Grey’s Anatomy

Back in August my husband was away for several weeks in a row for various reasons, so I had a lot of time on my own to watch television. We typically watch most of our tv shows together unless there is something that only one of us wants to watch. At the time I wasn’t currently binge watching any old shows so I was looking for something to binge watch that I knew he wouldn’t care about. I finally decided on Grey’s Anatomy, which I had never watched before.

I didn’t have anything particularly against Grey’s Anatomy. I’m all for soapy drama. However, back in the day when Grey’s started I was in graduate school and working full time, so there wasn’t a whole lot of room in my life for a lot of television watching. Also back in ye olden times the only way we had to watch something if we weren’t home to watch it live was to record it on a VCR (kids ask your parents). I had a few long running shows I would do that for to keep up, but I certainly wasn’t trying to add any new tv to my life at that point. Then by the time I might have realistically started watching the show it was already so many seasons in. Then the number just kept growing exponentially larger and it seemed like a Herculean task to even think about watching the show. But apparently with 14 seasons streaming I decided now was the time to finally dig in. Now please enjoy my stream of consciousness ramblings on my thoughts about the show.

It’s kind of funny watching a show which for such a long time was so very much talked about. I knew so many characters and plot points before even ever watching an episode of the show. Of course some of those things played out slightly differently than I imagined them based on what I knew. I also didn’t know about how the timing of some things happened particularly in relation to characters leaving based on knowing the actors had left the show. For instance I thought Sandra Oh had left the show well before season 10. I thought when Cristina went to work at the Mayo Clinic that was her exit, but she was on the show for 2 more seasons. I also thought it was another year or two before Patrick Dempsey left the show.

It’s also weird the characters I knew about versus those I didn’t. Literally in the first season I thought Alex must not be on the show for that long because I don’t ever remember hearing about him. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that since he’s one of the few original cast members still around. I guess because he for the longest time at least during the hey day of the show never had any good romantic pairings. Plus he was a big jerk in the first 5 seasons so I don’t think anyone was rooting for him to get together with Izzie when they did, which would probably have been the one pairing I might have heard about. I do really like his character development though. I really like when long running shows allow their characters to grow. I loved him as a peds surgeon and his relationship with Arizona as his mentor. I also really love Alex and Jo together (although do not get me started on the stupid season 13 story line where he beats up DeLuca). She is the first good romantic partner they have ever given him in all the seasons of this show. I’ve never liked Elizabeth Reaser as an actress so making her some crazy patient Alex falls in love with was a particularly unpleasant plot.

With the show having been on so long it’s also kind of funny how even though I watched it in a four month time span the characters that left in the first half of the show seem so distant to me. I barely remember they were there compared to characters who joined later but stuck around longer. Even though they were there for five seasons it seems like Izzie and George were barely even on the show at this point. Also by the way I’m still kind of mad that they never really became a thing. I liked them as a couple and was annoyed when they finally got together only to be like oh maybe we’re not actually attracted to each other. That was dumb. I always thought maybe they would come back around because I thought George, not Denny and all that stupidness both before and after he died and definitely not Alex, was her OTP.

The early season relationships were definitely much better than most of anything that has happened in the last 5 seasons. Those early seasons had such intensity and emotion with the couples you were rooting to get together that the show hasn’t had in a long time. I’m guessing partly because as time goes on the characters are already paired up, so it’s harder to do that without making it feel forced which it very much does now. It’s like they have to automatically put together the few single characters left even if there’s no chemistry. See the current season where Meredith apparently has to be either with DeLuca or Linc. Before I caught up to this season I kept seeing things about Meredith and DeLuca before I even knew who DeLuca was. Then when he joined the cast I was like what? He’s a baby. That’s who they’re going to pair Meredith up with? Then we got to this season and I was still like I do not see this at all, but then they started offering Linc as an alternative and they sort of forced me to get on the DeLuca train because if I have to choose between the two of them there’s no contest. At least Linc finally cut his ugly surfer bro hair. They also seem to rush characters into relationships now instead of letting there be a nice slow burn that builds up over time.

When I started watching I wasn’t sure I would make it through all 14 seasons that were available at the time. I knew there were plenty of points where people jumped ship on the show. I know the whole Denny/Izzie ghost sex story line was something that did a lot of people in back in the day. It’s funny to me now because yeah season 5 for most shows would be a point where they were running out of ideas and the show would be nearing the end of it’s run, but in this case it was only 1/3 of the way to where we are now. Even though there’s not that heady excitement of the first half of the seasons, I still mostly enjoy the show. I think binge watching it certainly helped because the story lines that I hated I could get through in a day or two of watching even though it sometimes felt like a slog as opposed to it dragging on for half a year. There was a whole stretch in the middle seasons where I came to dread the season finale because there would always be some giant disaster befalling the people of the hospital that would then result in people having various forms of PTSD that we had to watch them deal with for half a season, which just felt so tiresome. Had I been watching some of those seasons in real time I’m not sure I would have kept with the show. I certainly would have dropped it in season 13 when the aforementioned Alex beating up DeLuca story dragged on for the entire season not to mention that they were obviously trying to save money by doing all these special episodes that only starred one or two cast members doing something outside the hospital. That season was probably the lowest of the low for me.

Now that I’m caught up to season 15 in real time I’m definitely not loving the show the way I did in the first half of its run, nor am I even loving it as much as I did 3 or 4 seasons ago, but at this point it sounds like season 16 will probably be it’s last if Ellen Pompeo sticks to her guns about leaving after her contract is up, so I feel like I should just finish it out. Watching in real time is going to be a whole different experience though, and I think it may be harder to hang on since there aren’t many characters left that I like that much.

Callie and Arizona have always been my favorite characters. I always loved their relationship, and probably my favorite part of the whole series was their little trio as parents with Mark before he died even though I never had much use for him before that. I was super bummed when they broke up. Penny was a super drip of a character and I never bought that she would be the grand love of Callie’s life. I was even sadder when Arizona left at the end of last season even though they intimated that she was going to go to New York and get back together with Callie. The way they wrote that was just kind of dumb because a. Penny’s fellowship was only supposed to be a year, so why couldn’t she and Callie just tough it out or why didn’t they come back when the year was up? Also if Callie and Penny broke up as was suggested when Arizona was leaving why would Callie stay in New York instead of coming back to Seattle to be near Sofia? I know it’s all predicated on the actresses leaving the show and then wanting to belatedly give the viewer some closure on their relationship, but it just bugs me that my favorite characters never got to have a proper happily ever after. I am super missing having at least one of them around this season now that both Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw have left the show.

All along the way there have been new characters I have liked and others that haven’t done much for me. I laugh at myself because after 9 seasons later I still say Mercy Westers are the worst like the characters did in the season where Seattle Grace and Mercy West merged. They got rid of a lot of those characters fairly quickly which was fine by me, but I never really cared that much for Jackson or April. Jackson has just always been boring in my opinion, and the actor’s accent makes it sound like he’s mumbling all the time. April I always found to be annoying. I can’t say I’m missing having her around this season. Jo was the only one I ever really cared about from her class of interns. I’ve like a few other people who have come in along the way like Teddy. I’m glad she’s back this season even though I kind of like where Amelia and Owen are in their relationship. That’s really the only story I care about so far this season. In general Amelia kind of annoys me though as does Maggie because neither of them ever shuts up. They just ramble on all of the time. It was part of my problem with April too. Just shut up for a minute. It’s like the writers decided all the female characters should have verbal diarrhea because obviously that’s how women are. The new interns aren’t doing much for me this season either. I know they’re supposed to be green and not really know what they’re doing, but apparently the writers think the only way to make them interesting is to make them grossly incompetent at everything.

Anyway, as I’m finally nearing the end of this ridiculously long post I feel like I probably need to talk about Meredith and Derek since their relationship was so much the heart of show for so long. Meredith and Cristina too I suppose. Certainly their will they or won’t they was such a driver of what made this show tick in the beginning. It was a really well done love triangle with Addison and all of Meredith’s relationship issues. By the time Patrick Dempsey left the show I wasn’t so much sorry to see him go though. Derek had become kind of a jerk by that point in the show, and I don’t really miss him. However, I can’t really picture Meredith with anyone else at this point. Derek was her one great love, and with the time the show probably has left there is no way they can develop a relationship for her that will ever rival what she had with Derek and I wish they wouldn’t even try. Just let her be happy with her kids and her work.

I don’t know if anyone reading this actually made it this far, but I’m super glad I finally watched Grey’s Anatomy because I really did love it. I have spent the last four months of my life obsessively watching it and now that I’m all caught up I’m not really sure what to do. It’s still on so it’s not quite the same feeling of loss that I normally get when I finish with a long running show, but there’s definitely a little hole in my heart for all the characters I loved that have already come and gone.

Fall 2018 TV Diary

This new fall television season has been pretty lackluster. There wasn’t much I was even interested in watching and a lot of what I tried I quit pretty quickly. But here’s what I’ve been watching or in many cases no longer watching listed in order from best to worst. I’m even sort of cheating with my favorites because they are returning shows although different enough that I’m including them in the list.

Doctor Who

Obviously Doctor Who is not a new show, but we’ve entered a new era with new writers and the first woman Doctor. I was very excited going into this season that we were finally getting a woman Doctor and so far Jodie Whittaker has completely lived up to all my hopes and expectations. She is a fantastic Doctor, and I’m really loving the storylines so far. I like the companions. Prior to this Matt Smith was my favorite Doctor and I think there’s a lot of common DNA there. He had both Amy and Rory rather than a single companion and he had a sense of whimsy that she has too. I’m happy to go on many more adventures with this new crew.

Deutschland 86

This is technically the second season of the German show Deutschland 83, which was one of my favorite shows of 2015. At the time I wasn’t sure we were ever going to get another season, but 3 years later we’re picking back up with the characters who have also had 3 years of their lives pass. The show is about East German spies during the 80s. Obviously this season is set in 1986. If you miss The Americans it will help fill the 80s spy hole in your heart. As a German spy show it would probably appeal to people who liked Babylon Berlin as well. It does require reading subtitles since it’s German like Babylon Berlin. I have seen they are already filming Deutschland 89 which will pick up in 1989. Hopefully we don’t have to wait until 2021 for it. Anyway go watch Deutschland 83 on Hulu and then pick up with this season on the Sundance channel.

I Feel Bad

I’m really enjoying this NBC sitcom about a working mother feeling like she’s failing both her family and her job. I think the family parts of the show are stronger than the office parts. Hopefully they’ll figure that out along the way or maybe do what they did on Mom and mostly drop the workplace piece. At any rate it’s probably my favorite real new show of the season.

A Million Little Things

One of the things that I feel like has been lost in the age of peak tv is all the good family/friend dramas. I had been hoping that This is Us would fill that hole for me, but I never liked it and decided to not keep watching it this season. A Million Little Things is currently what I’m working with to fulfill that need and so far I do like it more than This Is Us. Don’t get me wrong though. This show is complete garbage. It’s completely unrealistic to the nth degree. It’s about a group of friends who are insanely codependent on each other. One of them commits suicide at the beginning of the show, so now there’s all these little clues about why. Their relationships and they way they all act has no basis in human reality, but it just got picked up for a full season and I’m going to keep watching.

Legacies

Legacies is a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. I quit The Originals after the first season, but I watched The Vampire Diaries all the way through the bitter end. It was definitely long in the tooth by the time it was over, but I stand by my assessment of the amazingness of the first 3 or so seasons of that show. I wasn’t sure I was going to bother watching this show since I didn’t follow through on The Originals and my feelings on The Vampire Diaries weren’t the best by the end, but I decided to give it a chance at the last second. It follows some of the kids of the characters of the other two shows who are now teenagers and attending the Salvatore School for the Supernatural which was set up by some The Vampire Diaries characters. It’s only had one episode so far, but it I liked it well enough that I will at least give it another episode or two.

All-American

This teenage football drama is no Friday Night Lights. It probably shares more DNA with Beverly Hills 90210 as it revolves around a kid who moves from Crenshaw to Beverly Hills to play football so he has that same fish out water thing Brandon and Brenda did in the first seasons of 90210. Again I’m not sure I love this show, but I’ll keep watching it for now.

Maniac

We’re not quite half way through this Netflix show and we’ve kind of hit a standstill. Since it’s a Netflix show, which means we could have binged our way through it long ago, it’s obvious we aren’t super into it. Perhaps we’ll get back it eventually, maybe we won’t.

Manifest

This is yet one more Lost knockoff with a less interesting mystery and less interesting characters. I watched about 3 episodes of this show and only that many because my husband kept putting them on.

Kidding

I don’t love Jim Carrey, so I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try this show out, but I decided to give it at least one episode. I could not take Carrey or the zaniness of the side characters. I quit this show after one episode.

REL

For some reason I saw REL on a bunch of lists of what shows you should watch this fall. I have no idea why. It was not funny. It was super over the top old school dumb sitcom and I couldn’t deal with the laugh track that was so loud I could barely even hear the dialogue. I also stopped this show after one episode.

 

Cobra Kai

The other week on Facebook I said something to the effect that I hate how Hollywood is just continuously eating its own tail at this point and doing what seems like nothing but  prequels, sequels and reboots. Obviously they keep doing it because the market is there, so I hate myself a little every time I contribute to their reasoning. Despite saying that there was no way I was not going to watch Cobra Kai, the sequel to the Karate Kid movies created by YouTube Red.

I feel like most people I know talk about what movies they watch over and over again Shawshank Redemption is always on the list. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that movie exactly once. The movies I’ve seen a billion times are not nearly as high brow. My most watched movies list consists of Overboard, When Harry Met Sally, Can’t Buy Me Love, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and of course The Karate Kid. So YouTube Red wins. They hit right on my nostalgia button to make me finally set up an account with them. At least I got to watch it all via a free trial.

The series picks up in the present day following the characters of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso and where they are now 35 years later. In some respects they have switched places from where they were in the movie. Daniel is now the well-to-do one who owns luxury car dealerships and is married with two kids. Johnny is down on his luck going from one menial job to the next, divorced, and a dead beat dad. Despite their different circumstances both of them are still stuck in the past in various ways.

Johnny decides to open up a Cobra Kai karate dojo, but instead of the cool kids that were part of Cobra Kai when he was a teenager his students are now the losers of the school. Meanwhile Daniel unbeknownst to him begins mentoring and teaching karate to Johnny’s estranged son. Neither one of them has let go of what they think the other one did to the other back in high school and are using their respective proteges to fight their own drama.

I did not have high hopes for Cobra Kai actually being any good, but it surprised me a little. Granted it’s still relying at least 60% if not more off of your nostalgia for the original movie. I’ll be interested to see how I feel about it during its second season when they don’t have all the callbacks to rely on because they’ve already used them all.

It’s certainly not high art, but I enjoyed watching it. I will not lie. Most of my favorite moments were tied to callbacks to the original movie. I definitely cheered a little for every one. But the show is not solely relying on those. They’ve actually done a decent job of developing the characters. I especially loved Daniel’s wife who called him out every time he started acting like a high school idiot again. She had my favorite line of the whole first season in the final episode. There is also a lot more nuance in looking at who is actually right and who is wrong as opposed to the very clearcut good vs. evil in the movie.

I will definitely keep watching when it comes back for another season. If you don’t have a strong attachment to the original Karate Kid movie I’m not sure I would bother watching this, but if you loved it like I did I would say it’s worth 6 hours of your time.

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2017

Once again it’s time for my post on what was the most memorable pop culture of the year to me. It’s pop culture I consumed in 2017, not necessarily things that were exclusively released in 2017. And once again I point out that this is the stuff that made the greatest impact on me. It’s not a list of the top anything. Even I acknowledge that there are things on this list that I would not put in a top 10 or even top 20 list. They’re not necessarily the best of anything, just the stuff that I enjoyed the most or which had some special meaning to me.

Movie I Saw in a Theatre

I saw quite a few movies in the theater this year, probably more than I have in a good long while and I enjoyed a great many of them. There were some really great comic book hero movies (Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnorak) that seemed to bring something different to the table and kept me entertained without being so smashy smashy, which bores me to tears. I also saw a lot of great smaller movies as well including I am Not Your Negro, Lady Bird, and Call Me By Your Name. I very much want to give this category to The Big Sick, which I actually saw twice in the theater, which is something I haven’t done in at least a decade, probably two. I miss rom-coms and this movie was so sweet and funny. I hope it’s a harbinger of more movies like it. If it weren’t for a little documentary called STEP, The Big Sick would have taken this one.

STEP made me feel all the feelings. At a time when Baltimore feels like it is literally falling apart this movie, which follows a group of girls on a Step team at a Baltimore high school, showed what is good and bad about this city. There was so much joy and so much pain. Kids struggling to overcome hardships that no kids should have to deal with in order to help create better lives for themselves. It’s heartbreaking, delightful, and triumphant all at the same time. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Movie I Watched at Home

Every year I threaten to get rid of this category because we so rarely watch movies at home. The only movies I can really remember watching are Mudbound, which I didn’t like and Get Out, so Get Out wins. I heard so many people raving about this movie before I saw it that there was no way it was going to be able to live up to my expectations. I did think the premise of it was very clever, but I’m not much of a horror person. I tend to find horror movies silly and boring, and those parts of it felt, well, silly and boring.

Fiction Book

My favorite fiction book of the year was hands down Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied Sing. As usual Ward creates a detailed world in rural Mississippi that draws you in and makes you feel like you are there. The book deals with important themes like race, death, and family but it always feels real (even when delving into the spirit world). It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking book that continues to bolster Ward as one of the great authors of our time.

Non-Fiction Book

Like with my fiction book, there was no contest this year that my non-fiction book choice would be The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. This is the first and only item on the list this year that was not actually released during 2017. However, there could not have been a more perfect book for this  year. I picked it up because it was the first book club selection for the Make Me Smart podcast (see below). Haidt uses moral psychology to discuss people’s views on politics and religion. If anything it made me feel even more hopeless about the current state of our country, but at least it did help shift my perspective to help see where others may be coming from even if I vehemently disagree with them. I guess that’s something. Aside from that I just found it a really fascinating book. As someone with multiple degrees in psychology this book fell perfectly in my sweet spot.

TV Show

Everyone is calling right now the golden age of television where there is so much excellent tv to watch you can’t even keep up. To some degree that’s true if you are into all the prestige television shows. I do enjoy a good number of them, but in some cases I’m getting tired of them. I don’t need all the television I watch to be capital I important. Sometimes I just want to have something that makes me want to invest in characters lives. I want a good family drama or a good teen or even adult drama with some love triangles or a decent will they or won’t they thing. They don’t seem to make those any more. I have tried and tried to like This is Us, but I just don’t even though I’m still watching it because it’s the only thing remotely resembling a family drama on television now. The CW, which used to be the go to for that kind of show has turned into all comic book hero shows all of which I have given up on (Supergirl excepted) as their plots have become convoluted and the character arcs that were driving the stories in their early years have fallen by the wayside. I feel like I’ve even watched my way through every television show that I missed the first time around so there aren’t even any older shows for me to go back to and fill the void at this point.

All that being said the way I choose my favorite show of the year is by thinking of the one I can’t wait to watch when an episode shows up on my DVR or if I’m binging it on a streaming service that all I want to do is stay at home and watch the show. This year the show that came closest to fitting that description was The Bold Type. I will refer you to the full review I wrote about it earlier this year. Happily it did get picked up for another season, though with a new show runner so hopefully it doesn’t change too much. I also want to give an honorable mention to the One Day at a Time reboot on Netflix, which was a sweet, smart, and funny sit-com that brightened my days considerably in the immediate fall out of garbage president taking office. I’m very much looking forward to its second season dropping in January.

TV Episode

Until I looked back at my picks for 2016 in preparation for writing this post I had forgotten that my favorite tv episode from last year was from Halt and Catch Fire, which is appropriate I guess because that show also features my favorite television episode from 2017. As I said last year I am so happy that I gave this show another try or I would have missed out on how wonderful it got. Thank you to every television critic who told me to give it a second chance. My favorite episode this year was Season 4, Episode 8 – “Goodwill”, which I don’t want to say too much about because it does give away a major plot point. It just treats its characters so lovingly and true to who they are. It also uses the Dire Straits’ song “So Far Away” so perfectly that I have a whole new perspective on it. I adore what this show became and I definitely always chose it first to watch when it showed up on my DVR. It’s the loss of another character driven show that I will miss immensely.

Album

No one who has been here long should be at all surprised that my favorite album of the year was Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this album when he first announced it. Southeastern and Something More than Free, which were my favorite albums of 2013 and 2015 were both him solo and had a much more folky sound for the most part. When he brought back his band for the whole album this time I was afraid I might not like the rock sound nearly as much. I needn’t have worried one little bit. He’s still an amazing songwriter whose lyrics drill right down into my soul. With songs like “Hope the High Road”, “White Man’s World”, “The Last of My Kind”, “Cumberland Gap”, and “Anxiety” this album was perfectly written for 2017.

Song

There should also be no surprise that my favorite song of 2017 came from my favorite album of 2017. “If We Were Vampires” is the song that everyone talked about off of this album, and rightly so. It is by far the lyrically and creatively superior song from the album, but “Hope the High Road” was my mantra for 2017. If you only knew how many times I sang the lyrics of this song to myself every time something new and terrible happened over the past year. So basically hourly.

“We’ll ride the ship down
Dumping buckets overboard
There can’t be more of them than us
There can’t be more”

Concert

For Christmas last year my husband gifted me with a trip to Nashville to see Dawes play at the Ryman Auditorium. Because I am who I am I have a concert venue bucket list and the Ryman was second on it right behind Red Rocks. I also got to check The Grand Ole Opry off my list on that trip, but seeing Dawes, a band I adore, play in that amazing venue was the highlight of my concert year. For as many concerts as I see every year I just figured out this year that when a concert is listed as “An Evening with …” it means that there is no opening act. This was An Evening with Dawes at the Ryman Auditorium and they played for a good three hours. It was wonderful and everything I hoped it would be.

I also have to say a word about the final Tom Petty concert I will ever see. Tom Petty has meant so much to me over the course of my life. He’s really the first artist whose passing has really felt like the gut punch to me that see other people have for celebrity deaths. I am so happy I got to see him perform one final time in a sing-a-long love fest that seemed like the perfect ending to a 40 year career.

Broadway Theatre Production

I saw a good number of wonderful things on Broadway this year, but my favorite was definitely Come From Away, which is the best thing I’ve seen since Hamilton. Based on the true story of a small town in Newfoundland that took in 6000 displaced airline passengers after 9/11, it mad me laugh, it made me cry, it made me smile with pure joy.

Baltimore Theatre Production

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to put in this category this year. The Center Stage season was short due to renovations on the theatre, and I wasn’t overly excited about a lot of the things I saw during the parts of the Hippodrome seasons that fell in 2017. It was nothing new and certainly not the best production of Rent I have ever seen by far, especially given that I saw most of the original Broadway cast perform in London, but I’m going with the 20th anniversary tour of Rent because it is still one of my all time favorite shows. Every word is still burned into my brain, and it was fun to revisit it after a good long time away.

Podcast

I have an overabundance of podcasts that I listen to, so I always have a backlog of episodes. Like with television shows I choose my selection for my favorite podcast by thinking about what podcasts I listen to as soon as they drop and which ones I let episodes build up on until I have nothing else to listen to. This year a number of my previous favorite podcasts like Pop Culture Happy Hour, Invisibilia, and Out of the Blocks have made changes in their formats that I am not a fan of and has made me like them less and/or not even listen to everything they drop. However, a new podcast for 2017 topped my list. Make Me Smart with Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood of Marketplace was by far the podcast I looked forward to listening to the most this year. He’s an economy reporter and she’s a tech reporter so they talk a lot about those topics, but that’s not all they cover. The tagline for the show is “none of us is as smart as all of us”, so they always have guests that they interview about various topics as well as always include feedback from listeners in the form of voice memos that are sent in. When the podcast started out they talked about politics a lot, especially in a segment that often started the show called the news fix. As the podcast went on they got away from doing the news fix, which I do miss sometimes. I don’t know if they’ll bring it back at all in the future now that they’re done with the long series they did on moral capitalism, but that was really great too. They also do book club episodes where listeners vote on a book to read and then they devote an episode to discussing it. My favorite non-fiction book for the year came out of that. It’s also fun to listen to people answer what they call the “Make Me Smart question”, which is what is something you once thought you knew, but then found out you were wrong about? They have a really great rapport and they always make me laugh even while I’m learning a lot. I’m super sad that they’re abandoning me until mid-March when season 2 of the podcast starts up.

Podcast Episode

My favorite episode from a podcast I listened to this year is actually a three part series from NPR’s Code Switch and Education Week called Raising Kings: A Year of Love and Struggle at Ron Brown College Prep. Education Week reporters followed students, parents, teachers, counselors, and other staff at Ron Brown College Prepatory school, a newly opened high school specifically aimed at black boys in Washington, D.C. and staffed almost exclusively by African-American men. It’s a wonderful series full of so much to think on in terms of education, race, and inequality and how even people with the best of intentions can disagree about how to address the systemic issues facing these many of the kids attending this school.

What I’ve Been Watching: Summer 2017 Edition

Even though summer is no longer a vast television wasteland, it still is a lot slower than the rest of the year. So it always gives me a chance to check out some new shows and catch up on ones I might have missed the first go around. I did watch a bunch of returning shows which I have written about before and won’t be writing about here because that would be too much. I’ll just leave it at the fact that I watched Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Queen Sugar, Playing House, Younger, Last Chance U, and Insecure and pretty much enjoyed them all. The one nice thing about summer TV is you get some of the stuff that is non-prestige drama, which is a nice break. That statement pretty much applies to all the shows I’ll be talking about as well. I probably watched some other stuff that I’m not remembering right now, but here are the shows that stuck out to me.

The Bold Type

The Bold Type was probably one of my favorite things I watched this summer. I’m a little worried that Freeform hasn’t renewed it for a second season yet because I really want more of this show. The show revolves around three twentysomething women, Jane, Kate, and Sutton, working in various capacities at a fashion magazine called Scarlett. Their boss is played by Melora Hardin. One of my favorite things about the show is that it doesn’t play into all the tropes about this environment that have become so common in tv, movies, and books especially since the Devil Wears Prada. Jacqueline is actually a really nice boss and serves as a great mentor to these young women instead of beating them down and making them terrified of her. Other stories like Sutton dating one of the board members against company policy is written in a way that doesn’t seem cliched like it could have been. It’s not a perfect show. There’s some of the top ridiculousness in it. I’m not going to lie. But overall it was smart, fun and had great relationships between the characters, which is basically all I’m looking for in a tv show. If you didn’t watch it, which I’m guessing most of you didn’t, I think Freeform has it on demand so I highly recommend going to watch it. And hey maybe if enough people do Freeform will decide it’s worth giving another season to. I really hope so.

Atypical

Atypical was probably tied with The Bold Type for my favorite show of the summer. It’s a Netflix show starting Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rappaport as the parents of a highly functioning autistic teenage boy and his teenage sister. Like the show Speechless it’s a heartfelt family comedy that is about a family affected by a member that has a disability, but is really about the dynamics of the family and how they are affected by the disability. It’s funny, sweet, and very well written.

Carmichael Show

The Carmichael Show just finished it’s third and final season on NBC. I’ve been catching up on it on Hulu. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m enjoying it. It’s not a great show for binge watching, so it’s taking me a little bit of time to get through. Each episode looks at addresses an important topic but in a comedic way. It’s very smartly written so that the conversations between the characters about whatever that weeks topic is feel organic and very much how each character would react. It’s written in a way that doesn’t feel heavy handed. It’s probably the most situation of situation comedies that I’ve watched in a very long time in that the stories really revolve around the situation of the week and there aren’t any overarching plots or character arcs underpinning the humor. You just have Jerrod, his live-in girlfriend Maxine, Jerrod’s brother, his ex-wife, and their parents sitting around talking about things.

Superstore

Superstore just finished its second season on NBC and will be returning for a third in the fall. We caught up on the first two seasons over the summer. I had heard that it was a good show and we had run out of things to watch, so I suggested it. It’s a workplace comedy set in a Wal-mart like store called Cloud 9. It’s funny, and the characters have been developed well. It’s nice that it has a really diverse cast where those things are not actually part of the show. The people just are. There’s a character in a wheel chair and I’m not sure there has been a single instance where anyone has ever referred to the fact that he’s in a wheel chair. It’s a sit-com and it’s a little ridiculous sometimes, which my literal brain can’t handle. I often find myself commenting on how unrealistic things are as if there is any attempt at making them realistic happening. Some of my favorite parts of the show though are quick interstitial bits where you see customers of the store doing ridiculous things and where you hear bits of music playing. I love the music parts because whoever is doing the soundtrack work on this show is spot on. It’s totally the kind of music you would hear playing in a store like Cloud 9. I often comment on my love of the grocery store/drug store soundtrack in real life. Their tv version of it is perfect.

GLOW

I’m not sure I was over the top in love with GLOW the way that a lot of people were, but I did enjoy this Netflix series about the creation of the Lovely Ladies of Wrestling tv show. I think they did really good job of capturing the 80s in a way that seemed more real than your stereotypical 80s movie or tv show. They pulled some 80s songs I haven’t heard in awhile going beyond the sort of stock 80s soundtrack that exists. The outfits were also spot on. I’m pretty sure I owned one of those leotards for gymnastics, and my mother totally had the same perm/haircut that Alison Brie did.

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2016

Once again it’s time for my post on what was the most memorable pop culture of the year to me. It’s pop culture I consumed in 2016, not necessarily things that were exclusively released in 2016. And once again I point out that this is the stuff that made the greatest impact on me. It’s not a list of the top anything. Even I acknowledge that there are things on this list that I would not put in a top 10 or even top 20 list. They’re not necessarily the best of anything, just the stuff that I enjoyed the most or which had some special meaning to me.

Movie I Saw in a Theatre

I’m pretty sure I saw more movies in the theatre in 2016 than I have in a long time. I’ve seen 4 movies since Thanksgiving alone, which is very unusual for my life these days. I enjoyed most of the movies I saw, but I’m giving this category to La La Land. It was the one movie I saw this year that I almost immediately wanted to see again. It wasn’t a perfect movie. It didn’t quite live up to its promise as a movie musical. It started out with a bunch of musical numbers and then almost completely dropped them until the end. It was a little uneven, but I still loved it. It’s a beautiful to look at, and I really could just watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling interact forever. Their relationship seemed so real. At the time I saw it I was a little disappointed that they didn’t end up together even though realistically that’s what should have happened. Usually I would have enjoyed that ending, but wasn’t in the mood for at the time. In retrospect though I can appreciate it, and whatever my feelings about it were they did not detract from my love of the movie as a whole.

Movie I Watched at Home

Last year I said I should probably retire this category because I don’t watch that many movies at home, and I had a hard time thinking of any. I’m still singing that tune this year, but I’m apparently not quite yet ready to let it go because it’s still here. In doing a review I discovered I actually watched a lot more movies at home than I thought, but I literally had to go back and look because I couldn’t remember any of them. Once I did though the obvious choice was Sing Street. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sweet little film that takes place in 1980’s Dublin about a teenage boy who starts a band to impress a girl. The songs in it were all written for the movie, but definitely evoke the sounds of 80s music. It’s a delightful little film.

 

Fiction Book

Alas my great streak with books I loved last year did not continue into this year. I did manage to meet my reading goal of 100 books for the year, but there were very few I rated above 3 stars on Goodreads. This category like several other ones exemplified how out of sync I was with pop culture this year. Almost every best of book list I saw had Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as it’s top pick. I did not care for that book. The fiction book I most enjoyed did show up on most lists as well, so I guess I wasn’t completely off. It was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Essentially its a series of connected short stories, which makes it unusual that I would like it that much since I generally don’t care for short stories. The thread that connects them though is following two lines of a family through two sisters on the Gold Coast of Africa, one who is sold into slavery and the other who becomes a slave traders wife from their lives in the 1600s up through present day. Each story is essentially a new generation. It was a wonderful and heartbreaking book that really demonstrates how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present even hundreds of years later.

Non-Fiction Book

I had much better luck with non-fiction books this year than fiction ones. Most of the books I rated over 3 stars on Goodreads were non-fiction. My favorite non-fiction book of the year was another book that was not very uplifting, but was extremely interesting. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond explores poverty and housing through the lens of the city of Milwaukee. Desmond explores the intricacies of housing and the tenant/landlord relationship especially when dealing with people living in poverty. Many books like this seem to take sides, but Desmond does a really good job in following a couple of landlords and their tenants at showing how complicated the relationship and that there are failings on both sides.

TV Show

With as much good scripted television as there is these days I feel like I’m going a little off book in declaring my favorite tv show of the year as Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. It was the biggest surprise to me because I was never the hugest fan of Samantha Bee when she was a Daily Show correspondent, especially towards the end of Jon Stewart’s run when she really seemed to be going off the rails a little bit. I didn’t even plan on watching Full Frontal because I figured it was just going to be more of the same stuff I wasn’t enjoying on The Daily Show, but my husband insisted that we at least try it out and I’m very glad he did. Full Frontal is really smart, and I appreciate having a woman’s voice in the late night world, especially one who will focus on woman’s issues in a way that no one else is. I’m definitely going to need Sam Bee’s outrage to help keep me sane as we move into the horrors of whatever this Trump presidency is about to bring us.

 

TV Episode

I stopped watching Halt and Catch Fire a few episodes into its first season, but decided to get caught up this summer after hearing so many people talk about how much better the second season was. So in a way it’s a little surprising to me that my favorite episode of the year was from the third season of this show. Season 3, Episode 7 – The Threshold is a great hour of television. Donna and Cameron’s relationship and their building of Mutiny together was the heart of season 2 and what turned this show into something worth watching. Watching it fall apart in this episode was sad but wonderfully acted and excellent to watch.

Album

Music is where my tastes really did not converge with critics or other music listeners as my favorite songs and albums really didn’t show up on any best of 2016 lists. My favorite album of the year was Joseph’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. Joseph is a group of three sisters who have wonderful harmonies but some of their songs also have a great pop sensibility. I love this whole album, and I hope to be able to see them play more of the album live in 2017.

 

 

Song

I suspect the song I’m putting in this category has a bit of recency bias. I suspect that if I first fell in love with this song say back in March instead of November that I’d probably be sick of it and wouldn’t be including it here, but Wrabel’s 11 Blocks was the song that I loved to sing along to in the car more than any other song this year and the one I always hoped I would hear on the radio when I was driving which is what it earns it this spot. Realistically my choice here should have been Joseph’s SOS (Overboard), which I love and is probably the song I listened to most this year.

 

Concert

Every year my real favorite concert experience is going to the Newport Folk Festival. This year that was no exception. I was already beat down my 2016 at the end of July and that weekend was such a balm for my soul, but I always like to pick another show from the year for this category since Newport being a festival isn’t really a single concert. This year my favorite concert was Garth Brooks. I never got to see him back in the 90s, so I’m glad I finally got the chance. He is an amazing performer and manages to make an arena show feel intimate and so fun. It was so fun to sing along to all those songs of his I loved and also to see Trisha Yearwood perform some of her songs. They are some of the first country artists I ever fell in love with and it was great to finally get a chance to see them live.

 

Broadway Theatre Production

In last year’s post I named Hamilton my favorite theatre production of the year and said I’m going again in April of 2016 so maybe it will be my favorite show of 2016 too. Let’s be realistic. It was. But I also saw other great Broadway shows this year. So even though the best show I saw was Hamilton again, I’m going to put She Loves Me in this category. The production starred Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi and it was delightful. I even paid to re-watch it online when they broadcast a recording of it later in the year.

Baltimore Theatre Production

My favorite theatre production that I saw in Baltimore snuck in at the last moment. It was the touring production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The Broadway production won the Tony for Best New Musical in 2014 and I’ve wanted to see it for years. It was never something that I felt that I needed to see on Broadway though given the limited number of shows I get to see there each year. I always knew I was going to wait until it toured to see it, so I was happy that it finally came around as part of our season tickets to the Hippodrome this year. It was a great show and well worth the wait. It was extremely smart and clever and a show the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time.

Podcast

I already gave away in a post a few weeks ago that my favorite pocast this year was Out of the Blocks, a local Baltimore podcast from Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick. Their tag line One City Block, One Hour of Radio, Everybody’s Story pretty much describes what the podcast is about. It’s a fascinating look at the city and in the human condition. I highly recommend it to everyone not just people from Baltimore.

Podcast Episode

If Out of the Blocks didn’t exist Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs would have gotten my vote in the previous category. Instead they’ll get the mention in favorite podcast episode. I of course had to pick the episode where they discuss the song I requested, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Review

As you may have guessed by the title of this blog post I’m going to be talking about the new Gilmore Girls episodes, so if you haven’t seen them yet and don’t want to be spoiled on anything stop reading now and come back later. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I got together with some friends yesterday afternoon to watch all 6 hours of the new Gilmore Girls episodes on Netflix. We ate a ridiculous amount of junk food based on what they eat in the show. Now I feel like I should only eat fruit and vegetables for the rest of the week.

So here are my random thoughts on the show done bullet journal style (Just kidding, maybe. I don’t even really know what bullet journaling is. I just know it’s a thing.)

  • It was really nice to have these characters back in my life again even though some of the things they did rang a little false to me. Mostly it did feel like picking up where we left off only 10 years later though.
  • There were definitely some inconsistencies not only compared to the older episodes but also within the same episodes or even two scenes right next to each other. Who is keeping track of these things? Rory somehow can’t get cell reception in Stars Hollow yet everyone else is walking through the town chatting away? Also there’s a scene where Rory is at her grandparents’ house and there is snow on the patio and yet Emily is on Nantucket with spring looking weather wearing a light sweater and crop pants. Get it together people.
  • I loved all the little cameos not only of all the characters from the original show, but also other people connected to stuff the Palladinos have done or other cast members from Parenthood like Peter Krause, Lauren Graham’s real life boyfriend and brother on the show, Jason Ritter who played Mr. Cyr , and Mae Whitman who played Lauren Graham’s daughter, Amber.
  • I also of course adored Sutton Foster and Christian Borle in Stars Hollow: The Musical. Realistically that bit went on way too long, especially given the limited series but I thought it was hysterical and I love them, so I don’t even care.
  • I loved Paris. She seemed exactly like she would be, though I’m not really sure I buy her career. I’m bummed she and Doyle are getting a divorce. That’s probably realistic, but I’m hoping those two crazy kids work it out.
  • April is still terrible, and I will never forgive the Palladinos for her. I really wish they had left her out of these episodes, but thankfully her presence was limited.
  • I’m still super sad about Edward Hermann. His presence was sorely missed, but I think they did a good job honoring him.
  • I always liked Lorelei’s boyfriends except for Christopher so I was happy to see Jason Styles return at Richard’s funeral. It made sense that he would be there, and I’m happy they wrote him in for that little scene.
  • Emily felt like the character that rang the least true to me in these episodes, but maybe it makes sense that she wouldn’t be the same after her husband of 50 years died. The fact that she would have a maid with a crazy amount of other family members including kids living in her house made no sense to me though.
  • I’m happy that Luke and Lorelei have been together all this time. I’m happy to know that they’ve been happy together since the show ended and that we just got to see them get married.
  • I really did kind of want to see what a Steely Dan flash mob looks like.
  • Rory on the other hand is still a mess when it comes to guys. I always thought she had terrible taste in men and I apparently that hasn’t changed. She is terrible. First of all I thought the whole forgettable boyfriend Paul thing was ridiculous and made everyone seem horrible, especially Rory. Second did she really not learn anything about being the other woman from when she was cheating with a married Dean? I can’t believe that she would now be cheating with Logan who is engaged to someone else. Realistically I wanted her to be with someone other than Dean, Jess, or Logan but of the three Logan would have been my choice. He gets bonus points by association from my love of his character on The Good Wife. Also I rewatched only the back half of season 5 in the last year, which features Logan at his best in their relationship so without the before and after his character didn’t seem half bad. I really didn’t mind him in these episodes except for the part where HE’S CHEATING ON HIS FIANCE! I really wish they hadn’t done that because it made both him and Rory seem terrible. I wish it had just been written as it was originally intimated with both of them seeing other people in a casual way and doing the same with each other whenever Rory was in London. I’m happy they made Dean happily married with kids because that is exactly what I would have expected from his character. I never liked Jess, so I was not pleased with the longing looks at the end that suggest something more might happen between the two of them in the future.
  • The final four words: I, like everyone else who ever watched this show knowing anything about the Palladinos, have been wondering what those final four words of the series were going to be. I’m happy that we finally got to know. I sort of wondered going in if they would be able to make sense so many years later.  Obviously the fact that Rory tells her mom she’s pregnant still makes sense even all these years later, so I’m happy that worked out without having to feel forced. Of course it changes things slightly from Rory doing this when she was much younger like Lorelei did, but it still works. Now it just feels sort of  like a cliffhanger that we won’t get resolved though. I do appreciate it as an ending though. Although after I thought about it a little bit, I’m not sure I like where I think it was going. Obviously the kid has to be Logan’s, which I’m fine with. I don’t doubt that Logan would leave his fiance and go be with Rory, who is actually the woman he loves. I could see them being a happy little family together even though the idea of that is tainted for me by the who fiance cheating thing. Why Palladinos? But here’s the thing, I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen at all. I realized that this is what Rory’s whole conversation with Christopher was about. She’s planning on insisting on raising the baby on her own like Lorelei did. I think that’s crap because the only way I can even see that happening is if Rory doesn’t tell Logan. That’s a terrible thing to do to both him and the kid. Logan is not Christopher. He would never just go away and not insist on being fully a part of his kid’s life. So while in concept I liked the final four words, I don’t really like where I think they would be leading.
  • Overall I really enjoyed watching the episodes though. I miss having good family dramas in my life. As I’ve lamented many times here before they just don’t really make them anymore. Gilmore Girls is one of the best and it was wonderful to have all these people back in my life for a few hours. Everyone likes to blame the demise of Gilmore Girls on season 7 and the lack of the Palladinos, but if people are honest with themselves the Palladinos wrote that show into a terrible place in season 6 so they are not blameless in that show not ending in a way that felt satisfying to fans, but I’m happy they finally got a chance to do it their way. I think it was worth the wait.