Tag Archives: Pop Culture

No Way Out On The Road to Cougartown

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Yesterday, my family and I decided to visit Sarasota for the first time since we’d moved to the state of Florida a little over a year ago. We’d heard it was a beautiful place…gorgeous coastline, funky artist colonies, amazing food, great shopping, etc. A real Jimmy Buffet-esque paradise. So, we used our cell phone to give us directions–you know, the one with the creepy computerized voice? We set out from Winter Haven and unexpectedly came upon a toll route. Fine, we thought, we have cash for the tolls…so we proceeded on. As we drove along peacefully on our short journey to the real life Margaritaville/Cougartown, I spotted a sign a few feet down the road that read, “EXACT CHANGE REQUIRED”.

My heart skipped several beats, which is more than a little scary since I was behind the wheel of a large sports utility vehicle, and I began to yell to each of my passengers, “Oh my god! Does anyone have any change???” I’d assumed my boys were holding out, because they always find change on the ground (I guess because they are closer to it than I am) and tuck those quarters away in pockets and shoes for later use. But, no such luck….there I was, trapped with no way out…no way to turn around…and no way to magically transform a $20 bill into quarters. Most of all, I was in the throes of a full on panic attack, with no Xanax or even a new tube of lipstick (see previous blog) to be had.

As I approached the toll booth, and stopped at the red lighted stop sign, I knew I had to make a choice. Being the sort of person who, when pushed too far, has been voted most likely to jump off that cliff, guns a’blazin, into the abyss, I did not just sit in my Jeep and cry like a lot of women would. Nor did I try to back up and go the wrong way on the highway, like a suicidal psycho would. No, I did what Thelma and Louise did…I drove right on through, leaving in my wake a chorus of buzzers, bells, whistles, and flashing lights as a highly public testament to my rogue criminal nature…

Oh, and a droll Floridian in a pickup truck who followed me closely just so I would roll down my window long enough for him to shout, “You know, that’s a $100 ticket you got back there…” Uh, yeah…thanks, buddy….


Take another road to a hiding place
Disappear without a trace
Take another road to another time
On another road in another time
Like a novel from the five and dime
Take another road another time

Stupid Network Tricks; Gone Too Soon vs. Stayed Too Long

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again! That magical season when we learn whether or not our favorite shows will live to see another season, or leave us forever wanting more. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that a lot of network execs seem to be a tad out of touch with what we the people want to see piped into our living rooms each evening, versus what we could do without.There were a few surprises on the cancellation list this year…shows I thought would carry on because they were either very well done, or had won awards, or seemed to have a pretty large, loyal audience. Go figure…But, then again, it’s not the first time there has been a significant mismatch between the shows that end up on the chopping block, and those which should have been on it years ago…

Here are my picks in each category for the worst cancellation and continuance mistakes of all time….

GONE TOO SOON:

“Wonderfalls” FOX, 2004

Synopsis: “Launched in March 2004 as a mid-season replacement, this supernatural comedy drama suffered a death as quick as its premise was quirky. Thanks in part to a punishing Friday-night time slot, Wonderfalls managed only four episodes before Fox pulled the plug. Less than a year later, however, the offbeat series found new life on DVD, where all 13 completed installments were released to brisk sales and critical acclaim (see Wonderfalls — The Complete Series). The brainchild of veteran director Todd Holland (Twin Peaks, My So-Called Life) and Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, Wonderfalls chronicles the misadventures of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a Niagara Falls, NY gift-shop employee whose snarky world view gets shaken up when inanimate objects — a wax lion, a stuffed chameleon — begin ordering her around. Convinced she’s cracking up, Jaye nevertheless follows the animals’ instructions and unwittingly helps a broad range of unusual characters: an elementary-school Romeo, a stuttering stalker, a faithless nun, a mysterious housekeeper, etc. Her partners in crime on these assignments include sardonic pal Mahandra (Tracie Thoms), buttoned-up lesbian sister Sharon (Kate Finneran), and overeducated, underachieving brother Aaron (Lee Pace). Though unaware of their daughter’s peculiar conversations with stuffed animals, Jaye’s stuffy parents Karen (Diana Scarwid) and Darrin (William Sadler) also figure prominently in her adventures. So does Eric (Tyron Leitso), a hot, heartbroken bartender whose honeymoon was recently cut short when he caught his bride servicing the hotel bellhop. As Jaye flirts with Eric, fights with her family, and struggles to maintain her ironic detachment, she comes reluctantly closer to understanding the nature of her unorthodox destiny”. Source: http://www.fandango.com/wonderfalls%5Btvseries%5D_v305155/plotsummary

My Take: Loved this one! It was smart, funny, and different–oh boy was it different. Of course, it gave up the ghost way too soon, thanks to unimaginative network execs and viewers, with zero tolerance for quirky genius. Sorry folks, I calls ’em as I see ’em!

“Once and Again” ABC 1999-2002

Synopsis: “Lily Manning (Sela Ward) is a 40ish suburban soccer mom living in Deerfield, Illinois. Recently separated from her philandering husband Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), Lily is raising her two daughters, insecure, anxiety-ridden 14-year-old Grace (Julia Whelan), and wide-eyed, innocent 9-year-old Zoe (Meredith Deane). For support, she turns to her more free-spirited younger sister, Judy (Marin Hinkle), with whom she works at their bookstore called My Sister’s Bookstore (renamed Booklovers later in the series)”. Lily’s life changes when, during the pilot episode, she meets Rick Sammler (Billy Campbell) in the principal’s office of Grace’s school, Upton Sinclair High School. Rick is a single father and co-head of an architectural firm, Sammler/Cassili Associates, which is located in downtown Chicago. Rick has been divorced from his uptight ex-wife Karen (Susanna Thompson) for three years and has two children, Eli (Shane West), a 16-year-old basketball player at Sinclair High who suffers from a learning disability, and sensitive 12-year-old Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood), who longs for the days before her family’s disintegration. Lily and Rick share an immediate mutual attraction and begin dating. Their budding relationship causes problems in both of their respective families. Grace strongly objects to Lily and Rick’s relationship as she still hopes to see her parents get back together. Karen, a public interest attorney at the downtown law firm of Harris, Riegert, and Sammler, is worried about the toll Rick’s new relationship would take on their children, particularly Jessie, who is shy and emotionally fragile. She is also working through her own feelings of jealousy that Rick is moving on to a new relationship. In addition to Lily and Rick’s relationship, the show also focused to a lesser degree on their exes, Jake and Karen, and their own struggles to move on in a post-divorce environment”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_and_Again

My Take: One of THE best shows ever aired on television. The amazing intro alone was worth keeping it for. ‘Nuff said…:-(

Swingtown ABC 2008

Synopsis: “As America celebrates its 200th birthday, two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution”. Source:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0928173/

My Take: Okay, this one is still a little difficult for me to talk about because I’m still mad about the fact that it was cancelled before it had a chance to play out. The long and short of it is that network execs clearly caved to pressure from morality groups that had probably never even watched one stellar, Emmy worthy episode of this amazing show. Everyone was shortsighted here, and had a kneejerk reaction simply because the plotline centered upon the 70’s and the practice of “swinging”. But, you have to trust me here, that was a very, very minor part of the show. It was well written, featured rich storylines, with deep, complex, interesting characters. And it was ultimately murdered by the morality police way before I was ready to see it go. The irony? The show actually would have deterred the practice of swinging, had it been allowed to breathe in and out for a couple more seasons…

STAYED TOO LONG:

E.R. NBC 1994-2009

Synopsis: “ER follows the medical personnel and patients in the emergency room of Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital. Created by best-selling author Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park”) and produced by John Wells (“The West Wing”), Christopher Chulack (“Third Watch”), David Zabel (“JAG”), and R. Scott… More Gemmill (“Jonny Zero”), the Emmy Award-winning series has completed fourteen seasons as one of television’s highest-rated dramas.
The doctors and nurses of County’s ER confront the daily challenges of a busy urban hospital, including overcrowded waiting rooms, staffing shortages, and the impact of life-and-death decisions. While they teach the next generation of doctors, each must tackle the demands of their personal lives, at times unsuccessfully”. Source: http://www.tv.com/er/show/111/summary.html

My Take: What stinks after 15 years? Well, the usual fish and company, and nighttime dramas beating worn out plots and recycled storylines to death. By the time it was over, was there anyone left who really cared? That’s nothing against the fine actors, writers, etc., believe me. But this one is a good example of network execs and producers milking a menopausal cow that had done her duty and then some, and should have been retired long ago.

Grey’s Anatomy ABC 2005-Present

Synopsis: “Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama about a group of surgeons working at Seattle Grace Hospital. The show centers around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her life as a third year resident at the hospital. In addition to her relationship with her neurosurgeon husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick… More Dempsey), and best friend Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), it also explores her relationships with her peers and the other doctors around her. Each episode dives into different medical cases and personal dramas of the doctors at Seattle Grace, with Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) at the helm of the surgical department.”  Source: http://www.tv.com/greys-anatomy/show/24440/summary.html

My Take: A musical episode??? SERIOUSLY??? Aside from the fact that we all thought Grey’s was one big music video anyway, come on guys, that’s a shark in a shark suit, jumping the shark. Please put it out of its Mc-misery before this gets really Mc-ugly…seriously…

Melrose Place FOX 1992-1999

Synopsis: “The lives and loves of a group of young adults living in “Melrose Place” in California. Each with their own dreams and drives, the inevitable conflicts, conquests, and consummations ensue”.  Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103491/

My Take: Okay people, this one was the coolest of the cool–for the first oh, I’d say 3 seasons. Then it just got stupid. Once everybody had slept with everybody else in the building, and Kimberly came back from the dead the first time and took that wig off :::shudder::: it was time to cut it so that it could live forever in the Hip Hall of Fame. But what do the greedy execs do? Yep, they kept it going after it made campy look campy. Then, after it slinked off with its formerly cool tail between it’s legs, what did they do? Of course, they brought it back years later with new, baby faced actors. I actually watched that one and liked it, but I think America has had enough of the gang on Melrose, and it was cancelled toot sweet, hopefully never to return again. Let’s hope not anyway…let me keep my memories of the super engaging Allison/Billy/Amanda triangle from the first couple of seasons, will ya?!

Here’s hoping your current favorites and mine have survived the out of touch network axe during the annual chopping season! You’d think they’d get smarter at this after decades of practice, wouldn’t you…

Big Blue Ring, Part Two

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With another big Royal Wedding looming on the horizon, I’ve been thinking a lot about the first one we “Yanks” got up early to watch on television–Charles & Diana, of course! This fabulous blog I read this morning by my fellow blogger, “WithyWindle”,  really got me reminiscing. I’m not now, nor have I ever been much of an Anglophile by nature, but I was, at the time of the seemingly magical nuptials of “Lady Di”, a 16 year old girl.  So, I was a goner in the naïve romantic department…not to mention the fact that my great grandmother was staying with us for a couple of weeks at the time and she indeed was a pretty hardcore Anglophile. So much so that she, unlike lazy teen me, actually did get up in the wee hours to watch it all live from the get go. I arose at my usual 10:00 or so, and watched reruns of it—over and over and over, with my Great Grandma Rhodes who had a twinkle in her eye that day…ALL-DAY-LONG…no matter how many times she watched the whole thing with me…rerun after rerun.  

We were both enchanted, of course, and it was an intergenerational bonding experience for us. Now, I am somebody’s grandmother, albeit not quite old enough yet to be a great grandmother—yet. It’s coming soon enough…because the clock ticks for all of us, whether we are aware of it, or whether we choose to accept and embrace it or not. So, as the wedding of William and Kate approaches, I am also keenly aware of how I’ve changed, how much more I know (thank God), and also how jaded I may have allowed myself to become over the years. Knowing what I now know…about the realities of life, and marriage, and how sometimes things just don’t work out…I find myself considerably less starry eyed and romantic about this Royal Wedding. I blame Diana and Charles for this, of course, because their reality disappointed me so as it unfolded before my eyes during the 80’s and 90’s. And frankly, my own reality disappointed me as well…as I looked for love in all the wrong places, had my heart broken more times than I care to recall, and lived out a decidedly un-fairytale like existence…

Despite all the madness that ensued for Charles and Di after that dreamlike day…the bulimia, the affairs, the Squidgy-ness of it all…I allowed myself to become wistful once more, if only for a moment when I listened to a Diana biography on audiobook awhile back. The author described, in great heart wrenching emotional detail, a story of Charles frantically and obsessively searching for his former wife’s gold earring so that she could have it on when he had flown to France to escort her body back home to England after the car crash—he knew she’d want it that way, and he wanted to find it for her. Even though these two people had torn one another to pieces in life, were clearly not meant for one another, this man obviously cared for her, and cared enough to look after her in this very touching, special way. Maybe this is the real fairy tale behind the fairy tales that we are told growing up, and actually believe in until the world teaches us otherwise…that people aren’t perfect, even princes and princesses…and sometimes we never appreciate the people who pass through our lives until they’re really gone…

Well now, enough of that! I intend to keep a stiff upper lip, just like the Brits! I am determined to look forward to this upcoming joyous event, and maybe even become a little twinkly eyed and romantic again as my great grandmother was that day. Surely she had much more call to be far more jaded then than I do now. After all, the woman had lived through women’s suffrage, The Great Depression, two World Wars, and the 60’s—which had to be traumatic for anyone with Victorian sensibilities. I do wish these two lovebirds the best! I think they have a better shot at it than Charles and Diana. For one thing, “Wills” did not have to scour his countryside for the last remaining virgin in the United Kingdom as Charles did. Since that was obviously the criteria, that should have been our first clue that it wasn’t necessarily a real love match. Royal bridal searches have evolved since the late 70’s, early 80’s, thank goodness, and William and Kate were allowed to meet and fall in love over time, just like any other couple. So, they have just as much chance as any other married couple of being happy and having a lifetime together. And there, readers, I will bite my tongue. I am purposely choosing to suspend my disbelief now, rather than being my old 16 year old self who just didn’t know any better. I’ll watch this Royal Wedding this time around with a purposeful twinkle in my eye, just like my great grandmother had for Chuck and Di. Reruns of course, because I haven’t changed that much…

In the meantime, get your wistful on with me and let’s remember when…back before we knew how it all would end….


Lost Loves Chronicles; Ode to Trader Joe’s

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Photo Credit: Paloma Vazquez http://bit.ly/cgAd9F

When I said my final farewell to the West to head back toward where I came from, the Southeast, I bid goodbye to my favorite place to shop for groceries—Trader Joe’s. Granted, when I lost my primary supplier of gourmet hippie foodstuffs, I gained back my Krystal burgers and the ever popular, genteel yet snide “Bless Your Heart”. Life is about tradeoffs, I guess. When I become nostalgic for my life in the West, I miss not the beautiful Monterey Bay where I lived for three years, or even the infamous Lake Tahoe that was in my backyard for a time, but my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, no matter where I happened to be living at the time.

There’s just something about that place, and it’s hard to adequately describe. They have all of these little gourmet food items that no other stores have, and for CHEAP too. I mean, so affordable that I don’t know how they pull it off, other than the fact that a lot of the things they sell are their own Trader Joe’s store brand. But, unlike WalMart store brand items, they look, feel, and taste exclusive and expensive. Like the lavender and lemon handmade soaps I always bought and can’t find here…And flowers—oh the flowers! Every week, I had fresh cut flowers in my living room thanks to the huge, gorgeous bunches of them stocked at the front of Trader Joe’s for around $5 each. I felt like Kate Middleton meets Anais Nin or something…I was cooler when I shopped at my Trader Joe’s on the corner. This guy knows exactly what I mean too:

Trader Joe’s, I’m watching you! I see on your website that you are slowly creeping into the land of magnolias, bass fishing, and 100% humidity.

But, this neck of the woods needs to be alerted to the extent of your yummy coolness and clamor for your presence every 40 miles off the Interstate—like these guys:

Photo Credit: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracker_Barrel

I know I might sound a little stalkery, but I promise I’m not a bunny boiler, TJ! I just miss you terribly…Maybe you’d like your own Facebook “I Want My Trader Joe’s” Fan Page? Or perhaps a petition signed by 1,000 or so of my fellow Southerners? Maybe a poem…..

Back When The Fonz Jumped the Shark

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It was September of 1977, back when school always started the day after Labor Day the way God intended, not in the middle of August before our summer was even over. And, it was also when the new season of everybody’s favorite television shows premiered in September too, not October-January, or whenever the Hollywood folks felt like coming back to work for 6 weeks before they took their first of several “hiatus” for the year. I was 12, in my first year of junior high, and like kids and adults all across America, I anxiously plopped down in the family room on the red shag carpet, glued to the one television in the house that received only three channels—ABC, CBS, and NBC, to watch The Fonz jump the shark! He did, and we watched nervously as he barely cleared the enclosure of Jaws, The Ripoff, to live to be cool another day and to also spawn a new phrase, “Jump the Shark”, which is now used routinely to describe a television series whose best years are behind it and has resorted to outrageous, gimmicky stunts to retain viewers. AYYYY!

It’s truly hard for me to believe that was well over 30 years ago now. It’s also hard to believe that in anyone’s wildest imagination, the decadent, hedonistic 70’s could be considered a simpler, more innocent time–but they really were. At least if you were an average kid growing up in the suburbs, and not hanging out at Studio 54, that is. In 1977 we were much more insulated from everything that was going on in the world around us. Television was still monitored by censors back then, and there was no way my 12 year old eyes would have ever flipped the channel during prime time to accidently witness a graphic murder, and then the victim’s corpse splayed open on the medical examiner’s table. There was no 24/7 cable news to give us overly private details of the trainwrecked lives of celebrities, some of whom are not much older than I was when I sat on that shag carpet that night to watch the shark jumping. There was no sexting, no cyberbullying on Facebook, no Internet at all.

So, while the world was not really any more innocent than it is in 2011 (it’s naïve to think there is anything new under the sun), at least we had a somewhat gentler introduction to its harsh realities than kids do today. Kids who would probably howl with laughter at me and my generation breathlessly gathered around the t.v. to watch a hokey stunt involving a grown man in a leather jacket jumping over a shark on his water skis while Opie Taylor drove the boat.

Other Noteworthy Events of 1977:

  • President Jimmy Carter pardons almost all Vietnam War draft evaders
  • Alex Hayley’s “Roots” premieres on ABC
  • Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” released
  • Bank of America adopts the name VISA for their credit cards
  • Libyan Socialist Arabs People’s Republic forms
  • “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC & Sunshine Band peaks at #1
  • Elvis Presley Dies in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Last broadcast of “Mary Tyler Moore Show” on NBC-TV
  • TV’s Rhoda gets divorced
  • President Carter raises minimum wages of $2.30 to $3.35 for Jan 1 1981
  • Miss World Contest – Miss UK wears $9,500 platinum bikini
  • Cost of a gallon of Gas: 65 Cents

Those happy days were yours and mine…