Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Recently Purchased on iTunes October 26, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Music — Emily @ 10:13 am
Tags: ,

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve finally gotten around to buying some new music on iTunes. I received a couple of iTunes gift cards last Christmas, so it was about time! Having $50 to spend on music is a big responsibility for someone who almost never buys music (and no, I don’t “steal” it either – I just tend to listen to what I already have). So how did I decide what to spend it on? First, I listened to Pandora and wrote down the names of songs I particularly enjoyed. I also paid attention when people on Facebook praised certain groups and artists. And finally, I dug deep into my memory banks to think of some old school classics that I’d enjoy having on my iPod. Rather than buying entire albums, I decided to mostly purchase individual songs so that I could have more variety. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, but I still have $18 to spend!:

  • Mumford and Sons – Sigh No MoreI just purchased this album this morning; in fact, I’m listening to it for the first time right now and loving it! This group is so different from anything on the radio right now – refreshing, creative, folksy, yet modern – all at the same time. I’ve always liked a good folk music sound, and it’s even better when combined with other sounds. (Think Nickel Creek, Regina Spektor, Rich Mullins, etc.) I’ve heard good things about the Avett Brothers, too, so I will be buying some of their music in the near future.
  • Sara Bareilles – “Gravity” – I first heard this song a couple of seasons ago on So You Think You Can Dance, during Kayla and Kupono’s emotional “Addiction” performance. The song stuck with me as much as the routine did, so I’m glad to own it now.
  • Muse – “Uprising” and “Supermassive Black Hole” – I like Muse enough to buy their albums, but these two songs are a good start for my collection. Muse has a sharp, satisfying sound, and perhaps sadly, they represent some of the “heaviest” music in my collection.
  • The KLF with Tammy Wynette – “Stand By Jams” – Remember this classic late ’80s song? “Their justified, and their ancient, and they drive an ice cream van…” I have no idea what it was about, but the combination of country and dance music sure was catchy!
  • The Killers – “When You Were Young” – I really like the lead singer’s voice, and perhaps this group reminds me of the best of the ’80s, since they have a synthesizer/Duran Duran-ish sound. Plus, it’s fun to play this song on Guitar Hero! 😉
  • Joshua Radin – “No Envy No Fear” – This is one of the songs I discovered on Pandora. It has a sleepy, pleasant sound. I think I’ve heard it on a tv show, too.
  • Jay-Z and Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind” – I was reminded of this song when the kids on Glee sang it a few weeks ago. No offense to Rachel, Finn, and the gang, but this is one of those times when I prefer the original over the Glee-i-fied version. This is a fun one to sing along to.
  • Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – This song has been played everywhere. I first heard it on the “Wizard of Oz” themed episode of Scrubs. Such a beautiful version of the classic song, and it makes me happy every time I hear it. 🙂
  • Christina Aguilera – “Ain’t No Other Man” – I admit it: I like a good Christina song every now and then! They are catchy, and the girl can sing. I’m sure I’ll purchase a couple more of her songs eventually, but for now this is it.
  • Britney Spears – “Toxic” – Let’s consider this a nostalgic purchase. Britney songs have always been catchy, so why not add a couple to my collection? For the record, though, she doesn’t have a particularly good voice – she’s just well-produced.
  • Brandi Carlile – “The Story” – This has been in my Pandora rotation lately, and when I investigated where I’d heard it before, I discovered it was featured in a Grey’s Anatomy promo, and a GM commercial during the Olympics. I love her voice – similar to Melissa Etheridge, and this is just a good song.
  • Beyonce – “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” – Ever since the Glee episode where Kurt led the football team in a dance number to this song, I can’t help but smile when I hear this song. It’s fun to dance and sing along to, and that’s enough reason for me to buy it.
  • Missy Elliot – “Lose Control” – This isn’t my typical choice of genre (most of my music is of the “chill around the house” variety), but I wanted to add some songs that will be motivating during a workout. Since this is one of the songs played during my cardio kickboxing class, I know it will keep me moving on the treadmill or stair stepper, too!

So there you have it. How should I spend my remaining $18? I am open to suggestions!


Ten Reasons I Love Parenthood October 19, 2010

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Yes, I love my children, but in this case I’m talking about the NBC drama currently in its sophomore season. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, after I watched the first few episodes, I let the rest of season one pile up on my Tivo, and at one point considered just deleting them all. Being over ten episodes “behind” on a tv show is very intimidating! Thank goodness I decided to give the show another look! I jumped back in at the end of July, and despite being busy having a baby and all, I managed to finish out the first season in just a few weeks. Now I eagerly await each new episode of season two. What’s so great about this show, which is yet another tv adaptation of the 80s movie starring Steve Martin? Let me give you ten reasons:

  1. Lauren Graham – Seeing her on this show makes me realize how much I miss Gilmore Girls. I loved the snarky dialogue, Luke, the overabundance of coffee, etc. Parenthood may not have a Luke, but there is plenty of coffee and clever scriptwriting. Former Lorelai Gilmore is at the heart of this show, playing the family’s underachieving daughter, Sarah Braverman. She’s a single mom to two struggling teenagers, works as a bartender, and can’t seem to maintain a relationship for much longer than the first date. She may have issues, but she’s sure fun to listen to. She often provides the commentary on how ridiculous some of the situations in the Braverman family are. I wonder how the show would have been different if the role had gone to Maura Tierney, as originally planned. I doubt the character would have been as funny and bubbly.
  2. The Adam and Kristina Braverman Family – Adam is the oldest Braverman son, and so everyone turns to him for advice and problem solving. Meanwhile, he and his wife have their hands full at home, with teenage daughter Haddie, and Asperger’s-diagnosed son Max. This family’s conflicts, conversations, and household atmosphere seem very realistic to me. I especially like how the writers handle Max’s Asperger’s syndrome. Aspergers and autism are becoming more common, so it’s good that a network show is dealing with them in what seems to be a realistic way. Haddie is a smartly written character as well. She relies on, is embarrassed by, and is trying to be independent from her family all at once.
  3. Zeek and Camille’s Marriage – I like the way the show handles the patriarch and matriarch’s relationship. They have been married for decades, but have never fully dealt with some major issues. As a result, they separate for awhile, then start going to counseling and trying to heal the parts of their relationship that aren’t working. I love Zeek’s character development: he started out as a stubborn, gruff man who wouldn’t admit anything was wrong. But because he loves his wife, he embraces the new mantra “I see you, I hear you,” starts taking ballroom dance lessons, and begins to see everything he’s been missing about his wife all these years. And Camille is skeptical but appreciative of his efforts. Such a sweet subplot, and it gives Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia something more interesting to work with than simply being the token grandparents doling out their wisdom and life lessons.
  4. The Stay at Home Dad – Taking a more realistic approach than Michael Keaton’s 80s hit Mr. Mom, Parenthood shows us a slice of life where mom (Julia) is the breadwinner (as a lawyer), and dad (Joel) takes care of the homefront and daughter Sydney. This is the least interesting family unit on the show, but it is still a nice change to see a dad dealing with things like play dates and house cleaning. As one would imagine, having a man in the mix of stay at home moms has led to some awkward moments, and some jealousy from Julia.
  5. Crosby and his Houseboat – The youngest of the Braverman clan gives us a taste of the opposite side of the spectrum. While (at least two) of his siblings are living the typical suburban family life, he is living in a cool houseboat, working at a music studio, going to parties, and trying to figure out how to parent the son he just found out he has. His Bohemian attitude and influence on the family add some flavor to the show. I’m not crazy about his girlfriend Jasmine, but they have developed her character a little more, so there’s hope her likability will improve. And their son, Jabbar, is about as cute as a kid can be.
  6. Mae Whitman – I can’t think of a more convincing teen actress on tv today than Whitman. She plays Sarah’s daughter, Amber. Amber is both rebellious and respectful of her mom, has a good head on her shoulders, and learns from her mistakes. Whitman previously played George Michael’s frumpy girlfriend Ann (or as Michael called her, Egg) on Arrested Development, and played another troubled teen on Andre Braugher’s short-lived show Thief. It is refreshing to see a young actress so comfortable and convincing on screen, in a sea full of mediocre young actors (with a few exceptions, of course) on all those CW shows.
  7. The Opening Theme – “May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true, may you always do for others, and let others do for you…” I love this Bob Dylan song – the tune, the lyrics, everything. And it’s the perfect theme song for this show that’s all about parents trying to raise their children well and prepare them for the world. I always watch the opening sequence, both because I enjoy hearing the song and seeing pictures of the cast at different stages of their lives (a la Growing Pains).
  8. The Music – The opening theme isn’t the only song to enjoy on this show. Music plays an integral role in setting the tone – from playful to melancholy to nostalgic, and everything in between. I was pleased to see that there is a Parenthood Season One soundtrack. I love shows and movies that use music to successfully engage the viewers (think Garden State, Elizabethtown, Dawson’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy). There’s also an element of product placement with the music, which is only slightly annoying, since I’m actually interested in knowing who is singing the song. For example, Ray La Montagne’s name has been mentioned more than once, such as when Adam was listening to him on the way to work.
  9. The Braverman house – Zeek and Camille’s house has a lot of character. It’s a big, old house with a large yard, and a guesthouse. Everyone gathers on the patio (surrounded by bountiful flowers and greenery) for family dinners. Every time I see it, I think how nice it would be to have a large house like that with plenty of room for the extended family to hang out.
  10. Jason Katims’ involvement – Sometimes I’ll watch a show just because I respect the person behind the camera. The first two names that come to mind are J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, but not far behind them is Jason Katims. He is the man who brought us Roswell, Friday Night Lights, and Boston Public, all great shows in their own way. And he writes most of the Parenthood episodes, so I know they will be clever and enjoyable. And in the end, the balance of great writing, smart casting, and convincing acting are what make this show work so well.

If you haven’t checked this show out yet, I encourage you to do so. If you are a late 20s or 30 something family-centered individual like me, you won’t be disappointed!


Fall 2010 TV: The New Shows October 8, 2010

Over the past two weeks, I have sampled several of the new fall tv shows. So far, only one has held my attention enough for me to continue watching it. The others were either mediocre, awful, or would be inconvenient for me to keep watching because of scheduling conflicts or my own time constraints. Read on for my thoughts on the pilot episodes of several new shows:

  • Mike and Molly – When I read the basic premise of this show, that it was about a school teacher and policeman who meet at an Overeaters’ Anonymous group, I thought, “That’s nice. CBS is actually airing a show about average Americans” (since these days, the average American is overweight). Unfortunately, this show fell really, really flat. The fat jokes are more of the “laugh at them” variety than “laugh with them.” Plus, it is full of stereotypes: the token black guy, the airheaded sister, the clueless mother, etc. I loved Melissa McCarthy as Sookie on Gilmore Girls, but I’m not buying her character on this show. That’s probably more the fault of the writers. It simply wasn’t funny. I don’t think I laughed at a single joke. But, who knows? Maybe this show will thrive for a few seasons. After all, it airs after the inexplicably popular Two and a Half Men. It seems that the general public is more interested in watching mediocre shows, while truly hilarious shows like Community and 30 Rock struggle to find an audience.
  • S**t My Dad Says – Speaking of mediocre comedies, how about this new loser, powered by the one and only Captain Kirk. [Insert any number of cheesy Star Trek jokes here, preferably something along the lines of “Beam me up out of this bad show, Scotty…”] I suppose the writers were hoping William Shatner’s “cranky old man” persona would be enough to make this a hit, and they are probably right, but I won’t be tuning in. The writing fell flat, the jokes weren’t funny, the characters weren’t likable, and I stopped watching halfway through.
  • Outsourced – I like the idea of this show – a young American gets transferred to his company’s India branch and becomes involved in all sorts of shenanigans caused by the cultural differences – but the pilot episode didn’t wow me. There were a few funny moments, but not enough, and too many of the characters were caricatures. Perhaps over time they will develop more depth, but I opted out after the pilot, so I’ll never know. I don’t think this one will last anyway – it came across as too awkward.
  • Running Wilde – This was another painfully awkward show – I’m talking in terms of its writing and tone. There were definitely some funny moments, similar to the vastly superior Arrested Development, but mostly the story felt forced and silly. It was a little too slapstick for my taste, and I’m guessing it won’t be most Americans’ cup of tea either. But still, I love Will Arnett and Keri Russell, so I hope that people will watch so they can remain employed.
  • Raising Hope – This show follows in the comedy footsteps of Roseanne and My Name Is Earl, by showing us a slice of life in blue collar Americana. While it is sweet, too much of the humor borders on the ridiculous: the grandmother mistaking the baby for an animal (“Get that dog off my sofa!”), Hope’s daddy not knowing that he has to secure the car seat in the car, the young mother being sent to the electric chair, etc. Still, of all the new comedies, I’d imagine this one has the best chance of surviving its freshman season. And it was nice to see Martha Plimpton of Goonies fame again, but it sure makes me feel old to see her playing the mother of a 20-something!
  • Undercovers – This show is produced and written by J.J. Abrams, which is the only reason I considered checking it out. Unfortunately, the first ten minutes lost my interest. Hasn’t J.J taken us here before, when it was called Alias? The main difference is that this show focuses on married spies, but I just don’t see it being as good or entertaining as its predecessor. How can you compete with Michael Vartan and Bradley Cooper?!
  • Hawaii Five-O – This show has three things going for it: nostalgia, eye candy, and a powerhouse cast. I was too young to understand it, but I remember my parents watching the original version of this show in the early 80s. The opening theme song brings back memories of my childhood. As for the eye candy, what better combination than Hawaii and Alex O’Loughlin? Delicious! 🙂  Plus, this show is like a hall of fame from some of my favorite shows: James Marsters (Spike) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) from Lost, and Grace Park (Boomer/Sharon) from Battlestar Galactica. Even though I haven’t gotten around to finishing the pilot, I think I just convinced myself to give this show a second look! It seems like the type that I could jump in on from time to time, if I happen to be sitting around with nothing else to watch. I don’t think I have time to fully invest in it. But it’s definitely a well-produced, sharp looking show.
  • Lone Star – I had heard good buzz about this show, but I was highly disappointed by it. I didn’t find any of the characters likable, which is always a huge drawback for me in a show/movie/book. Plus, it just wasn’t interesting. I hear this is one of the first new shows to be canceled, so I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.
  • No Ordinary Family – I like the concept of this show – a fusion of family drama and superhero actionand I’m a fan of Greg Berlanti’s previous work on Everwood (and to a lesser extent on Brothers and Sisters, which I watched for one season). Plus, it stars the recently departed Rita (Julie Benz) from Dexter, and Michael Chiklis (who, despite his acclaimed role on The Shield will always be the early 90s Commish to me). If I had more time on my hands, I would definitely stick with this show for a few more episodes to see where it’s headed. What’s not to love about a family whose mother can run at warp speed, father is nearly invincible, daughter can read minds, and son can solve complex equations in an instant? I also like the touch of the family members’ voice overs actually being part of their family counseling sessions (with Dr. Abbott from Everwood!). Hmm. Maybe I need to check this show out again, too. It’s sounding pretty good. But it may just be too weird to last. As I was watching, something seemed off about the show’s attempt to balance realistic family problems with an epic superhero adventure. But at least Berlanti and company are trying to think outside the legal/police/medical drama box.
  • My Generation – This show sounded right up my early 30s alley: nine classmates who were the focus of a documentary their senior year of high school are revisited ten years later, when their lives are intersecting in ways they never would have expected. It’s a fun concept, and the early 2000s music is almost reason enough to watch. Unfortunately, the show has already been canceled, which isn’t surprising, since the concept wasn’t carried out very well by the writers, actors, or director. The flow of the show didn’t feel right, some of the acting was pretty unconvincing, and the stories seemed contrived. I was starting to like it, despite my best efforts, only to discover it’s already been dropped. Not a big loss. It was too soapy and angsty for a concept that could have been original and highly entertaining. The documentary style that works so well for shows like The Office just felt gimmicky, and not executed well, here. But there’s definitely room in the current tv landscape for a show about late 20 or early 30 somethings. Go back to the drawing board, tv people!
  • The Event – And so we come to the one show that I’ve added to my viewing list, even though I’m skeptical about its long term potential for entertainment and quality. So far we’ve only watched one episode, but it piqued our interest enough to schedule a Season Pass on our Tivo. The previews made it look like a run of the mill government action thriller, but the pilot episode revealed a more interesting sci-fi and conspiracy element. The main reason we tuned in is that it stars Blair Underwood, who my husband sat next to on a plane about a year ago and enjoyed talking to. It’s nice that he is back on tv. My main complaint so far is that all the time shifts border on comical, in a show that is about as far from comical as you can get. “Twelve hours earlier.” “73 years ago.” “Three weeks ago.” It’s enough to make your head spin, trying to keep up with who was doing what, and when. To me, this element feels like a twisted rip off of 24, and a gimmick meant to make the show look clever. Perhaps over time viewers and the showrunners will find a comfortable rhythm for these time shifts. For now, my curiosity about what is going on is enough to keep me watching, along with some other familiar faces – Jason Ritter (who I most recently enjoyed seeing on Parenthood) and Scott Patterson (my beloved Luke from Gilmore Girls…)

In my opinion, this fall’s batch of new shows is mediocre. I don’t see many hit shows developing out of these. (I didn’t even bother watching the others shows that aren’t listed here – they were simply more of the same old same old.) I’m so out of the loop lately that I don’t even know which new shows have had ratings success, and which ones have flopped. Have you added anything new to your viewing lineup?