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4 One-Season Wonders That Deserve A Second Chance

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

In a time where just about everything is getting a reboot or a revival, it seems appropriate to remember some recent dearly departed shows that were sadly not given the opportunity to grow past their first season in the hopes that with a little talk (and luck) they might be next on the revival list. It might also just be an excuse for me to talk yet again about a show I loved that should NOT have been cancelled, but you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.


1) “BrainDead” – CBS

In hindsight this series, about a hyper-partisan Washington, D.C. plagued by brain-invading aliens with very specific policy ideas, was way ahead of its time despite the fact that it only aired months before the 2016 election. Now it would be an all too prescient take on the ways that extreme political differences can make or break a society. Despite the eerie similarities its plot lines might have with our current political situation, the show’s clever satirical tone and great performances by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Tveit and Tony Shalhoub would provide a nice respite from real world horrors. The first season finale also hinted at a shift in focus towards the financial sector, another environment in need of some serious self-assessment.

 

2) “Son of Zorn” – FOX

Sure, a comedy about an animated He-Man like guy moving to the states from his island home of Zephyria to develop a better relationship with his half animated, half live action son might seem like a pretty hard sell, but I would have a hard time believing that anyone who actually gave it a shot didn’t immediately love it. The outlandish premise somehow worked and resulted in a really hilarious and sometimes surprisingly heartwarming show. Plus, anything featuring Tim Meadows should be preserved, simply because Tim Meadows is great and should be on TV all the time.

 

3) “The Family” – ABC

Okay, hear me out. Yes, this drama about a kidnapped boy reuniting with his family after years in captivity who might not be exactly what he seems was overly dramatic, corny and kind of poorly written. And the reveal that (*spoiler alert if you actually care to not be spoiled about “The Family”*) the boy that came home was not actually who he said he was but a different boy who was trapped with the family’s missing son (who allegedly got sick and died in captivity) wasn’t nearly as satisfying as anyone still watching the show at that point might have hoped. But the season finale flipped everything around, revealing that not only was their actual son alive, but he was mad pissed that this random kid was trying to take his place. It’s certainly possible that the show would have bungled this potentially fascinating development as well, but I think those of us that stuck around for an entire season of this show deserve to find out!

 

4) “Pitch” – FOX

Yes, of COURSE I was going to mention “Pitch,” the best new show of the last five years that got zero respect from its network (who had the genius idea of pitting it up against “Scandal” on Thursday nights. SCANDAL.) or its creator (who was probably too busy coming up with new played-out ways to torture the Pearsons on his other new show that season, “This Is Us“). “Pitch” was wonderful; it was well written, well acted, and looked amazing. The only problem with it was that it was poorly promoted and as a result didn’t have the viewership deemed worthy for a second season. If I can’t convince Fox or some other network or streaming service to revive the show and give me more stories about the first female player in the MLB, then can they at least put the first season out on DVD so I can buy it, constantly watch it, and complain under my breath about how it should have been renewed. It’s the absolute least they could do.


What do you think? Do you have any recent one-season wonders that you want given another shot? Are you also scrambling to figure out how you’re going to see every movie that’s in awards contention before the Oscars in March? There’s just too many!!!! Commiserate with me in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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A (Sort of) Love Letter to Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

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Image courtesy of Google Images

Now that December is upon us, it’s officially considered to truly be the holiday season. With that comes a (completely welcomed, in my opinion) barrage of decorations, music and of course, Christmas movies. There are the classics, like “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and so many more. But hidden away on a channel in deep cable is a whole other unique sub-genre of Christmas movie: the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

 

I couldn’t tell you what airs on the Hallmark Channel any other time of the year but once the holiday season hits, it becomes an endless marathon of specially made Christmas movies. Two hours at most, they often give off the vibe that the writer simply pulled several rom-com tropes and a Christmas-y thing out of a bag and just went with it. With names like “Christmas List,” “A Christmas Detour” and, I kid you not, “Fir Crazy,” they lean heavy on the cheese factor, full of romance and charming small towns. Not entirely surprising for a network named after a greeting card store. There’s even one, called (of course) “A Christmas Melody” directed by and co-starring the voice of Christmas herself, Mariah Carey.

 

Are they good? Well, not exactly. They’re almost always way too predictable and it’s pretty obvious why you rarely see their revolving cast of stars in other things. And yet I find myself watching them more and more. I think it’s something about the mindless entertainment of it all. So much of TV these days requires you to really focus and pay attention. And while I love the more cerebral stuff (I wouldn’t be obsessed with “Mr. Robot” if I wasn’t) sometimes it’s nice to find something that can just drone on in the background while you decorate the tree or wrap gifts. Something that you can lovingly make fun of with your friends and family. Something that will always have a predictable and corny happy ending in a time where the outcomes of real-world events often feel so uncertain. The more classic Christmas movies can easily do that but if you’re looking for something even more saccharine, a Hallmark Christmas movie can easily do the trick.

 

So if you find yourself flipping through the channels in the next few weeks, looking for an hour or two of escape, might I recommend the Hallmark Channel? It won’t change your life or give you a new worldview, but it’ll at least give you something to laugh at. And sometimes, that’s all you really need.

 

What do you think? Do you enjoy the mindless entertainment in a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie? Do you know what airs on the Hallmark Channel when it’s not Christmastime? I’m dying to know. Sing a carol in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

♫ 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

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

This ‘SNL’ Sketch Might Be Only Halloween-Related Thing I Like

While I’m on the record with my general dislike for Halloween (it’s a holiday that’s only fun when you’re a kid and free candy is on the table and then as you get older it just becomes a stressful blockade in the way of Christmas cheer), I do like – nay, love – the Vincent Price Halloween special sketches on “SNL.” While David S. Pumpkins might now be the go-to “SNL” Halloween memory, these sketches are truly modern classics and the above one might be the best of them all.

 

Starring Bill Hader as the titular Vincent Price, the sketch typically involves him trying to host some sort of spooky holiday special only to be upstaged by his chaotic guests and co-host, Fred Armisen’s delightful Liberace. In this case, those guests are the always-perfect Kristen Wiig as Gloria Swanson and the might-as-well-be-an-official-SNL-cast-member Jon Hamm as James Mason. From the beginning it’s clear that Swanson and Mason are only interested in getting drunk and being a mess, and nothing Price does will stop them in their pursuits. It’s gleeful and goofy and doesn’t leave you with nightmares, like most Halloween-related nonsense. (I don’t like being scared, okay? I just want to laugh!)

 

People like to say that your favorite “SNL” cast is the one that was there when you first really started watching the show, and this cast was mine. Hader, Wiig, Armisen and the others were so on top of their game, so absurdly talented and funny that it made every week a treat regardless of what was in the news or who held political office. While I definitely enjoy the current cast and the unique things they bring to the table, this one will always have a special place in my heart and this sketch is one of the many reasons why.

 

What do you think? What’s your favorite Halloween-related “SNL” sketch? Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from your childhood? Mine was definitely Penelope Taynt, “Amanda’s Number One Fan, Please.” I even had the laptop on a strap around my neck! (Although mine was made out of cardboard.) A true classic, to be sure. Tell all in the comments. And, of course, on this night before Halloween…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

 

Justin Timberlake Is Doing the Super Bowl Halftime Show…And I Have Some Thoughts

It was announced yesterday that Justin Timberlake will be the headliner at the 2018 Super Bowl Halftime show. This should be great news. It’s Justin Timberlake! He’s talented and fun! But it still sits in an uneasy place with me, and I’m sure countless others. Because we all remember what happened the last time he did the Halftime show.

 

For those who somehow missed Timberlake’s infamous 2004 appearance, here’s a quick refresher: when Timberlake got the the “have you naked by the end of this song” lyric in his song “Rock Your Body,” he stayed true to his word, revealing a part of co-headliner Janet Jackson’s body that is generally not allowed to be shown on a network like CBS. It’s always been somewhat unclear whether or not the move was intentional, but it was clear who seemed to get the most blame for the incident: Janet Jackson.

 

While Timberlake has been able to largely move on from what happened it became a constant topic of conversation whenever Janet Jackson was brought up, in some circles overshadowing much of the success she has had as a solo artist. Timberlake didn’t even really address the hypocrisy of the situation until two years later, and he barely took a stance then.

 

The whole ordeal spoke to the larger issues surrounding censorship in entertainment, something that has bugged me for years. You can’t show most nudity on network television, but you can show oftentimes gratuitous violence? A movie becomes R-rated if someone says the “F” word too many times, but remains PG-13 if it’s just people shooting guns at each other? The disparities there are definitely evident in the way that our society perceives certain events and situations, much like this one, and it’s not right.

 

There’s also, of course, the issue with the fact that Timberlake, the male artist involved in the incident, is being welcomed back while the female artist involved, who was possibly exposed without her permission or consent, is seemingly still banned from appearing on the Halftime show again. It’s just another example of the ever-present double standards between men and women, especially women of color and especially in the entertainment industry. Justin Timberlake was just a little scamp who make a mistake, and we forgive him; Janet Jackson was a grown woman who should have known better, so she doesn’t get to move on. It’s completely and totally unfair and this latest development only highlights that more.

 

I like Justin Timberlake. I’m a longtime fan of his music and have seen him in concert twice. I hope that he will use this opportunity to welcome Jackson back (regardless of what sort of consequences it might produce for him) and allow her the time she rightfully deserves after this whole ordeal. It’s really the least he could do, but it would at least be a big step in the direction of righting the wrong that started 14 years ago.

 

What do you think? Do you hope that Timberlake will bring Janet Jackson back for the Halftime show? Do you wish they had just gotten Beyonce to do it again? I feel you. Share your thoughts in the comments. But, of course…

 

Keep it classy.

Jenn

What Are You Reading?

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

Sure, I spend a lot of time on this blog writing about the things that I’m watching on stage and screens big and small but when I’m not ruining my eyes with screen time I’m most likely reading a book. Or sleeping. Or eating something I shouldn’t be. But often I’m reading a book!

 

Some people (like “Secret Life of the American Teenager Star” Shailene Woodley) like to believe that just because someone is an active and frequent enjoyer of things like television and film they can’t also be a reader, which is simply untrue. It feeds into the snooty idea that television and film are a lesser art, meant to entertain the mindless masses while the truly intelligent spend their time with fine literature. Yes, there are certainly many things on television and in movies that aren’t exactly mentally enriching, but there are also a lot of things that both entertain and make you think. And then, when you’re done watching those fascinating and thought-provoking pieces of entertainment, you can pick up a book! Crazy concept, I know.

 

Right now I’m reading “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah‘s memoir of sorts, “Born A Crime.” It features stories of his life growing up in South Africa, both during apartheid and after, and is actually really good. Not to say that I didn’t think it would be, it’s just that sometimes celebrity memoirs can fall a little flat. For a celebrity memoir to be truly great, you need someone who has a backstory that’s actually interesting and can write said story in a compelling way. I’m only about halfway through “Born A Crime,” but Noah is definitely hitting both of those marks. It’s a mix of humor (inevitable, given his comedy background) and more dramatic moments and offers a glimpse into Noah’s very fascinating life. Even if you’re not a fan of Noah’s current “Daily Show” tenure, I would recommend you check the book out. It might actually change your mind.

 

Have you read “Born A Crime”? Are you reading a different book right now that you’re really enjoying? Did you also absolutely love last week’s season premiere of “Mr. Robot“? (It’s finally baaaaaack!!) Let me know in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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