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November 2017

♫ I Still Get Jealous! ♫ (When Other People Get To See This Great Pop Culture Thing For the First Time)

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

With the holiday season in full swing, (you better believe I am in full-time Christmas music mode) I thought it might be nice to briefly distract ourselves from the horrors that we constantly face in the news and the stresses that always come with the holidays and take a nice trip down memory lane.

 

We all remember our first time experiencing something in pop culture that we knew would be special. Whether it was a great movie, an excellent song, a spectacular stage show or a particularly memorable episode of television, the first time experiencing it was a truly once-in-a-lifetime event. The fact that it was all new, that you had no idea what was coming next – it’s what makes entertainment so special.

 

Once your first time has come and gone you encourage just about everyone you know to see or listen to that thing so that they can also feel the way you felt and experience what you experienced. And if you’re lucky, you’re there to see them do it. (And if you’re unlucky, they’re not as into it as you are and it just becomes awkward and frustrating.) There’s always a bit of jealousy there, knowing that you’ll never again get to have the excitement and the wonder at seeing that thing for the first time but your friends or family will. Sure, it’ll still be fun and enjoyable for you, but it’ll never be the same as the first time.

 

I can think of several things that fit into this category of pop culture for me, but one I’ve been thinking about recently is the opening of the Broadway musical adaptation of “The Lion King.” I got tickets to see the show as a gift for my 11th birthday many many years ago, and had no idea what to expect going in. I knew that there were these puppet-like costumes that the actors wore to look more like the animals they were playing and I knew it featured many of the classic songs from the animated movie, but that was about it. I was in no way prepared for what I was about to witness when the curtain rose and the show started.

 

I don’t want to give too much away, (although you can actually watch a 360 video of the opening on YouTube) but I will say that the opening number completely took my breath away. It was unlike anything I had seen before, so beautiful and majestic. It was also one of my first experiences seeing live, professional theatre and I definitely think it was one of the things that first started my fascination with all things Broadway. I mean, it’s still running very successfully on The Great White Way and that certainly wouldn’t be the case if it wasn’t incredible.

 

I saw that a touring production of the show will soon be coming to Baltimore and it made me think of how jealous I am of all the people who will get the experience that opening number for the first time. I’m sure they’ll all be feeling the same way soon.

 

What about you? Do you have something in pop culture that you wish you could experience again for the first time? Did you catch my sweet Nick Jonas song reference in the title of this post? If you did, good job! If you didn’t, here you go. And, as you settle into this holiday season, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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Chance the Rapper Cemented His Status As a New ‘SNL’ Fave With This Sketch

When it was announced that national treasure Chance the Rapper would be hosting the Thanksgiving episode of “Saturday Night Live,” the question that always presents itself when a several-time musical guest makes the move to the hosting slot came to mind: can he really do it? Can he ascend to the status of people like Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande, musical performers who can successfully sing (or in Chance’s case, sing AND rap) the songs and star in the sketches?

 

The answer, luckily, was a resounding yes. While he didn’t pull double-duty as host and musical guest (Eminem filled in there, going the Prince route with one big song medley instead of two separate performances), Chance proved that he could probably do both and then some. He was incredibly charming and brought a positive, high-energy demeanor to each sketch. His stage presence made great sketches even greater and elevated some lesser later-in-the-night sketches that could have fallen flat in the wrong hands.

 

As if simply killing it as a performer wasn’t enough, Chance revealed on a pre-show appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” (as most “SNL” hosts are wont to do) that he had even written several sketches in the hopes they would make it onto the live broadcast. Based on some post-show retweets from Chance, it seems that the above sketch was one of his contributions and it was also one of the highlights of the night.

 

The sketch shows Bruce Wayne (aka Batman for the uninformed) giving out bags of food to the people of Gotham City for Thanksgiving. An honorable move to be sure, but it quickly becomes clear that while in the Batman costume, Bruce Wayne isn’t nearly as honorable to certain residents committing small crimes like littering. I won’t give it away, but it sounds like he has some signature moves involving the criminal’s jaw and a really intense wedgie. It was both very funny (many of the cast members seemed to be struggling to keep it together at some points) and thought-provoking, given that it was clearly calling out the harsh treatment for minor infractions often given to minority communities by the police.

 

Often you can get away with only watching a few key sketches from an episode of “SNL” without feeling like you missed out on something great, but in this case I would highly recommend watching the whole show. It was a delight from top to bottom, a great way to send the show off before a holiday break. Hopefully Chance the Rapper will be back on “SNL” to host (and perhaps, musical guest) very soon.

 

What do you think? Did you like Chance the Rapper as a host on “SNL”? Are you also compiling a list of men that could have easily beaten Blake Shelton for the 2017 People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive title? I mean, seriously. In a year full of disappointments, this one was a low blow. Share your list (and your thoughts) in the comments. And, as you gather to celebrate this super-questionable Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and family, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Please Please Please Don’t Let ‘Mr. Robot’ Go Sci-Fi

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

After a somewhat divisive second season (I, for the record, liked it. Mostly.) “Mr. Robot” has come back in full force. The first four episodes of the new season have been especially excellent, full of tension and intrigue and everything that makes “Mr. Robot” so gosh-darn good. But there’s something lingering in the background that makes me a little uneasy.

 

There’s been all this talk about a way to reset things, to reverse all of the damage that E Corp and fsociety and Elliot have done. It seems to go back to White Rose, who has some sort of plan that was convincing enough to turn Angela into a Dark Army henchwoman. But what is that plan exactly? Does it have anything to do with the post-credit discussion between Mobley and Trenton from the end of season two? And will it – god forbid – move “Mr. Robot” from a world of harsh reality to a world of fanciful science fiction?

 

The answer to that is still somewhat unclear. The season premiere revealed some sort of large device in Washington Township, where Elliot grew up and where his father and Angela’s mother got sick and ultimately died on E Corp’s watch, the linchpin that threw the whole plot of the show into motion. This device seems to be of significant importance to White Rose and one can assume it has something to do with whatever she has been telling Angela about being able to change things. That, paired with continued talks about multiple realities and universes, both from White Rose and from a random employee at Washington Township, makes it seem like “Mr. Robot” might be poised to take a sci-fi tinged turn.

 

When asked by The Hollywood Reporter, series creator Sam Esmail chose to not confirm or deny any of the growing rumors that the show could be veering into more fantastic territory, only saying that the device is important and that the show overall is “as rooted and grounded with the real world as possible.” I certainly hope this is true, because turning “Mr. Robot” into science fiction would be a real blow to what makes the show so great in the first place.

 

Part of the allure of “Mr. Robot,” at least for me, is its humanity and realism. It’s about average people taking power into their own hands and realizing that changing the world is not as simple (or as honorable) as it may seem on paper. Even when the show gets a little wacky, we as viewers know it’s only because of our unreliable narrator and his struggles with mental illness. It adds a level of fantasy and complication while still grounding the show in reality. If they decided to go full-out with the fantasy, adding some sort of time travel or alternate universe plot line, the show could lose some of its grit and ultimately run the risk of becoming a joke.

 

It’s not like I don’t enjoy a good bit of science fiction; it’s just that this show has built so much of its story on the stark realities of being a person in a world overrun with big business and corporations with no sign of a reprieve. To move away from that now or to offer some sort of grand fix that would reset everything would be a disservice to the fascinating and necessary story the show has been trying to tell.

 

I don’t want to tell the people at “Mr. Robot” how to do their job. They’ve really and truly done an excellent job so far. I just can’t help but worry that this potential turn could mean disaster, one that no reset button could fix.

 

What do you think? Do you want “Mr. Robot” to venture into science fiction territory? Or are you just wishing that they’ll add Boo Boo Jeffries to the next edition of Super Smash Bros? Let me know in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Is ‘This Is Us’ Good, Or Just Sad?

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

While I think I’ve made my thoughts on “This Is Us” pretty clear in previous posts (Randall is the absolute best, everyone else in the Pearson family is the absolute worst) I feel like it’s important to look at the show further. It doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, with a rabid fan base seemingly sticking around for the current second season (at least until they find out how Jack died) and a shocking 10 Emmy nominations (and two wins) this past awards season. All of this leads to the biggest question of them all: Is “This Is Us” actually as good as all of the recognition and accolades imply?

 

I’m not so sure. In an era where so many television shows rival or even best what’s being shown in movie theaters, so much so that big-name movie stars like Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts have made or are making their way to prestige TV, it feels weird to lump a show like “This Is Us” into that quality category. Largely because I don’t necessarily think that “This Is Us” is good. It is good at making people cry though, which is a different thing entirely.

 

All you have to do is look at how “This Is Us” is promoted to figure out how NBC is pulling people in and keeping them there. Almost every preview indicates that the upcoming episode will have some heartbreaking, earth-shattering revelation (often at the expense of poor, undeserving Randall) that will leave viewers in a puddle of their own tears. And they don’t necessarily disappoint in that regard. Every episode culminates in some teary-eyed emotional speech, often geared towards whatever personal tragedy a character has faced that week. It’s tailor-made for tears and in a time where it seems like there’s a new real-life tragedy every week, viewers are often primed and ready for a good cry.

 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good show, in terms of overall quality. The dialogue is often clunky and corny and the acting talent of the leads is wildly uneven. Plus, its tear-jerking tone and weird way of revealing new tragedies can only last for so long before people are tired of seeing their favorite characters in a constant state of duress and want to see them just be happy for once.

 

Will “This Is Us” be able to stand on its own then? Or will it crumble when its Jack-centric mystery is solved and its “you’ll cry so hard you’ll flood your entire home and drown your loved ones” moment in the sun fades? Only time will tell. For now though, I stand by my belief that “This Is Us” isn’t necessarily good, but it is very very very sad. Ya’ll should have watched Dan Fogelman‘s other new fall 2016 series instead. Want to know what that series was? “Pitch.” It was “Pitch.” Did you really think I wasn’t going to mention “Pitch”? BRING BACK “PITCH.”

 

What do you think of “This Is Us”? Do you think it’s actually a good show? Do you think I should get over my weird vendetta towards it? Yeah, I probably should. It’s not like I don’t watch it. I just quietly whisper “I should be watching ‘Pitch’ right now” while I do. Tell me what you quietly whisper while you watch “This Is Us” in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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