As I said in my last post about what I was watching on TV, the past year has seen me go through phases of not wanting to watch many shows outside of work. Maybe it’s because the big shows I usually cover, This Is Us and The Bachelor, are in between seasons now and new TV is winding down for the summer, but I’ve become way better in keeping up with my other shows and starting ones I’ve always meant to watch. So, while I’m more than ready for The Bachelorette to premiere and take over my Monday nights again, I’ve loved having the freedom to just watch whatever TV I’d like at night the past few weeks!
The past month has also brought me amazing work opportunities allowing me to watch new content, dust off my English major’s analyzing skills, interview interesting people, and produce features that I’m very proud of. Read on to hear more about these experiences and how they affected my recent TV viewing, plus thoughts on what shows I’ve been loving lately!
Okay, guys, I know I’m like two years late on this, but I was on the fence about starting Stranger Things for a long time. Sci-fi has never been my thing, so I was very skeptical about whether I’d enjoy the show. I finally figured that in the immediate lead-up to Season 3, I would inevitably have to work on Stranger Things content, and it sounded like the type of the show I’d rather not just rely on online summaries in order to write about. So, admittedly after discovering David Harbour and developing a bit of a crush, I caved, and now I’m about halfway through Season 1. I don’t love it so far, but I’m definitely invested and have enjoyed each episode. Also, the slimy, breathing substance in the Hawkins lab never ceases to remind me of “The Beast Below” episode of Doctor Who.
Sooo April’s reading was not that diverse. I read three nonfiction books, two of which related to The Bachelor, and four books in total, three of which were written by authors named Amy and all of which were written by women whose first names started with A. Looking back at my month, those are funny little coincidences, but the lower number of reads isn’t too surprising. I had a busy month, but warmer weather always seems to help me breeze through tons of reading, so I have high hopes for May!
From Sand and Ash, by Amy Harmon (★★★★☆)
I’ll wolf down a World War II story like nobody’s business, but I’ve never come across one set in Italy like From Sand and Ash. Even more specifically, the book delves into how Italian Jews were affected by the Holocaust, which I’ve never heard anything about before. Growing up in Florence together, Eva and Angelo are best friends who could’ve been something more, but Angelo follows a calling to priesthood, while Eva can’t pursue a career in music thanks to wartime laws against Jews. Both become involved in guiding Jews to safety and hiding them within Catholic convents and churches, which is truly how a lot of the country’s Jews managed to make it through the war unscratched.
I’ve read way too many World War II stories set in France, so I was excited for this more unique take on the wartime experience. It lacked a little something that made me absolutely love it, but it’s a great story!
Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, by Amy Kaufman (★★★☆☆)
I’m a total city mouse and ever since my college days, I’ve developed plenty of go-to hacks for free entertainment opportunities in New York City. Register for a ticket to an AOL Build talk! Go to Broadway in Bryant Park! Most especially, sign up for free tickets to one of the late night talk shows. I attended a taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers in February 2016 and two tapings of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, once in May 2016 and again in February 2017. I’m even waiting on my ticket status for another visit next month because, yes, I love Colbert and his show just that much.
While I definitely need to score a ticket to Jimmy Fallon just to check all of the major New York shows off my list, I could honestly see myself planning an annual visit to The Late Show for as long as possible (you’re required to wait six months before requesting tickets for another taping). As weird as it sounds, I now have a special fondness for the corner that the Ed Sullivan Theatre is on, both because of all the hours I’ve spent queuing outside the building and its position right next to the Broadway Theatre, where the last revival of Fiddler on the Roof played (I’m sort of a major Fiddler fangirl). The street is technically in the theatre district but is so far up that it’s a relatively calm area far away from most theaters and only a few blocks’ walk from Central Park!
Colbert in his own form has always struck me such a class act and when the guest lineup of my second taping didn’t live up to the first one, I didn’t even mind. He and his house band put on a spectacle that only feels emphasized because of the literal theater you’re in as opposed to the smaller TV studios at NBC.
Back in the day, I know I had plenty of questions about going to a talk show taping. Going to The Late Show also requires a bit more prep than a NBC taping does, so I have five tips on how to make the most of your experience! Continue reading
For an entertainment writer, I’m sorely uninformed about the world of music. I don’t know what Cardi B is famous for, I’d blast Taylor Swift’s old-school country music over Reputation any day, and I can’t even go a minute of watching the Grammys without saying, “Who’s that?.” Sorry, guys – my beat is TV and film, but if you want to give me a Music 101 course, let me know.
But when it comes to music’s role in TV and film, I think some of the most standout moments are amplified by song. Depending on how powerful a certain movie or TV scene is, I can forever equate a certain song with those fictional moments. Whether those scenes be sweet, romantic, or victorious, music tends to convey the natural mood of that instance, and I wanted to share five of my favorite of these kind of TV and film moments.
“Forever” — Jesse and Becky get married on Full House
I know it’s cheesy and gimmicky and that everybody of a certain age got bored of the revival after about half a season, but Full House was like the sitcom for my sisters and me when we were much younger. It was one of our first true forays outside of Disney Channel and PBS Kids, and because of the role “Forever” played in the series and particularly in Jesse and Becky’s relationship, I still find the song one of the most romantic ever. I love the Beach Boys’ original version of it.
After a very low-key month of reading in February, I read such enjoyable books in March! We had some snow days this month that coincided with my own days off, which encouraged plenty of reading, and I was away from home for Easter weekend, which helped me finish off two books before the month ended.
As I predicted last month, a big chunk of my recent reads were by British author Harriet Evans, who I discovered at the end of February. Her books have quickly joined the ranks alongside the work of people like Meg Cabot and Jill Mansell as stories I can just dive into and happily cruise through till the end. Exploring her canon and reading a good balance of fiction and non-fiction resulted in a very satisfying March lineup of seven books!
Happily Ever After, by Harriet Evans (★★★★☆)
Out of the three Harriet Evans books I read this month, this one was my favorite, likely because it was the first book I read by the author. Once I read some of her other books, I realized that she resorts to a lot of the same character traits and situations, which can make it a little tricky to keep her books straight – all of the ones I read were still very entertaining, though!
Happily Ever After first introduces Eleanor Bee as a young, clueless 22-year-old dreaming of a job in publishing. She falls in love with the wrong man, and as her career develops over the next 10 years, her family and personal life takes unexpected twists and turns. I’m a sucker for stories that follow the same characters over a long period of time, so this was a winning combination for my introduction to Harriet Evans’ work.
If you saw my post about which movie scenes always make me cry, then it’s no surprise to you that I cry over certain TV shows on a regular basis. It could be a character’s death, an emotional monologue or, in the case of the usual suspect Call the Midwife, a particularly devastating medical twist. I seem to be ridiculously sensitive to TV trauma, and because I’m such an emotional sop, I wanted to share 6 of the TV episodes that made me cry the hardest.
There are definitely spoilers ahead (mostly with a theme of dead characters), and I’ve reserved the most spoiler-y episodes for the last two slots on the list. If you’ve yet to finish the most recent season of This Is Us, watch out for No. 1 in the post. As for the rest of them…well, it’s been quite awhile since they aired!
I’m a total sucker for a good quote in a book. With my notebook of favorite book quotes approaching its seventh anniversary, I love seeing the progression of reading choices and what kind of writing or subject matters stuck out to me at different points of my life.
Picking up almost exactly from the point of my quote notebook I left off at in my last Favorite Book Quotes post, the 10 more quotes below date from the second semester of my junior year of college to as recently as this past fall.
“I ask you to pass through life at my side – to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Confession: I didn’t finish reading Jane Eyre when I was assigned it for a Victorian Lit class in college. I probably read the entire first half, but lost interest when Jane left Rochester’s home. Still, I couldn’t help but be moved by this quote said by Rochester.
“In the arts, you need to learn not to expect that success will equal money.”
Mistakes I Made at Work:
I’ve balanced at least two writing/editing jobs simultaneously for over two years. I’ve done editorial work since at least a year before that. I’m proud of the experience I’ve had so early on in my professional life, but this little snippet is something I do want to remember moving forward.
Compared to January, February was a slower reading month for me. I was working a lot and had several night shifts, which swallowed up my usual reading time. The month also completely sped by, which I stupidly wasn’t expecting! I still think people are recovering from their post-Christmas laziness, but spring is just around the corner.
While I wasn’t as satisfied with February’s crop of books as much as I was with last month’s, I feel very optimistic for March! I just discovered the British author Harriet Evans at my library this week, and she writes contemporary women’s fiction primarily set in London and New York, which is right up my alley! I can already sense that some of her books will very easily become favorites over the next few weeks.
But for now, these are the four books I finished in February.
We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter (★★★☆☆)
If I could figure out how to make half-star ratings, We Were the Lucky Ones would actually receive 3.5 stars from me. It’s based on the author’s Jewish family’s true experiences in World War II Europe, but to the point of all but one of the characters having their real-life names and there being little to no fictional aspects of the story. It does read like a novel, but jumps forward in time each chapter and includes the POV of nearly every family member.
Despite the nontraditional storytelling, I was definitely invested in finding out what happened in this book and it kept me reading. That being said, chapters would end with characters in very stressful or unpredictable situations, and then the next time you’d hear about the character, it would be anywhere from a few months to a year ahead in time. I think that, although it was very readable, the book did work with too many characters, preventing me from growing particularly attached to any of them individually.
I’ve read a lot of nonfiction lately, but the novels I have read have had characters who instantly match with a certain actor in my mind. I love thinking of actors whose looks or past roles just immediately link to characters in a book I’m reading. My “If These Books Were Movies” posts are some of my favorite to write, and I can never resist adding another blog to that archive!
If this is the first “dream cast” post of mine you’ve come across, check out the tag for the series here!
1) James Norton as Liam Finucane (The Jane Austen Project, by Kathleen A. Flynn)
“We are just vessels. The art is eternal.”
I was totally crushing on Henry Austen in this time travel story, and although I never fully got over him, Liam is quite the stoic charmer. He’s an actor-turned-academic, and as he and Rachel begin their mission in 1815 to find a lost Jane Austen manuscript, he’s quite unreadable. It’s not until the mission intensifies and the two grow closer while posing as siblings that their goal becomes a tad more far-fetched.
It’s my job to write about TV, and I can’t complain because this kind of path is what I’ve dreamt of and worked towards since I was 18 years old. That being said, being a writer, let alone an entertainment writer, can be a little draining and affect your desire to watch any new shows outside of your job. When you’ve spent all day working on your computer, sometimes the last thing you want to do is spend more time in front of a screen watching TV for your own enjoyment.
So, while I’m still trying to cut down on unnecessary screen time, I’ve only recently gotten out of a rut where I really wasn’t watching anything other than shows I cover for work. That being said, I definitely recommend the following three shows if you’re like me and enjoy historical shows or unconventional reality TV.
Also, I’m so excited for Timeless and Call the Midwife to come back in March!
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Otherwise known as the show that finally got Amy Sherman-Palladino some award show love, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows a Jewish housewife in 1950s Manhattan who finds a calling in stand-up comedy when her marriage abruptly ends.
One half of the duo behind my favorite podcast, Gilmore Guys, now runs a podcast deconstructing Maisel episodes, and in this, someone commented that Maisel includes the time period and type of characters where Sherman-Palladino’s writing style and reference points just thrive. Gilmore Girls included old-school, mid-20th century references that were a little less believable for young characters in the early 2000s to use, but given that Maisel takes place in the ’50s, Sherman-Palladino’s knack for vintage pop culture can truly shine.
The physical quality of the Amazon Prime show is also great. There are sweeping, detailed shots that make the setting so believable, and things like that just make the entire story more immersive as a whole.