Tuesday, June 21st

ATX Television Festival Season 5

If you were in downtown Austin recently and happened upon lots of recognizable TV stars, you weren’t the only one. Despite this being the fifth year of the ATX Television Festival, it still feels somewhat under the radar for an Austin event. People always seem surprised when they see people like Mae Whitman or Scott Wolf wandering around, yet those of us who hit the festival every year know that it’s customary to run into many famous faces.

Royal Pains featuring Mark Feuerstein, Henry Winkler, and Paulo Costanzo

The thing I love the most about the festival is that it isn’t oversold. It feels intimate and accessible. It’s a small conference for TV insiders and passionate fans, and everyone feels lucky to be there, from the badge-holders to the volunteers, to the TV stars. After all, Austin knows how to show guests a good time and people are more than happy to visit. Industry people and fans alike seem equally happy to geek out over the love of TV.

Royal Pains Paulo Costanzo and Brooke D'Orsay

I spent the weekend conducting interviews, watching panels, screenings, and soaking it all in. I was especially happy to attend a panel for Royal Pains, which is a guilty pleasure of mine. The final season is about to air and we were treated to an early screening of their musical episode, which was hilarious and campy. The cast and creators were pretty open, discussing everything from the medical terminology in the dialogue to the evolution of their characters. If fans of the show are wondering whether they will ever see Hank settle down with a woman, this final season may not wrap everything up in a neat bow. They revealed that all previous attempts to match up Hank had been rejected by the audience. No one is good enough for our Hank!

Royal Pains Reshma Shetty and Ben Shenkman

It’s an unwritten rule of the festival that everyone needs to be cool and not swarm the stars. I don’t ask for autographs or photos with celebs and unless it’s an official interview I tend to shy away from attempting conversation. If I’m honest, there have been a few people that I’ve wanted to gush over that I’ve run into at the festival or other events. H. Jon Benjamin comes to mind, along with Megan Mullally, Adam Scott, and Uzo Aduba. This year my big fan crush goes to Ben Feldman.

Ben Feldman

Ben’s been a number of shows I love: Drop Dead Diva, Mad Men, Silicon Valley, and NBC’s Superstore, which was just renewed for a second season. The cast of Superstore was in Austin to talk about the show and I was one of the lucky few who got to interview them.

Superstore panel at ATX Television Festival

If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a smart workplace sitcom with a lot of heart. Producer and writer Justin Spitzer is known for another little workplace comedy that you may have heard of called The Office. So I have high hopes for this show and really enjoyed the first season. In addition to Ben Feldman, America Ferrera, and Kids in the Hall’s Mark McKinney, the cast is filled with talented actors who make up a motley crew of blue collar workers in a Walmart-type store called Cloud 9.

Superstore

America and Ben made the observation that blue collar comedies have fallen out of favor in recent years, replaced by shows that focus on fantasy, rather than reality. The entire cast spoke about working in on a set that looks exactly like a store and how they were forbidden from taking any of the real-life products. The pilot was actually shot in a real Kmart, with the cast and crew filming through the night. The experience inspired the episode All-Nighter, where they are locked in the store overnight.

Superstore

If you want to watch (or re-watch) the first season it’s available on the NBC website.

Superstore

Another show that was getting a lot of buzz at the festival is Pitch, which premieres on FOX on September 22nd. It’s the (fictional, obviously) story of the first woman to play MLB. Kylie Bunbury plays Ginny, the talented pitcher who joins the San Diego Padres. Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays catcher Mike Wilson and he and Kylie spoke candidly about their physical training for their roles. Hers was more physically intense, while Gosselaar joked that his training mostly consisted of growing a beard that his wife hates.

Pitch on FOX, starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Kylie Bunbury

Despite my lack of interest in sports, I do think baseball is the most tolerable and I’ve never seen a baseball movie I didn’t like. So I’m definitely going to be watching this series in the fall. Check out the trailer for yourself. This show is great.

Did you miss the ATX Television Festival this year? Badges are already on sale for 2017. See you next year!

Sunday, May 29th

There’s an Ep for That

This post is part of my ongoing relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

We’re at the end of May and in the midst of a long-awaited holiday weekend. Last year Chris’ had to go into the office on Memorial Day. We were still unpacking and doing major renovation in the new house, plus I was in my third trimester. It was a real bummer.

So having that extra day off right now feels positively glorious! We still have some work to accomplish, but our projects are of the small variety: yard work, laundry, cleaning. But we can balance that with some fun, along with grateful reflection on the many who gave their lives for our country. It’s good to have a day to feel patriotic during a gross election year. Is there anything worse than a presidential campaign? Ugh.

Violet is really on the move these days! She’s unbelievably fast at crawling, gleefully using our shiny concrete floors to her benefit. We’re having so much fun with the walker, too, and I think she’ll be walking unassisted before we know it.

Baby girl wearing pink tutu

Smiling baby wearing Run DMC onesie and red pants

A photo posted by Kristin Sheppard (@madbettyatx) on


Now let’s talk Netflix! As most network TV shows are done for the season, I expect many of you will be increasing your steaming. I’d love to hear your recommendations on what to watch. Here’s what we’ve been watching lately:

Lady Dynamite

Lady Dynamite on Netflix

Maria Bamford is one of those likable yet polarizing comedians. She’s intelligent, funny, weird…but it’s her voice that many people can’t get past. Lady Dynamite acknowledges this by incorporating it into a storyline, along with her many other hangups like insecurity, bad decision-making, and severe Bipolar II disorder. I’ve watched the ranking of this show fall steady, but I give it a solid four stars. It almost crosses the line into being completely ridiculous, but doesn’t annoy me in the least. And it’s worth checking out for the cameos alone.

Grace and Frankie

Speaking of annoying, I’m slogging through the second season of Grace and Frankie at a snail’s pace. It’s a gorgeous show to watch and full of actors I love, but somehow…I just don’t like it. Am I alone here?

Promised Land

Matt Damon in Promised Land

Although it’s from 2012, Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land was new to me. It’s a fairly uncomplicated and well-told story of a small town divided on the subject of fracking. Matt Damon carries the movie, supported by the wonderful Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Chelsea

Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler seems to be able to do whatever she wants. I was not much of a fan of hers until I read a few of her books, which showcases her deadpan snark and intelligent humor maybe more so than her TV persona does. Her documentary series Chelsea Does was somewhat enjoyable and Chelsea the talk show feels like an extension of that in bite-size pieces. Netflix releases three new episodes a week, which is a new approach to their streaming TV shows.

Tuesday, April 19th

Stream Queens

This post is part of my ongoing relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

We’re just coming out of a month that was so incredibly busy that we’re finally just getting our bearings again. Normally I’d block off a little recovery time after SXSW, but we had no such luxury this year. We had back-to-back visits from my parents and Chris’ dad, both of which were wonderful. We took a road trip to Fort Worth and went to a wedding, the zoo, and Cane Rosso for dinner. Then last weekend was AFBA’s Colossal Curry Cook-off, which was a huge success!

Violet with Nana and Pop-Pop in Bluebonnets

Violet and GrandDad

Violet and GrandDad

Violet and Elephants at Fort Worth Zoo

Violet’s getting so big. She races down the hallway in her walker, babbles away, and tries to put her pacifiers in our mouths. So far, she’s really not digging solid foods much, but we keep trying a little everyday. My mom brought her a whole bunch of CDs and it’s so fun to watch her recognize the music and try to sing along. Sesame Street is her favorite, especially the songs sung by Grover.


We haven’t had much free time to watch TV, but I’ve relished those rare moments when I could relax on the couch and decompress with some entertainment. What we’ve been watching lately:

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels

I enjoyed this so much I watched it twice. The light-hearted documentary focuses on Ravi Patel (who you may recognize from Master of None) and the cultural pressure to get married. It was impossible not to fall in love with his whole family.

F is for Family

This is decidedly NOT kid-friendly, but F is for Family is a cartoon worth watching. Bill Burr, Laura Dern, and Justin Long anchor this series that’s filled with recognizable voices. It’s some good clean 70s fun. BoJack Horseman is still my favorite though.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I haven’t quite finished the newly released second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but thought it was worth mentioning. Ellie Kemper is adorable.

Sensitive Skin

I’d watch Kim Cattrall in just about anything, but this was hard to get through. It’s highly stylized and on the surface, sophisticated, but also…really annoying? Cattrall is just fine. It’s Don McKellar, the male lead in season one, who rubs me the wrong way. But I’ll persevere and give the second season a chance.

What are you guys watching? Leave me a comment so we can discuss. Having trouble deciding what to watch? Make a fortune cookie!

Netflx Fortune Teller

Friday, April 1st

The Detour: Advance Screening!

The Detour of TBS

Have you guys heard about The Detour yet? The yet-to-be-aired family comedy on TBS stars creator Jason Jones (Queer as Folk, How I Met Your Mother) and Natalie Zea (Justified, Californication) as parents who take their kids on a road trip fraught with disaster. TBS used to be known primarily for rerunning our old favorites, but now they have a whole slew of original programming and The Detour will be a great addition to their line-up with its funny, edgy writing.

Check out the trailer:

Like what you see? You can be one of the first to watch it before it airs! I’m hosting a screening party at Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline next Thursday, April 7th. Sign up here to get free passes for you and a friend. Come hang out with me and TBS! We’ll have cocktail hour and snacks at 6 pm, and the show starts at 7. There will be a photo booth, gift bags, and chances to win stuff. It’s going to be a fun night!

If you’ve never been to an advance screening before, now’s your chance. Grab your girls (or your guy) and join us for a night of laughs.

The Detour, Austin Preview

Saturday, February 27th

Nights at Home

This post is part of my relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

She’s only six months old, but Violet has a more active social life than many adults I know. Chris and I commit to a lot of social events and, so far, it’s been relatively easy to bring Violet to most things. Having a baby hasn’t slowed us down much yet, which is why those rare nights at home are so special.

When we stay at home I cook a simple meal and we’ll play settle in to play with Violet. She’s actively rolling around, playing with toys, and vetoing the food we give her. Those nights are filled with giggles and baby sighs and something fun on Netflix. Sometimes we’ll opt for a movie, other times we’ll watch a few episodes of a series.

Live Oak Brewery, Austin, Texas

Southwest Pediatrics, Austin, Texas

Baby food

Of course, the series everyone is talking about this week is Fuller House. The beloved family show is back after 21 years for a sentimental revisit of the sappy, silly show I loved as a kid. The cast aged well and it’s a great bit of nostalgia to see them back, laugh track and all.


Here are a few things I’ve watched lately:

Luther

Luther starring Idris Elba

Luther is a must-see for anyone who is debating giving in to a full-blown Idris Elba obsession. Just give in. The British cop show is the oft-told tale of a troubled cop who doesn’t play by the rules but it’s SO MUCH MORE! Unlike our American cops shows, this one is disturbing as hell. It’s not a show I can binge watch because it’s so dark, but it’s simply fantastic.

Love

Netflix series Love

Sigh. I really, really loved this show, you guys. Love is a binge-watcher for sure and feels made for that purpose. Each episode picks up right where the last leaves off. It’s a ten-episode tale of two people, a hot mess of a woman and a slightly less messed-up dork. We watch them meet, see them interact with each other and with friends. It’s not exactly the romantic comedy the name implies. A+ to Judd Apatow.

The Tiger and The Monk

I was so enthralled with The Tiger and The Monk that I watched it twice. The 50-minute documentary from 2007 is a glimpse into the idyllic Tiger Temple, where monks and tigers live in harmony together. I was actually coming up with a plan as to how we could make a trip to Thailand to see it in person. But in recent weeks, extremely distressing news has come out about the temple. My heart is broken. Watch it before reading this.

What are you guys watching? What do you do on your nights at home?

Thursday, January 7th

Jamming with the Presidents

My love for TV intros has been previously documented, but recently I realized a love for both the imagery and scores (especially the scores) of American president shows. Maybe I’m feeling extra patriotic because we’re in an election year.

BIll Clinton playing saxophone for Boris Yeltsin

The West Wing is beloved by many. Including me. The show’s writing is unbelievable. And Martin Sheen is the best president ever. And how did Josh Malina go from acting on a show this good to the shit that is Scandal? But I’m getting off track here.

W. G. Snuffy Walden composed the music for many TV shows, including The Wonder Years, thirtysomething, Felicity, My So-Called Life, Friday Night Lights, Roswell, and many, many more. But The West Wing is his most famous and won him an Emmy.

The Kennedys features a magnificent solo trumpet that paves the way for swelling strings and takes a turn toward darkness. It’s hopeful, then sad. Much like the story of the Kennedys. I believe that the opening would have made a stronger visual impact with just the swirling flag and credits, nothing else. But it still makes a powerful statement.

Composer Sean Callery also did Homeland, 24, Medium, Elementary, Bones, and lots more. Another prolific, talented TV composer.

I think my favorite of the three openings is House of Cards. The score is sinister, mysterious, and compelling. The time lapse footage of DC is all shadows and light, hinting at the evil that lurks within the city and the government.

I am drawn to this music and find myself listening to it semi-regularly. It’s my favorite part of the show, along with the styling of Robin Wright Penn. I’m not the only who loves it, as there are several articles about the song and composer Jeff Beal. This piece on Slate talks about how the music evolved between the first and second season.

Beal also wrote music for The Newsroom, GCB, Monk, Ugly Betty, Rome, and Carnivàle, among many others.

Tuesday, December 22nd

End of the Year Netflix Binge

We’re approaching the holiday in mere days. Hopefully that means some time off for most of you and in between gifts and lovely meals and family hugs and puppy snuggles and taking those giant bows off your brand new cars, you’ll have some downtime. (And my, don’t you all have such idyllic lives?) I’ll be hitting the Netflix pretty hard in my downtime, and I can’t wait. I think I’m going to pick one series to binge watch. What should it be?

I’ve been keeping up with my streaming of new and old things so that we could discuss them here. Leave me a comment and let this ole Stream Team gal know what else to watch. Here’s what’s been keeping my eyes company lately:

Master of None

Master of None starring Aziz Ansari

I’ve always been on the fence about Aziz Ansari, unsure if I really liked him or not. But after watching Master of None, I am 100% TEAM AZIZ. The ten-episode season is among the best shows of 2015 and instantly garnered tons of attention. The premise of a single Indian actor living in New York is somewhat autobiographical in nature and his character’s parents are played by his actual parents. Although funny, the show tackles some deep subject matter and left me thinking about it for a long time.

Bonus for Adult Swim fans: H. Jon Benjamin and Eric Wareheim play two of his friends.

Laid

Laid TV Show

Aaaaaahhh! I love this show. Laid is an Australian comedy that was tragically put down after two six-episode seasons. I almost hate to tell you about this show because it’ll break your heart to only have a dozen episodes, but it’s too good not to share.

The premise: Woman realizes that everyone she’s ever slept with dies! The second season digs deeper and gets a little poignant on us, but by and large this is a hilariously dry comedy. NETFLIX! PLEASE BUY THIS SERIES AND MAKE MORE EPISODES.

Related: If you watch Laid Netflix will recommend a movie called The Little Death. This one is also completely worth your time. I watched it twice, actually.

The Little Death

Call the Midwife

With four seasons streaming on Netflix and no sign of BBC calling it quits (they just announced Season 6) Call the Midwife is a solid bet for hours of entertainment. It’s joyful, incredibly sad, and so very touching. It’s a story where people are good and kind; poverty is the villain.

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

Demetri Martin looks like a little boy from the seventies and is one of the smartest comics out there. He went to Yale and then blew off Harvard to study law at NYU, which he also blew off…for comedy. Lucky for us. If you like stand up, don’t miss this one.

Okay, my Netflix people. Tell me what you’ve been watching. And have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24th

Netflix and Chill

I really, really LOVE TV. When we cut the cord on our cable more than a year ago, I was a little afraid. But in a post-cable world where we can stream everything, cable just isn’t necessary anymore. I have to credit Netflix for changing the game. It was their original content that spurred other companies to follow suit. After a dark period of lackluster programming, things have swung back around to quality and sophistication.

Now we have lots of incredible series. They are being cranked out as fast as we can watch. Projects that might never have seen the light of day on traditional networks now have a shot. It means the shows we are watching are more creative, interesting, and not as targeted toward demographics and time slots. Do you guys realize how huge that is? We’re living in a new world, people.

Netflix logo

In what might be the best fitting partnership I’ve ever had on this blog, I’m now a part of the Netflix Stream Team. That means that once a month or so I’ll be talking about what I’m watching. New things available on Netflix or perhaps old things that I’m just discovering or revisiting. So make sure you give me your recommendations!

This month the Stream Team is talking about five more minutes. Like, what your kids beg for at bedtime. I definitely did this as a kid, as I was a night owl born to two early birds. By the time I was nine I learned that I could fulfill all my late-night fantasies fairly easily. My dad would turn on Letterman and promptly fall asleep, unaware that I was curled up on the floor watching. In my house it was as simply as getting out of bed and crawling back to the living room like a spy.

Violet is only three months old, but she’s pulling that #5moreminutes routine in her own way. She fights to stay awake and half the time when she finally goes down it doesn’t stick. But who could resist this face:

Five More Minutes

I’m sure that when she’s old enough, Violet will give me some compelling reasons to stay up an extra five minutes. Netflix and DreamWorks Animation have teamed up to create Dinotrux 5 Minute Favorites for just these moments. I mean, sometimes your kids need an extra five before bed.


I’ve been streaming a bunch of grown-up Netflix shows lately that are longer than five minutes. One that’s stuck with me is Bloodline. Have you guys watched it? It’s a 13-episode Netflix original about a family with devastating secrets, starring Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Chloë Sevigny, and most notably, Kyle Chandler. (Is there anyone on earth who doesn’t have a crush on Kyle Chandler?)

Kyle Chandler in Bloodline

The show is a bit slow-paced in the beginning, enough so that I almost gave up. But around the sixth episode it gained serious momentum and I was hooked. I never spoil TV shows, so I’ll just describe the series as mysterious, creepy, thrilling, and quite sad. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Keys, it’s an enticing world to immerse yourself in for a week or so, despite the dark subject matter. I’m even crazy about the opening credits. Season Two will come out in early 2016 and I can’t wait.

Another show I freaking love is The Great British Bake Off. How could a reality show about baking be that good? Trust me, it’s amazing. Right now Netflix is only streaming the sixth season, but I’m hoping they’ll add more. I laughed, I cried, I craved dessert. This is far better than any American competition show. If you’re skeptical, just watch the first episode and you’ll see what I mean.

The Great British Bake Off

What have you been watching?

Thursday, January 29th

Super Bowl XLIX: Ad Preview

Another year, another Super Bowl. Famous for my not-caring-at-all about football, I do care very much about the commercials. It seems like the last few years have been disappointing. Will this year be a repeat? Here’s a preview of some ads you’ll be seeing on and leading up to game night.

 

Tuesday, September 2nd

Top Ten TV Intros

True Blood

If I had a TV show, I’d care deeply about the opening credit sequence. A great show doesn’t necessarily need a sequence. Plenty don’t have them at all. But personally I think there’s no better way to hook an audience and build excitement for the show. The creativity, passion, and budget in the intro are often indicative of the quality of the show. Without further ado, here’s my top ten list of of TV intros.

10. Arrested Development / I love the quick set-up of the show’s premise and the fun graphics. And I’m a sucker for Ron Howard. It’s short and sweet. Perfection.

9. Fresh Prince of Bel Air / If I ever get called onstage and am forced to rap, this will be my song. I love the bright 90s neon esthetic and this reminds me of being a kid. My sisters and I used to sing this together in the living room and mimic Will Smith rolling his head around at the end.

8. The Sopranos / Obviously there’s some Jersey pride with this one and most of my family can pick out personal landmarks in the opening. The gritty highway imagery is beautiful in its ugly reality and is made poignant with glimpses of the Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers. And while the debate about whether Tony Soprano is still alive, sadly, James Gandolfini is not. I love that this opening features just him and no one else in the cast.

Embedded video has been disabled, but you can still watch the video here.

7. BoJack Horseman / This is the newest show on the list and has only been out for a week at the time of writing, but it captured my heart right away. The lounge-y theme song was written by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and the colorful animation is so LA. The Spike Lee-esqe double dolly shot is edgy, just like BoJack himself.

6. Treme / The show was a total love letter to New Orleans, so it’s no surprise that the opening features powerful real-life photos from the city and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The photos changed in each of the four seasons and reflected the progress of the city, becoming a little less dark each season. The fantastic music is by New Orleans jazz musician John Boutté.

5. Cosby Show / By all accounts, having the characters dance in the intro should be cheesy and terrible, but damn it, those lovable Cosby’s pulled it off season after season. We watched the kids transition from little kids to the awkward years, to teenagers doing trendy dances, to adults. Cliff was always a little silly, Claire always classy.

4. Mad Men / The silhouette of Don Draper immediately became the iconic image of the show. The dreamy opening is mysterious and a bit swanky, just like the show. It may be the best 30-second representation of any show without showing any actors. Simply put, it is brilliant.

3. True Blood / The opening is edgy, sexy, a little disturbing, and Gothic southern. The music, the fast cuts, the smears of real blood on the film…it’s so well done. It’s a bit more serious than the campy show. The elements of birth and death were included in an overall theme of evil and redemption, with violence, nudity, and lots of other stuff that make us uncomfortable. In the case of True Blood, the opening was the best part of the show, which exhaled its last tired gasp a couple weeks ago before finally succumbing to its own true death.

2. Northern Exposure / This opening makes me happy in its cheerful simplicity. The moose wanders through the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska and we get to experience an outside glimpse at the businesses where much of the series takes place: the doctor’s office, the bar, the general store, etc.


1. Six Feet Under / It wasn’t hard to land on Six Feet Under as the number one title sequence for my list. I believe this opening to be the most beautiful and meaningful. There’s something comforting in the way that death is represented in the wilting flowers and lone tree (among other images) with artistry and elegance. It’s the real death we all know, not the glamorous movie violent deaths that we can write off so easily. Funeral homes, coffins, grave stones. Things we all have to encounter and never want to think about. The haunting music was written for the show by celebrated composer Thomas Newman and it won two Grammys. Years after the show went off the air, this opening still feels just as powerful and compelling.

So those are my top ten. I have many others that I love that I couldn’t squeeze into such a small list. Which of your favorites did I miss?