Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dean & David's Televison Top 10 for 2014: Part Two

Yesterday I posted  my Top 10 Television shows of 2014 and I willingly let Dean comment upon it.

But now I get to offer up Dean's views and give my comments about what HE wrote--and trust me when I tell you that he is wrong in many ways.


So, I’m the one that suggested this, and I already kind of regret it. Narrowing down a list of my favorite TV shows down to just 10 is a herculean task. I have this cornucopia of great TV shows to choose from, each one I love for their own unique reason. Picking only ten would cause me too much pain, so I will start off by cheating and listing my Honorable Mentions: Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon), Community (NBC, but soon to be Yahoo), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox), Adventure Time (Cartoon Network), Ground Floor (TBS), Justified (FX), Enlisted (Fox). I could plausibly swap any of these shows into my top ten and wouldn’t regret it. But them’s the shakes I guess.

David: First, didn’t Hercules perform 12 tasks? And wasn’t this supposed to be a Top 10 list? Can’t you count? And second thing, I should have thought of a way to include Adventure Time . . . and maybe even Gravity Falls--which my kids have worn me down into watching. But, I understand what 10 means.

I would also like to give a semi apology to Legend of Korra: This show could easily have cracked the top 10, but because Nickelodeon makes me watch it on a small computer monitor instead of my TV, I have fallen behind on the episodes, and it falls out of the top 10.

You should watch all of those shows. They are great.

On to the winners. (You’re winners too, Honorable Mentions! I love you all equally!)

10. Archer (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Look, any show with Jon Benjamin is already going to have an easy time making my top ten list, so it’s not really fair. Add in Cheryl/Carol turning into the country music star complete with a real life musical album (sung by the super-talented Jessy Lynn Martens) and I’m putty in Archer’s hands.

Notable quote: “Are we not doing phrasing anymore!?”

David: Maybe someday I’ll watch Archer . . . but that time is not now. It feels a bit too much like more mainstream Adult Swim. How would I explain it to anyone else?

9. Rectify (Sundance)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because there’s nothing else quite like it on television. While some shows are seemingly afraid of showing stillness, this show sometimes is nearly nothing but an exploration of stillness. It provides an intimate look at the wounds a (possibly wrongful) murder conviction left on a family and it’s great.

Notable quote: “We call it lethal injection humor - more humane, but not as funny.”

David: I’ve never even heard of this show. Do you mean Justified? What is going on?

8. Bob’s Burgers (Fox)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Well, Jon Benjamin is the star…but also it’s endlessly quotable, amazingly funny, and it’s got heart. Never underestimate the power of heart in making a comedy great.

Notable quote: “My life is more difficult than anyone else’s on the planet, and YES, I’m including starving children, so DON’T ASK.” (Runner up: Ugh, my heart just pooped its pants.”)

David: Look, I’m as tired of hearing about H. Jon Benjamin as YOU are tired of hearing about “Arrow”. But I’ll overlook it this time because I appreciate the Captain Planet reference that I am waaaaaaay too old to admit that I remember.

7. The Americans (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s a tense spy thriller that’s actually about family! What could be better? (The answer is . . . these six shows listed below this one. Are you paying attention?) It’s also a top 10 show because it highlights the incredible wig technology of 1980s Soviet spies. This is an important public service.

Notable quote: “You know a Salisbury steak is technically a hamburger. In the shape of a steak.” Wise words Paige. Wise words.

David: Horrible job by me that I didn’t include this in my list. No excuses. I apologize to the 80s hot Keri Russell’s, to Keri Russell’s excellent blue jeans, to Matthew Rhys’ “Glen glasses”, to what USED to be Margo Martindale’s career, and to all of those Soviet wigs.

6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: I named my daughter Arya, so I’m predisposed to like this show and rate it highly. But if I need to defend it more: It has dragons, wights, and medieval combat: what’s not to like?

Notable quote: “There is only one hell…the one we live in now.”

David: What? You cover Game of Thrones in less than 50 words? You’ve changed, Dean and I’m not sure I like it.Where is the dude that posted thousands of words about GoT?

5. Broad City (Comedy Central)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because Ilana and Abbi are vulgar, messy, and hilarious. Also because of this:
Notable quote: “I'm not putting weed up inside of me because I'm an adult and I'm responsible.”

David: Are you making these shows up? I do watch TV, you know. You can’t just make up fictional shows and expect me not to notice.

4. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s a version of Back to the Future that takes the relationship between Marty and Doc seriously in the most demented wondrously weird way possible. Anything is possible, even if they can only get away with destroying their earth three or four more times, tops. Also because of Mr. Meseeeks.

Notable quote:  “I'm Ants in My Eyes Johnson here at Ants in My Eyes Johnson's Electronics! I mean, there's so many ants in my eyes! And there's so many TVs! Microwaves! Radios, I think! I can't, I'm not 100 percent sure what we have here in stock, because I can't see anything! Our prices, I hope, aren't too low! Check out this refrigerator! Only $200! What about this microwave? Only $100, that's fair! I'm Ants in My Eyes Johnson! Everythings black! I can't see a thing! And also, I can't feel anything either, [sets ablaze] did I mention that? But that's not as catchy, as having ants in your eyes, so... that always goes... y'know, off by the wayside! I can't feel, it's a very rare disease, all my se— all my nerves, they don't allow for the sensation of touch! So I never know what's going on! Am I standing, sitting? I don't know!”

David: Well, I hope you had fun with that quote because we’ve lost our adult, tax-paying demographic now. Next time, why don’t you try to explain “Too Many Cooks” to the WWYG?! audience?  I think I need to go over the focus testing numbers with you again before I let you guest post in the future.

3. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: It’s funny and poignant. I really don’t feel like I need to write too much here as so much ink has been spilled on this show already. It deserves its spot here is all I’m saying.

Notable quote: “O’Neil, scatter the nuns!”

David: I think I find this show more intriguing if I listen to yáll mysteriously talk about it during lunch while I sit silently and chew.

2. Review (Comedy Central)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: Because somehow they took the premise “A man reviews life experiences” and turned it into something incredible. Andy Daly’s performance as Forrest slowly unravels is a marvel to behold. Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes is the most bleakly funny episode of any show this year.

Notable quote: “Racism: Half a star.”

David: Again, Comedy Central is an actual functioning network. It is not your playground of imagination. I think you could have fit a few of your Honorable Mention shows on this list IF you hadn’t been making up fictional programming.

1. You’re The Worst (FX)
Why it’s a Top 10 Show: There were a ton of new romantic comedies this year, and all of them forgot the comedy part of rom-com, and probably not coincidentally, all of them failed to make me care about the romance as well. They all had quirky best friends who were actually just annoying. All of them except You’re The Worst. Somehow it made me care about a romance between two awful people, and it made it look easy. It took the stock quirky best friends and made them human beings with flaws and wants and needs. Take notes other romantic comedies, You’re the Worst knows how to do it. Also Paul is the best. You blew it Lindsey.

Notable quote: (said sadly) “They’re everyone’s stars.”

David: I WILL watch this.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dean & David's Television Top 10 for 2014: Part One

The end of the year means lots of Top 10 lists.
And so I teamed up with my guest blogger partner-in-crime Dean to have a bit of a back-and-forth about the best shows of 2014.

If we were smart, had more free time, and were more tech savvy we might do this in a podcast form since Serial is so hot right now, but this is the best that we could do on short notice. (Dean only mentioned this to me at the end of last week, so the fact that we put our thoughts together over the weekend and that it is up at all for your viewing enjoyment is a bonus.) And you know that Dean's views are guaranteed hit counts for my blog, so I didn't hesitate to say yes.

If you are unfamiliar with this, I've been writing about television on this blog for many years. And in recent versions, Dean has been chipping in with his thoughts on the quality Cable shows that I tend to eshew (more on that as you read through this, I'm sure). But enough of the set up . . . here are my initial thoughts on the Best shows of 2014, along with Dean's commentary.

And if you like Part One, then expect more of the same later this week, but in opposite structure.

Let's get to it . . .

Here are my rankings of my favorite shows of this past year. I will predict before I read through Dean's manuscript that my choices are more mainstream than Dean's. (But I bet mine are better.)

1. The Flash This show could've been a train wreck. Super hero TV shows can be very dicey propositions. (See most every season of Smallville.) But this show has avoided these problems so far. The characters seems to make sense and the dialogue and acting in the cast and staff isn't nearly as cringe-worthy as some similar shows were in their first season of work.

Dean: OK, first off, everyone knows you start at 10 and work back to one, so we’re already off to a bad start. Secondly, I like The Flash because it shows you don’t have to be unrelentingly grim to have a successful superhero show. [Which is why I’m not watching Arrow and will probably drop Gotham.] But number 1? That’s crazy town.

2. New Girl In its latest season, this show has come back strong and is consistently funny again. It makes me laugh out loud on a weekly basis. If they promise to give me more classic Winston & Cee Cee mess-arounds I might rocket this show right up to the number one slot.

Dean: I’m not going to say anything bad about New Girl. That’s just not going to happen. Put New Girl wherever you like.

3. Gracepoint This is a show that has a very moody vibe--similar to Twin Peaks without all the mystical weirdness. A very, very, veeerry slow burn. If you are a fan of BBCAmerica, you might already have watched the Anglo original Broadchurch (which I have not, so I can't say if the American version tells the same overall story.) But it was a very sad ending.

Dean: I watched the British Broadchurch which was great, and I like Olivia Colman more than Anna Gunn. I am curious if they changed the ending like they said they would, so you’ll have to spoil it for me at lunch.

4. black-ish This is the surprising new show of this season and I like it quite a lot, considering that I completely panned it in my initial Fall Previews back several months ago. The writing has been strong and the characters are funny. I am tempted to say that this is a new generation's Cosby Show, but I should avoid any and all mention of Bill Cosby.

Dean: blackish is one of the few new broadcast comedies that I’m glad I’m still watching. It was a rough year for broadcast comedy. It’s legitimately good, so everyone check it out.

5. Game of Thrones It ended early in the calendar year, but it definitely has to get listed. If I don't rank it, The Mountain will crush my skull.

Dean: Oh look, we both have this. So that’s great.

6. A to Z The darkest of dark horses on this list, because the show itself has been cancelled and won't be returning next season. And that is too bad because this is a pretty good show that should have been given more of a chance. I mean, what else does NBC have going on right now? Is the network surrounded with quality shows that I don't know about? This seems like a good chance for another network to step up and take over this show to give it more time to tell its story?

Dean: A to Z (and the unlamented Bad Judge) helped kill NBC comedy Thursdays. It took something I loved and buried it in the ground. The best night in television is now a barren wasteland of insipid dramas. Also it wasn’t actually very funny, which is a shame as I like both Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman. Those sidekicks though: eesh. [You're right that the sidekicks are the weaker parts of the quartet. But it isn't fair to say that the show wasn't very funny. What do you know about funny anyway? You like The Goldbergs and willingly watched The Neighbors a few years ago. And anyway, how about that Wallflower boss, huh? She's funny in a Michael Scott-lite sort of way, right?]

7. TableTop This is a weekly YouTube "show" that is hosted by Wil Wheaton. He features a new board game in each episode, explaining how the game works and then broadcasting the playing of the game with a rotating cast of friends. This is the start of season 3, so there is not much to go on yet, but I'm going to rank this show on the quality of past performances.

Dean: If we’re doing YouTube shows then I’m going to put Veronica Mars on this list, because I watched it online and in the past year so IT’S NEW TO ME, DAVID. See what you’ve done? Now everything has descended into anarchy.

8. Legend of Korra It's no surprise that Dean and I both have this show listed--though I happen to know that he won't put it in his Top 10. This series has never been as strong as Avatar: The Last Airbender was episode-by-episode, but it has shown overall improvement from season to season. And when you consider that no show since Scrubs has been so mistreated by its network during its tenure as Nickelodeon has done to Legend of Korra, I probably ranked it higher than it strictly deserved.

Dean: And now I’m yet another episode behind. I’ll catch up one day Korra. One day.

9. Arrow It has been an okay season so far. The addition of Brandon--don't call me Superman, I'm Ray Palmer--Routh hasn't added much in this first half of the season, but things are beginning to heat up. I mean, Oliver [SPOILER ALERT] and then Ra's al Guhl said [SPOILER ALERT] and they had to go to the [SPOILER ALERT] which will most likely cause Oliver to go [SPOILER ALERT]! Luckily Palmer almost has his A.T.O.M. suit ready to go and Felicity will be there to help him, so I am predicting that [SPOILER ALERT] for the first month or two when the show comes back in January.

Dean: I’m not sure what anything in that paragraph means, and I’ve already noted my issues with this show above, which are totally valid even though I’ve literally only seen one episode of it when it crossed-over with The Flash.

10. Star Wars Rebels Hey guys, Star Wars is so hot right now . And this animated show is providing some interesting angles on the universe.

Dean: BUT IS IT CANON!? In all seriousness I haven’t seen it, so I can’t intelligently comment. 

CODA--The fact that I remembered to include black-ish from my initial draft means that Elementary gets bounced to number 11 on my list. And that is too bad because this Sherlock story is still good, but I had my doubts at the beginning of season three. A new character was introduced as Sherlock took on Kitty as a new protege. Joan Watson is striking out on her own with her own detective consulting gigs. But Watson and Sherlock continue to interact all the time. I imagine this is what it was like when Robin left the Batcave and became Nightwing. He kept running into the old man on Gotham rooftops as they went after the same jewelry thief. I expect the small-talk would be pretty excruciating.

Dean: There’s this thing called cable David. You should watch it.

So, there are my top ten, counted up in the proper order, no matter what Dean says.

Tune in tomorrow to see what Dean's favorite shows were and what I had to say about them.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Holidays 2014 from the Martins

Here is this year's Holiday e-card and Year in Review.

 I hope that you had a good 2014 and that 2015 may be shaping up to be a good one as well.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Shopping Counter-Programming

Grace and I are spending our Saturday Christmas shopping. So I probably won't have much time to write any post. But that's okay because there's no football today anyway to counter program.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #14

I had an idea for what to write earlier in the week. As is the usual occurrence, I had a clear idea and even some fairly clear ideas for the first few paragraphs of what I would write.

But as I sit here this morning, tasked with the duty of writing one of my last Football Counter-Programming posts, I can't recall any of what I might have planned. So now I am trying to figure out where to go with this day's post instead.

I guess I should start with an image search. Okay, go over to Google and type in the usual: "football fantasy nerds". Ignore scantily clad women, ignore offensive things, try to find something that is football-related and nerd-related. Wish I could reuse last week's image again, but that is against the rules I set for myself . . . hmmm.

Oh! This is a good one--and I haven't USED it yet.

Alright. Now that THAT bit of business is out of the way . . . what can I write about?

Hold on, I'll get some opinions from around the house.

Sarah, who is sitting nearby, studying for a geometry midterm suggests that I talk about family Christmas traditions. So I'll write up some stuff about that.

In my adult life, here in Ohio, our family traditions have always centered around travelling. Because all of our family members live several states away, we are the family that travels to meet up with everyone else year-to-year. And so that means we usually have our own family present-opening a few days before actual Christmas--usually on a Thursday or Friday prior to us leaving town on the weekend before Christmas week. We want the kids to have a chance to enjoy their gifts before they leave them behind for the car ride south. (This was especially important when they were young and were getting primarily toys. We wanted them to play with the toys ahead of travel.)

Then we would drive down to Georgia and split our time between various destinations for days at a time: Lynda's parents in north Georgia, my parents in south Georgia, Lynda's brother in east Georgia. In the 10 to 12 days that we are typically gone between December 20ish and January 1, we manage to see all of the immediate family: moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and first cousins.

It can be somewhat exhausting, true--living out of suitcases for days, remembering to pack all of the gifts for various households and have them ready, always having somewhere else to be in a few days. But if we don't do it in December, it may be six more months (if we are lucky and available) before we might possibly see most of them again. And since I don't do a very good job of talking to anyone on the phone regularly, this is made even more important.

One of the bigger challenges with all of this December travel is that I feel that our holiday planning is even more compressed than most. Because we are on the road by the third week of December, we have a tight window to get our shopping done, have any holiday parties with our Ohio friends, and the like. (But since I don't know what other people's pressures are, I'm probably just projecting.)

But enough about travels. Everybody has December stressors. What do we do for fun?

Every year we go to the Zoo Wildlights Christmas displays. (I posted a few of those pictures from this year on my Facebook account a few weeks ago. Grace and Hannah were riding a camel in the dark.) That is always fun . . . and COLD. Hot chocolate is always a welcome addition to that event, as it frequently snows while we are there.

This year, we also visited the Franklin Park Conservatory with some friends from church. Linda and Jenny are unofficial godparents to all three of our girls and they love to shower Sarah, Grace, and Hannah with lots of gifts--some of which are aimed for the long car ride's southward. In the last few years, we've met at Culvers (home of Wisconsin's famous butterburgers) for a meal and to open gifts. The conservatory was decorated with lots of poinsettias and the usual plants and Chihuhly glass. There was also a display of gingerbread houses and choirs singing season hymns. Good times.

What else do we do? Well, let's see . . .

We almost always make sugar cookies, iced with lots of colorful frosting and in the traditional shapes. I also organize a food-based bacchanalia at work that I happily call Gluttonfest. And if the company is doing well, we might even have a holiday company party each December. When the kids were smaller, there was also a daycare Christmas party to attend.

There is always lots to do and never enough time to do it well enough. Unfortunately, we don't often (if ever) get to spend Christmas eve with our church family, but they get us almost every other feast day of the year.

But . .. what about you? What sort of traditions do you have year to year? Where do you go? What places and events do you look forward to?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #13

credit: www.nerdreactor.com
Welcome to another week of Football Counter-Programming. This week I"ve got to fight for your attention as many significant rivalry games are competing for your eye-holes. So I'll try to make you divert your gaze over here with this bit of news.

Q: So it looks like they’ve recorded yet another version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, and guess who’s back? Yep, it’s your old pal Bono at it again.

He’s even singing your favorite line — wait a minute. They changed the lyric! Instead of “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of youuuuuuuuuuu,” it’s “Well tonight we’re reaching out, and toooooouuuuching youuuuuuu.’ I’m still not sure if that makes any sense, but they went and messed up the best/worst thing about that song. How does it make you feel?
—Jon, Bellevue

BS: I feel like someone just tried to repaint the Mona Lisa. That’s how I feel. You can’t even consider remaking the greatest holiday song ever without every A-list voice from this generation — and even then, you’d never consider it if it wasn’t for a good cause. But for Bono to come back to THAT? And THAT lyric? Oh my God. Why not just rerelease the greatest holiday song ever with everyone resinging their parts? I’m so bitter. I’d be madder about this if Bono didn’t just get injured in a cycling accident. Get better, Bono.

So, yeah, there is that.
But really, I;m here to 'not talk about this week's version of The Game. And this week, The Game is tOSU versus Michigan.

But I'm not here to talk about that game--mostly because that is counter to what this counter-programming is all about and also because the game is over before I ever had a chance to write any of this, so if you care, you already know everything that you need to know.

Instead of watching any football or blogging earlier in the day, I took Grace to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. And it was a sad tale, to be sure.

But it related to The Game in the sense that it does a pretty good job--as the book did before it--of making the viewer struggle with the notion that modern war is sometimes and in part fought in the media and that it can be treated as a sort of game by those insulated from the actual experience of the fighting. And that is too bad. Because war of any kind should not be treated as anything less than the most serious of decisions. And we should not trivialize it or minimize its damaging effects.

And that also relates to how we use the word war in our discourse, which is often so flippant and sarcastic in its tone. We equate actual war with football, with political disagreements, with many other much more trivial things. And that is a disservice to the people that have actually experienced warfare.

Lest we forget that in our country, we are so distanced from the wars that we drag out nation into. And so few of us every have to pay any price at all for that choice. And lest we forget that real wars and severe hardships are happening all around the world all the time and we know nothing about it and we rarely spend any time acknowledging it.

Instead we make fun of the one line in the song designed to reach out and help the people who are in trouble.

So, maybe I need to resolve to be more sincere and to remember as this year ends that there are people across this country who are suffering. May I find the time and the resources and the desire to make their lives a bit better every chance I get. And may I remember that people I will never meet are always struggling to make their own lives better. May I remember them and find paths to reach out  to them with the many blessings and resources that I may take for granted.

I live in a wonderful world. May I take some of my own wonder and hand it off to someone else.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #12

This weekend I'm traveling in Boston so I'm not gonna be able to post a regular Football Counter-Programming post today. But never fear. Everybody here in Boston knows that the only thing worth talking about is The Game. 

You Midwesterners may think that The Game is Ohio State versus Michigan but here in the northeast, and to many other people, The Game is the annual fight between Harvard and Yale.

So, to honor that, today as I try to ignore another regions football experience, I'm going to illustrate this travel-shortened post with something that is a little bit related to The Game and a little bit within the illustration ethos of my Football Counter-Programming series. 

We'll see you next week . . . and remember--nobody cares if your team wins.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #11

Today's Football Counter-Programming is (non-intuitively) actually about football.

Well, it's specifically about Big Ten football rivalries, so some of you might argue that it is only football-ish.
credit: www.ted-payne.com

Anyway, before the last decade or so ruined all of our lives with Alabama and Auburn and SEC, SEC, SEC hegemony, the Big Ten was the bastion of footballness. It was Midwestern and it was the keeper of sacred tradition.

And fewer things illustrate that better than the Big Ten rivalries that are tied to Trophies. If you aren't familiar with these things-as I wasn't before I moved up here, most Big Ten (or as we must now call them, B1G rivalries are centered around which winning team gets to lay claim to some object or trophy or (frankly) made up thing that is the central totem upon which hatreds are laid year after year.

The best things about these rivalries is that many, if not most of them stretch back for more than a century now. And these trophies were devised in frontier times or in days when radio was the most exciting thing that anyone had ever thought to experience. And so it made perfect sense to devise a sporting contest around who would get to hoist the Old Oaken Bucket over the recently vanquished team while basking in gridiron glory. (The Old Oaken Bucket, by the way, is the rivalry trophy between Purdue and Indiana.)

Other examples? Well, there is the Old Brass Spittoon that focuses the rivalry between Indiana and Michigan State. And the Little Brown Jug that is the goal of the game between Minnesota and Michigan.

But one of my favorites is the Illibuck--a trophy featuring a mythical creature that is the focal point of the Illinois/Ohio State game. What is an Illibuck? The trophy is a wooden turtle, but it was once an actual turtle.(Can you imagine handing over the care of a live turtle to a bunch of rowdy college football players year after year? I know that turtles are hearty creatures that are long-lived, but I wonder how much continuity there was between one year and the next. How many turtles survived on a yearly basis?) And according to my (brief) research, this Illinois/Ohio State rivalry also used to feature the smoking of a peace pipe as part of the pregame ceremonies?!!! (Can you imagine how such things might be viewed now? Traditions are good, but it is also good to know when traditions needs to be modified.)

Surprisingly, one of the oldest, most storied rivalries in the B1G has no trophy associated with it. The Ohio State/Michigan game is hyped every year, regardless of the relative strengths of the two teams meeting for that contest. And there is no trophy as stake--which is even more surprising in that this is also a border contest. Both teams have terrible songs to sing about the other (such as Ohio State's "We Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan".) And, even more recent--and maybe most infamously, given the Terrelle Pryor debacle, there are the Gold Pants which are given to tOSU teams that best the Michiganders.

But, don't forget that even century old traditions have room for expansion. As the conferences change and grow, traditions change and grow as well. When the B1G added Maryland and Rutgers recently, not to mention adding Nebraska prior to that, the opportunity for new hatred appeared.

But how do you create traditions like the Floyd of Rosedale when you have only been blood rivals for three years? And within what vessel do you pour all of your bile and your despair?

These were the issues considered when Nebraska and Wisconsin decided to inaugurate their new conference rivalry. Even though they first played back in 1891, they were not part of the same conferences for almost all of that time and so rivalries are diluted and not as intense. But now . . . now they are regular combatants. And to celebrate that disdain, they have created the FREEDOM TROPHY!

Yes, in this new era, new trophies are forged. But is this the best totem? Might it not have been better for Nebraska and Wisconsin to fight over the CheeseHusker--which is maybe a trophy in the shape of cheddar flavored popcorn? Or maybe they could have fought over the Internet Dial Up Modem? This would simultaneously give the appearance of battling to win a hoary old thing, while also reminding us of the cyberspace world within which we live? No matter what, I think we can agree that the Freedom Trophy is exactly what we would expect to come out of a focus-group session on creating some new rivalry trophy.

The Illibuck is NOT impressed.

Credit: www.elevenwarriors.com

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #10

If they are still playing with the ole pigskin, then I'm still writing something to keep your mind off of football and keep you from noticing how pathetic the Big Ten actually is. (But I'm sure you are already quite aware how pathetic the Big Ten is. You've got ears and a television, don't you?)

Anyway, here is this week's edition of Football Counter-Programming!

credit: www.crasstalk.com
Today's topic . . . clothing.

If you have followed this blog now and then over the years, you know that I sometimes write about my clothes, the history behind them, maybe a story or two. I call it The Clothing Project.

And so today I am wondering what do clothes mean to you? Are they simply something you put on to cover yourself and keep you warm? Do you look for clothes that are cheapest and utilitarian? Or must you have the recognizable name brands and align yourself in some way with what those clothes "say"about yourself or others who wear them.

I have been all of these things at various times, and I suspect that you have as well. Defining oneself through our outerwear is one of the easiest and fastest ways to create an identify and to find others who seem to have that same sort of personal view. I know that I did this kind of thing a lot in high school and (to some degree) in college as well. Back in high school, I wanted to have the Coca-Cola rugby shirts and the right sort of shoes. I wanted a Members Only jacket or later a band letter man jacket. And in college I wanted to right sort of t-shirt, concert shirt, stupid-looking woven poncho, or other kind of nonsensical flannel shirt to look like I really enjoyed Nirvana all the time.

I had boxer shorts when those were popular. Now I wear a variety of thematic t-shirts that place me in the subset of the culture that I wish to identify with most strongly. And now I work in a Doctor Who-inspired bow tie from time to time.

In fact, thought, there was a time when I shifted my routine a bit. I once tried to move away from a reliance upon t-shirts and wanted to wear more buttoned shirts and polo shirts. And that held for a good few years. But even within that effort I had specific likes and dislikes. I didn't (and still don't) like to have polo and dress shirts that have brands and logos emblazoned on them. (I save that sort of obviousness for my t-shirt collection.) And I tend to like solid colors in my polo shirts and I'm cautious about how dynamic my dress shirt patterns get. I'd rather the tie carry the emphasis. BUT I don't want buttoned shirts to be purely plain either.

When I did wear lots of boxer shorts, I rather enjoyed brash patterns and bright colors. Not that anyone was enjoying that--unless they did my laundry. Heck . . . once upon a time I wore argyle socks all the time (especially in high school). But I don't do that at all anymore.

It is absolutely true that I still use clothes to define and align myself. And I'm not even subtle about it. What about you?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #9

This may start out kinda deep in today's Football Counter-Programming. But don't worry. It won't stay that way for long.
Source: http://www.pinterest.com/totallytinu/guardmarching-band-akamylove/

I have to stay here. This is my homeland. I have no where else to go.

 I heard a Crimean say this on the radio Tuesday morning, describing his desire to avoid being forced into Russian citizenship and his desire to live in his ancestral homeland and for the Ukraine to become independent again someday.

Hearing this made me think about my own life--so much nicer than his. And I thought that I don't have that strong a sense of place. I don't have such an overwhelming desire to maintain historic roots. This is clear, because I left my home(land) and show no sign of preparing to go back. Certainly I am not moving heaven and earth to go back to it. And it's not just the politics of the situation either. If a foreign nation, like say Mexico, took over Georgia next month, I would be EVEN LESS inclined to move my family back into that mess. (Though I hope I would try to provide a refuge for my family members living down there who wanted to try and get out.)

So, is this "lack of place" a failing of mine? Or am I reflecting the privilege of my economic status and my national freedoms? Because I have the opportunity and the luxury and the freedom to go wherever I can manage to go, do I have no urgency to be anywhere in particular?

Do I simply care more about me and what is happening to me now than I care about where I have been and what brought me to this place and this time? And if that is true . . . is that a personality flaw?

What do you think? Are you drawn to a certain place? Do you feel less than yourself in a new environment or do you make adjustments and settle easily anywhere? Am I missing out on a fundamental part of my heritage? Leave me scathing--but honest--opinions in the comments below.

Maybe I don't have an answer to these questions. But I do have some connections to the past, as evidenced by this item that I found today.

I was helping Lynda in the basement this morning, sorting through old saved kids clothes, looking for some new (old) seasonal stuff for Hannah.

And lo and behold, look at what I found! The Boaz onesie that my coworkers gave me when Hannah was born!

Certainly it is one of the weirdest kid gifts you may ever see--it features fluorescent pink wording of one of the Old Testament's most famous people. And of course, it is accompanied by everyone's favorite lettuce-eater, the gentle manatee. Sadly none of my kids are small enough to fit into it anymore. It should have been a cherished heirloom that would have been proudly handed down from generation to generation. But now it is a flash-in-the-pan oddity that future generations can't hope to understand.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Football Counter-Programming: Bye Week

There will be no Football Counter-Programming post today. I consider this my bye week.
I have several other things scheduled to do this Saturday and so I won't have time to write something to help distract you from the gridiron-based tyranny of Facebook on this Saturday.

To help you in my textual absence, here is an appropriately-themed photograph.

(This photo is not any sort of endorsement or prediction for this evening's Penn State/tOhio State football meet up.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #8

It's another week of Football Counter-Programming here on WWYG?! (Sorry I was a bit later than normal in getting this out there, but I was having some fun with Grace and also spending some overdue time in the yard earlier in the morning.

But that doesn't matter now. Now I've got to get my thoughts out there on the internets and try to get you to think about something other than University football and whether or not State will beat College. And maybe you'll read this instead of taunting your alumni friend who bet you that Ole Miss was better than Georgia Tech. Or whatever. . .

I know it's a losing battle. But its a battle I'm determined to keep fighting.

This week, we're fighting against the tyranny of Saturday football with an examination of dualities.

credit: www.3.bp.blogspot.com
I was taking a shower a few days ago and was thinking about how dual characters who are often flip sides of the same coins are often presented in movies and books. And so I started to list some of them in my head. For example, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker demonstrate this pretty well. Luke was the fair-haired naive kid that you would not be afraid to bring home to mom and dad.

But Han? Well, he's the dashing rogue that is a bit dangerous (though maybe with a heart of gold). He's the guy that give you that little thrill that you're transgressing.

You know what I mean.

credit: upload.wikimedia.org
How about Veronica and Betty? The two girls from the Archie comics? Betty is the "sweet" blonde (the Luke) and Veronica is the "dangerous"brunette" (the Han). Archie is always in conflict over which of the two he is going to choose and the two girls are constantly in conflict with each other over him. I think this may be the first duality set of this type that I was introduced to when I was young. (Though, of course, I didn't really understand what I was looking at during that time.)

There was, however, another option from my childhood that is cut from the very same sort of dual nature and you are most likely already yelling at me because I didn't start the examples with this one. It is, of course those two desert island girls from Gilligan's Island--the farm girl versus the Hollywood sexpot. The girl next door versus the dreamboat.
It's Ginger versus Mary-Anne.
credit: www.4.bp.blogspot.com
Now, most guys have sat around (probably in college) and had this discussion. And I'm pretty sure that I always chosen Mary-Anne. Because she seemed nicest and most interested in Gilligan as a person. Ginger was always in the middle of some scheme and you always felt that what SHE really wanted was the get something for herself and eventually get off of the island and back to her career in Hollywood. She didn't really care about Gilligan at all.

Heck, she never even made him a coconut pie. Mary-Anne was making pies for Gilligan all the time!

Do you want some other examples?

Let us go more modern this time. But we're still going to stick to the good GIRL/bad GIRL scenario. But we'll cross titles rather than stick within one universe. What better example than Hermione Granger versus Bella Swan.

If you look up "Hermione versus Bella"on the Internet, you'll find plenty of fan-generated evidence to prove why Our Ms. Granger is so much better than Bella Swann. Heck, you can probably type the phrase in the search field on Why Won't You Grow?! and find several instances where I've ranted on this this topic over the years. I know I've said before which type I'd want my own girls to grow up to be like.

credit: www.hidefdigest.com

But let's move away from the girls. How about some guys (other than Luke and Han) that might fit the bill? The first one's that came to my mind were John Locke and Jack Shepherd--two of the main leading men of one of my favorite shows, LOST. Dr. Jack Shepherd was often shown on the program as the Man of Science. Jack believed in Reason and how effort would lead to results. That through logic and choice you could fix your problems.Sometimes this worked and sometimes it very definitely did not.

John on the other hand? Well, he was the Man of Faith. He believed in  (and fell victim to) leaps of belief and mysticism. He let him emotions and his hunches guide him through many, many decisions. John fought his way through many problems in his life and he felt that his belief and his innate "specialness" was what gave him the rewards provided by the Island. But it also made him vulnerable to the manipulations of others (and Others).

Jack, I think, relied on his emphasis on reason and logic because deep inside he didn't think he was special at all. And some of that was due to his father's difficult upbringing methods. Since Jack had not strong faith within himself, for himself, he has to rely on outside forces and choices to guide his decisions.

There was also on LOST the other famous dual choice between Jack and Sawyer. This was a more classic example of the Good Guy/Bad Guy option. Or . .  at least it appeared that way in the beginning. Jack the Doctor versus Sawyer the crooked con artist. But as the show progressed, we certainly got to see that both men had character flaws big enough to drive a Dharma minibus through. And neither one was a cut-and-dried as they seemed to be in the beginning.

And isn't that the point with these kids of characters? It helps quickly set up a visual short-hand for the viewer when introducing a new show and finding ways to signal intent without lots of verbal expeditionary word salad. It relies on what we know, what we've seen. It's the modern day William Campbell stereotypes for the pop culturalist. Through time, these characters might be allowed to change, to grow, to deepen and embiggen themselves into more than just a collection of ticks and wardrobe clues. (At least, with good writers and enough time, you hope this might happen.)

But . . . what about your thoughts? Can you think of other examples that fit? Men and women dual pairs? Something from a genre other than television and movies? How about religious figures? Leave your thoughts.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #7

I'm going to be out of town on Saturday, so earlier this week I asked the digiverse for suggestions on which direction I should jump for the Saturday Football Counter-Programming post.

And, as I should have expected . . . absolutely NO ONE responded with any opinion at all. (My efforts as crowd-sourcing my paltry digital efforts are going nowhere.)

So, I'm forced to avoid ALL of those topics and come up with something else half-assed and poorly considered. Business as usual . . .

credit: www.cdn1.smosh.com

But what is there to talk about? I'm frankly at a loss. All I've done in the last week is work, come home, keep up with the kids a bit in the evening, watch some TV, then go to bed. Nothing exciting happened at all this week. At least nothing exciting happened to me.

Did anything noteworthy happen to you this week/ What are your weekly routines like? Do you prefer comfortable routine or do we yearn for the unexpected? Some of you carve out time to exercise each week, I know. So how do you do that? Do you prefer to exercise early in the morning or do you do it in the evening once your responsibilities are finished? Do you go to a gym or do you just do it yourself at home? These are the things that I'm asking YOU, since I don't have any ideas of my own this week (and I can't spend another blog post just writing about television, thought I still have LOTS of television to write about.)

Have you watched Gone Girl? What about "New Girl"? Or maybe you're just waiting around for regular "Girls"? Or do you like to read books? Have you read the Gone Girl book? (I haven't yet but I feel I should before I watch the movie.)

I've have Gravity sitting on my DVR for the past few weeks and haven't yet carved out the time to watch it. What was the last movie you saw? Or maybe the last movie you put off watching like me? Once you saw that movie (whatever it was) did you like it or were you disappointed? The last movie I saw in theater was Guardians of the Galaxy and it was pretty good, but there was some disappointment there as well. It's just not as good as everyone NEEDED it to be, you know?

What else do you know? Do you watch Jeopardy! a lot? I used to watch that show but never on a predictable basis. Speaking of predictable, I've never watched Saturday Nigh Live that much either. (Did you know it is now in its 40th season?) I've just never made the time to watch it. Have you? What was the last great cast that the show had? (Do you think Jan Hooks was killed by Tom Cruise?)

These are the thoughts that I have this week? Leave me some comments with answers to my questions, why don't you?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #6

Welcome to Week 6 of WWYG?!'s Football Counter-Programming. Each week I try to provide a counterstrike to the unrelenting swarm of football-related posts that fill up your Facebook feed each Saturday during the fall season.

credit: contemporarymasculine.com

To be fair, I've had some issues trying to figure out the best topic for this week's offensive. Each week prior to this one, I've had a quick idea going in and I was ready to go. But this week, I've been busy with other things and didn't devote any specific time to early preparation or thought.

One thing I can say, however, is that the part of the post-writing task that I am increasingly enjoying less and less is finding a suitable image to visualize these posts. As you can see by scrolling back through these posts, I've tried to find something football-related but inflected with a nerdy/geeky/non-sports-related twist. (To be fair, I think the one that I used in week 1 was my overall favorite--Adam West's Batman doing a Heisman against a stormtrooper.) But the last few weeks, I've been trying to find some other images . . . and the pickings are disturbing.

The problem is that for the last few week's I've been using "fantasy football" as a search term, in part because of the image that I found and used in Week 3. As you might guess, I've found several different sorts of images that take "football" and combine it with the "fantasy" angle in very disappointing ways. Imagine "babes" in every manner of undress--but wearing shoulder pads! or holding a football! or whatever SPORTS!-related nonsense someone can think of.

None of this is surprising certainly, though admitting that is as disappointing as anything else. It makes me think of the various stories that have been in the regular and digital media in the last few weeks--a rolling series of sexual abuse problems within the YouTube community, the problems of sexual harassment covered most recently by the Daily Show (please watch out for salty language in this one), GamerGate, the annual nonsense surrounding female Halloweek costumes, or whatever else you want to point to.

I guess what I'm talking myself into writing here is that it is hard to be female, even in this most free and liberal country. It is hard to be female and I won't try to go further than that, since I'm NOT female so I shouldn't presume to be able to speak to the issue with real meaning.

But I want to acknowledge it. And I'm going to try to pay attention to it since I've got three young ladies of my own to guide and raise and worry about during the rest of my life. And I hope that they will arm themselves with a strong sense of self that protects them from the nonsense of the world's expectations placed UPON them.

So . . . I guess that is it for today. Not the most uplifting of topics, I guess. But it was what came out of my fingers as I sat down to type. What's YOUR opinion about the topics I linked to above? What examples of problems do you know of? What are your concerns? Put your thoughts into comments.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #5

Who was a bigger 80s icon? Alex P. Keaton (as portrayed by Michael J. Fox on the NBC sitcom Family Ties or Milo Bloom, the 10-year-old policy wonk/newspaper reporter in Berkeley Breathed's seminal newspaper strip Bloom County?

credit: www.larrybrownsports.com

That is today's question in this newest edition of Why Won't You Grow?!'s ongoing series "Football Counter-Programming."

credit: www.macleans.ca
Most of you are probably going to say Alex Keaton, because he was the mass market TV star of the decade. If you watched TV during the Reagan years, you know who Alex Keaton was--feathered hair, sweater vest and tie, penny loafers, Conservative social and fiscal values. Michael J. Fox's portrayal of this Reagan acolyte made him a star and jump started him into other vehicles--such as a certain time-travelling DeLorean. There is no denying that Keaton earned his status as an 80s icon. (Heck, he even lived in that most swingy of political swing states--Ohio. And you know that 's got to be a good thing.)

credit: Berkeley Breathed
But what about Milo Bloom? He wore the other fashion choice of the decade--chinos and suspenders. (Sometimes he even mixed it up with a bow tie. And he was definitely not afraid to wear a tie with those suspenders--no matter how long it might end up being.)He was also plugged into the politics of the 80s--he just might have been a bit more on the moderate (or even liberal) side of the spectrum. Milo's mound of blonde hair put Keaton's sensible cut to shame. But Milo's problem was that he wasn't a megastar like Alex's alter ego. And he held some controversial beliefs that probably didn't resonate with the people as the culture was really started to heat up.


Well, I liked them both. But as the 80s wore on and the 90s came, I became more of a Milo sort of guy. In the end, he's more my style . . . and the subversive nature of Bloom County helped shape me more--at least I WANT that to have been the case. Truthfully, I'm probably a lot more Alex P. Keaton than I'd like to be sometimes and not enough of a rabble-rouser like Milo Bloom.

But I'm not done growing and changing. I can STILL be whomever I want to be. And this version of me is hoping to be more and more like Milo as I get older.

What about you? Who do you like more? Who better defined the 1980s?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: What I'll be Watching

So, we've gone through the main networks and the cable offerings for this Fall television season.
Before we wrap it up finally for another year, I'll summarize the shows that I plan on watching.

credit: videohive.net

MONDAY is a day in which I honor every network.
Gotham on Fox will kick the week of superhero watching off with a slow burn of dourness.
I can counteract that with a bit of comedy on The Big Bang Theory, on CBS. And that will be followed by the insanity of Sleepy Hollow (also on Fox).
For something that is even remotely realistic in nature, I'm also watching Castle (ABC).
I'm also DVRing Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD) and watching that during odd moments throughout the week.

TUESDAY is superhero double-feature night.
There is a slight chance that I may give Marry Me (on NBC) a try. I guess I will let Dean try to convince me in the coming weeks. And speaking of giving things a try, I promised that I would do that with Selfie (ABC).
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) is already on my list from last year and it ticks off another slot on my superhero BINGO card. But don't forget about The Flash (The CW). And then there is New Girl (Fox). I hope it regains the funny groove that slipped a bit last season.

WEDNESDAY is a day when I should really catch up on my blogging.
Day 3 of superhero central stars Arrow (The CW). And I've decided to give black-ish (ABC) at least a few shots before I dismiss it out-of-hand. Other than that, there's nothing of interest to me on this night.

THURSDAY is surprisingly realistic in its show's settings.
I hope that Gracepoint (Fox) turns into an engaging show. Because by now even I am concerned about the amount of comic book stuff I've watched already this week. But if A to Z (NBC) turns into something fun, it'll help provide some roughage to my otherwise juvenile television diet. Not that Elementary (CBS) cares. Sherlock Holmes is something of a comic-book hero on his own. But I'll watch it anyway.

FRIDAY is a day when I get home from work and watch movies with my family.
Or if I'm lucky I might have a date with Lynda. No series television for me on this night.

SATURDAYis even more of a nonscheduled day.
Maybe I'll do lots of push ups and sit ups on this day?

SUNDAY is AMC day.
Starting next month I'll be watching The Walking Dead. And that's it. Later on, of course, I'll watch Games of Thrones. I'm doing my best to boycott any viewing of NFL games. (Though, to be obvious, I wasn't the biggest football viewer in my neighborhood. But I did watch some games at times on these days.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: NBC

And so, we come to the end of the network examinations with the last of our alphabetical listing--the National Broadcasting Company. Most people don't know, however, that for the last decade or so, NBC has actually stood for Never Becoming Cosby Again. (That last A is silent.)

It's no surprise that the Peacock network hasn't had a run of good shows: be they comedy or drama for a while. And even the ones that WERE good, like 30 Rock or Community just never generated enough consistent numbers to help pull the network out of the ratings swoon it has suffered in recent years. But enough about the past. What shows does the network have for us THIS fall?

State of Affairs (premieres Nov. 17): This show is an odd parallel to the CBS show Madam Secretary. Katherine Heigl makes her return to TV as a CIA analyst that assembles the White House's daily threat briefing. So this show is a drama. But won't it have a hard time walking in the last White House drama that was shepherded by NBC--The West Wing? It's just never going to be that and so it somehow seems diminished before it starts. But I'm just being critical for the sake of being critical, I guess.

Marry Me (premieres Oct. 14): It this show is lucky it won't be compared to The Michael J. Fox Show and if is REALLY lucky it might end up being good like Mad About You. The two main actors "meet cute" but Annie (Casey Wilson) scuttles the burgeoning relationship right before Jake (Wilson's real life husband Ken Marino) is to propose. You see . . . he didn't do it as fast as she wanted him to and yada yada yada. This is the kind of show that most likely will start slow and feel artificial and awkward. But if given the chance for decent acting and providing the writing staff time to work out the kinks, it could turn into something worth watching. Sure, its formula TV. But NBC needs some predictable success.

The Mysteries of Laura (just recently premiered): This is another show based on a Spanish TV premise (Jane the Virgin, Ugly Betty, Killer Women) but that is not what you need to take away from this show. The show is being blasted by critics because of its unfortunate premise that Debra Messing's ("Hi Grace! Where have YOU been?") character is noteworthy for trying to be a professional cop AND a mom! How can she handle BOTH?!!! It's even in the tag line promotional for the program:
credit: www.nbc.com

I don't really care whether this show is good or not, but I DO care about this parody theme for it that was created by NPR writer and blogger Linda Holmes. Click on this link to learn more about and listen to the wonderful song "copmom momcop".

Bad Judge (premieres Oct. 2): Because this post is full of NBC nostalgia. I wish that this show was something of a recurrence of Night Court. But it's not.

Speaking of NBC nostalgia . . . twenty years ago this week, the first episode of Friends premiered. Those were good days for this network. But back to the shows on tap for THIS year.

A to Z (premieres Oct. 2): First . . . what is going on at NBC that all of theie shows are premiering in October? Are they so used to being last that they want to premiere last as well? Anyway . . . this show features The Mother Cristin Miloti (the best thing about the last season of HIMYM) Änd it also has the tag line "Destiny has a funny way of finding you." So maybe this show might offer the thrills of the first few seasons of How I Met Your Mother. And so, on blind faith alone I think I will make this the one new NBC show that I will give a shot this year. Huzzah!

But wait, you're thinking right now. We must be nearing the end of this post and we haven't encountered ANY comic book-based shows? What is NBC thinking? Well, it turns out that NBC is thinking exactly what ABC, The CW, Fox, and even CBS is thinking . . . comic books are where its AT! And NBC's offering in this vein is Constantine (premieres Oct. 24). You might remember this story from the Keanu Reeves movie of recent years. I don't as I didn't see that movie.

And well, that is it I guess. (Except for the holiday event Peter Pan LIVE!)  As I said, I think that I'll give A to Z a try and  . . . maybe Marry Me? But probably that is it. Will any of these shows help NBC begin to pull things around? Have they built up enough good will (and ratings) with "established" shows such as The Biggest Loser, Blacklist, About a Boy, Grimm, Chicago P.D., or Law and Order: SVU to give cover to the fledgling shows? Only time will tell, but I imagine most people are skeptical of NBC.

What do you think? Have you seen anything on NBC that catches your eye? Sound off in the comments if you like.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: Fox

It seems that this year many of the networks are not going all out for the Fall season. I guess you can understand how a mini-network like The CW is barely offering anything new. But even the big boys who have been producing and broadcasting new shows for decades are seeming to skimp a bit for the end of 2014. And maybe that is a reflection of the shift toward an emphasis on new shows in Winter and even in Summer. The new show budget is being spread more and more across the year, rather than being concentrated in a big launch of new shows at the Fall only. And maybe this is a reflection of the simple fact that broadcast TV sucks and Cable is totally eating Mainstream's lunch.

But . . . even with all that said, Fox is out there putting out some fun shows. And it started LAST year with Sleepy Hollow. It was a bananas concept and it did well. I mean, just look at this promotional image for the start of season 2.

credit: fox.com
You've got Ichabod trying to grab hold of his fellow "Witness"Abbie as she is getting sucked into the netherworld. (Just trust me that this is what is being represented here.) Add the weird vines pulling at them and the echoes of the Sistine Chapel and you get the beginnings of what makes this show so insane.

And so, even though Sleepy Hollow (premieres 9/22) is not a NEW show, I had to start my Fox coverage with it. Any show that makes the Headless Horseman seem anticlimactic is fully committed to its own level of weirdness.

As for new shows? The most high profile is definitely Gotham (premieres 9/22). It is set in Batman's city and is set during his childhood. We don't really get to see how Bruce Wayne trains to take on the cowl, but rather we get lots of focus on the backstory behind the greatest armada of villains in the business: Catwoman, the Riddler, the Penguin, and others. Plus policeman Jim Gordan. The critical buzz for this show has been pretty high so I'm definitely planning to tune in tomorrow night and see how this show does. (Heck, I watched every single minute of Smallville back in the day, so there is no doubt that I'll be tuning into this show for a while.)

 Gracepoint (premieres Oct. 2): If you are a fan of BBC America, you may have already watched this show. But it was called Broadchurch then. And it still starred David Tennant. But watching this show is probably a better use of your time than trying to reconnect with The Following, so I'm recommending it.

Mulaney (premieres Oct. 5): This is a show about an up-and-coming star trying to make it work on his developing talk show. There promises to be behind-the-scenes jokes, a cast of quirky characters, and . . . gulp . . . Martin Short. I'm no fan of Martin Short, so that won't be helping me watch. And this seems like Larry Sanders did this show so much better over a decade ago.

Red Band Society (premiered Sept. 24--last week): This drama (and probably sometimes comedy) takes place in a cancer ward of a hospital. The cast is full of patients struggling with disease and terminal diagnoses. It is also featuring doctors who struggle to maintain their optimism and bring the kids to accept their lot in life. As with many hospital shows, lessons will be learned and Very Special Episodes will be experienced. (NOTE: This all sounds very cynical and the show is probably pretty good. So, if this show is your thing, you'll probably like it.)

As for shows that have to be "that sort of thing" then there is Utopia (already airing). This is very much a reality show and so it is definitely NOT my sort of show. But it is pretty aggressive in its concept--putting people together in a compound and filming them as they try to organize and run a "society".  And it adds a social component by swapping out cast members once a month (if the show lasts that long) and bringing in new people that apply from the viewership. But someone over on Grantland has already said quite enough about this show, so I'll just link you over there. (Hint: They are NOT fans.)

Shows I'm not certain about?

Backstrom (coming soon?) and starring Rainn Wilson. It is a police procedural with a comic element and set in the Pacific Northwest. I think the comedy comes from Wilson's oddities and so it makes me think a bit of Monk or maybe a bit of Columbo? Maybe we'll see?

The Last Man on Earth (coming soon?): This is from the writing of and stars SNL alumni Will Forte. So it has the potential to be funny. But the gag of him being the last person alive can't last long, right? And if it tries to last any amount of time, then the hard cold reality of trying to keep the modern world running with (literally) NO ONE to help you is so unrealistic that it seems a HUGE stumbling block to overcome. And how funny can the show be if there aren't any other people? I'm tentative on this one.

Wayward Pines (coming soon?): I was interested in this show and its Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet vibe. And then I read in the description that it is connected to M. Night Shyamalan. Oof. This show may NOT be coming soon to my television.

So . . . that is a quick look at Fox's slate of new shows. And while not all of them are getting ready to launch this Fall, at least this network is thinking and trying to do something new. (Except for Utopia, I guess.) I'll be giving Gotham a try for sure and hoping that Sleepy Hollow maintains its insane edge for its second season. And I might give Gracepoint a try as well.

What Fox shows are you interested in? Anything that you are looking forward to? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #4

Credit: www.nerdbaseball.com
The last few weeks, I've been re-examining my (slight) collection of comic books--ahem, GRAPHIC NOVELS. I've got all the one's you would expect a dilettante to have: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, and a few others that I won't bore you with.

They are all Batman titles (well, except for Watchmen). When I collected these stories, back in the 1990s during my college years, I was much more interested in Batman than I was any other comic book hero. He had been getting all the movie-related press back in those days (the days before Marvel's series of tentpole movies and fifteen year to colonize Hollywood had not yet begun). I had been an unabashed fan of the original Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movie and experienced a steady decline in satisfaction as the subsequent sequels came out.

But I watched Batman The Animated Series on television and I watched its cousin spinoff about Superman. And later, Lynda and I even watched Batman Beyond and found that pretty good as well.

But I really enjoyed The Dark Knight Returns for all the same reasons that everyone else did. It helped revive the idea of Batman and re-established his hard-boiled credentials in the time that many people just enjoyed the campiness of Adam West. (Oddly enough, in the on-going "New 52" reboot of DC Comics, the "Batman 66" comic title that is heavily influenced by that Adam West television style is enjoying a lot of popularity, I think.)

Anyway, I'm no expert, so don't expect lots of insight from me. I'm just a fan that has been dabbling here and there.

And my latest dabbling is centered around the new "Batgirl" comic title that I think is launching next month. The new creators of the title have generated tons of interest in the work (as is evidenced by ME getting involved) because of the style they bring both to the character of Barbara Gordon and how that style is reflected in the book itself. Outwardly, there is a great deal of fan love for the new costume design--which is almost always the first and most polarizing part of any fan argument about a superhero. You start with the outward appearance and begin tunneling inward IF you remain interested.

So far as I can tell, fans are responding to the DIY-nature of Gordon's new Batgirl outfit, which gives the impression that you could knock it together in a weekend of careful shopping and a bit of home-ec driven customization. (Leather jacket, sewn on bat symbol, snap-on cape, Doc Marten boots, etc.) And the fact that this version of Barbara Gordon's outfit is still tied into the history of the character--both in other "Batgirl" books as well as in the 1966 Adam West show . . . well, these are all good things.

So . . . the interest generated is also driven by the obvious modern-ness of this twenty-something Barbara Gordon. And, since the new title has yet begun it's publishing run, it is almost ENTIRELY centered on the first promotional image of Batgirl, in new costume, taking a selfie with her camera phone while involved in her derring-do. (Check out that first Comics Alliance link again and you'll see what I mean.)

The selfie image also inspired a bit of time-travelling weirdness that I ran across recently as well. And that is just fun.

What will it all mean? Does this start me down a path of comics purchasing and reading that I never would have guessed? And what does it say that I'm starting this road with Batgirl? Is that wrong? (And there are so many things wrong with women depicted in comics. I GET that. The costuming is RIDICULOUS for sure and insane in most cases.)

So, I guess I'm opening myself up for TONS of criticism here. Let me have it. What are your thoughts?