Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why you (yes YOU) should be watching 30 Rock

I am not just passionate, but passionate about T.V. shows that I love. Just this morning I debated with someone for close to 10 minutes about why Fringe is an excellent show. I obsessively write to Matt Roush at T.V. Guide and Michael Ausiello at EW to give opinions and get scoop. In fact, I asked Mr. Ausiello about the fate of Mary McDonnell's Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica today. The answer? Prepare to weep. But even with all of my debating and flailing over shows that I love, I've never tried to persuade people to watch 30 Rock. In all honesty, I never thought I would have to. It's got Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, snappy writing and Emmy awards falling out of it's butt. Yet, for some reason no one's watching. Why? If this show gets canceled because of you Nielsen raters not watching, I'll have to find you all and abduct your television sets.

Tina Fey is a good way to get me to watch anything. And I do mean anything. I vowed never to watch a movie with Lindsay Lohan in it, but as soon as I found out Mean Girls had Fey at the helm and with an acting part? I didn't just rent the movie - I bought it. I have to admit that all around it's a very good slice of the high school movie genre, but I only bought it to be inspired by Tina Fey. I'm not sure if I've ever disclosed this information before, but my role model? Totally Tina. She's got the looks, the wit, the education and really, I'd be crazy to choose anyone other than Tina to look up to. (I've probably never said anything because wow does that make me sound stalkerish. I swear I'm not.) Anyway, if you've been following SNL lately, then you have no doubt seen her Palin impression. By itself it's hilarious because Palin really is insane, but Tina brings to it the walk, the talk, the facial expressions and hand gestures. She's got it down pat from the winking to the posing for the camera. Now, take that awesome acting ability and put it into a sitcom. Every week you get brilliant exchanges of dialogue that make you wonder about the genius of the writers. And the head writer of the show just happens to be Tina Fey.

The brilliancy of this show does not begin and end with Tina, however. We still haven't covered Alec Baldwin. I admit, I'd never really watched him in anything before. I mean, yes, I've seen Pearl Harbor. Correction: I slept through most of Pearl Harbor, and I've heard of a lot of things he's in, but I'd never watched any of them. Except for Beetlejuice. I effing love that movie. Anyway, in 30 Rock, he's a genius. For such a strong Democrat to play a stiff Republican? Well, if that's not acting, I don't know what is. And if you haven't seen the therapy session where Jack invoked the spirit of Redd Foxx, I suggest you run to RIGHT NOW and watch it. That clip alone should make you tune in tomorrow.

The supporting cast is nothing to poo-poo about either. Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan is great, and on a weekly basis makes me think: 'How much of this is based on Tracy Morgan's real life experiences?'. (I want to say...probably 56%) Jack McBrayer as the lovable, goofy, flighty, but probably smarter than you think Kenneth is equally hilarious and under-used which is something I sincerely hope changes soon. Who else could deliver the line: I don't drink hot liquids of any kind. That's the Devil's temperature! with such conviction?

The bottom line with this show is that it's smart. It's not 'veg out in front of the t.v., get up 10 times to get something to eat, talk on the phone while I watch it' television. It's satirical, it's relevant, and it's hysterical. The story lines range from downright silly (Tracy making a porn video game) to touching (Liz running the gamut of emotions when she thinks she's pregnant), and in 30 minutes you might just learn a thing or two about real humor. Everyone tune in tomorrow. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Mad Men is the best show in the universe. (Spoilers for the finale.)

First, before I really get into the meat of this, I want to say that yes, I did just post. Since I'm mostly writing for my own entertainment, I figure no one will be over-whelmed by the sudden burst of writing. And my last post was long, too. I guess I have a lot to say right now.

And I want to say something about Mad Men. If you've never seen this show, first off - why? Second, my thoughts are absolutely nothing compared to the Lipp Sister's site, Basket of Kisses. Oh my God you all, this website is the mecca of all things Mad Men. Why? For one, they actually got people to pay attention which I have obviously not grasped. And they have an interview with Matthew Weiner. Let me repeat that - MATTHEW. WEINER. And if you don't know that name, you probably aren't a fan of the show. Again I ask - why? So while I may occasionally gush about how amazing this show is, I grovel at the feet of Roberta and Deborah Lipp.

Now, onto why I love the show so much.

In an era of television shows where suspending reality is the key, here is a show that gives us real life problems, real life messes, and real life solutions. How refreshing is it to see that when a husband cheats, he can't say he's sorry and suddenly have things come up roses? A woman doesn't always keep the baby and expect the father of her illegitimate child to come running in to save the day. And the perfect man is a complete lie. All of us who watch T.V. know that when we turn on our sets, writers are asking us to please take off our logical thinking caps and set them aside. How many of us can watch an episode of Desperate Housewives or Brothers & Sisters and think 'wow, that is so much like real life - crazy!'? The answer is no one. But when it comes to Mad Men, we're allowed to keep our logic and actually depend on our brains to guide us through each episode.

I have to admit that when a co-worker first told me the premise of this show I wasn't really that excited to watch. I'd missed season one completely and in fact had never even heard of the show when she handed over her DVDs. The show had just been featured on the cover of EW, but I had no interest because I didn't recognize any of the actors. And the basic premise, a story about a 60's advertising agency set in Manhattan, well, that didn't exactly grab me. Until I watched the first episode and realized it is so much more than that.

The thing that gets me about this show is that it's not afraid to be messy. Don Draper is one of the most messed up characters on television. Here is a man who is struggling to forget his past, and is so desperate, he steals a dead man's identity. How likely is that to happen? Well, nowadays probably not at all, but for Don's time and situation it was easy. Easy to give up on his terrible life, his terrible family and the world as Dick Whitman knew it. Only, it's not as simple as that. Everything slowly begins to unravel eventually and the memories come back to haunt him. Even his brother tries to reconnect but that ends in guilt money and suicide. Welcome to a television show that reassures us that it's okay - life is complicated.

I'll argue my own views for just a second to say that Don may be messed up, but he's also one of the best characters on television. He's handsome, business savvy, and for the most part a good man. Who happens to cheat on his wife. A lot. Why do we forgive him this and sympathize with him as a protagonist? After all, a man who is unfaithful to his wife isn't usually celebrated. But instead of turning him into a monster, he's been shown as human. Affairs happen - it doesn't make you a bad person, just someone who made bad decisions. He loves his kids; he even loves his wife. Not all men who cheat do it out of hatred. Some men are just lost. Don Draper is one of those men.

If Don is a lost man, then Peggy Olson is a lost girl. This poor woman who was brought in as a naive secretary, and by season two's end has become Don Draper's protegee. Faced with having her lover's child, she didn't sit and wait around for him to leave his wife and run to her. She did what plenty of women have done: Had the child and gave it up, then pretended that nothing happened. I don't believe it was purely for selfish reasons, nor do I believe she was too crazy to take care of a child. In my opinion, the shock of having a child when she didn't even realize she was pregnant kept her in deep denial - if she doesn't acknowledge it, then it never happened. It's how she can take Don's advice and run with it, it's how she can face her priest and family. Even if they try to shame her, she never thinks on the idea long enough to feel guilty. Until the possible end of the world during the finale on Sunday. She finally confessed to Pete that she gave up his child, and by the end of the day, she was completely absolved to herself. She'll never have to worry about her secret again because it no longer matters. Everyone involved has been brought full circle. The question now is whether Pete will use the information to harass her. Certainly she has Don in her corner, but I can easily see it turning into something along the following lines:

Peggy: Pete, I need you to take care of this account right now please.

Pete: Hey, remember that time I told you I loved you and then you told me you gave my baby away? Do it yourself.

Can anyone else see this happening?

Originally I'd wanted to explain why this is the best show on t.v., and I know I've gone off on a really, really long tangent and bounced from topic to topic. Basically it boils down to this: It's a real show. It takes every day problems that have been relevant for decades and puts them into a time when the world was an uncertain place. It makes us feel for characters who perhaps shouldn't have our sympathy, it makes us rethink morals and ethics as we've previously defined them, and it gives us a glimpse back in time. And it does all of this with a sense of urgency. This show is what other shows wish they could be.

It's going to be a long, long winter without Mad Men.

Wow, has it been that long?

When exactly did I get behind on this blog? Well, I believe it was during the writer's strike when I explained how I feel. I came back for a hot second and then poof, I was gone again. Not that there's anyone who actually reads this that might be upset by the occasional (really long) hiatus. But still, this was supposed to be my place at the very least to talk about T.V. and have dreams of being famous. (Oh, hush - like you never dreamt it.) I suppose I should fill in exactly what I've been doing.

Originally, this was the place to come for television reviews. But my loyalties have shifted just a bit. I started writing for, where I currently recap Heroes. When Fringe comes back from it's 3 week break, I'll recap that show as well. When the Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica begins, that will also land on my plate. Oh, and don't let me forget to mention that I'll also be recapping the final (sniff) installment of Galactica. That doesn't mean that my T.V. viewing is limited to just those shows. Oh no, I've found an over-whelming amount of television to watch all in the hopes that one day, all of those t.v. moments will help me win a special Jeopardy episode. (No mocking; last week they featured a Mad Men category and I totally knew every answer.)

Shows that I'm absolutely in love with include the aforementioned Mad Men, a reinvented Desperate Housewives, The Office, 30 Rock and Fringe. All of these are cannot miss shows for me. And then there are shows that I watch, but not dedicatedly (I'm making up words) like Grey's Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, Pushing Daisies and House. I know, I know - you can go ahead and string me up now for not being an advocate of Pushing Daisies, but I just can't get into it like I was pre-strike. I want to, but I was busy watching Project Runway and now too much time has passed for me to genuinely care. I think it's a great show, I really do - and I'll be watching that great show on DVD when I can watch the episodes in order from beginning to eventual end.

Speaking of DVDs, I had a compulsion to organize all of mine, perhaps in the spirit of the fall T.V. season. I realize that I have enough to be considered a little too addicted to television, but not enough to say I collect. So I figure that I have two choices: Either start buying more television shows on DVD so that it actually looks like I have a great collection, or start giving them away. The latter will never happen. That means I must start buying DVDs. My collection is random as it is: One season of House, two seasons of The Office, the 'best of' DVDs of Friends. I bought seasons 1-5 of CSI, and won't buy anymore because the show reached it's pinnacle after the incident with Nick. I have all 9 season of The X-Files and a random season of Reno: 911!. I'd like to have a little more order. I would love to have the entire box set of Will & Grace, and I'd like to buy the current seasons of 30 Rock.

I guess I need to start begging for DVDs for my birthday and Christmas, because this is a very expensive hobby. But nothing is better on a lazy Sunday than to stay in pajamas all day and watch old episodes of The X-Files, back when it was at its height. I must also confess that I simply gave away my copy of Grey's Anatomy season 2. I was so disgusted with the show after the ferry boat stuff and the Meredith and George thing and all of the mess after that, that I just let someone have it. I mostly regret that decision now, and I will buy it back. But I'll probably never buy the seasons I missed and pick it back up with the current season. (Speaking of Grey's, Mary McDonnell is showing up on the show for sweeps. Thank the Gods, I missed seeing her on my T.V. screen every week.)

What else is there? I think this is long enough for now. If anyone reads this old thing, I'll be making more updates. Even if no one does, I'd like to have a record of my downward spiral into television addiction. Maybe one day when (not if) I'm writing screenplays, I'll be able to look back at this and laugh. Or cry. We'll see.