Monday, April 25, 2011

Community Highlights

I recently came back from the National Association of Broadcasters' conference where I heard director, Joe Russo from Community talk. He said Community loves doing genre episodes and will continue to do them as long as the audience follows - they're reprising "paintball" for a two episode season finale. He also mentioned that when an episode goes over their regular 5-day shooting schedule, they compensate on other episodes by making them more straightforward to shoot. When the "Halloween" episode took 7 days to shoot, they filmed the easier pen-stealing monkey "lock-down" episode.

So this past week we get another genre episode - the montage or highlight show. Shows do this all the time to save money or production schedules by just filming new intro stuff and then the editors go to work collecting footage from past episodes. And you always feel cheated, because it is a cheat. Nothing new comes out of these episodes - there is no progression. But Community took it another step and showed highlight footage that was completely new! They took it and flipped it - pretending the footage was all old stuff. Loved it! It felt simple in that the present footage all took place in the study room, but I doubt they saved much time on this episode with all the extra footage they shot. Awesome!

Friday, April 22, 2011

US of T

United States of Tara had a lovely scene in the last episode. Although I am generally a fan of this show, I have at times found it too... too. It can be over-wrought, over-amped, over-clich├ęd. But there is no denying Toni Collette's performance is amazing as she portrays the alters with her Dissociative Identity Disorder. And although they are cliches, they are meant to be. They are the identities that come out when Tara can't handle a specific situation and this is the alter that can. It's more the supporting cast that gets on my nerves as they are over-played - maybe this is on purpose - to show what dealing with a person diagnosed with DID would be like.

But in this last episode, Tara tries to compromise with her alters so that they stop ruining her life and this scene was very well done. She's in a white room with her alters at the table and she demands respect as the "king." She asks the alters to write out their wishes and Tara will try to accommodate them - instead of the alters taking over and causing havoc. But then Tara transitions back to reality and we see her in her college classroom where she's supposed to have been taking a test. But instead she's written all over her desk and herself with the notes of her alters. And all Tara can do is pitifully look at her psych professor and confess she's crazy. She is so sad in that moment and Toni Collette plays the frustration/desperation exceptionally well. It's a dramatic scene that actually plays well in this often over-played drama.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

7 Things

My sister nominated me for a Stylish Blogger Award. Stylish, I'm definitely not. But I'll follow her rules and tell you seven things you may not know about me.

1. I adore Taco Salad. I make it once a week and enjoy mixing taco seasonings from Old El Paso or my growing Penzy's Spice collection. Onion and garlic get mixed in and then come the staples of tomato, lettuce, salsa, and avocado (when in season). All on a bed of crisp tortilla chips. My roommate Sara used to marvel at how huge my plate was on these nights. I can take down some taco salad.

2. I'm starting to hate yard work. I can at times find it relaxing or numbing, but mostly it is a chore. Mowing the grass every weekend in the Summer and trying to keep up with edging, trimming, weeding, pruning, the Jones's next door... it's tiring. And my neighbor really does force me to keep up. Once, I was chatting with him about one of my side yard bushes and how I needed to trim it. And I said "I'm not sure what that bush is called." His response - "neglect."

3. I listen to melancholy and depressing music. It speaks to me. Bands that fit in this category are often British, like Muse, Depeche Mode, and Morcheeba. Although Muse can be energetic and inspiring, it's still moody - just the way I like it. Bubblegum pop is nice to sing along with in the car, but Aqualung or VAST bring me back to a place I feel more comfortable in.

4. Like my sister, I too have red-head envy. I only have touches of red in my hair - it's not enough. I hate being referred to as a blonde and would much rather be brunette or at least dirty blonde. But a deep auburn... that would be lovely. I already have the pale skin to go with it - just need a bit more of the pheomelanin pigment.

5. I personify the world around me. Equipment at my job is usually male. "He spit out a tape. He (my editing software) is being very picky today." And I talk to the flowers in my yard and encourage them to grow. "Come on little buddy."

6. I have some OCD issues. Nothing debilitating, but obsessive nonetheless. I also get weird about efficiency with normal everyday things like cleaning. I have to clean a certain way. Dusting first - so the dust falls and then I will vacuum and sweep it up. And when I put things away, I must collect all the pieces and then deliver them to the rooms in order down the hall - none of this going back and forth. It's not that bad really. Just a preference. I don't flog myself if I forget.

7. And obviously, I have an unhealthy obsession with TV. So much so, that lately, it can be the highlight of my day. If I'm bored at work or not enjoying whatever task I'm working on, I will realize that "Glee is on tonight", and suddenly be much happier knowing I have that to look forward to. This might say many things. Maybe I am unhappy with my job, maybe I need a life, maybe I'm a bit lonely and wish I had a family to go home to instead of my TV and cat... maybe, just maybe it means quality TV can enrich our lives... I think I'm stretching on that one.

Well, I did yard work yesterday, so now I'll go make taco salad in the proper order while listening to Muse and then watch Sunday evening programming on Jose (my TV). Just kidding, he doesn't really have a name.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cable Off, DVDs On

So the Oscars are done for another year. And again, I've barely seen any of the Best Picture nominees. So I finally broke down and signed up for Netflix. Yes I know, I'm only ten years behind the ball on this one. I've just had so much TV to watch. But quality TV seems to be dwindling a bit for me and I don't really go to the movies much anymore since I mainly have married friends with kids. So, I'm taking a cue from my friend Chad and checking out a number of films from AFI's top 100 that I've never seen. My queue filled up fast. One of the first from the list - Raging Bull. How have I never seen this? I give my students such a hard time about not knowing this or that movie, and yet I'm lacking. And I've been told I must see Gaslight and Rebecca. They're on the list.

So, any suggestions? What is on your list of must see movies?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Okay Already

I keep a notepad by the sofa in case anything sparks a rant in my head or I see a touching moment.

I wrote down "This is blackmail!" "Yeah, I got an app for that, homes." I'm not sure what this was from or whether or not I was amused or appalled by its use.

I just haven't felt inspired to write about anything. Maybe because I'm having one of my periodic musings about the frivolous nature of my chosen hobby. I continue to argue that TV and certain shows have merit and I'm not ashamed of my addiction... and yet isn't addiction when too much of something interrupts or prevents you from living a life? Should I start a TV Anonymous? "Hi, I'm Jessamyn, and I'm addicted to TV." "Hi, Jessamyn!" Of course our group would probably tape our meetings and stage them as a one-camera dramedy with slow dolly shots and intense reverse close-ups. Our chosen director would ask, "Is that a tear forming on her face? Push in close and get that shot."

Sample dialogue: "Your addiction to reality TV is hurting your family Susie. They can't maintain the drama and fighting you're asking of them." or "You have to stop these constant pop culture references Tom. You're ostracizing everyone around you and making them feel inadequate." Or maybe someone would open up on a very "special" episode and reveal their binge on a Lord of the Rings marathon and everyone would have to rally to get them back on the wagon by hiding all the remotes.

Stay tuned... as I will have more posts to follow soon. I promise.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I haven't followed any of the Stargate series until SG Universe, but I have to say I'm enjoying it very much. And they've chosen some wonderful music to accompany their series (like Alexi Murdoch's Breathe). But more importantly, SGU shows us how that music can be used effectively. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the montage in TV shows, but it works very well in this series. Maybe it's the isolation of the people, the despair that they must feel, the secrets that are going on amongst the crew that can only be introduced through montage, etc, but I've come to expect these episodes to end with a touching and often beautiful montage.

This past week was especially poignant and introduced me to Fink's Song of Revolution. What a beautiful and soulful voice. And here, unlike Saving Grace's horrible ending, Fink's song is both lyric and tone appropriate. The crew came so close to going home - but no. This song echoed their emotions so well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Choosing to Follow

There was a lot of religion on TV this week. Maybe it stood out to me because I had just had a religious conversation with my mother, but I found main characters on TV echoing my thoughts.

Glee's religious-centered episode had Kurt dealing with his father's hospital stay and the whole club wanting to sing spiritual or religious songs. I was quite surprised actually that Glee would be outspoken in these matters. Yes, the show pushes the edges routinely, but isn't a large demographic for this show conservative youth into show choir clubs? I wouldn't think they would appreciate the debate unless it came back to a "religion is the answer" ending. Maybe that isn't the demographic at all - I like the show and I'm nothing like a teenage show choir. Maybe Mercedes' comment summed up a current trend in acceptable, edgy conversations - "so we can't sing about religion, but we can sing about losing religion?" I don't know... but I am appreciative that the topic is at least broached in prime-time broadcast.

Of course Community took a comical look on the subject this week. They outright blasted Chevy Chase's cultist religion, glorified Jeff's non-religion and shoved aside Shirley's classic Baptist.

I'm glad the discussion is a little less taboo. Not that it just happened though. You hop over to cable and you'll get more of it and if you stumble on Bill Maher, you get it in spades - but broadcast..?? How do very religious people feel about these episodes? Do they shrug them off as one episode in poor taste, do they abandon the show or choose to follow?