Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

CSI: A Retrospective September 26, 2015

Filed under: Memories — Emily @ 5:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

Fifteen years ago, I was a first year graduate student at the University of Alabama. It was my first time living on my own (all my family and friends lived 5+ hours away), and when I moved to Tuscaloosa, I only knew one person there. That first year, I was attending school on a fellowship, which meant that I was given a monthly stipend to live on while I was working on my Masters in English.

Since I barely knew anyone in town, and since I didn’t have a job, I spent a lot of time alone in my little apartment those first few months. I used my free AOL dial-up to connect to the Internet and chat with friends on ICQ, or download music on Napster. But my constant companion during the fall of 2000 was television. Every night, I would sit down with my bowl of cereal or bagged spinach salad or Lipton noodles, and see what my favorite characters were up to. While I was firmly entrenched in the WB at that time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell, and Dawson’s Creek were all appointment tv), there was one new show that intrigued me.

CSI

The original cast of CSI. These were my people!

What I remember about the pilot episode is a lot of blue lighting and an unusual amount of screen time for a pair of shoes. I was skeptical of this show about unusually attractive crime scene investigators because it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who, at the time, I only associated with over the top explosions, dramatic electric guitar background music, and slow motion shots of groups of people walking forward (think Con Air and Armageddon). Despite my reservations, I just couldn’t seem to look away when the case of the week was revealed in the opening segment. And so began my on-again, off-again relationship with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Over the next few seasons, I enjoyed getting to know the characters just as much as trying to solve the crime. Would Warrick ever overcome his gambling addiction? Would Catherine ever get the respect she deserved? How was Nick such a nice guy when so many bad things happened to him? What made Grissom see the world so differently than everyone else? During that first solitary year of graduate school, and especially during the uncertain, dark days after 9/11, I took comfort in escaping into these characters’ lives and the fictional cases they investigated.

Fast forward a few years, and I was introduced to the wonders of Tivo! No longer confined to the limitations of live tv and one VCR, I expanded my list of shows. Somehow, when compared to Lost, Alias, 24, and Veronica Mars, Grissom and company were no longer appointment tv. And so, for a few years, I parted ways with this band of crafty crime solvers.

Fast forward to 2008. My life had changed a lot since the days of eating meager dinners in front of the tv in my 400 sq. ft. apartment in Tuscaloosa. I’d gotten married, finished graduate school, moved to Dallas, started teaching college writing courses, bought a house… And on March 1, 2008, Brad and I became parents!

One day as I sat in the living room nursing newborn Benjamin and flipping channels, I stumbled across an old episode of CSI on Spike TV. I was quickly drawn back into that world, and I wanted to catch up on what I’d been missing the last few seasons. Much to my delight, I discovered that Spike TV had nothing better to do than air several episodes of CSI everyday. Anyone who has experienced the challenges of breastfeeding knows that it’s not unusual to spend hours a day (or night) confined to a chair while feeding your baby. And so, in a different stage of life than my grad school days, CSI had resumed its place as my companion in a time of solitude. For the next few months, I became reacquainted with Grissom, Catherine, Nick, and the whole gang. I watched multiple episodes a day, and before I knew it, I was all caught up. I have vivid memories of watching episodes in the middle of the night, when our house was totally quiet and it was just me, the baby, and my pals in the crime lab. (I wouldn’t join Facebook until later that year, so I didn’t yet have my NewsFeed as a source of round the clock community.)

I guess now I could dub my marathon viewing of the first eight seasons “the great CSI binge watch of 2008.” Binge watching is easy these days, with a Netflix or Hulu subscription and some time to spare, but I had to get creative to record all the episodes, even with Tivo’s help. There were highs and lows in this batch of episodes: I was fascinated by the miniature killer story arc, and I was devastated by Warrick’s untimely death. Eventually, my rekindled fascination with the show waned, when I decided that the more gruesome or tragic episodes were too much for my newfound maternal feelings to handle.

While I was intrigued by Laurence Fishburne’s addition to the cast, his presence wasn’t enough to carry the show after William Petersen’s departure. My last exposure to CSI was probably in 2010. I’ve only heard bits and pieces about Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue being on the show, and that never seemed right to me. I still think of him as a bartender on Cheers and of her as Daniel’s girlfriend in The Karate Kid. Why are they now the leads on a crime drama? I hadn’t really thought about CSI at all for a few years until I saw a headline this morning about its series finale, which will air as a tv movie tomorrow night. When I read that Grissom, Catherine, and many of the other former characters would be returning, I knew that I had to watch it. It will be nice to revisit these old “friends” who I spent time with off and on over the last decade and a half of my life. Not even Jerry Bruckheimer and his cliched production values could ruin this highly stylized, clever, engaging show. While it might have gone on a few seasons too long, and while I could do without the comical number of spin-offs it has led to, CSI has earned its place in television history as a crime procedural with likable characters and clever execution. Thanks for the memories!

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My Week without Facebook July 2, 2012

Filed under: Memories,Uncategorized — Emily @ 6:03 pm

Imagine a world without status updates, Instagrams, Spotify updates, birthday notifications, etc. That has been my reality for the last seven days, as I just wrapped up a week without Facebook. Did I go through severe withdrawal? No. Did I cheat and take a peek at my News Feed to see what I was missing? Nope, not even once. Did my real life productivity increase dramatically? Not really. Did I miss checking Facebook several times a day? Well, yes and no.

Overall, I found my week without Facebook to be very refreshing. The first couple of days I had trouble adjusting. I kept catching myself glancing over at my laptop (which I keep on the kitchen counter) to see if I had any of those little red notifications that pop up at the top of my News Feed. Of course, Facebook wasn’t even open on my computer, but my automatic reflex made me realize how attached I have become to Facebook. Checking Facebook on my phone while at the park, in my kitchen while I’m cooking dinner, etc. has become second nature. I’ve become so connected to the outside world that I’m sometimes neglectful of the more tangible things around me (kids, house, laundry…).

So, without Facebook there to distract me at every turn, I found myself more relaxed and enjoying moments that I otherwise might miss, such as sitting and chatting with my four year old when he first wakes up, watching him and his brother play at the park, and even reading for two straight hours during the kids’ nap time. Of course, the first couple of days I found myself trying to replace the lack of Facebook with other online sources, including Twitter, various blogs, the LA Times, and IMDb. I quickly cut out Twitter, but allowed myself to check the other sites a couple times a day. Otherwise, I felt completely disconnected from the outside world and was afraid I would miss something important. (As it turns out, the most significant news of the week was the Supreme Court’s passing of the healthcare legislation, the Colorado wildfires, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ split.)

Despite my feelings of isolation and disconnect, it was surprisingly easy to “survive” without Facebook for a week. I was reminded who my closest friends are (whether or not Facebook has suggested them as a Top Friend). They were the ones I texted, emailed, called, or hung out with (in person – imagine that!), and the ones I truly missed reading status updates from. I was also reminded of what life before Facebook was like. For me, it was only four years ago that I joined the world’s largest social network. Before that time, I read a lot more blogs, maintained my own blogs much more consistently, read various entertainment and news websites, etc. I didn’t spend as much time online then as I do now (partly because I didn’t yet own an iPhone), but it wasn’t like I was spending my time writing letters and reading classic thousand page novels either. Facebook wasn’t the start of my time wasting on the Internet, it just replaced many of my former online activities.

However, most of you would probably agree with me that Facebook is the biggest online time waster. I’m not saying that it is a complete waste of time; it’s just easy to spend too much time on it. So, while my week off didn’t make me want to quit Facebook entirely, it did make me reevaluate the amount of time I spend on it. But how do you set boundaries and cut back on something that is constantly enticing you with new information?! My first steps are these: 1) Stop checking Facebook on my phone, and 2) Limit my Facebooking to a few times a day (morning, noon, night) and then close it, rather than always leaving it open on my browser. Sounds simple enough, but I’m sure it will be easy to fall back into old habits of checking it constantly.

What do I hope to accomplish by reducing my Facebook time? A more balanced life, perhaps. Without Facebook always calling my name from my phone and laptop, I can focus more on my family and the never ending list of to-dos. But it will also free up some time for me to pursue other hobbies that have been neglected because of Facebook. Maybe I’ll get back into blogging (as I’m doing right now!). And finally catch up with my ongoing project of printing out digital photos and putting them in albums. And read more books! I was amazed that last week I blew through the second half of a 970 page book – reading nearly 500 pages in a week is normally unheard of for me, but all those extra minutes that I wasn’t on Facebook translated into hundreds more pages read in A Clash of Kings.

So why won’t I quit Facebook all together? Well, I think it is an important part of our society. It is bigger now than just a way to waste time, or an opportunity to find out whatever happened to so and so from high school. Facebook is how we stay connected to many important people in our lives. When we moved from Dallas to California last year, Facebook became an even more important part of my life, because it helps me keep in touch with family and friends who I would otherwise lose contact with, and it helps me not miss them so much! And, as a stay at home mom, Facebook is an important connection to the outside world, even if it’s just to my other mom friends who live around the block. When I’m feeling isolated, it’s nice that I can log in and see what someone else is making for dinner, what vacation they just returned from, what movie they plan to see this weekend, etc. That may sound dull and unimportant to someone who leads a more exciting life than I do, but it means a lot to me!

Do I recommend that everyone do their own Facebook-free experiment? Sure, why not? Whether you take off a day, a week, or a month, taking a break can be very eye opening. It helps you see where your priorities are, how you spend (or don’t spend) your time, and how integral (or disposable) Facebook really is in your daily life. If you do take a break, let me know how it goes, and good luck!

 

Childhood Memories July 5, 2011

Filed under: 1980s,Books,Memories — Emily @ 6:01 pm

My three year old son has recently become very interested in books – not the super short board books or picture books, but real storybooks. I love that I can sit and read to him, and he’ll actually sit still and listen, fully engrossed, until the story is over. And then, he will ask me to read it again, or to read another one. His new found love for stories made me nostalgic about my favorite books growing up. On a recent visit to my parents’ house, I rummaged around in the closets and dug out some treasures from my childhood. Since I couldn’t take them with me on the move to California (the suitcases were already going to be packed full), I took pictures of them instead. Here are a few of my favorite books, plus a few other things, from my early years:

Do you remember loving any of these books and toys? What were some of your favorites?

 

Celebrity Sightings April 20, 2011

I have been MIA from this blog for the past few months, mainly because we are in the middle of relocating from Dallas to the L.A. area. We are looking forward to many things about our new home, including the nice weather and being close to many interesting destinations. Another small perk of living near L.A. is that we are likely to spot the occasional celebrity. I’m not one of those people who worships actors and musicians, and I don’t believe that encountering them in public will somehow change my life. After all, they are just people. For me, it’s more of a fun game, to see if I recognize someone famous, and then to observe them to guess what sort of person they are. I’ve only been to California a few times, but since Brad has been out there for work several times a year for the past eight years, I will include his celeb spottings here, too.

Me

  • Noah Wyle – When I was in high school, ER’s Dr. Carter was on my list of attractive famous people (does every teenage girl compile such a list?) So I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed him sitting in first class on my flight to L.A. a couple of weeks ago. The man sitting next to him started talking to me about Peter, and Noah looked up and smiled at us. In that brief moment I observed that he has aged (he’s almost 40!), he was sharply dressed, and was reading a book called The War of Art. You can’t tell much about someone in a few seconds, but I will say that he had kind eyes. You can see Noah on tv again this summer on TNT’s new scifi drama Falling Skies.
  • Thomas Hayden Church – While waiting to board my flight home to Dallas at the Burbank Airport, I recognized this Sideways star immediately. He was buying something at the snack/magazine counter, and appeared to be impatient with the lady behind the counter (I hadn’t been too impressed with her, either.) He is very tall, so it’s hard to miss him. Some of the other passengers started to point him out to each other. He never talked to anyone – he seemed anxious to get on the plane, and in fact was the first person in line for boarding. He was wearing a flannel shirt and cargo pants. I was sitting in the first row behind first class, so I had a view of him during the flight to Dallas. Whenever I looked up at him, he was either sleeping or reading what could have been a script.
  • James Denton – On a previous trip to L.A., I walked past this Desperate Housewives plumber at LAX. He was dressed in a suit, and I was struck by how blue his eyes were!
  • Mike Piazza – Going back about 18 years, when I was an avid Dodger fan, I spotted this Dodger catcher at the Galleria in Houston. My family was in town for an Astros/Dodgers game, and we were hanging out at the Galleria beforehand. Apparently the Dodgers were staying at one of the mall’s hotels, because while we were hanging out at the ice rink, Piazza strode past, looking nice in a suit. We tried to catch up with him for an autograph (of course! I was a teenage girl, and he was on my “cute” list), but he was already to the parking garage and out of sight. A bit later, my dad had a conversation with another Dodger player, Cory Snyder.
  • Quincy Jones – My strangest celebrity encounter happened in June 2009, the day after Michael Jackson died. I was in L.A. visiting my friend Lindsay. We decided to have afternoon coffee and dessert at a popular place called Pan e Vino. You can read all the details here. We both recognized Quincy Jones sitting at a table with family/friends in the corner of the patio opposite from us. It was strange to see someone who was a known friend and associate of Michael Jackson, only hours after Michael’s death. Quincy was dressed in black, whether out of mourning or because that’s his normal thing I don’t know. We guessed that he was with a daughter, son-in-law, and grand child based on their interactions with each other.

Brad – I should ask him to give me some more details about these spottings, but for now I’ll just give a brief run down.

  • Ted Danson – He shared a flight with him one time.
  • Mario Lopez – This was probably the most amusing celeb sighting for Brad. He even took a few discreet pictures with his phone to prove to me that he was sitting next to “Slater” at the airport.
  • Mike Tyson – He and his colleagues actually stopped Mike and asked for a picture at the airport.
  • Coolio – Spotted him walking through an airport
  • Blair Underwood – This has been Brad’s most interesting celebrity encounter. At the time Underwood was appearing on the now canceled show Dirty Sexy Money, and now he is somewhat more recognized as the president on NBC’s 24/Lost wannabe The Event. Brad didn’t just see Blair Underwood. He was actually sitting next to him on the flight to Dallas, and so he conversed with him periodically throughout the flight. As I recall, Underwood was going to Dallas for a funeral. 😦  Brad enjoyed talking with him about the ins and outs of the theater and tv industry, and to a certain extent about Blair’s efforts to remain successful. I would love to have such a conversation with an actor! Maybe one day I’ll have my chance. As someone pointed out to me recently, having babies or small children with you somehow makes conversations with strangers more acceptable.

If you could see or talk to a celebrity in person, who would it be? What would you want to talk to them about?

 

2010: Year in Review January 1, 2011

Filed under: Books,Fringe,Glee,Lost,Memories,Movies,Music,Television — Emily @ 5:24 pm

2010 was a year that marked the birth of my second son, which has made it decidedly more difficult for me to maintain this blog. Perhaps one of my new year’s resolutions will be to post more frequently. We shall see. Blame it on pregnancy ditziness, blame it on newborn phase sleep deprivation, but whatever the cause, much of 2010 is a blur, especially the entertainment world. I do remember saying goodbye to, and shedding some tears for, one of my all-time favorite shows. I also remember the wrong person winning American Idol, the soap opera I grew up on coming to an end, and Christopher Nolan continuing his movie-making magic. Here’s a bullet point list of the best of times, worst of times of 2010.

  • Good Reads
    • Stieg Larsson’s Girl trilogy – I read all three of these books in 2010 and found them completely riveting. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a satisfying blend of suspense and mystery revolving around the enigmatic Vanger family. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was a conspiracy-filled investigation to clear the name of the wrongfully accused, and The Girl Who Played with Fire was a satisfying ending to the trilogy with its expose of a secret organization and Lisbeth Salander finally finding some peace. I have watched the Swedish movie adaptations of the first two novels, and they were surprisingly good (meaning the transition from page to screen was pretty accurate). I hear there are American versions in the works, but since the trilogy is set in Sweden, and so much of the plot revolves around Swedish politics and culture, I don’t think they will be as good.
    • Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City – I don’t usually read historical non-fiction, but I was fascinated by this book, which blends the story of an infamous serial killer with the city of Chicago’s efforts to prepare for and host the 1893 World’s Fair. Larson knew when to elaborate and when to summarize, to make this a quick and interesting read. Word on the street is that there is a movie in the works, with Leonardo DiCaprio set to play serial killer H.H. Holmes. Should be a good one!
  • Good Movies
    • Shutter Island – Speaking of Leonardo DiCaprio, he has completely redeemed himself for Titanic. Yeah, I guess I should have gotten over that about ten years ago, but I lost over three hours of my life to that movie!! It took me a long time to forgive him for shouting “I’m the king of the world” and such. This year, he only impressed me, starring in two of my favorite movies. One was Shutter Island, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel. I knew it would be good when I saw that it starred DiCaprio, along with Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite character actors) and Ben Kingsley. This one was terrific in the theater: the scenery, the music, the everything. The ending surprised (and disappointed) some people, but Martin Scorsese did a great job with every single detail, from beginning to end, and I was impressed.
    • Inception – The only person who outdid Scorsese this year was Christopher Nolan, who continues to amaze me with his ability to intrigue and entertain. Inception is the last movie I saw in the theater before my son was born, and I haven’t been back to the movies yet! What a terrific experience that movie was: the sights, the sounds, the story… the whole package. I look forward to giving it a second look soon.
  • Good Music
    • Mumford and Sons – Their Sigh No More is the only complete album I purchased in 2010, and I love it. From the mainstream hit “Little Lion Man,” to the solidarity of “Timshel,” to the poetry of “The Cave,” everything is worth listening to and enjoying.
    • Glee – Nothing is more fun to listen to than songs from Glee. They are fun to sing and dance along to, in the car, the kitchen, or anywhere else. The second season has been a little lackluster, but I’m still enjoying last season’s hits – most notably “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Borderline/Open Your Heart,” and “Alone.”
  • Good TV
    • Breaking Bad – After three seasons of it receiving awards and accolades, we finally jumped on the Breaking Bad bandwagon, zooming through the first two seasons on DVD. Now we are anxiously awaiting season three, and hope it will reair on AMC before the dvd release. Bryan Cranston is truly amazing in this role, one that is about as far removed from the dad on Malcolm in the Middle as you can be. I’ve had several people tell me they don’t want to watch the show because it sounds depressing (actually, I think I was one of those people before I watched it!), but the show balances out the heavy themes (cancer, drug addiction, deception, etc.) with lighter moments. We so enjoyed this show that we decided to try out AMC’s other original series. We quickly lost interest in Mad Men (well made, yes, but no likable characters!), but immediately took to the new zombie drama The Walking Dead (too bad there were only six episodes in season one…). I was also interested in Rubicon, but since it was canceled after one season, I’m not sure I’ll ever watch it.
    • Fringe – I continue to love this sci-fi investigative show. The story arcs are imaginative, the characters well drawn, and the details thorough. This season has been all about this universe vs. the alternate universe, and I appreciate all the little details that the writers throw in about alt-universe (JFK was’t assassinated, they no longer use writing pens, avocado are a rare fruit, etc.). This show even inspired the name that I eventually chose for my son (Peter).
    • Lost – I couldn’t do a year end post without mentioning what is probably my all-time favorite show. I throughly enjoyed the final season, although it took me awhile to come to terms with the way it ended. The show had a great run, though, so I don’t miss it now. Too much other tv to watch anyway.
  • Good Sports
    • The Saints won the Super Bowl! – After years of embarrassment, followed by some years of “almost, but not quite,” the Saints finally had their moment of glory as Super Bowl champs, by winning a handful of crazy games. It was oh so sweet to celebrate with them after all those depressing Sunday afternoons growing up in Louisiana, watching the ‘Aints.
    • Duke wins the NCAA championship! – What a rare thing, for two of my teams to win championships during the same year! I have been a Duke fan since 1991, the year they won their first championship. I’ve followed their ups and downs ever since then, and was pleasantly surprised when they were the only #1 seed left standing for the Final Four last season, and added another championship to their collection. Go Blue Devils!
  • Disappointments
    • Velva Jean Learns to Drive – This book was okay, but I was really unhappy with how it ended.
    • The Event – I guess I shouldn’t have expected much from NBC, since their action/suspense shows usually fail, but this show was just one, big convoluted and implausible mess. I tried to watch it, but gave up on about episode 5 or 6. I suppose it will last for awhile, but I won’t be tuning in to this failed hybrid of 24 and Lost.
    • So You Think You Can Dance: Season 7 – When I first heard that the show was mixing things up by pairing new contestants with all-stars, I was super excited. And as much as I loved seeing Pasha, Mark, Kathryn, etc., their presence made it nearly impossible to pick favorites among the newbies. We couldn’t enjoy power couples, and I was usually too busy watching one of the all-stars do their thing to notice how the actual contestants were doing. Throw the ridiculous number of injuries in, and the uneven number of guys and girls during the second half of the season, and it was an epic failure. There were still a few memorable performances, but none that I can think of right now.
    • Lee beating Crystal on American Idol – Every year I only half watch the spectacle that is American Idol, and last season, my one eye open quickly pegged Crystal the only one with the total package amonst the weak top ten. As much as I liked Lee (he was a nice guy, after all), he wasn’t nearly as talented or comfortable on stage as Crystal. Like all previous contestants, their post-Idol successes or failures will determine the real winner (a shout out here to the one and only Jennifer Hudson, who was voted off way too soon on her season of Idol).

So what were the best and worst moments in 2010 entertainment for you?

 

Mixing Things Up with Netflix Instant Watch November 4, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,Memories,Movies — Emily @ 3:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

While we have had access to Netflix Instant Watch for over a year, we didn’t really start using it until this past summer. This week I fell even more in love with it after discovering tons of children’s programs that appeal to Benjamin (namely Dora, Caillou, and his latest craze, The Backyardigans). I’ve also developed an interest in the PBS news program Frontline, since Netflix offers several of its episodes via instant watch. Here’s a run down on the various instant watch titles we’ve been watching over the past few weeks:

  • Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – I had already watched this once, when it was available on Hulu, but it was worth checking out again. It reminds me how talented and funny Neil Patrick Harris is, and how much less interesting the tv landscape is without a Joss Whedon show.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – My biggest complaint about this movie is that it was simply too long. Surely the director/editors could have figured out a way to trim the middle section by a half hour or so. I was fascinated by the first hour (seeing “old man” Benjamin learn to walk/talk/read, etc.), bored by the second (almost to the point that I gave up on the movie), and satisfied by the last 45 minutes (especially the way Benjamin grieved the impending loss of life as he knew it, since he would soon be a child). It’s definitely an unusual story, and I wasn’t sure what it would look like for someone to be born as an old man. They way the story was written made it all make sense. This movie is entertaining because of its concept (a man who is born old and goes through life aging backwards), but it felt like they were trying to make it into a Forrest Gump type of epic. So on that level, it failed – that is, it didn’t feel grandiose enough to me. The acting and writing  weren’t that great either. Still, Brad Pitt’s old man to young man make up was rather convincing, and I was emotionally invested in the story enough that I cried at the end. If you have nearly three hours to spare, this one is worth watching. I had to watch in three or four installments, but I’m glad I finished.
  • Frontline: Digital Nation – For the past couple of years, ever since I joined the Facebook culture, I have been fascinated by this topic of how technology is affecting the way we communicate and interact with one another. So I thoroughly enjoyed this report on just that – how smart phones, Facebook, online gaming, etc. are changing our relationships and daily lives. As a college English teacher, I was interested in the segment about how students are “multitasking” in the classroom – texting, Facebooking, and googling while also taking notes or listening to a lecture. It was interesting that a research study found that these students weren’t as good at multitasking as they thought. Doing so many things at once greatly diminishes their ability to retain information, to concentrate, etc. I also enjoyed the segment about online gaming. It focused on the way that gamers form online communities and friendships, and sometimes evenmeet their future spouse in the game. I do wish the reporters would have investigated how these online relationships affect these individuals’ “real life” relationships. Something just seems wrong about being so absorbed in a fantasy world, even if you are “meeting” the same people there every day. Doing so makes them miss so much of the physical world around them!
  • Teen Wolf – Yup, a classic Michael J. Fox ’80s movie. I’m pretty sure a teenager watching this movie today would think it was awful. I must admit it is pretty bad – maybe “campy” is a better word. But if only for nostalgia’s sake, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. One of my favorite thing about watching old movies is getting on IMDB and finding out what the actors have done since. In the case of Teen Wolf, most of their careers fizzled out by the end of the ’80s (it was released in ’85 – the same year as The Goonies). Doug Savant of Desperate Housewives had a minor role as one of teen wolf’s basketball teammates, but other than him and Michael J. Fox, no one else has had much success since. It was interesting to learn that Jerry Levine (the wolf’s goofy sidekick Stiles) has gone on to a successful career as a tv director, working on such shows as Life Unexpected, Monk, and Everybody Hates Chris. Who knew that someone who started out car surfing in Teen Wolf would go on to succeed behind the camera?
  • Babies – This documentary was surprisingly fascinating. I expected it to be cute, but it also managed to provide a lot of insight into the similarities and differences of babies in different cultures – all without a single line of narration. A camera crew followed the lives of four babies from birth until they were about one year old. The babies lived in the San Francisco, Tokyo, Mongolia, and Namibia. There was a recurring contrast of the U.S. and Japanese babies’ sterile, perhaps overprotected environment, and the Mongolian and Namibian babies’ less structured, more “anything goes” environment. Of course, you can’t base your view of an entire culture’s way of raising a baby based on one family, but still it was eye opening to see things like the Mongolian mother cleaning her baby’s face with breast milk and the Namibian mother putting mud on her baby’s head.It was strange to see families living so “in the wild” even in our modern world. The Mongolian family seemed to be farmers, and they lived in a one room hut in the middle of their fields. The baby would crawl right out the opened door and hang out with the cattle. One time he was sitting in a basin for a bath, and a goat walked up to the door and started drinking the bath water! The Namibian mother was always shown sitting with other mothers and children, outside, with dust blowing around them and flies buzzing around. She was shown nursing the baby and her older child at the same time, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. They let the babies put rocks in their mouth, crawl around in a stream drinking from shallow water full of sediment, etc. Such a stark contrast to the hippie San Fran parents who were taking their daughter to some kind of New Age music class (“The Earth is our Mother and provides for us all…, or something like that), or the Japanese mother taking her daughter on play dates at the park with all the other moms/babies/strollers/baby wrap. This was a fun movie to watch with Benjamin. He was just as fascinated as I was!
  • The ‘Burbs – This Tom Hanks comedy/horror movie from 1989 is one of my favorites from that decade. I have watched it so many times, and yet I still thoroughly enjoyed it this time. First of all, it is simply funny. Sure, there are some cheesy moments, but the predicaments that these curious/paranoid neighbors find themselves in are very awkward and amusing. Secondly, there’s a lot of truthful commentary here about how things really are in the suburbs. People often wonder about the “Boo Radley” of the neighborhood – the one who doesn’t mow his lawn, take out his trash, ever go anywhere, etc. (Yeah, we have one of those.) It’s fun to see characters in a movie actually do the investigating that most people would never actually do in a real life situation. Tom Hanks has had tons of success as a dramatic actor, but I really prefer his older comedy movies (Big is another of my favorites). And if these reasons aren’t enough to love The ‘Burbs, just remember that it features Corey Feldman and Carrie Fisher, as well as that creepy red-headed kid (Courtney Gains) from the original Children of the Corn! I don’t know how anyone could watch this movie and not like it. Please leave a comment if you disagree with me.

So that sums up what I’ve been watching lately. I have about 40 more titles in my queue, many of them documentaries and episodes of Frontline. But my favorite instant watch titles are those that take me back to my younger days (in addition to the ones listed above I’ve watched Flatliners, Soapdish, and Interview with a Vampire, and have Clash of the Titans, Police Academy, and Clueless in my queue). I hope that Netflix will continue to add new ’80s and ’90s movies to Instant Watch. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will enjoy revisiting them! Let me know what you’ve enjoyed viewing on Instant Watch.

 

Remembering As the World Turns September 21, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,Memories,Television — Emily @ 3:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

The "As the World Turns" opening logo, as it appeared in the 1980s

Some warbled, dramatic music and a slowly rotating Earth – that is the As the World Turns intro that I remember from my childhood. It was the era of the Snyders and their farm, the Lily/Holden/Dusty love triangle, the James Stenbeck who always (shock!) returned from presumed death, etc. Growing up, every afternoon between 1 and 2 p.m. my mom was watching As the World Turns, which means that most days, so was I.

I stopped watching the show years ago, except for the summer after graduate school when I was unemployed and got sucked back in to day time tv again for a few months. The beauty (or perhaps tragedy) of soap operas is that even if you haven’t watched the show in ten years, you can pick right back up, since there is always a core group of characters who have grown up or grown old on the show. And so, from time to time (as in, once every few years…), I have read the weekly update in the newspaper, and know what’s going on in Oakdale.

I’m not sure whether to be sad, pleased, or indifferent about the apparently imminent death of all soap operas. Several soaps have left the air over the past few years, and new ones aren’t replacing them. Apparently more people want to watch judge shows than soaps now. As the World Turns was the latest soap to fall victim to this trend – it aired its final episode last Friday. Out of nostalgia, I watched the finale.

What is a fitting send-off for a show that’s been running for over 50 years? Certainly not the uneventful, dull episode that the writers came up with. I suppose they were focusing on closure for those Oakdale residents who managed to survive to the end without being murdered, dying of a rare disease, going to prison, getting amnesia, etc. Here’s what I gathered from the finale:

  • Jack and Carly are happily married – again – and have a baby on the way, not to be confused with the baby that Jack recently discovered he’s not the father of.
  • Lily and Holden are once again having problems (in fact, it looks like they are separated/divorced), but it looks like these true loves are going to find their way back to each other again.
  • Lucinda and John Dixon rekindled their love for one another while in Europe, and they plan to live the rest of their days enjoying each other’s company, much to Lisa’s chagrin.
  • In the strangest development, Barbara Ryan is happily involved with a much younger Henry, and they seem to spend their time dancing to disco music at home, even with a disco ball and multi-colored lights. She even dissolved her partnership in her fashion company with her son, Paul. Luckily, Paul had been about to do the same thing. They have now “set each other free,” and Paul is happily involved with Emily.
  • Emily’s much younger sister, Allison, moved away with Tom and Margo’s son Casey. I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing. Surely they are older than college aged by now.
  • Margo was quite distraught about her youngest son leaving home, but Tom helped her focus on the positive, and now that they are empty nesters, they conveniently switched homes with Katie and Chris, who just got engaged and are planning to fill a house up with kids.
  • Coincidentally, Katie and Chris’s condo once belonged to some guy who died and was in a relationship with Luke (Lily’s son). The guy’s heart was transplanted into Chris, so Luke came over to listen to Chris’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.
  • Bob Hughes retired as Chief of Staff at the hospital, and the show ended with him leaving his office saying , “Goodnight,” with a globe spinning on his desk.

It was weird to see everyone (except Luke – bummer for him) so happy on a soap. That’s actually why it was so boring. Soaps thrive on tragedy, intrigue, and drama. If I had been in charge of the finale, I would have included a shocking or untimely death, an unexpected revelation, and most importantly, plenty of cameos of former characters. Since they episode was centered around Bob’s retirement, why not have a huge retirement party and have some old familiar faces come to town for the event? I don’t know who’s alive or dead, but what about some of the other Snyders, or Craig Montgomery, or Lucinda’s other daughter Sierra. What ever happened to Nancy Hughes? Even if they couldn’t afford to have cameos, or couldn’t figure out how to work these characters into the finale, they could at least have ended with an epic video montage. I certainly would have enjoyed that.

Cast of As the World Turns

Random Memories of the Show

  • Actors who have gone on to success – Not that being on a soap opera doesn’t spell success as an actor… But, some of the faces I remember are Meg Ryan as Craig’s first love, Betsy; Marisa Tomei as one of Lisa’s many children, Marcy, I think; Julianne Moore as Bob and (Lisa’s?) twin daughters Frannie and Sabrina (am I remembering their names correctly?); William Fichtner as Josh; etc.
  • Duncan’s castle – ATWT wasn’t the only soap to feature an exotic setting. Other shows had deserted islands, king’s palaces, or villain’s secret lairs. But I was intrigued as a child by the idea of Duncan McWhoever’s Scottish castle on the outskirts of Oakdale. I remember that he was originally involved with Barbara, then Shannon, then Barbara. And somewhere along the way he had Kira as a foster child (played by Lauren Hill from the Fugees). Who could resist a Scottish man’s charm? I wonder whatever happened to Duncan, and to Jessica and their daughter Bonnie.
  • Casey’s death – Not young Casey, but his namesake – the Casey that much older Lyla married. Lyla was Craig and Margo’s mother. Whatever happened to her? I need to do some Wikipedia reading! I don’t remember what sort of illness he had, but I remember very well how emotional the episode was where Margo decided to grant his wish for an easy death by pulling his plug. 😦
  • The Pond – Ah, the Snyder pond – site of secret rendezvous and romantic starlit dates. All the Snyder kids hung out here at one time or another.
  • The Yacht Club – The site of summer teen drama – all the high school kids would hang out here and get involved in all sorts of shenanigans no doubt.
  • The Snyder family tree – See below for my thoughts on this fun, ongoing mess of a geneology.

Family Tree Game

  • My favorite thing about watching a soap was always trying to plot out the complex family trees. It was best not to dig too deep, or you’d discover that someone was actually married to his sister, or that his stepdaughter was his aunt, or something else bizarre like that. My favorite family tree was always the Snyders, so just for fun I’d like to try to list everyone that I remember by memory. I’ll include a link to the actual family tree when I finish.
  • Emma Snyder – the matriarch! She seemed to spend all her time standing at the kitchen counter giving her many children advice, or just listening to them lament about all their problems. Her children:
    • Seth – I believe he was the oldest
    • Iva – She was adopted, so it’s okay that her brother, Holden, married her daughter Lily. Oddly enough, Lily was the result of Iva being raped by Josh (played by now successful character actor William Fichtner), yet somehow Josh was accepted into the family when he married Ida’s sister, Meg.
    • Ellie – My favorite actress who played Ellie was the one with the short dark brown hair. I don’t really remember what she did on the show. Mostly she just popped in and out of town for visits.
    • Caleb – I think he was one of the sons, but he may have been a Snyder cousin. I do remember that he was married to Julie, and that one night Holden got drunk and slept with her, resulting in a child, or some such.
    • Holden – Ah, the heart throb of Oakdale. I remember him best when he was young and always working in the stables, when he wasn’t swimming in the pond with Lily or having romantic picnics with her. As far as I can tell, he’s the only Snyder who stuck around until the end of the show.
    • Meg – Yeah, I can’t remember what she did either. The sisters never had much to contribute, I guess.
    • Angel – I think she married into the Snyder family. Maybe she was married to Caleb and then Seth for awhile.
  • Let’s see how I did with my Snyder family tree – Pretty close. As I suspected, Caleb was a cousin. I forgot that Holden also married Angel. It’s crazy how many marriages, divorces, and illegitimate children are represented in this family!

Let’s face it: soap operas are about as cheesy and over the top as tv gets. And you can fast forward through a one hour episode and catch all the “important” stuff in about ten minutes. Everything is so drawn out – the long pauses, the contemplative stares or daydreams, the dramatic zoom-in close-ups, etc. The writing is pretty elementary, the acting is usually not great, and the stories are usually predictable. Still, there’s a certain charm to soaps, and it seems like there should still be a place in the world for them. Really, what’s the difference between me finding comfort in a primetime show like Parenthood, and a stay at home mom of the 1980s keeping up with the lives of the Hughes and Snyders in Oakdale? Well, I could think of a few… But hats off to As the World Turns for entertaining millions of women (and some men, too) for over fifty years!

What are your favorite memories of As the World Turns, or any other soaps that you watched?

  • For more As the World Turns nostalgia, visit this website, which does actually feature a video montage that includes some of the old school scenes I would have liked seeing in the finale.