It’s summertime, which means vacation – the beach, road trips, camping and all sorts of other travel shenanigans. Not all of us can be jet-setters though, so if you’re planning a staycation or just need something to do when its raining or when you are so sunburned that going outside is out of the question, here’s a handful of vacation episodes from your favorite TV shows to enjoy.
Back in 2011 I read an article on the A.V. Club by Sam Adams called “The convenience trap: What the changes at Netflix reveal about an insidious trend”. Obviously it was about Netflix, but what Adams was really getting at, beyond discussing the announcement that Netflix was going to be focusing more solely on streaming video, was that the act of prioritizing convenient entertainment would mean forgoing a lot of other great entertainment simply because one would have to work for it or wait to get it.
As a Netflix DVD-only subscriber, the article really rang true to me. If I’m going to watch a movie, I want it to be a movie that I want to see, not just one that I can see at that moment. But despite my flimsy ‘fight the power’ attitude, I’m certainly guilty of choosing easy entertainment in many other scenarios. After all, television is probably the biggest convenience trap of them all.
Between the hundreds of channels available, OnDemand services, Hulu.com, Amazon streaming, iTunes, Netflix, and even YouTube there is always something to watch. Endless entertainment is available on just about every screen in your house, at the touch of a button.
It’s a wonder I even go outside. But you know, every now and then it’s really great to get off the couch to see some live entertainment. As good as an episode may be, or however much fun you’ve had live tweeting, there is something uniquely awesome about seeing a live performance and being surrounded by a crowd of people who share the same level of enthusiasm as you do.
Shaping Sound Was My Reminder To See More Live Entertainment
A couple of weeks ago, after work, I hopped on a train to NYC to see the Shaping Sound Dance Co perform its last show of their 13-city North American Tour. Now I don’t dance, (believe me when I say I can’t), but I really really love So You Think You Can Dance, which in a roundabout way is how I even knew what Shaping Sound was.
Nick Lazzarini, the season one winner of SYTYCD along with Travis Wall, the season 2 runner-up and Emmy-nominated choreographer, teamed up with two of their other dance friends (Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson*) to create the Shaping Sound Dance Company. And I know this because their efforts were chronicled on the reality show All the Right Moves, which aired on Oxygen last summer. (Most everything I know, I learned from watching TV.)
In the final episode they were approached by Gil Stroming, founder of Break The Floor Productions who showed a real interest in producing their tour. Obviously he was serious because tour dates were announced this spring.
Long story short, on Monday June 17th I found myself in a packed theater in New York City sitting two rows behind SYTYCD alum Billy Bell, and one row ahead of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a self-proclaimed dance fan, occasional SYTYCD guest judge, and one of the stars of ABC’s hit sitcom Modern Family.
Yeah, I was totally nerding out, but honestly the dancing and the show itself was the real highlight of my night. At one point I even had goosebumps, that’s how incredibly captivating the performance was. Not only was the dancing mind-blowing, especially for an uncoordinated person such as myself, but the lights and the music – everything just came together.
I left the theater that night in awe, feeling like I witnessed something that only existed in that time and space. And I know that might sound cliche or over-dramatic, but the sentiment holds true when you apply it to other live events like concerts or even sports. My feelings were only further confirmed when I watched a YouTube video of one of the dance numbers a few days later. It was exactly what I’d seen that Monday night, but it also wasn’t. When I was sitting in the theater I could feel the excitement radiating from my fellow audience members and even see the facial expressions of the dancers, both of which were sorely lacking from the YouTube video.
So turn off the TV (that’s what DVRs are for), step outside of your comfort zone, and go see something live. Anything at all. Catch a baseball game, a concert, or even a local theater production. And if you’re really set on sticking with TV, well then find a convention that appeals to you, or mark the dates on your calendar for next year’s PaleyFest or ATX Television Festival. TV is great, but there is a lot of other great entertainment out there too. You just can’t always find it from the comfort of your couch.
*Fun Fact: Kyle Robinson was the Abraham Lincoln bachelorette party stripper on Parks & Recreation (“Two Parties” 5×10).
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.
Women in Sports Step Into the Spotlight With Special 30 for 30 Film Series
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.
This year’s annual ATX Television Festival just wrapped up, but for anyone who didn’t have a chance to attend now is the time to hit YouTube and search for all of those awesome panels that we missed.
One of which was a Boy Meets World reunion panel attended by Michael Jacobs (Creator), Ben Savage (Cory), Rider Strong (Shawn), Maitland Ward (Rachel), Matthew Lawrence (Jack), Lily Nicksay (Morgan #1), Trina McGee, (Angela), and Betsy Randle (Amy Matthews).
Between constant re-runs of Boy Meets World in the mornings and all the recent hype about the Girl Meets World pilot, I can’t exactly say the show has been missing from my life, but the panel is a nice way to enjoy what the series was from the point of view of the very people who lived it and created it.
Also, Rider Strong finally answers the the burning question: Whatever happened to Shawn’s sister Stacy who was only mentioned once in the 4th episode of the very first season?
(In case the video is taken down or for some reason you don’t feel like watching it – there was supposed to be a 2nd best friend for Cory and Shawn but when that character never materialized Shawn just picked up all ‘other friend’ storylines.)
Boy Meets World — Meets Austin
A couple months ago I shared a short list of fictional TV places that I wished existed, even in a purely touristy way. And although it’s fun to dream, here’s a few places that you can actually go to…just like your favorite characters in your favorite TV shows.
Bon Appetite and Bottom’s Up!
Inspired by recent trips to New York City and Boston, where food and drinks were among the main attractions, here’s some real bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and other eateries that appeared on various fictional TV series, that actually exist.
Magnolia Bakery – As seen on Sex and the City and Saturday Night Live’s “Lazy Sunday” digital short, this bakery is the place to go for delicious baked good. They make some awesome cupcakes, trust me I’m speaking from experience. I highly recommend the red velvet.
They currently have 5 locations in NYC, one in Chicago, and another in Los Angeles. – http://www.magnoliabakery.com/
Central Perk – We all know Friends took place in New York City, but you won’t find their beloved coffee shop anywhere in the United States. In fact, a super fan created a mini replica of the Central Perk coffee shop in Beijing.
Fellow Friends enthusiasts will appreciate his attention to detail which includes the cafe’s familiar doorway and window, the orange sofa, and a menu full of items only ever mentioned on the show. The business has been doing so well that a second ‘Central Perk’ recently opened in Shanghai.
MacLaren’s Pub – Want to hang out where Barney, Lily, Robin, Marshall and Ted hang out? You’d better look for a place called McGee’s Pub and Restaurant. That’s the name of the real life pub that inspired MacLaren’s Pub on How I Met Your Mother.
McGee’s Pub and Restaurant is located in NYC at 240 West 55 Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. The New York TV & Movie Sites Tour, provided by On Locations Tour, also makes a stop at HIMYM’s favorite watering hole. – http://www.mcgeespub.com/
The Brick Tavern – Being on the East Coast and never having never seen Northern Exposure, I can’t vouch for the kind of establishment the Brick Tavern is, (BTW it’s the Brick Saloon in real life), but apparently its legendary.
The Brick Saloon is Washington’s oldest continuously operating bar, established in 1889. Fans of Northern Exposure can find the iconic tavern at 100 West Pennsylvania Avenue in Roslyn, WA. – http://www.bricksaloon.com/
Cheers bar – On the other side of the county is the equally iconic Cheers bar, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”.
Based in Boston, there are actually two bars to choose from. There’s the original bar, located 84 Beacon Street and the replica bar nestled in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, in the Quincy Market building. – http://www.cheersboston.com/
The Warsaw Tavern – The real Cleveland-based bar, The Memphis Plaza Lounge actually served as the exterior of the fictional Warsaw Tavern, which was frequently seen on The Drew Carey Show.
Although the interior of The Memphis Plaza Lounge doesn’t resemble the one on TV, it’s still apparently a good place to grab a beer, shoot darts, and play pool after a long day at work. Anyone in Cleveland can find this bar at 5303 Memphis Road.
Monk’s Café – Seinfeld fans should know this diner well, at least the TV version. The real one, which is located in New York City is actually called Tom’s Restaurant.
Seeing as we’ve already got a NYC-based pub and a bakery on this list, perhaps Tom’s Restaurant would be a good choice for breakfast or lunch. It’s located at 2800 Broadway. – http://tomsrestaurant.net/
Poor Richard’s – You might not be able to find The Office’s Dunder Mifflin company in Scranton, PA, but you can find their favorite bar – Poor Richard’s Pub.
It’s real and is located inside South Side Bowl at 125 Beech Street.
Jimbo’s Place – Finally, a warm weather location to grab some food and drinks. Jimbo’s Place has popped up on a couple of TV shows, most notably Dexter, Burn Notice, and Miami Vice.
It was located in Virginia Key, FL; however, just a couple of months ago Jimbo’s Shrimp Shack (it’s official name) actually closed. I decided to include it on this list anyway since the website said that they were hoping to find a proper location for this iconic place. – http://www.jimbosplace.com/
Holsten’s – And last but not least, here’s an ice cream parlor you may recognize from The Sopranos. As someone from New Jersey I can promise you that The Sopranos is not an accurate reflection of life in the Garden State, at least not for everyone.
However, with that said, there are a lot of great places to find ice cream in NJ and Holsten’s is one of them. The ‘old fashioned’ ice cream parlor is located at 1063 Broad Street in Bloomfield. – http://www.holstens.com/
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.
TV Dramas For Every Season
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.
Warm-Weather Reality TV
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.
Some Other Notable Returning TV Series
- Rookie Blue – 5/23 10pm ABC
- Arrested Development – 5/26 Netflix (Happy Marathoning!)*
- Longmire – 5/27 10pm A&E
- Pawn Stars – 5/27 10pm History
- Melissa and Joey – 5/29 8pm ABC Family
- Teen Wolf – 6/3 10pm MTV
- Burn Notice – 6/6 9pm USA
- Continuum – 6/7 10pm SyFy
- Switched At Birth – 6/10 8pm ABC Family
- Wilfred – 6/20 10pm FX
- Big Brother – 6/26 9pm CBS
- The Newsroom – 7/14 10pm HBO
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.