My TV Season Premiere Reviews (So Far):

The Playboy Club B-

It’s got hints of the style and the 60s flair, but I wish it was kicked up a notch.  The mystery aspect is cool, and they do get the Chicago Way down pretty good.  The Bunny costumes and the club itself are pretty swanky, but I wish the hair and makeup were more accurate to the time.  If you look at pictures of the original Playboy Clubs, those girls looked FIERCE (and I don’t use that word often).  These girls look like 2011 gals with a bit of styling added.

Some of the acting is a bit stiff, and some of the characters are forgettable.

I think the LGBT storyline has potential.  Not many people know anything about the Mattachine Society, so this could be educational to them.  It makes me think about how many people had to live a lie just to live their lives back then.  We’ll see where this goes.

Still, it’s got Eddie Cibrian, who is never bad to look at.  And there’s a lot of great music to enjoy.  I hope it sticks around a while.

 

Pan Am – C+

I was expecting so much more.  It was just okay.  The costumes were great, the sets were awesome, and the music was fun… but the acting?  Flat as a pancake.  Aside from Christina Ricci, (who was a bit under-used in the premiere), I couldn’t really tell the girls apart.  And there is no way that kid would be captain of a brand new line of planes on its maiden voyage.  I’m not giving up on it yet.  I think it’ll build up to something fun, along the lines of the Love Boat without the cheesy comedy.  Maybe more like Fantasy Island?  We will see.

 

Revenge – A

I LOVED this show.  Far too many times when I watch new TV shows, I’m lost within minutes trying to figure out what’s going on.  Not here.  They did a great job of setting up the story, telling us who the characters are, and why they are doing what they are doing.  Emily VanCamp really surprises me here.  I liked her on “Brothers and Sisters,” but her character was so mousy I was worried that she could not carry this kind of show on her own.  My mind was changed almost instantly.  She draws you in and can actually kick some ass while doing it.  I think I will love her interactions with the delicious Madeline Stowe as the arch-enemy matriarch of the Grayson family.  Definitely looking forward to the next episode.

 

New Girl – C

Zooey Deschanel is as quirky as her name, and boy does she quirk it up on this goofy new comedy.  I missed the premiere episode, but saw the first 15 minutes because I programmed my DVR to record 15 minutes past the end of “Glee” for when it followed “American Idol.”  I enjoyed those 15 minutes and figured I would give the show a chance.  It’s cute and funny, if not a bit weird.  The guys are all douchey in their own special ways, but none douchier than Schmidt, played by Ugly Betty‘s Max Greenberg.  He thinks he’s all that, and he so isn’t.  It gets a bit annoying after a while. (Did anyone notice that he’s already stripped his shirt off for no apparent reason in each episode?  What’s that about?) I found the show charming, but I’m worried that it could get annoying after a while.  A few more airings will prove me right or wrong.

 

Still To Come:  Up All NightWhitneyThe X Factor, and I think I may need to program Suburgatory — just looks too fun to pass up.

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RIP Soap Operas?

Erica Kane, AMC and OLTL Logos, Victoria Lord

The recent shocking announcement  that not one, but two classic, long-running Soap Operas, ABC’s “One Life To Live” and “All My Children,” had been cancelled sent shock waves through the entertainment community and all who have watched Soap Operas over the years.

While I didn’t watch either of these shows (save for a brief time in the 90s when I watched “All My Children,” along with a few others), as a former dedicated Soap Opera fan, this stings.

It stings about as much as it did when my favorite Soap, “Another World” was cancelled in 1999.  And it surely stings as much as fans of the recently-cancelled “As The World Turns” (which I also watched for a few years in the mid-late 1990s) and “Guiding Light” felt when their favorite shows were ended.

It seems the death knell has truly been sounded:  Soap Operas, or Daytime Dramas– whatever you want to call them — are nearing the end of their lives.  And no amount of trickery or black magic can possibly bring them back.

Gone are the magical days of the 70s and 80s, when Soaps were required viewing for more than just the ‘typical’ housewife.  My mom’s favorite shows were always on NBC:  “Days of Our Lives,” “Another World,” “The Doctors,” “Somerset,” and “Texas.”  I remember my mom and my Grandma, sitting in my Grandma’s kitchen, talking about the Soaps over cups of coffee, and discussing the lives of the residents of Salem and Bay City.  The theme songs from those shows alone make me recall happy childhood days– about as much as “Sesame Street” clips and “Electric Company” sketches.

When my family bought our first VCR, viewings of  “Days of Our Lives,” “Another World” and “Santa Barbara” were part of our family time together.  We all were engrossed by the stories, and loved zipping through the commercials to see what would happen next.  As we grew older, we became part of the crowd of college students engrossed by the shows.  When I visited my friends in college, entire dorms would gather to watch “Days” and other shows.  It was just the thing to do.

But time went on and attitudes and viewing habits changed.  And now the Soaps are barely hanging on.

They’re being killed by cheaper television:  Talk shows, “Reality” shows, and “Lifestyle” programming.  Shows that don’t need writers or actors.  Shows that don’t need expensive sets or lengthy rehearsals and staging.  Shows that don’t have legendary names like Susan Lucci, Erica Slezak, Anthony Geary and Victor Braeden.

Actors on soaps spend the majority of their careers on the shows.  The longevity is unheard of elsewhere in the industry, mainly because the fans of the genre become so attached to the characters they portray; and many of them stay in the roles for 30 years or more.  Susan Lucci’s portrayal of Erica Kane has become legendary in the Soap world, representing the typical “so bad she’s good” character that audiences love to hate.  She has spent practically her entire acting career on one show.  There is really no place else where this kind of dedication and longevity exists in the entertainment world.

Soaps have ridden quite a roller coaster over the years.  From the early days of radio serials, to the first televised shows, which lasted for only 15 minutes each; to the boom of the 70’s where “Another World” actually expanded first to 60 minutes, then to an unprecedented 90 minutes; the stories, conflicts, dramas, trials and tribulations have kept viewers entranced.  When I was a kid, the typical Soap Opera scene involved two ladies sitting in a kitchen set, drinking a cup of coffee and discussing their problems with each other.  This changed when “Another World” started featuring love ‘triangles’ (Steve, Alice and Rachel) and the melodrama surrounding them.  Then the first “Supercouple,” Anthony Geary’s Luke and Genie Francis‘ Laura from “General Hospital,” epitomized the 70’s and early 80’s fascination with daytime couples and their storylines, and propelled Soaps into the mainstream media, with appearances on Time Magazine‘s cover and major, expensive promotional budgets.  And on “Days of Our Lives,” Marlena Evans Brady Black, was first possessed by the devil, then later  bewilderingly killed off matriarch Alice Horton in 2003 during the controversial “Salem Stalker/Melaswen” storyline; which prompted fans to get so upset that they nearly boycotted the show — until it was revealed that she had been sent to an alternate universe with the other killed residents, and nobody was really dead after all.

These are just examples of how entrenched in our minds these shows are, and always will be.  I’m saddened to see that the genre seems to be dying.  As our entertainment choices are further dictated by the Snookis, Real Housewives and gabfests of today, we’re slowly losing the culture that made TV what it was.  Pretty sad.

Favorite Soap Operas: Opening Sequences

Days of Our Lives

Another World (70s-80s)

Texas

Santa Barbara

All My Children

The Young And The Restless

My Top 10 Classic 1970’s Commercials

As I grow ever nearer to my 40th birthday (less than a month away!) I decided it’s time to start taking a little trip down memory road and bring back some things I remember from my childhood.

To start, I have assembled my Top 10 most memorable 1970’s commercials.  Growing up as a child of the 1970’s, I was glued to the TV more often than not.  So many of these commercials are just as memorable to me today as they were then.

Here we go!

10. Chiffon Margarine – “It’s Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature”

Oh how I loved this one.  Something about it just stuck with me for years afterward.  Maybe it was the way she said the commercial’s tagline, or maybe it was the thunder and lightning.  Either way, I once in a while will still use this line.  This is the only one I can find on YouTube— but I know many others were made.

9. Trix – Trix Ahoy!

I used to always feel so sorry for the Trix Rabbit.  Why were Trix just for kids anyway?  After all, grown-ups could eat Trix if they wanted to– why couldn’t the rabbit?  Anyway, his misadventures with trying to access Trix cereal were best in the 1970’s– when there were only three flavors: Raspberry Red, Lemon Yellow and Orange Orange.  Of course, they always tasted the same to me.

8. Slinky – “It’s Slinky!”

I think I went through at least 5 Slinkies in my lifetime.  I always tried to get them to go down stairs but for some reason I never could do it successfully.  That never stopped me from trying, obviously.  I went through so many of them because I’d eventually get them all tangled and bent out of shape so they didn’t work anymore.  I never got one of those plastic ones– I always wanted a shiny new metal one.  Oddly enough, I STILL have the last Slinky I ever bought.  It’s got to be over 25 years old by now, and it’s still in perfect condition.

7. Life Cereal – “He Likes It!  Hey Mikey!”

This one had major lasting power, running well into the 1980’s and possibly even the early 1990’s.  It even had a resurgence when they found the original Mikey (who did not die from a mixture of pop rocks and Coke, as was greatly rumored) and brought him back for an update of the commercial in the 1980’s.

6. Oscar Mayer – “My Bologna Has A First Name”

I was just singing this to myself at the grocery store at the other day, when I was standing in a VERY long line waiting to be checked out.  Next to me was the lunch meat, and a ton of Oscar Mayer Bologna.  I haven’t eaten the stuff in years (the though sickens me– I ate enough of it as a kid, and frankly I never liked it then!), but the song has never left my brain.  If it has left yours, see how quickly you’ll recall it by clicking below.

5. Toys R Us – “Christmas Commercial”

This one makes me warm and fuzzy inside every single time I hear the song.  I remember KNOWING that Christmas was coming as soon as I heard this song play.  I don’t know why, but it really affected me as a kid– and still does today.

4. Tootsie Roll – “How Many Licks?

Another one that ran for YEARS, this one probably was viewed by me and my sister more times than any other.  To this day, when I count to three, I say “One… Two-WHOOOO! Three!”  As a bonus, I’m including the FULL version, where the boy asks a cow and a fox in addition to the turtle and the owl.  The classic, long-running version just includes the turtle and the owl.

Original, extended version

Classic, shortened version

3. Coca Cola – “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing

What classic 1970’s list would be complete without this commercial?  Even as a kid, I knew what a great commercial it was– if only for the song itself.  I remember singing the complete, revised song in grade school around 4th grade or so.  Of course, that was in the 1980’s, but that just goes to show the lasting power the commercial had.  This one also ran for many years– and still makes reappearances now and then.  It’s considered one of the greatest TV commercials of all-time.

2. Calgon Water Softener – “Ancient Chinese Secret

OK, I know that by today’s standards this commercial is TOTALLY un-PC.  But any kid in the 1970’s knew the line “Ancient Chinese Secret, HUH?”  Regardless of the message it portrays, it is a classic 1970’s commercial which ran for YEARS (well into the 1980’s, in fact).  So it definitely belongs here!

Interesting to note: There were two different versions of the commercial.  The original version had Mrs. Lee calling Calgon “New Improved Calgon,” while the subsequent versions just said, “Calgon.”

1. Tootsie Roll – “Whatever It Is I Think I See Becomes A Tootsie Roll To Me”

Chicago-based Tootsie Roll gets two entries in my Top 10 list.  Both commercials had enormous lasting power (running well over 10 years each), and both were extremely effective because their messages were clear, clever and simple.  This song is one of those that hurtles me back 35 years or so and plants me in front of the TV watching “Bozo’s Circus” or “Ray Rayner” on WGN Channel 9.  I love this one.

Why I Love “Glee”

My friends, family and acquaintances will not be surprised by the confession I am about to make.  In fact, they’re probably sick and tired of hearing me talk about it.  But I’m going to talk about it anyway.

I love “Glee.”

There, I said it.

First of all, I can’t believe this show has only been on for one season.  It’s  become such a staple for me and my friends that I feel like it’s been on for years, not just mere months.

Second, when I look at the number of songs this cast has performed in its first season, it astounds me.  Never mind the fact that they are over-produced (a problem many people– myself included– have with the show); the fact that this cast has performed, in one form or another, 137 songs in its first season (a herculean feat for ANY group) makes me only further believe that they are THE hardest-working cast on TV right now… or of all time.

But that’s not why I love “Glee.”

I love the show because at its center are a cast of characters from which I can find a part of myself at any given time in my life.  And they all share the same common bond– the love of music.

Diversity in casting is fairly commonplace these days, but while some shows show diversity while still presenting “beautiful people,’ “Glee” went a step further.

“Glee” made it a point to showcase the outcasts: the kids who were the brunt of jokes and the recipients of teasing and sometimes torture by other kids.  The ones who look different, sound different, and sometimes even move different from everyone else.  Into that mix, it threw in some of the “cool kids” – the jocks, cheerleaders and otherwise “popular” ones who had higher places on the social hierarchy.  Would they co-exist and still create music together?  Or would they throw everything down the tubes?

In the season finale, we learned that everyone who joined the Glee club had grown considerably since the first episode– from students to teachers to counselors.  The revelations by each of the characters showed that the story we had been following had made a difference in each of their lives– and the difference that was made was due, for the most part, to the common bond they shared– music.

In each of these characters, I saw a part of myself– both when I was their age and today.  I found myself relating most to, of course, Kurt– for his awkwardness and self-discovery; and to Tina for her shyness and newfound ability to make friends.  I also related to Artie, who, although he is wheelchair-bound, never lets that be a barrier.  Will Scheuster’s starry-eyed hopefulness was familiar, as I have often found myself to feel that way about situations– only to be disappointed in the end.  That’s not being Debbie-Downerish– that’s just being real.  Not everything is bright and shiny and wonderful.  And Will’s discovery throughout this show’s first season proved that.

Then there’s Sue Sylvester– the snarky, vicious, hell-driven antagonist.  There were times I thought the character was a bit too much– but there was always a method to her madness.  Sue could have been a completely one-dimensional character, but the writers didn’t let that happen.  I always hoped we’d see her other side, and the episode where she visited her sister with Down Syndrome did just that, and beautifully.  And in that moment, the caricature that we had seen since day one was crumbled.  Sue has a heart.  Everyone has a heart– we just don’t always show it.

Of course, the show is not perfect.  There were some major clunker episodes in the course of the first season, and a few times where the fantasy aspect of the show got way out of hand.  I’d love to see a touch more realism in the next season– but not TOO much.  The fantasy aspect of the show is what makes it fun.  After all, it’s not just a comedy or a drama– it’s a MUSICAL comedy-drama.  A MuDramEdy.  I just coined a phrase.

So now the show is done and us “Gleeks” are left to watch our DVDs and listen to our soundtrack MP3s until the fall.  Will the anticipation of Season 2 pay off?  I hope so.  Until then, I’ll relive some of the best moments and enjoy my summer.

What were some of your favorite moments of the first season of “Glee”?  What were some moments you wish had gone a bit better?