The Highs and Lows of the 2017 Tony Awards

Another opening, another show. Another chance to joke about the Oscars mix-up.

The 2017 Tony Awards, our annual Super Bowl, were last night and proved to be a journey of excitement and disappointment all at the same time. While I don’t think anything will beat the excitement from last year’s #HamilTonys, this ceremony did have its good bits, but for every good bit there was a bad Kevin Spacey one. Here are some of our highs and lows from this year’s Tony Awards.

Lows: The Opening Number

I know Kevin Spacey is a respected actor/human etc. etc. but…. I was just not left that impressed with his Groundhog Day-inspired montage, highlighting all the nominated shows (although 10 points for Griffyndor for the tap dance break). Is it because we’ve been blessed with James Corden and Neil Patrick Harris in the past few years? Yeah, probably. I just expect to be left in tears by the end of the opening number. I don’t want it to end with a pun including “Your host is found”, no matter how many Dear Evan Hansen refs I long for.

High: It’s Been A Long Time Coming For Gavin Creel

Longtime Broadway and stage star Gavin Creel FINALLY won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Hello, Dolly! He was previously nominated for Hair and Thoroughly Modern Millie (which made his win even more special because Sutton Foster handed him his trophy) but he’s one of those actors that has been around for so long (he’s only 41) that he’s got a strong fan base (and support from fellow actors) even without the Tony. I saw him in the national tour of The Book of Mormon a few years ago and couldn’t stop raving about him. Did you watch him last year in She Loves Me? Come on. His speech was perfect and awkward (1:45 THAT IS ME) and admirable (SUPPORT ARTS EDUCATION!). I love when well-deserving actors who’ve been in it a while finally get recognition. Also goes for Dear Evan Hansen’s Rachel Bay Jones!

High: Performances to Give You The Chills

The Tonys are the only major award show that is site specific. You can easily go to your local cinema and watch an Oscar-nominated film. Turn on the TV and tune-in to an Emmy-nominated show. Pop in a cassette tape and listen to a Grammy-nominated album. But with the Tonys, you have to physically be in New York City to see these Broadway shows. So when the casts take the stage to perform, they’re performing for everyone around the world watching the show, who can’t necessarily get to the Big Apple. It gives a visual to fans who have only listened to the soundtrack, or maybe have never even heard the show at all. Which is why I always look forward to the actors getting a chance to show their talents off for the millions watching at home. Some standout performances this year were legend-in-the-making Eva Noblezada and the cast of Miss Saigon, Josh Groban and the cast of  The Great Comet throwing the best Russian party, and cast of Bandstand, making me want to take swing dance classes.

Low: Random Celebs

Former pro hockey player and Canadian Ron Duguay was the first rando to introduce the performance by the cast of Come From Away, because it takes place in New Foundland. And he is Canadian, you see. It makes sense. I was also confused because it kinda sounded like he went off script, and winged the intro… but what do I know, I’m American. And for some reason, Keegan Michael Key introduced the Great Comet cast, and I’m still trying to figure that one out. I love the guy but, if anyone has any insight, that would be supes helpful.

High: Playwrights in the Spotlight

As I previously mentioned, the Tonys are a chance for casts to give viewers a small sliver of what they do 8 times a week. But what about all the plays? It’s hard to just recreate a scene from a play just to show that they’re nominated for Best Play/Best Revival of a play. But this year, they did it right (or wright?) and had the playwrights take the stage and describe the show they wrote in their own words. More of this please.

High: Rachel Bloom, Future Tonys Host

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star and renowned Broadway geek Rachel Bloom served as a backstage correspondent and to quote someone on Twitter, “Rachel Bloom is actually hosting this year’s Tonys, briefly interrupted by a man doing dated impressions.” Rachel was basically representing all of us nerds watching at home, with no chill for how exciting it is to be at the Tonys. Please host next year. CW is in the CBS brotherhood.

High: Oh, Hello!

This particular part of the show was quite the rollercoaster. First, the Oh Hello dudes came on stage to bring some actual humor to the show. If you watched John Mulaney and Nick Kroll host the Independent Spirit Awards earlier this year, you already know how hilarious and entertaining they are as a co-hosting duo. So when they came on stage to introduce the Radio City Rockettes, it brought the show back up, and quite frankly much better than Kevin Spacey’s opening number ever was.

Low: Rockettes

Andddd then the Rockettes did a few high kicks – like I get it, they’re at Radio City – but why. Why? Oh, because it gave Leslie and Cynthia a reason to sing.

High: Leslie Odom Jr. & Cynthia Erivo Saving the Rockettes

Except it lasted approx 1 minute, which was way too short. They could’ve stayed on stage and sang all the winners and it would’ve been totally fine. Get these two in a show or on tour together, SOMETHING. I WILL GIVE YOU MY MONIES.

High: Dr. Biden and Joe

Dr. Jill Biden was on hand to introduce a performance by the cast of Bandstand, which centers on a group of veterans coming home after World War II. With Dr. Biden’s long support of the military and their family, it was a no-brainer that she was there. But what I loved is that she got a standing ovation, clearly in appreciation for her service, as well as the service of her hubs and the entire Obama administration, and it made me long for the days of pre-Election 2016 Tonys. But the best part? Seeing Uncle Joe in the audience proudly watching his wife on stage, just as her date and nothing else. God bless.

Low: Kevin Spacey’s Impressions

If you didn’t know that Kevin Spacey does a real good impression of Johnny Carson, well know you know (if you watched the Tonys). And because he needed material, of course he pulled out the wig, since a Carson impression is relevant to the interests of all the people watching the Tonys. It was then that I texted Molly and mentioned that Carson is one of the party tricks Spacey’s got in his bag, and as you’ll see in the message below, I totally called the next impression.

During his Clinton impression, he called out Ben Platt and made a few Hillary jokes because THAT’S STILL FUNNY. Us, and most of the people watching the bit:

And because third time’s the charm, he had to come out as fake U.S. President Frank Underwood (along with Robin Wright & Michael Kelly, for some reason – the bit didn’t need them tbh it still sucked) to hand LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA THE ENVELOPE FOR THE WINNER OF BEST MUSICAL. We had already been Lin-less for the entire show, I didn’t need Spacey to ruin this too. But alas, he did.

High: Bette Midler Refuses To Be Played Off

The Divine Miss M won her first Tony (she’s an O away from EGOT) for Hello, Dolly! and because she’s Bette Midler, she didn’t give a crap about playoff music. There are few people in the world that can get away with telling an orchestra to stop, and she is one of them. It was everything I expected and more.

Sidenote: The Tony producers are S A V A G E for getting Glenn Close to present the category, since there was a possibility that Patti LuPone (rumored rival) could’ve won. It might have been an epic face-to-face that us drama-loving nerds died over.

High: Words Fail for Dear Evan Hansen

Dear reader, it’s gonna be a good day, and this is why – Dear Evan Hansen won six Tonys and all is right with the world.

First off, the production went into the ceremony with 9 noms – 3 less than top show Great Comet, making me think DEH could be beat out by Josh Groban. But the show all about social anxiety and connection clearly connected with Tony voters, and won not only Best Musical, but Best Book of a Musical, Best Score (by our boys and La La Land’s Pasek & Paul), Best Orchestrations (BACK TO BACK WINS FOR HAMFAM ALEX LACAMOIRE), and acting prizes for Rachel Bay Jones (MOM) and dreamy angel of an actor Ben Platt. He was the favorite going into the show, but seeing this 23 year old win and give his speech was everything I wanted in a Tonys acceptance speech, including an inspiring quote that teens will be inking on folders today – “To all young people watching at home, don’t waste time being anyone but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

And thennn earlier in the show, Ben, who was out of DEH for a few performances and put on vocal rest – made a triumphant return by singing signature song Waving Through a Window.

If you don’t have your tickets now, guess you’ll be waiting along with us until the tour (or when more Broadway seats become avail) and playing the soundtrack on repeat.

Low: Go Home Bobby Darin

Does Kevin Spacey think hosting the Tonys is going to help his Emmy For Your Consideration campaign? I feel like he treated the entire ceremony like a talent show. Between the impressions (did I mention he also did James Earl Jones in front of James Earl Jones – who won a lifetime achievement award? AND MORE AIR TIME WAS GIVEN TO SPACEY RATHER THAN JAMES EARL JONES??), mediocre bits and underwhelming opening number, it was all just a bit… trying too hard that it made me not like Kevin Spacey. And I LIKE Kevin Spacey!

But the thing that sealed the deal for me was the closing number, in which Kevin returned to his Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of 1950s singer Bobby Darin and invited Patti LuPone and all the winners to sing The Curtain Falls – a ballad, a FRIGGIN BALLAD. I don’t want to end Broadway’s biggest night with a ballad! Give me an uptempo! Give me a rap that was written minutes before by Lin-Manuel and included things that happened in the show! This isn’t a funeral. This is a celebration of all things theater!!!! In what I’m assuming was meant to be a lovely, community inspiring final song, it just came across as awkward since no one knew the song or even knew what was happening.

Spacey hosting proved that a host steers the ship to success. If he fails, then it kind of brings the entire show down. Sure, there were bright spots like Dear Evan Hansen and Bette Midler. But the best well-rounded award shows included hilarious and fun bits from the host – WE MISS YOU JAMES CORDEN – not just chuckle-worthy jokes and impressions you’ve been doing for years. Give me dance numbers, give me more singing, give me DRAMAAAAA – it IS gay pride month after all. Something Kevin probably should know about, right?

 

#TransformationTuesday: Ariana Grande

Hi. It’s Tuesday and we’re still talking about Ariana Grande.

Yesterday, we recapped some of the our favorite moments from the One Manchester concert, which Ariana helped put together to benefit the victims of last month’s attack. It was beautiful, full of tears, and best of all, raised over $3 million. Since the deadly event, Ariana has been praised for her compassionate eloquence in response to a heartless tragedy (unlike certain world leaders).

We will never be able to understand why events like this take place because it is not in our nature, which is why we shouldn’t recoil. We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win. {x}

For many of those who just thought of Ariana as another female pop star, their minds changed after she released that statement (per the posts I saw on Twitter, at least). And when she took the stage on Sunday, it was evident that the attack had a profound effect on her, and she wanted to do anything she could to try to lift spirits and help the victims and their families in any way she could. That’s the day Ariana Grande wasn’t just an international pop star anymore. I’m not saying she wasn’t before, but to a lot of people who weren’t paying attention, she became a respected celebrity idol that day.

For the uninitiated, Ariana, 23, has been in the game since she was a teen, and has gone through many career changes to get to where she is today. So on this Transformation Tuesday, let’s take a look back at all the major points in Ari’s life that have led her to become the (Dangerous) Woman that she is today.

2001: Rite of Passage

You know how when you go to a kid’s dance recital or see a community theater show and there’s one, maybe two kids who are actually really good or have the potential to be? That was Ariana. Growing up in Florida, her main connection to the arts was the theater, performing in shows like Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, and of course, Annie.

2007: Slaying Judy Garland

When you’re an aspiring pop star, you obvs have to make the rounds at random events, like singing the National Anthem at a sports game, or singing at a birthday party for a 95 year old. Can’t turn down a gig.

2008: The (Great White) Way

When she was 15, Ariana was cast in 13, a musical by the genius that is Jason Robert Brown. She was in a supporting role as a cheerleader called Charlotte, and it even earned her a National Youth Theatre Association Award. Being cast in any Broadway show is maj, but to be a part of the Original Broadway Cast is an honor. I mean she’s on the OBC cast album! What does it say about me that I think this is one of the more impressive feats in her career?!

2009: The Nickelodeon Machine

The following year, Ari was cast as Cat Valentine in Victorious, a Nickelodeon sitcom starring Victoria Justice and set in a performing arts high school. Now, I’m not above telling you that I watched a lot of Disney Channel shows way past the age I should’ve been (#BestofBothWorlds), but I never got on this Nickelodeon train. It’s a total blind spot for me. But what I can say is that Ariana made the right decision in going through the Nickelodeon machine, which is v similar to the Disney machine (see: Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, etc.). Ari gained a fan following by playing a slightly ditzy yet lovable character, who would help her get her first starring role. More on that later.

2011: YouTube Star

Keeping music in the foreground, Ariana continued to connect with her fans by posting covers on YouTube. And just like the teens who posted their covers online all over the world, Ariana did the same, asking her fans to “tweet her”. Also, I remember watching that Emotions cover and thinking, “WHO DA FUQ IS THIS CHICK??!” Get into those whistle tones!!

2011: The First Single

Ariana released her first single, Put Your Hearts Up, in 2011. It’s a sweet bubblegum pop track that was fit for her Nickelodeon persona (and still features her signature Cat Valentine red hair). But as you can tell, this is definitely not the same music she’s singing today.

June, 2013: On To The Next One

In 2012, Victorious was not renewed for a fourth season, but Ariana still had a job because it was announced that she would star in a spin-off called Sam & Cat, which starred iCarly’s Jennette McCurdy (Sam). This is obviously next level stardom, but the show only lasted one season over the course of one year, and there was a lot A LOT of drama towards the end. It involved salaries, reported feuds, and the rise of Ariana’s music career, so Nickelodeon just cut the cord and the last Sam & Cat ep aired in 2014.

August, 2013: The Breakthrough

As mentioned, Ariana had still be working hard on her music career, and worked on her first real album over the course of three years. It was finally released in September, 2013, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making her the first female artist since Kesha to have her album debut at the top of the charts. The lead single, The Way (ft. now boyfriend Mac Miller), was a jam for the summer of 2013. For me too. Remember when I told y’all to add her to your playlist?!

2013: Just Beliebe

It was all happening for her in the fall of 2013 and at that point there was no stopping her flow. Ariana, who shares manager Scooter Braun with Justin Bieber, joined him for a few dates on his massive Believe Tour, and she also embarked on her own headlining mini-tour, called The Listening Sessions.  But it was the American Music Awards where she blew the crowd away with a stripped down performance of Tattooed Heart, and she won her first major award for Best New Artist.

August, 2014: My Everything

Ariana released her second studio album, My Everything, that August, led by the mega hit Problem. The song became one of the best-selling singles of all time with 10 million sales, and the video itself has been viewed over a billion times. Her second single, Break Free ft. Zedd was yet another charttopper, and just because she’s that talented, the song she featured on, Bang Bang with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj was also a hit. All three songs hit the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 in the same week, making her the only female artist besides Adele to have three top 10 hits simultaneously as a lead artist. Get it girl. My Everything also included jams like One Last Time, Love Me Harder ft. The Weeknd and Best Mistake, ft. ex-bf Big Sean.

2015: World Domination Continues

Ariana embarked on The Honeymoon Tour in support of the album, which was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammys that year (her other nom came in the form of Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for Bang Bang). She also returned to acting with a guest-starring role in Scream Queens, and gave fans a little holiday treat by releasing an EP called Christmas & Chill (which is V GOOD). Oh, also she did the Wheel of Impressions game on Jimmy Fallon and I’ve watched it like 5 times since.

January, 2016: Returning to Her Roots

Hey remember when I said I was the most impressed when I found out Ariana was in a musical by Jason Robert Brown? It’s because I think he’s a genius who created one of my favorite musicals of all time, The Last Five Years. And I’m the type of nerd who would go to one of his cabaret shows, but when he played in LA, I decided to be “smart” and save my money. Turns out I’m a dumb-dumb, because that night Ariana was a surprise guest and she sung a song from 13. I love this so much because it shows that she hasn’t forgotten where she came from, and is willing to sing at a random small venue in LA for her friend. In fact, she asked JRB to write a song for her that ended up being a bonus track on her Dangerous Woman album, called Jason’s Song (Gave It Away). She even performed it on Jimmy Fallon – and asked JRB to play piano. Read all about it on his blog.

March, 2016: Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!

To promote her new Dangerous Woman album, Ariana was the host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live. It was hands down, one of my favorite SNL episodes ever – she killed in each sketch (and all of them were actually funny – Jennifer Lawrence you guys!) and her musical performances  were perfect (I think about the Be Alright performance a lot).

December, 2016: A Checkerboard Chick

Ari got to live out a lifelong dream of playing Penny Pingleton in the annual NBC live musical, Hairspray, and was one of the standouts from the entire show. And again, my love for Ariana runs deep yet again, because she confessed her love for OBC member Kerry Butler, proving yet again, she’s a theater nerd just like us.

2017: Full Circle

Ariana has been on her Dangerous Woman World Tour since February, and that leads us to Manchester, where she brought the show on May 22nd. Here she is at the One Manchester show singing Over the Rainbow once again, filling us with emotion to see just what a Dangerous Wonder Woman she’s become.

Great Moments From One Love Manchester

One Love Manchester, a star-studded, beautiful benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester attack, was a resounding success. First of all, the concert raised over $3 million for victims and survivors. Second, One Love Manchester sold out: 50,000 tickets. This matters because the attacker specifically targeted a concert popular with young children. Not two weeks later, audiences – including some of the same children injured in the attack, like fantastic 8-year-old Lily Harrison – flocked to yet another concert in Manchester, showing that they will not react in fear or anger; they will react by living as they always have. This city sang and danced in the face of terrorism. Plenty of adults we’re supposed to respect have been far more cowardly. Last, the success of One Love Manchester were a personal and career triumph for Ariana Grande. These two weeks will come to define Ariana’s career: not the thing a small, terrible person did to her fans, but how she reacted. There were a lot of things to love about One Love Manchester, so here are just a few, in no particular order.

This Crowd Moment During Justin Bieber’s Set

Okay, Justin Bieber did a nice job. His set was reminiscent of Bieber’s rise to YouTube fame with simple arrangements, and his speech was surprisingly heartfelt and sweet. But did you see this police officer dancing in a circle with little girls during his speech? One of the sweetest moments of the night.

Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande’s Adorable Friendship

Don’t Dream It’s Over is an underrated ’80s classic, and Miley’s voice really knocks it out of the park on exactly this sort of song. You also couldn’t miss how cute Miley and Ariana are together. They’ve both been famous for some time now, and this clip reminded me that they’re also just nice, supportive friends in their early 20s.

The Parrs Wood High School Performance

Parrs Wood High School’s cover of My Everything, in honor of the Manchester Terror Attack victims, made the rounds last week. They performed beautifully at One Love Manchester, and were joined by Ariana herself. 12-year-old soloist Natasha Seth’s reaction was precious, and Ariana’s reaction to Natasha absolutely made me cry.

Olivia Campbell And Her Mum

15-year-old Olivia Campbell was one of the 22 murdered in Manchester, and Olivia’s mother had some words for Ariana. In her intro to Side to Side, Ariana said “I had the pleasure of meeting Olivia’s mommy a few days ago, and as soon as I met her I started crying, and I gave her a big hug. And she said that I should stop crying because Olivia wouldn’t have wanted me to cry. And then she told me that Olivia would have wanted to hear the hits. So that means that we had a totally different show planned. We had a rehearsal yesterday where we changed everything.”

Suddenly, Side To Side was a touching tribute to a teenage girl who just wanted to go out and listen to pop music on a school night.

Don’t Look Back In Anger

Oasis is as associated with Manchester as Man United (at least for those of us living across the ocean). Don’t Look Back In Anger is one of their most recognizable songs and one that has made me well up even during good times. After the attack, a crowd at a vigil even broke out into the chorus after a moment of silence. Chris Martin of Coldplay did an admirable cover. You could feel that all 50,000 audience members, at least at that moment, believed that the best way forward was not to look back in anger – at least not today.

Take That and Robbie Williams

It’s probably a pop culture personality test: do you associate Manchester with Oasis or Take That? Or are you more of a solo Robbie Williams fan? At One Love Manchester, you didn’t have to choose: crowds were treated to both Take That and solo Robbie. My ’90s heart will always love Robbie Williams singing Angels.

Niall Horan’s Crowd-Talk

Niall has the sweetest, humblest variety of boy band polish. He didn’t say anything groundbreaking, it was more the way he just sounded like a boy… standing in front of a city… telling it that he loves it, instead of like a schmoozy musician.

This Finale

Ariana ended the concert with Somewhere Over The Rainbow. She cried, I cried, we all cried. It – like the night as a whole – was a beautiful tribute to the Manchester victims, survivors, and to a city that sings and dances in the face of terrorism.

Questions, Comments and Concerns: Dirty Dancing (2017)

Dirty Dancing was the coolest, most grown-up movie when I was eight years old and it was an entirely different movie. The 1987 film was a mainstay of sleepovers and cable tv throughout my ’90s childhood, and it’s where I learned about family summer camps, partner dancing and I guess also abortion. [Traci saw it for the first time as an adult – read her pop culture blind spot post here.] Thirty years (? and also !) have passed since the release of the original Dirty Dancing. Since then we’ve been treated to 2004 sequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, a stage musical that I saw only because it was part of my season package, and now ABC’s TV movie treatment. The 2017 version of Dirty Dancing loosely adapts the original screenplay, makes it a musical – sort of – and stars Abigail Breslin as Baby, Sarah Hyland as Lisa, Debra Messing as mom Marjorie (in what I can only assume is a bid to make us feel even older than we did when we realized Dirty Dancing was 30), Colt Prattes as Johnny and Nicole Scherzinger as Penny, among others. I wanted to like it a bit, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.

Question: Does this meta-Dirty Dancing framing device serve any purpose?

Dirty Dancing (1987) is the story of a young woman going to family summer camp in 1963 to learn about dancing and herself.

Dirty Dancing (2017) is the story of a 30-something woman going to a stage musical in 1975, of a movie that in the actual universe was released in 1987 (but don’t worry, the 1975 musical still has INCREDIBLY ’80s-looking posters),  which is the story of the time she went to family summer camp in 1963 to learn about dancing and herself.

Maybe ABC just wanted to show off their green screen technology:

Places I’ve seen a more accurate depiction of a person standing on a street in NYC:

(1) New York, New York in Las Vegas

(2) Epcot

(3) Sesame Street

(4) snowglobes

Comment: Baby is an early adopter of Betty Friedan-era feminism

Neither a question nor a concern, just mentioning that the first dialogue is a convo about The Feminine Mystique for whatever reason.

Concern: A costume designer hates Abigail Breslin, a cute young lady

Or is completely unable to tailor clothing to a non-hanger-shaped human. Not sure which would be worse. Two more inches and some work on the darts, PLEASE.

Comment: At least Baby still has anachronistic hair

One of my tv/film pet peeves is anachronistic hair in period films. It was especially prevalent in films of the 1950s to 1980s, but even in this 2017 version Baby has hair that would’ve looked positively nutty in the early ’60s. Still not as bad as Jennifer Gray’s ’80s perm.

See also: Jennifer Gray’s 80s-style jean shorts, crop top, keds combo.

 

Question: How many former So You Think You Can Dance contestants do you think are in the Den Of Vice where the employees go to sing and dance after-hours?

They do a good job.

Comment: Baby looking bemused while wearing Wendy Darling’s nightgown is my vibe during this whole movie.
Question: Honey, what’s this, what’s happening, what’s going on here?

A word on fashions of the late ’50s and early ’60s. Foundation garments were still a THING and ’50s-’60s silhouettes are immensely flattering on ladies with boobs, butts, etc. because the waist is emphasized. These ill-fitting costumes without a proper foundation are just all wrong – even if a fashion-clueless teenager might have looked dowdy by accident, there’s no real need to do that here. Making such an adorable girl dress like my grandma after she gave birth to her fifth child in 1960 ought to be a crime.

Concern: Everyone is really crabby at Baby. Constantly.

Baby: I’ll pay for your abortion.

Johnny: Literally buzz off forever, Baby.

Comment: White struggle: learning to move/clap on the twos and the fours.
Comment: What gets me is, I KNOW Abigail Breslin can sell a dance number.

While I’m watching the classic log scene, I’m blown away by how stilted the dance sequences are, and not just in a “Baby’s just learning to dance” way. I don’t know what to blame – the choreography, the direction, the chemistry – but I stop short of blaming Abigail Breslin because we all remember how she totally sold that iconic dance scene in Little Miss Sunshine.

Question: Is anyone watching Dirty Dancing for middle-aged parents coping with a stilted, loveless marriage?

Doesn’t matter. That’s what you’re getting.

Comment: The scene with Penny and Baby dancing is kind of cute.

The Penny/Baby friendship chemistry is a hundred times better than the Johnny/Baby romantic chemistry. Then they start singing, which is a thing that happens in this production. It’s fine. Oldies, not original songs, which is the way to go I think.

Concern: I have to wait for the end of Johnny and Baby’s mambo performance to find out if it was supposed to have gone well or not.

The audience cheers.

No lift, though.

Started on the two.

Success?

Question: Why was Johnny in prison?

I mean, Johnny was in prison for car stuff. But WHY, you know?

Comment: White struggle #2: Having to leave family camp early.

Not my particular struggle (the idea of my parents ever spending money on something like a family resort-camp is laughable), but presented like it’s a very real tragedy here. Debra Messing pointedly sings They Can’t Take That Away From Me, which is how women in 1963 showed their emotions when their vacation and marriage was about to be cut short.

Concern: Is Debra Messing’s lawyer in her rolodex?

Marjorie wants a divorce and says “I called my lawyer” (and also “I’d rather be alone than lonely”), which causes me to hop on the memory train and get off in the era before cell phones and internet. She either had her lawyer’s number written down or memorized, or the main office had a yellow pages for her home region. Then she either had to use the office phone or a pay phone. Which is all to say that she wants this divorce hard.

Concern: Talk-singing.
Comment: Baby has to tell her whole family she slept with Johnny in order to absolve him of stealing a watch.

And THAT is why you don’t go to summer camp with your family.

Question: Could the costume designer be trolling us?

All of the ’60s styles that would look gorgeous on Abigail and they do this:

Comment: The last half hour of the movie.

Hulu keeps freezing, but I caught the last hour on live TV so we’re good.

The parents aren’t getting divorced because the dad sings the same song the mom did earlier, which is the magic formula to undo divorce feelings.

Debra Messing gets a nice dress. Abigail Breslin gets a better dress than before.

Sarah Hyland learns how to play ukulele and instead of the fun warbling off-key song from the original, we are treated to her singing Bob Dylan. Yes, just a week or so at Kellerman’s and she’s a Betty Friedan-reading, Dylan-listening folk singer with an interracial love interest. As Hairspray – another ’80s flick set in the ’60s with a (better) 2000s remake – would say, Welcome To The 60s. (Marco, Lisa’s friend who teaches her about ukulele and probably love, is cute and charming, played by newcomer J. Quinton Johnson. I like him. And Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright) Is probably one of my top 10 Dylan songs, anyway.)

The less said about the closing song, the better. I’m just going to say this: the spoken phrase “I had the time of my life” segues into the sung phrase “I had the time of my life.”

Concern: Oh. This framing device, again.

We’re back in 1975. A baby-faced 30-year-old Baby leaves Dirty Dancing, the smash 1970s musical, and runs into Johnny, who stars in it? Directs it? Choreographed it? The musical is based on her book. Their romance belongs to the past, just like the last three hours of our lives. Baby has a husband and young daughter (who really does resemble young Abigail Breslin) who is probably way under the target demo to be watching Dirty Dancing or to care about her mother’s coming-of-age summer. Baby FINALLY has makeup, hair and clothing that suits her. I kind of wish they went full This Is Us and set the bookends in the present day with Abigail Breslin aged up to 70 years old, watching this telefilm from her living room as a grandchild distractedly live-tweets it. Now THAT is an unnecessary framing device I could get into.

 

Mr. Rogers Is Pure In Heart

Every time a disaster strikes or our faith in the good in the world is tested – and it feels like it happens on a weekly basis now, doesn’t it? – the quote from Mister Rogers starts going around:

Like most pithy sayings, it’s popular because it’s true. After every single man-made or natural disaster,  follow-up stories include the first responders and private citizens rushing to help whomever they can, however they can.

I think there’s another reason we see this quote come up so often, though, and that’s because of who said it: Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was such a deceptively simple show that I’m not sure it could be made now. Fred Rogers, a nice man, comes home, puts on a warm cardigan that his mother made, slips on his sneakers and talks to children. It’s the last part that’s still revolutionary (as much as I love changing into my comfy clothes when I get home). Fred Rogers talks to children, as though they’re real people, because they are. Then he meets people doing their work and learns about the things they know how to do and are interested in. Then he plays pretend in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

These are the reasons we keep going back to Mister Rogers when times are tough. Fred Rogers talks to everyone as though they are important, listens to people and is interested in them, and believes in make-believe. Very few people in the media offer this to children, and barely any offer it to adults (our Blog Patron Saint, Amy Poehler, maybe – these figures exist, but they aren’t always easy to find). Let’s look at this a little closer, if only because it’s a positive thing to be discussing at a time full of negative things:

Fred Rogers Recognizes That Children (And People!) Are Important

Right now all episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are streaming on Twitch. I have kept several episodes from the 1960s and 1970s on in the background as I’ve gone about my work this week, and it’s exactly as I remember from my early childhood in the 1980s and 1990s. Mister Rogers – I know we can call him Fred but he’s Mister Rogers forever to me – offers constant affirmations that his audience is exactly right just as they are. This is probably the genesis of the “everybody is special” movement that some folks like to complain about, but when you watch Mister Rogers you can’t help but realize that that’s exactly true. Every single person is different from every single other person, and that in itself is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes I feel like Mister Rogers was saying these things as much for the parents watching as the kids. Or, could he have seen into the future, the 30-year-olds live-streaming from their desks at work during a particularly dire news cycle.

Scratch that: sometimes he directly addresses the grown-ups, because I think he realizes that adults can feel just as uncertain of themselves as preschoolers:

Adapted for adults, the same message:

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

This affirmation that who you are and what you do matters to your community keeps us coming back to Mister Rogers. In sociology terms, he deals in spheres of influence. Maybe you can’t fix the big troubles in the world, but you can make your neighborhood a better place. Fred said it best:

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own–by treating our ‘neighbor’ at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Mister Rogers also realizes that big concepts, like language, aren’t too big for children. They’re actually just right, because children are learning about them for the first time:

With just a few words changed, it’s just the thing adults need to hear, too:

“What matters isn’t how a person’s inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life. What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of a war or the description of a sunrise–his numbers for the final count at Buchenwald or the specifics of a brand-new bridge.”

Mister Rogers Is Interested In The World Around Him

It’s not Mister Rogers, it’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In every episode, Mister Rogers would learn about different members of his community: artists and athletes and puppeteers, but also folks in those everyday jobs that fascinate children so much. Yo Yo Ma was a pretty cool guest, but so were teachers and trash collectors. We all lost our cool over a mail carrier every single episode (Mr. McFeely was fantastic, after all). This is the cynicism-free attitude I love to see and try to remember to display. We don’t know everything about everything, and sometimes the most fascinating thing in the world is just to understand what someone other than ourselves finds fascinating, or how a stranger fills their time. I don’t get many chances to visit crayon factories like Mister Rogers did, but I can still ask questions and listen to answers. “Everybody is special” isn’t a call to self-importance, it’s a call to remember how important every single person you meet is.

Mister Rogers Loves Make Believe

… and I do, too. As a child I’d spend hours in my backyard imagining I was growing a World War II victory garden or traveling the Oregon trail. My basement was a garden-level apartment I lived in all by myself. Once I was “too old” for make-believe I was in acting classes, where I found the other kids who hadn’t stopped pretending, either. But as Mister Rogers tells us, each person is different. I have never known a child who didn’t love make believe, but I have known a lot of children who need help with it. When I start pretending with some of my nieces and nephews, I see that spark of “I didn’t know I could see things that way!,” the same spark we adults get when a comedian frames a familiar concept in a new way. Some kids get a refrigerator box and instantly turn it into a bus, spaceship and, well, refrigerator box – but one they’re trapped inside on a mail truck on an expressway careening into the ocean. Other kids need an adult to hand them some markers and safety scissors and ask them what they think that box could be. That’s what Mister Rogers does.

In Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe provides a ready-made framework to pretend. There is King Friday, Henrietta Pussycat and my grouchy favorite, Lady Elaine. Children know that they’re all puppets and they know that a fun grown-up is making them come to life. This is infinitely better than puppets alone. Kids learn that we have the power to make scenarios and characters exist where nothing did before. Somebody versed in childhood development might tell you that this is teaching cause and effect or concrete versus abstract, but I think pretending is an end unto itself. For the kids and grownups who need a little push to pretend, Mister Rogers teaches us that make-believe is magical, fun, and available to us any time, anywhere.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Disasters that occur continents away are still hard to take, and that’s because of something Mister Rogers knew all along: we are all neighbors. While we all have Mister Rogers on the brain, let’s try to heed some of his lessons. Listen, look, and create. Let’s go make a snappy new day.

Guess The Fan Fiction OTP: Veronica Mars 10th Anniversary Edition

Welcome back, marshmallows.

Last week we marked the 10th anniversary of Gilmore Girls ending and this week, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of another beloved WB/CW show, Veronica Mars. Much like Gilmore, VMars’ third season finale was made without the producers knowing if they’d get a fourth season. It kinda brings closure but really doesn’t at all. Creator Rob Thomas even tried to save the show by pitching CW a version where Veronica goes to the FBI Academy, but that didn’t pan out well (you can still watch it on YouTube!).

And yet again just like Gilmore, fans were able to literally bring Veronica Mars back to life in 2014, thanks to the groundbreaking Kickstarter campaign that allowed all our faves to come back to Neptune one more time for the Veronica Mars movie in 2014. And we got more Logan/Veronica! That’s really what I cared about. Ok, I cared about closure for real, the one we never got with the mediocre season three/series finale. So instead of looking back at that episode, I’m doing something else – looking back at the series as a whole and the characters that we fell in love with over those three seasons. Or rather “fell in love” with each other. Welcome to Veronica Mars fan fiction.

Listen, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve read a fair number of fanfics in my lifetime. I have friends that have written fanfics before. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I admire writers’ creativity when it comes to making something they’re truly passionate about. And sometimes, fans can be passionate about the relationships that they hope would happen, but never play out on TV. The OTPs that or Oh No T Ps. The ships that never sail. But that’s why fanfic was created.

Sure, most VMars fans are into the whole Veronica/Logan (and I guess Veronica/Piz thing if you’re into that), but what about those forgotten OTPs? Below are 5 excerpts from VMars fanfics that focus on unlikely relationships – but ones that obviously are shipped to a certain extent. Try to figure out who these stories are about, and highlight in between the arrows to try to find out who the fanfic OTP is (and click their names if you want to read the whole thing!). Good luck!

OTP #1 from I Sleep Better With You

“She liked waking up next to him. The sun crept in through the slats of the blinds and touched him lightly, only just approaching his shaved head. His brown skin was warm against her as she stroked his arm, smiling sleepily at the peaceful expression on his face.

They were snuggled together in his bed, both fully clothed, as had become their habit lately. She would never admit that it was her favourite way to start a day, her favourite way to end the last. Working on cases together meant she was over at his at all hours, and it was only natural that they would fall asleep together. That was her story, and she was sticking to it.

The first time it happened she fell asleep on his couch, and woke feeling numb in her arms and her neck. As comfortable as his couch was, it wasn’t ideal. Still, when they woke up they laughed it off, made breakfast together, and she kissed his cheek goodbye. Ironically. Sardonically, even. He must have known, because when she showed up that evening with pizza and more case files he said “Honey, you’re home,” with a little smirk and a quirk of an eyebrow.

“Have you shrunk the kids?” smirking back at him, she proceeded to breeze through the door, which he then shut, and dropped the large stack of case files onto the somewhat cluttered table. The pizza was carefully placed beside them. She had her priorities.

OTP ==>Veronica/Weevil<==

OTP #2 from Heaven

There was a loud bang of the front door and in ran one-year-old Celia. They had been so proud when she started walking early. They soon realized it was a curse, as the little girl chose to run everywhere, now that she had found her legs.

Dad was booting down the aisle after her as Mom came through the door last. “I’m gonna get you, Celia-Bedilia!!!” He called and the little girl squealed with laughter. He easily caught her and threw her in the air as she cried out.

“Daddy! DAAAADDEEEEEEE!” She laughed and wrapped herself around her dad.

Logan and Veronica approached them. He gave them a smile and a nod and then yelled back at his wife. “See! I TOLD you I wouldn’t burst into flames in a church.”

“Hey! That’s what I said!” Said Logan, and gave his buddy a fist bump. Celia loved fist bumps and put her fist out for Logan.

OTP ==>Mac/Dick<==

OTP #3 from My Deputy

“It had been two days since He was hit with a Louisville Slugger and admitted to the hospital and it was driving Her spare. Every hour she’d glared at a nurse or a Doctor about his condition, and every hour she was simply told it was under review and she would be informed the moment any new information was available.

She hadn’t left his side since he was admitted and she stopped asking for updates four hours ago, instead she just sat with him and snarked at him.

She couldn’t help it, she didn’t know how else to be with him anymore.

“You’re not allowed to die.” She said flatly, staring at the television, as if it were a given, as if he’d somehow broken the rules by ending up in hospital. “You suck at your job, you always smell of cinnamon and you aren’t allowed to die. It’s no fun if I constantly have to tell you the rules Deputy.”

OTP ==>Veronica/Sheriff Lamb<==

OTP #4 from Potential

“When did you fall for him?” Veronica asked, and her hands twitched for a notebook she didn’t have.

He shrugged. “Mm. Honestly? When we were kids, probably. I don’t think I knew it then. I mean, I knew I was into guys – girls, too, and, you know, pretty much everyone else. I think. There’s just so much variety; I hesitate to use any particular labels in my super secret diary when I haven’t tried it all, y’know?”

She smiled down at her knees. “Right.”

“But. I mean.” He shrugged. “It was all kinda tied together, figuring that out, and, ah. I told him. About that. And he was good about it. Never told no one. And – straight boys, they find out you’re not one of’em and all the sudden they gotta cover up in the locker room, keep at least one woman between you at all times, all that shit. Like they’re automatically good enough for me, huh? But him… wasn’t like that.”

“You’re sure he was straight?”

“Oh, yeah. I asked him once. He practically apologized. Said he knew someone if I was looking for a community.”

“…I honestly cannot picture that conversation.”

“Yeah, neither could we, we laughed our asses off.”

“That’s strangely comforting.”

“Mmhm… So. I got over’im.”

“Just like that?”

He shrugged. “Hey, no one wants to chase their straight friend. Never ends well. I moved on. And… then Lilly Kane happened.”

OTP ==>Weevil/Felix<==

OTP #5 from Happily Ever After

They stay in cheap motels and live on chocolate Yoohoo and licorice until the sugar makes both of them edgy and jumpy and they laugh too much. Better than cocaine,      says as he shoves anther piece in his mouth and      just shrugs and watched the lines flash by, lit by the headlights as they hurl through the darkness. He’s not convinced they don’t need a better way to stop the pain: there’s a numbness missing without some way to alter the mind.

He never asks and Him never answers the question. But it hangs between them in the car, wondering if there’s room for forgiveness, seeking absolution. And their confessional is the back seat of the car parked on the side of the road, dust and tumbleweed stretching out in all directions, the sun beating down but He doesn’t notice any of it because his mouth is full of c**k and He is making those grunting noises that will haunt him later in his dreams.

OTP ==>Logan/Duncan<==

*fan art by TheElegantFaerie

Pop Culture Blind Spot: The Shawshank Redemption

“But Traci, The Shawshank Redemption is SO GOOD. I can’t believe you haven’t seen it!”

I’m aware. Oh I’m very aware. I’m also very aware that Pulp Fiction and the Star Wars and the Godfathers are all critically acclaimed, but I haven’t seen those either. It’s basically the reason we have this pop culture blind spot series in the first place. We are aware we’re missing out on a huge part of the pop culture landscape. And we’re working on it.

In the process of “working on it”, I finally got around to watching Shawshank and 2 and a half hours later it was a blind spot no more. Read on to revisit this iconic cinematic masterpiece that I’m officially an expert on having just seen it for the first time.

Prior Knowledge of This film

Prison. Tim Robbins. Someone dies? Supposed to be real good.

Actual IMDb description

Two imprisoned men (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman) bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Oh right Morgan Freeman. I swear I knew that.

Ohh this is a double death crime of passion? I’m already into this.

The cinematography is great in this! (Apparently so great it was nominated for an Oscar)

Legit question: it’s 1949 but there wasn’t segregation in this prison?

This is nothing like Orange is the New Black. Relatedly, I miss my GF Poussey.

Doctor Romano is one of these prison wardens?! Remember when his arm got cut off by a helicopter in ER?

TIM ROBBINS IS SO TINY AND CUTE. He was only 36 when he made this, which is adult age but he still looks like a little nugget.

Yes Andy making a deal with the officers to drink some beer. That is a true hustler.

Andy gets constantly gang raped by a group of men called the Sisters and it is not fun to watch. I also was not expecting a lot of rape in this film, tbh.

Wait the Captain, after befriending Andy, comes to his defense by beating up the prisoner who was raping Andy? This is oddly heartfelt and I feel weird about it?

I need to read more about prisoners getting Bibles on their way in. Does this always happen? Does it still happen?

This is amazing – now other prison guards are going to Andy for trust fund and financial advice!? He’s practically doing taxes for every employee. And he set up shop in his new office at the library, and he’s really the Taystee of Shawshank State Penitentiary.

Aw that actor guy is in jail! James Whitmore is his name. You know, the old guy from all the things! In Shawshank, his name is Brooks and he’s been in the prison for 50 years, spending most of his days as the joint’s librarian. He finally gets parole and he now works at a Halfway House and works as a bagger at a grocery store and oh my god this is so sad I’m cRYING. It doesn’t end well for Brooks 😦

“The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Brooks

I guess when you’re have prison and got nothing but time, a long con is small peanuts. Andy wants to improve the prison library so he writes to the government asking for money in the prison budget. He doesn’t hear back. He continues to write a letter every single week for SIX YEARS until one day officials finally write back and give him a check for $200, along with a note appreciating his “persistence”. Never give up on your dreams, kids.

This Mozart scene tho.

BILLY THOMAS!!!!

If this is who Ally McBeal fell in love with in high school I GET IT.

Billy Thomas had an old cellmate who basically confessed to killing Andy’s wife and her lover?! And his name – the robber dude who killed them – is Elmo Blatch. Elmo. Blatch. He has a face that looks like this. What nightmares are made of.

Andy talks to the warden to tell him Billy Thomas’ story and the warden is a dumb prick about it and the frustration I get with Andy’s lack of support from the warden is the same frustration I felt when watching Making a Murderer.

WHAT THE FUCK THE WARDEN BASICALLY HAS BILLY THOMAS KILLED SO HE DOESN’T COME FORWARD WITH THE REAL STORY AND ANDY CAN’T LEAVE THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM HAS ALWAYS BEEN CORRUPT

They’ve mentioned farts like thrice is this symbolism

oh my god Andy was using the rock pickaxe thing to dig a hole through the wall to escape and used the posters of Hollywood stars to cover up the hole. Brilliant.

“Andy Dufresne, headed for the Pacific. Those of us who knew him best talk about him often. I swear, the stuff he pulled… Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” I GUESS I JUST MISS MY FRIEND. RED! YOU’RE KILLING ME

Seriously Red/Morgan Freeman goes into his parole meeting and literally says “I don’t give a shit” then gets approved after years of being declined. Is this what I should do in job interviews?

When he gets let out he lives in the same room as Brooks, has the same job bagging groceries. It’s like late 1960s early 1970s now? Again, isn’t there segregation?? Like he’s being let out in a world where he can’t drink from the same water fountain as white people AND he’s an ex-con.

That’s probably why Red was like eff this, I’m gonna go follow this scavenger hunt Andy is leading me on. It takes him all the way to the oak tree in Ohio Andy talked about in prison. Red digs out a box with money and a letter from Andy, telling him to meet him in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, a place Andy told him about long ago. And so Red continues.

 

RED, 2 HOURS AGO: “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

ANDY, IN HIS LETTER NOW: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

RED, ON THE FINAL LEG OF MEETING UP WITH ANDY: “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

“Get busy living or get busy dying”, my new tattoo.

GUYS I’M CRYING THEY’RE REUNITED ON THE PACIFIC

A++++. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. IT’S AS GOOD AS THEY SAY.

Revisiting The Gilmore Girls Series Finale: A Laterblog

“I guess so.” Those are the final three words Gilmore Girls fans had to live with for nearly 10 years when the original series came to a close on May 15th, 2007. Not really satisfying when you know that wasn’t how the show was suppose to end.

Who would’ve thought that nearly a decade later, we’d get a re-do. That Amy Sherman-Palladino would be able to write the finale she wanted to and finally reveal the final four words (as controversial as it was) she had been keeping secret for years.

So today, let’s look back at the finale that aired 10 years ago with this laterblog of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions (ALL the emotions), and revisit the finale like omniscient time travelers from the future.

*Ed. Note: We published this laterblog back in 2015, when we were prepping to go to the Gilmore Girls reunion at the ATX TV Festival in Austin – PRE-Revival news. Little did we know what lay ahead of us. Enjoy!


{Originally posted June 5, 2015)

It’s Friday, and you know what they say, “Friday night’s alright for fighting, get a little action in.” While we won’t be serving up any punches or dinners for that matter, we’re ending Gilmore Girls Week with the memorable, controversial, semi open-ended ending to the series – the finale.

We’ve done a number of live blogs in the past, but since we’re watching and recapping it almost exactly eight years later (give or take a month), it’s a laterblog of sorts. However, tomorrow what WILL be live is our reports from the #ATXFestival, where the gang is reuniting. Will there be talk of a real reunion? What does Scott Patterson look like now and IRL? And will Amy Sherman-Palladino ever reveal the final lines she planned for the show?

As this post goes live, we’re already in the thick of it, so follow us this weekend on Twitter & Facebook (links on the right) with the hashtag #CAndSTakeATX for Gilmore goodness and all things television! Now, let’s revisit the final episode of Gilmore Girls and grab the tissues, because we’re highly emotional people.

Traci: I’d like to preface this by saying like Friends, I have only seen the Gilmore Girls finale a very few number of times, as opposed to the countless times I’ve seen every single other episode. I usually stop my chronological viewings on the second to last episode, partly because I can’t handle my emotions, and partly because it gets me all riled up and frustrated that they had to end the entire series that way. But we’ll get to that part later.

In 2007, I made a date with my friend Caitlin to watch the finale together. We both love the show – one of our initial bonding moments in college was when we were studying abroad and us and our friends would get together to illegally watch new episodes of GG on my computer since we couldn’t get it in the Netherlands, obviously. We are both emotional people, so we couldn’t be with anyone else except each other. I went over to her house and I remember it going by so quickly, us both crying and snotting towards the end, and like that, it was all over. I’ve seen it maybe three – four, now – times since. Here we go.

Molly: I just got swallowed up into a flashback of trying to watch tv during study abroad. I had a homestay … and their apartment didn’t have internet. Anyway, it was a really good season of Mira Quien Baile that year. I think there were episodes of Gilmore Girls from that period that I didn’t see until I started rewatching it before ATX. Of course, we studied abroad during season 6, so no great loss there. I’ve only seen the finale once, and my recollections are hazy at best.

T: The coup of getting Christiane Amanpour, Rory’s idol since season one, is absolutely one of the most brilliant cameo castings to ever happen on television. Now that I’m thinking about it, it was probably a sign from the writers that Rory’s story – in this part of her life at least – is done being told. She’s ready to go work and be on her own, without being close enough to Lorelai to drive home to her in an hour. Christiane is a symbol of what Rory could be in the future, and she’s propelling her towards the right direction.

M: It’s really easy to read the Christiane Amanpour appearance as stunt casting, but Traci nailed it. From season one we’ve seen Rory pursue the life she wanted, getting sidetracked during some of those weird years (YACHT HEIST WTF), and this just shows she’s making it to where she wanted to be.

Possibly the most awkward picture taken of all time

T: Lorelai gets weird around celebrities like “Jane Pauley, Harry Belafonte and Marisa Tomei” – why are all these people visiting Stars Hollow??

M: It’s like in Full House where like of COURSE Little Richard and the Beach Boys want to hang out with the Tanners.  But if Norman Mailer is to be believed, the Dragonfly is a great place to sit around during lunch hours.

T: The Stars Hollow High School band is playing Pomp and Circumstance at the Rory’s Graduation Reenactment Ceremony. I’ve always said this – the town puts Rory on a pedestal, and it’s borderline creepy, even though you know they’re coming from a place of love.

Rory Gilmore: Ice Cream Queen

M: That’s true, and it makes me love early seasons Rory for not being a bratty teen when she has everyone fawning over her all the time. In real life, even those of us who were AP/Honors/community service/ extracurricular-type teens barely got more than an “eh, you’re sufficient.” I think I like Stars Hollow better. [Of course, this also makes me sort of dislike Logan-era Rory for turning into a cruddy rich kid.]

2002-era Rory would never have had a Birkin Bag plot device.

T: “Once a screamer also a screamer.” No context for you.

M: I’m actually only on late season 6 in my rewatch, so skipping ahead a bit, but they definitely changed Caesars somewhere, right?

T: I just really love the fact Luke has a sister. And I love that she’s weird. With Luke’s parents gone and him just being an all-around grump, the one person he always has unconditional love for is his sister, even if TJ is being, well, TJ.

M: Do the very wealthy really still dress up for dinner at their own houses, Downton Abbey-style, like Richard and Emily do?

T: I can see rich East Coasters living in like, Brownstones in the Upper East Side doing this.

Normal, casual, Friday night dinner

T: Edward Hermann 😦 So sad every time I see him on the show. Fact: I went to a play he was in in Boston just because he was in it, NOT because I was interested in the history of Aristotle (or whatever it was about).

M: For some reason I thought his character was older, and when Edward Hermann died I couldn’t believe he was only in his early 70s. Too young.

T: I’M JUST SO PROUD RORY GOT A JOB WITH THE FUTURE PRESIDENT

Rory Gilmore – still on the road with Barack Obama in 2012

M: Remember how buzz-y Barack Obama was a this time? It’s kind of like our Gilmore Girls playlist where you have to put yourself back in that time – we’d had 8 years of the same president and it sounds hokey, but we really all were looking for ~hope and change. Also I never saw those 2012 pics and that’s adorable!

T: Reminder this also happened season five:

T: AND CUE TEARS NUMBER ONE:

Emily: “So this is it – we won’t see you again for who knows how long?”

Lorelai: “After dinner drinks for sure”

Richard: “Here, Here.”

T: Everyone being upset about Rory’s reenactment party being cancelled is another Rory Pedestal example. They must have other people graduating this year??

M: Granted she’s not graduating this year, but I always wondered why the town didn’t make a bigger deal about Lane. She was also an exemplary teen/young adult with a single mom. Wait. Do we know anything about Lane’s dad? Or did Mrs. Kim just find her in a basket at a tent revival?

T: They reference Mr. Kim a few times in the early seasons, but falls into the category of folks like Al of Al’s Pancake World and East Side Tilly of Characters Who Are Often Mentioned But Never Show Their Faces

M: Got it, so he’s like the Cathy Santoni of Stars Hollow. Or Cousin Tino.

T: TEARS NUMBER TWO *more of a fangirl flailing and tear up*:

LUKE IS GOING TO SOOKIE TO SECRETLY PLAN THE PARTY ANYWAYS

#LUKEDANESDREAMMAN

T: Ok so the town secretly coming together is sweet and not pedestal-y, since they’re doing it because they actually care a lot about Rory and Lorelai. Clearly at this point, they’re doing it out of love. And that makes my emoji face all heart eyed.

M: I love that Luke brought Sookie in on it. I loved Sookie throughout the show, and now it’s kind of crazy to think we had this future star playing this great secondary character for 7 years.

T: Taylor really hates mylar balloons – noted.

M: Speaking of which, at what point did grocery stores stop selling mylar balloons at the register? And wasn’t it really expensive to keep them all inflated all the time?

T: THIS IS IMPORTANT. I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M JUST REALIZING THIS NOW!!! I just had a flashback to my local Wegmans (Look it up, everyone west of like, Ohio).

tiny mylar balloons in the back

T: I really wish I could make a gif of Luke and co. bringing all the grills and items to set up for the party, then spot Lor and Rory, then run away silently. There are people carrying a table and running.

Photo May 31, 12 45 25 AM

M: I wish I paid closer attention to the townspeople extras throughout the series. Did they reuse a lot of people? On a less heartwarming note, I hate when Jackson breaks out his Osh Kosh B’gosh. He’s also wearing some sort of a Little Rascals type cap.

NAGL unless you’re playing Shirley Temple’s boyfriend or something.

T: I think maybe? But also I don’t think I pay too much attention either. The only person I’ve noticed is the Asian guy.

T: DAVE RYGALSKI NAME DROP

T: TEARS NUMBER THREE:

RORY SAYING GOODBYE TO LANE

I’m so glad Rory and Lane got to have this scene together, especially since in the later seasons, it’s been more focused on Rory and Paris being best friends, since Lane had her own life going on.

M: During the initial Dean vs Jess debate – before it became clear that Dean was just a breathing trash-factory – my bias was always Team Just Hang Out With Lane, You’re 16. Seriously. 30-year-old 2015 Rory is definitely still friends with Lane, and doesn’t even have Dean’s number listed as Dean DontAnswer in her phone anymore. Do you guys do that? Use the surname DontAnswer to remind yourselves not to talk to some people if they call? That was MADE for people like Dean.

T: TEARS NUMBER FOUR:

Lorelai: “It’s too soon. If I start to think about you leaving now, I’m gonna fall apart. It’s too soon.”

M: Total throwback to The Lorelais First Day At Yale, when Rory had a week less time than she thought before starting college. Remember that feeling, like no time would have been enough but they just weren’t prepared for it to be THEN?

T: OMG why have I never noticed the random Asian townsperson finally got to say a line?!!? BRAVO.

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M: There’s my answer about recurring extras!

T: TEARS NUMBER FIVE:

LORELAI SNEAKING IN WHILE RORY’S SLEEPING TO TUCK HER IN AND SAY A SILENT GOODBYE

It’s weird – we’re at that age now where a lot of our friends are either about to get married, are already married, or are married with kids, and watching this scene, I had more of a sympathy with Lorelai, thinking to myself how hard it must be to say goodbye to your kid – the one you’ve raised for so long, and now you have to finally set them free. Before, I was just thinking how awesome it was that Rory was going to go on the road with Obama for this great job, which makes sense, because this aired towards the end of my junior year of college. Perspective, y’all.

M: Agreed. I had a moment a few years ago when I realized I was closer to Season One Lorelai’s age than Rory’s. Even though we don’t have kids, I think we’ve made that shift from seeing ourselves as kids – where your place in the world is being someone’s kid, right? – to autonomous adults. So now when I watch things from when I was younger, like Gilmore Girls, I relate to the “adults” more than I could before. DAMMIT TRACI. TEARS NUMBER ONE.

T: NOT EVEN SORRY FOR THE TEARS.

T: TEARS NUMBER SIX:

LUKE SEWING ALL THE TARPS TOGETHER TO MAKE A TENT FOR WHEN IT RAINS

apparently someone has the same feelings as me

T: UGH I HAD TO PAUSE THE EP ONCE THEY LOR STARTED DRIVING IN HER JEEP IN THE RAIN BECAUSE I HAD TO BRACE MYSELF FOR WHAT’S COMING.

T: TEARS NUMBER SEVEN (JUST A STEADY STREAM AT THIS POINT, TBH):

HEARING THE CHEERS FROM UNDER THE TENT

ZACH AND JACKSON RUNNING OUT WITH UMBRELLAS TO GET LORELAI AND RORY

THE SCAN ACROSS EVERYONE CHEERING FOR HER LIKE A FINAL GOODBYE TO THE CAST UGHHH HOLD UP WHERE IS MICHEL

EMILY AND RICHARD SHOWING UP – WAIT LUKE HAD TO CALL RICHARD AND EMILY TO INVITE THEM!! JUST REALIZED THIS NOW.

Richard: “I don’t think this is all for Rory. I think this party’s a testament to you, Lorelai, and the home you’ve created here. It takes a *crying rn* a remarkable person to inspire all of this.

Lorelai: Thanks, dad.

TAYLOR: “BIRTH YOU FROM OUR COLLECTIVE WOMB” YOU’VE CROSSED THE LINE, YET AGAIN.

M: I DON’T LOVE TO HATE TAYLOR. I just hate Taylor. Also he said “gestated” and “nourished” and I haaaate hate hate hate both those words.

T: RORY THANKING LORELAI

M: Reminder that I’m a huge cryer: during Rory’s speech all I can think is I wouldn’t be able to do that without sobbing. I’m real fun at weddings, funerals, days when my friends post pictures of their children on instagram, etc.

T: EMILY TRYING TO GET LOR TO KEEP GOING TO FRIDAY NIGHT DINNERS BY BUYING HER A SPA

M: Also there’s my answer on the dress code! “Don’t wear jeans.”

Emily: “It’s an honor to be your grandmother, Rory Gilmore.”

LORELAI PASSING BY KIRK AND TAYLOR AND BABETTE ONE LAST TIME

OBVIOUSLY THIS REUNION KISS

ME: 

M: UGH Speaking of Titanic, when Rory walked into the party it was like when Old Rose dies or whatever, and she’s back on the ship being greeted by everyone. Except Rory’s not dead, though she is embarking on life on the political campaign trail, so same dif. For some reason I was really excited to see Gypsy.

T: OKAY BUT FRREAL THE ONE LINE I WILL NEVER FORGET AND IS ETCHED IN MY MEMORY SURROUNDED BY A FLOOD OF TEARS:

T: I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THIS EPISODE AND THIS SERIES THAT IT’S ACTUALLY WEIGHING DOWN ON MY HEART

M: We’re blogging this in advance because when this post goes out we’ll be at ATX, and maybe we should have waited to watch this together because my dog looks concerned and I don’t think she “gets it.” When I think of finales I’ve gotten emotional about – this one, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Parenthood – they’re all shows about love and about how there’s genuine good in people. IT’S JUST REALLY LIFE AFFIRMING I’M OKAY.

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Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: The Handmaid’s Tale

This weekend you could turn on your TV  to watch a totalitarian regime use self-serving but ostensibly biblical rationale to oppress women, the LGBT community, intellectuals and others – or you could turn the news off, flip over to Hulu and watch the first five episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. We suggest the latter.

If you aren’t familiar with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, you won’t need to know much before you watch the Hulu series. Creator Bruce Miller wonderfully establishes the setting and reveals information at a pace that will answer all your questions in time. The Handmaid’s Tale depicts life in Gilead, a quasi-biblical military dictatorship established in the former United States after the constitution was suspended sometime in the near future. With the birth rate drastically low, low-status fertile women are assigned to Commanders as “Handmaids” to bear their children if the commander’s wife is unable to conceive. There’s no real choice in the matter: the other option is to get shipped off to the “colonies” and clean up nuclear waste. The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her experiences with her commander (Joseph Fiennes), his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and fellow Handmaids (Alexis Bledel [Ofglen], Madeline Brewer [Janine], Samira Wiley [Moira]).

The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Timely It Will Scare You

Since Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, it’s always had unsettling echoes of reality … but sometimes it’s extra prescient. In 1985 America was experiencing the rise of the Moral Majority – a far-right backlash to developments both negative (the rise of street drugs, the growth of the AIDS epidemic) and positive (the gains made by the ’70s Gay Liberation Movement and the reproductive rights developments in Griswold v. Connecticut  and Roe vs. Wade). The back-and-forth between periods of social progress and reactionary periods of regression are familiar to anyone who’s opened a history book. An adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale probably would have been well-received in the 90s or early 2000s, but the Hulu adaptation feels almost necessary now. With news stories about an Oklahoma bill requiring a man’s permission to get an abortion, the commodification of children in unethical surrogacy and adoption contracts, and gay men being rounded up into camps in Chechnya, it’s not hard to envision a future like Gilead.

In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood makes it clear that not long has passed between its 1980s publication and the establishment of Gilead– she refers to cassette tapes, 1950s military surplus and 1970s magazines all still in existence. Likewise, the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future: in flashbacks to Offred and Moira’s recent past, there are references to Tinder, Uber and Craigslist. If Gilead looks familiar it’s because it should – Atwood has commented that everything that happens in The Handmaid’s Tale has already happened somewhere in the world. Even smaller details are accurate, such as the Handmaids’, wives’ and Marthas’ (housekeeper/cook/maid) old-timey outfits —  they’re spot-on when you look deep into the trenches of some Christian Fundamentalist movements or the FLDS church, where womens’ wardrobes are a kind of Little House throwback.

The Handmaid’s Tale Is Probably Going To Win All The Acting Awards

… or at least it should. If you watched Mad Men you already know that Elisabeth Moss can do everything, but if not we’re letting you know: Elisabeth Moss can do everything. She seamlessly switches from young, carefree Offred, to Offred as a Handmaid concealing her distaste for the regime, at once defiant and compliant. Moss excels both in scenes without dialogue and in voice-overs (I especially enjoyed the voiceovers after re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale and getting to the epilogue — no spoilers, but I forgot about that part). Joseph Fiennes is just as the Commander should be: he’s clearly part of the regime, but you can’t help but have some questions about him. Yvonne Strahovski is delightfully icy as Serena Joy. I admit that when I read The Handmaid’s Tale I was expecting something a little more Tammy Faye Bakker, but she’s actually perfect for a 2017 version. I can just picture Serena Joy as the Pinterest-perfect upper-class housewife before Gilead.

The real revelation, though, is Alexis Bledel as Ofglen. We’re both longtime, reunion-panel-attending Gilmore Girls fans, but having only seen Alexis as Rory I didn’t really know what range she is capable of. In one instant you can see why Offred believes that Ofglen is totally sold on the Gilead lifestyle, and in the next you understand that Ofglen is a rebel. Ofglen is both unbreakable and quietly devastated, and Alexis’s innocent appearance is used to better end here than it is in Gilmore Girls; as Vanity Fair noted, “she’s less Bambi here and more trapped bird.”

For what it’s worth, in my notes I wrote “somebody should have told me Samira Wiley was in this,” so I’m telling you now. If Poussey was one of your favorites in Orange Is The New Black, you’ll absolutely love Samira as the ebullient Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale. If Moira’s character in the Hulu series has the same outcome as Moira in the novel, I can’t wait to see it, but at least through episode 5 she is seen only in flashbacks.

The Handmaid’s Tale Works Really, Really Well As A Show

Many books suffer in film adaptations, and I think even more suffer in television adaptations. However, the Hulu limited series is the perfect way to adapt The Handmaid’s Tale. The format has allowed for expanded stories of some of the characters — for instance, Ofglen has a bigger backstory and a different fate in the show; we have filled in Moira and Offred’s history, but there is still more of Moira’s future to come as of episode 5. Although some characters have been altered or expanded on a bit, every change preserves the spirit of the book. Bruce Miller also made the wise choice of adding in details to show that we aren’t too far off from 2017. Now that The Handmaid’s Tale has been renewed for a second season, I do wonder how the comparison to the book will pan out. Does the first season encapsulate the whole novel, or will the season end partway through? If you have read the book, you’ll know that the Epilogue gives fodder for how the show could continue if season one does end with the book.

Still, I’d argue that all of the best adaptations succeed because they can be enjoyed on their own merits, and that’s my belief of The Handmaid’s Tale. The whitewashed lighting and beautiful set and costume design lend a real cinematic feel, and the writing includes plenty of time for suspense and speculation — but it doesn’t go full Lost and add a ton of elements that the viewer doesn’t have time to make sense of. Even the songs at the end of each episode are perfect. It’s dystopian fiction without any teens being sorted, and it’s grounded enough in reality that you won’t feel like it’s set on a different planet. The Handmaid’s Tale is a series so gripping that when I remember it’s Wednesday and a new episode is up, I’m more than happy to switch off the news. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.

The Rise of Riz Ahmed

Every once in a while, an actor comes on the scene and their personality, professional work and general persona is so unique it feels like spotting a unicorn. This time around, we’ve found it in Riz Ahmed.

The 34-year-old  star has been in the business for years, but it wasn’t really until last year when he blew up on the scene with blockbuster movies and hit TV shows. It’s also worth noting he’s British Pakistani, so it goes without saying: #RepresentationIsImportant. And those are just a couple of reasons why Time magazine just named him one of the 100 most influential people of the year, with a love letter written by his American twin, Lin-Manuel Miranda. His side hustle as a rapper and activism for those without voices are the cherries on top of this perfect Riz Ahmed sundae, but let’s go back a little and see how he climbed his way to the top and into our hearts.

The son of immigrants, Riz grew up in London and started acting in high school literally to stay out of trouble. There was a prominent racist problem that coincided with Asian gang culture, and he became v unruly and disruptive in class. it wasn’t until a teacher told him, “If you can muck about on stage, you get a clap for it, not a suspension.” And that’s what started it.

He went on to Oxford University, where he graduated with a degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). He’s said the dramatics scene in Oxford was very white and classical, which was totally what he was used to.

“I felt massively like a fish out of water. First person I met there, they laughed in my face and told me I reminded them of Ali G. So I kind of stuck out there, in terms of where I was coming from, the way that I spoke, the way I dressed. The place that you feel like you stick out the most is the place where you should stick it out and stay. Because that’s where you can contrubute somethingnew and fresh. it’s going to be hard and sometimes really lonely. and it was. but i was able to offer something different.”

However, he did continue to pursue his acting career by attending the Central School of Speech and Drama and he eventually got a break with his first film called The Road to Guantanamo. The docudrama told the true story of three British men who were detained in Guantanamo as enemy combatants, and they were kept there for two years before they were eventually released.

Riz played one of the young men, and ironically, four of the actors from the movie were detained in London’s Luton Airport after they returned from the film’s premiere in Berlin. Riz alleged that during questioning, police asked him pointed questions, inquiring if he had become an actor to further the Islamic cause, what he thought about the Iraq war, verbally abused him and denied him access to a phone. The police maintain that none of the actors were arrested, and just detained under the Terrorism Act (which lets them question people that are acting suspicious). Basically, Riz had practice for The Night Of.

At the same time, he was also working on his music career as Riz MC, and released his first single, Post 9/11 Blues, which was controversial, as the title can suggest. But even though his intentions were more satirical than anything, the track was banned from the airwaves by the British government.

“It is about how the contours of our society have been distorted since 9/11, and how that affects every area of our lives,” Riz told The Guardian at the time. “But it’s not a rant from an angry young Muslim, it’s funny, and the music is quite poppy and radio-friendly. It’s a shame that a satirical song like this is seen as a threat.”

Like an arguably better Will Smith, Riz carried on with both his acting and music careers concurrently, and receiving acclaim for both. Most of his screen work was British-based on TV and on the big screen, earning multiple British Film Independent Award nominations. And as a rapper, he released EPs and performed at Glastonbury, and with his hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys, most recently took the stage at Coachella. Did we mention he’s even on The Hamilton Mixtape??

By 2014, he had enough cred to break out of the British cinema bubble, garnering even more acclaim for his role opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. He served as Jake’s right hand camera man and his performance caught the eyes of several decisionmakers in Hollywood. In 2016, he had four movies come out, including Jason Bourne and Rogue One, two non-blockbusters, obviously.

On TV, he appeared in Netflix’s OA, had a short yet v important recurring role in Girls, and of course, maybe his career defining role in The Night Of. True story, I just finished watching this – seven episodes in one day and I could’ve gone on to watch the finale, but I decided it was better to not be a crazy person and saved the eighth and final episode for the next day. But that’s a testament to not only how powerful the performances are, but that the story itself is one that needs to be told.

For those who don’t know, Riz stars as Nasir Kahn, a Pakistani-American college student who couldn’t be more of an average guy. He’s pretty timid, family oriented and even tutors basketball players so they can stay on the team. One night, he takes his dad’s taxi to go to a party in downtown New York City, but a girl gets in the cab thinking he’s a real taxi driver. He agrees to drive her, but that decision changed his entire life. He goes back to her place, she offers him drugs, they have sex, and in the morning, he wakes up and finds her dead after being stabbed multiple times. But he didn’t do it. Or at least he didn’t remember what happened.

The miniseries follows Nas’ journey in prison, and how race and economic status play into the criminal justice system. Riz in particular plays Nas in a way that you are rooting for him, and left in awe of the transformation – including a maj physical one – throughout the eight episodes. And again, critics seemed to take notice, as Riz was nominated for both a Golden Globe and SAG Award this year. You’ll get ’em next time, kid.

And to top it all off and becoming the ultimate dream man, he’s continued to have that interest in social issues and politics (putting that Oxford degree to good use), and using his platform as a celebrity to bring attention to various issues, like the Syrian refugee crisis. He even teamed up with his The Night Of co-star John Tuturro to raise money for the Karam Foundation, which provides families with basic needs and delivers education programs for refugee youth. The crowdfunding campaign was a direct response to Trump’s executive order banning the entry of Syrian refugees & immigrants into the U.S. He’s raised over $178,000 and you can still donate here.

So while he’s a relative newcomer to the scene, Riz’s professional and personal work over the past year alone is more than enough reason for him to be named one of the most influential people in the world. Perhaps most importantly, it’s refreshing to see someone have such a positive influence on this generation and generations to come, all because he speaks candidly and openly about things he’s passionate about, and not in a media trained sort of way.

For example, Riz isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall and remind people that fame and celebrity doesn’t make you immune to the harsh reality of the world we live in today.

“It’s been a weird year. I’ve been enjoying the access, but, on the other hand, America and England both shot themselves in the face,” Riz noted at the Elle Style Awards earlier this year. “It was a year where I was getting searched like three time instead of two before I got on a plane, but, when I got on the plane, I was on the cover of the inflight magazine. Weird.”

He’s honest, yet professional. An activist, but not in your face. An undeniable star, but no ego. In short: Riz Ahmed is a unicorn.