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?

Things that make you go MEEP!

I like to pretend that I’m all unconventional and don’t get sucked in by the same trite things that suck other people in.  But at the end of the day, watching television, I’m as much a sucker for a good shipper worthy couple as the next fangirl.  I get all mushy over those big romantic scenes, just like everyone else.  Yes, I’m a cliché.

But there’s something a little more nebulous that I might love even more.  It’s those lines that are textually speaking not romantic at all, but in the right context, with the right actors and the right director just become pure shipper gold.  Here are my top three examples (in no particular order):

1.        “I’m thinking about getting a car.”  Shawn to Juliet, Psych Okay, so this one did happen in the middle of a big romantic scene.  But to anyone who’s ever watched the show, it never would have worked to have Shawn pouring out his feelings like a typical romantic lead.  Just wouldn’t have felt forced and awkward and deflated everything that made Shawn and Jules Shawn and Jules.  Instead we got Shawn talking about how much he loved his motorcycle, followed by this revelation about how spending time with Juliet had changed his priorities.  And fangirls all over went *Sigh*

2.       “I want you to have Morocco.”  Ethan to Kat, The Class.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that most of our readers have never heard of this short lived series.  Which is sad, because it was awesome.  The fact that Two and a Half Men evidently got better ratings than this show sort of encapsulates everything wrong with America for me.  Assuming you don’t have the time to track down the whole series on the interwebs so you can watch and realize why this line still makes me a little gushy:  Ethan and Kat were that couple that was clearly meant for each other and wouldn’t have figured that out until season three, shortly after which things would have gone stupidly wrong only to have them reunite just before the final episode.  Sadly the show ended on a season 1 cliffhanger so all we ever got was Ethan and Kat denying their feelings for each other and being bffs while each dated other people.  Kat (played by the delightful Lizzie Caplan) was a head case and a half who had just explained to Ethan that she had to dump her current boyfriend because he was talking about taking a trip to Morocco together in three months.  Kat explained to Ethan that as much as she wanted to go on that trip, she knew it would never last that long.  “Just because you want Morocco doesn’t mean you get Morocco.”  And that’s when Ethan gave her a pep talk which closed with this line.  Letting us all know exactly how much he wanted her to be happy.  Even if it wasn’t with him.  Aw!

3.       “If you were in an accident I wouldn’t stop for red lights.”  Donna to Josh, The West Wing Seriously, we got this beautiful moment in season 2 and it took these two till season 7 to work their shit out.  Seriously!  I have to confess I’m not sure I believe Donna stops for red lights on a regular basis anyway, but still… this moment was magic.  One of those times where two people make it so obvious that they totally love each other without a single real affectionate comment or discussing feelings at all.  Thank you Aaron Sorkin.  I still gratuitously rewind this one.

A Very Minor Mystery

Note:  No film review from me this week.  Sadly, school has inhibited my Netflixing and I’ve run out of reviews.  How sad!  (for me, I doubt you care that much)  Anywhozel, we’ll talk television instead.

I wouldn’t call myself a mystery fan.  Not any kind of active hatred, I just don’t seek them out.  Don’t spend my free time reading them.  My mother has spent years trying to get me hooked on CSI and those type of shows (Mom loves mysteries), but I just can’t get into it.  Old Roommate Bridget used to watch some of those Law and Orders which actively freaked me out (I got her back by watching paranormal shows which evidently freak her out.)  (Off topic note:  Did you know that Animal Planet has a paranormal show now?  It’s basically “people who live in haunted houses and have pets.”  Even I have to admit this had gotten out of control.)

Anyway, long and short of it is, if you asked, I’d tell you I don’t watch mysteries on television.

Except I’d be lying.

I’ve just realized that three of the shows I’m currently following most closely are all mystery shows:  Castle, Psych, and Bones.  Hmm.  What’s that all about?

I don’t think I’m a particularly good mystery show viewer.  I don’t even try to figure out whodunit.  I don’t often care.  I just kind of sit there waiting for it to be spoon fed to me.  So why am I watching these shows?

Well, the first one’s easy.  I watch Castle for Nathan Fillion.  I have loved Nathan Fillion since his days on One Life to Live (best Joey Buchanan ever!) and a big part of my geek cred is tied up in the fact that I watched Firefly from the first episode.  There are other aspects of the show I enjoy (the familial relation between Castle, his mother and daughter is delightful), but it’s really all about Nathan Fillion.

As for Psych, it brings the funny.  In spades.  It’s got a great ensemble cast.  And I’m a sucker for an ensemble cast.  Also, the only theme music I can never make myself fast forward through.  It’s too much fun to bop along to.

I’m almost contractually obligated to watch Bones on account of it’s one of few television shows featuring anthropologists; as a folklorist I must support my cousin discipline.  Also, the whole ensemble thing again.  Also, Hodgins.  Who sometimes takes off his shirt .  And makes orgasmic grilled cheeses.  Mmmm.  Grilled cheese!

So I guess the outcome to this mystery (which I’m guessing all of you figured out by the second paragraph, because I don’t write good mysteries either) is: my ability to enjoy these mystery based shows without liking mysteries is that I just don’t care that much about plot.  I’m all about character.  And these shows do character well.  I assume they have plots, but clearly I haven’t been paying attention to them.

A Beverage Recipe

This should have been posted last week, but I forgot.  At any rate, the new season of Psych premiered last week and in honor of that we would like to share with you a recipe we developed for the premiere of Psych season 3.

I have a tradition of inventing recipes and naming them after fictional characters–I did this quite a bit when I was living with my crazy ex-roommate.  Most of those recipes were either named after characters from Lord of the Rings or from soap operas, however, as those were the only fandoms we shared.

At any rate, without further adieu, I give you…

The Big Daddy Spencer

Anyone who’s cooked with me knows I don’t believe in measuring, and I’m pretty much the same with mixing beverages, so all amounts are approximations.

In a cocktail shaker with an ice cube or two mix (If you don’t have a cocktail shaker I’m sure you can get similar results by stirring).

1 oz pomegranate liquor
1/2 oz of coconut rum
1/2 oz of vodka
1 1/2 oz of mango juice
dash of pomegranate molasses

Strain into a large martini glass and fill the rest of the glass with sour cherry juice

Initially I thought this was just kooky enough to be called the Shawn Spencer, but Mary and I concurred with its tartness and tropical flavor it was more reminiscent of Henry’s acerbic personality and fun shirts.  Upon further contemplation (and a bit of drinking) we also concluded that we would allow Henry to buy Daddy Spencers and that after a couple we might even be persuaded to call him Daddy Spencer.

Further discussion determined that Shawn would absolutely make fun of his dad for ordering such a thing, that Henry may just carry around his own bottle of pomegranate molasses in order to obtain the beverage at his convenience, and that doing so probably attracts women.

Girls Just Wanna… Say Happy Birthday

If Wikipedia is to be believed, today is Cyndi Lauper’s birthday.  Also, Dan Brown’s, but we’re not going to talk about him.  We’re going to talk about Ms. Lauper.  Hmm… that sounds weird.  Should I call her Cyndi?  That feels presumptuous.

Well whatever we call her, she’s fabulous.  Most people in my generation will remember her for almost unfortunate, but always original wardrobe choices.  And for singing some of the most iconic songs of the 80s:  “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “True Colors”… Those with better memories or who watched too much Pop Up Video might also remember that she pushed the envelope and raised eyebrows by singing about female masturbation in “She Bop.”  If you didn’t know that’s what that song was about you may now pick up your jaw.

But all of those things pale in comparison to the main way she influenced my formative years.  She also starred in the 1988 Vibes.  If you don’t know how delightful this movie is you either haven’t seen it or you have no soul.  Or sense of humor.  A soul is really not a requirement for enjoyment.

The film tells the story of a couple of psychics played by Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum hunting for some lost “room of gold” in the Andes at the request of Peter Falk.  In reality, the plot is incidental.  The movie’s charm lies mostly in its mastery of the funny.  And its cast.  Trust me, I wore the tape out—it rocks.

This movie may or may not have influenced my decision to spend a summer in Peru.  But I don’t think I’m the only one influenced by the film:

In many ways, it’s kind of a predecessor to the X-Files:  short fair haired chick and lanky dark haired man investigate paranormal phenomenon.  Yeah, I’m on to you and your plagiarizing ways Chris Carter!

Of all the 80s references in Psych one of my absolute favorites was to Vibes (Juliet:  You’re going to have to do better than vibes.  Sean:  Why?  Jeff Goldblum couldn’t?)

Then Cyndi Lauper appears on Bones as a psychic.  Coincidence or Vibes homage?

Clearly the film has had more significance than others have credited it with.  So today we here at It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter say Happy Birthday, Cyndi Lauper.  And we thank you for Vibes, and underrated bundle of fabulousness.