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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
It’s not a shocker and perhaps not the final nail in the coffin, but yesterday James Hibbard broke the news that FOX denied Lie to Me a back nine for its third season.
With such dismal ratings many may ask themselves, how has Lie to Me even remained on the air and in such a prime Monday slot. I for one figured that when Lie to Me was relegated to burn off its season two episodes during the summer doldrums the show was done for, but FOX never ceases to surprise me.
So often they are the first network to drop the ax, but lately they’ve seemed a bit slow on the uptake. Perhaps there isn’t much on the shelf ready to go or the majority of FOX’s schedule is kind of a holding pattern until MLB playoffs begin or until American Idol comes back to fill so many unnecessary hours of programming. Either way, FOX has broken my heart so many times (see Firefly, Wonderfalls, Dollhouse, etc…) that I may be getting used to it by now.
Loving and Losing Lie to Me
Although I enjoy Lie to Me and it’s weekly scientific not-by-the-books crime solving adventures, it is a procedural at its core and that may make the end that much less painful. We won’t be left hanging, there isn’t some deep mythology waiting to be explored, and I have a fairly good feeling that the last episode won’t end on some big cliffhanger.
In the end, like all other crime procedurals that have ended (weirdly I can’t actually think of any, they never seem to end) I’d like to think that Lie to Me will finish with the characters just going on with their daily lives. Working at the Lightman Group, uncovering the truth through more lies, the occasional illegal act, trickery, and maybe a side of violence.
When will FOX tell us the truth about Lie To Me? Maybe after they burn though the third season order or maybe in the spring during upfronts, either way I’ll be waiting for the answer.
Not only do I watch a lot of television but I also spend a significant time online reading, watching, investigating, and discussing television. Although there are tons of sites that feature similar information or can revolve around the television industry I have a core few that I am loyal to.
Find TV Online
If you’re like me and still live in the television “stone age”, getting by without digital cable or some kind of DVR then the TV Guide is still your best option to figure out what is on when you’re not already locked into an overbooked evening of programming. Unfortunately for me my cable subscriber, the always evil, Comcast has continually made the TV Guide channel more and more useless. It only shows like one channel at a time and proceeds to run through many of the higher channels we don’t even have.
- Solution: http://www.tvguide.com/ Maybe this is a no brainer but the same information from the channel is available in a much quicker and easier to scroll through format. Although the website also provides recaps and some other new items I find the recaps to be barely more than the episode summary found on the listings and the news items usually appear on other websites first.
I also enjoy reading news pertaining to TV and other entertainment genres such as literature, film and music. Mostly I like reading about industry or behind the scenes matters but the occasional celebrity interview, film review, or miscellaneous new item can be a fun read too.
- Solution: James Hibberd’s Live Feed Blog – http://livefeed.hollywoodreporter.com/, Entertainment Weekly‘s website including the Ausiello Files – http://www.ew.com/ew/, and The Onion’s sister site the AV Club – http://www.avclub.com/
Yes I actually read recaps for episodes and shows that I have already watched. Why you might ask, because it can be fun and can unveil new layers of meaning.
- Solution: Television Without Pity http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/ is hilarious and provides more than just a detailed recap but a whole new life to an episode regardless of whether it was good or bad upon initial viewing. Full of snark and cynicism or praise, the recaps fulfill my daily need for sarcasm and have actually made me laugh at loud which may look a bit insane when you are just sitting down reading something on your computer.
Spoilers anyone? If you are dying to know what happens next or become an addict like myself then hours can easily be lost google-ing anything you can think of related to the show or episode in question. Thankfully I found a site that complies all of these spoilers for many current popular shows and provides the goods.
- Solution: http://www.spoilertv.com/ Unless your already a spoiler fiend don’t go there. Although it can be fun to find out what’s next it also can detract from the overall viewing experience.
A quick confession … I’ve never gotten into any series created by JJ Abrams. I know, I know, there must be something wrong with me to have never been a fan or at the very least a frequent viewer of Felicity, Alias, or Lost.
I did try, they just didn’t click for me and the same goes for Fringe when it first premiered. In fact, my distaste for Fringe ran so deep that I was excited when House moved to Monday nights just so I wouldn’t have to see the promos for Fringe throughout the hour.
Fringe – You Had Me at Alt World
I suppose I didn’t really have a solid reason to dislike the show, so when my roommate turned the second season premier of Fringe on last fall I was just lazy and interested enough to stay on the couch. She sort of filled me in during commercials breaks and I intended to keep watching but it soon became clear that I needed to see the first season first, but unfortunately I was rather busy with school. So my roommate and I made a deal. If she watched Firefly and Serenity I would watch Fringe. Well she held up her end of the bargain and I remained ‘busy’. Then the deal became if the show gets renewed for a third season I’ll watch. (I’ve been heartbroken by FOX before, a lot before.) So after May sweeps and the renewal announcement, I finally kept up my end of the bargain.
So let me first say, I was wrong.
I can admit that now and also that I’m addicted to this show. I’m eagerly awaiting its return this Thursday at 9pm. But just because I’m super excited for the new season and would classify myself as a fan doesn’t mean that Fringe is perfect by any means.
Honestly had I not know where the second season was headed when I finally put the season one disc one in my DVD player I don’t know if I would have been able to stick it out. Much of the first season reminded me of X-Files, a show I wasn’t entirely fond of, and Dark Angel, a show that had its own set of flaws. It was difficult for me to connect with any of the characters and each episode was so stand alone-y in a formulaic show kind of way. It’s not that I don’t like shows with formulas, I love House MD and still watch CSI but everyone kept talking about how awesome the mythology was and it just took a really long time for it to be built and become integral to the series and each episode’s plot.
I’m not going to go into episode details, plenty of other sites recap, but I do want to comment on what I perceive is the most fascinating aspect of the series – the threat of the two worlds colliding.
Maybe I’m a pessimist or a cynic but I’ve always enjoyed books, movies, and TV shows with a bleak outlook on the world. Not all need to involve an apocalypse of some sorts but it certainly can’t hurt to include one. Buffy and Angel’s world always ran the threat of one, Jericho started with one, Dollhouse failed to prevent one, and Fringe is facing one. It should be awesome. I think it was in one of San Diego Comic Con interviews that the cast members discussed how the goal of this season was to create two worlds, both dynamic and morally grey. The ambiguity created should make for a fascinating season three. I can’t wait!