Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Next year

J: What are the top three things you are looking forward to in 2012?

1. Downton Abbey - Season 2 starts January 8 and runs for 7 glorious weeks!
2. Game of Thrones - I managed to snag a cable promotional deal that includes HBO so I'll be able to catch up with season 1 on demand and watch season 2 in the spring too. Also I read the first book this year and I bought the next three to read on my new Kindle Touch!
3. The Hunger Games - It better be good! Not so happy about the casting of Peeta but who knows, I could be surprised.

1. Switched at Birth: A surprise hit for all of us on this blog, it comes back early January! (It leads into Jane by Design, which I plan on checking out, too.)
2. The Hobbit: Of course, there's always that chance that it could get delayed from its December opening date and end up premiering in 2013... Hopefully not!
3. The Superbowl, cuz the Ravens will be playing in it! Short of that, I'd have to say the real number one for my list is also The Hunger Games but I'm trying not to get myself over-hyped about it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

J: Books of 2011

So I turned 28 this year and my 10-year high school reunion was this fall (I skipped it) but for some reason I read more young adult novels than ever. I'm not quite sure what this says about me? I think this was kind of the year of easy reading, so maybe next year my book-related resolution will be to actually read the classics that I own but have never finished, i.e. Atlas Shrugged, Anna Karenina, Middlemarch...

Favorite Book, overall
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Favorite "serious" novel
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Favorite Audiobook
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Favorite Young Adult book
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Favorite Fantasy book
The Magicians/The Magician King by Lev Grossman
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Favorite Non-fiction
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Check out my complete list (ordered by date finished) after the jump.

J: Music of 2011

Earlier this year, I read this really great article on NPR called The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything, which talks about how consumers of TV, books, music, and movies generally fall into two categories: people who cull, and people who surrender. People who cull are quick and decisive about which things are worth their time, while people who surrender realize that there's just too much out there that they want to read/see/listen to and will never get to it all. I'm definitely in the latter category, especially when it comes to music. There is just way too much music out there and more and more of it is coming out all the time. At the end of every year I peruse various best of lists and realize how much I've never even heard of! But I surrender. Here's some of what I've been enjoying this year (even if it wasn't released this year):

The Naked and Famous - Punching in a Dream
M83 - We Own the Sky
Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith - Not in Love
La Roux - In For the Kill (Skream's Let's Get Ravey remix)
James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream 
Los Campesinos! - By Your Hand 
Noah and the Whale - Life is Life
Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!
TV on the Radio - Will Do

Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Lykke Li - Youth Novels, Wounded Rhymes
M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Bright Eyes - The People's Key
Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
Girl Talk - Feed the Animals, All Day
Freelance Whales - Weathervanes
Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: things i missed out on

M: Since Jenn has already started posting some 2011 in review posts, here's a top three question related -- what are 3 things you missed out on in 2011 that you hope to try out in the future?

1. 50/50: I really wanted to see this movie and even almost went to see it by myself while traveling overseas, but did not get around to. Even if it was a cancer movie attempting humor... 2011 New Years Resolution Fail #1.
2. Game of Thrones: Mainly the books, but somewhat the TV show as well.  I hear that it's supposed to be a complete series of 7, though, so I have figured I'll wait for the entire series to be published first before starting.
3. The Help: The movie came out this year with one of my favorite actresses of the year -- Emma Stone -- but I do want to read the book first. I heard both were great and I did really want to see the movie and had intended to, but as always did not get around to it. 2011 New Years Resolution Fail #2.

Jennifer: I ditto all of Mira's picks, but here are some other ones too.
1. Homeland: It kind of annoys me how many good shows are on premium cable these days. I love both Damian Lewis and Claire Danes so I really wanted to watch this but I'll have to wait for DVD I guess.
2. Drive: I don't even know what this is about but it got really good reviews and um, Ryan Gosling? Sold.
3. Breaking Bad: It's been on for a few years already but the critical acclaim is just as good, if not better, than it's ever been. If I ever re-activate my Netflix account it'll be to catch up.
Runner ups: Louie, Awkward (an MTV scripted series??)

J: Movies of 2011

Um, I watched so few movies this year that I can just rank them all!

Released this year:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
2. Crazy, Stupid, Love 
3. Jane Eyre 
4. The Muppets
5. X-Men: First Class
6. Captain America: The First Avenger*
7. Thor*
8. Source Code
9. Limitless*
10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (This was dreadful. Really really dreadful.)
*Watched on DVD/Blu-Ray

Movies I want to watch but who knows when I'll get to:
Cedar Rapids, Win Win, Water for Elephants, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, Beginners, Winnie the Pooh, Friends with Benefits, Another Earth, The Help, The Inbetweeners Movie, One Day, The Debt, Drive, Moneyball, 50/50, Margaret, The Ides of March, Footloose, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Like Crazy, Melancholia, The Descendants, Hugo, The Artist, A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Iron Lady

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Terra Nova

I was pleasantly surprised this season with Terra Nova. I thought it would be another cheesy scifi show with silly dinosaurs and a laughable plot. But it's actually a pretty well put together 1 hour sci-fi action drama that the whole family can watch. What really? Yes! It kinda reminds me of shows from way back when like Buck Rogers, Lost in Space, the orignal Battlestar and umm...Seaquest DSV. You wouldn't think they would make shows like that anymore... but surprisingly someone at Fox gave Terra Nova a chance.

The basic premise of the show is that Earth has gone to crap in the year 2149 and scientists have found a way to open a portal to another timeline in the pre-historic past where the Earth still is verdant and livable, and yes, filled with hungry dinos. A community called Terra Nova is created there...and of course there are baddies who just want to strip the place of all its resources to become rich in 2149.

The show is anchored by "Commander Taylor" played by Stephan Lang (recognizable as the bad military dude from the movie Avatar). But in Terra Nova he plays the strong, fatherly, leader of the Terra Nova community. The show centers around a family with a father who is a cop, a mom that's a doctor, a nerdy older sister, troublemaker brother and cutesy younger sister. Pretty standard family dynamics here, but the acting is pretty decent so it's watchable. The actress who plays the mom (Shelley Conn) is of Sri Lankan descent and is British, so that's kinda different. All in all a very likable cast.

The plot lines don't get too complicated but there was enough there to keep my interest. Which is saying a lot since I lose interest in shows very easily. Have no idea if they'll make another season but hope they do!

J: TV of 2011

So the Golden Globe nominations were announced about a week ago and I came to the possibly sad realization that despite the fact that I have a TV blog and my DVR spent most of the year over 80% full, I watch precious few of the nominated shows (only Modern Family and New Girl in the Comedy/musical category, and none of the dramas). I guess I can put most of it on the fact that I don't have premium cable...and the rest on the fact that the Golden Globes are just dumb! Here's the TV that I thought was worth watching this year!

1. Downton Abbey - SO addictive. On the surface it seems like just your run-of-the-mill British costume drama but actually it's on steroids. I'm so frickin excited for season 2 to start on PBS in January!
2. Friday Night Lights - Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! I was so excited that the show was finally recognized by the Emmys also!
3. The Vampire Diaries - The craziness continues. I don't know how the writers manage to keep pumping out story at the pace that they do. I was initially worried about how big a role they were giving Klaus this season but I shouldn't have been -- the way they've tied Stefan and even Tyler in the storyline has been surprising and as always, a whole lot of fun.
4. Parks and Recreation - There's just so much here -- Ron Swanson of course, Andy and April's wedding, Leslie and Ben finally getting together and then breaking up and getting back together, Entertainment 720, Lil's smart and funny and maybe most importantly, really cheery and optimistic. Leslie Knope for America!
5. Community - Maybe one of the most daring and creative shows on TV because of the way it plays with structure. It doesn't always work -- sometimes it falls of the edge into complete wackadoo (I did not find Pierce's father to be funny in the least) -- but when it does, it's brilliant. They're still finding new and interesting dynamics among the characters (like the recently discovered shared past of Jeff and Shirley) and have found a good balance between all the weirdness and the sentimental stuff lying beneath the surface.
6. Justified - I still find it hard to explain why in the world I love this show about a US Marshal in Kentucky who wears a Stetson hat. But man was the show good this season. Mags Bennett was one of the freshest TV villains in years.
7.  Doctor Who - I finally caught up to the Eleventh Doctor this year and he might actually be my favorite. And I totally want to be Amy Pond!
8. Cougar Town - It hasn't returned this season yet but in the spring it was one of my favorites. It's so silly but with a good dose of heart.
9. Love in the Wild - Every once in awhile a reality show just totally hooks me. Thanks Mira! And the top two couples, Samantha & Mike and Heather & Miles are still together! Take that, The Bachelor/ette!
10. Greek - I'm so happy that the show got to have a proper ending. Most people probably saw the show as pretty inconsequential but I was always really impressed with its continuity and attention to detail and just all the really fun characters it produced like Cappie and Rebecca and Katherine and Dale...I wish my own college experience had been that fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Live music!

J: Name your top three live music performances that you've seen!

1. Arcade Fire at Cornell University. I've mentioned this concert many times already. They were still an up-and-coming band at the time so they played this random "multipurpose" room in a crappy old dining hall/community center that's since been bulldozed. The stage was too small for them and all their instruments but they were AMAZING nonetheless. I was right off to the side and could practically touch Régine and Richard Reed Parry. So good!!
2. Modest Mouse at Central Park Summerstage. My original review!
3. Ted Leo + Pharmacists at Cornell (same place as the Arcade Fire show). There was this awesome club at Cornell called the Fanclub Collective that managed to get all these indie acts to play for really cheap. I wish I had known about them earlier and gone to more of their concerts! Ted Leo puts on such a great show. My friend and I even got a photo with him afterward!

1. Green Day at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD -- My original review.
2. Keane at State Theater in Michigan -- I enjoyed this concert so much that I blogged about it, went to see them again at Merriweather with The Killers, and blogged about that as well!
3. Madonna at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV -- Got complimentary tickets at the casino cuz my aunt used to gamble that much. This concert was probably the most expensive concert I have ever attended in terms of ticket face-value (I think it was $375/ticket), and given the amount of production that goes into her concerts, it's not a big surprise.  I'm not a huge Madonna fan but I've gotta admit that she put on a fabulous show.  Almost enough to make me consider going to a Lady Gaga concert. Haha. Almost.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

J: 2011 Resolutions - How Did I Do?

Once again, back in January, we made some blog-related New Year's resolutions. Now that it's almost the end of the year, let's see how I did!

1. Keep track of the books I finish reading. And try to finish more books in general. I have a terrible habit of borrowing too many books from the library at once and then returning most without finishing them. 
Well, I did keep track of all the books I read this year. (I used Goodreads.) I'll do another post with the complete list but I read 38 books this year and listened to 6 audiobooks (so far, there's still a few weeks left). As for the second part, given that I've never counted before, I don't know whether that's more or less than in the past...but I'm going to claim success on this anyway.

2. Start/catch up on at least some of the following TV shows: Doctor Who, Breaking Bad, The Pacific, The Wire, Treme. 
I totally caught up with Doctor Who! Well, I haven't yet finished the current season, but still. I didn't touch any of the others though. So I guess technically I can claim success on this but really I don't feel good about it.

3. Tackle Netflix queue. Carried over from last year. I'm hopefully going to get a Blu-Ray with Netflix streaming sometime soon so perhaps that will help. I'm at 338 and adding more all the time...
FAIL. But not completely my fault! When Netflix stupidly split up their DVD and streaming plans, I cancelled DVDs, and then recently I put streaming on hold too and subscribed to Hulu Plus instead because I can't even keep up with current TV, never mind old shows on streaming (see previous resolution). Sooooo yeah. I won't be repeating this one next year, I think it's just kind of hopeless...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fall TV: Second looks, Part 2

Ok, so I started writing this blog like 2 months ago, but the problem was that I actually hadn't gotten around to giving some of these shows a second look, never mind writing about it. And um, I still haven't...and possibly won't.

Hart of Dixie - Predictable but cute. Lemon and Brick both grate but they have some moments of likability, especially around George. This doesn't seem like the type of show that will have them be antagonists forever but I am glad that Zoe is not a Rory Gilmore who instantly wins over everyone in town though. I'm sad that Nancy Travis had to leave the show (to go to Last Man Standing) though...she was a nice, sane grounding presence.
Status: Keeper.

Revenge - I know a lot of people (including my mom, of all people) are really loving this but I fell behind and just haven't really had the desire to catch up. The whole season is on Hulu Plus though, so I suppose if I'm ever bored...
Status: On the shelf.

Ringer - I tried, I really tried. The CW did give the show a full-season order but the few episodes I watched were just not good. Unless the buzz somehow becomes amazing, I think I'm done.
Status: Off the DVR.

Pan Am - I mean, I really genuinely liked the pilot. But then I just never watched another episode. And now apparently it's pretty much as good as cancelled so...yeah.
Status: Overcome by events.

Super Chefs vs. Top Chefs

For the longest time, if you asked me what my favorite food competitive reality show on TV was, I'd have said Top Chef, no question. But after a strong All-Stars season, returning to the traditional format has actually felt a little tired. There are still a ton of chefs left so I don't want to speak too soon but no one is really impressing me so far. And surprisingly, I might be enjoying another food show more right now: Next Iron Chef. I hadn't even watched the last couple of seasons (and I don't watch Iron Chef America regularly either, I might add) but the cast and the new format has just been really fun. Let's check in with both!

Top Chef
Bravo's motto seems to be that you can never have too much of a good thing so this season started off with two extra "audition" episodes. They started off with 29 chefs and had this odd bracketed elimination to narrow them down to the usual 16. I found this to be somewhat unfair...each of the three groups had different challenges and the judges handed out the chef coats as they went so the odds just seemed really stacked against the chefs in the last group. They also put a number of chefs "on the bubble" and put them through an additional challenge to fill the last few spots. I personally found these episodes to be pretty boring. Just too many chefs, too many dishes, and not a lot of reason to root for one chef over the other. 

Once we got into the "real" competition, it did feel very much like just classic Top Chef, but I don't think anyone has really distinguished themselves yet. One new interesting thing that I do like though, is this "secret" side web competition called Last Chance Kitchen. Each chef eliminated from the main competition goes head-to-head against the winner of the previous week's installment and supposedly the last one standing will get to return and compete in the actual finale. Tom Colicchio himself hosts and judges. I'm not sure how this will affect the outcome of the season, if at all, but it's a fun little extra nugget.

The Next Iron Chef:
This season was dubbed the season of the "Super Chefs" and for good reason...Food Network did a pretty awesome job getting together a cast of already very recognizable TV chefs. These chefs have their own cooking shows, have competed on or judged other food reality shows, and have been challengers in Kitchen Stadium. The only possible WTF contestant was Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame...but he was eliminated first anyway.

I very much like the format changes they made. Each episode now starts with the regular "Chairman's Challenge" (the most ridiculous thing about this show is how everyone from Alton Brown to the judges and competitors all defer to the Chairman who's really just a hilariously over-the-top actor...) which have themes such as improvisation, storytelling, risk, etc. and then the bottom two in that challenge have to complete in the "Secret Ingredient Showdown" which is basically a mini Iron Chef challenge--30 minutes to make one dish with the secret ingredient. I'm definitely a fan of this two-stage elimination, especially since the chefs are all so strong.

There are four chefs left standing: Michael Chiarello, Geoffrey Zakarian, Elizabeth Falkner, and Alex Guarnaschelli. I think either Zakarian or Falkner would make the best Iron Chefs...they're both super creative and can really execute. Chiarello was surprisingly kind of a beast on Top Chef Masters but I don't think Iron Chef needs another Italian specialist and honestly I find Guarnaschelli to just be kind of annoying.

Actually Top Chef Masters is probably a better show to compare to this one just based on the caliber of the chefs -- and Next Iron Chef definitely wins out. Masters was somehow really boring, maybe because the stakes just weren't as high? That was just a title, whereas this is, well, another job and probably growing recognition?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: on stage

M: Jenn and I went to the theater today, which inspired me with this week's question!  What are your top three (non-Broadway-musical) stage productions that you've seen? 

1. New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker. Mira and I saw this together as kids! There's a reason this is such a holiday classic! I never did ballet but I was obsessed with this photo book A Very Young Dancer as a kid which was followed a young ballerina who had a part in the Nutcracker.
2. Cirque du Soleil. I've only seen two traveling shows (Ovo and Quidam) but the displays of human strength and flexibility and balance and skill is just incredible. I really want to see the permanent shows in Vegas -- I hear they're even better!
3. Mira and I just went to see a performance of Pride & Prejudice at the Round House Theatre here in Maryland tonight and it was so fun! There was this really cool rotating set piece that changed the scenes and so many of the actors were really spot on. They played up the humorous bits but kept all of the great quotes from the book.

1. Cirque du Soleil's O, in Vegas, is hands down the most incredible stage production I have ever seen.  If I hadn't been there watching it with my own eyes, I would never believe it possible to perform such stunts on stage!  The stage, which revolved, changed levels, went from solid ground to full water pool -- craziness!  Not even the drowsy music tempted me to sleep (I have fallen asleep during other stage productions... Cirque du Soleil Ka and Phantom of the Opera to name two), the acts were so amazing.
2. Jenn and I went to see Giselle at the Kennedy Center two years ago.  I wasn't expecting all that much other than it being a ballet and one of the more famous ones.  But what really impressed me was how through the movements and music I was able to follow and be immersed in a different kind of storytelling.  In many ways, I found it easier to watch than some musicals where I needed to pay attention to lyrics to follow the storyline. It was beautiful, simple, and elegant; and makes me excited to go watch more ballet!
3. (Jenn, this will amuse you...) Stuy Sing!  This was an annual production at Jenn's high school, Stuyvesant, where the different classes (senior, junior, sophomore/freshman) wrote, created, directed, acted, produced a play and competed with each other to win.  I went to at least two years of it while I was in high school (not at Stuy).  I remember the first year I went, when we were sophomores (I think), and the Junior class (I think) at the time won.  It was a really cute performance of two islands that were gender separated and brought in cleverly rewritten lyrics to songs such as Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It."  I thought it was a fun competition and I really enjoyed it; enough so that almost 13(ish?) years later I still remember it!

On a side note, stage productions I would love the opportunity to see: an opera, in particular Carmen; Shakespeare, in particular The Twelfth Night or Much Ado About Nothing.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Getting in the spirit

J: What are your top three songs that get you in the holiday spirit?

1. Silver Bells - New York City is the best during Christmastime! I don't really have a favorite version so here's a new one from She & Him.
2. Christmas Time is Here - Actually the whole Charlie Brown Christmas album is pretty great.
3. The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping - Bah humbug!

Mira: Funny, I was walking around Baltimore singing "Silver Bells" today. :D
1. I like classics, such as "The First Noel."
2. But a more modern one that I like includes "Sleigh Ride."
3. And, cuz I love Pachelbel's Canon, "Christmas Canon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Addicted

M: Every once in a while I come across a tv show/book/song that I quickly get ridiculously addicted to.  Name your top three!

1. Korean Dramas: When I come across a fun one with likable characters, there's no stopping me on my rampage to finish the series.  Most recently I watched one called You're Beautiful (available on Hulu) -- started on Sunday, 13 November, finished on Thursday, 17 November.  16 episodes, each over one hour.
2. Hunger Games: I waited until the final book of the series, Mockingjay, was released before starting the full series. Purchased all 3 while traveling in Italy, started it at the Roma airport on the way back home. Got through 2.67 of the 3 books by the time I landed in Baltimore. It was ridiculous; no wait, the books were simply ridiculously good. I think it's time to reread them. :)
3.  Alias, seasons 1 and 2: This show got really bad the longer it dragged out, but it started SO strong. I started watching the show well after the 2nd season had already started and I think I went through the first season of episodes so quickly to catch up.  In fact, the only way I could stop my spree of watching 4+ episodes in one sitting was by stopping in the middle of the episodes; if I watched to the end of an epeisode, I would automatically start the next episode because of the cliffhangers at the end of each episode!

1. Downton Abbey: So so good. Series 2 has already aired in the UK but isn't coming to the States until January and I CANNOT WAIT!!! On first glance it seems like your standard British costume drama but it's just so...juicy. Love it!
2. Skins (original British version): I started off not really being sure what to think of it, but I ended up just devouring episode after episode. Even when the characters were incredibly frustrating and the storylines were repetitive and stupid, there was still just something about this show that kept me hooked.
3. Harry Potter: Obvious choice but the first three books had already been out by the time I got into it and I sped through them in like a week. The last book was the only one I've ever gone to buy the day it came out.

[Mira: Sorry again for the delayed publishing -- my fault yet again. I had started drafting the post early but then of course with the Thanksgiving festivities I completely forgot to FINISH the post on Thursday. Must do better. Only a few weeks left of Thursday Top Threes!] 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Blogging

J: It's been a busy fall and our blog output has been pretty low. What are the top three things that you've been wanting to blog about but haven't gotten to? For our readers, what do you wish we had covered?

1. The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Influenced by the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter, but for adults. It's darker and grittier but still a lot of fun.
2. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This jumped pretty high on my list of all-time favorite children's books. (Actually I listened to it on audiobook!) It's part mystery, part science fiction and key elements include Manhattan, a game show, and A Wrinkle in Time. No wonder I loved it!
3. The Sing-off. I'm obsessed with Pentatonix. I can't get over that there's only 5 people in the group. Their bass and percussion are insanely good. They better win!!

1. A few TV shows that hooked me last season: The Good Wife and Hawaii Five-O.  They're both shows on my must watch as soon as possible list (vs. sits on my DVR for weeks list; or gets watched simply to make room for more recordings list).
2.  The X-Factor: I'm a few weeks behind on this show right now, but I have a few favorites that truly impress me each week that I watch it -- in particular, Drew!
3. Catch up movies: Actually most catch up movies for me are movies I got to watch on plane rides.  I don't get to the movie theater all that often, so when I have super duper long international flights with the individual media centers available, I end up watching movies the ENTIRE flight.  Most recently, I referenced a few I watched in a previous post: Midnight in Paris, Something Borrowed, and Bridesmaids. I had meant to blog about them and then never got around to it. 

Sorry for the day late Thursday Talk post -- I (Mira) obviously need a weekly reminder. Oops!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Hobbies

M: Top three most interesting hobbies from books, movies, or TV.

1. Building rockets from October Sky. Engineering FTW! (Actually, even though I'm an engineer I've never had many engineering-related hobbies. But I love this movie!)
2. Fashion design from Gossip Girl. Hated Jenny (so glad she's off the show) and I wasn't into her designs or personal style on the show but fashion design is a pretty cool hobby. I really want to learn how to use a sewing machine!
3. Roller derby from Whip It! Actually I don't understand roller derby and I don't think I'd want to do it, but the movie makes it look really fun.

Mira: Ooh, I love Jenn's number 3 answer!
1. Kono on Hawaii Five-0: Surfing, which isn't surprising for a show in Hawaii... I guess Blue Crush could be cited here, too, but I know I could never do it but it seems like such an interesting culture and outlet.
2. Cliff from Bring It On: Song writing.  There are probably a ton of characters I can attribute that to, but I enjoyed his goofy lyrics and dorky commitment to it. And it was what made his character special. :)
3. Clare from Time Traveler's Wife: Paper making, which is more her career than a hobby, but something that sounds fascinating in general for anyone to do. How does one even get into doing that?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Misfits

J: Top three characters that just don't belong on the TV show they're on.

1. Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation. I really love Rashida Jones and think she's actually really funny but the show just doesn't really know what to do with her: one of the few flaws in an otherwise fantastic show that's really firing on all cylinders this season.
2. Matt on The Vampire Diaries. I guess they've tried to get him more into things this season with the ghost storyline and whatnot but poor guy just isn't that interesting. I'm still secretly a Matt/Caroline shipper though...Tyler is freaking me out.
3. Drew on Parenthood. It's not so much that he doesn't belong as that the show often forgets that he exists.
Bonus: Jai on Covert Affairs. Sometimes the character doesn't even really seem like he wants to be there.

1. Zooey Deschanel on New Girl. She has a little too much personality given the extreme lack of personality of the rest of the characters. I think she needs to be on a different show, that's better.
2. Puck on Glee. I'm not quite sure why they dropped Trouty Mouth this season and kept Puck on with the lamest storylines ever.
3. April on Gilmore Girls. The show would have been better had she never been in it. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Crossover couples

M: Which characters on different shows/movies/books would you love to see together? (Thanks to Burkie for the question!!)

Jennifer: The possibilities are kind of overwhelming so I'm sticking to TV.
1. Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls) and Dan Humphrey (Gossip Girl).
2. Ted (How I Met Your Mother) and Megan (Privileged) - This is kind of a cheat because Joanna Garcia actually was on HIMYM as a love interest for Ted in one episode but honestly, it seems like there aren't a lot of TV actresses of appropriate age left that haven't been love interests for Ted...
3. Laurie (Cougar Town) and Ben (Parks and Recreation).

Mira: Since Jenn stuck to TV, I did, too! I focused on shows that I felt needed ships or the character could have done better...
1. Jared (Pretender), genius and capable of taking on any job without being noticed, and Sydney Bristow (Alias), super spy.  Their kids would kick total ass.
2. Tristan (Gilmore Girls), sarcastic but vulnerable pretty boy, and Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars), sarcastic but vulnerable teenaged detective.  He says jerk things to protect an insecure interior; she calls it as she sees it.  Tristan may be a bit like Logan on VM except prettier and less douche-y.
3. Jess (The New Girl), Zooey Deschanel playing super dorky but gorgeous, and Ted (How I Met Your Mother), normal but dorky guy who takes a really long time telling his kids about how he met their mother.  I think this could be a possibility!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Currently listening to...

J: Keeping it simple this week. What are your current top three favorite songs?

Jennifer: I've been on an electronic music kick lately!
1. M83 - We Own the Sky. M83 just came out with a new album but this song is from their last one. Love the video too!
2. Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith - Not in Love. I think I've been listening to this song once a day for the last month...
3. Lykke Li - Tonight. I will fully admit that I first heard this song on So You Think You Can Dance...

Mira: Unlike Jenn, I'm pretty much all pop. :)

1. Coldplay - Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall. I hated them for "Clocks" but "Viva la Vida" turned me around and I love this song in the same exact way..
2. Bad Meets Evil featuring Bruno Mars and Eminem - Lighters. I like songs with lotsa different elements to them.
3.  Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks. Something very... chill about this song.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Cars!

B:  i'm filling in for mira again, so i decided to play my Man Card.  what are your favorite cars from film?

1.  The Batmobile.  the movie versions were interesting, but this will always be the batmobile for me.
2.  The Mirthmobile.  okay, maybe not man card worthy, but certainly memorable.
3.  The red ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Not so much the car itself, but how it was used in the movie.
i can think of about a hundred honorable mentions; it was tough to narrow this down to three, and i'm not even a car guy!

Jennifer: Yikes, I really do not pay attention to cars...
1. The DeLorean from Back to the Future. Obvs.
2. The yellow VW bus from Little Miss Sunshine.
3. Sebastian's Jaguar from Cruel Intentions. Um, I remember Reese Witherspoon driving away in it at the end of the movie.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Fall TV: Second looks, Part 1

I usually like to watch at least two episodes of a new show before really passing judgement on it. Pilots need to do a lot in terms of introducing the world and the characters and the tone of the show and isn't always a good indicator of what the show is going to be week in and week out. So here's how I feel about this fall's crop of new shows now that we're a few weeks in.

2 Broke Girls - Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs have really great chemistry and I think watching the relationship between Max and Caroline develop will be really fun. The problem is that the rest of the show is kind of awful. The supporting characters are all caricatures, almost bordering on offensive, and the jokes are...bad. They're mean, or dated, or just stupid. I like that there's a bit of a trajectory for the show with the cupcake business but even that concept feels a bit tired.
Status: On notice.

New Girl - Despite a cast member change (Coach is out, Winston is in), the show we saw in the second and third episodes was pretty consistent with what we saw in the pilot. Whether you like this show is still basically dependent on whether you like Jess (and Zooey Deschanel) or not. If you do, there's really a lot to like here. Jess is definitely wacky but there are enough moments where she pulls it back and is more normal. I'm liking Nick a lot (I was a fan of the actor from that odd movie Paper Heart) and I think they're figuring out Schmidt more and more.
Status: Definite keeper.

Suburgatory - One of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Silly but smart and Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto are really great. A bonus: Alan Tudyk (of Firefly and Serenity) is hilarious as the ridiculously tanned and chipper Noah.
Status: Definite keeper.

The Secret Circle - I called the pilot "slick" and the show has definitely kept that up. I like the characters and the episodes have great pacing and effects and all that but the mythology is already tripping me up. I guess the characters are still figuring things out on their own as well but I'm so confused about what the parents know and what their intentions are and when things happened to them. Oh, and Cassie's mom graduated high school in 1995?? So basically all the teens were born when their parents were 18? I hope that the writers have this stuff figured out. Oh, and I really don't care about Melissa/Nick, and the whole Cassie-Adam-Diana love triangle is just kinda dreadful.
Status: Keeper, for now.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Brought back to life

J: The Internet has been buzzing yet again about the possibility of an Arrested Development movie. I'm doubtful about whether this will actually happen but it leads to my question for this week: what are your top three defunct TV shows that you would love to come back in a feature film?

Jennifer: (I guess I am just answering my own question this week...)
1. The Nine Lives of Chloe King. Mira and I were pretty into this show and were really bummed when it was cancelled. I feel like this story would have been really fun as an ABCFamily original movie but unfortunately that's never going to happen because the series failed.
2. Pushing Daisies - Did this show get a real ending? I think that the setting and visual style of this show would translate really well to a movie.
3. Lone Star - One of the most promising pilots last year that crashed and burned FAST. People were questioning its long-term viability as a series, probably because the premise was really just better suited for a movie.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall TV: Suburgatory

My first thought on hearing about this show: awful title. My second thought: Jeremy Sisto is old enough to be playing the father of a 16-year-old?? Man, I am getting old.

Anyway, my third thought: the premise didn't necessarily make sense to me...a single father finds condoms in his teenage daughter's room and decides that they need to move out of New York City to the suburbs? Like kids in the suburbs don't have sex? And the suburb they move to isn't like any suburb I've lived's kinda Real Housewives of New Jersey where people are really tan and wear ridiculous clothes.

But all that aside, this was actually pretty funny. Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto have good chemistry and comic timing as Tessa and her dad George, and the supporting cast (including Cheryl Hines) are almost caricatures but not quite. Unexpected, but there's definitely potential here.

Fall TV: Pan Am

Two network shows this fall appear to be trying to ride the coattails of Mad Men's success: NBC's The Playboy Club and ABC's Pan Am. Based partially on the subject matter and partially on bad reviews, I didn't even bother checking out the former but I did watch the latter and I was actually pleasantly surprised.

Judging by the pilot, this is a very different show from Mad Men. Mad Men has this rather brooding, contemplative and sometimes even sinister atmosphere to it while Pan Am starts off with, well, quite a lot of cheery fun. We are introduced to four young, beautiful stewardesses of the erstwhile airline, and while of course there are the indignities of being a female in that era (weigh ins, girdles, etc) and various complications in their lives (mainly romantic), they love their jobs and the opportunity to be independent and travel the world in glamorous fashion.

The biggest name in the cast is Christina Ricci, who plays Maggie, a beatnik type, but interestingly she had probably the smallest part in the first episode. Kelli Garner (who I liked in that show My Generation from last season that was awful but really watchable) is Kate, who is actually a spy on the side! And I didn't recognize the actresses playing the other two women, Laura (Kate's sister who was literally a runaway bride) and Collette (French? Or French-Canadian?) but they were both pretty likable as well. There are some men on this show, too, Mike Vogel as an optimistic, good-hearted pilot, and Michael Mosely as his womanizing copilot.

I'm not that clear on where the show is going to go moving forward -- it has some soapy elements but the premiere was kind of...feel-good, which is something kind of rare in dramas these days. While the show will clearly be incorporating some real-life history (there was this odd flashback of some of the crew rescuing people from the Bay of Pigs), I kind of doubt it'll be getting too gritty. Everything is pretty...glossy. But I don't necessarily have a problem with that, so I'm definitely interested to see how things progress.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Conspiracy Theory

burkie (filling in for mira this week):  conspiracy stories are big business in books, movies, and TV (not to mention journalism).  what are your top three?

1. The Manchurian Candidate - the original film starring frank sinatra, laurence harvey, and angela lansbury.  thrilling stuff.  caught some of the remake with denzel washington on TV once, but it didn't come close.
2.  L.A. Confidential - conspiracy plus noir, so you know i like it. a great cast (russell crowe, guy pierce, and kevin spacey) and superbly directed.  one of my all-time favorite films.
3.  The Da Vinci Code - the novel by dan brown.  although i enjoyed Angels & Demons more from a story perspective, the sheer scope & magnitude of the conspiracy in The Da Vinci Code is fascinating.
honorable mention: The Chancellor Manuscript by Robert Ludlum.  not his best-known novel, but i love the conspiracy that he weaves around the death of j. edgar hoover.

1. The X-files- Um, I watched all 9 seasons (plus 2 feature films) of this show and I can't really explain the conspiracy or how things ended up. But I did really like Cigarette Smoking Man and Krycek and the Lone Gunmen and all that stuff throughout the course of the series.
2. North by Northwest - Perhaps because conspiracy stories are usually twisty and confusing but I don't remember many details about any of my top three. I need to rewatch this...
3. The 39 Steps - I actually only watched the recent BBC version of this with Rupert Penry-Jones which supposedly paled in comparison to the Hitchcock version but I really liked the story. I'll definitely have to watch the Hitchcock film sometime.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall TV: Hart of Dixie

I'm a fan of Rachel Bilson from her days as Summer Roberts on The OC and her new show, Hart of Dixie has a nice old-school WB feel, despite it being from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (who kind of pioneered the move away from those shows with the aforementioned OC and Gossip Girl). I'm not sure if there's really an audience for this show anymore (similar feeling Privileged and, at least initially, Life Unexpected, didn't last very long) but I rather liked it.

Bilson plays Zoe Hart, a rising star surgeon who is rejected from her desired NYC cardiothoracic fellowship because she's supposedly too cold and impersonal with her patients. Her plans foiled, she accepts a job as a general practitioner in small town Bluebell, Alabama. When she arrives, she discovers that the man who offered her the job has passed away and left her his half of the practice. (The other half, Dr. Breeland, is not so welcoming.) After some initial mishaps, an emergency baby delivery (of course), and a revelation that ties Zoe to the town in a way she never expected, Dr. Hart is in Bluebell to stay.

Yeah, it all sounds kind of cheesy and predictable. But Bilson is charming (even though she's really stretching credibility as a cold, detached Cristina Yang type) and so is Scott Porter (Jason Street from Friday Night Lights) as a lawyer returned to his hometown to marry his childhood sweetheart, the ridiculously named Lemon Breeland (played by Jaime King, doing her usual Jamie King thing). Also in the cast is Cress Williams (also from FNL, but in a very different role) as former football player and town mayor.

I'm glad that the CW isn't just making teen shows anymore and I think this may have the potential to become a Gilmore Girls-esque quirky small town show. And hopefully Schwartz and Savage have enough clout with the network that they won't get pressured to "spice things up" aka run the show into the ground...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Sing-Off: season 3, week 2

Seriously, The Sing-Off would get a little more respect from me if it stopped trying to blatantly steal Glee's thunder. First, to announce itself as starting a musical movement in America? This TV trend is definitely thanks to Glee, which found success, in my opinion, partly due to American Idol watchers. Then, there's the thing of The Sing-Off's group numbers two weeks in a row-- both songs highlighted in last season's Glee and used in The Glee Project as well! "Raise Your Glass" performed by The Warblers and "Sing" sung by the New Directions. Sigh. The Sing-Off in its own right has so much going for it but these choices make it impossible not to draw these riding-on-the-coattail-of-Glee's-success conclusions.

Now onto my thoughts about this week's 8 groups...

Pack One:
  • Dartmouth Aires: (performing "Higher Ground") This group amused me, from their personality to their outfits. You can tell that they're totally having a blast! I think it's funny that the groups are each given a color to differentiate in their first week of performances and the Aires chose green and orange! Haha. All the way to their socks and shoes.
  • Pentatonix: (performing "E.T.") This was a really interesting arrangement. Their bass and effects were ridiculously awesome. I was worried cuz the groups who try to do something dance-y often give performances that are pretty disastrous but this group of FIVE pulled it off!
  • Messiah's Men: (performing some gospel song) I think it's awesome that they got a group of refugees who banded together through acapella to be on the show. These men were so inspiring. They don't have the wow factor of some of the other performances but they have such a story. Plus it gives you a warm and fuzzy happy feeling to watch and listen to them perform.
  • Two groups of five in the first pack! Sonos (performing "Wicked Game"). Apparently they normally perform using effects pedals--Ingrid (Michaelson) does that! I wouldn't mind seeing Sonos in concert but I didn't think they were dynamic enough to make it out of the first pack. Great sound but there was very little on the performance side.
Surprisingly, the judges chose Messiah's Men to leave this week. (No more curse of performing second in your pack, though!) :(

Pack Two:
  • The Collective (performing "Rolling in the Deep"). Their lead singer is the one I didn't like in the full ensemble number. I also felt like there was too much going on in this number. This group felt less cohesive than the other groups for me.
  • Soul'd Out (performing "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In"): What horrible outfits the girls were wearing. Cuz there were so many of them (a group of 16!), I really thought it was hard for the leads to pop. Plus the leads had good voices but not great, commanding voices like some of the other lead vocalists in the other groups.  They did have some great harmonies together, though.
  • North Shore (performing "Runaround Sue"): A doowop group and they were so cute! They finally brought the energy the second half of the episode was sorely missing!
  • Deltones (performing "Feels Like Home") The group supported their lead vocalist so perfectly in this number. And the lead vocalist had one of the strongest lead vocals in this pack. With the weak performance by the first two groups, I definitely thought they were safe.
Oddly the Collective was saved before Deltones in this pack, but ultimately the judges sent home Soul'd Out. (And the curse of performing second in the pack returns!)

Once again while watching this week's group of eight, I was wondering how the packs of four were determined? The first two of the final pack were weaker than any of the groups in the first pack in this episode or the last pack in the first week's episode! I definitely would have sent home The Collective before Messiah's Men or Cat's Pajamas, personally. Oh well.  I'm not sure I have any strong favorites, but I am looking forward to some fun musical performances!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Food!

J: Stole this topic from my favorite podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour -- what are your top three favorite movies about food or featuring food? 

Mira: Stopping by cuz I can. And I LOVE this question!
1. No Reservations: Loved this, and made me wanna eat everything they were making.
2. Simply Irresistable: A silly movie, but so likable.
3. Chicken Run: It's probably extremely horrible that I put this on the list... but... I remember still watching this in the movie theater and the movie making me really crave chicken pot pie. Why is this so terrible, you ask? Well, it's a movie about chickens trying to run away from people who had created this machine where you stuck the chicken in and out popped a chicken pot pie.
Honorable mention: Waitress for the pies, if only I liked pie more.
Need to watch: Ratatouille, Julie & Julia, Chocolat, Tortilla Soup.
I think I know at least one, if not two, of Burkie's answers. :)

 Jennifer: My answers are pretty standard...
1. Big Night: I can still picture that crazy timpano. Love Stanley Tucci!
2. Eat Drink Man Woman: Mmmm Chinese food.
3. Julie & Julia: The Julie parts of the movie kind of grated but all the scenes with Meryl Streep as Julia Child eating were hilarious and made me really really hungry. And Stanley Tucci again!
Honorable mention: The movie isn't about food, but I love the scenes in Sabrina at the culinary school in Paris =)

Fall TV: airplane previews

So, my favorite thing about flying internationally is the personalized entertainment systems that allow you to choose from tons of movies to watch.  Except for when the airlines don't have this luxury available; then there's nothing nice about flying internationally -- it's just long, uncomfortable, and your sleep schedule gets all screwed up.

On a recent flight, I got lucky and one of my many legs had my favorite personalized entertainment system and believe me, I made use of it. I watched Something Borrowed (fun enough), Midnight in Paris (really enjoyed it and thought-provoking in the Woody Allen way), Bridesmaids (fun!), Arthur (not horrible), and two sneak season premiers: Revenge and Once Upon a Time! I have no idea why they were available on the flight, but since they're on my list of shows I plan to watch this fall, I took full advantage of the opportunity!  At this point Revenge has already aired, but Once Upon a Time won't premier for another month... Here are a few of my thoughts on both premiers!

[Incidentally, the funniest part of my movie watching experience is that the 40- or 50-something Asian American man sitting next to me on the plane watched pretty much all the same movies as me during this flight, with the exception of Arthur I think. Every time I glanced over at his screen, he was watching the SAME MOVIE AS ME.]

So, as I blogged previously, my knowledge of this show was minimal and my expectations were low. I was definitely wrong to assume this would just be another run of the mill drama -- I'm hooked!  The show drew me in from the opening scene and as we watched the complex relationships between all the characters unfold, I was impressed! It was everything Ringer failed to be; it didn't fall into the trap of being a pilot that needed to set up a story.  It accomplished all that but it really unveiled the story beautifully and everything about it was just fantastic!

Short synopsis: Emily Thorne (born Amanda Clarke) has returned to the Hamptons to enact revenge on the families that helped destroy her father and thus her childhood. From her father's lover, the wife and queen of the Hamptons, Victoria Grayson, to his secretary Lydia Davis, who was having an affair with Victoria's husband, Conrad. Additionally, the story starts with Emily's engagement party to Victoria and Conrad's son, Daniel, who is shortly found murdered on the beach. If that doesn't build a complicated enough social network, Amanda's best friend as a child, Jack Porter still lives in the area with a boat named after Amanda; and she's able to afford this Hampton's lifestyle due to the success of a business partner of her father's.

Yeah it's complicated, there are a lot of characters and even more storylines accompanying each of the characters and their relationships with each other.  But despite ALL that craziness, it was laid out beautifully in the pilot. I'm excited to see where this show goes and I'm already rooting for Amanda and Jack! :)

Once Upon a Time
I was super excited about this show, as evidenced in a previous post. Fairy Tales, Ginnifer Goodwin (I'm not sure why, but I really like her), and well, that's all I needed to be really excited.  I was less excited about Jennifer Morrison (better known as Cameron from House), but you know what?  I liked her in this show!  I was worried that my high expectations would lead to disappointment, but it did not. If anything, I am even more excited to see where this show goes; unfortunately, I have to wait another MONTH before they even air the episode I already watch.... meaning 5 weeks before another new episode. Sigh.

Synopsis (ignore this if you want to be surprised by the premier): Snow White and her Prince have their happily ever after only to have it threatened by the evil stepmother.  The kingdom discovers that the only way to save it is through the child of Snow White and the Prince who is placed in a special closet for safekeeping (the evil people were attacking).  This child (a daughter) grows up in normal, non-fairy tale world and has a child of her own who she gives up for adoption at birth because she's so screwed up herself from not having had any parents. The next generation child is adopted and raised in the town where all the fairy tale people ended up after the evil attack, having forgotten their true identities. Now the previous generation child needs to go and save fairy tale land. Following all that? :)

Basically, fairy tale world existed but it got melded into regular world and now Snow White's child needs to go and save fairy tale world and bring the happily ever after back.  I loved how the fairy tale was shared and I thought the cast was all perfectly chosen to play the parts.  There's so much more to unravel and so much potential with where this show can go -- I'm really excited! And really hating that I have to wait another five weeks...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall TV: two cute premiers

New Girl

I watched the sneak peek premier that was available on for whatever reason. The actual TV premier is tonight! The show was everything I expected it to be, mostly because the first episode was pretty much 40% already shown in all the promos for the show. Sort of like how Modern Family started out. In any case, if you were wondering if Zooey was going to be as cute as ever -- she is. If you were wondering if the characters were going to be amusing -- they are. If you were wondering if this show has high potential for success-- it does. Now I need to see some new material!

Oh yeah, for anyone not in the know -- since Jenn does this for all new shows -- a short synopsis. Zooey Deschanel plays Jessica, a teacher who recently walked in on her boyfriend cheating on her.  Though Zooey is gorgeous, somehow she always chooses to play quirky characters and Jessica's quirk is that she's nerdy in the way that would get skinny boys picked on and thrown in lockers. Anyway, she finds a new place to live with 3 guys: Coach a trainer (who apparently only was in the pilot) soon to be Winston a professional basketball player, Nick who is still nursing a broken heart from a breakup 6 months earlier, and Schmidt who plays a guy who tries to hard and thus is forced to pay up to the "douchebag jar" on a regular basis.

All I can do is hope that this show can find a strong direction that keeps us watchers hooked. I love Zooey and I really want her to stay on TV! :)

2 Broke Girls

This show had a decidedly sitcom feeling to it, which is hard for me to get past sometimes.Still, it has some witty dialogue, especially Kat Dennings' character, Max. Additionally, it didn't try to draw out storylines too much -- lots happened quickly: Max realizing the despair of Caroline's (the other broke girl) new life and feeling sorry for her; Caroline meeting Max's hot boyfriend, Max dumping the hot boyfriend because he's a man-slut.  I think that the sarcastic but soft-hearted nature of Max is well paired with the ditzy but very smart nature of Caroline.  Hopefully the show will find more to develop, but the first episode set everything up well...

So yeah, what the show is about: There are two girls, one who was always broke and working two jobs as a waitress and a nanny for a rich yuppie family with twins, and one who's father was just convicted of a ponzi scheme thus freezing all of the family's assets. The formerly rich one gets a job at the diner in Brooklyn because none of her upper east side friends would ever catch her there and ends up moving in with the always poor one. The two together plan on trying to save their money to open a cupcake shop, with the always poor one baking and the formerly rich one managing the business with her Wharton MBA. At the end of episode 1 they have saved $327 toward the $250,000 they need.

The Sing-Off: It's back!

And of course I'm blogging about it... :) I'm surprised at how quickly NBC got the episode onto the website for viewing; fortunately that meant I got to catch up right away! Week 1 showcased 8 out of the 16 total groups. The 8 groups were split up and one group was eliminated of each group of 4, leaving 6 groups into the next round.  Next week will showcase the remaining 8 groups.  Here were my thoughts on the groups that performed last night!

First group of four:
  • Yellow Jackets (performing "Wavin' Flag"): Wow! Powerful performance and what a fantastic song. I'd never heard it before but this performance made me want to buy it-- both the acapella version by this group and the original!
  • Fannin Family (performing "Who Says"): It amuses me that they picked a Selena Gomez song to perform on this show. There were some areas that just felt choppy for me but I thought they were a cute family!
  • Afro-Blue (performing "Put Your Records On"): I thought their arrangement was really interesting but I'm not sure I was fully sold on the whole performance. I think of a higher, sweeter melody rather than the softer sound heard here.
  • I love how the show inspires groups to form, like Delilah (performing "Grenade"). I had low expectations and thought there might be pitch issues but instead I thought this performance was incredible!!
In this group, I would have chosen to eliminate the Fannin Family; the judges agreed.

Second group of four:
  • So excited that there's a rapper/rapapella this year in Urban Method (performing "Love the Way You Are"). Heehee, I like how the rapper, Mike?, calls the group his "crew." I loved how the acapella backed up the rapping so perfectly!!
  • Cat's Pajamas (performing "Some Kind of Wonderful"): I loved their classic acapella sound. Their experience in performing together was easy to see; they made it look and sound so easy!
  • Kinfolk 9 (performing "Secrets"): I love this song. Their arrangement was pretty but I think they could have done without the mixed lead vocals. It felt like they needed a stronger deep sound below (though the judges praised the bass); I thought that it sounded like there was too much only in the high register.
  • Vocal Point (performing"Jump, Jive, and Wail"): That was awesome and ballsy, especially given that  it's a song so strongly driven by it's beat for swing dancing. I thought it was performed perfectly. Can't believe all their dancing while singing that!
Unfortunately my send home in this group was the self-proclaimed underdogs, Kinfolk 9. Fortunately for them, the judges disagreed and sent home Cat's Pajamas. Kinda makes it seem like second is not a good place to go in performance since both groups that performed second in their group of four were eliminated tonight.

I definitely always wonder how they choose to split up the contestants as they do. Four groups of four and one is eliminated in each group. What if one group had four perfectly fantastic performances and another had four mediocre ones?!? Not fair!

Final note, I really, really, really liked Sara Bareilles!!! She has the right mixture of being natural/silly and knowing her music.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fall TV: The Secret Circle

So I don't know what happened to Kevin Williamson in the 5 or so years in between Dawson's Creek ending and The Vampire Diaries starting, but whatever it is, I'm really glad. TVD has been firing on all cylinders for two seasons (no sophomore slump for them) and now he's adapted another L.J. Smith young adult book series, The Secret Circle. Witches!

Predictably, I really enjoyed this. Life Unexpected went downhill FAST but Britt Robertson was definitely a find and it's no surprise that the CW immediately gave her another star vehicle. The series starts off with a bang: Cassie's single mom is killed in a house fire started magically by a man who never sets foot inside the house. Cassie has to move to Washington state to live with her grandmother where her mother grew up and of course, things start happening.

It turns out that the teens in this town have magical powers handed down through the generations and Cassie completes the "circle." Something bad happened with their parents' generation though, and there's plenty of secrets and hidden motivationss to uncover. The current circle includes Adam, whose father was in love with Cassie's mom and is convinced that history is set to repeat itself; his girlfriend Diana (ruh oh), unofficial leader of the circle whose father set the fire that killed Cassie's mom; Nick, Cassie's brooding neighbor; Faye, mean girl daughter of the high school principal; and Melissa, Faye's best friend. The younger cast is mostly unknowns but they're building up a nice dynamic among the 6 of them.

I really didn't like the Vampire Diaries pilot (I actually gave it up for a few weeks before trying again) but the producers have clearly learned a lot in the past two years. This pilot is tight. The music, the pacing, the effects, the's all very slick. This show will probably skew a little younger than TVD but I think it's a great pairing and I'm looking forward too see how it progresses!

Odds and ends:
- I like that there will be lots of town history and mythology, like on TVD.
- Faye's bitchy but kind of awesome.
- We're clearly supposed to be shipping Cassie and Adam but I'm probably going to be feeling sorry for Diana.
- No eye candy on the level of Ian Somerhalder or Paul Wesley, but I've always liked Thomas Dekker, who plays Adam, back from his days on Heroes and The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall TV: Ringer

I'll be the first to admit that I really really wanted to like this. I'm a huge Sarah Michelle Gellar fan from her Buffy days and I've been hoping for years that she would come back to TV after some underwhelming attempts at a movie career. And the pieces with Ringer all seem right: a double role playing twins, great supporting cast including Nestor Carbonell (Lost), Kristoffer Polaha (Life Unexpected) and Ioan Gruffud (Fantastic Four), and more modest expectations on the CW (it was originally developed for ratings giant CBS).

Gellar plays twins Bridget, a former stripper and recovering addict who is on the run from being a witness in a murder case and Siobhan, a wealthy socialite in New York. The sisters reunite after 6 years of not being in touch and go on a boat trip in the Hamptons (with some of the worst green screen effects I've seen recently), during which Siobhan mysteriously disappears. Bridget, assuming Siobhan committed suicide, panics and decides to take over her sister's identity. She quickly discovers that Siobhan's life is not at all perfect--her marriage is a sham, she's having an affair with her best friend's husband (and is probably pregnant with his child)...and has a contract out on her life too. Oh, and Siobhan's not actually dead.

So how did this all come off? Well, pretty...boring. I know that there's a certain amount of set up and world building that needs to take place during a pilot and I guess that stuff was achieved but I still felt like nothing really happened. SMG was fine, as was the supporting cast, but there just wasn't a lot to latch onto. I've read interviews with SMG referring to the show as trying to be film noir but I didn't really get much of that either.

I don't know, perhaps this is the kind of show that takes a couple of episodes to establish itself, and I'm definitely going to give it a chance, but based on this premiere, I think I'm a little worried. The show seems to be taking itself awfully seriously and it doesn't necessarily fit in with the other CW offerings either (it's airing after 90210 for some reason). Let's hope that things get a bit more interesting in the upcoming weeks...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Local Color

B: which three TV shows do the best job of featuring their setting, to the point that the show wouldn't work if it were set anywhere else, and you'd feel like you already knew the place if you were to visit there based on the show?

1.  Friday Night Lights:  so texas, so perfect.  dillon, texas doesn't really exist, but it's as real as any texas town i've ever lived in, and so are the characters.
2.  Memphis Beat:  no suprise here, i suppose.  this show captures the best of memphis (and, thankfully, leaves out the worst) and highlights what a truly unique city it is, including the music.
3.  Gilmore Girls:  while Stars Hollow, CT isn't a real town, it certainly came to life for fans of this show and, for me, was as much a star of the show as lorelei or rory or luke.  i'd like to think that there are quirky new england towns like this with their goofy town hall meetings and colorful characters.  the show certainly would not have worked had it been set in new mexico.

1. Gossip Girl: Definitely not the New York City world that I grew up in so I can't speak to whether there are people who actually live like Blair and Serena but I love that the show actually films in the city. I can't stand the fake NYC of studio lot shows.
2. Wonderfalls: So many shows are set in California or big cities so I liked that this show was centered around the somewhat random but real location of Niagara Falls, NY. Again, not sure about accuracy but they seemed to feature some local mythology and such about the falls.
3. Roswell: Obvious choice but having a show about aliens in Roswell, New Mexico was definitely fitting.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Jennifer: what I'm watching this fall

I'm lazy so I'm just sharing my entire spreadsheet. I've added the premiere dates as well. Look for my usual new series reviews...I'm planning to watch as many as possible!

Mira: what i'm watching this fall -- sundays

Sunday has never been a big TV night for me in the past, especially since I don't watch any of the adult animation shows. In fact, Sunday night in the falls = NFL, but this year it will be quite different...

The Amazing Race (CBS, 8:00-9:00PM): I got hooked on The Amazing Race pretty late (last spring), but I loooooove it. I love traveling and trying out different activities on my vacations so this show is perfect to turn to for inspiration.  Plus the different pairs that work together can be quite amusing (and annoying, too, unfortunately)!

Once Upon a Time* (ABC, 8:00-9:00PM): I looooooooove fairy tales and happily ever afters. Good example of this: my love for the movie Enchanted! As such, I am super excited about this show that is based on worlds straddling fairy tale and real world.

The Good Wife (CBS, 9:00-10:00PM): This show is one of the best on TV by far in my opinion, and given how much I watch -- HIGH praise!  I love Julianne Marguiles as Alicia Florick and think she deserves to win the best actress Emmy (even over Connie Britt, who I also love).  There's just so much to rave about that I could go on forever, but basically I cannot wait to see where they will go this season!

Pan Am*(ABC, 10:00-11:00PM): Christina Ricci kind of scares me but regardless I think Pan Am sounds interesting. They've tried TV shows about airports (LAX) before with no success, but the idea of focusing on pilots and flight attendants? Fascinating and potential for so much drama!!

Also on our DVR, though I am not sure if I will watch:
Homeland* (Showtime, 10:00-11:00PM)

* New show.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Mira: what i'm watching this fall -- fridays

I don't know if it's just me, but when a TV show that I watch is moved to Friday nights, I automatically assume that the networks are trying to kill it off...

Chuck (NBC, 8:00-9:00PM): I was quite surprised that Chuck seemingly found new life last season.  This is the show that just keeps going and manages to find just enough twist to set stage for a season that can prove to be different from the last. But now that it's played with having the dad be the twist, the mom be the twist, the sister learning about the spy family be the twist... well, I'm not quite sure where it will go. But it's managed to be a lot more fun and interesting than I had ever expected it could be.

Nikita (The CW, 8:00-9:00PM): I really hope that The CW is not trying to get rid of this show because I really like it! Of course it'll take some serious creativity to find a direction to go in that will ensure sustainability of a story. (Kind of like how Alias got really old after a while.) But I really love a lot of the characters in this show and I just wanna see them be happy already!!!

Grimm* (NBC, 9:00-10:00PM): There is so much potential with a TV show that builds off of the Grimm Fairy Tales for inspiration... I have not let myself research too much into what this show will be like, but I have high hopes anyway!  I hope that whatever it is, the show surprises me (in a good way).

Blue Bloods (CBS, 10:00-11:00PM): This show is like Numbers for me (another Friday night show, I think). I don't watch every episode of it, but I'll watch if it happens to be on while I'm in the living room. And I'll get sucked in as well.  The Reagans are a really interesting family and the play of cops, detectives, politicians, and lawyers is very interesting. Quite a cast as well!

* New show.

Thursday Top Threes: Pilots

J: The fall TV season is almost here! What are your top three favorite pilot/series premiere episodes of all time?

1. Pushing Daisies: I can still imagine scenes from this pilot, and it's been a couple years since I've watched it. Ned describing bringing his mom back to life, only to accidentally kill her again; running around in a meadow of daisies with his dog (Digby?) and then his dog gets hit by a vehicle and he brings the dog back to life; describing Chuck's crazy mermaid aunts... It was so vibrant and represents the show's quirkiness so perfectly in 40 minutes.
2. Glee: This episode also well represents what made Glee so exciting and fun and great in the beginning! From highlighting all the characters through their audition songs to introducing snarky Sue, gullible Finn, enthusiastic Mr. Schuester... And of course, "Don't Stop Believing."  Perfection. :)
3. Alias: This is the only pilot episode of a show that hooked me so much I ended up watching 8 straight episodes in a row.  Actually no, Veronica Mars may have hooked me in a similar way. (I watched the entire first season over the span of one weekend.) But I'll still give Alias an edge. I mean the red wig, the Chinese speaking, the excitement of a story told forward and backward -- it was a great pilot!

1. Friday Night Lights: I hadn't seen the movie, I didn't know anything about Texas, I had no interest in football, but this pilot, especially the second half, just shot me straight through the heart. Love love LOVE.
2. Lost: I ended up having plenty of problems with this show, but one thing I'll give J.J. Abrams is that he definitely knows how to start off a show (perhaps that's why he's had more success in movies lately). There was a lot to set up -- a huge cast of characters, the flashback construct, the mystery/possibly sci-fi style and atmosphere -- and it was hugely successful with all of it. It's been rare that a pilot excited me as much as this one.
3. Roswell: A less obvious choice, perhaps, but don't forget that this show was created and written by Jason Katims who went on to run FNL and Parenthood. All the characters are introduced so well, the use of music is amazing (especially love the first scene in the Crashdown of Max saving Liz with Sarah McLachlan's "Fear" building in the background), and there's a nice balance of romance, humor, action, and suspense. Ah, the old days of the WB...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Mira: what i'm watching this fall -- thursdays

Thursdays are busy TV nights for me -- and I don't even watch Must See TV NBC sitcoms!

Charlie's Angels* (ABC, 8:00-9:00PM): Another show with a Friday Night Lights alum, one that I didn't like very much as well -- Minka Kelly. I never saw the original, but I did see the movie version with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu.  For whatever reason, I'm curious how this new set of angels will do...

The X Factor Results* (Fox, 8:00-9:00PM)

Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 9:00-10:00PM): This consistently remains one of my favorite shows, even when the story lines get frustrating. This is the show I search for spoilers for the most and with good reason! Last season ended with a lot of crazy cliffhangers: Christina is preggerz and might abort the baby; Meredith tampered with Derek's Alzheimer's research and is getting fired; April got named head resident; MerDer adopted an African baby but Derek walked out on Merideth because of the research tampering. Despite some frustrating storylines, the writers can be trusted to get it to come together nicely, so I look forward to the new season!

Person of Interest* (CBS, 9:00-10:00PM): I have no idea what this is about but it's a J.J. Abrams show so of course I will watch it.  Then again, it's a J.J. Abrams show so I probably should NOT watch it because truthfully, J.J. Abrams shows have fantastic starts but always go terribly awry...

The Secret Circle* (The CW, 9:00-10:00PM): Enough with the vampires and werewolves! A story about witches!  Oh wait, they used to have a show about witches -- Charmed.  It's okay, it's been long enough and this show seems different enough that I will give it a shot. Plus, I'm still kicking myself for not having watched The Vampire Diaries and now being so far behind!

Private Practice (ABC, 10:00-11:00PM): The other half of Grey's Anatomy; well, sort of.  This show has really made a place for itself and I've found I really enjoy it a lot. However, unlike with Grey's, I am quite a bit more unforgiving with its story line twists and cliff hangers. It ended on Addison wanting a baby, Pete having a heart attack, Violet being selfish and leaving, and uh... that's all I remember. I was not happy with where Private Practice went toward the end of the season in terms of story, but I do love the characters and super complex relationships. OH YEAH, Cooper and Charlotte got married -- okay, the writers are forgiven for all the other crappy story lines.

Also on our TV watch list, but I am not positive I will be watching:
How to Be a Gentleman* (CBS, 8:30-9:00PM):
Prime Suspect* (NBC, 10:00-11:00PM):

* New show.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Mira: what i'm watching this fall -- wednesdays

My Wednesday night TV starts on September 21.  Interesting enough, Wednesday is my lightest TV night. Gives me a chance to catch up on my Monday and Tuesday night TV! Well, not really, since Wednesday night is also trivia night. So a light TV night is good!

The X Factor* (Fox, 8:00-9:30PM): My current guess is that this will be the first new show that I'll drop.  I don't envision myself sticking with it, especially if I have to watch it online or en masse off my DVR in late October... but I am curious enough to at least give it a try. Also given the variety of talent shows(Sorry, it looked like an incomplete thought but it was an incomplete deletion.)

Harry's Law (NBC, 9:00-10:00PM): This show was a surprise for us last year. We definitely were not expecting to enjoy it so much. And I definitely did not expect it would be renewed. Regardless, I'm glad it's back and I look forward to more of the dysfunctional shoe store law firm.

Revenge* (ABC, 10:00-11:00PM): I'm not really sure how this story is going to unfold but what I gather from it, the show is about a girl who comes to avenge the deaths of her parents. The wikipedia entry on the show indicates it is based off of The Count of Monte Cristo, which is interesting, and uh, I've never read. So yeah, mysterious, but sounds intriguing.

* New show.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mira: what i'm watching this fall -- tuesdays

Now for my Tuesday night lineup... :)

Glee (Fox, 8:00-9:00PM): Season two was quite disappointing and I'd have to say there were only a handful of episodes I enjoyed last season ("Duets," "Born this Way" to name two).  Hopefully the show doesn't get overrun with the celebrity guests (ugh, Gwyneth) and can get back to the roots of what makes it so great. Watching The Glee Project this summer reminded me of that: the great songs, the diverse characters.  Get away from the contrived story lines and remember: less can be more!!  That reminds me, I'm excited to see how they incorporate the four semifinalists (two who got 7-episode arcs, two who got 2-episode arcs) into the show!

The New Girl* (Fox, 9:00-9:30PM): I've been so excited about this show and have blogged about it earlier. I'm a huge fan of Zooey Deschanel, I saw 1,122,182,382 commercials for it while watching So You Think You Can Dance, and the premise is really cute. I hope the show lives up to my every expectation and I really hope that they didn't show most of the first 3 episodes in all the commercials (because I've seen MANY different scenes in all those commercials). By the way, it's kind of a big deal that I've watched the commercials: I have DVR and can, and usually do, fast forward through them but I watched it anyway.

Ringer* (The CW, 9:00-10:00PM): I'm not quite sure what this show is about and it sounds awfully similar to an ABC Family show I've been watching, The Lying Game. A twin sister taking over the life of the other twin sister and then having to deal with the repercussions of the life that the second sister left behind?  Whatever it is, I'll give it a try because Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!) is back on TV.

Parenthood (NBC, 10:00-11:00PM): This show was slow in take-off but has built such a great, diverse set of characters and relationships.  Where the stories left off: Adam learns Christina is preggerz and there looks to be potential for a Jasmine-Crosby reunion. I love how the show makes you feel like you're in each scene with the Bravermans and observing family dialogue in an intimate setting. There are good surprises, the right disappointments, twists for the sake of growth and not story line; great show and I can't wait to see what happens with the Bravermans this year!

Shows that will also be on my DVR, but I'm not watching:
NCIS (CBS, 8:00-9:00PM)
NCIS: LA (CBS, 9:00-10:00PM)
Body of Proof (ABC, 10:00-11:00PM)
Unforgettable* (CBS, 10:00-11:00PM)

* New show.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Hour Has Come

burkie here, with apologies to jenn not only for posting on her blog again, but also for scooping her on a british TV show.  that show?  The Hour, currently airing on BBC America.  the first two episodes are On Demand, which is how i've seen them. 

conceptually, The Hour is somewhat reminiscent of Mad Men and, strangely, 30 Rock (neither of which i watch).  like Mad Men, it is a stylish period piece (London, 1956).  the show revolves around the people involved in making a 60 Minutes-type television news program (called, appropriately, The Hour) that airs on the BBC, hence the resemblance to 30 Rock (an NBC show about an NBC show).  the similarities end there, especially as regards 30 RockThe Hour is definitely a drama, not a comedy.  as regards Mad Men, i've only watched that show once and it struck me as slick and polished, whereas The Hour has a decidedly noir feel to it, and i loves me some noir

The Hour (the show featured on the show...this is already getting confusing) is a brand new program on the BBC.  it's risky, especially as the production reins have been handed to a woman (Bel Rowley, played by Romola Garai).  she is ambitious and committed to delivering a hard-hitting news program with substance, but knows she needs the right face as anchor.  she knows her brilliant yet stormy friend and colleague Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) has the brains and investigative doggedness that the project will require to succeed, but not the face.  she therefore pursues the charming, privileged, and shallow Hector Madden (Dominic West) as the show's lead anchor.  when freddie is sacked from his job, he reluctantly accepts bel's offer to join the show as a correspondent.  true to the time period, one of the program's early stories is Nasser's rise to power in Egypt and what that means both for the British Empire and the delicate balances of the Cold War.

you've probably already figured out how the characters feel about each other.  a bit clichéd, but they pull it off.  rowley and west deliver strong performances, but whishaw is terrific.  i don't know him, but i read that he won acclaim on stage as Hamlet and i can well believe that.  he's got presence.  of course, the other star is the noir aspect of the program, down to the art deco look of the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, the costuming, and the intrigue surrounding a murder mystery that freddie is investigating on the side.  give this show a try!  The Hour may become the hour you look forward to most.

Mira: what i'm watching this fall -- mondays

Given the amount of TV I watch and all the new shows R and I want to watch, I had to make a spreadsheet to chart it all.  Haha, I'm still not quite sure logistically how I'm going to watch everything I want to watch this fall since my DVR can only handle two shows simultaneously... but in any case, here are the Monday night shows, old and new, that I am hoping to watch and enjoy this year!

How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8:00-8:30PM): I cannot believe I am still watching this show. Or that we have not met the mother yet. In truth, this sort of fell off my TV watching schedule last season and I'm not sure if I am fully caught up.  Fortunately for HIMYM, the cast keeps the show funny and interesting enough that I enjoy most, if not all, of the episodes.  That's enough to keep me going back for more, but the story line better pick up its pace! 

Terra Nova* (Fox, 8:00-9:00PM): This show is actually on R's TV schedule but there's enough hype to get me to watch at least one episode. I'm not sure that I'm fully sold on watching a dinosaur show, which is how I interpret it (kind of the reason I am not that interested in watching the movie, Tree of Life, cuz there are dinosaurs in it??), but I'll try to keep an open mind... But I can't help but think it'll end up like all those other weird shows such as V and The Event...    

The Sing Off (NBC, 8:00-10:00PM): I love, love, love this show! I'm looking forward to what types of groups come together on the show this year and what songs they will put together. The talent and range of acappella is so wide, so I hope to be nothing short of impressed! I am looking forward to Sara Bareilles as the third judge, replacing Nicole S. from The Pussycat Dolls.  

Two Broke Girls* (CBS, 8:30-9:00PM): Definitely not interested in watching Whitney's other show, Whitney, but this one looks like it has potential to be fun.  I've got to say though, a sitcom has to be pretty darn awesome to keep me watching it, so the chances of me sticking to this show are slim. I do really like Kat Dennings (Raise Your Voice, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), though. 

Hart of Dixie* (The CW, 9:00-10:00PM): Medical drama meets Sweet Home Alabama PLUS Rachel Bilson? I'm there! Only thing working against this show is that Scott Porter is supposed to play the love interest and I find him super annoying from his Friday Night Lights days. It's touted as being Everwood-esque, which isn't so bad. And it'll be fun to watch a southern-based primetime drama/soap; I'm still a little nostalgic for Savannah

Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, 10:00-11:00PM): This show was a surprise favorite of R and mine last year, kind of how The Good Wife snuck up on us the year before.  In any case, love the show, love the cast, and am looking forward to the second season!  Plus, need some resolution to the cliffhangers in the finale: McGarrett framed for the governor's murder, Kono arrested for stealing money, Chin Ho back on the police force, and Dan-o leaving for NJ... 

* New show.