Voracious Cultural Consumption: Day 2

After the tribute to cultural excess that was Thursday, Friday was a little more in line with how much TV I actually watch in a day.  What can I say? Sometimes I go a little crazy.

9:12AM: Project Runway All Stars

We need to talk about two things. First, can we talk about how Kara Janx of Season 2 has some sort of weird affectation where she pushes her lips out when she tries to talk about “her craft”? Cause it happened in Season 2 and it is happening again here.  How is this the sole representative from such a strong season of designers? Santino’s a fame whore, where’s his invitation? Nick Verreos? Daniel Vosovic? Hell, I’d take Daniel Franco for a third time if it meant I didn’t have to handle Kara Janx again.

Second: Michael Costello.  I have this problem more often with Top Chef than Project Runway, but how can both his Season 8 and his All Star competitors bag on this guy so much when he wins so often?  I don’t think it is jealously.  I genuinely believe they think he sucks, I am just not seeing the evidence to back it up.  Same problem with Kevin Gillespie in Top Chef: Las Vegas.  The Voltaggios constantly referenced his “simple” foods, but they always looked delicious to me, mostly because they almost always contained pork.

9:53AM: Hart of Dixie

Say what you will about how absurd the premise of this show is, but once you buy into the concept, this shit is damned entertaining.  Plus, Levon Hayes.  Google Levon Hayes, YouTube Levon Hayes, do what you need to do to make Levon Hayes part of your cultural life.  Thank me later.

10:42AM: Once Upon a Time

This is the strange thing about my love for Once Upon a Time.  I hate Jennifer Morrison as an actress.  There is something about her I find completely unlikable, and veering from her brown locks in “House” to the hideously fake blonde hair she sported on “How I Met Your Mother” and this show do her no favors.

I also do not enjoy Ginnifer Goodwin as an actress for pretty much the same reasons.  One of these days, I’ll sum up my distaste a little better, but to put it succinctly, I find both of their acting styles to be very whiny.  I get one note from them most of the time, which bothers me.

Thankfully, their respective notes work in this show, which has gotten increasingly clever about weaving the fairy tale and real world together, thankfully resulting in some compelling storylines and, more importantly, less Morrison screen time.

11:34AM: Downton Abbey

I know. Period drama? But it isn’t a boring stuffy period drama.  It is Revenge or Gossip Girl, but with petticoats and Maggie Smith.  Don’t believe me? Try it before you knock it, dude.

12:27PM: Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Exes

I have long ago given up on watching the shows that feed into the Challenge, but this athletic marvel which is now in what I think is its 25th season (no joke) is the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures.  As Bill Simmons and Dave Jacoby have pointed out, it should be America’s fifth major sport.  

Speaking of, if you’re a Challenge fan and haven’t checked out Grantland’s sabermetrics of the Challenge, it really is a must read.

Side note–on commercial break of this, I happened to catch a piece of Mulan.  That song “Reflection” really is underrated.

1:02PM: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

I had about 40 pages left of the last book in the Millennium trilogy, so I finished it and was pretty happy with how things wrapped up.  Now I have to watch the second two Swedish flicks and hope David Fincher figures out a way to make the other English movies as good as they are.

2:15PM: What Not To Wear

Sometimes when I am at the gym, I stumble upon some reasonable entertainment while on the elliptical.  Sometimes I even schedule my gym trips around when something is on TV.  You won’t believe how many calories I burned in the five days ABC family showed a Harry Potter Movie a night.

Anyways, I was flipping through the channels and what do I stumble upon?? Mayim Bilayik aka Blossom submitting herself to the condescending eyes of the delightful Clinton Kelly and Stacy London on “What Not to Wear.”  Girl needed some help too.  I remember seeing her on some show and thinking “Gee, Blossom let herself go.”  Little did I know she was dressing in a way that made her look 40 pounds heavier than she actually is.

Stacy and Clinton made a lot of progress, but Biyalik still has some pretty bizarre and unflattering taste.  It was nice to see famous people are as incapable as I am of dressing themselves stylishly.

5:32PM: 9 to 5

So, when people raved about “Bridesmaids”, the movie I expected to see was this.  I have never seen 9 to 5 before, but having watched it, I can now tell you that this is the smart comedy featuring women we claim doesn’t exist.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not the crappy movie that came out last year that featured a woman deficating on herself in the middle of the street.

It also features Dolly Parton, which automatically means it will forever be cooler than “Bridesmaids” as she is pretty much the greatest entertainer in the whole wide world.  I knew that though.  What I didn’t know was just how much I would enjoy this movie, in particular the performance of Lily Tomlin.  I’ve always respected the woman as a performer, but this is a reminder to me that there are plenty of works from her heyday that I am missing out on, and that needs to be remedied.

9:00PM: Jabba Wockeez

Now, this is not a TV show, but my first big stage show in Las Vegas deserves mentioning, as it was beyond amazing.  I have been a big fan of the dance troupe for a long time and this was a real treat, especially since we were fortunate enough to score free tickets in the fourth row.

12:41AM: Gossip Girl, Season 2

The TV in my room is an old tube TV, so when I go to bed and want to watch something, it is typically something from my DVD collection.  I get to unwind at night with some familiar fare, the latest of which is a revisiting of the second season of Gossip Girl.  The episodes I’m currently plowing through feature the downfall of Little Jenny Humphrey and, since my Taylor Momsen schadenfreude rivals that of the contempt most people feel towards the Kardashians, I find these episodes particularly rewatchable.

Oh dear.  I tried to pawn Day 1 off as an anomaly, but once again I spent six hours parked in front of my TV today.  I guess that is pretty standard.  Can I get away with justifying that I work at home and can’t be convinced to do athletic activity at the gym unless entertainment is involved?


Voracious Cultural Consumption: Day 1

This is a sad admission, but when I get back from a trip, as I did on Thursday, I eagerly look forward to plowing through my DVR.  I consider it a triumph to clear that sucker out, not to mention the perk of having oodles of shows to choose from.  In other words, this first day was a productive one, heavy on the television:

(Be warned, I will spoil results and plot lines of recent shows. Read at your own risk)

8:43AM: Top Chef Texas

Oh, I have a film degree. And an MA in media studies. But if there is a new episode of “Top Chef” on the DVR, there is no uppity movie or high brow art film that will stand in the way of me watching this reality show as soon as humanly possible.  I love me some Top Chef.  I’ve been loyally devoted since Season 1, when they didn’t have Voltaggios interested in this contest–they had a chick fresh out of culinary school who legit made a sheet cake for one challenge, a home cook, and a natural chef who served up peanut clusters.

This season, I feel like I am watching Season 1 all over again. Do we honestly believe any of these people are of the same caliber as previous seasons?  Even after last week with the Snow White challenge where people made great food, I still feel like it is a fluke.  To me, it is a two horse race between Paul and Ed (sorry, ladies).  I would normally say just Paul, but Ed is from Kentucky, so he is automatically awesome.  And it is now a moot point, but Chris, anybody with that dumb ass ponytail and those manpris is never going to get the title “Top Chef.”

9:32AM: Project Runway All Stars

Before Top Chef became my reality BFF, I had Project Runway.  Then that awful Jeffrey Sebelia won Season 3 despite deserving to be eliminated for over half the shows (I will one day write an essay on how Kayne Gillespie, the pageant gown designer, was the victim of some serious anti-redneck classism btw).  I broke up with the show.  We had a brief fling in Season 5 when my grad school friends had people over to watch each week, but then I was done. The show bored me, even with the delightful Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, and Tim Gunn.

Yet, I decided to give this show another shot with All Stars.  People I liked back for a second shot sounded appealing (though, hello, where are Kayne, Daniel Vosovic, Michael Knight, and Kara Saun???).  Then I tuned in and leaned there was no Kors, no Heidi, and, aw hell no, no Tim Gunn??? What is so all star about a Project Runway with no stars?

I was sucked in even with the absence of my favorite parts of the show though. What this season has going for it is a set of the best challenges this show has ever seen. Design a dress for Miss Piggy? Make a gelato-inspired dress in six hours? Make an outfit at Dollar Tree?  The challenges are truly challenging and producing some really interesting and innovative work that keeps me tuning back in.

10:07AM: Hungry Girl

I don’t understand why Lisa Lillian isn’t more famous amongst my friends. Lilian aka Hungry Girl understands my interest in calorie counting.  I have zero desire to be “healthy.”  I just want to weigh less.  It is shallow, I admit it, but it is true.  So, Lillian’s recipes, which find ways for me to continue eating banana pudding and shedding pounds, are right up my alley.  I admit I breeze through these cooking shows though.  I fast forward through recipes I have no interest in, like this week’s BLT Mac and Cheese, but stop to get the gist of how I can eat four BBQ bacon-wrapped shrimp for 165 calories.  This is as close to health conscience eating as I am ever going to get.  And I am fine with that.

10:52AM: 30 Rock

Liz Lemon is back! Glory to God, she is back!  30 Rock premiered its sixth season a couple of weeks ago after being off the airwaves since May.  The show earned a mid-season birth not because it performed poorly, but because Tina Fey was pregnant. Fey’s understanding that you can’t write Liz Lemon getting pregnant into the show is why I love her.  Liz Lemon doesn’t get pregnant. She’s Liz Lemon.  And she is my hero.

She is back and this week they deal with her new beau, Criss.  Yes, no “H”, double the “S”.  I rolled the whole episode, laughing at Lemon and Jack sparring back and forth about her new guy.  Not gonna lie, I’ve been there, knowing people won’t improve of my dating choices so, once again, this show hit uncomfortably close to home in the most hilarious way possible.

11:18AM: Happy Endings

I am new on the Happy Endings bandwagon and, so far, I am enjoying this newer, slightly weirder version of friends.  The dialogue is fast and snappy, and the characters are endearingly kooky.  There is one exception though.  Penny. I hate Penny.

Penny is supposed to be the group’s brash and loud single gal (heh, sound familiar?). I just don’t enjoy the performance  by Casey Wilson.  While all six characters are a little off their rockers and weird, she is the only one of the group that rings really false to me.  Her performance feels, for lack of a better word, performative, and I am just not a fan.  I am still on board with this show though.  For every crappy scene with Penny, I get to enjoy something fun, like Damon Wayans Jr. having a beer and shooting the shit with Brent Musburger.

11:46AM: Real Housewives of DC

No, I did not DVR repeats of a now-cancelled show. I was about to head out to run an errand when I saw this was one.  It was none other than the episode dealing with Tareq and Mikaele Salahi crashing the White House State Dinner.  There are a ton of loonies in the RHO universe, but these two might be my favorite.  I mean, she ran away to be with a guitarist from Journey.  Not even a guitarist or member of Journey I’ve even heard of either!  So, when I get a chance to see these turly deluded people act deluded, I’m not going to pass it by.

1:57PM: Real Housewives of DC (Again)

It was the reunion show. So sue me.

2:11PM: Gossip Girl

After another quick fix of Salahi crazy, I got back on the DVR grind with a show I don’t think gets nearly enough love.  Yes, its plots are genuinely preposterously outlandish, but this show really does get a couple of things right.  First, these characters are compelling, even though they may do stupid and selfish things.  Second, we gotta talk about Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester).  If you go back to my Dumb Smart Girl post, you know my problem–I feel like a girl on TV can never be truly smart and truly feminine and appealing.  What I forgot was Blair Waldorf.  This chick is smart. She doesn’t apologize for being smart either.  And she is being rewarded by becoming the Princess of Monaco via marriage (like I said, outlandish).

The other thing this show gets right is that it doesn’t listen to all the crazy ‘shippers on the interweb.  Like many fans, I think a relationship with Dan and Blair, two characters that hated each other for several seasons, makes a lot of sense.  But, rather than abandon Waldorf’s established relationships with her Monacan prince and longtime paramour Chuck Bass to pursue a Dan/Blair relationship that will please some, but infuriate others, they just continue to tease us with the possibility in thoroughly entertaining ways.

It may be campy and a soap opera, but it is a damned well-constructed soap opera.

3:07PM: Revenge

And so I turned to my other delightfully well-constructed campy soap opera, Revenge.  If you haven’t watched this show, please do, if only for Madeline Stowe.  Please, think of Madeline Stowe.

5:40PM: Republican Debates on CNN

I had to watch something while on the elliptical. Once again, Ron Paul endeared me to him even more than I thought possible. And I burned calories!

7:05PM: Drew Peterson, Untouchable

If you thought between Gossip Girl and Revenge and the Housewives and the debates that I’d gotten enough camp and over the top behavior in my day, you would be wrong.  Tim, my roommate, very kindly waited until I got home to watch the Lifetime made for TV movie about the cop with a penchant for murdering his young, inexplicably attractive wives.

Tim couldn’t fathom how a pretty girl played by Kaley Cuoco could fall for someone as creepy and old as Peterson (Rob Lowe).  Even I had to agree, admitting, “I have thought Rob Lowe was about the hottest thing ever since 1994, but I am weirdly repelled by him in this and I don’t like it one bit.”

While he may not have been hot, Lowe was hysterical, as was this very tongue in cheek movie.  Sometimes when you are going for camp and that so bad it is good vibe, it is tough to pull it off, but Lifetime knows what its audience needs, and its audience needs Lowe referring to himself and his member as “Big Daddy”, they need a cast full of people with inconsistent and over the top accents, and they need to end the movie with Lowe stripping down to his skivvies doing a sexy dance before getting searched by two police officers.

Bless you Lifetime, bless you.

9:21PM: 30 Rock (Again)

Being Thursday, we had a new 30 Rock to enjoy and decided, “Why not?”  Then we realized there were two.  I echo the sentiments of a lot of pop culture writers on the web today when I say that this show may have gotten a bit tired last season, but it is right back on course this season with four hilarious episodes.

11:00PM: Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

I was still on East Coast time and fairly exhausted, so I wrapped up my day with a chunk of the third book in the Millenium trilogy.  I think it might be my favorite of the three.  The pacing picks up, there aren’t too many wtf Mikael Blomquist sexapades to deal with, and I always love a good courtroom drama.

And after roughly 385 minutes (6 and a half hours) of television watching and 30 minutes buried in a book, I called it a night.

A Bold…Er…Bored Experiment

I have spent a good part of the past two weeks trying to figure out what to write about in this here tumblr on a more regular basis.  I suppose it could be poker content, but with the gigantic chunk of it I write for my jobs, that doesn’t sound appealing, barring the occasional editorial.

Lately, my interests in pop culture have been reinvigorated.  I used to live, breath, and sleep the entertainment industry, but a dearth of quality movies in the past five years, not to mention a disillusioning stint within the industry itself, left me more interested in poker than pop culture.

It is strange that in a year where the Oscar nominees are so maligned, I am suddenly taking new interest in the movies again.  Well, it probably isn’t that strange.  My taste has always been old-fashioned.  I would much rather watch a movie from 1944 than 2004.  My general explanation for this is simple: I believe film and television, while visual, are primarily narrative-based mediums, so I privilege story above all us.  I want a story I can invest in, characters I care about (be it with fondness or scorn), and a plot that goes somewhere.

So, I prefer Billy Wilder to someone lauded in this day and age, like Christopher Nolan.  To me, Nolan is too obsessed with style.  I find his movies to be difficult to emotionally invest in, I find the characters distant at best, and while the film may look neat, it generally just doesn’t do it for me.

However, with the recent spat of “nostalgic” films like “The Artist” and “War Horse’ that both have compelling stories with characters I care about to boot, I am right back in it again.  But the question remains: what the hell do I write about?

Before I commit to some sort of gimmick or snarky recaps, I think I might be well-served to look at my cultural consumption up close.  I am a voracious watcher and reader.  I never do work without the television on or a movie playing.  Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with the ability to multi-task, so I still have a job despite watching more hours of content in a week than people spend at a full time job.

Just how much you ask?  Well, that is what this little experiment is going to show you.  I got the idea from my cousin, Leah, whose popular blog about veganism and dieting includes a Tasty Tuesday entry, where she logs exactly what she is eating.  I thought to myself: if it works to food, why can’t it work for content?

I am home a week, so I am going to log what I watch and read every day for the next seven days, along with some comments on the shows themselves.  You may wonder if I ever leave the couch.  You may wonder how someone with such dubious taste graduated from USC film school.  You may wonder what any of us will gain from such a thing.  These are all fine.  Just hope you are entertained in the process…

If the career you have chosen has some unexpected inconvenience, console yourself by reflecting that no career is without them.

Jane Fonda

Everyone has the right to be offended. And I have the right to offend. The simple fact is, offense is taken, not given. It’s up to you if you’re offended or not. And remember, just because you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right. Some people are offended by equality, mixed marriage, and homosexuality, for example. Who cares?

Ricky Gervais in Entertainment Weekly