Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Open Letter to Lindsay Lohan...

Dear Linds:

Can I call you Linds? I mean, you don't know me, and I don't know you, but I feel like I know you since I have quite literally watched you grow up in front of my eyes on television. Full disclosure: Mean Girls is, to this date, still my go-to movie whenever I'm home, bored on a Saturday night (I know that's probably a foreign concept to you, but it happens); I quote it incessantly to the point where even my friends who claim they have never seen the movie can finish the line with me. So clearly I am a fan. And I am worried about you.
I remember the better days, do you?

I'm not going to lecture you on the perils of Hollywood or the severity of addiction. I am not going to pretend to understand what you've been through or even if you really are an addict. I don't know if those "supposedly shooting heroin" snapshots from a few years ago are real; I don't know if you were truly, even if mistakenly, diagnosed with ADHD to be given Aderol; I don't know if failing a drug test is a flippant response to legal drama or the inability to take control of a disease.

What I do know is that before all of the tabloid troubles, you were an extremely gifted young actress. I am still somewhat in awe of the mastery of accents and always charmed by the genuine emotions in The Parent Trap. Actuing opposite yourself is no easy feat, and you made it seem so effortless that when I first saw the film, I believed you actually had a twin sister ala Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. What can I say? I was almost as young watching it as you were shooting it.

When you were young, pure, and somewhat still raw as an actor, you didn't seem to care (or even notice) what others were saying, and at times critiquing. The problem is, you were so young then; everyone knew the rough times were about to come. After all, tween and then teen years are hard enough for regular girls, without being under such an intense and public spotlight. Self-awareness didn't just set in; it seemed to cause a spiral. But Drew Barrymore bounced back, and I sincerely hope you will, too.

In my not-so humble outsider opinion, the first step to getting your life back on track is not even necessarily rehab (though the kind of therapy work that comes along with rehab would definitely be beneficial, and I'm not saying you should skip out on it altogether). But instead, I implore you to take a good, hard look around yourself. Consider the situations you find yourself in that get you into trouble. And I'm not just talking hitting parked cars or taking mugshots trouble. But the nights that seem uneventful because they don't end in a fury of flashbulbs but still with you waking up the next morning not remembering what happened or too weak to get up without some kind of medicating.

Who was around you then? Who was there at the start of the night, stoking the coals, making you want to drink so much you have memory lapses or use heavily narcotics to create falsely blissful feelings? And who was there as the night went on, handing you the glasses or the pills or whatever, enabling your poor decision-making? Consider the faces and then erase the names from your Blackberry or iPhone or whatever gadget you use. Cut the negativity and the bad influences and the false friends (or family) out of your life. It may sound harsh, especially the family part, but you have to be selfish. You have to put yourself first to get healthy and to find happiness.

Once that step is done, rehabbing will automatically kick in. Because rehab isn't truly about living in a sober facility, detoxing the body of chemicals. It is about removing the compulsive tick within the mind that tries to have you "solve" your problems with overindulgences. It is about learning to look inside, to let go, to face whatever it was you were trying to avoid with excess. It is about getting you healthy. All of you.

No one expects you to be the freckle-faced precocious kid forever. The need to expand and branch out into more adult roles is normal, expected, and welcome. But in detoxing your mind, you may also find you regain the ability to be more discerning with what roles you take. You won't have those chattering voices in your ear anymore (from bad representation or frenemies or whoever-- because, remember, you've already completed step one of removing such from your life), justifying taking any piece of garbage just because "it's nice to be wanted" and to have the cash to keep the party going endlessly. You will be able to look inside yourself and really think about the acting muscles you want to stretch, the stories you want to tell, the legacy you want to leave.

And might I make a suggestion? I need more movies like Mean Girls in my DVD library, and I'm willing to bet lots of other young women agree. It is witty, clever, extremely well put-together, and yet still manages to have real heart and a positive message. Furthermore, the set seemed to be filled with genuinely caring people who rallied around each other and became real friends. And I'd be willing to bet that's exactly the kind of environment you need, too.

Rally Behind 'Life Unexpected'...

The awesome writing staff of Life Unexpected has created some flyers for all fans of the show to pass out to their friends and family or simply paste up on telephone polls around town, slip under their neighbors' doors, and "accidentally" leave in the communal copier at work. Like another CW show, the rally is in the "tell a friend to tell a friend" vein so more people will tune into the little show with a lot of heart, Tuesdays at 9pm. Take a look at the flyers below and feel free to download and pass them around!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Woof Wednesday #73...

Working from home isn't as fun as it sounds. I end up having to find ways to tell this adorable face I'm too busy to play right now. Then he stares some more, and I feel bad and can no longer resist and then don't end up getting any work done. It's a vicious cycle.

DanielleTBD's Day-- Well, Evening with 'Days of our Lives'...

Last night the Television Academy in Los Angeles honored NBC soap opera, Days of our Lives, for being the longest-running scripted television series in the history of the peacock network. Having premiered on November 8 1965, Days of our Lives is coming up on a big anniversary in just a few weeks: it's forty-fifth! Over the years we have seen many births, many deaths, and many re-casts; we have watched people fall in lust, in love, in hate. There have been weddings, annulments, explosions, kidnappings, betrayal, scandal, and even a demon-possession. But at its core has always been one very important thing: family.

As executive producer Ken Corday explained as he kicked off the evening of clip reels and panel discussions last night, "Family is about the redemptive power of love." And at the DOOL core has always been three key families: the Bradys, the Hortons, and the DiMeras. True to the heart of the show, all three (and then some!) were represented on stage and in the audience at the TV Academy.

But more than that, the cast itself is like one big, extended family. Mary Beth Evans perhaps said it best when she explained that though many of the characters these days are only paraded in and out for big events like weddings and funerals, the actors will always jump at the chance to be in a script because it will mean a chance to play with their "cousins" again.

Everyone from the last surviving original castmember Maree Cheatham to supercouple Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso to beloved villain Joseph Mascolo to longtime castmember Alison Sweeney and long lost castmembers Drake Hogestyn and Bryan Dattilo took the stage to talk about their time on the show. But there was, of course, one presence who was sorely missed: Frances Reid, who portrayed matriarch Alice Horton ever since the show's debut passed away earlier this year. Her face and voice were all over the early evening clip packages, though, from family to great romances, which had quite a few of her co-stars tearing up and an audible "Awww" elicit from the audience.

Suzanne Rogers became choked up when discussing how in her first days on the show, Reid took her under her wing and became a mothering figure to her, just a young girl at the time who had moved out to California on her own and knew no one else out in La La Land.

But don't think the evening was all melodramatic reminiscing. Susan Seaforth Hayes had the crowd roaring with laughter over a story about how "back in the day" the stars could show up to work at six a.m. for rehearsal and blocking and then spend an hour or so "making love" (well, she married co-star Bill Hayes, so it's okay that she say that!) before cameras rolled. She thought it spiced up the on-screen chemistry. Dattilo, true to form, had the crowd (and his on-stage former co-stars) hysterical over his own tales of breaking beds during love scenes and he was fired from the show about three times. When he wasn't on stage, he was seated just off to the left of the front section of the audience, catcalling every once in awhile to those who were in the hot seats.

Louise Sorel defended Vivian's on-screen evil antics, saying she doesn't think she's really a psychopath, and even if she did, she wouldn't intentionally play it that way. It's all about the layers and the nuances! Lauren Koslow echoed the sentiment and explained that it's not pure evil when it comes from a place of wanting to protect and empower your family.

The executive team behind DOOL, including head writer Dena Higley and Gary Tomlinson discussed the ever-evolving nature of the business, including how they have had to speed up the production of each episode, shooting faster, and how the notes from the Powers That Be are always "bigger, faster, louder" these days. Gone are the scenes in which two Horton or Brady women just sit around, discussing their family over a cup of tea and one of Alice's famous donuts. In are more explosions (when they can afford them) and lots of big, emotional climaxes. Product integration has also become direly necessary in recent years as budgets have dwindled. Tomlinson even announced that an upcoming piece of product placement would be for the female version of Viagra. The audience half-chuckled/half-groaned, but he appeared to be deadly serious. Anyone want to guess about which character will be experimenting with that?

The evening could only last for so long. The stars started out by walking the red carpet and chatting with reporters before making their way into the main theater area to begin the panel discussions. After almost three hours, about thirty castmembers had appeared before their adoring fans on stage, but others-- like Kyle Lowder, Brandon Beemer, Shawn Christian, Jaime Lyn Bauer, Molly Burnett, Renee Jones, John Aniston, Mark Hapka, and Shelley Hennig had cheered on their extended "family" from the sidelines and then paraded on stage to take one big group photo. It is truly a testament to each other, their fearless leader, and the project in general that these hardworking actors used their personal time to come show their support even when they weren't going to be featured front and center!

My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture's only complaint about the evening? Not nearly enough Jensen Ackles in the clip packages!!

Who Did It Better: Super Speed Edition...

Forget "Who Wore It Best"; that doesn't mean anything important in the entertainment industry!

Last Friday on the season premiere of Smallville we saw another glimpse of Clark (Tom Welling)'s increasing ability to speed, or as he put it, "it was almost like I was flying." Last night on No Ordinary Family, we saw Julie Benz realize her own newfound ability and slowly start to develop it. Now My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture poses the question to you guys: who do you think did the FX better?

Exhibit A: Smallville

Exhibit B: No Ordinary Family

Leave your votes in the comments!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Word on the First Casualty of Fall TV 2010 Is In...

...and it's Lone Star, the con man drama from FOX. Raise your hand if you're surprised.

Admittedly, My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture didn't love this pilot. Nor was I even able to get through the second episode last night. The posturing and the flat monologues delivered by quite a few characters made me turn off the network in search of something better. Unfortunately, the truth is, there really isn't anything much better on in the 9pm hour as of yet. And while I would hope that ABC would seize this opportunity to give My Generation a real chance by giving it a much less competitive time slot...well, they already have the ratings juggernaut Dancing with the Stars from 8 - 10 on Monday nights, so there is really no reason for them to do a schedule shuffle.

But as much as I just couldn't get into Lone Star, I definitely thought others would. It felt more like a cable show, sure, but I thought the audience would find it by the second or third-- though we'll never know since the axe has already fallen before that particular mark-- episode. They didn't. At least those with Nielsen boxes didn't. And networks are still old-fashioned enough to rely very heavily on overnight ratings coming from those boxes, which by the way, aren't even really put into younger households, and so much of primetime TV on networks like FOX is aimed at that younger sect.

But I digress.

The bottom line is I was surprised when the first cancelation announcement came in and it was from FOX about this show. There are others still on that are more deserving, in my not-so humble opinion. But what did you guys think? Were you surprised, as well? Sound off in the comments below and be sure to make mention of which show you thought would be the first to fail in my nifty little poll.

What new fall show did you think/hope would fail first?

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From Script To Screen: 'No Ordinary Family'...

ABC's new familial drama No Ordinary Family was one of the stronger pilot scripts My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture read this season. It was full of rich, emotional character moments between husband and wife duo Jim and Stephanie Powell, as well as fun intrigue into their newfound special abilities. Following these everyday, somewhat in-over-their-head civilians as they navigated the new world opening in front of them was an exhilarating ride. And I couldn't wait to see it unfold on screen.

Admittedly, I had my doubts that the pilot that was filmed would live up to my expectations. I generally hate adaptations of books I have loved because something always gets cut that I feel was integral or a moment doesn't look as grand with the budgetary restraints as I had imagined in the vast landscape of my own mind. But perhaps surprisingly, the effects of the No Ordinary Family pilot, which will air tonight on ABC, were not what left something to be desired. Instead, it is the "bonus" at the end that greatly changes the sentiment of the script and seems to create a completely different show from what Greg Berlanti and Jon Feldman originally intended.

The script was very much centered on the Powell family. We were introduced to them as a close-knit group that were being pulled apart by the ever-challenging demands of work, school, and limited hours in a day. Piggybacking a vacation off of a business trip, they think they have hit some sort of jackpot, but things go awry when their plane hits a pocket of bad weather and they crash-land in some sort of murky lagoon. It isn't until they are home and experiencing new, unique abilities that scientist wife and mother (played by Julie Benz) remembers the water having a strange phosphorescence.

The rest of the script, then, focuses on each individual coming to terms with who-- or what-- they now are and agreeing to come together as a unit to utilize these skills for the good of their family. But the very end of the script featured a tag where the pilot of the crashed plane-- a guy who was presumed dead upon impact-- is seen floating under water. And his eyes open.

But when ABC picked up the drama, they cut that moment from the episode before screening it for critics and announced that the the character (played by Tate Donovan) would not recur. They wanted to focus on the familial elements, therefore, and felt it was much stronger to end the episode on a happy scene of the family enjoying some quality time together in their backyard. But more than that, during what seemed like just a simple game of touch football, we were actually seeing how the powers the Powell family now exhibits compliment each other and make them a stronger unit. For Jim, a man who felt like he had no power, he could now stop bullets and throw footballs clear across town. For Stephanie, a woman who struggled to juggle family time with the heavy demands of her job, she now was gifted with super speed to cut down on menial tasks and focus on what is most important. When Jim (played by Michael Chiklis) throws that football well out of their yard, therefore, she can take off after it and have it back in mere seconds. It was a bit on-the-nose, but it worked.

But the slightly "upgraded" pilot that is going to air as the series premiere tonight has re-inserted a tag, albeit it a different one than originally intended. The episode spends a good chunk of screen time introducing a shady criminal who Jim encounters in an alley and then accosts in a parking garage-- a guy who exhibits powers of his own far more advanced than the likes of the ones this group is just coming into understanding. Unfortunately this means that now, at the end, after the poignant moment with the family, we cut back to this guy and who is really behind what may very well turn out to be some sort of government conspiracy or experiment.

If you've seen the first installment of the Motion Comics ABC is marketing along with this show, you also learn a bit more of that conspiracy backstory. Apparently Stephanie was some sort of "target" for an experiment. She was always meant to obtain the powers; her family was collateral damage when they tagged along on her trip.

And that's a shame. Because if No Ordinary Family focuses on what it says it will in its title, it has a chance to be a very relatable, hopefully long-running program. But if it goes the road of Heroes and introduces a bunch of villains or the threat of some apocalypse style event, well, then it will go the way of Heroes and become more of a cartoon than the mythological tale of which the best comic books are made.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Another Reason To Hate Mondays...

For those of you who have quote-unquote regular nine to fives, My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture imagines you want to come home from particularly grueling starts to the week and unwind by flipping on the television and watching something fun. Well, that's too bad-- the joke's on you-- because Monday night network television no longer consistently provides that.

How I Met Your Mother used to fit the bill. It featured a heartwarming story about an old-fashioned romantic and his quest to find true love in a big city. Surrounded by his lovable, relatable group of friends, the show could have been plucked from your own inner circle. Add to the character mystery of "Who Is The Mother?" a whole lot of humorous moments that managed to feel very grounded in reality instead of sitcom-canned, and it was a go-to. But that was then. For the past two seasons the show has moved farther and farther away from its central purpose and instead relied on turning once beloved, seemingly human characters into hammy cartoons. It's hard to care about them when you no longer think they reflect genuine personality traits.

Rules of Engagement and Two and a Half Men were never anything but stereotypical, posturing sitcoms, but as the years have gone on, they too have turned certain likable men into buffoons. So much so that you wonder why they can get the women they have at all. And please don't get me started on Mike & Molly, which despite the producers' best efforts to insist otherwise, is still just fat joke after barrage of fat joke. These shows are lowest common denominator at best, and that is just really, really insulting.

Speaking of lowest common denominator? Chase, which feels totally out of place on NBC when its procedural audience is, on every other night, planted firmly in front of CBS.

House: Honestly I just don't find anything fun about weird diseases or the equally uncomfortable relationships that have formed between the "team" members. Every show attempts a version of that, and I'd rather watch it on some of the other ones. The ones without hemorrhaging patients.

Similarly, I'm not into Gossip Girl. No matter how gorgeous the fashion or how campy the melodrama, I just have no desire to watch privileged kids run around New York City. I saw enough of that when I was in high school myself.

Don't even get me started on Dancing with the Stars and their "not really stars" group! I feel dirty just having a project associated with The Situation mentioned on my blog!

The Event can't be considered unique or interesting when they take a plane, zap it from thin air, and crash land it in the desert like a first draft reject from the LOST pilot script. And some sort of Shtriga-like being, like if the experiment in "The Passage" had gone according to plan and not turned everyone into radioactive vampires? Again, not unique. Not interesting. Definitely not shocking. And featuring scenes where a character gets ganked in the chest when they're not wearing a shirt so we actually get to watch the blood pool out, or one where our hero pleads and pleads to be listened to only to be told he's insane and ignored? Not fun. Not fun at all.

This leaves Lone Star. I wanted to like it. Hell, I wanted to love it. But being so much like Dallas but without the cheese fest that made Dallas memorable just leaves a weak shell of a show. One with poorly executed dialogue from the lead, who always sounds like he's regurgitating an essay, espousing flowery advice well beyond his understanding. I feel bad saying it, but I really don't believe James Wolk can pull off all of the deep character development the writers and producers are heavily-handedly, but strategically, inserting into each week's script.

Admittedly, Hawaii Five-0 is more than entrancing. But for all of its gorgeous scenery (and cast) and some of the more light-hearted attempts at jabbing each other to form a camaraderie, what really works about this series so far is its serious moments. There are very real stakes, and very real crimes, being depicted; characters are in life or death situations multiple times within the hour, and even in their "down time," they have to deal with residual issues from family drama that weighs heavily on their minds and hearts. So, though it is more than deserving of being watched, it's kind of hard to call it too fun.

I guess the best bet (other than to just switch on Showtime!) would be to tune into Castle. In its third year, even the seemingly hard-nosed detective has seemed to loosen up a bit and is able to go toe-to-toe with the titular character's jokey state of delayed maturity. Though it features elements of a crime drama, its cases are always just a little bit absurd, which makes you forgo the tissues and tears for horrific crimes and focus instead on the "kid in a candy store" nature of the characters. There is such glee on Rick Castle's face, it's damn near impossible not to translate onto your own.

Did I forget about Chuck? No, I know it's still on Monday nights and many fans love it more than any other show. But unfortunately I never got into it in the early seasons-- because shows I was more invested in happened to be on in the same time slot-- and now I feel like it's too late to start in with the new season. I'd have to catch up by marathoning the earlier DVDs first, and well, I just haven't had a chance to yet. You can feel free to tell me why I'm wrong and why Chuck is the most fun show on Monday nights in the comments below.

Well, it's easier for you to complain, you may say, but what is your solution? Well, obviously there are some shows on this list I think should dissipate into the snowy ether that is the TV satellite feed. But moreover, If I had my way, I'd take half of the crazy-good Tuesday and Thursday night line-ups and dump them on the wasteland I am finding Monday (and in part, Wednesday) to be to space out the shows I enjoy so much all throughout the week. Ideally, My Generation would get moved to give it half a chance of a decent rating. Maybe even Life Unexpected, since it's currently getting killed on Tuesday nights. Peace of mind, and a chance to unwind, are priceless. And right now I'm really only getting my fair share a few days a week!

Little Boy Lost: A Review of 'Teenage Paparazzo'...

When I was in high school I sold celebrity photographs online. Some I took myself at fan events I attended but most were part of a package from a select photo agency. They would sell the images at a base price, and then I would list them on eBay at that base price and keep the profits all for myself. I thought I was pretty entrepreneurial. But that was nothing compared to Austin Visschedyk, the Teenage Paparazzo.

Visschedyk, subject and star of Entourage star Adrien Grenier's HBO documentary, was barely pubescent when he began working as a photographer, staking out the streets of Los Angeles, looking for the hottest celebrities, snapping them coming out of shops, sitting in restaurants, or just walking their dogs down the street. A homeschooled teen who was already showing above average intelligence, Visschedyk was bored and without the outlet of having school friends with whom to pal around. He didn't have any outlet, really. He was just a kid looking for his place in the world who didn't seem to have much guidance. Left to his own devices, he really could have gotten into much more trouble. But instead, he took his hobby of photography and turned it into a very lucrative "part time" career.

Meeting him for the first time when the pint-size paparazzo shot a photo of him, Grenier struck up a conversation and then a friendship with the young talent. Because say what you will about the business of paparazzi photography, but Visschedyk is an extremely talented photographer. Through a few stills in the early portion of the documentary, we see his eye for color and framing and know that if he put his mind toward the artistry, he could be huge. But he lives in La-La-Land, where art is overshadowed by popularity. And Visschedyk was powerless to get swept up in it.

How could he not be? Because he is young and cute, celebrities actually stop and talk to him as he snaps away, offering him opportunities that the rest of the crowds swarming whatever club or bar could only salivate at. And the those in the crowd also offer Visschedyk courtesies they do not share with each other. Since he is not yet of driving age, he gets dropped off or skateboards to any location, and when the person they are there to photograph is "on the move," Visschedyk often bums rides with the other paparazzi. Needless to say, the grown men (and few women) are not making those offers to each other. But for some reason they like this kid; they are charmed by him; maybe they don't even really see him as competition.

And the audience is charmed by him, too. Despite the fact that he is truly just another privileged kid getting special treatment. Despite the fact that he calls the celebrities he photographs his "friends" and genuinely seems to believe it. Despite his sometimes selfish and shallow behavior toward his mother and the few age-appropriate peers with which he interacts. Despite the fact that he gets so sucked into his newfound fame and begins chasing the high of being in front of the cameras, even going so far as to blow of Grenier for a "better offer." Despite the fact that he skips out on his studies to chase Paris or Lindsay or Britney or whoever was big that week. He's still a kid, and he's making his mistakes, and regardless of the front he puts up to be the "cool guy," that keeps him extremely grounded and even a bit sad.

Throughout the course of the documentary, Grenier follows Visschedyk to "gigs," interviews him, his family, those who have been caught by his lens, and his "co-workers," and even steps behind the lens himself to see what Visschedyk goes through to get the money shot. The story is as much about Grenier, then, as it is the titular kid. Grenier is stepping into a world he only has preconceived notions about and learning from the experience.

Unfortunately, Grenier is a much more adept actor than storyteller. His voice-over is flat and forced; the scenes unfolding really should speak for themselves. When issues arise that cause Grenier to question whether or not he was exploiting Visschedyk the way he set out to claim Visschedyk was exploiting the celebrities, he seems truly surprised. It is as if Grenier grabbed a camera and jumped in without any thought to where this story would go or the issues that it would raise. What about Visschedyk's parents, for example? Shouldn't some light be shed on why they allow their son to patrol Hollywood Boulevard until three a.m. on a weeknight? At times Grenier seems to get lost within the story that is unfolding around him: it spills out as quickly as Visschedyk speeds after Paris or Lindsay or Britney on his skateboard, and he can't keep up. At one point, even admits he isn't sure how to end the story.

So he shows Visschedyk and his mother the footage he has cut together so far. And in the most meta of ways films the whole screening and incorporates the reactionary footage into the final product. It is the most literal of ways for a documentary to hold a mirror up to its subject and ask that subject to see its own flaws and change.

And then we cut to a year later. Visschedyk is driving now; his voice has dropped; his hair is way less Justin Bieber-ish. All physical attributes that bode well to assume he has matured immensely. But the scene that follows, which should serve to showcase just how much he has grown internally, feels scripted, as if he is posturing in a whole new way now. Visschedyk is a savvy kid-- maybe moreso than most-- and he understands this industry and how to craft a story through pictures (even better than Grenier does). So his final "All American boy" moments feel false, as if they are just for the cameras.

Visschedyk has said that he's done with paparazzo work-- that he no longer feels like those guys are the big role models up to whom he once looked. Is that progress? Or is that a cocky kid who knows he has surpassed them and can no longer aspire to what he has already achieved. In the next breath he says he still plans to photograph celebrities, anyway. Is that a regression? Or does he mean he wants to move into mastering the art of portrait photography or photojournalism?

Whatever the intent behind Visschedyk's final words in the film, he is still a teenager, still a kid, and still growing; he doesn't have to resign himself to any of them just yet. And luckily, he will always have this ninety-minute reminder of the kind of man he was becoming as a paparazzo. For better or worse, as the years go on, he will be able to rewind and reflect and reevaluate whether or not he likes that guy.

Win A Copy of "Don't Stop Believin': The Unofficial Guide To Glee"...

As if there wasn't enough official glee merchandise circulating shelves out there-- from CDs and DVDs to tee-shirts and sweatshirts to jewelry and backpacks and wallets, now you can add one more to the list: books! FOX and glee will be releasing a Sue Sylvester memoir, if all goes as planned, at the end of this year. But right now there's another kind of book already out there: an unofficial companion guide to the first season of the show!

Written by Erin Balser and Suzanne Gardner, who compiled photos of the actors and characters, along with quotes from media interviews and episode summaries, "Don't Stop Believin': The Unofficial Guide To Glee" pays tribute to both the music and the misfits within the phenomenon of a show.

The book includes the "making of" story from Ryan Murphy, as well as actor biographies and trivia tidbits such as what song each one used to audition. It also goes "behind the music" to consider the artists who first recorded the songs featured each week and what their inspirations were. The authors also reached out to very special Gleeks around the world, interviewing them and asking them why the show has struck such a chord so early on. Topping it all off are some great behind-the-scenes photos and episodic stills, including eight pages of color glossy photos in the center of the book.

The authors are self-proclaimed Gleeks, but within this book they also look at what is "off-key" about each episode, too, pointing out continuity errors or illogical occurrences to create as objective a look at the series as they can muster. Definitely appreciated and a must-have for any glee enthusiast!

And now My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture has a copy of this companion guide to give away to one lucky reader! All you have to do to enter to win is name the famous duet from the two artists who were featured in highly anticipated themed episodes over the course of the first two seasons.

To enter to win, you must leave the name of the song in the comments below. You must also leave your name and a way to get in touch with you (email address or Twitter ID). Entries without valid contact information will be discarded. Every correct entry will be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of the book. Winners will be drawn and notified Wednesday morning at 10am PT, after we have all had a chance to screen the "Britney/Brittany" episode of glee.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sorry Is No Longer The Hardest Word For Dexter Morgan To Say...

Throughout the first four years of Dexter, I went back and forth on whether or not I believed Rita truly was Dexter Morgan's soulmate or simply a really opportune "cover." I no longer think it really matters what she was meant to be but rather what she became for him. All of his life he has known the difference between right and wrong, and although he hasn't really ever felt guilt or remorse for his actions, he has expressed desire not to hurt or disappoint those closest to him.

First there were his adoptive parents when he was a kid, who were the reason he didn't start killing other kids. "I thought you and mom wouldn't like it," he told Harry when he found the animal graves. Then there was Deb, who he not only saved from the Ice Truck Killer but also blamed himself for that connection anyway. And Camilla, who, when he realized she knew who-- or what-- he was, sparked the slightest flicker of sadness in his eyes. Rita fits into that category, too. Whether they were meant to be from the get-go, as the fifth season premiere, "My Bad," wants you to believe-- after all, he was never more relaxed or open than in that moment on the boat talking to her after their bad date-- or whether he learned to love her, around her he did let down some of his guard. He even tried hinting at what he really was with her; he wanted to share who he really was for the first time in his life. That's love.

And because our little wooden boy had grown up enough to find a person he could genuine care for, seeing Rita in the tub again-- and who can believe Julie Benz was willing to go through that again??-- was sad in its own ways. Seeing her in the coffin was worse. But quite possibly the most heartbreaking scenes were, in fact, the flashbacks to simpler times. When they both-- and the relationship, too-- held the most promise. When you could see the glimmer of something great only to know it would get snuffed out too soon.

Admittedly, I never wondered what the earlier days in Dexter and Rita's relationship was like. I never questioned if he was more awkward then than when we first met them together in season one. I never cared to see that courtship because that wasn't the point of the story; she was simply another piece of his disguise, like a fake mustache or a hat. But by the fifth season premiere going back and showing us some of those moments, it is almost a wink, like the show is telling us that what we thought we knew about Dexter Morgan-- what he thought he knew about himself-- was an assumption. Maybe even a self-fullfilling prophecy. He was told, and treated like, he would do bad things, so he did bad things, justifying the treatment and starting the cycle all again. But what if that hadn't been the case? What if he had been allowed to live out his adult life with Rita and their children-- with people who told, and treated, him like he was good. For them and in general. Would his Dark Passenger eventually subside until it sank to the bottom of the ocean with so many old Hefty bags?

We'll never get the chance to know for sure, but after seeing Dexter on the ocean, alone, caught up in the moment and the quiet, apologizing and showing true remorse, it appears that could have been where his life was headed.

It would have been nice, then, to see Harry dissipate and disappear permanently. It would have been nice to see Dexter's subconscious progressions take Rita's form. While Harry often acted as a catalyst within Dexter, the thoughts were always truly within his own head. And projecting such thoughts onto someone he loved and admired as a child can only get you so far. Eventually you grow up; you move on; you find someone real. It took Dexter longer than most, but he had found that person in Rita. And using her image to guide him just might have proven to be the catalyst he needed at this juncture to truly challenge himself.

Without her, the struggle so far has been how to appear "normal" in his grief. He still has a lot of growing up to do because he hasn't even learned yet that there truly is no "normal." "My Bad" serves to close a very distinct chapter but also, with Dexter's acts of regression within, to blow the covers off the book and rewrite the path that he may have thought was always chosen for him. And I certainly can't wait to see what happens next!