The 5 Best Shows You Aren’t Watching

I don’t own a television. I haven’t owned one since 2005. It’s not that I don’t like T.V shows, it’s that I don’t like having to pay cable companies in order to watch them. So I don’t. I watch the shows I like on-line. That way I can keep up with American Idol, Downton Abbey and The Biggest Loser commercial free, cable free, and hell, just free! It also makes me very mindful of what I watch. I can’t just turn it on and see “what’s on”. I have to make a conscious decision to watch television. After I decide what I want to watch (if anything) I have to find it online, and then stream it. It’s still super fast and easy, but I don’t end up wasting time on crap TV like The Real Housewives of Who the Fuck Cares, or Zooey Deschanel in “The Zaney Adventures of a 33-year-old Woman Desperately Trying to Convince the World and Herself that she is 25… Which is also a rip off of Three’s Company”… or whatever it’s called.

You can stream all of these shows on-line. Or on TV or whatever you do to watch shows.

  1. Anthony Bourdain: The Layover (The Travel channel) – url-2Take Anthony Bourdain, give him a film crew and a 24 hour layover in a cool city and see what happens. It’s awesome. It not only inspires you to check out new places in a city you might already know (or live in!), but you get to feel super cool if he talks about one of your favorite places. He spends time talking to locals about their favorite spots to take visitors. He asks cab drivers where to get the best street food. He gets wasted at a tiki lounge with another chef. It’s all very good fun. Check it out.
  2. Shameless (Showtime)????????????????????You think you have a fucked up family? This show (starring William H. Macy as “Frank Gallagher”. The world’s worst, and I mean WORST, alcoholic/drug abusing father. Ever.) gives dysfunction a whole new name. And that name is Gallager. But this show isn’t for the faint of heart, or folks who can’t stand to hear toddlers drop the F-bomb. And that’s saying nothing about the nudity, violence, barf inducing filth or, graphic sex scenes between any number of people of any varied race, gender, age or sexual orientations. I’ll just say there is an awesome lack of dignity in this show, and I love it. It’s funny, over the top, and even sweet at times.
  3. Louie (FX) – This show is like walking inside Louie CK’s mind. It’s funny, sweet, sad and often times uncomfortable. Louie tackles every subject you can think of: kids, single fathers, drinking, working, sloth, dating, assholes, pizza, crazy people, New York City, religion… You get the picture. If you are not a fan of Louis CK yet, then you haven’t watched this show.  Here’s a little bit. 
  4. King of the Nerds (TBS)22588_001_0358_R (1)That’s right, NERDS! It’s a reality based game show that pits nerd against nerd in wacky nerd based challenges like life-size chess, and live gaming. They all live together in “Nerdvana” and compete to see who will sit atop the Throne of Games! I know! Of course there are some totally hate-able and obnoxious freaks who you hope get voted away quickly, but the show also has contestants who work for NASA and are brain surgeons and shit like that. It’s a show that let’s the “nerds” show off their unique talents and show us that they are more than just characters in a silly movie. Speaking of which, the show is hosted by Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine. If you don’t know who they are, then you don’t deserve to be called a nerd.
  5. The Taste (ABC)la-dd-the-taste-recap-20130129-001Yes, another cooking game show. I know. But this is my first! I never got into Top Chef, and I occasionally check out Iron Chef, but nothing solid. This show has a twist. Four “Mentors” blind taste each contestants food and judge it purely on taste. With ONE BITE. Only. They don’t know if it is a man or woman, pro chef or home chef – they just get one bite, and that’s it. Only after they vote do they see who cooked it. It’s pretty good fun. It made me both hungry and want to cook, so that’s good. And the “mentors” are Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, Anthony Bourdain and Brian Malarkey. The banter is good, the food looks good and the competition is fierce.

Mad (wo)Men

Last week, I decided to give into my curiosity and give the AMC show “Mad Men” a try. Aside from era in which it takes place, I really didn’t know squat about it. I like the sixties fashions, so I decided to give it a whirl. The show is good, but it leaves me feeling – itchy – annoyed – uncomfortable. (Every character on the show is awful! It’s like a Joyce Carol Oates novel.) It is a very accurate portrayal of what it was like back then: Heavy drinking, chain smoking, doing both of those while pregnant, womanizing and sexual harassment. Good times.

And yet, I am intrigued. I know how these things work – the female characters will slowly evolve and embrace what little freedoms they have and the male characters will continue to look cool and cheat on their wives. The creator of the show, Matt Weiner, views his show as Feminist. And I think I agree with him. Girls coming up today have no real idea of how this country (USA) treated women in the past. Mad Men shows how much creativity and cunning it took a woman to succeed in a world where she was a decoration/maid.

It has got me thinking about my own views on feminism, and how those views have evolved over time. My ideals started out the same as most young women who come to embrace feminism: Angry. I saw everything as “Anti-Woman”. I almost gave a kid a beat down at a mini golf place for handing me a pink ball! (How dare he assume that just because i am a girl I would WANT a pink ball!) The idea was right, but really, we gotta choose our battles. Some things are not ever going to change. And why? Because not everyone agree that “some things” need changing. Took me a long time to come to grips with that one.

But, I studied feminism. I took the obligatory and useless college courses on the matter. I know what the male gaze is and I know every sect of feminism, but that doesn’t really help now does it. Taking a class about something as diverse as feminism, and then thinking you know anything about it is like taking one cooking class and then trying to make Baked Alaska. It doesn’t really work. You have got to get out there and really learn. So, I did. I read books. I watched movies. I talked to people and went to lectures. I joined NOW. I even wrote my college thesis on feminism- Horror Movies and Feminism: The Final Girl as Hero.

The problem with the movement is that there is no agreement. Some feminist look at Xena and Buffy and say: GREAT! Strong active women (and sexy!) fending for themselves. Others see the same thing a little differently: Over-sexualized women taking on a male, violent role.

I think it’s fine to look sexy and kick ass. But that’s just me. One persons “GURL POWER” is another persons “STEP BACK”. I don’t see how any self respecting woman can look at someone like Sara Palin and think – My God! That is what it means to be a woman. And again…that is where our problems lie, girls.

So, while watching Mad Men I began to think “Wow. We really HAVE come a long way.” And, for some things we have. Sure there is still a boys club and a Glass Ceiling, but the ceiling is lower and no one takes boys clubs seriously anymore. They are full of old men who haven’t changed with the times. But then I got to thinking about women as women. And I don’t know how much evolution has really happened – and when it has, has it been for the better?

Let’s look at another popular TV show. Grey’s Anatomy. Here we have a show based on a self centered resident doctor whose commitment phobia has her “married” to her “boss” on a post it note. And we are supposed to find this adorable and forward thinking. The other women on the show are so man crazy that I simply cannot keep up. Sure, it is a soap opera, so sex is part of it, but really. Could there be at least ONE smart woman on the show? It seems to me that today, women are calling themselves feminist if they decide to sleep around and not get married. I don’t think ONE woman on that show is a good example of feminism.

I don’t think much has changed since the time of Mad Men. Men still feel trapped in their jobs and like they are the ones who have to bring home the bacon. Women still want to look good for their man. And there is nothing wrong with that. We like being pretty little things in nice packaging. Disagree? Look at all the make up you wear and buy and tell me different.

I guess my whole point here is a simple and old one: To thine own self be true. You don’t have to sleep around to prove that you are a forward thinking woman, just as getting married or being in a relationship doesn’t mean you don’t care about women’s rights. Being “single” doesn’t make you anymore of a feminist than being married does. I think we have to start looking for a cultural balance before we get lost in the shuffle.

GLEE!

When I moved here in 2006, I had already been off of T.V. for about two years – a thought that makes some people I know squirm with uncomfortableness. I grew up watching more T.V. than most people should watch in their lifetime, so I feel like I have gotten my fill. I didn’t go through the DT’s as some kid’s do when they get here: HOW WILL I WATCH MY SHOWS!? I have actually seen people move back to America just so they could watch T.V. Anyway, my point is I am a little behind when it comes to the Boob Tube. Just last winter I watched The Soprano’s. I had no idea it had ended. When I was in Mexico, I started watching DVD’s of The Wire and got hooked on that. Then someone told me about Dexter and the rest is

a total waste of my time! I watched an entire season of America’s Next Top Model! I watched Project Runway, Nurse Jackie and some Family Guy, some Simpson’s and The Office. Sure, some of it is fun – but really – most of it is a waste of time. I liked my life a whole lot better before someone showed me how to “stream”. I like books, and I am just not paying enough attention to them. Sure, I watch less crap than most of my American counter parts, but that is no excuse. I don’t WANT to watch that much! I think TiVo is the devil, but that is another blog.

But then came GLEE.

Oh dear lord. My best friend hit the high C on the head when she said that the producer’s of that show must have a direct link into my head and are making a T.V. show out of it. GLEE taps into that gay, LIZA loving, misfit, musical theater, sequin wearing nerd that dwells not very far beneath the bitchin’ exterior that is … me. I mean the first episode had the cast singing (in five part harmony, no less!) “Don’t Stop Believin'”! I almost pee’d my pants when the AMAZING Kristen Chenoweth appeared and sang “Maybe This Time” from – CABARET! And, to top it all off, the season finale featured the amazing “Rachel” singing my karaoke standard “Don’t Rain on My Parade” only to be followed by “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Now, if you have known me for a while, you know why this show is so made for me.

I know, you are thinking – what a total dork. And maybe you are right. I am a dork. But the lovable kind. This show makes singing seem as cool as I think it is! It even features a vile Cheerleading coach played by the amazing Jane Lynch. She plays Sue Sylvester – a woman who’s aim in life is to bring down the GLEE Club. Here is one of my favorite quotes of hers to Will, the Glee Club director: “You’ll be adding revenge to the long list of things you’re no good at, right next to being married, running a high school glee club and finding a hairstyle that doesn’t look like a lesbian.”

And, I just found out the GLEE got a ton of nominations for the Golden Globes. This makes me happy. I have been a Musical Theater dork my whole life. I love show tunes and I love singing in harmony. I believe that music, and singing can bring out the best in you. I watch old MGM musicals and consider Danny Kaye, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly some of my favorite actors. The fact that Glee is out there, and that people are responding in a positive way to it gives me hope. So, I guess it’s okay if I watch a little T.V. Just as long as there is some bitchin’ choreography, pithy dialog and some awesome music.

Thanks Glee.