeth Olsen is going to be starring in some MCU show surrounding her character the Scarlet Witch.

Legacies

Legacies is spin-off of both The Vampire Diaries and its original spin-off The Originals. I bailed on The Originals pretty quickly, but I’m enjoying Legacies so far. I like how they’ve kind of reset all the pieces in a different way so far for the second season. It’s making for a lot of teen angst and we’ve already discussed how much I like teen angst. Plus Alexis Denisof has joined this season as the new headmaster, so it’s giving me some Buffy/Angel vibes too.

A Million Little Things

I’m still enjoying this highly unrealistic show. It definitely doesn’t come close to being a great character driven show like Friday Night Lights or Parenthood or even the aforementioned Sorry for Your Loss. However I do appreciate that they seem to have pivoted at least a little bit away from the stupid mystery aspect of the show they had going in season 1 that wound up being a big old nothingburger anyway. There’s still some unanswered questions left from that and some smaller secrets being created this season, but they seem more character based than some dumb mystery that’s supposed to keep us guessing. I just want to watch the characters and their relationships. That’s a lot of the reason I quit This Is Us. I didn’t care about any of the mystery stuff and I only really cared about one quarter of the characters.

The Good Place

We’re heading into the home stretch with The Good Place. It’s still an enjoyable comedy although I’ve never grown attached to the characters on this show as I did in the same way I did with say something like Friends or Mike Schur’s previous show Parks & Rec. It’s still a clever show and given the balancing act of keeping it’s high concept running I’m okay with it ending after this season.

Mom/Superstore/black-ish

I don’t have that much to say about these sit-coms either individually or collectively other than they are all still solid sitcoms that I enjoy watching every week.

The Deuce

David Simon has never done anything nearly as good as he created with The Wire and most likely never will, but I still appreciate his shows at least to some degree. The Deuce, which airs its final episode tonight was only hit and miss for me. I never cared nor do I even really know what was going on with the cop/politician part of the show. I couldn’t give a crap about the James Franco twins as I do not care about James Franco. I honestly don’t even really know all the mob reasons that one of them got killed. Realistically by the end the only story lines I was paying that close of attention to were Candy/Eileen’s and Lori’s. They were well worth watching even if I sort of tuned the rest of the show out especially in this final season.

Black Lightning/Supergirl

Speaking of tuning shows out there’s Black Lightning and Supergirl, which though I’m technically still watching I’m not really watching that much. I’m actually writing this up while watching Black Lightning and am not at all paying attention to it. I basically play on the internet or read a book at this point when my husband puts it on. I only have the vaguest idea of what is happening. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you if you asked. I am only marginally paying closer attention to Supergirl at this point. In my previous tv post about the new shows this season I indicated that I often lose interest in superhero shows after the first season or two. We are definitely at that point with these shows.

All American

This is another show that I’m technically still watching but not paying much attention to. I don’t know why, but I’ve just never grown attached to any of the characters and I don’t really care what happens to any of them. This was the single show that the CW took their good sweet time waiting to renew for a second season, and I really thought they were going to cancel it. I was kind of happy because that way I wouldn’t have to worry about making a decision if I was going to keep watching. I apparently still am, but just barely. If it mysteriously went missing from my DVR I don’t think I’d miss it.

Riverdale

In the tale of other CW shows I was barely watching during their second season we have Riverdale. I did very much enjoy its first season, but I quickly became bored of it in the second season, particularly in the second half of the season. I had already decided I wasn’t going to watch this season, but I had to watch the first episode because it was the Luke Perry tribute episode. I promptly deleted it from DVR after that.

Fall TV Diary: New Shows

Time for my annual rundown of all the new shows I’ve tried this fall. There are a few shows I like okay, but mostly it seems to be a pretty lackluster season overall, especially on network tv.

Unbelievable

Unbelievable is by far the best show I’ve watched so far this fall, but it was only an 8-episode short series on Netflix. I’m all done with it and there won’t (hopefully) be any more. The show is based on a true story. There are two separate storylines through most of the series until they meet at the very end. Kaitlyn Dever plays a teenage girl who is raped by a stranger who breaks into her apartment in the middle of the night. The cops eventually decide she is lying and we see how the rape and the fact that everyone believes she lied about it effect her life. Toni Colette and Merritt Weaver play cops from two different precincts in Colorado discovering that they have a serial rapist on their hands and teaming up to figure out who it is. It’s heartbreaking and difficult to watch at times, but it’s also really enjoyable and a great process-y cop show that leaves you feeling satisfied at the end.

Country Music

Country Music is the latest in Ken Burns’ series of documentaries. Being a country music fan I really enjoyed this deep dive into the history of country music. I would highly recommend it to anyone who even marginally likes country music. I get why he chose to end the series when he did with the death of Johnny Cash, but I also wish there had been one more episode that took us a few years farther into the future when he really could have addressed the switch from the old style of country music to the more pop country and bro country of today. I definitely felt like it was worth the 16 and half hours of my time though.

Nancy Drew

I’m enjoying Nancy Drew so far. I don’t think I’ve ever read any Nancy Drew books, although I did read a book about the women behind the character for one of my book clubs. I gather actual Nancy Drew fans aren’t necessarily so keen on this reinvisioning of the character, but I since I don’t have anything to compare it to I’m completely fine with it. It’s scratching my Veronica Mars itch to some degree, though they aren’t exactly the same thing. It also has some excellent teen angst, which I am still a sucker for even in my middle age. This show seems like it may have more of a supernatural element to it, which I’m not so into. It could just be a red herring though. At this point it seems completely serialized, but I think it might be a stronger show if like Veronica Mars there were the episodic mysteries in addition to the overarching mystery. I like the actresses that play Nancy, Bess, and George. I really don’t like Scott Wolf as Nancy’s father though. We’ll see where the story goes, but so far this is one of the shows I’m liking the most so far this season.

Batwoman

So far I’m also really like Batwoman. I like Ruby Rose as the character. I suspect I’ll enjoy it for at least this season. I apparently have a thing for super hero origin stories or these CW super hero shows just get much less interesting after a season or two because I pretty much burn out on them by season 3 if not earlier. Partly it’s because I feel like with showing their backgrounds and their origin stories you get a lot of good character development in the beginning before all it winds up being is a bunch of convoluted stuff that I don’t care about. Hopefully Batwoman will buck that trend, but if not I’ll enjoy it until I don’t any more.

Stumptown

Stumptown is a fairly middling but pleasant diversion. I like Cobie Smulders. The episodes are kind of fun. It’s not an amazing show, but I can take it for what it is.

Mixed-ish

Mixed-ish is the second spin-off from the show black-ish. Grown-ish, which follows the eldest daughter Zoe in college, is the first spin-off and my favorite of the three shows. Mixed-ish is fine. It follows Rainbow’s childhood in the 80s. Mark Paul Gosselar stars as her father and Gary Cole as her grandfather. Like both black-ish and Grown-ish, Mixed-ish focuses on teaching people about other people’s culture and experiences in a humours manner. As I said it’s my least favorite of the three so far, but I like it well enough to keep watching.

Emergence

Emergence is one of those convoluted mystery shows that were a dime a dozen in the wake of Lost. It’s actually pretty good so far though. I actually care about the characters and the mystery so far. Again it’s early so it could go off the rails or not know how to sustain itself, but for now I enjoy watching it.

Perfect Harmony

This sit-com stars Bradley Whitford as a retired music professor from Princeton who winds up in a small town directing a not-so-great church choir led by Anna Camp. It’s not a particularly great show so far, but it’s goofy over-the-top small town ridiculousness reminds me just enough of Hart of Dixie, even though that was an entirely different type of show, that I’m still watching. I don’t expect this show to make it past one season if it even makes it that long, but it’s still on my watch list for now.

Sunnyside

NBC has saved me the trouble of telling you not to watch this show by canceling it already. I watched one episode and that was more than enough. It was not good at all.

Evil

CBS on the other the other hand has given the first full season order of the year to the only other show that I tried that I immediately gave up on. Obviously other people seem to like this show, but it was very much not for me. I gave up on it half way through the first episode even though we watched all of it.

The One with My Favorite Friends Episodes

This past Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of Friends premiering on television. Being in high school and college during the heyday of its run made Friends a real part of my life. It’s for sure the show I’ve seen the most of, and I still quote it frequently. I pretty much quote this scene every time I have to use a map.

The first episode of Friends I ever saw was the 5th episode. My family had moved from Massachusetts to Texas that year, and my school district had a weird break in October for the Texas State Fair. I used that break to go back to Massachusetts to visit friends and I remember staying at my friend Kim’s house and watching Friends for the first time. It became part of my regular viewing after that.

I have other distinct memories of watching the show. I remember having a Super Bowl party for Super Bowl XXX because I was living in Dallas and the Cowboys were in the Super Bowl that year. That was also the year that Friends was the show after the Super Bowl, so I remember watching it with a crowd of people.

In college various friends and I had over the years had viewing parties in our dorm rooms/houses. I apparently also have a memory of not watching Friends. I distinctly remember not seeing the end of the episode where Ross says Rachel’s name at his wedding to Emily because the power went off on campus for some reason. This was back in the day before you could see shows that you missed easily. Heck this was before normal people even had DVD players so you couldn’t even buy series on DVDs yet. The only way you were going to see an episode you missed was when it showed up in a rerun. Sadly I missed that one too because I was ironically in London where that episode takes place studying abroad by the time the rerun aired before the start of the new tv season. I was super jealous of one of my friends who flew over on Virgin Atlantic because she got to see the episode on the plane. They had it on their in-flight entertainment because Richard Branson guest stars in the episode. I have no idea how many years it was before I actually saw that episode in full.

In honor of the show that played such a big part of my formative years, here are my five favorite episodes. I’m not going out on any big limbs here. I looked at a couple of different lists of the 25 best Friends episodes and pretty much these were either their top 5 or definitely in their top 10. There’s a reason they’re my favorite, and obviously others’ too. The show obviously went on for 10 years and did have some good moments in the later seasons, but the real gems lie in seasons 2-5.

I’ve provided video clips of the moments in the episode that are what I think of when I think about it.

5. The One Where Everybody Finds Out (Season 5, Episode 14)

4. The One Where Ross Finds Out (Season 2, Episode 7)

3. The One with the Prom Video (Season 2, Episode 14)

2. The One with the Embryos (Season 4, Episode 12)

  1. The One Where No One’s Ready (Season 3, Episode 2)

 

 

Veronica Mars Season Four

I was super excited when they announced that Hulu was going to air a new season of Veronica Mars. I also very much appreciate them deciding to drop the new season a week earlier than originally announced because I’m going to be at the Newport Folk Festival then and wasn’t going to be able to watch immediately. Since they released it early I was able to spend my weekend watching all eight episodes. My spoiler-filled thoughts are ahead.

In this age of remakes and reboots there are very few shows that I actually want more episodes of. Gilmore Girls was one because I always wanted to know what Amy Sherman-Palladino’s final 4 words for ending the show were that she never got to write since she left the show before its final season. After the Netflix reboot of that show I’m not sure I needed more episodes as much as I just needed her to tell me what those four words were. The only way to make those four episodes make sense is to pretend that it was season 7 and no time had passed and Rory was still 21 instead of 30.

Veronica Mars was the other show I always wanted more episodes of because it ended on such a cliffhanger. I definitely contributed to the Kickstarter for the movie and went to see it in the theater on opening night. I know a lot of people complained that it was too fan servicey. I admit the story and mystery were a little weak, but I’m a fan and I felt serviced and it made me happy. I never thought I was going to get more Veronica Mars after that, so I was happy they tried to tie things up in a nice little bow.

Even though I was happy with where the movie ended, I will never turn down more Veronica Mars. Or at least it hasn’t gotten terrible enough for me to want to quit yet like I have other shows. Maybe if it comes back enough times it will lose it’s mojo, but it definitely hasn’t yet. I even enjoyed the two books they put out after the movie. I would dare say that this season is my second favorite after the first season.

It does what so few reboots seem to do in that it doesn’t try to act like no time has passed. The characters seem to actually have moved on in ways that make sense for the time that has passed and act like their age instead of stunted and stuck at whatever age they last were when the show aired. I also appreciate that they didn’t try to shoehorn all the old characters into the show in ways that don’t make sense. They let Wallace and Dick be side characters that only show up briefly in ways that make sense. Although I’m sad that Tino Majorino decided not to reprise her role as Mac because Rob Thomas told her she wouldn’t have a major storyline, it completely makes more sense that Mac wouldn’t still be hanging around Neptune. So for the character’s sake and the show’s sake it’s better that she wasn’t there.

My favorite part of the show has always been the relationship between Veronica and Keith. Although it’s always been a totally unrealistic father/daughter relationship, it has always been super delightful. I love their repartee and the love they very obviously feel for each other even though they don’t always support what the other one is doing. It is back in full form in this season and is still the heart of the show.

The mystery in this season was engaging and didn’t feel forced like the mysteries in seasons 2 and 3. I liked that they created a teenage Veronica-eseque character in Matty that gave the show a little bit of a throwback, but also allowed Veronica to see herself and how stuck she had become.

And of course we have to talk about the Logan of it all. I was always, always team Logan no matter who the triangle was with Duncan, Leo, or Piz. Of course I do want to give a shoutout to an excellent return of Leo in this season as well. He was delightful and written in a way that I almost wanted to Veronica to cheat on Logan with him. But of course I didn’t really want her to cheat on Logan because I wanted them to be together. I really liked the storyline they had in this season. Their relationship felt true to the characters and how they’ve developed over time. It makes sense that Veronica would be so reluctant to marry Logan, and of course because the show is what it is and living in the film noir genre it also feels very right that they wouldn’t actually get their happily ever after even after they get married. As much as I hate that they killed off Logan, it also felt completely right for the show to me. I wasn’t mad at it at all even though you’d think I would be. Veronica Mars was never a show that was going to let the characters be completely happy, and if they ever do get to do more seasons of the show then there wasn’t really anywhere else for Veronica and Logan to go. So farewell Logan. I was always rooting for you kids. I’m happy you finally ended up together even though it only lasted for a few minutes.

I will also say one of the things I appreciated about this season is that they still made it mostly the same show despite it being on streaming. They had a clever way of making a nod to the fact that they could now curse because it’s no longer on network tv without actually doing it. I also like that they didn’t go too overboard with the episode lengths. They were all a few minutes longer than network length episodes, but none of them were over 50 minutes. As someone who is tired of shows streaming or even cable these days that drag on for 80 or 90 minutes for no good reason most of the time just because they can I appreciate that they kept to a reasonable length.

I loved this season and it definitely left me wanting more while also leaving me satisfied with where it left off if it doesn’t return.