Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Favorite Things '13 (AKA What I'm Thankful For This Year)...

Personally I've never been a fan of Thanksgiving-- not for its origins, especially. After all, Columbus didn't discover this land (which is why I don't celebrate that ridiculous "holiday" either) but instead claimed it for a territory that didn't deserve it when he ultimately got lost. The pilgrims were basically invaders-- kind of how modern entertainment shows aliens descending from the sky in our world-- yet we're asked to side with and celebrate their conquering of those who were just trying to live in the society they loved. I also never really enjoyed Thanksgiving because the day wasn't a day to see extended family that I would otherwise miss for most of the year. While I come from a big, extended Italian family, my parents didn't keep in touch with most of the cousins, so growing up it was usually just the four of us (my mom, my dad, my grandmother who lived in the neighborhood, and me) around the table. My parents would pull out a big dining room table and make the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and rolls while I watched the Macy's parade and picked marshmallows out of the ambrosia, but it was pretty much just another day, another dinner. We never even went around the table to say for what we were thankful. As I got older, I dissolved the traditions further to drift further from what society has made the day and create my own: dinners became potlucks more commonly consisting of lasagna or pizza than any bird; all of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes were added to the schedule after the parade, and the evening often consisted of putting up my Christmas tree while baking cookies, drinking cocoa, and watching Home Alone and Surviving Christmas. I surrounded myself with friends who had become my family, but still we never went around and said for what we were thankful. After a particularly tough year, I think it's important to finally sit down and click down that list, even if some of the things seem trivial or superficial to some. It's the little things that can make us smile and keep us sane in the face of hardships, after all.

Clever comedies like Trophy Wife, The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Awkward, The Goldbergs, and of course Parks and Recreation. Each of these has different merits, but each took me by pleasant surprise by just how smart and at times subtle they have been able to be with their humor. They have the ability to be both relatable and somewhat wacky at times, and they never treat special guest stars as just that: instead they blend everyone seamlessly into the world of the show creating characters you want to hang out with but have to settle for GIFing.

The awesome success of my friends. It's often hard to be entirely happy when someone makes a huge stride while you feel like you're barely keeping your head above water as you tread. Believe me, I am no stranger to the slightly forced smile and gritted teeth "congratulations." But life is too short for that, and honestly anyone breaking through and hitting a big personal creative stride is a win for any aspiring to do the same. No disrespect to anyone who got engaged or had babies but that's a much more common occurrence-- though friends of mine got the call that they were finally going to get to adopt today, and that's pretty damn special in and of itself. Patricia finally seeing her passion project Dating in L.A. and Other Urban Myths in production and then on-screen and/or Heather's first novel finally being packaged and given a publishing date are huge milestones that brought them joy while they worked on them but now will bring thousands of others the same joy while consuming the products.

My mother. She may not still be alive, but her presence is felt more than ever now that I am officially unemployed and tapping into the money she left me. When she passed away, I put it away-- way away-- for the future. It was earmarked for a house, an adoption, an eventual retirement. I had to pull a little out here and there when I couldn't make ends meet just from my writing, and I knew it was a cushion, but I never really realized how much she was still taking care of me until more recently when I realized I would literally be out on the street if not for that cushion. I hate that I have to use it, and I'm determined not to use it all, but damn if I am not eternally grateful that it's buying me some time and acting as a band aid.

And of course, Madison Chandler. This little guy is the best friend and softest pillow for which a girl could ever ask.

Inspirational Women in the Entertainment Industry: Felicia Day...

Fans of genre shows can be so protective of their beloved characters that they have their guards up when anyone new comes in, but when Felicia Day entered the Supernatural universe her warm personality and quick wit had her embraced immediately. It certainly helped that she was already known for being the Ultimate Geek Girl after creating a web series for herself to tear down gender stereotypes and the all-too-often-in-fighting of fandom and gamer culture. On The Guild, Day portrayed a quieter character, while on Supernatural she embodies a quirky go-getter young woman. But whether it's tapping into one character written by someone else or writing one for herself, Day breathes a kick-ass creative and confident spirit into them all that gives anyone who watches her a positive image to which to aspire.

Day is in a rare position for many actors in that she hasn't just sat around and waited for the phone to ring with her agent telling her she booked a job. A few years ago she went out and created a job for herself in the role of Codex on The Guild. She did it to work, but more importantly, she did it to work on a very specific kind of material-- one in which she could see herself reflected and one that she felt was lacking in more mainstream media.

"When I wrote Codex, that was really a reflection of who I was at the time. I wrote that part for me because I thought 'I want to see a girl who is like me!" Day said.

"It was not easy. I didn't just wake up one day and was like 'Hey I'm going to take over the web series world!' It was not like that; it was months of self-hatred, crying, depression, and then I was like 'Oh just write [but] every word is pain. Oh it's pain, uh I want to play video games.' It was terrible, and it was not easy, and a lot of people from the outside, they always think about goals, and they don't appreciate processes. And I think that some of the best advice that anyone has ever given me is to make sure that whatever you want to do, it's not just for the goal. You take into consideration how you have to get there from A to B. So love the fact that you're going to be in pain, and you're going to make mistakes, and you going to feel low some days. Know that's part of filling in the dots between where you start and where you want to end up."

Since Day's focus with The Guild was to give herself and others like her an outlet and a place to connect, she was able to truly embody her own philosophy of finding "joy in every step" of the process, rather than worrying about running toward some sort of end goal. This allowed her to connect with those around her-- from collaborators to the fans watching and interacting with her through social media. And it was in those connections that Day saw success in her project.

"I just do what I do, and you know what's very powerful? Just being yourself and saying 'I'm going to make a decision, and this is the right decision for me whatever the consequence is.' That's a very powerful thing that I think a lot of people don't take hold of. We do a lot of things for other people and for external reasons that might not be what you really want, and that's what I meant by in finding meaning and joy in the things I do, I am not afraid of what other people think of me," Day said. 

"There's something in the joy of creating something from nothing and allowing yourself to be as weird as possible that you can't really do when you're doing math or something. You have to be doing something creative, so that's what really drives me. One of the things is that you really surprise yourself when you're performing-- even when you get a script and you're just reading the words, everybody is going to interpret them differently, and I just think that's really beautiful."

While Day has noted her interest in perhaps tackling another project for herself sometime soon, she has most recently been seen as a recurring guest star on Supernatural, a role that was created in large part in Day's own personal image thanks to the success of her web series to begin with. And it is a role to which she has also certainly lent her geek girl cred to become a fan favorite (something that is unfortunately rarer than it should be for female guest stars of this series). Self-proclaimed "fan girl" Charlie was introduced in season seven of the long-running CW series with a gaggle of sci-fi figurines on her IT desk. Over the seasons, she has come into her own was a warrior by shining in her own element (LARPing and hacking computers, for example), as well as by stretching and challenging herself (facing her past, as well as Leviathans and the magical land of Oz). She is also a rare representative of an LGBT character on network television who isn't defined by her sexuality. In fact, Day was really proud that a recent episode saw Charlie striking up a friendship (rather than a hook up) with another bad-ass woman simply because human relationships are more complicated than attraction and she "didn't want to see her just jumping into bed with the first woman who could be a real friend"-- a lesson that more shows could use across the board with characters, gay or straight.

"The fun part of playing Charlie is that I take those qualities of Charlie [that] I have-- that everybody has. That's the cool thing about being an actor: you just have to find the truth in yourself and pump up certain parts of it. And of course the root of Charlie is really personal to me but the parts of Charlie that are most define are parts that I definitely, at least five years ago, didn't tap into-- that sort of boldness in a sense, and I really love that about Charlie .She's had to make her way in the world in a way that Codex never had to. That's sort of Codex' problem in life in that she's a fish out of water all of the time. So it's super fun to be able to play both sides of those coins and have people see that yeah they're the "girl" part but not all geeky girls are the same, you know? They have some similarities, but there are similarities in any two characters that you can point out. And I love the subtlety with which you can paint the brush of somebody-- because we're not all the same. Geek girls are not all the same. Some people are geeks about paper crafting, and that's just as legitimate as people who love Star Trek, and those are the subtleties we lose when we...use the word [as a] label to define," Day said.

The label of "geek" may no longer be one that comes with negative connotations, thanks to the kick-assery of people like Day (who proudly proclaimed that she "likes to be in bed by 10 to read"), but that doesn't mean that it is universally celebrated yet, either. In fact, some of the toughest critics can be found within the culture itself-- female gamers are often still looked down upon, often by other female gamers who may feel threatened rather than supported by seeing someone who looks like them representing them but perhaps not playing exactly like them. Things that are typical in such a culture are generally used as escapes, but it can also be easy to lose one's self a bit in the vastness that is the well of information and now commentary surround it. Day sees this as a double-edged sword and believes it's immensely important to make that space as positive as possible to preserve it as a sanctuary.

"What really matters in life is the people who will be there in years and the people who really know you. If something really affect you, just reach out to the support around you and know that that's way more important than trying to please everybody. Because that's the good thing and the bad thing that the internet gives us is access. I think I wrote in The Guild that the worst thing in the entire world is to know what everybody thinks about you...and that's the internet. It's a blessing because you'll meet some people that you otherwise would never have met or had in your life, and that's fantastic, but then at the same time, you're exposed to all of these people who you really wouldn't have cared what they thought anyway, but their opinion seems as valid as any other because they're put on the same stage," Day said.

There is a lot of noise surrounding this culture and Day's day job, but she distracts from it by filling her spare time with "silly dance classes" and photography and other creative things that she knows will bleed over into her writing and her acting. One creative endeavor may enrich another, but they also all work to make her a unique and well-rounded woman in general. And that is something she wants us all to celebrate.

"We are defined by our individuality, and unless we're allowed to express that, I don't know what we're doing here," Day said.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Still Shilling for The CW...

When I first graduated from college I worked on a lot of independent film and commercial projects, and one in particular had me working for a brilliant writer and director who, after spending a few weeks working side by side with me, told me he thought I should be working at a network. At the time I was desperate to prove I was creative, I was an artist, I was anything but a suit, so I was taken aback by his words and both flattered and slightly dismayed by them at the same time. But now it is close to a decade later, and I realize that I probably should have listened to him. 

Now, I find myself actively wanting to work for a network-- to have a sense of ownership of the projects I ultimately end up promoting anyway. Over the past few days as I've been wrapping up my paid writing gigs before the holidays and writing my millionth resume cover letter and scouring dozens of job ads, I've realized a pattern in both my past work and what I hope will be the future. And as odd as this will sound to a lot of industry people (but as understandable as it is to so many television fans), I'd like to be at The CW or their parent Warner Bros.

The CW was a network that embraced me swiftly and greatly when I started blogging professionally. Over the years they (along with parent company and studio Warner Brothers) have given me some of the most consistent access to their programming and talent not only for preview and review features but interviews and casting exclusives and post-mortems. This combined with the sheer passion of the audiences of their shows has always made these articles the highest rated (for traffic and promotability) across the various websites for which I have written. And admittedly, they are often the most fun to work on.

I'd love to work on them a little more officially, and full disclosure: I did send my resume in for one very specific position already, but in the meantime, how could I not share just a few more awesome interactions with CW stars for some key episodes/moments coming up in their seasons!?

Arrow's Emily Bett Rickards talks about Olicity in season 2, meeting Barry Allen, more

The Tomorrow People's Mark Pellegrino talks about Jedikiah's past, weakness, respect for Stephen.

Supernatural's Osric Chau talks about Kevin's journey and season 9 state of mind.

Supernatural's Misha Collins talks about human Castiel, reuniting with Metatron, more

Monday, November 25, 2013

Partying with 'Supernatural' at Creation's L.A. Con...

Five and a half years ago I spent a slightly overcast weekend here in Los Angeles down by the airport in a hotel. It was my first experience with Creation Entertainment’s “Salute to Supernatural”— conventions that are held every other month or so around the country— but not my first with a fan convention in general. It was also my first professional TV blogging gig, as I had just been hired by to cover various events and celebrity news. A somewhat new fan of the series but a longtime fan of the actors who star in it, the Creation convention allowed me a chance to marry my personal interests and my new professional track. It seems fitting then that closing out my most recent and longest term blogging contract would be with another “Salute to Supernatural” on another slightly overcast weekend, in a different part of the city, but with many of the same faces— fans and actors alike— as half a decade ago.

The convention is measurably bigger, both in talent and fan attendees, these days as it was when it was first starting out. The years of success both Supernatural as a series on The CW and Creation as an event production company have had add a level of clout that have had many joining in the fun as the years went on while still seeing those who were there from the beginning return year after year. The passage of time can literally be marked in photo ops with “the boys” from year to year, marked not only by the progression of Jared Padalecki’s hair but also by the level of intimacy expressed in pose. As time goes on, many fans are easily recognizable to the actors from the last convention, which may not have been last year but just a few months ago: if you are so inclined, you can literally follow this convention around the country as you would a concert tour.

Padalecki likened the sense of fandom in the room to his own of the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone has something they are passionate about, Padalecki pointed out-- something you can talk about for hours upon hours, getting heated and throwing or kicking things if it isn't going well for your favorite [insert thing you're a fan of here].

As the years have gone on, the actors have gotten more creative and taken more control of the convention, as well. In addition to the standard (but somewhat distanced) on-stage Q&As each participate in (and the autograph and photo ops that provide fans five to 10 seconds of up-close interaction), there is also a “dessert mixer” that sees various actors mingling with fans at their tables, a karaoke party where actors don costumes and sing with their fans (some actors carry the costumes over into their photo ops which are extra special for the repeat customers but perhaps a little odd for first timers or those for whom this photo op is the only one they will get), a concert performance by Rob Benedict's band Louden Swain that sees the chairs pushed back and the shirts coming off, and this time around a few extra special surprises.

Richard Speight Jr. (along with Matt Cohen) always hosts the Friday evening karaoke party but this year he stepped it up a notch and served a guest host for the entire weekend, introducing each panel, handling some logistics, and helping pull together a last minute jam session when Benedict let it be known that his recent illness was going to keep him from performing with Louden Swain as usual. Rather than just cancel that portion of the event, Speight, Cohen, Sebastian Roche, Julie McNiven, and Supernatural friends and family Jason Manns, Brian Buckley, and Mandy Musgrave stepped in and created a revolving door concert that was completely all one of a kind.

“It just gets better and bigger and better and bigger. I’s astonishing because we think we peaked every time,” Speight said of the convention itself.

Clearly these weekends aren’t just a time for viewers to let their hair down and their inner fans out, though. The actors really get into the spirit of things, as well. Not only did Roche get so into his rockstar moment at the concert that he whipped off his shirt mid-way through, but Osric Chau dressed as a princess for his panel on Friday, and then on Saturday he and Speight both showed up during Misha Collins’ time on stage to paint his nails. But while it's always fun, it isn't always about showing off their goofy sides. When Collins first began his run with Supernatural and was invited to appear at these conventions, he said he wanted to study fandom at a sociological level. Years later, he is still fascinated by the phenomenon and even occasionally gets taken aback or becomes humbled by a question posed to him, like “What inspires you during troubled times?” Chau is now following in Collins’ footsteps a bit by taking on the role of Creation event reporter, going into the crowd of fans, and literally rolling out a red carpet in front of them to turn the tables and interview them on why they’re fans and how they enjoyed the convention.

Now Collins also uses these conventions as a time to raise more money and awareness of the non-profit he founded, Random Acts, by setting up a vendor table, often organizing a group event around the convention, collecting donations for needy causes, and auctioning off rare autographed item. 

This year Cohen generously donated the cheerleader uniform he has made a staple at the karaoke events, popping out on stage of every panel to get the other cast to sign it. The costume sparked a bidding war within the room between two male fans: one of whom was only 13 and ended up winning after Collins made sure the kid was a) serious about bidding and b) actually willing to pay. When the price hit $3100, Collins called it for the young man whose name was Patrick and got to come up on stage to watch a signature be added and shake hands with the actors. Clearly Patrick has parents that support his interests, a common theme this convention, as just the day before a father won an autographed custom guitar case that he said would be a gift for his son who plays the instrument.

Benedict, overwhelmed by the show of love and support from both his friends and past castmates as well as the fans, took a moment during his panel to share his recent struggles in a very open and intimate way.

"I was at the last convention in Toronto, and all of a sudden at the end of my signing, I found I couldn't speak very well. I couldn't think of the right words. A woman asked me when my anniversary was, and I couldn't think of it; it looked like I didn't remember," Benedict said, noting that he then went back to rest in his hotel room while most of the cast went out to a bar.

But Speight called him up to see how he was doing, and he was still struggling to find words, so they realized it might be more than just fatigue and decided to go to the hospital. As it turned out, Benedict was having a stroke, and they had to give him a drug that had a high fatality rate in order to treat him, but the doctors still said they were lucky they caught it when they did. You never would have guessed this happened to him so recently by the way he was laughing and bounding around on stage, nor would you have noticed the slight lisp he was currently speaking with had he not pointed it out. But he assured everyone that he was getting better and thanked everyone immensely for their support. The crowd quickly jumped to its feet to give him a standing ovation, and Speight used the moment to offer some advise for what to look for in potential stroke victims so that others might catch a potential problem as quickly as they did.

It was a rare somewhat more somber moment in a weekend otherwise filled with a sense of whimsy and fun. Every convention hosts a costume contest, and fans spent all day wearing trenchcoats with angel wings protruding from them, ball caps and fake beards, fake slits across their throats and leather jackets (to name a few current favorite characters like whom to dress). They lined up along the walls of the ballroom to get a chance to ask the actors questions about their experiences working on the show, their experiences with fandom, or just whatever they happened to be wondering, like which rock star they would want to play in a potential future biopic. There is value in a good story, and as actors-- as storytellers-- in their daily lives, these know that better than most and they did not disappoint. An innocuous question about the most evil thing (in his perception) that he had to do on-screen prompted an answer from Mark Pellegrino that gave more insight into him as a person when it turned into him explaining his wicked sense of humor and how he laughs whenever people wipe out but also used to teach his daughter the wrong words for things. 

Speight retired Jensen Ackles' "After School Special" gym shorts-- a staple he was often known to wear himself on the convention circuit in a pomp and circumstance ceremony that caught Ackles a bit by surprise when Collins and Felicia Day marched out on stage before Speight, who followed with the reveal. Ackles immediately got into it, and the men folded the shorts military style and saluted each other and then the crowd to cheers that can only rival a One Direction concert.

(Hilariously enough a fan jokingly compared the boys to One Direction earlier that panel, and both mocked outrage. But in a weird way, the comparison is more than valid: both attract deep passion, love, and devotion and the willingness to travel all over the world for glimpses of them. One Direction sings the same songs in their concerts; the boys often answer the same questions convention after convention, but no fan will tell you the repeat experience isn't still completely worth it.)

This time around, the evolution of this convention could definitely be felt. Actors were roaming around and popping in on each other's panels to say hello to each other, creating special moments when those who hadn't worked together in awhile saw each other again. Ackles crept up behind Day during her panel, and she tensed at first, claiming as she put it "that [she] thought [she] was being attacked but then it turned out to be the most charming man and it was all right." They shared a hug and a few words that elicited huge "Awws" from the crowd.

It's no surprise that this time around then there were many fans in attendance for the first time ever, nor was it a surprise that the crowd featured a better balance of male and female fans and a lot of younger fans. Social media has allowed these conventions to be shared around the country. On any given weekend when one is occurring, your entire Twitter feed can be swallowed by live-Tweets and photos (mine included), making you feel like you're missing out on an experience that you have to be sure to catch next time around. It isn't just about hearing Padalecki's advice for actors or Ackles telling a story about the time his dad had to pick him up from a police precinct a few towns over in the middle of the night. It isn't just seeing Cohen impersonate the boys or hearing Manns perform live or maybe, maybe getting little hints at what's to come in the current season. It's about being a part of this family-- one that extends from the cast and crew to the fandom. Lifelong friends are made, built around this one common interest, and people get to know each other very well after spending three days sitting with them in a ballroom, standing with them in line for photos or autographs, eating and drinking with them between panels and events. The vibe of these conventions have become one big party where all of that family is welcome-- and you never know what will happen when you get everyone together again. Why would you want to decline an invitation like that!?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Awfully Big Adventure That Is Writing Professionally These Days...

After almost four years freelancing for the LA division of, I am officially moving on from that freelance gig effective immediately. While I loved the freedom I was allowed there to select the shows and people I covered (and the way I covered them), with each passing year the ability to actually earn a real income on the site decreased substantially, despite my reach and quantity of content constantly growing. It has gotten to the point where it is just not worth it for me to continue to give original and at times exclusive material to a site on which it just gets buried under dozens of repetitive aggregated articles in the "content farm" model.

My mother once told me never to quit a job until I had another one lined up. Well, I never listened to that, and this is no different. Most of you know I have been looking for something full-time for months now, and unfortunately to no luck yet. So sadly I don't have an exciting announcement to follow this about where I am landing just yet. Things are still very much up in the air, and with the holidays fast approaching, I doubt anyone will be so quick to pull the trigger on hiring until the new fiscal year anyway. But that's kind of exciting within itself.

In the meantime, I will be writing more on this blog as inspiration strikes me, as I have been over the last few weeks. I may even finally be able to diversify back out to pop culture as a whole instead of the television niche I have been stuck in for the last almost four years.

I hope you'll continue to join me on this journey. I feel like I will blog much of the journey's experience in itself-- for better and for worse.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Am Sarah Braverman, Just Trying To Grow Into Kristina...

Kristina Braverman conceded the election tonight, and all I could think about afterward was that I was so excited to watch her tackle whatever she decided was worthy next. She didn't always want to go into politics, and arguably, winning mayor wasn't even really her main goal here. She wanted to change lives-- to make things better for those in need or those the system was otherwise failing. And when she sat with her husband realizing the numbers were not in her favor but just how much she wanted to do those things anyway, she wasn't defeated; she was further inspired. And she was inspirational. How hard she worked to get where she was, how much she had overcome, how deep and strong and big her passion was-- all things that will drive her to keep doing great things, even if not from the mayoral seat (yet). In a moment when her fire could have been snuffed out, she rose to the occasion and was reminded of what she had accomplished and who she had helped. Watching her made me want to find that one thing for me, too, but at the end of it, I realized that I get more pleasure out of watching others succeed and finding their passion than I do going after my own. And I think that's because I don't want anything the way Kristina wanted this-- recent or not.

I was raised with the attitude of anything I wanted to do, I could. My mother wasn't picking up and moving three thousand miles across the country while I was in school, but she never discouraged me from following through on that once I was of age-- even allowing me to apply to a program that would have had be condensing my senior year of high school into my first year of college in order to get me out to LA faster, a year earlier. Let's face it, I was a middle class white kid who tested into the gifted program in preschool and never left it, even when the accelerated math classes were soaring over my head. Doors were open to me because of my grades, my schooling, my creativity, and my independent work ethic. More would have been open if only I had been willing to ask for help. But that's the thing: when things got tough, I often found I'd rather walk away and turn my attention to something new, rather than actually having to conquer a fear or challenge myself. Why do something that's causing you discomfort, even if temporarily, right?

I took dance classes when I was three or four. Ballet, tap, jazz, as all the little girls in my neighborhood tended to. But I stopped there because I had too much stage fright to go on during the recital. I told my parents I wanted to quit, after they had already purchased the fancy outfit by the way, and they let me. I was too young then to have made an informed argument, I'm sure, but still they conceded. I could do what I wanted, and if I didn't want to do it anymore I didn't have to. It was great at the time, but looking back I see it has stunted me a bit. In later years my parents put me in swimming lessons-- which I pretended to hate but mostly only because the water was a sanctuary and I hated being told what to do when-- a day camp that was really heavy on sports and then separate tennis instruction. Those were more expensive than the dance and so I spent more time there, but even still, if I wanted to get out of actually participating, I was good at figuring out ways to do it. I was known to fake a sprained ankle or wrist "issue" before Color War time at camp, and I constantly had "cramps" on tennis days. They say if you spend half the time actually doing the work than trying to get out of it you'd be much more productive, but really, excuses came easily to me.

The one thing I always loved, though, was writing. In fourth grade my teacher asked us to keep a separate notebook for stories we came up with in our spare time. If we finished our other classroom assignments early, which I had a tendency to do, she encouraged us to stay still and quiet by working on something in those notebooks. I always did, and I often found I'd race through my tests extra quickly in order to get to those notebooks. I filled a few that year when most kids got halfway through one. She was the first teacher to offer me writing as a viable activity, but a few years later in junior high I was in a program with an extra course-- one completely dedicated to writing-- and that teacher was nothing but a cheerleader for original creation. 

I've actually kept the notebook habit going until this day, even though regretfully these days it sits untouched on my nightstand collecting dust more than it sees any new ideas get jotted down into it. A friend recently asked me why I'm not trying to focus more on that kind of writing, and I didn't really have an answer for her other than the ideas just aren't coming. Recently Molly (of Mike & Molly) quit her job (ironically to focus on a writing career) because it just wasn't what she wanted to do anymore. She said something was broken in her-- or maybe it was fixed, she didn't know-- and that's kind of the perfect way to sum it up. Whatever it was that made me write, be it pain or stress or boredom or enchantment, it's just not there anymore. Maybe it will come back someday, maybe it won't, but I'm not sitting around missing it so I'm inclined to believe I'm more on the "fixed" side of the spectrum.

That same friend also asked me what it is I want to do then, professionally, and again I found I had no answer. But this one was a much scarier silence because for the first time in my entire life-- not just in my adult life but my entire life-- I didn't know. My recent (and frequent) bouts with unemployment or underemployment have stripped the "I want" and the "the perfect job for me would be" from my vocabulary. It's become much more about survival (which is again why I feel like maybe something in me is healed because writing was always an outlet for me, and when should I need that more than during the stressful time of poverty?). But I'm not entirely sure it's a new feeling.

I went home from that conversation and really thought about things. I looked back over the things I had told people I wanted through the years-- things I told myself I wanted, things I thought I did want. And I began to see the degrees of desire in a way I had never considered before. Much of my life was spent going through motions in the "you do A to get B" kind of way, assuming they would all just add up to something great or at least good in the end. I didn't follow a traditional path by any means. I didn't even have that many road markers telling me I was even on the right path or that things would actually turn out great or even good if I kept doing what I was doing. But I believed I wanted certain things, so I kept at it.

Now I'm not so sure. And losing sense of what I want just has me lost in general. I'm treading water now not because I'm waiting on someone to buy my show or hire me on staff but because I don't know in which direction to swim. I've started over before-- after trying my hand at one little project or another than didn't quite pan out lucratively or otherwise fulfilling or satisfyingly. It's always easier to give up and move onto the next thing-- but what happens when the next thing (and then the next and the next and the next) doesn't stick either? The problem is certainly you (me), but the pattern doesn't bode well for breaking the cycle or actually rising to the challenge.

I want to be Kristina Braverman when I grow up, but right now I'm still Sarah.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From LA Examiner: FX orders 'The Strain'; ABC Mid-Season Premiere Dates...

FX announced today a 13-episode order pick up for new drama series The Strain. Coming from Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, and Carlton Cuse, this series is also based on the best-selling vampire novel trilogy of the same title written by the two former producers. The Strain is a high concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself... [MORE]

ABC announced today mid-season 2014 plans which include a few new series premieres, as well as the return of Suburgatory, and a shakeup that sees some time slot switches and hiatuses that the diehard fans may not be super happy about... [MORE]

Monday, November 18, 2013

From LA Examiner: Michael Ealy Talks 'Almost Human'; Molly Tarlov Talks 'Awkward'; More From Robbie Amell on 'The Tomorrow People'; 'The Flash' Pilot Changes; Laura Bell Bundy Returns to 'Hart of Dixie'...

"Can synthetics grow and evolve? On Almost Human, Michael Ealy proves so!"

When a television show puts out a character breakdown that lists "synthetic" as the key trait, there is often cause to be concerned. After all, "synthetic" is just a fancy way of saying man-made or otherwise robotic, and if the character is literally a machine than it won't have a full range of human emotions, if any humanity at all. And if that character doesn't have emotions or room to grow with its experiences, there really isn't much of a journey to follow there at all. This is something J.H. Wyman understands better than many who have created programming with robots at the center before him, though, so his new FOX futuristic crime and technology drama Almost Human sees a different kind of synthetic in Dorian (Michael Ealy), an early version who actually was given some capacity for feelings... [MORE]

When Awkward first started airing on MTV, it appeared that Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards) was the quintessential all-American girl-next-door who the audience was going to relate to, fall in love with, and laugh over her clever puns and dry sensibility. Therefore it seemed that her high school nemesis Sadie Saxton (Molly Tarlov) was the quintessential "mean girl"-- an image-obsessed cheerleader who was out to kick all of the social outcasts while they were down. But Awkward has been anything but typical in its three years on the cable network, and now as Jenna spirals and struggles, Sadie is the one standing strong and tall. Suddenly much of her "meanness" just comes across as honesty and the choices she makes to keep herself a bit guarded may just be the much more likeable, let alone relatable ones... [MORE]

"Robbie Amell on his Cool Hand Luke moment on The Tomorrow People"

The CW's The Tomorrow People is not wasting any time moving its plot along, nor is it dangling secrets over characters' (or the audience's) heads. Only six episodes in and Astrid (Madeleine Mantock) already knows what Stephen (Robbie Amell) can do, even if not the full weight of its importance, and Cara (Peyton List) has learned the truth about just how far Ultra went with John (Luke Mitchell) all those years ago. There is a lot at stake for these characters who have been forced to hide underground because they are being hunted by those who fear and maybe slightly covet what they can do that "regular" humans cannot. Tensions are higher than ever, and things are not helped by the fact that Stephen is still trying to live in both worlds... [MORE

"The CW to give The Flash a standalone (not backdoor) pilot"

While we are mere weeks away from meeting Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) on The CW's Arrow, it appears we have to wait longer than originally planned for the backdoor pilot for a potential The Flash spin-off. Whereas that was originally going to come at the end of Arrow's second season (episode 2.20), word is now The CW is holding off and doing a stand alone pilot instead... [MORE

"Exclusive: On-set with Laura Bell Bundy for her Hart of Dixie return"

If you watched the November 18 2013 episode of The CW's Hart of Dixie you saw the return of a very important character-- with a big secret. If you didn't watch that episode yet, well, maybe stop reading this for fear of spoilers. Because from this point on, the town of Bluebell, Alabama is going to be a little more crowded having to deal with Shelby's (Laura Bell Bundy) graceful return-- and she's taking up room for two"... [MORE]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Art of "S": When The Experience of Reading Means More Than The Story Itself...

I have not purchased an actual book in well over a year, choosing instead to read on my iPad for lightweight portability and minimal storage. While I spent a lot of time as a child with a stack of books on the windowsill by my bed, proud of my progress and excited by new possibilities as I picked them up, devoured them, and then stored them on shelves one by one, I would rarely return to read any more than once, thus creating something of a hoarder environment in the very limited space of a one bedroom apartment. My books ended up in stacks in my closet as I got older, not even properly displayed, let alone entirely remembered. It just seemed wasteful and somewhat archaic. So when I logged into Amazon to learn J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst's "S" was not going to be available in a Kindle version, I admit I hesitated on the purchase. But I hope no one else does because the packaging of this kind of storytelling is absolutely stunning and would in no way be properly captured on a mere screen. Abrams and Dorst were right not to bastardize the artistry with that option (which would arguably reduce the visuals to something that would evoke memories of Microfiche). "S" isn't like any other book and should not be treated as such. What is uniquely special and downright artistic about this is that there is not one, proper way to read it, but putting it in digital format would direct your reading in an almost unnatural and somewhat omnipotent way. What is most important about "S" is the experience you have while reading it-- the way you choose to track the story that unfolds-- not necessarily the story that actually does unfold.

For this reason, it feels disingenuous to review the story within "S": it is not my place to determine whether or not the story here will work for the audience because it's not really anyone's place to make such grand declarations on behalf of the masses about art. Everyone will take away something slightly different (a pointed argument actually made within this novel anyway) because of what they bring to it; what they want from it; what connection they make to it; how deeply they want to think about it at all. All literature is a form of art, but "S" takes it to another level. 

"S" is really two stories in one. There is "Ship of Theseus", the final novel of a mysterious author named W.M. Straka that was supposedly found by one of his translators and completed and published posthumously. This translator, who also goes by initials, has written a foreward to the story, as well as some footnotes, and there is debate over just how much of the narrative he "cleaned up" or otherwise influence. Thus starts a conspiracy theory level debate on the works of Straka that inspires study and research and margin-notetaking to begin with. The book is presented like an old library book, complete with stampings for who checked it out when and aged yellow pages. There are scribblings in the margins from a graduate student whose life work thus far has been Straka but who is threatened to be usurped (or so he claims) by his former mentor/advisor professor. We learn about this through conversations he and another reader of the book have in the margins. She found it, along with his original notes (marked in gray seemingly pencil and faded with age and wear) and made her own observations and musings in blue. When he received the book back, he responded to her responses in black and a dialogue began that spans an indiscriminate amount of time but goes beyond the content of the book they both read or the man they are now both fascinated by into more personal things about their lives-- or at least hers: he is as mysterious as Straka, setting up a potential conspiracy theory in their story, as well.

Most books are designed to be read linearly, even when the story jumps through space and time but here you can start at the literal beginning, with a foreward written by a different author than the book within the book ("Ship of Theseus"), or you can read that story first to get the fiction first, and read linearly as you would anything else-- only to then go back later for a second pass with the modern day notes and inserts (there are letters, postcards, photos stuck strategically into various pages not as bookmarks but as additional information for the in-story readers who were on their way to discovering more and more about Straka). Or you can read it all at once, taking breaks from the original narrative to read the analysis and relationship forming between those studying it. At times this structure (or lack thereof) makes "S" seemingly exhausting to read but it always felt more exhilarating simply because of the discovery and vibrant breath of life and unique voice that came with each detour. We have been trained to follow the road map of a story when it is presented in a neat order. Here we have to literally follow lines on the page to break away from the current piece of prose we're engaged in to follow another thread of thought, each designed to add layers of additional things to think about when reading what comes next. Many times I found myself utterly engrossed in a particular section, not wanting to break momentum to incorporate something else just yet. In those moments I chose to follow my instinct and double back later. It was oddly liberating and always thrilling.

Even the story told in the margins bounces around, as the book is passed back and forth, most obvious by the ink colors changing from the black and blue early interactions to orange and green as they continue on and dive deeper. Some conversations start on one page and continue on a much farther one (always notes with directions to flip ahead to that page), with these reader characters in much different relationship states from the top to he bottom if any given page. There is so much going on you may find you have to take your own notes at times. Abrams and Dorst undoubtedly felt this weight and admittedly played a little heavy-handed pretty early on with some of the themes to guide the third party reader (you) on where to pay careful attention, even if not on when.

For this reason you might prefer to allow yourself to get sucked into the journey, rather than becoming too active a reader yourself, tying to decode and decipher the potential clues and conspiracy theories talked about in abundance within these pages. I know I did. This allowed me draw my own assumptions and theories without feeling the temptation of using too many of the inserted tools to figure it out too early on. But it also allows a lot of room to go back and experience everything again on repeated readings, with more information each time, seeing the pieces come together, scrutinizing different passages, enjoying the playfulness of the readers within the story. "S" can provide days upon hours of entertainment if you really want to get down and dirty with it, and that makes it even more special.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

At The Crossroads with Two Books on 'Supernatural' Fandom: Which To Read?...

Arguably we all just want a place to belong in life, among people we feel we have things in common. Community creator Dan Harmon perhaps said it best last year at a fan convention for his show when he spouted: "I think the most important thing as an individual is to figure out who you are but know nobody wants to be alone...There is no one who wants to be alone-- nobody. We take hardened criminals, we put them in solitary, and they go insane. They start banging on the walls and go 'Please let me out!' They want to be let out because they want to stab somebody with a toothbrush, but they want to be let out; they want to be near somebody. I'm not saying everybody is going to hug each other when they're near each other, but nobody wants to be alone. That's a starting point; that means something; and that's what this show's about." But really, that's what all shows are about because they bring people together-- people from potentially all walks of life, all countries, all races, all socioeconomic backgrounds. But once they are together, they may form a group of like-minded individuals over their common love, but they don't form a mindless, opinionless collective of sheep. The very real individuals that make up this group still look for ways to set themselves apart, to be known, perhaps even to be special. Fandoms are a microcosm of this behavior because they perfectly identify creative and intelligent individuals who want to actively participate in something rather than just sit back and watch the pre-produced programming wash over them. It is a phenomenon not everyone understands, but Lynn Zubernis and Katherine Larsen want more people to, and so they have written not one but two books on the subject, using Supernatural as their test case and representative of fandom.

Admittedly the studying of fandom is bound to be a bit biased even if the author(s) come into that particular completely blind to the material and the people. There is the very real chance they will get swept up in the excitement (it is infectious, after all) once among the fans and therefore drop a little bit of the strict and straight "observer" angle. But more importantly, the bias comes simply from the show being chosen to study. Every fandom is different in that the way the show or the star at the center of it is celebrated is different. Zubernis and Larsen selected Supernatural to be their line of study because they were both hooked on the show already, but they also managed to select one of the most diverse fandoms out there when it comes to age, race, and active participation. The fans of Supernatural (as evidenced deeply in this book) of course talk about their love of the show through various online forums and social media platforms, but they also get extremely creative with it-- from making fan art to writing fan fiction, as has become commonplace within just about every fandom, to the more refined cosplay and acting out said fanfiction through custom dolls or figurines, to attending conventions that celebrate the show and its stars but also attending conventions that (maybe not so simply) celebrate the fans. As Zubernis and Larsen show in their books, fandom really can be a full time job when you put your whole heart and soul into it.

The most fascinating thing about Zubernis and Larsen's books are actually reading them side-by-side. The same stories are told in both "Fandom at the Crossroads: Celebration, Shame, and Fan/Producer Relationships" and "Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls" but through slightly different lenses. In truth, if you read one, you don't necessarily need to read the other because you already know what they have to say and what examples and quotes they will use from the various interviewed talent (from the boys themselves to Jim Beaver, Misha Collins, Eric Kripke, Sera Gamble, and so on). However, as fandom proves, if you truly love Supernatural you'll inevitably want to devour both books. If you are someone who isn't a huge fan of the show but simply loves the written word, you should definitely read both, as well, because the nuance in language in how the stories are told are what separate the books and make each unique enough to stand on its own.

"Fandom at the Crossroads" is the academic book, written like a thesis and including the more scientific precursors to chapters that simply tell you what the chapters will explore. Zubernis and Larsen have been careful to remove any overt language of "squeeing" in order to allow the heavier weight of the research and professional angle to seep in-- to make this book potentially one that could be used in courses on fandom at various universities. It is a perfect way to ease someone into the idea of fandom-- someone who isn't sure what it is really all about or maybe is a little uncomfortable with the idea of it. In many ways, it keeps the audience at a slight arm's length also simply studying a phenomenon rather than truly being a part of it. Zubernis and Larsen are fans at their core, though, so the squees are implied even when writing this way, and on many pages you can feel them almost begging to be let out. After all, the reason fandoms flourish so greatly are because of the strong connections to the characters in the story. While thankfully not just dryly focusing on statistics, "Fandom at the Crossroads" does keep a lot of the personal off the page.

That is why the follow-up book "Fangasm" seems so necessary. For anyone looking for a peek behind the velvet rope of studying fandom, this book will provide that. Zubernis and Larsen are candid in a way that kind of makes this book their pop culture memoir (albeit for a very select and specific time in their lives). While in "Fandom at the Crossroads" they pose the question of why fandom is so important, to whom, and how fandom-- and different levels of fandom-- is perceived among the fans themselves, with the creatives actually making the show, and in the wider world, "Fangasm" turns the lens on the authors themselves and shares their own struggle to walk the line between fan and professional as well as just how they went about getting so many of the interviews for their book(s). The squees are abundant here-- as are the feels-- and anyone familiar with fandom of any kind knows both are equally important to a successful and satisfying experience. 

If you are a fan of Supernatural who wants to read snippets of Zubernis and Larsen's interviews with the aforementioned people (and more), they are in both books. But if you are such a fan of Supernatural you want to hear about what it was like for two fans to actually sit down and interview said people, "Fangasm" is for you. Zubernis and Larsen are very much the focus of the narrative in their second book, whereas their first wouldn't allow that. They talk openly about the differences in treatment when on set as a lookie-loo, a guest of production, and a guest of another fan's; they share experiences of going to Beaver's house or Padalecki's trailer to sit down and talk about the show with the ones who actually make the show; they admit to spending a lot of money and missing out on family moments to constantly travel to do more interviews, more set visits, more conventions; and they pontificate about the studio's understanding, acceptance, and treatment of fans.

Admittedly it was a little striking to see both books dive heavier into the world of fan fiction than one might expect, but it has become such an important (and dare it be considered more mainstream!?) part of fandom it's not completely surprising to see it reflected.

Because Zubernis and Larsen did involve so many members of the Supernatural family in order to write "Fandom at the Crossroads", they became an extended and accepted part of it by the cast and crew in a way that many other fans cannot necessarily relate and of which may even be envious. Their story, therefore, is certainly unique enough to warrant a book about it, but may leave some readers living vicariously. Zubernis and Larsen understand the uniqueness of their situation, though, and they countered those moments of awe at their adventures with very deep and personal admissions.

Fandom is usually seen as a uniting force: something that can bond complete strangers just based on a shared interest. But it can also be an experience akin to high school in that there are "cliques" of fans, especially within this particular fandom, it seems, and each one may take the attitude that only they are "doing fandom right." What is great is Zubernis and Larsen's willingness to be open and vulnerable and talk about their own dalliances with fan fiction, with set visits, with other fans, and with themselves rectifying this fear within themselves. They are fans, but they actively sought to set themselves aside as researchers, academics, professionals.

Setting one's self aside that way develops a very different rapport with other fans, as well as the show's talent. These women are academics and professionals in their daily lives, so they knew that going in, but what they were not prepared for was just how emotional and involved things would get. In "Fandom at the Crossroads" they are very much covered by their academic veil, but in "Fangasm" they let their hair down and their true inner fangirls come out. What results in both books are interesting observations, but it is the latter that has the most honesty without pretense.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Defense of Post Re-Touching and Effects...

"Magic hour", arguably the most beautiful and inspiring time of day to be outside, is also the hardest to capture. "Magic hour", also known as "golden hour", is that time of day that marks the first glimpse of sun as well as the last, easier put as sunrise and sunset. On a set-- be it for film, television, or photography-- there is always a lot of pressure to set everything up perfectly so when the light breaks you can start shooting and make the most out of such a short period of time. Often in order to accomplish this perfect setting, the rest of the day's schedule would have to be carefully worked and at times rearranged to not only allow insurance to be at the proper shot at the proper time but also that there was a contingency plan built in case they were not able to get the shot at the proper time. For this reason, the accomplishment meant that much more when it was executed perfectly, and whatever the action and dialogue were that were punctuated by such a gorgeous backdrop felt that much weightier. But these days, with so many advances in technology and effects, I can't help but wonder if that pressure, and yes, that sense of accomplishment and pride, is lessened by the fact that anything and everything can and will be pumped up in post.

I am a big fan of doing as much as I can practically. I understand that there are limitations-- for example, if you're shooting a project about a creature, you're not just going to stumble over the perfect one in central casting. But I came from production, not post-production, and I learned to truly appreciate the artistry of everything from the lightning to the camera angles to the selection of location because of it. I deeply believe that there is something so beautiful-- and increasingly rare-- in capturing the beauty of the actual moment, rather than snapping something half-cocked to later alter with a million filters. Hence why I refuse to ever join Instagram, a site that is all about the filters when I would rather my framing and my subject speak for themselves.

Anyway, there was a long time when I would wrinkle my nose at the thought of fixing things in post-- no, your job is to do your best and relying on someone else to "fix" something makes what you did seem like a mistake. If the boom mic drops in, do another take, don't rely on someone spending pressure talent and manpower and hours to rotoscope it out or worse-- change the DP's shot design by zooming in to cut the offending object out. If the light isn't hitting something properly, spend an extra few minutes readjusting rather than expecting someone to add an effect or alter the saturation later. It is arguably significantly less expensive to take the time practically than to build in all of the changes or alterations on the back end.

Admittedly as time went on I also began to appreciate what goes into much of the post-production work, from sound mixing and design to color correction to creating those creatures using computer effects. Sure, much of the actual work seems like just constantly clicking around a computer screen and therefore goes unnoticed let alone thanked. But hey, doesn't that sound a lot like writing anyway? That just means that those working in that field should be able to spend their time as creatively as possible, enhancing a project and adding their own special touch to it in the way that only their skills allow.

In fact, "enhancing" may just be the key word. Because unless you are rolling multiple cameras at once, it is almost impossible to get all of the coverage of a multi-page scene that you need during magic-hour-- even if there are only two actors in the scene. The shots still have to match, though, and that is where the back end process works as the truest complement to the production work already done. It is about adding a layer on top of something already great to push it over the top.

I don't know just how much the insane colors of the sky were changed for the recent deplaning scene on Arrow-- I don't know if they were matched and enhanced, just matched, or completely altered to digitally add in reds and purples where there were previously none. But regardless of the degree, the answer is clear that such a striking result could not have been delivered without work being done in post at all. And such a striking result as that really may be one of the best cases for people to sit up and finally take notice of the artistry that post-production includes.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ask DanielleTBD: About Your 'The Ellen Degeneres Show' Internship...

When Shelby Morris innocuously Tweeted "How awesome was that!?" at me after my Throwback Thursday image for today was one of me interning at The Ellen Degeneres Show, she probably meant it as rhetorical. But I answered it anyway because to be honest, it was pretty awesome (and also I was procrastinating some other work). And that prompted a follow-up question of "Did the internship have an influence on what you do now? What you do now is pretty awesome too!" That one was definitely meant to inspire an answer, maybe a couple of more Tweets to sum up my experience, but instead what it did was really make me dig deep into my memory bank to remember what made me want to intern for a daytime talk show even though I never had any intention of pursuing a career there-- which then spun into "you never had any intentions of pursuing a career as a blogger, either, yet here you are." So buckle up, Shelby (and the rest of my dear readers), because you have unleashed introspective DanielleTBD which is a very rambly kind.

 (In the Ellen audience department office where five employees and 
two interns were crammed into one tiny space. I loved it. This 
was taken with a T-Mobile Sidekick. God, remember those!? I 
kind of miss mine...

When I was in college, I had three key internships: the first was with local morning news program Good Day L.A., the second was with the very short-lived live talk show The Ryan Seacrest Show, and the last was with Ellen: The Ellen Degeneres Show. In more detail, I had actually applied to both Seacrest and Degeneres' shows at the same time (just before they were both scheduled to premiere), but Seacrest offered me the gig first-- well not him specifically but someone on his staff-- so I took it. Then a few months later when I was looking for a new internship because it was a new semester and because Seacrest had been canceled, I again expressed interest in Ellen, and they brought me on. The time with Seacrest, even if short in the long-run, probably helped me land this last one anyway.

Anyway, when I was in college I spent most of my time (even when I was scheduled to be in class) at our campus television station, Trojan Vision TV8. There I produced a couple of entertainment news shows but I also directed a roundtable, debate-style talk show as well as a one-on-one talk show live-to-tape three nights a week. It was my interest and experience in control room production that made me want to give it a shot in the larger world. Hence why I first applied to Good Day L.A., where my internship consisted of me shadowing the director three days a week. But when I did apply to that show, I did so telling myself that I wanted something familiar and comfortable and yet different all at the same time. I planned to focus on narrative production, mostly likely in independent film, after college, but I wasn't rushing to get started there, knowing I couldn't be on set on a sixteen-hour day film shoot with papers and student films and these local cable access shows on my plate. My connections there then led me to Seacrest (both were FOX shows), and Ellen just seemed like a really fun place to be. 

The thing is, I get comfortable really easily. And when I get comfortable, I find myself doing the same things over and over, even if they're not necessarily what's best for me. Would it have benefitted me to have three different internship experiences to obtain as much working industry knowledge, skills, and contacts as possible? It absolutely would have. After all, I was actively saying "I don't want to go into this line of work after college" and yet hyper-focusing anyway. Anyone who wanted to stay within the talk show genre should have followed my path, but then again, I probably took a much-coveted internship spot from one of those people.

It's a habit I have yet been able to break. I didn't mean to stay with LA Examiner (more on that soon enough) as long as I have, but I had a comfortable situation there, so I did. It's a myriad of years later, but I have the same patterns. Back then a friend of mine encouraged me to take an internship with a studio instead of Ellen because that was something truly different and the connections were better, but I didn't listen. I wanted to enjoy myself.

And enjoy myself I did. Maybe subconsciously constantly watching the process of television interviews seeped in and influenced my approach or even desire as I started blogging. I'm inclined not to think it affected things too much because the way you interview for the broad, entertaining world of television is very different than when you're in the print or otherwise online world. Plus, I worked in the audience department, so my job duties were to book people to come see the show and then "wrangle" the  live audience on every day. It was really more customer service than anything-- answering questions, entering information into a database, hyping them up, etc. But mostly the thing that really influenced my line of work then, now, always was simply that I wanted to enjoy myself. We spend so much time on our jobs that often they become what we are known for; they begin to define us. I wanted something interesting, that I would be happy to talk about with friends or family. But I also wanted something that I would happily spend the long, unreliable hours doing. Sure, these talk shows were formulaic in format and location, but the people you encountered varied from day to day so there was always something exciting happening. It's a feeling for which you should strive no matter where you are in life.

Giving Yourself Permission To Be Broken: The Julia Braverman Story...

To review Parenthood is to be repetitive. That is not because the show is but because the best way to describe situations, story arcs, and episodes is to say they're "heartwarming", "emotional", "reflective", and always "like coming home". The Braverman family is not every family, but they should be because even when they are stumbling, they handle everything with grace and love and support. The amount and kind of support varies, of course, based on the individual character, what he or she has going on to work through individually, and his or her personality type/maturity level/ability to handle adversity. But that just works further to prove these people are not perfect; they are anyone you could see in your own family or neighborhood, and even the cutest or seemingly most together couples have cracks in their relationships to fill in. 

Communication is key in a family or a relationship, and it has always been the most unique thing about Parenthood. The way the Braverman family talks, stepping over each other at times, sometimes having multiple conversations at once, but always sharing a laugh or a smile and coming out of it knowing a little bit more about the others has been inspirational. Now, though, the show is delivering the flip side of the coin by showing what happens when the communication breaks down and individuals in bigger units let things simmer and fester. 

Joel (Sam Jaeger) and Julia (Erika Christensen) had the marriage that many people aspire to. Nice house, well-behaved kid, one job high-powered enough that the other spouse could stay home. Things were sent in a tailspin when they went through struggles to have another baby, then adopt, and Julia quit her job-- only to find now that she can't just jump back into her line of work so easily, if at all. The problems at home range from having a new kid in the house who is struggling with school or the crazy and often inopportune hours of someone just starting a big job. But those are just the external ones this particular show has used to draw attention to the internal issues going on with Joel and Julia themselves.

Joel has always been a quieter character, especially when compared to the big, boisterous Braverman clan. He internalizes, but he might not really "deal". Now he has a ball of pressure building up inside of him that has him feeling that he has to provide for his whole family, rather than Julia's previous position of "getting to." His back is up against a wall, and he's proving he's not doing so well at balancing by just sucking it all in. Julia, on the other hand, is spiraling and letting things spill out around her. She is lost; she is bored; she is feeling inadequate and broken after having the one thing she knew she was good at shut its door on her only to find herself struggling with (and again partially bored by) her new situation. True to the heart of the show, this storyline is really about one Braverman's unique struggle, but unlike Kristina's (Monica Potter) cancer, those in orbit around Julia are not just trying to contain their own fears and struggles to get her through what she needs. It feels a little selfish to the viewer because the viewer spends so much alone time with Julia to see her vulnerability, her fear, her guilt* when she reaches out to her only real (non-biological) friend. But in actuality, it's just life at its richest once again.

* Oh how I just wanted to grab her and shake her and tell her she has absolutely nothing to feel guilty for; everyone needs a friend; stop being so strong and stoic and solitary!

David Denman came between Jim and Pam before Jim and Pam knew they were supposed to be together on The Office, and by design he has been introduced as that "other" guy on Parenthood, too-- that new friend of Julia's (Ed) who is getting her through some of the tough stuff when she feels ignored or inadequate at home. But the truth is, it's not Ed specifically-- Ed could be Ben or Bill or even Betty-- and Julia would still be reaching out the way she is because she's getting an ear and a shoulder back. Again, it could be seen as selfish to the unkeen observer, but when communication and emotional support breaks down one place, the innate thing is to go look for it somewhere else. We need it to survive.

The truly fascinating thing is seeing the same storyline reflect in completely different characters at the same time. Julia saw herself reflected in her mother's struggles but really there's a little bit of what she's going through in Victor (Xolo Mariduena), too. And if only she and her niece Amber (Mae Whitman) would sit down together, maybe they could lean on each other a bit more in that familial way the Bravermans have inspired everyone else to do. Because Amber and Ryan (Matt Lauria) aren't communicating either. He says what he thinks he has to-- or what he thinks she needs to hear-- to push past any point or issue that would have him confronting his own fears or feelings of inadequacy. He's a hyper-version of Joel in that he's quiet, too, but there's a danger to his brooding because of the things he's been through. His stone cold face when he showed up at Sarah's (Lauren Graham) door to talk to her about his family proved that. He isn't letting Amber in, and she's young enough that she's not pushing. Yet.

The difference, of course, is that Julia is older and more experienced than Amber, so she would be expected to be the adviser in the situation if she and Amber were to compare notes, so to speak. It's a shame, though, because by seeing our problems reflected in one another we can breathe a little easier, relax a little more, feel less alone and therefore get out of our own heads a little bit. Julia has always been one of the most together ones in the family, but now she's a little bit broken, and she doesn't quite know how to handle it, let alone accept it. She is trying so hard to go about things as usual-- dropping the conversation because Joel's busy or tired or frustrated and even still dressing in more lawyer-appropriate attire than what works more efficiently for hanging out with the kids-- that she may just be losing herself more than if she allowed herself to embrace full vulnerability. As much as it may break our hearts to watch her in these moments of self-doubt and struggle, though, it's a subtle but beautiful lesson that needs to be learned-- by her and by everyone watching. No one, not even the Bravermans, are perfect.