TV shows

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?

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”*

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/ )

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!