Like anyone with a conscience, I was really feeling the damage of 2020 by last year’s holiday season. I struggled in feeling hopeful for the future and overcoming what seemed like a major dead end. Then I watched Soul, and the second its closing credits rolled, I sobbed. Suddenly, everything was going to be okay. Almost anything Pixar has made in the last decade has the power to destroy me, and Soul‘s take on enjoying your life and finding gratitude in it was no exception.
I kicked off 2021 with a New Year’s Day marathon of Dash& Lily after friends kept telling me it was right up my alley. Any reminder of New York City at Christmas in the before times initially seemed too devastating, but this was exactly what I needed at that point in time. Lily, a romantic and old-fashioned teenager, leaves a notebook in the Strand bookstore with the intention of a boy finding the dares she wrote on its pages. Cynical, guarded Dash discovers the book, initiating a series of wild missions for the duo across the city before they even meet. Yes, it’s a slightly bittersweet viewing, but being quite the Lily myself, the series was almost a restorative balm for me.
I had a delayed start to the Bridgertoncraze, but better late than never! After finishing and loving Season 1, I began binge-reading Julia Quinn’s books, and I’m now up to Eloise’s story, To Sir Phillip, With Love. I love how readers can identify certain aspects that the TV writers clearly honed in on for an adaptation tweak. That being said, the books aren’t as enveloped in the family’s world and contemporaries as the series is, and their focus remains firmly on a particular story’s starring couple. I’d compare their differences to something like The Princess Diaries — they’re both so beloved for what they are and each has elements you can appreciate separately from its other representation. Basically, the two mediums are more like close cousins than identical twins.
It took extremely gloomy weather and moods for me to pull another Emily Gilmore and insist upon finding some joy and letting it be satisfying and enough and motivating. I made an indulgent brie grilled cheese for lunch. I played Christmas music while working. I exercised after the workday, which I haven’t done enough in the pandemic world because, gosh darn it, I love and miss my Planet Fitness. I also recognized that I’m still finding joy in certain pop culture that really has made this time more manageable.
Let’s start with the title of this post. I keep playlists for my writing projects that consist of songs that either inspire this particular work or are directly included in it. For my current work-in-progress, I recently stumbled across “For Now” from the musical Avenue Q, which is just a sweet, delightful song reminding us that everything, good or bad, is temporary — for now. Every listen of it always cheers me up.
I’ve recently discovered the Pod Ledom podcast, a recap series of America’s Next Top Model. If there’s anything my 2020 posts might have taught you, it’s that ANTM rewatches will always be my top TV guilty pleasure. Just when I had exhausted my favorite cycles and confirmed that certain seasons are still unwatchable, this podcast came along with its hilarious and insightful trio of hosts. Plus, they’re only up to Cycle 10 of their rewatch, so I have tons of content to look forward to. If you’re a fan of America’s Next Top Best Friend, Pod Ledom is similarly goofy, but it dives a little deeper into ANTM episodes without tangents.
I’ve struggled emotionally over the past few weeks. I think it has to do with both the election and the end of the year seeming closer than ever with only the vaguest of pandemic resolutions in sight. So I’ve embraced the eff-it attitude, soaking in joy-inducing entertainment that reminds me that this might be a temporary normal but, God willing, it doesn’t have to be our new forever. Think of my new 2020 mentality as Emily in the Gilmore Girls reunion when she’s happy to toss anything that doesn’t bring her joy.
I’ve never had any particular feelings for or against Drew Barrymore, probably because E.T. just freaked me out as a child and none of her other work was formative for me. But her earth mother-esque quality intertwined with brutal honesty is what won me over about her new talk show’s YouTube channel. While her actual interviews become a little too earnest for me, I recommend her pre-premiere “The Art of the Interview” videos with Andy Cohen, Whoopi Goldberg, and Gayle King, followed by Chloe Fineman’s SNL parody of the show.
I loved the episodes of The Michelle Obama Podcast with Barack Obama, her girlfriends, and her brother Craig. To be frank, I miss having warm, personable humans in the White House, so listening to this weekly insight into the former First Lady’s thoughts and relationships has been so refreshing.
I read Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s Harry-and-Meghan tell-all, Finding Freedom. There honestly wasn’t too much in there that was new or shocking to me, but the narrative that really stuck with me was how passive the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly was in trying to befriend Meghan. I firmly believe that sisters–in-law don’t have to be best friends or even close, so I respect that these two didn’t click naturally. On the other hand, this was such a unique and overwhelming situation that I really don’t understand the supposed argument that Kate was too loyal to William to bother trying. Still, consider me in the camp of believing that the Sussexes and Cambridges are exactly where they’re meant to be now and that some form of forgiveness will happen down the road.
In other royals new, the Meghan Markle and Gloria Steinem conversation was really exciting. I’m also really interested in seeing how the Sussexes’ Netflix deal pans out, but I definitely understand the critique that the move supports the belief that they’ll go full Hollywood. But then again, how about all those British tabloids turn their attention to Prince Andrew’s seedy ties rather than a couple just trying to contribute positively to the world?
Weekdays off in elementary school meant watching Live! with Regis and Kelly and giggling uncontrollably at the opening conversation. Now looking at all of these commemorative clips of Regis Philbin, I realize just how much his joy and self-deprecating humor remind me of my grandfathers, both lifelong, hearty New Yorkers of that age and likely to have experienced the same cultural touchpoints. Sure, America chose to wake up to him, but New Yorkers had a particular familarity with him. Kathie Lee Gifford’s tribute to him on TODAY made me cry, and although I don’t remember the Regis and Kathie Lee era, their occasional reunions on TODAY‘s fourth hour showed me just how magical their daily dynamic must have been. For a laugh, watch Regis’s delight at a bird landing on Kathie Lee’s head and then his Halloween stint as Gelman on TODAY in 2016. I also love his guest spot on How I Met Your Mother.
Either the Queen has an obvious favorite among the grandkids or she feels really bad about Princess Beatrice having to cancel her original wedding plans and deal with Prince Andrew’s shenanigans. Whichever it is, I loved how Beatrice wore an old, tweaked gown of the Queen’s as well as her grandmother’s wedding day tiara on her own big day. I wouldn’t want to wear Beatrice and Eugenie’s wedding dresses, but they both did such great jobs of achieving classic fashion while still adhering to royal modesty rules.
The Parent Trap is one of two or three movies I can quote verbatim, and as her fellow Long Islander, I’m always going to want Lindsay Lohan to be well. How great did she seem in Katie Couric’s cast reunion?
The Plot AgainstAmerica, 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, andRead It and Weepwere 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.
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!
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 discoveredthe 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.