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.

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 animated scene is so LA. It’s a good preamble to the subtle darkness that lies within the show.

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?

Monday, May 19th

Mad Men: The Strategy

Don and Megan on Mad Men

Only one episode of Mad Men left in 2014 and the episodes are still going strong. Whether it’s the shortened season or the fact that we are almost at the very end of the series, I can’t help but feel a wave of sadness wash over me as the credits roll each week. Peggy, don’t leave me!

Peggy on Mad Men

Peggy is killing it at work. She’s thrown herself into the research of Burger Chef and discovered that the moms that buy their children fast food for dinner feel guilty. She builds a campaign strategy around alleviating their guilt and (whoa, insult) having the dads give them permission. It just always comes back to the men in this show, doesn’t it? An even bigger insult is when Pete Campbell suggests that Peggy let Don run the presentation for the client. It’s a huge slap in the face but she relents. I can almost see the giant bruise on her head as she crashes into the glass ceiling.

Pete and Bonnie Mad Men

When not insulting Peggy at work, Pete is over-the-moon in love with his girlfriend Bonnie, who accompanies him on the trip to New York. They have all kinds of NYC fun planned, but first he must visit his daughter Tammy. Being back in his old house triggered some asshole switch in Pete and he waits for Trudy to get home from her presumed date and picks an ugly fight. He lets it ruin the whole trip and Bonnie ends up flying back to California by herself.

Pete and Trudy Mad Men

Also visiting from California is Megan. It’s clear how much Don misses her. And it’s also clear that her life and happiness are on the West Coast. She’s slipping away. I mean, she’s even bringing her fondue pot with her.

Bob Benson and Joan Mad Men

Bob Benson is in from Detroit with the Chevy guys who seem as rowdy as ever. After picking one up from jail, Bob is told that the agency will be losing Chevy and that Buick is going to offer him a fabulous in-house job. He’s happy for the security and offers it to share it with Joan in the form of a proposal. But Joan is old-fashioned and would rather wait for love than marry her gay bestie. I love that he asked and I love that she declined. It’s a sweet moment. Also, Joan’s mother is awful. How is she still living there? Is there no other form of childcare in Manhattan?

The Partners Mad Men

Apparently his bitching has paid off, because the partners vote to make Harry Crane a partner. Joan and Roger are against the idea. I guess I am okay with it. Harry’s annoying, but he’s smart, innovative, and loyal. Still though…annoying.

Peggy and Don Mad Men

Meanwhile, Peggy can’t get past the strategy for Burger Chef. Don suggested framing it from child’s point of view and that seed of doubt blossomed into an obsession for Peggy. The account people are happy and the client will be happy, but Peggy wants to do better work. She and Don hole up in Lou’s office and drink from his tiki bar and hash it out. It’s a wonderful scene and I feel for the first time that they are truly on the same page and on equal ground. They are forever bound by their history, their creativity, and their misery. Their relationship is so complicated, but pure.

Peggy and Don on Mad Men

With roles reversed, Don shares insights into his creative process and they both share their fears that life and family have passed them by. She mentions that she turned 30 recently and Don gravely responds, “Shit.” Then they dance to Frank Sinatra and Peggy lands on the new strategy: Family.

Peggy, Don, and Pete at Burger Chef, Mad Men

In the final scene, Peggy brings Don and Pete to Burger Chef. She explains the new concept, that every table there is a family table. We can see that it’s true. She nailed it. The camera pans back and we watch them talk and laugh over burgers. Those three seemingly tragic and lonely individuals are a family. Tear.

 

Monday, May 12th

Mad Men: The Runaways

Don Draper on Mad Men

The latest episode of Mad Men shocked me to my core. And then it did it again. I love the bravery and just…the sheer audacity of the writers. I mean, who the hell do they think they are?! They think they can do anything they want? Well, last night proves that they can.

Stephanie on Mad Men

When Don gets a call from “niece” Stephanie, he has her go to Megan’s. Even though Megan knows that Don considers her family, she’s threatened by Stephanie’s hippie, pregnant beauty. She shows her plenty of hospitable kindness she could before showing her the door. At least she gave her a thousand bucks. Stephanie seemed okay with it.

Don didn’t even get to see Stephanie as he was delayed a day when Lou made him work late. Why? Well we can blame this one on Stan.

Stan on Mad Men

When he finds Lou’s hand-drawn cartoons on the copy machine, Stan leads the creative team in some behind-his-back ribbing. Only Lou catches them making fun of him and gives them a big lecture about Underdog and Bob Dylan and living your dreams. So his dream is to be a cartoonist? That should make Lou lovable, but I just hate him even more. He lumps Don in with the other “flag-burning snots” and rebuffs his advice on dealing with the creatives.

Megan Draper dancing on Mad Men

Eventually Don makes it back to California and while he missed Stephanie, he made it in plenty of time for Megan’s blowout party. Her acting friends danced, played music, and smoked plenty of pot. When Harry Crane walked in, Don jumped at the opportunity to get the hell out of there. They went to a dark bar and Harry spilled the beans that the agency is trying to get business with Philip Morris. Don’s public anti-cigarette tirade years ago will haunt him forever and this new business would be the opportunity the agency needs to get rid of him.

He heads back to Megan’s with the heavy news weighing him down. Megan and her California BFF (Amy) lift him out of his bad mood with a spirited ménage à trois. Whaaaat?! For me, this is a little gratuitous. Is Megan trying to save the marriage? Wasn’t she ready to throw in the towel just a few episodes ago?

Peggy on Mad Men

Okay. Whatever. We need to move past that because my beloved Michael Ginsberg is finding it impossible to concentrate at work with the constant hum of the giant computer. He is unraveling before our eyes and I hate it.

He shows up at Peggy’s to use her typewriter and work in an environment where he can concentrate, much to her dismay. Despite the fact that she’s wearing the most hideous ensemble we’ve ever seen, Michael tells her they must procreate to combat the computer. Um…okaaaaay. She kicks him out and isn’t too phased by the whole thing. On Monday at work he brings her a gift and said he’s learned to live with the computer. The gift is HIS FUCKING NIPPLE. He cut it off and put it in a box! Now Peggy knows how that Van Gogh girl must have felt. Michael is taken away on a stretcher, presumably to a mental hospital.

Michael Ginsberg on Mad Men

Shit. So that’s it? My favorite copywriter and character is gone? I hope he comes back but with only two more episodes of this year, it’s unlikely we’ll see him again.

Sally and Bobby on Mad Men

Things are grim in the Francis household. Betty and Henry are constantly fighting. Betty isn’t the pleasant little housewife he needs her to be. When he tells her to “leave the thinking to him” she retorts that she’s smart and is fluent in Italian. Get out of there Betty! Go move to Rome and start a new glamorous life on your own. Her own children hate her, too, and we see Sally and Bobby bond over their miserable childhood. Oh, and Sally damaged her nose sword fighting with golf clubs. Ha ha. Awesome.

Philip Morris meeting on Mad Men

At the end of the episode Don surprises Jim and Lou by showing up at the Philip Morris meeting. Either he just saved his job or tanked it. He confidently hails a cab, at peace with what he’s done.

What did you think of the episode? What body part would you cut off for your crush? (I’d pick a baby toe. Because it’s cute.)

Monday, May 5th

Mad Men: Monolith

Stan, Peggy, and Ginsberg on Mad Men

Mad  Men got techie last night. Harry’s bitching finally paid off and they got him a computer. The world’ largest computer, it seems, as the entire agency is turned into a construction zone and the creatives lose their lounge to house the giant thing.

Peggy loudly complains that Lou knows nothing about the creative process. Of course he overhears it and is none too pleased. He retaliates by giving Peggy a raise of $100 a week. Huh? Oh, and Don has to report to her for Burger Chef, a new account lead brought in by Pete Campbell. Lou is effectively screwing both Don and Peggy in this move. Oh, Lou…you’re the worst.

Don’s transition back to work could not be better. It’s like he never left and he glides back into his old office, picks up right where he left off creatively and has the support and respect of his colleagues. FALSE. His transition back to work is horrible. He is trapped in the saddest place in the world, Lane’s old office and suicide chamber. He resents having to report to Peggy and flat out refuses to do the work. Great. Like Peggy needs another reason to act like a jerk these days.

When he suggests pitching work to the computer company, Burt shuts him down and pretty much lets him know that he’s not trusted or welcome at the agency. It’s an ugly, demeaning conversation. It’s hard to blame Don for stealing a bottle of liquor and downing it in his office. He gets Freddy to pick him up for a Mets game (some kind of twisted homage to Lane) and Freddy wisely brings Don home where he passes out till the next morning. Freddy tells him his choices are to continue along this path, essentially leaving him without a job, or “Do the work, Don.” So he suits up, goes to work, and starts writing his tag lines for Peggy. It looks like this was another episode of humility for Don.

Now onto Roger’s story. His daughter (who was acting oddly last time we saw her) ran away to live on a hippie commune. Mona and Roger end up traveling to get her and speculate how she could leave her husband and son. Is it another man? Drugs? Looks to be a little of both. Roger partakes in some pot-smoking and bonds with his daughter (now called Marigold. Puke) in a barn under the stars.

The next morning he tries to bring her back home and the two have a blow-out which leaves them both sad and muddy. She coldly tells him he was an absent father and for now at least, it looks like he’s lost her. The look on his face as he leaves is beyond heartbreaking. I have to hold my breath for a second so I don’t cry. Grim episode.

I’ll leave you with a happy image of Harry. Because we all enjoy getting a new computer.

Harry Crane on Mad Men

Monday, April 28th

Mad Men: Field Trip

Don Draper of Mad Men

It’s painful to watch Don Draper circling the drain, but I’m appreciative that the Mad Men writers aren’t afraid to play with the dynamics. After all these years, the show still feels fresh.

When Megan’s agent calls Don to see if he can talk some sense into her, he hops on the next flight to LA. At first she’s happy for the surprise visit, but when he gently coaches her on dealing with rejection, she loses it. Of course, she had already lost her mind when she kept demanding new auditions and hunted down a director in person. (In today’s Hollywood, would Megan be the type to ruin herself with too much plastic surgery? What lengths will a crazy actress go to for a role?)

Megan and Don on Mad Men

Once Megan’s anger ignites, she unleashes a fury on Don that we haven’t ever seen before. She knows he hasn’t been calling her from work and insists he’s having an affair. She was his secretary after all and knows his ways. When he finally admits that he hasn’t been working she is unsympathetic. She tells him to leave and ends the marriage.

Okay, I want to take a minute to discuss this. I know Megan isn’t a crowd favorite, but I always liked her as Don’s wife. She was light and airy, youthful, and more importantly, called him on his shit. She forced an honesty in Don that Betty never did and I think their relationship gave Don dimensions we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I think the lighthearted moments between Don and Sally are due to Megan’s influence. So yes, I’m Team Megan. Haters to the left.

Betty on Mad Men

Team Betty-ites will be happy to see her interest in motherhood renewed. When she volunteers as chaperone for Bobby’s class trip to a farm, we get to see a fun side of her. She smokes on the bus with the kids and makes comments to Bobby about his teacher’s slutty attire. How fun! When no one wants to drink warm milk fresh out of the cow, Betty jumps in and drinks it straight from the bucket with a smile. Oh, this is delightful! I hope no one messes it up, by say, trading Betty’s Very Important Sandwich for a bag of gumdrops.

Damn you, Bobby! How could you be so selfish? Welp, the day is ruined as is their relationship and possibly motherhood. Forever.

Bobby and Betty on Mad Men

Back at the agency, the insults keep coming. Peggy’s not getting any CLIO nominations even though she’s doing some of her best work. Michael Ginsberg (who I just freaking love so much) is getting recognized, however. And Harry Crane still isn’t getting the respect (or computer) he deserves. Harry’s arrogance in the office cracks me up. I’m kind of surprised that he hasn’t been fired by now. Peggy, too, since Lou is an immature, threatened dirtbag of a man.

Don and Roger on Mad Men

Okay, back to Don. He’s attempting to get his life back on track. He takes a meeting and gets a job offer. He brings the offer to Roger and the two finally have it out. Roger tells him to come back if he wants; he can start Monday. Yay! But when he shows up Monday it’s a series of really awkward interactions. No one knew he was coming. No one knows what to say to him. No one knows he still works there. And where the F is Roger?!

Don, Jim, Joan and Burt on Mad Men

Eventually Roger shows up, drunk and all casual, like, My name’s on the door, baby. I don’t need to run nothing by nobody. Of course, the partners are pissed and they have a heated discussion. In the end, their decision to keep Don is financial. (Um, hello? He’s a creative genius. Why doesn’t anyone remember that? He has one emotional meltdown in front of a client and now he’s an untouchable? Freddy peed his pants at work. Roger threw up oysters in the office. Ken brought in a riding lawnmower that led to a coworker losing his foot. I mean, shit happens.)

They simply can’t afford to buy out his shares. But his return to work is conditional.

1. Don is not allowed to be alone with clients.

2. When he does speak to clients, he must stick to a pre-approved script.

3. No drinking.

4. He has to sit in Lane’s old office.

5. He will report to Lou. Fucking Lou!

Failure to abide by these rules means Don forfeits his shares. This is SO INSULTING. He ponders for just a moment before saying, “Okay.” I shriek. Mr Betty gasps. And then Jimi Hendrix closes out the episode.

What did you think?

Thursday, April 24th

April Hotlist

Lately I’ve been making more time to read and it makes me so happy. Even if the book if a disturbing YA book like Unwind. For those unfamiliar, the story takes place in a dystopian future where parents can choose to have their children unwound, or taken apart to be used for transplants. Yes, it’s gross and horrific. It’s for kids. I read it. It’s not quite Hunger Games good, but I’ll probably finish the trilogy at some point.

Unwind

I also picked up a copy of Cameron Diaz’s The Body Book. It’s smarter than you think. It’s a textbook, really. 300+ pages of nothing but text. I’m not hating it. Of course she had help, but the friendly, upbeat tone feels very California girlfriend. So Cameron.

The Body Book by Cameron Diaz

A bunch of bloggers were given cool new cars to drive around for a week and I lucked out with a pimped out, glittery Cadillac. The 2014 CTS VSport is around $72k, making it the nicest car I’ve ever driven. Like, by a lot. It was a week of luxury, touch screens, high-end amenities, and speed. I felt right at home driving it, lending credence to my suspicion that I am a lost royal who was switched at birth.

Glittery Cadillac

Cadillac CTS

I’ve been depressed over the decline of sitcoms lately. Shows that were once good are all pretty bad now: Modern Family, Suburgatory, Parks and Recreation, The Mindy Project…ugh. What happened?!

Thank God for Comedy Central. I’m enjoying the new season of Inside Amy Schumer, which has replaced Kroll Show as my main funny show. I love Nick Kroll so much and approve of him as a replacement for Will Arnett as Amy Poehler’s paramour.

Inside Amy Schumer

Kroll Show Publizity

But the show that has made my year, nay, my LIFEBroad City. Did you guys watch this? Holy crap. It’s my favorite thing ever. New episodes won’t be here till 2015, but you can catch the old web series on YouTube till then.

In recent eats, I checked out a pizza place that I’d never been to. Quattro Gatti Ristorante has been on 9th and Congress for years, but I’m just discovering it now, thanks to Food Fash, one of my favorite fellow local bloggers. A bunch of us spent a cozy tonight together learning about Neapolitan pizza making before devouring as many pizzas as we could. I’m so glad to have another good pizza place on my radar. Austin’s really coming along on the pizza front.

Quattro Gatti Ristorante Neapolitan Pizza

 

Quattro Gatti Ristorante Neapolitan Pizza

 

Quattro Gatti Ristorante Neapolitan Pizza

A new app I’ve been using lately is TabbedOut. They reached out to me to give in a try; it really is easy. You link your card to the app and use to pay at restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. There’s a huge list of places in Austin that accept it and the list keeps on growing. Aside from the benefit of not having to carry your wallet everywhere, it does cool things like calculate tips, splits checks, and offers rewards.

TabbedOut

In movie news, I saw Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m a big Wes Anderson fan and love his signature picturesque, whimsical style. Did you see it? What did you think?

Grand Budapest Hotel Adrian Brody

I also saw Noah and thought that was fantastic on a huge movie grand scale. It made me remember why I like Russell Crowe. And Emma Watson was simply superb. It was a dark, dark movie. Dare I say, it’s the best thing Darren Aronofsky’s done. (The worst thing he’s done? Pi. I loathed that movie.)

Russell Crowe in Noah

In local news, Central Market’s Passport Italy is coming up, April 30th to May 13th. I had a chance to preview the food and it was delicious. Make sure to head over for all the meats, cheeses and wine they’ll be showcasing. Delizioso!

What have you guys been up to lately?

Monday, April 21st

Mad Men: A Day’s Work

Shirley and Peggy in Mad Men

It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air nowhere to be found. Actually, love can be found right on the desk of Shirley, Peggy’s secretary. Peggy mistakenly thinks the roses are hers and happily brings them into her office. Poor Shirley can’t seem to tell her that the flowers belong to her, not Peggy, and for the rest of the episode Peggy acts like a lunatic. She leaves cryptic messages for Ted, letting him know that she’s not willing to reignite their relationship. After a few comical miscommunications, Shirley finally tells her the truth. Peggy’s response is to sulk and act like a baby. This wasn’t her finest episode.

Peggy on Mad Men

In other secretary business, Dawn is having a hard time of it. Don expects her to keep him in the loop on all business matters and she’s uncomfortable gathering information on the sly. She’s even less comfortable taking cash for it, but Don insists. To make her life/job even harder, she’s also the secretary for new creative director, Lou. And Lou is…how should I put this? Oh, right. Lou is an asshole. When Sally stops by to see Don, Lou goes into a rage and gets Dawn removed from his desk.

Dawn on Mad Men

A few things to note here:

1. Sally’s in boarding school and is in the city with her friends to attend the funeral of her roommate’s mother. They orchestrate a shopping trip and Sally loses her purse somewhere. She doesn’t care so much about the purse or her money, but is sad to lose her address book as it holds all her contacts. I guess this is like losing your cell phone in today’s world.

2. Don didn’t tell Sally that he hasn’t been working. No surprise to us, since he didn’t even tell Megan. But Sally was certainly surprised to show up and find Lou in his office.

3. Dawn wasn’t around to manage Sally because she used her lunch break to buy perfume for Lou’s wife, but he berated her anyway. Again, Lou = Asshole.

Don Draper on Mad Men

Don’s been rotting at home, watching TV and drinking. Oh, this is so sad. How the mighty have fallen. It’s a relief when he starts taking meetings and warms up to the idea of working elsewhere. He’s not quite honest about his current situation, but the other agencies seem to know the score. When Sally comes looking for him at his apartment, they have a confrontation about his lack of honesty. He drives her back to school, thrilled to have something to do. He prolongs the journey by taking her to a diner and eventually breaks through her sullen teenage wall. My favorite moment is when he shocks her by suggesting they dine and dash. Oh, Don.

I really love how the relationship between Don and Sally has evolved. She’s honest about not wanting to go to his apartment for fear of running into Sylvia. And he’s honest about his shame over not working. They might have the healthiest relationship on the entire show.

Don and Sally Draper in Mad Men

Back to the secretaries: Joan moves Dawn to reception and the receptionist now works for Lou. But when ole’ racist Burt sees Dawn, he insists Joan move her elsewhere. He doesn’t want people to see an African American first thing when they walk through the door. Joan is appropriately horrified. And she’s tired of having to juggle secretaries all the time. (Even Peggy wants to get rid of Shirley over the roses.) When Jim realizes she has two jobs, he suggests a promotion to accounts and offers her a new office upstairs. Yeah, Joan! Looks like Dawn is the new office Joan. Yeah, Dawn!

Joan on Mad Men

But for every professional victory at the agency, there must be a regression. For balance, you see. This week’s disappointment falls to Pete, who busts his butt to land the local Chevy account. Southern California’s account is as large as their national dealings in Detroit and the partners bicker over how it should be handled. Only Roger has Pete’s back and in the end they decide Pete needs to default to Bob Benson. What an insult! Pete is angry and lashes out at the only person he can: Ted. He realizes this California position is a dead end.

Ted on Mad Men

And that’s it for this week. Still no Betty. Betty, where are you?!

Friday, April 18th

Friday Freakouts

Part of this post is sponsored by Ghirardelli Intense Dark and they will have a big presence in the 2014 Austin Food and Wine Festival. To learn more about this sophisticated chocolate, find recipes, or get inspiration for your own pairings, click here.

You guys, I’ve been pretty stressed lately. I’m trying to launch a big project (more on that later) while maintaining time at the gym, at home, read this giant stack of books sitting here, watching Veronica Mars before it’s due back to the library. (Yes, I might be just a tad behind the times on that last one.)

Veronica Mars

This weekend I’ll have family visiting from out of town and we’ll make our way around the city doing some touristy things and some hole-in-the-wall things. I always like to show off two sides of Austin.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery, Austin Texas

Next weekend I’ll be checking out The Moontower Comedy and Oddity Fest and hopefully seeing Kids in the Hall, who I love, love, love! Like, I’m a major dorky fan. I’m also hoping to see Hannibal Buress, Demetri Martin, Maria Bamford, and Fred Armisen. There’s a huge lineup, so if you’re hanging around downtown, you’ll likely run into some funny people.

Kids in the Hall

Also happening next week is one of my favorite learning events, WordCamp Austin. All the WordPress you could ask for, great people, sponsors, food and a board game after party. I love this event. But the most well-known event, again, happening next weekend is the Austin Wine and Food Festival. I attended last year and had a blast.

Slider

Guests mingle and watch respected (and famous!) chefs cook, grill, talk about wine, and most importantly, eat lots of great food. The event takes place in Butler Park and is a full weekend of foodie fun. There are tons of sponsors like KitchenAid, Stella Artois, Patrón, and Ghirardelli, so the eats are high quality and prepared with innovation and creativity. It’s fun to pair the succulent dishes with a seemingly endless selection of fine wines.

Speaking of pairings, recently Ghirardelli reached out to some of the local foodies to find out what we’d pair with their 72% Twilight Delight chocolate. I love really dark chocolate and truly, it is satisfying all on its own. A square of really good dark chocolate is the preferred dessert in the Betty household and we indulge regularly.

Chocolate goes with pretty much everything, but my go-to pairing is espresso either straight up or in a creamy latte. It’s an easy way to treat yourself during a busy Friday Freakout, or any other time. I also know a yummy chocolate square works equally well with a bold red wine and some aged cheese. I like a three or five year gouda with bits of caramelization throughout. So decadent!

So, Austin readers, will you be attending any of these events next weekend? If not, in what ways will you treat yourself to some decadent fun?

*This post is sponsored by Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate.