Parks and Recreation: Say Hello to 2017

I am not ready for Parks and Recreation to end. It has been my favorite comedy on TV for many years now, and I can’t think of a single sitcom I watch right now that even comes close to making me laugh as much.

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I was really impressed with the creative decision to jump a couple years into the future for Parks and Recreaion‘s final season. Because this show has always existed on the brink of cancellation, I think it’s allowed them to make bolder choices in storylines. Parks and Rec always goes for it, they never hold a plot development back, because they know they might not get the chance later.

2017 Pawnee is great. The town is in the middle of an economic boom, all our favorite characters are successful and facing new challenges, and the tablets are way cooler than the ones we’re stuck with here in 2015.

Leslie, April and Gerry (now called Terry) all work for the national Parks department, while Ron, Donna and Tom are all succeeding in the private sector. Andy works part time and has his own children’s TV show. But the biggest difference is that Leslie and Ron have had a huge falling out.

I liked how the first two episodes slowly revealed exactly how bad things are between Leslie and Ron, and then forced them to temporarily put that aside for the greater good. We still don’t know exactly what caused the rift (what is morning star?!), but based on what we know about the characters it’s plausible anyway. Ron and Leslie hold very different, very passionate views. They’re both stubborn. And they’re no longer coworkers. I’m sure we’ll see them make up, and I’m happy with that as one of the story arcs for these final episodes.

I liked the other bigger storylines that were set up to, like April trying to find her passion in life and Tom possibly reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend Lucy. But besides the character development, these episodes were just downright funny. I missed that.

Highlights from the first two episodes:

  • Leslie’s already bored just thinking about cutting her work schedule down to only four days a week when she turns 100.
  • “I’ve never known what bangs are and I don’t intent to learn!”
  • That Jon Hamm appearance though! I hope we get at least a couple more flashbacks featuring him.
  • April and Andy’s attempt to avoid becoming boring adults was pretty great. I want to get one more appearance from Janet Snakehole before the show ends.
  • Kevin James was cast in the reboot of the Bourne movies and Leslie thinks he nailed it.
  • “Human equivalent of gas station sushi” is a sick burn that I plan to put into heavy rotation.
  • Amy Poehler’s impression of Tammy was truly incredible.
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The Bachelor – Don’t Bet The Farm, Chris

I didn’t blog about The Bachelor last week because, well, it was three damn hours long and kind of boring. I fast-forwarded through a lot of the show. Here’s what I remember:

  • Andi and Josh walked the “red carpet” together and then announced a breakup the next day. What kind of iron-clad contract had the signed agreeing to appear at that event?
  • The woman who got the “first impression” rose seems like she’ll be a frontrunner.
  • There were many, many awkward first meetings, but the lady with the pink, portable karaoke machine was worst.
  • One gal had too much to drink, and the way the promos teased things I was sure she was going to throw up on the women in front of her. But no, she just teetered and yawned a lot, and everyone else acted like she had kicked a puppy on the way in.
  • The promos always suggest a lot of drama and the show doesn’t always follow through, but there sure were a lot of tears.

The First Group Date

I cannot tell the women apart yet, but six of them joined Chris on the first group date of the season. They were told to “show your country”, because it has been made abundantly clear that Chris is looking for a woman to drop everything and move to the farm. After, like, six weeks of knowing someone. It will definitely work out.

The women were forced to walk around LA in their bikinis, because why would you want to throw something on top of that? That would be crazy! It’s not like stores sell cute little tunic cover-ups or anything. People aren’t into that. God, The Bachelor can be so gross.

The first part of the date was a tractor race. It was as riveting as it sounds. Ashley I. was in second-last place, but then she won! Who would’ve imagined? Not me!

MacKenzie told Chris he had a big nose during their alone time, which was one of the least charming flirting techniques I’ve ever witnessed. She followed that up by asking if he believes in aliens. Then she said “I haven’t been on a date in sooooo long, like a year,” and beat around the bush before finally telling Chris she’s got a one year-old kid. That turned the conversation around, and Chris ended up giving her a rose.

While Chris was on his group date, two women snuck into his apartment and snooped around. They definitely seemed drunk, and one was not wearing pants. Her bikini bottoms were small enough that her bum and crotch areas had to be blacked out for network TV. Her parents must be so proud.

Meanwhile, Julia opened up to a few of the other women about her daughter, and her late husband who took his own life. It never stops being weird how this show turns from something like bikini-clad women racing tractors, to someone confiding their darkest days to others, and back again.

One-on-One Date

When MacKenzie returned from her date, she dished with the ladies in full detail about how many times Chris kissed her.

Chris selected Megan to go on the first one-on-one date of the season, and the first helicopter ride of the season. (Megan, for what it’s worth, didn’t even realize she was getting a date. She thought the “Date Card” was just a love note.)

Chris and Megan went to the Grand Canyon, where she told him a tragic tale while noisy helicopters flew overhead. At least two thirds of the women on this show have a big, tragic story to share with Chris. Is this stuff they bring up on normal first dates? I’m always so uncomfortable during these conversations. If that were me, I’d be sipping my wine like…

giphy awkwardAnyway Megan got a rose.

The Second Group Date

“This is literally my worst fear” is exactly what I would say if I were on The Bachelor, too! Who said that? My spirit animal, that’s who.

OK, her worst fear is not the show itself, it was the bizarre, death-themed date everyone was sent on. Who thought up the idea to send a group of women, the majority of whom probably recently suffered personal tragedy, on a death date? Whoever it was probably got a promotion and a raise.

Was anyone in that limo NOT screaming? I wish I’d been there. You should see me at the haunted maze during Halloween. I’m cool as a cucumber. The people playing monsters hate me.

The date was actually a zombie-themed paintball outing. It seemed fun, though it would have been MORE fun if they’d been shooting at each  other. Bruises for the rest of the season! So sexy! Since the zombies were unarmed, it felt a little one-sided. Yet, everyone was still screaming and freaking out.

Ashley S. took a very long time to comprehend the plan. Then she took it very seriously. For the whole evening, Ashley S. made no sense. Was she baked? Did she find some prescription pills on the ground? Was she actually bitten by a zombie? What was going on?

Kaitlyn got the rose, which made sense. She seems pretty fun, and had good chemistry with Chris. But it was tough on Britt, who got the First Impression Rose before and had juuuuust been kissing him two seconds before he handed out the rosBe.

*I just read Britt’s bio, and she lists David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers as her favorite authors. She uses the term “wordsmith”. She’s officially too good for The Bachelor - both the show and the guy.

Enough about the date, though. Let’s talk about Drunky McMesserson. Yep, it turns out that Jordan didn’t just drink too much on the first night. She drinks too much every night. That must be so fun for everyone else in the house!

The Rose Ceremony

Let’s talk about Ashley I. Ashley looks like a Kardashian, and is a virgin, which everyone finds concerning. According to MacKenzie, the trifecta of desirability is to be pretty, have a good personality, and be a virgin.

But then, MacKenzie saw Ashley and Chris making out and was totally confused. She’s a virgin! What is she doing kissing people? Oh, MacKenzie. I feel like there might be some aspects of sex ed that you missed.

Britt also spotted the kiss, and was upset because she connected with him so early. Britt, again, I’m pretty sure you’re better than this.

Jordan was plastered, and questioned Chris about whether he was getting lipstick all over his face. Jordan. Sigh. You’re probably not better than this.

Britt got the first rose, followed by Ashley I. And that’s all the names I know.

When Chris called Julia’s name, Jillian (I think?) came forward instead, tripped on the carpet, and burst into a loud, embarrassed cackle. She got a rose later, but it was hilarious.

The final rose went to Ashley S. – zombie girl! That was surprising. Do you think the producers told him he had to choose either the crazy girl or the drunk girl? For entertainment’s sake.

Well, we’re two episodes in now. Will Chris meet his wife? I wouldn’t bet the farm.

Posted in The Bachelor

TV Shows I Liked in 2014

This year, I’ve watched much less TV than I usually do. So many of my favorite shows ended or will end soon, and I haven’t picked up very many new shows at all. Still, some TV series stand out when I think back on 2014. This list is not a “best of” list – I don’t blog professionally, so there’s no way I can watch every great TV show out there. But here’s what delighted me this year:

Returning Favorites

The Mindy Project
I’ve always been a fan of this show, but Mindy has really been on fire this season. Mindy and Danny’s relationship has been so much fun to watch, and free of unnecessary breakups and drama (unlike New Girl, which is not making my list this year).

Mad Men
The first half of season seven had some episodes that I loved (“Waterloo”) and some I didn’t like as much. But overall, I was happy with how the season shaped up and I’m really looking forward to the concluding episodes.

Girls
I thought season three was Girlsstrongest yet, particularly in the writing for Hannah’s character. “Beach House” will always be one of my favorite episodes. I can’t wait for this one to return in 2015!

Orphan Black
Some shows lose their appeal as they expand their universes – not Orphan Black. The most recent season expanded the scope of the show and raised the stakes, but it never faltered. Each episode kept me on the edge of my seat, and Tatiana Maslany continues to deliver one of the best acting performances on television.

Parks and Recreation
That twist! I know NBC is going to be burning through episodes at a record pace in 2015, but I can’t wait to see the final season of this beloved show.

New, or New To Me

The Good Wife
This show is in its sixth season, but I only began watching it on Netflix this summer. Everyone who’d ever told me I was missing out on something great was right – it’s a fantastic show. This season has been strong, which is pretty impressive for a series that has produced over 120 episodes.

The Affair
One of the few new shows I watched this year. The Affair stars two actors I like – Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. Don’t be fooled by the title – the series isn’t just about cheating. A murder mystery is at the center, entangled by family dramas and selfish, cheating spouses.

Brooklyn 99
This is another show I caught up on via Netflix over the summer. With Parks and Rec ending soon, I’m glad to have it.

Broadchurch
OK, so I haven’t finished watching Broadchurch yet. My husband and I just started it on Netflix, and I was hooked after one episode. We’ve now seen three episodes of eight, but I guarantee you I’ll have finished the season by tomorrow night. British crime dramas are my drug of choice – can’t stop won’t stop.

The Things I Was More Obsessed About Than Any TV Show

Like many other people, my favorite show this year wasn’t a TV series – it was a podcast. Yes, I can’t finish this post without mentioning Serial. I’ve been a fan of This American Life for a while, so I heard the first episode of Serial via that podcast. I was immediately hooked, and obsessively listened to and assessed the show every week. Just ask my co-workers – it’s all I talk about.

As a lover of investigative reporting and true crime, this series was right up my alley. For a while I would listen to each episode several times, convinced that I’d be able to crack the case like I could during an episode of Sherlock. But of course not –  it’s real life, and therefore much messier than a carefully crafted fictional mystery. No matter – it’s still the best storytelling of the year.

Posted in Broadchurch, Brooklyn 99, Girls, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Parks and Recreation, The Affair, The Good Wife, The Mindy Project, Year-End Wrap-Up

Books I Read in 2014

I’m a slow reader. I love books and reading, but I can never consume books as fast as I’d like to. At the beginning of the year, I set a modest goal to read 12 books in 2014 – one a month. I kept track of what I read in a notebook (one that I picked up at City Lights Books in San Francisco, it seemed fitting).

Well, it’s December 31st and my total books read for the year is 15. Not bad! Here’s what I read:

  1. The Best American Essays 2013, Edited by Cheryl Strayed
    I ask for this compilation every Christmas, and earlier this year I ordered a bunch of previous years. I’m currently about halfway through the 2012 edition.
  2. No Greater Love Than This (short story), by Joel Kelly
    Joel Kelly is a close friend, so I was particularly excited to read this story. He’s working on a novella now, which you’ll surely see on my list of books read in 2015. Check him out at http://www.joelkelly.ca.
  3. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
    I’m going to see the movie adaptation later today, and can’t wait.
  4. NW, by Zadie Smith
    I’ll admit, I struggled to get through this one.
  5. The Best American Travel Writing 2008, Editing by Anthony Bourdain
  6. Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
  7. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
  8. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace
  9. Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl
  10. Comfort Me With Apples, by Ruth Reichl
  11. Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl
    I read all three of these memoirs by food critic Ruth Reichl while I was traveling in Italy earlier this year, and I adored them. Her life is so interesting, and the way she writes about food made me enjoy my own meals even more.
  12. Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery, by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
  13. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
  14. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
  15. Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

What books did you read this year? Share in the comments!

Posted in Books, Not TV

Survivor: San Juan del Sur Finale

Going into this season, I never would have guessed I’d be rooting for one of the “Twinnies” from The Amazing Race to win. Yet for the past several weeks, I’ve been rooting for Natalie to win. In fact, by the time we got to the final five (even before that, really) I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with anyone else winning. So, did she do it? Click on through if you’ve seen the episode.

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Survivor: Time to make some moves…

I missed writing about Survivor last week as the double episode threw me off. (AKA it didn’t end until 11pm here and I had to go straight o bed.) Last week, all conversations were about Jon and Jaclyn’s huge fight. It was silly, immature, and poor strategy. And they were both equally at fault. It was annoying to watch them bicker and behave like children, when better players are sitting on the jury.

I’ve noticed a trend with Jon and Jaclyn. Jaclyn is always the one to question other players, to suspect something is not right, to have a hunch about who should be trusted. And she’s usually right. Jon is always the one saying “No, I think it’s OK.”

This time, it was about Natalie. Natalie voted out Alec instead of Keith last week, when she wasn’t able to carry out her plan to blindside Jon. So she had to convince Jon and Jaclyn that her vote had been an error, the result of a misunderstanding, and that she was still part of her alliance. They believed her, and when Jaclyn wondered whether Natalie might be trying to pull one over on her, it was Jon who reassured her. And he paid for it.

Natalie was working behind their back. She’s wanted Jon out since he voted off Jeremy, and I respect the gal’s ability to hold a grudge. That was some patient game play.

Reward Challenge

The Reward Challenge was a close one. Keith, Missy and Jon won a spa day – but it came at a price for Missy, who sprained her ankle during the challenge. As this season’s players are wont to do, Jon decided to give up his spot at the reward. For his wife, you’d think, right? Nope! For Baylor. So, he let a blood pair go off and spend the day bonding with the one guy not in his alliance. Dumb move, bro! Jon has been way too trusting all along.

Baylor was already considering working with Natalie to oust Jon, and the time she spent with Keith during the reward seemed to help her make up her mind. Basically, she came away thinking “He’s not such a bad dude.” That is exactly what you do not want to happen at this stage of the game, Jon.

Natalie volunteered to go to Exile (again, as this season’s players are wont to do – why are they all so nice?!) which left Jon and Jaclyn alone at camp together. Perfect. Great. Hang out with the one person you know won’t turn on you.

Immunity Challenge

Natalie returned from a rough stay at Exile and was greeted with a bowl of rice by her tribe. It was more like a bowl of energy! She won the challenge, which had required a combination of steady-handedness and endurance. I am really, really impressed with Natalie this season. She’s tough, she’s good at challenges, and she played an under-the-radar game up until it was the right time to make a big move. I hope she wins.

Natalie, Baylor and Keith were all solid to vote for Jon. But Missy wouldn’t go back on the promise she’d made him. UGH. I hate loyalty. This is a game! What exactly did Missy expect to happen, had Keith been voted out? That would leave two couples and a single – so both sides would be voting for Natalie’s vote. Missy’s alliance with Jon had an expiration date on it no matter what.

The group decided to split the vote because of Jon’s not-so-secret Immunity Idol. Missy and Baylor voted Jaclyn, Natalie and Keith voted Jon, and Jaclyn and Jon voted Keith. It was a 2-2-2 tie, and Jon did not play his Idol. So, he was eliminated on the second vote. Where do you think that Idol is? In his pocket? It seems unlikely that he would have kept it hidden at camp, somewhere that Jaclyn could access it.

Next Week’s Finale

Only one more episode left! Like I said, I’m rooting for Natalie to win. I think her best shot is to go to final Tribal Council with Baylor and Missy. It’s the only combination that will let her sit next to people who do not have loved ones on the jury. Keith has a guaranteed vote in Wes, Jaclyn has a guaranteed vote in Jon, and Missy/Baylor have a guaranteed vote in each other. Plus, hopefully having the mother and daughter up there would split the votes of jury members who sympathize with them as a pair. (Though I believe Missy would receive more votes than Baylor.)

That said, Keith and Jaclyn seem more unlikable. Can anyone beat Natalie? I think if she can make it into the final three, she’s got a pretty decent shot at winning that money.

Missy could win, I think, if she goes to the finals without Nat. Keith and Jaclyn are desirable players to compete against, but I think she’ll bring Baylor to the end if she can. The same goes for Baylor – I think she’d win against Keith and Jaclyn, but I don’t see the mother/daughter duo breaking up by choice.

Who are you guys rooting for? Who do you think will win? (Theories only, no Internet spoilers!)

Stray thoughts:

  • The way Alec’s mouth hung open during Tribal Council says everything one would need to know about him.
  • Keith thought showers and massages were for girls, but then he found some bacon in the “spa food” wrap and regained his precious masculinity.
  • Jon believing that Nat screwed up the vote was stupid enough. Him telling Jaclyn that he’d definitely “bring it up with the jury” was another thing. It’s not a job interview, dude. It won’t be a deciding factor for them.
  • Missy will struggle through her final days with a sprained ankle. Damn – everyone should get injured at the end of the game! That makes you look like such a baller to the jury!
  • What doesn’t make Missy look like a baller is the speech she made about loyalty right before she flipped on Jon.
  • Jon saying that Natalie winning Immunity made up for her screwing up their vote says everything one would need to know about him.
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Survivor – You’ve Gotta Risk It To Get The… Wings?

survivor episode 10Finally, real game-play! I think this might have been the best episode of Survivor so far this season, and I really hope the excitement continues through to the finale. Moves were made, Idols were played, plans were whispered at Tribal Council. It was great!

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