The TV Shows That Double As Salves

TV became an art form to me as I watched Lost for the first time in my late teens. I obviously loved the medium beforehand, but I know that now because I’ve seen how much the heavily literary message of late ’90s and early 2000s PBS Kids programming influenced who I became. Lost taught me how television adapts ancient narrative devices, philosophies, and instincts into a masterful story, but in between crying about Desmond and Penny’s love and biting nails during Ben and Locke’s confrontations, it is not the show to utilize when you need to turn off your brain and seek healing from TV.

Blame the rom-com revival seemingly surging in response to the state of the world, but I appreciate a TV show that doubles as a gentle salve now more than ever. When it comes to my televisual education, I’ve yet to see Mad MenBreaking Bad, and probably many other dramas known for their brooding leading men and dark realities. Maybe one day I’ll feel like cracking into those, but for now, I want the stories that simultaneously make you laugh and consider life’s cyclical pattern of generosity and good people getting one through a mess.

Luckily, I’ve found my classic, go-to balms and discovered shows that particularly brought me delight in recent months.

Friends, for being my sitcom standard, the show I can play in the background for an instinctive dose of familiarity if I’m feeling sick, stressed, or upset.

Dinner Date, for confirming that nothing is more captivating than watching a man cook for a date, whether or not he is doing it competently.

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10 Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2018

Happy Christmas Eve! I really loved making a list of my favorite pop culture moments last year, and putting together the same post for 2018 was no exception. Part of the reason why I love the entertainment industry is because it soothes our bad days and distracts us from our individual troubles and the world’s issues. Obviously, there are moments when the field overlaps with politics and international concerns (see: #MeToo), but I love recapping what put a smile on my face throughout the year.

What are some of your favorite pop culture memories from 2018?

1) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married, Prince Louis is born, Princess Eugenie gets her moment in the sun, Meghan is pregnant…

…and essentially any positive thing to do with the royal family this year. I’m so over all the reports of drama within the family (brothers are allowed to go through tough times and sisters-in-law never have to be BFFs) and would rather focus on their brighter moments. What other year had two royal weddings, a birth of a prince, and the announcement of a beloved couple’s first baby? While watching Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I even grew more emotional than I anticipated, tearing up at Harry’s reaction to his bride, as well as Doria Ragland watching the two of them together. I cried over some of the New York Times’ more personal event coverage and just spent that whole morning marveling over this amazing addition to the British monarchy. Plus, all of the year’s weddings and babies just meant that we all had more chances to see my favorite royal, Princess Charlotte, be the mini-boss lady she totally is.

2) Timeless returns for Season 2 and gets a two-hour finale movie

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5 of My Favorite Podcasts

I first talked about some of my favorite podcasts in July 2017, but since then, I’ve become such a podcast fan that I organize all of the ones I follow by the day new episodes are posted. I work from home and really rely on podcasts to keep me engaged in my work. I know some people can’t focus on tasks with unrelated audio playing, but I’ve found I’m usually fine with some background noise.

The following are podcasts I’ve really grown to love in the past year. I used to only listen to podcasts during work, but I’ve started playing some of these while cooking or doing any other menial task. I prefer interview series and pop culture discussions over true crime or political podcasts, so if you like lighter fare in your podcast lineup, I’d highly recommend any of the picks below!

1) Desert Island Discs

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This is actually a long-running radio show on the UK’s BBC Radio 4, having first aired in 1942. I either listen to it in full form on the BBC’s website, where more recent episodes usually stream easily, or in shortened podcast form on Stitcher or Mixcloud, which both have older interviews that won’t play for me on the BBC site. Featuring both British and foreign guests from various professional industries, each episode asks for its subject to select eight songs they’d wish to have access to as a castaway on a desert island. In between each musical snippet, they discuss their lives, careers, and why these songs stand out to them. For starters, I recommend trying out Tom Hanks and James Corden‘s episodes, and if you’re open to listening to an interview with someone you may not know, Miranda Hart’s is great. I usually veer toward the interviews with film and TV figures, but the podcast’s endless archive includes episodes with politicians, authors, musicians, and more.

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What I’m Watching Lately: Fall 2018

Happy belated Thanksgiving to any American readers! While Turkey Day is obviously the official kickoff to the holiday season, I also like to think of it as the perfect time for binge-watching. After all, how many household tasks do you have during the Christmas season that could use some background entertainment? In recent weeks, I’ve gravitated toward watching half-hour sitcoms in my free time. These kind of shows are what I can play and easily follow along with while working out, blogging, or answering emails.

Back in September, I shared a list of the new fall TV shows I was planning to check out. While I never ended up watching Manifest, I’m really enjoying Single Parents and The Kids Are Alright. I also cover A Million Little Things for work, and while I’m usually frustrated with it as a whole, I do like the actors and their chemistry with each other. While the broadcast shows I’ve fit into my schedule are weekly watches, below are the streaming shows that I either recently finished or am currently watching. All but one of them are short-lived series that are incredibly easy to get through in a small amount of time. Happy binge-watching!

Great News

Tracey Wigfield, who was essentially Tina Fey’s writing protégé on 30 Rock, created this sitcom about a mother interning at her daughter’s job in cable news production. NBC cancelled it after two seasons earlier this year, but the entire series is now on Netflix. Having studied broadcast journalism in college, I loved Great News‘ fun, very Fey-esque take on the field, and Andrea Martin is just delightful as a meddling intern mother. The show became my go-to entertainment for at-home workouts, and although the last episode was sweet as an on-the-fly series finale, I’m definitely bummed that there’s no more to watch.

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My Most Random Pop Culture Confessions

The world of TV and movies is a weird one. Not only is it so vast, but the way it cultivates for each person is extremely dependent on the family and life one is born into. This means that everyone’s individual pop culture educations have their own unique quirks. An encounter with a TV show or movie that you think is a natural rite of passage isn’t as obvious to others, so in a bit of a stream of consciousness, I wrote about my incredibly random experiences with and takes on TV and movies. It’s a bit of an indulgent, nostalgic post for my own benefit, but if you have your own thoughts to share, please do!

I’m in my early 20s and grew up watching Family Feud reruns from the 1970s on the Game Show Network. For me, it was all about hilariously outdated outfits and Richard Dawson greeting all of the women with a kiss on the lips. The channel also reran episodes from the ’90s that Ray Combs hosted. My understanding of the Steve Harvey generation comes from Kenan Thompson’s SNL parody and the briefest clips of Steve Harvey hosting celeb editions.

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What I’ll Be Watching: Fall 2018

I write about TV for a living, so it’s safe to say that the beginning of the fall television season is like my Christmas. Apart from This Is Us, I’m not actually waiting for the return of many broadcast shows this year. I have fingers crossed for announcements about The Crown and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiere dates soon, and in other streaming news, I’m still working my way through both completed and currently airing shows online. But thanks to both my job and other expert opinions on what new shows can’t be missed this season, I’ve picked a few shows from the new crop of network TV that I’ll be trying out.

I already had my eye on these four shows when promos began airing for them, but after reading critics’ opinions on TVLine and in Entertainment Weekly‘s fall TV preview issue, I feel even more confident about investing time in them. With that said, these choices are already in my Hulu queue and I have their premiere dates emblazoned on my mind. Ultimately, there’s probably more of a chance of me abandoning some or all of these than there is of me sticking with them, but based on the early reviews I’ve seen, I have high hopes!

Single Parents (Wednesday, Sept. 26, on ABC)

TVLine‘s panel of critics unanimously loved this pilot episode. Many of them even called it the only new comedy that actually made them laugh. A group of single parents at an elementary school makes it their mission to reel in fellow single dad Will from his child-obsessed life and help him become a true adult again. Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester is supposedly hilarious as the ringleader of the single parent gang, and I loved Taran Killam on SNL. Brad Garrett is one of those actors who is hard to separate from an iconic role, but I always love seeing him in new work too. Early reviews promise non-irritating child actors and an overall delightful watch, so I’m hoping this becomes the trademark feel-good comedy in my TV lineup.

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5 Celebs I’d Want On My ‘Dinner List’

Rebecca Serle’s new book The Dinner List introduces the concept that the main character has a birthday dinner with Audrey Hepburn and three important people from her past. The book is on my TBR list, but hearing about this idea spurred on my own thoughts about which guests, living or dead, I would invite to a dinner party. To fit with the theme of my blog, I narrowed down my list of most desirable guests to five celebrities I’d most want to invite for a meal.

Although I’m sure I could compose an endless list of writers, historical figures, and musicians I’d love to talk with over wine, the simplest solution for now was to pick those who fit within the most traditional idea of celebrity to me. As a result, I have a TV reporter and an actor/composer on my list, but I picked these top five based on what combination of people would create the most enjoyable environment.

My top dinner guests also came about because I would also want my grandfather there. He passed away more than seven years ago, and there’s no doubt in my mind that if miracles happened and this kind of opportunity was feasible, I’d want him right there with me at this table of stars.

Jimmy Stewart

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You know I love me some Jimmy Stewart. I’d inevitably be so starstruck and flustered about him at my dinner table that I’d be a little shy to talk to him. That’s when my grandpa comes in — I think they’d get along so well! Jimmy Stewart was more than 20 years older than my grandpa, but I feel that they would bond over many generational and personality similarities. Both fought in World War II, and, just like my grandpa, Stewart always came across as an old school gentleman.

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The 3 Guilty Pleasure TV Shows That Devour(ed) My Summers

In high school, before streaming was what it is today and I had my own laptop, summer TV was just that — limited to the physical TV and airing exclusively in the summer season. The fact that these shows popped up when I had the most time to keep up with weekly episodes just made them more addictive, and while only one of them is still in my life today, I still equate all three of these shows with summertime.

Technically, the new season of Married at First Sight is also one of my summer watches this year, but the show has pretty small gaps in between seasons and runs what feels like year-round. Is anyone else totally invested in the Dallas season even though they have a feeling it’s going to be a trainwreck? Ah, well, that’s the beauty of summer shows — they don’t need much to keep us hooked.

1) The Next Food Network Star

I don’t keep up with this right now, but for two or three consecutive summers, I was obsessed. This Food Network competition series is basically what it sounds — finalists compete in cooking challenges with twists tied to being TV chefs in order to win their own Food Network series. Honestly, I think it’s the loss of Alton Brown as a judge that made my interest in Food Network Star fade. Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis still judge, but the visual imbalance of two main judges and not having Alton’s witty wackiness just bores me. The show has low-stakes drama with gratuitous food porn, and you never have to pay much attention to it if you’re just not in the mood to think too much. I’d inevitably form a weird crush on one of the long-haired, slightly greasy-looking chefs that I definitely wouldn’t be attracted in real life. That’s what seeing a man cooking can do to you!

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What I Wish I Hadn’t Missed

Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.

~ Robert Morgan

1) Simon & Garfunkel’s Central Park concert

2) Newsreels played before movies

3) Wearing a hat and gloves for your daily errands

4) Midnight releases of the early Harry Potter books

5) The original Broadway productions of My Fair Lady and The Music Man

6) Experiencing high school without text messages

7) A television world with only three main channels

8) The heyday of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies

9) Nights that ended with watching Johnny Carson

10) The prime era of drive-in movies

11) The hair and fashion of the 1940s and ’50s

12) Sitting with loved ones while watching the very last episode of M*A*S*H 

13) Nora Ephron’s New York

14) Baggy flannels and wide-rimmed glasses being ’90s men’s go-to fashion

15) The Tina Fey-Amy Poehler era of SNL‘s Weekend Update

16) Watching new Friends episodes on Thursdays

17) Gene Shalit’s TODAY Show segments

18) The novelty of the first few seasons of Real World

19) Swaying to Glenn Miller at USO dances

20) Needing to watch TV in real time at risk of never seeing a certain episode

21) Consciously living through the height of the Spice Girls’ fame

22) Big, wavy hair being in style, a la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

23) Being able to avoid feeling engulfed by the news or that I’m missing the next best thing, and knowing that we can disconnect without realizing we’re doing so

One of the virtues of being very young is that you don’t let the facts get in the way of your imagination.

~ Sam Levenson