Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hottie of the Week/One To Watch: Callard Harris...

I thought I had put my Hottie of the Week column behind me in 2009, opting instead for the Hottie Awards of 2010. It was an attempt to step it up a notch and create a real reason to feature gratuitous photos of attractive men on this site. For that reason, I'm not bringing it back in 2011. However, I am bringing a version of it to the site, perhaps not weekly but often nonetheless- one that can be unisex so that all talent can be shown off equally.

...And you know, so we can focus on actual talent and not just pretty faces! This little site is growing up!

"One To Watch" will feature those up-and-coming talents in whom I see particular spark and just know is going to be huge. The first one who needs to be mentioned is Callard Harris, currently starring as Reno on TBS' Glory Daze.

While visiting the Glory Daze set a few months ago, I was taken by now laid back and thoughtful Harris was while answering questions about the series and himself over lunch. He was more than accommodating and had a great sense of humor, and I was intrigued. Though he had a somewhat small role in the pilot episode, we have seen more and more of him as the first season has gone on. He brings a light and a charm to all of the wacky fraternity antics the guys get up to week after week, and he also manages to bring a level of wisdom-- both as an upperclassman character and as a seasoned professional actor. And that is most definitely a good thing, even in the over-sized bowling shirts he wears!

Harris is noted for his role on Sons of Anarchy, as well as for some guest spots on procedurals like CSI: Miami, proving he can and will willingly do any and all genres. There is no verdict yet on a second season of his current gig, but regardless of where his future may take him, it is most certainly going to be a bright one!

'Desperate Housewives' Pumps Up The Drama With Dialysis Treatments...

Okay, be honest, how many of you also kind of cheered a little when the dust settled from the riot on Wisteria Lane and you saw that Juanita was okay, Lee was going to be okay, but it was Susan who was down for the count? Just me? Oh...

The thing is, Susan has become quite the annoying character of late. Her holier than thou attitude upon learning of Tom and Renee's long-lost fling is quite a way to follow up her (unwarranted) holier than thou attitude about letting a baby cry itself to sleep. The woman who was once the center of the drama, the romance, and the action has been relegated to the nitpicky boredom that I always assumed suburbia to be. And that's the exact opposite of what this show promises me week after week! So, perhaps a bit rudely, it is welcome that she gets a more serious, more important story line-- even if it is one of illness.

Last we saw Susan, she was lying in the street, seeming unconscious, after having been trampled by the mob rushing away from the half-way house protest. Some television shows may have chosen to stick a band-aid on her head and plop her back into her rundown little apartment, fretting over missing her husband, Desperate Housewives is instead looking at the ramifications of one of their leads being hurt just as badly as one of their supporting characters were the last time there was a disaster in their cul-de-sac.

ABC has confirmed that Susan will suffer from kidney failure after literally having her body used as a stepping stone for who-knows-how-many in that mob. Spending some time in the hospital will be a good device to bring back the great guest stars who act as her distant family members (Lesley Warren and Andrea Bowen included), but moreover it is a great story device to offer actor Teri Hatcher a chance to really shine, and the series itself to tackle tough, timely issues.

Being placed on dialysis is not a welcome treatment for anyone familiar with its intrusiveness, but it also needs to be noted that it is not a cure, nor a permanent fix. While one can live the rest of their lives on dialysis treatments, the person's quality of life will be forever changed. There are many long hours spent in clinics to which to look forward as well as hours of fatigue and lethargy that immediately follow treatment. Some will find themselves too wiped out to drive, let alone take care of a house or kids. Work, travel, and even errand activities need to be scheduled around trips to the doctor. A kidney transplant, while still coming with a slight lifestyle adjustment, is what Susan is going to look for here...but her family may prove to be reluctant to offer her that part of themselves, and the waiting list is long and treacherous for most.

It's an issue that not a lot know about-- unless you are one of the unlucky ones placed on that list (or you watch 30 Rock), but let's face it, Desperate Housewives has never really been a show known for "teaching moments."

Susan and her husband Mike have been struggling financially for the past two seasons-- so much so that they rented out their house on Wisteria Lane and he took a job in Alaska in order to save up money. So her new-found medical bills are not going to be welcome, for more reasons other than her health and her inability to care for their son while she is stuck in the hospital. What are the odds she has good insurance, after all? When corners need to be cut, for many families, that is the first thing to go. Desperate Housewives has the chance to showcase a very real epidemic in our country here, and I, for one, cannot wait to see how they handle it.

I have health insurance, though admittedly the coverage is minimal as I do not like doctors and do not have "extra" money to spend on something I would only use in case of an emergency right now. But I also have family members who I watched live through both dialysis and a kidney transplant, so I have very high hopes and expectations for this story line. In order to do it justice, we need to see it play out over the rest of the season and then some. We need to see Susan's struggles, now greatly enhanced by her failing health, and how they affect not only her own family, but her community, as well. Because with a community as tight as this one, there is no way they won't band together to find help for their friend. "Kidney Now" take two, anyone?

Desperate Housewives made a name for itself for being part campy, melodramatic primetime soap opera, but it has also tried its hand at much more serious topics like pill addiction, alcoholism, and cancer. Every time it has brought the story in to punch-up the drama and hopefully bring in more viewers. But every time those strong, potentially game changing story lines were wrapped up a bit too neatly after only a few weeks, looking much more like a sweeps stunt than any real attempt to take on important issues. I'm not saying this show needs to switch gears completely and spend an act a week devoted to medical procedural elements, but after seven seasons, and so many other fans falling off with the series, I'm still here, and I hope I will finally be rewarded with proper treatment of this story line for that!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: A Year In (TV BFF) Review...

Apropos of nothing other than the fact that this week I seem to be all about "list" articles, I decided to take a look at the supporting characters of 2010, who in some cases could be considered "sidekicks," to see which ones have displayed the strongest actual support and therefore should be celebrated...

Eli from Glory Daze - Here is your stereotypical "wingman" type; he often uses humor (whether intentionally or not) to deflect an otherwise awkward situation. In that way he is what I imagine Chandler Bing to be just a few years before we actually met him as a grown-up living in New York City with all of his friends. Eli always manages to find trouble, too, but miraculously, he manages to get his friends out of it, selflessly thinking of their needs ahead of his own. And that is the true mark of a TV BFF: someone who is there to constantly aid and better the life of the lead. And the audience by extension. Eli, or Maverick, if you're still trying to make that happen, I salute you!

Tasha from Life Unexpected - Talk about selfless! Here is a girl who has literally put her best friend's needs ahead of her own time after time, and more than once to her own detriment. She is smart, spunky, and fun-loving, all of the regular qualities we'd want, plus she apparently has this innate ability to want to mother and protect her friend. When she is on your team, she is so for life: extremely loyal, bonded deeply, and proving it time and again with actions, not just verbal reassurance.

Morgan from Chuck - Raise your hand if your BFF knows all of your secrets. Now raise your hand if your BFF has actually kept all of your secrets, even the little, seemingly-insignificant ones. Well, Morgan has and then some. Not only has he stuck by Chuck after many years of unexplained disappearances and blowing off friends and work for his girlfriend, but once he learned the true reason for all of that, he jumped at the chance to get involved himself. He just wants to protect his buddy any way he can, whether its by covering for him at the Buy More when his tech call lasts a day instead of an hour or traveling around the world to bring him home after he's been kidnapped.

Troy and/or Abed from Community - These two were a toss-up, and in the end, I couldn't pick just one of them because they each have qualities you'd want in a best friend. Troy can be goofy and a prankster, and he loves to veg out and watch crappy movies, but he has also proven that he can be there for you in a jam and get your ass safely home after you've partied too hard. Abed, though, has the pop culture knowledge I look for when selecting people with whom I am going to converse. It's just no fun unless someone gets my references, and something tells me he and I could have a lot of fun trying to stump each other. But that's specific to me and probably only a handful like me...err, us. Abed is also a giant kid, which makes him a great friend to anyone because he would always be coming up with unique stuff to do, like making a film about whatever or a blanket fort. From fake talk shows to rapping (literally) about their classes to decorating each other like a Christmas tree, with them you know that if you said "wanna hang out," you'd end up doing something awesome.

Ellie from Cougar Town - Here is someone who will always tell you like it is, which let's face it, everyone needs in their lives but doesn't usually like to admit it. She's sarcastic and more times than not elitist, but towards your other friends and those you date, not you. In that way, she is the test everyone else needs to pass to be in your life: if she can be cool with them (even while pretending not to be), they are all right and will have your best interest in mind just as much as she does. Just think of her as a gatekeeper.

Woof Wednesday #86...

Santa must be on Atkins because he left his cookies for Madison to finish for breakfast on Christmas morning. Which did he eat first? The traditional Polish bowties, of course!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From LA Examiner: Nikki Heat storms 'Castle'; 'Southland' to return; and 'The Biggest Loser' doubles its size and the amount it will help...

The holidays may be a time to slow down and spend time away from our desks and with our families instead, but in the few days between Christmas and New Years, it has to be back to business as usual over at LA TV Insider Examiner. Here is what I have cooked up over the past two days for all of you fellow television fans!

"Nikki Heat isn't your typical Castle episode, but it's getting warmer"

For as self-satisfied and “kid in the candy store” as Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) usually is, the first episode back from
Castle's hiatus has him a bit down. First he is unhappy with the way Hollywood has bastardized his best-selling masterpiece of the written word, “Nikki Heat”, and then the actress who is to play his version of Beckett couldn’t seem to care less about him. Will he have better luck with the roguish leading man to walk in his shoes? Perhaps, but it will have to remain to be seen because our small televisions can’t handle all that handsome at once... [MORE]

"Shawn Hatosy, from one aggressive role to another, teases season three of Southland"

Shawn Hatosy may have last torn up the small screen as a creepy serial rapist, torturer, and killer on Showtime’s Dexter, but that role was just a break from the norm-- something he did in his “down time.” Usually, he is tearing up streets and tearing bad guys a new one as Officer Sammy Bryan on TNT’s cop drama
Southland. The series returns next week with all new cases and higher stakes both professionally, as well as personally, for the squad of LAPD officers just trying to make the city a safer place in which to live... [MORE]

"Southland returns to TNT with a bang...or ten"

The third season of Southland on TNT opens with quite an emotional bang. Not only is Officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) reeling from back problems and going through his prescription pills like candy, but the first case we are introduced to is through a highly emotionally charged high-speed chase for Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King). In hot pursuit of a suspect, we have no idea who he is or what he did, but we know it is going to be explosive. And judging from this season premiere episode, that is what we should expect from the season as a whole... [MORE]

"JD Roth says The Biggest Loser season eleven will help twice as many as usual"

If you tuned into the live Biggest Loser season ten finale from Los Angeles, you got a few sneak peeks at the upcoming season of the weight loss phenomenon program, which premieres next week on NBC. And if you saw it, you know the door is about to be blown off the ranch when it comes to gameplay and strategy. “The show is bigger than all of us,” Roth, no pun intended we’re sure, explained... [MORE]

2010: A Year in (Pop Culture Role Model) Review...

One might think that since I am an adult now, my days of looking to television for role models are long behind me. But why? It doesn't matter how old we get or even how much we may accomplish; we can always better ourselves...and we should never stop trying!

The Parenthood pilot wanted its audience to wonder and worry about the teenagers in the Braverman family. Amber had run off to live with her boyfriend rather than have to move to a new city with her single mom, brother, and in with their grandparents. Haddie, on the other hand, seemed old-fashioned in that Pleasantville sort of way but had a run in with drugs right off the bat that taught us not to judge these kids at first glance, or by how they dress. As the series has gone on, though, both girls have emerged as strong, smart, independent young women that most of the awkwards in high school would kill to emulate. Amber has stood up to her so-called friend about drugs and money issues and proven to be responsible by calling her mother to pick them up when her friend got wasted at a party. She studies hard and does well in school, even when she doesn't have a teacher on whom to crush. Meanwhile Haddie consistently helps out with her brother, does well in school, goes out for student government, and volunteers in a soup kitchen.

Liz Lemon (30 Rock) is quite the flawed character that most people wouldn't aspire to be like, but I'm not most people! Besides, if there was ever a time to root for her, it would be now, as this season she has taken great strides toward improvement. She may not be eating better, and she undoubtedly still has her Slanket in her office for long nights at her computer, but she is in her first real, seemingly healthy adult relationship, and she even began to work through some of her intimacy issues. She won't be "better" overnight, but she's working toward it, and that's more than we can say for a bunch of others out there in the pop culture ether these days!

The Winchester Brothers have only one positive constant other than each other in their lives: Bobby Singer. The man has stepped in countless times to save their, as he would say, "sorry asses", and though some would say he was handed a raw deal-- having to kill his wife and all (twice), being paralyzed for a good amount of time, and oh yeah, having to make out with a demon but he still keeps fighting the good fight harder than most. He is a fine example of a strong work ethic and an even stronger sense of loyalty. And he locked Sam in a panic room (twice), so there's always that as a bonus! (Supernatural)

Leonard Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory) puts up with a lot. As if his above-average intelligence wasn't something to admire in and of itself, he is also a genuinely good person with an above-average level of patience and an above-average threshold for annoyance. Not only does he manage to keep calm and compartmentalize any sad feelings about living so close to the one great love of his life and having to watch her come and go with other guys, but he is also Sheldon's roommate, best friend, and chauffeur. He is the leader of his little group, and he manages to impart wisdom (even if subliminally over time) far past his knowledge of math and science on his fellow nerds. Leonard puts up with so much, he puts the rest of us to shame!

Phil Dunphy isn't the perfect husband, father, or businessman. He is goofy, at times awkward, and often hapless. He embarrasses his kids, his wife, and his father-in-law weekly, but through it all he manages to have a fantastically optimistic, kid-like enthusiasm and outlook on life. Unless he has stomach cramps; then he freaks out. But that's fair enough; Phil is a whiz with technology and always game to lend a helping hand, whether it be to fix a printer or a broken heart. If more people shared his attitude, the world would be a better, more helpful place. (Modern Family)

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010: A Year in (Discoveries) Review...

What was it My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture set out to look for from the world of entertainment and pop culture in 2010 that I hadn't found in 2009 or any of the years prior? What criteria did I have for the things that would spark my interest, grab tight to my obsessive nature, and become the focal point of my fixation for weeks, if not months, on end? Well, admittedly I don't rightly know. There is no formula to determine what will speak to me and my sensibilities; timing and being open to new, exciting things are really half the battle. And 2010 certainly brought a number of the latter onto my radar and into my life!

A few years ago there was a little movie called Cloverfield roaring into cinemas, and critics were over-hyping it like all hell. I did not fall physically ill in the theater like many claimed I would, but I did fall into quite a few plotholes and ill of the lack of character development, even knowing it was supposed to be a monster movie. I was so distracted by my disappointment that I didn't pay much attention to the cast, which was how I missed the charming Michael Stahl-David in what became his claim to fame. 2010 gave me another chance to be introduced to him (and later, literally, during an interview for one of his many new projects) when he was cast in Noah Hawley's My Generation, a sadly short-lived drama about a fictional high school class and where they landed ten years upon graduation. He caught my eye immediately in the pilot for the twinkle in his own. He had an unassuming, unentitled quality which worked for the character but also lent itself to him as a humble talent. The down-to-Earth guy you saw on-screen spoke volumes about him in reality and encouraged me to see what else he had been working on recently, which is when I discovered he, too, believes in the little medium that will-- i.e. the web-- in a sardonic turn playing stuck-on-fame version of himself in Behind-The-Star. Some actors just have a spark that instantly endears their audience to them and makes you want to know (and see) more. In a short period of time in 2010, Stahl-David proved that he has that and then some.

If you knew me growing up, you knew I really had no use for video games. I had an old Nintendo...something, and a handheld (color!) Sega, but I rarely blew the dust off the cartridges often enough to consider them "used" when I eventually sold them to a friend's younger brother. So color me most surprised of all when I trekked out to a Best Buy on New Year's Day and purchased, sight-untested, a brand new Wii console, Wii Fit platform, and a handful of games. The intention was to use the "movement" games to inspire me to get off my couch and exercise muscles that had long ago atrophied, but what actually game out of it was a much more inspiring column for this website called "Wii with the Stars". Miraculously I managed to find about half a dozen celebrities who enjoyed Wii (or at least were open enough to give it a try for the first time on-camera) to come do an interview while playing. Admittedly it started as a fluke, but I think it is growing into something nice and unique!

This year I found not one but two awesome, interactive Dexter games. One was made specifically for the iPhone, cost about $5, and allowed you to become Dexter Morgan himself, interacting with characters from the first season of the serial killer drama and actually partaking in his early season one kills. Through challenges that involved picking locks, matching DNA strains, prepping a kill room, and stalking your victims, you got an inside look at his mind and the strength and discipline (and at times, patience) it takes to do what he does every day. The animation was phenomenal, most of the voices were done by the actual actors, and the effects may make you squirm as much as any episode. The only problem? The game ends when Dexter finds the Barbie head on his fridge; you don't get to kill your brother! Maybe an update will be coming soon? Until then, though, you can play the interactive (free) YouTube game that offers you one case, lots of suspects, and the choice to either turn the assumed bad guys over to the police or finish the job yourself. Fun for everyone!

There used to be a stigma about working with babies and animals on television and in film. They were said to be too unpredictable and a last ditch effort for new and unique content in programs on their last legs. Well, not anymore! The babies from Raising Hope are single-- well, they're twins so double-handedly changing the face of what we believe infants on television can do. And seeing how perfectly expressive they are, it's a wonder why other shows don't look harder to find equally talented babies. Cute faces just don't cut it anymore; the kids have to be talented from the jump, too!

Let me clarify that I have known about Chuck for a long time but it wasn't until late this year that I had a chance to sit down and nerd-out with Team Bartowski. And as amazing as the hand-t0-hand ass-kickings are weekly, I have to admit I have much more fun with the scenes that show him just trying to still be his normal, floating through life self, playing video games with his best friend, having dinner with his sister, and still struggling to live up to his potential. We may not all have a super brain in our heads, but those are all things to which we can relate. And it's certainly nice to think that every time our parents told us we were "special," there was a real, deep reason as to why!

Along those nerdy lines, but multiplying them by about twenty-five, is The IT Crowd, an English original that was reimagined by NBC a few years ago. The humor didn't quite spark with the network, nor did it with me when the pilot "leaked" online. But discovering the original has been a throwback to a simpler, more old-school humor. There is a laugh track, and much of the series seems like it is shot live, in one take. Its humor is sketch in that way: short and sweet, and each season only holds six episodes, with a somewhat wacky take on an otherwise extremely mundane life. Instead of going for awkward humor the way The Office does, The IT Crowd takes on a more whimsical tone.

Embedding Disabled. Click here for The IT Crowd clip.

Angry Birds has been called the biggest time-waster craze of the year, but I like to point out the fact that it has roots in physics, so it is so much more than just a dime a dozen video game. This trend is part strategy, part timing, and all fun, especially if you don't particularly like birds and wonder what they would look and/or sound like hurtling from the sky at entitled green pigs. It isn't a particularly hard game to beat, but trying to get three stars on every level and then find all of the golden eggs definitely adds hours of enjoyment to the experience! Besides, they constantly update with new levels and new special worlds for seasons, so you are never truly finished.

Though Showtimes' new drama Shameless won't premiere until next month, I was invited to screen the very first pilot at their offices over the summer. It was then and there that I found Cameron Monaghan, who admittedly has actually been acting for years and years prior to this new role as Ian, one of alcoholic Frank Gallagher's very many children. Since he has a resume longer than most currently in this business, let alone those his age, this isn't necessarily his big break. However, it is a breakout role nonetheless because within the ensemble, he manages to steal scenes left and right. He sticks out in his family for his quiet, thoughtful presence that begs a secret, and he stands out in this cast with wide, expressive eyes that reveal something much deeper to the talent he has thus far been allowed to share. A little peek was given in 2010, but the best is yet to come in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Examiner Round-Ups To Have A New Look In 2011...

As the new year approaches, I would like to introduce all my faithful readers to the slight changes My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture will be making for 2011.

It is my New Year's resolution to update this page with new content daily, but to still stay true to what it has always been about: how my own, personal life is impacted by all things television, Hollywood, and pop culture. And in order to continue to do so, I will no longer include Weekly Examiner Round-Ups. While they were a great, succinct way to go through my news, interviews, and previews from the week's television, sometimes I had so many articles that my favorites would get lost in the shuffle. Twenty or so links on a page is a lot through which to click, after all!

Instead, I will be highlighting the pieces daily, selecting a paragraph from each to feature here, with the option to click for more. Should you be interested in a particular show or actor, you can click through to the full feature over on my Examiner page.

It will look a little something like this:

"Mary Elizabeth Ellis puts the "perfect" in NBC's Perfect Couples"

NBC’s newest half-hour comedy about friends in various stages of their relationships, Perfect Couples, starts out a lot like ABC’s own new sitcom about various stages of relationships, Better With You. We are introduced to Dave (Kyle Bornheimer) and Julia (Christine Woods), Vance (David Walton) and Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) and Rex (Hayes MacArthur) and Leigh (Olivia Munn) in a series of individual scenes from an evening having trouble sleeping. The pilot episode cuts back and forth between how each couple deals with the annoyance, representing how they react to each other in any rough situation, based on the stage at which they are in their lives... [MORE]

"CBS moves Blue Bloods, announces premiere dates for mid-season programs"

CBS announced today, as a little bit of last minute holiday cheer, its mid-season series premiere dates and a few scheduling changes for its already highly acclaimed programs. “We’re in the fortunate position of having a schedule with many successful shows and very few holes,” Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President Primetime for CBS, released to the press. “This allows us to be very targeted with our mid-season series. These are moves that maintain the core stability of a successful schedule, while giving us multiple looks for the future at a few time periods.” ... [MORE]

"Bah humbug; Barely a Christmas celebration on Days of our Lives this year"

There used to be a time when Christmas was a holiday best celebrated with the fine folks of Salem, Anywhere USA. The Horton and Brady family traditions were longer than any child's list for Santa Claus: from the annual reading at the hospital to the hanging of the ornaments over at Gran's house. But not this year. When [I] caught up with a variety of Days of our Lives stars in Los Angeles last month, they told us that this year's Christmas would be a lean one... [MORE]

The plan is to keep the "round-ups" a bit more current and timely as well as to keep traffic a bit more even between this, my personal blog, and my more professional news page.

Of course, I will continue to write original pieces that only live on this site, and I plan to continue my Wii with the Stars column as much as I can find new television celebrities game to participate, so to speak. And you may want to stay tuned for a couple of post-holiday giveaways, too!

I hope you all will like it!

The Puppies Under My Childhood Christmas Tree...

Every Christmas I make a big stink about how I believe everyone should find a puppy under their tree. I've been much more vocal about it lately, since my own little guy, Madison Chandler, is my every day present, but it's something I've believed since I was young enough to still believe in Santa, too. All I wanted when I was a kid was a little puppy wearing a big red bow to pop up when I pulled the top of the box off. It was an image I had undoubtedly seen on some television show (or maybe even commercial) somewhere, and it stuck. But what stuck out further were all the cool things said puppy would be able to do. You know, all the tricks that I saw all the other TV dogs do.

I never got a puppy for Christmas. Instead, I tided myself over with these TV pups from TV families. In fact, it wasn't until the spring of my tenth year that I finally got a puppy at all, an age at which my mother probably thought I could finally share in all of the responsibilities. Whatever the reasoning, my alternating whining and sullenness had worn her down. My time had finally come! But that didn't mean I loved these little guys any less. In fact, I may have even loved them more because they were my inspiration, my surrogate puppies (like countless stuffed animals that came before my real live dog, too), and my guides for just what a perfect little bud this animal would be.

Comet from Full House was the quintessential family pet and every little girl's best friend. He could respond to the wacky antics and crazy behavior with a single bark or doggy eye-roll, but like any old curmudgeon on a sitcom, you knew his heart was actually amused by those around him. Even if Danny Tanner probably whisked him as often as he did the couch cushions themselves. Comet was actually played by a Golden Retriever named Buddy, a film star in his own right who proved he was a good sport in life, not just in character, when he allowed his naturally blond coat to be dyed a much darker amber for a little-known movie called Fluke. Comet was the inspiration behind my collection of Lisa Frank Golden puppy stickers and the not-so-subtle example used when showing my parents just how well-behaved a big dog could be.

Married with Children's Buck was one of those dogs that my mother pointed to when giving excuses for why I couldn't have one. With long hair like that, he would shed all over everything, making my eyes itch, and making the house impossible to keep clean. With a long tongue like that, he would slobber over everything, leaving stains on the couch, clothes, and little stinky droplets on smooth surfaces. But Buck the Sheepdog (who's real name was Mike until his Hollywood trainer just decided to rename him since he responded so well to the character anyway) was full of love, and sometimes love was a little messy. Or at least unorthodox. After all, wasn't that the message of his show??

Murray from Mad About You proved to my parents (at least I hoped) that a big dog could adapt just fine to a small New York City apartment. Murray, played by a Border Collie mutt named Maui, barely seemed to take up any room, even when he sat in between Paul and Jamie on the couch or kept their feet warm on the edge of their bed. He was sweet and gentle, docile and quiet...until that one time he jumped on the kitchen island to eat the Thanksgiving turkey still in its pan. But he was loved by the young couple as the child they never (at least until the finale) had.

Eddie from Frasier may have been a terrier, but he was far from a terror to those watching his statue-esque like performance. He always seemed to wear a big smile on his face, game for being dressed up in a little Santa suit or to simply stare at the action in the scene as he rested patiently on the old, scratchy-looking armchair. His breed is supposedly one of the more hyper ones out there, but he was so mellow you almost forgot he was a real live dog. And can you believe there were two of them? Eddie was originally played by a Jack Russell named Moose but when he got too old, he was replaced by one of Moose's litter. Acting really can be all in the genes!

And though Family Guy wasn't on during my childhood, their "just dog; no breed necessary" Brian still manages to sum up a key selling point of such trained companions: he is smarter and more in tune to his family's needs than they are. My mother used to like to tell me that a dog is no substitute for another human being. But I would disagree, as I knew that just because we didn't speak the same language, it didn't mean dogs were inherently inferior. Maybe they had the cure for cancer in their cute little skulls but just couldn't communicate it! Brian actually can communicate, though, and he proves the level of intelligence I always believed was there.

Dogs are those members of the family who will never grow too big or two old to move out and stop needing you, let alone decide they are "too cool" to show you they love you in public. And dogs on television families are the unsung heroes: always there, always loyal, always obedient. For working dogs in the world of television, they don't get the kind of praise and attention that the human actors do. The roar of a live audience doesn't mean much to them, when they aren't allowed to be trotted out in front of their adoring admirers for pets, scratches, kisses, and treats. In fact, they are treated more like walking, sometimes talking props: being kept in a small, sheltered kennel until they are needed to perform, paraded out to do their bit, and then ushered back into their crate. They are forcefully treated like divas, told to stay in their "trailer" when really all they want to do is play and mingle with their co-stars.

Many take for granted the endless entertainment and enjoyment they have provided through the years, but clearly not me! Clearly I overanalyzed a ton of things relating to television as a young'un (and, let's face it, still do!), but take a minute and consider this, as well: no one ever accused a television show of jumping the shark after adding a new dog to its family!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Supernatural' Saturdays: A Very Supernatural Christmas For Me...

Deep in the heart of hell-atus, with no seeming saving grace, two little angels in the form of the Winchester Brothers arrived on my doorstep, not with a carol but to spread Christmas cheer nonetheless.

When I originally ordered my set of six custom Supernatural action figures from eBay, I did so assuming I would have them all by the end of the year, but a few extraneous circumstances slowed the process. To date I have received four of the six, with one more currently being worked on, and the sixth still to be ordered. It is going to be a doozy, though; a real showstopper for my shelves! Anyway, the point is that Sam and Dean were worked double-time to get here for the holidays. So now a very happy holiday it will be!

This is the second Dean figure that I ordered: a simple pose in his famous (and now infamous since stolen) brown leather jacket. It is how he appeared at a pivotal moment in "Crossroad Blues," stern, serious, and ready to make a really hard choice.

The Sam figure is the first and only, though if I knew how perfect his hair would come out I might have ordered another simply to watch the evolution from season one to now. This particular Sam is trying to "psychic" the demon out of ole Samhain during "It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester."

And did you notice how they're even to scale? Sam really is a sasquatch, isn't he??

30 Days of Christmas: The Walt Disney Christmas Parade...

It can't technically count as a Christmas episode considering its a once-a-year thing, but whatever: my experiment, my rules!

The Walt Disney Christmas Parade is the only thing I absolutely must watch on Christmas Day. It's always chock full of television celebrities, as well as a few music ones, and of course it showcases what was popular for the past year in Disney, as well as what's to come next year for the powerhouse. It makes us long for our childhood, all the while transporting us back there. And it's light enough fare that we can keep one eye on it while simultaneously opening our presents!

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010: A Year in (Lists) Review...

Tis the season of reruns, so I should have a lot of time on my hands, right? Wrong! Tis (also) the season of reminiscing, and that is exactly what I've been doing this week...taking you down the short memory lane that was 2010!

Over on my Examiner page I spent the week looking back at some of the most memorable elements of television from this past year. It was quite a task to go back through 300+ days of television shows, actors, episodes, and moments when I hadn't been taking notes all along. Lesson learned for 2011, I'll say that! Some of the things I wanted to include, I looked up and realized actually aired at the tail end of 2009, and this isn't a calendar year project but an all-encompassing 2010 one.

In case you missed any of my round-up pieces, here they all are, with some highlights pulled out to suck you right in!

(Click on the titles for the full feature link)

Best Returning TV of 2010 - In Community's second season, which premiered in September 2010, it skyrocketed past 30 Rock to the thing we looked forward to most about Thursday night TV. They marry what we love most: laughing out-loud, pretty, quirky people, and subtle pop culture references. And let's face it: they do a pretty great homage episode, too. There is not a weak link in the cast, and there is literally nothing else like it on television right now; you can't say that about most programming today! And their bottle episode this year which was entirely in the study room? Well, if that's claustrophobia, we want to suffer from it all the time!

Best New Television Series of 2010 - There is no shortage of reboots and re-dos in this town but very few original ideas, so admittedly we weren't too sure about The CW's Nikita. Maggie Q won us over during the TCA panel to promote the show, though, and the actual pilot episode hooked us right in. In part that was due to the lead's very strong, stoic, not-so-silent rogue agent, but it was also due to Lyndsy Fonseca’s intriguing portrayal of a young double agent recruit. Instantly we wanted to know more about her, and the show gave us want we wanted swiftly and often. And let’s face it, the eye-candy (Shane West, Ashton Holmes, Devon Sawa) and Michael/Nikita flirtation help a little, too!

Best Guilty Pleasure TV of 2010 - There are a ton of police dramas on television these days. Maybe not literally, but it certainly feels like it! And in a sea of such heaviness, it's just nice to have one that's a little more fun. We don't watch Castle for the jurisdiction or to learn anything about tactical maneuvers or protocol; instead we watch for the witty banter between the lead characters, who bicker like an old married couple but always have a hint of a smile on their faces as they role their eyes, which keeps their relationships-- and our interest-- fresh. This show also is one of the rare ones that features the mystery component of the WhoDunIt? in the old-school, Sherlock Holmes-y sense. The sense of danger is never so great you can't get wrapped up without fearing your own next door neighbor. And honestly, the fact that the sixteen-year-old helps her dad solve so many crimes just makes our own sixteen-year-old self cheer in triumph!

Best Underrated TV Actors of 2010 - Perhaps because Autumn Reeser on No Ordinary Family was written as a sidekick, or perhaps because her real life pregnancy has kept her from taking part in stunts, this role has been relegated to the plucky comic relief moments. But Reeser's genuine enthusiasm and energetic presence makes even the most mundane (hello, science lab!) come alive. We chuckle out-loud at her dialogue, sometimes inappropriate but always delivered in earnest, and we find ourselves waiting for her to pop back up on screen when her scenes have ended. They say the mark of a great supporting actor is to enhance the story around the leads without pulling too much focus, but Reeser really is a leading lady trapped in a slightly lesser role (for now).

Best TV Moments of 2010 - Modern Family gives up technology - Sometimes we have moments in which the server is acting up and we can't help but scream that all we want to do is throw our laptop out the window and move to the LOST island where there is no technology. So watching the Dunphy family takes on the impossible feat of going not only without cell phones, texting, and video games, but also the internet and all modern technology in general in "Unplugged," a stand-out season two episode, was poignant and hilarious all at the same time. Little jabs at dated technology like AOL's "You've got mail" welcome, as well as corded phones getting tangled on everything in their path were chuckle-worthy. What was really top-notch, though, was oldest daughter and biggest addict Haley's creative way of coping. And of course watching Claire stand on a chair and scream "Representative" to an automated telephone service was like looking into a mirror.

Favorite Articles of 2010 - It is the CBS-TV TCA party in Beverly Hills, and hot off his Blue Bloods presentation alongside co-star Tom Selleck-- and still looking quite daper in his crisp white suit-- Wahlberg chats casually with reporters and network executives. Mid-interview, he is pulled away to take a photo with network president Nina Tassler who must be a huge fan because she keeps him in conversation for a bit. "It’s cause I’m rugged," Wahlberg jokes, when told that his cop show is the most believable of the new fall season. (August 2010)

Best TV Tweeters of 2010 - @DamonLindelof aka Damon Lindelof (LOST) - Though he doesn't entertain the 574,679 questions he inevitably gets about "The End" on a daily basis, his spirits on this social networking site are always high. He shares what television shows he is currently loving for anyone still feeling the void from his own being off-air, and he also points out references to his great work as he comes across them in other forms of pop culture. But perhaps most interesting he offers one Tweet reviews of entertainment news, events, and programs always with a snarky vibe. If he ever decides he wants to switch sides of the business, we are all in trouble. Sample Tweet: "This Eric Braeden/Neil Patrick Harris feud would be so much better if either of them could rap."

30 Days of Christmas: 'Happy Days'...

What would the holidays be without a little story-telling? In the 1974 Christmas episode of Happy Days, Fonzie (Henry Winkler) sets out to talk about how an unexpected visitor turned Mr. Cunningham (Tom Bosley)'s plans for a traditional family holiday upside down.

"Guess Who's Coming To Christmas" was the first holiday special this soon-to-be classic sitcom ever aired but it was also the last time Richie (Ron Howard)'s brother ever appeared as a part of the Cunningham family. Not your usual holiday cheer? Well, it's okay because where one brother disappears, another is born. It was this episode, after all, in which Fonzie really became an honorary member of the family.

For a sitcom, it's actually quite a sad episode, but then again, Christmas seems to bring that out in shows.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My 2010 Pop Culture Christmas List...

With only a couple of days left until Christmas, I realize that the holiday wish list I sent out into the universe (or to Santa, whichever you prefer) earlier this month took quite a turn. Just like Steve Martin in that classic SNL fireside chat, it started out with good intentions but ended up being all about me. So I guess now I'm going to pull a Cartman and squeeze some good in at the last minute...

This Christmas in the world of pop culture I would like:
  • Modern Family's Dylan to be so emotional from his break-up with Haley that he writes a song that becomes a viral sensation (more ballad-y than "Britta's a B," though) and hits it big. It may not change how Haley feels about him, but it will make Claire re-think how much of a loser he is. Plus we'd get to see Phil randomly wearing Dylan swag in various episodes.
  • Someone to slap some sense (maybe not literally; he seems to enjoy that too much) into Hank Moody. It's been four years and no one holds him accountable for all of the crap he pulls that not only hurts himself but also hurts his kid. (Californication)
  • Andy and April to stop dancing around each other and just do it already. You know what it is! I know I'm pretty curious to see if she's just as sullen when she's in love, but mostly I just want him to have reason to grin his big goofy smile more often. (Parks and Recreation)
  • A shiny new pair of boots for Kalinda (The Good Wife).
  • More Marshall and Lily-centric stories on How I Met Your Mother. Married people don't have to be bickering all the time unlike what traditional sitcoms taught us, and these two are so cute I find myself almost wishing they were a real couple in real life. They're the heart of this show, and right now they're taking the backseat to the increasingly showboaty Barney :(
  • A season two of Bandwagon simply because the combined talent of Emma Caulfield, Tracie Thoms and Yvette Nicole Brown is something that the world needs to see! We don't have to sit around and hope for Santa to make this happen, by the way; learn how you can help here.
  • Daphne to get her powers back on No Ordinary Family. Mostly because the twist is a giant contradiction to something said earlier in the script about how unlike the rest of the test subjects, the Powells' powers are permanent. Well, how permanent can they be if Fake Will just wiped them, hmm? But also because we want Fake Will to be exposed before Katie gets too deep into the relationship and gets hurt.
  • A boyfriend for glee's Mercedes. Most people might ask for one for Kurt but Kurt has enough going on and more than enough front-burner storylines. Mercedes has only dabbled in ones about weight-consciousness. Since this is high school, the only way to capture attention is through flirtation, it seems, so get her a guy. A hot one. Like a teeny-bopper Isaiah Mustafa. Or Dijon Talton so he can break out the way Harry Shum Jr has. You're welcome.
  • Another bottle episode for Community. They dabbled in taking the gang out of Greendale, and for me personally it just felt weird. Trap them in together-- in the study room, in a fort, in a classroom; that's where the comedy gold is. And have Shirley sing again, maybe with a little backing action from Troy (or should I say Childish Gambino)'s rap skills.
  • A good script for Kristoffer Polaha. He has a holding deal with CBS, and his last three shows, I thought, were really strong in their own ways but all sadly prematurely canceled. He has a knack for picking quirky, well-written scripts, but not ones that seem to hit with the wide audience the network needs to keep it on the air. I'd like him to stay on my TV for a long time. And you know, he's going to have three kids to feed soon so... really I'm thinking of the children!

Oh, and Santa, if you're reading this: I still want the things on my first list. I just think these are things many people can enjoy so maybe put these at the top of your To-Do. :)

30 Days of Christmas: 'The Simpsons'...

"The Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" was the first official winter holiday celebration for the now legendary animated series. Picking up where their previous year's sketch on the Tracey Ullman Show left off, the plot, which has become classic, was in 1989 just wacky. Bart needs tattoo removal surgery, which eats up the family's entire Christmas budget, so Homer attempts to win enough at the dog track to provide his kids with good presents. Naturally, he loses all of his money, but he returns with something even better: the new family pet, Santa's Little Helper, a scrawny, abused mutt who was going to be put down because he was no good as a racer.

This show is probably responsible for hundreds of little kids making last minute addendums to their letters to Santa Claus, asking for a puppy of their own. I know it helped fuel my interest!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Woof Wednesday #85...

Madison Chandler, on his first Christmas three years ago. His faced as matured, but he hasn't gotten any bigger. I love that I can still fit him in a stocking!

30 Days of Christmas: 'Mama's Family'...

Mama (Vicki Lawrence) isn't who one thinks of when they think of Christmas cheer. After all, she always has her mouth tightly fixed in a scowl and a disapproving look in her eye about something. But in the third season of Mama's Family, which aired in 1986, she starts to come around while playing Santa Claus at the local mall. Yes, you read that correctly!

Sure, "Santa Mama" starts off like any old Mama's Family episode would, with Mama mad at her family-- this time because her husband's ornament has gone missing right before the holidays. But then Vinton (Ken Harper) loses his voice and can't carry out his obligation to play Santa for all the town's children, guess who steps in?

It's truly a Christmas miracle because rather than scare away all of the children, or tell them there is no such thing as Santa Claus, she takes to the task quite well.

Unfortunately it doesn't seem the good people at Warner Brothers think as highly of this episode as I do as they did not clear any clips for internet usage. Instead they have included a different episode on their new Christmas Classics DVD, as well. So I present to you another, different classic clip with a very special guest star who can (and has) stolen the spotlight even up against some really strong personalities and the opulence that has filled the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Five Cents: CW Clean-Up...

On the heels of the reports that Dawn Ostroff may be stepping down from her perch at The CW My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture got to thinking. Regardless of the reasoning behind the choice, and regardless of who steps into her shoes, there is a lot of work to be done if the consistently fifth-place network wants to become a powerhouse...or at least be taken seriously. I am not here to offer my recommendations for who has the resume to make such drastic changes, but I am going to throw in my five cents about exactly what needs to change.

First and foremost the network needs to decide on a tone. They do genre shows really well, and they also do melodramas times. However, with one of their genre shows (Smallville) coming to an end in May, and another (Supernatural) perpetually on the bubble, it looks like they are leaning more and more toward the latter. It's something to keep in mind when they are greenlighting new pilots. After all, CBS, the leading network in just about every demo has established itself as the quintessential procedural station. When The CW started, it mixed and matched from The WB's familial dramas and UPN's quirkier humor. It was only natural that the kid network would take some time to adjust and find its place, fighting to play among the big boys. But it's been a few years, and we should see a clear point of view by now. Instead, it still dabbles in a little of everything when it should be perfecting one specific.

They need to promote, promote, promote. I'm not suggesting they start to send over-the-top gifts or packages to critics; we all know that the better the extras, the more they hope we'll get distracted by the bells and whistles and ignore the fact that the programming inside is quite thin. You saw America's Sweethearts, right? But a little goes a long way, and the point is that some promotion would be nice. No one will watch if they don't know the show is there, or if they don't know what the show is about or why it might speak to their sensibilities. There is something to be said for free promotion, of course, which is what all of us bloggers and reporters provide. But as much as I may enjoy a particular CW program, I can't necessarily devote what it deserves if I have to do it on my own time. It's hard not to let their shows slip to the back of my mind, the bottom of my list of articles when they're not even consistent with putting money into sending out screener DVDs. In a way, it sometimes feels like they don't want the promotion; they don't make it easy for me to offer it. Two lackluster efforts don't make a right, but there is only so much time in the day.

The CW goes for the young audience, the kind that is still trying to find itself, too. So perhaps they just want to give programming options for any of the audience they may encounter. But it's hard to find an audience, and get them to stick with you, when the demographic you are targeting doesn't watch television the traditional way anymore. And I'm not even talking about live television but not everyone has a DVR either. The younger generation-- those still in school or those who have just graduated and can barely scrape together enough cash for necessities like Ramen and magazines. "Kids today" watch online-- and when they can't watch legally, they have no qualms about finding some streaming site or file share program.

On that note, my final but most important point is that The CW really needs to step up their online presence. Their show sites right now are fantastic with photos and episode summaries and episodes...but the episodes aren't current immediately after air. If someone wants to watch the newest episode of Supernatural or The Vampire Diaries, and they don't have a TV, they log onto find nothing until about five or seven days later. They're not going to wait around that long, especially when there is so much buzz online about how great the episodes were.
In today's landscape of Twitter and live-blogging and such, everyone expects instant results and gratification. It's no wonder the network can't make any money from online advertising; by the time they get their stuff up, no one's looking anymore.

Personally, I love some of The CW's programming. I want to see them step it up a notch so that when I tell people I watch their shows on a weekly basis I don't get rolled eyes in response. I think it's nice to have that youthful energy and point of view in my life, and it upsets me that more people don't even know it's there, let alone feel the same way about it. I will continue to do my part to spread the word about what makes their programming so unique and interesting. I just hope it only gets better from here!

30 Days of Christmas: 'The Brady Bunch'...

Technically the 1988 Brady Bunch holiday special, "A Very Brady Christmas," was a made-for-tv-original movie, not merely an episode of the beloved series. However, when thinking of quintessential holiday programming, one must never leave this out. A reunion movie and a holiday one all wrapped up in, well, one, means instant interest from My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture!

It is one of those "obstacles to overcome" pieces that were so popular in the eighties when the Brady kids each have their own personal issues that may prevent them from going home for the holidays. While all of their individual struggles, namely the sad turn Alice's life has taken with her beloved Sam leaving her for some other woman, are tough enough, they quickly realize just how good they still have it when their dad gets trapped under one of his buildings, which has just collapsed.

True to the holiday spirit, a lesson about the power of love and family is learned. Throw in an aptly-timed Christmas carol, too, and a big family meal, and nothing gets you into the spirit faster!

Monday, December 20, 2010

30 Days of Christmas: 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'...

In "Christmas and the Hardluck Kid," the first season's Christmas special of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the always personable and eager-to-please Mary volunteers to work during the holidays so the others from the station can spend time with their families. Only things get blown a bit out of proportion and she ends up having to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Needless to say, she begins to miss having her fellow co-workers around, especially on what is supposed to be the cheeriest day of the year.

This episode, though first aired in 1970, is timeless in its theme. Though things work out all right for Mary (as they always do), the very valuable lesson should still be learned by the viewers at home: the best gift you can give yourself at the holidays is to be with loved ones!