TV Diary

Greek

I was vaguely aware that Greek was a show when it was airing on ABC Family/Freeform back in 2007-2011, but it was never something I watched. I added it to my Hulu watch list as soon as I subscribed to Hulu, but had never prioritized watching it for whatever reason. A couple months ago I got to the point where I wasn’t watching anything on Hulu and decided I needed to either watch something or cancel it, so I started watching Greek. With it also being a decade since the show had ended I had seen a couple of pieces people had written about the anniversary which made it stick out as something I should watch.

At its core Greek is a show about Casey Cartwright and her younger brother Rusty who attend the fictional Cyprus Rhodes University in Ohio. Casey is a sorority girl and Rusty who is a science nerd decides to rush a fraternity in hopes of fitting in better than he did in high school. He is originally courted by the fraternity of Casey’s current boyfriend Evan, but winds up in the fraternity of her ex-boyfriend Cappie. There’s lots of stuff about rival fraternities and sororities that is sometimes over the top, but it also has all my favorite things in a show. There are great relationships, both friendships and romantic relationships. I love Casey and Rusty’s relationship. Characters also get to grow over time. They really don’t make shows like this anymore and I feel like with having now watched this one I’ve watched all the ones that have ever existed and it makes me sad. If you’ve never watched Greek I recommend it.

Somebody Feed Phil

Somebody Feed Phil is a Netflix show based off of the one season of a show called I’ll Have What Phil’s Having on PBS. We’ve watched both and it is essentially the same exact show with a different title and a different theme song. The Netflix show theme song is sung by Lake Street Dive, a band I really like. My husband joked that he will only let me take him to see them in concert again if they play the theme song. I told him he should just be one of those obnoxious people in the crowd and yell it out as a request. They probably won’t play it, but they’ll probably be amused anyway.

The show is a travel and food show in which Phil Rosenthal travels around the world and eats local cuisine with locals and various chefs. He’s this kind of goofy Jewish guy, who was the head writer for Everybody Loves Raymond. He obviously loves to travel, eat, and talk to people. It’s a lot of fun watching him do it. It really made me want to be able to travel and eat in restaurants again. I also don’t know how he doesn’t weigh 500 pounds based on everything he eats. There’s also a cute segment towards the end of every episode where he Skype’s with his parents and tells them about his latest adventures. I don’t know who decided that should be a segment of the show, but it’s endearing.

Kim’s Convenience

Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian show available on Netflix. It follows the Kim family who are Korean immigrants to Canada that run a convenience store. There is somewhat of an estranged relationship with their son Jung who got into trouble as a teenager and spent some time in prison. Now he’s out and getting his life back on track working at a car rental company. They also have a daughter Janet, who is in art school, which is not something either of them really understand. It’s really funny and sweet. The characters are great. I’m sad that the CBC has cancelled it and that the season 5 episodes released on Netflix today will be the end of the series.

Ginny and Georgia

Ginny and Georgia is a Netflix show that got a lot of comparisons to Gilmore Girls because it has a young mother and her teenage daughter at the center of it. It’s really not anything like Gilmore Girls other than that. Georgia was a teenage mother, but she also has a much darker backstory that has essentially turned her into a con woman and kept them on the run as a family for most of Ginny’s life. Ginny also has a younger brother named Austin. Their most recent move after the death of Georgia’s most recent husband, is to Wellbury, Massachusetts where Austin struggles to fit in a lot, but Ginny for the first time feels like she belongs somewhere. She finds a group of friends and a boyfriend and is trying to make sure her mother doesn’t do anything to screw it up.

Almost all of the reviews of this show indicate that it is trying to do too much and be too many things and they are not wrong. It’s a little bit all over the place. In addition to the con woman stuff and the life of a teenager stuff you also have it trying to address racial issues because Ginny is biracial. There are parts of the show that are really good. I actually really liked the stories surrounding Ginny and her friends and some of them felt very authentic about teenage life, but then you always had to swerve back into the more cartoonish Georgia stories. Unfortunately the show finally seemed like it was going to pick a lane in the season finale and it isn’t the one I wanted.

Philly DA

Philly DA is part of the PBS Independent Lens series. It’s an eight episode documentary about Philadelphia’s progressive DA, Larry Krausner. It’s a really compelling look at him and the work he is doing. He meets with lots of resistance for the changes he’s trying to make and it’s hard to know whether they will have an effect long term because people understandably worried about the crime that is happening now and want to see immediate action even if it ultimately is detrimental down the line. We happened to watch the final episode on the night that Larry Krausner won the Democratic primary in the current election, which based on what you see in the show did not seem like it would be assured.

Made for Love

Made for Love is an HBOMax show starring Cristin Milioti as the wife of a tech entrepreneur who has essentially been keeping her captive in the tech bubble that he has created. When announces his newest invention is a chip that will be implanted her brain she decides to escape, but it turns out he already implanted the chip and is able to track her. It’s a kind of absurdist comedy. There was a lot about it that was weird, but I liked it.

Small Axe

I’m cheating a little including Small Axe in this in that it’s really an anthology series of five movies on Amazon Prime directed by Steve McQueen about West Indian immigrants in Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s rather than actual tv series, though most of them are not much longer than an hour. Some of them are based on true stories and others are entirely fictional. Lovers Rock is the one that everyone was talking about when it came out, so I saved it for last. Turns out it was my least favorite of the movies, although I get why people loved it at the time. It essentially is just watching people go to a party. You don’t really know much about any of the characters and it really is just experiencing this party. There is one glorious scene in the middle with people singing and dancing that I know is what really got people and I get that, but I also think that people who watched this much earlier in the pandemic and lockdown probably experienced it very differently than I did when I watched it as vaccinations were rolling out and things were starting to ease up. I think Education, which is one of the ones based on real life events in which black children in the 1970s were being taken out of mainstream schools and sent to schools for the “educationally subnormal”, was my favorite.

The Friends Reunion

I adored Friends when it was on. I’ve seen every episode multiple times and especially the first five seasons I could probably quote from memory. I however was never excited by the prospect of this reunion that was announced as part of the HBOMax release. It didn’t actually even work out in their favor since COVID delayed taping it. I just didn’t see the point in it and it largely proved me right. The best parts were the cast just on the rebuilt set reminiscing. The rest of the show was trying to do too much or just seemed pointless. Like do I really care who David Beckham’s favorite Friends character is? I do not. There were a few tidbits that came out that I hadn’t heard before, but most of it was rehashing old territory while looking at a bunch of people who looked worse for the wear and just reminded us all how we’re 17 years older for better or worse.

Madame Secretary

I started watching Madame Secretary on Netflix several months ago and made it through about two and half of the six seasons. I might watch some more here and there, but it just didn’t hold my interest. I really do like Tea Leone and Tim Daly and I really like their relationship and even the family stuff with their teenage kids that is usually super annoying on a lot of these types of shows. Those pieces were essentially what was keeping me watching. The rest of the show is mostly just super procedural about her job as the Secretary of State and I found I just didn’t care about any of those plots. I like shows with more character stuff than this one has. They tried a little bit of super awkward romance stuff with a couple of the characters in the first season which they rightly dropped because they certainly didn’t know how to write it. Aside from an episode here or there that the plot makes touch on something in one of their personal lives you mostly just see them at work and don’t know much about their lives. I’ve never been a fan of procedurals for this reason and I thought this show was less like that than it actually is so I was never really able to get into it.

New Music Friday: Favorable Colours by slenderbodies

Given how late in the day I’m writing up this post you may have thought I wasn’t going to share a New Music Friday post this week and you would have been right. Given the holiday weekend it was a very light week for new releases and I just didn’t have anything on my radar that I felt super excited about posting about. I figured I too could take a holiday, but I got a last minute submission from a friend and figured I would write something up real quick.

I don’t really know anything about this band because until about 2 minutes ago I had never heard of them. I gather from some quick Googling that they met at UCSC and I am amused by the tagline on their website “Indie-pop duo, obsessed with guitars and falsetto.” And that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. May it be filled with lots of wonderful music new or old.

Life After (Sort-of) Vaccination

It’s been one month since I supposedly hit full vaccination status and about 10 days since my husband hit it. After being super locked down through the pandemic thus far, we’re slowly starting to baby step our way back out into the world. The problem is that I take a whole cocktail of immunosuppressant drugs, so we don’t actually know how effective the vaccine was for me or if it even was at all. Basically the advice seems to be that if you’re immunocompromised that even if you’re vaccinated you should act like you’re not. To some degree the world feels even less safe now for me than it did before. With case rates dropping due to people getting vaccinated mask mandates and capacity restrictions are being removed it’s now less safe for me to go into situations where I don’t know if people are vaccinated or not. I’m getting angrier and angrier at the people who refuse to get vaccinated or wear a mask and can’t seem to comprehend that their actions don’t affect just them.

I am also super jealous of people who are vaccinated that thanks to the incredibly effective vaccines that were developed in record time are able to start living their lives again in some semblance of normal. I feel like I am being left behind. I want to feel like I can go back out into the world again without putting my life in danger. I want to be able to go to stores and restaurants. I won’t even outside anywhere because I have no idea how many people there are or are not vaccinated.

I’m enrolled in a study looking at the COVID vaccines in people with Crohn’s disease and as part of that I should have my antibodies tested in about a month, but everything I’ve read about that says that unless it miraculously shows that my body did still mount an effective response to the vaccine we don’t really know what it means. There may be other immune responses that are primed that they can’t measure in the existing antibody tests or if I have some antibodies but not as many as healthy people no one knows what the threshold for effectiveness is. There just isn’t enough data yet. So in some respects I want the test in hopes that it tells me the vaccine was effective and I can start living my life more normally, but most likely it’s going to show data that no one really knows how to interpret and I’m still going to feel like I’m living in limbo.

Even with the fact that the vaccine might not be very effective for me, they are offering me some ability to come out of hiding a little bit. The fact that case rates are dropping means it’s much less likely that I’ll come into contact with virus and now that we know that it’s very unlikely for someone who is vaccinated to pass on the disease to someone else I can feel fairly safe in situations where I know everyone is vaccinated.

I’ve started seeing some friends again maskless and in non-socially distant situations. I’ve hung out with a couple of different groups of friends and one of my book clubs has returned to meeting in person. We’re still doing all of these things outside because it’s safer and while the weather allows for it why not. I’m also going to be able to see my family soon. We’re going to visit my sister-in-law this weekend and a few weeks I’m going to visit my sister and her family where my parents and my cousin will also join us. I’ve also started dipping my toe back into more public situations where I can’t know the vaccine status of everyone. I’ve scheduled a million medical appointments that I put off. Not exactly the most fun thing, but necessary. I also have gone back into some stores for the first time in a year. We’re picking back up on the kitchen renovation we were about to start right before the pandemic hit last year, so we’re needing to go to stores to finish picking out all the stuff we need to decide on for that. I also went back to in-person church for the first time since the pandemic started this past Sunday. We’re meeting outside and still masked at the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s pavilion, so it feels very safe to do. I definitely wouldn’t be back if we were meeting indoors right now. It was really nice to be able to be there in person again. There is definitely something to be said for physical community.

For now I’m trying to concentrate on the things I’m starting to get back and not dwell too much on the things that I feel like I still can’t do or wonder about how I’m going to navigate a life that is going back to normal for people either because they’re vaccinated or because they’re unvaccinated and just don’t care while I do care and may not be protected. Eventually the world is going to move on and at some point I’m probably going to have start accepting a higher level of risk than I feel comfortable with because I won’t be able to avoid it forever. See above about my anger at people who won’t get vaccinated.

But I am thankful for all my friends who are vaccinated and are being accommodating to my comfort level for doing things like shifting a suggested get together from an outdoor gathering at a restaurant to someone’s house. It’s really nice to be able to spend time with people again even if I wish I could do more.

New Music Friday: Allison Russell and Lowland Hum

I have two full albums for you today. Usually even if I’m talking about a full album I try to pull out a single song to emphasize, but I’m not going to do that today because you should really listen to the entirety of both of these albums.

First up is Outside Child by Allison Russell. I first became familiar with Allison Russell as part of the folk super group Our Native Daughters. She has apparently also been a member of some other bands as well that I am not familiar with. This is her first solo album and it is a very personal album about surviving the sexual abuse she suffered from her step-father as a child. Despite some of the heavy subject matter it does not feel depressing or sad. A native of Montreal, but now living in Nashville, Russell sings in both English and French on the album. She also collaborates with fellow folk musicians Yola, Erin Rae, and the McCrary Sisters. The sounds ranges from very traditional folk almost spirituals, to more pop folk, to R&B tinged folk. It’s a glorious album and I highly recommend listening to it.

I also wanted to talk about the album So Low by Lowland Hum, which is a cover album of Peter Gabriel’s album So. They released it earlier this week on the 35th anniversary fo the original album. Let me tell you how old that made feel. The answer is very. I love the original Peter Gabriel album. It is full of some of my favorite songs. Ask me about calling a radio station over and over again trying to convince them to play “In Your Eyes” so that I could record it back when I was in middle school and I couldn’t easily get access to the music I wanted to listen to. The original album is so lush and full of instrumentation and Lowland Hum strips much of that out to create a much sparer but still rich sound full of harmonies. It’s exactly what I love in a cover song. It pays homage to original but still makes it something completely new. I also appreciate that they gender flipped the duet on “Don’t Give Up”. If you like the original album I definitely recommend listening to this cover tribute.

New Music Friday: transparentsoul by Willow and ft. Travis Barker

This week I learned that I actually really like Willow Smith’s music. I don’t think I had heard anything by her since the song “Whip My Hair” that she put out when she was 9 years old. I sort of just discounted her thinking she only had any kind of career because she’s Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s kid. To some extent that may be true, but turns out she also makes good music. Whatever it was I just assumed that either it wasn’t very good or that it would be something that I wouldn’t like. Shame on me for writing her off because it turns out neither of those things are true, which I learned by listening to this week’s episode of the Switched on Pop podcast. They started out about in the same place I was but like me realized that Willow Smith rocks. The song “transparentsoul” is and excellent sort of emo rock song. I’m totally digging it and now I need to go back and check out some of her other stuff.

Trip to Gwynn’s Island

This past week would typically be the week that we go to our annual beach trip in South Carolina. Back in January I started doing the math though and figured out that it was extremely unlikely that everyone in our mixed households would be vaccinated by the beginning of May, so we decided to reschedule it for September. Since I had already taken the vacation time I decided to look for something easily drivable for just my husband and me to do. I just put into VRBO that I wanted something on the water and found a house on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia on a remote island called Gwynn’s Island.

It’s not somewhere I would choose to go back to in normal times, but since my main criteria for this trip were somewhere on the water without a lot of people this certainly fit the bill. I knew it was going to be too cold that far north this time of year to do anything super beachy, so it was fine with me that this was on the bay and not the ocean and thus there isn’t really much beach to speak of. The house had a great roof deck overlooking the bay though and I was perfectly content to sit up there and read and stare out at the water. The house itself was quite nice and was the most well stocked rental house I have ever been in. They even had bikes and kayaks we could use, though we didn’t wind up using either.

The island is pretty much all residential. There are only about 600 full-time residents. I saw stuff indicating that a lof of the homes at this point are vacation homes and second homes, but I couldn’t find anything that indicated how many homes were owner occupied vs. vacation homes. There is one restaurant right over the bridge from the mainland, but it didn’t have anything vegetarian for my husband to eat, so we didn’t eat there. The small town of Mathews is about 10 minute away and we went there every evening to grab carryout from some of the restaurants there. There is also a small history museum on the island, which we would have gone to in normal non-COVID times. Based on stuff I read about the island online it seems like it has a pretty interesting history.

While as I said it isn’t somewhere I would plan to go back to as I prefer an actual beach and a little bit more to do on my vacations, but it was a perfectly pleasant and relaxing trip to get away.

New Music Friday: Serotonin by girl in red

I meant to write about “Serotonin” by girl in red last Friday when the album it’s on, if I could make it go quiet, came out. I didn’t have time to write a post before work like I normally do, so I was going to do it at lunch and didn’t feel like it. Then I was going to do it after work, but I didn’t feel like it. So I never did. There isn’t anything else out today that I want to write about more than this so I’m carrying it forward.

girl in red is Norwegian singer-songwriter Marie Ulven. Her debut album addresses a lot about her mental health issues. Obviously the single “Serotonin” is a hallmark of that. It’s something she started to put together over TikTok and is the first song she’s ever taken from messing around on TikTok and turned into an actual song. She’s grown a following over the past several years with a couple of EPs and apparently it’s a signal among Gen Z to ask people if they’re fans of girl in red to find out if they are lesbians. I’m old and don’t use TikTok, so I know nothing about that but I do love the music. “Serotonin” is the first girl in red song I’m aware of hearing and it’s what got me to look into the full album, which I also really like. Go have a listen.

New Music Friday: Chvrches, Yola, and Christopher Paul Stelling

This week was a banner week for artists I love dropping new singles. I expect this year is going to have a glut of new music between people releasing albums they sat on last year until they could tour behind them and all the quarantine albums that were recorded while bands couldn’t tour.

He Said, She Said by Chvrches

It’s been three long years since Chvrches last put out a new album. I hadn’t really seen much out of them in recent years. They weren’t touring and I hadn’t heard anything about new music being worked on, so I was a little worried that we wouldn’t hear from them again. But now they’re back with the single “He Said, She Said” about a manipulative relationship. It was apparently recorded on opposite sides of the Atlantic during lockdown. It’s kind of crazy how music can be produced these days with everyone in different locations. Anyway, it sounds exactly like a Chvrches song, which is all I really wanted from it because I love me some Chvrches. I’m hoping this means a new album and a new tour are imminent, though not until after I feel comfortable going to concerts again. Please go get vaccinated.

Diamond Studded Shoes by Yola

UK country soul singer Yola is back with the first single off her forthcoming new album, Stand For Myself, due out July 30. “Diamond Studded Shoes” co-written with Aaron Lee Tasjan, Natalie Hemby, and Dan Auerbach is one of those great tunes that makes you just want to jump up out of your chair and start boogeying until you actually listen to the terribly depressing lyrics. The song was written in response to former UK Prime Minister talking about how they needed to cut all these social safety net programs while literally wearing shoes with diamonds in them. Again I say I can’t wait for the new album and I really hope I get to see Yola tour with it. Go get your vaccine.

Die to Know by Christopher Paul Stelling

Christopher Paul Stelling released the first single, “Die to Know”, from his new album Forgiving It All due out on September 24. He funded and I backed the album on Kickstarter. After losing out on most of his tour backing his previous album due to COVID, which was released on a label, he talked about the importance of actually owning your own music. So he decided to try and fund the new album himself. This song, and I believe the whole album, is going back to his roots as just a guy and a guitar. I absolutely know I’ve said it on this blog before, but I’ve never seen one person with a guitar capture an audience the way I saw him at the Newport Folk Festival. It’s my example of why I always tell people at Newport to go see the people you don’t know because you may be missing something amazing. Watching an audience full of people, most of whom like me didn’t know who he was prior to that set, just become absolutely rapt was one of those moments I will never forget. I’d love to be able to see him live again too. Go get your vaccine.

New Music Friday: I Need the Night by London Grammar

London Grammar is an indie pop band originally from Nottingham, England composed of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major. I really liked their first album and then kind of lost track of them. If you watched tv in the mid-2010s you for sure have heard some of their music because back in those days when it was still super popular to have scads of music to set the mood all over every tv drama their songs were used a lot. I feel like music is not used nearly as much in tv these days and I miss it. I used to find a lot of new music that way. I even have a Spotify playlist of songs from TV that I haven’t added to in ages.

Anyway, I digress. London Grammar released their third album, California Soil today. In addition to their traditionally very somber sounding songs this album expands on that some what and has a lot more electro pop influence. Sonically they sort of live in the same space as Florencee + the Machine. This album apparently contains a lot about Hannah Reid’s experience in the music industry and all the sexism and misogyny that she faced which almost made her quit the band and leave music altogether. It’s also about fighting back against that. I think “I Need the Night” is one of the best examples of that on the album.

TV Diary

Ted Lasso

I don’t think anyone at this point needs me to tell them that they need to watch Ted Lasso, but if you are one of the last people on earth to still have not watched Ted Lasso and haven’t had a million other people to tell you to watch Ted Lasso let me be the one to tell you to watch Ted Lasso. It’s an AppleTV+ show. If you don’t currently have a subscription it’s worth paying for one month to watch it and then canceling because at this point there isn’t much else of interest there, at least to me. I got it free for a year with my new phone. Anyway Ted Lasso is about a super optimistic and happy American football coach who is hired to coach an English soccer team by the former club owner’s ex-wife who is trying to drive it into the ground to spite him. Ted knows next to nothing about soccer, but he does know about people and he’s determined to turn the team around even if that doesn’t mean breaking their losing streak. It’s a wonderful feel good show and everyone who has been telling you to watch it is completely right.

It’s a Sin

It’s a Sin is a five part limited series created by Russell T. Davies on HBOMax about the early days of the AIDS crisis in England. It follows a group of roommates and friends whose lives are touched by AIDS. Although there is obviously a lot of really sad stuff and horrible stuff that happens in a story surrounding that crisis the show is not a complete downer. There is also a lot of joy in watching the friends together and getting to see some of them living their lives in a way they never thought they would be able to.

Last Chance U: Basketball

I very much enjoyed the original version of the Last Chance U series, which focused on junior college football. They have now ended that series and have revived it focusing on junior college basketball. This season focuses on the East LA Huskies. It’s just as good as the football version. This season had the added suspense of wondering whether COVID was going to cut their season short or whether they would be able to finish it out. I won’t spoil it for you.

Country Comfort

This show stars Katherine McPhee has a down on her luck country singer who was just dumped by her boyfriend and kicked out of their band. Her car breaks down in front of Eddie Cibrian’s house where he is raising his five kids alone after the death of his wife. She is mistaken for the new nanny and eventually decides to keep the job while trying to make it as a country singer. This commonly used tv trope of mistaken identity drives me crazy because like where is the actual nanny? This show is pretty terrible and yet I watched the entire thing. The writing is about on par with Full House, but it’s even worse because everyone is talking in these horribly fake country accents. I’m sure it would be enjoyable family viewing for people with late elementary age kids. I watched all of Fuller House and all of this, so don’t get me wrong I’m not above it, but objectively it is not good. I would still watch another season of it.

Painting with John

Painting with John is an HBOMax series that stars John Lurie as he paints water color pictures and tells stories from his life. It got a lot of critical acclaim, but I didn’t get super into it. My favorite part of the whole thing was just listening to the sounds of the night time wildlife on the tropical island where he lives in the background as he painted in some scenes. I found that kind of relaxing, but otherwise I didn’t much care.

Firefly Lane

I should have listened to every single critic that told me not to watch this show. Everyone warned me, but I didn’t listen. Don’t make my mistake. This show is terrible full stop, but the episodes are written in such a way that the last little bit of each one makes you think you need to keep watching to find out what happens. Don’t fall for it. There is nothing good about this show. It bounces back and forth in time throughout decades in the lives of best friends Kate and Tully from when they meet as teenagers to the present. The stuff that takes place in the 2009ish time frame was the most interesting to me and is really the storyline that kept me watching. I hated every time it bounced back to the teenage timeline which I found to be the least interesting and I also mostly hated the part in the 80s as well. The wigs and glasses in all those scenes were the worst and super distracting. Not to mention that the show bounced around so much during every episode it was impossible to get into anything because as soon as you started to get into what was happening you zoomed to a different part of the story. Then to rub salt in the wound after I wasted 10 hours of my life on this show it didn’t even reveal the mystery that teased throughout the whole series. I was so mad. Actually I’m still mad even thinking about it. Since it’s based on a book I looked up what happened in the book, which is what I should have just done after watching the first episode anyway instead of suffering through 9 more hours only to still not even be told what happened. Knowing what the big reveal is makes the whole thing seem like even more of a waste of my time even if they had decided not to drag it out into a second season that I certainly will not be watching.