Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why All the Bieber-Hating?

Justin Bieber got arrested early today. We all know. E! News had his smiling mugshot plastered all across their set. He's been trending on Twitter and Facebook all day.

And yes, it's fascinating and sad and not surprising. 

What's actually concerning is the amount of senseless bullying going around social media.

Putting him up for a ProActive commerical, comparing him to Miley Cyrus without make-up
, and the countless memes of the Biebs on the receiving end of... well... prison life...


Is it really schadenfreude? We love seeing these perfect people crumble?

Look, I'm not a fan of the kid. His songs are average. But I've been a young tween in love with pop stars before (BSB for life, yo) so I can respect that.  I don't know if he's really talented. Not really my thing. And over the past year or so, he's been getting into scraps, exhibiting poor behavior, and clearly trying to break from his younger public image.

Not to get all "Leave Britney Alone," but honestly, he's a 19-year-old egotistical brat and he's acting as such. A lot of 19 year old boys have the same complex, we just don't hear about them because they aren't a public personality. I'm not defending him. He screwed up. Drag racing in a residential neighborhood while stoned? Not cool, dude. Definitely not an ideal role model, but neither are the people posting and reposting those humiliating images. What if that were your son? I know, I know, your kid would never be caught dead doing something that stupid. The fact is, lots of kids screw up. They get in trouble. It's part of being a kid, no matter how involved your parents are or aren't.

Instead of defacing this kid, maybe we should remind his young fans that what he did was wrong and he's lucky nobody got hurt. Celebrities are not role models. Parents are.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Disjointed Emmys 2013 Broadcast

This year's Emmy broadcast was, across the board, disjointed. There was no rhyme or reason to absolutely anything. For every down moment (death tributes), there was an up (Bob Newhart). For every predictable win (Candelabra), there was a surprise (Meritt Weaver - I gotta go.) It was kind of jarring.

The biggest problem with last night's show, without question, was the focus on sadness. While beautiful, the special tributes to various industry members who've passed on brought the show down in a big way. And the worst part was they didn't have to. Edie Falco's tribute was especially moving. But honestly, why were there no clips? It felt as though they kept setting up for snippets of Mork & Mindy and Family Ties, but no. If I were Jean Stapleton, I'd be like, "If you think I'm so great, show my stuff!!" I would have loved to see some genius Edith Bunker moments.

Then there's the whole controversy over who was left out of the "special tribute" moments - Jack Klugman and Larry Hagman particularly. These guys were TV legends with Emmy wins in their past, yet no mentions, no clips, just a photo in a RIP reel. 

Television in particular is at a time where it's history is so rich. Why not celebrate it? That's what I thought was happening when they kept promising a look back at an important year in TV history - the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Yes! What a great moment! ... except that it started with Walter Cronkite announcing Kennedy's death. Then, a briefest of clips of The Beatles singing away. Then Carrie Underwood crooning Yesterday...? Wha....?

I will always watch awards shows. But I won't always like every broadcast. And this was not one of my favorites. 

Best Moments:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus's in-character acceptance speech, accompanied by Tony Hale.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, heckling NPH, then rolling and stumbling up the stairs to the stage.
Meritt Weaver's brief acceptance speech.
Stephen Colbert's series win.
Kevin Spacey's House of Cards hijack in the opening.
Bob Newhart. Every time.

Worst Moments:
Shemar Moore. Every time.
The cut-off music. It was scary sometimes.
Speaking of, cutting off winners a little too early and a little too often.
Some of the other stuff mentioned earlier.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Why I Love The Food Network (and What That Means About Paula Deen)

This Paul Deen situation is intriguing me. While it's embarrassing to admit, there's something about watching a celebrity crash and burn. And Twitter especially has opened up this window where we can watch it happen before our eyes (Amanda Bynes and her terrifying self-image issues, Alec Baldwin's colorful threats, Charlie Sheen, I miss #winning. Can we bring that back?) Twitter also serves as the best place to gossip at the speed of light. Stories, pictures, and opinions can fly back and forth instantaneously, digging a deeper hole before the celeb in question even knows there's a hole in the first place. Since I am clearly not a celebrity, I can only speculate as to what it feels like on that side. To be adored and prosperous, then having the dream crumble to pieces in your own hands... that feeling must be devastating, at least for those who are aware it's happening, like Paula Deen.

But why do I care? Partly because of the celebrity gawker in me. But mostly because of my profound interest in celebrity chefs, Food Network chefs more specifically.

Here's why it's strange to people who know me. I don't like food. Well, I don't like most food. I am an insanely picky eater. I truly hate that "full" feeling after eating. The smell of red meat makes me sick, which makes my job as a server at a bar & grill an incredible acting gig. I don't cook. I like to bake when the mood strikes, but when it comes to consumables, chances are you'll find me at the bar, mixing liquors like a boss. (That's right, I said it.) If I could live off of Panera Mediterranean Veggie sandwiches and Parmesan-garlic popcorn, I would. But I can't. I tried. Failed miserably.

However, I do appreciate the artistry that goes into food. I have great admiration for chefs who try new things, who care about plate presentation, who respect where their ingredients come from. But I also respect interior designers and I am bored out of my freakin' mind watching HGTV. Ugh.

So, why the crush on Food Network?

I think it goes back to my Grandmother.

Growing up, I had two grandmas. Gram, my paternal grandmother, lived a few blocks away. She was the anti-grandma: Italian through and through. She yelled. All the time. She rarely smiled. She had hysterical mood swings. She had no toys at her house and never encouraged her grandchildren to spend the night at her home. I loved her dearly.

Then there was my maternal grandmother, Grandma Helen. I saw her about once a week until she became too ill. She was much more typical. She let us have ice cream before lunch. She encouraged funny stories and outdoor playing. Her attitude could be summed up in one story. I was a freshman in high school, and at this point, Grandma Helen, burdened with unusually progressive ALS, was living in a nursing home. She could no longer move most of her body, but her mind was as sharp as ever. The evening before visiting, I had been out until "all hours of the night" because it was closing night for the high school musical. About 100 teenagers and very few adults swarmed a TGI Friday's, where I stayed until getting a ride home after midnight. My parents were furious.

The next day, we go to see Grandma Helen. My mother pushes me toward Grandma's bed. "Tell Grandma Helen what time you came home last night." Sheepishly, I look at the floor. "One." "One in morning!" My mother yells, as if it bears repeating (my grandmother was not deaf). Grandma Helen looks at me from behind her huge glasses. Then, with precise comedic timing, looks at my mother and says, "So?"

My grandma wasn't in the nursing home very long before she lost the ability to eat on her own, so she had to have a permanent feeding tube. This was a hard thing for my mom and the family to deal with, which makes complete sense. It's a scary situation. It's losing one more faculty, knowing there isn't much else to lose and it's only a matter of time before it's all gone. Before she was gone. (Grandma Helen lasted for years on a feeding tube, amazingly.) At first, the topic of food was an uncomfortable one. My brother and I weren't supposed to bring food into the room, or chew on anything, lest we upset her, things like that. But it wasn't long before we noticed a trend. Grandma Helen's TV was always tuned in to the Food Network.

"How?" my mom finally asked. "Why not? It looks good," was the response. And such a simple, logical one. Even though she knew she could never have what was on screen, she enjoyed watching it happen. My mother and I, in turn, got hooked on Food Network. And that was 15 years ago.

The Food Network has changed in that time, of course. It's a lot heavier on competitions and reality programming, and a lot lighter on cooking shows. So much lighter, they had to create a new network so they had a place to put those cooking shows. Even though the programming is almost all competition series, it's really entertaining, for the most part. True, I don't buy into the "caught on camera" shows - too staged and cheap, in general. But there's a whole lot I love about Food Network:

Adoring Alton Brown more and more as he goes from a nerdy food professor to a shrewd content producer.

Watching Bobby Flay duke it out with anyone over anything. I just like seeing Bobby Flay go down in flames.

The network's annual live event before Thanksgiving has become a tradition in my household.

 Giada's Italian recipes, despite the cleavage and ridiculously giddy smiles.

Ted Allen and the Chopped judges are absolutely addictive. I feel like we're BFFs.

It is a life goal of mine to meet Masaharu Morimoto in one of his restaurants.

And yes, I would even watch Paula Deen.

Is everyone being too harsh on Paula? I don't know. Coming from a PR Standpoint, she lost major standing with her diabetes scandal. And while she didn't let it take her down, she never made a full recovery. So when the current accusations hit, she had less to fall back on.

Standing up Matt Lauer, and the subsequent video apology debacle threw acid on an already painful burn. When she actually did the interview, a lot of people found it scripted and insincere. Paula was pleading as a victim, and capped with a phrase that essentially solidified what everyone was saying about her.

Food Network had to drop her. Because TV chefs need several components to make it. They have to prove themselves. They aren't just sharing their opinions; they're sharing their work, their art. And showing you how it's done. They're the celebrities you really can idolize. You learn from them, listen to their preachings, buy their books. That's where the brand comes from.

Her restaurants will still be fine. And I don't think this, in the end, would have hurt her product sales. I trust she's a fine chef with great food, good recipes, and helpful cookware. But I don't want to see her on my TV anymore.

If she eventually puts forward a mea culpa that rings true, it's entirely possible she can make some gains. We are a forgiving audience when we believe the apologies are sincere. But she'll never the butter-toting mega TV chef that she once was. And I'm okay with that. I will continue to watch The Worst Cooks in America. I will tear up at Restaurant Impossible. I will practice my judge stare when taking a bite of food. And while watching these shows, I will remember that everyone makes mistakes. Celebs just make them publicly.

But right now, if someone catches me watching the Food Network, and says indignantly, "They fired Paula Deen! Can you believe it?" I will look at them and respond. "So?"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

ATX TV Festival - Friday

I had thing on my mind Friday morning: Boy Meets World.

I watched BMW during its original airing on ABC's TGIF line-up. I stopped before the last season, but I made a special point to watch the series finale (there's a story to go along with that, but I'll save it for another time).

Then I watched it in reruns on Disney Channel and ABC Family, usually with my brother or best friend. It was then that I started to pick up on the inside jokes and the meta-humor. And that all happened to coincide with my growing love of television studies, so my appreciation grew by, like, 1000%. A few years after that, I introduced my Cory to Cory Matthews - he was a casual viewer during the original run. But we watched the DVD set (available on amazon, of course) and the reruns on MTV2 on Saturdays, and I successfully got him hooked.

I have a lot of friends who are hardcore BMW fans - we can throw quotes at each other all day. What I'm trying to say is that this series means a lot to me, not only for nostalgia's sake but because it truly shaped sitcoms, with the meta jokes and absurd situations.

There seems to be this recent backlash against '90s nostalgia, particularly on social media. But that's a whole other topic for a whole other blog post. The moral of the story is this is a series that I grew up with, and it serves as a connecting point for friends and people in my generation.

First, I think it's important to explain a unique trait of the ATX TV Fest. Because this was unlike the conventions that I'm used to. 

ATX TV FEST Reservation System = Awesomeness.

The way ATX TV Fest works is actually super awesome. They open up a time-frame before the event to make reservations. Using your badge number, you can reserve a seat for up to 3 events each day. They only put up half of the seating capacity for reservations. If an event "sells out," you can still make it into the panel if there's room once all of the reservations have been seated. The ATX TV Fest volunteers and coordinators were really organized about this. There were always 2 lines - one for reservations (they printed out your tickets when you registered) and one for stand-bys. It prevented the whole camping out style that bigger conventions (I'm looking at you, SDCC) are infamous for. We got in line an hour early for the one panel we didn't have reservations for, and we were probably the 3rd or 4th people in that line. So we got in without any issues. This was really an interesting way to do something like this.

So, Friday...

We had reservations for the Boy Meets World screening, so sure, we had seats. But I wanted great seats. The best seats. So we got in line maybe an hour and half early. A small line had already started. When they let us in for seating, we had to wait a few minutes once in the lobby of the State Theater. I sent Cory over to the concession stand to inquire about mimosas. It was that exact moment that they decided to open the theater doors. A few people got in front of my while I waved Cory down, but the good news was we ended up with 2nd row seats. Perfect. Throw our mimosas into that, and I was a happy girl that morning.

They screened the 2nd half of the final episode, so everyone was sniffling by the time the cast came up on stage. And that.... was amazing. I was so happy to be there, listening to them talk about the great times they had. Everyone seemed to be grateful for their time on the show, and I believed them when they said there were like a family.

Some memorable moments:
- Rider Strong took Shawn's leather jacket with him after the series wrapped, only to have it stolen out of his car in Brooklyn sometime later.
- A cast favorite is what they call "The Scream Episode," technically titled "And Then There Was Shawn." They had a blast that night, though the adults didn't find it nearly as fun.
- When the main cast was younger, they all thought William Daniels was British - a joke they later worked into the show. (I can totally relate to this. I had a great aunt who we'd visit a few times a year and my brother and I swore up and down she was British even though she had never lived outside of the US.)
- There was a family lovingly referred to as "The Stalker Family" who attended every taping of the series.
- "We never talked down to you and you knew that." Michael Jacobs.

Great event. Loved every minute of it. 

Structure of a Sitcom

Initially, I was really excited about this. My thesis paper for my MFA was about the very same thing, or so I thought. The description mentioned comparing multi-cam sitcoms with more trendy single-cam comedies. I really wanted to hear about this because this is where I'm currently struggling my script.

The panel consisted of veteran comedy writers & showrunners (though no women) including Dan Harmon, Tim Doyle, Rob Schrab, Paul Scheer, and David Finkel.

What happens when you get that many comedy guys in a room - it's hard to keep them focused. They didn't really talk to much about the subject matter, but they were entertaining. At least there's that. I partly blame the moderator. She was very nice but she had no ability to reign in the energetic personalities and most of her questions didn't really have much to do with the advertised topic. Paul Scheer did a great job moderating at one point, asking great questions and getting good answers.

The best part of this panel was Dan Harmon's epic rant about how the storyteller used to be the respected one (something about cavemen sending the others to hunt while he stayed back and told funny stories) and how networks and studios have systematically taken away any power the storyteller has anymore. He is truly a fascinating mind.

A Conversation with Michael Jacobs

Michael discussed his various shows, how they came to be and why they ended. He fiercely defended the finale to "The Dinosaurs," insisting this was an environmental statement that needed to be made.

After the session, Michael
stayed afterward and answered questions one-on-one. He seemed very genuine, looked the person straight in the eye and his answers were always both blunt and encouraging.

I asked him about the state of the family sitcom and he reassured me that TV is cyclical (which I absolutely believe) and the time for family comedy is coming back. But, he also said this time around, the term "family" doesn't mean mother-father-daughter-son anymore. It's gotta be a little different to be interesting.

Later on that night was the "Friday Night Lights" screening, which I heard was great. We opted out, though, since we weren't fans of the show. Instead, we hung out at the Stephen F. Austin bar. It was very quiet. A few folks showed up over the course of the night but really, it was just a nice quiet evening for us.

Friday was a great day. I'm sure the attendees at the FNL screening had a blast. And that's why I really like this festival - in spite of its size, it still has enough going on to keep every type of fan involved. Can't deny that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ATX TV Fest 2013 - Thursday

I honestly don't remember how I stumbled upon the ATX TV Fest. I'm going to guess Twitter. All I know is when I saw they were holding a TV Pitch Competition, I swore to myself I could only attend if I entered the contest. And I did.

My pitch made the Top 25 Semi-Final round, which was crazy exciting. But it didn't go any further. While it took my ego some time to recover, this allowed me to enjoy the festival without mega-stressing all weekend long about pitching to industry professionals on the last day of the event.

Here you'll find my thought on the event, written from the perspective of a few days later. I'm breaking it up by days, since each day was definitely jam-packed. 

Be warned: I have to say upfront that I was not in this strictly as a fan girl. Yes, I had specific screenings I wanted to see and actors I wanted to meet. But there are a few popular screenings that I chose not to attend. So if you're looking for some fun info about the Friday Night Lights screening or Party of Five, you'll have to search elsewhere.

My boyfriend Cory and I arrived in Austin around noon. We found our hotel, then found the venue, a few blocks away: The Stephen F. Austin Hotel - and we registered. There were no events that night that we were planning to attend so we spent the evening walking around downtown. We eventually ended up back at the Stephen F. Austin bar for the kick-off party. This was not our intention. We just went back to check out the hotel & realized something was going on. So, somehow, we got in.

Here's the thing. Cory and I are bad at this kind of stuff. Really, really bad. We're bad at getting into after-parties. And in the rare instances we do get in, we stand around awkwardly, clutching our drinks for dear life, and scanning the room for... I don't even know. What are you supposed to do at an after-party other than drink? Don't get me wrong, I like drinking, but... I don't know... Anyway...

Cory and I are standing around the door, drinks in-hand. We didn't really socialize and were probably about 2 sips away from leaving, when a group of people approached the girl checking names at the door. A few seconds later, the cast of Boy Meets World walks past us. Ben Savage, Rider Strong, Matt Lawrence, Trina McGee, Maitland Ward, Betsy Randall, and Lily Nicksay. Each about a foot away from us. We smiled at them as they came in, but didn't hound them for photos (an urge I had to resist all weekend long). But seeing them up close, hearing them talk to each other, even for a few seconds, was definitely worth it. They all sat down together, so Cory and I stayed around a little longer. We felt like extras at Chubbie's. That was kind of fun.

That about wrapped up our Thursday. Friday morning kicked off with the Boy Meets World screening & panel so we had to get some rest for that.

PS - If you're wondering why I didn't ask for a pic with the actors from one of my all-time favorite shows -- a few reasons. First, the festival organizers asked that we respect the actors and their space. And most attendees seemed to behave. It wasn't like a Comic Con situation, where the actors are instantly mobbed if left unattended. Second, it's just not in my nature to approach someone. A personal weakness, I suppose, but that's what being an introvert does to you. My dad has no qualms approaching famous people in any situation, offering a handshake and "I enjoy your work." I need to learn that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Office Finale - Thanks, Dunder Mifflin.

Cast Members at The Office Wrap Party, Scranton

Series finales are never easy for anyone. No matter what the state of the series, whether it's been on too long or not long enough, there's always a sadness surrounding the end, particularly for older shows like "The Office." Then there's the insurmountable pressure on the show to put on a "perfect" finale. Critics will pull out references to "M*A*S*H" and "Cheers," fans will have their say about Michael Scott's screentime. But realistically, we, as viewers, should only ask for one thing: Are we content with where we left these characters? Because we may never see them again. I just need to know they'll be okay.

Television comedies are about character connections. You allow these people to come into your home, you follow their lives, you want them to get what they deserve. "The Office" had the leisure of taking us one year into the future, giving time for things to change. I'm happy Oscar is running for Senate. Kevin wasn't a great accountant, and by the looks of his pour, he's not a great bartender, but at least it looks like he's having fun. Creed's probably going to jail, but he's ready for it. Phyllis and Stanley are friends.

The only story that felt a little forced was the Kelly/Ryan situation. While I believe that Kelly would certainly suggest ditching the baby so they could start fresh, I'm surprised Ryan would simply ditch little Drake (Drew and Blake). But story misstep does not a disaster make.

Dwight and Angela were married, standing in their own graves, as Schrute tradition states.  Jim and Pam are moving to Austin because it's what they both want. Michael has a family. And that's enough for me.

On a side note, I'm grateful Greg Daniels was back this season. In the finale alone, there were tons of throwbacks to seasons 2 & 3 (Dwight's stripper was also the stripper from S3's "Ben Franklin," Carol Stills makes an appearance as Pam's realtor, Devon, who was fired on Halloween in S2). It plays to the idea that everything's a cycle, a point "The Office" tried to make once in awhile.

 So complain that Steve Carell wasn't in it enough, or that the episode was uneven or unrealistic or pulled in too many different directions. 

Then watch Dwight's talking head, describing his relationships with his subordinates and tell me this was not a great finale.

(Photo credit: Sarah Pugh, May 4, 2013, Scranton, PA)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden News: Social Networks Trump Traditional News Outlets

Tonight, I learned that Osama bin Laden was dead. From Twitter.

Everything about this event I learned first from Twitter.

We had MSNBC on the TV. The Sunday evening anchor was struggling to tell the story w/out telling the story.

Twitter knew. I felt like a newbie journalist with a big scoop, shouting Tweets as they streamed.

"Why aren't they saying this?" My mother was sorely frustrated w/ the lack of information she was getting from the TV.

This was the news story that legitimized social networking. We hear news, share feelings, thoughts, and bad jokes. While our generation is said to be less social because of the Internet, when big things happen, we are all together in that moment. You can read about it in the newspaper tomorrow. We already know.