More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2016 January 2, 2017

Filed under: Books,Concerts,Podcasts,Pop Culture,Songs I Love,Television,Theatre — dwhren @ 10:55 am

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 November 28, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 7:49 am

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.
 

Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party November 14, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 6:54 pm

 

I honestly don’t feel like writing anything on a blog that’s dedicated to things that make me happy as I don’t feel very happy right now, but that’s all for another time and another place. We carry on. The day after the election my friend Jenny tweeted at me, “In happier news, anxiously awaiting your review of Martha and Snoop Dogg’s show.” She like many of the people who know me know that one of my all time favorite videos to grace the internet is this gloriously ridiculous segment from the Martha Stewart show in which Martha and Snoop make mashed potatoes together.

Everyone who was like huh? when VH1 announced this show had obviously never witnessed this. Sadly I can’t say that Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party is nearly as delightful. It seems way too scripted and like it’s trying too hard. Martha seemed like she was reading off a teleprompter during a lot of the show. I don’t know if she actually was or not, but she didn’t seem to acting naturally like she does in the above video.

I don’t think the people who named the show know what a potluck dinner party is. They do in fact have some guests show up for dinner, but none of them arrive with any food. I don’t know if this is the set-up for every episode yet, but it was built as more of a competition between the two of them. Each of them was cooking their own fried chicken recipe with Seth Rogen being paired up with Snoop and Wiz Khalifa being paired up with Martha. Ice-T showed up towards the end to join them for dinner and judge whose wings were the best. Spoiler it was a tie. They also played some version of two truths and a like while they were eating for no good reason. There was also some sort of DJ/Commentator that just seemed entirely unnecessary to me.

I haven’t deleted it off the DVR because it’s still something that might be good when I want something mindless to watch, but it doesn’t have the same heart as the original video.

 

Fall TV Diary (Returning Shows Edition) October 26, 2016

Filed under: Television — dwhren @ 8:16 am

In writing up this post I’m realizing I’m watching a lot of shows at this point out of habit rather than true love of them. That pretty much goes for almost all of the super hero shows, which at this point I’ve grown weary of. There’s too many of them, and I’m not sure that I really care about any of their stories anymore.

Sundays

Masters of Sex

I don’t know all that much about the true story of Masters and Johnson, so I’m not sure how closely or not this show is adhering to their lives at this point. My guess is only to the broadest strokes at this point. I think this show has a character problem though. Last season they took Bill to a place that made him just a miserable character. They’ve tried to redeem him this season, but now seem to be doing the same thing to Virginia. They’ve both always been difficult people in their own way, but when characters become sort of one note terrible it’s no fun for anyone. Hopefully they’ll manage to right the ship soon as I gather there’s still a lot more story to tell about them.

Mondays

Big Bang Theory

I find it kind of impressive how much I still enjoy the Big Bang Theory this far into it’s run. Most sit-coms by this point have run out of stories and have turned their characters into caricatures of their former selves. I think in some respects the Big Bang Theory has done the opposite. The characters in this show were mostly caricatures from the outset, so I think they’ve actually developed them into more human seeming characters over the years instead of the other way around. They’ve been around awhile now, but the addition of Amy and Bernadette to round out the female side of the cast was also much needed and has helped keep life in the show.

Supergirl

Supergirl was one of my favorite new shows from last season. Now that it’s moved to the CW and has a smaller budget and is losing Calista Flockhart as a full time cast member I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it. They also seem to have decided to drop the love triangle piece of the show that was present last season, and I won’t deny that that part of the show was part of the attraction for me. I’m going to keep watching and see how it goes, but I suspect I’m not going to love it as much as I once did.

Jane the Virgin

Now entering its third season Jane the Virgin seems to be very much what it always was. I imagine eventually this show will drag on longer than it should, but for now I’m still finding it a fun little diversion in my week.

Tuesdays

The Flash

The Flash sort of lost my interest after its first season, but I’m still watching it though only at sort of half attention. I can’t keep straight all the time lines and worlds anymore and I don’t know that I care to.

Brooklyn 9-9

I’m still very much enjoying Brooklyn 9-9. It’s just a good, solid sit-com at this point. It knows who it’s characters are and so far is still keeping them true to themselves and not over relying on the quirks that make you love them.

Scream Queens

I really liked the first season Scream Queens at the outset, although I was not as enamored with it by it’s end. I had assumed that it would be like Ryan Murphy’s other show American Horror Story and just be an anthology series featuring most of the same actors, but with a completely new story. It turns out I was wrong and season 2 is a continuation of the characters in season 1 though in a new setting. They’ve now moved from a university into a hospital. It’s now even more ridiculous than it was before, and I’m not sure why I’m still watching it at this point. I don’t find it particularly good. I think it would have been much better served by resetting the table completely.

Wednesdays

Arrow

I used to love Arrow in its first few seasons, but it has lost its lustre for me. I think part of the problem is that it held on to the flashbacks way too long. Once we were caught up to the present it didn’t make any sense for them to be such a large part of the show anymore and it seemed like the writers were forced to start retconning things very quickly in order to keep them going. They don’t seem to be as much of a presence yet this season, and I believe they’re planning on dropping them completely next season but at this point I’m not sure I care that much about any of the stories anymore.

Modern Family

Modern Family is definitely something I’ve long been watching out of habit rather than out of real enjoyment. I don’t really have much else to say about it.

Empire

Empire burned bright in its first season. It was still decent in its second season, but aside from the music itself and of course Cookie I’m not sure this show is doing much for me anymore. The need to keep being more outrageous with the storylines means that things don’t even make sense anymore.

Younger

I love Younger. Even though the premise of people believing that Sutton Foster is 26 instead of 40 is pretty ridiculous, they treat the characters as real. No one is the bad guy. Everyone has their issues that they’re dealing with, but I can like everyone and actually feel torn about which guy is better for Eliza, her hot boss or her hot 20-something boyfriend.

Rectify

Rectify’s final season doesn’t actually start until after this posts, but I can hardly wait for it. This show is definitely not for everyone. It’s an extremely slow moving character piece that may or may not actually ever reveal to us whether Daniel killed the girl he was imprisoned for killing. I won’t even be disappointed if we don’t find out because in some ways it seems besides the point. I think it’s good that the show is ending on its own terms and going out on a high note, but I will still miss it when it’s gone.

Thursdays

Legends of Tomorrow

I didn’t care much for Legends of Tomorrow last season even though I wanted to because they pulled together some of my favorite characters from other CW superhero shows and put them together here. Part of the problem as that there were just way too many characters and they could never fully devote enough time to any of them. Also I didn’t care for the hawk people storyline that was the basis of the first season. Now that they are hopefully gone forever and the cast is a little tighter perhaps this show will be better in its second season.

Mom

Mom hasn’t started yet for this season either, but I’ll be watching it when it does. It’s a pretty stereotypical old sit-com in most respects, but I enjoy it. I always like Alison Janney, and there is some real heart and addressing of real issues behind the sit-com ridiculousness.

Fridays

The Vampire Diaries

During its first few seasons The Vampire Diaries was one of my favorite shows, but it has long outstayed its welcome. It really made no sense for it to continue on after Nina Dobrev left. At this point I’m certainly going to watch through the end, but I’m going to be happy when this one is over at the end of the season.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I adored Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in its first season, and the one episode of season 2 that’s aired so far was just as good. The ratings for this show are pretty lousy, so I’m not sure how long I’ll get to keep it, but I’m going to cherish every wonderful episode of this show as long as they keep on giving them to me.

 

Summer 2016 TV Diary August 31, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 7:56 am

The fall television season is fast approaching, so I thought I would take a minute to catch you up on what I’ve been watching this summer. TV never sleeps anymore so it turns out that it was quite a bit. Most of these shows are things that either ran on actual TV this summer or dropped on Netflix, but there’s a few older shows that I binge watched that I’m including too.

Orange is the New Black

I’ve enjoyed Orange is the New Black since it debuted on Netflix. The third season fell a little flat, but I felt like it was back to its true form this past season. The story around the increased prison population and the new company running the prison changed up the storylines and gave the show a new focus. They even managed to make you feel sorry for Piper by the end of the season despite her being completely insufferable for most of it. I’m not sure I really liked how the season ended, but we’ll see where they take it in season five.

Last Chance U

Last Chance U is a six episode documentary following a season of the East Mississippi Community College Lions football team. EMCC is a junior college located in the small town of Scooba, Mississippi, but it has apparently become quite the JuCo football team by recruiting students who weren’t immediately eligible to play regular college football because of poor grades or who were suspended from their teams for grades or behavior and are trying to work their way back to an NCAA team. I had no idea junior college football was even a thing before watching this, but apparently like all other football it has become quite the business.

I don’t actually care that much about football, but just like with Friday Night Lights it doesn’t really matter. Of course you’re going to see some football played, but it’s really the story of the players, the team, their coach, and their academic advisor who will definitely remind you of Tami Taylor. The whole thing is kind of like real life Friday Night Lights. If like me you loved FNL, I highly recommend giving six hours of your time to this show.

Stranger Things

Like every other breathing human on this planet I too fell in love with the Netflix show Stranger Things this summer. In case you somehow have yet to hear about this show, it’s set in 1983 and follows the adventures of a group of three boys and the mysterious girl they meet up with after one of their friends goes missing. Wynona Ryder plays the missing boy’s mother who has her own parallel storyline with the sheriff. There is definitely something sinister going on in their town and they’re all trying to figure out what it is. It is very reminiscent of a lot iconic 80s films like Stand By Me and ET among others. At only eight episodes it’s a perfect little chunk of TV to enjoy.

Mr. Robot

I very much enjoyed the first season of Mr. Robot last year, but probably we’re probably about halfway through this season and hell if I could tell you anything that’s going on. I’ve pretty much tuned out and am not paying attention to it anymore even though I’m sitting in the room when my husband watches it. I don’t have much more to say than that because well I’m not really watching it anymore. Sorry Mr. Robot, it’s not me, it’s you.

Roadies

I had so many high hopes for this show because as you know I love music and this show follows a group of roadies and was created by Cameron Crowe. I am a long time lover of Cameron Crowe movies. Say Anything is still one of my favorites. Of course had I really thought about the last time Cameron Crowe made something that was actually decent and not just saved for me by the way he used music in it, I probably would have been more leary of this show. It is not a good show, but once again the music saved it. It’s even better in this because every episode in addition to the great soundtrack had a performance by a musical act including Lucius, The Head and the Heart, and Lindsay Buckingham. That part of the show was pure delight and was what kept me watching every week. The actual characters and plot the show, not so much. It doesn’t sound like Showtime is very bullish about renewing this and the season ended with what felt like a finale, so I’m okay if this was a one and done project.

The Get Down

The Get Down was the third of the three music related TV shows I was looking forward to premiering this year with Roadies and the even worse Vinyl. I didn’t even make it past the second episode of Vinyl it was so terrible. As I just indicated Roadies also fell mostly flat for me as an actual tv show, so I was hoping against hope that The Get Down would finally be one that I would like. It’s a Netflix show created by Baz Luhrmann about the advent of hip hop in the 1970s. The essentially movie length premiere episode was actually helmed by Baz Luhrmann with the rest of the episodes just created with his input. The premiere felt very Baz Luhrmanny for good and ill and then it calmed itself down a little after that though there were still many scenes throughout that had that grandiosity of scene that Luhrmann brings to his projects. It was amusing to see how tv critics were split on whether they preferred the premiere to the remaining episodes or vice versa.

What dropped on Netflix this summer was actually just the first half of the first season. There will be another 6 episodes to come later. This show is definitely not perfect, but it is by far the best of the three shows I mentioned and I’m definitely invested in seeing where it goes.

The Night Of

The Night Of is a long shelved project at HBO. It’s been in the works so long that James Gandolfini was attached to it. I don’t know why they finally decided to finish it up and trot it out this summer, but they did. I very much enjoyed the first episode and then sort of lost interest in it along the way. It had its moments, but I never felt like it lived up to what it had set up. The show revolves around Naz, a twenty-something boy who takes his father’s cab without permission to drive to a party, accidentally winds up picking up a fare in the form of a sort of manic pixie dream girl, does a lot of drugs with her, and then discovers her dead from 22 stab wounds when he wakes up from his drugged stupor. He winds up arrested for the crime, and the rest of the series follows him in the prison system and going through the trial process. His ambulance chaser of a lawyer is also a main character in the series and you see a lot about his life as well including a lot more about eczema than you probably ever wanted to see. If you think you’d be interested in a long form crime procedural you would probably enjoy this show.

Marcella

Marcella is a British crime show starring Anna Friel as the titular Marcella available on Netflix. At the beginning of the series it is obvious that Marcella has had some sort of breakdown that has caused her to leave her job with the police until a crime that is eerily reminiscent of cases she was working on occurs. The new case causes her to return to job, but the stresses of the case and her deteriorating home life may mean that she might be more involved in what’s happening than she realized. This was another decent sort of short crime story.

Game Show Reboots

This summer ABC has been airing reboots of Celebrity Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid, and Match Game on Sunday nights. I don’t care about Family Feud that much and only ever watched one episode of that show, which reminded me that I didn’t need to keep watching it. I have been enjoying $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game though.

The original Pyramid shows hosted by Dick Clark are some of my all time favorite game shows. This version is better than some of the other reboots of the show, but it’s not as good. Michael Strahan is definitely no Dick Clark, although I do think he got better as the season went on. Mostly the problem with the show was the celebrities they had on. They were mostly terrible at playing the game. I’m like do they not vet these people at all to see if they can even manage to play the game halfway well. In pretty much every episode aside from the one with Yvette Nicole Brown and Zacharcy Levi at least one if not both of the celebrities were terrible. The show would have been much better if they had found some people who could actually play.

The Match Game reboot did mostly better on the celebrities, but it was the game itself that had some shortcomings. Alec Baldwin does a good job as the host and the rotating panel of celebrity contestants has mostly worked for me with some weeks being a bit better than others. The main issue is the questions. They written in such a way that either it’s almost impossible for the contestant and celebrities to get matching answers or one of the questions in the round is almost a gimme for matches and it makes it really unbalanced between the two contestants and guarantees one is going to win over the other. If they get some better question writers this would be an excellent reboot of this game show.

OJ: Made in America

If you had told me  at the beginning of the year that I was going to spend so much time this year watching stuff about the OJ Simpson case I probably wouldn’t have believed you. After watching The People vs. OJ Simpson dramatized version of the OJ Simpson case you wouldn’t think I needed to watch a 5 part documentary about OJ Simpson, but you would be wrong. Had all the reviews of this not told me it was excellent and a nice complement to The People vs. OJ Simpson, I would not have watched it. It was indeed an excellent documentary that traced OJ’s entire life and placed it in the context of the world around him and the times he was living in.

The Fosters

I can’t keep track of what season The Fosters is on because it’s one of those ABC Family, I mean Freeform, shows that splits into summer and winter half seasons. I never know when a new actual season is starting. The show is about Stef and Lena who are raising Stef’s biological son plus their four other teenage foster/adopted children. The show is definitely not as good as it used to be and has sort of run out realistic story ideas so everything is becoming more outlandish, but there are still one or two episodes every season that are so good that I’m still watching.

The Jim Gaffigan Show

The Jim Gaffigan show was a somewhat autobiographical sitcom about Jim Gaffigan’s life living in a small New York apartment with his wife and five small kids as he pursues a career as a stand up comic. It was a pretty amusing show, but this season will be its last. Jim and his wife Jeannie who is the co-creator announced that they are walking away from the show because it was taking too much time away from their kids. I have no doubt they’ll be creating something else excellent in the future.

Halt and Catch Fire

I’m sort of getting a two-fer with Halt and Catch Fire because I spent the first part of the summer binge watching the first two seasons of this show and now the third season has just started. I did watch the first few episodes of this show when it first started but quickly bailed on it even though my husband kept watching. After the second season started I kept hearing critics say that it was a huge turnaround and that the show was vastly improved. I finally decided to give it another try this summer and catch up before the third season started. It was much better in season two and I’m enjoying season three so far as well. It’s about the early days of personal computers  and the internet in the 80s. Now that the story is more focused on the female leads rather than one of the anti-hero male leads it’s much better.

The Fall

My husband and I had watched one episode of The Fall years ago but for some reason never finished it. After really enjoying Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife and realizing she was in this, I decided to go back to it. Her part is fairly minor as the medical examiner. The show really focuses on Gillian Anderson as an outside investigator who is connecting a series of murders and stepping on toes of the local police as she attempts to find who is killing the women. Jamie Dornan plays the killer who you also follow as he completes his crimes while also living a mundane life as a family man. I enjoyed it and it wasn’t a huge time investment. It was nice to watch some short form shows this summer instead of investing in another 6 or 7 season series.

 

She Loves Me Live July 1, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television,Theatre — dwhren @ 9:31 pm

As you may recall, back in April I went to see the musical She Loves Me on Broadway. Last night it became the first Broadway show to be live streamed online. Even though I had already seen it in person, I wanted to watch it. First off I really enjoyed the show and was interested in watching it again even if it was only through a screen. Second I really wanted to support this happening so that they do it again in the future, so I happily ponied up my $9.99 to BroadwayHD for it.

The show was of course still delightful. Since I’ve already written about that I won’t go into the specifics of the show again. I’m just going to concentrate on the broadcast itself. It got off to a rocky start. It seems they didn’t have enough bandwidth at the start as leading into the show I kept getting kicked out and seeing a screen that said Invalid Content Segment. I was worried that was going to keep happening through the whole show and it would be unwatchable. Thankfully they seemed to get it together for the most part just after the curtain went up, and aside from a quick little blip or two my viewing experience was pretty good after that. I know that didn’t hold true for everyone. One of my friends watching said it paused on her several times for significant periods of time and she didn’t actually get to see the end because it paused and never played again with about 5 minutes left. Hopefully they can learn from this experience and work out the kinks for the stream better if they do it again. Other than the streaming issue though I think they did a good job with the broadcast. I thought the filming was good and gave you a good perspective of the stage while not just being a static camera staring at the stage.

I’m lucky that I have the money and ability to make it to New York several times a year to see Broadway shows, but there are many people for whom that is never going to be possible. I appreciate things like this that provide access to live theatre to the masses. Watching it through a screen is never going to be like being in the room, but for people whose only access to live theatre may be high school productions if even that this is a great opportunity to see Broadway shows. I hope this is not the last one they do. I imagine anything they do is going to be along the lines of She Loves Me, which was a limited run production that was nearing the end of its run when it was filmed. I get that the money people are worried about cannibalizing audiences by streaming their shows, but realistically I bet it wouldn’t matter that much. It’s not the same thing as actually seeing a show live, and I bet most of the people watching wouldn’t ever have the chance to see the shows on Broadway anyway or who are like me have already seen it and are watching again. I look forward to whatever they do next in case.

 

The Good Wife May 13, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 4:53 pm

While you all spent the last 7 years watching The Good Wife as it was airing, I spent the last 7 or so weeks binge watching it and finishing it just a few days after the series finale aired. The only reason I managed to get through it so quickly is because I had 2 weeks of vacation time in there plus a week when my husband was out of town for work so I could watch The Good Wife every night instead of normal television viewing. I watched the first six seasons on Amazon and then figured I would have to wait until the seventh dropped probably sometime in the fall. Then I realized I could use the free trial of CBS All Access to watch all the episodes of season 7 without having to wait. So while I wasn’t out at the beach this past week I spent my time watching the end of The Good Wife.

It was a show I just didn’t start watching when it started and then by the time everyone, especially my friend Jenny, was telling me how I really needed to watch it it felt too far gone. I just decided that one day when it was finally over I would binge watch it as I did. When they announced during the Super Bowl that it was indeed the final season I decided I could finally start watching it. I was in the middle of some other shows at the time, but once I finished those I finally decided to give The Good Wife a try.

As Jenny always told me I would I really did enjoy it or at least the first 5 seasons of it anyway. Season 6 was not great and season 7 was not much better. It’s weird for me to say this because I’m usually not someone who is a case of the week lover. It’s why I don’t care for procedurals. However, it really was this show’s strength apparently. The show was always half through storyline and half case of the week (although with some recurring clients), which always worked out rather well in my opinion. Then for whatever reason they decided to make season 6 purely focused on Alicia’s run for States Attorney and snooze fest. I never really cared about any of the political campaign crap aside from the fact that it gave Alan Cumming a reason to be there as Eli Gold, who was one of my favorite characters. This combined with the absence of Will really just made it seem like The Good Wife had lost it’s way. They got back a little bit to case of the week stuff in season 7 and those were the strongest episodes of that season in my opinion. Once we got towards the end and it was all about Peter’s trial. Snoresville.

I feel like the best way for me to talk about the series overall is to provide a ranking of characters from worst to best. I obviously can’t hit everyone or we’ll be here all day, but I’m including the major characters plus a few of my favorite recurring guest stars.

14. Grace and Zach Florrick

Pretty much like almost every TV show that’s not specifically about teenagers, teenage characters on adult shows are the worst. Ultimately Grace and Zach weren’t so bad compared to some characters on other shows, but the less I had to see of them the better. I was fine with them in theory, but any time an episode had to revolve around them. Nope.

13. Jackie Florrick

Jackie was actually more of the petulant teenager on this show than the actual kids. I realize she was somewhat of a good foil for Alicia, but again I didn’t really care to see that much of her.

12. Howard Lyman

I only bother to include Howard Lyman in this list because the writers seemed to think it was a good idea to stop making him small comic relief and turn him into more of a major player at the end of series. Why did he seem to appear in more of season 7 than Cary? That’s just wrong. They should have left him as a bit part.

11. Jason Crouse

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is one of those supposed sex symbols that has never done a thing for me, so perhaps I was biased against his character from the start but I never felt like he and Alicia had any real chemistry. I never bought that he is who she would finally allow herself to be with as opposed to some of the other people they flirted with hooking her up with like Finn Polmar.

10. David Lee

Since he was one of the on-again, off-again partners at the firm I felt like I should include him in this list, but I don’t really have strong feelings about David Lee one way or the other. He was a pretty one note character and you never really got to know anything about him outside of the firm. I’ll take this time to say that by the end the writers had very much run out of storylines involving the firm. There’s only so many times these partners can vote each other in and out without it feeling extremely contrived. There’s no way any for real clients would ever stick with a firm that was in as much needless flux as this one was. The fact that we went through it all again in season 7 really showed that the writers knew they had to write something for the people at the law firm, but had no real idea what to do with them.

9. Peter Florrick

Peter was a horrible person, but obviously exactly the character he was supposed to be. Alicia should have kicked him to the curb eons ago, but for the most part I think they did a good job of giving her valid reasons to stay for most of the series. Doesn’t mean I had to like him though, and I suspect I wasn’t supposed to so it’s all well and good. Also, why in the world was Chris Noth only ever a guest star and not a regular actor on the series. I will never understand TV contracts.

8. Louis Canning

My friend Jenny was always talking about the guest starts on this show. I too appreciated them, especially seeing all the Broadway actors who rolled through over the years since it filmed in New York. She was also talking though about how much she loved Michael J. Fox’s turn on the show. I too think he did a great job, though again he was one of those characters you were supposed to dislike. I never really understood what happened to him after they jettisoned him from the firm, but he seemed to end up ok. Someone like him always would I suppose.

7. Alicia Florrick

Yes it’s true the main character of the show only shows up halfway through my list. I liked Alicia and obviously most of the show and characters I liked better than her all revolved around her in some way. I just wish the writers would have let her grow a little bit more. At some point they themselves bought into the whole “Saint Alicia” schtick and wouldn’t ever let her stray to far in any one direction. I felt like it’s why they ended things with Will and then eventually killed him off or again never let things really progress with any other potential love interest until the end.

6. Will Gardner

I don’t really know what the deal was with why they killed off Will. If it’s like I said that the writers weren’t willing to take things any further with Alicia and him so it didn’t make any sense for him to be around anymore and they wanted a game changer at that point in the series or if Josh Charles wanted off the show or what. Whatever it was the show was sorely lacking after he was gone. I didn’t even realize how much until he showed up in the finale and I felt like those few scenes had so much more energy than the previous two seasons combined. Aside from his relationship with Alicia I always really liked Will and Diane as partners and sort of mismatched friends. I missed their relationship after he was gone.

5. Cary Agos

I came into this show predisposed to disliking Cary. Like all of Rory’s boyfriends, I hated Logan on Gilmore Girls, and I felt like here again was Matt Czuchry playing yet another smug, entitled, rich boy. I’m pretty sure that’s how his character was initially written, but he quickly turned into someone much more nuanced and someone I was actually pulling for. At one point after Alicia and he start their own firm one of them says they are the new Will and Diane. As I already mentioned I really liked Will and Diane’s partnership, so I actually looked forward to that kind of developing. Sadly it never really did. Cary and Alicia quickly got pitted against each other and then we wound up with Cary’s stupid trial storyline that dragged on forever. I feel like that was one of the show’s biggest missed opportunities was to really watch the Florrick-Agos firm develop and their partnership along with it. That’s a storyline I would have liked to watch instead of what we got.

4. Elsbeth Tascioni

I’m glad she wasn’t a regular character because I think she worked best as in small doses, but I loved Carrie Preston as the brilliant but kind of crazy lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni. She was always a lot of fun and I loved the juxtaposition of her personality and her genius as a lawyer.

3. Diane Lockhart

I have always been a Christine Baranski fan. Always. Thus Diane was always bound to be one of my favorite characters, and she was. I loved that she was a strong, female character who loved the law and her law firm. I also appreciated that they gave her a love interest in Curt who was so different from her, but also seemingly so perfect. Having suffered through watching the final season on CBS All Access I would never pay to subscribe tot hat service, but the thought of a spin-off starring her almost makes me want to.

2. Eli Gold

I loved Eli Gold. He was always self-centered and calculating, but he always took such delight in it that it was fun to watch and I was always rooting for him. I also just always loved any time Alan Cumming had to play moments where Eli was incredulous about something. They were my favorite. I also loved his relationship with his daughter Marissa. That was a great pairing. I always assumed before watching that he was more of a guest star than a regular cast member given he was doing Cabaret on Broadway during part of the series. I know he wasn’t in every episode, but I never remember him being gone for long stretches. I have no idea how he juggled that, but well done.

Also speaking of storylines I would have liked to have seen, I always thought it would have been interesting for Eli and Alicia to get involved, especially after Will died. It’s not because I ever felt like the two characters had any crazy sexual tension between them or anything, I just thought it would make for good drama. How would Eli who had always been so devoted to Peter and determined to make sure nothing hurt him politically including making sure his marriage stayed intact at least to the public eye dealt with falling in love with Alicia. I guess we’ll never know.

1. Kalinda Sharma

Kalinda was always my favorite character on the show, and I super sad to have her written out at the end of season 6. Given whatever blood feud occurred between Julianna Margulies and her such that they didn’t appear on screen together for multiple seasons, I’m surprised that they kept her around for that long. It seems insane that the production of an entire TV show would have to be done in such a way that those two actresses would never have to work together, but I guess that’s what happened. I of course saw a lot of people talking about this prior to watching the show so I expected it to bother me more than it did. There were long stretches in earlier seasons why they didn’t appear together much especially after it came out that Kalinda slept with Peter, so it didn’t seem to be anything particularly new that Kalinda was more involved with other characters on the show than Alicia. I never really cared and wasn’t super invested in the two of them being friends or anything, so I wish they had managed to keep her around for one more season. I was bummed that she didn’t get to show back up in the finale, though having watched it there wasn’t really any opportunity for her to. I mean Cary barely even appeared in it.

All in all it was a very good series and I’m glad I finally watched it. The final seasons didn’t work much for me and I didn’t care for the finale at all. I didn’t think trying to bookend the beginning of this show with the end worked in this case. I know a lot of series do it, but no one is nostalgic for an opening scene where a disgraced wife is standing by her jerkhole of a cheating husband. At that point in the series though I didn’t much care anymore. Like many series before it the first 4 or 5 seasons were wonderful, but the end sadly colored my love for it a little bit. If you haven’t watched it yet I would definitely recommend it though.