I keep track of every book I read in a year, so in 2020, I look at this ongoing list and see a clear divide between the books I read while commuting and the ones I read during the stark emptiness of early quarantine. Erin Hahn’s More Than Maybe was a slight crossover between the two stages, distracting me from the rising panic of the New York metro area and introducing me to the delightful world of Luke, Vada, and their dreams to fill the world with music.
While Hahn’s first YA romance, You’d Be Mine, followed the summer tour of teen country music stars Clay and Annie, More Than Maybe picks up in a typical suburb, introducing Luke, the son of a rocker, and Vada, an aspiring music journalist. As Luke hides his songwriting from the rest of the world, he can’t help but like the ambitious Vada, who strives toward getting into a prestigious music journalism program and scoring an internship with Rolling Stone. With the help of Phil, local musical legend and Vada’s mom’s boyfriend, the two teens must learn how their growing feelings for each other fit into the visions that they have for their futures.
On shelves July 21, More Than Maybe was such a delight to read in uncertain times. Luke and Vada’s love of music and their growing trust in each other is reminiscent of Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby, one of my all-time YA faves. On top of an earnest portrayal of first love, More Than Maybe also hooks older readers with insight into the second-chance romance between Phil and Vada’s mom Mary that is rarely seen in YA. If you sorely miss summer concerts and local hangouts, the story is the perfect antidote for corona blues.
I was lucky enough to ask Erin Hahn some questions about her book ahead of its release. Thank you for being so great, Erin!
After focusing on budding country music stars in You’d Be Mine, what was the inspiration for More Than Maybe and exploring teens with a similar love for music but who are living a more typical life?
The Plot Against America, which I watched during a week-long free trial of HBO Max, was a little too slow and vague for me, but the finale was particularly good. I loved Zoe Kazan as a terrified Bess trying to soothe a hysteric child over the phone. If anything, the series got me more interested in the work of both Kazan and Anthony Boyle, and the parallels between Philip Roth’s original story and today are startling.
We finally downloaded Disney+ to indulge in the wonder that was Hamilton, but since that inaugural weekend, I’ve traveled down memory lane and watched some of my favorite old DCOMs. Gotta Kick It Up!, Go Figure, and Read It and Weep were still really delightful, and I have viewings of my ultimate favorites — Stuck in the Suburbs, Smart House, and Cadet Kelly — to anticipate. Since the movies are so short, it’s really easy to get through one right before bed.
In a totally overdue move, ABC announced that Season 25 will feature the first Black Bachelor, Matt James. I’m a little salty about it not being the deserving fan favorite Mike Johnson, but I think it’ll be refreshing to see a lead who hasn’t appeared on the franchise before. ABC is no role model in diversity, but I hope to see the network and Bachelor producers follow through on their promise for a more inclusive franchise. Between Matt’s casting and Clare Crawley’s upcoming Bachelorette season, I’m still eager for the franchise’s next cycle.
Thank God for the much-delayed renewal of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. At the rate everything is going, I was expecting heartache on this front, so this is at least one nice thing to look forward to in the ambiguous future. If you haven’t watched this yet, I highly recommend it. It honestly feels a little naughty getting to watch this cast and their caliber of talent in every episode.
I recently binged Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever and absolutely loved it. Anything Kaling-adjacent is a must-watch for me, but I was a little wary about this beforehand. I typically don’t enjoy most teen shows because of characters’ unrealistic or oversexed situations, and without full episodic context, the trailer was sort of giving me those vibes. But chalk it up to iffy marketing, because Never Have I Ever was so multifaceted, emotional, and witty in that classic Mindy Kaling fashion.
Since police killed George Floyd on May 25 and an international fight against police brutality and systemic racism began, blogging about pop culture felt highly inappropriate. So rather than writing here, I’ve spent this transformative time after Floyd’s passing trying to educate myself, check my privilege as a white woman, and learn how to do better.
In the past few days, laws have passed that give me hope that we’re living out the same kind of turning point seen during the civil rights movement. But with quarantine still in place in major cities and not much else to distract us from this moment, resting on the belief that change will come doesn’t suffice. You can donate, sign petitions, and protest, but it’s also important to take note of what you choose to consume in pop culture and how it contributes to your knowledge about race.
That’s when books, TV, and movies come into play for me. Sticking to the news cycle can be overwhelming and depressing, especially in this already unprecedented time, but one concentrated source of information at a time can leave just as impactful of an influence. So after taking in plenty of recommendations and consulting my existing TBR list and streaming queues, here are the things about Black lives and experiences or made by Black creators that I plan to read and watch, as well as a few select titles I already love. My list is obviously far from complete, and I recognize that my pop culture choices often have a severe lack of diversity. So if you have more recommendations, please let me know!
Favorite TV shows formulate in your consciousness in a different way than favorite movies do. Favorite movies often stem from sometime in childhood, when you had ample time to watch and rewatch and when obsessions were encouraged. These are less likely to fade away from your favor because they’re so reminiscent of how you became who you are. These stay embedded in your mind, serving as an ever-faithful time capsule that triggers your brain to recite lines and reenact scenes like nobody’s business.
Favorite TV shows are liable to change over time, molding to fit the phase of life you’re in, and you may outgrow these more quickly. Such is the case for me with this list, and the favorite shows I decided upon only were mostly newer shows that feel particularly monumental to who I am and what I’m drawn to.
This is the most constant of my TV favorites. It hooked me from an early age, so it really blows my mind when I hear about people in their late teens and twenties watching it for the first time. I don’t watch it as often as I did then, but its take on friends-as-family, clever wordplay, and physical comedy is the ultimate recipe for comfort in my book. The Thanksgiving episodes remain a must-watch every year, and, yes, I’m a total Monica with underlying qualities of Chandler and Ross.
I’ve mentioned before that finishing Lost inspired me to pursue entertainment journalism, and as a gradual result, I was lucky to spend almost two years in a dream position in that field. It was the first series I watched that showed me the power of television storytelling and how the medium could be used to its full potential. I stick to the belief that it kicked off the flashback trend in TV dramas, and as seen with NBC’s Manifest, its mystical plot and ensemble cast are still inspiring the basic structure of so many shows.
3) The Middle
In addition to Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle is the closest existing TV portrayal of my family. We watched this one from the beginning, and our real-life situations always closely mirrored what was happening on it at the time. Reruns provide a dose of nourishing nostalgia and, seeing as I once watched episodes on a international flight that was homeward bound, revisiting it will always feel like coming home.
The America’s Next Top Model binge fever has spread through my house, and now my sisters have recently rewatched Cycles 6 and 7, two classics that are just so fun. I’ve also just discovered the Jays Chat videos starring Jay Manuel and J. Alexander as they recap their memories of each cycle. So in conclusion, ANTM really is the perfect quarantine viewing.
I’m aware of her legendary status in the world of ’70s TV, but I’m of the age that only knows Marlo Thomas as Rachel’s mom on Friends. Still, after seeing this CBS Sunday Morning piece about her and her husband, I’m so interested in reading their book of interviews with long-lasting celebrity couples.
Similarly, the always handsome Tony Dokoupil charmed me with his package on working from home alongside his wife, MSNBC anchor Katy Tur (who wrote a fascinating memoir about covering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for NBC News).
I don’t understand why the Harry Potter At Home project involves some actors unaffiliated with the franchise (Dakota Fanning?), but Daniel Radcliffe and Noma Dumezweni’s readings of the first two Sorcerer’s Stone chapters were so soothing and delightful. I listened to them on Spotify, and I’m hoping for more appearances from the people tied to the stage show and the Potter and Fantastic Beasts films (and, in Stephen Fry’s case, the original UK audiobooks) than random celebrity fans.
Archie as a little bookworm demanding another book before the first was finished captured my heart. To me, he has Meghan’s eyes but everything else is Harry. Also, Princess Anne is fantastic and underrated, and her low-key dedication comes across so well in this chat she had with a World War II veteran in honor of the 75th VE Day anniversary.
On a related note, all of the royals’ anniversary chats with vets were sweet. While watching them, it really hit me that this is likely the last major VE Day milestone that the majority of these people will live to see, and they’re forced to celebrate alone from their homes. Obviously that is currently out of our control, but let’s never neglect our elderly population and what they’ve seen when a sense of safe normalcy has been restored.
I recently took in Forget Paris, a ’90s rom-com that Billy Crystal produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in. Its dialogue style is fairly similar to When Harry Met Sally, so it sounds exactly how Billy Crystal talks, which I love. He’s one of those New York celebrities who emulates home for me. In addition to just being a low-stakes, slice-of-life story, the movie’s packed with a fun cast, including a pre-West Wing John Spencer, a very dashing and dark-haired Joe Mantegna, the second mom from Air Bud, and Joey’s dad from Friends. Keep your ears open for the actress behind Marge Simpson to pop up!
The Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist finale was devastatingly beautiful. I’d already been feeling a little emotional (blame the general state of the world for that), but that episode and its final scene just about did it. But on a fluffier note, how swoony is Skylar Astin as Max? I don’t envy the network executives who have to figure out TV renewals right now, but I have my fingers crossed for a second season.
Any day Ray Romano does a talk show appearance with one (or in this case, both) of his cute twin sons is a great day in my book.
Miranda is perhaps the silliest and most delightful thing I’ve watched in recent years, and the cast’s in-character lockdown reunion on BBC’s charity special was just as charming. Its use of clips from the show made me laugh out loud, just as they did the first time. Maybe a quarantine rewatch is in store?
Speaking of rewatches, Zach Braff and Donald Faison’s Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast is still delivering the laughs. It’s not quite a traditional recap show, but their natural comedic chemistry perfectly balances their heartfelt memories of filming Scrubs. I actually stopped watching Scrubs around Season 5, but I think its tone would be particularly comforting these days, so I might start it from the beginning soon.