Tag Archives: TV

My new Bachelor(ette) podcast!

Big news: I now have a podcast devoted to everyone’s favorite televised dumpster fire of true love, The Bachelorette! Jeff Drake and I co-host Whine & Roses, a weekly podcast in which we break down each episode of The Bach’ette into its essential components. It’s highly rigorous and scientific!

whine and roses

Please do me a solid and check it out on Facebook and Twitter. You can download it here, on Apple podcasts, or wherever else you get podcasts.

Join me on this exciting JOURNEY, won’t you?

Writing and mothering and the waiting game

My baby was born 15 weeks ago today, and I am still not back to writing.

I guess that’s not totally true: I am writing a bit, like right now, for instance, and I do one freelancing piece a week for Previously.TV (and will soon be resuming my duties as their resident Bachelor(ette) maven). So, it’s not that I’m not writing at all. But I’m not writing full-time, the way I used to, B.L. (Before Lucia). How could I? Taking care of this baby consumes my whole day, even when she’s napping, which is when I try to clear the mountains of laundry and dishes that accumulate while I am actively taking care of her. In the rare moments when I have free time — when the laundry is put away, the dishes are done, the errands are run, and the baby is actually asleep — all I want to do is sit on my butt and watch Shahs of Sunset. I’ve been so exhausted — mentally, physically, emotionally — for the last 15 weeks, I haven’t even been knitting much. Horrors! It’s only in the last week or so that I’ve picked up the baby sweater I was working on before Lucia was born, and even working on that single, simple project takes a concerted effort. I have to reach for my knitting needles and get out my measuring tape and look at my pattern, and boy, was it always this much work to relax?

Obviously, if my leisure activities have fallen to the wayside, you can imagine the hit that my work life has taken over these past three months. Before I had the baby, I had fuzzy visions of working on my novel while she napped, getting shorter projects done piecemeal over the day, and writing on the weekends while Al took care of her. These rosy-hued visions have proved to be entirely unrealistic, given the way that actual babies work, and the amount of intellectual energy and focus it takes for me to write productively. Long story short, I can’t write while I’m in the same house as this baby.

The decision I’ve come to is that I’ll resume my real writing when my parents move here in a month. I can’t wait for them to move close for a number of reasons, but having built-in, loving childcare for Lucia is a BIG one. My plan, as it stands now, is to drop Lucia with Grandma and Grandpa for a few hours each day while I get some writing done. We’ll have to see how it works in practice, but that’s the goal. In the meantime, I feel surprisingly okay with not working on anything day to day other than taking care of my little squid. Being a mother, turns out, is a tremendous amount of work. Yes, taking care of an infant can be stultifying and frustrating and crazy-making at times, but it’s also temporary. Lucia won’t be this small and dependent forever. This too shall pass, and when it does, my writing shall resume.

Until then, the baby is napping, and I need to see how Reza’s bachelor party drama shakes out.

Book review Tuesday: Top of the Morning, by Brian Stelter

I’ll admit it: I watch morning TV. A lot of people — especially educated people who fancy themselves to be above it all — won’t admit to ever tuning into such drivel as the Today show or Good Morning America. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard some variation of “Oh, I think it’s so sad that some people get their news from morning shows,” as if getting your news from Twitter is so much more high-minded. (Don’t pretend, morning TV haters: you’re not tuning into Al Jazeera. You’re getting half of your information from Gawker and then skimming the headlines on Google News. I’m onto you). Anyway, I don’t see any point in denying it: I watch morning TV because I find that the 7 to 8 AM hour of the Today show is just as an effective way to get my basic news as anything else. Plus, once the 8 AM hour starts, maybe I’ll get a few cooking tips or find out what color jeggings I should be buying this season. So it’s all gravy.

I’d say that one of the most interesting aspects of morning TV is the whiff of the private dramas that are undoubtedly simmering just below the surface among the cast-mates. We morning TV viewers watch with almost pervy interest to see if Matt Lauer’s going to snap at Natalie Morales (lovers’ quarrel?), or if Lara Spencer’s going to make another awkward comment about Sam Champion’s taste in interior decor. At least, that’s what I do when I watch. And that’s what I was doing in June 2012, in the weeks and days before Ann Curry was unceremoniously dumped from the Today show and replaced by Savannah Guthrie. I had been following the news of Ann’s imminent sacking for weeks before it happened, and I watched Today every day with rapt interest, trying to see if I could pick up on the tension between Matt Lauer, morning show demi-god, and Curry, who, let’s be honest, kinda sucks at being on TV. For those of you not familiar with Ann Curry’s on-air presence, this (harsh) Gawker article from March 2012 sort of sums it up. And Ann’s last day on the Today show couch? Oy. Being forced to watch it should probably be integrated into the “enhanced interrogation” techniques at Guantanamo.

So, given my prurient interest in morning show drama, I was eager to read Brian Stelter’s Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, in which Stelter dissects the decisions at NBC leading to Curry’s firing; discusses Good Morning America (GMA)’s rise in 2012-2013, which ultimately resulted in an end to the Today Show’s years-long ratings streak; and looks into the recent up-cropping of other morning shows, including the MSNBC cult favorite Morning Joe. [Fun fact: I also was interested in the book because I met Brian Stelter before — years ago — in a bar. He’s a friend of my dear friend, Claire].

stelter

Much of Stelter’s book focuses on the fierce (and decades-long) rivalry between Today and GMA. This rivalry, by the way, in which the Today show sees itself as the “serious” show and GMA sees itself as the “fun” show, is actually kind of ridiculous, at least from an outsider’s perspective, given that these two shows both contain some news content and a hefty amount of fluff. Nonetheless, Stelter writes, “Loyalists to Today liked to describe GMA as smutty, crappy, and, most of all, tabloid.” In contrast, the Today show has traditionally seen itself as erudite and sophisticated — yet, this is the same show that employs the doddering Willard Scott, whose Smuckers-sponsored birthday greetings make me cringe with second-hand embarrassment. But really, both of these shows have a little bit of tabloid and a little bit of news thrown in to the mix. Stelter observes, “No one disputes that the morning shows are supposed to be entertaining as well as informative — look no further than the chimp on the Today show set in the 1950s for proof of that. The philosophical battle is over the mix — the exact proportions of light versus dark, of You Should Know This versus You’ll Enjoy This.” Finding this balance appears to be a constant struggle for both GMA and Today, but especially for Today, which seems to wrestle with delusions of, if not grandeur, sophistication.

Top of the Morning is a snappy, dishy read, full of inside information from people at the networks and plenty of gossip about the relationships between the stars at the center of the Today and GMA lineups. I found Stelter’s discussion of the vast differences in chemistry between the casts of Today and GMA to be particularly interesting. His observation that a network can effectively manufacture success by handpicking a cast with chemistry, energy, and enthusiasm — which is what GMA has accomplished over the last year or so — is fascinating. (Less interesting to me was the in-depth discussion of the ratings war between GMA and Today. My eyes tended to skim over the numbers, in search of more juicy gossip. But then, I’m not really a numbers lady).

I also really enjoyed Stelter’s brutal (but accurate) diagnosis of the problems that plagued Ann Curry as a Today show anchor. For example, Stelter observes, Curry had a tendency to come off as both disingenuous and awkward, and her “on-air comebacks to Lauer during her first months as cohost were just plain weird — the conversational Hacky Sack often fell thudding to the rug, or, figuratively speaking, wound up in the saucepan put out for Al Roker’s cooking segment.” Nailed it. For me, as a Today show viewer, this complete inability to make basic small-talk was one of the most grating things about Curry. I used to cringe — literally, cringe — sometimes watching her flub an interview or make weird comments to her co-hosts.

Poor Ann Curry.

Poor Ann Curry.

Despite Curry’s tremendous awkwardness, though, after reading Top of the Morning, I do feel sorry for her. She was roundly mistreated by NBC. Even if one is bad at one’s job, one deserves a humane and dignified dismissal, rather than the dragged-out public humiliation Curry was subjected to. Karmically speaking, it didn’t work out well for Today, either, so I guess what goes around comes around.

Top of the Morning is definitely a book geared toward morning TV viewers. If you don’t watch these shows, it probably won’t be interesting to you, unless you’re interested in the television industry in general. So, those of you who only get your news via carrier pigeon might want to skip it. But for those of us who enjoy a little trash with our morning coffee, there’s a lot of good stuff in this book — recommended.

Christmas comfort food

Since the much-hyped Mayan apocalypse failed to materialize today, I can finally look forward to Christmas! I mean, just as soon as I clear out a space in my doomsday bunker where I’ve stockpiled canned foods, weaponry, and a Nibiru-English dictionary, I’ll be able to hunker down and enjoy my favorite part of the Christmas season: movies, music, and TV.

So here, good people, is a brief list of my favorite non-edible Christmas comfort foods, in case you’re looking to expand your Christmas horizons this year.  Let’s start with music.

My Christmas playlist

          • O Holy Night.  I love this song, but I’m very picky about it – it must be sung by a children’s choir. If an adult man is singing this song, I will not enjoy it. For my money, it doesn’t get better than the version in Home Alone, which you can find here.  However, even better than that is our dog, Dougal, singing along to that version.  This happened as I was writing this blog post, by the way.

  • Breath of Heaven, by Amy Grant.  This is a religious song (it’s Amy Grant, after all) and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s sung from the perspective of Mary, which is different from most of your standard, ho-hum, Santa-and-Jesus Christmas songs.
  • The entire Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, by Vince Guaraldi.  If you don’t already own this, please do yourself a favor and purchase it immediately. It’s a classic.  Also, watch the movie.
  • All I Want for Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey.  I mean, come on.  It’s Mariah. And yes, I like the new version with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.
  • Miracle of Love, by the Eurythmics.  I’m not sure if this is actually a Christmas song, but it puts me in a festive mood, even though it is objectively depressing. I also love the Eurythmics’ There Must be an Angel, because of this Disney video, which I watched on repeat as a child.  I understand that logically, I should associate this song with Valentine’s Day, but you know what? Festive is festive.

      • River, by Sarah McLachlan.  Wow, is it just me, or is my Christmas playlist sort of dark?  Yikes.  Let’s move on.

Christmas movies and TV episodes

  •  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I watch this every year with my parents and it never gets old.  It features a truly all-star cast, including Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid, Brian Doyle Murray, and Johnny Galecki. It also contains one of my family’s favorite lines: “Clark! Slow down! I don’t want to spend the holidays dead.”  We say this to each other often.
  • Home Alone.  A sweet classic.  And the tarantula scene? I die. Every time.
  • Breakfast With Scot. If I can do one thing in this life of mine, I hope I can spread love for this truly charming little Canadian film about hockey, a gay kid, and two reluctant gay dads.  I feel like the trailer does not do it justice, but it’s heartwarming, funny, Christmassy, and cute, and it features Tom Cavanagh, who I’ve already mentioned on this blog as being one half of one of my favorite podcasts, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.  Ugh, please just watch it, it’s awesome.

          • A Christmassy Ted.  This is the Christmas special of my favorite (now defunct) Irish comedy, Father Ted.  The premise of Father Ted is that three misfit priests are banished to a windswept island off the west coast of Ireland (the aptly named “Craggy Island”).  Father Ted has dreams of being rich and famous, Father Jack is a gross, largely inarticulate drunk, and Father Dougal is an idiot.  They get into all sorts of hilarious adventures, but the Christmas special is particularly funny.  I’ve gotten Al into Father Ted over the years and this is now one of our all-time favorite jokes – how to break the news of a death:

“Remember how your husband used to love a good laugh?”

  • The Snowman.  This is just straight-up beautiful, and the song Walking in the Air brings a tear to my crusty old eye.

          What can I say, I have a thing for boys’ choirs.  Also, the movie is introduced by David Bowie, who apparently did a lot of acting in children’s films in the 80s (Labyrinth, anyone?).

Well, I could go on and on about Christmas gems but I don’t want to lose you guys.  Check out some of my picks and let me know what you think.  Merry Christmas and happy Not-End-of-the-World!

 

The crime gene

For my thirtieth birthday, Al bought me a genetic testing kit – you can send it away and find out what percentage of Neanderthal DNA you carry, for example, and you can also discover all the hideous genetic diseases you might unwittingly pass to your children.  I know it’s not the most romantic gift, but I am super psyched about it.  And although I haven’t sent in my saliva sample for testing yet, I know one malignant gene that I definitely carry and will in all likelihood pass on to my poor, unsuspecting offspring: the crime gene.

Don’t let the term “crime gene” alarm you: I’m not a criminal. I just enjoy watching TV shows about them.

I come by this predilection naturally, I’m afraid. My mother carries the crime gene, and so did her father.  When I was growing up, I only remember my mother reading true crime books, thick paperbacks with titles like Bitter Harvest, The Stranger Beside Me, and Dead by Sunset.  In the evenings, my mom would always tune into TV shows about criminals: America’s Most Wanted, 48 Hours Mystery, even COPS.  When shows like Forensic Detectives and Cold Case Files started to crop up, these were added to the Early household’s TV repertoire.

Since I was raised by a true crime aficionado, watching shows about murder before bedtime always seemed pretty normal to me, although I do remember asking my dad one time to please not kill me and my mom, since I had seen a show in which the dad did just that. My dad, a bit taken aback, assured me that he wouldn’t kill us, but he couldn’t make any promises about our dog, Max, who was severely misbehaved.  Fair enough.

Bad dog

As I got older, I never got into true crime books but I would watch the occasional crime show on TV, although I preferred Law & Order SVU to true crime.  And, by the way, I don’t trust people who don’t love Law & Order SVU.  Love me, love Benson and Stabler.  The older I get, though, the more and more intrigued I become by true crime.  And I think I’ve hit the true crime jackpot in Joburg.

Here in South Africa, there is, to my delight, 24-hour true crime programming.  We get a channel called, simply, Crime, and also a channel called Discovery ID: Investigation Discovery, which, as far as I can tell, is 99% crime shows, and 1% shows about animals on an African game reserve.   Here are the programs that I’ve watched on Discovery ID so far: Nightmare Next Door, Murder Shift, Who on Earth Did I Marry?, Forensic Detectives, On the Case With Paula Zahn, Disappeared, and True Crimes.

You’d think I’d have trouble sleeping after watching these shows about horrifying crimes – today I saw one about a lady whose husband decapitated her for the insurance money – but, no.  I find these stories fascinating without feeling personally threatened by them.  In fact, one of the hypotheses about why women enjoy the true crime genre more than men do, on average, is because women may pick up useful survival tactics from stories about murder and rape.

But although women are typically more likely to be carriers of the crime gene, men are also susceptible. And I’m starting to think this fascination with true crime might not be strictly genetic after all.  In fact, it might be catching.  To wit: for the last two nights, my husband has requested that we watch crime on TV.  Uh oh.  We’d better get Al tested, too.