Perks of the Job

Yes, I get to see movies before they come out. Yes, I get DVDs delivered to me before they come out. But did you know I can also see an entire TV series before it airs? That is sometimes the case, and recently I viewed season 4 of Downton Abbey and season 3 of Episodes. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

You must keep in mind that the seasons of these shows are comparatively short. There are only nine episodes in the season of Episodes. And each episode is about 30 minutes. But that only makes watching them in one – or two – sittings that much easier, and definitely more enjoyable for me.

I did the same with Downton Abbey. I viewed the season in two days. I love doing this because I get the entire storyline at once and don’t have to wait a week to continue on and see what is going to happen next. This way I am able to fully write a preview for my readers, although it is often difficult because I really don’t like giving anything away, aka spoiler alerts. That’s the hard part about writing a preview of a series before viewers even get to see the first episode. I have so much I want to write about, but I keep it sketchy so I don’t reveal too much and ruin the fun for my readers. It’s a fine line, and I do know other journalists who will always give spoiler alerts, but I rarely do. I want to whet the appetite of my readers but not give away anything that would ruin their viewing pleasure. 

I could have easily written that #*XX!!* was going to die in Downton Abbey and that ^^#*@ was going to get fired in Episodes, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to reveal too much. So, how do we do it? Write just enough to make the story interesting but not too much to give away any secrets? That is what separates a good writer from a spoiler! 

As I said, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. I’m grateful it’s me!



Stage v Screen

Recently a new production of The Sound of Music aired on national television. I have heard comments about it ranging from high praise to disdain. The name Maria Von Trapp for many people will always be associated with Julie Andrews, who artfully portrayed the woman in the 1965 musical.

I remember going to the theater many, many, many times to watch that movie when it was first released. As a matter of fact, the last time they were taking a poll in the lobby as we entered to find out how many times people were coming to see the film. It was an amazing movie and a memorable viewing experience.

I have seen the stage production of The Sound of Music too. While comparisons will always arise between the stage and screen versions, I enjoyed watching the play unfold on the stage. There’s something about going to the theater to see a live performance.

While I do like Carrie Underwood who played Maria Von Trapp in the NBC production last week, I just couldn’t get into that show. It was flat, in my opinion. The acting, the singing, and the staging were all good, but it just didn’t translate to the screen and I found myself flipping it on and off, and finally off.

There have been TV movie remakes of many great musical films - South Pacific and Gypsy come to mind. It never fails, even if the new television production is wonderful there are always comparisons between the TV and the feature film versions.

This new incarnation probably engaged Underwood’s fans, which is fine. But again, to me there is something different about seeing a version of a hit movie on a live stage rather than on the small screen – even if it is a big flat-screen!

I didn't completely dislike the new version. I just didn't, or couldn't embrace it. Audra MacDonald is always phenomenal in whatever she undertakes, and the rest of the cast turned in fine performances. I just couldn't wrap myself around the production. It would have been more enjoyable for me to see this on the stage rather than on TV.



Kennedy Anniversary TV Coverage

This has been a busy time for me. Not only am I deluged with holiday titles, but this year is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and TV coverage of this man is filling the airwaves this month. For those interested in all aspects of his life, his career, his times, his death, etc., here are some links to previews of some of the shows.








Looking Back at the Assassination of JFK

November 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For those of us who were alive at that time, we have our personal memories. For those who were not alive, there are countless  books and documentaries about the people and the event. 

If you are interested in what happened from all angles, several networks are rolling out special JFK shows. Some of the JFK shows this month:

Nov. 3 -The Smoking Gun on Reelz Channel (Plausible?)

Nov. 8 – JFK: The Final Hours – National Geographic Channel (Very good)

Nov. 10 – Killing Kennedy on National Geographic Channel (An interesting outline at the early 60s)

Nov. 11- Cold Case: JFK on PBS

Nov 13 – JFK: One PM Central Standard Time on PBS (A look at the press reporting during the assassination)

Nov. 17 – The Day Kennedy Died on Smithsonian Channel (Very good)

Nov 19 – American Experience: JFK on PBS (Very interesting)



Holiday Films

I have started writing my holiday movies article for the year. While there are some good movies, I still think about the ones I grew up watching every year, namely White Christmas and Holiday Inn. To me, those will always be the quintessential holiday films.

It’s a Wonderful Life and Going My Way are also great films for the season, yet I always reach for the two musicals first. Here are some other favorite holiday films: Meet Me in St. Louis, Babes in Toyland, The Polar Express, The Gift of Love, The Gathering, It Happened One Christmas, and many of the Hallmark Channel holiday movies are always great to watch this time of year.

And let’s not forget about Chanukah films. There’s Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, and several animated Chanukah films as well as a smattering of Hallmark Channel films about Chanukah. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything for Chanukah on the scale of White Christmas or Holiday Inn.

If you have a special holiday film you enjoy watching every year, please let me know. And if you find a jewel in the market this year, by all means, don't keep it a secret!



The 2013 Emmy Awards

When I was asked to predict the outcome of the Emmys I decided to give it my best shot. It was early and the buzz hadn’t ratcheted up yet. I looked at the list of nominees and immediately made my personal choices. Then I sat back and carefully thought about my predictions. I have learned through the years that my personal choices rarely match the actual winners.

As the awards got underway, I had a feeling my predictions were not going to hold up. Even host Neil Patrick Harris said during the ceremony that there were “surprises galore” because many so-called “favorites” were not winning.

Half way through the ceremony I had a perfect record for my picks and my predictions. Zero. But then things started to change and I was vindicated. I knew Michael Douglas and Behind the Candelabra would be winners. I knew they would be singled out among the voters. And rightly so.

As the categories were being announced and the winners were receiving their awards I revisited my list of predictions. While my personal favorites hadn’t changed, I saw how the voting was going and felt that my top choices in the drama department – Kevin Spacey and House of Cards – were not going to pull it off. That saddened me because I truly felt he and the show are worthy of awards. There was some rumblings around Hollywood as to whether the voters would “go for” an Internet show. But after all these years of reality nonsense, having another platform for writers and actors is a good thing, so I was happy that the show did get recognition, if only for a single category of directing.

When it was time for the final award – Drama Series – I knew it would go to Breaking Bad, even before the winner was announced. By the way, I had correctly predicted the winner for the Comedy Series (although it wasn’t my personal choice).

What appeared to me during the evening is that I am still a maverick when it comes to television viewing. I have to be open-minded because it is my job, but at the same time I hold out for my favorites. Maybe next year Kevin Spacey will take home the Emmy. I can only hope. 

And if you are wondering, my record for the night adding up my choices and predictions was about 30% correct. That’s not a bad record, for a maverick. 



An Old Writing Challenge

I was going through some old writing challenges from the time I was part of a writing group on MSN. At the time I was a Forum Assistant for the Women Online Forum. We had a writing group with some great challenges. Here is a fun challenge and my submission. Keep in mind it was during the Bill Clinton presidency. 


The Challenge:

You are writing a novel and its plot is similar to the alleged white-house scandal playing out in our country today. Title your piece of fiction and write a blurb for the novel's jacket.  Keep it under 300 words. Have fun with this -- it might be the only part of the current events you can enjoy.


My Submission: 

Subpoena Envy

What really happened in the White House and who was involved?  Forget Colonel Mustard in the Library with a rope. This time it's the President in the Oval Office with, ahem, well, you know. Delve into the lives of the First Family in this amusing and fast paced story of politics, power, greed, lust, and sex. Ms. Brokaw continues her string of best sellers with this tale of the President and First Lady as they carefully meander their way through the maze of cabinet meetings, secret liaisons, and press relations inside the historic home. Will the President find his rose garden, or will he get pricked along the way? The thorny circumstances the First Family find themselves in will not only have you on the edge of your seat asking who, what, where, when, and how, but also why. The thrilling conclusion will leave you breathless. Subpoena Envy is destined to be the most talked about novel of the year.



TCA Awards Nominations 2013

I just voted for the 2013 TCA Awards. Unfortunately, as usual, many of the shows I nominated didn't make the cut. Below is the list of nominations for this year's awards, which will be handed out later this summer. Were your favorites nominated?

Individual Achievement in Comedy

Louis C.K., “Louie” (FX)
Lena Dunham, “Girls” (HBO)
Jake Johnson, “New Girl” (Fox)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” (NBC)

Individual Achievement in Drama

Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
Vera Farmiga, “Bates Motel” (A&E)
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black” (BBC America)
Monica Potter, “Parenthood” (NBC)
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans” (FX)

News and Information

“Anderson Cooper 360.” CNN
“Central Park Five,” PBS
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Comedy Central
“The Rachel Maddow Show,” MSNBC
“60 Minutes,” CBS


“The Amazing Race,” CBS
“The Glee Project,” Oxygen
“Shark Tank,” ABC
“Survivor,” CBS
“The Voice,” NBC

Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming

“Adventure Time,” Cartoon Network
“Bunheads,” ABC Family
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” PBS
“Sesame Street,” PBS
“Switched at Birth,” ABC Family

Outstanding New Program

“The Americans,” FX
“Elementary,” CBS
“House of Cards,” Netflix
“The Mindy Project,” Fox
“Orphan Black,” BBC America

Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials

“American Horror Story: Asylum,” FX
“Behind the Candelabra,” HBO
“Downton Abbey,” PBS
“Rectify,” Sundance Channel
“Top of the Lake,” Sundance Channel

Outstanding Achievement in Drama

“The Americans,” FX
“Breaking Bad,” AMC
“Game of Thrones,” HBO
“Homeland,” Showtime
“Mad Men,” AMC

Outstanding Achievement in Comedy

“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS
“Louie,” FX
“New Girl,” Fox
“Park and Recreation,” NBC
“Veep,” HBO

Career Achievement Award

James L. Brooks
James Burrows
Jay Leno
William Shatner
Barbara Walters

Heritage Award

“All In the Family,” CBS
“Lost,” ABC
Saturday Night Live,” NBC
“Star Trek,” NBC
“Twin Peaks,” ABC

Program of the Year

“The Americans,” FX
“Breaking Bad,” AMC
“Game of Thrones,” HBO
“House of Cards,” Netflix
“The Walking Dead,” AMC


Disney Princesses

Disney recently celebrated Princess Merida’s coronation at Walt Disney World in Florida. Merida is the newest addition to the growing list of Disney Princesses, and along with her title there is a lot of merchandising to accompany her royal stature. Besides producing some unforgettable and enjoyable films, Disney is also noted for their incomparable merchandising.

The Disney Princesses are beloved by girls of all ages. And Disney knows they are. There are special areas in the Disney stores devoted to the princesses. There is a special website devoted to the princesses. There is a magazine devoted to the Disney princesses.

Today’s Disney princess is not like her predecessors. No. Today she does not wait around for a man to kiss her and bring her true love so they will live happily ever after. The Disney princess of today is self-confident, independent, and has a mind of her own. She is a force to be reckoned with. And she is just as adored and admired that the original princesses who were out looking for love.

With the addition of Merida (from the movie Brave), following the youngest Disney princess Sofia (from the TV series Sofia the First), the list of princesses is growing and their fan base is growing as well.

Fantasy Faire in Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California is the newest remodeled area in the landmark theme park. It is devoted to the Disney princesses, and has a special area in which guests meet and greet the beloved women. Plus, there are stage plays depicting some of the stories of the young women. Fantasy Faire provides guests an up-close-and-personal experience with a variety of Disney princesses.

There is no doubt the princesses are popular characters. With continual additions to the Royal Court, Disney is jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to knowing what their fans want. They want Disney Princesses! The young girls of today are eager for role models who aren’t waiting for their prince. And Disney is giving that to them. Merida is the feisty redheaded archer who stands on her own. True, she makes mistakes, but she is just a young girl. She’s only human, well, in the animation world at least.

I have something to share with you about the Disney princesses, but that will wait for another time. Keep checking back. 

In the meantime, you can read about the festivities surrounding Merida’s coronation here.


Feel-Good Movies

The other day I was talking to a friend about “feel good” movies. You know, the ones that you can watch over and over again, never tire of, and know that when the credits roll you will be happy and smiling. I was explaining to her that I have several DVDs/Blu-rays I turn to when I am a little down and want to know that in a couple hours I will be perkier, smiling, and in many cases, even humming a tune.

I know almost every line of these films. I have watched them countless times. Yet, I never tire of them. They are the ones I play when it’s been a tough day, when I’m not feeling very well, when I’m frustrated with the world (you all know that feeling), or when I just need a little pick-me-up.

Some of these include (in no particular order):

  • Sunday in New York
  • Somewhere Tomorrow
  • Gidget
  • That Funny Feeling
  • An Affair to Remember (with a little tears)
  • Charade
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Father Goose
  • The Final Countdown
  • 40 Carats
  • The Four Seasons
  • Ice Castles
  • Ishtar (Yes, Ishtar)
  • A Majority of One
  • Murphy’s Romance
  • Pillow Talk
  • Return to Me
  • You’ve Got Mail
  • Just the Way You Are

None of these are classic musicals, yet I do have my favorite musicals I watch when I get in the mood for some good music. I’ll cover those at another time.

In the meantime, if you find you want to watch a fun little feel-good movie, check out some of the titles on my list. You might discover a new film that makes you feel good too!


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