The 2012-2013 TV season is winding down, and while I have not watched some acclaimed hits like Breaking Bad, I have watched my share of good and bad TV, so here are my picks for what entertained me this season:
Best Comedy: Big Bang Theory -- Howard coming back from space, Amy Farrah-Fowler's bigger role, and the usual geeky humour had me laughing out loud.
Best Drama: Sure it's not Shakespeare, but I wouldn't watch Shakespeare every week... and season two of the revamped super-soap Dallas was suspenseful, sexy and sometimes just funny. Beautiful rich people sleeping around and stabbing each other in the back is fun to watch. And the passing of Larry Hagman brought on unexpected stories and an incredible touching farewell to icon JR Ewing.
Call It A Classic Already:The Good Wife is old news by now, but it remains amazingly smart and entertaining. Sure the season started off wonky with the Kalinda's secret husband storyline going nowhere, but once that was over they brought back the core marital political drama and big name guest stars doing unexpected things, from Michael J Fox to Nathan Lane to Mathew Perry. Every episode is worth watching.
Best Reality Show: New judges Usher and Shakira juiced the already addictive The Voice.... amazing singers, big celeb coaches like Sheryl Crow, and touching personal stories. Plus the whole idea of having coaches who help rather than idiot judges who are mean is just appealing to begin with.
Best Daytime Show: While Katie had its moments, it was Anderson Cooper's second season of daytime that was fast and smart and funny. Between Cooper coming out of the closet last summer, and then the show being cancelled early in its second season and still having the season to make new shows, Cooper seemed loose and relaxed and was just entertaining. Pair him with a sassy cohost with Lisa Rinna or Kathy Griffin and the show soars.
Best Late Night: Hands down, Jimmy Fallon.... and that is why he is getting The Tonight Show next year.
Best New Show: The reimagined Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, with Holmes as an antisocial British addict fresh out of rehab in modern New York, and Lucy Liu as Watson, was way better than I expected from CBS... great actors and interesting story lines.
And they can't all be good, so here are some quick ideas on worst of the season: The New Normal which got better as the season went on but too often chose preachy over funny, soapy Nashville which started off strong but lost steam, Revenge which followed up a great first season with a lousy second one, The View which became so dull even Joy Behar is leaving, and the bizarro coming-out speech from Jodie Foster at The Golden Globes.
"So you think this is normal" says the reporter to the intern... "Just because a guy wants to do something new doesn't mean he's a freak show"... or does it? One of the great things about video-on-demand is access to movies that we could not otherwise see, that likely never came to our city, such as Safety Not Guaranteed, a 2012 well-reviewed little independent flick that won a screenwriting award at the Sundance Film Festival and that never came here. This is a smart, funny, sweet and ultimately touching film about love and outcasts.
Safety Not Guaranteed is about a man named Kenneth seeking someone to travel back in time with him. He places an ad in Seattle magazine seeking someone to go along...
As this makes news, self-obsessed reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson from New Girl) gets the assignment and takes two interns along: Arnao, a shy twenty-one year Indian student, and Darius, a bored cynical university student.
Darius is challenged with getting weird guy Kenneth to trust her. Arnao and Jeff follow along to get the story of the crazy time travel guy. We go along for the quirky characters and the laughs.
The characters in Safety Not Guaranteed are stuck in time, just like Kenneth. Jeff tries to be cool but is having difficulty coming to grips with his job and being a grown-up. Arnao hides behind his plain glasses and is frozen, unable to communicate with the world. Darius confesses she’d rather live in another time because “everything cool has been done.”
Safety Not Guaranteed is a surprise, as is its finale. It’s shot digitally and done on a low budget, which form part of its charm. That, along with the film’s smart writing and sharp editing add to the film’s allure. Quirky charm and some laughs along the way don’t hurt either. See it.
One of my favourite things about all our movie channels and video-on-demand TV options is discovering little seen movies, or catching the big flicks I missed the first time around. I just discovered last year's little-seen Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. While promoted as a comedy, this is more of a wistful drama... and I found it enchanting. In Seeking..., An asteroid named "Matilda" is on a collision course towards Earth and in three weeks the world will come to an end... so what would you do? The film's primary characters, Carell's Dodge and Knightley's Penny, are neighbours who didn't know of each other until all hell breaks loose, and through chance, discover that they click. Dodge's wife runs away and leaves him sad and confused, not knowing why his marriage vows didn't last, and reminiscing about his high school sweetheart. Penny just broke up with her loser boyfriend, and while escaping from the mob they make a pact that she will help him muster up some courage while seeking out his lost love and he will help her find an airplane good enough to send her back to her family.
It's a road trip of sorts, set to an apocalyptic background. There's good music, wacky situations the duo find themselves in, and some time to perform that world-ending soul search, while inevitably falling in love. There's lots of truths put on the table for discussion, and with no fancy special effects this is a character-driven apocalypse tale... so it's no Armageddon, which is a good thing. The first half of Seeking... is a comedy and satire, and then it shifts into an emotional drama and really works. It is touching, tender and thought provoking... see it.
Harrison Ford, the actor also known as Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Mr Calista Flockhart, is out making the rounds promoting his new baseball movie 42, and was asked about marriage quality. Here's what he said:
We’re getting there, we’re getting there, he says in an interview with Metro. You know, you would hope that it would have happened with less resistance. You would have hoped that everyone would get the point at the same time, but life’s not like that.
Things do change quickly at a tipping point, as it builds and it builds and it builds until there’s a moment where the balance of opinion, the weight of experience and the understanding comes to a point where the scales tip in the other direction, he adds.
42 is the story of Jackie Robinson and the struggle for racial acceptance, and Ford was asked if he saw a parallel between that struggle and the current battle for marriage equality:
I think there’s a metaphor you can reach for, according to your own interests and your own understanding and your own issues. But trying to create the best expression of the ideals — the most equal society, the best-regulated society, the best-behaving society — depend on attending to equality and inequity whenever it rears its ugly head. Certainly the marriage issue conveniently falls into that category. Well said, Mr Ford! Now how about signing up for that new Star Wars sequel already?
A few weeks ago we had dinner and a lovely evening at the home of our friends, let's call them Jane and Glenn (because those are their names). As we ate a wonderful indulgent yet mostly healthy meal, veggies and all, we laughed and mocked the crazy trashy foods we had seen advertised... silly over-the-top things like pizza with hot dogs shoved in the crust, and pizza with cream cheese and meatball toppers. Why would people ruin foods with bizarre fatty stupid combinations like that? These disgusting over the top carb-loaded fat-overkill foods were utterly gross. And we simply had to try them... so the plan for our next evening together was hatched.
So last weekend we had our White Trash Pizza Party (thanks Jane for the moniker). While we didn't go as far as to wear Crocs or play bingo, I think we pulled it off.
After the first crisis was averted (these gourmet delights are no longer offered on the Pizza Hut website), we were able to call customer service and special order them in. For the "crown" pizza we chose both cream cheese and meatball crowns (crust extensions), and decided on spicy chicken toppings. For the hot dog stuffed crust we chose vegetarian toppings (extra irony points). Four people, no veggies, two large fat-filled pizzas... they were cheesy and bready and tasty and way too much. And we devoured them. Like so many things in life, they were so bad and so good. While all were tasty --- cream cheese on pizza, who knew? --- we all agreed the hot dog crust (think pig in a blanket) was our favourite, and we were a tad embarrassed by our affection for it. Awesome. To mitigate the risk of this meal not being bad enough for us, Jane and Glenn brought six Dairy Queen Dilly Bars for dessert... so that's about the Weight Watchers points equivalent of kale, right? Awesome fun evening... and oh yeah I gotta get on that damn treadmill.
It's no secret that Alfred is the non-human love of my life... and today the little dude is six years old! So while we may have a toy or two for the little furball, it is a tradition on alfred lives here to mark this occasion in a bigger way.
So in honour of the birthday of the world's cutest canine, also known as Alfie, Alfredo, Furball, ADD Alfred, Ewok, Moocho Poocho, Beagle Wannabe, Alfie Poop, Little Dude, The Instigator and Have-Many-Needs Havanese, ... here's the deal... As I know that Alfie is more pampered than your average pooch, we are gonna celebrate his birthday by raising money for the Humane Society. For every comment left on this post today and tomorrow, April 26 and 27, we will donate $1 from Alfie's allowance to the Humane Society..... how much money will Alfie raise this year?
Forget all those other so-called important occasions, forget Christmas or your spouse's birthday... tomorrow April 22 is a holiday of major importance... National Jelly Bean Day!
How do you celebrate? National Jelly Bean Day is a time to enjoy gobs and gobs of jelly beans. While they are especially popular at Easter, jelly beans are popular year round. Cuz they're awesome.
While my extensive research, also known as a five-second Google search, did not discover the origin of National Jelly Bean Day, I would guess Ronald Reagan had something to do with it. That dude loved his jelly beans!
Fun fact: Jelly beans date back to at least the 1860's. Advertisements promoted sending jelly beans to Union troops fighting in the Civil War. The original candy maker is unknown. Once again, I would guess Ronald Reagan. That guy was really old when he was President.
Jelly bean flavours are limited only by the imagination of candy makers. If you've never enjoyed the multitude of flavors in a box of gourmet jelly beans, I suggest you head right out to the store and buy yourself some. And buy a box for me too. My jellybean gumball machine is empty (and yes I really have one of those).
My husband has been known to surprise me with boxes of Jelly Belly's. Tonight would be good timing, honey...
Favourite flavours? I like licorice, green apple, sour cherry and root beer. Oh, okay, all of 'em... what's your favourite flavour?
While yes we still have snow on the ground here (aaargh!), I am sure looking ahead to summer, and to some non-businessy reading.
We head off on vacation in less than two weeks, and will be on multiple airplanes and one very large ship, so will have some downtime, and some unplugged time, to catch up on recreational reading.
I am currently on the most recent Sue Grafton book, I snoozed through Lean In already, and the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada isn't out until June, so I had some tough choices to make.
Here is what I have loaded on my iPad, and yes even one old-fashioned book with real paper pages.... looking for suggestions here, what else should I be reading?
Carol Burnett, Carrie and Me: I adore Carol Burnett, and loved her smart autobiography about her unusual childhood, One More Time. This one is about her daughter Carrie, who died of cancer at age 38. I expect to laugh and cry...
Dave Hugelschaffer, Day Into Night: A local Alberta author I had not heard of until a few weeks ago, this is the first in his mystery series about a forest ranger turned investigator. The author is a firefighter himself, and based on the radio interview I heard, the guy is smart and funny. How had I not heard of him before?
Lance Burson, The Ballad of Helene Troy: A first novel by my Sprocket Ink cohort Lance Burson, I paid my dollars and downloaded it on day one of selling. Lance is a smart sarcastic writer, I cant wait to carve out a few hours to read his book about a wannabe rock and roll star named Helene. Better not suck, Lance....!
Lindy Woodhead, Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge: Granted, the current PBS series is mediocre and certainly no Downton Abbey, but it does have me intrigued about the brash American who created the iconic "Selfridges" London department store and is credited with reinventing retail as we know it.
William Davis, The Wheat Belly Diet: We bought this two months ago and has been sitting untouched on the coffee table. I am still eating bread, and surprisingly have not lost much weight. It is coming on the cruise with us, if only to taunt me as I head towards the dining room. Okay, I actually do intend to read the damn thing and change my entire life.....
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert lost his long battle with cancer this week, at age 70. Ebert was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, and then become really famous when he was paired with rival Chicago film critic Gene Siskel in 1975 to cohost a movie review show on PBS.
As a geeky movie-loving kid, I grew up watching Sneak Previews and At The Movies and Siskel & Ebert At The Movies and whatever the hell else they called it (hey, they changed that show around a lot); these guys were smart and funny and clashed like egghead siblings. They made the "thumbs up, thumbs down" judging famous.
Ebert was probably the best known film critic ever, period. And he was entertaining... as in his review of Basic Instinct 2, a truly crappy moviewhich yes I saw, he said "I cannot recommend the movie, but ... why the hell can't I? Just because it's godawful? What kind of reason is that for staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, that would be a reason!" I remember staying up late to watch them guest together on Johnny Carson. And falling asleep cuz it was too late for me.
I later discovered Ebert's columns, and then later still his blog and twitter, which were wise and sharp and funny, and increasing political. Smart man. Ebert was a bachelor until age 50, then married Chaz, a divorced black attorney with kids and dogs and a big loud family. His writing about her was magical... "She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading." Ebert wrote many books, including collections of reviews and the awesomeIHated, Hated, Hated This Movie series. Then in 2011 he published an autobiography called Life Itself, which I listed as my fave book of the year. It is an amazing read, warm and smart and goes beyond just the movies, talking about culture and travel and race and ambition and love and cancer; if you haven't read it yet, do so for sure. In his last review, published this weekend, for the flick To The Wonder, Ebert wrote a last sentence that could be applied to him as well: There will be many who find “To the Wonder” elusive and too effervescent. They’ll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need.
This week I wrote about the new "women's sort of manifesto" by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, one of the world's most powerful women, and wannabe social movement starter. She makes some good points in a likeable quick read, but I'm not sure it's a social movement...
Read my post on Sprocket Ink by clicking here: Lean In
Sometimes referred to as All Fools' Day, April 1st is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when people play all kinds of jokes and pranks.
Here in Canada, the silliness is supposed to last only until noon, but in other countries it goes on all damn day. I guess for a fake holiday with no rules, you can make it up as you go along.
I've never been a big fan of the April foolishness, as I am not much of a prank lover, and I believe in silliness all year long. But some people really know how to run with this one.
According to The Museum of Hoaxes, here is the number one April Fool's Day hoax of all time:
On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil."
The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show's highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, "For those who love this dish, there's nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.
"The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
What can I say? That April Fool's prank is effing brilliant!
Entertainer (and famous Mormon) Marie Osmond has long supported her out lesbian daughter, and this week tells Diane Sawyer she believes in marriage equality:
"The God that I believe in is a god of love, not fear. I don't tell my children if you're not good you're going to Hell. I tell my children that God will be there for them when they struggle. That's the God I believe in...I believe in [my lesbian daughter's] civil rights, as a mother. I think my daughter deserves everything that she desires in life. She's a good girl. She's a wonderful child. I don't think God made one color flower. I think he made many."
This week, as marriage equality was debated in the US Supreme Court, several of Marie's fellow Osmond's including her brother Alan hosted a rally "benefitting the protection of marriage between a man and a woman" at the Utah capitol. Screw them... YAY Marie Osmond:
When K and I got married almost three years ago, we had about 50 people for a Sunday brunch and kept it pretty low key (for pictures click here). And our invite was pretty minimalist as well. With all the advances in marriage equality since then, and the cases currently before the US Supreme Court, the people at happyplace.com have come up with a new take on an invite, and I love it: