The Sound of My Childhood Being Destroyed

Since “better late than never” is how I roll, I will belatedly jump into the fray of discussion on the recent NBC Live version of The Sound of Music. Not that my two cents is worth more than any of the other hundreds of dollars worth of opinion already out there, but…

First, the background: I love this musical. It is definitely a love based off of the movie, but I did not stop there. There was a copy of the stage musical with photos in my junior high school library. It was clearly a volume that predated the film. I checked it out three times in my junior high tenure. The last time it had been checked out was in 1972. And then there was the slightly less old, but still well before my time copy of the book on the actual, real life Von Trapp Family Singers. That one I very nearly stole from the library—and the only other person to have checked it out was my sixth grade English teacher—when she was in junior high. Add to this that I stopped counting the number of times I have watched the movie at 84. That was well over fifteen years ago. I assure you, we are talking well over 100 times I have seen this film. Possibly close to 200.

So was I going to watch Carrie Underwood take on the role of Maria in what was almost certain to be a car wreck? Hell, yes. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee at Java the Hut

While we were away, I saved Veronica Mars. Sort of via the Kickstarter campaign, but mostly during my brief stint at a Nielsen viewer. I got a week long Nielsen survey in the mail and hosted a Veronica Mars marathon, in part so that we could log it in my diary. Less than a month later, the Kickstarter campaign hit. Coincidence? Probably, but that still makes this extra relevant.

Would we drink coffee with Veronica Mars?

Kristy: Is this a trick question? Absolutely. Unless she sent me a cryptic message inviting me to coffee since that would probably be a sign that she was setting me up for some sort of epic vengeance for something I had done wrong. And as much as I love the clever ways Veronica Mars gets back at those who have wronged her or her friends, there’s no way I want to be on the receiving end of said vengeance. But in a fictional world where I just get to sit and have a cuppa with with Ms. Veronica, it sounds like a blast. First of all, I feel I owe her a cup on behalf of all those who were bullied and/or socially repressed in high school. Second of all, it seems like it would be a blast. Can you imagine people watching with Veronica Mars? You know she’d have some hysterical things to say. Which, on that note, I’m going on record as saying that I’d order an iced coffee so that if I wind up snarffing and one of her witty comments it won’t hurt so bad. As anyone who’s watched the show too much, I’d of course like to ask a few questions like, “Okay, so I applaud you for getting away from the self-loathing rich boy type, but Piz? Really?” And “I know she’s a bitch and all, but why does Madison get the blame for drugging you when it was Dick who put it in her drink?” Plus, potential bonus, you might get to see Veronica make some privileged obnoxious person realize how worthless they really are. And that’s always fun.

Cammy:  On the one hand, I want to say “absolutely!”  but on the other, for as much fun as Veronica Mars is to watch, she kind of intimidates the shit outta me.  One wrong comment and she can and will verbally slice you into tiny pieces.  It would be my luck, I’d make a verbal misstep and wind up another victim of that razor wit.  I think Kristy is better suited for that match up.  So I’ll let her have the coffee and do the asking, and I’ll sit over at the bar and listen in (until Veronica calls me on my eavesdropping, then I’ll just have to go hang out somewhere else and get the play by play from Kristy later).

Rewatching BSG

After I finished rewatching The West Wing I decided to rewatch Battlestar Galactica. I’d been itching to rewatch it, and my roommate has the entire series (just to be clear, we’re talking the EJO reboot, not the original), so it seemed the perfect arrangement. Season 1 was just as good as I remember, but I’m currently stalled in the middle of Season 2. It’s not that it isn’t good—it’s still damn fine television. But it’s a very different experience than rewatching The West Wing and it’s very different than watching this show for the first time.

I think it comes down to knowing the ending. In the case of West Wing, knowing where it’s going makes some of the rough spots easier to cope with. I know CJ and Danny wind up together where they belong, so I can live through Fishboy’s absences and CJ wasting her time with Charlie Banks (OLTL ref!) and having one night stands in Dayton. I can stomach Donna’s stream of Republican boyfriends and Josh fooling around with Amy, because I know they end up together. I know Santos wins and the Bartletts work out their problems. I know, even when the show reaches its low points, that there is still hope.

BSG, as good as it is, doesn’t leave me with all that much hope. I watch the adorableness that is Dee and Billy, knowing she’ll throw him over for a pretentious jack ass with Daddy issues who doesn’t even have a debate team ring. And then they’re both going to end up dead. Encountering the Kara-Anders-Dee-Lee quad, which I was so sure at the time was just going to be a means to force Kara and Lee to admit their feelings for one another, is so much worse now. I know it’s going to drag on till the bitter end. Lee and Kara are never going to get married and have ten thousand babies that need lots of therapy. She’s going to go *poof* because the writers could not ever figure out how to write that girl happy. (Yes, a lot of it comes down to shippery stuff. Don’t judge!) I know Momma Roslin’s miraculous healing is only temporary. I know that all that time I kept demanding they give Gaeta a storyline finally pays off—in the most painful possible way. I know that the “secret of the opera house” is a giant disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this show. Always will. But I didn’t love the ending. I’m not saying it wasn’t well written or acted or directed or edited or anything. But it’s not the happy little Christmas present the ending of The West Wing was. And no, things don’t all need to have happy endings. I even love a depressing ending from time to time. But they aren’t *fun*.

And consequently, even though I enjoy rewatching it, it’s exhausting. And not in a good way.

My New Thanksgiving Tradition

Being a single person on Thanksgiving is a little strange. It’s a holiday that kind of needs to be celebrated in groups. Before you think I’m being poor me, I want to make it clear that I did have a group of people to eat dinner with Thursday. It wasn’t the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever had, but it was fine. And there was amazing baked Alaska, so I’m not going to complain.

But I’m a folklorist, so I’m big into traditions. And not having a family around (and, to be honest, my family doesn’t really having any big Thanksgiving traditions) it’s up to me to create my own. With nowhere better to start, I decided to start by watching Thanksgiving episodes of televisions shows. Given the television shows I have, it’s a short list since science fiction shows tend to not have Thanksgiving episodes. Hell, most shows tend not to have Thanksgiving episodes.

There is, of course, the phenomenal West Wing episode “Shibboleth.” This episode features some amazing Thanksgiving funny including CJ Cregg dealing with turkey pardoning and Sam Seaborn developing an action adventure series called Pilgrim Detectives (“By day they churn butter and worship according to their own beliefs, and by night, they solve crimes!”). No really, if you haven’t seen this episode, you need to. Because what I always forget about that episode is that amidst all the funny, it packs a serious emotional punch. It also has Toby Ziegler explaining exactly why preventing organized prayer in school is so important and a heart rending case of refugees seeking asylum. It had me in tears. Twice.

West Wing also gives us “The Indians in the Lobby” from Season 3 (which I really thought was called “The Butterball Hotline” until yesterday). It’s good, but not nearly as good. I remember being really disappointed when it originally aired because the previews looked so much funnier than the actual episode was. If you remove expectations though, it’s a totally fine way to spend 45 minutes or so of your Thanksgiving Day.

My final Thanksgiving episode was from The Class. Do you remember The Class? I’d be impressed if you did. It was a short lived sitcom on CBS around 2005 or 2006. I’m not generally huge into sitcoms, but this one had a charming premise, a fantastic cast, and fun banter. The fact that Two and a Half Men got the ratings to survive that year and this show didn’t, sort of epitomizes everything that’s wrong with America. Anyway, in its lone season the show had an episode titled “The Class Gives Thanks.” It’s a fairly typical episode of the show, with multiple subplots all surrounding the Thanksgiving theme. High school sweethearts Duncan and Nicole share an awkward dinner with her retired football player husband. Kyle brings his partner to his ex-girlfriend’s house for dinner where lots of wackiness surrounds her obviously closeted husband and father. And Richie begs Lena to take him back while her twin sister Kat threatens to spray Pam in his eyes. I’m not doing it justice, but you should totally YouTube it.

All in all I like my new Thanksgiving tradition. It’s certainly better than watching football. What about you, not-so-gentle readers? Any favorite Thanksgiving themed viewing choices?

Kristy Watches Dallas: Part I

I have vague memories of the original Dallas, but they’re mostly limited to the opening credits (it was a tradition in my family to sing the theme song every time we drove into Dallas, just to annoy the menfolk in the family) and what I’ve seen in retrospectives. Imagine my delight at realizing my mother had the first and second season on DVD!

We start off with a nice hook. Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes have just gotten married (presumably an elopement) without telling their families. This becomes a nice way to weave in plenty of exposition. We learn quickly that the Barnes and the Ewings have a long standing family feud. We know that Jock Ewing is a big oil baron, and his wife Miss Ellie is from an old cattle family. Work in an old gunfighter and a dark eyed señorita somewhere and you’ve kind of got all your Texas essentials rolled up in one family.

Older brother JR has apparently been taking over the family oil business while Bobby’s been out doing the wheeling and dealing to cover their butts politically. There was a good-for-nothing middle brother in there somewhere, but he ran off, leaving behind a good-for-nothing daughter (more on this later). JR is a little resentful when Bobby announces now that he’s married he wants to settle down and move into the office with his big brother. And you kind of feel for him (even though JR is an underhanded snake); he’s worked hard for years to get where he is and his brother just walks in and wants to be in the same place. (In episode 2 we also learn that Bobby was a football star in his younger days. As the younger sister of a teen model I can imagine how much it must suck to be the older brother of a football star in Texas).

Bobby’s new wife Pamela is a nice girl. You can tell because she wears such demure dresses and has soft brown hair and a soft voice to match. We don’t know much about JR’s wife Sue Ellen other than from a few comments she makes to Pamela we can gather she’s a snob. Miss Ellie is sweet and loving like matriarchs often are in soap families where they have a patriarch to do the dirty work. She’s a good southern woman who is always nice to people’s faces, though you gather she’d have no problems doing a little smack talk behind someone’s back.

Then there’s Lucy. Jock and Ellie’s aforementioned good-for-nothing granddaughter. She’s our resident slut. You can tell because she wears lots of red. She’s also, perhaps not coincidentally the only blonde on the show. Lucy serves as a constant reminder that the show started in the 1970s and that the 70s were a dark, dark time for fashion. In her first scene she’s scrumping Ray Krebbs, foreman on the Ewing ranch. By the way, Ray used to date Pamela, and is more than a bit of a slimebag, but not a terribly smart one.

Lucy warns Pamela she’s not tough enough to survive the Ewing family. Pamela responds by showing Lucy how tough she is: she makes her start going to school, spoils her plans to get a teacher fired with a bogus attempted rape charge, and exposes her affair with Ray. Lucy does not enjoy any of this, but is moved by the realization that Pamela actually cares for her. Aw!

I’m not totally sure what I think about Pamela. Pamela’s such a good girl she wears a white turtleneck to a disco and puts her hair in a Gibson girl style bun. But she’s a little too street smart for a nice girl. And a little too comfortable using blackmail. I’m not complaining though. These are the things which will allow her to survive in this family. Speaking of survival skills—I have to admit that I love the way Lucy smirks every time a fight breaks out in the house.

In Episode 3 we learn that JR could have married his redheaded, deviously loyal secretary and that his marriage to Sue Ellen is not exactly happy. Their honeymoon is definitely over. We’re not real clear on why he married Sue Ellen at all, but my best guess is she had family connections and he liked the status of a former beauty queen for a wife. When Sue Ellen buys a lacy black nightie to wear for JR he dismissively declares it’s not her and instructs her to take it back. I’m starting to worry about JR—what kind of good Texas boy turns down sex for work? I can’t blame him for running out when she starts crying about them not making love anymore though. There’s no way to use “make love” in a sentence and not have it sound awkward.

I can blame him a little for leaving to go scrump his secretary (who is begging him the whole time to stop the bootie calls so she can move on.) He dismisses secretary’s urging to stay the night and leaves her with a $100 bill to buy herself something “real nice.” Oh… JR. That’s no way to treat a lady who knows all your dirty secrets. And has Cliff Barnes’s phone number.

So far… I’m enjoying it. I’m not exactly loving it. Like I know I should be rooting for Jim and Pam and their love to triumph over all. But really I’m just itching for more scandalous, soapy goodness. Maybe that’s what this type of show is really all about though. I’m diverted enough to keep watching.