I Have More Faith in Peanut Butter than Television These Days

A couple years back I wrote something for a different blogging site stating that for the first time in a long time I had hope for television.  It just so happened that year there were a lot of creative shows with great concepts or writing that had me excited to watch them on a weekly basis.  I thought great storytelling was gaining ground back from reality television and it was such a relief.

Well, gentle and not-so-gentle readers I have to admit something: I was wrong. That hope I had back then?  Fairly diminished.  I’m not saying hope is gone; I believe somehow or another, someday we have to hit rock bottom and at that point entertainment, in whatever form it takes, will start elevating again. But at this moment… it’s not a pretty picture.

Of the shows I blogged about back then, the only one that’s still on the air is How I Met Your Mother.  I’m not going to climb on the bandwagon with a lot of people on the internet and say that the show has jumped the shark.  I think it’s still good.  I look forward to watching it every week.  Neil Patrick Harris  is still one of the most brilliant comedic actors ever and the show continues to bring the funny while occasionally kicking me in the shins with a sad moment.  Here’s the problem: One of the things I like most about the show, the storytelling frame, has become a trap. I think the writers are afraid that the day Ted meets the mother of his children the show is over.  My advice to them?  It doesn’t have to be.  Come on, you really don’t think Ted has more stories to tell?  How he convinced her to go out with him.  How she convinced him to marry her.  How they decided to become parents.  I think it’s time we start telling at least one of these.

Now I must admit, for someone who says she’s losing hope in the genre, I watch a lot of television.  There are other shows I like.  There just aren’t a lot I love.  The rundown:

One Life to Live.  Okay, actually, OLTL is great.  Best it’s been in years.  I’m excited to watch it every day.  Why it’s making me lose hope?  Oh yeah, because it’s going off the air in a month.  To be replaced by yet another show telling women that if we lose weight and wear different clothes everything that’s wrong with our lives will disappear.  (And because Brian Frons has still not been fired.  Oh yes, I’m still bitter.)

General Hospital. At the moment this show is not just bad, it’s offensively bad, but it’s still in my DVR because I feel like I need to support the few remaining daytime dramas while I can.  (I’m not in the least concerned it will be around next year to suck)

Castle.  I like Castle.  But the only thing that separates it from hundreds of other procedurals is Nathan Fillion.  And as Richard Castle has become slightly more tortured in the past season, he’s lost a little of his energy.  I’m not saying the character shouldn’t evolve, I’m just saying… as a whole, the show is not nearly good enough to make me break my ABC boycott starting in January.

Ringer.  I really want to like this show.  It has actors I like and my old roommate’s names, but… it’s about one hectic week away from being taken off my DVR.  There’s a difference between building suspense and just not telling the story and with regards to the real Siobhan, I don’t think this show knows that.  Also… I like Sarah Michelle Gellar just fine, but she’s not doing enough to delineate her portrayals of the two sisters.

Glee.  Again it’s a like, but not as much as I want to kind of thing.  The weird thing is, it’s the closest depiction of high school as I actually experienced it that I’ve ever seen.  Yes, including the singing.  This show is good at bringing the funny, I’m just not invested emotionally in many of the characters.  I will be interested to see what happens when a lot of the cast “graduates” at the end of this year.  Can the pull off a Degrassi style slow transition?  I’m curious enough to stay tuned, but if I miss an episode, I don’t freak out.

Psych.  Okay, weirdly, if anything is giving me hope on television it’s this show.  Not that it’s that amazingly well done, but they’ve managed to take the procedural format (which as a general rule I dislike) and make me enjoy it.  They also continue to bring the funny.  But most impressively, they’ve let the characters and their relationships evolve (and let Shawn and Juliet get together) and it hasn’t ruined anything.  My only concern is the recent obsession with big name guest stars.  Some are great, but I feel like it indicates they don’t think the regular characters are enough to sell it, and they’re wrong.

Bones.  I dunno.  I like that Booth and Brennan are together and still have drama.  I like that Hodgins and Angela are together.  I just… feel like the show is becoming a little too formulaic in its episode style.  Way too many of them are defaulting to the Law and Order standby of “people doing random thing find gross body, they freak out, cut to our investigators.”  They’ve always used this, but it just feels like they’re using it more and more.  I still like it, but I’m not as excited about it as I once was.

Grimm.  My mother’s friends convinced me to give it a little longer trial.  I want to support fairy tale inspired shows it’s just… there’s nothing new about this show.  I stand by my initial assessment that it’s Angel with less funny and a less charismatic cast.  Honestly, there’s only one character who interests me at all and he’s our domesticated Big Bad Wolf.  Even the villains aren’t fun to hate.  They’re just… meh.  And at the end of the day, it’s just a procedural with a twist.  Which isn’t even a well executed twist.  Also… it’s a little rapey.

Fringe. I was really excited for this season to start.  And I’m excited for it to come back from hiatus.  I like a lot of things about this show—genuinely creative plots, characters I care about, good acting and dialogue, plus it brings the right amount of funny.  But I’m starting to have concerns that recent plot twists are kind of just JJ Abrams being weird because he can be, not because it pertains to the overall integrity of the story.

Once Upon a Time.  Okay, I figured out why I like this show.  Because I like when shows do alternate reality episodes, and essentially, this show is a giant alternate reality episode.  So it’s fun.  But again, I’m not invested.  I don’t care if Snow White gets her prince back.  I don’t care if we “bring back the happy endings.”  I enjoy watching it, but again, it’s not going to be worth violating my ABC boycott come January.

So yeah… it’s not that television is all bad.  It’s just… I’m not seeing things going in positively creative directions.  There are a lot of things I like—there just isn’t a lot I love.  And given I’m a broke graduate student it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder whether that cable bill is actually worth it… Am I missing something, readers?  Is there great television out there somewhere I’m missing?

Bring me the Funny!

Today we explore an important, commonly used phrase in the My TV, My Peanut Butter lexicon:

“To bring the funny” (verb phrase)

Definition:  To amuse us.  To include humor.  To entertain.

Etymology:  While I cannot say with any degree of certainty that this was the origin of the phrase in general, the phrase was first introduced to Kristy and Cammy through The West Wing episode “Seventeen People.”  Incidentally, this was the episode I used to convince Cammy that she did, in fact, love The West Wing and that she wanted to continue watching it obsessively with me (Ainsley Hayes was my secret weapon).  In this episode the phrase is used as a critique of a speech written for the White House Correspondents’ dinner which was apparently less than entertaining.  The writers “forgot to bring the funny” and one of the plots of the episode is a large portion of the cast attempting to “find the funny” in order to make the speech successful.

Cammy and I frequently use this as a critique of television episodes (or fanfics.  Don’t judge) that fail to amuse us the way we want to.  Such episodes “forget to bring the funny” or “don’t bring the funny.”  When West Wing kinda sucked for a couple seasons, it was largely because it forgot to bring the funny.  Incidentally, the phrase “the funny” can occasionally be used as a stand alone phrase to mean “that which makes something amusing.”  My good buddy Russell once insisted that a missing nuclear submarine qualified as “the funny” but I’m still less than convinced.

A particular character may be praised for “bringing the funny.”  Cammy likes her almost namesake on Bones because “she brings the funny.”

It is important to understand that neither Cammy nor I tend to watch comedies.  I would never say “How I Met Your Mother brings the funny.”  It would not be incorrect so much as unidiomatic.  “Bringing the funny” is something that happens mostly in otherwise serious situations; it is a technique for creating levity which helps us process and cope with said situations.  The aforementioned West Wing episode is a great example.  The major plotline of the episode is heavy and ominous, but it is balanced by “the funny” of the speech writing and Ainsley/Sam, Josh/Donna banter.  (I’m being deliberately vague since one of our five readers has just finished West Wing Season 1 and I don’t want to spoil the brilliance of this episode).

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you want My TV, My Peanut Butter to enjoy something, it definitely helps to bring the funny.  And if we are able to bring the funny, even a little bit, here on our little blog, well that makes us extremely happy.

Swift Heresy

Everyone’s favorite sleeze bag Barney Stinson once said, “In my body, where the shame gland should be, there’s a second awesome gland.”

I am not Barney Stinson.

I do have a shame gland, it’s just smaller than the average and doesn’t function quite like it’s supposed to (which is normal for my body, oddly enough).  The result of this is that, as Cammy has pointed out, I don’t always embarrass as easily as the average lady.  I have no qualms about making a fool out of myself in public.  I readily admit to an unhealthy addiction to daytime drama.  I still have, and listen to, Debbie Gibson albums.  Not even ironically.  When my bra and vest simultaneously broke onstage, I found it hysterical rather than mortifying (there was a chemise between my “girl” and the audience).

But there are things I find horribly embarrassing.  Like stepping out of the front door without foundation on (this has happened three times in my adult life, two were to go to the emergency room).  Things that tend to embarrass me the most are the things that go against the things I stand for in life.  Or like to think I stand for.

This brings us to Taylor Swift.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hold any animosity towards Taylor.  She seems like a sweet kid.  It’s not her fault that she’s cute and blond.  And it’s not her fault that she’s severely lacking in talent.

Because really, her inability to hit two notes in a row, makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not really one to talk, since I guarantee you I sound worse, but the difference is, of course, I know I can’t sing.  I’m fairly certain she doesn’t know how she sounds.  It’s like that moment when the adorable six year old gets up to sing at church and it’s appalling bad, but you clap anyway because she tried.  Except this adorable six year old is making a crap load of money and winning awards.  So it’s not as cute anymore.

I used to think I should at least respect her because she’s a song writer, but then friend pointed out that writing your songs yourself doesn’t win you points if they’re bad.  (Also, having one of her first big hits being about Tim McGraw, who I also can’t stand, was not a good start)

So what’s my big dark, dirty confession?

Her song “White Horse”?  I *cringe* kind of like it.  And by “kind of like it” I mean that I think I probably know all the words and I sing along when I hear it on the radio.

There.  I said it.

Clearly this goes right past guilty pleasure and on to secret heresy.  Because it’s really hard for me to own up to this.

Understand that I don’t want to like a Taylor Swift song.  But I can’t help it.  It’s the unexpected cynicism that does it for me, I think.  The acknowledgment that fairy tales don’t come true and love generally sucks.  I am, after all, that girl who will totally call the cops on your ass if she catches you throwing stones at her window late at night.  And I’m kind of scared of horses, so I’m definitely not getting on anyone’s white horse with him.

I realize that’s no excuse, and believe me, I’m properly ashamed.  But I figured since Cammy’s been so open with her shame of late, I ought to get in on the confession action.