Navigating the summer slump.

Hi. My name is Whitney, and I am a TV addict.

I’ve been one all my life, since the days of bingeing “Fraggle Rock” and “Scooby Doo” while sprawled on ’70s-era shag carpeting. When you had to get up and turn the dial to change a channel. Before TVs were flat or hung on walls.

It’s true. This is one of my earliest memories:

Somehow, I even ended up in a job that’s TV-adjacent. So I get paid to talk about TV and entertainment all day, like a kid in a candy store.

Since we’re now in those dog days of summer — the TV slump before fall premieres, when good TV is hard to come by — I’m often asked what I’m watching. People are looking for ideas. Luckily, I’ve found some! Continue reading

It happens tomorrow.

It’s been 17 months in the making, but Mad Men’s back in less than 30 hours!

Even though I try to keep my obsessions in check, I just can’t suppress my glee on this one.

I knew it had been awhile since the last new episode aired, but the repeated seasons on Sunday mornings have been tiding me over. So I was shocked when I saw that the last Mad Men season finale aired in October 2010.

October. 2010.

Think about how much has happened since then in real life — a whole calendar year, no less.
Keep reading »

Saying a sudsy goodbye.

It’s been a couple of days since the news broke about the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live, and I think I’ve needed that time just to process.

Everybody likes to scoff about the silliness of soap operas — the umpteen marriages, resurrections from the dead, overnight aging of kindergarteners to high schoolers, the “we can’t be together because … you’re … my long-lost … twin brother!” scenarios. But, some of the most lauded actors in Hollywood started on soaps, and the way they churn out pages of dialogue and five hours of television a week is pretty amazing. It’s a grind for those actors and writers that you have to respect on some level. Plus, back in the day soaps had some of the best writing and story plotting I’ve ever seen on television.

Anne Heche on "Another World"

I became a soap opera junkie when I was 7. I can date myself because one of my earliest memories is when Roman (or John Black, as we learned years later) was discovered alive and reunited with Marlena on Days of Our Lives. That was my grandmother’s “story,” and it was part of our established routine during summers at the beach:  play at the beach in the morning, lunch, DOOL at 1 pm, then Grandmama’s nap while I watched Another World and Santa Barbara. Those “supercouples” of the 80s defined my childhood:  Jack & Jennifer, Bo & Hope, Patch & Kayla. On Another World, I loved watching the exploits of twins Marley and Victoria, both played by a young Anne Heche. Once summer was over, I’d rush off the bus from third grade to catch Santa Barbara at 3 pm, since I couldn’t miss one minute of Cruz and Eden’s saga! Epic. Keep reading »

Countdown to the royal wedding.

Have you heard any whispers about that royal wedding that’s coming up? No? Well maybe you live under a rock in Wyoming. Or, maybe you live under the JumboTron in Times Square but just couldn’t care less. If so, this may not be the post for you.

See, I’m excited. I’ve told you how I revel in royal pomp and circumstance, and I can’t wait to see all of that in action on April 29. Everyone’s asking me if I’m going to get up early and watch, and I think I have to. I won’t be taking the day off like some people (ahem) I know. But even if I DVR the whole thing, I can’t miss watching the wedding coverage live, right? I’ll probably just set my alarm for 4 am, blearily fumble for the remote and watch it from under my covers until I have to go to work. Once I get there, my coworkers have planned a high tea in celebration while we watch whatever festivities are left. I’ll be making authentic sticky toffee pudding. If you want to do the same, here are some other recipes you could try.

It’s clear that royalty is one of my obsessions, but don’t worry — I haven’t bought the replica royal engagement ring, the commemorative Union Jack flag or even the china with their faces on it. I’m not really in to tacky tchotchkes in general. I will, however, commit to watching television. America’s gone wacky over this royal wedding and the coverage is about to blow up our television sets. It’s like the second British invasion. If you’re royally obsessed (like me) but have room on your DVR (not like me), there are plenty of opportunities to educate yourself on all things royal over the coming weeks. I’ve gathered what information I can find, so get to ready to burn up your remote! Keep reading »

Animals dressed as humans.

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is “Friends.” I’ve seen every episode a ridiculous number of times, and my friend Ann and I used to quote it so much we basically had conversations in “Friends” dialogue. When it started syndicating in college, roommate Kristin and I established a ritual:  Wendy’s drive-thru run before rushing home to catch it at 7 p.m. I just had to hold the rolled top of the food bag tightly so “Wendy’s fumes” wouldn’t bleed into the fabric of her new Jetta.

Then I lived in New York, toured my visitors past the “Friends” apartment building in Greenwich Village and came to realize how outrageously unlikely it was that any of those 20-somethings could afford to live in such apartments. But willing suspension of disbelief is much easier when it’s so entertaining.

“Friends” was special because it captured so well the urban family that forms, especially in NYC, and the needling and squabbling yet love and support among friends. I think we all could relate. Plus, it aired over the course of my important formative years — when it premiered, we discussed it on Fridays in high school, and by the time of the finale, I was out of college and had been living in New York for 5 years. Keep reading »

Who do you think you are?

So I’ll totally confess that I read with great interest The Hollywood Reporter’s “Inside Kardashian Inc.” article this morning. Ever since the O.J. trial, I’ve been fascinated with Kris Jenner — outside of flaunting opportunism, chasing celebrity, valuing fame-for-no-reason and everything else I can’t stand, you have to admit that she’s built an empire and runs it with charm and savvy. Underneath it all, she also seems genuinely attached to and concerned about her kids … a real mom.

That’s actually apropos of nothing except to tell you about a quote in the article. Kris Jenner took some advice from Kathie Lee Gifford’s father as her personal motto: “Find out what you love to do in your life and then figure out a way to get paid for it.

Hmph.

I’ve been on a journey for the last three years trying to find out what I actually love to do, all the while questioning and exploring my skills, talents, training and education and trying to leave myself open to new paths. I come from a generation stuck between X and Y — we don’t expect to be handed something for nothing, but we also need to work with passion and purpose. I haven’t found mine yet, or at least I haven’t found a way to get paid for it.
Keep reading »

Keeping the faith.

I’ve discovered a new TV show on OWN to be obsessed about:  Miracle Detectives.

It’s a show about faith and searching for possible miracles — Randall is a journalist and a believer, while Indre is a scientist and a skeptic. They find and investigate stories of “mysteries that transcend logic,” trying to prove or disprove whether God is at work or something else is happening. It’s fascinating.

I need to state for the record that I’m a Christian and I believe in God. I really don’t think I could get through the day if I didn’t. But I also think believing is a wholly personal thing that I don’t share easily or readily, and it’s not up to me to make you feel differently than you do. I just know that God is all around us, that everything happens for a reason and that it’s not our circumstances we should focus on, but our behavior in and reactions to situations that are important. For me, having faith is about letting go, knowing that you don’t have to understand or push or worry. I’ve found that if you just keep the faith, meditate on what God’s told us and listen to your inner voice, it’s a whole lot less stressful than trying to make everything happen for yourself. I’ve been led places and to do things that I never could have imagined or planned. I’m not as comfortable with the word “religion” and all the ceremony, church iconography and touchy-feelyness of fellowship. I just read the words, watch a little Joyce Meyer and talk to God when I need to … then somehow it all works out. Keep reading »

My new hero.

Oprah’s new network, OWN, has been on the airwaves for only 72 hours, and I think I’ve watched about 60 of those. That has much more to do with the lack of post-holiday primetime programming or my lack of interest in clearing my DVR than any groundbreaking television from Oprah. But I did catch the new episode of Master Class with Diane Sawyer. She’s my new hero.

Photo source: Oprah.com

I’ve never really followed Diane Sawyer, but I’ve felt a kinship with her through journalism. I admire strong, intelligent women who are well-spoken and accomplished in their careers. Plus, she always seems so polished, genuine and nice. I also really enjoyed her series on Appalachia a few years ago. You can see in that how real she is and how much she legitimately likes and cares about people. She has a zest for life, humor, curiosity about the world and love of words that I identify with but also envy. Keep reading »

The end of an Empire.

Beware, this post contains my cheap analysis of last night’s “Boardwalk Empire,” rife with spoilers.

I want to like “Boardwalk Empire.” I really, really do, since you know I’m a sucker for beautiful, stylized, compelling television. I want to like it so much that I’ve been reading recaps and tv journalists’ analysis from all viewpoints to convince me that it’s worth it. I mean, Gawker says it’s a letdown; the LA Times says it’s perfect as it is.

Despite my reservations, I’ve loyally tuned in every week, and was even excited for last night’s season finale. But like all the other shows, I was left feeling kind of empty and confused. It’s like something’s missing that I just can’t put my finger on …

Everyone seems to love Steve Buscemi as Nucky, but I find him miscast. He’s almost too nice — someone said passive, and that’s it. He’s basically a gangster, but he’s not menacing enough when he needs to be. He’s a limp fish, so I don’t understand why his ward bosses are enamored by him or why any of them follow him. The LA Times says it’s because Mr. Buscemi is not attractive, and being shallow, we expect our heroes (or anti-heroes) to be beautiful. I get that, but he’s also not charismatic — he doesn’t feel like a leader to whom people would flock. Keep reading »

Obsession depression.

I had to go home last night and watch the Mad Men finale one last time. I might just cry myself to sleep every night this week, now that it’s over. Whatever will I obsess about now?

Okay, I’m sure I’ll find something…

Here’s the thing about Mad Men. I couldn’t stand English class in grade school, even though I loved to read and write. It was utterly boring and seemingly unnecessary to break apart “Of Mice and Men,” “Huckleberry Finn” or “A Tale of Two Cities.” Surely the authors didn’t intend all that irony, foreshadowing, symbolism, characterization we had to discuss for hours. I mean, can’t we just enjoy the story? Keep reading »