I love sports, and I love television, so it’s rather convenient how they typically go hand-in-hand. But I’m also a big fan of women’s sports, and well, those remain a much more scarce commodity on TV.
I’m not just talking about tennis or ice skating (I know the WNBA and the women’s NCAA Final Four get some air time, but I’m not really a basketball fan), I’m talking team sports like softball, soccer, and all the other random ones you only get to watch during the Olympics, late at night.
Anytime I find a game or tournament or competition or even just a female athlete getting some major media attention I’m pretty pumped. Which is why I’m really excited to see ESPN’s 30 for 30 Film Series branching out this summer with an all new set of films called Nine for IX, in honor of Title IX and the incredible female athletes that have benefited from the landmark education amendment.
Not only is the Nine for IX Film Series about women and sports, but all of the movies created were directed by women too. In addition, the series was executive produced by Robin Roberts, of Good Morning America, and Jane Rosenthal, a film producer with an impressive IMDB list of her own. That’s pretty badass in my opinion.
The new Nine for IX Film Series will kick off on July 2nd, on ESPN. Throughout the rest of the summer a new film will air every Tuesday night at 8pm. Here’s the schedule:
July 2: “Venus Vs.” – I’m sure you already know that Venus Williams is an incredible tennis player, but do you know that she challenged Wimbledon’s status quo of paying female winners less than the male winners? Check out this film for the whole story.
July 9: “Pat XO” – This film dives into the life and career of Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in the history of NCAA basketball. The story is primarily told by her son Tyler, which provides the audience with an unusually intimate depiction of this notorious basketball coach from the University of Tennessee. Assistant coaches, players, and other high-profile athletes help to fill in the gaps.
July 16: “Let Them Wear Towels” – Here’s a ongoing debate that continues to spark passionate responses from both sides: Female Reports and Male Locker Rooms. This film lends a voice to the women who have been trying to break into this male dominated industry, and actual physical space.
July 23: “No Limits” – I’ve never heard of Audrey Mestre, and I certainly don’t know much about Free Diving but this film sounds fascinating and unfortunately tragic. Mestre died in 2002 when she attempted a world-record free-dive of 561 feet. However, her contributions to the sport go far beyond her last dive.
July 30: “Swoopes” – I had a Sheryl Swoopes jersey for the inaugural season of the WNBA, but being a 12-year who was simply excited to see a professional sports league of any kind for women, I really didn’t know much about the players beyond who was ‘the best’. This film promises to provide a more detailed story of the woman who broke records and paved the way for so many other athletes on and off the court.
Aug. 6: “The Diplomat” – The Cold War, ice skating, socialism, and secret police, sounds like one hell of a thriller. And it may be, but according to the film description it’s mostly about Katarina Witt, one of East Germany’s most popular and prolific athletes.
Aug. 13: “Runner” – For some athletes, their career is remembered for, or defined by, one moment; but unfortunately for Mary Decker her Olympic moment was nothing like she dreamed. One small collision with another runner during the 3,000 meters ended her hopes of earning a medal, and despite an otherwise successful career that fall would eclipse almost everything else she ever accomplished.
Aug. 20: The “The ’99ers” – Goal! Now this is a sport’s moment I remember – the US’s victory in the Women’s World Cup over China in a penalty-kick shootout. If you want to relive the excitement of that summer, then this film is for you. Footage for the film even includes behind-the-scenes videos shot by the players during the tournament.
Aug. 27: “Branded” – Image over accomplishments, this is the ongoing battle that female athletes face from the media. Hell, we even saw it on display last summer during the Olympics when gold medalists like Gabby Douglas and members of the US women’s swim team came under scrutiny for their appearances. This film explores the double standard by giving the floor to the women who have played on this uneven playing field their entire lives.
Despite the ongoing un-summer and even un-spring like weather we’ve had in Jersey lately, I take some comfort in the knowledge that it will eventually warm up. I know this because summer TV has slowly started to come back (and because it’s almost June).
So here’s a quick rundown of some of this summer’s new and returning TV series, you know for those rainy and lazy days.
I’ve got a long list of hour-long series I am excited about, which is tricky to balance given my desire to also go outside. Among my favorites – Pretty Little Liars (6/11 Tuesdays 8pm ABC Family) and True Blood (6/16 Sundays 9pm HBO). Both are so ridiculous, in a completely entertaining kind of way.
Falling Skies is also on my to-watch list. TNT’s original sci-fi series has really come into its own in the last two seasons and returns June 16th at 10pm. Under the Dome (6/24 Mondays 10pm) has also piqued my interest. This new series is based on a Stephen King novel and was produced by Steven Spielberg, it also kind of reminds me of Jericho and its cast is highly recognizable to TV nerds like myself.
I can’t say I’m excited about it, and I don’t know if I’ll even watch, but The Killing is coming back for a third season. Yes, it was cancelled and yes they solved Rosie Larson’s case, but if watching somewhat incompetent cops drive around in the rain is your thing, then make sure to tune in on June 2nd at 8pm.
And unfortunately it’s still going to be a long wait for Breaking Bad and the return of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. The last few episodes finally return to AMC on Sunday August 4th at 9pm.
One of my favorite summer series, So You Think You Can Dance (Tuesdays on FOX) has already returned, but don’t worry you haven’t missed much – they are still in the audition phase.
In the realm of guilty pleasures – Wipeout is back. Catch it at 8pm on Thursdays on ABC. If your a fan of fake scripted series, the second season of TLC’s Breaking Amish airs Sundays at 10pm.
America’s Got Talent kicks off its competition on Tuesday June 4th 2013 on NBC at 9pm. And for anyone who prefers winter, well, Ice Road Truckers is all new Sunday June 9th at 10pm on the Discovery channel.
There are also a good number of culinary competition shows making their debut over the next few weeks, if that’s your sort of thing.
Click here for a complete list of 2013 Summer TV premier dates.
If your favorite summer series wasn’t mention, my apologies, there is seriously way more ‘new’ TV on during the summer than you might think. Networks are even burning off cancelled series like 666 Park Avenue and Zero Hour, so if you were a fan now’s the chance to set the DVR and see what never was. But seriously, check out this comprehensive list of premier dates for summer TV -happy viewing!
If you aren’t already watching Orphan Black, then you’re seriously missing out on some excellent serialized TV.
Without giving too much away, trust me it’s better to be unspoiled, here’s 5 reasons you ought to be tuning in to BBC America’s newest drama.
1. The lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, is incredible. On a regular basis she plays three characters, but has also appeared as at least three more. This will all make sense once you’ve seen the pilot, but let’s just say the acting is excellent.
2. For as much TV as I watch, I am drawing a blank on what I could say Orphan Black is like. Which is a good thing, it’s certainly not another cookie cutter series where characters fit into archetypes and plot lines can easily be sussed out in advance. Seriously, just sit back and enjoy the ride – it’s been a fun one thus far.
3. A lot of themes and genres are at play in Orphan Black. It’s dark yet snarky and incorporates sci-fi, thriller, crime, and noir elements. However, and most important to me, the characters and interpersonal relationships remain at its core. And in my experience, the most engaging and enjoyable shows let the characters drive the action.
4. Orphan Black airs on BBC America, which means the season order is a very manageable 10-episodes. As an added bonus it currently airs on Saturday nights at 9pm, and I’m not saying to stay at home and watch, but your DVR sure as hell shouldn’t be busy.
5. And lastly, Orphan Black has already been picked up for a 2nd season so you don’t have to worry about committing to a show that may or may not provide a satisfying conclusion. And given what I’ve seen this far, Orphan Black is not the kind of show to tie everything up in a nice neat little bow.
Did you know that people write books about TV? Crazy right? Well I’m enough of a TV nerd to have actually read a few.
Here’s one of my favorites, you know for when your TV shows go on hiatus or the power goes out or something.
Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel For Kids – Edited by Heather Hendershot
I don’t know about you but I grew up on Nickelodeon. Disney was alright, I mean I remember how excited I would be when we got to watch the free preview of the Toon Disney channel, but for me Nickelodeon was where it was at for cartoons, live action TV, and everything in between. (Seriously, how do you categorize Wild & Crazy Kids, KaBlam!, or Weinerville?)
Given how much I loved the network’s many shows and resident Popsicle stick – Stick Stickly, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this book. Broken up into four sections – ‘Economics & Marketing’, ‘The Production Process’, ‘Programs and Politics’, and ‘Viewers’ – there’s a little something for everyone.
Interested in marketing or the television industry in general? Several of the early chapters provide insight into Nickelodeon’s carefully crafted orange logo, programming decisions, and general show development.
Growing up it always seemed that Nickelodeon was made just for me, but of course that perception was the result of many, very deliberate, decisions regarding the branding message of the network. Contributing authors helpfully provide the context needed to understand how Nickelodeon’s core principles differed from other children’s television shows and programming blocks of the time.
In the ‘Production Process’ section, I especially enjoyed “Diversifying Representation in Children’s TV: Nickelodeon Model” by Ellen Seiter and Vicki Mayer. Portrayals of gender and ethnicity are the main focus in this chapter, but for me the main takeaway was that Nickelodeon figured out pretty early on that girls and boys alike were willing to watch TV shows with girls in lead roles. Which is what led to Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack and later more ‘dramatic’ shows like The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and Caitlin’s Way.
Strong female characters are probably one of the few unifying themes found throughout the many TV shows I watch, and Clarissa Darling and Alex Mack are partially to blame for that. Both characters were so cool yet completely relatable, that is if you exclude the little GC-161 accident.
If you’re thinking that’s really nice and all, but I only care about the shows, then hold your horses. The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, Spongebob SquarePants, and Blues Clues all get their own chapters too. As does Nick News, but let’s be real, did any kid really watch Linda Ellerbee on their own volition?
In a particularly engaging chapter, Linda Simensky, Nickelodeon’s former Director of the Animation department recounts the early days of Nicktoons, which includes Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy.
In addition, Nick At Nite and TV Land have their own chapter, because kids can’t have all the fun and there’s also an in-depth and insightful interview with Geraldine Laybourne, Nickelodeon’s Network President from 1989 to 1996.
As with any anthology book, some sections will be more captivating than others, but overall Nickelodeon Nation offers an interesting glimpse into the origins of a network that so many kids grew up on.
If you like reading and love Nickelodeon, then here’s a few other books that might be of interest:
Kids Rule!: Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship by Sarah Banet-Weiser
Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! by Jerry Beck
Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Available on 9/24/2013)
After my crazy Breaking Bad binge back in December I vowed to only marathon shows that were either over or had only aired 1-2 seasons. Thankfully that meant that Game of Thrones was fair game.
Twenty episodes seemed like nothing, and even better yet I really didn’t know anything about the series (I’m clearly not a spoiler-phobe, but it is nice to be surprised). And surprised I was. Game of Thrones isn’t typically a show I would be inclined to seek out on my own, but it’s rich world and intriguing characters quickly sucked me in.
And for me that is the biggest indicator of whether or not I’m in for the long haul. If I care about the characters then I’m willing to ride out stupid plot lines, if and when they appear: Friday Night Lights season two murder, Buffy’s stint at the Doublemeat Palace, Lorelai and Christopher getting married on Gilmore Girls, etc…
But anyone who has seen or read Game of Thrones already knows how badass the series is and its many characters, so there is really no need to dwell on that fact. What I want to talk about is the actual act of watching – marathoning versus week to week.
Usually 20 episodes would be a breeze, especially since I started to marathon the series in the beginning of March; however, real life got in the way and I ended up watching the entire second season over the holiday weekend. I finished with just about four hours to spare before the season 3 premier.
After so quickly consuming 11 episodes of Game of Thrones I had to admit I was bummed when the end credits rolled and a preview aired. I didn’t want to wait 7 days to see more. With so many characters and plot lines, its not possible for the series to serve everyone in every episode, and they shouldn’t try to, but now that I’m all caught up I can’t just hit play on the next episode to get my Game of Thrones fix.
Marathoning or binge watching is great, its like the equivalent of reading a really good book and not putting it down until you’ve turned the last page, but in a medium like television where the story is parsed out over time there is also a benefit to the slow and steady method.
After all, marathoning is a rather time consuming proposition, once a week is much more manageable. Plus, for someone like myself who enjoys talking TV and dissecting it, a quick binge session doesn’t really lend itself to discussion or reflection, unless you’ve got a partner in crime.
Appointment viewing might be an antiquated idea, but for TV shows with a lot of social media activity (The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, reality competitions) there aren’t many other options for the well connected viewer. If I don’t watch certain shows live I am almost certain to know about any major plot points before I actually have a chance to watch, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and other entertainment sites I frequent.
With the “second screen” fueling the social TV phenomenon and still taking the “water cooler” effect into account, a decent argument remains for live viewing despite the obvious perks of marathoning. I know I can’t just wait around for all of my favorite shows to become available on Netflix. I don’t want to miss out on the conversations at work or the chance to see the next chapter of a story I am invested in as soon as possible.
Which is why I look forward to watching the new season of Game of Thrones each Sunday night, and tweeting while I do so. But perhaps that’s just me, how do you prefer to watch TV? All at once or one at a time?
Whaaaat! Yeah, that was my first reaction upon learning that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted 20 years ago. I mean mathematically that all makes sense, twenty years ago I would have been the right age to think that teenagers in dinosaur inspired fighting machines battling interplanetary bad guys with minions called Putty Patrollers was awesome.
Despite Power Rangers ability to retool and recast for a new set of kids every couple of years, its original version does not stand the test of time (and I can’t vouch for the others). Between the borrowed footage from the Japanese Super Sentai franchise and the incredible 90s fashion everyone is sporting, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers doesn’t tend to be a show that most people rewatch.
Regardless of its quality, now or then, back in 1993 I was totally obsessed with the series. Now I know me saying I was obsessed doesn’t really have much weight to it since I’m frequently obsessed with a TV show, but I watched all of the episodes, had the action figures, owned a set of Yellow Ranger pajamas (Pink Ranger ones were impossible to find), and even had my own morpher/gloves/gun set.
My brother and I, along with many of the other neighborhood kids even played Power Rangers after school. And I’m not just talking about the video games or with the action figures – I mean acting out our own version of Power Rangers. Looking back, I’ve gotta say that The Karate Kid films and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were responsible for a lot of terrible backyard karate moves.
But besides filling my Saturday mornings and after-school hours for a handful for years, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers remains memorable to me for two specific reasons:
1.) I guess you can say I had a ‘Santa Claus isn’t real moment’, because after reading an interview with the cast members I learned that many of the actors were not in fact teenagers, but in their mid-20s. Of course I know this is normal now, but at the time it was mind blowing. It’s not that I thought everything on TV was real, but I guess I thought a bit more of it was authentic, you know the human elements anyway. It was the first time I felt betrayed by TV, and, well, it wouldn’t be the last. (See I do know the difference between reality and fantasy.)
2.) For all of its flaws and ridiculous plot lines, Power Rangers really resonated with me because the female characters got to kick ass too. And there wasn’t just one token tomboy either. Kimberly, Trini, Aisha, and Kat were tough, but girly. They weren’t perpetually getting themselves kidnapped or knocked out either, and in comparison to a lot of shows, past and present, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers might not be the best example of a TV show that created strong female characters (it’s not, I’m a Buffy fan remember) but it was certainly good enough for my 8-year-old self.
The original incarnation of Power Rangers lasted for 3 seasons, until 1995, and that’s about the time I moved on to Disney and Nickelodeon programming. But Power Rangers has lived on, the newest season – Power Rangers Megaforce – just premiered on February 1st on Nickelodeon.
Apparently the Power Rangers really are an unstoppable force.
It’s been a while since I marathoned a new TV show, so during the recent TV doldrums of the holiday season I decided to finally check out Breaking Bad. Within 13 days I managed to watch all 54 episodes.
And of course now that I’m caught up I’ve got to wait around like everyone else until July 15th 2013 for the remainder of season 5 and subsequently the series itself.[You know the drill – spoilers ahead.]
It should go without saying that I enjoyed Breaking Bad. But I also found the series incredibly difficult to marathon. Not just because of the number of episodes (although I typically don’t wait so long to jump into a series), but also because spoilers are everywhere online. Breaking Bad is seriously on like every best of 2012 list and most anticipated shows of 2013 list, so I found it rather difficult to not stumble across major plot points.
Unfortunately, an interview with Krysten Ritter, about Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, gave away Jane’s fate, a screenshot I saw somewhere tipped me off to the fact that Skylar would find out about Walt, and one of those ‘Best of Lists’ let it slip that Mike was killed – so obviously that kind of knowledge colored the way I watched each episode. I have to say that season 4 was by far my favorite, because it was basically the only season that I knew nothing about.
I also struggled with the high expectations set for the series. Most of the TV I watch is either guilty-pleasure caliber quality or short lived and loved by few, so its rare that everyone is like, ‘you need to see this’ or ‘this show is flipping amazing’. I’m not going to argue with the fact that Breaking Bad is a consistently good series with a well-crafted world and good acting, but it took a while for me to just sit back and enjoy it. I spent at least a season and a half waiting to be blown away when in reality I think the genius of the show is in the long slow build towards Walt’s transformation from desperate family man to megalomaniac.
On an episodic level though I have to say I love Breaking Bad for its unconventional camera angles, beautiful location shots, and the frequent use of montages / time lapse transitions.
But of course as I mentioned before, I think the most impressive part of the series is the characters’ journeys and transformations. The Walter White we met in the pilot episode is drastically different from the one we see 50+ episodes later, but he’s still fundamentally the same person too, and that’s hard to do. It’s not unusual for a show to change a character for the sake of a storyline (see Glee), but Walt is still the chemistry-loving intelligent man he’s always been. Only now he has agency and relishes in the ability to call his own shots, especially after his cancer diagnosis.
I think the following scene from the episode “Buyout” (5×6) best sheds light on Walt’s motives and why the meth business has been so much more filling than his previous career in education:
But enough about the increasingly nefarious Walter White – it’s hard to root for him these days anyways. Jesse on the other hand is one of my favorite characters on TV right now. Not only does he have some of the best one-liners, but Aaron Paul is fantastic at both comedy* and drama. I’m constantly blown away by the vulnerability he is able to convey. His face is so expressive and when he’s being goofy, the character of Jesse is absolutely hilarious, but when he’s breaking down, I just want to give him a hug.
And interestingly enough, while Walter has went down an increasingly dark path, Jesse has worked towards becoming a more mature and responsible adult. At the end of the first half of season 5 he is clean and out of the meth business. That’s not to say that he is on the up and up, I wouldn’t want him to change that much, but he’s come a long way from the “junkie imbecile” we met at the start of the series.
And not to be outdone, Breaking Bad has also done an impressive job of fleshing out other characters like Mike, Skylar, and Hank. Even secondary players like Saul and Skinny Pete have moved beyond caricatures. So it’s kind of a bummer that these awesome characters, characters I root for, are about to have their lives blown to pieces (maybe even literally, it is Breaking Bad). Of course I really have no idea how its all going to end – but if I had to guess, not happily.
Until then though, enjoy this scene of Jesse hanging out in the lab from the episode “I See You” (3×08) – it’s one of my favorite Jesse moments.
*If you love Aaron Paul and 90s teen movies I totally recommend Whatever It Takes