Real World Views

In case you haven’t noticed, just about every television show nowadays is some sort of “reality TV” program. A cooking show. A travel show. A spouse finding show. A house flipping show. A rich-people-fighting show. Heck, there’s even shows about people taking their junk into pawn shops! Every channel is teeming with shows that peek into the (heavily edited and likely scripted) lives of our fellow non-celebrities or even would-be-used-to-be celebrities.

Believe it or not, despite how inescapable it is, I’ve never been bitten by the reality TV bug. My parents watch Big Brother and Survivor. They’ve been trying for years to get me hooked on them, but I just can’t. Not for lack of effort, though. To be fair, I did watch Survivor ONCE. What happened in that episode? Let’s see. If I recall correctly, one of the players stole all of the other team’s stuff before they even got to the island where the contest was supposed to take place. When that happened I said “screw this” and put reality TV in my rearview mirror. I just find that watching cheaters do terrible things to other people is more annoying than it is entertaining. As it turns out, that’s pretty much the entire foundation that reality TV is built upon. Not just Survivor, but all of them. Apparently, playing dirty is the norm and expected.

Sometime after the Survivor fiasco, I went back to the well and tried again. This time I chose Dancing with the Stars (after it had been on for a while). That one wasn’t too bad. I even made it through a couple of seasons. The first season I watched was okay, but I had my qualms. I didn’t like that the fan voting made it more of a popularity contest than a dancing contest, and the good dancers got sent home because of it. The second and third seasons kind of lost me when I realized some of the “celebrity” guests they threw in there were pretty much professionals themselves who had obvious dance expertise (a choreographer, an ice skater, a gymnast). How is that fair to the others? That’s like competing in a swim meet and the person you’re up against is a professional lifeguard. Plus, the one guest celebrity who had absolutely no dancing experience and yet was improving over time (which I thought was the whole point of the show) was treated horribly by the judges. I mean horribly. It was cringe-worthy. That turned off whatever interest I may have had in the so-called contest.

Even though I’ve been burned twice, I can’t say that I’ve given up on reality TV quite yet. Much to my dismay, actually. My daughter has turned me on to Project Runway and, to be blunt, it’s driving me insane. I get anxious. Then, I get angry. Then I get anxious AND angry, not to mention loud. And while the emotional roller coaster the show puts me through is not exactly a pleasant experience, I just can’t turn away. I must see who wins. And if it ends up not being the person I want to win, well, I simply can’t be responsible for my actions or what happens to my TV. The problem is that I get too invested. I feel attached to certain players. I become incensed over the rude comments made by the judges. I feel betrayed pissed off when someone cheats. I take offense when a player reveals they are two-faced. How annoying is all that!?  And hey, it’s only my first season of watching. So, yeah.

Watching reality TV just reaffirms everything I hate about people in general and I find it very frustrating that I now wait anxiously for Thursdays to roll around so I can see what the hell happens. I won’t be watching another season of Project Runway, I’m sure, but as it stands now, I just want to make it through this one with my TV and vocal chords intact.

Wild, Wild Life

 

Laying back in my jammies – Check

Pizza delivered – Check

Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer – Check

Kahlúa laced hot cocoa – Double Check!

Horror movie marathon (most definitely of the B variety) on Syfy – Triple Check!

Long-distance friend on speed-dial-texting to mock said B movies – Check!

 

 

Eye of the Beholder

We live in an age where people list their occupation as “Television Personality.” This means that they appear on television, and that gives them a marketable personality. Think “Kardashians.” No, please, don’t think Kardashians. God knows they get enough press. We have become a Reality TV culture. We watch relatively unknown people, waiting to see what wild and crazy thing they do next and by so doing, make them famous. This brings me to young Farrah Abraham and an article I just read about her.

Eight years ago, Ms. Abraham was a pregnant 16 year-old living with her parents in Council Bluffs, Iowa. MTV announced that they were going to do a program called 16 and Pregnant. Farrah, apparently realizing that she filled the requirement, applied to appear on the show. She was cast and appeared on the second episode. Her baby was born, and, quite fortuitously, MTV announced the premier of a new show, Teen Mom. Farrah was again cast to appear. A Television Personality was born.

Teen Mom was followed by a stint at cooking school and the release of a cookbook. In 2012, she released a studio album AND an autobiography, both called “My Teenage Dream Ended.” This was followed by an appearance on “Couples Therapy.” Of course, her burgeoning fame led to starring in adult movies, you know, as it does. Still, I guess Television Personality sounds better than Porn Star on the resume. Farrah landed a $500,000 contract to appear as a regular at a “Gentleman’s Club” in Texas. Celebrity Big Brother came along in 2015. Farrah was then just 24 years old. After she was “evicted” from the Big Brother house, she looked for the next project.

In so doing, I suppose she felt she must somehow perfect herself. She was already quite lovely. However, some folks think that multiple plastic surgeries will make them more attractive, happier, …and more marketable. It’s sad, really.

Abraham underwent three breast augmentations, a rhinoplasty, chin implant, and lip injections.  Then, she decided that maybe it was time to remodel, as she calls them, her “lady parts.”  She just recently announced that she’d undergone a “vaginal rejuvenation” procedure.  That is the not-so-discreet subject matter of the article I read.

In an interview, she said this about the procedure: “Like you’re 16 again!”  I find that odd in and of itself. It’s not as if she’s 80 to begin with… she’s only 26 for Pete’s sake. Not to mention, I have absolutely no idea why someone would want to announce to the world that they’re even having this kind of procedure, let alone document the whole thing on Instagram and discuss it at length in interviews. But there you go. That’s the world we live in today.

Apparently, this procedure is becoming more and more popular. Who knew?  Ms. Abraham said that she did it so that she would be more attractive and to “heighten feelings of intimacy.” What!? I won’t even get into the fact that science debunks the claim this surgery enhances sensitivity. However, I will say that if she rationalizes her attractiveness and worth on her nether regions, I just find that overwhelmingly depressing.

Now, I’m big on “live and let live” so long as whatever you’re doing isn’t somehow infringing on someone else in some way. But this issue, it just boggles my mind and it saddens me to see us, as a society, going in this direction. I’m reminded of the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder,” but in a much more intimate setting.

I know women have altered their appearance since the dawn of time, but we’re not talking tattoos or hair color here or even breast implants. This type of surgery, with all of the inherent risks that go with it, is a permanent alteration to your innermost person for no other reason than to look good during sex (or simulations thereof). That’s it. That’s the purpose.

It’s so very disheartening to see women feel the need to go under the knife just to be more accepted, more attractive to others (key word, others), to further their career, to become… more.

Quite frankly, it also seems to run against her claim that she is a “model for all teen moms.”  Having plastic surgery on your vagina at 24 years of age shouldn’t in the remotest be seen as a goal for young women. Well, unless you want to be a Television Personality, I guess.

Netflix and Chaos

Sometimes I feel sorry for Netflix. Well, as sorry as one can feel towards a combination of old style in-home Blockbuster and new-age Artificial Intelligence.

You see, there are three individuals who use Netflix in my house, and we could not be more different. Can you imagine the havoc we must play on the poor program’s algorithms?

First, you have me. I love horror. I’m not ashamed. Love it. “No One Lives” is one of my favorite movies – the name sort of gives away the plot, but hey. Great movie. Classic B movies such as Dead Silence? I am so there, popcorn in hand. BUT. I’m also addicted to British crime and mysteries such as Miss Fisher, Midsomer Murders, and Ripper Street. Throw in period dramas like Pride and Prejudice, Peaky Blinders, The Tudors, Versailles, and The Borgias, along with a smattering of off the wall shows like Psych and Monk, and well…you’ll kind of get a sense of my eclectic taste.

On my chaotic watching alone, Netflix could not be blamed for pulling its hair out when trying to pull together a cohesive list of matching shows.

But then you add in my kids.

There’s the daughter who watches anime along with sitcoms like Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, and Parks and Rec. BUT. She also likes superhero movies and so gets her fix by watching Gotham and Daredevil. Continuing her love for animated movies, she watches those frequently, but only certain ones – namely Megamind, Moana, Emperor’s New Groove, Road to El Dorado, Zootopia and the like – no standard princesses for her. Add in her love for stand-up comedy, especially that of John Mulaney, and movies such as The Way He Looks and Out in the Dark, and you’ve got quite a confusing trend for Netflix to track.

The boy on the other hand, he watches a different kind of anime (I’m told there are MANY varying styles of anime) and Seth Rogen movies (ugh!), and a surprising number of stand-up comedians I’ve never heard of before but that I’m assured are hilarious. BUT. He shares my love of comic book inspired entertainment and watches Iron Fist, among others. So, that’s a good thing.

I can only imagine what Netflix’s algorithms must think about our household. As many of you probably already know, Netflix loves to make recommendations “for your viewing pleasure.” It’s one of the system’s more endearing qualities. Netflix’s complicated programming allows for it to analyze your extensive viewing selections and then based on that analysis, the system generates a list of shows it recommends that should, theoretically, match your past selections.

Well. With the diverse t.v. viewing going on in my household, how on earth can Netflix condense these wide-ranging choices into a coherent recommendations list? One answer. It can’t. And for that, I feel sorry for it. The little man in there must be really scratching his head. Or pulling his hair out. One or the other. I don’t blame the system. I mean, it must truly appear that at times we are simply choosing shows at random. You should see some of the recommendations we get in return. I find it quite amusing myself.

After checking our “top picks for you” list recently, I found that next to Axe Murders of Villisca, is Minions. The Unborn has a place next to That 70s Show. Secret Life of Pets is immediately to the left of Twin Peaks. Chicken Little? It resides beside Doc Martin. Arrested Development was next to Octonauts for god’s sake. Last Airbender is followed by It Follows (a movie about a sexually transmitted curse – I had to check the plot after seeing the name). British comedian Jimmy Carr’s latest stand-up is listed right beside an anime called Mushi-Shi. The odd pairings go on and on.

So yeah, quite the eclectic list of recommendations, I must say. It’s sort of like my bookshelf, I suppose. If anyone wants to come in and go through the list without asking, they get what they deserve.

 

 

Waiting Game

There’s not many things that will make me shout out “Hallelujah!” but it did recently happen. Care to guess why? Was it because I nearly avoided being involved in a terrible car accident with my one and only daughter in the vehicle with me? Did a friend called me with news of their cancer going into full remission (I wish!)? Was Publisher’s Clearinghouse outside my front door one morning with a big check? No such luck.

Sadly, none of these are the reasons for my exclamation. In those examples, I think a word like “Hallelujah” is pretty appropriate. There’s no shame in admitting that. Unfortunately, the real reason might not be quite as noble. So enough with the suspense. You want to know what happened? Here you go…

A show I really like just released a new season on Netflix.

Wait, wait. Before you judge my use of religious superlatives you have to understand. I’d been waiting SO LONG to catch up on the latest episodes and re-watch some others.

Something tells me most of you understand that feeling; the jubilation that you can finally see how that cliffhanger turned out. The wait between seasons is becoming more and more common and as much as I enjoy the higher quality television we’re getting, I am not a fan of the wait.

It used to be such a simple formula. Shows began their seasons in September. There’d be a good couple months of new episodes, then some repeats, then another stretch of new shows up until the big season finale in May. We all have our summer vacations where we spend time outside and away from the TV. In August, the commercials whetting our appetite would start again, then in September the cycle would start over again.

Not anymore. This new “Golden Age of TV” is like the wild west. There are no rules. No promises of when we’ll see these characters again. There’s not even a guarantee that they’ll be back on the same station. It’s all up in the air now making some of the wait times far, far too long.

I only need to bring up Game of Thrones and any devoted watchers are sure to understand my frustrations. But if you’re not into GoT that doesn’t mean you’re immune. Walking Dead anyone? Season 2 of Jessica Jones? Peaky Blinders? Don’t even get me started on Sherlock. Always Sunny in Philadelphia just ended their latest season in March and won’t be back until 2019! Heck, there’s a comedy on TBS, Nobodies, that just finished their first season. I repeat, their first season. At the end of the finale they had the audacity to put up on the screen “We will return in 2018.” 2018!? What the hell? I sort of understand when you have shows with high production values and intricate set pieces, but this show is literally just about three writers sitting around their office getting into awkward situations. There are no CGI dinosaurs to create. No monster make-up to apply head to toe. How can it take so long for them to give us another season? If a tiny show like that can take more than half a year to give us new material, what hope do we have of quickly made Westworlds or Fargos or, be still my heart, Taboos?

Like I said previously, I’m loving what TV studios are putting out there for us now. Trust me, I don’t want to go back to the days of choosing between King of Queens and Malcolm in the Middle (blech).  But a person can only be expected to be so patient and I’ve been finding that patience tested on a regular basis when I get invested in a new show. All I have to say is thank god for books and Netflix. If I didn’t have them I don’t know how I’d get through.

Midsomer Lifestyle

Have any of you ever seen the show Midsomer Murders? It a great show from England about two detectives, The Barnabys (first there is Tom, played by the incomparable John Nettles, who lasted for 14 seasons and then Tom’s younger cousin John, played by Neil Dudgeon, who takes over when Tom retires) and their varying Sergeants who assist in their crime-solving routines. If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the basic premise: Set in the fictional county of Midsomer, the Barnabys take on and solve murder cases, which are never in short supply given the area’s shockingly high murder rate. I. Love. This. Show. I’ve been binge-watching (or rather, re-binge-watching) this week to my daughter’s dismay.  To say she isn’t into languid, picturesque British detective shows is an understatement.

the cousins Barnaby

The villages of Midsomer — many named Midsomer something, as in Midsomer Florey or Midsomer Worthy, or perhaps something as delightful as the jaunty Badger’s Drift — are so tranquil and charming that I don’t see how anyone would be angry enough to commit murder there. But murder they do, and the perpetrators never seem satisfied with just one, either – more often than not, there are multiple per show.  It’s like potato chips with these people. There was only one episode in the history of the series that had zero murders, and from what I understand, fans were outraged with that singular murder-free storyline…go figure. Who knew there were such rabid viewers addicted to rampant violence running amok amid an idyllic backdrop?  If you’re a fan of fun crime dramas this is for you. There’s no shortage of material. The show started in 1997 and as of right now 19 seasons have already aired.

If you’re a fan of breathtaking English countryside, this is also the show for you. The locations in which they shoot are always beautiful, historical, and quaint little hamlets. They’re so quiet and comfortable-looking that I’ve daydreamed about buying a little cottage in one of these villages and living that Midsomer country life. You may be asking, “But what about, you know, all the murders that happen there?” I’ve thought about it and while it would be a disadvantage if my neighbors were getting iced all the time, it just might be worth the view. These towns are REALLY pretty. And you know, the violent crime rate does give everyone something to talk about down at the local pub. So there’s that.

Amazingly enough, while from the outside, these locations seem about as far away from modern technology as one could be, everyone (in the later episodes of course) have a laptop and a smart phone. Flip phones were all the rage in the earlier shows. It’s not just the “old-money” rich, either, in their truly opulent homes, and who seem to outnumber the middle-class residents of the area by a landslide. No, everyone from the farmer down the lane to the Lord who renovated that castle up the street have electronics that make me envious…and the data to back it up, despite nary a cell tower cluttering up the landscape. I mean, I can’t even get service in my local grocery store, let alone when travelling between towns on our rural backroads.

Outside of the steady flow of homicide, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Midsomer. If it existed, that is. With the lovely to-die-for (ha!) scenery AND the possibility of unlimited data, I think I could ignore the rampant carnage.

Seriously though, how is Wi-Fi not an issue in Midsomer? That’s the real mystery I think the Barnabys should spend some time investigating.

Show Stoppers

Joy to the world! No, this is not a Christmas post. I’m happy because a cult classic show is being resurrected after twenty some-odd years. It was recently announced that David Lynch’s “masterpiece” Twin Peaks will be coming back for another season in 2015. While I haven’t seen a single episode I am happy for those fans who were devoted to the ill-fated gem that was cancelled right at a critical apex in the story arc. No spoiler here, I just know that what turned out to be the last episode of the series was certainly not designed to be that way. Lynch and his crew definitely had future plans that resulted in one of the most frustrating cliffhangers known in TV history.

And that’s what got me thinking. I HATE when shows get cancelled on a cliffhanger.  I can’t relate to Twin Peaks per se, but there was a show I absolutely adored on BBC called Coppers. It was set in post-Civil War era New York and showcased the lives of Irish immigrants. I probably didn’t really sell it in that description, but trust me, it was a great show. By all accounts, it should’ve stayed on the air. It had great ratings and a huge fan base, but BBC pulled the plug on it unexpectedly. Why? Money. It always comes down to money. The show got too expensive to maintain so they cancelled it and decided to run with Orphan Black instead. I guess I sort of understand. TV is a business like any other and networks need to pull in profits. But still, Coppers ended on this truly amazing cliffhanger and now I’m left with this sinking feeling in my stomach because I know that I’ll never, ever find out what happened. It will forever be an unresolved issue and that’s pretty awful.

In a perfect world television station bigwigs should go to a show’s producers/creators/brainchild and say, “Hey, we’re going to give you the ax, but you get [insert number] more episodes to wrap everything up before you’re off the air.” Wouldn’t that be great if shows always had the chance to tie up the loose ends as they take their final bow? Again, that’s a perfect world and unfortunately we don’t live in one.

Canning a show out of the blue is sort of like firing someone in an office. They have 30 minutes to put their stuff in a box and get escorted out by security. Quick, precise, and sleek so no one else around is too heavily affected. It’s not like they have the rest of the day to go around cubicle to cubicle shaking hands and wishing everyone well, so I know I shouldn’t expect TV shows to be given so much slack.

Still…it would be nice, wouldn’t it?