Television

A is Everywhere: An Ode to Pretty Little Liars

7 years. 20 days. That’s how long the television show, Pretty Little Liars, which airs its 2 hour series finale tonight at 8 p.m. ET will have been on the air for. I wrote about “PLL” once before, but it didn’t seem right to let today slip away without saying a proper goodbye to a show that has been a part of my life for over the last 6 years.

I watched Pretty Little Liars for the last 6 years and 3 months. In that time my life has changed tremendously. In a way, I like to think that PLL brought about some of that change. Truly it did though. It brought initial exposure to situations I needed to see to help me accept myself and for that I am eternally grateful. It goes beyond that too. I’m thankful for Pretty Little Liars for a lot of reasons and at this point it’s necessary to share them.

So here goes to the show full of secrets and lies:

Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the headshakes. Thanks for the eyerolls. Thanks for the screams. Thanks for the scares. Thanks for the shocks. Thanks for the excitement. Thanks for the feels. Thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the crazy. Thanks for the madness. Thanks for pushing boundaries. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the nights spent watching with my two friends and the pizza orders, snacks, Hefty Hanna cookies, “Do you have a fork?”, and numerous other laughs and memories. Thanks for the pumpkin decoration idea. Thanks for the days spent trying to figure out the mystery of A’s identity and who killed who. Thanks to Warner Brothers for housing the show and Rosewood for existing during my first trip to California so I could see where all the magic happened. Thanks to Marlene for your creativity and to the rest of the producers, writers, and directors for making this show possible. Thanks to Troian, Shay, Ashley, Lucy, Sasha, Janel, Ian, Tyler, Keegan, Laura, Holly, Chad, Lesley, Nolan, Nia, Lindsey, Tammin, Andrea, Torrey, Drew, Brendan, Cody, Brant, and all the other stars and guest stars of this show for telling this story so well, for introducing me to cool things along the way like LCD Soundsystem, alt-J, Suits, tumblr, Amoeba Records, Crumbs, “Crave You”, Spring Breakers, Dimepiece, All Saints and the Virginia Beer Company to name a few, and for sharing a small part of your lives along the way. Thanks to the rest of the crew for doing all the small things to make one big incredible thing. Thanks for crazy story lines and hilarious one-liners. Thanks for the memorable scenes. Thanks for the tweets and being a social media game-changer. Thanks for the Season 1 binge watch. Thanks for the Halloween costume. Thanks for the coffee mug and key chain. Thanks for never wearing winter coats except in that one Christmas episode. Speaking of, thanks for the Christmas episode, the Halloween episodes, and the Noir episode. They were all special ones. Thanks for making Toby A so we were able to have the moment where Owen was proud of himself for calling it the first time he watched the show. Thanks for the hashtags. Thanks for the drama. Thanks for creepy Cousin Nate. Thanks for “Bitch can see!”. Thanks for “This next song goes out to Hanna from your best friend A! “I Don’t Need You Anymore””, or something like that (still my favorite moment of the show)? Thanks for the ships like Spoby, Haleb, Ezria, Paily, Emaya, Emison (Emily’s really had the most), and most importantly SPARIA! Also most importantly thanks to Sara Shepherd for your creativity, for your books, and bringing this world of a small town on the Philadelphia Main Line to life. Thanks Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Aria Montgomery, and Emily Fields for being the OG liars through thick and thin from Seasons 1-7. Thanks to Alison DiLaurentis for dying, but not really. And finally, thanks to A and everyone who was A (and A.D.!) because without you none of this craziness would exist even though you’re all creepy stalkers. Most of all thanks for being my favorite TV show for the last 6 years and 3 months.

To quote Spencer, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” That’s what tonight will be for me, but it’s undoubtedly time to move on for everyone. Yet I know many people out there, fans, cast, crew, and creators alike will always hold a piece of Rosewood in their hearts, me included and we all know that regardless of the show ending, A is everywhere. Goodbye Pretty Little Liars. Thank you for everything.

 

It Was 1980 Something

Since 2013 my Wednesday nights during the fall, winter, and spring usually consist of watching TV comedy. I grew up watching half hour family comedy TV shows like Home Improvement, Boy Meets World, and Full House, but in high school I fell out of the whole comedy phase and opted for shows like drama, The OC and reality drama, Laguna Beach. In 2013, there was a new show to premiere on ABC that caught my attention and finally returned me to my TV watching roots. It was called The Goldbergs and it’s currently in its 4th season on prime time TV.

The cool thing about The Goldbergs is that the sitcom is based on the life of series creator, Adam F. Goldberg. It stars comedians Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin, young actors Hayley Orrantia, Troy Gentile, and Sean Giambrone, and acting legend George Segal. Comedian Patton Oswalt even narrates the episodes.

The show is narrated through the voice of an older Adam Goldberg (Oswalt) who recaps stories of his life as a junior high/high school student growing up in Jenkintown, PA, a small suburb of Philadelphia, in the 1980’s with his mom, Beverly (McLendon-Covey), dad, Murray (Garlin), older sister, Erica (Orrantia), and older brother, Barry (Gentile). Adam’s grandpa, “Pops” (Segal), also frequents the Goldberg house. The Goldberg family is far from average and Adam (Giambrone) captures their antics through the lens of his video camera. His mother is nicknamed the “Smother” because she overwhelms her children with love and affection to the point where she constantly invades their lives. His father who works as a furniture salesman is more of a realist when it comes to his kids and sees them for the “morons” they really are as he often criticizes them while sitting on his favorite chair in his underwear in front of the TV. Erica is the cool older high school sister who has a knack for rebellion as long as she’s with her best friend Lainey (Alyson Michalka) (In real life Adam actually has an older brother named Eric, but for the sake of good TV Eric was turned into a girl to add another dimension to the story line.). Barry is the overconfident jock and goofball of the family who believes he’s also a rapper named Big Tasty. He also tends to pick on Adam the most, as big brothers usually do, but also because Adam is a nerd who is fascinated by TV and movie pop culture of the 1980’s.

Each episode usually features a new story that ends with some sort of lesson or nice family moment, recreating that typical family TV sitcom feel. Then right before the end of the episode there’s a dedication to something from the episode that was actually a part of creator Adam F. Goldberg’s life along with a real home movie video clip showcasing that thing. Although there has been plenty of good ones, last week’s episode had the coolest dedication I remember seeing so far. It was my favorite for sure. Part of the episode was about the relationship between Adam and his best friend/neighbor from across the street, Chad Kremp. The dedication at the end was to the real Chad Kremp and featured a home movie clip of Chad along with a side by side clip of the TV show Chad (Jacob Hopkins) acting out the same piece from the real clip. Then it flashed to a frame from the show of the actor who played Chad’s dad in the episode and added an arrow to the actor with the words “Chad Kremp – my real life best friend” (or something like that). It was the coolest dedication ever. At least I thought it was super cool to honor your childhood/real-life best friend that way, but there’s probably other cool dedications I’m forgetting too.

After four seasons, the long-term story line has progressed. New characters have appeared. A few others have left, but in my opinion the show has become way funnier than it was when it first started. At this point, it seems like I’m laughing about something on the show every week. The actors have really fallen into their roles and have brought out the best in their characters. It’s been so good that after last week’s dedication to Chad Kremp, I really thought it was time to write a blog about this show.

If you have yet to see an episode, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you watched the first season or two and have stopped watching, you really need to check it out again. In case you want to, it’s now on Wednesday nights on ABC at 8:30 p.m. It’s honestly gotten better. I swear. The Goldbergs really is the perfect family comedy and it brings back that 80’s nostalgia for those who grew up in the 80’s like the Goldberg kids. That’s probably why the show is already into it’s 4th season. It hasn’t been picked up for a 5th season yet but I’d say the odds are pretty good that it will stay on the air. After all, how will we get to reminisce about 1980 something?

The Soft Glow of Electric Sex Gleaming in the Window

Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition. From the tree, to Santa, to gift exchanges, each holiday tradition spans years and cultures. Year after year families engage in the same practices surrounding the holiday and holiday season. They might eat certain foods or partake in certain activities. One of those activities might be a tradition that started in 1997 thanks to the Turner Broadcasting Company. Every year since 1997 at least one of the company’s television networks have aired A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight, starting on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas Day.

The film, which was released in 1983, has become a Christmas classic and a favorite among many. It was based on Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and written by Shepherd along with director Bob Clark and Leigh Brown (Jean Shepherd is also the movie’s narrator). It stars a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a nine year old boy who dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. The story takes the audience through the Christmas season with Ralphie’s family and friends set in 1940’s Indiana and focuses on Ralphie’s quest for the greatest Christmas present ever despite warning from multiple sources that he’ll undoubtedly “shoot his eye out”.

The movie is family fun comedy all the way. I’m sure if you ask fans of the film, everyone will respond with a different answer for what their favorite part is because there are so many great scenes to choose from. Mine involves the infamous Leg Lamp, the “Major Award” that Ralphie’s father receives for winning a contest (the title of this post is a phrase from the film used to described the lamp). In the scene where it is speculated that Ralphie’s mom breaks the lamp out of her displeasure for it, the father and mother have a an argument that ends with Ralphie’s father deciding to glue it back together. On his way out the door to get glue he yells the phrase, “Not a finger!” and I laugh every single time. It’s the way actor Darren McGavin (Ralphie’s father) delivers the line that gets me, but it’s also because the statement seems indirect and unfinished. He clearly means not to touch the lamp, but instead of saying “Don’t lay a finger on it!”, he says the phrase “Not a finger!”. I love it.

When the film was released a week before Thanksgiving in 1983, it didn’t receive much success. Its popularity grew through television specials and home video release. The success of the film even allowed for a museum to be created in its honor. The house where the exterior scenes were shot for the film was purchased by an entrepreneur/fan of the film and converted into a museum comprised of re-created sets and props from the movie. It’s located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, the city where portions of the movie were filmed. It opened in 2006. Also, as of 2012, A Christmas Story is a part of the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, which preserves U.S. film heritage making its classic status pretty legit.

If you’ve never seen A Christmas Story, it’s about time you do. It airs for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas day. The start of the marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on TBS. If it’s part of your Christmas traditions, then I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If it’s not feel free to add it in there along with baking Christmas cookies and decorating your tree. Or don’t make it a tradition at all and just watch it once or watch it randomly next June (To be honest, I’m sick of traditions and created a tradition where I try to do something new each Christmas). It’s funny and enjoyable regardless of its classic appeal so go check it out. I triple dog dare you.

 

I Got a Rock

Ghosts, goblins, werewolves, vampires, and monsters are synonymous with Halloween, but so is the Great Pumpkin, at least for Peanuts fans anyway. Much like the tradition of A Charlie Brown Christmas airing yearly on television around Christmas time, the television special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs before Halloween. Similarly to the annual Christmas special, the Halloween favorite is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, first aired in 1966 on CBS, where it continued to air annually through 2000. In 2001, ABC picked up the rights. It has aired on ABC ever since. It was the second Peanuts themed holiday special to air on television and stars all of the Peanuts favorites, Charlie Brown, Sally, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the crew.

The legend of the Great Pumpkin is extremely similar to the story of Santa Claus and Linus is a true believer. According to him, every year on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children. This special tells the story of Halloween with the Peanuts characters as well as Linus’s dedication to his belief in the Great Pumpkin by spending the night waiting for him in the “most sincere” pumpkin patch.

To me, this yearly story of the Great Pumpkin is even better than the Christmas special. I think it’s funnier and more unique, especially because of the concept of the Great Pumpkin. I always laugh to myself when I watch Charlie Brown trick-or-treat with his friends or when he completely misses kicking the football because Lucy pulls it out from under him. It’s those little moments that make the Halloween special a yearly treat for those that grew up watching it.

This year the 50th anniversary special airs on Wednesday night on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET. I’m stoked to see Linus convince Sally to spend Halloween with him waiting for the Great Pumpkin, watch Charlie Brown get rocks, and re-learn that you should never discuss religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin with anyone. I’m sure it will be as good as always for the 50th time.

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?

DCOM’s

Until I reached the age of 8 years old, I was without the Disney Channel. I had Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but where I lived at the time did not have a TV provider with the Disney Channel on their cable package. It cost extra. Once in a while there would be a short period of time where they would offer a preview of the Disney Channel. In that little time I reveled in the world of Disney. Finally, when I was 8, my family moved, not only from a small apartment to a big house, but to a place where the TV provider’s cable package included Disney. I no longer had to depend on just Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network for my go-to television, which were fantastic in their own right. I could finally enjoy Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the rest of what Disney had to offer. What I didn’t know was just how serendipitous my timing was.

You see in the late 90’s something epic happened to the Disney Channel. It became so much more than animation in a big way. They started creating original programming. Along with all new original television series like The Famous Jett Jackson, Bug Juice, The Jersey, and So Weird, the Disney Channel produced movies known as DCOM’s (Disney Channel Original Movies). One of the very first to be released, Under Wraps, premiered about a month before I moved into my new home (at least it was the first one I saw). From that point on (especially in the early 00’s) DCOM’s became a thing.

When a preview for a new DCOM played on the Disney Channel I would anticipate sitting at my house on a Saturday night watching the new movie (they usually premiered on Saturday nights). After they first aired, Disney would replay them several times over the next week, month, few months, etc. I would end up watching my favorite ones numerous times. Some of the greatest and most classic DCOM’s in the opinions of me and my friends who also watched these films religiously were Brink!, Johnny Tsunami, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Halloweentown. In fact there’s always been a debate over whether Brink! or Johnny Tsunami was better (it’s a tough call but I’ll always go with Brink!). Also, out of those 4 movies, Johnny TsunamiZenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Halloweentown had sequels (Zenon and Halloweentown actually had three movies each). That’s how you know they were good.

Brink! tells the story of a group of in-line skaters from Southern California named the “Soul Skaters” (because they skate for fun) and a rival group of sponsored in-line skaters, “Team X-Bladz”, who always compete against each other. When head Soul Skater Andy “Brink” Brinker discovers his families financial struggles, he decides to sell out and join Team X-Bladz leading to plenty of turmoil between him and his friends. Eventually though, he realizes that his friendships and love of skating are more important than the money.

In Johnny Tsunami, teenage surfer, Johnny Kapahala and his family move from Hawaii to Vermont due to his father’s job and he must learn to adapt to a whole new culture. In his new town there are two schools, the private one which he attends where everyone skis and the rival public one where everyone snowboards. When Johnny figures out snowboarding is more his style, trouble ensues with his school and classmates, eventually leading to a competition over the mountain both groups use for skiing and snowboarding.

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is about teenager, Zenon Kar, who lives in a space station in the year 2049. When she gets in trouble with the space station’s commander, her family punishes her to live with her aunt on earth. After moving, she soon discovers that the space station is in danger, and it’s her job to save her friends and family on board.

In the ghoulishly themed Halloweentown, Marnie Cromwell never understood why her mother wouldn’t let her or her brother and sister celebrate Halloween. With a visit from her grandmother though (played by famed actress Debbie Reynolds), the truth unfolds as she learns she is a witch with special powers and her grandmother lives in a place called “Halloweentown”, where it’s Halloween 24/7. She secretly follows her grandmother home in the hopes that her grandmother can train her as a witch as she intended on her visit (Marnie’s mom put her foot down). Once they arrive though, they begin to become aware of the trouble threatening Halloweentown and what Marnie and her family must do to stop it and save the town.

These four DCOM’s are legendary to those like me who saw them when they came out. I had other favorites too like, Smart House, Alley Cats Strike, Phantom of the Megaplex, The Luck of The Irish, Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off, Cadet Kelly, Double Teamed, and more. Those four set the stage though. Even now, Disney Channel continues to release original movies. Slated for release this year are sequels to the recently popular Teen Beach Movie and Disney film Life-Size (released in 2000 starring Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan) as well as newcomer Descendants.

DCOM’s were a big part of my life growing up and I’m sure many others can say the same. With relatively recent favorites like High School Musical, The Cheetah Girls, and Camp Rock (and their sequels), old favorites, like the ones I already mentioned (and so many others), and future favorites that we’ve never heard of yet, DCOM’s have spanned and will continue to span generations for years to come (hopefully at least…as long as Disney keeps making them). I only wish Disney made the old ones available to watch on Netflix or something rather than during the wee hours of the morning on their channel (and I don’t have DVR either). Until then, all I can do is appreciate the nostalgia that sets in every so often reminding me just how good it was to watch classic Disney Channel Original Movies.

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/ )