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Posts Tagged ‘television’

Disconnected

Speaking of television, I recently made a pretty dramatic change to my viewing habits. I splurged and bought myself a new Tivo Premiere so that I could FINALLY stream Netflix to my television like the proper, privileged first-worlder that I am, and then I cancelled all cable except for the basic channels.

Logically, it made a lot of sense. I was spending some extra money on the new Tivo, and it would allow me greater access to more QUALITY television. I would be spending less time watching The Millionaire Matchmaker and more time watching Doctor Who and Parks and Recreation and Downton Abbey. Plus, we would collectively be saving around $45 a month, which adds up to an incredibly substantial $540 a year. That was the kicker for me–the money saving. Always with the obsessive money saving. With Ace of Cakes cancelled, there seemed no reason to keep paying stupid Insight Cable so much of my paycheck.

But it seems I may have underestimated how much I was going to miss my cable. It turns out, there were more shows on cable that I watched than I realized.

Apparently I was in denial about the extent of my addiction to HGTV. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t come home from work and thought about how nice it would be to have an episode of Income Property to watch. (I LOVE Income Property.) I also dearly miss House Hunters and House Hunters International, and Holmes on Homes. I have started recording Hometime, which I loved as a teenager, because I guess I’ve always been enthusiastic about home improvement, but HOW can that compare to Scott McGillivray and his ability to turn a dingy basement into a MONEY-MAKING MACHINE OF AN INCOME SUITE?

When I cancelled cable, I initially forgot about iCarly. iCarly! I love iCarly! But I suppose new episodes air infrequently enough that I only realized this week, when I heard about a new SPECIAL EPISODE that I had a pang of regret that I wouldn’t be able to watch it on my TV. How could I give up iCarly?!

(I should say that, as far as I know, iCarly is available to stream online, as are both iterations of House Hunters and Income Property, but I am sincerely not a fan of watching television on my cheap laptop.)

I have also found myself missing The Soup (oh, Joel McHale) and Pitbulls and Parolees. But what I may miss most of all long-term… is 19 Kids and Counting. God help me, but I love that show. And it does not stream online at all.

It’s a trade-off, and it was supposed to be. Less Duggar family, more BBC. It’s only been two weeks, and I suppose like any addict, the sense of withdrawal will diminish over time. Or I’ll find a new addiction to feed.

I cancelled cable once before to save money. I went several months without it, and when I allowed myself to have it once again, my sense of relief was stupidly huge. But a lot of that was about being able to watch Ace of Cakes. So–with Ace of Cakes cancelled–how long will I really last? Can I make this a permanent money-saving lifestyle change?

We’ll see.

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Donna & Rose

This blog has seemed too public for most of the things I’ve had going on lately. Fortunately, even when there is nothing else, there is always television. Beloved television.

My latest show is Doctor Who. I had been intending to watch it for quite a while, but it wasn’t until my aunt and uncle gave my sister and me a Netflix subscription for Christmas that the opportunity really presented itself. I knew that I would like it, but I’ve actually been amazed by how much I love it.

I got very attached to the female lead of the show’s first two seasons, Rose Tyler. In fact, I didn’t realize HOW attached to Rose I had gotten until her time on the show ended, and I found myself wanting to cry forever.

I’ve continued to watch the show, and I’ve continued to enjoy it tremendously, but at least five times during every episode, I think to myself, “This would be so much better if ROSE WERE HERE.” Tonight, I tried to describe to my sister the depth of my attachment to Rose. She was slightly bewildered, I think. She liked Rose, too. And she was very, very sad when Rose wasn’t on the show anymore. BUT SHE GOT OVER IT. I have not been able to get over it. I literally go around humming the music that plays during Rose’s final scenes, like EVERY DAY, and then feel sad about the fact that she is “gone.”

(My sister asked me if I perhaps was dealing with some emotional issues that I am misplacing on Rose, who is, uh, fictional?)

My crazy loyalty to Rose reminds me of my crazy loyalty to another character–Donna on The West Wing. There are many characters on many shows that I truly love, but I love Rose Tyler and Donna Moss on a completely different, visceral, nutty level.

Both characters have many things in common with one another. Both serve as the audience’s entry point into shows that exist on a somewhat technical level. Both women are blonde, and kind of naive, and are fish out of water in environments for which they are ill-prepared. Both are wholly devoted to a certain man, because that man is good and does work that helps people. And they’re both dearly needed by that man, because Rose and Donna are good and helpful, too, in spite of the fact that they don’t quite belong. They’re strong and smart. They find a way to make themselves belong in places that aren’t, on the surface, meant for them.

Maybe that’s why I adore them both so much? Because I relate to them both, and they never give up, even when the odds seem way, way against them?

(Of course, tonight I spent probably ten minutes lamenting to my sister how much I missed Rose, and how my love for her would never die. Then we sat down, and watched the next episode of Doctor Who. And when Rose made a shocking surprise appearance, I didn’t even recognize her. It took me a while before it occurred to me to exclaim, “Wait, is that ROSE?!” Because no matter how much I love Rose, it doesn’t change the fact that I am face blind.)

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The Unrealized Benson

It became a tradition in my family to name pets after our favorite fictional characters, or after our favorite TV shows. We have a deep love for good television, and it has proven to be a great source for excellent pet names.

Felix was named after Felix King in “Road to Avonlea.” I was completely obsessed with that show at the age of 10, when we got Felix, and it turned out to be a wonderful dog’s name. Even if most people’s association with it has been from Felix the Cat.

My sister has had rats named Dundie (“The Office”), Bluth (“Arrested Development”), Arthur and Ford (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), John Oliver (“The Daily Show”), Emerson (“Pushing Daisies”), Mosby (“How I Met Your Mother”), and Lewis and Davies (as in, Charlotte Lewis from “Lost” and Jeremy Davies, who played Faraday on “Lost”).

In addition, she had a number of mice, who were all named after assistants on “The West Wing.” When I met Kathryn Joosten, I couldn’t resist telling her that my sister had named one of her pets Delores after her character.

When my mom adopted Benson, she chose to keep the name that he came with, because he clearly knew his name, and she didn’t see any reason not to keep it. Also, I don’t think she felt as strongly about naming pets as my sister and I do.

But Benson was a fine name. For a while, we said that his full name was Benson-min Linus, after Ben Linus on “Lost,” also known as the best and sexiest character of all time. But obviously, that was a stretch. I understood that Benson was the name that he knew, and it was a FINE name, but it irked me the tiniest bit that all I could say when people asked me how he got his name was, “It was the name he came with.”

I was watching an episode of iCarly the other night, when they referred on the show to Freddie’s mom, Mrs. Benson.

Benson…

FREDDIE ON iCARLY’S LAST NAME IS BENSON, AND SOMEHOW WE TOTALLY FORGOT THIS.

Freddie Benson:

Benson:

All along, Benson had a name that was a reference to one of our favorite TV shows. Without our even knowing it. For SIX MONTHS, without our even realizing it.

I must say, it’s unsettling that it took me six months to make the connection, but it is a relief that Benson is still in keeping with tradition.

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“Bones”

Television has really been disappointing me lately. I have actually taken The Office off of my Tivo, because I just couldn’t stand anymore to watch the shadow of what was once my favorite show. LOST is over. And even Community, which is my new favorite show, had one good episode that was followed by two weaker episodes.

A bright spot has been, over the summer, my discovery of the show Bones. I had heard it compared to The X-Files, so I had been meaning to watch it for a while. Bones is about a team of scientists who help the FBI solve murders in cases where the remains of the murder victims are decomposed to the point of being not easily identifiable. The team is led by Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, who can tell by looking at a skeleton exactly how a person was murdered, and what their hobbies were besides.

My sister came home from her internship with the DVDs, which was very convenient. Once I started watching it, I was completely shocked by how much I liked it. I don’t usually really enjoy procedural shows, but Bones is special for a couple of reasons.

First, the characters, every last one of them, are fantastic. There is an ensemble cast, and every member of that cast is funny and interesting and well-developed. I really, really like almost every single character on that show. I would want to hang out with them, because they are all smart, nice people.

Second, though procedural, the show has some overarching mythologies. It’s not like The X-Files, with a vast government conspiracy, but it does have serial killers that torment the characters over the course of several seasons, and family back stories that become intertwined with criminal cases.

Third, the show is surprisingly funny. There are a lot of comedies on TV right now that don’t make me laugh out loud, but Bones makes me laugh during almost every single episode. I think it’s remarkable that the writers are able to bring humor so successfully into the show when they are dealing with such dark topics. They achieve the perfect blend of seriousness and comic relief.

Fourth, the show is completely consistent. I value this very highly. There are a lot of great TV shows that can sustain their awesomeness for a season or two, but I am into the fourth season, and I see no evidence of the show going downhill. Pretty much every single episode is entertaining and engaging and funny. The mysteries still feel fresh and surprising.

The absolute star of the show is the completely badass Dr. Temperance Brennan. Emily Deschanel is absolutely fantastic in this role. I don’t feel I am even capable of finding the words to describe how amazing she is. Brennan absolutely MAKES the show. Brennan is smarter than you (and pretty much everyone else in the world), prettier than you, stronger than you, and awesomer than you. And she knows it. Oh, and she’s also a best-selling author. And rich. And yet, it is impossible to hate her. The writers made the brilliant decision to make Brennan completely clueless about social cues and norms. She takes metaphors literally. She doesn’t understand pop culture. She refers to God as an “imaginary friend.” In the Pantheon of Great Female Television Characters, there is C.J. Cregg and there is Dr. Temperance Brennan. It’s rare that there is a character on TV who seems totally new and totally fresh, but I can’t say I’ve ever known a character like Temperance Brennan before.

Of course, the stupid thing is that Bones is on at the same time as Community. There are two shows on TV that I actually really want to watch, and they’re on at the same time.

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I thought lot during my re-watch of The X-Files about why it was so much a show of its era.

At the heart of The X-Files is a sweeping government conspiracy that “reaches into the lives of every man, woman, and child on this planet.” The X-Files began in 1993, less than four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Cold War was barely over. At that time, the government was still an institution that could exercise total control over its citizens.

In The X-Files, instead of an overtly totalitarian American government, as in the Soviet Union, there was a shadow government who managed to control the lives of American citizens–usually, without their even realizing it.

I have to imagine that broad reliance on government conspiracies would be less successful today due to increased skepticism about the competence of government. Those who oversaw the shadow government in The X-Files would have never been surprised by the terrorist attacks on September 11. They would have been the ones behind it.

In the first X-Files movie, Fight the Future, part of the conspiracy revealed involves the impending colonization of the planet by an alien species. The beginning of the colonization will involve an outbreak of an alien virus, which will be classified as a massive epidemic. When, in the future, that outbreak occurs, FEMA will take control–because, purportedly, FEMA has been set up to act as a secret government-within-a-government all along.

When my sister and I watched the movie on Sunday night, we both laughed when FEMA was mentioned. Back in 1998, FEMA sounded like serious business. Now, our primary association with FEMA is of Brownie, who was doing a heck of a job at letting people suffer and die during Hurricane Katrina.

The X-Files would never have worked during the reign of George W. Bush, when some Americans came to see government as an institution that is weak and that flounders and can’t even find Osama Bin Laden. FEMA can’t help New Orleans when there’s a flood. Would anyone really think that FEMA is capable of orchestrating a covert government-within-a-government takeover?

Beyond even the shadow government conspiracy angle, I would argue that the Cold War’s mentality of viewing the Other as an enemy also played into the success of The X-Files. Of course, fear of “the other” is a theme that’s relevant during all points in history. But it’s notable that in The X-Files, there are three really only three kinds of enemies: shadow governments, aliens, and Russians. Anytime people need to go someplace crazy–let’s go to Russia! Anytime a character needs to BE crazy–dude is Russian!

As I have done before, I can’t help but compare The X-Files with LOST. In The X-Files, the conspiracy is vast and institutional. Agencies and governments are that which cannot be trusted. Individuals, though, on the whole don’t put up many fronts. On the whole, the audience knows and trusts that Mulder, Scully, and Skinner are good, and that the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Krycek, and the members of the Syndicate are bad. There are some blurry lines when it comes to lesser characters like Mulder’s father, but on the whole, individuals are fairly straightforward.

LOST, on the other hand, is all about the conspiracy within the individual. The show literally takes place on an island, which has little use for institutions. Those that did exist, like the Dharma Initiative, were quickly overtaken by bands of “hostiles” roaming the island Uncertainty exists within characters themselves as to what or who is good or bad.

It’s interesting to think that, as a society, we may have transitioned from a post-Cold War environment in which the institution cannot be trusted to a more individualized culture in which it’s the people themselves whose motives are called into question. Perhaps instead of suspicion of government institutions, we are now more suspicious of individuals (terrorists, kidnappers, Barack Obama and his secret Muslim non-American birth certificate).

I wonder if it was September 11 that played a role in changing that attitude. On September 11, a handful of individuals brought a government and a nation to its knees. And it was a handful of individuals who, over a field in Pennsylvania, fought back. Immediately following that day, we turned to government and public figures for reassurance, rather than away from them in suspicion. And if there’s one thing that The X-Files encourages, it’s that when the shit hits the fan, you need to get as far away from the government as possible.

*I almost didn’t publish this blog post, because I feel uncomfortable about the sweeping statements I make, while having absolutely zero evidence to back them up. But, given that this is a blog post, and not an academic paper, I decided to go for it anyway. I am not so hardcore that I am going to go do research to back up the thesis of a blog post that will be read by, at most, 15 people. Unfortunately, it is not my job to write about the intersection of pop culture and history… but oh, that it were…

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The Duggars and Me

I don’t have many good party tricks, but I CAN recite the names of all the Duggar children, in order of birth.

(Josh, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, and Josie. You have no way of knowing that I didn’t look that up, but trust me, I didn’t.)

My sister told me yesterday that the Duggars are going to be coming to my hometown to speak at a megachurch here. And how the air was going to smell like crazy while they were in town. I was thrilled to hear this news.

I have difficulty explaining my fascination with the Duggar family. Unlike the johnny-come-latelies, I knew the Duggars long before they had a television show. I spent untold hours browsing their website, reading about their beliefs and their penchant for tater tot casserole. When I found out that the Duggars were going to have THEIR OWN TV SHOW, I admit that I was really excited.

The Duggars and I don’t have a lot in common. They are seriously Christian. They don’t believe in dancing. They strongly believe in traditional gender roles. They have 19 children who they homeschool(ed). They have their own reality TV show. They are politically conservative. They don’t believe in allowing girls to wear pants, or allowing boys to wear shorts. They don’t watch unChristian TV or unChristian music. They are supposedly part of the Quiverful movement, which is sort of all about having lots of children to create an army for Jesus.

All of things are extremely untrue of me. So, I’m not sure why I am so fixated on people with whom I so profoundly disagree. I don’t think it’s the simple “car accident” analogy–that they are such a spectacle I can’t look away. Although, that does play into it.

There are things I like about the Duggars. I really respect their approach to finances, and how vocal they are about staying out of debt. They buy everything used or in bulk, they make their own laundry detergent, and they built their own house. That kind of attitude impresses me. And I don’t think we can have enough people speaking out for responsible spending.

And I can’t help but admire their consistency. It’s clear that they have beliefs, and based on all appearances, they are pretty damn faithful to those beliefs. Unlike John and Kate, who put up this charade of being a happy Christian family (and were actually crazy famewhores), I am pretty confident that with the Duggars, what you see is what you get. They are pretty upfront about their life, even when others perceive it as nuts. And I really cannot see Jim Bob becoming an aficionado of Ed Hardy apparel.

And, for all the haters, there is something to be said about choice and freedom. I often hear more liberally-minded people say that it’s wrong to have so many children, to raise all their daughters to be housewives and mothers, and to raise all their children with such a narrow mindset.

I am pro-choice, though, which means I believe it is a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions–whether that’s deciding to have no children or 19 children. And just as it is not the Duggars’ job to tell me how to raise my own (hypothetical) children–which would probably involve a lot of dancing and pants on girls and shorts during warmer weather–it’s not my job to tell them how to raise their children.

They may smell like crazy to me, but I’m pretty sure I’d smell like crazy to them, too. And that’s a little thing I like to call “diversity.” We are all our own special snowflakes, beautiful in our own way–even the Duggars, all 21 and counting of them.

I’m not, however, actually going to go SEE the Duggars when they’re here. Even I have my limits. Plus, I have dance class that night, so I will be otherwise sinfully occupied.

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My sister and I were talking about the most recent X-Files movie tonight, and how marvelous it was. We are both, frankly, still shocked that the movie even got made. Who would have THOUGHT in a million years that they would make another X-Files movie! But it brought us both (I think, putting words in my sister’s mouth) a lot of closure to see Mulder and Scully again, and to know that they are together and that they are doing okay.

I know they’re not going to make another X-Files movie, sadly. I am pretty sure that this most recent one brought in profits that roughly amount to what my sister and I paid for our tickets all three times that we went to go see it. It’s unfortunate, because there are still so many stories to be told! There is still so much that is unresolved for Mulder and Scully.

The biggest unresolved issue, of course, is their miracle baby, William, whom Scully put up for adoption when she realized that she couldn’t keep him safe from all the crazies out to get them both. (By this point I had stopped watching the show, because without Mulder, X-Files was dead to me, so I am a little fuzzy on the mythology. I mostly just know that William=adopted.)

So, not only do Mulder and Scully have a story there, but William has got this whole story that’s just waiting to be told! I seriously can see it all now.

(INTERIOR, darkened office! WALTER SKINNER sits at his desk, because he is a badass mofo and he doesn’t need to retire from the FBI! Retirement is for men with families to keep them company. Retirement is for men who have always wanted to take a cruise. Retirement is not for goddamn action heroes with hearts of gold like WALTER SKINNER. He looks with irritation and a hint of bemusement at the young agent in front of him.)

SKINNER: Do you have any idea how serious these offenses are, Special Agent Van De Kamp?

VAN DE KAMP: Yes, sir, I do. But what I feel you are neglecting to recognize is that, though my methods were unconventional, I solved the case. A guilty man has been locked up, and his potential victims are safe.

SKINNER: Listen to me. You are smart. You sailed through the Academy. You have the makings of a damn good agent. But all the talent in the world won’t get your ass anywhere in the Bureau if you don’t play by the book!

(As Skinner looked across the desk at the kid, he had the strongest sense that he had looked into those hazel eyes before. He has the strongest feeling of deja vu for calling this kid to his carpet. It was almost… spooky.)

So then Skinner has the revelation of just who this Agent Van De Kamp might be. And after he dismisses the kid from his office, he immediately picks up the phone. He has a terse phone conversation with Scully, telling him that he needs to talk with her and Mulder… now. When Scully presses him–Sir? What’s this about? There’s a long pause before Skinner says, “It’s about your son.” And hangs up the phone!

Defying protocol himself, Skinner takes the kid’s personnel file! And gives it to Mulder and Scully! And, instantly, they know! Mulder notes William’s reprimands and the memos about his occasionally “unusual” methods, smirks, and makes a comment about how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

ALL THIS TIME, Mulder and Scully have been longing to be reunited with William, but in the end he was closer than they ever could have imagined! Without knowing it, he was following in their footsteps!

Cue scare tactics and threats on William’s life if Mulder and Scully reveal to him what they know (what could possibly be more dangerous to the Syndicate, which has never been lulled into a false sense of security by Mulder’s retirement, but has remained watching and waiting and making plans for impending colonization) than a new generation ready to take up his long-lost father’s crusade? So, Mulder and Scully resist. They wait. They know they will be reunited with their son, but they refuse to do anything that could possibly endanger him. They’d give up anything for him, even the chance to be reunited.

But then… maybe William gets a case, maybe a case that Skinner cleverly gives to him, with evidence that seems to defy science and defy explanation. And maybe Skinner gives him a hint… that somehow leads him to stumble across the dusty old X-Files? There, he not only finds a case that resembles his own current case, but many more cases with evidence that seems to defy science and defy explanation. And becomes deeply curious about these cases, and about the two agents, this Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, who devoted years of their lives to unexplained phenomenon, but then seemed to disappear into thin air themselves.

And then William sets out to FIND them! Because he knows that if there’s anyone who can HELP HIM SOLVE THIS IMPOSSIBLE CASE, it is the mysterious Fox Mulder and Dana Scully!!!!!!

Chris Carter, can you please write this for me? Because if you don’t, I seriously am going to have to write it myself. Except I am not going to be satisfied with fanfiction; I want this sucker to get made. Like, with cameras and craft services and everything. I realize that we need to wait a little longer, because right now, William is like 10 years old. I am willing to wait. But I will also be prepared, if need be, to camp out in front of Fox with my spec script until I get my way.

(Yes, oh my god, I am still talking about The X-Files.)

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