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Pretty Little Liars – A Suspect List

[For an updated season 2 Pretty Little Liars suspect list click here.]

Yes I watch Pretty Little Liars. I think I’ve already established I watch a wide range of TV and have very little shame when it comes to admitting my TV habit. Now that I’ve gotten that quick disclaimer out of the way, onto the suspects.

Next week is the spring finale of Pretty Little Liars and although I would love it if they could finally reveal the identity of ‘A’ I’m doubting that’s actually going to happen.

Either way, I’ve been Veronica Mars-ing my way through the series because I am determined to figure it out before the show tells us, I’ve even stayed away from spoilers. My biggest fear is that ‘A’ will be a character never introduced until the reveal, which would be the ultimate cheat. But since I’m playing along here’s my list of possible ‘A’s.

  • Mona – I’m not to sure if she’s actually smart enough to pull everything off but she’s always around and stuck on the outside, which makes me wonder if she killed Alison to move up in the popularity ranks. Then when Aria returned and she still found herself left out of the ‘popular’ group she concocted ‘A’ to screw with them all. Pretty Little Liars
  • Ezra – Doesn’t actually seem to fit the bill but he also seems way too nice. Although he is having an affair with a student so maybe he’s actually not all that nice.
  • Melissa & Ian – Perhaps ‘A’ is a two person job. Also a lot of the creepier ‘A’ moments have seemed to occur in the Hastings house and Spencer is the current favorite target.
  • Lucas – He’s smart and has a pretty good reason to hate Alison.
  • Jenna – A red herring, I don’t actually believe its her but I have to wonder if its one of her family members who is exacting revenge on the girls that caused her blindness. Toby may also have been a target if someone in the family believed he was forcing himself on Jenna rather than the other way around.

The other clues we’ve been privy to also make me kind of think ‘A’ is a female student but I could be way off base with that profiling and cleary can’t think of many candidates that fit that desciption besides Mona.

What do you think? Are there any other obvious suspects I am missing?

Although if you’ve read the books and actually know, please don’t spill the beans and spoil the mystery for everyone.

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Welcome To The Show: Theme Songs & Opening Credits

A while back I found an impressive TV theme song medley video on YouTube; I recently came across it again and thought I should share it. After all, sharing is caring. The video is a mash-up of popular TV theme songs – all performed by one guy. Check it out:

So yeah the video is pretty awesome, but it also makes me think more about the importance and function of a TV show’s theme song and opening credit sequence.  I really find it a shame that so many new shows are going the way of boring title cards. There’s nothing like rocking out, singing along, or geeking out to a show’s opening.

Take for example a show like Fringe. It’s opening credit sequence does much more than display names of the cast and crew; it also lets viewers know which universe or decade the episode is taking place in. I am especially fond of their 1980s version:

Likewise, each episode of Jericho cleverly conveyed clues about a character or current plot via Morse code:

And any time I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer I can’t help but launch into an air drumming session to my now-favorite Nerf Herder’s song:

Other fun or unique openings I’ve come across include Bill Lawrence perpetually apologizing for Cougar Town‘s name and Community‘s altered dungeons & dragons version as well as Abed’s Christmas intro. I also really love the look and sound of the Friday Night Lights opening sequence. I suppose I should also make some mention of The Simpsons since they’ve managed to come up with tons of new ways to get everyone on the couch each week, a pretty commendable feat even if you aren’t a fan of the show.

What are other top theme songs and openings for past and present shows?

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Rambling About Reality TV

I wouldn’t qualify myself as a reality TV junkie but I watch my fair share of shows that have no redeeming value, showcase incredibly talented people, or simply pit people against each other for a large cash prize. Although I’ve been a dedicated follower of MTV’s Road Rules and subsequent Real World / Road Rules Challenges I much prefer skilled competition based reality shows like Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance. Perhaps that is why I’ve recently become so intrigued with SyFy’s new reality show Face Off.

Face Off pits special effects make-up artists against each othSyFy-Face-Offer in a series of weekly challenges. Although the show has only aired four episodes I’m already blown away with the amount of talent and creativity showcased. The competitors really have to be skilled in a number of mediums and materials. They don’t just create masks or faces – they develop entire characters with back-stories along with attire and props. Like other similar shows, Face Off offers drama and bickery but also some actual teamwork too. Another aspect of the show I like is that the winner of the weekly challenge gets to give their two cents about who, of the bottom three, should go home. I think their input is generally insightful, if not spiteful because the judges don’t get to see what really goes on in the workroom.

Season 22 of Survivor premiered last week. Survivor has always been a show I’ve watched here and there. If I start watching a season I generally will follow through with it, but I typically don’t feel compelled to watch every single season. I find most seasons boring until the merge anyway, but I’m particularly unexcited by this new season. The Redemption Island twist sounds like a bad RW/RR Challenge idea and I could care less about the fake Russell versus Boston Rob feud. Honestly I don’t think Boston Rob gives a damn about Russell and I hate that this is Russell’s third time playing in the last four seasons. Give it up Probst; he’s never going to win the jury vote. I mean are they going to keep letting him play until he wins?

For those looking for another enjoyable yet mindless reality show, I totally recommend Winter Wipeout. Not that I am encouraging people to watch something other than Community at the 8pm hour on Thursday night, but Wipeout is pretty hilarious if you can get past the annoying commentary. DVR it or catch up on Hulu because Wipeout features really ridiculous people getting smashed, whacked, and tossed all over the place. It’s fantastic. Also the new winter course still features the big red balls and a lot of other insane obstacles.

winter-wipeout-ABC

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Super Bowl & Sitcoms

Now typically, as a TV addict, I prefer to avoid commercials at all costs with the one exception of the Super Bowl. Expensively produced, over-hyped, and all-new, these commercials can either be awesomely enjoyable and creative or gratingly annoying and downright offensive. Last night’s new crop of commercials seemed to be mostly underwhelming, however. Although that still beats last years overwhelming anti-female message.

I can’t deny that a few of the commercials were good though. Many viewers must feel similarly since there appears to be a general consensus among viewers. Go to any website with Super Bowl coverage and I’m pretty sure they’ll make mention of the Volkswagen Darth Vader spot and the Doritos Dog or the Bridgestone Beaver Carma commercial.

While these were both cute and funny, my favorite was the NFL commercial. I loved last years spot with its feel good triumphant vibe and catchy Arcade Fire song but this years was also surprisingly creative with a montage of popular sitcom characters getting ready for the big game. Shows ranging from Brady Bunch and Happy Days to Full House and Family Matters to Glee and Family Guy were all fully represented and decked out in their city’s team paraphernalia.

Any TV watcher who happens to enjoy football or football fan who likes TV, should get a kick out of this commercial.

To check out and rate the other 2011 Super Bowl commercials go to Hulu.com. For all the FOX previews, some of which were actually pretty hilarious click here. Televisionwithoutpity.com also discusses the commercials and movie trailers and for in depth analysis, statistics, and more viewing you can go to adage.com.

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Parks & Recreation: “You had me at meat tornado.”

Parks & Recreation

Fair warning – this is pretty much going to be a Parks & Recreation love fest, so read on if you either like the show too or are willing to put up with my stream of consciousness / constant praise. Hell, Parks & Recreation makes me almost wish I worked for the local government, although it also makes the Midwest look kind of cool so I think we can all see a pattern forming here – TV makes things shiny and fun, but I digress.

Continue Reading…

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Life Unexpected Doesn’t Deliver Enough Drama (or Ratings) For The CW

The two-hour Life Unexpected finale is on tonight. Whether you want to put ‘season’ or ‘series’ in front of that sentence is up to you, but I am more than willing to bet that this is it for the little CW show that could.

Its second season pick-up last May was practically a miracle in of itself, and it’s also this year’s least watched show on network television, so you do the math. But despite being un-incredible in terms of ratings and overall storytelling, I’ve still come to enjoy this CW series about a foster kid who finally finds a home with her dysfunctional birthparents sixteen years after they gave her up for adoption.Life Unexpected

The plot is pretty standard TV stuff – an angsty teenager, an unconventional family, lots of love triangles, plenty of lies, and some forced drama, but overall it’s unlike many of its other CW siblings. On Life Unexpected the characters get by without superpowers, they don’t live on the Upper East Side or in another famous zip code, and vampires and demons don’t exist. For a television drama it’s actually rather mellow and has so far resisted the temptation to employ fantastical plotlines (although it’s only season two). Rather, Life Unexpected has a very WB vibe.

For anyone who grew up on a steady WB diet, this show evokes a pretty high nostalgia factor. Life Unexpected has a lot more in common, on a thematic level, with shows like Everwood, Charmed, Rosewell, Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, and Jack & Bobby than say Hellcats, Gossip Girl, The Beautiful Life, The Vampire Diaries, or Nikita. Not only does Life Unexpected tackle many of the same topics as past WB shows, but it also stars Shiri Appleby, who played Liz Parker on Rosewell and Kerr Smith, who was Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek.

But back to its plot point similarities, many shows on The WB revolved around the family unit and how their various characters negotiated the often-complicated relationships portrayed on them.

Okay, hold up, I know you’re thinking all shows do that, but just hear me out…

Overall, most of their shows stayed grounded and presented relatable storylines of characters struggling to belong, seeking acceptance and love, or simply trying to figure out who they were. A teenager often took center stage and consequently the feeling of being an outsider was quite prevalent. In most of the shows the characters felt as if they were different from everyone else figuratively and literally depending on the show’s genre.

In Life Unexpected’s two short seasons, its storylines have encompassed all of these sentiments, perhaps even more overtly. Think about it, the show is about a girl who was given up and is now trying to figure out how she fits in to this makeshift family of hers, while starting at a new school, and running from her past. Abandonment, exclusion, parental bonds, life lessons, and a fresh start are all laid out in its premise. There’s really no need for metaphors here.

Life Unexpected and Gilmore Girls could be two sides of the same coin, the same story with two very different paths. Although Cate and Lux have an incredibly tenuous relationship, they’re working on it and like Gilmore Girls, the mother daughter relationship – at its core – helps define who they are, also both got knocked up in high school. But for example, Lorelai would not have been who she was if she hadn’t had Rory and left home. Likewise, Rory was like a changed person when her and her mom had a falling out and she left home to live with her Grandparents. The same can be said for Lux and Cate. Not only has it immediately forced Cate to grow up, but also becoming a mom has forced her to confront many of her shortcomings and insecurities. Likewise, Lux is finally learning to rely and trust others, kind of crucial life skills. Together they are better, separate they are a mess.

Like Everwood’s Ephram, Life Unexpected’s main character Lux has some series parental blame issues and even more trouble fitting in. Feeling unwanted and like an outsider she often rebels and relies on sarcasm or silence. Both shows tackle realistic and relatable journeys of a family’s road to redemption and forgiveness.

Similar to the main characters on Rosewell, Lux feels different, not unlike an alien. Growing up in foster homes and living on the streets she can’t always relate to the average teenagers she matriculates with. She also goes to great lengths to keep her past a secret. The same can be said for Clark Kent on Smallville, Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Halliwell sisters on Charmed.

If you’re looking for more examples I could keep going but I think you catch my drift. Although Life Unexpected certainly would have benefitted from more viewers, it also seemed like The CW’s own orphan.

This video is another reason I love the show – watch here.

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Coming Soon: Off the Map

If you were to look at a list of all the TV shows I love, or at the very least watch on a regular basis you would be able to pick up on two major trends in my viewership – 1) I have an affinity for medical shows of all kinds and 2) I’m easily entranced by dramas regardless of quality. Off the Map seems like the perfect blend of the two.

Off the Map Is On The Schedule

So for the un-addicts that happen upon this posting, Off the Map is the newest series from medical drama extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Although I’ve never personally seen more than an episode of either, both shows seem to attract a dedicated audience and do well in ratings – two characteristics I can feel hopeful about. I don’t regret watching shows that are quickly cancelled, many are really phenomenal, but it would certainly be nice to get involved in a show with staying power.

Not that I need a show to be good to watch, I have a lot of guilty pleasures on my TV schedule, it would be an added bonus. And from what I hear neither of her other shows jumped the shark until a few seasons in, something about ghost sex… Regardless, I’m pretty psyched for the premier and I just really hope that this isn’t the unlucky one. Do audiences really need another medical drama, probably not but hell people watch a lot of stuff I think is unnecessary and ridiculous so one can only hope.Off the Map

Another reason I intend to watch, and why I want to encourage others to do the same is because of a few of the actors involved. Off the Map stars Caroline Dhavernas from the short-lived and super awesome series Wonderfalls and Zach Gilford, former QB1 from the outstanding show Friday Night Lights. I loved both of their characters on their other series and I really do hope that these two talented actors can find success on TV so I can keep watching them do their thing.

So bring on the blood, guts, relationships, and tropical scenery, Off the Map premiers this Wednesday – January 12th on ABC at 10pm.

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Community: “Christmas…it can mean whatever we want.”

“You do, of course, have a constitutional right to lend this season the significance of your choosing in any of our designated holiday zones.”

Last year Community celebrated a few holidays throughout their first season, including Christmas / Hanukkah. But in terms of holiday-centric episodes nothing quite compares to their most recent installment, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2.11). Although this episode garnered a lot of attention and hype before it even aired, mostly because its use of stop-motion animation, the episode still easily exceeded all expectations.

Christmas and other holiday episodes are so common throughout the TV landscape that it’s often difficult to stand out, avoid clichés, or even be original, but Community managed to do all of the above. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2.11) wasn’t just a classic retelling of some Christmas story we’ve already heard. Rather, it was a story about finding out what Christmas means to you on a more personal secular level.

Already having tackled the religious side of the holidays last season, Community was free to move the plot along with only a small nod to each of the characters beliefs. The simple act of acknowledging Christmas and Hanukkah’s spiritual and commercial connections prevented the audience from feeling cheated but it also set the set the stage for the deeper exploration into Abed’s quest to find the real meaning of Christmas.

I’ve seen my fair share of holiday special episodes over the years, including Hanukkah and Christmas-ish episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House M.D., Glee, The O.C., Lie to Me, Chuck, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, Saved by the Bell and more, but “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2.11) from Community is by far my favorite kind of holiday storytelling. If I want the Christian version of Christmas I’ll watch Charlie Brown, but episodes from Community and even The O.C. don’t passively put holiday decorations in the background, complain about the commercialism of the season, rip off It’s A Wonderful Life, and most importantly don’t force one specific view of the holidays down viewers’ throats.

Instead, they encourage us to make our own meaning. Spoiler alert – at the end of the episode Abed explains, “The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want.” For Abed, Christmas used to mean time with his Mom but after this year’s letdown the rest of the study group suggest in song that “Hanging out with the people you love and saying I love you is what Christmas is for”. And in The O.C., Christmas meant the melding of family traditions and the celebration of two heritages in one super holiday Seth liked to call Chrismukkah.

While it’s true that for many people Christmas and Hanukkah means presents and perhaps even has a religious significance, holidays also evoke more personal traditions and rituals. It’s not always about spending time with your actual family or decorating a Christmas tree; sometimes it’s just about calling on the Christmas pterodactyl to save the Christmas spirit.

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