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?

Tuesday, June 10th

ATX Television Festival Season 3

Orange is the New Black ATX Television Festival

Photo by Jack Plunkett

The ATX Television Festival just celebrated its third year, or Season 3, as they call it. I’ve attended each year and I must say, this was the best yet. If you live in Austin and have never attended, I highly recommend it. Unlike other festivals, this one is not oversold, keeping it small and intimate. Badges are inexpensive and there’s very little stress, waiting in line, or fear of not getting into a panel. It’s easy, fun, and you get to hang out with the stars all weekend.

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black

A highlight for me was the Orange is the New Black panel. It took place the same day Netflix released the second season, so it was really exciting to watch the first episode in a theater with lots of other excited fans. Afterwards there was a panel with Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes,) Lea DeLaria (Big Boo,) and Danielle Brooks (Taystee.) All three were personable, funny, and excited to answer our questions without giving away any spoilers. They revealed they are currently working on the third season, which we’ll presumably get in 2015. Bonus, we saw them at a fabulous party sponsored by Netflix later that night. Follow me on Instagram to see Mr. Betty’s photo with Big Boo.

Archer

Archer

I also went to the Archer panel because I’m an H. Jon Benjamin fan. Like, HUGE fan. I sat in the front row and took so many photos of him that I saw him pointedly look at me. Ha! I don’t care. I’ve loved him since I was in high school from Dr. Katz. And Home Movies. And O’Grady, which is one of my favorite animated shows of all time. (Go watch it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it. You haven’t. I know you.)

Parenthood

Photo by Tammy Perez

Parenthood had a presence at the festival for the third year, with different cast members attending each year. (You may remember my interview with Mae Whitman the first year.) I’m so glad NBC is bringing them back for one more season.

Hey Dude

Photo by Jack Plunkett

Old Nickelodeon fans everywhere squealed for the Hey Dude! reunion. I’ll be happy to have the theme song out of my head for the next 20 years. Still know every word.

Henry Winkler

This year the festival stared a new tradition. They honored Henry Winkler with the first Achievement in Television Excellence Award. He was thrilled by the award and snapped a few photos of the audience while we snapped photos of him.

Henry Winkler

For over an hour Mr. Winkler regaled us with stories about Happy Days, jumping the shark, career highs and lows, and lessons he learned along the way. I had the chance to ask him about more Arrested Development episodes. (There are more coming, but we don’t know when.) The crowd cheered when he gave us a Fonzie moment. It was a moment in time I was so thrilled to catch.

Fonzie

Another great festival! Check out their site for news of next year’s festival, June 4-7, 2015.

 

Monday, May 26th

Mad Men: Waterloo

Last night we were treated to the midseason finale of Mad Men, and indeed, what a treat it was!

Peggy on Mad Men

The moon landing set the tone and we got to watch this momentous piece of history through the eyes of the characters. Even old Burt is giddy during the launch.

Don's Secretary on Mad Men

Don receives a breach of contract notice for crashing the cigarette client meeting. (His secretary makes a big dramatic scene out of it and kisses him when she delivers the letter. It’s hilarious and Don’s face is priceless. I can’t help but think the old Don would have fired a secretary for this. New Don is a bit softer and has a sense of humor.) Remember, a stipulation of Don’s contract states that he can no longer speak to clients without prior authorization and a script. They lost that cigarette business, by the way, and Lou poops his pants over it. Jim calls Lou the hired help and puts him in his place. Hurrah!

Jim on Mad Men

Don starts screaming for all the partners to gather so he can confront them. Jim calls him a bully and a drunk, a football player in a suit. Turns out, no one else knew about the letter and they aren’t happy with Jim acting alone on their behalf. They put it to a vote and most vote for him to stay; Jim and Joan vote for him to leave. WTF, Joan? Why all the bitchiness?

Megan is sunning herself in California when Don calls her to let her know the agency is pushing him out. She suggests that maybe it’s better for him to move on and he agrees, saying now he can move to California. Confronted with the possibility of a full time marriage again, Megan’s wishes are clear. They break up. The marriage is over. Don quietly accepts it, knowing it would always end this way. Shit. Am I the only one who is sad about this?

Poor lonely Peggy is having building work done and hitting on the repair man. It seems the only man in her life is the ten-year old neighbor kid who hangs out, watches TV, and eats popsicles. Peggy asks him for fashion advice for the Burger Chef pitch. He tells her he’s moving and the look of anguish on her face is devastating. She enjoyed having this little boy to come home to and it’s clear that she’s a real mother figure for him. She cries and we feel her heart break.

Don and Pete on Mad Men

Eventually the gang heads to Burger Chef for the pitch. They watch the moon landing together in a hotel room. The Francis-Draper household watches with their houseguests, the family of one of Betty’s old friends. The hot older boy comments that the landing is expensive and unnecessary, and then Sally reiterates the snotty teenage comment to Don on the phone. He tells her to stop being so cynical so she goes outside for a cigarette and kisses the hot houseguest’s nerdy younger brother. Interesting choice, Sally.

Roger on Mad Men

While the landing is still on TV, Roger gets the call that Burt died. Roger is deeply saddened and heads to the office. Joan meets him there and the two embrace. Jim comes in and immediately starts making plans to move on, including ousting Don. Says he has a vision for the future with Harry and the computer. It’s calculated and callous, but Jim knows without Burt’s vote against him, he can do what he wants now. Roger calls Don to share the news about Burt and let Don know that he won’t be able to save him. Don insists that Peggy lead the Burger Chef pitch now, since it won’t be his business to win. She balks. She’s not prepared, but he makes her do it anyway and it’s a thing of beauty. They win the business.

Peggy pitches Burger Chef

Roger doesn’t want to lose the agency he built. Before he died, Burt frankly told him he wasn’t a leader. Yet he does what a leader does and swallows his pride for the good of the company. He arranges for rival agency McCann to buy them, while retaining their name and autonomy. It’s a good deal for McCann because they won’t have to compete with the superior creative at SC&P. It’s a good deal for SC&P because…I’m rich, bitch! The buyout will make them all millionaires, except Harry, who hadn’t signed his partnership paperwork yet. OMG, that’s totally something that would happen to me.

Joan and Pete on Mad Men

The deal is contingent on keeping Ted, who really wants to quit advertising altogether. Earlier in the episode he takes the Sunkist execs up in his little plane and cuts the engines with talk of ending it all, while the plane free falls for a few minutes. Don convinces him that as a creative, he needs to work. They vote to go through with the deal.

The partners join the rest of the company for an office memorial party for Burt and Don heads back to his office to work. He hears Burt’s voice and witnesses a song and dance number. Although it’s a weird way to end the episode, and the year, it’s a nice farewell to Burt. Actor Robert Morse has an esteemed broadway background and at 83, can still cut a rug. Each season closes in a place of optimism, and this midseason finale is no different. Because the show is so dark, I’m appreciative of the lighthearted ending.

Burt on Mad Men

So there we have it. What did you think of the episode and final season so far? Do you have any predictions for what’s to come next year?