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!
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.
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.
Several Lost alums making up for a certain co-star’s extremely selfish opinion. Daniel Dae Kim is forever as valiant and charming as Jin was. Maggie Grace is a steady voice of reason with just the right amount of bite. Harold Perrineau apparently helped Henry Ian Cusick’s son travel home safely. We have to go back…to leave Kate on the island.
Meg Cabot writing about the coronavirus outbreak from Princess Mia’s perspective.
The Broadway community fundraising, performing, and congregating via live-streamed shows. Seth Rudetsky’s “Stars in the House” series and Broadway.com’s “Live at Five: Home Edition” occur daily, and Rosie O’Donnell’s conversation with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker during her benefit show still delights me (they’re just at home watching Columbo and doing laundry!).
Podcasts are my go-to background noise when I have a low-stakes lineup of tasks at work, but given current situations, I suspect new episodes of my followed podcasts may be few and far between soon. I still have plenty of bookmarked episodes to catch up on, but listening to an author talk about her debut book or following a debate about Nancy Meyers’ greatest film feels a little weird when you’re in such an apocalyptic mood.
So, I figured that nothing is better medicine than singing along to or just playing an uplighting cast recording or movie soundtrack. Yes, I love Hamilton as much as the next gal, and I can practically quote Fiddler on the Roof verbatim, but let’s be real — a lot of those songs are pretty bleak and depressing. The albums below might have their share of slower, reflective songs, but as a whole, they tell stories of optimism and heart, and they have happy endings. The joy entangled in these lyrics and performances is contagious, and even just listening to some of my favorite songs below helped me feel a little lighter. I hope they help you feel the same!
1) Bright Star
Standouts: “If You Knew My Story,” “Whoa, Mama,” “Sun Is Gonna Shine”
This music by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell is inspired by their own bluegrass compositions, but what really makes Bright Star such a soothing listen for me is the voice of leading lady Carmen Cusack. Her performance here scored a Tony nomination during the Hamilton year, which is an accomplishment unto itself. Her delivery is so soulful, and particularly in her single version of “Sun Is Gonna Shine,” you start to believe that everything will be okay. It might be the only cast album I can play without getting bored because every song has a little something that you can appreciate, whether it be a gorgeous note or a moving lyric.
Beyond the Screenplay and IndieWire Filmmaker Toolkit, breaking down films from the perspectives of screenwriters, directors, and editors.
Mamas Talkin’ Loud, covering the lives of mothers working in theater and fueling inspiration for a budding writing project.
Any podcast interview with Greta Gerwig I can find, with favorites including her talks with Scriptnotes and Five Things with Lynn Hirschberg.