Television

Three Strikes, You’re Out

Baseball, or America’s pastime, has been part of United States culture for a long time. Its origin dates back to the mid-18th century. By the late 1800’s and 1900’s baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of America and has grown to be a summer time favorite of sports fans throughout the nation.

If you played baseball growing up, chances are you might have played Little League, an organization that was founded in 1939 by Carl E. Stotz. Little League is one of the most popular and most recognized youth baseball leagues in the world. Every year since 1947 Little League honors the best Little League teams in the world by hosting a tournament called the Little League World Series in the town where it was founded, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

It’s not an easy road to Williamsport. First, All-Star teams are selected from each Little League to compete in district, sectional (in some states/countries), divisional, and regional tournaments. Currently, the Little League World Series features 16 teams (8 American and 8 International) of players ages 11-13 from various regions across the globe. The U.S. regions are comprised of New England (made up of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts), Mid-Atlantic (made up of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC), Great Lakes (made up of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin), Southeast (made up of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee), Midwest (made up of North/South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri), Southwest (made up of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas East and West), Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska), and West (made up of Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii). Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Europe and Africa, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, and Latin America are the international regions. With the long road to the Little League World Series making it to South Williamsport is an accomplishment for any team.

Once in Williamsport, the teams stay in dorms on the Little League complex. The players and coaches compound known as “The Grove” has been described as a little leaguer’s dream. It has a game room, pool, and all the food any kid would want. No one other than the players and coaches can go there either. The Little League complex in South Williamsport features more than just player dorms. There are two Little League stadiums, Volunteer Stadium, which opened in 2001 when the World Series expanded to include 16 teams instead of just 8, and the legendary Howard J. Lamade Stadium, which opened in 1959. Through the years Lamade has expanded and grown along with Little League Baseball. It went under an expansion in 1971, added lights in 1992 so night games could be played, and in 2006 the fences were moved back 20 ft to allow for more doubles and triples. The complex also features numerous practice fields and a museum dedicated to the past and present of Little League Baseball and Softball. During the week and half long tournament at the end of August, the players are treated like star athletes. They sign autographs and take photos with fans and receive media coverage from ESPN.

Since 1963 the ABC network (which is now in association with ESPN) has covered the Little League World Series. Until the late 80’s only the championship game was televised. Then slowly more games received coverage by ABC and ESPN. By 2007, all but one game was to air live on the networks. Now even the regional tournaments are getting major coverage. As of 2014, all regional tournament games can be streamed live online via ESPN3 with the exception of the Southeast and New England regional which are aired in full on regional networks affiliated with ESPN. The semifinals and final regional games are shown on the well-known sports network.

For those attending the Little League World Series, it never comes at a price. Parking and admission are free. The only time tickets are issued are for bigger games, like the championships or games where large crowds are expected (i.e. if a team within close driving distance like one from Pennsylvania makes it to Williamsport), but even then, the tickets are still free. They’re either distributed on a first come, first serve basis or in a random drawing.

I’ve attended the Little League World Series many times. Since it’s only an hour and a half drive from my home town, I attended annually from 2005-2012 and then once more in 2014. Typically my seat of choice came from bringing a soccer chair and setting it up on the first of the two hills that overlook Lamade Stadium. It’s standard practice for Little League fans to watch the game from either the hill or in the Stadium. The second hill only fills up for major games because it’s usually reserved for sliding down on cardboard, which is kind of a right of passage at the Little League World Series. During my first few trips to the Little League World Series I spent some serious time sliding on that hill. Before my first trip to South Williamsport, I watched the Little League World Series on TV so I knew what to expect when I saw that hill. Needless to say I was pumped to take my first slide on the short but steep slope. In addition to the hill, there’s a ton of other fun activities for guests like pin trading, merch shopping, sponsorship tents, and plenty of delicious and reasonably priced food. With all the activities as well as the games, the Little League World Series was something I looked forward to every summer after I attended for the first time.

This year’s Little League World Series will come to a close this Sunday, when two teams, one from the United States and one from an international region, meet for the championship. The championship game will air at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC. First a United States Champion and International Champion need to be crowned. Those games take place tomorrow and will both be aired on ABC as well. The International Championship will feature the East Seoul Little League from Seoul, South Korea and the Aguadulce Cabezera Little League from Aguadulce, Panama, which represent the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions, respectively. The game takes place at 12:30 p.m. ET at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. The United States Championship will go to either the Maine-Endwell Little League from Endwell, NY or the Goodlettsville Baseball Little League from Goodlettsville, Tennessee. The U.S. Championship starts at 3:30 p.m. ET and also takes place in Lamade Stadium.

For the players, parents, coaches, volunteers and spectators at the Little League World Series, it’s more than just baseball. Memories are made and stories unfold. For the players, the memories last a lifetime, as well as some of the relationships made between teammates or with other kids from all over the world. It’s an experience like no other. The rest who attend make their memories in other ways like sliding down the hill on a piece of cardboard, catching a foul ball, creating an environment for the players to have the best week ever, spending the day with their kid(s) or even watching their own kid hit a home run. It’s easy to see why the Little League World Series is a special place and a place that anyone who’s ever worn the Little League patch should visit.

Breaking Records

The title of this post can be taken 2 different ways if you think about it. It could literally mean smashing vinyl records or it could mean surpassing a high achievement. With the whole theme of this blog though, you never know. For today, interpret it the second way.

Since Coachella 2016 has finally passed, it’s time to get back to the normal blog posts instead of just Coachella Band Previews (although I know how much everyone (me included) loves them). Over the weekend there was an epic achievement made by a new team in the women’s pro soccer league in this country, the NWSL (for more on the league check out my blog post from last year). This past year the NWSL announced the addition of a 10th team in the league, the Orlando Pride. The Pride, who are run by the same management as Orlando City SC of the MLS, had their inaugural home opener on Saturday night. The match attracted 23,403 fans to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL, which broke the prior NWSL attendance record of 21,144 set by the Portland Thorns in 2015.The former record was set during a post-World Cup “welcome back” match for the 2015 World Cup Champion USWNT players. The only significance of the match in Orlando was that it was the first home match in the club’s history. Nonetheless numbers like that are incredible. I mean think about it, 23,000+ fans for a non-international women’s pro soccer match. Most NHL arenas hold less fans than that. It’s proof that soccer is growing in America, and not only soccer, but women’s soccer.

Two weeks ago I had a thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if one day a women’s sport was more popular than a man’s?” (I, of course, meant a sport of the same nature i.e. women’s soccer vs. men’s soccer, not field hockey vs. football.) I even tweeted it. Wouldn’t it though? It would be an incredible feat for women. Since the dawn of time, women were always considered less than men, and that notion, although much more improved, is still a factor in many aspects of today’s society. It’s why the USWNT is currently in a legal battle with U.S. Soccer. It’s why many players in the NWSL have to live with host families or have second jobs. It’s why many businesses, corporations, etc. are managed by men. It’s why in the film industry many directors are men. It’s why women are objectified. It’s why in other cultures women are mistreated or abused, and none of it is fair or just. Sex or gender shouldn’t dictate a person being seen as less or making less money. It’s something we have no control over. Neither should sexual orientation or skin color because again we have no control over those things either, but I digress.

The point is even with the amount of progress made over time, inequality still exists, which means we, as a society, still need to grow. Growth is happening though. It’s happening slowly, but it’s happening. This is why we need to continue to support equality and growth. Remarkable things can happen. I truly believe that one day a women’s sport will be more popular than the same man’s sport. Hopefully by then women will be making the same amount of money too. Equal pay for equal play, ya feel me? At some point, seeing 23,000+ fans of all ages and genders attend a women’s pro soccer match will be the norm. It won’t have to be incredible because it already will be. Do you get what I’m saying? Until then, support the NWSL and women’s soccer any way you can. Get out to a game. Sponsor a team. Spread the word. Impact the conversation. Because each small action makes a difference in the much bigger picture. More growth will happen. More equality will exist and more records will be broken.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Every year for the last 50 years A Charlie Brown Christmas has aired on television during the holiday season. A few weeks ago, a special celebrating the annual Christmas show aired on ABC. I guess I should have written about A Charlie Brown Christmas that week, but I figured since Christmas in is in a few days it might be nice to get in the spirit this week.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is based on the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz. It first debuted on December 9, 1965 on CBS. It was produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez. In the show, the main character, Charlie Brown, is very depressed during the Christmas season. When fellow Peanut and friend Lucy suggests that he should direct the annual school Christmas play, Charlie Brown decides to go for it since it might be a good way to help him combat his holiday blues. Upon taking the directing role, Charlie Brown finds himself disrespected and ignored by his peers. It takes a little reminder from his friend Linus to get into the spirit of Christmas and remember the true meaning of the season.

The special was created in only six months on a very small budget and was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. They also cast child actors to voice the characters in a move that was seemingly unconventional at the time. Another unconventional move by the creators was having a jazz score performed by Vince Guaraldi and an absence of a laugh track (the standard for animated programs at the time). Although it was unsure how the special would be received by the public, A Charlie Brown Christmas had much success. Along with the annual airing of the show, it also received both an Emmy and a Peabody Award. The soundtrack has gone triple platinum in the U.S. as well.

I can’t really remember when I was introduced to the Peanuts and A Charlie Brown Christmas in particular because I always watched it growing up. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had the special on a VHS tape to watch whenever I wanted to. My mother was and still is a big Peanuts fan, so much so, that she owns plenty of Peanuts merchandise and watches the Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween specials every year. This is why it seems that all of the Peanuts holiday specials have been a staple in my life for a very long time.

I tuned in a few weeks ago to watch the 50th Anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC and I learned a lot about the show. Most, if not all, of what I wrote in the blog today was info I learned from the special. I’m sure many others learned a lot about A Charlie Brown Christmas that day as well. For a lot people, watching the show is a holiday tradition. Families gather around the TV every year to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and subsequently, pass it on future generations. I actually just watched it with my four year old cousin over the weekend. The jazz score more commonly know as “Linus & Lucy” plays on radio stations and playlists throughout the Christmas season as well. There’s no doubt in my mind that most people can hum the famous tune if asked. Though Charlie Brown complains of the commercialization of Christmas in the famed Christmas show, it is much more commercialized today. A Charlie Brown Christmas reminds us every year through all the hustle and bustle that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and promotes peace on earth and goodwill towards men (and women!). And that’s what Christmas is about Charlie Brown! *cue “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”*

The Greenback Boogie

When you’re a big fan of something, whether it be a band, song, movie, TV show, actor, team, athlete, etc., you tend to want to know more about whatever it is you’re a fan of. When I became a Pretty Little Liars fan in March 2011, I did just that. I started learning about the show, the crew, the books, and the actresses who play Emily, Aria, Hanna, and Spencer, the show’s main characters. I learned that Ashley Benson is a huge jokester on set. I learned Lucy Hale has a dog named Jack. Shay Mitchell loves pizza and Troian Bellisario has the best taste in music (according to my definition of best). What does that have to do with anything? Well I also learned about who the girls were dating at the time and how Troian’s boyfriend, Patrick J. Adams, was actually a guest star on Pretty Little Liars in the second episode of Season 1. Not to mention, he’s just as cool as she is so I started following him too.

Shortly after his guest appearance on PLL, Patrick landed a starring role on the USA Network legal drama, Suits. The longer I followed both Troian and Patrick on social media the more I realized I should probably check Suits out, especially since Troian spoke so highly of it. Fortunately I had an unbiased friend who also watched Suits so I asked him about it. He had the same response and encouraged me to watch. I bought the first season on DVD (the show was on its second season at the time) and I was captivated from the very first episode.

Created by Aaron Korsh, Suits is about the workings of a powerful New York City law firm, Pearson-Hardman (which is now known as something else but I didn’t want to post spoilers) and how a bike messenger named Mike Ross (Adams), who has an exceptional memory of anything he’s ever seen, heard, read, etc., convinces one of the best attorneys at the firm, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), to give him a position there as an associate even though he never went to Harvard Law (or any law school for that matter) and acquired a law degree. From there, drama related to every day and not-so-every day law firm life ensues, while the very few who know Mike’s secret stand to protect it and him from being figured out.

Suits is now in its 5th season and has been renewed for a 6th season. Through its run on USA Network, Suits has received several award nominations and has garnered positive reception from critics and fans alike. For me, it’s one of those shows that you need to pay attention to. If you don’t, you could miss something since much of the drama involves legal practices. However, it’s doesn’t go above your head if you know nothing about law. Plus, there are plenty of funny moments in the show that keep it from being all drama all the time. Fans of the show have come to love the movie line banter between Harvey and Mike, Harvey’s awesomely confident and clever secretary, Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), the strange and sometimes annoying antics of Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), another top attorney at Pearson-Hardman, and the mystery of what exactly the can opener ritual is. Like in any good drama, there’s also the element of romance. The chemistry between Mike and fellow co-worker/paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) is some of the best I’ve seen on television. Their scene in the copy room at the end of Season 2 is one of the show’s most memorable.

Suits really has it all. It can be serious, nerve-racking, funny, sad, sweet, and totally badass all in one episode. For those interested in legal dramas, this isn’t one to miss. Even with five seasons in the books, it won’t be difficult to catch up because the story will hook you. Suits currently airs on USA Network, Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Watch and be prepared because at some point you’ll get Litt Up!

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

When The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel in 2009, it began creating a bunch of projects incorporating the famed comic book company. Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and a sequel to Iron Man were some of the first movie releases post-Disney purchase. All the movies had one thing in common though. Each plot line included elements that foreshadowed a disaster that would take a union of earth’s mightiest heroes to fix. This also meant an epic blockbuster picture known as The Avengers. The Avengers, or the team made up of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow, are a group of superheroes put together to save the world by an organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), an FBI style agency that deals with super humans and any issues that may arise because of them. In the 2012 movie, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), united the Avengers to stop Thor’s adopted brother, Loki, from taking over earth, which they succeeded at. Of course in the meantime, there were some casualties. One in particular was S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who played an instrumental role in several of the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers. However, the “death” of Phil Coulson helped to set up Marvel’s prime time live action television series premiering on ABC a little over a year after the release of the epic super hero movie.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first aired in September 2013. It followed up on what happened to Agent Coulson (Gregg) after he supposedly died in the feature film. If you haven’t already guessed, he was brought back to life and the mystery of how eventually gets answered along the way. The series follows Coulson and his team, May (Ming-Na Wen), Ward (Brett Dalton), Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), and Skye (Chloe Bennet) as they face issues with people who have powers and with the terrorist organization, Hydra. At the end of the first season last May, Hydra had come full force at S.H.I.E.L.D. after being in a dormant state for so long with members of the deceptive terrorist group pretending to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The second season which premiered this past September saw the addition of some new agents to Coulson’s team (Hunter (Nick Blood), Mack (Henry Simmons), and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki)) as the story continued with S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to rebuild itself and put an end to Hydra. The final episode of the show’s second season just aired Tuesday night with a possible foreshadowing of the rebuilding of Hydra under a new leader and a new mystery involving the Kree Stone that was introduced in Season 2. A third season will begin in September with a continuation of the where the second season left off as well as new trials and tribulations for S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Coulson and the members of his team.

I first started watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the date it initially aired in September 2013 (the night before I left for my first trip to California). I was a fan of The Avengers as well as Thor (Loki’s actually my favorite character…haters gonna hate), but I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy the Marvel TV series as much. There was no reason to be hesitant though because I was roped in from the start. After the first episode, I knew the series would be filled with action, excitement, and twists as the series progressed. I’ve followed the show ever since. It’s lived up to my expectations.

My favorite thing about the show is how it’s intertwined with the rest of the Marvel Universe. When a new Marvel film comes out (sequels to Thor and Captain America were released post-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debut, as well as an Avengers sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, which came out 2 weeks ago), a small part of the show the week before the movie release and a small part the week after coincide with the film. It makes viewers want to go out to see the movie on opening weekend in case there’s anything important in the movie that relates to the show the following week or vice versa. Is it absolutely necessary to see all the movies? Probably not, but it helps. For instance, I’ve never seen any of the Captain America movies, nor do I plan on seeing them. When the latest one came out last April, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should see it for the sake of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fortunately I have friends who are Marvel fans too who went to see it. I asked one of them if there was anything I needed to know and she provided me with the info. Then again, I’m sure there were some things that happened in the movie that were a precursor to the newest Avengers that I missed out on. The whole system is a great money-making tactic. It’s also the only time I’ve ever watched a TV show that does something of this nature.

Not only does the show relate to the Marvel films, but it also includes guest appearances by characters from some of those films. Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Sif (Asgardian warrior), and Peggy Carter (now the lead character in another Marvel spin-off TV series entitled “Agent Carter”) are just some of the characters that have appeared on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and in the films. I’m sure with a third season beginning in a few months there will be more characters to add to that list. Who knows, maybe there will be a point when an Avenger makes a guest appearance. With the Marvel overlap, I wouldn’t put it past the show’s creators to make it happen.

With the number of successful Marvel films released in recent years, it’s no surprise that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done well. The Marvel fan base has grown and with new films to be released in the not so distant future I’m sure the television show will keep thriving. If you’ve seen any of the Marvel films that I mentioned over the last 7 years, I’m sure you’d appreciate Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if you don’t already. The story lines are constantly developing. There’s action. There’s a hint of mystery. There’s twists, turns, and curve balls thrown along the way. Not to mention, there’s the references and reminders that the show is part of the Marvel Universe. It really is flat-out, so cool. There’s no better way to understand it than to check it out and become a part of the world of Marvel. So what are you waiting for?

The Biggest Night in Music…or Something Like That

If you watched the Grammy Awards last night, I’m sure the one question running through your mind is “Was there anything Sam Smith didn’t win?” The answer is surprisingly “Yes!” no matter how you look at it. Sure you can say he didn’t win a Grammy for every category, but he wasn’t nominated for every category. However, he also did not win in every category he was nominated for (Pharrell won with “Happy” for Best Pop Performance), although it sure seemed like he did.

Anyway, I originally had planned to do a Grammy Awards recap today but then right before the show started last night I realized I really didn’t care to watch it. Prior to this I saw three of the categories I cared about were already awarded. Best Rock Performance went to Jack White for “Lazaretto”, Best Rock Song went to Paramore for “Ain’t It Fun” and Best Alternative Album went to St. Vincent for her self-titled album (see you at Coachella Jack and Annie!). After that I only cared if The Black Keys won Best Rock Album or if Haim won Best New Artist. Neither did. So there wasn’t much else for me to see. The performances weren’t my cup of tea nor were the other categories. I might have been mildly interested to see if Taylor Swift won anything for “Shake It Off”. That song may be a guilty pleasure of mine but I will not confirm or deny that (she didn’t win at all). Still, that was something I could wait to find out later without watching the show.

So I barely watched the Grammys. Instead it got me thinking, “Why do people watch the Grammys? Why are they so special? Heck, why do people watch any award shows and what makes some more important or better than others?” So I did some research and decided to answer those questions here.

First “Why do people watch the Grammys?” and “Why are they so special?” Well to give an answer to both of these questions at once (sorta) is because the Grammys are the oldest and most prestigious awards in music. The show started in the late 50’s and has continued until this point. So that’s why they’re special and I think part of why people watch. Another reason I think people watch is because they want to see if their favorite artists receive a major achievement. I’m sure some people watch to see the performances and drama that occurs with a live award show. There’s probably people that watch just so they can feel included to talk about the show the next day at work or school. Then there’s the people who watch for the fashion. There’s probably other reasons too, but I think those are some of the big ones.

I guess the same can be said for why people watch any awards shows. They care about what the show celebrates whether it’s music, tv, movies, etc., or they care about fashion and pop culture, or they just watch it for pure entertainment. What makes some award shows better than others? Well I think like I said before is how old they are and how prestigious they are deemed by society.

That’s the thing though. The Grammy Awards (probably other award shows too) were criticized plenty of times for just being some big spectacle that celebrates the music industry, caters to people for entertainment, and is less about the actual music than they want you to believe. Like many things in our culture, award shows get blown out of proportion. It’s society that makes us believe that awards are important and certain awards are more important than others. That goes for anything. I guess it’s the case that people need to feel validated sometimes and awards help with that. But I think it’s important for those receiving awards to feel validated no matter what, like the people who make music purely to make music by expressing themselves and creating a beautiful compilation of sound. There’s validation in just being able to make music. One of my favorite Grammy moments of all time happened when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two Grammys in 2012 for Bon Iver, Bon Iver and Best New Artist (he wasn’t new at the time but we’ll let that slide). Through his acceptance speech he basically indicated that the awards meant so little compared to the music which was so much more important. I’ve always respected musicians like that who put the music first. It is what’s most important. Awards are just an added bonus.

So I think it’s important for those of us that actually care about what the awards are for to remember what is really important about them. Hell, even if you care about the fashion or the water cooler discussion the next day it’s important to know the real reason for having an award show. Music, television, movies, etc. are all forms of art. They’re beautiful creations of tremendous amounts of work that have been shared with us. That is what is so incredible about them. That is what is most important.

Last Man Standing

While growing up, Friday and Saturday night television used to be legendary. ABC had a solid Friday night lineup with Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Saturday always consisted of Nickelodeon with All That, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Kenan and Kel, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Kablam, and The Adventures of Pete & Pete. That was of course before I had plans on Friday and Saturday nights. Then middle school, high school, and college came around and I never watched any TV on the weekend nights (except maybe Sunday). In fact only until recently did I start paying attention to the Friday night programming thanks to one show: Last Man Standing.

Last Man Standing starring former 90’s TV icon, Tim Allen (Home Improvement) began it’s television run in 2011. I caught it a few times in the last few years because when my mom had no Friday night plans and I was home, she would watch it. In the last few months I really started watching it though. I have to say it’s probably one of the most underrated shows on TV. In my opinion it’s one of the best Friday night shows since Boy Meets World.

The show is about a family from Denver, CO and Tim Allen plays the dad/senior executive and director of marketing for an outdoor sports merchandise franchise, Mike Baxter. Instead of having three sons this time around, Allen has three older daughters (and a wife) with their own entertaining storylines…hence the whole “last man standing” concept. Between Mike, the personalities of his daughters and wife, his job, his boss and one of his hair-brained employees, the show cracks jokes at just about anything, including politics (Baxter is highly conservative). It’s the kind of comedy that’s fun for the whole family in a similar way that Home Improvement was (meaning no constant dirty/crude humor).

As a fan of Home Improvement growing up, last week’s episode of the show was particularly entertaining as Patricia Richardson (Jill Taylor…Tim’s wife from Home Improvement) guest starred. Not to mention there was a brief cameo for Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy…Tim’s son). In the first scene where Richardson appeared both her Allen bantered back and forth like old times, mostly with her ripping apart her former TV husband.

Although I still might not be home every Friday night, the internet provides the opportunity to watch episodes that have aired previously on ABC. So I can always make up for an episode I missed (as it goes for many shows on tv these days). In this way, even if you’re not around on a Friday you can still watch this show which will guarantee you a few laughs. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Two Can Keep A Secret If One of Them is Dead

In the television world, every once in a while there’s a show that has a greater impact on its viewers than the rest of programs on TV. I guess if you’re a fan of any TV show you could probably make a case for that to be true. That being said, I might be a little biased here but the numbers and TV ratings don’t lie. Since its pilot episode 4 1/2 years ago, Pretty Little Liars has continued to change the television game.

The show is based off a book series by Sara Shepherd, set in the fictitious Philadelphia mainline suburb, Rosewood, which tells the story of four best friends, Spencer (played on the show by Troian Bellisario), Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Emily (Shay Mitchell), who get stalked, bullied, and tortured through a series of mysterious text messages and notes from an anonymous person who refers to him or herself as “A”. Of course the girls started to receive the messages after the body of their other best friend, Alison, who was missing for a year was found buried in her own backyard. Sounds like an interesting plot line right? Well it only gets better from there. This show is filled with more than just secrets and lies as it confronts the topics of sexuality, adultery, mental illness, drugs and alcohol to name a few. Pretty Little Liars, or “PLL” as referred to by some (myself included), pushed these risky topics over the last 4 years and almost 5 full seasons since it debuted in June of 2010. It most likely won’t stop either as the show has already been picked up for two more seasons making it ABC Family’s longest running original series.

While touring the Warner Brothers lot in September 2013, I caught some of the outside sets.

While touring the Warner Brothers lot in September 2013, I caught some of the outside sets.

I began watching the show one late afternoon in March 2011 while I was flicking channels on the TV for something to watch. A Pretty Little Liars marathon happened to be airing that day in preparation for the first season finale later that evening. It caught my eye and reeled me in shortly after. I ended up watching about 4-5 episodes to the point where I was dying to watch the season finale at 8 p.m. that night. The season premiere of Dancing with the Stars also aired at 8 that night and my plan before any of this happened was to watch that (yeah I watch Dancing with the Stars…thanks mom). Luckily I saw the finale aired again at 10 and was able to watch it then. I didn’t realize it at the time but watching Pretty Little Liars was a complete game changer in my life for multiple reasons.

That same evening of the finale it was announced that the second season of the show would be premiering in early June and I did everything in my power until the premiere to watch the entire first season of the show. The first season wasn’t available on DVD yet so I ended up purchasing the first 6 episodes on my Playstation. I planned to eventually buy the first season on DVD so purchasing all the episodes was entirely unnecessary. That’s when I was finally able to find some internet site that had the episodes available to watch. So watch them I did. It was also my last semester of college and I used to reward myself for studying/doing schoolwork by watching episodes. I couldn’t always binge straight through either because the website I watched them on would make you take a half hour break or so before it allowed you to watch another 90 minutes or something like that (I forget the exact amount of break and watch time now as you can tell). It was a pain but still it allowed me to get caught up on Season 1.

During those 2-3 months until the premiere I also convinced my very close family friend, Sarah (aka Beans) to get into the show. She had friends who watched it but never gave it a chance until I explained how good it was and showed her the first few episodes. She got into it too. We planned on watching the premiere together/getting together every week to watch Pretty Little Liars. Thus, PLL nights were born. Towards the end of that summer (mid-season of season 2) I invited our mutual friend Owen to join us in watching the show since we hung out a lot on Tuesdays and always had to take him home before Pretty Little Liars (he never watched it until then). That night he became a mainstay in our PLL nights and we’ve been getting together to watch the show ever since.

Another outside set on the WB lot.

Another outside set on the WB lot.

Pretty Little Liars has had a huge impact on my life and the lives of many others. It’s nothing short of amazing as it’s continually referenced as the most tweeted about show on television. With an average audience of over 2.5 million viewers, it’s easy to see why. The season two finale which promised a reveal of the true identity of “A” grossed around 3.69 million viewers and generated around 645,000 tweets at a peak rate of 32,000 tweets per minute (we lost it when the first “A” was revealed). The dedicated fan base consists of mostly girls and women between the ages of 12-34. To pull in this crowd, there are many romantic moments and relationships (the ships…Ezria forever) and an emphasis on fashion despite the plot focus on the mystery surrounding the death of Alison and the stalker “A”.

As Pretty Little Liars gets set to begin the second half of its 5th season this evening its audience can only be set to expect more mind-blowing plot twists, steamy moments between the show’s most loved couples, and maybe a final reveal of this “A” character who was thought to be revealed several times before (but probably not as there will be at least two more seasons of this creeper’s antics). You really never know what can happen on Pretty Little Liars. Two things about the show are for sure though. The first is that Pretty Little Liars’ cultural impact through digital and social media and the risky issues it wasn’t afraid to cover will be remembered by its viewers for years to come (not to mention it will be remembered by all the fun nights I shared watching it with my two favorites) and the second is that “A” is everywhere.

The famous PLL pink golf cart. (Bitches is censored)

The famous PLL pink golf cart. (Bitches is censored)

(FYI if you were wondering where those numbers came from:

Bibel, Sara (March 20, 2012). “Monday Cable Ratings: ‘WWE RAW,’ ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Top Night + ‘American Chopper,’ ‘Basketball Wives,’ ‘Lost Girl’ & More”. TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 20, 2012.

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/ratings/2012/03/20/abc-familys-pretty-little-liars-finale-generates-the-most-social-media-buzz-in-television-history-networks-number-1-telecast-ever-in-women-18-34-144411/20120320abcfamily01/ )

California Here We Come

I’ve been such a slacker in the last week and half by not updating this blog. I’ve been busy though. It’s a busy time of the year. You know, Christmas time, when everyone does at least one thousand and one extra things besides all the things they do on a normal basis. Secondly, I haven’t been able to come up with a good subject matter for the next post (obviously I finally have but we’ll get to that).

I guess I could’ve taken the easy way out and wrote about Christmas music or Christmas movies, but I’ve been lacking Christmas spirit for the past 2 years. I’ve had no desire to watch A Christmas Story or listen to Bayside’s cover of Angels We Have Heard On High or anything like that. In fact I haven’t really had any desire to involve myself with anything Christmas-y until last night when I was wrapping gifts (I consider gift wrapping as something you have to do..it’s not really a choice unless you want your loved ones to hate you) and realized it was the first night of Hanukkah. Then I knew exactly what to write about. Christmas episodes. More specifically Chrismukkah. But even more specific than that, The OC.

Like any TV show I have fallen absolutely in love with, I started watching The OC during it’s second season. The first episode of Season 1 aired back in August of 2003, but I started watching it in 2004 and it’s been one of my all time favorite television shows ever since. I just made it sound like it’s still on, but it’s not. It lasted a total of four seasons ending in 2007. In my opinion and I’m sure other viewers can agree, the show really died after Season 3 along with one of its main characters (no spoilers…promise).

The OC was a drama set in Newport Beach, CA and followed the fictional lives of teenagers, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), and their affluent families through their interesting and eventful life challenges. That’s kind of a poor description of what the show’s about, but if I told you the show begins when lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) decides to help his teenage client who lived a pretty tough life growing up in Chino, CA (Ryan) by taking the boy in to live with him and his family in his huge home in Newport Beach then maybe you’d have a slightly better idea of the show. But maybe not, cause I really didn’t mention much about Seth, Marissa, and Summer.

Seth is Sandy’s nerdy, comic book/indie music loving son and eventually becomes like a brother to Ryan as he helps him adjust to his new school, with girls, and all the other fun that comes along with living with a well-off family in the OC. Marissa aka “Coop” (Summer’s nickname for her) lives next to the Cohens and becomes the love interest of Ryan shortly into the series, but she also has a multitude of issues in her own life which play a factor in their roller coaster of a relationship. Summer is the long-time crush of Seth and also Marissa’s best friend.

Now you’ve got a better idea of the whole thing, but if not you can always watch to find out more (wink wink). In general though the show covered all sorts of teen and life issues in it’s 4 seasons of existence, but it also had a yearly tradition of including what fans would look forward to around the holidays, a Chrismukkah episode. Chrismukkah was a hybrid holiday created by Seth that combined both  Christmas and Hanukkah and involved both sides of his family’s’ holiday traditions (Sandy was Jewish and Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), Seth’s mom, was Christian). To quote Seth’s description Chrismukkah is “eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents,” and it left fans, myself included, wanting to take part in this epic celebration. It was so epic that even though it’s been 8 years since the last Chrismukkah episode aired, I still wished I had another one to watch last night (first glimmer of any Christmas spirit this year for me). In fact, if I have time, I may even try to watch a Chrismukkah episode in the next few days.

Besides Chrismukkah, the OC was incredibly important to the indie music scene of the early 00’s. Along with soundtracks for each season which had indie songs that were featured on the show, it also included episodes where bands like, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, The Subways, etc. played a few “live” sets at the local hangout/venue, The Bait Shop, which debuted in the second season. Plus, Seth was the coolest, nerdy, indie kid you’d ever want to meet, and I don’t think Phantom Planet ever had a better or more well-known song than “California” (the theme song for The OC). The show really did a lot for those bands and indie music from the exposure it gave. Although this post isn’t really about music, I do recommend checking out the track listing for The OC soundtracks and giving some of those songs a listen, especially “California” if you can’t already hum those all too familiar opening notes.

Along with Laguna Beach, The OC was one of my favorite television shows while in high school. It was actually one of the first shows I would watch religiously as new episodes came out every Thursday on Fox. And like Laguna Beach, it played a role in creating my desire to visit Southern California. It was the show that initially made me want to visit SoCal and then watching Laguna just added to it (naturally I visited Newport Beach on my trip to California last year as well).

It really is unfortunate that The OC ended when it did. To me it feels like something that was gone too soon, but I guess if you saw the 4th season you knew it was inevitable. Luckily I received the 4 seasons of The OC as Christmas gifts every year as they came out from my grandpa and I can watch the old episodes any time. I think they’re available on Netflix as well for anyone wanting to check it out. If not there, then I’m sure you can find them online somewhere. Since it’s one of my all time favorite shows I’m gonna have to say that you should check it out no matter what, but especially if you’re in the mood for some Christmas and Hanukkah themed entertainment in the next week or so (watch one of the Chrismukkah eps!). Captain Oats would want you to (if you don’t know who that is then you better watch the show). Anyway, Merry Chrismukkah from me and the Cohens and I’ll leave you with a wonderful description of the holiday from Season 1 by the man himself, Seth Cohen.

Nick Jr. and Childhood TV

Last weekend I visited my cousin, Chris, his wife, and young son in Maryland. It was an extremely fun trip. My cousin’s son Hudson is almost 3 years old so he’s full of energy and loves to play. He’s talking pretty well now too so you can hold conversations with him. When I first arrived, my cousin’s wife, Marci, updated me on some new happenings in Hudson’s life, one of which was the brand new Nickelodeon TV show Blaze and the Monster Machines. It’s Hudson’s new favorite show and while I was there I caught an episode, or two, or three (we watched it a few times).

That show got me thinking this past week about all the TV shows I used to watch on Nick Jr. and even some on Playhouse Disney. When you’re really small these channels are the first ones you become exposed to. You get your first favorite TV shows from them. Of course when I was younger we had shows like Barney, Lambchop’s Play Along, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow, which were on other channels. It seems like since the 90’s Disney and Nickelodeon have made a market for early childhood TV. Usually the shows on these networks have some form of learning involved and engage children into solving puzzles or problems. When Marci first mentioned Blaze and the Monster Machines, she told me the show is about a monster truck named Blaze, his driver AJ, and his fellow monster truck friends who have adventures and use physics to solve the problems they encounter along the way. I was initially kind of shocked by this because from the shows I knew, many, if not any, use physics. Marci speculated it might be because of math and science scores being down in the U.S. which makes sense. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty cool for a show to go outside the norm on what they’re teaching kids.

Back in the 90’s when I started watching Nick Jr. my favorites were Eureeka’s Castle, Allegra’s Window, Rupert, Little Bear, The Muppet ShowMuppet Babies, The Busy World of Richard Scary, and my all time favorite Gullah Gullah Island (I could easily still sing the theme song). I also watched my fair share of Cartoon Network at the time and Nickelodeon cartoons for older kids, but those shows were my morning programs, especially in the summer when I was home from school. I can’t remember well enough if the shows had the type of learning puzzles that modern early childhood shows have, but I do remember enjoying them regardless (they probably did have learning, but I was just too young to remember).

I do remember learning a life lesson from Allegra’s Window when I was about 5 or 6 years old. One of my best friends had broken his arm and around the time I found out, there was an episode of Allegra’s Window on TV where a character from the show had also broken his or her arm. All the other characters on the show felt bad for this particular character so they wrapped up their arms with bandages too so the character who broke his or her arm wouldn’t feel as bad. I believe it was either the day that episode aired or the day after that I was going to see my friend because we were going to check out this Dinosaur exhibit in our area. I decided after watching the episode that I was going to do what they did on the show and put bandages on my arm for my friend (pretty sure it was only one bandage but I thought it was a genius idea). I really don’t think it affected my friend either way since he was 3 at the time, but I felt like I did something right and a TV show taught me that.

From the shows that I watched to shows like Blue’s Clues, Little Bill, Franklin, Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer and now to shows like Hudson watches like Paw Patrol and Blaze and the Monster Machines, Nick Jr. has been an influence on all of us (unless of course you were just a Disney kid…but seriously you had to flip channels). Maybe someday Hudson will reminisce from time to time with his friends about how great all these shows were. I know I do. I was just talking about Gullah Gullah Island about 2 weeks ago. Even though we go on to enjoy plenty of other television shows we can’t forget where we got our start and what we learned from it. I’m sure most of us don’t. Oh and I forgot to mention Blaze is a pretty great show. Hudson’s watching some good stuff. But on that note, we’ll end this properly like they do on Hud’s new favorite show when they’re ready to roll. Let’s blaze!