What Happens When You Get Cable TV for the First Time in 10 Years

I discovered this is my drafts folder–looks like I forgot to publish it! Although its a bit dated (especially #1 because Downton Abbey starts soon), it still sums up my viewing habits over the past few months.

1. Never watch a single minute of PBS ever again.

2. Immediately recognize when a bride on Say Yes to the Dress is wearing a Pnina gown.

3. Try to predict when the “ba bum” sound will play during a Law & Order episode.

4. Tune in to watch the before-the-credits scene of Law & Order/CSI/Criminal Minds reruns to see if you can deduce beforehand:

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Save the TV Character: The Big Bang Theory’s Raj Koorthrappali

If you’ve never watched The Big Bang Theory (and based on the sitcom’s blockbuster ratings, you’re in the minority), here’s what you need to know about Raj Koorthrappali. He’s an astrophysicist  who is so shy with women that he has “selective mutism.” Meaning that if a female is in the same room with him, he is unable to speak, and the only time he’s been able to talk to women is when he’s drunk.

That’s it. That pretty sums up Raj’s entire character for the past four seasons. Really.

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4 Reality Shows That Need To Be Revived Right Now

With the new fall TV season approaching, I should be focused on all the new shows and returning favorites. Instead, lately I’ve been recalling series I watched from the pre-Facebook era. All are pop culture-oriented, some might be familiar to you, and others might provoke a Wikipedia search. I think all can be successfully revived. I mean, if they can bring back Pop Up Video, why not these shows?

The It Factor

The hope and the despair of what it was to be a working actor was intimately documented by this Bravo series. I remember getting so invested in the actors’ lives as they auditioned, worked odd jobs, and waited for their big breaks. The It Factor was also pretty amazing because it served as a “Before They Were Stars” launching pad for some of the cast members: Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, Bones star Michaela Conlin, comedian Godfrey and Single Ladies actress LisaRaye were all on the show.

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Save the TV Character: Lily Pritchett-Tucker on ‘Modern Family’

It’s hard to imagine a comedy more popular right now than Modern Family, and a major reason is the exceptional cast. All the adult actors received Emmy nominations this year, and all the child actors have received media attention and good storylines.  The only exception? Lily, Cam and Mitchell’s adopted Vietnamese daughter.

In the first two seasons, due to her very young age, the character has been treated like a plot point: Cam wants Lily to star in a Japanese-themed commercial, Haley babysits Lily to show that she’s responsible. But because she is only a baby (and a non-emotive one at that), Lily is more like an adorable accessory that a real member of the family. If this continues in season 3, then not only is it a disservice to the character, but the whole concept of the show.

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Save the TV Character: Tina Cohen-Chang on ‘Glee’

The moment that I knew Tina Cohen-Chang needed saving was during the season 2 episode, “Silly Love Songs.” An otherwise entertaining episode was marred by one bizarre note: Tina’s breakdown while singing “My Funny Valentine” to her boyfriend, Mike (aka Other Asian).

No one—Mr. Schue, the other kids, and the audience—knew how to respond to Tina’s breakdown. And the reason is that no one has an idea who Tina really is. The Glee writers have given Jenna Ushkowitz’s character so many affectations—the fake stutter, the Goth look, the hot Asian boyfriend—yet none of these things tell us what would make her weep during her love song solo.

This lead me to wonder: Have we ever had a moment at Tina’s house, in which she stares into the mirror and sings a heartfelt song that reflects who she is at the moment, a la Rachel Berry nearly every other episode? If Rachel broke down while singing a song during glee club, everyone would know why.

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Pop Bytes: 5 ‘Saturday Night Live’ Characters That Need to Be Retired

In the wake of news that Kristin Wiig will no longer play Penelope and Gilly on SNL, I wrote an article for Flavorwire about which other cast members need to retire their recurring characters too. (Sorry, Fred Armisen, you’re on this list more than once.)

Why I Watch: American Idol and Saturday Night Live

Recently, my boyfriend was browsing Netflix, looking for a movie for us to watch. It was Wednesday night, so I said to him with tentative embarrassment, “would you mind if we watched Idol instead?”

As we switched to Fox, he said he forgot about the show because he wasn’t invested in it this season. I could see why: the judging is a saccharine babble of rainbows and gold stars. The contestants are competent, but not as risk-taking as performers from previous years. There’s no one on the show I’m really rooting for, and no one I’m actively rooting against. Yet I really wanted to watch the show anyway.

Same goes for Saturday Night Live. This season has been particularly uneven, and its been frustrating to watch as the show trots out the same skits over and over again. Yet if I’m home late Saturday night, I’ll dutifully watch until I fall asleep (which is usually right after Weekend Update).

Why bother suffering through two shows that are having mediocre seasons? For one simple reason: they’re live.

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Pop Rant: Too Much Fantasy on Fall TV Schedule

Vulture.com recently published a slideshow of what they deemed the 20 most exciting pilots of the upcoming TV season. As I clicked through, a pattern quickly emerged. Apparently, real life is boring.

This fall, there could be shows about  fairy tales, ghosts, haunted houses, alternate realities and magical police procedurals, plus David E. Kelley’s notorious Wonder Woman reboot and Edgar Allen Poe re-imagined as a TV detective.

To be fair, some of the above pilots seem quite imaginative and worth checking out. But why does there have to be so many of them?  I interpret it as a Hollywood dictum that fantastical premises are necessary to hook viewers, and that shows about regular people are dull, and therefore more likely doomed to cancellation.

Yet All in the Family, Roseanne and Friday Night Lights are just a few examples of how television can reflect the realities of our times in an engaging and entertaining way. And there are plenty of stories left to be told that don’t require supernatural elements like time travel or magic powers to make them interesting.

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Pop Bytes: Famous Literary Mentorships

In honor of National Mentoring Month, I wrote an article for Flavorpill about famous literary mentorships (like William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson, seen at left).

Check it out here!


Why Are TV Critics Ignoring “The Game”?


If you’re on Twitter, or just a really big TV fan (I am both), then you know this week marked the start of the Television Critics Association. Sometimes the #TCA tweets could be a bit overwhelming, but it’s fun to see the tidbits that emerge from the sessions. (Case in point: the infamous Oprah filibuster.)

While tidbits regarding the Hot in Cleveland, Men of a Certain Age and something starring Noah Wyle clogged my Twitter feed yesterday, I saw one critic mention the BET panel, specifically about how the network revived the CW show The Game. As someone who really enjoyed Mara Brock-Akil’s first show, Girlfriends, which I discovered when it used to air in network syndication, and also liked its spinoff The Game, I was interested in hearing what news would come out of the session.

But no one did, at least in my feed. And I follow A LOT of TV critics.

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