Ranking The New Crop Of TV Shows: 2017 Edition

Fall is here, and so is our annual Back To TV Week! Listen. There are good TV years, and there are bad TV years. 1994 saw the premieres of Friends, E.R., Party of Five and The Magic School bus, for instance. Alas, this is not Back to 1994 week, and let’s just say the cable and network offerings of 2017 are a bit more checkered. That’s why we’re using the red light/green light approach: shows that probably are not worth your time get a red light. Shows you might want to give a shot depending on what you’re into get the yellow light. Green light shows could still end up disappointing us, but they deserve a chance.

9JKL

Airs: Mondays, 8:30/7:30c, CBS

Premise: Mark Feuerstein lives in an apartment between his parents’ apartment and his brother’s apartment.

RED LIGHT: This looks bad, the reviews are bad, but it gets a yellow light if you really loved Raymond, I guess.

The Brave

Airs: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Premise: It’s like a procedural, but with military behind enemy lines.

YELLOW LIGHT: Early reviews reference “jingoism” and “rah rah conservatism” so I’m going to take a pass, thanks. If you’re a big fan of military dramas, then this is nothing groundbreaking but maybe it has a place in your schedule.

Dynasty

Airs: Wednesdays, 9/8c, The CW

Premise: It’s Dynasty, but now and with a Latina stepmother.

YELLOW LIGHT: If you like campy soaps, this is just the thing for you. If that’s not your thing, the light just turned red.

Ghosted

Airs: Sundays, 8:30/7:30c, Fox

Premise: A nonsense person (Adam Scott) and an incredulous person (Craig Robinson) ghostbust Los Angeles to help out the cops. It’s a comedy.

GREEN LIGHT: It’s like The X-Files but Ghostbusters but Adam Scott. I will absolutely give it a try.

The Gifted

Airs: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox

Premise: Kids have mutant powers; parents have to go underground due to government threats. It’s in the X-Men universe.

GREEN LIGHT: This is said to be the most-anticipated show of the year, and it piles on special effects, a solid cast, and an interesting premise. It doesn’t sound like  a genre I’m usually into, but I also would have said that about Orphan Black and look where we are now.

The Good Doctor

Airs: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Premise: Freddie Highmore, who is an adult now, is a pediatric surgeon with autism.

GREEN LIGHT: Premise sounds good, cast sounds good, reviews are decent – why not?

Please note: in our post of Fake New Shows of 2019  – it’s a good post, go read it – we had the following:

Jerry Maguire

In this TV adaptation of Jerry Maguire, Jerry is played by that British kid from Finding Neverland (Freddie Highmore).

The Gospel Of Kevin

Airs: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC

Premise: God needs Kevin (Jason Ritter) to save the world.

YELLOW LIGHT: It does not sound great, but Jason Ritter’s all right? If anything, I learned that a place of my brain remembers that OTHER show about an unlikely everyperson with a mission from God – Joan of Arcadia. Anyway, the premise also includes Kevin’s recent suicide attempt and him living with his widowed sister and niece, so I’m going to … not, I guess, unless people start raving.

Law & Order: True Crime: The Menendez Murders

Airs: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

Premise: Literally the whole deal is in the title. It’s an anthology thing.

GREEN LIGHT: Thing you should know about me: I often fall asleep to true crime documentaries because someone spray-painted over my soul or whatever. And for 8 weeks this fall, I will be falling asleep to this one.

But really, 90s crime series and specials, from O.J. to Jonbenet, have been all the rage, so this feels right on-trend. Also, it’s not a 90s crime anthology without a respected actress in a perm wig.

Marvel’s Inhumans

Airs: Fridays, 9/8c, ABC

Premise: I swear, none of it made sense to me –  but presumably if you’re into the Marvel universe it does.

RED LIGHT: There is, of course, a niche of people who will love this, but if you don’t already know that you’re one of those people you can skip this. Face it, Friday night is not a time slot for a show the network has great confidence in.

The Mayor

Airs: Tuesdays, 9:30/8:30c, ABC

Premise: A rapper runs for office as a stunt but he gets elected – then he is good at it!

GREEN LIGHT: I’d watch Daveed Diggs in anything, and this premise sounds like a lot of fun once I get past my instinctive shudder at the phrase “runs for office as a stunt but gets elected.”

Me, Myself & I

Airs: Mondays, 9:30/8:30c, CBS

Premise: This is the story of the same man at age 14 in 1991, in the present day at 40, and in the future at 65.

GREEN LIGHT: First of all, Bobby Moynihan. Second of all, 90s flashbacks. Third of all, a future-jump to the 2040s. This sounds fantastic, and I hope it lives up to its promising premise.

The Orville

Airs: Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox

Premise: It’s the future, and a crew is on a spaceship, but it’s kind of a crappy spaceship. It’s a dramedy.

RED LIGHT: This could go one of two ways. If successful, it will bridge the comedy and sci-fi genres; if not, it will alienate fans of both. Unfortunately, first reports lean toward the “not.”

S.W.A.T.

Airs: Thursdays, 10/9c, CBS

Premise: A SWAT lieutenant has dual loyalties – the streets and the police.

YELLOW LIGHT: On one hand, this is the very definition of “done before.” On the other hand, Shemar Moore. If you’re a police procedural fan then you might want to at least catch the pilot.

SEAL Team

Airs: Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS

Premise: It’s a SEAL team.

YELLOW LIGHT: Word is people are really looking forward to this one. It’s not my cup of tea, but if it’s yours then you’ll probably also want to look into The Brave, profiled above.

Ten Days In The Valley

Airs: Sundays, 10/9c, ABC

Premise: The producer of a cop drama has a cop drama of her own when her daughter goes missing.

GREEN LIGHT: Reviews are good. Even better, this is a limited series – 10 episodes – which is the TV sweet-spot of taking your time with a story without drawing it out into unnecessary twists and turns.

Will & Grace

Airs: Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC

Premise: Will and Grace! Jack and Karen! Willandgraceandjackandkaren! Again!

GREEN LIGHT: Could this be the return of Must-See TV? Reboots have a spotty record, but this one looks like the real deal as long as it can avoid the Fuller House pitfall of making EVERYTHING into a winky nostalgia reference.

Wisdom Of The Crowd

Airs: Sunday, 8/7c, CBS

Premise: Solving crimes with a crowd-sourcing app.

YELLOW LIGHT: I’m bored of “X expert uses Y to solve crimes!” shows, but reviews are decent, so if that genre appeals to you then think about adding this one to your lineup.

Young Sheldon

Airs: Monday, 9/25, 8:30/7:30c, CBS

Premise: Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, but young – a child genius in the late 80s, starting high school.

GREEN LIGHT: If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory – because based on ratings, a LOT of people are fans of The Big Bang Theory. It doesn’t appeal to me at all, yet Young Sheldon looks really sweet. The child genius and 80s-throwback elements seem fun, and the pilot tested well. It’s enough to make me wish they had given the kid a different name and taken away the Big Bang Theory element, though I get that that is a huge draw for a lot of people. Fact is, Young Sheldon seems watchable whether you watch Big Bang or emphatically do not watch Big Bang.

I have a feeling that someday we will be saying that we liked Iain Armitage back when he was still Iain Loves Theatre.

 

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Pete Souza’s Got It Made In The Shade

You guys have morning social media routines, right? I tend to check Instagram first, and when I come across a post by former White House photographer Pete Souza, I usually groan and think, “Ugh, what did Trump do now?” Apparently I’m not the only one.

Pretty funny, actually.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Pete snapped President Obama back when he was a first-year Senator, and was by his side for the entirety of his presidency. His photos were acclaimed and became popular thanks to his ability of capturing moments big and small. But just because Barry left office, doesn’t mean Pete stopped posting photos of him online. In fact, he’s used it as a shady tool to comment on DT’s “governing” skills. And look, I don’t think Pete’s a bad guy for hitting back at 45 with cutting captions/photos of 44. I just think he’s “retaliating” in such a classy way that it’s worth giving attention to.

I don’t expect his posts to stop any time soon, so here are just some of my favorite shady comebacks by Pete over the past year, and DT’s jerk move of the day which prompted the post.

January 21st – Inauguration

I like these drapes better than the new ones. Don't you think?

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

January 27th  – DT Signs Executive Order for Travel Ban

Talking with a young refugee at a Dignity for Children Foundation classroom in 2015.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

January 31st – Neil Gorsuch Nominated For Supreme Court

Merrick Garland. Just saying.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

February 1st – DT Has ‘Worst Phone Call Ever’ With Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

February 6 – DT’s Cabinet and Administration Not Diverse

Meeting with top advisors. This is a full-frame picture. I guess you'd say I was trying to make a point.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

February 7th – Betsy DeVos confirmed as secretary of education

Visiting a pre-kindergarten classroom in 2013.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

 

February 11th – Awkward Handshake Number One With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

With Prime Minister Abe after visiting Pearl Harbor last December.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

February 13th – Awkward Handshake Number Two with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Allies.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

February 15th – Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

Meeting with Putin in 2014.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

February 20th – “The Sweden Incident”

Remembering our great trip to Sweden in 2013.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

March 17th – Third Awkward Handshake With German Chancellor Angela Merkel

First time meeting Angela Merkel in 2009

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

March 29th – DT Signs Executive Order at EPA Curbing Government’s Enforcement of Climate Regulations

2015 in Alaska, where climate change is not a hoax.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

April 4th – DT Orders Missile Strike In Syria

Meeting on Syria in the Situation Room with his national security team. 2013.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

April 10th – DT Skips White House Passover Seder 

Last year's Seder at the White House.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

May 4th – House Passes ACA Repeal

May 7th – WH Tells Press DT Is In Meetings At His Golf Course, Spotted Playing Golf Instead

Meetings, 2016.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

May 23rd – DT Visits Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Leaves Note Thanking Amazing Friends

Outside the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, 2013.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Bonus: Melania Swats DT’s Hand Away (and one of my fave ever pix of the Obamas)

Holding hands.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

May 25th – DT Pushes Aside President of Montenegro at NATO

Laughter at the 2012 NATO Summit. No jostling involved.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

June 1st – DT Announces U.S. Will Pull Out of Paris Agreement (This is part of a larger photo series)

This land is your land. This land is my land.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

June 10th – James Comey Reveals He Secretly Met With Trump in the WH Green Room

By request: this is the Green Room. Not a good place to hide things.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

June 29th – DT Mocks Mika Brzezinski; Says She Was ‘Bleeding Badly From a Face-Lift’

July 20th – DT Says He and Putin Spoke About “Adoptions” at G20

July 24th – DT Talks Winning (and other things) to Boy Scouts

July 25th – DT Calls Out “Beleaguered” Jeff Sessions on Twitter.

President Obama standing alongside Attorney General Eric Holder in 2013.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

July 27th – DT Announces Ban Against Transgendered Soldiers in Military

July 28th – Senate Rejects ACA Repeal

August 8th – “Fire and Fury” Against North Korea

Words matter. Especially from this podium.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

August 12 – Charlottesville

August 19th – DT and Melania to Skip This Year’s Kennedy Center Honors

August 22 – DT To Extend Military Presence in Afghanistan 

Greeting our troops at Bagram, Afghanistan 2010.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

August 30th – Hurricane Harvey Hits Houston

 

The Man Behind the Meme: Distracted Boyfriend

Me. Work. The last viral meme of the summer.

You’ve seen it, the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme that made its rounds on the internet over the past couple weeks. It starts with the picture:

Then text is added to label each person in the photo. The guy is subject, the girl in red is whatever is distracting the subject, and the girl in blue is whatever the subject should be paying attention to.

According to The Meme Documentation Tumblr, the meme first started in January and used by a Turkish Facebook group dedicated to progressive rock (of all things).

But of course it nothing happened with this Turkish group’s meme for months, until August, when a Twitter user kept the format but rejigged the text, and it went viral:

So what’s the deal with this photo anyways? It’s clearly not a candid of a couple on the rocks. The man behind the meme is 45-year-old photographer Antonio Guillem from Barcelona. He works for a company which produces the stock photos we see online, and focuses on people as subjects, instead of objects like cups of coffee or picturesque landscapes. Antonio usually works with the same people, including the “couple” in this photo, who he’s deemed “Mario” and “Laura”. A couple years ago, Antonio felt like he needed to shake up the scenes of his photo series, so he went with this jealousy storyline. “We decided to take a few risks, planning a session representing the infidelity concept in relationships in a playful and fun way,” he told Wired Magazine.

So, Antonio, “Mario”, “Laura” and misc. model who doesn’t work for the company anymore, went to a cobblestoned city in Gerona, Spain, and proceeded with their photoshoot. Just imagine seeing this play out IRL. It obviously garnered some attention.

“It was quite challenging to achieve face expressions that were believable,” Antonio said. “Mainly because we always have a really great work atmosphere, and almost all the time one of the models was laughing while we were trying to take the picture.”

“Mario” added, “I remember that it was kinda embarrassing because there where people watching and laughing, and I had to make this silly face. But in the end, like we always do, I just forgot they were there and did my job. I remember it like a learning experience, and I had fun with my team.” In case you’re interested, here are some photos from the series:

And Antonio is the most surprised out of everyone that a picture he took two years ago has resurfaced in the weirdest way – he didn’t even know what a meme was until his pic went viral. “I never thought that one of my images will be that popular. I didn’t even know what a meme is until recently, when the models started to tell me about the memes that people were doing with our work.”

“Mario” and “Laura” also never saw this viral internet fame coming, but “Laura” says she appreciates the “imagination”people have when coming up with the text. Antonio added, “Regarding what I think about the photo has gone viral, I think the image was a good foundation to whoever had the great idea to turn it into a metaphor that works for almost everything.”

That much is true. Here are some standouts from the last big meme of the summer.

 

actually me while sipping tea:

Catholic School Back To School Shopping: Myths vs. Realities

Ah, Back-To-School Shopping : such a gentle, consumeristic way to get over the end of summer vacation. However, as two life-long Catholic school students, our experience wasn’t everything the Staples and J.C. Penney commercials led us to believe. I’m watching the cycle all over again with my nieces and nephews – the public schoolers getting cute new outfits and the Catholic school kids getting their first necktie at age 5. [Find me something cuter than a kindergartener in business casual.] In honor of our ’90s and ’00s memories, here is a study in the contrasts between back to school shopping for Catholic schoolers and, if not real public school students, at least the too-cool public schoolers we saw on TV.

Clothing

File under: My childhood as a walking Irish Catholic stereotype.

Expectation: I’m going back to school with a new wardrobe that will mark me as one of the cool kids!

Reality: I am wearing the same plaid jumper from the same Plaid Jumper Store as all of my classmates. Somehow, kids manage to sort themselves into Cool and Uncool anyway.

[Note: there is a 50/50 chance your uniform is a hand-me-down, or your mom bought it at the used uniform sale your school holds at the end of the school year.]

Expectation: At least maybe some fun, cute outfits for after school!

Reality: Those are called “play clothes” and they don’t come from the store, they come from a trash bag your aunt drops off every time your next cousin up has a growth spurt.

[Note: I realize there are Catholics without cousins but I’ve never met one.]

Accessories

Expectation: And don’t forget the accessories!

Reality: … Which are knee socks, a navy blue cardigan, and a shirt with a Peter Pan collar during that five-decade range after Peter Pan collars went out of style in the ’60s and before they came back in style on Zooey Deschanel.

If you’re fancy, please add a headband in the same plaid as your uniform.

Jewelry

Expectation: Wearing some jewelry, I guess.

Reality: Bracelets are not allowed. Non-post earrings are not allowed. Necklaces are a pendant on a thin chain. If you want to consider rosaries jewelry (“WHICH THEY ARE NOT” – every Catholic reading this post, before I could even say it, right?), you can have those. But you cannot wear them, for Pete’s sake.

School Supplies

Expectation: Lisa Frank binders! Lisa Frank notebooks! Lisa The Frickin FRANK IT ALL UP.

Reality: There is a specific, solid color that every subject uses. Does The Vatican secretly operate the Mead company?

Expectation: Don’t forget a trapper keeper to stay organized!

Reality: Trapper Keepers strictly verboten.

Hair

Expectation: It would be so much fun to try a bright color or a crazy new ‘do to show people how much I’ve changed over the summer!

Reality: “No extreme hairstyles” – Catholic School Student Manual 29:11

Shoes

Expectation: I will narrow down the most in-style looks and then pick out some sneakers, a pair of cute shoes, and maybe something a little dressier.

Reality: Your uniform requires shoes that meet all of the following criteria: black or navy blue. No laces. No wedges. No mules. No sneaker soles. Heel must measure less than one inch at the highest point. No ballet flats.

You are left with orthopedic nun shoes.

[Note: If you’re really wondering how we sorted out the cool kids, their moms bought them cute shoes that skirted the Shoe Canon of the student handbook, whereas uncool-kid moms followed it to the letter. As to what camp I was in, let’s just say I still like a sturdy pair of Clarks.]

 

 

Get Down With The #TheParentJam

It’s no secret I love a good marriage proposal, at least ones that are sweet, romantic and creative, not one that will make me second-hand embarrassed. Recently, a proposal which falls into the first category went viral, and it’s become my favorite one yet.

The gentleman in this video, Phil Wright, is a well-known choreographer, while his longtime girlfriend Ashley Lai is also a dancer. So it’s no surprise that he incorporated their mutual passion into popping the question, and the result is tear-inducing and will possibly make you transform into the emoji with heart eyes.

I’d heard of Phil before because he teaches hip-hop at some local LA studios, and there’s one class in particular that isn’t just your normal dance class. It’s for kids AND adults, particularly their parents. Let me introduce you to #TheParentJam.

When I was growing up, there was a section of our dance studio where parents (usually moms) would sit while their kids (usually daughters) had their class. I’m sure anyone who took dance as a kid can relate, but Phil wanted to get those same parents off their seats and onto the floor. His beginner hip hop class invites parents (or grandparents) to join the little ones and learn the same routine. It’s not about how well you do it, it’s about how much passion you put in and most importantly, enjoy the time bonding and dancing with your kids.

Let Phil (who’s dancing with his niece) show you how it’s done.

Ok, let’s get into it. These videos will immediately bring you all the joy, which is definitely what we need right now. First up, the father/daughter duo. Check out dad’s facial expressions (and Ham t-shirt).

Yes, ma! Get into those cabbage patches!

Mom ain’t worried ’bout NOTHINGGGGG

BEAST. I’m CRYING R U CRYING YET

Carly Rae bringing families together

They got the coordinated outfits DOWN.

Me as a mom:

When dad just HAS to show off the pop lockin skills he used to do in the ’80s

No, but this is my favorite. ❤ ❤ ❤

I’m starting to think the coordinated outfits are like *the thing*

#theparentjam – They Killed it 🔥🔥🔥🔥

A post shared by Phil Wright (@phil_wright_) on

Baby on the beat

Gangnam Style was actually recorded for this very reason. For parents to be able to dance with their kids to a popular tune.

Sorry mom, but your kids committed way more to the cause.

GRAMPS IS BACK

Um hey what’s up hello blue hoodie dad.

Serving face.

BONUS!

James Franco sans kid. No idea why he didn’t just go to a regular hip hop class. Get at me James. I know where you can go on Monday nights.

Happy Nostalgia Night! Feliz Noche de Nostalgia!

Uruguay is way ahead of us … or is it way behind us? On August 24, folks in Uruguay celebrate Nostalgia Night, a celebration of times past. Discos and radio stations play songs from years ago, party-goers dress up in throwback garb, and even Uruguay’s tourism site gets in on the action with a full page dedicated to the day’s events – and there are MANY, from dances to dinner shows to karaoke nights. While the U.S.A. seems caught in a Lisa Frank-tinged wave of ’90s nostalgia at the moment, much of Uruguay’s festivities focus on the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. A sampling of ‘typical nostalgia night songs – not to be forgotten!’ includes I Will Survive, Jailhouse Rock, YMCA, as well as some more South American tunes. Police are out in full force (and, one can assume, The Police are on the stereo), because things are going to get raucous. It’s even one of the biggest party nights of the year , rivaling Christmas and New Year. Well done, Uruguay.

I’m not surprised Nostalgia Night exists – a quick look around a mall tells me that right now we’re living every day like it’s Nostalgia Night – but I’m sort of surprised the rest of us haven’t made it an official THING like Uruguay. Imagine it: a night where every bar you go to is going to be playing something from the Beatles to the Backstreet Boys. When your outfit of choice could be a full disco getup, or for us younger nostalgic folks, low rise jeans with a going out top. Where bars offer Dunkaroos instead of dirt-peanuts.

Since I won’t be getting to Uruguay today – and trust me, I’d love to be in Uruguay today – I’m sending some of our favorite nostalgia-related posts. After all, Nostalgia Nights in 2037 will probably be people sitting around and reading the internet like they did in 2017.

Fashion

  • The 90s were really fun and everything, but nobody looked as good as the kids do in today’s 90s revival. Here’s the truth of 90s fashion  myths vs. realities, as remembered by someone who was a kid at the time.
  • The mid-2000s – say, 2004 – 2009 or so – had a style all their own. You may think times haven’t changed, but when was the last time you wore a going-out top or a butt-ruffle?

Sports

Home Decor

Movies

Friends

SNICK Liveblogs

 

How To Throw A Solar Eclipse Themed Party

On Monday, August 21 the sun will quit on the United States, and we don’t blame it.

Okay, not “quit” per se, but the moon will pass between the earth and the sun causing a total or partial blockage of the sun, depending on where you live. We think that calls for a themed party!

Total Eclipse Of The Screen

For the times the eclipse won’t be visible, we suggest playing space themed movies in the background. In particular:

  • Zenon, Girl Of The 21st Century
  • Armageddon
  • E.T.
  • Contact
  • Alien
  • The Martian
  • Independence Day
  • Space Camp
  • The Jetsons
  • Any Star Wars film
  • Any Star Treck film or episode
  • The Magic Schoolbus Gets Lost In Space
Total Eclipse Of Your Clothes

What’s a themed party without a themed outfit? If you want to impose a dress code, or are just really feeling the theme, here are some options:

  • black and white – simple, classic, and appropriate
  • polka dots work, too
  • of course, anything with a sun or moon on it would be apropos
  • but I think the best outfit for the day would be a full Miss Frizzle-style eclipse getup.
Total Eclipse Of These Snacks

Snacks are the best part of a theme party. Some suggestions:

  • Moon Pies
  • Black and white cookies, but in various stages of eclipse
  • Cheese (because the moon is made of it, clearly)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sunny D
  • Sun chips
  • Starfruit
  • Regular apples, but sliced in half so you can see the ‘star’ in the middle, which always wows the under-5 crowd the first time they see it
  • I really do feel like you could use sun, star, moon and circle-shaped cookie cutters on any number of foods! For real, this is probably the way I would go.
Total Eclipse Of The Bar

Eclipses can be day-drinking events if you want them to be. We recommend:

Just don’t get so crunk you forget you can’t stare at the sun and burn your retinas.

Total Eclipse Of Some Games

I absolutely love when people get excited about astronomical phenomena, whether it’s a meteor shower, solar or lunar eclipse, unusual visible planets or the northern lights. I was raised by a science teacher and we made a BIG DEAL out of this stuff when I was a kid. For instance, one time before I could read a ticker came across the bottom of the TV screen telling viewers that the northern lights were visible. The rest of my family bounded from their seats because they knew we’d all load into the minivan to try to see it – except for little illiterate me, watching TGIF and wondering what the big deal was.

All that is to say that I think this solar eclipse is a fine time to celebrate the wonders of our solar system – and what better way to do it than with games? Here are a few:

Name That Constellation!

Similar to our map-labeling games in our American and Canadian themed parties, this one is either a chance to show of your knowledge or a chance to get a little funny. Have individual printouts of constellations, or a large map of them on the wall. Let guests label them with their names. It’s fun to get it right, but it’s also fun to make up your own constellation names based on what they look like – which, after all, is what happened many years ago, anyway. The big dipper part of ursa major? Yeah, that’s a Deep Fry Basket.

Solar System Mnemonic Mad Libs

I’m so old that when I was a kid, my very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas. The kids in my life tell me that now, she serves nachos. Sorry, Pluto.

If you learned the order of the planets through mnemonic devices, this all probably sounds familiar to you. If not, forgive me.

You can create wacky solar system mnemonics -and reinforce your childhood space knowledge – with a mnemonic madlib. For instance:

  • My
  • [Adjective starting with V]
  • [Adjective Starting with E]
  • [Noun Starting With M]
  • Just
  • [Past Tense Verb Starting With S]
  • Us
  • [Adjective Starting With N]
  • [Noun Starting With P] [“Dwarf planet” means nothing to me, sorry not sorry.]

Mad Libs are always funnier if the person who is providing the words doesn’t know what you’re creating.

Pin The Moon Over The Sun

It’s like pin the tail on the donkey, but it’s eclipse-themed, and it’s probably better after a few Tequila Sunrises.

Planetary Twister

You can create this board pretty easily with a plastic table cloth. Draw all of the planets in several rows or a small circle. You will be using this as your twister board, so you have to set it up so that it’s plausible that a person could reach from one to the other. You could even do an entire row across of Mercury, an entire row of Venus, an entire row of Earth, etc.

For extra nerd points, don’t label the planets. If you don’t know Saturn from Jupiter, you’re out.

Total Eclipse Of U.S.

Hop over to our America-themed party post, because the total eclipse will only be visible in the United States. Also this is a great way to use up all of your miniature American flags from the Fourth of July.

Total Eclipse Of These Songs

I feel like since the sun and moon are both involved in this one, songs having to do with either of them are fine. Some of the more eclipse-y are:

  • Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler
  • Steal My Sunshine by LEN
  • Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers
  • I’ll Follow The Sun by The Beatles
  • Walkin’ On The Sun by Smashmouth
  • Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles (can never have too much Beatles, OK?)
  • Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John
  • Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
  • Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival
  • Dancing In The Moonlight by King Harvest
Total Eclipse Of The Sun

The main thing about your eclipse party is, of course, the eclipse! Just don’t go outside and stare right at the sun, which will burn your retinas. Instead, stock up on verified eclipse sunglasses – your nearest library or science museum may be your best bet, but Amazon is good too (just make sure you get verified glasses).

There are suggestions all over the web for how to view the eclipse, so we won’t get into it. Just know that options include a contraption with a shoebox, tin foil and paper, a simpler cardboard thingy, looking at shadows, or the internet:

 

  • NASA will livestream the event on their website.
  • You can also see the eclipse at the Exploratorium in San Francisco or on their website.
  • All major networks will be covering the event

Here is some help in finding the best time to view the eclipse near you. Non-U.S. folks, don’t despair! First of all, we have cornered the market on despair for now. Second, a partial eclipse is visible in other parts of North America as well.

 

One Trick Ponytails (And Other Bad But Punny Business Ideas)

The world is full of bad ideas. About 10% of those are bad business ideas. And about 99% of THOSE originated from terrible puns. Here are just some of the terrible – but punny – business ideas I’ve thought of lately:

One Trick Ponytails

Salon that just does ponytails but they’re really good at it.

Lickety Splits

Banana splits in a cone.

RoTots

Toddler robots. Disobedient and really stubborn. Leave fingerprints everywhere. Hands always a bit moist.

HogsMediation

Couples therapy for couples who think they are from different Hogwarts houses – can a Slytherin-Hufflepuff marriage survive?

¡Pasta Ya!

All-you-can-eat pasta. It comes out of dispensers, like soft-serve ice cream. Pasta pasta pasta. Sauce everywhere. It comes in dispensers too. Like ketchup does. But it’s sauce.

Puppy Tents

It’s a pup tent, but for dogs. Like a dog house, but one that your dog will immediately knock over.

Baby Baby Boomers

A baby clothing boutique where all of the clothes make the babies look like tiny 60-year-olds. If you’re hipster enough to name your baby Barbara or Linda or Ron, you’re hipster enough to shop here.

Li-Beary

A library, but where a child can check out teddy bears. Everyone will surely get bed bugs.

Or: a library, but where an adult can check out actual bears. Insect infestations are really the least of your worries.

Dime A Dozen

This is a cheap but very specific sort of dime store, where they only sell things that you can get a dozen for for a dime. It’s mostly bulk bins full of things like individual Skittles, dried spaghetti, and dog kibble, for instance. You’re going to hate painstakingly counting out everything in denominations of 12, but not as much as your cashier will!

A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

It’s like a photo studio, but instead a “word-artist” will write a 1000-word essay about the impression they get from your family. You ever wondered how someone would describe you in a magazine celebrity profile – those kinds where they make much ado about what an actress orders for lunch? Now you don’t have to, I guess.

Prime Time Flies

Imagine a public living-room type set up where you can watch TV with strangers, sort of like your college dorm’s common room that nobody used. Okay, but instead of playing regular TV, it plays the exact prime-time lineup of whatever day it is… but from times past. Including commercials. Will you get a classic ’90s TGIF night, or a classic ’90s SNICK night, or a classic ’90s Must See TV night? Sure, it COULD be from any era, but they know what people like.

 

 

 

 

It Is So Ordered: Orphan Black And The Law

Orphan Black is a lot like the law: it is all about the way people and their objectives and their actions are at odds with “the system.” It’s not really surprising, because law and TV both follow the groundswell of society. Orphan Black and the U.S. Supreme Court syllabus boast many of the same themes: corporate identity, scientific ownership of living things, the right to control your body and life, and the right to exist as yourself, whatever and whoever that is. Here’s a rundown of just some of the U.S. Supreme Court cases that are relevant to the themes of Orphan Black. [While I know Orphan Black is a Canadian production, I’m not a Canadian lawyer – hence the U.S. focus.]

Gene Patents and Myriad

The Issue:

Patents for human products may sound hyper-modern, but in 1906 a patent for isolated, purified adrenaline filed by P.T. Westmoreland was upheld in court. Judge Learned Hand (my long-time favorite name of a legal figure, and maybe of a human) theorized that even “if it were merely an extracted product without change, there is no rule that such products are not patentable.”  By 2011, thousands of unaltered yet isolated human genes had been patented. Some argued that such patents fostered scientific progress – a fat cash incentive for labs and pharmaceutical companies to be the first to isolate a particular gene. Others maintained that these patents deterred scientific collaboration and led to price-gouging for testing of genetically-linked diseases.

The Case:

In Association For Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc, Myriad owned the patent for the isolated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (AKA the breast cancer genes). The company enjoined other genetic testing labs from isolating BRCA DNA, which they challenged. The question: is uncovering the precise location and genetic sequence of the BRCA genes on their chromosomes an invention of “new and useful composition,” or was Myriad staking claim to naturally-occurring phenomena? The answer: mere isolation of a gene or genes is not patentable, although genes that have been altered may be patented, as may complementary DNA, or cDNA, an exons-only molecule created from mRNA.

Meanwhile, On Orphan Black:

In Orphan Black terms: if Dyad merely mapped the Leda DNA, they could not patent the genetic sequences — even if, say, they isolated the genes responsible for Kira’s fast healing. However, if they isolated Kira’s miraculous car accident genes and created cDNA, that could be patented, as could a protein therapy derived from modified cDNA. Even assuming Dyad HAD successfully patented all or part of the Leda DNA back in the ’80s, this would not mean that Dyad owned the clones themselves: rather that they retained the right to create derivative products based on that DNA.

 

The Right To Privacy and Griswold

The Issue:

The worst part about being an Orphan Black clone, for me, would be having to look my own face in the face all the time. The second-worst part would be the invasion of privacy. Finding out your partner is actually a monitor? It’s like the WORST secret three-way call. And secret spy-eyeballs? I don’t even like touching regular eyeballs. The right to privacy involves more than just freedom from looky-loos and spyballs, though. In Constitutional terms it’s the right to make your own medical decisions, parenting decisions, and who-to-spend-time-with decisions without government intrusion.

The Cases:

In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut arose because it was illegal for married people to obtain contraception in the state of Connecticut. [Or single people. But a physician who only works with married couples made a sympathetic plaintiff in Mad Men-era New England.] Although the Constitution and Bill of Rights do not explicitly protect the right to privacy, the Supreme Court looked to other cases where a right to privacy was implicit, like Pierce v. Society of Sisters (educating your children as you see fit) and Meyer v. Nebraska (educating your children as you see fit, in German).  The right to privacy lives in the “penumbras” formed by the “emanations” from the guarantees in the first amendment (freedom of association), third (freedom from quartering soldiers in your house which sounds like the ACTUAL WORST), fourth (freedom from unreasonable search and seizure), fifth (freedom from self-incrimination) and ninth (rights retained by the people).

The right to privacy was the basis for the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and still comes up quite a bit in debates over abortion legislation, like that terrifying Arkansas law or the gross Oklahoma bill or this stuff that just went down in Texas. The Supreme Court invoked the right to privacy in Lawrence v. Texas, the case that invalidated Texas’s sodomy law in 2003. You read that right. 2003. Season two of American Idol was on. It wasn’t long ago.

Meanwhile, On Orphan Black:

Where does clone monitoring fit into this?  LEDA isn’t fronted by a government agency, (Castor, on the other hand…). But if the government were somehow involved in any number of the weird bodily invasions and intrusions into autonomy that have happened so far, you better believe it’s an overstep.  Still, the constitutional right to privacy is all over Orphan Black. It’s there in the neolutionists’ right to get weird tails and gross eyes. It is evident in  Henrik’s weird cult’s right to assemble (not to do all the other stuff they do –  but if they want to peacefully remake The Village, have at it). It’s even why Alison’s parents could have a child through in vitro fertilization.

Corporate Personhood And Citizens United

The Issue:

A series about an evil, life-controlling corporation could not be better timed. The titans of industry are a hot topic right now: can corporations generate enough revenue to boost the economy while complying with environmental regulations? (Yes.) Will reducing corporate taxes help or hurt the average citizen? (Meh.) Do corporate policies infringe on free speech? (Ugh.) Also, are corporations even people? (WAIT WHAT.)

The Case:

Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission began, like every problem I can remember having, with a presidential election. A non-profit wanted to air an anti-Hillary Clinton film on TV prior to the 2008 primary, but electioneering funded by corporations and unions was prohibited by law. The Supreme Court ruled that the application of this law violates the First Amendment right to free speech – a right afforded to people, but fine.

The dissent noted that a corporation is at its core creepier than a plain old rich person, having ” ‘limited liability’ for their owners and managers, ‘perpetual life,’ […] unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled […] Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their “personhood” often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

So, yikes.

Meanwhile, On Orphan Black

On one hand, the Dyad Institute/Topside (and Big Cosmetics, for that matter) isn’t looking to finance any elections. But it’s precisely the corporate activities listed in the Citizens United dissent that make these corporations so dangerous. An individual doing half of the things Dyad does would be scary enough, but a corporation  has many of the rights of an individual actor with comparatively few responsibilities and WAY more money. Safely hidden behind the corporate veil, Dyad higher ups are not personally responsible for the corporations actions (okay, if courts ever pierce the corporate veil it might be for something like cloning actual humans, not to mention all the murders – so many murders? has anyone counted them all? – but still, the presumption is a lack of personal liability). Even in the non Orphan Black-world, corporations have individual rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion (Hobby Lobby, your sale section was legit but the rest of you is NOT).

READ ON

I’m fresh out of time, but the history and philosophy of law are full of topics that are relevant to anyone with an interest in Orphan Black – or the world around them – like the legal and medical ethics of research on human subjects. The history of this issue is – like all legal topics – about more than just the law, it’s about who society (and the law, as a tool of society) prioritizes.

Recommended reading:

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

You’ve Got Bad Blood: The Horror Of The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments

Where Are All The Female Test Subjects?

That should be just about enough to hold us all over until Saturday night, when I will be crying for a solid hour, and possibly then some. Check back with us tomorrow for some more Orphan Black fun that will be, I promise, a little less academic.

Harry Potter Protest Signs: Dumbledore’s Army In The Resistance

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! Our favorite boy wizard turns 37 today – and the series turns 20 this year – meaning that today’s younger adults grew up alongside Harry and his Hogwarts pals. The messages of Harry Potter have come to define a generation: courage, kindness, acceptance, defending the disenfranchised even if you are not, and standing up to an authoritarian regime. Or rather, those values have come to define the part of the generation that was receptive to the message:

A Potter refresher: Harry Potter was an orphan neglected by his aunt and uncle. He learned that he was a wizard and became a student at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Meanwhile Lord Voldemort, the would-be ruler of the wizarding realm, struggled to return to prominence after falling when he killed Harry’s parents and was unable to bring Harry down.  Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters, decried “impure” wizards (those who are born to all- or part- nonmagical families) and used propaganda and hack journalism to spread their message, controlling the presses and what children learn in school. Harry and his comrades formed a resistance movement to defeat Voldemort’s rise, and ultimately succeeded at great personal sacrifice.

In the muggle realm, another resistance movement has grown to counter autocracy, racism, transphobia, anti-intellectualism, and other ills I could not have anticipated when I cracked open my Scholastic copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997. Throughout this struggle, something fantastic has happened- a vindication for those who believe that fiction (perhaps children’s fiction above all) can shape a person’s values. The generation that grew up with Harry Potter has adopted the words and lessons of the series as a lingua franca for the ideals many of us hold.

In honor of this, the 37th birthday of Harry Potter (or the 52nd birthday of J.K. Rowling, or the 26th anniversary of Harry getting his Hogwarts letter) we present some of our favorite Harry Potter-related messages from the modern resistance movement:

From the Women’s March: Without Hermione, Harry would’ve died in Book 1. TRUE.

My favorite pop culture references are always the deep cuts: Any HP fan will know that Neville Longbottom proved himself to be a true hero … and he rocked a distinctive cardigan while doing it.

Dumbledore, champion of the underdog, would be unhappy with all of this.

While Potter fans (rightfully) have a lot of opinions about Dumbledore’s sexuality never being mentioned in the book, the fact is that J.K. Rowling has confirmed that he is gay and a policy that hurts wise, gentle Dumbledore hurts all of human- (and wizard-) kind.

This was actually back in ’08, but now I want Harry Potter cannon with married, gay wizard and witch couples. Hogwarts students with 2 moms or 2 dads. A DUMBLEDORE WEDDING THAT MCGONAGALL OFFICIATES, OK.

If you read HP thinking you’d definitely join the DA instead of hiding in the Slytherin basement (#NotAllSlytherins), now’s the time.

Context: this is from a 2010 student protest in the UK re: a rise in tuition fees.

When readers can reach different conclusions from the same series

From the Occupy London protests.

Honestly a bit emotional that kids today are growing up reading Harry Potter and applying it to their real-life situations. Plus those drawings are precious.

womens march banner 9

Are… are we sure this isn’t Hermione?

Straight from the wizard’s mouth: “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

HA.

Even Voldemort didn’t defund St. Mungo’s. Well, she has a point.

The one that just has Voldemort with an X through it

This one’s for you, Gaddafi.

Your hero and mine, Molly Weasley.

Trump’s Horcruxes! I’ve been convinced his Twitter account is somehow one as well.

And since HP actors truly grew up with the series, here’s Emma Watson at the Women’s March in 2017