The one about Christmas TV

It’s a week until Christmas and I’m getting really excited. I’ve always loved Christmas, and now that I have 3 young children in my life it’s even more fun. I just love the whole feeling of the holiday. Being warm and cozy by the fire, staying in my pajama’s all day, and most of all watching Christmas programs. Everyone has their list of favorite Christmas movies and I’m no exception. I thought today though I would focus on another Christmas watching tradition I started a few years ago; watching Christmas episodes of my favorite TV shows. This is a great way to get a holiday TV fix even if you don’t have time to watch a whole movie. Most of these episodes do not require you to know much about the over arching season story to enjoy them. So, even if you’ve never seen an episode of the show mentioned you will still enjoy the Christmas episodes. I’ve whittled this list down to my top 5 episodes. (with one bonus choice because I couldn’t help myself), so here we go!

Community season 1 ep 12 “Comparative Religion”: Community might be one of the most creative sitcoms to come on television in the last decade. What started as a show about a man who faked his law degree having to go back to school to get a real degree has become a show that takes existing genres and TV tropes and turns them on their heads. This episode from the first season finds the study group figuring out the best way to celebrate the upcoming holiday when they all come from such different religious backgrounds. What I love about the episode (besides how funny it is) is how respectful it is of uber Christian Shirley’s character. Shirley is going through a divorce and so has decided her study group is her new family. This leads her to insensitively push her religious leanings on their holiday party and it makes the other members of the group very uncomfortable, The show points out how wrong Shirley is, but it also allows her feelings to be given value and her study group friends are still there for her even she when she goes a little crazy. It’s a lovely message about coming together at the holiday season. Plus it is absolutely hysterical. Some other highlights to look for

  • Anthony Michael Hall guest starring as a bully who desperately wants to fight Jeff (Joel McHale)
  • The discussion of all the different religions represented in the group and the jokes that come from that
  • Shirley’s religiously neutral version of “Silent Night” that is sung over the credits.
  • This joke

How I Met Your Mother season 2 ep 11 “How Lily Stole Christmas”: How I Met Your Mother sees the main character Ted Mosby telling his future children the story of how he met their mom. The show isn’t one of my favorites now, (they’ve been on the air too long), but season 2 might be the best season of the show. This episode deals with the fallout of Lily calling off her engagement to Ted’s best friend Marshall. The two have gotten back together but Ted isn’t quite over what Lily did. This leads to tension around the holidays. Highlights of this episode include

  • future Ted using the term “grinch” to describe Lily and being quick to tell us that he wasn’t actually calling her a grinch, but rather a much worse word.
  • Barney falling asleep during his “legen…wait for …dary” catchphrase because he’s so sick
  • This throw away joke

The Office season 2 ep 10 “Christmas Party”: Oh this episode. This episode has given me so many Christmas gems. Michael (the hilarious Steve Carell) gets upset when his secret Santa gift is only a homemade oven mitt so he decides to do a YAAAAANKEEEE SWAAAP instead. This was the first episode of “The Office” I ever saw and I was immediately hooked. It is quite literally laugh out loud funny. Some highlights

  • “Well, Happy Birthday Jesus. Sorry your party’s so lame.”
  • “Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say ‘Hey man, I love you this many dollars worth.'”
  • “Angela drafted me into the party planning committee. Her memo said that we need to prepare for every possible disaster. Which to me, seems… excessive.”
  • The Yankee Swap Exchange:

Veronica Mars season 1 ep 10 “An Echolls Family Christmas: When it was announced that “Veronica Mars” would continue as a movie in 2014 I almost passed out from excitement. This show was one of my favorites when I was in high school. The series focuses on a high school private detective named Veronica and the first season finds her solving “cases of the week” while also trying to figure out who is behind the murder of her best friend Lily Kane. (It’s definitely noir television). Even if you’ve never seen an episode of this show you can watch this episode without being confused. There is one mystery of the week and not much else is mentioned about the season long mystery. I love this episode because it features some first rate snark between Veronica and her love hate partner Logan Echolls. Other highlights include:

  • Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin as Logan’s parents
  • The way Veronica reveals she knows who stole the money (the shots and the music and the look of glee on her face are amazing)
  • “Annoy tiny blonde one. Annoy like the wind”
  • I couldn’t find a clip of the above line (which is my favorite) so I’m including this one, but be warned there are spoilers so don’t watch it if you are planning on seeing the whole episode at some point

American Dreams season 1 ep 10 “Silent Night”: This was a show on NBC in the early part of the 2000’s that followed a young girl named Meg Pryor (Brittany Snow) living in Philadelphia in the early 1960’s. She is a dancer on the popular teen show “American Bandstand.” This show was amazing and I’m still so sad that only one out of its three seasons is available on DVD. I think because of all the really expensive music that is used on the show the DVD’s are too expensive to produce, but it’s really a shame. The Christmas episode features Meg and her dance partner on the show, Jimmy Riley, being chosen as one of the favorite couples of the year. This means they will need to kiss under the mistletoe which freaks Meg out because 1)She and Jimmy are not really together 2) She’s never kissed anyone before and 3) She is afraid it will make her actual crush Luke (her younger sister’s piano teacher) upset. This show is adorable there is really no other way to describe it. If you can watch this episode you really should. Highlights include

  • The dinner scenes between the family being the most realistic I have ever seen on TV (everyone talking over each other)
  • The 60’s era music
  • The wonderful montage at the end of the episode set to Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
  • Again I couldn’t find just a quick clip of this episode but I’m including the whole last part of the episode because it’s hard to find this anywhere but on DVD, and it’s super amazing. Once again spoiler alert (skip to 8:49 to see the montage I’m talking about)

I have to mention one more from “Community” season 2. This episode finds Abed imagining that everything in his life is stop motion animated. The reasons why are explained in the plot. I had to include this on my list because visually this episode is stunning! Take a look at the opening credits below

So there you have it! Just a few of my favorite Christmas television episodes. Feel free to leave your own nominations in the comments!

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The One where I’m back!

Well hello there! It’s certainly been awhile. I’m not going to go into some big long explanation about why I’ve been so absent lately because frankly I didn’t make this blog to bore people to death with it. Suffice to say that I am back and ready to be a more frequent updater. This will be easier because of the first thing I have to talk about which is my new job!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting a job that will help me start a new chapter in my story and thanks to a great best friend I have one! I work the front desk at a music school in PA. The commute is long (but not during peak rush hours times thankfully), but the hours are regular. And best of all I have pockets of down time that will enable me to write more and focus more on finding that elusive Communications career I so long to find.

But enough of all of that! In thinking about my first post back after such a long hiatus I was kind of stuck on what to write about. Because it’s been so long I though I would ease back into the whole blog thing by posting  a list of what pop culture things I am obsessed with lately. It’s just a small list that includes music, movies, books and television. So without further ado here is my obsessed list.

1) Janelle Monae: Besides having the coolest first name ever this chick is one of the most interesting singers I’ve heard in recent memory. It is impossible to put Janelle into a box. Her album The ArchAndroid is an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, electronica, and rap. Seriously I dare you to try to define this girl. It’s impossible. Her new album Electric Lady comes out tomorrow and features duets with Erykah Badu and Prince to name just two. You can bet I had this sucker pre-ordered on iTunes weeks ago and cannot wait to hear the whole thing. To get a taste of just how eclectic Janelle is here are 2 songs off her newest album. (Make sure you listen all the way to the end of Q.U.E.E.N. for an amazing rap verse)

And now…something you can dance to!

2) Documentaries on Netflix: During the summer most television consists of reality shows and re-runs. So my Netflix instant account gets quite a workout. Lately I’ve become obsessed with documentaries. I find that they don’t require as much attention as regular movies so I can work on other things while having them as background noise. After watching quite a few this summer two that I would highly recommend are

First Position

Seriously, even if you are not into ballet this documentary is amazing! A girl featured in the doc dances at a school in Philadelphia that I pass every Sunday that I drive into the city for church. It’s not too long but really fascinating and all of the dancers are just lovely.

The Invisible War

A powerful and moving documentary. It can be difficult to watch but I think very important to watch. From books like Half the Sky and others like it I am unfortunately very aware of the difficulties of being a woman in other nations. This documentary shows that women in America are also facing shocking discrimination and abuse from those who have chosen to protect our nation. This doc was nominated for an Academy Award and it was a well deserved nomination.

3) Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty by Cokie Roberts

These books have been out for awhile but I just recently discovered them. I’ve always loved history and so I leaped at the chance to read books about the women who helped shape our nation in its earliest years. Founding Mothers focuses on the years just before The Revolutionary War up until the election of John Adams. Ladies of Liberty begins with John Adams’ election and ends with the presidency of his son, John Quincy Adams. What I loved about these books was that while they covered some of the more well known women of the revolution, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington etc, they also talk about women I had never heard of before as well as exploring popular myths surrounding women of the Revolution (like Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross).

4) Television : again since summer just ended most of what has been on television has been re-runs or reality TV. While I have been enjoying my USA network summer shows (Covert Affairs, Suits, and Graceland). My real summer love has been a show I just recently rediscovered

House Hunters/House Hunters International

So when my parents and I travel to see my sister, brother in law, and their kids it can be hard to find television to agree on. My brother in law is a giant sports fan and doesn’t really have the time or patience to watch much else. My parents and I are typically not sports fans. (I love baseball and football but really only enjoy watching “my teams” play them). A good compromise we have always found has been The HGTV channel in particular the House Hunter shows. Is there anything better than judging people based on a half hour of watching them decide on a new house? I submit there is not! Yes I know the show is a setup and most of the people already have a new house picked out when they go on the show but who cares! I’m watching it to see the exotic locales, the couples passive aggressively fight, and the shock on all the American peoples faces when they see how small master bedrooms and bathrooms are in every other country.

So those are just a few of things I’ve been obsessed with this summer. If you try any of these out and like them please let me know in the comments! Also what things were you obsessed with this summer? It’s good to be back!

The one about guilty pleasures

One of my favorite people in the world is Amy Poehler. I read an interview with her once where she was asked what were her guilty pleasure TV shows. Her answer was delightful. She said that she hates the term “guilty pleasure” because if you like something you should just like it and who cares if other people think it’s lame. Weirdly enough I found this a very freeing sentiment and I no longer feel embarrassed to admit that I love certain things that other people would call lame or stupid. So with that in mind here are some of my NON guilty pleasures.

Top 40 Pop: It’s been very hot here the past few weeks and my car doesn’t have AC. Because of this I drive with all of my windows down which leads to some very cliche wind blowing in my hair radio blasting in the heat moments. The best music to listen to while indulging in this cliche? Certainly not The Civil Wars, Regina Spektor, and Adele (although I love all 3 of those artists). No I want some Rihanna, Britney, P!nk, and and Demi Lovato. If it’s in rotation  on the radio usually it ends up on my ipod in my Pop playlist. Sure most of these artists autotune the heck out of their voices and the songs are most assuredly not masterpieces. Who cares! They rock and I can blast them loud and dance like a crazy fool.

Young Adult Novels: Now this does not include Twilight (although if this is one of your not so guilty pleasures feel free to indulge, my best friend does!) But it does include The Princess Diaries Series and The Underworld Series by Meg Cabot. I follow a couple of blogs written by adult women who recommend young adult novels. Sure most of them have really cheesy plot lines and unrealistic love stories but that is what makes them so great! I just finished reading a book about the science behind how Evangelicals pray, and it was excellent. It was also really intense. After an intense book like that there is nothing like sitting down with a book where the heroine’s biggest problem is that she is love with her guy best friend (isn’t that the plot of 90% of young adult novels?)

The Real Housewives Franchise: Yup, I can’t flip past Bravo if those crazy ladies from NJ or NYC on the screen. Those two incarnations are the ones that I regularly watch, but I sporadically watch all of the franchises. Are the women crazy? Yes. Are they horrible representations of women hood? Yes. Are they petty and mean? Heck yes. Are the fascinating to watch? Oh my good Lord yes. Do I apologize for loving every minute of every show? No!

Those are just a few of my no longer guilty pleasures. What are some of yours?

Jump Right In (the one about Parks and Rec)

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I love to write, and I love to talk. I love to do both of these things in detail on pretty much any subject. I’m sure this is not surprising to those of you reading this since any followers I do have at this point are people I already know. But here’s the thing, with the writing and the talking. The whole introduction or smooth conversational transition to what I want to talk about? yeah I’m not so great at that. So when I sat down to write my very first blog post my first thought was not “what am I going to write about” but rather “how am I going to write an introduction post?”After much thought (let’s be real it was like 10 seconds of thought) I decided I wouldn’t write one at all.  Instead I’m just going to jump right in (ahh the clever reiterating the title of your blog in the blog trick!) and write about a topic I really love…television.

If you follow me on facebook (and I hope you do) chances are on any given Thursday night you will see a post from me gushing about how much I love the show Parks and Recreation. Parks and Rec is a show created by Greg Daniels and Mike Schur (they also created The Office) starring Amy Poehler. It follows a woman in local government named Leslie Knope (Poehler) who is the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee Indiana. What started as an Office like comedy that I didn’t even watch in Season One has slowly evolved into the sweetest/funniest/warmest show on television in the fourth season. Seriously if you aren’t watching this show stop reading right now and go catch up with it (seasons 1-3 are on Netflix instant) and then come back to continue reading. Parks and Rec also boasts the best portrayal of female friendship I have ever seen on television. No I’m not being hyperbolic. It’s true.

I watch a lot of tv. Most of the female friendships on tv suffer from 2 main problems. One is what I call the tell and not show problem. Think of the show Gilmore Girls (a show I also LOVE by the way so no mean comments). Rory is supposed to best friends with Lane and in the first season, sure I could buy that, (although the friendship in that season did suffer from the second main problem which I’ll get to in a minute). However, by the end of the series could we really call what those girls had a friendship? We had hardly any scenes where Rory would tell Lane what was going on in her life and most of the ways we saw Lane’s life change were almost completely separate from Rory’s story-lines.  And yet the show kept having characters hammer home how these two girls were “best friends” and so close, and shared everything. Really? Because I talk to my best friends almost everyday. If AJ didn’t hear from my own mouth I bungee jumped off a bridge wearing early 19th century clothing holding hands with a cute boy who wasn’t my current boyfriend she would have a conniption                      “Before we jump Logan, I have to call Lane!”

This tell and not show problem effects many shows, some I watch and love and some that I casually view. (here’s just a brief list off the top of my head: Summer and Marissa on The OC, Elena and Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries, Blair and Serena on Gossip Girl, Beckett and Lanie on Castle, in the later seasons Lily and Robin on How I Met Your Mother, and all the girls from Friends) That is just a brief list. I’m sure there are more.

The second issue most shows have with portraying female friendship is summed up with the phrase The Bechdel Test. This is a test where you see if any popular entertainment has more than one women in the cast that could be called leads. The next question is does this show put these two women in a scene together? The final question is do these women talk about anything other than the men in their lives while in that scene? If the answer to any of these questions is no the medium in question has failed the Bechdel Test. Just look at the brief list I made in the last paragraph and if you watched any of those shows try to remember some of those women’s scenes. How many of them would pass the last question in the Bechdel test? Honestly? very few. Early seasons of Lily and Robin I think pass, and I guess Lanie and Beckett do sometimes although honestly the times they aren’t talking about their relationships is time they are talking about whatever case on which they are working. But going back to Lane and Rory, even in season one most of their scenes revolved around Rory liking Dean and Lane trying to go on dates with non Korean boys without her mother finding out.

I’m not going to pretend that when I get together with my friends we don’t talk about men. We absolutely do. However, I feel pretty confident in saying that more of our conversations cover things besides the men that walk in and out of our lives. We talk about books, tv, politics, music, and our jobs. Television does a disservice to us when it portrays what is supposed to be a representation of our deepest friendships as an hour long discussion about what a man said to us right before we met up. That’s why Parks and Rec is such a wonderful show (see it came back around).

Leslie Knope is best friends with Ann Perkins (played by Rashida Jones). Until season 3 Leslie did not have a boyfriend that was long term enough to be more than a guest star. Ann was the most important interpersonal relationship in her life. Their scenes together are warm and lovely. They talk about work pressure, their friendship, and yes relationships. But the relationships part is just that, one part of their deep friendship and love they have for each other. When I watch their scenes I could be watching a conversation I had with anyone of my close friends. And what is truly the best part? The show makes no comment about their friendship being so special. It is presented as what it is…normal.

See? How cute are they!

Even when Leslie began a serious relationship with someone her friendship with Ann was still a huge priority in her life. Most shows present how the main character’s best friend fits into the relationship begun between the male and female leads. Parks and Rec has Ben Wyatt (played by the oh so handsome Adam Scott) reach out to Ann to help fix a fight she has had with Leslie. He knows that the best way to make the girl he likes happy is to be a support in her friendships. This should not be groundbreaking television, but it is! In how many shows have we seen a girl start dating a guy and immediately the number of scenes with the best friend decrease significantly? And even when they are in the same scene the discussion is all about the lead’s relationship!

My point in all of this? (sorry to be so long winded) Parks and Recreation does not have the highest ratings. While it is critically adored it’s numbers are never very high. I wish more women would get behind shows like this and not watch other crap that presents us in a much more shallow light. I hope that someday a strong well written female friendship will be the norm on network television. I think one way that this can happen is by shows like Parks and Rec having success. So, if you watch the show, keep watching, and tell a friend to watch too. If you don’t watch start watching! Let’s support healthy portrayals of women on television. God knows there are enough unhealthy ones out there to last us a lifetime.

End note: Here are some of my healthy female friendships. Love you girls!