It’s been over thirty years since one of Sesame Street‘s most memorable episodes: the one that deals with the death of Mr. Hooper. For children of the early 80s, it’s a generational touchstone, something nearly everyone has a personal memory of. But decades later, there are generations who know little to nothing about Mr. Hooper. Even people who did see the episode may not remember much about it or anything else about Mr. Hooper. So today, we’re looking back at Mr. Hooper, the actor who portrayed him, and the episode that came from the passing of both. Continue reading
There are all sorts of words and phrases from pop culture that have crossed over into the wider vernacular. Some are extremely well known. Others are less so, but still incredibly fun and useful once you know them. These are a few of my favorites.
Watsonian and Doylist
Definition: From the perspective of a person in a fictional world (Watsonian) or from the perspective of an author or reader (Doylist). Useful in discussion of a fiction to clarify if you are talking about “in universe” explanations for something that happened or the “behind the scenes” version of events.
Etymology: The terms have their origins in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and refer to the two different people who could be said to have authored those works. Dr. John Watson is a fictional character in the same world as Holmes. To him, Holmes is a real person capable of acting and thinking on his own. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a real author who sees Holmes as a fictional character whose actions are dictated by a writer and the outside pressures that influence the writer.
Unless you’ve been away from all media for the past week or two, you know that Adam West passed away. West was well-known and well-loved for his performance as Batman in the 60s TV series of the same name, the movie spun off from the series, and numerous animated appearances of the Caped Crusader. Plenty of writers have already covered what made West’s Batman so iconic, but I want to focus on another one of his contributions to the Bat mythos – the first time West was on a Batman series and didn’t play Batman. Continue reading
iZombie is based on the comic book of the same name by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, who provides the gorgeous opening credit art, but apart from the primary conceit about how zombies work — that they absorb the personalities and memories of the previous owners of the brains that they eat, and if they don’t eat brains, they lose all intelligence and humanity — they couldn’t be more different.
The original comic was chock-full of other sorts of monsters — vampires, werewolves, and ghosts — and was a meditation on Emerson’s concept of an over-soul. iZombie, the show, is a police procedural about a zombie medical examiner with the punny name of Liv Moore who uses her brain-connections to solve murders. It sounds goofy, when you describe it like that, but trust me, the concept works. Mind you, I’m not sure if this show is totally “hidden,” but since I know so few other people watching it, I’m calling it.
In the pattern typical for showrunner Rob Thomas (no, not that Rob Thomas — though the Season Two finale makes great use of the connection), who previously helmed Veronica Mars and Party Down, iZombie seems to be critically acclaimed and enjoys a rabidly loyal but very small fan base.
As someone who hopes to see it last long enough to get a satisfying conclusion, here are five reasons you should be watching this show.
The end of last month brought news of the coming end of an era. Cartoon Network’s critically acclaimed and much loved series Adventure Time with Finn and Jake will be ending in 2018. I’ve seen a lot of the early stages of mourning for the show around the Internet and I certainly sympathize as a longtime viewer myself. But even though I will miss having new episodes of the groundbreaking show to look forward to, I’m ready to see it reach its conclusion. Because endings aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading
2016 has already had more than its fair share of notable deaths, from legends of the music world to beloved actors to genius comics artists who left us far too soon. But there’s one passing I’d like to recognize here. On May 19 at the impressive age of 96, actor Alan Young died of natural causes. Most of the obituaries I’ve seen focus on his time playing the straight man to a certain talking horse. But to Disney fans, he was and ever shall be the voice of Scrooge McDuck.
Though there’s no shortage of obscure Muppets in the world, there are also Muppets who just about everyone knows. But even these most famous of our felted friends didn’t start off as household names. Here’s a look at the early careers of some of the Muppet stars.
Kermit the Frog
One of the earliest Muppet characters, Kermit got his start on Jim Henson’s very first TV show Sam and Friends. Each episode was five minutes long and usually consisted of characters lip-synching to a popular song or short scenes like “Visual Thinking” above. Kermit – who was not yet identified as a frog – was the breakout star of the show. He continued to appear in various Henson specials and short segments on other shows after Sam and Friends ended, slowly gaining a more frog-like appearance. Kermit’s thirteen point collar – one of his most recognizable features – evolved from a minstrel collar he wore in an unaired pilot that may have stuck around because it helped to hide the division between Kermit’s neck and body.
Kermit’s personality also went through an evolution. Early on, he was more of a smart-aleck. But in his appearances on Sesame Street – the show that made Kermit a true celebrity – he developed into a calmer and more sincere character with a flustered streak. The Muppet Show cemented Kermit’s stardom and introduced the frequently frazzled frog-in-chief we know today.
Do you remember about 5-ish years ago when everyone was sending around that music video about a woman who wanted to have carnal relations with Ray Bradbury? For about two weeks, it continued to show up on blogs, twitter feeds and facebook pages. People were wondering who the sassy lady in the video was and those who were particularly enamored of her humor found themselves looking up her other music video and stand-up performances. Well, the name of that sassy lady is Rachel Bloom, and it turns out that someone gave her a TV show. And that makes me happy.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Mon, 8pm, on The CW) tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer in NYC who spends all her time working. When faced with a major opportunity for promotion, rather than feeling happy, her anxiety gets the best of her and she flees the office only to have a chance run in with an ex-boyfriend she dated in summer camp when she was a teenager. She has a short conversation with him and then is inspired by the message on an advertisement for butter to leave her life in NY to follow her ex to West Covina, California (only 2 hours aways from the beach!). The show then follows her as she starts a job at a quirky new law firm filled with weirdos (some more lovable than others), makes new friends, and find herself torn between chasing after her ex, Josh or exploring a relationship with handsome bartender Greg (played by Santino Fontana, the voice of Prince Hans in Frozen). Continue reading
Back in April, when we barely knew anything about the proposed new TV show starring the Muppets, I wrote up a list of qualities I thought would be essential for a successful new Muppet show. Now the show (called The Muppets, just like the group of characters and the recent movie, making it difficult to talk about any of them) has seven episodes under its belt. The series’ show runner is stepping down and there are rumblings of a reboot after the midseason break, neither of which suggest that the ratings are great. But how has the show done at fulfilling my essential Muppet criteria? Let’s take a look: Continue reading
Clearly, this blog attracts folks who love a good televised mystery – the enduring popularity of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries post is a testament to that. Really, it isn’t that surprising. Mystery is a genre, whether in books or tv shows, that seems to appeal to wide range of tastes. We all seem to like uncovering the dark secrets of a tiny seaside town, or the corruption at the heart of our own government – or at least we like watching someone else do it.
Mr. Menace and I watch a lot of these sorts of shows together, and I thought I’d seen just about every variation out there. The Sherlock Holmes retellings, the sassy lady detective, the stuffy fish out of water who solves crimes, the world-weary DCI looking for redemption. What kind of detective was even left?
And then, Smalerie’s friend Bree was talking to my husband, and mentioned a show I’d never even heard of, and yet another kind of detective was added to my list. The cowboy detective.
In retrospect, this makes total sense. You can insert a mystery into any setting. But Westerns in general have been in a popularity downturn for a while now. They were incredibly popular from the dawn of filmmaking until the 70’s, and it’s easy to understand why – the original Westerns are the ultimate American myth, stories of rugged individualists battling harsh landscapes, shady desperadoes, and of course, “savage” natives. Women in these stories were generally victims or someone to be killed to provide the protagonist with motivation. These stories fit into our self-image as a nation at the time quite well, and their fading popularity is at least partly due to that self-image changing a bit, to something sleeker, more modern and industrial.
Longmire takes what was appealing about those original Western tales – a rough-and-tumble protagonist, stark and beautiful scenery – and updates it for in some badly-needed ways, jettisoning the racist and misogynist tropes. Our protagonist may still be a rugged individualist and tough guy, but he also has a degree in English literature. He’s got layers, you know?
Sure, as the sheriff of the smallest county in the US, he’s a bit of a stereotype. He’s taciturn, blunt, and he’s very willing to solve problems with his fists when the need arises. But he’s quite good with his brain, too, and he solves the (in the way of all mystery series, excessive in number) crimes in his county with skill and sensitivity. Beneath the dour surface lies a complicated man who just wants what’s best for his county and the people he loves.
When the series opens, Walt is grieving the recent death of his wife, Martha. Nearly everyone, including his daughter Cady, believes that Martha died from the cancer that sent her to Denver for chemotherapy treatments. Only Walt and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, know the truth – that Martha was murdered in an apparent botched mugging. Something about the crime nags at Walt, however, and the show, while having a murder of the week format, also explores a longer story of him solving the mystery of Martha’s death. It makes for a great, intense drama beyond the typical “whodunit.”
The casting in the show is top-notch, with a combination of familiar faces like Gerald McRaney as one of Walt’s antagonists, and lesser-known actors. Robert Taylor is the epitome of an American cowboy lawman as Walt – which is no mean feat when you consider the fact that he’s actually Australian.
Fans of the Battlestar Galactica reboot will recognize Katee Sackhoff, that show’s Starbuck, playing Vic Moretti, one of Walt’s deputies and the only woman working for the Absaroka County Sheriff’s Department (besides Ruby, Walt’s long-suffering secretary). Sackhoff’s character, like Starbuck, is tough and physical, but is a bit more tender-hearted and feels like a progression, rather than a retread.
Since the show is set in Wyoming and the fictional Absaroka County borders a Cheyenne reservation, there are also numerous roles for Native actors, and the show has been widely praised for its mostly authentic portrayal of modern Native American life – both on and off the reservation. Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt’s best friend Henry is a bit quirky – but you get the sense that it has nothing to do with his being Cheyenne – that’s just who he is. (And every time he answers the phone at his bar – “It’s another beautiful day at the Red Pony and continual soiree” I laugh with delight.)
Don’t get me wrong – this series is still, at its heart, a drama – and that’s a good thing. The soapy twists and outlandish mysteries are what make the show fun. If you don’t like a good mystery show this probably won’t change your mind, but if you do and you’re looking for something a little different, give this one a shot – and then tell me what you think in the comments!