[Click above to embiggen: Cindy, the tee-eve’s leaking again!]
It’s fall (duh) and this is the time of year that decades ago a younger version of me would have been ecstatic about, with not only Halloween fast approaching but all the cool new shows airing fresh on the tee-vee. These days, I struggle to find much to watch that I actually enjoy (and it’s been years since I’ve even owned a tee-vee).
There are some high-quality dramas that the networks are putting out, but I really seem to prefer them when the season is over and I can watch all the episodes back-to-back, Netflix-style. It’s hard for me to follow complicated, twisting plots if the flow of a show is interrupted by commercials (or long hiatuses where the networks take the show off the air for months at a time).
I still like watching comedies week-to-week though. Their half-hour format and nonlinear, self-contained 30-minute storylines lend themselves to popping up on my screen once a week. I laugh and laugh. It’s like having lunch with good friends once a week and catching up on everyone’s hijinks.
I still call all of this that I am talking about “the tee-vee” even though I watch all my shows on the computer, through the networks’ websites now that Hulu has switched over to a pay service. I am what I affectionately refer to as “Cleveland cheap” (where I refuse to spend anything on myself that I don’t think is absolutely essential, but would never skimp on anything fun if other people were involved). Why would I shell out $6.00/month to Hulu when I can just go to NBC.com, ABC.com, CBS.com and Etc.com via my computer and the Googles and Internets? That’s not how we were taught to roll in Cuyahoga County.
But, with so many things on so many websites (instead of one convenient place like Hulu), I have to keep a little cheat sheet next to my computer (written, of course, in purple ink in my elegant cursive handwriting…hat-tip to you, Sister Francis Borgia of the Immaculate Conception school and all those delightful penmanship worksheets) reminding me what shows are on what networks on what days, since I don’t have a DVR or TIVO or anything to do that for me.
So, whenever something airs on a Monday for everyone else, that means I can watch it starting around 4amCT on Tuesday morning…since all the networks get their shows up on their websites around 4amCT the day after they aired in prime time. CBS is the only one that’s different because their content pops up on their website at around 1245amCT or so the day after it aired in prime time. I work most nights teaching English to people in Asia over Skype and that is why I am awake at 4amCT, since it is Some Other Later Time in the Future in Asia then.
Because we are friends like this, here’s a run-through of what I have playing in the background while I am working on my second book or writing up columns on this site or I’m supposed to be helping Korean business executives improve their conversational English:
* Timeless (NBC) = I really like this show. So much so that I’m writing recaps of the episodes. You can read them, and also incorporate them into puppet shows. Timeless features characters such as Captain Handsome, Lady Professor, and Angry Black…three people who use a Time Tickler vehicle to travel back to our past and screw around, messing things up, while trying to stop the Bad Guys from messing it up worse. Captain Handsome is super handsome and always gets wet, is shot, catches on fire, or something and has to take off his shirt in every episode. And every time it happens, I know it’s a shout-out to me.
* Conviction (ABC) = This is also a new show this year. The main character is supposed to be Chelsea Clinton if she was combined with John Kennedy Jr. (John-John) and Caroline Kennedy and at least one of the Bush Twins with a dash of Amy Carter. She’s a former First Daughter whose mother is running for the Senate, so she’s Chelsea in 2006 in that way. Her dad was president many years ago and her mother is now the political focus of the family. She’s a lawyer but she liked to party a lot (The Bush Twins) and the tabloids followed how much trouble she had in law school (John-John, who was handsome but as dumb as rocks, apparently). She is aimless in life and so her parents try to find her work (Amy Carter). She’s assigned to lead the Conviction Integrity Unit (which I guess is a thing) and try to find cases where the government wrongly prosecuted people (which for sure happens all the time, since we basically live in the Soviet Union now and our government is incompetent whenever it’s not actively being corrpt). One of the super cute Ashmore twins is on this show too, but I don’t know if it’s the one who played Ice-Man in the X-Men movies or if it’s the one who was on Warehouse 13 or that weird show that Kevin Bacon did about serial killers. They are identical twins who are identically cute, so I guess it doesn’t matter which one it is. The Angry Black on this show is a woman instead of a man like on Timeless, played by Merrin Dungey, who used to be on Alias. I’ve always liked this actress, but it’s hard not to note that her sister, Channing Dungey, is the president of ABC…which is the same network on which this show airs. I just note the nepotism in that, though it’s not the biggest deal in the world. But her Angry Black character sticks out and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the cast. It’s almost like she just wanted to really play an Angry Black, called her sister up, and Channing found Merrin a show to be shoehorned into at the last minute that didn’t already have (or need) an Angry Black. Just saying.
* Gotham (FOX) = Is this show good? I compare it to going to the Lucky Horseshoe male strip club in Boystown. Will you have a good time there? It depends. I guess. Maybe. It’s memorable and lively and there are all sorts of oddballs. What you will see can never be un-seen. But is it a good time? The world may never know. I watch Gotham because I have a crush on Ben MacKenzie, who plays Jim Gordon. He’s about as talented of an actor as a high-quality mannequin from the Men’s Department of Marshall Fields, but he sure is handsome. I do enjoy seeing the antics of The Penguin and The Riddler and everyone, but I wish they would get to the point where they start wearing all their crazy costumes and being more fabulous. I think the very best incarnation of Batman there ever was happened in the 1960s with the old tee-vee show. I never liked Adam West’s take on Batman himself, but I loved those campy villains. (My favorites were King Tut and whoever the hell Tallulah Bankhead was supposed to be when she was just camping around the set being Tallulah Bankhead for a two-part episode.) I keep hoping at some point that Gotham will wake up and start casting celebrities of today in one-shot cameos as interesting villains on Gotham. Katy Perry. P!nk. Zach Ephron. Meg Ryan. Kevin Hart. Find someone either really popular now or who used to be popular and is no longer busy and create a Batman villain character for each of them. There’s so much they could do with this show, just as the 1960s version in retrospect was a pop culture time capsule from those years. (Just check out the Who’s Who list of guest stars.) I will continue to watch this show for Ben MacKenzie’s handsomeness but when Gotham is on I just wish it could be more.
* Bull (CBS) = This show is like the John Grisham book/movie Runaway Jury, but as a series about jury consultants. It seems like a really cool job to have. Every week, there is some trial…and the jury consultants have to find people who are demographically just like the actual jurors. Then, they run a shadow trial where the defense tests out theories on the mirrored jurors they’ve found, helping to figure out what could convince the real jurors to deliver an acquittal. It’s a new twist on the legal drama formula that’s fun to watch. Someone called Michael Weatherly stars in it. He looks like Chris Pine’s older brother.
* This is Us (NBC) = I really love the storytelling on this one. It’s a family drama that they tell in a nonlinear way, skipping around like people do when they talk in a conversation. What it reminds me of the most is when you meet someone new and they start telling you about their lives and family…and you see videos or pictures and you hear stories from them and start to piece together who the people they love in life are. The longer you know someone, you’ll hear stories from the ’80s and ’90s and earlier and learn about this relative or that other person and what they did that one summer everyone went to California or whatever. There’s never been a tee-vee show like this before that just felt so organic. And the family they chose to feature is super interesting (a husband and wife expecting triplets, but one dies in labor…and so they adopt an unwanted black child who was left at a fire station the same night). You see the kids when they were young, but then also get to know them as adults. You wonder what happened to the father, who is not married to the mother anymore but it’s not explained why just yet. I think the writing on this is fantastic and no one really super-famous is in the cast, so you can just like everyone as their characters and not get too caught up in the actors as celebrities (who I typically dislike because of their political views).
* The Middle (ABC) = Probably my second-favorite show on tee-vee right now. It really nails life in the midwest. A lot of families of kids I went to high school with were like this out in the poorer suburbs around Cleveland. I think it should win all the Emmys. Of course, the elite Establishment hates it.
* American Housewife (ABC) = This is a new show and I’ve only seen one episode, but I love how subversive it is. The lead character is a zaftig suburban mom in snooty Connecticut who just mercilessly rips apart all her elite, privileged neighbors. It’s very politically incorrect and they do jokes that network tee-vee hasn’t allowed in a long time. Because she’s so fat, the main character Katie is allowed to say whatever she wants. It reminds me a little of Roseanne, but with everything in the house coming from Pottery Barn instead of Good Will. I totally want to be friends with the mom on this show. She’s a laugh riot.
* Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) = I really like this one because when I was growing up in the ’80s/’90s there were a lot of kids from Hong Kong who went to my grade school…and the family on this show reminds me of going over to their houses. There was always the grandmother and/or grandfather who only spoke Mandarin and would just nod and smile in the corner. They had weird murky fish tanks where they would raise different kinds of pale fish (that they would later eat, but never in front of me). Huge piles of beans and other vegetables were always being shucked on a table in the living room. The moms were super obsessed with homework. One of the parents would resist assimilation and insist that everyone hang onto the Chinese way of doing things, but the other parent would want the kids to Americanize so they could succeed in this country and be normal. The kids all spoke English at home but would go to Chinese School too on the weekends so they could talk to Grandma or Grandpa, which was really sweet. Once the grandparents died, everyone stopped caring about holding onto the Chinese though. The show is set in the mid-90s, so it’s also fun seeing a lot of the pop culture references, where the main character is a middle-schooler who would have been five or six years younger than me in the time period. So things he was doing in 8th grade line up with whatever was going on when I was a junior or senior in high school. It’s fun for me to watch all this as nostalgia now. I really get a kick out of it as the 1990s have now become a retro “period setting.”
* The Real O’Neals (ABC) = This is another show that strikes home for me, because it’s about a gay kid going to Catholic school. Where have we all heard that before? Only, I never realized I was gay in high school. Quelle surprise! I only figured that out in October of my freshman year of college when a guy from the swim team who was in my French class ended up putting the moves on me while we were studying in my room one night. Eileen, the mom on this show, is played by Martha Plimpton and it’s like she’s doing an impersonation of my own mother, only blonde. The dad on the show also reminds me of my dad. It’s such a weird experience (in a good way) watching this show because the gay kid Kenny (who is nothing like me, except when he’s exactly like I think I might have been if I had come out in high school the way he did) is always butting heads with his mom…and my mother and I had a similar relationship. (She figured out I was gay like a decade before I did but would never talk about it, hoping and praying it wasn’t true and that one day I would like sportsball and fall in love with a girl…any girl, it didn’t matter who.) This family on the tee-vee has all the pictures of the Pope (JP the Great) and crosses and Last Supper paintings that we had all over our house in Cleveland when I was growing up. They forever have to go to some church bazaar, spaghetti dinner, roast beef dinner, Octoberfest, or whatever. Been there, done that. Had to volunteer to clean up afterwards. It’s like the show is running a simulation of what might have happened in an alternate universe if I had realized I was gay and I had decided to make it a big issue and found inventive ways to make everyone super uncomfortable about that when I was in high school. People ask me how I couldn’t have known I was gay back then and all I can say is that I was just super-busy. I had to take two buses and a train to get to high school out in the suburbs from the inner city where I grew up…so that was two hours each way. Every day. Then when I completed my early morning trek, I had school itself, which I always superloaded with AP classes and no study halls. After school I was always president of a few clubs (French Club, Drama Club, Art Club, etc…yet, curiously, had no clue I was gay). I think I got home around 5pm or 6pm every day…and then came homework…and after that it was tee-vee like Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, etc. (again, worst amateur detective ever, still not figuring out I was gay). Lather, rinse, repeat. Weekends were all about church stuff and either being forced or inventively tricked into volunteering at the church (scrubbing floors with Murphy’s oil soap, wiping down all the pews with lemon Pledge, using a butterknife to scrape the wax remnants and little square bits of metal out of the bottom of votive candles, dusting statues of all the saints who were martyred in inventively gruesome ways, etc.). In the summers I went to Europe with my grandmother where I think she was maybe a CIA operative trying to overthrow communism the way Jessica Fletcher on Murder She Wrote would stumble in to mysteries (or maybe she was a serial killer with an impeccable record for frame-jobs). During spring break, my parents would take me on vacation to Disney parks or Arizona or Gettysburg or somewhere (and I would never appreciate it and we would fight the whole time, but I retroactively appreciate it all now that I’m the age today that they were back then..and I don’t know how they managed to pull off all the cool trips they gave me). I guess I just had so much going on that I never had the time to sit down and piece it together that the boys who always fascinated me and that I found interesting were possibly more to me than friends I wanted to hang out with. And since Catholic School was firm in teaching that being gay and acting on any such feelings was never an option, it just never crossed my mind like it did for the Kenny character on the show. It’s a whole different world for teenaged gay guys than it was for me. Which is mostly a good thing, I guess…but looking back I love all the innocence and extra childhood I was afforded instead of being sexualized as early as kids are exposed to things because of the Internets and the Googles and computers.
* Scream Queens (FOX) = This is a super-campy horror parody on FOX that feels like something I would write. Tons of cameos by campy actresses and ridiculously hot guys. Beaucoup shirtlessness and high quality handsomeness. Rapid-fire pop culture references. Riffs on obscure ’80s and ’90s movies. This show is like what plays in my head when I’m asleep. I love it. If you love it too, then you’ll love 666 pages full of something similar!
* Law & Order: SVU (NBC) = I watch this show with a notepad beside me. Then I play a fun game where I try to figure out what political point the writers wanted to make that week. It is always what the Left wants you to think about whatever controversial thing happened that the writers noticed in the news when they were crafting the script for the episode. They think they are sneaky. But, I am onto them! It’s also fun that Jayne Mansfield‘s daughter is the star of the show and that it’s been on for so many seasons that if you watched the episodes from the beginning it’s this neat little time capsule of how much technology has evolved and changed in the last 15 years+. They start off with cell phones the size of bricks and have to go to the public library to research things for cases but end up with iPhones and tablet computers in the newer episodes.
* The Goldbergs (ABC) = The mom on this show behaves exactly like my friend Megan Fox, who I solve mysteries with around Chicago’s suburbs in real life. AND the whole show reminds me of going to my Aunt Blair’s house on the weekends when I was a kid in the 80s, since her place in the westside suburbs of Cleveland feels a lot like The Goldbergs’ world. I laugh. I cry. I remember so many good times while watching this show. It’s my absolute favorite thing that’s ever been on the tee-vee in all of human history. It is a show that I could spend days talking about, sitting down with you while drinking pumpkin spice coffee or chai tea and telling you episode by episode what all my favorite parts were. Megan and I sometimes do this on the porch at her house and it’s the best time. What’s amazing to me is that even though Megan grew up in Chicago and I was in Cleveland and The Goldbergs is set in Philly, so much of what we all remember is exactly the same. Oh, and check this out, at the end of each episode there is a little surprise as the credits start to roll. The guy behind the show, the real life Adam Goldberg, ingeniously used REAL FOOTAGE that he took with his camcorder in the ’80s…which he bases all the episodes off of. So, the show is really creative nonfiction. All of it really happened…but he just changes names and gooses up the funny stuff a little. Every few episodes, he gets the REAL PERSON featured in the episode to do a cameo and at the end you find out that it was really that person. For instance, in an episode about a computer club, there were two characters named Mike L. and Mike Z. or whatever. They were just kids that the fictional version of Adam on the show hung out with, probably never to appear again. They were based on kids the real Adam Goldberg knew in high school. At one point there were also two nameless computer technicians there fixing an Apple II computer; people who had few lines and were clearly not real actors. At the end of the episode, the fun surprise was where we found out that the “actors” who played those technicians were the REAL LIFE versions of Mike L. and Mike Z. Whenever this happens, I literally can’t control myself…and I clap and shout out at the tee-vee, “You rock, Adam Goldberg!” and I am just so happy to see these people I’ve never met and didn’t know existed until now. And then I cry, the happy kind of “I love life and can’t believe how cool this is” kind of tears that I always have at the end of really great ’80s movies because the episodes of The Goldbergs always have happily ever afters (HEAs) for everyone. As a writer, one of the things that’s most important to me is finding little ways to make sure that all the great people I’ve known in life get to live on forever in something I do at some point. Whether it’s a column I write or a book I put out, the people who matter to me are weaved into the fabric wherever I can sneak them in because I want them to live forever and never be forgotten. I am just so blessed on a rolling and ongoing basis to know the very best of the best and to have so much fun almost every day…and I cheer so loud for Adam Goldberg because he’s a guy who gets it and seems to feel the same way about everyone he’s ever cared about. His show is so from the heart that I thank God he has achieved this success and ABC was smart enough to put The Goldbergs on the air via the tee-vee. It is a true national treasure, capturing everything great about growing up in the Reagan Era. I love it so much. SO MUCH!
* Speechless (ABC) = This is a new show with Minnie Driver. She has a son who has cerebral palsy or something like that and is in a wheelchair. I’m not a medical doctor, so don’t ask me. What’s funny is how shameless she is in manipulating situations and using her son’s disability to her family’s advantage (but never in ways that make you hate her). She is a lovable scamp. This show also reminds me of Roseanne a little, but in a very cheerful way. I love how politically-incorrect it can be too.
* Modern Family (ABC) = This is another show I watch with my notepad ready to go because I enjoy keeping track of the writers’ agendas. The Left really loves this show and considers it “important.” Normally, that would make it unwatchable but the actors on Modern Family really are spectacular. The gay couple on this show — Cam and Mitch — are such ridiculous clowns. Literally, in some episodes, since Cam is a part-time clown for reals. A clown in makeup, not just a foolish gay person clown. Make-up make-up, like Ringling Brothers make-up…not just any make-up that some gay guy might wear but no one is allowed to talk about (because that would be homophobic). I love all the tangents the show goes off on, because of course I would love that. (I wrote 666 pages of exactly that!)
* Black-ish (ABC) = The Angry Black People on this show are funny. I laugh at them. We’re supposed to be laughing with them, but whenever they get political here I just laugh and laugh at their pratically-minstrel foolishness. This show captures a lot of the things that black people who have it pretty good do, where they still moan and whine about racism and how terribly oppressive white people supposedly are…but they are doing it while wearing designer clothes and living it up in a nicer house than I’ve ever been in. Then there are the grandparents, who are from the ’70s and ’80s, and they are the ones who surprisingly keep it real. I love the grandma, Ruby, in particular. She rocks. So, the show knows when it is spouting off foolishness…and it usually sends in Ruby and the grandfather (played by Laurence Fishburn, who will always be Ike Turner to me) to stare into the camera, shake their heads, and say, “Hold up, now.” So if you watch Black-ish, yes you will have to listen to the main character Dre Johnson whine about Black Lives Matter foolishness…but then at some point some other character will tell him that he’s a clown and that he should go kick rocks. By the end of the episode, Dre is basically Black Homer Simpson, blaming everyone for his woes except for himself and having no concept of how lucky he really is that everyone chooses to overlook his willful ineptitude. I think the show is genius in how many layers it has. And it’s usually really, really funny. Diana Ross’ daughter plays the mom on the show and she’s a very talented comedienne. I keep hoping she talks her mom into doing a cameo.
* Designated Survivor (ABC) = This is a show that a lot of people don’t like because it’s very pro-Muslim and anti-reality/anti-sanity. The entire US Capitol building is destroyed during the State of the Union address and the entire US government is murdered. Jack Bauer (though a wimpier version of him) is the Housing and Urban Development Secretary who was the Designated Survivor, the lone Cabinet member in the Presidential Line of Succession kept away during the speech to be in charge of the government in case Doomsday happened. Whoops! Doomsday just happened. The show is worth watching, again with a notepad, to see how the writers try to push the belief that “not all Muslims are bad” and “not all Muslims are terrorists.” That’s the really big thing that the Left loves to push right now during this Age of Islamic Colonization of the West, and it makes a lot of sane people mad because clearly the only people out in the world right now who are murdering gay people, treating women like dogs, destroying ancient artwork, beheading people, and behaving like it is the stone ages are Muslims. But if you know one good Muslim who smiled at you and didn’t try to murder you that one time, then you are supposed to say that “not all Muslims are bad.” This is how the Left value-signals and feels good about itself in the ivory towers of Utopia. Designated Survivor is actually really interesting as a mystery, because on the show they are trying to figure out who REALLY blew up the Capitol. I’m sure it will end up being someone who is not Muslim, with the point being that “See! You shouldn’t blame all Muslims!” I’ve had people tell me that they hate this show and it makes them sick…but they are missing the fun in this. If you believe that Islam really is incompatible with the West (as I do) and that Muslims are not part of a religion but are instead part of an ideological death cult (which is how I see them), then you know that at some point the Left’s “not all Muslims are bad!” baloney is going to run smack dab into reality. I know this is really frustrating, but I’m sure it was super-frustrating living in the mid-1930s and trying to get people to admit that Hitler and Nazism were evil and had to be stopped. “But, not all Germans are bad!” people like Charles Lindbergh and Joseph P. Kennedy and Neville Chamberlain said. “But…but…but…cuckoo clocks and streudel and Octoberfest are so good!” We’re at this weird point in history where the Left insists Islam is a religion and thus it attacks anyone who criticizes how Muslims do not assimilate and how they use violence to impose their culture as the dominant culture wherever Muslims colonize. But, a show like Designated Survivor is going to look very stupid within 10 years, once the world has woken up to Islam’s colonization efforts and the damage that it has done to the West. Once Muslims succeed in taking over Michigan or The Netherlands or a whole province of France, people will wake up and start to fight back. I believe a tipping point/breaking point like that is coming. So what they are doing on this show does not upset me. I see what the writers are doing. They are being good little Lefties. But they are tragically naive. And they will look so, so, so stupid when the pubic at large wakes up to the fact that Islam is not a religion that can be lumped in with all true religions in that “COEXIST” bumper sticker the Left loves so much…but instead Islam is a murderous, barbaric, bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic, death cult that is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It claims to be a religion so that it can sneak in and set the stage for conquest…and that’s been working up to this point. But, I know it’s not going to work for them forever and that World War III will be about the West vs. Islam…and the West is going to win decisively. Neville Chamberlain has gone done in history as one of the stupidest idiots to have ever lived. So, too, will everyone who now says “But not all Muslims are bad.”
* Lethal Weapon (FOX) = Man, do I love this show. It’s the best. Every episode is like the best parts of a Lethal Weapon movie, only better because Mel Gibson is not allowed anywhere near the set. Since it’s an hour long show, they have to lose all the boring parts that would have sucked up time in a movie. I’m someone who can’t stand Mel Gibson and never could. I think he is pretentious. And that’s not even getting into his hatred of Israel, which is intolerable to me. So, to have an actually likable guy recreate his character (Riggs) in the new show…and to have an even more likable actor than Danny Glover in the other role (Murtaugh)…and to have other really great supporting players and all the best of the movies without the dull parts…WOW! They really hit a slam dunk grand slam at the Super Bowl and other positive sportsball references with this. I’m a huge Darlene Love fan, but even the woman they got to play Murtaugh’s wife on this show instead of Love (who had that part in the movies), Keesha Sharp, is even better in the part than Love was. I’ve never seen Keesha Sharp before this series but the woman is gorgeous. Every scene she is in, she steals it. She’s someone who I wish I knew in real life and could have lunch with once a week or be neighbors with because she is awesome. The whole show is awesome. I can’t believe how good it is. It totally makes me forget those movies even exist, which is only the second time that has ever happened with a movie-turned-into-a-tee-vee-show (the other time being with Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
* Empire (FOX) = I still enjoy this show. It’s not as fun as it was in its first season. A few years ago, ABC had a show called Revenge that no one remembers now. But, boy did I love me some Revenge in its first season. I think what happens is that writers come up with a show and all the twists and turns and they have one season plotted out…and it is brilliant. But, they worked for years and years honing and perfecting that idea. Then, when it comes to season 2…they got nothing. Empire in its first season was just one breath-taking twist and turn after another. It was better than Dynasty ever was, even at its height. And the music! Wow, the music was amazing…that they had music THAT GOOD just tossed casually in a scene of a tee-vee show. Songs that were better than anything on the radio, just tossed in an episode where a character who was supposed to be a superstar had to sing something. And it was better than what the supposed “superstars” in music today actually sing! WOW. The plots on this show have been pretty stupid the last two years though. The music has been forgettable. Everybody’s just been phoning it in. But I still love me some Cookie Lyons. She is everything I loved about Alexis on Dynasty, but she also gets really great one-liners, way better than anything Aaron Spelling ever came up with for Joan Collins.
* American Horror Story (FX) = Here’s another show that I find interesting but I wouldn’t call “good.” This one’s like visiting the Jackhammer or Touche leather bars in Andersonville and going down into secret “Hole” sex room. I can’t recommend anyone ever do that, but if you do indeed do it, you sure won’t ever forget it. I don’t understand why this show has to be so gruesome. One of the big fights that my ex Justin and I would always have would be that he would try to put me down because I love the horror genre as a concept. To him, this meant that he thought I loved bloody, gory things. Which I don’t. I love spooky things and haunted houses and ghost stories. I like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. I like Vincent Price. I like Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I enjoy the kind of horror where there is some supernatural element and you are filled with dread and you are shouting, “Don’t go in the basement, you stupid dummy!” at the characters. 1970s and early 1980s movies are what I think are the best horror. 1980s Stephan King is right on the money too. The reason that I find American Horror Story so interesting is that I love the premise of an anthology series that returns with something new and different every year. I love the showmanship they put into this series, too. They try to be clever with their marketing and keep everything a secret all summer until the big reveal about what the show will be about in the fall. When this show returns, it is AN EVENT! The first season is the very best: Murder House. It is one of the great haunted house stories ever told, in my opinion (though it had a few clunky episodes where it got bogged down in gruesomeness). Modern audiences want the gruesomeness though. Not everything can be set inside Disney’s Haunted Mansion, I know that. I just wish they would do a season where the producers all said: no gore and no weird sexual imagery…and instead challenged themselves to do a really scary story that obeyed all the old conventions and limitations of the horror genre before everything became gross-out, nonstop, bleeding edge, torture porn. THAT would be the biggest hit that tee-vee’s ever had in the horror realm, I think, if they’d ever have the guts to completely ditch the gross-out stuff and go psychological and chilling instead of sloppy and bloody and gruesome for the sake of gruesome.
* The Good Place (NBC) = Boy, was this a surprise! I love this show. I didn’t think I would. I thought it would totally suck. But, it is probably the best satire on the air today. It is truly inspired. Whoever writes this is operating on several levels all at once or is on the really good drugs. And it stars the woman who played Veronica Mars, who happens to be one of my favorite characters on any mystery-solving show (and you know how I love those). So, The Good Place is about what happens when we all die and what various religions get right about the place we all collectively call Heaven. But, the show is also a mystery. Kristen Bell’s character is not supposed to be in Heaven (which they call, “The Good Place”). You see, The Good Place is very elitist and everything that you did while you were alive earned you points, either positive or negative. The people with the highest sum total of points get sent to The Good Place…and they are all the elite who look down on everyone else who didn’t get in. Florence Nightengale didn’t do enough good to make it into The Good Place. So, that right there is a satire of the credentialist culture of the Leftist elite (where if you didn’t go to an Ivy League school or you don’t have your masters degree in underwater basket weaving, then you are not worthy of having an opinion or being listened to). Somehow, Kristen Bell got into The Good Place but everyone thinks she is someone else and no one in The Good Place is smart enough to figure out they made a mistake (because they are all so damn perfect and assume they could never make a mistake). Everyone has to be in a mixed-race monogamous couple, because in The Good Place no one can have a soul mate who is of the same ethnicity as them (due to the clear conspiracy upon us of globalists wanting to erase nationalities and ultimately create one skin color for all humans). Every episode, Kristen Bell digs a little deeper to see if she can figure out how the mistake was made to let her in…and her mere presence creates chaos in The Good Place that the Utopians who run everything can’t handle. I find the whole thing fascinating. I think it’s brilliant satire. I feel like if Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde were alive today that they would love The Good Place. It is such a send-up of the Left and political correctness and it makes the Leftists and Utopians look so stupid. It’s genius. I can’t wait to see how the mystery of it all unfolds. It captivates me.
* The Blacklist (NBC) = Sometimes I like this show, but not lately. It’s fun when it does a villain of the week and it’s about going after some really interesting criminal mastermind, who often remind me of Batman villains. Like, for instance, one episode was about taking down this woman who called herself The Djinn, who charged a fortune to grant any outlandish wish (which always involved someone wanting something otherwise unattainable, but the Djinn was the only person on the planet who had the connections to move all the pieces on the chess board to make your wish come true…like your getting to spend the night in bed with your favorite movie star…or you getting to hang the Mona Lisa in your bathroom over your toilet forever…outlandishly impossible and illegal stuff…the Djinn could make it all happen). Another memorable episode was about this secret-keeper, who would safe keep anything that someone wanted to hide and preserve. If you had a tape of an ex-president doing something illegal with a minor on a Caribbean island, for instance…and you knew it was very valuable but you didn’t want anyone to ever steal it or destroy it but you didn’t want to use it in that moment…you would pay the secret-keeper to hide it for you until you wanted it back. And it turned out that this particular criminal genius was the caretaker of a cemetery that his family had run for generations. He would hide the secrets in the coffins…and if he was asked to retrieve a video tape or some sensitive document, he had a ledger to track where he buried it and he’d go dig it up. No one would have ever thought to look for any of these things in coffins. There were a lot of clever episodes like these in the first season or so…but lately the show has gone off the rails and isn’t as much fun anymore. I think they have squirrels writing the scripts or there are no longer any scripts and the actors just improv everything now.
* Notorious (ABC) = Here’s another new show this year, about a woman who runs a gossipy program like TMZ and who works with a high powered lawyer to get her scoops. She helps him and he helps her and they have a rule where they can lie to everyone else but never to each other. The lead character is played by Piper Perabo, who used to be on a spy show on USA that Justin liked (and I can never remember the name of it, but I think it is Covert Affairs…though I always want to say it was Cover Me, but that’s a different show). I think Notorious is a lot of fun. They have some scandal of the week as the A-Plotline and then the B-Plotline is the season long mystery of who killed the wife of this tech billionaire.
* How to Get Away With Murdering People (ABC) = I really like Viola Davis, even though people I know who work in tee-vee and movie production say she is a very rude and nasty woman to deal with in real life. Which is a shame. Because she is hella talented. This is another show that was MUST WATCH TEE-VEE in its first season, but this year I think it’s kind of boring. For instance, as I write this it’s already 4pmCT on a Friday and a new episode of HTGAWMP aired last night, which was available for me to watch starting at 4amCT this morning. The first season, I would wake up at 415amCT if I was not already up and would sit there in the dark watching HTGAWMP literally on the edge of my seat on the living room couch while Justin was still sound asleep in the bedroom. I just had to know what happened. I couldn’t wait a moment longer. I just had to see super studly Frank and his rock star awesome beard. Last season, I pretty much watched the show just to see Frank’s beard once a week and hope the episode required him to hop in or out of the shower at some point. This year, they had Frank shave and I’ll get around to watching last night’s episode eventually, I’m sure. But I don’t feel any pressing need to drop what I am doing and go do that.
* Rosewood (FOX) = Here’s another show with characters I’d love to know in real life. This is about a medical examiner or something who helps the police solve mysteries in Florida. And I never really care about any of the murders they solve because when I watch the show I just feel like I am hanging out with people I really like. I wish I could get bonked on the head and wake up as some new hire in the police department on the show or be the wacky gay neighbor who pops in every episode to receive exposition about everything that’s been going on. They’re all just really nice people who are also super cool and gorgeous and live in Miami and I like “knowing” them through the tee-vee. They could have an episode where they eat donuts and read the phone book and I would enjoy it.
* Supernatural (CW) = I just blush when I think about this show. Really. I embarrass myself when I talk about it. The handsomeness is off the charts. This is the show that makes me thank God that I am gay so I can fully enjoy it in all its glory. Sam and Dean Winchester are two of the most handsome male characters I’ve ever seen in anything. Remember that machine in Weird Science, where the two teens got to create their dream woman (and for some reason they picked Kelly LeBrock)? If I had that machine, I’d manufacture Dean Winchester. He is the perfect man. I could go on for hours and hours about him, smiling and blushing like an idiot. And I wouldn’t care, because he is too damn gorgeous. Dean Winchester makes me feel like I am 14 years old with a Tiger Beat magazine and posters of him on my wall and a Trapper Keeper with his face on it. Which is funny because when I was really 14 years old I had no clue I even liked guys. The only problem with this show is that I have a hard time sitting through about 2/3 of the episodes each season because they involve this overly-complicated running plot about Heaven and Hell and it’s all like the aliens on X-Files in that I don’t like the show’s overarching mythology. Instead, I like these kinds of supernatural shows when they are Monster-of-the-Week and the main characters drive to some new town to help solve the mystery or defeat whatever creature is loose. Then they get back in their car and go somewhere else next week. I have to skip the episodes where they go on and on and on (and on!) about Lucifer or archangels or Heaven or whatever. They put me to sleep. Which is okay, all things considered, because then I get to dream about Dean. Ah….DEAN!
* MacGyver (CBS) = I am trying to give this a try but so far I don’t really like it. I liked the original when it was on the air in the 1980s (and still can hum the theme song), but when I tried to watch episodes of the original on Netflix a while ago I couldn’t sit through them. These kind of action shows are not for me. They are like sportsball in that I struggle to find them interesting. And the small budget they have means that everything looks super cheesy. Just like those old 1980s shows like A-Team or Riptide and Airwolf. None of that holds up well. It hurts to watch sometimes.
* The Exorcist (FOX) = This show is super creepy 90% of the time…but then every episode they do something bloody and I wish they wouldn’t. But I love Geena Davis. And this time instead of the exorcism-related-horror happening in DC it’s going down in Chicago. I always love when shows are set here because there will be buildings I’ve been in that it’s fun for me to see. I also like that there’s a mystery on this show too. Demons are active and are communicating and plotting something. The Pope — a fictional one named Sebastian — is headed to town. And the woman who runs The Drake Hotel has a daughter who gets possessed. Pope Sebastian’s entourage is going to be staying at The Drake. So there’s some scheme in play here, more than just possessing a young girl like in the original movie. It can’t be a coincidence that the demon has possessed the daughter of the woman who will be in charge of setting up the security for the Pope’s visit to the hotel. I like that they added this layer on intrigue. All the sets are so well-done and are super creepy and atmospheric. The tone of the show is chilling and keeps you anxious. Cameron from Ferris Bueller plays the dad, who got bonked on the head at a construction site and now he’s like Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry and is not all there in the brain. There’s a lot of interesting things going on and it’s fun to try to think of where they are going to go with the characters next…and also who is involved in trying something evil when the Pope comes. There’s also a really intriguing character who must have something important to do later; she’s the heiress to a glass company and she gives money to the church and is helping plan the Pope’s arrival. An actress I’ve never seen before plays her and she appears in every episode but never has a big part. Whenever this happens, I really enjoy seeing what’s going to come week after week because the writers are smart enough to be dropping clues…and it all feels like an Agatha Christie story. I used to love reading her books when I was in junior high and high school (where you had to pay attention to background characters because they would be the ones behind the intrigue)…and I just think this show is really fun because they took the horror framework but then they added this whole unexpected mystery layer to it. And it’s all really well done. For a network show, it looks on the screen like it’s an HBO production.
Ain’t nothing good on nowheres. Go play outside or drink yourself stupid. Have one for me while you are at it. Just remember that I like my chardonnay like I like my men: cold, blond, oaky, and dumb as rocks.
* Madam Secretary (CBS) = I’ve written about this show before and how it’s not really about Hillary Clinton even though some people think it is. The abbreviated version is that this character, Elizabeth McCord, is the kind of Secretary of State that America actually deserves. She is our dream, perfect, ideal Secretary of State. She is the kind of political figure we have all craved and yearned for. I wish every day that this woman was real. When compared to this fictional character, Hillary’s very real and unforgivable faults are so much more apparent and anger-inducing. Watching an episode of his makes you truly ANGRY at Hillary for not being as great as Elizabeth McCord.
* Elementary (CBS) = One of my favorite shows ever. Super clever mysteries. In every episode, I learn something new about some random thing. The writing sparkles and pops. I love all the characters on the show. I almost never buy DVDS, but I have every season of this series and at least once a year I start at the beginning and watch all of the episodes again and enjoy them as much as I did the first time I saw them.
* Quantico (ABC) = This is another clever show. You just have to get past the fact that the lead character talks like she has cotton balls or marbles in her mouth. They do this thing where they jump from “the present” (which is set during some kind of terrorist attack) and the time that the various characters were all in training together at Quantico in FBI school. In the second season, I didn’t know how they were going to pull this off for another year, since they had all graduated from the academy…but they did something really clever where they sent a few people to CIA school, and now the show jumps from a terrorist attack in “the present” to when they were in CIA school together learning tradecraft. The way they found for it to still make sense to call the show Quantico (instead of renaming it Langley) is because the characters in CIA school are really secretly still FBI agents who are investigating traitors in the CIA. It’s a really fun show with lots of twists and turns. And there is always a lot of random, shirtless, handsomeness (RSH) too. I don’t know a single person’s name on the show but there’s a lot of eye candy and plot twists to make it all enjoyable week to week.
* Secrets & Lies (ABC) = I only watch this show because Juliette Lewis is the lead. I find her amusing. She does this thing where she walks around like she’s been sedated. Sometimes, she plays really stupid airhead characters but in this she’s a smart detective..who still walks around like she’s been sedated. What I love about that is how much it’s like performance art at this point. For something like 30 years now she’s been doing this same character, in all sorts of genres. I bet she just plays herself and she’s really like this all the time. In the past when she was more popular, she would do interviews and she’d be very hippy-drippy and all that, but not in a way that ever bothered me. She’d show up to awards shows wearing a crazy hat and ragamuffin clothes…but it was like a child she loved dressed her and she embraced that, not like she was wearing something strange just to get attention. She just seems like a really nice person and this pure, innocent soul who is always totally mellow. She’s very likable, in a low-energy way. Seeing her play a police detective trying to solve a murder is like casting Little Richard to play Hamlet. I can’t imagine she was the first choice for this role and I bet people thought “Really? Her? For this part? Are you sure?” But somehow it works.
* Fear the Walking Dead/The Walking Dead/Here Come the Walking Dead (FX) = I always read the recaps of these shows before I watch them because I don’t like the gruesomeness and the gore. So, I will read a recap and then I’ll know when someone is about to be eaten or there will be gore. And when it starts to get to that part, I get up and I wash a few dishes or fold laundry or something. I can hear on the screen the noise of the munching and crunching and slurping or screaming. Then, when that’s over and I know the gross stuff is done, I come back. Most of the episodes are about people looking for supplies, stealing someone else’s supplies, moaning about not having supplies, finding a new home, fixing it up, abandoning it because it got too dangerous, etc. So, it’s like living in Chicago on a normal day here. I really wish they would show what happened to the President and the Cabinet and all that…and do West Wing But With Zombies…but they didn’t do that. Instead they made this. And it is what it is. Fear the Walking Dead went to Mexico this season and post-apocalyptic Mexico looked absolutely no different than actual Mexico today. At least on the original Walking Dead, Atlanta is not as bad now as it is in the show, so it doesn’t feel like I’m watching a documentary. That show has been on the air long enough that people are no longer freaked out about the dead rising and coming after them. I wish there would be a show just about that though: an anthology where every season they showed what happened in a different city when the zombie apocalypse happened. And each season could give some new insight into it. Maybe Chicago handles it all better than Atlanta or LA or Mexico, since it’s basically the apocalypse here already in large swaths of the city. We just have super-predators instead of zombies. They really could do this show like The Real World. Feature a different city every season. Then at some point come back to previous cities and revisit characters and settings and catch us up on what happened there. I would watch the hell out of that. But, because I would like that they won’t ever do it. It’s a conspiracy, I swear.
* Westworld (HBO) = I think this show is stunning. It looks as expensive as a movie. And it’s so interesting. There is so much potential here. And since it’s on cable, there are glimpses of naked handsomeness and also swear words. What fun! I hope future seasons do Roman World and Medieval World, just as Michael Crichton’s original movie had three “lands” in the futuristic amusement park that was totally NOT DISNEY but completely inspired by Disneyland. Here, they just call the whole place “Westworld” but they don’t rule out there being other areas. I’m not a big fan of westerns as a genre and would prefer the Roman World. That’s where I would visit if I could have a trip to one of the parks. I also think it would be fun if they would bring back the actors from HBO’s old Rome series and have them just play their same parts on Westworld, in the Roman World area. That would be mind-blowingly cool. It would ret-con the old Rome series as if it was just time spent in Roman World all the while. I have to say that even though I don’t like westerns, the show is so good and so interesting that the western setting never bothers me. In a Disney park, I spend almost no time in Frontierland because it’s just not my thing (and Adventureland beckons). But I look forward to seeing what’s gong on in Westworld. It really is inventive and there are a lot of big name movie stars in this. I hope HBO doesn’t get cheap (like they always do) and pull the plug early on this one (again, like they always do). Those fools canceled Rome after just two seasons, and that was probably the best thing on the air at the time. Idiots!
Did I miss anything good that you like?
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